Archive for the ‘Poker and Life’ Category

Stipulation: I am fully aware that my life is good.

That being said:

It’s a beautiful Saturday in San Francisco.  Blue Angels flying around.  People out doing stuff, including my family.  A good day in the City.

And here I am, at the computer, working on pointless docs for useless people who make me miserable and who I am quite certain will never be of any use to me or my company, as much as they are currently pretending otherwise.  I may as well be back as an analyst at an investment bank.

And I can’t help but think that in my worst poker days, my worst runs, my worst bad beats, I never felt the kind of frustration and emptiness I feel now.

[insert photo of world’s smallest violin right here]


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Every time I am forced to deal with some company-related bullshit (something that pretty much defines my existence these days) I can’t help but rue the fact that I should be sleeping.   Because, as the thought process goes, I should be resting and recovering  from yet another monster session at Lucky Chances the night before (free of any stress, losses, bad beats, or other unpleasantness, of course).

And this would certainly beat trying to mollify vendors who we are past due with, or squeeze retailers who are past due with us, or absorb lectures from people who have no clue about our business.   Or deal with the justified  frustration of my wife, who can’t understand how a fairly intelligent and capable guy is not making money.

I imagine that Tommy, however, would caution that those who are overly desperate to play are really not in a good frame of mind to play.  I suppose he’d suggest that I would be at my best if I really didn’t care one way or the other.


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Last Friday, for the first time in a looooooong time, I was an emotional wreck.  A number of things happened during the week.  Found out a family member is seriously ill (something I am willfully not thinking about too much).  Crazy business issues, major headaches.  Personal finance crap. And the one that for whatever reason drew the biggest emotion (probably because it became a conduit for everything else) : the decision to move my just-started Kindergarten daughter from one really good school to another (hopefully really-good school that features bi-lingual instruction).  I’d become REALLY attached to the first, and while my daughter, who has me completely and utterly wrapped around her finger, has adjusted beautifully and is remarkably retrospective about her time in the first school, I am still quite torn about the decision and a big part of me wishes we’d stayed put.

So I am sitting there feeling like I am about to lose it, and I decide it would be a good time to go play cards.  The justification: see if I can focus even under “duress.”

Was talked out of it by the missus (ostensibly because she saw it was a bad idea, realistically because she had plans with her friends).  Probably a good thing.

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A few weeks ago I commented to several different people that I seemed to be “functioning” really well.  My head was clear, I was never at a loss for words, I felt like I was getting “smarter”, in an odd sort of way.  This was remarkable, at least to me, because of the current exhausting schedule: maintaining responsibility for my daughters while trying to get two new companies going.

For the past several days I’ve been feeling not-so-great.  My head is not clear, I am feeling a little overwhelmed by (albeit optimistic about) work, I’m not recovering quickly from little knocks picked up in my sports games.

And yet…

My family was out of the country this past weekend.  I worked all day each day, and played at Lucky Chances each night.  And with the exception of Sunday night (classic mistake of arriving too late and jumping in short handed), I played spectacular poker.  Granted only at 3/5 no limit, but still, I was SO on all weekend.  Perfect timing, excellent reads, no fear.  Monday night was the first time I ever felt like I had a license to print money, it was that good.  People were just giving up against me if they held anything other than the nuts.


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Haven’t played in weeks.  I think I need the brain exercise.  I haven’t spoken with my wife all day today, all over a little spat in the morning.  I think that had I known I was going to play tonight, I’d have been motivated to end the spat earlier, keep her happy.

I also think we both need a Vegas trip.

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A couple Wednesdays ago I took advantage of a meeting finishing early and a nanny at home and went to Lucky Chances during the day.



This time for no other reason than my ridiculously poor play.  First time in a while I’ve been a genuine fish at the table.  U-G-L-Y.

Which keeps the tally going: this year I don’t think I’ve had a losing session at night, nor a winning daytime quickie session.  Hmmmmmm.  It HAS to be the time issue, I just can’t pinpoint why.

So this past Friday I found something much less damaging to the wallet than daytime poker: bringing my girls to Chuck E Cheese.

My one-year old daughter, God bless her, is twice the handful her older sister, now four, ever was.  Always moving.  Always poking and prodding.  Always curious.  Always putting her hands where they don’t belong.  And then always putting them in her mouth.  And never giving you five minutes to breathe.

Well, that’s the norm.  After a challenging 30 minutes playing games and trying to keep them both happy, we headed for the bathroom.  Older sister went first, all smooth.  Except for the fact that she is starting to protest having to use the boys bathroom.

Then it was time for the baby’s diaper.

I had two diapers left in the bag.  I’m prepared like a good mom should be.  She had lots of pee pee, but no poop.  So I start to change the diaper, and the new one rips.  OK, no problem.  I put on the second one.  And then I go to do my own business.  During which time I see her straining.  Sure enough…poopy.  And no diapers.

Afte muttering a few words my daughters shouldn’t hear I figure there may be an emergency set in the car.  However, while I am helping the older one wash her hands, the baby runs over and tries to dunk her hand in the pee-filled urinal.  Not sure she made it.  Scrubbed the hands with anti-bac anyway.  Scary, because her new favorite way to consume water is to dunk her hands in the cup and drink the water off of them.

Anyhow, eventually we make it to the car, find the diapers, put her down in the back and change her.  And it’s a big, sticky poop.

And I then I run out of wipes before I am done.  And she is kicking and laughing the whole time.

And I realized it felt a lot like playing poker during the day recently.

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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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