Saturday, August 27, 2005


I had an interesting night at the Bellagio the other night. Another young player, who I've seen there before, noticed I won a few hands with cards along the lines of Q3o, and he decided I was a loose raiser and that it was his mission to take advantage of this. Instead of simply taking note of this and taking advantage of my supposed weakness, he decided to announce to me and the table that the next time I raised to $30 he would reraise me another $70. He repeated his intentions at least half a dozen times in the next half hour.

Now, this is a guy who uses as a card-protector a lighter in the shape of a hand with its middle finger up that says "fuck you, fuck you..." when you turn it on. Much of his personality coincides with the sentiment of this lighter. He's actually not a bad player usually, but on this particular night he went on major tilt after seeing me win a few medium-size pots with poor hands. It's true that every once in a while I will throw in a raise on a whim. Essentially, I'm trying to stealing the blinds and the limps, but it also keeps me interested when things start to get a little dull, and makes me very unpredictable, I think. I don't think it's particularly profitable to do this except that it keeps me interested and will occassionally put another player on tilt.

Anyway, at one point I raised to $30 with T5s and Brian, which is his name I think, called me from the big blind. One of the limpers also called. The flop came 25J and Brian bet his last $30. There was a fold and I called the $30 because the pot was now about $125. Brian had 850, and I won.... this was the point at which he decided to announce that he would be raising me whenever I raise. "I've seen you play before. I know how you play." I take note of this but decide not to change my strategy, which is to raise with my very strong hands, and occassionally with not-so-strong hands. Brian later says that he was down $1400 on the day at this point, which is really a lot for the $200 buy-in game that we were playing.

Anyway, several hands later I get KK in middle position and raise, as I normally would, to $25. There had been one or two limpers in front of me. Three to my left Brian pushes all in $160 with QQ, and the next guy calls with about $75 left, and I call the $160. Anyway, I lose the main pot but win the side pot as the other guy catches his flush with AJs.

The next time I raise I have JJ and raise to $35 in early position. Brian raises, and everyone else at the table, who have all heard Brian's earlier threats, is unafraid. Five people are in on the flop for $118 each. Flop came AT8 and I fold to a $100 bet... AJo wins, and Brian says he had KJ.

Later, I have KJo and decide to raise to $35 to try to steal the blinds. True to his word, Brian raises me to $115. Everyone fold this time, and I decide to call. I have another $240 in front of me, Brian has me covered. Flop comes QT4 and I go all-in (which I now think was a bad play, since Brian is not going to fold many hands here, since he is tilting and thinks I am hyper-aggressive). He calls with AA and I lose my stack. Ugh.

I left an hour or so later without any money. Brian has about $1800 in front of him at this point. Bad outcome, but a very interesting night for me. I think I played okay, but got unlucky when Brian caught AA on a hand I decided to raise, and then I caught a straight draw that didn't make it. I'll let you know when I encounter Brian again.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Celebratory "Whoop" -ing

I've never really been one to cheer for my own success and I have always considered it rather obnoxious when other people do it. That's why I felt like a jackass when I did just that yesterday at the Bellagio. In my defense, the "whooo!", as it came out, was involuntary. What happened was that I had two people all-in before the flop and I had AA. The guy to my left turns over TT, and I'm thinking, of course, that the other guy also has some sort of pair, which would give me a nice 2/3 chance or so of winning. The third guy then turned over his hand.... also TT (which means I'm actually about 95% to win). I realized afterwards that it was the surprise of seeing another pair of tens as much as anything that caused the audible cheer on my part. This is certainly not the case with, for example, a football player who has just made a tackle and has a victory dance already prepared for the occasion. So, I can continue to view such celebratory shamelessness as obnoxious, confident in the fact that I'm not being hypocritical. Right?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Losing and My Priorities

I'm on a bit of a losing streak right now. It's actually mostly just been last night when I lost $1000 in about 2 hours (which is kind of a lot, but it's not uncommon for a single pot to reach $800-$1000). Fortunately, I am almost completely indifferent to money while I'm at the poker table; the only thing I get discouraged by is my poor play. I always considered this one of my biggest assets as a poker player. I'm able to view the chips objectively as score-keeping devices, which allows me to unemotionally take the proper course of action in a hand (figuring out which course of action is the proper one is still a bit difficult sometimes...). It also helps me avoid going on tilt, although this can still happen just because I get frustrated by playing poorly. Another interesting thing I realized is that at this point I enjoy learning and improving more than I actually like winning. This brings up something I've been thinking about the past couple of weeks: should I be playing to maximize my profit or playing to improve as quickly as possible?

Although I didn't realize it when I moved out here, the desire to win and the desire to improve are at odds with each other. This conflict didn't really occur to me until around when I played at Boulder Station, chronicled in an earlier post. If I all I want to do right now is make money, I could just play in the crazy Omaha game at Boulder Station. However, that would be a complete waste of time in terms of improving. On the other extreme, last night I was playing more aggressively than I usually do, and because I got to see other people's hands very often, I learned a lot about how other decent players play and how I can expect a table to react if I start playing aggressively. For a new pro poker player, this is invaluable information. But, of course, I lost $1000. I imagine the theoretical extremes would be to sit inside playing 8 hands of online poker at a time (which I hate, but I can probably earn a lot of money doing), versus buying into the game where Chip Reese plays (Gus seems to have skipped town) and losing my entire bankroll while observing first hand the best players in the world. So I guess the questions I'm struggling with are these: is $1000 > invaluable? How can I best balance improvement/profit? What game should I be playing, and should I be trying to play optimally or should I be experimenting with different styles? For now I think I'll continue playing in tough but beatable games like the $2-5 NL games that I play most often.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Back From Yosemite

In case anybody out there has actually been waiting for another entry, rest assured that more are soon to come. I've been away from cyberspace for the past nine days "vacationing" with my parents and brother around Yosemite and San Francisco, where my brother has been doing an internship this summer. (He'll be entering his third year at GW Law School this fall.) One nice thing about my new "job" is that I can take vacations whenever I want.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Boulder Station

I have been going to the casino between 7 pm and 10 pm each night, but last night I didn't get out until 12:30 am, so I decided to go to the neighborhood casino, Boulder Station, instead of the Bellagio, where I usually go. No real logic to this decision, but I did want to check the place out and see what my neighbors are like.

It turns out that about 75% of my neighbors are insane. Okay, that's not really a fair assessment; I shouldn't assume that people who decide to play low-limit half-kill Omaha at around 3 am on a weekday morning are representative of my average neighbor. More representative would probably be the people leaving home when I am returning at 6 am. Anyway, the Boulder Station poker room is complete chaos. Lee, the pit boss, is a nervous wreck who consistently makes poor decisions while bending over backwards trying to fulfill the many requests for table changes and chip rebuys from the players in the room. He becomes impatient with players, dealers, and (most often) himself if anything takes more than two seconds to be settled. This is in stark contrast to the pit bosses at the Bellagio, who spend most of their time chatting with the players, but still manage to fulfill all their pit bossing duties. Also at the center of the insanity at my table is a guy who I think is named Anthony, but who was also responding to "J.R." Anthony, a somewhat large black man, is talking continuously ("raise? Really? Why would you want to go and do something like that?"..."put a king out there dealer!"..."oh no! Hector the Connector is in!") and is trying to collect $25 chips whenever possible, which necessitates brief but frequent pauses in play when he asks the dealer for green chips, and also when the dealer has to make change for him whenever he bets. The dealers clearly know him and try in vain to employ any strategy to get him to shut up. A dealer named Mike tries telling Anthony he's changed his name and will not respond to "Mike" anymore, but this doesn't really help much. At the room's chaotic peak, Lee, who has just ended a confrontation with an Asian woman who was yelling something at him about table changes, tells Anthony that a seat at another table is open and he could take it. Anthony says "okay, right after this hand," and inexplicably Lee proceeds to walk around to my side of the table to tell the Asian guy sitting next to me that he can have the seat at the other table. The Asian guy gets up and moves (Anthony doesn't notice this). When Anthony realizes his seat at the other table is taken, he complains to Lee and Lee makes the Asian guy return to his seat next to me, but now Anthony can't decide which table he wants and plays a few hands at each table over the next five or ten minutes, making the Asian guy switch tables at least twice. The hispanic guy to my right is getting upset about the table switching and starts swearing and throwing his bets and cards. At one point he hits another player with a chip when he bets, and another time he throws the cards clear off the table while folding. Meanwhile, there is so much betting and raising in each hand that the dealers have almost given up bothering to try to make sure that the players are contributing the correct amont to each pot. When finally I get up to cash out, Lee is apologetic with his slowness in counting my chips despite his rather frenetic pace, and I have to tell him to take his time.

Despite the insanity, the poker room was pretty nice. They sell food at reasonable prices, they have a coffee maker and water cooler in the corner so I don't have to wait for the waitresses or give them tips, and they have above-average comps, including a $250,000 freeroll tournament that I qualify for if I play there for 50 hours this month (supposedly there could be 1000 players though...the tourney starts Sept 10). Still, I'm not sure if I can stand the chaos for another 45 hours. The only thing that will bring me back is the fact that the casino is less than five minutes away.