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High On Poker

The Time Poker Earned Me Cookies

September 19th, 2016

Cookies Wrapped

Over the last few months, I’ve been spending random weekend days at my mother’s house, helping her clean up the place, which has become inundated with collections, stored items, and nostalgia over the years. My mother loves reading and has amassed probably 10,000 books. She also tutors and teaches teenagers who cannot go to school for various reasons, so in addition to her leisure books, she has enough educational books to fill a small library. She also has all of my and my two brothers’ toys from when we were kids, keepsakes from when we were in college, and random other items, like furniture that we had stored indefinitely. Seeing as how I love my mother, I made a commitment to clean the place up. It’s been going slowly, but it has been very rewarding. I’m constantly finding things that I did not even remember existed.

This weekend, I came across my old poker chips. It’s a beautiful set, complete with a metal case, dealer button and all the usual accoutrements. I remember purchasing the set, shortly before receiving a set of free chips from a company promoting a poker video game sponsored by Daniel Negreanu. This led me down a path of reminiscing about online poker and how things were very different ten years ago when I started my blog.

Perhaps the weirdest thing that came from online poker were all the freebies. Some came in the form of promotion points issued by the sites that could be exchanged for real goods. The oddest of these was when I got a cookie tray for playing at an online poker site. I love cookies, but I really love the oddity of receiving a gift package of cookies because of raked hands (above).

The best thing I ever got was a 50″ TV. To be fair, I did not get the 50″ TV solely from poker, but thanks to a third-party site, I did earn enough gift cards to offset the cost incredibly. The site offered to give you gift cards in exchange for opening an account at a poker site and playing enough raked hands. It was essentially a convoluted rakeback scheme, but I was not familiar with rakeback and the requirements were uber low, so I just saw it as free gifts. You could sign up for a random site like ladbrokes or betvictor, and a few days later hit enough rakeback for a $50 giftcard to BestBuy or the like. In the case of the TV, there must have been some glitch in the system, because instead of sending me one $50 gift card, I received 5 for a total value of $250. Add that to the other $200 in gift cards I had amassed from other promotions, and my TV was suddenly a lot cheaper (not to mention the connection I had at BestBuy who was able to get me the TV at cost). For what its worth, I still have that TV all these years later. Other times, I’d get to try out free poker related websites, like betbind, which incidentally has its own free services available to the general public.

Sure, it was just a collection of (sometimes edible) things, but it was fun and exciting at the time. Now, if I play online poker, its extremely rare, since I have to be in NJ. Even worse, it feels completely unreal, since I have not even tried to withdraw the money. They feel more like credits in a video game than a chance to make money.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Sands in my Eye

August 29th, 2016

I made my return to Sands last weekend. Due to reasons I rather not discuss right now, I may have been gifted a car. I don’t necessarily want it. I live in a place where I can walk to a variety of stores and restaurants, including three supermarkets within a 2 block radius and probably 20 restaurants within a 10 block radius, and I take public transportation to work, so a car was never a necessity. But having a free car, I decided to see what this newfound freedom would feel like, which meant I needed to take a poker day trip. After all, being a resident of New York, I do not have the convenience of nearby or online gaming, like what is offered by Betfair Casino NJ, so at least a car can help me access my favorite pass time.

I got up early, showered until I was actually awake-awake, threw on the clothes I laid out the night before, and headed over to get a bagel for me and Roose. Roose joined me and we hopped in my car, heading to Brooklyn to pick up bro-in-law Marc. Once we were all together, we took the relatively easy drive to the Sands. I didn’t even get pulled over this time.

On the drive, Roose mentioned his desire to play at the same table, so when we arrived, we put in our request. There were three seats open on two tables, but the floor added us to a move list for a new table.

Roose and Marc headed to one table and I headed to another. As I looked around the table, I noticed it looked like a Klan rally. All old, angry-looking white males. I played a few hands, switched seats to get position on one particularly wily octogenarian and immediately was called for a new table.

When I arrived at the table, the 2 seat, 3 seat and 9 seat were open, likely because of the crappy design of the Sands tables, which have huge legs that block the leg room of those seats. I took seat 2. Roose took seat 3. And we were off to the races.

I have to pat myself on the back, because I played excellently all day. I amassed a $350 profit, although I do not remember exactly how. I do, however, remember how I gave most of my profit back.

I had dwindled a little bit when I was dealt TT in the BB. There were around four or five limpers when the action got around to me, so I raised to $12. I got two callers.

The flop was T83, with two clubs. I decided to bet the flop. I do not recall the sum, but it was probably in the $45 range. I got two callers. The turn was an offsuit nine. I looked at the two players’ stacks. One guy had about $160; the other had maybe $130. I decided to just push all-in. I figured someone was flush drawing.

The player with the larger stack, a frumpy, mustachioed man of probably 60 years, called. The other player folded. His stack was counted, I matched his stack, and then I flipped over my cards, knowing that regardless of the outcome, I’d have to show first anyway. He did nothing, so I stood up and thought to myself, “No club. No club. No club.” The river was a 6 of hearts, and I was ecstatic…until he flipped his cards. He had been playing 47, and it wasn’t even suited clubs! Whey he chose to call the flop AND the turn was beyond me. I was dumbfounded.

The player himself looked sheepish and almost apologetic. After the hands were mucked, a player next to him said, “Well, he did have the flush draw,” but both me and my opponent confirmed that my opponent was calling with nothing but an inside straight draw. I did my best to look calm and collected. I wasn’t on tilt. I accepted the fact that even if I were a 90% favorite, he’d still win 10% of the time (no, I did not do the math; its the concept that matters and not the actual figures).

I continued to play and amassed another $300 profit. That one dwindled too, though, and then I gave up my remaining profit by calling a pre-flop $100+ push with AKs. My opponent had AA and had open pushed. At the time, I figured he probably had a vulnerable pocket pair (i.e., 22-QQ) and I was willing to toss a coin, since I had profit to cover the all-in. In hindsight, I should have been more cautious, but I knew what I was doing when I did it.

At the end of the session, I held a $21 profit. Roose had been down a small amount, but won his last pot to leave up $50. Marc had earned $40 at his table. We were all winners, but the profits were less than impressive.

On my way to the cage to cash out, I put my $21 profit on black, hitting it for $42 total profit for the day. Marc let some of his money ride and left up $90.

The drive back was pleasant. Halfway there, Roose wanted to eat. We began to exit the road to hit a nearby Cracker Barrel when he came up with the idea to find a Wegman’s, a NE supermarket chain that has a section with prepared foods, subs, etc. I love Wegman’s from my college years in Buffalo, so I was glad to follow his lead. We found one 25 minutes away, scarfed down some food, and finished our trip home.

If there was a lesson for the trip, it may be to avoid gambling. But I think the real lesson is to accept the bad beats. Its going to happen, so if you cannot handle it, quit playing poker and go play chess, where you have complete information. Lesson or no lesson, though, it was great to play. Hell, it may even be worth keeping the car so I can travel to the casinos.

Until next time, make mine poker!

My Annual Online Poker Week

August 15th, 2016

For the last five years, wifey Kim and I have traveled to Cape May, New Jersey with our friends Mori and Genny for a summer vacation. In the first year, we merely stopped there on our way down the East Coast. The next year, we stayed for a week. After that, we stayed in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath apartment of sorts in a B&B-looking house with Mori, Genny, their daughter and our son. Since the four adults get along so well and the kids are the same age, its an ideal scenario.

This year, I traveled with an iPad and iPhone, but no laptop. My laptop crapped out on me months ago and I never replaced it, since I do not use one with any frequency. On day 2 of the trip, I realized I was in goddamn New Jersey, one of three states that offer regulated online poker. I had an account set up years ago at a couple of sites, and when I logged into one using my iPad, I found $160 waiting from me from last year.

From then on, I played a little bit, almost every night. Not too much, since we were with other people and I wanted to be sociable, but enough that I was probably less sociable than I should have been. Fortunately, my friends and wife understand me and there were no issues with my play.

The highlight came on day 3 when I placed 2nd out of 49 players in a tournament for $200 or so. The rest of the time, I mostly played SNGs and some very ineffective ring games. For the week, I was up only $40 or so, but it was better than being down that amount.

I have a couple of observations about online poker in NJ, most of which is not pretty. I was surprised at how hard it was to find a game. This is obviously due to the limited player base in NJ, but disappointing nonetheless. A 6-person SNG at normal stakes can take a long time to get started, so it was near impossible to plan my sessions, because I could be waiting 30 minutes or more before an SNG starts. I even had trouble finding a cash game once. I imagine if the site could take on a larger player base, like TonyBet Poker, this problem would quickly evaporate.

The added problem is that when poker is not available due to a smaller player base, those with the gambling bug may be tempted to click on the little link to the online casino, where you can lose your money much faster with significantly reduced skill elements. So, the lower player base may be funneling people to a more profitable part of the online gaming market, to the casino’s benefit and player’s detriment. It’s not even like they offer sports betting, like TonyBet does, so you are stuck with electronic slots and table games that can go very fast.

Finally, while I was glad to be able to log on and play on my iPad and iPhone, the software is far from ideal. Once you are in a game, it is good enough, but I could not get a grasp on whether it was possible or feasible to play multiple tables, I could not figure out how to unregister once you register from a tournament and close out the tournament’s lobby, and several times, I could not even log in. I had to literally uninstall and reinstall the app several times on both devices when it would randomly start working. I haven’t had a chance to download TonyBet poker software or the TonyBet Poker mobile app, but I have to imagine it is better than what I experienced.

The final thing that playing for a week made me realize is that online poker is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, I like the freedom to play whenever and wherever I want. On the other hand, I forgot how the ups and downs of online poker can really affect the mental state of the player. Fortunately, I was able to take a step back and not let it affect me too much, but I did find myself thinking about it a bit too much (as in, “I hope the connectivity issues are resolved by tonight) and thinking about it a bit too much after (as in, lying in bed thinking, “I probably should’ve folded there”). But that’s all on me; it ain’t poker’s fault.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Resistance Is Futile

May 25th, 2016

A lot is going on in the High Household, but its always important to take care of one’s vices, so as to be sharp when the need for sharpness arises. With this in mind, more than a month ago, I eyed a possible weekend for a guy’s trip to Atlantic City. The trip finally came to fruition this weekend.

Anyone familiar with the archives knows that I used to go to AC several times a year with a crowd of fellow degenerates. We’d ditch our wives or girlfriends, head to AC for a weekend, and play poker for as long as possible. Now, with several of us with children, the ability to sneak away for a weekend is rare. When we planned this trip, the crew was going to be me, Dave Roose, Eric and my bro-in-law Marc. Usual suspect Robbie Hole had to work. By the time the weekend arrived, Eric had backed out, leaving just me, Roose, and Marc.

We had booked two rooms at the Borgata, the nicest and most expensive casino/hotel in AC. In the past, I usually went for the cheapest possible casino/hotel, but the rates were all high for Saturday night, so for an extra $60 or so ($30 per person), we opted for staying in the Borg, where the rooms are all nice (other hotels have inconsistently updated rooms) and the poker room is literally the best in town by a long shot.

I woke up early on Saturday and, after situating my son on the couch with his milk and fruitbar, said goodbye to my family and headed to pick up Marc. I got to him before 8 a.m., since sleep was no longer a luxury I could afford at home.

The drive was largely uneventful. From his place in Brooklyn, it was about 2 hours away. We arrived at the hotel around 10 a.m., and assumed our room would be unavailable until the late afternoon. Fortunately, we checked anyway and were pleased to learn that our room was available early at no extra cost. We went back to the car, grabbed our bags and set up camp in our room. We then quickly headed downstairs for some poker.

A $100+20 re-entry tournament was scheduled for 11 a.m. It was tempting – I prefer tournaments, although I love cash games as well  – but ultimately decided that with more than 30 minutes before the tournament, I should just sit and play cash and if I were still in the mood to join, I could join the tournament as late as the 8th level. Marc and I placed our names for 1/2 NLHE and were seated at different tables relatively quickly.

It felt good to be back at a poker table. The table overall was fairly friendly. I did notice at one time that at least half the table were obsessed with their phones. I had my moments, too, checking useless stuff on Facebook or returning the odd text, but I did my best to just pay attention to the game. As I watched the chubby girl in the 2 seat watching what must’ve been a movie on her phone and the handicapped guy on my immediate left flipping through the channels on his TV app, I came to appreciate how these two (and others like them) were literally disadvantaging themselves by tuning out of the action. If they joined a pot, you could be assured that they had a hand; otherwise, they would’ve just gone back to watching their phones. And if they played, you knew they had no read on you from prior hands, since they did not pay any attention; likely, they did not even consider their opponents’ cards/play when making decisions.

Nonetheless, it was a friendly-enough crowd. The handicapped guy and I got into a long conversation about random stuff. A new player on my right chatted with me about the game and some rules that must have been obscure for a player who never before played at a casino. At one point, he was heads-up and acted out of turn, checking the river. When his opponent checked, he bet and she immediately folded, tossing her cards into the muck. Someone, perhaps the dealer, noted that the newbie was not allowed to raise, since he checked out of turn and he was bound to the check once the action checked to him. The folding player, an Asian woman who we will revisit momentarily, was enraged. “You can’t do that! He can’t bet the river after checking!” The newbie was really upset that he did something wrong and apologized. She wouldn’t let up, and he was getting frustrated, repeating, “I apologized. I didn’t know.” I quietly told him, “Hey man, you made a small mistake; she made a fatal one. If she knows the rules, then she could’ve said something and you would’ve been forced to check. But when she threw her cards in the muck, she forfeited her hand. That’s her bad, not yours. Don’t feel bad at all.” In the end, nothing came of it. The newbie got the pot and the woman got to feel like the victim.

I had hovered around even for most of the game. At one point, I was down over $100 and reloaded the $100, but got myself back to near even, with a $400 stack ($300 + $100 rebuy).

You can play poker for 6 hours and it can all come down to one hand. This was one of those days, and this was the hand.

I had been dealt 24d in middle position. I had been getting a lot of hands with two mismatched cards below 8. I mean a lot. At one point, I could feel myself itching to play marginal hands because it was the best thing I had seen in a while, but I remembered the advice I give to all other players who fall into that trap: Just because your other hands were garbage, does not mean that your current slightly-less-garbage hand is playable. The poker gods do no care that you have been folding for 2 hours. Fold for 2 more or 200 more if that’s what the poker gods demand of you. Eventually, your cards will come.

Now, some may read that and say, “But Jordan, you played 24d.” Well, yes, but I like playing suited connectors and suited gappers. It may not work for everyone, but I figured with my relatively tight image and ability to fold post-flop, it was worth seeing a flop.

I limped with my 24d, as did others, before the aforementioned Asian woman, let’s call her Sore Loser or SL, raised to $11. There was at least one call before me, so I called as well, admittedly looser than probably optimal. One or two more callers called and we saw a flop:

3d 5d 9h.

I had flopped an open-ended straight flush draw. For the records, there was no high-hand promo.

The action started with the Sore Loser, who bet $40. I looked at the board, looked at the pot, looked at my stack and was confused. With around $84 in the pot and $365 or so in my stack, I could not figure out what the right play was. I took my time analyzing the play. It was probably the longest thinking session I took during the entire day. I found myself in a real quagmire and tried to work out the possibilities.

I considered flat calling, but in any scenario, that seemed like a bad idea. If I missed the turn, I would likely be scared away by a large turn bet. If I called and hit the turn, a flush card may induce SL to fold, cutting off the profitability. Even worse, if a flush card came and she held a large diamond, the flush card may induce her to draw for a four-flush board, sucking out on me on the river  Since I could not see a clear path to success that started with calling, I eliminated that option.

My next thought was whether folding would be appropriate. The part of me that is risk averse was heavily leaning toward folding, but I looked at my breakeven stack and thought that I had to be willing to fight for pots if I wanted to walk away with a profit. Victory is won by the bold. So, I decided that folding was probably not the best idea either, not that I eliminated that idea entirely.

Next I thought about raising. What were my options there? If I raised $100 or even $100 on top, the pot would be so swollen that any turn bet by me or SL would essentially equal my entire remaining stack (which would be somewhere around $265-$200, with a pot size around $280+). I really did not want to be put to that test.  So my next option was to push all-in.

It seemed crazy at the time, raising from $40 to $365. But its only crazy if you care about money, something that I was actively trying not to do at the table. In the end, I figured that by pushing, one of two things would happen (something that is invariably true). Either everyone would fold, at which point I win the $80, or one or more players would call, at which point I’d sit back and wait for the turn and river without any hard decisions to make. Between the two options, I would have preferred for everyone to fold. So when SL called my all-in (she had $600+ in front of her), I was not 100% thrilled.

The turn was an Ace of clubs. The river was a blank. I waited for SL to show her cards: AA, for a set of Aces. I announced, “Straight,” and tabled my cards. She replied, “Straight?” She was confused; after all, it was a rather hidden straight. But then, she paid me.

I continued playing for several more hours. I had only taken one break during the session, a couple of hours before the 24d hand, to get lunch with Dave, who had arrived shortly after us. We went to the Metropolitan, a diner-type restaurant in the hotel, because the food court is under construction. I got the grilled cheese with bacon, the official casino meal of High on Poker. It was amazing, naturally.

After lunch, Dave convinced Marc to play blackjack. Marc was down around $120 in poker and was happy to change it up. I was in AC ostensibly for poker, so despite the temptation, I stayed put. When I won the 24d hand, I texted them both. They said congrats. I asked how they were doing and they gave me a noncommittal, “okay.”

A few hours later, when I was ready to cash out, I had amassed $316 in profit. Moments before this, Dave and Marc showed up with big grins on their faces. They had pooled their money, $200 apiece, and hit a blackjack table. They were down to scraps when their luck turned around. When they walked away, they had $2300, collectively. In other words, while I toiled away for $300, they had made 3x as much, apiece.

Marc and I have a friendly competitiveness, and their win definitely sparked that within me. But mostly, I was just happy for them. It would have been nice to have shared in their spoils, but if I were there, everything would have been different.

With all of us up, we discussed dinner options and decided to treat ourselves. The steakhouses were all booked up, but the Italian restaurant, Fornelletto, had an early reservation available. We were all hungry enough and made the reservation.

Fornelletto was amazing. It was probably the best meal I’ve ever had in AC, both because of the food and the atmosphere. The restaurant itself requires you to take an elevator or walk down several flights of stairs to a cellar-type area. The setup is bright but intimate. An open kitchen area allows guests to see some of the food prep, mostly antipastos.

We got our table, perused the menu and decided to create our own buffet. We ordered the calamari and meatballs to start, and chicken parmesan, lobster fra diavolo and a mixed seafood spaghetti as our shared entrees. Each dish was better than the last, and we all had our favorites. Mine was the lobster fra diavolo. The sauce was spicy enough that I felt it, but it did not overwhelm the lobster or the amazing sauce. But the rest was all great, too, and I’d order each and every dish again, happily.

After dinner, we decided to pool our money for blackjack. We called it a Syndicate (a collection of individuals with a common goal) and went to work. Playing at a blackjack table while sharing money is an interesting experience. Because you share money, none of the money feels like its yours. We each played, but if one of us was close to bust, the others would hand him chips without a second thought. Also, seeing Marc bet big, bigger than what I would normally bet, encouraged me to do the same. After all, the money was shared so if he bet big, then I was already ostensibly making big bets, so I may as well make them and take control of the hand. I didn’t quite reach his levels, but I bet bigger than I ever had before.

On our first session, we all walked away up $150 apiece. We then went to Pai Gow, where the Syndicate remained in play, winning us another $150 apiece.

After Pai Gow, Marc’s beer had caught up with him, so he headed to the bathroom. Dave and I followed, and as we waited, Dave sat down at the second-to-last Wheel of Fortune slot machine in a bank of machines near the bathroom. I took the last one, happy to see that despite being a $1 machine, it was only 3 credits max. Dave’s machine was 5 credits max. I put in $20, he put in $100, and we began mashing buttons.

As I neared my last $3, I figured I had just blown $20. I don’t enjoy slots at all. There are no decisions. Its just pay money, push buttons and hope. With my last $3 (I must’ve won a small amount somewhere, because $20 does not divide evenly with $3), I hit the Max Bet button and prepared to lose. Lady Luck had other ideas. The first symbol to come up was a 3x multiplier. The second symbol was a 2x multiplier. The third was a Bar 7. I had won something, but I wasn’t sure what. As the credits passed $20 and then $40, I nudged Dave. “Hey,” I said, “I think I won something.” He pointed to a part of the machine that showed 480. I had, apparently, hit for $480 dollars. I naturally cashed out immediately.

As I was waiting for the 480 credits to register, I looked over at Dave’s machine. He had $235 or so in the machine.

“How much did you buy in for?,” I asked.
“$100”
“Then you are up over $100. Cash out, man.”
“Oh. Oh yeah.” We, apparently, suck at slot machines. But with that, he cashed out his profit too.

Remember when I mentioned Marc and my friendly rivalry? Well, when he got done with his bathroom break and heard the news, he was emboldened.

“Show me the machine!,” he demanded. I walked him over and pointed to it. He immediately sat down and put $100 into it.

“Okay, man, but I just hit with it. It’s not going to hit again.”

As I watched his balance dip, I was filled with a sense of glee. Keep in mind that this asshat was up over $1,000, so losing $100 would humble him, but not hurt him. The fact that he was chasing to one-up me, despite his earlier huge win, was even better. When he finally hit a spin and it landed on 25, one of the lower amounts, I was openly taunting him. “Oh. $25. Cute.”

But Lady Luck gets around and moments later, he hit another spin. This time, it paid out $200.

“Alright, man. You have your profit. Let’s go.”
“Just a little more.”

I don’t know what he was thinking. He wasn’t going to hit it again. But then he did. Another spin and another $200. You’ve got to be kidding me.

He cashed out somewhere in the $400s. I had still won more than him, but he felt victory making a profit in an unlikely scenario. He can have his empty victory.

After that, we headed to the B Bar in the middle of the casino floor so Dave and Marc could enjoy some cigars they bought with their earlier winnings. We have all been drinking steadily. For me, that mean rum-and-cokes, the official casino mixed drink of High On Poker. By the time we got to the B Bar though, I had switched to Stoli O on the rocks with a lime. Dave was downing Johnny Walkers. Marc generally stuck to beer.

The scene at the B Bar was weird. It was fairly packed with a bouncer checking IDs, despite the fact that the bar was literally in the middle of the casino floor. We were able to get an area with a couch and lounge chairs, and enjoyed our drinks and the view as the guys smoked their cigars.

Once done, we patrolled the casino floor once again. It was only midnight, but the long day had caught up with me and we had won so much that anything more would have felt futile and empty. Alas, Marc wanted one more go, so we pooled our funds once again ($200 apiece), sat down for some blackjack, and had our first losing session.

All done, we headed back upstairs satisfied with our gambling day. Marc and I hit the sack pretty quickly, both of us having been up earlier than 7 a.m.

The next morning, I received a text from Dave around 7:46 a.m.: “Breakfast?”

I was more than annoyed. I finally was able to sleep without a rambunctious toddler who doubles as an alarm. Unfortunately, my rambunctious degenerate friend had the same alarm function. I texted him back:

“Still sleeping. Stop waking me, anus.”

I don’t know why I chose “anus.” Alas, I did. I closed my eyes, content to eke out some more sleep, when my cell beeped again. Another text, 7:52 a.m.:

“Cool. So breakfast?”

Fucktard. I could tell my sleep was over. I showered (a rarity for an AC trip), got dressed and reached out to Dave. By then, Marc was awake and the three of us checked out and headed for breakfast, down at the Metropolitan.

Once again, the Metropolitan did not disappoint. I had an egg, cheese and spinach sandwich on a croissant, subbing the usual meat choices with my favorite veggie. Dave got an eggs benedict with crab meat and Marc got huevos rancheros.

The bill was paid with comps, Dave’s and Marc’s comps to be exact. I apparently only had $1. That’s when I discovered that I had two different Borgata card numbers. A trip to the promotions desk confirmed that my other card had $29 in comps on it. And that’s how I tricked my buddies into buying me breakfast.

The car trip home was uneventful. It was by all accounts one of our most successful trips. I had won $316 in poker, $100 in table games (thanks to the Syndicate) and $460 in slots. My compadres each cleared more than $1,000 in profit. Not bad for an overnight trip.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Poker Drought Continues

April 13th, 2016

Good afternoon, readers. Ready for me to regale you with another tale of poker debauchery. Well, go read the archives, because since the last Wall Street home game, I’m back in a poker drought.

If I were in New Jersey (less than 20 miles away) or some non-nanny state, I’d be able to play in the comfort of my home. Instead, the government has saved me from online poker (where I was a winner). I wonder what all those ex-online-poker players are doing with their extra free time. Sure, some of them moved on to live games, but I’m equally as sure that the majority are like me, too far from legal casino poker to play with any regularity. What’s a man to do when he isn’t playing online poker? I wish I could say something impressive. The sad truth is that most of that time has simply shifted to other games, mostly video games.

There are times that I’m playing a game, even a great one like Fallout 4 or Arkham Knight, that I am confronted, internally, by the futility of it all. At least when I’m playing poker, online or otherwise, there is something at stake. I can and have won nice sums playing live and online, which is something I cannot say for Call of Duty. Poker is not all about the money, but its a factor.

I used to joke that if I could find a game of Monopoly played for money, I’d be playing Monopoly instead of poker. Of course, I prefer poker, but the sentiment is that poker is a fun game, like Monopoly or video games, that ALSO involves a financial stake. The reason why a grown adult can play poker with relative impunity is because it is an adult game, due in large part to the money at stake. But a grown man playing a video game or board game, that’s just pure leisure (or, some might say, kids stuff, not to offend any board game aficionados; keep in mind, I’m a comic book geek).

Fortunately, I did make plans for an overnight trip to AC on Saturday May 21 with Roose, my bro-in-law Marc and another friend, Eric. The plan is to stay at the Borgata for a whopping $420. In the past, we used to follow a basic rule of thumb: find the cheapest casin0/hotel on the Boardwalk. Since we go so rarely, though, and the cheapest rates were still north of $350, we decided to splurge and enjoy what is easily the nicest casino and poker room in the City. We may even take some time off from degen poker to eat an expensive meal…assuming we have any money left by then.

Alas, that is the light at the end of my tunnel. I considered driving to NJ this weekend to hang with Robbie Hole and play some online poker, but my laptop died a few months ago and I cannot justify buying a new one if its sole purpose is online poker every few months. Maybe I’ll still go and just use my iPad. The controls are not as good, but I’ll take what I can get. Until the laws change, I’ll just keep dreaming of being able to play on gaming sites like M88, while I futz around the wastelands of Fallout 4.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Wall Street’s 2nd Reunion

March 14th, 2016

I made my return to poker on Friday. It was my first game since early February and I didn’t play at all in January, so poker has been sparse. The lack of poker has caused me to accept that, at least for now, poker has been relegated a hobby. It was always a hobby, in a way, but the availability of online poker and the freedom of being childless allowed me to make it a passion. I’d rarely go two weeks without playing live, and if I wasn’t playing live, I played online almost daily. Gone are those days.

 The problem with being a hobbyist poker player, rather that the serious (but not professional) player I was, is that every game is like learning anew. A lesson learned a month or two ago without reinforcement or practice just evaporates into thin air. And each session requires time to get my sea legs.
The game in questions was the second Wall Street Game reunion, of sorts. Host Jamie has moved to Connecticut with his lovely wife with a baby on the way, but Wendy was able to arrange for a venue in the City, so the majority of the old crew got back together. There were thirteen players for the first $30 tournament, including my buddy Robbie Hole, who is always game for poker. While the tournament wound down, busted players started a cash game. When the tournament ended, a smaller tournament began with seven players; the remaining players wanted to continue the cash game.
I am glad to say that I did not play a single hand of the cash game, having chopped the first tournament four ways and the second one two ways. Unlike the first Wall Street reunion game (where I lost, I think, $90), I walked away winner with an extra $135 in my pocket.
In the first tournament, I was seated at a table with a guy who I consider to be the best in the room, Darko. Darko’s talent lies in his selective aggression and keen insight into the game. He is willing and able to change gears, bluff at pots, and value bet, so you never quite know where he is in a hand.
This actually led to a minor conflict early in the tournament. I was in a hand against Darko. I had played cautiously, letting him bet most of the way. I was calling fairly thin, since I know his willingness to gamble and felt my second pair/weak kicker was likely good. Nonetheless, when he bet the river, I decided to call him. It was the right call.
He instantly announced, “You have me,” but held onto his cards.  “You have to show,” I said.
He repeated himself, “I said you have me. Come on.”
I held firm, “Hey man, its the rules of the game. You have to show first.” He showed his bluff, I showed my middle pair, and he grumbled. We had some light discussion on the topic, but my stance was immovable. I was paying to see his cards as much as anything. I even went so far as to say that with a lesser player, I might let it go, but that I respected his game too much. I don’t think he appreciated the compliment, but I sincerely meant it. Darko is such a skilled player that I would not give up any advantage against him, especially if the advantage is one created by the rules and his own conduct.
I played decently the rest of the tournament before chopping. At the end, there were four of us, and I was among the two lesser stacks. Someone suggested a chop at 5 and I refused, having a large stack. Once we got to four and I was no longer a top stack, I agreed when someone else mentioned a chop. The chip leader, Ham Hands Pauly piped up, “You wouldn’t agree at five but you will at four?” I responded instantly, “Yeah. Because at five, we would have to split it five ways. Plus, I was winning at the time.” Its not rocket science, people. We agreed that we would all take $90 with Ham Hands getting an extra $20 and 2nd place stack Slavin getting an extra $10. Done and done.
The second tournament was looser than the first, what with everyone having already shaken off their ring rust. When we were down to four or five, I hit a run where I did not fold a hand in several orbits. I was getting some decent cards, but was also willing to play marginal hands or weak hands from the blinds. One could say that I was playing reckless; certainly, it would look that way from the outside. In fact, Wendy made it a point to mention that I had not folded preflop in a while. From my perspective, though, I was just taking advantage of the dwindling number of players at the table, the raising blinds, and, admittedly, a bit of a streak.
Once again, when we got to three players, someone, this time Jamie, suggested a chop, with the third person of our threesome, overwhelming chip leader Wendy, getting a majority of the funds. I declined since it meant basically getting my money back. “Look, I would if the prize money was greater, but I’m not interested in breaking even.” The very next hand, I doubled Jamie up.
Finally, though, I busted Jamie and faced Wendy. It was already almost midnight. Here, I will admit that after the first game ended around 9:30, I was ready to leave. I just don’t have the endurance for poker anymore; I suppose not having a full night’s sleep for 2+ years will do that to you. Nonetheless, down to two, and with mostly even stacks (I had her covered), I was happy to agree to a chop.
On the ride home, I got to spend some more time with Slavin, Ham Hands, and Felix, all of which now live in my neighborhood. It’s great hanging with local poker people. I also had the pleasure of meeting a new poker connection, Andrew, at the game. He hosts a game in Queens that I may attend in the near future with Robbie Hole. The whole experience helped me appreciate the best part about poker, whether as a hobby or a passion: its a great way to meet people.
I got home later than expected, but refused to sleep. Instead, I watched some stupid television. In a perfect world, I would have continued the poker run by searching for the best online casino games available to compare at casinoonline.co.nz. Alas, though, I live in a nanny state, so the best I could do was get through a half episode of Bojack Horseman before turning in.
Until next time, make mine poker!

As a poker player, the journey towards perfect is one that’s never ending. Regardless of how much you’ve learned or know, there’s always a way to improve and refine your skill set. Indeed, from the top of the poker tree and the pros such as Phil Ivey to the lowest rung of the ladder, everyone can get better no matter who they are.

Having said that, the more you learn, the tougher it gets to acquire new skills. Although Mr. Ivey can always improve, it’s very unlikely he’s going to learn anything new by reading Doyle Brunson’s Super System. When you get to a stage in your poker journey where some things just seem obvious, it becomes necessary to think outside of the box.

Looking beyond the standard canon of poker literature and into other arenas for inspiration is something that all aspiring players should do. In fact, even if you’ve yet to master the basics, there is still value in looking at other disciplines for ways to increase your EV.

Casino Games Can Help Your Poker Game

A natural area of investigation for poker players should be the casino world. Games such as blackjack, baccarat and roulette share a number of traits with poker and we can cherry pick some of them to help augment our arsenal.

To illustrate our point and give you some ways to become a better poker player, here are three tips from the blackjack world. If you head into the virtual arena and play live blackjack online, it’s almost as though you’re playing heads-up poker with a real person.

Because games such as blackjack use web streams to bring the action to life, there’s a level of interaction that’s similar to the one you’d find at the poker table. With this in mind, here’s some blackjack skills you can practice at the blackjack tables and then take into the poker world.

Betting is a Business

One of the best pieces of blackjack writing is Lawrence Revere’s Playing Blackjack as a Business. Written back in 1969, this book changed the way people thought of blackjack. Instead of seeing it as a way to gamble, Revere’s work showed how a player can use skill, logic and discipline.

The same is also true of poker. Just like a blackjack player, poker grinders need to look at their long-term EV and understand that your overall win rate is the thing that matters. Yes, you can hit a big score in a tournament, but you need to look at your whole body of results to see your true win rate. If you can do this, you’ll start to pay more attention to every bet you make as you’ll appreciate that everything has an impact on your overall profits.

Look at Your Opponents

The final blackjack skill many top players will use is checking the dealer’s up card before they make a move. Instead of basing their moves on the value of their own cards, top players will check to see if the dealer is weak (showing a 4, 5 or 6) or strong (showing an 8, 9, 10 or ace).

Based on the value of the dealer’s exposed card, players will make certain moves (i.e. stand on totals such as 14 when the dealer is weak because they will bust more often). Applying this concept to poker, it becomes clear that you should always look at those around you before you make a move. If you can pick up on strength or weakness, it can turn a fold into a bet and a bet into a fold.

While it might not seem like playing blackjack will help improve your poker skills, it actually is and we think you should take our advice, ante-up in a casino environment for a little while and see what else you can learn before you next place a poker bet.

A Tale of Two Casinos

January 4th, 2016

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of parents, it was the age of children, it was the epoch of commitment, it was the epoch of independence, it was the festival of Lights, it was the season of Christmas, it was the spring of…ok, enough of that. It was poker. That’s what it was.

Any long-time reader will likely know about the annual AC on XMas tradition at the HighOnPoker household. Fifteen years ago, wifey Kim and I, a newly minted couple, decided to spend Christmas in Atlantic City, rather than doing the usual Jewish Christmas routine of Chinese food and movies.  A couple of years later, my good buddy Dave Roose joined, and a year or so after that, we had a regular ole tradition: Me, wifey Kim, my parents, Roose, his wife (at the time, his girlfriend), his parents (who grew up with my parents), Robbie Hole and whoever else cared to join. And then, KidOnPoker was born. Oh boy!

This year, wifey Kim floated the idea of staying home with the Kiddo while I went to AC. I loved that idea (private poker time!), but she eventually felt the call of tradition. As a result, our trip was a bit different this year. Instead of two nights (or more), we did an overnight trip. When wifey Kim went to put Kiddo to bed, I ditched my family and hit the poker room. It was probably 9-ish, and at about 11:30pm, Dave Roose and Robbie Hole, who had thus far been at the casino for 48 hours or so but still hadn’t played poker, stopped by to grab me to head upstairs for a debriefing of our night’s activities. Those two degenerates had stuck exclusively to table games. I had played some table games earlier with wifey Kim while my mom watched the Kiddo, but otherwise kept to my new self-imposed ban on any non-poker games. For the life of me, I do not know why Dave and Robbie did not follow suit. They had more time and freedom than me on this trip (Roose’s wife DID stay home with his kid and Robbie’s girlfriend decided to take a year off). But we all get our rocks off in different ways, so whatever makes them happy…

My poker session went well. I won about $160 in my session. I do not recall specific hands now, but I do recall one mildly annoying situation when I first sat down.

In my very first hand, I was dealt JTo. The flop hit me hard: AKQr. I was out of position with a ton of limpers, so when the player on my immediate right bet, I just flat called, hoping that we would get more players in the pot. Alas, I was the only caller. I don’t remember all of the betting details on the turn or river, but the turn was an Ace and the river a Ten, meaning that any AT, AQ, or AK had a full house, and any Jack had a straight. My opponent bet the river and I flat called, knowing that any raise would only be called by a chop or a full house. The weirdness happened at showdown. I waited patiently for my opponent to show his hand. He said, “Straight?” That’s it. Not, “Do you have a straight?,” or “I love to a straight if you have it.” It was not even a sentence. Just one word, “Straight?” or arguably, “Straight.” I just waited. Finally, he flipped up his cards to show an Ace with a crappy kicker. I showed my straight and took down the pot. My opponent, though, had to share, “That’s a slowroll.” I was internally incredulous. No, guy. You are required to show first. If anything, YOU are slowrolling. Instead, I chided him: “Don’t be silly. You know the rules.” I figured it to be the best strategy. Belittle him and call him an angle shooter in the softest language possible.

Other than that, it was a largely pleasant session. When my buds wanted to leave, I was happy to pack it up, exhausted from the long drive and lack of sleep that comes with parenting. I also knew that in just a few days, I would be in Bethlehem at the Sands.

You see, once wifey Kim decided she was coming to AC, I knew that my poker itch would not be sufficiently scratched. We had arranged to borrow my parents’ car for the AC trip and for other events later that long weekend, so I had one day, Saturday, December 26, with a free car. I had emailed my degenerate crew and bro-in-law Marc agreed to join. It certainly helped that the Sands in Bethlehem was running a $500 high hand promo every hour.

I picked up Marc around 8:30 and arrived at the Sands around 10:30. Now, poker money and real world money are two different things, but as I walked into the poker room, I still felt that I was up at least $150 already. To understand this better, we need to rewind to when I was driving through New Jersey on my way to Pennsylvania.

There I was, in the left lane, minding my own business and moving at a brisk pace when Marc pointed out, “Cop car.” I suddenly decelerated, and could literally see the cop’s head swivel in my direction as I zoomed past at an undisclosed speed. With little hesitation, the officer pulled out from the median. I knew the score. I immediately moved to the middle lane. When the officer pulled up behind me and turned on his lights, I finished my pull over, and parked the car on the side of the highway.

I was very matter-of-fact about it as this all went down, but in the back of my head, I was hoping to find a way out of a ticket, particularly in front of Marc. Marc and I share a mutual admiration, but also a mutual sense of friendly competition, and Marc’s favorite battlefield is money. The man barely buys anything for full price, and if you compliment anything he owns, he’ll likely regale you with a story about how he got it for 50% off by shmoozing the shopkeeper. When we play poker, we always compare our results at the end. This ticket would simply be another challenge I had to overcome under the watchful eye of my challenger.

After pulling over, I turned off the engine and placed my hands on the wheel, where the officer could clearly see them. He came over to Marc’s side of the car and asked for my license and registration. I handed them over as he said, “I got you going 86.” This seemed odd to me. I was probably speeding, but I didn’t think I was that fast (albeit I was probably within spitting distance). I thought to myself, “That’s 21 miles over the speed limit. I wonder if he is just trying to bump me up to the next ticket level.” What I said, though, was, “Really, officer? That number is a bit surprising to me.” He asked me where I was going, and I admitted it was to the casino. I didn’t want to admit it, but there was no sense in lying. He asked if I had any warrants or suspensions on my license and I politely explained I did not. He then walked to his car.

As Marc and I sat there, I asked, “Is there any chance I am not getting a ticket?” Marc responded, “Nope.” We waited, making idle chitchat, and then the officer returned. He handed me my papers and a piece of paper. The paper read, “Warning Issued: Reckless Driving.” The officer said, “I’m giving you a warning. Drive safe.”

I sat there in dumb silence momentarily, before pulling out, a bit too fast, honestly, since I was still running on adrenaline. As I drove, Marc and I went through the play-by-play, during which I think I figured out what happened.

Like a flashback, I recalled the officer turn his head. What I couldn’t recall was a speed detector in his hand. My best guess is that he saw me decelerate rapidly, pulled me over, and tried to get me to admit to driving at 86 m.p.h. He was bluffing. I called (sorta) by pointing out that 86 m.p.h. did not sound right. Now he had a choice. He could fire another barrel by giving me the ticket and hoping I did not oppose it, or he could fold his hand and let me go. This is where my politeness likely played a role. If I was rude or defensive or evasive, perhaps he would’ve issued the ticket, but he opted for a warning, likely because he had nothing on me in the first place.

If I had gotten the ticket, I would’ve entered the poker room feeling like I was down at least $150. Having avoided it, I was mentally on a profit already.

So, back to the poker. Marc and I arrived at the Sands and got two seats at the same 1/2 table. Very early on, I started to build a stack, but was decimated when I ran flopped set into flopped set. I ended up into the game for $600, and at one point was down $350+. Fortunately, I grinded it out over 8.5 hours, eventually leaving with a $100+ profit. The actual amount of money was not impressive, but the turnaround was. Aside from the set under set, I ran flopped top two into flopped set (from a terrible player no less) and had my Aces cracked by 67o. I note this not to say how unlucky I was. That is poker. I mention this solely because it was part of my accomplishment. I eked out a profit in the face of adversity.

Marc left up around $50. It was a weak profit for both of us, but a profit nonetheless. Most importantly, I won more than Marc, not even counting the avoided ticket.

I should also add that Marc hit quad Queens…8 minutes before the high hand promo started. Neither he nor I (nor anyone at our table) had a qualifying high hand for the rest of our session.

I should also add that getting there before the promo was key. We were seated almost immediately, but at one point, there were 170 players waiting for seats.

The trip offered me a pretty direct comparison between AC (the Tropicana specifically) and the Sands. Once again, the Sands was on top for poker. Their poker room is open to the casino floor, the player base is friendly and the poker room is well run. It isn’t a true comparison because of the holidays, but the Trop’s poker room was, in comparison, dingy, the staff and players are less friendly, and Atlantic City as a whole feels like it is circling the desperation drain. The drive to the Sands is also preferable from NYC.

So, there you have it. A tale of two cities and two poker sessions.

Until next time, make mine poker!

WPBT Still a Part of Me

December 7th, 2015

For anyone who is not familiar with the archives, you the WPBT is the World Poker Bloggers Tour, an informal group of poker bloggers who banded together to meet up in Vegas for a private poker tournament.

Every December, the group meets up in Vegas in December for the annual tournament, where winning the hammer trophy is probably more important than the actual cash prize.

This year, I had to skip the festivities. This is nothing new. I think I maybe missed the last three events, not for lack of desire, but merely due to lack of availability. I’ve worked for my employer for 10 years now, and I still only have 15 days of vacation per year (with no expected change); with a kid (and even before then, as a fan of travel), that left me with no time to make the annual pilgrimage.

Nonetheless, watching the Facebook updates roll in (Facebook has essentially supplanted blogging), its great to see that the crew is still going strong. Its just another reminder that the best part of poker is the people.

Case in point. Part of having a kid is going to kid’s parties. This weekend, I met up with Ham Hands Pauly and Abby, two of the crew from the old Wall Street Poker Game, to celebrate their son’s first birthday. Those two actually met at the Wall Street Game, and to see what they have built together is more impressive than any big stack (save for a big stack at the WSOP…sorry guys, but that’s still pretty high praise).

So, thanks poker, for being a great opportunity for social interaction. And thank you WPBT and Wall Street crew for being the type of people that can check-raise you for your stack one minute, and share a beer with you after you suck out on them. The hey-days on blogging may be over, but if we ever see the expansion of regulated poker sites throughout this country, it’ll only be a matter of time before a new crop of players decide to share their thoughts in text.

Until next time, make mine poker!

I rarely play poker lately, and in my last few sessions, spread over months, I’ve been losing pretty consistently. The losses do not bother me in the aggregate; I realize that it is a small sample size and, for the most part, I’m happy with how I’m playing. But in the short term, after leaving the Sands with a $200 poker loss and a $340 non-poker loss, it can sting a bit.

Nonetheless, I still love the game, so when Robbie Hole texted me out of the blue in the middle of last week and asked me if I wanted to join him to the Bethlehem Sands for a poker tournament Sunday, I was hoping and praying that I could join. Fortunately, wifey Kim is still the wonderful enabler with which I fell in love, so I got the green light for a day of debauchery.

I met up with Robbie in Manhattan. We both arrived at our meeting place early, and hit the road without delay. On the drive down, we had the pleasure of discussing a wide range of topics, both general and personal. Its rare that I drive in cars, since public transportation is great in the city and I do not own a car. When I do ride in a car, I’m usually alone or with wifey Kim and my son. Driving with Robbie, though, for almost two hours each way offered a chance to sit and talk without distractions. I really need to find more opportunities like that.

Once we arrived at the Sands and Robbie got a new player’s card, we made our way to the cashier to buy into the event. It’s a weekly $200 buy-in, with $100 of the buy-in going to a bounty. After buying in, I burned through $40 at a slot machine to kill some time. Lord knows why I wasted my time. I generally hate slot machines, and this was no exception. Alas, Robbie was already playing, so I just went along for the ride. Not that I blame him though; I’m a big boy, and it was entirely my fault.

When the tournament started, my table was shorthanded, but by the end of level three, we had a complete table. Play was good. I felt in tune with the action, and I made sure to pay attention to my opponents’ tendencies. One player two seats to my right (but acting immediately before me, because the seat to my immediate right was empty) was on a particular tear. He was playing well, but I noticed a particular tell, a micro-smile that came one when he liked a card. He held it for a fraction of a second, but it was there, for sure. When I first noticed it, he revealed flopped trips (KT on a TTx flop). He smiled at each subsequent card before getting paid off on the river and showing his trips.

Not long after, I took a large pot from him by slowplaying. I flopped a pair, turned trips, slowplayed to the river, hit a full house and then sized my re-raise on the river in, what I would deem, the perfect amount to get paid off. I was feeling good about my play and I was tuned in to the action. Wonderful.

A while later, a player two seats to my left got into it with the good player on my right. This is the first stupid line of the night. The way the hand played out, I was fairly certain that the player on my right had hit trips again. He had the same micro-smiles, and his betting pattern was very close to the first trips hand. On the river, he placed his bet and the player to my left said this: “That’s how you play trips...[pause for thirty seconds]…you know what, I call.” The player on my right showed his trips and offered to his defeated opponent, “You should trust yourself.” The defeated opponent replied, “I wasn’t sure or I wouldn’t have called.”

Look, folks, this is one of the stupidest things you can say at a poker table, and yet it happens all the time. “I think I’m beat, but I call.” “I think you have trips, and I can’t beat trips, but…I call.” It’s my First Rule of Poker, so longtime readers probably know it before I say it: IF YOU ARE BEHIND, FOLD. Yes, its an oversimplification, but the point is valid. If you have a read and believe you are behind (not taking into account draws, etc.), just fold.

What really happened was that the guy to my left did not trust his instincts and made a bad call. He announced that the other guy plays trips this way to save face before showdown. If the guy to my right does not have trips, the guy on the left is happy because he won the pot. If right guy does have trips, the guy on the left just showed everyone through his speech how smart he was.

Only he was not smart. Why point out to someone that they have a betting pattern? Why tell the table that you can read players or that you can read players but still don’t have the gumption to follow your read? There is nothing to be gained from his face-saving nonsense.

Eventually, the table broke and I moved elsewhere. I was largely card dead, and when I tried to bluff on two occasions, betting wars broke out among other players, so I folded and took the smaller loss.

At the new table, I was forced to play all-in-or-fold mode, since the blinds kept raising but my stack remained the same. Others were in the same spot, which led to the second stupid thing I heard at the table.

A player pushed all-in and was called by another player. When their cards were exposed, the all-in player had something like KT. When he lost (I think to AA), he said, “That’s the best hand I’ve seen in hours.” Well whoopdeefuckingdoo! But that’s not how poker works, buddy.

Here’s the deal: Poker and probability owe you nothing. Pocket aces are statistically expected to occur approximately once every 220 hands or so, but you could go 440 hands without seeing Aces, or you can go 1,000,000 hands without seeing Aces. More importantly, if you have not seen Aces in 1,000,000 hands, that does not suddenly mean that your 27o is stronger. Yet, this shmo was using his card-dead-ness as an excuse for his lack of patience.

It’s the same scenario as above. The player wanted to save face, so he made a feeble excuse for why he pushed all-in with KT. Well, guy, you did not save any face, and you still lost your chips.

Now, that’s not to say that you should never go in with KT there. It’s just to say that being card dead is not an excuse for the play. Hell, when I went out, I had 93s and pushed all-in on a TJQ flop, only to be called by AK. I was the BB, he was the SB, and we limped to see the flop. It was only us, so I could not anticipate his hand, and I was trying to semi-bluff. I was also getting close to being desperately short. So, I’m not on some high horse about going all-in with KT. I went all in with a much worse hand. But my reasoning was at least based on the real world. I needed the chips, my stack was short, and it appeared like my opponent would give up his hand, based on the action. The fact that I had not seen a good hand in a while was irrelevant.

After I busted, Robbie and I played some blackjack, where I lost another $300. Why the hell do I play table games? The answer is that I’m a fucktard. On the drive home, I announced that I was done with table games. Thirty-seconds later, I changed my mind again, knowing I was going to be in AC with wifey Kim for X-mas.

So, I lost money, but I had fun. At least I didn’t say anything stupid.

Until next time, make mine poker!