Because the only people who watch the evening news are either very very old or very very geeky (like me) most of the ads are for drugs.
For the record, that's one of many reasons why the American healthcare system is a complete failure.
Anyway, one of the ads was for a drug called "REQUIP" which treats the recently invented disorder "restless leg syndrome".
The fast talk side effects got my attention. It said, "If you have gambling....or other compulsive urges...see a doctor".
WHHAAAAAT?More in this Poker Blog! -->
TURNS OUT there is a class action lawsuit against the makers of ReQuip. Check this out:
"2005 Mayo Clinic Report
In a July 2005 report published in the Archives of Neurology, Mayo Clinic researchers documented behavior that supported earlier observations linking dopamine agonist drugs with gambling addiction and compulsive behaviors. The report detailed 11 Parkinson's patients who developed gambling problems while taking Mirapex or similar drugs between 2002 and 2004. Doctors have since identified 14 additional Mayo Clinic patients with the problem."
Just thought you folks would find that interesting.
In fact, here's the warning from the official ReQuip website:
"Some patients taking repinirole (ReQuip) have shown urges to behave in a way unusual for them. Examples of this are an unusual urge to gamble or increased sexual urges... Hallucinations have been reported in people taking Reuip"
So, you'll chase a flush... that isn't there... and you may molest the guy next to you... but at least your legs won't twitch while you sleep.
Which is nice...<-- Hide More
I'm late to this discussion and it's no longer news. As Otis posted below, one of our underground G-Vegas games was robbed at gunpoint this week. BadBlood has already posted his reaction and Eddie the dealer, who was there at the time, has a full account of what actually happened.
Now I'd like to weigh in.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Back in college I had a lot of friends who smoked pot. For the purposes of this public forum we'll assume that I never joined them. That said, most of these folks approached their federally controlled substance with the same cavalier attitude as our undergroud gamblers.
For most, it began as something top secret, something so hush hush, in high school. Parents would have been mortified and with teachers and coaches, not to mention police, all hovering in the periphery there was always a danger. Maybe the danger was part of the attraction.
Before long the drugs became more casual. Pot smokers surround themselves with pot smokers. It becomes an insulated culture. So insulated that they hardly know any friends who don't smoke dope. I remember clearly those friends who would say, "everyone gets high," and they'd say it with conviction.
Clearly, of course, everyone does NOT get high. Still, within a few years the same kids who were sneaking a single joint by their parents are puffing cigar shaped spliffs behind the wheel of a car loaded with a half pound of grass. As one danger grows more comfortable, and thus is negated, they push the limit further.
BACK IN THE DAY
The first time Otis and I played at TheMark's house we caught a sorta edgy vibe. We'd brought 8 beers in a 12 pack we'd just opened and got there before anyone else, even before the host. So back behind Mark's place we met the tennants who live in the apartments he lets out. They were....odd. Nothing wrong with them really, just odd.
Otis and I had an emergency code word for when we knew it was time to bail. We figured any mention of our friend "Jerry" was clue enough to hit the road. Within five minutes, one of us asked the other, "So, I wonder how Jerry is tonight?"
I think we meant it as a nervous inside joke. The intent is lost to time.
Later Otis began repeating another nervous joke every time he grew uncomfortable, "Why don't you just take me out back and stab me?"
Again, I THINK it was a joke.
Of course, I now consider TheMark a friend, and only occasionally think he's planning to stab me.
RAISING THE STAKES
At one point, early this year before mky work schedule changed, I'd play as many as 5 times a week. The Spring Hotel, The Gaelic Game, The Black Stallion, and The Depot as familiar to me as rooms in my own home.
Here's what I take :
$500 - $1000
Super Awesome Cool Shades
Ability to support my Family
My Good Name
I remember when I first went to the Spring Hotel, I was jumpy about police. I realize how silly that is, but every time someone came in through that back door I wondered if it was time for a ticket. Granted, it's just a citation, but it would also mean I'd lose my job.
Believe it or not, a good poker bust could put me out of work.
Over time, I stopped worrying. I remember getting these mass e-mails about the Gaelic game's big Saturday tournaments and thinking "That's nuts...they'll get busted!!"
Not long after that I was a regular at the tables.
One night, at the Gaelic game, Otis cornered me as I walked in. "I think that guy is a deputy," he said. I freaked out.
Turns out the guy was a FORMER deputy. But I still as a little tense. So much at stake and all.
I think the robbery fear really popped up a few weeks ago. One of the local games flirted with the idea of mixing a $25/$50NL game in with the other tables one night. I thought it was a terrible idea. With a MINIMUM allowed buying of $5000 that means a MINIMUM of $50,000 in untraceable, unreported, and unguarded money at a full table. What crook wouldn't want a piece? Plus, remember the victims almost certainly won't report the crime.
Luckily, the host of that game thought better of the very high stakes game. That was about a week before the armed robbery at the Black Stallion game.
Also lucky, everyone at the Black Stallion game made it out ok, if a little lighter in the wallet.
Still, I was particularly taken aback by this part of Eddie's post :
"Make no mistake dear readers, I am very pro-gun. I believe in freedom. I believe in what this country was founded on and I believe in our right to defend ourselves, our families, our friends, and any other innocent person who's life might be in danger. Had Queen not been in the picture last night I may have reacted differently. If she wasn't there and I had been armed, I'm pretty sure I would have acted differently"
I think Eddie is a smart guy. But my sigle biggest fear is not a police bust and not a robbery, it's a guy pointing a gun at a robber with a gun.
I can't handle that risk.
I think if I've learned anything from poker it's the right time to call and the right time to fold.
What are the odds of a bust or robbery?
Check the EV.
If I expect to make, say, $300 from a typical underground $1/$2NL game...and my earnings as a media type in the next year are X....do the odds match up?
I don't know. I'm just not sure.
I'm taking a break, for now, from underground games...while I think it over.
And, for the first time in a long time, I appreciate the risk.<-- Hide More
I remember the first time I walked into Caesars Poker room in Las Vegas. I stood back, looked across the wide expanse of felt, and said, "This is what a poker room should look like."
Since then, my relationship with the room has been a lot like the ones I had with my ex-girlfriends. It's sometimes so good, and sometimes so bad, that I never can decide whether I'm in love or a masochist. Either way, I keep going back for the good stuff and do my best to ignore the bad stuff.
I was there again this past weekend and, as I sat at my second final table in as many tries, I thought, "Well, somebody really should say something about this."
And so, I'm going to.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I don't like reviews so much. Trusting one person to tell you where to go is how you ended up drinking Ovaltine until you were 20. So, here I'm going to try to stick to a concensus formed among a number of people I know who have played in Caesars poker room. I trust everyone who reads this will feel free to back me up or correct me in the comments. Don't be shy. My feelings aren't easily hurt.
THE CAESARS TOURNAMENT ROOM
Caesars is one of few places you'll find in Las Vegas that has designated an entire room--a room much bigger than most poker rooms--solely for tournament play. Sepia toned pictures of some of your favorite poker players surround you and the seats are pretty damned comfortable. I have played several tournaments there and have managed to final table my last two. My feelings about this room are about as mixed as they come.
Depending on which tournament you play, the number of players and the amount of play you get for your dollar tends to vary. My last foray into the room saw me buying into the noon $200 tournament. On a Thursday afternoon, the tournament drew only 44 people (a far cry from what some of the $120 events later in the day draw). However, even with 44 people, there was actual poker being played. It was not a push and hope fest after the first level. In fact, it took us more than six hours to reach the final table and the winner was not declared until two hours later. Frankly, I'm not sure if I've found more play for such an inexpensive buy-in in any daily tournament. Even if I hadn't ended up making a little money on the deal, I would've been happy about the amount of poker I got for my buy-in. Now, to be fair, the structure in the later events is a lot faster and doesn't allow for nearly as much poker. The previous event I played was a $120 event that went off at 11pm. It drew around 145 players mid-week. We finished the final table before 5am.
Other good marks include a competent dealing staff and a rather good payout structure.
If it hadn't been for the Rio's screw up with a recent World Series of Poker, we could all still cut some good deals in Harrah's property tournaments. I don't have this information down to the detail, but, according to a number of sources, the kind of money deals worked out during the WSOP ended up costing the U.S. government about half a million bucks in unreported winnings. As I heard the story, the IRS was none too happy with this and Harrahs ended up cutting a deal that requires them to pay out exactly the percentages listed on their payout schedules. If you ask a poker room manager at Caesars about this, he will tell you that the Nevada Gaming Commission requires Caesars to follow these rules and at no point will Caesars pay out an amount different than listed on the payout schedule.
So, no big deal? Well, not really. See, anyone who cashes out of a Caesars tournament for more than $600 is required to sign for it, generating a W2G and, thus, a record of winnings. Now, if I have poker winnings at the end of the year, I pay taxes on them. Here's the rub. Say you're down to the final table of a tournament at Caesars and, for whatever reason, you want to cut a deal. It doesn't matter how much money any of the players take out of the prize pool, someone is going to have to sign for top prize.
So, let's take a look at a tournament I played recently. At the end of it, four of us took an even chop for $2,000 a piece. One of those four players ended up having to sign for more than $4,000. I can tell you right now...it wasn't me, nor will it ever be unless I get consideration in the deal.
And that's what people say: Just work it out in the deal! Well, if you've ever worked a deal at a final table, you know that so many factors come into play that adding taxes into the mix can be the one thing that throws a deal out of whack. Trying to convince some guy from Brazil (who already has to give up a full 1/3 of his payout because of tax treaty issues with the U.S) that he has to sign for even more money than he's going to win is damned near impossible. So, deals fall apart. Or, if they get made...well, that's where things get even more interesting.
In the last tournament I played, we had been playing for nearly seven hours and were down to seven players. Only five were going to get paid. We decided it would be nice if the bottom two players got a little something for all thier effort. So, we made a little save for sixth and seventh place that guaranteed we all got a little profit on the deal. That's all well and good. However, after six and seventh place busted, they (and that includes me...) had to wait around for the entire tournament to finish before the could get paid. Because sixth and seventh place weren't listed on the payout sheet, Caesars wouldn't bring the money out. Plus, there was no way any of the rest of the players would go ahead and buy out sixth and seventh place, because none of them knew whether they were going to have to sign for bottom money or top money. Yeah, back to the taxes.
So, if you're going to play in Caesars tournaments, be aware that your ability to make a fair deal is going to be a lot harder than somewhere that is not a Harrah's property.
Side note: I need to include this, because it ruined my last experience. Something was going on with the speaker system in the tournament room. For for two hours, it sounded like there was a power drill over our heads, sometimes loud enough to keep the players from hearing each other. Despite our repeated requests for Doug, the manager on duty, to call someone about it, he refused and said there was nothing he could do. Although there were about ten open tables in the main poker room, Doug also refused to move us to the other room. In short, Doug was rather unhelpful at every turn. I do not find him representative of the staff there, but he did help ruin many players' experience that day out of a sheer unwillingness to be accomodating to his customers. I'm going to hope he was just having a bad day.
If there is one thing that will probably keep smart players from flocking to Caesars tournament room for the $100-$200 buy-in tournaments, it's the juice. It's about as disgusting as any place I have played. For instance, in the $200 event that goes off at noon, $35 goes to the house. If memory serves correctly, I believe the $120 events that go off later in the day charge $25-$30 juice. I'm not even sure why I bothered, except for the fact that I came out of the last two tournaments feeling happy and with more money in my pocket. Not as much money, however, as if the room didn't fleece me on the juice.
Think about that for a second. We'll say the juice on the last $120 I played was $25 (even though I think it was $30). At 145 players, Caesars made $3,625 in juice. I don't know how that breaks down going to the staff and dealers, but it's still pretty damned sick. I believe in the staff and dealers getting their tokes, but when the juice on a $120 is that big, convincing folks to tip any more is going to be hard.
I no like-a da juice.
THE CAESARS POKER CASH GAME ROOM
With all of the above said, I adore the Caesars cash room. I reserve my cash play in Vegas for a few places and Caesars is one of them. For the small to mid level player, there isn't much better place to play. The $1/$3 NL game is capped at a perfect $500. With that much money in play, the game plays a little bigger and allows for much better action than other $1/$2 NL games in town.
Even better, the $2/$5 and $5/$10 NL games are uncapped. I've never played the $5/$10 game but an uncapped $2/$5 NL game is a thing of beauty. It's the only $2/$5 game I've ever played that had $40,000 on the table at one time.
Caesars also runs several low-limit limit hold'em games and will spread other games on request. Management recently introduced a high hand jackpot. The day I was there, it was paying between $60 and $400 for quads up to royal flushes.
The room is well-run, has a good floor staff, and a competent dealer staff. Unlike other poker rooms, this one is cut off from the main casino by a thich set of walls and has the feeling of a private room, despite its enormous size. It's quiet and comfortable, despite being on the other side of the wall from Pure and the Caesars sports book.
If I had one complaint about Caesars room when compared to other rooms, it's that their staff of servers is slower than any place I've been. Waiting for food and drink there is like waiting for a premium hand. I've heard a variety of excuses for this and don't know which to believe. Some people say it's because it's a union shop. Other folks say the waitresses have to travel too far to get their orders filled. Regardless, it's the one thing I would correct about the service at Caesars.
So, that's that. Correct me if you like. Back me up if you life. Fill in the holes where you like. Bottom line, if you can stand slow service and some of the worst tourney juice I've ever seen, I'd recommend Caesars poker room. Just be sure you lock me up a seat.<-- Hide More
Looks like I picked a good day to be in Vegas.
There are a lot of games in town. I only play in three rooms. One of them got robbed last night and in a way I'm really glad I didn't have to suffer. Some of my friends didn't fare as well.
From Eddie the Dealer's Blog entry:
I remember looking over and Queen was being held by her hair and a gun was held against the back of her head. From that point, all my fear was for her. She is a very sweet girl and always an absolute delight to have around the game. The piece of shit who was holding her was acting a bit maniacal. He was threatening to "blow her brains all over the floor". (full story)
My reaction to this has been about what you'd expect. I'll likely write more in the future. For now, I'm just going to be glad everybody is okay and plan to stick close to the house for a while.
And to all the G-Vegas regulars: be careful, folks.
I'm sure you've all been wondering, "Where is The Luckbox?!?"
Okay, perhaps that's an exaggeration. After all, I lack the self-deprecating wit of G-Rob and the unsurpassed literary flair of Otis. I'm just The Luckbox.
And, frankly, I haven't been much of a Luckbox at the tables recently. And it's all because of my new home game. You'll never guess who I'm losing to now!More in this Poker Blog! -->
He's the big stack. At just over four months old, he's picked up the game rather quickly. He plays a lot like your online newcomers. He can't fold to save his life and wouldn't recognize a squeeze play if it was spelled out in dog treats.
But the cards have been right. And, really, sometimes that's all it takes. I flop a set and he rivers a straight. I turn the straight and he rivers the flush. I river the flush but his two pair becomes a boat. I just can't beat him.
Not to mention he's about as easy to read as a wikipedia entry on quantum mechanics. Really, those puppy eyes don't change much... and if he's wagging his tail it might only be because he smells bacon.
She's got a few more year's experience at the poker table and she's putting it to good use. Her blunt style reminds me of G-Rob. I can't tell you the number of times I've laid down a good hand to her only to see her table the Hammer. She's a killer, really... it must be the Pit Bull blood in her.
The good news is that she's got a few tells. For instance, when she begins panting, it's time for her to go outside. That doesn't really help me win any more chips, but it sure beats the surprises we get from Cartoon.
Over time, I'm pretty sure I can beat her game. She's got some skills, but I've felted G-Rob enough times to know I can break down this style. Now I just need some cards to help do it!
Here's the problem. She doesn't really know how to play at this point. I suppose on occasion she'd actually lay down that gutshot straight draw if she knew how unlikely it was to hit. Then when it hits, I'm the one who gets to explain that she's beaten my two pair.
She also thinks it's fun to root for the dogs against me. Every time Cartoon wins a pot, she cheers and gives him a treat. You can imagine how quickly that can put someone on tilt.
Finally, we're still a few months away from the wedding, and it's in my best interest to stay away from my fiancee's bad side. After all, there are plenty of consequences... if you know what I mean.
She did, however, let me put together what's been dubbed "The Man Room," complete with my poker table, so I've got that going for me!
That leaves me, your hero... and the short stack at this table.
Things have to get better, right? I am the only one in this game to read Harrington on Hold 'Em. That's got to be good for something, right?
In reality, I just haven't had as much time to play poker these days. This whole getting married thing takes up a lot of time. Of course, I wouldn't trade it for those bachelor days, not for anything.
Last weekend, I took a shot at a couple of tourneys and ran into Aces every single time. I'm also still smarting from laying down those Kings at the Coushatta months ago. It's still stuck in my mind and I have to get rid of it.
After all... I've got a wedding to pay for!
And in case you were wondering... here's the board from the hand we were playing above:
Yeah... wrong time to play The Hammer.<-- Hide More
I know a lot of photographers. The most talented still shooter with whom I've had the pleasure of drinking a pint is a guy named Neil Stoddart. Neil is a Brit who shoots a lot of portraits, poker, amd music--a mix of creativity and skill that humbles me every time I'm in his presence. Beyond that, although I'd been to four or five different countries with the guy, I didn't know a whole lot about him until this year's World Series of Poker.
Neil and I spent a bit of time on breaks together. I got him into Lime Tossing and enjoyed his easy-going manner. One day, he looked up and asked, "Have you ever been to the Fireside Lounge?"More in this Poker Blog! -->
I looked up at him. "Is that here in Vegas?"
Neil is a friendly guy and not one to poke fun. Still, the look on his face made it clear that I was being a bit dense. "Yeah," he said.
"Somewhere off-strip?" I guessed.
As it turns out, the Fireside Lounge is at the far end of the strip and connected to a place called the Peppermill. It's been there for, well, forever and, as far as I can tell, pretty well known to everybody except me.
The next few minutes became a game of "Have you been to?" with Neil asking the question and me answering "no" every time. After Neil walked off, I stood wondering how in the hell my British friend had seen all these cool places in Las Vegas in just a few days, while I've been there more times than I can count and have never seen one.
The answers were pretty easy. First, when I go to Vegas, I rarely leave the sight of a poker room. If I do, it's usually to sit at a bar or sleep for a few hours. I know the poker part of the Strip pretty well. I know some of the nice restaurants. I know the Pai Gow pits and the video poker bars. That's, sadly, about it.
Holy hell. I don't know Vegas.
Neil is a poker player, but he is an artist first. Artists need a spring of inspiration and experience is the perfect petri dish. It doesn't matter if he's not carrying his camera. He's living and his art lives through his experience. That's how he saw a different Vegas so fast.
This past weekend, some of the local G-Vegas boys got together for a friendly game of $5/$10 HORSE at BadBlood's house. It was a game of good-natured ribbing, donkish poker play (yeah, I was the loser), and well-constructed prop bets. Oh, and a couple players drank wine our of beer steins. It may not have been the best poker ever played, but it was a change of pace.
I guess we all get in ruts from time to time. We do what feels comfortable or familiar until we are so bored with what's normally fun that we forgot why we were doing it in the first place. I think the best way to rekindle the spark of the things that have always made us happy is to try to dive head first into the agar and swim. That's why I let Absinthe get me into really expensive meals, Pauly give me music, and just about anybody buy me a beer I haven't drank before.
Las Vegas sucked me into a rut a couple of years ago. Sure, I've sought out ghosts in the downtown area, but I can't claim to really know the city. My history with it is superficial and rather bland by Vegas standards. Part of my problem is that I've never had a car in Vegas. I always stay on or near the Strip and don't have a need for a vehicle. The closest I ever came to finding a different side of Vegas was the night Absinthe and I took a $40 cab ride out to the Henderson and ended up at a closing sushi joint where people were singing bad karaoke. We ended up in a poker room fit for a meth heads and got blissfully rolled by a bellman turned cabbie.
So, now, despite my better judgment, but with all the anticipation you can imagine, I'm headed back to Vegas for a longtime friend and former blogger''s bachelor party. Sure, as usual, I'm going to binge on poker. Still, I'm going to be in Vegas for a few days and would like to spend at least a little time going to a couple places I've never been.
So, this is where you come in, folks. Fill me in. What has my foolish consistency cost me in experience? Where should I go? I'm going to be with a bunch of 30-something married guys and, yes, taking a cab or walking wherever I go. I have no need for dance or strip clubs. I know the poker rooms and just about anything that happens at the Rio or Gold Coast. It can be in a casino, or out of a casino, a bar, diner, or whatever you think might inspire me to love Las Vegas in a different way. I'm not sure I'll ever battle my rut effectively, but at least I'll have some ammo this week if someone says, "Hey, what do you want to do?"<-- Hide More
I was sitting the lobby of the Grand in Tunica in January of 2006. C.J. and I were plotting our assault on the $1,000 World Series event when he mentioned that a blogger had just taken down an event at the L.A. Poker Classic for a serious amount of money. Turns out, that blogger was Absinthe. Since then, Absinthe and I have spent quite a bit of time at the tables (both poker and dinner) together and I've come to admire the guy quite a bit. [Oh, yeah, I busted out of the Series event in completely boring fashion. C.J. and Iggy both went deepr than me, but, the long and the short of it was, we sucked eggs.]
So, since I wasn't there to rail him last night, here's a big Up For Poker congratulations to Absinthe for making the final table last night in a $1,000 event at the Legends of Poker in L.A. He ended up chopping the thing five ways for a healthy profit, once again proving that the ability to write a coherent entertaining post and cash big at poker tournaments are not mutually exclusive.
At just the moment we arrived, parked the car beneath the condo tower, and loaded our luggage onto a cart, our state set an all-time temperature record.
106 degrees in Columbia, 105 back in G-Vegas, hot enough to make my golf shirt stick to my back like 20 pounds of duct tape in Charleston.
The family went on ahead while I loaded all the gear into the elevator. A man, about my age, was there with his son. "I heard there isn't much beach left," he small talked, "because of all the erosion."
"Plus, with all this heat, it's a pretty bad idea to go outside," he continued.
"And here were are," I said when the elevator reached my floor.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Evidently, and much to my later surprise, two people were bitten by sharks that day. It happened on the same beach where my family and I were jumping the waves although we didn't notice a thing. I will admit that after I found out I was the genius who thought it wise to MENTION the attacks to my 6 year old daughter. I did this because I'm not smart.
Even the next morning, with "SHARK ATTACK" the fancy bumper graphic on the morning news and "Two bitten by Sharks" the slightly less sensational headline in the local rag everyone was abuzz. Oddly, they talked about it as they bounded back into the ocean.
So while my parents and wife and kids became bait for tabliod news, I took a walk along the beach heading north to the very tip of our island... the Isle of Palms.
Random elevator doomsayer was right about the beach. At the tip of the island there was almost nothing left. Flatbed trucks drove along the remaining strip to deliver massive sandbags that were then forklifted into barriers. In theory, they'd protect the million dollar homes. As I walked, I could see the tops of the bags they placed last year, or perhaps earlier THIS YEAR, buried by erosion.
I stopped a guy, he was probably in his early 50s, a black guy with white hair and a plain white T-shirt tight enought to be a tourniquet around both arms. He said he'd been working for the same company for the past 18 years. He'd been putting bags of sand here for 16.
"Does it work?" I asked.
"Does it LOOK like it works?" he non-answered.
"So why bother?"
"I got to work," he said and put the matter to rest.
Just beyond that flatbed truck there was a walkway, down from one of the hotels, that had been almost entirely washed away by the tide. At the end there was a good 3 or 4 foot jump to the sandbags below. No beach... just bags.
I saw a family, staying in that hotel, climb down that walkway and plop their chairs between the bags.
Welcome to the beach.
THE NEW YORKER
As I turned back toward my family I saw this guy with madras shorts and a Yankees t-shirt chomping on a cigar. He had a cheap frisbee (as a former frolfer I've become a bit of a frisbee snob) in his hand. Now, this day on the beach was blessed not only with scorching heat, but a steady, howling 25 mile-per-hour wind. Nobody, I mean NOBODY could possibly throw a frisbee in this weather. This man was no exception.
Nevertheless, this tobacco chomper sent his daughter down the bech to catch his toss. I saw him make 5 attempts. Each one went immediatly backwards, darting past him the second it left his hand. When I walked away, he was chasing the disc into the sea.
YOU'RE WONDERING... what this has to do with poker? I'm getting to that.
Not far from frisbee man, there was a row of about 5 chairs. In the first there was a mom with a copy of the day's paper. She was reading the story of the shark bites aloud to her family. I stopped to listen for a bit because, at the time, I hadn't read the report. Turns out, I was the ONLY person listening. One glance at the kids next to her would make it clear they had no interest. Two of them had their iPods on. The rest made no secret about their disdain for their mother's tale. Then, as I walked past it was obvious why. The wind was so loud that they almost certainly COULDN'T hear what she was yakking about downwind. Her words were lost the second she spoke them.
Not that she cared. I saw her lips flapping in the wind long after I lost the ability to hear.
So what do these people have in common?
Each is confronted with the awesome power of nature and was left totally unimpressed. Perhaps, uninterested. There were beachgoers who DECIDED to enjoy the beach whether it was objectively ENJOYABLE or not.
The weather is too windy for frisbee? Perhaps if I throw harder.
My kids don't care? Perhaps if I keep reading.
The sand doesn't work? But I'm not paid to ask questions.
I wonder how often my own thinking has been crippled by these blinders. I wonder how often I've made bad decisions, at poker and more, because of the mindset I brought to the table.
I wonder if I'm screaming into the wind.
I'm wondering these questions now because I totally ignored them then.
I took off my WSOP souvenier T-Shirt and went swimming with the sharks.
(Edited to add gratuitous mention : BadBlood)<-- Hide More
I'd been thinking about the heat.
I'd been thinking about the heat because it wouldn't let me think about anything else. The temperatures in G-Vegas had been over 100 for the past three days and the nights weren't much better. Even though the poker room enjoyed central air conditioning, it couldn't fight the heat wave. Nothing I drank quenched my thirst. Nothing stopped the sweating. I was clammy and thought, "Well, here's my chance to die at the poker table."More in this Poker Blog! -->
"Remember to get the weather in your god damned book--weather is very important."
Hemingway wrote that in 1932 in a letter to John Dos Passos. I know that because fellow poker player and writer Larry Phillips was kind enough to send me a copy of his "Ernest Hemingway on Writing" a few months back. I thought about it because Dan kept encouraging everybody at the World Series with Hemingway's thoughts on the weather.
For the moment, though, I was sweating through my t-shirt, routinely walking to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face, and asking the cocktail waitress for cold bottles of water I could hold on the back of my neck. At one point, I stood up and stumbled toward the back door.
"Leaving?" the hostess asked. She's friendly, but I'm sure the question was based more on wanting to know whether I was coming back and whether she should slap the deadbolt behind me...what with the cops and robbers and all.
"Just stepping out to get some air," I said.
The way she laughed at me confirmed what I was thinking. The air hadn't cooled off outside. Even though the sun had disappeared, the parking lot felt like my grandma's kitchen on a fried chicken Friday. I climbed into my car, turned on the AC, and let it blast my face. I calculated how long it would take for the blinds to get back around to me before running back inside, no cooler than I had been all day. I'd started sweating at 3pm while cleaning the garage, continued to sweat in the swimming pool, the shower, the bar, and now the poker room.
With no cool place to go, the poker room seemed like a reasonable place to land. The romantic wing of my brain sees poker as a hot game. It sees dusty cowboys, sweating riverboat gamblers, and red-faced Texans driving down tumbleweedy highways. The Rio turned up its AC so high this year that many players were forced to wear jackets--and, in some instances, coats--to stop the shivering. If a poker player suffers any form of temperature woe, it should be that he thinks he's dying from the heat.
The poker, despite the heat, just felt right, like seeing a college buddy you haven't seen in forever. The banter was familiar, the rhythms the same, and all the old jokes were just as funny as they were four months before. I hadn't sat down in a G-Vegas underground game since mid-May. My days in Vegas and time catching up with the family had kept me away from all the old haunts for a long time.
Unlike the days where I would watch the clock and rush to the games as soon as I could, I felt no urgency. I was rolling with BadBlood for the night and it was just good to be with a buddy and going to play some cards. We walked into the Black Stallion as the evening was getting underway. Blood ceded my favorite seat to me and I sat down to an unlikely run of good luck. I flopped five sets in the first three hours and seemed to do no wrong. I was rusty, for sure, but the cards were making up for it. I'd left my iPod hooked to my pocket and set my sights on a couple of likely marks.
It was after 10pm when I realized how hot I really was. It wasn't good cards. It wasn't good play. I was literally hot. I'd been sweating non-stop since 3pm and I started to think I might be in the middle of a minor heat stroke.
In the first few hours, I'd managed to more than double my buy-in. I'd made a tough fold that, while I still think was correct, would have won me a massive pot if I hadn't made the laydown. That pot made me burn a little hotter. When I doubled up a guy with my flopped boat against his turned boat, I got a little hotter.
That's when Papa started talking to me. "This isn't the weather. It's poker. And you're not writing a god damned book. Get your head together or get out. Oh, and two other things. You're not me and you really should be thinking about the poker more than whatever story you're going to get out of it."
Note to poker players who fancy themselves writers: When the ghost of Hemingway starts chatting you up while you're on tilt, it's time to take a break.
The iPod went in, the "On Tilt" mix began with Chris Knight's "Backwater Blues," and I settled down. There still needed needed to be at least one hand of poker to make this night worth writing about. Even if the weather was the only interesting character in the whole story, making the tale fit on the pages of Up For Poker would require something for the hand history set.
I've never been to Omaha, but I can attest that Texas is a hot place. I once rode in the back of a pick-up truck from the Gulf coast to El Paso in the middle of the summer. It's fucking hot. Still, as poker players, we know that Omaha is a hotter game than Texas Hold'em in terms of the gamble. This night, we were only playing No-Limit Texas Hold'em, but there was a light breeze blowing from the north and it carried Omaha's smell all the way.
A tight player in the five-seat came in for a raise and I smooth-called with 7s8c. Two callers came in behind us and we saw the perfect Un-tilt Otis flop: 6c9hTh.
"Look, Papa! The nuts!"
My only problem, as I had it figured, would be extracting value from the hand without giving any heart draw a good enough chance to stay in. I hadn't been paid off on a set all night long and I was getting frustrated by the emasculation of my monsters. Turns out, in this case, it wasn't going to be a problem. Let's see if I can capture how fast this all happened.
Original raiser: Bet
First caller: All-in
Second caller: All-in for less
Original raiser: (thinking for one minute) All-in for just a little more
I ripped my iPod ear buds out of my ears and heard myself asking, "How much?" Then I heard myself say, "Wait, it doesn't matter how much. I call. I have the nuts."
I love writing about other's people's perfect storms more than I enjoy getting caught up in them myself. Remember, on the 6c9hTh flop, I was holding 7s8c. Everybody's money was in the middle. I was fortunate enough to have the nuts and have everybody covered by--hey look!--a little more than my original buy-in. Here's what my nuts were up against:
Original raiser: 9c9s for top set
First caller: Ah2h for nut flush draw
Second caller: Jh7h for gutshot straight draw, gutshot straight flush draw
Looking back, the pot wasn't anywhere near as big as other pots I've played in that same room or, for that matter, a couple of pots I played that night. Still, for that moment, a four-way all-in had half the room standing and watching.
"I don't even know if I'm actually ahead," I said.
Everybody was counting outs and running through all the cards that would beat me. I was trying to dodge any heart, any eight, or the board pairing. The math would have to be done later, because the turn was falling...and smack, there was the eight I was trying to dodge.
"That's just for the main," I said quietly. I actually felt good for a second. The side pot was going to be pretty big, because the guy who had called all-in for less and hit his miracle had been sort of short.
I was trying to explain this as the river came down. I was safe! It was a nine.
The room did that thing where everybody goes, "Woooooaaaaahhhh."
Oh, yeah. That's quads.
"Nobody said anything about the fucking nine," I mumbled.
Suddenly, I was hot again.
"That was like one of those Omaha hands," Badblood said. "The kind where you're ahead, but it's right to fold."
And he was sort of right. I pulled out my Blackberry and pulled up TwoDimes. With all four hands in, I was actually a dog. I was a very slight dog--like a fraction of a percent--but a dog nonetheless. The set was ahead. Of course, by that time, I was priced way the hell in. However, I was also behind with the nuts.
That actually made me sort of happy. Any time I can call three all-ins while I'm holding the nuts and actually be behind, well, that's a night that I'll remember. It ain't the stuff of Hemingway, but, really, what in poker is?
Knowing now that I was not going to stop sweating until I was naked, I thought it best to leave the game. I looked at my stack. I'd earned a grand total of...four dollars. I tossed it at the dealer and headed out into the heat.
That's how I got back into the underground circuit after a four-month absence. I nearly had a heat stroke and was behind with the nuts.
Damn, I really love this fucking game.<-- Hide More
The last tournament I played culminated in one of those self-affirming moments. I looked up at the TV screen and there I was, sitting right in the middle of the table with a stack of chips that would eventually lead me to winning 20 times my buy-in. Sure, it wasn't big money, but I'd battled through a minefield of a tournament, made the final table, and put myself in a position to win. The fact that it was Caesarâ€™s closed circuit TV feed didnâ€™t matter. Iâ€™d won and felt good about it.
When it was all over, I sat down in a chair with a beer and reflected by myself for a moment about what it meant. Was I actually good? Did I just get lucky for a day?More in this Poker Blog! -->
A few nights later, I was playing $2/$5. My table was as nitty and boring as it could possibly be. Two tables away, my buddy, The Mark, was sitting in the seven seat with a structure of chips that was starting to make me envious. It had started as $500. It had grown to $1,000. When I looked up an hour later, he was stacking green birds in stacks of 20 and had more than $3,000 in front of him.
All the while, I was watching my stack go up and down by $100 or so at a time and wondering what I was doing wrong. I mean, was Mark just running well or was I playing a bad game? Sure, I finally picked up the night where I nearly quadrupled my $500 buy-in, but that night was the exception and not the rule. Most nights, it was up or down $200 or so--not necessarily the kind of poker that inspires a player to write, much less play. With Mark, not to mention G-Rob, and select number of other good players on the G-Vegas circuit, big stacks and big wins seem more the rule than the exception. Sure, they all have their nights that end in temporary disaster. Still, along the way, I've always wondered what it is that they have that I don't.
And that gives me, if you will, the red ass.
My post-Vegas catch-up session has involved less catching up than I would like. Between house guests and family trips, I've played a grand total of one hour of poker online and no live cards in the past month. It is, without question, the longest I've gone without playing poker since March 2003. As such, I've not been reading as much as I would normally about the game. I've been scanning Bloglines, but that's about it. One day, however, I noticed a long rant from cash game guru Miami Don that said "MTT's are gimmick poker and not many people make money at them."
I sat back and let it sink in.
"Well, damn, Don," I thought. "I've always considered myself a better tournament player than cash player. Does that mean I'm just a gimmicky loser?"
Of course, I knew Don wasn't trying to insult me. After all, if one looks at my online stats for the past year, they show that while I won a good chunk of cash, I wasn't profitable on the one site where I am tracked. Now, I know that I am a lifetime winner in tournaments, but if I'm being honest, it's not really enough to call me a Winner. After all, you don't see me making a living in Vegas, right?
It took me all of five seconds to understand Don's point. Still, I knew he was going to start a conversation that was going to stoke some hot tempers. As a subject that was close to my poker heart, I decided that I would wait and not read anything else on the subject while I considered how I really felt.
Over the course of the next several days, I got word that Don's post did, indeed, get some people all fired up. I made it a point not to read any of it, just to be sure I didn't let friendships sway my opinion. I'll go back and read it all after I finish this up.
While Don never overtly asked the question, it was almost implied, and so I'll ask it here (at the risk of repeating what other better writers and thinkers might have already produced):
Which player has more skill: The cash game pro or the tournament specialist?
What you see below is a stream-of-consciousness formation of my opinion.
Let's look at the G-Vegas circuit. For the purposes of familiarity here, I'm going to refer to five people you might have read about. [Note: These are all just my interpretations and are open to much debate, especially after a few drinks.]
G-Rob--No limit hold'em cash game player who dabbles in tournaments to results that don't satisfy him. Plays cash games much better live than he does online.
The Mark--Great live cash game player who will play any flop game. Shows no success online. Routinely crushes live single table satellites.
BadBlood--Conservative player who balances live and online play as well as balances cash and tournament play. Maintains an equal level of skill in both cash games and tournaments.
Eddie the Dealer--Loose aggressive player who shows great talent live/online and cash/tournament. With the exception of a leak he's aware of that can be detrimental to his bankroll, a solid all-around player.
Otis--Inconsistent player with one-time big success in online tournaments and cash game play. Live results in cash games have been modest to non-existent. Live tournament play has shown mixed results, with most success coming in events with fields from 30-200 players.
To answer the above question about who is the most skillful player--tournament specialist or cash game pro--I asked myself, "Of the five players above, who would I stake with the hopes of getting a decent return on my money." The answer, as you might expect, was not as definitive as most people might have you believe.
I would stake all of them, as long as I got to pick what they were playing.
Say I have $10,000 in my pocket. Frankly, I don't want to give all of it to any of them. I'm going to put G-Rob in a $1/$2 game with a $500 cap at Caesar's. I'm going to put Mark in five $500 live one-table tournaments. I'm going to put Blood and Eddie in a rotation of live and online cash games and tournaments. I'm going to keep $2,500 for myself and I'm going to play exclusively online--mostly in middle-buy-in--tournaments.
But that doesn't answer the question. Sure, it figures out where I have the best expectation, but it doesn't answer which among us is a better poker player. It only points out who is better at what game and where I stand the best chance of making some money on my investment. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and only time will change that.
Of course, I looked back at my history of staking people or buying pieces of people and discovered something. I have never staked anyone in a cash game, but I have put money into ten or more people playing tournaments. In fact, I've got money in action right now despite not playing a hand of poker myself.
Why is that?
The simple fact is, Don's initial statement is basically true when applied to big buy-in live tournaments.
A couple of years ago, I sat in a steakhouse in Dallas with some very good poker thinkers, including someone with a WSOP bracelet and Nolan Dalla. Over a meal of filet mignon and a half dozen other meats, we figured up the minimum amount of money someone should have to comfortably go on the pro tournament circuit for a year. When figuring buy-ins, airfare, hotel, food, and any other companion expenses (airfare, hotel, and food for spouses, nannies, children, etc), we decided that a player would need about $500,000 to survive a year without fear of going broke.
When only the top 10-15% of people are making any money, going for any significant length of time without a final table is going to end up breaking a lot of players--not to mention putting a real hurtin' on their psyche. It is not a sustainable lifestyle unless you are one of the top tournament players around. The time commitment alone is enough to make live tournaments -EV for most players.
However, that changes in a heartbeat when you look at online tournament pros. Gone are the costs of travel. Gone is the week-long commitment to one tournament. If you look at players like JohnnyBax and Rizen, two of the top online tournament pros, you'll see the kind of money that can be made. These guys and hundreds of other players spend their entire days playing nothing but tournaments, thus giving themselves much better chances at final tables and big money. Sure, it's not going to be a million bucks in one shot, but it can be a damned good living. In fact, it can be a much better living than someone playing small to mid-stakes cash games live.
Playing tournaments live or online takes talent. I'm not saying that because I enjoy it or excel at it. I'm saying it because it's true. Sure, there are a lot of crapshoot tournaments out there, but when a tournament is structured correctly, more often than not, the cream will rise. If you only look among this community of poker bloggers, it's not hard to spot who has a chance at being a profitable tournament player and who does not. Look at guys like Absinthe, Hoy, and bayne. Those are guys who prove that 1) MTTs are not a gimmick and 2) It takes a special talent to be profitable in tournaments.
However, it goes without saying, I think, that it takes just as much--and maybe more--talent to excel in cash games. There are so many variables that come into play in cash that don't in tournaments that one could reasonably argue that cash game play takes--if not more--at least a very different kind of poker talent.
If we accept all of the above--that both styles of poker are profitable and require different talents to play each--then I think it logically follows that the best poker player is the one who can be profitable in both games. Sure, there aren't many of those people out there, but they exist. And they are the people I don't want to face at the table.<-- Hide More
The truth, comment spammer, is I hate you very much.
Now, don't get me wrong, I need the encouragement you offer with fine comments like, "Great site!" or "Nice Post!" or my personal favorite, "This is a fine post please see my site for great prices on Rogaine!!"
Really, who doesn't like a pat on the ol' back?
Still, I don't need your drugs.
I need people who actually care about poker or, barring that, care about useless rambling from the guy who simply puts posts on the web while waiting for another Otis update.
At the very least, I look at your site clogging garbage as a sort of online bad beat.
Even the very best of us get tired of that.
In short, comment spammer, Go fuck yourself.<-- Hide More
I've been playing enough online poker lately to actually dream about it last night. It was odd. First, odd because BadBlood was in the dream and, while I LIKE the guy, he's substantially different from what my internal dream casting agency would normally recruit. Second, it was odd because we were playing poker on laptops in a brick and mortar casino.
Just sitting 'round a full table of players that were in no way playing the same game.
For the record, I was KILLING the game.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I DID play a little low-stakes poker on the Blood family's kitchen table this weekend. Naturally, I lost. Still, as much as I've grown to like the underground games, it's nice to just drink and laugh and not have much cash in play. I beat Random101 with a straight flush against his full house. I doubled up Mrs. Blood and Uncle Ted at least once each.
Blah... blah... actual poker... blah.
On the plus side, I had a martini and a steinfull of shirazz. I love me a tasty buzz.
ANOTHER DREAM THAT IS TOTALLY UNRELATED (I THINK)
I have this one dream pretty much all the time. I think it may be a confession of some sort of mental instability to admit it but I have the dream SO often I often wake up thinking the dream is real.
I dream I have a very large house. That much is always the same. The house itself is usually different but it always seems familiar in that dream-way.
The key thing is I always have at least one or two more rooms than I can possibly use. While the rest of the house is fully furnished, those rooms are completely empty. Sometimes it's a patio room and sometimes it's the den. I always, at some point in the dream, regret having all this space I don't need and later I make a committment to find a USE for the space.
Eventually I'll become SO fond of the new, formerly bare, room that I'll then neglect some other part of the house. Then I'm back to wishing I didn't have so much goddamned space.
Again, I have that dream so often that I frequently wake up unsure of what house I'm in. I have it so often that as soon as the dream begins I recognize where it's headed. That familiarity doesn't make the dream seem less real, quite the opposite in fact.
Pretty damn wierd I think.
Playing poker Online
Back to that first dream. I've been playing a LOT of online poker lately with what I'll call mixed results.
I've made the money in a MTT pretty much every day for a week or 10 days. There is some measure of luck to make that happen, but I'm very happy with my play... up to a point.
The problem is I have no endgame. I can't seem to finish the deal. I get to the money and fall apart.
Check this out:
Date: Buyin Type Finished/Registered Payout
8/5/2007 $24 NL Hold'em 63/1097 $60.55
8/3/2007 $10 NL Hold'em 69/2367 $47.35
8/2/2007 $20 NL Hold'em 32/227 $45.40
8/1/2007 $20 NL Hold'em 18/180 $43.20
8/1/2007 $5 NL Hold'em 126/2027 $14.19
7/31/2007 $15 Razz 3/24 $72.00
7/30/2007 $20 NL Hold'em 16/180 $43.20
7/29/2007 $8 NL Hold'em+Rebuys 28/1106 $106.52
7/27/2007 $10 NL Hold'em+Rebuys 21/558 $75.54
Otis even warned me not to fall apart as I was killing a $24+$2 on Tilt last night.
I did it anyway. I think I made a $45 profit. Whooop di Do.
Keep dreaming I guess.<-- Hide More