Saturday, July 28, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part III

The cooler. Ever notice how when you run into the wrong cards at the wrong moments, it happens over and over and over again?

Call it what you will, but any time I've tried to play poker during my vacation, it's been a disaster. Total winnings: $0, including both online and live appearances.

Nothing hurt worse than Thursday's return venture to the $50+5 donkfest at the Lake of the Torches casino. I wish I could come up with a more polite term for the proceedings, but the blinds structure almost dictates that idiotic play must ensue. Here's how the tournament progresses, with each level 20 minutes long:

Level Blinds Antes

1 25/50 --
2 50/100 --
3 100/200 --
4 200/400 --
5 200/400 100
6 300/600 200
7 500/1,000 300
8 1,000/2,000 400
9 2,000/4,000 500
10 4,000/8,000 600

With only 4,000 in chips to start and only 40 players max, it seldom goes beyond Level 10 or 11. But have you ever seen a more donkified structure? Look at the relation between the blinds and antes in Levels 6 and 7. That's just sick. What I quickly realized was that there was so many chips in the pot before the flop relative to the size of the stacks, due to the excessive antes, that the push-steal was the most viable play past Level 6 or so. (Not that there was a lot of real poker play before that.)

Anyhow, I found aces on the very first hand, and made a jump from my 4,000 start up to about 5,200. From there, though, I won only one small pot the rest of the entire first hour, and was down to about 2,600 when I finally won a race to double through. We'd condensed down to three tables by then, and at the new table my cards went even more dead, and after being forced out of one hand when I missed a flop by a mile, I was soon back down to about 2,600 and on the ropes.

I've long since learned that stealing is about timing, position and table image, and with the blinds at 200/400 and it folded around to me in the cutoff, I tried... with 8-6 soooted. Unfortunately, the older guy to my left (a quiet, weak/tight player), found pocket tens, and was dismayed when I cracked them, flopping the OESD and completing it with a rivered nine.

That just kept me alive, though I won a race soon after to make it down to the final two tables. It was an interesting table --- besides the old weak/tight dude, it had two kids (best friends) so young, both seated to his left, that they needed to wear orange "UNDER" wrist bands to signify that they were old enough to gamble but not yet old enough to drink. Yes, they were aggressive, and yes, one of them admitted to playing a lot on UB. And they stole in position constantly, and both accumulated healthy stacks as we moved into two-table play.

To their left was a woman using a flashy gold-medallion, "WSOP" card protector, like the type you can buy in the souvenir shop at the Rio. She was quite happy to tell her friends and other people that she'd played in the WSOP women's event, and I quite politely didn't bother to point out that based on the play I've seen in that event --- up to and including the final table --- merely playing in it didn't mean a damn thing outside of the personal willingness to drop a thousand. And the table also had my favorite tool from the week prior, who this time I found out was named Chris and who had already been tossed out of the Watersmeet, MI casino for similar toolish behavior.

Chris was in fine form, too, wearing his sunglasses and assuming his Jesus pose, and absolutely insistent that he did not have to say "Raise" before tossing an oversized chip into the pot. (He also admitted that he didn't want to speak because he didn't want to give away anything in his voice. Good lord.) When he continued to harp on his imagined right to raise without saying so, despite the dealers' and floor's insistence that he do so, I couldn't help but goad him on, saying, "You're quite wrong, but I respect your right to not know the rules."

It actually shut him up for about ten minutes. But then an idiot in the seat next to him, too inexperienced to know that you don't commingle chips bet on previous rounds with chips you are planning to wager, caused Tool Chris to go on a verbal rampage, with both players almost tossed from the tourney. Then the tool went on an extended "woe is me" monologue to no one in particular about how the casino had it in for him.

An enjoyable chap. And it made the end of this day's run for me that much worse.

I doubled through at my table again, reaching some 15,000 in chips, then gave about 8,000 to the first of the two kids. Under the gun and having just been clipped for a chunk of his stack himself, he raised. A very short stack across the way pushed for just 600 more. I was in the small blind and found pocket tens, so I pushed, too. I figured that the kid had shown lots of aggression already, whereas I'd been sitting back, and maybe he'd go away and leave me heads-up.

No such luck. He called, with K-J suited. *sigh* The shorty had A-7, and I was way ahead on the all-small flop but couldn't dodge the jack on the turn. I managed to steal one pot moments later, but when we reached the final table I was still one of the shortest stacks, with about 10,000 in chips. By the way, only the top four spots paid, for $1,000, $500, $300 and $200. One of the last players to exit was the kid's young friend, and another was the woman from the WSOP Ladies Event.

With the 1,000/2,000 (500) blinds in place and me in the big blind for the first hand at the final table, I was in deep trouble. Weak-tight from Mosinee was still to my left and was a big stack, with another one a few seats to my right. A terrible calling station was also still in the running, the type of player who thought nothing about calling a player's all-in from the big blind with J-6, and who could absolutely not release a hand where he'd made a pair. How these players advance in tourneys is beyond me, but there he was.

Anyhow, I flopped a garbage top pair of sevens from the big blind and it held up, and I then got my money in with A-K against A-Q and it held up again, and before I knew it I was at 33,000 and narrowly in the lead. Given that about this time the blinds moved to 2,000/4,000 with 500 antes, and there were only 120,000 in chips in play, it tells you just how volatile each hand was. On the next lap, the calling station was on the button when I had the big blind, and he limped and the small blind completed. I peeked, saw 5-5, and pushed... and to my amazement, the calling station went away.

I got clipped by one of the short stacks who drew out on me to double through, and then I abused a couple of the players to build up again. The weak/tight guy wouldn't bet post-flop unless he had a made hand or a draw, and I swiped his big blind both times I had a chance, once before the flop and once after. Soon he wasn't one of the big stacks any longer. Meanwhile, the last of the two kids showed he knew a lot about aggression but not so much about pot odds. He was in the big blind and posted and anted his 4,000 plus 500, the tight-weak guy had the small blind plus ante for 2,500, and the rest of the eight of that were left anted 500 each. So, 10,000 in the pot to start with.

It is, amazingly, folded all the way around to me on the button. I find A-2, not even suited. "How much do you have," I ask the kid.

He counts. "3,700."

"Okay," I say, then add "Raise," to the dealer. I glance at the small blind, who has about 16,000 total. "Let's make it 10,000."

The small blind grimaces and mucks. The kid, though, looks pained, and he hems and haws and finally mucks as well, not willing to call his last 3,700 into a 13,700 pot. Thank you for not recognizing an 'any two' spot! And the kid goes out on the next hand anyhow.

But wouldn't you know it, the tool Chris is still in the running, having doubled through the calling station earlier. Problem was, he'd tried to steal from the calling station with 9-7 suited, for only about 6,000 more. The calling station had K-8 suited, well within his range. Fortunately for this Chris, a seven flopped and the pair held up. You'd think he'd be happy. No, instead he berated the player for making the call, as he berated two other players for bluffing at dry side pots in bustout situations. It shows again that there are two basic types of poker idiots: those that don't know how to play and those who are willing to tell those bad players how to improve in a hurry.

But as I had to get out of another pot, the tool Chris doubled through again to move into the chip lead, over 40,000. I'm still at around 29,000 at this point, and seven players remain.

When this happened. With 10,000 in the pot pre-flop, I'm dealt A-K on the cutoff. It's folded to me again. I could open for 10,000 or so or I could push what I have, and I decide to push to keep the short stacks from limping in to the proceedings with marginal cards. The weak/tight button dutifully goes away, as does the shortish small blind. And the tool? He calls, and turns over pocket aces. Nasty cooler. And sure enough, I am out in seventh, three spots from the money.

Why there? Why in that spot? In retrospect it doesn't matter whether I make a standard raise or push, since he would have re-raised there and I would have been obligated to make the call. He did admit that he didn't want to play for all his chips in that situation, but with aces, you don't have the choice. That pre-bubble reticence is what I had been counting on and taking advantage of to move up the board, but it all went to hell in one ugly spot. I'll take that pot pre-flop the vast majority of times in most instances.

It's just a case of horrendous timing, and it came at the hands of the one player I really didn't want to see win, because he was such an obnoxious dickhead.

But that's poker. When it runs bad, it runs real bad.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part II

The need to get away from poker after my personal 24-hour finale on the last day of the WSOP had been overpowering, as mentioned in my previous post. Poker ha' been berry berry good to me, as it returned me from the land of destitution to being a working, productive member of society. Still, enough was enough, and I needed a few days without poker. Except for showing up and being bounced mid-pack in the Thursday tourney at the Lac du Flambeau casino --- said experience which I may repeat later today --- I needed to let real life trickle back in.

So, adjourning to the Northwoods was needed. I mentioned lots and lots and lots of fishing, and that was part of it. Also included was a round of golf with my father and a chance to show up and say hi on my mother's birthday, and since they live up in this part of the state, that was all part of the plan as well. I also did the 'Potter' thing, buying the seventh and final book in the series and enjoying the final chapter in Rowling's coming-of-age epic. The last book is indeed a power-packed close, as Falstaff mentioned, but as someone who used to edit a fiction magazine, I found the denouement here sorely lacking. It's a wonderful tale with a great climax, but five thousand pages of character development demands rather more than a nine-page epilogue.

I'm reminded, for comparison's sake of the last half of the third book of J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King. In that book, the epic battle with Sauron is concluded barely half way through Return, and then it's a matter of closure for the characters, the "Scouring of the Shire" phase (to name one of the chapters therein) that resolves all the intricate story threads. It's the part of the Rings trilogy that the third movie really fucks up, as well, where one can appreciate the growth of the characters and fully understand how they fit into the greater scope of Middle Earth, as time's inevitable changes occur.

Such character closure is sorely lacking in the wrap to the last Potter book, leaving wide open the possibility for some "after" tales. Half the characters killed off in the book were done so for no reason other than to demonstrate to the readership that, This is important stuff! Characters are dying here! --- which isn't quite as valid a reason as it sounds. In a phrase, the final chapters of Deathly Hallows feel rushed; it seems as though Rowling saw the end in sight and wanted done with it, after a decade's great work.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part I

Technically, I'm still on it... since I remain in Wisconsin's Northwoods as I type. You know it's time for a vacation when the thought of turning on the laptop brings a bit of revulsion, but turn it on this morning I did, and I'm banging away on te keys bright and early. This post has a little bit of poker in it, but not too much.

I headed out from my apartment not long after the WSOP final table concluded last Thursday morning. I'd been up for about 24 hours straight when Yang caught that six to fill his straight and win the title, and I'd been monitoring it both through the PokerNews reports, which I'd been editing a bit in a post-publishing sense, and a live web feed of the action as it was being broadcast on ESPN pay-per-view. Second straight year I've stumbled onto a link of that nature roughly half way through the final. I was rooting for Rahme to win it all, though that didn't happen.

Anyhow, I said my nitey-nites to Jonno in the chat, rolled over on the couch, exhausted, and napped for about two hours. Then I forced myself up, showered, changed, and headed up to a storage unit I still have near Milwaukee. There I fetched some extra fishing gear, and from there I boogied further north, stopping in Wausau to say hi to my folks, then pushing on to where I am at the moment, in the woods not far from Harshaw, just east of the Tomahawk River. By the time I made it up it was night again, and my first day of vacation was already in the books. You know that sick, head-spinning feeling you get when you're way over-tired and you finally succumb to the bed? That's how I was.

Thursday the 19th, then, was the first day I actually did vacation-y things, and believe it or not, it included some poker. On Thursdays there is a small tournament at the Lake of the Torches casino in Lac du Flambeau; that casino's unintentionally funny poker operation was mentioned once before in one of my posts.

I had an ulterior motive, too, since the PokerNews site often serves up casino reviews. Despite the fact that I'd ripped the amateurish nature of the Flambeau casino operation earlier, I wanted to give them a second chance, to see if they'd somehow work their way up to a baseline of professionalism, and I could find a way to include them.


I played the 40-person Thursday-afternoon tourney, and watched as the tourney director (the casino's poker room manager) used a convoluted system to move players from one table to another, in a manner so time consuming it kept a table in play far longer than it should have, and through a system that I don't think I can explain. Supposedly, according to the locals, she was breaking the tables in a way designed to keep players from having to catch the blinds twice in rapid succession, rather than just dealing out vacated seat cards from the other tables. (Which would have been fine, had she not allowed players to dawdle for several hands to skip their next blinds anyway.)

Oh, and she broke down Table 3 first, instead of Table 4, as per the pre-tourney schedule. You'd think that with only four tables, you could get stuff like that right.

But though the tournament organization was shoddy, it paled compared to the bad decision rendered by the dealer at my table in a confusing moment. The dealer, a young, overweight guy whose name was Jason or Jeremy or something like that, allowed this to transpire.

The small blind was dead, and there was only a big blind of 400 in chips. It was folded around to the cutoff who said raise, and threw in 1,000. The big blind folded. The button, a sunglasses-wearing, tool wannabe --- he simply wasn't good enough to be a tool proper --- announced "Call," and threw in another 400, leaving himself 200 short. He had another 6,000 or so behind, so that wasn't a problem.

The dealer correctly told him the big blind that he owed another 200, at which point the big blind said, "It was for 1,000? Then I want to fold." And he reached out and grabbed all of his chips, including his posted blind, and pulled them back into his own stack, then tossed his cards into the mark.

The dealer did nothing, but started to reach for the muck to begin a new shuffle. I was shocked, and from my seat said, "Wait, you can't do that!" And the dealer looked at me like I didn't know what I was doing. I explained that the big blind announced 'call' and was obligated to pay for that call, even though he mucked his cards.

And the dealer -still- got it wrong, and instead ordered the big blind to pay just the 400 of the original blind to the cutoff raiser, and not the entire 1,000. And the tourney went on. This yahoo was qualified to deal a tournament exactly how, I wondered?

I bounced out a short time later, in about 17th out of 40, when I tried to steal from the button and ended up flopping a huge draw, which subsequently didn't connect. So be it; the guy I tried to steal from was one of the big stacks, who appeared to be one of only about three people I saw that actually knew how to play. He flopped a set against my steal attempt, and when I had 15 outs twice, the chips were gonna go in. So that part of it was fine.

But as a whole, the tournament was interesting and frustrating... and so very, very amateurish. I had looked forward to seeing if the venue was usable for a proper review-type piece, but now I'm torn on the whole topic.

More from vacation later.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Good to See the Li'l Dwarf Back in Biz

Big bad news: That Iggy's Guinness and Poker blog had been hacked (or otherwise accidentally excised by the folks at GooBloggergle).

Small good news: At least comments worked.

Big good news: GooBloggergle was able to restore the blog, based on tens of thousands of complaints.

Small bad news: Iggy got the comments shut off again right quick.


So all's well that ends well, mostly. Though the next time he bops through Chicago and doesn't tell me, I'm goin' on a dwarf-swattin' mission...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You Either Get Older... Or You Don't


While perusing some tournament offerings connected with the "Summer Champs" series on, I discovered I was eligible for the $500 Guaranteed Seniors event.

I'm not sure if I should be depressed or happy. Nothing left but Geritol and sippy cups, methinks...


Monday, July 02, 2007

Hasenpfeffer is Indeed a Stew....

There is so much crappy and pointless writing in the poker world that's it hard to remember that the good stuff exists as well. One site that I'd forgotten all about was the 'Bigger Deal' poker blog, featuring Anthony Holden, Al Alvarez, Lee Jones and several others. Catching up on Short-Stacked Shamus's postings --- and where does that guy find the time?? --- I remembered that I hadn't visited that other site in a good long while.

I was poorer for it, too.

Those guys can write. Anthony Holden has up a wonderful 'Nixon in China' piece that's way too good to be wasted on us poker cretins, while Lee Jones tossed in a well-constructed piece on something he thinks is going to occur in online poker in the next few years: the adaptation of anonymous user IDs by the online sites. This means that you wouldn't know the identities of the other players at any given table, and the logic behind it is to short-circuit all the third-party software add-ons (like PokerHUD and PokerTracker) that are in many ways the bane of the average online player's existence... even if they don't know it.

What Lee correctly points out is that the shark-to-fish ratio in the online game is getting out of whack and is only going to get worse, in large part due to these third-party products. I couldn't agree more. There are some that are largely innocuous and have value in a historical way, while others were designed solely as technical system 'cheats' and really have no place in a 'fair' poker game.

But the devil's in the details. Lee added in some additional thoughts in a follow-up comment to one of the site's visitors, and it's here where I disagree. Not the first time I've ever disagreed with Lee, either, in the form of a post. One of the very first pieces I ever did for the Kick Ass Poker site was an examination of a Card Player piece Lee did that was in essence of a haranguing of players who stall at the online bubble. I don't like stalling, but the way it occurs online is something that Stars has always had it in its powers to alleviate, but has chosen not to. That post is available here (scroll down a bit); it's a real blast from the past.

I actually had a line in that old post, reading back through it, that I'm rather proud of:

There is no difference between a poker player who "takes the clock," and a winning football team, in the last minutes of a game, that lets the play clock wind down to "1" before snapping the ball. Both are playing within the constructs and rules of the game, at a time when the situation demands strategies markedly different than during most other periods of play. That the play is tedious and maddening is a sign that the structure and rules of the game itself are imperfect, not that the participants are "cheaters."

Anyhow, back to the current Lee Jones post, and another point where this unfortunately-not-modest voice from the peanut gallery disagrees with Lee. Lee says this:

Comment from Lee Jones
Time: June 29, 2007, 11:53 pm

Reply to tuff_fish…

Hi Tuff - multi-tabling is a fact of online poker life, and we can no more eliminate it than we could (e.g.) the chat box. Note that even if a site offered “no-multitabling” tables, a player could still play at such a table on that site, and as many other sites as he wished. So a “no multi-tabling site/table” is an impossibility.

Furthermore, multi-tabling is actually *better* for individual fish. Let’s say that player Shark456 is capable of 2.5 BB/100 (”big bets per hundred hands” - a common metric among serious online players). Wanting to increase his hourly income, he plays two tables instead. It’s a virtual certainty that he will *not* make 2.5 BB/100 at both tables. Instead, he’ll make perhaps 2.0 or 1.8 BB/100. Well, he’s happy because he’s making much more money per hour. But the fish at his tables will be happier because he is taking less money off each individual table. The more he multi-tables, the lower his per-table income, but until he hits some threashold, the greater his hourly income. As long as his per-table income drops, the fish get happier (and healthier).

Ultimately, yes, Shark456 is taking more money away from the poker site, but by spreading the pain over many fish rather than just a single table’s worth, he probably leaves the fish population healthier.

At least, that’s my perspective.

Regards, Lee

And I responded to it like this, long-winded to be sure, but I wanted to illustrate the point:

Hi, Lee,

Noticed your argument in the response to Tuff; pardon me for saying this, but that's where your logic breaks down. Your argument about the per-table rate by sharks leaving the fish comparatively healthier would only work in the case of a single shark (or a small, finite number of sharks) in the pool.

Unfortunately, your original post quite dramatically indicates the opposite, that the shark-to-fish ratio is increasing, and because of this, the fish aren't likely to keep voluntarily diving in. If all of a sudden there are eight multi-tabling sharks at each and every table, then the fish are going to get pounded... no matter what.

I mentioned the Malthus thing for a reason, as a way of hinting that the issue here is indeed one of diminishing resources, otherwise known as new fish. Perhaps a more relevant reference would have been the example of the effects of hunting on populations of rabbits and coyotes (or wolves, in some instances) in controlled-population studies. In those, it's been repeatedly shown that left on their own, rabbit and coyote populations will repeatedly cycle from high to low, as long as a base source of food for the rabbits is available. The rabbits keep on breeding --- as rabbits are wont to do --- and after a couple of seasons lag the the coyote population also takes off, because there are so many juicy bunnies to eat.

The coyotes have happy times, so they keep on breeding, too, and build up so fast that they also overpopulate, eating too many rabbits. Both populations collapse --- the rabbits first, then the coyotes (or wolves), who experience starvation --- and the whole process starts anew.

The cycle can be influenced from outside, too. Usually the studies introduce a hunting season, showing that by allowing the culling of the predator base (the coyote or wolf), both populations can be maintained at artificially high levels.

What's happened in poker is an influence from the opposite side, translating the bunnies to fish and the coyotes to sharks. The difficulties encountered by new fish in funding accounts or in reaching a point of competitiveness with the ever-evolving sharks is like a drought for the rabbits in the above: it removes the base food source and is likely to make the population crash occur earlier --- it chops off the high point of the cycle.

Your argument re: multi-tabling also leaves room for debate. Yes, players could multi-table by playing one table each at a multitude of sites, but that would be a bit more difficult to manage in the massive quantities that some multi-tablers perform. I'm not sure that there are 24 distinct poker networks out there, but there sure are 24-table players. And trying to get the software of 24 different sites to work in harmony would be... interesting, wouldn't it?

What you haven't touched on at all is the fact that opening up multi-table play in the first place was a case of the poker sites wanting to (a) increase rake and (b) grab a -relatively- bigger slice of the online pie. Unfortunately, business pressures are a part of that, but I can't imagine a world where "grow the business" pressures don't exist. No one -forced- poker sites to allow multi-tabling; they did it to make money.

The biggest flaw in your theory that I can see is that it implies a voluntary cooperation on the part of all sites to allow anonymous-ID poker. The only reason some sites would have to go to anonymous-ID poker would be to short-circuit the third-party products that exacerbate the shark-to-fish problem, but a lot of those sites add money into the poker cycle as well. Given that there are sites out there that actively allow the promotion of ads for these products, it seems unlikely that the entire poker world is going to turn altruistic all at once. Poker's always been an "I got mine" type of existence, but the players aren't the only ones doing it. The sites do it as well.

Would I play on a site that featured anonymous ID's? In a heartbeat. But there's a whole class of players out there that would consider it an affront to their existence --- and they do generate lots of rake.

At least for the time being....

I respect Lee very highly, but the argument he makes still seems a bit myopic. It's not just the players who've created the current imbalance, but a whole slew of market factors working in concert. It's also why, though I'd absolutely love to see Lee's idea come to pass, I'm less confident that it'll occur in the time frame Lee envisions.

I hate playing devil's advocate. Unfortunately, I'm good at it. (*sigh*) Back to the prison, now.