Monday, January 30, 2006

"I think one of the most interesting things about poker is that once you let your ego in, you're done for."
Al Alvarez

Thank you, Mr. Alvarez, for putting it far more succinctly than I ever could.
Now where's your new damn poker book?

This post brought to you by Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker, damnit.

So what the hell have I been up to? Poker and Guinness, in that order. And I'm drinking heavily right now. Imagine that.

The wife and I have been training one of our dogs to be a competitive frisbee dog. Lotsa fun there. I've also been reading a ton of books and watching a veritable plethora of movies. I'd list 'em all here if this was a different kind of blog.

But this is a silly poker blog. And I'll be damned if I get off-topic tonight.

I have a couple things up my sleeve that are pending, though. Please stay tuned.

So I'm currently obsessed with my IPod and podcasts. Allow me to list my three favorite poker podcasters:

  • The venerable Lord Admiral Poker Podcast
  • Rounders
  • Poker Diagram

    Again, I've already begun drinking so I'm not sure if this will be a genuine, Guinness-fueled uber post. Let's pray it is.
    Here we go....

    Here's a fine tale about having fun and people at the poker tables:

    >At least where I play, the "fun" level has less
    >>to do with whether people
    >>are winning or losing than with whether there are some interesting and
    >>entertaining people at the table.

    True story;

    A few years ago I was in a game at the Taj Mahal. The table (Hold'em) was full, most of the seats were fulled by guys in business suits. It was a table where there were no laughs, and little if any talk (all serious.)

    I am the kind of person that tries to get everyone in a good mood, but it failed at this table. I was about to change games when a new dealer stepped in (a young lady.) The first thing she said was "Hello everyone, hope your all having a great time."

    I couldn't resist so I said. "Don't expect too many laughs here, this is a table full of undertakers."

    Suddenly the suits all looked up at me kind of funny, It was then that they asked me how I knew what they did for a living. I didn't know it until they told me, that they were here for a convention, the Taj was hosting the "New Jersey State Funeral Directors Convention", in the Arena next to the poker room.

    These guys "were" all undertakers. The game got much better after that and these "stiffs" turned out to be a lot of fun, (and have a lot of spare cash.)

    So it just shows to go ya, that you can have fun and lose, even if you are an embalmer.

    One of my favorite things about quitting my corporate job 15 months ago is getting the opportunity to be a "regular" in a poker room. I'm not exactly sure why this has been so pleasurable but it truly has. Perhaps it's all the stories and knowledge I've collected. Perhaps it's the money. Perhaps it's the strange little idea that I'm doing something "outside" the norm as a job. Perhaps it's the subtle nods of acknowledgment you get from other regulars when you sit down at the table to begin the day or nights session.

    In a fun twist of irony, I'm not much of a gambler. But of course, that's just denial, ain't it? I gamble and bet every day on the turn of cards - of course I'm a gambler. And on one level, the gambler is the quintessential decision-maker and strategist. I like that concept a lot. And that's not even getting into the salient points about things like 'judgement' and 'feelings' and 'discipline' and 'controlling your emotions' and 'tilt' and Queen Bitch of them all, 'Variance'.

    I've spent tons of time at the card table in the past 15 months. And I've seen a few blowups in the card room - regular players who curse their bad luck, stand up and shake their head at the game, only to storm away saying they are Done With This Shit.

    And these guys aren't necessarily bad players. I've seen them win plenty. But nearly every single one is an Action player. I'm not sure what that means on the face of it, but there's something there. Perhaps I should just link to Hank's post entitled Poker and Emotion.

    I consider poker to be the world's most perfect hobby. But to try and last and grind and hustle and all that shit, long-term; to cover your nut, forget it. If you can succeed in poker, you can easily succeed at much more purposeful, lucrative careers. Use poker as a fun, maybe serious, recreational hobby. Go for a big score and THEN quit yer job. Or buy a plasma TV with your winnings from last month. Buy something unexpected for the wife and kids. Whatever, my drunken two cents. I'm prolly writing this more to myself than you here.

    One of my very favorite quotes about poker is the following:


    The uniqueness of poker consists of its being a game of chance where the element of chance is itself subordinated to psychological factors and where it is not so much fate as human beings who decide. In this respect poker is the game closest to the Western conception of life, where life and thought are recognized as intimately combined, where free will prevails over philosophies of fate or chance, where men are considered free moral agents - at least in the short run - the important thing is not what happens, but what people think happens.


    Not to wax too existential here, but because of the relentless instability and uncertainty of daytoday poker, players are wise to continually examine and reexamine their motives, feelings and entire state of being. If the lives of poker pros were comfortable and predictable, such self-reflection wouldn't be necessary. Living, playing (and surviving) in the crazy, chancy world of poker can assault your sensibilities.

    Mike Caro perhaps put it best when he singled out two difficult issues, "The most difficult aspects of playing poker professionally are coping emotionally with the losses and coping with the recurring idea that you're not doing anything worthwhile."

    Now obviously, the questions about the meaning of 'worthwhile tasks' can be traced to wider cultural values about what is appropriate, gratifying and/or a constructive way to spend time & energy. Many folks just don't see card playing as particularly productive, and that's fine. Someone once used the phrase "sterile excellence" to refer to expert card players - arguing that their time could be more profitably spent on other interests. Here's what one writer had to say on the ultimate value of poker, no matter how much money can be made:

    The good poker player must strive to surround himself with losers....with people who are constantly defaulting on the use of their minds - the opposite kind of people whom the good player could respect and enjoy. This cannot be a very satisfying or rewarding way for him to consume large, irreplaceable portions of his life. Indeed the good poker player may be the biggest loser in the game. He may be sacrificing valuable segments of his life to the neurotic and self-destructive needs of chronic losers.

    Ouch. That's a bit overstated, methinks, but I see the point.

    And now I've lost my freaking point.
    Fuck me.

    Let's quickly move away from my drunken ramblings and back to the good stuff. Here's the latest news about ESPN's TV coverage of the 2006 WSOP.

    Subject: ESPN to cut back on 2006 WSOP Coverage

    ESPN.com and Chicago Tribune poker columnist Steve Rosenbloom wrote in his ESPN.com poker column on January 13 that ESPN will cut back the number of hours of coverage devoted to the 2006 WSOP and WSOP Circuit, from 32 hours in 2005 to "20+" hours in 2006.

    This comes as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the televised poker business.

    Average TV ratings in the US for the 2005 WSOP on ESPN fell 25% compared to 2004, from 1.5 million households to 1.1 million households. TV ratings for the final hour of the 2005 main event was also down about 25% compared to 2004, from 2.4 million households to 1.8 million households.

    Rosenbloom's column is at:



    Remote patrol: The $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event appears to be a good news/bad news situation for ESPN and its coverage of the World Series. Good, because big money attracts big names, and that's a sure-fire combination for attracting viewers. Bad, though, because it's a heavy limit poker tournament in a no-limit broadcast world.

    "We haven't decided yet,'' ESPN spokeswoman Keri Potts said. "We'll likely have a crew to cover it, but that doesn't mean it will be an episode.''

    ESPN's overall plans for showing the 2006 WSOP have not been determined yet. But one thing that apparently has been decided is that ESPN will show fewer poker episodes, even as the WSOP grows.

    Last year, the cable channel ran 18 weeks' worth of telecasts, 32 episodes in all, from mid-July through Nov. 15, from WSOP Circuit events to the final hand of the $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em championship event. Of the 32 shows, 12 were from the main event, which was two episodes more than in 2004 and five more than 2003.

    "The main event is really the crown jewel in the series, so it will likely mean less circuit and/or satellite coverage,'' Potts said. "We'll be closer to a 20-plus episode total. Honestly, with ratings, we feel through the whole ebb and flow of its phenomenon, poker is a really solid ratings performer for us. Thirty-two episodes was a long time and it ran into programming like Major League Baseball playoffs, giving some viewers a tough choice. Nothing unusual. We review and revise accordingly.''

    This year, ESPN faces a main event that could attract 8,000-plus players.
    Harrah's has scheduled four Day 1s -- one more than last year -- and two Day 2s, stretching the championship event to two full weeks.

    "Episode allotment has not been determined yet,'' Potts said. "While we will likely have a more condensed poker presentation overall, we can't say how many will be from the main event. It also depends on what happens with play.''

    Carson responds to this interesting question and poker story:

    Subject: Unbelievable poker story I heard last night

    Playing 20/40 at Pechanga, my neighbor told me this story.

    He was playing the 200 max buy-in game at Commerce, and one player had $1000, another had $1500, and the rest were right around the $200 mark or below. A hand comes up where a player moves all-in for $63, the player with $1500 moves all-in over the top, and the player with $1000 (last to act) shows AA and mucks, saying "It took me 5 hours to make this much, I don't want to lose it all in one hand." Wouldn't you be able to pick on this guy mercilessly all night now?

    (note: it turns out the original raiser had AK and the first caller had JJ and a J fell on the river, so the AA folder would have lost.)

    Obviously the guy should have called with AA, but it brings up an interesting question.......

    How big a favorite would you need to be to risk your entire bankroll?
    80/20 and I would risk it all in a second. 60/40 I wouldn't do it.

    I say "entire bankroll" b/c lesser amounts would make it too easy to
    risk at a slight advantage.



    If you were rational it would depend on what the alternatives are.

    If you had an option of betting everything one time at 80/20 advantage or betting 1% of your bankroll every minute for the rest of your life at a 51/49 advantage, would you still take the 80/20 bet?

    It also depends on the size of the bankroll and options for replenishment.

    Gotta mention this next snippet because one of these damn days I'm gonna start playing in them.

    Subject: Poker Stars raises guaranteed pool to $750K

    Starting next month, the weekly pool has been raised to $750K guaranteed.
    Unbelievable! Who said poker had jumped the shark?

    Typical rant about the kids going to play professional poker.

    Going pro

    Ok really I don't care if some of you who are successful yell at me about this, but to all those college kids who are thinking about "going pro" I say don't do it. I'm not some old man telling you this, I'm twenty four years old, college graduate who dropped out of Grad school to eventually "go pro". One of the dumbest things I ever did. First of all, the advice on living expenses of six months in advance is a wise one I didn't follow, and when you take a couple of bad beats, keep playing when you shouldn't, and go on tilt, well that electric bill is in a great deal of jeapordy for
    being paid.

    Now when I talking about going pro I'm talking about online, I have little experience in live play, although I'm sure some of my advice applies.

    Here are the main problems with "going pro"

    1. Trying to grind a hundred or two dollars a day by playing cards on a computer gets very boring, I've had lots of regular jobs and most of them were far more fun than this.

    2. Its not that easy to play your top game at several tables at once for eight hours a day. For me I'm only at top efficiency for about two hours straight. (Btw, for those of you who will ignore the advice and try it anyway, this should be one of your main signs on whether you have a chance at success, your ability to play at a top level hour after hour.)

    3. You're not the only one trying this! Based on play at Gaming Club aka prima I can tell you most players aren't as bad as people on forums like to tell. About half of your players at an average ring game think themselves good enough to bring a little extra bread in doing their hobby.

    The players that you raise preflop with AK call you with K8 and call you to the river for all their chips are few and far between.

    People whine so much about suckout artists, in my view there aren't enough of them in poker. I almost invariably find that when I hold something good like top pair top kicker and get raised my hand really is no good.

    Yes, there are the fish everyone loves to talk about, but the problem is there aren't enough of them, and they don't tend to be the players you see at the same tables night after night as they soon go broke.

    Between the rake, other pros, and good recreational players, the fish or two's money at the table gets spread pretty thin.

    4. Read Supersystem and try this strategy online. I guarantee you will soon be broke. Bluffing and aggression, which earned great players like Doyle a living are not effective online, because of too much calling. So basically, you are confined to playing good cards and playing tight online. And for all the times you get big wins with say Ak vs K8 about a third of those times the guy makes two pair on you and your the one who gets broken.

    Now I know what your saying to yourself, well this guy probably isn't too good at poker and I know a lot more than him, and that's what I used to think reading a post like this. But the fact of the matter is being a pro has relatively little to do with your skill level, and much more to do with your patience, ability to handle long sessions and multiple tables, ability to avoid tilt, and money management.

    Of course there are other issues which are more often addressed in posts like this, but to restate them they are for one the fact that even if you could make a couple G's a week playing online, there are potential bills in Congress waiting to come to the floor for a vote to ban it.

    There are no benefits playing poker, no health insurance, no pension plan...so when you get old and soft in the head you still gotta grind out your rent money.

    Lastly, I'd like to take issue with those in the past who have said if your thinking about going pro see if you can consistantly earn a profit playing in your spare time after work or school and on weekends.

    I completely disagree with this. The only way to know if you can make it going pro is to actually try it and have the emotional strain of having to depend on that money for your livelihood, and play day after day all day for weeks and months.

    I know the prima site pretty well and I know there are quite a number of people who attempt to make a living on it. From the best I can tell, probably about five make one worth writing home about. The rest either grind it out or eventually go broke and find a better way to earn an income.

    So yes, it is possibly to succeed. However, you are not going to know if that is possible without putting your life on hold and actually trying, but I can tell you right now the odds are far worse than drawing to a backdoor flush, which I am sure most of you are smart enough not to do.

    Hopes this helps somebody.


    That guy might have a better attitude if he played on freaking Party Poker, instead of the Prima Network. Dumbass.

    Speaking of dumbasses, this post took the cake. It was by a longtime RGP poster, nonetheless, which made it all the more mind-boggling.

    Subject: Re: The 'online is rigged' posters should've been there

    I have video of me playing at Stars and predicting the outcome of numerous hands hands in the same tournaments. I have e-mail from some prominent players who agree that hands are predictable.

    IN MY OPINION, the reason that they mute chat when a players is allin is not strictly for the purpose of players telling what they have and effecting the game's outcome.

    The main reason, IN MY OPINION, was that so many players were accurately calling out the turn and river cards when someone was allin. This didn't look good.

    Why do you think that the software can't be written so that all of the 'allin chat' isn't added to the chat buffer after the hand in bold, colored, or italic text so that we see everyones chat? They don't want the players that predict the outcome to be heard.

    Best Response:

    Yeah, a lot of the prominent players are quite stupid. And apparently, so are you.

    If you want to do that tournament prediciting cards thing for fun and profit we can set up even money bets at $1k a pop (or pretty much any lower if you prefer) as long as we can post the money with someone we both trust and you do it live. That offer is open to any of you btw, come and get the free money. For once the power of the rig can work in your favor.

    Good gravy, I want some of that action.

    Here's a followup to a post of mine a few weeks ago about several high-profile poker players refusing to take part in WPT tournaments. Now it's time for Greg Raymer to join in, as well. Hit the 2+2 link and scroll down to the 5th post to see Greg's take on things.

    Subject: Greg "Fossilman" Raymer joins WPT boycott

    2004 World Champion Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, who recently moved from Connecticut to Raleigh, North Carolina, disclosed on the 2+2 Forum this past Sunday that he is boycotting WPT events over the same image rights release issue cited by Chris "JESUS" Ferguson and Andy Bloch:

    Professional Players boycotting WPT events

    Richard Brodie from Lion Tales chimed in and mentioned:

    Boycott implies more organization than exists. Smart players are just figuring out that it's a very bad deal.

    Random gambling factoid: if you add up all the numbers on a roulette wheel it equals 666. Nice.

    And the classic poker question with a response:

    Too unlucky for poker?

    Is it possible a person can be just too unlucky for poker, no matter their skills? I've read and re-read all the major poker books. I've practiced hours on Poker Pro Academy. I feel I have the necessary understanding of the game and the skills to be a winner at the low levels. But I always lose. I don't lose with marginal hands.

    My losses are always big. For instance, yesterday I just started my session when I was dealt AK suited. I flopped top two pairs and I played it aggressively. How else can you play it? But the other player had a set of kings, so I lost $100 as soon as I got started. This type of situation is so common for me now, that it no longer affects me emotionally or mentally. But, of course, it severely affects my bankroll. How do you know when to just give up?

    I've put so much time and effort into learning poker that I don't want to quit. I truly believe I am a good player. But luck is my enemy and right now I simply can't seem to overcome it. Time after time, I've had a great, winning session and then all
    of a sudden I'll get a monster hand and lose all my profit to a bigger monster. I don't know what to do.


    Assuming that you aren't simply fooling yourself, the answer to your question is yes and it is no. That is, there probably are people who will never win because they will simply never reach the elusive "long run" where the luck is supposed to even out. They eventually go broke or give up the game or both, even though their play is better than average. There just about HAVE to be some few people like that.

    On the other hand, luck is not predictive. Unlike skill and attitude, the luck from today and this week will not be with you tomorrow or next week. If you continue to make good decisions, you will always be more LIKELY to win. If you make good decisions and your opponents do not, you are very likely to win. If "this type of situation" really does NOT affect you emotionally or mentally, you already have a big edge.

    Of course, the assumption that you aren't fooling yourself has to be examined and you are the only one who can do that. Take your game apart, including the non-obvious things like game selection, table selection, seat selection and the amount of hours you put into a session. See what needs to be improved. If the answer is nothing, you
    are probably fooling yourself. If the answer is "a few things here and there," as it is for most of us, work on those things. If it turns out you have a great deal wrong with your game, admit it to yourself and re-work your thinking or give up the game.

    Will in New Haven

    I was recently reminded of that silly tool, Googlism, and I thought this was a good opportunity to see how poker is showing up on there versus a year ago. Enjoy.

    Googlism for: poker

    poker is life
    poker is our horse
    poker is coming on strong
    poker is easy
    poker is here
    poker is like church
    poker is being updated
    poker is right here
    poker is for internet surfers
    poker is lotteries
    poker is life
    poker is the name of the game
    poker is upon us
    poker is thriving
    poker is an increasingly popular form of gambling
    poker is also well debated
    poker is win big money
    poker is one of the best
    poker is a unique game
    poker is played today
    poker is fun when you're in pain
    poker is played throughout the world
    poker is a table game that has been growing in popularity over recent years and can now be found in most land
    poker is a game of people
    poker is not the same as sports betting nor even "random chance" casino games like craps and roulette
    poker is a game of skill
    poker is a game unlike any other in the casino
    poker is not war
    poker is america's fastest growing specialty table game
    poker is one of the most popular card games in the world
    poker is a pimp
    poker is available in neighboring mississippi
    poker is a game of chance
    poker is quiet war; it's tidy bloodlust; it's ripping the guts out of the guy next to you and tossing them back in his face with a pair of aces
    poker is one of the most popular casino games for one solid reason
    poker is america's best known and most popular card game
    poker is draw poker played on a slotmachine
    poker is the game of the old west
    poker is a simple game infinite in its complexities
    poker is a beerware program that i wrote to simulate a weekend game of five
    poker is largely a game of chance
    poker is by far the most popular card game played in america today
    poker is offered in jacks or better
    poker is merciless
    poker is life
    poker is the name of the game
    poker is the devil
    poker is coming on strong
    poker is forever


    Weeee, this guy's dad got bashed pretty damn hard when he prolly didn't deserve it. Them internet nerds can be pretty rough. Enjoy:

    Subject: Playing a rush:

    I've posted here in the past about the differences between my poker ideology and my father's. I suppose that, since he's my father, the lectures will never end.

    However, when it comes to poker, I'm becoming more and more convinced every day that I'm right. I'm not saying I'm a better poker player than he is, as he has 50 years of experience to back him up, and I know at least the last 20 of those years, he has
    been a winning player.

    This hand came up last weekend, and my dad was a spectator. My play here resulted in a lecture, but the lecture was all about how important it is to know one is on a rush, or when one is cold, and to adapt accordingly.

    I don't believe in that kind of thinking. The way I look at it, there is a fine line between playing conservatively because I'm cold and being cold because I"m playing conservatively. Furthermore, the way I look at it, the most common way to prolong a cold streak or to end a hot streak is to alter one's play because of the streak. I may alter my play based on others' perception of my streak, but I prefer to play
    optimally at all stages of the game.

    Anyway, to the hand in question.

    $5-$10 LHE game on an extremely loose and extremely passive table.

    I had Ad 7d from cutoff, and was able to limp. The button folded. The flop was Kh, 10d, 4d. Six players saw it.

    The first to act was the small blind, and he was on a rush. In the 20 or so hands I had played, I had seen him increase his $200 chip stack to about $500. He was catching unbelievable cards, was the big winner at the table, and everyone knew it. He opened for a bet. Everyone called to me, and I raised. The player on a rush reraised (which I hadn't anticipated). The entire table called again, so I capped. All six players called to see the turn.

    The turn caught my flush (2d). The small blind opened with a bet again. Two players called, and I raised. The small blind reraised, which prompted everyone else to fold, and I capped.

    The river card paired the board (Kd) with another diamond. Now, with four to a flush on the board, my opponent opened with a bet. His play was consistant with a flopped set, so I just called him. Sure enough, he had rivered quads. I mucked my flush without showing it (I didn't want anyone to know how I play a draw like that).

    My dad later asked me what I had, and I told him that I had the nut flush. Of course, his next question was in what the hell I was doing ramming and jamming on the flop with nothing but a flush draw. He said I was foolish to do that against a player who was on a rush. He also said that I deserved to lose the hand.

    I explained myself in this manner:

    I was getting 5 to 1 on my chips on a 3 to 1 draw. I wanted as much in the pot as possible, and I was sure the entire table would call me since they had all called once already. I had misunderestimated my opponent's hand, though, as I wasn't expecting a raise. That immediately told me that he had outs to beat my flush, if I was to hit it, but when the entire table called again, I had to cap because of the
    odds. When I hit the flush on the turn, capping the bet was a no-brainer. When the board paired on the river with a fourth diamond and my opponent led off with a bet, it was obvious to me that I was beat. I called only because of the size of the pot.

    This seems like such a no-brainer to me, but I'm an analytical guy who doesn't believe in mystical powers that determine whether or not someone is on a rush or not. I've played rushes before, and they invariably end. If I'm still playing a rush or a cold streak after it ends, I'm costing myself a lot of chips.

    My dad says that the greatest poker players in the world are great because they recognize when they are on a rush. I say that the biggest mistake a poker player can make is to alter his play based on what has happened in the recent past.

    I don't believe I've ever seen this topic posted here before.


    Well hell, I'm gonna wrap this up. I'm too drunk to continue.

    If you enjoy this deranged poker blog, please consider signing up on Party Poker with Bonus Code IGGY. I write this all up just for you, gentle reader.

    Thanks for reading and I'll be back ASAP.

    Link of the Day:
    There Will Be Fireworks
    On May 13, 2000, cameraman Marcel van Nieuwenhoven was one of the first at the scene of a fireworks warehouse that caught fire in Enschede, The Netherlands. It was his last assignment.

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