Saturday, October 20, 2012

Don't Call it a Comeback (Part 3)

When I last left off I was coming off a nice win at the Bay 101 $20/$40 which capped a 10 day run where I'd won a good pile of money for myself and about $1,700 for my good friend and frequent backer E.B. As a thank you he offered to buy me dinner at Ruth's Chris steakhouse.

I went into this dinner planning on getting my money's worth. Normally if someone is going to buy me dinner, I'm not going to go all out. But in this case since I'd just handed over seventeen $100 bills, I was going to do the opposite of holding back. I had crab cakes, steak and lobster, gnocci, two Manhattans and two glasses of wine. It was the best meal I've had in a long time.

After dinner we headed over to The California Grand to play some cards. There was a short handed $15/$30 going, but given that I was 4 drinks deep we decided to play $6/$12. While we were waiting for a couple of $6/$12 seats to open up E.B. sat down in the $15/$30, made a couple of hands and won $600 in about 30 minutes before they called us both for $6/$12.

When we sat down at $6/$12 E.B. said something about wanting to win enough at that game to pay for dinner. What?! The whole reason we went out was because we were celebrating a series of wins, and he just won enough to pay for dinner twice. Anyway we both played well and got some good cards. I won $316 (plus the cost of about 7 more Manhattans which had been paid for out of my stack) over the course of 4 or 5 hours, while E.B. won about another $250 and we both left feeling like the night had been a major success.

Three days later I took another $1,000 off the Bay 101 $20/$40 and two days after that I booked a $600 win at the Oaks $15/$30. The latter came on October 11th and at that point I hadn't had a losing session since my first time back at $15/$30 on September 15th. During this stretch I'd played 11 times and won every time.

I knew I was running hot. No matter how well you play, you can't expect to win 11 sessions in a row, especially if they are shortish 3-4 hour sessions. Normally, I'd be happy with 7 out of 10 under those conditions.

I finally took what felt like my first big loss on Tuesday dropping $1,100 at the Oaks $15/$30. I knew eventually I'd get dinged, and I was curious to see how I'd react emotionally. Happily I didn't feel that bad at all. I played well the entire session, didn't spew a bunch of chips when the deck turned against me, and when I crossed my $1,000 stop loss mark, I played to my blinds and racked up my remaining chips.

E.B. and I had so much fun at our last outing we decided to do it again last night, although we toned it down on dinner and this time we went to Lucky Chances. After a 6 hour alcohol fueled session of $6/$12 that ended about 3:30 a.m. (my wife and kids are away for the weekend visiting my sister in law so I really took advantage of the fact that I could make it a late night) I was up $500 plus the cost of a couple of grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and about 5 long island iced teas.

All told I'm ahead $5,600 over the past 9 or 10 weeks after 114 hours of play. Coming in to this experiment I was thinking if I could make $10 an hour and enjoy myself while doing it it would be great. Instead I've been making closer to $50 an hour, not counting the $2,000 I've won for E.B. (who has now been relegated to taking a smaller piece of my action and will soon be getting none of it unless I'm playing $30/$60 or $40/$80).

I've spent a little of my winnings $20 here and $50 there, but for the most part I've been able to hang on to them. I have a shiny new bank account with $5,000 in it. My first goal is to have that balance up to a 5 digit number by the end of the year. My second goal is to hit +$15,000 sometime early next year at which point I'm going to pull $5,000 off the top and buy some hardwood floors for our house.

Of course I could get my ass handed to me over the next couple of weeks and be back playing $6/$12 with a $2,000 bankroll...but I like my chances. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Don't Call It a Comeback (Part 2)

When I last left off the story of my non-comeback, I'd spent about a month playing 4 hour sessions 3 times a week, winning very steadily and had taken my starting bankroll (if you could call it that) of $500 and run it up to $2,000.

During this run it kept bubbling up in my consciousness  that for years I was playing against a pool of professional players from all over the world who played poker all day long 5 or 6 days a week, who were tracking my actions against them with software and using that data to tailor a strategy specifically to beat me. Of course eventually I started using tracking software too, but the point is I was able to win under those circumstances so it shouldn't be surprising that I was winning easily against a group that is 100% amateurs - some of whom are truly terrible.

After brushing off the rust at $6/$12 I knew it was a waste to not move up. But $2,000 isn't exactly a $15/$30 or $20/$40 bankroll. That could be gone in one bad session.

I was talking to my good friend E.B. about the fact that I was playing again regularly and he offered to take half my action at $15/$30. Instead of playing $6/$12 and paying $4 out of every pot to rake and $1 to a dealer tip, I'd now be playing $7.50/$15 with my end of the rake being $2 a hand and effectively tipping $50 cents. I figured this was worth about $10 an hour in rake savings. But of course I'd have to play against stiffer competition.

The Oaks $15/$30 is a very strange game. At times it is extremely soft and at other times, it's full of a players who really know what they're doing and could be winners in much larger games at other casinos. But I didn't mind so much if I had to play against those tougher opponents, because part of my wanting to move up was to get a sense of if I still had the skills locked away in my brain to beat tough competition.

My first time back at $15/$30 I felt nervous which really pissed me off. What did I have to be nervous about? If I played my best, I'd be hands down the best player in the game and I only had half the action. I way over thought things, called down too much, gave my opponents too much credit and lost $442.

After booking a couple more $6/$12 wins, and a $200 score playing $8/$16 at Bay 101 I gave the Oaks $15/$30 another shot. This time I didn't feel nervous at all. I'd spent a lot of time analyzing my previous session and the mistakes I made. I didn't repeat them. I came in confident and won $800 in a 3 hour session. A few days later I banked another $1,200.

Of course half of this money was going to E.B. so it wasn't as big as it sounds, but it felt great. Somewhere in the mix there was a $720 tournament win (4th of 75 in a $225 tournament) that we also split and after the $1,200 win I sent E.B. a text and said "a couple more of these and you're going to owe me a nice dinner." He said my math was off and one more would do it.

After my one visit to play $8/$16 at Bay 101 I decided I needed to check out their $20/$40. If the $8/$16 was any indication it would be a very soft game. And it was.

There was this one lady who was a Bay 101 dealer playing. She had about $700 in front of her when I sat down and ran it up to $2,000 while drinking heavily. She was playing crazy, hitting a lot of big hands and the table was responding by being very loose and aggressive.

I kept winning the small pots and losing the big ones, thinking "If I can make two 5 card hands or sets I'm going to be up $1,000." Instead I had 90 minutes fold, fold, fold, win a small one.

Finally I caught a break. Losing about $400 for the session, I limped in with J9, there was one raise and the flop came down J 9 3 with 6 of us in the pot. It was checked to me and I bet, there was a raise, I three bet and we took the turn 5 way. The turn was another 9 - BINGO! I bet and every body called. The river was a 10, I bet there was a call and now the crazy lady raised! "Ah ha" I thought, "Now I'm going to get paid!" Sadly that raise put her all in. She'd dumped all $2,000 in 90 minutes and I got her last chips. When she showed her hand she had T9 giving her a smaller full house! "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I thought. If she'd had more chips it would have been AT LEAST 3 bets on the turn and 4 on the river with other players tagging along.

A couple of hands later I saw a flop with 88 in a 6 way capped pot. The flop came down J82 with two diamonds. The small blind was the one who capped the preflop action and he fired out. 4 players called and I was last to act. With everyone in there, no way was I slow playing. I raised, the small blind three bet and I capped it hoping everyone would put me on a flush draw. Sure enough the small blind fired out after the turn came a black J, two players called, I raised again and they all called. The river was a beautiful black 3 and I got called by the small blind who had AA and some nut who had turned a pair of jacks. There was over $1,300 in that one pot!

I played a couple of more rounds and left with a $900 win in the $20/$40 (plus a free dinner). The story of that dinner, and the next few session leading up to the present will be along shortly in Part 3 of this very long recap.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Don't Call it a Comeback (Part 1)

After almost 2 years away from poker, I'm back!

I wasn't 100% away from poker all that time; I played a half dozen tournaments and another 4 or 5 sessions playing low stakes games mostly as something to do while a good friend of mine and I had a few drinks and caught up. But the door on making any kind of money or taking poker seriously in anyway was completely closed. I played fewer hands in those two years than I did on a typical Sunday during the prime of my career.

Black Friday came and went in April of 2011 and I was mostly unaffected. I was 4 months into my new job as Business Development Manager at and while I felt sad for a few of my friends who had been badly burned, the only immediate consequence for me was $500 I had languishing on Absolute Poker evaporating.

As time passed, I decompressed. I didn't realize how tightly I was wound until I had months away from the mania of playing 500+ hands an hour, day after day in a situation where I had to win to support my family.

I've read that how stressed you feel is not related to just things that have happened to you today or last week or last month, but events from the past two years. I'm not talking about major trauma, which of course can have permanent influence on your state of mind, but rather things like getting married, moving, the birth of a child or say a flood of two outters coming in against you that seems to never end.

It took 6 months of being totally away from the daily grind for me to feel totally relaxed and like my career was well behind me in the rear view mirror.

Having a standard job has some major benefits. I get paid the same amount every two weeks even if I have an off week. I can totally check out when the weekend arrives instead of feeling like I should always be working. I get paid holidays, sick leave, vacation pay, stock options, and when I have a really tough decision I ask my boss to make it for me.

But it's always that same amount of money coming in month after month. If I want to spend money on something I have to not spend money on something else. Once my life felt fully stabilized. I decided it was time to start adding to the cash flow.

I figured I could still beat the middle limit hold'em games in the bay area, but I didn't have a bankroll of any kind to start with. I was able to come up with $500 that if I lost wouldn't be a big deal and hoped that would be enough. More importantly for my state of mind, any amount of extra money I could bring in was all bonus money.

When my poker career was in full swing, a win or loss needed to be a few thousand dollars before it was at all noteworthy and anything less than plus or minus $500 felt almost like breaking even. Now I was thinking if I could go make $50 a session, it would be worth my time. I'd buy something with that $50 that otherwise I might not have instead of having it rolled into the pile that would pay for next months bills or be half a percent of the $10,000 budget I had for the next big series of tournaments. $50 or $100 was now an actual win in my mind and I was ready to give it everything I had to book this wins.

On August 8th I rolled into Oaks Club and took a very familiar seat at a $6/$12 limit hold'em game. It had been about 9 years since I played $6/$12 seriously - sober, well rested, focused, determined to win. I played 4 hours and won $5. Not exactly earth shattering. But over my next four sessions I had wins of $250, $160, $167 and $310 playing 3-4 hours each time. The old plays were coming back to me and I was started to get to know the new cast of Oaks $6/$12 players. I had a couple of losing sessions, but over the course of a month I ran my $500 up to a little over $2,000 playing three 4 hours sessions a week and sticking to $6/$12 exclusively.

My results got even better the following month, but that will have to wait for my next post which should be coming in the next day or two.

My plan is to return to blogging how I used to - sharing the ups and downs, talking about my results, specific hands, lessons learned and how I'm feeling about being back at the tables.

Add a comment if you're glad to hear I'm back.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Best Day To Play

I remember when I was 21 and looking to take my first shot at the $15/$30 game at the Oaks Club. I asked one of the grizzled old veteran players who played a mix if $6/$12 and $15/$30 when the best time to take a shot was. "Holiday Weekends" were the first words out of his mouth.

I've confirmed that sentiment many, may times. In fact for my entire professional career, three day weekends were the exact opposite of time off. This weekend I had a half day on Friday, and with Monday being a holiday as well this was the most time I've taken off from working in I'm not sure how many years. It may stretch all the way back to my honeymoon in 2005.

Yesterday in the tradition of people who only play every now and then I took a trip to the Oaks to play for a few hours. It was the best game that I can remember. It seemed like every hand was 6 or 7 way action for one bet before the flop and anytime someone bet they had a hand and if they raised it meant a monster.

Most people think the best games are the ones with tons of ill advised raising and huge pots. Those games are good, but it's hard to extract maximum advantage when the clowns you are playing against could have anything and the fluctuations are off the charts. I'd greatly prefer everyone playing as straightforward and passive as possible. It's almost impossible to lose in those games over any significant length of time.

Family comes first these days and I wasn't playing for big money so I split a small winner after about 3 hours. But I did confirm one more time that hitting the tables over a three day weekend is never a bad idea.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Missing Poker

I've been missing poker lately. I've also missed writing in the blog. Hang tight poker fans, because eventually I'll get back to writing.

In the meantime, good luck to you all!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

E-mail from Pokerstars

I have yet to investigate, but this leads me to believe that FullTilt is totally screwed:

We would like to bring your attention to the following two press releases:

PokerStars Official Statement, June 29 2011

In light of today's news that Alderney Gambling Control Commission has suspended Full Tilt Poker's license, PokerStars wishes to assure our customers that their funds are completely safe and that our operations are completely unaffected. The Isle of Man Gaming Commission today re-affirmed that PokerStars' worldwide licensing is intact and that our operations are in full compliance with all of its requirements. PokerStars' online operations continue as normal and all funds in players' accounts are safe and available for withdrawal as usual with no delays.

PokerStars also remains in full compliance with our licenses in other jurisdictions where we are regulated, including France, Italy and Estonia.

As provided under our licensing, PokerStars has always maintained the integrity and security of our players' funds, by keeping all such funds in segregated bank accounts, always available for immediate withdrawal.

Since the actions of US Department of Justice in April, we have returned more than $120 million to US players and continue to act upon requests as they are received. Players outside the US have not been affected and all cash-outs have been processed without delays. Further, PokerStars entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice which expressly confirmed the company's ability to operate outside the US.

We will continue to operate as a responsible corporate citizen and are committed to serving the needs of our customers in complete compliance with our regulatory requirements.

IOM Gambling Supervision Commission Statement, June 29 2011

The Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission wishes to make it clear that the licensing status of PokerStars in the Isle of Man remains unchanged following today's statement from the Gambling Control Commission in Alderney. Alderney is a separate jurisdiction from the Isle of Man and the operation in question is separate from PokerStars.

PokerStars continues to demonstrate compliance with its licence conditions in the Isle of Man. PokerStars continues to offer withdrawals to any players who wish to withdraw their funds, including players in the USAto whom PokerStars does not currently offer real-money gaming.

The official statement from the IOM Gambling Supervision Commission can be found here.

We would like to thank you for your continued support.

Best Regards,
The PokerStarsPartners Team

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dear WSOP: I Miss You!

I looked a twitter today and saw a post from Phil Helmuth that he'd finished 2nd to John Juanda in the $10,000 NL 2-7 event at the WSOP. My first thought was "Holy shit the WSOP is already underway? I guess it's the middle of June. I am really out of touch!"

I've played 3-10 events at the WSOP every year for the past 6 years cashing at least once every year except 2007. This year Vegas is not in my plans and it's really hitting me how over my poker career feels.

The time I spent in Vegas every summer taking my shot at the big time was always the most hopeful time of year for me. Every tournament buy in was the chance to win hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars and especially in the last few years I knew I was good enough to get the job done if I got a few breaks. I didn't need a Moneymaker miracle, just a few key hands to go my way and I could take care of the rest.

I'm missing that feeling of walking into the Rio with a roll of $100 bills so fat that I can't fit it into one pocket. I miss the feeling of making it to Day 2 after playing for 15 hours and sealing my chips in a tamper proof plastic bag. I miss the feeling of total calm that settles over you when you make the money and it's all gravy from that point on. I miss calling my backers to tell them the good news. A little piece of me even misses the soul crushing oh so long deep breath filled walk from the Amazon room back to my room at the Rio after getting busted.

I have no idea what the future holds for my WSOP career. Right now my bankroll is essentially zero. I burned off all buy a few thousand bucks paying bills during the 6 month transition between full time poker pro and full time Business Development Manager at HitFix. The rest has been absorbed into a standard bank account waiting to be spent on an unexpected car repair or some future vacation.

At this point I feel like there's a good chance that I won't play more than 1 or 2 events in the next 10 years and when I do play I'm probably going to be absolutely terrified.

Then again, maybe I'm not washed up just yet. As they say, there's always next year.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Poker Lessons and Poker Coaching with Dr. M

Over the years I've tried to help friends and family get the most out of their time spent playing poker. It's not always easy. Learning how to play poker is like learning anything else that has deep complexity. It takes time, it takes effort and it takes practice. Most beginners are looking for the secret code that's going to let them win like I do so they can dive into the deep end and try to swim.

At least a dozen times I've been faced with a situation where someone who has almost no poker knowledge beyond what beats what, wanting to know how to play because we are at a casino or they've decided to play online after watching me play. I could talk for days about just starting hands and now I have to condense 10 years of knowledge into 10 minutes?

On the other end of the spectrum is my only current student (I'll call him Dr. M). Dr. M is actually a doctor which is great because he can afford to pay me $50 an hour to help him and because it means he's spent a huge chunk of his life learning. Dr. M has read just about every poker book out there so if I tell him that with an M of 10 the implied odds are not there to limp in the hijack he knows what I mean without having to think about it.

I've found it interesting that what Dr. M needs is not lessons, but rather coaching. What's the different between lessons and coaching? You get golf lessons when you're shooting 110, take 3 shots to get out of a sand trap and couldn't read a putt if it was in neon block letters. You get coaching when you're shooting 75 and want to get it down to 72. With Dr. M all the pieces are there, the just need to be put in the right place.

At this point I've been coaching Dr. M for almost a year and a half, talking to him about every 3 weeks on average. In the past two months he's had 3 or 4 solid tournament scores so we've been talking more often (he's got the fever). Since I don't get to the tables much these days, I'm hoping to start sharing pieces of my conversations with Dr. M on this blog in the coming weeks and months.

Or I might totally forget and never share a single hand! That's sort of how I work. We'll see...

If you're interested in lessons, coaching or poker consulting please send me an e-mail at

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Which U.S. Friendly Poker Site Will Be the New #1? is where I've always gotten my rakeback (I'll have to talk to them about ads since I'm always giving them free press) and also where I've gone to discover new reliable poker sites. Your money isn't 100% safe on any site since you never know when they'll go under, but at least if you choose one of the sites listed on RBN you know they've been thoroughly checked out.

Right now they have 7 U.S. friendly poker sites listed, all of which were barely an afterthought two weeks ago. Interestingly enough those 7 sites are under only two umbrellas: Merge and Cake.

It's fairly common for sites to join forces and start a network. In those situations both sites feature the same cash games, but if you log in from site A, site A gets any rake you pay even if you're playing against some players from site B. Usually sites in these networks run their own tournaments and sit-n-gos, but lumping cash game players together makes it easier to create the critical mass required to have games running regularly.

Apparently the Merge Network is currently the most trafficked in the US with Carbon Poker as it's flagship room and RPM coming in second. The Cake Network, made up of Cake Poker, Doyle's Room and a few smaller sites is the other major player in U.S. online poker today.

If you ask me it won't take long for Cake and Doyle to overtake Merge and get out to a large lead. In a business with choices brand recognition is huge. Doyle's Room and Cake have been blasting me in the face with images of Doyle's road worn mug and massive cakes for years now. Every time I turn my head Doyle Brunson is spitting out some stolen quote about champions and Cake is telling me to eat more cake or scarf more chips.

Their competition is not nearly as entrenched and while I've played on Carbon Poker it was only to target a specific promotion and while doing so I often asked myself "What they hell are you doing playing on this bullshit site!?"

Sometime next weekend I'm going to poke around on the remaining U.S. options and evaluate the possibilities. Be sure to check back for that report and if you don't want to forget, sign up for e-mail alerts on the right side of this page.

Who do you think will win in the end?

I've Updated My Blog Design!

After a few months in the website business I realized that my blog was an outdated eyesore! I've made a few adjustments, to give my blog a more modern feel and I'm going to try to start posting regularly again about all things poker.

In the right sidebar I've added a place to get notified every time I post and I'd encourage you all to enter your e-mail there so you don't miss any of my sometimes informative, slightly entertaining and occasionally obscene poker posts.

If you have any negative feed back please go stuff yourself and I hope you start losing all of your pocket aces to one outers. Actually I take that back. I hope you get hit in the face with an errant golf ball which is actually much more pleasant (I don't want to wish one outters on anyone).

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...