Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Several Random Points of Musing

I'm about halfway through the Krieger book that PokerDogg recommended (Krieger, Lou and Sheree Bykofsky, Secrets the Pros Won't Tell You about Winning Hold'em Poker. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2006). Although the advice in the book is good, I'm still underwhelmed.

If the learning curve has a number of plateaus, what I've read is below the plateau that I'm on. "It's better to be the bettor than the caller" is good advice, and so is "be aware of your image and use it to your benefit." But beyond a certain point of learning they seem as obvious as "mostly don't play 7-2." Still, I hold out hope that Krieger saved the meat of the book for the second half.

Another Tournament

Fresh off a fifth-place finish in one of PokerStars' $4 180-man sit-and-go tournaments (which returned 11½ buyins), Gil and I ventured to Manistee looking for a repeat of my win last week. Gil was probably a touch too aggressive and went out ahead of me, maybe 30th or so out of 50. I lasted a bit longer, but not a whole lot, when my mediumish stack got bad-beat out of the tournament. (QQ v. JJ postflop, and he hit a Jack on the turn.) So back-to-back victories was not to happen.

On the Verge

The cablemodem was installed here today, so as soon as we get the equipment I'll be setting up the network and I'll be online a good bit more. This puts me on the verge of executing PokerDogg's plan. I'm not entirely sure that my folks have bought into the plan (ermm, that's a figurative buy-in), but they seem willing to go along with the "proof of concept" part. So here's hoping I can play a month of breakeven poker to prove out the plan.

Future Tournaments

Gil suggests we play two home-game tournaments later this week, the "Pete the Dragon" game I mentioned last week and another with someone he used to play with at a short-lived "poker club" that existed while I was in Las Vegas. I'm not sure that the EV of these is better than if we were to play cash games, but my last two live cash-game sessions have been negative, so maybe I'm wrong.

("Pete the Dragon" wasn't intended to permanently be his name when we first went to his game, some time ago, but I never picked another name for him. Oh well, even "Rhymes with Joker" was originally a "filler" name until I actually came up with something clever. And then it stuck.)

  Saturday, August 26, 2006

The 75% Rule

[This is a re-edit of part of the previous post, chopped into its own post for easier linking from my "Archive Highlights." I've also turned comments on for this post: Do I really have something here?]

There's a particular sort of player that Gil has long found vexing, that I ran into this weekend in Chicago. I was nailed a couple of times by this on what was otherwise a very good table. The problem player is one who plays very passively with good hands, only to raise on the river. I'll posit a hand to demonstrate:

You're under the gun with AK. You raise. You get two cold-callers, and the big blind calls as well. The flop is K88 (we'll assume throughout that no flush is possible). You bet, and one of the cold-callers and the big blind call. The turn is a Q. You bet, the cold-caller calls, and the big blind folds. The river is a 4.

Ordinarily, I'd read the cold-caller for a smaller King—say KJ—or for a pair, probably 99 or TT. A Queen is possible; that he took off the turn and got "married" to his hand by the Queen. Nothing the Villian has done has led me to believe he's got an Eight. So I'd bet.

Often enough, the Villian raises, I call for the size of the pot, and I'm shown an Eight. Sometimes the Villian doesn't even raise, and I lose a slightly smaller pot.

Gil has long questioned whether one should bet the river in this situation. In fact, I've seen him not bet the river in a number of situations where I thought it was clear that he had the best hand, probably because he was remembering hands like this one.

Has the Villian, intentionally or otherwise, found a way to counter my aggressiveness? I can't believe his play is optimal—except against me. Against me, he wins the maximum with his Eight.

So what is my option? Checking the river seems pretty feeble, too. I'd have to call if the Villian bet. I lose slightly less this way if I'm beat, but I also win less if I'm ahead. And nothing that's happened so far would lead me to believe that it's more likely that I'm beat, than that I'm ahead. Just so that we can assign numbers to this, let's say it's 60:40 that I'm ahead.

If I bet the river, I win zero bets if I'm ahead and he folds, or I win one bet if I'm ahead and he calls. He probably folds a good percentage of the time, say 50%: if he has 99 or TT, or a Queen, he might choose to give up here. The only hand that beats me that could possibly fold is KQ.

If I bet the river, I lose one bet if I'm behind and he calls, or I lose two bets if I'm behind and he raises. If he has that Eight, I think he raises about two-thirds of the time: say 65%. (I think I'd raise 100% of the time here in his situation if I didn't raise the turn, but since I'd probably raise the turn 100% of the time, it seems moot.)

Taking all of the numbers I've assigned to this, I get {0.6[(0.5×0)+(0.5×1)]}+{0.4[(0.35×(−1))+(0.65×(−2))]}, which works out to an EV of −0.65, or a 2/3-bet loss from betting out. (Internet Explorer puts the line-break for that problem in a funny spot, for me. If you're following along with the math, hopefully that doesn't add to your confusion.) (It's also been pointed out to me that the math is difficult to follow along with in any case. All I'm doing is taking the percentage chance of something occurring, as I've estimated it, and multiplying it by the number of bets I'd win (or lose) in that case. If I keep doing this, I get my theoretical EV for the entire play. I've deleted some of the intermediate steps before arriving at my answer, which makes the problem look shorter and (hopefully) less intimidating.)

My suspicion is that checking is also −EV, but less so. If I check and I'm ahead, I win zero bets. I think we can discount the possibility of a bluff from a player who's played this passively thus far, but if the Villian does bet, I'm going to call. Maybe the Villian bets a hand worse than mine about 20% of the time when I check. So if I check, and I'm ahead, I win 0.2 bets on average.

If I check and I'm behind (almost certainly to an Eight), I think the Villian will bet at least 80% of the time. Since I'm going to call, I lose 0.8 bets on average. (This assumption might mar the general applicability of the rule I develop below: Although the Villian probably raises in the hand I've posited, in other cases that would be less likely. In that case the final answer would be lower than 75%.)

Taking the (fewer) numbers I've assigned to this, I get (0.6×0.2) + (0.4×(−0.8)) = −0.20, or an EV of a 1/5-bet loss from checking.

What does all of this mean? If I correctly divine the odds at 60:40 that I'm best, checking is the superior play. This is counterintuitive, but it seems to be borne out by my thumbnail math. The question becomes this, then: How sure must I be that I'm best, before a bet becomes +EV? Let's assume that the other numbers are the same. The algebraic problem is this:

0 =
[ x((0.5×0)+(0.5×1)) + (1−x)((0.35×−1)+(0.65×−2)) ]
− [ x(0.2) + (1−x)(−0.8) ]

You can work the algebra yourself if you like but the value of x turns out to be 0.739+. Since this is thumbnail math anyway, we'll say that the breakeven point is 75%. If you're more than 75% sure you're ahead, bet. If you're not, check.

I'm probably going to use this rule of thumb I've developed, but the problem includes a number of other variables I simply assume that I've estimated correctly. However, the Villian might see the showdown more often, might bluff less often, might raise more often with the Eight. All of these would change the answer I get, that you must be 75% sure you're best. However, this is all thumbnail math anyway; under fire you probably won't say, "Lord Geznikor's magic number is 75%. I'm only 72.5% sure I'm best. Therefore, I check." If you really can estimate the chances you're best that closely, then you'll have better numbers for all of the other things I've estimated, and your answer will change.

This is a problem Gil and I argued over in the car, on the way back from Chicago. It's a long drive. My feeling then was that you had to bet the river, and Gil (somewhat ambivalently) favored a check. As much as I hate finding out that Gil is right about something, I can change my mind when it can be shown logically that I'm wrong. So, even if nobody else followed this topic all the way through, Gil did, and since he turns out to have been right, he'll never let me forget it.

The Weekend

I mentioned that Gil and I were planning on playing in the tournament being held at Soaring Eagle in Mt.Pleasant. We got to the casino at about 2PM Thursday to register for Friday's tournament, only to find that all the seats had been sold by 11:30 that morning. Still, we were there; we played a little $3/$6 and—shock of shocks—we both made money.

Gil's business is now, at the end of the summer, entering a slow period where the phone won't be ringing much until October. So, even though we missed Friday's tournament, Gil suggested that we play anyway, at the former Trump casino in Chicago.

I've reviewed this room a couple of times; it's now the "Majestic Star II," and the dealers' shirts and the chips are different, but otherwise it's the same room. The only substantive change to the room seems to be that their second-lowest game is now $6/$12 half-kill rather than $5/$10 full-kill. A kill pot is $10/$20 in both cases, so the change isn't much. And we're playing $3/$6 anyway.

Gil makes a number of big, expensive mistakes, where I cringed as he was making them, but he still ended up over $100 ahead. My cards are pretty horrible, and I take a number of bad beats, and over the six hours or so that we play, I lose $200. There are some strategy questions I want to throw open for comment, that I'll do a bit further down.

The Plan

I've talked to Gil about it a fair deal, considered it a fair deal, and I've reached the point where I pretty much figure PokerDogg's plan is the one I'll pursue. Gil agrees with me that the numbers Dogg posits are reasonable. I have only to present it to my folks in pursuit of broadband.

I'm still worried about the "improve my game" part, because I don't have a clear handle on how that will go. Gil's suggestion, when I told him that I don't really understand what it means to "study" the literature, was essentially that I write a book report each time I read something new. I think the idea must be that I internalize the information enough that I can write about it, and possibly even disagree with it. In any case, it's a way to continue, by doing something I like to do anyway (writing), so you may start to see expansions on the literature in weeks to come.

The Suggestions

For the first time since I restarted the blog, my Email box had several positive contributions with suggestions for me. I've got them before, but one at a time. (Did I become a 2+2 whippingboy again? Or did Iggy mention me? I'm offline now, so I can't check either.)

One of the emails consisted mainly of words of encouragement from somebody who describes himself as a fellow fuck-up (and fellow ENTP, for what it's worth). He says he saw a forum post somewhere, where the original poster wondered if all the blogs describing a "hookers-and-blow" lifestyle were legitimate, or if they're fabricated, and why he never saw any counterexamples. My correspondent mentioned my blog as the counterexample, whereupon he discovered that I'm posting again. Maybe it's this forum post which turned some attention back to my blog. In any case, he has an opinion about the AK hand I posted about a few weeks ago, and I'll parse that at another time. At first glance he seems to agree with Jacobs more than with me, and that's a good thing.

Another correspondent, an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas, had ten suggestions for non-job jobs, so to speak. (Actually, that might be a cool job for a little while. I've got the voice to do Elvis—such as when the Imperial Palace's "dealertainers" take a break and sing—but I don't have the mannerisms. And who wants to remember the broken-down, fat and bloated, mid–1970s Elvis anyway?) Some of his suggestions are way out of the box, which is a good thing: as a subject for medical experiments, or as an extra in adult films, or even as an imprisoned felon. Some of his very "inside-the-box" suggestions are a lot harder work than I could likely manage for long: delivering Yellow Pages, day labor, or driving the Schwann's truck. I might be too honest to accept jobs with 2–3 week "training periods" and quitting once training ends. He mentions a "straight job" which I've considered from time to time, truck driver, but my driving record isn't clean, so I might have some problem getting in at a trucking company. (I've read that it's not "just you and the open road" like it used to be, either.) In any case, the suggestions are good ones, particularly those I've never considered, and despite what I've written here I haven't absolutely rejected all of them.

The final correspondent was a bit of a surprise: "Pete the Dragon," the host of a home game I went to several times last year, mentions that most Thursdays he now has 15–20 people playing there, and Gil and I are invited back. He even says the trash-talking is toned down. Several times, he says this. I don't remember that the trash talk chased me away before (though some of it was indeed over the top), but it must have chased somebody away. In any case, it's a strong possibility that Gil and I show up at his game again sometime in the next few weeks.

[Edited here to move one topic to another post]

  Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On Second Thought

In the light of day, last night's idea seems not to be a very good one. I wouldn't mind going to Vegas to play a bit, but the stated reason—try to talk Harrah's into a dealer audition—seems so tenuous that really doesn't make much sense to base an entire trip around that.

So, I'm back to my original plan, which is: nothing. I'm exaggerating—a plan of sorts is coming together—but it's incomplete so I haven't moved on it.

One correspondent (SirFwalgMan) suggested that computer programming meets a lot of the requirements I laid out in my post from a couple of days ago. This is something I hadn't considered. I'm the right age to have spent a lot of time on various projects in BASIC on the Commodore 64, and at that time I would have said that being a computer programmer is what I'd have wanted to be when I "grew up." It was even my major for a time in college. But I haven't thought about that as a career in a long time. Still, I don't dismiss it.

Another correspondent, Pokerdogg, gave me advice that was more in line with what I wanted to hear, and did it in such an eloquent and well-reasoned way that I was planning to build a post around the chat even before we were done talking. I asked, he's okay with it, so here it is.

This will be pretty heavily edited. I'll take out some of the irrelevancies; I'll fix some typos; I'll rearrange the order of certain statements where points overlapped; I'll combine short statements into long; and, if I'm feeling really ambitious, I might fix the punctuation. Still, this rendering will be quite faithful to the chat that actually occurred. I'll probably sum up at the end.

If it's not obvious, "LG" is me, and "PD" is Pokerdogg.

Read my post from about an hour ago, and tell me if I'm right in the head.
Hi LG, just read it. First off, a big congratulations! Winning a tourney is not easy, and sounds like you really managed your game well to win this thing. I don't think there is anything wrong with your head at all, and I am happy you feel excited again and are thinking of future plans.
Heh, that was a little too diplomatic . . . it sounds like there's a big "but" coming . . .
BUT . . .
Sorry, couldn't resist.
Actually, it's really great that you are feeling this way.
It just sounded way too much like How to Make Friends and Influence People, sugarcoating criticism with a layer of praise, so I was bracing for it.
Now, my question is, how badly do you want to make a go at this and succeed?
At the dealer thing? Not that badly. But it provides an income in a field I like, even if the job is still a job, and allows me to return to Vegas, which is something I want.
No, I mean playing poker for a living.
Oh, at the poker thing? Yes, that's the thing that I can some up with that seems to best fit me. But I'm currently not +EV, I believe.
I know the dealer thing is a bridge. From what I've read from your blog, I think you can be +EV, and have the intelligence for it. The main problem, from my perspective, has always been bankroll, and secondly, patience.
I have weaknesses that do manifest themselves in my game, but I agree that I should be +EV. I've never been properly bankrolled for midlimit, and I agree patience can be a problem for me. Pressing into $15/$30 a couple of years ago, for example.
You obviously have some game, or you wouldn't have won these tourneys multiple times.
OK, here is what I think, straight from the heart:
Job 1, you need to build a bankroll. Job 2, you need to work on your game. You need the support of family and friends in this building stage. So, here is what I would do in your situation.
I would take the winnings, whore the hell out of various sites' deposit bonuses; grind out a bankroll to about $10k. This is doable if you stay at home for the next six months. This gives you time to work on your game, at no higher than $2/4, no exceptions. Once you have this bankroll, go back to Vegas, try to get a dealer job, and start playing with tourists. This is definitely doable; I grinded up my bankroll to about $6k in six months, while being −EV at poker, and I was working full time.
The missing element here is "Job 2." I'm a bit stymied on how to get my game from where it is, to where it needs to be.
Well, there are quite a few ways to do that. Reading is good, analysing your game with mentors is also good, or practice using simulation programs (although I get bored with that, myself). I think your post on AK is a great way to learn.
Heh, I wish it had generated a response.
Well, you could post at some poker forums; there are some good players that are helpful. Or, just read others' posts; you can learn from those.
I hope you don't mind me asking, but are there any issues staying with your folks for the next six months?
Probably not, if I have an actual plan, but without one, yes. And they'd have to buy into the plan, which with poker, would be an issue.
You need a business plan. It would be a tough sell, but there is a way to do it.
The business plan idea is good, but I'm hung up on the "improving my game" part. I'd want something to put under that category.
How do you best learn? Is it through books, peers, mentors, trial and error, video?
Probably 4, 1, 2, 3, 5.
OK, that's good. You already do 4 all the time; what about 1? What books have you read, and which have you reread?
One of my favorites is Miller's Small Stakes Holdem, which has often been my bathroom reading. I took it with me to Manistee today in case I busted significantly before Gil. I've read a lot of books once, because Gil buys them all, but SSH is one of the few I've gone over a number of times, because (as I posted yesterday) Miller's explanations resonate with me. I own Super/System 2, and Harman's limit Holdem chapter is better than I expected, but it's only a chapter. I'm not sure I actually own any other books.
I am reading Secrets the Pros Won't Tell You. It's really good, and I think it will help your game a lot.
I'll have to look for that one (which means suggest it to Gil, and he'll immediately buy it, and then I'll borrow it). The title makes it one I'd skip over, myself, so it's good to hear a positive review.
Now, that's good thinking. I'm about a third of the way through it, and really made me realize some of the things I'm doing wrong.
That's a good thing to hear. Miller made me look at the game differently, which is why I like it so much. I think before Miller my game was, "play good hands, hit the nuts, get paid," and the online game has toughened to the point where that's no longer enough.
I like the way he (and the co-author) breaks down the problems. They start each section with some high level concepts, and then break down into more details tidbits. It's short and concise, good bathroom reading book.
Can I be brutally honest, speaking from very little info except what I gleaned from your blog?
Since you're not an asshole, yes.
Heheh . . . I think you need to treat poker more seriously as a job, which has all the bad trappings of a regular job. I noticed that when things run well, you don't keep going. Again, this is from the blog reading, so I might just be misreading. You need to put in the hours every day, 5 days a week.
I don't disagree with you. When I was playing $3/$6 all the time, if I had a good "morning" I wouldn't put in an "afternoon," but I usually would if I'd had a bad morning. This had the effect of giving me a stop-win but no stop-loss.
Exactly. The nice thing about poker is it's flexibility, but that's also its pitfall. You need to say to yourself that you are going to spend x hours each day in playing, and y hours in reading and thinking about the game.
On the plus side, I always did put in the hours. I think I only took three or four days entirely off, the whole six month period. But I would often do Y at the same time as X, while doing X on autopilot. That's not ideal.
My thought if I was in Vegas [as a pro], is that my "morning" would be online and my "evening" would be live.
I am actually playing only one table at a time now, to improve my game, even though it slows down bonus clearing.
Yah, I'm currently working off a free $40 PartyPoker gave me. I probably have about 50 raked hands in, of the 400 I need. At 50¢/$1, they rake 50¢ at $5 [pot size], and the average pots are only $6–7.
. . . So, get this book, Secrets the Pros Won't Tell You, by Lou Krieger.
Oh, it's Krieger? He was at Binions once when I was there, recording a radio show. Man, he's a sleazy-looking character.
LOL, really?
Yah, he's kind of greasy-looking, and when someone went up to talk to him, he had the most fake get-away-from-me-you-fuck smile I've ever seen.
That's too bad. But, he does write well on poker. Probably his best known book is Hold'em Excellence: From Beginner to Winner.
I'm not positive that I've read that, tho' I've been through most of Gil's library, up to this time last year.
It's pretty good, similar to Lee Jones' book. It's one of the first books I read.
So, anyway, back to THE PLAN.
I would suggest taking your $700 winnings, and spend some time bonus whoring. There are lots of sign up bonuses that you can do.
Yes, although a lot are hard to work off at micro stakes.
Some of them can still be worked off at $1/$2 easily. Two-tabling, you can earn $15/hr easily if you break even. There are bonuses that can be cleared at 50¢/$1, also. So with that approach [and another I've edited out], you should have $2000 by the end of September. Then, you can sell that to your folks, if you keep records, and project that for the next six months.
That seems reasonable, although I'd have to get my folks to buy into the plan, since it's dialup here, and they already complain that "I'm on the phone all night."
Hmmm, that won't work; you will have to invest in ADSL or cable. I guess you should use part of your winnings to secure a high speed line—got to invest in the infrastructure.
My dad said he's planning to get cable, including cablemodem, but he hasn't moved on that front for nearly a month, I assume because he feels it would mostly be for me to "waste" my time.
Well, now you can pay for it; a gift to him.
[A bunch of stuff deleted about the phone company and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy]
Hey, I should ask; I've been planning on using much of this conversation in a blog post, do you mind?
No problem.
Heh, I was just bailed out by the turn; he really had a hand.
A dollar saved is a dollar earned!
No, I mean the turn gave me top and bottom pair, instead of just bottom pair, top kicker.
Ahh, that's even better; more dollars earned.
He raised late, I called with A5 in the big blind, and the flop was ragged (with a 5). I checkraised, and he folded to my turn bet.
The turn was an Ace?
Aye, so it probably looked to him like I'd flopped a set.
Or, AA made a set on the turn; he might even fold KK there.
I would have three-bet AA preflop, but he wouldn't necessarily know that.
Some people like to smooth call AA to a preflop raise. I've been stung too many times by that lately.
Well, I can see an argument for that, but on balance I figure that preflop with AA, I'm way ahead, so I want as much money going into the pot at this point as I can arrange. Also, it's hard to play 72 like they're Aces, if you don't play Aces like they're Aces.
Most likely, in the hand in question, he had something like KQ.
Yeah, or a mid pair. Was the flop all rags?
Yes, but a straight was a possibility, and a straight draw a near-certainty: Something like 568.
Yeah, that's a scary board.
Heh, I'm looking for the hand history, and I found one where I folded preflop and would have made the wheel. Ahh, here we go:
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to LordGeznikor [ Ah 5h ]
[UTG] folds.
[EP2] calls [$0.50].
[MP1] folds.
[MP2] folds.
[LP1] folds.
[Villian] raises [$1].
[Button] folds.
LordGeznikor calls [$0.75].
[BB] folds.
[EP2] calls [$0.50].
** Dealing Flop ** [ 8c, 7d, 5s ]
LordGeznikor checks.
[EP2] checks.
[Villian] bets [$0.50].
LordGeznikor raises [$1].
[EP2] folds.
[Villian] calls [$0.50].
** Dealing Turn ** [ As ]
LordGeznikor bets [$1].
[Villian] folds.
LordGeznikor does not show cards.
LordGeznikor wins $6.
Yeah, I would fold lots of hand to your turn bet. With your checkraise on the flop, I could be drawing dead by the turn.
Considering his likely holding, yes. It had to look like I'd flopped a set.
Yep. Anyway, time for bed.
Aye. I'm currently thinking I meet Gil for lunch tomorrow halfway between here and there, discuss my idea and yours. Yours is clearly the saner.
Cool. There's a higher probability of success, much higher.
Yes, although I'm not thinking I'd turn pro when I get there [on $700]. But it'd be a gamble just to go out there and rely on my charm to get me a job.
You can still do that, six months from now, with $10k in your pocket.
That's clearly the saner idea. The chief advantage my idea has is that it lets me do something right now.
Wow, there was just a $35 pot, at 50¢/$1. It ended up being split between two flopped straights.
OK, good night, and let me know what you decide to do.

Maybe I should have edited more out, than I did. I left the hand discussion in because it might provoke some discussion, though it isn't relevant to the topic at hand. (I like my postflop play, but looking now I don't like my preflop call.)

In any case, Pokerdogg feels it's possible to put together a bankroll without a job, in about the same amount of time it would take to put it together with a job. Looking at it now, I'm not sure I see fault with that. Online right now, I seem to be +EV at the micro limits and varying results at low limits. (Why that is, is another post.) A steadily-increasing bankroll seems possible to the extent that bonus-whoring is possible at the micro limits. (I consider 50¢/$1 to be the highest "micro" limit and $1/$2 to be the lowest "low" limit.) For the moment I'll take Pokerdogg at his word about that. And, he has another idea that he asked me not to mention, which seems like a good idea to me as well. So his goal of $2000 by the end of September seems reasonable, if the internet-access problem can be resolved.

The "plan," such as it is, is still a little weak in the area of getting my skill level from point A (where it is) to point B (beating live midlimit games). But in the "build a bankroll" part of the plan, his method appeals to me more than everyone else's suggestion (a "straight" job). If the results would be the same, and it fits me better, it seems like the superior plan.

The question is, would it work? I like his mini-goal of the end of September. How close I come to quadrupling up in four weeks should go a long way toward a "proof of concept," demonstrating whether it's possible to but together a $10,000ish bankroll in a reasonable amount of time. And, just as important, whether it's possible for me.

Another Tournament Chance

Soaring Eagle, the Mt. Pleasant casino, has all summer held monthly multitable tournaments. The August tournament is this Friday. Originally, I wasn't interested, because of reports that the blind structure was rather fast. Since Gil snagged a sheet with the blind structure from the casino on a previous visit, he put the structure through the formulae in the book he's working through. (I forget the title, but he talks about the book a bit on his new blog, which now appears on my mini-blogroll on the right. (Hrmm, I hope I didn't put him "on hiatus." I'll have to check that.))

In any case, when the blind structure is subjected to that test, it turns out to rank right up with the weekend tournaments at the Orleans, among the best $100–$200 buyin tournaments in Vegas! This is chiefly because the blind levels are a full 30 minutes for the first six levels, but nonetheless, the tournament is anything but a crapshoot. Thus, I find that I want to play.

There are a couple of ways of looking at this, but the least offensive is that it's a parlay of my win yesterday. Even assuming I don't money, I'll still have over $500 to put into Pokerdogg's plan, which would mean I'd need to quadruple my money in four weeks to meet his mini-goal. This is still reasonable in that it's easier to quadruple $500 with his methods than $5000. And, in the best situation, I win the tournament and around $6000, and I'm well beyond the September mini-goal.

More to think about; more to come.

Sometimes Things Work Like They're Supposed To

I don't know how to post this without sounding like I'm bragging, and I really don't mean to be.

Gil and I went to Manistee for their no-limit tournament on Tuesday, which is either today or yesterday depending on how you look at things. It "feels" to me like it was "yesterday," since I took a four-hour nap when I got back, and "yesterday" corresponds to the fact that a different date appears at the top of this post. But really, it was less than eight hours ago, so one would be justified in thinking of that as "today."

I won. The thing is, and the thing that makes me wary of bragging about my win, is that over the course of the tournament I never really did anything that stellar. I got average cards, and my good hands held up and my bad hands got chucked. I'm tempted to say that my cards were actually even below average, but I did get a lot of cards that were good enough to open-raise with in late position, even if they weren't really great cards. I had Aces once, and took the blinds, and I had tens a couple of times, which didn't win big pots either. The only really big pot I played was a set-over-set early, where my slightly-above-average stack knocked out an average one. And I gave half of that win back shortly after that table broke, which was the biggest pot (in terms of my stack size) that I lost. In short: I didn't make any big mistakes in the tournament, but I never really had any hard decisions. And so I won $1500.

I was staked, which meant that I gave Gil $800 of that, but it was a nice win in any case.

Astute readers will recall that I went to Vegas last year with the cash from winning two of these, one of which I was staked for. Very astute readers will recall that it was at about this time last year that I went to Vegas for that dealing audition (that went badly).

Here's a Thought . . .

I'm tempted. $700 is enough for a trip out there, and Gil says he's antsy to go back. I think it's two-to-one that I could talk Harrah's poker staff into getting me a dealing audition, either there or at Imperial Palace, which is Harrah's/Caesars break-in room. I probably couldn't do it over the phone, though; they'd have to see my face to remember me. They would remember me, though; as I said yesterday I'm usually one of the most animated people at the table. The only question would be whether they'd do a favor for someone who hasn't been there for three months.

There are two big downsides to that plan. First, I'd have no idea whether it would actually work. At least when I went out for the last trip, I had a "first interview" scheduled. This trip, I'd be trading on my natural ebullience and charm, and that's it. Second, the plan might succeed. If it did, I'd have to borrow enough money to actually move back to Vegas. But more, even dealing poker is still a job, with all of its pitfalls to me. Right now I think I could put up with it for a fair while. But maybe that's still only six months.

These concerns are aside from the fact that doing this seems to be a pretty dumb plan on the face of it. In fact, I've only thought of it since I started this blog entry. But it's the first plan, qua plan, that's really been interesting to me at all since I got back to Michigan. (I've been putting a lot of Latin into my posts lately. I wonder why?)

I hesitate to post this before I bounce the idea off somebody, probably Gil. It really seems, on the face of it, to be a pretty dumb idea. But, if it doesn't work, I think I'm no worse off.

Writers often talk about how books end up not always going where they expect. J.K.Rowling has said that in the final Harry Potter book, in progress, a couple of characters she thought would die turn out to live, and at least one character she planned to have live, dies. This post has done the same thing. There was a whole other idea I wanted to lead my tournament win into, but now I want to skip that and mull this over.

I'll post this even though it's fundamentally incomplete. If I do this, the plans will probably be made in the next day or two. Perhaps in that time my Email box will overflow with comments about how dumb a plan this is, and I'll talk myself out of it. Perhaps the exact opposite will happen. In any case, I need to think about this.

  Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In Pursuit of Happiness

I mentioned in my "back in Michigan" post a few weeks ago that a shrink was administering the Briggs-Myers test to lead her to some suggestions as to what to do with my life. I scored out as ENTP, the only surprise (to me) being that I scored as far to the "extroverted" side as I did. She provided a chapter from one of her books which had suggestions as to what I might do. I find myself generally dissatisfied with the suggestions, which leads me to this post. It's yet another attempt to figure this out for myself.

The suggestions fall into four broad categories: Politics, Planning and Development (which seems to translate out to "upper management"), Marketing/Creative, and Entrepreneurship/Business.

Politics, I've done; I spent most of the 1990s in third-party politics. I ended up concluding that trying to fix the world is useless: Not only do people like the world broken, but they'll resist mightily any attempt to fix it because change is too scary. If people really like the world as it is that much, then you deserve it.

The "Planning and Development" area I don't dismiss outright except for this problem: With a couple of exceptions, all of the examples are jobs that one gets only after several years experience. In other words, "Do X for a couple of years and then job Y opens up to you." The problem is, I would not last doing X for a couple of years. The average seems to be about six months, and for the latter part of that neither me nor my employer is really happy with the other. Job Y would thus never actually open up to me. The exceptions are in real estate. Real estate development is open to anyone with capital, which I don't have. Real estate agent is actually a reasonable suggestion, one I hadn't seriously considered. I don't think I'd be very good at it, though; I've never bought a home. But more than that: The most lucrative real estate to sell around here is lakefront property, which is reasonably expensive. This would mean that the people that would be buying and selling it are people who've been pretty successful in the "straight" world. I'm coming to hate these people, and I would thus fail at making the personal connections necessary for a successful sale.

The "Marketing/Creative" area simply doesn't interest me, for the most part. The only example of any interest is doing a radio or TV talk show. I might be good at this, particularly in radio, but for one thing: When your radio show starts, you'd damned well better be there. And I've been late to work at least 75% of my work days in my life. That goes in hand with my sleep-schedule problems (I talk about this more below), and a job where I had to be there at the same time every day wouldn't work for me. Radio or TV would be no exception.

The final area here is "Entrepreneurship/Business," which includes a number of examples that don't seem to fit into that category at all. Nonetheless, this is only broad area in which a reasonable number of the examples appeal to me. Maybe it makes sense to list the examples: (from Tieger, Paul D. and Barbara Barron-Tieger, Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, second edition. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995, p.199.)


  • Entrepreneur
  • Inventor
  • Management consultant
  • Venture capitalist
  • Photographer
  • Journalist
  • Owner: restaurant/bar
  • Actor
  • Outplacement consultant
  • Technical trainer
  • Diversity manager/trainer
  • Management consultant: marketing/reorganization/compensation

I could see myself doing most of these. I'm not particularly interested in photography, and "diversity manager" is a bullshit job. I'm not really sure what an outplacement consultant is, and I have no particular expertise which would make me marketable as a management consultant, particularly not in the three areas they mention specifically.

Entrepreneur, venture capitalism, and bar ownership, I could see me doing, but all three require capital, and I don't have it. As a venture capitalist I could see me making the investments themselves, meeting the entrepreneurs, and deciding whether they really have a nifty idea or not, but I couldn't do the necessary research before and after; that sort of research would bore me to tears. I also sort of feel that if I really was the type to build a fortune from nothing, I would have done it by now. I wasn't one to take my childhood lemonade stand and set up fourteen franchises. Bar ownership would have its own difficulties (not least profitability), but maybe I could have my employees do the work that would turn me away from it. Nonetheless, the chief problem with all of these examples is lack of capital.

It might be kind of interesting to be a literary agent, but my understanding of that industry is that most agents are corporate cogs, with all that entails. The only good thing about being in a large corporation, from the point of view of a less than stellar employee, is that you're extremely unlikely to be fired because you're "just not working out." The chief bad thing about it is that you'd have to be at work at the same time every day.

I considered journalism at one point, or at least I wanted a syndicated column. More recently I've come to appreciate how difficult it is to write a new column every day, whether you have a clever idea for one or not. A weekly or biweekly column really doesn't change that. When I was Mr. Libertarian, I probably could have come up with eight or ten good columns at the drop of a hat (I actually did have a few published by an "alternative newspaper"), and another eight or ten by struggling, and repeating myself a bit. After that I would have sent in blank pages. (Notice, though, that this blog does in fact make me a "journalist" in the strictest sense of the word.)

Acting would be interesting, would probably be fun, and I'd probably be good at it. But I don't imagine I can knock on NBC's door and ask them to put me in a sitcom; the stereotype of a struggling actor is so entrenched that as a career move this seems extremely unwise. Besides, the world already has one John Goodman; do we really need another one?

The same thing applies to standup comedy and fiction writing, two other suggestions I hear sometimes that aren't on this list. Published authors get a lot of letters asking, "How do I become a writer?" Somebody I read a lot, probably Larry Niven, put the best answer to this in one of his books: To become a writer, write things, and then try to sell them to publishers. Eventually, you'll make a sale, or you'll stop writing. I don't write things, at least not fiction, so apparently I'm not a writer. (I actually am kicking around a short story idea, but the story currently doesn't have a middle.) In any case, any of these three would be a poor career move.

I think I've covered all of the examples but one, inventor, in nothing like any semblance of order. Being an inventor is the American dream: I think George Foreman makes approximately eleventy jillion dollars a year from those electric grills. But actually coming up with the invention itself, ah, there's the rub. I'm reminded of the The Simpsons episode in which Homer decides to become an inventor, and sits at a desk with a blank piece of paper, and begins tapping a pencil on his chin, saying, "Hmmm, something to invent . . . something to invent . . ." He ends up coming up with ridiculous inventions, like the electric hammer. I'd love to have invented something, past tense, and be living off the proceeds. But actually coming up with something to invent is hard. Unless someone out there needs a combination toaster and cheese grater . . .

Designing the Perfect Job

All of the above, while it's probably something I'll show to that shrink, isn't even why I started this post. I long ago concluded that there is no job, qua job, that would work for me, and it's why I'd like to become successful at poker. I might be wrong. Lately I've been thinking of the oft-told dictum, "Find something you like to do, then find someone who'll pay you to do it." So I'll now attempt to catalog things I like to do; maybe somewhere in them I can find someone who wants to pay me to do one of them.

  1. Sleep. This is mainly in there because I do seem to do a lot of this, but as a career choice it seems patently ridiculous.
  2. Poker. I don't need to spend much time here. If I'm not a +EV player, then nobody will pay me to play poker. It's the reverse, rather. However, it still seems possible to me to become +EV.
  3. Computer games. Since I've been back in Michigan I've spent much time playing the computer games in my library. Indeed, it probably consumes most of my day when I'm unable to play poker. There are jobs in this field, in the games' creation, testing, reviewing, and other things. It's possible to make money at a web site devoted to a single game. But any of these, it seems to me, would destroy the fun of playing the games in the first place.

    The games I enjoy most are those with a story involved, which is usually found in the role-playing category. Unfortunately, these are among the most expensive games to create, so not many are released every year, and the same percentage of these are crap as every other type of game. Telling a story in a computer game format allows me to "explore the story," which is one of the most rewarding ways to "receive" a story. Such games also come closest to being "art" in the classic sense.

  4. Shooting the shit. I'm not a wallflower; I like to talk to people, to get a chance to tell my stories, to listen to theirs. I'm typically one of the most animated people at the poker table. When I used to hang out at a bar, I was the bar's "Norm," except when I was Cliff. When I was on the road selling, my presentations took a lot longer than they should have because of the time we spent not talking about the product. The length of my blog posts should serve to demonstrate that I rarely have a problem finding something to say. But I can't imagine how to make this profitable.
  5. Television. This is fading from my list, because 99% of what is produced today is crap. I'm not interested in reality television; reality is depressing enough without wanting to invent any more of it. And today's TV writers spend too much time making their shows into soap operas and not enough time on interesting plots. When I want to watch a lawyer show, I want to see an interesting case or a novel argument; I don't want to see half the episode spent discussing which lawyer is sleeping with which other lawyer, and whether it will affect their future at the firm. TV execs lament that old episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show have become competition to the shows they create today, but there's a reason: most of what you produce today is crap!
  6. The English language. I like delving in the linguistic arcana of the language. When Gil uses a word like "formulamatic" or "argumentation," I enjoy discussing that even if those words are occasionally seen in print (and thus are in dictionaries), they are improper words: "argumentation" is the noun form of the verb form of the noun form of the verb "argue," which is simply silly. English is a rich language; "royal," "regal," and "kingly" each have slightly different usage, even if the words broadly mean the same thing. Other languages don't have that. One can make a living in linguistics, but one had better have "Ph.D." after his name. I don't. (I also don't know that I could really do this all day.)
  7. Puzzle-solving. I use this in the broadest sense. I enjoy jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles, but these aren't specifically what I mean. I'm not even sure I can come up with a simple explanation of what I mean. I like taking disparate things and using my knowledge to make them fit. At an early job, I had paperwork corresponding to a shipment in a customs warehouse that didn't seem to belong to anybody. I am confident that I was the only person in the department who could have figured out who it belonged to and get it released from Customs in time for the trade show it was for, which is why I'm still proud of that nearly twenty years later. There are plenty of jobs with opportunities to figure out puzzles like this, but I can't imagine a job strictly about solving puzzles.
  8. Roads. I'm a roadgeek; I'm fascinated by roads, their designations, their histories, their signage, and sundry other topics. If someone asks, "How do I get to X," I'm always ready to draw a map. I can correctly draw the shield design of the US highway markers (the white ones, e.g. US-95 in Las Vegas). I can tell you how the Interstates are numbered. Despite all this, I don't think I could work for AAA or Rand McNally; the job would be too 9-to-5, too corporate for me to last long even if I enjoy the subject matter.
  9. Reading. I enjoy reading fiction, particularly science fiction and horror fiction, although the things that draw me to those genres (which is another post) also crop up in a good number of the "thrillers" which dominate the Wal-Mart paperback shelf, even if those thrillers are less memorable as literature. I would like to enjoy non-fiction more, but I'm easily bored by it—even on topics I'm interested in. This is why I did find the "literary agent" suggestion above intriguing.

No, You Don't Want to Hire Me

The above list might get longer as I continue writing this post. But I also have certain needs and hangups which need to be met, in varying degrees, by whatever job I hold; these have all caused job failure, or at least job strife, in the past. This list might even be more important than the above list because of that.

  1. On my own time. The natural length of my day is longer than twenty-four hours. I'm getting old enough now that it's a big deal to interfere with that day after day. I can imagine a job where it doesn't matter when you come in, as long as you put in your eight hours, but I wouldn't know where to look. This even limits the number of ways I could work for myself.
  2. Plenty of down time. My mind needs time to wander, and my body needs time to rest. I need to be able to shut down for five or ten minutes, pretty frequently, in addition to formal "break time" and "lunch time." Put this baldly it seems like a ridiculous job demand, but I've found I need to do this to stay sane. I've often used too-frequent bathroom breaks to accomplish this, but even that's not enough. It can't really be scheduled, either; it's pretty strange to think of a bell ringing and now it's mind-wandering time.
  3. Get me on board. This is more of a problem with management, or a particular manager, than with the job per se. But if I have to do something that seems arbitrary, pointless, or downright stupid, I'm going to want to know why, and "because I told you" and "because that's the way it's done" are not sufficient answers. If I don't get a good answer I'm going to bitch that the task is arbitrary or pointless or stupid every time I do it. It's an accomplishment if I can keep from doing it out loud.
  4. And I did it my way. This is usually a management problem, but sometimes it's a problem with the job itself, where I am constrained to do something a particular way. For example, when I sold appliances at Sears, we had to fill out a form while we were talking to each customer. I felt that this made the sales process very unnatural, and indeed my sales numbers without the form were perfectly fine. But great strife with my managers was caused because I wasn't selling the Sears way. I need to be able to do things my own way, and I need to be able to something a different way today than I did yesterday. This hasn't cropped up at every job, but when it does, it's been a killer.
  5. I've gotta be me. I'm an iconoclast. I hate to be the same as everyone else. It causes me great anguish to blend in. This often goes to the extent of breaking a minor rule just to be the only one who does it. I even understand this is all me, this isn't their fault. But I don't exactly embrace corporate sameness.
  6. Be fair. Again, this is generally a management problem. But I probably don't need to explain this one much.
  7. Variety is the spice of life. I don't want to do the same thing every day. If I must, I need a whole lot more of that "down time" I mentioned above.
  8. When I sit around the house, I really sit around the house. I like food, and I'm lazy. I have no outdoor hobbies. Therefore, I'm fat and out of shape. This probably now limits me to a desk job; even simply being on my feet all day is too much for me at this point. I'm not actually immobile—"go get a file from downstairs" is not too much for me—but I don't think I could now do any of the retail sales jobs I've had, where I was on my feet for an entire shift. (For those who've recommended that I deal blackjack for a while in Vegas, being on my feet that long was one reason I wanted—then—to break in as a poker dealer.)
  9. It's hip to be square. Putting "fast-paced, fun atmosphere" into your classified ad pretty much guarantees I won't fit into the job. My tastes are those of someone in his sixties. Rap is just noise to me, people using "chatspeak" seem to me to be illiterate nine-year-olds, and I have never in my life been "down with" anything. The only sport I enjoy watching is baseball. And I'm too cynical to enjoy "silly hat day." Your attempts at making the job fun for me are going to fail.

I've concluded that the above list (which also might get longer as I continue) makes me essentially unemployable. If there's a job—any job—out there that fits me, I'd like to hear about it.

Office Space

The main character in the movie Office Space, vaguely dissatisfied with his job, poses the question with his friends, if you won the lottery, what would you do? The answer is supposed to guide you to what you should be doing, the career that would make you happiest. I come to the same conclusion that he did: Nothing.

If money would never again be a concern, I'd do nothing. I'd retire. I'd buy a high-rise condo, almost certainly in Vegas, and toys that all together would come to well under $100,000, including a car. Then I'd spend most of my time doing the things on the first list above. The only particular travelling I'd do would be a tour of the ancient world, and at some point I'd live in England for six months or a year, just to do it. And that'd pretty much be it.

I think the answer that the question is trying to draw out, is from the people who say, "I've always wanted to open a little flower shop," or something like that. I don't have anything like that. Even my thoughts about a used bookstore some years ago weren't really about having a store per se, but about simply having a lot of books. My condo would have a whole room that's a library (I imagine a lot of dark wood shelves, and a fireplace), and there, I don't need a used bookstore anymore.

Before I went to Vegas, a lot of my last blog entries were responses to people who thought I could never make it as a poker player. My response was generally, "but I can't do anything else, either." If you were one of those who said that, then maybe this post gives my response in more detail. And maybe there really is some magic job I'm overlooking.

  Sunday, August 20, 2006


It has been pointed out to me that I didn't in fact fix my Email address on the right, I merely attempted to fix it, and my Email address was thus, essentially, half-fixed. I've changed it now (or at least I intend to when I post this; I'm composing it offline), so if you sent me an insightful analysis of my previous post, and the Email bounced, then you can send it again now.

A Response

Gil did respond to my post, though, and since he has my phone number he doesn't need my proper Email address. I prefer to exchange Emails rather than talk through a problem like this because in Emails (or letters, or whatever) one stays on-topic, or if one goes off on a tangent one eventually returns to the main topic. Those are both problems for me in conversation. Perhaps with Gil, too, since every conversation with him turns out—surprise!—to actually really be about Aristotle, only I hadn't noticed. Those familiar with "strange attractors" in mathematics might see the analogy.

In any case, Gil's written response seems to be (Gil doesn't write very well) that I'm assuming that TheRabbit is a poor player from his description as a timid player. Jacobs describes TheRabbit as "a delightful player to have in the game—loose, passive and utterly transparent," before alluding to his timidity. TheRabbit might not be fresh off the turnip truck, but the description makes him sound like pretty much any of the poor players at the casino's $3/$6 game. To me that means he's unlikely to fold once he's committed to a hand and that bluffing and semibluffing aren't that useful against him: You've got to make a hand against him.

More Quotes, Same Question

Gil printed out something else that he attributes to Sklansky at Two Plus Two, although the part that Gil printed doesn't actually have any attribution. (Gil also only printed a piece of my post from yesterday before he analyzed my analysis, and also chopped off any attribution.) The article begins with seven things that are not keeping a marginal player from becoming a winning pro, and goes on with twenty things that pros do do well. On the latter list, there are a number of points I don't score highly on, but I want to focus on this one:

  1. Raising skill. Most merely good player usually know when to call or fold and when to check or bet. But they usually don't raise enough. (They especially don't check-raise enough.) There are lots of reasons to raise with non-obvious hands as in the example above [on isolating players]. Pros recognize them. (They also recognize who not to raise with very good hands.) Knowing raising strategy is unquestionably an attribute of pros that separate them from non-pros.

The reason I quote this is that this seems to be my problem in a number of problem hands. Until I went through the problem hands enough that I knew the right answer just from the last time I read the hand, this one from Small Stakes Hold'em always got me (pp. 271–2):

7. You have A♣4♣ on the button. The small blind raises, and the big blind and everyone else call (12 small bets). The flop is K5♣2, giving you a gutshot, an overcard, and a backdoor flush draw. The small blind bets. The big blind calls, and the first limper raises. The next two limpers fold (16 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Reraise! Individually, each of your draws is weak. Taken together, however, you have a relatively robust hand with decent winning chances. Getting 8-to-1, folding is clearly wrong. The pot is almost big enough that you would call with only a gutshot (e.g., six-four). You are just under 11-to-1 to complete your straight on the turn. In a pot this big, if you make your straight, your opponents are almost certain to pay you off for several big bets. Since you should probably call with just a gutshot, you should definitely play with your gutshot, overcard, and backdoor flush draw. Thus, the only question is whether you should call or raise.

Reraising has two important advantages over calling:

  1. If you reraise, the small blind might fold a better ace. Since he raised preflop, he could easily have a hand like ace-queen or ace-jack. If he folds, it could buy you two more outs. For only one more bet, even with those weak hands, he will probably call. For two bets, he might fold.
  2. Since you have the button, reraising could buy you a free card on the turn. If you do not improve, you should almost certainly take it if you get it. The player who raised this ragged flop likely has a king. Do not expect him to fold.

So, unless you are very unlikely to get a free card, you should probably invest the extra small bet and reraise.

I'm not sure I really expect some magic-bullet answer to my problem here. Mathematically I agree with everything Miller says in his analysis. It boils down to, "Your hand isn't great, but you should win more than your share of the time: This play should make you money in the long run." But it's not an opportunity I often spot. And I don't really expect someone to suddenly come up with some magic easy-to-use formula for this: "Whenever the board shows Queen-Ten, raise."

That said, if anyone has any insight, I'd be happy to listen.

Since I've now borrowed heavily from Jacobs and Miller, perhaps a minor critique of the two: I like Miller's analyses a lot better than I like Jacobs', in the way that they're constructed. Miller usually structures his arguments using formal logic: If A, then B; B, therefore C. (I've asked others who were trying to "prove" things to me to structure their arguments the same way, because all I was seeing was fuzzy logic, and generally I got fuzzy logic with a lot of if-then statements. See, for example, the post a couple of years ago where Gil and I discuss the nature of infinity.)

But Is There Any Actual Poker?

Well, in short, yes. I don't have a lot of money to show for it, because I was being staked, but I've had a fair run the last half-dozen or so times I've played casino low-limit, I think four and two in the win/loss column. Generally I've felt that I've played pretty solidly, and that's been enough to book small wins (in absolute dollars, $100±$50). The two losses were no cards, and a lot of drawing hands that didn't get there. Maybe my whole problem while I was in Vegas was a form of fancy-play syndrome? Hard to tell from six sessions; that can't add up to more than 600 hands or so. But it seems like I might be +EV at low-limit again.

Possibly bearing this out is that my online stake has, until recently, been slowly inching upward. I'm not playing a lot of hands, and I'm playing only 50¢/$1, but that's generally been positive.

The games quite definitely seem tighter than I remember them from two years ago. It's unusual to see any truly bad players even at $1/$2. I would say that my 2004 "pro" career was mostly about me playing $3/$6 like a rock, and letting the bad players throw money around, and that was enough then. I don't think it would be enough at $3/$6 now. Just my impressions; I haven't looked at PokerTracker stats then versus now.

  Thursday, August 17, 2006

Poker Strategy 202

I'm going to stretch the bounds of "fair use" quite badly and post an entire problem hand from a book a borrowed from Gil (Jacobs, Byron with Jim Brier, How Good Is Your Limit Hold'em. Hassocks, West Sussex, UK: D&B Publishing, 2005), which he purchased at the Gambler's General Store last time we were in Vegas together, about this time last year. I'd provide links for all of that above, but I'm composing this offline and so can't look up URL's.

This wouldn't normally present a "fair use" problem because it's a single problem hand, but the entire book consists of exactly twenty-four problem hands, so I am in effect publishing an entire chapter, accredited but without permission. I'm going to play with the order of the text a bit, in effect re-editing it, but all the words below are verbatim from the book, excepting my typos.

The reason I do this is that I'm on sort of a crash program to improve my game. I want to be beating midlimit games for a reasonable income as soon as possible. And this is the sort of hand that gives me trouble. (I actually scored a 63 out of 100, which is a passing grade—but it's a D−.) Since I want to discuss the hand, I think I need to post the hand—even if some hypothetical jury of the future might find I went beyond "fair use."

(Someday when I'm feeling ambitious I might look into making this test "takeable," having radio buttons that score you automatically. I don't know how to do that, but I could learn, and it would be a good project.)

Hand 2: Caught in the Headlights

This is a ten-player $15/$30 game. You are in middle position with A♠K♠. The cut-off is Madness, a loose and rather aggressive player. The big blind is TheRabbit. TheRabbit is a delightful player to have in the game—loose, passive and utterly transparent. He is also rather timid—not the kind of player to make pressure plays.



It is passed around to you. There is $25 in the pot and it is $15 to call.

Question 1. Do you (a) fold (b) call (c) raise?

Scoring 1. (a) [fold], 0 (b) [call], 1 (c) [raise], 5

Analysis. Calling (and hoping to re-raise) is possible with the absolute premium hands such as AA and KK. However, with AK suited you are really hoping to get heads-up or in a three-way pot where your hand has some chance to win even if it doesn't improve. Limping is more justifiable with weaker hands such as QJ suited and KJ suited.

You raise.

Hypothetical Play: Madness calls and TheRabbit now raises. There is $115 in the pot and it is $15 to you.

Question 2. Do you (a) fold (b) call (c) raise?

Scoring 2. (a) [fold], 0 (b) [call], 5 (c) [raise], 4

Analysis. TheRabbit's three-bet from the big blind suggests a very strong holding. You have position over him and seeing the flop for just one more small bet is preferable to getting frisky with a raise. Nevertheless, you have a very big hand and raising is not really a mistake.

Actual Play: Madness calls, as does TheRabbit.


The flop is Q♠10♣4♣. You hold A♠K♠.

TheRabbit checks. There is $100 in the pot and it is $15 to bet.

Question 3. Do you (a) check (b) bet?

Scoring 3. (a) [check], 2 (b) [bet], 10

Analysis. Checking might get you a free card, but it also tells the world that you don't have a great deal. Betting is a far superior play as the flop is rather scary for mediocre hands such as small pairs. Even against a pair you could have as many as ten outs, which would give you approximately a 40% chance to improve to the winning hand by the river.

You bet.

Hypothetical Play: Madness raises and TheRabbit three-bets. There is $190 in the pot and it is $30 to you.

Question 4. Do you (a) fold (b) call (c) raise?

Scoring 4. (a) [fold], 10 (b) [call], 2 (c) [raise], 0

Analysis. An incorrigible optimist would see ten outs here, approximately 6-to-1 pot odds, and conclude that it is an easy call. This simplistic assessment is fraught with difficulties. TheRabbit, who we know to be highly timid, has now three-bet out of position, and Madness likes the look of his hand too. Your only clean out is a jack, and even the J♣ is tainted as it puts a three-flush on board and sets up redraws, even if it doesn't give someone a flush at once. It is time to resign gracefully.

Actual Play: Madness folds and TheRabbit now check-raises you. There is $145 in the pot and it is $15 to you.

Question 5. Do you (a) fold (b) call (c) raise?

Scoring 5. (a) [fold], 0 (b) [call], 10 (c) [raise], 20

Analysis. You have an easy call as even if you have only seven outs (if TheRabbit has AQ or KQ) you are getting pot odds of nearly 10-to-1. However, raising is a far better play. Unless he has an absolute bone-crusher, your three-bet will probably put the frighteners on TheRabbit and get him to shut down. This creates the opportunity to take a free card on the turn or pursue your semi-bluffing strategy. The extra small bet is a cheap price to pay for this.

You raise.

Hypothetical Play: TheRabbit now caps and you call. The turn brings Q♠10♣4♣2 and TheRabbit bets out. There is $250 in the pot and it is $30 to you.

Question 6. Do you (a) fold (b) call (c) raise?

Scoring 6. (a) [fold], 10 (b) [call], 2 (c) [raise], 0

Analysis. TheRabbit is telling you that he has a very big hand. Please listen. TheRabbit might be a timid player but he is not stupid. He can see that you may easily have a hand as strong as AQ, but he is telling you that he doesn't care. It is now very likely that your only out is a jack, and the pot odds aren't there to chase it.

Does this mean you made a mistake by three-betting on the flop? No—that is just an illusion. The play cost you an extra $30, but if you had played the hand passively you would still have called the turn with apparently reasonable pot odds, and thus would have spent the $30 there instead.

TheRabbit's response to your three-bet generated the important information that you are way behind in this pot, and enabled you to get away from the hand. Had you played it passively, you may very well have lost even more money if an ace or king came on the river and you called or even raised. When you are facing a player who you are sure will only bet with a very good hand, it is okay to apply pressure and then back off if he plays back at you. This method is more problematic against tough, aggressive opponents as you cannot always be sure where you stand when they give you heat.

Actual Play: TheRabbit calls.


Hypothetical Turn: The turn is Q♠10♣4♣10♠. You hold A♠K♠.

TheRabbit checks. There is $190 in the pot and it is $30 to bet.

Question 7. Do you (a) check (b) bet?

Scoring 7. (a) [check], 7 (b) [bet], 10

Analysis. You have now picked up a flush draw so, unless TheRabbit has a huge hand, you have umpteen outs—possibly as many as 21. The 10 is a great scare card, and it is a good idea to pursue your semi-bluff here, since a bet may even persuade TheRabbit to fold a mediocre queen. Although it is not likely that TheRabbit will muck, it is possible. It is certainly well worth making a bet with a small negative expectation in order to give him the chance to go seriously wrong.

Actual Turn: The turn is Q♠10♣4♣8. You hold A♠K♠. TheRabbit checks. There is $190 in the pot and it is $30 to bet.

Question 8. Do you (a) check (b) bet?

Scoring 8. (a) [check], 10 (b) [bet], 3

Analysis. The 8 may have helped TheRabbit. If he has QJ or Q9 he has picked up a gutshot draw (if he holds Q9 he is not to know that a jack will give you a higher straight) or with Q8 he has made two pair. Even if he hasn't improved, he will have no reason to suspect that the 8 has helped you. Thus a bet is unlikely to get him to fold, and he may even raise. Taking a free card is the best option.

You check.


The river is Q♠10♣4♣8J♣. You hold A♠K♠.

TheRabbit now bets. There is $220 in the pot and it is $30 to you.

Question 9. Do you (a) fold (b) call (c) raise?

Scoring 9. (a) [fold], 0 (b) [call], 4 (c) [raise], 10

Analysis. Well, he could have a flush, but it is not likely on the play. TheRabbit is not the kind of player to check-raise you on the flop with a drawing hand. He sees no reason why you should have a 9 in your hand and is betting his hand for value.

You raise and TheRabbit calls. Your straight takes the pot from TheRabbit's two pair with QJ♠.

Question 10. The river card, 8, put four to a straight on board. Therefore did TheRabbit make a mistake by betting his two pair on the river: (a) yes (b) no?

Scoring 10. (a) [yes], 10 (b) [no], 2

Analysis. The four to a straight is a red herring as it is hard to see why you should have a 9 in your hand. However, your play is consistend with having a flush draw yourself, and this would have come home on the river. TheRabbit's bet is a classic river mistake in that he is making a bet which is unlikely to be called by a losing hand.

TIP: One of the most common scenarios in hold'em is that you raise pre-flop with your lovely big cards and then . . . miss the flop completely. It is difficult to play accurately with just overcards, as you can rarely be sure where you stand. However, mastering this element of the game is critical to your success.


100 Excellent. You handled your overcards very well.
90–99Very good.
80–89Good. You probably need to think harder about when to push
with your overcards and when to back off.
60–69Never mind. Handling overcards is tricky.
below 60 Poor.

Where I Go Wrong

Question 2 (preflop). Jacobs sets up that TheRabbit is a weak player. Therefore, I discount his three-bet from out of position. A four-bet might get rid of Madness, and allow me to take the flop heads-up with a hand that's probably best. If my cap doesn't get rid of Madness, that's okay too, since my ace-king looks to be better than his hand, too. Since I proably have the best hand, I want the pot as big as possible. Jacobs doesn't really see capping as wrong, but he deducts a point because he sees calling as a better option. I'm about 80% sure I disagree with him. On the one hand, we're talking about one point in a problem hand, so it's not that big a deal. On the other hand, I put real money at risk when I play. If I'm making a mistake, it costs me real money. If I were to cap, I might lose one bet when I'm wrong, and win one to two bets when I'm right.

(The math: Assume Madness would always call one more bet, and would fold to two more bets, let's say one-third of the time. So, if I call, my three bets are up against six. If I raise, TheRabbit should always call, which is one bet, and Madness puts in an average of 11/3 bet. Madness' most likely holding is something like AT, QJ, or a purely speculative hand like 66 or 89 suited. So, averaged out, let's say I'm a 2:1 favorite over his hand, so he'd outdraw me 1/3 of the time. So on the flop, I win 4/3×2/3 = 8/9 of a bet from Madness from my raise, plus TheRabbit's bet if I'm right that I'm beating him. Therefore: Raising might cost me one bet or win me 18/9 bets.)

So, on balance, I conclude I don't have to give up the extra point for "missing" question 2.

Question 5 (TheRabbit has check-raised the queen-high flop). Okay, this is the one I really don't get. Jacobs strongly prefers reraising. I'm having a lot of trouble with this. Not only don't I have a hand, but TheRabbit's strong play suggests to me that he won't be folding before the river, so I can't win the pot without making a hand. Given that I'm probably drawing, I want to do so cheaply.

Jacobs has a point that reraising the flop sets up a free-card play on the turn, and if TheRabbit is indeed a weak player I might get it, but I'm still drawing. I have seven outs and the pot-odds to call, but if I'm less than 50% to win at this point then any extra money that goes into the pot at this point benefits my opponent, not me. The raise makes sense from the free-card angle, then, to keep my drawing price low.

However, Jacobs also says a reraise makes sense in order to set up a semi-bluff later. This, I totally don't get in this context. TheRabbit is a weak player who likes his hand a great deal. For a bluff to work, he has to be willing to lay down the hand. I absolutely don't see that from him.

Maybe I don't lose the whole ten points I lost by answering "call"—but I lose most of them for missing the free-card angle.

Question 6 (he caps, I call, he bets the turn when a blank comes). Okay, here I deserve to lose the points. I engaged in "test-taking strategy" and answered "call" because Jacobs seemed to want to go to war with the hand. I nearly have the odds to try for the Jack—maybe that's why Jacobs gave me two points for answering "call"—but on balance a fold is clearly correct.

Question 7 (he calls, and the 10♠ falls on the turn, giving me overs, a gutshot, and a flush draw on a paired board). Jacobs prefers betting, although he doesn't take a lot of points off for checking. I checked because I don't see TheRabbit folding his hand, and I'm still drawing. Even if I truly have 21 outs (i.e., TheRabbit has Q2 with no spades) I'm still not a favorite to make my hand by the river. Assuming TheRabbit won't fold, extra money going into the pot at this point doesn't benefit me. However, I want to see the river card. So, a check costs me zero or one bet, while a bet costs me one or two bets. I prefer the check.

That said, TheRabbit might fold. If he indeed has a weak Queen, I've shown enough strength to get him to think he has kicker problems, and possibly fold. If I really have 21 outs, and there's a reasonable chance TheRabbit will fold, then I like a bet here. Otherwise, I don't.

Question 8 (he calls the flop, and the 8 falls on the turn). Now Jacobs favors a check, basically on the premise (well, Jacobs is British, so the "premiss") that the Eight could have helped TheRabbit, so risking a raise is unwise. QJ and Q9 would indeed be reasonable holdings for TheRabbit, but the gutshot shouldn't particularly scare me. Few boards don't feature a possible gutshot of some sort by the turn, and in any case he's beating me with his Queen if he indeed holds one of those hands. QT would be just as reasonable a holding, but for some reason Jacobs wasn't worried about that in Question 7.

On balance, while the Eight could have helped him, there's no reason to think it helped him so much that it changes the balance to a check. My belief now is that questions 7 and 8 should be answered the same way (either bet both times, or check both times). For some reason, though, when I originally read this problem hand, I answered exactly wrong to both questions.

I think Question 5, and Questions 7 and 8 together, that those are the crux of the hand, the places I went the most wrong. It's here I'd like to hear others' thinking on the hand.

Question 10 (should TheRabbit have bet the river). I was taken in by Jacobs' red herring, asking about the straight when TheRabbit should have been worried about the flush. I agree with Jacobs' reasoning even though I answered this wrong originally.

I'm interested in others' reactions to this hand. My email address at right is changed to a working address, even if I have comments turned off on the blog. (I hesitate to say that, even, since I got some real asshole comments on my blog back when they were turned on.) But if you have constructive criticism of my game, I'd like to hear it. Unimproved Ace-King is a tough one to play, and it concerns me to see that I (may) have got this so wrong. I'm interested in other analysis.

  Wednesday, August 09, 2006

R.I.P. Otto, 1992–2006

I mentioned to someone, in passing, one day at work that I was sort of thinking about getting a cat, and in less than a week she showed up on my doorstep with a black-and-white cat she called "Oreo."

My roommate at the time already had a cat, which presented problems for making sure that the cat I had rechristened "Otto" got fed. After a couple of days of Otto simply hiding from the other cat, I spent twenty minutes one evening squatted down over the cat and her dish, knees and elbows on the floor, making a human three-wall shelter and "protecting" Otto from my roommate's cat. It was pretty much at this point that Otto decided it liked me, that Otto belonged to me, and it was never again a problem feeding Otto.

When Otto was young it would often awaken me by jumping onto the bed and licking my nose—usually at dawn's early light, whether or not I wanted to get up then. If I didn't, Otto would curl up on the bed next to me.

When I eventually got a roommate-free apartment, Otto had its only experience as an outdoor cat: My second-floor apartment didn't have screens on many of the windows, and Otto would step out of my living room window onto the roof of the bay window in the apartment below me, then perform an acrobatic leap onto the main roof of the house, climb and descend the steeply-pitched roof to the other side of the house, where a fire escape offered a descent to the world at large. Otto sometimes stayed away as long as two days, and always returned filthy, but Otto always returned.

Even when I took Otto to a friend's house while I was going to be out of town, Otto found a way to hide from everybody in the family of five—but when I returned, Otto heard my voice, and meowed its greetings from its hiding place.

Everything wasn't always wonderful with Otto. Its claws ruined a nice leather couch I had. I stopped putting up a Christmas tree after the first year because Otto knocked it down so often, I soon didn't have any mirrored balls left to hang on it. And when Otto would go into heat (despite the name, Otto was a female cat), the howls it made looking for a mate were anything but pleasant.

I probably didn't take care of Otto as well as I should have: The above indicates that I never had Otto fixed, or declawed. In fact, the cat had never been to the vet at all. And the last couple years of its life, I was never entirely successful at getting rid of its fleas. But Otto never took me to task for that—it just sat on my lap as I worked at the computer, occasionally putting its feet on my chest so it could lick my nose.

The last several years, Otto has been especially important to me. As I've tottered back and forth across the brink of despair, Otto was the one "person" in my life who wasn't telling me that it was all my fault, to stop being such a fuckup. Otto would just sit on my lap or on my chest, purr, and lick my nose. I like to think that was as close as Otto could come to telling me that there are some things in the world worth living for.

Otto has been that for me as well. When I've wondered aloud why I'm alive, what I have to live for, "taking care of Otto" is the one response someone could give that I didn't have an easy answer for. The thought of somebody taking Otto to be put to sleep, because I wasn't around anymore, did give me pause.

I got back from the casino today, and found Otto pretty much in the same spot it was in when I left. That's not unusual, but when I picked it up to put it in my lap, it meowed several times like it was in pain. I tried to give it some food, and Otto couldn't swallow it—indeed, could barely pick it up, its head was shaking so badly. When I brought Otto to its water dish, it seemed to try, and then fell over on its side. I notice Otto's belly is filthy, presumably at least partially because of its fleas, so I decide to clean Otto up a bit: and if I drown a few fleas at the same time, so much the better.

In the bathtub, Otto has trouble even holding up its head—and finally, Otto's breathing becomes nothing more than a few weak coughs, and Otto finally sheds its mortal coil. All this time, I'm having more and more trouble maintaining my soothing tone of voice—"You're a good kitty, Otto"—as my voice chokes up with tears.

Farewell, Otto. For pretty much my entire adult life, you were a better companion than I deserved. I hope wherever you have gone, you've got a warm belly to lie against, and a nice friendly nose to lick.

  Sunday, August 06, 2006

And, in Other News . . .

My last post isn't, of course, everything there is to tell about being in Las Vegas. I think I covered the high points (or low points) pretty well, but I expect other things to slip into future entries that came from my time there. Things like "The buffet at the Mirage is OK but not worth full price, however, the buffet at the Wynn is absolutely worth the (high) asking price."

I have played some poker since I've been back. I had like $20 left on a few different sites before I went to Vegas, and I couldn't touch that while I was there. Since I've been back, though, I've played micro- and low-limits with that money, running it up to $1700 at one point before spiraling down to $150ish, where I am now. (Ermm, that's after two $100 withdrawals, but it's still $150.) It's interesting to run from 10¢/20¢ to $5/$10 in a week of running well, and run back down to 50¢/$1 in another two weeks of running badly.

I've also played a bit live. Gil has staked me several times in Mt.Pleasant, and several other times I had enough from those sessions that I could play on my own. I'm not keeping records right now (I don't consider myself a pro right now), but I'd estimate I'm small loser in Mt.Pleasant since I've been back. (Gil estimates he's small winner.)

We've also played a couple of Manistee's Tuesday tournaments since I've been back, but neither of us has moneyed. The last time was just this week, and I came closer to the money: I think I went out twelfth when eight paid.

Hmm, I seem to remember there was more I wanted to put into this post. So far it's not very interesting.

I'm running okay the last several times I've played live, and I'm running okay at micro-limits online, so I have reason to believe my game might have turned a corner, in a sort of admitting-you-have-a-problem-is-the-first-step kind of way. In yesterday's play (+$160 at $3/$6, half of that to Gil), Gil was sitting right next to me, and a number of times I was the one who would have played more cautiously in his situation. That's a reversal of the usual when we discuss hands. So, maybe I'm beginning to play more straightforwardly, to my benefit at low- and micro-limits. I've been trying to; it seems to be working. But my sample size is admittedly low.

Okay, I'm not happy with this post at all. It doesn't actually say anything interesting at all. But I'll post it anyway; they can't all be gems.

"DegenDanny" says hi, by the way. Apparently the URL of his new blog is a secret; he won't tell me.

  Saturday, August 05, 2006

He's Baaaa-aaack!

Word has gotten around a bit that I'm back from Vegas. In fact, I've been back for a couple of months. I've had a number of requests to tell my tale, and I've finally started to write this down now that I have some distance on the situation.

I wrote up a couple of posts for the blog while I was out there, intending to post them, but without a net connexion I never did, even by taking the posts to the library on a floppy disk. Since Blogger does in fact let you change the posting date on entries now (it didn't when I first started the blog), I'll probably put them up, which saves me a couple of background paragraphs here.

Early Going

As one of those posts mentioned, I took a tide-me-over job in a phone room when I first got to Vegas. It sucked less than I would have expected for that kind of work, but it still sucked, even though it paid surprisingly well. And, early on, I was okay with it sucking; it was a temporary job anyway.

The original plan was to use my immense poker skills </sarcasm> to put together enough of a roll that I could quit the phone room, go to dealer school for the job-placement aspect of it, and get a job as a poker dealer. Although my plans ended up changing, that wasn't the reason I didn't pursue this plan right away.

I'm sure I blogged that on my last actual trip to Vegas, the cards completely ran me over. I don't remember exactly (tho' it's blogged), but I seem to think it was something like a $2000 win playing nothing higher than $4/$8 limit and $1/$2 NL. [I've since checked; it was actually $1200.] It was this windfall which allowed me to up and move to Vegas in the first place.

Unfortunately, I think it also put some leaks in my limit game that I still haven't been able to plug, because I'm not exactly sure what they are. I know early on in Vegas I played too many hands, since I was hitting them just a couple of weeks earlier, so obviously I would hit them now. Running well was bad for my game.

I just deleted a few paragraphs trying to analyze how my game has gone south on me, because that's not really the point of this entry. Let's just say it did, and I haven't figured out why yet.

My routine became working, getting a paycheck each Monday, out of which I had about $100 I could use at the tables. I'd play low-limit, $2/$4 and $3/$6, until I had a session bad enough that I didn't have a bankroll anymore, and then I'd wait for the next Monday. Occasionally my bankroll lasted all the way until the next Monday, but this didn't happen often.

Although when I first arrived I played mainly at the Orleans, the extra two miles or so past the Strip ended up seeming kind of silly, and so I started playing other places.

Meanwhile, at the Batcave . . .

For most of the second half of my stay in Vegas, my main rooms were the Mirage and Harrah's. The Mirage, I liked because it was overall simply a well-run room with lots of game selection at the lower limits. Food comps were simple, too: "I'd like a food comp, please." Harrah's I liked because it's a smaller room, it's easier to get to know the people there (and vice versa), and most of all because there are hardly any locals that play there: It's all tourists.

Tournament Success

The Mirage deals sit-and-go tournaments regularly. I played a couple of their cheapest of these but never moneyed; the blind structure is pretty fast. Harrah's doesn't deal sit-and-go's regularly (although they probably would if ten people wanted one and a dealer was available), but their two daily tournaments are interesting.

This isn't because there's an overlay, or because there's no juice, or anything about the structure of the tournament itself—in that it's a typical small daily tournament. What makes the tournament interesting is what makes the room interesting: It's all tourists. This means that in the early going, simple aggressive play works to build you a nice chip stack. So, by the time the clueless bust out, you've got a nice stack to do battle with the other players who've been trying to play "correctly."

I don't mean to suggest I won this regularly: Heck, most of the time I didn't even play, for two reasons: First, it's a $100ish tournament, and my bankroll had to be healthy enough that I was OK with taking a shot at it, and second, I don't really consider myself a tournament player anyway.

But one week, I entered one of their evening tournaments, and won, and used the proceeds to enter again the next night, and came in second. Two days later, I entered again, and won again: Two firsts and a second in a week. These are smallish tournaments, so my payouts were $884, $1063, and $1054—I still have the W2G's—but for the first time I had a little bit of breathing room, a little bit of bankroll.

This couldn't have come at a better time. The phone room was starting to really get to me, and I needed a break. The day after winning the third tournament, I told my boss I was taking a week or two off, and proceeded to play a lot more poker.

Time Off

The thing I wish I'd done now, is use that money to do the dealer-school thing, or in some way spend more time trying to find a different job. Harrahs' poker staff knew me well enough that if I'd asked for an (informal) dealer audition they probably would have given me one. A dealer at Mirage offered to teach me to deal for the sum total price of one (1) case of beer. During the day, Binions' fake-money game is dealt by (mostly Asian) people just looking for a little practice dealing, with a Binion's dealer stopping by every now and then to look over his shoulder. So I had entrée into any of several situations dealing, or at least things I could have pursued. But I didn't.

However, at the time I was less interested in dealing for a living. As I grew to dislike the phone room more and more, I started to apply my distaste to any job—and dealing, like many other things that sound okay on the surface, is in the end just another job. (For further self-analysis along these lines, check pretty much any entry from when I was unemployed.)

I'll say this: When I left the phone room after telling them I was taking a week or two off, I had the same trepidation I did when I left Lowe's to be an online pro. Intellectually, there was no reason for this: I planned to go back to the phone room in a week, two at the most. But if I went on a rush (or if the one I was on continued), I could see pushing the date of return back further and further.

Another thing I wish I'd done is stick to what I considered my best game: Limit Holdem. I'd intended to step up to $10/$20 at least once, taking the shot, but I never did. (In retrospect, that probably would have failed in any case.) Instead, I sat a mixture of no-limit holdem ring games and low-buyin (<$100) tournaments until my windfall was at least half gone. I have a reason for the NLH play, but it didn't work out; the tournament play was simply me trying to continue my run. That didn't work; I don't think I cashed another tournament while I was there.

So, not quite two weeks later, I saunter into work on Monday with maybe $800 of my windfall left. I have a paycheck waiting for me, but the following week I won't, so that's not really anything to add to the pile.

We All Enjoy Our Baseball Team / Go Get 'em, Tigers!

It turns out that the time off just gave me more reason to hate the phone room. After that much time doing what I want, when I want, going back to a regimented day is torture. And so, when a week later I hear that the Detroit Tigers are going to be in Los Angeles, I tell them I'm taking another day or two off to go down there.

Angels Stadium is fairly nice: From the inside. From the outside there's nothing to it, no charm at all, no soul: It's just a stadium in the middle of a big parking lot. On the plus side, this means I don't have anything even close to the problem I had going to Toronto to watch a baseball game (which I blogged, see early April, 2004), in that I can park easily.

I allow plenty of time to get to L.A. and the ballpark. I have no idea what to expect from L.A. traffic, having never been there; all I know is that people on TV complain about it all the time. As it happens, I have no problems at all getting there and arrive fantastically early. I use some of the extra time to check into a Comfort Inn right near Disneyland, and then decide to get a good parking place for the game, even if I'm going to read a book in the car for an hour before I go into the stadium.

I've gotta say, $25 doesn't go as far as it used to. I end up on the top deck, behind home plate, and Angels Stadium's top deck has the same problem that a lot of new ballparks have in the top deck: To avoid "obstructed view" seating behind support poles in the lower deck, they move the upper deck back far enough that those support poles are behind the entire lower deck. Thus, the top-deck seats are really far from the action. I've been told that the first row of the upper deck at New Comiskey Park (now U. S. Cellular Field) is further from the action than was the last row of the upper deck at Old Comiskey Park. (Old Tiger Stadium's obstructed-view seats were part of the place's charm.)

The Tigers win the first game I see, easily.

Before the second game, I have a bite to eat at a McDonald's right outside the stadium; my Tigers hat and jersey provoke some good-natured ribbing from some of the other customers, most of whom also plan to see the game. One of those people ends up eating his lunch at the table next to mine, and we continue our conversation. It develops that his buddy flaked on him, too, and he had an extra ticket for the game. I bought him a beer at the stadium, but even a $7 beer is a bargain in return for a $50 ticket. The seat ends up being pretty much right underneath my seat from the night before, in one of the dozen rows or so in front of their luxury boxes.

The Tigers commit a number of errors and lose the game.

Death Spiral

I've talked about how my sleep schedule is out of whack compared to, say, clocks, or the sun. (If I haven't done it recently, see my "Lowe's Sucks" post, for which the link on the right should work.) In any case, when I get back from L.A., my sleep schedule is pretty much exactly opposite the sun's. So, my first morning back, I decide to oversleep, which eventually turns into not going into work at all. Ditto the second day. Ditto the third, and now I've worked exactly one day the past week and, given the nature of the job, they've got to be wondering if I'm coming back, and if they want me back if and when I do.

I decide, through some process I don't entirely remember, that I'm fed up with conforming my life to other people's, that I'm not going to set the alarm for a stupid hour in order to go to a stupid job that I hate, and in short that I'm not going back.

I don't have a backup plan. I have a couple of hundred dollars, maybe, and another eighty or so that will be in my final paycheck. I know the odds against successfully turning pro off a couple of hundred dollars, with bills due, are astronomical. But I'm adamant against a job in any form, and so my plan is this: I'll put my couple of hundred dollars in play. If I lose—when I lose—I'll conclude that I'm economically useless and commit suicide.

I have a little bit of distance on that decision now and I know how it sounds—but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The inevitable happens—I lose my bankroll—and so I'm left at part two of my plan. I consider this for a couple of days, and I conclude that jumping from the top of the Venetian's parking garage—the tallest structure I think I can get to easily—is probably the easiest solution, but I'm afraid that if I did jump, I might not die: It's only about twelve stories. I conclude that hanging is a better option, and start thinking about how and where to do that.

During this whole time, pretty much since I returned from L.A., I'm not answering my phone. At first this is because I don't want to explain why I wasn't at work, even to my parents, but later I simply become convinced that nobody I could talk to could possibly come up with a solution, since I couldn't, and telling them I'm going to commit suicide is probably worse than actually doing it.

The day I had in mind to finally do something comes, and although I make a couple of half-hearted attempts at suffocating myself, I end up deciding that although I don't see an alternative, I don't really want to commit suicide, either. I'm skeptical, but I'm willing to talk to other people; maybe someone else sees a solution I don't. My parents call, they ask if I'd come back to Michigan, I'm not dead set against it, and so they send me the money to drive back to Michigan.

The More Things Stay the Same

And so, here I am. I've been staying with my folks since I've been back in Michigan. They have a big house, I'm not putting anybody out, but it's still a little strange at 35.

The pressure is off me to pay bills right now, so the suicide thing isn't an immediate concern. It sounds a little strange even to me that I was considering it. But the reasoning that took me there still seems valid to me.

I do not fit into the "straight" world. My intellect is such that if I were wired differently, I'd be highly successful at my profession. That would probably mean, at 35, that I'd be married with children, in a nice house, making a six-figure income at least. I am not wired that way.

If my poker skills were good enough, poker would be a way I could survive in the world despite not fitting in. I could keep my own schedule, and I wouldn't be responsible to anyone but myself: No bosses, and no clients. I'm not good enough, but this is the only way I see to survive in the world without being dependent upon someone else (such as my parents).

It's possible I'm missing something. There might be another way I could survive in the world. But I haven't come up with it. A shrink just gave me the Myers-Briggs test to come up with some ideas; I see her again next week. But I'm not convinced there are any other options.

So there I am: poker, or a life of misery and despair likely ending in an untimely death by my own hand. And I can't do the first one.