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
Barstool Sports
Card Player
Internet Texas Hold-Em
Poker Pages


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    Sunday, February 29, 2004

    Why you have to lose to be a good player

    I've been playing unconcious poker the last month. When I lose I lose a few bucks. When I win I win big. Won the tournament and then when I played after that I posted modest wins. It seemed I couldn't lose. And, after awhile, I started to believe I couldn't lose. Oh, I might get nailed a hand here and there, but I'd make it up with a big win down the road.

    After losing $100 today I realize that Luck swings both ways. I got down a bit early, made it up, and then I got rivered on one table to lost a quick $20 and made a terrible call on another to drop another $25. I pride myself on not tilting, or not tilting so bad that I start throwing away money, but I KNEW the guy made his straight and called with my trips anyway, and that cost me $15. I hit trips on the flop, bet big, and watched a king and queen come on the turn and river. Couldn't chase him, he caught me, and I knew it but could't throw the hand away. It was stupid, and it made me mad at myself.

    I logged off, worked on my Phil Hellmuth post, which is finally done and will be posted tomorrow (probably), and logged back on to win back some of the $50 I'd lost. i didn't feel like I had to make it ALL back, but if I could put together a $10 win I'd feel I'd accomplished something.

    Dropped another $50 in about twenty minutes. I was dealt 4s5s and called a piddly $.50 bet. Flop came 4-4-Q. I made a tiny bet and had 4 callers. A five on the turn gave me a full boat, with 2 diamonds on board. This time I checked, and called the $2 bet one of the other players made. Another diamond on the river, and I bet $4 as though I'd made my flush. One guy raised me to $10. I figured he had A-x suited, so I raised him all-in. He called--and turned over Q-4. He flopped the boat and let me drown. Lost $25 in one hand.

    I bore down, played premium hands, and slowly pissed away another $10 with lousy cards. I had lousy cards all day, actually, but when I got big hands I got skunked. I had pocket kings, raised the pot, and flopped trips. Guy made his straight again, this time holding 3-6 and filling out his straight on the river. That cost me $10 or so. the hand that finally made me quit for the night was AcQc. The flop came A-8-9, with the last two cards clubs. Top pair with a flush draw. I made a small bet and was re-raised the pot. I figured the guy might have AK because he re-raised me before the flop. I called, and when no club showed on the turn I checked and he did too. A jack on the river, no club, and when I checked he bet $5. I called and he turned over AJ. Twenty bucks flushed right there.

    So I dropped $100 in one day, and that hurts. My bankroll has been very robust lately, but I cashed out a bunch thinking I had plenty to play with. And I still do--a month ago I would've given my eye teeth to have $250 in my account. Plus Choice Poker made a boo-boo with my funds transfer from the tournament and gave me a $20 bonus, and I have the money for the next tourney entry, and Party just offered my $20 to come back and play, so that helps offset my losses today. Still, it hurt.

    But I think it'll make me a better player. It's all come way too easy for me the last few weeks. I started to feel like I was too good for the game, and I really got smacked today. If you don't keep your eye on the ball, if you don't keep looking for and fixing the holes in your game, you're wasting your time and your money. I know I got skunked today, it happens, and if you have the 2nd best boat at the table you're gonna pay the guy off, there's nothing else for it. But I tilted today, and that's bad. I got lazy, and that's worse. And I got arrogant, and that's...well, that's because I've been channelling Phil Hellmuth the last month. Christ, I don't know how biographers spend years writing about someone. The guy's friggin' haunting me.

    So no more poker tonight. No more poker study. Go to bed, wake up rejuevenated, let the cosmic cycles realign or whatever it was that had me jinxed, and start anew. If you make mistakes, might as well learn from them.

    Thursday, February 26, 2004

    What have you done for me lately?

    It would be nice to rest on my Grublog laurels for a bit longer, but the tables beckoned and I played a bit last night. Almost couldn't play--my kitten (my wife would laugh at that, as she considers Izzy hers and hers alone) is in that biting-everything stage, and the little rascal chewed through the phone line I used for my laptop. "Rascal" isn't the word I used at the time to describe my feline adversary, but this is a PG-13 blog so I'll leave it at that. I did have an old phone cord, but the plastic tab on the one end broke off, so it kept popping out of the modem jack. To keep it in place I put a tennis shoe on it, and voila! I was back in the poker business. Never underestimate American ingenuity.

    Played 2 tables of $25 PL, and ended up $10. It should've been more--I doubled up when I had K-10 and flopped top two pair and soaked a guy who slow-played his pocket aces. But I gave almost all my money away on the other table. I lost a ton playing AJ and flopping an ace, only to lose to a guy who had QQ and made trips on the river, even after I'd made some big bets. Lost more to a guy when I had AA and he had 2-9 offsuit, flopped a pair of ducks and called my $10 bet with them. He hit a nine on the turn and took me down. Oh well, sometimes the fish flop out of the boat.

    My friends were all psyched to hear about my victory, and I too eager to tell the tale. They are mostly geeked about the poker chips, as am I, since I'll be getting together a home game soon and will be able to augment my income by fleecing them as well, heh heh. Went out for Mardi Gras to a local pub and got rather hammered (no pun intended) on Penn Pilsner, a very tasty beer made 'round these parts. We met up with a bunch of people and my friend Rico introduced me as "Geno, the poker champion". Which is better than the usual "Geno, the dumb fat smelly ugly disgusting lazy slob". I'm looking forward to being the guy with the bulls-eye on his head for the next WPBT event. Anxious to prove that it wasn't all luck that got me the title, that I have moves, guile, style.

    Probably no poker tonight, as I play volleyball and drink beer tonight. Good to get away from the tables for a breather, recharge the batteries, as it were. And, yes, I swear to God I'll finish the Phil post. I've been adding stuff, pulling quotes, polishing it till it shines. And I'm getting sick of thinking about the guy.

    To prove this essay isn't the poker blogger version of vaporware, an excerpt:


    Tough beats like this happen over and over in poker. Not just to Phil, of course—probably 97% of all poker conversations begin with, “So this idiot called me all the way to the river with only 2 outs in the whole deck, and last card comes up and the bastard…”. But if Phil is, in his own humble words, “…maybe the best poker player in the world”, those beats must seem like the caprice of some malevolent god hell-bent on destroying him. Maybe this is simply proof that there IS a God after all (god with a capital G) or that Karma is, indeed, a bitch. The question of whether Phil Hellmuth would suffer fewer bad beats if he accepted them with a modicum of grace and dignity is a question I will leave to the Sam Grizzle.


    As you can see I've finally updated my links, if you don't see your blog listed please give me a gentle reminder and I'll put up the link. Check-raising me all in, by the way, is not a "gentle" reminder.

    Monday, February 23, 2004

    The morning after

    Ever wake up, and you've been having a fantastic dream, and for just a moment the dream is still real to you...and then you realize that it's Monday morning, you aren't a superhero with antigravity boots, and you gotta get to work in 40 minutes? Well, I woke up this morning imagining that I'd actually won the tournament last night, and then I realized that it'd all been a dream...and then it hit me that it WASN'T a dream! I really did win last night!

    And, uh, it was also Monday morning and I had to be at work in 40 minutes. So it wasn't all dancing sugar plums.

    So let's talk about what happened last night. Like everyone else, I thought that Grubby came up with this tournament idea because he's in deep to the shylocks and needed to come up with a few hundred to quiet them. So he spent an afternoon furiously programming and put up a site called Choice Poker (as in, "You gotta choice, Grub. You pay us the money youse owe, or we take your thumbs). That's the only explanation I had for the site, since there was never anyone else playing there. I figured Grubby stacked the deck so he would win, Grubette would take second, and four mysterious and never-heard-from-before bloggers would also place. I didn't mind--it would still be a good time, and I'm willing to contribute twenty bucks if it'll preserve Grubby's ability to turn doorknobs.

    I won a quick hand to give my confidence a boost, and then what I most feared happened--my computer locked up. It does this now like once a day, but it'd been a good laptop lately and I thought I'd be OK. No such luck. Had to shut down, reboot, wait for the thing to check itself for computer is 5 1/2 years old, a robust 233Mhz, and I feared the tourney would be over by the time it rebooted. But I got back to the table and found my chip count was still above average. Maybe Phil Hellmuth's ploy of not showing up on time has some merit...nah, if it's Phil it's gotta be a bad move.

    My fears about a fix were strengthened by the fact that Grubby raced out to a big chip lead. After having a number of big hands and big flops (had AK and flopped top two pair, had J-5 in the big blind and had the flop come J-5-6) the cards went cold on me and I tread water for awhile. The blinds were still low enough that I didn't feel compelled to make a move just for its own sake, and I surrendered my blinds like 3 times in a row, which got my teeth to gnashing. The one time I tried to steal my ownself I raised The Fat Guy with 9-7 and had him re-raise me big. I wasn't going all-in with that junk so I had to bow down. Already he was throwing his Texas-sized weight around and bossing the table, a portent of things to come.

    I don't know if anyone got a hand history sent to them, but I haven't yet, so I can't give you much detail on individual hands. But a few stick in my mind. Well, of course the most notable hand of the night was Love&Casino cracking Up for Poker's pocket aces with the Hammer. I mean, you want to talk about a brutal, brutal beat, there you go. Getting knocked out that way would have me putting my name on the waiting list for an AK-47.

    A few of my own hands stick in my mind. I knocked someone out (I'm sorry, I'll double check for this later) when I had pocket nines, made trips on the flop and a full house when 2 Kings appeared and my foe turned over A-9. I went all-in with KJ and a brace of jacks appeared on the flop and turn. I was dealt AK and was prepared to go to war, but there was a raise and a re-raise ahead of me and I stepped aside to let the other kids play. AQ ended up winning the pot I could've had (and knocked out 2 people in one stroke), but I remember hearing Howard Lederer say that you can't win a poker tournament if you can't learn how to fold AK, so I followed the Professor's sage advice.

    Mean Gene > Howard Lederer. Ha!

    When Grubette got knocked out I was surprised, because this put a dent in my "this is fixed" theory. And when the Grub himself was liquidated in 5th place I got nervous, because this was really a tournament, the winner wasn't preordained! I was also pleased to see that Felicia and Royal and several other fearsome heavy hitters weren't there. But I was in 3rd chip position, but the blinds were so high that waiting for Anistropy to finally go belly up wasn't a good idea. Especially when Sean so selfishly refused to lose--it seemed like he went all-in 3 times and came thru every time. I cursed his name, especially when he won a hand and put me in bottom chip position.

    Quite a few people bitched that the blinds went up way too fast, and I concur. I didn't even realize how high they were until I had about $3500 and was feeling pretty comfortable until I realized the blinds were like 800-1200 and I was in deep trouble unless I either got some cards or started stealing. And since I didn't get the former, I did the latter. Three or four times I managed to grab pots without showing my substandard hands, and this kept me afloat until I did catch a hand. I think I knocked Sean out, I don't remember how the hand went, though. That gave me a lot of confidence (and chips) because my attitude in SNGs too often is just try to hang on and see if I can get in the money or heads-up, and that ain't the way to play. The best way to reduce the number of players is take them out yourself, and I resolved to stay aggressive and, as Evelyn Ng advised us, "make moves".

    Mean Gene > Gus Hansen. Double ha!

    The biggest move I made came when I was heads up with TFG. Just about everyone was rooting for Scott, which makes sense, as he is THE Fat Guy and I am merely A fat guy. I was dealt the Hammer, and felt karmically kompelled to play it. I raised and I think was re-raised. I had to call, both from my sense of honor and because I was pretty much committed chipwise. A ragged flop, and I made a big bet. I don't even remember if I went all-in, I was so focused on projecting foldwaves to Texas. It worked, I got the pot, but I didn't have the show cards feature to prove my move. I typed that I'd had the Hammer but regretted it instantly, since it reeked of showboating and bad manners. It broke my concentration for a few hands, but I was still up a few thousand when we played the final hand. I was dealt pocket 10s in the small blind and thought about slow-playing them--for about a nanosecond. I raised, and when TFG re-raised I girded my loins and went all-in. When he called I felt pretty good about my 10s--and then a king and a jack appeared on the flop and it was my stomach flopping around. I couldn't see TFG's cards, and when the river appeared I waited to see him turn over KQ and the table tilt as all the chips slid his way. Instead a note popped up saying the tournament was over, and. indeed, it was.

    I did the dance of joy, pumped my fists, frightened my cats, who probably thought I was having a seizure. The kitten ran upstais, doubtless to warn my wife that the big guy had finally lost it and it was time to lock him up in the garage. I wanted to talk to SOMEONE, but Choice shut the whole thing down and there was no one to commisserate with. I woke up the wife with the news, and called my brother, who'd been watching the whole thing. He didn't know what cards we held on the final hand, and until I heard from Scott I didn't know that he'd held A-6. Hard to toss away an ace heads-up, especially with the blinds as onerous as they were.

    Afterwards I had a tasty beer (Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland make some primo suds) and enjoyed the adrenaline crash. I didn't feel too keyed up during the game, but afterwards I was buzzing pretty good. I can't imagine what it's like to play in the WSOP, where you have to endure that pressure for 12 hours a day for 4 (and this year, 7) days in a row. It must frazzle the nerves something fierce, even for an old poker warhorse. But I liked the action, liked the buzz. Looking forward to March 10th, especially because as the winner I get an automatic entry into next WPBT event. Actually, is it WBT or WPBT. Need an official ruling on this. Anyway, as Mike Sexton would say, poker players love a freeroll, so I'll be there on the 10th--no doubt facing a field of bloggers bent on vengeance.

    Victory is sweet. Gave Grubby my address so the chips and other goodies can be mailed to me. Unless this was a scam all along and his crack team of burglers are this moment looting my homestead. The chips are way cool, gonna get a regular home game started and we needed a good chip set, and the ones I'm getting look cool.

    Thanks to all for the congratulations. Of course I wasn't upset that most were rooting for Scott--actually, I was so focused on the game I didn't read much of the chat. And I promise to update my links today or tonight! Been meaning to do that for awhile but have been just too lazy. Gotta keep up with the burgeoning poker blogosphere.

    The cash will help my Presidential campaign immensely. While I still trail Bush and Kerry and Edwards in fundraising, I do have more money at this point than Ralph Nader. I can probably afford at least one network TV ad now, but only on the WB. I'd probably be better off passing out handbills in front of the Greyhound station.

    Sunday, February 22, 2004

    Walking on air

    I won the Grublog.

    I can't believe it. I am walking on air. I played really, really well I thought, and was glad to get into the money. But once I got there I wanted to win. I really wanted that chip set, really really really. I wanted the cash. But most of all I wanted to know that I'm actually a pretty decent player, and winning the intital WPBT event shows that I'm not a fish after all. Had to beat some good players and then survive a partisan crowd rooting for The Fat Guy. But all is forgiven and forgotten.

    Hey, from now on will pocket 10's be called "The Mean Gene"?

    Woke the wife up to tell her, called my brother, who watched the whole thing. Scared my cats with my jumping about. I'm walking on air. Thanks to Grubby for putting this fine tournament together, thanks to everyone who played. I'm not someone who easily feels personal pride, but I do tonight. I won't go to sleep till 3AM.

    Shuffle up and deal!

    The Grublog Poker Classic is one hour away, and I'm ready. Cleaned up my den so I have a pleasing atmosphere, ate some chicken for protein, hydrated properly, stretched out my hamstrings. I'm ready.

    I know I promised I wouldn't play anymore until I finished my Hellmuth post, but, uh, I played. I wrote some too, promise! I just can't get the damn thing done to my satisfaction. I also wrote a Rounders review but I'm not going to post that until it until I get the Phil done. I've been reading Play Poker Like the Pros and I've decided to shitcan just about everything in it. Odd that Phil made his rep playing no-limit tournaments, yet has nothing about no-limit tournament strategy in his book, isn't it?

    So I played last night and got up huge. Then I was dealt AQ and had the flop come A-Q-4, with two diamonds. I made a big bet and had this know-it-all who kept critiquing everyone's play call my $6 bet. A king on the turn, and I did my Hellmuthian-mind-meld thing and KNEW he had AK. That didn't stop me from betting it to the river and dropping $12. When we turned over our cards and everyone saw that he hit on the turn to save his bacon he wrote, "I had the flush draw, so even after the flop I had the best hand". Which was incorrect--I was a 54% favorite.

    I did have a great line for him. He was lecturing someone on a bad call and when the argument got a bit nasty he wrote, "How much have you read about poker". Before the other guy could comment I said, "I don't read about poker, I WRITE about poker". No comeback, though.

    Wonder if it was Phil...

    If you played on Party/Empire last night you know how the night ended, with the site crashing completely. I signed up for the Vegas Dreams multi to get some Grublog practice, but I was playing some PL beforehand and, up $15, I was dealt 7h-10h in the big blind. The flop comes 10-10-J. I made a small bet and get 3 callers. An 8 on the turn troubled me, since it threatened a straight, so I made a big bet. Everyone folded except for the guy to my right, who thought about it, thought about it, thought about it....his time ran out. And nothing happened. The site totally froze. The hand ended up getting tossed, which really sucked. I was almost certainly way in the lead and could've picked up a nice pot.

    OK, enough talk. Let's play some cards!

    Friday, February 20, 2004

    Hitting my thumb with the Hammer

    Day by day, bit by bit, I'm getting better at this game we call Hold-Em. Reading my Brunson, learning a few moves, adding to the bankroll. But it is true that we learn more from our failures than our successes...actually, let's stop to think about that for a moment. Wouldn't it be great if we learned MORE from our successes than our failures? We'd be successful a lot more often. We wouldn't have to go through the misery of screwing up over and over and OVER again before we finally got it figured out. I mean, I'm the not the sort of person who gets that golden sense of satisfaction once I finally accomplish something tough. Like when I started playing golf a bit, I shanked about 98% of my drives. I adjusted my footwork, my address of the ball, my backswing, and one day THWOCK! Dead solid perfect, nice right-to-left draw. Did I think, "Yay, Gene!"? No, I thought, "Jesus, that was a piece of cake. Why couldn't you figure this out like 3 months ago, jerkface?"

    Or, for another example, it took my like 3 years to learn how to get up on a wakeboard. All my friends could do it no problem, my wife was shushing back and forth across the wake, and I couldn't get my ass out of the water. Once I figured out what I was doing wrong (just about everything) and learned a simple way to get up, it was friggin' easy. I had this 15 second period of absolute bliss, I mean it was just magical gliding across the water like some kind of water god...and then I thought, "It took you 3 YEARS do do this, moron! There are goddam SQUIRRELS who wakeboard. Get over yourself". And get over I did.

    As you probably figured out, I goofed last night, and fortunately I didn't have to pay such a big price in money or self-esteem to figure it out. Thursday night is volleyball night, me and a bunch of my friends gather at a local school to play 2 hours of VB. Played rather well last night, and afterwards we all retired to a local pub for beer, wings, and chat. I pulled out of there around midnight and, still a bit wired, logged on to play a few hands.

    Mistake. I've been good at not playing Thursday nights, not because I'm totally crocked but because I'm totally exhausted. Two hours of running and jumping followed by beer and wings is NOT a receipe for cognitive success. You don't see law students the night before the bar exam running a 5K and then stuffing their faces with fried skin and chugging Buds.

    I had maybe one beer too many because I was in a more aggressive mood than usual. After reading a bit of Brunson and having his mantra of "attack, attack, attack" throbbing in my skull I was anxious to impose my will. I forgot 2 important points--one, I was only going to play about 30 minutes and wouldn't have much time to either assert myself or take advantage of such assertion; and, two, Brunson says several times that the tactics he describes are to be used only against strong players--weak, fishy players will call with anything and are too stupid to be scared of you. I forgot that lesson.

    But, fortunately, it only took one hand to teach me that lesson. I was dealt the Hammer and decided to call and hopefully win a big pot to brag about on these pages. The flop came Q-Q-Q. Hmm. There were 6 of us in the pot and I was in early position, but I resisted the urge to steal the pot right there. We all checked, and I had a feeling I'd pair up. No, that must've been the beer. A six on the turn and this time the last guy in line bet the pot. I didn't like it, I didn't want this guy stealing a move on me. So I called. Duh, nice call, dude. A re-raise might have won me the pot, but I just called. Brilliant.

    Another card on the river, don't know what, but it was higher than a six. You gotta have heart to win, right? You gotta have uranium balls, heavy heavy heavy. I bet the pot, about seven bucks. He re-raised me the pot. I folded. I had the absolute worst starting hand in Hold-Em, didn't make any sort of a hand after the flop, turn, or river, and still managed to throw away about $15 bucks without even showing down my hand. That, dear readers, was embarassing.

    I lost about $15 more before I got my bearings and won half of it back. When I quit I was pooped and hit the sack hard. I don't know how Iggy drinks Guinness while playing (not that I like Guinness any other time, I'm more a Bassman myself) or Chris Halverson drinks $900 single-malt extra-peat heavy-bog Scotch while at play. I'll be sipping water or Pepsi One for the Grublog, to be sure.

    My goal is to finish my Phil post tonight. Need to do a little more research before I publish. It almost blew up into a 5000 word novelette, but a fun idea I came up with can wait for another post. I realize I've been promising it for about a month now, and missing deadlines weighs on my mind. So, tonight, I should finish it. Probably. Almost definitely. Yes.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2004

    Poker players' punctuation protocols pose prepping problems

    With the Grublog Classic looming like a big...looming thing, I've started cramming for the big event. Got Phil Hellmuth's book out of the library (mostly for material for my Phil post, which is almost done and now tops 2,000 words, Iggy) and stopped over my brother's last night to pick up Super/System. Five days to study for the big exam--it's like I'm back in college.

    I was an English major, which of course you know because my sentences sing like a Beethoven symphony. But one thing I learned when I learned English is, well, the language. I know the words, the punctuation, the grammar--the works. The same cannot truthfully be said for Phil Hellmuth and Doyle Brunson, whose books are just chock full of syntactical quirks and oddities.

    Hellmuth is often accused of childish behavior. I now accuse him of childish writing. It isn't that Phil (or his ghostwriter, if he employed one) can't turn out a passable sentence. That part's fine. Phil's problem is how he ends them. It seems like every other sentence Phil pens ends with an exclamation point. Read his most recent Card Player column (I'll link to it when I get home, can't do it from work) and it sounds like a 7-year-old recounting his first day at Disneyland. It seems like everything that happens to Phil is just incredible! So incredible he uses an exclaimation point to make sure you understand how incredible! Phil gets dealt 99 in a game and he tells you that he won the 1989 World Series with that hand! Why he has to put the exclaimation at the end I just don't understand! Do you start to see how unnecessary this is, and how annoying! I'd hate to be in the same room with Phil Hellmuth and relentless corporate cheerleader Tom Peters, whose company logo is, you guessed it, an exclaimation point! Better hold your ears when these two are in the room together!!!

    A famous writer, I think it was William Faulkner, received a manuscript from a would-be author and asked the Nobel Laureate for his advice. Faulker read the book and sent a reply, and one thing he said was, "Don't use so many exclaimation points. A writer only gets to use three in his entire career". His point, of course, is that if you use exclaimation points over and over how will the reader know that something really important has just happened? If you can't use words to convey meaning to the reader, a crutch like punctuation isn't going to save you. More periods, Phil.

    Any discussion of Super/System must of course involve the genius of James Joyce. Did you ever read Finnegan's Wake? Me neither. In fact, I doubt anyone on the planet has actually read the book, which is legendary for its impenetrable prose, bizarre punctuation, and indecipherable word games. Someday I'll pick it up and plow through it, but today is not that day.

    Instead I'm reading Super/System, another book that takes the conventions of American letters and stands them on their head. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, proper names should be capitalized, both the first and last. In Super/System the first name is italicised, the last name written in bold. So you get Puggy Pearson and Sailor Roberts. That is, unless both names are written in bold. Or, indeed, if they're just written in normal typeface. You get all three styles in the first section alone.

    I think perhaps Joyce is the wrong author to use as comparison. William Gibson, who wrote Neuromancer and is credited with coining the word "cyberspace" is perhaps the auteur juste. The bold type and italics could have been Brunson taking a first step toward the hyperlink. Think about an online version of Super/System--the publisher would simply need to put links in everywhere he finds bold type and italics and his work would be done. The major points are almost all highlight in bold print--you could just click on it and PokerTracker could pop up and give you a listing of 500 hands to illustrate the lesson. This could be big, the next killer app, a perfect combination of the internet, poker, and publishing.

    Or perhaps I just haven't had enough sleep lately. Gotta go study. Big test coming up Sunday.

    Friday, February 13, 2004

    No escape

    During the 2003 World Series defending champion Robert Varkonyi, low on chips, played a fateful hand with 1998 champ Scotty Nguyen. Varkonyi was dealt KK and raised. Nguyen, holding AA, re-raised. Varkonyi went all-in and Nguyen of course called. As Scotty showed his aces Varkonyi looked across the table and said, "I knew it, I knew it". The aces held up and the defending champion was sent to the sidelines. In the brief interview they showed immediately afterwards, Varkonyi said something along the lines of, "No matter what, I was going to lose all my money on that hand".

    Let's deconstruct what he said. First of all, Varkonyi obviously did not know Nguyen had aces after his re-raise, because otherwise he wouldn't have gone all in. But I think this was less an attempt at Hellmuthian omniscience than a helpless person acknowledging the fates. Only if Nguyen held pocket aces would he be in big trouble, and by saying "I knew it" he was merely resigning himself to his doom.

    Then we have, "No matter what, I was going to lose all my money on that hand". On one hand...well, no, on every hand, he's right. He had to make a move, he made it, and he was caught by the one hand that dominated his. He had to move all-in when he was re-raised, he only had 2 Kings in the deck to help him...he was dead meat. That's poker.

    I thought back to Varkonyi after a hand I endured a few nights back. I read a post somewhere (I'll find it later and link to it) that said playing Pot-Limit with the fish almost wasn't "real" poker. You just played your big hands and hoped you got clobbered by the flop and could lure the fish into the net. It really hit home with me, because that's how I'd been playing. In fact I'd been playing worse than that--I was playing lots of hands, staying in with lousy cards because, hey, it's only fifty cents most times to see the flop, and maybe THIS is the time the flop comes 10-10-3 when you have 10-3 in your hand. That happened to me once, and I got paid off nicely.

    But is that "poker"? Or is it just swimming along with the fish waiting for one to sprain a fin so you can gobble 'im up? I wasn't making any moves at all, no check-raises to get a free card on the turn, no big bets to steal the pot. The few moves I did make started backfiring on me. For awhile I was making some tidy sums betting big if I flopped top pair. Say I had A-9 and the flop came 9-7-2. I was betting big trying to win the pot right there, or at least make a call as expensive as possible for the chasers. Thing is, I started running into guys with 9-7 who re-raised me and I froze up. A few times I called down and got burned bad. A few times I threw my hands away wondering if I'd given up too easy. I'm not bossing the table--I'm being bossed because I don't want to get skunked out of a big chunk of change by a lucky fish.

    I really haven't studied no-limit or pot-limit strategy, and at times I feel at sea about what the heck I should do when I bet the pot with an overpair and some wacko re-raises me. That happened to me last time I played (I had QQ, the board showed 10-7-5). Did he hit trips? Two pair. I bit the bullet and called. We both checked the turn, and when nothing threatened on the board after the river I checked and called his $5 bet. He turned over J-7. If we'd been sitting at a table I would've lunged for him. Here I am losing weight worrying about this call and I had him crushed from jump street.

    Because the potential winnings are so large and the cost to play so low, preflop play is, to my mind, at a premium. Raise, raise, raise, knock as many chasers out as possible. So let's get to the hand I referenced at the start of the post. In early position I find KK. Nice. The two players to my left call and I bet the pot, figuring that at least one fish will tag along to pay me off but still scaring away most of the others. Well, the guy next to me calls, and the guy next to HIM calls, and one of the original betters calls. Terrific.

    Flop comes Q-10-3, with the 10 and three clubs. I could be up against AK, or 10-10, or JJ, or...I could be up against freakin' anything. The first guy checks, and I decide to put in a $3 bet, maybe enough to chase the guys who missed the flop. Fold, call, fold. Heads up now, and I feel a bit better. Until the turn shows the six of clubs. Now I'm skunked if this guy was on a flush draw. Shoulda bet the pot and put him to the test. Thing is, I have the King of Clubs, so all is not lost. I check, and he...checks. Now I'm really puzzled. My puzzlement ends when the deuce of clubs arrives on the river. I now have the flush, and the only card that can hurt me is the ace of clubs. It's possible...but I feel like I have this hand. He has $14 left in his stack and I have $13, so I bet $8, enough to maybe tease him into a bad call, but still leaving me enough that he might try a re-raise thinking he can scare me out of putting the rest of my chips in.

    He puts me all-in. I call. I show my cowboys...and he shows the Ace of clubs. He also shows the Ace of diamonds. He had AA and didn't raise it preflop. He didn't bet out at all until the very end. I kept feeding him rope and he patiently tied it in a noose to hang me with.

    Lost my little all on that hand. I did the only thing I could do. I typed "nh" and left the table. Could I have gotten away from that hand? Maybe someone else could, but not me. Had it been for higher stakes, or for all my chips in a tournament, maybe. Maybe I could have walked away. But I doubt it.

    That hand, and my general lack of success lately playing SNGs (haven't placed in my last 4) has me worried about the Grublog Poker Classic. More and more I come to realize that I am Dead Money. In fact, my money is so dead that I'm going to leave my wallet at home and bring my cash in an Urn.

    I am terribly disappointed that the runway-model-esque Evelyn Ng won't be joining us next Sunday night. How I looked forward sipping my after-dinner port and telling my buddies, "Oh, that young lady featured in the promos for the World Poker Tour? Yes, we tussled over a few pots at a tourney I played recently. An absolutely charming woman and not a bad player into the bargain.". This after she stole my blinds 17 times in a row and made me want to curl up and die.

    "Make moves" was her advice to we bloggers. I'm gonna try very hard not to play like my "raise" button is broken. I have to remember that I'm not playing with the fish. I have to remember that I'M not a fish. I'm MEAN GENE. I'm the walking, talking, asskicking definition of SUPERBAD. The 22nd can't come too soon!

    Tuesday, February 10, 2004

    Is online poker the new day-trading?

    I was in B-school during the height of the revolution, when it seemed like everyone was becoming rich except me. And by rich I mean RICH, rich-beyond-avarice rich, Arabian-sheik rich. I read an article in Fortune about this guy who went to Penn State the same time I did who owned a gaggle of Internet companies with a market value of around $500 million. People were making millions--billions--on ideas that now seem positively ludicrous. Sell dog food on the 'web! Buy your dining room set on the 'Net! Is your company about to go in the toilet? Stick an "e" or an "i" at the front of the name and rev up that Internet buzz!

    At the time I worked for PNC Bank here in Pittsburgh, one of the 10 largest banks in the country. PNC formed a partnership with, a website that provided articles and links and whatnot specifically targeted at women. The idea was that vast armies of women would visit iVillage daily, see PNC's ads and links to purchase CD's and IRA's and banking products.

    That was the idea, and at the time not a bad one. The New Yorker ran a profile of the two women who started iVillage, both of whom become near-billionaires when their nascent company had it's IPO. PNC, a bank with around $80 billion in assets and around $1.2 billion in profits, had at that time a market capitalization of around $7 billion. iVillage, a company that had existed for about a year, that had never posted a profit, that had yearly gross income of around $30 million, had a market cap of $2 billion.

    Let's step back and look more closely at this, shall we? One the one hand we have a bank, a bank that's been around for about 75 years, a bank with actual cash in its vaults, a bank that made over a billion dollars PROFIT in one year. On the other we have a rinky-dink website that doesn't even look as good as Chris Halverson's blog and offers up the same content you'd find in Good Housekeeping or Cosmopolitan. Yet the market thought that somehow iVillage was worth about a third as much as PNC. That's when it hit me--this is friggin' nuts. The bubble is gonna burst. People are gonna lose their shirts. And I'm gonna have a great time laughing at all those Silicon Valley jagoffs who thought playing foosball and louging in their Aeron chairs eating Thai food somehow made them more productive.

    Of course we have seen the destruction of the Internet economy, most of the annoying twentysomethings who told us that the old rules of business were forever obsolete are now frying our hamburgers and selling us cell phones. The Golden Rule of Capitalism--So, can you make a buck at this?--was bent but not broken. Investors realized that, uh, ain't no way someone is gonna pay the shipping on a 50-pound bag of dog chow, no matter how cute that sock puppet is. If some Internet companies truly broke new ground and provided fantastic new services (Amazon, Yahoo, Ebay), the vast majority did not and had the shit slapped out of them by Adam Smith's Invisible Hand.

    Perhaps the most laughable and pathetic of all dot-com moneygrubbers were the day-traders, the troglodytes who toiled in rooms lit only by the multiple computer screens they stared at all day, every day, searching for the trading pattern or stock dump they could work to their advantage. This was "casino capitalism", people who thought they knew how to beat the house, or the market, at its own game.

    With the market skyrocketing it was easy for a trader to make money this way, but once the market stabilized, and then started falling, daytrading was exposed as the charade it was. I can imagine these folks sitting at their screens, bright lights flashing and bells ringing, trying to figure out what the other traders are doing, getting killed time and time again when your rock-solid stocks tank out of the blue...

    Does this start to sound familiar? I'm writing this while sitting in the dark and playing Pot-Limit Hold-Em, and I'm watching a repeat episode of the World Poker Tour, and I'm wondering if I'm rising up on the latest Internet bubble. To answer my own question, I don't think online poker players are the next coming of the daytrader, but there are parallels that interest me. The Internet, boon to commerce and education that it may be, is also an excellent tool for satisfying our most base instincts.

    The boom brought back the "Greed is Good" ethic from the eighties, and we're still living with the aftershocks long after most Internet companies have gone belly up. The accounting scandals that have so damaged investor confidence were caused, in part, by companies desperate to put up numbers that would excite a Wall Street spoiled rotten by valuations. Even though most of those companies never made a profit or attracted many customers, there is one type of Internet site that's done both--porn sites. As an (unidentified) friend of mine recently said, "Anyone who pays for porn has gotta be outta his friggin' mind". No matter how esoteric your tastes may be, you can probably find four thousand websites devoted to your, ah, prediliction.

    And now gambling is getting big. Well, it's always been big, but it's getting friggin' superhuge. Why go to Louie Lump-Lump at the corner bar to put your bet down when you can just log on to an offshore casino? The 'Net gives you instant access, secure transactions, and at least the appearance of anonymity. Unless you violate the Patriot Act or anything subversive like that.

    The WPT and WSOP have made poker the latest craze, and online poker rooms are far better able to take advantage of this than brick-and-mortar casinos that aren't legal in about 75% of the country. Any fish can sign up with Neteller and stick a hundred bucks in an account and make like Gus Hansen. While the sharks slowly circle and start the feeding frenzy.

    What made me think about writing this overlong and preachy post was my recent success playing online. I loaded up PokerTracker and found that, over my last 300 hands, I was making more per hour playing $25 Pot-Limit than I do at my real job. That extremely small sample didn't convince me that I have what it takes to play full-time, and I have far too clear an idea of my own faults and failings to think I could play professionally. I do wonder how many people out there DO think they could pull it off, sit at their desk all day and play online and make a living at it. I don't mean the "real" pros or semi-pros intent on grinding out a living, but the fish who fancies himself a shark and decides the money is just too good to miss out on the action. Just like the daytraders who thought they could outsmart the market and make their fortune.

    I think this might end up becoming part of the novel I want to write, just the idea of some guy in Pittsburgh deciding to become a professional poker player without venturing further west than Coraopolis (get out a map if you're wondering, people) and never setting foot in a casino. I think that's why I wrote this, I'm thinking aloud and pontificating and making you sit through it. Sorry 'bout that.

    Friday, February 06, 2004

    I'm number 4!

    Iggy, always pimping we pokerbloggers, sent a query to Poker Top10, a site that has all sorts of Top 10 lists about poker (but you guessed that, didn't you?) and asked them to put up a list of the top poker blogs. And yours truly placed number 4! I'd be lying if I said I wasn't FURIOUS to not be ranked numero uno, but I was quite tickled to be selected.

    The honor is a bit tainted, however, by the fact that Iggy's blog wasn't picked AT ALL. I can only imagine that they excluded his site because he's the one who recommended the list in the first place. Picking the Top 10 poker blogs and excluding Iggy is like picking the Top 10 Mafia movies of all time and excluding The Godfather.

    I'm totally exhausted tonight, yesterday was a long night, went out to a work function, a few beers, a few wings, and then off for 2 hours of volleyball. Afterwards a few more wings, a few more beers. Got about 5 hours of sleep and then a rough day at work. I might not play tonight, as I didn't play yesterday. But we'll see. Do a little cleaning, do some dishes, see how I feel.

    My Presidential campaign got a huge boost last night, and I wrote a long post about it only for Blogger to seize up and crash. Lost the whole thing. Might get around to re-writing it tonight, we'll see.

    Thursday, February 05, 2004

    That's Poker

    This is the mantra of the grinder. When you get your money in with the best hand and get rivered by a 2-outer, all you can do is shrug your shoulders and say, "That's poker".

    I heard this phrase twice last night. The first time came during last night's WPT Commerce Classic, when T.J. Cloutier (no grinder, he) had his jacks cracked when a 7 on the turn gave Paul Phillips trips. As he told Shana Hiatt, "That's poker. I'm getting a bit sick of saying that over and over again, but...".

    I spoke those exact same words on my last hand playing PL last night. I was down to about $16 and I was dealt AsKs. I raised it up and had 2 callers, and when the flop came A-8-3 I made a teasing $1 bet, a little bait in the water to lure the fish. Sure enough, I got a strike--a $6 re-raise. The second guy called, and I decided to put them to the test and shoved in the rest of my stack. I didn't put them on trips, and when the first guy folded I thought I'd gobble the pot. But the second guy called, and the turn came another three and the river a five. I had aces and threes with a king kicker. I feared the 3 on the turn, afraid he was crazy enough to call a $16 bet with a three in his hand. I needn't have worried about the three. It was the five on the river that killed me. He had A-5. Unreal, he called a $16 bet thinking his kicker was good. I just shrugged my shoulders, said, "That's poker", and called it a night.

    But fear not, dear readers, I still ended up $25 for the night. Just with that hand I would've posted a $60 pop. Won a really nice pot holding 3h5h in the big blind. The flop came A-9-4 rainbow, and as the betting was checked around I was saying, how about a deuce? And, voila! A quacker on the turn. I had a weird straight and I hoped someone out there had an ace and felt strong. But I didn't want to just check it around. I had the feeling there was a big fish waiting to pounce, a guy who fancied himself a shark who just needed a little chum in the water to make him strike. I tossed in a $1.50 bet, a little hunk of bloody tuna to perfume the waters...

    Bingo. A $6 raise. A call. A smooth call by yours truly. Another deuce on the river, quack quack. Unless he had quads I felt good. I decided now was not the time for subtlety--I bet $8, hoping they wouldn't be scared off by the threat of trips and would call. I didn't want to check and have them check it around, so I threw in what I hoped would seem like a stealing bet.

    The one guy folded. The other thought about it...thought about it...thought about it...with 5 seconds left he raised me to $15. I had $25 left and I re-raised him my whole stack. He had me covered by about $10 and he called. What he had I'll never know, but I raked in about a $65 pot and was glad to have it.

    I won another tidy pot holding K-10 offsuit. I saw the flop for fifty cents and the flop showed Q-10-J rainbow. So I had middle pair and a open-end straight draw. I was still removing my socks so I could count my outs when a 9 fell on the turn. Bingo, hello Mr. Straight. But anyone holding a king would have the same straight, and with four people still in it was likely I'd be chopping the pot. But there was also a sucker straight out there, and I hoped someone out there had an 8 and would be willing to contribute. So I tossed in a $5 bet, and the first two guys called. The guy on the button raised it to $20, obviously holding a king...or did he have an eight? I of course went all-in to call, but no one came along for the ride. An ace hit the river, giving me the nut straight, but of course he had the nut straight too, right? Or...could it be...could he actually have been playing the eight...

    Turns out I need work reading my opponents. He had QJ. He had 2 pair and, as he typed later, "I was hoping to make a full house". Was he now! He was willing to bet the pot on a four-outer, with a straight practically on the board. Hell, he had a better chance of making the straight on the board than his full house. My friends, Empire/Party is a barrel full of fish. All you need to do is...shoot.

    God, I love talking like I know what the hell I'm doing. Oh well, braggodoccio is one of the joys of playing this game. I remember reading a piece written by Martin Amis about the Karpov-Kasparov chess title match, and Amis asked the reigning British champ (Nigel Short, I think his name was) if he considered chess a sport, an art, a science...what?

    And Short said, "It's a fight. It's a fight".

    How succinct and how true. Poker is a fight as well. An all-in brawl with ten guys and gals taking swings at each other, fighting dirty, crowing over their victories, plotting revenge after bitter defeats. The big difference between poker and chess, of course, is the presence of those heartless bitches known as Fate and Lady Luck. Phil Hellmuth may well be the best Hold-Em player in the world (he'll certainly confirm that if you ask him), but he only won the World Series once. Skill in poker is still paramount, but it isn't absolute, as it is in chess.

    I can't beat Garry Kasparov in chess, unless I brain him with my chair and let his clock run out. I can beat Phil Hellmuth in poker, not because I'm better, but because that's just the nature of the game. As in Nature with capital N, sometimes the best and brightest and swiftest and strongest get hit by a big rock and don't survive. Thems the breaks, baby. That's life. If Charles Darwin had gone to Vegas instead of the Galapagos Islands he could have written a much-more interesting "Theory of Evolution" and not missed one iota of scientific accuracy or import.

    OK, I've wandered a bit far afield here, and I haven't even discussed last night's WPT event. I'll get to that eventually. And now time for my sandwich and Spaghttios. That's Lunch.

    Wednesday, February 04, 2004

    Take it to the Pot Limit

    Played some poker last night, as is my wont. Fired up Choice Poker, where the Grublog Poker Classic will be held. A grand total of 59 players were sitting at the tables. Brought up Empire/Party, and there were 35,000.00 at play.

    As Iggy would say, Empire > Choice.

    I would need to play 500 raked hands at Choice to get my $100 bonus, and after about 10 minutes and the start of a blinding headache I realized that this was not going to happen. I play too much to begin with, and playing on two different sites with different color schemes and ain't worth it. I apologize to PokerGrub, but I withdrew most of the money I deposited there. I want to keep it in my Empire account, where I know it's safe. Not that I think Choice will go belly-up before the big event, but I think they're gonna have a problem surviving in the competitive poker market with the product they're offering.

    Then again, they are letting us play our tournament there. So that's a big plus in their column.

    My insane winning streak has not only continued, it's boomed. Last Friday I was playing my usual $.50-$1 game and a familiar name sat down at the table. My brother had tracked me down and joined the table, and we talked some trash and probably confused the hell out of the other players. I schooled him, of course, stripping about $15 from him before he finally caught on and learned to throw away his hand when I bet into him.

    After awhile I sent him an IM (no, we weren't colluding) and asked if he wanted to play a little no-limit. I meant play a $5 SNG, but he bugged out to look for a table and I had to finish a hand, and when he sent me a message inviting me to join his table I clicked the button and was transported, not to an SNG, but to a $25 buy-in no-limit table.

    I've never played a no-limit ring game before, and I was more than a bit nervous. I really haven't studied no-limit very much (better brush up before the 22nd) and I was afraid of wasting my whole stack on a bad play. I decided to use my intelligence guided by experience and play how I've been taught--tight and aggressive.

    For a no-limit table the action was very passive. The blinds were only $.25 and $.50, so you could see some cheap flops and maybe hit something big. That's what my brother did on one hand. You know how athletes say it's harder on the nerves watching a game than playing in it? Well, when my brother called an all-in bet after an ace showed on the board I was chomping on my nails something fierce. At the showdown he showed two pair, aces and I think queens, and the other guy turned over A-6. Well, all right! Once again we were amongst the fishes, it seemed--and this time for far higher stakes.

    My brother went on a wicked tear, at one point cracking the $100 barrier. "Do you fucking BELIEVE this?" he IM'd me. We didn't get involved in many pots together, tho if I recall correctly he made a big bet at me when I held 2nd pair and I had to bail. He had the big stack, and I didn't want to lose all my cash to some bully.

    At one point I was down around $15, but I doubled up when I hit trips against top two pair, and ended the night about $20 in the black. I didn't play crazy, but when I hit big hands I found that the fish kept calling, even though it cost them $10 to play instead of the buck or two you might have to pay in a low-limit game.

    My brother ended up pissing away almost everything he won, thanks no doubt to the six quarts of Irish Coffee he consumed along the way. But he hit a full house late and made back almost everything he lost. When I returned to the tables the next day I decided to compromise and play at a $25 Pot-Limit table. I figured I could afford a $25 hit if I really got in a tight spot, and maybe I could continue my winning ways and increase the 'ol bankroll.

    Dear readers, the past week has been a revelation. I've played pot-limit every day this week and I've ended a winner every time. The quality of play is something along the lines of Neanderthal. Fish teem at these tables, so eager to take the bait that they practically hook, land, scale, and bread themselves. I'm still playing tight and conservative, but playing Pot-Limit means you can both shut out the chasers if you hit top pair, and you can also charge the blundering fools a huge premium to see your monsters.

    A few examples. I held AQ, raised the betting to a buck, and had 4 callers. The flop came Q-10-2, with the 10 and deuce clubs. Now, I hate flush draws. You probably hate flush draws to, having lost to them dozens of times. I was sure I had the best hand at the moment. The betting was checked around to me, and I bet the pot, about $5. I wanted to end things right then and there, and, failing that, I wanted those with middle pair or 2 clubs or an ace in their hands to pay thru the nose for the next card. They all folded, and I made a $5 profit. Better to win a small pot than lose a big won, yes?

    Then again, it's best to win a big pot. I've won five or six pots of over $50 since I started playing PL. One or two were nervy little exercises where I held an overpair or a medium flush, but most were hands were I either held the nut flush or a big full house. And got massively paid off. I had a guy put $30 in a pot with me where I held the nut flush and he had a pair of aces and a 10 kicker. That's it. I had a straight and had 2 callers, each for about $25. I figured we'd be splitting the pot in some way, but no--one had top two pair (hitting the 2nd pair on the river after I'd made my straight), and the other guy had nothing. NOTHING. He tried to bluff us out.

    Only once have I lost the whole $25 I bought in with, and that was last night. I had pocket aces, made trips on the flop, but got beat by AK suited when he made his flush on the river. I bought back in, and ended up making back the $25 I lost plus an extra $15.

    I'd love to hear if anyone else has been playing PL or NL ring games and what advice or warnings they might have. Because this past week I've about doubled my bankroll, and I haven't been playing like a cowboy. I'm still playing tight, tho I take a few more fliers with suited connectors and near-connectors, because that fifty cent bet can turn into twenty-five bucks with a huge flop.

    I'm careful to check out the table before I join, looking for the loose-passive folks I prey upon. See those cheap flops and then strike. I'm surprised at how timid some of the tables have been, at times I've gobbled up pots at will, bossing folks around with pot-matching bets. The one night, I think it was Monday, I stole two tiny pots in quick succession, only about $2 in each. Then I held KK and made trips on the flop. The betting was checked around to me, and rather than check I made a tiny $.50 bet, as though I was trying to make a pathetic steal attempt. Everyone called. A rag on the turn, and again I made a small bet, a buck this time. This time I was re-raised for the whole pot, one other guy called, and I crushed them by re-raising the pot. One fold, one call. At the end of the day I turned over my cowboy trio and he mucked whatever crap he had.

    This sort of game seems to favor tight, aggressive play more than limit poker does. If anyone else has played at these tables I'd like to hear about it, because it almost seems too good to be true. I'd also like to know what y'all think about ratholing. A couple of times I've been up quite a bit and had about $75 at the table, and having that much potentially at risk if I get caught against a big stack holding quads or something is no fun. I know at casinos that players who take money off the table are considered a life form several levels below pond scum, but I've been doing just that. If I have more money in my stack than I feel comfortable losing, I walk away. I try not to come back to the same table, since I think that's really bush, but while I've survived a $25 hit, dropping eighty on a horrid beat would test my coping skills to the limit.

    Speaking of limits, I've reached the point where my weight is as high as I can possibly accept and call myself "not a whale". So I think I'm going to start a fad that will soon sweep the nation--Aerobipoker! I'm gonna ride my exercise bike before I'm allowed to play, and even while I'm playing. Why lie there like a bump on a log waiting for that huge hand when I can be pedaling away and shedding globs of gooey fat. Need to get trim with spring on the horizon. Plus these shooting chest pains are getting so old.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2004

    The next big thing-- The World Blogger Tour

    Yes, the first event of the WBT is scheduled for Feb. 22, and yours truly is IN. So far the oddsmakers haven't listed me on the board, but I'm sure the sharks consider me dead money. I believe they'll find to their cost that this fish ain't so easy to fry.

    It promises to be a hell of a good time, with lots of serious trash-talking and krayzee all-ins. I may pull a Hellmuth and show up 20 minutes late, just to intimidate everyone else. Or I might go all-in on, say, my first seven hands. If I last that long.

    This will be a new experience--playing with people who actually have some skill and guile. I'm not without skill and guile myself--I've won 4 or 5 SNGs at Party. But that's a wee bit different than, say, winning a multi-table tourney, as PokerGrub did the other day. I don't think the play is going to be as insanely loosey-goosey as your average $5 SNG. I'll have to do some serious no-limit study to keep from getting schooled.

    NBC broadcast a show featuring that "other" tour Super Sunday. I doubt NBC was thrilled with the makeup of the final table-- I'm sure they were pleased that Howard Lederer and Gus Hansen were there, but the other four lacked true poker-star power. No maniac Layne Flack, no stylin' Paul Darden, no Devilfish. Add the fact that Hansen went out on the SECOND hand (yes, he can be beaten) and Chris Karagullyan on the fourth and you're left with Lederer, Juha Helppi, Jose Rosencrantz, and Ron Rose. Great players all, but after watching Clonie Gowan, Evelyn Ng, Nicole Sullivan, and Mimi Rogers play poker the last few weeks, these four gentlemen failed to fully engage my attentions.

    The hand Lederer lost to Rosencrantz was a nutkick. Holding AK, making two pair, and having the miracle two-outer hit on the river. Even tho I was rooting for the Ubervegan it was worth seeing him take such a brutal beat just for the spectacle of him leaping (no, not leaping...lurching) out of his chair.

    The first time we saw Ron Rose, at Foxwoods, he looked out of his depth. In retrospect that was the toughest final table of that season, by far. You had Rose, who later won in Reno; Howard Lederer, who won 2 WPT events; Layne Flack, who won the Celebrity Challenge; Phil Ivey, who made it to the final table of 3 WPR events; and Andy Bloch, who made it to the final table of 2 WPT events. Rose was shortstacked and got knocked out quick. But he won at Reno, and he played pretty well last night. Except for the two occasions when he was decided if he should call a raise and he asked the raiser, "You got a good hand?". If he asked me that question I'd say, "Yes I do, Ron! I have such a good hand that I bet three hundred grand on it, Ron! I sure hope if you call me you don't end up with a better hand, Ron!". Yeesh.

    I thought I'd like the new time-clock the WPT is using this year, but I didn't. A minute isn't long enough, for one thing. Especially when you're trying to get a chip count and figure out if you're getting the proper pot odds to make a call. If it takes the dealer 30 seconds to count up a $650K bet you only have half-a-minute to make a potentially fatal decision. I also didn't like the way the clock tick-tocks down, it's really annoying, and the little "shot-clock" they showed in the corner was dark purple with dark-blue numbers. You could barely read the thing. But the worst part of it was how, when the time ran out, the room went dark and the lights on the insert of the table turned bright red. It was too much like a cheesy game show instead of a serious poker tournament. That's where I think the WPT folks could screw this up, by turning what is a serious, high-stakes gambling event and turning it into a goofy game show. The celebrity shows have already started poker down that slippery slope, and we can only hope that the upcoming WPT season is as serious and enjoyable as last year.

    Shana Hiatt looked rather glamorous, did she not? This isn't the Travel Channel, remember, this is NBC, this is the bigtime. Expect to see Shana on the next DOA sitcom Jeff Zucker and NBC minions spew forth.

    OK, gotta go borrow Super/System from my brother and cram. Gonna show you guys what the "Mean" in Mean Gene, uh, means. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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