Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's All Levels (and ballbearings)

Yesterday was one of those days. It was one of those days where nothing seemed to go right, and hand after hand was lost through mistimed bluffs and river cards that made me go "hmm". It was shaping up to be a total bust, and directly after a day I had just lost a fair chunk of change due to a bout of mini-tilt for about 2 hours. Sometimes, the universe seems to actually have a plan. Just when my mood feels like it can get no darker, the second hand on some far away clock clicks another second away, lost forever, and taking with it all past events. Seemingly, everything changes and the sun begins to shine a bit brighter as the dark clouds of demise disperse.

So it was to be as I looked down at pocket eights.

An aggressive player who had been running me over all day long raised the pot. I and a few others took a flop of 8-7-7 with two spades.


Four spades ended up coming on the board, and he had pocket kings with the king of spades and paid me off all of $225 after the third spade hit the board. He knew I was capable of a bluff, and he paid me off. It's like my bluffing him earlier, and never showing my cards win or lose, made him believe there was enough of a chance I was bluffing here. Plus, my stack was short, but only because I bluffed earlier... shit was aligning.

Now I had almost $500 in front of me. I was still down for the day, but a lot closer to getting out of the trap. Some days you just have to gnaw your own leg off, and accept a moderate loss, to get away from the bear trap. Men, nearly ALL men, and also many women, hate to accept defeat. From my personal observations I believe this crosses all racial, regional, national, spiritual, and religious boundaries. It is the will to win that makes us excel. When the will to win overrides the will to survive, we become reckless. We may win, but we may also perish.

Anyway, back to yesterday. My mind was wandering for a minute, there.

About 5 minutes later, and I now have twice as many chips, I get dealt pocket deuces right in front of the big blind. After winning that last hand, my internal reaction has changed to "alright, let's see a flop, knock out a deuce, and put it right in someone's ass." Mr aggressive AGAIN raised the pot. Funny thing is I believe he has a good hand here. If he had been out of line earlier in his preflop raises, I don't remember it. It's more likely he is getting more of his fair share of powerful starting hands. Either way, I hope I can hit a deuce.

I tossed in what I owed and watched the flop roll off 2-6-9 with two of them diamonds.

I think my end of the table raised imperceptibly as my excitement mounted. I had flopped a set, and now I had to try to double this bad boy up, I just need Mr. Aggressive to have an over-pair to the board and I believe he will go for my plan. If he has nothing I'm going to win a small pot.

I decide to lead into him for 3/4 of the pot. I look down at my chips. We had been playing this game with each other all afternoon, and he had admittedly gotten the better of me on multiple occasions, but this time was different.

I watch him reach for chips, and now it looks like the hook is set. See, I could have a flush draw, one pair, two pair, a set, a straights draw, two overcards, any over pair, and if he takes this bait, and raises in this spot, he will have to double me up or get lucky as hell and bust me, because it's all going in right now.

He raises to $170. Everyone else folds. I move all-in for $450 or so.

Now, I get to watch him squirm a bit. I must admit, I started this pseudo war when I would not show him my winning hand earlier in the day. I told him I couldn't give out that kind of information. I had raised with QJ, and the flop came QJJ. Well, I bet all the way and he folded when I bet $75 on the river, but before he folded he asked if I'd show. Bump that. I never told him, and he felt he had been bluffed. Just like I felt he was bluffing me on more than one occasion. Tit for tat, I suppose.

He is still squirming. I know what he is thinking. I could have any of the hands that I had listed earlier. Only a few of the hands beat his overpair. He probably has aces or kings, maybe queens. He already would have called if he had AdKd, two over with a flush draw, so he doesn't have that. He doesn't have a set or he'd have already called. He has an overpair, and I know you can't fold it here, in this spot, with our history. Hurry up and do it.

I know he cannot fold, here.

I heard him mention something about a set, but I have my headphones on so I'm not sure what he is saying. I look down at the table and grin inside. This is the game, and I'm very happy to be on this side of it. If he folds I will not show him. This side of it is waaaaaaay better.

He calls. I immediately flip over my set of deuces, he slams down a pair of Kings, and I win a thousand dollar pot.

Poker is alright.

I'm stacking chips, slowly. He is saying something about "is that how you're going to get me, flop sets?"

I nod my head and mumble "yup".

I don't want to tell him he was working me hard earlier. I don't want him to know he had me on my heels. I don't want to give away too much because there are some very, very smart people out there. I certainly don't want to gloat.

There is no fist raising. There is no standing up and showing my ass. I've been in his boots and I didn't like it. Why do anything that might be viewed as rubbing it in? Also, it's nice to act like you've been there before. ESPN didn't help everything.

Mr. Aggressive is racking up to leave. He's mumbling as he goes. A half hour later I get up and go, too. The adrenaline was pumping today. I'm glad I came out on top.

Wild day. Last night was good too. I'm even for the week. Stress levels are still fine, though.

Codsey out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Just another Sunday

Yesterday was a Sunday. Family off to church, and dad mows the lawn. Our lawn looks bad. Last winter killed off a bunch of our grass, and while much of it recovered over the summer, much had not. I, of course, blame my lawn care company. We pay them $50 each time they visit. We agree to pay them, they agree to keep my lawn looking healthy and green. One of us is not upholding our end of the bargain. Scratch that, now there are two of us not upholding our end of the bargain, but my action is a direct result of their lack of action.

Anyway, the lawn got mowed. Family came home from church. Kids were screaming at each other about something. Wife was acting rather odd. It was at that point I decided the poker room would be a good spot to hide for a couple of hours.

When I arrived at the poker room my usual no limit game was full, but there was a seat available in the limit omaha 8 or better game. I decided to sit and pass some time. Besides, this poker room has a great promotion for their omaha game. If you start with 4 wheel cards, and don't win any of the pot, they give you $200. It's a good promotion, and seems to be helping promote the game because there were two tables running, which is an oddity.

Two hands in I bring up the promotion. I am told by the dealer the promotion is no more. I'm guessing their goal was to get two tables and then say "no mas". It's kind of funny because the money they use for promotions actually comes from the players in the form of a percentage of the dollar taken from each hand for the bad beat jackpot.

It seems the number of players have decreased across the board in this city, and the promotion money has dried up. God forbid the poker room use any of the PROFIT they've made over the past ten years to promote their own business. It's like anything else. Big business gets into bed with politicians, and the law gets written so business makes money, government makes money, and the people pay through the nose, but just a little bit at a time so it doesn't really hurt too much.

The promotion conversation led into a conversation about the poker room reducing the pay of the Dealers and raising the pay of the Chip Runners. This is quite a change.

Dealers deal the game. They make sure things are run smoothly and most importantly by the rules. A good dealer is worth his or her weight in gold. A good dealer is hardly even noticed at the table because things run smoothly and quickly.

One reason the game does not run quickly is because people go broke and must buy more chips. If the dealer changes them in the game stops. Ideally, there would be a chip runner, a person to get chips for the players, on hand for any game.

Clearly, this would be impossible, but additional chip runners would make games move along faster, thereby allowing more hands to be played, and the money made to increase.

I am assuming, because of the slow down in the number of players for each game, that fewer dealers are needed. It looks like the dealers who are slow, who continually make mistakes, and who slow the game down because of their incompetence, may be asked to become chip runners in the near future. It makes perfect sense.

The good dealers should be glad because they will have more chip runners available to them to assist in making their game run faster, and actually make them more money. The bad dealers, the one's who get asked to become chip runners, will not like it much. At least the poker room will be paying the chip runner a bit more money. The chip runners who hustle, who make a positive difference, may again become dealers. The few who choose to be slow, and not make a positive difference, will probably be phased out.

Capitalism works.

I lost 10 dollars in an hour and a half in that stupid Omaha game. But I was just killing time because I and the family were going to M's sister's house to watch the Jags play the Chargers. Tim and Sheryl were making a low country boil for dinner, as well.

If you've never had a low country boil, then you have not lived. It's Corn on the cob, potatoes, broccoli, onions, and seafood all put into a big pot and boiled in Old Bay seasoning until it smells good enough to fight over. Let me tell you, it tastes even better.

The seafood was shrimp and crablegs, and there was more of it then the filler foods I mentioned earlier. Damn, it was good. Best meal I've had in months, hands down.

The Jags got killed. Oh well. Pro football may have a strike or a lockout next year. It should be fun. I hope they do, maybe ticket prices will come down. If not, dig your own grave NFL.

After football last night, and after the kids were in bed, and the wife was winding down, I decided to go back and play some poker. It hasn't been a great week, and more hours are required.

I sat in a 2-5 NL game. Won the first three hands I played. Played for about three hours and walked out $300 the richer for it. The games are getting tougher. The player pool is dwindling. people are going broke.

People do not understand the concept of bankroll management. The only reason I get it is because I have lived it. They will live it too. Some will never return to poker. Others will realize they could beat the game, but staying in action is the most important thing. They will come back wiser and stronger, as I did.

My cousin is coming into town this week. We will be playing golf and poker and drinking about twenty beers a night. I am looking very forward to it. Hopefully we will have enough fun that there will be a good story in there somewhere.

I am feeling like a road trip is in order. The gulf coast of Florida may be the next destination. We shall see.

Codsey out.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

That Thing We Do

I awake around 7, hearing my wife trying to yell softly to my son, who is upstairs but does not hear his alarm clock. My son reminds me of my wife's brother, which is not a bad thing noting her brother's success as an architect. Jeff, my brother-in-law was the heaviest sleeper I have ever encountered. He is such a heavy sleeper that I was convinced it was an act for the first ten years after meeting him. I'm not such a heavy sleeper.

I awake, and smile, because even though I have just been removed from my peaceful slumber I can be sure a fresh brewed latte would be either awaiting me or arriving shortly. I also smile because being awoken at this time affords me the possibility of seeing my wife during various points of her getting ready for work.

I like how she looks. She is beautiful. I will save you from any graphic descriptions lest I risk offending my beauty. Suffice it to say that I am very attracted to her and experience a sort of teen aged glee each time her morning ritual takes her from the bathroom through the bedroom.

So, there I sit, latte in hand, news on the tv, and a beautiful woman occasionally strolling in front of me at various points of partial dress. My wife will leave for work, and take my son to be dropped off at his middle school. I will eventually drag myself out of bed to brush my teeth, at least.

At 8:20 I will dutifully take my daughter and her friend to high school. I have been told, and my being a man of the Northern NY precludes my ever being able to know this without explanation from many different women, that humidity is particularly tough on long hair. So, I take her to school in an air conditioned car each day.

I don't mind, however. In fact I like it, at least right now. I have been quite happy to take on each and every day for the last three weeks or so. I have been just absolutely nailing it at the card room. I take the girl to school, come home, get showered and shaved, maybe grab a bite to eat, and roll down to the card room around 10 am, give or take.

So, I wake up each day, have an awesome latte waiting for me, get to see a half naked, totally hot woman stroll by me every few minutes, spend time with my daughter, and get to work when I want to. If I want to watch some stupid show on tv until 11 am, then I do it. If I want to sit on facebook for an hour, then I do it. Life is pretty darned good. For now, at least.

The poker gods will not allow such joy to go unpunished. I have been running so well, and playing in such a zone, that I cannot remember the last day that I lost money. I know it will turn soon, it always does. But, for right now, for today, I am on top of the world!

Back to the story.

I usually arrive at the poker room sometime before noon. I know many people there. I am friends with most of the regular players as well as many of the staff. I approach the front desk, and happily tell Frannie to put me on the 2-2 and 2-5 no limit games. I check out the tournament schedule for the day. I walk back to the cage to get my chips. Along the way I am greeted by the Floor people. I smile, they are good folks.

At the cage I see Guy, or Elsie, or Edie. Edie will undoubtedly be happy if I am wearing green clothing. She is convinced that the color green has some mystical power which will aide me in my efforts to win money. She almost has me convinced. I must admit, I think about it as I'm looking for a shirt each day.

The cage person dutifully counts out my money, runs one of those pens they use to see if the bill is legite across each hundred I've laid out, and gives me the appropriate amount in poker chips. I always ask for the type of chips I want.

"Three red, Guy". Guy knows that I want three hundred in red, or $5 chips. If I' going to a 2-2 game I might say "Three red, but make twenty of it white". The white, one dollar chips are used more often in a 2-2 game and it is good to have some in front of you so the dealer is not CONTINUOUSLY making change for every player in the pot.

If I'm lucky I have a seat awaiting me at the limit I wish to play. If not I generally roll up to the bar, order a coffee or soft drink, and talk to the bartender. If I don't wish to talk I just go towards the back of the room to a very comfortable chair that is in front of an entire wall of tv's. It's nice, particularly on Saturday and Sunday when there are multiple football games, all available to watch.

Eventually my name will be called. I'll walk to the table. I have my IPOD and headphones, for when the poker talk becomes poker drivel. I'll take my seat, look around, recognize nearly everyone, and begin.

A few hours later I hopefully rack up my chips, put my headphones away, wish everyone good luck, and walk away a few hundred richer than when I arrived.

I try to get home in time to start dinner. I'm making marinated skirt steak for the grill for dinner tonight. Last night was catfish nuggets. Real catfish, hand breaded, and it was very good.

Later, after the kids have slowed down, and M is in her pajamas (another bonus), then I may go back to the card room and play for a few more hours.

I usually get home sometime after midnight and go to sleep to do it all over again the next day.

I like it. It's fun. It's allows me to have choices. That's all we all want, right? We want to be able to choose what we do. We want to be able to choose when we do things. We want to be able to choose what we say, and how we act.

Of course, if it goes badly, then none of it matters. Or does it? What would you be willing to give up for five, or ten, or twenty years of happiness?

Maybe it won't go terribly wrong. I know I will have losing periods, periods when it will be grim. But what if I don't go broke? Then, I will have won. A comfortably moderate lifestyle, a gorgeous wife who I actually like to talk to, two great kids, and a job that gives me multiple choices each and every day. Life is good.

Codsey out.

Friday, September 03, 2010

School is In

Real, honest to goodness, big bet poker has arrived in the sunshine state. I have numerous friends who have been around the poker scene in Jax for a number of years who have been absolutely killing it. I also have friends who, since July 1, have not been killing it.

I had a rough July, and had I been a bit more fortunate in just a few key hands I would have won much more than I did. As it was, for all of July and the first half of August, I won. But, it was not nearly at the numbers that some did.

I tried my hand at the 5-10 game. Now, I believe, and I have heard larger numbers and I have heard smaller numbers, but I believe you need to have 40-80k sitting somewhere at your disposal.

I do not have even nearly that much. But, I gave it a shot, trying to hit a big score and pad my bankroll. What happened is I quickly realized it was not a tightrope I wanted to be walking. The possibility of a moderate losing streak busting me was all too real for my aging heart to handle.

Seriously, it was more stress than any man should have to endure. See, the backing of a bankroll, and the realization that a huge mistake was not going to cripple you, allows a poker player to free up his or her game.

You can make the occasional bluff without fear of being busted. In fact, in order to play correctly you MUST make the occasional bluff. If you never bluff then you will never get paid off when you actually have a hand. Your opponents, even though they make some of the strangest bets, calls, and raises, are not idiots.

Also, the fearless poker player is one to actually be feared. These guys can have any two cards at any time. Calling these guys with one pair, for $2000, on the river, is pure hell on earth.

So, I dropped back down to my regular 2-5 limit and got to work. I had a great two weeks at the end of August, and September has started off with a bang. I'm running good, and things are cruising along as planned.

It's sort of interesting to see how people handle their losing streaks. Many players, particularly those playing for too high of stakes, simply go broke and disappear for a while until they are able to rebuild their bankroll and get back to it. The players playing in the correct game for their bankrolls are usually still there, grinding away, but they are much more solemn.

During a losing streak you just know the next card is going to be ugly. You just know a guy is going to make his flush. You know the board will pair when you have the nut straight. Observant opponents will notice your fear, and like sharks to blood in the water, will swoop in and make a huge bet on any scare card. They will put you to the test again and again.

When you've lost the last nine hands, when someone has caught a card on the river, you begin to suspect they always have it. The players who can deal with the pressure of the situation, and the bad things that happen to all of us, are the players who make the most money. The one's who can't handle it go on 'tilt'.

When a poker player is on tilt he chases cards, spews chips, and basically plays way off balance. People wait in line to get on a table with someone on tilt. The strong will survive in this game.

The thing is, we've all been there. If a poker player tells you he has never gone on tilt, make sure you never lend him money because he is telling you a stone cold lie. Therefore, since we've all been there, there are no sorry feelings for the tilting player. He is on his own, just like we were.

It's stressful, but it's not dismal. Not anymore. A good safeguard, and one I will always use, is something called "going on lockdown".

Lockdown is sitting there, and folding, and folding, and folding until you get a premium starting hand. If you think you have the best hand you need to take down the pot ASAP. Win the hand, don't give people a chance to catch the death card.

To me, the psychology and sociology of poker is a much more interesting topic than the math of poker. There are so many pitfalls, so many wrong paths. The only thing that actually teaches a person about the game is experience.

Many people have written, and I have read most of it, about the dangers of tilt, and the effects of a prolonged losing streak. I read it all years ago, but I didn't learn much. It was only through real world experience that I could truly begin to understand what the magazines were telling me.

Poker is rough. It's a lot of hours, and sometimes a lot of travel. There are late nights, and time away from family and friends. The pressure and stress are, at times, mind numbing and back breaking. Relationships suffer, attitudes change, and one's outlook on life becomes cynical.

Thank God they always deal another hand. We all know you're only one hand away from being on a rush, and who would want to miss that?

Codsey out.