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Monday, May 31, 2004

A Good Couple Weeks
I haven't done all that much actual logging of my online poker play here on Cheap Thrills. I just haven't had the urge to write stuff like "I played .50/$1 for an hour tonight and won $6.25." I prefer that there be something interesting that happens or that I gain some insight from the poker session, and that just doesn't happen all the time.

Running Hot

The past couple weeks have been a little different for two reasons. First, I've been using Poker Tracker and therefore have more info about a given session. Second, I've done pretty well this week. These two factors are doubtlessly related, as the knowledge that everything is being recorded in Poker Tracker has made me play a bit smarter.

Here are some sessions from Paradise Poker .50/$1:
May 19, 2004 7:00 PM - 7:59 PM +$9.00
May 20, 2004 7:19 PM - 8:38 PM +$16.25
May 29, 2004 3:10 PM - 3:27 PM +$14.00
May 29, 2004 12:33 AM - 12:47 AM +$2.75
May 30, 2004 10:25 AM - 10:58 AM +$22.00
May 30, 2004 5:37 PM - 6:53 PM +$4.75
May 30, 2004 12:45 AM - 2:18 AM -$9.25
May 31, 2004 4:08 PM - 4:21 PM -$4.25

Since I started using Poker Tracker on May 18 my BB/100 hands is 15.73 over 348 hands. (I realize this is too small a number of hands for the BB/100 figure to mean much, but I am still happy about how high the figure is :)

In 3 roughly 1-hour sessions on Absolute Poker's .25/.50 tables I picked up $17.15; in 3 sessions at $1/$2 I've won $33.38; but at the .50/$1 tables I'm down 16.35 in 4 sessions. I've also cleared $45 in bonuses from Absolute since May 15.

Absolute Otis

I also took part in Otis from Up for Poker's Bonus Whoring Contest, and I won! The challenge was to convince Otis about which poker site to buy into next, and Otis would then use the winner's deposit code. I wrote up some silly haikus recommending Absolute Poker, seeing as I've been doing pretty well there and they hand out regular reload bonuses. Otis posted the haikus on his blog. Unfortunately I don't actually have a bonus code at Absolute Poker, so we are in the middle of sending in the appropriate e-mails to get Absolute's refer-a-friend bonus.

(I just typed "www.absolutepoker.com" incorrectly ointo my web browser and got this site: http://www.aboslutepoker.com/. Bizarre.)

I wrote those haikus this past Friday night, during the 6 hours or so that we were watching the final table of the World Series of Poker through PokerStars. You know I was drunk because I wrote haikus and referred to my "dear readers" about 5 times in my Intro to B's otherwise excellent write-up of the final table.

Mrs. Cheap Thrills

Pauly was kind enough to mention our write-up of the final table. He writes, "Cheap Thrills also had a good write up that a friend of his wrote on the final table action." Hey everyone, B is my wife! As they say in poker chat, lol. Maybe I should refer to her as Mrs. Cheap Thrills or something.

Okey doke, I'm off to play just a bit more before this fine Memorial Day weekend comes to end.

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Saturday, May 29, 2004

B Writes Up the WSOP Final Table
Dear readers, this blog is named Cheap Thrills for a reason. B is a graduate student, and I am a freelance writer and book editor. Both of these occupations afford us less spending money than we'd prefer--but we do have very flexible schedules and we took advantage of them this week in order to follow the WSOP more closely then we ever have before. Alas, we couldn't bring ourselves to splurge on a trip out to the WSOP (we'd seen some of the early events once before in 1999, but that's a different post). Thus it was that this week, while the Word Series of Poker Championship was being played out, and poker bloggerati Iggy and HDouble were partying it up in las vegas--and Felicia Lee was actually playing in the WSOP--we were watching from afar--specifically, from our humble abode in Providence, Rhode Island.

We kicked off Memorial Day weekend in a most unusual fashion. Friday evening found B and me sitting in front on my computer watching the PokerStars Internet broadcast of the WSOP final table.

Picture if you will, dear readers, B and I (since you don't know what we look like, go ahead and substitute whatever good-looking movie stars come to my mind) sitting in a fairly plain room, computer and TV trays before us, dining on a lovely pot roast I cooked up before I knew we were going to be doing this all night. Hmmm . . . scratch that, and banish that image lest it make us seem uncool. And if you think this a poor way to spend a Friday evening, we must remind you of the Saturday that Mean Gene spent trying to watch the NFL draft in NYC. Heh heh.

Early on B had started taking notes on the more exciting hands, with the idea that perhaps I could use it for my blog. After some wine and a while of time it was clear we were both having a grand time watching poker history unfold, and as B's notes became more copious we agreed that she should write up the WSOP for Cheap Thrills. What follows is her chronicle and commentary (with me peering over her shoulder and spouting drunken thoughts . . . but in a helpful way).

Dear readers, I give you the lovely, the talented, the meticulously observant, B!:

The Final Table

Thanks to JD for getting so drunk I had to write this up. Here is how we saw it from the comfort of our home thanks to PokerStars. Others have reported more details, I'm just going to try to give you the feel of it.

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the tournament to get started (almost 1 hour late) on PokerStars we were rewarded with some quick action.

Here's the seating, clockwise from the top: Mike McClain, Mattias Andersson, Josh Arieh, Al Krux, Greg Raymer, Matt Dean, Dan Harrington, Glenn Hughes, and David Williams. Harrington is the 1995 WSOP winner and made it to the final table last year, finishing 3rd. Raymer, Williams, Dean, and CcClain all qualified online through PokerStars. We don't have much info on who the other guys are.

Arieh stole couple of pots and then on the 5th hand of the day McClain raised, Raymer reraised, and McClain went all-in for $700K. Raymer, the big stack with $8 million plus, quickly calls and McClain shows AA and Raymer TT. Greg "Fossilman" Raymer shows the first sign that he's got a horseshoe not a fossil up his ass (to steal a phrase from Hdouble) and catches a T on the flop, the river and turn are no help and McClain goes out 9th for a mere $470,000 in hard cash.

Raymer stole the next pot and then more party action. Anderson goes all-in UTG with AKo and Raymer calls with A10o. The flop comes Q-9-7 with two spades. Turn is a J and the river is an 8 giving Raymer a straight. Anderson busts out in 8th place taking along $575,000 in real money. Twice Raymer has the worst of it against a short stack all-in and won! You gotta love the big stack.

And Then There Were 7

Raymer steals another one and runs his chip count up over 10 million. A series of unexciting hands follows. Arieh and Raymer see a couple of flops together, both of which Arieh takes down.

On hand #22, Williams raises, Arieh reraises, and Williams calls. The flop is A-6-5 rainbow. Arieh goes all in and is quickly called by Williams. Arieh shows AKo and Williams shows a pair of 5s for a set. The turn yields an A giving Arieh trips but Williams a full-house. The river is a 9 and Williams doubles up to $3.6 million just ahead of Arieh who is down to $3.4 million.

On the next hand, Krux, the short stack raises and Raymer puts him all in, Krux calls and shows a pair of 6s. Raymer has AK. The best hand pre-flop finally holds up and Krux doubles up. Two hands later Krux takes down another pot against Dean and is up to $2.5 million. Dan Harrington is now the short stack with $1.7 million.

Arieh proceeds to play the next four hands, stealing two, winning one uncontested and folding one. Harrington steals one and Arieh is back winning a $570K pot against Williams with Q high. You are probably starting to see a pattern here. At one point I counted and Arieh had been involved in about 35% of the hands. While this is normal at the .50/$1.00 games I usually play online, it's a little high for big bet poker. I have to say I liked his play and I'm sure he'll be interesting to watch on TV.

At this point tournament director Matt Savage proposes to his girlfriend and she accepts! It probably wasn't her dream, romantic moment-but it was definitely a very public declaration of love. I wish the happy couple all the best!

Right after the exciting love story (the boys probably all thinking "get on with it already"), we had another exciting hand. Raymer raises in late position and Harrington calls on the BB. Flop is Jc-7h-9s. Raymer bets and Harrington goes all-in. Raymer calls and show AcJs ahead of Dan Harrington's Qd9h. Harrington spikes another 9 on the river and finally shows Raymer what it feels like to get rivered. Go Dan! He doubles up to $3.5 million and Raymer is down to just under 7 million.

We then saw some action from Krux who picked up $870K on a four-way flop after thinking for two minutes and then betting half his remaining stack (of 2 million).

ESPN Highlights Are Shaping Up

The next set of hands was essentially the Josh Arieh show again. I can't believe how many hands this guy plays. I was really impressed by the way he seemed to own the table. Raymer was trying to do this with his big stack but I don't think he was as successful early on.

Arieh lost about $2 million on the first of these pots to Williams. Then two hands later goes all in after the flop against Raymer who folds, and Arieh wins back a million. At this point a drunken JD announces "I really like his moxy." The next hand Arieh takes down another pot for $600K after the flop.

Arieh miraculously sits out the next hand and we see some action from Hughes. Hughes raises, Raymer reraises to $500K and Hughes predictably goes all-in for $1.5 million. Raymer thinks for a while and folds. I didn't really get this move. Hughes was clearly waiting to make this move and he's not going to call for 1/3 of his stack. I guess Raymer wanted him to fold but given how tight he's been playing. I just don't see there being that many hands Hughes is going to raise with that he won't want to go all-in this short stacked. But hey, I'm not playing in the WSOP-let alone chip leader at the final table.

Two hands later there was another fun hand between Raymer and Arieh. Arieh raised it to $175K and Raymer and Harrington called. The flop is 9-8-2 all spades. Arieh bets $550, Raymer calls and Harrington is out. The turn is a 9d and is checked through. The river is a Kh. Arieh bets $750K and Raymer calls. Raymer wins the pot reportedly with Kd9h which didn't make a whole lot of sense. Why call with the near nuts. I guess it's possible that Arieh has pocket Ks but I can't see Raymer backing down on that possibility. And why wouldn't he have bet the trip 9s? Moments later PokerStars noted that this hand does not make sense given the betting even though that's what they were told his hand was. Arieh mucks and either way Raymer takes down the pot even if it wasn't with K9.

Arieh sits out a whole two hands before taking down a pot against Williams with a pair of 8s. He wins almost $2.2 million for a chip total of $3.8 million. So although we admired his aggressive style it seems to be costing him chips overall.

Arieh also plays in the next three hands. The first one is a party-like flop with 4 players: Harrington, Arieh, Raymer, and Dean all in for the minimum. The flop is Ks-6s-10d. Raymer and Dean check, Harrington bets $250K and everyone folds.

Arieh steals the next pot. Then raises the third to $175K. Dean reraises to $500K and Arieh calls. Flop is a very scary As-Ah-Kh and is checked through. Turn is Kd and is also checked through. At this point JD calls Dean a wuss for not betting and I said I thought Arieh has an A and is trying to trap Dean. The turn is 5c, Arieh bets a measly $400K and Dean calls. Arieh shows A4o and Dean mucks. JD remarks that over-aggressiveness "might" be a flaw in his own game. Hmmm, that might explain why we are watching this from Providence and not playing in it.

The players go on a break and chip counts are updated:
Arieh $4.620M
Krux $2.635M
Raymer $7.730M
Dean $2.505M
Harrington $2.805M
Hughes $2.125M
Williams $2.745M

Blinds are now 40/80 with 10 antes

PokerStars notes that the button didn't move on hand #52 causing double blind paying. I'm not sure who paid twice (I think Arieh and Krux). Tournament director Matt Savage says they regret the error but there is nothing they can do about it. I don't feel so bad now that this happens sometimes in our home tourneys.

The first hand after the break is between Arieh and Dean and Dean takes it down for $600K. Two hands later Arieh is back in it with Williams, Hughes, Krux and Raymer for another party flop. Flop is Q-10-7 rainbow and Williams takes it with a bet.

Hand 56 is folded around to Arieh, who you guessed it, raises to $220K. Raymer reraises to $700K on the small blind. Dean on the BB folds as does Arieh.

Three hands later, Arieh again makes it $225K to go, Raymer calls, and "action" Dan Harrington reraises to $1300K and they all fold. Undaunted, on the next hand, Arieh raises again, Dean calls. The flop is K-4-5 rainbow. Arieh bets, Dean raises, and Arieh goes all in. Dean thinks and thinks and thinks and folds. Arieh wins a $2.76 million pot bringing him back up to $5.2 million in chips. Definite moxy! Go Arieh!

The Right Move at the Wrong Time

On hand 65, Raymer makes it $200K to go and Dean who is shortstacked on the small blind, reraises to $500K. Raymer folds and Dean stays alive with $1860. Two hands later the opposite happens. Dean raises to $250K, Williams reraises to $500K and Dean calls. The flop is 8-3-8. Williams bets $300K, Dean quickly moves all-in and Williams quickly calls. Williams turns over a bullets to Dean's A10o. In the words of Lancey Howard, Dean "made the right move at the wrong time," and like The Kid he goes broke. The turn brings a 3, and the river another A, giving Williams a full-house and Matt Dean goes out in 7th place, winning $675K. Not a bad return for playing in an internet qualifier.

Williams quickly steals the next hand which brings him into third position in chips with $5.1 million, just behind Arieh with $5.5 million and Raymer is still cheap leader with just over $8 million. Krux is the short stack with 1.5 million.

Arieh takes Raymer for $400K on the next hand, and then Krux makes a stand preflop against Arieh; although it's checked through after the flop, Krux's AQo holds up and wins him another $1.2 million. This brings him up to $2.165 million and makes Hughes the short stack at the table with $2.015 million.

Situation Normal: All F-in In

There were two major snafus in an otherwise wonderful public service by PokerStars. The first happened around hand 75. Krux was on the BB when Raymer raised it to $200K and Arieh and Krux called. The flop came Ac-Kd-5d. Arieh and Krux check, Raymer bets, and Krux goes all-in for about 1.9 million more. Arieh folds and Raymer calls. Raymer shows AhQd and Krux shows As6? Here's where it gets weird. We didn't see the turn or the river; the chips get pushed to Raymer but all of the sudden Krux has 7 million in chips? WTF? Pokerstars then says, we're so sorry, lots of actions lost, chip counts swapped, and eventually fixes it. Kinda feel bad if Krux's mom was watching and thought he somehow had made it up to a huge stack only to find out he was officially out in 6th place with $800k. Still, not too shabby.

And then there were five, and everyone is guaranteed at least a million….

Arieh is off and running again and this hand, although not the final blow, I do believe was the beginning of the end. After a while that kind of aggressive play just catches up with you. His aggressive smallish raises worked to get him small pots, but seemed to get him in trouble by letting people limp and catch something on the flop and then take him for more.

Arieh raises yet again to $275 and Raymer calls. Flop comes J-10-6, 2 clubs. Arieh bets $525K, Raymer calls. Turn is 8h. Arieh checks, Raymer bets $1 million even, Arieh calls. River is 4c. Arieh checks, Raymer goes all in. PokerStars kept us informed through chat technology that Josh got up and walked around, took of his glasses, etc. and finally folds! It was honestly very exciting! Man, I would love to know what Raymer had. Q9? 79? Two clubs? Nothing? Arieh is down to 3.3 million, Raymer up to 11.7.

Our First Millionaire

Arieh shows he is on tilt after the last loss by actually sitting out a few hands. It's not long until after a couple of uneventful hands, Arieh raises again to $250K. Hughes goes all-in with KQo and Raymer calls with a pair of 5s. Arieh wisely folds like a cheap tent. The flop is 4-A-10 giving Hughes a gutshot straight draw, followed by another 10 and the river brings a 9. Hughes goes out in 5th place. Sure is hard to feel bad for a millionaire though. Hughes takes home $1.1 million for his trouble.

Raymer is muscling big time with his stack and now it's finally working. He steals a few. Arieh tangles with him a few more times and loses a little bit each time. Nothing drastic, but a slow slide down the chip mountain.

The next big hand was incorrectly shown by Pokerstars. During the dinner break we checked in with the PokerProf who had a different take on it, which was later issued as a correction by PokerStars. Here's how we saw it:

Harrington calls from the small blind and Williams checks.
Flop is 9d-5d-6h. Harrington bets $250, Williams calls.
Turn is 3d. Harrington checks, Williams bets $500 and Harrington check raises all-in. Williams calls and shows 23c to Harringtons 68o. The river brings a 4 in PokerStars-land giving Williams a straight.

Here's what really happened:
The flop was 2-5-9, turn is a 3 and river is another 3 giving Williams a full house and Harrington absolutely nothing! Although he did have a double-belly-buster draw on the turn rather than middle pair with a gutshot straight draw, as Pokerstars originally reported. Either way, Harrington is out in fourth, taking home $1.5 million, which is probably more than he won in 1995, even with inflation.

And we're down to three.
The official chip count at the dinner break is as follows:
Williams $8.630M
Arieh $2.075M
Raymer $1.4420M

Raymer has such a commanding chip lead it will be interesting to see if anyone can beat him. Pokerstars helpfully noted that the two PokerStars players (Raymer and Williams) have 91.7% of the chips). I think no matter what PokerStars is a winner here. I bet they are POed about the fact that the WSOP banned logos at the final table. Otherwise everyone would be calling it the PokerStars final table instead of the Levitra flop.

After the dinner break, Raymer takes down a few pots. He's really working the big stack nicely; Arieh and Williams are biding their time, nothing too crazy. Raymer and Williams wind up splitting a pot with Ax when the board shows 2-10-7-2-K. How cool would it have been if Raymer showed the hammer!

JD and I were discussing that Arieh was going to have to move from his raise-$225K-all-the-time strategy to an all-in-or-fold one (with a chip count 1.575 million) when he went all in with 9s. Raymer called with AQs. The flop came Q-J-Q. Truly unbelievable luck this guy had at the final table! I know it takes skill to get there but the Poker Gods were definitely smiling on Raymer today. Turn is a 3 and river is a 4-no help for Arieh who is forced to accept 2.5 million dollars for his pain.

It's One Poker Star Versus Another

And we are heads up baby!!!
PokerStars announced that the money is on the table! And it's a heaping pile. Yup, just like being there :)

We got snacks and more beer and settled in for the long haul.

Five hands later Williams raises to $300K and Raymer calls. The flop is 4d-2d-5s. Williams bets $500K, Raymer raises to $1.6M and Williams calls. The turn is 2h. Raymer bets out $2.5M. Williams calls immediately. In hindsight he maybe should have thought about this one, but maybe the pressure was getting to him. I mean if your hand is that great why not raise all-in? Why call and leave yourself with not that much left?
The River is another 2. Raymer moves all in and Williams again calls quickly. I thought one of them had to have a two or at the very least Aces. Nope, Raymer shows 8s and Williams A4, so they both have a full-house--only Raymer's is better and he wins the Big One!!!!! I'm not surprised he won, but I was expecting more of a protracted battle.

Williams takes home $3.5 million for second. Raymer turned his $150 PokerStars shootout entry into a cool $5 million bucks! Congratulations to Greg "Fossilman" Raymer. I hope we'll see him at Foxwoods sometime soon. I'm sure with his $5 mil he'll be looking for some cheap thrills and playing $2/4.

PokerStars did a bang-up job getting these guys there and in general bringing the excitement and fun of the WSOP to the online player. It was fun, it was free, some of what we saw was a little wrong.

All in all, cheap thrills!

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Friday, May 28, 2004

Watching the WSOP Final Table
Right now I'm sitting at my desk watching the PokerStars broadcast of the WSOP Final Table. Er, actually, waiting for it to start. It was supposed to start at 1pm Vegas time but they're late.

4 of the 9 of the players at the final table qualified online through PokerStars. Wow . . .

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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

VVPQotW: Battle of Champions
Tonight's episode originally aired before the Super Bowl, but B and I were pretty busy that day--we actually hosted a poker tourney before the game, and were still wrapping things up when the WPT tourney came on. So I vaguely remembered some parts but mostly it was a new episode for me.

I had definitely forgotten about that 60-second clock and how annoying the beeping is. Would Rone Rose have called Juha Helppi's final all-in if he hadn't been rushed by the clock? Would Jose Rosenkranz have called Howard Lederer's?

Other notes:
--Didn't know Juha Helppi was captain of the Finnish national paintball champions.
--Not that it needs reiterating, but that pokershootout.com commercial with the midget is truly awful.
--Mike Sexton's quote of the week: "No cutesy-wootsey poker here."

The Vince Van Patten Quote of the Week came after the "Costa Rican madman," Jose Rosenkranz, caught an 8 on the river, to give him a set, after Howard had gone all-in with AKs and caught two pair. Feeling Howard's pain, VVP explained to the home audience that
That's the kind of thing that hurts your whole immune system.
Click here for last week's VVPQotW.

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Friday at Foxwoods
OK, I've read a ton of WSOP reports and now the relative dearth of news is killing me. So I wrote up my visit to Foxwoods this past weekend:

I played some $2/$4 Hold'Em at Foxwoods this past Friday night. I lost about $15, but feel that it was some of my most solid "live" play yet. And I had a blast.

A Little Background

This was my, let's see . . . 7th time playing in a casino ring game (I've also played in 4 Foxwoods tournaments). So I'm not really a casino poker newbie, but there've been such long spells of time in between my casino visits that I've haven't become totally familiar with the differences between online and live play yet.

The first 3 times I played casino poker were way back in 1998 and 1999, when B and I were living in San Diego and making fairly frequent trips to Las Vegas. I played once at the Flamingo, once and Mandalay Bay, and once at the Viejas Casino outside San Diego. Won $40 the first time, lost $100 the second and third times. Each time I played $4-$8 (at that time the $1-$4, $8, $8, or "one-four-double-eight," format was still very popular).

However, I don't feel that I really learned to play poker competently until I started playing online in April 2003. My triumphant return to casino play came in October 2003, when I sat down (very late at night and a little drunk) at a $3-$6 game at the Las Vegas Flamingo. I won all of $10 in the couple hours I played, but it did a lot to bolster my confidence about playing Las Vegas (I have to admit to being worried that sharks were everywhere). In that same trip, I played in a $2-$6 spread game at the Excalibur. I did very well at that game and was up almost $100 at one point. . . .

Then came a hand I still remember. I get AKs, and directly cross the table from me is a maniac who is raising everything preflop and has burned through at least a rack since I've been there. He and I cap it preflop. I get my Ace on the flop, it's capped again, and now it's me and him head's up. I don't remember the turn and river betting -- I think maybe one of them was 3-bet. Anyway, I get no further help and he reveals a set of threes at the end. I leave the table still up around $15, but completely pissed off about losing the $70 or whatever it was on that hand. I had overplayed my top pair because the maniac had gotten to me.

This happened again in a different way when I went to Foxwoods a month later. I sit down at a $4-$8 table, and directly to my right is a guy who is playing every single hand, and raising with about a quarter of them. He's drinking and making all kinds of mistakes (betting the wrong amounts, acting out of turn, etc.), and soon after I sit down he apologizes to the table with something like "Sorry folks, I've been up for over 24 hours." But he's winning a lot of hands, and most of the table is just pissed at him. Not a fun table at all. Everybody's raising him, and since I'm on his left, my attempts to limp and see a flop keep failing. Then when I do get good cards and the flop misses I foolishly see the turn and river because the pots have gotten large. I end up leaving a few hours later down $120.

Goals for the Evening

My point with this little bit o' background is that in the past, at the casino, I have let players throw me off my normal game and, in the example directly above, even put me on tilt. It's one thing to see crazy players online; it's quite another to be seated next to or directly across from one. And along with the maniacs you've got your calling stations, your rocks, your drunks, your overconfident young guys who just read their first poker book, etc. Online I just take notes on these bad players and pretty much continue with my normal straightforward game. But in live games I find myself thinking "This guy is so bad!!!" and I start not folding to the bad players when I should. So I went into Friday night with one goal in mind: Play the cards first, then the player.

And of course, online, you've got table selection. If I see too many maniacs, too much preflop raising, or a bunch of angry trash-talk -- I just find another table. I had waited for over an hour for a table in the two instances described above and didn't want to be "chased away" by the maniac(s), so I foolishly stayed, feeling kinda trapped. I didn't do that Friday night.

The other dangerous thing about casino play for me is getting bored. The pace is is just soooooooooo much slower than online. In that situation I don't start playing trash cards, instead my bad tendency is to get way too attached to the good cards I get dealt, even when the flop misses me. I was determined not to do that Friday night.

I also decided to play $2-$4 rather than $4-$8, which is what I had played before.

Friday Night

B and I left Providence at 4pm, and were in the Foxwoods poker room by 5:20. About a half hour outside Foxwoods, we called to put our initials on the lists, but were informed that they don't do that anymore. No big deal, since the wait turned out to be only about 20 minutes. From conversations with players I gathered that this was normal for Friday night, whereas on Saturdays the waits get much longer.

B and I were seated at the same table, but at opposite ends. Since it was too far apart to talk, we basically pretended that we didn't know each other. Kinda awkward, and we agreed later that we'd rather not play at the same table in the future.

At first the play seemed soft enough. No preflop raises, and a lot of people calling but not betting or raising. Then I realized that a women down at the other end of the table, next to B, was playing every hand and seeing most to the river. An Asian guy 3 to my left won a couple pots with really good cards, and I decided he might be rock-ish. There were two college guys at the other end of the table who didn't seem very experienced, and seated on both my right and my left were older guys who kept asking how much the blinds were. The one guy who jumped out at me was a guy in his 30s wearing a nylon Tennessee Titans workout outfit. With clothes that comfy I figured maybe he plays a lot, but he showed down with a lot of really crappy hands, so then I figured probably not.

There aren't that many exciting hands to recount. And unfortunately for you, my dear readers, I tend to remember my beats better than my wins.

I stuck to my game and won a little. I do remember a hand where I had A-10o, got a 10, and ended up going to the river against the no-folder, where her Q-5 caught another Q. It annoyed me that she would call the whole way with that, but I knew my hand was weak and I did save a bet checking the river through, so I don't think I could've played it better (other than to not play A-10o at all).

Then I made an awful, awful play. I had AJo and raised preflop. The flop came KKJ. For some reason I bet (I was first one in--was I hoping to steal? testing the waters? what the heck was I thinking?), and Tennessee Titans is the only one to call. Then I get a J on the turn. I actually have position on Titans-guy; he checks, I bet, and he calls. River is a blank, Titans guy checks to me, and I check it through (my only smart move in this hand). Titans-guy shows 4 Kings.

This was such a badly played hand that I am kicking myself, and I know I'm in danger of going on tilt. Plus I'm not liking how into slowplaying Titans-guy is, nor do I care for call-to-the-river-all-the-time lady, so I get up and take a break. At this point I am down $58.

I got something to eat. It was almost 8:00 and I hadn't had dinner. I guess I better add "don't play hungry" to my list for my next Foxwoods trip!! It's common sense, but it's easy to ignore things like that at the poker table. Feeling much better, I sign up for $2/$4 again and am seated at another table within 15 minutes. My first hand is, (I kid you not, AA; it holds up, giving me some good table image for future raises.

Mostly young guys at this table. The two guys to my right order drinks (a Tequila Sunrise and a Long Island Iced Tea) and I'm wondering if they're over 21 and/or gay. The guy two to my left is raising a lot and generally dominating the table. He goes up $100 in the first hour, then announces to his buddy that he's heading over to $5/$10. A semi-maniac replaces him. He's betting and raising a lot, but with total crap, and he's losing. The guy to my immediate left is really nice, is playing $20 at time, going all-in, and keeps rebuying, God bless him. I actually saw several players doing that over the course of the evening. I've read in books and online what a fishy tactic it is, but it's another thing to actually see it.

In short, the players at this table were worse than at the previous table. Plus they were drinking and more sociable (perhaps because it was later in the evening), and we were near a TV with the Lakers game on and that reduced the boredom factor.

My biggest win of the evening came with Q-10o in late position, when the flop was AAK and I saw a free Jack on the turn against 4 other players, who then bet the heck out of their aces on the turn and river. I wish I had a hand history for that one--proof that at low limits you make a lot more from your opponents' mistakes than from your own smart plays.

I won my $58 back and was up some small amount (less than $10) around midnight. At that point an interesting thing happened. Everyone was clearly getting tired, and it seemed to me that the whole table got looser and crazier all at once, as players tried to snag "one more big pot" before heading home--just like so many nickel-dime home games I've played in. I should've steered clear of this loose period, but didn't. I lost with a pair of Queens and then with a pair of Aces. I know I showed down with the Queens even though there was an Ace on the board, which was a bonehead play. But then a couple orbits later I got the Hilton sisters again, made a set on the flop, and it held up. The lack of details at this point is a reflection of how tired I was. Six hours at the table and I was really starting to have trouble concentrating--that really surprised me. I left the table down $15 (more if you include dealer and cocktail waitress tips, which I'm not).

I feel I had a good evening because I can point to the reasons I left down $15--if I had just not made a couple of the bonehead plays that I made, I would've walked away up 4 or 5 big bets. It bothers me far, far more when I have a losing session and have no idea what I did wrong or how I got outplayed.

B fared not so well, losing $70. She was pretty upset about it, but this was only her 4th time playing in a casino, and she won an average of $25 the first three times she played (twice in Vegas and once at Foxwoods), so not only was it her first casino loss, she's still slightly positive at live play, and way up online.

Lessons Learned

B and I talked the whole way home about how different live casino play is than online. Some of the things we talked about we knew already, but like so much in poker there's knowing it, and then there's experiencing it. Some of our observations:

--Everybody seemed to be playing "any ace," much more so than online.
--Far fewer players seemed to be playing any two suited cards and drawing for the flush, as some players do online.
--A lot of people were going all-in and rebuying for small amounts. This didn't much change the way I would play against them but it did help mark them as bad players.
--There was an awful lot of slowplaying going on. A lot of free cards being given. And B and I both saved a lot of bets by checking the river through when an overcard or 3rd-of-a-suit came.
--On the other hand, a lot of players also checked on the river because, by checking and calling, they wouldn't have to show their hand first, and could muck the really embarassing crap they were playing. This happened an awful lot at my second table, and it was really obvious when a player's bluff failed and they didn't want to show. So each time someone checked the river, you really needed to decide why they were doing it, whereas online I usually make the decision of whether to bet or check-through based on how strong my own hand is.
--There is a psychological distinction between tossing out one $2 chip for the call vs. tossing out 2 of them. Usually everyone called the flop but the turn bet got respect. In many cases this was probably just good play, but it seemed more pronounced than it does online.
--Table image counts for a lot more than it does online. When you were on a rush, players could tell. On the other hand, I would have runs where I'd be raising with hands like AQo, then folding if the flop didn't hit me. When this happened more than once in an orbit, I knew for sure that my next pre-flop raise would get a lot of callers, and so if it was a raise to get people out, I knew not to bother. Again, this phenomenon happens online but it's more pronounced in the casino.

And that's what's fun about the casino--all the little signals you get during the game make it a much more vivid experience than online play. It's more fun, more social, more personal. It can also be more emotional and more tilt-inducing, but hopefully I'm learning how to avoid that.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

$24.2 Million
From a Poker Forum article on the World Series of Poker:
Speaking of $5 million, that's the payout for first prize. The figure is twice as much as was awarded to last year's winner (a paltry $2.5 million). The table may not be large enough to accommodate all the bundles of 100s. This year, second place gets $3.5 million. Third place takes 2.5 million. Fourth place gets $1.5 million. Fifth place gets $1.1 million. To put this into proper context – the winner will automatically become the all-time leading money winner in WSOP history. The fifth place finisher will take home more prize money than Stu Ungar received, when he won his third world poker championship back in 1997. In all, 225 places will be paid $10,000 or more.

The prize pool for this event alone is a staggering $24,214,400 – a figure that no one could possibly have imagined, even recently. This brings up even more important questions about how to manage and accommodate the thousands of poker players who will certainly flock to Las Vegas to play in future World Series of Poker events.
"Amazing" barely begins to describe it.

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Monday, May 24, 2004

The WSOP Main Event Is Going on Right Now . . .
OK, I'm caught up in the WSOP excitiement and you should be too. As cheaply thrilling as it was, my evening of $2/$4 at Foxwoods just can't compete for your attention. I'll write it up next weekend. Til then, go to Final Table Poker, the Gutshot Poker Collective, or even just RGP and experience envy.

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WPT All-In Texas Hold'Em
I was browsing RGP today, which I haven't really done much since I discovered poker blogs. I came across this amusing link: http://www.sycuancasino.com/wpt.html. Seems the Sycuan Indian casino, outside San Diego, is offering a new table game called World Poker Tour All-In Texas Hold'Em. This link describes the optimum strategy for this non-poker game. The house edge with perfect play is 1.5%. Should be interesting to see how far this game spreads.

I had a very busy weekend and I am behind in reading blogs, so for all I know this may have been posted elsewhere. I didn't play online at all this weekend, but B and I did play at Foxwoods Friday night, and that'll be the subject of my next post. For now, I'm going to try and get some work done . . .

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Friday, May 21, 2004

Embarassing Moment at the Micro-Limits
OK, so after the WPBT III this past Sunday, I decided I was sick of Pacific's lousy software, so I cashed out. Problem is their cashouts take a few days, and unfortunately I had all my bankroll tied up with them. So last night I insta-cashed $50 into Paradise, because Paradise covers insta-cash fees. Boy is that a great feature. Coupled with their software, which I feel is the best out there, I enjoy playing there despite the tougher opposition.

Right now I'm up $23 at the .50/$1 Hold'Em tables. Last night, however, I had a few beers with dinner (nice weather so we grilled), enough that after playing a bit of .50/$1, and winning a bit, I realized I was just a bit too inebriated to really focus. (Failing to make that realization has cost me significant $$ in the past.)

Nothing on TV, though, so I checked out the .02/.04 tables at Paradise. I enjoy 7-Stud Hi-Lo in home games, but have never played it in a casino. Why not a little practice at .02/.04?

So I sit down. I end up making a full house on like the 3rd hand, beating out a flush for the whole pot. A few hands later I'm going low and end up making the straight for the scoop. Same thing happens again a few hands later. Now I'm up over $1.

Then I get a really solid low, and my opponent is obviously going high. We show down and he's awared the whole pot with just two pair and no low. What's going on?

I'm not playing a Hi-Lo game, of course. This is regular 7-Stud. Whoooooooops! I had clicked the wrong game in the lobby. That's not so bad, but to not realize it for so long, and to win not realizing it, well, that's bad. I don't think the poker gods were smiling on a drunken fool so much as they were playing a cruel joke on my opponents. My apologies and sympathies go out to them. If they had wanted to play with seemingly insane opponents, they would've gone to Party Poker!

Turns out Paradise doesn't offer .02/.04 for Hi-Lo, nor for any game besides Hold'Em and 7-Stud. That's a shame, cause I'd like to play some of the games in their "miscellaneous" section for micro-limits, particularly Pineapple.

I played 7-Stud for the rest of the evening and cashed out exactly even. Ouch, I had better results when I was playing the wrong game . . .

Now I face a tough decision. Try and keep up the winning ways at Paradise .50/$1 Hold'Em, or take my money over to Party to take advantage of their latest reload bonus? It's hard to turn down a bonus whoring opportunity, but I'm really in a groove at Paradise and Party requires such a shift in playing style. Something to ponder.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

VVPQotW: Poker Stars Caribbean Cruise
It was an unusual WPT tonight, in that 3 of the players at the final table went out extremely quickly, leaving us the viewers to watch 3-handed action for more than an hour. Fortunately we had Gus Hansen's unpredictable play to keep things exciting.

Just a few comments on tonights's episode:

--I'd never heard a pair of 4s referred to as "the midlife crisis" before.

--Was this the debut of the "WPT Critical Replay," or had I just not noticed it before? Because there's really not enough slow-motion in TV poker coverage.

--Shanna Hiatt had a segment on "what's your favorite hand to play?," and no one mentioned the Hammer?!

And now on to the Vince Van Patten Quote of the Week.

Vince had several quotable lines tonight, and I faced my toughest decision yet on which quote to pick. However, Vince's funniest lines tonight all seemed very scripted (and a couple of them, while somewhat amusing, were distastefully mocking of Hoyt Corkin's southern background), so in the end I decided to go with one that I thought was both spontaneous and really very descriptive of Gus Hansen's play. When Gus Hansen looked down at 73o for the final hand of the night, VVP quipped
He's got a creepy little hand. That's a Gus hand.
Click here for last week's VVPQotW.

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A Low-Rollin' Saturday Home Game
Well, I'm a few days late in posting about the home game I hosted this past Saturday. I had only played with this group of guys once before, about 3 months ago. The previous session had been one big NL Hold'Em tourney, 15 guys with a $20 buy-in, and I had taken second for $100. That evening stands out as by my biggest single-session win (by far) in a live game. Since my usual poker group often does $2 and $3 buy-in tourneys, these other guys (mostly board gamers up around Boston) struck me as significantly more high-rollin'.

To my surprise (and slight disappointment), this past Saturday's home game was a much more low-rollin', "social poker" affair. First off, there were only 6 of us, and 3 of the guys had not been at the previous, more serious tournament. Everyone bought in for $25, but somehow the agreed-upon limits ended up being .25/.50 rather than .50/$1. Once that decision was made I knew the games were going to be very loose, and I grabbed a beer :)

We played dealer's choice for the first 2.5 hours. All manner of crazy wild games were called, making it mostly a gambling type of evening. On the upside, I finally learned 3-5-7, a wild-card game I've heard mentioned frequently in conjunction with home games, but never played myself. (We played the home wild-card version, not the casino game.) It reminded me of Guts but with more information. I called a lot of Anaconda/Pass the Trash and 7-Stud Hi/Lo Roll Your Own. I finished up $3. Woo-hoo!

Then we switched to a NL Hold'Em tournament, $10 buy-in. We paid the first 3 places, which I thought was pretty silly with 6 players, but we were all having fun so I didn't want to make it an issue. We also went with 30 minute blinds, which was great. Previously I'd used 20 minute blinds, since that is what they use at Foxwoods for the multis I have played there, but without a dedicated dealer, 20 minutes is barely enough for an orbit if there are 7 or more people. With 6 people and 30 minutes blinds, the pace was a lot less hectic.

Now, these guys are all very smart guys. I've played board games with a couple of them at different events and gotten stomped. I'm sure that any of them could become very good at poker. But for now, none of them has much experience actually playing poker. A couple of them had read Super/System and were discussing strategy. But none of them play online, and they just haven't had the practice of seeing flops. More importantly, I think they've only ever played in a few home-game tournaments and don't have any feel at all for when or how much to raise. And we were short-handed, but I think they were looking for the kinds of starting hands you'd want in a full game.

Without wanting to sound cocky, I have to say that playing with guys that inexperienced will make you feel like Johnny Moss. None of them wanted to call a big preflop raise, and it was painfully obvious when the flop missed them. I busted out one the guys when he let me limp in with 62o from the BB, and see the turn, and then he called my raise when I made a cheesy straight. After a while I started worrying that I was being too aggressive--but I reminded myself that these guys are all smart and experienced gamers, if not experienced poker players. If this home game becomes a regular thing they're certain to catch on to my tricks before too long.

I ended up finishing 2nd. The downside of the 30 minutes blinds is that when it got down to 2 players we had lots of money in proportion to the blinds. But it was 2 in the morning, and the busted out players were dealing and shuffling for us, so we hurried the ending along. I went all in with QTo and lost to JKo. (I had fun saying, "Oh no, he's Jack-King-off again!" all evening -- which I stole directly from Burt Fu.) That made me the shorter stack. Remarkably, I got KK on the very next hand, pushed in, and lost when he paired his ace.

All in all it was a very fun evening, even if the poker itself was nothing special. And lucky for me I had the WPBT III Sunday night to dispel any notions that I can dominate a real poker tournament :)

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Monday, May 17, 2004

The WPBT III
Congratulations to Otis on winning the World Poker Blogger Tour III last night. He was followed by Mean Gene in 2nd and Boy Genius in 3rd. I finished way down in 17th (out of 30 players).

I'll echo CJ at Up for Poker that the tournament blind structures at Pacific go up way too fast for my taste. I knew this going in, having played a couple Pacific tournaments this week in preparation for the WPBT III. My main goal was not to get short-stacked early and thereby have my options reduced to all-in or fold.

I started out pretty well, raising only the minimum or twice the BB whenever I got a decent hand. Our table seemed the tightest of the 4 hands, and so I went from $800 to about $950 just winning blinds. Then one of the players at my table went alli-in with about $400, I called with QQ, and won. At this point I was very happy.

Then came the turning point. I limped in with 9-10 in LP. and two other players saw the flop. The flop came 998 rainbow. I made a huge mistake and decided to slowplay a little, betting the minimum ($30) on the flop. One player folds, and Chicago Phil calls. The turn is a 5. I bet $60 and Chicago Phil raises to $240. What could the 5 have given him to justify such a raise? If only I had pondered that question a bit longer before re-raising him to $480. He only had $150 after that so he went all-in and I called.

What a horrible move it was to slowplay. But really the slowplay wasn't the worst move. The worst move was that when Chicago Phil raised, all I thought was "A ha, he has fallen for my trap," and not "Oh, crap, why would he do that?" He showed 67 for the straight.

I was down to $400 and was soon moved to another table, where Bad Blood was on my right with over $3,000. He ended up finishing 4th.

With $400 and the rapidly rising blinds, my moves were pretty much fold or all-in, the situation I had really wanted to avoid. A $400 all-in was definitely going to get called. I ended up getting blinded down to $150 and pushing in with 66. A player named logan66 called with 77, and the flop didn't change what the best hand was.

The other lousy thing about the Pacific software is that once busted out, you can't view the chat tournament tables' chat windows. So as I watched the field dwindle further I was deprived of hearing the smack talk that went with it. Also, when two players go all-in at Pacific, cards are not revealed for the race. This made being a railbird at the WPBT III not as fun as I had hoped.

Even so, the final table action was pretty cool. In particular, Mean Gene was the short stack when it got down to the final 4, but it didn't stop him from pushing other players around by pushing his chips in more than anybody else. Though Iggy ended up 6th, he also made good use of the all-in to steal blinds and stay alive til the final table despite not having a huge stack. I think that aggressive style was definitely warranted.

Despite the juicy ring games at Pacific, I think I am going to cash out and play elsewhere for a while. A big consideration is that I want to start accumulating hand histories for PokerTracker, so that I can start examining my play in a more detailed way.

I also hosted another home game Saturday night, which I'l post about later today.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Brains and Cajones
HDouble's got a beautifully written post up today, titled "Reflections on the Faces of Poker." As the best posts do, it got me thinking. HDouble writes
Unlike the typical 9 to 5 job, poker is a place where intelligence and courage are immediately rewarded. Performance-based pay is rare in the corporate world, and no matter how well you do your job, you're more likely to get a pat on the back rather than a stack of chips.
HDouble's post is about the nature of poker, but it got me thinking about the nature of poker players.

Is it really any wonder that the popularity of poker has exploded in America? You've got literally millions of Americans going to their jobs--whether they're blue collar, white collar, high paying or not--and thinking to themselves "I'm smarter than this." As HDouble says, poker rewards intelligence and courage--with money--in a way that most people's jobs do not. For these people, poker is a way to put their courage and intelligence to the test. A way for people to find out just how far they can go in an arena where only brains and cajones count.

One way of putting it is that poker players tend to have a major "bad-ass" complex. In Neal Stephenson's sci-fi novel Snow Crash, he describes the bad-ass envy that all men feel at some point:
Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.
Good players should never allow themselves to be governed by the bad-ass complex, but neither should they pretend it's not there.

To some degree, I feel this way about online poker. When I mention to someone that I play online, and they respond with a mildly shocked look and say something like "Isn't that illegal?" or "You'll lose your shirt," some part of me is thinking, "I definitely have bigger cajones than you." Juvenile? Yes. But true.

And I admit that the idea of a "bad-ass complex" also sounds a bit juvenile. In Big Deal, Anthony Holden describes poker players in far classier terms, with the theme of "bucking the system":
Almost all the poker players I have known, from the hardened pros of Las Vegas to my amateur Tuesday Night brethren in London, have had one specific characteristic in common: They were all people who liked to feel that they had bucked the system. They were determined to live life on their own terms. In a worldly sense, therefore, they were people who had rarely held down a regular job since compelled to by the indigence of youth. If they had since been obliged to do so, or to attempt to do so, they had extricated themselves from it, regardless of the consequences, with all possible speed.
That's the real appeal of Rounders. Mike McDermott is stuck, on the one hand, humping a crappy job (driving a truck), and on the other hand, following the straight and narrow path to success (going to law school). Forget all the stuff with Worm and Teddy KGB--at the end of the movie, when Mike essentially says, "Screw all this, I've got what it takes to succeed in Vegas," he's declaring that he's going to live life on his own terms. However realistic or unrealistic it may be, you can't be a poker player and not envy Mike in some small way at the moment.

That's also the appeal of Las Vegas--you feel like you're bucking the system just by being there. And it's why professional poker players are becoming minor celebrities--they basically symbolize the dream of living life on your own terms. An overly romantic view? Sure.

I'm not saying that poker can give anyone the ability to live life on their own terms, or that the act of playing poker is for some people an act of social rebellion. OK, I guess I've hinted at those two ideas. But what I'm definitely saying is that poker players, as a group, are intelligent, self-confident, individualistic people who are unafraid of seriously testing themselves on a regular basis. In other words, bad-asses :)

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

VVPQotW: Aruba
Boy do I love the WPT Aruba event. If you go way back to my second post, you'll see that Aruba was the very first WPT I saw. My wife B and I are parrotheads, and the image of poker in paradise just really pushes my buttons.

Anyhoo, before I get to the Vince Van Patten Quote of the Week (VVPQotW), I have to throw throw out B's quote of the week. We are watching tonight's WPT, and right after Rick Casper's profile/interview, where they discuss how he is going to propose to a women he met a month ago if he does well in the tourney, B offers a synopsis of his remarks:
I met this girl, and her boobs are bigger than my head, so if I win this tournament I'm going to giver her half my money.
Heh heh heh. Seriously though, they did get married, so of course I wish them well.

A couple other notes on tonight's episode:

Did anyone else notice the Pokershootout.com commercial with the midget? The tagline was "Where the little guy can win." Oh my goodness.

Kudos to Erick Lindgren, it seems there's a ton of buzz surrounding him. His line of the night, just after Daniel Larsson had bluffed his 66 out of a pot with Ax: "I'll break you next time." Maybe his nickname should be Drago instead of EDog?

And the VVPQotW is . . .
Put this in your Irish stew, chef, and smoke it.
Click here for last week's VVPQotW

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Who Wants to Bust Out a Supermodel?
I just noticed this promotion on on Paradise Poker:
“Play Caprice” Poker Tournament
A free tournament with over $10,000 in cash and prizes to be won!

Caprice is an international supermodel from Southern California and has become one of the most photographed women in the world, appearing on over 300 magazine covers across the globe. She was voted GQ Magazine's Woman of the Year and Maxim's International Woman of the Year three years running.

Caprice also loves to play poker in her spare time and would love to see you at the tables! You have the opportunity to play Caprice on May 30th, if you place in the top 100 of our nightly qualifiers.
Check this link for more details and, most importantly, a photo of Caprice.

And here's the icing on the cake of this hilarious little gimmick:
Top 10 finishers at final table will receive a personally signed glossy photo of Caprice.
Bonus bounty payment of $500 to the lucky player who knocks Caprice out of the tournament.
The Caprice qualifier tournaments are freerolls. I might have to play in one just because this promotion is so funny. And here I had always thought of Paradise Poker as one of the classier places to play :)

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Monday, May 10, 2004

Poker Tracking
Okay, I've made the decision to buy PokerTracker. I know that's a no-brainer decision for most of you. Jeremy at Love and Casino War posted a couple months ago that "If you intend to be a profitable online poker player, you would be completely insane not to use PokerTracker" and I've read similar advice on many another blog.

Most recently the Royal Poker Blog posted some advice for would-be poker players that you should always be tracking your wins and losses, even if it's not in a database as sophisticated as PokerTracker. Rest assured I have not been lax on that front for the past year and half. I don't go around using the gambler's cliche--"Oh, I mostly break even, sometimes win a little." I've kept an Excel log from Day 1 of my online poker journey. Sure, I occasionally forget to log a .50/$1 session where the results are uninteresting (or too much alcohol was involved, but that's another post), but I am fastidious about logging how much cashola I put in to the online sites vs. how much I take back out.

I had actually downloaded and used PokerTracker last summer, and even filled the database to 1000 hands (the max in the free version). But when it came time to buy, I thought to myself, "I don't know, going through this database feels a little too much like work." That was a "Why am I playing poker?" moment for me. I knew that the best way to improve my game was to track and analyze every bit of information I could, but I also want to keep the focus on having fun, and I worried that always using PokerTracker might take away from that. (B and I were also saving for our wedding at the time, so I-don't-need-to-buy-this-now frugality was also a big factor in the decision.)

Fast-forward to now. I'm taking my poker more seriously, and, inspired by my fellow bloggers, I'm certain that I can have fun with poker while also making the extra effort to improve my game.

I'm going to keep playing at Pacific Poker for a while tho, even though PokerTracker doesn't support it. Actually, Pacific doesn't even have hand histories--but the passive $1/$2 tables are treating me well.

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Rounders Template
I just logged onto Blogger, something I hardly ever do because I use w.bloggar, and I see that Blogger has changed its look. They've also added 6 new templates and one of them is called "Rounders"! Too funny.

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A Cheap, Thrilling Weekend
I got in quite a bit of poker this weekend, and I've been meaning to blog about it all but I got distracted by 1) playing poker this afternoon, and 2) getting sucked into the Survivor All-Stars finale this evening. That latter is ever-so-slightly poker-related because during the "reunion special," the host at one point compared Survivor to poker. Something about "when you bluff in poker, no one gets angry," but when you lie in Survivor, people get pissed. Yup, it's a stretch.

It was a real hodgepodge of poker for me this weekend. First, the small potatoes. Well, actually they're all small.

Social Poker

Saturday night I played at a home game up in Boston. Strictly "social poker": Me, B, and 3 other couples. We started playing poker together every few months as an alternative to getting together and bar-hopping every few months. It was a blast as usual, but the poker was about as un-competitive as it gets, much more so than the home game we hosted the previous Saturday.

With our college buddies, we used to play nickel ante, max bet 25 cents, dealer's choice with every crazy wild-card game you can think of. And all was well. But then there was a movement toward Hold'Em, for a few reasons. First, Rounders, the WPT, and the WSOP have made Hold'Em so cool. Second, some of the real non-poker players said they enjoyed playing one game all night rather than having the rules change every hand as in dealer's choice. Along with the move to Hold'Em we threw in blinds rather than antes, and structured betting, since we had mostly bet the max anyway. The problem is that me, B, and my buddy "Odog" play Hold'Em online and we had a significant advantage over the casual players.

So for a while now our compromise has been to play H.O.S.E.--one orbit each of Hold'Em, Omaha Hi-Lo, 7-Stud, and 7-Stud Eight or Better Hi Lo. Last night we changed it to H.O.S.E.D. and threw in a round of dealer's choice.

Well, Omaha Hi-Lo went over like a lead balloon. Everyone found it too confusing, which in retrospect is not surprising. (But it's hard to make cool acronym without the "O"! S.H.E.D.? C'mon, that sucks compared to H.O.S.E.D.)

Not surprisingly, the most fun was had with dealer's choice. The most popular choice among dealers was Anaconda. Boy I had forgotten how much fun that game can be. (Plus it gives us an "A" for the acronym--S.H.A.D.? S.H.A.D.E? Still not as cool as H.O.S.E.D.)

As I said, a blast was had by all, but I had that most wonderful of problems: I couldn't lose for trying. My friends know B and I are very into poker, and I think there's that little worry in the back of their minds that we are just working them over. So throughout the night I remind everyone just how low the stakes we're playing for are. As in, "OK, I raise 10 . . . PENNIES." But the stakes don't matter so much; no one likes losing their stack. So B and I also don't play as well as we could. Mostly I try to play more loosely (although I have problems toning down the aggression--raising is just too much fun).

I actually managed to lose about $4 in the first orbits of Hold'Em and Omaha, but won it all back and more in the two orbits of 7-Stud. Mostly I got lucky cards, but I was also raising with any decent hand, like starting pair or 3 to a flush, just so that it wasn't a call-fest. The interesting thing was that a raise in Stud was actually driving people out, leaving me with fewer people to beat and thus improving my chances of winning. In Hold'Em and Omaha, of course, no one was folding and you actually have to have the best hand to win. But in Stud I was even winning pots uncontested. This should never happen in a .10-.25 game!! I won a whopping $8 on the evening.

Anyway, the point is that that small amount of tension was there: The non-poker players don't want to feel like suckers losing to "the couple who plays online," and B and I did not enjoy playing less than our best. Next time we get together I'm going to push for a move back to more wild-card games, or perhaps even try to get a trivia game or something like that going. I doubt I will be successful though; even "social poker" is a pretty damn fun way to spend an evening (cheap thrills!), and everyone does love Hold'Em . . .

$1 Big Buck on Paradise

I played the $1 4pm tourney on Paradise on Friday and Sunday (today), finishing 252nd out of 655 on Friday and 119th out of 721 today. In Friday's event I played too tight and weak, and pretty much just got blinded down. I had been reading PokerSavvy's series of articles on online tourneys, and then I read Matt's post critiquing the article. Somewhere in thinking about the two points of view I got it in my hand that I have been playing too loosely in tournaments lately. Today I went back to playing more by instinct, and although my finish wasn't all that much better, I had some good momentum for a while and really thought I was going to at least make the money.

My tournament play is still very much just based on my own experience and instinct; if I think about close decisions too much, I tend to err on the side of caution, and that ain't good in a multi-table tourney. Trusting my gut is good; what's bad is evaluating and tinkering with my usual style caused me to veer from what works so badly. I don't want to be too hard on myself though: Of the three Hold'Em formats I play--limit ring games, NL SnGs, and NL multis--NL multis are the format I have the least experience in.

I also played a $2.50+.25 multi at Pacific today. Didn't enjoy that at all--they start you with $800 and the levels increased every 5 minutes, which wasn't enough for an orbit in some cases. Ugh.

Ring Game Wins

Continuing my theme from 2 posts ago, I have been doing well at the $1/$2 tables at Pacific Poker. Up $60 at the ring games since I bought in. Had a session from 7pm to 7:40pm in which I won $39. Woo-hoo! I was at a great table--average pot $17, % players seeing the flop 49. When you have it, bet, and they will call. If they raise, fold. After playing on Party it still feels weird (in a very good way) to take down pots with top pair.

SnG Losses

Now I hate to use an unattributed quote, but I know that one of the poker bloggers I've been reading said something to the effect of "Bad poker blogger--blogging my wins but not my losses." I just surfed around a bit and I can't find it. Dang. That quote stuck with me because I feel the same way. It was my "big" win tonight that put me in the mood to write. For the sake of truth-in-blogging, I should mention that I lost 2 $5 SnGs on Pacific and 1 on Absolute. The Absolute loss I came in 4th and I don't know how I could've laid down my AQo given the circumstances, so I don't feel too bad about that. I'm going to give up on the Pacific SnGs; as with Party, it's a quicker blind structure given your starting stack, and I don't care for it.

Bigger Potatoes Next Weekend

Next weekend I'm hosting a more competitive game with some fellow board gamers. I get to show my poker table off to some folks who haven't seen it yet, and hopefully it may be the start of a new regular game for me. The format's gonna be $25 buy-in dealers choice for the first half of the evening (but I suspect standard casino games will be chosen most), followed by a NL Hold'Em tourney, buy-in still to-be-determined.

Lots of Poker Blogging

I added several more links on the right. The brand new ones include Burt Fu and Stay Away from the Dice. Fu has a post about magnetic (??) chips at the Borgata, and "The Foz" has a funny post about the Poker Stars micro-limit tables. Cool--there's a poker blogger out there who played lower limits than me this weekend :)

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Sunday, May 09, 2004

How to Read Cheap Thrills in Syndirella
In case anyone's interested in reading this blog in the Syndirella newsreader, here's how to do it:

1. Under the "Subscriptions" tab, click "Add Web Feed."
2. For the address, type http://cheapthrillsjd.blogspot.com/
3. For name, type "Cheap Thrills"
4. For "Title starts with," type "<div class="DateHeader">"
5. For "an ends with," type "</div>"
6. For "Description starts with," type "<div class="Post">"
7. for "and ends with," type "<div class="DateHeader">"
8. Click "Import"

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

It's All About Table Selection
I bought into Pacific Poker yesterday for the poker blogger tourney Iggy's organizing for the 16th. My username is ChpThrls, which I settled on after being frustrated that they wouldn't give me JD, **JD**, or similar variants because screen names must be 4-8 characters long, standard letters and digits only.

The software is pretty interesting. No frills such as 4-color decks or avatars. An odd chat window. No e-mailed hand histories, but they do have an interesting "game history" feature where you can watch a video replay of your hands.

The lobby shows the average pot size and the number of average number of players seeing the flop (flop%). Boy do I love having that latter statistic. Despite having read all the advice by Izmet Fekali and many others, I enjoy ring games more when the players are not crazy-loose maniacs. Not that I go looking for tight games. Loose is fine. It's passive players that I love, and I found them at Pacific last night :)

I played a little .50/$1 around 6pm last night. Flop% numbers at some tables were near 90, but I found one in the low 50s and made a couple bucks in a couple orbits. Then after the WPT I came back and the flop%s at .50/$1 were all way up there, so I sat down at a $1/$2 where the flop% was 44.

What a great passive table it was. These guys loved checking and folding. They were giving free cards, and when I was on a draw I was raising on the flop from late position to take advantage of that. I also bluffed at scare cards a couple times and it worked. It felt nice to make plays like that (and have them work) after the past couple weeks of crazy ring games on Party. I felt like I was running the table. 40 minutes (and +$43.50) into my session and our flop% was still 44, average pot size $14.53. Good stuff.

Then I foolishly tried a $5 SnG. I wanted to see what theyr SnGs were like, but it was foolish because 1) I left a very good table, and 2) I usually do well at either ring games or SnGs, but not both. Also it was pretty late in the evening. Sure enough I finished 5th.

Interesting Glitch

I did see a pretty interesting thing on the SnGs. When a player goes all in and 2 other players who can cover him call, 4 cards came on the flop. You read that right. When someone has gone all in pre-flop, but there is still betting between other players, 4 cards were dealt to the board, and the players in the hand were only able to bet twice, on the turn and river. This happened twice in the SnG I was in and a couple players there said they had seen the phenomenon before.

Anyway, back to the lesson I'm taking away from last night: It's all about table selection. At the risk of sounding like a weak-tight player, I think that weak-tight players are drawn to tables with low flop percentages and small pot sizes, where they feel that everyone else is playing like they do. The trick is to play better than them (who would've guessed?), which is easier if they are playing in a predictable, by-the-book manner. The average pot size and flop%s can't guarantee that the table you play at will be passive, but I find that flop% figures in the high 30s to low 50s, coupled with average pot sizes not more than 10x the BB, are a good sign. Unfortunately I'm looking at the Pacific lobby right now and I don't see anything that fits that bill. Guess I'll try back later . . .

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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

VVP Quote of the Week: WPT Ladies' Night
And the Vince Van Patten quote of the week is . . .
What other travel agent in the world could possibly do that with her hands?
I'm not even trying to imply that this line could be taken as dirty out of context--I just thought it was a very VVP way of saying "Wow can she chip-shuffle."

I thought that Vince would be a lot more quotable tonight than he was--I think Mike had more colorful lines.

B hopped on my computer right after the WPT, leaving me to flip around on the boob tube for a few minutes. I stumbled upon Futurama on Cartoon Network, and they were playing poker. So here's a couple more quotes:
Bender: C'mon, let's deal. You'll have plenty of time to talk when you're poor.
Zoidberg: Look, I finally have a claw! Three human females, a number, and a king giving himself brain surgery.
Click here for last week's VVPQotW.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Poker Beer
I had a fantastic weekend. Specifically, a fantastic Saturday. About 18 of our coolest friends came over, we played board games through dinner, then did a NL Hold'Em tourney, then a group of the truly hardcore stayed for a ring game that lasted til 4am. The late hour is the reason this event didn't get blogged on Sunday -- I was too busy lying semi-catatonic on the couch watching bad movies (among them was Logan's Run, very fitting for my 30th birthday).

Poker Beer

But before I talk more about the festivities I have to mention the beer that B picked up for me -- it's simply called Poker Beer. They've got a website, www.pokerbeer.com, and a quick look shows that Poker beer is from the wonderful people that gave us Jolt Cola!

It's an obvious gimmick but a very amusing one. The label has two great slogans -- "I'll Raise You One!" in large print and in small print on the neck of the bottle, "For centuries, games and beer have gone hand in hand. Now, they're inseparable!"

Also on the neck is a 4-card poker hand, a different one on each bottle. The website confirmed that they are indeed random. When you pop the top, you get to see the 5th card under the bottlecap. We were speculating that if you got some monster hand maybe you won something via the website or something. Nope. It's just an amusing little touch.

But that little gimmick could be the starting point for some fun (read: moronic) drinking games, don't you think? Like everybody opens a bottle, and the guy with the worst hand has to chug. Or you could have two rounds of betting, for shots. Heh heh heh.

The most promising 4-card hand we had was 4 to a straight, which failed to complete. The best final hand in the 6-pack we had was Jacks and Eights.

The beer itself tasted just like MGD to me, which is a beer I'm fairly neutral on. As in, I'd never buy it myself but will happily drink it if offered.

The Game Day

We started off around noon with board games. Of the 18 guests in attendance, only about half are really into poker. This is a poker blog so I'll just mention that of the board games, I'm the Boss! was by far the biggest hit.

We finally made the move to poker around 8:30. By that time the poker players in the bunch were chomping at the bit to actually play poker on my beautiful poker table (I think I'm going to have to name her). Many of the non-poker players were interested but wary of buying in for much money, so we just started out with a $2 buy-in NL tourney. 14 players in all, so we split into two tables. 7 poor souls had to play on the boring old dining room table.

The start of the tourney also marked the start of me drinking in earnest. Everyone at my table was doing the "bet, call, call, call, call, call, call" thing, which due to the beer and the low limits I put an end to by raising ridiculous amounts with just about anything. It was awful poker but it made for a fun time. There was soon a lot of all-ins, yelling, and hooting at our table, along with several bust-outs, myself included. We soon had a merge, and a quorum of losers for another game of I'm the Boss!

By the time the tourney was over it was after midnight. Several people had to call it a night, and I figured we wouldn't get any ring game action in. I resigned myself to this, since it had been an incredibly fun day anway, and I cheerfully wished those exiting a good night.

It warmed my heart to turn and find 7 courageous souls (plus me and B) ready to start a ring game at 12:30! Our usual format for the last 6 months or so has been .25/.50 H.O.S.E. (Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, 7-Stud, and 7-Stud 8 or Better Hi-Lo), $10 buy-in, and Saturday was no different. I think we should move to .50/$1, but I doubt I'll be able to convince everyone, and I'd rather play lower limits and have fun than raise them and drive anyone away.

Not too much to say about the poker play. It was better than the average .50/$1 table at Party. Yup, not saying much. Really it was more about the hanging out than it was about the poker play, and that's fine with me when it's the right crowd.

The coolest thing is that most everyone's a lot better than they were a year ago. Well, 2 of the players are pretty inexperienced (they've only played with us once before) and it showed. Another woman was a board gamer who hadn't played poker in years, but she did pretty well. My buddy Gene, one of the two regulars who is moving down to D.C. this week, showed the most improvement and walked away with $26 after a $10 buy-in. For a long time Gene was a biggest, um, "contributor" in our group, but no longer. He's still incredibly loose pre-flop and loves to raise, but in the past couple months he seems to have gotten over his aversion to folding, and boy has it helped him. I finished down $3. The final stacks took some swings when it was down to 4 players at the very end of the evening and we moved to a few rounds of dealer's choice that I only vaguely remember.

We finally called it a night a little after 4, but I was too keyed up to sleep. Hopped onto Absolute and played a $5 SnG. Figured I'd crash halfway into it, but to my surprise I was in the final 4 when dawn started to break. I'm a creature of the night, though. I shielded my eyes from that awful orb even as its rays drove away my luck. I soon went out when my A8 flopped two pair, and my all-in was called by A9o, who caught a 9 on the river. I groaned a perfunctory "doh!" and shuffled off to bed.

A Poker-Filled May

I've actually got poker lined up for the next two Saturdays. This coming weekend will be another .25/.50 game with a few friends in Boston (it's really just a semi-regular get-together with college friends, and a couple years ago we started playing nickel-dime poker instead of going out to bars). But the Saturday after that I'm going to be hosting a game with some of the board-gaming-poker-players who live around Boston that I played with once before a couple months ago (when I came in second in a $20 buy-in tourney). Those guys play .50/$1, sometimes NL with a $20 buy-in, and usually a $20 NL tourney to cap the evening. (So basically they player higher limits than anybody else I know.) Then the Saturday after that is a friend's bachelor party, at which I will certainly push for poker, and then after that is Memorial Day weekend, and with an extra day on the weekend I should certainly be able to get some poker in!

Seriously, playing live action poker, even for .25/.50, really made me remember how much I love it. Yesterday and today I felt no urge to play online poker, but boy was I tempted to head down to Foxwoods. B too, and she said we should've gone on Sunday if I had been so tired and hungover. Maybe next Sunday? . . .

Poker Table Note

My poker table received many compliments. It performed wonderfully, however, around 2 am I noticed that the rail was loose in one area. I remedied the problem earlier this evening, but am going to put the details of that in an addendum to my previous post on how I built the table, so that all the instructions are in one post.

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