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High On 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!

 

Are you a gambler by nature? Just love the thrill of watching the pot grow, the cards turn over, and that feeling you get when you win big? What if there was a way that you could partake in these kinds of activities everyday right from the comfort of your own home? Well, there is and it comes in the form of online casinos. In fact, there is a good chance that you have probably heard of these websites, since they have been around from quite awhile now and soared in popularity over the years. When you mix the excitement of poker with the convenience of online play the whole aspect become pretty appealing. However, before you get started there are several things that you need to be aware of.

The Game Is Not Rigged

If you do some research and study up on online casinos, you will probably find tons of forums, blogs, and posts that say that these online casinos are rigged. These are just from bitter players and the real truth of the matter is that gambling is a game of change and there is always a change that you can lose. When playing online poker games, these casinos use card generators rather than a dealer. However, these card generators are monitored by third-party organizations, which makes it nearly impossible for the website owner to manipulate them. Of course, you are going to get dealt some bad hands just like you would in a real live casino.

Be Wary Of The Casinos You Choose

When it comes to poker online, you will find that there are a wide variety of different online casinos that you can choose to play in. However, not all of the sites were created equal and there are some pretty mediocre casinos out there that don’t offer much in the way of games or excitement. The good thing is that in the end the decision as to where you play really comes down to you. If you find a casino that you don’t like then just simply move onto the next one. Be sure too choose sites that excite you, make you feel alive, and offer rates that you can afford.

Finding Competition

If you are a competitive person and consider yourself a good poker play by nature, you will probably not find the competition that you are looking for online. Of course, there are some amazing players out there in the virtual world, but the sad truth is that most of them are bad. However, this can be used to your advantage, because it gives you a chance to earn more money.

You Can Still Play If You Live In The United States

You have probably heard about lots of crackdowns on online casinos based in the United States. This is due to the fact that is online poker isn’t legal in the United States, but just because you live there it doesn’t mean that you can’t partake in these activities. Certain sites that get shut down usually get shut down, because their servers are owned and operated in the United States. Look for sites that do not operate in the United States to ensure that your favorite casino never gets shut down.

Where to start? Where to start?

First of all, I discovered a handful of comments awaiting moderation. Sorry, folks, if you left a comment and it did not post. Hell, even one of my own comments were awaiting confirmation.

I played in a home game. Ham Hands Pauly and Abby from Wall Street Poker recently hosted the Parents’ Home Game, as I like to think of it. It was at their home, scheduled to start at 7:30pm, only a few short blocks from my home. I arrived early (naturally) and was the only one there aside from the two hosts. As we chatted idly, I mentioned that their proposed game was a genius idea: one tournament only, with a higher than usual buy-in, so that players with kids can budget their time wisely. Pauly and Abby have two great kids under 6 years old (under 5?) and they are both very intelligent people, so I assumed they had come up with the plan. With just one tournament, there is no pressure to stay for the second game and with the slightly higher buy-in, winning is worthwhile, even if you will be exhausted from a bio-alarm-clock that thinks 6am is a fine time to get up on a weekend. When I complimented them, Abby looked at me strangely and then shared, “Actually, this was your idea. You mentioned having just one tournament at the last game.” Hmm… I thought for a moment before realizing that she was right. So, it turns out my two friends are not geniuses…but I am. But good on them for listening. That’s something.

I wish I could tell you about my big win. Nope. I lost two buy-ins. The first time, my AA was all-in against Pauly’s 88 preflop. He hit his 8 and I was out. (Your $1 for the bad beat story is in the mail). The second time, my low pair was all-in against Pauly’s flush draw. I was trying to push him out of the hand, but alas, my reputation precedes me and he made the call and took a chance to knock me out. Pauly ended up not even cashing, so all that donking by me amounted to nothing.

What I did win, however, was an evening of poker with friends who are willing to take your money ruthlessly and then discuss openly how they ruthlessly took your money once the hand is over. Its a smart crowd, so hearing insight from the other players is always invaluable. I play a somewhat risky game, particularly in tournaments, so I shrugged off my losses and thanked them for a fun evening. I was home in time to be merely exhausted the next day, instead of utterly exhausted. I look forward to their next game, which should be monthly.

More recently, I had an opportunity to go to a casino in PA for poker, but…passed. I was in PA for work. It was very intense, but I finished by 5pm. The drive home was 3 hours, and I contemplated staying in PA overnight. I decided against it. Despite my exhaustion from having kids and the temptation of a bed that did not feature any feet to kick me in the ribs or a bio-alarm-clock perpetually set at Please-Jesus-It’s-Too-Early-Go-Back-to-Sleep(!) o’clock, I missed my family. I considered stopping for a few hours, but it would not be enough to really enjoy myself.

A younger me would have never passed up the opportunity to play, but kids and the lack of poker has definitely factored in to my diminished desire. I still want to play, but I realize the conditions have to be right, or I’m going to play terribly due to distractions, exhaustion and ring rust (which I now acknowledge to be a real, but surmountable, obstacle in poker).

Finally, I faced an interesting temptation recently. A certain poker site began advertising on Facebook. I was tempted to play, but I’m still very hesitant after the UIGEA fallout from 2011. A friend has tried it out at very low stakes, but has not withdrawn money. I’m not just interested in playing poker; I’m interested in winning money by playing poker. If I’m not confident I can withdraw, what’s the point of playing? Until I’m ready to take that added risk, I will stick with live casino action. Meanwhile, people over in the UK can comfortably play games like the Thunderstruck 2 slot at the popular online casino InstaCasino, while I twiddle my thumbs.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Oldie By Goody

March 6th, 2017

This weekend, I returned to the Sands with three of my usual degenerates, Dave Roose, Bro-in-Law Marc, and Robbie Hole, to do that poker thing I used to do so frequently. The day pass from the wife was easy to get; she’s a reasonable one. I just tend not to ask.

As per usual, the ostensible reason for the trip ended up falling by the way side. I decided around two months in advance that I wanted to play at the Sands on Saturday for a special tournament that they were throwing, a $400 total buy-in, black chip bounty, $30,000-guarantee. The tournament started at 11 am, so the plan was to arrive nice and early, by 10 am, and settle in for a long day of poker. As the day approached, though, reality set in. The tournament itself would attract at least 100 entrants and likely quite a bit more. Given the start time, I figured the tournament could end in the wee hours of Sunday morning. To a young stud like me…five years ago…that would be doable. To the exhausted father of two I am today, that was untenable. Not only would that mean driving home when I would be completely exhausted (with two bio alarm clocks, aka kids, demanding that I awake at the crack of dawn), but it would also mean that I likely play sub-par late due to exhaustion and anxiety about going home so late, AND my friends would have to wait around. Perhaps even worse, I could bust early and have to wait for my friends!

Roose had picked me up at 8am and we met Marc 15 minutes later before heading out to PA. On the drive, I called to confirm that the tournament allowed re-entries until 1pm before deciding that it was definitely going to be a day of cash games.

By the time the three of us arrived, Robbie Hole had already found himself a black jack table and was embracing the grind. The three of us headed to put our names on the 1/2 list, which was already 10 names deep. We then met up with Rob. I left him shortly after seeing him lose on a double down and then immediately lose to the dealer’s blackjack. I don’t believe in jinxes, but I sure as shit was not going to tempt fate.

Eventually, Marc and I were called for the same 1/2 table. I took the 9 seat (the tables are now 9-handed) and he took the 5 seat. To his immediate left was an older gentleman, followed by the man’s 30-something son Moe, and an Asian guy on my immediate right named Che. All three played fairly well, with the Asian gentleman particularly skilled. The 1 seat was similarly skilled. The 2 seat and 3 seat rotated a bit. The 4 seat was a black gentleman, likely in his 30s, wearing an extremely oversized black leather jacket and a black ball cap that read “KING” pulled low, practically over his eyes. He looked like a thug, like something out of The Wire.

I admit, at first, my play was sub-par. I lost around $150 or so playing passively, calling a bit too much only to fold shortly thereafter. I lost an early hand with pocket 10s, and then had to let go KK against an Ace-high flop with lots of action. If I were watching me, I would identify myself as a mark. Fortunately, King, the would-be thug in the four-seat, seemed to have had the same read. I noticed in particular that he was playing back at me, as well as he should have, given how I was playing.

When I arrived at the table, King had a large stack, probably north of $800. He had lost some and I had reloaded $100, so when the hand in question began, I had probably around $250 or so. I was dealt AKs.

I had noticed that the table was playing somewhat aggressively, so I opted for what seemed to be a common bet, $20. I think King was the only one who called. The flop had two spades, giving me a flush draw. The cards themselves were all relatively low (8 or lower). I bet $40 and King called. The turn was a blank. Here, I think I cannot exactly recall the action. I may have bet $60 or so, or, quite frankly, I may’ve checked. All I know is that if I bet, he called, because we both saw the river – a 9 of spades – giving me the nut flush.

I thought for a moment and then pushed my entire stack into the middle. I wanted a call – desperately – so as he took his time, I thought about how I could get him to call given the rivered flush card. If he had the flush, he probably would have called by now. If he did not have the flush, would he fear that I had it? I knew from experience that when a player is taking a long time and you think he is going to fold, its best to do something – anything – to induce the call. So, I put on my acting hat and decided to look scared as shit.

I’ve seen scared players before, usually young kids playing with money that actually matters to them. I did my best to impersonate them, going into a weak version of tell lockdown. In case you have not heard me mention this before, some people who are bluffing are so scared of giving off tells that will induce a call that they completely hide, going into tell lockdown. Usually, this very move is the tell. It’s definitely gotten me paid before. So, I opted to imitate tell lockdown, but do so in a manner that clearly showed fear. I pressed my chin against my chest so that my hat brim covered my eyes. I took scared sips of my drink, making sure that my hand was NOT shaking (shaking hands usually means a player is on an adrenaline rush from having a strong hand). I tilted my head every once in a while to glance at his hands, moreso so that he was thinking that I was looking at his hands less than an actual desire to see what he was doing.

He eventually called and showed A9, for rivered top pair. He had been calling me the whole way with air, presumably to try to take it away from me. After all, I was playing weakly. Instead, I had caught my fish.

The two players to my immediate right, Che and Moe quietly mentioned that they thought I was bluffing. “You looked so scared,” Che added. In my head, I said, “Well, that move is burned for the day.” The next thought was, “Unless I reverse it and do the scared act the next time I’m actually bluffing.” Layers, folks. The game has layers.

I continued to press ahead until I found myself in a hand with Marc. I had JJ preflop and raised, receiving two callers, Marc and some other guy. The flop came out AcJc7c, and Marc led out with a bet. I had some concerns about a flopped flush, but I had the redraw to a full house and there was a possibility someone was playing a strong Ace or had a strong club in their hand for a flush draw. I flat called, hoping to keep the other player in the pot. He called as well.

The turn was another Ace, giving me a full house. Marc led out again, for a larger sum. Once again, I wanted the other guy in the pot, so I just flat called. The other guy, however, decided to fold.

The river was a 2c. Marc led out for $100. He had probably another $120 behind. I considered pushing to get the rest of his chips, but ultimately opted to flat call. For some reason, I had feared a better full house, like A7 or AJ. He had bet enough to make the pot sizeable. There was no need to gild the lilly. I called. He showed a flopped flush and I took down the pot.

At this point, I was up a decent sum, but the story continues.

In the next major hand (but not the actual next hand), I had AA. An unexceptional player raised pre-flop to $12. By the time it got to me, there were a couple of callers, so I reraised to $37 ($25 on top) and got two callers, including the initial raiser. The flop was 237 rainbow, which was about as ideal as I could have hoped. I was first to act, so I bet $100. I had to assume I had the best hand. 22, 33, and even 77 seemed unlikely to call a $25 re-raise pre-flop, since preflop re-raises were not common at this table and the action had considerably died down. A bet of $100 may look like I was trying to buy the pot, or so I hoped. The original raiser was next to act and thought for a bit. As he labored over his decision, I remember thinking, “guys who take a long time and then push are usually just acting.” Sure enough, he did push. The other player in the hand folded. I asked for a count of the all-in. It was $208. I considered my opponent’s possible holdings once again and confidently removed 22 and 33 given his play thus far. I also could not envision 77, although there was a slight possibility. I called. He showed QQ immediately, so as a courtesy, I showed my AA. The turn was a 6. The river was a Queen. SHIT!

Inside, I was a bubbling cauldron of rage. On the outside, I was very calm about it. My neighbors, Moe and Che, commented about how well I took the beat. “It happens. If you want to know everything, go play chess.” I went from up to down. Ugh.

Hole had played in the tournament, but busted out in the third level when his full house lost to a straight flush. By the time I lost that big pot, it was 12:45 or so. Roose texted about lunch at the Carnegie Deli inside the casino. We agreed to go at 1pm. Marc, ultimately, decided to keep playing poker, hoping to grind back his losses.

Lunch was great, but ultimately VERY heavy. I’m starting to realize that the food that I enjoy is only enjoyable on the way down. It was nothing crazy. A grilled cheese with bacon and an order of fries for the three of us to share. Grilled cheese has always been the official casino food of High on Poker, if only for its comfort and simplicity. There’s was great, a double-decker (nothing is small at Carnegie). But after finishing, I felt a coating of grease on my insides and outsides.

I returned to the table around 2pm and got back to the grind. I won back all of my money, and even worked my way up to a small profit before the final major hand of the day for me.

I had TT in the BB. It was practically a family pot of limpers by the time it got to me, so I raised to $22. Everyone folded except for Moe.

The flop was King high with two low cards. I bet $40 and Moe called. The turn was a blank. I checked and he checked. The river was a 6. He bet $100. I thought for a moment and decided he did not have the King. I called and was correct. He did not have the King. He had 66. His dad, or at least the guy who I pegged as his dad based on their appearance and the fact that they both spoke the same foreign language, said, “If you bet that turn, he probably folds.” By this time, our side of the table was friendly and chatting, so I did not mind discussing the hand. “True, but he was drawing to two outs. Most of the time, that check is harmless.” I didn’t add, “and I get paid off on the river by looking weak on the turn.” But I thought it, and I mostly think I’m right. Then again, the pot was already over $100 on the turn, so $100 in the hand is worth more than paying off an additional $100 on the river.

I should mention that some time before this hand, Marc sent out a group text asking us all if we wanted to go in on a black jack syndicate, where we pool our money, play at the same table, and chop the results. I decided to pass, happy to play poker. Roose joined him. Rob was playing table games too, but I am not sure if he was part of their team, so to speak.

The syndicate did not work out this time, though. Around 3:45, the group was texting about an exit strategy. In our younger days, we could play poker for days. Not so much anymore. I decided to go with the flow and pack up. I was down around $60, but in the grand scheme of things, that was okay. My cohorts were down considerably more, but I do not know the actual figures.

On the way back to NY, we stopped at Wegman’s, a supermarket chain that does not exist in NY. We loaded up on their subs and I grabbed four of their cookies, the best cookies available in my estimation. The drive home was bearable, but just barely. On the way to the Sands, with Dave driving, Marc and I played Chinese poker the entire way. I lost $5. On the way back, we played some more, and I lost another $15. Que sera.

We dropped off Marc and then headed to my place. Roose and I opted to see Logan – making the most of the day pass we received from our respective families. The movie was amazing.

I returned home to find wifey Kim passed out on the couch, my son passed out in my bed, and my daughter passed out in my son’s room. All was well with the world, and I was only $60 lighter than when the day started.

I cannot wait to plan my next poker trip. But I imagine its another long time coming. In the meanwhile, there’s betulator.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Even Two Won’t Stop Me

November 30th, 2016

II’ve had a helluva year, people. We had a relatively sudden death in my family in the summer (no need to get into it in detail here), and the birth of my second child in October. The result, as you can imagine, is that my already meager poker play remains just that…meager. Fortunately, there is poker on the horizon.

Once again, I will be returning to Atlantic City for AC for X-Mas. This is probably the sixteenth year, but it will be different than years past. Initially, it was just me and wifey Kim (then girlfriend Kim). Eventually, Dave Roose and Robbie Hole joined. Then, my parents and Roose’s parents got in on the action. Roose’s wife and Hole’s girlfriend joined the festivities and my brother(s) and other friends would randomly join for a year here and there. But one constant was me and wifey Kim. Not this year though.

While I will be drinking free drinks and playing poker at a table of mostly non-Christians, wifey Kim will be home with a toddler and newborn. What a woman! For the first time in a while, I will be on an AC trip without the wife, so poker will be practically non-stop. Sure, we’ll be doing a X-mas eve dinner (our usual joint, Rafici’s, reopened after being closed for several years) and sure, this year, I’ll only be in AC for one night, but, well, FREEDOM! Of course, I will use this freedom to completely destroy myself with no sleep (already used to that from having two kids), copious booze (not so used to that anymore), plenty of poker (I am always ready for poker) and my buds.

Now, whether this tradition persists, particularly in light of the life events mentioned in that first paragraph, is yet to be seen. AC continues to commit slow suicide with high room rates (fortunately, Roose got a free room, so I’ll be staying with him). They were able to stop the expansion of NJ poker to the Meadowlands, which is way closer to NYC, but PA casinos are still taking on a lot of the action that was previously exclusive to AC. If NJ has a bright spot, it may be its online poker, which remains the only place to play online poker legally in the US, with the exception of Delaware and Nevada. If only I had a cable long enough to reach NJ from my NY home, so that I can spend some time in an online casino New Jersey offers. Hell, I may even get some online poker while in AC for X-mas. It seems sacrilegious, when live poker is just downstairs, but who knows.

Until next time, make mine 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!