… And So One Chapter Ends.
Tuesday 20 February 2007 @ 13:51
One year ago last week, I posted that
I hope to be a
[full-time] professional poker player ten years from now. I
was beginning a ten year plan to become a pro. Theoretically, I have
nine years left. But, while I didn't journal much about my thought
processes this past year about becoming a full-time pro, I have been
thinking a great deal about it.
I spent a good piece of my poker time last year preparing for what
became the experiment I conducted for the last month and a half to
consider what it's like being a full-time pro. I decided last week to
end the experiment. External (i.e., financial) factors indicate that
it went well, and it's actually pretty clear to me that if I wanted
to, in ten years, I could be a full-time professional poker player. I
noted earlier this month that if I were to do it
now, I think I'd have to take a substantially reduced salary, but
it's likely with constant work on my game over the next nine years, I
could get to the point where I'd have a full-time job.
I'm usually the type of person that if I can do something that
I had a mind to do at one point, I just do it. In other words, I
don't reconsider a plan very often; I'm better at executing those I
already have it. But, this is a good case for reconsidering.
I do know that I will probably keep full-time poker in my back pocket
as a backup in case for any reason I can't continue the work that I
currently do. However, I have now let go of the plans to make it
Over the next few weeks, I'll be making a series of posts detailing all
the reasons that led me to this decision. roryk is well
known for urging me and others to never ever consider becoming a
pro; perhaps my posts will help those considering it. Surely,
this series of posts will make Rory happy.
I still haven't decided yet what I'll do regarding continuing the
part-time professional play that I've been engaged in for the last few
years. I admit that I've gotten used to being able to pay some
expenses with ease from my poker business. I'm fortunate that I don't
have to decide that quickly. I've more than doubled my bankroll in
the last month and a half, and I could easily spend the next eight
months not playing at all, pulling some expenses from it, and still
not have to drop down in stakes if I do start playing part-time again
at any point.
What I do know is that I'm done with the plan to become a full-time
pro, and that I may be winding down my work as part-time pro as well.
I look forward to exploring my reasons here in the next few weeks.
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F.J.'s Other Place in Dallas
Monday 19 February 2007 @ 16:49
[ swolfe recently complained
that I hadn't finished my Texas trip posts. So, four months
late, I pick up continuing story of my Dallas poker week. I
wrote previous posts about Monday
night and Tuesday,
Club 1 and Tuesday,
Club 2. Here's the post about Tuesday, Club 3. ]
After leaving the gimmicky
club that I previously described, we headed to what I
considered the best club we visited that week. It was run by
the same fellow (F.J.) who ran the club we'd visited Monday
night, but in a different location.
Steve indicated a few reasons that some club owners run in multiple
locations. First, it keeps the clubs small and irregular, which
helps avoid busts. A club that runs eight hours every single
night is much more likely to get busted than one that is only open
twice a week. Second, there are a lot of luck-oriented players
around the Dallas poker scene. If they are running bad at a
particular club, they won't go there anymore, but are willing to
come to another.
Indeed, there wasn't a lot of overlap in clientele at this new club.
It was bigger than F.J.'s other single-table place; there were two
full tables going when we arrived. We got a seat on the back
table by the windows.
The game was extremely loose, with two or three calling stations taking
almost any hand they played to the river if they hit anything. A
few aggressive players were in the game; Steve pointed one out to
me as a fellow who'd done well in some WSoP satellite events, but
was actually a pretty horrible player. Steve said something like
a big chunk of my bankroll is from that guy. I started
calling him “Bankroll Builder” in my head at that
As it turned out, however, my largest confrontation was with someone
Steve identified as one of the better players at the table. This
fellow had raised UTG to $25 — relatively standard in this
$2/$5 game — and gotten a small reraise the aggressive
Bankroll Builder, and a cold call in between. In the small blind,
I found AA. I didn't really want to play this hand out of
position on the flop with much money behind, so I made it $300 to
go, hoping to get reraised for my last $200 somehow. I felt I was
basically announcing my hand to the field, but thought the
aggressive reraiser might have a hand like QQ and go with it, and
if the strong UTG player had KK, he might not be able to fold it
— giving me QQ instead.
After a short speech about how he has to have the best hand, this
“good” player went all in, and Bankroll Builder went into
the tank, and eventually folded what he says was
a pair —
frankly I think it was just 88 or something. I called immediately
found myself up against AKo.
Business was quickly offered. This was a tough spot for me. Of
course, the odds don't change if you run six full boards from the
whole remaining deck, but I'm not really used to playing $1,000+ pots.
I told the fellow I'd do any sort of business he decided — he
could name what he wanted. I am used to leaving it all up to luck
once the decisions are made, so this seemed to be a way to do
He wanted to run it twice, and then asked:
two boards or two
turn/rivers?. I told him it was up to him again. I just wanted
the whole moment over with. He decided on two full boards, which he
felt gave him the best chance (probably true), and I was glad to see
the first board left me “freerolling”. The second board
came with four spades, and that gave his K a flush, and the A was sadly the only ace not in
I, of course, wish I'd refused business, but besides wanting to leave
it up to someone else what happened after I made the actual poker
decisions, I also didn't want to hurt the morays of the Dallas poker
scene, either. We did chop up the reraise and the cold-call, so it
wasn't a loss against the rake, but I still felt like I made a bad
decision and that I should have, for example, offered two turn/rivers
instead of two full boards.
That was basically the only major hand I played, although I got paid
off with turned trips by one of the calling stations, and I played a
big draw meekly and won (and was admonished by Steve and a friend of
his, a strong player who was dealing for the evening for not potting
it all the way to the river). But, as for the poker, those were the
only notable occurrences.
I really liked the club. Like the others in Dallas, the space was wide
and open. The dealers were friendly but not distracting; the staff
was attentive. The whole story at these places was service —
it's so different than the abysmal places here in NYC. Heck, these
places were even nicer and more accommodating to players than some
casinos I've visited.
Steve wasn't a fan of the plaid-ish felt at this place, as it was
admittedly a bit too textured and certainly not great to look at.
But, given that I was only playing there for a night, I found it to be
Finally, the thing I can't stop talking about these places is how nice
the players are. There was virtually no dealer abuse. The bankroll
builder guy was a bit rude at one point, and but F. J. pulled him
aside quite quickly and got him back on track. I suppose I might be
able to stand playing poker for a lot longer in an environment like
this. I admit to some biases about the so-called “red
states”, being the east-coast hyper-liberal that I am, but as
long as I avoided discussing politics, I found the whole environment
As we left, F.J. even came by and shook my hand and asked if I was
enjoying my visit to Dallas. I can't imagine any owner of a NYC club
even noticing that a new player had come and wanting to make them feel
welcome. Club owners around here could certainly learn a lot from
Steve dropped me back at my hotel, and I was glad to have had a small
winning session, but was still down a lot for the trip. I wished I
could have spent more time at F.J.'s club, as I felt that game was the
softest and easiest for me to beat of the ones we'd seen. F.J.'s
other club was running the next night, so I'd get one more visit there
to finish up the Dallas nights. For the weekend, it was off to a
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No More Cheap Stuff, Nor Much Easy Money
Sunday 18 February 2007 @ 22:58
Cake Poker realized that all
of things available for purchase in their Cake Store were too cheap.
Hard-core players just earned those gold coins too fast. I was
playing on there so much, that under the old prices, I would have
earned an 80GB iPod every three weeks! Glad I got two of them before
they doubled the cost. :)
Still, it will take a lot longer than six weeks to get my next one. I
am not playing on their as much as I was. The Neteller thing really
thinned out the player base. I would still declare Cake Poker's NL HE games the
easiest to beat on the Internet right now, but that's all becoming
Cashouts have gotten really slow. I have had a cashout pending for a
week and a half and they have yet to even process it. Plus, you can't
buy fedex shipping for the cashouts anymore. Their answer when I
email them is:
Checks will be received 15-20 days from the date
requested. Most of that time seems to be waiting for them to even
process the check request in their system, not the time it takes after
they've sent it off to Chexx.
I've decided to pull most of my online bankrolls out at this point.
I'm going to be writing more about my plan to substantially reduce the
amount of poker I play soon, but I might as well start moving the
money out at this point.
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Sklansky's Mercy of Luck
Saturday 17 February 2007 @ 22:23
In this very brief essay in Poker, Gaming, and Life,
Few people realize how much even expert players are the mercy
of luck in the short run. One of the most dramatic ways to show
this is by [pointing out that] no one could beat a draw game if they
were never dealt a pat straight or better. [...] Without these
occasional super hands being dealt to them, even the expert players
could at best hope to break even.
For those who have never played draw, consider this to be roughly the
same as never flopping a set or better in HE.
This is amazing to consider. If you “run bad”, you just
cannot win. Luck is mandatory.
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Monday 12 February 2007 @ 10:03
I've been reading some older 2+2 titles recently. Sklanksy and Malmuth
have this wonderful way of describing things that reminds me of my
graduate school texts. I suppose you have to have gone to graduate
school for some science-related field to actually enjoy that dry,
I finished Sklansky's Poker,
Gaming, and Life, and half of Malmuth's Poker
Essays, both of which are collections of essays written for
Card Player and other magazines in the late 1980s and
One of the general themes that amazes me is their constant discussion
of “systems”. It's clear that during the period when
writing these essays, their simple ideas for poker planning were new.
In many of the essays, they seem forced to actively defend the idea
that winning players should treat poker like an endeavor centered
around an hourly win rate, which is computed based on how much of a
favorite the player is to the game she's selected. On the corners of
every essay, they defend the now obvious idea that concepts like
“loss limits” and “quitting while ahead” are
completely silly for the winning player. In those days, it seems that
the idea that you should quit a game only if you aren't a favorite or
if your non-poker life calls you away was novel.
I read these defenses and imagine that during the late 80s and early
90s (while I was busy winning a mere $20/week in penny-ante wild-card
games and didn't even know that “real poker” even existed)
must have been a time of some enlightenment in the poker world. There
were people, probably even pros, walking around who believed that the
“quit while you are up” strategy was somehow smart play,
no matter how good the game was. I suppose these were the same people
who walked around saying
that Internet thing is just for computer
Of course, the interesting shred of truth in the win/loss threshold
approach (and one that Sklansky and Malmuth ignore, since they are
writing only to the winners) is that the system works really well for
losing players. Someone who is not a favorite to the game
should let the short term luck wash over them and run off
with the money if they are lucky enough to get hold of some. And,
likewise, when they can't get luck on their side, they are better off
running from the games as quickly as they can to limit the amount that
strong players can extract from them.
(As a tangent, this is why the only thing that really upsets me in
poker is the hit-and-run. It's just about the only strategy a bad
player can use to defeat good players — forbidding the cards to
even out and allow the good player to recover against the short term
luck. In essence, the “quit when your up” is the only
weapon the weak player has in her arsenal against a better field.)
I can imagine, though, despite how wrong-headed the beat-the-system
approach to poker seems today, that Skalansky's and Malmuth's messages
were hard for people to hear. Many people chose life as professional
poker players so they didn't have to think about spreadsheets and
hourly rates and marketing to the right customer base (i.e., choosing
games where you're a favorite). The truth is, if you want to be a
pro, or even a regularly winning player, you are just a weird sort of
entertainer looking for people who actually want to see your show.
You're the travelling circus that has to trick people into thinking
the freak show is worth paying for. You are running a business, even
if (for the recreational player) only a hobby one. You have to treat
it as such and let go of the fanciful notions that somehow you are
getting something for nothing.
The idea of “beating the system” using some strategy
— be it a win/loss stop or anything else — is a fantasy.
Playing poker for a living isn't beating the system; it's actually in
a pretty simplistic way of being a cog in the machine. Grinding, that
verb we use to describe the profitable poker we all hate to play, is
what the real pros actually do.
It's always good when clear thinkers come along and burst the
delusional bubbles. And, Sklansky and Malmuth have been doing it for
decades. I suppose there must be people out there still living in the
bubble, believing that some system gives them the power to beat the
games. If so, they should probably all go out and buy these books.
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Ok, Just Tell Me “Don't Fold” and I'll Move On
Sunday 11 February 2007 @ 23:23
Here's another one of these. I am only even considering I made a
mistake because the player in question was extremely tight.
In a $1/$2 NL HE $200 Max online, 10 players, the hijack seat limps,
cutoff raises all-in for $8.50. I reraise to $25-to-go (having started
the hand with $250) from the SB with K K. An Ultra-Tight player in the BB
(who has me covered) smooth-calls and the limper folds. I have
Ultra-Tight on QQ or AA, maybe AKs, but he probably folds even the latter
90% of the time in that spot.
The flop is A K Q. I check with the intention
of raising, since I know he probably flopped a set. He bets $20, I
raise to $100, and he goes all in and I call immediately, expecting
to either see a set of queens or of aces. It's aces.
I should never, ever consider just betting out and being done with the
hand if he stays in the pot, right? I should try to get the money in,
Man, playing poker this many hours yields set-over-set too often. :)
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Chexx's Checks Check Out Just Fine
Tuesday 6 February 2007 @ 17:18
As many know, I have preferred — since the quick withdraw of
Firepay after UIGEA — the paper check cashout method from online
poker sites. I have used this method many times. I even used it
sometimes while I still had Firepay for larger amounts, particularly in
the old days of Pokerroom when the would
fedex you a check at no charge if it was over $2,000.
I've seen the sites change what check processor they use many times.
It appears that the last one operating is Chexx, Inc., a clearinghouse
third-party check processor. I've noticed that sites that once used a
different processor are now sending me checks via Chexx; I've received
numerous Chexx's checks (don't subvocalize that phrase; it just sounds
confusing) from various sites over the past two weeks.
recently to his concerns about Chexx, Inc. Worries
about Chexx were initially raised on the 2+2 Internet poker
forum. As near as I can tell, that whole thread is a bunch of
fear mongering interspersed with an occasional intelligent person
pointing out how the banking system actually works. Please, don't
I admit I was a little concerned, too. But then I got Chexx's checks
in my own hands and did some research. There are two things that
generally matter when depositing any check (I'll get to specific UIGEA
worries later): (a) does the account in question have sufficient
funds, and (b) is the issuing bank reliable and known to pay their
drafts. Nothing else really matters. Admittedly, (b) becomes quite
complicated for USA citizens because it is often difficult here when the
issuing bank is not in the USA. (Many of the checks I've gotten from
various poker payment processors have been Canadian, and I've had many
problems at some banks about that.)
The good news is that the Chexx's checks are drawn off a bank in the
to the routing number, Chexx is using a bank called the US Bank, which has 2,472 branches in
the mid-west and elsewhere. I don't think we therefore have to worry
about the bank itself. Is this bank really going to default on its
drafts and run off with the money?
The only problem, then, would be that Chexx's account doesn't have
sufficient funds. This, too, seems pretty unlikely. Chexx is a somewhat
well-established third-party check distributor, including check
processing for many mundane, non-UIGEA-impacted businesses such as
consumer product rebates. Even once UIGEA becomes a problem for them,
they aren't going to jeopardize their larger business by bouncing
checks for any customer — be they an online gambling company or
Given that this is an established company with multiple vertical
markets, don't you think that they are going to do a careful pull-out?
Don't you think they'll inform their customers (the poker sites) when
the end date is? Don't you think they'll honor all checks issued
before said pull-out? Rumors have gone around that the end might be 1
February. Others have said 1 March. But, we're going to know, and
not via rumors. Chexx will tell the poker sites and the
poker sites will tell the players, surely with at least 24 hours of
warning if not more. Then they'll honor all checks issued up until
that point, and they'll refer us to ePassporte or something.
So, you might ask, why is that people are reporting problems, such
as tellers refusing to accept the checks from Chexx? Well, this
is a problem I know a great deal about. I have been doing online
poker check cashouts for almost three years now, and I can tell you
first hand that tellers, and even most bankers, are utterly clueless
about how even the national banking system works, let alone
the international one does. They see a check that doesn't look like
all the others they see every day, and they freak. They don't know
how to handle it. They see a Canadian return address, and then
don't bother to look up the routing number and see if it is a USA
routing number. They tell you they don't take Canadian checks, or
try to tell you have to pay some exorbitant fee to get it processed,
or some other bullshit. Most people (to use a pithy phrase from our
world) are clueless donks.
In a comment
in davebreal's journal, I mentioned that so-called boutique
banks are the best answer. My bank (whom I won't name publicly
but if anyone is interested in them email me privately and I'll tell
you about them) requires that you keep $2,500 active in your account
(at only 1.5% interest), or pay $15/month for the privilege to have
an account. Sure, it ain't cheap to keep the account open, but I
get serious service for the cost. I have a personal banker assigned
to my account who knows me and understands my business. I've
explained to her that I do business with a number of companies in
Canada and elsewhere, and they use these payment processing
services. She's researched each one to make sure the checks are
good when I start doing business with a new company or service. She
figures out the best way to process the check (either as a standard
ACH deposit or as a foreign check claim from Canada), and I get the
money deposited. She even puts it through as “cash”, so
that I don't have to wait for the amount to clear the other
My point here: the people freaking out haven't done their homework, and
they are relying on the clueless employees of large, overly corporate
banks to tell them how things work. Yes, there are going to UIEGA
problems. Sometime in the next 153 days, US Bank will decide that
they can no longer accept Chexx's transactions from their gaming
customers. Perhaps before that, Chexx will have already voluntarily
left the poker site payment business. We'll all find out some date
when we can't request checks anymore. The existing checks we have
will clear; we'll just have trouble getting the new ones out.
We'll have to switch to ePassporte or some other crazy thing for a
while. But, I'm sure they'll be some way to get the money out almost
right up to the day compliance with UIGEA is mandatory (which
is 10 July 2007, BTW).
That said, I definitely think slowly reducing your active online
bankrolls to the bare minimum is a good idea. The last cashout right
up against 10 July will be tough. But, we have a lot of days to go.
Remember that these banks and check processors are run by people
— regular old human beings like you and me. People
procrastinate. People try to get their papers into the professor just
under the deadline. People try to renew their license the day before
it expires. Particularly when there is a lot of money involved,
people will be slow to implement new measures for new legislation.
The challenge is following carefully the changes and anticipating when
you have to switch tactics (just like in poker :). I have a feeling
that check cashout has legs for another 60 days or so, then we'll have
to switch to ePassporte, which will probably have about 50 days of
life, and then it's over. That's my rough estimate based on gut
instinct and how things played out with Firepay and the other sites
that withdrew from the USA.
However it works out, note that arrests appear to be
the only way to lock money up. Neteller and the other sportsbook
case are the only examples that I know of where USA players funds
have been seized. Even my experience
with the Pokerstars instant cutoff from Firepay worked out;
Pokerstars dutifully sent me a check upon request right after
Firepay disappeared. I suppose that if we see arrest made of any US
Bank or Chexx employees, we should assume the worst. Therefore,
although I flirted with it for a while, I'm going ultimately to pass
on the panicking. I hope you will too.
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A Month (or more) as a Full-Time Pro
Monday 5 February 2007 @ 13:03
recently that my lack of entries in January was caused in part
by an experiment I was conducting. The experiment actually
continues, as I decided to extend it, but I will give a brief report
for the standings right now.
The crux of the experiment was to see if I could make enough money to
keep my current lifestyle should I play poker professionally full-time
rather than merely part-time. An analysis I did
last year, showed that playing only 16 hours a week, I was earning at
a rate of around $10-$14/hour. Obviously, in my non-poker life, I
make more than that, so this part-time job couldn't replace my full-time one at this rate.
So, I began to think about how I could increase the earn rate
substantially. One thought was to move up in stakes from my usual
$1/$2 and $2/$5 NL/PL (or $5/$10 and $10/$20 limit) to something much
bigger. This is a dangerous move, especially if I were to play
full-time hours, because I have no history (other than a few short
sessions) in bigger games, even if I am adequately
I decided to do some more poker reading and thinking about the game. I
looked for a few leaks. But, as I started my month of full-time
hours, I still found myself winning around $12/hour in the $1/$2 NL HE games
I was playing. It's clear to me that against reasonably strong
opponents (i.e., the type who don't often stack off with one pair, and
can read situations reasonably well), that's about the best I'm going
So, it leaves two basic choices: move up in stakes, or find better
games. I'd eliminated the former, so I was left with the latter.
I had done the first 14 days of the month playing the usual online
sites. But, Full
Tilt had been inundated with the Party Poker refugee sharks, and
the games that were awesome in December ($1/$2, $200 max NL HE 6-max)
had become, by mid-January, a constant battle to take money from the
occasional weak player. Even Ultimate Bet, the once
tight-weak-but-overplay-one-pair paradise has increased in its
occurrence of multi-tabling pros. Other than the heads up games
there — an extremely high variance form of poker — there
wasn't much dead money to collect.
This brought me to around the 14th of January. I thought about
focusing to live play. But, the costs are heavy. I could rent a cars
(I've vowed to never use Greyhound again) to visit AC regularly, but I
couldn't get away from work that easily. (I have a lot going on at my
other job right now, too.) The NYC clubs are profitable, but nowhere
near as good at the AC games. They are also hyper-aggressive, which
leads to more variance.
So, I decided I had to become a online poker game selection specialist.
I bought into every site I ever heard of. I sweated games. I found
out when and where the really horrible players show up. And, my
results improved. From the 14th to the 31st, I earned $79/hour
multi-tabling $1/$2 ($200 max), $.5/$1 ($100 max), and occasionally
$2/$4 ($400 max) NL HE. Plus, I made an additional $1,850 in online
bonuses and promotions. These are results one could live on.
Of course, I don't think these will be typical by any means. I don't
seem to have gotten amazingly lucky, it's really that I have found
fields with opponents whose knowledge of the game is so abysmal that
they cannot help but lose large amounts of money. Such fields are a
rare find, and online poker moves and changes so fast (especially
given the financial unraveling occurring in the USA), that there is
absolutely no certainty that any good games will be available in just
a few months.
However, my live sessions in Atlantic City and other casinos show that
it's likely that I could probably earn a reasonable living as a
full-time pro. Let's assume my results are highly anomalous (one
month can't really show you a long term thing), and that if my game
selection skills stay excellent, I'll earn somewhere at the halfway
point between my historical results and these recent ones. That's
certainly being optimistic, but it gives a good “best
case” scenario of full-time pro life. If this estimate is accurate, I'd make my hourly
rate somewhere $35-$45/hour. That's $75,000 to $90,000 each year,
assuming normal work weeks and two weeks of vacation. That's
completely without other benefits, of course.
However, even in the best case, when online poker ends, I'd doubt I'll be able
to make much more than $50,000 or so a year at it unless my skill
improves substantially or the games stay as easy as they are. (I
think the latter is highly unlikely, and the former would be a
substantial investment on my part). Even if the games stay good, much of the great EV comes from the multi-tabling and fast dealing online. Even $50k/year might be optimistic for live play unless I get much better and move way up in stakes.
I suppose I'm not giving too much
about my personal finances away when I say that $50,000/year without
benefits and only two weeks of vacation/sick days is not really close
to my current lifestyle.
That said, I'm thinking of continuing with the experiment a while
longer. I'm curious to see how long I can keep up the win rate.
While it leads to very little free time between the two full-time
jobs, I'd like to have a go for one more month and see how it works
out. I'll keep you all posted, but it'll be sporadic.
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Detecting Set Over Set
Saturday 3 February 2007 @ 18:04
I'm a big believer that NL HE players should sometimes be able to lay
down sets in full ring games when set-over-set is a strong
possibility. But, having been known for seeing monsters under the
bed, I figured I should ask.
NL HE $200-buy-in $1/$2 blinds online: Limped pot with five players
including big blind. I have $225, Unknown Player has just joined and
bought in for $200 and has the big blind. I limp in cutoff with 4 4.
Flop is K T 4. I lead $5 into $9.80 when
it is checked to me., I am check-raised to $25 by the Unknown
Player. I make it $50 to go. At the time, I was really thinking
about getting away from the hand if he came back over the top. He
did, for all his chips, and I eventually called, thinking that I
didn't know the player that well and sometimes players go crazy with
top two. I figured he'd have raised preflop almost all the time
with KK so his range is only KT and TT (most players where I play
don't semi-bluff with the nut flush draw, but I guess I could throw
specifically A Q to the mix). Also, the
average player (which I have to declare him since he just joined)
will sometimes raise from the big blind with TT, so that contributes
a little bit to the odds he has that in the big blind. The
statistics I could compute in the 15 seconds I had (no time bank on
this site) seemed to indicate that even if he is twice as less
likely to make the play with KT/A Q than he is with TT, I should
probably call for roughly 1.5-to-1. Of course, he had TT, or I
wouldn't be telling this story.
I can't really take a turn from his check-raise due to the heart draw,
so I think the reraise was right most of the time. Maybe I should
have reraised more on the flop, in which case it would have been an
auto-call due to odds. His over-the-top for all his chips made it
possible for me to fold, but I just couldn't do it. Should have
My game selection has gotten so good that I basically never get
stacked anymore drawing this thin, so I'm hyper-aware when I do and
want to be sure I did it right.
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Where Am I?
Monday 29 January 2007 @ 21:14
I should have posted about this sooner, but as an experiment, I am
seeing what it's like to be a poker pro for a month (maybe more) to
see what it's like. So, I'm effectively working two jobs at the
moment — my regular one and “poker pro”. One thing
I've discovered about being a poker pro is that there is absolutely no
time for journal entries (other than in your win/loss journal).
That's in part because I've got two, rather than one, full time job
I have been doing some poker reading — old school 2+2 titles. I
have some interesting quotes I want to post soon, but it requires the
book, and the laptop in front of me while playing eight tables. It's
hard enough typing this much with all these windows popping up (it
helps to have Emacs on one computer and the poker on the other. :)
I'm looking forward to making a big long post about my “month as
a pro”. It will probably be boring to those of you that are
already pros, but might be of interest to the rest.
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Gonna Have My Cake / Gonna Eat It Too / Make No Mistake.
Saturday 27 January 2007 @ 19:30
I have disappeared from my journal because I've been coming home from
work every day and immediately launching the Cake Poker client and playing
until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. I've put in approximately
6-8 hours each weekday and 12 hours each weekend day in playing on
this site. I'm earning around $64/hour muli-tabling mostly $1/$2,
$200 max, and occasionally $2/$4, $400 max NL HE.
This site is completely amazing. The closest game I can compare it to
is what you find in the $1/$2 NL HE games in Atlantic City. These
games can be beaten by the clueless. Indeed, the would-be other
“sharks” on the site are actually very weak players who
simply hold money for me and one or two other strong players to
I think there are a few factors that make this site so amazing:
The Sports Book Players: Cake poker has a skin
arrangement with with an online sports betting site. Most of the
players (based on chat comments) are actually coming through the
sports betting site, not Cake Poker. These players
are truly horrible, and have virtually no textbook knowledge of
the game and minimal playing experience. They don't even know
what hands particular bets represent, let alone figuring out if
the other players hold the represented hand or are bluffing.
Lack of Poker Tracker Support: A lot of otherwise
strong online poker players are not that smart. I once knew
someone who has been a losing player for years who told me there
no reason to play on a site that didn't support Poker
Tracker. He said this during the hey days of Pacific, when
the limit games there were the best ever seen on teh Internets. Pacific then was
much like Cake is
today. This fellow, who was struggling to do well at limit games, would
only play on the shark infested waters of Party
and elsewhere, losing steadily, while I was cleaning up on Pacific. At the
time, I was probably only a little better at limit HE than he was,
but I was a consistent winner and he was a consistent loser,
because of his stupid Poker-Tracker-only game selection
Of course I'm annoyed that my hand histories aren't imported
and I have no heads-up display on the players. Thing is, I started
playing online poker before Poker Tracker and like systems were
even available. I know how to beat the game without it. Anyway,
the opposition on Cake Poker is so bad, even
someone who is completely spoiled with the Poker Tracker crutch
should be able to beat the games with ease. These players are
horrendous; a trained monkey should be able to at least break even
in these games.
Frankly, I am heavily rooting for Poker Tracker to not support this
site. Once that happens, many sharks will give it a try. I
recall that six months after HandGrabber came along and made PT
work for Pacific, the
games started to decline. Now, Pacific is nothing special
— just another crappy software poker site.
I am so amazed at the near-exact parallels between Pacific and
Cake Poker: another
gambling site sending players over (888 and Sports Book), bad
software, no Poker Tracker support. In poker, you have to live
where the fish live, even if it puts you out of your comfort
Completely readable, loose passive players: This
is key here. They slow-play when they shouldn't, and min-raise
with monsters. They just call down with any top pair, but let you
manipulate the pot size. They stack off every time with any two-pair or better holding. You basically
have to be a moron to get a lot of chips in the pot bad against them, since
they are trivial to read.
Profitable Promotions: They have this “gold
card” thing where you collect cards from their vault. They
are used for a number of their promotions. The most interesting
one is the weekly “GC 500”. There's a lot of luck
involved, but if you play every day for five hours or more, odds
are you are going to win an average of $250 in the thing a
You may note that this post was originally friends only. I didn't initially want to tell the whole Internets about the fish pond. These days, it doesn't matter as much.
Anyway, I might not be posting a lot, as I want to suck down this money
before it runs dry!
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My Worlds Collide Again
Tuesday 23 January 2007 @ 12:51
As my regular readers know, I am actually only a part-time poker
player. I have a day job in the Open Source and Free
Anyway, I just noticed that Sunday night, my worlds collided again, as
they do on occasion. Robert
Boyd announced that the Pokerspot source code has been
Those who weren't around for the extreme early days of online poker
(when all we had was PlanetPoker, where I refused to play; I didn't
start playing myself until Pokerroom came along
and made a client that ran on GNU/Linux). Back in those days, Robert
Boyd, along with his brother (the now ESPN.famous Dutch Boyd) called
PokerSpot. Their site failed due to payment processors going
bankrupt, leading to cashflow problems, panic, and a scenario akin to
a bank collapse.
There's more history than that, and some people claim Robert and Dutch
stole money. What really happened is their business failed, like so
many others, and they couldn't pay their creditors, which included in
part the “bankroll investors” in their site. This doesn't
upset me much, and wouldn't even if I'd lost money myself, because
there are serious risks in putting your money into anything (including
your mattress — after all, the currency could always suffer
mass-inflation now that the gold standard only exists in history
books). Of the risky places to put your money, poker sites have
always been one of the most dangerous.
That aside, I'm glad that Robert did the right thing with the source
code, even if it is only marginally useful. Companies that fail
should always do this with their software. Otherwise, it sits and
bit-rots on hard drives in warehouses. I'd like to see someone use
the software to study the code base to look for errors and mistakes
that could have caused games to be run incorrectly. It would be a
useful service to the industry and of historical interest in
considering the questions of how likely it was that software problems
caused any incorrect game play in the early days of online poker.
However, we have another hoop to jump through before that can happen.
Those of you that know something about Open Source and Free Software
will notice that Robert did not actually DTRT here, because he failed
to put a proper license notice on the software indicating what license
it is under. I've written to Robert and explained this to him and
encouraged him to put the GPL on it. Update: Robert decided to license the software under a GPL-compatible license (a modified BSD) and has updated the SVN repository with the licensing information.
(My clueful readers will note that since the server code clearly includes Poker Source, that it would be a GPL violation for Robert to release the rest of the server software under a GPL-incompatible license. You'd of course be right, but it's much better if we get clarity from Robert on the front end on his own accord. Ok, everyone, now you know how boring my day job is and why I don't keep a journal about it. :)
I should, since I'm talking about Open Source and Free Software online
poker, put in a strong plug, as always, for my great friends over at
Mekensleep who are the
authors of Pok3d. I haven't
played their site yet because it's a 3D only client and I don't have a
machine to run it on (I use only laptops and extremely old server
hardware in my personal life), although they're working on a mundane
2D client like we're used to on other sites. Of course, I can't buy
in now either because I live in the USA. But, I encourage my non-USA
readers with 3D-capable hardware to give it a go!
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Collapse of the Online Poker Economy? Just Read the Guide's Cover.
Friday 19 January 2007 @ 15:04
Excellently insightful as always, Ed
Miller posted an excellent piece on the Neteller situation and the
danger that has always been inherent with online poker that many don't
see. I recall distinctly when I started playing on Pokerroom in 2001, and
then again Pacific a year or so
later, that it was extremely important for me to be playing not on my
preexisting bankroll, but with a new bankroll won on that site. I still try to follow this
rule, whereby I attempt to cashout my initial investment as quickly as
possible. In this way, I can view any collapse or inability to pay as
merely wasted time, not wasted bankroll.
I've modified that somewhat since buying in became difficult; I'm
keeping more in online poker accounts than I used to, due to fear that
I can't buy in again if it falls. That is probably a mistake, because
the trustworthiness of online balances is actually most in question.
Miller's right that an online version of the proverbial 1929
“run on the bank” could cause a serious collapse due to
The most important thing for all of us to do — particularly those
of us that receive a serious portion of our real income from online
poker — is, in the words of Douglas Adams: Don't
Panic. Keep playing your usual games. Do your usual
cashouts. We all know we'll see a steady slowdown in the action, and
eventually the games will move towards empty as the USA players
disappear. But, online poker isn't changing much outside the USA. I
hope my non-USA friends can comment, but I bet the feeling outside the
these silly USAmericans, always with their morality-oriented
legislation. We'll keep doing what we're doing and forget them and
their idiot president. If that's the sentiment, which I hope it
is, that's the right one. The USA is an important market, but it's
not the center of the universe.
I expect I have lots of online poker in my immediate future, and lots
of live poker in my medium-term future, which just can't get
the EV pumping the way my current online work can. But, I'm happy to
let the online scene wind down gracefully around me, and then make my
decisions based on what the post-UIGEA and post-Neteller-arrests world
looks like. I hope everyone else will do the same. Keep your heads
cool; let's all put our chips in, take a flop, and see how this hand
Update: I forgot to put this link into the slashdot story on the Neteller arrests. Like all slashdot, there are a very few excellent comments and lots of useless ones. Here's a particularly interesting one from a former Neteller employee.
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Am I Permitted an “I Told You So”?
Thursday 18 January 2007 @ 15:17
I've never liked nor used Neteller. It was mostly because I thought it
was wrong to have to give an SSN just to do an online payment, but I
also thought there was something funky about their post-UIGEA
position. At that time, I became convinced that the safest cashout
method was paper check, at least while we wait out our (as of today)
last 172 days of USA online poker.
There were some
arrests of Neteller officials on non-UIGEA (money laundering)
charges, and then without warning (other than the omen of the
arrests themselves), Neteller
service has been suspended for USA users! At least Firepay gave
us some time to process final cashouts, even if Pokerstars
refused to let you use it.
But, I don't have any time to gloat that I saw Neteller's position as
particularly dangerous post-UIGEA (nor is gloating a good thing to do
in general, of course). The important item that needs my attention is
that most of my opponents use Neteller. I suspect there's going to be
an en-masse chip dump (for people who respond with
the whole thing
is rigged anyway, I'll just ‘play these chips off’ or see
if I can double them up), followed by a mass exodus over the next
So, for the next 5-10 days, I've got many hours of online poker ahead
of me trying to get the last of the money in play from players here in
the USA. I was certainly wrong in thinking that we'd get the majority
of the remaining days of UIGEA implementation. I figured about 90
days before, we'd start to see a gradual slowdown approaching a crawl
of USA players as banks started to roll out implementations. As it
turns out, I was off by about 82 days.
Good luck, USA online players. The clock is really ticking now.
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The Craziest NL HE Hand I've Ever Seen
Thursday 18 January 2007 @ 02:46
It's been a long time since I've seen something even close to this — probably a
few years. After a $15 preflop raise in a $1/$2 NL HE game where five
people saw the flop, three stacks of $200, $250, and $450 got it all
in on the flop of: 4 8 A
Of course, it's set (4 4) over set (8 8) over set (A A). This was only the second
time in my life I saw this in a hand I was dealt into. (I folded
preflop in both cases.)
Then, I proceeded, for the first time in probably two years, to
actually be surprised by a draw out. Board finishes: 7 3. Bottom set wins — the
only one that can make a flush on the unpaired board.
What I do think: it's two people's stories about how online
poker is “rigged”.
Seeing it made me feel good in a way. I know I've been playing poker for
a very long time when I finally see situations this unlikely. I have
to get to bed soon, so I don't have time to calculate the odds on
flopped set over set over set yielding a win for bottom set with a
four-card flush on board. I am curious how the odds compare to other
unlikely random events in life. Some days, I think all of poker is
just a world wide experiment in confirming that statistically unlikely
events do happen at roughly the theoretically proposed frequency.
For those of you keeping score on me, this doesn't count as a bad beat
story being told in my journal because I didn't have a single $1 of my
own in the pot, therefore it isn't my bad beat story.
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… And You Said It Was -EV to Avoid Neteller?
Tuesday 16 January 2007 @ 16:08
(To be bloggy again,) I'd like to point people to Lou
Kreiger's coverage of former indictments of Neteller officials for
money laundering (an earlier
post on the same topic, and (update) actual news story).
Yes, it's former executives/directors and this isn't really an UIGEA
issue per se, but it indicates some desire by the USA Attorney's
offices to continue enforcing existing legislation, getting closer and
closer to poker itself. (Previous actions have been against online
sports book executives.)
You all keep acting like I think the sky is falling when I say online
poker is doomed and it will lead to a crash of the poker economy, but
the evidence is all around us. I feel like Dumbledore trying to tell
everyone Voldemort is back. :)
I should note to those of you who read my journal not logged into LJ
that I have begun making a few “friends only” post. They
likely will become public at a later date, but will remain locked for
some period. If you want to be on my friends list and have just
created an account, please comment on this post to tell me so.
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Sometimes a Piece of Cake is a Piece of Cake
Sunday 14 January 2007 @ 23:18
I originally made this post friends-only because I wasn't ready to give this full information
to the big wide world, because I wanted to cash in for a while
But, I have to say that Cake
Poker has the best games on the Internet I have seen since the
old limit days on Pacific Poker back
There are people bluffing off their stack into
complicated boards against fields for four. There are people being
whipsawed holding QTo, getting a quarter of their (full) stack in
before the flop against two obvious big pairs, and then stacking off
when they hit a top pair with T to two people.
Just as I was writing this have some woman call me to the river on
44973 when I held TT and she had 59. The stories go on and on, and
this is 1/2!
It's been years since I've seen games this good on the Internet. This
is the kind of action you can normally only find at a casino. I've
got four tables of this going, though!
Of course, the software is crap. Of course, Poker Tracker isn't
supported. But you don't need it. And it's not just the lower
limits, either. I sweated the bigger games (up to 5/10 NL) and there
is amazing action. Not as good as the lower limits of course, but
I'd call the 5/10 tables tables on Cake Poker good if they were
1/2 tables on other sites!
I find it somewhat amazing that these terrible sites end up getting
some of the worst players. Where are they marketing to make this
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Who Still Takes USA Players?
Friday 12 January 2007 @ 12:58
In the interest of making my affiliate links on the side of my journal
useful, rather than merely annoying advertising (despite the
fact that I get free money if you sign up using the links on my
journal, I still encourage you all to use something like privoxy to block them. :), I'd like
to make that list on the side include all the places I know that
accept players from the USA.
Strangely, I'm having trouble determining which of the smaller sites
still take them. For example, I can't seem to find definitive
information on whether or not Doyle's Room and
the larger Tribeca network is still taking USA players. There are
conflicting news reports in Google. Does anyone know for sure (i.e.,
is a USA player still playing on Doyle's Room)?
I just discovered today, that Cake Poker, a small startup
site, is accepting USA players as well.
Does anyone know of others? The only ones I know about are those on
the side, plus Pokerstars. I've left off Pokerstars from my list,
mainly because I don't encourage USA players to go there after the fiasco they pulled
on Firepay customers. Yes, I know some of my fellow poker LJ'ers
make their livings on PokerStars; YMMV. :)
BTW, 178 days to go for USA players. :)
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Considering Close Situations
Tuesday 9 January 2007 @ 11:50
Usually, people spend the most time talking about hands where the
situation is very close. I think this situation is a close one, but
I'd appreciate comments if people think I'm overlooking something.
This is in 6 handed $200 maximum buy in $1/$2 NL HE game online. The
button is a new player, having just posted his first blind this
round. I sat down a few orbits before and I have only a little over
$200. The button has $197, and raises to $7 when the action folds to
I called $7 in the SB with 9 9, and the big blind folded.
The pot stands at $16 with a flop of 2 3 5.
I bet out $9 into $16, figuring for a fold if he has overcards and a
raise if he has an overpair. I'm not going all the way with this hand
if he raises; I'll give him credit for TT or something and fold. He
just calls. I figure he's capable of doing this with just overcards
with an ace for a gutshot. He also could be slow-playing a monster,
but I didn't get the sense he could have an overpair, because unless
it's aces, he can't really let a card come off.
The turn is the 9 and I led $15 into $34. My
hope is that now he continues to call if he just has overcards, and
perhaps decides to pounce now if he does have aces or some such.
Again he just calls.
At this point, I admit to being confused about his holding. He could
have flopped a set, which he continues to slowplay. A4 is
possibility, but it seems strange he'd slowplay that now with a two
flush on board.
The river is the Q. I led $50 into $64. At
this point, if he has AQ and has been ripping with overcards and a
gutshot, I figure he'll just call. I was a bit surprised when he
moved all-in for $116 more. I didn't really think he'd slow-played
QQ all the way down, and that was about as likely as a pure bluff
with a missed straight draw — probably together they make up
5% of the time at most and cancel each other out. I decide that he
either has A4, or one of the flopped sets, and decide to call,
getting nearly 1-to-1.5. He actually held the stone cold, 46o.
It seems to me that I just have to get stacked here, and I'm not
terribly unhappy about the play. But, I've been running badly enough
that I am in that mood of questioning these sorts of situations and
wanting to be really sure I didn't screw up.
I thought a bit about betting less on the river, which would have made
it much easier to fold to an all-in. But I felt that there were some
hands that would pay off that amount, and given that I didn't know
anything about the player, he could easily have misplayed aces or a
The other post mortem thought I had was to bet much more on the turn,
something an overbet of around $40. The problem is, he might still
just call with a flopped set, so the overbet doesn't actually tell me
whether he has a flopped straight or not.
Did I royally screw up here, and if so, how should have I played it to
lose less? Is this really a close situation, or did I just totally
miss the obvious?
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Ed Miller Made Me A Blog for the Day
Monday 8 January 2007 @ 16:31
A blog, as originally conceptualized back before most people in the
industrialized world had Internet access, was a regular post by someone
about things they were reading online. That's why I've always called this
an online journal, not a blog.
Anyway, occasionally, I act blog-ish. Today, I'm going to.
Miller wrote an excellent entry on Sunday regarding his analysis of
whether or not poker games are getting tougher (you
can also go to the non-livejournal-syndicate version). If you
haven't read this entry, I believe it's an absolute must-read. I
agree with every one of his sentiments, and it basically renders
pointless a number of journal entries I had under development.
I think we really don't know what will happen to online poker. Having
done the low-limit multi-table thing, I believe he's right about
multi-tablers being glorified “bots” that make it
extremely difficult to win. I find myself that my edge is better
playing only two tables right at the top of my stakes threshold, in
part because I can get a nice edge against the rock multi-tablers in
orphaned pots. (Frankly, massive-multi-tablers rarely notice when
pots are orphaned.)
I also absolutely love the fact that he makes reference to my day-job
politics. I find it wonderful that Ed Miller turns out to be someone
who believes, as I do, that generally useful technical information
should be free as in freedom.
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Good Players Are More Often In Statistically Surprising Situations
Friday 5 January 2007 @ 14:48
I've been playing pretty well the last week or so; nearly all NL HE.
I've been very happy with my play, and somewhat happy with the
results. I've gotten very good at manipulating the pot size so that
people get all their money in when I have flopped a very good hand. I
haven't been all-in with the worst of it in the last 20-30 all-in
situations I've been in. Yet, I didn't win them all, of course, and I
find this quote calming when it goes the wrong way:
If you are an excellent player, people are going to draw out
on you a lot more than you're going to draw out on them because
they're simply going to have the worst hand against you a lot more
times than you have the worst hand against them.
&mdash Bobby Baldwin
Added to this, I also note that if you're a pretty good player, you're going to be particular
good at tricking your opponents to take the worst of it, and thus adding to the times your hand can be outdrawn. The nice thing about NL HE against limit HE is that you almost always can set up these situations in the former where your opponent is mathematically incorrect in calling/raising you. Often in limit HE, you get the “I'm correct in betting and he's correct in calling” situation.
I also noticed no one has started keeping a running tally of how many
days remain until banks must comply with the UIGEA. I am enough
of a long-time net.citizen to recall when Internet countdown sites
were still the rage, and I thought about adding a retro one to my
journal, but for the moment, I'll just note that the final day of
free Internet poker banking appears to be Wednesday 10 July 2007.
Only 185 days to go. Here's a Perl one liner to tell you how many
days to go:
perl -e 'use Date::Manip; print Delta_Format(DateCalc("today", DateCalc("13 October 2006", "+ 270 days")), 0, "%dt\n");'
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First Borgata Visit In Years
Thursday 4 January 2007 @ 15:49
W.D. and I decided to go to Atlantic City on Saturday 30 December 2006.
I believe that it had been over two years since my last to Atlantic
City. It just usually ends up that I go to Foxwoods, since I know so
many people from the Boston poker world.
We were pretty frustrated to learn that the Borgata no longer has a
poker room rate like the old days — at least for anyone who
plays lower than $40/$80 limit. I checked in with a few staffers, and
they said that they, in fact, have very little control of room rates
anymore. According to a brush and two floor people, the room rates
are controlled completely by the casino hosts, and they chose whether
or not to make offers of rates against someone's player account.
I had been curious about what NL HE in Atlantic City had become. I
heard rumors that a lot of mediocre players were beating these games
regularly for large amounts of money. I quickly found out why. The
players are so bad that a well-trained child could beat the game, if
they had enough bankroll to survive the variance. The action is just
It's this weird scenario of the clueless leading the clueless. The
“strong, sharky players” at the table are these overplay
one-pair types who think they should get every dime in the pot with an
overpair. They are trivial to read because they play almost no hands
and they turn up their nose at players who take flops in multiway pots
with oddball hands:
They must be donkeys if they play hands not in
Sklanksy's list. These people would probably do ok at limit, but
because they get so many chips in with one pair, they are actually
helpless at NL HE and don't really realize it.
But that's only 2-3 players each table. The rest of the players are
just completely lost. I mean that almost literally. We had a guy at
our table who had never played poker at a casino before. He was
actually a pretty nice guy (which nicely offset the constant whining
of the “good players” ranting about how many times they
posted on 2+2 or somesuch). This older gentleman was nice and trying
his best to post his blinds, stop himself from splashing the pot, and
otherwise avoid breaking every last poker casino protocol. But,
unlike some others at the table who just flagrantly ignored poker
etiquette no matter what anyone said, he asked us to tell him when he
made a mistake so he could learn.
The variance was brutal, as I kept getting nice situations to put in my
stack in as somewhere between a 60%-80% favorite and losing. I won't
violate my journal's “no bad beat story” rule and tell
details, but I was quite sure I had positive EV enough that I need not
post these hands to ask if I played them right.
The only truly questionable hand that I played was actually a hand
against that kind older gentleman. To set it up, I should note that
he was clearly a limit stud home game player (he noted he'd been
for years but never in a casino), and he got easily
confused about how and when to bet. He would bet (what we believed
was) top pair by overbetting the pot 6-to-1 or so, and would never get
called (hence the “we believed” part). When he had a
reasonably strong hand — two pair or better — he'd often
call down the whole way, so it was difficult to tell his true
strength. W.D. lost a bunch betting two pair into his flopped flush
this way; W.D. thought the fellow was drawing. I got caught by
something similar, but I think maybe I didn't make a mistake given his
wide range. Here's the hand:
I raised to $10 from middle position with QJs, which I'm typically
doing in this game. I actually do get called by weaker Q-highs and
J-highs (people will play basically any face card with a kicker above
an 8 in this game for a small raise). It folded to our older friend
on the button, and he just called. We saw a flop of QQ3 heads up,
with two suits. I bet $20 into $23 and he just called. I figure his
mostly likely holdings are a flush draw, or the case Q.
The turn was an offsuit K, and I led for $50 into $63, and he called
again. Of course, he would play the entire range of 33, AQ, KQ, QJ,
QT, Q9, and Q8 this way. (I actually do think he would have reraised
preflop with KK.) So, I felt there was basically no way I can
eliminate any of these hands unless he raised; I kept reminding myself
throughout the hand to instantly fold if he raised and looked strong.
Baring that, I wanted him to keep calling with a weaker Q. I knew
from other hands that bets sizes around $75 or so actually caused him
to pause when he had a draw, so I tried to keep him drawing if he
The river was an offsuit 2, and I decide ultimately to give him one of
the queens I was beating, and bet $75. This assured a call from
everything but the flush draw, and if he did raise, I was surely beat.
He just called.
This is where things got confusing for everyone. I tabled my hand as
quickly as the calling chips went into the pot, as I always do when I
am last aggressor on the river. The dealer looked at my hand, and
collected the pot into a pile. A second or so went buy; our friend
flipped his hand, and I saw a black trey flash. Before I could see
his whole hand, the dealer was shipping the pot to me. I looked up
and saw three threes laying out in front board (our friend was in the
five seat near the board). My hypothalamus pot scooping reflexes
kicked in to collect the pot headed my just as I realized what was
happening. Yet, the pot had already hit a small stack of red chips
out in front of my main stack.
By the time I looked up at the dealer and opened my mouth, the whole
table was in an uproar. The dealer had misawarded the pot. The
2+2-obsessed guy to my right said:
just give him the pot, you know
which chips are yours and which were in the pot. I actually
didn't. A red chip or two definitely got confused, and I certainly
recall touching some of the pot's chips as they came toward me, so I
couldn't be sure that I hadn't absent-mindedly stacked them while the
treys were swirling and the dealer was misreading the board.
Floor came over and didn't know what to do. I immediately conceded
that the other player had won the pot, but before his hand had been
properly read by the dealer, the dealer had misawarded the pot.
Meanwhile, 2+2 guy yelled in my ear louder than usual, saying I should
give him the money and move on. The floor guy did not, unfortunately,
take control of the situation.
After another five seconds went by, I said:
Look, I saw treys full
of Qs. I know the pot is his. I remember the action. Let's take
my chips, and reconstruct it street by street together.
We did so, going backwards from the $75 on the river, and we rebuilt
the pot by putting chips from my stack in front of me and the older
gentlemen to represent each bet that was made. Then, just as I
And three whites for the blinds who folded
and tossed those in, the dealer grabbed the pot and started shipping
Wait, that's the action, now I'm owed $4 for the rake.
The entire table erupted in rabble-rabble-rabble. The dealer and the
floor person argued that since the rake had already been taken, I
wasn't owed anything from the pot.
But we've already dropped the
rake, they kept saying.
I gave them two full go-rounds of:
That's exactly my point. The
rake was taken by the house, from the original pot. We've
reconstructed every bet made, including the blinds, and therefore
the pot out there that constructed from my stack is the pre-rake
pot. Since every chip came from my stack, and you've already
dropped $4 from the old pot, $4 in the newly reconstructed pot goes
to me. Then, they finally agreed, looking more like they were
appeasing than believing me. This whole damn table was a tribute to
the cluelessness of the human race — me included with my
distracted ill-gotten pot stacking.
Frankly, the floor shouldn't have let me take charge. I did because it
seemed the only way to keep the game moving, because I'd heard the
word “camera” mentioned, and I didn't want the game held
while they went to see if the dealer really did misread the board,
etc. I saw the treys-full distinctly after the pot was already in
front of me, and was happy to just do what needed to be done to get
the guy his money and get to the next hand.
It was, however, a bit humiliating to be the only one who remembered
every last bet of the action, and then to be in charge of
reconstructing it so I could give $155 over to a guy who had no clue
what was going on. And, of course the dealer made a completely rookie
mistake, and the floor guy didn't do his job, either. I sure hope the
guy forgot, as he kept doing all night anyway, to tip the dealer that
Anyway, I still think I couldn't have played the hand differently.
That's a tough thing about someone who is completely new. It's
actually more challenging to read them than the “good
players” because their range is so big. I was ready to fold,
basically on ever street, if he raised. (Unless, of course, the dude
tried a bluff, because he actually was the first person I ever saw who
had every single Caro bluffing tell at once, so I surely would have
known.) But given that he just called every street, how can I not
lose the amount that I did?
I should note this exact same thing happened to me in the 2/5 game at
Foxwoods early in 2006, where I held AT on TT5 heads-up against a
player who was brand new — never having played poker at all
before. That fellow actually had trouble reading the board over and
over, called everyone all the way to the river and asking the dealer
to read his hand for him. I mean, I've learned how to
fold open trips since my previous disasters, but, in the future,
should I just check them down, particularly against players this
Regarding the Borgata's amenities: I like the new poker room, but I
wish people would get used to the smoking ban and stop wandering in
drunk with lit cigarettes like idiots. The salad place at the food
court below is nowhere near as good as the fast food at Foxwoods,
but also isn't bad at all.
Finally, I don't think the 2/5 game is worth it there. I sweated one
for a while, the players are much better than at 1/2. It's probably
somewhat beatable and has substantially less variance, but with a buy-in
of only $500, you can pick up easier (and likely more) money playing the
$300 buy-in 1/2 game.
The limit action is presumably pretty good still, but I didn't wander
over my old $6/$12 grounds, since the NL HE games were so
beatable-by-morons easy. Ted Forrest was there playing $1,000/$2,000
H.O.S.E. (Although with another semi-famous pro whose name came
immediately to me when I saw his face, but whom I've now completely
forgotten other than his first name begins with a “D”.) I
kept taking the long route to the bathroom to gawk, including one time
when they had called security to shoo rail birds away, and to set up a
perimeter (why didn't they do the latter from the start?). Ted wasn't
doing well, I don't think. I saw him with chips and a stack of cash
on one pass and later with just cash, although it was admittedly hard
to see, so I don't want to start false rumors of Forrest losing at the
$1k/$2k game at the Borgata.
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Freeroll or Medal?
Wednesday 3 January 2007 @ 15:16
Tilt Poker, one of the few remaining sites permitting players
from the USA, has held its “Iron
Man“ Promotion for quite some time. If you earn N
“Full Tilt Points” for Y consecutive days, you get to
play in a freeroll. The greater your values of N and Y, the greater
the prize pool of the freeroll you get to play. (There are four
levels of freeroll.)
This year, they've introduced another option for Iron Man points.
Instead of entering the freeroll each month, you can opt for an award
of additional “Iron Man Medals”, which can then be cashed
in for things at this Iron
Man Store, which you have to look into to realize it's not the
same as the standard Full Tilt Store.
You earn some medals, regardless, by a formula based on how many times
you repeat this silly Iron Man status. This new decision just allows
you to forgo freerolls to get some bonus medals. I'm likely to earn
tons of medals the usual way this year because I'm planning to play
almost exclusively online for most of the year, and Full
Tilt is, of course, one of only three sites I can play on as a
player living under the totalitarian regime of the USA.
The question that comes up is whether, at the end of the month, should
I take my spot in the freerolls, or should I forgo the freerolls and
cash them into medal points?
This is all somewhat of a pointless exercise, since the real EV is in
the playing that earns the points, not the bonuses from the points,
but being a poker player I can't help but calculate the EV of every
decision that presents itself.
There are only three things of actual value in the Iron Man store: (a)
extra 5,000 Full Tilt Points (more on why this has value below), (b)
$535 tourney entry fees and (c) $216 tourney entry fees.
Let's take the last two first. Since (b) and (c) cost roughly 3,000
and 1,000 medals (respectively), and since you only get a spare 25-100
from forgoing the freerolls, it seems to me it's better to take the
freerolls. The prize pools are between $10,000-$30,000, and the
competition is probably softer than in the actual $216/$535 tourneys.
I theorize this because the people who regularly buy into such
middle-limit tourneys are much better tournament players than I,
whereas any idiotic, cash-game donkey can get into the freeroll just
by playing a lot. Therefore, I think the monthly freeroll is better
EV than exchanging that entry for a tenth of $216 tourney entry
Now, what about (a), the 5,000 Full Tilt points? Well, the main Full
Tilt store has a single item that I'd bother to buy with my points: A
large screen Plasma TV. It costs 400,000 points. I recently
calculated I'll probably reach that amount sometime early next year
anyway via my usual Full
Tilt Poker play. Therefore, it probably isn't worth it to waste
the medal points to get me closer to that, because I'll probably get
enough points for the TV eventually anyway, and I just had to buy a
new CRT TV to replace a broken old one, so I am no hurry.
Thus, I can't see a reason that I'd want to stop playing the freerolls
(in which I've yet to win a dime, of course). There is substantial EV
in them; I'm a favorite against the field of random qualifying
players, and the top prizes are usually in the thousands. Definitely
worth the time to play them.
I know that at least one person who reads this journal (hello there,
jellymillion :) has played enough in the past to earn
these Iron Man thingies. Therefore, I ask, have I missed something?
Is there some reason I should do it differently?
Finally, I have to say that these incentive and promotion programs are
unnecessarily complicated. Like rebate forms, they are designed to
make it difficult to figure out what they mean so that people are less
likely to take advantage of them. I have a hard time believing the
Iron Man thing actually draws more people to the site. Why not do
away with the program entirely and give an across-the-board rake
reduction to all players?
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Couldn't Be More True
Tuesday 2 January 2007 @ 10:47
Last year, a well-meaning relative bought me Phil Gordon's page-a-day
poker calendar, that had exactly one good bit of non-obvious advice for
the whole year, which I posted back in
August. I came in to work this morning and turned the last page of
the calendar, which was left over the long weekend. I found a wonderful
quote for the weekend of December 30/31, 2006. I suppose ripping off
the pages all year was worth it to find this wonderful quote at
the end. I probably didn't read anything more true about poker for the
entirety of 2006:
It's hard work. Gambling. Playing poker. Don't let anyone tell you
different. Think about what it's like sitting at the poker table with
people whose only goal is to cut your throat, take your money, and
leave you out back talking to yourself about what went wrong inside.
That probably sounds harsh. But that's the way it is at the poker
table. If you don't believe me, then you're the lamb that's going off
to the slaughter.
&mdash Stu Ungar
More people than ever now play poker “for fun”. Of course
it's an enjoyable activity; I don't think any of us would have gotten
into it in the first place if it wasn't. But, it's a predatory game
in general, and NL HE in particular is the most predatory of all known poker
games. I haven't gone all the way to thinking that you need the
full-blown killer instinct to
win at poker, but to play well, you have to be somewhat jaded about
the predatory reality.
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Spot the (Many) Mistakes
Saturday 30 December 2006 @ 08:48
This is an online hand that I played very poorly. (Maybe I should post
the good hands once in a while, but what's the point of talking about
the right things one does? Focus on the mistakes to get better,
right?) There are so many mistakes in this hand, I'm not sure which
one to focus on. I will just lay them all out to you.
In a six-handed NL HE $.50/$1 game. I am in the $.50 small blind with
$218, Jagsmith84 (with $42) is is in middle position, followed by
BigGross ($99), followed by rotncotn ($473).
Jagsmith84 limps, BigGross min-raises, rotncotn calls, and I call with
A K .
I usually call with AK out of position rather than raise, as I
don't want to build a big pot preflop.
The flop was T 9 A. Checked to BigGross, who
bets $9, and
everyone calls. Perhaps I should have bet out. I know there is
a heart draw out, but I don't know where, and check-raising is going
to built the pot too big if aces-up are out (people on this site
generally overvalue weak aces). I decided to take a turn and see if
it's a safe card. Probably a mistake.
The turn was K with a pot of $47. Something
possessed me to check-raise. I figured that if I had one bettor
into me, and only callers behind, a check-raise would clear the
field of draws and isolate me with a weaker two pair most of the
time. I'd learn quick if something better than that was out.
Again, probably a mistake.
This time, BigGross gives up, rotncotn bets $24, and I make it $60 to
go. Obviously, I have to put more in there, but rotcotn is deep,
I think, so I figure even a small raise will put him off most hands.
He calls relatively quickly. Ok, a flush draw is his most likely
holding, right? Other possibilities are AT and T9, and he want to see
the river too without committing too much more. The river falls
9, pairing the board and getting
the flush draw there. I bet $50 into $167, hoping that I can get
called by AT. He check raises all-in (another $97 to me), and I
I probably should have led for the pot size on the turn, but given that
I didn't, I should have considered seriously check-folding the river.
But, I probably made more mistakes too. I figure some will say
reraising from SB with AK is correct, but I really don't like that
play most of the time. Any other things I did wrong? (There have got
to be tons; I am really unhappy with my play here.)
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