Saturday, November 29, 2003

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...


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