Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Steady As She Goes

Elizabeth Swann: It would never have worked out between us.
Jack Sparrow: Keep telling yourself that, darling.
"Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End"

Our Friday night home games have been getting a little out of hand in the past month or so. People who used to go through 2-3 buy ins a night are now looking at 5-6. The big winner used to go home $200 up, and now it is pushing well above $500. I guess this is just part of the normal growth in a poker game.

The game was originally very small. $20 max buy in with 20c/40c blinds. But this turned into a silly all-in fest before long, so the limits were raised to where they are now, $50 max with 50c/$1 blinds. This worked for a little while, but now people are used to loosing that much and are really trying to score a big win. That has become the difference – a win is not enough anymore, and they need a big one.

Which means sometimes, you are also going to loose big. And that happens, though some players don't remember those nights as well as the other nights.

For me, this has been a frustrating time. I see what is going on, but I have not been able to capitalise on it. I was going through a very bad run where I seemed to be going up against the nuts all too often, and then became gun shy because of it. While I haven't had a big loosing night in a while, the big wins are not coming either. I have managed to get myself out of a hole a few times, and have got my yearly results firmly in the profit but it has been a grind. While I see others taking in $200 plus pots when they flop a monster, I have been grinding out $10 and $20 pots here and there when the board turns very scary and there is no action (for better or worse).

I wasn't happy with the way I was playing, the cards I was being dealt, the flops I was seeing and the rivers that were coming. It was all quite gloomy and made me wonder why I played in the first place.

But then, for what seemed like the first time in months, I got lucky. I hit a 2 outer when I had no right to even be seeing that river. This was a week or so ago, and I declared to myself (and no one else in particular) that the cold streak had been snapped. Fate/Karma/The Poker Demons had made their peace with me, and we would be returning to our normal scheduled programming.

For the most part, this has been true. Sure, I still get unlucky from time to time, still go 1-2 hours without dragging a pot while others flop straight-flushes from middle position and win 8/10 pots in some streaks. But now, I get a hand or two. I start to get in dominating positions and the hands hold up what would be a reasonable amount of times. Things are not running great, but they are a long way from the terrible way they were not that long ago.

I get dealt my two cards, and I actually feel excited about what I am going to do with them. I am not dreading what is coming next. I have stopped the bleeding, and now am working on the wound. I like poker again.

At our last home game, I as the only player still with their original buy in at the end of the night. Others were in profit by a lot more than me, but they had to reload to get there. One player revisited his ultimate lucky streak yet again, being unable to loose for a 3 hour stretch which included the flopped straight flush (against QQ no less) and quads, also countless straights and flushes. But it was lonely me as the only person that never ran out of chips, and I was only all-in on one occasion. I missed some hands I could have won, got bluffed off a few pots I really thought I should call and so on. But generally, I feel like I have a chance to actually play to win, not just play to avoid loosing. It's been better. Still err slightly on the tight side, but I will take that on board and see how it goes from here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

One Night At The Casino

Lester Bangs: Aw, man. You made friends with them. See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong.
William Miller: Well, it was fun.
Lester Bangs: They make you feel cool. And hey. I met you. You are not cool.
William Miller: I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn't.
Lester Bangs: That's because we're uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don't have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we're smarter.
William Miller: I can really see that now.
Lester Bangs: Yeah, great art is about conflict and pain and guilt and longing and love disguised as sex, and sex disguised as love... and let's face it, you got a big head start.
William Miller: I'm glad you were home.
Lester Bangs: I'm always home. I'm uncool.
"Almost Famous"

All up on the weekend, I am in front when it comes to poker play, both online and at the casino. And all I want to talk about is the casino, as this was certainly an eye opener.

I have come into the poker blogging community earlier than most, later than some. Of the ones before me, I remember how they spoke about Party Poker in it's prime, and how bad the players there were. I saw the tail end of this, and thought it was funny that people could be that detached to their money when sitting in front of a computer and not having to look other players in their eyes.

Let me tell you, those plays are nothing compared to what I saw at Star City casino on Friday night.

I was just shocked at the way some people were playing, and this was early on before everyone was drunk. Here is just a quick summary of what I saw at the $1/$2 $80 max table:

- Guy sits down next to me and post the $2 blind from late position. There are a few callers around and he checks, then the big blind raises it to $25. Middle position player re-raises all-in to $100+. The guy sitting down with his first hand looks at his hand and grimaces, then says "Man, I didn't want this first hand" and then reluctantly calls. The Big Blind folds. Middle position turns over AJo and the guy playing his first hand had KJc, which doesn't get there. Wow, on both counts! But he had no choice he says, he had to call with KJ suited!

- 3 runners see a board of 7JJ7 and first to act bets out $40 into a $160 pot. 2nd player calls to be all in and third player also calls. River is a 2, and the last two players check. The all in player shows 22 for the win. He had the absolute nut low on the turn, but called the all-in for half a buy in, when in all likely hood he could have been drawing dead. No idea what the other two players had.

- Yet another player go all-in on their very first hand pre-flop with AJo, telling everyone that he had no choice, he had to get it in there. Then one of his friends on the rail said if he had 24o, he should do the same. He joked, and said that was just a raising hand. I laughed, because I thought raising with 24o was smarter than going all in with AJo preflop first hand.

There was god knows how many times players would bet $60 on the river with nothing but 7 high into 3 runners, and of course they got called. I saw one player rebuy at least 10 times, and he was sitting down before I even arrived. It seemed to be that the mentality of most of the table was "I've got nothing, so only a bluff will win it for me, therefore I have to bluff big". Never did the thought occur to them that "My opponent has a hand he won't fold. Maybe I should give up on this one".

Late in the night, when I won one of the four hands I won all night, I really got to see how little these guys thought about the game or were paying attention. I was in the 1 seat, so my view of the 9 and 10 was blocked slightly by the dealer. A real maniac was in the 10 seat, so it was crucial to see if he had raised or not.

I had AQo in late position, and called a raise to see the flop 5 handed. Flop comes Q high and it is checked by both the players in the 9 and 10 seats. I couldn't see though, so I tried to look around the dealer and said "Did he just check?". Unfortunately, all the dealer heard was "check" and moved the action to the next player. I realised what happened, and said "Oh, I meant did he just check, I wasn't going to check…Ahh, too late." I was a bit disappointed because I wanted to bet but I guess I missed my chance. Then, the player behind me bet $5. Wow, all I could think was he must really have something to bet that little to get everyone else in, and then get me to raise so he can come back over the top. For me though, I only had another $35 so after I put in a raise, I was going to be pot committed anyway. So exactly that happened, every one else called and then I raised to be all-in. The original raiser called, and everyone else folded. Huh? I was a little shocked, but ok. The other player turns over QJ, and my hand holds up.

Out of the four hands I won (one other was a chop), only one was without showdown. My winning hands were 88 (sucked out vs JJ on the river), AQ (hand above), AJ (hit trip jacks) and AK (duel ace flop, took it on the turn). The other hand I chopped was A3, so I guess I was playing a little tight. I was playing too tight. I folded both 55 and 99 pre-flop to big raises early on, when I was not adjusted to the table and saw both flop a full house without enough of a taste for the other players to get action too. But it took me a while to get adjusted and then the table turned sour as other players got drunker. I decided to pull out just before 1am and grab something to eat, while watching the footy on the big screen. After that, I hung around as the guys I was getting a ride home with were still playing, just watching from the rail as I saw the same stupidity replayed again and again.

I left in front by just under $50, the other guys I knew there and my lift home, both ended in front $300 or so, maybe more. They were a little more accustomed to the action than I was and hit a few more hands than I did too. I just never got on a roll and never really got used to the action, though I was proud that I could call a $66 river bet when I had the trip jacks, and the river put a possible straight on the board. Sure, it's a good hand and you should probably call for your last $66, but it wasn't the nuts and there were a lot of hands that could beat me. I need to learn that I don't have to have the nuts to stick my money in the middle some times.

I know I had the same reaction the first time I played at some of the home games, and it took a little while for me to get used to the style of play. This was something else entirely, and I know that if I really focused I could make a lot of money at those tables. Perhaps I will return soon.

As a comment on the casino itself, all our dealers were top notch, and most had a bit of fun with the table as well. The rake though is a killer. For the $1/$2 $80 max table, the rake is 10% capped at $8, but there is also a $5 per hour time charge per player. That just gets excessive. I understand they make far less on a poker table than they make on a blackjack table, but hey give us a break. You need some big pots just to cover your expenses there.

At least we got free parking I guess.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Little My Way

Ace Rothstein: No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky
would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a
bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And you beat
him with a gun, you better kill him, because he'll keep comin' back
and back until one of you is dead.

For a few weeks now, I have been feeling like I have been getting a
rough deal from the cards. Actually, it has been all this year with
very few good runs, and I am basically running just above even online
and marginally in front in live games. But that doesn't really tell the story, as I have constantly been in a state of trying to get even back to even in session after session, cursing river cards the whole way.

In the past 2 weeks though, it has been abysmal with the online play. It would seem every 3 and 4 outer there is has been hitting, and knocking me out of SNG's and tournament alike. In cash games, the pattern would be win small pot, win small pot, loose massive pot to 4 outer and be left with 2 bets or be out. It has just been a disproportionate run of bad luck that has been getting me down – and probably limiting the life of my computer desk as I bang away on it.

Last night started off no differently, as I was in a 3 table SNG and in the early stages I was yet to play a hand. UTG has been making some suspect plays, but raises the bet to T60 here. I have AQc, my first playable hand for the game which is less than 1 orbit old. I decided to just call and see if the flop does me any favours, and one other player calls. Flop comes 4h4c6c, not too bad. UTG makes a continuation bet of T100, and I raised to T400. The other player folds, and UTG re-raises to T700. I'm thinking he probably has an over pair now. I just call, and the turn is As. He moves all-in straight away – but I figure this is a good card for me unless he has 66 or AA, then I'm drawing dead or very thin. But just about any other hand he could have, I am in front of or have many outs. I call the all in, and we see the river before we see the cards. The river is the 2c, pretty much the ideal card I am thinking before he flips over his cards – 24o. I was livid. Sure, I could have raised pre-flop but AQs isn't really a monster in early position. In hindsight, I was behind on ever street after that but all I could think about was how lucky he was on that flop when he made a for-no-reason raise with 24o, and gets no only a flop that puts him way ahead, but also gives me every reason to come along for the ride. The river, while not a bad beat or anything, was really rubbing it in. And my current frame of mind certainly didn't help.

I shutdown and watch some TV with the Distraction, giving poker my
curses and letting it drift away as I watch Stan Lee decide which
costumed social reject would be the next super hero, and the
Distraction flicking back during the ad breaks to the True Hollywood
Story of Mark Wahlberg.

With no more quality television to watch, the Distraction decided to go to bed and watch a DVD. It was still early, so I went back for more punishment. I wanted to go up a level in the cash games, just to mix things up a bit and try to get some o f my game back, not to mention money.

Playing tight, I got a hand to play finally with AK and got a short stack who was clearly on tilt to call and see a flop. AQx, and he bets out, I raise and he calls. The turn is a blank and I bet out $12, enough to have him all-in. He calls, and the river gives him two pair with Q2. I am now getting sick of this.

I start asking nobody in particular – why me? Why does this keep happening? Isn't there someway I can make this stop?

The villain in that hand had $22 ($100 max buy in) before the hand started, and had now doubled up to $46 with my pot. About 8 hands later, he is up to $170. Why can't I hit some of those cards?

Reminding myself that this mindset does me no favours, I reside to the fact that this is poker, and what can you do? I'm getting back on my metaphorical horse and playing the next hand on its merits, and the one after that as well. Que Sera, Sera – if you will.

A few hands later, this gem pops up against the same player. 22 from the big blind, the flop comes 4sKh2h, which is pretty good for me. I let him bet out because that is what he always does, and then raised his $4 to $10. He calls, and then the turn is not a heart. I bet out for $20, which could have been too much but he folded anyway. Might have missed my chance for a bigger pay off, but I have got to be happy with the pot anyway.

Next orbit, again on the BB I have 55. Everyone folds around to the
small blind who has been known to fold the small blind if he doesn't
have anything. This time, he raises to $4 so I am in for a flop.

Flop is 9dAd4s. He bets out $5, and I thought I would see if he really
does have the ace, so I raised to $15. This is probably a little more
frisky than I usually play, but we'll see if it pays off on this tight
table. He just calls, and then instantly checks on the turn when the
As comes down. For what ever reason, I read this as a flush draw with
maybe a pair. But it didn't seem like he had the Ace and if I
represented it on the flop, I am damn well going to represent it here
as well and put out another $15. $15 to me looks like a bet that is
small enough to look like I want to get called and big enough to make
it a worthwhile pot for me. I expect him to fold his flush draw or
weak two pair here now, but he just calls. Oops, I guess he really
does have the ace. The river is the 5s, one of my two outs. He
instantly checks again, and I have a weird decision. You see, I am
pretty sure I am ahead unless he has paired his kicker with the ace
and has set a nice trap for me. But more than likely, I am certain I
have just sucked out on something like AK or AQ. Now I want to get
paid off, but also I have this little bit of guilt inside me that
knows I got very lucky here, and if he doesn't call then I don't have
to show exactly how lucky I was. I have $51 left, and I decide that if
he has trapped me, then I am going to pay him off. If he has a good
ace that got unlucky or drew to a back door straight, then he is going
to pay me off or fold and leave me without having to show how lucky I
got. I bet out $21 not knowing if I wanted it called or not. He did
call very quickly, and showed A8o to give me a $100+ pot.

I felt a little sheepish. But this one lucky hand means I am down only
$5 for the month so far, so again I am fighting to stay just above

Tonight I am headed for me first ever foray into casino gambling. I've
been playing poker for cash for nearly 5 years now, but never have I
gambled a cent in a casino (except for free vouchers once, made $30!).
What will happen? Will I be a deer in the headlights? Will the loose
aggressive plays of every other WP wannabe throw me into the rock
garden? Or will I find my calling and finally post a decent profit for
the year? I guess I'll find out tonight.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Better Review Granted

Grandma: Shut up girl. You just think you so smart cos you can read.

Duggle is one Blogger I have a lot of time for. Since he said my review of Spider-Man 3 in the previous post was a little lacking, I thought I would indulge him and give me greater review here. That, and poker wise all I have to talk about it more bad beats so this is better.

For those of you who haven't seen the movie, I'm probably going to be giving most of it away below. So please don't read any further, and go download the movie from some file sharing site. Then come back and read and you'll see how much you agree.

Fortunately, I am not 100% up to date on the exact happenings of the comic book around this time in Peter's life, so the inconsistencies there are of no bother to me. I know they made some, but in the end they have to as this is a different medium and it is required for most of the time. As long as they don't change the characters too much – like say changing a giant robot looking planet eating alien into a cloud – then I'm not going to be one to complain.

In my last post I made reference to the "get out of gaol free cards" used in the movie (note: gaol is how we spell jail in Australia). There was two glaring examples of this in the movie:

1 – When Harry Osborn is knocked unconscious, and he remembers nothing of the past few weeks…or years as it happens. Pretty fucking convenient there. He remembers that he is no longer with Mary Jane, but forgot that his dad is dead. Oh, and the whole "must kill Peter" thing is forgotten. Very convenient.

2 – Again with Harry Osborn, when he refuses to join Spidey against Venom and Sandman, and then his Butler pipes up with the knowledge that his father was killed his own glider, definitely. Ok, where the hell has he been all these years with this info? And what, is he a former CSI agent or something, an expert on wounds that can tell instantly what caused the cuts – and how? Pretty easy way to switch Harry's mind around.

More than anything else, these were the two points of the script I had the most problem with. It looked like a very lazy way to get the script from one point to another.

The action sequences for the most of it are pretty awesome, and in the end that is what this movie is all about. The disappointing this is that wasn't what the other two movies were solely about. They had more, and this one didn't.

I thought James Franco was probably the strongest performance of the main actors in the first two movies. Maybe this stood out a bit more for me because I am not a fan of Tobey Maguire (though he was perfect in the first) or Kirsten Dunst (she still sucks). But when he adopted the "New Goblin" outfit, he looked like a Teen Titan or something. He just didn't have the look of a fully grown super hero like the original Green Goblin. Ok, so his character is obviously younger, but he is supposed to be competing against the others who gave off a stronger impression. Not his fault as much as a fault in the costume I guess, or just the decision to have him as "The New Goblin". Either way, it was detrimental to the overall score of the movie for me.

Peter Parker trying to be cool went on for far too long, and was annoying more than it was funny, or anything else. Although when he asked the skinny Russian girl to go make some cookies with nuts in them, that was a better execution of the new Peter Parker.

The death scene for Harry was a little bit corny, though this does reflect slightly the comic book version of this scene (dialogue wise anyway). I was expecting it to freeze and then run some cheesy theme music like a 80's family TV show, where everyone remains best friends no matter that they took some radioactive gas and tried to use thermo nuclear gadgets to get you killed.

Kirsten Dunst sucks, did I mention that already? Bryce Dallas Howard did ok, though there were some scenes where if it was snowing there would have been no way to see her. By the way, did her father and boyfriend seem a little too comfortable watching her falling to her death? Even excited perhaps?

Finally, the Sandman. Such a shame, because I am a fan of Thomas Haden Church, but he was a bit stiff in this one. In his finale, he just sorts of explains himself to Spider-Man, all is forgiven and then he flies away. Couldn't he have explained all this to our web slinging hero earlier and not destroyed half the city – which was taking his eyes of his true goal being money for his daughter's illness. And Spidey forgives him apparently, and lets him fly off into the moonlight – to keep on robbing places I guess? Even though now Spidey knows he really means well, hasn't he already smacked a few cops around and maybe has a court date to look forward to? You'd think he would get at least community service or a sentence equal to Paris Hilton.

So yeah, the original 2 had similar plot holes and problems, but none of them were as glaring obvious as the ones in the third installment. In the end, the action scenes are good and I'm sure it will shift plenty of toys, but disappointment was the first thing on our minds when we walked out of the movie theater. That's not good.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spider-Man 3: We Phoned It In

Evan Baxter: Oh, there we go. Sorry about that. In other news the Prime Minister of Sweden visited Washington today and my tiny little nipples went to France.
"Bruce Almighty"

The Distraction and I saw Spider-Man 3 on the weekend. I have been hearing all these negative reviews about it, but I never thought they would be right. At best I'd give it a 6 out of 10. A friend of mine told me before I had seen it that they use a few get out of gaol free cards in the movie, and man did they stand out.

The action scenes were good of course, but really this was the weakest of the trilogy by far, and very disappointing. Topher Grace was ok, and the much anticipated cameo from Bruce Campbell was a highlight, but after that it was pretty ordinary. I hope the rest of the blockbuster season is a great improvement.

I have had a busy week as it seems the rest of my family has caught the poker bug. In the past week I have had requests from both my brothers, my dad and one uncle to set them up on Internet poker. All praise be to affiliate deals! Now if I can get a few friends who have feigned interest to sign up (as well as anyone reading – check the two links on the side, minimum deposit is $50) I might have an affiliate payout of over $1K by month's end. And the way I have been playing, I need it.

Had a small home game this week, with just 5 runners including the distraction playing some cheap SNG's at my house. I finished 2 nd and 1st (though when it was heads up we called it quits each time to get the next game going) and all in all played really well. Then we started the cash games and I have no idea what happened, but I could not win a hand. It became comical at the end when I would openly say I had to get rid of one player before the river, and he hit the river what would have been 7 to 8 times in a row.

I managed to get even on one hand when I hit a ten high straight vs a 9 high one (99 vs T9), which was a lucky one where an open ender on the flop was filled on the turn. About 5 minutes earlier, the victim was saying how much they hate pocket 9's. Funny how things work like that sometimes. Still, I was due to get lucky eventually after all the beats I took in that cash game.

Online, I think I had some small wins, as I reverted back to the SNG's because I could not get anything to go my way in the cash games. Still lucky to break even at the moment but I know a good run is just around the corner.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Just A Nice Day

A.J.: Joe, I need to ask your advice. Now I know you know a lot about love and women and all that sort of thing...
Joe: Oh yeah, my wife left me for another woman and my girlfriend forced me to leave at gunpoint. Does this qualify me?
A.J.: Oh yeah, definitely.
"Empire Records"

Poker – finally got a decent win in, just over $100. Was just under $200 with an hour to go, but some miss-timed moves brought that down. Enjoyable though, as I made one tough call on an all-in which I might have normally folded and it turned out I was way ahead.

But on to more important things, Saturday was just a brilliant day, and it did not include poker at all. In fact, I might not have left the house at all and still had a great day. I always start Saturday tired, because Friday night is poker night and that means I don't get in until 7am so sleep is scarce. But that is fine, because I know the footy is on Saturday arvo and that is something to look forward to, especially if hawthorn is playing.

It all started with the mighty Hawks having a good win in the footy, with Lance "Buddy" Franklin kicking 9 goals after missing two really easy ones in the first quarter. For those that care, I honestly think he played just as well last week and the week before, only this week the delivery to him was so much better. If that continues, then look out.

Since we had no plans for the evening, the Distraction and I settled in for our usual "We're doing nothing so this is what we'll do" Saturday night. It is so simple and fun that if we don't have any social engagements on a Saturday night, I still have something to look forward to.

While dinner is cooking, we go to the computer room to place our bets on the gambler's last salvation – greyhound racing. So far we are 2-1 on greyhound nights, but we are still down about $3 overall. We go for 8 races, and put just $1 on a dog each for every race. Betting on favourites, while not forbidden, is frowned upon.

With our bets made online, we need to record the info so we can follow along for the night, and have the times of each race written down so we know when to switch over to sky channel for when the race is about to begin. Our little run sheet is at the ready as we settle in on our fantastic couches which we got as a combined wedding present from all our guests.

But first, the footy is back on. It doesn't matter who is playing, we have live footy presented in beautiful digital format thanks to the last minute deal Foxtel did with the free to air providers. Reception for the free to air channels in our block of units is so bad it makes it almost impossible to watch.

Usually by now we are on our first or second bourbon and coke for the night – always made the same with Jim Beam green label, Pepsi Max, heaps of ice in these large plastic "Budweiser" cups that a friend bought back from the States for us a few years ago.

The footy is good, but it is really just something to watch between races and before the real show we want to watch starts – well, that is unless Hawthorn is playing but the Hawks don't play many Saturday night matches so this is rare. For Saturday night footy, a decent game is all you can ask for.

By now, we were on to race 3 and still no winners for either of us. We both have a second place but we're not betting on places (or a "show", for my North American friends. In Australia betting parlance, "place" means 1 st, 2nd or 3rd. We don't have the "show" bet). The third race stated at 8.28pm and I get my first win for the night, paying $2.70.

But now is time to change over to that staple of Saturday night viewing on SBS – "Iron Chef"! Who cares if the episodes are 10 years old, it's still gold! I have to admit to being a Nakamura fan, but this week it was Iron Chef Sakai doing battle using Scallops and vacuum cooking.

The pace is so frantic, we sometimes forget to turn over to the dog races when the next race is on, and have just seen them turning the final bend before we switch back to see who wins the battle in the kitchen. On this night, it was Sakai easily. Out of the four nights we have watched Iron Chef and the greyhounds, the Iron Chefs are 4-0.

So now we go back to watching the rest of the footy and the rest of the races. The footy is a pretty good game with the team I want to win getting up, and we are on to the final of the 8 races we have put bets on. So far I have one win, and the Distraction is a big zero. For the final race my dog is paying $4.50 and the Distraction's is a rank outsider.

Her dog leaps to the front, but the all important first bend is where everything happens. Mine gets tripped up and is now running half a track behind the rest of the field. The favourite is right behind the Distraction's pick and is looking like it will take over at any minute.

Somehow, her pick is keeping the lead and on the final bend, he finally kicks it into the next gear as everyone else tires, and he storms home by 3 lengths to pay a healthy $22.70, making our run 3-1 and a profit overall! The Distraction is over the moon, and the world closes another beautiful day.

Isn't this much better than whining about bad beats?