Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Home Games

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that I would be trying to play in some home games during the week, when I am somewhat reluctant to make a trip to the casinos because LA traffic is at its worst and casino poker is a bit slower. Since then, I've played in four home games, and they seem to be a waste of time. Three of these games I was invited to by Aaron. The fourth game was actually at my apartment, with some of Brigid's friends from the UCLA Statistics department. The main problems are that the games are too small and too slow.

My friend Alex has commented to me that he doesn't think he could be a pro poker player because he can't stand the other poker players at casinos. Personally, I kind of like interacting with the people at the poker tables. Often, they are people who I would never otherwise interact with in anything resembling a social manner, and frequently they are actually interesting and more friendly than I would have expected. Meeting new people every day keeps things interesting. On the occasions when they are obnoxious, I have no qualms about ignoring them or telling them off. I can then focus on the game instead.

Ideally, in a home game, I won't encounter obnoxious people, because they are all friends of friends of friends, but I haven't really found this to be the case. My friends are pretty agreeable and so are their friends, but this can easily break down after another iteration or two. Also it's not uncommon for a competitive game like poker (which also involves money) to bring out the worst in an otherwise amiable person. Since I'm a guest in someone's home, I don't feel right ignoring or arguing too much with obnoxious players in home games, as I might at a casino. Worse, the games I've played in are played at such a slow place and for such low stakes that the games can be tedious even when I generally like the other players. This is the case for the game with Brigid's friends; I feel like I spent most of my time pointing out whose turn it is and then explaining what their options were.

I suppose that if I found a home game with high enough stakes, it could be worthwhile, but in that case I might be worried about the security of my winnings. Home games also can be worthwhile if you enjoy the company of the other players (as with Aaron Orange County game), but then it's more of a social event, not a substitute for actually earning money at a casino. If were willing to make a 3 hour round trip to Orange County, I think my time would be better spent going to the Commerce.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

R.I.P. Cory Lidle

Yesterday morning I woke up to see the news that a small plane had hit an apartment building in Manhattan. As strange as this story was at the time, it became even stranger to me when I learned that the pilot was Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle.

Before I moved to Las Vegas, I once had occassion to have a lengthy conversation with Lidle at a poker table in Binion's. Despite being an obsessive baseball fan, I didn't recognize him at all. He was sitting to my right and was quiet but friendly. After chatting with him for a couple minutes, I asked him about his unusual-looking card protector (at that point I still didn't know who he was). He told me that he actually designed it and sold them on his website; a friend of his had a company that custom-made such things. It had a chart on one side showing you your odds to catch a card on the turn or river given a certain number of outs. We got into a somewhat ridiculous conversation about whether such a chart should even be legal at the table, and a few other people at the table had strong opinions on the subject. It got to the point where someone at our table asked the floorperson if we would be allowed to bring a calculator to the table (yes, it would be allowed). Lidle seemed disapproving of bothering the man with such a silly question.

It was only at that point that I asked to take a closer look at the card protector in question. Along the bottom it said "www.corylidlepoker.com." I looked at him curiously and said "are YOU Cory Lidle?"

"Yeah. Why, are you a baseball fan?" he asked. I was, and we proceeded to discuss various things including his high school teammates Jason and Jeremy Giambi (Jason is a cool guy. Jeremy is a "walking drug store" who blamed his girlfriend when he got caught with pot in his bag at the airport), playing for the Phillies as opposed to the Reds (the Phillies are a fun group... the Reds have a lot of obnoxious young players), and the new drug testing policy ("I like it, because I don't use them"). He also confided in me that he hadn't touched a baseball since the end of the season (this was mid-January, a month before the spring training), and indeed he had a reputation of having a poor work ethic.

Due to my encounter with him in Las Vegas, I became a bit of a Cory Lidle fan. It helped that I think he was a bit underrated as a player (so I felt justified in arguing that he deserved a spot in the starting rotation). I was also quite impressed with his willingness to speak his mind publicly, most notably about his rooting against Barry Bonds because he's a cheater. Of course, I also have some respect anyone who has spent the time to become a decent poker player, as Lidle seemed to have been. In any case, I just wanted to get my personal memory of him in writing, as I was sad to learn of his death.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tom Ferguson Invitational Poker Tournament

Not much poker for me the past two weeks. I've successfully made the move to LA, and I hope to find some sort of routine soon. On Friday I had a somewhat notable, out-of-the-ordinary poker experience. My girlfriend Brigid has just joined the statistics department at UCLA as a PhD student. One of the professors in the department, Tom Ferguson, just finished his 50th year as a member of the faculty. He's an expert in several fields, including game theory (I've actually read one of his papers). More interestingly, he's the father of Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, probably one of the five most recognizable poker players in the world. Anyway, to commemorate Ferguson's 50th year, the faculty organized the "first annual Tom Ferguson Invitational Poker Tournament." The tournament was free and open to department members and friends, with prizes donated by the faculty.

Most of the 28 players were very inexperienced, with a reasonable idea of how the game worked but almost no grasp of appropriate strategy, so I felt a little bad winning their first prize of the iPod Nano. I quickly handed it over to Brigid so that at least there was some feeling that a department member was involved (Brigid won a prize too with her 9th place finish). My victory was far from a certainty, though. With M's starting below 6 and blinds increasing every round, it was imperative to get in and gamble. I was fortunate enough to double up with AA on the fourth hand and to win some coin flips after that. Although it was fun to play some poker and meet Brigid's new colleagues, the main reason I wanted to go was that I hoped Chris might show up for his dad's party. Unfortunately, he didn't make an appearance.

Later tonight I'm off to play in Aaron's weekly home game. Actually, I might be playing in a lot of home games this year. Aaron's invited me to another weekly game down in Orange County that I haven't been to yet, and supposedly the stats department has a monthly tournament. I also live about a mile from the UCLA frats, where I suspect there may be some poker, but I'm not the type of person who's good at talking my way into games like that, nor am I particularly comfortable with it. In fact, I'm not perfectly comfortable playing in Aaron's home games, despite actually having been invited. A little discomfort might be worth sparing me from driving through the traffic to the casinos a few nights a week, though. Given recent legistlation, I'm not very optimistic about playing on the internet.