Zen and The Art of The Dude

It’s been a crazy week at work, and aside from a good session on Monday night, I haven’t been on the tables. I have been working with my best friend, poker prodigy “Monk,” who’s been dominating the $1-2 tables and quickly moved up to two tables of $2-4. It’s a lot of work to review hand histories, but I think it’s helping my game, and I get a lot of pleasure out of seeing his development.
Since I’ve been on my pedestal and pretending like I’m some expert poker mentor, I thought I’d continue the masquerade and try something different tonight. In the spirit of The Sports Guy, today’s entry explores the poker wisdom in one of my favorite movies… The Big Lebowski.
The Wisdom of The Dude
The Dude: Walter, ya know, its Smokey, so his foot slipped over the line a little, big deal.
Walter Sobchak: Dude, this is a league game, the winner of this gets to progress into the next round robin. Am I wrong? Am I wrong?
Smokey: Yeah but I wasn’t over.
Walter Sobchak: [pulls out a gun] Smokey you are about to enter a world of pain.
Smokey: Yeah but…
Walter Sobchak: [shouting] A world of pain.
Smokey: Dude, could you…
The Dude: Jesus Walter, you bring a fucking gun bowling?
Walter Sobchak: [shouting] Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one who pays attention to the rules any more?
Smokey: Yeah but…
Walter Sobchak: [shouting] You think i’m fucking around? I’m not fucking around!
[points gun in Smokey’s face]
Walter Sobchak: Mark it zero! Fucking mark it zero.
The Dude: They’re calling the cops, man.
Smokey: Alright, its fucking zero. Are you happy now you crazy fuck?
Walter Sobchak: …Its a league game Smokey…

The first quote goes out to the idiots who insist on lecturing the fish and showing everyone at the table how smart they are. I don’t know who said it first, but “don’t tap on the aquarium glass!” Too many times I’ve seen some sucker throwing his money away… of course he finally sucks out on some “pro,” who asks him how he can call 3 bets with 98o. The fish plays a couple more hands, being berated the whole time, and promptly leaves. Keep your gun in your pants, Walter.

The Dude: Just take it easy man.
Walter Sobchak: I’m perfectly calm Dude.
The Dude: shouting Yeah, waving the f*cking gun around?
Walter Sobchak: Calmer than you are.
The Dude: Will you just take it easy?
Walter Sobchak: Calmer than you are.

We all love getting raised on the river when a fish hits a runner-runner flush to drag a monster pot. Even though we think we’re immune to tilt, it’s pretty easy to start playing marginal hands with a couple fish at the table. You know they play anything, so your J9s starts looking pretty good, and you cold call. Don’t let the fish put you on tilt– just play your game, calm and cool.
The Dude: Oh, fuck me, man! That kid already spent all the money!
Walter Sobchak: New Corvette? Hardly, Dude. I’d say he’s still got about $960 – $970,000 left, depending on the options.

This quote applies to one of my favorite things I see on party– short stacks pissing away 6 big bets on that “last hand,” capping the flop and turn in a desperate attempt to go all in with nothing. Be aware of players with only 6 or 7 Big Bets in front of them. If you find them 3 betting you, throw in that cap, because usually they’re just trying to get rid of their chips so they can go beat their dog.

Walter Sobchak: GOD DAMN IT! Look, just because we’re bereaved, that doesn’t make us saps!

This quote goes out to the poker rooms in Southern California, raking off a big bet before the flop, even when only 2 players are in. I like playing in the B&M, but come on guys, that rake is out of control. Don’t squeeze the low-limit players too much, or the well will run dry. Build the bank online, where you don’t tip dealers and the rake is relatively small– then come back to the big games where the rake is almost non-existent.

The Dude: I only said I THOUGHT she kidnapped herself. You’re the one who’s so fucking certain!
Walter Sobchak: That’s right, Dude. 100% certain.

Walter, of course, ends up being right. When you’re close to the nuts and somebody 3 bets the turn or river on you, wait a second before throwing out the cap. If your gut tells you you’ve got the best hand, grit your teeth and reraise.

Nihilist: We thought we were going to get a million dollars! It’s not fair!
Walter Sobchak: Not fair? Who’s the fucking nihilist?

The Nihilist is the typical tourney player who complains about a bad beat. Accept that short term luck is the most important factor in tourneys. Your AA is a big favorite, but not that big. Suck it up and get ready for the next tourney.

The Big Lebowski: Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir. The bums will always lose. Do you hear me, Lebowski?
[The Dude walks out and shuts the door]
The Big Lebowski: The bums will always lose!
Brandt: How was your meeting, Mr. Lebowski?
The Dude: Okay. The old man told me to take any rug in the house.

To all the low-limit pros out there: grinding it out hour after hour in front of the monitor may not be glamorous, but it’s a hell of a lot better than working some dead end job from 9 to 5 every day. Forget the yuppie naysayers, if you build your bankroll and use your spare time wisely, you’ll go a lot farther than the average working stiff.

The Stranger: See, they call Los Angeles the “City Of Angels”, but I didn’t find it to be that, exactly. But I’ll allow it as there are some nice folks there. ‘Course I aint never been to London, and I aint never seen France. And I aint never seen no queen in her damned undies, so the fella says. But I’ll tell you what, after seeing Los Angeles, and this here story I’m about to unfold, well, I guess I seen somethin’ every bit as stupefyin’ as you’d seen in any of them other places.

This quote goes out to the no fold ’em LA hold ’em players, from 2-4 all the way up to $15-30. I’ve heard many times that the $15-30 games at Hollywood Park is looser than the $4-8 game. If you can build a bankroll big enough to handle the swings, and stay off tilt, you’ll be rollin in chips like Demi Moore in “Indecent Proposal”.

Walter Sobchak: Donny was a good bowler, and a good man. He was one of us. He was a man who loved the outdoors… and bowling, and as a surfer he explored the beaches of Southern California, from La Jolla to Leo Carrillo and… up to… Pizmo. He died, like so many young men of his generation, he died before his time. In your wisdom, Lord, you took him, as you took so many bright flowering young men at Khe Sanh, at Langdok, at Hill 364. These young men gave their lives. And so would Donny. Donny, who loved bowling. And so, Theodore Donald Karabozov, in accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean, which you loved so well. Good night, sweet prince.

To Sean– I miss ya buddy. Anisotropy was not the first blog to pass on to that great blog in the sky, but it’s the one I miss the most. Sean, wherever you are, keep on truckin.

The Dude: Walter, I love you, but sooner or later, you’re going to have to realize the fact that you’re a god damn moron.

This one goes to Phil Hellmuth. Nuff said.

Walter Sobchak: Now that is just ridiculous, Dude. Nobody is going to cut your dick off.

This quote goes to a $5-10 6 max hand I played tonight. Grubby say: “It sucks when a maniac gets a real hand”. I’ll leave out the gory details, but with three jacks on the board, my pocket tens went down in flames to maniac’s AJ.

The Dude: Your money is being held by a kid named Larry Sellers. Real fucking brat, but I’m sure your goons can get it off him. I mean, he’s fifteen.

Don’t cold call the raises of the fish with marginal hands. Yeah you can outplay them after the flop, but there are 8 other players at the table who won’t be loosening up as much as you. As the example above illustrates, sometimes they actually have a real hand.

The Stranger: The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals.

The final quote relates to the zen of poker. When you’re playing low limit poker well, you’re not focusing on tells, calculating pot odds, or putting players on hands. The game just comes to you. You feel it, you KNOW everything that’s going on without calculation. You look at your stack after a while and see that you’ve doubled your buy in. There is such a thing as “trying too hard”. Relax, and let the game come to you.

Card craps or crap cards?

“Because Dickens and Dostoevsky and Woody Guthrie were telling their stories much better than I ever could, I decided to stick to my own mind.”
–Bob Dylan
Can blogging cure a post-birthday hangover? With Bob Dylan “Live 1964” (birthday present) in the background, some coffee, and the clacking of the keyboard, I’m feeling better already. Plenty of Guinness bottles to recycle, as many were hoisted in honor of not only my 27th b-day, but also to honor the mighty Ignatius, who finally got what he deserved with a brilliant performance Saturday. I’ll wait for Iggy’s writeup, and say only that he did the poker bloggers proud. Thanks to all the birthday wishes everybody left in the comments.
Where the Morons Go
Friday night marked the annual birthday trip to the casino. Last year the wife and I made it all the way to Vegas, but since she had to work this weekend, we could only make the 2 hour drive to the nearest Indian Casino, which is appropriately named “Casino Morongo”. Apparently Morongo is the name of the tribe, but the games offered are suspiciously moronic.
The most moronic was “Card Craps”, and since all the blackjack tables were full, I actually got a chance to play this new and idiotic game. But first an explanation gambling law and Indian Casinos in California is required in order to understand why this bizarre game exist.
Like other states, the only place where Casinos are legal is on an Indian reservation. But in California, card rooms are legal, where poker and several table games are offered. The legality of the card room games is based on who the gambler is playing against. It is illegal for the gambler to play against the house in a card room, so the blackjack games there must be played against “the bank”, usually a prop for the casino with a big bankroll who can cover the swings. These blackjack games aren’t the typical game either– the game is set up so that the house has a huge edge… the rules are bizarre: there are Jokers in the deck, you can still win if you go over 21, etc. So when you see a guy with a pin that says “I play for BOB’S BANK”, you know the odds are stacked against you. Don’t ever play these games in California or otherwise.
Since slots and “real” blackjack are not allowed in card rooms, LA residents are forced to drive 2 hours to the nearest Indian casino. However, the Vegas thugs managed to prevent Roulette and Craps from being played in California. To circumvent this, the Indian casinos have recently created “Card Craps,” an imitation of Craps that uses cards rather than dice to take players’ money. After counting cards for a while at blackjack tables full of 18 year olds (Indian casinos are happy to take your money at age 18), I was able to double up after an hour or so, but got tired of the pondering that went on when a kid was faced with the decision to hit or stand on 15 against the dealers 8 (hit idiot!), with a whopping $5 on the table. So I took my $100 win and went over to the Card Craps table. On top of the blackjack win, Mrs. Double ran by about 10 minutes after arrival, and stuffed a Franklin into my hand, screaming “I won $170” and sprinting back to the slots. Happy Birthday indeed.
Instead of rolling dice, the craps “dealer” had a blackjack shoes in front of each hand. The shoes were filled with cards ranging from Ace to 6, and each “roll” consisted of simultaneously pulling a card from each deck. I determined that the odds were the same as regular craps, and wondered if you could actually obtain an edge from counting this game (I believe the answer is yes, but only a tiny edge). Unlike craps with dice, there is no flow to this game– the dealer just continuously whips out the cards, and there is barely time to get your bet on the table. I quickly lost half my money playing coin-flip bets on the 6 and 8. I wanted to leave, but couldn’t see any empty seats at the blackjack tables, so went for broke after hitting a couple 8s. No more birthday luck for me, and I left down $50 or so.
On to video poker, fighting through crowds of drunken gamblers to finally find a decent machine. Lost my $50 after an hour or so, but I did have the joy of witnessing a wonderful exchange between an older couple:
Guy with a cane walks up to the machine next to me, stinking of whiskey and funk. Puts in $5, and is yelled at by the wife: “You’re drunk!” she screams at him, and walks away. He breathes liquor fumes in my face, “She thinks I’m drunk!”, and cashes out before even playing a hand, limping after her as fast as he can. She does a lap around the row of machines, and comes back a minute later, whacking the “cash out” button. I look over, and she shamefully mumbles “Oh, uhh, I wanted to make sure he already cashed out.” My trips never turns into 4 of a kind after about 10 tries, and I quickly leave the scene.
Where is a positive EV gambler to go? I found my way into the poker room, in which every seat was filled, and a bunch of younger guys were standing around waiting for a seat. I tried to get into the NL $100 buy in game, but it was full. I was told the $8-16 game had a seat, and a quick survey of the participants showed a nice mix of fish: a couple young drunks, and weak-tight looking older players. I grabbed the seat, feeling good to be back at a table where the odds were clearly in my favor.
AQ on the first hand, raise it up, got a couple of callers, and everyone folded when the ace flopped. Hmm, maybe the table is a little tight, but ok. I play tight for a while, and after a player wins two hands in a row, the Kill Button flips over and I realize that this would be the first kill pot I have ever played. For the uninitiated, a kill pot happens when a player has won two hands in a row, at which points the limits double, and the winner of the last hand posts an additonal blind.
These kill pots are great, since you have $8-16 players playing $16-32, and not properly adjusting their play. The players at my table did tighten up considerably in kill pots, but overly so. In my best play of the night, I used my tight table image to steal a kill pot. I had the kill, and put in the extra $8 to see the flop with JTo and 3 limpers. The flop came 8 high, and I bet out, knowing that nobody had hit their hand and my raises would get respect. Everybody folded, and I took down a nice pot.
Tight play and quality big-card starting hands were good to me. I flopped top pair several times, and played my AK like AA to win a decent pot on the turn when the board showed J J T 7. I ran my $300 buy in up to $540 after an hour, and I was happy to have escaped the masses of card crappers and bad blackjack players. The wife couldn’t get there soon enough– it was late and I was running out of steam, and I kept glancing towards the poker door hoping to see her smiling face. But she was hypnotized by the flashing lights and mellifluous tones of the slot machines (the guys that make those things are the best marketers that have ever lived). The cards went cold, and I played super tight for the next hour.
Finally, she showed up, and I breathed a sigh of relief– nice to go home with a good win. As you can see, I’m a little overprotective of my wins, especially when I felt that I was the best player at the table. Anyway, the last hand comes around (gotta play till the blinds), I’m UTG and it’s a kill pot. I see AQo, and raise it up, hoping everybody folds and I can go home with a couple extra Big Bets. Perfect–everybody folds to the kill pot, who calls (uh oh). The flop is T 4 4, and he checks to me. I bet out, and he check-raises. Huh? He was pretty tight, so I figured him for JJ or KK, since I held an A and Q, and I didn’t see him raising if he held a Ten, and didn’t see him calling with AT or worse. I called, planning to fold if the turn didn’t help me (now $128 in the pot). Turn was a rag, and when he bet out, my brain malfunctioned. Maybe I was tempting the fates, but I called with my 6 out draw in the hopes of a birthday gift from the Poker Gods.
And they gave it to me– an Ace on the river. But when he bet out, I heard the poker gods laughing, and just called, only to be shown TT for the flopped boat. That one horrible play cost me $120, and I went home still up $120, but stinging from the final hand. That’s what happens when you play tired, and your mind has already left the poker room.
Anybody near Casino Morongo should definitely stop by the poker room– the rake is reasonable, the players are bad, and there’s lots of money to go around. Just make sure you don’t lose your focus on that infamous “last hand”.
Put me in Coach
After talking a while with my best friend since forever, it seemed his attitude towards poker had changed, and there was potential here. Monk is one of the smartest people I’ve met, but he’s a bit headstrong, and his previous dabbling in poker has resulted in too many hubris-filled attempts to outplay weaker players. I don’t care how smart you are, in low-limit poker, the cards do the talking. But Monk has had a small epiphany, and he seems ready to put in the time and effort to learn how to play disciplined poker. I’ve agreed to be his mentor, and in the upcoming weeks, I’ll be tracking his play and investing in him. We reviewed some hands in PokerTracker today, and next up is an overall strategy session. After that I’m letting him loose on 2 $1-2 tables to determine if he’s got the discipline to beat these games. He’s one of the best people-readers that I’ve met, so I think he has a big future if he can survive enough hands to absorb the patterns of the low limit world. We’ll see if the investment is a good one.
Poker Blog Patrol
Newcomer JD at Cheap Thrills has started off with a bang, excellent stuff there (as usual, thanks Iggy for the pointer). JD weighs in on why he plays poker:
“I’m going to be honest and say that one of the reasons I enjoy poker is its gambling element. Some folks deny that poker is gambling, saying that it’s a game of skill. I think too many people think of the word “gambling” as a pejorative, associating it only with casino games that are stacked against the player. But I don’t want to get into semantics or legal distinctions. Of course there’s a huge skill element in poker. But there’s also a gambling/chance element. Once AK has gone all-in against a medium pair in a tourney, it’s a gambling moment, and that has its appeal. I think one of the main reasons the WPT has become so popular is that it affords many viewers who know little about poker but enjoy gambling many vicarious thrills. By and large the skill in poker is recognizing and pouncing on the right gambles, and again, self-discipline is needed to temper the appeal of trusting in Lady Luck at the poker table.”
TiltedLitt is another brand new blogger and talks about the $.50-1 insanity on PartyPoker. Litt is playing from Taiwan, so it’s a lot tougher for him to find the juicy games:
“Now, with the return of Daylight Savings Time, the fish have another hour of sleep before I chase after them. So 8 PM Taiwan Time is 8 AM East Coast time, or 5 AM West Coast Time.”
Grubette crushed the $4-8 game at Hawaiian Gardens, and was planning to use her winnings to buy something nice for herself. Not a laptop, not an entry into a multi, but a DRESS. Surprisingly practical, from the sister of the multi-table king.
BG offers the quote of the month, heckling a fish in a SNG with Iggy and Pauly:
“Boygza: no one expects the spanish inquisition”
The Penguin is back after a long hiatus, offering up a stellar post– the seven deadly sins of poker:
“Pride is excessive belief in one’s own abilities, it has been called the sin from which all others arise. There are few poker mistakes that can’t be traced back to pride. Playing above your bankroll – Pride. Trying to buy a pot against fish because you’re a tight player – Pride. Fancy Play Syndrome – Pride. Playing hands out of position because you think you can make them work – Pride. Calling down with a beaten hand so people won’t think you’re weak – Pride. If I could get rid of one fault from my game, it would be pride.”
One of my favorite blogs hasn’t been updated much recently, which means that the blogger is either (a) abstaining from blogging for lent, (b) overwhelmed with work, or (c) drunk. Let’s hope its (c) and the updates roll in next week.
Alcan Thang reports on his first live tournament. No Moneymaker-like results, but it sounds like he played an excellent game, but the it wasn’t in the cards for him that day.
Paulsburbon takes us on a trip through the mind of a no-limit player. His post just showed me how far my NL game is behind my limit game:
“A lot of players will put in a check here or a small bet not wanting to scare anyone away. I bet big and a semi-pro will say to himself. He doesn’t have the spade he’s looking to buy the pot. If he has any spade or even top pair he might call a pot sized bet or raise to see if I have the spade. He just calls almost immediately and the small blind folds. River brings the four of clubs and I fire off another pot sized bet.( this was a mistake by me. I should have over bet the pot because if he was in for a $70 bet than he would be in for more if I was looking to get paid on this pot) Sure enough he calls right away and shows jack of clubs ten of spades and mucks it.”
I’m off to the tables and then to the Poker Blogger Tourney, which may ended up shorthanded due to the holiday. I guess all poker players aren’t pagans after all…

“What happened to your bankroll?!”

“All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right”

–Alexander Pope
And so my cards continued to be a little bit cold tonight, although I was able to play 4 $3-6 tables comfortably for the first time ever. I squeezed the 4 tables onto my dual monitor solution in preparation for the laptop I ordered yesterday, on which I spent an extra $200 to max out the resolution at 1920 x 1200. I don’t know if I’ll be able to see the little Party avatars on the screen at that resolution, but I guess I could fit 6 tables on the 15.4″ wide screen. Yes, that’s right, I’ve gone and spent way too much money on a super laptop (I got the HP Pavilion ZX5000 if anyone cares). I feel a little bit guilty about it, because it’s not something I “need”, but hey, it’s my birthday, and I haven’t bought anything for myself in a long long time.
I use the term “comfortably” lightly… after breaking even on 3 of the tables, I was rivered brutally on the fourth hand after hand. The worst two hands were back to back Big Slick, pairing my ace on the flop and losing to J6o on the turn on both hands. This was to the same player, who called a raise preflop both hands. Ahhh, PartyPoker.
One thing that seems to naturally happen when increasing the number of tables is an automatic tightening up– you drop marginal hands like QTo from your arsenal, since playing multiple hands simultaneously on 4 tables is difficult. Lord Geznikor talks about this adjustment to his game here.
After an hour and a half or so, I found myself down $130. The bright spot in these river drownings was being greeted by that crazy Canuck Don from “Bullets in the Hole” after about 5 minutes at the table. He hit trip kings twice in about 5 minutes, raking in a couple nice pots before going to watch hockey or south park or some such Canadian pastime.
But after getting rivered one too many times, thankfully The Grubster popped in to one of my tables and bailed me out before I could lose much more. We took a field trip over to the NL $50 tables, which were about as much fun as watching paint dry. I’d rather play video poker– everybody sees the flop for a buck, waits for the nuts and goes all-in. I don’t know how people can play these games.
Of course, that lasted for about 20 minutes, before we took our chips over to the $5-10 6 max games, Grubby’s usual hangout. The first table I happened to check out was one which DavidRoss happened to be playing at, along with a maniac with 1K in front of him. I sat down, against my vows not to play with DavidRoss, and soon after Grubby followed suit. I went up about $100 pretty quickly, and Grubby said goodnight.
But he couldn’t stay away long, and made a Mike McD-Like return about 20 minutes later (I guess that makes me Worm). Immediately a chat window popped up:
pokergrub: what happened to your bankroll?!
My favorite part about this quote is that Grubby actually spent the extra half second to add the exclamation point after the question mark to convey his amazement. Oh the humanity!
Ouch. I got burned a couple times by the maniac, being aggressive with big aces but not hitting anything, and was down about 200 since Grubby logged out.
It only got worse from there– Grubby started the downward spiral by raking in a big pot when his A8 paired his kicker on the turn, and beat my AT. He did have the flush draw though, so no complaints there. But the following hand saw my AJ go down in flames to the maniac’s AQ, when the board showd AAKQ9. The next hand the maniac raised my blind, and I called with A7. I had second pair on the flop, and went to the river, only to be shown AA by the maniac. Grubby shut his eyes and logged out, claiming “I can’t watch!” I couldn’t either.
So that’s where I’m at now, trying to win back my $250 that I burned through in a short hour of play. With bourbon in hand (and in belly), I’ve got $70 of it back, and will try to win a couple pots before I pass out.
I’m excited for the new laptop, although if I didn’t have the tax return, I’d be worry about the cost after the last couple sessions.
But wait! As we speak, the poker gods have smiled on the bourbon-drinking, patient worshipper:
#510710387: hdouble wins $73 from the main pot with a full house, Twos full of sevens.
#510711113: hdouble wins $128 from the main pot with two pairs, kings and queens.
#510712742: hdouble wins $105 from the main pot with two pairs, kings and tens

And just like that, I’m back to my buyin at the $5-10 shorthanded game. At least Grubby went to bed a winner, so I’m happy (ok, relieved is more accurate). Note: all 3 of these wins came against a player who was tilting like a pinball machine. Thank you, poker gods.
I know I promised a guide to PokerTracker, but I’ve been contacted by another PokerTracker expert who’s going to team up with me in developing the guide. It’s in the works, but my collaborator is a stickler for the details, so it may be a while before we finish. Good things come to those who wait study their stats in PT.
In related news, the hand history database is growing rapidly, so hop on the bandwagon if you want to get thousands of PT hands to build your notes on other players. See the post below for more details.
Well, that’s about it for me. I’ve switched to water, and we’re now less than 24 hours away until my birthday. Gifts are encouraged.

Variance is the @#$%&* of Poker

“We do not what we ought,
What we ought not, we do,
And lean upon the thought
That Chance will bring us through.”

–Matthew Arnold
Well, my insane $3-6 winning streak finally ended on Saturday. And it didn’t just tail off slowly, it came to a crashing halt, spun around and sent me spiraling into red numbers. But let’s start with Friday…
Friday: Business as Usual
It had been a couple weeks since my last losing session, so long that I’d almost forgotten what it felt like to lose. So when I sat down and the big bets started sliding towards me, it was nothing unusual. In an hour and a half I managed to hit a couple monster hands, including a 22 Big Bet pot after flopping trip sevens. This helped push me to a ridiculous $250 win on one table in just over an hour of play. Between the other two tables, I lost $140, but it still put me up $110. I caught some cards (that set made my night), but still felt my play was top-notch, and felt untouchable.
Saturday: 4 for 4
Saturday was beautiful– I can’t remember very many sessions where I booked wins on all 3 tables… small wins on each table left me up $130 after a short $1 hour session. After I watched the Huskies steal the game from choking Duke (I’m from Connecticut), I hit up a quick $30+3 SNG, and led nearly from start to finish, cashing in another $120. I’m pretty critical of myself in tournaments, and this one of those rare tourneys where I couldn’t remember making any mistakes. Replaying the hands in my head, I was happy with my play.
Sidebar: Warning, contains appalling consumerism
Something else happened on Saturday… I found myself convinced that with the winning streak, I could afford to upgrade my PC. I usually try to live a pretty spartan life, but I found myself thinking it would be nice to have a faster machine that I could use for work and home… yes, a laptop! I’ve always hated laptops, but I’m spending so much time in front of the comp that it would be nice to be able to sit outside sometimes (when I walk outside these days, I start squinting and looking for shelter like some cold-blooded animal). Plus, since I spend 14 hours a day behind the computer, it’s worth the money to maximize my working/poker-playing environment. (That could have been the nerdiest thing I’ve ever written)
I’d been reading about other bloggers buying laptops, and didn’t really understand the strange logic that was involved in such a purchase. BG and Grubby recently climbed on the laptop bandwagon, although I believe Decker has been talking about it for a while, and finally took the plunge last week (did I miss anyone?). Anyway, now that the thought has poisoned my brain, I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do. So rather than trying to win my way into the WPT this weekend (Hollywood Park has 3 juicy qualifiers every night this weekend), I’m putting the money towards the laptop.
End Sidebar
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Waking up at 2 after the time change, my internal clock was out of whack. But no matter, I was as happy as a Varkonyi after a great Saturday on the tables. And then I missed some flops. My big cards weren’t connecting, and 3 small bets were going down the toilet every hand. No big losses, but plenty of small ones, and after a frustrating 2 hour session, left for the weekly Poker Blogger Tourney (thanks for setting this up Felicia!) down $185. I knew that I was due for a day like this, and I was comforted looking back at PokerTracker to confirm that I was not playing badly, I was just missing a lot of flops.
I planned to win back this money by winning the tourney, even if the mighty Roy Cooke was sitting right across from my virtual character. I knew my Riddler-like attire gave me the edge, and I used my wacky table image to my advantage. Roy “I never” Cooke raced out to an early lead, accumulating some chips with a great call against Chris Halverson’s AK. But when I raised it up with AQs in early position, Roy fired right back from the SB with a medium size raise. I put him on a big pair, probably JJ. When the flop came Q Q rag, I debated how to suck the chips out of the guy who’d made me plenty of money with this excellent article. To my suprise, Mr. Cooke immediately went all in, and I beat him into the pot. He later revealed he had AA, and the flop was a miracle for me.
I was doubled up and became the chip leader, and Roy was down to 700 chips. I did my Phil Ivey impression and stole a lot of pots and built my stack slowly. With around 7000 chips, I picked up JJ in middle position and raised it up, only to be reraised when some poor soul went all in from late position. I had enough chips and hoped he was on AK, so I reluctantly called, only to see two more jacks on the flop. Of course, the poor guy had rockets and I had dodged another bullet.
You’d think cracking AA twice would put you on the right path to victory, right? But alas, I got no cards for a while, and found myself in decent chip position at the final table. I finally picked up a playable hand, AJ, in middle position, and raised 3 times the BB. Roy had built his way back up to a medium size stack (around 4K) and came over the top of me again, going all-in this time. Great. I hoped that Roy was trying to get back to his regular $80-160 game and was trying to get rid of his chips, and put him on a medium pair. There was too much money in the pot, and I felt like winning this hand would give me a good shot at the tourney. So I closed my eyes and called, hoping I at least had two overcards. It’s nice to be right, as Roy showed 99, but it’s not so nice when the board doesn’t give you any help (and the flop came 2 3 4 just to give me some extra outs). Roy’s revenge was complete, and I was crippled. I ended up pushing in my shortstack with 87s, and finished in 6th when the board didn’t help. It was my best finish, and I can’t find much wrong with my play. I guess I was lucky to have survived rockets twice.
Stinkypants2 (a.k.a. College Boy) put on a brilliant show, eventually taking out Roy in the final heads up battle, after a shortstacked Rick Blaine valiantly tried to claw his way up to second. Check out Pauly and Stinky‘s blogs for a much better recap.
Blue Monday
After reading this cardplayer article about the huge skill edge that a no-limit player has over weak opponents, I was feeling the no-limit bug crawling around my skull. After chatting with Paulsburbon about the juicy NL games at Hollywood Park, I decided to give the $50 NL tables at Party a shot. It started slowly, but after two hours, I left bruised and battered. I need a little catharsis, so I’m going to share the brutality with you, my faithful reader.
1. I raise preflop with QQ, and face a reraise from a loose player. In true Felicia style, he shows AA. -$52
2. All in with my two pair JT on a flop of A J T with two clubs. I’m called, and of course the player who checked in EP has KQ. Terrible play by me. -$50
3. I reraise All in with AA on a flop of K 7 5, two clubs. The turn is another K, and the caller shows KT. -$50
4. All in with TT on a flop of J 4 2, 2 hearts. Turn is an Ace, and the caller shows A5– clubs. -$50
5. I flop the nut straight with T8, but two clubs on the board. I bet the pot ($12), a club hits on the turn and I’m raised, I sacrifice my last $10 to be sure, and he shows K6 clubs for the turned flush. -$36.
Ah well. Back to limit, I suppose. The total carnage amounted to $260, and of course I had only one suckout (I caught my 9 on the river for Aces and 9s against AT) for a measly $50 win. If I had won just 2 of those 5 hands, I would have broken even, but “that’s poker”. My temprament just isn’t quite right for NL yet– I’m a little overaggressive, and risk my whole stack with the not-quite-nuts against players who are willing to sit and wait for the nuts before they go all in. I need to be more patient and turn down the aggression just a bit. Or maybe I just need a little luck.
So a small dent in the bankroll, but you can’t win what you don’t put in the pot, as the Rounder fan quoteth. I’ll be back to the grind tomorrow, and days like today usually tighten up my game a bit and knock me back into my usual tight-aggressive style.
The Blogger Hand History Collection
After suggestions from Lord G and Stinkypants, I finally got around to setting up an ftp server for sharing hand histories. There are now a total of around 25K hand histories on the server, so generously donated by Lord G and yours truly. Knowledge is power, or in this case, profit, so I encourage everyone out there to consider uploading your hand histories. Everyone who uploads at least a few thousand hands will be able to download all hands on the server, so it’s a pretty good deal. If you’re interested in downloading the hand histories, send me and email and I’ll explain how to use PokerTracker to export your hand histories, and upload from the server. You’ll get the password and be able to FTP in and download all the hands on the server. Using PokerTracker’s new export hand feature, you’ll be able to generate notes on thousands of players, so when you suspect a bluff-check raise, you can look at the notes on the player and decide whether to call or fold. It’s saved me many a big bet, so hop on the bandwagon and email me for the password and instruction manual.
I’ve gotten several requests for a PokerTracker review, and I’m currently working on a guide “How to Improve your Low-Limit Game Using PokerTracker”. If you’ve got a specific question about PokerTracker, leave a comment or email me and I’ll try to address it in the guide.
Thanks for reading and I hope your Monday was better than mine.

Why Hustling Beats Rounding

“You’ve the best excuse in the world for losing; no trouble losing when you got a good excuse. Winning. That can be heavy on your back too, like a monkey. You’ll drop that load too when you got an excuse. All you gotta do is learn to feel sorry for yourself. One of the best indoor sports, feeling sorry for yourself. A sport enjoyed by all, especially the born losers.”
–George C. Scott, THE HUSTLER
Ok boys and girls, in the absence of the ramblings of Ignatius, today’s installation promises to be a long and arduous journey through the poker mind of yet another low-limit grinder. Lots to discuss today, so let’s quickly get through my terrible play in the last 2 days so we can move on to happier and more interesting things.
The $5-10 6 max games got me again. I really need to avoid these games, but I think reading DavidRoss’ posts on the two plus two forum has permanently warped my mind. Tired, not quite sober, and worn out from a long day of work, I decided to play a few orbits of 5-10 short. As I’ve said before, the psychological warfare that goes on in these games is a blast, and I always seem to turn into an overaggressive idiot the moment I sit down at these tables. Last night was no exception.
I found a wild table with none other than the $5-10 king himself, whose stack indicated that he was cleaning up the table. It turned out that there was a player at the table who played every single hand, and the rest of the table was doing their best to feed off of him. I still haven’t quite figured out these shorthanded games, and I found myself 3 betting preflop with any reasonable hand to try to isolate the big fish. I hoped that DavidRoss wouldn’t call in these situations, but he did end up handing my ass to me several times. Note to self: avoid playing many pots with DavidRoss.
Anyway, I found myself pushing marginal hands too far and my stack dwindled quickly. I succumbed to the dreaded subtle tilt and ended up throwing away $200 in a little over an hour of play. Possibly my worst play of the night: 87c a 5 way pot, I flop top pair (sevens), and 3 bet after DavidRoss bets out. This would have been a good play, if I had a decent kicker and 2 diamonds weren’t on the board. But for some reason the damn Sklansky chapter about “raising with the second best hand” took over my brain like some sort of Borg program, and I was unable to think rationally for a moment. To make things worse, Grubby, who has played about 300 times as much shorthanded as I have, witnessed the hand (he was waiting for a seat at the fishy table, of course). “What did you have, QQ?” typed Grubs into instant messenger. The truth hurts, and I admitted my monster hand, which probably generated disbelief in a DC apartment far away. Ah well, remember that hand in the next poker blogger tourney, Grubs.
Tonight I came back to my senses and ground out 18 BBs on the $3-6 tables in an hour and a half. I played 3 or 4 hands terribly, and it still stings thinking about the 6 Big Bets I could have saved had I not made stupid crying calls. It was a strange session– up $250 on one table and down $140 on another. Usually my $3-6 swings are much smaller, and I don’t go down more than $50 very often. But a few rough rivers put me down to the felt, forcing me into the hated rebuy. It was a good session, but I feel stupid after throwing away so much on the shorthanded games last night. If I could disable the $5-10 shorthanded games from displaying I would, but I’ll just have to stay disciplined and continue to grind away at the $3-6 (building the bankroll is the number 1 priority at the moment).
The Hustler vs. Rounders
I watched Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler last night. I was reminded just how great this movie was, and for the first time last night, I realized that Matt Damon’s character in Rounders is really just a poor man’s Fast Eddie. I like Rounders as much as the next poker player, but it leaves a lot to be desired as a movie.
My main complaint about Rounders is the lack of Mike McDermott’s development in the film. Yes, Mike “finds himself” and accepts that he is a poker player, but aside from that he experiences little growth. He struggles with loyalty to an undeserving friend, and ends what seems like a bad relationship. Mike takes a big step forward in the movie, but his life is really beginning at the end of the movie. And the most worrisome part is that he makes exactly the same mistake at the end of the movie as the fatal mistake that begins the movie (temporarily ending his poker career).
This seeming “mistake”– Mike leaving himself no outs in the final match with KGB– is actually the core of the movie. Mike’s belief in himself, his willingness to admit he was outplayed… the audience is supposed to believe that Mike’s skill (and more importantly, his character) make him unbeatable in the heads-up match with the horribly-accented Russian. Mike’s most heroic quality is the gambler in him– the willingness to risk it all, to go all-in on the belief that his skill is supreme.
Mike’s foil– Joey Knish– is presented as a grinder who is to be admire because he doesn’t have to work the typical 9 to 5. But although the audience is sympathetic to Knish, his final discussion with Mike suggests that he may not be as admirable as he is initially presented. Not only can Knish not lend Mike the necessary amount of money “in the clutch”, he gets angry when McDermott questions his “stones.” Knish’s final scene reveals him as an unhappy grinder with lots of baggage. In Rounders, the grinder is bad, the gambler is good.
Fast Eddie Felson, on the other hand, goes through the ultimate heroic journey in The Hustler. Rather than a half-assed KGB thug, Fast Eddie’s quest is to beat the best pool player in the country, the Johnny Chan of pool, Minnesota Fats. Like Mike, Eddie must first experience the fall before he can achieve greatness. Also like Mike, Eddie embodies the gambling spirit, choosing “fast and loose” over “playing it safe,” even though he knows the latter is probably the better percentage play. Eddie loses to the Fat Man to start the movie, after a clear demonstration that he outclasses Fats in talent. His lack of character does him in, and the remainder of the movie is spent trying to prove to himself that he’s not a loser, and build the character that cost him the match.
I won’t spoil it in case anyone hasn’t seen the movie, but Fast Eddie’s path along the traditional hero’s quest is far more inspiring than young Mike’s. We follow the hustler through the loss of innocence, to the depths of despair, and witness his climb to becoming a winner. Perhaps what is the greatest omission from Rounders was love. What or who does Mike love? Nothing. Fast Eddie, on the other hand, can only by set free through love.

Poker Blog Patrol
I’m not going to provide a direct link to it, but I spent plenty of time wandering around AlCan’tHang‘s photo album. Makes me want to make a trip back east… by the way, whenever I read that name, I can only think of “Alcan Thang”, so that’s Al’s name from here on out.
The rest of the list is dedicated to new bloggers, although I’m hesitant to add to my reading list, which already consumes plenty of my workday. First off is Helixx, a low limit player who is on the right track. We’ve all been here:
“I’m finding that either my instincts are pretty good, or I’ve played enough limit hold-em to see through people because I can usually sniff out what people have. my big problem is listening to my gut. I say to myself “he has a set of 10’s”. I know he does… but I still feel compelled to call… just to make sure.”
I did that twice tonight and have been kicking myself since then.
Next up is The Genius of Poker (not to be confused with prolific Boy Genius. Although the name is a bit pretentious, he backed it up by winning last week’s blogger tourney, so I guess he deserves some respect (even if he linked to the famous poker legend HAROLD Lederer).
Iceyburnz played in the last blogger tournament, a college kid from NJ. You gotta like a guy whose girlfriend has more money in her Party account than he does:
“So I asked my GF if i could borrow $50 from her Party account. She said she didnt care and now I have $50 which I will try to grind into a winning amount.”
I wouldn’t want to be around for those heads up matches. But seriously, Icey, I sometimes wish I could go back to grad school and play poker all day (and spend a couple hours writing a dissertation). Enjoy it while you can.
And lastly, I just finished sweating Grubby in a 1745 player multi. I’ll leave the storytelling to the playwright himself, but I can tell you that I’ve never had more fun rooting for somebody. Grubby played like a champ, and I can’t remember rooting more for anyone. His time will come, I guarantee it– the guy is just a pure poker player.
Thanks for reading and good luck this weekend… see ya at the final table Sunday night (I mean it this time!).