The Cards Spoke

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



He's heating up

I don't know if anyone else played NBA jams a couple years back, but when you made two shots in a row, the announcer would say "he's heating up!". When you hit the third shot, he would say "he's on fire!" and your players shooting percentage would go up to about 90%. Well I had my second big session in 2 days, and I feel like I'm heating up-- I've been on my a game (except for last night when I was tired), and it feels good to make the proper reads and steal a pot here and there.

I did play poorly last night however. One leak in my game is when I'm playing a lower limit game, and I'm tired and up a bit, I tend to make poor calls (e.g. with second pair and I feel there is a reasonable chance I am beat) or dumb semi-bluffs. While not terrible plays, they are clearly negative EV, but I let my tiredness and the boredom weaken my discipline.

Anyway, I had one of my best $3-6 sessions ever, pulling in $211 on one table in a little under an hour. I lost $34 on the second table, but I'm not complaining... I was getting some cards, but I was also making pretty good reads with top and second pair. Of course, when the rockets hold up on a loose table, and you pull in a $116 pot, that doesn't hurt either.

I tried to follow my own advice and think more carefully about my river bets, and ended up collecting a couple of extra bets with my top pairs.

Shout outs: I got an email from Mean Gene, who said he has an insane success rate for the check-raise bluff on the turn. I was never a big fan of this move, but I may have to add it to the arsenal... here's when it seems to work for me: heads up against a blind stealer when I'm in the BB, if there are no face cards on the board, you can check and call until the turn. If you check raise the turn, often the raiser will muck his Ace-high and give you credit for having a hand. The reason I like this play is because I often play Ax aggressively heads-up against the blinds, and most low-limit players aren't tricky enough to pull a bluff check raise, so you have to give them credit for a hand. Obviously this will not work against calling stations, who will call you down with their ace high.

Iggy also communicated that he's all bonus-whored out, and not quite sure what to do with himself. I think he should go for the big one and try to win one of the multi-tables, and then blow it all playing WSOP satellites to get in the 1000 player field this year.

The ITC is still building his bankroll, valiantly battling off the minnows in the .50/1 game. I think he's 0 for his last 8 with rockets, which just goes to show you how tough those games are to beat.

Also, the joy that people get out of Hellmuth-bashing or just talking about Hellmuth is a little surprising to me. To me he's just another one of those insecure guys you knew in high school, good at one thing, and trying to use that one talent to compensate for their low self-esteem. I mean, the guy is a great player and somewhat interesting, but I'll take Gus Hansen, or Kirill Gerasimov anyday. These guys are more interesting than Hellmuth, and maybe almost as good. Another player who I was either impressed with or appalled by was Daniel Rentzer-- if this guy's story is true, he belongs up there with Moneymaker in the pantheon of online poker heroes-- he claims to have built his $50 poker stars deposit into 11K, which he parlayed into a 250K win in the WPT tourney. Check out this hilarious and interesting thread. I don't know if I believe him, but it's possible and gives all us $3-6 players hope.

I'm rambling again, but I'll share my only Hellmuth story. This guy I know met Phil Gordon, and said his favorite part of the WPT was when Gordon pulled out the "hand ranking chart" in Aruba when he had a boat (I think) to knock out Hellmuth. Gordon told him that move actually cost him a considerable amount of money: "My buddy called him up 2 months after that to invite him to play golf with us... Hellmuth is a terrible golfer and was always good for a few grand every outing. Anyway, Hellmuth answers 'What? Are you kidding? After that hand ranking crap in Aruba??? No way!'"

I'm rambling... but here are my playoff picks, as promised:

Wild card weekend
--Titans at Ravens
This may be the best game of the playoffs. Steve McNair against Ray Lewis. The toughest offensive player against the toughest defensive player. Lewis has owned Eddie George and the Titans for the last couple of years, and he will own them on Saturday. But McNair's poise and desire may outshine Lewis, as he always finds a way to get it done. The team with less turnovers will win this game, and special teams will be extremely important, since the scoring will be low. Wright will throw an interception that leads to a Titan TD, and the Titans win a defensive battle.

--Cowboys at Panthers
A game between two of the worst playoff teams. Parcells and Fox have both squeezed the most out of their teams, but the talent is lacking on both squads. I don't know who to pick here, but I think Parcells leads the way in another defensive battle. My man Roy Williams is a playmaker and I gotta go with Dallas, even though Quincy is one of the worst QBs in the League.

--Seahawks at Packers
Favre. Lambeau. Seattle on the road. Bye bye Hasselbeck.

--Broncos at Colts
Will Peyton earn his wings? With an injured Portis, the Broncos may keep it close, but the Colts have a big edge here. Plummer will make at least one mistake, and Peyton won't. If I was a betting man, I'd take the Colts and give away the 3 points.

Divisional Playoff
--Packers at Rams
Another great game. It will be Favre against Martz masterful offensive scheme, and a healthy Marshall Faulk. Don't underestimate the value of a bye week at this time in the season, and don't underestimate St. Louis at home. I'm taking St. Louis here, but if Favre plays his "A" game, Green Bay could roll. St. Louis wins in a shootout.

--Titans at Patriots
Ahh the Pats. Belichek is my man, and I'm rooting for New England, but I really think Brady's knee is a lot worse than they are letting on. They'll brace him up, but the tough Tennessee D-line will pressure him all game. The Pats are outclassed by half the teams in the league talentwise, and there are only so many rabbits Belichek can pull out of his hat. However, he does have an extra week to prepare... I'll be rooting for the Pats, but I think the Titans will take this one.

--Colts at Chiefs
Interesting game. We have Peyton and the Colts, who choke every year in the playoffs, and the Chiefs, who can't stop the run. I think Edge is still only about 90% healed, so this game will be close. On paper, the Colts are much better, but I have a "feeling" (a poker player's famous last words) that KC will take this one. Maybe their stellar special teams will come through.

--Cowboys at Eagles
A great run for Dallas, but it stops here. Philly outclasses Dallas in a blowout.

Conference Championships
--Titans at Chiefs
Tough game to pick. These teams match up pretty well, and I think it will be a low scoring battle. In an even game, look to the team who makes fewer mistakes... the Chiefs specials are the best, but McNair has made fewer mistakes than any other QB this year (at least it seems this way). I'll go with Tennessee in a close one-- McNair finally gets them there, with the help of the tough Titan defense.

--St.Louis at Philadelphia
Another good matchup. But I think the Rams are just a little too talented for Philly. McNabb doesn't have the receivers, and with Westbrook out, they lose a little speed. St. Louis will break a couple big plays, and Philly's offense will have to play catch up. Don't be surprised to see the old Kurt Warner making an appearance in the playoffs. He should be healthy now, and people don't realize how good this guy was... his numbers are off the charts for his short career, and I can't believe he's lost all of that.

Super Bowl
pregame: WPT on NBC???
--St. Louis vs. Tennessee
Bulger/Warner vs. McNair. The Freak vs. Leonard Little. This should be a great one. The Rams are so much better on turf, and they will be playing on the grass in Houston's new stadium. This hurts them... but everything depends on McNair's health. If he can survive until the super bowl, I think the Titans take it in a close one. But don't bet on it.

Whew. I'm going to bed. If you made it this far, have yourself a beverage... happy new year, and let's all double our bankroll in 2004, and welcome in the golden age of poker.


In the poker game of life...

Women are the rake! A little harsh, but I haven't been able to play much lately because of family, and my wife's friend is in town from Sweden, so we've been entertaining. What's worse, they got a two night trip to Vegas (I'll be at work) next week for $300, airfare included. And they're staying at New York, New York. No, I'm not jealous.

Great blogging going on out there. My boys Chris H. and TFG both hit royal flushes last night. Again-- No, I'm not jealous. I think I hit my only royal flush after about 7000 hands, and do you know how much I won for it? $30 pot in a $5-10 game. So I won 1.5 BB. Bah humbug. Iggy has moved on to Multi-table NL, where I think he should have been all along. Pretty soon you'll see "Congratulations to HornyBabe2003 for winning multi-table tournament," and we'll just have to wonder if that was Iggy's screenname.

Since my play has been sporadic, I'm going to offer a little bit of theory, and since it's playoff time, I'll give a full treatment to NFL playoff predictions. I love the $3-6 tables, and I've definitely found a new home... I was up $50 after 45 minutes last night, but ended up pissing away my winnings playing too loose and attempting some ill-advised semi-bluffs. As a tribute to Mean Gene, I even tried a semi bluff checkraise with bottom pair and a flush draw, but it failed miserably. Obviously, use this play cautiously.

Theory: Decisions on the river
Feeney's "Inside the Poker Mind" really has me thinking. I think this is probably the best book for Intermediate players (which I would classify myself as), and really breaks down poker into its most crucial elements. Between draughts, veteran poker blogger referenced Feeney's "strategic moment" concept, which basically says that there are moments in the hand where the player must use all of the inputs given to him, and use that information to choose the best action.

One of these strategic moments is "what to do when you are heads up on the river and first to act". I think this decision is one of the hardest to make in poker, and I often find myself making the wrong move here. Let's take an example hand here (here's how my thought process would work)...

I've got KQo in middle position, and limp after 2 other limpers with 2 players (it's a passive table, so we'll play this in middle position). The Button and BB call. Flop is K 7 8 rainbow. BB checks, and the 2nd limper folds. We'll ignore the strategic considerations until we get to the river for now, but I bet out, trying to protect my hand and making straight draws pay. The button and BB call, and the turn is 7d, putting 2 diamonds on the board. I bet out again, and button calls while BB folds. The river is 2d.

Now for the strategic moment...
We have some choices here.
1. Bet our top pair for value. We believe we have the best hand, and we believe that the Button will call with second best hand, perhaps KJ. If the button was on the straight draw, he will fold.
2. Check, since we are afraid we might be beaten. It's possible that the Button has A7d, a reasonable hand to limp in with, considering the hand was 3 way before it got to him.
3. Check in the hope of check raising. If we put the button on something like AQ, we may induce a bluff. If the button bets, we call, and get an extra bet (since he probably would have folded had we bet)

Sklansky and Krieger argue that 2 is often the best choice... unless we know a lot about the player, we don't know what kind of hands he will play on the button, and it is definitely possible he has caught trip sevens on the turn, or backed into a flush. On the other hand, given no evidence to the contrary, and knowing that most low-limit players tend call too much with second best hands, we don't want to miss a value bet.

This is a very tough decision. Probably what I would do is bet out, and this will put the button to the test. If we are reraised, we can probably fold (the bluff check-raise on the river is very rare, so we can assume that he backed into the flush or turned trips). Since if we check he will bet anyway (and we have to call, because there is a decent chance he is bluffing), our betting out gives us a chance of winning an extra bet, but exposes us only to a bluff-check-raise, which is rare.

This example shows how valuable the ability to read players is... if we had any read on the button, the amount of information we have available at our strategic moment is far greater. In B&M play, we can use visual input to help us-- loosely stacked chips might tell us that the guy is more likely to hold KT than A7 (maybe), or a neat stack might tell us the guy was on a straight draw and will fold to our bet.

Ok, I suppose I should do some work now, so the Playoff picks will have to wait. Keep up the great blogging, and may karma reward you. Comments? For all you Sklansky disciples, I'm debating if I should reread HFPAP and/or Theory of Poker. I think I probably missed a lot of stuff, and haven't reread it since my "beginner stages". I didn't like his stuff that much, as it seems to apply mainly to tougher games. But I'm listening to recommendations.



Careful! Cards are very hot and will burn mouth

Finally! A rush! It had been a long, long time since I'd gotten a good run of cards, but here is the bottom line from last night's short session:
$3-6 53 Hands
Amount Won = $201.50
BB/100 Hands = 63.36
Percent of times going to showdown when seeing the flop = 68.75
Percent of times winning at showdown = 72.23

All this with a measly pre-flop raise percentage of 7%. I guess that means I was hitting my draws! Anyway, this monster session had to be ended prematurely when my wife and her friend returned from the bar and demanded to play a no-limit tourney (for fun, not money). She promptly knocked me out when she trapped me with pocket kings, and flopped a set (I rivered 2 pair), and knocked me out again when my trip Jacks lost to her trip Jacks when my 9 was outkicked by her Queen. I felt like pulling a Hellmuth and throwing furniture, but she played very well.

Anyway, the fish were out last night at Party. I remember 3 or 4 large-sized pots where scare cards hit on the turn and river, and I was forced to check and call, relatively certain that I didn't have the best hand. Here's an example:

Table Card Room Table 1389 (Real Money) -- Seat 3 is the button
wayne28 posts small blind (1)
RosyScenario posts big blind (3)
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to hdouble [ Ts, Jc ]
ElProfessor calls (3)
BlackHawk89 folds.
Rixy37 calls (3)
baddplayer folds.
LilSketchy folds.
JMP23 calls (3)
hdouble calls (3)
tideguy folds.
wayne28 folds.
RosyScenario checks.
** Dealing Flop ** : [ 9d, Qd, 8c ]

(I flop the nut straight, but with the diamonds out there and 3 other players, my hand is not a monster.)

RosyScenario checks.
ElProfessor checks.
Rixy37 checks.
JMP23 checks.
hdouble bets (3)
RosyScenario raises (6) to 6
ElProfessor calls (6)
ElProfessor: we need to change the name of this table to check/raise
Rixy37 folds.
JMP23 calls (6)
hdouble raises (6) to 9
RosyScenario calls (3)
ElProfessor calls (3)
JMP23 calls (3)
** Dealing Turn ** : [ 2d ]

(I didn't want to see that card. Check and call from here on, fearing the flush. One of these guys must have been drawing to the flush.)

RosyScenario checks.
ElProfessor checks.
JMP23 checks.
hdouble checks.
** Dealing River ** : [ Kh ]
RosyScenario checks.
ElProfessor bets (6)
JMP23 folds.
hdouble calls (6)
RosyScenario calls (6)
** Summary **
Main Pot: $67 | Rake: $3
Board: [ 9d Qd 8c 2d Kh ]
hdouble balance $246, bet $18, collected $67, net +$49 [ Ts Jc ] [ a straight, nine to king -- Kh,Qd,Jc,Ts,9d ]
RosyScenario balance $105, lost $18 [ 9s 2c ] [ two pairs, nines and twos -- Kh,9s,9d,2c,2d ]
ElProfessor balance $78.50, lost $18 [ 8s 7d ] [ a pair of eights -- Kh,Qd,9d,8s,8c ]

The guy bets a pair of eights with a flush and a straight on board??? Wow. Anyway, that kind of stuff was happening all night. Just horrible players.

The man of Guinness has shown me the light, and resulted in the first commandment of PartyPoker: "Thou shalt not play $5-10 and $10-20 on Party Poker. Thou shalt seek out the fish, who swimmeth only in the waters of $3-6 and below, and $15-30." I have obeyed this commandment in my last couple sessions, and the poker gods have rewarded me.

Philly cleaned up yesterday, so I got a good start on the NFL weekend. Two more wins today would give me an excellent regular season record, and set me off for a big playoff run. Check out BG's playoff analysis, this man is on the money.

I got mail from Hollywood Park Casino, and there was some interesting news-- they are now serving smoothies! Actually, there is now a super satellite every thursday to win a WPT Satellite. I'm not sure exactly what this is, but here's what it says on the brochure: "Buy-in: $50 Entry Fee= $15 [yikes] Multi Rebuys [yikes] Win seats, airfare and accomodations to the WPT Satellites on April 17, 2004."

I guess this is the three-tier WPT structure I read about somewhere... a small satellite (step 1) to get in the big satellite (step 2), to actually get in the tourney (step 3). I'm sure I'll wind up playing one of these, although I don't like the multi-rebuys, and your chance of actually making the damn tourney is very slim. I would like to win a free Vegas vacation however, so it might be worth a shot. I really need to get back to playing the tourneys at Hollywood Park... lots of dead money and a cheap buy in. My best finish was 21st out of 220 players, 2 off the money. This was a limit tourney, and I was still pretty fishy back then, but I wasn't all that far off of grabbing some of that 25K total prize money.

Alright friends, good luck tonight, Sunday nights are hard to beat on Party, so don't miss out!




Although I've had a great Christmas, and my family is here through tomorrow, I miss poker! I was able to sneak in a late night session at $3-6 last night, but I was exhausted so I wasn't on my "A" game. This is very unfortunate, because one of the tables I was at had a true maniac, who played 75% of hands and capped probably 50% of the betting rounds. This guy was out of control. I even started to suspect collusion, as the maniac and another guy ended up trapping one other player between their capped betting rounds quite often. Who knows.

Anyway, in PokerTracker here are the guys stats:
34 hands, $32 won (12 BB/hour)
Percentage of time player voluntarily put money in the pot: 80%
50% pre-flop raise

So the guy played 80% of his hands, and raised 50% of the time preflop. His biggest hand was a $124 win with 67s, and the next biggest was a $103 win with QJo.

Unfortunately the maniac is not me. This guy was obviously a maniac who could play, and he set the whole table on tilt (including me). I know how to play against a maniac when I can get him heads up, but in this game there were always 2 or 3 other players in the pot. My top pair, top kicker would end up getting sucked out on by a flush or straight draw-- the pots were so big that it was incorrect to fold, so there would always be 1 or 2 chasers on the river.

Anyway, I ended up even for the night after doing quite well on another table. I wish I could have stayed up and played all night, but I was just too tired. If I was serious about making some profit playing poker, I would play all my hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The games just seem so much juicier on the weekend nights, and your win rate will be so much better on these nights.

Alright I gotta wrap this up as the family is on the way... I just lost probably $500 bucks in future playoff bets as Tom Brady's ACL probably just got demolished in the Buffalo game. I had the same exact thing happen to me in my sophomore year in college... a 300 lb guy lands right on your knee, and snaps the rubber band that attaches your femur to your tibia. Poor Brady. What a year. Hopefully I'm wrong, and the MRI will show a sprain. But it don't look good folks.

WOW. Brady is staying in the game! The trainers must be on crack... you could almost see the ligament tearing on the replay. Their up 21-0 in a game that only has home field implication, and Belichek doesn't pull him. This is a terrible move, but maybe the trainers are confident that it's only a sprain. We'll see...

Quick Picks:
Last week in the regular season, 3 picks.

Philly (-6.5) at Washington: Reid vs. Spurrier, and the Redskins have already mailed it in for the season.

Denver at Green Bay (-6.5): Brett rises up again, this time at home after an emotional roller coaster week. Portis won't play, and the game is meaningless for Denver, so I'll take my chances with Brett this week.

Dallas (-2) at New Orleans: The Saints coming off probably the toughest loss in NFL history after they made the miracle "lateral play" comeback and the idiot kicker botches the PAT. Parcells is a bulldog, and won't let his team lose this game in preparation for the playoffs. The Saints have nothing to gain, so I think the Dallas D will come up big in this one.

Shout outs:
Iggy's Poker Blog never disappoints.

The Poker Penguin discusses money and its abstraction.

A Poker Odyssey offers up one of the best "betting systems" I've ever seen in his "Sophomore Poker" project.

TFG rambles about a variety of topics, and offers up some great quotes:
"No-Limit is like playing against Danny DeVito in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

I think tonight is gonna be a great night on Party, and I'll do my best to be on. Good Luck!



Happy Tree Day

Ok boys and girls, I just downed my second cup of coffee and I have 30 minutes before I have to go pick up my sister at LAX, my favorite place in the world. With the Orange Alert, I’m sure it will be a blast. I just read Iggy’s Christmas blog, and thought a Christmas post would be better than no post at all, so here goes…

I grew up a Catholic boy, and even went to Catholic high school, but if I had to classify myself these days, I’d probably say I was a Deist. I guess the amount of evil in the world doesn’t jive with my notion of what a perfect being would want the world to be like, so I have trouble with that one. Yeah, the problem of free will and all that, but I don’t buy it. Dostoevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor” story is a great illustration of this for all you literature buffs out there. Interesting to note that old Fyodor was a Christian himself… while we’re on religion, remember that the Christmas tree comes from Catholic missionary’s slick move to convert the (Irish?) tree worshippers to Catholicism. “You celebrate Jesus’ birthday, and we’ll make your tree our centerpiece.” I think this was St. Patrick’s idea, but I’d have to go back to the high school textbooks…

Minimal poker content in this post (I have been doing Christmas stuff for the past couple days, and did manage to sneak in a 10 BB win at $3-6), but I wanted to point out a good observation in Feeney’s book. He makes the point that a shorthanded game with 2 bad players can be much more profitable than a ring game with 5 bad players. Why?
1. In a full ring game, much of your time will be spent watching these bad players play against each other
2. In a shorthanded game, aggressiveness has “cover” since it is expected and rewarded. So good and bad players alike are forced to call you down, even when they are confident they are beaten, just to keep you honest.
3. You play many more hands, since you must loosen up your starting hands, and the games go much faster.
These are all great points, but the key is that 2 of the players in the shorthanded game must be bad. On Party, every once in a while you can find some fish in the shorthanded $5-10 games, but usually the players there are tough. Maybe I should explore the shorthanded $5-10s more, and start practicing game selection. Or, try 2 of the $1-2 shorthanded games, but before when I’ve tried two shorthanded tables simultaneously my brain nearly exploded. I don’t know how the Grubster can handle it, I guess his neural net is faster than mine.

Speaking of which games to play, I think I’m going back to $3-6 exclusively now. The wait list for the $5-10 games is out of control, and the players there are considerably better than at $3-6 (judging from my last couple $3-6 sessions). The Party user base is changing and it’s important to figure out how the games are being affected. I want to use online play as practice, and put the real money on the felt at Hollywood Park. The weekend $15-30s there are like the $3-6 Party games, so if I can squirrel away enough cash (thanks, Christmas gifts), I will sit with the big boys. My wife’s new job at the Beverly Hills hotel should help… why don’t you just play in the $6-12 game, my astute readers will ask. Well, in California, it is illegal to rake the pot, so they take a “drop” after the preflop betting is completed. The drop should be called robbery, because at $6-12 it is $6!!! A small bet! The way I think of it is that there is an invisible 11th player at the table, who is collecting a small bet every hand. If 40 hands are played in an hour, the invisible man is collecting $240 or 20 big bets an hour. No wonder he can afford that invisible mp3 player and those nice invisible sunglasses. You have to beat the hell out of a table to overcome a 20 big bet an hour hole created by the casino. But the top limit section has a time charge—in the $15-30, it is $7 per half hour. So the invisible man in top section is only making 10 small bets an hour from the table, or 5 big bets an hour. This is beatable, and just shows you how badly the Cali casinos treat the low limit player.

Running out of time here… I was dying when I read about McGrupp’s bad beat at Foxwoods. Aces full beaten at Hollywood Park wins you the jackpot, which is between 10K and 20K. Not only did poor McGrupp lose the pot, he lost 20K in missing bad beat jackpot cash. But I hate jackpot games, since the probability of hitting it is something like 1 in 25,000, depending on the hand. Hear that McGrupp??? 1 in 25,000!

I’ve always been more on the “content” side of blogging than the “links” side. I know that blogging has traditionally been about linkage, but I have always tried to give my faithful readers more content and less linkage. But it’s Christmas, so I thought I’d give linkage a shot. Enjoy.

1. The greatest interview ever, in MP3 format. Just in case you missed it on Sunday night football this week.
2. My favorite sportswriter out there. Check out The Sports Guy for a different take on sports journalism.
3. Far and away the best NFL column available.

And last but not least, a bit of shameless self-promotion. Check out a snippet of my first novel, which I’m working on when I’m not developing software or playing poker. The title is “The Escape Artist”. Thanks to McGrupp for including it in this month’s edition of Truckin’, his blogzine. He doesn’t just take bad beats, he’s also a writer.

Merry Christmas!



The Hot Seat

Horrible day at work today. I'm not going into details, lets just say it was straight out of Dilbert. By the time I escaped my cube for lunch it was 2 o'clock, and I only had time to grab 2 pieces of pizza. I don't think I could handle the grind and pressure of playing poker professionally, but at least you have no bosses, and make your own schedule. On days like today I dream of mucking hands all day and winning my 2 big bets per hour.

So I don't feel up for playing poker, but I did read something last night that sparked some thought, and I figured was worth writing about. I played some $3-6, but it was pretty unevenful (losing to flushes on the river, or the ugly loss when some guy hits his kicker on the river to beat my top pair-top kicker), the usual Party stuff.

What I read last night was John Feeney (2+2's resident psychologist) on rushes and "independent trials". Feeney says rushes are non-existent, and uses the "coin flip" analogy to illustrate the inherent variance of every single hand. Here's Feeney's example, from "Inside the poker mind":

"Say you begin to toss a fair coin over and over. Beginning on the 458th toss you happen to have a streak of 17 tails in a row. Would you be willing to lay odds that it will come up a tail on the next toss?... To do so you would have to be convinced that the next toss is no longer 50 percent. You would have to believe that it has somehow risen to over 66 percent... As you looked at the coin sitting in your hand prior to the next toss, you would actually have to believe that some force was present making it over 66 percent likely to come up a tail."

Feeney's point is that each hand represents an independent random process, and we are equally likely to receive a good hand on the 459th deal as on the 1st deal. I believe that in the B&M world, this is a false assumption. I think we can safely say that the standard B&M shuffle does not generate a completely random distribution of the cards. It has been conjectured that it takes at least 6 standard shuffles (cut, riffle, join) to ensure that the next hand dealt represents a truly random distribution of the cards. The standard B&M deal usually is composed of mixing the cards on the table, followed by 2 standard shuffles. This means that hand t+1 has a reasonable dependence on the card distribution of hand t.

The best blackjack sharps are called "shuffle trackers," and are able to follow a "slug" or group of high cards throughout the deck. For example, if we notice that 6 aces have come out in 2 hands, we would identify that slug as a profitable one, and memorize its location when the dealer performs his shuffle. We are more likely to get a blackjack (or a winning hand) during this slug, and our expected return is much higher than it would be for a completely random deck.

The point here is that each deal does NOT represent a truly independent trial, but rather, is dependent on the previous deal. The deck (or rather the shuffling process) "has memory," and if we were dealt pocket Aces, we are slightly more likely to receive an Ace the next hand. Only slightly, but as positive EV gamblers, we know these percentages add up in the long run. Of course, the shuffled deck is very different than the last one, and we are still very unlikely to receive any of the cards we held in the previous hand. However, I or one of the players to my immediate left or right may have a significant probability of receiving one of the Aces that composed my pocket rockets.

What I'm getting at is that although I don't believe in "rushes" in the traditional sense, I do believe that a group of seats can get "hot", winning a significant number of pots in the short run. This means that some seats are "hotter" than others, since players in that group have a slightly higher probability of receiving a good starting hand than players not in the group.

How can we use this information? Well, it's not very useful, but I've gotten in the habit of moving seats when one side of the table becomes chip heavy. If three players are accumulating a lot of chips, and my side of the table is getting killed, I'll move to a "hot" seat if one of the players leaves. Besides that, it's pretty much useless. The B&M shuffle is more or less random, and we don't have a chance of using the previous hand to predict what one of the players next to us has, or of predicting what the turn or river will bring.

This bring us to online play-- if we discount the action flop theory, we would expect to see a truly random distribution of cards, and we should agree with Feeney-- each hand is completely independent of the previous one, and there are no "hot seats". This is one explanation of veteran B&M players screaming that online hands look nothing like they've seen in a B&M. They've never seen a true random shuffle before.

Alright I'm running out of steam here. I'd love to hear other people's opinions about rushes and hot seats... Not sure if this theory was worth anything, but it did make me miss the B&M. The visual input of seeing players with chip pyramids up to their chin, and seeing the eyes of the player on a rush is missing from the Party avatars.

Happy holidays to everyone... hopefully Santa will give us all a couple 25 big bet win sessions when everybody is full of turkey and alcohol...



Sunday Morning Comin Down

I spent Sunday morning fighting off a vicious hangover after losing badly in a drinking game last night. My wife and her friend teamed up and threw every drink my way, and we ended up polishing off a bottle of tequila to go with the horrible $5 bottle of margarita mix. Don't play drinking games with Margaritas.

Sportsbook review
--The Chiefs got blown away by the Vikes, who look tough when they come to play. I bet on them heavily early in the year, but they fell apart midseason. Saturday's game suggests they may be back... I think Tice is inconsistent-- seems like he gets his team ready for big games, but Minnesota plays sloppy against inferior opponents. I'm not sure what happened to the Chiefs-- Green looked AWFUL, and couldn't hit his receivers... Chavous and the Vikes secondary did the best job of single-covering Gonzalez I've ever seen, and Green couldn't get the ball to one of his favorite targets.

--The Pats came through last night (barely), and Belichek outsmarted Pennington, who threw an interception on the potential game winning last drive. It looked like Billy B picked up a tell on Pennington-- he kept his athletic D-line back, and had them jumping up to knock down Penny's passes rather than go for the sack. It resulted in several key 3rd down pass deflections, as well as McGinest's big INT to put the game away. Belichek = best NFL coach ever.

--Baltimore predictably trounced Cleveland, and Jamal Lewis had another 200 yard game. Unbelievable. Butch Davis has got to be one of the worst in the NFL. Why wouldn't you stack the line and force Wright to beat you rather than Jamal Lewis? Just baffling.

--So I came out 2-1 on my big bets, and then pissed my winnings away on the Colts game. I figured the Broncos were dead without Portis, and the Colts needed a win to clinch the division. I didn't get to see the game, so I will have to figure out what happened tomorrow morning.

Google sells out?
I had a very disheartening read through some anti-google literature today. Here's a snippet:

How bloggers game Google
Wise words from blog spammer Elwyn Jenkins, PhD
"There is an additional idea that you need to implement to get good results from Google and that is as you write each day, make sure you are using new words connected with your area of interest. I have a list of 158 words that must arrive in my text over a two month period -- these, if you like, are keywords that have to do with my area of interest. Make a list and make sure you get through all of them over a certain time. This will increase the number of people arriving at your site from Google who put in all manner of query strings." -- found on a pro-Google forum, 2003-05-02

I'd always looked at Google as the pinnacle of Internet technology. Because of Google, the new generation no longer has to flip through library card catalogs, and waste our time wandering through towers of books. There's a lot to be said for libraries, but the instant access to information through Google has saved me hours and hours, and I think I can safely say it has increased my amount of knowledge about life drastically (one could continue this line of thinking in arguing that Google has actually made me a better person). I spent a fair bit of time in graduate school researching Google, and I even proposed a tentative thesis dissertation on how to improve their PageRank algorithm.

So it was very sad to me to see that Google may be selling out. I'm not going to get into the details of their going IPO and all that, but this excellent article suggests that something is fishy in the Google ranking algorithm: Google Filter Fiasco. The implication is that Google has recently altered their algorithm to elevate larger commercial websites in the results ranking. The intention is to keep people from "cheating" the ranking algorithm (it's relatively easy to do, but hard to filter), but the article suggests that the real intention is to increase the visibility of major commercial sites so that these sites will increase click-throughs, etc. strengthening the IPO.

All that said, the methodology of the investigation is suspect, and it's not clear to me that "unfair" filtering is going on. I experimented with a search for "Poker Blog", and the new Google filter produced "better" results than the unfiltered results. My definition of "better" is of course subjective, but I found the filtered results to be much more conducive to finding "interesting" sites. So the jury's still out on whether or not the filtering is done for commercial reasons, or if Google is just developing ways to weed out "cheating" sites.

Personally, I'm not into GoogleBombing, or getting my site higher up in the ranks. I would love to have more readers, but I figure if I provide quality content, they will come. But then again, I'm not an "A-list" blogger, and not competing with other Bloggers.

Thanks to Iggy for turning me on to the Google literature. If you want links, Iggy's got em. Here's my contribution: check out this google mirror. I tried a search for "golb rekop" and got some interesting results.

Isn't this a poker blog?
Back to our regularly scheduled programming. I'm still feeling a little shell shocked from my losing battle with the river, so I didn't make it to the tables today. More and more I'm starting to think of online play as practice for B&M play, where you can see the whites of their eyes, and the players aren't as strong. Which means I'll probably drop down to $3-6 and get back to good old Hollywood Park. The man of Guinness got me thinking along these lines, and I thank him for it. Two Iggy links in the same post, somebody stop me!

I started reading "Inside the Poker Mind," a collection of essays by John Feeney from 2+2. Sklansky is listed as "strategy consultant". So far the book is superb, but I'm only a couple essays in. Just read an excellent quantitative analysis of the profitability of tell-reading. I'll post a full review when I finish the book, but so far, it seems like one of the best poker books I've read. Feeney is a psychologist, and takes a psychological approach to poker, which brings a different perspective than the other books I've read.

I had an excellent discussion with The Intrepid Card Player about implied odds, and the difference between tournaments and ring games. Someone has probably said this before, but I came up with an example that I think illustrates a decent way to understand the difference between ring games and tournament games. Sklansky sort of gets at this in his "Tournament Poker" book, but the guy doesn't know how to write. Anyway, here goes:

I offer you a game, and you get two choose between two payoff structures. You choose the structure before we begin, and cannot change until we have finished all of our betting.
The game: I think of a number from 1 to 10. You guess the number. If you are correct, you win, if not, you lose.
--Game R: For every dollar you bet, you receive $11 if you win. You can play the game a maximum of 100 times, and $1 is the maximum bet.
--Game T: For every dollar you bet, you receive $15 if you win. You can play the game 10 times.

So to compute the expected value of each game, we use the following formula:
EV = (probability of winning)*(payout) - (probability of losing)*(bet amount)
Thus, EV(Game R) = .1(11) - .9(1) = .2
So, we expect to win 20 cents for every dollar we bet in Game R.
EV(Game T) = .1(15) - .9(1) = .6
So we expect to win 60 cents for every dollar we bet in Game T.

Which game do you choose? Although Game T has a higher expected value, we clearly get more profit from choosing Game R, due to the low limit on the number of tries at Game T. Our expected profit from game R is (.2)*(100) = 20, while the expected profit from game T is (.6)*(10) = 6. Despite the fact that game T has 3 times the expected value of game R, it pays off less than 1/3 as much as game R.

Obviously Game T represents tournament poker, where R is ring games. The idea is that in tournaments, our number of bets is limited, so we want to save our bets for situations with heavy positive expectation (60% or better). This means that even though we might be getting the right implied odds to play a hand, it may be a negative EV play for the tournament as a whole. This is why small pairs are no good, even in a 10 handed pot for a single bet. You're 10 to 1 to hit your hand, but you can't bleed chips in a situation where you're a 10% favorite to win. This is why you need to stick to hands with Reverse Implied odds in tourneys, and avoid suited connectors and small pairs. This holds especially for Party SNGs, where your measly 800 chips only give you a couple shots to increase your stack size. Sure, sometimes these hands are good to play (e.g. if you have a big stack), but usually you will end up losing chips with them. We've all heard the discussion of folding pocket Aces when you are chip leader and there are 2 short stacks fighting for second. The idea is that even though a given hand might have a positive expectation, it has negative EV when one looks at the play as part of the entire tournament gamble.

Whew. I hope no one fell asleep during that theory rant.

The Poker Blogiverse Expands
I am continually amazed at the quality of Poker blogging out there. I've added Mean Gene to the list of Blog Brothers, and highly recommend his site. He uses words like "schadenfreude" to describe poker, so you know there's somethin good goin on there.

Another poker player with a bigger vocabulary than mine has started a blog: Anisotropy. Check out Sean's blog and avoid him at the tables...

Some great blogging by a guy who (sometimes) makes more money on the tables than he does at his job: Poker Odyssey.

Keep up all the great blogging folks, and much thanks for reading. And when it's checked to you when the runner-runner four flush hits, don't waste a bet!



"Greatness is defined by how one responds to adversity"

This was a quote hammered into me by my college football coach. And I've faced some poker adversity in my last couple sessions. I had my worst 2 consecutive sessions ever:
-$729 on 173 hands!!! On average, thats a $4 loss per hands. Almost a small bet every hand. WOW. These losses came on the $5-10 tables, and although I was playing slightly tilted, the majority of the losses were just bad luck.

If I get another turn-the-nuts-and-cap-the-turn-but-the-board-pairs-on-the-river hand I'm gonna have to hack the party servers and wreak havoc. The poker gods punished me brutally for trying to steal the blinds with ATo. Check out the hand:

***** Hand History for Game 291330040 *****
5/10 TEXASHTGAMETABLE (LIMIT) - FRI DEC 19 20:44:50 EST 2003
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to hdouble [ Ad, Tc ]
nemisisone folds.
ddosu folds.
CrazyN8 folds.
ngcngc folds.
hdouble raises (10) to 10
dsmith3622 calls (5)
squidpickle calls (5)
Hellmaker calls (10)
Boston2Vegas calls (8)
adjayscent calls (5)
** Dealing Flop ** : [ 3d, Jc, Kh ]
Boston2Vegas bets (5)
adjayscent folds.
hdouble calls (5)
dsmith3622 calls (5)
squidpickle calls (5)
Hellmaker calls (5)

(I call with the gutshot draw and one overcard. Not a bad play in my book, as long as I know that no one behind me will reraise.)

** Dealing Turn ** : [ Qs ]
Boston2Vegas bets (10)
hdouble raises (20) to 20
dsmith3622 calls (20)
squidpickle folds.
Hellmaker folds.
Boston2Vegas raises (20) to 30
hdouble raises (20) to 40
dsmith3622 calls (20)
Boston2Vegas calls (10)

(I hit my gutshot and hold the nut straight. I can tell from the reraise that the guy has either a set or we're going to split the pot. I make a note to offer the poker gods a virgin sacrifice for allowing me to hit my 11:1 draw.)

** Dealing River ** : [ Qh ]
Boston2Vegas bets (10)
hdouble calls (10)
dsmith3622 calls (10)

(The board pairs-- I've seen this before. I curse the poker gods and tell the virgin to go back to school.)

** Summary **
Main Pot: $232 | Rake: $3
Board: [ 3d Jc Kh Qs Qh ]

hdouble balance $133, lost $65 [ Ad Tc ] [ a straight, ten to ace -- Ad,Kh,Qs,Jc,Tc ]
dsmith3622 balance $135, lost $65 [ Qc 9d ] [ three of a kind, queens -- Kh,Qc,Qs,Qh,Jc ]

Boston2Vegas balance $277, bet $65, collected $232, net +$167 [ Jd Jh ] [ a full house, Jacks full of queens -- Qs,Qh,Jd,Jh,Jc ]

So, that was a nice $232 pot down the drain. Enough complaining. Needless to say, it sucks losing a huge chunk of your bankroll in 2 sessions, and I was pretty down. But I know I didn't play too badly, and was just unlucky. Which is the tough thing about poker-- playing perfect poker often costs you more than playing badly. I got my money in when I knew I had the best hand... I knew I was favored-- the guy with the set has a 23% chance of the board pairing, so I like my odds here. So capping the turn is the right move. But I paid for making the right move.

I think the tough thing is to walk away, analyze what you did, and say "Ok, I got unlucky. I'm a good player, and in the long run, I will win." This is true in all walks of life... I made plenty of mistakes on the football field, but I also did things that not many players could do. If you have faith in yourself as a player, these things will roll off your back and you'll recover. If you let them affect your confidence, you will play poorly.

So I dragged myself back to the tables, and decided to take a shot at a $50 SNG. Sadly, even a first place finish would get me back less than 1/3 of my losses. Party now gives you 1000 chips to start at the $50 buy in or higher, so you have a tiny bit more room to work with. There were some real tourney players here... I don't think I saw an all in until the blinds were up to 100/200, and people weren't playing junk hands. I knew I'd have to play well and catch a few hands to win this thing.

I raked in a 170 chip pot on the first hand when a cautious table gave me a King on the river to go with my KQo. I got my muck on for a while until I picked up KJo in the big blind. The blinds were at 200 here, and I called the button's 200 chip steal-raise after SB folds. Flop is Qd Jd 9h, and I sense danger, but have to test the steal-raise, so I bet out 400 more. Button calls, and I feel like I'm in trouble. Turn is 3h, and I check. He bets out 900, and I go into the tank. I've seen this guy try to steal, but he's been pretty solid... could he have AQ? KQ? My intuition tells me he's got a queen, and I throw away my second pair. He shows me AQo (why did he show?) and I'm happy about my laydown, but I'm down to 865 chips.

Sidebar: I just discovered an awesome new feature on PokerTracker! I downloaded the new version last week, and in reviewing the tourney, I saw a button that said "Playback this hand". Click on it, and you get a graphical replay of the hand, betting and checking included! I'm really impressed with PokerTracker. Anyway, the way you find this screen is to select a session from the session note/game notes tab. Double click it. Then go to the "game notes" tab. Double click on a hand, and a window will come up displaying the hand history for that hand, but also a new button labeled "Playback this hand". Click it, and you get to the hand replayer function. You can replay the entire tournament, or just a single hand. The cool thing is, if someone wants you to analyze their play, they can just send you the hand history file, and you can replay it in the Pokertracker playback feature. Gotta tip my hat to the guys (actually I think it's just one guy) at PT.

Back to the tourney. The blinds are up to 300/600 and I've got 1100 on the SB. Folded to me, and I go all in with A9o. BB calls the extra 500, and here we go...
board comes 3 2 9 K 3... and I'm not happy, but BB has Q8s and I double up. I try to steal the blinds with K9o one off the button, as this table has been super tight. Oops... SB calls all-in, and the board is 8 A 7 3 T. I figure I've lost half my chips, but SB shows QJs!!! K high holds up! We're down to 3 players and now we've all got the same size stacks. The next hand I'm the BB and reraise a limper (I almost never reraise on the BB but felt that this was the right play here) with KJo. He calls, and the flop is K J 9, and it's all in time. He calls, and my 2 pair holds up over his K4o. Heads up with a big chip lead!

I've got 7395 chips to the other guys 2605, and I know that the blinds are so big (300) that I can knock him out with a couple good hands. I steal a couple hands, but he wins his all-in bet of 1K chips when his Q8o pairs up and beats my K6s.

The blinds go up to 500, and he's up to 3260, with me at 6740. I get 65s in the BB, and he just calls. Flop is 7h 5c 8h and I like my hand... a pair with the open straight draw, so I bet 800 and he calls. The turn is a Kd, and the guy has been playing tight, so I try to win the pot right there with a 1K bet. He comes over the top all in for 2K, and I go deep into the tank.

I figure he must have the king, but I've got some outs here. I figure I've got 13 outs--the 2 5s, 3 6s, and the 8 straight fillers. So the odds are against me, but the pot is so big at this point I think I have to call. I barely make the call before time runs out, and the river is... a 9!!! Hdouble wins! Poor guy had K7, so I really only had 10 outs. The poker gods were kind. But even if I lost this pot, I still had 3500 chips to work with.

It felt good to win, especially after getting hammered for the past week. Gotta get a little win streak going, especially since Moss and Culpepper have pocketed my $100 bet with a 21-0 lead at halftime. I was right about one of these two things: "Chiefs specials make the difference in this game, even though Moss will have a huge game." It's up to the Pats and Ravens, unless the Chiefs have an unbelievable 2nd half...

Hopefully I'll get to dive into the Saturday night fish pond later on, and get some of those losses back... I watched The Intrepid Card Player get rivered to go out 4rth in a $10 SNG. But I guess that's poker... and watch out for McGrupp, he's getting ready to jump into the Party frenzy after Christmas. He's building a photo book of poker bloggers... I'm curious how many players will reveal their faces and risk losing some B&M profits.

pic of the day:
Ghost story



NFL Week 16: Everything must go!

Well, the linemakers are off this weekend, which means yours truly is puttin the cash on the table. I feel pretty good about these picks. I am 80% confident that I'll win at least 2 of these games. Also, the games are Saturday! So you have a chance to Parlay if you win tomorrow...

Game 1: Ride the lightning
NE (-3) at NJ
I said I'd ride Billy Belichek all the way to the playoffs, and what better opportunity to bet on the Pats than this week in their matchup with the hapless Jets. The Pats are only giving away 3 here, but all the Jets have got is Curtis Martin, and the Pats have effectively stopped the run all year. They're also playing for homefield advantage in the playoffs, whereas the Jets have nothing to gain from this game. On the negative side, Pennington was one of the few QBs to figure out Belichek's defensive scheme last year, and punished the Pats in a big game. But Chad P doesn't have the horses this year. Pats win by at least a TD.

Game 2: Special teams and turf
KC (-3) at Minn
This game should be a high scoring shootout... two very weak defenses against high powered offense. I think these teams are more or less evenly matched, except that KC's special teams are far better than Minn (Vermeil was the first NFL special teams coach ever!) and I think Vermeil is a much better coach than Tice. Look for Dante Hall to have a couple big returns on the turf. Chiefs specials make the difference in this game, even though Moss will have a huge game.

Game 3: Fade the Browns
Baltimore (-3) at Cleveland
Baltimore needs this game, and Billick has been stressing that the Ravens need to finish strong. Cleveland is a horrible team, and has nothing to gain from this game. I will bet against Couch/Holcombe any day. Ray Lewis is the best defensive player in the league, and probably deserves MVP this year. Jamal Lewis went for almost 300 early in the season against the Brownies... that won't happen, but he'll get plenty of yards rolling over the horrible Cleveland front 7.

There are two games that currently aren't showing a line--
1. Denver at Indy
If Portis plays and the spread is less than 7, Indy is money here. With a sprained knee and ankle, Portis will lose his most valuable skill-- explosiveness. The Broncs have no offense without Portis, and Indy should demolish them.

2. Tenn at Houston
Tennessee's starting QB for this game is Jason Gesser, an undrafted free agent from Washington State. QB is mostly mental, and the kid might be alright, but the odds are against him.

Boy Genius drops some knowledge in his Lions report card. The guy should be a scout. BG, Detroit -10 at Carolina? I think the under (37) could be a decent bet in this game...

Sweat the action!

I gotta give props to the poker penguin... I think we may be long lost brothers... he's working on a novel, has bad knees (I've had 2 ACL surgeries), and blogs profusely. Check out this gem from the Penguin:

"It was a dark and stormy night at the Last Chance Saloon. The No Limit Holdem game had been going on for a while now and everyone was getting fed up with the angle shooting guy with the big moustache. So, when another towel headed guy put a monster of a bad beat on the simple looking cowboy, trouble was in the air.

Sure enough, a couple hands later, the cowboy makes a decent sized raise to try to steal Saddam's blinds. Saddam hated this, so he started talking about how he had rockets in the hole and was going to take great pleasure in taking the cowboy down a peg or two.

Well, sure enough Saddam came right back at the cowboy with an allin re-raise. Problem was, all he had was 72o and the cowboy knew this. After Saddam takes a beating, he slopes off to a 1-2 game threatening to build his stack up and have another shot at the cowboy. He also threw in some choice words about the cowboy's daddy.

"Ain't nobody insults ma Pa" the cowboy drawled. Dammed if he and his pardner English Tony didn't leave the game too and chase him right down to that 1-2 game. But Saddam, he turned into a total calling station. Wouldn't fold anything, wouldn't raise anything, just sat there behind his dwindling pile of chips calling away. Sure enough, his chips eventually disappeared.

The moral of that story folks is that if you're going to piss off a cowboy who has a crapload of chips, and the only rockets in the game, you better pray."


Santa, I want a big bankroll

It has been one of those non-poker weeks. I haven't even had a chance to avenge the $300 whoopin I took earlier in the week. Work has been rough this week-- I'm launching my application, which means we have to move all the code over from the development server to the server that runs the public website. This is the bad part of programming... no creative thought, just meticulous grooming of code, making sure the semicolons are in the right place, etc.

Sample of annoying conversation with boss:
(I send out an email to the group, saying that the code is being moved over and is ready to launch. I have spent about 6 weeks coding this up, and it has passed testing and is ready to go. My boss approved it about 3 weeks ago)
boss: (comes up to my cube) "Can you bring up the app?"
me: (annoyed feeling building in stomach) "Sure"
boss: "Ok, see this color here? Can we make that blue? Can we add some more space here? Can we change this icon?"
me: (annoyed feeling threatening to destroy me) "Ahhh... we discussed this earlier... the customer really liked the color and icons the way they are... it's going live soon..."
boss: "Yeah that's true. Maybe you could do it as an enhancement, after everything's all done."
me: (trying not to smash monitor) "Sure. Just put in an enhancement request."

Apparently I live in a Dilbert comic strip these days. My dream: a 1 year freeze out with the manager's salaries on the table, we play until somebody takes all the cash. I picture myself strolling into work, pulling up a chair, and check raising until 5 pm. I'm not sure how one becomes a manager, but some soul-selling has got to be involved. Most of these people know nothing and do less.

Back to poker: I did play 3 3-player NL sit and gos last night... at home with the wife and a buddy. Things do not bode well for the all-blogger SNG for me-- after I won the first tourney, my wife beat the pants off of me and took all of my chips in the next 2 games. Which is a bit sad, since she's played poker maybe 20 times or so. But she is actually tough to play against, because she plays with a strange combination of bluffing and calling. She'll always think I'm bluffing and call me down with stuff like King high, which forces me to bet if I have anything. And if she does have a hand, she won't bet heavy, so I never really know if I should value bet or fold. To top it off, she has the worst poker face ever, but I can't differentiate between the "I'm smiling because I'm bluffing" or "I'm smiling because I have a monster" face.

The first tourney went as it should... I stole pots and value bet my hands, and won our 3 player tourney pretty easily. But the second one didn't quite work that way. She demolished my buddy's stack (uhh that didn't sound too good) when she caught the 4rth Ace (!!!) on the turn. 4 Aces in a 3-player game. On video poker that hand pays off 2 grand on some machines. She knocked me out on the next hand when I went all in with second pair, thinking she had nothing. She had the Queen for top pair, and I was out. The next game was a short one for me, as I went all in with AQ and she called with 55, and her pair held up.

This was one of the few times that losing hasn't bothered me much. I was proud of her and the way she played, and also somewhat impressed.

Bankroll news: in addition to her tournament domination, the wife landed a job at the swank Beverly Hills Hotel, a big step up from her current place... which means I might actually be able to put enough money towards a real poker bankroll, and sit in the $15-30 every once in a while. We'll see...

All this Christmas stuff has kept me off the tables. Hopefully I will get a chance to play over the weekend, as tonight is the department Christmas party, so there will be no poker. It's 7:30 Pacific time, and I was debating hopping on the tables right now (8,000 players logged on!) for an hour before work, but the quality of the players has to be much better now, so I'll wait. I wish someone could
(1) come up with a measure to quantify the looseness of a game (not "avg. pot size")
(2) get an average number for each hour of the day

I think it's possible that there are a lot of calling stations playing during the morning hours-- retired people not taking the game too seriously, etc. Or perhaps some of the Eastern European players play looser on their Friday night, so now would be a good time to play.

Unfortunately I had to wipe out all the old comments to get the new comment tool (the old one kept dying), but hopefully this one will work better.

Good luck to everybody... Friday night is fish night!

Stay tuned... football picks to come...

Pic of the day:
Fiber optic full house?



When your bankroll gets kicked in the nuts

Dropped $300 in about 45 minutes of $5-10 shorthanded Party play last night. Just painful. These two clowns at my table were catching EVERYTHING. My top pair, good kicker was wiped out about 10 different hands as I watched my stack help build theirs. Grubby says that he gets competitive and won't quit until he gets his money back from the lucky opponent. I definitely played this way last night, but these guys were catching everything. Not fun.

I was tired and I think you need to have energy to get revenge, so I hopped on a $15-30 table, resolving to play until I won or lost 1 big pot. I ended up playing 3 orbits... and losing $5. A bit sad that I don't even get much adrenaline anymore, even at teh $15-30 level. I think knowing the odds makes gambling somewhat less exciting. Anyway, I only played 4 of the 30 hands I think... I won 2 pots with semi-bluffs... I called a blind-steal raise (SB raised my BB) with Q9o and checked through the flop. The turn gave me a 4 straight, and I bet out and was called. The river was a rag, and I bet-- I was psyched when he folded, but I collected only 2.5 big bets ($75) on this hand. The guy seemed like a decent player, which meant that my river bluff had a decent chance of succeeding. Pretty tough to call there with Ace high...

Anyway, on my final hand I get TT UTG. I raise to "limit the field" (see Iggy's blog for more on this), and it actually works... a short stack in middle position reraises, however, which knocks out everybody else. He's got $20 left in front of him, so I raise it up to roll the dice against whatever hand he has. I want to be all in since he's going to bet the flop anyway. He puts his last $5 in on the flop, and I call... the flop has a K, and I'm putting him on AK, but when another K comes on the turn I like my chances. But no help to my tens, and sure enough he's got AK suited. Well, I had a slight advantage preflop, but I'll take this beat... had I won that hand I would have been up $130 or so on the table, but instead ended up down $5. Ah well.

Some good Blogging goin on out there. Finally got to the infamous Decker's site. Lots of material here, Decker doesn't miss a day. Also, the poker penguin offers some great theory on multi-table tournaments. The Fat Guy offers diatribes on everything under the sun, even Robbie Fulks.

So it looks like this Blogger poker game is gaining some momentum... it looks like everybody wants to play a NL SNG (damn, I voted for limit ring game!), so I guess I'll have to reread my Doyle. I've put up a new poll, please vote!

Limit Ring 1
NL Ring 1
Limit SNG 1

Check out McGrupp's meeting with Phil Hellmuth in Vegas. Here's my tale of my only brush with poker royalty:

My buddy and I went to the Bicycle casino in LA to see the WPT event being held there a couple months ago. We got there about an hour after the tourney started, and the seats were all taken, so we were stuck watching on closed circuit TV in the room adjacent to the WPT set. Anyway, after about an hour this old floorman comes by, and we start chit-chattin. He says that they're playing 3,000-6,000 Hold 'Em out there on the floor. These numbers are staggering, and we immediately take off to see who the hell could be playing in a game with stakes this high.

So we take a stroll out there, and finally come to the "big" table. There are about 2 people watching, and as we get closer, I recognize Jennifer Harman. "Wow, must be a big game" I was thinking, when I saw Johnny Chan sitting across from her. My eyes continued around the table, finally landing on a Jabba-the-hut like presence in seat 3. Yep, big old Doyle, wearing a Paradise poker hat. What a monster table. I think I recognized Mickey Appleman in seat 1. As I watched them play their HORSE game, I wondered why anyone would play at this table. One of the guys I didn't recognize must have been a sucker... otherwise it wouldn't make sense. 5 minutes later Gus Hansen takes the empty seat. WOW. We stood their in awe for a couple minutes, until half the table got up to take a smoke break. Doyle didn't move though, and I felt like I had to say something to the legend.

"Doyle, you scared em off" was the only thing I could come up with. He smiled and nodded his head. Oh well.

More recent celeb sightings:
1. Ben Stein at lunch yesterday in Beverly Hills. Work lunch with the marketing guys, they took us to some fancy place that served "filet mignon tacos". I got the cheeseburger. I had to resist the temptation to go up to him and say "I want to win your money!".
2. Hank Azaria walking out of the Beverly Center movies on Saturday while I was walking in. 2 minutes after that, I saw a preview for a movie he was in.

Pic of the day:
An eyeful



Drunken Master and Football 101

WILD night at party. I had a rockin and rollin 11 hour total marathon session (2 tables, so 5.5 hours realtime). I feel like a real poker player. I have the suspicion that this blog entry will suck, as I think beer number 7 has just gone down the hatch. I feel like Jackie Chan in Drunken Master. For anyone that hasn't seen it, our hero is a karate master who can only fight optimally after taking in a good amount of alcohol. The catch is, if he drinks too much, then he loses his skills. So the trick is to drink just the right amount (cool idea, no?).

Anyway, although poker tracker doesn't keep track of number of beers ingested, I found that I was "in the zone" after about 4 beers. Making great calls, stealing pots, everything. I dominated during this period, and built up a nice stack for myself... but after that it started going downhill... 5 or 6 beers saw me getting sucked out on, and making crying calls at the river... the drunken master had clearly had a little too much.

Anyway, I ended up winning a whopping $435 on one table, and losing $300 at the other table. What the hell? I looked through the logs and saw I got rivered 4 or 5 times to lose big pots on the losing table, and was able to catch a couple rivers at the winning table. I think Abdul's quote is, "at the turn of a card, a dominating hand can become dominating." Too bad I didn't cash out at beer number 4, as I was up $550 on the lucky table. I guess I can't complain.

I managed to go 7-6 for my NFL bets, netting me a huge win of $3.00 after the juice. I didn't like the spreads this week, but kicked myself for not betting the house on Dallas. Here we have 2 junk teams... one with an excellent coach, one with a terrible coach. We've got a second string QB who wasn't even on a practice squad a couple months ago... and a tough Dallas defense. Dallas beats up on bad teams, because they play disciplined, smash mouth football, and let the other team make mistakes. Washington is a team with no strengths, and got lucky when Ramsey was hot at the beginning of the season. And Dallas was giving away a single point! I don't know how I missed this one.

Warning! Football rant following... skip ahead if you don't like football.

It's tough to explain how important coaching is in the modern NFL to someone who's never played football before. The complexity of the offensive systems is really amazing. On any given play, each player has a series of reads on the defense:
1. Pre-snap read: what defense are they playing? zone? man?
2. Pre-snap play read: for every play that's called, there is a different set of reads that have been memorized, based on the read in 1.
3. Post-snap read: we know what are route/block is, but if the defense does something that counters our expectation, we have to adjust.

Here's an example from my days of playing Tight End:
Coach calls: Kinger 685 F-flare
Explanation: Kinger means I backfield, tight end right. 685 are the pass patterns-- first receiver runs a 6 (an in), second receiver (me in this case) runs a post, and the third receiver runs a 5 (an out). F-flare means the fullback runs a flare.

1. Presnap read: I line up and read the defense. I check the safeties... if there are two safeties equally deep, I know they are in a cover 2 zone, meaning that they divide the deep half of the field in two. If there is one safety in the middle, then they are in cover 3, meaning one safety takes the middle, and the two corners take the deep thirds. Let's say in this case they are in cover 2.

2. Presnap play read: I know that in a cover 2, my post route goes right between the safeties, so I am the primary receiver. In a cover 3, my job is to make the Deep safety run with me, so either the back or one of the receivers comes open. Since they're in cover 2, I expect the ball.

3. Postsnap read: I release inside the defensive end, and make a move to get past the linebacker. I look at the safeties, and see that it was a disguised cover 3, because there is a single safety in the middle of the field. So my job is to run straight at the safety and make him cover me. I break on my post, and run by the safety.

This is the key moment of the play. The QB's read is to check down the receivers based on the coverage. If he did not see the disguised cover 2, he will look to hit me in the middle of the field. If he sees it, then he will look at the other 2 receivers, and if covered, then to the fullback. This is where the "system" ends, and the quarterback's skill begins. The quarterback can choose to "disobey" the system that the coach has installed... it's kind of like calling when the pot odds don't quite justify it. In this case, the system says "if all 3 receivers are covered, dump it to the fullback for a short gain, or throw it away". But if the QB sees that I have ran past the safety, he can go for the home run, and risk interception or an incomplete pass.

Whew. Ok, the point of that was that NFL football is incredibly complex. Every single play has a different set of complex reads for all 11 players. In this way, it's a lot like poker. But it also shows you the importance of coaching. A team is really only as good as the "system" that its run by. Watch Belichek's team or Parcells'. These teams know their system well, and it works. They don't gamble much, and their offenses are designed to take what the defense gives them-- no more, no less. They are the "grinders" of the NFL, where teams like the Vikings might be more of the "gambOOling" type-- watch how many home run balls they throw to Moss in double coverage.

Which brings us to the Philly (+3) at Miami game tomorrow night. Andy Reid: great system. Dave Wannstedt: horrible system. But I can't figure Miami out... Ricky is a good back, and their defense is tough all the way through, but they just don't seem to have much heart. Philly baffles me as well, but I think they are pretty much solid.

Saddam captured: The first thing I thought of when I heard this was a story I wrote when I was 12 or 13. It was this long, rambling war story about a marine who fought through all the iraqis and got Saddam. It must have been during the first gulf war. I read the headlines today with no real surprise, awe, or joy, although I was surprised when I found out that no shots were fired. When I thought about my story, it was strange to think how much has happened since then. In some sense, I've been anticipating this event for over 13 years, if that original story ever meant anything. Maybe the joy was dampened by all the death required to accomplish the mission...

Ok, if you made it this far, congratulations, I thank you! I think I'm sobering up now, so I guess it's time for another beer. I hope nobody drowned in the river...



The Great Blogger Hold 'Em Experiment

Following up on Iggy's idea to have an all-blogger table ("One of these days we'll need to get a private table and have a poker bloggers only game"), I've created my first poll (see right). Boy Genius says he's in. So's that's 3 to start. Who else is in? I nominate Iggy to set up the table (he's got all the hookups and his Blog has been around the longest), but I believe it's pretty easy to set up a private table on Party. I think this table would have -EV, but for the trash-talking rights it would be worth it. Personally I don't want to take on any of my fellow bloggers for high stakes, and because everyone should be able to play, it is probably best to have it be a microlimit game (or small buy in tourney). Place your vote!

Just finished a 2 hour session play 2 $5-10 tables. My poker endurance really sucks. I started getting distracted towards the end, but managed to stay on my "A" game. I can sit in a B&M for 8 hours, but I guess sitting behind the computer screen makes me feel like I'm at work, so I get the itch to run away. Anyway, I fought my way to a $54 win (not enough to cover my stud losses this morning, but hey!) after battling the maniacs. One of these tables was probably the best $5-10 table I'd ever seen, and I ended up pullin in $156 on this table. So what happened on the other?

Unlucky Ladies. Pokertracker says I was dealt QQ 5 times (5 times!), and my total loss for all 5 hands was $151. Ouch. Most of this came when my overpair was overpaired by KK, and I played it hard and lost $60 to some punk with KK. Oh well. The ladies went 1 for 5 and did not help my winnings very much. Wait, it gets better--
I flop my set of queens with 3 players in the pot for 3 bets, and manage to cap it when the flop is Qs 8c Ts. Re-raiser bets the turn, which is 3h, and I raise, and we lose the third guy. I make sure I have the nuts here, and get ready for the river, which is... take a guess? Of course, the 5s. I check and call, and I'm completely shocked when the raiser turns over... A8s! Big surprise. I hate when people reraise on the come and hit their card on the river. It ain't right poker gods, ya hear me! So that was $65 more down the drain.

In sad news, I just took a disheartening surf through RGP. Spam, spam, spam... "Hookers in Vegas," "I want sex," etc. etc. A couple months ago this stuff didn't dominate, but it's getting out of hand. I think I may have learned more from RGP than any book, and there are some great posts in the archives. Sad to see such a great forum for poker knowledge slowly get polluted. It would be cool if someone would create some sort of great posts Archive as a separate site... you could probably just run a script that takes in a list of names of prominent posters (Abdul, Howard L, etc.) and grabs all those threads and weeds out the trash. But I'm not writing the code...

Movie night tonight: gonna see the Farrelly brothers new movie, "Stuck on You". Can't wait to see our boy from Rounders as a siamese twin... hate to miss out on the Party action though. Good luck to everybody out there!


I don't want no stud

After reading a Russ G. post claiming that Hold 'Em is the worst game for a pro to play, since it requires the least skill to play, I decided to try my hand at stud. Russ seems like a horrible person, but he is a microcosm of RGP-- if you sort through enough of his crap, eventually you'll find something interesting. I just finished Yardley's book, which advocates super-tight play, and discusses all the old school forms of poker (no Hold Em). He gives a few simple rules for starting hands, and I figured I'd give it a shot. I've played some $1-2 stud, and it does seem that less suckouts happen here, since there are no community cards. You also have to pay attention to other players up cards, giving someone with memory an advantage.

Of course, all the $1-2 tables were full, so I had to bump up to $3-6.

I started out pretty well, and was quickly up $50. The pots in stud can get pretty big relative to hold em, since there are 5 rounds of betting. But after I missed my share of 4-straights and 4-flushes, I ended up cashing out down $80. Much to learn. What's worse, I discovered that PokerTracker doesn't handle stud games! Oh well.

In Hold 'Em news, I finally got back to winning last night. $160 in 35 minutes on 2 tables! Felt good. I think I earned most of it too.
--$92 win when my pocket tens held up to a board of Jh 3s 2s 5h As. I bet them the whole way, and was able to chase a couple players out, and managed to checkraise on the turn a guy with pocket 8s. Finally I made a good read on someone.
--$54 with QQ
--$57 when my pocket sevens flopped a set

Nothing too exciting. But I finally was able to make some decent calls with my non-top pair hands, and that made the difference in the short session. The wife came home, so I cut the session off, pocketing 16 BB.

It had been a while since I'd played any SNG, so I thought I was due for a $30 NL tourney. I've done pretty well at these, and really liked them when I was learning. But the EV here is so low-- it's not too hard to get 3rd, but for 1 hour of play and a $30 win, the return is pretty weak. I checked pokertracker, and it had me at a ridiculous win rate:
10 $30 tourneys, with a net amount of $347 (3 firsts, 2 2nds, and a 3rd). There is a bias here, since I didn't request hand histories for a bunch of the losses I've taken, and it doesn't include all the $6 SNGs I played when I was getting started. I'd say I'm probably about even overall... I play very tight until the blinds go up to 50/100, when I start making moves and trying to pick up chips.

The tourney started out in the usual fashion, with 4 or 5 limit limpers playing every pot when the blinds are low. After mucking for a while, I picked up 75o in the BB, and called 15 after 3 players limped in. I'll take the implied odds... Beautiful flop-- 7 7 9 with 2 diamonds. I bet out 250 (too much? but I'm afraid of the flush) and get one caller. The turn is... a 7!!! I pee in my pants and check it, hoping that the river is another diamond... and it is!!! All-in time... and he calls! He shows the ATd, and my quads draw oohs and ahhs from the peanut gallery. A lesson in implied odds.

Anyway, that gave me a lot of chips to work with, and I waited it out while the fireworks went off around me. Actually the table was pretty tight, and it ended up being one of the longest SNGs I'd ever played. I made some steals, and survived to make the final 3, with the chip count like this:
hdouble: 3280
seat 2: 3200
seat 8: 1320

Seat 8 was very tight, and I was able to steal liberally from him, but I didn't have much of a read on the other guy. On the SB I got A9o, and figure I could steal seat 8s BB (button folded) with an all-in. But he calls, and says "Watch out now", and his pocket rockets hold up. Ok, he got me, but I still like this play. So I'm down to 2160, but I like my chances. Then comes this hand:
I'm in the BB (which is 400 at this point), seat 2 is on the button. Seat 2 calls, which confuses me, because he seems to be tight and more or less solid, so I question the limp. Seat 8 calls from SB, and I see AJs on my BB. I figure my hand has got to be best, and I have a chance to pick up 800 chips. I think for a second and go all-in, and the board does not help... I know I'm beat, and to rub salt in the wound, Seat 8 turns over... AA! Bullets, twice in 3 hands. Ouch.

Anyway, I think I played this hand poorly. I should have taken the Hellmuth approach... I knew I could outplay the other 2 players, so all-in bets should be used sparingly. The tight player limp should have rang the warning bells, and I should have waited it out a few hands, even though the blinds were up to 400. Some of you readers would have played this better than me... advice???

Check out the wild and wide-ranging Blog of
Boy Genius (thanks Iggy).

If you want to hear some new music, check out this track from my best friends band (yours truly on lead guitar):
I hate you

Well Blogger doesn't allow images, but if anybody's interested... HDouble... revealed!

Pic of the day:
Rudolph sighting



Where are they coming from?

A lot of my graduate research was spent on web-log analysis, so I still have a little place in my heart for web logs. I got a few laughs seeing how visitors found their way to this page, at least how they got here from search engines. So below is a list of my favorite searches that resulted in the user actually visiting this page...

1. Google: holcomb's baseball suckers
2. Dogpile: texas holdem percentage hand strength
3. (my favorite) Google: brad pitt left college 4rth year
4. Google: poker and movie rounders and "the wheel"
5. Google: "smaller the stakes"
6. Google: "poker tracker" crack

Great stuff.

No real football picks this week-- I don't usually play games with big spreads, and all of them are big this week. However, here's my picks for every game, although I think it's mostly a crapshoot this weekend.

(Home teams in Caps)
Minnesota (+3) over CHICAGO
CINCY (-2.5) over San Fran
INDY (-7.5) over Atlanta
Detroit (+14) over KANSAS CITY
NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Jacksonville
NY JETS (-3) over Pittsburgh
ST. LOUIS (-6.5) over SEATTLE
TAMPA (-6) over Houston
Buffalo (+6.5) over TENNESSEE
DENVER (-10.5) over Cleveland
Baltimore (-6.5) over OAKLAND
Dallas (PK) over WASHINGTON
Carolina (-6.5) over ARIZONA
Green Bay (-5) over SAN DIEGO
NEW ORLEANS (-7) over NY Giants
Philly (+2) over MIAMI

Season Record: 29-21-2
Last Week: 3-2 (2 unit win on Monday night)

Can't wait to get on the tables tonight... Friday night is Party night on Party!



Shorthanded and shortchanged

After finding EVERY $5-10 ring game and every $5-10 shorthanded table full, I was forced to find a $3-6 game. Party showed almost 22,000 Players logged on (I'm guessing this includes fake money players, which I think are mostly bots), and even the $3-6 tables were full. I finally sat at a $3-6 table with 3 players, and figured this was the only game I'd get. The players were hyper aggressive, frequently capping on the flop or turn. I figured this would be some easy money...

1 hour later, I was down $200. Fortunately, Party's hand history emailer does not seem to be working, so I don't have to see the carnage. I didn't play well, but I didn't play poorly either. I lost a couple big pots when my top pair was beaten by someone catching their 2nd pair on the river, and I just wasn't catching cards. After quickly dropping $100, I switched to a nearly identical 4 player $3-6 table.

These tables were money... 3 of the 4 players frequently going to the river... everything you could ask for. I just wasn't catching, and making too many bad calls with 2nd pair.

In brighter news, I discovered Felicia Lee's Yahoo Journal (note: I had to change my link section title to Blog Brothers AND SISTER!), and read some great journal entries. Check out "The Bellagio Experiment" and "The Death of a Poker Player," some really cool stuff going on. Felicia made me realize how much I missed playing live, as she plays exclusively in the good old B&Ms in Las Vegas. Most of my fellow Bloggers write exclusively about online play, and I missed getting sucked out on by runner-runner flushes at Hollywood Park.

I also heard from Chris Halverson, whose non-poker-only blog offers some interesting thoughts on Stanley Kubrick, blogger syndication, and even NASCAR. I'm not a NASCAR fan, but Chris knows his whiskey as well as Java, so he's good in my book...

Playing 2 tables is great, and helps us get to the long run faster, but we are missing out on one of the biggest aspects of the game-- the eye to eye combat involved in reading people. The rake at HP is deadly, but maybe it's time I went back to face the fish. Or maybe I'm just steaming after a bad night.

That 1 hour session beat me up pretty good, and I feel like I'm at a loss for words. Hopefully I can sleep it off and come back with a good session tomorrow night. I almost found myself at the $15-30 tables trying to recoup my losses, but was able to resist. I just don't have the bankroll to play here, but there is always the temptation of trying to recoup losses at higher stakes. I know this is a trait of "problem gamblers," but it's also known as the Martingale betting progression, which given an unlimited bankroll, cannot fail. Unfortunately my bankroll is not quite unlimited.

Off topic: the lines on the NFL games are awful this week-- I don't think there is a spread of less than 7. I didn't see any game I liked, so I ended up putting $5 on every game. So at best I stand to win $65, but at least I've got something riding...

I started running in the mornings before work, which hopefully will sharpen up my mind a little bit. Besides the times when I've been injured, this is the longest period (3 months) in my life when I haven't done any cardio. My energy level is definitely down as a result of my inactivity, but since I'm retired, there's no real motivation to run. But I think working out really keeps my mind on edge, and hopefully that will help me stay focused at the poker table.

Thanks for reading, hopefully everyone else fared better than me tonight... I don't mind losing the money, I just hate to lose!



The growth of gambling in America: subverting Capitalism

No poker tonight, but LondonFroggy's blog got me thinking about gambling, capitalism, and the poker boom. I figured I'd give a shot at an explanation, since my Google search didn't seem to produce much. Warning: philosophical and cultural content to follow.

First off, lets look at the numbers. Is gambling really booming?

"In 2002, commercial gaming revenue nationwide rose a modest 3.5 percent to $25.5 billion, according to Analysis Group, a Los Angeles economic consulting firm. During the same period, Indian gaming revenue increased almost 11 percent to $14.1 billion."

These numbers suggest that while Brick and Mortar casinos are increasing revenue, there is no evidence to suggest a "boom." But what about online gambling?

"'In 2000, Internet gambling brought forth an estimated $2.2 billion in
worldwide revenues... [and] could reach $100 billion a year by 2006' (Hammer, 2001).
Americans wagered the majority of the $2.2 billion (Sinclair, 2001). Recent market
research estimates that consumers spent from $6.5 billion to $8 billion on Internet
gambling in 2002 (M2: Presswire, 2003). This represents significant revenue growth
from just $300 million in 1997 and $651 million in 1998 (NGISC, 1999)."

Aha! These figures fit the "boom" label, suggesting that online gambling is growing at an exponential rate. It's difficult to collect accurate data on online casino revenue, since most online casinos are not based in America. The numbers here are outdated, and probably underestimate the actual revenue figures.

The internet has brought gambling to our living rooms: riches are only a mouse click away. But if the medium was available 10 years ago, would we have seen the same growth? Or is there something unique about the time, something about 2003 that has increased the number of people who want to gamble?

I believe that if gambling had been convenient in the past (imagine blackjack tables at the local bar), people would have gambled then as they do now. It's difficult to separate gambling as a social activity from gambling as a "hobby". The new Strip and the dying of Fremont Street suggests that the real gamblers (the non-social ones) are far outnumbered. But the internet suggests otherwise.

Back to the central question. What is attracting Americans to online gambling (note: these conclusions may hold for other countries, but as an American, I can only speak from an American perspective)? I think the answer lies in an underlying disgust with capitalism.

Robert Nozick, a contemporary philosopher, defines a capitalistic society as one in which "the market distributes to those who satisfy the perceived market-expressed demands of others, and how much it so distributes depends on how much is demanded and how great the alternative supply is." So members of a capitalistic society receive money based on the demand that exist for the product or service that they supply.

Gambling represents a subversion of capitalism: the gambler receives money not for a product or service, but for either (a) their skill in estimating the expected value of various events, or (b) luck in guessing an event with a negative expectation. Most gamblers clearly fit into category (b), but we can think of poker players, card counters, and roulette sharps who would fit into category (a).

A positive expectation gambler uses his knowledge to create situations where he has an advantage over his opponent(s). Is it a failure of capitalism when a brilliant mind chooses gambling as a profession over another career which large amount of demand exists? I say it is-- the system's inability to capture the potential good or service of the brilliant gambler has caused him to seek a career where he can use his brilliance to gain a higher profit.

The positive expectation player need not deal with organizational charts and bureacracies that may impede his ability to generate useful products. In gambling, the player's income and reward is based solely on his level of skill and knowledge. This directly proportional relationship between personal performance and income rarely exists in traditional capitalistic careers, where income depends greatly on the performance of co-workers and bureacrats that the employee has little or no influence on.

I argue that the failure of capitalism-- the failure of the employee's ability to control the good that he produces-- is responsible for the growth in online gaming. Speaking from a personal perspective, gambling is the only arena in my life in which my performance has a direct and visible effect on my well-being. I think the future will bring more "professional" gamblers, and skill games such as poker will see enormous growth as casinos eliminate skill games such as blackjack. Vegas has already seen a proliferation of 6:5 single deck blackjack, which offers the house a nearly insurmountable 1.5% edge (vs. .5% with traditional blackjack rules).

What does this mean for poker players? The good news is that there will be a constant supply of new players who are trying to develop their skills. These will provide skilled players many opportunities for positive expectation plays. The bad news is that the poker "industry" will be able to support a much larger number of professionals, and the ocean will be filled with a greater number of sharks.

For those unsatisfied with American capitalism, the convenience of online gambling has created an opportunity for knowledgeable and skillful gamblers to make a large amount of income. The "rugged individualism" of old America is returning in the waters of the internet gambling, a place where income is solely dependent on one's knowledge of the game and the ability to recognize positive expectation gambles. Come on in, the water's nice!

I welcome comments and disagreements-- the thoughts you see here are in their infancy, and represent only my humble opinion.



How I learned to stop worrying and love slowplaying aces

oooooooooooooofff... the Rams nearly killed me tonight, I had doubled up my bet and given away 5 points to the lowly browns. Thank you Tim Couch and Aeneas Williams! St. Louis won by 6, saving me from a big hit in the sportsbook. Bulger played terribly, and the Rams D won it for them. The Browns played their usual horrible game, and Kelly Holcomb's interceptions were quite enjoyable.

I think this is the first day I've posted twice-- I can't stop blogging!

After a couple short sessions, I ended up winning... $1 whole dollar! But it feels like a win, since I just came off a $174 win in a 36 minute session on the $5-10 short handed tables (Grubby thanks for drawing my attention to these babies). There were a couple maniacs there, and I managed to hit a couple big hands. After dropping $170 at the $3-6 games in a matter of less than in hour, it was nice to finally hit a couple hands on the shorthanded table. I didn't have my A game at the $3-6ers, I was busy watching the Rams game and trying to stay awake. Bad news.

The idea of going to bed with a loss that big forced me to focus, and I actually played pretty well shorthanded. The tide turned when I took a gamble slowplaying Aces in the BB... here's what happened:
5 players at the table, first two fold, 3rd player raises. 2nd player calls, and I don't want to define my hand (using Abdul's logic). Flop is 7c Kd Tc, sb bets, I raise, and am reraised, called, I cap it, 3 players in. Turn is 6d, and I'm hoping we've got AK and not KK, and I'm guessing there's a flush draw out there. SB bets out, I raise, and 2 callers. Turn is 4d, and I bet out and get two callers: SB shows KQo, caller shows JTc... dodged a bullet! $118 profit.

I managed to make a couple good calls with middle pair, and was getting some good cards... I was playing far tighter than the rest of the table, so was able to take a couple pots with the bluff checkraise or bet-reraise on the flop. With 6 players at the table, it's easy to tell who's playing tight and who isn't, so you can actually use your table image to bluff (unlike at the $3-6 level).

I don't even want to talk about the horrible play on the $3-6 tables. Maybe I should get away from them... my stats are much much better for $5-10... I'm averaging 2.59 BB/100 hands at $5-10, and only .78 at $3-6! A lot of this is because many of these $3-6 hands were played 3 at a time, and it includes a lot of early sessions back when I was not a very good player. For me, I know that adding a 3rd table probably costs me at least 1 BB per hour per table, probably more than that. Maybe I'll stick to $5-10.

TJ Cloutier said you've gotta gamble at a limit where it hurts to lose-- seeing that $20 checkraise in $5-10 makes me FEEL that call, whereas $6 more just don't hurt as much. I've gotta do an analysis to find the breakeven point for 3 tables $3-6 and 2 tables $5-10. The annoying thing is that it takes forever to find a $5-10 game on Party these days. Can they please open up some more tables??? Buy some more servers! I couldn't even get in a $30 SNG... it's harder to get in one of those things than to actually win the tourney.

MrsDouble is watching the previews for the next "Average Joe"... this whole reality TV stuff cracks me up. The ideas for the shows sound great-- Joe Millionaire and Average Joe have a sort of vicious mockery of society, which attracted me. But then you see the people on the show and they are so boring that it always ends up being anticlimactic.

WOAH! Just saw a preview for next week's "Las Vegas" on NBC. This is a direct quote from the promo:
(man in macho voice) "Meet poker players that will KILL to win!"

Ye Gads. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Can't anybody out there write a sitcom or drama with some backbone? Or just WRITE a sitcom period? I guess before I can complain I would have to get cable. Is it possible to be on tilt in blog writing?

I saw somewhere (I forget where) that Phil Hellmuth is optioning the rights to his life story to someone? Can you imagine a sitcom about Hellmuth? I would give up my whole bankroll to see a season of that...

Hellmuth: "Here's your toast honey... just like you like it."

Mrs. Hellmuth: (looking at toast)

Hellmuth: "Come on honey... I'm really rooting for you to eat it..."

Mrs. Hellmuth: "Phil I told you I hate white toast."

Hellmuth: "That's funny, because I READ YOUR MIND and I know you're lying. You love white toast."

Mrs. Hellmuth: (Stands up and waves to neighbor outside)

Hellmuth: "Have some class honey. Eat my toast, don't do the wave in my face!"

(fade to commercial)

Can you tell I'm a little tired? If you didn't see the WPT episode where Hellmuth faces off against a magician, you won't get that dialogue. Not that it's funny anyway.

May your slowplayed Aces hold up.

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