Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cheerleader cash in MTT

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I placed 8th out of 839 runners in a $3.30 MTT tourney on FTP last night. It took 4.5 hours to get there, but I cashed with a not too shabby, but far from awesome, $54.11. The payouts are insanely top weighted, but I still managed to make 16.4 times my buy-in, an accomplishment in any measure. I really wanted to make the final table here and I got tripped up when I got raised on the button by a LAG player whom I'd seen call off a third of his large stack with KTo. He raised to $20,000 on the button, with blinds at $4,000/$8,000 and antes at $1,000. I was in the BB with KQo. This was a 6-handed tourney (something I'm even more proud of because I normally don't do well with high aggression games), so KQ is definitely something I can race with short handed. I pushed for $140,000, hoping to double through a light call or even willing to race against a small pair, but he quick-called with AK and I was toast. Other than that mistake, I played pretty well. I was frustrated when one of the weaker players at the table managed to fol PF 4 different times against me when I re-raised him with KK or AA (!). Not once did he come over the top with his original raise. All the time, he was min-raising and it was too dangerous for me to flat call, so I made a small re-raise and he folded. Every time. Four times! These hands don't come easily, so it hurts not to get paid off on them.

Towards the end, I could feel my lack of aggression starting to hurt me, as my blinds got stolen more frequently in short handed play. Most of the game towards the end was PF play, so I have to work on my aggression to finish off these deep runs I make. Otherwise, I'm never going to make the big money.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Aaaaand it's gone

I wrote a post a little while back about how awesome Mint.Com is. Yeah, well today Intuit, the makers of Quicken, bought it. Why? Because it was awesome and a threat to the crappy personal finance software that Intuit has had a monopoly on for years and years. Guess what? When big companies have a business model that works, they don't buy smaller companies and tell them to keep doing everything they were doing before. They try to make them conform to their existing model (See Clear Channel, Microsoft and dozens of others).

So what's the over/under on Mint.Com sucking ass?

The title of this post comes from this awesome South Park clip (Watch and laugh):


By now, this is pretty much a music blog along with a poker blog scattered with personal matters, so I feel I can share this with you.

I watched a documentary a few days ago called "Before The Music Dies". The film is about how the music industry got into the sad state it's in, and how it can redeem itself. There are dozens of interviews and performances that are noteworthy. The best lines come from Erykah Badu, who looks stoned out of her mind when she's on camera, but is probably the most heartfelt and memorable.

But what really blew my mind the most was the first two minutes of the film. It's a clip of an old Ed Sullivan show. Ray Charles on piano and Billy Preston on lead vocals doing a short, but blistering, cover of Edwin Starr's "Agent Double O Soul", from 1964. Billy Preston is a revelation, with fantastic vocals and dance moves that come from outer space.

Watch it. It's the craziest cool two minutes of your life.

Oh, and note to self: Check to see if Hulu.Com has the movie you want before you buy it off of ITunes!

Must read post

F-train has a great post about taking losses into context. You have to read this if you're a poker player. *are* a poker player, aren't you?

Omaha kills profits

I love Omaha. I'm a bonafide Omaholic, thanks to CK and her cracked out ways. But I'm having an issue with Omaha at this present moment. Namely, I suck at it.

Big time.

Now, if you sat with me at an Omaha table and watched me play, you wouldn't think I was that bad. My hand selection doesn't seem too off (more on that in a second), I'm betting when I'm ahead with big draws, and I'm folding with the worst hands. So my fundamentals seem sound, to me at least, but my historical records tell me a different story. I'm a solid loser at Omaha games, losing most of my sessions and making only meager profits when I win. I'm a big believer in not getting emotional about the game of poker and trusting in the math. So if the math is telling me I suck at this game, it must be true.

So where's my leak, if my fundamentals are ok (an iffy assumption but let's run with it for now)? I think it has to do with my starting hand selection. I'm starting to get the feeling that I'm being TOO tight with my starting hands. In Hold'em, this isn't too much of a problem, because your premium hand selections, when bet properly, will most often win the pot, assuring you a small but steady profit. But in limit Omaha, your premium starting hands will only win about half the time, or less, owing to the fact that you can't get people off their hands in limit and Omaha hands are easily counterfeit-able. So I'm starting to be of the opinion that I need to widen my hand selection a bit. For example, at this moment, I'll only play these hands:
Any A2
Any suited pairs, Jacks or higher (by suited pairs, I mean a high card with another card of the same suit, not two Queen of Diamonds!)
A3, 23, or A4 with two face suited cards
Any combination of high Broadway cards

But maybe, just maybe, I can add a few more selections to my repetoire. What about:
3,4,5 with a high suited card
A45 by itself
89TJ (high straight possibilities but no Broadway)

And maybe there are other possibilities I haven't thought of yet. One thing's for sure, for the sake of my bankroll I have to stay off of Omaha until I can figure out what's going on. I should be crushing the game at the Borgata, but I'm getting my as handed to me my donkeys. So my new mission is to tighten up my game by reading at least two Omaha books and then attacking the game online at low limits to test out the theories. Then, and only then, will I be playing Omaha at any level above 2-4.

Of men, ladies, pink chips and bubbles (Part Two of Two)

Saturday morning, we all got up at a decent hour for the 11am Ladies tournament start. Not me, though. I had taken two Simply Sleep pills (thanks Tylenol!) and woke up just enough to babble to Wendy before falling back asleep at 11:00 and not waking up again until 3:30p! Keep in mind that I had fallen asleep the night before at 2:00a. I guess my body really needed that.

I was getting text messages from Chris and Wendy about the state of the tournament and they seemed to both be doing pretty well. Good chip stacks, bad players and ~270 runners in a nice field. Wendy asked me to bring her some caffeineited teas, so I got showered and dressed and brought her what she needed. We chatted about the tourney and how she was doing and she broke the big news to me. There were at least two guys playing in the Ladies tournament that day. One was a transvestite, and no one seemed to have a problem with a man who thought of himself as a woman playing in the tournament. The other, however, was a bonafide man. And not only that, but a professional player with $650,000 of tournament winnings in his career.

It's unseemly to me, on it's face, to have a man play in a tournament designated for women. There's been a lot of talk on the 2+2 forums about this with the camps being divided into:

A. This is a Ladies tournament for, you know, ladies.
B. Why should there be any discrimination at all? If a Ladies tournament is valid, what about a Jewish tournament? Or a tournament for people over 6 ft. tall? Let the guy play.

The fact is, the law requires the casino to let men enter, so they did, but with lots of vocal opposition. They tried their best to make the guy feel like shit about it and he didn't care. In the face of all the opposition and a room full of women who wanted to bust him, the guy won.

He fucking won. The Ladies tournament. Oh, best part, the woman he beat heads up for the win was playing to raise money for her breast cancer surgery recovery in a few weeks, when she'll be getting a double masectomy.

So, to recap for the moment, a professional male poker player entered a $300 tourney so he could beat up on women who tilted at the sight of him and tried his best to take money from a woman who's getting her tits chopped off so she can survive cancer.


He says he's going to donate his winning to charity, but I'll believe that when I see it. The truth is there were plenty of other tournaments running that day, with higher buyins and higher payouts, and the only reason he got into this one was because he saw an opportunity. He figured, hey, there's lots of dead money in this tourney. Why not play the edge? And that's what makes him a douche. Women poker players, on the whole (not individually), are not as good as men. And why should they be? There's far fewer of them and the game has historically been played by men, with women not even given the opportunity to play except in the last few years. And the bottom line is, it's good for the game as a whole for women to have their own "thing", so to speak. For a guy to come in and ruin that is demoralizing for women playing poker. Even moreso that he won, giving the "men are mentally superior" crowd some false grist with which to gin their mill (how many idioms did I cram in there?). So the guy's an asshole and that's the end of that rant.

Chris busted out in about 80th place, but Wendy made a strong showing and busted out just short of the money by trying to make a 11xBB shove with a suited Ace and ran into KK. Her play was aggressive, but defensible. Her style is to play to win, not just to make the money, but my feeling is that with 11BB, you're most likely not going to win anyway. Personally, I would have waited for at least another orbit before trying to shove, and then when I was in later position. But that's just two different styles. If she had won that pot, she would have had about 14 or 15 BB's and might have made a much deeper run.

In the meantime while this drama was unfolding, I was downstairs in the poker room playing more Pink Chip Omaha. This time, I was getting slaughetered. I took about 4 hours, but I lost a rack and another hundred dollar buyin for a $350 loss. I wasn't happy about it in the least. I took a break to see how Wendy and Chris were doing in the tourney and then went back to the tables for some 1-2 NLHE. I did a lot better, but it wasn't easy. I was at a pretty sharky table, with maybe two donks that I could identify. The whole room was hopping with Borgata Open tournament players and it made the level of play higher, or at least wilder, than normal. I tried to adjust but it wasn't easy. I went down $80 quickly on a couple of missed flops and then I managed to get a T5 in the BB and it limped around to me. The flop was T82. Top pair and a flush draw? I bet $15. It folds around to an action type player who pops me to $30. I put him on a naked top pair and I shove for $105 more and he insta-calls with T*h8. Ouch. My two pair draw is counterfeited and I can only win with a spade, which naturally doesn't come. I rebuy for $160 and manage to grind it all the way down to $30 when Chris comes over to tell me she busted out. She rails me for a while, urging me to rebuy some more in case I hit a big hand but I decide to see where this short stack will take me.

All the way to the promised land, evidently.

I get 44 on the button and a guy raises to $10, another guy calls and I shove with $30. Both players call. Flop is A85. I figure I'm dead to the Ace and start hoping for another 4. But it goes check-check on the flop! Turn is 3. Now I have a wheel draw too. Check-check again! River is 9. Check-Check one more time. They show down KQ and KJ, respectively and my pocket fours scoop! Yay! Back up to $90, I get JJ and raise to $15. A guy shoves for his last $80 and I call. He shows TT and the flop is J55, locking it up for me. Turn and river are meaningless and now I'm back up to nearly $200. An hour later, feeling better about my situation and with my stack at about $240, I call a pf raise to $10 with QTs. There are four other people in the pot and I flop the joint. 89J, rainbow. It checks around and the turn is 3, putting a heart flush draw on board. I bet out $30, get one caller and then a raise to $100! I re-shove, the middle guy gets out of the way with what he said was J8, and the raiser calls with JJ for top set! I dodge a paired board on the end and just like that I'm at $530 after stacking my opponent. I play for another two hours, peaking at $610 but endind the session at $503. My opponent was on major tilt after that and I managed to take a nice pot off of him by making a good read, sending him on Super-Uber tilt (he was in for at least 5 buyins). The situation was, I had ATo in the BB and it limped around to me. I check and the flop is AJ3. I don't like the board and I check. It checks around. Turn is a 5. It checks to Tilty McTiltster, who bets $15. I call and everyone else folds. River is a 4. No flush on board. I check, he pauses and bets $60. It was such an outsized bet (2X the pot) that my instincts immediately said, bluff! Now, a good player would know I thought he was titlting and made that bet with the nuts or two pair, but he wasn't a good player. He was actually tilting. I called, showing top pair-ten kicker (oohs and ahhs from the gallery) and Tilty mucked. He was a dangerous opponent after that, overbetting quite a bit and you never knew where he was at. I didn't tangle with him after that and he managed to build a $500 stack before blowing it yet again.

It was 4:30a when I picked up and my table was still super action-y and raucous fun, but I was tired. I stopped by to pick up Wendy, who reminded me that the rollover was happening in 15 minutes and I might as well stay for that. The rollover, for the uninitiated, is the time in the early morning when The Borgata automatically clocks out all of their poker players. They do this do you don't build up comp points while not actually playing. Normally, comp points are built up at the poker table for every hour of play, but the room is too chaotic to keep track of every player, so they tend to rely on the players themselves to get clocked in and out from the floor. But if you clock in at a table and the just leave the casino, you're still building up points even though you're not playing. The points get added to your card when you clock out. So the rollover prevents people from clocking in on Monday and clocking out on Friday. BUT, if you're present at the rollover, you get clocked out and then clocked back IN for the next day. So we just stayed to the rollover, left our tables and slept, making beautiful comp points while we slept. Mmmmm...Comp Points....

Though we got into bed at 6:30a, I managed to get up at 11:00a and prepare myself for another day of poker. No Omaha today, just 1-2NL. My table today was even sharkier than last night! I went around the table with my eyes and couldn't identify even a single donater. For two hours, my stack stayed exactly even and I was getting any hands at all. It was brutal. I was about to ask the floor for a table change when the three big stacks at the table got up simultaneously and were filled in by much fishier players. Whew. I stayed at the table, still not getting hands and ground it out for another two hours. Just when I was ready to give up, I called a PF raise to $12 with 34 in middle position with 4 other callers. The flop was a beautiful A25. Yay wheel flop! I checked and the raiser bet out $25. Ok, I know he has an Ace. Probably a high ace like AK, AQ, justifying the PF raise. My goal now is to stack him. I called the bet (everyone else folded) and prayed for him to improve on the turn. Please god, put an Ace, King or Queen on the turn. Just this once. I'll sing your praises forever (or at least in my next blog post).

The turn: A

Hallelujah and praise his name! Back up the Brinks truck, we're gonna need a wheelbarrow here!

I check again and he bets $30. At this point, I'm representing a weak Ace or a flush draw. If I were him, I would have bet for value higher than $30 because a donkey player isn't giving up trip Aces. But he bet $30 and the river was an 8. I was now 100% sure I was good. I needed to figure out how to stack him and decided that if I checked, he was going to fire. I checked, he bet half his stack and I went into the "tank". Not really, but I had to make it look good. I finally put him all in and he looked dejected. I guess he figured I might have made an A8 boat, but he called and was shocked to see me table a straight. Double up! I was at $440, where I stayed for the next few hours. Chris was taking a beating at 2-5 and when she finally gave up the ghost it was 6pm. I was about to leave my table, playing my last UTG hand when I looked down at 89. I was kind of praying that I didn't have a hand to play, but I had to see a flop. I limped and the next player popped it to $12. I would have called if it hadn't folded around to me, but I'm not playing heads up out of position with 89s. Sorry, Homie don't play dat (trip down memory lane anyone?). The thing is, I had all red chips in front of me, ready to rack and go, and I had broken one to limp for the $2, so now I had $3 in whites sitting in front of me. $3 in Whites = a big blind and a small blind and look at this! It was my turn to be big blind! I anted up and got 73o. Boo, poker. It limped around as I prayed audibly for someone to raise me out of this hand. No one did, but I had the woman to my right in hysterics with my antics. She'd been there before, trying to leave and not get stacked on your last hand of the weekend. The flop was A76. Despite my praying, I hit the flop and it checked all the way around! Oh, shoot. The turn (please don't hit me, please don't hit me) was a 3. Oh darn. I bet $12, got one call, and then a raise to $35! I said to the woman, "You see where this is going, right? I'm not leaving here with anything." She smiled and nodded knowingly. I looked at the board, A763 and thought about what kind of hand would limp PF, check on the flop and raise the turn. I came to the conclusion that he either had 45 for the nut straight, A3 for a better two pair or was semi-bluffing with 85 for the up and down draw. I was out of position and didn't feel like playing a big pot with a hand that was behind most of the scenarios I could think of, so I flashed to the woman to my right, said, "I'm playing such scared money right now" and folded. Middle guy folded too and the raiser was about to muck when I flashed my cards to the woman and she said, "Are you retarded, folding that?" I showed the table and the raiser showed 76 for a flopped better two pair! Good read Jamie. Knowing my luck, the case 7 would have hit the river and I would have been felted. So I got away, not even playing the SB and left the table with about $420.

The ride home was unbelievably smooth considering it was Sunday night and we left at 7pm. Not a single lick of traffic and we were home in 2 hrs. flat. Coolio.

A great weekend altogether but it's only got me jonesing for more. I'm going to have to put a lid on it for a while and deal with online poker. Maybe I'll use the time to read some of my Omaha books. December will be my uber-awesome Arizona trip and I'll probably have one ore two more AC weekends in between then.

Gotta find me a good home game...

Of men, ladies, pink chips and bubbles (Part One of Two)

Oh man, what an interesting weekend I had at the Borgata. As some of you may know, I'm having revision septoplasty surgery on Sept. 23rd, which will put me out of commission for about a week. And my October weekends are more or less booked up with weekend getaway trips with Ali, so I won't be playing any poker for a while. Which is why, during a dinner with Paulie, Christine, Ali, Myself, Liezl, Viet and the lovely new Luna, I was excited to hear that Ali was actually cool with me taking the weekend off to play in Atlantic City. After a wonderfully zany time getting Wendy to take the number 9 bus down to the Financial District, Christine, Wendy and I took off from the city and got down to the Borgata in a sharp 2hrs and 15 minutes.

The excitement was building inside me as we checked into the room. I couldn't drop off my stuff fast enough and we all headed down together. What was I excited about? It was only poker after all, and I had played it a thousand times before. But this trip was special for one reason. Two words: PINK CHIP!

A bit of background first. When I was a young pup, just learning the game of poker, in a time before all of this no-limit hold'em nonsense took hold, the game of choice was 7-card stud. And the first full fledged poker room I ever played 7 card-stud in was The Tropicana in Atlantic City. For years, that was the only room I went to when I found myself in AC. Those were the bad old days when I would also play table games like Carribean Stud and Let It Ride. What was I ever thinking? Not too much later, I was introduced to Hold'Em and played in the little 2-4 and 3-6 limit games, also in the Trop. Whenever I played in the room, there was always one table in particular that seems to be having the most fun, making the most noise and had the prettiest chips in the casino. It was the Pink Game, so called because the game used $2.50 chip, colored pink by New Jersey law. The game was $7.50/$15.00 limit Hold'em and only the pink chips were in play. The dealer would call out the bets and raises in numbers of chips rather than denominations. For example, a call and a raise would be "Three chips...Six chips...", rather than "$7.50...$15.00...". It was all quite exciting to watch and made even more magical by the fact that the table was the focal point of the room, placed front and center at the entrance, and spoken about in nearly mythical tones by the players in other games. It was my dream to work my game up to the point where I could sit at that game.

Finally, after months of building conifdence, I sat down at the game with a rack of pink chips, $250 all told, and got slaughtered. It wasn't even close. All of the limit games I had played to this point were fun affairs with very few raises and no re-raises at all. When people bet, you knew what they had and there was no such thing as bluffing (at least it never worked). But the Pink Chip game (capitalized for proper respect), was totally different. It was the first time I saw people bluff successfully, three-bet pre-flop, make great reads with middle pair, bet for value, etc... In other words, real poker. And real money could be won or lost. More than once I saw opponents with stacks of chips in four tiers at the table. Sometimes twelve or thirteen hundred dollars in front of them. The game attracted wild, loose players and tight players too. It was chatty and congenial but tough, and I met some really great players along the way. Dealers too. One of the dealers even asked me out once (Paulie can vouch, he was there)! After a few months, I finally got used to the game and even got good at it, and when I started going down with the Wall Street crew to Atlantic City, almost 5 years ago now (!), the Tropicana was one of our regular stops. This was pre-Borgata times. While they would all go play no-limit, I would crack out at the Pink Chip game and have a blast. The money involved at the Pink Chip game would set me up to be very comfortable at 1-2 NL Hold'em, which made a great transition for me.

Sadly, the Pink Chip game at the Trop died a few years ago. It wasn't a sudden demise, but it was quite noticeable. If I had to guess, I'd say the opening of The Borgata poker room was what ultimately did the deed. Once all the No-Limit players moved to the much nicer Borgata, the Taj started to up their ante with the limit players. Both of those rooms sucked out all of the Trop players, and I blame the room management who did absolutely nothing to keep those players. The final nail hit when the Trop closed up a portion of their poker room last year and replaced the tables with slots. The poker room still exists, but it's much smaller than it was with almost no action these days. so sad...

Ok, that's the background. The foreground is that the Pink Chip game has been revived, at the Borgata! Sort of. Officially, there are lists for Pink Chip Omaha/8, Hold'em and Stud/8. And while I heard the list for Hold'em and Stud/8 being called this weekend, those games never got off. Omaha/8, though, was a different story, with 3 different tables of Pink Chip O/8 running at the same time. I got into the game post-hast upon my arrival and did pretty well for an hour or so, stacking about $100 in profit when I ran into the cooler that sent me on tilt. My hand was QQ23 double suited and I called a raise, going heads up with one player who had just sat down. The guy had the look of action player to him and raising his first hand pre-flop was a good indicator. The flop was excellent for me, KQ5 rainbow, but both of my suits on the board. I led out and he raised! Pocket Kings? Possibly. I slowed down and called. Turn was a King. Now it's harder to put him on KK, so I led out again, he raised again! I called again. The river was meaningless and I check-called the river and he showed down AK45, single suited for Kings full of 5's. Ouch on the two outer! It's plays like this guy made that have me scratching my head about Omaha. Raising PF with that hand? And then raising top and bottom pair? Yeesh. Of course, this sent me tilting and tilting even a little in Omaha is bad. I left the table after going from +100 to -100 in an hour. I had had enough.

I found a 1-2 NL table and managed to get hit by the deck in the first 5 minutes. My second hand at the table was 85 (suited gap connectors, what?) and the flop was 885. Helllllloooooo boat! Unfortunately, no one had hit any of that. I checked the flop with 3 players and the turn was a Queen. I bet it and everyone folded. Boo. But my very next hand was A9o. I limped and called a PF bet to $10, alonf with 4 others. Flop was 999. DQB! (Dems Quads Bitches!) I flopped the nut hand and checked, naturally. Everyone checked along. Turn was a 4 of spades, putting a spade draw on board. I was first to act and checked again. Everyone else checked. I was waiting for a high card that would give somebody a big boat. The river was what I wanted: K. Not only a high card, but a flush as well! I sprang my trap, trying to represent the flush. I bet out $25 (half-pot) and got popped to $50 by another player. I went into Hollywood mode and tried to figure out what he'd call. I figure he beat my "flush" with his King but he'd get suspicious if I went all in. So I put $100 on top and he looked deflated. "Quads? Really?" Finally, he made the call, flashed the King and mucked to my quad 9's! Yay! My Omaha losses were erased in one swift hand (my theme for the weekend). After another hour, I was up just a little for the day ($40) and was getting tired. Wendy and Chris both wanted to play the ladies tournament the next day and Wendy went to bed at about 1:00a, which is a record for her. I followed shortly afterwards, but not before winning $50 playing craps (a record for me!). Chris, played the role of Wendy by staying at the tables until at least 4:00am. It had been a long, but exciting day.

Friday, September 11, 2009


It's been a busy week for me poker wise. Not so much playing, though I did get a live session in last night, but in planning.

My Arizona trip for Dec. 4th - Dec. 13th is a go. And there's going to be a lot on my plate. I still can't post the full itinerary yet, because I'm not sure where I'll be staying in Phoenix, mostly because Christine hit me up with the great news that she might be joining me for the tail end of my trip! Evidently, she has a friend in Tucson and can mix the two things together. I've never had anyone join me for these poker sojourns, so the company would be most welcome. But if we're going to split a hotel room for a few days, it'd be good to have her schedule locked down before I can book it. Hence the pause in posting my full schedule.

But here's a small preview of what's in store:
Dec. 4th - Fly into Phoenix and drive halfway to Tucson before spending the night

Dec. 5th - Drive to Tucson and hit up two poker rooms. Drive northeast about 80 miles to another poker room and spend the night in Globe, AZ

Dec. 6th. - Drive Northeast another 80 miles to hit up a room. Drive 65 miles west to hit up a room in Payson. Drive 60 miles Northwest to play in a room in Camp Verde, AZ and spend the night.

Dec 7th. - Crazy time. Drive to Prescott airport, about 90 minutes away and take a plane to Farmington, New Mexico. Rent a car and drive 90 minutes to a casino in Towaoc, Colorado, in the Southwest portion of the state. Spend the night.

Dec. 8th. - Drive back to Framington, New Mexico, drop off my car and fly back to Prescott, Arizona. Play in a poker room in Prescott. Possibly do some photography near Sedona. Drive to Parker, Arizona at the western border of the state and play in a room there. Drive down to Blythe, California to play in a bar there and spend the night. Lots of traveling on this day!

Dec. 9th - Drive down to El Centro, California, near the Mexican border. This is prime Photography day because I can't play in the room in El Centro, CA until 5:30p, because that's when the games get started (it's a bar). I might head up to Salton Sea and take some photos there. Or maybe just wander in the desert and see what I find. After I play in El Centro, I hit the road and go east to Yuma and spend the night in a casino resort there (yes, there's a poker room as well).

Dec. 10th - I get up early and drive into Phoenix, where I will spend the rest of my trip. There are 6 casinos in the Phoenix area, so I will use the 10th, 11th and 12th to hit them all before I fly home on the 13th.

All in all, there will be 18 poker rooms on this trip, four plane rides and two different rental cars. Certainly my most ambitious trip to date. I can't even begin to say how excited I'm getting for it. My trip through the midwest was awesome for me, but there wasn't as much to see in terms of natural beauty. I expect, traveling across the mountains and valleys and deserts of Arizona, that I will get to see a lot more. Cacti, anyone?

Back to the home games

For the first time in a long time, I played in a home game last night that wasn't mine. There is a game I've played in ocassionaly in midtown but I haven't had the time or energy to go to that one lately. But an opportunity came to me when I got an email from Weikei, a player in the Wall Street Game, that his regular home game was looking for players. They normally play limit Hold 'Em, and sometimes Omaha, which is right up my alley. I have kind of a tempestuous love affair with limit poker. I grew up playing it so I'm used to the rhythms of it (that is to say, how slow it is). I'm also used to the incredible suckouts suffered in limit. What I'm having a hard time gettings used to, though, is how badly I do at it. I hardly ever seem to do anything more than break-even at limit poker, which is frustrating to me. I seem to play all-right, but after all the swings are taken into account, I'm hardly ever up more than a few blinds. Even though I play far fewer hands in no-limit, I prefer the idea that I can protect my stack, boring though it may be. In limit, there are too many situations where you have the worst of it but are obliged to call because you're getting the right pot odds.

I arrived at the game at 7:30p. The location is not what I'm used to. It's an office in a Tribeca building with a little round snack table and a table cloth over it. At least the cards and chips were good. The people who played are perfectly nice, and fairly good players. I drew an awful seat, with the two loosest and craziest players directly on my left. Only 7 players played, which is also not my style. I prefer a full table when I play ring games, so I be more selective with my hands without the blinds whipping around so often. The game was $4-$8 limit. There was a $1 rake taken at $20/$40/$100 to pay for a dinner or freeroll or some such. I had no problems with that at all.

Last night was a typical up and down limit session for me. I went on a card rush early, which in limit doesn't mean much if your starting hands don't stand up! But mine were holding up early on. At the end of two hours, I was up about $150 on a $200 buyin. Not bad at all. I was getting tired at about 10:00p, but I had already been told that given the small number of players, leaving early wasn't allowed until 11:30p. Since I had already been told in advance about it, I couldn't argue.

So there I was, with a nice profit, when I pick up KK on the button, for about the fourth time today. I had won twice and lost twice with KK, but I wasn't playing them any differently than I should be. I raised on the button and got calls from the BB and UTG. These two players were the loosey-goosey crazies. I had been calling light with them and winning, so I couldn't put them on anything here. The flop is 9 8 2. BB checks, UTG Bets and I raise. BB re-raises (!), UTG folds and I call. At this point, I put him on A9, or an overpair. A set of 8's or 9's certainly crossed my mind. I made up my mind to call his turn and river bets regardless, making a note that when I had called down his aggression in an earlier hand, he had shown Three high on the river! The turn was the 8. It was a bad card for me. At this point, all I'm beating is a stone bluff or a semi-bluff (Ten Jack?). But I put the bets in regardless on the turn and river (a blank) and he showed me 82o! WTF?!?! He's in the blind, sure, but how often do you flop a winning hand with 82o? Holy crikey!

That hand set off a chain of events that ensured I lost al of my profit. Not always to bad play. Our host was nice enough to bet into my Jacks with A 4, flop garbage, and then go runner-runner flush for the win. And I flopped bottom two on a board of A56, and the tightest player at the table led out. I raise, he calls. Turn is an Ace. He leads and I fold. Disgusting.

So I left the game at 11:30p at -49, BUT I had paid $25 for dinner with chips, so really I was -24. That's fine for a little home game, but my frustration and simultaneous love of limit poker continues.

I feel a bit like a battered wife whose husband hits her brutally for four hours straight and then is crying in his living room chair an hour afterward saying he's sorry and telling me he loves me. Why do I stay with you, Limit Poker? Why?

P.S. I know the gender roles are mixed up in the above analogy, but there aren't too many battered husbands. Just deal with it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

When you come to a fork in the road...

...take it.

I saw a movie last night that I'd been dying to see, "It Might Get Loud". The movie is a documentary about three guitarists, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, The Yardbirds and others, The Edge of U2 and Jack White of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs. The director of the film invited the three generations of rock guitarists to a summit of sorts where they would talk about their influences, music and maybe jam a little. On the way, the film has segments featuring the three guitarists in the different locales where they grew up and started playing. There's a segment of Jimmy Page in his hometown in England along with a trip to Headley Grange, where Led Zeppelin recorded much of the Led Zeppelin IV album. The Edge has segments in Dublin along with a great trip to the school where he and the other lads formed U2 as teenagers. Jack White has segments in the rougher areas of Detroit where he started.

Interspersed amongst all of this is archival footage of the guys as young men, before they were famous. Jimmy Page is featured in a wonderful film clip where he is playing skiffle music on an English TV show. He must be about 14 at the time, many years away from fame and fortune. When the TV host asks him what he'll do when he grows up, his answer is "Biological Research". Jack White, who used to apprentice at a furniture upholstery shop, explains from photographs how the shop owner used to jam with him after the workday was over. White is shown extensively throughout the film tinkering with instruments and you can see the direct connection between his work with furniture and his obsessive crafting of guitars and other sounds. One of his guitars has a vocal mic on a wire built right in so he can take it out during a concert and sing right into it. Like a power cord on an old vaccuum cleaner, the mic zips right back into place inside the guitar when he's done with it. The footage of him using it is raw indeed.

The film had amazing promise, bringing three different generations of guitarists, all of whom stretched and expanded their instrument's boundaries. But the film wanders aimlessly quite a bit and never seems to find real focus. It's almost like the filmmaker, in obvious awe of the legends he's gathered, is content with filming a reality show and forgets he's telling a story. But there are some great moments in there, if you're interested in this kind of music. Most of the best moments come from Jack White, who I'm convinced is this generation's best musician. His honesty, abilities and hauntingly scorched vocals always bring me back to what music is supposed to be. He spends a good deal of time in the film discussing why he thinks honesty in music is so important. As he plays a record of the Delta Blues musician, Son House, who's doing nothing more than singing and clapping on a record, he nearly tears up at the emotional intensity. No instruments on the record, just a mic, a clap and a vocal. This is his favorite record, he says. "People know when you're being honest. They know when you're telling the same joke onstage between songs that you told last night in Poughkeepsie." White also has a great throw-away line at the end of the movie. His car is going down a back-alley, behind the studio, on his way home, and they nearly hit a guy walking in the alley with a suit on and a cell phone to his ear.

"We nearly hit a suit with a phone," he says, turning to the camera. "I bet he was saying something with the words 'totally organic' in it."

White's disdain for all that is fake and processed is searing and jarring. And beautiful. He's only concern is to expose the true emotion of his feelings, or any feeling, and that's what makes him a fantastic artist. I always get the feeling that he could absolutely care less how many records he sells, just so long as he satisfies his need for expression in a manner which he can live with, artistically. Almost like he's making that point, he picks up an old guitar in his attic, starts an old reel-to-reel machine and starts making up a song to some lyrics he had jotted down earlier. He records for maybe two minutes, winds the tape, and then hands it to a guy off-camera saying, "that's it".

But the biggest jolt for me came in a scene with The Edge. As he's touring around his old grade school, you can see the shock of recognition on his face as he's remembering how this juggernaut of a band he's in got it's start. He goes to the classroom where they used to practice. He stands on top of the impromptu concrete stage where his band played it's first 'gig' in the schoolyard and the wave of nostalgia and memory washes over him. He remembers the details of where he stood and says, "I was on the right over here next to Bono. In fact, that's where I've stood ever since." The film is driving home the point that what we do in our youth is what we end up doing quite often as adults.

As he's leaving the school he looks wistfully at the old corkboard in the hallway where his bandmate, Larry Mullen, first put up the ad that got the band together. "If I'd never answered this," he says, "I wonder if I would be doing what I'm doing now. Probably not. I'd probably be working in a bank somewhere."

And that's what hit me the most. *I'm* working in a bank somewhere (ok, an insurance company but it's the same for the purpose of this conversation). And I started to ask myself, did I take all the right paths in my life? Have I made the most of all the opportunities that presented themselves? Why aren't I a rock star right now? Am I really happy doing what I'm doing?

The fact is that life is a funny game sometimes. People make it big, or they don't, and quite often it's complete luck. If The Edge hadn't answered that ad, the band might have gotten an inferior guitarist and they may never have made it and we would have been without U2. If I had had more luck in my life, I might be in a different spot. Or maybe I've been very lucky and made the most of my opportunities and this is just as far as I could have come at this point. Dawn had an interesting post a few days ago where she talked about Robert Frost's famous poem, "The Road Not Taken". Are we really all the victims/beneficiaries of the roads we travel? And is it our fault if we choose one path over another? How are we to ever know if we chose the 'right' path?

I prefer to think that life is a random collection of events, the interactions of which end up determining what happens to us. In other words, it's more or less luck. But we have an amazing ability granted to us as thinking individuals. We can absolutely make the most of our circumstances. We can live life to the fullest, we can recognize being fortunate and take happiness in what we've achieved. If you live your life in comparison to others, you'll never truly be happy. There is always someone more talented, more handsome, richer, happier. Your only hope to come out of this world better than you came in is to make sure that YOU are as happy and satisfied as you can be. You need to please yourself.

I want to be a rock star. I do. But I'm not upset in the least that I'm not. I recognize the reality of a 37 year old man, with limited ability, breaking through to the big time. So instead of putting it all on the line to chase a one in a million dream, I am very happy tasting the smaller triumphs of my own life. I'm making the best with the gifts I have and not regretting the roads I've traveled. They've gotten me here, and that's not a bad place at all. Not at all.