Tuesday, July 20, 2004

"Poker passed the Larry Test in the biggest way possible, which is to say Larry showed up one day babbling about the game he’d watched the night before the way a 12- year-old tells his friends about discovering the Playboy magazine in his father’s closet. Poker, it seems, has gone mainstream."

Howdy all - thanks for stopping by this humble poker blog. Prepare yourself for quite possibly the funniest post ever by esteemed poker theorist, David Sklansky.

On one momentary serious note, Monty the cat heads out for major heart surgery tomorrow at Ohio State. If the animal lovers out there could please send positive vibes his way, I'd be deeply appreciative. It's not looking good that it's come to this but you gotta have hope, don't you?

Back to poker: it's still fascinating to me to think how far this has blogging thingy has come. I'm gonna be posting more often, so here goes a Guinness-fueled rant with random poker tidbits from across the spectrum.

Stream of consciousness posts rule.

It's funny, looking back. I still remember how thrilled I was to get a dozen regular readers. That seems like eons ago. It's taken about ten months to double my readership, and for that, I'm thankful.

So allow me to get nostalgic. I inadvertantly forgot to mention one of the original poker bloggers celebrating a one year anniversary last week. Mister Decker was a major inspiration for me to start my own poker blog and has given me permission to repost part of his birthday post. As a matter of fact, I think he & Hank were my only readers for several months. Click here to visit The Man, himself.

Here's a snippet, from his unique perspective, on the past year of blogging about poker:


Now, 201 posts later, here we are.

I originally started the blog as a way to keep track of my progress and results. But I also kept track of my progress and results in a little black date book. So, that kind of defeated the purpose of starting the blog after all. Back when I started Decker's Journal, there weren't very many poker blogs out there. I used to read WhiskeyTown's and Felicia's religiously. I enjoyed reading about their poker exploits and decided it would be cool to write about my own. I also kept up with several non-poker blogs (Here's one of my favorites). I guess all of the blog reading I used to do, inspired me to go out and start my own. Maybe someone would read and enjoy mine, like I did the ones that I read.

When it came time to name my Blog I developed a mind block, but eventually chose the name of a pet turtle I had in my backyard pond. He was no longer with us, as he had been scurried off late in the night by a possum or racoon or something. Anyways, that is where the name Decker came from: My little red-eared slider turtle who vanished in the night.

I've really enjoyed watch the poker blogging community grow. Once Iggy hit the scene the poker blogging community blew up! While Iggy became our one stop source for the days news, several more GREAT writers soon popped up like:

Dr. Pauly,
Boy Genius,
Poker Penguin,
Mean Gene and of course

I know there are more that I am not mentioning, so please forgive me. I have found many hours of entertainment reading all the various poker blogs out there. I've lost count of how many there are now and have given up on updating my links list. I simply hit up Iggy and work off his links list. I dont think he minds. I'm also happy to call many of these bloggers friends, and look forward to a day when we can tip a few beers and scoop a few pots together...

Amen, brother. Looking forward to that myself. I'm eyeing a September visit to Atlantic City....

So while I'm getting all retrospective and such, allow me to point out yet another outstanding post last week from Otis, at Up For Poker, summing up the great things about the poker blogging community. He writes far better than I, so allow me to share his words here:

I need to take a brief diversion from our regular poker passion to consider the value of our community of poker players and writers.

I've long believed green felt could've torn down the Berlin Wall. Few substances and even fewer fabrics have the ability to bring together such a wide variety of people, backgrounds, and mindsets. Maybe booze, but green felt is better to set your chips on.

If not for the inherent competition in the game, it could likely serve as the world's greatest relationship therapist.

I believed that even before CJ invited me to begin blogging here on Up For Poker. But once we started here I discovered something even greater. You don't even have to have the felt. You don't need chips. You just need a love of the game.

In the past year I've come to ethereally know some of the best players, writers, and thinkers out there in the poker world. In a few short months I felt myself actually thinking about these folks and talking about them to my wife. How one guy lost his job. How one guy was nursing his pet back to health. How one guy is on the road living a bohemian life.

That was pretty odd for me, to be honest. I typically care about a small circle of people and the rest be damned.

Then I figured it out. Most of the poker bloggers out there are the Northern Otis, The City Otis, The Backwoods Otis, The Left Coast Otis, etc. Or I am the Midwest/Southern version of them. That is, while all living different lives, we all spend, perhaps, an inordinate amount of time focusing on a game we love.

More than that, perhaps, most of us have an understanding that we're not only focusing on a card game. As we grow our game and our understanding of it, we grow our minds. We have a better understanding of how people work, how relationships exist, and how to make decisions based on experience. We are people who realize that poker is not just a means to play, or not just a means to a profitable end, but a means to some sort of greater understanding of our own minds. If we can understand why we make decisions in a game, we might better understand how or why we make certain decisions in our life.

Now, maybe that sounds a bit heady. Maybe I'm over-glamorizing the game. Maybe I've developed some romantic notion of poker that more experienced or more jaded people might view as an idealistic perception of an otherwise brutal pasttime.

Maybe. I dunno. But I know this: Since I started playing every day, I've started understanding a lot of things a lot better. Poker can be a stabilizing factor.

But even better, writing about poker is therapeutic. It helps me write about life, people, and stories through a lens that we all can understand. If I just wanted to write about anything, I'd stick to the blog I've been operating for the past three years. But here, CJ gives me an opportunity to filter many of my thoughts through a green-felt-lens.

It was in the writing and reading of other poker blogs that I came to know all these other folks out in the ether, the folks I appreciate, admire, and respect.

I wish I had the talent to write that. Damn, Otis eloquently sums up how I feel about our scene and makes it look so easy. We're damn lucky to have real writers in our midst.

I could spend this entire post pimping out the great poker blog posts. I'm continually amazed at the quality and diversity of our collective experiences. I'd highly recommend during your next folding streak at the online poker tables, that you start clicking on the blogs to the right and finding your own personal favorites. Personally, I dig em all, but I never tire of reading.

And on the note, it's time to share some of the nuggets I've discovered in my recent surfing travels.

A follow up to my last post about David Sklansky slagging Lee Jones and his poker book. David here provides the rationale behind his attacks:


Hit it and Forget it.That thread where I am a little nasty to Lee Jones. More than 10,000 people have now read it. So its hard not to believe that a little nastiness is the best way to get people to sit up and take notice; and is worth doing if the cause is as important as getting people to study math more (by pointing out that Lee's original book was flawed because of his probable lack of math studiousness.)

As I said, I will stop at almost nothing to get my point across. And that point is now read by more viewers than any other thread on this forum. Uh, I just double checked that. Not quite true yet. Which brings me to my other point. How many of you were aware that Marilyn Monroe sought out and had sex with Albert Einstein? And that it was not because of the way he dressed or or played the violin. Also how many of you were aware that there is a correlation between math and testosterone levels. Or that social evolutionary theory postualtes that most young women get PHYSICALLY aroused in the presence of intelligent men. I'm not talking money hungry here. It is rather a physical manifestation due to the awareness that the fellow in question will be a good provider for children. Those women who did not have this physical reaction were likely to have died off as their dumb mates couldn't protect their offspring. Thus the majority of those left, inherited an almost insatiable desire to make love to men who demonstrated knowledge in fields like logic or probability.

Dear Lord, I'm not touching this one. But it begs the question, what kind of poker groupie action is David Sklansky tagging these days?

Want more? Here's an apologist post I discovered about Phil Helmuth, Mike Caro & NL tournaments.

An argument for the Poker Brat (especially in tournaments)
Hey, y'all.

So I've been reading a lot of Mike Caro lately, and he, like a lot of other analysts, believes that the Phil Helmuth school of whiny losing is wrong, not because it's impolite or gives poker a bad name (though it is and does) but because it forces your opponents to play better. The argument goes that, when you embarass your opponent for drawing out on you after a loose call, he'll be less likely to make such loose calls in the future, and will therefore play better. Instead, say the Carolians, you should congratulate your opponent on his ugly beat, telling him how gutsy it was for him to call a pot raise pre flop with T8 offsuit, and then calling two more pot raises on the flop and turn with bottom pair and tripping on the river, thus encouraging such stupid calls in the future, and increasing (or maintaining) your long term EV against this player. Even Phil Helmuth has now disavowed his own style of losing, having been convinced of the error of his ways, and has retreated to his zen monastery to contemplate his navel and become a good sport.

Now, let me just preface this by saying that I think Mike Caro is one of the smartest people alive. Damned near everything he says, about poker or about life in general, is so scary smart that it sometimes takes days for the sheer genius of it to sink in, and yet is so clear and accessible that it makes you wonder why you didn't think of it.

However. . .

On this one point, I believe that, especially in tournament play, there is a good argument to be made for howling like a tortured Iraqi after you take a bad beat, and for explaining to the entire table just what a moron your opponent was for making that call. And when I say bad beat in this context, I mean a beat that wouldn't have happened had your opponent not been a live brain donor.

It is true that your opponent will then be embarrassed and MAY fail to make such idiot calls in the future. And that his game will therefore very slightly improve. My argument is that this is exactly what you want -- in fact, need -- particularly in tournament play, for two reasons. First, whether it's tournament or ring game, you won't improve such an imbecile's game enough to beat you in the long run, but you may improve it enough to give your opponent some small measure of readability.

Second -- and this applies only to tournament play -- any loss in long-term EV is even more outweighed by the gain in readability, because in tournaments, there is no "long term." While you could argue that overthe course of a five or six day tournament your long-term EV as to a given player may start to kick in, you're not going to be seated at the table with this dunderhead for all six days. What you need to worry about, at most, is the next 400 hands (40 hands/hour * 10 hours). It's true that if your opponent made that call 1 million times, you would be foreclosing on his house. But he's not going to make it 1 million times. He's not even going to make it one more time, because he's not likely to be in that exact situation with you again in the next 400 hands. But it goes further than that. The reason the long-term EV is so thoroughly outweighed in a tournament, is that he only needs to beat you once to knock you out.

Let's take an extreme example. I played in an online NLHE tourney once against a guy who would, at a full table and in the early stages, raise with any A and call with any pair, only I didn't know that about him yet.I potted it preflop with AK. He reraises, I call. Flop comes A, 8, 9 two hearts. I bet, he raises. I put him on AK, AQ, or a draw, so I reraise him all in. He calls with A8 offsuit. I had a lot more chips than him (fortunately). I ragged him aroung about that stupid preflop reraise fourten minutes, explaining that A8os is not a reraising hand, in fact, not even a calling hand, and doing my best to humiliate him for having made the call in the first place. When he tried to defend his idiot play, some of the other players joined in chiding him, and he was duly embarrassed. After that hand, when he reraised preflop, we found that it meant he either had a pocket pair (sometimes as small as dueces, but we hadn't gotten to that lesson yet) or AK or AQ. (I don't even call a raise with AQ at a full table, but I know some pretty good players who will sometimes reraise with it). He did not become a good player by any stretch, but he became slightly more readable.

Now, let's take the Caro approach, wherein I would have gritted my teeth (since he's online and can't see me) and said something to the effect of "Great hand. You know, it took a lot of guts for you to reraise with A8off before the flop. A lot of players just don't have the moxy to do that. Congratulations." This yammerhead would have then thanked me, patted himself on the back, and gone about reraising with any ace for the rest of the tourney. Or at least for the rest of his limited time in the tourney. It's one of those situations that Cloutier describes where you know the guy has zero chance of winning the tourney, but with one lucky hand (like the one I played against him if he had had more chips) and he takes away your chance of winning. I think that if you can force-feed him enough poker knowledge to keep him from making completely boneheaded (and therefore completely unreadable) plays, you help your own chances.

Yes, he's a slightly better player now. But that's what you want to play against: someone who knows a little bit about the game. If you're a pretty good tournament player, the only players you can't beat are the Mike Caro's and the Lenny Small's of the poker world. By embarrassing the Lenny's for boneheaded plays, you don't turn them into Caro's, you turn them into customers. Particularly in tournament play, where you don't care whether or not they will be a repeat customer, I think that any damage to the image of poker is worth the trade-off. I could be wrong, but I'm usually not.

HoldEm Tex

I've often pondered whether or not there is a 'method to the madness' about Phil Helmuth's behavior. I mean, he LOVES head games and from all accounts, is a world class player in that respect. Hell, who knows. Go hit my archives for in-depth pontifications on the Poker Brat.

While on the subject of poker pro's, I am deeply saddened to have missed Fox Sports live poker broadcast featuring a victorious Phil Ivey. I'm in awe of Phil and was happy to hear about this win. But I was shocked at the negative posts about him on many poker message boards. Telling him to smile, get a personality, a life. One guy called him the Rainman of poker in a backhanded compliment. Geesh.

I am dying to watch this episode and am deeply mired in global negotiations to acquire a tape of this show. The fact that Howard Lederer did the commentating makes this all the more tantalizing.

Quick side note: while on hiatus, I traveled deep into the South, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to witness a very close friend marry a coalminer's daughter (true - she's from Hazard County, Kentucky).

The Friday night before the wedding, I was sitting in my hotel room drinking contraband Guinness in a dry county, channel surfing on cable. I immediately looked for Iron Chef on the Food Network to no avail. And then I hit it purely by accident: Fox Sports Net Poker! Woohoooo!!! Howard Lederer and Michael Konik (author of the interesting gambling book called 'Telling Lies and Getting Paid' that's worth reading) were doing the commentary. Best of all, the table featured Howard's sister, Annie Duke, and archrival Daniel Negreneanu sitting next to each other at the table. Oh Joy!

I only caught 20 minutes of this episode but it was riveting to watch. Riveting because I never get to watch poker on TV. But mostly because I was waiting for Danny to mention Annie's nasty feet. But imho, Howard was the best poker commentator I've ever heard. I want more.

Damn, all this talk about poker is giving me an itch to play. I know I promised to pimp the new blogs but it's gonna have to wait. This new blogger editor sucks.

So how to segue outta this post? Well how about a negative viewpoint on poker on TV, specifically the WPT, a trend I've seen seep into a few poker blogs out there?

Anyone else sick of the WPT?

Hello all,

Am I the only one who is completely sick of this pre-fabricated,
pre-packaged blatantly censored piece of shit program?

- The production is dogshit.

- The editing is dogshit.

- The commentary is repetitive dogshit.

- Tape on hats and/or shirts is dogshit.

- No mention of WSOP (when Moneymaker was on he won a 'major') or any
other poker entity for that matter.

- The rock-star stage is completely annoying with the lights and whatnot.

- That horrible "your opponent bets $80K on the river" commercial for
wpt.com every 20 minutes drives me fucking crazy.

- I'm a Bud man for sure. But that fucking AB World Select toast at the
end of the show is, by far, the most annoying thing on television. When
Sexton makes his miserable toast I want to cut my own dick off. There can
not be 1 person alive who buys AB World Select because of this god-awful
clusterfuck of an attempt at product placement.

- On the upside, Shana Hiatt is wicked hot. (thankin' you Playboy for the
girls of Hawaiian Tropic DVD.) But, even her little segments are forced
and overproduced.

- Finally, the constant reminders about the innovative WPT cams. They ram
this down our throats at least 15 times per broadcast.

Personally, (and I know you don't care) I can't wait for the WSOP on ESPN
to begin on the 6th. At least Norman Chad is witty enough to come up with
some funny one liners here and there. Nothing is forced down your throat
and the whole production feels like a real poker tournament...even the
featured table comes off as natural.

The whole forced excitement/hushed awe commentary in regards to the
brilliance of the "would-be rock-stars" of poker has already played out.
Last night VVP actually said (i'm paraphrasing) "Who will be the next
superstar in the world of poker."

I was tearing tile out of my bathroom last night while I listened to the
Reno show. I had to smack my thumb with a hammer when I heard the
aforementioned VVP comment just to remind myself that I hadn't died and
gone to hell.

A shitty stage with lots of lights, bad commentary, bad production and
mediocre poker does not a superstar make. Yes that boring "Idaho Idiot"
(or whatever VVP called him) had a nice payday, but he is absolutely no

If given a choice between the WPT tripe or the WSOP on ESPN. Well, I
would rather watch the 28th re-run of a WSOP broadcast on ESPN. Sure I
know every card and every comment that is coming, but even for the XXth
time, it is vastly more interesting and insightful.

The communists that run WPT need to re-evaluate their position and quit
force feeding their propoganda to the masses. Do they really think that
they are kidding anyone by calling the WSOP main event a major? On the
episode with Gordon they made no mention of his part time job on Celebrity
Poker. (It's hard to believe there is programming worse than the WPT, but
CP is it.) On the same episode they listed that Paradise Poker guy as an
"internet executive". Not to mention the tape, the blurry screen editing,
the horrible, over-excited, dubbed in commentary and constant reminders of
the WPT cam.

I know the argument...if you don't like it, don't watch it. Fact of the
matter is, I rarely do. I've only seen parts of 3 episodes this season.
But that is enough to cement my mindset. This shit sucks!

I mostly gave up on WPT near the end of the first season and will only
watch now if nothing else is on while I'm doing something else. I find it
nearly impossible to devout my full attention to this tripe.

Before you flame away (and I invite your flames or comments) I will let
you know the following:

1) I'm not a poker superstar, nor do I ever think I will be.
2) I have never won a substantial poker tournament.
3) I have never produced, edited nor commented on any tv program.
4) I'm just a consumer.
5) I find it hard to fathom that the WPT execs actually think they are
putting out a quality product. Yes, they are making money now, but this
cash cow is just about out of milk.

Flame away,


Well, he's right about that AB World Select beer. It's the worst freaking beer ever. Nasty stuff. I LOVE BEER but I could barely choke down one bottle of it. Tried to give it away to a homeless guy in North Dakota but he scoffed at me.

Oh the humanity. True story.

I'm sure most of you saw the latest WPT was robbed during the tourney:
Two guns beats four aces: armed robbers hit Paris poker tournament

And with that, I'm off. Thanks for humoring my nonsense once again. It's a futile request, but please consider supporting this poker blog with Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker. It's safe to say if you are a Paradise or UB or whatever player - you are missing the boat. Sign up, try it, and prove me wrong.

Or more importantly, just say a lil good luck prayer fer my kitty.

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