What? Blogs are dead? Nah. They're just resting.
It's just after 5am and I'm trying to work off a caffeine buzz brought on by a workload that's just a little shy of WSOP proportions. The caffeine and Guinness brought on a silly idea.
A couple of years ago, I toyed with the idea of writing a poker novel. That idea has long since died by the wayside. Still, the prologue is sitting in the My Documents file with nothing better to do than rot. So, here's what I'm going to do.
If you care (or dare) take a trip around the blogosphere with me and my silly little prologue. It starts here and then will continue in the comments section of some blogs I read.
There's no real point to this other than to get you surfing through the blogs again and remind everybody about the good folks we've come to know and love. Maybe this will inspire me to do something greater with my life. Or maybe it will help me sleep.
It starts like this.
It's not that I want to begin the story like that. Every time I say it, I can hear my mother telling me not to take the good Lord Jesus' name in vain. I always get sad when I hear Mama's voice. But Jesus and I really haven't been on the best of terms since Mama died. And Billy always wanted me to start my stories that way.
"It conveys an appropriate sense of awe," Billy once said. "That's what we're going for. We want the awe." He always raised his beer bottle slowly in front of his face when he talked that way.
That was my job.
"You are the Awe Inspirer," Billy always said, as if I surely understood it came out of his mouth with capital letters.
Next: Absinthetics<-- Hide More
The halls surrounding the WSOP Amazon Ballroom were teeming with so many bad beat stories, if each one of the story tellers had paid his dollar, I could've bought my way into the main event. I tried not to stay in the hallways for too long, lest I start believing that poker was just a game that required not getting beat badly.
But I had to pee, and I had yet to find a private bathroom where bad beat stories weren't allowed.
That's when I ran into a flushed-faced Jay Greenspan.
When he started telling his story, I drifted off into the place in my mind I go when bad beat stories get started. It's a happy place, full of virgins and cheap beer. I would've stayed there, but I realized Greenspan was telling a story about a Pot Limit Omaha hand. Frankly, I rarely get to hear bad beat stories that involve Omaha hands, so I started listening again .
When I rejoined the convesation, Jay was telling me that by the turn, he had the nut straight with a flush re-draw on an un-paired board. In short, he had a pretty damned good hand. What's more, he was in the pot with two other players and suddenly all of them had all of their money in the middle. This was no small game. It was a $2/$5 Pot-Limit game, but it was playing much bigger.
For half a second, I tried to figure out two things. First, I wondered how three people could get all their money in with one card to come. Second, I wondered what horrible fate was going to befall one of my favorite people in the poker writing world.
Jay didn't make me wait long to answer the first question. As it turned out, all three players held the nut straight. However, where Jay held the re-draw to the flush, one of his opponents held a re-draw to a higher straight. What's more, the other opponent also had a set, so if the board paired, he would make a full house or quads. Suddenly, the answer to the second question was a lot more clear. There were several ways Jay was going to lose the pot.
Jay looked at me with that look people always offer before they give you the kicker on their bad beat tale, and then said, "Queen of hearts on the river."
Wait! My mind raced. I hadn't been listening to the first part of the story. Did the queen pair the board? Did it make the other dude a higher straight? What happened?!!
Just as the word "river" came out of his mouth, Jay reached in his pocket and whipped out...more than $6,000.
Indeed, that heart made Jay's flush. It hadn't been a bad beat story at all.
So, that story is one of the reasons I like Jay. He's pretty good at the cliffhanger.
But that's not the only reason. Early on in the 2006 WSOP, Jay gave me an advance copy of his book, Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for America's Worst Poker Players. In the few down hours I had during the WSOP, I read the book from cover to cover.
The title spells out the basic premise: Jay spends three months driving across America looking for good games full of bad players. Beyond that, Jay is trying to build a bankroll big enough to play the big no-limit games in L.A. That's a mid-five-figures roll, for those of you who aren't familiar.
I'm not going to give away anything about the book, but I want to tell you why I liked it. These are things I meant to discuss with Jay before the end of the WSOP, but by the end of the tournament, I just wanted to go home.
Unlike a lot of other poker books out there, Jay makes no attempt to make the poker world seem romantic. Jay's age puts him in the perfect place. He's not a middle-aged guy seeking to reclaim his lost youth. He's also not a guy who is new to the scene and thinks everything is dangerous, romantic, and gonzo. Much like Jay, the poker scene is what it is.
Jay's book is a good and easy read and I recommend it to anyone who is trying to build a bankroll or considering going pro. It's a sobering read that, hopefully, will make you think.
I have a couple of future posts planned based on some things I took from Jay's book. Those will come a little later.
Until then, have a good weekend. And keep your fucking bad beat stories to yourself, three-outer or not.
 Note: I don't have any notes on this conversation and I'm recalling it more than a month after it happened. However, I think I'm pretty close in my recollection. I'm sure Jay will tell me if I'm not.<-- Hide More
If you're like the rest of us, you've probably read a few bad poker books in your day. Well, it's time to get yourself a good one. And I'm confident in saying that about a book I've never read. Why? Because it's written by, perhaps, the best player in the WPBT. It's written by a guy who consistently beats the cash games he plays and still finds time to crush the tourney circuit when he wants to. The guy is smart and he's good. He's someone you can learn from, and now's your chance.
Scott, aka DoubleAs, has written Pressure Poker. Get your copy by going to his blog and clicking on the link. I'm getting no kickbacks for this. I'm buying a copy for myself and you should, too.
So get your copy now! You won't be sorry.
When CJ launched Up For Poker, it was a geat outlet for our competitive exploits. We never really thought much would come of it. It was simply a way to move the poker content off of our personal blogs.
Over, lo, these many months, CJ has invited several people to contribute here. We've had many a guest writer. But, as UFP gelled, it became clear that CJ, G-Rob, and I were going to be the chief writers. A collaborative blog is a great deal easier to maintain than one authored by a single, tired poker player. What's more, it offers insights from different styles, levels, and bankrolls. Of course, try to pigeon-hole any of us, and you'll be making a mistake.
Why do I bring it up?More in this Poker Blog! -->
Well, a few reasons.
First, I've been thinking a lot recently about the amount of time my head is dedicated to poker. In the past, it was a pastime. Now, it is a profession. Who knew you could have a career in poker without being a professional card player? I've found that I have disengaged my noodle from a lot that is going on around me. That isn't the way I like to live my life.
Second, G-Rob needs another outlet. It's clear G-Rob has more to say than the thematic elements here allow. G-Rob has started a few personal blogs in the past, but has shut them down after a few months. Don't ask why, because I've never been provided a sufficient answer.
Third, we three fish have been fighting in the same bowl for a long time and it's not always been about poker. This will be further explained later. But, we miss it.
So, in the spirit of Up For Poker, but without all the poker, we have created a new blog for ourselves.
Now, I know, many of you are thinking, "Christ, not another damned blog."
I know. There are too many out there as it is. But, give us a try. We may bleed hearts and spades, but we have a few diamonds in the rough as well. Clubs? I gave up clubbing years ago.
Take it for what it is.. We call it...<-- Hide More
I guess we all need it sometimes. A writer for the Online Journalism Review provides the bloggers' ego bone tickle this week. Thanks for the nice article, Mark.
A lot of bloggers have been pestering me to offer something here that's not on the European Poker Tour official blog.
Okay...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Here's a short one...
I've set up my workstation near the back of the Concord Card Casino in Vienna. I'm working off a small table that I have pressed up against a metal door.
For the past 30 minutes I've been hearing music and thought I'd accidentally left my iPod on. Then I started hearing a lot of female voices through the door.
Eventually, I made the connection (so to speak).
The CCC adjoins...adjoins...a brothel.
Welcome to Vienna.
For a less racy version of this trip...please feel free to visit me at the EPT blog.
Badblood will be joining me here tomorrow night. That should be good for a story or eight.<-- Hide More
I'm such a slack-ass. I know that I'm behind in my poker writing when my other blog gets more attention than this one. This new job has left little time for fun writing or poker playing. And the little poker I did play over the weekend was, in a word, bad. After reading countless bad beat stories on other blogs (and finding a few of my own on here) I vowed never to write a bad beat story on UFP again. So, I suck at poker and when I don't...well, we're not swimming in those waters.
So, for those not reading about the upcoming trip to Vegas for the WPBT or CJ's newfound semi-loose-aggressive style (a style a lot like the sexual habits of a high school girl I once knew), here's some stuff you really should be reading this week.More in this Poker Blog! -->
First and foremost, be sure to visit Iggy and Hank's sites to check out their months-long labor of love, the new and expertly written Poker Tracker Guide. Anyeone who doesn't use PT to track their play is taking a knife to a bazooka fight. And anyone who doesn't spend a lousy $20 to buy the boys' Guide is playing hardball without a cup. I have my copy, so you should have one for yourself.
Actually, Mean Gene said it better, so go read him. What are the chances we can get this fabulous writer to go to Vegas in June? I want to play him heads-up for the right to love his favorite female pro more.
I've spent quite a bit of time recently chatting with The Geek. He's had some good material recently. Go check out his four-part tale of living the celeb life with Wil Wheaton.
There. That should hold you until I find my interesting pills.<-- Hide More
As the Life d'Otis is a bit in the weeds, I thought I'd point you to some things you should read today...More in this Poker Blog! -->
Wil Wheaton, a man to whom I owe a great deal, is finally getting something he's deserved for a while. Read the whole post. It's worth it.
Pauly is outing himself and some of his new publishing accomplishments. No doubt, it's another great beginning for him.
The Geek is on a rush. I hope it continues for him.
Please go over and read Iggy's latest post. It's a good reminder that bad beat rivers don't really mean that much in the grand scope.
And if you happen by a magazine stand and can find the Feb. issue of Casino Player magazine, I have a small column in there about poker in the islands. It's not online (yet?), but if it pops up there, I'll link to it here.<-- Hide More
One last thing before we return to the Vegas trip reports. ALL IN magazine has released its next issue. While it is actually the third issue the publisher has put out, it is the first with nationwide newstand distribution. ALL IN worked out a distribution deal with Time-Warner, so ALL IN will now appear in shelves at Barnes and Noble, and other stores.
And, as a matter of pimpage, I have two articles in this issue. And if that isn't worth buying, there are a bunch of half-nekkid pictures of Shanna Hiatt.
Sorry about the pimpage. I got so used to being a pimp in Vegas (that story is coming soon) that I just can't stop.
It's been a busy week here at Up For Poker. The house is a damned mess. Chips are all over the house. Random wads of cash are sticking out of books and packages of macaroni. I'm pretty sure my kid's first words are going to be, "Okay, I fold."
Still, we need to take care of a few matters.More in this Poker Blog! -->
First, Big City-based poker news site operator, Jay G., just secured a kick-ass deal and I promised him I'd pass along the news and a request:
Jay over at PokerSavvy.com will soon be traveling all over America in search of the best and worst of poker games. He's secured a deal with a good publisher to write a book about his findings. According to the good boys over at Pokerati, the working title of Jay's book will be Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for America's Worst Poker Players.
Jay asked that if you've got a good home game or an in with a good underground club, he'd love to hear from you. You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Who knows? Your game may end up the stuff of literary legend.
Please note the post below this one regarding something that should make Southeastern poker players very, very happy.
In a recent post, DankHank posted a comment that led me to believe we may have crossed paths in an earlier life. I'd be interested in hearing from the mystery man if he cares to e-mail me.
You can reach me at: rapideyereality ---at-- bellsouth.net
My posts in the next few days may be a bit fewer and far between. But I do have an interesting game coming up this weekend. Hopefully, I can rebound from last weekend's poor performance and do L'il Otis proud.<-- Hide More
When the dust cleared, Otis had written a spectacular cover story on Ben Affleck and I threw in a little piece on the top poker rooms in Vegas.
If you're looking for some good non-poker content from some poker writers, be sure to check out this month's edition of Pauly's Truckin'.
Oh, yeah. I was a contributor this month.
"Be the ball, Danny."
If you say that to a friend of mine, she'll look at you and smile. It's the smile of a person who knows she should be smiling, but really isn't sure why.
You might follow up with the tell-tale "Na-na-na-na-na" golfing Zen phrase.
The smile will fade slightly. She'll look at you and offer something like this:
"You're talking about the 80s, aren't you?"More in this Poker Blog! -->
My friend, BB, grew up during the 80s. She's a striking, girl-next-door, all-American brunette. In another life, she might have worn something Molly Ringwald-ish, but I see her more as an Ally Sheedy, or a more intelligent, early Demi Moore.
Regardless, at the time we were all yucking it up to Fletch, Caddyshack, and Weird Science, her family was trying to avoid lions, tigers, and a stray elephant.
Her parents were missionaries in Zambia and BB, in effect, missed the 80s.
After nearly four years of forcing 80s movie references on her and seeing the smile of the 80s-less, her husband and friends decided they'd had enough.
Which forced me into Sam Walton's Warehouse of Horrors.
When you walk in the door, the smell of new tires hits your nose like unrefined petroleum on an August afternoon. The old lady checks your card to make sure you're not trying to illegally buy in bulk. Once you cross the tire threshold, a cavernous expanse of clothes, TVs, and bulk cheeseballs opens before you.
Oddly, I felt the need to welcome BB and her husband as we walked into Sam's. It's not like it was my house or anything, but somehow I ended up with a membership to the place and they needed some bulk items.
While Joe and BB trolled the aisles for a five-pound block of cheese and a three pound sack of pepperoni, I made my way to the book aisle. While not a metropolitan library, Sam's is not a bad place to pick up a mass-market book on the cheap. The discounts are usually 40% or better.
Joe and BB were trying to decide if three pounds of Italian sausage was too much. And better yet, how many mushrooms is too many (no snickering, Pauly).
I picked up The Da Vinci Code and flipped through it. The cover price had been reduced to $14. It's hard to find a trade paperback for that much anymore. I read a couple of paragraphs and tried to decide if my pop culture fire base needed a little stoking. Everybody is talking about the book and God and Da Vinci. After a couple more sentences I decided I wasn't in the mood to confront theology-based fiction. Anyway, I preferred Chistopher Moore's Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff. Maybe I'd re-read that instead.
I threw out my back picking up Bill Clinton's My Life. I nursed my vertebrae back to health by picking up John Grisham's new pamphlet. That's much lighter. After ruminating on how a popular author needs no more than to write a novella to make several million dollars, I headed back over to find Joe and BB.
"Ragu. It's gotta be Ragu. Garden Chunky Style." Joe was insistant. If it wasn't Ragu, he wasn't going to buy a gallon of it.
I obviously was not yet needed.
I wandered back into the book aisle. That's when I saw it.
As recognizable as any name-brand logo on the market today, there it was: The WPT poker set, complete with a deck of cards.
Before completely wrecking myself, I did, indeed check myself.
I looked over and saw the cases of Box-o-Wine, Lee brand dungarees, and pre-made salad by the 55 gallon barrel. No doubt, I was in Sam's Warehouse Club.
I let my eyes fall back to the book rack. Before I could clearly focus back on the WPT set, I saw the word: SUPER.
No, surely not.
I pulled the book off the rack.
At one time, Super System's claim to fame was that it had never before been sold for less than $80. At the beginning of the most recent poker boom, copies were going on eBay for about $40 a piece. I picked mine up at Walden Books for a little more than $30.
I flipped the book over and stared at the back cover.
I've seriously tired of the countless news articles, Internet columns, and television news broadcasts about the poker boom. I've done everything I can NOT to write about poker slipping into the mainstream.
But how can I ignore the fact that the bible of poker is now being sold in Sam Walton's Bulk-o-Rama?
I'd pontificate a little on the above facts, but I think they speak for themselves.
Holy bucket of cheeseballs.
I led BB and Joe into the checkout aisle and prepared a great game of manipulation and trickery. The plan was to use my membership card, but let BB pay for the groceries. As it turned out, my game was unnecessary.
The check-out clerk said, "You're Otis, aren't you?" It's good to be recognized...sometimes.
I allowed that I was in, fact, Otis (or some facsimile thereof), BB paid for the food, and Joe and I talked about getting up a new home game.
Which leads us to tonight.
While there likely won't be any poker played, we will finally educate BB on what it's like to be a true child of the 80s.
Joe spent the day making homemade pizza. Then tonight, on two screens...
Screen 1 - "The Breakfast Club"
Screen 2 - "Fletch"
Screen 1 - "Ferris Buellers Day off"
Screen 2 - "Caddyshack"
Screen 1 - "Heathers"
Screen 2 - "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"
Screen 1 - "Princess Bride"
Screen 2 - "Weird Science"
If you have to ask which screen I'll be watching, you really don't know your Otis very well.<-- Hide More
Two Plus Two will be publishing a new book on hold'em aimed at lower limits. It is called -- not surprisingly -- Hold'em Poker for Low Limit Players. The book is authored by Ed Miller, David Sklansky, and Mason Malmuth. The book was first announced by Mason on the 2+2 forums. Interestingly, Ed Miller is a major contributor to those forums, and his posts appear to be one reason he was given the opportunity to contribute to the book.
Reading books about poker will not make a bad player a great player. I truly believe that a player must already have that indefinable element.
I'm not saying books are worthless, in fact, the right books can make the difference between losing and winning. Just don't expect to pick up Super/System and go from fish to WSOP champ!
That all leads me to winning with the flush. This advice comes from Gary Carson's The Complete Book of Hold 'Em Poker:More in this Poker Blog! -->
There are four categories of flush cards and they all play a little differently. There are suited Aces, suited big-little (such as K-5 or Q-5), suited connectors, and other suited cards. The strongest of these are the suited Aces and the suited connectors. The suited Aces are, of course, draws to the best possible flush. That's not really their primary strength, because suited Aces and suited connectors tend to have other drawing features when they flop flush draws. The Ace is an overcard, adding three outs to the hand, and suited connectors often flush a straight flush draw, or a gutshot straight draw to combine with the flush draw. These extra three or four outs are what make them premium draws.
A flush draw is about a 4-1 underdog to make in one card. It's about a 2-1 underdog to make in two cards. When you have a flush draw, you know that you will need 4-1 pot odds to call a bet on the turn. If the game is only a little loose, you also know the pot will be big enough to give you those odds. That means that when you evaluate a flush draw on the flop, you can think about the odds of making it in two cards but don't have to worry about the cost of those two cards. The pot will pay for the second card. The current betting round is what pays for the first card. If the pot is large enough on the turn to give you 4-1 pot odds, then you only need two callers on the flop to give you sufficient odds to bet or raise an Ace-high flush draw for value.
This makes flush draws very strong on the flop in a loose or very loose game because you don't need pot odds to call on the flop. It's even stronger in a very loose, very aggressive game because you only need 3-1 bet odds to profit significantly from a bet or raise. If you're in that situation where you have three or four callers, and one of them raises for you, then that's just free money.
If you don't see any solid tells that would indicate that you're drawing to a second-best flush, then you will want to play a flush draw at a loose table very aggressively. You want as many callers as you can get, but you also want to put as many bets in the pot as you can.
As we mentioned before, a flush draw is a 2-1 underdog on the flop if you'll take the hand to the river. You'll make the flush once for every two times you miss. That means, if you're getting 3-1 on your bets on the flop, you'll make money if you know your flush will be good. Because we're never quite sure about that, you want to get 4-1. If you get four callers on thr flop whenever you bet a flush draw, you will make a lot of money on flushes.
So, on the flop you want to bet or check-raise in such a way as to trap players, not to thin the field. If you think a player to your left will bet, then you should check-raise. If you think a player on the button will raise, then you should bet from UTG, and reraise him if three players besides him have called. You aren't semi-bluffing; you aren't trying to thin the field; you're trying to get as much money, from as many players, as you can.If your table is very loose and at least somewhat aggressive, you can exploit that by playing a lot of flush cards. The reason for this is that you'll be paid off. Getting paid off with a flush involves more than just getting called when you make the flush. It also involves getting extra bets in the pot when you've got a draw. In a loose, somewhat aggressive game, this can be a major source of winnings.
I've got to say that some of my biggest pots came from flushes. In Carson's book, he emphasizes that it doesn't matter how many pots you win, it matters how big the pots are. It's about winning money, not winning hands. Flushes often bring the big pots.
The rules are a little different when it comes to No Limit because the pot odds can change dramatically. In loose games, however, a flush draw can take you from short stack to the table bully.<-- Hide More
The scenario might have come straight from the daydreams of any aspiring author/poker player: writer receives an assignment from Harperâ€™s Magazine to write about female players at the World Series of Poker, uses the advance to win a seat at the Championship Event, then makes the final table for a six-figure payday.
Then, like catching the runner-runner for the nuts, the resulting publicity turns what would have probably been a short article into a featured cover story, which leads to a contract for probably the most high-profile poker book in history. All in all, itâ€™s been a pretty good rush for writer James McManus.More in this Poker Blog! -->
The article, â€œFortuneâ€™s Smile: Betting Big at the World Series of Pokerâ€ (Harperâ€™s December 2000) was a gripping, surprisingly detailed account of McManusâ€™s trip to the final table, one of the finest stories about the game ever written. Unfortunately, in the journey from the article to "Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker," the story loses much of its spark and intensity, and doesnâ€™t match up to the classic books by Anthony Holden and Al Avarez that inspired it.
Part of the problem is that there simply isnâ€™t enough poker in this poker book. McManus wins the first one-table satellite he enters, but the $1015 entry fee and a deal that has him paying the second- and third-place finishers $1700 each almost completely wipes out his $4000 advance and seemingly all of his own money, leaving him counting his pennies for the four days until the Championship. And while his wifeâ€™s anti-gambling stance creates some amusing moments, as a reader I was wishing that McManus were a bachelor who could hit the ATM and get in some ring games.
This cash crunch means that the book contains scarcely more poker than the original article. Filling time and chapters until the Championship are sections on the science and history of the game, great poker books, a trip to a strip club, Benny Binion and the World Series and, running through the book, the tabloid-worthy tale of the murder of Ted Binion. For the most part, the stories are familiar to anyone with a few poker books on the shelf â€” yes, Bennyâ€™s sheriff still loses, Nick the Greek still has that Jack in the hole, and Amarillo Slim only said heâ€™d slit his throat if a certain woman won â€” making these pages seem like little more than occasionally interesting filler.
His reporting on his fellow players often leaves a lot to be desired as well. McManus was on assignment to report on the presence of women at the World Series, and we do get profiles on Annie Duke, Jennifer Harmon, and others. Unfortunately, when it comes to some of the bigger male players, his insight is often limited to those he manages to find himself playing against, or else he quotes passages from some of the better-known poker books. Of course, those readers already familiar with the literature might find this reliance on prior works somewhat disappointing.
Still, the book is probably worth it for its chapters on McManusâ€™s rise through the 2000 Championship, eventually won by Chris Ferguson. Itâ€™s a terrific, fast-paced report on one non-proâ€™s unlikely journey to the final table, written by a journalist trained in writing a good story (Anthony Holden finished far out of the money in his classic â€œBig Dealâ€). He makes some good plays and a few others that make you want to reach into the book and smack him around a bit (I donâ€™t care how many wonderful things happened to McManus in `89 or `98, it ainâ€™t a great idea to call a big raise with 8-9 suited with 46 players left in an event that pays 45).
All in all, â€œPositively Fifth Streetâ€ is probably the ultimate account of an average playerâ€™s hot streak, though with a bit too much generic filler to go along with its excellent first-hand poker content. While the lay reader might enjoy the balanced approach, the poker buff will probably wish that McManus spent a little less time around the courtrooms and strip clubs and a little more at the tables.<-- Hide More