Monday, September 17, 2007

The Sickness

Kevin: When someone gives you 10,000 to 1, you take it. If John Mellencamp ever wins an Oscar, I'm gonna be very rich.

"The Office"

There is an old saying that if an offer seems too good to be true, then it must be. Especially when it comes to someone offering you something for free, you know there must be a catch – the sceptic in us all immediately pipes up and probably rightly so. I've tried something very similar to friends and other degenerates I meet at the poker table. I have told them about some of the kick ass affiliate deals I have and what they can do for someone looking to start an online bankroll for nothing but don't want to clear raked hands and so on. It was a good deal where I offered them $150 to just deposit into a room – play or not, I don't care but once you have deposited the money is theirs. Withdraw the next day without playing a hand if you like – you're still getting the $150.

The BS radar on some people spiked, and they asked what the catch was. When I explained that there were no hidden costs, no follow up needed and no on going commitment, they still seemed a little hesitant and suspicious. How can online card rooms and casinos afford to do this – why isn't it sending them broke?

Because for 10 bonus whores I send to these sites that take out $150, they'll get 1 person that will drop $10K a month to them, every month for the next year.

When Joe Hachem was on a local football TV show, the resident comedian told the joke: How do you get a gambler off your porch? Pay him for the pizza.

Even the pros get broke from time to time, so how are the mere mortals and weekend warriors supposed to keep their head above water? Obviously the answer is to play within their means – but for some people that is a problem and something that is hard to talk about with poker loving folk. Maybe that's because we all have been in that place at some stage, or maybe it's because as a poker player you are pretty much conditioned to take advantage of when someone else is in that situation – the donkey, the fish, the pigeon, the ATM – we all want that weaker player to have deep pockets and a seat at our table. What if they have a problem and can't walk away? Is any poker player in a $10/$20 or $200NL game going to tell them they've had enough and should leave? Less than 1% would tell a stranger they should call it quits.

I saw something similar at the casino once, where in typical fashion a guy who had a little too much to drink (just drunk, not falling over or making a problem or anything) was dipping into his pocket time and time again, as he just "bluff-called™" another all-in with 4 th pair no kicker. I was a railbird at the time, sweating a buddy of mine at the table who was doing well. When Drunk Man had lost his first buy in he was looking for a drink but the waiters and waitresses were few and far between, so I offered to grab him the round he was after, without payment of course. It was just 3 beers for him and a few of his mates at the table. All poker aside, they were top blokes and everyone was having a good time – why not right?

Then while I was waiting for the drinks at the bar, I was thinking to myself that my nice deed would yield some karma points with the poker demons, when I then considered what the other players might see as my reasoning for doing this. My buddy at the table had just won a nice pot of Drunk Man, and now I was making sure he was getting more alcohol so he stayed at the table. Doesn't it look like I am trying to make sure he is happy for my buddy to keep fleecing him? While I obviously wasn't, I could see how some cynical could see it that way.

By the look of the guy, I'm sure he could afford it and eventually one of his mates thought it was time to call it quits. He was playing well within his monetary limits, but was bleeding buy ins even though he was not visibly on tilt. Judgement definitely impaired, but not by tilt.

You hear stories about the person who fleeced a business out of $100K to put it all into the slots, or to play roulette at the casino and lost it all. We think about these people and how stupid what they were doing seems, and perhaps that's because we know that they don't have a chance at winning – and even if they did, who knows how long they will hang on to it? Poker is slightly different, because on the face of it any player can turn a profit. The odds are not stacked against anyone – well, not explicitly like in roulette or slot machines.

I know a few people in our home games that have a problem with gambling. I mean, we all have some of the sickness, but we control it and know when our limits have been met. Others do not and continue to gamble and they are always on the worst of it, looking to get lucky. When I have a good night, it's usually because of one of these guys.

Sure, we don't play at levels that could adversely affect their financial situation – as far as I know – but I'm sure there are plenty of others in home games and casinos around the city that do.

I have been around gambling ever since I can remember. I have had a bet on the Melbourne Cup horse race ever year since I have been alive – not really sure how I selected a horse when I was 3 months old, but I did something and Pop put $2 on it. Dad doesn't mind a punt either, but we've always had the mind set that you've lost any money as soon as you gamble it – anything you get back is a bonus. Similar to when you walk into the race track – any money in your pocket at the days end is a bonus. The rest was a fee for the days entertainment. And if you end up in front then it's your shout.

I feel that everyone has a responsibility to themselves – we're all adults, and you have to take ownership of your choices and decisions when you play and for how much. Is that just a way of me avoiding any guilt I may have towards taking people's money when I know I have an advantage over them? It's a justification, but sensible reasoning and it has always been there even before I knew about poker.

I have felt near enough to gambling addictions before – no things other than poker. Fortunately I am quite thrifty, so losses do not tend to be too great many times, and on the few times when there were large losses they were from winnings and not initial outlay. Chalk it up to experience, and don't do it again. I have that discipline to move on from it, but you see people that can't all the time.

I have felt addicted to poker at least once – sure, I've always loved playing but there were a few times where I just had to play, just had to get to a table and through some chips around. I ended winner that night though, and felt satisfied that the itch had been scratched.

But for every addict in control like myself, there are 2 that are not. Maybe more.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Death By Position

Matt Farrell: You just killed a helicopter with a car!
John McClane: I was out of bullets.
"Live Free Or Die Hard"

I still have no idea why they have to release movies in Australia with different titles than they were released with in the US. Te latest was "Live Free Or Die Hard" which was released here as "Die Hard 4.0" – kind of a dud title if you ask me. Even if you didn't know that the original title was based on the state motto of New Hampshire, it's a kick ass title regardless! Another notable change that spring to mind was "The Rundown" – released as "Welcome to the Jungle" (ok, that one was a better title here). I just don't see the big reason for it. Interestingly, when the Michael Keaton movie "Mr Mom" was released in 1983, it was released as "Mr Mum" in England, but still released as "Mr Mom" here in Australia. Anyway, another little pointless tangent there, my point is why go to the extra trouble to change the name for an Australian audience – unless it is for legal reasons – we can understand the American culture to get the movie.

I had a down night at poker last week, but I didn't play too badly. It was the first time in a very long time that I have noticed how bad positions were really affecting me. A couple of times I laid down the best hand when caught in between two rasiers, but you get that from time to time. I had a couple of cooler hands that made a dent after being up early, and then came back at the end of the night to lessen the impact. Good people though and a friendly game – much more passive than the usual home games. 4BB pre-flop gets some respect here!

I have tried to get more time to play online, but have been really busy of late. I had a real up and down session last night that ended up, so that was good. I have set myself a goal of getting a hoodie through frequent player points – which I kind of need a goal like that to keep playing, being a bonus whore that I am. I haven't got any bonus dollars to clear at the minute on any sites, so this kind of action keeps me going. Besides, who couldn't do with a new hoodie 6 years after they went out of fashion?

We were talking over dinner the other night with some friend about buying clothes, and I couldn't remember the last time I actually paid for clothes for myself. The last lot of business clothes were bought by me but paid for by my parents or the in-laws as a Xmas present last year, and any casual clothes were either points earned in a card room or bought from Amazon vouchers through Poker Source Online. Half my closest is because of PSO now – not that I have an extensive closet to begin with, but you get the picture. I've always had trouble justifying spending money on myself, and to a lesser extent having the Distraction spend money on…well, anything. She likes to go crazy on the credit card from time to time, but such is her nature. When it comes to spending money on friends though, we're all for it and it sometimes can be generosity to a fault, but that is only because we have such great friends and nothing is too good for them (sincerely). And I just know for a fact that when Little Ed joins us, everything in that department will change. Of course, second hand will be second nature to this child, but when there is a dollar in my pocket, you can bet 99c will go to Little Ed.

Just finished reading the Stu Unger book. What a sad story – but a great read. Highly recommend it to any poker players out there. The bits of Stu's writings mixed in gave it a great feel as well as the many personal accounts. Although the level of his drug habit was talked about late in the book, it was a glancing mention in the early stages and even suggested that he was well against this kind of behaviour. I thought the book dealt with his fall from grace very well and showed how it affected everything – in particular, when he wanted to buy things for his daughter, and how at the time he reflected on the millions he had given away over the years.

The addiction of gambling is something poker enthusiasts sometimes choose to ignore. After all, we derive some of our profits from that very addiction and way well loose because of it too. Gambling addiction deserves further discussion here rather than a rambling tangent, so I will talk about it more in my next post.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

He's Back

Jason Bourne: Do you even know why you're supposed to kill me? Look at us. Look at what they make you give.
"Bourne Ultimatum"

Tomorrow is our first visit to the obstetrician with the Distraction and Little Ed. Don't really know what to expect, probably just a little inspection of the incubator and a quick explanation of what to expect from here on in. All very exciting times and I'm sure we will continue to treat everything like we are the first people in the world to go through all of this. What other way could you be?

We've had plenty of generous offers from friends for second hand baby stuff, and you can damn well bet we're taking anything anyone is willing to give. Little Ed is going to be very familiar with hand me downs, I can ensure that.

But back to poker. The loosing streak that started half way through July and all of August ended on the first day of September for live games. It was at a different home game where I am a regular, and finally some hands held up for me – though the night was not without it's dramas. I ended up for my best single session result this year, and second best result overall it what became a bit of a wild night. I won about $5 on the very first hand of the night, and I was never below that point for the entire 12 hours.

I had my fair share of cards, with pocket aces back to back at one stage. The first was a decent sized pot when four diamonds met the board and my ace was good. The second one was over before the turn so a small game that I was happy with.

Then I took a small hit with QQ – after a small bet pre-flop, I raised and had a short stack call all-in. Then the original raiser came back over the top. At this stage, I had the equivalent of 2-3 buy ins in front of me, and he had me covered. It seemed an obvious play with Aces or Kings, so I folded. Turns out he had Jacks. The short stack won the pot anyway, but I could have cleaned up on the QQ vs JJ on that hand. I didn't loose any extra, just what I could have gained. I had seen this player over play a hand or two at this point as he was well ahead in chips. I knew he would loose his head sooner or later, I just hoped I would be there to call him. I was right – he did loose it but unfortunately not to me.

Poker should be fun, and it is hard to have fun while you are loosing sometimes, and we have to keep everyone happy. I have obviously been going through a rough run and so when it looked like things had begun to change for me, I intended to keep it that way. I have seen every bad river card you could imagine in the last month, so my goal tonight was to either avoid the river or give myself some other protection.

With pocket tens, I saw a lot of runners call a small pre-flop raise. Knowing that nobody else had a pair, or at least a decent one, I pushed all-in for a little over a buy-in, hoping to take it right there. I was called by one player – a gambling, drawing type player who would call with any picture cards or decent suited cards. Before he turned over his hand, I offered to run it twice just so even if I did loose, I might have a chance at half the pot and a small profit. I was sure I was ahead, but you don't want to see a lazy ace or king on the flop and then know you have two outs only. I assumed he had a good ace and it was basically a coin flip anyway. He agreed, and showed A9c – about as good as I could hope for. Both times the board came and left without an ace or clubs, so the tens were good for a scoop.

Another time I offered a deal was against a player who had perhaps his 7th buy in on the table. I made a re-raise pre-flop and he went all-in for $50. I had the wild player from before saying he would have called me, but the all-in was too much. Damn! That could have been nice because I was holding pocket aces again. The wild player folded and it was just up to me and the player all-in. I showed my hand and said "I'll let you take half your buy in back if you forfeit the pot now". I think I gave him a pretty good deal there, way more than whatever his hand was worth. But since he was down so much, he decided to gamble and take the run at the whole pot anyway with JJ. The door card was an ace, and it was all over. Another nice pot came my way.

But the biggest hand of the night that I was involved in could have broke me, and wasn't without its controversy though everyone was very good about it and didn't give it a second thought later.

One player had left the table for whatever reason, and usually we just fold their hand when it gets to them, and life goes on. This time however, there was a bit of discussion if we should do that and by then the player had returned so we let him play it anyway. I called a small raise with T9d. the flop was Js7d2h and there was a small bet of $5 for me an another player to call from the would-be absentee hand. The turn came 8s, which fills my gut-shot straight but puts a flush possibility on the board. I bet out $8, others fold to the absentee who confidently raised me to $20. I check the board again, just to confirm I have the nuts. At this point, I think he flopped two pair so the outs he has are less than the flush, but he could have played a suited ace which is likely, but to pair seems to fit the situation better. J7o I could see him on easily.

Now, because of the horror run I have been having recently, I was petrified of the river card. Sure, at the moment I have the nuts and I could string him along. But I really just want to take it right here, and I call for a raise. I thought about bumping it up to $50 which sends a clear message, but knowing the player that was enough for him to call and I would be happier for him to fold. I really just didn't want the drama of seeing the river card sink me yet again, I'll take the pot right here and be sure of it. I pushed all-in as we both had a few buy-ins in front of me. I wanted an instant fold, but he had to think about it and asked me to count. I had $173 left after calling his raise. He could cover it.

He went into the tank to think about it, and I said he could have as long as he wanted. Then I started to think about ways I could get more money while still getting him to fold. I offered to let him see a card of my choice for $20 – of his choice because usually that means a pocket pair, but in this case either card would show I had the straight surely, and he would have to fold and I'd make an extra $20. After quite a while, he finally folded and asked me to show my hand anyway. I was relived he folded, and since we are all friends and it was obviously a hard decision, I showed him that I had the nuts on the turn. He had J8 – top two pair on the turn. Through the miracle of rabbit hunting, we found another jack on the river. That could have meant the end of my poker career right there.

I did say if he called, I would have offered every deal under the sun before the river card came out – run it twice, give him half back or anything to lessen the damage, so it might have been alright anyway.

In the end, I wiped him out about an hour later when he went all in on a board of Qs7s4hAd. I had KsJs, so I thought a good flush draw and a gut shot straight to go with it, it was worth the final $30 he had at this stage. He had Q9, so I had more outs to the 3 kinds as well. The river was the Ace of spades, so finally I had hit a river card to sink someone else – albeit with 15 outs instead of the 2 and 3 outs I have been loosing to constantly.

Only three people left the night up, and I was second out of them. The big winner was the luck box to my left (actually a really good player, but he couldn't help hit hands on this night) and the wild player to my right was also up after getting some pay-offs late in the game.

It was a good feeling to finally have an up night after what felt like ages. I had a six session winning streak leading into a 4 session loosing one leaving me just above even for the year. The latest session gives me some breathing room in the bankroll leading to a long weekend here in Sydney which will surely see some cards in the air.