|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Saturday, January 01, 2005
It's 1030AM, and I just managed to toss our table maniac here on the two table SNG I'm playing 900 chips. He paid me off earlier when I had AQo and turned Broadway, but this time the 7TJ flop that gave me two pair managed to flop him the stone cold nuts.
The cards have not been nice for me over the last two sessions. However, gambling yesterday was, in fact, profitable. Which is always a good thing.
I hit the track in the mid-afternoon, and immediately hit an exacta winner for $82 in profit, which meant I was playing with house money from that point. I picked my races to play carefully, and managed to hit a couple of nice winners in low level claimers and maiden races at Hawthorne and Turfway. I managed to avoid the mess out at Santa Anita yesterday, where the mucky track had half of each field scratched. It's a horrible day at the races when you've got five running each race, and no horse higher than 9/2 on the board.
By the way, I just made most of my money back when a BB special 64s flopped two pair, and I ended up getting someone pushing me all in with top pair.
Anyway, I played at the $50NL tables last night for awhile, and ended a four hour session down $13. A minor loss is enough of a victory for me I guess. It was a night where I had precious few premium hands, and very little in the way of suited connectors so I couldn't play recklessly either. I really hate that feeling that folding for four straight hours gives me. I was effectively neutered at the table, and was going mad by the end of my session.
Patience, my friends, is not exactly one of my virtues.
I was talking with Pauly yesterday about these blogger tables that have been going on almost every night lately, and how much I enjoy them. Not just for the camaraderie and chat, but because we actually have a table on PartyPoker where people can be pushed off of a draw. I'm not saying I bluff a lot (or that I don't bluff a lot for that matter), but it's ridiculously obnoxious to me on these NL tables to flop top pair, bet enough to spoil someone's odds, but still have them river their flush or gutshot. At least at these blogger tables you've got people who can lay a fucking hand down.
I enjoy the hell out of not being sucked out on repeatedly.
So I think the key to my victory at the track yesterday was actually spending my profits before I got to the track. I bought a book (A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain on clearance for $4), two CDs (Veedon Fleece by Van Morrison and Showbiz Kids by Steely Dan), and a DVD (a new Miles Davis featuring his 1973 Isle of Wight performance).
Total expenditure? $47. Total track profit? $50.
11th out of 20, by the way. Was short stacked, and pushed another short stack in the BB all-in when I had AQo. He had K2s. Caught a King.
Just an aside... blogging has been a difficult endeavor for me lately. I simply don't know what the hell I want to talk about. Intermittent posting for me is like a break for anyone else, so I guess you could say I'm currently recharging the batteries. Maybe I'll put a little more up here later if and when I can figure out what I want to talk about.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Who feels like rambling today?
I’m technically working today, and I do actually have enough on my plate to keep myself busy for a full day, maybe a day and a half, but sitting in a foreign office listening to country music with people I just met this morning can make a guy just a little bit introspective. If by “introspective” you’re thinking “typing a 3500 word set of rambling and disjointed blog posts in order to appear busy to people with whom I don’t normally work,” well, you’re right on point.
By the way, the bathroom in the office here smells like bacon. Well, more like Beggin’ Strips bacon flavor dog treats, but I’m just saying.
Maybe I’ll get to Xmas in a little bit, but I haven’t really talked about poker with any substance for quite awhile, so let’s dive right in, shall we? I was reading BadBlood’s recent recollection of the struggle to get back to even (or in his case, up $6), and it got me thinking about my own poker history and growth.
I’ve been playing for almost two years at this point, and like many/most of the people with whom I share this hobby, it was ESPN and the Travel Channel’s coverage of the high stakes NL tourney events that got me interested. Thankfully, there was a group of guys (and a couple of girls) that were also watching, and also interested. We started out playing $5 and $10 tournaments with Hoyle plastic chips, and not quite yet savvy enough to know about things like side pots. In one memorable beat I took in these early games, I was bounced from a tournament when my all in flush to the ace (aka “the nut flush”) was “beaten” by a straight. Justin raked that pot and stacked it before we both realized what had happened. Seasoned poker professionals we were not.
My first turning point in these tournaments came in maybe the third or fourth one we played. We were at least a dozen strong, the biggest tournament we had to date. I remember one of the players (the first and only time he sat with our group) was a guy I sort of knew from high school as a major asshole, and he certainly didn't disappoint ten years later. He’s one of those smart kids with the ADD oozing out his ears who just can’t find the time to shut the f*ck up for five lousy seconds. He told everyone going in that he played on PartyPoker, and was a winning poker player online, so we had all better watch out.
And I managed to run him into a buzzsaw heads up, taking down my first tournament.
I was playing on PokerPages in their free SNG tournaments, and knocking them down with relative regularity. I also kept winning in our home game. All told, it’s not an exaggeration to say that even with stakes at $5 and $10 initially, and still only $20 now, I’ve got to be up close to $1000 over the past two years against these guys. I was living and breathing poker at this point. I ravenously watched everything I could on TV, and even bought my first poker book - Caro’s Book of Poker Tells - which, to this day, has helped me exactly zero times.
I had such a significant head start on the usual crew I played with, and was winning so much that I felt unbeatable. So around Thanksgiving 2003, I made my first deposit into PartyPoker. It was the SNG games and tournaments at the lowest of limits that held their appeal, and I did OK initially. Well, at least with the SNGs. I was (and am) a losing player online, and took awhile to get through the various stages of my online development.
First, it was the swagger. My first live money single table tournaments were played like I was sitting around the table with my friends. I came out swinging, and was like a Rob Deer in the headlights. When I won, I’d win by a huge margin, knocking the ball out of the park by catching cards. When I missed? I went down swinging the bat in flames.
It didn’t take me long to get through the swagger and in to the false confidence. More often than it should be happening with real money on the line, I was still seeing players making horrific plays, and somehow I “knew” that I was better than these guys. All of these guys. I was making plays against made hands left and right, confident that my likely second best was going to beat the bottom pair these guys were probably calling me with. If they had top pair instead? Well, I ran into the one guy at the table besides me that did know what he was doing after all.
And I’m reloading, and reloading again.
The single moment that crippled my game for a few weeks happened last year at the casino when I played live for the first time. I had a Queen with a medium kicker, and made a real obvious “I have a Queen” bet when a low board turned a Queen. I was dead read by this Russian at the table (“I fold to your Queen”), and that actually scared me a little bit. Was I that obvious? I went into chickenshit mode for a little while at this point. I was still limping way too much with questionable hands, but I was scared to stay in for draws and uncertain that I had the skills to hang, even at the lowest levels on PartyPoker.
And I’m reloading again.
Right now, I'm a confident realist. I know I'm not a great player, nor am I anything more than a fairly decent to above average* player. I know when I'm tilting, I know when patience isn't my strong suit, and I know that if I buckle down against less seasoned opposition, I should come out OK.
*(By "above average," I'm not saying "good." Let's use golf as an example. "Average" in golf is probably in the 92-95 neighborhood. Translating my poker skills to golf would make me a shooter in the 89 neighborhood, capable of getting close to that magic number of 79 when it all comes together, albeit intermittently.)
I’ll be the first to admit that my development as a player has largely stalled over the past six to eight months. Since getting out of the chickenshit phase, I spent some time working on my patience, and learning starting hand selection, and I know I’ve gotten better.
But I’m still a losing poker player online. And I chalk that up to a few factors.
First, I’ve largely stopped absorbing new information. I’ve learned a lot just by playing, but it’s not a substitute for real “back to the lab” book work. Second, I’ve been relying on “poker sense” instead of math, which can actually treat me pretty well sometimes, but lets variance rear her ugly head when I should just be getting out of hands. Third, I’m not a patient person, and am horribly prone to the subtle tilt that accompanies playing too many hands into the flop when bored. Lastly, for better or for worse, I’m not specializing enough. Sometimes I feel like playing low limit, sometimes no limit, sometimes SNGs and tourneys.
All together, this is why I’m not a winning player online. Funny thing is, I’m not really sure I care. Poker for me is social, it’s entertainment. I play at such low stakes right now that a big bankroll isn’t a necessary thing for me. I don’t feel the need to move up, and I don’t feel the need to use poker to finance a big screen TV or anything like that.
If I were to set a goal of becoming a winning online poker player, it would be an ego thing, plain and simple. It’s not as if I’d wear it on my sleeve, telling everyone who I crossed paths with how cool I am and everything, but I don’t have any reason besides ego to set a goal like that. It’d be a lot like learning to speak German or figuring out how to make baked Alaska. Neither are necessary to make my life better, I’d just be doing them to accomplish something relatively pointless.
Am I saying poker is pointless? Maybe, to some extent. I remember when I was about fifteen years old, I finally grew past some of my awkwardness, and I managed to muddle together enough athletic ability to acquit myself on the courts or on the diamond. I could shoot and dribble, I could catch curveballs, I wasn’t going to embarrass myself out there. I did, however, understand my limitations. Unlike my brother, I wasn’t blessed with natural athletic gifts. I just needed enough to be able to get out there and run around and not be a liability.
For some people, poker is about understanding and overcoming those limitations. For me? I think there’s still enough of a gambling jones in me that I don’t really care a whole lot about being the best on the court. I don’t have the bankroll to be able to compete with the best, so why should I work hard to refine my skills to become the best? I like being put in positions where I have to make a tough call or lay down. It’s that craving for action that keeps me dumping money in a hundred bucks at a time, and it’s that craving for action that draws me out of the game I’m “supposed” to be playing into that sometime loose-aggressive riverboat gambler recklessness.
I have a lot more fun with this game when I’m equipped to be that riverboat gambler.
Sunday night, for instance, I played in a shorthanded NL cash game with a few friends. “I didn’t come here not to play cards,” was my refrain for the night. It was poker as a social event, and poker as a means to put me in the middle of action. It’s a tougher decision to press the top pair/bad kicker shorthanded than it is to automatically lay it down at a full table. I pushed it, I pressed it, and I knew that like a playground baller at the Rucker, I was going to get my points, get a few assists, but wasn’t coached or schooled enough in the fundamentals to avoid turning the ball over a half dozen times.
And I think I’d rather be Skip To My Lou than Rafer Alston. I dig the seat of my pants action, I want to “try something dumb” a few times a night and maybe get paid off on it. I don’t think I’m smart when I make a bad call on a straight draw and miraculously catch. On the contrary, when I lose I know how stupid what I did was. But I want to take that risk. Throw the alley oop just a little too high, which is either going to make the highlight reel or put me on the bench, watching from the sidelines.
Maybe I’m just being myopic though. I think I’m seeing “proper” poker as a boring grind, and maybe there’s a possibility that I can mix in just enough of that recklessness that I’m both personally entertained and dangerous to those around me. I don’t think there’s any reason that I can’t go from the Rob Deer mentality to more of a solid singles hitter with surprising and intermittent power to all fields. I’m a reasonably smart guy, and know enough about this game to give me a good basis for advanced instruction. This becomes the problem. I’m having enough fun with this game right now that I don’t really feel like investing myself further becomes a necessity. But on the other hand, a little improvement never hurts.
How to anger a Fat Guy
Although I gave him a little bit back, I took about $65 off of Scott last night. It started with finding Derek and Iggy together at a 25NL table at about 9PM, and we were eventually joined by Otis and GRob, Sir FWALGman, DuggleBogey, Asphnxma, The Fat Guy, and Pokeramarama.
For some inexplicable reason, the deck started slapping me silly. I turned my $25 (well, $33 considering I reloaded from $17 to $25 when I let GRob catch a set on me) into $86. It was surreal. I don’t think I’m in Iggy’s or Otis’ class, let alone Derek’s, but I managed to connect on enough big hands to get up from that table of sharks with a smile on my face.
My favorite hand was getting Scott into a pre-flop all-in raising war when I had AA. I was confident he had KK when he kept pushing back, and when a K hit the flop, I was distressed – until he turned up QQ and I raked the pot. $43 profit on that one.
God knows I’ll be paying you all back if you have patience – we’ll see you again at the tables soon.
In the shuffling madness…
It’s interesting that classic rock radio on the FM has turned into 70s arena rock, while oldies radio has stayed loyal to the 50s and early 60s. Basically, you end up having no place on the radio for the greatest band ever between Rubber Soul and Let It Be, which is inarguably the greatest run of music any band has put together – ever.
In the office today we’re listening to the local classic rock station, and I called the studio to make a request. Actually, to make a request and ask a question.
Studio Guy: Hello, WYVN.Some people have no sense of humor.
So New Years is coming up. I’ve got absolutely nothing lined up, and smart money says I’m more likely to be in bed by midnight than belly up to a bar with a glass of champagne, toasting the new year as it arrives.
Yes, I’m exactly that lame.
I had thought about driving out to a casino for some poker, but the thought of being the only sober one on the road at 2AM is not really that appealing to me. I’ll probably end up playing poker online and eating good, as I have some veal cutlets I can make either Parmagiana or Scallopini style. Baby animals taste good.
This holiday is one that I don’t really dig spending out with people by myself, as it has always been the holiday I had always had the most fun with when coupled up. All by myself? It’s any other night.
I mentioned I’d get to Xmas, so here goes. My mom lives across town, so packing up the dog, the presents, and a change of clothes isn’t exactly a big deal for a night. I got over there on Friday around 11AM, found myself alone in the house, and immediately hooked up my wireless router (I come prepared) and hooked up to PartyPoker. Daddy from SnailTrax and I managed to join forces at a 25NL table to wreak some havoc.
Well, I wreaked, he just reeked. It’s not that he was playing poorly, he just managed to catch a wide variety of second bests for quite some time. I was bullying the ever living hell out of the table for over four hours, pushing my stack over $100 at one point. I was in the zone, and even had time to berate that shill (see Friday’s post(s)) while sweeping pot after pot.
Good times… I ended my session when my mom came back, +$44 to my credit.
Bob came back shortly thereafter, and it was just a matter of waiting for Lil Bro and his wife to show up, presumably around 9PM, to open a gift and hit the sack.
Almost forgot to mention – my dog managed to puke his entire dinner all over my mom’s new rug in her dining room. Bob couldn’t quit talking about how gross that was, but he’d say that if he missed out on Frye’s night of bloody diarrhea about a year ago (dumbass dog ate a cork). Ugh, now that was gross.
First and only gift of the evening? Anthony Holden’s Big Deal, which I believe is one of the books Hank credits for his poker jones.
Now, I’m still a little bit of a big kid when it comes to Xmas, and any time I have something cool to anticipate in the morning (Xmas, Vegas, the NFL Draft), I have a hard time getting to sleep the night before. So yes, I did take about four slugs off of a bottle of NyQuil to ease my way into slumber.
So the way Xmas morning works is that the first one awake pops in the Run-DMC “Christmas in Hollis” CD, and that gets everyone up out of bed and around the tree. Well, I was stuck in a bedroom with no clock, and after a couple hours of restless sleep, I hear someone in the bathroom through the wall moving around. I figure that’s the signal that the music is about to come on shortly, so I pop downstairs to get the dog outside.
It’s 545AM. I was positive that it had to be in the 630-7AM neighborhood. Alas, it was up to me and the dog to get the Run-DMC kicking, coffee brewed, and get everyone around the tree. Way too early…
What’d BG Get For Xmas?
a non-comprehensive list
New Slippers – I wear these Halflinger brand slippers that I love, but I just can’t see spending my own money on. Good stuff.
A 7” Wusthof Cook’s Knife – at first, I thought this knife was too small, but it actually fills a gap in my knife set more than it replaces the 9” knife I wanted to get rid of. There’s nothing wrong with that.
A Wusthof Utility Knife and Vegetable Peeler – I probably won’t use either too much, although they were good presents, as I tend to get a little too attached to one knife – which will be that 7” Cook’s Knife.
Lifesavers Xmas Storybook – I was always jealous of the kids that got these for Xmas, because it’s like one gift that gives you eight rolls of Lifesavers. I even like the Butter Rum.
A Tin of Peppermints - I love these stupid things. The tins are kitschy as anything, and the one I got for Xmas features the Queen of Wilhelmina (whatever that is) with a baby and their parents on one side, and a solo picture of the baby on the other. Maybe this baby is destined to ascend to the throne of Wilhelmina after his father takes the throne from his mother. Maybe this baby will violently overthrow his grandmother’s fascist regime and take control of the throne, giving peppermints to all the people of Wilhelmina. You just never know with those people. The peppermints are good too. I’ve been buying these for years.
A Miles Davis Print – of Miles, not a print of a Miles painting. That’s probably a good thing anyway, as he’s a better musician than painter. I need to get this thing framed, but Lil Bro actually picked it out to go in the same room with my Pauly painting.
Like I said, a non-comprehensive list. But it was a good haul.
We did end up going as a family to see “Meet the Fockers,” which was funny but I find Streisand to be distracting. It was after the movie that things took a turn downhill.
My mom was in the kitchen making dinner. When she makes Chicken Parmagiana, she doesn’t flat-out fry the chicken, she’ll give it some color in oil, and then will cook it fully in a baking dish in the oven. So she had the first batch of chicken coming out of the pan into her stoneware baking dish, which was sitting on the range top on a burner.
She didn’t know the burner was on.
She did have the good sense to know the dish was hot, but as soon as she touched the baking dish to the oven rack, the thing cracked clean into about six pieces. She was mad as hell, and was getting ready to throw the chicken out. I told her it would be OK, as it was stoneware, not glass, and broke pretty clean. She decided to keep this batch, but to make another couple batches just to be safe.
I turn my head for a second and then look back to see her mixing ranch dressing up in a bowl. “What are you doing with the ranch dressing?” I ask.
“I have to coat the chicken with something to get the bread crumbs to stick.” She’s still a little peeved about the baking dish, and is holding back tears anyway, but I have to be the dick apparently.
“You know I’m not eating chicken if it’s made with ranch dressing.”
Now that just set her off. I don’t know if I want to use the word “intimidated,” but I think that when she cooks for me, she’s somewhere between “he’s not going to like this because he’ll think he could have done it better” and “these kids don’t like anything I make.” Neither of these things are the least bit true. I don’t usually offer my opinion or “helpful hints” in the kitchen unless asked. Even if it’s unsolicited advice, it’s stuff like “bread keeps better in paper on the counter than in plastic in the fridge,” or “you should store your produce the same way they do it in the grocery store – cold if they keep it cold, dry if they keep it dry.”
Anyway, she took this ranch dressing thing personally. “I hate cooking for you kids. You never appreciate anything. I just can’t do anything right at all with you guys, and I’ve never liked being in the kitchen because you never eat anything anyway.” Very little of this was true. We eat what she cooks. She may hate cooking for us, but after 30 years of it, she knows what we’ll eat and what we won’t, and she should have known better about the ranch. Regardless, she was crying now. Still yelling at me, and sobbing at the same time.
Fuck that. Really. I was really pissed off, as I tend to get when I feel like I’ve been given the short shrift. I quietly packed all my crap up, ate dinner without saying boo to anyone, and got the hell out of there at the first logical opportunity. Merry fucking Xmas. This type of crap happens occasionally, and we get past it pretty quick in our family, but still… At bare minimum, I got my peace and quiet that night, and ended the holidays like most everyone in America does – marginally pissed off at a relative.
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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