Sunday, November 30, 2003

My Brain on Rec.Gambling.Poker

I'm sitting here at work. It occurred to me that I never mentioned what I actually do, yet went into a diatribe about it in my last post. Anyway, I am a dispatcher for a regional airline.

So, I'm sitting here at work. Chicago has slipped into some damn fool ground delay program because they can't handle the inbound load of airplanes. It's 20 miles and clear with a nice light breeze out of the west... Must be time for a program. This is the 27th day running that they have gone into a program. If we're pissed, I can only imagine what United and American must be feeling! Not to mention people trying to make connecting flights. This is, as we say, a Texas Sized goat rope.

Since flights are delayed an hour for no apparent reason, I find myself with a few minutes here and there to stare into space. That sucks, so I usually start thinking happy thoughts, like running through my recent titanic suckage in low limit Hold'Em. I've gone back to my usual suspects for information to correlate what my game looks like vs. what my game SHOULD look like to be a winning player, when it suddenly occurred to me...

I'm scared!

My confidence really took a hit the other day when I took a huge loss. Ever since then, I've been stumbling around like Rocky after the first real hit from Clubber Lang. I take jabs at pots and flinch when something remotely bad comes on the board. Any time I do press the issue I get smacked on the river, most of the time on draws I should have seen coming. I sit down at the table now wondering where the next loss is going to come from... This is a bad way to be, and explains why I've been losing. It also illustrates in graphic detail that your unconscious mind has a huge impact on your conscious decisions.

So, now I suppose I should do some Yoga or something before I sit down at the virtual card table... I suppose. Either that or knock back a couple of drinks and put up a nice buzz so I don't get so uptight when I initially start losing. My huge win day last week began with a $10 deficit, so I really need to just relax and take the same attitude to the poker table that I take to the craps tables; The money I sit down with is already gone.

Clearly it isn't, but that mentality helps me relax and feel comfortable pushing those bets out.

Of course, that's the conscious part.. I hope the unconscious part follows suit... I'll find out tomorrow.


I'm staying the Hell out of ring games for the immediate future. Sat down and immediately started distributing my money to everyone else at the table. Bled $9 in about 20 minutes at the 50/1 table and I got up and ran away screaming like a girlie-man.

I have been having some luck at the S&G's, so I decided to try to recoup my losses there. Mixed results... I played four today. Results were 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th.

7th. Turns out my ring game luck finally found out where I went. Nothing I got held up to anything. No real bad beats, really... Just such wonderful decision hands like A-6 suited or A-8 offsuit. I had gotten slapped around a bunch and was down to 250 or so in chips and the blinds ate me.

So my bankroll is $51. This sucks, because I really can't ride out the variance, and it also doesn't do anything for my psyche since I seem to be getting absolutely annihilated at the limit games.

I think I've gotten to the point in my game where it's time to back away until I can get my hands on a book or two. Lee Jones' Winning Low Limit Hold'Em comes highly recommended and it also deals with how to play at insanely loose tables. In the mean time, I think I'll just stick to the $6 sit and goes since, even though the profit margin on the $5 tables are a little thin, at this point any positive number is good, and since I can technically mitigate my losses to $6 an hour playing sit and goes, at least I won't be broke before Christmas!

My wife sat next to me and watched me play in a couple of the sit and goes. She generally doesn't like anything I enjoy, but she seemed to be getting into it a little bit. I was in a crabby mood though (because of the losses at the ring game) and it showed. Hopefully I didn't scare her off. She's great though. I've been under a bunch of stress lately and the fact that I'm grossly out of shape isn't helping any at all. Things should be getting a little bit better though. We voted a union in at work about 1 1/2 years ago and have been pounding out a contract since that time. I started work here last January, so I didn't get to see what all led up to it, but suffice to say no one at work has seen a raise in roughly 3 years. As a result, I make more then half of the people who work in my position, and I'm second from the bottom of the seniority list. Morale at work is bordering on mutiny, and word of the tentative agreement has everyone here cautiously optimistic. We shall see. In any event, of the 15 dispatchers we have at work now, I can name 4 with confidence who are actively looking for other work, and could estimate another 2 to 3 on top of that. If everyone manages to find something quickly, we are going to be fucked in legendary proportions, since it takes approximately 45 days from someone getting hired until they are desk qualified, and that's if everything goes perfect and the guys we bring in have experience both in dispatching and the system we use to do it.

Anyway, as I was saying, my wife is being a wonderful sport considering I've probably been a pain in the ass to live with lately. I really need to just get back my membership at the YMCA and start forcing myself to just go every day. I guess those in the know say that anything you do consistently (or stop doing completely) for 6 weeks turns into (or breaks) a habit. Well, I used to chew my nails. Did it since I figured out I could, and I finally made a conscious effort to stop doing it. Funny thing was, it wasn't even hard! Here I am 6 months later, and I have absolutely no desire to gnaw on my hands in spite of all the stress. I figure if I could do that, I could get into the habit of working out.

To help out, I picked up Bill Phillips' Body For Life some time ago. My problem is when I sit at work, I get the munchies. Most diet plans that restrict your caloric intake are no good for me because if I don't munch on something, I get crabby. Bill's plan has you eating specific portions 6 times a day. It got to the point where I had to eat a portion even when I wasn't hungry! I can deal with that, since I love food anyway... This is my problem. Trouble with Bill's program is in order for it to work, you have to also do the exercises program he has in there. The nice thing about it is it's only around 30 minutes a day. The bad thing is, I have to drive 20 minutes to get to the gym. This is the mental block I am running into, and it really is all that it is... A mental block. I spend over 2 hours a day doing nothing useful at home, so I might as well go make use of that time and get rid of this disgusting fatbody of mine.

Part of my motivation is a friend of mine... We'll call him Incubus, managed to lose a bunch of weight.

I gotta do it. This weight is killing me, physically and psychologically. There's gotta be an extra $20 a month somewhere I can extract for the YMCA membership. All I need to get the motivation to go is a 6 foot tall mirror right at the end of the bed so I can see my gut.

It'll get done or I'll die trying.

Now, if can just figure out how to stop my poker ship from it's dangerous list to port.


So, for 20 minutes while my ISP was trying to unfook itself, my avatar sat in a tournement dutifully posting blinds and folding everything... This was probably a good thing, considering...

So, finally I manage to get back in, and find that I'm one of 6 people left, and my first 3 hands were real winners, so just as soon as I rematerialized I scraped into 2nd chip position. The guy across from me though was taking advantage of everyone else during my absence and had built a chip empire. I manage to get heads up with him, but the cards just weren't falling for me and I eventually got shoved out for a 2nd place position.

Not bad, considering I had all but written that $6 buy in off.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Party Pooper

Okay... First thing first... I've seen other blogs on here that have a place to put comments, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to get it working. If anyone has a way of getting this to work, email me at There is obviously a reason why I'm not in IT any more. I suck at it.

Speaking of extreme suckage, I appear to be too smart for my own good in terms of playing poker. For those who don't play low limit Hold'Em, the micro limits that I play at are loose during the weekdays, and insane on weekends and holidays. A good table to sit at for me is one where there are 3 or so fish and the rest solid to at least sane players. Once you get over 5 fish at a table, it rapidly turns into a crapshoot and the varience goes through the roof. If I had the bankroll to handle it, I wouldn't be so weary of it, since riding through the varience can exact a pretty respectible win, but when you're under $100 and trying to parlay that into something you can work with, varience = BAD.

So, for the last few days I'm convinced that I've just been picking the wrong tables, as the insane No Fold'Em action is just munching my bankroll, and I just don't have the stones to roll along with 7 callers/raisers all the way because you just never know what's a good hand and what's crap. Big Pocket pairs, like QQ, KK, AA, are garbage. Pretty much if you don't manage to catch a flush or a boat, you're in some serious trouble, and I just don't like playing to the draw every hand. This is, likely, my problem. I try to play tight, but today I watched some Bozo sit down and raise completely insane hands like 3-4 offsuit and he just completely OWNED the table. Miracle draws, bullying people off pots, talking smack. It was beautiful and infuriating all in the same breath. No one could put him on a hand. Anyone going for the pot with him was rolling the dice. Maybe he had the stone cold nuts, maybe he had a fistful of shit. You had to pay the meter to find out. His varience was unreal, with swings of 20 to 30 bucks (this is a .50/1 table, mind you), but he walked away doubled up from when I sat down with him. I didn't know whether I wanted to kill him for his money or his brains, but I was damn sure I wanted to kill him...

In any event, I got my ass handed to me in the ring game, so I decided I'd try a few $5 sit and go tourneys. A strange thing happened... I started winning. The first tourney I was in decent shape about mid game with 6 people left when I started a run of cards that allowed me to simply smack the table around. By the time it was over 3 guys remained and I was the dominant chip leader. After that, it was just a matter of sitting it out and waiting for a hand that I could shove someone out with. Managed 1st in that one.

Second one was a typical tourney. First hand out of the box I look down at AK offsuit in mid-position, and I start gunning. The cards were nice enough to fall in my direction and I had plenty of company to the river, so I managed to scrape in a nice pot and was able to crawl back in my hole while the table sorted itself out. Once the field was thinned a little bit, I started to work, but it wasn't quite as easy... By the time there were 6 people left I was in terrible chip position, about 4th. The cards were missing me and the blinds were hurting. I survived long enough for 2 more people to go out, and made my stand with a QJ offsuit. Didn't work... Managed to go all in against a KK and that was all she wrote.. Out in 4th, no money.

Third S&G was interesting in that I wasn't there for half of it... No sooner had the chips been distributed and the high card dealt for starting button position that my internet connection took a dive. Long story short, I spent 20 minutes sitting in a tourney I wasn't in...

Exciting conclusion later.. Gotta get out of here.

What a Long, Strange Road It's Been

Okay, I admit it... I was turned on to Poker by the Travel Channel's airing of the World Poker Tour.

So I am one of those people that people who have been playing poker before the WPT was televised on a national network hate and love all at the same time. That second part I didn't believe at first because when I first started playing poker online, I turned $50 into $120 in two weeks. I thought I was a poker God.

Then I grew a brain. More on this later...

I don't have alot of excess cash to dump into gaming, but I sure do like the excitement of the games. Before I discovered poker, I was an avid Craps player. I love Craps. Still do. It's an action game, but like most player vs. House games, the long term value is negative. Good Craps players can minimize this negative expected value to near even, but it is impossible to extract a positive EV from Craps. Any possibility of this is taken away by the house vig.

Anyway, like I said, I'm not your typical "gambler" in that I used to take money to the tables expecting to lose it. My job was to slow the bleed and spend as much time playing for as cheaply as possible and still get some action. Free Drinks = +EV. Of course, living in Wisconsin, the closest $1 Craps table is about 1200 miles away, so the only Craps available to me is the $10 craps at the Indian casinos around here, and since I'm no longer working in the IT industry, my income took a 40% hit and I most certainly don't have the bank to be bellying up to no $10 minimum ANYTHING at the moment. As a result, the only time I ever really have the opportunity to play is when I end up in Vegas (maybe once a year, but alot less recently) or I visit my dad and he lays some bank on me. My dad is a slot player. I, most certainly, am not, so he usually throws a few bills at me to go screw around at the blackjack tables. Since I don't count cards and have no interest in learning to, and since there's no free cocktails at the tables, this is really the only time I even walk into an Indian casino.

Even considering that though, $5 blackjack + no risk to my own bankroll = +EV.

Then I found poker.

Poker is very much still gambling, in that you're betting money on cards you don't see, but it's different in two ways. The first is, you're not playing against the house so your odds vary by the skill of the opponents. The second is, it's a skill game. So, since the house makes money any time a game is on, it's not interested in making sure everyone loses in order to make a profit on the game. So, bottom line, it is possible to extract a positive cash flow long term from poker. Since working two jobs sucks, and the second job would be 100% discretionary income for me anyway, I'm all about making money and having fun!

Okay, so, I'm stoked. This poker thing looks pretty fun. After a few weeks of hitting the internet and doing some research and playing for funny money on, I finally pin down $50 and make a deposit and start playing some $.50/$1 limit Hold'Em, and learning.

A few weeks later, I've managed to work that initial $50 into around $120. I'm feeling like a friggin genius! The 50/1 tables are pretty loose, so I figure the $2/$4 tables at the Ho Chunk have gotta be a little tighter... Something I should be good at.

Man, was I wrong. I sit down to what can only be described as a chip chucking contest with the occasional card being dealt. This, and the cards I was getting dealt were, by and large, crap. When I did get a hand, I'd get outdrawn by some bozo holding onto such illustrious hands as 38 offsuit. Pocket aces = loss. KJs = loss. Big Slick = loss.

The cards, obviously, we bad, but so was my play. I felt pretty confident when I sat down and just sort of kept it tight...

Then I peek down at AA.

Now, I was already pretty jacked up about being at my first live game, so I was already pretty tunnel visioned trying to get a gist of how things go.. This and I'm sitting at a $2-$4 table, after a few weeks of playing $.50/$1 poker. These stakes are scary. So anyway, I look down at pocket aces and shit myself. To tell you how behind the game I was, I can't tell you to this day where I was in relation to the button and what other action there was besides what I did and what the guy who beat me played with. I, of course, raise this AA, and get like a half dozen callers. This is good, right? Anyway, flop comes someting like K83 rainbow. Still having top pair and feeling good against this table full of hackers, I chuck out a raise and almost everyone follows with a call. Ton 'o' cash in the pot now. Turn comes 8. No chance for a flush, no chance for a straight. I confidently bet out again, though I probably should have slowed down when I saw that second 8 hit. All I knew is I had AA in the pocket. River was a rag and the guy across from me turns over...

wait for it....

a fooking 5-8 offsuit. Set of 8's.

I should have gotten up and left right then. My nerves were shot and I spent the rest of the night taking half-assed stabs at pots and immediately cowering in the corner when the betting got expensive. I became a ultra-tiight/passive wimp and, with the help of a couple of more suckouts, got up from the table empty handed. My head was spinning, but on the long drive home I was able to run through the game in my head and was astonished with how poorly I played poker that night.

I've decided that, though it was fun to play a live game, I'm staying the hell away from them until I have a much bigger bankroll.

So, now I'm back to microlimit on Party. After my withdrawl for the live game, I was at about $40... I managed to hit a great run about a week ago and had it back up over $100, but as of this last week, I've been getting crushed... More on that in the next post...

Greetings, Highlanders!

Well, here it is... My adventure into the strange and never dull world of Poker. Actually, I started playing Poker some weeks ago, but just recently decided to put my thoughts about it (and other things... Yes, welcome to my mental dumping ground) into text so that others may laugh, cry and agonize with every suckout and bad beat.

So, as I type this, I'm getting my ass handed to me on the no limit table. More on this later... Hopefully things aren't too jacked up at work and I'll sit down and catch you all up to speed on what's been going on here.