"You're not the only one who gets to play with the bloggers."
Those were my words to Otis cards went into the air for the Poker Princess Invitational. It was a collection of eight poker bloggers who gathered in Austin with pride and money on the line. You see, unlike those pansy bloggers in South Carolina, we don't have to pretend we're playing for "points."
Assembled for this titanic battle were:
Adam was our tournament director, and, armed with a countdown clock that beared a remarkable resemblance to a microwave, we got started with T1500, 20/40 starting blinds and 45 minute levels. I think Otis would approve.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The Hammer and the Jackhammer
The first interesting hand of the night came on hand #4. Adam raised UTG and got two callers before it got back to me. I threw out a big re-raise with my Hiltons. Frankly, I didn't want to see any callers. We know what kind of a bitch the Hiltons can be. Thankfully, they all laid them down, including Adam, who sheepishly showed his UTG raising hand: The HAMMER.
Just a few hands later, I take my first shot at Heather. She talks a big game, but she doesn't scare me. I look down at my favorite hand, the Jackhammer, and throw out my standard raise. Heather calls on the button (which she did to me every damn time!). The flop missed me completely, but, when you're holding the Jackhammer, cards just don't matter. I massively overbet the pot and Heather went away. I think I put her on tilt for 49 seconds. At least. And she's still smarting.
UPDATE: From IM chat tonight with Heather...
Heather: actualllly i raised on the button you limped with J4
Heather: i raised with my AW
Heather: AQ - your notes are off
Heather: I remember because you BET INTO THE RAISER
CJ: ah... and you still folded!
Heather: yeah, you pissed me off by betting into my raise and that's what made me think that maybe 2nd pair wasn't good
Heather: and I'd have a shot at you another tmeHeather: and it's "a lot" not "alot" (Heather enjoys proofreading, she had a half dozen more corrections, but I didn't want to bore you.)
Told you she was still smarting!
First quote of the night:
Adam to April, giving her her nickname for the night. I suppose seeing the "kimono-like" top would help complete the image. Hmmm... this nickname was a lot funnier at the time.
The Hammer Again?
All I wrote down was, "Scott folded the HAMMER while ahead. Karma will come." I don't want to say that's foreshadowing, but...
Level 2, 15/30 blinds, April and CJ are the chip leaders
The Massive Overbet
There were a few massive overbets this weekend. Many could be attributed to the alcohol, others to the unusual set up of the chips and stacks.
This time, April threw out a massive overbet UTG +1. It was quickly folded around to John, who went into the tank (another theme). He was in the big blind, and as he explains on his own blog, he managed to convince himself that April was holding the HAMMER. He comes over the top all in with his pocket tens, and April quickly calls with Rockets.
John is out in 8th.
The Exposed Nine
Had he waited just a little longer, John likely would have finished 7th. You see, by now, Scott was severely short-stacked, sitting on just T105. When JT came his way, it was the best he'd seen in a long time, and he pushed. April and Adam both called, and Scott miraculously tripled up. A few hands later, Scott found American Airlines and doubled through Heather's 89s.
The end of it all would come when Scott found ATo and pushed once again. Somehow, in the midst of the hand, Heather managed to flip one of her cards, the 9 of diamonds. It didn't seem like that big of a deal until Adam, in the midst of calling the all-in, stopped.
When Adam finally decided to go with his call, we all saw why he reconsidered. He was holding AQ, of diamonds. It didn't matter, however, because Scott never improved. Heather on the other hand, would have tripped up.
Scott is out in 7th.
Level 3, 25/50 blinds, April is the chip leader
9:15 pm: It's dial-a-shot time, and this time, poker's favorite dwarf, Iggy is on the line.
Your Hero's Demise
The biggest difference between a poker blogger table on PokerStars and a poker blogger table in the flesh is the chance to read a player. That doesn't mean I took advantage of that fact, however, as this hand will prove.
I get to see 94o for free out of the BB. I get a piece of the flop when a 4 falls, along with two spades. I throw out a solid bet which Adam quickly calls. Did you see that... he quickly called. I think I remember Phil Gordon telling viewers on Celebrity Poker Showdown that a quick call usually means a draw.
The turn is a 4. I'm tripped. It's also the four of spades. I think you know where this is going. I slyly check my trips. He pushes all in, and I call without taking a moment to think about it. Naturally, he shows K5 of spades and I don't catch my boat. It was, by far, the biggest pot of the night. Adam and I were third and second in chips respectively, and that put Adam at the top of the list, and knocked me down to just T300.
I get my KQs all in against Gus' A7o and the flop doubles me up. I steal a few chips with a naked ace later and I get myself back up over T1000. With blinds still at 25/50, I'm in okay shape.
So when I see 99, I raise to T150. Heather calls on the button. Remember, she does that alot. And she's still smarting from that Jackhammer. She clearly has it out for me, and will draw like a donkey if that's what it takes to knock me out!
The flop is J-x-x, I decide to bet everything on the hunch she doesn't have a Jack. My hunch is pretty bad. She flips over QJo and I don't improve.
CJ is out in 6th.
Second quote of the night
That's the sound of losing.
Gus, following a raise from Kat and about 30 seconds of silence. Gus folds.
C(K)at Scratch Fever
First, she doubles through Adam. He called her preflop raise with JT and caught a piece of the K-T-x flop. When Kat pushed, Adam called and stared down the double barrel of AA. It was just the beginning of her run, and it would mean the end of our Fat Tabby Mama.
April somehow managed to get into a hand with 65o. I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say it was a BB special (I'm no Dr. Pauly when it comes to note-taking, besides, Heather brought Sudoku puzzles.) The flop was Q-8-x. Kat played it cool all the way to the river when a 6 fell. April got all her chips in and found out Kat flopped top two pair.
April was out in 5th.
Down Goes Gus
The short stacks were getting short at this point, especially as Adam continued to chip up. This time, it was Gus' turn to take his shot. His A5 caught middle pair on a board of 7-5-3. Little did he know Heather was sitting on wired 9's. The turn and river brought no cards of consequence.
Gus was out in 4th (the bubble).
Third quote of the night
You deal a queen, you're sleeping on the couch.
Kat to Gus
Gus and Scott had taken over the dealing duties from John by now. In this particular hand, Gus had the deck. If you didn't know, Gus and Kat are a lovely couple. At least they were, until this hand.
Kat got all her chips into the pot with Big Slick. Adam couldn't help but call with AQ. He's dominated. At least he was until the flop. Gus peeled off Q-x-x. The K never came. I think they're still together.
Kat was out in 3rd ($48).
Fourth quote of the night
Fuck! I thought I had QJ. Son of a bitch!
We were heads up between Heather and Adam, and Adam had a rather substantial chip lead. And he used that chip lead to effectively bully his way to an even bigger chip lead. Then it happened.
The flop came down Q-7-5. Heather bet the pot and Adam couldn't push all in fast enough. Heather called and showed her Q8 and top pair. Adam proudly displayed his... JT? He somehow managed to forget his hand, and elected to go all in without checking.Fifth quote of the night
It's like I pressed the wrong button... but I'm playing live!!!!
Adam, recounting the hand on the phone, moments later
That's right, it was the first live misclick in poker tournament history. We've all hit that wrong button the virtual tables, but Adam one-upped us. The shame of it all is that Adam played really, really well to get to that point, but just handed Heather a chip lead.
Winning Her Own Tournament
It only took a few more hands for it to come to an end. We've all played with the luckbox to know what's coming. Adam got all his money in the pot with QTs and got called by Heather's JTo. The flop produced a Jack, and it was all over.
Adam was out in 2nd ($72)
She dodged HAMMERS and Jackhammers, took advantage of a live misclick, single-handedly eliminated 3 of the 8 players (including our hero) and masterfully moved her way to the top of the chip stack.
The Poker Princess is your champion ($120).<-- Hide More
There are many stories about the beginning, from the mythical "Big Bang" of male physicist fantasy, to the light switch creation of Genesis. Different cultures each have their own tale, often passed down to wide-eyed children, some, like the "Day of the Vacuum Fart" are told only to children with giant hoops around the neck. I'm not sure which story, if any, is true. I DO know from whence poker came.
This is the story of O-TIS.More in this Poker Blog! -->
IN THE BEGINNING
In the days of primordial ooze, when the earth was still building a protective layer of air, and the sun's radiant poison melted even the most stubborn rock, a "singularity" existed in the poker universe. All mass and energy, all thoughts of pot-odds and suckouts, all bad beat tales and bad winner's rants, were compressed into a single entity with enough gravity to move a chair with Greg Raymer upon it (not that such a chair or Raymer did then exist). From this single point, all poker was born.
It is believed that poker was less than 2% to exist at all, but singularities always draw. Rather than a "big bang," it was a colossal SUCK, like a vaccum hose just cleared after a clogging furball blows. Each corner of the globe was littered with gambling debris, tens of thousands of poker concepts and games reached every corner of the globe. Some were instantly destroyed, like the concept of bankroll management. Others would grow into a million species of belief, most of them very, very dumb. Poker archaeologists call this the "Day of Party Poker."
What still puzzles many of the great thinkers, and there are at least a dozen, are the singularity's similarities. All poker matter doth consist of the same 52 card deck. All poker players use the same system of barter, colored chips, which were made of clay even then. Stranger still there was a hierarchy, a rank of hands, that was uniform in every corner of the globe. This is true from the island of Lesbos, where everyone plays stud, to the short statured Pygmies, who invented the game of Razz. Poker needed a grand unifying theory. What it got was a God.
WE GET RELIGION
First records of the universal rules of poker were discovered by the great prophet CJ. As the story goes, the tall but thin thinker would captivate his village with astounding tricks of magic and terrify them with his awful rage. The greatest of his powers was the ability to totally disappear, vanish from sight. Many cynics now believe this was simply a result of CJ turning sideways, but the legend is certainly true.
It was on one of these invisible jaunts, when CJ discovered the rules. Carved into the bark of a cypress tree, atop the Cypress Hill, near the cottage of Witch Doctor Pauly, CJ found what are still the 5 Commandments of the Poker God.
1. On this planet the game of poker shall be based on a series of relatively simple mathmatical calculations.
2. On this day forth, the game shall be most popular with people who are, and have always been, very bad at math.
3. On this land the game of poker shall be revered above all other games of skill and chance.
4. On this same land poker shall be penalized as a crime, while random picking of numbers shall be encouraged.
5. Only this day, and all until eternity, you shall abandon the notion of luck, there is only the one poker God.
When the great prophet CJ presented the rules to the terrified masses they sought a way to beg the favor of their terrible poker God. They memorized his laws, and came to know their Lord by the shortened words that procede each one. O-Tis was born.
THE SPREAD OF FAITH
Within a few days, because this is the spread of poker knowledge and myth, the entire world had bowed before Otis. Great statues were erected in his honor, each of them more glorious than the last. The image of their God was of a Grand Superman, more perfect than they. Pilgrims made bi-annual voyages to rub his head for luck, and cut portions of his endowment to grind as a cure for nymphomania. Today, after centuries of religious worship, every statue of the great Otis is nearly bald from the rubbing, and rather tiny in the pants, from years of abuse.
In the years the followed the religion's rise, the Great Otis grew bored. He created, from the dust of his former self, a rival so horrible as to further prove the greatness of Himself. A struggling village idot, blind to the poker truth but happy in his ignorant life, was given the awful gift of knowledge. He was tall and ugly, his hair thick and luxourious as a contrast to the Creator, and he stole money from the people because he was too stupid to fold. Ignorant of math and odds he bet fortunes into pennies, and ignored the rank of hands. He was stupid but lucky which angered the poker God. By his theft alone, he was called G-Rob.
THE BATTLE FOR THE POKER UNIVERSE
Guided by his own sick and twisted prophet, the well-named BadBlood, G-Rob learned the dark side of the game. Epic battles, called "BLOGGER TOURNAMENTS," began to unfold to the shock and horror of the humbled masses. To date, G-Rob still cannot outplay his prophet, but the engine of evil is unbridled ambition. The game shall forever continue. Today Otis plays directly from the "PokerStars," and it is there that the great battle rages.
At poker tables, that span the entire globe, players cry out for help from Otis. Instead they are sucked out by his rival. O-Tis talks a mighty game, and will always be the Superior and the Creater... THE INVENTOR OF POKER ITSELF... but...
The latest of those battles, the "Up For Poker Invitational" was held on Poker Stars last night.
Check the Lord's post below for the result.<-- Hide More
Crow-eating update in extended entry
So, I was concerned when I didn't see CJ's name appear on the registration board for the WWdN #3: Up4 Poker Invitational. So, I dialed his cell phone. He answered on the first ring.
He sounded like I was committing the cell phone version of coitus interruptus.
"You are interupting," he said, "the Austin Bloggers tournament."
CJ doesn't live in Austin. I wasn't sure I understood, and if I did, that I believed him. Getting CJ out of bayou country is difficult. Only women, music, and poker pull him away from work. Of course, Austin has all three of those things.
Perhaps he heard it in the tone of my voice. I heard him pull the phone from his face.
"Everybody say hello to B. Otis. W.!"
The room exploded into a cheer. "Oooootisss!"
He returned to the phone. "You're not the only one who gets to play with the bloggers," he said in a smug tone.
So, if you came here tonight looking for the man behind the WWdN Invitational tonight, rest calmly in that he is playing with real chips in a room full of hooligans tonight. As my relatonship with PokerStars precludes my playing the event, G-Rob is playing for the team tonight as GRobman.
I'd appreciate it if you cracked his aces with quad fives then typed, "Thems quads beeeetches" in the chat box.
Good luck to everyone, and thanks to Wil for running these fine events.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Go figure. I ask you guys to bust G-Rob in a humilating way, and he goes and does this. For the love of all creatures great and small.
Congratulations to Daddy for his runner up finish.<-- Hide More
Um...yep.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Dr. Jeff and I will be wheels down before noon on Thursday December 8th and wheels up late Sunday night. And, yeah, we'll be at the host hotel this time. Not that we'll be seeing much of the room anyway. Otis=rowdy.<-- Hide More
The guys at Up For Poker are pretty easy. I'm not going to lie. And when one self-nominee for "The Nuts" used this line:
I'll hike up my skirt and stick my leg out
We were sold. Please go say hello to change100 at Pot Committed. She's another one of those LA bloggers, but I won't hold that against her.
By the way, there were many fine nominees, and I will be trying to get as many of you in the spotlight as possible. And for those looking to get on the blogroll, consider it done (as soon as I have a minute).
There's a very kind woman, a weathergirl, at a local TV station, who has a problem with e-mail. Let's call her the "brick." She moved to the South from a small midwestern town, and had no premonition of the impending culture shock. Her interview with the station, where she's on the air right now, went well. She's incredibly qualified for the job, has all the seals and certifications, and the other employees, her co-workers and new friends, thought she was a joy to be around.
So why isn't she happy?
E-mail is a bitch.More in this Poker Blog! -->
There are a million ways to suffer the slings and arrows. These days, the archer remains unseen. Otis says the most outwardly egotistical are usually the most sensitive, which means he watches too much Dr. Phil. But beneath every silly pop-psych gimmick is a glimmer of obvious truth. I have a big ego and I'm a very sensitive guy.
I wonder sometimes about the chatter in online poker. It's competitive by its nature, but usually its just nasty. I used to enjoy a stupid ramble with the dopes from Missoula or Mississippi, I'd tell them I'm watching "Alien vs Predator" and they'd tell me it's awful. Again, that's obvious, but people feel its worth a mention.
These days I have to ignore the whole thing. Half the time you get the baiters, who want to push you off your game. I'm not easily susceptible to that. The rest are whining like children over a beat, not always bad. How many times have we seen some douchebag bust out of a $5MTT on a very bad beat, and then launch into a hateful tirade like someone raped his mother? Grow up moron, you can't buy a pack of Vegas smokes for that. It's really awfully sad.
I suppose the problem is the supposed anonymity of the internet. People snipe at others because they never see the impact of their words. They never feel it either. Someone on a cursing diatribe, face to face, is likely to get their face pounded. It's the same problem faced by "The Brick."
In my line of work there are about a dozen, probaly more, anonymous websites where people spread gossip, rumors, and hatred of the on-air folks. I've been the subject of quite a few. When my work schedule changed several high traffic, subscriber-based sites told the world I'd been fired. We had one man, a former weather guesser, who was the subject of a "I wouldn't trust him near my children..." campaign. It was totally false, and probably criminal. But, again, the poster wasn't traced. They can range from flattering to threatening and it's all part of the job, but I wonder if people really know how it feels?
"The Brick" would get those e-mails all the time, and some were incredibly mean. All female TV types have it worst, because people will write an e-mail to the station just to tell you they think you're ugly. Good at your job? Perhaps. I don't like you and I want to hurt you? For sure. What possesses a person? I've seen "The Brick," again one of the nicest people I've ever met, close to tears in the middle of the day because someone said something more hurtful than you'd imagine.
In a recent issue of TIME, there's the old looking ahead to the future bit. One of the experts offered this, "the internet is like alcohol, it causes people to act like what they really are." I shudder to think that's true, but perhaps we've learned something from online poker. The stupid chat window diatribes are only a start.
We've seen out friends, the poker bloggers, draw deep likes of division at times, over things that would never divide real people. Don't like the way a blogger writes, why not post an entire column of insulting garbage to tell them they're a rotten soul. Don't like the financial foundations of a blog itself, well, obviously the writers are worthless scum. I work with dozens of writers, I don't think ALL of them are great, but I'd never cruise by to tell them I think they suck. Why? Because only assholes would do that.
But online, let the hatred flow!!
OUR BETTER SELVES
Notice this, by the way, about the best online bloggers. Dr. Pauly does not talk trash about other people. He makes observations, sometimes very funny ones, but they're never made with the sole intention of causing hurt.
Neither do BadBlood or Maudie. The best rise about the petty.
I promise to do the same.
It's true that some of the best poker players are notorious jerks, Hellmuth or Matusow, but I contend they're famous in the same way as Omarosa. We all know who they are, and they've gained additional fame by acting badly, but we don't like them. We never will. I hope not.
When you read this blog, we will stick to poker. Or, at least, things that happen while we play poker... or think about it... or on the way to or from a poker game... or involving people who play poker.
We want to be the best. My ego demands it.
We won't stoop to hatred to make it happen.
Neither should you.<-- Hide More
They call them lav mics. It's short for lavalier mic. A lavalier is a small stone or pendant worn like a necklace. A lac miv is a tiny little microphone you wear clipped to your short, tie, or lapel that is so easily forgotten that you can walk in the bathroom, sing "Strangers in the Night," take a quick pee, and walk back before ever considering there is a room full of people listening in.
I should know. I spent nearly a decade wearing one.More in this Poker Blog! -->
(Spoiler alert--do not read any further if you have't seen the most recent WSOP coverage and want to go in fresh. Further, if you have been under a rock and don't know who made the final table of the 2005 WSOP and don't want to know, don't read).
After last night's very unfortunate airing of WSOP second-place finisher Steven Dannenmann's in-game phone call, the bloggers and forums went nuts, berating Dannenmann for his his hubris and firmly asserting the writers would never be so stupid.
If you missed it, Dannenmann ran a successful bluff with rags against Howard Lederer. Lederer had the better hand, but it was a hand he could easily get away from. In short, it was no great poker coup and certainly not a defining hand of the Series. At the same time, at that moment, Dannenman must have been thinking, "I just bluffed a poker god."
And who could blame him? Imagine yourself having made Day 2 of the World Series of Poker, having been at the featured table with Howard Lederer, and having run a bluff on the Professor. What would you want to do? Well, of course, you'd want to tell your poker buddies.
Now, I am not going to be a Dannenmann apologist. If memory serves, there was a time when people were referring to him as Bloody Mary Man, in reference to his non-stop pounding of the drinks late during one day of play (if I'm wrong about this, I'm sure someone will correct me...I don't have it in my notes, but that's what my worn out memory remembers). At the same time, consider a couple of things before you go all "Damn, that Josh-Aireh-Mike-Matusow-Steve-Dannenmann-is a-complete-ass" on him.
First, you WOULD tell your buddies about it bluffing Lederer. You'd be dying to. But, you, as a smart person, would wait until you were out of earshot and off camera. Right?
Consider this...Dannenmann probably thought he wasn't on camera. He'd stepped away from the table, covered his mouth, and whispered into his phone. He can be forgiven for forgetting the lav mic was still on him. I've done it countless times. Also, while the ESPN edit made it look like Dannenmann jumped right up and made the phone call, in fairness, that could've happened any time afterward. I mean, really...the amount of stuff that has to be cut out of these televised tournaments is amazing. What you've seen of the main event so far accounts for four 12-13 hour days of play. There's no telling when Dannenmann made the phone call.
So, be honest with yourself and don't get all silly on Dannenmann. Sure, it was a bonehead move. Sure, he should've waited until he was somewhere in a quiet room before bragging to his buddies. As my producer/wife always told me, "If you're wearing a mic, treat it like you're live on TV, even if you aren't"
But give Dannenmann a break. I've known of a lot of people who accidentally said naughty words on TV because they forget their mic was open.
All of that said, if you want to hate on Dannenmen, here's the way to do it:
During the final table of the WSOP, the weary press began getting a little loopy. During one of the late night hours, someone who will remain nameless (only because I was too tired to remember it later) mentioned Steve Dannenmann and Jeffrey Jones ("Ed Rooney" from Ferris Bueller's Day Off) had to have been separated at birth.
I did a little photo archive research this morning. I'll let you be the judge.
I won't even mention where Jones is today...<-- Hide More
Why aren't you on my blogroll? Okay, I'm sure it's my fault. You sent me an email awhile back and I meant to add you and forgot. Or you left a comment hoping I'd see it and put you on the list. Well, now's my chance to right that wrong.
Please leave me a comment with your poker blog and, if you'd like a special spotlight, tell me why you should be "The Nuts." By Wednesday, you'll be on the roll and I'll pick a new winner. And sorry, but you're not getting any cool PokerStars gear out of this. Up For Poker has no budget. Although I'm thinking of merchandising... but that would only confirm fears that my ego is too large (check the comments).
On a completely unrelated note, I've now managed to redirect UpForPoker.com and UpForPoker.net. Makes it a lot easier to tell people how to get here. Next step will be moving this over completely... but that's way down the road. I'm an idiot, it was hard enough to figure this out!
Should we all be screaming blog thief?
Heath, with the Blog Bunch, has removed Up For Poker from his listing. If other poker bloggers wish to do the same, I'd suggest sending an email.
Indeed, I'm not playing, today, but I'll be there to watch everybody. Here are a few details.
PokerStars Blogger Championship
CJ will be playing under the name Up4Poker
G-Rob (if he's not working) will be playing under the name GRobman
Otis will be making special appearances.
Wanna watch? You can download the client for free by clicking here. Then go to Tourney/Private and scroll down the the PokerStars Blogger Championship (it's in green).
Have fun everybody.
I think this is close to what it was like when I got seated at wil's table (click for larger):
I few hands later, I threw away a bunch of chips and found myself relatively shortstacked. Then I lucked into K's and won a nice pot. And then it happened. A few hands later, it's Cowboys again and wil pushes all in in front of me for about half my stack. I push all in to eliminate one caller and my K's hold up over his Snowmen. (wil liveblogged the tourney over at Card Squad.)
You never really feel bad about winning a big pot, but I didn't want to put wil out if I didn't have to. I managed to carry that stack all the way to 10th place before making a stupid call with KQ preflop. I lost to J's and was out. I would have made the final table had I just folded, but that's the way it goes.
It was a blast, and because I was lucky enough to bust him, wil named next week's tourney at Pokerstars the Up4Poker Invitational. Make sure you sign up and play!
by that much.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Long story short, I went heads up with just a slight disadvantage and proceeded to get owned. Not my biggest win to date, but it is my best finish in a field this large.
I gotta stop staying up so late.<-- Hide More
I'd made a rule for myself during my first beer. I would not under any circumstances play the nightly 11pm $225 WSOP second chance tournament. The little $10/$20 cash game was running just fine. Maria and her ex-beau were chatty as always. The dealers were in rare form. I stood to win a little money.
John the Omniscent Cocktail Dude appeared behind me like the Great Gazoo.
"Bud Light." he said, picking up my empty and replacing it with a full one. I toked him as he walked away, took a slug from the bottle, and made a rule for myself. Unless I was up by $300 or more by 10:30pm, I would not play the 11pm $225.
"Bud Light." The Great Gazoo was behind me again. Too few minutes had passed in the interim.
"John," I said, "deliver my next one to Table 23. I'll be in the $225."More in this Poker Blog! -->
The $225 (aka The World Series of Poker nightly Second Chance tournament) sucked, and I don't say that because I played it five times and never came close to cashing.
Okay, maybe that has something to do with it, but it still sucked.
Don't get me wrong. It was a well-run tournament with good TDs and good dealers. The payouts were great. First prize was usually around $18,000. Not a bad payday.
But it started at 11pm. Even with gamblers hours, you have to quickly realize, the structure was going to be mercury-on-snot fast. Killing off a couple hundred players in a few hours meant the blinds moved so fast (every 20 minutes as I recall), a quick run to the bathroom meant you were likely going to miss half a level.
Of course, I'm an addict. I love tournaments, good or bad.
But, these days, I've started asking myself how -EV are the crapshoots and should we even bother playing them?
[Note: The following all pertains to live tournaments. We can discuss online structures another day. Plus, if I started talking about online structures, I'd start getting all shilly and pimpy. Second, I won't be discussing major, big buy-in tournaments here. Finally, I'm no expert on tournament structures. I have a basic understanding and a bit of common sense that leads me to figure out what is good and bad. Feel free to tell me I'm an idiot.]
Ye Olde Bait and Switch
So, let's piss off the casinos, shall we? Most casinos' daily tournaments suck on ice. They can't be blamed too much. Tournaments don't offer them much in the way of good rake opportunity. To make it anywhere close to a profit-oriented venture, they have to bump up the juice so much that it makes it not worth your time.
Anyone who has been to Vegas once knows this. If you're one of the people who have not yet tried it, be warned: The sole purpose of casinos offering tournaments is to get you in their poker room to play the cash games. They'll ask if you want to sit in a cash game while you're waiting for the tournament to start. They'll let you register early if you're sitting in a game. When you bust out, they will be there to ask if you'd like to sit down in a cash game. Again, there is nothing wrong with this little bait and switch. It's marketing. It's part of what I do for a living, so I can't knock it. Nonetheless, like being in bed with a woman, it's good to know why you're there.
Paging Mr. S. Gonzalez
So, given that we know the casinos have little interest in tournaments outside of the cash game lure and the minute amount of juice they make, we can easily figure out what kind of structure is best for the casino. Fast. Speedy Gonzalez fast.
What is fast? Any live tournament with blind levels less than 30 minutes is too fast. Simple as that.
Many of the low buy-in tourneys in cardrooms these days have 20 minute levels. Some get as ugly as doing 15 minute levels. Twenty minutes is rough. Fifteen minutes is an insult to your intelligence.
In the day and age of television poker, the Hollywooders of the poker world routinely take too long to make a decision about whether to fold A6o to an under the gun raise. In most cases, you will get around the table one to one 1/2 times per level. That is insulting.
Now, again, I don't blame the casino. If you asked, they told you how fast the levels would go, so it's your fault not their's. Nonetheless, like being in bed with a woman, speed is not a good thing.
The Blind Leading the Blind
Okay, so you've convinced yourself the casino has not given you the old bait and switch. You've decided you're perfectly fine with premature de-stackulation. Well, give yourself one more chance to open your eyes and take in the blindness.
Look at the blinds. We know how often they go up, but how much do they go up at each level? Do you start at 50/100, then to 100/200, then 200/400, then 400/800? If so, you're staring at a horrible structure. Of course the size of your starting stack (coming in just a moment) has a lot to do with this, but a good rule is: If it's double every time, it's trouble every time.
Now, of course, no one expects a one-day tournament to have a great structure. To finish the tournament in a reasonable amount of time, the structure has to move along faster than structures like those of, say, the World Series of Poker. But, you'd always be keen to find a one-day structure that goes a little like this:
After that, in a good one-day tournament, you'll likely start to see the doubling start. It has to move along sometime. However, with the above structure, you'll be able to play a little poker for a couple hours. Given, this structure will take more than a few hours to finish. But that's what you want, isn't it? Like being in bed with a woman, it's better to last for several hours than being stacked off in forty minutes.
Finally, as mentioned above, you'll want to start with a decent stack of chips. I know a lot of people who cringe when we say, "Okay, everybody starts with 150 in chips." They will complain, "Come on, man, let's make this bigger. Give everybody 4500 in chips."
As any savvy player is aware, the number of chips means nothing on its own. It all has to do with the number of chips relative to the blinds. In the deeeeeeep-stacked WSOP main event, every player begins with $10,000 in chips. The blinds start at $25/$50. That is a stack that starts at 200x the big blind. That, of course, is way too large for a one-day event.
I played in one WSOP event this year ($1500 buy-in for 1500 chips with blinds that began at 25/25). While the field was massive, the structure was not disgusting at all. In the middle levels, it felt fast, but it really wasn't.
So, what is a reasonable stack-size relative to the blinds for a one-day event? Opinions differ on this pretty strongly. If I ran the world (lord, help us all), I'd want to start with no less than 50x the starting big blind. I'd prefer 60x. I'd be quite pleased with 75x. Others say 100x.
Like being in bed with a woman, it's not the size, it's the relative size.
Ideally, we'd all just boycott the crapshoot tourneys in our cardrooms. But, it wouldn't do much good, I figure. Cheap day-long tournaments are not profitable for the casinos. The Bellagio apparently has a really nice structure for its Friday and Saturday $1000 event, but that's about the only tournament I know of where players generally walk away and feel like they got their money's worth.
Of course, many people lament that they'll never get tournament experience if they don't play the crapshoot events. I would suggest, in conclusion, that you don't want that kind of experience. The only thing you learn at those tournaments is how to play a shortstack. You're better off to play online tournaments, which is, of course, another post for another day.
Finally, as my Dad likes to say, "Lord knows I've been wrong before." You think I'm wrong, leave me a comment and let me know how. I love being wrong about stuff like this. Also, if you know of a regular one-day tournament in Vegas or anywhere that has a good structure, leave it in the comments here. I'd be interested to know where it is.
After all, like being in bed with a woman...
Oh, forget it.<-- Hide More
Let's get the manditory truth out of the way up front, I am a horrible poker player. If poker skill were playa moves, I'd be some middle-aged dimwit slouched on a couch with a laptop for a lap.
Somehow, I think I just proved chicks dig great poker players. Which is silly. I have MUCH better TV hair.
How about this?
If you could stack all the stupid at every poker table... it would be about 6 foot 5.
6'10" with the hair.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I wrote about the bigger games, I played them, and baby, I liked it. I've finally moved up in limits online. It's like starting over with a clean slate. In some sense, I start the bigger games with a break-even record. It won't be hard to dig out of the hole.
Not long ago, Iggy wrote about that attitude on a hand-for-hand basis. No matter what happened on the last hand or the one before, play each new deal like the first hand of the day. You have new information, he says, but the success of the previous hand is irrelevant. We should already know that, of course, but I actually found myself repeating his exact words after a tough beat the other night. It's like meditation for the tilting mind.
Still, like many of you, I was a loser at first. Even in the smallest limits I'd lose seveal buyins. I'm not ashamed to say I made several deposits from my bank account to several online sites. I'd win for a while, then give it all back. Some people became bonus whores by moving their bankroll around, I was a bonus whore because I was totally out of money. It took a year to recover.
Somehow this is different. I feel like a blank slate with a brand new bankroll, buck naked at square one. That's how I approach it anyway. When I wrote about playing the bigger home game, I was writing as a first time player and it's visible in my game. I've changed my style. I've learned some moves. I've started a new game.
The change in stlye is both simple and signifigant. For some time, my entire live strategy was based on the other players, but not quite enough to be consistent. My best move was a slight ability to read the strength of my opponents hand and take advantage. I'll play almost anything if I'm fairly sure you're weak. I'll only play a monster if I know you like your cards. That paid off fairly well. It allowed me to show down wins with very weak cards which, just like a good hammer play, would lead to bigger payoffs later. But there was a major hole in the game.
Not long after I got a good grip on that style, the faux loose-aggressive, I ran into people who would blow it to shreds. How? By remaining IN the hand, calling bets with hands that we both knew were lousy. I'd detect weakness, but have someone call me down with second pair. One of our locals, SHEP, would kill me that way. I'd build a stack, then give it to him.
The key, of course, is a second read. It's not only important to understand the strength of our opponent, but also their willingness to lay it down. Some players play more hands. I had a big problem adjusting to the STYLE of my opponent. GOD that seems obvious. Good players are laughing at my obvious revelation, but it took me a long time to work it out.
So once we understand BOTH the style AND the strength of the opponent it's time to adjust our own game.
To be short, at last, blind devotion to ANYTHING is foolish, including our own particular "style". Good players will figure it out and take advantage. The best style, is no rigid style at all.
So, when I first played $200NL here, I changed my game. I saw almost every player limp to almost every pot. Better still, the average late position, post-limp raise would get at least a few callers... no matter what. So what stlye does that entail?
Suddenly, I'm tight... and paid off. No sense judging the strength of their hands, at least before the flop. You can't steal blinds. You need a different game. I still bluff at that game, by the way, but I can't worry about a bluff until later in the hand. I think DOUBLE As calls it the "pressure points". He, rightly, notes the timing of pressure varies depending on the player. Looser players feel pressure LATER in the hand.
Joaquin Ochoa says to, "Hunker down, brother. That's all I can say".
He's exactly right. There's more thinking involved.
I've been playing those MTTs at bigger buyins, too. Otis (you have no idea how much it pains me to credit him but he's finally found something about which he knows far more than me) has always told me about the rationale for the more expensive tourneys. It goes something like this:
If we're fairly confident we can make the money, just make the money, in a large MTT... then a small buy in is a waste of time. At least 60th place in a $30 Party tournament pays money worth having. How many times have you bought into a big $5 MTT, played for 2 or 3 hours, and "won" a net gain of about $2. Whoooopeee. Even my TV job pays better than that.
Granted, the payout RELATIVE to buyin is roughly the same. But, again, if we're relatively sure we'll usually finish IN THE MONEY, then why not make money you can actually use. I spend more than $2 on Diet Pepsi almsot every day.
Tighter, more timely, aggressive play has helped me feel fairly sure I can MAKE THE MONEY in most, or at least a high percentage, of those HUGE MTTs.
ONE MORE THING
Speaking of Shep... I played with him again last Thursday. As we both stepped onto BadBlood's porch for a break, I told him his game is MUCH stronger these days. I'd say he's improved as much as, or more than, almost anyone I know. He's come a long way.
He told me he owes it all to poker blogs. This site, fox example, which does make typing it a slightly -EV position. Still, in this one post, I've had to reference a half dozen of my blogger friends. Just like Shep, I owe a great deal to the wisdom of others.
And if you ever want to join me in a game...remember
I'm GRobman at PokerStars.<-- Hide More
If you're a blogger and you haven't signed up for the Online Poker Blogger Championship, then you're just plain crazy. I don't really have to list the reasons, do I? Sure, there's a big cruise you could win (which I won't) and some fancy monitors (which I don't need), but I'm going for these:
Did I mention it's free? And, really, most of those bloggers don't have a shot in hell, so use that to your advantage. Plus, the more successful we make this, the more likely PokerStars will be to repeat this and the more likely other sites might be to replicate it. It's a win-win for bloggers!More in this Poker Blog! -->
By the way, did you see this picture?
That's three PokerStars players and three WSOP Main Event bracelet winners. One could be called a fluke. Two could be called a coincidence. But three? That's a trend.<-- Hide More
I'll be in Las Vegas from:
Thursday December 8th
Sunday December 11th
God help us all.
I've delayed the start of this thing long enough. I figured I had to give many of you time to practice, but your time is up.
The WPBT Euchre Tournament has begun. Eight brave teams signed up. And after randomly assigning numbers, here are the first round matchups:
Game 1: CJ and Heather vs. Matt and Megan (from Austin)
Game 2: Drizztdj and BG vs. Patrick and Danny
Game 3: The Donkey Feltchers (Maudie and Daddy) vs. Lefty and Jason
Game 4: GRob and Uncle Ted vs. Jim and Bob (from Detroit)
The first and second rounds will be best of 5 games. All to be played on Yahoo Games. No cheating, please. The winners of Game 1 and Game 2 will play in the semis as will the winners of Game 3 and Game 4. You have this week to play. Please get in touch with your opponents or leave contact information in the comments. Good luck!
Eight months after I finished college I was working as a waiter at an O'Charlie's restaurant in Knoxville. I dressed like a professional, with dark shoes and a pressed white shirt, then covered it with a long maroon apron, which I could never keep clean. I wasn't good at my job either. It's odd, knowing you're not good enough to succed at one job, but are destined for something more challenging. It was after a long shift slinging yeast rolls and "salads," that I made a phone call that changed my life.
By comparison, television is easy. I've gotten pretty good at the business lately, good enough to get by, but I never forget how it started.More in this Poker Blog! -->
THE BRADOWEEN OPEN
Back when my obsession was frolf, not poker, I used to tease my card slinging friends. They'd invite me to this monthly game, dealer's choice, with a few guys from the station. "Now, why would I do that?" I'd ask, meaning to sound insulting. "Why give away the money I earn?" Well, folks, the times have changed.
One night, about 2 years ago, I joined a tournament at Otis' house. Oddly enough, I finished 2nd. A few weeks later, I won. By mid-summer, I played as often as I could. I played the Bradoween tournament, and had a great shot at beating a wide-open field, but then as now, I enjoy people and parties even more than poker. I quit the tourney and got my drink on. Oddly enough, I was having mild success at poker... but I was a horrible player.
I think that's the night I met Badblood. We were both at the final table. Within a year he and Otis had made a player out of me.
I knew Tony through a friend of a friend. After the gig at a radio station, I'd sent my demo tape to a few places in town, but they weren't down with my vibe. This family friend knew Tony was a News Director at some station in Tennessee. A friend of his was an old news photographer who shot weddings for a living. So, I made them both a deal.
For $500, I paid them to help me LOOK like a TV reporter. We took a single page of the local newspaper, found 3 likely stories, and I reported on them. We shot 3 stories in one day, with me changing clothes in the bathroom during each shoot.
It wasn't long after I met Badblood, that we became a traveling poker roadshow. Our chance meeting, he came to Bradoween just to meet Otis, led to us spending every Thursday night at a game. We started with $30 NL ring, which very quickly moved to $50. One year later, we'll spend Monday at $200 NL, Wednesday at a $20 tourney, Thursday at $50 NL, Friday at TheMark, and Saturday wherever we find a game. It's sick really.
Sometimes experience is our greatest teacher. Blood was already a good player, but he's gotten better since we've met. I'm not even playing the same game anymore. I think I always had an affinity and aptitude for poker, Otis always said that, but it took that random meeting at Bradoween to really get me involved.
Thursday night, I won 6 buy-ins. I felt good about my play from the very first hand. I found black Queens, and got all-in against big slick. He caught a K on the flop and I turned another Q. It was just that kind of night. Once I was up a buy-in, right at the beginning, I played with confidence all night. Badblood donked a major hand to me later. I appreciated that. He's still a better player.
Those fake TV stories became what we call a "resume tape." In the news world, we send a paper resume just like all of you, but the tape is what really matters. I sent mine to the first 2 stations I could find with openings. Both of them offered me a job. The bigger market, the 101st largest out of about 212 nationwide, was in Hastings, Nebraska. I accepted the job by phone. I had no idea where it was.
I took the next flight, and rented a car in Lincoln. (By sheer coincidence, I didn't know him until years later, CJ was already working at a station in the same market.) It's a 90 mile drive from the airport to Hastings, through some of the most God-forsaken land on the planet. Interstate 80 could be driven with a broomstick and a rope, while I napped in the back seat. Every road in the state breaks off at a right angle from that one highway, or runs parallel on a grid. It's easy to drive in a place unburdened by trees, hills, or human life.
The station was a one story brick house nearly 10 miles from the town itself, surrounded on all sides by cornfields. The main lobby was smaller than a generous cublicle and led to a single hallway. On the left was the sales and management wing, which was really another long hallway leading to the station's only real room. Our two salesmen were in that hallway, with an electric typewriter between them. The GM, Mussolini, kept his door closed.
The right side of the station took you past the control room and into the studio. My new boss, Dennis, took me there first. We kept walking into the giant garage, which held all the cameras, editing equipment, 4 Dodge Neons, and my desk.
"You'll need 4 Packages and 2 vo-sots today," he said with a straight face.
The entire staff, to whom I hadn't been introduced, laughed. He was telling me I had to turn 6 stories but I was too new and stupid to understand.
Lately I've started wondering if maybe I'm starting to suck slightly less at poker. I'm not good, that much I'm sure of. But perhaps I've turned a corner in my play. I still donk off big piles of chips when I get bored or tired but my "A" game is less crappy than before. But now that I have an idea or two about the game, I realize how lucky and stupid I've always been.
You know that frustrating bastard, the St. Louis crew, to reference a beating I once took, calls this guy a "brown shirt," that guy who makes stupid plays but catches huge cards for giant pots. That was me. At least, I think it was. I've taken my share of monster 3 outers from Badblood, and he's been good enough to not obviously hate me for it. I've been very lucky to have the opportunity, and the bankroll, to play anymore. I wonder how many thousands of fish, just like me, never caught that lucky break. They still suck at the great game of poker because they didn't get that lucky start.
I'm still working in TV. I caught a lucky break at first, but I'm not boasting to say I've worked incredibly hard. Am I lucky to have that first shot? No doubt. Am I lucky to still be doing it? Yes, but it's taken a lot more than luck.
I feel the same about poker. I'm getting better, but it's damn hard to improve. I'm lucky to have the friends, bloggers and the locals, who are willing to help me learn. I'm still one of the weakest players in the room, but the gap is smaller now.
I'm playing bigger limits at home and online, but my online game is still a weakness. One step at a time. I need a lucky break. Actually, more than anything I'd like to win that trip to the Caribbean. The WPT thing.
I ramble at times...
If you, dear reader, would like to join me... I'm GRobman at Stars.<-- Hide More
I'm learning, Al. I'm learning.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Only 60 entrants, so the prize pool wasn't massive. What should I expect, though, when insomnia kicks in and I start a tourney at 2am?
Also, for any of you who were wondering how my Party skin cashout has been going, I no longer have any reason to worry. Three cashouts have gone through just fine. One more to go and I'm golden. Thanks to everyone for their concern. (Also, thanks to everyone who called me a dumbass for keeping 75% of my bankroll in one site. No doubt, I am an idiot.).<-- Hide More
It is, perhaps, the most expensive poker table I've ever played. If you figure your full-sized tournament pool table runs well over a thousand dollars, I have to figure not even the casinos have to pay that much. And it's really rather functional, too. It comfortably seats 12 and has 6 big cup holders.
Last night we had just 11 to start, but that was plenty. The usual mix of fish and moderately skilled players had assembled to throw caution (and $10) to the wind in a Texas Hold 'Em shoot out. My game has been tight which means I was likely to bust out in the first five minutes.
I keep the cellphone in the car. I hate the damn thing. For awhile, after the last one was stolen, I was swept away by all the features, even downloading "Rock Lobster" as the official Otis ringtone. Now the whole thing's passe. So I missed the Mark's call on Monday night. I would have missed the game, but Mrs. Blood called the house.
Monday night, I played for real stakes and I'm more confident than ever in my game.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I missed the house at first, God knows why. The Mark said turn at the "amber street light near a gas station," which is just as simple as the directions for building a home. Is that all? No problem!
Rick's house is on the side of a mountain, very close to the top. I drove up half in first gear. I found the address on a brick column, along a dark tree lined drive. Well down the path I saw the Jaguar first. The new Mercedes was in front of that. As Badblood would later say, our cars devalued the entire neighborhood. I kept waiting for a neighbor to hand me a rake and a plastic bag, but OH HIGH SOCIETY!...I'm here to scoop pots.
Rick's room is a married man's wet dream. Gone are the fantasies of nublie bikinis, replaced with rich leather couches, big flat-screen TVs tuned to the NFL, and the atmosphere of a Vegas card room. On one wall was a fully stocked bar, with the tube tuned to baseball. The San Diego "Super Chargers" were on the big screen on the other end. The table was Vegas chic and the chips were outstanding. Incuding BadBlood and I we had an 8 handed game, the others were obvious regulars at the game.
We had The Mark and his brother Rick, our host that evening.
Another set of brothers sat on opposite ends of the game.
And two coworkers, one of them with a full pack of cheap, cherry scented cigars traded limp..re-raises along with fraternal workplace humor.
I sat between The Mark and Blood. I just wanted to play MY game...not be intimidated by the stacks...or the buyin...or the blinds....this game was bigger than most.
These guys play dealer's choice with a $200 buy in. The blinds start at $2-$4, with stud games at $4-$8. When I got there they were in hold-em land, and I folded almost every hand. I did win one pot with a scare card bluff...position won me the hand when the others advertised their weakness. What suprised me most was the incredible amount of limping, almost every player saw almost every pot and a late position raise...sometimes $20-$30 would almost always get a hal-dozen callers.
Soon, the other games began, which with these folks means NL o8 almost every hand. In the first game I found A,K,2,9 and saw the flop for cheap. I flopped the nut low. With 2 other people in the hand, I bet the pot at first and both players called. The turn was a 9. Both players checked and I bet the pot again, one player called that too. The river was a brick and I pushed for another $140. My opponent, one of the jovial co-workers hemmed and hawed and then showed Rick his cards. I knew as soon as that happened, I was going to scoop this pot. He called, with the SECOND nut low and I took that mutha down.
Later, I dealt a hold-em hand and found two black Jacks. My omaha opponent raised it $20 and another player called. I re-raised it another $40.. and Omaha-man went all in...and additional $27. The middle player called, and because the re-re-raise wasn't a full bet...I couldn't raise again. I called and saw a flop
7, 5, 3 RAINBOW.
Middle player checked...and of course..I pushed. He thought for a bit and reluctantly threw away his A-Q. I was almost certain of AK but that was good enough for an accurate read. With the pot heads up, we flipped our cards. My Jacks were good pre-flop, but his set of 7s was a monster now. I lost on a flopped 2 outer.
The limping and calling almost never stopped, and it was tempting to get sucked in, but the game was better than I hoped. I finished the night with a pretty good win, NL O8, and I held A-2-4-4. I, again, caught a nut low with A-2-3-4-6.
THE *REAL* RESULT
I have to admit, I was nervous about the higher stakes. Badblood was anxious too. But what I found was a game I CAN beat if I play my best game. Instead of scaring me back to smaller stakes, I'm looking for bigger games. I'm ready to play for more money. That may change if I take a beating over the next few weeks, but right now, in live play, I'm moving up a bit.
And loving it..<-- Hide More
AKA-- How to go broke without ever playing a hand
I don't carry rubbers when I travel. I pack with slightly more clothes than the Accidental Tourist would recommend. I carry a suitcase, a garment bag, a backpack, and whatever I shove in my pockets. Nowhere in any of the bags or pockets will you find a condom. The reason is pretty simple. As Daddy always said, "Don't point a gun unless you plan to shoot it."
My random target shooting days ended about ten years ago.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I own condoms, though. Back when Mrs. Otis went off the pill in prepartion for L'il Otis, I bought condoms in bulk. Over the internet no less. I ordered like 100 of them. The arrived in the mail one day and I played with them like they were pennies fallen from heaven. I picked them up in great handfuls and let them fall through my fingers onto the bed. If I'd been alone, I might have yelled "Condoms! Condoms!" in my most maniacal voice.
But I wasn't alone. Mrs. Otis was sitting there. I could see her making mental note of the count. She looked at me sideways, as if to say, "You're certainly very confident of yourself."
Needless to say, by the time the condoms were unncessary, I still had about eighty left. They're mashed in a bathroom drawer, growing old toward their expiration date, and mocking me each time I go looking for the nail clippers. I can almost hear the ones in the back scoffing about my eyes being bigger than my virility.
The thing is, I always got a kick out of rubbers. Early in high school, I carried one around in my wallet. Later in high school, the 21 year old girl that I made time with kept them in a basket by her bed. Once I got to college, I'd run up to the Student Health Center, grab a handful, and run back to the dorms screaming, "Condoms! Condoms!" Later in college, I'd keep a supply in my sock drawer for the right occasion.
In recent years, I haven't had much need for them. Of course, like any man, I don't like wearing them. But I really like having them around, if only as a reminder that when I first bedded my wife, I had to convince her that I really kept condoms around and didn't go bumming them at the last minute. Come on, honey. I stopped that after my freshman year (thanks, Rich).
So, I still own them. They're mine and nobody can take them away from me. I suspect Mrs. Otis inventories them from time to time to make sure I'm not taking them out and on trips with me. That's fine. As, I said, I don't pack rubbers when I travel. They are little more than a latex invitation to be an idiot, and frankly, I have come up with much better ways of being an idiot than cheating on my wife.
London, in all its glory, had been unremarkable on the poker front. The folks at the Grosvenor Victoria Casino (aka The Vic) seemed almost bothered to have a world class poker tournament in their venue. From all indications the cash games were cheap and soft. I heard very believable tales of people cashing in for 50 pounds, and cashing out for 800 after a few hours. I, in all of my glory, did not have a chance to play. The Vic was historic, if only in that it still maintined a fairly 1980s view of technology. Wireless internet was no where to be found. The poker tournament was tight and hot, and not in a good way. The only moments of even vague fun were conversations with Isabelle and Luca, two of my favorite people on the tour.
Every night at dinner, I'd run from the casino screaming "Condoms!" (okay, not really) and onto Edgware Road, where Middle Eastern men smoked from giant hookahs and Middle Eastern women hid behind black veils and made sure their children didn't get run over by double decker buses. Huge chunks of meat spun on giant spits, dripping grease into pans below and wafting smoke out onto the road. One night I got taken for about 10 pounds by a gypsy cab driver who took advantage of my obvious desire to be anywhere but near the casino.
So, it was with great joy that I escape London in the back of a slow moving cab. The cab driver listened to French lauguage instructional tapes for the entire ride. By the end of the cab trip, I felt like I'd caught up on all the french I'd learned in high school and college. What a freakin' waste.
It was only a two-hour flight, but the casino in Baden, Austria was a different world. The ceilings were high and adorned with glass ornaments. The chips were clean. The tournament was amazing. There was no need for a dinner break, because the waitresses would deliver filet and prawns to players at the table. Desserts of every kind lined the walls.
By day two of the tournament, the media had found themselves in such a state of bliss, they were unsure what to do with a night off. During a meal of fine food and drink, one member of the press suggested a friendly sit and go in the back of the casino. We figured we could wrangle some chips and a dealer to accomodate us.
After the meal, the same guy sidled up to me conspiratorially.
"For a variety of reasons," he said in his thick British accent, "we can't have our game here."
He looked around to see who was listening.
"But it seems we have acquired enough casino chips to have a game in one of the local hotels."
Twenty minutes later, eight of us were in two cabs, riding through Baden's back streets, a bucket of Casino Baden chips in tow.
We arrived at the hotel and walked through the front doors. Directly in front of me was a giant poster of Pope Benedict.
I thought little of it. I couldn't read the German writing on all the posters. I took to helping the assembled players find a suitable table and chairs for the game. By the time we'd found a large and beautiful table in the back of the room and covered it with a table cloth, I'd settled into the quiet smile of a man about to play cards.
That's when I noticed all the collars. Suddenly, the room was full of priests. Somehow our game had ended up in the midddle of some sort of Catholic convention.
We'd not secured enough chips from the casino, so the lone female of the group, who was serving as tournament director, came over with an armful of match boxes. The front of the boxes all were printed with Christian crosses, presumbly to light the priests' cigarettes or holy candles.
The game, a friendly 50 euro buy-in freeze out began, and I settled into a rockish image. The table had four pros and four regular joes like me. Iwan, a Welshman with an endless supply of sheep-screwing jokes, sat to my left. Jen, an American-Englishwoman was next. Julian sat next to her, with Tony on his left. Rolf, Conrad, and Stratford Steve rounded out the table.
Three levels into the first game, I loosened up a bit. I called a small raise with QJo in the cutoff. The flop came down QT9 rainbow. Stratford Steve bet out and I raised the pot. I figured top-pair open-ended wasn't that bad. Iwan thought for just a moment before pushing all in. Steve folded and I fell into the tank.
Tony, king of dry-humor and a wiley player, offered, "I dunno, Otis. It smells a bit move-ish to me."
And it did smell a bit move-ish, but I didn't think long enough. I didn't quite have the odds to call. The only thing I could think I was beating there was JT, which was a reasonable holding for him. However, there were a lot of other hands he could've had that beat me. In retrospect, I should've laid it down. Rock Otis would've. But, I had loosened up.
I called to see his 9T. His two-pair held up and I was out in seventh place. I looked to my left and a priest was looking at me. His mouth formed a giant "O" and he clapped his hand over his lips. Then--and I could never make this up--he did a little dance and headed for the elevator.
I ordered a beer from the waitress and sat with a flushed face until the second game began.
The second game was a 100 euro buy-in and I figured to make my money back. We had agreed to pay everything to first place but leave everything open for deals.
During the game, in which the phrase, "It smells a bit move-ish" became a staple, Tony told a story of a friend who had won a sizable sum in a tournament. When he returned home, he didn't want to tell his wife how much he had earned, so he put a chunk of the cash (10,000 euros) in a video cassette box behind a wardrobe in his daughter's room. One day the man returned home to see the wardrbe had been moved. The cassette box was gone. He never saw the money again.
As I sat thinking about how I would never do something so foolhardy, I went on to get three-handed with Rolf and Julian. A blind steal eventually got picked off and I was out in third.
After a night where I never saw a hand better than QQ (and that was only once), I walked away happy to have only lost 150 euros. Playing with proper players is refeshing and I thought it would help me out with my game. After all, my online bankroll was at an all-time high. And I would never be so stupid as to put all my money in one box.
It took me 22 hours to get from my hotel in Austria to my home in South Carolina. During that time, I nearly missed two flights and lost two pieces of luggage.
I got home and slept for a long time. When I woke up today, there poker forums were abuzz with word that Party Poker had cut off all its skins. I was briefly miffed. For the past six months, I've been playing all my cash games on a Party skin. I'd been offered a rakeback deal which had proven to be a nice source of walking-around money.
During a conversation with someone I know in the business, I heard the phrase, "Run on the bank."
My stomach did two flips and landed on the floor.
Holy fucking shit.
A few years ago, a local finance company that held $280 million worth of unsecured investments closed its doors. It had been funneling money to its parent company and supporting a failing business for too many months. To do this, it had been using the unsecured investments of thousands of regular working folk who had put their money in the 40 year-old company for a nice 8% interest deal. One morning, everybody woke up and realized their life savings were gone. What's more, there wasn't much of any chance of that money ever coming back.
During my years in the TV business, failed investment company became the focus of my life. I spent countless hours investigating how it happened. I spent countles hours listening to the people who had lost everything. I watched old men cry. I read coroner's reports about somebody who committed suicide. I watched people go to jail. It was hell.
All along, though, I promised myself that I would never be so short-sighted as to put all my eggs in one basket. Never depend on one company to protect everything you have worked for.
But, of course, I didn't listen to myself. For a variety of reasons, I have kept 75% of my poker bankroll in this Party skin. The remaining 25% is on Party itself. I play tournaments on Party and cash games on the skin.
I spent a good part of the morning doing everything I could to collect my bankroll on this skin. The maximum withdrawl from the site accounts for about a third of my account. That means, given the withdrawls actually go through, it will take me three days to withdraw everything.
The site has returned an e-mail and promises the withdrawls will go through. Still, I have felt sick all day. The amount of money involved bascially accounts for about a year's worth of succesful poker play and, if I should lose it, it will essentially cripple me. I will have to start over. That is not something I am prepared to deal with right now.
I'm not ready to jump off a poker bridge yet, but I have still yet to recover my stomach from the floor. I can't see straight.
As those who know me already know, the only reason I play on this site is because I can't play for the site for which I work. It just so happens, the site for which I work would never have this problem because it keeps all player account money in a segregated account and never uses player funds for operating expenses.
I have a lot to talk about on this subject, but right now, I'm not myself. Plus, I may be more freaked out than is necessary. Hopefully by week's end, this will all be worked out.
In the meantime, I'm going to sit back and start trying to figure out how many eggs belong in each basket.<-- Hide More
The night started poorly enough. I sorta convinced Bob and Drizz to jump in the $50 O8 Limit tourney on PokerStars. That's so -EV they've dropped the E. It's just plain negative value. Of course, thrice-confirmed-huge-junk Bob is the 860th Greatest Poker Player in the World as of June 3, 2005 and Drizz actually knows how to play Omaha (I heard he's gotten lessons from Felicia).
Somehow, seeing 68% of the flops was a bad idea, and despite a big early stack, I was the first of the three amigos to get slain by El Guapo. I couldn't even say something fancy like, "I was counterfeited on the turn." I thought I had the "wrap" once, but Drizz informed me I had no idea what I was talking about.
Soon thereafter, Bob fell. I cried. Finally, our hero, Drizz, fell to the whims of variance (not really, he was just kinda shortstacked and his naked A2 didn't hold up... HA! Like I know what a naked A2 is!!!!).
Drizz decided to make up his losses at the PLO8 tables, which he did in short order. He also cashed in a huge PokerStars MTT, for I think $2.84. I'm serious.
Bob went to bed, to The Blonde's dismay.
I went in search of more action. It started at Pacific. Earlier this week I was handed $10 free to come back and use their horrible software. I won a $5 SNG and was up to $29.
So tonight I jumped in a $10 SNG, won that and was up to $65. That's when I eyed a MTT $5000 guarantee with a $25 entry fee and only 12 entrants. It started in just over a half hour. I mentioned to Drizz that it may not fill. He assured me it would, but I decided to keep an eye on it anyway.
In the meantime, I opened up UB (don't kill me GRob, I'm working off a bonus), and promptly won a $10 SNG.
Before that run was over, I decided to go ahead and sign up for that MTT at Pacific. After all, I'm going to need the practice if I'm going to win an XBox!!!
When the tourney opened, I was right and Drizz was wrong. There was a huge overlay. Instead of the 200 players necessary to hit five grand, a measley 198 signed up.
Things didn't go well early. In fact, I should have been eliminated. With TT, I raised to 3x the BB and got called by the BB. The flop came down 9-7-2. I pushed all in and got called. By 77. A miracle T on the river and I was still alive.
From there, I decided that on occasion, I would channel GRob. It really goes back to this post and a conversation I had with Heather yesterday. On some hands, I opted for unbridled aggression. I picked players I perceived as weak and punished them. I avoided confrontation with big stacks but abused the small and medium ones.
When we got down to 22 players, I was in 3rd, but well behind 1st. In fact, I was a lot closer to 22nd than 1st. Top 20 paid and, frankly, I was just happy to be doubling my money.
That's about when I pinged Austin April. A trend I've sensed in UFP MTT cashes is some rail-birding from April. Unfortunately, she couldn't stop in to watch, but she gave me her best, "Good luck" and made me promise to tell her first how it went (check your Yahoo IM).
When we got down to 20, I was well behind 3 stacks, well ahead of 3 and bunched with everyone else. I picked my spots here and there and managed to get to the final table. Suddenly I was in line for at least $100. I was excited!
Unfortunately the blinds were rather high and there wasn't much post-flop action. It was a lot of pre-flop raises with folds or all-in calls. I caught just enough good cards to get to the final three in really good shape.
Sitting in the small blind with a marginal hand, I decided to limp and see how the players reacted. The player to my left immediately pushed all in. I had him significantly covered, but I didn't have the cards to call. Nonetheless, I learned something.
Very next hand, on the button, and I look at Rockets. Any guess what I did? I limped again, and predictably, the player to my left pushed all in. I called and he was easily dispatched.
I had a huge chip lead now, but an ill-advised all-in call brought us back to even. It was clear to me I was the better heads up player and I channeled even more GRob here and applied as much pressure as I could.
He allowed to get himself to get virtually blinded down to about 4x the BB. He made a move against my AJ and never improved.
I couldn't believe it.
I've never won a tournament with so many players and certainly not with as big of a first prize. This money goes right into the Vegas fund! Look out! UFP is on a roll!<-- Hide More
I love the mountain drive, especially from Asheville to Nashville. It's an interstate, but it winds along the plateau and snakes past some of the most breathtaking valleys in the world. CJ once totalled a car there when the rain slicked roads made the sharp turns impossible. But on this one trip, this one 6 hour drive to a farm near Nashville, I couldn't see the mountains for the music.
My wife sat next to me fingering through a ream of paper she'd printed from the "official" Bonnaroo website... a list of performers, schedules for each state, and all the other camp goings-on. We made a schedule of our own. By the time we met our friends in a hotel, just 60 miles from the big music show, we had every action, ever breath, planned to the minute.
You should ALWAYS be prepared.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I've been working on this new poker idea. I wonder if there is a stage of our development in which the best strategy is to do precisely what you shouldn't. There are a lot of ALWAYS rules, not including the Sklansky stuff which does reduce our decisions to an either/or decision tree, that we ALWAYS abide. But how much can we expect to win if we play by the rules? Nobody gets to be a CEO through honesty and hard work.
Clearly, the rules have value. But really, didn't we make that jump from beginner to intermediate with breakneck speed? CJ just posted about the rate at which his homegame foes were gaining on him. I've noticed the same thing here. The truth is any idiot can consume enough of the basics to become an average player without much time at the table. The intermediate player can still win, by dutiful adherance to the "Theory of Poker", but there's a plateau, and we've all been there.
The road less traveled
The hotel was horror. Everyone there was already weary, some had driven far longer than us. But once our full compliment assembled the desperation of our plight became clear. Word was the intestate was plugged ahead, no traffic moving at all. By some accounts people had been stranded there for a full day. Apparently, this cow pasture with a single off ramp, wasn't prepared for 115,000 hippies.
The consensus among our crowd was that was should forego the good night's rest, and get on the road that night. It was the most obvious option. Everyone else had already done the same. You could actually see the lights of the mini buses crammed full with clean shaven pseudo hippies wedged between brand new SUVs, all parking in the fast lane. Our four car caravan loaded up, then stopped.
We had a much better idea.
IT TAKES TIME
Two days ago, I intentionally folded A-A preflop. It's something you NEVER do. But I did it and it was exactly the right move. I was in a very large multi-table tournament and had made the final table. Unfotunately, I was not only short stacked, I was crippled. I got the aces in the big blind and was shocked when 3 other players ended up all in, and a fourth player called. Now, by this point, the blinds were so high that even pushing in and quintupling up wouldn't give me enough chips for another 2 orbits. So I mucked.
I ALWAYS play to win. But in this case the prospect of making another $200 by folding was too much to pass up. Sure enough, we had A-K, 8-8, J-J, and A-Q. My ace had no outs for improvement, and the kid with the Jacks caught a set. Two players bowed out, and a third was crippled. I finished 7th. I would've been 10th had I called.
Not long ago, that's an insta-call. But the chances of one of these 4 players catching SOMETHING, as they're already all-in, were too high for me to risk the money here. I did something I never do, and won money. I've been able to do that more and more.
When we pulled out of the parking lot the entire caravan went at full throttle, in the wrong direction. We drove 40 miles East when the festival was West. Then took a 40 mile drive South. Then Back to the west on a two lane road that went right through a small town. It spit us out 40 feet from the festival entrance.
On the second day of the festival we met up with a few more friends. They were just arriving. They'd been sitting on the interstate for 16 hours. We won by doing exactly what everyone else WASN'T.
Take the road less traveled my friends.
I'm sure you already knew this strategy at the table. If the table is tight, it's time to loosen up. If the table is loose-aggressive, you've got to play good cards. It's amazing how much that small adjustment pays. Again, you knew that already.
What I'd suggest is sometimes you should ignore pot odds, check raise a draw, or yes, LIMP into a pot. Sometimes a min raise is OK. The most important thing you can do, is exactly what the other guy won't.
Now that's not to say you should go back to playing crap hands and calling with garbage. But there are SOME situations where you SHOULD do exactly that. But what do I know?
I suck at poker.<-- Hide More
11 players, $10 entry fee, T1200 starting stack, 25/50 blinds double every 20 minutes.
Just 47 minutes later I won $70.
I doubled up on the first hand when KJ called my AJ on a J-high flop. Won a nice pot on the second hand when JT filled a straight on the turn. Knocked two more out on the next hand when AT beat AK and KQ on a 10-high flop. Finished them off when I knocked out the last two players when my JJ beat their A8s and 33.
Also scored a 2nd place finish in the 3rd game. A5 vs. A4 heads up and it split, dammit. Then my A6 got caught by A9 and there was no split. I was crippled and it was over when my HAMMER lost to AT.
All in all, a good night.
The Online Poker Blogger Championship is filling quickly. Hundreds and hundreds (er... thousands?) have signed up. And when you do, buy clicking the link above, remember we sent you. After all, there's $25,000 in prizes at stake and it's free to enter.
But who are all these people? You might be surprised...More in this Poker Blog! -->
I did a Technorati search for "Online Poker Blogger Championship," and it returned 1929 posts with that phrase. Wow.
A quick glance at some of these entires reveals a lot of non-poker players, a lot of people who's blogs have magically become active again after languishing for months, and blogs that magically popped up in the last few days.
Some of my favorites:
Justice Restored: The last post was May 5th and it talked about police cadet role playing (and not in the bedroom).
Jeeps, Yaks and stuff: Magically appearing on October 4th, the first post is a picture of a Jeep. The second post is the tourney registration. I'm still waiting on the Yaks.
Poker Addict: Jdawg tried to be a little less obvious by creating a blog on the 2nd and registering on the 4th. Nice try.
Abused by Illusions: On October 2nd he asked if President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton orchestrated the OKC bombing. On October 4th, he's ready to play poker.
I hate hippies.: Here's just a taste, "michelle REALLLLLLLLLLLLLY wanted me to write another entry cuz i guess theyre really really cute."
Spyware Sucks Donkey Balls: Made the list on the name alone.
The good news is that many of these bloggers won't be allowed to play because they don't qualify. The bad news is that because there's no entry fee, more players just hurt our chances. If everyone had to pony up actualy cash, I'd be encouraging more of these dead money bloggers to get invovled.
Speaking of dead money, I've convinced The Blonde to get on board. I'll have to give her a crash course. In poker, or course.<-- Hide More
How many times have you thought that in the past week? Month? Year?
When I first started playing poker, I never thought that. I was the guy on the other end. I was playing Q3 because it was suited. I was calling that gutshot straight draw on a hunch. That was ME.
I had a girly-thingy IM conversation with Heather the other night and I was whining about the fact that I was in a Wednesday night poker slump. She asked me the most important question, "Was I playing poorly?"
You see, when I started playing Pool Table Poker down here is Leezy-anna, I was surrounded by about a half-dozen people who were dreadful players, a few players who were bad and a few who had seen enough World Poker Tour to get by.
Things have changed.More in this Poker Blog! -->
It's really fascinating to see the evolution of their play. It just really sucks that their evolution is costing me money. They're getting better faster than I am. My evolution is reaching a plateau. Their's is climbing exponentially.
It's like learning when you're a child. When you first begin to acquire knowledge it comes very quickly. You are learning everything you'll ever need to know. They can't teach you fast enough. Then you get older... and high school rolls around and you're just hoping to absorb enough to get by. Then college comes... and you're happy to learn they're not really teaching you anything except how to live away from home, and that's not a hard lesson.
While I'm on the metaphor kick, let's say it's kinda like being a sponge. Those guys were dry when we started. I had been sitting out in the rain. They can't get enough water. I've only got so much more room.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I'm some kind of a pro. I'm far from it. But I also know I'm the best player at the table ever time I sit down with these guys. And yet I've lost the last 6 games. I suppose I could blame the structure (it's a shootout at best), or my luck (I generally get my money in the pot with the best hand), or even variance (ain't she a bitch), but that's not the point.
I've got to play better. There's lots for me to learn. If I spent the time doing it. And soon, I'm going to start doing it. After all, I have a trip to the Caribbean to win in a few weeks!<-- Hide More
It's always been true on this chosen profession, there are long periods of nothing at all, followed by a few hours of crushing insanity. I'm bored now, which should be obvious, because the show is a few hours away and the producers shoulder the burden now. Usually, it's in times like these where everthing goes berzerk.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I'm off on Fridays, and the wife's off too, she's the chapperone for the oldest daughter's field trip to a North Carolina apple orchard. Great setup for success folks: the house is empty and I have a few fresh Granny Smiths in my future. I play better when the house is empty and without distraction, except for the TV. Today is gangster Friday.
I've been bad at poker lately, not unlucky, just bad. I've misread my opponents intentions, so that, even when I correctly perceive weakness, I misread their ability to fold. Worse still, I'd gotten bored with NLHE, bored with the patient tight-agressive monsters I have to play against donkeys, bored with the same pot odds and basic math that seemed so thrilling just one year ago. It's as if, bored with good play, I've played poorly just for the kicks.
My friend Maigrey says it's like therapy sometimes, to drop down to mico-limits and just let the inner moron out. I actually tried that for a full week, I blew away a bill with a new login, at a crappy poker site, calling down almost anything with everything. Somehow, I won much more than I should. That helped a lot.
On Wednesday, I played in a tournament with BadBlood, the Mark, Otit, and Frank. The play, with the exception of the names above, was perfectly awful from the start. I decided to play it straight. In the beginning we had 2 tables going, 6-handed each, and I ran all over mine. When we condensed, I made what I thought was a very well executed move on a maniac, and my tourney was over. I knew the kid would call, I was just bored. Bored with a good chance to win is bored just the same. It WAS a good move though.
So here I was, the laptop already warm, the house quiet except for the sound of my dog chewing the hair on his ass, and a renewed focus on decent poker. I signed up for a $20+2 on PokerStars.
(By the way, if you care, a very long review of that site and a few others is forthcoming. I have a few complaints, namely with the lack of a 'dead button' during tournament play, but it IS an excellent site. No, Otis isn't paying for that coment)
With 800 players, I finished 17th. I was shortstacked for a very long time, but it's amazing how many people will dive in front of a bullet. I had a dozen or more secret service mates at my tables, and each time they took the elimination meant for me. I appreciated that. The payout was a somewhat decent $126.
That night, I entered a $10+1 on the very same site. I recruited Blood, CJ, Drizz, and Helixx too. Austin April joined late for a positive rail. I finished that one in 5th. Payout $520. Not bad for 4 hours. I lost when I pushed with 9-9 and the man to my left called with rockets. I was very, very happy with my play.
Better still, I logged winning sessions in the $50NL games all afternoon. I was making good laydowns, and trusting my reads. It's been some time since that felt good.
THE LESSON I LEARNED
What I didn't realize until last night, boredom is tilt. Usually we associate it with anger, but that's a tilt I can usually control. The boredom was harder to reign in. By dipping down into the itty-bitty limits for some wholesale moronity, I was able to recharge the excitement meter. That's made all the difference.
Now I'll be back in the saddle, prepared for another vicious swing of variance, but ready to hit the .01/.02 PLO8 at a moments notice.
If you see me there, I'm not broke. Just bored.
At work, I'm still waiting for the show. But somehow, it's not as boring as it used to be. For a long time, I've looked at other careers and considered abondoning the one I've got. That's over now. My boredom was tilting my perspective. The show will start in about 90 minutes, and I'm packing my A-game. I'm back baby. Watch and learn.<-- Hide More