Monday, January 26, 2009

The Neal Game

Neal is a big fat bald grumpy racist arrogant stupid white man. I first met him in an Omaha 8 or Better game in 2005/2006 when Danielle and I used to drive down to Bay 101 from San Francisco to play in said game. He was awful to deal with then, cursing at everyone, making rude and racist comments, and generally making the game not much fun. He was also awful at the game, playing virtually any starting hand and raising most of them, usually basing his actions on who was in the hand that he currently wanted to "go get". At the time I knew that he also played 20/40, but thought it was a pipe dream for me to ever be playing that high. Because you see, while Neal probably actually is the single most irritating player in the history of live 20/40 Texas Hold 'Em, he must also mentioned in any discussion of the worst.

He usually plays on the weekends, often Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons. His money comes from owning massage parlors (or so legend has it). In the last 6 months I've only managed to play with him thrice, twice by pure luck and once more because Hank texted to let me know Neal was at Bay 101 (so I drove over from Garden City) because I don't usually play at those times. You see, when Neal is in the game an entire social network is activated. Phones are dialed. Texts are sent. Posts are posted. Statuses are updated. Hell, twitters might even bet twitted. Grown men call their wives to delay dinner. Babysitters might pull overtime. They might as well have a giant spotlight in the shape of a fish on the roof that they can fire up when he pulls into the parking lot. I once saw 7 people request a change to his table before he had been dealt a hand. That's out of 27 players at 3 tables. Think about what that means. Someone with down syndrome could sit down and 7 people wouldn't ask to change to his table. Lamont Jordan sits down and hardly anybody notices. But Neal? "Floor Man, get me into that game!!"

First, we'll go with some choice Neal phrases and sayings. Then we'll move onto his playing "style", if you'll allow me some leeway in diction, and finally a few examples of how he took 6 racks of chips and transferred them directly to me over the course of 5 hours last night.

Neal is a racist, or at least says things that if taken at face value would certainly condemn him as such. After winning a pot against a Chinese player (whose English is sub-par) he yells stuff that sounds Chinese but is in fact complete gibberish. For example, this 260 pound balding white man with a red pony tail will stand up, addressing specifically his foil from the previous hand, whose chips he is now stacking because he went runner runner gutter gutter for a 7 high straight, and say loudly enough for 40 people to hear "Hung yung now no chow fat eh sum chee!!" Another of his choice expressions is "Damn it, I'm an American!" or "Don't hate me because I'm an American!" He also makes fun of Indian people (he had nicknamed one player at our table Bolly and swore at him repeatedly after one in fairness this player has an Indian accent and has been known to sing from time to time during a hand). If you're white, Neal assumes you're gay and will almost surely call you a faggot at some point in your session (I somehow escaped unscathed last night, possibly because I was quietly listening to my head phones stacking 9 racks of chips).

Neal is also abusive to the staff. He berates the dealers and, unlike most people like him who are so obnoxious that their night often ends via the ban stick, he doesn't tip anybody. Not the floor, not the dealer, not the porters, nobody. He wins pots and actually says stuff like "Can you chop this up?" while holding up a $1 chip. When the dealer shakes her head and says know he says "Ah well never mind then I'll keep it". During hands he says "Well we know she's (the dealer) rooting for you cause if I win she's not gettin' a dime!" Now I'm pretty tight about tipping, but I always give the dealer a buck when I win a pot (Except for one dealer whose specific mistake cost me 10 dollars because I had to pay the small blind twice. He still owes me 8 bucks). Neal never gives anyone anything, and he makes a big deal about the fact that he doesn't. I've never seen anything like it. Stockton Thunder, on the other hand, tips everyone in sight. He calls chip runners over to the table to tip them because the last time he tipped them (a few days ago), he ran well.

Now onto Neal's playing style. The first thing you'll notice is that there is about a 10% chance that at some point during the current hand Neal is going to expose one or both of his cards. He does this whenever he feels like it, rules or etiquette be damned. He doesn't even do it to his own advantage (as if flipping your hand face up could ever be to your advantage). I once flopped top set of Queens against him. The turn was a 3rd heart and he donked into me. I raised once more, and he turned his flush over and said "well, I gotta call you down". On the river I failed to fill up and of just quietly mucked my hand after he checked to me. Yesterday he went all-in, preflop, against 3 or so opponents, and said "I'm gonna play this one face up" and turned over his hand (which was like 7-high I think...the hand was humorous because he flopped a gut shot). Obviously this is horribly bad, since other players are going to play out the hand, and in fact had either of them called the floor man for a ruling I am 100% certain Neal's hand would have been killed. But there's the rub.....Neal is so bad, so truly, fantastically awful that nobody ever calls the floor on him. Ever. He is simply lighting so many chips on fire by live-straddling and capping blind and exposing his hand but still somehow missing value bets that everyone knows just to shut up and deal with it.

Yesterday I sat down at table 39, noted that Neal was on 37, walked toward the floor man and before I could reach him was greeted with "Let me guess, you want 37?". I thanked him and got a seat two to Neal's left (the almost Jesus seat) within 10 minutes. Neal played like his usual self, occasionally heating up and winning a few pots in a row, but generally playing so badly that it would be almost impossible for him to walk about of the casino with chips. My favorite hand went like this:

Neal open limps, and the aforementioned Bolly raises. Bolly (whose real name I don't know) is not stupid, and realizes that with Neal in the hand/game, most bets on hand ranges are off. I 3-bet red queens next in and we see the flop 4 handed (either a limper or one of the blinds called all the bets). The flop brings:

9c 8s 4c

This isn't great, but I can work with it. Boy can I work with it. Neal bets, Bolly raises, I turbo 3-bet and Neal calls. I suddenly look over and realize that Neal started the hand with less than 10 big bets. This could be awesome. Bolly declines his option to cap. This, too, bodes well.


Neal donks again, and Bali again raises. Folding is out of the question here....but to start calling down or continue to go bat shit, that is the question. I opt for full out bat shit mode and 3-bet. Neal caps before I'm even done with the 3-bet and says "Come on guys, catch up!". Bolly calls (he has some sort of combo-nut flush draw here like always and was hoping to get me to fold....Ace-High....Bad play on his part but whatever), I call, and Neal exposes his hand and bets the river dark, all-in. He holds:

Kc 8c pair and the second nut flush draw. The river blanks off, Bolly folds what he later said was "top pair and a nut flush draw" and I drag a monstrous pot. Neal swears in my general direction, but I don't really hear it as I'm busy stacking up this $1100 dollar pot. He calls it quits for the day, and I am sad. I manage to win one more humongous (this time heads up, my AKs cracking the mighty AQo) pot, then finish stacking up my 9 racks of chips. I then realize that if he really does play most Sundays my NFL habit is costing me a few hundred bucks a week :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Need a heater? Go to Boston

Boy was it cold in Boston. Like 6 at one point. I had a great time hanging out with all my buddies, some more of whom should be reading this blog after hearing about it from me or someone else. The day we left (we took the Wednesday night red eye) I posted a $1250 win in the Bay 101 20/40 game. As usual had I left earlier I'd have had two more racks, but this time managing to actually leave with some profit made me not mind that part.

Today I woke up at 6am Eastern and landed at SFO around Noon Pacific. I was sitting in a Bay 101 20/40 game by 3pm and spent 5 hours in "The Neal Game." Tomorrow's post will be all about this game....for now let's just leave it as I once said on 2p2....Neal walking into the casino is like someone throwing you a $100 chip. All you've gotta do is catch it. I cashed a 7 rack winner today (my largest ever actually) and am now showing a profit of $1500 for the month of January. Hey, better than busto, amirite?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Depressing Numbers

I played about 5 hours at Bay 101 today, and for what seems like the 10th time in a row or something absurd like that the session started off well (up 2 racks or similar) and ended with my tail between my legs, booking a small win or loss. Here are the stats on the current downswing (rounded):

2009 total lost: 3300
Amount lost since January 5th: 5600
Amount lost since December 5th: 500
Win rate at 20/40 on December 5th: 62/hour
Win rate at 20/40 now: 52/hour
Consecutive losing sessions above 20/40: 6

Obviously my lifetime stats still tell me I'm a huge winner, but 6 weeks of break even poker is really trying my patience.

Monday, January 19, 2009

More Breaking Even and Frustration

Today was a bad day. I played for over 7 hours and won $27. At one point early on I was up 900, and a few hours before I left I had a win of $1200 in the bag. Then I took a couple of rough ones and may or may not have went on's so hard to tell. I folded the best hand twice and called down drawing dead two more times, but I'm not really sure I misplayed anything. I did work on my theory of the nuts. Specifically, I know where to find the nuts....the nuts lives in the hand of the player who check/raises you on the turn. Always. I don't care that you're getting 9:2 to call down from that raise. Dude has the nuts and if you can't beat 'em you best lay your hand down.

I did see some hilarious stuff today, but even thinking about it makes me feel like a bad person because I kind of turned into a jerk at the table at one point....meh, ok here goes.

This guy who's a "new regular" the past few weeks puts two bad ones on me. The flop is 33T and he's the big blind and I'm the 3rd limper in the cutoff. He has A3 and I have QT. He check/raises me on the turn and for some reason I pay him off. I even take off my headphones and announce to the table "Jeeze he's shaking!" while noting that the hand he bet his chips with is shaking a little. I'm more mad at myself than anything else. Like two hands later I open raise KJs and the flop is KT6 and I bet and he actually asks "so if I raise will you raise again" and I say "that's not very fair to the other person in the hand sir" and he's like "Ah well then I raise" and the other person folds and I turbo 3-bet and he calls. I practically dark bet the turn which is an 8 and he raises in rhythm. Again I call him down like a retard, and this time I see T8 for the turned two pair. A few hands later I extract a little revenge when I raise 3 limpers from the big blind with pocket 8s, flop a set, get raised by the aforementioned villain when a 3rd club hits on the turn, and check/raise his ass on the river when the board pairs.

So this guy leaves...and like 90 minutes later he comes back and is at my table again. I open raise 98 of hearts two off the button and of course the flop goes off 4ways (that's 3 of the 4 people who still had cards call me). The flop is like T54 with one heart and two spades and I just check. I end up calling a bet getting 11:1 closing the action with two weak back door draws. Of course the Q of hearts rolls off the deck and it checks to the guy who bet the last street...he checks, but our favorite villain now bets from the button. The small blind (his name is Jesus and he is not good at the poker) raises and puts me right to it. There are 9 bets in the pot and I'm being asked to call 2...the problem is that my flush draw is often not good here, as one of the hands bad players raise the turn with in ridiculously massive and protected pots is a naked flush draw. I call though, as I can't make the soul read. Villain calls. The river checks through and villain fastrolls Q3 of spades on the button. Jesus says "that's good I missed" and flashes two hearts (my flush draw was in fact no good). I look at him in that way players who have just lost a hand often look at one another, saying but not saying "why did you light my chips on fire sir?" and he gets the message. He says "I thought I could steal it" and I say "You thought he would fold? He's never folded a hand in his life!"

Obviously I should never have said this, but boy was it funny. Villain seems to think he's not an awful player and takes offense. I quickly don my head phones and try to not listen, but he's muttering something. I'm still kind of upset about his whole "if I raise will you raise me" speech he made in the middle of that hand a while back and figure perhaps I've fanned the flames enough. 10 minutes later the following lunacy ensues....

In an 8 handed pot I see a flop with his hand...Q3 of spades....from the big blind. The flop comes down pretty boringly....52T with two spades. I donk because the raiser is like one off the button and there are about 47 players with live hands between me and him. 45 of them call, then it gets 2 bet and the preflop raiser 3 bets. I call only, hoping to keep the pot 4 or 5 way and abandoning all hope of winning without drastic improvement. Our favorite villain goes into the tank and eventually calls. We see the turn I think 5 ways, and I pick up a 3 for a board of:


Now with two spades and two hearts. I check and end up calling one bet. Our favorite villain calls in rhythm this time. The river is the Ace of Diamonds. I check and our favorite villain...comes to live and bets. Two players call him (I of course don't) and he tables 44 for the wheel (5 high straight). The preflop raiser flashes his set of Tens and says "You were right! He never folds anything! 3 bets on the flop....with nothing! Nothing!" and so forth and so such. A great clamor did ensue with villain trying to "splain" himself, and I just kind of sat there.

I learned another lesson today, and that that I'm not learning how to keep my mouth shut. Damn it why is this so hard?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Random Musings

First of all, the Pittsburgh Steelers are awesome. Many of you don't know this, but I was born and raised 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh and will be a die hard Steeler's fan for the rest of my life. I try to love the Pirates, but their historic losing streak is getting to be more than all but the likes of my Dad can stand. And hockey just isn't my thing...probably because I never played it outside of D League IMs in college. But the Steelers....Gotta love 'em.

In today's game they missed a ton of opportunities. Limas Sweed drops a ball that should be caught 100 times in a row. Then doesn't get off the field because he's either hurt or sorry for himself. He cost them 7 points then 3 points in one fluid motion (the only reason they were even close to attempting a field goal there was another awful call by the refs, this one going for the Steelers on a phantom roughing of the kicker...I was almost glad that didn't result in points). The Santonio non-catch on the 6 inch line (which was the right call...just a tough break) was painful. The two pass interference calls in the end zone (one of which was bad officiating, the other of which was bad defense) basically accounted for all of Baltimore's points. The ridiculous non-call when the Baltimore player drove his helmet into Ben's spine a full second after Ben had released the ball was just silly. Even with all that (and admittedly there is usually a lot of stuff that goes wrong), they won easily. It's gonna be fun to be a Steeler's fan the next two weeks :)

Changing topics completely....

As I've gotten more experienced at this I've noticed that I feel like I'm making more mistakes than I used to. For a while this worried me, but then I realized that in all likelihood I've just gotten a lot better at recognizing mistakes. Think about you get better at something cerebral, like poker or any other sort of game, your ability to identify mistakes probably improves along with your ability to avoid them. Therefore, for a while, you'll probably notice the same number of mistakes. Interesting concept, at least to me....

And again....

My confidence is pretty shaken right now, but upon looking at my recent numbers I've realized that most of my current downswing (the exact depth of which I haven't figured out just yet) has occurred at 30/60 and 40/80. At 20/40 I'm still basically running pretty well, which is very reassuring. I'm back in the saddle tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday before taking a 4 day trip to Boston for my fraternity's annual alumni weekend. Going back for this weekend is something I really look forward to, and I'm hoping this year it will give me a chance to clear my head. How could you not like hanging out with a bunch of guys who managed to do this?

In closing....

It's been rough the past few weeks, but the people close to me have been there for support, and that has really helped. Specifically Pete, Hank, and Danielle have given me both encouragement and honest feedback that have helped keep me grounded and rational. Thanks so much :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pete and I go-go bananas

Pete and I have played a lot of fun hands in the last two days. Here is a link to one in which I get a little over zealous and 3-bet him with pocket 2s from the small blind.

In that hand, I kind of thought 22 was good enough to raise, but I've realized that honestly it's not given how well Pete plays post flop.

This hand wasn't against Pete, but I thought it was kind of interesting. I used to just call down the turn bet, I think, and realize now that if I can't raise the river, that's exactly what I should be doing anyway.

Pete and I played two fun ones today that don't warrant posting on 2p2 :)

We sit down at a fresh 20/40 table and within the first 2 orbits I open raise Ace-Queen of clubs in early position. Pete 3-bets me next in and everyone else folds. I call.

Side note....Pete and I have been in email contact about him opening up his raising range a little. He knows I open raise lighter than he does in this spot. He also knows that I no longer cap (4-bet) out of position heads up with any hand (including pocket aces). So...he knows I'm raising light, and knows I know he knows. I know he should be 3-betting a tad light, and know he knows I know. And we both know I can have Aces. Got it?

The flop is:

Tc 9c 8s

Otherwise known as Gin for me. I check, because he will bet. He bets, because that's what he's supposed to do. I raise, because I suspect my equity against his range to be ginormous. I also plan to triple barrel and get him to fold AK, which is basically a coup equity wise. He calls only, and I start counting his chips. Turn is:


I bet, still very confident. Pete calls. I am un-deterred. The river is:

Qs for a final board of T98-9-Qsss

Remember now I have AQ of clubs. I just made top-top. For a moment I look at the board and almost bet out of pure joy. Then I think for a second, and suddenly realize that I have lost. There is basically nothing I beat. Try to put together a hand that works for his action after the flop and see if I can beat it. Unless he has AK, which I trust he won't bet because he can't suspect I will ever fold, I have lost. I lose to the sets. I lose to KK and AA. I chop with AQ but that hand makes no sense. I lose to any hand that holds a Jack. Basically I lose to everything. So I check. Pete bets. And I fold, face up. Pete is astonished and shows me the KJ of clubs for a king high straight. I feel awesome.

5 hours later.

Pete and I are again at the same table, and I limp after 2 limpers with pocket 2s. Pete calls, and the small blind takes it upon herself to raise. Everyone calls back to Pete, and he 3-bets. This is called back-raising and a recent thread on 2p2 I think inspired Pete here. One of the blinds caps it (it's not clear which one, honestly) and we all call. 6 ways for 4 bets to a flop of:

Ts 6h 2h

Hayaii!!!!! I has set!!!! Somehow the four people in front of me check, and I decide to bet. I've put Pete firmly on some sort of equity hog suited hand (T9, JT, A7, etc, etc) but think he'll check behind a lot. I can't let it check through, so bombs away. Pete raises, and the small blind calls. The big blind 3-bets, the other two players fold, and I cap it right up. Pete calls, as do both blinds.


Hayaii!!!! I has full house!!!! Both blinds check and I bet. Pete calls, which is amazing, and both blinds call or something. The river is a blank and I bet and only Pete calls. He shows T9 of hearts, for, on the turn, trips with a flush draw. His non-raise is a fantastic piece of hand-reading that earns him mad props from me. I drag the monstrosity of a pot, unstucking myself for the day. Woo hoo.

About today....

I played for 8 hours and had $800 and $1700 downswings. I left the casino in a horrible state, mad at the world and practically ready to fight anyone that spoke to me. I was up around $900 at 5:30pm, but couldn't leave because of traffic and honestly didn't want to. By 7:30 I was stuck $800 and couldn't really believe what had happened. I was on tilt, made 2 bad payoffs, and honestly was in pretty rough shape. I ran bad, but that's not really an excuse. I could have saved 4 or 5 bets had I made good reads (in pure EV, probably only 2 or 3), and that really upset me more than anything else. Just a day after a new found confidence high, I'm again questioning everything.......

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Best Break Even Day...EVER!

Today was truly epic. I hope that I can do the epic-ness (is that a word? epic-ocity perhaps? Can I get a jabberwock up in here please?) justice in mere words that I start to write at 11:15 with my energy level falling rapidly.

Where to beginning...ah yes, I know just the spot. I woke up wonderfully refreshed at 10am. I've been getting up early the last few weeks (usually seeing an 8), so this was quite a sleep in. I stuck to my new found plan of eating a large breakfast (and thus minimizing the amount of casino food I consume) and got on the road at about 11am. En route I receive a text from Hammerin Hank, asking "Bay or Garden today?". I respond "Garden" (texting while driving is illegal now in California, as it should be), but a few minutes later ask "Is Stockton Thunder there?". The previously written about Stockton Thunder was at Bay 101 on Wednesday making a freaking mess out of everything, dropping probably something like $3000 (he even bought me a Coke....not as cool as the shot of Grey Goose from Lamont Jordan, but better than a kick in the balls IMO). If he was back for more, I wanted a piece of the pie. Hank informs that he is not, so I bang a right from 101 South to 85 and continue on to Garden City. I check my email while waiting and find this gem from Hank that he sent in the early hours of the morning:

Subject: Bay or Garden today?

I miss you :)

Now what Hank probably meant is either 1) It's more fun to play with friends or 2) I miss taking all your chips. I'm not really sure....

I've been in the Garden 20/40 game (there are two tables....neither looks great by local standards) for less than 15 minutes when I get a vibration in my pants. "Stockton Thunder in the house!" I tell Hank to list me for both games and that I'm on my way. I rack up my $23 profit and get immediately back into my car.

21 minutes after receiving my last hand at Garden (a time I am convinced must be some fashion of world record), I am dealt into the first hand of Bay 101s 3rd 20/40 table of the day. Pete is on my immediate left, just finishing his lunch, and comments that he's been waiting for 45 minutes. I run good. Pete also drew the Ace of Spades for the button, and since he's on my immediate left, I again run good. I play 20/40 for about 30 minutes and manage to lose 7 bets ($280) before they call me for 40/80. I played about 4 hours of 40/80 on Tuesday after Stockton Thunder moved up and gained a good bit of confidence while losing only 4 bets. Today there were 2 tables going, both of which looked softer (or perhaps just more well known) than usual, so I took the seat.....but first, an aside.....

Professor Ben called me to let me know he was playing at Garden City. I told him I was at Bay 101, despite my earlier report to the contrary (which was true at the time) and that I'd collect the $60 he owed me some other time. He asked how the 40/80 games looked, and I responded that they looked pretty darn soft, so soft in fact that I was sitting in one of them. I also informed him that Jeremy Roenick was in the 80/160 in a follow up text message. Ben's response:

"Is he lighting money on fire? Put me up for all 3 games thanks!"

The reason Ben owed me $60 is that I have no faith in Penn State. Danielle's father, Dan, wanted to put a bet down on the Rose Bowl with me. We decided on 60 dollars at 9.5 points, me taking Penn State + the points. Immediately after booking this bet I texted Ben and asked him for the easiest way for me to put $60 down on USC. He booked the bet for me, and I even got a small middle as he was able to put 66 to win 60 down at USC -9. Anyone who watched the Rose Bowl can tell you that it's a good thing I got in touch with Ben.

So, back to the 40/80 game. I've been swearing I'm going to take more shots at that game for a while now, but I just haven't grown the stones to do it. Every time I play I seem to make mistakes because I feel like everyone must be so good and that I have to play so tricky to get their money. After putting in about 10 hours yesterday and today, I'm very confident that I can be a solid winner at that game, as the players still make a lot of elementary mistakes. Today I lost about $200 at 40/80 in almost 7 hours, and it went a little something like this....of course I'm going to leave out the hands I win, and yes it's often easy to come up with a long story of bad beats if you play long enough...but all of this happened over the course of about 200 hands:

I open-raise AQ offsuit from UTG. Only the big blind calls and we see a flop of:


That's pretty darn good I say. I bet and he calls. The turn brings a


I say to myself "Self, that's another great card!" as he checks. I bet again, and once more he calls.


Well, I didn't pair up, but I almost certainly have the best hand. He's not going to call me without a pair, so I just check behind. He rolls A6o pair. That he rivered. Let us think for a moment about just how badly he played that hand. Got it? Read it again if you have to....

A few hands later it folds to the button who open raises. The villain from the previous hand calls 1.5 bets cold from the small blind because he's terrible (you should really never do that unless you have Aces or Kings and want the big blind in the hand), and I decide to have a look with Q7o. This call is questionable, but the button is raising a huge range and I figure the SB to have a similarly wide range and now also know that he plays horribly post-flop. I figure that's enough to call getting 5:1 closing the action with the statistically average hand in limit texas hold em (I have heard that if you run out a 5 card flop, then deal two cards off the top, there is almost exactly a 50/50 shot Q7 will beat the random two off the top). The flop is:

QJ5 with two hearts

I have top pair. Victory is all but assured!!! The small blind donks....This is strange and foreign to me, but I raise anyway. The button folds quickly and the small blind just calls. The turn and river are small meaningless cards that don't complete the flush. I bet the turn and he calls, and check behind on the river. He rolls QJ for top two pair, with which he put in a single aggressive action post-flop in a 3 handed blind steal situation. Again sir, you play good. Really, really good. I order a steak with my Sklansky bucks.

Eventually I move to the main game and more of the same happens. I complete my small blind with 76o in what turns out to be a 6 handed pot for one bet. The flop is:


And to be honest, I gotta say, I'm pretty happy about it. I bet and two players call. On the turn Jack I get raised and am just like "Wow are you kidding me? People slow play their straights up here to?" I call down and get shown 85 suited for the flopped nuts. How many bets could have gone in on the flop? 4. The answer is 4. 3 handed, cause somebody else flopped a flush draw. But he made expert slow play because that's just what you do when you flop the nuts wouldn't want to lose customers no no no no can't have that....Jesus Christ.

A few hands later I get a free look in the big bind with 32o (a "beaut" as Hank would say). The flop comes down:

T32 all hearts

And already I'm running through all the ways I'm going to lose this hand. I donk though, as there was no preflop raiser (ergo my seeing of the flop with 3-high) and get raised by "Hung", a regular player who, as best I can tell, can only be out-crazied by WTK. Everyone else folds and now I'm very happy because I know exactly what I'm dealing with here. I 3-bet and he caps it. Uh-oh I say. Time to just call and see what happens on the turn. I resolve to donk any turn that isn't a heart. The dealer burns and turns:

T of spades

The astute reader will note that I have just lost the hand, as I have made the ever-pathetic 3-pair. I check, Hung bets, and I fold my hand face up. He takes pity on me and shows his Ace of Hearts and Ten of Clubs. I comment that only I can flop two pair and be a dog heads up. The table has a good laugh, but it's hands like this that kill your win rate. You get a free look with a garbage hand and end up losing $160 dollars more than you had to....

A few orbits later....

I 3-bet a raise after WTK cold calls with pocket Queens. Sarah calls 3 bets cold on the button because she's awful (this woman plays 80/160 was the first time I had ever sat with her and at first I was very scared....she must be great, right? No. She's freaking terrible) and Hung caps it from the small blind. We all call and the pot is like 5, maybe 6 handed...I'm not even sure. Like I said, I've got Queens here. I'm feeling good about life. It's important to remember here that neither Sarah nor WTK can be beating me, cause neither raised preflop and both would 100% of the time with KK or AA. The flop is:

KJ5 with two hearts

Hung, the preflop capper...checks. The big blind checks, and it checks all the way around to me and I bet. Sarah calls on the button, hung calls, somebody else calls, and so does WTK. We five ways to the turn and the pot is formally huge.


I'm saddened by this card. Hung checks again. By this point his line looks freaking ridiculous. Preflop cap, then check/call check....It checks all the way to me and I decided to check. Honestly, that Jack is a pretty bad card...against rational cappers and cold-callers a jack is pretty hard to conjure. Against WTK, Sarah, and Hung there are jacks all over the place. Sarah checks behind and I'm not sure if I just avoided getting check/raised or missed like 5 bets. The river is:

8, for a final board of KJ5-J-8

Hung bets, and I'm thinking it looks like he flopped KK and got super tricky and I just saved $160 dollars. Everyone folds to me and I call. Hung rolls 88 and I feel as though someone has removed all the air from the space around my face. The sick part is that while I may have misplayed this hand, there is no chance Hung was folding on the turn had I bet...

A while later a player who will in short order prove himself to be a card carrying member of The American Association of Mentally Handicapped Poker Players open limps and WTK raises. I'm in the Jesus Seat on his left (of course) and behold the wonder that is AK suited. I have to say, no other hand, not even black aces, looks as pretty to me preflop as a suited up big slick. I 3-bet and they both call. The flop comes down:

994 all black cards

That ain't bad. It ain't good, but it also ain't bad. They both check to me and I do my thing with the betting and the card carrier calls and WTK pops me with a check/raise. This means he has one of the following:

A pocket pair like less than TT
Some sort of 4
A flush draw
Two overs
Some sort of 9

I call because the pot's big and I figure I can improve. Plus it's freaking WTK....I might be winning. Card Carrier calls.

The turn wasn't helpful to me, and card carrier checks. WTK bets, and I call again getting 8.5 : 1 odds to draw at what's probably a 6 outter but might even be the best hand. Card Carrier now springs to life and check/raises, and WTK 3-bets. I fold as fast as humanly possible. The river comes off, I'm not sure what it was, and they both show K9o for the flopped monster.

Now think about that...preflop, not only did I have them both dominated (which is when you have one of their cards and your other card is're usually 70something percent to win in that this case it's sort of like just playing a 9 against an Ace, since we both have a king), but they had each other's outs! I checked it out on twodimes and I'm over 80% to win the hand. Sick. So sick.

The same two guys quickly get into a mess again, with our Card Carrier raising and WTK 3-betting him. I have AK of diamonds on the button and cap it up. Our flop comes down

JT9 with one diamond.

They both check to me and I bet. They both call. It's a scary board, and I'm planning to check behind on most turns. I'd of course bet Queens, as I'd have the nuts. I'll also bet Aces, as that hand is good enough. A king I'd check for sure, because while it's a good hand for me the chances that one of them has a Queen and would have made a straight are very high. But no, what card do I get? The asshole card.

Ace of Spades.

They both check and again I bet. They both call.

9 for a final board of JT9-A-9

They both check, I bet, and the Card Carrier raises. I call him and he rolls AA. Way to hit that one outter for $240 sir. Ni Han. Seriously, and I'm not making that up, I was checking a King and perhaps betting a diamond.

Our final hand against the Card Carrier goes as such. He limps and I raise. I hold the Ace and the Queen of the offsuit and he calls the raise. My eyes behold a most glorious flop of:


That's right, I just flopped the stone nuts. He checks and calls my bet.


I still have the stone nuts....he check/raises me, and there are two flush draws on board so I don't even pop him back because the fear of getting free-rolled is so high (if he has an ace-high flush draw here he can't lose the pot but 9 cards give him a scoop....I can't win the whole thing, but 9 cards make me lose it....hence, he'd be free rolling). The river is:


He doesn't even bet and rolls his Ace before I can act. He had 3 outs in the deck and he hit two of them!!!!

Despite this fantastical run of shit, I managed to leave the 40/80 table stuck on 200 bucks or so. I went back to 20/40 for an hour and posted a one rack win, allowing me to quit the day a 60 dollar winner. As I said break even day....EVER!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vegas Baby, Vegas!

The reason for my long absence was a 4 day weekend in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada. I left Friday morning and got myself situated in a 30/60 game at the Bellagio by 11:15am. I proceeded to lose close to rack of chips and promptly moved down to 15/30. After a few hours of that, I decided to relocate to the Mirage, where I was saddened to find that the person on the phone had lied to me and that in fact the 20/40 game doesn't go around 3 or 4. It actually just doesn't go. So I played 10/20 for a while, broke even, and eventually played some 4/8 HORSE for kicks both before and after Danielle arrived. She sat in the game for a while, too, which was fun.

Saturday and Sunday were spent watching the NFL playoff games and making general merriment. I picked 4 out of 4 games right (I took Baltimore with the points, Cardinals with the points, Eagles straight up, and the Steelers laying the points) and therefore won back some of my losings from the day before. I was 0 for 2 on totals though, which was sad.

Monday I spent the day back in the Bellagio playing 30/60 and generally getting beaten like a red-headed step child. When all was said and done I lost something north of $2000 for the trip. The highlight, however, was playing in the Imperial Palace mixed game on Sunday night for 4 hours. The list of games was:

Omaha 8
2-7 TD
Double Flop Omaha High
Stud 8
4 Card Ocean Crazy Pineapple
A-5 TD High Low 8
3-2-1 Omaha

That was truly fantastic.

Today I was back at Bay 101 in the 20/40 and managed to post a $1300 win. Pete was there and in general awe of my run goodedness as I ran all the way up to +2200 in the first 2 hours....then, as is my custom, I played for 6 more hours and lost about 900 bucks. And so it goes....

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


So like I said, I ran like the Jesus until 1 hour into my session yesterday, at which point I was up about $1000 for the day. At that point I looked at my stack and said to myself "Self, this is the point where the hobbyist picks up his chips and calls it a day. You, however, are not a hobbyist, so you must carry on the good fight." And fight I did.

Over the next 6 hours or so of 20/40, I slowly but surely lost a rack and a half (700). At some point I decided to put myself back up on the 40/80 list because the game looked good and I have been promising myself I'll shoot at that game more. So at 5:30 when I got called for the game, I looked at my chips and again spoke to myself..."Self, there is no shame in going home. You're up a few hundred, a fine and respectable sum, and calling it in would be fine. But you're a professional, you're playing well, and that game looks very snuggly. Make it so." So I sit in the 40/80 for less than 60 minutes and proceed to lose about 1800 dollars. Just like...wham, bam, thank you m'aam and that was that. I didn't win a single pot...of note:

I had KJo or KJs in pretty early position 3 times. I raise it and got my ass kicked, all 3 times.

I flopped top set of good.

I flopped an open ended straight draw with KTs on a board of QJ8. The turn was another Jack, putting up two of my suit for good measure. The other two hands in the pot were AJ and 88. Let's just say that one wasn't cheap.

So at 6:30 I picked up, licking my wounds, and drove home. Today I returned for another bludgeoning, losing 1400+ in about 5.5 hours. I made a few mistakes and called down Gordan (the regular prop) a little light a few previous experience with Gordan was that he was kind of spewy and he proved himself to be a super nit, failing to extract even close to max value with things like second set turned second boat (twice), or even top set on the river on what was a scary but still eminently bettable board heads up. The total carnage from the 1 hour mark of my session yesterday: -$4000. Ouch.

The only bright spot of today was watching Yodaman win 6 racks in the 20/40 game. It was beautiful. The only way it could have been more beautiful was if I'd had 50% of his action :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Holiday Heater

I got back from Pittsburgh on December 29th and put in 24 hours of play on the 30th, 31st, 2nd and 3rd. It was, shall we say...good.

Not much happened on the 30th. But New Years Eve came with all the biggest and bestest things heaters have to offer. First of all, the games were fantastic. I mean, absofreakinglutely fantastic. There were 4 tables, and it was as if all the winning players decided to not to come all on the same day. There were 36 players seated and I was sure that I was the best one...without question. To quote the BigBadBabar, they were "snuggie soft".

For my first 2 hours I ran kind of so so, first winning some pots and getting ahead, then finally dropping back below even when my Aces got cracked by some body with some garbage suited hand that made a flush and I paid off. That happened when I was UTG, so I took some Tommy Angelo advice and went for a walk...paid my $3 lobby charge and walked around outside. I calmed myself down, went back into battle, and then....lost a little more. Had to buy a 3rd rack, and really wasn't too thrilled about how things were going. I changed tables and....

I won a pot with AK ui. I won a pot with AK improved. I flopped a set, turned a boat. Dragged a monster. Flopped a set, rivered a boat, dragged a monster. Flopped a set, turned a boat, rivered quads, and dragged a stupendously redonkulous monster. Eventually my stack looked like this:

I was within a stack ($100) of entering "10 rack territory"....I had $4430 or something insane like that on the table. The hits just kept on coming....

Sue, a 40ish Asian woman who is a practicing nurse and mega-fish fantastico was in my game. Sue finished 4th in the morning tournament for a score of like $1000 (lol, donkaments) and was ready to make the gambool even more so than usual. She arrived at the table already smelling of white wine (it was like, 1pm...maybe) and proceeded to play in her usual fashion. This was my favorite pot against her:

I raise AA after like 3 limpers. Somehow the pot goes off only 5 ways and the flop comes down:


That's right. K72 rainbow. What could be called a "dry" flop, one without much in the way of "draws" available. Short of flopping a set, this is about as good as they get. I bet and two people call, including Sue. At this point, Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangster starts playing in my ears, and a 5 of the 4th suit hits the board.

Then Sue check/raises the turn. I call pretty quickly, as there are like 10 big bets in the pot and she's probably just got some random ass two pair and I've got odds to draw out on her. The river is a brick (like a ten maybe) and she bets again. I take the phones out of my ears and say "Aces no good Sue?" and she says "If you've got a King you're good". Now from a normal player there might be some gamesmenship going on here. Not Sue. She simply doesn't lie....if she tells you she's got something, she's got it. I respond "well then I gotta call" and call her. MHIG and
the table has a pretty big laugh. I mean, had she just kept her mouth shut, I was probably gonna lay that one down. At least I was gonna try to....

I end up losing a bit before I go home, but still cash out for over 8 racks.

The next day I played (January 2nd) is more of the same. The games are amazing and I just can't lose. I peak at +5 racks, but end up taking home only about 2.5 in profit due to some run bad that I get out of my system toward the end. A hand that puts this day into perspective:

The button telegraphs a fold, so I raise 86 suited in diamonds from the cutoff. The button folds, the small blind calls, but Carlos 3-bets in the big blind. Carlos is a decentish player, but he's too passive. 3 bets here means like JJ minimum....He has a monster....I call though getting 8:1 in position and we see the flop 3 handed for 9 small bets:

Qd 7h 3d

Good result I say. SB checks, Carlos bets, I call, small blind folds.


The astute reader will notice that I now have 15 outs at a fully certified nut hand. Carlos bets, I think for a minute and decide he's never folding because he's got an overpair or a set like 70% of the time so I just call.


I have the nut 8-high straight and there is a zero percent chance Carlos can put me on it. He bets, I raise, and he some how, some way, folds his hand....I drag the monster.

January 3rd was more of the same, although I left up just 1 rack after a short 2 hour session.
All in all when the heater ended (1 hour into today's session), I had won about $6600 in 24 hours of playing time. Tomorrow, we'll talk about what happened when I got too big for my britches in the 40 game....

Saturday, January 3, 2009

December and 2008 Results

Something I've noticed happening to myself lately is that my life has lost a lot of boundaries and scheduling constraints. If it weren't for the NFL, it would honestly be pretty tough for me to keep track of the current day of the week. Consequently it didn't occur to me until just today that perhaps I should take a look at how exactly I did in December, my "professional period", and all of 2008. Admittedly I kind of new about where these numbers were going to come in, but taking a good hard look would be a good habit to get into:

December 2008

Here are the actual results, with session win/loss followed by cumulative winnings on each line:

1-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 1021 1021
2-Dec 6/12 Limit Bay 101 -71 950
2-Dec 8/16 Limit Bay 101 -96 854
2-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 174 1028
3-Dec 20/40 Limit Garden City 1230 2258
4-Dec 15/30 Limit Ajs 149 2407
4-Dec 6/12 Limit Ajs -54 2353
5-Dec 8/16 Limit Bay 101 39 2392
5-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 881 3273
6-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 -1744 1529
6-Dec Danielle Bay 101 13 1542
8-Dec 8/16 Limit Ocean's 11 -122 1420
8-Dec 20/40 Limit Ocean's 11 -1473 -53
9-Dec 20/40 Limit Ocean's 11 177 124
9-Dec 8/16 Limit Ocean's 11 -214 -90
9-Dec 20/40 Limit Ocean's 11 -55 -145
10-Dec 4/8 Limit Ocean's 11 -20 -165
10-Dec 8/16 Limit Ocean's 11 73 -92
10-Dec 4/8 Omaha Ocean's 11 -33 -125
10-Dec 20/40 Limit Ocean's 11 -197 -322
10-Dec 40/80 Limit Ocean's 11 -374 -696
12-Dec 6/12 Limit Oaks -25 -721
12-Dec 15/30 Limit Oaks -130 -851
12-Dec 30/60 Limit Oaks -119 -970
12-Dec 30/60 Limit Oaks 410 -560
13-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 -490 -1050
15-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 828 -222
16-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 645 423
17-Dec 20/40 Limit Garden City -50 373
17-Dec 40/80 Limit Garden City 132 505
17-Dec 20/40 Limit Garden City 238 743
18-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 -1386 -643
18-Dec Yoda Stake Bay 101 622 -21
19-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 508 487
20-Dec 15/30 Limit Oaks -60 427
20-Dec 30/60 Limit Oaks -3 424
20-Dec 6/12 Limit Ajs 66 490
20-Dec 15/30 Limit Ajs -126 364
20-Dec 6/12 Limit Ajs -47 317
21-Dec 20/40 Limit Garden City 35 352
21-Dec 40/80 Limit Garden City 1564 1916
21-Dec 8/16 Limit Bay 101 -248 1668
21-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 470 2138
21-Dec 40/80 Limit Bay 101 1158 3296
21-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 157 3453
22-Dec 20/40 Limit Garden City -563 2890
22-Dec Yoda Stake Garden City -101 2789
23-Dec 15/30 Limit Oaks -190 2599
23-Dec 30/60 Limit Oaks 556 3155
30-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 203 3358
31-Dec 20/40 Limit Bay 101 2664 6022

The month was setting up nicely to be an unmitigated disaster, since as you can see I was under water as late as the 18th. This was primarily due to the slobber-knocking I took on my 3 day trip to San Diego and Ocean's 11. Rest assured, I'll be back to reclaim those racks. With a 6 day trip home for the holidays looming, I was already preparing myself to accept an actual loss for the month. But between a massive win on Sunday the 21st (when I left a juicy Garden City 40/80 game because Hank sent me a text alerting me to Neil's presence in the Bay 101 20/40), and huge win on New Years Eve, I somehow managed to post a $6000 win. This game seems to be all about surviving the break even stretches between heaters.

All told I played 148.5 hours this month, with very minimal hours logged in small games (I did have one rough day at Ocean's where I spent 4 hours languishing in a combination of 2/3 NL, 4/8 Limit, 8/16 Limit, and eventually 4/8 O8). All told, it looks like all but 20 hours were at 20/40 or above, with 5 more hours accounted for by the Oaks 15/30 game. Given that I went home for 6 days, I think this number is excellent.

Professional Period and 2009

My "professional period" of this year started on August 1st. During that time my spreadsheet shows gambling winnings of $39,444, or just a shade under $8K/month. Obviously I'm quite happy with this result.

In the 7 months of 2008 that I had an actual job, I won somewhere around $10,000 (I have some entries not yet in my spreadsheet from Vegas and Reno trips), bringing my total winnings for the year to just around $50K.

My 20/40 win rate currently stands at $58.27/hour. When I quit my job that number was a scary $32/hour. My 2008 20/40 graph looks like this:

Yes I am an excel fish, but you can on the left, hours along the bottom. I totaled just under 900 hours of live 20/40 for the year, with the majority coming after August 1st.

In short, I am happy to report nothing but a complete success for my 5 months spent as a professional poker player. I still have no plans to look for work, and am really now just trying to decide how to go about playing more 30/60 and 40/80.

A Word on the Ads

Many of you have probably noticed that ads went up on my blog on New Year's Day. I decided to give this a shot, mainly because it makes me feel cool to have a website that enough people read that the space on it has non-zero value. Danielle helped me place them in such a way that they should be a minimal distraction to those reading (originally they were wider, which looked fine on my laptop....but it's a wide screen), and I've decided to stick to text-only ads for now. On the first full day the ads were up I earned a whopping 46 cents. I don't think I'm going to quit my day job :)

And in Closing: Marley and Me

Spoiler Alert: If you don't want to know what happens, stop reading now....

Marley and Me was probably the saddest movie I have ever seen. It's basically about a couple in their late twenties being all happy at first and getting a dog who chews lots of stuff and is really hard to deal with and then their lives not turning out as they planned and them feeling that they didn't accomplish as much as they'd like by the time they turned 40. And then the dog dies. That's it. It was very, very sad. When I got home from the movie and went to give my dog Tyson a big hug, I found him like so. Tyson, like Marley, is awesome.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Good Old Fashioned Poker Hands

I realized I've gotten away from talking about the hands that I play, which is probably one of the things that the average person reading this enjoys the most. So, here are some hands that I played with a brief description and a link to discussion on two plus two:

Hand 1 - I contemplate a river donk bluff

In this hand I open-raised KT of clubs and got 3-bet by a somewhat nitty but probably overall winning prop player. His range of possible hands could be narrowed so substantially just from his 3-bet preflop that I elected to play a strong flush draw incredibly passively because I figured he was showing down just about his entire range on just about any board. The flop came down:

J53 with two clubs

I just checked and called him. The turn was a brick, and I checked and called again. On the river an Ace hit. I checked, but posted the hand above as if I bet. The question on the bet is this...what hands will he fold? He's got a pair of some sort, and he should just call me and show it down. But might he fold, say, pocket Queens? What about pocket Tens? Are pocket 8s in his range preflop? Pretty mathy stuff :)

Hand 2 - I get into a mess with Q5o from the big blind

In this hand I get a free look at the flop from the big blind. I hold a red Queen and the 5 of spades and get a flop of:

QJT with two spades

I imploy the "check and see" line, three other players check, and the button bets. The button is a maniac whose range consists of practically anything you can imagine that improves the board in any describable fashion, plus some other stuff that doesn't. The small blind calls, and I raise it. One player folds, but somebody takes two cold and the button and small blind both call.

On the turn the 9 of spades hits the board. I check, basically surrendering any claim to the pot. I mean, that's the worst freaking card in the deck...or so I thought. The only thing is, the street checks through. The river brings the King of Spades (which is the actual worst card in the deck), making the final board:

9TJQK with 4 spades

The small blind checks, I check, the cutoff bets (he's the player who called two cold on the flop), and then the button and small blind fold.....I have a baby flush in a pretty sizable (7.5 big bets) pot, but make the lay down. Correct? It was hard for me to believe he didn't have a big flush here the overwhelming majority of the time. Players don't just bluff into 3 opponents on the river. The advice I got on two plus two basically came down on the side of folding, but there were some dissenting opinions. Also, some people wanted me to drop the hand on the flop.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Tommy Angelo is the Nuts

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from Tommy’s book. I hope he doesn’t sue me.

It’s been said dozens of times on Two Plus Two, and countless others in countless other places, but Tommy Angelo and his book Elements of Poker do in fact combine into a near-nut holding. Now some of you are probably scratching your head saying “I read that book, and I just didn’t get anything out of it”. Others will do the same thing in the near future, either based on my recommendation, someone elses, or purely because you got a gift certificate for Christmas. If you find yourself feeling this way, it’s probably because you’ve never tried to be a live cash game pro (which, with the possible exception of a joy for teaching and writing, is probably the only thing I have in common with Tommy Angelo. Note that I said joy of…not proficiency for). If you have tried to “support your rent and food habit” by playing live poker, Tommy is for you.

Here’s what you won’t get out of Tommy’s book: Almost any technical discussion of how to play play poker whatsoever. There is a small section where he talks about the basic principle that ace-high sometimes drags the chippies UI, but other than that his purpose is not to teach you how to play poker. He assumes that you’ve already got that part of being a poker player under control.

Here’s just a little of what you will get out of Tommy’s book:

An understanding, if brief, that you don’t always play your best poker. Not even close. And a realization that the best way to improve your win rate might not be to improve your best poker game. It might be to improve or curtail the deployment of your worst poker game. Think about it…

An interesting way to look at the game as a series of decisions, most of which don’t involve cards or betting. Deciding to (not) change seats. Deciding to (not) change tables. Deciding to (not) quit the game. Deciding how much money to bring to the table. Deciding how many chips to have on the table (one metric ass-ton). Deciding how much cash to keep at your house (Ten (10) “largish” losses for your game. This is more than 300 big bets for those of you quick with the maths).

Discussion on how to play 6th street (the time from the the last betting action until the hand is done being talked about) correctly, including what to (not) say, and how to handle or even implement slowrolls, fastrolls, slowcalls, slowfolds, fastgrabs and fastrolls.

And finally, one of the most inspiring passages I have ever read in a poker book involving taking a shot and going pro. This passage was coupled with Tommy’s realization that going pro is often a chicken and egg problem for many players. You can’t get good enough to quit your job unless you quit your job…I beg to differ J