Friday, October 28, 2005

I'm the Nuts!

At least CJ thinks so ;) Thanks so much to the guys at Up For Poker for selecting this humble blog as "The Nuts." It was a lovely surprise to discover just after losing a buyin on Full Tilt when my Hilton Sisters were cracked by 47 offsuit. My internal dialogue went something like this:

"I hate cash games! I hate cash games! Fuck Fuck Fuck. What the fuck was I thinking? Wait a minute... someone reads this stuff I post in between bong hits and folding crap hands? Holy shit!"

For any first-time visitors, welcome. I'm your host, Change. For the uninitiated, I offer these up as a "best of," though having only been blogging for about 4 months it seems a little absurd. Eh, fuck it.

Fixing a Hole
28 Days
Women and Poker
The Politics of Ladies Night
Trip Report: Ladies Night @ the Bike
My Car is on Fire

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Lederer vs. Dannenmann

"Man, he looks like somebody just shot his dog." --Steve Dannenman re: Howard Lederer

What a jackass. I guess this what what Howard Lederer was talking about on this week's "Learn from the Pros" on Fox Sports when he mentioned that he went from $100K to $500K very quickly on the TV featured table, where he spent about 12 hours playing dodge the donkey. Everyone wants to bust a pro. Seriously, some of the amateur play in this particular WSOP offering was straight out of the Full Tilt Bounty Bustout Bonanza tournaments.

Though his behavior afterwards left much to be desired, I think Dannenman's move with the 68 offsuit was borderline genius. It's something I could see Lederer himself attempting when a clearly frustrated opponent bet small on possibly the scariest flop in the deck. Dannenman's cell phone speech, however, demonstrated some of the worst douchebaggery that I've seen yet in televised poker.

I think what makes it so much worse, is that it's Lederer. Placid, cerebral, Howard Lederer, who looks like your Dad or your shy older brother. A consummate professional who would never stoop to those levels, whatever the situation. A man Steve Dannenman, no doubt, has learned a lot from. I'm so curious as to the actual length of time from the end of the hand to when he got up to make the call. I doubt it was as instantaneous as ESPN made it appear. And he HAD to know he was miked. It's not too hard to forget that big square thing tucked into the back of your pants with a wire swishing around inside your shirt and clipped to your collar. He certainly knew he was on camera.

We have a lot more to see from Mr. Dannenman in the second half of the main event, though I'm thinking this is just a preview of more donktastic behavior. I wonder, at which point in the tournament did he decide to start pounding Bloody Marys?

Monday, October 24, 2005

WPT Ladies Night III and The Inaugural PokerStars Blogger Championship

So, as some of you may remember, I finished just out of the money in the ladies' tournament where Teresa "London" Gallagher bested 565 of her Southern California poker-playing peers to qualify for WPT Ladies Night III. I watched it last night with bated breath. Not because I didn't know who won, but, like the blogger superstars that have gone before me, I just couldn't wait to scan the b-roll to see if my blonde head made it into any of the background shots. (Sadly, it didn't). Ah, fame takes time.

Speaking of fame, though she didn't capture the title, Ladies Night introduced us to a new soon-to-be-famous face. London, God love ya, you played great. Your calm demeanor and quiet intensity paved your way onto that beautiful, glossy red and blue stage. That move over the top with the sixes? Outstanding.

HOWEVER, if it were ME stepping out on national TV, lemme tell ya, I would have gotten a manicure. Hell, a whole set of acrylic nails. I would have had my hair blown out within an inch of its life. I'd run out to the MAC store and have some swishy West Hollywood fairy boy do my makeup. And after that, I'd high-tail it to Neiman Marcus to buy me a seriously fabulous Marc Jacobs cocktail dress with an easily hidden price tag. Forget about the less than 12-hour turnaround from winning the qualifier at 5:30 in the morning and starting the final table at 5 PM the following night. I don't care what size hole I'd end up burning into my MasterCard, but I'd have a full-on fashion and beauty entourage that rivaled the size of J.Lo's if I had that sort of once in a lifetime, staggeringly lucky, potentially lucrative, gift-from-God opportunity to play poker on a WPT stage in front of millions of people. At least they could have given poor London the "wear black" memo so she could have blended in better with her tablemates.

Now Isabelle Mercier? There's someone who got the memo. She knows what winning this thing can do.

I was quite impressed by the play. I think Lily Elviro adapted the best to Jennifer Tilly's constant aggression by playing a patient, solid game. She really picked her moments to come over the top with a hand she knew would be better than some of the more marginal offerings Tilly would open-raise with, at time regardless of position. Lily also wins the Annie Duke award for playing great while very pregnant. The baby must have been as excited as Lily was during those all-ins, as each time she stood up, she gave her belly a sweet little rub.

I was watching Ladies Night on Tivo while I played in yesterday's PokerStars Inagurual Blogger Tournament where I finished a respectable 141st of the 1471 entrants. Check out Paulyor any of the other fine folks on my right for a recap of the action.

I got hit in the face with the deck early, catching AA at least five times (though twice they weren't paid off at all). I managed to jump out to around T28,000 within the first hour or so. I was proud of a read I made when I flopped a set of aces on an all-club board with no club in my hand. My opponent pushed in on the turn when the 3d fell, and I read him for the draw and called. I was really able to wield a big stack over my table after that double-up and chipped up rather quickly. It all turned to shit when Sunday8PM, the eventual fifth place finisher sat down on my right. He was loose and aggressive, which is fine for on your right, but he started flinging chips around with abandon and sucking people out left and right. He got all in with 99 vs. two opponents, one holding AA and the other KK. He flops a 9. Crazy, right? Well, I shipped about 2/3 of my stack over to him when his 88 flopped a set against my AA and turned quads. Though I had him covered, I was down to about T9000 or so in the high blind levels right before the bubble. My cards went cold at that point, which was bound to happen since I'd already picked up so many hands, and I ended up pushing UTG with deuces when my M was down to 3. One of the blinds woke up with AA and I was toast.

What a fun experience, though! I really hope PokerStars knows not only how much we all enjoyed the tournament but are grateful to them for putting up such a snazzy prize pool. Special congrats to Chris Halverson, Austin April, Poker Geek, and Bobby Bracelet for making the $$!!!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Master Class

Thursday night I was due in Pacific Palisades at 6:45 to give my online screenwriting "master class." Unfortunately, for some reason passing understanding, George W. Bush decided to drop in for a little visit to perhaps the one state in the union that hates him the most, snarling traffic on every east-west artery in the city. This turned what should be about a 25 minute journey into a hour and twenty minute nightmare, making me about half an hour late for my "students." A thick fog had settled in as well, transforming this tony seaside enclave into something out of "The Shining."

I had never met the guy who ran the website, only spoken to him on the phone. Instead of the slickster L.A. entrepreneur I had pictured, I was greeted instead by a jolly, fiftyish hippie with a wide smile and long gray hair who looked more like Jerry Garcia than any industryite I'd ever met. He introduced me to his (cute!) assistant, who would be doing the typing for me, and his wife, who brought out trays of sushi and cocktail shrimp, along with two chilled bottles of chardonnay for us. Jerry Garcia explained the process while pouring us both some wine, and I warned them both that I was a fast talker and to just hit me or something if I needed to slow down (he ended up hitting me a lot!). The wine had relaxed me from the sick traffic I had just slogged through, so I was ready to roll.

I took questions from aspiring screenwriters around the world for about the next two hours. They asked everything from what I looked for when I read a screenplay from an unknown writer (guts, style, an original voice, content that makes me think) to where I thought the movie business was going in the next five years (having to seriously re-evaluate how we deliver content a la what iTunes has done for music). I guess I said some good stuff, because at the end a few of the students were gushing about how I had made them want to return to writing. I always try to be honest and direct in situations when people are asking me for advice and I know the chardonnay helped that along.

After we finished with the chat, I hung around and drank wine with Jerry Garcia and Cutie Assistant until well after midnight. We had one of those long, far-ranging conversations about the business that I used to have with my mentor Charlie almost every couple of days back when we worked together, and that are so scarce amongst the more political, cautious people I work with now. Cutie even played poker so we had a lot to gab about and I gave him my business card so he could put me on the list for his home game ;)I staggered out of there at 12:15 and (slowly) drove home to Showcase.

Showcase was in NO mood for a drunken me when I came in, and he kicked me out of his room, for fear that I would throw up somewhere in it (which, I might add has only happened ONCE, not counting that time on side of his car). After watching 15 minutes of the Tivo'ed WSOP, I passed out.

At 6:30 in the morning, I woke up with a serious headache, still dressed, and still on the couch. I staggered into my bedroom and changed clothes. About 10 minutes after I laid back down, I jumped out of bed and barely made it to the bathroom where I hurled over and over again. Whether it was bad shrimp or a pathetically weak tolerance to alcohol, I'll never know. All I know is that I kept on hurling for the next 6 hours. No way I was making it into work. Or to the American Cinematheque awards honoring Al Pacino that I was supposed to attend that night.

Once there was nothing left to vomit, I did get to play in the Poker Stars Whil Wheaton dot net Invitational along with 152 others. I didn't last long, placing a lousy 98th, but I did jump into the $3 Rebuy immediately afterward, where I just missed a cash, coming in 176th of 1421. Only 3 rebuys this time ;)

Showcase just walked through the door, back from a weekend in Berkeley, so it's time I lavished him with a little of the attention he so loves (and occasionally deserves).

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Rehab Report, Week 2

Blogger ate my fucking post. Everyone gets their cherry popped in that regard soon enough, why shouldn't I be any different. The second I pushed the "back" button I knew I was fucked. Aiiiii ya, why didn't I hit SAVE AS DRAFT before previewing it! I had some good stuff in there, but I can't donk off another hour at the office rewriting it. Tilt tilt tilt. Goddammit it had a theme and everything.

So all you get right now is the abridged version of my week in review. The insight I gleaned from my play will just have to be incorporated into some other post. Grrrrr!

$11 NLHE SNGs: 11 played, 4 cashed +52
$22 NLHE SNGs: 5 played, 2 cashed -20
$33 NLHE SNGs: 2 played, 1 cashed -12

Total SNG profit for week: +20 (I think I'm on SNG burnout here).

Various LHE/NLHE cash games: -38.16

Super Satellites: 4 played, 3 seats won +W$293

Tournaments: -32.70 (mostly from HORSE last night where I donked off all my chips before the first break.)

Week total: -50.86 (cash), +293 (W$)

Save as draft, say it with me. Save as draft, Save as draft, save as draft...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Highlights Reel

Highlights of the weekend:

1. Watching Showcase absolutley kill onstage Friday night. The only thing better better than hearing an audience laugh from jokes you helped write? Hearing them come out of your best friend's mouth, and brilliantly.

2. Chatting and playing the $25 NL on Full Tilt with April, Drizz, BG, EvaCantHang and Maigrey. BG kicked my ass and won a buyin off of me when his KQh took out my AA when a Q fell on the river to make him two pair. But he was soooted (and there were hearts on the board, so can you blame him for calling me down?). Shoulda pushed on the flop. I must say, playing with bloggers is an ENTIRELY different animal. I guess that's why drinking is required. I promise I'll loosen up a little next time.

3. Winning two delicious satellite seats. One came via a silly little 300 point freeroll on Full Tilt that got me a $75 tournament entry. Then, I managed to crack the crazy $3 Rebuy on Stars and punched my ticket to next Sunday's big tournament (after 8 rebuys!) I couldn't get a thing going in the rebuy period and ended up taking only the $5000 chips from the last double rebuy and add-on I could make. Then I really just played my usual game and cruised to the finish. There were maybe two coinflips that could have hurt me badly, but I hit them both, and stole more than enough blinds and antes to stay alive.

4. Cashing two Multis on Full Tilt. Not a ton of cash to add to the bankroll, but I'm becoming more and more consistent in these (especially now that I'm playing fewer of them).

Dissappointment of the Weekend:

Elizabethtown. But I suppose I knew that going in. This was a film that just tried too hard at every turn, not to mention the fact that Orlando Bloom, despite his obvious attractiveness and boyish charm, cannot carry a serious film as a lead actor. The music was great, as always in a Crowe film. Dammit. I want inspiration. Shoulda seen Capote instead.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sukkah Depot, Baba Ghanoush and Cameron Crowe

It feels like Vegas today. Ninety five degrees beneath a cloudless sky, the air thin, parched, and smoky. Though the billboards that line Pico Boulevard proclaim that Pechanga is the shortcut to Vegas, one deep breath outside today was all that was necessary to transport my mind up I-15. That, and the Party Poker Bad Beat Jackpot hitting $575K while I stopped home at lunch to play a quick hour session.

You know, I felt sorry for all my orthodox Jewish neighbors walking around in that heat in their black synagogue garb yesterday-- talk about a day of atonement. Plus all that davening. Sheesh. The all-white clad Kabbalah crowd heading toward Robertson seemed to be doing better than their conservative counterparts sweltering while queing up on La Cienega. But lemme tell you, this Shiksa loves nothing more than some good Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur-- that's a sublime day off from work. Passover-- that's some kickass brisket and an excuse to get drunk. So what's next. That's right kids. Stop... Sukkah time!

The Sukkah Depot just opened at the end of my block. Either there, or at any of the other roadside Sukkah stands that are sprouting up along Pico like Christmas tree lots in December , you can purchase a white canvas tent-like structure held up by large poles for about $99. According to Showcase, a certified Bar Mitzvahed Jew, people put these things up in their backyards to celebrate some sort of harvest festival. When I pressed him further, he said "look, I have important office busywork to do here in order to justify my existence! Look it up on Wikipedia!"

Well Wikipedia tells me that the Sukkot is indeed a harvest festival, specifically one remembering the time when the Jews were on their journey to the Promised Land, so they slept in these huts called Sukkahs on the way there. Ergo, once a year immediately after Yom Kippur, some Jews put these huts up in their yards and essentially live in them for eight days and nights.

Point is, all our neighbors have sukkahs. The ones immediately on our right started setting one up today and, as they did last year, plan to run The Godfather on a big screen inside the sukkah. And, being Jews, that means LOTS of free food. Seriously, last year we couldn't stop by for ten minutes without having half a dozen tupperware containers thrust into our arms.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Yesterday, I tried eating some of that macrobiotic Cyndy Violette crap. A new heath food joint called Solar Harvest opened up not far from my office and I decided to give it a whirl. I had never eaten half the shit on the menu. I mean, what the fuck is hijiki? And I wasn't really into an entree based around the "bean of the day." The "Mediterranean Platter" sounded inoffensive enough, so I ordered it, along with a side of lentil salad. I took it to go, went back home and fired up Party Poker as I spread out my healthy feast. The pita and hummus were good, the tomatoes fresh and the whole grain tabouli didn't taste too much like parsley. The lentil salad was pretty tasty if not a little heavy on the vinegar. However, to the side of this meal's colorful components was this heap of greyish glop. It almost looked like oatmeal, but had a more runny consistency. I grabbed the takeout menu to see what the offending substance might be. Baba Ghanoush? Wasn't that made of eggplant? This didn't look like eggplant. Was it tofu eggplant? No, an eggplant is a vegetable. There is no need to tofu-ize it.

I leaned in and sniffed the grey heap. It didn't smell like eggplant, then again, it didn't really smell like anything. My laptop beeped at me and I looked up at my table and folded a Jack-four offsuit. Then I googled "baba ghanoush." Sure enough, I was right about it's basis in eggplant! I like eggplant. So I took a piece of the pita and scooped up a big mouthful of baba ghanoush. You know that feeling when you taste something you clearly don't like but are in a position where it would really be a mess to spit it out? Well, that's how I felt as I winced at the distinctly non-egglplant taste of the alleged baba ghanoush hitting my taste buds. Just then, my table beeped at me again. Pocket kings. I clicked raise and scrambled for a napkin. No napkins in the bag! Fuck. My face screwed up at the runny, dull non-eggplant eggplant glop still on my tounge as my opponent three-bet back at me. I capped and made a break for the kitchen. No paper towels! There was no choice but to swallow. I nearly gagged and tried to concentrate on the pita part of the taste as I forced it down. What the fuck part of the eggplant WAS that? I chugged water and sat back down as the flop came out K-8-2. At least I won a nice pot, though my appetite for macrobiotic cuisine had definitely waned.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Right now, I'm loving the Elizabethtown Soundtrack. Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, Patty Griffin, Elton John, and other goodness. There's something about the song choices Cameron Crowe makes that just let you taste the themes of his films through music. They're also, more often than not, the actual songs he listened to while writing the scenes. Those who know my favorite films know that I'm wild about Cameron Crowe, but somehow, I just wasn't wild about Elizabethtown when I read the script about 2 years back. Crowe's films have a way of lifting me up and reminding me why I'm in the movie business, but this one didn't do it for me on paper. I'm hoping hoping hoping that the onscreen finished product changes my mind, but I have a feeling that I'm gonna walk out the theatre even more in love with the songs but frustrated by the picture.

At least if that sucks, there's great football this weekend. And someone's gotta hit that freakin' jackpot!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Change the Master and Slowing Down

Some guy called my office today to see if I'd be interested in giving a screenwriting master class online. I totally laughed at this dude on the phone, thinking it was some elaborate fucking joke that some biz friends may have orchestrated, but it turned out to be the real deal. Turns out some former colleagues recommended me. I'm still cracking up at the thought, because I don't consider myself a master at really anything, but if some fresh, eager L.A. transplants chasing the dream think it's worth it to plunk down cold hard cash to hear my advice, I'd say the least I can give them is the truth. Not in a bitter mean way of course, (like get out of town you naive dreamers, this place will eat you alive I say!) but I doubt I'll sugar coat anything. For example, if you want to "make it," for Christ's sake don't write some blithering indie ensemble drama because it's your "passion." Write Wedding Crashers 2. Because that movie will actually get made. Wait, that was too bitter.

I played my usual slew of SNGs last night, but I also hopped over to the Party Bad Beat Jackpot tables when I saw that it was up over $375K. I sat 2-4 for a little over an hour and picked up $130 for my first positive LHE cash game session in what seems like months. Granted, I haven't been playing Limit Hold'em on any sort of regular basis since maybe July, but did it ever feel good to book a winning session again.

You know what was the difference this time in my play? Nothing really. Except for the fact that I SLOWED DOWN. I thought things out. I didn't just pop in a raise on the turn (like every other California limit player) without stopping for a minute and thinking through the hand. I played tighter than usual, and I'm usually pretty tight. I didn't go too far with dicey hands. And I took my time with decisions. I think it made a HUGE difference in my play. Perhaps it was my real problem with limit all along.

I don't believe the jackpot has hit so I'll certainly be giving LHE another go tonight. With Hollywood closed tomorrow for Yom Kippur, I may even make my way down the 10 Freeway for a little Commerce action after blissfully sleeping in. If any LA Bloggers get the same jones tomorrow, I'll be the strawberry blonde girl in the Full Tilt hat sitting 4-8.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Donk'd: The Rehab Report, Week 1

If I were to write about this weekend at the tables, I'd have to write about bad beats. Yet, I don't feel like re-living them as my ass is still bruised where it was kicked again and again and again by the deck, and I know none of you really want to hear the gory details. All I'll say is that 7 of my 20 SNGs ended in bona fide, 90% to win or better, money in with the best of it, bona fide suckouts. Four were of the runner-runner straight or flush variety and that was really too much to handle in one day. So many of the tables I landed at on Party were just fucking weird. For instance, I don't think I've ever sat an $11 single-table there where 8 players were left at the $75-150 level. Now, I can say I've done it twice. For some reason, Stars and Full Tilt's donkeys at the $22 and $33 levels were far more beatable for me this weekend, especially in those late-night hours when I'm so glad I'm on west coast time because the east coast college kids are all playing silly at 5 AM. Here are the sad stats:

$11 NLHE SNGs: 17 played. 5 cashed. -$60
$22 NLHE SNGs: 2 played, 1 cashed. +$28
$33 NLHE SNGs: 1 played, 1 cashed +$48

Total SNG profit for the week: +$16

The worst of it is that of the 20, I didn't win one. Tres pathetique. But I will not judge myself harshly. Say that again. I will not judge myself harshly. There are 80 SNGs to go.

Micro Limit O8: -2.37 (59.25 BB). Still a donkey, but not hemorraghing cash at it.

Various LHE/NLHE cash games: -79. This number would be positive were it not for one hand. My rockets were sucked out in a 4-way capped pot on every street when the fish next to me rivered two pair after calling the whole way with QT. That was a $95 pot. But my $$ was in with the best of it the whooooole way.

Tournaments: + $27.22 I played one $11 one where I went out in the middle after picking up very few hands, though later in the day, I cashed in the $24+2 $6K Guaranteed on Full Tilt, which I entered via a token won in a $4.40 SNG. Finished 25th of 296 and picked up $42.62. Pretty happy with my play in that one, especially that I stayed aggressive near the bubble.

Overall Week 1: -$38.16. I think Showcase made more in $5 SNGs last night than I did all week!

And now, the first installment of...


The Setup:

Here's an interesting situation I ran across last night. I'm in an $11 SNG on Full Tilt. It's the second level with 20-40 blinds. Everyone is still in with similar-sized stacks. I am dealt the Jh Jd in the cutoff seat. A loose player on my direct right raises to 120, or 3x the big blind. I re-raise him to 360. The button folds, and the small blind, whom I don't have a great read on yet, cold-calls the 360. The original raiser also calls 240 more. There is 1120 in the pot going to the flop.

The flop is Q 3 6, all spades and the small blind immediately pushes all-in for 1380. He has me covered. The first raiser folds. It's the rest of my chips (1080) to call here with 2500 total in the pot now. What's the right decision?

The Thought Process:

My first instinct in this situation is that my opponent made an all-in bet as a defensive move to protect his or her hand. There's no way he would have pushed in with a made flush-- it makes no sense. The all-in here is a bet that discourages action rather than encourages action, unless he's pulling some tricky move, but that also makes no sense at this stage and at these stakes. No way I'm giving him credit for being that creative/fancy. So I think he has some sort of a hand here, but it's very vulnerable. Likely an Ace-high or King-high spade draw with AK. He could also have a medium to high pocket pair, like TT, JJ, or QQ but I'm doubtful of AA or KK. Why not AA or KK? I think he would have moved in over the top of my raise before the flop. This guy wanted a flop with this hand. I also feel like TPTK with the AQ is also unlikely, given the out of position flat-call of my re-raise pre-flop. AQ is a pretty easy muck preflop in that situation.

The Math:

1. What price is the pot offering me? It's 1080 to call to win the 2500 out there. So I'm being laid about 2.3-1. I need to be sure that I have at least a 43% chance of winning here in order to call.

2. What do I have left if I fold? I'll have 1080 and be the table short stack, though it's certainly enough to work with at this early stage of the tournament.

3. What will I have if I win? I'll have 3580 and be the dominant chip leader.

4. How do my red jacks stand up to my opponent's potential hands?

JhJd vs. AsKd 52%/48% (Ace high flush draw)
JhJd vs. ThTc 90%/10% (underpair, no spade)
JhJd vs. TsTc 58%/42% (underpair, with spade draw)
JhJd vs. JsJc 32%/68% (we have the same hand but he has the spade draw)
JhJd vs. QhQd 2.5%/97.5% (overpair, no spade)

Since I'm in no way a math savant (though as I write this out, I'm realizing that this situation does make for an excellent case to become one) in these sort of situations, I find that I make my decisions more on "feel" and instinct than anything really specific when it comes to the math. In this situation, my read was that there was a very strong chance, perhaps more than 50%, that he was making a semi-bluff with the Ace high flush draw. The all-in bet this early in the SNG to protect a big pot out there, the frequency of which I see this move (and my read turns out to be right), and the fact that he did not reraise me before the flop to define the hand right then and there were all factors I weighed as the clock ticked down. In the end, I concluded it was a 50/50 situation; either I was crushed or slightly ahead. Plus the pot was laying me a great price. So I called.

OK, but was my call mathematically correct? After the hand, I ran the "Harrington Math" based on my thought process. I weighted the probability of each of the hands he could have-- I thought there was at least a 50% chance that he was on a semi-bluff with the flush draw, and I assigned 10% to each other hand where I was a huge dog (an overpair with a spade, an overpair without a spade, an underpair (TT) with a spade, the other two jacks, and a bluff).

Opponent's hand my % to win x prob. he has that hand

Ace high flush draw (.52)(.50)= 26%
Bluff (.90)(.10)= 9%
Js Jc (.32)(.10)= 3.2%
underpair w/ spade (.58)(.10)= 5.8%
overpair no spade (.025)(.10)= .25%
overpair w/ spade (.043)(.10)= .43%

Total probability for my hand to win: 44.68%
With the pot offering me 2.3-1, this was just enough to call.

So what would you do in this situation? And how did this hand end?

My opponent turned over the two black jacks and won the pot when the ace of spades fell on the turn. I was knocked out in 9th place.

I welcome any and all criticism.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

28 Days

Thank you to everyone who wrote such great comments on my last blog. You bolstered my spirits and made me truly not regret my last post. As for the hole, it's patched, the spackling is dry, and tonight the paint goes over the whole mess. And for now we're done with Pot Committed: the Karate Edition.

As I was procrastinating returning a slew of phone calls this afternoon, I did some thinking about what my new short-term poker goals should be, and what sort of time period I should shoot for. And then it came to me.

Drug rehab lasts 28 days, so why shouldn't poker rehab? I'm checking myself in!

Halloween is 28 days from today. In addition to my efforts to stop mentally beating myself up after a bad run, I have five concrete, poker-related things I'd like to accomplish before October 31:

1. PLAY 100 SNGS TO BOOST MY BANKROLL. This will be my primary form of poker for this month, and for me, this is not an unreasonable amount to shoot for. Plus I fucking love these things. 75% of these will be $11 SNGs, 25% will be $22 SNGs. I'd like to play the vast majority of these on Party since they're softer, quicker, and I'm sufficiently 'rolled on that site already for this experiment. Not to mention the beauty of Pokertracker compatibility.

2. STICK TO A WEEKLY TOURNAMENT BUDGET. On Saturdays, I need my tourneys. Telling myself I'm not going to play MTTs is like telling myself I'm not going to eat chocolate. It just won't happen. In reviewing my results from the summer, I've actually been running well in MTTs and steadily improving my play. However, tourneys are the easiest way to piss away all that SNG profit. Ergo, I get two a week on Full Tilt, plus the 500 point freerolls, which are excellent practice. Also-- it hasn't been a problem for me lately, but playing tournaments during the week is not a good idea for me. I'll continue to stick to the weekends.

3. PLAY NON-HOLD'EM GAMES ONLY AT THE LOWEST OF LIMITS. I think I have Drizz and Princess Maigrey to thank for this idea. I was reading Drizz's post about the 0.01/0.02 PLO game they played last night and it reminded me that I had a few pennies left on Stars. 30 of them to be exact. I played some 0.02/0.04 Omaha 8 at lunch and the play was no better or worse than the 0.50/1 or 1/2 games at Full Tilt where I donked off over $90 last month. And I turned that 30 cents into 66 goddammit! This will be my new venue for developing my non-hold'em games, and I can do it with virtually zero bankroll pressure. Though I enjoy Stud, Razz, and Stud 8, October will be about Omaha. From everything I hear, online O8 games are great and getting better and in order to be able to take advantage of that in the future, I need to build my skills. Plus, O8 is funnnnnn and a great way to break the HE monotony.

4. PREPARE TO RE-APPROACH LIVE AND ONLINE LHE CASH GAMES. Not in October, mind you, but I'd like to take some time this month to re-read parts of Small Stakes Hold'em and Jen Harman's Limit Hold'em chapter in Super System 2, as well as continue to review my Poker Tracker data from that bad downswing I took earlier in the summer. Limit Hold'em used to be my best game. And I miss my crazy L.A. casinos. The games there are always good and I think they need a visit from me later in the fall. Even Hollywood Park.

5. POST A "HAND OF THE WEEK." It can be a winning one or a losing one, it should just illustrate an interesting poker situation I was involved in. I'll post the hand, analyze it the best I can, and welcome any comments or advice.

That's my plan and I'm stickin' to it.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Fixing a Hole

"Welcome to Osh Hardware, how can I help you?"
"Hi, could you tell me where I could find a drywall repair kit?"
"Aisle 15."
"And do you really have like, a kit or is there a bunch of seperate stuff I should get?"
"Well it depends. How big is the hole? Is it like a nail hole?"
"No, it's bigger than that."
"How big?"

Only an hour earlier, I had been sort of enjoying my Sunday morning, doing normal (for me) Sunday morning things. I was up, drinking Diet Coke, and playing a couple of SNGs on Party while CNN droned in the background. Showcase finally woke up around noon while I was on my third SNG. I had finished 3rd in one, 4th in the second, and was playing four-handed in the third with a healthy stack. He asked me if I was in the mood for breakfast at our favorite diner, which I was, and I told him I'd be finished within 15 minutes. Then I bluffed the wrong guy and lost about half of the stack I had worked so hard to build. And then two hands later, in a "fuck it" moment, I pushed in with JJ and got sucked out on a bad river card. It was a dumb-all in move, because I could have just raised and probably moved my opponent off his hand on the flop. But I was on TILT. Not just from the hand before or the morning's three disappointing SNGs, but from an entire weekend of hours and hours and hours of play with NO money. I logged off, closed the laptop and went into the bathroom, to steam and calm down and to try and get ready for our diner brunch.

That brunch would never happen, because the minute I shut the door, rage just consumed me. I was beyond pissed off. How could I spend this much time on my game and not be able to cash a fucking thing this weekend? I'm a smart person. I read all the fucking books, I analyze all my fucking trouble hands, I try so fucking hard but WHRE ARE THE WINS?! WHERE'S THE CASH?! I just wanted to kick something. Usually I'll settle for the rubber trash cans outside or my pillow-top mattress, but this time, the wall was the closest thing available, so I kicked the wall. I kicked it three times. And it felt pretty good. Unfortunately, I chose the same spot for all three kicks, so on the third one, my bare foot punched straight through the drywall.

Showcase was really pissed and he had every right to be. As I cried and apologized and promised to pay for everything, he said to me, very calmly, "You know what? You have a problem. Because now you're punching holes in our walls because of gambling."

Maybe I did have a problem.

At the hardware store, I bought a drywall patch, a small hand sander, a bucket of spackling stuff, and one of those spatula-like things that spreads the spackling stuff. I spread some newspaper beneath the size 7 1/2 hole, and started sanding the edges of the opening. Mike Matusow stared back at me from the cover of last month's Card Player, which was stacked on top of Lucky and US Weekly on the edge of the bathtub. As I sat and sanded, I wondered, is that what I'm bound for? Sick degenerate-land? Could I really be that bad or at least headed in that direction? And what had REALLY made me so angry, because we all know it wasn't just three SNGs or even 48 hours of sub-par results that made me kick the wall. It went much deeper than that.

Phil Gordon writes about the "Sick Gambler" in his new treatise on No-Limit Hold'em, "The Little Green Book." He says, "Sick gamblers are soothed by losing. It's the only way that they can confirm just how unlucky, undeserving, and cursed they are... They expect to get beaten. They expect the river card to help my hand. They expect that every time I'm on a draw, I will get there...They are going to lose their money, at this table, another table, or the craps table. Someone will end up with the chips." Matusow is a textbook example of this sort of behavior (though, perhaps in its most extreme form). Losing $200K on a couple of sports bets while in jail? Hurling a new laptop into the swimming pool after a bad beat online? That's a sick gambler.

Was I a sick gambler just because I kicked a hole in my bathroom wall? Probably not. But I certainly had been playing like one before I went postal on the lavatory. That morning, I had sat down at my laptop EXPECTING TO LOSE. I was expecting to lose because I had been running bad for about a week. I was expecting to get unlucky because I was having the kind of weekend where my set of nines would be sucked out by my opponent rivering a set of queens. How could I possibly expect to win when my mind was telling me that I was already a loser? Moreover, why was I feeling like such a loser? It's not like this was my first, second, or even fifth truly rough patch as a player. I hadn't even lost much money at all this week. Overall, I was positive for September! So the question wasn't really just WHY was I feeling like a loser, it was WHY NOW? And if poker could potentially make me feel this low and self-destructive, why was I continuing to spend so much of my time on it?

Why was I playing anyway?

I played my first hand of Texas Hold'em at a Friday night home game in late 2003 with a bunch of assistants from the office. I was in the middle of both a practical and an existential crisis, as my longtime boss had just left the company I worked for and within the next two weeks I was either going to finally and deservedly be promoted after 3 years of 60 hour weeks, or tossed out on my ass with a severance check. I loved Vegas and I loved Celebrity Poker Showdown (especially that cute host) so why the fuck not try it myself. I left that game at 5 AM with a fistful of twenties, having come in second in the tournament. Two weeks later, I was indeed promoted and let out a huge sigh of relief. I was an executive now, and though executives first and foremost try to conduct business over expense account meals, a lot of shit happens on the golf course, or on the basketball court, or on surfboards off Malibu Pier. Well poker could be my social game since I was in no way shape or form a golfer, a baller, or a surfer. And I loved it. I loved the game so much and started teaching myself in earnest. And I started to actually get good at it.

As I got more serious about improving my game over the next year, work started sucking. Not sucking as in, I was letting assignments slide or getting in trouble-- it just wasn't as invigorating for me as it had been in the past. Right before my promotion, I had been on a movie that was in production, but that film was finished now. I wasn't keeping such crazy hours and flying to location on eight hours notice and doing conference calls with writers in Europe at 4 in the morning. My time was more of my own and the time I now found myself with, I filled with poker. And the more I realized that my new gig wasn't everything I thought it would be, the more I played. Work sucked for a lot of reasons, but I think the main reason I started getting so bored with it was because my job wasn't the challenge it used to be. And I'm the type of person that needs a challenge (and to succeed at it) in order to feel complete and save myself from that evil inner critic I can't quite kill. I knew that even on days when my heart wasn't in it and I was running at half-speed, I could still do my film job well and no one would ever tell me otherwise. With poker, though, every single hand held a new intellectual challenge. It was pure. It was risky. There was huge potential for failure. And it sure was more fulfilling than reading half a dozen body-switching comedies per week. Plus, I could make money at it. And I did start making money at it.

So that was why I started to play. But what about the "why now?" Where had all that anger come from? It was actually so simple. I was angry at myself. I was angry that I had even sat down when I knew I wasn't in the right headspace to do so and I was angry about how I had subsequently played my hands and donked off my chips. I was still angry about how I had played a big hand the day before that ended up costing me a whole tournament. Most of all, I was angry that I had done all of these things when I knew better. No one is harder on herself than I am. And that really has to stop if I want to take my game to the next level. Beating myself up will only make me lose.

In "Ace on the River" Barry Greenstein wrote that good players are honest with themselves. As I sat on the edge of the bathtub yesterday afternoon, spackling over the now-patched hole in the wall, I realized not only how much pressure I put on myself to win, but also how the money had become too important to me. The monetary goals I set for myself were WAYYYYYY too big and long-term. Like "pay off school" and "get out of debt." Poker may eventually enable me to do those things (and I have paid off one card with poker money) but in order to be a consistent, winning player, I have to rid myself of thoughts that poker can solve my financial woes in the short-term. Yeah I got robbed and got a lot of shit stolen. Yeah my car is a piece of shit and my apartment building is falling apart. Yeah I'm 28 and I'm really sick of earning pretty much the same salary as I did when I was 21. But that's where I am right now, for better or for worse. It'll take a lot more than a couple of winning months to change that.

I hope I haven't terrified you all with my honesty. As a first step before returning to the felt, I'm going to think about some short-term goals that might help me re-focus my game. Hell, I think writing this post and "blogging it out" has helped me re-focus and identify some of my biggest weaknesses. But I'm definitely not going to play tonight, seeing as it might scare Showcase. And I don't think I'm ready yet. I might be in a day or two.

But not until I finish fixing this hole.