Thursday, May 31, 2007

Poker's Next Level

I’ve arrived at the next level in my poker apprenticeship. Last week I signed up with a poker training site, I’ve been aware of this site for about a year. I watched one of their free training videos at and was so impressed with it that I figured the $150 startup fee was worth it. In only a few days, my attitude toward playing poker hands has drastically changed, especially in cash games. Playing cash games online is completely different from cash games at Casino San Pablo. At FullTilt, everyone plays a very tight style. A few people limp, but usually someone raises the pot and everyone folds. There are few showdowns. I lost about $50 playing a $1-2 nl session last week, and felt discouraged because I never got any action on my good hands and had to fold the rest. I realize now just how weak I was with my play. Very weak. In watching just a few of the videos of the PokerXFactor’s resident cash pro Rizen, my cash game online has been completely transformed. I get this game now. It’s all about picking your spots and exploiting weakness. I’d heard these things before, but now it means something. Rizen talks about defending his button rather than defending his blind. In cash games, position is everything. I can see where position will be very powerful at Casino San Pablo. I can see where some of those games will be very juicy and exploitable. I have lots of work to do, however, but I’ll get there. Anyway, when players limp in and I’m on the button, I’ll sometimes stick in a nice raise and take the pot down right there or play heads up with position against someone. That’s powerful. It works. It doesn’t work all the time, but it works more than it doesn’t, which means in the end it makes me money. Through Rizen’s videos and articles in CardPlayer and his blog, I have entered the nerve center of the online poker community, and it is a community. Lots of young kids who do nothing but play poker day in, day out, sometimes playing 10 tournaments at one time. I can only concentrate on one table at a time. I actually prefer just one table, though I can see playing two when I get better (or get bigger computer screens). The game has gone from simply playing good hands to outthinking and understanding your opponent. Figuring out what your opponent has and what he thinks I have. I see now why disguised hands are so powerful when a board hits hard. This is what the top tier players do. They’re constantly disguising and changing tactics. The idea is to constantly change and modify one’s approach. Here is the silver lining: no limit cash games are very hard to play properly. There are so many variables that go into play, and those who have mastered the game and know the proper strategies have a great advantage over other players. Small pot poker makes so much more sense to me now.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Racquetball Tournament

I played in a racquetball tournament this past weekend at Club Sport in Pleasanton. I lost both games I played (B-singles and A-doubles with Dorian). I didn’t play well, though I felt pretty good going into both matches. My arm was sore and giving me problems, but my shots were all over the place, especially in my singles match. I didn’t feel nervous, but perhaps I was too tight, too hyped up. Too something, unfortunately, because I could not put the ball away. And wow did I have opportunities to kill the ball. My opponent, a player named John, was all right, but I should have easily taken him down. I jumped to an early 4-1 lead, then lost 8 points in-a-row. Then another 4 or 5. I came back but lost the first game 10-15. I won the second 15-7, but lost the tie breaker 10-11. Really disappointing. It was difficult not to berate myself and feel horrible about the loss. I don’t like losing. It affects every part of me. It’s like the world has ended and there’s no more purpose to my life. It’s sick. I shook the man’s hand after the loss but did not look him in the eye and left the court right away. I was not a gracious loser and I really need to work on that. It’s hard though. For some reason, I’m invested in the idea that winning means I’m a winner and losing means I’m worthless as a person. That’s the crazy side of me talking. But after years of competing, this is how I am. The loss was a wakeup call in terms of what I need to improve with my racquetball game. I need to be a lot more consistent with my shots. I need to think more clearly and relax more. Take things a little slower. My doubles match the next day was better. I didn’t play as badly as I had the night before, but Dorian and I ended up losing a game we almost won against a good team who was not used to losing. We lost the first game 15-7, but won the second game 15-1. The tie-breaker went 11-8. A good contest. I’m glad we lost the game because my arm was really beginning to bother me. I’m taking the next several days off racquetball, playing two easy league matches Thursday and Friday (cake walk on Friday).

I have less than a month to try and win an entry into the 2007 WSOP. It’s not looking great for me. I haven’t really played in any tournament that allows me a direct buy-in into the tournament. I sometimes question my work ethic. It’s really slipped these past few years. Lots of room for improvement here. When I get stuck, I’m really stuck. Passion is a double-edged sword for me. I have a lot to be passionate about, but for some reason I get drained when I express too much emotion. I feel badly because I have an awful lot of negative emotions inside me. I don’t like hurting people, and sometimes I think I might say something I would regret later. I think that’s why I subdue myself. I don’t like breaking out and acting like an emotional train wreck. I’d look like Mike Matusow on speed. Scary.

I ran around the lake for the first time in years this morning. I was surprised at how easy it was. I actually need to lose about 10 pounds. I’ve put on weight and feel chunky around the middle. Not good!
Tonight I’m watching the season finale of 24, cleaning up, and getting my to-do list ready for tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I lessen my connection with life by stifling my emotions and downplaying my feelings. I disconnect myself from my feelings, and yet sometimes I can become so angry. I am able to reflect upon my mistakes and inabilities, of which there are so many, and yet what I am not very good at is acknowledging my successes. I don’t drink. This is a great accomplishment considering the family I come from. Everyone in my family drinks. Everyone. I come from a family of big drinkers. How they function day after day is truly beyond me. How the find the energy to get out of bed and work is staggering to me. I’ve never been a hard worker. I’ve always been good at structuring my day and completing small tasks, but when it comes to larger projects, I lose confidence, energy and feel drained. I’ve always been this way. I’ve never really learned how to feel comfortable feeling confident. I really am a very insecure person. Linda was good at picking apart my weaknesses and bringing them to the forefront. I think that’s why her parting words still haunt me. I don’t smile very much. In fact, my default face seems sullen and gloomy, a reflection, perhaps, of how I feel about myself. Given my past and upbringing, it’s not uncommon to feel worthless, lost and depressed. At least I know this about myself. It’s my comfort zone. I love being happy and excited and thrilled about life, and yet it’s not typical for me to feel this way. I think that’s why I’ve shortchanged myself all these years and played life so safe. I do play life safe. Poker helps bring me out of my safeness. I sometimes get angry with myself for calling hands that should have been folded because it would have been the safe thing to do. Safe is how I’ve lived my life, and look where it has taken me. Nowhere.

Monday, May 14, 2007

$300 Tournament at the Oaks

I played in the $300 May Tournament at the Oaks and finished 40th out of 198 players. I was disappointed with how things turned out, though I thought I played fairly well. I don’t have a lot of live tournament experience under my belt, and which I had a lot more. The problem is I don’t have a very large bankroll to fund these $150-1000 tournaments. I need a big win first in order to play more. First place was around $18,000 for this particular tournament. We all started with 4,000 in chips. I didn’t do much for the first several rounds, but then I woke up with AKs under the gun. The blinds were 40-80, so I raised it to 300. The button called and the flop was 9A9. I checked and he asked how much I had left. I had about 3000. He bet 600 and I called. The turn was the 7s. I checked and he checked. The river was what ended up being the case Ace. I bet 1000, he pushed all in and I called and we split. He had AJ. I was setting up a nice 1,000 bet on the river and he probably would have called.
I had AA once but everyone folded, then I became involved in a pot against the big blind. I was the small blind. I had A7s and limped in for 120 (blinds were 60-120). He raised to 300 and I called. The flop was AQx. I checked and he checked. The turn was a 7. I checked and he checked as well. The river was a 2 and I bet 800. He called and couldn’t believe I had two pair. He had AT. He was a very conservative player.
Soon after, we were reassigned to another table. I had about 6,000 in chips when I was dealt AK again. The guy to my right had been raising all in quite a lot and complaining that he needed to go home. He raised again, around 2000 and I pushed all in with my AK. He called and the flop was JT7. Turn was a Queen, and I now had 11-12K in chips.
Then I knocked out a woman to my left in a most ridiculous way. She had played only one hand, AA, and had about 5-6k in chips. The blinds were folded to me and her and I raised to 2500. He went all in and I thought for a minute. I had 83. I eventually called (they were suited and I was getting odds) but she had A8. ugh! Dominated. The flop was 863, followed by two meaningless diamonds and she left the table in a huff. I don’t blame her at all. It was pretty disgusting. Now I had 17k in chips and the blinds were escalating. I needed around 100k to bring to the final table. I had AQ on the button and raise to 2400. The small blind went all in and I called. He had AK to my AQ. I lost and was down to 1200 chips. I went all in again with the same hand (AQ) and won. I was back to 4500 chips and waited for a hand to push. Unfortunately, it was with 89 on the button, and the small blind guy who had AK now had AJ and knocked me out. I played from 11 to 3:15. The blinds go up very fast in the last half of the tournament, but I don’t think there was anything I could have done. I didn’t get great cards, but had AK three times and AQ twice. I had AA once but no callers. Disappointing but fun. You really need a whole lotta luck to last in these tournaments.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Lacking Enthusiasm

I was hoping to play in the FTOPS 1 tonight but I wasn’t able to win a seat. I spent $50 and $75 token to win a seat, but fell short. Totally card dead in the nl cash game and two ring games I played. Disappointing. Sometimes I haven’t a clue how to play Hold’em. By nature I’m a tight, patient, careful player who likes to trap. I occasionally pull off some bluffs, but its very rare. I usually don’t stick all my chips in unless I have something. But lately, especially online, I feel somewhat lost as to what to do. The AK hand that lost to K4 still stings. I’m just not sure how I get away from that hand given how things played out. After all, I did preflop raise. Maybe I check and bet small and keep the pot small. I don’t know. I tend to want to play big pots, but maybe there’s some value in keeping things small and getting opponents to think I’m weaker than I am. I just always seem to get screwed on the river though. I seems to happen more than it should, though I’m sure the stats are accurate and it happens exactly as much as it should. Still, I feel I’m not that lucky a poker player. Some players seem to walk on lucky water. I walk on fire and get burned to a crisp so much of the time.
I enjoy reading other poker blogs. The money the pros play for is so large compared to what I play with. I wonder if I’ll ever play for three- or four-digit bets. There’s something a little bit self-destructive about the life of professional poker players. They all seem a little crazy and irrational.
I’m having tremendous difficulty staying motivated. My motivation for writing has really dried up. I lack confidence and feel like such a failure. My scripts seem very average and not very interesting. I don’t know. I wonder what it will take to change that. I’m losing my belief in myself, and that can be such a crippling thing. Dr. Phil Z. warned me about these moods I can get in. It’s like a mild but debilitating depression that keeps me from staying motivated, even though I have so much to be excited about in life. I wish I could energize myself and stay happy.
What makes me happy? Vivaldi. Baroque music. Winning. Competition. Racquetball. Finishing To-Do lists. Being recognized for an accomplishment. Not feeling like a loser. In so many ways my life is set up for success. But for some reason, I stop myself from truly exploding with life. Perhaps if I can talk myself into getting motivated and excited about things, perhaps if I can keep the demons inside me at bay, I can break free from my own personal doldrums and lead the life I’ve imagined for myself all these years. I have self-knowledge. What I lack at the moment is discipline and motivation. There are two projects I want to complete in 2007: my apartment remodel and Don’s rewrite of “Prophet.” I want to accomplish these. Let’s get to it!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Doubles Racquetball Tournament

Spring Doubles Racquetball Tournament
12 teams vied for King of the Club One Racquetball Mountain Saturday: the two divisions of six consisted of me and Dorian, Mark and Scott, Kevin and Ernesto, Lefty John and Harold from Club Sport, Tiger and Steve, and Ernie and Clydell. The other division consisted of Bill and Kent, Sidney and Marc, Rocky and the Commish from Club Sport, Ron and Xavier, Rod and August, and Byron and Glenn.
I was not very confident going into the tournament. I’d taken a week off and my shots weren’t there. Dorian’s signature shot was also noticeably absent throughout the week. But we always seem to play on tournament day. After all, we had won the tournament last year and I was sick with the flu.
I arrived at 7:05 and warmed up until 8. Our first match was with Scott and Mark. We took and early lead and controlled the match from beginning to end. The final score was 15-4.
Our second match was with Ernie and Clydell. This is a good team; however, Ernie plays too far back sometimes and leaves the front left corner exposed. We had a 10-2 lead on them when they started a comeback. Suddenly we were tied at 10. Then 13. We pulled this one out, but just barely, defeating them 15-13.
Then came the big match for two cases of wine between Kevin and Ernesto. For some strange reason, Kevin bet Dorian a case of wine that they could beat us if Dorian played the left side. Charley bet Dorian that Kevin and Ernesto would score more that 5 points. We beat them 15-1. It wasn’t even close. It was a total blowout.
Then came our hardest match, against Harold and Lefty John. Harold has a funky serve with lots of spin, and Dorian was having trouble with it. We were down 8-1 when I called a time out and told Dorian to relax. I was worried we were going down right here.
We got the serve and then mounted a comeback. We tied the game at 8. Then took the lead. Harold was having trouble with my Z serve. We kept the ball away from Lefty John.
The game was tied at 13 when they scored two quick points off unforced errors. We should have taken this one, but at least we kept it close. All we needed was 11 points to secure a playoff birth in our next match.
The last team we faced in our division was Tiger and Steve. We’ve played them many times and usually do well against them. Our strategy was to test Tiger’s accuracy. He makes a lot of unforced errors when he gets tired.
We took control of the match throughout and won 15-9. We ended up being the first seed in our division. Tiger and Steve were the other team, beating Ernie and Clydell in a tiebreaker.
In the other division, Sidney and Mark won all their matches and Byron and Glenn came in second. It was a morning crew playoff, which I loved.
We played Byron and Glenn and beat them 15-6. Byron was tired. The game got off to a slow start with neither team playing very well. Lots of mistakes on both sides, but also lots of good rallies.
Tiger and Steve beat Sidney and Mark, so the finals were set and we were the favorites.
We took an early lead in the first game, ahead 8-2, but somehow managed to blow our lead and the game, losing 10-11. (The finals were best of three, all games to 11). I was furious that we lost that game. I was so pissed I slammed every lob and lob Z Tiger served. We won the second game 11-2.
By the third game, Tiger was noticeably tired, and my right leg was beginning to cramp. But I had energy left and so did Dorian. Dorian’s signature shot also came out of the wood work and he started putting shots away. He controlled the game against and easily won 11-4. The game winning shot was a high plum for Dorian. I said “there is it,” and Dorian buried it. Sweet!
We took home the trophy (my 10th) and now have bragging rights at the club until September.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Steve's Wedding

I was in Missouri from April 24 – April 30. I flew out to attend Steve and Amanda’s wedding, and visit my Jill, Chris and Alexandra for a few days. Jill and Chris are in Kansas City until 2009. Chris is completing a residency program in gastroenterology and working like a dog. His first year in Kansas City has been demanding and stressful. He puts in an untold number of hours each week while Jill stays home with the baby. Jill sometimes gets a little bored. It’s baby time 24/7. Alexandra is a very cute and well-behaved baby. She is so sweet and adorable. She warmed up to me the three days I stayed with Jill & Chris prior to driving to Columbia for Steve’s wedding. I flew into Kansas City Tuesday April 24, arriving at 7 p.m. Jill was there to pick me up. Alex was sick with an ear infection, so we met Chris and Alex at the pediatrician’s office and stayed about an hour or so. From there we got a pizza, went home and played some poker and watched TV. I stayed up fairly late. Played a few satellite games for WSOP entries. It’s now May and I have to hit the tourney circuit hard!
I’m in the midst of poker season now. Poker all the time, though I have some screenwriting duties to take care of as well. If I stay real busy I keep myself active.
Anyway, back to Kansas City. We had lunch the next day at the Ameristar Casino, at a bbq joint that served up some mean pork and beef barbecue. Very tasty. I played poker the rest of the afternoon while Chris played some table games. I ended up playing in a tournament and split 1st with 2 other people, winning around $300. Nice! My big hand was making a flush with Q7 against AJ on a AK4 two-diamond board. I doubled up to 10k in chips and never looked back, pushing blinds off their stacks and knocking the bubble guy off with AT against his 99 (I hit two As...nice!). I left in the afternoon and went to Harrah’s with Jill later that night, playing 3/6 at a very weak passive table. I ended up about even for the day at 3/6.
A funny story about the a freeroll online tournament...I’d played a few that morning and had one left when I hopped into the shower before lunch. Chris took over and doubled my chip stack to 20k. I joined him and we pushed all in several times, and kept on winning with 47, 75, etc. At the end of the day, we were in 2nd place, going heads up with some guy who had a chip advantage on us. We went all in on a draw and unfortunately lost, but it was so much fun to play crazy aggressive poker and do so well. I can see why these crazies win tournaments. They get lucky with crazy holdings and build such a big chip lead that everyone fears them. That’s how you win tournaments, when you’re perceived as being fearless and not caring whether or not you win or lose.
The next day (Thursday), Jill and I went to Crate & Barrel to pick up Steve’s wedding gift. We then checked in at Harrah’s where Kevin and I were staying for the night. Kevin and I played 3/6 until 4:00 a.m. I don’t know why I suck at limit hold’em but I do. I just can’t win that game. I don’t know what it is, but I always seem to lose. I rarely have a really good night. The players in Kansas City are very loose passive. They don’t like raising at all. The players at the Oaks are so much more aggressive than at the riverboat casinos in the midwest.
On Friday, Kevin and I drove to St. Louis to pick up Will, then drove back to Columbia. I stayed at the Courtyard in a room to myself, a good idea since the rooms were small and comfortable. I was very comfortable actually. I slept in most days and stayed up until 4.
Steve’s wedding was a huge success, one of the most enjoyable “gang” get togethers in memory. Everyone, of course, was there, Kathryn & Tom, Susan, Jeff & Laura, Ron & Jeni, Neal & Karin. Amanda looked so beautiful, like a model. Steve was beaming from ear to ear. The food was terrific. I had two pieces of wedding cake. I saw Suzanne and her family...I almost didn’t recognize Suzanne in her glasses. The wedding was at 5 and we partied until 12. Afterwards, we gathered at Ron & Jeni’s for a little Sit-n-Go, which I ended up winning. Jeni and I played heads up for about 30 minutes. It was an exciting match. I was behind, then ahead, then behind, then ahead again.

The Frustration of Dominated Hands

Poker was frustrating last night. I had AK three times and lost twice to hands that were dominated. Actually, I would have lost three times out of three had I not hit a king on the turn when John had A5 and hit a five on the flop. The past two outings at Craig’s I got knocked out of the tournament with AK to AQ and KQ. These bloody queens are killing me!
The lesson I’m trying to absorb is feeling good about getting the money in with the best of it. I have no control over what cards come out, so I really shouldn’t waste any energy getting upset over the fact that my dominating hands are losing. It’s hard though. A small part of me still wants justice in poker. Poker is not about justice though, certainly not in the short term. Poker is about pain and fate. It’s like life. It’s painful seeing a hand with way the best of it lose to a poor “call.” I notice many of Craig’s poker players will push or call with AQ and KQ. It’s a dangerous play because if you’re called you’re almost certainly behind.
I made one bad move last night and I knew it was but I was getting tired. I pushed all in with JJ and Chris quickly called with Aces. Chris is an easy player to play against post-flop. He likes to bet out small when his hand doesn’t hit. He bets big if his hand connects. I should have just called his preflop raise and see what he did on the flop and turn. I would have had my answer. Instead I just moved all in with 6,000 in chips to his 3000 in chips. He had the bounty and I was putting big pressure on him. I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t that bad a play.
I had good cards last night: AA, KK, JJ, AK three or four times, AQ twice. I didn’t get paid off with these hands though. I’m so tight it’s tough for me to get any action. Another frustrating night to chalk up to experience. I will be playing a lot of poker this weekend as I try and win an entry into the World Series of Poker. I will play satellites and see what happens. Wish me luck!