Thursday, September 26, 2013

Casinos do harm? Pshaw!

Sifting through the Drudge Retort this morning (on my Feedly RSS news feed), I came across an interesting article discussing the merits of local casinos.  Drudge pointed to an opinion piece on CNN discussing the harm that casinos do to communities - something which I can relate to, as Maryland recently voted to expand gaming within its already established casinos and add 2 new casinos within the next 4-5 years.

I recommend reading the article if you have a moment, but the crux of it is something that I had suspected for years: "[S]tate-sponsored casino gambling ... parallels the separate and unequal life patterns in education, marriage, work, and play that increasingly divide America into haves and have-nots. Those in the upper ranks of the income distribution rarely, if ever, make it a weekly habit to gamble at the local casino. Those in the lower ranks of the income distribution often do. Those in the upper ranks rarely, if ever, contribute a large share of their income to the state's take of casino revenues. Those in the lower ranks do."

Look, the reality is that I'm all for allowing people to do as they choose.  If you don't want to wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle - and you're someone who's mature and responsible enough to make that decision - more power to you... You're obviously smarter than the data and research that otherwise suggests that wearing a helmet gives you a greater chance of surviving a serious crash.  Don't want to wear a seatbelt?  Same answer as above (so long as you're an adult and deemed responsible to make decisions for yourself; kids are a different matter).

However, I think that purposely allowing casinos to open in areas easily accessible to lower income earners is a terrible choice.  I'll own up to the fact that I voted for Maryland's Question 7 - "Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate "table games" as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the State; and to increase from 5 to 6 the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George's County?"

The reality is that I really wish that we as residents could have voted for the individual approval though.  I never would have voted for a Baltimore casino if I had the option.  According to the Baltimore Sun and the U.S. Census Bureau, "One quarter of Baltimore residents (and 37% of Baltimore children) live in poverty."  Baltimore's poverty far supersedes the 15% nationwide poverty rate.

So let me get this straight:
  • Casinos most deeply affect the poor and downtrodden
  • The percentage cash expenditure of gambling vs. income by people in poverty is far higher than those in the upper income distribution
  • We're [Maryland and its residents] putting a casino in an area easily accessible to a poverty stricken city
In effect, Maryland (and Baltimore) is indirectly angling to deepen the plight of the poor by extracting more revenue out of a people who [theoretically] can't help themselves.  Not only that, but the casino is going to be put it in a convenient location - walking distance from many poor parts of the city - where the community can be more readily drained of the contents of their meager wallets. 

Sounds rife with stupidity on the state's part...  Maybe I do have some liberal blood left in me after all...  

P.S.  I wanted to share this tangentially-related statistic, also cited in the CNN article: ""a Canadian study that finds that the 75% of casino customers who play only occasionally provide only 4% of casino revenues. It's the problem gambler who keeps the casino in business."  A poor and/or problem gambler is a recipe for communal strife in my book.

P.P.S. And please don't comment about how ironic it is that I'm writing this but yet I'm a poker player doing the same thing on a man-to-man basis.  I think poker sees very few walking poor sitting in at the tables.  Perhaps it is due to my limited, myopic view of the world, but I see far more problem gamblers who at least give the appearance they can afford it than I see poverty stricken individuals.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The toll of playing poker

It's funny how cliches are sometimes so spot on they seem "tailor made" for the situation.  It's funny how other times, they couldn't be more wrong.  The cliche I have in mind today is "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree," with regard to parents and their children.  In a lot of ways with regard to my life, there's truth to that cliche.  I do share a lot of habits and traits with my parents.  On the other hand, in a lot of ways, I could not be more different.  Let me share:

My father used to play poker.  I remember growing up in my parent's house and he'd host a game every few Thursdays.  They'd play 1/2 NLHE - he had just about every walk of life in the game.  There was a car salesman, a degenerate small business owner, an unemployed rounder (or so my 8 year-old self thought of him), and everyone in between.  My dad was the insurance salesman.  Mind you, this was in the '80s, so I guess a 1/2 home game was a decent sized game.  I remember they used to open a new deck of cards every game to ensure against marked cards.  I remember my dad telling me stories about a guy who used to cheat the pot every once in awhile, but they all tolerated it because the guy was a losing player.  (As an adult, it reminds me of the opening scene of The Wire where the thug tells McNulty, "This is America, man.")  I was enamored with game, and my dad telling me how much he'd win every time.  Since my dad was naturally my hero back then, it only elevated his status to me that he was Robin Hooding his way through life to help our family be better off (this is an 8 year-old's view of the world, after all).

Fast forward to ~1993.  My dad's insurance business has declined significantly.  He's lost interest in sales, lost interest in being a good dad, lost interest in being a good husband.  Or maybe he never had that interest, but only had the appearance of that interest in my 8 year- now turned 17 year-old mind.  My dad is more or less a loser.  He's a loser at life, he's a loser at his job, and most importantly, he's a loser at his family.  My mom has always consistently worked as a teacher for what would be in 1993 ~25 years.  The roles have changed in that she's the bread winner of the family, cooks, cleans, and mothers, while he wallows in his own depression, working when he wants and leading the princely life he feels the world owes him (when the reality is that it's my mother paying the life tab).

My father hits what I thought was a low in that year; he tries to commit suicide (which was not a real attempt but more a cry for help).  He gets the help - seeks psychiatrists, though the financial situation remains static.  The psychological help he receives seems to do nothing, but I'm out of the house at college; family life is ~300 miles removed and I'm having a good time!  My poor sister is left holding the bag for the next 3-4 years until she can finally get out from under that roof.  I think I return home for one summer, but that's the last time I live at home.

Transition a few years later to the man who is now my father.  He has decided that his home games and limited casino action are good enough to make him into a full time poker pro.  Over a series of visits to Atlantic City, he comes away (I imagine) a big winner.  As the frequency builds (he has more time because he works fewer and fewer hours), I suppose he keeps winning.  He decides to spend days at the tables down in AC, giving it the ole' college try (he never graduated college).  He checks in with me periodically (I'm away at school during this period) to tell me about his exploits and frequent wins.  I play casually with a few buddies at penny stakes - the limit to my poker interest.  However, he continues to win and win and win - or so he tells me.  One day, a few years after graduation - it must've been around 2001 - my mother tells me that they're having major financial problems - they're going to cash out some of the equity on their house to pay off some "debts" my father has collected along the way.  Apparently, he's run up a credit card to shell game his way into "winning at poker."  This credit card debt is large enough that I'd assume he owes $50k+ - probably closer to $100k.  I imagine that the debt became too large to handle month over month that he was forced to inform my mother or face frozen bank accounts and seizure of property (jointly owned) which would be a surprise to my mother.

My parents almost get a divorce (advocated by me to try to protect my mother), but marriage prevails and the guy is forced to swear off poker for real money for life.  My ex-father(?) is now a real prick.  He's totally focused on himself at this point; a narcissistic person with absolutely no impulse control.  In conversations, he's claimed to me that he has "no responsibility over his own actions; he shouldn't be held accountable for the things he says and does."  He spends my mother's hard-earned money, showering himself in gifts and luxuries such as expensive watches, pens, computer equipment - anything that suits his fancy.  At this point, he gets a limited income from his residual premiums from his days as an insurance salesman.  My mother foots the bill for almost everything life-related including the mortgage, utilities, etc.  He wants a new car?  He goes out and gets a new car.  He wants a new tablet or phone?  He goes out and gets one of those too!  I'll never understand how my mother can watch him pamper himself while she gets nothing in return.  I still shake my head in wonderment about how my mother didn't leave him; the behaviors have not changed all that much to current day, so I still wonder.

Anyway, I get heavy into online poker a few years back.  I get into it to the point where I'm playing every night, every opportunity I have in free time.  It should be noted that my wife didn't sign up for this when we were married - poker was a recreational thing back then.  However, it was new, it was a hobby, and it wasn't costing anything - well, except time and emotion - more on that in a bit.  To step back a few years, I dabbled in online poker prior to getting serious - maybe spent around $500 in total deposits at various sites (over the prior 3-4 years) to play for a night or two here & there.  If you'd like, you can look back at some of the original posts on this blog.  One day - June 2009, I got serious about it.  Started studying ranges and understanding odds.  Started studying hand histories.  Started doing all the things a successful online player needs to do to earn money.  I deposited $40 on Full Tilt and never ever deposited again.  I built up on an online roll from that $40.  I traded my way into an online roll on Stars.  I freerolled my way into an online roll on Bodog / Bovada.  From that starting $40, I've made a bunch of money - cashing out over the years & never having to re-deposit ANYWHERE.  I'm pretty proud of that fact (if you've done something similar, consider yourself in an exclusive club of 10-20% of all poker players).  I'm pretty proud of the fact that my father tried to convince me that my run at the poker tables was an aberration and could not be maintained consistently - that poker is luck and it's only a matter of time 'til you're luck runs out - yet I was undeterred and persevered.  This coming from a guy who considered himself a "poker pro" for a few years - LOL.

As an aside, I would try to have poker conversations with my father, but they'd generally go nowhere.  I'd explain pot odds, quick arithmetic at finding out odds of getting the best hand (i.e. rule of 2x 4x), etc., but it would all go in one ear and out the other.  It was comical to find out how little my father knew about poker other than instinct, or I guess distilled down: reading people.  What I thought were conversations were really just one-sided; he'd claim to have forgotten as soon as I told him about the math behind poker.

4+ years later, and my "run" and "luck" still continues.  I've taken my game from online to live (out of necessity, thanks to UIGEA) with a bit of difficulty, but I think things are mostly in order & under control at this point.  I do want to talk briefly about the costs of poker, even though the costs are intangible - the costs of emotional stress and time.

I was never much of a tilter online.  I'd study my problem hands, try to figure out the issues / leaks, and fix them.  The beauty of poker is that you can play the hand correctly but still lose.  The reality is that you can only hold yourself accountable for the mistakes made.  There is not one else you can blame if you get your money in behind in an incorrect way; i.e. you get outplayed.  For what it's worth, the money won / lost is of little consequence; given enough volume, the suckouts will cancel out all the times you got it in good and your hand held.  Early on, though, when the bankroll was shorter (i.e. 15-20 buy ins at a particular stake or level of play), my moods after playing were frequently dictated by how I did for the night.  I would argue with my wife when I had a particularly brutal losing night.  It wasn't a regular occurrence, but it did happen more than once on occasion.  Its hard keeping emotions bottled up, particularly while being married to someone who expects you to be mood-free when you shut off that computer or end that session.

The more frequent emotional toll to my wife and our relationship were the hours spent ignoring my wife.  I need complete concentration while 10-15 tabling; interruptions could not be tolerated because it would mean a loss of money.  The reality is I should not have been playing with near the frequency I was - I was hooked on the rewards scheme that Full Tilt had created - Iron Man.  I needed to put in X amount of hours per day in order to achieve the highest reward.  It was a challenge that I did not want to back down from.  Looking back, although it made us some money, it was really stupid and not worth it versus the long run toll it would take on our relationship.  In that regard, I'm glad the online days have passed.

I've never missed important events due to playing poker, but I recount all the time I spent thinking about the game - not fully engaged in whatever event or family function I was involved in.  Physically, I was there, but mentally I was thinking about hands and problem spots.  I recount all the decisions I made that were centered around giving me time to play online.  I have no doubt that I created a a ton of angst for my wife by my online play.

Looking back, I am not and do not intend to be a career online player.  If online poker ever gets popular again, I very heavily doubt that I'll ever get back into it with the same vigor as I once had.  I realize that the experience and time I've put in over the past years has certainly enabled me to be the player I am today. However, realizing that this is not a full time job, nor a part time job, I don't envision ever trying to masquerade it as such.

Some points that may resonate:
  • For me, it was never about the money.  It was always about whether I am making the correct play.  Being married to a non-poker player, she never wants to understand it.
  • It took me a while to realize that I needed to maintain a separate live bankroll from ordinary cash.  She can't understand how I don't quit when I am down even 50-$100, but always "forgets" when I have a nice win to more than counterbalance the losing days.
  • I don't want to talk about the losing days with my wife since she is not a poker player nor does she want to learn about the game.  She's since learned not to ask; I'll now offer the results if I feel like it, but I hate the inevitable "sigh" when she hears about a loss.  It's not a forced reaction; I think it's more an acknowledgement that in her mind.  She sees that I lost car payments for both cars for the month which is a big deal for her (again forgetting about all of the "up" days).
  • The scorn felt early on by being a "poker player."  My wife's family initially judged me to be degenerate when they found out I was playing online / live poker with regularity.  The aura that surrounds being a poker player is filled with negativity and mistrust.  Following that are fears of gambling addition and concerns for being around "those people;" the very poker players that I describe in this bullet.  I think they've come around full circle on this and accept my poker playing as an ability, not a detriment.
  • My mother was particularly concerned given my father's debt problem due to poker.  It's understandable; her experience with poker was a negative one.  The reality is that I'm one of the most fiscally conservative guys I know - on paper, it's an oddity that I've embraced a game that centers around odds and chance.  The reality is trusting those probabilities is exactly what makes the game predictable and stable.  The game is more than just spinning a wheel which you have no control over - aka roulette.  The game is more of a get your money in good and x% of the time you'll win the hand, and 100-x% of the time you'll lose the hand.  In isolation of one hand, yes, you'll lose and disbelieve the statistics.  However, replay that same hand 1,000 or 1,000,000 times and you'll win money.
  • The uncanny ability to dwell on a hand or series of hands.  I can stew for hours or weeks on a particular hand, all crossed up as to whether I played it right.  The game is so subjective that there isn't always a correct answer.  This mental energy takes focus away from the things that are important.
Anyway, I leave you with the opening clip from The Wire.  If you haven't seen the series, I highly recommend you taking a few hours to check it out.  It's one of the best series on TV *EVER*.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

FINALLY!!!! - Full Tilt Claims Administration Notice

For those living under a rock, back on April 15, 2011, the United States government seized Full Tilt poker's assets.  As a result, the player funds were trapped and have been frozen ever since.  2 and a half years later, the Full Tilt player base is finally in line to receive its rightful share of their accounts back.  It should be noted that the owners of Full Tilt have long been paid out for the sale of the site and / or acquitted of all charges.  It should be noted that although there was major supposed accounting issues with the online site, the main shareholders of the site continued to live their lives unscathed - continuing to live in nice, expensive houses, with nice, expensive cars, sticking it in the eye of the account holders by continuing to play high stakes poker, golfing, and otherwise living a carefree life filled with revelry and debauchery.  WTF?

Nevertheless, I am happy that it looks like I will receive my portion of the player funds, a modest sum.  I suppose I consider this "found money," since I had kinda written off the $~2k years ago as a cost of doing business in the post-UIGEA poker world.  I guess I'm going to take this money and do what I do with all my money - hookers & booze!  Okay.  Maybe not - who am I kidding?  It's probably going into the bank never to be heard from again until retirement.  Boo!  I guess I wasn't really missing it in the first place.

Anyway, received this letter last night from The Garden City Group, Inc. (GCG), the company appointed by the government to distribute the asset base:

TO:         United States Full Tilt Poker Players Who Were Victims of Full Tilt Poker’s Fraud
I.        Purpose of this Notice
       The purpose of this Notice is to inform you that you may be entitled to receive a distribution from the assets forfeited by Full Tilt Poker (the “FTP Fund”), which resulted from the settlement agreement resolving the allegations in the amended civil forfeiture complaint in United States v. PokerStars, et al., 11 Civ. 2564 (LBS), pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (the “Action”).  You must complete the online Petition filing process in accordance with the steps in this Notice in order to be potentially eligible to share in the distribution from the FTP Fund.  This Notice is being sent to all potentially eligible victims of FTP’s fraud who have been identified by The Garden City Group, Inc. (“GCG”), the Claims Administrator retained by the United States, utilizing data supplied by FTP.  As explained in greater detail below, Petitions for Remission must be completed online through the administration website at
Petition Number: XXXXXX
Control Number: XXXXXXXXXX
II.        Background
       In July 2012, the United States entered into settlement agreements with FTP and PokerStars, two of the three online poker companies named as defendants in the Action brought by the United States alleging bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses.  Under the terms of the settlement with FTP, the company agreed to forfeit virtually all of its assets to the United States in order to fully resolve the Action.  The amended complaint filed in the Action alleged that FTP defrauded its players by misrepresenting to the public that player funds held by FTP were safe, secure and available for withdrawal at any time.  In reality, the company did not maintain funds sufficient to repay all of its players and instead, utilized player funds to finance more than $400 million in dividend payments to FTP's owners.
      Under the terms of the settlement with PokerStars (the "PokerStars Settlement"), the company agreed, among other things, to forfeit $547 million to the United States and to assume FTP's liability for the approximately $184 million owed by FTP to foreign players.  The PokerStars Settlement also provides that PokerStars will acquire Full Tilt’s forfeited assets from the Government and precludes PokerStars from offering online poker for real money in the United States unless and until it becomes permissible to do so under relevant law.
       Utilizing funds forfeited from PokerStars, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (“AFMLS”) of the United States Department of Justice have established a Petition process by which eligible U.S. fraud victims can seek compensation for their losses.
III.         Eligibility Criteria
       To qualify for a payment from the FTP Fund, you must satisfy certain eligibility criteria described below.  Those criteria include the following:
    1. You must be a U.S. citizen or you must have resided in the United States at the time of playing on the FTP gaming site.
    2. You did not receive compensation as a foreign FTP player in connection with the PokerStars Settlement.
    3. You must have deposited funds into an account with FTP.
    4. Your account with FTP must reflect a balance owed by FTP to you as of April 15, 2011.
    5. You are excluded from participation in the remission process if you are:
      • A past or present employee of FTP or any of its past or present affiliates;
      • A past or present vendor of FTP that received compensation through FTP players’ accounts;
      • A past or present Team Full Tilt player;
      • A past or present shareholder of FTP, Tiltware LLC, Kolyma Corporation A.V.V., Pocket Kings Ltd., Pocket Kings Consulting Ltd., Filco Ltd., Vantage Ltd., Ranston Ltd., Mail Media Ltd., or Full Tilt Poker Ltd.;
      • A past or present officer or director of FTP, Tiltware LLC, Kolyma Corporation A.V.V., Pocket Kings Ltd., Pocket Kings Consulting Ltd., Filco Ltd., Vantage Ltd., Ranston Ltd., Mail Media Ltd., or Full Tilt Poker Ltd., or any of their past or present affiliates;
      • A defendant in any civil action or a claimant in any forfeiture action brought by the Department of Justice related to the violations alleged in this action, or any related action (or any of his or her affiliates, assigns, heirs, distributees, spouses, parents, children, or controlled entities); or
      • A person who, as of the Bar Date, has been the subject of criminal charges related to the violations alleged in this action, or any related action (or any of his or her affiliates, assigns, heirs, distributees, spouses, parents, children, or controlled entities).
      Please be advised that receipt of this Notice does not indicate that you have been determined to be eligible to participate in the FTP Petition for Remission process; if AFMLS determines at any time, before or after you submit a Petition, that you are not eligible for remission, your Petition will be denied.
IV.        The Distribution Formula
       The amount that an Eligible Petitioner is entitled to receive will equal the final balance in the Petitioner’s account with FTP as of April 15, 2011 (the “FTP Account Balance”).  You may view your FTP Account Balance through the online claim filing process at  Once you log on using the Petition Number and Control Number set forth above, you will receive directions for accessing your account information and filing a petition and/or disputing the reported account balance.
         If the funds available for distribution from the FTP Fund equal or exceed the aggregate FTP Account Balances for all eligible Petitioners, each eligible Petitioner with an approved claim shall receive the entirety of his or her FTP Account Balance.  If the aggregate FTP Account Balances for all eligible Petitioners exceed the monies available for distribution, payments shall be made to eligible Petitioners on a pro rata basis.
       Prior to the payment of funds to a Petitioner, GCG will provide the Petitioner’s Social Security or other Taxpayer Identification Number to the Government, in order to offset and collect any qualifying debts currently listed in the Treasury Offset Program Database.
V.         Online Filing Deadline
VI.         Petition Determinations
       GCG will email to each Petitioner AFMLS’s determination concerning his or her Petition.  If a Petition is denied in whole or in part, GCG will state the reason for such denial and the Petitioner can appeal the ruling through the reconsideration process.

Monday, September 16, 2013

I terrorized my table last night... (Continued)

Continued from yesterday's post of "I terrorized my table last night..."

As we left off, our hero is sitting on a stack of around $600 and having a very good night.  He's having a very good night.  He kinda gets a lot of action rolling when he raises a $5 straddle to $25 on the BTN with 23o (yes, you read that right, folks!).  He claims he was collecting dead money, but the joke was on him when he got two callers.  The flop was nice enough to him, though, a prety 2 4 5 flop, giving him up & down plus the weak pair.  A $75+ pot calls for a cbet here at least - our hero has equity, of course!  I choose to bet $55 and the lone old nit at the table flats.... uh oh!  The last guy I want to see is a guy who I can't make fold.  I lost value on him with my turned straight hand earlier in the night, and I was determined not to a. lose value again or b. pay him off any more than I need to.  So we see a turn 8 and check it through.  The river was a bitter sweet 6.  He proceeds to bet $100.  I insta snap call (I don't think a raise is in order because I'm so often behind him when he shows up with an un-foldable 77.  I'm delighted when he shows a pair of 3's for the chop and the table is oooh'ing and ahhhh'ing.  They're talking about how that's the hand that's going to get me paid off later.

As with poetry in motion, I'm getting towards the end of the night I stuck this poor guy for ~$350 on two real head scratchers.  New guy, middle aged Asian dude, sits down and quickly builds up a $~400 stack when the table kinda goes bonkers between straddles, limp straddle / raises (I mean like 6 limps -> $25 straddle raise -> $100 3bet -> call call -type shit...  Crazy stuff and this guy happened to catch a piece and get paid $200.  I claim to be the guy that started all of the wild action based on the above hand, but I digress.

I'm in the BB with J4o and get a 6 way limp to check my option.  Flop comes J 4 4 rainbow.  Did I mention I have J 4 - the effective nuts?  I don't think betting accomplishes anything here, so I check and new Asian guy leads for $15.  It folds around and I c/r it up to $45!!!!  Booyah baby!  Call me crazy, but they've been doing some crazy shit at this table.  As he's contemplating action, I show him a Jack without actually flipping it; I flip the corner up for him to see and tell him to go away (I would later indicate that I have AJ).  Undeterred, he calls and shows me his Jack- tells me he KNOWS I HAVE AT LEAST A JACK.  Turn is a King.  This time, I lead for $60.  He snaps me off.  River is a blank 8 I think.  I lead $190 and he's tanking.  And tanking.  And I'm talking and talking and ask him to see his cards.  He flips up KJs and the table is looking quizzically at him for not snapping it off here - especially after I flip up my Jack as well.  I'm trying to do my best tap dance to keep the guy on the line - looking on in supposed horror as my AJ goes down in flames to a better two pair.  And I'm squirming in my seat.  And I'm staring at him.  And I'm looking away.  And squirming.  And the fish gets off the hook by folding :-( :-( :-( :-( :-(!!!!  PUKE!!!!

But I was to have my revenge... oh my sweet sweet revenge!  An orbit or two later, he's still talking about the hand - and he is absolutely 100% steaming here.  He's the quiet type, but he's talking about what I had - swearing I had JJ - or J4 - but utterly unconvinced, and utterly confused.  I grabbed $105 of his stack and I would have liked it all.  But my justice cometh early when I am dealt JJ in mid position and raise to $15 after a limper.  He calls, as does like the whole table (well, around 5 of 'em) and we see a 3 4 J flop rainbow.  YAHTZEE!!!!  No way I'm slow playing here - and I know the table wants to look me up light.  And I know the Asian guy wants to call me light!  I lead for $45 into the busting $75 pot.  One caller - same guy, poor Asian dude.  He's got about $190 behind.  Turn is a kinda ugly 2, completing the only draw out there.  I don't reckon he's on the draw, though.  I think he has two pair, mid pairs, or TP + backdoors.  Perhaps he even has an overpair.  I put out two stacks of red ($200).  He snaps me off so fast that I'm sure my JJ is toast - he has to show up with 67 or A3!  He doesn't show at all and the river is an oh-so-beautiful 2!  I show my Jacks over deuces and he storms off.

I really would have liked to have seen his hand, though I didn't get the opportunity.  I was curious whether I got lucky on the river or totally coolered him.  I am still questioning how he folded the KJ hand even after I SHOWED him my Jx; it was a good fold without a doubt, and he tanked for about 5 minutes...  I'm not saying I'm not capable of the same; I think I fold the c/r flop with his hand, but he was intent on peeling one off.  By the turn, I think I raise my supposed turned better top two to see what the weather's like - to see how my opponent reacts; raise the $60 to $120 (min raise) or something like that.  It's obviously a dangerous thing because you're way ahead way behind.  But once you call the $60, I think you're pretty committed to calling any bet on the river.  All of a sudden, your top two is bad on a blank river even though you think you're good on the turn?

Too bad the river wasn't another 4 - I would have gotten paid BIG TIME because of Zeebo theorem.  Oh well - I still cleaned hm out - and I probably wouldn't have gotten paid on my Jacks full if he had been cleaned out from the earlier hand.

And that, folks, was my 5 hour night at Maryland Live!  Stay tuned for new craziness next week!  Hope you enjoyed all the bogus cliches i.e. "poetry in motion."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I terrorized my table last night...

Every once in awhile, I'll assert myself as the dominant player at the table.  I generally don't like doing that because I don't like being under the microscope by players who can't wait to look me up light.  I like to be the guy at the table who's cracking jokes, talking, being generally annoying - but aloof and unsuspecting.  I' like to be the "friend" at the table, if that makes any sense.

To the summary - I have a bunch of hands to share, so I'll probably break it up into segments.  The night started off pretty quickly when I checked my BB option into a 6-way limp pot with J9hh.  I folded probably 2 orbits and was down maybe $10 from my original $200 buy in.  The flop came as good as good can get with QhTs2h - I flopped open ended + flush draws.  The SB leads for $11 and I take my time in thinking whether I should be raising or just calling.  I want people encouraged to enter the pot, but I also want to ensure that my flush draw is good.  Obviously, in a limp pot, drawing to the QJ high flush is not necessarily great if there's a Kh & Ah out there in someone's hand (and the KJ is also drawing to the nut straight).  I think one or two people called before the uber aggro young gun (buckwheat styled Afro) pumps it up to $41 on the BTN.  SB immediately calls and I'm again facing a decision...  This is kinda how I hoped it would work out - I'm fairly certain the SB is a donkish player and isn't drawing to the flush, and I'm semi-certain the BTN is aggro-ing it up but has a pair or something.  At this point, though, with calling putting 25% of my stack at risk and making the pot uncontainable, I opt to shove the remaining $179.  Afro guy fist pump snaps and SB snaps his remaining $100 - I'm in trouble(?).  We start talking about the hands and I find out (based on reactions) that I'm ahead of Afro guy and SB flips KQ(? LOL).  Turn 6h and I sweat the 2h river but scoop a decent pot to start my night.

The next hand of note (and I literally took notes last night), I think I really played poorly, though with an excuse.  I limp JTo in late position and we see a 5 way flop of Ks 9s 3x.  It checks to me and I stab at the $10 pot with a $10 bet.  Folds around to old nit who's sitting on a mountain of reds - about $800 - who calls.  Turn is a golden Qx.  He checks and while I'm thinking about how much to bet, touching my chips and cutting some out, he starts to move to fold.  I absolutely don't want to price him out, but the move felt very genuine and subconscious.  I was going to bet $25, but I opt for $17.  He snaps it and we see a river 9x.  He again checks to me.  Now, I'm good here a HUGE percentage of time.  I'm also getting tells from him that say I'm good; he doesn't have a boat here - 99.9% sure.  Here's where again, though, I compound my $17 small bet with another small bet.  I think against a nit like this who has exhibited calling station tendencies, I need to bet HUGE - as in $50-75+.  The pot has $54+5x limps = $~60.  If I bet huge, it looks bluffy and he can't lay down.  But as I'm carving out, again he moves to the auto fold thing - a "fold hold," if you will.  I level my bet down to $30 to try to force a call which he does automatically and he's mystified when I show the straight - he actually took 30 seconds scratching his head about what hand I had.

I would not value own myself again in the night.  All the rest of my bets and hands were big and [most were] getting paid.

So I'm in a hand with a local ~30 year old.  We've been chatting it up quite a bit.  He's in software development, new[ish] father of 2, etc.  He's playing a bit drunk - he's had 2-3 Bourbon & Coke(?)s within the past 3 hours on an empty stomach.  I can see he's making little biting moves like min raising air.  The first time he did it when he sat down was on me.  I had missed the flop, thought nothing of the raise of my cbet & folded.  I'd now seen him do it a handful of times when we get into the following which may be questionable - but I stand by my decision (FWIW, I also know that he loves to play his button):

I raise 77 in late position to $15 after 2 limpers.  I get called in 2 spots - developer dude (on button) & someone else.  Flop comes A 6 5 and I figure it's as good an opportunity as any to cbet into 2 players.  I cbet $22 into $45 and raises me to $44 (he has about $100 behind).  As I'm contemplating my move (most times it's a fold), two things strike me: why is he raising an Ace high board in position, and why is he totally staring me down and facing me up.  It was such a classic tell that I thought he was acting strong when he was strong (instead of the classic act strong = weak, act weak = strong).  I mean... he was practically in my face, and he was 2 seats away from me!  I continued to think about the situation and quickly concluded that he doesn't have an Ace.  Then I started talking to him.  I told him that I don't have an Ace either...  I shoved on him for the remaining $100.

Now he's in a pickle...  He starts talking about odds and how he thinks I have nothing, but his nothing may be worse than my nothing...  I try my hardest to convince him that I don't have an Ace - I should have shown him I'm on the draw with a 7, but in retrospect, I think he'll read that to be 77 rather than 78.  Regardless, after contemplating his "odds," he calls his KTss.  The board runs out clean & I scoop.

I imagine I'll get grief from this hand because the claim will be "you have a bluff catcher - do you really want him folding his bluffs there cause the only thing that's calling you is a hand better than you..."  I think this was really a player dependent situation.  I think he's a bit drunk and with the liquid courage, willing to call a bit lighter than usual.  I adequately convinced him that I did not have an Ace.  I was 100% convinced that he did not hold an Ace nor a pair.  He was talking to me as well and convinced himself (with my help) that I did not have a pair either.  On top of that, add the fact that his turn bet is coming no matter what; I'd rather get the money in on the flop when I know I'm good rather than on the turn when any overcard pops and I suddenly pay off bad money.  That's probably poor logic as well, though, but just a thought.

The next two hands kinda fit together, so I'll continue my story tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

HU Texas Holdem a reality in a casino?

I stumbled across (HT: Freakonomics) and interesting article this morning, which I thought I'd share.  Apparently, researchers have come up with a way to master heads up limit hold'em via computer algorithm / artificial intelligence.  I've always been interested in bots - this seems to be the first viable candidate, if you're to believe the article.


Monday, September 9, 2013

More tales from Maryland Live!

I rarely get time to play on the weekend, but I got the opportunity to play Saturday - and I seized the moment.  Going up with my buddy Josh, we hit up the new poker room, getting seated around 11:00 - immediately upon arrival.  Tangentially, I called ahead for the both of us - putting us on the list for 1/2, 2/5 and 2/2 PLO.  It was uncanny; 1 1/2 hours after calling and precisely when we arrived, we get called and seated...  sometimes I guess I run good.  At any rate, we were both seated at 1/2 tables right next to each other and started play immediately.

I dropped down $50 almost immediately, raising $15 with AKdd and flopping a gutter - weak cbetting $25 and check / folding the turn $45 bet from the single caller I got from my cbet.  Treading water for a bit, things started to look up when I found a bit of confidence raising AQo from MP to $15.  The same caller as described above called my $15 open and we saw a J 5 8 board.  I led for $25 and he flatted.  We checked through a deuce turn and the river paired the board with a J.  I checked once again, ready to give up on the hand, but dude leads for $~35 on the river.  I smell bullshit and look up his A9o to win with my better Ace high - from the looks of it, I probably fold the turn bet, but when he checks through and suddenly bets what seems like an improbable trips on the river, most pair hands are checking through.  My 2 street check also signaled weakness to the aggressor, making this spot seem like such an obvious spot for a bluff, which again, led me to look him up.  I hate the Ace high lookup, because there's so much bullshit that he can be "bluffing" with the best hand (i.e. X2, X5), but I just can't see weaker players not turn betting their top pair, but also not checking through what could possibly be trips for their opponent - if that makes any sense.

Anyway, the good times continued when I 3bet KK in the SB to $45 after a host of callers called a $10 open from an EP raiser - got folds out of all but 1 player who had recently sat down and run through $280 in immediate fashion (the chip runner could not replenish his chips quick enough...) - BINGO; the exact player I want calling with ATC.  The flop came AsXsXs and I held the Ks.  With $200 behind, I'm never folding here, so I opened the flop for $100 (there was probably around $140 already in the pot).  He thought for a bit and folded - bummer - but calling $45, I have to figure he's ready to play for stacks like he had in the prior 5-10 hands he'd played.  Anyway, a $95 win is a decent with on an Ace high board with KK and the nut flush redraw.

I later limped 66 and hit bottom set against a SB two pair who refused to lay down (bets of $15 -> $35 -> $65) which in retrospect probably could have been a bit more.  I hit AA once and KK 2 more times, but didn't get paid on them :-(.  All in all, it was a decent session, and my Maryland Live! experience has been most profitable thus far.

To round out the night, Josh played his free slot play - he won $15 in free play - and won $92 in a short time!  That's 2 for 2 for those counting the return on investment for slots.  Perhaps I should convert to a slot player instead of poker.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Quick addition to the Maryland Live! post

First: Happy Rosh Hashanah to my fellow Jewish readers.  Have a Happy New Year!

Fictional depiction of my wife:

Now to the point of the post:  I forgot to mention that since I signed up for a new card, I got $10 in free slot play (new card members get a spin on a wheel to determine how much free slot play they win from $10 to $750).  So, as a continuance from the prior post, I finished my last hand at poker and ran down to the Cheesecake Factory, where my wife & kids were waiting.  I knew I had this $10+ free play sitting and wasn't sure whether I'd have to redeem it today or lose it, so after dinner, I went over to customer service to see what's up.  Well, since I was with my family, I couldn't very well take the kids into the casino.  However, the casino is set up where the slots are located right next to the entrance, where spectators can stand without actually going into the casino.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I abhor slot machines; I don't believe you can win at them.  In fact, my son was commenting to me about how many people there were playing the slots and how it's (his words, not mine) a "sucker's bet."  Anyway, my wife & I decided that she would gamble the $10 by the gate so that the kids could see us degen it up.  So there my wife sat, opting to play a $0.02 machine by the door - can't remember the name or type of machine at the moment.

Now I don't think my wife particularly enjoys slots either, but she does like it more than me.  However, she has a methodology for how to play free money which consists of cashing out after every win she gets.  In other words, she'll run a few $$$ through the machine, and when she hits a winner, she cashes out the winning money instead of letting it wash through the machine again.  FWIW, I'd imagine our expectation on the free play (total wild ass guess, as 67% of statistics are made up on the spot) is around a 50% return, as has been our historical return.

Well, she demolished that historical return.  We watched her max bet "lose" around $3 ($0.50 per spin I think) before winning $0.20... meh... cashout.  Then she dropped down another $4 when the following happened: the slots spun and she lost the spinner part, but won "free spin time," or something like that.  After a bunch of bells & whistles (2 of the kids were less than interested), we started watching more intently.  Suddenly, the machine announced that she hit the mini jackpot - $230!  I don't keep stats on the free play / slots returns, but I'd imagine our return on slots is in the neighborhood of 30,000%!!!  Booyah!  I just hope she doesn't want to start a new career as a professional slot player.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Finally! A [short] poker session!

As has been par for the course lately, I've been balls-to-the-wall busy.  This [extended] weekend, the Meister family took a trip up to NJ to attend a bris for a new baby in the family.  The trip was uneventful, but it was a 24 hour turnaround - up Sunday, back Monday.  I was fortunate enough to convince the wife to leave NJ prior to any major traffic, so we made it back to Maryland around 4:00PM.  Knowing that MD Live! had their new poker room open this past week, I hustled the wife into taking the kids to go shopping, intending to go "check out" the new room and achieved great success!  She took the bait & went shopping - my son needed shoes, my daughters needed clothes and who knows what she wanted...  But I got to play a short session.

The rundown

Parking was a pain - I'm not sure whether I'm just dumb or if it's always a hassle there, but parking was painful.  I had to park around a block away from the casino, maybe further.  For those who don't know, the lay of the land is that the casino is located immediately next to a Mills outlet mall property, so you have a mall surrounded by a huge parking lot, and a casino with an 8 floor garage.  Now it should be noted that I did not venture into the garage, figuring it would be a bigger pain, but the parking "near" the casino was consumed by shoppers and casino patrons.  However, parking was my only complaint; all of the other details are on the upside.

I found the room in the back corner of the casino.  The way they run it, you line up outside of the room to wait to register your name on the waiting list.  I arrived and waited in line for around 20 minutes before finally being granted entry and signing up.  They had a huge variety of offerings, from HORSE to 2-2 PLO (and up) and 10-25 NLHE.  I think I saw a Stud game going as well, which was somewhat of a surprise.  I signed on for the 1-2 and 2-5 NLHE games (1-2 was 117 deep and 2-5 was 45 deep), as well as the 2-2 PLO which was open seating.  I opted to waitlist myself on the 2 lists while taking the seat and passing time at 2-2 PLO (fun fun fun :-) ).

The poker room consists of 2 floors, perhaps a bit smaller than the Charles Town poker room - 52 tables, from my understanding. My 2-2 PLO table was located upstairs, but they don't have a cashier upstairs, so I had to wait in line for chips at the downstairs window.  After getting chips, hitting the head (I just drove in from NJ, after all, and a car ride tends to make nature call), I journeyed upstairs to find table 46, 2-2 PLO.

There doesn't seem to be a logical ordering of the tables, though I'm sure there is, but it was near impossible to find 46.  Once I finally found it, there were no open seats, though I saw a bunch of familiar faces at the 1-2 tables (a bunch of people from the Chuck had already migrated to MD Live).  There were a ton of open seats at 1-2 tables, and I sat down at one.

The seats were leather or leather-like.  Very comfortable.  The tables had no betting lines; mostly plain tables with a leather bumper / padded ring and cup holders for drinks embedded.  The chips were 95% brand new.  The dealers were mostly experienced, coming from Charles Town, AC and Philly to deal.  The players were about what I expected; the fish were very fishy - I'm assuming that the fishy fish will be weeded out within the year or two, like what Charles Town experienced.

Playing with a players card yields $1 / hour credit towards casino goods / restaurant.  They have a bad beat and a mini bad beat (Aces full of Tens beaten nets 10% of the bad beat - not sure how they qualify the hand though).  Drinks and food in the room were weird; prices were like $2.11 or $3.44 instead of even numbers like $2.00 or $3.00.  I think beers are $5, though.  There's free wifi access, and of note, the cell service sucks (at least for AT&T).  No need to post when coming in as a new player.

The play was mostly loose passive.  Lots and lots of limping, rarely a 3bet, and no creativity.  The old guys were nuts only and the younger guys were reckless aggro.  I'll have to share a few fish stories with you as well as a hand:

Fish story 1:

I'm the "fish" in this story, because I misread my cards.  I limp J3hh on the BTN or CO and we see a 6 way flop of A Q 3 rainbow (one heart).  The fishy fish leads for $8 and gets 2 callers and I decide to peel a turn.  The turn is a J completing the rainbow board.  Fishy fish again leads for $8, gets 2 callers, and I pop it to $32, happy with my 2 pair.  No one has shown aggression and I'm fairly certain my 2 pair are good.  Fishy fish insta-calls, tight gentleman (in fact, I think he was an Canadian online player) calls after much hesitation and another guy folds.  River is a 7(?).  Checks to me and I same bet $32.  Fishy fish INSTA CALLS (like lightning) and Canadian gentleman is long faced and folds (later claims he folded AJ - I believe him - he says he put me on KT for the straight).

I flip up my "2 pair" and call 2 pair to the somewhat dejected fishy fish who shows Q 6o.  Only problem is that I flip up J5hh, no J3hh like I thought I had!  Bummer - $64 wasted and what and idiot I am.  What an even bigger idiot the Q6 guy is; what was he "soul reading me" for J5 when I myself believed 2 pair to be good?  And he's never believing I have an Ace or a better Q?  LOL GG.  Facepalm on myself but I'm salivating for this guy calling with middle pair on a scary board against me.

Fish story 2:

Same fish, I'm not involved in the hand.  Decent to good player (better than me, I think) raises limpers to $17 in the BB and I dutifully fold my suited Ace - all limpers fold to the same fishy fish who calls in the CO.  They see a 9 6 2 two diamond flop and fishy fish immediately leads for $30 or $40.  [I'll call him] Good player contemplates and talks to fishy fish for awhile, trying to get a read, before announcing all in.  He's telling fish AA is good there; if he has AA, good game, or something like that.  Fishy fish nearly beats him to the pot, calling off his remaining $~100 for a total of $134.  Cards run J(?)d 9d and fishy flips up 9x5d for the 4 flush and trip nines to good player's overpair of Tens.

Facepalm; I feel for the guy.  Fish couldn't understand the problem after good player started to grouse about the hand.  To good player's credit, he stopped talking about it fairly quickly and fish was none the aware.

Well played hand 1:

Dealt AA in  mid position.  I raise to $15 with 2 limpers already in the pot.  Good player calls on BTN and limpers fold.  I really wanted fish in the pot, but so be it; he folded what I guess was absolute garbage (apparently 95o is not garbage).  We see a J 9 9 flop and I cbet $25.  Player calls and the turn is a blank.  Here's where I would normally bet $50+ on the turn to a bad player, but I check the turn and expect a bet to be followed by a river bet.  I know my player will float me or call his pair of Jacks on the flop.  I'm fairly certain he doesn't have a 9 there.  However, if I continue to bet, I think it makes it easy for him to fold.  If I let him bet, he feels comfortable trying to push me off the hand, which is what he tries to do.  As planned, he leads for a meager $25 on the turn.  I hesitate, then call.  The river is a blank and I check.  He bets $50 and I raise him to $100.  He folds.  Claims he has an overpair (QQ) but I think he calls there with QQ for $50 to win $~230 in the pot already.  I think I played that hand well - proper use of fancy play.

Fish story 3:

Here's me again, a little lost.  Limp 76o (no misread; actual hand) mid position and we see a 6 way flop of K 7 3.  Fishy fish is involved in the hand, but all check to new player in CO who bets $5.  4 callers and I decide to peel.  Turn is a 7 and fishy fish leads for $5 this time.  3 callers, I call and CO raises to $10.  3 callers (fishy fish too) and I call.  River is a blank and all check to CO who leads $20.  Calls in 2 or 3 spots around to me and I have a dilemma as last to act.  I think I should raise here, but I have trips, no kicker.  If anyone has a 7, it's almost always better than mine - PLUS the tight old Canadian guy is in the hand calling along (i.e. if he can't call $32 on the riv with AJ, then what can he call $20 on the riv with?).

Decision is on me and I weakly just call (I should have raised to $40-50) and am shown a variety of 2 pair hands: AK from Canadian, KQ from CO, and fishy fish claims he had two pair on flop.  My chance to make more money from fishy fish was stifled by my weak play.  I got up 2 hands afterwards (to meet my wife and kids for dinner and to regroup because I was pretty upset with myself).  If there's a silver lining, that limp made me around a $140 pot.


I'll definitely be back.  I could make this casino my new home casino.  Problem is that the drive from my house is 45 minutes, equidistant to the Chuck, but the drive from work is 20 minutes longer without traffic.  If I'm going to leave from work, I'd have to leave long before rush hour, whereas I take mostly back roads from work to the Chuck.  I'm going to try it a few times - the benefits far outweigh the downside.  The next time I'll be able to play is next week :-(.  I want to get back in action; the month or so off has done me good except shaking off the rust of misreading hands or trusting my raises.

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