Thursday, March 22, 2012

Updates & Trip Report - Celebrity cruise from San Juan to the Southern Caribbean islands

It's been awhile since the last post.  First, a few updates:

  • Life is going well.  I continue to excel in school, with 5 classes now under my belt in pursuit of my MBA at Johns Hopkins.  Last semester was one of the more useful classes, Corporate Finance.  Net Present Value (NPV), Future Value (FV), Free Cash Flows (FCF), NPV of annuities, etc. was very useful.  I'm in fact using it to value investments I'm considering in the form of purchasing real estate in the Univ. of Maryland / College Park area.
  • Segue to the investments.  I'm considering purchasing a small condo in the College Park area as I alluded to above.  The price is fairly cheap, but getting a loan for an investment property is apparently incredibly difficult.  I'm running into funding issues.  Moreover, it seems that even though 25% down is required for the loan, investment purchases in Prince George's County, where College Park is located, require quite a bit of up-front escrows in the form of taxes.  I'm looking at about 25% + ~15% in closing costs alone.  I was considering partnering with my brother-in-law, but I think he's uncomfortable with the net cash requirements.  Anyone out there know how to get real estate investment loans?  Any suggestions for contacts?
  • I've been toying with the idea of starting an investing blog.  It would be nice to have a place where I can convey my thoughts about ideas I have for investments.  I have been on somewhat of a buying binge (since February), when I was able to roll out prior 401(k) moneys that had been rolled into my current job's 401(k) when I joined my current company.  I've purchased a few companies, and have done well thus far: MAKO Surgical (MAKO) @ $36.21 & $35.58, Corning (GLW) @ $12.95 & $13.53, Jinpan International (JST) @ $8.42, Microsoft (MSFT) @ $30.21 & New York Community Bancorp (NYB) @ $13.23.  Would love to go into my rationales for purchases, but am happy I'm up around 8% collectively.  Problem I have is that the S&P500 is up ~6.9% over the same period...  are my returns simply beta from the market?  I'm confident in my investments, but I'm never sure as to how to properly measure them.
  • Bodog / Bovada is shutting down its business to residents of Maryland.  No big loss here; I wasn't playing all that often since they stopped publishing names of players.  However, this leaves me without an online poker home.  Any suggestions for U.S. facing sites that I could deposit?
Celebrity cruise trip report:
I got back from a cruise with my wife, originating from San Juan and hitting: St. Croix, U.S.V.I., St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, St. Thomas, and back to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  It was a fun time - beautiful ship, the "Summit" - and they naturally had a poker table.  It seems that every ship I've been on has at least one table, and this ship did not disappoint.  The table was a PokerMate table consisting of 8 player seats with 8x ~17" 4:3 touchscreen displays, coupled with a ~30"16:9 display in the center to show bets, community cards, blinds, etc.
I've played on this type of table prior, and the interface remained identical.  Once you get the hang of protecting your hole cards by pressing in a location on the screen, it is similar to playing online poker with the exception that your opponents are sitting in front of you.  You can set up preferences for you session (i.e. auto-muck, auto-post, etc.), and change languages.  Other than that, the game plays like a regular poker game - bet / fold / raise / etc.
The play was ridiculously soft; I would love to be trapped on a ship with these turkeys as my captive audience.  Besides the one other player who knew what he was doing, the rest of the players fell into two types: ones that were happy to take gambles for the entire stacks with any pair and others who would meekly fold to significant action.  Figuring out each player type was fairly easy, and it became as simple as waiting for a hand to stack the calling station types (who would call all manners of pre-flop bets as well - didn't matter whether I 3-bet or initially raised big), or pre-flop raise the meek who would usually call and fold to a cbet.
The primary problem with the poker on board the ship, though, was the arduous task of getting enough players for a game in the first place.  I refused to play the sit-n-gos that they scheduled (twice nightly, but at inconvenient times - during dinner and the show), so I was relegated to cash games.  Gathering up enough players at the right time was such an ordeal that I played a total of 3 one-hour sessions before the game broke up.  The first session, I ran poorly and dumped ~$70, but the next two I would wind up winning for $170, making my 3 hour poker foray a profitable one.
The secondary problem with the poker on board was the rake.  It is a miracle that I beat the rake, a hefty 10% up to $15!  Highway robbery, anyone?  I get that the Celebrity Cruise Line needs to make their nut, but come on - you want games to play, so why not encourage them?
The nicest part about the tables, in addition to the personality of each player who, by the way, were in vacation mode and super happy to be gambling, was that the casino would offer us a round of drinks whenever we got a cash game together.  At least "some" money was "rebated" back to us.

At any rate, I have a quick hand history for you:
$200 effective stacks around.
EP raiser who was semi-loose / solid raises to $6 which was fairly customary for the table.  MP (loose / bad player) flats and LP (tight / bad player) flats around to me with AKo.  I jack it up to $25 which folds the blinds and gets EP to flat, along with MP and LP.
Flop comes a very coordinated 4♣ 5♣ 6♣ - all clubs - giving me the nut flush draw holding the A♣Kx.  Checks around to me and I lead into the big pot with $40.  I get instantly check/raised from EP to around $80, with MP flatting and LP flatting.  I'm getting GREAT odds and sit there for a minute to figure things out.  While I'm contemplating my move (which skews heavily towards a shove for my remaining ~$160), MP shakes his head and says, "you're not going to believe this."

What would you do?

Click to see results

I folded my cards. I couldn't imagine any scenario where I was ahead, and had huge floating visions of straight flush, once the loose / bad MP started yammering. I knew that I was beat by the EP at the moment; was pretty sure he flopped a set (solid though straightforward player as he is). I had no clue what LP was doing in the hand, but my main concern was EP... Why are EP & LP flatting to a check-raise instead of getting it in? Things were not adding up for me, and I conceded that even though I'm getting great odds, I have to fold here. The turn, natch, was a club and the river a blank, netting me the nut flush. However, on the reveal, EP shows a set of 5's, LP shows a Q high flush (Q♣Qx - no preflop 3bet / 4bet / etc.) and MP shows ... 7♣ 8♣ for the flopped straight flush and the sweet triple up. Needless to say, I was patting myself on the back. Probably the only time I've folded for a read of a straight flush.

Quick follow-on: same player who called my 3bet would sit down 2 nights later with ~$100 and go broke on the third hand of that night to weird action he called my $8 PF raise with A2 vs. my KQ on the button.  The flop was 2 x Q - an EP caller led $10, he flatted, I raised to $30, EP folds, he raises to $60 and I shove (he calls).  See what I mean?  Bad players abound...


  1. I'm playing on Lock Poker, you should be able to get cash on there

  2. Try Iron Duke Poker, seems safe and easy. Also, I have found a good ebook geared specifically to the small stakes player on Amazon - Be the King!

    Find it here:

  3. I actually have liked Bovada with the change. It keeps the table monkey chatting to a minimum. I sure miss Full Tilt, though.

    Yeah -- the rake on cruise ships is nasty. I believe it was $16 max on the last cruise I took. However, between donking it up in Hold em and Caribbean Stud, I was ablre to pay for my ticket.


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