Long overdue update

Times are tough and the financial crisis is hitting very close to home right now.   Could poker be the remedy?

I started playing a lot more recently and have opted to go for lower buy-in medium to large field tourneys.  I think it caters to my tight game – and I’ve had some good success.   After boosting the bankroll a bit, I’ve opened up a bit to play smaller tourneys if that’s all that time will allow.

I was having some melt-downs on occasion when I’d suffer a bad beat.  So Saturday I cracked the books again to recharge the batteries and hit the emotional reset button.  I came back and created a web-widget to keep up next to me to serve as my emotional and strategic compass during play, and it’s helped quite a bit.

The net result has been a cash in 10 out of the last 12 tourneys I’ve played. 

I’m not withdrawing anything yet – though I really need to.  I want to get the bankroll to the comfy level it was over the summer so that I can play larger buy-ins with bigger payouts.   Fingers crossed that I keep an even keel and a growing bankroll!P

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Rubber-man and the bouncy back!

After recent mishaps, I decided to go to sleep early last night and spend the morning buried in a book I just picked up – “How to Think Like A Poker Pro”.  I’m glad I did.  I wished I’d read one of the chapters a few days earlier.  Might have helped me preserve what dignity I had prior to Thurs/Fri.

Anyway, after reading it I decided that I wanted to be the type of person who had heart, grit, and perseverance.   I accepted that my bad run yesterday was partly due to luck, but primarily due to my own stubbornness.  In my color coding, I’d labeled the easy guys green and gradually up to red as the player was more skilled.  I was making calls with top pair top kicker versus these orange/red opponents.  What I found during the course of those hands was that they don’t bluff regularly if someone’s fighting back.  They’ve got trips if they’re putting up a fight.  I learned the hard way.  But it made me better today.

So, before I sat down to play I took out a sheet of paper and I wrote 4 things.
1)  Slow & Steady…as in “wins the race”
2)  Marathon…not sprint
3)  Lose the battle, win the war
4)  Thank Lisa

The top 3 are pretty easy to figure out – and they definitely contributed.  But #4 bears some explanation:

Lisa was my girlfriend of over 1 year.  When I started to become passionate about poker, she was flat out unsupportive.   She had a friend who’s brother had a gambling problem – she considered poker gambling – she assumed I’d have a problem.  It drove us apart and I always longed for her acceptance.  I feel it could have saved the relationship.

Anyway, now a year and a half after we broke up – I spoke to her today.  She’s dating someone else who apparently makes her very happy.  And that makes me happy – because I am the kind of person who genuinely likes the people I choose to spend a year of my life with – and I ultimately want them to be happy – whether it’s with me, or someone else – I want them to be happy.  That’s what friends are for.   Anyway, she asked about the poker playing.  I explained the good and the bad.  And how I’ve been handling myself under the winning and losing circumstances.  To hear her say that it sounded like I knew what I was doing, had a handle on it, was being smart about it, and that it sounded like I was doing the right thing for me…well, it was the thing I needed to hear the most…and from the person I so badly wanted to hear it from the most.   So, “Thanks Lisa”.  Later is better than never.  :-)

Anyway, maybe I’m too much of a typical man (boy?), but I do need that kind of approval, support, and validation from the next Lisa who enters my life.

Oh – and as for results…up 230 BB’s, but that suddenly doesn’t matter.

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Thursday Results So Far

196 BB’s in 1:27.  Played tight tangled only with the fish.  Made a good positional bluff-raise on the river on a straightened board when I had a good read on my opponent.  He folded to me and I took a decent size pot.  The positional raise can be dangerous on the river, but the story I was telling throughout the hand was saying that I had a pocket pair – which could have easily filled the straight.   Stopping now to take a break.  Bankroll is basically back to where it was before the Monday melt-down – which gives me a great deal of relief.  Nothing worse than taking a big hit to the bankroll when you’re all hopped up and excited about all the recent success – though it does bring you back down to earth and re-emphasizes the fundamental ingredients for success.

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Heads Up

Ok, so I was playing and this dude called a HUGE bet on a flush draw and rivered me for a big pot.  I gave him a bit of grief – but not too bad.  He got defensive right away and challenged me to heads up.  He was on tilt for some reason – I was actually feeling pretty good.  I’ve watched him play over the last few days/weeks and feel I’m the better player.  So I said, “what the heck”.

40 minutes later I was ahead 250 BB’s.  I told him thanks for returning my money and then some – and got up for dinner.  He called me a wuss.  I told him that was unnecessary as we kinda proved that we were both decent players.  I said that just cause I was up 250 BB’s in 40 mins didn’t mean I was any better than he was.  I said we’d surely see each other at the tables again, and it’d be best if we respected one another.  Pretty funny I think – but partially true.

 So – back in the right direction (with some bad-ass-authority) after the disaster on Monday. 

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The importance of seat and table selection – aka Prospecting

Saturday was good – another quick strike before bed/since the last post.   Sunday was amazing.  250 BB’s on Sunday after 1:20 of total play time.  Table and seat selection again were key.  The longest I stayed at any table was 18 mins…the shortest was 7 minutes.  In each case the fish at the table was the donor.  When he was wiped out and left the table, I left.  If you have a compelling reason to sit at a table, then sit and strike…and strike hard.  If your compelling reason to sit at the table suddenly leaves, you need to leave!  And for Pete’s sake – take notes!  You want to know if someone plays J8o from the SB, you want to know if they play K3o from the button, you want to know if they’ll play J3s from middle-late position, you want to know if they always defend their big blind and play out of position, you want to know if they’re capable of check-raising, you want to know if they’re dumb enough shove all-in for 75 BB’s pre-flop w/ AKs.  These are the players that you want to hang around for and knock them silly!

Back to the “your compelling reason to sit at a table…” comment.  It’s a key strategy that builds and preserves the bankroll.  Leaving quickly after a significant win also may have the effect of keeping opponents from getting a solid read on me during any given session and may give them other false impressions.  After winning a big hand or two, your $$ can double (or triple in some cases).  The thing is, that now larger stack-size is still at stake at that table.  So, if there’s other skilled players who’ve got a similar stack size, you are potentially at risk of losing what you’ve won + your initial buy-in.  And success at this level is all about your ability to manage risk.  It’s a balancing act at times – there *may* still be some potential upside to staying put, but there’s ALWAYS an upside to taking a break and recognizing and protecting a day’s profit.  It’s a good way to combat the temptations and pitfalls associated with greed and ensures that you’re playing at even keel as much as possible.  And that’s the most profitable demeanor to be playing at, isn’t it?

By standing up and finding another loose table, you can pocket your winnings and take a seat at another table with similar earning potential without putting a large $$ amount at risk (by buying in at your normal amount).  Now, there’s a judgment call to be made if there’s still plenty of earning potential at the table you’re at.  But you do have to pay careful attention to table dynamics and changing player profiles.  If the table starts to tighten up because they’ve seen you thump a few people, you definitely want to leave -or- change up your game to adjust.  I think it’s *easier* to stand up and find another loose table than to loosen up when the rest of the table tightens up.  But that’s just me – and one of the downsides of being a good player rather than a great player.

Anyway, you can get an idea of which tables are loose by scouring the lobby and sorting your games by % of Flops Seen.  Generally speaking, the higher the % of flops seen, the looser the table.  If you want immediate action, find one with a free seat or with 0 players on the waiting list.  If there’s 3 on the list already, you’ll be 4th – and it’s likely that some TAG players are in line ahead of you, so by the time your seat opens up – you won’t want it.  While you’re on the waiting lists, open up a few sessions and review the hand history for the table.  If there’s a showdown take notes players who played suspect hands or suspect position.  A BIG thing that I look for is players who play from the SB a lot.  Their hands are typically garbage – they just think they’re already invested, so they pony up the rest of the blind.  You can often times identify solid players and weak players and have some idea of how to play each person before your seat is made available.

Anyway – after Sunday’s 1st session I went for a bike ride.  After the 2nd, I went for a 2nd bike ride.  After the 3rd, I went to the pub and had their delicious Sunday burger.  After the 4th I went to Target to get a long-overdue replacement bulb for the entryway of my house, 2 new pillows, and a new nozzle for the hose – which should make washing the car a bit easier and more economical.   Boring – I know, but the reason I bring it up is that I’m not sure what I’ll do for a full day when I’m relying exclusively on poker…assuming things continue to go well.  If I have quick strikes like that, should I keep playing or – do something creative, healthy, or relaxing…a lot of poker players seem to be into golf – I can’t say I’m one of them at the moment.

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Quattro de Julio y Cinco de Julio

Friday – tough day.  Lots of ups/downs.  Didn’t get frustrated though.  There was a fish to my left who really just called with garbage – you couldn’t bet enough pre-flop to get him to fold.  He’d flop two pair with 63o vs AA for example.  Just insane.  Anyway, I said, “nh” after each beat so that he’d stick around.  Then I purposely played a little loose and paid off on some smaller pots so that I’d appear to be an idiot.  I’d mis-type things on purpose and excused myself to go get another beer and delared how much fun the table was.  I had everyone there thinking I was completely sh*t-faced.  I decided that when I had a monster, I’d keep over-betting the pot – and what-the-hell-do-you-know???   It worked.  They all thought I was some kind of idiot and just kept calling down and when I had the goods, they were stooped.  While I didn’t make everything back, I did make the majority of it back and had a good time turing some bad-luck into something fun and never went on tilt.   I was down for the day, but not too bad.

Today (Saturday), I’ve recouped for the most part already by 10:30am (roughly 1-day’s target earnings) and am ready for a break.  Yesterday’s blood-letting was an extremely good test of how I’ll handle losing days/sessions/hands.   And today’s bounce-back was needed and deserved.  Table/seat selection were key – as was getting up when the dynamics changed and everyone played similarly (TAG).

After yesterday, I feel like the beats in the cash games aren’t as emotionally crushing as they are in the tourneys.  A bad beat at the right time in a tourney sends you packing with no opportunity to recover.  In a cash game, as long as you’ve got the bankroll to be able to stay at the table – you can re-load, keep your cool, and show the donk’s who’s boss!

Off to go walk the neighbor’s dog and perhaps get cracking on my last remaining appraisal class.

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WSOP Victory Party and my post-party activities

The party for Jason, Paul, and Adrian was really cool.  I really enjoyed spending time with the group away from the felt.  We need to do it more often.  The stories were great and there was so much laughter, it was infectious!  Lydia and Paul were the most gracious of hosts – and I think I can safely speak for everyone when I say it was an impressive spread of food and all-around-comfort.  It was an honor to be invited into their home – and a true act of generosity for them to provide so well for so many of us.  Gracias.

With that, Phil and his wife brought the coolest gift for Jason – it was a collage of some of the live feed info that featured descriptions of hands that Jason had won and a portion that showed the leaderboard standings when he hit his peak – 2nd place.  It was framed and just oozed with class, thoughtfulness, and was a fitting way to mark Jason’s 12th place finish at the WSOP.  There’s a reason that guys like Phil do so well in life and are so well respected by friends and peers.  He went the extra mile to celebrate the success of someone else.  Way cool…many many props!

As expected, a cash game broke out – even though people’s SO’s were there – who are obviously supportive of their poker partners, but not 100% down with getting into it themselves.

I was WAY tired from the previous night’s lack of sleep and opted out.  On the way home, my friend and his wife texted me to say they’d be at the pub and that I should meet them.  I was drinking water and 7-up all night, so I said what the heck – I’ll stop by to meet the wife’s dad who’s in town visiting.  I chilled with them for an hour and came home.

You know what happened next of course.  I scoped the lobby on FT for a juicy game with no wait…and was I ever in luck.  A few fish from previous encounters were seated, and without delay I took diligent notes and got ready to pounce.   I got involved in 3 big pots – of which I dictated the pot size – and won all 3.  After 17 minutes and 75 BB’s, I called it a night and began this post.  That puts today at about 250 BB’s total in just under 1 hour of total playing time (3 sub-20-minute sessions).  It’s kind of blowing my mind.

I feel like January 1st is too far away and that I’m going to want to move the date a bit closer.  However, it’s imperative that this is demonstrable long term, it’s imperative that I continue to quit more effectively than my competition, it’s imperative that I have a suitable bankroll that includes several months worth of living expenses, and it’s imperative that I know how to track and manage the “business” part of this endeavor.  Until those stars align, I will continue to juggle appraisals and poker…with the poker being technically “recreational”.

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