Monday, January 31, 2005

Highs And Lows

So, it's Friday night. I'm sitting on a Pacific Poker $1/2 ring game, watching some maniac take down every second pot with cards I'd be picking my teeth with. Q2o sir? No problem, have two 2s on the flop; J8o? QT9, etc...

The guy is murdering the table and trebles his starting money, with the other players happily calling him down with crap. It's a virtuoso display of dumb luck. Meanwhile I haven't seen any decent cards in what feels like an eternity, and observe the massacre with disdain.

The cool, calculating, reasonable half of me says 'Calm down Div. Bide your time and he will be handing that stack to you.'

As the red wine flows, the bitter, twisted, vindictive half of me creeps towards the surface, and I want to climb into the cable modem and transport myself at light-speed, direct to his bedroom, where I'll chop off his hands to ensure he will never again wield a mouse button so cruelly against me.

He is driving me mental, when along comes KdQd in mid position. Unraised. Now, I KNOW Sklansky, et al. say I should raise here. But I'm in a bad mood, the cards are torturing me, and given the amount of 'Any Acers' at the table, I KNOW there will be an Ace on the flop.

And I'm right. It's the Ad.......and the Td......and a rag.

Interesting! Gotta be worth a bet. Shit. Everyone's folding. Noooooo, stay!!!!

Fortunately I get two callers. I say fortunately, because on the turn, there he is - a beautiful, moustached, Jack of diamonds. I uncheck the 'muck hands' option.

Wooowhooo. My first ever Royal Flush. Two betting rounds, two callers, and my cards are revealed to the world.

Cue lots of 'vvvnh' comments, and virtual back slapping. I graciously accept the compliments, resisting the urge to gripe about how come Mr Idiot gets better pay-offs with Q2o than I get with a royal flush. Maybe I already know why. What animal is better suited to spotting rocks than a fish?

Anyway, I don't really care about the money. Because I have a screenshot, and a bunch of friends coming around on Saturday to play poker. Which we duly do, but not before I've made sure everyone sees my screenshot.

We play two SnGs over about five hours. I love it. Even though I don't play particularly well and bubble out of game 1 on a poorly executed bluff, when I have plenty chips left. Game 2, I perform better. I'm still a distant second to my pal Steph, who is clearly up for the night. Very focused and confidently trash talking over the rest of the table, but backing up words with good play.

The beer flows, the banter is great fun, and huge roars go up when all in bets are lost on the river. No-one is a poker veteran, but everyone knows enough to recognise a bad beat when they see it.

A few of the guys have only ever played online, and their reactions are interesting. Personally, I enjoy the slower, richer experience of face-to-face play. Watching people's reactions. Seeing how they handle their chips. Trying to read their play. Especially when the game is No Limit.

Some of the guys though are inveterate gamblers. They need action. They get frustrated waiting for chip counts. They want to see 60 hands an hour. It occurs to me they are ideal online opponents. You can imagine them playing any two cards in the hope of flopping trips or some unlikely straight. They get even more impatient as we pick them off and make them beer bitches. Which is fun.

I've enjoyed my weekend. Enjoyed it so much, I'm actually looking forward to buying a new bathroom suite on Sunday. The current suite is a peach, seventies-style monstrosity with a corner bath so big I could swim laps in it. Hardly practical for a new baby.

It's a sunny afternoon and it'll be nice to get out of the house. Even an unusual delay on the motorway, due to some roadworks, doesn't bother me. Then it happens.

I'm edging along in a queue of traffic, which is just starting to pick up pace, when I'm passed in the outside lane by a taxi. At this point the outside lane isn't actually part of the motorway proper, as it's an exit slip road leading into the town centre. About eight cars ahead of me, the taxi suddenly veers left trying to cut into lane I'm in. Instantaneously he swerves back onto the exit road. I can't see what has happened but presumably he has tried to get into a gap that didn't exist.

He brakes almost to a standstill on the slip road, which is about to part company with the motorway and its accelerating traffic queue. Then as we draw closer he veers in again. And suddenly the car in front is awfully close. Swearing, screeching tyres, an awful feeling of inevitability, and CRUNCH.

I check Mrs Div is ok. She says she is. The other driver points over to the hard shoulder and I wave in agreement. We edge through the traffic and pull over. I'm shaking, pensive, and embarrassed, yet furious, as I get out of the car. I know it's partly my fault since I must have been too close to the car in front, and I feel I should have anticipated the taxi driver's actions, but I still want to hunt him down and beat him to a bloody pulp.

Things get worse when I discover the occupants of the other car are a young-ish couple with a tiny baby in a carry seat in the back. My first ever crash in 16 years of driving and I manage to include a 4-months pregnant wife and a months old baby in the action.

Amazingly the baby is still sleeping. The actual impact was at very slow speed. My airbag didn't go off, and the other car - much bigger than mine - has nothing more than a scratch on the bumper. My car, on the other hand, is a mess. My bumper has gone underneath his and the bodywork on my car has taken the impact. Six inches of fresh air separate the radiator grill from the bumper. The bonnet looks like a ski ramp.

Both driver and passenger are much friendlier than they have any need to be. I apologise for hitting him. He apologises for braking so sharply. Apparently the taxi veered in across the car in front of him. Rather than slowing, the Sunday driver in the other car pulled an emergency stop, forcing him to do likewise, and I hit him. Of course both taxi and other car drive off in blissful, or willful, ignorance.

We swap insurance and contact details and I return to the car. Mrs Div is in tears, as the shock sets in. We cuddle for a few moments on the hard shoulder, and I rage at the injustice of it. Six lives threatened, the hassle of car repairs, the extra insurance costs. All because some idiot taxi driver wanted to save 60 seconds on the motorway.

I console myself with the knowledge most Glasgow taxi firms, along with sunbed salons, are owned by gangsters. Cash businesses of difficult to verifiable turnover make ideal vehicles for laundering drug money. As such, a lot of their employees tend to hail from similar backgrounds to their owners, and perform dual roles. What goes around, comes around. I imagine all the fates that could befall him. Maybe I'll get really lucky and he will catch both barrels of a sawn-off shotgun in one of the city turf wars that erupt every 18 months or so.

More likely, if he keeps driving like that, he will end up licenceless, or he will cut up an 18 wheeler that doesn't have the same braking instincts as our Sunday driving friend. If I read about a silver Octavia taxi being crushed in some crazy accident, I'll know who was driving, and I won't shed a tear.

Harsh? Yes. Justified? I think so. The sooner the better, I say. To hell with him.

Friday, January 28, 2005

No Rest For The Wicked

What a week. Sadly I haven't played as much poker as I'd like, since that pesky irritant called work has been getting in the way. In truth though, I've actually enjoyed it.

I switched job last year from the carefree world of independent contracting to a 'proper' job.
The new job was a bit of a letdown at first, as there wasn't enough work to keep me busy, and I got bored very quickly. The new company is very small and they had been hoping to land a big piece of work - hence my recruitment. But it didn't happen and we were in the doldrums for a while.

It was a shame, since they are a really good bunch of guys to work with, and I felt bad at taking a fair chunk of cash out of the company each month for what I knew was little return.

I'd like to claim the upturn started when the boss/owner got suckered in by my incessant jabbering on about poker, and returned from lunch one day with a 'Hold Em In A Box' poker set. Cards, plastic chips, a piece of cheap felt, and a dealer button. Shuffle up and deal!

We've had a few lunchtime sessions, and the Christmas night out morphed into a beer, pool and casino outing.

Since Christmas, work has been much busier. Our corporate clients have brought in the New Year with some juicy invitations to tender. Big businesses make me laugh. They take six months to make a decision, then expect the work to be done in six days.

So, I've finally made the step I wanted to make - from doing the coding and design, to helping bid for the work and deal with the business issues. This week I've been getting paid to write pretty, corporate-friendly words, which turn a file processing system for techies into a super efficient and flexible, money saving, must-have, business processing system for the men with the cash to spend. I've enjoyed every minute.

On another corporate note, I see Party Poker is likely to float on the London Stock Exchange soon. See here and here for more info. They seem to be making money hand over fist. I wonder if the affiliates or players will get a chance for discounted shares.

If that isn't enough evidence of the poker boom, my very intermittent home game is on for tomorrow. Instead of struggling to round up enough players, this week it looks like I might be oversubscribed, due to more friends and workmates of friends wanting to come along.

Since there will be a few newcomers, I'm actually trying to write up some house rules. Beer + money + strangers + inexperience, could lead to misunderstandings, so I want to be sure there's an impartial reference point for resolution of any disagreements.

So tonight, I'll be playing poker, writing rules, catching up on blog reading, and probably savouring a nice glass of red wine, while grooving to the Craig Charles funk show on Radio Six Music. (The wonders of 1 Meg cable connections)

A nice way to conclude the week. Happy gambling!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Technical Troubles Update

Hats off to Pacific Poker! I got a pretty quick response from them, saying the problem was a Europe wide blip in internet access. That explains why some players stayed connected - I guess the US players took the paying places in the tournament I was in.

Anyway, they were very clear that the problem was outside their control and they were not liable for it. But as a gesture of goodwill all affected players would be refunded. So, I got a $6 credit on my account, which actually constitutes a 50c profit on the deal.

I reckon Pacific have about 200 SnG active at any one time, plus MTTs. So a LOT of buy ins must have been refunded.

Now, in the long term it's good business sense to take the hit and keep the players happy, but the speed of the response and the ease of refund is still pretty impressive. With the number of competing poker sites growing, it seems the customer is king.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Technical Troubles

Quite a busy weekend.

On the home front, I froze myself half to death at the Celtic v Motherwell game. A comfortable win for the lads, but not much in the way of entertainment. Scottish football is in a pretty bad way just now, due to lack of money and competition in the game. There's a big imbalance between the two largest teams and the rest. When there's no genuine competition, any sport would start to lose it's appeal.

I'm sure I'll go into this in more detail at some point in the future, but for now consider this fact. Celtic Park has a capacity of just over 60,000. The population of Glasgow is approximately 600,000. So more than 10% of the entire city population would fit into the team stadium.

I also got a replacement wiper for my car. I'll be a little more relaxed on the drive to work tomorrow. I wasn't sure how long my temporary repair would last.

Work has now commenced on the second phase of our house renovation. Mostly by my parents! They tell me they are coming down to do a few little things, and I get back from work to find they seem to have done a weeks worth in a day. Today I was mostly throwing out junk - unearthing 14 year old football fanzines that I haven't read since the week after I bought them. I wonder if they are worth anything now? I'll check eBay before I bin them.

I've been busy on the poker front too. I set up Poker Tracker last week, and on Friday tried it with Gametime+ for the first time. Bloody hell! Now I know how fighter pilots felt when someone invented the head up display. If you haven't tried it yet, I'd thoroughly recommend it. Again, I feel a more specific post coming along later....

I played a few SnG too on Friday. Managed my first win in a few days - despite my brother calling from Australia and distracting me. Obviously he is lucky. I told him to call more often!!

Today I was trying to maintain my return to form. Sitting on a decent chipstack with seven players left in a Pacific Poker SnG, when I noticed two players disconnect in quick succession. That's odd, I thought. About 2 seconds before I disconnected too.

I tried and failed to reconnect, though my internet connection was fine(1 Meg Cable). Eventually I got back in, to find I was down to the shortstack of the last four and had just been dealt 99. Rather flustered, I called and the BB reraised me all in. I called again and he flipped AK and flopped two pair. Bye bye SnG!!

I checked the game history and it seemed 4 of 7 players disconnected and the others kept playing. I'm waiting to hear from Pacific whether I get a refund. It's only $5.50 but there's a principle at stake!

I also set up a Neteller account this weekend. I'm planning to do some bonus whoring when I get the time, so I needed a way to shuffle money around quickly. So, Poker Tracker, Gametime+, Neteller, and the advice of Sklansky, McEvoy, and some quality bloggers. Lock'n'load, I'm ready for action!!!

Thanks for the comments on the other threads. Nice to know some people are reading. Would be a bit like a tree falling in a deserted forest otherwise.

Finally, I've had a few moans about bad beats recently. So I'll present the other side of the coin here. No idea what these guys had, and I sure didn't like the flop, but not a bad pot to take with A high. I think this is my first successful semi bluff on Party!

***** Hand History for Game 1481326698 *****
$2/$4 Hold'em - Sunday, January 23, 18:07:26 EDT 2005
Table Table 24987 (Real Money)
Seat 5 is the button
Total number of players : 10
Seat 1: ahstream ( $116 )
Seat 2: BigBMH48 ( $98.5 )
Seat 3: htp007 ( $77.5 )
Seat 5: Daytradern ( $126 )
Seat 6: swampfoot ( $123 )
Seat 7: rwats153 ( $97.5 )
Seat 8: skrogg ( $136 )
Seat 10: EonBlue ( $109 )
Seat 4: Div1970 ( $110.5 )
Seat 9: joeminer90 ( $92 )
rwats153 posts small blind [$1].
skrogg posts big blind [$2].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to Div1970 [ As Jh ]
joeminer90 folds.
EonBlue calls [$2].
ahstream folds.
BigBMH48 folds.
htp007 calls [$2].
Div1970 raises [$4].
Daytradern folds.
rwats153 calls [$3].
skrogg calls [$2].
EonBlue calls [$2].
htp007 calls [$2].
** Dealing Flop ** [ 8h, Qs, 9d ]
rwats153 checks.
skrogg checks.
EonBlue checks.
htp007 checks.
Div1970 bets [$2].
rwats153 calls [$2].
skrogg calls [$2].
EonBlue calls [$2].
htp007 calls [$2].
** Dealing Turn ** [ Qc ]
rwats153 checks.
skrogg checks.
EonBlue checks.
htp007 bets [$4].
Div1970 raises [$8].
rwats153 folds.
skrogg folds.
EonBlue folds.
htp007 folds.
Div1970 does not show cards.
Div1970 wins $40.5

Friday, January 21, 2005


It's been an exasperating week for a variety of reasons.

It started off eventfully, with a little mishap on my way to work. We'd had heavy snow and the driving conditions weren't great. There was a lot of spray on the heavily gritted motorway, which was blurring the windscreen badly.

So, imagine my disappointment when my windscreen wiper decided to pop out of its socket, just as I was overtaking several vehicles. Visibility went from poor to virtually zero in the space of a few seconds. At 6omph. In the middle lane of rush hour traffic. Yikes!

I slapped on my indicator to try to pull off the road, but white van man in the inside lane decided to undertake me, rather than let me in, and a BMW driver then decided to tailgate me rather than go past me, meaning I had to pull onto the snow covered hard shoulder at about 50mph, whilst peering through the murk. Obviously they are both psychics, since two of my most despised breeds of road user are indeed white van man and 'I'm more important than you' BMW drivers, so they were getting their revenge.

Wiper restored, it was onwards to work. Oh joy.

The family cat has also been acting up. He too seems to be psychic, and has decided to introduce the wife and I to the sleeping pattern of new parents five months ahead of schedule. Mewling and yowling at 3am and 5am is becoming a regular occurrence. The pattern seems to be: cat yowls, wake up, try to get cat outside, cat looks at me as if I'm daft - why on earth would he want to go out in that weather, does cat have food (yes!), water (yes!), what the hell DOES he want? (don't know). Back to sleep. Two hours later cat yowls....aaarrggghhh.

It's been a similar story on the poker front. I've been a bit pushed for time, so I've been sticking to $5 SnG games this week as they generally last for a predictable length of time.

Usually I play on Pacific Poker where there's T800 to start, and blinds go up every 15 hands. The problem with Pacific is the games can be so variable. Most are very loose with players raising with all sorts, and calling with anything. With only 800 chips, it can be difficult to sit and wait for decent cards, so sometimes you can get enveloped in the madness. Last night I saw a guy go all in pre flop on level 1 and get two callers. He flipped over T9o, flopped a pair of tens, and it held up as the best hand. Unbelievable!

A few hands later I have KQ, flop a straight draw and pair, hit the T I need on the turn and it holds up to win. Mr All In then tells me how lucky I was to beat him on the river (which was another Q). Durr, thanks for the advice but I made my hand on the turn dude!!

I decided to give Spin Palace (one of the Prima sites) a bash. They start with T1000 but the blinds go up every ten hands. It made Pacific look like a monastic retreat. Probably seven of the ten players were Scandinavians - all of whom thought they were Gus Hansen. Crapshoot time, and back to Pacific.

I've been playing like a tired man this week, but even so I've had some bad luck. KK with 4BB raise pre flop, outflopped by A8o. All in with TT v AK. K on the flop. And the most depressing of all, after I'd battled from a really low chip position to make the paying places, all in with 88 v 44, and a 4 on the river. Oh well, at least I got paid for 3rd.

What I've learned this week is that I'm nowhere near a good player yet. Some of the play is awfully erratic on these tables, and there's been an element of cold decking, but even so I should be getting better results by outplaying some of these guys. Again it's the paradox of play against bad players and you won't improve, but I need to stay at these levels til the bankroll grows.

I'd like to move on one step to the $10 SnG games on Pacific since they have T1000 to start and 15 hands per level, which would suit me better. I set myself a target of getting $400 into that account before I'd step up. All week I've been seesawing around $340. It's frustrating, but I'm going to stick to my rules and not let it get the better of me.

For the weekend, I think I'll go with the Party $2/4 ring games, which are more fun, and don't have the depressing finality of being rivered and pitched out of the tournament. I've got Poker Tracker running now, and installed Gametime+, so it should be interesting to see how much it helps.

I did see one very unusual hand this week. Midway through a SnG, two players go heads up with aggressive pre flop raising. The community cards are all rags, and the betting slows down, though it's bet and called all the way to showdown. Player 1 turns over AA. Player 2 turns over AA!! Pot split. What are the odds on that!?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A Blogger Bribes

OK. I know you ARE out there, since I see the hits on Site Meter. But I don't know who you are.

Thanks for reading, and as a token of my gratitude for your visits, the first four people who want one can have a GMail account invite. Hardly a cutting edge offer, but better than a kick in the nuts. Simply drop me a line at the address on my profile, and I'll send you an invite.

Don't post your address in a Comment. No point exposing it to the spambots.

PS. The live game that was planned for Friday was cancelled due to a variety of family and work commitments getting in the way. The upside of this disappointment was the Party Bad Beat tables got my business instead.

There's a possible reschedule for the month-end. I really need to play more live poker and I think the local casino does some sort of weekly tournament, so maybe I'll investigate that option soon.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Peaks and Troughs

If my Party Poker virginity was lost on Friday, Sunday was a veritable orgy.

I'd done ok on my first few days, winning fairly steadily on the Friday night Bad Beat $2/4 tables, and regular $2/4 tables on Saturday. As I'm anticipating playing a load of hands here, I splashed out on Poker Tracker and imported the hands I'd played to date. My BB/100 hands was sitting at a little over two.

I found a post on the 2+2 site that suggested anything over two was pretty good, and approaching four = crushing the game. I know the sample size is way too small, but I'd felt on Saturday I was just getting to grips with the Party style, and I believed I could move that number higher. So, I was feeling pretty confident as I logged in on Sunday afternoon for a quick session.

About 2 hours later, the BB/100 showing on Poker Tracker was negative. It was a massacre, and even though I hit a few suckouts, I had only myself to blame. My problem wasn't not getting good cards, it was getting good cards and either missing the flop completely and trying to bluff out the little fishes, or hitting it, but someone else hitting it better. I felt like one of those guys who falls into the river in a Piranha movie. I was savaged.

The worst hand was raising with AJ from the button, against several limpers, and hitting a flop of JJ2. Woowhoo!! Trip Js and an A kicker. Can't ask more than that? I called a bet from an early position, aiming to keep everyone in so I could take more off them once the big bets came on the turn. The turn was a blank, yet suddenly I found myself in a raising war with Mr Early Position.

Stupid me just kept ploughing on, unable to see what was staring me in the face. I figured he'd slow played something like QQ from early and I was still ahead, but of course he'd limped with 22 and flopped a full house! Poker 101 - beware of full houses when the board pairs. I was playing like an idiot. I just couldn't see that I could be beat, even if some of the hands that did beat me were a little unlikely.

The session ended with me down about $92. Yes!! I LOST $92 on Party Poker in less than 2 hours. I couldn't believe it.

I snarled and growled my way through dinner, while the cogs in my head whirred and clanked. There was no way I was going to stand for a beating like that. Apart from anything else, I'd a duty to report it on here!! So I needed to even things up.

Session two of the day, and I was much more focused. I hit a few good hands early and picked up some momentum, but I kept myself under control and didn't get carried away when the flops missed me. Several hands I folded may well have been best but I was playing the percentages, and noone was going to stop me winning. The session lasted 2 hours 49 minutes, and I logged out as soon as I hit my goal. Yes comrades, I made a profit. My second session was $97 to the good, for a grand total on the day of $5 profit. Now that's what I call variance.

The more astute among you will have noticed that works out at $1 an hour profit, but boy did it feel good!!

I was really hyped after that. So hyped in fact that I couldn't sleep. I lay in bed for hours fuming over the stupid hands I'd played in session 1, and my mind drifted to other things that make me mad. If I was to list them all, we'd be here for eternity, so here's a couple of things that have pissed me off recently.

1. Sir Mark Thatcher. It's been an open secret that the bumbling dunce traded on his mother's name to make money from arms deals and other shady enterprises. Now it's undeniable. He admitted being involved in a mercenary coup that could have left hundreds of people dead. All for the sake of money. Yet what does he get? A quarter million pounds fine, and a suspended jail sentence. The man is worth sixty million pounds for heavens sake!

Mind you, he might have enjoyed prison a bit too much for my liking. The buggery and punishment beatings might have reminded him of fond times at public school.

Oh, and of course he gets to keep his baronet title too, which he inherited from his father, who was awarded it by John Major who admitted to awarding it under duress after "powerful representations" from "more than one source". So much for an egalitarian society.

2. Imagine working as a sports journalist. Getting paid good money to write about one of your favourite subjects; travelling the world on expense account junkets to follow your local team; meeting your heroes - maybe even becoming friendly with some of them; guaranteed tickets to all the biggest events; and all this just for penning a few words about football, golf, rugby, boxing etc.

So how do some of these idiots manage to make the job seem so difficult? Take, for example, Keith Jackson. Keith writes for the 'Daily Record' - known to the more discerning as the 'Daily Retard'.

Keith managed to unearth a story so hot he slapped an 'Exclusive' tag on it, and gave it the most prominent position on the sports headlines page. Celtic's new Nike strip would break the club traditions, it was already being considered at boardroom level, and was sure to be controversial. Except, of course, it wasn't. Because the strip didn't exist. It had been mocked up by a 14 year old boy as a joke; and had been circulating on the internet for 3 MONTHS, prior to Keith's 'exclusive' story.

I use the word 'story' deliberately. For this article has more in common with Pinocchio than it does with a genuine news story. The Daily Record - a newspaper without news; or a future.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Baby Talk

Congratulations to Cocktail Doll on the birth of her baby son. It sounds like she had a tough time, so hope she is feeling better soon.

I found her site last year and it has some good casino anecdotes on it.

The reason I was searching was that I always like to be prepared before visiting new places, to maximise the experience.

Usually this involves reading a guide book, and a phrase book, so that I can manage a few key communications in whatever the local language is: count to ten, say 'please' and 'thank you', and of course the most important phrase of all 'two beers'. Particularly important on football trips with the lads, or when visiting Prague with anyone.

For the USA language isn't (much of) a problem, but tipping is! In the UK tipping is pretty much reserved for restaurant staff, and even then it's hardly viewed as mandatory. I knew the USA, and Vegas in particular, was different. So it was good to get some idea of what was, and wasn't, expected. I also made sure that I accumulated lots of $1 and $5 bills before reaching Vegas, so I was well prepared for the outstretched hands.

My own wife's pregnancy seems to be on an even keel now. She was super ill for the first 14 weeks or so, but has recently started to feel better. She also had a few complications early on, which have now been resolved. Consequently, we have seen three baby scans already, instead of the usual one:

7 weeks - a tiny little blob, the size of a fingernail, with a twitching core which the sonographer told us was the heart. My wife said the baby looked like a prawn.

11 weeks - an identifiable baby, we could even see the fingers on the hand, but no movement other than the beating heart.

14 weeks - amazing! A fully formed baby, and we could see the legs kicking, and the baby changing position as we watched.

The whole thing seems very real now. My wife has started to get bubbling sensations in the pit of her stomach, not full blooded kicking, but she can definitely feel movement.

It's full steam ahead now on the preparations. The house we live in is quite old, and when we bought it we renovated and redecorated one half, which was a little run down. Now we need to redecorate and furnish the other half, to make it baby friendly, and available to accommodate the streams of visitors a new child attracts. Yesterday was furniture shopping, today was bathroom shopping.

So, any poker profits will be invested wisely. I'll probably do a monthly summary on how I'm getting on, and square it with the cost of cots, prams, sofas, etc. to see whether the small stakes poker players of the world are financing the baby preparations. Every little helps!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

I Have Aces

Last night was a blast, peppered with the occasional aneurysm inducing fiasco.

I came to the conclusion by the end of the night that in some hands I could have typed 'I Have Aces' into the chat window pre-flop, and still got callers (maybe raisers!!).

The worst hand of the night for me wasn't really a bad beat, since by the turn there was so much in the pot that it was probably worth calling with just about anything. Even so, when the showdown came I was doing my own fish impression. A goldfish!! My mouth bobbing open and closed with incredulity as I tried to work out what the heck happened. If only my memory could have been erased after 3 seconds.

Two things got me about it. Firstly the pre-flop play, secondly the fact that not one, but two, players at the table were willing to go all the way to the river, calling all my bets, without even having the nut draw. I wonder if anyone folded KQ earlier in the action.

Not to worry, I still ended the night comfortably ahead. I offer the following as solace for anyone going through a period of self doubt, and worrying whether you have have sufficient talent for this game. Rest assured no matter how badly you are playing, someone else is playing worse! Whether that person is me, or the other guys, I'll let you make up your own minds.

***** Hand History for Game 1437957380 *****
$2/$4 Hold'em - Friday, January 14, 22:24:38 EDT 2005
Table Table 11441 (Real Money)
Seat 3 is the button
Total number of players : 9
Seat 1: Offspring1 ( $455.5 )
Seat 2: Area_31 ( $82.5 )
Seat 10: jblinville ( $115.5 )
Seat 4: Div1970 ( $124 )
Seat 6: tgren ( $71 )
Seat 9: Milosh27 ( $146.5 )
Seat 3: elsaboteur22 ( $91 )
Seat 8: jrwuertz ( $85 )
Seat 7: cobblecobble ( $92 )
Div1970 posts small blind [$1].
tgren posts big blind [$2].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to Div1970 [ Ah Ad ]
cobblecobble calls [$2].
jrwuertz calls [$2].
Milosh27 folds.
jblinville calls [$2].
Area_31 calls [$2].
elsaboteur22 calls [$2].
Div1970 raises [$3].
tgren folds.
cobblecobble calls [$2].
jrwuertz calls [$2].
jblinville calls [$2].
Area_31 raises [$4].
elsaboteur22 folds.
Div1970 raises [$4].
cobblecobble calls [$4].
jrwuertz calls [$4].
jblinville calls [$4].
Area_31 calls [$2].
** Dealing Flop ** [ 3c, 9d, Jh ]
Div1970 bets [$2].
cobblecobble calls [$2].
jrwuertz calls [$2].
jblinville calls [$2].
Area_31 calls [$2].
** Dealing Turn ** [ 7h ]
Div1970 bets [$4].
cobblecobble folds.
jrwuertz calls [$4].
jblinville calls [$4].
Area_31 calls [$4].
** Dealing River ** [ Td ]
Div1970 bets [$4].
jrwuertz calls [$4].
jblinville folds.
Area_31 calls [$4].
Div1970 shows [ Ah, Ad ] a pair of aces.
jrwuertz shows [ 8c, Kc ] a straight, seven to jack.
Area_31 shows [ 7s, 8h ] a straight, seven to jack.
Area_31 wins $39.5 from the main pot with a straight, seven to jack.
jrwuertz wins $39.5 from the main pot with a straight, seven to jack.

Party Poker Virginity Lost

So I finally decided to take the plunge at Party Poker, prompted by the urgings of Iggy and Grubby to get involved in the Bad Beat action. (Bonus code IGGY of course!)

Just to get my feet wet, I took $100 to a 2/4 table at 6.00 p.m., and by 6.42 p.m. when hunger pangs got the better of me, and I could hear the pizza calling my name, I was sitting with $144.75. 22BB in 42 minutes!

Realistically, I was being slapped about the face with good cards. My first ever live hand on Party was TT (lost to an 'Any Acer'), my fourth was AA (raised in front of me by a guy with KQ so I got a reraise in pre flop). The aces held up and a decent pot was mine.

Fix! I hear you cry. The newbie gets all the good cards. Well if that's the case the fix doesn't last long, cos I'm writing this during session two of the evening, where the other side of Party which I'd read about has kicked in. Gutshot straights and rivered flushes abound, so the variance is a bit higher and I'm only very slightly ahead.

On the plus side, I hit my luckiest ever flop. Sitting in the BB I checked my 84 and saw a flop of 448. Can't complain about that! I was praying for an ace or king to come on the turn and get me some action but everyone tightened up and I didn't make as much as I'd hoped from that one.

I laughed when a fellow player complained about pre flop raises, saying it was making it harder to play suited connectors to try to hit the Bad Beat Jackpot. I play the lottery twice a week, so I'm happy to play it a bit straighter on Party and stick to trying to win a few dollars.

I'm having fun so far. Not even trying to read other players, and just playing the cards, mostly super tight but throwing in the occasional silly hand just to see if I can get lucky and catch some action.

The jackpot meter has just passed $720,000 and is spinning like a dervish. There's gonna be a very happy table somewhere!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Consistency Is The Key

Well, the constructive criticism seems to have had some impact. I played 5 SnG over the last two days and came 2 4 3 3 3. No wins but four payouts.

This hardly compares favourably with the 1 1 2 2 1 run I hit at the start of the year (pre blog), but it's infinitely better than the 10 10 8 7 6 run I staggered through at the weekend. I managed to lose all my stack in one game on the FIRST hand, all in on the flop with KK against some maniac with 76 who hit trips on the turn. Boy did that hurt!

Tonight I kept my guard up, and didn't let any sucker punches through. Maybe a few more risks might have got me a first place, but for now building the bankroll, and watching and learning, are the main objectives. I played three games tonight and never saw a higher pocket pair than JJ, but despite this saw some sort of return from every game.

I've been catching up on the excellent Best of HDouble posts and they really ring true. I would put myself at Stage 2 in his development of a poker player. I've only been playing for 5 months. Mostly online, and only once in a casino - but hey it WAS in Vegas!

The fancy play syndrome he mentions has been obvious to me when I've reviewed some of the games I threw away. One aspect which is sort of fancy, and which I've eliminated in the last few days, is getting my chips in first when I sense a coinflip scenario.

By this I mean a situation where I get raised pre-flop late in the game when I've got something like 44, and I judge them to be on two overcards, such as AJ, which would make me a very marginal favourite - something like 53% to 47%. Generally in these situations I'd been reraising all in, figuring that noone wants to risk a big chunk of their chips for a coinflip and they will probably fold and I'll take down the blinds plus raise.

Unfortunately on quite a few occasions I was getting called and outflopped by players who obviously don't think like me. Add to this the times when I got it wrong and my opponents suspected AJ turned out to be QQ, and this was becoming a negative tactic. So, in the interests of variance reduction, and bankroll building, this tactic has been shelved but not totally forgotten.

I'd already considered the conundrum of my skill progression being limited by playing low buy-in no fold'em type games, and I would like to move up the stakes to play against better players and improve my game. In the short term though, building the bankroll and continuing to learn the basics are the main targets. So, for now the focus is on consistency and steady improvement both in play and finances. If that means grinding out a few dull games then so be it.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Predictions 1 Poker Skills 0

Happy days. Not only did the forces of light triumph, but my prediction came spot on. Since when does missing a blatant penalty when the scores are level, and booking the wrong man when there's a players bust up, count as a great refereeing performance? If only the cards were as predictable as the Scottish media.

Speaking of which. The post match analysis also took in some constructive criticism of my recent SnG form. Even though I have been getting all my chips in while in most instances being way ahead, we decided I was probably over committing myself with too many all ins. There's no predicting on a rainbow flop that the next two cards will make a backdoor flush, or flukey trips, but when the turn comes the warning signs are often clear.

I've been playing like a boxer with a huge punch, but a glass chin. Most times I'm flattening my opponents when they leave a gap in their defence, but every so often a sneaky counterpunch knocks me out when I'm well ahead on points.

So, I'm going to back off from trying to push players out of decent pots when I know I am well ahead, and settle for trying to milk them on the turn and river, whilst keeping the exit door open.

I think this is a valid tactic against bad players, rather than good players, but I'll be keeping the big guns in reserve for when I reckon my opponent actually has a modicum of skill, and is capable of being pushed out of a drawing hand. This should reduce my variance and give me the chance to claw my way back after dodgy callers get lucky.

The other bonus from yesterday was a plan for a real life face-to-face game on Friday. An all too rare event due to the demands of having wives and children. Online playing is quick and convenient, but there's much more fun in sitting stony faced with the nut flush, as your opponents bets into you. I just love the sound of chips hitting the pot.

I'm not sure of the technicalities of home games in the UK, but I think they are legal. I'm absolutely certain the police have better things to do with their time than raid them if they aren't. I couldn't believe the stories I've been reading about raids on home games in Chicago and other US cities.

I had the pleasure of visiting Chicago last year, and had a brilliant time. I wholeheartedly recommended it to all my friends when I returned, but even so, I'm sure the local police could be more productively employed than going undercover to bust $20 buy-in card games.

If Chicago takes your fancy, try these guys for a really good (and free!!) guided tour.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Storm Before The Storm

It's a British cliche to talk about the weather, but tonight I can't resist it. What the heck is going on!? We've had torrential rain all week with winds straight out of a Hollywood disaster movie. Our home is an old-ish brick and slate structure, but it's been difficult to sleep as the entire house vibrates in the wind. Driving home from work was a real battle. The little tin can I drive was all over the place.

I'm not sure what impact the weather will have on the big game tomorrow. Last year I'd have said it favoured Celtic with their more physically imposing players. Now, I'm not so sure. Rangers have toughened up a lot.

Neither team is playing well, but I'm hoping home advantage will do it for us. It could be a real battle if the wind and rain don't relent, and the crowd will have a part to play.

I'd be loathe to predict a score, but I can confidently state that Hugh Dallas will be an arse, and will be brown nosed by the entire Scottish media no matter what he does. The man revels in controversy, and of course so do the tabloids. So they have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Oh What A Night!!

Well, I DID say these SnGs could be a rollercoaster ride. Tonight I played nine SnG with the following results:

5th, 7th, 3rd, 4th, 10th, 10th, 7th, 6th, 1st

My worst ever run, finally redeemed at 2 a.m. by a first to bring me back to a smallish loss for the evening. Only two paid finishes.

I started with a few mediocre games, which I spent grumbling to myself about lack of decent hole cards. By game nine I was praying for 72o. In one night I lost with pocket aces three times, and pocket kings once.

I'll spare you the gory details, but I like to use the Hold Em calculator on Cardplayer to check out my losing plays and see what I did wrong. Of the plays where I felt I'd had a bad beat, the worst odds I had to win at the point where I got all my chips in was 2/1 favourite. The best odds were a whopping 11/1, where my top pair of aces were defeated by running spades on turn and river for a flush draw. To be fair to my opponent, he had flopped A23 of spades, so I think he was giving rather too much value to the faint possibility of a straight flush.

Rest assured the air was blue for a few moments after each game. Two beers and some deep breathing exercises later, I'm actually quite happy. I hope those guys are back tomorrow, and I pray they haven't changed their style, because this is a war, not a battle, and if they keep giving me those odds, their money will be mine eventually.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Masterplan

How to make $6000 in a year? Well, it may not always be pretty but it's definitely achievable.

Mainly I hope to make cash off the $5 10-seated NLH SnGs which are my staple game at present. My rolling average at present is a paid finish in approximately two thirds of the games I play, with a weighting toward 1st and 2nd paid places.

These games can be a real rollercoaster, three players all in within the first blinds level, people raising with hands I'd be mucking, but patience and careful hand selection generally pays dividends. Even so, the occasional bizarre call can be painful to experience. I console myself with the fact they'll be back for the next game.

For a bit of variation I like to play the occasional ring game of pot limit Hold Em, at the micro limits. I've made some profits at these games due to the passive nature of so many players. Most flops seen without a raise, yet if you hit the nuts and start betting, there are usually a few callers for the first few pot size raises at least.

I'm planning to branch out into some tournaments and maybe higher level SnGs as the year progresses. I'm not kidding myself that I'm a great player. I'm competent, and understand decent hand selection and position, but I've got plenty to learn.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome, come on in.

Hello, good evening, and welcome, to my first ever post as a blogger.

As an IT worker, I've been aware of blogs since the early days, but never understood their attraction. Well, better a late convert than forever remaining an athiest, huh?

Credit for my conversion has to go to my new found interest in poker - courtesy of the TV boom and, more importantly, a trip to Vegas. Some of the poker blogs make great reads, and give a sense of the shared community feeling which comes from a common love of a great game.

I've got super hooked on the game recently, and was opining over Christmas that it could be a useful little side earner, as well as great fun. My friends weren't entirely convinced, and we had a nice little debate about it, which has resulted in my setting a profit target for this year of $6000. I then realised that keeping focused on this would be the real challenge - I needed something more than money to motivate me. So, I decided to start a blog. What can be more motivating that exposing yourself to the scrutiny and ridicule of the entire world. So, I now owe it to myself to get a few links to this blog to make sure someone actually reads this. Let me know if you do, even if only by way of a 'YOU SUCK' comment.

The current stats, for later comparison:

Bankroll @ 1st January 2005 $439.99
Bankroll @ 6th January 2005 $511.99
Profit to date $72.00

What else can you expect from me? Well, as a fan of the glorious Glasgow Celtic you can expect a few comments on the state of Scottish football, referees, and other associated issues. Speaking of which, it's nice to see that while our English neighbours may have better players than us at present; their officials are just as inept as ours. Special mentions to Mike Riley and Rob Lewis.

On a more personal note, my wife is pregnant with our first child, so I'm sure there will be a few reflections on that. I'll try to refrain from the cloying, squidgy nonsense, but I've got to admit, I'm really looking forward to being a dad. Baby eta 9th July 2005!

Other than that, I've got a broad range of interests, and while I consider myself easy going and socially inclusive, I've got no tolerance for wilful dickheadery or incompetence, so expect a few rants about random subjects along the way. Likely future topics: British customer service, the press, politicians, M8 drivers, the British transport infrastructure, the criminal justice system. This could be a lot more cost effective than therapy - and my poor wife is in no state to suffer my verbal explosions at present.

So, onwards and upwards, I've already wasted valuable SnG time writing this. See you at the table....

Wednesday, January 05, 2005