Archive for October, 2009

Tales from the Underground

So back in high school I used to play in an underground card joint. I wasn’t 21 yet and home games were my only option for live poker. My father wouldn’t let me deposit into an online poker account either (at least while I lived under his house). I studied 2+2 and read poker books for about two years before I even played a hand of online poker.

Naturally, being a student of 2+2, ‘Supersystem’ and ‘Rounders’, I sought adventure and cash games throughout the city, ’rounding’ as it were. We had homegames lined up all over, and were constantly seeking new ones at every whim. homepokergames.com was a swell place, and my friend and I found a game near a run down shopping center, in the corner, hidden from sight.

It looked like nothing. The plaza itself was ghetto as hell and the proposed game was nowhere to be seen. We walked along an ally across from a dive bar, eventually knocking in a (seemingly) abandoned building. There was a camera from the outside and the glass was blacked out.

We were buzzed in, a short hallway leading to the locked door. A crazy looking fellow led us into the game, a smoky den with 4 or so tables spread out. Hardasses were lined along the table, and we were by far the youngest demographic in that room. Only one game was spread during that time, a 1/2NL game, and it was ran by a true hardass, a guy we came to know as ‘Boxer Bill’.

The game was soft, as expected. This place (lovingly labeled as ‘the secret garden’ by my friends and I) would be one of the many games my friend(s) and I would visit. The game was filled with some peculiar characters…crack heads, a bookie (who was allegedly connected), con men, bums, and fat whores. There were many instances in which I felt less than comfortable, wondering when I was going to get robbed. The game was obviously a ‘private’ one, and the legality was questionable at best- I highly doubt the owners of that place filed taxes on that place. I heard that a few years ago, the place got robbed.

The dealers would be labeled as ‘bums’ by many standards. There was a dealer there named Dave, probably around 32 or so, a bum. Had no home, no job, dealt in the game (as well as he could). But Dave was a hustler, and he found ways to make money. It was a normal session…by this time, I was a regular in the 1/2NL game, which ran two or three times a week. I brought my friend Curt to the game, a guy who actually introduced me to poker. If it weren’t for him, I probably never would have gotten into it. (I can actually remember his extreme desire to initially rent the movie ‘Rounders’ and the impact it had on us). With that aside, it was maybe his third time at the game.

So the game is just about to start and some of my other friends were there. Though all of us were reasonable players (relative to that time), there were still plenty of fish, and usually at least two tables running. Dave the dealer was dicking around with a deck, and some friends and I were talking at an empty table.

Dave came over to us, deck in hand.

” hey…wanna see a trick?”

“sure”

“pick a card” (I’m sure you can see where this is headed)

So we picked a card (the Qs if I recall correctly). He flipped three cards around, telling us to follow the Qs.  our card was SO SO SO obviously where we thought it would be.

“Where’s the Queen?”

“there” (we pointed at the third card), he lifted it, revealing the Qs.

“Lets do it again”

We repeated the process, getting it right again. Thus, the hustle began…

“You guys want to play for money?”

My friend Ben paused. I shook my head. “Nah man, I’m not a sucker…thanks though. I’m not going to fall for that shit.”

“Alright, your guys’ loss. Lets play a few more times”

(We proceed to play a few more times, obviously we win every time). He continues to chime “Welp, that’s $20 you could have won…That’s $15 you could have won”

So on the last try, Dave the Dealer stared at my friend and I, chirping ” Where’s the queen?…$50, I bet you you can’t find the Queen.” He swaps the cards around, so easy and visible…

“IT HAS TO BE THERE!” Ben exclaimed, pointing at the middle card. “Comon man, split it with me…$25 a piece.”

I paused. It had to be a trick…right? There’s no way it could be there. But it was $25 and he was just asking us to take it.

“Alright, I’ll split it with you. Pick that card”
We lifted the card, in amused shock that the middle card was NOT the Queen (obviously). We paid Dave as he cackled like a madman. He pointed at me and laughed-

“I love it when people say they aren’t a sucker. They always say that shit…I once won $2,500 from a guy in one night off this trick.”

I shook my head, my idiotic high school brain uncomprehending to what just happened. It was a lesson well learned, and perhaps a valuable one. I continued to revel in my own ignorance, still waiting for the game to start. I looked over at the adjacent table and saw Dave talking to my friend Curt, showing him the same ‘trick’ he showed us.

I laughed in amusement when Dave proposed the gamble. Curt said the same stuff as I did, that he wasn’t a sucker, etc. When Dave made the final proposal (after letting Curt ‘win’ a few times), Curt seemed genuinely interested in the bet. I had to step in.

“Curt, Dave just hustled Ben and I for $50…don’t make the same mistake. We fell for literally the same game you’re playing now. Don’t do it.”

Curt continued to stare at the three cards, face down. He was mumbling to himself “I know it’s there, I just know it.”

“DON’T DO IT YOU MORON.”  I continued to tell Curt not to do it, not only because it was idiotic, but because Curt didn’t have a ton of money to begin with (in terms of gambling). I mean, I guess I was stupid enough to fall for it myself, no sense in someone else making the same mistake I did.

Dave the dealer was smiling, making small gestures. “It’s only $40…it’s up to you”

I don’t even really know what Curt was thinking about. Yeah, I was a fucking moron for falling for that trick to begin with, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t have listened to me, his best friend, on whether or not to do this idiotic trick…especially after I fell for it myself. Alas, you know the rest…Curt agreed, lost his $40, mumbled to himself “Wow, that guy is fucking good.”…WELL NO SHIT CURT.

Anyways, I remember I was pissed for a bit but then grew to accept it. I got hustled. I remember I first tried to ‘get Dave back’ by tipping him very marginally while playing, if at all. But when I finally came to peace that yeah, I got owned, tips came back in their normal order. Later on that night he offered to teach us if we gave him $20, but we declined.

What an idiotic hustle. Tons more stories like this too, will type more on this subject in the future.

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ignorance is bliss…

So our wall put up a few new routes from the recent competition they had. They numbered them 1-14, each going up in difficulty. They didn’t officially rate them until yesterday.

I finished 6, 7, and 8 last Friday, completing all of them with relative ease. Yesterday I did 9 (along with a few others).The 9 was difficult, and there were a few moves that took a few falls to figure out.

Today i tried 11 (for some reason, there was no 10th route) and failed miserably midway through. They had tiny pinch holds that I had to use to pretty much do a dyno upwards. As I swung there trying to figure it out, another guy who was climbing another route looked over at me and said “you know that route is a 5.11, right?”

I was in shock for the most part. I could barely get up normal 5.10s, at least to my knowledge. To be frank, I hadn’t even attempted many 5.10s, since I still had some issues getting some 5.9s fully clean (no falls). But apparently the 8 was rated a 5.10 and the 9 was rated 5.10+.

So, naturally, I was ecstatic that I finished these climbs. Yeah, they weren’t pretty, but finishing them was still a cool accomplishment for me. I don’t think I can truly finish 5.10+ on average, nor wouldn’t even come close to finishing them clean…but meh, I’ll keep at it. I’ve climbed the last two days and want to get there at least 4+ times a week. I think my technique is getting alot better, but I need to acquire the hand strength to finish some of those tougher routes.

Anyways, I’ve been semi inspired to make a list of what I want to accomplish…not only in the near future, but life. I guess I’ve been semi inspired by http://www.johngoddard.info/life_list.htm

I’ve been thinking…is it sad that he’s been attempting to accomplish the goals of a 15 year old dream boy? (no matter how badass they are). On one hand, I wouldn’t mind making a list for myself now…but how are those dreams/aspirations going to change throughout the years? Do I just make this list an ever changing entity? Do I even make a list to begin with?

I guess I’ll put some thought into it. Along the lines of the same topic, I’ve been thinking about ways to better my life/things that I want to accomplish/do when I’m out of college (which will hopefully be soon). I’ll have alot of free time since I’m not going to go directly into the working world, and I’ll both have to think about what I want to do socially AND in business.

Anyways, just some random ruminations, cheers.

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football stuff

Alright so our Omaha flag team won on sunday, putting us at 4-2. I think we’ve made a nice recovery and I think we still have a legit shot at taking this league. We’re as athletic as anyone we play (being young helps), and I think we just need to organize ourselves to put us in a better position to win.

Our D plays well for the most part- we have an extremely good pass rush, solid LBs, and a good secondary. Our offense on the other hand, is inept. I don’t know what it is…I think it’s really just our game plan in general. We initially wanted to just attack the middle and the shorter routes, working with a semi-conservative game plan and hoping to take the small gains. But that just isn’t working.

our basic alignment looks something like this, where we go no back, 3 wide, with all linemen blocking (though our center likes to ignorantly go out for passes when unneeded) –

Anyways, we obviously do different stuff with it (or have in the past). Sometimes trips, sometimes trips with an option…the problem with the short stuff is:

-We play on a short field…the Lincoln team’s field is much much bigger, allowing us to get the edge better.

-No real plays this year…we have a few basic bread and butters, but really, not everyone is on the same page.

Those are the two biggest problems. Here is the basic alignment we worked with yesterday-

As you can maybe see, the middle was a clusterfuck. I think we finally decided to open it up a tad bit in the second half, where we bombed it over the top…that’s going to be one adjustment that we’re going to make, in that we’re going to go down field a bit more. I think working some line releases could work too- We tried it once last game, where the C picked up the RT’s responsibilities (my spot) and the RT ran a post.

I think something like this-

line release

I dunno…I think there has to be some way to get some of the deeper stuff there. We definitely need to open up though, those short inefficient routes are killing us.

I didn’t play great last game, I need to step up. I had a few bad snaps when I did backup center. I attribute it to two things- I haven’t played C in a long while, not since I injured my hand 2 years ago. The second was that our current QB lines up a tad farther than our old one did. With that said, it’s still no excuse, and I’ll be practicing the shotgun snaps before the game.

So, yeah…our flag team obviously needs to get better on offense. Our defense can play with anyone in our league though, I believe that. I’m going to have a conflict next week because my game in Omaha is at 4:00 and my lincoln one is at 5:30…I’ll have to figure something out, maybe leave at half time in Omaha.We have our playoff games in Omaha and it’s important I make that one, as both our depth is shorter and the game is more important.

Anyways, UF football- not going super fantastic in the fashion of victory, but hey, they are victories nonetheless. I’m happy that UF is 7-0, and despite the recent grumblings, am still excited for whats to come.

With that said, UF looked less than impressive. The good news is that many other teams have looked less than impressive as well- Bama squeaked by UTenn, UTexas actually looked pretty solid, though, Mizzou sucks balls. As someone who (somewhat) roots for the perennial champions for the BCS championship game, I’m somewhat alarmed that TCU/cincy/BSU are so highly ranked. Not that I don’t think these teams are good; they are…it’s just that I don’t think they are talented enough to play some of the elite teams in the nation, the teams that “deserve” to be in it. But hey, who knows…Like every year, I just hope there are some good matchups come bowl time, as the last few BCS bowls (in general) have been underwhelming.

UF’s D plays lights out, week in and week out. They know that they have to play near perfect, as the offense is truly inept these days. I’d think that the major problems stem from-

-OL issues- lost continuity, just players getting flat beat, missed assignments, etc. Nothing really to say here, other than losing Patchan was alot bigger than I initially thought (he was the semi-starting LT).

-Coaching- I’m wondering what Addazio is doing sometimes, and who is responsible for some of the play calling. TTebow’s number is getting called way too often (imo) in terms of the rushing attack. Yes, he’s a fantastic player, but I think he should have a lighter load. I think that the complete disappearance of a passing game is somewhat alarming, as is the lack of bubble screens, etc.

-Red zone issues are obviously huge. For whatever reason, UF just CANNOT score…losing Harvin hurts here, as we missed some of the jet sweeps and wildcat stuff that we ran more often. Or the quick slant that Harvin always ran, that has not been there. Really, all of the factors above have attributed to a lower amount of scoring for UF…frustrating.

-Tebow- Something isn’t right…be it caution from his concussion or a lack of confidence in his OL/WR, I’m not sure. I guess we’ll see in the future if he can get back to his 2007/2008 careers. He’s still having a solid year, just nothing spectacular.

With that said, I’m still happy with this team. I feel we’re the best defense in the nation, I feel like this offense has alot of talent that can be utilized, once the coaches figure out its issues. in other words, I feel like UF’s offense has alot of upside.

We have UGA this coming saturday, a bit nervous. UGA should never be taken lightly, and despite their recent struggles, this is where they want us- when they are down in the dumps and underrated. They have as much talent as anybody, and can obviously play. Sure, they’ve had missteps at OSU and UTenn, but even still, UGA IS somewhat of a ‘trap’ game, especially with the way UF has been playing. I’ll call it 27-14 UF.

Also took a quick picture of my 100NL run lately…running above equity, so can’t complain!

cheers

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The evolution of the poker world

As both an observer as well as player of the online poker world, I’ve seen alot of changes these past few years. It’s been an interesting ride seeing the developments from the top down, and the direction that online poker has taken.

The poker boom (arguably) began with Chris Moneymaker and online poker enjoyed it’s heyday (at least in this point in time). Millions of players donated money to the regulars, and the games were as soft as ever. Poker itself (specifically, holdem) was relatively new in terms of overall study, math, etc. The players simply were not as good as they are today, and for obvious reasons.

The evolution of online poker is similar to the evolution of many things- the strong survive, the weak drop down or out completely. Easy money (such as poker) does not usually last very long.

As highlighted by some of the previous thoughts in my last post, we as poker players like to attain as much money as possible (who doesn’t?)…and there is really so much money to be made in this game; not only by playing, but by other means (staking, rake back, coaching, training sites, and others). The poker world changes from the top up (in my opinion)- that is, good players naturally rise to the top by however means (be it playing style, running well, whatever). As the game is more studied and better players slowly pick out the old guard (the top nosebleeders today have somewhat replaced the old party killers of yesteryear), it’s as I said- the players move down. Slowly, the lower levels become stronger, and the overall quality of play improves.

Observing some of the lower limit games and such, it’s amazing how much they have changed, even places like 10NL…players are 3-betting light, they are actually check raise bluffing, something that I didn’t see as much when I played 25NL 4 years ago. here’s a simple example of some of the influx of talent-

high/mid/hell, even small stakes regular wants to get some horses. he stakes some 25nl players to play. all of a sudden, that 400NL player is improving the 25nl players to a vast degree, offering them help, strat advice, etc. Those 25nl players improve at an extremely accelerated rate, moving up and dominating 50NL games. Some make it, some don’t, but others advance onwards, some up to MSNL, some up to HSNL, and so on. BAM! the games have just got harder with the acceleration of new found talent.

And you could use this example in many areas of poker…training sites, coaching…things that simply were not available years ago. I’m not sure how long the games will ‘be good’ for- I think that 10NL/25nl and such will always be plentiful with fish, and obviously the regulars will still be getting better. The poker hierarchy is similar to one you’d see in any normal business structure- the elite are few and very intelligent/work hard on their game, and slowly you go down, seeing the MSNL winners, SSNL winners, etc (with people moving up and down through the levels as need be).

So, in summation, the games are getting harder (obviously) for a myriad of reasons (poker training sites, coaching, etc). The strong will survive or move down, only to conquer a level they previously used to beat, and the process will continue. The changing of the guard will begin and end with new talent in the following years, and this ‘trickling’ affect will be seen even at the lowest limits. (This is all obvious after reading it now, but not sure why I was inspired to write it to begin with).

I’ll post some updates on UF/flag tomorrow or something

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Some benefits as a poker player

I’ve been thinking about alot of things lately, and some of those thoughts moved to poker in general. I know I’ve been complaining alot lately (apologies for that), and self reflection has been one of the many ways in which I seek to improve.

With those thoughts, I’ve been thinking about all of the great things that poker has given us as players. The benefits are not just seen in money, but also in the way we think (a gift and a curse I think), the friends we gain, etc. I’ll give a view of some of the benefits of a poker player’s career (or semi-pro career)…perhaps to enlighten those who don’t play for a living (or at all).

I’ve been playing poker (seriously) for 4 years now. During that time span, I’ve seen some good benefits from learning and playing poker-

-Money- This should be pretty obvious. The money in poker is an opportunity that isn’t really seen elsewhere, at least right now. Maybe similar to the dot.net boom decades ago…but poker has allowed teenage kids to make more than their parents, and probably in less than half the time of working. In poker, obscene hourly wages are present, and you can make a living by sitting in your boxers in your parent’s basement for 2 hours a day.

-Freedom- This one should be another obvious. As with other self-employment jobs, poker is sortve ‘what you make of it’…you can make as much as you desire, granted that you put in the necessary hours of work (both study and play). The very best players do both a heavy amount, and those are the ones that truly love the game, that are truly dedicated. Instead of working some crappy 9-5 at Subway (me), you have alot of free time during the day to do what you please (probably something that alot of poker players do NOT take advantage of). You aren’t tied down in a normal sense and you can travel the country (or the world), needing only a laptop and internet connection to succeed.

For many, the freedom aspect is just as valued as the money…some are willing to take pay cuts from a normal job in order to gain the freedom associated with poker. Waking up at your own leisure is great, as is the ability to travel freely when desired.

-The way in which we think about things- As stated previously, this is both a gift and a curse (IMO).

Before poker, I rarely thought about expectation, optimization, the bigger picture, etc. I reveled in my own ignorance, and that was fine- I wasn’t upset about being being ignorant because I simply didn’t know any better. Now, whether you can attribute this ignorance to youth or other psychological/sociological aspects (meh), I feel like poker has enabled me to THINK in a different light. And not that I’m a genius or anything, but poker has helped me analyze people and situations in a more calculating manner.

Reading about poker hands, thinking about alternate lines, thinking about other ways to play the hand, some of the math associated with it, the innate learning I’ve held, all of these aspects have improved my logic in many many ways. 2+2 and discussions with friends have helped me develop ways to structure arguments and debates, to help me organize my thought process- not just in poker, but in life as well.

These days, I constantly think about the most +EV move. Just yesterday, I was thinking on my drive home from Lincoln to Omaha on the interstate. As I was traveling down, I saw a light in the distance, a light that I knew I would have to stop at. The light just turned red and I knew by the time I got there, it would be red. So naturally I took my foot off the pedal, knowing that I would have to brake shortly. Now, this might seem natural and thoughtless, but I observed many cars around me keeping the pedals up, keeping the same speed, only to brake harder as they got closer to the light.

Why would you do this? taking your foot off the pedal and cruising saves gas, and the purpose is the same- you are both getting to the expected destination (the light) and you are both going to have to brake (and stop)- it’s just a matter of when. I’m fine with arriving at the light a little later than them.

This entire thought process is probably pretty stupid, but it’s little optimization things like these that are present in my mind daily. Before poker, I can’t honestly say I thought about these things before, at least as much. I like to think about stupid scenarios as well, like when I’m entering new rooms or buildings, where the nearest exits are and what i would do if something drastic happens (where drastic = whatever scenario you’d like to imagine, I’m sure I’ve thought of it). I also think about the bigger picture alot more- little insignificant things (whatever you may deem) don’t really affect me as they did in the past. Some people flip shit over the smallest things, meh…

I could go on and on really…optimization is a subject that I’m thinking about frequently, and I was debating writing a post on it (perhaps in the future). As I was discussing with a friend last night, even though people like to optimize in the small things, they often screw up hard on the big things in life (probably me as an example). I have a very weird mindset with regards to expected value and optimization…For me, I don’t like to ignorantly waste time. That is, waste time without KNOWING I’m wasting it. Many people aren’t thinking about just watching t.v. for hours on end, they just do it. They don’t think about the consequences, the benefits, and the overall thought process behind the simple task of watching t.v. With that said, I don’t mind wasting time (or doing something that is wasteful and lazy) if I KNOW I’m wasting time (or cognizant of it). I know that must sound retarded, but meh… as you can probably deduct from reading this, I like to understand what I’m doing (and why). (And I realize that when I decide to watch t.v. for hours, it’s obviously the same action as someone else…it’s just that if I realize that I’m doing it, and that I’m wasting time purposefully, then that’s fine. (entire paragraph is stupid, maybe you understand what I mean, maybe you don’t…whatever).

Now, you might think, “oh, that’s cool, you get to think about new shit all the time! your life is going to be somewhat ‘optimized’! ” Well, no…I think that ignorance is bliss in alot of cases (and I can already see people much smarter than me thinking that ‘look at this ignorant fool, he’s a tard’- that’s okay, because I am). I sometimes wish I didn’t think like this, that I could just enjoy life more than I do. Also, after skimming this now, you must think I’m arrogant/ignorant/whatever for having this mentality- please do not think I’m arrogant or trying to boast, screaming “LOOK AT WHAT I KNOW!!”…that is not the purpose.

I have a friend…he’s not the brightest guy, but he works hard, has ambitious goals, and most importantly, he’s happy. He’s not the best at putting logical thoughts together, but as I said, ignorance is bliss, and I wish I could have more of his mindset.

Anyways, just a short sample of a poker mindset. Back to some other benefits-

-Friends- As with other social games or fraternities (like 2+2 is), discussing poker (or playing poker) with opponents or friends eventually leads to friendship (or hatred, one or the other). I’ve met some good friends through poker, some of whom I’ve talked with for the last 5+ years. I’d like to think that these are relationships that I’ll continue even after I’m doing playing poker, but who knows. I’ve met hundreds of people that I’ve met through the internet, people who I know just from discussing poker/life/etc almost every day with.

The sociology of internet forums is very strange…I know that there have been discussions on this topic, and it’s an interesting one at that. People find it so odd that I can meet someone in real life  from the internet and have a great idea of what he’s going to be like, what his interests are, and other things. Poker is unique in that the exchange of money is present- I can give $2,000 to a friend and have him play with it without ever meeting him, and fully trust him.

Anyways, this is a long post…I’m sure there are many, many other benefits to playing poker.

With that said, if one attempts to take up poker based on money alone, it’s probably not going to happen. As with nearly all successful ventures, one has to be dedicated and passionate about it when deciding to learn something. I had some friends in real life who all wanted to play seriously…but they didn’t have the fire, passion, etc to learn. It’s not that they were mentally incapable, but that they only sought the money (and money only)…and if you do that, poker will never be for you. I’ll probably elaborate on this later on, when I discuss some of the ‘meh’ aspects of poker playing (it ain’t all a honeymoon, that’s for sure).

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