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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

There's Always Room for Jello. And Gambling.

Thursday is race day. After failing to find time last week to pick some horses, I'm giving myself two days to prepare for Thursday's races at Tampa Bay Downs. I created and funded my youbet account, and even tried to kick a little back to BG by listing him as my referral. I have already purchased Thursday's racing form and downloaded the Formulator data. I wonder if there's anything I forgot to link to?

I'm hoping to find time tonight to play in the WWdN weekly tournament. The timing is a little tough on me, since my darling children tend to still be awake when it starts, but maybe I can find a way to make it work. I've only played 15 minutes of a LHE cash game, and a $5 + .50 Sit N Go on Full Tilt (took 2nd) since I returned from Las Vegas, and I'm feeling an itch to play some more.

I received an invitation to play in a live tournament hosted by one of our marketing guys at work. It looks like a good tournament, with entries capped at 32 and a $100 buy-in. It should be a good mixture of decent players, and some people that just like to play. It should be a good time in any case.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Vacation Underway

Midwest Airlines has two distinguishing characteristics. They used to have three distinguishing characteristics, but tough times in the airline industry forced them to give up the four-across leather seats on some of their flights. These so-called "Saver Service" flights have plain old cloth seats, three on one side and two on the other. Unfortunately, the Vegas flights are all in the saver service class.

The signature benefit to flying Midwest is that fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies are served on almost all flights. Breakfast flights miss out on the cookies. After spending $300 on a plane ticket, it may not seem like much to get a couple of cookies, but it really is pretty nice. It's certainly better than the stick in the eye that American Airlines gives you. Northwest also has direct flights, but I've been a little leery of them since their mechanics went on strike. I just don't think those guys are putting their hearts into their work.

Midwest has a quite a few direct flights from Milwaukee, and conveniently, they go to all of the places I like to go. I regularly visit Las Vegas, and I also like Tampa, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, all direct flights on Midwest Airlines from Milwaukee. Non-stop flights are always nice, regardless of the airline, but if you're flying on Midwest they are essential, because of the third characteristic--they are always late. I don't fly as often as some, but every time I show up for a Midwest flight, it is delayed. Sometimes twenty minutes, sometimes 5 hours, but always late.

It was no surprise, then, that when we checked in at the airport for our flight to Las Vegas, we learned that it was delayed. Only twenty-five minutes or so, though, so that was almost like it was leaving early. We settled in at the gate, visions of black chips dancing in our heads.

One of the sacred rules of vacation, perhaps Rule 1a, Sub-rule 3c, is that the vacation does not actually start until the first beer is cracked, so Troy got us started on the first round, returning to the gate area with a Heineken for me and a Sam Adams for himself. I was full of nervous Vegas energy, and had trouble focusing on reading, so I kicked back with my iPod and beer, allowing Miles Davis to carry me along for a while.

As we neared boarding time, both Troy and I took our turns hitting the bathroom (can't leave the bags unattended, you know). Troy returned with a surprise second round as the plane began boarding, so we had to expedite consumption. Vacation underway.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Results

Not the greatest day, but not bad for having limited time.

Race 1 - 8 Run M Run (4th (closed 7/5))

Race 2 - 4 Slippery When Wet. (3rd (closed 6/1)-- tie for first)

Race 3 - 8 Wandassilverstreak (2nd (closed 8/5))

Race 5 - 9 Premeditated (no factor (closed 5/1))

Race 6 - 11 Cover Me Lover (no factor)

Race 8 - 10 Boston Belga (3rd (closed 1/1))

Race 9 - 2 El Escorial (1st (closed 4/1))

Race 10 - 2 Albert Walk (no factor (closed 9/2))

On a $2 win base bet, that's $16 in, $10.80 back for the day.

Pony Friday

I thought I was going to have a little time to do some handicapping last night, so I grabbed the racing form for Tampa Bay Downs. It turns out that I didn't have much time at all, so I skimmed through the races and picked some that looked good to me.

I should mention, as a caveat, that I don't try to pick the outright winner of the races. I try to find the horse with a chance to win, that will go off with at least 4/1 odds. I don't expect that anyone is going to run to their race-book and place bets based on my recommendations, but crazier things have happened. So, anyway, be warned.

These are all bet to win, and selected based on the opening odds.

Race 1 - 8 Run M Run

Race 2 - 4 Slippery When Wet.

Race 3 - 8 Wandassilverstreak

Race 5 - 9 Premeditated

Race 6 - 11 Cover Me Lover

Race 8 - 10 Boston Belga

Race 9 - 2 El Escorial

Race 10 - 2 Albert Walk

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Domain-squatting for referrals?

This is interesting. The WPBT domain name expired a couple of months ago, and I've periodically checked to see if anyone picked up the hosting. I have no personal stake in the domain name, as I've never played in any of the events, but you never know -- someday I may make it to one.

So, I check today and I end up at pokerroom.com. Some very brief research shows that http://www.wpbtonline.com now redirects to http://www.apokerroom.com/wpbtonline/ and then to http://www3.pokerroom.com/?ref=1720&page=64 and I'm guessing that someone saw the opportunity to pick up some free referrals. A quick WHOIS lookup can tell you who, if you're really interested.

I only mention this so everyone with a WPBT logo and link on their blogs can determine if this is the sort of thing they want to support, or if they want to to strip the link off the logo. I certainly don't know all (or any, really) of the bloggers involved, so I don't even know if it's one of them that registered the name. It's kind of tacky, though, so tend to think it's someone else.

A Night in Paris

I played some poker while in Las Vegas. I started out playing at Paris, after we moved from Hard Rock on Saturday, and it's really only worth playing there if you have no better options. The room isn't actually a room -- it's a roped-off section of the casino. It's still new, so it may be worth checking out as time goes by ("Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By'"), but if you are looking for a nice poker room, there are better options. Many better options.

Fresh off earning some nice comps at the Hard Rock for blackjack and craps, I was very interested in knowing how my poker play would be rated by the casino. I was told that Paris had just starting rating poker play, but that it would probably work out to one dollar per hour for play at the 4/8 table. Well, ho-hum to that. At least the guy had the decency to look embarrassed as he told me. I don't know what kind of revenue a poker room generates for the casino, but if a buck an hour is the best you can do for comps, it's probably not even worth doing. Just enter me in a drawing for a free car or something.

I played roughly ten hours of 4/8 on Saturday. I was amazed to find that the game was exactly like the theoretical brick-and-mortar casino in my head. There were two or three people playing nearly every hand, two or three people taking their money, and the rest in a gray area until their play revealed to which group they belonged. As long as I waited on premium hands, and didn't get tangled up in a big pot with other good players, it was basically a relaxing afternoon of increasing my chip stack.

It wasn't all folding and free money, though. Fairly early in the session, I woke up with KK and came out for a raise. I had been at the table long enough to know that slow-playing was a waste of time, and that any raise, even mine, was going to get 3 or 4 callers. It did. The flop came out rainbow under-cards. It was checked to me and I bet. Folded around to a caller, and we were heads-up. Turn brought out another under-card, and I can't remember if I straight raised or check-raised, but the other guy called. At this point, I wondered if he had hit two pair in there somewhere, but most showdowns to this point had been won by low-to-medium pairs or Ace-high, even. River was a rag and the guy checked to me. I bet, he called and flipped up AA.

I put Mr. AA in the category of people to be treat with care. He recognized that I only played premium hands, and played them aggressively, so he let me drive the action and build the pot without ever signaling any strength. It was bad luck that not only was this guy one that knew what he was doing, but he had the hand to beat me. I suppose it was good luck that he didn't check-raise the river, because I would have been compelled to call and throw away another eight dollars.

I spent the next few hours making that money back, and ended the session fifty dollars up. After a couple of days of losing my ass in blackjack and craps, it was nice to spend some time playing a game that was +EV.

Later that night, I played some more, and failed to recognize the onset of exhaustion. After playing (and losing) a few big pots with the good players at the table, I realized it was time to go to bed. I left 150 down for the session, so 100 down for the day. If I had gotten up an hour earlier, I would have been (slightly) up for the session. Lesson learned. +EV is a state of mind.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tidbits

My flight landed at 11:15PM last night, and I am just beat today. I have several stories with which to regale my eager readership, but today I provide a couple of tidbits.


Overheard as I pass an elderly couple in front of Caesar's, as they admire the Eiffel Tower replica across the street: "No, that's Paris. That's supposed to be the Leaning Tower of Pisa."


I am launching a new regional economic indicator, based on the cost of a large cup of Starbuck's coffee. I await the calls from CNBC.

  • $1.81 Milwaukee Barnes and Noble
  • $2.40 Milwaukee Airport
  • $2.58 Las Vegas Airport
  • $2.59 Hard Rock Hotel
  • $3.29 Harrah's Las Vegas



That's it. I'll have more for you later.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Final Countdown

Today's the day. My flight leaves at 3, so I only took a half day of vacation, and now I'm stuck at work with Vegas thoughts in my head. I busted through everything I needed to get done yesterday, and so today finds me in a holding pattern. No sense starting any new projects, and so I play the waiting game. "Oh, the waiting game sucks!" Homer exclaims. "Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos!"

I played a couple of the PokerStars cheapy tournaments the other night ($1 + .10 and $2 + .20). I cashed in the $2, but just barely, and so I ended up down 40 cents or so. Fortunately, my bankroll is healthy enough to handle violent swings like that.

While I played those tournaments, I tried to focus on the worst leaks in my game. I came up with the following rules, which comprise a strategy I have named "The Don't Play Stupid Poker Strategy." Catchy, eh?

  1. Yes, he does have that king. I frequently talk myself into calling or reraising in situations where the voice in the back of my head is screaming that I'm beat. The idiot at the front of my head says, "Nah, he's bluffing," like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day playing chicken with the train.
  2. Playing the K5 in the small blind is always a bad idea. Always. Even if everyone limps, and you're getting amazing pot odds to call, just fold. Almost every time, you'll feel compelled to play if a K flops, and then you'll be outkicked.
  3. If you make a continuation bet with nothing and are raised, fold. Clearly, if you represent strength pre-flop and the other guy hangs around, and then you show strength again and he responds with more strength, then you're probably beat. Convincing yourself that he is bluffing will cost you money. See rule 1.

Hardly an exhaustive strategy, but it never hurts to work some things into your game.

I am not likely to post again until next week, so best of luck to everyone in Atlantic City and Tunica for their respective tournaments. It figures that I would fly to Vegas when there are two big tournaments elsewhere, but maybe that means there's more tourist money waiting there for me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Kill Phil v Jack Bauer

Kill Phil v Jack Bauer

I just finished reading Kill Phil and I realized that it is the poker equivalent of 24.

Check it out.



Kill Phil is geared toward beginning players, who can't hope to compete against professionals post-flop.

Jack Bauer is always playing catch-up to the bad guys, picking up clues as he goes, but never aware of the big picture.


Kill Phil gets all the money in the pot pre-flop, picking a premium hand and getting in behind it.

Jack Bauer comes up with a plan that might work, and puts it all on the line.


Jack Bauer tortures suspects for information.

Kill Phil puts good players on tilt.


Jack Bauer is considered to be out of control and a danger to the mission by the powers that be.

Kill Phil players are called donkeys, pushmonkeys and worse by the self-appointed table authorities on the game.

Plaza Ponies

Countdown to Vegas, Episode 3. Mrs. Jackmama suggested that I do some kind of countdown to my trip, and I decided to write a story per day from one of my previous visits.

March 2005

Mrs. Jackmama called to see how it was going. I told her we were playing the horses.

"I want to make a bet," she said.

"OK," I replied. "The fourth race at Tampa Bay Downs is coming up next."

We were in the sports and race book in the Plaza. I had just started to become interested in horse racing, and my parents decided to join me for a morning at the track.

I was primarily playing Aqueduct, because that's what the people on TV do. I have since learned that it's a bad idea to play the larger tracks, because that's where you're most likely to find the people that know what they're doing. Fortunately, I worked in some races from Tampa Bay Downs, because that's the first race track I ever visited in person. The reasoning may have been lame, but at least it was a smaller track, and not very attractive to the good handicappers. My bets throughout the morning were not very notable. I won just enough to keep betting, and even hit an exacta, although it didn't pay out much. That's what you get for betting a 2-favorite exacta.

I read off the names of the horses in the fourth race, and Mrs. Jackmama selected one. I chuckled to myself, knowing that the name was no way to pick a winner. I'd been puzzling through the racing form all morning, and was on the cusp of figuring out the best method for handicapping, and it had nothing to do with the name, I'll have you know.

"You want to bet it to win, place or show?" I asked.

"To win!"

"OK, good luck."

I returned to our table to pick an actual winner. I found one that looked promising, and placed our bets.

Mrs. Jackmama's horse won. Of course.

Mom was using a name-based betting system, as well. We'd been chatting with the ladies at the window with each bet, and they tolerated our silliness because we were clearly there for entertainment purposes only. Somewhere around the 8th race, Mom informed one of the ladies that her next bet would be buying dinner.

After the race had run, the lady asked us if she should sent the hot dog guy around.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Netflix Comedy

This has to be the funniest Netflix queue entry ever. I guess that's not a very high threshold.

Rite of Passage

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the holiday which bears his name, I played some poker today. It's the least I could do with my day off.

I've never considered myself to be a writer. Sure, there's that Bachelor's Degree in English, but I focused primarily on literary criticism. I took several creative writing courses, but only wrote enough to complete the assignments. I actually had a short essay published in the university's literary magazine as a freshman, called "Why Are Women Cold?" I'll have dig that one up and post it. It makes me cringe, as I notice some of the more clumsy elements, but I still like it, and I'm proud of it. Not many people ever find themselves published, even in a small University magazine.

I wrote a paper on Rene Descartes for a philosophy class I took at community college as I re-took most of my freshman year (turns out you actually need to go to class once in a while. Who knew?). The instructor asked if he could submit it to the literary magazine there, and I'm told that it was actually published. One of these days, I should look it up and see.

So what happened? I just never thought I had anything to say. I enjoy writing, and believe I do a competent job of it, but the motivation has never been there. So, rather than go to work at a Kwik-E-Mart or whatever English majors end up doing, I continued working at the PC company where I built computers during college, and eventually worked my way up into one of those fancy IT jobs, just before the tech bubble burst and the music stopped. I feel for everyone that was left without a chair, but I'm grateful for how things worked out for me.

So now, thanks to this blog, I'm back to writing, and today I feel like a Real Writer. For each and every day leading up to my Vegas trip, I was writing a different story about a previous trip. Yesterday, there was no story. I missed a deadline! That's what makes a real writer, dagnabit.

Rather than revel in my writerhood, though, I am compelled to get back to work. I noticed that I am now linked by some of my favorite blogs, and I have an obligation to prove I can type several words per day, organized into neat sentences and paragraphs. It is the ability to blog that separates us from the animals. Except for all those people that blog pictures of their dogs and cats...you can never really tell who is in charge there. Some of those animals look pretty sophisticated.

Thanks to AlCantHang, JoeSpeaker and MrSubliminal for throwing my link into your blogrolls. Even when you primarily write for yourself, it's nice to know that people are reading.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Making an Entrance

Countdown to Vegas, Episode 2. Mrs. Jackmama suggested that I do some kind of countdown to my trip, and I decided to write a story per day from one of my previous visits.

March 2003

I didn't make my first trip to Las Vegas until I was 30 years old. For whatever reason, I had suppressed the inner gamble and hadn't yet felt the pull. I think a large part of that stems from traveling in a circle of friends that never arranged a bachelor party in Las Vegas. Everyone else in my family seems to have done that, but the planets never aligned for me. I am holding out for a friend of mine to get married again, if only so I can convince him to have the wedding in Las Vegas. I selflessly offered to make the trip, and to attend the wedding between sessions at the craps table.

It happened that one year, my parents and aunt and uncle were planning a spring trip to Vegas, and asked Mrs. Jackmama and I if we would be interested. Well, yes. Aside from being our first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, this was also the first time I'd been invited to go on vacation with my parents, and accorded the same adult status as everyone else (i.e., they weren't going to pick up the check). I've always been a largely independent sort of kid, but something about going on a vacation with your parents as an adult gives you pause for thought. Like having to stop thinking of yourself as a kid. Which I apparently haven't done yet, almost three years later.

We stayed at the New Frontier, which now holds the distinction of being Next Rat-trap to Be Torn Down, I think. The last time I strolled through the Frontier, I felt an almost palpable sense of desperation, exhaustion and fatalism. Unlike other casinos, where some craps table or roulette table is crowded with a cackling bachelorette party, the Frontier is like walking into a library. A library with rows of slot machines and no prohibition on smoking, that is. The entire gambling population seems to be retirees bent on putting their last fifty bucks into a slot machine so the ungrateful wretches that sold their houses and put them in retirement communities can't take the last of it. I wanted to play some blackjack, for old time's sake, but I just couldn't get out of there fast enough.

My parents and aunt and uncle have made many, many pilgrimages to the Mecca. For our first trip, they wanted to make sure we saw all the sights we'd need to see, and to make sure that we signed up for player's cards at every casino. They each produced lanyards with a dozen cards attached, that they carried along with them to every casino. In order to get rated for your play, the casinos require that you sign up for one of their cards and present it at every game you play. I initially scoffed at the idea, but using the card at the Frontier, combined with my mom's characteristic persistence, resulted in a Sunday - Saturday stay of $246. At that rate, I can forgive many shortcomings in a hotel.

After checking in, we went on a walking tour of the north end of the Strip. We strolled through the Stardust, which is somewhat less dead than the Frontier, but Boyd Gaming's recent announcement of plans to tear it down can't have come too soon. All the bargain-rate travelers, and families staying at Circus Circus have destroyed everything north of the Wynn. All of this went unnoticed by me in 2003, in part because I was seeing everything through new eyes, and partly because the Wynn was a vast construction project directly outside my window at the Frontier, and was populated by loud machines which woke me up at promptly 6:05 each morning. I was told that a new resort was going up, and that it was by Steve Wynn. In my Vegas innocence, that meant very little to me. I actually imagined it was some sort of waterpark going in.

Our next stop was the Westward Ho, which was Next Rat-trap to Be Torn Down a couple of months ago. I believe it has realized that potential. I remember being in middle school when my parents made their first trip to Vegas, and that they stayed at the Westward Ho. They even brought back some decks of cards, and the Westward Ho was one of my favorite decks. It seemed like an adventurous name for an exciting place. Jeez louise. I can't imagine a less adventurous or exciting place. I read recently about parents who take advantage of in-store daycares at places like Ikea, and drop their kids off to go get their hair cut or shop elsewhere, and then return after several hours to collect their kids. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that people did the same thing with their elderly parents at Westward Ho. If those people were any older or more sedentary, they'd be under glass. *rim-shot*

The Westward Ho earned its place in the pantheon of my gambling memory by being the very first casino I ever played blackjack in, outside of Indian casinos. Indian casinos don't count because, as one man I met so accurately described them, "They're just bingo halls that deal cards." So I made my grand entrance at a $3 table.

It wasn't my first time playing blackjack, so I had a decent handle on basic strategy and could play without looking like an idiot. Well, I thought so, anyway.

I played a couple of easy hands before a waitress came along. "Can I get you something, hun?"

"Sure, could I get a Corona?"

She favored me with a pitying glance and then explained, "I'm sorry, dear, but since you're only betting 3 dollars, I can only get you something from the tap."

Ouch. Way to look like you've been there before.

"A glass of Bud Light would be fine," I said, trying to maintain some dignity.

The next hand was dealt and I was so flustered by the waitress that I made a really stupid play. Hit 4 against a 6 or something. I don't remember what the cards were, but it set the old biddies at the other end of the table into a grumbling festival. Never show weakness in front of bitter old women waiting to die. I played a few more hands and then moved on.

As the week wore on, I realized how ridiculous the situation at the Westward Ho was. I had no reason to feel flustered because the cheap bastards that run the casino wouldn't offer bottled beer at the table. Hell, they advertise 99 cent bottles of Heineken! Can they really expect people to believe that they lose money on beer at a $3 blackjack table?

Further, the people that bitch and complain about other players at a blackjack table almost never understand the game. They learned how to play from some uncle that picked up what he knew from a strategy card, and don't know how to react to unorthodox plays. I've been known to split 9s against an 8, knowing that it's a risk to try to hit two 10s, but sometimes I haven't seen many 10s and know that they must be coming. Big deal. The biggest mistake people make at a blackjack table is believing that someone else's play affects them. Those people irritate me.

Clearly, I am a lot more confident in the casinos now, with several more Vegas trips under my belt. I'm also more comfortable allowing the Inner Gambler to shine through sometimes, especially if it's going to piss off some old biddy that learned how to play blackjack in a bingo parlor. I will go out of my way to help new people that ask for help, and I'll defend people that play foolishly, because it's their damned money. Mostly though, I don't play a lot of blackjack any more. If I'm going to gamble at something with a house advantage, I'll play craps. There's just something about a game where everyone wins and loses together.

Except for those Don't Pass bettors who don't know to keep their traps shut when they're winning. They can go straight to Hell with those old biddies that welcomed me to the Westward Ho.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Lucky at the Hard Rock

Countdown to Vegas, Episode 1. Mrs. Jackmama suggested that I do some kind of countdown to my trip, and I decided to write a story per day from one of my previous visits.

July 2005

I'm in Las Vegas for a notorious computer hacking conference. This is the last year it will be held at the Alexis Park Resort Hotel, across from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, although we don't know it. The Alexis Park is an all-suite hotel, which turns into a large collective of various parties and DJ stands every night during DefCon. For many people, this is their major vacation of the year, and the only time to see some friends.

I know a few people here, but I'm primarily interested in the talks. A large part of my job is handling network and computer security, and so hearing directly from the people on both sides of the hacking front is instructive. I've been spending most of my time watching the various talks or browsing the vendor booths. Periodically, I'll stop in what is known as the "chill-out" area, where you can get a beer from the bar and just hang out for a bit.

In the chill-out area I overhear a man explaining to someone how he convinced his employer to place a priority on security, "It's like a prostate exam. It's unpleasant at first..."

This is the first time I've heard someone imply that a prostate exam gets better after the initial discomfort. I'm guessing that you just need to lay back and enjoy it. Fortunately, I'm still several years away from my first exam. In a year or two, a technological breakthrough will radically change the prostate exam into something that can be delivered via a shot of tequila. Anyone that can't handle tequila can stick with the old way.

As the Saturday afternoon talks wind down, I decide it's time to get some gamble on. I've been in Vegas since Thursday night, and haven't caught so much as a whiff of green felt. I feel the lure of the MGM poker room, but for some reason decide to kick it old-school, and try out Binion's. I jump into a 2/4 Hold 'Em game and make a respectable $35 in the hour I'm sitting there. For all the history and Binion's "mystique," the poker room is pretty dumpy. I'm ready to hit the road when I get a call from some friends that they're going to be hosting a party in their room tonight.

I return to the Alexis Park, back to even. Note to self, try to earn more than cab fare next time you decide to journey downtown. I stop at my room to pick up some bottles of Newcastle and head over to the party suite. I find it well-stocked with Corona, and so I dig into those after depositing my Newcastle in the sink (in ice, not poured out, mind you).

I start talking to a couple guys about craps, and we all start to feel the itch. We find ourselves walking to the Hard Rock in very short order.

It's a Saturday night, and this is the Hard Rock, so table minimum is $10. That's a little beyond my normal craps comfort zone, but since I have hardly gambled so far this trip, I feel like I can absorb the risk. One of the tables is nearly full, and I head over there, peripherally aware of the other two guys taking positions across the table.

The girl to my left has a mantra. Prior to every throw, and for every shooter, she calls, "Come on, shooootah!" Her voice is nasal, with some sort of Brooklyn accent, and she sounds an awful lot like Fran Drescher. It's hypnotic, almost, and since the table keeps paying, I like it. Every time she calls out, "Come on, shooootah!" it sounds like chips stacking up in front of me. The Casino is dark, casting shadows on even those standing next to you, but after a brief glance, I'm pretty sure this girl is as hot as her voice is annoying. I don't care about that, though, she just needs to keep with the rhythm, "Come on, shoooootah!"

We seem to have hit the perfect combination as a new shooter at the end of the table starts a magnificent run. The girl's Dad (boyfriend? Hard to say at the Hard Rock) stops by and she comments to him how the shooter is on fire. He says something to her and gestures toward the door. I can't allow her to leave!

"She has to stay! You're going to let her finish this point, right?"

He smiles and nods like I'm dangerous and not to be disturbed, but he steps back a bit and she stays. Another roll, another "Come on, shoooootah!" and I rake in some more chips.

The shooter finally craps out, and I find myself up $300. I look over at the girl and we share in the moment. Like when you're a kid and saved the best roller coaster in the park for last, and when the ride is over, you're exhilarated by the ride, but there's a hint of depression caused by the knowledge that you can't go again.

She leaves with her Dad (The sweet purity of the memory demands that I believe he was her Dad). I color up and head back to the party, relishing my first-ever winning session at the Hard Rock.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Omalympics

Donk, donk, donk-tastic. How else to sum up my performance in the DADI Omalympics Tourney last night? I might try to qualify my horrendous play by pointing out that I had never before played Pot-Limit Omaha8, but then I'd have to answer uncomfortable questions about why I ponied up the the eleven bucks to enter a tourney.

I managed to get a quick 15-minute skim of the Omaha Hi-Lo chapter in SS2, and took away two pearls of wisdom for the beginning player:

  • Only play if you have an ace.
  • Don't chase the low.

Now, that's some good advice. I figured I could follow that advice until I got comfortable in the game, and then let my "poker instinct" take it from there. Oh yeah, I'm like the LeBron James of poker...just put me out there on the court, and I let my natural talent take over.

Let's say I was dealt something along these lines -- KJT3. According to the rules outlined above, that's an easy fold, right? So why was I seeing so many flops with hands like that? How about A863? Don't chase the low...fold. Again, many flops. I may have confused natural poker talent for donktastic chip spewing ability.

I didn't go out first. I take solace in that.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Moment of Poker and Fatherhood Zen

I never read Fatherhood by Bill Cosby, but I'm fairly certain it does not contain the following sentence, spoken while playing NLHE online and holding your 7-week-old daughter:

"Tell ya what--I'm gonna play to my blind, and then we'll change your diaper."

It's a different generation, Cos.



Unacceptable.

My iTunes library has 4147 songs, and the following five songs comprise my entire Las Vegas playlist. It goes without saying that I'll need to raid the iTunes Music store for more selections. At the very least, I need to find some Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. And maybe some Celine Dion and Barry Manilow. OK, not so much those last two.

Lucky Too by Bob Neuwirth (Sung by Nick Stokes in the Tarantino-directed CSI)
Viva Las Vegas by Dead Kennedys
That Was Crazy Game of Poker by Of A Revolution
Baby Got Back by Richard Cheese (Lounge Act)
40 Miles to Vegas by Southern Culture on the Skids

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Pirate's Life for Me!



My pirate name is:


Iron Sam Roberts



A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. Two things complete your pirate persona: style and swagger. Maybe a little too much swagger sometimes -- but who really cares? Arr!

Get your own pirate name from fidius.org.

The Rockets' Red Glare

Someone at PokerStars is reading this blog. Even though sitemeter confirms that I am the only reader, along with spambots and itinerant poker bloggers. Well, the good doctor visited one time, anyway. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that no one, especially people of influence at PokerStars, reads this blog, I remain convinced. And I have evidence.

Remember this post? I made a big deal out of how cool it was for Full Tilt to release a Mac client, and that everyone should buy a Mac and play online at Full Tilt. I have not yet felt the wrath of Bill Gates, but the "good people" (and I say good people in the most sarcastic, finger-quoting way possible) at PokerStars have made their displeasure known.

There was some time set aside Saturday night for poker. This is a rare and wonderful thing, as anyone with two small children will attest. I decided to try a $10+1 SNG, and see if I could turn around my recent slump in tourneys. No. Apparently not. Two SNGs, two early bust-outs. That left my PokerStars account looking pretty anemic, and so I hit the ring games to rebuild it.

The pain of reading through the hand histories is more than I can stomach, but I distinctly remember having my ass handed to me at least 3 times in an hour, by the same guy holding AA each time. Put that on my stubborn refusal to believe that he had AA every time (and he had it a couple of times when I wasn't in the hand, too). I believe that PokerStars knew that repeated AA beatdowns would tilt me, and that's what it did. Dirty bastards. Let's see if they can hurt me when I don't have any money left on their site! Ha, take that!

I still do reasonably well on Full Tilt lately, and so I guess I just kinda freaked out this weekend on the AA guy. Really irritating. I suppose I just need to suck it up and try to get a few wins. I'm intrigued by the tournament strategy set forth in Kill Phil by Blair Rodman and Lee Nelson. I may force myself to play a few tourneys by its guidelines, just to get outside of my game a little bit and see what I've been missing lately. They're printing strategy cards for people to buy and take into live tourneys, which doesn't seem too useful. If I see a guy referring to a Kill Phil strategy card, I'm pretty sure he's going all-in with premium hands, or he's folding. Not much to read, there. Still, a lot of people are reporting success using the strategy, and my guess is that the push-or-fold nature of it is tilting people left and right. It would be fun to be called a pushmonkey as I knock somebody out.

Anyway...

I leave for Vegas in a week and a half. Time to start watching some movies to get the blood rushing. Here are some that I have in mind:

  • The Cincinnati Kid (I just got this one, and have never seen the whole thing)
  • Swingers (They're gonna give Daddy the Rainman suite!)
  • Ocean's 11 (It's just so pretty)
  • Rounders (Johnny Fuckin Chan)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Cry Me a River

My love affair with the NLHE ring games continues. I've been playing the ring games on Full Tilt, and tourneys on PokerStars. I'm not sure why I broke it out like that, but it's causing me to ignore PokerStars and my subpar tourney performance of late. I also love Full Tilt because of the Mac client. I may start playing there exclusively, to save the trouble of firing up Virtual PC on ye olde powerbooke.

Enough with the Fult Tilt pimpage. Everyone should buy a Mac, and everyone should play on Full Tilt. Well, now I'm done.

Also, immediately following my anti-strategy post, we have here a strategy post. Or at least commentary on a hand I played. I'm whimsical and contrary like that.

I played a hand last night at a .25/.50 NLHE table that highlights the crippling effect of weak betting. It's the very first hand, and I'm dealt Ac5s in the BB. Folded to MP, who raises to $1, his left calls, folded to me. I decide to see a flop and call for another .50.

Flop comes Kc Ah As. Nice, but if someone else is holding an A, I'm out-kicked. I check, ready to fold to a decent bet. The other two check. Either they're both scared, or slowplaying.

Turn comes Js. Well now, I now longer have to worry about the A, unless one of them has AK, AQ or AJ. Based on preflop betting, I consider it unlikely. It is possible, however, that one of them decided to play QT, and just hit a straight. I figure that one of them is going to bet, and since it's conceivable that I'm beat, I'll probably fold to a 3/4 or pot-sized bet. I check, and original raiser bets $1, his left calls. This isn't enough information, so I raise to $4. Both call. I figure at least one of them has me beat, but I get to see one more card.

5c comes on the river. So now I've beaten the straight and the Ax. I've already ruled out AK, AQ and AJ, so I figure I've got the nuts at this point, but at least one of the other players thinks he's the winner. I bet a measly $3 to bring out a raise, but both players call. I take it down and they muck. $24.25 to me, after being willing to fold on both 3rd and 4th street to any aggressive bet.

Original raiser had AT, and complains about the river. I'm not sure why...the best he had was a tie if I don't hit that 5. Other player had hit the straight on the turn, and must have thought he was being crafty with his slowplay. If he figured he was that far ahead, though...why not raise on the river? I didn't stay at the table for very long, but I imagine that guy was just a calling station and thought he was reeling us in.

So, they both had a chance to take the pot outright. The AT could have bet strong on the flop, and the QT should have bet the turn, in order to drive out the straight and flush draws. Neither one gave an indication that they were trying to maximize the return on their hands -- they simply played weak-tight and it bit 'em.

My favorite part, of course, is that they both saw it as a bad beat, and thought the river beat them. I'll happily accept the luckbox table image, especially from people that play so weakly that they don't recognize their own culpability in my win.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dreaming of Living the Dream

I wandered into the online casino at Pinnacle Sports Book the other day, shocked to find that it launched automatically in the web browser, and ran on my Mac. I checked out the blackjack game and won back the money I lost on those awful Sunday football picks. Today, I popped on and won the money I lost on the USC chokers. How long do you suppose I can keep up a winning streak in online blackjack?

The poker sections of bookstores are overflowing with strategy offerings. Many, many poker blogs and discussion forums exist for the sole purpose of discussing topics like whether to play AJs in the cutoff, shorthanded in a cash game online. Or in a brick and mortar casino. Is the strategy different? Do you have a read on your opponents? Discuss.

That bores me. I read the books, mind you, and gain some valuable insight from the authors. I really don't care to talk about it, though. In my experience, every single situation is just different enough that trying to devise an optimal overall strategy is futile. Maybe that makes me a "feel" player. Actually, I do base a lot of my play on feel. If I had to grind it out in limit games, basing every decision strictly on pot odds and implied odds, I'd stop playing.

Poker is about winning money. No two ways about it. It's not about making the mathematically correct play or being smarter than the other people or executing elegant strategies (What the hell is a stop-n-go? Who cares?). Just money. I'd like for everyone at the table to think I'm a luckbox, and I won't try to defend plays that someone else thinks are dumb. Especially if I just sucked out a 3rd six for my pocket sixes to beat his pocket queens (it happened last night. Fu-huh-nny). I make good plays most of the time and questionable plays often enough to make sure I get action on my good hands. Works for me.

That's about as far in-depth as my poker discussion gets. I am far more interested in the gambling lifestyle, such as it is. Dr. Pauly owes much of his success to his excellent coverage of the 2005 World Series of Poker, and an equal measure to stories surrounding the WSOP. He's living the dream, doing what many of us would love to do, and reporting it all back to us. Anyone that plays as much poker as he does is bound to have some good strategy conversations, but that's not what his blog is about. It's about everything that goes along with playing poker, gambling and spending time in Vegas, topics near and dear to my heart.

If someone wants to share stories about how pissed off that one guy got when his aces got cracked, I'm up for that. Any sort of story about gambling, surrounding gambling, or completely unrelated to gambling works for me. Do you see why?*

I think of this blog as my gambling diary. Sure, poker dominates my time, but there's plenty of craps, sports betting and horse racing to fit in there, as well as the broad category of "other." What possible strategy can there be in playing online blackjack? You get more hands per hour, which means playing basic strategy will bleed your money away faster than if you just sit in a casino. But I'm up 50 bucks on it! That's the beauty of gambling.

I think it was in Tales From the Tiltboys that I saw the theory of luck discussed. Sure, blackjack is a negative expectation game over time, but how much time? Could I play enough blackjack to be a winner and never have it even out on me? This could account for why some people are considered lucky and some unlucky. The long run may just be too long for variance to catch up with you. That's my dream, anyway. Always on the run from the Law of Large Numbers.

Well, that was fun. Let's have more of these rambling, mostly disjointed discussions. Later.

*If you got that joke, you spend too much time reading strategy forums. If you didn't get it, it was pretty lame anyway.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sometimes the hype is right

I'm working on some more honest-to-goodness poker content, but in the meantime, I felt compelled to make a pick for tonight's Rose Bowl. Sometimes the hype is right on target and tonight I think we'll see USC trounce a Longhorn team that struggled against Oklahoma State in one of their last games. I hate to be the 90th person to point it out, but there won't be any comebacks against USC. If you're not scoring a touchdown on every possession, the game is over.

Selection 1: NCAA Football
USC 4-January-2006 5:00 PM PST
Spread -7 for Game +100

Monday, January 02, 2006

It's all part of my rock roll fantasy

Ouch. I sincerely apologize if anyone took those picks yesterday. They were just bad, bad, bad.

I was down to the Fantasy Bowl in my work league yesterday. Winner of the Fantasy Bowl gets 50% of the prize pool, and the loser gets nothing. I already have 30% coming to me (winning my division, plus most overall points scored in the regular season), but a nice round 80% sounded nice. Unfortunately, I rode Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck for most of the season, and they weren't getting much time in a meaningless game. I was leading until the closing minutes of the Eagles/Redskins, when the Redskins defense scored off a fumble recovery. Ouch.

Going into last night's game, I was leading my family fantasy league by 7 points. This league pays out weekly based on best score, and the big payout is for the highest scores for the course of the season. Nipping at my heels were the teams with Terry Glenn and Julius Jones. Dead meat, right? Not this time. Those cowgirls choked like they were Larry Johnson having a tender moment with his girlfriend.

Fantasy recap - 30% of the overall in the work league, and first place in the family league. That should be a few hundred more for the Vegas bankroll.

Poker recap - after a couple of winning sessions in Full Tilt ring games ($.25/.50), I dropped a buy-in ($20) yesterday. I don't think I'll be building much of a bankroll at these limits.

Sports recap - Ugly. Still up for the season, but yesterday's losses were not pleasant.

I'm feeling the Vegas itch. All of the trip reports from the recent WPBT Tournament have me eager to try out the Excalibur and MGM poker rooms, and I want to see the new Caesar's room. Of course, the Wynn and Bellagio each require a visit, as well. And Casino Royale!

Wait a minute. Did you say Casino Royale?

Yes I did. I love playing $2 craps at Casino Royale. There, I've admitted it. I also enjoy playing craps at less sticky casinos, but I always need to clock some time at the 100X odds tables.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Last Call

For the final Sunday of the NFL season...

Selection 1: NFL Football
Chicago Bears 1-January-2006 1:15 PM PST
Money Line for Game +187

Selection 2: NFL Football
Cincinnati Bengals 1-January-2006 10:00 AM PST
Spread +9 for Game +100

Selection 3: NFL Football
New Orleans Saints/Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-January-2006 10:00 AM PST
Total Points UNDER 37.5 for Game -103