Sunday, October 30, 2005

Champ or Chump

Two interesting hands from the PokerStars $50 Pot Limit Omaha tables. One where I knew exactly what I was doing; one where I was absolutely tied in knots.

Hand one is pretty simple, and a great example of how playing it fast can work well.

Hand two needs the full hand history, as my own words would simply fail me.

The first hand was uneventful pre-flop. I'm in the blinds with Axxx suited in clubs and there are five or six limpers. A typical Stars field.

The flop comes all clubs, with no straight flush possibility. I have the nuts, but am first to speak into a big field. What to do?

Some players in this situation make a min bet into the field to try to pick up several callers. Some players will check and try to induce a bet from a smaller flush, or a bluffer.

I don't like either option. Option 1 doesn't get much extra cash in the pot and flags up what I'm holding. Both options give anyone with a set or two pair the chance to fill up, as there is fair chance it will be checked around if I don't bet.

I decide to bet the pot. Making it look like a steal, and charging a full price for anyone who wants to draw.

Fold...fold...fold...not looking good...fold...reraised the maximum!

Fantastic. Suddenly a $3.50 pot has hit about $20 and I can now reraise all-in as I have a little more on the table than my original buy-in.

The reraiser calls and shows a K high flush with no redraws, and I'm in the money with a double through. Very satisfying.

Now for hand 2. First the history, then the discussion.

PokerStars Pot-Limit Omaha High, $0.50 BB (9 handed) hand converter

Hero ($44.35)
CO ($32.80)
Button ($13.75)
SB ($48)
BB (Foe 1) ($38.75)
UTG ($23.60)
UTG+1 (Foe 2) ($33.85)
MP1 ($51.75)
MP2 ($33.60)

Preflop: Hero is MP3 with Qd, 9c, 8c, Kc.
1 fold, UTG+1 (Foe 2) calls $0.50, 2 folds, Hero calls $0.50, CO calls $0.50, Button calls $0.50, 1 fold, BB (Foe 1) checks.

Flop: ($2.75) 6s, Jc, As (5 players)
Foe 1 checks, Foe 2 checks, Hero checks, CO checks, Button checks.

Turn: ($2.75) Tc (5 players)
Foe 1 checks, Foe 2 checks, Hero bets $2.65, CO folds, Button folds, Foe 1 calls $2.65, Foe 2 calls $2.65.

River: ($10.70) 7s (3 players)
Foe 1 checks, Foe 2 bets $2, Hero folds, Foe 1 raises to $7, Foe 2 calls $5.

Show Down:
Foe 1: shows [5c 6h 9s 8h] (a straight, Seven to Jack)
Foe 2: shows [9d 2d 6d 8s] (a straight, Seven to Jack)
Foe 1 collected $11.75 from pot
Foe 2 collected $11.75 from pot

Final Pot: $24.70

Where to begin? I folded the best hand to two people who both drew to a lower straight on a flushing board!

Pre-flop I've got half a hand and average position. Worth seeing a cheap flop.

On the flop I'm ready to fold to any bet. The only card that can meaningfully improve me is a ten, and it can't be a ten of spades.

I get a free card and hit one of the three magic tens. The nut straight. Perfect, but with spade and club draws out there I'm not home yet. Of course I now have a draw to a King high club flush, so I'm in a good position.

With two callers to my obvious made nut straight, I can only assume they are both flushing. So, I'm hating that spade on the river. It didn't even occur to me that being a seven was significant.

I reluctantly fold to the Foe 2 bet, and am happy with my decision when Foe 1 makes a small check raise. Obviously the nut flush.

Except, of course, it wasn't. They both drew to make a smaller straight with two flush draws out there.

When the straight/flush card came on the river, Foe 1 thought a check raise was the best move.

Am I being harsh in thinking these guys are both complete mongs?

My analysis is pretty simplistic, but having closely observed their play over several more orbits of the table, I don't think either was trying anything so sophisticated as representing a different hand to that which they held.

Foe 2 in particular was a total clown who just bled chips. If only that had been a red seven, I'd have made a fine profit on this hand.

Many notes were taken.

A Risk Worth Taking

Last Thursday I dragged myself along to the Glasgow Science Centre at the ungodly, for me, hour of 8a.m.

The reason for my visit was a seminar, organised by Scottish Enterprise, entitled 'Winning Through Innovation'.

Normally I'm not a big fan of these events, but the Science Centre is a good venue - a Powerpoint presentation somehow seems more compelling when it's being projected on an IMAX screen!

More importantly, there were some interesting speakers, including the President of Virgin Galactic. Now that was an engrossing presentation!

There was also a display of a working automatic baby rocker designed by a Scottish company. I liked that a lot. It could have saved Mrs Div and I quite a lot of hassle if we'd known about it 4 months ago.

In the midst of all the suits and business chat, there was a Q&A session which also involved another of the speakers - David Williamson, the MD of a Glasgow coffee roasting company called Matthew Algie.

He seemed a fascinating character, and had a very informal manner, as well as a near miss for a poker players name.

During the Q&A, someone asked him about his attitude to risk within the company. Although he was very laid back, it was clear he put a lot of emphasis on hard numbers when running his business.

His response to the question prompted lots of murmurs and chin stroking, not to mention note taking, within the assembled throng.

"If it's a risk worth taking; it's not a risk."

That seems pretty common sense to me, but it seemed to be a revelation of biblical proportions to some of the audience. Which perhaps explains the state of the Scottish economy.

For any poker player, this concept should be pretty much second nature.

How often do you get the chips in knowing you are behind but have enough outs to make it a +EV call? How often do you call from the BB with any two cards against a short-stack all-in, to try to knock them out? How often do you push with nothing against a super tight opponent?

Perhaps Scottish Enterprise should splash the cash on sending some business people to a poker bootcamp with Howard Lederer and co. It may pay dividends.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Kick In The Gut

It was with more than a little dismay, not to mention disbelief, that I read of attempts by the authorities to close down Gutshot - probably the best know 'pure' cardroom in the UK. The current membership of Gutshot numbers over 11,000 people.

Rather than go into the legal ins-and-outs of the situation, there's an article on The Times website here which explains the situation.

There's also some discussion on the Gutshot forum here.

There's another Times feature here, which invites the views of their readership.

A lot of the debate revolves around the old 'is poker a game of skill or luck' question. As one contributor says, anyone who believes poker is purely a game of luck, is welcome to play me online at any poker site.

I'm no advocate of the Thatcherite/Reaganite model of small government, but I do believe scarce resources should be focused on the most pressing issues.

I really can't see how spending time and money on trying to close down a poker room benefits the nation.

Purely off the top of my head, I rattled off a list of more pressing issues which might concern the government.

Once the government has the health service and schools running efficiently, crime down, economic growth up, and the trains running on time, I might be willing to allow them to take more interest in how people choose to spend their leisure time.

This is made all the more ludicrous by the ongoing growth in online gaming share issues on the London markets. 888, Party, Empire being among those to go public in recent times.

While Chancellor Brown would love to tempt these company headquarters to London from their present offshore havens, it appears the government wouldn't want the bankers who pocket the big bucks for getting the share issues away to pop down to Gutshot for some live poker?

The entire situation is entirely nonsensical, and it beggars belief that after all the debate in recent parliamentary sessions over the introduction of mega casinos, there are such grey areas remaining in the existing law.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bloggers Tourney

Well, you know you are in for a rough time when you find yourself in front of the PC at 9.02pm, with a reviving cup of tea in hand, thinking 'my watch must be fast, I haven't been seated yet' only to realise, aha I opened the PokerStars program, but haven't logged in yet!

Doh! Still, given the rocky nature of my table, and the lack of chat, I doubt I missed much.

In my defence, I was absolutely shattered after a weekend of over indulging in late night poker, baby minding, Sunday working, and I also allowed myself to be roped into spending Saturday afternoon putting together Ikea units for the father-in-law.

Kicking off at Sunday 9pm was about the best we Europeans could hope for, but it still meant a finish in the wee small hours, and I had no intention of going that far only to bubble.

So, I decided to adopt more of an 'at-it' style than usual, to see if I could get chips early, or bust out trying.

My first move with A6o from the cut-off didn't get very far as the button emphatically reraised and both blinds folded. Durr, pause for effect, grit teeth, fold.

Then for the first time in a while, the deck hit me in the face. KK twice in quick succession.

I was hoping my failed A6o move might earn me a few callers, but the first one was folded around to leave me with the blinds as scant reward.

Two players then went to war on a T66 board and ended up all in. One showed KK, the other KT!? KK held up.

A few hands later. KK for me again. Splendid. Raise. Fold, fold, fold, all-in from KT guy for the last of his chips. Called by me and KK holds up again. But for little gain. Sigh.

Not much later I'm in the BB with Q7s. MP raises and I call along with a LP player.

The flop is 567 rainbow. Top pair and a scary board. Ideal at-it territory you'd think.

Check, MP bets pretty big, LP calls, I call. Turn is a T.

I check again, having already decided I'm going to represent a straight. Heck, I might even be ahead of two Ace-big type hands.

The original raiser pauses for a short while, then bets big again. LP again calls.

I'm sensing weakness. I'm also thinking all or nothing. Check-raise all-in.

MP folds. Excellent. LP pauses, then calls, showing 99. Aarrghh.

That was the end of that. No assistance on the river and I'm out after 42 hands.

Oh well. Off to the micro limits for some fun with the other early bathers. Pinky, Drizz, and a little later Iggy, amongst others.

Blew off a bit of steam there, and off to bed at a reasonable hour for a change.

On Monday morning I was pleased to see the Europeans put up a creditable showing with two Blonde Poker members final tabling, including yet another poker playing Scotsman. Congratulations all round.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Unlucky For Some

Meh. Broke a twelve day winning streak with a small loss on PokerStars last night.

Is it greedy to be annoyed by that?

The loss was pretty small. It was the nature, rather than scale, of defeat that had me feeling a little tilty.

From being comfortably ahead, I plunged into the red on two big hands where bad - and I do mean REALLY bad - callers got lucky.

That happens. The galling thing was they both went bust in short order, and before I found a hand powerful enough to reclaim any my money. I HATE seeing other people taking my cash.

Having been up til 5am the night before, including my long overdue introduction to the world of blogger cash games, I decided to get out while the going was only moderately bad. Especially as I had work today. Grrr.

At these levels - Saturday was $50 Pot Limit Omaha on Stars - getting cards is key.

More specifically, getting cards against the right players is where the real money is made. One hand I was a spectator in went as follows...

No raise pre-flop, several players to flop. Ace high flop checked around. Turn brings another paint card on board, to make Broadway a possibility, and two to a flush.

All hell breaks loose. Raise, reraise, reraise, all in. Me thinking, yawn - two players with KJ for the straight. Only question is does one have a redraw to a flush?

Until the genius that is player 1 turns over AAxx for a slowplayed flopped set. Player 2 has KJxx and takes the lot! Absolute madness.

Those are the hands that make the night worthwhile - when the KJ is in my hand!

Anyway, almost time for the big event tonight. I sincerely hope a poker blogger wins it. Could be a bit embarrassing if one of the nutters I see on Blog Explosion comes along and does a Moneymaker.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Celtic - The Season So Far

It's been a long time since my last proper football post.

To catch up on everything that has happened since the end of last season, would take a book, not a solitary blog post. So, for now, I'll confine myself to a brief(ish) overview of events to date, with some of my thoughts and impressions.

I'll cover some of the specifics in later posts - if I ever get the time - and try to stay up to date in future.

To make sense of this story, it is necessary to start at the end. The end of last season that is.

The final day capitulation at Motherwell, was not only disastrous, but painfully predictable.

The Martin O'Neill era was drawing to a close, and the team was showing it's age. Against less talented - but younger and fitter - teams such as Hibs and Motherwell, Celtic were clearly vulnerable.

The after effects of that day lingered far beyond the hangover, and the Monday morning workplace jibes.

Not only was the league lost, but an additional Champions League qualifier, to be played in late July, had to be negotiated.

With the team in disarray, a new manager on his way, and limited resources to recruit new players, this did not bode well.

Even then I was fearful of missing out on Europe.

I was even more fearful, when I heard Gordon Strachan was being lined up as the new manager.

It was already clear the O'Neill regime had peaked, and a new broom was needed.

O'Neill had done a fantastic job in restoring pride and success to the team, but I was beginning to feel he had done a great company doctor job, turning around an ailing organisation, but didn't seem to have the imagination to evolve the team to the next level.

For once, the ideal replacement appeared to be at hand. Paul Le Guen, the ex-Lyon manager, had recently resigned.

Not only did he have experience of dominating domestic competition in his home league, he had good experience of the Champions League, including a visit to Celtic Park. His team played a skillful and pacy style of football.

No doubt his wages would be significant, but there would be none of the hassles associated with releasing O'Neill from Leicester, none of the bad feeling associated with Tommy Burns move from Kilmarnock. He was a free agent.

Instead, Celtic went for Gordon Strachan. To me, he seemed like the cheaper, though probably not cheap, option. A poor man's Martin O'Neill.

Once installed, I was pleasantly surprised that Strachan was given a fair amount of leeway to strengthen the team. He also set about cutting out a lot of the overpaid deadwood.

Of the players who left, the only major mistake, one which was to prove costly, was allowing Jackie McNamara to leave on a Bosman. McNamara was never the most spectacular player but he was solid and steady in defence, and a capable holding midfielder.

The area that concerned me, was lack of defensive signings. Particularly in light of the failings of the previous year.

At the time I commented to friends that the happiest players at the club were probably the youth team defenders.

Generally when a team is in trouble, the biggest priority is to make them hard to beat.

Wim Jansen and O'Neill both did it at Celtic, even Mourinho, with all the millions at his disposal, spent the first few months at Chelsea grinding out 1-0 wins. Strachan chose a different path at Celtic.

There's no space here to cover each signing in detail, and it's too early to pass judgement on some of them, but overall the signs are positive.

Artur Boruc is a commanding presence in goal, and the signings of Shunsuke Nakamura and Du Wei display an enterprising approach to football as well as commerce.

However, the Artmedia Bratislava disaster, and consequent failure to qualify for any European football this season, was the ultimate price of the loss at Motherwell and lack of defensive signings.

The rebuilt team had to face too big a game, too early. The loss of revenue will hurt the board most. The lack of great European nights sapped the spirits of every true fan.

Big domestic games at Celtic Park are a great event. Big European nights are almost spiritual occasions.

At that point, an entire season of turgid SPL football, devoid of the occasional visit from the stellar talents of Ronaldinho, Shevchenko, del Piero and co, beckoned.

In that respect, the challenge of Hearts this season has actually been a pleasant surprise. Rather than a grim struggle between Celtic and Rangers, there is actually an element of unpredictability in the league this season.

Indeed, it could be said that the Scottish league is actually more competitive than the English Premiership.

Another bright spot has been a marked improvement in the style of football played by Celtic. More focus on passing the ball on the ground, more reliance on skill and pace, and a willingness to give youth a chance. For which Gordon Strachan can take credit.

The future certainly appears brighter than in the dark days after Artmedia. There remains a long way to go; but after a dire start, Gordon Strachan has earned the right to be given some leeway over the rest of this season.

The team is in contention for the title, is playing better football, young Scottish players are being given the opportunity to flourish, and inventive signings have been made.

That said, with Rangers in disarray, and facing the burden of Europe; and Hearts a useful team, but a limited squad; only the league title, and subsequent qualification for next year's Champions League, will be sufficient to fully justify his appointment as manager.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

In The Money At InterPoker

Earlier this month I signed up for InterPoker through a rakeback deal and deposited $100.

Today I cashed out for almost $450. Additionally I've probably earned another $30 or so rakeback. Not a bad effort.

I did dabble in the low buy-in pot limit and no limit Hold Em tables, but predominantly I focused on the Pot Limit Omaha tables.

In no way can I claim to be an expert in this game, but at these levels there are enough fishy players to keep me happy. Some with very idiosyncratic playing styles.

One nice thing about InterPoker is the 'bet pot' button, which makes it nice and simple to give people a bad price to chase their draw. It also means my bluffs are indistinguishable from by genuine bets, as I always bet the pot.

Other players seem not to care for this button.

My favourite play is the guy who will call a pot size bet on the flop with a flush draw, sometimes taking the 2/1 odds, sometimes getting priced in by other fishy callers.

After hitting their draw, and just as I am preparing to fold my top set, or at worst two pair, they then lead out with a minimum bet. In an extreme case, with several people in the pot and a raise pre-flop, you might be looking at a single BB bet into a 30 or 40 BB pot.

As well as the actual odds of drawing to catch a paired board, there's also the implied odds that they will call off their whole stack with the nut flush against my full house.

I lost count of how many times this happened in the last week. Of course sooner or later my top full house will run into someone who hits quads, but overall this is a definite +EV situation.

Speaking of precisely the above scenario, where I'd raised pre-flop with a monster AAKQds, I hit a flop of Axx but with two to another suit.

Of course I bet the pot and got a caller who did exactly what I've described above when he hit the flush on the turn.

I outdrew him in style by rivering the case Ace, and took his entire stack.

I'm definitely enjoying Omaha more than Hold Em at present. Playing tight and fairly straightforward, I feel I've got a clear edge over most players at this level.

I took quite copious notes on the idiosyncrasies of various players, but only wrote a single note highlighting a good player to avoid tangling with.

The next challenge will be to step up to the next buy-in level, with the bankroll sufficiently padded.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Quick Celtic Update

Just a quickie.

I dragged myself, and my cold along to Celtic Park on Saturday for the visit of league leaders(!) Hearts.

If there's one thing a sore throat doesn't need, it's a refereeing fiasco. Dougie McDonald? Old McDonald would have done better.

Still, the big picture wasn't too bad come Sunday night, even if I did sound like a half strangled frog by then. Not a bad game either.

I've been meaning to catch up on footballing events since pre-season, but Mrs Div delivered rather more productively than Alan Thompson has managed in two seasons, which scuppered that.

By the time I'd composed my thoughts, events had moved on again, with the Artmedia disaster. I'll post a proper football article soon, to catch up on the season to date, then try to resume more regular coverage.

On the poker front, I'm still beating the low buy-in Pot Limit Omaha on Crypto - though this is hardly a huge claim to fame. If the baby could work a mouse, I reckon she'd have been ahead over the weekend.

Don't tell my opponents, but reraising all-in on a 4/1 shot with one card to come, is NOT a winning strategy. Nor is drawing to an 8-high flush when your opponent has top set and a draw to a Q-high flush.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sickness and Suckouts

I am the suckout king!

Friday night was homegame night. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks.

Thus it was somewhat unfortunate that I had to take Thursday off work, through finally succumbing to the bug that's been ailing me for the last week or so. I just finally ran out of energy.

Like one of those little bunnies in the Duracell advert, I abruptly ground to a halt.

A lazy day in bed left me feeling better, but unfortunately the little one has been continuing to suffer too, and by Friday she sounded like a 70-year old man after a lifetime of 40 cigarettes a day.

With her temperature in the high fever range, I called in a holiday and took the day off to help Mrs Div keep a close watch on her.

By the evening her temperature had declined, so I didn't feel too guilty about heading out to play poker.

I was running quite late, and missed the first game.

Before departing I did contemplate 'doing a Hellmuth' and calling the guys to tell them to post and fold for me until I arrived, but decided against it. I was still pretty run down, so didn't see the point in rushing along only to bring my D-game to the table.

Of course I told the guys I was just being sporting and giving someone else a chance to win a game.

By the time we were ready for game two, I'd had the chance to down a few beers and wind down.

We were six handed for a £10 buy-in NLH game, with one newcomer to the group. Allan was later to suffer one of my outdraws.

We tend to play pretty deep stacks and a slow clock, so the structure suits me. I'm not so used to playing short handed, as online I almost exclusively play ten handed cash games.

Adopting my starting hand standards for different game types is one aspect of my play I've been working on.

Consequently as the night went on, and the blinds increased, I found myself in a few marginal situations, all but one of which went my way.

Allan went down when my KQ beat out his AT when I made a pair on the flop.

Now in possession of a big stack, I started to try some selective bullying, which went wrong when a big raise with QT was reraised all-in by short-stack Pat (previously christened Party Poker Pat by me, after an outrageous outdraw run).

He didn't have enough chips to push me off the hand, and my gut feel was I was up against an underpair, so the call was easy.

Doh! How wrong could I be? He had AQ, and I was in a bad spot. Until that is, a T hit the board, and sent Pat to the rail.

He took it well, but I'm banned from using the Party Poker Pat nickname now.

Ultimately I was heads up with Steph, and had him comfortably outchipped. Steph is a tough opponent and much more a SNG and tourney specialist than me, so I didn't want to let him back in by giving him any cheap double throughs.

He survived one sticky situation with a rivered straight, but when I flopped top pair against his flush draw, the chips went in and no flush card emerged.

Over the night I don't think I laid an outrageous bad beat on anyone, but I certainly carried some luck.

Perhaps my newly commissioned card protector can take the credit.

One of Mrs Div's new friends from the breast feeding support group runs a franchise for producing casts or imprints of kids hands and feet.

Hence my new card protector is a cast of a 2-month old babies fist. Pretty cool I thought...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Wisdom Of The Wife

First things first, I finally won one of those big all-in pre-flop Omaha hands that I've been chatting about recently. Lucrative. Boy did it feel good.

Also, hello to any visitors from Guinness and Poker. I had a great time with Iggy, my writeup is here.

Onwards to the post proper....

Scene 1: Me upstairs in computer room, wife downstairs in TV room.

Her: 'Hey, come down I think you will like this!'
Me: 'Like what?'
Her: 'It's the MTV "making of" for the new Jessica Simpson video.'
(sound of thundering feet)
Me: 'mmmhhhhmmgggghhhhh'
Her: 'Do you think that look is deliberate?'
Me: 'What look?'
Her: 'Well Jessica sorta looks a bit grubby, like she kinda needs a good scrub. Don't you think?'
Me: (faints)

Scene 2: Both in TV room, me on laptop playing poker, Scrubs on TV. Dorian needs early morning advice, rushes around to hot ex-girlfriend to chat.

Me: (looking up from laptop) 'Who's the hot ex-girlfriend? I sorta recognise her.'
Her: 'Oh that's the girl from American Pie?'
Me: 'Ah. Tara Reid!'
Her: 'Yeah, that's right. She's a dirty girl!'
Me: 'Huh?'
Her: 'Well, she is always in trouble. Turning up drunk for premieres, boobs hanging out, that sorta stuff.
Me: 'I see. You have a way with words. Tara Reid is a dirty girl. Gotta be worth a Google!!'

WARNING - Actual poker content ahead.

Scene 3 - The TV room, again. Me playing poker on laptop, again.

Her: (laughs out loud)
Me: 'Wassup?'
Her: 'Well, everytime I look at you, you have a sort of incredulous expression on your face.'
Me: 'Ah, well, I'm playing Pot Limit Omaha, and when I'm not in a hand I watch the betting to see how the other guys play. I try to work out what logically they can be holding, but I hardly ever get it right.'
Me: 'Look, here's one. Three guys putting a lot of cash in on the flop with an obvious made straight and a flush draw. The guy doing the betting MUST have the straight. But there can't be two guys drawing to the nut flush.'
Me: 'Yep, straight holds up. One guy missed his flush draw. Don't even know what the other guy was trying for. He just did his entire stack on it though'
Her: 'Why?'
Me: (grinning)'Who knows?'

I'm getting somewhat suspicious of the wife's sudden fondness for bringing 'dirty girls' to my attention. I suspect a plot to bring forward the schedule for baby two.

I can see the conversation now. Me, quoting finances, living space, and other such practicalities. Her, 'Oh look, there's the Jessica video on MTV again. She really DOES look dirty dontcha think?'. Me, undressing.....

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Oh Woe Is Me

I've had a pretty grim last few days.

Work is a bit of a nightmare at present. Last night I got home from my 9 til 5 job at 11pm. Now, I'm definitely more of an evening than morning person, but that's taking it to extremes.

The entire family (all 3 of us) have a cold at present. Mrs Div is worst off, baby Div is coughing and sneezing, but otherwise unaffected, and I'm teetering in between. Absolutely shattered, but otherwise getting by.

It's one of those situations where if I worked for 'Huge Corporation Inc' I'd be tucked up at home for a few days. Working for a tiny company I just don't feel I can do that when we have deadlines to hit.

Mind you, staying at home isn't always such a great option. The damn cat is in a helluva mood at present. Twice this weekend he bit me while I was playing poker.

I can cope with a fair few distractions, but when I'm three tabling Pot Limit Omaha - three being the most my feeble brain and monitor combination can manage - the last thing I need is a demented feline channeling the spirit of his ancestors on the Serengeti to mangle my arm.

To add to my woes, last week I finally got my act together and sorted out a rakeback account. My first sign up - Eurobet. Tarnation. Could my timing have been any worse?

I also signed up to InterPoker, and having cleared the Eurobet sign up bonus last week, I set about the InterPoker small stakes PLO tables.

Perhaps playing on the weekend was an influence, but my initial impression was there was no difference in standard or style of play between Crypto and Party. Both sites play very loose-aggressive at my buy-in level, whereas PokerStars tends to feel more loose-passive.

Very loose-aggressive makes for a swingy, but potentially profitable game. As an example, I offer up a big hand I lost. I can't say I was delighted to lose it, but if people keep offering these odds to me, I'll take it every time.

This is from memory, but I checked the stats straight after so they are definitely accurate.

On the hand in question I am under the gun and find AAQ8ss. Having only played a few orbits, I've established small raises will not be respected, and being in poor position, I decide to limp with my original buy-in almost intact, and hammer the flop if I hit.

There are a couple of calls, a mid-position raise, more flat calls (told you!), and the obvious table maniac reraises the maximum. Folded round to me, with the pot now big enough to facilitate a meaningful reraise.

In previous posts, I've touched on learning that overplaying aces in Omaha can be very painful, but I figure in this situation I am now in a position to be either heads up or three way to a flop with probably the best hand, and a fair amount of dead money in the pot. So, I reraise the maximum.

The original raiser flat calls, the maniac reraises all-in, I call all-in, as does the original raiser.

Cards on their backs, and my AAQ8ss is up against KK23ds(maniac) and an ace and three low cards single suited (original raiser).

My immediate reaction is 'woowhoo'! My second reaction is do these guys think we are playing Hi/Lo?

Of course the flop/turn brings two 2s putting the maniac ahead with trips, and the river completes a wheel for the original raiser.

At which point I groan and reload, as the maniac berates the winner as, and I kid you not, a 'lucky fish'. No mention of my holding.

Back to the Cardplayer Omaha calculator, to discover pre-flop I was 52% to win the hand. So I got my cash in at roughly 5/2 on a better than evens shot.

I'll lose 48% of the time, but that's still a massively +EV bet. Even better, at least one of the two guys I was up against didn't even seem to realise he was a huge dog in the hand.

Losing in this situation is hardly a cause for celebration, but definitely an incentive to get back around the table with these guys as often as possible!

Ah, just typing that makes me feel better. My woes recede...

Empire Fights Back

Yet another reload bonus. There's gonna be a lot of grinding over the next week or two!

I wonder if Party anticipated such a vigorous response, so quickly, from their competitors?

Judging by today's UK newspapers, 'the market' seems to be broadly neutral on the Party move, which suggests to me it might have been more hassle than it was worth.

I also wonder whether we might see the ultimate weapon rolled out by someone soon.

Not rakeback; but rake cut.

Which site wants to really grab the attention of the customers by cutting their fees. $2 or $3 on a $20 pot at 2/4 seems awfully steep to me, there must be scope for more competition in this area.

Time will tell.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Let Battle Commence

I see PokerStars and Absolute Poker have opportunistically rushed out new reload bonuses to take advantage of the Party Poker upheaval.

It remains to be seen who will do best out of this, but expect PokerStars to be rolling out a 'worlds biggest poker site' campaign anytime now.

In the short term, it looks like the Party rump sites will be shark infested waters, but I wonder how the long term will pan out.

Coral Eurobet has just been bought by Gala Casinos, who are a big UK B&M operation - there are three Gala casinos in Glasgow alone.

I'd expect Gala to go down the route, and try to create a casino and poker site, but they can add a third and fourth unit too, as the combined company are big B&M bingo and bookmaking operators.

We all know how juicy the Pacific Poker players can be, so maybe you shouldn't uninstall your Party skin software just yet.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

More Party Poker High Jinks

So, the Party Poker 'upgrade'...

Firstly, what nitwit decided to run an upgrade on a Saturday afternoon(US) or evening(Europe)?

I've worked in IT for ten years, and would have been laughed off every project I ever worked on for suggesting rolling out new software as peak operating hours approached.

It's annoying enough being crashed out of a cash game, but the amount of STT and MTT players affected must be in the thousands.

Secondly, I really don't like the new games as a player, though from a shareholder perspective I can see why they make sense to Party.

If some degenerate gambler wants to blow his cash on Party, I'd rather he did it capping it pre-flop against me with 73s due to it's powerful flushing and straightening possibilities, rather than by handing the cash to Party on a sidebet.

Thirdly, it looks like they have hived off the skin players into a separate database! Right now I am logged into Party, Empire, and Eurobet, and can see the following:


They are also allowing people to 8 table now.

This looks like an attempt to get all the high volume grinders back onto the main site, and off the skin sites offering rakeback. Whether this will work remains to be seen.

Perhaps some people might prefer playing on a site with less grinders.

I'm surprised Party didn't need to publicise this change in advance, as they are now a FTSE100 company. However, I did note that when Sporting Bet pulled out of their takeover bid for Empire, it was stated:

"Neither company provided further details though one source familiar with the matter told AFX News Sportingbet had been concerned by Empire Online's relationship with its bigger rival PartyGaming PLC."

So perhaps the skins already had wind of this.

If this is true, I'm amazed the skins are signed up to an agreement that lets Party cut them off from one of their biggest selling points.

The next few days should be interesting, to see how people react.

Personally, I haven't had time to think it all through properly yet.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Happy Days

Too tired to play tonight. Boy does work suck right now!

Sitting watching an old Late Night Poker episode with amongst others Kevin O'Connell, Willie Tann, Padraig Parkinson, and Phil Hellmuth!

The commentary team, Jesse May and Barny Boatman. Barny's first words of the night (after Jesse has intro'ed as the first hand is played): 'Evening Jesse. Didn't take Phil long to start moaning.'

Bliss. Time for another beer.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Party Poker Having A Laugh

Their latest bonus is a fairly generous 30% to $100 with seven times raked hands.

Nice, but why 30% to $100; why not to $120 so the probable deposit is $400 rather than $333?

Or am I just a pedantic freak?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Checking The Nuts

I've never been a particularly sporty person.

When I was younger, I did play football, badly. My style was more rugged midfield enforcer/hatchet man full-back, than silky midfield play-maker, or dashing goalscorer. I did enjoy it, just wasn't any good at it.

For some reason I got into table tennis, and was pretty decent in a peer comparison sense, but my aptitude for that faded along with my eyesight.

Since then I've just toddled along, with only intermittent bouts of physical endeavour. I'm one of the fortunates for whom weight has never been a real problem.

My occasional bursts of gym going were aimed more at building up, than slimming down, and needed the assistance of copious amounts of protein supplements to have an appreciable effect.

Walking to and from train stations is the height of my current exertions, and poker isn't likely to have me in peak condition.

All that said, I do worry about my health sometimes. More from the perspective of will I be around for my family as they grow up, rather than 'I don't wanna die!!!'

So, I have started paying attention to things like cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body fat ratio, etc.

I'm also conscious of quite a few heart attack or cancer victims within the family gene pool. The dual curses of the Scottish NHS.

So, I am inclined to pay attention to issues such as getting regular check ups, looking out for signs of disease, etc.

Which makes it all the crazier to me that this campaign caused such a furore...

You can check the link if you wish, but the executive summary would be that Ricky Gervais (of The Office fame) has done a fabulous campaign to support prostate cancer treatment, yet the idiotic radio regulators initially wanted to restrict it's broadcast on some sort of decency grounds.

It's fine to have all sorts of crap about sex, guns, violence, or just general idiocy and banality from presenters, broadcast at any time of day or night, but a campaign by an award winning star, which could save lives, was supposed to be a post-watershed event?

Fortunately common sense has prevailed and the regulators have backed down in the face of public ridicule. You can listen to the ad here.

Office chat about this issue reminded me of an earlier men's health campaign, which I think may be of interest to some of you out there.

Rachel Stevens, a UK singer/actress did a campaign to promote awareness of testicular cancer.

As a sort of UK Lindsay Lohan, the idea of Rachel encouraging males to touch themselves is nothing new (as the ad slyly acknowledges). The target demographic may have been slightly older though.

I thought the campaign was very well done, and worth sharing with you.

So, if you are a male poker player, do as Rachel says, and check your nuts.

Let's face it, after all those Party Poker inflicted kicks to the junk, there's a severe risk of damage down there!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Wild Weekend

Poker and babies - guaranteed to screw with your body clock.

By Friday last week, I was really shattered and looking forward to the weekend. Saturday evening was planned to be our first big night out since the birth of Baby Div. Drinks, and a late dinner with friends, with a possible casino visit to round off the night.

First though, I needed sleep. I crashed the second I got home, and was out like a light. Several hours later, refreshed and ready for action, I emerged from beneath the midnight.

With the little one asleep, Mrs Div headed for bed leaving me in charge of feeding and changing duties. The plan being that she would get a decent sleep, while I stayed up for a few hours.

A few to be precise. I played poker all through the night. Which was great. I won some cash, I had fun, and when baby awoke, I got to spend time with her. Recently, with work and other demands, I haven't been spending as much time with her as I'd like, so even changing nappies has a certain appeal at present.

Of course, come the daytime, I had a different perspective on things. Two hours sleep is not the best way to prepare for a busy day, and a heavy night.

Which perhaps explains why after copious amounts of alcohol, and a nice meal, I found myself in the Gala Merchant City casino, with cash in my pocket, my gambling pals by my side, and no urge whatsoever to play.

Remembering whether standing or hitting holding 13 when the dealer is showing a 2 is the optimum play, was more than my feeble brain could cope with. Staying on my feet was as much as I could manage.

So to Sunday, a day of rest. Or not, as the case may be. At midday my plans for the day were unclear. I knew Iggy was in the country, but whether we could meet up was not yet determined.

One brief call from Edinburgh to Glasgow set the wheels in motion, and the seeds of my killer hangover were sown.

I believe my parting words to Mrs Div were along the lines "I'll just have a few quiet drinks. Shouldn't be too late."

So how was it that nine hours later, I was sending a text message (didn't want to wake the baby) saying "Missed last train. Back in morning. Sorry!"

The answer to that question may well be out there somewhere, but I don't have it!

More specifically, I still can't work out how I went from checking my watch at 10.30pm and thinking "Two trains to go, need to make plans for leaving soon" to re-checking it at precisely 11.30pm and thinking "Shiiiiit, the last train just left!"

Things I CAN recall:

- Iggy is a total gent, and a pleasure to spend time with
- As is his dad, a man who epitomises the phrase unflappable
- They travel in style, as evidenced by a very comfortable carpet
- An evening with Iggy has convinced me I need to win a big MTT so I can afford a trip to one of the Vegas get togethers
- The 5.52am train was very quiet, thankfully
- Work on Monday was torture, but the pain was worth it

Monday, October 03, 2005

Hangover From Hell

My skull is playing host to a herd of stampeding buffalo; my stomach is churning like a washing machine; memories of last night are somewhat hazy.

If I told you I spent the evening drinking Guinness, and got my ass handed to me at heads up limit hold em by a poker playing dwarf, I'm sure you would understand.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

September Summary

It's good to talk.

The relatively small amount of poker I had been playing this month had been going pretty well until last weekend - the results of which I documented previously.

The upshot of that disastrous session was my entire profit for the month was eliminated, and I was well into the red.

Had the month ended then, this would have been one depressing summary.

Fortunately for my sanity and bankroll, not to mention that of you, my tiny but loyal readership, there was still the chance to stage a rescue mission.

Stage one of that mission was purging my demons on these very pages. Above all else, this blog gives me an outlet for thoughts and frustrations that would otherwise gnaw away at my innards for a great deal longer than the time it takes to get them into electronic print.

Stage two was getting involved in a thread, initiated by another poster on Blonde Poker, discussing how to play aces in Omaha. Bouncing thoughts and ideas off infinitely more skilled players, and learning from their, as well as my, experiences, gave me the motivation to get back to the tables and apply the harshly taught lessons.

Stage three was the return to the tables. In the last week, I managed four sessions of Pot Limit Omaha on Poker Stars, and posted four profitable results.

Just enough to put me back at break even for the month, and that's a genuine break even - not a poker player's definition of break even (lost an affordable amount).

Most encouragingly for me, I do feel my game has taken a step forward in the past week. Several hands I played in the last few days had outcomes different to that which would have occurred last weekend.

'Frustration calls' - where I just knew I'd been outdrawn but couldn't bring myself to acknowledge it - have been excised from my game, for the time being at least. I even folded the nut flush to a very likely full house.

My patience has been restored. When opportunities arise, I am attacking ruthlessly.

If I can maintain this discipline in the long term, I am optimistic about the impact on the quality of my play, and ultimately my bankroll.