Monday, June 30, 2008

The Beginning

One side of the Amazon Ballroom was flooded in the carcasses of the losers in the $1,500 slaughterfest. Call them whatever. Donkeys. Emus. Pigeons. Fish. Pigs. Dogs. Rats. They were casualities and within hours of taking their seats, they ended up on the killing floor. When the survivors trudged through the HORSE area, they tracked donkey blood all over the carpet.


If you're not reading Pauly already (hint: you are), read Pauly. He's shredding it out there on the shores of Lake Wossop. The above quote neatly sums up my big swan song, a first crack at the Sunday Millions that ended when I misread my opponent's calling range and wound up dominated. But I've always wanted to play the Stars Million, and I had an opportunity, so I took my shot for the experience. Same reason all the dead money finds themselves sitting at the felt. The experience. Pay the price and take the ride. I had a good time while it lasted, and a great time railing while LJ went deep deep deep and scored a couple grand. Go congratulate LJ, you jealous so-and-so's, you.

But anyway. Tonight is my last night of poker before jumping full time into taking those energies previously funneled into this silly game and throwing them behind crafting a novel. I toyed with making a Super/System book first after decent interest in the poll (upper left), but ultimately this is the thing I want to do, and I think the System can continue to live here. When I was in college, I thought for sure that I was the best writer of fiction the world had seen, a talent of such brilliance that ladies would swoon, men would hate me, faces would melt before my effulgent perspicasity.

I was an idiot, utterly unaware of the fear and humility necessary to craft good work. I also wrote sentences that ended with words like "effulgent perspicasity." Good thing I'm broken of that one.

Now? I am still an idiot, and a fool. If you think trying to take down an MTT is a fool's quest, might I suggest long fiction? In that arena, the only donkey is you. These days, I just want to write one good story. If I work hard, I think maybe I can. If I accomplish that, I think my next goal will be to write another.

A lot of you have expressed interest in the project, and frankly the idea that people would actually take the time to ask questions and even in some cases read a bit of it is pretty damn flattering. You guys need to watch it. The last thing you want is a flattered writer. A flattered wannabe writer will follow you home like a sad little puppy and roll around on the carpet waiting for his belly to be rubbed. We'll also mooch your food.

The frequently asked question is, what kind of book is it, and what is it about? The short answer is that it's a novel about a street prophet named Julius (I took his name when choosing my screen name) who finds a partially visible man named Gordy. It's also about a whole lot more, but I'd rather write it than try to work through the synopsis, and also to tell some of the things that it is about (or "aboot" for my Canadian readers) would be bad poker. One thing I can promise you now; there will be midgets. If anybody is interested in reading the first 25 pages or so, IM me (see my blogger profile) and tell me your email, or just leave your email in the comments, and I will ship it.

That's it. Hope to see you in Barnes & Nobles.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stupid/System 008: Other Poker Games

A lot has happened following the invention of poker at the first WSOP in 1973. First, Doyle Brunson won 2 main events. Then, Johnny Chan did it. Then, Phil Hellmuth ate Stu Unger and absorbed his power. Then came the movie Rounders, starring John Malkovitch and Good Will Hunting, which revolutionized strategy and brought an end to the shameful practice of eating cookies at the table. Some time after that, Doyle Brunson's son Todd became one of the widest poker players in history. Finally, Christian "Moneymaker" Monkeymaker took down the big one on ESPN in one of the seminal moments of poker history, and Texas Hold Them Poker became hugely popular around the world, leading to the creation of Scandinavians.

But that's not all that has come from the enormous popularity of hold 'em. In recent years, other games based on poker rules have cropped up. These are known as "non Hold 'Em games" or "poker variants" (e.g., "I couldn't play at those stakes on a regular basis, I just can't handle the variants").

Unlike no-limit Hold 'Em, most of these games don't involve as much skill, and some don't even have a flop. However, since more and more people are playing them, it would behoove us to examine each one, along with some brief words of strategy. Also, we'll let you know which car each game resembles.

Limit Hold 'em. "The Toyota Camry of Poker." This game is played exactly like Hold 'em, but without excitement.

Pot Limit Omaha. "The F-Series Pickup of Poker". This game is played exactly like hold 'em, with a flop, turn, and river, but with a key distinction: You can only bet the pot at any given time, so you often can't get all in until the flop or even the turn. Also, you have four starting cards, which limits your outs. This is obvious if you think about it; cards in your hand can't very well come on the flop, can they?

The best thing to do with PLO is to offset your limited outs with careful play. Wait until you have four cards that are all one suit, so you only have to flop one card for a VERY well-concealed flush. Or if you're dealt three or even four of a kind, you might consider betting your quads. As you can see, this is a game designed for slow-playing.

Seven Card Stud Hi. "The Kia Sportage of Poker." This is a strange game in which you can only bet the amount of the big blind. And about the big blind; it just kind of jumps around randomly, kind of like a stud at a singles bar (hence: Stud).

Anyway, you're dealt two cards face down. So far, so good. But then, you get just one up, that only you can use, and nobody else. This is awesome because it means that you never get in one of those awful situation where your cards are strong but somebody else has it better. After the first round of betting, you get another card up, then another, then another, then another. There's a lot of cards, and after each one, there is betting. This is a lot of betting, but remember again, the bets are small. (A quick tip to keep from looking like a noob: If you get a card face down, that's not a dealer mistake; it's just a kind of insider poker way of indicating that it's the last card in the hand. I usually just flip it up and keep playing, though it should be noted that most online poker software doesn't allow you to do this.)

Razz. "The El Camino of Poker." This game is just like Seven Card Stud Hi, but at the end the pot is just assigned to a random winner. It's more like roulette. Just call and call and call, and hopefully you'll win.

Five Card Draw. "The Dune Buggy of Poker." Are you sitting down? This awesome game lets you change your hand if you don't like it! Seriously! It's not cheating or anything! The positive expected value that you can generate in a game like this is astounding.

For example, let's say you're dealt Ac5d9sTh6c. You can go for five different quads, four different flush draws, five different straight draws . . . it's amazing. Or just discard three and go for less flushes and straights, but a better chance at a full house. It's really up to you, and every hand has nearly infinite possibilities.

Triple Draw Lowball. "The I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream of Poker." Don't play this. I have no idea what happens with this game, but now a guy named "Johnny Knuckles" is looking for me. If he asks, you haven't seen me.

Omaha Eight-or-Better. "The Gremlin of Poker" This is an imaginary game that nobody plays, like soccer.

RISK. "The Board Game of Poker." Just secure a continent, protect your border, and don't forget to use your extra army cards.

OK, now that you know all these variants, you are ready to play any of these games in tournament, ring or in 'Combo" games like HORSE, SHOE, HOSE, HO, HA, SHORE, SOAP, or SNORE. Get out there, remember to keep your eyes open, and be a little careful at the Razz table. For some reason, I tend to get a lot of death threats there.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


"Hello, I must be going."

Well, kids, I think it's time for me to go write my novel.

The beginnings of it have been collecting dust bunnies for a half-decade now, as I fiddle around, and I need to find the thread again. This will require lots of reading, lots of thinking, and of course lots of writing. All this takes great horking gobs of time, of course, and there's only one place from which I can reasonably and responsibly borrow time.

And that would be poker.

So, starting July 1, no more poker for me. Zip. Zilcho. The big card nap. I'll probably hit the Donkament through June, hit a couple guarantee tournies, and I'm toying with taking a shot at the Sunday million or the 750K as a swan song.

I'll see where I am on January 1, 2009, and decide if I'm in enough of a groove to bring poker back on in a limited capacity. I don't know what the metric for allowing poker back will be yet, but I'll have to have a fairly strong and obvious habit of self-disciplined productivity before I bring another hobby into the mix. I intend to have a finished saleable product in 2009.

I am very interested these days in what new media has to offer in terms of distributorship and publishing. It seems that the old models of huge conglomerate publisher with middleman distributors and agents all taking a piece is starting to die. It's a new ball game, and if you can find your audience, you can be top dog in the cat fight.

This is my path. Content is king, if you can generate it.

I hope someday to give the PoBlogSphere first crack at reading my book. There's a partially visible man named Gordy I want you to meet. There's a pair of sandals named Julius. There's a bearded lady, who's HELLO MY NAME IS sticker claims is called "Jane". There's a lottery ticket unlike any other. There's a fountain hidden in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. There's something hidden under the fountain. There's much much more.

In case you're worried (and if you're not, no offense taken, I don't blame you) this blog isn't going anywhere; I intend to keep posting regularly or semi-regularly. But it will become much more the blog of a writer-in-training than a document of the ups and downs of a bad, bad poker player. You're going to get my warm up stories, musings on fiction, perhaps some excerpts from the novel. Stupid/System and other sundry comic musings will arrive when inspiration strikes. I'll be updating FilmChaw (movie reviews make good warm-up exercises). I'll honor Donkavatar requests, though perhaps not as quickly as before. I'll be reading you. I'll be commenting. How can I not? You all brought me back to writerly life.

Thank you for being a kind and receptive audience. You've convinced me to get back off my duff and do the thing that makes my soul dance the cha-cha. For some of you, it's poker. For me, its this.

If I do return to poker, you'll see me first at the bloggaments.

Be excellent to each other.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Big Game: Julius Zeus and the AK Hand

I haven't written stories for the write-in contest. I got around to checking the dates about 3/4 through the first of two planned yarns, and realized that it made just about zero sense for me to be in Vegas right around then.

Quelle bummere, as the French say. At least, that's what the French in my imagination say, haw haw haw.

But now I see over on Al's blog that we have a one week extension. Huh. I may just write the tales for the sheer fun of writing them. That's the real prize, anyway. Sure, yeah.

I also doubt I can make the Wear the Badge freeroll. Five o'clock Sunday is cool for most, I'm sure, but it's a pretty gross time for me to be playing cards.

The Big Game was a trip, my friends. At first it was the kind of trip where you sit in the middle seat of coach, trans-Atlantic, next to a mouth-breather with Combo cheez stuck in his teeth who won't stop showing you pictures of his kids. I was beyond card dead. I was in card limbo. I'd been card cremated, sitting on the card shelf in my own little card urn.

Suddenly, it became the sort of trip you have when you're the only chimp strapped to a NASA rocket. My 88 sucked out on the river against a big hand, I think Aces or Kings. Then I caught another big hand to take a top ten stack. Then I got all-in vs. Fuel with cowboys against his Jacks. He almost sucked out with the J in the door, but the river brought another cowpoke and Fuel hit the rail. I had the chiplead. Then I got KK. Then AK. Then AQ vs. AJ. Then QQ. Then JJ. All of these hands got in pre way ahead, and only AA got cracked -- and who even cared at that point? Miami Don dubbed me "Julius Zeus" and the carnage was good and golden. I was in the top three the rest of the way.

Finally, it was the kind of trip where your car gets hit by a train that's been destroyed by an F19 that's being eaten by Godzilla. I got heads up vs. a guy I've never seen, and he took me apart like Buster took Tyson. If I had a hand, he folded, except when he sucked out. If I had nothing, he'd re-raise. My final 15 minutes of heads up play was a litiny of T2, T3, 73, 74, 75, 62, etc, etc. Just unplayable dreck, payback for the forty minutes earlier when I crapped thunder and burped gold nuggets. I blew a 7:1 chiplead, and I honestly don't believe I have EVER done that before.

And just like that it was over. Three BBT3 tournaments with a chiplead going into HU, three choke jobs, and the last one the most epic of all.

I'm bummed. I won't lie. I'm at peace that I'm not in the ToC, but I still really can't believe it. Making the top of the money board helps. Heh, heh, heh.

Anyway, HUGE props as always to Al and company for putting on such a great show. This one was Harry and the Hendersons big. FIFTY FIVE tournaments? Every night? For the first time, I'm actually glad it's over, and I only played half of them. Awesome event, awesome times. Thanks to all involved.

* * *

OK, now on to other business. Hoy posted a hand I played during the Julius Zeus phase of the trip. Go read now.

You back? OK. Here's the HH:

Full Tilt Poker Game #6659661978: Blogger Big Game (41741046), Table 1 - 400/800 Ante 100 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:35:44 ET - 2008/06/02
Seat 2: weak_player (14,193)
Seat 3: Julius_Goat (34,466)
Seat 5: MiamiDon (11,825)
Seat 6: maneki_neko (26,006)
Seat 7: bayne_s (17,134)
Seat 9: Bone_Daddy84 (18,675)
weak_player antes 100
Julius_Goat antes 100
MiamiDon antes 100
maneki_neko antes 100
bayne_s antes 100
Bone_Daddy84 antes 100
bayne_s posts the small blind of 400
Bone_Daddy84 posts the big blind of 800
The button is in seat #6
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Julius_Goat [Ks As]
weak_player has 15 seconds left to act
weak_player folds
Julius_Goat has 15 seconds left to act
Julius_Goat raises to 2,700
MiamiDon folds
maneki_neko has 15 seconds left to act
maneki_neko calls 2,700
bayne_s raises to 17,034, and is all in
Bone_Daddy84 folds
Julius_Goat has 15 seconds left to act
Julius_Goat has requested TIME
Julius_Goat folds
maneki_neko folds
Uncalled bet of 14,334 returned to bayne_s
pvanharibo (Observer): boooooooooooooooon
bayne_s mucks
bayne_s wins the pot (9,500)
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 9,500 Rake 0
Seat 2: weak_player folded before the Flop
Seat 3: Julius_Goat folded before the Flop
Seat 5: MiamiDon folded before the Flop
Seat 6: maneki_neko (button) folded before the Flop
Seat 7: bayne_s (small blind) collected (9,500), mucked
Seat 9: Bone_Daddy84 (big blind) folded before the Flop

OK, everybody got that? I folded AK sooted to a push. Now, why did I do that? Am I a total weak tightydonk?

Don't answer that.

Hey! I said don't answer that!

The general consensus on Hoy's blog was that this was an auto-call, no question. I'm not so sure. Obviously, I can see a call here, but I don't think it is in any way automatic. It's a pretty tough spot. In fact, I like my fold here. I'll try to explain why.

OK, let's break down the action and do the math and try to figure out why this donkey donked the way he did.

We are six-handed. There are eleven left, so we're right at the bubble. Pot is 1800 to start, so my M is just below 20. I have the chiplead by a little bit.

I have been active, so I'm asking for action.

I raise EP 3.5x with my AK and get a smooth call from maneki_neko, the cat who is about to beat me heads-up like a red-headed stepmule. He smooth-calls me from the button and Bayne pooooshes for 14,300 more in what looks totally like a squeeze.

Now. Where am I at?

I am holding the Big Pickle, suited. I have the button (my read on him at this point is total calling station, so he could have a lot of different hands) yet to act.

Assuming the button folds, I have to call another 14300 to win 24,200. A little shy of 2:1.

If the button pushes, I'm going to have to call a good portion of the rest of my chips, and I'll have to feel a little bit sick about it.

But never mind the button for a second. Let's just deal with my almost 2:1, and what Bayne might be holding.

I don't put him on AA or KK -- he's less likely to jam with those -- but it's not out of the question. Maybe a 5% chance that I'm a huge dog to a monster.

The other possibilities are Ax or a Kx broadway hand, an underpair, or a total squeeze bluff like medium suited connectors or even just trash as bad as the hammer.

Let's break it down as 30% for each, just to keep the math simple.

30% I'm up against an underpair. I'm only around 45% to win.

30% I'm up against a hand I dominate. I'm somewhere around a 73% favorite.

30% I'm up against some trashy bluff. I'm a 60% favorite against 87 suited. I'm a 70% favorite against the hammer.

OK, so for the most part I'm either going to win about half the time or about 3/4 of the time. Let's round it to around 3/5th of the time I'm winning. So I have a 3 in 5 shot at a big pot and I'm being laid a little worse than 2:1.

Sounds like a call to me.

And I'd agree with that, in almost any spot. But here's the thing; AK is not a made hand. It's power is that, as we've seen, it's pretty hard to have it crushed preflop. Thus it's a hand worth pushing hard in an attempt to win the big stack you'll need to make an impact late.

But what if you already have that stack? What then? Is it worth a 3/5 shot to get an even BIGGER stack -- and that's only if the button (who smooth called, remember) doesn't have the monster you fear.

Lose and you no longer have that stack anymore.

See, I was of the opinion that my stack was big enough for the stealing I needed to do. If I'm a medium stack, then yes, I call, because it's more than worth the risk to get my money in and try to get that Zeus hammer you need to own the final table. But I already had the tools. I didn't want to risk losing my hammer and going back into the ranks of shove and hope. More to the point, I didn't need to. My stack was large enough that I didn't NEED to take the 3 to 5, and the benefit of the REALLY big stack simply wasn't going to be enough equity to make it worth risking the loss of my already big stack. I'm really not that far ahead even of an obvious steal.

One more point. There's no fold equity here. Bayne's already all in. His raise is great enough to push neko out; a shove from me won't change the math much -- in fact, it probably sweetens the pot for neko. AK is great to push with, for the simple reason that you are reasonably sure you're still alive even in the event of a call. But it's sort of a mediocre calling hand in my opinion. I think a pocket pair is more likely than 30%. And against pretty much any pocket pair, I'm behind.

Hence, fold.

I can understand if you'd call here. But I don't see it as an insta-call. Not a bit.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

There Are So Many Reasons That's Amazing

Working on some things, but in the meantime, here's some fun.