Grubby, Grubette, and The Big Dog

“The great gamblers, and there are not many, don’t need anything. They simply wish to prevail. And we all know how dangerous people are who don’t need anything.”
–Stephen Dunn
After a marathon, 9 hour session at Hawaiian Gardens on Friday night, I don’t even know where to begin. This night had everything– great plays, horrible plays, maniacs, fights, and best of all, an appearance by Grubby and Grubette.
The original plan was that Grubby would arrive from DC late afternoon, and we’d meet up at Hawaiian Gardens for the 6:30 Limit Tourney. But I got word that he’d missed his flight, and he wasn’t going to make it in until 9. Grubs later explained that he probably would have made it on time if he hadn’t played “a few more orbits” on Empire, trying to win one last pot. I figured I’d try to make it to the tourney anyway, since I’d been looking forward to it after a grueling week of 50 hours of writing ASP code. The application went live on time, and what better way to celebrate than winning a limit tourney?
Of course, Friday night traffic in LA had other plans for me. Hawaiian Gardens is about 30 miles south of LA, located in the nation’s poker capitol, Bell Gardens. It’s about 10 minutes from the Bicycle, and half an hour from Commerce, and the cheap rent in the area allows many pros to make a decent living preying on the fish. Anyway, it took me an hour and a half to fight through the freeway traffic, and I arrived 15 minutes after the tournament began, only to find that the waiting list was already 20 deep. I think if there is a hell, it probably looks something like the LA freeways.
Walking into HG, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people playing poker. My usual joints have around 100 tables going on the weekend, but HG must have had at least 300, and every available inch in the casino had a full table. Although physically the place wasn’t that big, the swarm of 3000 people made it the biggest cardroom I’d ever seen, and I walked around dazed by the action.
Although I was annoyed at missing the tourney, I knew I had a lot better chances of making money in the ring games– getting to the final table in a 300 limit table was difficult enough, if I could even stay awake for the entire thing… the tourney ended up going on for over 6 hours, and I was already worn out from the week. I quickly got a seat at the first $6-12 table I could find, and tried to get a read on the players. The first thing I noticed was that the drop was far more reasonable than at Hollywood Park, which has a ridiculous $5 pre-flop drop no matter how many players are in the pot. HG took $5 only if there were 6 or more callers, and less depending on the number of players.
Another difference between this table and my usual was the black box embedded in front of seat 10– a shuffle machine! This made the game considerably faster than the manually shuffled games, and the hands went by at a blinding rate. More hands = more profit, and it seemed like the machine shuffle was better than the dealer’s imperfect manual blending.
A reasonable rake, a lot more hands per hour, and plenty of fish! This was better than Party! (waiting for lightning bolt to strike…)
The table wasn’t a great one. A couple calling stations, but the players were mostly solid, and I knew it wasn’t a typical Friday night crowd when we didn’t see a flop for 3 hands. But it had potential… all it would take was one drunk, one guy who had a bad week, and this table would be fired up. I played tight, and picked up a big pot a few hands in to put me up around $40, but I didn’t see anything close to a playable hand for the next hour, and was quickly blinded back to my buy-in. I think my discipline has improved– I didn’t find it hard to fold for an hour straight, whereas before I would be tempted to take a shot with Q8o or some marginal hand out of impatience.
Then, as if sent from the poker gods, a young, slobby, round guy waddled into seat one with a sweat shirt reading, “If you can’t run with the BIG DOGS, go home!”. You could feel the atmosphere of the table changing, and the sharks sniffed blood when he raised in early position on the first hand he was dealt.
Big Dog was a true maniac. Talk about firing up a table– the guy immediately to his right would 3 bet nearly every Big Dog raise, and probably 50% of the hands were capped pre-flop, with at least 4 players seeing the flop. I was happy to be to the right of the maniacal combo, as I could punish them by capping with premium hands. The best part was, although I tightened up considerably, nobody cared… I was showing down premium hands, but the size of the pots made people lose their mind, and people continued to call my raises with junk. At one point, the Asian lady to my right told me, “You play too tight! Like a virgin you so tight!”, but my raises weren’t scaring anybody away.
As I tried to remember all my reading about “Playing against maniacs,” I got a text message informing me that Grubby was in the building. I looked around for a trail Wendy’s wrappers, but couldn’t find any… I sent a text telling Grubs I was playing 6-12 wearing a tan baseball cap. 10 minutes later, still no sign, so I hit the call button on the cell… no answer, but I turn around to see the mighty Grubby himself, in the flesh! We exchanged greetings, and I suggested he do everything he could to get to my table full of insanity. Grubs was younger than I expected– I was thinking he would be a little bit older, being an established playwright and all that. But it was great to finally put a face to all the great posts, and it was strange to think how much time I’d spent reading this person I just met.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of the HG trip report… you won’t want to miss:
Back to back pocket Kings against the maniac
Two Aces on board, and 2 in the hole
Grubs and Grubette take my chips

…and best of all
Grubby drops the HAMMER!
Well, it’s finally done. The Cards Speak is in the process of moving over to a friendlier and prettier environment, my very own linux server running movable type. After next week, the BlogSplat site will be taken down, and I’ll only be posting to the new site. So replace your bookmarks! The new site is here:
Poker Blog Patrol
Ignatius serves up yet another superb post before taking a well-deserved break from blogging. He points out the trade-off between writing about poker and studying the game:
“But I’ve gotten too far removed from focused studying and reading. Running sims. Replaying my hands. Building up my bankroll. I hit my year end goal in ’04, (thank you very much Steve Lipscomb!) but I seem to have caught some kind of malaise since early January. As my original poker coach once told me, breaks from poker tend to re-energize you and you come back with a renewed vigor and focus.”
I too have seen my study time fall off, and will probably go into a cave in the near future in order to fine-tune my game. I hope all the other poker bloggers can step it up while Iggy’s gone– his daily wit and insight will be sorely missed.
Chris Halverson put me on to Bloglines, an excellent web-based subscription tool that uses weblog feeds to notify you of an update. Highly recommended.
The Penguin actually turned something I said in my recent ramblings into a profit. He doubled up several times in the supersoft NL ring games on Party, which I ranked in my last post as the highest EV game in online poker. If you haven’t yet, go sit in an NL $25 or $50 ring game and watch your bankroll grow. Penguin, this link’s for you: Penguin Baseball
TFG continues to amaze me, feelin the pain after a marathon brush-busting session, Chainsaw massacre style:
“I’ll probably have to super-glue my toothbrush to the counter and rub my teeth back and forth over it, my arms are so weak. Heck, my toenails hurt.”
The Fat Guy writes code all day and still makes it out to the woods to fire up the chainsaw. I’m jealous, they don’t even have trees out here in LA…
Royal explains the rationale behind his 10,000 hand quest at .50/1:
“I agree that putting in a bunch of time at the same limits and tables, say $0.50/$1 at Party Poker, is great from a human pattern recognition standpoint. Human beings have a unique ability to do neural pattern mapping and quickly recall those patterns.”
With a background in AI, I’ve coded up plenty of neural networks, which attempt to learn patterns from the data you feed them. Royal points out that humans are far better at filtering the input– recognizing which variables have a significant effect on the outcome, whereas the computer can only use the explicit variables you feed it. For example, a typical pattern I’ve seen is for short-stacked players to bluff excessively when their stack is below a certain size. Sure, a neural net could discover this rule if you explicitly gave it some threshold value and enough data, but this would only be possible if you’ve discovered the pattern first for yourself.
This is the real reason why I now believe playing one table is important if you are looking to improve your game. Two tables interfere with your ability to see patterns, which is what makes you a better player.
Lord G is off and running in his pro poker career, crushing the online $5-10 games while building his bankroll. LG is the only poker blogger playing for a living, so it’s great to see him off to a big start.
I finally made it over to Ugarte’s Poker Grovel, a nice-looking site with multiple authors. Check out an account of the latest home game, featuring Pauly.
And thanks to Iggy for pointing out Suited Trash, the first Meta-Poker Blog in history. Liz keeps tabs on the poker blog world, and gives out a coveted asterisk to the “especially recommended” blog of the day. Hopefully I can earn one of those in the near future…

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