Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 3:21 PM
How I got permanently banned from a casino

Not many people have been banned from a casino. I think that casinos and churches are the two most welcoming places in the world, so to be banned from a casino, you would have to do something very naughty. (As a side note, I once wasn’t allowed into a church, too)

This is how I got permanently banned from a casino

We were playing in a pot-limit Texas Hold’em re-buy tournament at the International Casino Aberdeen (UK) on December 2, 2002. The buy-ins, re-buys and top-ups were 20 pounds and I had paid a total of 120 pounds that night, or 6 buy-ins. A total of 40 players were there, with an average of 4.2 buy-ins per player and a pot of 3,360 pounds. First, second and third place prizes were 2,016 pounds (60% or $3,306), 840 pounds (25% or $1,378), and 336 pounds (10% or $551), respectively.

I played pretty tight. Heck, I chunked an AKo, once because there were two raisers. I later got lucky when my K-rag in the blind caught a K on the river, which kept me alive. I played tight, but I attacked this one maniac that would play with anything. Next thing I know, I am the chip leader and there are 4 of us left, including Stephen, Arab, and Jerk.

It is now 2:10 in the morning and I remember that there is a rule at this casino that if the tournament is still going at 2:30am, the prizes will be given based on who has the largest, second largest and third largest stack. Only once in two years had I seen this rule come into play, but the large field combined with the tight play at the final table made this one really drag out.

Stephen, Arab and I make a very generous offer to jerk to split the money up 50%, 25%, 15% and 10%. Jerk had so few chips this was very much in his favor, but he declined. He actually made a bit of a scene about this, which I found odd. Just decline the offer and play, dude. Then I ask the dealer if I am right in recalling the 2:30 rule, and he says, “Yes.” I also ask if a player gets 2 minutes for each decision and he again says, “Yes.” I then employ the only logical strategy. I call on each street, taking 2 minutes per decision, making each hand last a minimum of 8 minutes, ensuring no more than 3 more hands will be dealt and that I get my 60% prize.

Well Stephen and Arab quickly figure out what is going on and they join in my strategy, which basically assures that this will be the last hand. Then, Jerk freaks out and starts telling me he is going to kill me with his bare hands because I am a “cheat.” Being a foreigner and being the youngest kid in the joint, I keep my mouth shut (and if you know me, you know how rarely that happens.) The dealer suspends play to discuss the situation with the manager.

I am sitting there thinking that there are really only two possible outcomes:
1) They decide what we were doing is ok and that I get my 60%
2) They decide that while we did not break the letter of rules, we broke the spirit of the rules and force us to make decisions in something below 2 minutes, say 30 seconds.
I have so many chips that really under option 2, I do not foresee any chance greater than 1 in a 100 of losing first place.

They come back and decide option 2. OK, Let’s play. No, Jerk says that he hates me so much that he refuses to play with me under any circumstance. So, the manger reverses her decision and says we’ll split the pot 4-way evenly. WHAT?

I have not heard a worse decision since the AFC Championship Game in 1979.

I decide to put the 840 pounds in my pocket before I speak up, because the current trend is for each decision to be worse for me than the one before. I collect my money and talk to the manger. We decide that it is best for us all to go home (it is quite late) and she’ll be happy to discus it further the next day. She tells me, “It is all ok, you did nothing wrong and Jerk is a, um, jerk.”

I get busy at work, so it takes 5 days for me to get to the casino to discuss with her. When I check in, I am told that I have been suspended and must immediately leave the premises. I ask why and ask to speak to the manager (who told me it was ‘all ok’) but am just told to leave. Later I get a letter which is pretty vague about everything except that I can’t play there for 3 months.

Stephen calls me and tells me that he played there 2 days after “the incident” no problem. However, when he returned 3 days after that, he learned he had been suspended for “his behavior 5 days earlier.” He asks why he was allowed to play just 3 nights ago and all of a sudden he now can’t play. He is told it is a private institution and that they can suspend membership for any reason at any time and they do not need to justify their actions.

Stephen did some research and evidently Jerk was overheard telling the manager a few days after the “incident” that if he ever saw me, Stephen, or Arab there again, he would never come back. The casino decides to suspend me and Stephen, but not Arab.

Stephen explained to me that Jerk and Arab both dump a ton of money on the blackjack tables on a regular basis. Basically, the casino made a decision to favor good customers at the expense of two disposable customers.

I call the UK Gaming Board and launch a complaint. They perform an investigation, including interviews of the casino employees. The casino is told that if everything I allege is true, then they will lose their gaming license. The casino employees get their lies straight and tell a very different story than the one I just told. The inspector, after his 2 month long investigation, tells me that he apologizes, but since the key facts on which we disagreed can’t be proven (there was no “eye-in-the-sky”), there is little he can do. The only condolence he gave me was that if what I said was true, I got hosed and the casino deserves to lose their license.

It might not surprise you that shortly after the investigation was complete, I received a lifetime ban from the casino.

True story.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 8:53 PM
It sure has been a long time since I posted anything here! I meant to make some posts this weekend, but I was running myself ragged with the pre-holiday madness, crazy newly-engaged wedding things, and a touch of the flu that showed up on Saturday night and is just now starting to go away.

As usual, I think I will mostly respond to Fro's posts: I have my own take on the NL game the other night and the numbers he has for the charity tournament only bolster my earlier arguments against it.

Friday Night's No Limit Game
Fro and I were the only winners. I won $316 and Fro won $184. There were five other players in the pot, so that means that everyone else lost $100 on average. I know that a couple of guys lost even more than that and the others just lost 2-3 $20 buyins. Two of the other players are very green (JJ and Todd B), one is an habitual bluffer (Baird), one is a relatively tight and cautious woman with a little bit of poker experience (Kim), and the other is Chris, who is a good player.

That said, while I think the results are little bit skewed in Fro's and my favor - for instance, I would have expected Chris to be a small winner - I don't think the results are all too unexpected. If you ask anyone who is knowledgable about poker, he will always say that No Limit and Pot Limit ("big bet") games are the games that most definitively separate the good players from the bad players. Fro and I love to play cards. We talk about poker often and we think about the game nearly all the time. This means that we are better at identifying situations where we have an edge, and then in the context of Friday's big bet game, we had the maximum means of exploiting those edges when they arose. For this very reason, no professonal cardroom in Vegas or LA ever spreads big bet games. The good players win too much and the bad players lose too much and that makes for action that will eventually dwindle out when the bad players run out of money. Limit poker is designed the limit the amount one can lose on any one hand. A badly played big hand in limit poker might only cost you 8-10 bets; a badly played big hand in big bet poker can cost you your entire stack.

When Fro played his first no-limit game back in October, the quality of the other players was much better than we had here on Friday. While this made for a very lucrative game, it also made for a less-competitive game.

One final thing on the game - I've been thinking about our structure of limiting the size of one's buy-in. Ostensibly, we do this to protect the players from abusive big stacks because it prevents any one person from buying into the game for a lot of chips and then bullying his way through the game. This is a fine idea at first, but I think it's inherently unfair because by limiting the buy-in of players who have lost their stack, we are automatically setting them at a disadvantage because they are still vulnerable to bullying from the players with big stacks. While these big stacks are not necessarily their "own" money, it's still a big stack and thus a weapon. In the future, it might be fairer to allow buy-ins to grow as the night progresses or perhaps to allow people to buy in for an amount equal to whatever they already have in the game.

The Charity Tournament
I noted this tournament about a month ago and said at the time that I wanted to think about it. I have thought about it and I think it's a bad proposition because of the portion that is donated to charity.

Using Fro's numbers below, the average prize size for the top eight players is $3125 ($25,000 / 8), but those eight players each have $5670 ($210 x 216 / 8) invested in the pot. This is a losing proposition in the long run, because the payout (16:1) does not match the odds of winning (26:1).

Granted, this is poker and the odds of winning are not always even money, they are usually better for more skilled players, especially in a ESPN-Wannabe situation like this. But I seriously doubt that one's edge would be so great so as to overcome the discrpancy in the payout. You might also make the point that having a chance to play for free in the WSOP or even a WSOP satellite is worth the gamble, but in that case, the grand prize is just an entry into another tournament against some of the best players in the world, and in that situation you're odds of winning are definitely less than even money! Getting the chance to be dead money to Chris Ferguson or Phil Ivey is not too appealing to me, but perhaps the opportunity simply to play is the appeal to many players here. But not to me.

Then again, it's for charity and perhaps that and all of the other intangibles are what make a difference in this situation.

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Posted by Dr Fro 5:28 PM
Junell pointed out that the prizes include airfare and hotel, so if that has a $1,000 value times 8 people, then the adjusted numbers are

216 Players
$210.00 Fee
$45,360.00 Pot
$11,000.00 Grand Prize (w/ trip)
$14,000.00 2nd-8th (w/ trip)
$20,360.00 Profit to Charity
$94.26 Portion of fee to Charity
$115.74 Portion of fee to Pot

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Monday, December 22, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 4:25 PM
There has been a lot of talk about this charity poker tournament, and I just might give it a whirl. Note that:

216 Players
$210.00 Fee
$45,360.00 Pot
$10,000.00 Grand Prize
$7,000.00 2nd-8th
$28,360.00 Profit to Charity
$131.30 Portion of fee to Charity
$78.70 Portion of fee to pot

So, you are giving away $131 to charity, which I imagine you could put on your schedule A deductions (assuming you itemize).

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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 5:06 PM
Last night we played no limit holdem at John's. As predicted in the post immediately below, it basically played out like a tourney with people either busting out or scoring big. JMG had a monster stack and used it as a weapon. I felt like if I, just once, had a decent hand, he would bluff into me and I would make him regret it. The perfect situation never arose. I ended up winning $184.

The biggest lesson from last night that many learned was to not let people catch up with you...if you have it, bet it. Also, drawing hands were too expensive to chase, so the A-rag hands seemed to do better than, say, suited connectors.

jack-6 was the hand of the night ;-)

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Friday, December 19, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 6:36 PM
An email to JG on Friday

...aye, but 1 or 2 hands in NL can make or break you. I am going to focus on the subject of my most recent post and subject of many other ramblings: the change in psycology of players if they are way up or way down.

I'll pass on the usual strategy of pushing in big money to take advantage of small edges early....I'll wait till I very much have the best of it. I do much better taking advantage of a man when he is down than the other way around, so I have to avoid an early devastating loss.

When we played NL at my house, it really played out like a tournament, since people would quit after they loss $x and at the end of the night that left only 2 of us. Thus, employing single table rebuy tournament stratgey would be appropriate 2nite...

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Posted by Dr Fro 6:35 PM
I actually wrote a long post on this that dissappeared, so I'll take another stab at it:

I recently played with my man Curtis and his friends. I did quite well in the PL Holdem, but we played a little bit of "Iron Cross" on which I lost > $200. Since I netted -$126, I would have clearly been a winner if we stuck to HE. Not bitter, tho, I once won a fortune on this Iron Cross game.

If you dont know the rules to IC, dont worry. It goes on the long list of crazy wild games with a match the pot. These all play out basically the same, so need need to hash over the rules.

I mainly play "pure" poker games. Most purists turn their noses at wild & crazy games, claiming that the element of luck is too much and skill plays little to no factor. I agree and I disagree. I agree that the strategy is sooo simply and intuitively obvious that everyone can easily all play "optimal strategy" and thus it all comes down to the cards. However, my experience is that people dont play optimal strategy. As a matter of fact due to the nature of these "build the pot" type games, a couple poor decisions can have a massively negative EV. Thus, I beleive that if you stick to optimal play, you can win a fortune.

Of course the standard deviation is enormous. This keeps the good player from noticing that he is actually winning in the long run. No biggie. But that also hides from the sub-optimal player that he stands to lose in the long run. Thus it reinforces the bad behavior. IF you think there is irrational superstitious goofy play at NoFoldemHoldem, try one of these games at the average home game!

So, no, I do not turn my nose at these games, nor do I feel as if they are all luck.

BUT...I prefer to not play for a simple reason. After a couple hands, some guys have big stacks and others are stuck big and leave. All the money sitting with the winners tends to stay there bc they tighten up (usually). Thus it becomes very hard to get any of the found money. Put simply, the games are ok in a vaccuum, but they have the effect of ruining the flow of the rest of the evening.

So, I prefer to not play them.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 9:34 PM
My main Biloxi post was written quickly and I forgot an important story. I have always had a favorite tell on others. An idiot did it last weekend. That idiot was me.

Picture this:

River comes and puts an 7h along with 2h-9c-Jd-Kc. Hero taps each of five fingers on the table, in order of pinkie, ringer, middle, pointer, thumb. What does he have?

A: A straight. Specifically 8-10 maybe in clubs

When people tap all five fingers in order, they are counting. When they are counting, they have a straight. And specifically, they maybe backed into an unexpected straight while going for something else (in this case: a club flush)

I did this.

Guy at the other end of the table called me out, but the only other person in the hand didn't hear him and called anyway. As I stated before, that guy at the other end was better than I at cards, and this is just another example.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 12:24 PM
My Beau Rivage trip
I got back from the bachelor party at Beau Rivage in Biloxi. There are several casinos in Biloxi, but only one poker room, the one at the Grand. Junell and I went to the Grand and played for 14.5 hours. We spent app 10 hours at separate $4-$8 tables, 2 hours at the same $4-$8 table and 2.5 hours at the $10-$20. I won $490 minus $21 I gave to a hot waitress named Renee. Approximately $50 was won at $10-$20 and the rest was from the $4-$8 game.

The structure of the $4-$8
While the $10-$20 was structured in the ‘normal’ way, the $4-$8 game was odd. Blinds were $1-$2 (instead of $2-$4) and the bets in the first two rounds were a spread from $2 to $4 and in the later rounds was from $2 to $8. This led to some interesting adjustments.

Specifically, since the early bet was ½, I could play roughly twice as many hands pre-flop. I have had software analyse my play and basically I already play too many hands pre-flop, but I tend to partially make up for it by making folds on the flop. Thus the game was naturally suited to turn my biggest weakness into my biggest strength. Funny though, it seemed as if nobody else really adjusted for this, as they were fairly tight pre-flop.

The second adjustment I made for this structure was using the spread limit to vary my bets to both disguise my hand and also to manipulate pot sizes. I only “disguised” a handful of hands this way, but I made sure that if I raised $2 with pocket Jacks that the next time I definitely raised the max. It was the manipulation of the pot that I really concentrated on. Manipulation of the pot is something that people who only play structured limit games no close to nothing about. It is interesting that people who are to the far left and far right on the poker spectrum form them are quite familiar with it: the home game player and the pot-limit or no-limit players. The home game players almost always play games with spread limits and they typically learn when to bet the max and when to lure people in. At the other end of the spectrum is PL and NL who also have a choice in the amount they bet. They are used to not only asking first 1) what do I hope to accomplish? and then 2) Should I check, bet or raise to best accomplish that, they must answer a third question if they answer “bet” or “raise” and that is 3) how much should I bet/raise in order to best achieve what I desire?

This may sound like I am rambling about a trivial point, but consider this: I was the only person at the table (save 1 or 2 other instances) that EVER bet something other than the max. I was also the only winner. Surely you would agree that anytime someone never exercises an option available to them they are not taking full advantage of the arsenal available to them. What if a guy never raised? Or never folded?

Pre-flop I made a small bet if I were betting for value (usually due to position). On the river, I would use the small bet to eke out a couple more bucks from the guy that says, “I shouldn’t do this, I know you have the flush…”

This is just an extension to Johnnies commentary below on the dialogue he had regarding a hand with James Singletary on the $6 versus $12 bet.

My favourite employment of the min bet was on the end when I missed my flush, but another flush came. There was a very good player who took (maybe too much) pride in his “good laydowns.” After 10 hours, I knew he was good and a tricky play might work. I bet the min and he incorrectly figured that I was stroking him to eke out 2 more dollars and folded his hand. He even said “I know you, you only do that with good cards. If you had bet the max, I would have called.” I lied and said I made the flush and told him it was a great laydown as I stacked a bunch of chips that I just stole. (Side note – that was the only mistake I saw him make, he was actually a helluva lot more knowledgeable in poker than I).

ESPNI am not kidding when I say that at least 5 guys on Saturday said “I have never played in a casino before, but I saw this on ESPN and wanted to give it a shot.” The rest of the table salivated and typically took all of the chips within an hour. What a great time to be alive.

The $10-$20 as you might expect was very different. It was so tight that it was very easy to steal blinds, but very hard to scoop a monster pot. It was very easy to avoid big losses and also hard to make big scores, so I think that the volatility is much less than $4-$8 and thus you do not need a bankroll that is 2.5 times, as you might guess. I think $200 should last a while, as it did for Junell and me. We only stopped playing because the game died. It was damn fun.

Games offered
There was no PL or NL. They dealt Hold’em, Omaha high and Stud. I think they may deal Omaha 8 or better, but didn’t actually see anyone playing. Biggest game was $15-$30 on this night, but I think there is a $20-$40 game once per week.

The people were so nice, much nicer than any other cardroom I have been in. But let’s face it, ½ the players are on vacation and ½ are from the Deep South which means they are going to be pretty genuine.

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Sunday, December 07, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 7:02 PM
One more thing about Friday night: the whole time I was counting my money, I was thinking to myself, "Gee, what a lucky start to the weekend!"

You see, I was planning on getting engaged the next night (last night as of this writing), and to keep up my run of good luck.... she said yes.

Once again, some things ARE better than poker.

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Saturday, December 06, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 8:51 AM
I made it back to the 5-10 at the Friendship last night and won beyond my wildest expectations: in just under 4 hours at the table I netted $782. And while waiting for the 5-10 game to start, I played 3-6-12 for two hours and won another $18, so in the aggregate I netted an even $800 in the 6 hours I was there last night.

Quite clearly, the reason I won so much was because I was luckier than usual - I was making hands all night and they were holding up. I admit it - I was lucky. Lucky lucky lucky. I know I was lucky because, if you think in terms my data from last week, in my time playing 5-10 I averaged a little more than 11 big bets per hour* and that's quite far to the right side of the distribution. It's almost 3 standard deviations which means that what happened last night should be only a 1 in 100 occurrence. And even though most of my opponents were not the grumpy old men to whom I was advertising on Tuesday night, they were all quick to point out and remind me just how lucky I was when I was constantly hitting my backdoor flushes and straights. No argument from me here - I was very very lucky.

(*The 5-10 game is actually 5-10 with a full kill in which the limits double to 10-20. The requirements for a kill pot are quite liberal enough to that I estimate that almost 75% of all the hands played in the game are played at the higher limit. As such, I consider a "big bet" to be $17.50)

But aside from being just being lucky, it's not as if all of the other players were just lining up to give me money. Everything that one does at the poker table should be done with the intent of maxmizing earnings when you do get lucky enough to hit your cards. This is done in two ways: by either building bigger pots or eliminating the competition for the smaller ones. This is where I think that most poker players, including a vast majority of those I play with at the Friendship club, are at their worst. It's one thing to read a couple of poker books and learn to play "by the book", but it's an entirely more complicated thing to read those books and comprehend just exactly why the book is telling you to play a certain way in those situations. For instance, when everyone folds and you're first in from late position you don't loosen up to attack the blinds because all of a sudden worse cards than usual are going to come on the flop - you loosen up because there is less competition and just about anything has an edge on two random blind hands. Poker, like all forms of gambling, is all about chance and expected values therefrom, and in this light, it requires one to constantly be thinking and adjusting to the circumstances around him. Yes, I was lucky last night in catching cards, but just as I am able to usually minimize my losses when the cards are not running my way, last night I was able to maxmize my winnings when the cards did run my way.

Now, instead of going on and on about why I am so great, I think I would rather just post some observations about the play of the other players at the table last night and try and point out what they did that allowed me to be so successful. Like everything on this blog, the purpose here is not for me to crow about how good I am or to simply snicker at how bad someone else is - the point here is to try and help someone else improve his game by applying some of my observations to his own experiences.

(Furthermore, there really aren't a lot of people who read this blog, so in a lot of ways what Fro and I post here is really meant for ourselves and for each other. It helps us to organize our thoughts and, at least for me, it's a debriefing of sorts that gets me ready for the next game.)

1. Playing Poor Starting Hands
There is advice everywhere on this topic and it's all fairly sound. One can never become a good player until one knows which hands to keep and which ones to throw away. I'm saving this topic for a separate post someday, but the best advice I can give for starting hands is to consider which hands it can make, evaluate the likelihood of making those hands, and then evaluate the likelihood of those hands being winners. While the first two evaluations are rather easy, the last one is the most complicated and is where the most money is won or lost. From there, David Sklansky's rankings start to become very clear.

2. Playing Too Passively
As I say above, this, in my opinion, is weakest spot for most of the Friendship players and really, just about everyone else who ever sits down in a poker game. I divide passive play into two classifications: limping too much and calling too many raises cold.

Limping is often unprofitable for the same reasons that the lottery is a bad bet - yes, you have to "pay to see", but you will never win at poker if you limp to see every single flop because the expected return that one gets from a majority of hands dealt in a game is not at all great enough to pay off the cost of the bet itself. This point also will make a good post on its own someday, so I won't elaborate too much more. Suffice to say, "just $5" is still $5 that goes out of your stack and into the pot. Why throw it away if you if there is a less than even chance that it will ever come back? In this case, $5 saved is the same thing as $5 won. I think the lottery analogy is quite apt here, and even more telling, many of the same people who limp in on every hand will justify their limping with the same kind of logic that they might use to justify buying a lottery ticket: "it only costs a small amount of money and I could win a whole lot in return!" God love him, but my dad happens to be a big lottery player and in the few times I've had the privilege of playing poker with him he's limped more than the 2003 version of Earl Campbell.

The other side of passive play is calling raises cold. First, calling a raise is usually unprofitable for all of the same reasons as limping - the expected return off of that extra amount of money is probably not going to be high enough to justify making the bet in the first place - it's more money leaving your stack. But second, not only is a raise another bet - a raise is information! A raise is information that another player is telling you that he has good cards! And if a player is telling you that he has good cards, then you should be doubly wary of putting another bet into the pot with just any hand because now the chances of those cards winning have gotten even worse. When I first started playing poker, this is was the worst part of my game - calling raises cold , and even today when I am losing I can always look back at a couple of losing hands and see that my poor results are likely attributable to cold calling raises that I should not have been calling. David Skalansky's "gap theory" in his book on tournaments is a great place for even more info on this topic, if you're interested further.

(As an aside, I will fully grant that there is the aspect of a raise not necessarily being from the best hand - that perhaps the raise is coming from someone who simply wants to represent the best hand, that is, maybe he's bluffing. And this is the beauty of poker - there is no rule that says that raises can only be made by the best hand in the game, instead one can be deceptive and thus calling the raise might really be the proper play. The problem here is that the level of sophistication at the Friendship Social Club is not nearly that high, because for deception to work it has to work on all of the other players. Almost all of the players at the Friendship (or just about any low-limit or home game) are going to call the raise anyway, no matter what, and most likely the raiser knows this. And if he knows this, why is he going to try something that's likely to be unsuccessful? And if you then know that he's not going to bluff because it's likely to be unsuccessful, the only other conclusion is that he really does have good cards! Easy! So tell me again why you're calling his raise? )

3. Not Raising Enough
This is a little bit contradictory to my advice about calling raises, but sometimes it is appropriate to raise, or reraise, either to put more money in the pot or to thin the competition, even when you might not have the best cards. In loose-passive games like those at the Friendship, there aren't that many opportunities to thin the field, so raising becomes more of a way of maximizing one's winnings from good cards, but there still are a few opportunities where raising helps to eliminate the competition and I'll touch on that below.

And in response to some remarks I heard last night, yes, aggressive play makes other people uncomfortable and yes, in that sense it's not very "nice" to make other people uncomfortable in a social setting, but despite its name, I go to the Friendship Club to play poker and not to be friendly. Although socializing is a big part of the experience for a lot of the other players, it's not for me. I don't go there to necessarily make friends or be social - I go there to win money. I can be social with my friends later.

4. Being Unaware of One's Position
This one is actully rather minor because the Friendship players are so passive that they tend not to mind the possibility of getting raised behind. If it happens, they'll just turn around and check and call all the way to the end, not realizing that either , should they happen to catch the right card, they are giving away value by running from the aggressor or that checking with weaker hands and then calling a bet is the same thing as getting raised - just not quite as expensive. Furthermore, position is very important in conjunction with good starting hands, but if you're not going to be too selective with starting hands then there's likely very little that being aware of position can do for you anyway.

That said, drawing hands are a lot more profitable with many players willing to pay you off, so being in late position in a very passive game should be grounds for calling with true longshot odds, should you have the wherewithal to recognize those circumstances. Whether or not these other players know this themselves, I doubt, but this might be an area where the typical Friendship style makes up for itself, at least to the players who do get lucky and catch cards.

5. Not Being Observant of the Other Players
Again, one of my favorite blog topics - looking at one's cards instead of observing the table. Sometimes you really can catch a tell from another player, but even more importantly, you know who's in and who's out of the hand.

Example: Last night there was a new player in the game who seemed to be more interested in watching basketball than in playing cards. He folded most of the hands dealt to him all night and, given that tight play was not necessarily something I would expect from a typical person having the same attributes and appearance as he, I put him as a good player and someone to be wary of until I had more information. On one particular hand towards the end of the night he was watching basketball and turned to look at his cards. After taking a look, he raised the kill from fairly early position (see below). I knew something was up and threw away my rags without another thought, but onetheless, 2-3 other players, including the blinds, absentmindedly called his raise and then eventually paid off the set of queens that he had hit on the flop.

None of the players who called this guy ever seemed to notice his entry into the pot - they were too busy looking at their own cards. Furthermore, they probably didn't even recognize the significance of his raise, or even the rarity of his playing for once, because they had been all night, and continued to be, too focused on staring down the flop rather than watching the other players.

6. Not Adjusting to the Kill Pot
I made a lot of my money last night in the Kill Pots. Why? Because the passive nature of the game and the "expensive" price of the 10-20 stakes allowed me to constantly isolate the blinds and extract value. Just like my strategy against the live straddle on other games, but even moreso here, whenever the Kill is on I like to raise with almost any hand with a bit of strength. This does two things, first, it scares a lot of people off because, while they don't mind limping and cold calling the $5 bets and raises the rest of the time, for the most part, they absolutely hate paying $20 to see the flop. And if they do pay the $20, they usually have to hit it quite hard in order to be persuaded see another card at the higher stakes, not in the least because, in their mind I must have a monster hand because I was willing to raise extra money before the flop. Accordingly, if most players don't like playing at the higher stakes and calling the $20, I am subsequently able to isolate myself against three blind bets that by definition are likely in the pot with substandard hands. When this happens I am a huge favorite to win the hand most times.

This tactic is quite specific to this 5-10 game and the poor passive play of the other players. In a tougher game with better opponents, in Las Vegas for example, I probably wouldn't be able to get away with this tactic after more than 1-2 attempts because someone else would either be trying to do the same thing or would likely see what I was doing and adjust accordingly.

So that's it. A 90 minute blog post and I'm tired of writing. More later.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 10:32 PM
Some things are better than poker

I finally got into the 5-10 game at the Friendship tonight. I've been wanting to play in that game for some time now but I was never able to arrive early enough to get a seat. I decided to leave work earlier today than my usual poker-departure time and I was one of the first to arrive.

By all accounts it was a lucrative opportunity. The button started just a couple of seats to my left and I was immediately dealt a three raising hands in a row that got beat after some respectable pots had been built. All three times I ended up losing, but I never had to show my cards or give any information to the other players about my hands. I had never played with most of the other players and the combination of my early aggressive play, my status as a stranger to their game, my straight-from-work business casual appearance (a sweater vest and loafers!), and my relatively young age was apparently more than enough to build a an image in the eyes of these guys that I was just another bad-playing cocky youngster. They didn't know that it was my AQ suited that lost to the big blind's check-and-call AK or that I had flopped a small set and been beat by two pair that filled up on the river or that my QT suited lost to someone playing AT offsuit from under the gun. All they saw was my constant raising and mucking when I saw the other player's cards at the end of each hand. Very quickly I was down almost $160 (16 big bets) in the first 20 minutes of play and, strangely, it was looking to be a very good thing for me.

There were a couple of smart comments a few minutes later when I started raking some smaller pots ("oh, you actually had some cards that time), but I could sense that these guys had formed an opinion and were ready to call me down with just about anything. I could smell the payoffs coming all night long. Then my phone rang.

You see, my girlfriend was finally offered a permanent position with her law firm and she was calling to invite me to go celebrate. A beautiful blonde woman was offering to take me out to a very swanky dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town. No contest here.

So I left after just 45 minutes in the game. I ended up down only $32. If I had stayed and played I probably would have made all of my money back and a whole lot more, but my beautiful blonde girlfriend was calling to ask me out. I'm sure these guys will recognize me on Friday night - they'll be back and so will I.

Besides some things are much better than poker, anyway.

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Monday, December 01, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 1:36 PM
I won't have much to post this week as I will be swamped at work. This weekend I am going to Biloxi (Glazer's stag night) and will gamble at Beau Rivage and play poker at the Grand. I am curious as to what the level of competition is there. My experience in poker is primarily Houston private clubs and European casinos....I don't know what to expect in Mississippi. Any advice would be appreciated (use comments section below)

What times are good to play? morining? afternoon? evening?

What games are juicy?

Are the players generally too tight? too loose?

Any and all advice will be appreciated.

(OT I am laying 10-1 odds on Glazer coming back a winner and even money on Ferruzzo and him getting into a fight with each other)

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Random thoughts from a lawyer, an accountant, a commodities trader, an ex-Marine and a WSOP Main Event money finisher that don't know as much as they wish they did...



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