Monday, June 25, 2007

Hours Not Results

I had a strong day today. I played over 3,500 hands (a ton for one day) and won back about 80% of the money I lost on Saturday. Here's another article that I wrote for For those of you who were there you'll realize that the events that I talk about didn't really go down how I described and are rather a combination of my first trip to the Oaks and my first trip to Cache Creek.

When to Stay and When to Leave

I clearly remember the first time I played poker in a casino. I was 20 years old and I was heading to an Indian casino to play $3/$6 limit hold ‘em when my regular game was a 20 cent/ 40 cent game with my buddies. I made the trip with my first poker mentor who was my friend’s boss. His normal game was $15/$30 or $30/$60 and as we walked in the door he asked me, “Are you going to play until you win or lose a certain amount or are you going to play for a given amount of time?” I was so terrified and excited by the anticipation of playing in such a “big game” that I really didn’t have any clue what to say. But after a minute I replied, “If I get to the point where I’m ahead $100 I think I’ll get up.” To my credit $100 would have increased my bankroll by 50%, but I was still making a mistake that many players make. You want to play hours, not results.

We’ve all been guilty of using the “hit and run” or “stop win” strategy. After jumping into a game and picking up a few quick pots it can be tempting to lock up that profit and go do something else, but there are a few reasons why you should keep playing. The first and most important reason is that it’s much easier to play your best when you’re winning. Generally you’ll be more patient, more confident, and probably be having more fun. No one is 100% tilt proof and most of us have some significant trouble keeping our emotions in check. It’s much, much easier to stay on track when you’re ahead as opposed to behind.

Furthermore, winning is a sign that you’re in a game you can beat. Of course if you’ve just sat down and made two full houses and a flush in the first five hands then who knows. But if you’ve been playing for two or three hours and have significantly more than you started with then it’s more likely that you’re in a good game than a tough game.

On the other hand, if you’re losing, it’s easy to convince yourself that it’s okay to make plays that you know deep down are losing plays. When you’re losing it’s harder to stay patient, losing is never fun, and you might be in a game that you have little chance of beating.

The same players who tend to hit and run don’t like to call it quits when they’re losing. We’ve all thought to ourselves, “If I could just get even I’d leave this game in a second,” but you don’t want to play for hours and hours longer than you’d planned in a quest to get even for that one session.

The best thing to do is decide about how long you want to play and play for about that long. You don’t need to say “I’m going to play for exactly 8 hours today” and quit the second those 8 hours are up. But if that’s your plan you shouldn’t leave after 4 hours or shouldn’t stay for 12.

Of course, there are a few exceptions. The first one is while you don’t want to set a limit on your wins, setting a limit on your losses can be a good idea. My personal threshold when I’m playing limit hold’em is 50 big bets. While it’s very rare that I find myself down that much, when it happens I know that I won’t be in a state of mind to play my best and I’m better off calling it a day. If you’re more tilt prone, 35 big bets might be a better guideline. The key is that you don’t want to bury yourself so much in one session that it takes you several great winning sessions to dig yourself out.

Another exception is when you’ve been on an extended losing streak. No matter how skilled, every player runs into some significant losing streaks and sometimes it feels like you can’t win no matter what you do. If you’ve been getting killed for a string of sessions in a row, sometimes it can help your state of mind to book a win.

You might also push the limits of how long you’re willing to stay if you are in a fantastic game. If you’re just about to leave and all of a sudden one of the worst players in town sits down with two of his equally skilled friends, they all order a shot of tequila and tell you about how they just hit it big betting on a horse race then it’s time to call home and say you won’t be back for a while. On the other hand if you feel irritable, you have something on your mind, or you just can’t play your best for whatever reason, then leaving early should be something to consider.

While there are a few exceptions, your best bet is playing hours not results. It would be great if we could only play when we’re ahead, but playing while you’re behind is part of the game. Don’t sell yourself short and leave a good situation too early and don’t bury yourself with such a big loss that it takes you weeks to recover.

What happened to me in my first trip to play $3/$6? It turned out the decision on when to leave was easy. When I ran out of chips and opened my wallet only to discover there wasn’t any money left, they wouldn’t let me play anymore. :)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Playing for a living

I've written a few more articles that I've gotten paid for over the past couple months. Rather than give you a link I figured I'd just cut and paste so anyone who happens who searches for key words on Google or Yahoo will find their way to my blog. I'm going to try to put one up every day this week since I've gotten at least 5 more published online and I haven't included anything about them. Here is the first which might be the best.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going Pro

Almost everyone who has played poker seriously and doesn’t love their job has at least thought about playing for a living. For me, it was the best decision I ever made. For other players attempting to play for a living is detrimental. If you’re thinking about going pro there are 10 key questions to ask yourself:

How thick is my bankroll?

What are my expenses?

How easy would it be to return to my old job?

Do I have a strong support system in place?

What are the consequences of failure?

How much data do I have about my past results?

Is playing for a living going to have a negative impact on my health or social life?

Can I handle the pressure?

Am I ready to write the IRS a check every three months?

How much do I love to play?

How thick is my bankroll?

Debate is always raging about how much money you need to play at a given level without a significant risk of going broke. While most casual players completely ignore bankroll requirements, if you’re going to play for a living you need to have enough money in reserve to ride out the short term fluctuations. In my opinion a solid bankroll for limit hold’em is about 300 big bets, for NL hold’em about 5,000 big blinds, for SNGs it’s about 100 buy-ins, and for multi-table tournaments it’s around 250 buy-ins. Of course having more is always better than having less. The most important thing is to have enough money so you feel comfortable and don’t feel like you’re in danger of going broke.

What are my expenses?

This question can be a little tricky. When most people are working out a budget, they have a tendency to include only the bear minimum. It’s important that you make a realistic list of your monthly expenses that includes some margin for unexpected events and splurging. Remember this is your life we’re talking about here. You’re still going to want to buy new things and go out and have fun. You’re still going to buy birthday gifts and holiday presents and take vacations. You might also have to pay for private health insurance. If you’re living on cold cereal and don’t have an extra ten bucks to go to the movies you’ll be better off with a traditional job. A good way to come up with an assessment is to look back at your bank statements and credit card bills (I know you won’t have them, but if you call your bank and credit card company or go online you should be able to get those records easily) and find out how much you actually spent in the past 6 months or year. Use that number as a baseline.

How easy would it be to return to my old job?

If your boss is one of your best friends and you expect she’ll say “you’ll always have a job here” as she wipes away a tear and hugs you as you leave on your last day of work, you can stretch it a little more on some of the other 9 questions. On the other hand, if you know your boss is going to kick you in the butt and say “you’ll never work in this town again!” as you leave, you better be sure you’re going to make it as a poker player. Everyone has some sense about how marketable their job skill set is, and if it’s going to be hard for you to find another job as good as the one you have, then you should be much more cautious before quitting.

Do I have a strong support system in place?

Part of playing poker is having losing sessions. Sometimes when those losing sessions get strung together it can very difficult emotionally. Having a supportive spouse or group of friends can make a big difference in your mental health when you’re getting killed at the tables. Conversely, if every time you come home after a loss your spouse says “Oh no! You lost again! How could you do that you idiot?” it will be tough to keep yourself in a positive, confident frame of mind. Of course, if you happen to be someone who’s very even keeled and takes losses very logically as part of the game, then having a strong support system is less important.

What are the consequences of failure?

Think about what’s going to happen if you don’t make it. No one goes into professional poker thinking that they are going to fail, but plenty of people who try just can’t make enough money to live on. If you go broke are you going to find yourself $10,000 in debt working at a fast food job wondering what the hell went wrong? Or are you going to be disappointed (but not crushed) having blown through your bankroll, but otherwise be in good financial shape with a solid job? If you’re supporting a family think about what the consequences will be for them if things don’t go how you hope they will. You should always have a backup plan and decide how far you’re going to go. If you decide that you’re going to try to play poker for a living even if it means blowing through every dime you can get your hands on then at least acknowledge that fact. A healthier option would be to decide how much of your net worth you’re willing to commit or how far you’ll go into debt ahead of time. When you hit that limit, it’s time to get a job. Remember you don’t just get one shot. If you go broke, you can always rebuild and try again somewhere down the road. Don’t bury yourself so much that you can never recover just because you can’t admit that you’re not good enough yet to play poker for a living. Go back to the drawing board, work on your game and when you have enough money saved again, give it another shot.

How much data do I have about my past results?

The longer I play the longer I find it takes to get a realistic assessment of your hourly rates. If you’re winning over a short stretch it’s more likely that you’re a winner and if you’re losing it’s more likely that you’re a losing player, but to be able to predict your future results with any precision you need a ton of data. If you’ve been playing 20 hours a week for 5 years and have a spreadsheet with the exact amount of every win and loss then it’s a good bet that you know how much you can expect to make. If you’ve been playing every other Saturday for 6 months and don’t have any written records who knows what you can expect. Make sure you have records that back up what you think about your abilities and don’t jump to any conclusions because you’ve hit a hot streak. When some players win a tournament or have a few winning sessions in a row all of a sudden they think they’re Phil Ivey. Don’t get swept up and do something rash because you’ve been running good.

Is playing for a living going to have an impact on my health or social life?

Playing poker for a living can be hard on your body as well as your mind. It’s a pretty sedentary job and if you’re not careful you could find yourself putting on a few pounds. It doesn’t help that finding healthy food options in and around casinos can be a challenging task. Furthermore, poker can be a high stress business and if you don’t manage that stress well it can have a negative effect on your health.

Your social life might be affected as well. If the best games are on Friday and Saturday nights (or at night on the weekdays) you may find yourself having to choose between making strong money and spending time with your friends and family. Make sure you’re willing to play at the times it’s best to play, not just the times that are most convenient

Can I handle the pressure?

Losing is never fun. But when you’re counting on your winnings to pay your everyday expenses, losing or even breaking even can be a disaster. The mailbox doesn’t stop filling up with bills, just because you haven’t made a flush draw it what seems like a month. If you keep losing it can feel like a tremendous weight and it’s hard to play your best when you feel like you have to win. Having a solid bankroll and some savings beyond that can help alleviate some of this pressure.

Am I ready to write the IRS a check every three months?

YOU HAVE TO PAY YOUR TAXES! Sure with all those cash transactions you could fudge things a little, but is it worth it? If the IRS nails you for income tax evasion (a felony) you will wish you’d never been born. Part of playing for a living is making quarterly payments to the IRS. It’s never fun and I’m sure if most people had to pay out of their pockets instead of getting the money withheld from their checks, they’d storm the capital building and we’d all have lower taxes. The good news is you get to deduct all kinds of stuff as business expenses. Get yourself a good accountant, keep a log of everything that could be remotely related to your playing career, and it doesn’t seem so bad. Make sure you can afford to pay your taxes and still make enough to live on.

How much do I love to play?

In my mind this is the most important question. If you’re going to play for a living you better L-O-V-E to play. You can’t kind of like to play or think poker is interesting. You’ve got to love it. Poker is a business where self motivation is a must. No one is going to make you play or tell you to go play. You have to do it on your own and it’s much, much easier if playing is what you want to do anyway. If you have a job and can think of two or three things that you’d rather do with your free time then play poker, you probably don’t love it enough. The reason why this is so important is no matter how much you like to play now, after playing everyday for 6 months or a year or 5 years it won’t be nearly as interesting and stimulating. So if you just like it now, in a year it will turn into a real grind. If you’re good at it, but don’t really enjoy playing, you’ll totally hate it in 6 months.

You don’t have to find yourself in the best case scenario with a huge bankroll, low expenses, a loving a supportive spouse, a steel will, years of records, and an intense passion for poker to make it work. But if you find yourself lacking in a few of these categories you might want to rethink going pro. They say “playing poker is a tough way to make an easy living.” There are plenty of pitfalls and traps, but if you’re good at it and enjoy it, it can be the best job in the world. If playing poker for a living is your dream, go for it! Just make sure you’re smart enough to go after that dream at the right time with the right preparation.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A massive correction

The streak is over in a big way. I had a fairly substantial loss on Friday and got totally rocked today. I can't even begin to describe the kind of bad luck I had today. It may have been the worst luck I've ever had over the span of 1,000 hands in my entire career. It was looking like this was going to be a banner month and it should still end up being good, but I'm feeling a little in shock right now. I'm taking the rest of the day off and tomorrow as well.

For the last 6 days of the month I am going to set a few goals and while I haven't been so good at hitting my goals in the past I am going to make these happen no matter what it takes! After all they're not that hard. The first part of the goal is to play 17,500 hands which works out to 3,500 hands a day for 5 days and one day off with one little caveat. If I hit plus $2,000 or minus $1,500 I'll stop for the day and count it as a full 3,500 hands. The second part of the plan is I'm going to work out 4 times during the 6 days. It shouldn't be too hard, but I always rationalize not working out when I spend all day playing and I've really been slacking off on my exercise regimen. Also, no drinking for the week. Between Vegas and Napa and having people over frequently and whatever I've been drinking too much lately and a week without having a drop seems like a good idea.

The best part about these goals is they aren't too much for me to handle. I feel like I should be able to do that much every week, but in practice I'm not particularly self motivated. Hopefully I'll be able to recover the money I've lost in the past two days over the next week and take a small step forward towards a healthier me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Another Good Day

I had another winning day today. In fact it looked like it was going to be a monster day. Normally I win about one in every 11 pots. Nominally I should win one in every 9 pots since I'm one of nine players and we all get dealt the same cards in the long run. But since I'm more patient and selective, in practice it seems like I win about one in every 11. Another thing I've noticed after looking at the statistics that Pokerstars keeps track of is when I win more than 50% of the hands that go all the way to the showdown I'm usually ahead and when it's less than 50% I'm usually behind. On average I only make it to the showdown about 1 hand in 40.

With those things in mind the start that I had today was pretty amazing. After 100 hands (about 12 minutes) I looked at my stats and saw that I'd won 6 of 7 pots at the showdown and 25 pots overall! This put me ahead over $500 and for a while the good luck kept on coming. At one point I was ahead over $1,500, but after a few bad plays and a little bad luck I ended up finishing the day ahead $900.

This is my 11th winning day in a row the smallest of which was almost $200. I'm starting to think crazy thoughts like maybe I can go the whole month without having a losing day. I'm planning to play 8 more days this month so it seems very unlikely, but you never know.

I've played 14,000 hands of $2/$4 blinds this month and I'm winning 29 cents a hand (I've also played about 12,000 hands of $3/$6 which haven't gone as well, but have still been good)! If I could do that over the long run I could work 35 hours a week, take 8 weeks of vacation a year and make a quarter of a million dollars a year!!!

What's amazing is 29 cents a hand is nothing compared to the amount of money in play. If I could steal the blinds in a $2/$4 game (which nets me a whopping sum of $6) once every two rounds and then break even on everything else that would be 33 cents a hand. Pokerstars keeps track of and lists the average pot size for each individual game for the $2/$4 games it's usually in the $50 range and in the $3/$6 game it's usually in the $75 range. All I need is 30 cents a hand to drag $250,000 a year. It's possible that while I think I've been running good these past few months, maybe I've been running bad and now I'm hitting an average run of luck!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Just Like Keanu Reeves

What does Keanu Reeves have to do with poker? Nothing! But I did feel like I did a little Matrix Style bullet dodging today. My morning session was tough and it seemed like I kept going broke in spots where I was fully expecting to win. After lunch it wasn't much better. 2600 hands into the day I was down a little over $700 and doing my best to remind myself that I'd just won about the same amount yesterday. I accepted the fact that my streak of winning days would be coming to an end and even though I didn't really feel like it I decided to play to 3,000 hands before calling it a day.

Then I went on a nice rush. I picked up Aces, got three way action and won a huge pot. I flopped a straight against a player who had aces and doubled up. I picked up a few other modest pots and before I knew it I was about $100 short of even! All I needed was one more big pot to make it happen. Then I lost a big pot and found myself stuck $250. Crap!

I still had a few hands to go and I kept thinking if I could make a couple of nice hands I could keep the streak alive. I managed to win a few mid size pots in a row and when I checked my balance I saw that I was about $50 away from even. I kept thinking "Come on you bastards, just give me one decent pot!" When I crossed over the 3,000 hand mark I decided to keep playing until I lost all of my chips in one game or until I was ahead for the day.

300 hands later I was still about $50 from even and starting to get impatient when I picked up AQ in the small blind. "Ah ha!" I thought for the 50th time in the past half hour "This could be the one that does it for me!" Everyone folded to me, I raised and the big blind called. The flop came down AQ9. Ah ha! I bet and my opponent called. Ah ha again!The turn was a 10 which seemed like a good card. If my opponent had one pair he easily could have made two pair worse than my own or picked up a draw that would encourage him to pay me off. I bet and my opponent made a big raise. Uh Oh. Even though that's exactly what I wanted him to do, I couldn't help but think that he might have KJ and made a straight. It didn't really matter what I thought he had because there was no way I was folding. I put in the rest of my chips and thought "Don't have KJ, Don't have KJ, Don't have KJ" like I was the little engine that could. And then the river came out...BING! Q on the river! Full House! SEND IT! It turned out that my opponent did have KJ, but obviously I still won the pot.

I picked up a few other small pots as I played to my blinds in all of my games and ended up winning just under $200 today. The streak is still alive!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Technical Difficulties Make Me Nuts

There's a great scene in the movie Office Space where one of the main characters (Who's name is Michael Bolton - no relation to the singer) is trying to print something and the printer jams. You just see him standing at the printer and he says "P.C. load letter? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Then as he struggles with the paper stuck in the machine he says "This is just what I need right now. Come on you little bitch let's go!" Eventually one of his co-workers pulls him away. Later in the movie, Michael and his buddies exact their revenge on the printer (which they all hate so, so much) with a baseball bat, a few drop kicks, and even their bare fists. After they get their fill of pounding on it they leave it broken into a thousand (by my count) pieces in a deserted field. This is often what I feel like doing to my technology when it doesn't work the way it's supposed to.

I had a little scare when my Internet cut out today in the middle of a significant hand. The hand in question took place in a $3/$6 blinds NL cash game where I had about $175 in front of me. I open raised to $18 with KK and got called by both of the blinds. The flop came down with three unconnected cards below 9. Both of my opponents checked, I bet $36 and the player in the small blind moved all in. I clicked on call and...nothing happened. ACK! My Internet connection failed and I wasn't sure if the software had registered the call. If it didn't, my hand would be folded if I wasn't able to log back on in time. After about 10 seconds of staring blankly at my blinking but inactive screen I ran down stairs to jump on one of the laptops.

Jen's laptop was on, but closed. When I opened it up the area that reports the status of the wireless connection said "limited or no connectivity." My first thought was "This is just what I need right now. Come on you little bitch let's go!" Luckily, when I ran back upstairs my computer had reconnected and I'd won the hand. But it wasn't exactly the fun positive experience that I normally get from doubling up.

At that point I spent about an hour screwing with a myriad of things trying to make my connection more reliable. I thought my best bet was switching out my wireless USB network adapter with another one we had lying around that looks like a satellite dish compared to the stupid little stick I've been using. But, of course after 30 minutes of restarting, configuring, swearing and sweating, I couldn't get that piece of shit to work the way it's supposed to.

I think the main source of my connectivity problems was that our wireless router had been moved over the weekend and was in a spot that blocked some not insignificant portion of the signal. I think I have the problem solved, but tomorrow I'm investing in some new equipment to receive the signal on this end just to be sure.

Happily, despite the various malfunctions I had another nice winning day. With a late start and all the time I spent messing with stuff today, I only managed 2,000 hands (I've reduced my goal for the month from 60,000 hands to a more realistic 50,000 which is still a lot given the 8 vacation days I've taken so far this month), but I did win a little over seven hundred. That makes 9 winning days in a row. I'll try to make it 10 tomorrow.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Blood Bath Continues

About thousand hands into the day today my Internet locked up on me (which isn't all that unusual), but instead of popping back after 15 or 20 seconds like it normally does, it stayed disconnected. After checking the status of my wireless network connection my computer told me that everything should be working fine. I restarted my computer. Nothing. I reset my router and cable modem. Still nothing.

I was then forced to take the only course of action I had left...I cooked half a hot link and some eggs and put them on an English muffin with some cheese, had a cup of coffee and some Orange juice and watched the 1988 movie Alien Nation staring James Caan. Amazingly this did not fix my Internet problem!

Then I used some highly technical techniques that I learned while studying mechanical engineering at U.C. Berkeley. I unplugged everything and let it "rest" for about a half an hour while I watched the U.S. open. When I plugged everything back in everything worked just fine.

When I logged back on to pokerstars I discovered that I was ahead $420 instead of the $300 that I thought I was up. Over the course of the next 400 hands my opponents came at me like a bunch of flying squirrels plunging into a wood chipper. The kept bluffing into my made hands! It was great. While I probably should have kept at it and played at least another 1,000 hands, I'm having some mental fatigue problems after playing 8 of the past 9 days so I called it a day early.

I had a modest but not insignificant win yesterday and I ended up winning a little over a thousand today which brings my winning streak to 8 days straight. My only regret is that I didn't shift back to playing these cash games sooner.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Streak is Still Alive

I picked up another $750 over about 3,000 hands today. That makes six straight winning days! I'm not quite sure what my record is in terms of most winning days in a row. I think it's 9 or 10. I know I've done 8 a few times and my best run in terms of winning days with one miss was 14 out of 15 when I was proping at the Oaks. Hopefully I can keep playing well, running good and kicking ass!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Back on Track

After taking the first 5 days of the month off and losing my ass in the process I knew that I was going to have to put in a little extra effort for the rest of the month. In May, which turned out to be my best month of the year by a significant margin, I set the goal of playing 60,000 hands. As it turned out on May 31st I needed to play about 2,000 hands to make my goal. Not surprisingly I fell into a classic trap. I won on the 30th and when I woke up on the 31st I thought to myself "I'm going to Vegas tonight! I don't want to have a total collapse today and break the momentum I have going into the WSOP (total B.S.). I''ll just start my vacation early! YAY!"

58,000 poker hands in a month is nothing to sneeze at, and it's light years better than the 45,000 or so hands that I played in April. This month I'm going to try again to hit the 60,000 hand mark. So far I've knocked out 13,000 after working 4 full days and 1 half day in the 6 days that I've been back from Vegas. I'm going to have to step up the production a little to make it. My plan is to work a little harder than normal and play 3,500 hands a day 5 days a week instead of 2,500 a day 6 days a week which is what I might normally do. If I can do that every Monday through Thursday plus Saturdays for the rest of the month I'll end up with 62,000 hands.

One problem I have though, is when I'm doing well I have a tendency to take my foot off the gas. When I've got the money set aside for next months bills half way through the month and I find myself up $500 for the day it's hard to keep playing when I don't really feel like it. On the other hand when things haven't been going well, I really put my nose to the grindstone because I feel the pressure.

With that said, the good news (and the bad news for me hitting my goal) is I've been doing really well. (Prepare for the massive jinx) I've won all five days that I've played in June and while none of them have been four digit wins they've all been in the middle three digits. I've moved up from playing a mix of $1/$2 and $2/$4 blinds no limit cash games to three $2/$4 NL games and three $3/$6 NL games. I'm making about 18.5 cents per hand in the $3/$6 games and while it's really too early to draw any conclusions, I'm feeling confident that I can keep winning a solid amount at that level. The fluctuations have been much larger as you might expect, but so far I've been handling it well.

Also on Saturday I confirmed that I don't totally suck at tournaments. I finished 13th out of 780 in the $50,000 weekly supernova freeroll and picked up $525. I was 11 spots away from $4,000 and 12 spots away from $10,500, but $525 isn't exactly a pile of nickles.

Friday, June 08, 2007


When we last left our hero he was battling the forces of doom and it looked like he was down but not out! Actually we knew he would eventually be down and out, but we didn't know exactly how it would happen.

The night before the $1,500 limit event I was at the Paris with Jean and E.B. playing Pai Gow and trying to turn my luck around. Jake and Chrissy had just left for the airport and while I was having a good time I was worried about blowing even more money playing stupid casino games. I decided to let the gambling gods give me a sign! To this point I had ignored the signs from the gods which in huge neon lights the size of the Titanic all said "STOP GAMBLING!!!" While I was busy covering my eyes to avoid reading those signs I was also repeatedly thinking the mantra of all losing gamblers, "It has to turn around sometime!"

But now I was looking for a real sign. Instead if betting $25 on one hand I went to $50 on each of two hands. I decided if I won both hands, I'd finish my drink, order a shot of whiskey and take one last gasping, hacking, coughing attempt at winning back some of my money. If I lost both, I'd call it a night and leave with whatever money (and dignity) I had left. I got one terrible hand, and one OK hand, but they both got squashed by a monster hand from the dealer. Horsefeathers!

I made my way back to Harrah's and was in my room by 8 p.m. I had the thought that if my 21 year old self was there he slap me in the face, pour a bucket of ice down my pants, and give me an atomic wedgie. He'd say, "You're in Vegas, you fool! It's only 8 o'clock! Why aren't you out there gambling and drinking!" And I'd say, "But, I'm tired and I have a tournament tomorrow and..." SLAP! "You're not 77, you're 27! Now get out there and booze it up! You've got money in your pocket don't you? I never stopped gambling until I was on the plane back to California or I didn't have a penny left on me. Don't you know it has to turn around sometime?"

Anyway I woke up well rested and headed off to the Rio to play my 15th career WSOP event. When I sat down at my table, I noticed Rafe Furst who has 1 WSOP bracelet was sitting two spots to my left. I'd never played against him before and I hadn't seen him play on TV so I didn't really know what to expect, but it turns out that while I was there he was playing a very conservative style and didn't give me any trouble.

I got a fair number of playable hands early and ended up taking my stack from 3,000 up to about 5,000 sometime during the 3rd level. But by the end of the 4th level I was back down under 3,000. When we got back from our second break a little more than 4 and half hours after we started, I knew I would need to make some progress soon.

Around that time a new player got moved to our table. I got the vibe that he was a strong and accomplished player and it wasn't until I was leaving the tournament area later and picked up a bluff magazine that I figured out who he was. He was on the cover with 7 or 8 other players (Doyle Brunson, Jennifer Harmon, and Phil Ivey to name a few) with the headline "Players to Watch at this Years WSOP." It turns out it was Jeff Madsen who won two bracelets last year and in the process became the youngest player in WSOP history to win an event.

When Madsen sat down he said hello to Rafe Furst and within seconds they'd agreed to a $100 best two out of three rock, paper, scissors match. While the dealer was shuffling, bang, bang, bang they knocked out three rounds and a $100 bill came flying across the table to Rafe. I find it interesting to be around people who bet three digit amounts on stupid shit like rock, paper, scissors. Doing that kind of thing has never appealed me, but I find it interesting none the less.

It turns out that the tournaments were maybe the least interesting part of the trip from a blogging standpoint. I had a few hands go against me in unspectacular fashion and I was out. I didn't feel bad about it, because I knew that I had played my best. Not just pretty good, or OK, but my actual best. I was focused, I wasn't the least bit nervous and I felt almost positive that every move I made was the right one given the circumstances. It just didn't work out. For better or for worse, that's poker.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

WSOP Recap (and massive complaining)

First of all, thanks to Jen for the updates that she posted to the blog. Not surprisingly I wasn't in the mood to rehash the details of my defeats right after they happened.

If I had to sum up my trip to Vegas in one brief phrase it would be: IT SUCKED! In the past 6 years I've made roughly 15 trips to Vegas, 10 gambling trips to Reno or Lake Tahoe, and 2 trips to Atlantic City. I have NEVER had worse luck. I've had trips where I lost more money on the whole, but I've never lost so much betting so little.

When it comes to gambling on stupid casino games I am a realist. I know in the long run I am going to lose. In fact I can probably tell you more about the math of exactly how much I can expect to lose over a given period of time with a given bet size than anyone you know. I've decided the entertainment value is worth more than cost, but man I have never had a trip where I've been so universally screwed. Not once in the 5 days that I was in Vegas did I leave any table with more than I started with. No matter how bad things are going, you should run into a little streak of good or even average luck somewhere.

I'll try not to bore you too much with the details, but I will point out a few of the low lights. The game of choice for our group is Pai Gow Poker. I won't explain too much about it, but the important point is you're playing against the dealer and it's a very slow game (speed is your enemy in the casino) with a small house edge. In this game 28.61% of the hands the player will win, 29.91% of the hands the house will win and 41.48% of the hands will be a push (or a tie) and no money changes hands.

When we made it to our hotel (The MGM) around midnight my good friend Chrissy and I immediately sat down at the Pai Gow table each with $500 and each betting $25 a hand. By 2:30 we were both down to the felt. At a Pai Gow table you get dealt 25-30 hands an hour so at most we saw 75 hands. If you played an infinite number of groups of 75 hands on average you'd lose 1.84 betting units. Yet somehow we managed to both lose 20 betting units (well over 10 times the expectation) in that time (it's not surprising that we shared the same fate since while we each have our own hand we're both playing against the same dealer hand). This was pretty extraordinary.

I lost $300 playing at a $5 craps table in about 45 minutes. Enough said.

In another Pai Gow session at The Mandalay Bay I sat down and immediately lost 6 hands in a row with no wins and no ties. The chance of losing 6 in a row like that are 1 in 1397.

Now that I've got that out of the way I can talk about the poker aspect of the trip. I got to Vegas late Thursday and my plan was to head to the Rio on Friday to sign up for my first tournament which wouldn't start until Saturday at noon. I knew from past experience that the line to register for tournaments is crazy in the hour or two before the event and I wanted to bypass that entirely.

After that my plan was to head to Treasure Island to meet with the folks from pokerstars. Since I paid for one of my entries with FPP's I had to sign a contract and pick up a load of Pokerstars gear which I was supposed to wear during the tournament. In order to ensure that I did what they wanted, pokerstars only gave me 85% of my buy in initially and once I proved that I actually played or was going to play in the event (by showing them by nonrefundable tournament entry card with my name and the event # on it) they gave me the rest.

Unfortunately when I made it to the Rio, I discovered a line so long that looked like they were holding American Idol auditions inside. Some people were sitting in chairs that they'd found someplace which to me meant that not only was the line crazy long, but it was also slow. The slowness made no sense to me since last year the longest I had to wait to sign up for an event was about 20 minutes and even then the line was moving quickly. I decided that my best bet was to wait until the middle of the night or early the next morning and come back. I had my fingers crossed that there was some reason other than massive incompetence for the delay and whatever it was would get resolved quickly.

So I went on with my general misfortune had a bunch of drinks and went to sleep by midnight. At 3:30, POW! I was wide awake. So I decided to head over to the Rio, sort out my business and then head back to the MGM for some more sleep. When I got there I saw that while the line was shorter, it was still fairly substantial. I went to the front of the line and asked one of the guys standing there how long he'd been in line. Immediately a half dozen people chimed in, said that it had been three hours and talked about how pissed they all were. To make it worse one of registration windows had just closed leaving only 4 left, meaning it could take even longer to make it through the line. If it had been my first year at the WSOP I would have manned up and waited, but for my 14th career event it wasn't worth it.

The next day (Saturday) I decided I would just have to brave the line and sign up. While the rest of the gang went to dinner I headed off to the Rio to wait for hours in a slow moving line. When I walked in the door and looked down the loooooong hallway to where the end of the line should have been I didn't see anything. So far so good. I turned a corner and still didn't see anything. Great! Then I walked into the tournament area and right up to the cage where there were THREE OPEN WINDOWS with people waiting to sign me up! It was like a Christmas miracle. After planning on skipping dinner I made it back to The Mandalay Bay where I'd just been 20 minutes earlier and sat down at dinner before anyone had even ordered.

I'd had a couple of snifters of Grand Mariner starting about 3 in the afternoon so after dinner I was ready to call it a night. We all made it back to the MGM and while most of the group hit the tables I watched a movie in my room by 10 p.m and asleep a little after midnight.

The next day I got up started my parade of visiting 5 hotels in 7 hours, 4 of them with my luggage in tow. I left the MGM (#1) a little before 11 (While waiting in the cab line I did see a guy who I can only assume was crazy rich or who just won a ton of money or both get into the back of a shiny new Maybach and tip the bell hop $100 for putting his two bags in the trunk). I made a brief stop at The Treasure Island (#2) to meet with the pokerstars people who gave me a very nice set of two shirts, a hat and a jacket which went directly into my suitcase where they remain at this very moment. I got a splash of VIP treatment when one of the people in the makeshift office told me that because I was a P0kerstars Supernova if I wanted to eat at a particular restaurant in the Rio anytime during the WSOP they she would make reservations for me or if I was in a hurry I could call her ahead of time and she'd order me whatever I wanted ahead of time.

Then I hauled my ass (and my suitcase) over to the Rio (#3) where I dropped my stuff off in my friend Matt's room. The I actually played in a poker tournament. Crazy I know. Interestingly enough the poker tournament was totally uninteresting. I think Jen did a nice job of summing it up. I was at a great table with a bunch of week players for about 2 hours where I ran my stack up to about 5,000 after starting with 3,000. Then I got moved to a new table with better players and ran into two tough spots.

On the first hand that led to my demise I had 4,500 chips with blinds of 75/150. Two players called the 150 chip big blind, I looked down at KK and raised to 600. To my surprise the first player who just called the big blind reraised all in to 1,800. Of course I called and was not please to see that my opponent had the only hand I was worried about - AA. I lost that hand and was back under where I started.

I dribbled away chips for a while and found myself with about 1,500 on the button with blinds of 100/200 when the following hand came up. The first player to act, who was probably the worst at the table made it 600 to go. The next player to act who was a very tight player immediately went all in for about 2,000. I could tell he really liked his hand, but when I looked down at QQ I knew I couldn't throw it away when I had a stack that was about 1/4th of average. The player in the small blind who had been left with around 300 chips after losing the previous hand called and after about 60 seconds of thought the original raiser also called. The small blind turned over 99, the original raiser turned over K-10 and sadly the other player turned over AA. When the flop came with three spades I was left with only one card in the deck that could make me the best hand. Unfortunately a 4th spade came out on the turn and the player with K-10 made a flush with the K of spades and took the whole pot.

I trudged over to the tournament registration area, signed up for the next day's tournament and after getting my bags from Matt's room I left the Rio. After waiting in yet another cab line I headed to Harrah's (#4) and checked in to the room I'd be staying in for the next two nights. After a quick turn around I made about a 10 minute walk over to the Paris (#5) to play some more Pai Gow with my friends.

I'll pick up here in my next post (this one is getting crazy long!) which should be coming in two or three days (I'm very busy tomorrow).

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bad News

Well, Dave got eliminated. I didn't hear any of the story because I was at the grocery store when he called. He changed his flight to come home tonight instead of tomorrow, so he'll probably be telling you all about his trip tomorrow morning.


Dave just called in on his second break. Over the last two hours he's built his stack up from $2800 to $2825. Ha! When they go back after the break they'll be playing $200/$400 so he's starting to get a little short stacked, but is still just one hand away from being comfortable. He says he hasn't had a decent hand in an hour, so if he can just get one or two good hands things should start to turn around.

Poker Pages posted the payout structure, here it is:


The next break will be the dinner break, and that will be around 6:45 or 7. Hopefully we don't hear anything until then!

Event 06 - $1,500 Limit Hold'em

I just got off the phone with Dave, who is on the first break of today's event, Limit Hold 'Em, which started with 910 players. Limit moves a lot slower than No Limit, so not too much has happened so far. He started with $3000 in chips and now has about $2800. When he gets back from break the limits will be $100/$200.

Here are the live update links:

Card Player
Poker Pages

He says he likes his table a lot, and is playing with Rafe Furst, who he says is a nice guy.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I just got a call from Dave saying he got eliminated. I only got the short story, which was that he lost half his chips with KK against AA, and then the rest with QQ against AA. Yuck! I'm sure he'll have more to tell you about it later.

Event 04 - $1,500 Pot Limit Hold’em

Dave successfully got registered in today's event which started at noon (PST).

According to there were about 900 entrants, which is a little smaller than last year. Dave just gave me a call on his first break saying they started out with 3,000 in chips and he had gotten up to around 5,000 but has since slipped back to around 3,500. All in all, he says things are going well and he'll update me again in a few hours.

Here are some sites with live updates of the action:
Card Player
Poker Pages

They usually talk about big hands between famous players and will give you some updates on how the limits are going up and about how many people are left. At some point they should post what the prize structure will be which will tell us how many people they need to play to before ending the day.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

First Tournament - Cancelled

Hello, this is Jen!

Dave wanted me to put a post up to let you know that he ended up not playing in today's event. He went to the Rio yesterday to sign up and apparently the line to register was hours long and not moving at all. He decided he would rather just get this morning around 8 and sign up then. He woke up this morning feeling awake at 4 for no particular reason, so he headed back over to the Rio planning on signing up and then coming back to the MGM for a few more hours of sleep before the tournament. When he got there he found out the wait would be 3-4 hours. Wisely he decided that he would not be playing his best poker after getting so little sleep and standing in line all night long, so he is skipping today's event. He's hoping they can work out whatever bugs they're having and he's going to return this evening or early tomorrow to sign up for the next event.

My WSOP 2023 Plans and Missions

After four and a half years working for StubHub I wrapped up my time there in March. I've been at the poker tables 3-4 days a week since...