Friction and Trials: Sweet Variance

“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.”
–Chinese Proverb
I saw it all this week. Ups and downs, bad beats and suckouts, hot cards cold cards: just another day at Hollywood Park.
I’m still recovering from the week, and am way too tired to post detailed accounts of my adventures. Instead, I’ve cut out the boring stuff and given you only the highlights. If anybody want’s to hear specifics, I’ll be happy to expand in the next post, just post a comment with your request.
Here are my top eight (my lucky number) happenings in my extended HP play for the last 3 days:
8. Playing at a super-loose table with a Fossilman look-alike who had around $3K in $2 chips (that’s 1500 chips for those of you who don’t want to do the math) in front of him. He refused to color-change his chips, and had built a 3-layer fortress that he could barely get his arms around. When I told him he looked like Fossilman, this dialogue ensued:
me: “you look like greg raymer”
fossilman look alike: blank stare
me: “you know, fossilman?”
fossilman look alike: blank stare
me: “the guy who won the world series?”
fossilman look alike: blank stare
The guy was one of the best loose-game players I can remember watching, and knew exactly when to value bet his second pair (against most of these players it wasn’t hard to figure out). It just goes to show you, if the cards are kind to you in a no fold-em game, you can build your own pyramid.
7. Watching the $6-12 table next to mine hit a $12K bad beat jackpot when quad aces beat aces full of fives (three aces on the board). No, I wasn’t jealous. If only I’d gotten a table change a couple hours earlier.
6. Flopping a jack high flush in a monster pot in $6-12 limit, and getting raised in two places. The turn came another club, and I thought my hand was dead, but for some reason a woman with a queen high flush turned over her hand on the turn and saved me a few bets. The woman to my right turned over a baby flush. So the three of us had flopped a flush, and then the TENTH club came on the turn. Can you say “action flop”?
5. Playing $200 NL with a couple hockey pros (yet to be identified) who were practicing for their home game (I’m guessing the buy in there was probably something like $10K). My favorite conversation of the week:
(Big screen TV cuts to Negreanu on Fox Sport’s Poker. Of course he’s wearing a leafs jersey)
Hockey Pro 1: (nudges buddy) “Hey check out the guy with the leafs jersey!”
Hockey Pro 2: “hehehe…”
Me: “Yeah that guy is like the best Canadian poker player.”
Hockey Pro 1: “Freakin Canadians…”
4. Watching Sean run up his stack in $100 NL after losing a big pot on Wednesday to book a nice win. He didn’t lose a big pot on Saturday and ended up QUINTUPLING up.
3. Bad beats galore at a table with a woman who called 90% of the hands all the way to the showdown. She rivered me twice with two-outers in big pots, and runner-runnered me two more times: example– I catch two pair with my big slick with an AK8 rainbow flop, and she calls 2 bets on the flop and one on the turn to catch her runner runner straight with 52o. No she wasn’t in the big blind. Oh the humanity!
2. Getting crushed at my first shot at $15-30, mostly thanks to cold cards. Lowlight: losing a $600 pot on the river when the board paired and my flush was cracked by a boat. Winning hand? 10-4 offsuit in a raised pot. Ye gads.
1. Another $1100 night, this time at $200 NL. Quote of the night, after my pocket 9s flopped A A 9, and I waited to the river to push all in, to get called by AQ. Actual quote by the guy who lost the pot: “Can you sign my issue of Cardplayer so I can say I played with you when you’re on TV?” I thought he was kidding until he handed me a copy.
Can’t wait to see what next week holds. Here’s the final tally… note that the variance is through the roof for the limit games. Maybe I should stick to NL:

Date Game Hrs $ Won Win Rate
7/18/2004 $6-12 1 $220.00 $220.00
7/21/2004 $6-12 7 $1,100.00 $157.14
7/21/2004 Tourney 2 -$80.00 -$40.00
7/22/2004 $100 NL 4 $350.00 $87.50
7/22/2004 $15-30 3 -$750.00 -$250.00
7/24/2004 $200 NL 5 $1,100.00 $210.00
7/25/2004 $6-12 7 -$600.00 -$85.71
7/25/2004 $100 NL 2 $200.00 $100.00
7/25/2004 $200 NL 4 -$100.00 -$25.00
Total 35 $1,440.00 $41.14

Note that my NL stats are much better than my high variance limit stats, mainly because I didn’t get sucked out on one single time. My hands held up all week, which is why you see such big numbers (although any time I was betting hard I was almost always at least a 70% favorite).
NL Totals: 15 hours, $1550 win.
My limit totals were skewed by losing a $600 pot to an 11 outer, but I’m happy to get my money in when I’m a 76% favorite. I also had more than my fair share of river bad beats in last night’s insane $6-12 game, but hey, dat’s poker
Limit totals: 20 hours, $110 loss.
Maybe I should think about playing more NL.
Thanks for reading, and for all you new readers (or anybody for that matter), please support HDouble by signing up at Empire poker using this link and bonus code “HDOUBLE”. You get a nice little bonus, and so do I, and PartyPoker players are encouraged to switch over (everything but the multitable tournaments are identical, except Empire’s sea blue interface is a lot more soothing than Party’s fiery red).

A Grand Old Time

“Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.”
–Samuel Johnson
I finally had that big night. It’s probably the competitor in me, but whenever I see a good player leaving the table carrying 5 racks of chips, I was always a little jealous that I’d never been able to do the same. Last night I finally did it, crushing my all time record by pulling in $1100 in 7 hours at the loose-passive $6-12 game. My big hands (except for Aces) held up, and the deck was hitting me in the face. My bankroll has never been healthier, and I’m having trouble finding a virgin to offer up to the poker gods as thanks.
I found this quote in an entry from June 20th, after my last big win ($600 in an all day session):
“It sure feels good to wake up after a big win. You grind, grind, grind, and always there is one player filling his 5 racks after catching cards all night, while you sit there with your 2 big bets per hour. And then finally, your hands hold up for once, and it’s you bringing your tower of chips to the cashier with a big smile, and that smile just keeps on goin until the next day.”
This time I won almost twice as much, so I guess my smile was twice as big.
The night started out innocently enough. Arriving at HP after work, I had planned to meet up with Victor, a $15-30 player on PartyPoker who had flown in from Miami that morning. I got there first, and sat down at a $100 NL while I waited for a juicy $6-12 to open up. One the funniest things at Hollywood Park is the difference in demographic between the No-Limit tables and the limit tables. The average age at the NL tables is somewhere around 23, compared to about 50 at the limit tables. The NL games are relatively tight (these are college kids with no money), depending on the time of the day and day of the week. The first hand I was dealt was AK, and managed to take $50 after calling a $20 bet preflop and checkraising the flop when a king flopped. Not a bad start.
A seat at the $6-12 table of dreams opened up, and I watched as 7 players consistently limped in preflop, and 4 or 5 would call the bettor down to the river. It’s pretty much a blur now, but I remember taking my first couple pots with top pair-top kicker, and the night was off to a good start. Victor showed up and turned out to be a very nice, intelligent guy (I was suspicious since he logs a lot of hours on Party, and he had crushed me in a heads-up pot in a shorthanded game the night before). He went to go sit the $15-30 game, and I went back to winning.
The hands are a blur, but I remember my premium hands holding up, and hitting a couple draws on the river for big pots. At one point the players at the table (some of them the same people who sucked out on me all weekend) were grumbling about me taking all their money, and for the first time I can remember, I couldn’t keep track of my chip stacks any longer. Victor was planning on playing the 7:15 NL tourney, and I debated if I should join him. At around 6:45 I counted up my chips, and found I was up $750 after two and a half hours (I recounted them in disbelief). I didn’t win too many pots, but the ones I won were huge. I decided I would protect my winnings by playing in the tourney, an $80 buy in along with $200 other players.
Tourneys are a bit too high-variance for me, but I have to admit that they are a blast. I paid my fee and drew seat 1, table 1, and Victor told me that it was a sign of good things to come. 210 players were in, and 5 of the players at my table had been watching a little too much WPT. The other 5 were pretty solid (a young asian guy on my left ended up winning the whole thing), and I knew if I could get some decent cards early I would be in excellent shape.
Alas, I was tired after getting up early for work, and I just didn’t feel as focused as I did the previous Sunday, where I finished 10th. I’ve often heard that a single mistake in a tourney is one too many, and I made 3 mistakes.
Mistake #1: Very early on, I get QQ in the BB. A tight player with about half my chips raises 100 chips UTG (blinds are 15-30), and I’m almost sure he has either AA, KK, or AK. Everyone folds to me, and I raise it to 300. He pushes all in, but I sense weakness. Must be AK. I call, and the King hits on the turn, doubling him up. I think a better play here is to call the flop bet, and then put a big bet out on the harmless flop. I win less here, but it’s much less risky in the early stages in the tourney. Sigh. My tournament game needs work.
Mistake #2: Blinds up to 25-50, and I raise to 150 UTG with AQo– people are playing junk and I need to pick up chips, so I think this play is reasonable here. A mysterious player who’d been playing a lot of hands goes all in from Middle position and I put him on a middle pair. Folding leaves me with about 500 chips, so I throw my chips in thinking it’ll be a coin flip. He turns over AK, but I hit the queen on the river for the bad beat and double up. Back in business. Maybe Mistake 2 and Mistake 1 cancel each other out here, but it was still a bad play by me.
Mistake #3: Blinds still at 25-50, a player who has won 3 hands in a row tries a steal raise from the button. I see AJ in the BB, and call 100 more chips to see a flop, planning to make a move on any slightly favorable flop. Flop is J T rag, with 2 diamonds. I check, he bets 150, and I raise it to 600 (about half my stack). He calls, and I’m thinking he has overcards or a flush draw. The river is a 7, and I push. He beats me into the pot with 98o for the gutshot, and I’m gone.
Not my best tourney, but I don’t mind the way I played. A big stack at that table would have gone a long way (in fact, the kid who did accumulate chips ended up winning the whole thing), so the extra risk early on seemed like the best move. In general I try to survive early and make moves in the middle stages, but with a big field and a relatively small stack, I changed my strategy.
For all you celebrity poker fans, Michael Ian Black was at the table next to me, and ended up finishing somewhere around 15th. Seemed like a good guy.
I went back to the $6-12 and tipped the floorman $5 to get me back on the juicy table I had been at before. Meanwhile I checked in on Victor, who had a decent sized stack and seemed to be playing well. I eventually got back to my table, but first had this hand at a new table that had just opened up: I have J8o in the BB (this seems to be my lucky hand, although I don’t really believe in such things). Several limpers, and the flop is J88. Late position guy bets out, and I call along with another player. Turn is another Jack, and I think it’s the first time I’ve had double trips on the same hand (or should we call this an overflowing house?). I raise him on the river and he calls, showing me AA. UTG had AK, and said he almost raised. If he had raised, then late position American Airlines would have 3 bet me out. But it was my lucky night.
I moved back to the other table, but first checked on Victor to see that he had nearly tripled up, and was in good chip position. About 60 players left, and he seemed to be above average. I won a couple pots (and I finally got rivered holding AA) and realized that I had a shot at winning $1K for the first time ever. I told myself to just play my hands and not worry about it, but the arbitrary discrete number was lodged in the back of my mind.
A guy with a familiar face took the seat to my left, just as I was dealt KK for the 3rd time that night. As I raked the pot, he asked me if I was Henry, and I realized that this was the infamous OJ, who is now a dealer there. Turns out that dealer’s have the option of playing while they’re on the clock, so he had a pretty good thing going on. After not catching cards all night, I saw him win 2 hands in a row and then scoop a monster pot with AA before checking out. If you can ride out the variance, you will make a killing in these games.
Victor seemed to have more chips every time I checked, and soon the tourney was down to 20 players. 1st paid something like 7K, so I was rooting on my man, thinking of the party afterwards if he managed to win the thing. Did I mention this was his first live tournament? But his all in with pocket 8s was unlucky enough to go against KK, and he was down to only a few chips. Somehow he hung on, and made the final table with a single chip.
I gave him the old “chip and a chair” pep talk, and UTG he was all in with KJo. Called by A9, and he was able to double up. Next hand he’s able to call two raisers with KK in the BB, and he triples up. I go back to my game, wondering if it’ll be a chip and a chair story like Jack Straus’. Not much action for a while, but then Vic takes a stand with K8s in the BB from a big stack who has been stealing all day. Big stack raises from the button and Vic can only survive one more round of blinds, and Vic shoves his chips and hopes to see QJ or JT. But big stack rolls over Acey-Deucy, and the race is on. An 8 flops and the tension builds, but I know there’s only 3 cards in the deck that beat him, so I’m not worried. Until an Ace hits on the river and it’s over.
But hey, 10th place out of 210 in your first live tourney ain’t bad.
We end up sitting together at $6-12 and I win a couple pots to push me over the $1K mark. I drop Vic off and say my goodbyes, cruising home to the sounds of Uncle Tupelo in a tired but happy bliss.
So how’d I do it? Great play? Great cards? Divine intervention? Sadly, it was none of those. The $6-12 at HP is monkey poker, much like the .50-1 on Party. Odds and Implied Odds are the only thing that matter at loose-passive tables, and the pots are so big that you end up having to call if you catch any bit of the flop. Here are my tips for beating these no fold-em loose-passive LA games:
1. Nearly any starter is playable for 1 bet, since you are getting somewhere around 20-1 or better on your call. 6 or 7 players preflop (7 small bets) plus 4 or 5 callers on the flop (5 small bets) plus 3 or 4 who will follow you to the river (total of 6-12 BBs, or 12-24 SBs depending if you can get a raise in). So that’s an average of around 28 Small bets in the pot on the river. So if you can limp in, you’re getting (optimistically) something like 28-1 on your money. Suited Aces and Kings are big hands here, and suited one gappers are definitely playable. I’ll often play suited 2 gappers if I have position, or any connecting cards above 65. Of course, if you don’t dump your hand if you catch some of the flop, it’s going to cost you a lot of money.
2. Bet counting is important, since odds calculation is impossible without knowing the number of bets in the pot. It’s often correct to call with bottom pair, since you probably have enough money in the pot to draw to your 5 outer. Calling with overcards is rarely good, since there are so many in that most likely it will give somebody else two pair.
3. Ramming and Jamming is key, and you should maximize the money in the pot with your flush and straight draws. See Izmet for more.
4. I discussed this in my last post, but determining whether to check or bet for value is very difficult in these games. Try to read your player, and remember that the pot is so big at this point that crying calls are almost mandatory.
It’s nice to have a big night, but it would be much nicer to know that skill, knowledge, and good play was what gets the money, rather than being able to count bets and compute odds. But I’ll get there soon enough…

How to Become A Stoic: No Fold ‘Em Poker

“If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter which path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him.”
–G. I. Gurdjieff
Since Mrs. Double was left behind in Sweden for an extra 3 weeks of vacation, yours truly has spent a lot of time at Hollywood Park Casino this past week in the crazy, no-fold em games that LA is known for.
I’m not even going to try to describe the insanity of hold ’em at Hollywood Park. There is little “strategy” and I think the majority of players would never even think of reading a book about poker. The top section has plenty of tough players, and occasionally there will be one or two sharks in my game ($6-12), but most people are there to gamble it up. Any two suited, any face card, definitely any ace– these are playable hands for 2 bets, and if the pot is capped, the gamb00lers can’t resist. This leads to plenty of fights, and plenty of unpleasant arguments between players (and of course the constant cursing of the dealers).
None of this really bothers me too much. What does bother me is that in no-fold ’em poker, the skill is almost completely removed. Putting people on hands and having a good read on your opponents isn’t worth much if they are going to call no matter what. With 20 BBs in every pot, you are correct to call with nearly anything, since you are often getting 20 to one on your call. Loose passive games are purely odds based, and the psychological aspect of poker plays only a minor role. If the players played their hands face up, it wouldn’t make much difference– the pot is so big it’s correct to call with your bottom pair, because you’ve still got 6 outs in a pot that’s laying you 12 to 1.
But before I complain about bad beats, let’s rewind to last Sunday. I got home after a 31 hour day (Sweden is 9 hours ahead) and not much sleep on the flight. So I woke up Sunday morning at 6, telling myself I would not play the 11:30 limit tourney at Hollywood Park (tourneys are not positive expectation). But of course I found myself signed up for the $60 buy in along with 183 other players.
My first table was great, and people tried to check-raise bluff the river several times. I was able to almost triple up when I rivered a flush in a monster pot from the BB. I didn’t even want to play it, but the pot was so big I was getting almost 7:1 on a call. I played tight, and stole a lot of pots when the blinds went up. Maybe it’s because I’d been awake for 6 hours, but this was the first tournament that I felt like I had a decent read on the table and could control the betting somewhat.
With 20 players left, I had built up enough chips that I could probably fold my way into the final table. But since the payout was so top-heavy, I wasn’t gonna coast. 10K in the prize pool, and first through third paid something like 7K. I made a couple steals against tight players low on chips, and lost a pot to A9o all in preflop against my 66 in the BB. But soon we were down to 10, and I was sitting at my first final table.
I’ve found that I’ve always performed better under pressure, and as we got closer to the money and the crowd started to gather, I felt something familiar. The same adrenaline rush that I remembered from pre-game warmups before a football game was back, and I was ready for the final table. There were 3 short stacks, and I had about an average amount of chips (somewhere around 15x the bb). Everyone was waiting for the shortstacks to bust out, but after about 9 all-ins from the 3 of them together, they somehow survived and brought themselves back to the chip average. The blinds continued to go up, and my cards were not even close to playable. Finally I had only enough to cover 1.5 BBs, and was happy to see AQ UTG.
The table had been tight, and the chip leader was next to act. He thought for a long time, and eventually called, and of course everyone folded. I flipped up my AQ, and he turned over one king… and then another king. Ahh well, what can you do? No help from the board and I’m out in 10th for a whopping $150.
The poker gods rewarded my struggles however, as I quickly won $80 in the $100 buy in NL and then $80 more in $6-12. So I had completed some sort of hold ’em trifecta, and was happy to go home with my best tournament finish and a few big bets.
But back to my bread and butter game, the no-fold ’em $6-12. I’m not going to whine (much) about bad-beats, because pocket Aces in a family pot are somewhere around 30% in a no fold ’em game. Two outers on the river are a bit more fun, and I saw plenty of them this weekend. Last night I was 0 for 4 with KK, 3 times losing on the river (the fourth time runner-runner 10s gave my opponent quads). My pocket Aces were crushed in a monster pot by a guy with K4 (the second 4 on the turn), and also by a guy who rivered the straight (runner runner). They played their hands correctly– the pot was so big that they were getting proper outs on their draws. Good old schooling of the fish.
These games are extremely profitable, but have huge variance (which is ok with me). The thing I don’t like is that the skill aspect is minimized. You are rewarded much more for good luck than for good play, as the schooling fish work together to minimize the skill factor by making the default actioin (calling) the optimal strategy.
On the other end, my biggest pot of the night came with what appears to be my lucky hand– J8s. Trapped in another capped family pot, the T T 4 flop had one club, and I was able to see the turn for one small bet (in a pot of around 28 sb). The turn was the 8, and now I had some outs, and happily paid one more bet to see the river, which was a beautiful Jack. Checked through, and somehow my Jacks and Tens are good. Better to be lucky than good in this type of game.
I went home up 18 Big Bets, and was not very pleased with my play. 4 or 5 times I found myself getting check-raised after deciding that my hand was good on the river, only to be shown some miracle runner-runner straight. Against players who will call on the river with anything, I was wrong about my hand being good too many times. That cost me around 4 or 5 Big Bets, and in the no fold-em world, “better safe than sorry” seems to be a decent motto when deciding whether to bet for value on the river.
It took me a week, but I’ve finally caught up on all the excellent blogging out there. I’m too tired to link to my favorite posts, but I had a blast reading some of the great writing out there. I had the pleasure of playing with Paul on Thursday night, and I can happily say that we both went home winners (although just barely). It’s really helpful to have another solid player at the table, because it helps you to get reads on other players when you’re not in a hand since you have a pretty good idea what the other player is playing (although Paul surprised me a few times).
Thanks for reading and be careful with those value bets…

Vill du spela poker?

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
–Miriam Beard
The strangest thing about summertime in Sweden is that it’s almost never dark. And although I’ve been there once in the summer before (and twice in the winter), my biological clock was still baffled by watching the sun go down at 11 and come up at 2. If you asked me 5 years ago what I thought the probability was that I’d be taking the train from my wife’s parents house to play poker in Stockholm with my best friend was, I would have bet the farm against it. And although it doesn’t seem so unusual to me now, it still looks strange on paper.
The two weeks went by quickly– I spent most of the time hanging out with Mrs. Double and her family, lounging around the house in an attempt at relaxation. I was able to hit the Stockholm casino with the expatriate Monk, and was lucky enough to hear one of his live performances. Since I hadn’t had any time off since last July, I was content to take it easy, although the Swedes drink so much coffee that I found myself bouncing off the walls (they actually have a verb–“fika”–which roughly translated means, “drink coffee, eat pastries, and talk”).
I was hoping to get a fair bit of online play in while across the ocean, but because of the jet lag and the cold I caught the second week, I only managed to get a couple online sessions in. For those of you that remember, I had jumped from playing 3 $3-6 tables on Party to two $5-10 tables, and was struggling to make the leap.
I’m happy to say that over the last 1000 hands, I’m a winner, although unlike the steady bankroll growth at $3-6, the swings are fast and furious. Although I’m still a fish in these games, I can offer a few bits of advice for shorthanded games:
1. Raise with KJo or better if you are opening from any position
2. Play second pair or better hard, but usually third pair should fold
3. Play draws if you have additional (overcard) outs
4. Small pairs and middle aces and below are weak hands
5. When you have a hand, pound your opponents until they convince you that you’re beat
The most challenging part is knowing when to bet your Ace high and putting players on hands. Since correct play is much looser shorthanded, it’s much more difficult to put a player on a hand than in a full game.
But back to Sweden– the take home lesson from my trip to the Stockholm casino is that socialism and gambling don’t mix very well. Sweden has 4 casinos, all owned by the government. In typical European style, they all have a dress code (no sneakers, but shorts are ok in the summer?) and charge a membership fee (300 Crowns, or about $40 US for the day). The Swedes have the old European attitude about a night at the Casino– a high society night on the town, where nice clothes and a “respectable” environment are a cover-up for gambling’s bad reputation.
Monk and I ambled into the casino around 5 pm, knowing that there was a pot limit tournament starting at 6. $50 + $10 juice… no thanks! The casino was very nicely maintained, and although smaller, was as clean and shiny as the famous Vegas strip casinos. We immediately made our way upstairs, to check out the poker room and see if the tournament was worth entering. Monk had been here before, and wasn’t surprised to find that the poker room was closed only an hour before the tourney, and would open at 6 pm sharp.
Me: “Isn’t the point of the tournament to bring in players to make money in the side games?”
Monk: “We’re dealing with socialists here.”
We finally found a floorman who informed us that after the tournament (around 9), they would open 2 10-20 tables and a pot limit table, and we should sign up during the tournament if we wanted a seat. Um, ok. We made our way back down to the bottom floor, past your usual variety of slot machines (they were advertisting a $70,000 jackpot as the biggest prize of the summer–wow!), but we ignored these and made our way to the 2 blackjack tables. Want to count cards? Too bad, both tables have continuous shuffle machines. Ok, how about roulette? 2 tables here, and there’s only one green slot in Europe (no double zero). Craps? There was a strange looking craps table, but we were told it didn’t open until nine.
We were able to find a strange table with big lighted buttons in front of each seat (think Jeopardy), laid out in front of a table with various squares representing the different wagering possibilties. The two corner squares looked like even money bets, as each wager had the odds of winning below the bet. The “dealer” showed us the yahtzee like popcorn-dice-machine, a glass case with a metal cover that held three dice. The player presses the lighted button 3 times, the popcorn pops each time, and the metal case is removed. The three dice make up various craps-like bet combinations, and the dealer determines the winners. Welcome to SIC-BO.
As you might have guess, we quickly got bored with the popcorn machine after just missing several longshot bets. Sic-bo is a very poor substitute for craps, but I have to admit the absurdity of pressing the button and hearing the loud pop was greatly amusing. Monk and I quickly getting fleeced was not quite as amusing.
We had 3 hours to kill, and wandered across town to talk metaphysics over sushi. Question of the day, posed by Monk: “If ESP exists, and some people have mastered it, why don’t they use that talent to become the best poker player of all time?” What he was suggesting is that there are greater uses for abilities like this (bad analogy: the same reason Superman doesn’t become a heavyweight boxer). Or perhaps Phil Hellmuth really does have ESP.
Of course it rained the whole way back to the casino, and we arrived with our barely-passable dress code attire soaked. The tournament finally wound down, and we were able to get a seat in the 10-20 game. The highest game I’ve played live before this was $8-16, and because of Sweden’s economic environment, this game was more akin to a $30-60 American game. High taxes and lower wages make the dollar go farther in Sweden than in the US, and I expected to face a lineup of some of the toughest players I’d seen. But the rake was so high (5% up to $10) that I understood why there are so many good Swedish players online. In chatting with another player, we discovered that there was an illegal club in the near vicinity owned by a WPT pro that was more popular than the government owned casino.
Most of the players ranged from age 35-50, and the play was loose-passive preflop and weak-tight post flop. There were plenty of weak spots, as 2 seats at the table always seemed to be filled by calling stations with little experience. One would bust out, and another would immediately appear and dump $400 calling people down with nothing. The rest of the table waited to isolate these players, but there wasn’t much money to be made from the other 8 players.
I had a bad session, winning a big pot early and then slowly losing my stack while getting cold-decked. I think I lost my top pair to trips 5 times, and went down in flames when my pocket aces went down in flames to trip nines (I threw my last 2 $10 chips in telling the guy who raised me I would bet the farm he had trip nines, but it was little consolation being right). Monk was playing way over his head bankroll wise, but played extremely well, especially considering it was only his third or fourth time playing live. My favorite hand was when he scooped a monster pot after rivering a flush with 53s on a newbie who slowplayed trip aces. He ended up about even, and the only mistake I saw him make was placing his chips on his cards before the action got to him.
The only thing I took home were a few new names for hands: the Swedes call a straight a “ladder”, and a flush a “color” (also the same word for paint). And they use the original name for the jack– “knight”.
Continuing on the non-capitalism theme, there were about 30 players waiting on the rail to get into a game. The casino is making $10 a hand, and they refuse to put another dealer at one of the empty tables to start another game. Ye gads.
So there you have it, my Swedish poker experience. I didn’t play very well, and didn’t get much luck, but it was fun to see how different poker and gambling are treated in another country. I have to say that as far as gambling goes, America is as good as it gets.
Thanks for reading, and good cards.

Wake up

“It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now… with its aches and it pleasures… is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.”
–Pema Chodron
I’m still shaking the rust off my poker game and mustering up the energy for a post worthy of your attention. Sweden was great, and after the jet lag wears off, you’ll get to read about the highlights. Coming up:
–Monk and Me take on the Stockholm crowd
–Battling it out at $5-10 short
–Comments on the excellent Primate Poker Essays
–Placing 10th in the Hollywood Park Limit tourney
I guess it’s a bit pretentious to offer a sneak preview of an up and coming post, but I figure it will help me remember what I want to write about. I hope everyone out there had a good two weeks.
I didn’t know Andy Glazer, but from what I heard and read, he seemed like a great guy. It seemed like his life was full of energy, and that’s something to be proud of. Sudden unexpected events like Andy’s death remind us that our life could end at any moment. As Monk likes to say, “Live each moment until you die”.