Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
First time for everything
I thought I was way good in the first one. I can't recall ever seeing a straight flush over a straight flush before.
Then there is this hand:
Thursday, December 25, 2008
It was sheery lunacy. I was two hours into a $3.30 knockout tournament on Tilt with a long, busy day looming. There were gifts to exchange and open, breakfast to make, breads to bake, Christmas feast to prepare, relatives to pick up and schlep to the house and then entertain. Only a bad beat or a stupid play was going to prevent me from cashing. But so what?
Only a final-table payout would come close to offsetting the sleep this was costing me. But I vowed to press on and had an average-sized stack at the second break thanks to pocket kings holding up against four (yes, four) all-ins. Fatigue took over after the break and I began nodding off between hands. I had almost stopped caring. While I wasn't about to dump my chips, I needed to push the envelope. It was time to go high or go to sleep.
And high I went --real high -- during one of those satisfying rushes. I began bullying the table like Scut Farkus in Christmas Story, stealing blinds and stacking people when I had it. I had nearly double the number of chips as the player in second place by the third break and had perked up considerably. I can't remember ever having so many chips relative to the rest of the field and was having fun throwing my weight around.
When we reached the final table around 3:45, I held 35 percent of the chips in play (637 runners). A medium stack took out three players during the first orbit to grow a stack nearly as big as mine. I took out a couple more players and got to heads-up play with a 2-1 advantage. More than a half hour later ... I finished second when my pocket 6s failed to out race his K-Q.
My heads-up play was ... okay. There were a couple of loose calls on the river with second pair I'd like back. I employed all the strategery I know, but could not get him to pay me off when I had a hand.
The payout of around $250 plus (with bounties) turned out to be worth it. I crashed around 4:30 and was awakened by the kids at 8 to open presents. While I didn't have a choice, I managed to gut it out and got through the day without incident. Christmas dinner was great -- beef tenderloin with a horseradish sauce, duck ala orange, roasted redskins in walnut oil and assorted steamed and braised veggies. I even found time to make a dozen Parker House rolls and a baguette.
After all of this, am I sleeping at 1 a.m. on the day after Christmas? Of course not. I'm finishing this post and have chips in a $5.50 HORSE tourney. (Had a minor cash in one of the 9 p.m. Daily Doubles earlier.) I'll sleep tomorrow ... or maybe the day after.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
What a drag it is
The medical clinic, a large modern building off I-271, typically bustles with the sick and infirm during the week. On Sunday, it was desolate. There is something odd about visiting a doctor or undergoing tests on a Sunday. What is it about a particular day of the week that colors the commerce of life? Are there cultures that don't bother to distinguish between days of the week? Or is everyone a slave to the Julian calendar?
The magnetic resonance machine might be an expensive piece of high-tech equipment, but it clanks and clatters like a $4.95 Rube Goldberg machine. The damn thing is loud. I had the technician show me the images afterward, particularly the median meniscus, the crescent-shaped layer of cartilage that acts like a shock absorber for the inner part of the knee. She pointed out a white line she said indicated damage. I considered that good news. Meniscus tears can be repaired fairly easily.
Today, the rheumatologist finally reached me with the MRI results. The meniscus, he said, is actually intact. But there's virtually no cartilage left at the end of the femur and tibia and that they are now bone on bone, which explains the constant pain.
I was surprised my reaction to the news. I sat in privacy of the darkened "fish bowl" -- the room where daily news meetings are held -- and wept quietly. It's not as if I were told I have six weeks to live, but "severe degenerative arthritis" disturbed me. Instead of relatively benign arthroscopic surgery, I now face the prospect of a knee replacement and lengthy rehab. A bad beat.
A baseball coach I met this fall told me that he regrets not having one of his knees replaced sooner, that it improved his life immensely. That's heartening. Perhaps I should be result oriented in this case. My knee needs fixed. The meds they've prescribed barely reach the pain but are too powerful to take while I'm at work.
Like the Julian calendar, I've treated age largely as a conceit to be dusted off only when useful. I've clung to the pablum of "young at heart" despite my rapid descent toward age 50. I play poker with folks who are much younger that me, work alongside reporters nearly half my age and coach a bunch of smart-ass teen-agers. Only occasionally do I look in the mirror and see someone ... middle-aged. I realize that others see an old(er) guy, and that's fine. But I wonder what that image will be, both inside and out, once I go into public with a newly acquired accessory that no big-pimpin' balla should be without -- a cane.
Fuck me and the fact that I need a cane. The sooner I can get rid of the thing the better.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Quantity is Job 1
Sunday, however, looked bad enough that I had an e-mail to Hammerin' Hank Paulson composed and ready for delivery. But once again, my final tournament of the night brought a small measure of redemption. To that point I had bombed out of one badugi, three HORSE, four NL and one Indian Poker (tough getting the laptop screen to your forehead) before final tabling a wee $3 knockout tournament on Tilt.
There were 665 runners and I finished fourth. I also collected an impressive three -- that's right, three -- bounties along the way at 50 cents per donkey unit. The $134 payout was my biggest in a while online.
I've read in blogs and forums about how the ballas regularly jump into multiple big buy-in tournaments searching for, and occasionally finding, a big cash. I've decided to emulate these playas but at a micro level.
My justification for the number of soul-sucking hours I've been playing online lately is that I'd like to make money. Money is good, and I'd like more. Poker db stats show that I cash in roughly 1 out of 6 MTTs. (It's 19% on Stars and 15% on Tilt.) The trick is getting deeper more often I have in the past.
The hope is that dedicated tournament play will lead to significant growth in the bankroll sector of the poker economy. It remains to be seen if the constant two-tabling helps or hinders the quality of my play. It does making folding easier. And I'm less apt to be surfing the webs or watching TV that when I single table.
Preparing corn chowder while playing a HORSE and badugi tournament is a little tricky, but I'll try to avoid that in the future.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Got very lucky to even cash. Around 10 spots before the money bubble, I was down to crumbs when the big blind hit me in hold 'em, forcing me and my 5-3 offsuit all-in against two players. I didn't even bother watch the hand play out and turned my attention to the other tournament on the screen. Yet a short time later, the HORSE table popped up and I discovered I had just over 1,000 chips. A freakin' minor miracle had occurred.
I managed to win a few more hands, hunkered down and pretty much folded my way into the money (40 paid). More luck propelled me toward the finaly table after the money bubble burst when I made two pair on seventh street to win a big stud all-in. I got up above 40K at one point, but bled off far too many chips chasing speculative hands against smaller stacks. I was on fumes when I we reached the final table of eight players and lasted just a few hands.
HORSE tournaments emphasize to me how minuscule the edges are. Small mistakes you make throughout the tournament seem to have a compounding effect. The need for aggressiveness must be balanced against the rising swell of blinds and antes. The approach that seems to work best is playing extremely tight preflop and pounding hard when you think you've got the upper hand. And, as always, position is huge in determining which hands you can play and those you cannot.
I also had a minor cash in an $11 knockout tournament on Tilt last night. ($8 goes to the prize pool and $2 is your bounty.) The bounties produce a noticeable change in the way people play. Shortstacked all-ins are more than likely going to get called by big stacks with marginal holdings for the chance to collect the extra dough. I'll be looking to play a few more of these.
Finally, headed to a satellite clinic of one of our mega-hospitals today to finally get an MRI on my left knee. It took three visits to a rheumatologist to finally convince someone that the 24/7 pain I feel is something other than osteoarthritis. The doc's best guess was a torn meniscus. I'm hoping that's the case and some arthoscopic surgery will provide relief.
The growing pain has been a drag and is life limiting. Just walking 10 blocks to lunch on Friday proved ill-advised. Playing golf or throwing batting practice at the moment is inconceivable. The sooner I can get this fixed the better.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Mixed game results
Yet no matter the tournament type -- freezeout, rebuy, HORSE, badugi, Token Frenzy on Tilt -- nothing went right. Mellow eventually went south with the wife, kids and 401K. Bad cards, back luck, bad timing and bad play had conspired like Wall Street bankers to make for a bad night of pokerific action.
Finally, I registered for the final two tournaments of the night, a $5 HORSE on Tilt and $2 PLB (pot limit badugi) on Stars. I started poorly in those two as well, but began hacking through those fields with the dull machete that is my game. I managed to cash in both, including a final table in badugi, where I finished fifth. Poker can be a slog, but patience and persistence finally prevailed. One of the longest nights of the year had come to an end.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Finished third in a pot-limit badugi tournament (128 runners) last night and thought I was on my to yet another big win when we got three-handed. but had my first-draw, 9-high badugi draw crushed by my opponent's first draw, 7-high badugi.
(For the unitiated, a demographic that included me just a month ago, badugi is a four-card, triple draw game where you tried to try to get four cards of four different suits, none of which are paired. The best hand is A-2-3-4 rainbow. Origins of the game supposedly are Korean.)
The pot-limit version of badugi is far trickier than limit. Like other poker games, with limit badugi you mostly need to show down the best hand to win. In pot-limit tournaments, especially when the blinds are large, position and aggression rule the day. Yet you also find yourself in situations where you need to think things through and determine whether a thin call might not be appropriate. I know. It's no different in NLHE or other big bet games. But it has helped me look at poker in new ways. For whatever reason, I have an affinity toward lowball games.
Give the micro buy-ins for these tournaments, the rewards for going deep are insignificant. Yet this experiment has been interesting and I can believe I've been learning lessons along the way that should prove relevant no matter what form of poker I play.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Here is a pathetic side note to my little Badugi tournament win: It was my first online MTT win. I have a couple of seconds in low buy-in, large-field tourneys, but no winst. The badugi MTT had only 120 runners, but it's officially an MTT win in my book. This triple draw tournament I played last night did not have a large field, either, but a win is a win.
This was a fun tournament. I was the small stack when we got three-handed, then went on a huge rush and had about a 3-1 advantage at the start of heads-up play. He chiseled away until I was down to around T12,000, but could not stop me from roaring back for the victory.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
No love yet
I'll play the O8 tournament tomorrow, where the Poker Gods will have to nominate me as their Man of the Year to win a seat in the finals. There is only a remote chance I can play the 8 Game on Friday. I'm playing a $5.50 PLO8 tournament on Stars now.
Interesting bit of news today about the Detroit papers cutting back home delivery to three days a week. Local newspapers may not last another five years at this rate.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Try a little tolerance
Mailman, who has energetically embraced his role as TD for these Saturday night donkaments, is in the habit of being punctual. He opens new tables when enough late players have arrived. A few minutes late (as usual), I drew a seat at Table 3 in between a father and son whose mannerisms sent me careening toward the dark edge of tilt.
Unless their bumpkin personna was an act, there was nothing malicious about their behavior. There was one curious soft play between them when the son didn't bet on the end with the second nuts and dad had a pretty big hand, but they had shown themselves to be passive, calling stations to that point and I dismissed the possibility of skulduggery. They were unsophisticated both in poker and in life.
What annoyed me most was their constant blathering and the way they repeated each other's inanities like an old married, but slightly retarded couple. One such blatherer would have been bad, but in stereo it grated my nerves like a block of aged parmesan.
At first break, I headed upstairs and out into breezy cold for a smoke. I took stock of my situation. No matter how idiotic their behavior might appear, I realized I had no right to judge them. They were there, like me, to play in a $30 donkament because that's what they could afford. Were they slow? Yes. But that's the hand life had dealt them. That's not their fault. I might hold a self-image as a semi-worldly, decently educated individual, but I'm sure there are people I've met along my journey through life who have viewed me as rube. It's all about perspective.
I returned to the basement in a better frame of mind, but even that was a largely self-serving sentiment. I discovered some time ago that I play my best poker when I shed my surly tendencies in favor of a positive, upbeat attitude at the table. In this case, I believe I succeeded. I busted during the second level after the break, but at least I felt better about myself and my neighbors.
I moved on to the cash game ($1/$1 blinds) ready mix it up at a tough, tricky and fun table . I had some hands early on that put me in some tough spots that required reads that I mostly got right. I was up around $30 or so when my flopped two pair (A-3) lost to A-10 on the river for a $100-plus pot. I then spent the next three or four hours folding like an origami master. I can't recall when I've been so cold decked. There was no reason to play the garbage I was being dealt. Limping was barely an option, much less calling raises hoping for miracle flops.
When I finally got a couple of hands near the end of the night, no one dared stay in pots with me. I couldn't blame them.
I have worked hard at opening up my game since I began playing with the Group four years ago, but my performance Saturday night may have re-cemented my reputation as a nit. At least I know better. Or do I? Once again, it's all a matter of perspective.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I can't recall whether I went busto on Stars before Neteller crashed or sometime after, but there was a period where I played precious little online because I no longer had a convenient way to fund my account. And that was okay. My participation in Group games provided ample opportunity to play livve.
When the e-check thing came along, I again made deposits again into my Stars' account, usually $25 or $50 here or there. It's quick and easy. I haven't bothered to total how much those $25s and $50s total, and don't think I want to know. It's been all deposit and no withdrawal for too long. Back in the ... ahem ... day of Party Poker and at Stars for awhile, I was a withdrawer. I got money and spent it on vacations and stuff. I went a couple of years without without ever having to deposit money in those accounts. (Full Tilt is another matter. A lifetime loser there.) Online poker was fun.
Today, I can only conclude that I suck and should not play online. Game selection, bankroll management, ability to concentrate for more than 3 seconds ... it's all bad. I ran the bankroll up a bit a few months ago with some tournament cashes and 8-game success, but that money, as always, disappeared into the ether.
The prime motivation for playing poker should not be boredom, which appears to be the case. I feel ... disengaged, a mediocre button smasher. Will I stop playing online? Of course not. I get bored easily. And I'm addicted. And I possess a masochistic need to be kicked in the junk -- repeatedly.
Those were alot of words to make a point made by other: Live poker is so much more interesting. My level of online poker lethargy is matched only by my increasing enthusiasm for live games. So much more information, so much more rewarding. I have plans to play tournaments/cash games this Friday AND Saturday, which has me jazzed after a weekend of no live poker.
Also, I made a cryptic remark in a previous post about major life changes. As it turned out, nothing much changed. No Turk came calling, asking me to turn in my playbook. That's cool. There were some intriguing but speculative prospects out there, but I opted to stay with the tried and true. I still find my job rewarding. After spending the better part of 30 years in my profession, that's not a bad thing to say.
But the industry (okay, it's newspapers), is in rapid decline. The print product will largely disappear in another generation or two. In the meantime, it will become smaller and more compact as advertising and readership dwindles further and computing power grows. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to channel their inner Luddite and read newspapers long enough so my kids can get through college.