Thursday, September 29, 2005

Poker Stars Blogger Championship

Now what could be better than a free tourney with a bunch of poker-obsessed lunatics like myself? Hammers will be dropped. Suckouts will be plentiful. Alcohol will be consumed.

Poker Championship

I have registered to play in the
Online Poker Blogger Championship!

This event is powered by PokerStars.

Registration code: 7414439

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What's an S-N-G?

The building next door to my office is being knocked down. Not imploded or anything, because that would be pretty hard to do without leveling a whole block here in congested downtown Beverly Hills. Rather, their process is more of the slow, painstaking wrecking ball variety. Every ten minutes or so, the floor in here vibrates much in the manner of an earthquake around a 4 pointer or so. The Big Man, true to form and consistent with the maturity level of your typical sicko rich guy mogul, actually made his assistant call the City of Beverly Hills to see if she could "make the noise stop." And when the city pretty much told the poor assistant to fuck off, The Man wouldn't stop at that. He had her get his lawyer on the phone. No word yet on if an injunction has been filed to stop the construction on the grounds that it is too annoying for one of Hollywood's Power 100 to possibly handle.

I've actually had to deal with work this week. There's shit to read and notes to write and research to do. I had a couple of drafts come in on the same day, so hopefully, this will be just one of those short bursts where I'm super-busy for a couple of weeks, and then I can go back to being my usual slacking poker-playing self. I've been playing a couple of SNGs each night, but that's all I can really get it up for right now.

Showcase, on the other hand, is doing quite the opposite. A few days ago, he got an email from Pokerroom (where he has a long-dormant account) saying we miss your business and we'd so like you to play again, and oh, here's a free ten bucks so you can get started but you have to accumulate 40 player points to cash out. Showcase loves nothing more than free money.

So he turned to me and asked quite innocently, " What's an S-N-G?"

Ahh sweet music to my addled ears! Even if he does call them S-N-Gs instead of SitnGos like us more seasoned degenerates.

Now Showcase only plays Limit Hold'em. Actually, he regularly destroys me heads-up. He's played the 3-6 at the Mirage and the 4-8 at Mandalay Bay and did OK. We even tried hitting Commerce a couple of times together, but his idea of a session is 3 hours and mine is about 8 so that never really worked. But he's never tried a SNG. Until now. We fired up Pokerroom and I showed him where the limit ones were, how to buy in, and told him to play super-tight until some donkeys knocked each other out. Then, if he felt stuck, I said I'd help him out.

Whatever. He didn't need my help. He came in 3rd in his first one and won the second! The only advice I needed to give him was to stay aggressive and play more hands when it got shorthanded. He's played six now and cashed in three. I think we have him hooked, people. Now we'll just have to see if he cashes out after hitting 40 points or comes back for more. I'd put money on the latter.

As I said to Rini, I'm 50% in for WPBT Imperial Palace. The only thing that could stop me is my company's holiday gala, which is sort of an un-missable thing, even if I'd rather swallow razor blades than attend. Things happen at this shindig. I was promoted at this shindig two years ago. And unfortunately, I still need a paycheck. I really hope it's not on the 10th.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Full Tilt Comcast

Comcast just cost me my tournament. I'm ready to throttle someone. In fact, I just came back in from outside, where I steamed for a full ten minutes and kicked some trash cans. Then I fell flat on my ass when I lost my balance.

The Full Tilt $10K guaranteed was MINE tonight, I tell you MINE! I was riding a nice chip lead at the end of the 400-800/100 level when my fucking wireless internet decided to crap out long enough for almost half my stack to be blinded off. When I got back on, blinds were 600-1200 and two fools had seemingly quintupled up and were riding 80-100K stacks, which was nothing compared to the 21 I had left. Oh, and one was directly on my right. Didn't pick up a single hand after that and finished 17th. At least I got in through a $4.40 SNG and didn't buy in...

As I mumble and grumble and take big big bong hits to get off tilt, Kathy Liebert is likely partying it up after her 3rd place finish tonight at the WPT Borgata. Though I'm not so sure that's how she rolls... Best ever finish for a woman in a WPT event, besting Jennifer Harman's 4th place at the Bellagio 5-Diamond last December. Mazel Tov!

I should tell Showcase it's safe to come out of his room now.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Week(end) in review and Vegas in December?

Bean has come and gone, putting an end to a fun, alcohol-and couture-soaked week away from poker. I don't think I've ever seen anyone drop so much coin on designer duds in one four-day period than Bean did on this trip. Can't blame her though, since I hardly think all of Western PA has the boutique selection of a single block of Robertson Blvd. We also selected some threads for her to take home to her adorable, but fashion-challenged boyfriend. We think the Seven Jeans will do him good, though Showcase claims that Sevens push the boundaries of male metrosexuality. This, from a man who owns "You Sing Stephen Sondheim."

The break from the tables did me good, and I had a profitable weekend online. Won a couple of $30 SNGs on Full Tilt and cashed a few others. Won a super satellite into next weekend's Full Tilt $25,000 Guaranteed tourney (which I'd REALLY like to do well in after bombing out in the last few of these). And then there was the 500 point freeroll-- with one seat awarded to the $200K Guaranteed at the end of October. I fell just short and came in 2nd out of 129. My opponent just had too big of a chip lead going into the final table to overcome, but I think I really gave him a run for his money-- our heads-up battle went on for almost half an hour even though he held about a 9-1 chip lead over me.

I just read Bill Rini'spost about the December blogger gathering in Vegas. I'm new at this blogging thing, but I sorta kinda wanna go and meet everyone. And seriously, like I need an excuse to go to Vegas? Especially when I'm only 4 hours away? I'm going to think on it seriously this week. Visions of that soft, touristy 1-2 NL at the MGM are dancing in my head and distracting me as I futiley try to concentrate on work...

I snagged some tix to the FLIGHTPLAN premiere from a biz friend so Showcase and I will be doing it up on the red carpet tonight. Party (and OPEN BAR) to follow at the Amanda Sheer Demme Tropicana Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. This will be the first (and likely the last) time we are admitted to said venue. That is unless we're packin' some good blow and are on the bony arms of Lindsay Lohan sometime in the future. We'll try not to humiliate ourselves. Or at least return with a good story and a cameraphone photo for the Defamer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bean and the Sangria SNG

I picked Bean up at her hotel in Downtown L.A. around 7 last night. After squealing and girl-hugging like we hadn't seen each other in years (8 months but who's counting) I noticed that a horde of young geeky boys waiting in the cab line were staring at us. "Are those your co-workers?" I asked. "They're totally fixated on us." Bean replied, "yeah, that's just because they're not at all used to being outdoors, let along seeing two girls touch each other." We jumped back in the car and took off down 6th Street toward the west side, as the freeways were totally jammed. 6th is also kind of a great route for a quickie L.A. tour. We pass Alvarado Street, where I bought my first fake ID. And then Lafayette Park. You've seen the big fountain in movies. It's also famous for it's vibrant scene of narcotics salespeople. Koreatown is next as we continue west. Used to be sketchy, but now it's rapidly gentrifying. Reasonable rents make it home to countless unemployed writers and non-trust fund kids in the agency mailrooms trying to scrape by on less than 400 a week. And then, Hancock Park. A fancy east-coast town with curving streets and old-fashioned lampposts dropped into the middle of the L.A. grid. And finally, past the behemoths of Park LaBrea and up Crescent Heights into ever-crowded West Hollywood.

Bean is in L.A. for a conference. She works in sales for a small company in Pennsylvania that sells highly technical software to companies like NASA and Boeing. She knows nothing about software. I mean NOTHING. I honestly have no idea how she does her job, and if you ask her, neither does she. Don't get me wrong, Bean is smart. We both went to the same top-ten university. She was an art history major and was never inclined toward anything scientific or computer-related at all. In fact, she's a genius writer and I had always hoped she would pursue that in some way. I'm sketchy on the details of exactly HOW she landed this gig after working in art museums for three years after college, but it had something to do with her computer-geek ex-boyfriend hooking her up with the job when she was seriously in need of one. She's happy there, loves the people she works with and makes decent money. Pretty much the opposite of my job right now.

We met up with Showcase in WeHo and had some fantastic tapas and a pitcher of sangria for dinner. Stuffed mushrooms. Sliced steak on top of blue cheese potatoes. Fantastic bacon-wrapped dates. We caught each other up on gossip about all the snotty fuckwits we used to know in college, one of whom is now a national correspondent for NBC News. Showcase and I had seen him on television in a yellow rain slicker during the hurricane coverage. Bean was so surprised she almost fell out of her chair. "Ohmygod. Peter's on NBC? I kissed him once at a frat party freshman year and he told me he wanted to be a newscaster!"

After dinner, we drove back to our place and smoked a couple of bowls while I outlined for Bean the basic points of No-Limit Hold'em. I explained what beats what, the button and the blinds, how to bet and raise and some basic starting hands. Then we played a few hands heads-up and discovered that Bean has perhaps the worst poker face of anyone I know. She made it an early night since she had to be up early for her computer geek convention. After she left, I smoked some more. Then I had a beer. Then, apparently, I decided to play a SNG. I only know I played a SNG, because this morning I saw the results illegibly scrawled into my poker notebook in glitter pen. I think I came in 6th. I think I went out with kings. I think I called someone an assclown donkeyfucker. And then I passed out.

Sangria + SNG / Sensi Star = -EV

Monday, September 12, 2005

5-10 kicks my ass, and other weekend delights

Gotta make this one short. I have to duck out of la oficina in a few minutes and get on the freeway. Bean, my best girlfriend, confidant, and college roommate is in L.A. for four days and we're hittin' the town. First on the agenda is tapas y mucho sangria at this new place called The Courtyard in WeHo. Then either out again to some hip dive or back home for a few bongloads and a lot of catching up. I adore her. Think hilariously neurotic obsessively style-conscious JAP in Marisa Tomei's body. That's my Bean. So probably not a lot of poker this week, though she really wants a lesson so she can play her boyfriend heads-up.

The Full Tilt 5-10 LHE was full of retarded fish this weekend in the late-night hours. Got a lot of bonus cleared, but dropped about 25 bets. I know I made a few mistakes, but my hands were just refusing to hold up. Meh meh meh. Fishies win. Blech. Still doing well in SNGs and NL ring games and made up the losses there-- why am I not playing the hours I need at those tables and continuing to bleed at LHE? I'll post some hands soon and at least attempt a strategic post. Though it may be pathetic. I also polished off the Annie Duke book and have a lot to say about it. Review is brewing in my head.

OK time to make my escape...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina Tournaments

The devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has left me floored. I was glued to the news on CNN for days, something I don't think any of us have felt since 9/11. And in terms of the human toll, we know now that it'll be far, far worse. For those of us so far away, the best thing to do is to open our wallets. And for poker players, this is made so easy with all of the charity tournaments happening online. I signed up for one on Poker Stars and played the Friday one on Full Tilt. Didn't get tremendously far, though it was hardly the point. I was seated at Pauly's table early on and picked up a pot off him. I said hello, but I think he must have missed it in the chat box amidst all of the shoutouts from his legions of loyal readers and fans. I busted out somewhere around 280th in that one.

Ultimate Bet is running three more relief tourneys this week with buyins from $5+5 up to $150+150 and some cool prizes for the final table. There's a dinner with Annie Duke, private lessons from Antonio Esfandiari (Rocks & Rings not included) and of course, a truckload of signed Phil Hellmuth books up for grabs. Check it out.

I did manage to have a good weekend at the tables. I took third in two Full Tilt multis back-to-back, putting my tournament profits back in the black. Man it was good to make a couple of final tables after bubbling, bubbling, bubbling so many of these friggin' things over the past few months. You have enough of those and you start to think you don't even know how to play this game! I re-read the end of Barry Greenstein's book right before I played, and I think it made a lot of things finally click into place for me. I'm also continuing to rock the Party Poker SNGs for a nice profit. So while my NLHE play is steadily improving, my limit game still sucks ass. I managed to drop $200 two-tabling the Party 2-4 before winning about $110 of it back by the time I quit at 3 AM. I really have to figure out what the fuck is going on there.

Showcase and I also hosted an impromptu home game with two of our new neighbors, Scotsman and Iowa. Though I took down the first of our two SNGs with ease, I busted out first in the second one and became the perma-dealer. I was also drinking heavily. Iowa had bought my a forty from the local bodega, and being primarily a smoker, I was silly tipsy in no time. In the end, it came down to an epic heads-up battle in the end between Showcase and poker newbie Iowa, who had never really played the game before that night. Though I adore him, he didn't even know that KQ is a great hand heads-up. Of course Showcase lost. ;) But these things matter little to him, as I would have been pounding the walls if it were me. We're definitely hosting more of these. Especially if we could round up more people to play. But this is L.A. and Angelinos looove to flake.

I'll be bonus-clearing on Full Tilt tonight again, because lord knows that takes a while. That is if I don't have to read some idiotic spec.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Trip Report: Ladies Night @ The Bike

"You gonna win this thing for us?"
"I'm gonna try. Lifestyle change, remember?"

Just as I turned to head out the door for the Ladies Night tournament, Showcase stopped me. He grabbed the Brazilian voodoo rattle thing a friend had jokingly given us after the robbery to "purify" the apartment. He shook it, sang an impromptu chant and I spun around in circles. Then he grabbed all four aces out of the deck on the coffee table and rubbed them all over me. I promised to call in on breaks and headed for the car. I had given myself a whole hour to get to the Bike and just crossed my fingers that the freeways weren't a mess and that the air conditioning would hold up in the 90-degree heat. I fired up Prodigy and the White Stripes for the drive. 10 East, 5 South, 710 South.

I arrived with twenty minutes to spare. I signed my life rights over to Steve Lipscomb, bought in, and grabbed a Red Bull and a Zone bar from the gift shop. As I walked through the main poker room toward the Pavilion area where my table was located, I noticed a cloud of smoke hanging over the room and realized it must be the dry ice pouring out of the WPT set, which was not-so-subtly concealed behind tall black curtains in the far corner. The WPT Legends final table was in progress, broadcast throughout the casino via closed-circuit TV, albeit without hole card cameras, but with Linda Johnson's blow-by-blow announcing. Both bars were packed with people watching the action and chattering nonstop, speculating about what hands each player had.

"Kenna made his flush there."
"Nah, he's just betting the scare card. That other dude has about second pair."

I found Table 53 and got settled into seat 6, discovering that I narrowly avoided a VERY bad table draw. Alexandra Vuong and Sharon Goldman were seated only one table behind me. Sharon wore both a nose and a belly button ring to my surprise, her Birkenstocks further enhancing her hippie-girl vibe. She talked animatedly to a friend of hers about how much she hates playing live. We were about 20 minutes late getting started, so I just sat and tried to focus and calm my nerves a bit. Having not played a big tourney since the WSOP, I was physically shakier than I had expected. Sweaty palms and such. I was starting to regret the Red Bull. I breathed deep, threw Radiohead on the Ipod, and shuffled my stack of pink $5 chips. Were they specially made for us I wonder because aren't they usually red? As the cards went in the air, I noticed Pokerwire's Jen Creason at an adjacent table, WPT press badge around her neck, being sweated by Andy Bloch. There were a lot of male "sweaters" there, hanging onto the rail six feet above a pit full of poker-playing women. What a nice reversal. I was in heaven.

I picked up exactly two hands in the first two levels. I had AK in middle position, raised it up and was called. The flop missed me, but I threw out a continuation bet and my passive opponent folded. I was able to make a late-position steal with K8o a few hands later, but otherwise, nada. Just deuce-fours and jack-threes and other garbage. I went to the first break with pretty much what I started with, 800, give or take. I called Showcase from the bar and told him I was still alive. Still a little shaky, I decided that it was time to cure my sweaty palms syndrome with what one of my favorite dealers at Commerce calls my "Magic Corona" as it tends to loosen me up a little and unleash my inner Layne Flack. Which is what I needed if I was going to survive much longer. Rounds were only 30 minutes and the blind levels were pretty steep.

My table broke almost immediately after the break and I was moved into the main room. It looked like there were still about 30-35 tables left. Now I got a good look at which "stars" were in the house. Kathy Liebert was still in. So was Karina Jett. Barbara Enright had on one of her tradmark hats. I spotted Erica Schoenberg, the former MIT Blackjack payer who appeared on the Poker Royale: Young Bloods show a few months ago. Also Jeena Burnett from the final table of the 2004 WSOP Ladies, Allyn Jaffrey Shulman, Shirley Rosario, Shannon Elizabeth, and a stunning, tanned Isabelle Mercier who wore a cool customized black Pokerstars hoodie with the words "No Mercy" Mercier in white on the back.

At my new table was An Lee, who finished second to Jennifer Tilly in this year's WSOP Ladies. Several of the other women at the table seemed pretty intimidated by her. Since I was playing so few hands (because I was still not catching ANY cards whatsoever) she was giving me some respect. When I finally did pick up AQ and reraised her all in with 600 left in my puny stack, she folded pocket sevens to me. An was sweet and friendly, but very tough. She's only been playing for "six or seven" months. I asked her how she learned the game. "Books... and TV. That's really it. No one taught me." My heart sang.

Finally I caught a few hands and won a couple of uncontested pots and a couple where my opponent folded on the flop. Then no hands again for two levels. Just nothing. 24o three times in a row. 25. j6. Nothing I could do anything with because the blinds were getting to a level where any raise would commit me. Tried a couple of late position steals but got action and had to dump it when I missed the flop.

Down to only 425 with 50-100 blinds, I got A6 off and pushed. I was called by a steely blue-eyed lady in the big blind with A8. Flop was no help for me but I turned a 6. I literally jumped out of my seat and yelled "SIX!" I was still alive! I did the same with K9 of spades a few hands later and was called by A4. I doubled up again when I made a flush on the turn. It took tow hands where I was all-in with the worst of it, but now the cards started coming a little bit and I chipped up to about 6000 when the ante hit. An Lee went out after two brutal hands-- both times she had her shortstacked opponent dominated and both times she was outdrawn on the flop.

Once the ante hit people dropped like flies. I kept the music on, kept focused on my table, and tried to ignore where we were in terms of the money. I've had a recent history of not only bubbling a lot of tournaments, but becoming EXTREMELY emotional after doing so. And in most of those bubble situations, I wasn't playing aggressively enough when the money was in sight. I was playing to cash, not playing to win. I told myself that this time I was playing for first. That's it. I would not be a pussy when it got down to the bubble, I'd go out swinging. That focus helped me play very aggressively through the first three ante levels, even though I stll wasn't picking up big hands. I didn't see a pair higher than eights for the entire tournament, and the AK I got in the first level would be the only AK I got all night.

I had an M between 6 and 10 through most of 150-300/50 and 200-400/75, kept vigilant track of where it was and when it was getting critical, and realized that at least seven of my ten opponents had no concept of inflection play or low stack play. They seemed only willing to go all in once they were down to a desperation level. As a result, I picked up a lot of pots by reraising all-in before the flop and on the flop. Going to the third break I had about 8000. I called Showcase again and he was so psyched I was still alive.

Break ended and I was moved to my third table. Eight tables remained and five paid. Blinds are 300-600/100, so it's 1800 a round. About 15 minutes into the level, I picked up J9 of diamonds on the button after everyone folded to me. I had just won a nice pot, so I decided to just raise and hope to pick up the blinds and antes and bust the big blind, who would certainly be all in on this hand. I made it 2600 to go and the small blind, a very chatty, very butch lesbian gave me a "what the heck" look and called. She was playing a lot of pots, but could be moved off a hand when she missed the flop. The big blind pushed in as I thought, which didn't even cover the raise.

The flop came 8-T-6 no suits. Lesbian checks to me, BB is all-in. I feel like lesbian missed with big cards. She would have certainly bet a pair. I have a little less than 6000 left. Lebian has me covered, but not by much. I move in on the flop. She thinks for about 30 seconds before saying "I think I need to gamble" and calling. Now I know I'm toast. Lesbian turns over AQ, BB has 26 of hearts. None of my 14 outs hit and after an excrutiating count by the dealer to make sure she had me covered, I'm out in 54th place. Nine out of the money. A WPT camera recorded my entire bustout, even following me out of the tournament room. Thankfully I was graceful, took it very well, and wished the other ladies good luck. I stepped into the Ladies' Room and saw myself in the mirror as I waited in line. I was smiling. I hadn't even noticed.

After washing all the chip scum off my hands, I peeked back inside the room to see if I recognized anyone still remaining. Karina Jett and Barbara Enright were the only "name" players left. I had outlasted Liebert, Mercier, Goldman, Vuong, Lee, and 91% of the field. So what if I wasn't taking home 170 bucks had I clammed up and folded into the money. I probably could have done that. But it was never the plan for me. I was giving myself the chance to win the thing. Had I hit that last hand, I would have had well over $20,000, been top ten in chips, and really could have gone somewhere with it. But I felt fine. And that was so strange. I guess it's like when a runner makes his first 9-minute mile. It's faster than he's ever ran, but now he's set a new record to beat.

So that's what I'm looking at last night as. A personal best. 54th out of 566 is nothing to be ashamed of. Percentage-wise, it's my highest finish in a major live tournament and I've played fewer than ten. I've had dozens of online final tables and three outright wins, but I feel better about this finish than any of them (well, maybe except for winning my WSOP seat) not only because I played well and never gave up, but for the way I handled myself psychologically and emotionally. There were no tears for Change tonight.

At valet parking I saw Mike Sexton and the new Shana Hiatt, Courtney Friel. She looked sort of plastic and had a clear affinity for spray-on tanning. Shirley Rosario also waited for her car, puffing on a clove cigarette. I spotted a cute redheaded girl who was at my table and went over to her. She had busted only four out of the money, but also seemed OK about it. She asked me what I had when I pushed in on her preflop a few hands before I had busted. I had AJ. Turns out she made a good fold, mucking A9 suited. We chatted as we waited for our cars and she told me I should try out the 2-5 NL at Commerce. In turn I told her to show up around midnight on a weekend and check out the limit games if she ever felt like taking on some intoxicated donkeys.

I drove home with "Transatlanticism" by Death Cab for Cutie on repeat. The freeway was clear and the city quiet. I arrived at my door shortly before 2 AM. Showcase was asleep and for the first time in weeks, it wasn't unbearably, psychotically hot inside my apartment. I was wired and more awake than I'd felt all day. I was never going to sleep tonight. So I smoked a fuckload of pot, fired up Party Poker, and destroyed a SNG. This time, there was no need for a Magic Corona to turn on the Layne Flack switch. I just left it all out on the table. Unbelievable, I know, that I'd want to play MORE poker after six hours in a tournament, but I did. I love this game. I love learning it, I love knowing that I've improved a lot this year, and I love that it's hard. I love that 566 ladies showed up and played some great poker last night. Most of all, I love that I met so many great women who love playing as much as I do. Though I don't think I've seen so many lesbians in one place at one time outside of a bar on Santa Monica Boulevard.

So no lifestlye change tonight, but perhaps an even better mental one.