Thursday, July 29, 2004

By the Way, If It Wasn't Obvious ...

... those of you who are interested in Nomic (my post from a few days ago), should visit the Nomic forum. We're in the "constitutional convention" stage, basically, choosing how we'll start the game.

I think I have a couple of associates of Gil's daughter (and perhaps Gil's daughter herself) who may be interested, and once our game is a going concern, I'll spam the fora of NationStates, which is itself rather amusing if you haven't played. That ought to get us a number of members, but I'm a bit worried it will get us an unmanageable number of members. We'll see; that's a crisis that has been weathered before, if it happens.

  Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Introducing the RhymesWithJoker Fora!

(from the introductory post:)

These fora are presented as a service of (and extension of) RhymesWithJoker.com, a blog about poker and my progress in the game.

I don't actually expect these fora, this one particularly, to be very high-traffic: The "Comments" field to my posts represents a good way to make your thoughts about my play or my posts known.

But what if you have your own comments to make, or questions to ask? Or, since Haloscan deletes comments after about three months, what if you have something to say that you wish to be of a more permanent nature? This forum is the place to do it.

I've added several other fora, one for each of the people I mention occasionally in my blog. I expect "The Mind of Dave" to get hooked onto Cactus Dave's LiveJournal, but I have no idea what will occur at "The Brain of Gil" or "The Anguished Scream of Dylan." The Nomic fora are related to a game which as I write this is still in the future, but hopefully soon is an ongoing thing.

I'm really looking forward to extending this corner of the poker-blogger community, and look forward to seeing what becomes of these fora.

No Limit: LIVE!

Monday, July 26 was the first time the Little River Casino in Manistee, Michigan was permitted to deal big-bet games. Since their Monday and Tuesday tournaments already attract a lot of non-regular players, I expected the game on Monday afternoon and evening to be a good game.

The room's manager wants to deal both a $1/$2 $100-max game, and a $3/$6 true no-limit game. Monday, the only game was the $1/$2 game, and this will probably be the case for some time, until word spreads about the new games.

Truly, this should have been a great game. Most of the players were non-regulars, had just come off the tournament, and had never played a no-limit ring game. Not counting myself, there were two players who were pretty good, and one who was only fair but was very lucky. Most of the rest of the table was pretty weak. So you'd think I would do really well, but it didn't happen.

Early on, the game was fairly normal for a PartyPoker $25NL table. All-in's were common. I lost one when I was sucked out on, and won one when I sucked out. Both of these were to the same guy, although my suckout also got me another player's chips.

Actually, the second one of these was a collection of mistakes by me that the cards saved me from. I had AKo, and after a limper or two raised to $20. Unfortunately, I got two callers, and then the flop missed me entirely. I should have raised enough, it seems, to reduce the number of callers, so that I could play headsup. But 10× the big blind should have done that. In fact, it was too big a raise, and maybe that was the problem. Anyway, after the flop came Queen-high, the action checked to me. I had actually planned to give up on the hand, but I hoped to take it right here with a decent bet, so I stacked $40 out there. Probably it was obvious I changed my mind before I put that in, because the first limper (or maybe he was a blind) went over-the-top all-in, and since I only had another $40 or so and the pot was huge, I called, as did the second limper. Both of these were huge mistakes by me; the $40 was too small a bet originally, and in a cash game the concept of "pot-committed" is foolish. I had an argument about pot odds, maybe, depending on what I thought the other players had, but even that was weak. As it happened, the raiser flipped a Queen with a weak kicker, and the caller wasn't even set that well. But an Ace came on the turn, and it held up, and I dragged a $300 pot. Goodie for me.

The second mistake had the right outcome; I lost to a nut hand that failed to pan out. The player I termed weak but lucky kept betting into my top pair/top kicker, and I couldn't seriously put her on the QT she'd have had to have had for the nuts. Two pair, maybe, but not a straight. That hand cost me about $75.

The third mistake cost me over $100, and that was to a player that I strongly suspect is a pro, despite being only about 25 (and he looks younger). With K9 in the cutoff, I open-raised to $10, and was called by him from one of the blinds. The flop missed me, but he checked, so I bet $20, and was called. The turn hit my King, and I bet $40, and he called. The river was an Ace, putting the third club out, and he bet $80 into me. I said "shit" about sixteen times and folded, whereupon he flipped his 24 for a big fat nothing. I was bluffed off of the winning hand, and that was probably a move he uses a lot. Dammit.

When the no-limit game lost its last weak player (who seemed like a decent limit player but his tells were so blatant that even I could read them, and he let me buy a pot from him), the game was four-handed, and I stood up and got onto the list for the limit game. Then a couple of the $4/$8 players asked about switching the NL game to $6/$12 limit, and asked me to rejoin them, which I did. The $4/$8 game looked like a better game, though, so I left after a single orbit. I made some money, but when that game went short-handed too, we combined down to a single table at $6/$12. I won one hand by making a flush, and my horrible day ended up down $23 in all. For a learning experience, not too bad, maybe.

I had originally intended to play again with Tuesday's post-tournament crowd, but someone I met at the casino Sunday let me know about a $1/$2 pot-limit game he holds irregularly, and he expected Tuesday to be the next game. Too bad I couldn't check my Email from the casino, because my Email box didn't have anything from him, and so I should have stayed at the casino. I earned a hell of a lot of comp points for that, over the weekend.

Instead, I expect to go back Friday night, when the game will hopefully be pulling people from the casino outside on a fairly regular basis. I could use their $100's.

  Monday, July 26, 2004

Quick Casino Notes

I spent the weekend in Manistee, playing poker, of course. Saturday night was brilliant, one of the softest live games I've ever been in, with a couple of action players and a couple of calling stations. I took that game for $500, and stayed in town to play Sunday again.

Sunday I did inteed play again, but the lineup was tougher, and my cards were cold, so I bled away my $200 buyin over six or eight hours, and didn't want to rebuy against that lineup.

However, I leave in a few minutes to go back again, to take on their post-tournament crowd in Little River's first-ever big-bet games. Should be fun, and I hope it's profitable. Wish me luck.

  Saturday, July 24, 2004

Other Things I Do Sometimes: Nomic

That's Mel Brooks as Moses. You know, from "History of the World, Part I;" the bit where he presents the Fifteen—Oy!—the Ten Commandments, as they became known after Moses dropped the third tablet. It all makes sense, really it does, because it's sort of about the law, while retaining the "joker" theme of the image at the beginning of my posts.

Nomic is a game that was invented in 1980 by Peter Suber, a professor at Earlham College in Indiana. He intended it as an illustration of a point for his book, The Paradox of Self-Amendment, which, coming from a professor at an Indiana college, nobody would be seriously expected to ever actually read. (It was finally published in 1990.)

But one of his correspondents was Douglas Hofstadter, who wrote a column called "Metamagical Themas" for Scientific American. Hofstadter seemed more interested in the possibilities the game presented than in actually playing it, but he published the game, along with some of Suber's notes and suggestions.

The game turned out to be a hit, of sorts. On college campuses and across the ARPAnet that would become the Internet, games were started. Two of particular note are Agora Nomic, which started in 1993 after an earlier Nomic self-destructed and is still ongoing, and Ackanomic, which burned brightly for several years before self-destructing in 1999. It was Ackanomic which first came to my attention in 1996; I had read Hofstadter's article and had played one or two pen-and-paper games with some of my compatriots (this was during my political days), but I wasn't aware that the game was being played over the internet. I joined, but I was only a player for a few months; the game at that time generated a lot of comment and discussion and I was having difficulty keeping up. When I Google-search myself, about half of the hits that are actually me, are related to Ackanomic, despite the game ending five years ago.

In essence, Nomic is a game in which changing the rules of the game is a move in the game. It's as if Calvinball was being played by lawyers. Although games have gone in a number of directions, to me the most interesting periods of a Nomic (and there are several) are when the game appears to break, when the inevitable, often unforeseen, exceptions arise to a rule. Can the game be returned to a state of normality without breaking the rules? Other people see these periods as interregna in the smooth-flowing of the game. These are often people who see Nomic as a framework for consensually developing a real game, a card game or board game or economic game or political game. There is nothing wrong with this.

Unfortunately, the Nomic community on the internet, while small, is so old, that much of the web material about the game is full of broken links, to games that played from a few weeks to a few months, or that went away years ago. Peter Suber's own Nomic page has a lot of broken links to games that were ongoing at the time he last updated the site, including one of my own. The Nomic section of his book is on the web, though, with an interesting presentation of the game, even if it is a little bit laced with academia-speak. This page also has his Initial Set of rules, which is the game as well (and as briefly) as it can be presented.

I'm being encouraged to start, or at least to participate in, a new Nomic game. I'd like to invite this poker community to join in. I don't have discussion fora set up yet; in the short term (before the game starts) the comment field of this post can serve. I'd like to suggest three options for this.

First, we could use the original Suber set of rules. This is maybe the most authentic way to play, and both Agora Nomic and Ackanomic started with rulesets that were very similar to this ruleset. One of the features of this ruleset is that it contains a lot of things which are vague, unclear, or strangely worded, although that usually only becomes apparent with actual play. This may seem like a disadvantage, and in one sense it is, but in another sense the early game can be spent in "fixing" the rules, and in the meantime other things will be happening as well.

Second, we could use a heavily modified Suber set, basically a Suber set rewritten so that a lot of the vagueness is written out of it. I found one I wrote once (it's dated 1996), but haven't looked closely at it; if we do decide to use this set I'll want to look over it again. I'll put it up here, but it's a Word document, not HTML; if we go this route I'll of course have to HTML-ize the rules. The advantages and disadvantages to a ruleset of this type are the opposite of a true Suber set; most of the necessary procedural rule-changes are already made, so we could proceed to whatever sort of game we wish ours to become.

Third, we could use a ruleset which is geared toward a specific purpose. This is usually done in order to model something from the real world, most commonly some other game. I created a ruleset at one time called Legislative Nomic, which was designed to model the workings of a real legislature. This was originally my preference, and as such I spent some time HTML-izing the rules (here), but now I'm not sure: Fixing the problems of the Suber set might get people more into the swing of things than jumping in with a relatively stable ruleset and having to decide what the game is actually for.

In any case, let me know in comments or by Email if you're interested in playing; let me know too which of the options you'd be most interested in (or if there's an option I don't see).

Lawyers playing Calvinball ... what could be better?

  Friday, July 23, 2004

A Casino Trip, and a Question

I had an entry to a drawing at Little River Casino in Manistee yesterday, so I went up. Not so much for the drawing as for the extra people that a drawing usually brings to the casino; my hope was that a lot of money would leap into my pocket.

It turned out I was mistaken; the drawings are Thursday nights in August, which meant that I was at the Little River casino on an ordinary weeknight, when the games are generally pretty tough.

Still, I sat down, since I'd just driven over two hours to get there. There were a couple of new faces at the table, but I don't recall any of them being particularly fishy. That meant that the worst player at the table was in the "typical" category, an admittedly large box that a player I don't know goes into until he shows me something different. (To my detriment, most players end up staying there; I don't have boxes for "typical but will fold to a river bet" or other things that would help me a lot.)

I didn't get really wealthy at the table; the cards weren't unkind but they weren't hitting me in the face, either. I was probably down $20 to $40 when they opened the second table, where I jumped pretty much instantly. Good move, as it happened; the table had three or four guys who had never played in the casino before, and it showed. Two of them busted out pretty much immediately (with some of their money in my stack), and the third ended up not busting out, but only losing $50 or so before he left. I don't remember if his money ended up in my stack.

In any case, I was up over $200 at the point that the last newbie left, and the table reverted to more typical players. All of them were quite loose preflop, but played acceptably postflop. My own cards went into the crapper, and I became a folding station, tossing my cards into the much almost as soon as I got them, hand after hand. I did end up winning the occasional small pot, which paid for my blinds, but I lost two big pots that I played stupidly, and a third where Over buttons were in play and my AK♣ refused to hit a damned thing. (Over buttons double the stakes if a betting round begins with only people who have them.)

All in all, I left up $80, which was pretty much exactly one big bet an hour.

—A non-poker-related project I am about to embark upon, at the strenuous insistence of the inestimable (well, actually, thoroughly estimable) DylanBaker, requires message boards. A Google search actually returns too many options, so I'll ask here for suggestions on whose message boards to add to the site. ...Oh, wait, never mind; I'd have to upgrade my hosting to enable scripting at RWJ.com. Okay, Yahoo! Groups it is, unless someone has another suggestion.

  Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Notes on Weeks 23 & 24 (the boringest weeks ever)

Both weeks were about +$450 weeks, and both weeks were mostly boring. I hit a stride, it seemed, at the $3/$6, so that I was hitting right about expectation over that period. Hopefully that continues.

The biggest difference between these two weeks and previous weeks is that I've actually been playing during prime time for Party, that is, between 8 and 11 Eastern time (with overlap at each end, of course), probably six hours a day on average. The less-than-stellar quality of play at this time usually makes my day a pretty easy one. Not always a winning one, but variance happens.

My previous post mentioned my tournament score on Sunday, which was nice, but unfortunately I gave that all back in buyins for other tourneys. The day I did most of that, I had a huge day on the ring games, so I finished the day even, although if you subtracted the tournament play it simply would have been huge.

That's about all I can truly say about the last two weeks. I'm having a shitty day today, suckout city, but that happens, and I'm not down to dire straits yet. Or Steely Dan, either.

  Monday, July 19, 2004

Summer Sweaters?

I had a nice finish in a tournament last night, finishing 15th out of 1313 for a $300 profit, about ten buyins. I was in great shape with about 30 left, having my stack over 100,000, but my AQ went up against AK, which chopped one leg out from under me, and later my AJ♣ went up against KK to knock me out of the tournament. Notice that I'm not mentioning the time my TT was up against KK, and the board came A2345 for a split. That really pissed off the guy with KK.

Thanks to Hdouble, the Extremely Young Poker Player, and DylanBaker (he of the really clever nickname), for sweating me for the last hour or so. Hdouble particularly was a great help; I ended up running most of my plays by him before I made them.

Now, if I can only ratchet that up one more step, so that I'm finishing 5th instead of 15th, I'll win some real money. (I think 5th paid about $2000 in that tourney.)

  Sunday, July 18, 2004

Notes on Disparate Things, Parts I–∞

—I haven't blogged in a while (week whatever-it-is-I'm-up-to-now is overdue), but little of note has been happening. I've been playing poker, online, for more hours than historically but on fewer tables. Still, I end up playing between 1200 and 1800 hands in a day, which is overall more hands than historically. PokerTracker shows about 6,000 $3/$6 hands last week, over which I won about $500, although the true figure isn't exactly that because of other play.

—I sent out some emails regarding home games, from the listings on HomePokerGames, which has seen a few new additions since I checked last. One of the games I'd heard of before, but only one of them has yet sent me a response, and that is a "I'll keep you posted" from a game about half an hour away that sounds like a one-time deal.  The one I most wanted to hear from had the most professional entry; they play once or twice a week with $2/$4 limit and also a big-bet game, although I don't remember now if it's pot-limit or no-limit.  I think I've heard of this game before; if so it's a fellow on the northeast side who's converted his rec room into a poker room, and I believe he takes a rake.  However, his entry at HomePokerGames specifically mentions "no pros," meaning I'm likely to need a little subterfuge as to what it is I do for a living.

—Gil and I went up to Manistee yesterday. For most of the time we were there, the games weren't as good as they had been the week before. However, when we got there around 1:30, a player I hadn't seen there before went to dinner (I took his playover), coloring up $600 before he left. When I got to the table, all the other players were talking about how he raised constantly, with hands that must be called speculative at least. Unfortunately for them, he was winning. While he was at dinner, my permanent seat opened immediately to the left of the maniac. This seat should have been worth my weight in gold, but unfortunately my cards were pretty much ice-cold. The only time I was able to take advantage of my position was when the maniac raised in the dark after an early-position limper. I looked down at KQ, and immediately three-bet. As it happened I was a dog to the limper, but I hit and he didn't and I pulled in my only significant pot at that table.

When the new table opened, I moved in a hurry; after the maniac left the table was pretty tough. (And besides, the 9 seat at that table is my favorite in the whole room, for some reason.) This turned out to be a good move; there were three weak players, a very weak player, and a typical loose-aggressive player all at the table, plus I started getting some cards. I saw a flop early on with QJ, half because there were some weakies in the pot and half for the hell of it, and flopped 89x rainbow. There wasn't enough in the pot to call the flop bet strictly for a gutshot draw, but I thought I had a good chance that if I hit one of my overcards I might be good. So I saw the 10 that hit the turn, when to my surprise my raise got reraised! There being no other possibilities out there (I had the stony nuts at the moment), I immediately capped and was called, although my cap lost us the other (very weak) player (she'd have had to call two more big bets). When the river King was harmless (it actually increased the strength of my hand), I went all-in for $5, was called, and showed down the stony nuts. Unlike most stories of this nature, my opponent did not have a terrible hand, he just had the low end of the straight with 67. I have to assume he put me on a set, because if I had any kind of straight I either had him beat or we were splitting.

Unfortunately, Gil ran out of money back at our original table, although the game did get better (I wasn't the only one who wanted to taste some fresh meat). The way the room was hopping at this point, we should have stayed; there was a lot of money standing on the rail waiting to go into the regulars' pockets. But Gil was pissed off, he said; he'd just taken some kind of beat and he was in a bad mood. (He told the story of the bad beat, but I've stopped listening to those. They're all the same. "I had a great hand, he had some totally other hand, but guess what card came?" Let me guess—the one that made you lose? I'll actually listen if it's not a bad-beat story, but a clever-play story; those I can learn from.) And so, after all that, he ends up down $200, and I end up down $67.

—This last is another example of why I want to freaking move, to where it's not a two-hour drive, to where I can leave if it's a tough game because I didn't just drive two hours, and even if I did there's another poker room next door. I've said Fall for some time, but unless I start significantly increasing my earnings that is looking unlikely. So I'm still looking for ways to do that, even if I want to ensure I don't do it as stupidly as last time. Most likely, I'll start entering more multitable (even three-table) tourneys; likely I'll do that as the fourth table when I have three $3/$6 games going. That's not set in stone, it's just the thing that I can add to my game which has the greatest chance of increasing my bankroll in a hurry. A reasonable number of tournaments will and would have a small downside with a large upside.

That said, I'd have to get back in shape with them. I've had a couple of minor moneys in multitables lately, but no final tables; it's this last I most need. In a development that would surprise the Me of six months ago, I have come to prefer the no-limit tournaments; this even though both of my really significant tourney scores were in limit tournaments (and both were six months ago). I'm curious what the thinking is: discounting the argument about whether limit or no-limit is actually a tougher game, which do you find provides one with weaker competition? On the one hand, the WPT crowd tends to prefer no-limit, but on the other hand, no-limit is just fear-inducing enough that some people might prefer limit. My guess is that there are more weak players in a no-limit tournament, but that the top-echelon players are actually tougher than the top limit players. Any thoughts?

  Monday, July 12, 2004

Notes on Disparate Things, Part I: Breaking the Silence

I mentioned earlier that I had found some really loose $5/$10 games online, and I was keeping them my secret for a while. I'll break that silence now.

PartyPoker opened some tables a few weeks ago with a Bad Beat Jackpot, where anyone who loses a hand whilst holding four tens, or better, wins a nice jackpot. (Not as nice as most live casinos' jackpots, but it gets hit more often. And, presumably, online it doesn't take two hours to get paid.) I checked these out when they first opened, lost a few big $2/$4 pots, said "Meh, OK, whatever," and didn't return to the BBJ tables.

But for some reason, a week or two ago, I looked at the BBJ tables again. I noticed that now, they're dealing BBJ tables up to $5/$10. I opened one, to see if I could tell what the jackpot contribution was from the $5/$10 table, that is, how much the rake went up. But as soon as I opened the table, I saw seven people see a flop for one bet. If I remember correctly, my thought was, "Holy fuck, get me the hell onto this table!"

Now, here's the odd thing: These are great games, although as I said before there often aren't many of them. But out of the fourteen times I've sat at a BBJ table, I've only won money in five. PokerTracker has 1086 hands recorded at this game, and they show a total loss of $898, or –8.27 BB/c.

In short: These games are kicking my ass. And I don't know why. It's been suggested to me that the players hunt in packs at the $5/$10 level, that is, that collusion is rampant. It's possible, and this would be a convenient explanation of my difficulties. Mostly, I'm curious to hear other people's results at this game. 1000 hands isn't truly that much, I know; a run of bad cards could go on that long. But the trend is long enough and severe enough that I'm looking for another explanation.

Some of the explanation is that I had to readjust to super-loose games again; this is probably responsible for much of my early losses. But I think I made that adjustment, and I still lost.

Lat's test the hypothesis of bad cards. For the sake of argument, let's assume 1086 hands is an adequate sample (which of course it isn't). Of the big-ace hands, only AA, AQo, and AJs won their appropriate amount (almost exactly). The rest either lost or won a lot less than they should have. This is consistent with a super-loose game. Of the other pocket pairs, QQ is a loser and KK has won below expectation, although TT is above expectation (1 for 1). 88, 55, 44, 33, and 22 are all losers. The other pairs are about at expectation. In a super-loose game, big pairs are worth less than normal (they don't hold up as often), while little pairs are worth more than normal (sets drag bigger pots). This is not what I saw, and here bad cards can indeed be blamed. Out of pairs JJ and below, I flopped a set twice, out of 33 flops seen. This is about half of what I'd have got if the cards had broken exactly even. When we turn to suited connectors, we find that I have flopped two pair or better, four to the flush, or four to the open-ended straight, on hands JTs through 54s, five times out of thirteen flops seen. This is in fact far above expectation, so no bad cards blamed here. Finally, the suited one-gappers, 35s thru QTs, flopped the same type of hand, one time out of the six flops I saw. This is pretty much exactly expectation.

I end up concluding that overall, it's not bad cards. So what is it?

Notes on Disparate Things, Part II: Back in the Casino

My recent bankroll troubles meant that it had been a couple of weeks since I'd played casino poker. But as I was winding down my online day yesterday (Sunday morning), Gil decided he wanted to journey to Manistee and Little River casino. Truly, I shouldn't have gone; nearly all of my money is on PartyPoker at the moment, so I didn't have the $200 I usually buy into their $4/$8 game with (a rack of yellow). Gil offered basically to stake me, with the stipulation that I pay him back out of my PP account if I lose. Well, between that, and the fact that the trip was to my favorite "local" room, wore down my defenses, and we went.

I've probably said before that the new room at Leelenau sands ("7" on my map) has taken a big chunk of business from Little River ("2" on my map), so when we got there around 12:30 we had just made enough to open a second $4/$8 holdem game. The lineup didn't look good; I recognized Duane (a tight player who sometimes gets a little too creative) and the fellow I call "Quiet Bob" (I'd call him a "rock," but actual stone usually has more give than he does), and two fellows who I don't remember their names, but they are also tough opponents. Fortunately, most of the rest of the table filled in with people I didn't recognize, who turned out to be weak players.

I started out getting great cards, and then they went into the crapper, but I got my head back above water and left +$103. Both Bob and Duane were chattier than usual, although for some reason I spent a lot of time talking about my trip to Vegas that was six months ago. One of the weakies straddled a couple of times, both times on my small blind, and they both developed into huge pots. Both times, I found drawing hands when I looked down, and both times, they failed to materialize into anything as the hands played, and both times, they cost me a lot of money. (Gil won one of those pots; the straddler won neither.)

The hand I'm most proud of, ordinarily wouldn't be anything special. A decent player limped in, in early position, and we might have had one more caller plus the blinds. I raised with AJo. The board came AAx. He checked, I bet, he called, everyone else folded. The turn was another blank. He checked, I bet, and he suddenly raised. Why I'm proud of this hand is that I was so accurate at putting him on a hand. I couldn't see him limping in with any Ace-little that would give him a boat; I couldn't see him playing that at all, in early position. I also couldn't see him limping in with AQ or AK, which would out-kick me. A baby pair (for the boat) was possible, but I thought unlikely. I figured most likely was actually AT, so I three-bet. Ordinarily that's difficult for me to do postflop without the near-nuts. He called, and checked to me when a Jack fell on the river (giving me a full house and the stony nuts). He checked, I bet, he said "I think you've got me" and called. I didn't need the Jack, as it happened, because I was dead-on in my read; he had limped in with AT. Advantage: Me.

The other big hand I won, I feel like I should be a little bit ashamed of, because I sucked out. I was on the button with AK♠. After some limpers ahead of me, I raised. The small blind folded, and the big blind three-bet. This was the straddler from earlier, a medium-weak player. I don't remember if I capped or not; thinking about it now, I hope I did. The flop came AAQ. I'm sure that the straddler checked, and I'm pretty sure it checked to me on the button. I bet, and I believe the straddler just called. The turn was a blank. It checked to me, I bet, and the straddler raised. If anyone else was hanging on, that got rid of them. I called, here, but thinking about the situation, a fold might make more sense. Either he had QQ, or he had the case Ace, probably AK for a split; AQ was a slight possibility. I was pretty tired at this point, so I'll use that excuse to justify not thinking about this at the time. In any case, the river spiked a King, so I had Aces full of Kings, and when he raised my bet I had no problem three-betting; I had the nuts. He called, I showed my aces full, and he mucked. Someone said he was mumbling about getting his Queens full sucked out on, although I didn't hear it. He left two hands later, so that beat must have really got to him. At the time, I couldn't figure that I'd done anything wrong; now I'm not so sure. See? Writing things in this blog does help.

  Sunday, July 11, 2004

I Knew There Was a Reason I Read This Magazine

Astute readers of the poker-blogosphere recall a couple of months ago, when Hdouble posted his hierarchy of a poker player's development, and I attempted then to place myself in his hierarchy, having little success. His hierarchy was enjoyable to read, and literate, but I ultimately determined it wasn't as useful as it should be.

I'm a couple of issues behind on reading CardPlayer. Gil subscribes, but I usually take the magazine when I'm going to eat a sit-down dinner by myself, particularly when it's in the middle of the night and there's no baseball on.

Anyway, in the Fossilman issue, Tom McEvoy (who originally hails from Grand Rapids; some of the regulars in the local games remember him) had an article which boils down to "Don't try fancy plays on unsophisticated opponents." But he classifies the opponents, which is what I found most interesting.

At the basic level of thinking, a player decides that he holds a good hand, possibly the best hand at the time. One step up the ladder, he determines what he thinks his opponent holds. Moving up one more rung, he decides what he thinks his opponent thinks he has. The highest step on the poker thought-process ladder is deciding what you believe your opponent thinks you have, determining the way that you think he expects you to play your hand (if you have what he thinks you have), and, finally, determining how you think he will play his hand if he has what you think he has.

In other words, there are four levels a player might be thinking on.

  1. What cards do I have?
  2. What cards does he have?
  3. What does he think I have?
  4. How does he think I should play what he thinks I have?

A player can be then categorized by the highest level his thinking usually reaches. So, your favorite game becomes one which is populated by type-1 players. By mixing some deception into your play, you can beat a lot of type-2 players. And in most of the games I'm in, I don't find a lot of type-3 or type-4 players.

I'm not sure how to categorize myself here. I have no problem with 1; I know if I have a good hand or a good draw. I'm usually thinking about 2, but with varying degrees of accuracy. I'm not sure if I count as having mastered 3 or not; I often know what I want my opponent to think I have, but I'm not sure that's the same thing. And I don't know that I've ever given much thought at all to 4, which is probably bad. Or not, because it gives me a direction to grow.

Geez, a direction to grow ... I just had a huge dinner, I'm growing in a lot of directions already.

  Friday, July 09, 2004

Inexplicable and Non-Poker-Related

Okay, I have no idea how, but every single one of my MP3's is now named "Simon & Garfunkel - Homeward Bound.mp3". All of them. They are distinguished only by the (1) and (2) and (3) and (500) and (501) and ... that are included within the filenames.

Now, Cactus Dave is here, which explains a lot of inexplicable things, but What The Holy Hell Happened To My MP3's???

  Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Notes on Week Twenty-Two

Week Twenty-Two had a single goal: bankroll repair.

At this, I ended up moderately successful. I knew going in that I wasn't going to make "my nut," or catch up with where I was before my horrible June. My goal was to make enough money that I could play the game which had been my usual before I destroyed my bankroll, namely four-tabling $3/$6. But, I also needed to do it with as little risk of ruin as possible, which was difficult when my bankroll dropped below $200 at one point. I didn't quite get to where I wanted to be, but I came close. I am back to putting in hours at $3/$6, but I'm not back to four-tabling.

I've found myself more prone to tilt over the last month, than I would have suspected. I've always considered myself a pretty even-keel kind of guy. But the way I've been jumping games for the last month, makes me realize just how prone to tilt I actually am. Just this week, I got disgusted with a bad run at the $25NL tables (my BB/c has dropped to 12.59), and switched to the $2/$4 tables, which I had done once before. At the time, I said that it was like playing people whose cards were face-up. And indeed, I found it that way. But the second time I sat $2/$4, I didn't do so well, which soured me on $2/$4, and drove me to the $25BL. And then, a bad run on the $25NL drove me back.

I found the $2/$4 tables more like the ones I originally discovered than like the ones that drove me to the $25NL, but not incredibly so. I was profitable at them, even though some days I put in very little time and others I put in great gobs of time. However, I wasn't very profitable at them. My $2/$4 win rate is barely above my $3/$6 win rate (with a lot more hands of $3/$6), but of course it is positive, and that's what I needed. I've even reached the point where I could two-table $3/$6 again, which should increase my upside to the point where I can again three- and four-table. (It should, but so far I'm down over $100.)

Assuming I get my form back at $3/$6, I expect to remain there a while. Lesson learned, sort of. I still want to increase my earnings. But I expect—well, I intend—to take Gil's advice and make whatever I attempt additive (his word), rather than replacing $3/$6 play with something else entirely. In other words (and I needed an explanation too), I know that I can make an average of $400 a week on average playing $3/$6 as much as I historically have. One would think that by increasing my hours I can earn more, and I do intend to attempt that, but I've already discussed my thought that this might not be the case. But to truly earn more, to bring my earn up to the next level (and to the point where I'd really consider turning pro to have been a prudent move), I should not suddenly change my game, and declare that $20/$40 stud is now my official pro game. (Well, OK, I'm unlikely to do that with Stud anyway.) If I wish to take up $20/$40 Stud (and truly, I do expect to play that sometime, even if it won't be my usual game), then I need to make sure that I make my nut first, and really, the bankroll (sufficient bankroll) to play that should come from what I make over and above my nut.

All this sounds like common sense, but I've been sorely lacking in that over the last month. I can only hope I've learned my lesson, but one of my character flaws that I didn't talk about last week or whenever, is that I'm given to impulsiveness, so—even though I say now that I've learned my lesson—you may find me again testing the $15/$30 waters, or something equally foolish. But I hope not.

  Tuesday, July 06, 2004

ESPN's World Series Coverage

For those of you who might have spent time on Mars, ESPN started their WSOP coverage tonight. They ran two one-hour episodes, of a $2000 No-Limit Holdem event and a $1500 7-card Stud event.

I thought the one-hour 9-person final-table format didn't work very well for TV. My preference would be for them to re-edit the episodes so that they started with about four people left, and showed more of the later hands. As it was the hands they actually showed were so few and far between that it was very difficult to get a feel for the flow of the game.

The stud event really was harder to follow, as people feared when they heard that ESPN was going to air non-holdem games. They showed players' hole-card cams, but without showing the players' up cards, it was difficult to know if that J2 that the player shows the camera is anything, or not. I felt like I was at the mercy of the graphics, and I didn't like it. If you've ever watched a non-televised baseball game on that Java thing that MLB.com has, you know what I mean.

Astute followers of the blogosphere will remember that Felicia was in the $1500 stud event that was shown tonight; her writeup is here. As she said, it's cool that her chips went to good use. It's cool for me, too, that some of the chips on the table belonged to someone that I know personally (sort of). I didn't see her in the broadcast, but the one-hour format leaves ESPN little time to show earlier action.

In any case, congratulations to tonight's (!) winners, and may you bring ever more fish to the tables.

  Sunday, July 04, 2004

What the Hell is a “Lord Geznikor,” Anyway?

I keep getting asked what "Lord Geznikor" is supposed to be. I also keep meaning to put this up. I am in my first-ever real-live game of Dungeons and Dragons, after playing various computer versions for more than twenty years, and so I wanted to come up with a backstory to explain why my character is so freakin' odd. This is that document, which somehow got really long.

What's not in here is an explanation of the name "Geznikor Whompbucket" itself. The true story is that when I first played Baldur's Gate, at the "enter your name" prompt I sat for a minute before typing something completely ridiculous. But then Baldur's Gate turned out to be good, investing good ol' Geznikor Whompbucket with a personality and a story. In the sequel, he also became a lord (which is covered below). As an aside, the proper form when he became a lord would have been "Geznikor Whompbucket, Lord d'Arnise," but I'm assuming that one of his descendants (probably his son, by what I wrote below) changed the form.

It's kind of amusing to me that this LGW is a half-elf. Elves are about the least likely characters for me to play, normally, since I prefer dwarves and humans (barbarians/berserkers/northmen, whatever has the bonuses for strength and constitution). But the world as our dungeonmaster created it included a city of orcs which lay atop an older elvish city, which I found rather interesting. So I made this LGW a half-elf, so that he could be a descendant of the elvish Lords of Perditus. I also added the stuff about his mixed ancestry so he could still be the descendant of all of the other Lords Geznikor Whompbucket I've played in all of the other computer games, ever, for the last four years or so.

Anyway, here's the backstory I wrote.

Lord Geznikor Whompbucket (the Umpteenth)

The most important thing about Lord Geznikor Whompbucket (LGW) is that he considers himself the rightful heir to the city of Perditus and the surrounding lands. It was uncountable generations ago (even LGW doesn't know how many) that his family ruled over the lands from a manor house long since ruined. The city's current orcish occupation galls him greatly. Most people, though, think that to continue to call the city "occupied" after centuries of orcish dominion, when almost nothing remains of the village LGW's ancestors ruled, is nothing less than insane. This only galls LGW further.

LGW plays as a half-elf, although his true heritage is far stranger. The mixture of elvish and human blood in his ancestry is, indeed, approximately equal, but LGW has other ancestors that are far stranger. He has heard rumours that most of the humanoid races are among his ancestors, including several breeds of humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, ogres, and even a goblin. Other possible ancestors are stranger yet, including beornlings, a possible lich, and completely unknown creatures from other planes. It is important to remember, though, that the largest part of his ancestry is elvish and human, and he looks much like other half-elves, although his skin tends to be more grey than most, he sports more hair than most, and his features are noticeably larger than most (especially his hands and feet). LGW doesn't know his true ancestry, only that it is strange: the root of his desire to liberate Perditus is that he wishes to learn of his ancestry in his family's tomb under the ruins of the old manor house. (He recognizes the possibility that other buildings now lie on the site of the manor house.)

LGW's varied ancestry has left him a bit unable to cope with the stranger sides of his personality. The abilities that his ancestral races are born to remain in him only as vestigial impulses and drives. These impulses and drives leave LGW more than a little bit mad, as he struggles to control them. It is even possible, as he gains experience in the world, that he may learn to usefully control and manifest some of them.

LGW's madness manifests itself in his contradictory dealings with the outside world. He can be selfish and altruistic, almost by turns, and he can insist on the priveleges reserved for someone of his title even as he works side-by-side with peasants in the field. His nature is generally good, although not fanatically so, and he holds sometimes surprising ideas of good and evil. The result is that along that scale, his alignment is Neutral, tending toward Good. His madness, however, leaves no doubt as to his alignment along the other axis: He could never be anything other than Chaotic.

From an early age, LGW has fared alone, owing to a catastrophe he will not talk about. He does not appreciate cities because they do not appreciate him; he lives his life as a Ranger in the wild. Because he hasn't the focus or patience for long hours of practice, however, his bowmanship is lacking, and unlike most rangers his best weapon is the longsword. Even with the sword, he has not trained with a master, and so his use of the sword (or swords; he has been known to dual-wield) is unorthodox. This tends to give him an advantage in combat as his attacks are difficult to anticipate.

He bears a signet ring with the arms of his house, and an inscription in a language that none have been able to decipher. The ring may be cursed; he is in any case unable to remove it. Unknown to LGW, it is a Ring of Random Alignment, which explains some of his apparent madness. The ring "fires" and changes LGW's alignment each time he gains experience.

Even-Futher-Backstory (the Baldur's Gate stuff)

Although, in truth, LGW's ancestors do include the lords of Perditus, and in fact LGW is the rightful heir to the title, his name comes from a source both stranger and more familiar.

The first Lord Geznikor Whompbucket for whom provenance can be clearly established came to whatever the name is of the place we're adventuring in, I forget, in what he called a "planar sphere." We have another contemporary account which refers to the sphere as a perfect sphere, shimmering, and about fifty feet in diameter. Most disturbing, however, was the way it appeared, partially obliterating a homestead, a tree, and hundreds of pounds of earth. After this ancestor LGW emerged, the sphere vanished, and while the obliterated items returned, a seam where the sphere once existed was seen as long as that building and tree stood.

According to the ancestor's own journals, the sphere is or was a vehicle for travelling among various planes, from the mundane to the fantastic. However, the ancestor's home, he says, was a world very similar to our own; he had only to learn the language to be comfortable among us. Even the ways of magic, long said to be change the most from plane to plane, were similar in his homeland. The priests, he said, called on different gods, but achieved the same results.

This ancestor claimed in his journals to be the descendant of a further ancestor he called the "First Lord," who claimed d'Arnise Keep and its surrounding lands by champion's right. After his death, his son renamed the keep and surrounding lands "Whompbucket," after his family. But the unique thing about this family was their control of the planar sphere. It became a tradition for the eldest son, after fathering a son, to use the planar sphere to journey to another land, there to seek his fortune as an adventurer. Some of these sons return, and some do not. Clearly, the author of the journal is one of those who has not.

The First Lord himself was, according to the journals, the product of a union between a mortal woman and Bhaal, who in the Pantheon of his world was the God of Murder. Precisely how this could be true is unknown, but the journal's author includes these words: “The Lord of Murder shall perish, but in his death he shall spawn a score of mortal progeny. Chaos shall be sown in their footsteps. So sayeth the wise Alaundo.” [A line directly from Baldur's Gate.] The First Lord appears to have been raised an orphan, but his name was not granted by his foster father. The name must go back significantly further (say the journals), because it is attested some years before, and because in one of the disused languages of his world "gez-ne-kor" was said to have meant "weasel-death-warrior," and in this language the mongoose was referred to as the deathweasel. Presumably the first to carry the name “Geznikor” or “Geznekor” or, possibly, “Geznegkor” earned his name by fighting with the tenacity of the mongoose. Of course, it is difficult to gauge the accuracy of any of this, because we have this story from only the one source, that being the journals of the first Lord Geznikor Whompbucket to bring himself to our realms, and he was a number of generations (other journal evidence suggests about twenty generations) removed from the events described.

While the events described in the journals are true, our present LGW knows none of it. It is his belief that the rightful heir to Whompbucket manor in Perditus is named Lord Geznikor Whompbucket, and his son shall also bear the name. The journals do reside in ____ Library, although LGW woulld have no way of knowing this. They get little attention in any case, and so it is possible nobody in our realms has knowledge of LGW's ancestry, the Lords of Perditus, or the Spawn of Bhaal.

  Saturday, July 03, 2004

Out-Bellaging the Bellagio?

This from LasVegasVegas on the newest hotel/resort/casino on the Strip in Las Vegas. We saw the steelwork when I was in Vegas in January, and the cabdriver who was talking about it made it seem full of mystery ... what's that Wynn fellow doing now?

The word in the street here in Vegas is speculating about Steve Wynn’s new joint (renamed “Wynn Las Vegas” after all things French fell out of favor and “Le Reve” was discarded) is scheduled to open next year will have a one hundred table poker room. That’s right, 100 tables of full time poker action in the most opulent surroundings the gambling world has ever know[n]. This place will have a man made mountain range and alpine lake hiding it from the “tacky” Vegas Strip. You can also get your Ferrari or Masserati tuned at the full service dealerships located within the complex. No word yet on the poker operation’s manager; but, Wynn and Bobby Baldwin [Mirage CEO] were recently seen dining in the same restaurant. These two teamed up at the Golden Nugget many years ago and changed the face of Las Vegas. The rumors continue that a new super tournament is in the works for the Wynn and if this is true then it will, in true Steve Wynn style, totally eclipse all current poker tournaments. Multiple qualifying events scheduled over the course of months leading to one “Mother of all Poker Tournaments.” We have even heard of in-the-hotel-only virtual poker tables where players can participate without leaving their rooms. I can’t wait for Wynn’s new project to open. When Steve Wynn has a grand opening it usually is the beginning of a new era for Las Vegas. He always raises the bar.

Add my voice to those who "can't wait." I think my win-a-zillion-dollars-and-move-to-Vegas fantasy just got a new destination. (I haven't checked my numbers yet, but the jackpot was about $300,000,000, which would solve my short-stack problems for a while.)

  Friday, July 02, 2004

The Lithuanians II: A Haiku

The game was still loose
but when the cards aren't coming
I just break even.

  Thursday, July 01, 2004

Plugging Away: Saturday, August 7

Just a reminder, that August 7 is the Midwest Blogger Poker Game at the Trump Casino in Gary, Indiana (immediately outside Chicago). Bloggers and readers both are encouraged to come out.

Among the bloggers attending are expected to be Chris Halverson of Minneapolis, Iggy of Cincinnati, BG of Grand Haven, Lord Geznikor of Grand Rapids, and people associated with them such as m7 and Gil.

If you're pretty much anywhere in the Midwest, or want to be, come to Chicago that weekend. The Trump has good prices on rooms, even though the casino isn't really anywhere near any of Chicago's other entertainment. (The White Sox are in town that weekend, the Cubs aren't, and the Bears' preseason starts the following weekend.)

I discussed this before, and it got some positive responses, so I'm pushing it again when we're a month out, both as a reminder and as a new invitation to come. So come on!