Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two Different Games

My foot-stink assails my senses. I'm trying to focus on the screen in front of me, but I'm finding it difficult to concentrate with the stinging in my nostrils. My feet aren't that bad today, it's more that hours and days and weeks of foot-stink have permeated every fibre of the couch - the poker couch. The strategic throne from whence I send my chips into battle.

So it sit, cross legged on the poker couch, at the end of another 12 hour session at the tables, inhaling stale foot-stink and wondering why I persist with online poker. The money is nice I guess. It’s been a good year for me on the virtual felt. But by god I hate playing online. My current country of residence – Lao PDR – doesn’t have any live poker, so I’m reduced to playing the demoralising simulacrum of the real version of the game.

Online poker is demoralising for a number of reasons - it's tedious and repetitive; it gives you even less motivation to leave the house, bathe, or develop any kind of social skills; pieces of perfectly good computer equipment – mouses, keyboards and occasionally screens – get damaged in tilt-fuelled rages; and it keeps you cooped up indoors vegetating during beautiful summer days while stinking up perfectly good couches. And in the end, it just isn't as interesting as live poker.

It's a different game for starters. It has the same science as real poker – perhaps even moreso - but less art. It lacks the psychological depth, the human side of the real game, which for mine really makes poker worth playing in the first place.

It takes skill - yes of course - some of the brightest and best play almost exclusively online. It's tough - no one will deny that - even some of the low buy-in tournaments and cash games have quality opposition slowly working their way through the monetary ranks. But let’s face it - it's dull. It’s lifeless. It lacks the verve, the colour and excitement of live play. And by excitement I mean it lacks the heart pumping, ball shrinking, sheer terror of live play.

Online poker has a relative vacuum of information. You can't see the way someone handles their chips, verbalises a bet, or respond to the scrutiny of nine pairs of eyes watching them as they try to calmly bet the nuts on the river. You can't observe how someone responds to pressure - the pressure of a long tournament day; the pressure of the bubble; the pressure of pushing out a big bluff. It’s the last in particular that really gets the heart pumping. When sitting in the comfort and anonymity of your lounge room, a simple click of the mouse button makes the big bluff easy. I can do that without blinking. But live play? The big bluff at the final table of a big tournament? That gets the blood pounding in the ears, the hands shaking, the sweat beading on the brow.

Yeah baby, live play can be a rush.

Online poker, on the other hand, is a bunch of 16 year-old mathematicians practicing optimal play while surfing for black-on-white porn and writing grammatically retarded pseudo-sentences on the two-plus-two forums. You don't need heart to play online, you need a calculator. It's not a game about humans; it’s a game of equity and numbers.

So why even play? Easy - I love poker. If I didn’t have online poker, I’d be begging my girlfriend to play heads-up for match-sticks; if she wasn’t around I’d be dealing cards to imaginary opponents and trying to ‘play out’ different hands according to the ‘tendencies’ of the imaginary players. If I didn’t have a deck of cards, I’d cut rectangles out of pieces of paper and make my own deck.

And I want to tell you something right now so there’s no doubt in your mind – I’ve done all of these things and worse. I’m a true poker desperado. Once I made a pair of Kings out of post-it notes during a particularly long and boring meeting, so while the speaker droned on interminably about fiduciary systems or the new pair of pants he just bought or whatever crap it was, I would occasionally peek down at the post-its and feel a sliver of that short-sharp thrill of looking down and seeing pocket Kings in a live game.

So I play online because I’m a poker tragic. I endure that lingering foot-stink so I can keep my technical skills sharp and to make some money. But I’m not kidding myself. It’s not real and doesn’t feel real. It’s virtual. The real game is what the November Nine have just shaped up to, or what several hundred players will be doing in the Main Event of the Aussie Millions come January.

And that is what it is about - a room echoing with the sound of a million riffling chips at the beginning of a major tournament, the atmosphere electric with anticipation; a thousand poker tragics in the same room chasing the Moneymaker dream, and the announcer taking up the mike and telling the dealers to ‘Shuffle Up and Deal!’

More Ladies, Less Arsecrack

So the World Series has a day for the ladies: a 1000 dollar buy-in, ‘women only’ no-limit hold ‘em event. In the past I had mild indifference to this. I sort of felt like it I was a throwback to the 60’s and should be canned, but I didn’t really care either way. However, after the controversy of the last week my thinking on this has turned completely.

In case you hadn’t heard the story, this is what happened - a half-dozen men decided to enter the ladies event this year. Some of them dressed up as women, one used a tampon as a card protector. Pure hilarity. As you may have guessed, these were mainly very young men; Internet kids egged on by other Internet kids.

Their reasoning? Not clear. There was an explanation by one of them (Sean Deeb - a very young online player who wore a dress to the event), who said he did it because he lost a prop bet. Later he belatedly claimed he was fighting for men’s equality. Yeah, right. It was probably just some random youthful stupidity, or the early onset of life-long douchebaggery. No one really knows. The only thing that was clear is that he looked horrible in a dress.

So everyone has been pissed off by these clowns turning up and spoiling the day for many of the players. Indeed, quite a number of professionals have spoken up over the past couple of days in favour of a women-only event, and the main argument they have put forward has been this: the women’s event is good for poker. Over 1000 ladies turned up for this event. That’s right, over a thousand. So if a thousand women are willing to go to a card room to play cards against other women, then good for them. If they feel more comfortable in that format, then why stop them?

Some of the top female pros don’t like to play in it (like Jen Harman) – they only play in the open events, rightly assuming that they are good enough to play against anyone, and gender shouldn’t count. That’s their right too. One doesn’t preclude the other.

For me, if the women want it (and the numbers suggest they do) and it’s good for poker, then why fuck it up with some half-assed protest? But anyway, these arguments are all sort of obvious. The event will keep going and hopefully it will be an avenue for more women to enter the poker mainstream. And I’m all for that.

This leads me to a less obvious, though even more persuasive argument. I’d like to see more women in poker for the following reason: more women in poker means less exposed arsecracks, fewer individuals with dubious personal hygiene, and fewer morons saying “I won’t wash this shirt because it is my lucky shirt and it has been since the 2002 World Series”. That’s right. More women in the game means there will fewer men at my table and therefore a reduced chance I have to play with an obese mouth-breather eating nachos with one hand and scratching his nuts with the other. And then fumbling his cards with those hands.

This has a value that cannot be overstated. I don’t want to throw in gender stereotypes here, but I’ve never played with a woman who stank of spoiled milk and Doritos, farted loudly, and sweated profusely through the front of her shirt. But I have certainly played with men who have done all of these things.

So I’m for a women’s event because it means somewhere down the track, more women will be introduced to the game, which in turn means there will be less male arse-crack at the table.

And I have to finish by saying this - the guys who did play were not protesting against anything and are not doing this because they wanted to make a stand. They did it because they are foolish and thoughtless. If they had a social conscious and were genuinely worked up about issues of rights, then they would play the ‘ante up for Africa’ event – which, among other things, donates money to communities affected by genocide. This is what you call a real issue.

So to all you guys who ‘protested’ by buying into the ladies event? Well morons, your bus is leaving. Go back to your frat club and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

This article was originally published on June 9 2010

Death by a Thousand C*nts

I type “Razztard” into the ‘player notes’. My opponent has done something stupid. This is my very clever name for a bad Razz player. I have a number of clever short-names like this; “Moron”, “SpasticStation”, “Checking raising C*nt” and “Bad beating C*nt”. My player notes are rich with such information.

I’m playing in PokerStars ‘Spring Championship of Online Poker'. Event 27. Razz. Good god, why I am I playing Razz? A more tedious or unimaginative game I could not imagine. Try to make the lowest hand. DUUUH. I duz has A359. I duz min-bet and take another card. Razz - a game for masochists, morons and 87-year old men.

So aggravating, so excruciating. In Guantanamo Bay I understand they used to switch between water-boarding detainees and forcing them to play all night Razz tournaments. No wonder so many people left there psychologically damaged.

So why am I playing? Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s poker. Nick ‘the Greek’ Dandalos won and lost millions gambling, and at the end of it all, he was broke and reduced to playing five dollar limit draw poker in California. When a rail bird recognized who he was and asked him how he could be content playing at such low limits after once playing for the highest stakes, his legendary answer was, “…hey, it’s action, isn’t it?” We’ll, I haven’t lost or won millions, not even close, but I crave the poker action, and though Razz may be the worst form of poker, it’s still poker.

So I played the SCOOP tournament and ended up busting 100th for around $45. Wow. 45 dollars. I keep telling my girlfriend that I’m going to ‘earn the Benjamins’ so we can retire in a luxurious ‘baller’ lifestyle. She’s not sure what ‘Benjamins’ or ‘baller’ means, but I think she’s starting to get suspicious about my extravagant claims when tournament cashes earn me 40 bucks.

But, to give myself credit, my reaction to my bust out hand was pure class. After the last card fell and my opponent revealed a better low, I immediately launched into a tirade at the poor dude, “…you f*cking cap it with a King?” I typed, smashing the keyboard, “FKN IDIOT”. Yes, another dignified exit from another online tournament.

But at least I got my money in good, right? I could be content with that. And yet, as I thought about the hand during the day, something didn’t feel quite right. I capped it when I had A26/Q/9 and he had 234/K/5. Slowly I came to the realization that I probably wasn’t ahead in that spot, even though I had the Queen against the obvious King-low. I ended up logging the hands into a Razz odds calculator online (I am stunned that such a thing even exists – who knew that 87-year old men used the Internet?) and found that I was a 65/35 underdog in the hand. Hmmm. So I’d capped the betting as a two-to-one dog. And then I berated my opponent in the chat box for several minutes for being a moron.

Nice. I guess I’m the Razztard. And a douche. I need to put that in my own player notes: “Razzdouche”.

And all this leaves me worried. Is there more to Razz than meets the eye? Are there subtleties involved? Should I hone my game, practice, look to work my way up to the next level? Is Razz a new frontier for my game?

Well, no. I’d rather be handcuffed to a chair, have my pants set on fire, and listen to Michael Buble all night, over playing another damn Razz tournament. But if I should accidentally stumble into another one – well, at least when I bust out I’ll have a better chance of berating my opponent and being right about the odds.

This article was first published ion May 21 2010

WSOP Too Far Away

I stare at the monitor. It is blank. Utterly non-responsive. This is the second time I've broken the laptop.

I've just smashed the keyboard with my fist after losing with QQ v A2 on the bubble of a World Series Of Poker satellite on PokerStars. Now the screen sits there, mocking my rage with its indifference. I stand up and pace around the room, running bad beats through my head, clenching and unclenching my fists. Sure, I've only busted my laptop twice in two years, but that's twice too many.

Need to curb the tilt. Need to cut back on the keyboard mashing, the F-bombs, the frothing at the mouth. Need to cut down on chat box expletives. Need to stop scaring the neighbours, who by now must think they live next to a raving lunatic. Think about it - what would your average person, who has no knowledge of online poker, think when they regularly hear screams coming from a suburban house at 2am like, “You fucking called me with WHAT?!?” or “C********NNNNNNNT!!!” or “One time dammit ONE TIME!”

The problem is, of course, I play tournament poker online. And for the most part, only multi-table tournaments. There are few things more frustrating than MTTs. Razz? Yes, more frustrating than MTTs. Waiting for BP to plug the oil leak? Yeah that’s a bit frustrating. Men “The Master” saying “all you can eat, baby” for the 18th time? Yes, that’s quite annoying.

But a variation of the MTT tops all of these…satellites. The payout structure always sucks as the percentage of players actually winning anything is always quite small - usually less than ten percent, often less than five per cent, and sometimes there will be only one winner.

I don’t know how many times I’ve played for hours and hours, to end up with nothing at the end of a satellite. And this is the main reason satellites and tilt go together like peaches and cream; like Scotty Nguyen and Coronas; like tilt and smashed laptops.

I’ve had some results in satellites over the years, but I’ve never cracked a WSOP satellite. I played the World Series last year (through building my bankroll, not through a satellite) and I tell you this - playing the WSOP can change your poker mentality completely, as I’m sure the many Aussies are pondering as they sit on their 14-hour flights back home after their WSOP campaigns.

Firstly, you realise that tournament fields are relatively weak, even at the higher buy-in level. Yes, everyone says this, thus the name “donkament”, right? But when you cough up a couple of grand on a tournament entry and find yourself against players who don't understand the basics - how much to raise, pot odds, outs, position, hand rankings, how to spell poker - well, this never ceases to surprise me. The Poker 101 stuff is beyond half the field.

You also realise that because the fields are so weak, you can play competitively at that level. You’re competitive in close to the top tier of tournament poker in the world. You have a positive expectation against the field. Think about that.

The WSOP is addictive. You need to play again, soak in the atmosphere, the rush of live play, the fact that nothing in poker is as satisfying as making your way to the final table of a big field tournament. The WSOP is the mother of them all and once you’ve got a taste – well, you need to chase that dragon. It’s hard to come back down from that high.

Nothing is like the WSOP. I thought last year would be my first and last time (this is what I assured my girlfriend). I meant it at the time (really, I did) but now – god no. Playing last year changed my game and my outlook. I started playing higher buy-in tournaments online and live, and the thought of throwing down a grand or two for a tournament became less and less intimidating.

Now I’m not going to pretend I’m a high roller. Not even close. A thousand dollars is a lot of money, but when it comes to a poker tournament, the money becomes less and less of an issue. $4.50 for a coffee? Ridiculous – you can take your soy-milk latte and shove it, hippy. But two grand for a poker tournament? Sure, no problem.

Now think about that monetary logic and then think about what your wife (or husband) thinks about it. Hmmm.

So I hop on my girlfriend's computer and start writing up this article. The WSOP came and went and I didn’t play. I’m gutted. For all my talk in this article of plonking down a few grand here or there for a tournament, I also happen to play a disciplined bankroll, and I hadn’t done enough this year to justify a trip to Vegas. Vegas will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t have the bank roll to sustain it, and this year I didn’t.

So for those of you who made the trip – especially the Aussies – I hope your bankrolls and your games improved. But for me, as with many, the World Series was painfully out of reach. Until next year.

Mel Brooks and the Bad Beat

I'm heads up in the Shootout event at the Aussie Millions - winner moves through to the final table and some guaranteed cash for their trouble. Loser walks. I’m facing a river all-in on a board of Q-J-9-6-7 holding Q-T. The tattooed young lady opposite of me sits back calmly, seemingly content with her huge bet.

I had flopped my first ever Royal Flush a little earlier in this same tournament. Yes, it was on the ‘PokerPro’ tables, which is almost the Internet but I’ll take it as my first Royal Flush none the less. I also experienced the rarest of rare pleasures when the other person in the pot pushed all-in. Hung over as I was, it’s a damn good feeling facing an all-in bet while holding a Royal Flush.

But the hangover had made the tournament a struggle. The night before I was drinking at Crown’s Nobu with Kelly Kim (World Series Of Poker ‘November 9’, 2008) and Peter ‘Ro-Boat’ Rho (2nd place Aussie Millions 2009). Our expensive drinks comp’ed by a patron of the gambling arts called Curley and his extravagantly bearded confederate called Punter. At one point I found myself drinking 30-dollar glasses of scotch while engaged in an intense conversation with Peter Rho on how the hell he didn’t go broke the year before at the final table of the Aussie Millions when it was three handed and he had a set of kings on a A-K-J-7-2 board with Stewart Scott holding the improbable Q-T. How can you NOT go broke there? But Peter, in a moment of genius, had flat-called a bet on the river rather than going all-in. He was explaining to me the reasoning behind the flat-call, but the Scotch I was quaffing and the Sake I drank earlier were starting to interact and I couldn’t follow what he was saying.

Toward the end of the conversation I noticed that online poker phenom Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan and some of his mates were sitting at a table nearby. I begin to insist with Kelly and his boys that we have a poker crew smackdown with durrrr and company. Punter nodded vigorously in agreement, announcing that he wanted to ‘throw some hands’. In a drunken haze I could see nothing better than yelling “Bluff this, genius” as I front-kicked Mr Dwan in the sternum; his brittle, sun-starved, cadaver-like body snapping in half with a satisfying crunch. But Kelly declined. Fortunately, he and his boys were good guys, and not given to bouts of drunken foolishness.

Let me digress further. Antonio ‘The Magician’ Esfandiari likes to tell everyone how he hates bad beat stories. If someone comes up to him with a story – the Magician likes to recount – he just tells them ‘he doesn’t want to hear it’ and walks away. Antonio doesn’t seem to have a problem, apparently, with verbally bad-beating the rest of us repeatedly with inane and repetitive dialogue every time a camera is pointed in his general direction. He says three things and three things only when he gets his delicately plucked eyebrows and designer spectacles on the TV screen: 1) “weeeeeee”; 2) “only in America!”, and 3) “Have you played ‘Lodden Thinks?’”.

I’ve heard these phrases and watched him make others at the table play Jonny-fucking-Lodden Thinks about 300 times now and I just can’t take it anymore. Argh. Antonio - I want to watch High Stakes Poker, not listen to you speculate on how many push-ups you think Phil Laak thinks that Phil Hellmuth can do (I’ll take the under on 4, by the way). Bad beat stories are infinitely more interesting – and here’s a quote from Mel Brooks that helps explain why – “Tragedy is when I cut my finger; comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.” You’ve heard it all before? I don’t give a shit. My bad beat stories are the most important in the world.

So my head was pounding. I had top pair, and it was heads-up, but I still didn’t feel good about my hand; not good at all. My opponent glances over at me, casual, unworried. But rather than think it though and make a solid fold, I open my parched mouth and croak “call”. Peter Rho can fold a set in that spot; I can’t even fold top pair.

“Just a straight,” she said turning over 8-5 suited for a spiked gutshot on the river.

I slam the table, stand, grudgingly shake hands, and walk away.


Now if I can just find Antonio's address so I can send him my bad beat story.

Honesty in Poker

Poker is a game that glorifies dishonesty. It is a game where the lie has been raised to an art form. And I do mean art. Anyone who watched Phil Ivey 5-bet bluff Peter Jackson with Queen-high at the Monte Carlo Millions in 2005 has seen a true artist plying his trade (If you haven’t seen this classic hand - take yourself to youtube right now). Genius.

But it is also a game that is unwinnable without honesty. Without frank self-assessment; without a willingness to know the self, a poker player is doomed to failure.

“Know thyself” was the advice of that old Greek, Socrates. It was written above the entrance of the Temple of Delphi. They should put it above the door at that other great temple – the Rio Hotel and Casino, right below the “World Series of Poker” sign.

“Welcome participants in the 41st World Series of Poker: Know thyself”

Those Greeks – they knew how to win at poker before it was even invented. Maybe that’s why there’s always one in every game you play, anywhere in the world.

Poker is a skill (or an occupation) with a balance sheet. Not many other walks of life articulate so clearly whether you are succeeding, failing, or breaking even in your chosen profession. Certainly not in such clear, numerical terms. A plumber doesn’t sit down at the end of the year and say to himself: ‘well, I’m a plus 37 for plumbing this year’. An office manager doesn’t tell herself: “oh shit, the spreadsheet says I’m down 190 this year for office managing, I better get my act together”.

A hedge fund speculator certainly doesn’t correlate skill with remuneration – they may find themselves with a billion dollar loss on their accounts and still drive home (in a Mercedes) to their home (on the upper west side in New York) with their multi-million dollar pay package intact. Fuckers.

But Poker is pure. The numbers are unarguable. Are you a winning poker player? There is no ambiguity here – it’s black or white (or red). The numbers do not lie.

But you can lie to yourself. You can blame your luck, or variance, or the old Greek guy who keeps calling your raises with trash. You can ignore the numbers and announce yourself ‘about even’ on the night, or the month, or the year. Of course you can: the poker rooms are awash with the deluded and the self-deceiving.

But the numbers are always there, waiting; waiting for you to sit down and consider them in all their brutal clarity. It is not easy to consider these losses, as it almost always entails considering yourself at your worst.

I remember stumbling out of the casino after a long, long night of bad beats, bad play, heavy drinking and tilt. I’d gone through at least three buy-ins in a game that (at the time) was probably too high for me to play. Walking out into a cold, deserted carpark at 5am, I took the last chip I had in my pocket – a dirty, faded, one dollar chip – and hurled it at the gods in disgust. Disgusted at my luck, angry at putting myself in a situation where I could lose so much money; furious with the ‘inferior’ players who were now playing with my money.

These moments always burn (and it is moments such as these which, in the end, make poker worth playing - how can we truly appreciate the highs of victory without such despairing lows?) But it is these moments we should turn to our advantage. It is here, at our poker worst, where we need to ask the tough questions. Why did I lose? How could I have changed the outcome? How could I have minimised those loses? Was I just outplayed? Should I step down a level? What are my weaknesses? I always try to write a list of mistakes I’ve made after every session, win or lose.

But urging players to ‘know thyself’ at any tournament or cash game, in any poker room, is an exercise in futility. And lucky for me that it is. For without the dishonest, the perpetually self-deceiving, without those living an unexamined poker life, I would never be able to grind out a meager profit.

This is what it really should say at the WSOP:

“Welcome participants in the 41st World Series of Poker: Everyone wins a bracelet”

Ahh, Dishonesty. It makes the poker world go round.

Friday, March 19, 2010

World Series of Poker Baby

I've cut and pasted a series of emails I wrote to friends during the WSOP last year. I used these trip reports as the basis of an article I sent to (at about 1/5th the length of the original). It was nice to have it published and all that; but also good to have the whole lot put up here.

There is heartbreak in these posts. I won't spoil it for you, but that's something you're guaranteed to find within. But I guess you can't have Vegas without heartbreak, and I'm happy to oblige.

Day 1:

I just want to say one thing about the Virgin Air flight i took to the US. Or V Australia, as the hip new branding has it. I guess I'm not hip, but when i'm offered a selection of movies by an airline, and one of the sub-headings is 'classics', I think Casablanca. I think Citizen Kane. I think Annie Hall. Richard Bransen, apparently, thinks that 'X-Men, 'What Happens in Vegas' and 'Caddyshack' should be considered classics (although he has a point with the latter). 'What happens in Vegas' is about 2 years old and went straight to video. I guess I'm Old School about these things. So much so I still use the term 'video'. But to my mind, a 'Classic' at the least needs a few good years behind it, a couple of Oscars, and critical acclaim.

Real Day 1

Most striking about Vegas is, as you would imgaine, the size. Everything is huge. The people, the drinks, the buildings, the buffets, the shows, the breasts, the tournament sizes, the prizes.

I've heard Australians are meant to have overtaken Americans in terms of girth. Apparently we have more overweight as a percentage of the population. Being here I just don't find this statistic credible. Perhaps all the skinny tree-huggers live in Seattle or Vermont or something, but the people in Vegas are fucking fat. Fat like I have never seen. Loud and fat with deep-fried southern accents. Fatties everywhere - walking down the strip drinking cocktails out of flurescent yard glasses; fatties piling pounds of shrimp on double-plates at the buffet; fatties getting oxygen treatment in the middle of Fremont boulevard on a clear day.

A town with big people and big buildings. Apparently the Eiffel tower and Statue of Liberty replicas in Vegas are to-scale - if true they are dwarfed by the Bellagio, the Wynn, Caeser's Palace and most of the casino car parks. And the shows - where else would you find Bette Midler, Seinfeld and Cher all playing at the same venue? The 7th level of hell, I Guess. But other than that, only Vegas baby.

The tournaments are big, as one would expect. I played in a 200 buy-in Pot Limit Omaha tournament at Binion's Casino (old home of the World Series). 206 entrants. Unheard of for a PLO8 tournament. I felt I played reasonably well. I never got any huge hands. I bluff-raised a guy on the river in one pot when i read him to be weak. It was a confidence-booster when he folded (he was really fat too, which made it more satisfying). I had 7750 at the first break, which was a little under average. Unfortunately, I didn't win a single pot after the break (nearly 1.5 hours). You can bluff a bit in PLO8, but you need to hit some hands. However, unlike hold 'em, you can expect to hit a few hands in this particular game. Anyway, I eventually I made a stand with A297 and ran into AAJ5 (held by the same old fat guy i'd bluffed previously). I'm still about 40 + per cent in that spot, but he hit a full house and that was that.

I sat down later in the day at a 120 buy-in NL Holdem tournament at the Venetian. It's a classy hotel. Fine furnishings; soft lighting, comfortable chairs; excellent dealers and cocktail waitresses sporting only the best nose jobs. They run a good poker tournament. The guy next to me - from Nashville - asked me if this was a single-table satellite. I told him there was over 300 entrants. He said he didn't care so long as he didn't go out first. I think he when out about 5 or 6 hands in. He'd bet 2000 into a 300 pot and then fold to a re-raise. He was nice enough to do so for me.

I'd chipped up from 7000 to 12000 when i lost a huge hand with QQ against AK (all-in pre-flop). I was down to about 4000 after that and really struggled. It was an active table - players going all-in blind and calling all-in with gut-shots. I saw one guy call two all-ins on the flop with Ace high (and win). I never really picked up a hand. I guess i don't know how to play Ace high properly. I was down as low as 2800 with the blinds at 600/1200 with a 100 ante before a tripled up then doubled up to 15000. However, the blinds had got to 800/1600 with a 200 ante, which still made made me a short stack.

We went to a break and another guy at the table said i was playing great poker. I proved him wrong by a having brain spasm soon after and bluffing a guy all-in with 4 high. He had top pair. I didn't hit my gutshot. It was a hand where i should have either raised or folded pre-flop (it was blind versus blind). I instead did a weird small raise with 24o that let him into the pot with K9. Duh.

Anyway, that was day 1. A lot to compute. 6.5 hours of play for nada. Might play a deep-stack event tomorrow at Caesar's Palace then head over to the Rio to check out the action at the WSOP.

Tune in for Day 2 when I get Aces cracked by a guy who played on a TV final table.

Day 2: I Want to Throw Up

Day 2 started with a 'Deep Stack' 330 buy in tournament at Caesar's Palace.

The starting stack was 15 000 in chips and the blind levels were 50 minutes long. It's a two day tournament. I must admit I haven't played many 'deep stacked' tournaments as such - just a couple of the bigger buy in tournaments online have had similar structures. But it was fine with me, much more play and therefore more opportunity to recover from bad beats.

All the serious poker kids take themselves over the the Venetian to the deep stack tournament they are running, so I figured to go to Caesar's to play against crappier players: the old predictable rocks, the gamblers and the morbidly obese (who would find it difficult concentrating on anything other than the next chuckie cheese burger for any extended period of time) (Caesar's is considered 'less hip' for the refined poker player (the waitresses there don't have nose jobs), so I'm happy to go there and play big stack, big field tournaments against poorer players).

My starting table was ok. Two or three middle-aged calling stations (who nonetheless managed to grow their chip stack throughout the day), a lovely old dearie who subjected me to probably the most tedious conversation I have ever heard; an internet kid who re-raised every pot; a really, really fat dude: I mean, this guy was huge. I seriously doubt he could wipe his own arse. I mean, if you can't touch your hands around your stomach, how can you touch your butt? Oh no - I'm pretty sure a Nurse Mildred is required to clean up the business downtown whenever fatboy gets through the double-combo-super-sized chuckie triple cheese meal (we will call him double chair for the purposes of this email). There was an amiable dude who was quite open about saying all he really wanted to do was go play craps. Um - who else? Oh, a skinny, intense guy who claimed to have been on a TV final table with his 'friends' Phil Ivey and a whole bunch of other big name pros. I'd never seen him in my life. And I'm pretty sure I've watched every poker TV show known to man. In any case, this dude did a Phil Hellmuth and didn't show up for the first two hours.

Anyway, i chipped up to about 18325 by the first break (two hours in). I don't recall getting any huge hands. At that time there were 241 people left out of 263 entrants. I didn't feel particularly troubled by anyway at the table, except the re-raising internet kid.

So I was feeling positive when I came back from the first break. So it served me right when disaster struck soon after. I think it started when I re-raised double-chair with KK and he thought for ages before folding JJ face up. Fuck. I was a bit peeved that he made a good fold and was right, so I decided to vary my play and raise in early position with 67 suited (I do this play a bit online). A ginger who looked like a college gridiron player called. Flop comes out A6T. I continuation bet to see where i was. He calls. I shouldn't have been surprised - he had one move at the table all day: call. I decided i wanted nothing more to do with the hand. Until a 7 comes on the turn. I bet out big with my two pair. He calls again. River is an Ace. Vomit. he checks, I check, he has AJ. Puke.

Then craps player proceeded to beat me up with KQ against my KA, hit a higher flush to my flush, and wake up with JJ against TT. So i'm down to 4800. Worse still, nanna wouldn't shut the fuck up. First she told every one she had four sons, and her middle name was Jeanie, and that she hadn't had a hand all day (she'd played one hand in three hours - pocket kings. And she didn't raise with it). Unfortunately, Craps doubled her up that hand so she wasn't going anywhere. Then she gave relationship advice to the skinny aggressive TV superstar when he finally turned up (when he arrived he just sat there arguing with his girlfriend on the phone for some time). She told him gems like "women are just more emotional", and "we women just don't know what we want", and "if you want a woman to make sense, just slap her around a little". Ok. Maybe not the last one. But she was certainly headed in that direction. Then she ran out of things to say and started spelling out things people at the table said. That is, if someone said call, she'd say "c", "a", "l", "l". I wanted to fly-kick her so badly it made my teeth hurt.

Then I doubled with QQ v 66 (against craps) and things were looking better. Then i went on a little rush. I flopped a BB special and won a few thousand. Then the next hand raised some limpers with KJs on the button (blinds were 200 / 400 with a 50 ante so a lot in the middle) and won another pot. I was actually feeling comfortable. Back to about 17000. Internet kid had been busted so there was no one who seemed to be that good at the table. And then - I pick up AA. Ahh, aces, so beautiful. And as with anything so beautiful, they just break your fucking heart. So I raise it up to 2200, a new internet kid at the table calls, then TV superstar goes alllllllllliiiiiiinnnn from the big blind. I think really, really hard about it so that the internet kid may call, but he folds anyway when I reluctantly go allin. TV superstar sees my hand - he has TT - and starts whining that i've raised three hand in a row and how can I have Aces and his girlfriend smells like cabbage and boohoohooo and woe is me and so the fucking poker gods give him a set on the flop. And instead of 37000 in chips i'm walking out the door trying to control my urge to hit skinny superstar with a tire iron.

So that's that. After that a played a late night tournament and got busted when my KK got beaten by a super aggressive European douche with QJ. Flop 2J5. He raises my raise and instacalls my allin. Turn a J. Puke.

Day 3

Day three really fucking sucked.

Um, I played a single table Pot Limit Omaha 8 or better (PLO8) tournament. First prize was 1500 so i was going to parlay that into the PLO8 tournament on Day 4 (either that or some smack). I was going well - down to 6 people and I was chip leader. Then I proceeded to get a suited A2xx or A23x five times and either split the pot or be scooped every single time. This is a hard thing to achieve.

The most infuriating pot was when I had AA2T against KK45. I raised pre-flop and two people called. Flop comes down 34T. The 34 was suited to my A2 so I had the nut wheel draw and a straight flush wheel draw (and a pair). I made a huge all-in bet and KK45 - the only other big stack at the table - calls it. Now, I should be happy to get that call. I want doubebags to make calls like that and give me a freeroll (for the uninitiated, freerolling in PLO8 means when you can't lose half of the pot). So yes - I want those calls, but I want to win some when they make those calls as well. Especially when I'm in Vegas playing at the WSOP. Anyway, we fucking split the biggest pot of the night and it went down hill after that.

I proceed to get three quartered and then lose the next four pots - and be busted. I had the best hand every single time. It was infuriating. Two Germans down the end were joking and trying to lighten the mood - commenting how unbelievable it was that I lost so many pots in a row. I appreciated the good-will from the Kraut bastards but i still can't forgive them for invading Poland.

Um, so I was busted in that.

Then I decided to play a PLO8 cash game. I sat down with 4 hundred and played a few hands. I was up about 70, but had decided to leave as another guy told me that everyone at the table was an internet pro (he laughingly assumed I was also). So I was just waiting for the blinds to arrive so I could leave when this ugly ginger in a wife beater sat down. He is a semi-famous poker player who featured at last year's WSOP coverage for two reasons: 1) hitting a Royal Flush over Quad Aces, 2) Being a loud, obnoxious ginger who wears a tanktop.

Anyway, I raised it up with AA28. Ginger and internet pro#3 call. Flop is 34Q with two spades (I have A2 spades). So I have an overpair, a wheel draw, nut low draw and nut flush draw. For those not in the know, this is a killer hand in PLO8. I bet pot (65 i think). Ginger calls. Turn is a T. I think a bit - I was sure ginger didn't have a set (which I am ahead of anyway), so I bet pot (160 or something). Ginger raises all-in for another 130 so i call.

He gets up and says "you want to turn it over like on TV". I say sure. He turns over KK45 (that hand again). So he has two pair and no low draw and no re-draws. Even though he has two pair I'm still favourite in the hand (he was 14 per cent to scoop on the flop and 24 per cent on the turn). I need any spade, any ace, queen, ten or three to scoop and any 8,7,6 or deuce to split. River is a 4. He has a full house. Puke. The other dudes at the table immediately start berating him for being such a spastic. I grab my last 65 bucks, walk out of the room and start thinking about stabbing one of those fat people who require those little electric carts to get anywhere.

Um, so a played another PLO8 single table and got busted on a KQ2 flop when my set of Queens was busted by a set of Kings. Sigh. Vomit.

Ahhh. A bad day indeed. Let me tell you something - Vegas is a sad, lonely, desolate place for a poker chump with a dislike for fat people and gingers.

Tune in for Day 4 when my WSOP dreams are crushed by a gutshot on the river. And no. i'm not making this stuff up.

Day 4: The World Series

So, Thursday was the day. World Series day.

I had a good night's sleep. I exercised when i woke up. I ate a hearty breakfast. Strains of the Rocky theme song were going off in my head. I did a bit of shadow boxing. It's well known that any competitive pursuit is aided by Rocky music and a snort of meth. But I'd left my meth in the strip joint from the night before so i had to settle for pretending to punch donkeys right in the mouth.

I was pumped and ready.

I made my way over to what has become the poker Mecca - the Rio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas. Rio is a Latin-American themed resort that is home to some of the most scantily clad waitresses, the raunchiest near-nude bathing pool in Vegas, the Chippendales, and the WSOP. I am eternally grateful that the apparent baring-of-flesh theme of the Rio did not extend to the almost all-male mass of sweating, stinking, overweight, mouth-breathing poker players that swarmed in maddening clumps through the halls of the Rio.

The Rio is huge. Part of the casino is a convention centre, and this is where they hold the World Series. And it isn't just one convention-sized hall - there's about 4 massive halls - and each of them are packed with hundreds of poker tables. Everywhere you look is a famous player - Marcel Luske, Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu, Minh the Master, Doyle Brunsen - either playing or walking through the halls. Alongside the pros, the rooms are packed with the hordes of hopefuls, those foolish enough to take a shot at a bracelet and a championship. Most of these dreams end the same way - outside the poker room you'll see a distraught player walking along narrating into his mobile phone: "and so he calls, and the flop comes jack, seven deuce, and then..." And then, of course, comes the inevitable bad beat story. Or they huddle in small groups, speaking in hushed tones as in a wake, around a friend recently departed from the last tournament.

The 'televised' final table is set up in the convention centre, so you can watch the action as events get played down to the bracelet. I watched Aussie Jeff Lisando win his a record-tying third bracelet for the Summer. Lucky bastard. The played the Australian national anthem after his victory. I proudly mumbled the lyrics to myself while the other players stood around chatting and waiting for the victory ceremony to finish.

There's also a tonne of cash game tables. In US casinos, cash plays, so you'll see people with a big stack of chips and thick wads of hundred dollar notes bound with rubber bands. I saw one Omaha game where each player had between 50 - 100 grand in front of them - a lot of it in these big bundles of cash; these guys were trading pots worth over a hundred grand.

So anyway, I enter the hall a half hour before the tournament is scheduled to begin. I mill around the tournament room, listlessly watching the big cash games, wandering aimlessly through the myriad poker tables, wondering what I had got myself in for. I wondered about my starting table and whether I'd make it to the dinner break, or perhaps even day two. I pondered the 200 000 dollar first prize and the bracelet. I guess I was doing what the vast majority of other entrants were doing in the minutes leading up to the start.

It turned out that my starting table was a good one. Everyone was playing pretty passive. One guy to by immediate right was a young internet pro who had played several events at the World Series, but he seemed to be the only one who new what he was doing. There was one girl at the table who introduced herself as 'Molice'. Yes, her name was Molice. She said her brother had come 13th at the World Series last year for like 500 000 USD. She had bleached hair and her mascara was running and she probably talked to much about her waitressing job in Cornhole Mississippi or wherever it was, but she seemed nice enough.

In the first level (each level was 1 hour long) I got caught up in a big pot with Molice and Internet Pro.

I can't remember all the action, but by the turn the board read KT36 with two spades. I have a nut low draw, a straight draw and the nut flush draw so I bet the pot. Molice calls and the internet pro thinks for ages and then folded. River was another ten. I miss everything. Molice checked. I was positive she was chasing a low and had missed, so I put in a big bet (I only had Ace high and this was the only way i was going to win), and she started thinking and thinking. I realised that she must have trip tens to go with the busted low draw. She was umming and ahhing and said something like "that was a good card"; I figured she needed encouragement to fold so I said ,"yeah, that was a very good card"; "for you?" she asks, "for me" I confirm, giving her a genuine, sorry-I-hit-the-nuts on you smile. She deliberates for what seems like forever. My heart is pounding in my ears. I stare at the green felt in front of me, trying not to writhe in agony. Then she folds. I throw my ace high into the muck and rake the pot.

Internet pro says - "I think I made a good fold. I folded KT". I say "I had pocket kings". Molice confirm she had a ten. Internet pro says "phew - good fold". Everyone is happy about making such great folds.

About a minute later, someone else at the table pipes up and says, "but I had a King". Clearly there were 5 Kings in the deck.

Internet Pro looks at me and says: "damn - that was a bad fold, a bad fold".

Leaning back in my chair, I think about how cool I am while taking sips of tap water from my Star Trek drinking container.

So that was my one moment of glory.

At the first break i had 5525 (starting stack 4500). So that was a good beginning. The bluff gave me confidence. I also hadn't hit a real hand in two hours, so increasing my stack I felt was a good thing.

Then after the break I don't know what happened. Things started to fall apart. An old guy flopped quads on me and slowplayed it until i hit the nut flush, so I lost a few chips there (old guys always slow play - you can take that to the bank). But that wasn't it. I folded when he bet out and lost the minimum. I think the problem was for half an hour or so I got a bit timid. I wanted to be there so bad and I didn't want to take any risks. Calculated risks - and heart - are, of course, essential to being a winning poker player, so I didn't do myself any favours. I didn't make any huge mistakes, and I certainly didn't get any cards, but I let myself leak some chips without much of a fight. As I said - this was only for half an hour, but half an hour was enough. My stack had somehow gone down to 2500 by the next break and the blinds were getting higher.

I walked outside when the level ended and gave myself an uppercut and told myself I was never going to fucking win this thing without heart.

So i sit back down after the break and first hand I pick up A2KQ double suited. A very strong starting hand for PLO8. I raise it from under the gun and only the big blind calls (a young guy new to the table).

The flop was J85. Not the best in the world, but I had the nut low draw. He checked. PLO8 is a game where it is correct - most of the time - to lead at the pot when you hit, so I didn't believe he'd hit a set or a decent hand. I went all in. He called fairly quickly with AQT2. I was in great shape - all he really had was a low draw - with the only cards he could hit to win being the 9 for a gutshot or T for a pair of tens. Every other card either gave me three-quarters of the pot or the whole pot. I'd gotten all my chips in as a prohibitive favourite and it given myself a real chance to get back into the tournament. The turn paired the board with a 5. My chances of scooping shot up even higher.

It's hard to explain what it feels like when you're knocked out of you're first (and likely only) WSOP event. There was an onrush of white noise. I couldn't really hear what anyone else was saying or take in what was happening around me. I just sat there staring at the 9 on the river. Molice was helpfully pointing it out to me, her finger resting on the card. I didn't sit for long or say anything. I found myself standing, then staggering out; out of the convention centre, into the glaring desert sunlight.

I walked around in the concrete carpark for awhile in the forty degree heat, trying to compute what had happened. But what happened I guess is what happens to nearly everyone that goes to the world series looking for a championship bracelet. They end up with nothing but a bad beat story to tell their friends.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Half-Hearted Return

Only about three years since I posted last. Probably about the frequency this blog deserves.

I've started writing for and for Pokernews Magazine Australia. I'm going to start posting the articles I have published here. Not particular reason as far as I can tell, just a small vanity project really. Really small, if you think about it - given this blog has been dead for three years and I've yet to be swamped by demands for its return.

Anyway - I have about half a dozen articles I'll put up here, the first of which is below.

Spitting, Screaming, Spewing: Poker in Macau

I was certain she was dead; this ancient Chinese woman in the aisle across from me. Cadaver-like, easily over a hundred years old, hands bent into gnarled claws. She was shrunk back deep, deep into the seat, glazed eyes staring blankly ahead. In Papua New Guinea, some remote tribes keep the bodies of dead ancestors in their dwelling. The shriveled corpse of grandma, tied to a chair, sitting in the middle of the hut.

I had assumed this is what was happening here; that her family, with great deference, had loaded her corpse into the exit row of the AirAsia flight to Macau. That assumption held until it began; until the dead ancestor began extravagantly clearing her throat, hawking up massive lugies and spitting them into a sick bag clutched in one of her shriveled hands. And it went on like this, every few minutes, for the entire three hour flight.

As the flight came to a close and I gagged in revulsion as corpse-nan worked up another uber-lugie, I looked down at the glittering lights of Macau and wondered what the poker Gods had in store for me.

Macau isn't just any part of China. It's the gambling capital, the cosmopolitan ex-Portuguese colony, the great cross-roads of Asia. Oh yes, and one of the spitting capitals of the world. Macau has grown in recent years. Grown so much it has even outstripped the mighty Vegas in terms of gambling revenue. And like Vegas, Macau is an artificial construct, a dream bought to life through the raw power of human will, ingenuity and greed. Parts of Macau rise up from the ocean on reclaimed land, much like Vegas has risen from the inhospitable sands of the desert.

But the real question is, will Asia ever compare to the US in terms of poker? Only a couple of casinos in Macau currently spread poker, and it's not clear yet whether the local players are willing to pull themselves away from the Baccarat tables long enough to play a real game. As a poker market, Asia is still untapped, and this is what the Asia Poker Tour and Asia Pacific Poker Tour were here to test - two competing tours, occurring at the same time, taking a gamble on the gamble of Asia.

That’s why I’m here - to play in both the APT and APPT, and throw myself against the worst Asia had to offer. I hope I’d find in Macau something akin to the Moneymaker boom of 2003/04: an ocean of drooling, grinning hee-haws throwing chips away like they were part of a government stimulus package and handing unimaginative TAGs like me undeserved riches. Ah, the glory days.

Shift forward two days and Matt Savage is narrating the final table of the APT with JC Tran, David Steicke and some French luckbox who looks about 13-years old, won a five dollar satellite to get into the event, and ended up winning the whole fucking thing. I'm not at the final table. I'm sitting out in the floor of the poker room playing a side event; a few feet away from me Chino Rheem, Johnny-fucking-Chan, Amnon Filippi, and a bunch of members of the so called 'Poker Pack' are engaged in a high stakes private game. But I'm not thinking about them. Scantily clad 'final-table-money-delivery-girls' with napkin sized crop tops and Vegas sized breasts saunter back and forth in the poker room provocatively; but I’ve barely even glanced in their direction.

My thoughts were on one thing and one thing only - the two hole cards appearing on the one square foot of green felt in front of me. I was on the bubble of the six-handed event, desperately short stacked, wanting only the table to fold to me so I could shove with any two and take down the sky-high blinds and antes. After an agonisingly long wait, I found A9 – which at that stage looked like pocket quads. AQ called my push in the big blind and I didn’t get lucky. Stupid game. I tell you, there are not many other competitive pursuits that can emulate the exquisite pain of the poker bubble.

I seemed to be running a lot better the next day in the US$1,300 buy-in tournament on the other ‘tour’, the APPT. I'd just busted Jonathan 'xMONSTERxDONGx' Karamalikis. He min-three-bet me with 37s preflop and put it all in on the flop with a flush draw. I called with two pair and it held up.

So I was riding high with a big stack early when the following hand went down. An Asian gentleman in early position raised it up. He was the only other big stack at the table and played a lot of hands, but I had him pegged - his opening bet was 2x the blind with a weak hand, 3x the blind with a medium strength hand and 3x the blind accompanied by a clear verbalised "raise" with a strong hand. So he opened in early position with the ‘strong’ version. I looked down at TT on the button, and really felt I was behind. But I didn't travel all the way to Macau to fold tens on the button, so I called and took a flop.

And the flop was beautiful - QT2 rainbow. The Asian guy did a weird ‘thoughtful’ check. I bet -I'm not going to be clever and slow play here when I'm sure he's strong and not folding the flop. He calls. Turn is an A. I guess KJ can beat me here, but I know he doesn’t have that given his early show of strength. After I bet again and he calls I’m almost certain he has AK. The river is a brick and I bet again for value. The pot has over 20,000 in it now and I’m salivating, willing the gentleman to call with TPTK. Blinds are only 100 – 200 and I’m a few seconds away from a 30,000 chip stack the chip lead for the tournament.

The Asian guy shakes his head ruefully, looks at me with a pained expression, looks back at his cards and shakes his head one more time before reluctantly throwing the call into the pot.

I triumphantly turn over my pocket tens. He looks at my hand for a second, blinking, slowly starts to smile, then turns over his hand quickly. Pocket queens.

Oh – a set. Is that all? A fucking set you weak, timid, head shaking, slow playing, nurf herder. But suddenly, before I can mouth any of this disdain for what has just occurred, an old Greek guy next to me – who has thus far remained silent for most of the day, explodes, “A set - I thought this was Texas hold‘em. You don’t like this man’s chips? A SET!” He starts jabbing his finger in the direction of the Asian gentleman, his voice getting louder and louder, “Give the man the nuts and he'll be brave next time. I THOUGHT THIS WAS TEXAS HOLD‘EM!”

I really don’t know why he was so offended, but I was silently egging him on, willing the diatribe to escalate...yes yes – now call him a donkey, throw your coffee at him, punch him in the mouth – punch him in the mouth!

Alas, no punches were thrown, and as I was short stacked I went out soon after. My usual post-knock out ritual in Macau is to go the bar on the same floor as the poker room, buy a beer and a packet of cigarettes (I quit smoking some time back, but often relapse after a bad beat or tough knock out). I did the same here, chain smoking and watching soundless car racing on the screen behind the bar. After an hour or so I slouched out of the casino, past the degenerates and the show girls, past the pallid Internet kids who looked like they had just risen from the crypt to play some ’live’ poker, and out to the taxi line.

Funny thing about chain smoking after you’ve quit – the body doesn’t react so well. I found myself increasingly nauseous during the 15-minute cab ride back to the Venetian. No lunch, two pints of beer and half a pack of durries were catching up with me. It had to be the longest cab ride of my life. Macau was swirling by me faster and faster, but we didn’t seem to be getting any closer to the destination. I felt like death, silently begging for the ride to end, gripping the seat in from of me, breathing in and out heavily, trying not to hurl on the unsuspecting cab driver. And I nearly made it. And unlike the cadaver I accompanied over in the plane, I didn't have a sick bag.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Fuck you, Mr Goodbar (AKA 'The Bubble')

The WSOP is three or so months away, which means the demoralizing season of satellite play has begun. I’ve won maybe 2000US in seats over the past 6 weeks, and I don’t have a fucking shekel to show for it. I’ve won about four or five double shoot outs on Poker Stars and a couple of re-buys deals on Full Tilt. With the seats I’ve won, I’ve gone on to go deep in at least three of the bigger satellites (the 650 on ‘stars and two of the 215 ‘Winner’s Choice’ on Full Tilt). It seems to me two things happen when I get deep (by ‘deep’ I mean around a table away from the prize bubble): 1) I go card dead and 2) I get outplayed.

The first point is not to rail against the poker gods or to initiate a great lament over my dream-crushing bad luck. The cards just haven’t broken my way. I believe that if the cards had run my way on any of the three occasions, that I probably would have a WSOP seat by now. But they haven’t and I haven’t. This is the standard. To win a satellite, where the ‘prize’ is often only won by 5 per cent of the field (and usually less) there really has to be a point later in the tournament where you hit some cards. Not being one of that small percentage hitting the right cards at the right time isn’t a great tragedy, it’s just the way it is.

However, not being ‘lucky’ isn’t a good enough reason. I’m probably not good enough either. I would rather be lucky than good, as being good is what matters in the long run; however, the problem is that I’m not really either.

I’m an aggressive player and I can switch between being loose and tight pretty easily. I can check-raise-bluff, I can play position, and can call down opponents with marginal hands if I think they’re on a steal. I feel confident in most tournaments in most situations, I adapt well to short-handed play and I love playing heads-up. But I tell you what: I’ve felt out of my depth when I’ve gotten deep a couple of the big buy-in satellites.

I’ve sat there with those reputed to be the best – Johnny Bax and SamEnole and others of that ilk, and watched them raise and re-raise every other hand. And so I try to play my game: I don’t clam up and wait for Aces. I try to steal with rags, get re-raised, and have to lay it down. Or I get called, make a continuation bet on a flop that I’ve missed entirely, and get checked-raised all-in, and have to lay it down. I get deep, really deep in these damn WSOP satellites, and my game and my confidence seems to hit a brick wall.

So, in the absence of a miracle run of cards, I’ve really thought about how I can improve my game. I do this regardless, but this is about good players. Problems like this don’t come up in low buy-in satellites - as a general rule, the intelligent uber-aggression I’ve seen in these situations doesn’t really happen in lower buy-in events (why should it? - I’m talking about the plays the professionals make). Therefore I haven’t had much of an opportunity to think about countering it. But I’m working on it.

The re-steal, for one, is a move that I’m increasingly convinced a tournament player needs to be successful. It’s something that I’ve recently begun working on getting right. Particularly if you find yourself card-dead later in a tournament when the blinds and antes are usurious, the re-steal – done right - adds valuable chips with limited risk. I won’t go into the theory of re-stealing – there are a number of online forums that have gone into the detail far better and more comprehensively than I ever good. Rather, I want to emphasise the biggest obstacle thus far for me in using this weapon well:

It’s bloody hard.

It goes against my every poker instinct to put all my money in the middle with nothing (the essence of re-stealing). The theory is, of course, that you pick the right moment against the right opponent and the cards don’t matter. But holy shit when I look at a raise of my big blind and then down and a nine and a deuce, pushing all my chips in is the last thing on my mind. But, again, the nine and the deuce don’t matter, what matters is timing. If your timing and read is right, the hand will never have to be shown down.

So, it’s about having the stones and the self-confidence to make the move. I’ve done it a few times here and there and, incredibly, it has worked. But I need to get to the point were it is part of my game; where I am good enough to do it without hesitation. We shall see.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fuck You All and Goodbye

Well, unless a miracle occurs, I will not be attending the WSOP. I think, all told, I won my way into 8 satellites (through smaller buy-in satellites) for the WSOP. In my last effort I came pretty damn close, which, in the world of satellites is good for an empty wallet and an notable increase in blood pressure.

So I made it to the final table. Three would get WSOP seats, the next three would receive a cash prize between 1500 and 3500. I think maybe 200 had started out in the ($215) satellite. 9 players remained, I had about average chips, maybe a bit more and I wasn't too worried about the table. None of the players seemed particularly creative or aggressive.

So I find QQ in late position, and raise it up after one guy limped in middle position. Blinds fold, short stack goes all-in. My first thought is that he has AA. Now, it doesn't make much sense limping in middle position on a super-tight table that had not shown any pre-disposition for a high amount on pre-flop raising, but nonetheless, my first and second thought was that he had AA. However, he was short stacked, and his all-in raise was only double or so my initial raise, which gave me at least 3.5 to 1 on the call. So I called; he shows AA, and I don't suck out. Of course not.

Very next hand. I'm a bit rattled. I limp in middle position with KQs (as I said, I was rattled). The action is folded around to the blinds, who dutifully check. Flop comes K23. SB immediately goes all-in. I can't really see what I am losing to here (unless i had let him hit a shitty two-pair). So I call, and he shows AA. Oh. Of course. The very fucking next fucking hand. What else would he have? Silly me. So I don't improve and now my stack crippled (the SB was the other short stack). I am out soon after.

Perhaps I could find some solace in thinking that those two horrid moments bought much joy to others. That perhaps, it was a key moment in their journey to the big dance.

Or perhaps it just makes me so mad I could scream and start chewing on the doorframe.

I managed to get a message into the chat box before I was booted from the tournament. You'll find it reprinted as the heading of this entry.

I think this sentiment also reflects my current thinking on my 2006 WSOP dreams (those dreams of gruelling first day survival, of inspired play and the steady accumulation of chips, of mixing it with the pros, of a courageous comeback from brutal final table beat (when this year's Aaron Kanter cracks my AA with AJ after making a horrible call pre-flop), of being heads up with Ivy, of the longest final table heads-up duel in history, of victory, glory, blow jobs like they're going out of style, pithy observations on Letterman, and a glorious reign as the new world champ).

So, to to these stupid ruminations, to these silly fantasies: fuck you all and goodbye.

Til next year.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

One Million Dollars Guaranteed

I have an important announcement to make. Due to a series of events too complicated to discuss; so complicated in fact that I may not even vaguely allude to them, I am proud and excited to make the following announcement:

The next reader to post a comment in this blog will receive 1 MILLION DOLLARS!!!*

Fuck Party - here's the real way to win One Million Dollars online!!!**

That's right loyal readers - for merely acknowledging the existence of this blog, you will be able to change the material and existential conditions of your life!!!***

But that's not all - in addition to a bank balance now soaring spectacularly into the black*, you will receive two weeks accommodation, a plane ticket to Vegas AND a seat in the WSOP event of your choice!!!****

And if all this wasn't enough to make you squeal with glee and moisten your pants in anticipation; after you've checked into your luxury suite at the Bellagio, you will find a specially prepared WSOP/Las Vegas welcome package that includes the following: TWO Celine Dion tickets*****, ONE set of crystal glasses (with decanter), SIX HUNDRED green M&Ms, ONE pound of crack cocaine, TWO crack whores (and pipe), FOUR cases of Guinness, THREE hens-a-laying, AND FOUR signed prescriptions for Dutch Boyd's anti-psychosis medication.******

So read on my brothers and sisters, inhale every sacred scent, every spore of wisdom this blog has to offer - and comment freely and often. The rewards will be enduring and innumerable.

* Cheque will not be honoured
** Chance of winning one million dollars by commenting on this blog is approximately equal to your chances of winning one million dollars on Party Poker
*** Results may vary. Please note that money - whether it be real or imaginary - is unlikely to change your existential mindset. This is because most of you approach life with what Sartre referred to as 'bad faith'. In essence, this means you really will never change, and the mistakes you made as a child and on through adolescence are destined to be repeated.
**** Plane ticket must be collected from Broken Hill Airport, New South Wales, Australia. WSOP seat cannot be redeemed prior to the year 3216 or Robert Vakonyi winning another event at the WSOP, which ever comes first.
***** Tickets to Celine Dion may be substituted with round-house kick to groin, if preferred by the winner.
****** Mr Boyd, of his own free will, exchanged medication prescriptions with the Royal Sampler for a kranksy dog, the 'brown' acid, some magic beans, and two Celine Dion tickets.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Royal Sampler Play of the Month Award (June Edition)

This could have happened last month - but how the fuck you crab apples going to know the difference?

I was playing in a free tournament, the first prize of which was a trip to Vegas. I'm on the button. I have about 6000 in chips. The blinds are 300/600. It's folded to me and finding myself with KQ, I raise to 2000 straight. SB folds, BB calls, leaving himself 200 in chips behind.

That's right, 200.

Before the flop comes out I say, "look mate, I put you all-in" and throw in another 200 chips (into a pot of 4300). The flop comes 556. My opponent looks disgusted and says "I know you've got a pair".

That's right, he thinks about the call.

I look straight ahead and try to ignore the fact that he's getting over 22 -1 on the call, that he's going to leave himself with 200 with the blinds at 300/600 if he folds, and that everyone else on the table is asking him what the fuck he even has to think about.

Anyway, a minute or so later - he folds! (yes, this warrants an exclamation mark). Not only that, he folds AJ face up!! What the fuck!?

Anyway, even without the punctuation, you get the point.

So kudos to you, random blond-guy-in-a-cap playing at the Roos Football Club a couple of weeks back, as the first live-play recipient of the Royal Sampler Play of the Month Award. Kudos.