Saturday, June 30, 2007

Comprehensive iPhone report

Ok. Now that I've had 12 hours with the phone (though to be fair, for most of that time I was asleep), and am on a real keyboard (the built-in keyboard is very smart, but I'm much faster with a full sized one where I can use all 10 fingers), I can make a full report.

You cannot (yet) assign an iTunes song as a ring-tone. That's kind of a bummer, but it's so obvious that I do expect them to fill that gap with a software update later.

Turning the phone sideways for landscape mode is very cool, but it only works in selected apps. It works in the browser and in iPod (though videos always play landscape). Where it does work you can flip it left or right (that is, with the home button on the right or left side of the screen) and it works. You cannot flip the to upside-down portrait mode (it stays upside-down).

I've browsed a number of websites and, for the most part, they all worked just as well as they did on my desktop machine unless they required flash or java. I'm unconvinced that Apple is going to completely have its way about a plugin-less web. I think they're going to have to buckle under and support one of the two (and I'm pretty sure the obvious choice would be flash).

The phone functionality is very nice, and visual voicemail is the topper. My only complaint is that the speakerphone is very, very weak and there is no voice dialing capability.

Voice dialing is sort of a double-edged sword. It was never very reliable for me on my RAZR, but it was much safer for driving. The iPhone is going to be a lot more trouble for drivers not only because of the lack of voice dialing, but because the touch surface is, obviously, completely lacking in tactile feedback (that is, you have no choice but to look at the screen to know where to touch). Fortunately, I have a GPS with a built-in speakerphone, and thus I can at least interact with a touch screen that will be positioned near the windshield.

Since I have a GPS in the car, I'm not sure I'll have too much use for Google Maps. But the one improvement is that it can display real-time traffic information. Adding that to my GPS would cost me about $10/mo, plus buying a traffic dongle.

Typing complex passwords in with the keyboard can be amusing.

I guess having youtube built-in sort of makes up for the lack of games (at the moment). Unfortunately, most of the web based games I play with require flash. The big thing I occasionally count on from my phone is entertainment when I have to wait for something. While I was in line for the iPhone, I played Tetris and Bejeweled. Now, if I have to wait in line for something, I can surf the web.

One big blow is that I have not yet found a way to turn on the ability to use the phone as a hard disk. This used to be the big reason I had an iPod - I could always plug it into a machine and use it to sneaker-net files around. So far as I can tell, that ability is absent on iPhone.

Another was that the iPhone will not act as a dialup modem for a laptop. In fact, though you can discover the iPhone via bluetooth, there's nothing at all you can do with it. It appears only to be able to use bluetooth to set up a handsfree connection, at least right now. Given that you can, theoretically, move up to 7 GB of data across to the phone, syncing over bluetooth would probably be too much to ask. And since it is so Internet connected, you can, for example, use e-mail to move pictures out of the camera.

Another missing point is that the WiFi capability is limited to accessing the Internet. You can't use it to print or browse local shares for files or anything of the sort. Of course, if you have web sites on your intranet, they are accessible.

The biggest difference of all, though, is that this phone is very likely to receive software updates as we go along. No other phone I've ever owned got a software update ever, even if the same model often got updated firmware in the retail channel. So maybe some of these deficiencies will be addressed later on.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Got my iPhone!

I am blogging this post from my new iPhone.

I stood in line for a couple hours at fhe AT&T store in Santa Clara. The line moved very slowly once 6 PM rolled around. I think that had a lot to do with the fact that they were trying to upsell accessories and DSL, and their computers were bogging down. It's a little weird using the keyboard, but I'm sure I can get used to it.

I'm going to stop here and switch to a real keyboard now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

iPhone bound!

Well, enough details have now come out about the iPhone and its pricing that I think I've turned the corner.

The iPhone will work with existing Cingular/AT&T customer plans, and will add $20/mo. But currently, I am already paying about $20 per month extra for unlimited data on my current piece of crap phone, so presumably I'll be able to trade in that $20 charge for the iPhone and wind up with the same bill I have now.

I've also talked about the insistence on having the iPhone act as an EDGE modem for my computer, but I'm beginning to think that if the mobile version of Safari is all it's cracked up to be, I'll probably find myself using that less rather than more. For example, occasionally Mark and I perform Thawte notarizations, and in the past I have brought my laptop with me to Coffee Society in order to do the notarizations in real time. But so far as I can tell, there's no reason I couldn't do the same thing with just an iPhone.

I'm pretty sure the phone will be able to visit sites on the corporate intranet as well. I won't be able to bring up a terminal window, but then if I am in a position to be able to use my laptop to do that, I'm very likely somewhere where broadband is available one way or the other.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Close, but no cigar

I tried the midnight tourney again and finished 11th, 2 out of the money. That sucks worse than last week where I was out during the first hour. At least then I got to go back to bed.

I seem to get the wooden medal a lot lately. I guess that means my game is pretty strong, but it sure is hard not getting rewarded for it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Profitable at P*!

Tonight I cashed out $75.60 from PokerStars, having put $25 in. According to SharkScope, that puts me only $28 down lifetime at P*, and according to my poker log, I've actually got a net profit this year of over $150 at P*. I've got a sort of cycle going where I'll cash in for $25, then play a couple of $13 and $6 SNGs until I get over their magic $75 check minimum and then cash out. So far this year using this system I've only been felted once.

FTP, on the other hand, has been a big bust. I like their software better, but having to get up to $300 to cash out, and then having to wait a month for the check, and just having so much less success, I may just have to give up and switch to P*. I can't deny the difference in performance, that's for sure.

Picking up tells

I played in the Saturday morning tourney at Bay 101. I made my exit near the end of the 2nd hour when I went all-in as a continuation bet and unfortunately ran into a pocket set. I don't feel too bad about making that play, I just ran into a wall. Oh well.

More interesting was an opportunity I had to try and use some of the techniques from "Read 'Em And Reap," a book that Crispin suggested. At one point I called a raise with T9s and the flop came T67 rainbow. The only other fellow in the pot led out with a really big bet. Was he bluffing? Did he have 89? AT? Was my top pair good? I had a bad kicker, but I felt that with top pair and the inside straight draw the decision could go either way. So I decided to pause and try and see if I could get a read on him. I noticed that he was seated neutrally enough and was looking at the pot without much of an expression.... but he had one of his hands on his cards. That told me what I needed to know. I tossed my top pair and straight draw into the muck face-up hoping that he would return the favor. He did.... showing pocket 6s. Whew!

There was another hand that was a bit easier. I was on the button. UTG raised, 2nd to act went all-in, then the cut-off went all-in. I looked down at pocket 5s. I agonized for a minute or so, but the decided out loud that I couldn't play it 4 handed. The UTG had everybody covered and called. He had pocket aces. The 2nd seat had pocket 7s, the third seat had QJs. The flop was nothing, but then the turn came a 5! I let out a loud groan and rolled my eyes... but then the river came an Ace! Whew!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

FTP final table

Getting to the final table at Full Tilt Poker is kind of cool - they change the table background to one clearly inspired by "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?"

Alas, I only made it to 9th... but I needed to make 7th to cash. :(

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What are you saving it for?

I just finished a 6 handed SNG, and while no particular hand stood out, what did stand out was the play of my heads-up opponent.

Near the end, we were pretty close to even in chips and I got pocket jacks and managed to get it all in and win the pot. That gave me a nearly 4:1 chip advantage. He was left with just short of $2000 with the blinds at $50/$100. So that gave him an M of 13, for those of you who use that as a measure, or 20 big blinds, if you measure it that way.

Now, I can understand playing carefully when you're short-stacked and there are a bunch of players left, or you're on the money bubble, but we were heads-up, so both of us were going to cash. I would suggest that that's the point where just about the only decision you have left is all-in or fold. But this guy was a real stone - he would fold to raises, wait to see a flop and then fold... It took 25 hands and whittling him down to about $600 before he would commit to a hand... whereupon he committed to bottom pair when I just happened to have flopped a straight. He did go all-in a couple times before the flop (when I had garbage), but when you're down that far heads-up, I think you need to gamble a bit more. When you get down that low, doubling-up through your opponent is just as risky as it ever is (if you're short-stacked by $1 and lose, you're just as gone as if you were down to your last chip and lose) when you're short-stacked. Conversely, your opponent can call or push you with much worse hands because your short stack is not a sufficient threat. So the bigger your stack, the more pressure you can put on your opponent with an all-in. The smaller your stack, the more meaningless your move is, and the less reward you get for your risk.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Minimum bets = stupid

Full Tilt Poker Game #_: $10 + $1 Sit & Go (_), Table 1 - 15/30 - No Limit Hold'em - 23:23:37 ET - 2007/06/18
Seat 1: (520)
Seat 3: (1,350)
Seat 4: hero (1,500)
Seat 5: (1,470)
Seat 6: (1,500)
Seat 7: (1,500)
Seat 8: (4,160)
Seat 9: (1,500)
Seat 3 posts the small blind of 15
hero posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #2
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to hero [7c Tc]
Seat 5 folds
Seat 6 calls 30
Seat 7 folds
Seat 8 folds
Seat 9 folds
Seat 1 raises to 135

He was short enough that he could have gone all-in here, I think. If he'd have had more than one limper, he would have surely had to to try and isolate.

Seat 3 folds
hero folds
Seat 6 calls 105
*** FLOP *** [8d 3h Qs]
Seat 6 bets 30

Let's see... There's more than $300 in the pot and you want to bet $30? Why not just check?

Seat 1 raises to 270


Seat 6 calls 240

Check-call?! Normally that's a sign of a draw of some sort, but the only 1 card draw possible with that flop is an inside straight draw. Hardly worth calling a pot-sized raise with that. Besides, seat 1 only had another $115. Why not push in? If he was bluffing, perhaps he'd fold to save his last chips for another hand.

*** TURN *** [8d 3h Qs] [3d]
Seat 6 bets 30

Now there's more than $800 in the pot. That $30 bet is worse than just a nuisance, it's an obvious sign of weakness.

Seat 1 raises to 115, and is all in

He could have 27o at this point and he'd be right to do exactly that.

Seat 6 folds

Wow. He must have either really had crap or had no understanding of pot odds. He would have been getting better than 9:1 to make that call.

Uncalled bet of 85 returned to Seat 1
Seat 1 mucks
Seat 1 wins the pot (915)
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 915 | Rake 0
Board: [8d 3h Qs 3d]
Seat 1: collected (915), mucked
Seat 3: (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 4: hero (big blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 5: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: folded on the Turn
Seat 7: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 8: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 9: didn't bet (folded)

Friday, June 15, 2007

There oughta be a name

Every so often you sit down to a SNG and you find a player at the table who goes all-in every hand. If you play funny-money tourneys, there's at least one at every table. We ought to be able to come up with a name for these players. Crazy Ivan or something like that (not that there's anything particularly Russian about this move). I just sat down to a P* 6-handed SNG and sure enough, the player two seats to my right goes all-in on hand 1, hand 2, skips hand 3, then goes all-in on hand 4 and gets called by the player to my right, who has pocket deuces. The kamakaze guy had something random like J4o and didn't improve. So he was down to his last couple hundred, and I'm on the button with 9Td. He, of course, goes all-in and I call, as does someone between us. The flop comes 9-high with one diamond. The other guy bets $200, and I call. The turn is another diamond. He bets $200 again and I call, still with top pair. The river is another diamond, completing my flush. He bets $200 again, I go all-in and he calls with A9o, so thank the poker Gods for the flush. That gave me the chip lead, and I never looked back.

There was another pivotal hand later on 4 handed. I had ATs in the big blind. The short stack is UTG and goes all-in for about $500 (blinds are $15/$30). Both of the other players call, so I push all-in (I have everybody covered) both to try and isolate the short stack and hopefully pick up a lot of dead money. Well, it worked - the other two players folded and the short stack had A8c and did not improve. That pot was over $5k just by itself.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

.Mac ate my address book!

I was trying to write an e-mail this morning and Mail wasn't filling in by name. After much fussing, I opened the address book... and it was empty!

I have syncing turned on on 4 machines, so I'm not sure which one of them lost its tiny little mind, but the rot hadn't extended all the way: there was still one machine with all of the data, so I quickly reset .Mac sync from that machine, telling it to overwrite .Mac with the data from that machine. So everything's back to normal, but in the confusion, I think I did lose one of my calendar entries. Who knows what else has gone bonkers. Sheesh.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cashed at Bay 101

Monday morning I entered the Midnight tournament at Bay 101. I came in 7th out of 61, so $120 turned into $310.

The end of the tournament wasn't really great. With starting stacks of T$3000, the tournament had T$183,000 total in play. That means that at the final table, the average starting stack was T$18,300. But at that time, the blinds were T$2000 & T$4000, and shortly after we started, it went up to T$3000/T$6000. That really meant that the only move you had was all-in or fold. I had to flip a coin a couple of times and both came up tails, which bounced me out in 7th. The whole thing was just a bit more like a lottery ticket than poker.

But I do feel good about my game getting there. Some of the highlights:

The very first hand, we had an all-in. Now keep in mind that this is not a re-buy tournament. The hand was raised, re-raised and called before the flop. The flop came something like J74 with two diamonds. It then went bet, raise, re-raise, all-in, call. I felt for sure that it must have been a set versus a big pair or aces vs kings, or something like that. In fact, when they turned up, it was a set of sevens versus a king-high flush draw! The flush draw didn't fill in and that guy paid $120 for one hand of poker. Wow. The last time I had been at a midnight tournament, I went out within the first round, but that was because I flopped top two pair and the other fellow flopped bottom set. And in this case, the guy with the flush draw was the agressor! Unbelievable.

Right before the 3rd break, I was in the big blind and it was folded around to the button. He was a short stack and moved in. The small blind folded and I looked down at K7o. If it weren't for the all-in play, it would be a pretty easy fold, but the all-in was just, like, 20% more than the standard raise, and calling was about 20% of my stack. The guy was on the button. Was he capable of making a position move with garbage? I thought about it and in the end decided to just hope that my king was live (that is, that if he had a big ace that it wasn't AK). I called and he turned up 75o! I give him credit for a gutsy move. He just didn't have enough chips for it to be enough of a threat.

A few hands later, I had pocket queens on the button and it was folded around to the cut-off, who made a standard raise. I went all-in. He hemmed and hawed and called. He turned up pocket 8s. There was a queen on the flop, so I relaxed a bit... Then a queen came on the river. Now that's over-kill.

Next hand, I got pocket tens. The UTG player raised and it was folded around. The decision I had now was whether to press or call. It would have been about half my stack to press, and I chickened out and just called. As soon as I did, I chastised myself for it. Big pairs typically don't get any better on the flop, so I should have got my money in sooner. Anyway, a short stack in the small-blind went all-in (which for him was a call), and we saw the flop. Which came KKT!! Well, the only hand that beats me right now is KT or KK. I can't allow AK, KQ or KJ to get a free card, so I pressed at that point and wound up taking that pot. That pot took me up to about $19k, so from there I more or less coasted to the final table.

What was really sort of fun was that when I got up from the final table, I noticed that we actually had an audience. There were 7 (now 6) of us (of them) at the table, 2 tournament directors counting out the real money chips us and taking down our names (for the midnight tournament points towards the Bay 101 open free-roll satellite), but then on the rail there were about 15 people just watching the show. That was kind of cool.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Donkeys and flush draws

So I just got bounced out of a 6-handed SNG in 3rd place because a donkey called all the way to the river and caught a flush (I had flopped 2 pair). Then in the chat window, he says, "thanks for letting me get all the way to the river."

Let you?

You called two pot-sized bets to get there, Eeyore. Go read a book about pot odds.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Bets have a purpose

Every action you take at the table must have a reason behind it.

Why do you bet or raise? Fundamentally, there are three possible reasons:

1. You wish to build the pot.
2. You wish to thin the field.
3. You must charge for a potential draw.
4. You are stealing.

Sometimes, a single bet can manifest more than one.

You have AKo and are in position with 3 callers and the flop comes AK4 rainbow. It is checked around. Why do you bet here? Your two pair is only beaten by aces, kings or fours. If you have continuation bet most flops, you are likely to be called by any ace or any big king and perhaps raised by A4 or K4. Your hand has only 4 outs to improve from here, and the only draw is an inside straight draw, so for the most part you are building the pot with what is very likely going to be the winner.

You have 94d in the big blind and there are 4 limpers (but the SB folded) with no raise. The flop comes 27Jd. Why do you bet here? The answer is squarely number 3. Yes, you have a flush, and it's likely going to be the best hand.... unless someone else has the ace or king of diamonds and draws a fourth diamond on the board. You must force those hands to pay a heavy price for that draw. If you are already overflushed, your opponent will surely raise your bet (unless they have Ax of diamonds and thus already have the nuts) for the exact same reason.

You have 5s7h in the cut-off and it's folded around. You raise. Why? Duh, number 4. The BB calls and the flop comes Jc 8c 2h and the BB checks. You bet, again because you're stealing, but what will it look like to your opponent? It will likely look like number 3, since there are two clubs out there. At worst, he would put you on AJ or if you're particularly loose A8. If he has a club draw, will he stick with it if you bet the pot (giving him only 2:1 pot odds)? Would he continue at all with AK? Surely he will raise with an overpair and at least call with a jack, allowing you to shut down on the turn and river.

You have JTh on the button and the flop comes 89Qh. Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, you notice that it's bet and called around to you. You flat call. The turn is the ace of spades. The post-flop bettor bets again. This time you raise. Obviously you're building the pot, but why raise on the turn when an ace comes? Because you want to represent a poorer hand than you have. You want them to think that perhaps you called on the flop with the ace of clubs offsuit and that the ace hit you, or perhaps that you're trying to bluff an ace. If you don't get a caller, then it not as big a loss as it sounds, since it means you're unlikely to have gotten any action later in the hand. If you do get called, then it can set up a large bet on the river that is not going to look nearly so much like you were slow-playing a monster. Besides, it means that the river bet can be larger for being the same fraction of the pot. Which means a larger reward for being hit by lightening. If the post-flop bettor has a flush, then you'll surely get action and will have a good chance of doubling through (or busting) him. If he was bluffing with crap, then you probably weren't going to get anymore money from him anyway.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Parallels 3.0

I decided to take advantage of Parallels' 50% off upgrade offer to try version 3.0, which now has limited support for accelerated 3d graphics. Just to see what it was capable of, I fired up our old favorite game back at Cenzic, BZFlag. With all of the options turned on, running at 720p on a Mac Mini, I was getting frame rates in the mid 20s. That's pretty impressive, I think, for a relatively whimpy machine running in an emulated environment.

So now there really is almost no reason to consider boot camp on a mac anymore, I think. If you really, really require perfect native performance, then why on earth did you buy a mac in the first place?

Bad night

Poker is a cruel taskmaster. Every time I get a bit of encouragement that my game is improving, I run into a night like tonight where every decision I made was sound, reasoned, and absolutely wrong.

Monetarily I didn't lose very much, but it's very disheartening.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Poker and The Magnificent Seven

"The odds are too high!"
"Much too high."
"Then we [give up]?"
"No. We lower the odds."

Harry Luck (Brad Dexter) & Chris Adams (Yul Brynner)
The Magnificent Seven

Poker is often described as a game wherein the object is not to win money, but to make correct decisions. That's fine as far as it goes, but there is a corollary to that: You must make better decisions than your opponents. What people often miss is that what this really means is that you must attempt as much as possible to make your decisions easy and your opponents' choices difficult.

Should you bluff a raise pre-flop? Sure, that's a good thing to do once in a while. Do you do it with Q9o or with 25s? The answer is surprising: It is better to bluff with 25s. Why? Because it's easier to get away from if you're re-raised before the flop. And if you're called and the flop comes all little cards, a continuation bet is going to look much more like you raised with a big pair. And if the flop has a 3 and a 4, your opponent will be unlikely to put you on a straight draw. If it has a 5, he won't put you on a pair.

What if you have that Q9 and it comes J94 rainbow? See how your decisions suddenly become more complicated? Did your opponent call with AJ, A9, JT..? If it comes that with your 25, it's an easy check-fold. But what do you do with 2nd pair and a weak overcard?

World's luckiest donkey

Two hands in a row:

Full Tilt Poker Game #_: $10 + $1 Sit & Go (_), Table 1 - 60/120 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:32:44 ET - 2007/06/07
Seat 1: (2,970)
Seat 2: (3,920)
Seat 4: (750)
Seat 5: (1,265)
Seat 7: villain (1,085)
Seat 8: hero (3,510)
hero posts the small blind of 60
Seat 1 posts the big blind of 120
The button is in seat #7
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to nsayer [Ks Js]
Seat 2 folds
Seat 4 folds
Seat 5 folds
villain raises to 1,085, and is all in

This guy has been getting out of line all night. It may seem odd to call with KJ, but I totally had this guy figured out at this point.

hero calls 1,025
Seat 1 folds
villain shows [Kh 3s]

What did I tell you?

nsayer shows [Ks Js]
*** FLOP *** [6d 6h 4c]
*** TURN *** [6d 6h 4c] [3d]

Crap. Donkey caught a 3-outer.

*** RIVER *** [6d 6h 4c 3d] [Ts]
villain shows two pair, Sixes and Threes
hero shows a pair of Sixes
villain wins the pot (2,290) with two pair, Sixes and Threes
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 2,290 | Rake 0
Board: [6d 6h 4c 3d Ts]
Seat 1: (big blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 2: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 4: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 5: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 7: villain (button) showed [Kh 3s] and won (2,290) with two pair, Sixes and Threes
Seat 8: hero (small blind) showed [Ks Js] and lost with a pair of Sixes

Next hand... Yes, literally the next hand:

Full Tilt Poker Game #_: $10 + $1 Sit & Go (_), Table 1 - 60/120 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:33:13 ET - 2007/06/07
Seat 1: (2,850)
Seat 2: (3,920)
Seat 4: (750)
Seat 5: (1,265)
Seat 7: villain (2,290)
Seat 8: hero (2,425)
Seat 1 posts the small blind of 60
Seat 2 posts the big blind of 120
The button is in seat #8
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to hero [Kd Js]
Seat 3 folds
Seat 5 folds
villain raises to 240
hero calls 240
Seat 1 calls 180
Seat 2 calls 120
*** FLOP *** [3h 4d Kc]
Seat 1 checks
Seat 2 checks
villain bets 480

I still don't believe him.

nsayer raises to 2,185, and is all in
Seat 1 folds
Seat 2 folds
villain calls 1,570, and is all in
hero shows [Kd Js]
villain shows [Th Kh]

Uh huh.

Uncalled bet of 135 returned to hero
*** TURN *** [3h 4d Kc] [Td]

Oh, come on!

*** RIVER *** [3h 4d Kc Td] [6h]
hero shows a pair of Kings
villain shows two pair, Kings and Tens
villain wins the pot (5,060) with two pair, Kings and Tens
The blinds are now 80/160
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 5,060 | Rake 0
Board: [3h 4d Kc Td 6h]
Seat 1: (small blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 2: (big blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 4: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 5: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 7: villain showed [Th Kh] and won (5,060) with two pair, Kings and Tens
Seat 8: hero (button) showed [Kd Js] and lost with a pair of Kings

Two 3-outers in a row. Unbelievable.

Next hand, I got AKo and lost to bottom pair. What an ignominious exit.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Going pro

The latest spam newsletter from Full Tilt had a pointer from Chris "Jesus" Ferguson about turning pro. He wrote that he is often asked by people whether or not they should become professional poker players, and he always answers "absolutely not."

I couldn't agree more. The very act of asking such a question indicates that the answer must be "no." The edge that seasoned professionals have over everyone else1 is relatively small. It's sort of the same as the house edge in most other casino games, like roulette or craps or blackjack. Because their edge is small, they must play almost constantly, like a shark that will die if it stop swimming2. It becomes a job. It's just like your job, except that like most other athletes, actors or others in the personal service business, their income depends completely on their performance - but unlike most athletes or actors, their performance is governed partially by elements of chance.

No. I have a lovely wife, a house and two cats. Poker may be a nice way to retire someday, but for now, I'll keep my day job, thanks.

1 Of course their edge against bad players is not small, but at the levels where seasoned professionals play, the bad players are harder to come by.

2 Yes, sharks can "mouthbreathe" just like other fish if they're not moving. It's a metaphor. Get over it.

On rankings in poker

Last night I was playing in a 6 handed SNG with another player. He was rather amicable and said rather nice things about my play (perhaps he was shining me on, trying to lull me into some sort of screw-up, but that's a rather cynical assumption. In this case, I don't suspect it's true). He asked me if I thought I could beat the pros.

This is the same guy who was in a chat-window war with another player earlier on. At one point, he challenged that guy to a heads-up match after the SNG was done. I don't know if they ever did, but though I didn't say anything at the time, my first thought was this: Why bother? What would either of you learn from that? The winner will feel vindicated, and the loser will just blame the vagueries of the cards.

Before I read the Zen book, I thought if I practiced and learned to play well that someday I could challenge Crispin to a match. Now I know that that would be pointless. For one thing, since he's watched my play much more than I've watched his (including getting into my head), he'd also have a pretty significant advantage. But beyond that, would beating him once or twice mean that I'm better than him? Certainly not.

So how do you rank poker players? The better question is, "why do you wish to?" Is one bull rider better than another if he lasts longer on a bull with a lame leg than the other on a bull with sound legs? Poker is an individualistic activity. Why does it matter that there are others right now winning or losing more than you. Just play the game.

iPhone June 29th

The date is getting closer. Apple has posted some new TV ads for it. Nothing particularly new. I still have questions and therefore won't be absolutely first in line, but I'd be very surprised indeed if my questions had bad answers. This is Apple we're dealing with. They may not have ever made a phone before, but back when they made the first iPod, they hadn't made a music player before either and still got that more right than wrong.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

You can't bluff by calling

The amusing thing here is that the villain and the guy in Seat 1 had been going after each other in the chat window virtually the entire tournament.

I wound up heads-up with Seat 1, and we were fairly evenly matched. He won because the same card that gave me a set gave him a flush. But that's neither here nor there.

Full Tilt Poker Game #_: $5 + $0.50 Sit & Go (_), Table 1 - 30/60 - No Limit Hold'em - 21:32:45 ET - 2007/06/03
Seat 1: (2,085)
Seat 2: hero (2,100)
Seat 4: (1,905)
Seat 5: (1,680)
Seat 6: villain (1,230)
Seat 5 posts the small blind of 30
villain posts the big blind of 60
The button is in seat #4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to hero [5d 5h]
Seat 1 folds
hero raises to 180
Seat 4 folds
Seat 5 folds
villain calls 120
*** FLOP *** [4s Ad 6s]

Uh oh. My only consolation is that I don't think he would have called a pre-flop raise from me with a 4 or a 6. So it's whether or not he has an ace.

villain checks
hero bets 390
villain calls 390

Just called? Spade flush draw?

*** TURN *** [4s Ad 6s] [9h]
villain checks

I really, really, don't think he has an ace unless he's being far sneakier than I'd expect for a $5 SNG. Let's see if we can end what I believe is a flush draw. I'll put him all-in.

hero bets 660
villain calls 660, and is all in
hero shows [5d 5h]
villain shows [Ks Th]


Maybe he was trying to bluff me, and that's fine, but if your opponent puts you all-in, they're done. They can't fold anymore. You either beat them with the cards in your hand or you lose.

Maybe he wasn't trying to bluff me. Maybe he thought his king high was good. If so, given that I raised pre-flop, bet the flop, and then put him all-in on the turn, that's just stupid.

*** RIVER *** [4s Ad 6s 9h] [2c]
hero shows a pair of Fives
villain shows Ace King high
hero wins the pot (2,490) with a pair of Fives
villain is sitting out
villain stands up
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 2,490 | Rake 0
Board: [4s Ad 6s 9h 2c]
Seat 1: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 2: hero showed [5d 5h] and won (2,490) with a pair of Fives
Seat 4: (button) didn't bet (folded)
Seat 5: (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 6: villain (big blind) showed [Ks Th] and lost with Ace King high

What was he thinking?

Full Tilt Poker Game #_: $10 + $1 Sit & Go (_), Table 1 - 15/30 - No Limit Hold'em - 11:40:49 ET - 2007/06/03
Seat 1: (1,455)
Seat 2: (1,575)
Seat 3: (1,560)
Seat 4: villain (1,140)
Seat 5: (1,725)
Seat 6: (1,500)
Seat 7: hero (1,545)
Seat 8: (1,500)
Seat 9: (1,500)
Seat 5 posts the small blind of 15
Seat 6 posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to nsayer [Qh As]
hero raises to 90
Seat 8 folds
Seat 9 folds
Seat 1 raises to 250
Seat 2 folds
Seat 3 folds
villain calls 250
Seat 5 folds
Seat 6 folds
hero calls 160
*** FLOP *** [Ah 6d Jd]

Cool. Top pair. The only hand that beats me is a pocket set, or AK. There are two diamonds, so I don't want anyone to catch up. If someone managed to flop a set, well, then so be it. Besides, maybe it will look like some sort of stop-n-go where I could have anything. Maybe I'll get a call from a weaker ace.

hero bets 1,295, and is all in
Seat 1 folds

Probably re-raised with pocket kings or pocket queens or some such. Obviously pocket jacks weren't folding here. :)

villain calls 890, and is all in
hero shows [Qh As]
villain shows [Kh Qd]


This is, like, 5 hands into the tournament. Would I really bluff both the pre-flop raise and the all-in with any hand that could be beat by king high? I wanted to induce a call, but who knew it would be a garbage hand?

Uncalled bet of 405 returned to hero
*** TURN *** [Ah 6d Jd] [6c]
*** RIVER *** [Ah 6d Jd 6c] [8h]
hero shows two pair, Aces and Sixes
villain shows a pair of Sixes
hero wins the pot (2,575) with two pair, Aces and Sixes
villain stands up
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 2,575 | Rake 0
Board: [Ah 6d Jd 6c 8h]
Seat 1: folded on the Flop
Seat 2: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 3: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 4: villain (button) showed [Kh Qd] and lost with a pair of Sixes
Seat 5: (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 6: (big blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 7: hero showed [Qh As] and won (2,575) with two pair, Aces and Sixes
Seat 8: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 9: didn't bet (folded)

Saturday, June 2, 2007


I went to the Garden City spread limit tourney this morning and got my ass kicked. So I decided to come home and play in a couple of MTTs online. I came in on the absolute bubble in both. The first was a satellite, and I came in 6th out of 36, the second was a regular MTT and I came in 37th out of about 360 or so.

Tough losses, but it seems like with practice, I am getting close to the end of online MTTs on a pretty regular basis.

P.s. I followed it up with a 6 handed SNG and finished..... 3rd. I am the bubble boy today.

Friday, June 1, 2007

How to handle an "away" player

Every once in a while you encounter a player who instantly folds to any action during a tournament because they are away. Some sites actually let you know a player is away, some don't. It's unfair to everybody else at the table if such a player makes it into the money, so I'd like to outline the optimal strategy for dealing with the situation.

If the player is one seat to your left, then obviously when the action folds around to you pre-flop, you simply need to minimum raise to take his blind away from him. In B&M cardrooms, this is typically automatically done, since the dealer will pick up any hand if the player is not seated before the deal ends, but online, the away player is check-folded. Don't let him get to a showdown. Any bet will force a fold.

Otherwise, the away player should be ignored until you are on the money bubble. If he comes back, then so be it.

The remaining players should establish that the player is away and begin the special play to get rid of him. It goes like this:

All players other than the blinds fold. The player who is the small blind to the away player raises. All other small blinds fold. Once the away player cannot complete a blind, all players call to join in the hand pre-flop and check to the river. Repeat until he is gone.

Obviously, if the player comes back in the meantime, play should resume per normal.

So what's going to happen? The player to the right of the away player will take 2/3 of his stack (his big blinds) and the player to his left will take one-third (his small blinds). Everybody else at the table will break even (they'll just pass the small blinds around). It may seem inequitable that the players near him get enriched, but in practical terms an away player will probably be a pretty short stack by the time the bubble arrives.

Is this illegal collusion? No more so when two players with a dry side pot check down a hand to eliminate the all-in player.

If everyone understood this plan, the world would be a better place.

Dune and poker

If you haven't seen the David Lynch version of the movie Dune, then skip this post.

In the climactic battle between Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) and Feyd Harkonnen (Sting), consider the two styles of the combatants. Both styles are summed up by one line from each character.

Feyd shouts out in arrogance, "I WILL kill him!"

Paul thinks to himself, "I will bend like a reed in the wind."

By these two expressions alone, you should know who was victorious.

"Hit 'em where they ain't." Simple advice from Wee Willie Keeler, who was a baseball player. What he was saying was that he tried to hit the ball where the fielders weren't standing.

One of the proverbs in the Zen book was that when two strong enemies battle, one will be killed and the other severely wounded.

It's not about waiting for a strong hand to bet. It's about waiting for times when you know or strongly suspect that your opponent is weak(er). When your opponent raises you, that supplies some evidence that he is not. Obviously, that evidence can be false, but it can also be true. Most players I have observed feign weakness with strong hands far more than they feign strength with weak ones.

Zen Poker

Crispin was kind enough to send me a book to help me improve my game. I got it today. I've read it once already, but I suspect I will go through it many more times. It is Zen and the Art of Poker.

There's virtually no actual poker related content in it - stuff like starting hands or stuff like that. In fact, because there is nothing in it about the mechanics of play, it's suited equally all poker games, be it Texas Hold 'Em or Omaha Hi/Lo or HORSE or 7 Stud. No, this book is, as you could guess from the title, about readying your mind for the game.

After I made it through the book, I spent a few minutes thinking about some of the things it said. And then I sat down to a $10 6 handed SNG. 3 times I got crushed by big drawing hands that connected. Once I was down to $200 in chips with the blinds at 40/80 (and let me tell you, those blinds come around fast when you're 4 handed). But I tried to take the lessons in the book to heart and to make a long story short(er), I wound up taking 2nd place. I started the heads-up battle with a 5:1 deficit and managed to work that down to 2:1 before running into a wall. But 2nd is better than a kick in the head. Anytime you get paid, that's a victory in my book.