Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Poker Cruise Blog (long)

First day: Boarding the ship, believe it or not, was as painless as getting 2000+ people on a ship can be. What with security restrictions, passports, immigration issues, etc… the people at Carnival did a pretty good job. Scott and I got to the port at 55th street at 1:30PM and we were on board the ship by 2:15PM. Having said that, I didn’t get my last bag of clothes into my room until 5:30 and the ship didn’t get under way until just about that time. Scott and I spent the time overlooking the ship. There is a casino on board, a few pools, a few restaurants and all the accoutrements you would expect from a cruise ship. The best part, is that when we arrived in our room, there was a balcony even though we had only paid for an oceanview with no balcony. It makes all the difference in the world to be able to step out and look at the ocean with the wind sweeping across your face (and to know it’s free!).

The unexpected room upgrade is the first free thing we’re going to be getting, evidently. We’ve had to pay for water, soda, and all sorts of other extras. Yes, food is free, but there are a thousand different little things we’ve had to pay for so far. We’ve avoided the obvious pitfalls, but alcohol is a must and we are paying for every drop. The good news is that bottles of alcohol, even the good stuff, are relatively cheap. We finally got underway and the casino opened quickly afterwards. Some old women were waiting at their slot machines, literally waiting for the instant the machines were turned on. For the first night only, limits at the gaming tables (Blackjack, etc…, not poker) were $3.00, so Scott and I spent a pleasant hour playing cheap Blackjack, Let It Ride and Caribbean Stud. After dropping $50 or so, we hit the welcome party for the Cardplayer Cruise players. The Cardplayer editor, Linda Johnson, went through all the ins and outs we could expect from the trip and then the whole group hit the dinner tables. Except for Scott and I who had booked ourselves into the late seating and not the early sitting. We played in the casino until OUR dinner time and had a pleasant time eating with Jerry and Stella, two 55+ sisters on a trip for Jerry’s birthday. After dinner, we went directly to the card room. Scott was pretty tired but he was game to play a bit. The room only has 9 tables so it gets pretty full and the 1-2NL table was indeed full, but we were able to get seats at the 4-8 Limit game. I did pretty well, buying in for $100 and cashing out 2 hours later with $165. I had a few big pots, including a big one I took off of Scott when I busted his flopped set of two’s when my 34 suited rivered a straight. There had been another caller in with us so I kept calling for my flopped OESD. Scott was pretty beat so he took off soon afterwards but then I switched to another table and took a good pot with Quad Queens (two in my hand) and a flopped set of 10’s that turned into a full house. The card room is EXTREMELY well run (even up to MY standards!) and just what you’d expect from CardPlayer magazine. The players are of more marginal quality than I’d expect, believe it or not. There are some excellent players, to be sure, but there are more older granny types than I would have imagined. The older players are more apt to chase impossible draws and, as such, make excellent table mates! I’m going to sleep now but I’m registered in the morning for a $230 buy-in No Limit tourney at 9:30AM.

Second Day: Scott and I got up this morning at 7:30 AM after a somewhat fitful night’s sleep. The beds and rooms are very comfortable, but the ship was rocking a bit more than I thought and the vibrations from the engines can be felt, even if it’s slight. I don’t have an issue with that, normally, but I’m just not used to it. There was a storm last night in New York so I understand that makes the waves worse and we should be better as we sail further south. After showering and having breakfast (with another poker player who just WOULDN’T shut up while we were eating), it was off to the poker room for the first tournament of the cruise. The tourney was an excellent format, with 2000 starting chips for $230 and an extra 500 chips for an additional $5.00 (duh!). Blinds started at 25/25 for 20 minutes and the first three blind levels were also 20 minutes. After the third blind level, the levels were 30 minutes, which made for a nice and comfortable pace. Scott and I were about even through the first hour with neither of us too much up or down. Then I got mixed up in a hand with Scott where I gave him 2/5 of my chips on an up and down straight draw that never came through. It wounded me and put me well below the starting 2500 chips with blinds at 100/200. We had a break at the end of the 5th blind level and we were happy that we had at least survived that long. There were 58 people at the start of the tourney and blinds were about to go to 200/400 with 50 antes. With about 35 people left, folks like myself who had about 2200 chips were going to have to make moves, and quickly. I doubled up once with my AQ vs. an AT to keep me going and I went all in a few times to steal blinds. I even, shame on me, bluffed Scott off the big blind with my Qh5h vs. his JJ. But eventually, bad luck found me out. I was about to double up again when I called a short stack’s all in with my AhQh. He had KhQs but a King came on the turn to crush my dominating hand. I had done fairly well in the tourney, getting knocked out around 25th place and if I had doubled up there I would have given myself a decent shot of making the money. Scott, on the other hand, was a monster. He kept accumulating chips and giving them back, over and over. Meanwhile, people were getting knocked out all around him. It wasn’t until there were about 16 people left that I realized that Scott stood a pretty good chance of making the money (the top 9 finishers in this case). I was off losing money at the 4-8 Limit table but out of the corner of my eye, I could see people getting bumped off one by one. As they did, I gave a shout out to Scott to keep the faith and he eventually got to the top 10. It was now bubble boy time and Scott had about the 9th stack in the tourney. I saw there were 2 people in even more dire straits than him and I reasoned with him that he might be able to fold his way into the money. He took my advice and folded some playable hands. Finally, I heard a swell of applause as the bubble boy stood up after getting knocked out, and it wasn’t Scott! He had survived and moved to the final table, now the 7th stack. Play continued as Scott pushed as hard as he could with his small stack. Fortune struck and a big stacked player got knocked out, moving Scott up in the rankings. Then another. Then Scott doubled up! And two more stacks got knocked out. Finally, in last place with 5 players left, Scott raced his QJ against a small 66 and lost to be knocked out to thunderous applause by my table, whom I had converted to Scott Levy fans. Scott cashed out of this tourney with $815 and a listing in an upcoming issue of CardPlayer magazine! Good job Scott!!!

Third Day: Day 3 was a more casual day, with Scott and I taking part in some of the sun-related activities. We sat up on the Sun deck for a bit after getting a long and luxurious sleep and had a casual lunch. Then we attended a seminar on art collecting which, like every other activity on this damned ship, is geared towards separating you from your money. It was interesting, but not uber-exciting. Afterwards, I went to play cards and sat down at the 2-4 “granny game”. I only played an hour, but was able to pick up $69 by catching a few flops and getting paid off on it. The card room closes at 5:15 for dinner and re-opens at 7:00, but Scott and I had reservations at the supper club at 7:00 so we couldn’t get back to play for awhile. The supper club, by the way, was outstanding. I had a rare porterhouse that was done absolutely perfectly and started the meal with a cup of Lobster Bisque that was one of the best bisques I’ve ever tasted. The meal was a looong 2 ½ hours and we were completely stuffed and happy afterwards. After the meal, we headed over to the show lounge to play a quick game of Bingo ($600 jackpot!), which we didn’t come close to winning before the show started. It was a hypnosis/comedy show and Scott actually volunteered to be on the stage! Along with 12 others, Scott was subjected to a whole bunch of humiliation (Funny!) and he was a good sport about it. The show ended around 11:30 and I went off to play in a 3-6 game that had formed near the casino. Scott was pretty beat and he went to bed while I racked up another loss at the table. I didn’t drag a pot for the first two hours, finally winning one with KK that stood up against 3 players after much aggressive betting on my part. My bad luck streak broken, I went on to win a few others but still couldn’t get overcome the opening salvo of losses. The casino shut the table down at 3:15 and I was down $98 for the night.

4th day: After getting up at a leisurely time again (hey, we’re on vacation!), we had a quick breakfast and then went to the Internet lounge to check our email. I wasn’t going to hit the lounge during the trip as I have a thing about checking email on vacation, but Scott was waiting for an important message for his business, so I went along with him. While we were there, we met a woman in the lounge named Lisa Tenner who is a producer/promoter. She was writing interview questions for a VH1 show that is going to be filmed in November. It’s a poker game of rock stars that is going to have an interview segment of some sort. She was asking her husband about some poker terms when Scott and I broke into the conversation to help her out. That led to her asking us to supply some questions for the show, which we happily did. It turns out that she is going to give us writing credits for the show (!) so look for our names sometime in late January/early February when they air the show on VH1!!! We’ve landed in San Juan, Puerto Rico just now, at 1:45 PM, so I’m on my way out to enjoy the sites. I’ll be back in a bit.

Okay, I’m back. Two things though. It has been raining all day which greatly reduces our enjoyment, AND I have a head cold which started out last night and has gotten worse today. The rain didn’t help, I’m betting. As a result, I was in bed all of tonight and sadly couldn’t go out with Scott to dinner to the nice restaurant he was going to take us to. L Tomorrow we are going to do Ocean Racing in Saint Thomas, so I’m going to sleep relatively early in order to see if I will be well enough to attend.

5th day: Scott and I got up at about 9:00 AM after an awful night’s sleep on both our parts. I slept poorly because I didn’t have Nyquil with me and I had to rely on Tylenol PM, which just isn’t the same. For Scott’s part, he slept poorly because, evidently, I snore when I can’t breathe through my nose. Sorry buddy! The good news is that after a shower and a quick breakfast, I was still weak, but well enough to ride out in the ocean on the sailboats. It was a great three hours as we raced another group throughout the St. Thomas bay (we won handily) and spent some nice time out on the water. Afterwards, we were going to go wander around and find an authentic restaurant for lunch, but, alas, it was Sunday and everything closes at 1PM. So we found a pub we could eat at (surprisingly good for pub food) and watched a few quarters of the football games. Then we walked around the port area buying a few hats and gifts. Afterwards, we headed back to the boat and took a well deserved nap. When we got up, at around 6:30, I headed to find some dinner because I wanted to hit the poker room at 7:00 when it opened up. Scott wanted to hit dinner later, so he went to the casino. My session at the poker room was the best one I’ve had on the trip so far. I played a little over 3 hours at the 4-8 table and cashed out $105 up. My play was great and I was able to make some good reads, great laydowns and perfect raises in the right position. I got a few lucky flops but nothing monstrous. Mostly, I was showing down winning hands and running over the table for the rest of it. It felt good to win after the last few losing sessions. Tomorrow is scuba diving in Tortola, so I bought some Nyquil and am now waiting for it to take effect. Ah, here it comes….

6th Day: I woke up in a better situation than I have been in the last two days, but still not perfect. But today is scuba day so I had to suck it up and go with the flow. We had a 7:30AM wake up call and a room service breakfast so as not to lose too much time since we had to be out by the pier for an 8:30AM pickup. Well, we ate and showered and went down onto the pier at 8:15 exactly. When we got down there, Scott remembered that the tickets for the scuba trip were still in the room! So I waited downstairs while he went back onto the ship and got them. The clock was ticking but Scott made it back in time by 8:25 and we ran over to where the taxis were congregating. All of the excursions leaving at 8:30 had signs up, except ours. We ran around trying to find our excursion but we couldn’t find it! Were we too late? Did they leave without us? We were a little peeved since we had shown up on time until we saw from the ticket that the time was actually 8:15AM!! Ouch! It seemed like the part of the trip we had both been looking forward to most had been ruined until a nice taxi driver saw our plight and took us over to the dive shop where the group was diving from. It was only 5 minutes away, luckily, and since we weren’t too late, they were still handing out equipment. We tipped the taxi driver handily for saving our trip and headed onto the boat with plenty of equipment in hand. There was a 30 minute boat ride out to the dive site, which turned out to be an old ship called the H.M.S. Rhone. The ship was sunk in a famous hurricane in 1860 (approx.) in which the ship lost nearly all of their crew while going across the bay. They had no idea it was a hurricane since the season was nearly over and they mistook the storm for winter swells. The local residents on Salt Island, where the wreck is located, went out into their own boats to try to save the ship and ended up being able to only pick up the few survivors. In gratitude for their bravery, the Queen of England lowered the island’s taxes to 1 bag of salt a year, which the island dutifully pays to this day.

The first dive went well, but with a little bit of difficulty. I hadn’t been in the water for 3 years and I was a little nervous when I first got in. But when we started to submerge, I felt calmer. But because of my recent head cold, I was having trouble equalizing the pressure in my ears. This is very very important since the water pressure on your body doubles every 33 feet you descend. I got down to about 30 feet and had problems, causing me to breath a lot more heavily and waste more air than is strictly necessary. But I eventually fought through these issues, albeit painfully, and the dive was fantastic. There was lots of marine life, including a huge barracuda and a very large lobster. We saw coral of all colors, an enormous school of fish, and a nearly intact front half of the shipwreck. We were down about 75 feet for about 35 minutes. When we came back up, the pressure in my head rapidly decreased, causing my sinuses to, ahem, evacuate. My mask was full of blood and mucus (yum), which is common for divers who go down with a head cold. But that was better than another diver who got onto the boat, stripped off his gear, and proceeded to puke his guts out into the water. Whoops. To make matters worse, one of our boats engines had blown out while we were making our way to the dive site, so the mechanic had come on another boat. What this meant for our poor sick diver, was that he wasn’t getting back to land for a while.

Because of my equalization issues, I decided it would be safer if I didn’t go down for the second dive. Scott did, though, and saw some original English tiles, a silver serving spoon from the ship and the ship’s propeller. It was pretty awesome all around. I stayed topside with Mr. Puke-My-Guts-Out and Scott got to see some great stuff.

Oh yeah, I played some poker too. When we got back to the ship, we grabbed some lunch and showered and then got back to the card room. We ended up at a short-handed 1-2 No Limit game which eventually swelled to 8 players. Scott and I both ended the session after an hour and half with a profit. Scott was up about $35 and I ended up $48. I had been up $55 early on but lost a bunch when I got squeezed out of an AK that didn’t pair up. I then went down about $20 but won a whole bunch when I felted a guy with a Th9h. I was in the small blind when the 5th seat made it $7 to go. Two people called in front of me so I did too and the big blind did as well. The flop was Ts9d3d. Hello top two pair! I checked, fully intending to bang anyone who bet it when the big blind bet $30, putting a big smile on my face (on the inside). He only had $35 left so I moved all in after everyone folded and he was pot-committed to call, if he had anything decent. But he called so quickly I thought he might had hit a set. Fortunately, he had 9s3s for bottom two pair and he was dead to a 3 or running spades. Neither happened and I dragged a very big pot. The table broke up soon afterwards for dinner and Scott and I, who are at the later seating, went to play some table games in the casino. Luck hit me there too and I was up $75 after a nice run. A great day all around so far.

I was going to play some more tonight, but I was convinced to go out to the club with some girls we met. We had some drinks together, but nothing else. Oh well. I was digging pretty deep in the well anyway, if you know what I mean.

7th and last day:

I woke up pretty early to play in the Limit tournament, where I got my butt handed to me. I lasted about an hour and 15 minutes due to some pretty bad luck. I won the first couple of hands and built up a decent chip lead early on, but I got my stack decimated when I flopped top pair with top kicker twice and lost to higher pocker pairs. After that, the blinds started going up and I couldn’t get anything going. I wasn’t the first one out, thankfully, but I was relatively down on the list. After that, I played some 2-4 limit in order to chill out and was able to drag a $33 profit. The worst hand for me was when I raised under the gun with AcKc and got re-raised by the number 7 seat. I capped it to 8 dollars and the flop was T72. I bet and he re-raised and I called. At this point, I put him on a high pocket pair but was very happy to see an Ace come on the turn. I bet and he only called this time. A 6 came on the river and I bet and he reraised! Was he slowplaying a set for another bet from me? I called and he showed 67 offsuit for two pair!!?!? I couldn’t understand the re-raise pre-flop but he got lucky by making his two pair after the Ace came. It was a big pot, but I made it back and then some with two straights and a flush. I’m going down now to play some 4-8.

I made a couple of bucks at the 4-8 game, but nothing spectacular. I had made a $75 profit early on, but just like the rest of this trip, I got whittled down by some ridiculous beats. It seems like I can’t hit anything and I’m getting outdrawn when I do have something. It’s quite demoralizing. I left the card room to see what was going on in the casino when I happened upon the boat’s 3-6 game. There were no card players from our group at the table and there was a wonderfully inviting seat open, just beckoning me to come and sit down, which I did dutifully. The table was a dream. I was getting calls to my reraises with bottom pair and, mercifully, no one was sucking out on me. I was up $90 in 15 minutes. I had visions of making all my money back on the last day when the inevitable happened and my bad luck started to come back. This hand says it all:

I had 89 in late position when I limp into the pot. The big blind raises to 6 dollars and all the players call, so I call. There are now 6 players in the pot and the flop is 356. I have an inside straight draw and two overcards. Everyone checks the board and a 9 comes on the turn. The original raiser bets 6 and gets one caller. I raise to 12 and the original raiser makes it 18! The other caller folds and I call what I think is a bluff. The river is a 5. He bets 6 and I call, smelling a straight. He shows J5. I had him read perfectly and he made his 5 outer on the river! This happened to me over and over and over again on this trip and I’m in a really bad rut right now.

As much fun as I had on the trip, this run of back cards has made me skittish. I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this other that continuing on with my head down like I’m running into a linebacker.

On another note, I’m really note sure if I would do a cruise again. The food was mediocre at best and the excursions all feel very “forced”. I much prefer a self directed agenda, which the boats don’t allow, and I like the idea of meeting a higher class of people. If I wanted to spend a week with white trash, I’d have gone to Arkansas.

Poker club outings

Wendy called me this weekend and convinced me to go over to a poker room on Houston Street to play in a tournament. I had been to this room before with my friend Jeremy, but they had never offered tourneys before. This one was a decent format. $50 + $10 gets you 2000 chips with 15 minute blind levels, much like us. Unlike us, there are rebuys allowed for the first 30 minutes. This leads to some pretty flaky play in the first 2 levels. The first night I went with Wendy, there were 16 players for two tables and three payouts. I couldn't get a thing going and finally dropped out in about 10th position. I had the two big stacks of the tourney to my right and left and they were going at it for the first 30 minutes like they didn't care about money. Both of them bought in at least twice and they hit some monster draws. I, on the other hand, couldn't get anything to challenge them with. Wendy made it to the final table, but busted out on the bubble unfortunately. I like this room because it's very small (3 tables) and they serve really amazing cappucino for nothing. Plus, the cook will make you pasta for $5 and omelletes for nothing. In addition, Wendy can practice her Italian with them so it's all good.

The next night, we did the same thing, this time with Matt in tow. I played pretty well but got crippled when my pocket 3's ran into pocket Jacks as I was trying to double up. Wouldn't you know it, but a Jack came on the flop to boot?!? My awful run of cards continues. I went into the cash game afterwards, with Matt following shortly. Wendy, who had dragged a huge pot earlier with KK, made it all the way into the money! She is now 2 for 3 in those tourneys, so you know she'll be back!

The cash game is incredibly wild there. If you have the stomach for it (I don't), you can make a fortune very quickly. Play started very conservatively, just like in AC with pre-flop raises at around $12. But that changed in 10 minutes flat when the guy to my right called a $200 bet with a flush draw and missed! I saw him do that three other times, all of them with Ten or Jack high flush draws that missed. He was down over $800 in the hour that I sat at the table. When Matt busted out of the tourney and joined me at the cash game, I was frankly afraid for him. I was up about $50 when Mr. Loosey-Goosey to my right paid me off on yet another missed flush draw, but Matt was liable to get clobbered here, and quickly. He bought in for $100 and lost it in about 15 minutes. But then he bought in for another $100 and cashed out 40 minutes later with $1,022!! It was all on two incredible hands. In the first hand, Matt had J8 offsuit (which he loves), in early position. He called two pre-flop raises to $65 total and there were 3 other players in the hand. The flop was 7c8d9c. Matt checked and the 4th seat checked. The 6th seat bets $250 (!) and the 8th seat (Me. Loosey-Goosey) goes all in for $620. Matt calls (!!!!) and the 4th seat folds. The 6th seat calls for the rest of his chips and the next two cards are run. They're two blanks with no clubs. When everyone shows their cards, the other two players have busted flush draws and no pairs! I tell Matt he wins if he has a pair and he says he doesn't. He almost throws his hand away when I point out that his pair of 8's wins! He was looking for the inside straight draw the whole way but ran into some ridiculous fortune of being in the right place at the right time.

That pot was over $500 but The Slayer wasn't finished. I whispered to him that he should get up and leave but he carved out his profit, set it on the table, and insisted he wouldn't go into the other chips. Which is why I was so bothered by what happened next. Matt, in the small blind called a raise to $40. There were two other callers in and the flop came Ah2d4h. Matt checked, the 5th seat checked and the 6th seat, who had raised initially, bet $60. Matt called and the 5th seat folded. Matt had used up nearly all his profit on this hand. He lifted his cards to check them again and I saw two red cards, so I assumed he was on a flush draw. A black 8 came on the turn and Matt checked again. The 6th seat bet $200 and Matt called! I buried my head in my hands and asked the person sitting next to me to tell me when it was all over. The river was a black 6 and Matt checked. The 6th seat checked as well and turned over A8 for top two pair. Matt turned over 3h5h. He WAS on a flush draw but had flopped the wheel straight for the monster win! Other than his check on the river (and the questionable call on the pre-flop raise in early position), he had played it perfectly. It must be nice to flop the nuts. I hope someone can tell me how it feels! :-)

I decided the best thing would be to force Matt to leave so I declared that the next hand would be our last and Matt left with a ridiculous profit taken from a bunch of sharks. Those guys HATE it when you hit it and quit it like that but such is life. The amazing thing is how much those guys bet with marginal drawing hands. If I had an unlimited bankroll, and the fortitude to withstand $40-60 pre-flop raises, I could practically mint money there.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I am soooo lazy

It's 1:10 AM and I'm going on the cruise tomorrow. I'm very excited and also very lazy because I am procrastinating packing. I am almost totally packed with my clothes but it's going to take me another 30 minutes or so to get together my toiletries, laptop, Ipod, etc.... I could have been in bed 2 hours ago if I had done all this when I got home from work but Noooooooo! That would have been responsible of me.

I admit that I'm feeling nervous about this trip. Not because of the poker but mostly because I have absolutely no idea what to expect. I've never been on a cruise before and I've been avoiding them mostly because I don't like the idea of being shuttled from port to port like a {shudder} tourist. Normally when I travel I like to go wherever I feel like at my own pace. That's a big part of why I'm doing a poker cruise rather than a normal cruise. This way, if I'm bored by the touristy crap, I can enjoy myself in the cardroom.

The other trepidation I'm having is the uncertainty of the other people going on the cruise. I'm really hoping there will be a contingent of young folk on board (not Mark Foley young, you sick and twisted pups). I really don't want to be the youngest guy on this cruise being eyed lascviciously by the mid-40's divorcees with 3 kids and alimony payments as her only income. I'm also hoping it's not all old married couples either. Then again, I don't want Spring Break in Cancun. I was hoping for something in the middle. Maybe, if I like this I'll do a Jewish singles cruise. Couldn't hurt, right? Besides, my mother would be thrilled. ;-)

On another note, I'm hearing lots of conflicting reports on the effect of this new poker legislation on online poker. Some pundits are saying it's death to online poker while others are saying that the law doesn't actually stop anything. In the meantime, Firepay, which is a main competitor to NetTeller, has announced that they will not be forwarding deposits from U.S. customers to poker sites even though they will accept payments from other sources. They must see something in the legislation that is harmful to them and if that's the case, perhaps NetTeller will too. It's a scary situation to be sure and I'm pretty upset about it. I'm betting it will be a big topic of conversation on the cruise. A note to all the conservative Republicans at our table: Why do you feel it necessary to legislate morality? 'nuff said.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The Atlantic City Slaughter

What a debacle this trip was. I should have known things were going to turn out like this when Matt missed the Garden State Parkway turnoff on the Jersey Turpike and we ended up going twenty minutes out of our way (in both directions)! But we finally did arrive in the city of dreams with Wendy in the back seat, and got right down to business. After checking in at the Sands, we dropped our stuff into the room and headed out to see if we could get into the 5PM tourney in the hotel. The poker room at the Sands is pitiful; small, ugly and uninhabited. Only 9 people were signed up at the time and we decided not to even boter. Instead, we took a cab over to the Showboat to get into their 7PM tourney.

We arrived, signed in, and still had an hour to kill before the tourney started. So I sat myself at a 1-2 No Limit table and proceeded to get my freak on. Instead, what I got was a beat down. My 6th hand at the table, I get pocket Aces in middle position. I love getting monsters early on before a table image is established because it's easy to manipulate the table into thinking you're bullying them. This is the tactic I tried as I made a raise to $12. I got only one caller, unfortunately; a semi-drunk kid of 21 who looked like a football player. He had been very loud and obnoxious and his friend was behind him telling him to calm down and apologizing for him. I was a bit annoyed that he called but he was acting like a loose player and I was hoping the flop would be something I could sting him with. The flop came down and I was dismayed. KQJ rainbow. The odds that this idiot was now beating me were enormous. Two pair was an easy read as he checked to me. I bet out $15 just to make sure and he started singing "I'm gonna outplay you" and re-raised me to $30. Now I knew he had something because he was representing a bluff. I made the call just to see the next card thinking an Ace or Ten would help me enormously but it was a blank. He led out the betting again and I folded. He showed me 9sTs for the flopped straight, much better than I thought. This hand was indicative of how the rest of my night would go. I would consistently get great cards and the flop would kill my chances of taking it down.

So I dropped $100 at the table waiting for the tourney but finally sat down for the event. The tourney did not go well at all and I only lasted about 45 minutes, never getting my chip count even past the 10,000 I started with. {Sigh}. I decided to switch things up a bit and moved over to the 3-6 Limit table which also didn't go well. I played there a few hours, losing $150 in the process, and seeing nothing. I mean absolutely nothing. None of my pairs flopped sets. None of my flush draws hit. None of my straight draws hit. If I had dragged only 2 of 3 of these draws, I would have been up. But this is how it is sometimes when the deck is cold. By this time, I was a little frustrated but I bought into the 11PM tourney and tried to clear my mind.

8 hands into the 11PM tourney, I get 55 in late position. Someone raises the 100/200 blinds to 400 and I call along with two or three other players. The flop comes K75 rainbow and I feel good because I finally hit. The original raiser bets 600 and I raise to 2000. Everyone else folds except the raiser, who calls. The turn is a 5 to give me quads and I start to think my luck is changing. If I'm REALLY lucky, he's got KK or 77 and I can double up quickly. He checks and I bet 2000, which he calls! Now I'm happy. Is he "slowplaying" me with the second nuts? The river is irrelevant to me and he checks again. I make a mistake by getting greedy and moving all in and he folds, leading me to believe he has AK. If I was smarter, I would have come in for a weak bet, 500 or 1000 and goaded him into check raising me all in. But I still made just over 5000 on that one hand and I was now the chip leader at the table, and probably the tourney, for a little while at least. This chip count was the best I would be able to do and I couldn't capitalize at all on my advantage. Every, and I do mean every, time I raised, I got re-raised aggresively from players behind me. Most of these were on hands I was trying to steal blinds from and I was forced to fold all of them. A prime example is when I was one off the button with A4. After everyone checked around to me, I bet 1200 with blinds at 200/400. The button folded and the small blind re-raised to 3000! I had to fold, of course. 10 hands later, in the same position, I did something similar with AJ and got reraised to 5000 by the big blind! Again, I had to fold. Just like that, my 5000 chip advantage was gone and I kept getting banged around. I finally tried to double up with KQ and got taken out by AT. Not my day for sure.

Now I was steaming a touch and I went to sit with Matt at a 1-2 No Limit table. Amazingly I played from midnight to around 4:30AM and I was actually about even with my $200 buyin. I was very tired and I wanted to go back to the hotel, but Wendy sat down with us and it was now me, Matt and Wendy at the table. I couldn't leave now but I definitely should have. Along with Wendy was a gentleman Wendy had become acquainted with at the other table who seemed like a shark if I ever saw one. He was a big round man with a massive pile of chips and an unlit cigarette in his mouth ala Sam Farha. He was friendly, but initimidating. My problem with new players at the table when you're bodily tired is that you have no table image with them and you're too tired to make good reads on them. It's doubly dangerous to play with them and your mental judgement and acuity is off. I lost about $50 mixing it up in a few hands when I got AQ in early position. I raised to $10 and got 4 callers, including Matt and the new guy, Randy. The flop came Q22 (nice!). I bet out $25 and Randy raised $60. Did he have the 2 or was he just trying to buy the pot, depending on his inimidating presence to bluff out the other less experienced players (myself included). In his hindsight, his body language and mannerisms told me that he had it, but I called anyway. The turn was a rag and I checked. He bet $100, and even said he would show me what he had if I folded, but I called all-in anyway. I was tired and I didn't care and it bit me right in the ass. He had Js2s. It was really loose of him to call my pre-flop raise with that junk but it paid off big time as I made the donkiest play of my life. What a crappy capper to a crappy day. Matt and Wendy stayed on and I took a cab back to the hotel, passing out instantly when my head hit the pillow. It was 5:15 AM and I was sleeping the sleep of the idiots.

The morning came and Wendy and Matt woke up with me at around noon. Wendy spent mosf of the next hour trying to connect to the internet (not successful) but we managed to get out of the hotel in time to go to the Hilton for their 2PM tourney. Matt had to leave us to go home for the holiday (Yom Kippur) and Wendy and I soldiered on. The tourney was an extension of last night and I crapped out on two successive hands in the first blind level. About 15 minutes into the tourney, I get KJ under the gun and I limp in for 50. The 5 seat raises to 200 and gets 3 callers. There is now over 900 in the pot so I call the extra 150. The flop comes Jh7h2h. I have top pair but a dangerous three heart board is staring me in the face. I bet out 600 and get one caller from the 5 seat, the original raiser. I was hoping to chase out heart draws but he stuck around. It's too early in the tourney to get a read on his play so I'm hoping for the best. The turn is the worst card that could come out for me, a King of spades. I have top two pair now. I make a continuation bet of 800 and he raises to 2000! Crap. My instincts tell me he flopped the flush but my mind engages and fouls things up for me. I start thinking he might have AK with the Ace of hearts. It would definitely fit the pattern of play. He raised pre-flop which is the right thing with AK. He called a big bet when the three hearts came. He's got two overs and the nut flush draw, so calling wouldn't necessarily be bad. He hits his King on the turn. Now he's got the nut flush draw and top pair with top kicker. Many players would feel that a raise would be in order there. I got so caught up in this story that I called. The river was a rag and I checked. He checked too; inexplicably as it turns out because he had AhQh! He had the absolute nuts and checked the river. Aaargh! I was down to my last 1150. Blinds were at 25/50 still but I was steaming now and pissed off at myself for playing into that. I was now the big blind and I got QdJd, a good drawing hand. The same 5 seat raised to 200 again and got a few more callers, the same situation as last hand. I called again for the same pot odds reasons and the flop was nearly the same as before: Jh5h3h. I now had top pair and I though the odds of flopping a flush two in a row were minimal. What was worse is that I now needed to chase these folks out even worse than last hand. I moved all in for my remaining 950. The 5 seat called AND the 9 seat! I knew I was dead, but received a slim ray of hope when the Qh hit on the turn. I had top two pair again vs. a more than likely flush but both players checked! If neither has a heart, I could be good here. The river did not make me a boat and the 5 seat bet out 2000. The 9 seat folded and the 5 seat showed down AsAh!!! I ran into a monster and he made the nut flush again on top of that. So I got cracked and went away to sulk and cool down.

Next to the poker room at the Hilton is the PaiGow/Baccarat room, with the attached noodle bar, that caters to the Asian players. I love playing PaiGow as it's a fun and mindless game where the variance in your up and down swings isn't that high. You can play for a while and not lose or win too much. So I sat down and for the first time all weekend, fortune smiled on me. I got a full house my first two hands and straights the next 4 hands in a row after that. Within twenty minutes, I was up $80 which was slightly more than my buyin for the tourney I had just gotten killed in. I was feeling a bit better and decided to play more poker, but this time at the much much slower 2-4 Limit table (a.k.a. "Grandma's Game"). The game was wonderful for my spirits. I caught a lot of flops, made a lot of draws and generally played great. I didn't chase long draws, I pumped up pots when I had the advantage and I made good reads on weak players, taking them for good sized pots. After 5 hours of play at a relaxed table, I quit up $153 for the session. That definitely helped not only my mood but it also alleviated my PnL for the weekend, making it not a complete washout.

Wendy and I finally got onto a bus at 10PM and hit the Port Authority at 12:15AM. A pretty good weekend overall.

Online gaming ban passes, President to sign into law

It's a dark day for online players. The house passed the Port Security bill today, of which a last minute addition was a section designed to prohibit any U.S. bank or credit card company from processing transactions deemed to be from overseas gaming companies (Read about it here). I will skip over the obvious issue about why it's unethical and immoral to pervert our lawmaking process by putting unrelated items into the same bill (Online game affects port security how?). Instead I will focus on what this means to us as online poker players.

We're screwed.

The legislation, which Bush WILL sign into law, will provide for significant penalties if U.S. firms process offshore gaming transactions. There is no wiggle room here either. Stock in PartyGaming (parent company of PartyPoker) as well as related poker sites plunged by 50% after passage of the bill. NetTeller, which doesn't even host gaming, went so far as to put out a press release saying the bill would have a "materially adverse" affect on future revenues. It is well known that even though online poker is technically illegal in the U.S., fully 60% or more of offshore gaming revenue is generated in our borders. That comes to millions of customers and billions of dollars. The legislation, as it stands, will effectively wipe that out.

Initially, I was skeptic as to how business wouldn't simply go on as usual via NetTeller or Firepay. How could banks or credit card companies possibly distinguish between legitimate online transactions and ones from gaming corporations? But if NetTeller is saying it will affect them then I have to believe that there is language in the bill to take care of companies like theirs.

Personally, I have very little direct stake in this since I stopped playing poker online, but I am afraid of how this will affect poker as a whole. Let's look at the domino effect this will create. If online poker sites lose revenue through the instantaneous loss of 60% of their membership, then the number of poker sites will shrink dramatically. The advertising budget of the remaining site will be a shell of their former selves. With the loss of the ad revenue from these sites, many TV shows featuring poker will dry up (think off all the Bodog.com, PartyPoker.com, etc... ads you see every day). After all, it doesn't make sense for the poker sites to advertise here when we can't play! With the reduction of TV time devoted to poker and the loss of the online sites, the number of poker players in the country will contract. Imagine all of the college students who play online now who will no longer be able to practice during the semester. How many of them live near a casino that offers poker? With the reduction of the number of players in the country, the number of tournaments and casinos offering poker will naturally decline to match the market. OVERALL EFFECT = Less poker and fewer fish for you and me.

However, there is a bright side, sort of. I find the marketplace to be very resilient and you simply can't stop pent up demand. If there are (at last guesstimate) 80-100 million poker players in the U.S., then that is a market that just won't be ignored. I predict that another method of payment will be developed that will take the place of NetTeller or credit cards. I don't know what that is but I have a feeling it will come relatively quickly.

Beyond my belief that the marketplace takes care of itself (regardless of laws), I can't imagine what this will do to the state of poker. The U.S. government has tried banning all sorts of vices for hundreds of years, with varying degrees of success. Will this be any more effective than prohibition was? Or will this be treated more along the lines of the ban on illegal drugs? And which one more adversely affects the country?

One thing I know for sure, Wall Street Poker, and other home games (legal or otherwise), will receive a BIG boost in interest. :-)