Mean Gene
Mean Gene
Pittsburgh's most decorated poker blogger, which I admit is like being the best shortstop in Greenland

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My Articles

Presto, the Arlo, & the Hammer
An Online Code of Conduct
The Ethics of Ratholing
"The Professor, the Banker..."
"Ace on the River"

My Columns

Lose the Shades
If You Can't Say Something Nice
Whither the Kicker
The Lady is a Champ?
Covering the WSOP (or not)
Statistics, Luck, and Poker
Poker and New Orleans
Managing a Bankroll
How To Tell A Bad Beat Story
Telling Lies
The Power of Poker Tracker
Advanced Card-Handling

My Greatest Hits

5 Things To Do Before I Die
Cafeteria Nostalgia
Mean Gene's Dubious Dating Tips
Poker and Business?
There's No Such Thing As Luck?
Isabelle, Je t'adore
No Shirt No Shoes No Service
Well, The Food Was Good
Good Morning, Mr. Matusow!
The Weekend of our Discontent, I
The Weekend of our Discontent, II
Books That Left Their Mark
Ode to a Fish Sandwich
Bill Simmons Ain't the Poker Guy
The Sports Guy Still Ain't the Poker Guy
Again, The Media Tackles Poker
Five Years After 9/11
Hitting Pretty Girls in the Face
Sixth-Graders Suck

Fellow Poker Bloggers

Guinness and Poker
Cards Speak
Tao of Poker
Up for Poker
Boy Genius
Chris Halverson
Poker Grub
The Fat Guy
Todd Commish
Poker Works
Bill Rini
Bad Blood
Love and Casino War
Double As
Lion Tales
Paul Phillips
Daniel Negreanu
Poker Nerd
Poker Nation
Poker in Arrears
Human Head
Sound of a Suckout
Chicks With Chips
TP's Table Talk
Royal Poker
This is Not A Poker Blog
Chick and a Chair
Go Be Rude
Poker Cheapskate
Poker & Other Stuff
Seven Two
Musical Poker
WPBT Online
Isabelle Mercier
Cardschat Blog
Amy Calistri
BJ Nemeth
Annie's Blog

Poker Sites

Cardschat Poker Forum
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Internet Texas Hold-Em
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    Friday, January 30, 2004

    An apology

    I probably shouldn't have threatened legal action against PokerSavvy, especially as they're the first publication to mention my Presidential campaign. Mind you, they didn't endorse me, which was disappointing, but they may be waiting to see how I do in South Carolina before they make their decision.

    Some strange play at the tables recently. I said yesterday that I'm on a killer rush, but I did take one on the chin the other night. I was heads-up with a guy in an SNG and, to be honest, I was tired. It was way past my bedtime, we'd been mano-e-mano for about 20 hands, and it was still a dead heat--he had 4010, I had 3990. He kept raising and re-raising me and I just couldn't get a hand to put this guy down. I was really cold-decked, and it's hard to call an all-in re-raise with 9-2.

    But you can't let yourself be bossed, so I took a stand. The blinds were 200-400 and he raised from the big blind to 800. I had J-4 offsuit, and I decided now was the time to smack him. I hadn't re-raised much, so I made the bet $1900. When he called I about yakked, and when the flop came Q-8-5 I reached for the bucket. I only had about $1500 and I had little choice but to go all-in. He called, and I typed "gg" and accepted my fate as 2 rags appeared. Sure enough the window popped up announcing I'd finished in 2nd place.

    Then I looked at his hand. K-6 offsuit. He'd called my $1900 re-raise with nothing. NOTHING. He called my all-in with NOTHING. How the hell did he do that? Why the hell did he do that? Did he see weakness in my re-raise? How? Did he think his king was, well, king? I finally came to this conclusion--he was as tired as me, he wanted to go to bed, and he decided this was gonna be the last hand of the night. He got lucky, I didn't. I hope that's what happened, for my own peace of mind.

    Then the next night I'm playing another SNG and the first hand I'm dealt pocket 10s one off the button. Five players toss in $15, and I decide to raise and hopefully win it right here. I push it to $125, fold, fold, fold...and the guy UTG, who bet $15 to start, goes all-in. Wha? And then the NEXT guy goes all-in.

    Now, at this point I'm a-scratchin' my head. What do these jokers have? What hand is worth only $15 to start but worth $800 after a raise? What about the 2nd guy? He has to show the best hand because he called the all-in. I'm thinking maybe AK, maybe KQ, KJ. I'm sure I'm up against overcards at least. But, maybe one of them has a lower pair, maybe they're willing to roll the dice here.

    I thought back to Howard Lederer's diary of the 2003 WSOP, he tells Humberto Brenes, "I just hope I get my money in the pot with the best hand". I took those words to heart. I knew I had the best hand. If I had the best hand, and folded, I was making a mistake. I went all-in.

    A queen and a jack on the flop and I winced. Rags the rest of the way. I turn over my tens, and find I'm up against...A-9 and A-8. These wackos went all-in with an ace and medium kicker. How the hell did the guy call an all-in with A-8? No idea, and I didn't care. I gobbled up the chips and rode them to a disappointing 3rd place finish. Made a bad call and got outkicked for 2/3 my stack.

    Last night I got home from volleyball and beer and sat down for a quick game. The hand is dealt and the guy in 2nd position goes all-in. The guy next to him goes all-in. I'm holding 10-4, I fold. Two more folds, and then another all-in call. And another. And another. First hand, five guys all-in. I type, "Lots of guys are sleepy, I guess."

    The cards come out, and then everyone shows their hands. The first all-in held pocket 10s. The next guy had K-9. Huh? The third guy had KK. OK. The fourth had AQ. The last guy, and the guy who won because he made 2 pair, had A-7 offsuit. I ask you, would you call holding A-7 if four players ahead of you went all-in? I didn't think so.

    He ended up winning the game against me. I just couldn't get a hand to play, even though I stole enough to go from $1800 to $4500. But he beat me down to $2000 and knocked me out when I held 4-7 and made a pair and he had 10-7 and made 2 pair. Oh well.

    A big week coming up for poker fans, the WPT tournament before the Super Bowl, and the Bicycle Club tournament on Wednesday. They've been advertising that the new season was "Coming Soon", and I'm glad it's finally arrived. Saw some familar faces during the preview--Chip Jett, T.J. Cloutier. Chip Jett...I can't beat a guy named Chip Jett. Not one who looks like he does. I mean, if I was dealt AK suited, and the board showed QJ10 of my suit, and we both went all-in, I have this feeling in my gut that the dealer would shrug and push the chips Jett's way.

    "Wait," I'd tell the dealer. "I won. I have a royal flush."

    The dealer would shake his head. "I'm sorry, you're playing Chip Jett. No one as uncool as you can beat him."

    I'd fight hard to keep my lower lip from trembling. "My mom says I'm cool."

    The dealer, still shaking his head. "You mother is mistaken, sir. Blinds, please."

    Iggy linked an article that quoted Clonie Gowan as saying, "What is going through the players' minds? It's complicated. It's a learning process." If I ever sit at a table with Ms. Gowen I hope she can't read MY mind, because I'll probably get slapped with yet another restraining order. If you go to you'll see a pop-up add for their tournament and I believe Ms. Gowen is the woman cavorting on the beach in a black bikini. That, dear readers, is an unfair advantage.

    Iggy also links to an article about Phil Hellmuth, busy bragging on himself in England. I didn't know until I read the excellent blog LionTales that Phil shows up late for just about EVERY tournament he plays in. I don't quite get this--does he really think that people will be intimidated by this? He's a strange one, this Hellmuth, and I promise I will be posting about him very soon.

    But one thing I'll post right now--if I ever find myself at a table where Phil pulls his "slept in" stunt, every chance I get I'm going all-in on him if I have him covered. I mean, if he had to pay one blind and I was up just a wee bit, how delicious it would be to have him raise and come back at him with an all-in. I'm sure he'd be livid, he'd cry, bitch, moan. I'd do it every chance I got. Don't care if he eventually took my stack--I'd want to bring on a full-bore pout.

    Thursday, January 29, 2004

    Libel! Slander! Calumnia!

    Yes, we lucky few, we Band of Brothers (and Sisters) are featured on, and if you're reading this you should check it out and understand the cultural phenomenon that is the pokerblog. My only complaints are that the quote they pulled from my blog is about their Bad-Beat-O-Meter and how I was allegedly "confounded" by it (a slur against my reputation--my lawyers have been contacted) and that PokerGrub is "easily" the most humorous poker blogger. I take issue with that, as all I have to offer are yuks and giggles (I certainly have no meaningful poker insights to share) and while I admit (note--never "admit" anything. Use the word "state". Your lawyers) the Grub is a funny guy it's the word "easily" that sticks in my craw. To remedy the situation, and also to show that he's not the only playwright out there in the pokerblogosphere, I will soon be publishing a play of my own--a revision of Hamlet, with Phil Hellmuth as the lead. I mentioned such a fantasy in a previous post and I ran with it. I know that I promised a different Phil Hellmuth post and I will bring it to completion, but when the Muse strikes one must obey.

    I don't mean to hack on PokerGrub, of course, and heartily recommend his site. I'm not at all envious that he has a play opening, not at all. As the Grub could tell you better than anyone, envy and jealousy and schadenfreude are emotions totally foreign to the writing game.

    OK, what was I going to write about today? Ah, yes. I've not mentioned this for awhile because I didn't want to jinx myself, but if you become a slave to superstition you're soon wearing the same underwear day after day and eating with the same spoon and refraining from washing an all sorts of unhygenic practices. Let me explain--I'm on a totally wicked rush right now. Lady Luck has snuggled up close (probably in the disguise of our new kitten) and is treating me right. Two weeks ago I was down to $40 in my bankroll. I was absorbing bad beats like a club fighter. Things looked bleak, as I'd promised myself that if I went belly-up, that would end my career as a semi-semi-semi-pro poker player.

    Two weeks later and I have over $200 in my account, and that doesn't even include a $100 cashout I made. I feel the need to split my largesse with the wife, I think that's good karma, but I still have over $200 to play with. $75 of that came from my switch to Empire and a bonus for referring my brother, but the rest came from my play, which has been alternately very good and very, very lucky.

    I keep getting cards, keep hitting flops, keep filling out hands. What's more, I've come to expect these things as normal. A few weeks ago I thought I'd never hit a flush again, and then I hit three flushes on three consecutive hands. I had a straight flush when another guy had a full house. I had quads when one player had a full house and another pocket aces. I joined a table and won 3 consecutive hands, holding AA, AK, and QQ. Four people left right after my 3rd win, and I cackled like a maniac.

    I've also been playing $5 SNGs, and I've placed in my last 6 or 7, winning twice. Both times when I won I hit HUGE suckouts to stay alive. Last night I went all-in with A-Q after the flop came A-K-Q. The turn came J, the river 10. A straight, big deal, I already had 2 pair. Except that the other guy had KK. Wow. Another time I did almost the exact same thing, I held A-J and the flop came J-10-4. I went all-in, was called, and the next 2 cards were a king and a queen. I relaxed when the last card showed, fearing I was beaten by an overcard, and saw the other guy turn over JJ. He had me totally dead, but I was not to be defeated.

    I thought last night my luck had run out, getting nailed on 3 consecutive hands when I had a pair of aces and a good kicker after the flop. But I won a few more hands to get up $10, played a SNG, and won. I'm so hot right now I should be wearing asbestos boxer shorts.

    This will end, of course. I'll have a losing session, I know. The fact that I've been waiting for two weeks has me a little antsy. Of course you go crazy when you're on a killer losing streak--believe me, I know--but you also get a little crazy when you're flaming hot. I keep waiting to for the other shoe to drop, and the waiting is getting to me a little bit. I'm not HOPING to lose, mind you. I've had my fair share of tough luck. But even though I think I've definitely improved my play, I'd have about $60 less in my account if I hadn't gotten massively lucky a few times. I wonder if I haven't overdrawn my karmic bank account, and I've tried to take steps to keep the poker gods on my side. When I put those massive beats on those two players I apologized and admitted I got lucky. I witnessed another beat like that during an SNG the other night and the winning player typed "YES! THERE IS A GOD!". Poor form, that. God, one would hope, has more important things to worry about than whether you make a flush in a $5 game. Especially when I'm not in the hand.

    Beyond luck, I think I see a few reasons for my improved play. Part of it is that I've, uh, improved my play. Like that creepy kid in those IBM Linux commericals (they give me the willies), I'm learning, I'm learning. I'm playing better, and that results in more money in my pocket.

    I think playing two tables at once has also helped. I'm playing more hands, and since I think I'm better than the silvery schools of fish who populate the tables my overall EV goes up. I'm also playing tighter and smarter, because I'm not waiting two hours for a playable hand. And, oddly, I think playing two tables has helped focus my attention more on the game than the TV, the news, or whether my big cats have had enough and are going to do a hospital job on the kitten.

    I think the new robustness of my bankroll has helped too. Reading about Chris Halverson's all-too-familar struggles made me think of my own recent dark times, and the advice he receive from Iggy--don't think about the money-- is both wise and hard to pull off. When you're one or two bad sessions from Tap City its hard not to be gunshy. Nervous play begets bad play, which begets more nervousness, which get the point.

    Now that I've plumped out my purse, I'm not playing scared. I know that I can have a bad run and still be OK, because I'm playing low enough limits that I'll survive it. When I cracked the $200 I thought it was time to move up to the $1/$2 tables, but I really felt uncomfortable playing at those altitudes. I was intimidated, even at these modest limits, and I wasn't comfortable playing the tight-aggressive game I've been taught. I bailed and went back to my usual $.50/$1 game, and felt like that's where I belong. Maybe someday I'll bump up to higher limits, but not right now. I'll let my guts decide when it's time to play a bigger game, not my bankroll.

    It's funny, as I read the PokerSavvy article, I realized that I probably couldn't tell you the limits most folks play at. I know Iggy has returned to the grind from the glamourous world of multi-limit tournaments, but I don't remember if he plays $.50/$1 or more. I know Chris plays my limit, but for the other bloggers I'm not really sure. And I don't really care too much. I find it interesting to read about folks playing bigger games, to be sure, but I wouldn't necessarily pick one blog over another because of the dollar amounts involved. It's the game that's fun. The game and talking about it, talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Especially the good.

    Wednesday, January 28, 2004

    Thespian, Smethpian

    During last night's WPT Celebrity Challenge they had the usual player interviews and Aiesha Taylor said something along the lines of "Poker is all about acting". Or she said something like "Being an actor is an advantage at the poker table". I could re-watch the episode to get the exact quote but I'm tired and lazy. The point Taylor made is one that was brought up over and over again during Bravo's Celebrity show--because I'm an actor, I have an advantage playing poker, because I know how to "act". I can fool you because I'm trained to make believe I'm someone I'm not.

    To this I say, bullshit. If acting skill was so important in poker then Helen Mirren would've won the World Series of Poker. If great poker players were naturally great actors then Stu Unger would be getting the Thalberg award at this year's Oscars. The mistake Taylor and David Schwimmer and Willie Garson all made is a common one among actors--they think that acting, and especially THEIR acting, is the Center Of The Universe, instead of a way to mildly amuse we common folk who prefer scrubbing the toilet only slightly less than watching network TV.

    You hear this all the time. Poker is like acting. Politics is like acting. Journalism is like acting. Pretty soon you'll see Tom Cruise on "The Actor's Studio" declaiming that quantum physics is like acting, nanotechnology is like acting, mitochondrial cloning is like acting.

    I can't comment on the latter three disciplines, but I can say that acting skill is NOT a prerequisite to good poker play. First of all, let's look what actors do. They take on the persona of a character and take part in some kind of narrative. They engage an audience. They train their faces, their bodies, and their minds to convey emotion, action, information.

    Contrast this with the poker player. Contrast this with the phrase "poker face", for cryin' out loud. The poker player wants his body, his voice, and his eyes to convey NO information. None. Or he wants the information he broadcasts to be the exact opposite of what he's feeling. He wants to appear strong when weak, weak when strong. Failing that, he wants his opponent to get no read whatsover, to deny his opponent even the body's involuntary clues--dilated pupils, a throbbing pulse in the neck.

    Poker players wear sunglasses to hide their faces, not to look cool. Tell a bigtime Hollywood star that she has to disguise her face and you're going to have a thermonuclear incident in your schmoozing room, unless you can promise your star (say, Nicole Kidman in "The Hours", or Charlize Theron in "Monster") that she's guaranteed an Oscar nomination and the kind of adulation and fame usually reserved for a triumphing Roman general.

    So if you want to improve your game I think studying Sklansky is a much better bet than Stanislavsky. Tho, think about it, what would you rather see--Al Pacino playing in the World Series of Poker, or Phil Hellmuth playing Hamlet? Robert De Niro shuffling chips, or Annie Duke as Lady Macbeth?

    Monday, January 26, 2004

    Welcome back, old friend

    Even though last night's WPT Celebrity Showdown wasn't a "real" WPT event, it was still great to have a new episode to watch. I've watched the ones I've taped so many times my wife probably knows subliminally that Phil Ivey is called the "Tiger Woods of Poker" even if she doesn't know who Tiger Woods is. The WPT "Ladies Night" was good for a fix, and last night's show provided another taste before the next season begins. Good to hear that theme music, good to see Shana Hiatt again, and especially good to hear Mike Sexton's mellifluous voice again. OK, Sexton isn't the second coming of Pavarotti, but whoever picked him to be the play-by-play commentator for the WPT (Steve Lipscomb, I'm sure) had a moment of inspiration. Sexton gives his poker insights in a smooth, folksy manner, unlike Phil Gordon, who struggled so mightily on Bravo's show. It's odd, from his accent I would've pegged Sexton as a Texan, but he's actually from Dayton, Ohio. Too many years around cowboys in Vegas, maybe.

    To the table. I liked the new graphics used on the show, much more modern, very stylish. I liked that they showed by percentage who has the best hand, instead of the old "3 1/2 to 1 favorite" they used last year. The coverage is a bit more like ESPN's coverage of the WSOP, but the old WPT flavor still comes through strong.

    Before I get to the play itself, a question--WHY THE HELL DIDN'T THEY HAVE A DEALER? What on God's Green Earth possessed them to let the players deal themselves? It made no sense. They had Evelyn Ng there to keep track of the bets and make sure the cards on the board were lined up, but how hard would it have been to have a professional dealer there keeping the action going smooth? Even though this gave we leering sickos a chance to look down Mimi Rogers' shirt, they should have had a dealer. They could easily arranged for gratuitous and explict shots of Ms. Rogers to satisfy the drooling mob.

    Mimi won, which was good as I was rooting for her. Even though her charity was by far the least deserving. Compared to the Ronald McDonald House, a program to rescue abused kids, and the Cleveland Public Library, Rogers' charity was, so far as I could divine, some kind of enviromental group that takes scientific data and distributes it in a format the ordinary citizen can understand. Listening to her describe it I don't think Mimi herself had any clue what they do. I'm all for the enviroment (I live there) but I think sick kids or increased literacy is a more pressing and, perhaps, more worthy issue.

    But this blog isn't about what plagues our society, it's about poker. And the poker last night Not bad, not as bad as some of the horror shows we saw on Bravo, but I don't think Howard Lederer is going to break into a sweat to see Fred Savage sitting to his left. Savage did provide much of the evening's entertainment, going absolutely batshit when he held A-3 and flopped a full house after going all-in against Aiesha Taylor. He leapt up and ran around the studio in a sort of fit, screaming and jumping and behaving much as I would after hitting a flop like that with all my chips in the pot. Aiesha Taylor dropped the first f-bomb in WPT history when Savage caught an ace on the river to win another huge pot against her. But in the end it was the Divine Miss M who reigned supreme, and won the $25K buy-in to the WPT championships. With Mimi and Clonie Gowen the aesthetic appeal of the Championships will be greatly enhanced this year.

    A few more observations--why didn't Bravo hire Daniel Negraneu to co-host their show? Or get rid of Kevin Pollack and let Phil Gordon and Daniel rip and shred the celebs. He and Jennifer Harman were the "experts" waiting in the loser lounge, and each celeb had a red card they could use to get expert advice once during the game. Taylor used hers when she held the nut straight, and I didn't quite understand why she chose then to ask for advice. Negraneu took one look at Taylor's and and gleefully shouted "Bye, Jack" to poor Jack Black, who held three Jacks (two Black Jacks).

    I like Negraneu's columns on CardPlayer, and he's a huge hockey fan (from Toronto, natch), and he's what might be called a "live wire". Energy radiates from the guy, and watching him play at the Showdown at the Sands you can see why he's not a fun guy to play against. Hyperaggressive, supremely confident, yet reading his columns you can see that he's not full of himself. Hope we get to see him play in a few WPT final tables this year.

    Interesting dress Harman wore, boots, some cleavage. I think she saw all the raves Gowen and Ng got during the WPT Ladies' Night and decide to prettify herself a bit. Nothing wrong with an attractive woman playing up her best attributes at the table. Right, Iggy?

    All-in-all, not a bad night's television. And not a bad night for yours truly. Not a bad weekend, actually. Got my $25 bonus for joining Empire under Iggy's signup, tho I didn't get my $50 yet for referring my brother because the fool used a different email address. But we got that worked out, I think and I wait anxiously for my $50. Not that I need it, not after the weekend I had. Playing two tables at once I caught cards like a circus performer. This whole weekend I could do no wrong. I ended up about $60 playing limit and came in 2nd in a $10 no-limit tournament, pocketing another $30.

    I'm actually ticked at how that tourney ended up. I was heads up with the guy and I never got a big chip lead on him, even though I caught HUGE cards. I had AA, QQ, AK (twice!), and KJ suited so many times I thought my computer was stuck. Thing is, the jerk folded in the small blind with many of my monsters, and I couldn't induce a big bet when I caught a hand after the flop. I went all-in three times without a monster hand and got him to fold every time, and I hoped this might lull him into a bad call at some point.

    But it was me who made the bad move. I had Q-10 and called in the small blind. The flop came K-Q-2, and I don't know why, but I went all-in. I was only down about $1800 at the time, which I could make up with just one re-raise to win the blinds. But I went all-in with 2nd pair and got caught. Of course he had the king, but I caught a jack on the turn to give me a straight draw. No joy on the river, and I was toast. Stupid me didn't know the payout structure, and I took home $30 instead of the $50 for first place. I might've been more patient had I known we were playing for $20 difference, but maybe not.

    I played well, my no-limit game isn't as bad as it used to be. I would describe it as "slightly above moronic". I think there's real money to be made playing SNGs, because the play there can be so bad at times you wish the fish would just mail you a check direct. Like last night, I was in 2nd place and the chip leader was up about $350 on me. I had AK and the flop came A-Q-7, with the last two cards hearts. He made a $80 bet, and I decided to make a big bet and hopefully knock him out right there so I could collect the pot before more hearts appeared. He called me, and the king of clubs appeared on the turn. He checked and I made another big bet, and he called. A rag on the river, check, bet, call. He had Q-8d. I didn't get it. He had third pair with a lousy kicker and threw away about 2/3 of his stack. Up to then he'd played fairly well, I thought. Maybe not.

    Good weekend playing. But after sitting down so long I realized the need to be more active. I may have to get my exercise bike going while I play so I don't end up over 400 pounds like Doyle Brunson. Especially because no one out there is going to bet me $1million that I can't lose 100 pounds. If I have to do it myself, on my own dime...that's no fun.

    Sunday, January 25, 2004

    Some random thoughts

    Instead of the usual hand-histories and bad beat laments, I thought I'd take some time and get a few things off my chest. Don't worry, Iggy, I haven't abandoned my Phil Hellmuth thing. I just imagine Phil reading it and I have to make it as perfect as one of Phil's reads on T.J. Cloutier.

    -- What's your favorite kind of fish? I don't mean the crabcakes at Monterey Bay up on Pittsburgh's scenic Mt. Washington. No no, the players we EXPERTS consider fish, those bluffing, flopping, calling fools we sharks prey upon. There are nearly as many variety of fish at the table as there are in the sea, and during my play the past week I encountered several distinct species. The one that made me shake my head and laugh is what I call the "WPTuna". This is the player who has watched a few poker shows and now thinks that he's ready to sit down and bluff Gus Hansen. He thinks he's smarter than 99.9% of the people playing. He believes that he has insights into the game Sklansky hasn't even considered. He doesn't think he's a fish.

    He is, of course, wrong on all 3 points. What makes the Tuna different is his need to TELL you how smart he is. He's the sort who types a critique after each hand--critiques that are often hilariously pompous and tactically unsound. The other day I'm up a few bucks and I'm stroking my new kitten a la Dr. Evil, and a big hand came along. The betting was capped pre-flop (I folded), and the flop came A-J-3, the ace and jack both hearts. Bet, raise, re-raise, in the end three people hung in. The turn was the eight of clubs, the river the nine of spades. One player folded after the river, but the other two capped the betting, and in the end the one guy turned over A-J and the other turned over...7-10 offsuit. He went runner-runner to fill his inside straight and won a big pot.

    Did Mr. Straight thank the Buddha and resolve to tithe a portion of his winnings? No, he had to school us. He said, "I slow-played that at the end".

    Huh? How do you "slow-play" a miracle drawing hand where you called raises on the flop and the turn? The player who got skunked said, "You caught your card on the river", and the Tuna said, "I had proper pots odds to make the call".

    Uh, no way. I don't think the pot odds dictated a call when there were two overcards on the flop and he had to call three bets from two players. Nor did the pot odds favor a call against 2 players when only a 9 could save him--and possibly make a better straight for someone holding a goofball hand like Q-10. There were flush draws out there...I didn't want to calculate the odds, but no way was that a smart play.

    I like the Tuna because I won two very tidy pots from him later on. I knew from his comments that he fancied himself a smart guy, and I wanted to prove that he was only half-smart. I had pocket aces against him, flopped a set, checked and called on the flop and then check-raised him on the turn. He re-raised me and I capped it, and when a rag came on the river (with no flush or straight draw possible) I bet and he raised me again. I re-raised and this time he just called and turned over K-J hearts. He wrote, "Didn't make my flush or straight". Got that right, he needed 2 hearts on the turn and river or a Q and 10 on the turn and river. Then as the next hand came out he said, "Thought I'd knock you out when I re-raised."

    I didn't like the implication that I can be bossed by seafood. "Not with trip aces," I wrote.

    "Well you got lucky there," he wrote. I didn't answer. There's no point arguing with those too stupid to understand. I let him live in his poker dreamland and won another nice pot off him later. The scary thing--he was probably the big winner at the table while I was there. A moron with a horseshoe up his ass.

    The fish I don't like playing against is the Pseudo-Lederer, the player who, when the action comes around, sits there and thinks, and thinks, and thinks...I don't mind when it happens occasionally. There have been a few testy hands where I needed a good 30 seconds before I folded to that check-raise. But when it happens every other hand, before the flop...I mean, I'm playing $.50-1. What the hell is there to think about? If you're not sure if you can risk four bits with those pocket tens, go play solitare. I got fish to fry!

    Like, I'm playing right now, and there's this guy who's having computer problems and it takes him forever to act. He's apoogized for it, and as my own computer is antiquated I'll cut him some slack. But the player who takes friggin' FOREVER to call on bet after a J-7-2 rainbow is gonna earn my wrath. I don't think you're going to deduce anything by staring at my computer doppleganger. Play the hand that's dealt you--within the hour, if you will.

    --I'm playing right now and I'm on a wicked rush. Was up $15, fell back to even, and I hit a runner-runner flush to win a nice pot to kick things off. Won a nice pot when I hit a full house with three kings on the board and another player tried to bluff me into thinking he had quads. Next hand I flopped the nut flush and on the turn made my first-ever straight flush. Then I hit another nut flush. I'm up $30 for the night and players are leaving in droves, fearing the wrath of Mean Gene. I think it's about time to play a little no-limit.

    I've been having some success playing two tables at once, though tonight I wanted to put up a long post so I'm writing and playing. One thing I noticed about double-fisting is that it always seems that you win big on one table and lose big on the other. The lack of equilibrium drives me nuts. I go back and forth and I'm thinking, "OK, I'm up $12 on this table, but down $9 on the other...but I left a table down $8 so I'm actually down $5 total...but did I start up on this table before I added more chips...". I know you don't count your money when you're sittin' at the table, but if I'm taking a bath I like to know how hot it is.

    When you're playing two tables and you're UP on both, it's absolutely delicious. When I'm down on both I start wondering why I thought losing money at twice the rate was a smart thing to do. So far I've done pretty well, but it's something I'm keeping an eye on. If I start getting doublecrushed I'll step back and see if my limited attention span is being stretched too thin.

    -- We all know that there are special names for certain hands. Big Slick, of course. I just lost with AKh and quit up $25 for the night, not bad. We bloggers now call 2-7 the HAMMER after the contest started by the PokerGrub. There are certain hands that are forever linked to certain players. 10-2 is called the "Doyle Brunson" after he won consecutive World Series holding that as his final hand. And I got to wondering--what do you consider your hand? What combination of cards do you think of as your very own, cards you can't help playing, cards that, when you get beat by them, make you feel like you just caught your girlfriend cheating.

    For me its 10-8. First of all it seems like I'm dealt that mess every other hand. I see the ten pop up first and already I'm saying hello to Mr. Eight. But I have a winning record playing those cards--not that I play them too often. I think I was conditioned to like 10-8 because I flopped a full house with it once and got massively paid off when another player ended with an ace-high flush. And I think I made a straight with it once and made some money. Notice the operative words in each of the previous 2 sentences--"once". I don't play the "MeanGene" a lot, but it's hard to resist its siren call.

    OK, enough garbage. I need to make some improvements to the blog, add more links, get a comments feature going again, add some bells and whistles. Think I'll play a SNG and go to bed. Yes.

    Saturday, January 24, 2004

    The thrill of victory, the agony of getting sucked out by some nimrod

    From my last abbreviated post you know that I won my last SNG, and tonight I logged on and had my brother watching me play from his place. He just signed up at Empire, but of course the site wouldn't let him register so he couldn't play and hand over his chips. I've been playing some decent no-limit lately, but I have to admit that I've been getting some luck to compliment my mad skillz. So I decided to play another SNG and show the bro how the big boys do it.

    I felt a little like I was performing, knowing that my every move would be dissected. And, I have to say, I played pretty damn good, and took the title without much fuss. I had a nervy hand early on, I held pocket sevens and the board paired 4s and deuces. I had an overpair and he didn't bet out like he had trips, so I called him until I only had $200 in chips left. But my 7s held up, and from there I won a few pots and got my stack up over $2K. I've noticed that, as crazy as the ring games get on the weekends, the no-limit games seem tight. Not a lot of raising, not a lot of insane all-ins--except from yours truly. Well, I wasn't insane, but I did do a lot of stack-shoving. I pretty much bossed the table, hit a few nice hands, and ended up winning when 8s appeared on the turn and river, giving my foe trips, when I held a queen-high flush.

    I was rather pleased. Show off for my brother, pocket some cash, a good night's work. And then I got stupid. I played another SNG, and of course I'd used up all my positive karma. I lost about $200 when I had aces and sixes, only to have one guy go all-in and another call. I watched the first guy turn over pocket sixes, making my laydown seem rather a good choice.

    I was dealt QJh and raised it up. I got 3 callers at $90, and the flop came Q-7-2 with two clubs. I didn't like those clubs, I did like my kicker, and I decided to end the hand right then and there. I went all-in, and had the player to my left go all-in too, freezing out the other player. A nine and a six filled the board, and I waited to see AQ or KQ. No, my opponent turned over Q9d. She called my all-in bet with top pair, no flush draw, and a mediocre kicker. And won. I would've stripped her down to $200 and built my own stack to $900. Would've, could've, should've.

    Oh well. Up $13 for the night, not bad. Won another SNG. Had lots of fun. I promise a more interesting post tomorrow, hopefully finish my Hellmuth screed. My brother will be appearing a guest blogger in the near future, his opinions are IN NO WAY reflective of the opinions of managment. Not even close.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2004

    Viva la Victory II

    Sorry, no Phil Hellmuth post tonight. Played another SNG, it was an epic affair, and yours truly was triumphant! I'll post more tomorrow, including the Phil post I promised Iggy, and I recap of what was a hell of a SNG. Went all in 3 times in a, I'll post tomorrow. Way past my bedtime.

    Monday, January 19, 2004

    Riding the roller coaster

    After the last few crazy days I must use the tool of philosophy to put my play in context. An experiment--fill a glass with water until it reaches the halfway point. The optimist says that the glass is half full. The pessimist says the glass is half empty. The grinder, however, shrugs his shoulders, accepts what he's got, and drinks it down. The grinder does not recognize that half the glass has water and the other half air. He does not recognize the concept of "half". The size of the container is irrelevent--all that matters is the amount of water that's in the glass. Accept what you have, not what you don't have, or what you used to have but have no longer. Because what you have RIGHT NOW is what counts.

    Why the gobbledegook? Had a ferocious up and down weekend. In my last post I wrote that I'd nearly hit $100 after some fine play. Well, played some Saturday and got absolutely crushed. The flip side to playing 2 tables is you can lose money twice as fast, and that's exactly what I did. I had a 2-minute nightmare where I had an ace-high straight lose to flush when a guy turned over 4-7 of spades, and on the other table my pocket kings got beat by a guy who played 5-8 offsuit, flopped a four, and made a six and seven on the turn and river to make a straight (OK, he also flopped an eight to make a pair, but still). That sunk me about $10 right there, and it never got better. When I slipped down to $75 I decided to play a SNG--and was the first guy knocked out. I made a terrible call with two pair when I KNEW the other guy had trips, and then I went all-in with pocket queens and got two callers. I flopped trips--but the queen and the other two cards were clubs. Another club on the turn and I knew I was toast. And toast I was. Normally I enjoy toast--not too dark, definitely not burned, a little melted butter. Very tasty. Can't say I enjoy BEING toast, tho.

    Played some more limit and dropped $20 more, until I was down to $50 again. Unreal. I was playing tight, playing smart, but I was getting battered by a school of marauding fish. From now on, when I play at Party on the weekends I'm playing tighter than a mosquito's poopchute. You can win some big hands, but unless you have a monster you're in danger of being run down by any one of a half-dozen scrabbling fish. I saw some really weird hands Saturday night that I wasn't involved in that had me wondering why the poker gods protect fools while the pure of heart get shafted regular.

    I thought that until I won 2 big pots on consecutive hands to end my miserable streak. I got myself back up to $76 and I called it quits. I'd gotten up as high as $106, as low as $50, and I ended up at $76. The optimist in me was thankful for the $26 I'd won after falling down to $50. The pessimist lamented the $30 I would've had if I'd quit when I hit $106. The grinder in me was glad that I'd made a buck on the day. Had some fun, some ups and downs, and I made a buck. Better than losing a buck.

    Played some Sunday and was rewarded by the poker gods for my level-headedness. Made about $22, ended up at $99. I thought about hanging on until I went over $100, but I felt I was pressing and decided to call it a night. Trying to hit a milestone can cause artificial pressure--just ask the folks on Wall Street the next time the Dow approaches 10,000. It's like the sound barrier, once you crack through the sailing is smooth, but right up to that point you get strange buffeting. Once I get my bankroll over $100 I think I'll relax and not have to worry so much about one bad night putting me in the poker hospital.

    Thinking about writing a feature story about poker for one of the publications 'round here in Pittsburgh. I need to start publishing in forums more august and venerable than my whiny blog. Plus the pay is probably better. I'll keep you posted on what I'm researching.

    Have to update my comments software so you good people can let me know what you think. Think that'll happen tonight.

    Saturday, January 17, 2004

    If I had a hammer...

    Congrats to Jason of Stick and Move, who was the first among us to hit with the Hammer. I don't play a big enough game to qualify for the prize, but I thought if I won a $5 pot might prevail on the Grubster to toss me a bone. So I've been playing 2-7 every chance I get--and I'm actually UP for those hands. I think I've had 2-7 six times since the challenge was issued and I won 3 times. Two times I got no action, but on one hand I flopped two pair and had one guy call me on the flop and turn. The pot hit $5--and Party took their $0.50 rake. I bet on the river, and the other guy, despite my screams, folded. So close, so close. But I've actually posted a profit since I started Hammering away, and i'ts added a fun element to the game.

    I don't have anything to offer so far as a financial incentive to the next Hammerer, but how about this--I will make the next winner Ambassador to any country they choose once I'm elected President. Maybe you'll want to be our nation's representative to, say, Aruba? The Bahamas? Maybe you'd like to go to Paris and irritate the French? It's totally up to you! Oh, you say you're not an American citizen and therefore can't become an Ambassador? Hey, I'm gonna be the freakin' PRESIDENT, folks. I can make this happen.

    I made the mistake on Thursday of playing a little after I'd played volleyball and had a few beers. I wasn't drunk, but I was pretty exhausted, but since I was off the next day I figured I'd play a SNG. But I thought that might take too long, so I played my usual $.50-1 game. Mistake. I was too tired, I should've gone to bed, and I dropped $20 in an hour. I only have $60 in my bankroll, so losing a third of it that way hurt like the dickens.

    I came to the table Friday determined to play better, and that's exactly what I did. I've been playing 2 tables, and I have to say that it's dramatically improved my game. Because I'm playing more hands per hour I'm playing much tighter and not making loose calls early or late. I made a quick $35 on Friday, boosting my roll to a much-more comfortable $75, and then I played a bit today and made another $25, getting me a whisker away from $100. I did hit some big hands--I hit trips twice in a row and got paid handsomely, and I made the nut flush when another guy made a straight, and he capped the betting on the river. I did get skunked once when a guy playing 2-7h made the flush on the river, and I swear to God I expected to see HAMMER! pop up on the page. He wasn't even in the blinds, and he called a preflop raise. Oh well, I think he paid me off on a later hand.

    So I'm in much better shape so far as my bankroll goes, and I'm not playing scared anymore. Think I'll play a bit later on, after a quick snack.

    Oh, I'm watching a re-run of the WPT Championship, and am I the only person who thinks Alan Goerhing looks like the Mailman from the comic strip Red Meat?

    Wednesday, January 14, 2004

    Win by aces, die by aces

    Congratulations to the lovely (if slightly weird looking) Nicole Sullivan, who won last night's Celebrity Poker championship. I think she's rather easy on the eyes (and Phil Gordon agrees) but I've had a few people say she's a bit weird looking. I think it's just that her face is so active, she has an extremely expressive face, probably thanks to years of making weird faces on Mad TV. Compare her to Nicole Kidman, whose face at times appears frozen in a mask of practiced serene beauty.

    But Ms. Sullivan played some pretty good poker to win last night. In fact, last night's show was pretty doggone good. It was actually fun to watch. And it seemed like the players were having fun to, maybe because they each drank about 9 beers. Even Phil Gordon loosened up some! He said that Nicole was much cuter than David Gross (natch), flirted shamelessly with Shannon Elizabeth, and then when Ben Affleck and David Schwimmer showed up in the Loser Lounge and talked about getting a game together, Phil asked if he could get in on the action. He wasn't exactly John Belushi circa 1977, but he had by far his best night.

    The play was at times decent, at times lousy, and even a few times compelling. The horseshoe finally fell out of Paul Rudd's ass and he got knocked out when Sullivan filled a runner-runner inside straight. Rudd was gutshot indeed, going out in 3rd place when he should have doubled-up. It was an absolutely horrid call by Nicole, who had nothing against Rudd's set of sixes, but she lucked out bigtime and the momentum carried her to the title.

    David Gross was rather funny, in a loud and drunken way. Willie Garson, who in his previous game played his J-4 offsuits like pocket aces, was dealt pocket kings and played them like, well, J-4 offsuit. He let Gross catch him on the river and got knocked out in a most emasculating way. Rudd flopped a straight to knock out Richard Schieff and give himself a huge chip lead, but he was unaware that he'd just used up the last of his luck. And, apparently, his brains, as he made some truly horrible plays shortly before Sullivan KO'ed him with her one-in-fifty-shot.

    Oh, and can someone tell me how Gordon calculates percentages in his head that fast? In a 3-way pot he says things like "Willie is 57% favorite" and I'm still punching data into CardPlayer's Hand Analyzer. This stuff is dubbed in afterwards, right? He can't do the math in his head that fast? 'Cause that wouldn't be fair.

    All in all, the final episode wasn't too bad. The best of what had been up to that point a pretty sad lot. The rich and famous are different than you and me, yes? Affleck and Schwimmer show up to watch the game, they're on TV, right...and then they get up and leave before the taping's done. You or me would give our left (fill in the blank) to appear on TV, yet these guys can't be bothered. Oh well. Schwimmer's acting career will forever be poisoned by fans identifying him as the Ross, and once J-Lo finally tires of Affleck he'll be reduced to dating mere strippers and starring in the occasional mid-level blockbuster. Losers.

    Actually, if you'll allow me the digression, what the hell happened to David Schwimmer on Friends? One of the driving forces of the show's early success was the Ross/Rachel romance. Could a schlub from high-school who got his act together win the heart of the cheerleader who wouldn't give him the time of day back when? You rooted for Ross, because just about every guy has a girl from those awkward teenage years who was, like, THE girl. And you watched and hoped he'd succeed where you so miserably and, at times, criminally failed.

    But as the show progressed Ross became a figure first of pity (when his jealousy cost him Rachel), then of contempt (when he couldn't/wouldn't get his act together and try again with her) and finally of disgust. I mean, it seems like on every episode Ross does something that is beneath the dignity of even the most pathetic male. More and more he acts like an overgrown pre-teen, more and more he makes a complete and utter fool of himself while thinking himself the epitome of cool. He was always a geek and a nerd, but now those qualities have totally subsumed his personality. And I can't STAND the guy. The idea of Jennifer Aniston having a child with this...this...WUSS makes me doubt the sanity of the cosmos. He's a WUSS! Don't mix your very appealing DNA with his! You're polluting future generations! Nip this jerk in the bud! His sister's just as bad, but at least she can't have her own kids! Nip this family in the BUD!

    Sorry about that, but these things had to be said.

    Where was I? Oh, yes. Poker. I played last night during the Celebrity thing and got my head handed to me. Flopped the sucker straight and this guy made me pay for it, and then I had the king-high flush when another guy had the ace. Ouch. So I was down about $10 after a small comeback and I decided to leap off and do some dishes and laundry, and when I returned I decided to try another $5 SNG and see if I could get back to even. I ended up playing Pot-Limit, deciding that might be more my speed until I develop some No-Limit chops. Pretty dumb, to be sure, but that was my frame of mind at the time.

    I twiddled my thumbs for the first round, picking up the blinds when I made a $90 bet with pocket 10s and no one called. Then I was dealt pocket aces. Up to that point there hadn't been much heavy action, so my $120 raise after one caller seemed to get everyone's attention. A lot of long pauses before I saw fold, fold, Then raise. By the time it got to my it was $300 to call and I wasn't having it. I went all-in. I knocked the caller out, but the raises called my all-in bet. The flop was junk, no straight or flush possibilities. The turn was a jack and I winced, fearing the other guy had pocket jacks. The river another rag, and we turned 'em over. The poor slob had pocket kings, and he and his cowboys rode off into the sunset.

    About ten hands later I was dealt pocket rockets again. I made a hefty raise and was raised all-in by the guy to my right. I called, a bunch of junk hit the board, and my aces stood up against pocket tens. I had over $3200 and was ready to boss the table. But I was not a very good boss, I have to say. I didn't get good hands for awhile, and when I did get some playable cards I sat back too much and let the other guys bash each other. I got too conservative, I had some opportunities to steal some small pots with moderate raises and instead I sat back and let other players make the moves. When I did make big plays I was twice raised all-in and didn't have the hand to call. I played not to lose instead of playing to win, and ask Mike Martz how well that works.

    There was one guy down to a mere $50 in chips, and when he bet I flexed my pecs and went all-in. He ended up hitting a pair of kings on the turn and got back on his feet. This ended up being the guy I went heads-up with at the end. Gotta take my hat off to him, he was down to the felt and battled back. He actually had $80, posted the $30 blind, and folded when there was a raise ahead of him. That's either showing fantastic discipline or no brains. I choose the former.

    He had a slight chip lead and we went back and forth a bit, him adding a few hundred to his stack. I was dealt Jc10c and I made a tidy raise. He called, and the flop came 9-6-3. I decided that now was the time to make a big bet and steal the pot, so I hit him for $500. He called. I was down to about $300 in chips and pretty much knew I was doomed, and when a deuce hit the board I bit the bullet and bet it all. He called, and after the meaningless river card he turned over pocket aces. Ouch, babe. It hurt to see those cards after how they'd helped me so much early on. I felt...betrayed.

    Still, the $15 for finishing 2nd put me back to even for the night. I've been on the see-saw lately, win one night, lose another. Last night was my turn to lose, but I broke even. Don't know if I'll play tonight (basketball) or tomorrow (volleyball, drinking), but we'll see. A little break won't hurt nobody. Give those fish a breather.

    More on my Presidential campaign will be posted soon on my other blog, promise. Iowa caucus in just a few days, got a feeling I'm gonna do really well!

    Tuesday, January 13, 2004

    Hammer time!

    Some random ramblings today. PokerGrub has issued a challenge to the pokerblogging community--a $10 bounty to the first player to win a $5 pot playing 2-7 offsuit. Now, you have to play at least a $1/$2 game, which is currently out of my price range, but I may dig in and give it a shot. You can't win from the blinds, either, adding to the appeal. I actually won a tidy pot the other day playing 2-7c, but that was on my first pot after joining the table and I had to post the big blind. Flopped two pair and beat a guy with a pair of aces and queen kicker. He even bitched about it, forgetting that I got to see the flop for "free". That's why they have the raise button, buddy.

    Not that it helped me last night. I was playing two tables a la Halverson and was up about $10 for the night when I was dealt the 'ol pocket rockets. I quickly folded my other hand and raised it up. And was re-raised. And got raised again. Five of us put $2 in pre-flop. The cards that appeared were 2-5-9 offsuit. I bet, was raised, and everyone called. I put someone out there with another big pocket pair. The turn and river didn't give anyone a straight of flush draw, but four of us all called 3 bets. The pot was $29, and I really thought it would be mine. I turned over my aces...and the guy next to me turned over 2-5h. I couldn't believe it. He stayed in with four other players with four bets to go, and he called it. And flopped two pair. A few other players berated him for such an appalling play, but I didn't. I really sort of expected someone to turn over two pair, I couldn't see my aces standing up to four other players, but it hurt to come 2nd best to 2-5 of hearts. With nearly thirty bucks at stake. Ouch.

    Played another $5 SNG last night, hoping to repeat the triumphs of the night before. Uh, no. First, my computer crashed, meaning I had to reboot and rush back to the table after missing about 10 deals. And I played lousy. I really don't know how to play no-limit with any sophistication or skill. Most of my study has been in limit, and there's a huge difference between the two games. Need to get a book and evolve my game from fish to shark.

    Speaking of fish, tonight is the final episode of Celebrity Poker on Bravo. Based on previous episodes, it promises to be a two-hour ordeal. I wonder if the game will actually last long enougt to fill 2 hours. Nah, it probably will, a few of these folks actually know that trips beat two pair. But I'll watch it because, as Nick the Greek famously said, "It's action, ain't it?". This is Phil Gordon's last chance to redeem himself, but I'm not hopeful. His color commentary has been almost as bad as Brent Jones' blather during NFL Football. I don't know how Brent Jones survived playing pro football for 10 years when he so obviously knows nothing about the game and not much about anything else either. And he and Gus Johnson were assigned to just about every Steeler game on CBS this year and it was like going to the dentist every Sunday for three hours of exploratory drilling. I hate CBS, there isn't a single show on that network I watch. CSI is probably a good show (especially the one with the dishy Emily Procter), but I've never seen an episode. Everybody Loves Raymond? Not me. Wipe the Tiffany Network off the face of the earth and my life skips nary a beat. But I digress.

    Who do I think will win? Better you ask me if red or black will come up in roulette, or who Howard Dean will pick as his running mate. I have no clue. Who do I want to win? Nicole Sullivan, of course, even though she appears on the unwatchable CBS sitcom "King of Queens". My hopes aren't high for tonight's show. I just want to hear Phil Gordon utter one line that doesn't sound like it was pre-programmed into his cerebral cortex.


    To paraphrase what Al Franken once said about Al Gore, the stick up Phil's butt has a stick up it's butt. This shows you the true horror of television, that it can take a guy so cool he bought a fully-tricked out RV and drove it around to every big sporting event in the country (my idea of Heaven) and make him look like a bloody statue. This is a guy who, while getting his ass handed to him by Juha Helppi in the WPT Aruba event, managed to laugh at himself, praise his opponents play, and dump a bottle of water on his head. He was sitting down with Scotty Nguyen, Phil Hellmuth, Jennifer Harman, and he brought a card to the table listing the ranking of hands. He beat these three poker titans and had fun doing it! He was goofing off and enjoying himself. But on this show, ugh. He looks like a 6'9'' deer caught in the headlights.

    Binion's Horseshoe is apparently going under. It's already closed and shuttered, and how long it stays that way is unknown. Londonfroggy broke the news that Harrah's plans to buy Binion's and the rights to the World Series of Poker. That the Horseshoe has gone under in the midst of gigantic poker boom should give you an idea about how mismanaged the casino was. If you read Jim McManus' book "Positively Fifth Street" you got a pretty good glimpse of the Binion clan, and it did not inspire investor confidence. You have Ted Binion, whose drug abuse and association with gangsters got him listed in the infamous "black book", banning him from all Vegas casinos. And then his stripper girlfriend murdered him. You have Becky Binion Behnen and her husband Nick, who seemed to be totally unequipped to handle such a huge enterprise. In the story I linked earlier, Nick Behnen, "was reached at home by telephone but shouted a profanity at a reporter before hanging up.". Wonder if it was the f-word or the s-word. A-word, maybe?

    Jack Binion was smart, selling off his rights to the Vegas casino and moving east to set up Jack Binion's Horsehoe in Tunica. The Jack Binion World Poker Open is a huge event, appearing on the WPT last year, and he at least has made a success of things. His daddy went West, he went East. He was quoted in the story as saying he has no interest in the Vegas casino or the World Series label. He's got his own thing going and doesn't want to infect it with whatever disease the Vegas place has.

    The Binion grandkids didn't fare too well in McManus' book either. I think it was Benny, Becky's son, who McManus hit the strip bar with at the end of the book. If you saw the WSOP on ESPN this year I think you saw Benny, he was the guy in the light-gray double-breasted who looked like his hair had been manufactured by DuPont. Someone should have mentioned that bleaching and streaking and supergelling your hair went out around 1989. No one did, alas.

    Passing a successful business down through the generations is always difficult. The kids often don't have the grit, determination and street-smarts the parents needed to get the thing going in the first place. They're spoiled, they're selfish, they're greedy. Shakespeare wrote a play about this problem called "King Lear", maybe you've heard of it. Everyone ends up either dead, blind, or insane, none of which is good for business.

    A bit off the subject, but did you ever see the ads William Clay Ford made after he fired Jac Nassar and took control of the company? This is the 44-year-old Ford, I don't know if he's third or fourth generation. He's a young, good-looking guy, who's no doubt had a silver stick shift up his jock since birth. He's done a pretty good job of running both Ford and the Detroit Lions into Lake Michigan, but he decided to not only take the top job but also become the company's pitchman. Why I'd buy a car because this guy tells me to is beyond me. But there was one commercial where they show the new Mustang, and you see Steve McQueen in "Bullet" tooling around San Francisco, and it cuts to a shot of Ford and he says, "I've always loved sports cars...some people say I have gasoline running through my veins."

    Do they now!!?? It isn't enough for little Willie Ford that you know he's now the big man in the suit ordering everyone around, he also wants you to know that he's a badass of the very first rank! He could be out on the track swapping paint with Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, but he's got cars to build! Fast cars, muscle cars, oh yeah, baby!

    And who are these people who say these wonderful things about you, Billy Boy? They wouldn't happen to be the bootlicks who've no doubt told you since birth how great and wonderful you are, knowing that you'd end up in the top job eventually and wouldn't forget those nice people who think you're just super?

    Those commericals convinced me to buy Korean from now on. Any company stupid enough to let the underbrained boss's son be the company spokesperson obviously knows nothing about business, and probably less about cars. Buy General Motors? According to a 60 Minutes report a few weeks back, General Motors is one of the leading sellers of pornography in the world, thanks to it's ownership of DirectTV, which sells porn movies thru pay-per-view and to hotel chains. I have nothing against porn (nothing at all!) but if I'm not going to buy my next car from Jenna Jameson, I'm not buying my next car from GM.

    OK, I've wandered a bit far afield. I plan on writing about more than just my lousy play, but next post will be more about poker and less about Jenna Jameson. Unfortunately.

    Oh, and if you see that you can't comment anymore, it's because Blogspot is down. If they don't get it together I'll get another provider. Of course you can always just email me.

    Monday, January 12, 2004

    Viva la victory!

    I've been struggling a bit lately, and it'd gotten so bad that I'd sunk to the point of taking advice from Chris Halverson. Chris mentioned in a recent post that he was playing two tables at once, and that got me to thinking. I tried double-fisting once and didn't do too well, mostly because my computer is getting a bit senile and switching back and forth between tables can be a bit slow. But the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. If I'm a better player than the rabble on PartyPoker, and per hour I win more than I lose, then increasing the tables I play should increase my overall profit. If I can't play more hands (i.e. play looser) and win, playing at an additional table should allow me to play more premium hands per hour and, over time, increase my winnings.

    So I gave it a shot, and results were mixed. I didn't have much problem playing the two tables, either from a computer standpoint or from paying proper attention. I hit some nice hands early on that paid off and was soon up $15. Then things settled down a bit and I slid back to about a $5 profit. Then I had one of those hands that makes you bang your head against the wall.

    And I do mean hands--at one table I had AQh, on the other pocket jacks. I raised on both, but I should've known better. I hate AQ suited and JJ, they're the hands that probably cost folks the most money. They look pretty, but they'll break your heart in the end. At least this time I was merely taunted by the poker gods. On my AQ table the flop came J-7-4. At my JJ table the flop showed A-Q-2. Oh, fabulous. I doublemucked and went about my business.

    I was about even when I was dealt pocket queens, raised it up, and bet it to the river, when an ace appeared. I couldn't imagine someone with a mere ace had stuck around so long, so I bet--and was re-raised. I popped some tinfoil in my mouth and chewed hard as I called, and sure enough the yutz had A-3 offsuit. He called my raise, called my two bets, and hung in with ace high.

    I guess I played OK the rest of the way and ended up about $7. But it was 11PM, The Eiger Sanction had just come on, and I decided to play a $5 SNG. My no-limit play has a decided fishy smell to it, but I really like playing them and PartyPoker has actually increased the number of SNG tables they have available, perhaps in response to the pointed email I sent them a few weeks ago. I played two the other night and got skunked out of the money, and I have to say I played like crap. I resolved to play better this time.

    Uh, no, I played like crap, at the beginning at least. For some reason I think an $85 raise in early position is a good play with a marginal hand, and when I made that play early on and faced a $200 re-raise I had to muck. The table I was at was unusual for a Party SNG--there was only 1 insane all-in during the first orbit. Usually you see chips flying around like a lumberjack competition, but this was a rather patient, passive table.

    I managed to waste another $500 on weak calls and timid raises, until I was the short-stack with $300. No one had a huge lead, and the blinds were still low, so I decided to screw my head on and play with brains and balls. Well, balls at least--I had 10-5 offsuit and the flop came 3-4-5. With my massive pair of fives I went all-in, hoping to steal the $100 or so in the pot. Nope, got called. Two junk card on the turn and river, but my foe only had ace-high, and I was back up over my original $800.

    I won a few more pots with Iggy-esque steals and bluffs, until I had about $1200. And then came the hand that will keep me from bitching about bad beats for a whole...week. I had J-10c on the button and when no one bet I threw in $200. I was called by the big blind, and the flop came 10-6-10. Trips, very sexy. The BB had the big stack and he threw out an $800 bet, I thought to bully me. Not with trip tens. I went all-in, and he called. I wondered what he had. Did he have a ten? Possibly, but he'd need to outkick my jack. A six, to make two pair? I didn't have long to think. The turn showed a trey, the river a...jack. I had full house, and to be honest I thought that was overkill. I didn't need the jack, I felt sure, but I was glad to see it.

    And then the cards flipped over and the BB showed pocket sixes. He flopped a full house and got beat on the river by my three-outer. I was so shocked I didn't have the wherewithal to rip him about it and really put him on tilt. No, I wouldn't do that, bad karma.

    I was now in bidness. We went back and forth awhile, me slowly building my stack until I was the chip leader, until we were down to four. The guy I'd just crucified with my jacks (I'll post later with the Bad Beat Analyzer) had J-10 and flopped the nut straight. He went all in with about $1200 and was called. The turn paired the seven already on the board, the river paired the nine. Yup, the other guy turned over Q-9. Unreal, the guy flops a full house and a straight and gets absolutely butchered. Finished in fourth place, out of the money. I felt bad for him for about six seconds.

    And then it was back to work. I was in second position now and didn't catch much, and then the big stack made trip aces on the river against little stack and we were heads up. He had $6685, I had $1315. The blinds were $150-$300, so I couldn't putz around. I was dealt KQ and went all in. He called, and neither of us paired. But he had K-7, so I doubled up, and, as the Brits might say, game on!

    There's little to report about the rest of the match. I'd like to say I played brilliantly, but that would be a lie (no, really?). My opponent was either intimdated by the size of his stack or, well, I don't think he was intimidated by me. But we played a good 31 hands heads-up and on only 3 or 4 did he raise or re-raise me. I think he was waiting for a hand where he could trap me, and he was so passive that I was able to steal a lot of blinds from him and quickly set us to level. He let me call too often and see cheap flops, and when I bet out he folded like Superman on laundry day. He won a few hands, and even took the lead again when I called him all the way with pocket tens even though there was an ace on the board, and he took about $1000 from me. But I was always the aggressor, and even though I wasn't feral he kept checking and folding until he was down to about $1000. The blinds were $250-$500, so when he went all-in from the big blind it was only $250 for me to call. I had Q-6c, and the flop came 9-J-8,with the 9 a club. The turn was the deuce of clubs, and...hold your breath...the river was the ace of clubs.

    I had a flush, an A-Q flush. Only if he had the king and another club would this battle be rejoined. And, of course, he didn't, holding a measly Q-9 offsuit. True, that was better at the start than what I had, but no matter. I had just won my first SNG! The big message flashed "Congratulations!" and I thrust my arms in the air and, I have to say, I felt pretty damn good. The $25 I earned pushed my winnings for the day up to about $32 and my overall bankroll to $68. At one point yesterday I was down to $30 and near despair. Now I feel like I'm back in business.

    I know that I didn't play especially well. I got really, really lucky. Well, it's about time, isn't it? Wasn't it baseball great Lefty Grove who said, "I'd rather be lucky than good,"?. Or was it Ringo Starr? Anyway, there's nothing wrong with being lucky and good, is there?

    Saturday, January 10, 2004

    Martian Hold-Em, the game sweeping the cosmos

    As I previously announced, I'm running for President in 2004. In light of rumors that President Bush will announce plans for an idiotic and wasteful lunar base and manned mission to Mars, Hdouble asked me how many big bets per hour would it take to send a man to Mars. I sent back a typically smart-assed reply, to wit:

    My fellow American (and, I hope, registered voter),

    According to Gregg Easterbrook at The New Republic, a manned mission to Mars would cost about $28
    billion just to get in the air. Getting the crew back and forth alive would cost somewhere around
    $300 billion. As President, I will also propose a manned mission to Mars. My proposal cuts costs
    dramatically by making this a suicide mission--the astronauts selected will have to fend for
    themselves once they get to the Red Planet. These flyboys will be VERY motivated to make Mars
    habitable for human, since they'll snuff it if they don't. This is the "compassionate
    conservative" portion of my platform.

    I don't know how to fund this mission yet, but I'm trying to get an IPO going for a company I'm
    going to call "". Since these are the only two industries actually making money
    on the Internet, I figure to make a killing on the Street. If that doesn't work, I propose playing
    some no-limit with the European Union, gambling with the federal budget against those
    sausage-suckers and cheese-eaters. No way some Belgian is gonna beat an American at

    Hey, if you'd like to volunteer for the mission to Mars let me know.

    The Future President of the United States of America,

    Mean Gene

    Now, when I was a kid my I had my future all planned out--I'd study aeronautical engineering at the Air Force Academy, become a fighter pilot, and eventually join the astronaut program. I really, really wanted to be an astronaut. Then came that fateful day during the sixth grade, when I went in for our yearly eye exam and was told that my vision was 20-40 and I needed corrective glasses. Bye-bye Air Force Academy, bye-bye F-15, bye-bye outer space. I remember actually crying as I walked back to class, because I knew that, thanks to my very genetic makeup, I didn't have The Right Stuff.

    As time went by I learned that more than my eyesight precluded me from becoming a fighter jock. First of all, I'm not especially good at math. Not terrible, but anyone who voluntarily gets into an airplane I designed is probably wearing a bandanna with a Rising Sun symbol and preparing to scream "Banzai" as he crashes it into an American aircraft carrier. Then there's the fact that I am flat-terrified of heights and of flying. I'll fly, but I need five or six highballs and a couple muscle relaxants before I'll released my death-grip on the seat. Then you throw in the fact that just about anyone can go into space these days, I mean they're sending Senators up, so isn't like you need special qualifications anymore.

    But I'm still fascinated by space travel, and when I was watching the NOVA special about the Spirit rover I nearly started crying when they received confirmation that the Lander had survived. Makes you proud to be an American, or, indeed, a human being, that we can build something so sophisticated and send it 100 million miles to another planet, for crying out loud. Incredible.

    As I looked at the photos Spirit sent back I realized that now isn't the time to send a manned mission to Mars. Way too dangerous. Way too expensive. We need to figure out how to get stuff into space much more cheaply and safely, that's what our space program should focus on. I mean, just look at those pictures, at that flat, inhospitable desert, nothing to see all the way to the horizon. Nothing but desert, in the middle of nowhere...

    Oh. Oh yes. Oh YES. I know how to fund the first manned mission to Mars! And I know how to make the endeavor pay for itself! You guessed it--Mars is gonna be the new Vegas! Think about it--50 years ago the only difference between Vegas and Mars was that there's a bit more oxygen in Nevada and it's about 150 degrees warmer. And no one goes outside in Vegas, most visitors spend 95% of their time in the casino and go home with that froggy fluorescent-light pallor, not with a tan. So keeping people cooped up on Mars is no problem at all.

    Vegas is the fastest-growing city in the country and one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. Mars could be all that and more! Millions go to Vegas every year for gambling and adventure, right? Well, Mars gives you all that but more, exponentially so! The old-timers lament that the old Vegas is gone, that the seedy, honky-tonk atmosphere has been replaced by the overwhelming glamour of corporate gaming. Well, I can see Martian casinos as a HUGE opportunity for the 21st century Benny Binions who need to get out from under oppressive things like laws and law enforcement and take their shot at running not just the Biggest Game in Town, but in the SOLAR SYSTEM.

    If I am elected President, I will make all contributions by casino and gaming establishments toward a manned Martian expedition tax-deductible. I will allow organized crime syndicates and drug cartels to pour the billions they have locked up in safe houses and buried in the rain forest into this mission, in exchange for my promise that gambling, prostitution, racketeering, and drug use will be totally legal on Mars. Anyone who wishes to go to Mars can either pay their own way or be comped by the new Martian casinos.

    See, I also think of Mars as the new Australia. Back in the 1800's Britain transported her most incorrigible criminals and whores and felons to 'Stralia, and look what a raging success that was. Australia is a thriving nation with beautiful cities and a vibrant economy--and just about everyone there is about 2 generations removed from, well, scum (I mean no disrespect to my Aussie readers).

    Of course, for the first 100 years or so Mars is gonna be a pretty rough place, very Wild West. Lots of violence, gangs fighting over turf, that sort of thing. But if that's the price we have to pay for the biggest advance in human civilization since the Declaration of independence said that "All Men Are Created Equal", I'm willing to pay that price. No one will be sent to Mars against his or her will. I want people on Mars who desperately want to be there--either to make a buck or to indulge their most base and animal needs. We can get these people off of the Earth, where they cause all sorts of trouble, and that'll free up more capital for education and medicine and good stuff like that.

    This is a win-win, my fellow Americans. Vote for Mean Gene, and I promise that your descendants will play poker on another planet.

    Friday, January 09, 2004

    The Slippery Slope

    That's what I'm on right now, the descent into Poker Hades greased with my own blood and bad-beat sweat. Got home last night after volleyball (and wings and beer) and logged on to get some hand histories to feed into Poker Tracker. I made the mistake of logging on to play a few hands, and I lost $9 in the 45 minutes I played. When you only have $45 in your bankroll that's a serious hit.

    Played 45 minutes and won 1 hand. I had A-7d and flopped the nut flush. Of course I got no action from this, pocketing a huge $2 profit. The rest of the night I just dribbled away blinds and small bets. Can't complain about my cards--had AKs, pocket queens, jacks (twice) and eights. And hit nothing on the flop, and I mean nothing. That was my saving grace, I got out early with all these hands, except for the ladies. Preflop the betting was capped, with this other guy re-raising me. I certainly couldn't throw away queens, and maybe he had jacks or another pair or a suited ace with a big kicker? A king fell on the flop and the betting was checked around, so I put him on that suited ace. There was an 8 on the turn, pairing an 8 on the flop, and I called a bet with my queens, tho I hate seeing two cards of the same rank on the board. Then a 9 on the river, pairing the NINE that came on the board. So anyone with a King, a nine, an eight...I know when I'm skunked. I got out, and had the original re-raiser turn over pocket kings. So much for my Hellmuthian reading abilities.

    My games have developed a predictable pattern lately. Either I win a few pots at the start and have a big night, or I slowly and inexhorably drip chips until I'm looking at a $10 loss. I think I've posted losses 4 of the last 5 times I played. I didn't play poorly last night. Played tight, even saved myself about $5 throwing away some hands where I thought I was second-best. Not thought-pretty much knew. I'm following the fold-fold-fold/pound-pound-pound theory as instructed, but so far not much to show for it. I need a few winning nights to get my bankroll and confidence stable again. I wish I could point to one thing and say, "A-ha" and understand why I'm in such a slump, but nothing really leaps out. Just a dry, dry spell.

    This is, of course, affecting my Presidential run. Hell, $40 won't even buy me a bus ticket to Washington. George W. Bush already has $99 million dollars stashed away for his re-election campaign--that's the equivalent of me winning the main event of the World Series of Poker 40 times. And while my winning the Presidency is about as likely as me winning the WSOP 40 times, I'm not deterred. Well, I'm deterred a little bit. A big weekend at the table will get this campaign back on track.

    Wednesday, January 07, 2004

    Bad beat?

    Of course I checked out PokerSavvy's Bad-Beat-O-Meter after reading about it on Iggy's blog because, as you all know, I suffer the most and the worst bad beats in the poker universe. Like last night, what should have been a winning session ended up a $9 loss because of one tough hit I took. I had pocket aces and the flop came an 8-5-3 rainbow. I bet, bet again when a 9 showed on the turn, and was raised when another 9 came on the river. The other guy turned over A-9. He had to go runner-runner 9s to beat me, and the $18 pot that should have been riding on my hip, was now riding on his.

    I put this info into the Bad-Beat-O-Meter, and the score was a 708, which rates a mere "Tough One". I think the scoring goes all the way up to 3200 or so. A "Tough One"? I dunno, I'd think the opponent pulling out the only two cards that could save him would be a pretty rough beat. So I pushed things a bit. I created a hand like this--you have pocket aces, the other guy has the 2c-7-d. The flop comes A-A-3c. So you've made quad aces, and you both bet five grand, all-in. He's all-in with nothing, and you have quads. The turn and river come 4c and 5c, giving him the straight flush and the win. Now this would be about as bad as it gets, I'd think. But according to the BBOM, it's rates a mere 1600, a "That Smarts". Yes, it does, a bit.

    How bad must a beat be to rate as "Just Nasty"? You bet your immortal soul with quads, lose to the straight flush, and the other guy wrecks your Porsche and screws your girlfriend? How bad is bad? We've all had our bad beats, what's the worst beat?

    The worst I could think of came on the last hand of the 2000 World Series, when Chris Ferguson beat T.J. Cloutier. It came down to the last card, Cloutier was ahead, Ferguson held A-9 and needed a nine or else he'd be down to a mere handful of chips. Cloutier, perhaps the greatest no-limit player in the world, who literally wrote the book about tournament no-limit Hold-Em, one of the true giants of the game, lost when Ferguson hit his 9. Jesus became World Champion, and T.J. had to settle for 2nd yet again and suffer the sobriquet "The Best Player to Never Win the Big One". That, my friends, is a tough beat.

    Tuesday, January 06, 2004

    Worst show ever

    Even as I write this I'm watching Celebrity Poker on Bravo, and...Good God. What a horrible show. I mean, I play poker, right? I like watching poker. I write a friggin poker blog, for Chrissakes. And even I can't watch this crap.

    It isn't just that these people (with the exception of the lovely Mimi Rogers) can't play worth a damn. They can't play AT ALL. The dude who's the lead singer from Creed (whoever they are) couldn't figure out what he had. He was bragging about having Queens and Eights when Mimi Rogers had pocket kings to go with the eights on the board. And when he learned he was losing he acted like he was being cheated.

    Couldn't Bravo have found a few celebrities who, at the very least, know the ranking of hands? This might have been an entertaining show if they all could have played with as much skill as Mimi Rogers, and looked as good doing it. But these idiots don't have a clue.

    And they aren't interesting to listen to. They aren't funny, they aren't sponteneous, they're...BORING. Very, very boring. Other than Mimi's animal-print blouse and sexy smile (have I made it clear I have a thing for Mimi Rogers?) and wondering what the hell happened to Carrie Fisher, there isn't much to talk about on this show.

    Actually, what the hell DID happen to Carrie Fisher. When did she get little-ol-lady disease, with the cheaters and the frumpy hairdo? She and Rogers are probably close to the same age, but Fisher looks...grandmotherly. It was only 20 years ago that she was wearing a brass bikini in Return of the Jedi and making teenage boys feel all funny. And now...whoa. And where the hell did she get that blouse? A sanitarium for clothiers?

    And I've been ripping on Phil Gordon, but this was his worst episode by far, and that's saying something. Kevin Pollack tried bantering with Phil, saying, "If I saw you sitting down at my table, I'd play...blackjack."

    And Phil says, "Or video poker". What a witty comeback! What banter! The Martin and Lewis of our generation! Later, when listing the chip counts, Phil says that the former Princess Leia needs help from Obi-Wan Kenobi. Bwahahahaha!!!! He's just ghastly, he looks frozen by the camera lens, his smile is so forced you'd think he'd just messed his pants. He's terrible.

    And this is not a guy who's a walking stiff. Read about his escapades as a Tiltboy and have a big laugh. My favorite part was when Gordon and his buddies are playing before they head to the airport for their flight to Vegas, and this guy hits a huge out to win the hand. As his friend steams Phil congratulates the guy, telling him what a great play he made, and then says, "Hey, how 'bout you buy me a beer? Buy me a beer with his money!" he says while pointing as his now-livid friend. Great stuff. And you see none of it, and I mean NONE, on this show.

    My God, the finale is a 2-hour special. And I don't think Mimi is gonna make it. At least with her and Nicole Sullivan there'd be something to look at. And those two ladies were probably the best players on the whole show, tho Mimi is going out. Crap.

    Wish I was a celebrity so I could go on this show and humiliate these guys. Actually, I'd probably humiliate myself fawning over Mimi. I like her, but you know that about me.

    Hand of the Century

    The losing streak is over, thank the Buddha. I came ready to play last night, no kittens to bother me, my new DVD of The Young Ones providing some background noise, my poker hat on. I started fast, winning a quick $8.50 when I hit top pair twice in three hands and had them hold up. I couldn't believe it, winning two hands in ONE NIGHT.

    Then things went downhill a bit. I had A-8h, the flop came A-6-8, and I was starting to think someone up there liked me. Another six on the turn, and when I got raised I knew I was in trouble. Sure enough, he turned over K-6. Ugh. About two hands later I had J-6 in the big blind and checked to see the flop. It came K-J-4. I'm not chasing 2nd pair anymore, right, so I just checked. The turn came another Jack. Sweet. I got ready to ready to ready to bet...and the friendly "Connection lost...establishing connection" window popped up. Yup, I was booted by some server. I had to completely shut down, restart my computer, and log back on. The good news is that I did win the hand, because there was more money in my account than before. I doubt I would've won much more, since no one was anxious to play with one jack on board, let alone two. Still, I was vexed.

    But it turned out there was no need. I've been getting killed by weird outdraws, and today the planets realigned. I had AK, a hand that has really stung me lately, and bet it to the river with a king on board. I had two callers to my raise, and I was thinking I was doomed. Instead I had to split the pot with another guy holding AK. Not great, but we chopped about $20, so not bad. Later I had pocket 10s and, I think, played it well. I check-raised after no overcard showed on the flop, and then a queen showed and no one bet. When a deuce appeared on the river the guy on the button raised me, and I thought that once again a miracle card had killed me. No such thing. A pure bluff, and I raked in a tidy pot. Later I had pocket aces, made trips on the turn, and when a third club appeared I thought, again, I was dead. Nope--a big win. I ended up $25 for the night, and when you're down to $40 in your bankroll that's a nice win.

    But that pales in comparision to the true big hand of the night. The first table I was playing at was wild. constant raises and re-raises, the betting capped preflop several times. I was in the worst possible spot--smack dab between the two wild players at the table. They were bitching back and forth at each other and at the other players in a mostly good-humored way, but I didn't think they were colluding because they each lost some weird pots. On a number of occasions I called a preflop raise by the one to my right only to have the guy on my left re-raise. There were a few other loosey-goosies out there and some really big pots for a $.50-$1 game.

    But the hand of the night came with me in 1st position. I had K-J of diamonds and I called. The guy to my left raised, and I think six other players called, including the wild man to my left. The flop came A-Q-J of clubs. So I have bottom pair and three clubs on board. Uh, right. The guy to my left bet and I mucked. Guy to my left raises, four players call, the guy to my right re-raises, guy to my left caps the betting, and the other four guys call. Wowzers.

    The turn is the ace of spades. Two aces on the board, and the betting started again. Raise, re-raise, capped. Still 4 players in the now-huge pot. I'm thinking someone has the flush, someone has pocket queens or maybe pocket jacks to make their boat. The river is a the six of clubs. Bet, raise, re-raise, cap. Three players, and 33 bucks, in the pot.

    The guy to my left turns over the K-10 of clubs. It took me a second to realize what he had. He had, of course, a royal flush. He flopped it. Flopped a royal flush, and kept on betting, and kept on getting raised and raised and raised. I was cursing fate that one of the players to my right couldn't have chosen this time to take a leak, but them's the breaks. As the winner accepted his congratulations the guy I thought wasn't a nut said, "I had trips, I couldn't lay it down".

    Trips? Trips? The guy called four bets before the flop, after the flop, after the turn, and after the river with a single ace in his hand? With four clubs and a straight draw and possibly a full house, he put all that money in with an ace? Jeepers!

    Monday, January 05, 2004

    I need your vote!

    Richard Nixon famously financed his first Congressional campaign with money he won playing poker. While in the Navy the future Tricky Dick saw his fellow officers playing poker and was astonished at how much money was changing hands. Gambling was verboten to a Quaker like himself, but already Nixon was showing the, ah, moral flexibilty that was to haunt him later in life. He learned to play, learned to play very well, and made a bundle. He put his poker winning to use, was elected, and the rest is history (or infamy, depending on how you look at it).

    Why do I bring this up? Because, my fellow poker junkies, yesterday I announced that I am a candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America. I just turned 35, making me qualified for the job, and I think it's my duty as a citizen to run for the highest office in the land. And I think it's important that a poker player have the job. Think about it--who better to stare down the Kim Jong Ils and Osama bin Ladens of the world than a guy who has capped the betting after a check-raise on the river while holding nothing better than bottom pair--and WON?

    And let's face facts, the leading candidates out there wouldn't exactly intimidate you at the table. George Bush would have a cheat-sheet that lists hand rankings, and you know he'd have Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove sweating him and clearing their throats and shaking their heads every time he reached for his chips. Howard Dean? Come on, the guy is one tough hand away from tilt. Say something like, "You know, I heard Vermont is just Canada without doughnuts", or, "If Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys were around today, they'd be up before the UN War Crimes Tribunal". And then sit back and wait for the steaming Governor Dean to raise you with 2-6 offsuit.

    So vote for me, and I promise to bring a smart, honest, grinding attitude to the White House. Halliburton wants a multi-billion dollar contract in Iraq? Let them ante and play the game like everyone else. Some tinhorn dictator or terrorist threatens? I won't fold the hand, I'm gonna be like Scotty Nguyen and go all-in, bay-bee! Come on, be honest--wouldn't you like to see us nuke someone again? Just a little bomb, a few kilotons?

    So vote for Mean Gene, and my first act as Prez will be the legalization of poker rooms in all 50 states. That's how I plan to fund my re-election campaign--I get a taste of the rake, just a taste, enough to wet my beak. I'm sure I can get more cash that way than the GOP can raise shaking down businessmen and corporations.

    Mean Gene in 2004! Come on, vote for me, or else you might be facing a Phil Hellmuth candidacy in 2008.

    Take a deep breath...

    No poker last night, and maybe not this night either. We'll see. I've reviewed some past hands on Poker Tracker (really, this program is just too cool) and I see that I've been playing some really lousy poker. Maybe I'm playing smart, tight and aggressive 90% of the time, but the loose 10% are absolutely killing me. I see now that the hot streak I had last week was disasterous for my discipline. I started thinking that I was not only smart, I was slick. I was stealing pots with check raises on the turn, slow-playing big hands and having them pay, and bossing my tables. All of these concepts are smart and profitable, when used in moderation. I've gotten sloppy in my play and it's come back to bite me.

    My big weekend and my disaster weekend are now pretty much a wash. I made $80 and lost $90. So I can't be too upset. I still have $40 to play with, and I think I'll be able to slowly build my bankroll again. I have to play low-limit Hold-Em, not VegasFlashPoker. The verbs I need to keep in mind are "fold", "grind", and "fold". Fold preflop, fold fold fold. Fold when the flop misses you or you have low pair. Don't chase. "Chase" must be removed from the vocabulary.

    But when I do get a big hand, I have to pound. Pound pound pound. Pound those fools holding lousy hands, because my premium hands will win out. That's a problem I have right now--I'm gunshy unless I'm holding the nuts. Until I feel like I can raise with top pair and a big kicker, I should stay away from the tables. I have to trust my play, trust myself, trust in the inevitabilty of statistics. If I hold AQ and my opponent holds Q5 and we both flop top pair, more often than not I'm gonna win. The fact that I haven't won with these hands recently is merely a rift in the time-space continuum. Or, it's just a short-term statistical anomoly. These things happen. By playing big hands and playing them aggressively, I'll make them happen to the other guy.

    Going over some hands in Poker Tracker had my shaking my head. I couldn't believe it was me playing these hands. I had Q7 in the big blind and checked to see the flop. It came J-7-3. My opponent had KJ. I checked, he (and three others) bet, I called. OK, with middle pair I can forgive myself that. A poor play, but with four others in the pot and an overcard maybe I catch and burn these guys. The turn was a deuce. I check, the guy with top pair bets, and the other 3 fold. What did I do? Did I fold? No, I raised. Powerful play, remember? Unless the other guy has top pair with a big kicker. He re-raised. I called. Let me repeat--I called. I didn't fold, I didn't re-raise, which were my only two options. Get out or represent a big pocket pair. I was shouting at the screen, "Fold, asshole! What, you think this yutz is bluffing you? You think middle pair makes you strong?"

    The river was a rag, I checked, he bet, I called. Horrible, horrible stuff. That was, by far, the most egregious example of poor play I could find, but I had a few more instances when I flopped middle pair and somehow, with five others in the hand, I thought that was a good hand. A hand worth calling a raise with. Wrong, MG. Unless you have some sexy draw or something to go with it, middle pair isn't worth bragging about.

    So I'm gonna tighten up, smarten up, and play some poker. Maybe not tonight. I have to check my horoscope and take my biorhythm reading. We'll see.

    Sunday, January 04, 2004

    Why you should keep your promises

    I know I said I wouldn't play today, but I did some work around the house, vaccumed my den (where I play), rearranged the furniture a bit, did the whole feng shui thing. Didn't help--I lost $10 in about 30 minutes, and that's with me winning a ridiculous $8 pot where I had 2nd best pair after the flop and it got checked around on the turn and the river. I'd already abandoned the hand and all of a sudden the chips were pushed my way.

    I lost with AQ when a guy won with Q-6 offsuit and he had queens and sixes. And that's when I started to smell a rat. The table I was playing at was the wildest I'd ever encountered. Raising before the flop almost every hand, and more often than not a re-raise. I hung around a bit hoping to pick up a big hand and win a big pot. Of course, with my recent luck that was not going to happen. I've been getting big cards, but I can't make a hand after the flop. Like the AQ I had, they were spades and I had four to the nut flush on the turn. Did I get my spade on the river? Of course not. Anyway, when the guy turned over Q-6 after two preflop raises I just chalked it up to him being an idiot.

    Then I started watching things a little more closely. There were 3 players who kept doing the raising and re-raising. One guy had over $800 at the table, unusual for a $.50-$1 game, but certainly not incriminating. But I started watching these guys closely, and while I don't think I'm ready to bring charges, I got the hell out of there. The hands they were playing and the bets they made didn't make sense. The hand that really got me wonder was a $25 dollar monster. The betting was capped preflop, and the flop came 6c-5s-Ks. Bet, raise, re-raise. The turn was the 2s. Three to a flush now. Bet, raise, re-raise. Two of the players were guys who I thought were playing strange with third guy in the mix. The river was the 9c. So there are four spades out there. Bet, raise, re-raise. The first guy, the pigeon, turns over Q-10s, queen high flush. The second guy turns over K-4 offsuit, both red. The third guy turns over the ace of spades.

    Now, why on earth was that middle guy raising with K4 offsuit, calling three bets after the flop, after the turn, after the river, with four spades showing? OK, he had top pair, but a 4 kicker? I didn't buy it. So I really started watching these guys. The pattern was repeated 3 or 4 more times--bet, raise, re-raise, and then keep raising things all the way until the showdown. It was the same 3 guys, they were in nearly every pot, and they always raised it. I saw a guy turn over Q3 of hearts with no heart showing on the board and an ace and king on the board. He had a pair of threes. Another time they got skunked when a guy playing 9-6 made a full house on the river and one of them had a straight. The other had pocket fours.

    I don't think collusion happens much at the $.50-$1 tables, since you can of course make more money at the higher limits. But the novice colluder has to start somewhere, and the low limit tables would be as good a place to start as any. I was at a table the other day where I suspected something funny was going on, because the betting was totally crazy and guys were showing hands that make no sense. Much like today, but today seemed much, much more obvious.

    Mind you, I don't blame collusion for my problems, though I did drop $10 at that table. I had a good hand and got beat by a guy who got lucky. But, boy, would it be nice to get lucky again. I don't even know what Lady Luck looks like anymore.

    So I'm now down to $40. I may have to drop down a lower limit and try to ride this through. Not playing anymore tonight. I'm going to write, maybe here, maybe at my other blog. Get my brother playing so I can get some free cash from Party to plump out my poker-purse. I'm treading water right now, gotta grab a life raft. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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