Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rounders Revealed

Worm: I guess the sayings' true. In the poker game of life, women are the rake man. They are the fucking rake.
Mike McDermott: What the fuck are you talking about? What saying?
Worm: I don't know. There ought to be one though.

For about the millionth time I watched rounders on the weekend. It was just one of those things, turned on the TV and there it was. The movie that started so many poker journeys throughout the world. While it did not start my interest in poker, it was my first introduction to Texas Holdem. I watched that move many years ago, before the poker boom and before I thought about gambling a cent of real money on this precious card game. Now I am older and wiser, I have decided to take off the rose coloured glasses and for once and all dispel one of the greatest myths perpetrated by this movie. Out of all the fantasy and "willing suspension of disbelief" that is present, there is one fallacy that I can not forgive, and it is so unrealistic that to entertain the thought that it was possible would to defy nature.

Let us run through a few of the occurrences and see wether they hold up against the Test of the Truth.

Mikey McD funds his law school through poker.

While to the outsider this may seem outlandish, we know that this can be true. I'm sure there are many people out there that can attest to having their education paid for by poker. In fact, it has been said that electoral campaigns in the past have been funded by the 52 playing cards, including many links to the American Presidency. With the amount of money floating around in poker these days, funding something like tertiary education without full time employment is a possibility, and a reality for some.


Mikey McD puts $30K into an underground game run by the Russian Mob, trying to make a run for the World Series.

While never having set foot in such an establishment, I have no doubt that New York is home to many underground poker clubs. When there is a desire to play, poker players will seek out games no matter where and when they are held. There is that little devil of a gambler in us all. Would a Russian Mob guy be running an underground card room? Why the hell not – it's not like crime syndicates have had an aversion to poker in the past. And even if it was just a pastime for Teddy KGB, outside of his alluded links, this is still very possible.

As for the run at the World Series part, now days it might be a bit different. He would probably be playing more satellites online and at the casinos if it were 2006, but in the mid 90's this would be more likely so it will not fail on that account.


Mikey McD looses his entire bank roll in one session, when he was drawing dead from the flop.

Seen it. Done it. Didn't have the money left to buy the T-Shirt. Especially for someone of his age and with that amount of money behind him, this is a definitely possibility. We've all seen it happen before, when someone goes for a big score and then in an instant it is all gone at the turn of a card, and it was lie you never had that money in the first place. While I do not personally know anyone who has last that amount in a single session of poker, I don't exactly move in the circles of people that gamble that amount either. I'm sure bigger bank rolls have been lost in a single session, many times the world over, and I'm sure many more will be.


Mikey McD gives up poker and starts driving a truck after Teddy empties his pockets.

This one is a bit tricky to understand. For someone with the obvious gamble in them like Mikey, walking away from the game after a loss like that is probably a pretty quick thought. The hard part to understand is that he actually abided by the embargo for such a long time. How many times have we said silly things like "That's it, poker and I are finished!" It's much like the famous "I'll never drink again" after a big night on the grog. Sure, at the time we might feel like we never want to drink again, but the feel of a new cold beer in the hand quickly deletes any memory of the promise made a day ago. The fact that Mikey does get back into the game later in the movie makes this believable, though it was hard to think that he would stay away as long as he did.

VERDICT: An eventual pass.

Mikey McD and Worm get caught trying to cheat at a game, and get the living shit kicked out of them for it.

If anything, this is one of the most believable parts of the movie. The only thing worse than being called a cheat is being caught. While the game may have been born from nefarious roots, there is an eternal optimism amongst most players that the game has an unquantifiable spirit and respect that all players admire and honour. Any violation thereof would be met harshly in any circumstance – the fact that the game in question was a bunch of cops who ended up giving them a gentle face massage with their fists does nothing to deter this event from passing the test.


Mikey McD goes on a 60+ hour poker playing binge/bender.

My best is over 12 hours, and even then I felt like I could go another SNG or two. There are many documented cases and anecdotal evidence of players going past the 24 hour barrier in a game or many games. These days with so many people interested in poker, there is a game on 24/7 somewhere – even in a place like Sydney, let alone the setting of New York for Rounders. This would have been harder 10 years ago (finding the games), but by no means impossible. Actually, I doubt it was even that hard back then. Have chips, will gamble – the door is always open somewhere.


Mikey McD borrows $10K to try to get back the money he owes.

Possibility? A damn near certainty again. Would a professor give a student $10K straight away like that? While I know none of my professor would have even given me change for a parking metre, there are plenty of documented cases were teachers have done much more than cut a check for a student, and it is not past the realms of possibilities that the law professor would do this to save a student, given their recent history in the movie.


Mikey McD bluffs Johnny Chan out of a pot with nothing but rags.

I don't see a problem with this. If a pro is pushing a table around and winning easily, then the guy in the corner who has been folding for an hour suddenly comes to life, I'm pretty sure he would give him the benefit of the doubt on that hand. And the accessibility for anyone with enough scratch to sit down with a pro is easier today than probably any time before. Certainly easy enough in the mid nineties setting of the movie.


Mikey McD doesn't tell anyone about bluffing Johnny Chan out of a pot with nothing but rags.

Now THIS is where I call shenanigans. No self respecting poker player in the world would keep this to themselves. Not only did he bluff Johnny Fucking Chan out of a pot, but he had the balls to give him a "Sorry John, I can't remember" as he flings his cards in to the middle. In reality, he would have stepped away from the table and got on his phone – called his girlfriend, called Knish, called Worm in Prison, called his mum, called Johnny's mum, called the number he found written on the bathroom wall. I can not believe that he would not have recounted this story around a card table in the few months that have passed. We as self respecting poker players are meant to believe that he kept the story to himself until giving it up at some Turkish Baths to a man dressed only in a towel after he has already lost his respect.

Anybody who had even a passing acquaintance with Mikey McD would have heard this story from him a million times before the next weekend came. It is understandable that he might want to keep the bragging rights to himself when trying to establish an image at a table sometimes, but this story would be just too great to keep. I know people that tell stories about how they won a coin toss against C grade celebrities at a greyhound track, and they tell that story every time I see them.

If I had made Johnny Chan believe that my last name was really Smith, I would have told everyone I saw for the next 12 months about it. With every thing else happening in this movie, THAT is the one thing I can not let pass.

VERDICT: Never. Not ever.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gear Switcher

Raoul Duke: There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"

Had two sports bets on last night, a big one and a small one. The small one came home, while the big one was pipped on the post. Oh well, what can you do?

Had a very weird tournament last night – I doubled up on the third hand and then never saw a showdown until there was 3 tables left. I was around the same amount of chips for the entire tournament from there until I lost the eventual all-in to 22. Such is life I guess. At least I finally hit a set with my pocket pair, which hasn't happened in so long. Well, it hasn't happened when I could take advantage of it at least.

I have been feeling very philosophical of late pertaining to my poker exploits. The results of late have not been kind, that has been made abundantly clear, and the culprit is the perennial man in the glass. I have been taking more time to consider the options of each hand and why opponents make the plays they do and why I make the plays I do (and how are they perceived?) Hopefully this will evolve into a turning point in my game – I certainly hope so because the good old bank roll can not sustain much more punishment the way things are going.

I have adopted a different approach to tournament play of late, and I seem to be hitting a hurdle in it. I have been reducing my starting hands a lot, and then playing them very hard. Normally my seen flop percentage would be around 25-30%, and now it is below 17% to give an illustration of how things are going. I am also trying not to look at flops after I fold, because I don't want to start thinking that the T8o in the small blind to a raise was a good idea when it flopped TT8. It seems to be working ok, except for hurdle I mentioned.

I can get down to the money positions on a regular basis, but then I am in a very short stack situation as the cards inevitably run cold and I am not seeing a flop for 3 or 4 orbits at a time, and then when a decent hand does come along, I'm looking at stealing the blinds.

The obvious answer is that I need to switch gears somewhere before we get down to the money, it's just when that I am having the problem with. I did notice a lot of player raising on my big blind and when I called, they basically gave up on the flop. Obviously my hard earned rock image was put to good use, but I needed to take better advantage of the situation. When there was a raise and a call in front of me, I decided not to gamble and folded my rags. I think when it gets closer to the business end of the tournament I needed to open up the starting hands slightly.

Having said that, on every occasion when I thought about doing that with hands I normally wouldn't, such as QJs or KQo, the results would have been catastrophic to my tournament life. There has to be more a calculated approach to making a move later in these tournaments, based more on position I think and using the image I have tried to create.

I say I have been philosophical, mainly because there hasn't been a good win in over a month, and even then it was disappointing. I am finding that even when I am going good, I have a few really unlucky hands that stop me from going great. But when I am going bad, there is no light at the end of the tunnel at all. I guess more concentration is needed to better understand where I am headed.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Bob Sweeney : There was a moment... when I used to blame everything and everyone... for all the pain and suffering and vile things that happened to me, that I saw happen to my people. Used to blame everybody. Blamed white people, blamed society, blamed God. I didn't get no answers 'cause I was asking the wrong questions. You have to ask the right questions.
Derek Vinyard: Like what?
Bob Sweeney: Has anything you've done made your life better?
"American History X"

The weekend started off terribly with Friday night poker, and then very gradually upgraded itself to crappy. It went from very shit to just shit.

Friday night poker started off in a blaze, despite getting kings cracked yet again on the second hand of the night – it would be the only big pair for the night but that's not where I went wrong. I managed to hit quads early but couldn't get paid off, had a gut shot fill on the turn against two players with aces-up but didn't get paid off again. All of this was within the first 20 minutes, and I knew I had blown what would be my best chances on the night already.

I continued my pay off ways, but wanted to trust my reads anyway. Against one player, I put him on a flush draw and when AK hit two pair on the turn, I decided to make him pay a little more for it. The river came for the flush, and he bet out a little too strong. I have seen this player do this a few times before when he was bluffing, so I called to see if he was. Wouldn't you know it, he had a 7 high flush. I was not happy. I guess I had one read each way, and I chose the wrong one – which really means I had no read at all.

Earlier in the night he caught me with set over set, as well as another set of fives versus my Queens-up. It was that kind of night for me.

By the time I had my fourth buy in on the table, I got my third one back and was content with that.

Online wise, things were not much better. Just when I thought I was getting out of trouble, I managed to find another way to get back in.

I finished deep in a 180 person SNG for a very small buy in, which I managed to double with a 16th finish. That wasn't too bad and I was happy with the finish as I went out with 44 vs AK, typical coin flip situation.

On the cash game side of things, I lost a big pot with KK again, this time against AK and JTo. The JTo was a short stack, but AK didn't want to lay his hand down pre-flop. I know that I would have to a re-re-raise, but I can see why some people won't. Anyway, his ace came on the flop, which of course leaves me with one out that won't come.

My luck did start to turn slightly in other SNG's and tournys. I even managed a few lucky hands – like AJo winning over AJo with w four flush to diamonds. But that guy thought it best to tell me why I should not have called for the last 20% of my stack with AJo when he went over the top of my initial raise. Mind you, my initial raise of 80% of my stack was about 3.5BB, so you can see where we were at in this tournament.

In the cash games though, I had one of the worst pieces of luck I can remember, and it could have been a lot worse. After working so hard to get myself out of a slump, I saw a flop with J9c. Flop comes 3cAdQc, checked all round. Turn brings Ac, so I have a flush but if anyone has an ace then I could get into trouble later on. The pot was $4, so I just bet out $3 to see what happens. At least, I meant to bet out $3, instead I bet out $97 in to a $4 pot. It seems the button on the mouse was stuck down a little, so when I used the scroll bar to get to $3, it kept going when I pressed the "raise" button and managed to put me all in. I guess I was lucky the only player who called had $35 in front of him – he had me drawing dead too. I was just shocked on that hand.

Later, some maniac managed to sooth my wounds when I tempted fate once more with KK and called his re-raise all in with a flop of J68. Since you don't get to see the cards until after the turn and river, I figured he probably had a Jack, maybe AJ. The river was another Jack and I figured I was beat, but it turned out he had 57 for an open ended straight draw. Tag and release on this one I guess.

I really had to stop myself and think – why did he bet that much in that position? With what hands does that bet make sense? I think my major fault over the last month has been short-sightedness. I couldn't see past the cards in my hand. That is a terrible habit to get into. I also started to just hope that a monster hand came along, instead of playing the current one on it's merits.

At the moment, I have only a few frequent player points to clear before a bonus materialises at Poker Stars. I was planing on getting close enough and then going on a free roll $100 SNG again, but thought better of it. Now I am close enough to play a $20 SNG and book a $100 profit even if I loose out on the first hand. It's not a big win, nor will it put me anywhere near even for the month, but it is a start.

I have another big sports bet coming out tonight, interesting to see what happens with that. It seemed on obvious one when I made it, and then have regretted it everyday since. Oh well, only in the fullness of time will we know if it was worth it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Finals Season

Harry Doyle : That's all we got, one goddamn hit?
Assistant: You can't say goddamn on the air.
Harry Doyle: Don't worry, nobody is listening anyway.
"Major League"

Sometimes you need a good kick while you are down to remember to get back up again.

So I had my worst single session ever the other night, down quite a bit. It was a little bit of bad luck, and a lot of bad play. I have become a bit of a Pay Off Wizard of late, something that must stop pronto. I think I also have to stop looking at the good fortune of others players and comparing it to my own. When I am not in pot and 22 makes a flops quads, then my 99 hits a set on a all-heart board – I tend to think that they are getting all the luck and I am due. Sure, they might have hit a flop and I missed, but you can't go dwelling on it when the next hand is already being dealt.

I have become a big fan of watching High Stakes Poker, which I think is fascinating on so many levels. Firstly, just knowing that those chips represent real money is amazing in itself. But also to see the levels of thinking that goes on with these great players and how they can call an opponents hand goes to show why they make a living doing this and why I am happy to make $10 a night.

But also you see the pros make mistakes, and get caught in the same traps that other players also get caught in. So far I have seen all of season one and a few episodes of season 2. Already I think Sammy Farha is funny as hell for the times when he offers those deals and chops and so on. The back and forth is great stuff. I'd love to see more members of the "Big Game" present at the table to mix things up.

I have made a major change to my game just yesterday. I have been forced to wear glasses from now on as I was struggling to read the cards in the middle of the table during a game a few weeks ago – not that it made a difference in that hand but you never know what is coming. Sure, I don't think this will make a lick of difference but now I can take my glasses off and make a point with them in a very authoritive manner that just might earn me some chips – or a laugh at least.

The Ballad of Ricky Bobby opens here this weekend, so I dare saw a trip outside this weekend might be in order. I have no planned games on so a trip back to the cinemas sounds like a plan, especially since I won't be concerning myself with movies or poker next week. Because next week is one of the greatest weeks of the year – Grand Final Week.

As long time readers would know, I love Aussie Rules Footy. AFL Grand Final week really begins with the two preliminary finals held the weekend before. Sure, the final series last a month and includes many other games, but the Preliminary final decides who plays who in the big one and they are always a great spectacle.

Once you know who is playing, Monday night is Brownlow Medal night where they count down the votes for each game of the year and see who is judged the best player for 2006.

Thursday night is when the teams get named, and for me there is a tradition of watching the grand final edition of the Footy Show no matter how late it is on. Friday night is when all the finals of previous years start being replayed, leading all the way up to the first bounce at just after 2pm on the last Saturday in September.

And this year with a big plasma screen sitting in the lounge room, and our new wedding gifted couches at the ready, this is about as good as it gets for the armchair footy fan such as myself.

Even though I live in Sydney, I hope they don't make it. They won last year, but to be honest their games are mostly boring. I'd like to see either of the Western Australian teams win, and if they played off against each other then fireworks are sure to fly. But if it does end up Adelaide vs Sydney, then I just can not bring myself to cheer for Adelaide. That is just a given.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Taking Blame

Guy on Street : Hey big guy, you hear the news, my son Billy got the lead in his school musical.
Hank Evans: Well I guess he likes the cock after all.
"Me, Myself and Irene"

It has been a big week of poker for myself, and as usual there were ups and downs and many in betweens. Calling it "poker" would be a gross exaggeration of what I was doing. This was pure un-adulterated gambling, to be sure.

With further results that would make bad beat lovers cry, I was at wits end. I was finding new ways to loose and continued to make things even worse for myself by thinking again how unlucky I was. It wasn't until days later that I realised where that unlucky streak was coming from – but more on that later.

Sp I was on a pretty horrid loosing streak when I got the feeling that maybe poker wasn't for me. I guess this happens every month or so – the thoughts that maybe all my wins were luck and maybe I should just be happy with the table scraps I feed off on the poker world are there at all. Take my ball and go home, so to speak. But once again I reminded myself that it wasn't even my ball to begin with. Advertising revenue, affiliate money, bonus whoring and a few freerolls is really how I have made money playing poker. And make no mistake, what I have made in a lifetime playing poker would barely be a months wagers, so we are not talking big money by any stretch of the imagination. Small money. Small money that isn't mine. So why do I care?

Well I care because that small money can be turned into big money, but poker just wasn't doing it. So I thought maybe I could turn to some sports betting to recover some ground. Pick some footy winners and maybe try to use some bonus money through the deposit to make some coin. I found a decent enough bonus offering and put a rather large scale bet for myself on a game over the weekend.

But for the mean time, I had lost another 4 SNG in a row when I was down and out. I had $120 left online and for about the millionth time decided to put it all on the line in one go. Every time I've done this before, it has ended in badly for me.

So I took my money to Pokerstars because I knew there would be action at the larger SNG's. I quickly found a $100+$9 buy in that would fill up, and took my seat.

This was a big step for myself. This was the single biggest buy in I had ever placed on a game of any description. Sure, I had bought in at cash games for $100 before, but the $9 fee made this more expensive than them (excluding re-buys for the cash games). My usual SNG tendances are $5 and $10 games, with the odd splash of $20's when I am feeling frisky. I can remember one $30 and one only.

When I registered for the game, I thought maybe I could pull out if it didn't fill up – you know, give myself an out with reason if I decided I was chicken. Turns out I didn't get a chance to make that decision quick enough.

So I played conservative and tight enough, and pushed some strong hands when I had them. When it got down to 4 and the dreaded bubble, my memory turned back to all the previous times I had done something similar, and how many bubble finishes had occurred in the past. How each time, the small stack would double up, then the new small stack the same again and again until I was the small stack and lost. This time, however, the small stack couldn't last out the first grasp and I had actually made the money in my first decent sized buy in SNG.

Third would mean a $80 profit. 2nd would mean $170 and would put me back to even for the month. First would be all beer and skittles.

I was determined not to just throw it all in now that the bubble had burst, and still try to play something normal. I must have had a half decent table image as my raises were met with respect. I was 2 nd in chips when the small stack raised my BB. With AcJs I decided to see if he was just stealing and put him all in. He called with AK and we go to the flop.

The flop brings a king, but two clubs. I would need running outs from here for the clubs, a straight or trip jacks. The ten of clubs on the turn was one each for the straight and flush, and the river completed the former. I had to suck out to get there, but in my mind it was a justifiable one. Again with the selective descriptions of when we get "lucky"…

When we were heads up I pushed with top pair and a flush draw on the turn, when my opponent had already hit trips. The river didn't come for me this time so it was all over. I had placed second and was more than happy with the result all things considered. I was back somewhere near even and ready to go.

Saturday night was another live game, and I can say any losses I incurred were completely my fault. At the time I was thinking the other guys were "lucky" again by hitting their draws, but in the end I wasn't putting enough pressure on their draws and then continually made calls when I knew I was beaten. I didn't have many big hands on the night and the only salvation came near the end when I had a gut shot fill on the river (I was priming for a bluff as I knew he was on the draw anyway – which I was correct in) and then a flopped flush on the very last hand when my all-in was called by 2 pair. The flush held up which left me down $16 for the night. That result really was flattering; it doesn't show how badly I played.

Funny occurrence though, another player going through a rough streak went all-in blind with $12 or something similar. Last time he did this, I had AA and his blind hand was A9 which filled up a straight. This time I had QQ, and even though there was one caller I decided I wanted to be heads up with my Queens. If he has Aces or Kings, well looks like I'm in trouble. Caller folded, and we went to the flop without the blind player looking at his cards.

The flop was all under cards, when I decided I needed to look at the blind cards (with his approval). As soon as I peeked at a King, the dealer threw one out on the board. Blind player had K9o, and the pair of kings were good enough. He'd done it to me twice now – what can you do?

I had been checking the footy scores all night via my mobile phone. When I was listening on the radio on my way to the game, scores were pretty close. I couldn't believe how nervous I was and if there was any inkling in my subconscious that I could stomach a career as a professional gambler, this night surely proved that I could never handle it.

As the game wore on, my team stretched their lead until it became a bit of a blow out. The small win meant I had actually turned a profit thus far this month and the air seemed a little lighter all of a sudden.

Sunday night I was wasting a bit of time watching High Stakes Poker while playing some poker online. I was also watching some douche bag give a tutorial about making money online using this fantastic new unbelievable poker calculator. But I thought lets watch a bit and see what his secret strategy is. The secret was when you have a big hand, push all-in pre flop regardless. Fold everything else. Easy enough I guess. I decided to try it in one SNG and it was working well for a while. Eventually though I lost when I pushed all-in with JJ vs AK, and the flop was AKx. But that will happen sometimes.

I didn't like the strategy that much, but while watching HSP I noticed something similar a few times, particularly from Daniel Negreanu and his massive million dollar buy in (some of the first episodes of HSP I am talking about here). When he believed he had the best hand, he would grossly overbet the pot, in one instance betting $1M into a $20K pot. Of course it really was only a $100K bet as that is all the opponent had to call him with, but the point was there – this isn't really an overbet, it is a protection bet.

On all these times when I considered myself unlucky to loose to the flush draw, I wasn't protecting my hand well enough. I would bet out on the flop or turn when I thought I was ahead, but I would never bet enough. I was scared for some reason to bet more than the pot. Maybe not going all-in all the time, but at least making it a stupid call for my opponent as apposed to an uncomfortable one. And some times I wasn't even making it uncomfortable.

I grinded out a very small profit at a cash table while this was going on, and I think those results might have influenced my interpretation of the new advice I was giving myself. We'll see if the results can last. I also updated a few of my own poker mandates after this weekends poker experiences. Simple lessons that I had always known, but didn't really understand. I think Patience is a great virtue in the poker world, something that I certainly did not display in the first half f this week, but now embrace at the end.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Book Review: The Wisdom Of Dickie Richard

Sheriff of Nottingham: Wait a minute. Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public, and they love him for it? That's it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.
"Robin Hood: Prince of Theives"

"How to cheat your friends at poker: the wisdom of Dickie Richard" is a book suppositively co-written by Penn Jillette and a man going by the pseudonym "Dickie Roberts" – a man who has made his living by cheating at poker.

When I first saw this book, I was hoping it was full of funny poker anecdotes and tricks you could play on your friends over a few beers and a few cards. Being that Penn was attached to it, and he has been known for a practical joke or two in his time, I was really looking forward to some good poker related laughs with this title. After all I am a big fan of all his other work.

As soon as I received the book, it became obvious that I was very wrong. The title is a lot like "Snakes On A Plane" – it tells you exactly what you are getting. This book is about how to cheat at poker – well, it sort of is how to cheat at poker.

With that knowledge now secure, I thought since I paid for it I should read it anyway. Besides, the fact that the hard cover of the book displays a fake title gave me a giggle so maybe I will be pleasantly surprised by the contents, or at least entertained by his stories a few times.

There is always the ethical and moral questions that you may ask of a poker cheat. Dickie deals with them with the usual "Everyone cheats" mentality. In a way I can see what he means, as nobody is a saint in life and some may take the moral high ground when it comes to cheating at poker, but they are happy to forget to add some numbers on their tax return or lie to get out of a social event they have no desire of attending. Funnily enough, I had no real problems with his chosen profession and rationalisation of it, I think more so because I just wanted to read the book and try to enjoy it rather than hate the narrator from the outset.

So lets begin – with this caveat. I have no idea if Dickie Roberts even exists. This could be a completely made up persona for all I know, but for the sake of this review lets assume he is real, he did help Penn Jillette once in the past, and he wanted to put something down on paper about his life with the help of his friend.

The book is really about two things: Tips on cheating at home games and a few of his stories of the road. I will address these two parts separately.

Firstly, his tips on cheating. For the most part it is pretty basic stuff, but to say he just scraps the surface is an understatement. Some of his tips no more than telling you to learn how to deal seconds from another book. Great, now practice it to no end. Do it once, twice, a million times until it is perfect. He harps on this point, which I'm sure is very important in the context of mastering any trade – that practice is important – but really he is very scarce on details and more or less points you to other reference points.

Marking the cards with his nails seemed to be his favourite way of tracking cards, and this seems to be explained better but still without great detail. If you were to attempt to make a living of this, you would need several other reference materials to make the actions worth while. Having those other reference materials would make this one redundant.

While this is a manual on cheating, his work ethic must be admired. He no doubt mastered his chosen craft and could use his tools to supreme effectiveness. And he tells of how boring the practice is, and repetitive, but that is the price to pay for making his living from the turn of the pre-arranged card.

The other major part of the book is stories of his trials and tribulations on the road plying his trade. While they are arrogant and shallow at times, astonishing at others I have one major point to make about these: SHENNANIGANS!

Dickies brags of playing in home games across the country, and being able to coerce his victims into raising the stakes higher and higher. This always suits him, since he knows he will walk out in the black no matter what.

Some of the tricks are quite clever, while others are just ludicrous. On the ludicrous side of things, he had marked cards so that when viewed through a green visor they had in big bold lettering the value of the card. So when he let another player wear them – who decided not to say anything to the other players (included one who obviously knew the method of the visor) and use them to his advantage, Dickie slipped in a cold deck that had one or two cards marked incorrectly on the back to deceive the would-be cheat. Even in his own words, he said he thought the player would more than likely yell a bit when he found out he could see the values of cards (Dickie said the visor belonged to another player at the table, not himself) and they would have a good laugh about it – but instead the guy decided to try to use the visor – even though someone else at the table was obviously aware of the trick. I just can't see that happening.

Other stories about ripping off hookers, cheating with the hosts' wives, scouting for home games all sound plausible if not a little far fetched. If a friend told you these stories, you would think he was bending the truth slightly. It comes off sometimes as school yard boasting. And then there is other times when it just seems like one of the most blatant lies ever.

I have no doubt there are thousands upon thousands of poker games going on anywhere in the USA. I have no doubt that people from all walks of life, from all demographics and levels of wealth partake in these games. Dickie weaselling himself into some big money games is not unlikely, and I would argue almost a certainty if you believe everything else he has said in his book. But one goes a little too far. When he tells of a big game he got into, and how he got the players to raise the stakes higher and higher. They raised the stakes to a level where only Andy Beal would feel comfortable – and I don't mean that as an exaggeration. They were playing $50K/$100K with upwards of $20M on the table. And this was 5 or 6 handed, not heads up like Mr Beal prefers. Oh yeah, and of course it was no limit.

Who were the players? The main guy, the real whale and host of this game was a county judge. Not some Texan Billionaire, but a wealthy judge. I have no doubt the veterans in the law profession have made some serious coin in their day. But I find it hard that when Andy Beal raises the stakes so high that a group of 10 or so of the best poker players in the world can not afford to go it alone against him, Dickie can find 5 or 6 players in a semi-regular home game that are willing to play at that level. Dickie says he dropped a few million in that game on one hand which he called his Big Mistake, and that game broke for good after that day.

While some of the stories are far fetched, this is where I drew the line.

In the back of the book Dickie provides a few tables with calculated odds – nothing you haven't seen before. But the last column got me to laugh – Odds of hitting the flush on the river – 1 in 5. Odds of hitting the flush on the river if you are cheating – 1 in 1. And that 1 in 1 continues down the page no matter what draw you have.

In the end, it is a pretty average book. It is one thing to believe that Dickie Roberts exists, it is another thing to believe he tells the truth. Even if he does exist, how can you believe a man who makes his living by cheating? And why would he lie in the book, he may claim? Well how about $24.95 a pop – why not?

I was pretty disappointed as you can guess. I can't really recommend this book for anyone. Even if you are looking to make a career out of cheating at cards, the lessons you could learn from Dickie are minimal and I think I could summarise them in a few words: Practice, and don't get caught. If you are looking for some good reading on poker and a few laughs, it will probably fall short of your expectations too.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Give Me Something To Believe In

Louis: Where are we?
Lestat: Where do you think, my idiot friend? We're in a nice, filthy cemetery. Does this make you happy? Is this fitting, proper enough?
Louis: We belong in hell.
Lestat: And what if there is no hell, or they don't want us there? Ever think of that?
"Interview with the Vampire"

I think I am done with my whinging for now. Would it be improper to consider myself an unlucky poker player? How many people would say that? I know a lot of loosing players always say there were "just unlucky", but I seem to find that even when I am winning I am considering myself unlucky at crucial times.

I guess we just have the ability to block out those times when we are lucky, as they whisk by and we commit them to some vain accomplishment like skill or intuition, or heaven forbid, "pot odds". Those pass us by with nary a care, yet when the fortunes are reversed we curse the skies and ask what we have done to deserve some perverse occurrences. All without the restriction of guilt or an effective memory.

I am a poor offender when it comes to the whinging post, as any long time reader will attest to, but I assure you half of what I say is in jest only. But I have some more examples to show how I am trying to correct this fault of mine which will hopefully satisfy more of the mental component that I should possess to make myself a better player.

Nice and late in a tournament, we are down to the final 3 tables out of 180 when I am in the unfortunate position of being in the bottom 2 or 3 chips. We are just outside of the money positions, but as is my motto I do not try to just make the money positions but try to finish top 4 for some real return – and at the micro levels I play at, just making past the bubble is only a $5 return so hardly worth it.

So I am short stacked and have KQc in late position. There is no-one else in the pot as yet so I raise it up 4BB, which is about half my stack anyway. I figure I am more likely to win with a push on the flop if he misses that with an all-in right here anyway. I get one caller from the small blind. The flop is all rags 7 high, so I do my final push and the small blind calls rather quickly. He flips over AA and I'm in need of running outs. I get a King and a Queen in succession, and my AA opponent is out next hand just before the bubble. I am however now sitting in 3 rd as the bubble bursts, in a very good position to get deep into the final table.

A short while later, I have my turn with AA when one short stack raises me on the BB. I push it all-in and after a short time he calls with QJo. The flop is all unders, and then he hits running jacks to have me down back to a below where I was before.

Now both hands are just about identical, and the mathematical advantage of AA vs KQc and AA vs QJo is not really all that significant to be bothered. In fact, since all the money went in on the flop in my suckout as apposed to pre-flop in the later account perhaps I was even further behind mathematically. But I did not whinge or moan about how a short stack could call me all in with QJo. I probably would have done the same in his position, since 10th paid the same as 15th , and you need chips if you want the real money finish.

The next hand I have TT and push it all in. I get two callers in A9o and KK, and the Kings hold. Not that I can complain with the result of that hand, but it was a little unlucky having the tens run into his kings. But such is life I guess. I finished in 15 th for a very small collect.

While I may moan about my losses here, I don't do it at the table unlike my victim in the first AA incident above. What have you go to gain from it? The poker rooms won't allow you to hand back the tournament chips, just build a bridge and get over it.

I did have the honour of cracking aces again later in another SNG. I was the big blind and my victim was in the SB. It was just the two of us in the pot, down to the final bubble. He made a min-raise from the SB and I called with 79o. The flop was 356, leaving me with a double gut-shot straight. Opponent made a minimum bet, so I called it. The turn was a 7, so now I have a pair to go with my straight draw. Finally, my opponent makes a decent sized bet of T1000, about 75% of the pot. I decided to make the call, as I was sure he had a big over pair now and I knew where I was in the hand and could fold if my hand doesn't improve here. This was a loose call, but perhaps the implied odds of what I can pull in should my hand improve might make this call ok in some peoples minds. Whatever, I made the call regardless. The river was a 9, giving me two pair but also putting a 3 card flush on the board. He bet out a third time, only T450 this time and even though I was fairly certain I was ahead, I just called again in case he had AKd. Obviously he didn't, but I think he was pretty shocked with what I called with.

Now the whinging came, but this also illustrates another point I made earlier, these players are not as good as I give them credit for sometimes. He started to berate me for the play, and even tried to sound intelligent about it.

"How could you make that call?"
"Loosely" I responded.
"You had 7% you donkey".

Now this is where I got offended. Not at the donkey part, I think every player in the world has been called that at some time and much worse at others. But 7%? My maths is pretty decent, and I knew I was better than 7%. I will print my response here verbatim, and then check the actual of the maths after this.

"7%?? I had 8 outs for the straight, 3 for two pair and 2 for trips. That's about 25%"

"You only had the straight draw on the turn, jackass."

"Check again, I had the straight draw on the flop" Where you bet like a pussy and let me stay in it. Ok, so I only said the first bit, but that is sure what I was thinking (along with Minimum Raises Make the Baby Jebus Cry).

"Ok. But you called 1000 on the turn"

"I said it was loose."

Not two seconds later, he actually said sorry. Sure, I know it wasn't sincere, but he had to press those five little keys to do it and the minute amount of exercise that action pertains to was enough justification for me. Turns out I was pretty close at about 22% on the turn, whish is 3x what he gave me after the fact.

That and the fact I ended up winning that SNG.

I went ok in another MTT, outlasting nearly 1000 players to finish still outside the bubble. My downfall was loosing most of my stack with AKd to 66 and A8o. Not much I could do, I was getting low and needed to win a coin flip and didn't. Earlier I had also managed to win a Omaha Hi/Lo SNG which was kinda fun, as soon as I got my head around the game again. After winning a hand where I had my opponent drawing dead heads up, I managed to snag a one-outer on the very next hand when he couldn't complete the small blind and was forced all-in. I had A44x to his A4KK and hit the final 4 on the river. That was unnecessary, but funny to watch.

In the live game on Friday night, I ended up jus tin front but it was a very frustrating night. I never had decent cards to do anything and found myself folded a lot more than I would like, but thems the brakes. I did have one interesting hand where two players were considering to call my all-in when all I had was A8o on a board of 7TT. They both thought about it for ages, which made me think they had a better ace at least and I don't want any calls. First player folded, and then second player called with J9. Talk about no respect! That call crippled him too. The other player had KJ – so if the shoe were on the other foot, I think both of them was an easy fold. Anyways, as it turned out I was semi-bluffing with the best hand and would have won it even if both of them called. Very weird hand.

I have some other projects that I alluded to in an earlier post, and they have made some important steps in the past few days. Hopefully something solid will come form this.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Poker Hates Me

Kenny: It takes a certain kind of person to do what I do. No-one's ever impressed; no-one's ever fascinated. If you're a fireman, all the kids will want to jump on the back of the truck and follow you to a fire. There's going to be no kids willing to do that with me. So, I don't do it to impress people - it's a job, it's my trade, and I actually think I'm pretty good at it.

Be patient with me, dear reader, for I will endeavour to do my best to not let this slide into a bad beat post. I promise I will not recount the hands card by card for you today.

Lets just accept it as fact that I have lost a few big hands lately when I was an overwhelming favourite going into the river. Ok? We all have an understanding here.

Why does poker hate me so? What did I ever do to it?

I was feeling pretty good too, mainly due to the banter going on at one of the tables I was at that really showcased the mentality of the players I was up against. For that short story, two players hit top pair on a flop and neither of them bet at it until the flush came on the river. Player A made the nut flush and won, while Player B whinged about how lucky the other guy was to hit it on the river. But he never bet out once in the hand, the player A got the turn and river for free – how can you blame anyone but yourself? Player B responded by saying he didn't want to loose his whole stack if the flush came (but was happy to call off 2/3rds of it when it did).

I think sometimes I give my opponents way too much credit. I noticed this the other week at the live game. Usually some of the most obvious tells you can put down to poor acting – but in time I realised that some of these people might not even know what an obvious tell is and therefore couldn't act to give that impression – in other words, this IS a tell. Man, it seems so obvious now but as I stated before as soon as I realised this I never had the chance to take advantage of the situation.

So I got good and smacked at the tables this week. Where does that leave me? Ah, no worse for wear really. I know I made the right decisions 90% of the time, and sometimes you just can't help bad luck. But are the poker demons trying to tell me something?

I also found myself cashing out of tables when I was up 20% on my buy in – which isn't all that bad but when you consider the stop limit when I am loosing is 100% then there is some obvious discrepancies going on that are not healthy for my game or my bankroll.

I have had something else on my mind of late, and I have been procrastinating getting it started for all the usual excuses – too hard, too much, no idea what I am doing and so on and so forth. Poker is an always welcomed distraction, but perhaps I should dedicate some more time around the interests that lurk in the back of my mind. Hey, it couldn't be any more of a waste than spending a few hours at the 50c/$1 tables, could it?

Trying to get another home game up and running this Friday night – it has been far too long between drinks. It might end up a very low buy-in game which means the Distraction could join the fray. I don't think she has played in a very long time, so that could end up mighty interesting.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Aussie Film

Anthony 'Swoff' Swofford: A flashlight was a moonbeam. A pen was an ink stick. My mouth was a cum receptacle. A bed was a rack. A wall was a bulkhead. A shirt was a blouse. A tie was still a tie, and a belt a belt. But many other things would never be the same.

I had very little poker to play over the weekend, but had plenty of good movies to watch so it was a bit of a trade off in that respect. It was probably for the better, as the little poker I did play saw me on the wrong end of too many hands. I think it was on no less than 5 occasions where an opponent flopped their hand and let me draw to a lesser one, and I was not able to throw away what I had that lead to the demise. I had the sucker end of the straight twice, and I knew it both times but I was up against small stacks so I made the crying call every time. Or is that just me trying to justify it? Anyways…

Over the weekend I managed to see Jarhead, Kenny, Super Troopers and The Butterfly Effect – the first two for the first time.

Jarhead was good, but really it didn't seem to go anywhere, and then all of a sudden it was over. Well, not all of a sudden because it did go on for a bit, but it just seemed to hit the two hour mark and then roll credits.

Kenny is an Australian movie that I am sure hardly any of the readers here have heard of. It is a mockumentary following the life of Kenny, who works for Splashdown, a company that supplies removable toilets for outdoor events and the like. It's touching in moments, funny in others and has a gentle pace that suits it's desired audience.

It's always a welcomed relief when an Australian movie comes out that is good to watch. It is sort of a weird situation here in the Australian film industry. Hardly any movies get made without Government funding, and the criteria for such a movie is restrictive. What this ends up with is comedies about the "Aussie Battler", which are usually funny but only to Australians, or female character explorations which are loved by the critics but nobody goes to watch.

The Aussie Battler movies get a fair amount of criticism, basically because they all seem very similar, but in the end they get a laugh and that is about all you can expect. The artsy end of our film spectrum is a bit of a joke really. It is funny when people in this so called industry keep lobbying the government for more money to make films in this country, when the films they approve to make hardly ever turn a profit. So keep throwing more money into this pieces of crap that nobody besides the writer/director can understand or be bothered to watch.

The sad thing is if they bothered to produce movies that would suit the public, they might actually turn into self funded organisations. The success of one film would pay the way for the next one, and so on. You could almost call it a business in that way.

That is not to say that talent does not exist on this little island called Australia. We have it, it just gets ignored mostly.

One of the funniest Australian movies of all time came out a few years ago in a straight to video fashion. It was called "Ned" and was genuinely funny from start to 10 minutes before the finish – which was a shame, but it seemed like it just did not know how to finish up the story.

"Ned" could be seen as another typical Aussie Battler movie, but it wasn't. It was a fake history of Ned Kelly and was beautifully presented but it never received a theatrical release. I think I have a good reason why – it had one of the worst test screenings ever. I know this from first hand experience, but it shouldn't have been this way. It was testing in the city at a fairly trendy type of place frequented by night clubbers and people in general that probably had no idea that Ned Kelly even existed. To put it another way, the movie was pitched to the exact opposite audience that would pay to watch it. And what happened? It had a terrible screening in which only two people laughed. And I picked up the DVD for $8. Hey, good for me, but just goes to show the downfalls of this Australian film industry.

It is frustrating that profitable movies are not made here. And when something original and interesting like "Saw" comes along, the boys were (rightly) advised to take their idea overseas and didn't even bother trying to get it made here. Who could blame them? That movie would never have been made here and certainly wouldn't have got the attention it did if it was.

We had a season of "Project Greenlight" out here, but this has a terrible habit of turning out movies that the public hates anyway. The winner of season one in Australia was a movie called "Solo", which after doing a little research I found out came out 3 or 4 months ago. I never heard a thing about it and while trying to find what kind of business it did I am drawing a blank so you can guess how that went.

What is worse is that we have a thriving television industry built on mediocrity, with some of the worst talent ever put on display and yet they keep getting paid. At least the axe falls quickly on the majority of these shows, and I am talking about the comedies more so than the dramas, but yet the same people playing the same characters telling the same jokes get put back into action time and time again. You really get the feeling that there is no alternatives out there some times. Currently the front runner is "The Wedge", with the worst use of a laugh track in history. I can not believe this is being allowed to continue, it really is a shame.

Is that enough of a little rant for today?