Archive for December, 2009

We are booked for two nights in Vegas next week.  Comped at Ballys.  My wife gets these offers.  I’m not sure why, as she doesn’t gamble all that much.  One time she got comped FIVE nights at Paris, with tickets to a concert.  They seem to be into the hispanic name.  Somebody should look into this.  Or maybe not.

Our last few trips have been five nights; this one will be a quick two, without the kids.  One night dedicated to culinary and alcoholic gluttony,with dinner at Mon Ami Gabi, the French steakhouse inside Paris.  Its probably not the BEST on the strip, but its our thing, has been for many years, EVERY time we go.

The other night will be poker, likely 2/5 no limit at Bellagio.  Will be my first session in abut six months.  The plan (hope) is to bring enough money to enable effective play, win a little, pay off the trip, and, ideally, continue to play occasionally at home with the leftover money.  Pay back what we took out, and end up with a small roll.


Either way, i am looking forward to being there, to walking the strip, eating in the Forum Shops, doing the whole thing.  We’re back in San Francisco after that, where the long, long vacation comes to an abrupt end on the 11th.


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I wrote this last year, as I grappled with the ego-bruising exercise of being forced to play lower stakes than I was accustomed to.  When I start playing in 2010, it will be the same.  Another thing I am thinking about…


Established players speak and write about how much respect they have for players who ‘step down’ in limits for a little while.  It’s in all the books.  They respect the decision and the discipline required to play smaller.  And, as is often the case with poker players, they are full of shit.

“I know he was struggling, and he’s really showing some sense in moving down limits for a while” is something you’ll hear from a player who doesn’t have to move down himself.  Its patronizing.  They could say “Too bad!  You suck!  You can’t play with the big boys anymore! Ha Ha!” and it would mean the same thing.  It’s the phony sympathy experienced when witnessing a bad beat or a bad run.  They only care if you are fish.

Enter my current situation.  Having played the big no-limit game primarily for the past 18 months, bankroll, employment (or lack thereof), family, stock market and other factors (including, some would say, talent) have led me to make the decision to drop down and play the 5-10 game at Lucky Chances regularly (this is Northern California, there is no in-between).

Now I am in a game where I may have both an edge (most of the time) AND a somewhat proper bankroll.  And it’s a funny feeling.  Suddenly I can be more creative in my play.  Suddenly I can splash around a little more.  Suddenly other players try to guess my non-showdown hands…and they are rarely correct.  Suddenly getting sucked out on, even though it happens more, is easier on both the ego and the bankroll.  Suddenly its easier to plan my hand, to adjust to the situation, to manipulate the action.  Take the following pretty basic hand from last night:

I open-raise in the highjack with A-10 and end up with 3 callers.  Stacks not really important here, nobody had less than 50BB.  Flop is 9 9 5 rainbow.  BB checks, I check, CO and Button check.  Turn is J.  BB (predictably) bets a little less than the pot.  I raise just enough to look scary.  CO folds, Button Folds, BB says “way to slow play your aces” (predictably) and folds (predictably).  Just as planned.

Not to say there aren’t many really good 5-10 players–there are–but I try that in the big game with the best players, and I get hammered.  Which, in a way, is why I long to go back to the big game,  its more interesting, the thought process generally extends beyond level two, and properly rolled it’s the place where I believe I can become a good player.

But I am not properly rolled for the big game, and I am enjoying the 5-10 at the moment (perhaps because I am winning consistently—ask me in a few sessions if I still feel the same way).

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This was a hand from the Lucky Chances 3/5 NL game from several months ago.  I’m thinking about and reviewing hands like this one, as these are the kinds of stakes I will play when I start playing again regularly, as well as (hopefully) in Vegas.  At least most of the time.

As per the standard: I leave the house at about 8:00, professing to my wife my intention to play only a few hours.  I proceed to make it home just before 5 in the morning, netting a cool 80 bucks in the process.  Cancel the job hunt.

By about 4:00 I was exhausted and my judgment was out the window.  I was doing OK, not too much variance despite playing too many hands, but only because its possible to play this game for short spurts on auto pilot.  Then an interesting hand—and social situation—came up.

A not-so-great player pushed for his last $146 from middle position after an early raise.  Cutoff, who I didn’t know anything about, thinks for a little while, acts like he’s going to raise, then carefully calls.  I sensed a middle pair, something along those lines.  Really, I did.

I look down at 3s5s on the button.  I talk myself into calling.  I had about $500 in front of me, cutoff had me covered.  My convoluted, tired logic: the AI could have AK, AQ, whatever.  With the right flop I could play the cutoff off his hand, and hope to get lucky against the AI.  I know how little mathematical sense that makes.  Whatever.

The flop comes 3, 7, Q rainbow.  The cutoff hesitates, clearly hoping I check behind.  I don’t, and a $100 bet gets him to flash JJ, comment that I got lucky with the Q, and muck.  There is a big difference between 3/5 NL and 25/50 NL.

At this point I resign myself to seeing if the raiser had a pair or not, seeing if I get lucky with my 3.  Because I am so tired I don’t notice the river 5, making me two pair, and put my hand face down, TOWARD the muck, but not touching it, when he shows KK.

Dumb story so far, here’s the fun part: about four players at the table simultaneously–and loudly–demand to see my hand, including the AI.  Now I have never, EVER demanded to see a losing hand.  I don’t care if its legal, I think its bush league, unless you suspect collusion, which nobody would notice in this game (unless nobody is me, watching the young Berkeley couple playing on my left, watching the little shithead guy try to signal his girlfriend to call me when I bluffed her, lucky she didn’t notice…but that’s another story).  But the dealer obliged, picked up my cards and turned them over.

At this point I noticed the 5.  And I’m not one to let pride get in the way of a pot that is rightfully mine.  So I said “They asked to see my hand, including the winner, I have two pair, the pot is mine.”  And it was so delivered.  Fuck you very much.

For some reason this created outrage.  Perhaps the table was upset that the bad player was leaving.  I dunno.  But one guy stands up, says “Bad Form!” and gets up to collect racks and leave.

Had I not been so tired I might have maintained my calm and quiet, continued breathing, let it all pass.  That is truly the player I want to be.  But I just couldn’t.  I laughed at him ironically and asked what he meant by ‘bad form’, asked what I did wrong.  He gets even angrier, says he wasn’t talking about me, was talking about the dealer, who was supposed to touch my hand to the muck before exposing it, supposedly making it a dead hand at that point.  I’m not even sure if that’s the rule.  Whatever.

So I apologize to him, though he’s not placated.  Whatever.  I then start thinking, “Wait a minute, this ass makes a big fuss, curses out the dealer and leaves, over a hand he WASN’T EVEN INVOLVED IN?”  And I no longer felt bad for mocking him.

But I did feel bad for feeling the need to mock.  And, for that matter, I felt bad for feeling bad.  Thanks a LOT, Tommy.

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My wife and I are talking about a trip to Vegas during the first week of January, perhaps leaving the kids with the Grandparents.  This would be a good thing, as it would be the first time in about 18 months that we would be there solo, and perhaps the last time for a while we can be there during the week, given unfortunate pending obstacles such as formal employment and kindergarten.  Also because…

I’m pretty good at fondly–but not desperately–remembering random, pleasant moments in life.  Drawing a little pleasure from thinking about things that I’ve experienced in the past, without dwelling on them.  Among my absolute favorites that relate to poker:

I’ve always been a huge Vegas fan.  And its not like I indulge in the things that “stay in Vegas.” My trips, of which there have been several every year since before I was 21, were pretty much buffets, a little blackjack, and lots of time in the sportsbooks trying to follow multiple bets on nine separate football games.  I’m pretty square like that.   Only since I’ve been married have I even cared about the restaurants.

When I take my family these days, we tend to stay at Paris or Ballys.  I like the location (center strip across the street from Bellagio and Ceasars (probably my two favorites overall), we get decent rates, and, most important, my four year old daughter likes the swimming pools.

The best part of the recent trips: after everyone goes down I usually head across the street to play cards at Bellagio.  Most players I know don’t really like playing there; they say it’s a circus, way too crowded and uncomfortable.  It is these things, but I like it nonetheless.  There is something cool about playing there.  Bellagio is just so much classier than most of the other casinos.  There is also the fact that I’ve never lost there playing 5/10 NL or below.  Guess that helps.

So what generally happens is that I end up winning a little money, and then I head back to Paris at 4:00 or so.  Often on weeknights.  And it’s magic.  I walk through the shopping court at Bellagio, which is deserted, and outside across the bridge, which is almost deserted.  Its so quiet, at least compared to a few hours ago, but the lights are still flashing, its still center strip in Las Vegas.

So there I am, slowly strolling across the bridge, with a little more money in my pocket than a few hours earlier, in one of my favorite places, when most everybody is sleeping, including my wife and daughters who are waiting for me, and I’m looking at the casinos and the lights and its simply wonderful.

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