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High On Poker

Several months ago, I received a very random text message from my younger brother D:

“Let’s go to Milwaukee this summer.”

I responded with the very basic, “Why?”

His response, “Why not?”

And I didn’t have an answer. So we went to Milwaukee.

The guest list on this weekend of randomness were me, D and my older brother, K. We had never gone on a brothers-only trip before, but the idea of going to a random location where I had no responsibilities and could enjoy an adult meal and beverage was appealing. Being the organizer of this band of misfits, I had researched the area fairly thoroughly, looking for things to do, places to eat and drink, and hotels that would serve our needs. Of course, part of that analysis was checking for nearby casinos.

We were to fly into Chicago on Thursday, drive the 1.5 hours to Milwaukee, spend two nights in Milwaukee, drive back to Chicago for one night, and fly home Sunday morning. This is not a travelogue site, so don’t expect much in the way of details regarding what we did. But I provide our itinerary nonetheless so that you can appreciate why I figured there would be no poker on this trip, despite a casino in Milwaukee. My two brothers do not play poker. My older brother, particularly, is not what you would call a good loser. For this reason, I am not usually one to encourage them to gamble. Its not for everyone. Surprisingly, though, as we drove to Milwaukee from Chicago, I mentioned the casino and K thought it might be a good idea.

Thursday night in Milwaukee was great. We started in the afternoon by going to a restaurant within walking distance from the hotel, The Swingin Door Exchange. It was bar food, but really good bar food. The waiter was helpful too, and recommended three additional places to visit for adult beverages. We then made our way to an outdoor tiki bar in Milwaukee, which I highly recommend. It was attached to the Milwaukee Public Market, an indoor food market of sorts, with various food vendor booths, and may have been affiliated with the St. Paul Fish Company, which was directly attached to the tiki bar and provided the food for the bar. The bartender, Patrick, was super friendly, as were the patrons, and by the time we left, we had a ton of additional recommendations.

The next morning, my brothers and I all woke unreasonably early, based on our usual internal clocks. We took a drive out to a breakfast restaurant called Blue’s Egg that was overall very good. On the drive back, my  brothers were discussing a bloody Mary place mentioned by Patrick (or perhaps a patron) at the tiki bar. The idea of day drinking – at least that early – did not appeal to me, so I suggested that perhaps I should drop them off and head solo to play some poker for a few hours. When they agreed, my plan was set. I dropped them off and headed over to the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, a scant 10 minutes from the hotel.

I arrived to find a tall building and a huge parking garage. It was around 10am, and I easily got a spot on the first floor of the garage. I noted the lack of a parking fee, which immediately impressed me. As I entered the casino, I saw a fairly modern, clean, and spacious casino floor. I glanced around at the table games and slots, but my mission was clear: poker.

To access the poker area, I had to take a long escalator to a second floor that also hosted off-track betting (OTB). The poker room itself probably had around 24 tables or so, with approximately 5 tables playing. Everything looked clean and new. The list had 3/6 limit, 1/3 NL, 2/5 NL, and 5/5 PLO. There may’ve been more, but those were the ones I noticed. The front desk took my name (full first name) and added me to the 1/3 list, which looked about 20 names long, most of which had an icon next to it that looked like a circle with a phone in it. I was one of maybe 3 names that did not. I asked about buying chips and was directed to a cage. I asked the cashier about the buy-in range. The min was 100. The max was 300. I decided to go for the max, not knowing what was common. With chips in hand, I grabbed a seat on the rail and slowly thumbed through a Cardplayer magazine, as though it was 2005 all over again. The magazine featured an article about WSOP bracelet holders who added bracelets to their collection last year. It made me realize that I had completely stopped paying attention to the WSOP. I was also moderately pleased that some of the featured names were people I had followed all those years ago. Maybe it isn’t all luck.

After waiting ten minutes, a new table was opened up. I grabbed the 9 seat, so that I could see most of the players with ease. The table was a mix of older white guys (50+), one Indian man, and two 30- or 40-something black guys in seats one and two. The 3 seat was an Eastern European man, and after the first few hands, it was clear that he was the action player. Later, the floor checked if he still wanted to remain on the 2/5 list, so clearly, he was playing to kill time.

After an couple of orbits, I had identified the Eastern European as an aggressive player. With this in mind, I decided to call his $6 straddle with KJc. There were a few other callers and when it got back to the Eastern European, he raised to $21 ($15 more). I was the only caller.

The flop was a beautiful KJ6, with two hearts. My opponent bet $20. I thought for a moment and raised to $60. I did not want to give him a chance to hit a flush for free. I was equally concerned that if he was not on a flush draw, a third flush card on the turn could kill my action. By raising, I was able to secure more money in the pot before the action died out. He called, and we saw the turn, an offsuit 9. He checked to me, and I bet $100. He took a while to decide, so I did my best to look scared, tucking my head down so that the brim of my hat would cover most of my face. Based on the action, I was no longer concerned about his holdings, and wanted to induce the call. Alas, he folded AK face up and said, “You must have hit your set.” Some others agreed with him. I just kept my mouth shut.

The game continued, and I remained fairly patient. Approximately an hour into the game, I found myself in an odd situation.

I was dealt K2o in the BB. There was a raise to $10 from the black guy in Seat 1 (UTG+1), and by the time it had folded to me, there were 6 players in the hand. I did the math. With $61 in the pot, I only had to call another $8. While my hand was garbage, if I were to hit, I could potentially get paid off big. Just as importantly, if I did not hit, I could easily fold. I made a crying call and saw the flop, Q22. Sweet! I checked, knowing full well that with this many players, someone was going to bet. Sure enough, Seat 1 continuation bet to $25. The Indian player in middle position called. It folded to me and I decided to raise to $100. Seat 1 called; the other gentleman folded. The turn was a Jack. I open pushed for $160. Seat 1 called and showed KQo. The river was a brick and I won the pot. The Indian gent said, “I had pocket Queen Jack. If you kept me in the pot, I would’ve been all-in on the turn.” The SB said, “I had Q2 (for the flopped flush).” I just shrugged. If my grandma had a schlong, she’d be my grandpa, but that’s a big if. Meanwhile, Seat 1 went from being one of the big stacks to a shortstack.

The very next hand, I was dealt T5s in the SB. Seat 1 bet from UTG and once again got a slew of callers. I decided to call as well, cognizant of the implied odds and flush with chips from the last hand. The flop was all spades, giving me the flush. I checked and Seat 1 bet out $11. One player called, and it folded to me. I raised to $35, concerned about someone drawing out on me with a higher spade. Seat 1 called all-in for slightly less than my $35. The caller folded. Seat 1 showed 67s, for a lesser flush. The turn and river were inconsequential, and I won the pot, felting the player.

After that hand, Seat 2 looked across from me and said, “Smile, man. You are winning.” I had kept a relatively calm demeanor, and responded, “I don’t want to be that guy,” implying that I was not going to gloat when someone else had just been felted. “Besides,” I added, “I don’t get upset when I lose either.” He seemed to accept that. I don’t recall the specifics, but I had lost a pot or two already, albeit, no large ones, and I had remained relatively calm. I finished with, “Besides, the cards are doing all the work. I’m just getting lucky.” I said this primarily because I prefer to develop an image as a bad player. I was concerned about players avoiding me if they thought I was actually talented. I’d much rather they think I was a luckbox who would eventually give back all my chips when my K2o or T5s doesn’t hit.

I only have notes for one more hand. I was dealt 25h in the BB. Seat 1 had limped UTG. The Eastern European guy had raised to $12, and five players had called, so I called as well. When the action got back to Seat 1, he pushed all-in for $31, or another $19 on top. Everyone called once again, so I begrudgingly paid the extra $19 for a chance to win over $180. The flop was 663, with two hearts. I had visions of hitting the high hand promo or bad beat jackpot. The Eastern European bet $40, and I was the only caller. The turn was an 8d, which creating a diamond flush draw to accompany my heart flush draw. The Eastern European bet $60 and I called. The river was a Td.  We both checked and the Eastern European showed 55 for the win. That was a pricey hand, but they cannot all be winners.

After a short while, I racked up and thanked the table for a fun game. I was up $351 in a little under two hours. I went to the cage located in the poker room and received my cash. Interestingly, the cashier called the floor to check her count, which, at $651, did not seem like a particularly high cashout warranting the floor’s supervision. I tipped her the extra $1.

The walk to the parking lot was uneventful, and I made my way back to the hotel, where I quickly stashed my cash and met up with my brothers at the tiki bar down the block from the hotel. In the same two hours that I won $351, my brothers had hit three bars. The rest of the day followed the same trajectory, including a visit at the impressive Lakefront Brewery (great tour) and Miller Park for a Brewers Game.

There was no more poker on this trip, so that’s all you get, my dear, sweet readers. After playing, I’ve thought a lot about how I really wish I could play live more frequently. Underground clubs no longer appeal to me, though, and there are no casinos within a short drive of my home. Its just another reason why Milwaukee was a wonderful place (in the summer).

Until next time, make mine poker!

Old Habits

July 10th, 2018
It’s amazing how easy it is to fall into old patterns. When online poker effectively died in the US, I found myself with a lot more free time.  I started to play more video games, do more art, and my home was well attended. Then something happened.

Dave Roose of many a poker trip texted me about his friend’s online game. $40 buy-in paid via a third party system to correspond with “play money” tournaments on Pokerstars. The group ballooned to 30 or so members but games rarely got more than 10 and sometimes we could not reach the requisite 5. Like any home game, though, it had its own momentum. Early on, games started once or twice a week. Then people got the poker bug and there were stretches of nightly games for a week or two, sometimes with 15 players and enough rebuys for 23 total buy-ins. Inevitably though, players either realized they weren’t winning, got bored, or took it for granted that a game would always be available, and the game dried up. Lately, it’s been hard to get a game going more than once a week, if that.

Unfortunately, I had caught the bug for poker again, so when the home-online game began to dry up, I found myself with an itch but no scratch. I was concerned about choosing a random poker site because of what happened with the UIGEA and concerns that anyone in the market would be a two bit operation that would abscond with the funds. But then I learned from a group chat with some poker bloggers (former poker bloggers?) that they were playing on a new site without any issues. I was very uncertain of real money poker post-UIGEA, but the new site had a weird loophole system built into its funding scheme and used a legitimate third-party fund transfer service that, at the very least, I knew was legit. I attempted it cautiously, expecting there to be exorbitant fees or cash out issues, but after the first successful deposit and withdrawal, I was off to the races.

Since then, my play is practically daily again. I’ve also had solid results playing mostly SNGs and MTTs at the $20 to $50 buyin range. I’m still waiting for the other foot to drop. The sites payment processor changed, for example, so I did a new withdrawal to see if the change signaled a death spiral akin to the older sites post UIGEA. Fortunately, it all worked thus far and I’m playing with profits.

I find myself of two minds about my re-entrance to online poker. In moments like this or when I’m simultaneously playing two MTTs, doing dishes and listening to a podcast, I tend to wonder how healthy this is. I love the game with a passion, but is playing nightly healthy, mentally? When I used to think of going pro, the thing that stopped me was the reality that even when I’m ostensibly cool and collected, my mood can be affected by my results or play. I’ve had many a night lying in bed stewing over a bad call or beat. But most of the time, I’m happy to have my favorite pastime back. One in which I can exercise my brain, my need for competition, and perhaps most important for making it feel worthwhile, win money. That money aspect cannot be overlooked. I’m on a good run. I have returned to a place where I legitimately feel better than most players or fields with the results to confirm it. It’s easy to fool oneself when playing poker, blaming losses on bad luck and wins on skill, even if the reverse is true. But my consistent success against large and small fields has reminded me that I do have a mind for this game, even if the game is a fickle bitch.

So, for now, I will continue my poker binge.

Until next time, make mine poker!

I’m back to the online poker grind. In some ways, its exactly as it used to be. In other ways its starkly different.

The similarity lies in the fact that it took very little time for me to fall back into my old ways. Pretty much every night, I’m hoping to find a game. Likewise, if there is a game running, I really want to be in it. On several Sundays, when I have sat down with wifey Kim to watch one of the few shows we agree upon – The Walking Dead – I have had the laptop on my lap with poker running. The first two times, she asked how I can watch TWD while playing. Its a fairly intense show and requires a certain amount of attention. By the third week, she just accepted it. So, I’m back to being a degen.

The difference lies in the fact that the game is with a set group of players (37 total, but the regulars are closer to 15), with only one game per night, if that. The buy-in is higher than what I used to play online regularly, $40. I had played $50 tourneys and whatnot, but I typically kept the buyins to the $20-25 range. But, when the only game in town is a $40 tournament with two rebuys, you play a $40 tournament with two rebuys and you are happy for it. The fact that we have a group of players, as opposed to being open to the entire world, is an interesting wrinkle. Early on, I began taking notes on my opponents. They have paid off, literally. For example, one player has the habit of slowplaying and betting pot on the river. I’ve seen him do this enough times to know its his move. Another guy likes to re-raise with draws and will bluff when he misses. I’ve used both of those pieces of info to make profitable plays at which others would scoff, had they not had the benefit of my astute note-taking.

This, of course, leads to the problem with winning, which is unique to a group like this. And let me be clear. At first, I was on such a run of losses that I was considering quitting. Since then, I’ve won it all back and enough that if I were not me I would wonder if that guy with my screenname was cheating or had some other untoward advantage. I just confirmed through Dave Roose, the guy who got me in the group but never plays, that the organizer tracks wins and losses for all players. Uh oh. In a home game setting, at least I can be my entertaining self, giving the host a reason to invite me, even if I am fleecing the competition. That doesn’t work online. These players don’t know my personality, so sarcasm can fall flat and snark can come off as just plain mean. So, I mostly keep it friendly, hopeful that they need me for the numbers – after all, on some days they can only get 5 players, and on others, they cannot even get that much and have to cancel the game.

Woe is the man who wins so much that he risks being uninvited.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Going Back to School

April 9th, 2018

Even at the highest levels of sports, with the top players in the world, you’ll still find a whole team of coaches and personal trainers waiting in the wings. That’s because no matter good you are at what you do, you can always get better. There are always new skills you can learn and existing skills that you can sharpen up to improve your game. And the same is true of poker.

At the PokerStars School, you’ll get the chance to become the best player you can be, whether you are already a leading, big tournament winner or you are just getting to grips with the game for the first time.

The school covers everything you ever need to know about poker, from the basics of each game, including Five Card Stud, Omaha and the ever-popular Texas Hold ‘Em, to advanced poker strategies and skills. They will cover the rules as well as the etiquette; what to do and what not to do to get the best out of any game, whether you are playing for fun online or live for real money at a tournament or casino.

You can learn in whatever way suits you best, with a choice of written articles, online videos or live lessons. You can even join a community of fellow players to learn together and share your experiences along the way.

Image by DrMel, CC BY-SA 3.0

The PokerStars School will teach you how to evaluate your hands quickly and accurately, using strategies such as the Chen Formula or David Sklansky’s hand ranking tables. They’ll show you the best strategies before and after the flop, and how best to play the river.

The school also teaches some of the subtler skills of poker such as the mental game, showing you how to bluff successfully and how to assess what your opponents may have by their body language.

Of course, no matter good we are and whatever level we play at, we all make mistakes. But with the PokerStars School, you can learn from the mistakes of others, rather than your costly errors. The “Poker Pitfalls” series covers everything from common mistakes on the turn to raising for no reason just to stay in the game. Check these out and you could avoid making the same mistake.

The school boasts the world’s biggest poker training archive, so whatever you need to know, whatever the weaknesses in your game, you can find solid advice, handy tutorials and straightforward videos to help you fix the problem and become a better player.

Photo by Equipo Unibet, CC BY-SA 2.0

Best of all, when you join the school, you’ll get the chance to learn from some of the best poker players in the world, including the likes of Daniel Negreanu and Pete Clarke. These guys have been there and done that, and so you couldn’t be in better hands when it comes to learning the game and fine-tuning your style.

The PokerStars School is free to join, and there are some excellent welcome bonuses to be claimed, as well as school members-only tournaments for you to try out what you have been learning. Remember, whether you are a beginner, an intermediate player or an expert, there’s always something you can learn, so sign up today to sharpen your game ready for your next tournament. It could just give you the edge you need.

Mind the Poker

January 31st, 2018

Last night, once I confirmed that wifey Kim planned to spend her evening engaged in a television program of which I had no interest, I decided to play in the almost nightly online poker game mentioned in the last post. I signed on at 8:33pm, and found that an 8:30 tournament was running with 6 players with 7 minutes left for late registration. I entered the game and prepare to lose my $40.

I’ve played this game already a handful of times, but have yet to cash. In one of my first tourneys (maybe the first), I bubbled. After that, I figured it would be easy to dominate this group of players. I didn’t know them from a hole in the wall, but I had to assume, based on my experience, that I was probably more knowledgeable about the game then my competition. Also, from what I saw, the group consists of a bunch of friends – remember, I got into the group through Dave Roose, but other than one other player who I barely know, the rest of the field are utter strangers. In any event, in my experience, when facing a group of friends, the interloper is at a natural advantage. They know each other’s tendencies, but not mine, and I enter the game with an open mind, picking up not only how players play, but how others play against them.

Regardless, despite my illusions of grandeur, I kept losing. I blamed it partly on ring rust (something that I admittedly claimed did not exist in a prior post). I also blamed the lack of information available in online poker, as compared to the live game. Finally, I had to blame my lack of attention.

With all that in mind, I figured that last night may be my last attempt to play in the game. I had consistently lost, so at some point, I had to accept that I was not cut out for the game. I also had a nagging feeling that since I do not know these players, I could be swindled via collusion. Of course, that’s the nagging feeling of just about any losing player, but it was present nonetheless.

So off we went, a last ditch effort to win. And I played well, too. I tried to get back into small-ball poker, making lots of min-raises with a wide range early on, hoping to build an image as well as a stack. I hadn’t made a ton of headway, but I was definitely doing well when I was brought back to reality.

Of the 7 players, 5 were left, and I had around 7k+ from a 5k starting stack. I also was dealt AA and used the same small-ball approach to get some action. Fortunately, it worked, and I found myself all-in with a shorter stack (4.5k) pre-flop. He had AK, and I was in great shape…until two Kings came out on the flop. Ugh.

Down to 2.5k, my first reaction was, “I want that action every day and twice on Sunday.” I couldn’t be upset with the outcome. My second thought was, “But maybe this particular group is just unlucky for me. If I can’t win, I can’t keep throwing money at this.” Finally, I reached my last thought, and it was as if a switch had turned on in my head: “Wait a minute! Just because you lost a hand and most of your stack, does not mean you are out!”

Of course! I was on the verge of tilting, but I pulled myself back from the precipice. In my head, I thought to myself, “This is just part of the story of how you won the tournament! This happens all the time. You take a hit, you come back, and you win the thing. The hit doesn’t matter if you are still in the game. Get back in there!”

And so, I did. I played much better attention, taking notes on my competition to begin to establish pattern-based reads. I picked and chose my shots carefully, working my stack back up. When we were down to four and even three, I was the short stack, at times with less than 10x the BB, but I was able to build my stack back up to the point that I became chipleader with three players left, and then chipleader with a nice margin.

Ultimately, one of my opponents took out the other, leaving us heads up. I had a 1.5:1 lead on my opponent, but heads up is a fickle beast, and in no time, we were even. He proposed a chop, and we were done. My profits from this one tournament still leave me in the red, but the win does remind me that keeping the right mindset may be one of the components I was missing from my earlier tournaments.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. One of the hard things about poker is learning the same lesson over and over again. You make a mistake, you learn something, it fades into the background, and then you make the mistake all over again. But, hopefully, each time the fade gets slower. I’m hoping to remember to keep the right mindset for quite some time.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Many poker players, even professionals, face serious difficulties when transitioning from online playing to live events, or the other way around. Even starting with live playing can be overwhelming, especially at those big tournaments heavily packed with strong personalities. While nothing beats the real experience in those situations, there are certainly some steps to undertake before diving into the unknown.

Even if you have never played the game under any circumstances, the difference between online poker and live poker should be intuitively recognized. It doesn’t come as a surprise that competing against people in situations where you actually see them and they can see you will cause some important issues to be considered. You have to address those issues beforehand, otherwise they will definitely make your life harder. That is what the cool kids are doing, at least if they really aspire to greater things.

One form of live playing is cash games you can come across at casinos and other regulated establishments. This would be similar to regular online table games in terms of coming and going as pleased, and much different when it comes to the need to read opponent’s true intentions and hide one’s own. After carefully choosing the right and affordable stakes to play with, according to available bankroll, there are some important tips to have in mind throughout the game. The obvious ones, applying also to any kind of real money wagering, are to stay focused and alert, keeping eyes on what’s going on around, which could be difficult for online grinders used to play multiple tables. Maintaining clear head, free of distractions, outside concerns and refraining from intoxicating substances will help this case profoundly. While at it, keen observation of opponents tells and tendencies is crucial, too. As well as looking for some bluffing patterns. When tempted to take a shot at bluffing yourself, not being experienced enough should be major argument for the case of minimalizing this part of the game. There’s plenty of time to learn along the way.

Big live tournaments with high competition and great money prizes are something else to be conscious about. It’s probably best to start from smaller events rather than World Series of Poker. Still, the stress factor in those is considerably higher than during casual casino visit. However, it is important to tame a pounding heart a bit and not to be instantly intimidated by numerous and most likely more experienced players. After all, the idea remains the same – the best hand wins in the end, and it might just as well be yours. On the other side, a little humility won’t hurt either, but imitating professionals seen on tv or even in person is not a good idea for a serious approach. Ideally, you would be able to play your own game and produce some unique combination of styles. Recognizing the parts in the game when it’s better to play tight or when to take on some more aggressive stance is the ultimate goal here.

Last but not least, regardless of the circumstances and level of difficulty, don’t forget to have fun and simply enjoy poker. If it feels like a chore it probably won’t work. Whereas the ability to loosen up a little can help to relax and make better decisions.

The Return of Pantsless Poker

January 18th, 2018

I have a secret to tell. I’ve been playing online poker. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. It’s illegal!

This all came about around a month ago. Good pal o’ mine Dave Roose sent me a text about how his friend, who I will call Minty, has been hosting an online poker game at a free-to-play site, but with real world money implications. The tournament, which runs fairly randomly, but also fairly often, is a $40 buy-in. Fortunately, Roose vouched for me and Minty trusted me, so I pay after the tournament via an online money transfer program that shall remain nameless. Thus far, its been pretty easy to transfer the funds, but, sadly, despite several attempts, I have yet to receive any funds. That’s right, folks. I have NOT been cashing.

Playing online poker again is interesting. It’s definitely different. I remember in the good old days circa 2007 sitting in my couch, next to wifey Kim, playing on a laptop while we watched a show together. Occasionally, I would pop in headphones and a mic and be able to talk with fellow bloggers, some of which had kids. When those kids would wake up or would otherwise need parental attention, the player(s) would have to leave the game for a bit. I had no such issues, being married but childless. Thems were the days.

Nowadays is very different. With two kids under 5 years-old, my routine has changed. I haven’t had a laptop in over a year, so my poker is relegated to my home office, which is a nice way to say the walk-in junk drawer where our desktop is set up. Its more isolating, but, I suppose, there are less distractions. Thus far, I have not had to deal with mid-game childcare, so that’s fine, but the possibility is always there.

My skills have also seemingly atrophied; or at least my luck has. I’ve probably played four times or so, and have yet to win. The second time, I bubbled, but since then, its been ugly. I think part of the issue is patience. Focus is an issue too, as I notice myself mentally checking out between hands instead of watching my opponents for patterns. Then again, sample size is small.

Whatever the case, its nice to be back in action.

Until next time, make mine poker!


Samuel is a guy whose dense friends believe that he will one day conquer the heights of the poker world. From his recent local performances, they believe that Samuel has all it takes to be a poker “star”. Yes, he is talented and seems to be a promising poker player, but how he got started playing poker is a rather strange story.

Samuel was born in an upper-middle-class household. He was born almost ten years after his parent’s marriage because they suffered from some infertility problems. For this reason, Samuel was given undue care and attention. He was assisted in doing anything and everything.

What he lacked was the liberty to think and do things proportionate to his age by himself. For example, he was not allowed to play in the evenings and holidays with his peer group, as his parents feared that he might get hurt. Also, from dress to food, his parents, though lovingly, imposed their interests on him.

Despite this, he was a brilliant student and a promising athlete during his early days. He proved to be adept in his studies. And out of the classroom, he excelled in sprinting events.

By the time Samuel was ready for the college, his parents had made up their mind that he would be a mechanical engineer. But his passion was elsewhere. He wanted to study and pursue a career in mathematics. Later, though unwillingly, he joined a reputable college to pursue an engineering degree.

Soon, everything changed for the worse. His academic interests started fading away as mechanics was not his “cup of tea”. Out of academic and internal pressure, he started looking for some way to vent his frustration. And unfortunately, with some external influence, he started smoking. By the end of his coursework, he had been transformed into a chain smoker.

Though he somehow managed to secure a degree, he was unable to come out of his bad habit, despite he himself showing intent. To his fortune, it was then that his pre-degree classmates happened to arrange a get-together and hear his story. Knowing the unfortunate situation of their friend, they suggested that Samuel to find some interesting thing to do so that he may concentrate completely on that; thereby effectively reducing the frequency of smoking. He chose card games.

Because of his concentration on the game and his conscious efforts, he then reduced his smoking. It was at this point that one of his friends introduced him to the world of Poker. Samuel was even gifted the poker strategy book titled “Ace on the River: An Advanced Poker Guide” written by the famous professional poker player Barry Greenstein. Although it was initially meant to make playing cards more interesting and a bit rewarding for Samuel, it made his life whole again.

He found poker so interesting that he substantially reduced his smoking in the first week alone. Within another couple of months, he eventually quit smoking altogether. And by the time he quit smoking, he had already mastered the game of poker. So now, Samuel has made up his mind to take up poker as his career and he, supported by his friends, is waiting for a global breakthrough.

Juror Tells

October 9th, 2017

I’m currently in the middle of a three week trial. One of the main aspects of the defense is that our client is lying about his injuries. The defendants telegraphed that they would be attacking my client’s credibility in all sources of ways, many of which are irrelevant or, at most, tangential, to the case itself. Things like repeatedly making reference to my client’s girlfriend since he is still married (but separated), attacking the institution from which he earned his degrees, and claiming that he plagiarized his book. Since we knew that the defendants were going to take this tactic, during opening statements, we made reference to the anticipated character assassination. The hope was that the jury would remember our opening statement and whenever one of these tangential issues come up, think, “Oh, this nonsense again,” rather than, “Oooh! Really? How scandalous!”

Last week, the defendants were going on and on about these topics, so I decided to see how the jury was reacting. As I reviewed their body language, I was reminded of poker. I was looking to see whether the jury was open and engaged, or turned off. My people reading skills are a bit dusty, at least in terms of poker, but like riding a bicycle, it all came back.

The most noticeable thing was that a couple of the jurors had their arms crossed. In a poker setting, a player sitting in this way before the cards are dealt is indicating a willingness to wait for good cards. In the middle of a hand, it may indicate that the person is defensive, perhaps because of a vulnerable hand or a bluff. In contrast, a player leaning into the table before the cards are dealt is indicating that he is impatient. Once the cards are dealt, leaning into the table may suggest interest in the hand – especially if you eliminate the possibility of reverse tells (otherwise, such an overt indication of eagerness may be a player acting strong because he is weak). Its safe to say in a trial setting, no jurors are sending out false tells.

Truth be told, I’m still not 100% sure what the crossed-arm stance meant in the context of the testimony. They may’ve been turned off by the questions, but they equally could’ve been turned off by the answers. I looked at the few players – um, I mean jurors – who had their arms closed and realized that they probably were empathizing with my client, since they were jurors who I generally saw as similar to the client. So, the crossed-arms hopefully indicated that they were mentally putting themselves in the plaintiff’s position and felt attacked. Of course, time will tell.

The other “tell” I noticed were jurors who were covering their mouths, or face with their hands. In a poker setting, particularly in a hand, such a move is a sign that the players is uncomfortable. In a bluff setting, the player may be trying to hide tells. Otherwise, its still a soothing habit – hiding one’s face – which indicates a certain level of discomfort, if not deceit.

I racked my brains trying to figure out what the hand-covered-faces meant. Honestly, it could just be boredom, which works for me as well (I rather they be bored by the attack than engaged). But otherwise, it likely meant that – like the cross-armed jurors – they were putting themselves in the place of the witness and consequently felt uncomfortable. I suppose they could have been uncomfortable by the answers they heard. Like poker tells, ultimately, until showdown (or in our case, verdict), you cannot say with certainty what’s going on inside a player’s (juror’s) head.

After the day had ended, I suddenly felt the poker itch. I don’t see when I will be able to scratch it, but it has been a while since I even thought of the game, so it was nice to return to that mindset for a moment. Alas, at least until this trial is done (and the one after it), there will be no poker for me. Maybe I’ll check out www.bestusacasinosites.com when done to see what options are available to US players.

Until next time, make mine poker!

A Grain of Sands

August 29th, 2017

I’ve had a very interesting few months, and an even more interesting few months on the horizon. The biggest item that has been monopolizing my attention are three upcoming trials. The first will be my first solo NY trial. It involves a man whose hand was crushed in an elevator door. The second and third trials are my two largest cases. The second involves a man who suffered nerve damage to half of his body due to an electric shock and the third involves a man who lost his hand in an industrial meat grinder. The last trial I had (my first solo trial ever – in NJ) was at least two years ago, so I have to use legal muscles that have atrophied a bit.

So, what does a responsible adult with two young children do when he has a free day? You got it! The Sands in Bethlehem. I was lamenting to wifey Kim how I really wanted to go, but I could not get over the guilty feeling of leaving her with the kids, not spending every waking hour preparing for the trials, and spending money that should be preserved since we are in the process of buying our coop unit. She was encouraging me to go, but I still could not shake the feeling that she didn’t want me to go. She was on the phone with her bro, bro-in-law Marc, and mentioned, off-hand, how I was considering a Sands trip the next day. He volunteered, “I’d go. I was thinking of gong anyway.” Wifey Kim passed along the statement, and suddenly I had to go. After all, I didn’t want to let Marc down.

The next morning, I got up early and took the subway to Manhattan. Marc was driving and he picked me up before entering the Holland Tunnel. We had an uneventful ride, catching up and having the type of conversation two friends and bros-in-law can have only when they are both staring forward in a car with nothing else to do.

We arrived at the casino around 10:15 or so. We put in our names for 1/2 NLHE and waited patiently. They opened a new table (my favorite) and we both took seats. When we play, we do not initially acknowledge each other’s existence or our relationship. We sit far from each other at the table, build a rapport with our neighbors, and interact only as one would with another stranger at the table. We do this, I think, for two reasons: (1) we do not want anyone even thinking that there is any collusion going on – and to be clear, there is no collusion at all, and (2) if we were chatty, we may give off info about each other or even give off info subtly by how we play against each other.

I took the 2 seat, and regretted it after an orbit or two. I likely have already mentioned this here, but poker players in a poker room are like human pinballs. They cannot navigate a 6 foot space without bouncing off of the chairs that border it. After being bumped into more than a few times, I asked for a seat change, eventually moving to the 8 seat (out of 9), which was against the rail.

I do not remember most hands, but one scenario in particular stood out to me. There was a player who had won a bunch of pots. He was a good player, but not great. I was admittedly playing a bit weak passive, and I got the sense that he thought he could read me. Well, he couldn’t. In two major hands, about an hour apart, he incorrectly folded, saying that he knew I had made my hand (I was bluffing) and called saying that he knew I didn’t have the flush (I did). It felt good to have my opponent read me wrong twice, both to my detriment.

I had amassed a decent stack, around $500 on a $200 buy-in, and then went card dead. I was folding for a long while, but I did my best not to fall into the “this is the best hand I’ve seen in a while” trap. Sometimes, in fact, even today in a blog post on another site, I’ll see players say, “I played K9 because it was the best hand I’ve seen in hours,” or something similar. There is no logic to that statement. In fact, its complete trash to think that way and will only cost you money. The other players and the poker gods do not care that this is the best hand you’ve seen in a while. If its a crap hand, its a crap hand. Plus, even if you card dead, if your opponent is getting hit with the deck, your K9 is still not going to beat his KK. Which brings me to a hand between Marc and I.

When I moved my seat, it put me two spots to the left of Marc. After being card dead for a while, I was dealt KK. I raised pre-flop, and a calling station across the table called me. Marc also called. The flop was K-high. It checked around to Marc, who bet. I called, to keep the calling station in the hand. He called as well. The turn was a blank. I bet, the calling station called, and Marc raised. Hmm. I decided to flat calling, hoping once again to keep the calling station in the pot. Alas, he folded. On the river, I made a large bet and Marc called. He had KQ, for top pair, strong kicker. That last bet was probably $100+, so I do not know why he thought he was good there. Alas, he did it to himself. Ka ching.

I made what may’ve been a mistake in a late hand. There was a player who had amassed a large stack and was the type of player who will bet any pair . I had flopped the joint, a low straight, with suited gappers (57). I let him lead the flop. On the turn, I raised large. He had bet $30 and I upped it to $130. On the river, I pushed all-in for about $300 more. He thought for a minute, decided that I definitely did not have the 5-7 straight, but then folded, claiming he had two pair. I mulled over whether i could have kept him in the pot for less. Surely, he would’ve called $100 or even $130 again. Alas, I ultimately decided that my play, while not successful, was justified. The players around me all thought I was trying to steal the pot with the shove, especially since my opponent was a bit of a bully. I was hoping to give off that impression. So, even if it didn’t work in that instance, the play was at least justifiable.

I was able to lay QQ down once. Preflop, I bet and was met by a raise and a call. I flat called because the raiser had not re-raised pre-flop a lot, despite being a fairly loose caller. The flop was all unders, but the raiser raised again, this time for a tidy sum. The caller called all-in for less. I decided that QQ could not have been good. As it turned out, I was facing KK (raiser) and JJ (caller). So, good for me, I guess.

The game really got the poker juices flowing, but with three major trials that will take me straight through October, it looks like there is not much on the horizon. If only I could play on some awesome website that would allow me to play without the travel, I could work some poker into my schedule without having to leave my family for a day. I miss the days of getting dozens of bloggers together from around the world to play some online poker and socialize, like some sort of worldwide mobile casino party. At least I don’t have to travel all the way down to AC, though.

Until next time, make mine poker!