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High On Poker

WHAT? A POST?!! Yep.

This is an interesting time to be a poker blogger. Online poker is slowly creeping through the land (3 states down, 47 to go) and alternative online poker venues have popped up in a variety of forms. The most interesting, at least to me, are the Bitcoin-based sites, largely because Bitcoins are such an interesting concept. For those who are unfamiliar, I am not the person to explain it to you, but in a nutshell, a Bitcoin is a digital currency that is unregulated by any organization or government. You can buy and sell things with Bitcoin with much greater ease and less fees (try no fees) than transferring U.S. dollars or any other currency. It’s all very complicated, but Bitcoin may revolutionize the way we use money in the future, even if it is still somewhat of a scary concept for risk-averse people currently.

But why am I going on and on about Bitcoin? Well, I personally would love to own Bitcoins, but I’m too risk averse. If only there was a way to earn Bitcoins without having to spend money. What? There is? Tell me more, Pokermeister?

I would like to formally invite all bloggers to the Bitcoin Blogger Freeroll, hosted by Seals with Clubs, the world’s largest bitcoin poker website.  Seals with Clubs has been kind enough to sponsor a 500 chip freeroll (worth .5 Bitcoin) [Note from Jordan: That's like $350 to $500 or so, depending on the current value of Bitcoins] for bloggers to be held on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 at 5PM PST / 8PM EST.

Entrance to the tournament is simple:

1.    If you don’t already have an account with Seals with Clubs, you can sign up by following this link.
2.    Simply place the banner / picture below onto your site in the form of a post, telling your readers how you will be playing in the Bitcoin Blogger Freeroll at Seals with Clubs.  You can cross-link this site for further, detailed information if you wish.
https://sealswithclubs.eu/aff.php?aff=187
 3.    Send me a verification email with a link to your post containing the banner to ThePokerMeisterTPM@gmail.com.
4.    Upon verification, I will send you a password to the freeroll.
5.    Please do not share this password, as it will ruin the idea of a blogger-only  freeroll.  Remember: Bryan Micon & Seals with Clubs have been kind enough to contribute all 500 chips to the freeroll, intending to give back to the blogger community!  Let’s show them that the blogger community is still alive and kicking!
Details of the tournament:
1.    Name: Bitcoin Blogger Freeroll
2.  Game Type: No Limit Hold’em
3.    Date: Wednesday, February 26th
4.    Time: 5PM PST / 8PM EST
5.    Starting chips: 3000
6.    Structure: Normal
7.    Prize: 500 chips
8.  Who is invited: Anyone with a blog willing to share the Bitcoin Blogger Freeroll Logo on their site
I’m hoping that you will blog about the tournament during or afterwards, as I think it will be fun to get all of the old and new bloggers together.

What spawned this?

I read a post the other day that mentioned the Mookie / Dank.  For those who are new to the blogosphere, the Mookie (renamed the Dank) was a weekly poker tournament held on Full Tilt before the DOJ shutdown / seizure.  The intent of the tournament was to have a place where all the bloggers and their readers could meet weekly, put up their [nominal, $10] buy in and take bragging rights for the week.  Most players would blog about the play on their respective blogs, but most importantly, it was a great way to hang out and play with friends.
I’m hoping that this tournament can turn into a weekly buy-in tournament.  Perhaps we can rekindle the fire of the Mookie / Dank once again, allowing for the rivalries that we had among each other.  Depending on how the Bitcoin Blogger Freeroll turns out, Seals with Clubs has kindly offered to set up a recurring blogger tournament (buy-in to be determined).
Hope to see you there!

P.P.S.  If you’d like to find out more about Bitcoins and Bitcoin poker – transactions, how it works, etc., I put a short post together awhile ago summarizing operations.  See here & here.  Seals with Clubs has an FAQ on the site and how it operates, as well as a brief Bitcoin overview as well.

Finally, FWIW, you have an option of playing within a Windows (or Mac) software downloadable client (which is non-invasive; i.e. it does not install onto your machine – you download it, unzip it & run the executable), you can play on the website’s Flash client (play within your browser), or you can play on your Android phone or tablet with their downloadable app.

Wow, Pokermeister! That’s AMAZING!!! <Slow clap>
So, get some Bitcoins for free by following Pokermeister’s instructions and joining us for some old school blogger poker tournament action with some new school sensibilities.
Until next time, make mine poker!

Image and Bet Sizing

October 1st, 2013

I was working on an article for Pokerist when I stumbled upon a basic poker bet sizing principle that I had never seen discussed before. The origin was an old Poker Road podcast, which included an interview with a pro whose identity I can no longer recall. I think it was Phil Laak, but whoever it was, the player was known for his loose play.

Paraphrased, the player explained that he had made a recent breakthrough in his game because he had identified a very basic concept that he had been ignoring: bet big with strong hands and bet small with weak hands, aka bluffs. Of course, this strategy makes perfect sense and it sounds like a 5 year old could’ve said it, since it appears so basic. But the pro had been tending to do the opposite, betting small to get value from big hands and betting big to force players to fold to his weak hands.

As I ruminated on the simple genius of this concept, I realized that there exists a huge caveat. If you are regarded as loose, the play works because your big bets with big cards will get paid off and your bluffs are not so dependent on bet size because when people play against a loose player, they tend to overvalue the importance of their own cards and therefore will fold to a small bet or large bet often in the same manner depending on their cards when determining when to call down the loose player.

But if you are a tight player, the advice of the pro doesn’t work. Large bets are regarded by opponents as a sign of strength from a tight player, so betting big with big cards will only result in folds and no value. Small bet bluffs don’t work as well because players may think the tight player can be pushed off the pot with a reraise. The principle works the same whether you are playing live or on us online poker sites. The key is knowing your table image.

It’s no surprise that play strategies must be different for tight and loose players, but I’ve never heard it explained this way before.

Until next time, make mine poker!

I was playing in a friendly home game tournament a while ago when the table got into a drawn out discussion about how a player played a particular hand. The player, nicknamed Two Diamond Phillips, was dealt QQ in one of the blinds. A player in early position with a small stack raised all-in preflop. His stack was really small, so two players in middle position called. When the action got back to Two Diamond Phillips, TDP called.

At the time, no one but Phillips knew that Phillips had QQ, so nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I assumed Phillips had a mediocre hand and was simply calling because the pot was large (thanks to the callers) and it did not cost much for him to call (thanks to the fact that he had already put in a blind). Plus, Phillips likes playing lots of random hands.

The flop came down Jack-high. The two middle position players and Phillips all checked. The turn was a Ten and all three players checked again. A low card came on the river and the three players checked once more.

In the end, the winner of the hand was the player who was all-in. He had Jack Ten, for flopped top pair and turned two pair. Nothing Phillips could have done would have stopped the suckout from happening, but the discussion afterwards turned to whether Phillips played the hand wrong.

Phillips explained himself: “There were three of us in the hand, and the first player was all-in, so I thought we would all check down the hand to knock him out.”

This type of statement may seem logical, but it drives me nuts, because the player does not realize the true goal of poker. It is true that if your goal is to knock out a player, then the more players in the pot, the better. However, the true goal of poker, including tournament poker, is to win chips. In tournaments, you need to win all of the chips. In a cash game, you merely need to win more chips than you lose. But the end result is the same. The goal is to earn chips.

Phillips played the hand to knock out the small stack, but that is the wrong strategy. Instead, he should have been playing the hand to win the pot, which requires a different strategy.

With a hand like QQ and a player all-in, Phillips’ best strategy against an unknown hand was to isolate, i.e., raise the all-in raiser so that all of the other players will fold and leave the hand heads up. QQ plays much better against one hand than three. In hindsight, we now know that even if Phillips did this, the outcome would have been the same. However, he would have been maximizing his chance to win the pot and those delicious chips.

Alternatively, Phillips could have bet into the pot after the flop to get a side pot going against the opponents with chips still in the hand. This way, if/when he gets sucked out, he can still get some value from his premium hand. Of course, if Phillips thought the other players wouldn’t fold to a preflop raise, then once again, the preflop raise is the best play to build a side pot.

In the end, the lesson to be learned is twofold: (1) Know your goal. If your goal is wrong, then you are likely going to make the wrong play. That leads to lesson (2), the goal in poker is to win chips. It’s not enough to know the rules of the game if your goal is wrong. You want to accumulate chips and avoid giving up your chips. That is it. There can be no other way about it (unless, of course, you are simply playing for fun, but what fun is that?).

You can accumulate chips in a variety of ways: playing strong hands strong, slowplaying, bluffing, semi-bluffing, etc. But as long as you keep your goal in sight, winning more chips, and your plays fit with that goal, then you are on the right path.

Baby v. Poker

September 3rd, 2013

Hey folks. By now, you may have figured out that the High on Poker family has expanded with little Cry on Poker. CoP is actually a misnomer, as the little guy doesn’t cry all that much, unless he is hungry or I am changing his diaper. These last two weeks have been a whirlwind. The only thing that I can conceive of that is harder than watching your wife suffer through extreme labor pain for 22 hours is, well, being the person suffering through extreme labor pain for 22 hours. Wifey Kim is, as always, a superstar. After 22 hours, we had to switch to a c-section, but her recovery has been great. Cry on Poker, meanwhile, is fine as well. When he was delivered via c-section, the cord was wrapped around his neck twice, as well as one arm and one leg. All I can say is that he is likely to be a wanderer, with such a long umbilical cord. Since we opted to switch to c-section, the cord issue turned out to be a non-issue. I am not a religious person, but I do feel truly blessed.

Two weeks in and it is no surprise that I have yet to play any poker. It’s been tough, but its not like its been so tough that I no longer remember the rules of poker. Fortunately, my writing at Pokerist Academy has at least kept me thinking critically about the game.

My actual break in play is probably for the best, since I’m usually dead tired (although I have had time to play stupid videogames, with inFamous and inFamous 2 as my two games of choice). Even so, my wonderful wife has given me the okay to take two poker trips. One didn’t materialize, but I almost went to AC on Labor Day with bro-in-law Marc for a day trip. That may have been wishful thinking, though, since when Labor Day actually came around, I didn’t have any desire to leave wifey Kim or CoP.  The second green light is for bro-in-law Marc’s bachelor party in AC in late September. Part of me feels that this, too, is unlikely to materialize for me, but the reality is that wifey Kim and I seek a balance where we can both have some free recreational time. We are fortunate to have friends and family always at the ready to assist.

We currently live in a studio apartment with a home office, which is really a roundabout way of saying a one bedroom apartment where the bedroom has no windows. If there are no windows, then it is illegal to call the room a bedroom, but its just as big as any bedroom would be. So far, everyone and everything fits in nice, but we will definitely be moving sometime in the next year to get more space.

This is where poker and logic conflict. As you may or may not know, New Jersey is the third state (after Delaware and Nevada) to legalize online poker in the U.S.A. The current expectation is that games will be available in NJ in November 2013. My and wifey Kim’s family mostly live on Long Island, to the east of New York City, where we currently live. New Jersey is to the west of New York (that one there is for the geographically-deficient). So, my poker-playing self wants to move to NJ, a brief trip over the water from our current apartment. Logic, though, would dictate moving closer to friends and family by moving to Queens or Brooklyn to the east. The sad part is, I still lean toward New Jersey. Family will travel, but online poker is apparently staying put.

Oh, what terrible problems I have!

Until next time, make mine poker!

Cry on Poker

August 23rd, 2013

20130823-150214.jpg

Born August 18, 2013.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Back to the Underground

July 16th, 2013

When the government decided to protect me from myself by shutting down the major top US poker sites, it really wreaked havoc on my poker playing hobby. I had tons of time to fill and no real outlet, which led me to return to art. In fact, with all of the free time, I near completion of the first draft of an illustrated book I have been working on since July 4, 2012.

When the sites were shut down, they were my primary poker outlet. I had pretty much ditched the world of underground poker rooms, because my favorite room had shut down and I was no longer tuned in to the local scene.

My old underground room reopened in a new location, but the bloom had already fallen off the rose. I no longer felt like engaging in the underground poker scene in New York City. I felt that it was a ripoff in terms of rake, dangerous in terms of the risk of robbery or police raids, and foolish in terms of the possibility that organized or disorganized cheating took place. I never actually saw cheating, but if you are willing to run (or play at) an underground, illegal gambling den, then why wouldn’t you also be willing to cheat.

Last week, the dam broke. I revisited my old haunts for some $1/3 NLHE action.

Holy cow. I hate to be that guy, but it was another card dead session. Even so, I was able to get my $300 stack up to $500+, before I took a dip and ended up with a $82 loss. It’s been a week, and I do not remember specifics anymore, but it was still a fun session.

If I noticed anything about my play, it was that I was so distracted. I don’t even really follow sports, but ESPN was on and I was transfixed at anything but poker. In reality, I was probably on subtle tilt from folding so much. Poker can be boring with folding.

I planned to return to the underground room tonight, but it seems I forgot to pack my poker wallet and card cap. I’ll probably just hit an ATM and go anyway. After all, with Baby Boy coming in August, the clock is ticking on my free time.

But, just to be clear, YOU DID THIS GOVERNMENT! It was YOU who told me that I could not play on a site in the safety of my home for micro-stakes. It was YOU who created conditions under which my only option, if I want to play a game, is to play in an underground room with no governmental oversight with a bunch of potential criminals.

So, congratulations, Nanny State government. Dicks.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Developing Scar Tissue

June 23rd, 2013

While I may have been hibernating from this blog, my poker continues to plod along, and my most recent session was sadly not a winning one.

In the early days at High on Poker, I recall a conversation I had with either Robbie Hole or Dave Roose about scar tissue. I had lost something like $200+ in a day playing online poker after a similar losing session at a home game.  I was still learning to accept the ups and downs of poker, and I felt like I reached a new level. “Dave,” I said, assuming I was talking to Dave and not Rob, “it’s like I don’t even feel it anymore unless I lose more than $300.”

For a low stakes player still learning the ropes, this was a revelation. I had grown scar tissue enough to accept losses. I knew, even then, that even the best online poker players or live poker players will have losing sessions a good percentage of the time. I didn’t know that it was actually a 55/45% split for solid players, but I accepted the fact that losing was inevitable here and there. Still, when the night would end, if I was down over $150 or $200, I couldn’t help but focus on the dollars, rather than the decisions or the reality that losses will happen.

My most recent session at the Sands in Bethlehem reminded me that poker scar tissue is not a simple one and done proposition. After leaving down $600+, between $450 or so in poker losses and $150 or so in table game losses, the loss stung bad. I needed more scar tissue. I still do. It’s a learning process.

Yet, losses will happen, so I have to consider what happened in my poker session. Was I playing my best poker? Probably not. Before the session began, the guys and I had went golfing, and golfing for us usually involves getting inebriated. By the time I got to the poker table, I was still sluggish, both in mind and body. This was obviously not good for a cerebral game like poker.

My problems were likely compounded by the fact that I was simply card dead. This, in an of itself, is not an excuse for my losses. It’s easy to blame the cards or luck and take no blame for one’s own losses, but I’m not looking for the easy way out. In reality, I could have saved more money by accepting that I was card dead and either calling it a day early in the face of bad luck, or playing even more tight that I did. My biggest losses came on the few times I had good starting cards (KK lost to 99 and TT lost to 33). I’m not saying I could have avoided losing to flopped sets; but perhaps I could have been more aware of what was happening when I was behind, and saved some money. Admittedly, as my cards grew cold, so did my attention span.

Of course, cutting out table games is probably also on my list of how to improve my poker and prevent more losses. I had quit all table games for a while because I hated winning at poker and giving it back at blackjack or craps. I started playing table games more frequently with friends, but its the same trap it always has been. Give me poker tournaments any day over a crap table. Craps are the devil!

Now more than a week later, the $600+ loss kinda stings, but its made better by the fact that I had been on a rush before that session that more than covers the $600 loss. Hopefully, this will result in more scar tissue, and I’ll be telling Roose (or Hole) the next time about how the losses don’t sting unless I lose a grand.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Blogging on Facebook

April 9th, 2013

I was on Facebook recently, when I came across a post from poker blogger and radio man, Instant Tragedy. If one were to historically chart the different ages of poker blogging, Tragedy would probably come from the group of bloggers that emerged during the poker blogging Silver-age. Blogs were plentiful after the Golden-age had established the format, and online poker provided the perfect opportunity for bloggers to meet and develop content.

Back to Facebook. Instant Tragedy posted on his status how Facebook had replaced blogging. Longform posts have been replaced by brief status updates. I can probably think offhand of at least five different bloggers who have written about the death of the poker blog in the last five years. But I always felt that poker blogging would never really die. It would always live on in some form, when some new blogger found a reason to write about the game we all love.

I still read a handful of poker blogs that discuss actual poker. I read other poker blogs as well, but poker content is light and people have moved on to other topics. But I sincerely believe this is a temporary occurrence. Yes, to a certain extent, sites like Twitter and Facebook have usurped the role of the poker blog. But more to the point, the death of online poker in the United States was the defining moment in recent poker blogging history. No online poker means no opportunity for the poker blogging community to meet up in a virtual setting. No online poker means less enticement for those who first entered blogging for freebies and freeroll promotions. No online poker means no content for players who do not have access to live games.

Instant Tragedy may be right though. Every blogger has at least some level of narcissism. Who else would think their writing is worth reading other than a narcissist? Facebook gives us an easier route to self-promotion and, dare I say, self-importance. But Facebook is not the place to discuss theory in depth, or hand histories, or to discuss a private tournament played amongst people who share a common interest around the globe.

So, I, for one, am hoping that the recent trend toward the legalization of online poker will be cause for rebirth of the poker blog. But if not, at least we still have Facebook.

Until next time, make mine poker.

UFC & Poker

March 14th, 2013

I love the UFC. Several years ago, I caught a couple of episodes of the UFC reality competition series, The Ultimate Fighter. I am a reality TV nut, and I am a casual fan of boxing, so I really enjoyed the show. One season later, though, and I had forgotten all about it.  That changed around six months ago.

I think the new obsession began when I was going on a trip and wanted to load up my iPhone with TV shows and movies to watch. I am like a 3 year old that way; I must be constantly entertained. I researched via message boards the best season of The Ultimate Fighter, which led to a series of downloads. In total, I probably watched 8 of the prior seasons, or so, often as marathons. I loved watching the fighters develop, but even moreso, I was entranced by the physical skills and determination it takes to be a real fighter.

Fast forward several months, and I had tapped out my resource of The Ultimate Fighter seasons available online. I needed more, so I started to download recent fight cards. Finally, I stumbled upon the payload, all prior UFC PPV events. Like the completest I am, I started with UFC 1, and have now reached UFC 17. It has given me an opportunity to watch some current fighters when they were first starting out in the octagon. But more interestingly, I have been able to see the development of the sport, from its early days when the fighters literally did not know what to expect in the ring, to the development of defined, UFC-inspired fighting styles.

Surprisingly or not, watching MMA (mixed martial arts) develop as a sport has really helped me appreciate the developments in poker over the years, both on a personal level and on a macro level. On a personal level, we all know what it is like first stepping into the poker “octagon” with little skills or understanding of the game and how it works. Even if you’ve read up on poker before your first game, there is no substitution for experience.

But I was even more interested in the parallels on a macro level. The UFC and MMA is constantly developing. In the early events, Royce Gracie was head-and-shoulders above the other fighters because he had well-rounded skills, learned from his family’s own style of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, known as Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He and Ken Shamrock, who was experienced in submission shoot fighting, were literally in a class above the rest, who were a mish mosh of kick boxers, boxers, karate, and other striking fighters. Over the years, the wrestlers took over (amateur wrestling, not WWE), because they had strength and could dominate on the ground. Fighters like Dan Severn and Mark Coleman were main eventers. Power had trumped technique, at least somewhat, but the developments didn’t stop there. Now that I am at UFC 17, where contemporary fighters like Dan Henderson began fighting, I can see the next class of MMA fighters, trained in a particular discipline, but knowledgeable and prepared to use the best (or defend against the best) techniques of the other styles. Henderson, for instance, was a wrestler, but in his UFC debut, he showed off an impressive skill at striking and jiu jitsu defense. We are probably now in the middle of another phase, the super athlete. Now that the UFC has become a big hit, thanks in large part to the popularity of The Ultimate Fighter, fighters are being raised to fight MMA from a very young age. It has prestige, so super athletes like Anderson Silva and Jon Jones are the big dogs, able to combine their natural physical prowess with skills in various disciplines. It was common belief in MMA that there was no room for certain techniques, like Kung Fu, but these super athletes are able to make moves previously thought to be improbable into reality.

Isn’t that the story of poker? It was a backroom game, like the early brawls at UFC 1, where players played on intuition. Players like Doyle Brunson were able to get a leg up on the competition using aggression, something that was uncommon amongst the other players. Over time, the game became more popular and people started to learn different styles, thanks, in large part, to books like Brunson’s Super/System. Suddenly, a new class of player emerged, many of whom became the stars of poker when the poker boom hit. But the developments didn’t stop there either. Math kids got in on the action, finding success. And we found our own “super athletes”, like Jason Mercier or Tom Dwan, raised with poker and able to use a mix of fearlessness, aggression, intuition, and an understanding of the risks of the game to dominate the field.

Maybe that’s why I love the UFC and MMA so much. It’s not unlike poker. On its face, it is a brutish pursuit, but in reality, it is a constantly evolving art form, where the real competition takes place between the individual competitor and the sands of time. Things change, and if you don’t change with them, you’ll end up like a UFC 1 karate fighter. You may be good at your one thing, but it doesn’t apply anymore.

Until next time, make mine poker!

COD: Black Ops 2

March 6th, 2013

Hey folks. Does anyone play Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 for the PS3? I ask because I’ve been playing it lately (a poor substitute for online poker, but a substitute nonetheless) and it is awesome. My good pal Roose has been playing as well and we’ve been communicating via the game mic, like a couple of 12 year old boys. It has occurred to me that some of you might play too and would be down for a session.

So, if you are interested and play the game, hit me up with a comment or email. My email is accessible via the link at the top left of the page, under HoP Links.

Until next time, make mine poker!