Wednesday, February 25, 2004

After another unfruitful attempt to go play cards at Soaring Eagle in Mt. Pleasant (the lists were longer than last time, on a religious holiday, to boot!), I gave a lot of thought to how to go about ensuring that more cardrooms are opened. If Soaring Eagle operated in a competitive environment, they'd get more tables even if they had to drive to Las Vegas to get them (as Gil put it). We assume that it is illegal for us to open a cardroom, but don't know the law. So, I did some research.

Michigan Penal Code

Poker is not specifically mentioned, but it seems that it is still covered under the Michigan Penal Code. Sections 750.301 through 750.315 cover gambling, specifically stating that operating a cardroom is a misdemeanor. Section 303(1) seems to apply:

Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who for hire, gain, or reward, keeps or maintains a gaming room, gaming table, game of skill or chance, or game partly of skill and partly of chance, used for gaming, or who permits a gaming room, or gaming table, or game to be kept, maintained, or played on premises occupied or controlled by the person, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00. A person who aids, assists, or abets in the keeping or maintaining of a gaming room, gaming table, or game, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00.

However, there are casinos in Michigan. How do they operate?

The Indian Casinos

The Indian casinos operate under (mostly) Federal law, although my research through Title 25, sections 2703 and 2710 of U.S.Code tells me that they only need a compact with the state to operate "class III" gaming -- they can operate "class I" and "class II" on their grounds without such a compact. Poker might squeak through as class II gaming under 2703(7)(A)(ii) which covers

card games that -
(I) are explicitly authorized by the laws of the State, or
(II) are not explicitly prohibited by the laws of the State and are played at any location in the State,
but only if such card games are played in conformity with those laws and regulations (if any) of the State regarding hours or periods of operation of such card games or limitations on wagers or pot sizes in such card games.

If my understanding of Indian gaming is correct, that means that (for example) the Gun Lake tribe could open a cardroom even if Michigan tells them to take a flying leap (which could happen). In fact, I just sent the tribe an Email asking them if their interpretation corresponds with mine, and got the following response (very quickly!) from John L. Shagonaby, the Executive Director of the tribe:

Yes, we will pursue Class II which includes poker if the Class III is not immediately approved. We may try to include poker in the class III also. I'm a big fan of WPT.

The Detroit Casinos

The three Detroit casinos have their own section of the law, an act put into place by voter initiative in 1996. This is what gives me hope, because it explicitly makes gambling legal. Michigan Compiled Law 432.203(1): "Casino gaming is authorized to the extent that it is conducted in accordance with this act." They don't include the exemptions that are authorized under the penal code (fair games, lotteries, low-stakes card games by senior homes) as casino gambling, to avoid clashing with the existing law.

However, Section 6 makes my immediate thought -- applying for a casino license and then suing when I don't get one -- more problematic. First, the city where I place the casino (I'm using the word "casino" to mean cardroom, here) has to approve casinos generally. Grand Rapids might, just maybe, if I were more politically connected, but there is no way any of the suburbs or outlying areas would.

This is, of course, if the law weren't written to exclude cities that aren't Detroit from getting a license. Section 202(l): " 'City' means a local unit of government other than a county which meets all of the following criteria: (i) Has a population of at least 800,000 at the time a license is issued. [Detroit has nearly a million people; Grand Rapids is the second largest city and has fewer than 200,000.] (ii) Is located within 100 miles of any other state or country in which gaming was permitted on December 5, 1996. [Probably a null requirement; every bordering state, including Ontario (which is what they really mean), has some form of gambling.] (iii) Had a majority of voters who expressed approval of casino gaming in the city. [Only Detroit has put it to the voters.]" But the interesting thing is that they define only Detroit as even a city, so through the whole rest of the act, when they say "city," they mean Detroit.

It might be possible to sue over this restrictive definition. My earlier reading of the Casino Gambling law was that there were three licenses, period, but that's not the case; there can be three licenses per city. But only Detroit is a city, apparently.

Home Games

It appears that home games might even be illegal. The provision making gambling illegal is pretty broad, and would seem to include poker. Michigan Compiled Law 350.301:

Any person or his or her agent or employee who, directly or indirectly, takes, receives, or accepts from any person any money or valuable thing with the agreement, understanding or allegation that any money or valuable thing will be paid or delivered to any person where the payment or delivery is alleged to be or will be contingent upon the result of any race, contest, or game or upon the happening of any event not known by the parties to be certain, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00.

There are exceptions in later sections for low-stakes card games in senior citizen homes, fair games, and lotteries, but poker, apparently, is not for the masses.


It appears that the only solution to my problem, lack of cardrooms, is legislative: Cardrooms have to be exempted from the penal code, probably through an act similar to the Casino act. However, my local legislators are all Republicans. I generally side with Republicans, too, but the reason West Michigan is so conservative is that religion has a strong hold on the populace here. This means that a legislator who supports something so sinful as gambling would be committing political suicide. Even my congressman is on record opposing the Gun Lake casino -- which won't even be in his district.

And so I'm stuck travelling two hours or more each way to visit a public cardroom. The state is operating a monopoly (also not getting as much tax money as it could), and I get to suffer for it. It makes moving to Vegas more attractive, even though I need a few big scores before I get there.

  Monday, February 23, 2004

I deserve a break today

Made a couple of journeys over the weekend, neither of which went very well.

Gil and I headed up to Soaring Eagle, which has reopened their poker room. Contrary to what their web site says, the games they're playing are $3/$6 and $6/$12. But they've only got six tables, all squished in one corner of the poker room, and the lists are so long (at 10:30 AM, with snow on the roads) that we both are left with bad tastes in our mouths. Gil loses $20 playing blackjack, and we go home. This is the first time I've ever been to Soaring Eagle, having taken up the game after they originally closed the room. I'm not impressed; tables are ripped, the debacle of the poker room, and other things make me less than anxious to go back.

So we headed over to Manistee and Little River. We have a little bit of a wait here, too, but it's not too bad, and we're at least comfortable. (Little River has a self-serve beverage area, so I'm loading up on coffee, and reading the paper.) I'm tired, tho, and so even though the table is soft I lose about $100, mostly through trying to be too clever in the first few hands. Like going up against an obvious fish with only second pair, and having him turn over top pair. I'm tired, too, having basically not slept the night before. So we cash in (Gil won about $65, I think) and go home.

Sunday morning Gil, Dave, and I all go down to the Trump in Gary, Gil and I sit $5/$10, and Dave sits $3/$6. I make the same mistake I did in Manistee, trying to be too clever early on. I go down about $150, and hover there for a long time, bleeding off chips and winning small pots. I make a straight with a possible flush on the board, and the straight is good, for a nice pot but not a huge pot, and I end up cashing out for $150. Gil says he could tell that I wasn't getting cards, but I didn't notice until I reflected on the day. I mostly blamed playing like an idiot for my loss: playing weak starting hands ("But I'm in the blind!"), betting out with scary boards, and other stupid moves. If it wasn't nearly a three hour drive down there, I would have left after 60-90 minutes, disgusted with myself.

That's three trips in a row, four sessions, where I'm down. Plus, things aren't going as well online; I'm losing at $3/$6. Not a lot, but I'm losing. Enough to make me question this new career of mine.

I should remember that down weeks happen, cold cards happen, and that I can absorb a couple of them, but it's still depressing. Truly, what I need is a break from the game. I planned to do that today, but I just couldn't stay away. I went out middle-of-the-pack in a $20 tournament, and now I'm in a $100 tournament (that I shouldn't have joined, I know, but my other option is to play some more Empire Earth).

Oh well, I'll just win this, and then I'll be on a good run.

  Saturday, February 21, 2004

Moving, part II

I've got a few comments (below) to my post yesterday about moving the blog. A couple of good suggestions. There's space available to me at a couple of friends' sites, and I do know Blogger can be set up to put the page at a third-party site. (The first incarnation of this site is/was at GeoCities, so I know this for a fact.)

But I've got from a few people a definite vibe that "Blogger Sucks." Why? Their site hasn't eaten anything of mine, the software seems flexible enough. I don't pay them anything, so I can't use images that they don't host, but that's not the end of the world. I've had trouble getting images I've stored on Geocities to appear, but that might be Geocities' problem, in that they don't want images on their free accounts to appear elsewhere, free of ads.

I've heard TypePad, I've heard MovableType, and I've heard others. Someone run me through, particularly, why I'd want/need to switch from Blogger?

(Note: I'm not ruling out moving away from Blogger, out of hand; if there's better, and a reason I should switch, I'll switch.)

  Friday, February 20, 2004

Wishful thinking ... or insanity ...

What do you think? Should I get this?

I was wondering ...

With so many of the members of the blogosphere playing the same limits on PartyPoker, why don't I ever see any of them?

Okay, the answer is obvious; the ten or twenty of us play different limits at different times of day and there are a couple of zillion tables, but I still look to see if "iggy" or "boygza" or "McGrupp" or others are on my table.

If you see me, say hi! You'll know me by my jaunty smile. Oh, and the name above my head says "LordGeznikor," which ought to be another clue.

Moving the Site

I want to fancy up the site a bit, although gradually; I don't know a whole lot of fancy HTML tricks and the whole CSS thing is still a mystery to me. (Meaning, I haven't devoted any time to learning it; in my youth I was a programmer and some of that still applies to whatever the language is these days.)

But Blogspot isn't a great place to fancy up a site; particularly, one can't add images to the site unless one pays for it. Not that I want to add a LOT of images, truly, but I like the way a couple of the blogs out there are set up, with a real title banner and the occasional illustration.

But I don't know whom I should choose as the host of my site, or whom I should use to register a domain. Suggestions are welcome.

Killing the $3/$6 Game

I hope it's really just that I'm good, because I was doing this to the $5/$10 tables two weeks ago and then promptly lost it. But with two tables, three and a half hours, I pocketed $280.50, $80/hr, $40/hr per table or about 7BB/hr per table.

It's a lot nicer to post my good days ... the sparsity of my posts last week wasn't entirely due to me being in Chicago a lot.

In the early going of a $30+3 MTT now ... took a couple of OK pots and am at T$1295 but it's still VERY early, 511 left out of 530. (They go out slower in a Limit tourney.)

  Thursday, February 19, 2004

$3/$6 Update

That was a pretty nice session, which makes me like poker again. Playing two tables at once from 1AM to 5AM, changing tables as they broke, I went up $248.50, for $50/hr (or $25/hr, 4BB/hr, if you count the two tables). The grisly details:

1:15 Xanadu 94 mins + $48.00
1:17 C.R.4102 96 mins + $ 8.50
2:50 C.R.2684 107 mins + $80.00
2:54 C.R.3669 61 mins + $81.00
3:56 Pink Squirrel 7 mins - $ 6.50
4:07 Candle Light 10 mins + $25.00
4:38 C.R.4220 7 mins + $12.50
TOTAL, 3.5 HOUR × 2 TABLES: +$248.50

Pretty nice night, overall.


Being impressed with my performance Friday and Saturday at the Trump Casino in Gary, Indiana, Dave and I went back there again Monday evening. Dave sat $3/$6 (I gave him Kanish's deal from the beginning of Rounders), while I sat $5/$10, and $10/$20 once they opened it an hour or so later.

It went badly. Tossing off a rack of red is bad enough, but putting more money on the table didn't help. Adding insult to injury, I played $5/$10 the next day (even after they opened the $10/$20), and lost more money. I believe, total, I ended up losing about $1200.

I didn't have as much luck as I did Friday and Saturday. Mostly, that's the right word, luck, because at least 70-80% of the problem I attribute to poor cards. 5-10% of the problem was probably my own mistakes. (I know of a couple of small ones, but I'm accounting for mistakes I don't know about.) And whatever is left is, I think, due to times I was outplayed. I don't know about any times I was outplayed, but of course, I wouldn't.

I don't normally complain about a bad run of cards, but they were bad. I didn't have AA a single time. I had KK once, but had to muck it (which turned out to be correct). I had QQ twice, and won with it once. This is in two days. The second day (at $5/$10) I won exactly four pots. I know, because I counted how many half-dollars I had used for dealer tokes.

Fortunately, I can do an accounting trick so that it doesn't look like I've done as badly over the last week as I have, because my "fiscal weeks" start Tuesday and end Monday. Still, it's not pretty; I've lost pretty much everything I made last week.

When I got home, though, the cards finally turned. Unfortunately it was a tournament rather than a cash game, but I finished 35th for a net profit of $50. I was in good shape up until there were about 50 left, when I took a big hit because a ragged flop hit my opponent harder than me. Finally I made my stand with my leftover chips with AJ, but my opponent had AQ, and I was out.

Home Games

Wednesday night was the inaugural Home Poker Tournament that I mentioned a couple of posts ago. Dave, Gil, and I all went downtown early, 6:30ish, to have things ready for however many arrived. We got there, put the chips (and our beverages) in the room, and had the doorman call Hal and let him know we'd arrived.

Despite inviting people from three--no, four--sources, the only people there turned out to be the four of us. Eventually, we decided to have the tournament four-way, winner take all. I had prepared chip stacks for 30 people, and we didn't exactly press the limit with how many chips we'd use.

Hal, probably the least experienced of us (but not by much, compared to Dave), went out when he failed to raise a holding of QQ with rags on the board. I was jamming the ragged flop with AKo, and if he had raised at any time, I would have been gone. I hit my A on the river, and Hal was out.

I was next, but I don't actually remember the hand. I think Gil was the one who put me out, though, so maybe he remembers and will enighten us.

Then came the epic headsup battle between Gil and Dave. Gil looked to be the prohibitive favorite, based on experience and chip stack, but the lead switched several times (and Dave sucked out several times) until finally it was Dave with the huge stack of 24 black chips, and the victory. He profited $60 with his victory, and now he doesn't not have money.

We hadn't had our poker itch fully scratched by the first tournament, so we had a second one, only this time Hal was out (he only had the $20 for the first buy-in). Again, I was first out (don't remember the hand this time either), and again, Dave took on Gil for the championship and won. His $100 profit from two games was actually a pretty good night.

We're doing it again March 24 (hint hint, BG et al), but hope to do a better job of getting people to come. It really is a nice room.


Given all the losses I've suffered lately, I've taken it a bit easier since I got home. I entered a $9+$1 MTT qualifier, and went out (disappointingly) in the middle of the pack. I was trying to be too clever, betting out when I hit second pair because I had just a limper or two for opponents. It's a bit confusing when you bet (or raise) to find out if someone has you beat, and they don't raise, they just call. And so I was beat a couple of times by top pair, weak kicker, and ran out of chips.

I'm currently sitting two $3/$6 rings. I don't know if it's the caliber of opponents at $3/$6, or the caliber of opponents at 2AM (EST), but I'm cleaning up here. I'm up about $15 at one table, and $170 at the other, playing pretty ABC poker. Oh, I've hit a couple of monster flops (flopped quad sixes once), and slowplayed those for mostly good effect, but I don't think my run of cards has been much better than average.

So that's probably my new plan, then, is to continue to play a couple of $3/$6 tables, rather than the single $5/$10 table. The $5/$10 players, especially during the day, are damnedly clever, especially during the day, and I've lost a few too many big pots over the last week.

That is, of course, when I'm not at the casino. That room at the Trump really is nice.

  Saturday, February 14, 2004

Down ... and Up

After a poor couple of days playing online in which I was down anywhere from $600 to $800, depending on where you start from, but $600 since I reported my "week 1" figures, I finally got it back playing live poker.

Gil and I went to check out Trump Casino outside Chicago, where Gil had heard (presumably via rec.gambling.poker, which he reads more than I do) that they had opened a poker room. (This is officially "riverboat gambling," but in Lake Michigan.)

We'd been to Harrah's in East Chicago, which is across a small bay from the Trump in Gary, Indiana, but neither of us was particularly impressed. They cram too many tables into the room, but mostly, the rake is 10% of the pot up to $6, plus $1 for the bad beat jackpot. Pretty bad. (In fact, on our way to the Trump, we passed a billboard for Harrah's poker room which said "Now with $5 rake!" Ooh, pinch me.)

The Trump rakes 5% up to $5, and only adds to the bad beat jackpot at the $3/$6 and $5/$10 tables. Plus, we heard as we were leaving that they offer a $39 room rate to members of their players' club -- in other words, to anyone with positive ID. So right away we're given to like the room. It also happens to be nicely set up, with about a dozen tables (the type with cupholders in the rail) spread apart nicely, and room for another four to six tables in the future. Many of the dealers showed their inexperience, but this should fix itself over time.

Gil and I arrived Friday afternoon at maybe 2:00 local time, when the highest-limit game they had was $5/$10. This started as a very tough game, because the game had in it a lot of players who were waiting for higher-limit (including no-limit!) games to open. As they filtered away into the $10/$20 and eventually into the no-limit games, the game got easier, but never easier than when a new player sat down with a full rack of red.

Gil and I had him trapped between us on one hand where I had QQ and Gil had JJ, and he kept having to call one or two bets where we capped preflop and postflop. There was a K on the flop, too, which made both of our plays pretty gutsy, but we were pretty sure Newbie wasn't taking it down. He mucked after Gil did when the river came out, but the river was a Q, so he was unlikely to have me beat anyway. That turned out to be almost a $200 pot, which was nice.

I won $263 Friday, but Gil didn't do as well, losing nearly $400. I think for a long time Gil was playing scared, because his big holdings didn't get good flops, or if they did, got beat. After a while he had sort of a shell-shocked look on his face, and stopped raising with his good holdings.

We left about 8:30 local time, because I hadn't got much sleep the night before and because Gil was in financial pain. We started back, but Gil figured he'd want to play again somewhere on Saturday, so we might as well stay nearby. We grabbed a room at a Super-8 about twenty miles back toward home.

And so we were up bright and early on Saturday to have breakfast and get to the casino at maybe 7 or 8AM local time, far earlier than most locals got there. In fact, when I sat down at the $10/$20 table, all three (!) of the other players had been on the table since the night before. Gil, still feeling the pain, sat down at $3/$6.

I normally like my short-handed play, but I never really accomplished much at the table, fluctuating between $50 down and $150 up for the first couple of hours. Not until the table filled up (when I was already up $100 or $150) did I hit my big hands, and big pots, and so when we left (fairly early again) I was up $510. There's something nice about having the cashier lay out $1000 for you; even if you bought in for $500, that's still a thousand freaking dollars there on the counter.

Also it was nice to have a good day at $10/$20, since there were a number of good players on the table, including one who I gathered was a pro. (Well, shit, so was I, now that I think about it.) There was really only one sucker on the table, and even he would do well at a lower-limit game. My take compares very favorably to the first time I sat $10/$20, at the Mirage in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. (See my trip report in my January archives.)

Gil did pretty well, too, going up nearly $200 at $3/$6. He said the table was almost perfect, with a lot of people seeing flops for one bet, and so Gil played a lot of Ax-suited hands for the flush draw ... correctly. He figures he only played ten or twelve hands to showdown the whole time, but won nearly all of them for huge pots. Strangely, he lamented the game because there was no challenge to it. Considering that his biggest customer is late paying him, taking the money sounds to me like a far better idea than playing for the challenge.

Most Amusing Moment ...

... was when I came back from the restroom, past some of the other table games, and noticed a big sign above one which said "TRUMP CRAPS."

  Thursday, February 12, 2004

Royal and Soaring Eagle

I got an email from Royal today, asking about getting together for a home game. It'd be cool, but we're a bit far apart. Likely when Soaring Eagle reopens their room (the link says Feb 18), we'll meet up there -- it's about a 90-105 minute drive for me, and 30-45 minutes for him. (Of course, I have to drive right past my parents' house to get there, so I have additionally to deal with the psychological guilt of not stopping in.)

There's a rumour that their new rake structure will be obscene (10% with no cap), so if that turns out to be true, I'll probably only go to Soaring Eagle to do things like meet up with Royal. Cardrooms should just plain be legal here, like in California; there's only one room within a two or three hour drive which isn't a pit of a room, or has a horrible rake, or something.

Home Games

Gil and I ordered some poker chips from PokerChips.com yesterday for our new home game. (We got 1000 chips for $500, including a case and two-day air.)

This game is billed as the next game after one Gil had at his place (before I was renting a room here), for a number of people who were in our Toastmasters group. It was about three years ago, that last game, but it was a lot of fun. Of course, none of us were truly poker players at the time. And so we called a lot of stupid games, including "Little Indian Chief" (place a card on your forehead in such a way that everybody can see it but you, and bet on high card). That one, I remember, we even played "match the pot" (if you lose, you match the pot; if three are in, both losers match the pot).

In any case, we intend to run this one tournament style, "just like on TV." That's bringing in a number of people who wouldn't ordinarily be interested, because "the most you could lose is $20." It also prevents anyone from calling "Little Indian Chief," as holdem is the game. Of course, any side games that break out can be whatever they want to be.

The best thing is the room we have. One of the current members of that Toastmasters club owns a condo in Plaza Towers (that link is actually for their apartments). The condo owners have access to a community room which could easily seat 50, or more if some other stuff were moved around. The tables aren't poker tables, but they're nice and big and round, and could easily sit 8 if not 10.

The biggest advantage is also the biggest disadvangtage: There's a doorman for the condo entrance (the north entrance, facing toward the Amway Grand, for those (BG etc) who are planning on comming), and the door is kept locked.

This hasn't ever been a problem when I've been there for other things before; the doorman has always been there, or if not, I've been able to ring up to Hal's apartment (there's a phone in the entryway) and he or his wife could buzz me in. But it might confuse some people. (BG, particularly, I'll get you Hal's name in case you need to buzz him. Royal, let me know if you're coming (long drive) so I can get you the same.)

The advantage of this is that even if we get 50 people (I hope not; we only ordered 1000 chips), we won't attract attention; the parking lot there is usually full for one reason or another (you'll probably have to pay), so no wondering by any officers of the law if we're doing anything illegal. We aren't, of course, we won't be taking a rake, but the questions could become annoying. (Never in my 33 years have I had an experience with the police that was actually positive.)

My current hope is to make this a monthly thing, but a lot of that depends on Hal; the room is arranged through him. Even more often would be better, weekly maybe, but again that's up to Hal. Of course, ideal would be a room that ran 24/7, even if it took a rake, but that's something that I wouldn't have the confidence to arrange.


Michigan has something like fifteen casinos, mostly Indian casinos but a couple specifically for Detroit. However, even for Indian tribes, starting a new casino isn't a slam-dunk. There's actually a good bit of information at this tribe's site (under "Development") about their attempt to open a casino about 20-30 minutes south of Grand Rapids, Michigan (map), which has been frustrated for something like three or four years.

My question is this: If gambling is going to be effectively legal, why create monopoly conditions? It doesn't take an economic genius to see that monopolies are bad for the consumer in every industry. It also doesn't take a genius to see that the more entities that the state has available to tax, the more tax it will collect. So, why would the state limit consumers' choices, and limit the revenue it can collect?

I didn't vote for Governor Granholm, and in fact I'm a little embarrassed that she got elected. (It's the Republicans' fault; their candidate was very weak in 2002.) But she's on record as saying she didn't oppose new casinos (even if she didn't actively support the idea). West Michigan (meaning the Grand Rapids area and surrounding counties) is more religious than a lot of areas, and generally opposes gambling initiatives, but Granholm has most Detroiters' disdain for, and total lack of understanding of, any area outside metro Detroit. (I know, I used to live there.) This might help with the Gun Lake situation, because her disdain might help overcome locals' attitudes.

My thought is that gambling should just be legalized, similarly to the way Nevada is set up. Set up some licensing board that guarantees ability to pay winners, fairness of the games, and so on, and then if you can meet these (not very stringent) rules, you can open a casino (or "gaming operation", since a lot of places will just want to, say, add like two slot machines to their checkout line).

Alternatively, legalize cardrooms, somewhat like California has done. This isn't as attractive as legalizing casinos but it's enough for my purposes, namely, I want to play cards without moving to Vegas. I don't know enough about how California's rooms are set up legally to suggest this to legislators, though.

Which presents a problem. The state has unleashed a genie from his bottle by setting up these monopoly conditions, namely, any effort to monkey with the status quo would encounter fierce opposition from the established interests, those who have the current (monopoly) casinos. No Republican would sponsor such a bill, because he'd face opposition from both the casinos and the religious right, the latter of whom have the machinery in place to put up a candidate who toes to their line. The Democrats don't have that particular chain around their necks, but they don't have any power in West Michigan, so I can't easily approach them with a legislative suggestion.

I usually vote Libertarian, or barring a Libertarian candidate, Republican. But a Democrat who supported this issue and worked to make it happen can have my vote.

Instant poll: Whatever party you support, would you vote for another party if their candidate supported more poker rooms in your state?

Well, I've had my first bad day. Actually, it seems to be a bad couple of days, but after my run last week I can afford a couple.

I think the moral of the story is that I should change tables more often.

In any case, after I put up the $250 yesterday morning, I went about my day, including an evening out. Unfortunately, I decided to play after I got home last night. I don't think my attention was entirely focused on the game (I'd been drinking), but I gave back everything I'd made that morning. I followed that up with another poor session this morning (another $250).

Right now, I'm trying out the advice of those who point out the pleasures of the $25 and $50 no-limit games on PartyPoker, by sitting a $50 game. NL isn't my game, truly, I haven't put nearly as much time into it as I have into limit, but I'm doing OK. Not great; I've had to make some tough laydowns, but OK. Right now I'm down about $10, which isn't even playing a single pot at $5/$10, so it's OK.

I think in the morning I'll go back to my usual, though; hopefully the tables treat me a bit better.

  Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Let's see if I can jinx it.

I noticed just now that in my first 1000 hands of $5/$10 since I downloaded PokerTracker I have a BB/Hr of 9.22 (at $5/$10).

I'd need a few losing sessions to bring that down to a normal level. Note to my future self -- those losing sessions are normal.

The End of Week One

I consider February 3 to be the official date that I turned pro, even though I didn't quit my job until the next day. Partially this is because 02-03-04 is easy to remember, but I think the decision was made that day.

If my nut is $500 (net) a week, I more than made that this first week. Online, I made around $977 (exactly $977, if I assume I started the wek with $1000 in my PP account, but I think it was slightly more). Live, I made $414. So my net for the week is up $1391, or a wee bit more than the $500 I actually needed.

I can't entirely credit my stellar play. The cards have been falling my way. And fortunately, even on the $5/$10 tables, there are plenty of people who will follow one all the way to the river even when one has a monster hand, so my monster hands have (mostly) been dragging monster pots.

So, thus far, it looks like it's been a good career move.

The Evils of Dave

Note: Don't let Dave near your computer. Comments recently added on this site have no connection to me, excepting that the person who made that was in my computer room. I was probably crashing a car into a wall at the time and didn't notice what he was doing.

On the other hand, Dave's poker skills are coming along. He has been going through that stretch where one gets frustrated about the other players not playing rationally, and considers jumping up in limits where they (in theory) do play rationally. Of course, I discouraged that thought. I came across a great line in CardPlayer once, to the effect of, if you can't beat players who don't know what they're doing, why do you think you can beat players who do know what they're doing?

I don't have to reiterate what so many others in the blogosphere have to say about the dollar/half tables on PartyPoker -- play good hands, accept the bad beats for what they are (he called with a worse hand!), and go on.

Well, I'm currently up about $180 on a $5/$10, so week two progresses nicely ...

  Monday, February 09, 2004

The Michigan Poker Blogger Crossover Game

It'll be good to have Royal in the next one, perhaps when Soaring Eagle reopens their poker room.

In any case, the MPBCG I featured BG and LordGeznikor, along with the famous Gil, known to one and all as the other half of "Dan and Gil's Magical Mystical Musical Variety Hour," although if he's actually known as that to anybody anywhere in the universe, then that person is on drugs, because I made that up.

BG's big reason for inviting us, he said, was that he wanted to test his mettle against someone else who cares how good his game is. As it happens, I do care how my game is, because I happen to be a newly-minted poker pro.

There ended up being two tables, one of seven and one (ours) of six. As luck would have it, BG, Gil, and I all ended up on the same table, along with one player who was OK but was getting drunk, one person who had a clue about the game, but it sucks to be fifth-best at the table, and one player who seemed to be brand-new. I'd assign them the nicknames "Drunkie," "Clue-boy," and "Newbie," but it's irrelevant. Clue-boy goes out early, and Newbie isn't far behind, but I think before Newbie goes out my first big hand happens.

I'm not that impressed with my play early on. I had some nice cards -- KK, TT, JJ, AK -- but I fail to extract a lot of chips from the other players with them. And when I am in on a marginal hand, I generally lose, so by the time the first big hand happens I'm only about even.

The big hand is the one BG alluded to on his site. The blinds are 10 and 20 at this point. If I'm about even (1000), BG probably has about 1400. BG is, I believe, the big blind. Newbie and Gil might or might not have called the big blind, I don't recall, but I looked down at QQ and made it 200 to go. (QQ is a great hand but there are eight cards which can easily make someone a better hand, so what I really want is to get headsup with someone -- although I'd be OK with taking the blinds.) BG decides to be that someone, raising it to 600. If anybody else was in the hand, they're gone now, and it comes back to me. There are only three hands that he could have that I'd be worried about. If he had AA or KK, I'm screwed, and if he had AK I'm only a slight favorite. Anything else, and I'm a big favorite. So I go all-in. (Even a call would pot-commit me, truly.) Now BG goes into the tank for a bit. He says he doesn't believe I've got the bullets, and calls me.

He then flips over KT♥. I catch a Q on the flop, and he's toast.

I don't like his call here. If he thought I was trying to steal the blinds, his making it 600 might have been a good move, but he definitely should have folded to my all-in. He said he had me on QQ or JJ after I went all-in, too, and if he believed that then the call was even worse -- he was dominated, and only a K would save him. He can feel good about his read of my hand, but he made a bad call.

In no-limit, you usually only get one mistake, and BG is out on the next hand, followed quickly by Newbie, and they combine the tables for the "final table." (The top three were in the money, but 10/13 of it went to first.)

This ends up going very quickly, as we double the blinds -- already 25 and 50 -- every time someone goes out. I double up (nearly) on my second Big Hand:

I have AA, and make a decent raise preflop out of the small blind ... let's say to 200. One caller. Flop is (let's say) J62. No help to anyone there, so I put in 400. Called, and I'm concerned but figure my opponent has a big jack so I'm not really that concerned. Turn is a 4, still no help, so I bet 600, and the other guy goes all-in (for a raise of about 150). Obviously I call, and he flips over J2, for two pair. Now I need some serious help, but somehow the poker gods were smiling on me, because the river is a 4, pairing the board, and now my two pair beats his two pair.

I've now got a pretty monstrous chip lead, but Gil puts the next few people out, so he amasses a pretty nice stack himself. I double up the player who ends up being third, and then double up Gil (which really hurts, and makes him the chip leader). Then I put Drunkie out on another lucky hand that leaves him muttering. (Actually, I think his name was Justin, and I believe he is the "other" good player that BG occasionally mentions from his home game.)

Three-handed takes a while, even though the player who ends up being third is in danger of being blinded out. I believe the third Big Hand takes place with, umm, "Thirdie" still in the game.

I attempt to limp in with 89♣, but Gil makes it two bets (800, I think). I reluctantly call. Thirdie, I believe, folds his small blind. The flop is (say) 479, and Gil goes all-in. Now it's my turn to go into the tank. Gil is a solid player, but no-limit isn't his game either, and so the most likely thing for him to have is A9. In my attempt now to reconstruct what I was thinking at the time, I come up with two reasons for my call: First, I was OK with Gil winning the tournament, because I'd get my shot at that money on another day. Second, y'know, hey, what the fuck. I call, and Gil shows 33 -- he went all-in on an underpair believing I wouldn't make a marginal call. The turn and river offer neither of us extra help, and I double up, and am again the chip leader.

When I put Thirdie out (more lucky catches, I think), Gil and I are heads up with me having a big chip lead. I double him up, take some blinds back, and finally when I raise a hand, he reraises all-in, which isn't much so I call. He's the favorite, but I catch, and the tournament is over.

I chuckled a lot on the way home -- I knew about half the field tonight was going to be weak, but I expected that either Gil or I would make a fatal mistake that would put one of us out early. I wouldn't have picked Gil and I to take first and second even if we were the best players in the room, which -- well, maybe we were, I don't know. But tournaments, especially no-limit tournaments, include a large luck factor. I would have picked BG to place higher, too. Justin (Drunkie) said when he sat down something to the effect of "Wow, I have to sit with the ringers," and as it happened, we were.

I'm curious if we get invited back.

  Sunday, February 08, 2004

The whole night went like that [the post from two hours ago]. In 2.5 hours, I went up over $400, because my monster hands also happened to drag monster pots. I won three hands worth over $200 apiece (at $5/$10), and a number of smaller hands. This after getting discouraged like I wrote earlier ...

I like poker again.

In a little while I venture westward to join BG in a NL game with over half new players, I read; it might be like playing in that "Celebrity Poker" thingy on TV where you just wish you could sit at the same table as some of those idiots.

I hope.

A couple of my fellow bloggers pointed out Saturday Night Live's take on Bravo's Celebrity Poker; I thought that whoever wrote it clearly knew a thing or two about poker but it looked mostly like a chance to rip on their chosen celebrities. And Kevin Pollack. "You're not funny, stop it, just stop it."

Oooh, cool, I feel better about online poker all of a sudden.

After going down to a few stupid hands at $5/$10, I just took down a $227 pot when I flopped 78J rainbow to the 9Th I played for one bet.

So that's how you're supposed to play those suited connectors ...

  Saturday, February 07, 2004

Just Wondering ...

If an FTD franchise cost too much, would you say You Can't Be a Florist for the Fees?

And now for something completely different

... like poker news.

After a down day on Thursday (around $100, methinks) Gil and I went up to Manistee to play at the casino there. He was down a little on Friday, up a little on Saturday; I was up a bit over $100 both days. The room was comped, so it was a weekend well spent.

Apparently Little River's next tournament is this Tuesday; they're accepting call-ins beginning tomorrow morning. Gil and I will probably go up; I got the impression that the tournament brings out a number of fish. And, if you buy, rebuy, and add-on, it's $55, and I can't see me not making the final table to get that back.

Hopefully BG gets with me tomorrow about that soft game he's mentioned -- no-limit isn't my game but I like my chances, against people who don't play well.

Speaking of no-limit, it's something I have to learn, despite BG's poor experience with a pot-limit ring. Maybe I'll commit myself to, on days where I make my nut early, to toss $25 into one of PartyPoker's cash games and see how much of a fool I make of myself. (I tried it a couple of times, long ago, and lost my $25 quickly.)

I think maybe the rest of today is a "watch old movies" day.

  Thursday, February 05, 2004

After much futzing around, I give up -- someone tell me how to make it so that when I link an old article, it not only loads the archive page, it pops down to the old article.

Day Two

Well, I mentioned somewhere (in a comment, I think) that I made $250 before I quit Lowes, so I left feeling pretty good. I did give back about $100 or $150 of that that evening, but I had made my nut.

Day two is being more problematic. I played four or five hours of $5/$10 for a profit of ... $9.

After dinner, I decided to drop down to $3/$6, with a hope of better luck (or fishier players), and so far I'm down $14.

I feel the same way I often feel at a live game: I can handle being up (in fact I prefer it), and I can handle being down. The one thing I can't handle, is being even. Why the hell am I playing to break even?

I understand that, really, breaking even is a victory, because it means you're beating the rake, but there's no psychological victory there. And, even if in my case it's OK to not make my nut today, I do need to make it.

But breaking even still isn't very much fun.

  Wednesday, February 04, 2004

It's Official

Well, I didn't chicken out.

I was due to work a 12:30-11PM shift today. Since I went to bed early last night (around 9, I think), I was up this morning at 11 -- plenty of time to get in a few orbits of $5/$10.

I seem to remember from when I played $5/$10 before (mostly the 6-rings, then) that I did the best during the day, and today is no exception, as I go up about $250 in the two hours I wait to shit/shower/shave and go tell the managers I'm taking the rest of my life off from that place.

That ended up being far less dramatic than I had expected; I didn't even bring out my manifesto. But most of my co-workers were surprised to see me; I had to explain a couple of times that I wasn't there to work my shift.

The only bummer about going in was that cute vendor-chick had already eaten, so I didn't get to take her to lunch. I asked if she was up for a Griffins game on Friday, but I got an excuse I haven't got before: "I already have a date with X."

In any case, I went to lunch afterwards, the same place I would usually go when I was working, only today I threw them a curve: I ordered an actual beer in place of my usual root beer. I was jazzed, exhilarated, pumped, you name it, but the country music was actually sounding good to me.

I still am, to an extent. I don't remember the last time I was this jazzed about something. I think it's the second scariest thing I've ever done, though.

You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to change the world

The scariest was, if I remember correctly, in the fall of 1997. For those who don't know I spent a lot of the 1990s doing work for the Libertarian Party. Well, around that time I became convinced that the party should, without fail, run a candidate for Governor in 1998. (They weren't planning on it, for reasons I don't need to go into.) With the most likely person physically and financially drained from two tough campaigns in 1994 and 1996, I decided that I myself would be the candidate.

The scary bit was when I "took the show on the road," beginning to speak to the various chapters of the Libertarian Party of Michigan to gain support for the idea. That launched the campaign in an unmistakable way, putting me out for ridicule, exposure, whatever ills one can fear when taking a big and public step like that.

Unfortunately (and this ticked me off at the time), I had misremembered the way the Michigan Constitution reads on the subject of who is qualified to be Governor. Specifically, I remember noticing that one is eligible to be elected to the state House and Senate at 21, and assuming that also applied to the Governor's office. But no, I've linked the relevant section, and I needed to be 30. I was only going to have been 28 at the time of the 1998 election.

The scary bit was not the semi-ridicule I had to face when it turned out I was on the road for nothing, it was the act itself.

As it turned out, 1998 would have been a great time for the Libertarians to run a candidate for Governor. The Democrats ended up nominating Geoffrey Feiger, a windbag lawyer who gained a national name for himself by defending Jack Kevorkian through his assisted-suicide trials, and the Republicans of course renominated John Engler for a third term. A well-run Libertarian campaign probably could have beaten Feiger to come in second.

Looking forward

So, unbelievably, I am now a poker pro. At least in the sense of "I don't have a job right now, and I don't plan to get one as long as my bankroll holds out." But I don't believe that $100 a day won't continue to be feasible for at least the next two years.

And so this blog, this journal, becomes more important as a way of tracking how I feel about the game on the good days and bad days. I don't expect a lot more posts about big scores, because I shouldn't be (won't be) entering tournaments at least until I make my nut. I'm on a bad run in those, too, so taking a break from them is probably a good idea. Go back to the ring games.

I'm really curious, now, what happens to my mental state the day I take my first big loss. I hereby send this mantra into the future: It will get better ... It will get better ...

  Tuesday, February 03, 2004

A date which shall live on in glorious memory ...

I had an epiphany when the alarm rang a couple of minutes to 6 this morning so that I could go work a stellar day at Lowes.

I've mentioned before that I don't like my job. And I've mentioned that I've considered chucking it all and moving to Vegas (see, for example, last night's post). I figured I'd need about $10,000 to take my shot.

It occurred to me this morning, when I was trying to come up with some reason, any reason, why I didn't have to go to work and I could sleep some more, that there's an alternative.

For a number of reasons, my "nut," my monthly expenses, are quite low. I have rent, a car payment, and a couple of miscellaneous bills that all together add up to between $800 and $900 a month. That doesn't include food or root beer. Pick a number, but a net income of $2000 a month would cover my expenses and then some.

If you assume I play poker five days a week, four weeks a month, then that divides out to $100 a day.

The legions of PartyPoker fans in the blogosphere prove that's eminently doable.

Warning: Math ahead

$100 is 50BB at $1/$2, 25BB at $2/$4, 17BB at $3/$6, 10BB at $5/$10 (which I haven't sat in a good long while).

I have more tournament hands than ring-game hands in PokerTracker at the moment, and I've only got about 8000 hands total in the software. Of course, my tournament play shows a BB/Hr of barely over zero, because a tournament necessarily involves busting out, unless one finishes first. The "barely over" probably is due to tournament hands that didn't get loaded, or single-table tournaments that I've won, either of which would account for a small fraction of the 4500 tournament hands in the software.

My ring-game performance, while fewer hands (2600, apparently), shows what I hope is a more realistic figure. In those 2600 hands, I averaged 4.66 big bets per hour.

I have to weight this a bit. At $.50/$1 stakes (600 hands), I averaged 6.10BB/H; at $1/$2 (800 hands), 2.68BB/H; at $2/$4 (160 hands), 5.95BB/H; and at $3/$6 (800 hands), 2.93BB/H.

I understand that these data don't form a proper-sized statistical universe, but if one takes the 3BB/H figure from my $3/$6 play, takes that as the "normal" number, and subtracts, say, 30% to account for the possibility that I might have been overachieving, we're left with a figure of two big bets per hour.

So to earn $100, or a day's pay, I'd need to spend 25 hours a day at $1/$2; 12 at $2/$4, 8 at $3/$6, or 5 at $5/$10. This is assuming that I play a single table at a time. It's also assuming my real BB/H is a lot lower than I experienced over the last 2600 hands.

Again, this is doable. Especially with multiple tables open. And it's perhaps boring, but it's a lot less of a pain in the ass than Lowes.

Ch-ch-changes ...

Doing this would change how I view my time on PartyPoker, and indeed how I spend my time on PartyPoker.

Until now, over the last eight or nine months that I've been on PartyPoker, I've viewed my bankroll as "keeping score" rather than as actual cash. The abstraction of a virtual bankroll helps a lot with this. For most of this time, I viewed my losses as "tuition," learning to get better at the game. (Truly, if it weren't for all of the multi-table tournaments I played in where I was dead money, I wouldn't have suffered those losses.) And so, while a good day was good, a bad day wasn't necessarily bad.

Making my living off that bankroll would change that. It would mean that the bankroll becomes specifically one for grinding, and not one for flashy multi-table tournament entries. It means not worrying about "getting on the boat," the tournament I was so concerned about getting into just last night.

While I don't have the bankroll to go to Vegas, I do have the bankroll to support an attempt to live off PartyPoker. That $5000 in wins from last week is still out there. I have another paycheck coming from Lowes this week. And the Departments of Evil for both Michigan and the US will owe me a nice chunk, too. Even if I make zero dollars in this attempt, I can live off that for a good bit.

I don't actually consider the possibility that I might go seriously negative. If my play becomes subpar, this plan has plenty of days built in to take a break from the game and, I don't know, take up alcoholism (I hear good things). So, at worst, I spend a few months playing poker and then I need to find another job.


Did you ever notice that when you seek advice from several sources, you hear the advice you want to hear? I sought out advice from several coworkers in verious stages of disgruntlement. A couple of them said what I wanted to hear: "Sheeit, if I was your age and didn't have a family to support, I'd be all over an opportunity like that. Good luck, man." (Obligatory "Rounders" quote about luck here.) The most disgruntled of them pointed out that if Lowes is making me miserable, and I have an opportunity like this (the money might not be there forever), how could it be worse? And how could wherever I land should I fail be worse?

The more practical advice I got was from the fellow there who is the most avid poker player at the place other than myself. He pointed out that there are about ten million kids in this country who dream of nothing more than playing basketball for a living, but very, very few ever become good enough to do it. And you know what, he's right.

But poker has a different gradient than basketball. In basketball, you have a very large number of players who make absolutely nothing, a few players eking out a living in a minor league, and a few players making lots and lots of money. Well, actually, maybe the analogy works better than I thought, because the grinders are that "minor league" next to the Lederers and Negreanus. But all I'm trying to achieve here, is the minor leagues.

Fear in the Air, Tension Everywhere ...

Rap on, brother.

Although I didn't talk to management about it, I'm not really expected in at work tomorrow, because I talked to just about everyone else. But to sever my connection with a pretty good source of income, even a detestable one, is downright frightening.

The other time I made an experiment with self-employment, I was forced into it. I had planned on doing some commission-based fundraising for a project of the Libertarian Party of Michigan on a part-time basis, with the potential to turn it into a full-time gig if it worked out well. But then my full-time job disappeared out from under me (I was fired, truth be told, but I've never really understood why, in that case). Slightly less scary than to strike out and do something totally new.

There are (or would be) a couple of things I'd be doing wrong, here. Primary is that I really don't have enough experience to jump into doing this full-time. I play a damn lot of poker ... but I'm probably just a gifted amateur. Above average -- I'm beating the rake -- but I'm not Sklansky, I'm not Abdul or Izmet, I'm just a guy who has learned a bit by reading and a lot by trial and error how to beat the average low-limit game most of the time. Dammit, I don't feel smart enough to be a poker pro.

Another more subtle thing I'm doing wrong is that I haven't set "exit conditions," or the point where I decide this isn't working and go look for a regular job. But that can come later. Related to this is that my bankroll and my regular-roll are still intermingled. I hope to change this by keeping my entire poker bankroll on PartyPoker; there's about $1000 there now so it's a good start.

I can't bring this to a conclusion. Right now, I think I go into work tomorrow, talk to management and essentially quit (probably providing a copy of last month's manifesto), and take the cute vendor chick who should be there out for lunch. But "The Fear Factor" is strong; I might just show up at work tomorrow like nothing happened.

Well, I closed that table up about $350 after being up more than $400 at one point, which is refreshing. But the $50+5 I play afterward doesn't go anywhere, and I finish (I believe) 132d. Mostly no cards, if I remember correctly. The fellow on the $3/$6 that I goaded into entering the MTT goes out 187th, so I can feel good about putting his dead money in the pot, too.

I'm starting to think about "getting on the boat," or getting into PartyPoker's annual huge tournament (the PartyPoker Million III). The last set of semi-finals, which get one on the boat (the tournament is on a cruise ship), is in a week or two. I'd really like to be on the boat, because a shot at a top prize that should be in the $1,500,000 range is, for some odd reason, really attractive.

So I'm starting to enter tournaments that will qualify me for "getting on the boat." The first one is in twenty minutes or so, a $9+1 that gets one into a $150+10 "super satellite" on Thursday night. Of course, I'll have to rearrange my work schedule to play that tournament, but I'm really close to throwing that place over anyway.

It's weird ... over the course of the last two months or so, moving to Vegas to play cards all the time has gone from "something that would be neat but I'd probably never do" to "something I might do next fall" to "something I might do in the next couple of weeks."

Can one live off the fish in $4/$8 games?

  Sunday, February 01, 2004

No tournaments today, after going out really early of that $200+15 last night. I don't think I'm playing optimally.

So I've been playing $3/$6 ... after a dismal morning (subjective morning), I've found a nice table and gone up nearly $300 in a couple of hours, more than making up for what I lost this morning.

So my bankroll is again at about $1000, even after spending, lessee, around $450 on tournaments I didn't cash.

If I'm still up for the 2AM tourney, I may give it a shot.

Gil and I are supposed to go to Manistee tomorrow for some $4/$8. Dave is supposed to come, but I'm not sure we'll talk him into sitting a game. He sees the money he'd buy in for as wasted, instead of as it truly is: tuition.

Dave has good instincts in the fake-money games, despite a tendency to be a bit too tight. If it is possible that he's beaten, he'll fold, even if he has a decent hand (like top pair/top kicker). It's hard to tell somebody to fold less ...