Why I love poker.

Speaks for itself.

It’s a brutal game, but can be played with civility.

It’s infinitely challenging. The more you learn, the more interesting it gets.

It’s like life is almost every way, so you’re always learning stuff you can use elsewhere.

It’s a great way to learn about yourself and to improve if you’d like to. You’re you magnified, and if you fix your leaks, chances are there will be broader implications.

It’s mental boxing which is much more stimulating than physical combat.

A poker table is the most interesting place. You meet all different kinds of people you’d never encounter together anyplace else.

It’s never boring, and never the same twice.

It’s like meditating. My mind never wanders at the poker table, and that’s just about the only place it doesn’t. I’m totally there at that moment, seeing everything. To be thinking of something else would be like thinking of what to have for dinner while driving a race car.

How about you? Why do you love it?

Very good advice recently on poker and loans.

Phil Galfond and Noah Stephens-Davidowitz have both posted on poker, money, friends and vouching for loans. They speak for themselves.

I’ll just take that pot now if you don’t mind.

The struggle

Basically NLH is a battle to keep your opponents from seeing five cards.  Or, looked at another way, to allow you to see all five. Once all players involved in a hand get to see the runout to the river, you’re just playing a card game where the best hand wins.  Control for the power to make every hand you play a hand you’ll win no matter what the deck delivers is one of the fascinating challenges of No Limit poker. It takes into the realm of mind games and strategic warfare, and I think that’s what keeps so many smart people interested for so long.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the case should you flop the nuts, but that won’t happen very often. Most of the time you’ll have to rely on your ability to assess what it will take to get rid of your competition for the pot, ideally withholding any information about your holdings for as long as possible.

What do you think. Agree? Disagree?

High tech denial: Locked out.

This will testify to how long my initial deposit to play on Merge network’s Lock poker site lasted: I don’t even remember how I put the money in.  But it was reload time, and per Lock’s advice, I went to Moneygram to put a measly $100 into my account. After answering enough questions to buy a house, I requested the funds. Within seconds, I got the “call us” email.  The lady asked me what the money was for? I said for a friend in Nicaragua.  “What will this friend do with the money,” the nosy lady wanted to know.  “Buy something for me.” I coyly answered.  “Do you know this person,” she relentlessly continued? “No”, I sheepishly admitted.  She cuts to the chase: Is this for gambling? “Maybe”, I concede in my “I fold” mindset.  Now, in her “let me get this straight” voice she says, “So you’re sending someone you don’t know money to do something that’s not allowed in the U.S., is that right (you moron)?

These companies are so good at sniffing out shit in nanoseconds. Why don’t they run the TSA or Homeland Security? Blockbuster called me in Europe once (pre Netflix), to find out where their DVD was. I’m betting companies in the business of making sure no one does anything other people don’t think is good for them don’t have the budget of the government, but they can sure smell a bluff in a heartbeat. That ought to be a skill transferable to something more useful than making sure I don’t play an online poker game.

The downside of hope.

Hope is certainly a good quality, but in poker, it’s just another word for gambling. When someone shows you their two kings and you say, “I was hoping you didn’t have that”, and show your jacks, you missed an important step: the logical thought process that probably would have told you that an overpair was possible. People hope to win the lottery. They hope to win at slots. They can never sit back and say, “I should have played that lottery ticket differently.” It’s all hoping, i.e. gambling. Poker is different.. There are clues everywhere for the astute detective and options both in strategy and tactics for the experienced player. Hoping won’t win poker games. Skill helps.

Why won’t players adapt to new info, and thank you.

Three times recently, players have said to me, after a showdown and once a bust out, “That was so unlike you”.  Twice it was the same player at a different game.  When are these guys going to notice the “me” that they’re referring to is based solely on their profiling impression. At first I thought it would be a disadvantage to be playing so many of the same people much of the time, but since they never revise their impression, it doesn’t seem to be.

I always have the nuts

For example, in one hand, I made what was really a great 4-bet out of the BB against a loose player on a paired flop which would cost him 2/3 of his stack to call. He  could only call if he had one of 2 remaining cards in the deck for trips, which he did. Still , it was a good bet.  The table was shocked when I showed my hand (which had hit the unpaired card on the flop). I make a point to remember what I’ve shown i.e. nuts or bluff and when someone new comes to my table, what they’ve seen. This might be a waste of brain space given people’s lack of adaptability, but I can’t not do it.

And I thank everyone who refuses to adjust their evaluation of my play. In the meantime, I continue to be so unlike me.

Making Chino look good.

I have my own take on the Full Tilt mess.  I think it’s an elaborate scheme to make Chino Rheem debt problems  look downright petty.  He’s not the first poker player to win a big score and still be broke. These guys have big make-ups. But Chino, dude…if you’re reading this (odds: 0%), just incorporate and get rid of that debt in a blink.

 As for the Full Tilt bombshell, I’m not sure what to think.  The players involved are math guys.  Jeez, they know the odds of everything. Where did they think these big monthly paychecks  were coming

How much would you charge to wear this patch?

from.  When I was in Vegas several years ago, a local poker pro there told me that people who had like a point or so of FT were making millions a month, and here’s how fucked up I am. I didn’t think that sounded weird. I figured, hey, online is huge. Wish I had a piece of that. But I’m as far as you can get from inside that universe. The guys actually involved are as close as you can get. How could they not know. They are SO smart.

And now, who is Andy Beal going to play, unless he gets arrested. So I guess the new TV campaign will have to be LEARN, CHAT AND PLAY WITH THE PROS.  Cut to Chris or Howard:  We play…..in jail.

On the bright side for us amateurs who might get to play an Epic Poker League event, a lot of good players will have been disqualified. And maybe I’m an easy to bluff idiot, but I’m still a big Chino fan.

Plugging leaks.

I think it’s beneficial to have goals in poker, no matter how good you are.

 Here are some of mine and where I stand on them:

Stop bubbling! I’ve come a long way on this one. One of the reasons is that when I’d get chips early or mid-way in a game, I’d tend to guard them, ending up at later stages very short and having to gamble.  I’m putting my chips in action sooner and frequently.  Consequently, I’ve been making lots of final tables, many in very big fields, between 200 and 1,600 in one case.

         Now my new goal is: Stop going out 10th i.e. first one out at final

Make more aggressive decisions. Some times this is as easy as listening to my instincts.  I frequently feel, based on running the hand back in my head, that I’m best at that moment yet I’d fold.  Now, rather than ask myself should I call or fold, I consider, should I raise.

-Don’t get sidetracked by annoying players.  People who used to annoy me, frequently into punishing them by giving them all my chips, are now barely on my radar.  While my notes used to include things like “idiot” or “asshole”, now they are more focused on “always raises button”, or “never continuation bets”.

In order to make one good decision at a time, I’m also plugging one leak at a time.  I’d be interested in hearing about your leaks and what you’ve done to fix them.

Is variance just another word for gambling?

Okay. I get it. Just because I’m 50/50 in a hand, doesn’t mean that if I play it 100 times, I’ll win 50% of the time. But how many hundreds of times would I have to play to come close to 50%?  500, 600? Even when I played online, I never tracked that. It seems to me that my aces, say, lose more than 15% of the time vs. one person.  So, when things don’t work as statistically expected (i.e. vary from the norm creating variance), might there be other reasons? 

 Did I not bet enough pre and let too many people see the flop?

Did I not bet enough on the flop or turn and let them get there?

 Should I have stayed home?

 Guess I’m basically wondering, when people say,  “get it in good and you’ll profit in the long run”, just how long is the long run?




Loving Twitter for WSOP.

This is the first year I’ve used Twitter to follow the WSOP and it’s been terrific. Basically it’s like customizing your own poker channel with your favorite reporters.  I follow some people to see how they think about poker (Jimmy Fricke, Tom Dwan, Justin Bonomo and Shane Schleger), some for what’s going on in Vegas and the poker lifestyle in general (taopauly and brokeliving.), and some for kicks (Doyle).  Aside from good poker minds, these guys are very funny and intelligent and make terrific observations. I even got the name of a good doctor. I’ll probably keep following them even after the event.

If you want to try this, look for players you like, then see if they tweet a lot (you don’t want someone who tweets once a week..you want someone really into keeping up). Then follow them, and if you don’t like what you see (i.e. I just drank Gatorade), unfollow.  You can add to your list by checking out the retweets of players you like. I’ve discovered some people I didn’t know that way.  And at some point, if you have a good feed, you can join the conversation.