Sunday, December 17, 2006

Windows Update Sucks

For various reasons, I'm most commonly using my computer at night, often in the wee hours of the morning. For thoroughly dissimilar reasons, that's when Microsoft most commonly publishes updates to Windows for all the Windows machines in the universe to download automatically. It did so tonight.

After it's done downloading and installing, then about every fifteen minutes a window pops up and says, "Windows Update needs to reboot your system. I'm going to reboot in one minute, unless you click this box."

Okay, that's already pretty annoying. But more annoying is that there's no box for "I'll fucking tell you when I want to reboot, stop fucking asking me, I'm fucking busy!"

Tonight it rebooted while I was standing up from two Full Tilt tables, making a sandwich. Full Tilt saved my seats, so no harm done there, but what if a tournament was on break and I chose to make a sandwich then? I would have missed a number of hands, possibly devastating if I'm very short or the tournament is down to the final table.

Why isn't there a button that says "Don't reboot until I tell you?" I already consider Microsoft to be something of an evil empire—I'd be using a different OS if I wasn't a gamer—and the poor customer service of that dialog box is just fuel on that fire. Is there a way I don't know about to fix this?

This Isn't A Real Post

. . . it's just a quick note. I've had comments on for a couple of recent posts, and it was just brought to my attention that I had comments set to "team members only." Well, that's fixed. (I still don't plan to turn comments on for every post. If you have something to say, Email me, because … well, I talked about why a long time ago at the beginning of this post. Basically, the comments from the peanut gallery were getting to me.

In any case, well, now that's fixed.

  Monday, December 11, 2006

Why I Lose at Poker

The last day and a half of online poker has consisted of five or six tournaments with a single minor cash, so generally downward. But that's not the point of this post. Neither is it going to be as morbid as my last post. In fact, it's actually going to have some poker content.

I've been struck many times over the last year, mostly live, that I usually know more about the game than most of my opponents, which by rights should mean that I entirely crush the game whenever I sit. And yet I almost always fail to do so. And I've been wondering for some time why this should be the case. In a flash of understanding last night, I got it: My game has some pretty big leaks.

I'm not going to catalogue my leaks here. Probably I don't know about all of them, or maybe even most of them. But that's not the point; the point is that they're there, and my next period of paying attention to my game should be focussed on finding those leaks and eliminating them rather than learning new concepts.

If I devise an example to show this, imagine that you can perfectly figure double-reverse semi-implied super-pot odds in a three-way pot on the turn with a pair on the board and three flush cards, but you also raise preflop every single hand. Your amazing poker knowledge and skill isn't going to save you from losing your ass every time you sit down. That's the position I'm in, although I'm not that good, or that bad. It's probably amazing that I have clawed my way back to small-winner territory with as many leaks as I have, but the simple fact is that I have a long way to go to eliminate those leaks.

Now, here's another question: How do I go about identifying what those leaks are? I have a couple of ideas along those lines, and maybe the ideas I have happen to be about my biggest leaks, but they aren't very profound. Well, I guess the point of this part of my education is that they're not supposed to be profound. But how do I identify others? Gil isn't much use to me along those lines because we're at about the same skill level; he doesn't crush the games, either. I'm also having a lot of trouble coming up with any regulars at the casinos I play at that I (a) respect enough and (b) get along with well enough that I would consider asking them. I therefore feel somewhat stuck in identifying further leaks. Suggestions welcome.

  Sunday, December 10, 2006

On Poker and Death

After posting my last update, I promptly had one of my worst days in the last couple of weeks, barely breaking even in cash play, and then playing a number of tournaments and not getting past the first break in any of them. But after all of that, I had another final-table cash, a sixth-place finish for $700. Then I slept, for only a couple of hours, and Gil and I went down to Michigan City for some live play, which went horribly. So the last 48 hours consist of a lot of horrid play with a single bright spot that happens to be bright enough to outshine the rest.

(Before I actually posted this, I realized that everything after the first paragraph reads as rather morbid. I don't mean it to be, and I don't perceive it to be, and I'm the one it's about. If the rest of this motivates you to apoplexies of emotion: relax.)

But that's not really the point of this post. After returning home, I went to bed, and although I apparently wasn't as tired as I should have been, a point was brought home to me.

I'm in really bad shape. Physically, I mean. Because of the way I was lying in bed, I noticed that my heartrate was something in the vicinity of 120 beats a minute, measured by the (nearly infallible!) one-Mississippi two-Mississippi method. Now, I had had a big meal not long before, so my metabolism was probably elevated because of the "exercise" of digesting it, but even if my metabolism is/was thus boosted by a third, my limited understanding of cardiac health says I'm still in the range of "walking heart attack." I thus began to consider (I'm lying in bed in the middle of the night, remember) the prospect of my imminent death.

All of this said, the prospect of actually doing anything about my poor cardiac health isn't one that appeals to me. A change in diet and an increase in exercise would improve my heart health, no doubt. But I wouldn't like doing either of those. And to paraphrase a line out of one of the Hitchhiker's books (I think Life, the Universe, and Everything), I don't enjoy life enough to put a lot of effort into prolonging it. (I found the actual line, from Chapter 20 of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: "Why should I want to make anything up? Life's bad enough as it is without wanting to invent any more of it.") But in any case, the alternative seems to be an early death from heart disease: Not "before I'm 50," or even "before I'm 40," but maybe "within the next year." I spent a little bit of time tonight (again, lying in bed in the middle of the night) wondering if tonight might be my last.

That being so, and having spent some of the last couple of weeks peripherally involved with a funeral and its associated events, I started thinking about how a funeral should go, if I'm the guest of honor. (It's probably good to write this down anyway, since, if I'm dead, I really can't tell people about it if it actually becomes important.)

All of the family funerals I've been to have been Catholic funerals, for the sound reason that the deceased has always been Catholic. But I don't really consider myself Catholic; I don't really consider myself anything. I would use the term "relaxed agnostic," although I've been referred to as an "Enlightenment fundamentalist" as well, and I accept that. (Don't focus on the "fundamentalist" bit until after you've focused on the "Enlightenment" bit or you'll be misled drastically; "Enlightenment" here refers to the historical era and its dominant philosophy.) I have no objections to a funeral in a Catholic church as long as nobody lies about me to make me fit into the church; I'm impressed by the history and tradition of the Catholic Church but consider most of its actual tenets to be bunk. All of that said, if going whole hog and pretending I am/was a good Catholic really makes people happy, well, I'm dead, so who am I to object?

(What "hymns" do you use for a non-Catholic Catholic funeral? Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler?" Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young" (good title, wholly inappropriate lyrics)? Elvis Presley's "The Wonder of You?" Or do you just go all-out wrong, like Elton John's "Crocodile Rock?")

You know, whenever I've imagined my funeral in the past there've always been girls wailing over my coffin. I don't know if they're supposed to be my wives or girlfriends or mistresses or what, but it just doesn't seem right to have someone dying fairly young without girls wailing over the coffin about what now will never be. I may not be a 1950s highschool "bad boy" who dies tragically in a motorcycle accident, but for some reason it still seems like I'm supposed to get the girl in the end. Of course, I don't have any wives, girlfriends, or mistresses, and haven't had any for longer than I care to admit. But I've flirted with a lot of poker dealers over the years, and the least they could do is come wail over my coffin. (Umm, that last line is a joke. I think. Maybe it's possible to hire "extra" mourners for, like, the weekend. That's a joke, too. Hey, I'm dead, remember?)

I have the feeling that a lot of people would have a lot of trouble coming up with a eulogy for me. I think it should be the truth, and all of the truth. See Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead for an idea of what I'm talking about. It's okay to talk about how I'm smart, and funny (or I try), and boisterous, and how I like kids, especially very young kids. But it should also talk about my struggles to find a place in the world, my complete cluelessness about women, and my compulsive need to be independent of or outside the scope of or simply in rebellion against the rules, or laws, of any type, even my own. The way I look at my political work in the 1990s is that I spent my time trying to fix the world, and the world told me to go to hell. The way I look at the last few years is that I've been trying to make poker work for me, and haven't been very successful, but then I haven't been very successful at anything else, either, and at least this I enjoy. The one-sentence eulogy: I was a 36-year-old misfit. For the long version, you can use this, and you can use a lot of the rest of what I've written about myself in this blog. It's not comprehensive, it doesn't cover every fact of my life, but it does cover pretty much the way I've viewed the world over the last three years.

As far as disposing of any assets I might have, and there aren't many, I leave them to my parents to dispose of as they will.

(I know I had another paragraph I wanted to write about "How the world will be different when I'm dead," but now I can't think of it. Ahh well, if it comes to me later, I can always add it.)

(If you're really disturbed by this, go back and read the second (parenthetical) paragraph again: Don't be disturbed. I'm not.)

  Friday, December 08, 2006

In the Future, There Will Be Robots

How's that for a headline that has nothing to do with anything, whatsoever? In any case, people have got on me lately for a lack of updates. Although I preemptively apologized for any lapses when I (re)started this blog in 2004, I find myself doing so again. Why this is bad is that I continually find blogs on the internet, and not only poker blogs, which spend most of their time apologizing for a lack of content. I'm basically okay with apologizing for this, but I'm not okay with every post beginning with an apology. So I'll try not to do that very much.

One of the main reasons for a lack of posts is that I'm actually running pretty well. Since the tone of this blog seems to be, "I'm a miserable failure at poker, and oh, by the way, at everything else, too," it seems a little out of character for me to post about what, truly, are relatively small wins. I've become, again, a small but steady winner, and my biggest problem is how to either increase my volume (the number of hands I play) or to transfer my small success to higher stakes.

The problem is, both of those have, shall we say, "issues" at the moment. My cash-game play has become rather limited, because I've been focusing on tournaments (about which more later). But when I've been playing, I've been playing a single table. I've noticed in live play my reads getting a lot better, and there's more opportunity for that at a single table than at two or three or four. But my cash-game bankroll is only sufficient for $2/$4, and really is too small even for $2/$4 if looked at from a professional point of view. I'd like to earn about $100 a day from cash-game play, but the limited number of cash-game hands I play really makes this unfeasible at these stakes. Still, $20 here and $50 there does add up, and with my expenses very low this might be enough right now. (That is, if it continues. I've moved my cash-game play to Full Tilt, and I've only been there a few days, really.)

The other major part of my play has been tournaments. I'm on something of a hot streak in these. I'm minor-cashing tournaments left and right lately, and final-tabled a $10 tournament at Stars last Saturday for a $600 win. (Fifth, I think.) The weekend before, I final-tabled a 130-man tournament at Soaring Eagle in Mt.Pleasant. Okay, I got tenth, but it was still a final table. (The big problem there? Tenth paid barely over two buyins. And Gil and I swapped 50% of each other, as mitigation against variance. So I made the final table, and actually profited about $30 from the experience.)

Since I've been back in Michigan (about six months), PokerTracker says my Return on Investment (ROI) is about 22% overall in PokerStars tournaments. My understanding is that an expert player considers that a tournament entry is worth about twice the buyin to him, meaning that he'll average a payout of about that much. I'm not entirely sure how that became the standard, but I'm not sure how the one-big-bet-per-hour standard for limit play came about, either. But in any case, the two-buyin standard would translate to a ROI of 100% (or slightly less, figuring in the juice for tourneys), and it's not there. I can hope my hot streak continues, and brings that ROI% up. (If I filter it to show only tournaments since Nov.15—a little over three weeks—my ROI is 104.72% (not counting my live final table). It's possible that I've "figured something out" recently, but it's more likely that I'm just running well, and I don't like to use so short a timespan anyway for reasons of volume: We're only talking about 49 tournaments.)

My day this week has consisted of a few hours of single-tabling $2/$4 at Full Tilt, followed by two or three multitable tournaments at PokerStars. Since I haven't had a final table since Saturday, that's meant a slightly up day at Full Tilt, and a day at Stars that's either slightly up or slightly down. So, overall, my days this week have been in the +$0 to +$100 range. Excellent? No. But I'm winning steadily, which is important enough.

Josephine Marsh, 1920–2006

Another reason I've been lax in my updates of late is that I ended up spending nearly a week involved with my grandmother as she failed and finally died. Although I'll miss her, and I'm sad that she's gone, this isn't a great tragedy because it really was her time to go. Her health had been deteriorating for some time, she wasn't as interested in the things she used to like to do, and it seemed that she was really ready to move on.

Because of this, the funeral affected me strangely. I wasn't as affected by the "Oh, Grandma's gone, we're all going to miss Grandma, what a shame, what a tragedy," because it really wasn't. It was time. What impressed me more was the concept of family, and how that continues on unabated. My grandmother was the last of her generation, but there were representatives of a new generation there: Great-grandchildren, great-grandnieces and -nephews. One of my uncles put together a family history which includes my great-grandparents on that side, and that was at the funeral, as were collections of pictures going back into the 1920s. My grandmother might be gone, but she leaves a pretty powerful legacy in all of us. It almost sounds like a Mafia thing: she might be gone, but the Family lives on. Since it gets less likely with each passing year that I myself will marry and have children, it causes me to wonder who'll mourn me when I go, and what my legacy will be.

The Continuing Saga

With snow now blanketing western Michigan, Gil seems pretty sure he'll want to move to Vegas early next year. Although I said January last time I posted anything on the topic, Gil would strongly prefer to wait until March or April, when his lease is up at his current apartment. It wouldn't cost all that much to break his lease, about a month's rent, but I think he figures that he may as well save his money. He also seems concerned about driving west in bad weather, a concern I think is unfounded. If we left in January, we'd leave Michigan when the weather is reasonable, and would take the Route 66 way through St.Louis, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque rather than the more direct way through Des Moines, Omaha and Denver. So I think we'd miss out on inclement weather.

Barring a serious setback, I should have the $1000 I said was a minimum needed to go west, even if we left in January. I nearly have that now. A benefit of leaving later is that I would have time to amass enough to have the brakes and suspension overhauled on my car, something I've put off long enough. Gil has credit enough to use for his own moving expenses, which leaves only Dagny. Although Gil would likely help her out if she was a bit short toward amassing her own moving expenses, I'm sure he'd like to see some effort on her part toward acquiring them herself.

I guess the gist of this last section is this: I'd still like to go in January, but it's more likely that we'll go early in the spring.