Archive for May, 2007


Home Sweet Home

Well, I made my goal on the last night I played – I got the share price back above $110. I was playing 1/2 and one guy with a lot of money kept raising me off of my hands. I’d raise to $8, he’d go to $24, and I’d fold my AQs, etc. Finally I got KK. He raised to $8. There was one caller and I raised to $34. He called and the other guy folded. The flop was 8 high and he checked to me. I pushed all-in and he folded.

About 2 minutes later, I was dealt 33. There was a min-raise to $4, and about 5 total people saw the flop of Q73 with two clubs. The guy in front of me bet $4 and I raised to $25. The guy with a lot of money flat called (which I didn’t like). The person after him pushed all-in for $5 extra bucks and we all called (I couldn’t raise again). The turn was an Ace of hearts. I pushed all-in. The guy with a lot of money folded and another person called for his last $60. No club on the river. The first all-in had 92s clubs, and the other guy had QTo. Wow. Was it my birthday?

That put me over the $110 mark easily and I had only played about 30 minutes so closed my computer, finished packing some stuff up and went to bed.

I got up at 3:45am and hit the road by 4:30am. It was really windy for the first 2 hours, and the temperature dropped from 68 to 34 (it was almost snowing at a gas stop in Utah). The temp then steadily rose back to 74. I drove straight through and arrived home around 2am. All in all it was about 22 hours of travel with about 19 on the road. It was 100 miles further than the online maps said it was but I made most of that up by going faster. :) It’s strange to be home again – at least it’s sunny and kind of warm. (I have a new definition of warm now – it’s got to be over 90 degrees!)


What I Learned on Sabbatical

I’m not exactly sure how long this list will be, but I’ve been mentally taking notes during my trip. I might not actually know all that I learned until a few months after I’m back, but this is my shot for now.

1) Bring a hat with you to Vegas, cause you look really stupid wearing a Bud Light hat that you got for free at Buffalo Wild Wings.

2) Bodog sucks.

3) I typed up a list of a few things while I was playing online poker – here’s that list:

  • Don’t make stupid calls where you know you’re beat. Proving you played good cards and just got unlucky is BAD poker.
  • Don’t call against someone who just beat you just because your cards are connected or suited to try and CATCH a big one to get them back.
  • When you lose at a table for a while (and are winning at others), just leave and find a new one instead of trying to beat it. Otherwise, you waste your entire profit from the other tables on one bad table.
  • Don’t get mad at the donkeys.
  • Don’t take big chances drawing unless it’s to the nuts. There’s always one big hand you lose in each session that would make you a much bigger winner if you just folded.
  • Remember to extract as much as possible on the river. Don’t raise all-in unless you know they’ll call it all most of the time.
  • When you get re-raised, stop and think before acting, especially when you are being re-raised after re-raising already. This likely means no matter how good your hand looks, you’re probably already beat. (This is one where I occasionally lose a monster pot with a really sweet 2nd nut hand – an example would be my loss to the straight flush – although I’m still calling that one every time.)
  • Pick your spots well. Getting involved with marginal hands or “protecting” your blinds will lose you a lot of money over time.
  • Don’t stop betting when you believe you have the best hand. When you do, you usually miss the bet that would have made them fold instead of hitting their card on the river.
  • Don’t bet weak just because someone else raised pre-flop and you think you might be beat – this usually causes them to call and suck out on you.
  • When holding top pair with a decent kicker (even top kicker), and you’ve raised preflop and bet on the flop AND are raised…stop and think if they would raise without being able to beat your TPTK. Then most likely you should fold. Calling the raise here and folding on the turn is a WASTE of money. (And when you’re flat called on the turn with TPTK, you’re usually in deep trouble – hopefully you at least have position.)

4) I love poker. I love the competition, the game, the people (well, most of them), the challenge, and the constant learning. I could study and play non-stop forever and not know everything about it. The logic and the math, the psychology and the hand reading…there are so many skills to be a great player.

5) I’m a winning player. Actually I knew this already from online play, but it’s good to have more validation. Even though I would have loved to finish with the stock at $150 or higher, I’m ok with where it’s at. March was a big learning month – it was all about getting back in the groove. April was the month where I moved up in limits and became comfortable with that. May became a bad run of cards. I learned a lot in all three months.

6) In March, I just learned how to play a lot of poker again. Both online and live. It takes a while to get your card sense back after not playing very much for so long. It also took a while to adjust to “living” here. There was a lot of new stuff, had to get my video poker cravings out of the way, and eat a bunch of good food. :)

7) April was a good month, but it taught me why I probably won’t ever let others bankroll me again. I was able to move up in limits, but I wasn’t able to fully play my game because the worries about the money were too high. This is mostly because to play $5/10 regularly and never go broke (statistically speaking 99.9% chance = never) I need a bankroll of at least 50 buy-ins which is $50k. This way when I drop $4k I don’t feel like I’m in a lot of trouble. In comparison, dropping $4k out of $12 or $16k is a HUGE dent in the bankroll which causes concern. I think I’d let others bankroll me for tournaments as that’s different but the “responsibility” I have to others with their money is definitely an extra stress. I’m still glad I did it this way, but I’d change things if I could do it over. I just would have added 375 more shares from myself, but I had already said there wouldn’t be more than 125 shares total, so I stuck with my word.

8) May was a tough ride. It’s hard to lose day after day especially when you’re playing well. But after a while, your play gets worse, because you think “Oh, if I bet, he’s going to catch here anyway, so I’ll just check”, and then you lose because you didn’t bet. I saw some of this in my play but unfortunately I don’t have the hand history to go back and look at how bad it got. (Did I mention Bodog sucks?) The good part about May is that it’s just part of the way of poker. I survived through it, and still have my bankroll above the starting amount. I’m not happy about dropping $6k back to folks on the Bodog site, but it is what it is. Yeah, my fist hit the kitchen table pretty hard a few times during the beats, but the table is still intact. :) I’m sure a little of this rubbed off into my personal life, but I usually was fine within an hour.

9) I also learned I need more time. I need another three months to keep learning and get better. When I played the last two days at the Bellagio, I really felt like I had moved to the next level of play. I was patient, folding even though I might have been ahead…getting my money in way ahead and reading everyone at the table. I laid down a few winners and lost a few small pots…but when the big pots came up, they were mine. There are a few hands where I could have won a lot more, and the fact that I’m aware of that is a huge step in making it happen.

10) All of my other vices are now gone. Well, except drinking good dark beers. I hate slots, blackjack is a once in a while game but strictly for fun, and video poker isn’t all that much fun even with double up. The only reason I have to go to a casino is to play poker or eat great food. Ok, and drink good dark beer. :) The fact that I don’t even feel tempted by any of this is a huge deal. There are a lot of poker players who are winners in the poker room, but then they lose it all playing craps. I’ve heard so many people talk about being down ten and twenty grand at craps in the last month. That’s just stupid – they should know they can’t win in the long run.

11) There are a lot of good people in poker. I’ve met some really nice folks and had a lot of fun at my tables. Paul and I will stay in touch as will Terry and Vince and I. I know a lot of the regulars in the poker room and it’s fun to be one of them now. When I sit down at a table, I usually know at least one person at the table – that’s pretty cool.

12) Bodog sucks. Yep, the third time is a charm. Playing on this site was a HUGE mistake for my trip. I don’t have a database of my hands played, the software was buggy and crashed a lot, the tables would refresh (graphically) about 5 times a hand and cause a flashing effect. And it’s the only site where I’ve ever felt like I was cheated. The beats that everyone (not just me) takes on that site are crazy. Pair over pair – I wish I had hand history, because overpairs were not holding up anywhere near the 81% that they should.

13) Poker books are great. Until you have most of them. I learned that a lot of the books I still wanted are useless to me. There are a few good poker books left to buy, but my collection is pretty much complete for now. The books I took off of my list basically say the same thing all the other books say, and I already have read that. At some point maybe I’ll post a list of the necessary poker books.

14) The rental house was ok. But I wouldn’t rent this house again. The price is way too high for the furnishings. I had to make a choice by looking at pictures and maps online, and I did as good as possible. The location is great because it’s a safe neighborhood with mountains 100 yards away. The location started to suck because it prevented me from going to the Bellagio more often. I don’t think I even realized this until the second week in May, but the drive is just long enough to be annoying. If I was living in Rhodes Ranch or somewhere further North, I don’t think it would be an issue. It’s just that extra 4 miles tacked on.

15) That said, I would play more live poker if I had more time. I started to feel like I could make a lot more money playing live at 2/5 than I can online, even if I’m 3 or 4 tabling. If I could get to a point where I was playing 5 days a week and averaging $400 a day, that would be enough to start doing it full time.

16) I need a better cell phone. My cell phone just didn’t cut it for this trip. The network with the least dropped calls is now the network I can’t stand.

17) I think I could make a living at poker. It probably wouldn’t start out as the same living I make at Microsoft, but it could eventually surpass it although that’s actually not important to me. I watched dankness on Bodog win at least $5k a day. That’s a pretty decent living. :) But to get there I have to play more, study more, and build my bankroll. Maybe the U.S. government will pass a bill allowing companies like PokerStars to reside in the U.S. and then Microsoft could compete and I could build that business. Then once it’s built, I could just test it all the time. :) That would rock.

18) Thanks to all of my investors for being a part of this experience. I’m grateful that so many people believed in my dream with me and wanted to be a part of that. I really wanted to bring back double everyone’s money, but 10%ish in 3 months isn’t too bad. I’m happy if I make that in a year with my stock market investments. :) Now if I could just get everyone to post comments on hand analysis questions. :)

19) Guitar Hero Rocks! (And Bodog sucks – did I mention that yet?)’

20) It’s interesting how easily you can pick up and move to somewhere else. You don’t need half of what you think you do. I feel this was a privilege and would happily do it again. I know Siren was happy for all the constant attention!

21) If I could start over, I’d also set more short term goals for myself whether it be bankroll goals or daily goals or playing at a certain limit or playing a certain way. I can only remember one day where I set a goal for myself and didn’t make it – the rest of the times I achieved it so this might have been helpful especially during the bad run in May.


Goodbye Bellagio

I decided to head to Sushi Roku for some sushi. They have a Shima roll which is like a spicy tuna roll with shrimp on top and then rice paper with cilantro and a drop of spicy red sauce. It’s so good. It was a Monday night so I didn’t expect much traffic or that many people, but things were packed. There was some conference in town and all the restaurants had lines, so I ended up eating at the bar. After I got there, the place became even more packed. It was fun.

After I ate, I walked back to the Bellagio (Sushi Roku is in the Forum shops in Caesars). I put my name on the list but I didn’t really feel like playing, so I cashed in the chips I had left from before and drove home. I played a little online later in the night and made about $60. Then I played a game of Geometry Wars and went to bed.

One more day here. It’s just crazy that almost 12 weeks have gone by now. I am anxious to go home, but am also pretty sad to leave. I’m only playing online today as I have a lot of packing to do (and then hopefully some sleeping!). I’ll post at least one more time before I leave – I’ve been working on my thoughts about the trip blog entry, but I’m not done yet. It’ll be a long one. :)


The Final Countdown

T minus 2 days and counting. In less than 44 hours I’ll be on the road heading for “home”. Home is a funny word when you’ve been gone for this long – I’ve really learned that most of the stuff in my house isn’t worth much to me. Clearly that doesn’t include my poker table. :) There are some things that I miss, but on the whole it’s interesting to know I can pick up and move without most of my stuff and do very well. There is one thing I really don’t miss – the rain. After living in Redmond for 10 years, it never bothered me (well, that’s what we all say anyway). I’d only lived in Iowa besides Washington (with a little time in Colorado) and I think the switch from 4 seasons to 2 throws you enough off that you just get used to it. I feel our old neighbors pain at how cold and rainy it is for so long in Washington.

As we wind down our journey, I decided to head back to the old favorites yesterday. I drove towards Red Rock Casino, but took a 13 mile detour to drive through Red Rock Canyon – it was really pretty and I’ll definitely be back to hike a lot of the trails. Unfortunately I forgot the camera at home so you’ll just have to look it up online. :) After the scenic loop drive, I headed for the arcade of course. I suppose it’s a good thing, but I didn’t have as much fun as usual because the ice ball and pop-a-shot were both out of order. I had accumulated about 3300 tickets, and couldn’t find anything I really wanted to buy, so I hung around and gave away the tickets to the kids who looked like they would enjoy it the most. This was somehow very rewarding…it was fun to see the kids eyes light up (they were usually holding about 20 tickets and I’d give them like 800 more), and then fun to watch them get something they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten. The excitement in kids is so awesome.

After that I headed for home. I played two tourneys online. I didn’t play the big tourney, but over 10,000 people did. First place was almost $230,000. I played two $15 tourneys, and went out fourth to a suckout, and won the other one when my KQ beat A6 with a board of xK6KA. Glad the second King came on the turn.

I then headed for Buffalo Wild Wings to play some games and eat some dinner. I ended up playing for a few hours, and then headed home. I played some online poker (1/2 at PokerStars) and ended up a few hundred bucks. After I was done I was looking for overlays that display things about the people I have stats on in my PokerTracker database on top of the tables while I’m playing. I found the one I used to use, and wanted to test it and another one out. I sat in for like 2 hands on two different tables. On the second one, I was dealt AA and took down a $70 pot. Nice bonus.

I think today I’m going to the Bellagio to play. I’m not sure how long I’ll play for as I need to pack. This will be my last trip to a casino while I’m here so that’s kind of sad. It’s a very strange feeling to think I’ll be at work in a week.


Patience is Key

Not that I didn’t already know that, but it came in handy last night. I sat down at a 2/5 table at the Bellagio and bought in for $460. I dropped to about $300 and added another $100 to my stack. I just hovered for a long time around $350. The table was a lot of fun. When I sat down there were a couple people with about $2k on the table. The guy in Seat 10 was drinking Merlot – he was a younger guy listening to his iPod and couldn’t hear the table. He was making stabs at almost every pot. Eventually people caught on as he showed a few bluffs but folks just tightened up and waited. He straddled, there was one caller, and I looked down at AA. I raised to $50. He grabbed two unknown height stacks and pushed them in the middle. The other guy folded. I took a few seconds, looked at my cards and pushed all-in. He took a while but finally called (terrible call as he had to call another $180ish and he knew he was a 4:1 dog). He showed TT and my Aces held up. I was happy but it seemed like my stack should have been bigger – now I was just basically breaking even. But I was okay with that. Not too much later, he lost all of his money and left the table…apparently he had a lot more Merlot than I had witnessed as one guy who sat next to him said he was sweating out the Merlot and really stunk. He said he was friends with Ed from the band Live and at one point handed me his iPod so I could listen to this "cool" song. I looked down and it was Bittersweet Symphony by Oasis. I handed his dirty headphones back to him and said I knew the song. Perhaps he was high too…

Angie eventually came back from seeing Phantom of the Opera with her friends and sat behind me to watch. The table was friendly and everyone was talking. I had started drinking Guinness and the new guy in Seat 10 and I took turns going to the bar across the way to get them. Then the gangster man sat down – the guy who wears pinstripe suits (with the opposite colored shoes). He’s an older guy, wears a hat and clip on sunglasses over his overly large glasses. I’ve seen him play up to 25/50 so I know he has money. He’s aggressive and I’ve heard that when he loses pots he gets angry at people and goes on tilt. This was just what I wanted. He raised people out of his first pot. I limped in with 99 in the next hand, and he of course raised to $25. Before I called I told him I was going to bust him this hand. The flop was Q98, all diamonds (like I said it’s never easy). I bet $15, and he raised like clockwork as expected to $115. I immediately pushed all-in, and he thought for about 2 minutes and folded. He then started mumbling under his breath about it. Perfect. Now just keep him going. I’m sure it didn’t help that Angie and two other guys behind him were clapping as I pushed all-in. :)

There was a guy named Vu at the table who when he told me his name I thought he said Boo which reminded me of StevieB who always calls me Boo Boo. Then there was Neel but when he said his name we all heard Neo, so we called him The Matrix the rest of the night.

I did manage (with Vu’s help) to freak out Sasha – a regular who when I first saw her a while ago had a shaved head and looked kind of like Sinead. She had hair now, and I commented to the dealer (before she sat down at our table) and he said it had something to do with her Dad. I had asked if she had a friend with cancer or something. So she sat down and it came up, but she looked like we were stalking her because we knew all of this and she had never seen us before. I explained it but she still looked freaked out. It was probably helpful that Angie was sitting behind me. She didn’t play much, but left her money at the table and moved seats a little later.

Overall, I just kept inching my way up until I had built my pyramid with 4,3,2,1 rows of $125 in $5 chips each. I left with the $1250 and we headed home. Angie made a go of the night and stayed up past 4am! I think that’s a first in almost 5 years of knowing her. The lemon drops might have had something to do with it. :)


The End of Bodog

I played a little 1/2 and even .5/1 this morning to try and get back to $4k to cash out. I had doubled up on one table and was dealt 99. The flop was A9x. I bet small and got only one caller. I bet the turn and was raised. I pushed all-in and he called showing me AA for set over set. Ugh – not the way I wanted to start. I won a little on my other table and quit about even after the first session.

Then I just sat down now for about 20 minutes. In my first hand on my third table, I was dealt 55. The flop was 5JT all hearts. Man, they never make it easy do they? It was checked to me and I bet $12 into a $25 pot. I didn’t want the pot big unless the board paired. I got 2 callers making me even more nervous. The turn was a T. That’s great unless someone has JT. :) I bet again and was raised. I pushed all-in and he called showing A6s hearts for the nut flush, but now drawing dead. I won a few more hands in that orbit and left up $267 in one round of play. Sweet – I’m closing in on my goal. I left that table immediately. About 2 minutes later I was dealt AA on a table in the BB when I almost sat out. UTG raised to $4 (stupid raise on a 1/2 table), and I raised to $15. He min-raised again, and I pushed all-in. He called with KK. I closed my eyes and didn’t watch the flop. I opened them and there was no K on the board. Bingo, I’d made my goal. I logged off all the tables and I was $16 short of $4100. I went to the $10 table and doubled up once plus some and then quit at $4100.23. (Actually I went back and dumped the 23 cents to some lucky guy at the $10 table. :) ) It took me three hands to give it to him as I won the first two.

So that’s the end of Bodog. I can’t say I would ever play there again.


Week 11 Recap

The journey is almost over. :( Week 11 was nothing special. I spent a lot of energy trying to get out of the bad run of cards and hopefully have passed the worst of it. I got money into PokerStars and am ahead on that site, and am now behind on Bodog. I will play Bodog until I hit the $4k mark which is now the goal before I leave and then I will cash out forever.

I played 20.75 hours online and 9.5 hours live. I was down $571.85 for the week (much better than down $3k like the past 2 weeks). I’ve played a total of 395.50 hours so it doesn’t look like I’ll make it to 500 hours without getting zero sleep. My hourly and daily averages are basically zero since I’m only $403 ahead for the trip.

The good news is that after playing for almost 3 months straight and continuing to read I really feel like I’m on the verge of being a much better player. I’m learning to fold marginal hands and am having new thoughts about the way I play hands especially AK and other high cards. I will need to find a way to continue this learning once I’m back in Washington. I’d also like to find a poker mentor which is something I didn’t manage to do while I was here. Paul said he’d help me online, but his style is so different than mine it may not be a good fit.

I also found two other books that I don’t own (shocker!) on poker that are supposed to be really good so will order those when I get home. One of them is the book of bluffs (kind of like Caro’s book of Tells). It’s supposed to be the definitive work on it and I could use some help here.

Anyway, to date I’ve learned a lot and am happy with the experiences I’ve had. I’ll try to write a longer blog on this on Tuesday before we leave.