Monday, November 08, 2004
"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance."
George Bernard Shaw
My parents came in for a visit this weekend. My mom nearly had a coronary upon hearing that I had quit my job and become a professional poker player. I think the phrase 'conniption fit' might be apropos.
At one point, the phrase 'it defies logic' was bandied about.
Oh the humanity.
A fun, free suggestion from me to you: If you want to torment your family, call them up (hell, do it on April Fools Day if you aren't that cruel) and tell them you are now playing poker professionally, you don't need no stinkin job. It's good stuff, try it out. Bonus points if they know absolutely nothing about poker outside of what they've watched on the Sopranos.
Needless to say, I didn't play any poker this weekend.
But that's fixing to change. I've an impending shoulder surgery (torn rotator cuff), a trip to Vegas and a free-lance web project all due by the end of the month. But grinding out some serious hours in poker is still near the top of the priority list.
Speaking of my Vegas trip, a friend wrote these fine words about that panacea in the desert that I thought I'd share:
Here’s the thing about Las Vegas: I can’t take it for too long. It’s an overwhelming mass of nearly everything all at once, everywhere, forever. The unending incoming tide of light and sound and people swarms over you as you’re lying there on the hot sand of its sidewalks, or standing motionless on its ugly casino carpets, or even when you’re back in your suite, “the biggest suite on the strip,” looking out the wide, clean windows at this oasis of gleaming metal and curved neon and thinking you should probably be somewhere else doing something else than this (nothing) but you’re too overwhelmed to make a decision.
I’m not a gambler in any sense. I don’t enjoy the feeling of the unknown, or the idea of chance because I know that chance is playing against me, and not with me. The idea of winning is certainly appealing, but the reality occurs so infrequently that I am left feeling duped and foolish.
That said, I enjoy video poker. I also enjoy watching other people losing their money. I like the looks on thier faces, the determination and concentration as they watch the cards play out, or the wheels turn, or the ball clacking along the roulette. They have hope, and it’s dark and evil and mean, it’s not the hope of fulfilling love or the hope that someone on their death bed won’t actually die, it’s the hope that they’ll beat the fucking odds and show this fucking town who’s boss. The hope of vengeance and shoving a finger in someone’s face and laughing, ha ha, I showed you, motherfucker!
The people watching is unsurpassed in Las Vegas, if you’re into freaks. And I am. Sure, you can go to Barcelona or Istanbul or Paris if all you want to see is beautiful people dressed in beautiful clothes doing beautiful things. But come to Vegas if what you hunger for is outlandish, huge, balloon people dressed like Rosa Parade floats downing giant, grotesque portions of food and drink while being loud, loutish and incredibly, amazingly rude. It is, in some ways, the most American of American cities.
As I've often said, speaking from my own experience, "Vegas is a great place to visit, you just don't want to live there."
Someday, I'll tell my story about moving there on my 25th birthday. It involves several felonies.
Let's move on, shall we? I'm already getting buzzed.
Someone asked Daniel Negreanu about new features and what separates his new online poker site from others. Here was his reply:
It's up right now for play money and should be up for real money any day now.--------
I'm extremely excited about the site and waited a long time for a winner
like Poker Mountain to come around. I've turned down several deals with
online poker sites because they lacked in one area or another.
Poker Mountain doesn't lack in any areas in my opinion. They are
extremely well funded and dedicated to providing a top notch product. All
of the people involved, while knowledgeable poker players themselves have
proven themselves successful in other business ventures in the real world
and that attracted me.
Poker Mountain developed an alternate payment option called Securus that
allows for speedy transactions as well as accepting all major credit
As for what will make them better? Well, I am confident that they are
willing to spend the kind of money it takes to fully promote a site
properly by giving back to the players in various ways.
Of course the one thing that will seperate Poker Mountain from the rest
is the speedy transactions. You can get money in your account quickly,
and will recieve your money faster than any other site on the net. From
what I can tell by reading RGP, that seems to be a pretty important factor
for most players.
Note to Daniel: don't build an online poker site by what you read on RGP, fer fucks sake.
Rafe Furst from TiltBoys surfaced on RGP and posted a truly goofy question:
Subject: Return of the Magic Glasses----------------
Author: Rafe Furst
Years ago on RGP (maybe when it was just RG) there was a thread about
"magic glasses" with which you could see your opponents hole cards. I
think there was even more than one such thread. The arguments got
very heated and it was all very interesting reading. I am not going
to rehash those threads here. Instead I have another use for the same
magic glasses. It's a thought experiment posed to me in a
conversation within the last year, but I can't remember who to give
the credit to (sorry!) I apologize in advance if this has been
discussed on RGP before, I looked but couldn't find any such
A New Magic Glasses Thought Experiment
Imagine you have magic glasses that allows you to see the hole cards
of all opponents at your table. Your glasses don't work on the
remaining deck, so you have to wait just like everyone else to see
what the flop, turn and river hold. You enter the WSOP Main Event in
which there are 1000 players. Assume that your normal game without
the glasses is average (i.e. you have a 0.1% chance of winning the
tourney). Also assume that your opponents don't know that you have
these magic glasses, nor do they ever suspect that you have them at
any point. What percentage of the time do you estimate you could win
with the magic glasses and why?
I highly recommend the NPR episode of This American Life featuring Phil Gordon and Rafe at the World Series of Poker. You actually hear 'live' the historical back-to-back pocket aces in the 2001 WSOP that Phil Gordon was knocked out with. You also get to hear them play Roshambo.
A must listen, especially if you are at work:
Meet the Pros
The story of one man's journey from obscurity to international professional celebrity, aided only by his own hard work, a sneaker commercial, and mad handles. And other stories of amateurs hurtling themselves at the pros whose jobs they covet.
Ira with Stephen Goldin, author of an online guide which prescribes 23 rules for comic fans to follow when mingling with professional sci-fi authors at sci-fi conventions. For instance: don't try to get in a discussion with the pro on the way to the bathroom. This week, Ira explains, our show breaks eight of the 23 rules. (3 minutes)
Act One. Crispy with the Rock.
The story of two amateurs meeting the pros. On amateur is a teenager in Jersey; the other, our reporter. Joel Lovell visits with 19-year-old Luis Da Silva, one of the stars of a popular series of Nike commercials, featuring professional and amateur basketball players doing dribbling tricks. Luis didn't even start for his high school basketball team. (17 minutes)
Act Two. Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run.
Host Ira Glass travels to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, gets hooked on poker, and tries to figure out what it would mean if he'd ditch his job in radio to become a professional cardplayer. What he learns: a professional gambler can suffer two heartbreaking losses back to back, costing over $100,000, yet moments later, at the casino bar, calculate the million-to-one odds of his unlikely losses... in his head. (26 minutes).
You blackjack players might enjoy this rejoinder from Gary Carson on RGP:
I have made an interesting observation---------------
Alot of the top video/computer game players are doing very well in poker.
I guess since they were able to be the best at counterstirke or warcraft
etc, they have used those same qualities which made them into the best
players at those games into some of the best poker players. They see
online poker as just another computer game that can be beaten. I know some
of the top NL $5/10 players in the Stars game used to be great at computer
games aka. Tillerman.
Ken Uston became a great pac-man player after he got barred from blackjack tables.
Some people just like to play games.
As an ENTP, I concur. I could truly blog my ass off on this topic, but I'm too full of Guinness and should wrap this up. Another time.
Someone reminded me that I missed halloween so here's a makeup photo for that...
Oh dear, some sick fuck asked where he could buy an inflatable Annie Duke love doll on RGP. The things I go through for my readers.
And all I ask is you consider Bonus IGGY damnit on Party Poker. ;)
60,000 white-hot schooling fish there right now.
22,000 this time last year.
And to think I was pinching myself every evening, last November.
Two last nuggets and I'm off to play. First of all, old school poker blogger, Maudie, just hit her one year anniversary, with a wonderful retrospective of both female poker blogging and playing. Please go read: The paper one.
I have much to report on, but for now enjoy this post from a fellow asking about the feasibility of going pro. There was one long, thoughtful reply, and one succinct, not so thoughtful reply. Hey, it's not David Ross, but still, enjoy:
I have searched through this group and read a few older posts on playing poker for a living, and wanted to get a few thoughts and opinions on this subject. All I ask is that we keep the flames and stupid replys that have no vaild info low. Maybe future people can use this post to answer their questions before reposting the questions.------
First background on me and why I am asking. I work 50+to 70 hours a week
during holidays working a retail Job. I make very good money around $60K a
year now going up very quickly. Right now I love playing poker more then
anything (only been playing 1 year) and I know if you can make a living
doing something you love go for it! Plus I would get more family time.
Anyway I am only playing $2-$4 working up my bankroll and paying off debt
and will slowly move up as I get a bigger bankroll.
What I want to know is if you can make a decent living playing limit holdem
or do you need to develop your tourny skills and get into the big money
I think I will know when I can make a decent living, (debt free $50k bank
roll) winning player for couple years. Is this accurate?
For those making a living doing it do you regret it or do you still love
what you do like you did when you started?
The way I would plan on beating the game and others is playing more then 1
table at a time online. I have played up to 5 at a time with a large
monitor setup. What I would like to do is play 2 or 3 higher limit tables
once I get more confident and more money. As well as playing my way into as
many large tourny's as possable.
Any other thoughts on playing for a living please fill us all in, I have
already set this as a goal over the next couple years.
And the thoughtful response:
I expect most responses you receive will discuss, in general, your ability
to make enough money at 2-4 limit to support yourself. I suspect they
might have a point, and think that if you are to be a pro you should aim
yourself at higher limits. But as I'm not a limit player, but rather a NL
player, I'll instead give you an idea of what life is like for me...
something that should complement what I expect you will hear from others.
FIRST, MOST IMPORTANT, KEY, MUST READ STUFF
In any case, I think it's MOST IMPORTANT to first verify for some
significant period of time that you can attain the level of winnings per
hour that you need to make your living. The SECOND MOST IMPORTANT thing
is to start with two separate pools of money: One to be your bankroll,
and another for your living expenses, that can cover a few months should
your bankroll bust, so that you can still eat while you look for a job.
I have only been pro for about 4 months. I quit my job making $55k where I
was due for a raise (expecting $60k) when I gave my 6 months notice last
June. I also worked a lot of hours some weeks, and worked a stressful job.
MY POKER INCOME:
I quit my job without any particular plan -- just knew it was time to move
on. I gave poker a shot and it's been working out wonderfully. I've made
about $41,000 in cash (pretax) in the 4 months I've been playing, plus
I've won entries into three WPT events (I didn't make money in the
Pokerstars cruise or the Reno Hilton WPT events, but have yet to play in
the Aviation Club WPT in July that I qualified for on Ultimate Bet). My
money has come about half from online play and half from live play,
although I rarely play live and most of the live cash ($17,300 after you
subtractmy huge ridiculous tip as I didn't know they withheld 3% for
dealers, and the $5100 main event buyin) came most from this recent live
I play online about 50 hours a week, 3 weeks a month, under the handle
'ackbleh' on Pokerstars. I play 1-2, 2-4, and 3-6 blind NL games,
multi-table tournaments... $50 and up plus $any rebuy, and headsup NL
matches ranging from $50 to $1000.
REFLECTION ON PLAYING ABILITY AND CHALLENGES:
I have found that the biggest challenge is mental, and not related to the
details of playing a hand. Sticking to your limit, not going on tilt,
playing games you're a favorite at, managing your bankroll properly, not
playing in games where you could significantly hurt your bankroll in one
session, not playing after/during drinking, NOT ALTERING YOUR GAME OR
WHINING WHEN YOU ARE ON A COLD STREAK, and not giving into the gamble...
these are the challenges of a pro online poker player these days. As far
as playing specific hands... if you know good math, and know poker, and
have been a winning player... the issue there is simply how much, not
whether you will win. It's maintaining control of the long term state of
mind that is the key.
Of course, my game HAS improved leaps and bounds in the four months. I
have several friends who also play online, a few of them also pros, and
discussion with them is invaluable. We keep each others' heads straight
when cards are cold. I also continue to read and reread books to continue
my education. Finally, I have paid Bob Ciaffone for a few phone
conversations and email analyses of hands ($100 for 2 hours, mail
email@example.com). These have also been very helpful sessions in
keeping me grounded when cards are cold and FPS (fancy play syndrome)
tries to take hold.
LOOKING BACK ON MY DECISION:
I don't happen to think four months is a long enough period of time to
declare my experiment a success. I do know that I'm a MUCH happier person
now than I was. I love what I do each day. I am a learner -- one thing I
really enjoyed about my previous job as a Project Manager was that I was
always learning new things. But now, I not only enjoy learning and
becoming better -- I actually inherently LIKE the thing I'm learning about
and getting better at! Much better! And I don't have the old situation
where I would take the stress home with me all the time. Life is fun! I
do what I want! And what I want often includes poker! It also includes
travelling for one week a month, which is wonderful now that I don't have
to show up places every day at 8am in a dress shirt and slacks to please a
That said, there have been some tough times. Some bumps. Some rough
points. Being up $4500 after one week in February and ending the month up
only $3500 was... a challenge for those two losing weeks (I spent one week
at Whistler snowboarding). It's mentally trying. It's not for the weak.
It's not for the average. It's for the mentally strong.
Poker is nice. I had a goal of being a millionaire by the time I'm 30. I
may achieve it through poker. I may also have to get a job in 6 months.
I won't go broke -- I'm too financially disciplined for that, and maintain
0 debt. Ideally, I'll make enough money soon (would love to well in WPT
Paris) to help my father retire soon, instead of in three years like he
wants to. If not... oh well, at least I gave it a shot.
<.unwanted philosophical rant>
But... Poker is not a lifetime vocation. Why? It's not constructive. It
doesn't contribute anything to the world. It's leeching extra disposable
income off of people. Providing them entertainment? No, I don't think
so, not like a movie or ballgame. Because they don't come to lose. They
don't come to pay me $40/hour to enjoy playing poker. They come to win,
but don't (on average). This is not being paid for entertainment.
We only have one life, and I think to spend all of one's working years
leeching extra money off of the rest of society is a waste. It's sure
great for a while though -- a great way to pay for travelling the world,
meeting great people, and building life skills like money management,
discipline, independence, and people-reading. I wouldn't be surprised if
five years from now, 'ex-poker professional' is a great line to have on a
resume when applying for a position as a negotiator, for instance.
<./unwanted philosophical rant>
I'm a smart guy. I missed two questions on my SATs, won lots of Academic
awards, particularly in math, etc, etc.
I'm very independant. I don't give a flip what most people think and just
do what I think is right.
I don't think that I'm some super special guy, and the purpose here is not
to brag. There are LOTS of people who can say things similar to the
above. But I think that you DO have to be smart and independant to
succeed at being a pro poker player. If, when asked to describe yourself,
you wouldn't mention the above without being prompted... I'd advise
finding another line of work.
I hope the above information is enough to help you make your decision.
Please, do consider multiple sources when making your decision, for as I
mentioned I've only been doing this for a little over four months, and
savvy readers will note that without my recent live tournament win, I'd be
up only $24k in four months... not that big a number when you consider
paying your own health insurance and a full 30% to Uncle Sam. I do have
to tell you -- I'm a really happy man, and in a lot of ways an envy of my
former coworkers. Life is good. Really good.
Best of luck, whatever your decision.
And the NOT so thoughtful response:
First of all you are a fucking idiot. It takes years to build up a skill
of poker to even think about going pro. One year aint gonna cut it bud.
And another thing, trust me from experience, you will not have more family
time. You are always gonna be in a casino trying to hit it big. Get
your shit together first and then consider if its for you
Gotta love RGP, eh? Thanks for visiting and hopefully I'll be back with a real post very soon.
So for now, I leave you with: Another chapter in The Biggest Poker Game on Earth.
The World's Biggest Poker Game — A Proposed Compromise--------------
by Barry Shulman
As you regular readers know, I have been in the middle of trying to help two sides square off for the biggest poker game ever.
There is a fair deal to be made here. If I were an appointed arbitrator, it would be done by now. The real issue is whether either side really wants a fair deal. Both sides slanted their offers to give them an edge. That is how it should be in poker — especially if it is the biggest game ever.
On one side is Andy Beal, the affable Texas financier who has come to Las Vegas several times and played in giant games heads up against some of the biggest-name, best players in poker.
On the other side are those players, who include Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Jennifer Harman, Howard Lederer, Chau Giang, Barry Greenstein, Ted Forrest, Gus Hansen, Lee Salem, John Hennigan, Ming Lau, Lyle Berman, Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan, and Hamid Dastmalchi.
Let's compare the two proposals, and I will provide my solution. (See the chart below.)
The biggest issue by far is determining the player against whom Andy will compete. He wants to pick the player from Doyle's group, and the group wants its own designee.
I say, let's compromise. Doyle should present a slate of eight players and Andy should be allowed to pick any four.
As for the stakes, again I propose a middle ground. Higher stakes helps Andy, in that there is a greater element of chance, and he might get them out of their comfort zone. On the other hand, $100,000-$200,000 is so high that it is too much of a crapshoot. I suggest that changing the stakes to $50,000-$100,000, which is 400 big bets (a tremendous amount of play), will provide plenty of room for both skill and randomness.
I think the arena needs to be Bellagio. Not only are most of the players from Las Vegas, but the even bigger issue is security. Bellagio has the dealers, the cameras, and the security, and can protect all parties.
In the past, I noticed that Andy was not on a level playing field, because fresh players were continually brought in against him. Therefore, I suggest that the game last exactly four hours each day, with no substitutions during those four hours.
Finally, there's the amount of money to be played for. Each side putting up $40 million is plenty, and that provides a finite amount. Besides, it is just a game, and we certainly don't want anybody getting hurt.
Terms Beal's Proposal Brunson's Proposal Shulman's Compromise The Game Heads-up limit hold'em Heads-up limit hold'em Heads-up limit hold'em Stakes $100,000 - $200,000 Start at $15,000 - $30,000 $50,000 - $100, 000 Limit Until broke or "cry uncle" $80 million freezeout $80 million freezeout Who Plays Doyle puts up 6 names; Andy picks one Doyle picks one Doyle picks 8 players,
from which Andy picks 4
Time Frame 4 hours daily - 4 hours daily - no substitutions Where Dallas Las Vegas Las Vegas
Link of the Day:
Willie Wonka and the Rat Bastard
This site confirms my suspicions about Grandpa Joe, the devious old man who pretended to be bedridden for years, supported by the child labor of his 10-year-old grandson Charlie.
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