♠ Thursday, January 20, 2005
Black in Action
Thanks to any readers who are left after the site took a two-month hiatus. It was kind of the final step of the crashing-and-burning that began last summer and is so well documented on this site. The debit card my ISP was billing was frozen while my checking account was overdrawn, and during that period of frozenness, the card expired anyway. But now, they have the new card, there's money in the account, and the site is back. There might be some art problems though, depending on whether I have to re-FTP everything to the site. I think probably I will.
There is much news over the last two months. Probably the most important is that I'm back playing poker, pretty much every day, and I have been for most of the hiatus period. I don't remember if this happened before the hiatus or not (I'm writing this before the site is actually reactivated), but PartyPoker fronted me $100 in a "please come back!" promotion, that I could keep if I played 1000 raked hands by X date. X date turned out to be the date I actually read the Email, so I had a lot of hands to churn out. 1000 raked hands turned out to be about 1400 dealt hands of 50¢/$1 poker, but I made it through and once again had a stake.
At about the same time, I was finally hired on at a local hotel, to do the overnight shift. The pay wasn't much, but I assumed I could augment my meager pay with poker winnings, and it was so. I also assumed that I could play poker during the dead of night whilst at work, but this turned out not to be so. Overall, though, this turned out not to be a bad job.
And so, I spent my time working my way out of the hole I'd dug, keeping a roof over my head, saving my car from the repo man (barely), working, sleeping, and playing poker. If it wasn't my ideal life, at least it didn't suck.
An Involuntary Poker Pro
I ended 2004 on a great note. Not only were the cards running good, but I'd discovered a new-to-me casino (the Motor City Casino) which featured absolutely amazing $5/$10 games, with worse players than in most $3/$6 games. I've been there three times, now, and the games were great all three times. That said, all three times were over the extended holiday period; it's possible these players weren't the regulars. The room has a big downside, too: It's three hours away.
I began 2005 on a bad note. I had three or four losing live-play sessions in a row that essentially put me out of action until payday. One of those was at Motor City, where I was the favorite most of the day but I kept getting run over. At the same time, my online play turned to crap, where I couldn't put together two winning sessions in a row to save my life, essentially just breaking even for about two weeks.
One thing that helped, though, is that we had a couple of young guys staying at the hotel, who noticed my diet of poker books and got to talking poker. From these conversations, my impression was that they knew the game but weren't actually any good. I got a chance to test that theory in the waning days of 2004, as I sat down with them during my dead time for a 25¢/50¢ no-limit cash game. Three-handed, their preflop hand selection was accidentally correct, seeing a flop almost with any two cards. But their postflop play was atrocious, and the night mostly thus saw my stack increase slowly. But once each night that we did this, someone (actually the same someone) made a colossal error that resulted in his stack ending up in front of me. Both times, his play revealed level one thinking, that is, "I have a good hand, so I'm going all-in." Unfortunately for him, his good hand wasn't the stony nuts, and mine was. I took about $100 from those two; it wasn't my biggest score, but it was one of the sweetest.
If I mentioned the hotel job before the hiatus, I mentioned that the schedule was a week on, a week off, alternating with someone else to work the overnights at the hotel. During my week off to begin 2005, I was called by the hotel manager (who is usually offsite and actually is at the hotel only about once a week), and asked to come talk to him at such-and-such time. This could have been a lot of things, and what actually happened was indeed one of the possibilities I had in mind.
After we exchanged pleasantries, the manager said, "It looks like you want to do something other than work here." Well, there are a couple of ways to take that, but I didn't actually say the obvious response, which is of course, "Who doesn't?" In any case, the long and the short of it is that I was fired, couched in terms of "Your first 90 days is your probationary period and at the end of your probationary period we've decided not to keep you." Playing poker in the lobby did come up, but I don't think that was the primary reason I was fired. Instead, I think it was the same sort of mish-mash of stuff as other times I've been fired, leaving me not really understanding what I've done that's got me fired. Since this isn't the first time I've been fired in this way, I'm left with the conclusion that I must simply be unemployable.
The short version of all this is, "I was fired for playing poker on the job," since that's almost true and it makes a really funny story.
The timing was horrible, though, since this came when I was having card troubles and was essentially tapped out. Mostly I was able to keep the despair away by not thinking about it, something I've become pretty good at. I've had to, because I truly did not knowe what I was going to do.
Then, I figured out what the problem was with my game (below). I was running so well that I started seeing myself moving to Vegas by the end of the summer ... heck, the end of the month ... hmm, I wonder if I can still get there tonight?
I know this is unrealistic because the good run has ended; I'm getting my ass kicked at the moment. Even more, if this is what I'm going to do, then I'm working with even less of a net than I was when I turned pro (voluntarily) a year ago, and the odds against me are long. I have to trust that I'm a little bit wiser this time, a little more willing to actually work at this game, and most important, that I'm a better card player. Because if I fail, I have no backup plan; I'll have to conclude that the world simply has no place for me.
Fixing my Game
My game made a marked improvement a month or two ago, which I attribute to reading Miller/Sklansky/Malmuth's new small-stakes book. It probably wasn't all their book; I had to also be ready to hear what they said, and apparently I was.
Suddenly, my $2/$4 BBJ results leapt up to over 4 BB/c, over more than 10,000 hands. Several times now, I've effectively been called a maniac by other players at the table. Whether that's true or not, at the end of the night, I'm the one with the chips.
Then, as I mentioned, at the beginning of 2005 I hit a wall that took me seemingly forever to figure out. Fortunately, this wall wasn't actually one of losing, at least not online, but I couldn't get my winning edge back.
Finally I figured it out: My old style, my $3/$6 style from nearly a year ago, was to play totally ABC poker. If I don't have a hand, check; if I have a hand, raise; if I have a great hand, check-raise. ABC. The amazing thing to me now is that that worked for as long as it did; it doesn't work at these $2/$4 BBJ tables. You also need to look for opportunities to create pots for yourself and win without the best hand. And you can't do that on autopilot.
Autopilot is exactly how I was playing online for those two weeks. You may remember that early in my "first" pro career I bought a second monitor, with the stated purpose that it was for reading Email etc. while I was playing online. I could do that as long as my game was on autopilot, which it was. But last week I decided that I wasn't able, without having both eyes on the game(s), to find the opportunities to create pots for myself.
I've come up with a way of putting this, namely, that I can't just play ABC poker. ABC poker might be 90% of my game, but it isn't enough; I need to be playing ABCD poker, because that last 10% is the reason I'm a winning player.
And it helps if the cards run my way, too.