Friday, April 22, 2011


I just noticed, this post makes 502 posts which means I missed make a big deal about my 500th post. A post about #BlackFriday™. Coincidence? Reason for FEAR? Or could it be just how the cards fell? We may never know. So happy 502 posts anniversary to me!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Would you look at all this free time!

Ok, I kid. Free time. Ha. That disappeared years ago. I'd swear your kids occupy much more time after they stop needing you to clean up their digestive waste, feed them and the like.

So, my version of internet poker is dead. Funny thing, it looks like Party Poker might just have the best chance of being invited back in the fastest when all this clears up. I hope they've taken some time to spiffy the place up.

A few posts back, I posted about a hand (link - go read it, I'll wait...) I played at my local bar poker league. JamyHawk and Jordan over at HighOnPoker (it's your turn btw in WordsWithFriends (OhCaptain)) both left comments about their thoughts on the hand. I figured I should rebut a little with some more thoughts about this and bar poker in general.

First, Waffles comment on his blog is in someways very true. When you are married with two kids and the nearest casino with Limit Hold 'em is a one hour drive away (that makes it two hours round trip) you really want your night out playing poker to last longer than 20 minutes. I haven't even got the label half way worked off the bottle of my first beer yet. Let's savor the freedom, the peace and quiet. ( hear that...ah...everyone is sleeep)

Second point, not all bar poker is created equal.

I've played in my share of locations since legal bar poker first appeared in Minnesota. Yes, it was illegal up until a few years ago. Sigh. Friggin' blue law state. (Why the hell can't I buy beer on Sunday? Geez) Quite a few of them we poker played in a Keno style. You shove your chips in with five of your closest friends and see what happens. It's the NumbBlowMe rebuy tournament in a bar. Not much fun.

I've chosen to play at the bar I have based on the level of the game. It's a few steps above this. Quite a few of the players are much more skilled then just playing shove monkeys. Granted, it's still a bit more loose/passive then a lot of games, but so are many of the low buy in casino tournaments I've played. But I ask, what better environment to learn to play and read players of that type.

This brings me to a rebuttle a point made by Jamy when he says,
"When you say "I decide to check and gather a bit more information". I disagree. I don't think you are ever going to get information by checking."
This is where playing in a regular game differs from online and live games with lots of strangers. The Well Manicured Man and I have played hours of poker together. I pride myself on building very accurate reads on players I have a history with, and this guy, I have. He spews information as long as you are willing to look for it. One thing I hope no one ever tells him about, he spins his top chip in his bet pile when he's a big hand and just sets the chips down with no spin when he's fishing....but I digress. Checking to this guy gives me a ton of information. He has a really bad habit of bet sizing differently on his continuation bets with a hand and without. A cardinal sin when you are trying to keep me off balance. If he bet small (which he did) he's got nothing. He bets big, he's got something worth protecting. This habit of his is spot on. The second way this helps me is, for free, I get to see the reaction of the other man in the hand. In a game like this, while I have no history with this guy, I know that for whatever reason, he's going to be paying attention to the last guy to act, WMM and not me. So I get to watch him without him trying to hide from me. He shows bubkiss. So for free, I got to watch as one player told me he's got nothing and the other player told me he was holding a weak hand. All for the low price of nothing.

All while sipping a tasty bottle of 312 from Goose Island Brewing Company.If there's a beer company out there that wants to sponsor this blog and get some SEO magic, just look me up. (But why oh why does Anheiser Busch need to buy up my favorite little breweries? I'll miss you 312)

I've noticed over the years that I have more success at bar poker when I adapt my game to fit the situation. In Jordan's post, he writes,
"When you have a strong hand in a game where donkeys are likely to call with ATC, that is not a sign that you should play the strong hand slowly; that’s a sign that you need to stamp down on the pedal as hard as possible. Rather than fearing that your opponents will suck out on you, focus on the reverse. For players to suckout, they must be behind. Therefore, more often than not in that situation, you will win."
When thing I was never really afraid of was my opponent sucking out on me. Actually quite the opposite. My call from the BB is waiting to see the flop before committing all my chips. See previous comment about wanting to strip the label off my beer. It's true, they will call with any two cards, so it best not to commit everything with QQ and find yourself racing against 2 other players. Mathematically, it's too close to call with the range of over cards they could be holding. Second, after the flop, I do slow play it because my read is telling me I'm way ahead here. Scaring people out of the pot at this point to me is playing with fear of losing to a suck out. I'm playing the hand for value. Remember, the longer I have chips, the greater my opportunity to strip the labels off of beer bottles.

I think another big difference between bar poker leagues and straight up tournament play has to do with the payment structure. When I play a tournament for money, I want to get paid. The deeper I go, the more money I make. This point is well understood. Now, bar poker leagues are a different beast. While sure, there's some gift certificates for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I like me free stuff, but the bigger prizes comes after weeks of play. Each week, the top 30% of the tournament gets points. If you think about the random donkeys that play these things, you quickly notice that while going really deep once is cool and all, the people that make the points most often usually find themselves moving on to bigger pastures. Making the final table every week pays better long term than winning once in a while.

It really all depends on which prize you are shooting for.

While I wait for the hope of seeing my online funds returned to me, I guess I'll have to play what I can. Maybe we can finally find that online euchre or 500 client...I know, I'm dreaming.

And thus ends the rambling.

The Free Poker Network, the parent company of my Minnesota league has an online poker client now. It's no where near as polished as Stars, Tilt or Party Poker, but it is another way to get into their bigger tournaments. My first forays into playing the site but it at about bar poker level of skill. If you are interested in trying it out, their affiliate program requires me to invite you with an email. Shoot me an email and I'll invite you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Well ain't that a bit odd

So, I spent my first weekend post #Black Friday™ not doing too much different then I normally do. Seems I'm just a recreational player that for the most part has spent a fair amount of time on the +EV side of the game with the just the faintest of vertical slopes to the profit/loss lines. I believe I probably was mostly a breakevener.

I'm happy about that. What little scratch I got out of the game paid for a few bills now and then but a while back, I cashed out most of my holdings on the big two. I never really played at Ultimate Bet and hearing them mentioned as a big 3 makes me chuckle. Anywho, I still have some funds in FT and PS but I never really counted it as money. I know, huh? My poker money on these sites was other people's money. I had long since cashed out my original deposits, back in the day when poker was a lot easier.

Anyone else notice poker's been getting harder lately?

Back to my weekend.

So I found myself for the first weekend in years, with no playing poker for money. Did I freak out? Nah. Was I bored? Not really, I currently have 14 games of Words With Friends going (OhCaptain) and frankly, most of those people are way better at it then I am. New challenges rock!

Seems slightly cyclical, this poker thing. You see, four or five or six years ago, I download Party Poker, the .NET free money version and started playing poker play money style. I treated that play money like a real on honest to goodness bankroll. Practicing good money management and the whole nine yards. You see, I'm married with two kids, two dogs, a career and other obligations. At the time, I just didn't want to risk real money that I might just need for diapers, formula and the like. I didn't mind. It was fun.

Like many people, I was developing the poker bug watching the WSOP on TV, talking about the game with friends and just poking it around the edges. Most of the time, I was just too chicken to play for real money. Losing real money hurts.

A co-worker of mine had a husband, he was getting the poker bug too. People were playing free poker in the bars around here. Live poker. I had started getting pretty good a free money poker and I was kinda anxious to try it. Don't get me wrong, I'd played lots of nickel and dime poker over the years. My wife's family still talks about the first Thanksgiving I attended with them. I made $27 in profit on a nickel and dime game at the dinner table. Some seriously sick money of you think about it. But this bar poker thing seemed scary at first. These were strangers and some of them might even be GOOD!

I've been playing free poker on Tuesdays ever since.

My first deposit on FT came a while later. I'd been playing more and more home games and Bourbonators became a much more regular part of my life. It was cheap poker, but I was learning and loving every minute of it. The money I made in these games paid for that deposit. I never made another deposit. (To be perfectly clear, there were technically other deposits but they were sneaky deposits for friends who for one reason or another couldn't/wouldn't do it themselves). Later on, some more of my live poker money was deposited on PS.

I'm gonna miss what money is left there. I have a hard time saying good bye to money. Remember me at the WPBT gathering last December, ya, I was down. Hated every second of it. Not the gathering, you people rock, no I hated being stuck. Curse you Miami Don and your flopped boats.

I've never been a big time poker player. The WPBT tournaments are still the largest buy in tournaments I've ever played. My live poker bankroll has funded most of the trips I've written about here. I can't imagine my life being complete with spending a weekend here or there with the amazing poker people I've met over the years. Eh Vegas, The Gentile Summit and the trips to the WPBT Gather in Las Vegas. All +EV. Strangely, I've never cashed out my online money for these trips.

The cash out I did was a while ago, and I did it to pay some bills and make our family time a little nicer. Kinda cool. I put these accounts back down to grinding out micro stakes again. Those games were much harder to play now. Post UIGEA, even the $1 sit-n-gos were the 27% ROI game they used to be. It was more like an even 20%...right?

I have no idea if I'll ever see the money I have left online again. I still have a hard time saying good bye to money but since I never really felt this money, they were just little pixels on my computer screen. Mythical money.

The cycle has me back to playing free money poker and home games. I'm still a friggin' 50 mile drive to the nearest limit poker room and I might just need to do that a little more often. I'd probably prefer to make the longer drive to Iowa for the $1/$2 NLHE game with the likes of PokerFool, but that's still a two and a half hour drive round trip.

Who knows were poker is going. I wasn't totally surprised by all of this. F-Train seemed to be spot on last December when I was talking to him at the Geisha Bar. He told me how it just seemed like it was getting harder and harder for the big three to get money to players. And so it was.

As many of the brightest legal poker blogger minds have written (F-Train, CK, Grange95), the real blight on the big two poker sites is the methods by which they went to keep the money moving. While their games always seemed on the up and up, the methods by which players were getting their money may not have been. Ultimately, it's the part that says "fraud and money laundering" that the non-poker people will see and with their best "I told you so" voice, remind you, poker is bad. It may not matter that they were doing it because they wanted to run a game of skill for honest people just trying to live their lives the way they wanted to. People just won't see that. It's sad.

I'm sure the cycle is going to continue. Poker isn't exactly a new game. I'm not giving up the game. I love the game. I started playing free poker, I've continued to play free poker and I have no plans on stopping. There's no doubt we will see some changes in the no so far away future. My sympathies are with my friends hurt most by this. I know many people whose livelihoods are tied to poker who will be hurt by this. I know most of them will be just fine. They are some of the smartest people I know with talent I could only dream of.

Tomorrow is a new day. This blog isn't going a way. I'm still going to write about poker and all the other stuff. Heck, I'm still planning on taking vacation in December to play a tournament at Aria.

I hope to see all of you there!

(Therapeutic rambling has ended. Thanks for stopping by!)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Surest sign of spring: Play Ball

While I suppose technically yesterday was the season opener for some teams, today is the season opener for the only team that really matters.

Win Twins!

As is my tradition, my special Twins tie makes it's return to the work attire. New this year: the lanyard!

At 6:05 today, the crack of the bat returns. Play ball!