The Cards Spoke

After 5 years of silence, I'm back! Check out the new poker blog.



Thanksgiving, tilt, and rebirth

Well friends, it was a rough Thanksgiving. Your humble narrator nearly gave his whole bankroll, thanks to a little too much Budweiser, combined with several shots of frustration. I thought I was immune to tilt, but I found myself playing like a maniac on a drunk Thanksgiving afternoon. Here are the gruesome statistics:

Date Game Hours Return ($)
11/27/2003 3-6 1.05 158
11/27/2003 5-10 4.78 -452
11/27/2003 15-30 1 -126
11/27/2003 15-30 0.5 -258
11/27/2003 15-30 0.16 -311

It hurts just to look at them. However, I did learn a valuable lesson, and although the cost was high, I think it was worth it. As you can see, I took a shot at the big game. Actually 3 shots, and all 3 missed the mark by a longshot. Yes I was on tilt, but I was also very unlucky.

I can't stomach a hand by hand analysis of these awful sessions, but I will give a general overview. The most painful loss (and I can't get this one out of my head) was a 300 dollar loss when I flopped a flush with a straight flush draw, and was beaten by a full house on the river. That hurt. Amazingly, in all 3 of these sessions, I was dealt AA in the big blind on my first hand. All 3! I thought this was some sort of sign, but apparently it was only a sign to take my money and run. If I had only taken my rockets and went home... anyway, those 3 hands only netted me a paltry $190, and unfortunatley I was trying to win back what I lost in my 5-10 game...

What are the odds of getting dealt those 3 pairs of aces? Well if we use the simple 1/220 calculation, we get one in 10,648,000! One in 11 million! The poker gods smiled on me, and then punished me brutally with a few bad beats when I decided to be greedy. Ah well. The good news is that the 15-30 games were considerably softer than the $5-10 games. Considerably. Lots of bluffing, lots of loose play. Tight play still gets the money at this level, and there were many multiway pots... I know, the results look bad, but I was on tilt and playing way too loose, and suffered 2 or 3 really bad beats.

Anyway, the lesson learned was that the games at $15-30 are not much different than those at $3-6. Which says that you should try to sit tight in these games as soon as your bankroll is anywhere near 300 big bets.
After getting punished for my careless play and playing over my bankroll, I was forced to take stock of my relationship with poker. Was it worth it? Was I wasting my time? Shouldn't I be doing something other than moving chips around a
table? I decided to take a couple days off while I tried to answer these questions.

I had time to come up with some answers on the 4 hour bus ride to Vegas on Friday. I have confidence in my poker skills... I know I'm not great, but after a few months, I'm pretty sure I can win a couple big bets an hour on the average table, as long as I can hold some cards (and I'm not on tilt). The grand I just dropped on the tables came out of my profits, and may sting now, but in the long run is not a big deal. I'm still learning, and I still like to play. But do I want to spend every waking hour playing poker? There was a time when I thought I could do this for 8 hours a day, and I might even enjoy the grind. But now I realize that although there is a lot of variety in poker, it's just like any other game... like a computer, you follow your algorithms-- you develop a general strategy for each starting hand, and stick to that strategy. Except in the rare case where you pick something up that tells you to deviate, such as a tell or an opportunity to bluff. Although these deviations from normal strategy are what keep the game interesting, most of the time you're just following a set of rules that your brain has picked up with experience. That's why they call it the grind.

I thought about my dream of being a writer. I wondered if I was ready, ready to face long sessions in front of the keyboard, waiting for the muse, hoping that the creative spark would be there. Was this so different than poker? Can writing become a grind as well? Is the feeling you get when you get that creative spark so different from hitting your flush on the river and raking a big pot?

Poker is great. But our options are limited, very limited. Given a starting hand, a flop, and a set of opponents, the number of possible optimal plays is very small. Finding that optimal play is fun, but the choices are limited by the board and our opponents. To write is to express your unique perspective, your unique view of the world. The options are unlimited. And when you've finished a book, you've given something to the world. You've taken a shot that your view might comfort others and might give someone out there a sliver of happiness.
As the bus rolled on, these thoughts flashed through my head, and I felt a slight giddiness that the time to start writing had come. I'd always felt that when I was ready to write, I would know. And I hoped that this terrible poker Thanksgiving might have pushed me over the edge and prepared me to start that first book.

The Nevada border came into sight, and welcomed me like an old friend. I tucked away the internal monologue and got ready to win some money. After waking up at 4:30 and sitting on a bus for 4 hours, I was hoping the tables would shake me out of zombie state. After getting killed yesterday, I resolved to play conservatively, and set my trip bankroll at a meager $400. This was plenty for the 7 hours we would be there, but wouldn't allow me to win much. The thought of trying to win back what I lost yesterday flitted through my head, but I figured a big loss might knock me out of commission for a while, so I remained conservative.

I picked a bad day to be conservative. We started out on the $2 craps table (ya gotta love the state line) and after an hour, I had slowly built up a $50 win. No big hits, but a slow progression of 6s and 8s grew my stack of red chips. On to the blackjack tables, where I suffered through a couple of cold shoes, but managed to stay afloat long enough to hit a couple big hands when the shoe turned positive. Card counting finally paid off, and I came out slightly ahead after being down $60 in the first 20 minutes.

This particular casino was the only state line casino with poker, and every hour or so I'd hear "Joe, your Texas hold em seat is open" on the PA. I was tempted, but knew that the game was $1-4-4-8 spread. I didn't like these spread games, and wanted to avoid poker, since the LA poker rooms are 20 minutes away, but blackjack and craps are at least 2 hours away (the Cali indian casinos have blackjack, but no craps). So I resisted the urge, and found myself at the deuces wild video poker machine, where I quickly hit 5 of a kind and cashed out $20 ahead. So I had completed the trifecta-- 3-3: small wins at all three games. There is a first time for everything.

It was time to try to hit for the cycle. I sat down at an empty roulette table, and tried out a simple strategy. $4 on black, and $4 on inside bets, usually $1 or $2 on 4 corner bets. Black was hitting, and I managed to hit a couple of the $2 corner bets, and walked away after 20 minutes $20 up. So I'd hit for the cycle, but was only up $90.

The rest of the day was spent playing blackjack, and had its share of ups and downs. The highlight was a pair of sevens I was dealt on a positive shoe. I had $15 on the table (playing too conservatively!) and the dealer showed a 5. I split the 7s, and got another 7. Another split. A 4. Double down 11. Dealer gives me a 5, and now I need her to bust. I get an ace, and am forced to double again. This time I get a face card for 17. So there's $75 on the table, and my heart nearly breaks when the dealer turns up a 5, and I wait to see the face card. But it's a 2, and the face card comes next, as my heart pounds in relief. Whew, a nice $75 win.

The whole time I'm busy counting cards, I'm also dealing with the worst casino patron I've ever seen in my life. This swarthy bald guy, maybe about 50 years old, is playing armchair quarterback and second guessing my blackjack plays on every single hand. In his Indian accent, he's telling me to stay on my 14 against a dealer 8. This goes on for an entire shoe, and he hasn't played a hand the whole time. Finally the shoe ends, and I have to take my money elsewhere to prevent myself from punching him in the face. He asks "Where you going?" and the only thing I can answer is "You're the worst blackjack player I've ever seen!" and he seems shocked. Never seen anything like it.

Anyway, I got on the bus home with $160 in my pocket. Not much, but better than losing. The bus ride home was endless, and I am not planning on EVER doing a turnaround trip again.

I got some rest and spent Saturday reading Paul Auster's "The music of chance," which is sort of about poker. I definitely recommend it-- Auster's style is kind of annoying, but he hooks you with his characters (maybe because one of them is a young punk poker player). After about 70 pages I felt my poker mind coming back to me, with a new appreciation for the game. I resolved to take the day off from poker, and take another shot when I was ready.

So what did I do with my day off? Write, of course. I finally started my book, and the sentences slowly, but at least they came. It was tough, but after a few hours, I had a few pages and my main character started taking shape. It felt good to get something "on paper."
I woke up today feeling pretty good. It felt kind of like a serious relationship-- you get in a fight, get frustrated,and think that it's not worth your time. But then you reflect, and realize how much you care about the person, and you find yourself back where you started. In this case, the poker table.
So I found myself back for one more shot at the $15-30 this morning. Luckily this story has somewhat of a happy ending. I'll leave you with the hand history:

15/30 TEXASHTGAMETABLE (LIMIT) - SUN NOV 30 15:16:48 EST 2003
Table Card Room Table 2700 (Real Money) -- Seat 6 is the button
Total number of players : 10
Seat 1: Redfish ( $1941)
Seat 2: chibikiko ( $750)
Seat 3: jogman ( $306)
Seat 4: Etowah ( $738)
Seat 5: hirtme ( $382)
Seat 6: hdouble ( $570)
Seat 7: bcm252 ( $539)
Seat 8: heelhook ( $1243)
Seat 9: patientone ( $1477)
Seat 10: coonz ( $160)
bcm252 posts small blind (10)
heelhook posts big blind (15)
chibikiko posts big blind (15)
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to hdouble [ Kd, Kh ]
patientone folds.
coonz folds.
Redfish calls (15)
chibikiko checks.
jogman folds.
Etowah folds.
hirtme calls (15)
hdouble raises (30) to 30
bcm252 calls (20)
heelhook folds.
Redfish raises (30) to 45
chibikiko folds.
hirtme calls (30)
hdouble raises (30) to 60
bcm252 calls (30)
Redfish calls (15)
hirtme calls (15)
** Dealing Flop ** : [ 7s, 7d, 6d ]
bcm252 checks.
Redfish checks.
hirtme checks.
hdouble bets (15)
bcm252 folds.
Redfish calls (15)
hirtme calls (15)
** Dealing Turn ** : [ Ad ]
Redfish checks.
hirtme checks.
hdouble bets (30)
Redfish raises (60) to 60
hirtme folds.
hdouble calls (30)
** Dealing River ** : [ 4d ]
Redfish bets (30)
hdouble raises (60) to 60
Redfish calls (30)
** Summary **
Main Pot: $552 | Rake: $3
Board: [ 7s 7d 6d Ad 4d ]
Redfish balance $1746, lost $195 [ 8h Ah ] [ two pairs, aces and sevens --
Ah,Ad,8h,7s,7d ]
chibikiko balance $735, lost $15 (folded)
jogman balance $306, didn't bet (folded)
Etowah balance $738, didn't bet (folded)
hirtme balance $307, lost $75 (folded)
hdouble balance $927, bet $195, collected $552, net +$357 [ Kd Kh ] [ a flush,
ace high -- Ad,Kd,7d,6d,4d ]
bcm252 balance $479, lost $60 (folded)
heelhook balance $1228, lost $15 (folded)
patientone balance $1477, didn't bet (folded)
coonz balance $160, didn't bet (folded)



Down the ladder: like a young man coming in for a quickie

I couldn't take "Josie and the Pussycats" on TV, so I sat down and signed on to Party, while my wife watched that terrible movie. I really wanted to take a shot, and found a juicy $15-30 table and thought I would sit for a couple orbits and try to win a single pot. I downed my coors, and took my seat, and I was next for the big blind. But I forgot that you can't post immediately, so the button passed me by, and I sat and waited. Of course my feet got cold, and I left the table for more comfortable (and less risky) pastures. All of the $5-10 tables were filled, and I don't like to play there if my wife is around (harder to focus), so I found a couple of $3-6 tables, and figured I'd check out my old stomping grounds. Figuring this is equivalent to a Friday night due to the holiday, I knew the games would be juicy.

I felt like I was back in the wild games of Hollywood Park-- 5 or 6 callers sometimes, just beautifully bad plays and lots of money on the table. Both tables were pretty loose, so I shifted into "ram and jam" mode, getting ready to raise my four flushes and big draws. A player to my left was very loose-aggressive, and I couldn't have picked a better seat at one of my tables. Anyway, I played tight, folding everything for an orbit, when I picked up AQd on the button. An early pre-flop raise, and I just call, hoping to suck in the blinds. Loose-aggressive girl in the small blinds raises me, and BB calls, along with the early raiser. I happily call, and we've got a 4 way pot. Flop is Q 7 5 rainbow, and I'm ready to roll... I bet the flop and get 2 callers, and the turn is the 8 of spades, putting 2 spades on the board. I bet the turn, and loose-aggressive reraises, and we trap the caller in the middle. I pop it for another reraise, sure that I have the best of this one. Both call. The river is Kc, and no straights or flushes are on board, but I fear AK from the trapped caller, so I check it through when the river is checked to me. Loose aggressive had QJh, and the trapped guy has 99, so I pull in a $66 win. You gotta love $3-6.

Two hands later I pick up 88 in middle position, and happily call an early raise, 3rd into the pot. We get 2 more callers, so it's a 5 way pot. I get a dream flop of 8 J 7 rainbow, and I'm hoping loose-aggressive will do her job and help me trap the fish. Early raiser bets, and I raise, but this time loose-aggressive just calls, along with one other player, building a big 4 way pot. The turn is a 3, and with all 4 suits represented on board, the only thing I fear is 10 9. I bet the turn, and get 3 callers, and the river is a Queen. I know that I'm money here, and bet for value on the river, but get only one caller. The caller shows J 10 suited, and it's $85 in my pocket.

I later pulled in a $44 win when I flopped Aces and Tens in a pot that was 3 bet preflop, and was called to the showdown by a player with KQ, after the flop was A Q T. At least this guy had outs.

My final $28 win came when a King flopped to my AK suited, and somebody drawing to spades (I think) didn't hit his flush card.

So that's $190 win in 30 minutes on a $3-6 table. Amazing. That's 66 big bets an hour! Maybe I should move back down. Yeah I held some cards, but man, these players are awful.

Not so lucky on the other table: Ended up down $31 bucks after not getting many hands... besides the two $10 pots I took, the only pot I won was a $33 one when my pocket nines tripped up on the turn. Turns out I didn't even need the third one, as a guy with AQo called me down to the showdown. He actually called my river bet with Ace high! The losses came from rammin and jammin with a couple four flushes that didn't hit.

So a win of $158 in 30 minutes of play on 2 $3-6 tables. I probably could have doubled up with a single pot in $15-30, but there was a lot less risk swimming with the fish.

So total poker profits are hovering around $1800... a few more sessions like tonight and the bankroll will be in excellent shape.

Off topic notes:
--Knocked out some Christmas shopping today. The wife and I actually bought a fake tree (ugh). My first Christmas tree. Man, you know you're getting old when you find yourself buying ornaments at Kmart. What a capitalistic holiday... minimum you're spending is $500 bucks, and that's just for about 10 gifts at $50 a pop. The total spending on Christmas per capita has got to be through the roof.
--Sportsbook: I agonized over taking Favre and Green over the hapless Lions tomorrow, giving 6.5 points. I ended up taking the Pack, but one of the reasons is because the game will be on TV and my wife is working tomorrow, so it will give me something to do. The guy has a fractured thumb, and scares the hell out of me, but the lions defense is so horrible I couldn't resist.
--Hats: my old poker hat fell apart (the little flex band on the inside broke, so I was getting these elastic black gummy balls in my hair), so I broke down and bought a nice hat today. $40 bucks for a baseball cap! Definitely the most I've spent on a hat... and it's got a stupid Kangol logo on it, but it was the only one they had that fit my noggin.

Happy Thanksgiving, may your heart pound when you hit your flush on the river.


Death, poker, and tilting

Yesterday was a rough day. The day began with an emergency meeting at work, and the entire department listened in shock as our director announced that one of our coworkers had taken her own life. It was a complete shock to everyone... I was not close to her, but in the past few weeks, had started to get to know her. She came out to get drinks a couple times after work, and seemed smart, fearless, and attractive. Our team went out Thursday night, and she seemed pretty happy. She even said she had lost a few cents playing penny hold-em when her pocket Aces lost to a flopped flush. She was 39.

I sat down at my desk and reflected on the depths of pain that one must feel when the decision to take your own life becomes attractive. The fact that I have been a few steps away from her cube for 2 years, and we only had 3 or 4 conversations in that time made me sad. LA is a strange place, and people rarely come out of their shell, especially in a professional environment. But the fact that no one could penetrate her shell was depressing.

For some reason this depression brought a quote from Rounders to my mind: "Life is on the wire. The rest is just waiting." Spoken by Papa Wallenda, a great high-wire walker. The banality of everyday life is nearly unbearable, but waiting for the things we enjoy keep us going. In my case, I've always been waiting to get on the football field, but now I'm waiting to get on the poker table.

After sitting at home depressed for a while, I decided to play some poker, hoping that would lift my spirits. 2 nights ago I had won $150 in a 40 minute session by hitting a couple hands and playing solid. After seeing my stack up 15 big bets in such a short time, I realized that this could be considered a good win for a 15 hour session, not to mention a 40 minute session. At this point I decided that a win-limit might be a good thing... i've never believed in them, but if you assume that the table has a reasonable number of good players, 15 big bets is a huge swing beyond standard deviation, and you will be extremely lucky to swing beyond that. Yeah, yeah, each hand is independent of the last, but still... So I'm debating an experiment in which I cash out as soon as I'm up 15 big bets.

Anyway, back to last night. I started strong, and was immediately up $100 after hitting a flush (I'm at work now, so I don't have my PokerTracker hand histories in front of me). It felt silly to think that I'd cash out after one more pot... I don't play as a source of income, so I've always had the luxury of playing until I got tired, win or lose. But I'm trying to build the bankroll... anyway, the tables were of the usual composition... a bunch of tough players, with a couple fish thrown in. A lot of heads up action, and not much easy money on the table.

You can guess what happened. As the button when around, I slowly loosened up, and slowly lost focus. My mind wasn't on the game, and I paid for it. I gambled too much, and after a 2.5 hour session, I ended up down $320. My biggest online loss to date. I was on tilt. Not in the sense that I was playing every hand, but playing borderline hands that I wouldn't play if I was focused. J9 suited from middle position, or blind-stealing with K8o. Just bad plays. Tilt is a subtle thing for me... I'm not going to go over the edge, but it's easy to lose a couple big pots when you play those borderline hands.

I guess it could have been worse. It's easy to put things in perspective when you're surrounded by tragedy. I will have a lot of time to win it back over the Thanksgiving weekend, as the wife will be working a lot. I think I'm going to take a one-day "turnaround" bus trip to Vegas/State Line on Friday with a buddy. Clear the cobwebs out of the brain, shake things up. Hopefully make up for the last Vegas abberation (although my buddy is a craps player, so I may not reach the poker room).

I'm glad I didn't do it, but I found myself watching a $15-30 game, debating whether I should "take a shot." It was super loose-aggressive, and looked like easy money. $300 pots... but I just don't have the bankroll. Too risky. Luckily my wife came home and saved me from losing my entire bankroll, but man, those games look soft. Someday...

I've added a subscription feature at the bottom of the page (scroll down). If you sign up, you'll get an email in the morning if I've posted to the site.

See you on the wire...



The comeback kids (are all right)

A little luck in the book
After getting the crap kicked out of me at the tables on Friday night, I needed a big Sunday in the sportsbook and on Party Poker to rebound. I forgot to post my picks this week, but it’s probably a good thing because the games nearly gave me a heart attack. All 4 of my teams were trailing (3 of them trailing by 12 or more late in the game), so it was a rough morning. Here’s the summary:

Indianapolis (-3) at Buffalo Result: Push (Indianapolis 17 Buffalo 14)
Baltimore (-3) home vs. Seattle Result: Push (Baltimore 44 Seattle 41)
Cincinnati (-3) at San Diego Result: Win (Cincinnati 34 SD 27)
Tennessee (-6.5) at Atlanta Result: Win (Tennessee 38 Atlanta 31)

Indy was down 14-3 in the fourth quarter before Edge and Peyton brought em back, and I needed the two point conversion to get the push. I nearly fell apart when Marvin Harrison (of all people) dropped an easy go route down the sidelines for a TD, but Edge looked great picking up tough yards. And how about Baltimore coming back from a 17 point deficit in the third to pull out the win in OT!!! Baltimore scored 44 points! I had mailed the game in and even put money on Tennessee late in a “desperation bet” to stay even… Anthony Wright throwing for 319 yards, 4 TDs and no picks! ANTHONY WRIGHT! I can’t believe I bet this game… where the hell was Ray Lewis? And Tennessee was down 21 after five minutes, and ended up coming back… (breathing sigh of relief)

After a rough month, it was nice to get back in the win column today. Today’s 2-0-2 performance puts me at 26-18-2 for the season, for a winning percentage of 59%. I’ll take it, but I was lucky today (after being very unlucky last week, so maybe I deserved it in some karmic way). With the money in my “virtual pocket”, I headed off to Party to get back what I lost on Friday.

The bullets hold up: Party session 1
With a renewed dedication to Party, I settled down at a couple $5.10 tables with only a couple minutes wait. It’s baffling why the waiting list is so much longer for the $5.10 tables than for $3.6… servers are cheap, so I don’t see why Party doesn’t spend the 100K to add 5 servers and increase the number of tables. Speaking of servers, after a few minutes, the chat box showed “We are rebooting our servers. Please finish the hand you are playing and wait in the lobby until they are rebooted.” Amazing! I’d never seen this before, and I imagine it ends up costing Party a fair bit of money, since people who log off may not come back for the day, so Party loses a couple hours of rake.

Of course I waited, after checking out what was going on at PokerStars. I see they have added rebuys to their tournaments (ugh), but I guess that was inevitable. PokerStars seems to treat their customers 10 times better than Party, but I’m addicted to Party like its crack, so I guess I’m stuck there (I think the players are stronger at PS). After about 15 minutes Party was fired back up, and I took my seats (at two tables).

Both tables were pretty tight (as usual), but it looked like a couple suckers were throwing away their money, so I did my best to isolate them. Table 1 was pretty uneventful… I played solid, and I ended up winning $62 after 40 minutes. Basically I won 3 medium sized pots:
--The first pot I won was strange, and made me wonder about the players at this table. I’m dealt Aqs in early position, and decide to pump it in hope of isolating the suckers. The two short-stacked suckers call (perfect!), and a solid player in the BB calls. The flop is Q 7 3 rainbow, and I’m licking my chops… but BB leads out, and I fear QQ or Q7, but we’ll see what happens— I just call to see how the hand develops. One of the fish raises (?), and I decide to reraise to try to get BB out. Short stack guy goes all in, and BB calls, and the raising fish 4 bets it! I’m clueless now, but I’m hoping he’s got KQ or something. The turn is a 9, and puts 2 hearts on the board. BB checks to me, I check, and raiser fish bets, BB calls, and I call, still clueless. The river is another 9, and I’m feeling that raiser fish might have filled up… but BB bets (?) and I make the call mostly out of confusion, hoping that raiser fish doesn’t reraise. He just calls, and BB shows Aqo and we split the $170 pot (a $34 win for me). The hand history shows that raiser fish had QTd and short stack had Kjo. Wow.
--I took a $38 pot after my A9 BB caught an Ace on the flop and held up.
--My biggest win of the session ($67) came when I caught my flush on the turn with Ajs. Unfortunately I could only collect $10 after it hit, since the two players in the pot were smart enough not to make the crying call.

Table 2 was even better, offering a $103 win in 40 minutes. Basically this came from two hands:
--I got lucky and caught the 3rd nine on the turn, holding A9o. A $57 win after outdrawing somebody with JJ.
--A big $109 win when my pocket rockets held up in a 5 player pot. I love it when that happens.

After the short 40 minute session, I took my winnings and took a page from Minnesota Fats book—a shower and a shave before coming back to the tables gave me new life, and I sat down ready to go.

Jacks for everyone: Session 2
I sat on the waiting list for a couple minutes, and ended up at 2 typical $5.10 tables—tight, but 1 or 2 loose players donating to the rest of the table.

One of the tables was pretty loose, and I made a terrible play to start things off… this was the first time of the night I was dealt pocket Jacks (more on this later) and I played them terribly:
--JJ in late position, I 3 bet it, hoping to make everybody fold. The flop comes all clubs, T 5 8. I know I should fold (especially on party), but I see my Jack of clubs shouting “put me in coach!” and I call the flop bet along with 3 other players. The turn is another 8, and I have no business being in this pot, but I call the turn bet, and am reraised. One player (smartly) bails, and 3 players see the river for $20. The river is 5s, and I figure someone hit the boat, but everyone checks. Of course somebody has A2 clubs, and the other guy shows AA! Just horrible. A $40 loss, and I’m starting out in the hole.
--I must be on tilt, because I lose $60 with pocket Queens after a guy hits trip sixes on the flop. Just horrible. I grit my teeth and refocus.
--I pull in a $52 win when my A8o holds up after an Ace flops.
--$34 win on three kings day after two kings flop to my AK.
--$47 win when I flop 2 pair with QTs defending my BB. The comeback is on.
--$60 win when I make my set of jacks on the river. JJ finally wins for me.
--$44 win when I fill up on the turn with my KTs
--$54 more when my A9s flops 2 pair, and I’m rollin… (note these hands are not consecutive, but I’m only writing about the interesting ones)
I decide I’ve come back far enough, and will play one more orbit… I muck the junk, but finally get AJ utg for my final hand. 3 players call my preflop raise, and the flop is 9d 2c Jd. Turn is 5h, I bet the whole way, and the river is the Ad. I don’t want to see this diamond, but I take a shot (last hand!) and bet out, and surprisingly, the chaser folds! I leave with a $52 win for a total of $105 on the table.

The second table treated me even better, and most of my winnings ($82) came when I hit my set of tens on the turn in a 4 way pot. I played solidly at this table, with no big mistakes, and was rewarded with a $156 win.

So totals for the day on party:
+$426, 3.3 hours real-time (6.6 actual), 289 total hands
+6.5 BB/hour actual, +13 BB hour (real-time)

Yee haw!

Jack magnet: I was dealt pocket jacks 6 of the 179 hands of the evening session. That’s 3.3% of the hands, where the expected probability is 1/220, or .4%. So my actual post-probability of receiving JJ was 7.3 times the expected value! I’m not going on an action-flop tirade, but this was a little strange. I guess I should be happy about this, but JJ is a tough hand to play! Party is making me work for my Big bets!

Comebacks, winning bets in overtime, and a couple of nice sessions on Party. A great day in gambling.



How I learned to stop worrying and love Party Poker

Well friends, yours truly got crushed at Hollywood Park again. A brutal loss of $350 in 3.5 hours on the $6.12 tables. That's 8.3 big bets an hour! Just painful. And I didn't even play badly. On the drive home I vowed to stick to online poker. After last night's beating, my records show that I am down -$1,150 at Hollywood Park, and up $2,700 at Party Poker. Yet I keep going back to that hellhole. The place has some evil power over me... the horrible players, and the opportunity to get out from behind the computer monitor is what draws me. But it's too much to give up-- I can play nearly 4 times as many hands online, and it's less of a gamble, since there are usually 5 or 6 players seeing the flop at HP. Last night was the last straw-- I'm not going back to that place until I have the bankroll to sit in the top section games.

So here's how it went down:
Driving through LA traffic after work yesterday, I looked forward to getting back to the green felt, the feel of the chips, and the dirty looks after check raising an unsuspecting fish. It had been 3 weeks since I'd been there, due to travel and the visit from the wife's family. After a winning session on Party the night before, I was ready to roll... ready to hit my big rush, to finally take 5 racks off the table after the deck hit me in the head like it never has before. I got a seat immediately, and I recognized a few of the players at the table as decent, but saw none of the solid players that I try to avoid. To my surprise, cards flew into the muck at a rapid pace, and the table was extremely tight for a Friday night... usually the drunks and weekend warriors can't get their chips in the pot fast enough.

Anyway, after trying to get a bead on the table, I pick up 99 in late position and everyone folds to me. I raise, and the button calls, and the blinds fold. Beautiful... the caller is a solid player, so I put him on big cards. He had just finished telling me he had spent a few months in Vegas playing 12 hours a day at the Horsehoe, and staying at budget suites for $200 a week. It sounded like a nice life to me, but he told me it was so incredibly boring that he couldn't do it again. 12 hours a day at the Horseshoe does sound like quite a grind, and the boredom comment served as a good warning to any of my hopes of ever playing professionally. Anyway back to the hand-- the flop came 2 2 7, and I was feeling good about my hand. I bet out, and the semipro called, which surprised me a little bit. Immediately I put him on a big Ace, AQ or AK, and resolved to keep betting until one of those big cards showed up. The turn was a Ten, and again I bet and he called. When the Ace hit on the river, I sadly checked, he bet, and I called. I wasn't too happy that I was right-- he turned over big slick and raked in the $92 pot. I know it's a coin flip against AK, but if the Ace or King had just come on the flop, it would have saved me at least $24 bucks. Not a good start.

My luck continued when I raised with AQ suited and only the big blind called, making it heads up. The flop came A A 8, and I bet out, bb calls, nd I put him on a smaller ace. I didn't have a good read on this guy, but he seemed pretty loose, and I felt pretty sure I had him outkicked. The turn came an 8-- bet, call again. River is a rag, and I bet and he raises me. My stomach sinks, and I now realize his kicker is an 8, but I make the crying call anyway. Aces over 8s it is, and he rakes the $116 pot. Nice catch in the big blind.

So after these two hands I've thrown away $104, and I'm not real excited about that. Not terrible beats, but the cards were definitely not falling for me. I pick up a medium size pot from the small blind when my flush hits, and now I'm ready to roll... I pick up Q9s in the big blind, and call an early raise, since there are 2 other callers before me. The flop is 10 8 5 and I have to figure out if I want to draw to the gutshot. I check, early raiser bets out, and one other player calls, a limper mucks, and there is one call ahead of me. So 5 big bets in the pot, I decide to gamble on my 5 to 1 gutshot, since I think that early raiser will bet out if the Jack comes. The beautiful Jack of spades hits on the turn, and I'm licking my chops. Everything according to plan-- bet, call, and I check-raise, licking my chops and wondering the last time I ever hit a gutshot. Early raiser says "I thought you might do that", and calls the raise, but the other player folds. The river comes a 5, putting a flush on the board, and the possible full house. I fear both (this early raiser is very loose), but bet out in frustration. Of course I am raised, I make the crying call and he turns over pocket 10s for the full house. Ouch. I sadly watch him rake the $174 pot and realize that in 3 unlucky hands, I've lost $170 of my money, and should (probabilistically speaking) be up around $250. Poker gods, have you forsaken me? To rub salt in the wound, the full house clown says "Hey, I was 50-50 to hit the full house." I say, "Not quite." He gets angry and says "I was 50-50!" I say, "Not quite, you had 11 outs, and there were 44 cards left." He gives me a "whatever" and I feel like vomiting on the floor.

I quickly down a jack daniels on the rocks, hoping that somehow the alcohol will change my luck. I glance at pocket rockets in late position, and think about ordering another. A loose, horrible player limps in from middle position, I raise and the guy who hit the full house calls from the BB. The flop is K J 6, and I'm watching out for K J, but feel pretty happy about the flop. They both check to me, and I raise, and both call. The turn is a 7, and I figure I'm in good shape. One of these clowns may have K7 or J7, but I'm don't play scared. Loose horrible calls, and I am clueless now. I want to raise, but I'm sure both of them will call, and I may be losing at this point. So I just call, and the river is a 4. This time full house guy checks (missed a draw?) and loose horrible checks. I'm baffled at this point, and don't want to risk getting check raise, so I show my rockets. Full house guy says something about me being lucky and a good draw, and he turns over K Q. Amazingly, loose horrible turns over... 7 4 OFFSUIT!!! I look at full house guy and laugh and he smirks and says "Well, you can't beat 7 4 offsuit." $84 pot.

I can't go on recounting this, it is just too painful. There were several more bad beats, and although I wasn't on tilt, I definitely wasn't playing my A game. But I will tell you that the night ended the way it started. Down to my last six chips, I pick up 99 in late position, and raise all in. The big blind calls, and flop is A 2 2. I figure he's got the ace, and I get out of my chair, and the turn comes 7, river 8. BB turns over Q2! and I hear the poker gods chuckling in the background.

So, that's it. No more gambling with players that can't be read. The "any two cards can win" is beating me up, and I know in the long run I should come out ahead, but I just can't take losing to people who don't even know what outs are. I'll stick to online play where the long run is much easier to reach, and although the players are better, the bad beats come less often. The swings of no-fold-em poker are not for me, so I am cutting way back on my live play until I can get in the bigger games. The rake at HP is also ridiculous, so I need to give up on the horrible players and just play my A game online against tougher opponents.

Possible leak in brick and mortar game: I played a lot of middle aces, because it is a jackpot game, and people will play any ace. This is dangerous because if you're against two other aces, and the ace flops, one of them has a decent chance of hitting their kicker. I never play these hands online, but I don't think it is a horrible play in a play-any-ace jackpot game. But I did lose a lot of money on these hands...

PartyPoker here I come...



The tight table flop steal

After a too-long hiatus, I hit the 5.10 tables hard tonight, albeit only for 40 minutes. I managed to rack up $131 in 40 minutes on 2 tables, and my stomach started growling so I bailed out to eat some pizza. Interestingly, I sat down to play after I got home from an after-work martini session, paid for by a co-worker who is running for Congress (vote Rick Bell for Congress!). His campaign picked up the tab, so I didn't feel too bad about drinking 3 martinis at a posh West Hollywood restaurant (next to work). Celeb sighting: Tim Allen, king of the midwest, strolled in to have a nice dinner. Just like his character on TV!

Enough of Hollywood. My results were somewhat interesting, but perhaps the most interesting thing from tonight's session is that I picked up a possible algorithm for bluff steals in tight games. Both of the tables I was at were very tight, but one was so tight that a preflop raise from any position won nearly 50% of the time without seeing a flop. I noticed that if 2 or three players did see the flop, it was pretty easy to get them off their hand with a bet, as long as no high cards came out. It's a pretty safe assumption that tight players will only play premium hands, so they either have a medium pair, or 2 picture cards. So suppose the flop comes rags, like 3 5 9. If they are weak tight, and everyone checks to you. It is almost mandatory to try a steal here, no matter what cards you hold. If you think there is a decent probability they will fold (usually the case for weak tight players), then we might as well bet out. If you called a pre-flop raise, it may still be worth a bet, because you may even be able to get a super weak tight player off his ace-king or whatever. If you're raised, then you can throw your hand away. It's not rocket science, but I never realized that this bluff-steal on the flop is a high EV play. It was successful for me once, but I only picked up on it after I'd watched the table for a while.

On to the hands...
Table 1:
$44 win when my AKo holds up unpaired against one other player holding KJo.
$69 win when my AKo beats out QQ when I flop a king, and turn is A, river K. Beautiful.
$30 win with KK after caller folds on raggedy flop.
Hmmm... hard work! I guess sometimes you get really lucky.
I did lose 20 on my last hand, when I limped in with KTs and called a raise, making it heads up. Flop was Jh 2s 2d, and I called his bet, not wanting to be weak tight. But the turn came another 2, and I figured that the Ace I put him on made him a big favorite, so I folded.

Table 2:
Nothing real exciting here. I pulled off a couple of late position steals (one with 43o!), but the biggest pot I took was $30 on a hand I sort of misplayed. Here's how it went down:
Pocket Jacks 2 off the button. I raise, and the button calls, everyone else folds. Flop is 4s Jd 6s, and I bet, he calls. Turn is 3h. Now how would you play this? I feel that if I fake weakness here he will bet out and try to take the pot. But I'm also a little afraid of those spades, so I'm not sure if I should lead out or not. I put him on big cards, maybe AT or better. I decide to check, and sure enough, he bets. Now I have to decide whether to reraise, and hope that he's dumb enough to call. Or just call, hoping the last card isn't another spade (would reject a free card if he did have spades anyway?), and bet the river. I decide to reraise, and I'm a little surprised when he folds. If I do call, I'm not sure he bets the river anyway, so I probably would have to bet out. So I think reraising was the right move here, but I'm not sure.

As an indication of the table's tightness, every pot I won (5, including the above) didn't make it to the showdown. Also, the 3 hands I lost didn't make it to a showdown either. It looks like 4 of the 32 hands at this table actually made it to the showdown.

There is a lot of tactical action going on in games like this. Bluffing works, and so does slowplaying. I love the psychology involved when there are 2 or 3 players in a pot, and I think I am much better at these type games than the no-fold-em style that is more common at Hollywood Park. Hopefully I can win enough to move up, although I've heard the 15.30 at HP is like 3.6 at Party. That is a scary thought.

I'm still trying to erase the Vegas travesty from my brain, and after a short but profitable hour on Party, the game is coming back to me. The poker gods seem to be forgiving.



In the poker game of life...

Noble readers: I bow before you, asking forgiveness for a grave sin. I spent 4 days in Vegas, and played only 2 hours of poker. It disgusts me just writing that. How could this happen? How could I let myself stand at the crap table for hours and hours, with the Mirage just minutes away? And only 2 hours of blackjack! I gave up the only 2 positive EV games in the casino to play craps. As a result, I don't even have anything to write for a trip report. NOTHING HAPPENED. It was easily the most boring 4 days I've ever spent in Vegas, despite the fact that I think I set a personal best for number of beers in a day.

I'm not going to attempt a trip report. There is nothing to report. It was fun to spend time with one of my best friends on his birthday, but that was about it. I won't get into them. I will just say that a newlywed couple where the wife hates to gamble and the husband loves to gamble can make it difficult to get out of the casino.

The one positive thing about the trip was that I think I played my best tournament poker ever. The 2 hours of poker were spent in the Luxor $30 buy-in limit tourney (one Thursday night, one Saturday morning). We rolled into Vegas at 7:30, and quickly headed over to the Luxor to get in the 8:30 tourney. I had placed third in this tourney on our last vegas trip, and about half of the players were playing poker for the first time in a casino. This time there were 4 tables (plus alternates!), and what looked like a lot of dead money.

I took my seat at the table, and it looked like almost everybody there was over 60. There were a couple of young guys, and I was sitting next to my buddy, the birthday boy, so we brought a little youth to the table. We started with 250 chips (!?) and had the option of buying 50 more for 3 dollars. 300 chips with blinds starting at 10-15, this was even worse than the PartyPoker sit-and-goes (800 chips). I figured it was pretty much a crapshoot, and determined to hang tight until I picked up a big hand. With this structure, you could barely make it through 2 full hands if you didn't win one of them. What a joke.

Anyway, play got started, and apparently the weak-tight convention was being held at my table. Cards were being mucked at a lightning pace, and I don't think we saw a showdown for the first 20 hands or so. I picked up K8 in the blinds, and saw the flop for free against 2 other players. 3 8 9 on the flop, and I bet out, knowing that everyone will fold. Someone calls, and the 4 on the turn doesn't scare me, so I bet again, and the caller folds.

With that win under my belt I take it easy for a few hands, and pocket rockets nearly blind me when I peek at my cards. 1 limper, I raise from late position, and the blinds fold. Beautiful. The limper calls, and I'm heads up with a young guy who I prepare to have for dinner. Flop comes K 9 4, rainbow, and I remember Abdul Jalib saying that Aces are worth much more than the blind. Limper checks, and I set the trap by checking also. The turn is a jack, and limper walks into the trap and bets. I smooth call. River is a rag, and no flush is on the board, and limper makes me happy by betting. Check-raise, limper actually spikes his hand on the table and folds, leaving him with a single 100 chip. Beauty.

The bullets put me in the zone, and I feel like I have a read on the entire table. I steal a few pots, the most notable with a 3-2o on the button-- I raise and SB folds, and the short stacked BB slams his cards on the table and stares me down for 4 hands. I should have showed my hand. The table fears me, and I steal when I can, but it's not enough-- I'm up to about 1000 chips, and the blinds are up to 100-200.

My buddy next to me has played 1 hand the entire tourney (good, he's playing tight), but finally comes out firing. He takes someone for a ride to the river, and turns over pocket aces to win a big pot. The next hand, he's firing again, and gets a couple callers. One caller has a single chip left, and my buddy, in early position, checks the river. Single chip guy thinks about it, and checks, and my buddy turns over pocket Aces again! Why didn't you bet the river!?? Later he told me he had a brain freeze, but this major mistake would come back to haunt us... 2 pocket Aces in a row have brought him up to 1000 chips, and we're all even.

The weak-tight convention soon breaks, and I move on to the next table: 20 players remaining. This table is the opposite of the last-- calling stations in all seats. Maybe it's because everyone is so short stacked. I vow to hang tight until they knock each other out. I have enough chips to survive a few blinds. But I look down and see the Aces again (! I'm in the zone!) in late position. UTG limps (the guy is horrible), and another early player raises. Beautiful. I reraise, and put UTG all in for 300. Raiser just calls, and the pot is now 900. Flop is J 9 6 rainbow, and I bet out after pre-flop raiser checks. He folds, and I turn over my Aces. All-in guy turns over J9d, and I feel my chair leg being chopped out underneath me. Ugh. Oh well, I've still got enough chips to survive, so I grin and bear it...

I survive to bring 625 chips to the final table. The game now switches to no-limit, with the blinds at 200-400, and I know I have to make a move. My buddy has also made the final table, and so has one-chip guy who should be long gone by now. My buddy has 200 chips, and one-chip now has 400. On the second hand, I get AJo in 4rth position and figure this is my chance. I sadly watch as my buddy goes all in UTG, and I have to come over the top with my 625. Surprisingly, one-chip man calls from the button, and we all turn over our hands. My buddy has Q3s, and one-chipper shows QJs. I'm liking my chances here, but of course a Queen hits on the flop. I watch in disgust as one-chipper hits a flush on the river, and I'm left with a measly 125. I go out before the blinds reach me with a K7, when nothing hits on the flop and and Ace high busts me.

Disappointing. I felt like I played perfectly-- not a single mistake, and a couple excellent steals early on. Who knows what would have happened had my Aces held up against J9, and who knows what would have gone on if my buddy had bet the river. But that's poker.

The rest is ugly. I went on to lose about $800 on the craps tables, and managed to win back $300 when I hit four deuces on the deuces wild video poker machine. I won about $100 counting cards in a double-deck blackjack game, but my heart just wasn't in it, due to extraneous circumstances. Here's how bad it was: we saw a movie in Vegas! At least it was good-- I recommend Matrix III-- I hated the second one, but the third was very good. Not in the same league as the first one, but the story was very good.

My Vegas appetite has only been whet. In the words of KGB: "Just like a young man coming in for a quickie. I feel so... unsatisfied." From now on: no women accompaniment to Vegas, unless they are real gamblers. I gotta get some rest and get back to POKER!



The Road to Vegas

That’s right. It’s Vegas time! Today marks my first trip to Vegas as a somewhat established poker player… the last three times I’ve been, I’ve gone primarily as a card counter. I did place third in the Luxor $25 Sunday tourney on the last trip, but before today, the chips have primarily been of the blackjack denomination, not poker. Anyway, it will be interesting to have a choice between poker and blackjack… I guess I should probably try to maximize my time spent playing blackjack, since that game is illegal in Los Angeles. But after printing out a list of the weekly Vegas tourneys at, I figure I’ll be stuck in the poker room for much of the trip.

The trip was spawned as a birthday present for one of my best friends, a budding poker player. He’s been playing for a couple months, and I’ve offered some tutelage, although he can’t seem to shed that loose-beginner shell that is common to most beginners. Maybe the tightness required to win these tourneys will help his game. I’m writing this on Thursday afternoon, so we’ll probably roll in to the Tropicana (where we’ll be staying) around 7. I’d prefer to stay downtown, but he’s bringing his wife, so we’re stuck on the strip. We stay until Sunday, so we’ve got a night and 3 full days of gambling.

The last trip showed my worst loss in my Vegas history-- -$600, mostly due to some horrible luck on the blackjack tables. I’d count down the double deck games, wait for a hot shoe, and then lose about 5 $50 hands in a row (scroll down for the trip report). Hopefully the odds will “catch up” this time around.

I’ll be fighting fatigue—after a busy 5 day conference in DC, my body managed to adjust itself to east coast time. Hopefully the combination of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can keep me sharp when its 1 am Vegas time and I’m feeling 4 am DC time. Who needs sleep anyway?

I’ve set my trip bankroll at around $1000. This is a pretty hefty sum, and represents half of my poker winnings. But in blackjack, you need a pretty large bankroll to exploit the card counter’s small edge over the house when the deck is good. Technically, you need a bankroll of around $10K just to average around $20 an hour. But perhaps the god of standard deviation will bless me today. If I can come out up $500, I’ll be ecstatic… a 50% increase in bankroll is within reason, although I’d have to be pretty lucky to get there. It’s probably best if I stay away from the sportsbook and the craps table, but hey, it’s Vegas. The possibility of doubling my trip bankroll makes me smile… that would put my poker bankroll at 3K, just about enough (with the help of my recent raise) to let me sit in the $10.20 games in LA.

Where to play? And what limit? Right now I’m thinking that the Mirage is the best option, probably starting out at $6.12, although the $10.20 game is an option if blackjack treats me well. I’ve never really played Vegas poker though, so I’m a little wary… I’ve always had better results online, where the games are tighter, so I’ll be happy if I sit down at a table with 6 or 7 local rocks. We’ll see if I can spot the sucker, or if I am the sucker.

Maybe a little homage to the gambling gods is in order… I’m not a religious man, or a poet, but I’ll give it a shot:

The pilgrim returns to do battle
With mathematic wit
Armed with odds, a score to settle
At the feet of chance I’ll sit
Knowing the path is long and hard
The long run, glowing green in the distance
Outwaiting fickle Luck, who owns the river card
Outsmarting with skill, her sister named Chance

To swim with the fish and bite like a shark
I’ll act like a lamb, and then release my wolf bark
Patiently preying on tourists so weak
So begins the winning streak



All expenses paid

Since I’m writing this on the flight on the way to Washington DC, I guess this represents the first traveling journal entry. The last 2 weeks have been pretty hectic—between being tour guide for my wife’s family, transitioning to the web team at work, and preparing for my conference presentation, I’m pretty drained. Hopefully I can catch up on some sleep before the presentation tomorrow, but that’s doubtful… I guess good old adrenaline will have to pull me through.

The presentation is for the American Medical Informatics Conference, so there will be lots of hotshot doctors listening to my talk. I haven’t given a presentation in a long time, and never one at a conference, but I tend to do better under pressure, so I’m not too worried. This is the first time I’ve had the luck to have an all expenses paid trip… I added it up last night, and I think the bill came up to $3000 total, so I owe a good presentation to the hospital. There will also be some excellent networking opportunities, as all the leaders in the field will be there.

Another perk I snagged was a high power laptop that my boss loaned me for the trip… I’m in the middle of watching Paul Newman in “The Hustler,” and surprisingly, the movie has inspired me to deliver a good presentation. There’s a great Newman speech where he talks about the beauty of a person doing something he knows he as good at. Newman says that even an expert bricklayer’s work can be beautiful if the bricklayer is inspired and “in the zone.” This made me realize that a good presentation is defined mostly by the enthusiasm of the presenter for the work he is discussing. The standard is dry, monotonic explanation of statistics… if I can bring some youth and energy to the presentation, I think people will listen.

The psychology of gambling is really the main theme of “The Hustler.” After Fast Eddie loses to Minnesota Fats, the knowledgeable gambler who ends up backing Eddie explains that Eddie was a born loser who was just “waiting to lose.” Interestingly, the gambler is a high-stakes poker player. The gambler also claims that talent is of relatively minor importance in long heads-up matches. It’s character that counts, and Fats just has more character than Eddie, who has never really lost in his life.

Losing builds character, so the cliché goes, but I definitely think this is true… all the great poker champions have been broke at one time or another (or so legend has it), and this is probably for 2 reasons—1, it built the character required to become a great poker champion, and 2, when you believe you are the best, and are playing against the best, you must keep putting your money in the pot until you are broke. When you believe you’re the best, at no time do you think, “I can’t beat this guy, I should quit,” or, “I’m already $X up/down, let me get out while I’m ahead/not broke.”

The danger of this line of thought is also explored in Rounders—Mike McD gets his money in when he thinks he has the best of it, and loses everything. Although he regrets his decision, the journey it forces him to undertake ends up building his character and showing him the path that his life should take. The foil for McD is Knish, the true grinder who only puts his money in the pot when he is sure he’s got the best of it. I’m still on the fence on this idea—can you still be a great player when you always leave yourself “outs”? Maybe. But if we say that character is built by risking great loss, then the gamblers of great character are willing to put it all in the pot.

Back to the world of low-limit poker—I finally got the 500 hands to collect the empire bonus, but took a lot of punishment in getting there. After being up $120 on my initial deposit, I had an awful session that brought me back to even, WITH the bonus. I played a few orbits on 2 5.10 tables, promptly dropping 60 on one and breaking even at the other. My play wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t getting the cards, and the game was so tight that when I did have a hand, even the blinds folded me. I escaped to the looser world of 3.6, which treated me even worse than the 5.10 tables. After an hour and a half, I ended up down $170 on two tables after not picking up a hand on either table nearly the whole time. I had about 10 medium pocket pairs, and was unable to hit the set on any of them. I think I won 3 or 4 hands out of the 150 I played, and I misplayed only one or two of them (I don’t have my pokertracker installed on the laptop, and even if I did I would be too depressed by looking at them). I guess sometimes you just catch a “frozen wave of cards” and you just have to minimize your losses.

So 500 hands on Empire showed me losing $117, but the bonus brought it back up to a $17 loss. I guess it could be worse, but it’s still depressing. I can take comfort in the $8K raise I just got, and the hope that my wife gets the waitress job at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Ahh, just reading the last sentence makes me feel better, and I can’t wait to get back to the tables. Hopefully like Fast Eddie, the loss built my “character bankroll,” and I’ll be even more fierce when I sit down at the Mirage next Thursday. Yep, that’s right VEGAS BABY, VEGAS! (Thursday)



Poker in the office: negotiating salary

First of all: OUCH! 0-3 yesterday in football. I finally had a losing week, and in a big way. All my hopes rest on the Pats tonight-- if they manage to win in Denver, I stay alive with a 2-3 record on the weekend (since I bet two units). If they lose, it's 0-5 and my sportsbook bankroll takes a major blow. More on the sportsbook after the game.

More importantly, in an hour I negotiate my new salary... I'm moving over to the web team, since the funding for the project I'm working on has dried up... I don't really have any clue how to negotiate a salary, but I did a bit of reading, and at least have some clue. It's definitely time to apply some poker ideas to the negotiation, but first lets start with the facts:
1. The HR department lists an upper and lower bound on the salary range for the position
2. The position has been filled by 5 other people in the last year, all of whom quit within 3 months (yikes)
3. They are currently trying to fill 2 spots
4. I am far above the job requirements in several areas, but far behind in several others
5. I've been here for a year, so I can't leverage the negotiation with offers from other companies
6. I don't particularly like LA, so it is possible for me to refuse their offer

All of these numbers suggest I might as well go for the upper range of the requirements, although number 4 suggests I might skim a little bit off the top just to make it "look good". Clearly I've got the best hand here, and I should be value betting that they don't have much of an alternative but to pay me a lot. I'm somewhat of a proven quantity and they can't fill the position, so they are in a tight spot.

In any case, I will most likely be getting a substantial raise, which will substantially increase my poker bankroll. But we'll take Kenny Rogers advice this time and wait until we leave the table before we count our money...

Thanks to Avandalay for his kind comments... my wife's family is heading up to San Francisco tomorrow for a few days, so I'm hoping to get a few solid nights of pure PartyPoker madness and get back to the grind. This journal needs to get back to poker!

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