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High On Poker

Poker Drought Continues

April 13th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, make mine poker!

Wall Street’s 2nd Reunion

March 14th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Casino Games Can Help Your Poker Game

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

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

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

Betting is a Business

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

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

Look at Your Opponents

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

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

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

A Tale of Two Casinos

January 4th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, make mine poker!

WPBT Still a Part of Me

December 7th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, make mine poker!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, make mine poker!

Hello. My Name is Rusty.

June 11th, 2015

I’ve made a not-so-official commitment to get back into poker. It takes a lot more planning than before, what with the kid and lack of online poker, but deep down, I feel just as passionate about the game as ever. That’s not to say that my game is as good as ever.

In a prior post, I discussed how I did not believe in ring rust in poker. I can now say that I was full of shit. Ring rust is real. The game keeps changing and taking time off from it naturally puts you behind the times. Plus, my live game has always been about feel, and it appears that feel is something that accumulates over time and dissipates with lack of use. Yes, my poker brain has atrophied, and the only solution is to get back into the gym (poker room) and work out (play).

On Saturday night, I returned to the underground game where I won $500 just a week prior. On my first visit, I arrived a tad late, but was able to get one of the two empty seats. I felt bad leaving at around 11:15pm, but I am up by 7:30 am every day and I desperately needed the sleep. This time, I decided to arrive when the game was supposed to start, so that I could leave even earlier – by 11pm – without feeling like I was doing a hit-and-run session.

Alas, my habitual promptness screwed me again. Why is it that poker players can never show up to events on time? I suppose its the same free spirit or anti-social tendencies that make us pick up poker as a game and, oftentimes, way of life. Somehow, though, I buck this trend, maintaining my belief that when you commit to being somewhere at a given time, you ought to arrive by that time (exceptions notwithstanding).

So, I arrived at 7:30, enter the room and find…the host and dealer setting up. Ugh. I could’ve sat with them, but my own anti-socialness got the better of me, so I opted to take a walk and return at 8ish. I strolled a few blocks, found a bench and took a seat. The ubiquitous entertainment provided by the iPhone paid off once again. I was able to watch some of season 3 of Banshee (a pretty kick-ass show on Cinemax) followed by a handful of videos on YouTube discussing poker tells. I knew it would mostly serve as a light refresher on subjects I already knew, but figured it would at least help me get into the right mindset.

I returned to the game around 8pm to find enough players to start shorthanded. The players were different than last time, so I had no pre-existing image or reads, but they were similarly affable.

I remember two hands that stood out to me, because I made the same error twice. I do not recall the specifics of the action, but I recall enough to publicly shame myself into hopefully playing better next time.

In the first notable hand, I had a strong hand (maybe a set?) and faced action from a player immediately to my left. There was a possible low straight on the board, so when my opponent moved all-in on the river, I had to take pause. I decided to use my amazing ability to read tells. The player was shuffling his cards, which any Caro reader knows is a sign of weakness. I obsessed on his hands, trying to decipher if the shuffling did, in fact, mean that he disliked his hand and was magically trying to change them. I didn’t want to give up my strong cards, but part of me felt like I had to be behind my opponent. He did not appear to be the type to gamboooool and his all-in clearly signaled strength. I thought about it for what felt like a long time, but was probably just 2 minutes or so. Finally, I decided to make the hero call. He showed his straight, I mucked and rebought. I had essentially talked myself into calling. Of note, I noticed the same player shuffling his cards in a later hand, where he once again reached showdown with strong cards to win the pot. So, even though my read was wrong, I may have picked up a tell for this particular player that is opposite of what most people do. Or, he may just like shuffling his cards. I guess we will know when I make a bad fold to him at a later session.

In the last hand for me, I held AQ and saw a flop of Q88, with two other players in the hand. I had raised preflop, perhaps as little as $6. I had just watched a video from Negreanu explaining the dangers of playing AQ, and perhaps that influenced my decision to try to keep the pot small, initially. Once the flop came, I bet and got two callers. The turn was an Ace and I figured that I was in great shape. I bet once again and suddenly, one of the better players at the table raised me almost all in. I was already under $150 at the beginning of the hand, and his raise of $60 more would leave me with $4 behind. I once again was faced with a difficult decision. I considered the possibility that he had an 8, but for some reason, my mind kept going back to the Ace. Perhaps he had AK, had floated the flop, and had hit the turn. If so, my AQ (for AAQQ8) was ahead of his AK (AA88K). The other possibility was that he had flopped the 8, but for some reason, I could not see it. In hindsight, I had fallen victim to the awfukkit call, as in, “I’m not doing well, anyway, so awfukkit, I call.” Calling left me with $4, so when he checked the blank river, I announced in a grandstanding voice, “ALL IN” and three my four chips across the line. He insta-called (no respect) and showed something like 85o. WTF. A lesser man will complain about his decision to call my preflop raise with 85o, but a serious player knows that you cannot control your opponents. You can only control yourself. I instantly realized that I had made an awfukkit call.

After that hand, a whopping 90 minutes after starting, I decided to call it a night. I lost $400, but since I won $500 at the same place a week before, I allowed myself the comfort of thinking of it as +$100 over two weeks.

As I took the walk of shame to the subway, I took the time to wallow in my shortcomings. The week prior, despite winning, I felt like I was not playing my best. This week, the trend of poor play continued.

Where do I go from here? Back to the tables. If all goes well, I’ll be playing at a home game tournament on Friday night, where arriving on time earns you 1,000 extra chips (a promotion I can get behind). It will also be my first tournament for 2015, but I have always felt like my grasp of tournaments has been stronger than my cash game, so I’m hoping that I can get back into the swing of things much faster than I have exhibited with my cash game.

Until then, I will continue along, living life without the benefits of online poker. Instead of playing with the benefit of things like the Paddy Power Poker promotions, I will instead be relegated to the few games I can attend every so often in person. Maybe it’s even time to read some poker books. Ring rust is real, and I need to shake it off.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Underground Tells

June 5th, 2015

I have a couple of stories to tell today, both of which involve poker and making reads. One happened at the poker table. The other happened away from it.

Let’s start with the tale that happened away from the poker table. By day, I am a mild mannered attorney. I recently had a client at my office for a deposition. During his deposition, the subject of poker came up. Afterwards, when I was debriefing him in my office, we causally discussed poker some more. To me, this was a bonding opportunity. I later learned that my boss, who has the office next to me, read the situation quite differently.

On a completely unrelated matter, I was in my boss’ office for a meeting. After our meeting, he asked, “Jordan, do you think it is a good idea to discuss your gambling habits with a client?” I was taken aback, but I instantly knew what he meant.

“I can see where you are going with this, but its not like I brought it up. It came up in conversation and its something we have in common. I wouldn’t just discuss it with anyone.”

“But, do you think its a good idea?”

If I were totally honest, I would have responded, “Yes. I think it is a great idea to show a common interest with a client because that is how I build relationships that earn their trust and future business. And I am always thoughtful in execution.” Instead, I said, “I understand what you are saying and it will not happen again.”

That night, I was stuck on my conversation with my boss. Ironically, when he first discovered that I played poker, around 9 years ago, he used to only talk to me about poker. Everything was a poker analogy. “You have to bluff at the negotiation.” “You have to know when to fold, and in this case, we should fold.” It concerned me until I realized that he knew little else about me, so when he needed a reference, it was his go-to. Over the years, though, this fell by the wayside. Now, the topic of poker was brought up, but in a very different light.

Borrowing another analogy, I replayed the two hands in my head. I still believe my conversation with the client was well played. He and I have an extremely good working relationship and in my experience, being friends with my clients is the best way to ensure that they are happy with my work, no matter what the outcome.

I then considered the conversation with my boss. Well played again, or so I surmise. What he was saying makes sense in a vacuum and definitely makes sense given his play style. He is more aggressive than I am, which can work if you have enough experience to back up your aggressive stance. I am more of a concilator in my approach. But confronting him about this difference would not result in a +EV situation for me. So, agreeing in principle was enough. I didn’t need a fight I couldn’t win.

Now let’s turn to the actual poker situation. I recently found another underground game. I attended my first session on Saturday, buying in for $200 and cashing out for $700 a few hours later, playing 1/2 NLHE. As I assessed my play afterwards, I had to admit to myself that luck very good to me that night. I played well, but luck may have carried the day. But one hand really stood out in my mind.

With KK in MP, I raised preflop to $12 or 15 and saw a flop with two other players. The first to act was a player who I read to be fairly sloppy and not well thought-out. The second was a player I pegged as crafty and thoughtful. The fact that he stared a hole in me during the entire hand (even after he folded) confirmed my suspicions.

The flop came down with a King, Ten, and a low card. All were diamonds.

With top set, I bet the flop, $35, somewhat wary of the flush draw. It was possible that someone had already had the flush, but I decided to bet and see what happens. I realized that checking was not a good option, because a free turn card could give someone an easy four flush board to take my pot with a single diamond hole card or bluff me out. Betting would make me vulnerable to a check-raise, but I still had outs for a full house if someone had the flush, and I could reassess once the re-raise was made. Alas, the sloppy player called and the thoughtful player folded (but kept staring at me).

The turn was another Ten, giving me a full house.

It checked to me and I considered giving a free card, in case he was on the flush draw. I hesitated as I considered what to do carefully. I motioned to check but caught myself. I then decided that since he called my flop bet, he’d likely call a bet on the turn. I considered the amount carefully and opted for $40. It was close enough to the flop bet to make it seem comparatively small, but it was big enough to help build the pot. He called.

The river was another diamond. I decided to throw out a fake tell. I rolled my eyes as if to say, “Go figure the diamond comes.” I then waited for the action.

My opponent pushed all-in and I called. He showed an Ace-high flush; he held the Ace of Diamonds and some other non-diamond card. Before I showed, the thoughtful player guessed my hand, “Quad 10s?” Nope. I showed my full house and won the pot.

After the hand, the thoughtful player explained his read. “I saw you hesitating on the turn, trying to decide what to bet. That’s how I knew you had a monster. You were choosing carefully.” Gulp! That was an unintentional tell. Duly noted. The dealer joined the conversation: “I saw you roll your eyes on that river, so I knew you were strong.” Shit! He used the classic Caro tell, strong means weak and weak means strong. I was looking weak so he knew I was strong. I sheepishly acknowledged the situation and moved on to the next hand.

I replayed the action in my head later, as I headed  home. I learned two things from the situation. First, I need to be more aware of how my actions are perceived, including in situations where I hesitate. That was a tell of which I was unaware. I can offer ring rust as an excuse, but excuses don’t win pots. Second, by sharing the information after the hand, I learned a lot about the game. I had confirmation that the thoughtful player was analyzing everything. I now know I can use the delayed betting tell against him as a fake tell, for instance. I should also generally avoid him, since he is more aware of what’s going on than some of the competition. More generally, I have to accept that this group of players is somewhat savvy. Not all of them, but if a dealer is verbally sharing his thoughts on reverse tells, then this is clearly a group that is willing to think about poker in depth. Normally, I would not impart the knowledge of a dealer on the group, but this was a fairly tight group, so the lines were blurred.

I plan to return this Saturday. Let’s hope I can put some of these lessons into action.

Until next time, make mine poker!


Raised, the Graphic Novel

April 20th, 2015

Howdy, readers! As you probably know by now, the poker writing has taken a dip, likely because my opportunities to play have decreased. Fortunately, I found another creative outlet. If you have some time to kill, check out Raised, a graphic novel written and illustrated by me! It’s free online for your reading pleasure.

2015-02-12 18_18_20

Until next time, make mine poker!

Soft Florida (Trip Report)

March 9th, 2015

I forgot how to do this. Do I stretch first? I don’t want to pull a muscle.

A couple of days ago, I was reviewing my poker sessions in the Poker Journal app when I realized that I had only played poker twice so far this year. I had a trip to Sands in Bethlehem, PA in late January and I had the recent pleasure of visiting the Coconut Creek Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida last week. As I reviewed my meager sessions, I thought to myself, “Of course its difficult to write about poker. I barely play.” But alas, I did play recently, so maybe this won’t be so hard.

Last week, I spent some time in Florida to see my grandfathers, both of which are around 94 years old. It was an overall wonderful trip. The weather was ideal in Florida while NY was hit by snow storm after snow storm; my extended family were a delight; and wifey Kim gave me a free pass to spend a night playing poker. Which leads us to…

Look folks. Despite my lack of play, I remain a bit of a fiend for the game. Parenting, however, takes its share of my free time, so when opportunity arises, I have to take whatever I can get.

Wifey Kim, the progeny and I had spent the day in West Palm visiting one of my grandfathers. We returned to my cousin’s home in Ft. Lauderdale and began the bedtime routine. My cousin has a 2-year-old, so we had everything we needed to make this an easy trip for a toddler. The plan was to leave for the casino as soon as wifey Kim took over the sleep routine. I do baths, she does books and putting him into his crib. Once bath was done, my cousin Jarrett asked about my plan.

Jarrett: “I haven’t been to the casino in a while. What do you play?”

Me: “Usually 1/2 No Limit or 2/5 No Limit. I know you don’t play poker, really, so you may not be interested.”

Jarrett: “No Limit? Yeah, I don’t think so. But I’ll still join you and play some of the other games on the casino floor.”

Me: (pausing) “Um, okay. But, well, look. I’m going to play poker and only poker. I’m not really going to be that great company. We won’t even be in the same area. And I plan on staying until 11pm and then leaving. So, you can come and I’d love the company, but I wanted to give you an idea of what I had in mind.”

Jarrett: “Yeah, that’s fine with me.”

Me: “Also, I plan on leaving ASAP.”

Jarrett: “Oh. Well, I still have to put sheets on the bed first, and they are in the dryer, so why don’t you go ahead without me and I’ll meet…”

I’m pretty sure he said that he’d meet up with me there, but I was already running out the door before he finished his sentence.

I rode the 20 minutes to the casino in silence, accompanied only by the sweet voice of Google Maps telling me where to turn. I parked in the self-park lot and made my way into the casino.

The casino itself seemed pretty large. The parking lot was far from full, but the casino floor seemed busy. I looked for signage that would eventually led me to the poker room. Alas, I could not find it until I got a bit closer to two elevators. Sure enough, the poker room was one floor up, away from the main casino floor, and in no time, I was in my place of comfort.

The poker room itself was fairly nice. I cannot say how many tables they had, but I would assume it was north of 30. There was a tournament going on off to the side, and 1/2 and 2/5 cash games running. There may’ve been other stakes/games running as well, but time was short, so if there were other games, it never registered with me.

I looked at the lists, considered my small bankroll for the day ($500 only, since I had to hit an ATM), and opted for 1/2 NLHE. It helped that there were seats open, whereas 2/5 would require me to wait.

I hit up the cage to buy chips. The max buy-in was $200, so I went with the max and found my way to Table 3.

There are rumors that Florida is a poker boom town. Yes, I know Florida is a state and not a town, but “boom state” sounds silly. Well, if that one table for around 2 hours is any indication, all the hype is true. Rather than a bunch of retirees, I had a table of young guys (and a few retirees). The young guns were apparently having a pissing contest, as each one showed more braggadocio than the next. Players were calling and betting loose, and gabbing the entire time. To their credit, this was a friendly crew and even when a player was lamenting a suckout, it was done with little venom.

I can only recall two hands right now, and I do not recall much in the way of detail. In the first, I was dealt AsTs and since action was loose, I opted to raise to $12. I got probably around four or five callers. The flop came down T93. With top pair, top kicker, I decided to bet my hand strong. I went with $45. It folded to one player, who called all-in for slightly less. We saw the turn (Ace) and river (another Ace). I flipped my cards to show my full house and take down the pot. That’s when the table started remarking about how lucky I was.

Me: “Well, I think I was ahead when the money got into the pot, but yeah, I guess a full house is lucky.”

Everyone Else: “No, you idiot. You hit a jackpot.”

That’s when I noticed the high hand jackpot, the lowest of which was $100 for Aces-Full. I went runner runner for a $100 bonus and I didn’t even realize that it was a possibility. The floor was called, I gave my license and signed a form, and received a crisp $100 bill (as opposed to chips).

The only other hand I recall was a flopped set. The board came down with two flush cards, so I bet approximately the pot, hoping to push the flushes out of the hand. I think my post-flop bet was in the $50 range. I got two callers. The turn was a blank, so I opted to push all-in. One player hemmed and hawed before folding. The other called for less. He only had around $50 behind. In hindsight, I should have been more aware of his stack size earlier, but I am not sure I would’ve done much differently, since the other player had the bigger stack. Regardless, he called and the flush came on the river. My opponent had K4s, and had flopped top pair with the flush draw, so I cannot blame his post-flop action (I guess). What he was doing in a raised pot with K4s, though, is beyond me.

I had a great time joking around with the table. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you are going to play poker, you should strive to have fun whether you win or lose, because there will be days that you are destined to lose, so you may as well enjoy yourself. In this case, I won, $154, including the $100 jackpot. It was not an impressive sum on its own, but considering that I only played for around 2 hours, it wasn’t a bad showing either.

The next morning, I took my grandpa out to breakfast with my cousins and paid for everything with my winnings. After all, if you cannot enjoy the money, what’s the point.

Now, I just need to find my next opportunity to play.

Until next time, make mine poker!