Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Politics of Ladies Night

My first boss in Hollywood gave me a Ten Commandments of sorts when I started in the industry to guide me through all the angst and fear and nausea I was sure to experience in the coming years. The first one, of course was the most important principle for anyone to understand when entering a business completely based on perception, self-promotion, and the acquisition of money. It's really very simple. Hollywood is not a meritocracy. Think about it for ten seconds and you'll realize how true it is.

Like many in the poker world, I was pretty surprised when this year's lineup for WPT Ladies Night was released. I'd long been speculating about who would be included, especially given that most of the "name" female players had already participated in the first two seasons' outings, and thus, would likely not be included a second time. This time, the powers that be had to think a little deeper. So with Harman, Duke, Liebert, Violette, Gowen, Ng, et. al on the rail, upon whom would Steve Lipscomb and Co. bestow the four golden tickets? Isabelle Mercier already has hers punched as defending champ. And of course, there's the one slot I'm estimating about 600 of us will be competing for tomorrow night. But for those other four slots, like anything in life, or in Hollywood, it's all about casting.

So how does the "invitation-only" lineup shake out? We have Marsha Waggoner, Cecelia Mortensen, Aidiliy Elviro, and Jennifer Tilly. Some of those choices are surprising. Others I wish I had sidebet on before the press release came out.

In the movie business, we love lists. Writers lists, directors lists, cinematographers, composers, and, of course casting lists. We make them, pore over them, and discuss them ad nauseum. It's really how we justify our presence and salaries as development execs. So let's take this showbiz process and apply it to Ladies' Night. What would this "casting" list look like? I guarantee you someone at WPTE made one.

First rule of the casting list. You throw everyone on there that's remotely appropriate and pare it down from there. Sometimes we call it the "kitchen sink" version. Off the top of my head, mine would look like this:

Nani Dollison
Aidiliy Elviro
Barbara Enright
Patty Gallagher
Kristy Gazes
Melissa Hayden
Karina Jett
Linda Johnson
Connie Kim
Kathy Kolberg
Jennifer "Jennicide" Leigh
Liz Lieu
Cecilia Mortensen
Erin Ness
Carmel Petresco
Lucy Rokach
Jennifer Tilly
Jerri Thomas
Mimi Tran
Marsha Waggoner
Renee Wexler

Who had a particulary great year among these ladies? Gazes and Jett racked up some major finishes, Kristy in the Full Tilt Championship and Karina in the London Open. Mimi Tran made 4 of her 10 WSOP cashes just this year. Liz Lieu, typically a high-limit cash specialist made a final table in the largest preliminary event field in WSOP history. Surely these accomplishments should factor in.

Johnson probably can't play because of her role as WPT commentator, as much as we'd like her at the table. So she comes off the list. Patty Gallagher would be entertaining for sure, but they'd have to have a producer on standby to bleep out all those f-words. Ness, by her own admission isn't a pro and though she may have a great future in the game, she's too green for this crowd. Same with Petresco, Leigh and Kim. Good players all, but maybe next year for them.

Next, let's think about each "slot." What roles are we trying to cast here? I'm guessing the stucture isn't too rigid, but based on last year's lineup, it looks something like this:

1. Defending Champion (Clonie Gowen)
2. Bicycle Club qualifier (Lavinna Zhang)
3. "Superstar" player (Cyndy Violette)
4. Up-and-comer/cash specialist/ TV-table bubble finisher (Sharon Goldman, who took 7th in the 2004 WPT Invitational)
5. Up-and-comer/tournament specialist (Isabelle Mercier, who had just turned pro and was already a somewhat familiar face to audiences from WPT Paris)
5. Representative of the "old guard" (Wendeen Eolis)

So it's essenitally a split between newer players on the circuit and experienced pros. We take that into consideration and narrow our list. Which is when the third element comes into play. Who does the audience want to watch? In other words, what combo makes for the best TV?

As a representative of the "old guard" of more experienced pros, Marsha Waggoner is an excellent choice. 2 WPT cashes, 16 WSOP cashes, 7 WSOP final tables, and a 2nd place PPT finish this year at Bay 101. She's aggressive, colorful, consistent, and married to Cowboy Kenna James.

Cecelia Mortensen is another fantastic choice, this time in the "up and comer" category. 5 WSOP cashes, 2 WSOP final tables including one this year, and 1 WPT cash. I watched her at the WSOP this year and she's definitely a force to be reckoned with and possibly the player I'd fear the most at that table. And she's married to 2001 WSOP champ Carlos Mortensen.

OK so we need two more. A superstar and a rising star. Here's where the casting gets a little funky for me.

In the role of the superstar we have a Hollywood star, WSOP Ladies' Champion Jennifer Tilly. A monkey could have predicted this. You can make the case that the WSOP Ladies Champ should automatically be included in the lineup, but if so, where was Crystal Doan last year? Hmmm... manicurist or Academy Award nominee? I wonder. No other major finishes to speak of for Tilly, but come on, you knew the minute she won that thing she was getting an invite because she's famous. WPT needs those ratings more than ever this year. And she's dating the Unabomber.

Our other rising star is Aidiliy Elviro. She started playing major tournaments only this year and has a nice short-term record with one cash from the WPT Reno event and one other cash in a $1K NLHE event in Tahoe. And she's married to Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi.

Now do you see this year's theme emerging? I don't know who Isabelle Mercier is shacking up with, but all four of her invited competitors are dating or married to some of poker's biggest names! This includes 3 WPT Champions, two from just this past season. (Mortensen won the Doyle Brunson North American Championship in October 2004, Mizrachi the L.A. Poker Classic in February 2005, and "Unabomber" Laak the WPT Invitational in February 2004).

Moreover, how do these "casting choices" reflect the female poker-playing world today? WPT Ladies Night is arguably the most visible women-only tournament on the planet. Does it say that dating a poker "star" is the best road to success for female players? It sure seems that way by this lineup. And while I can't deny the playing abilities of any of these women, as they've all won far more money among them than I could ever dream of, I'd bet my whole bankroll that aside from veteran Waggoner and famous-actress Tilly, the successes of Elviro and Mortensen's husbands on the WPT had a helluva lot more to do with their invitations to this event than their own successes would have dictated had they been married to "non-pros" or evene "non-name" players.

To me, it's distressing, but not unexpected. The minute poker crossed into the mainstream of American Celebrity Culture, poker's status as a true meritocracy was doomed. It's becoming like anything else in the media. The most famous, the most dramatic, the most scanadlous, and the most connected get all the attention. Like US Weekly covers and reality shows and clothing lines. Or, in poker's case, televised freerolls.

So who should be in there that isn't? I think the biggest case can be made for Mimi Tran, as she's by far the most successful American player not to make the lineup. But despite her amazing skills at the table, she doesn't necessarily make for great TV. And yes, that is a major factor. Even though she does have a famous-player mentor in Barry Greenstein.

Thinking about all of this brings me back to an issue I touched on in my earlier post on Women and Poker. Female players with male mentors vs. self-taught female players. Is it easier for women to find success in the poker world with a male mentor than without one? Aside from Jennifer Harman, who are the female players out there enjoying great success in either cash games or tournaments who haven't had the benefit of one? Poker is a steep, steep mountain to climb without a guide, and I want to know who those ladies are who are scaling it alone. Like I posted before, it's great if you have a mentor or a teacher. Anyone in any field should be so fortunate. But for developing female players online and in cardrooms across America without such benefits, seeing a table full of famous players' wives doesn't exactly offer inspiration. Isn't that the point of these things anyway? To get MORE women playing?

Well, I'll be at the Bicycle Club for sure tomorrow night, trying to grind my 800 in starting chips up to the final table. I've never played a Ladies' event before, so it'll be interesting to see how I fare against my fellow women on the felt. And whether it's me or Shirley Rosario or Shannon Elizabeth or some other fabulously aggressive lady we've never heard of that makes it through the field and onto the WPT set one thing's for sure. It sure as hell won't be easy. And in poker, nothing really should be. It's why we play, right?

Monday, August 29, 2005

I wonder...

Is this the monkey who knocked me out of that Poker Blue WPT Legends freeroll?

Moreover, is the costume voluntary or required?

What's even stranger is the web page that pulls up when you go to www.pokerblue.com. Now I'm REALLY glad I cashed out from there last week.

I'm still alive

Ten days since my last post. How shameful.

I wish I could say I was on vacation or in Vegas or another exotic locale, but really I'm just ticking away the rest of the summer playing poker and bumming around Los Angeles. Now you know you've spent way too much of the summer indoors when your co-workers start asking if you've dyed your hair. I get blonder in the summer and redder in the winter and my hair is probably the most strawberry it's been in recent memory, aside from that tragic auburn period in college when I couldn't stop trying out each and every shade of the L'oreal "Feria" line. So perhaps this Labor Day weekend, I'll have to finally tear myself away from the cards and deposit myself on one of our world-famous Southern California beaches.

I finally got myself entry into a bona fide Hollywood poker game at my friend Charlie's birthday dinner last week. Charlie's a producer, and his wife, Mrs. Charlie is a writer so the crowd was a little Hollywood, but not in a gross way. Some actors, photographers, other writers, and even more folks totally unrelated to film or TV. They're that rare couple that succeeds so much in the "business" yet have a fantastic, full life away from it. Which explains why Showcase and I are so nuts about them. The whole affair was a surprise orchestrated for Charlie and I must say, based on the look on his face when he came home to a backyard full of 25 of his nearest and dearest pals, we got him pretty good.

As we were digging into the salad course and polishing off our third round of mojitos, Showcase and I were chatting amongst ourselves, when I thought I heard someone say the word "flop." I kind of brushed it off until I swore I heard the same lilting British voice say "Vince Van Patten." Now, my head spun around at a blinding speed and I zeroed in on the speaker.

Me: "Ohmygod do you guys play poker?!"
The Brit: "Yes, do you?"
Me: "You have no idea."
The Brit: "That's fantastic!"
Showcase: "Seriously, you guys REALLY have no idea..."

What ensued was just an awesome meeting of the minds, and what I hope will be a great friendship. I'm sure my fellow bloggers understand what it's like to meet someone just as poker-obsessed as oneself. There's a clarity there. And kind of a sense of relief. Sort of like vacationing in a foreign country and finding that one cab driver that speaks English. So by my random choice of seating at this dinner, I had stumbled onto an entire band of poker-playing Hollywood power lesbians. And now I had a permanent invite to their "girls game."

The whole lot of us will be invading the Bike's $100+25 NLHE Ladies' tournament on Wednesday. I'm taking the whole day off to sleep in so I'll be sharp for the 7:15 PM start. This is the one where the winner qualifies for a seat in WPT Ladies Night III, so I imagine it'll be a pretty large field. I'm feeling good about my game right now, so it's great timing for me to try another large live tournament.

In preparation, I've been playing nothing but Party Poker SNGs with the (small) remainder of cash I had in my account. I think I knocked off maybe 30 just this weekend and increased my nut five-fold. I hadn't really explored the Party SNGs until now, prefering the structure and starting chips of Full Tilt's, but let me tell you (and Iggy has repeatedly attempted to beat this same notion into everyones' heads): if you are not playing on Party, you are deeply and profoundly retarded. The $20s are VERY soft and the $10s are just shooting fish in a barrel. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Showcase and I also continued our heads-up matches this weekend. I trounced him 2-0 in No-Limit, until this hand came up in the third match. I have QQ in the SB and just call. Showcase checks. Flop comes J-2-9, no suits. I check, planning to check-raise, and Showcase saves me the trouble by going all-in. I insta-call with my overpair, and he turns over... 36 of clubs? I instantly start gloating, and begin "announcing" the hand, Mike Sexton-style.

"OK, Change has an overpair, and Showcase has a, uh... backdoor flush draw and a backdoor straight draw. He'll need running clubs or a running 4 5 for a straight. Here comes the turn. OOOOOHHH, the turn is a five of spades, giving Showcase a small ray of hope here. He must catch a four or this match is history, and Change will walk off with the title. Here comes the river... IT'S A FOUR!!!"

I dropped the deck and my head sunk to the table as Showcase jumped up from the couch, stretching his arms upward in triumph. After a brief, geeky victory dance, he got to use my favorite line from Rounders on me, for a change.

"I steeeeeck it innnn youuuuu!!!!"

Friday, August 19, 2005

Why we call him Showcase

"Whatever you do, just PLEASE don't make me seem gay!"
--Showcase, upon hearing about this post

I met Showcase back in college, when both of us were overconfident theatre majors. I caught my first glimpse of him in the lobby of the theatre building sometime in the first week of school, after "Generals"-- the nerve-racking fall audition process for every show that would be mounted that quarter. Freshmen were rarely cast in anything to start off, but there he was, initialing beside his name on half a dozen callback sheets. SO smug, so happy. Add that to the fact that I wasn't called back for anything, and my first impression of Showcase equals asshole.

A few days later a girl in my dorm introduced me to her best friend from home who lived just down the hall from us. It was Showcase. But this time, we became fast friends. I had a sickeningly large collection of original cast albums at the time and we began a tradition that continues today-- "musical theatre night." All it really consisted of then was the two of us playing different showtunes on the Aiwa mini-stereo I had received for my high school graduation and taking turns singing along with our favorites at the top of our lungs. Showcase would do "Mr. Cellophane" or "One Song Glory." I'd answer that with "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" or "Being Alive" or even "Vanilla Ice Cream," just so I could show off with the high B at the end. Nowadays, we have a karaoke machine. Well, actually two. I got Showcase one for Chanukkah a couple of years back only to have my parents gift me with the exact same machine (down to make and model) on Christmas. So we keep the other one in the bathroom.

But that's not really how he got his name.

The two of us became roommates only a little over a year ago. I hadn't wanted to live with him up until then, though we had discussed it a number of times. Neither of us had a good history with people we'd lived with, and I really really really didn't want to screw up anything with us. But he was living with this bipolar fuckup of a kid who would drink two bottles of $5.99 wine from 7-11 every night before passing out on the living room sofa. At some point in the middle of the night, he would inevitably need to urinate having injested so much liquid, and in the state he was in, he'd seemingly forget where the bathroom was located in the apartment. Sometimes he'd pee himself, still prone on the couch. Other times, he'd aim into the kitchen sink full of dishes.

Well Showcase couldn't handle the urine, so we moved in together.

The name came later. He's an actor and a comedian, dramatic by nature and almost always "on." Each story is a monologue, each hummed tune an aria. To him, at least. A vertiable 24-hour talent "showcase."

At the moment, he's shirtless and barefoot, crooning "Put on a Happy Face." Well, perhaps crooning isn't the right adjective. He has broken out into full-on performance mode, as if our scuffed, slightly dusty harwood floor were the Winter Garden stage.

"And now, I'm going to sing about the gayest song ever. While our neighbors are home, mind you." I constantly tease him that he doesn't sing nearly as much as he used to since two cool straight guys moved in upstairs a couple of months ago. He was about to prove me wrong, at least for tonight.

A lilting string intro poured out of the speakers, and then, in full baritone-- "ohhhh what a beautifful morrrr-nnningg, ohhh what a beautiful day."

And I'm right at home.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Seven and a half hours of WPT Satellites

My dance card was full today. A week or so ago, I had stumbled upon Iggy's post about the massive overlay in the Poker Blue WPT Legends of Poker Freeroll promotion they were running and last night I finally made my deposit and quickly knocked off the four hours of play required to qualify. Doubled my deposit and then some three-tabling $1-2 LHE. The play was spectacularly bad. But then again, so was the site interface. The monochromatic look to the place (they're not kidding about the "blue" part) made it difficult to keep track of where I was sitting, which players had cards in front of them, and where the button and blinds were. Compounding this, was the inability for players to rotate the table (so I could at least be in the same spot at both tables) as well as the absence of avatars or any sort (so I'd have a point of reference or something to focus on). In addition, there's no note-taking function that I can find, and I searched all over the website and still couldn't find the tournament structure before the event began. But, this was a free 1 out of 138 chance at a WPT seat. I feel ahead already.

I couldn't have played any better than I did, and feel I made good decisions. The field was VERY weak-tight and I cruised through the first couple of hours, never falling below average for very long. By the second break I was in the top 20 and with 25 players to go I held the chip lead with $12,200. Blinds were up to 400-800 and as we got down to the final two tables, I kept hovering between $12-14K in chips. In early-middle position I picked up AK and made it 2500 to go. The chip leader called from the BB. Flop comes out K 8 6 all diamonds. I don't have a diamond, but lead out anyway for 3000 with TPTK. It's risky, but I'm going to find out right away where I'm at. The way this guy is playing, I feel that if he flat calls, I'm in deep shit/likely facing a made flush and can just get away from it on the turn. If he doesn't have a diamond at all, he'll just fold right here. If he raises, it's defensive. Well raise he does, pushing all-in and it's $7000 for me to call. Instinct tells me he's semi-bluffing with just the ace of diamonds (AK, AQ, AJ, AT, A8, A6 or the like). I know that's what I'd do in this spot when the blinds are high and it's a winner take all situation. I call and he turns over A4 of diamonds for the flopped nut flush. I even got another ace on the turn, but no miracle full house on the river. And I'm out in 16th.

It was stupid to call off my chips, but I felt like I had to really gamble it up in order to get the chips I needed to win the thing. I didn't pick up AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AQ, or AJ once the entire tournament. For the cards I was dealt, I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did. Then again, the skill level was hardly anything to fear. I'd say half the field were fellow Angelenos and Southern Californians looking for some late-August excitement down at the Bike and two grand we wouldn't have to spend on flights and hotels and rental Toyotas.

After that, I hopped over to Full Tilt and rubbed salt into the wound by playing a little Razz. $30 down the drain in as many minutes in two very close pots and the nausea rises. Starting. To. Tilt. So I go to Taco bell and get one of those Crunch Wraps. Man, those things are from heaven. A fantastic tilt band-aid.

So, feeling a bit better, I sign up for the $24+2 satellite into next Sunday's WPT Borgata Super. Again, I cruise for two hours, barely facing a major decision. I had decent enough cards, position raises were working, and I was especially proud of one really spectacular bluff (an area I've been working on). We're down to 14 from 80, 11 spots are paid and 8 seats are awarded. I'm sitting in 6th or 7th with 9100 in chips. Blinds are 200-400/50 and the table is seven-handed. I pick up KK UTG+1 and raise it to 1200. The button flat-calls and the BB calls.

Flop comes Td 9c 9d. Good flop for me. No ace, a pair on board. If either of them were calling with a pocket pair, I have them crushed. It it's a big ace, I'm way ahead as well. I bet out 2800. The button puts the confused face on his avatar for a moment, before folding. But the BB pushes all in for 11,350. It's 5000, aka the rest of my chips for me to call and I'm getting over 3.5-1 with one card to come. Most of my stack is in already and I feel pot committed. I really want to go with my read here. If it's right, I'm ahead. Go with your read Change, go with it. Trust yourself. I call, and the donkey turns over Q9 offsuit. No way I ever put him on Q9 or any 9 really calling a big PF raise. I mean, he was a moron, but not that much of a moron. And the fishies swim away with my chips.

I capped off this horrid day with a multi on Full Tilt. A better idea would have been to run a $20 bill through a shredder. Got deep again, and busted with Kings by a pair of threes flopping the set. The pain was far too intense now. Step. Away. From the laptop. Power down. Exhale. Pack bowl. Inhale... Exhale...

Now that's my idea of pot committed.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Dog Days

Hollywood has slipped into the do-nothing dog days of summer-- a place where, frankly, I'm very comfortable. The streets of Beverly Hills are overrun with tourists ferried in by the double-decker busload. The corn-fed, fanny-packing midwesterners in bad Wal-Mart shorts, the backpacker guidebook-toting Eurotrash, and the hordes of Japanese all posing for photos outside the awful faux-Italian architecture of One Rodeo will, until Labor Day, compete with the usual cast of botoxed trophy wives, leathery old-school BH dames and emaciated sitcom stars for sidwalk space. Up a dozen stories in my little world, I'm quietly rejoycing that over the course of the next two weeks, all four VPs plus the big man are taking some serious vacation time, so it'll just be us kids running the joint. It just means more time for insane prop bets and no-limit freezeouts with my PAs and skipping out early for a little No-Limit at Hollywood Park. In fact, it's 3:30 right now and I'm already planning my 4 PM lap around the office to make sure the coast is clear enough to slip away for the tables.

So if everyone's gone, what the fuck am I doing here? It's not for lack of trying. And it's not like I'd go anywhere but Vegas. So, with room rates falling as fast as the temperature rises in the Nevada desert, I thought I'd check it out and propose it to Showcase. Witness the following email conversation

ME: The thought of Vegas did make me run & check hotel rates on Expedia. $90 a night for MGM Grand 8/31-9/1??????lets???ditch?????work?????????

SHOWCASE: if you were to go with me....my car would break down on the way....the room would have been given away by the time we finally got to the hotel and everything would be sold out except for the excalibur...you'd lose everytime you got pocket rockets...and all the coke would be stolen by a joan rivers impersonator.


Though he's probably right. Showcase's luck has been running even further afoul than my little losing streak. First the burglary. Then a health crisis for his mom. Then a horrible debacle with his new DV camera that ended with him smashing it to bits on the living room floor (a tape got stuck inside and the douchebag authorized repair guy told him it would cost more than the camera is worth to take it apart and fix the problem...so he got it out himself). Then the fact that his new(ish) commercial agent hasn't sent him out all month. Then this, just hours ago:

AIM IM with Showcase

Showcase: hey
Me: yo
Showcase: i swear to god
i woke up in such a good mood today
Me: i heard you singing
Showcase: slept really well....happy to be alive....thinking positive thoughts
and as i'm driving up (our street) to olympic some jackass open his car door right as i'm driving by and slams it into my car
Me: are u ok?
Showcase: yeah....and my car is too
Showcase: it just really hit my side mirror
Showcase: but seriously....i couldn't even get 100 yards from home without something happening....seriously....we need to go to china town and find some witch doctor with live chickens and shit

So if you know a good Shaman or Exorcist, seriously, let us know. We've tried feng shui, burning sage, and some sort of Brazilian good luck rattle. It's all for shit. But I'm really starting to subscribe to the theory that luck does run in streaks.

3:54 now. Six minutes until my walk. I also just noticed that my Phil Gordon DVD just arrived in my inbox. Man that was fast. You trying to tell me something, Phil? (That hand is still eating at me, BTW).

Thursday, August 11, 2005


You'd think I'd be happy to find myself caught in a Phil Gordon sandwich. I know my sister bloggers would certainly swoon at the thought.

Last night I played a $100 two-table SNG with Phil and David Singer on Full Tilt. I don't usually play SNGs higher than the $50s, but I've found that whenever pros are at the table, the field is noticeably softer, and the play more weak-tight than usual. This was no exception, as three guys went out very early and I was able to chop out some small pots and chip up to about $2200. After I raised with AQ in late position and was flat-called by the button, the flop came down a Q high rainbow with two babies. I checked, he raised all in for his last 700 or so and I called in a shot, figuring him for TT, JJ or another AQ. He had JJ and I'm suddenly the chip leader with about $3K. Niiiiice.

A few hands later, David Singer raises in the cutoff to 250, or 2.5XBB. I find 88 on the button. I think of reraising for like a second and a half, but instead elect to smooth-call. Singer has been stealing blinds with that 250 bet for a couple of orbits now, and if the flop's not too scary I can pop it then. If I flop a set, I'll likely bust him. Phil, however, is sitting in the BB and pushes all-in for 1300 or so. Singer folds, and it's up to me. What to do?

OK, so there's 650 in the pot already, plus let's say 1350 from Phil's all-in, so 2000 total. It's 1100 more for me to call and I'd be committing about 40% of my stack if I call this bet. It's a classic sandwich play. I'd even read about it in his freakin' ESPN article. I start trying to recall what hands he'd move in with here. Certainly AK or AQ. Certainly any pair higher than sevens. Possibly any high suited connectors like 9T, JT, etc. So I figure I'm a coinflip at best, and a 4.5-1 dog at worst. I can fold here and still be in great shape with over 2700 in chips. Or I can call off almost half my stack. I'm doing some Harrington-inspired math when instinct just tells me to fold. Phil takes down the pot and makes a fish sandwich of me. The table "learns from the pros." Phil switches on the smiley face on his avatar. My pride wilts a little.

I went pretty card dead after that, eventually pushing in with A6 with about 7 BB left. The button woke up with JJ and I'm out in 7th. Once I busted, I asked Phil what he had when he sandwiched me-- AQ suited. A coinflip after all. I then asked what he would have done with the eights and he admitted it was a tough call there. Shortly thereafter, Phil busted in 6th after pushing his last 5BB in UTG with 49 of spades.

In retrospect, I think I should have called Phil. Had I won the race I would have been a dominant chip leader AND busted Phil. Had I lost, I would have been back down to where I started. Calling that all in may have been my best shot to win the thing, or at least cash. Of course, how was I to know then that I'd go totally card dead for the rest of the match, but hey, it's just one SNG.

I just ordered Phil's DVD about an hour ago. Maybe I'll learn something for next time.

I'm still getting kicked in the face at LHE but that's a whine for another post...

Time for a $15 salad.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Three Laughs

Not like I really give a shit about former WPT eye-candy commentator Shana Hiatt's personal life, but this made me giggle, as I know this dude she's engaged to. In the words of our friends at Card Player:

Former World Poker Tour host Shana Hiatt is engaged to Hollywood movie producer Todd Garner.

Former World Poker Tour host Shana Hiatt is engaged to Hollywood movie producer Todd Garner. Garner, a founding partner of Revolution Studios, served as executive producer on the hit films 'XXX,' 'Anger Management,' '13 Going on 30' and 'Are We There Yet?', among many others, and oversaw all aspects of production and development for the Revolution's motion pictures during the company's remarkable first five years.

I spit Diet Coke all over my keyboard at that last line, "the company's remarkable first five years." No mention of the toilet they're in now. Here's just a sampling of those "other" films they leave out: Tomcats. The Animal. Daddy Day Care. Master of Disguise. The New Guy. Stealing Harvard. Radio. And last but certainly not least, Gigli. Yes, people this is a genius tastemaker we're talking about. He's also fond of wearing really bad Hawaiian shirts to nearly every meeting, and recently had a basketball court installed at Revolution's new Santa Monica digs. So yeah. They'll probably be very L.A.- happy together.

And this is good for a laugh. Apparently Frank Mariani, with a blood alcohol level that rivaled his chip count, won a Stud Hi-Lo tournament last night at the Bike. My favorite line came at the end:

"When tonight's tournament ended, Frank Mariani was in no condition to give an interview, even falling when he stood up. He also postponed collecting his winnings. Asked for his driver's license, he replied, 'I'm not driving.'"

And for our third laugh, Showcase directed me to page 13 of this morning's Variety:

"ROSIE SET FOR 'FIDDLER.' NEW YORK-- Rosie O'Donnell looks poised to make her Broadway return, playing Golde in 'Fiddler on the Roof.' The Current revival at the Minskoff Theater stars Harvey Fierstein as Tevye. O'Donnell is expected, but not confirmed, to open in the show sometime after Labor Day."

I guess her bravura performance in "Riding the Bus with My Sister" did NOT go unnoticed in the New York legit circles. But the real genius casting here would be Fierstein as Golde and O'Donnell as Tevye. Wouldn't "Tradition" just have so many new meanings? And the box-office? Please. Lion King would have nuthin' on them.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Downswing

My limit game is fucked right now. A 120 BB downswing kind of fucked. Did my (forced) hiatus from poker and all the NLHE hours I put in leading up to the WSOP just scramble the area in my brain responsible for good limit play? I know I'm a good limit player. I know I can beat the Party low limits for 2 BB/hr. My pre-burglary Poker Tracker database would tell you that in an instant. I miss that database, not only for my reams of stats on the fishies, but for the way that beautiful, green, overall positive number would greet me as I fired it up in preparation for that night's session. I loved that green number. It said, "Change, you're a winner! You can smoke this game! Why? Because I am a mathematical statistic and I say so!"

That number is red right now. It mocks me. It spits in my face. It makes me second-guess my own ability and I hate that.

I've had downswings like this before, but not at this limit. Those all happened when I got too cocky and greedy and moved up to 5-10 before I was properly bankrolled to do so. Got my ass handed to me every time I tried that, so I've promised myself that I'll grind it out at 2-4 and 3-6 until my bankroll is flush enough that it won't feel as scary. Bad Blood posted recently on getting kicked in the face every time he took a shot at a higher limit and I could totally relate. It felt like he was reading my mind. But I'm getting off topic.

Like any good student of the game should, I spent the bulk of last night poring through Poker Tracker (or, the "Poker Tivo" as we call it in La Casa de Change y Showcase). Went over all the trouble hands and relived the nightmare of the last week. My VP$IP was still where it should be, around 20. I still had the little moneybag icon in front of my name, so I was still playing fundamentally sound poker. My aggression factor was a tick lower than it had been before-- something I attribute to temporarily playing on a short bankroll, given all the dough I've had to lay out this month for the new laptop and ipod and things that make my apartment safe. So, perhaps I was playing a little scared in some situations. But nothing totally aberrant.

So how did I drop 120 BB in just under 1000 hands? Post-analysis, I'd say 15% of it was not playing marginal hands like middle pair well in early and middle position, 10% scared play, and 75% just the shittiest luck imaginable. QQ cracked all 6 times I had it. KK cracked 3 times out of 4. Lots of agressively played nut flush draws, but like, one nut flush. Full house over full house twice in huge pots. If there were 50 key hands, I was completely fine with my play in maybe 40 of them. I discovered that I made some great laydowns where my read turned out to be correct. So unless I'm just so utterly blind and stubborn that I can't be honest with myself (and I think I can be), I think this downswing is largely due to crap luck.

So, to mix it up and get off the LHE-induced tilt, I played a couple of SNGs on Full Tilt and won both of them, which did wonders for my self-esteem, and nicely cushioned the blow I'd taken in the cash games that night. The second one, though, must have been the longest SNG I've ever played. Fo' reals. FIVE players went to break. FIVE! I've never seen that on Full Tilt before. With the blinds approaching 300-600, I had something like 5K, the guy who ultimately finished second had about $4K, and the three other morons left had around 1500 each and were pretty much just trying to fold into the money. I'm talking about folding in the BB when it comprises like, half your stack! Of course, I had a freakin' field day just pushing in on these guys over and over again and mercilessly feeding off their blinds... yum. I think I'll try a few more of these tonight, until I feel ready to grind the LHE again. I'm just not in the right headspace for that right now.

Many thanks to Amy Calistri for the blog pimpage! I'm such a fan of hers that I swear I blushed when I first saw that she'd linked me up. Even Showcase was impressed.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Women and Poker

Blogging from the new laptop!! Halleluljah! It runs so beautifully and now that my apartment has Fort Knox security, aint no burglars gettin' at my new baby.

My first read of the morning was Amy Calistri's fantastic piece on what seems to be the poker blogging world's debate du jour-- Women and the Poker Boom. There's been the McManus article, Al Can't Hang's fantastic rebuttal to that article, and a number of bloggers whose work I respect have offered intelligent, divergent opinions. Not to mention that every interview with every female pro offers a take on it, or at least the annoying question-- "does it help you to be a woman in such a male-dominated game?"

Well, I am a woman, and I'm a product of the poker boom, so here's my take for whatever the hell it's worth.

I'm a 28 year old single woman in Los Angeles. By day I work in the entertainment industry, and by night I am a poker sponge-- playing, reading, watching, thinking, and absorbing all I can about the game. By that admission alone, you'd agree that I'm wired a little differently than my peers. The urban single women I know fill a good percentage of their time away from their careers with hip bars and online dating and shopping and movies and socializing with friends. With my time, I do all of that, but mostly I play poker.

Let's face it. Women my age are more interested in dating and socializing than they are poring over poker texts or folding hands online. It sounds stereotypical, but really it's just a fact. I don't have a single female friend who is as deeply interested in the game as I am. But I can fill eight seats at my dining room table with guys who are.

When I tell other women I play poker as much as I do, I tend to get the same response. It happens in two stages. Stage 1: wide-eyed excitement/disbelief. They've seen it on TV and think it's exciting. Their boyfriends are addicted and even play the occasional session at Hollywood Park. They think you must be so cool and clever to be able to go out there and take cash off these guys and spend it on Manolo Blahniks if you want to. But... aren't those cardrooms I don't know, a little seedy? And you sometimes go by yourself? Now we transition to Stage 2: concern. You play how often? And online too? Like, for real money? The astonished smile begins its transformation into a furrowed brow as thoughts of Gamblers Anonymous and psychotherapy begin to run through their heads. You may have a different experience, but this is mine. I think I've had this same conversation half a dozen times with my female colleagues in my office kitchen since I won my seat into the WSOP. My male colleagues? They wanted lessons so they could get into the agents' games and asked me if I'd heard of this guy called Chris Moneymaker.

Is it that women lack the Alpha-Male competitive drive? Certainly not. Just look at women in business. Top colleges and universities today pretty much embed a freakin' competitive microchip in your head upon matriculation. And they're churning out more female graduates than ever before. McManus thinks it's biology-- what utter B.S. Competition isn't male or female-- it's just human. And regardless of sex, some of us have a little more of it than others. It's how we express that competitive spirit that's the issue. Women aren't expressing it by playing poker, but men are.

So let's look at some of the social realities that lead to that imbalance. I believe that more than anything else, the thing that sets female poker players apart from non-poker playing females is a fiercely independent spirit. The "lone wolf" thing. They don't care that their other girlfriends don't necessarily share this passion. They're not intimidated by the fact that 98% of their opponents are men. And they're not afraid to get in their cars and head down the freeway alone to the cardroom (because let's face it-- do you have a bunch of girlfriends you hit the tables with? I didn't think so. If you do, please email me.) We have the will and the drive and the patience to learn the game- be it via self-instruction or a mentor. Many female players I've met do have male mentors-- a boyfriend or brother or husband who taught them the game. That's fantastic and they're lucky-- anyone with a trusted teacher is. But some don't have that luxury. Look at Jennifer Harman, perhaps the greatest female player in the game today. She taught herself all the way from $4-8 to $4000-8000 against stiff familial objections. And now she's the mentor-- just look at her husband, Marco Traniello's phenomenal performance at this year's WSOP. I'd say she taught him a little somethin'.

But most girls I know just aren't like that. Now, I'm sure if you asked a married woman in her 30's or 40's you might get a different answer. I'd say most of the women I meet and talk to in the cardrooms of Southern California fall into that category. That's a statistic I'd love to know-- single female poker players vs. married female poker players. Perhaps the answer lies in there.

Amy concludes her piece with a slew of great questions to answer and issues to debate:

1. "Are there more women at the lower ranks of poker, just working their way up…but they will eventually get there? Or are women opting to stay in the areas of poker representing more consistent and lower variance returns such as cash games?"

In my experience, I see a lot more women playing cash games than I see in tournaments. It's common for me to have one or two other women at my $4-8 or $6-12 table at Commerce. I see them at the middle limits as well. Not so much in tournaments. Though I did have one woman at my first table at the WSOP, I didn't play against another throughout the rest of the event. In a 575 person NLHE tourney at the Bike last month, I busted out somewhere around the top third mark and I was the second-to-last woman standing. Online? You can never tell-- guys love to use the female avatars to try and throw people off.

2. "How is poker being marketed to women? (Because I’ll tell you, I don’t think those scantily clad women in the online ads are being aimed at me…lol)"

On the whole, I don't think poker is being marketed to women. Look at who buys ad space on the WSOP broadcasts-- beer, razors, deodorant, Viagra. This year, we even have the Levitra final table to enjoy. Well, there is that one commercial with the "hot secretary" playing poker in the office and fooling all the guys online, but that's about it. But what do you expect? If I'm a poker-related advertiser, I'm marketing to guys since they make up 98% of the players. It's just common sense. Once we girls are hitting the tables in bigger numbers, we'll have Party Poker ads in InStyle.

3. "And what about the ever controversial topic of "Women’s Only" tournaments. Have they been successful in bringing women into the main tent of poker, or just isolating them?"

I don't have as huge a bone to pick with women-only tournaments as many others do. When I select a tournament to play, I choose based on my ability to beat the field, and the money involved. That's pretty much it. If it's a Ladies Event, fine. If it's an open event, fine. Just give me a Red Bull and my starting chips. Many women think it's sexist and they're right. But if it makes some women feel more comfortable and confident in entering a cardroom, then why not have them? The byproduct is that those women who were previously intimidated now realize that it's not that scary. Maybe they'll come down next week and play the $10-20 or an open event. I hope there's a day when we don't need ladies events to get more women into casinos, but until then, I think they're fine.

4. "And role models. Who are the real role models for women in poker?"

We have a number of them. Annie Duke, mother of four. Jennifer Harman, who played for the highest stakes ever played in the face of life-threatening illness. Kathy Liebert, who has made a living from tournaments, -tournaments!- for over a decade. Linda Johnson,the first lady of poker and a true independent spirit. And Cyndy Violette, who simply steamrolled this year's WSOP. She also eats ridiculously healthy, meditates, and does yoga (I don't know about you but I kinda aspire to that, though Jack in the Box would probably miss my business). That's not to say that there aren't role models to be found in some of the newer female "stars," but these are the ones with the track records to back it up. In Hollywood terms, these ladies are the Sherry Lansings and the Dawn Steels of the poker world-- the ones who really had to hack at that glass ceiling so those of us learning and playing now don't have as difficult a time.

5. "Are the stunning, "guy magnet" women getting all the press?"

Of course they are. Just like all the stunning, "guy magnet" women in anything the media covers get all the column inches. Doesn't matter if it's Hollywood or poker or any other sport. That's America.

6. "And what about the Cinderella factor? So far Cinderella has been wearing a jock strap. Do we need our own "Christine" Moneymaker?"

We have one. Her name is Jennifer Tilly! Did you catch her on Leno? It was genius.

OK that's enough for now. Flame away. Give me your take on it. I, for one have already destroyed my workplace productivity for the afternoon (just as you are by reading this).

I can't wait to play tonight.