Thursday, July 28, 2005

Well, I'm now in Vegas for good. The drive out here from Austin was pretty nice. There's some great scenery along the way, and of course there was also Phoenix with the Casino Arizona where my friend and I stopped and played for three days.

The CAZ poker room is interesting in that it's in a big circus tent. It's a fairly large room (45+ tables) that, despite some of the horror stories I've heard, seemed to have some of the friendliest, most attentive staff I've seen in a card room. In many card rooms (including my beloved Bellagio), the staff often seems uninterested, grumpy or, in the case of chip runners, is simply nowhere to be found. But at the CAZ, they were quite attentive and always seemingly in a good mood.

Another plus is that one can get food served right at the table, usually quite promptly. This highlights one drawback of the room, though, as one doesn't get any food comps and so has to pay regular price (although with an apparent "25% poker discount" that supposedly discounts the food, but compared to the price paid by whom? Are they trying to say that the enormously losing blackjack and slots players aren't comped even more than poker players? Doubtful).

The games themselves were pretty good, although I was limited to playing Sunday-Tuesday nights, missing the prime Thur-Sat stretch. Apparently there's a $150 max-bet rule (whether it's in all of Arizona or just for Phoenix, I don't know), so instead of NL, the CAZ featured a 5-150 spread limit with a $350 max buy-in. I played only a dozen or so hands at that game before getting called to my preferred games, but it seemed like a potential gold-mine, as there were lots of youngish, over-eager players putting a lot of money into pots without much in the way of hands.

The max-bet rule at times also resulted in there being both a 60/120 game and a 75/150 game running, strangely enough.

While there I played the 20/40 game the first night, 40/80 the second night and then 40/80 and 60/120 the third night. Yes, I tried 60/120 for the first time ever when I was at a 40/80 table and somehow everyone there was convinced to change the limits to 60/120. I agreed to the change since I had a good read on all the players and felt like I might as well play them for more money. A funny thing happened though--once the limits increased, the soft spots on the table suddenly tightened up and started playing more reasonably.

Playing that high took a little getting used to--nothing is more fun than playing a game where losing two hands results in a $1000 loss. One other annoying thing about that limit, at least at the CAZ, is that it was played with $10 chips. Almost every limit game I've ever played in has a 3/6 or a 4/8 chip-betting structure--for example 3/6 and 4/8 use $1 chips, but 15/30 and 20/40 use $5 chips, making them 3/6 and 4/8 with $5 chips instead of $1 chips. 30/60 and 40/80 uses $10 chips. The 80/160 at the Bellagio uses $20 chips. It stands to reason that 60/120 would use $20 chips, but nope, still just $10 chips, which I found quite aggravating, having to put piles and piles and piles of chips out there just to raise.

Overall, I did okay at that level--broke about even. I did well in both the 40/80 and 20/40 games, and so posted a decent if unspectacular win for the trip. I made some very poor decisions on a few hands, though, so if anything the trip showed I really need to work on slowing down my decision making while in a hand.

A funny hand at 40/80 (funny because of one opponent):

I hadn't played a hand in forever, and was at a table that seemed to be tightening up, so I felt confident in open-raising from UTG+1 with 77. Despite my optimism for either winning the blinds or getting the pot heads-up, I end up with six callers (!!). Flop: 875. Well, that's better. The flop ended up being three-bet five ways, and the turn brought (875)8. I bet, call, call, call. Four see the river (8758)7. I bet, and one by one my three opponents looked at their cards, looked at the board, shoulders slumped, defeated, trying to find a way to call this large pot thinking of any hands they could beat before finally giving up and mucking.

Okay, it was quads, but not too interesting a hand overall, until afterwards, as one of the guys who was still in on the river asks me what I had. I don't usually share, but I did figuring there's a decent chance no one would believe me anyways.

Me: "I had pocket 7s, so I hit quads on the river."

Him: "I had J9, for the double-gutter. You got lucky, hitting that 7 on the river."

Then he made the comment that just floored me.

Him: "I mean, there were more tens and sixes in the deck then sevens. I was more likely to hit than you, you just happened to be the one who hit."

What? What??? This guy plays 40/80? Helloooo, I didn't need to hit anything.

All I can say is holy shit is poker juicy right now.

But now I'm back in Vegas, ready to return to my regular Bellagio 30/60. Despite my recent foray into 60/120, I probably won't be doing the Bellagio 80/160 at least for a while yet. I'll also try the Mirage and Wynn 40/80 games, which surprisingly enough I haven't tried yet, mostly due to the horror stories of how tight they were.

And, oh yeah, I'll also try to actually play online again at some point. I mean, it is more profitable than live play by a factor of about three...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Well, I finish packing all my stuff tonight and begin the long drive out to Las Vegas tomorrow. There will be two of us on the drive, and we plan on stopping off in Phoenix on the way there for an unspecified period of time to visit a friend and (what else) play a lil pokah.

All told, I'm unsure when exactly I'll be able to update again, but it might be five or six days.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Well, I'm back in Austin to collect the last of my things before driving back out to Vegas for good. What this means is that I'm sitting around playing poker and doing nothing productive until the day I want to leave, and then I'm randomly throwing everything into a UHAUL in a panicked frenzy.

Poker's been going okay still. I am in a bit of a rut, but I can't have huge weeks every week. As much as I'd love to.

One thing I found interesting was Jackpot Jay's latest (and last) column. For those who have never read him, he's usually not very interesting at all, simply being a mediocre poker player who complains a lot (which makes him no different than about 80% of poker players I've met). But his latest column had a pretty interesting nugget of information. I quote:

Much has been written about the huge amounts of money many players are raking in, week after week, especially on the Web. But the fact is, in real life, such people are few and far between.

Since there are very few, if any, reliable studies available that demonstrate the percentage of winners -- and big winners -- from among the tens of millions who play the game, you are probably wondering how I "know" this. Well, as it turns out, there is one group that can -- and does -- track this kind of stat, though they are not about to publicize the results. That group consists of online poker site management, two members of which revealed to me at the WSOP that what intuition suggests must be true -- only 8 and 7 percent, respectively, of all players on their sites finish the year in the black. And I'm not talking about deep in the black, either. The vast majority of those winners are not about to give up their day jobs.

At first, that 7-8% figure seems quite low, but then one has to take into account the millions of people who deposit their $50 or $100, lose it, and never play again (or lose it a few times over and then never play again). I'm sure for every winner there's gotta be a handful of guys like that (or perhaps 11 or so). Then there are the slow losers, who play, and play, and play bouncing up and down and after months are maybe down $50 or $100 or so. Poker is simply entertainment to those folks. And then there are guys who are actually pretty decent who then go and play stakes well above their bankrolls and get destroyed (repeating the cycle over and over again). $3000 ground out over weeks and weeks at 2/4 can go pretty quickly at 15/30.

So all told, I'm willing to believe that number. I'm sure the percentage of winners among players who have played a high volume of hands consistently throughout the year is much higher, simply because very few losing players hang around for that long.

One other thing that's interesting: the sites apparently don't want to advertise that only 8% of their clientele wins over the course of the year (and most of those are "not about to give up their day jobs") and yet it seems representatives for at least two sites were willing to share that information with known ESPN columnist Jackpot Jay. That can't be very smart.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Well, unforunately, I don't have much to update.

I had plans of pokerpokerpoker all week, but that hit the fan when I got sick for three days. Third time I've been sick in the last nine months, too, after going nearly six years having nothing worse than the sniffles. I'm starting to get worried that my iron constitution is breaking down.

So yeah, no Bellagio for me, heck almost no PartyPoker (I did manage to squeeze in a few hours), that's how bad I was feeling. With nothing much to do, I did manage to catch up a little on my reading.

First up was Matt Matros' The Making of a Poker Player. Not a bad read. It's geared more towards beginning players, what with a hand-ranking chart and detailed explanations on how exactly to play hold 'em and Omaha, etc, but ultimately it's a poker-autobiography as Matt takes the reader step-by-step through his development as a poker player. Even as someone who has gone through many of the same steps (okay, I've yet to win $700,000 in a major televised tournament, but I can relate to most other steps), I found the book enjoyable.

It definitely has its weak points (for example, most of the characters in the book are cardboard cutouts--none is brought to life very well), but the positives well outweigh the negatives. Matros matter-of-factly and honestly takes the reader through his poker journey without relying on forumlaic storytelling and/or over-sensationalizing the topic (as other books have done).

Definitely worth the $10.

Next was Barry Greenstein's brand new book, Ace on the River. Greenstein's book has a much different audience in mind than Matros'. Whereas Matros was writing for relative beginners and anyone else interested in a poker narrative, Greenstein's book is aimed specifically at professionals and those seriously considering making the leap. It does include a brief recap of his poker story, as well as anecdotes from his nearly-40 years of serious play, but most of the book is him giving his tips and advice on all different aspects of being a professional--there's certainly a lot more involved than simply being able to play cards well.

While there are quite a few hand discussions towards the end of the book, most of the book deals more with the psychological side of being a poker professional. Chapter titles include "Attitude of a Poker Player," "Traits of Winning Poker Players," "Psychology of Gambling," "Holding on to Money," and "Poker and your Family."

The book is of very high quality, printed on very high quality paper, with many full-page, full-color photographs. If anything, though, the extreme high quality of its production serves to highlight the books main flaw--the lack of substance in a fair number of the chapters. More than once, there is a two-page full color photo serving as the heading for a chapter, which ends up being, well, two pages which are broken up by additional photographs--for example, chapters 8, 9 and 10, "Brain Chemistry," "Integrity," and "Getting Your Education," are all brief, a total of 12 pages between them, but even then, from eyeballing it, they contain no more than about four total pages of actual written content. For someone who spends so much time on the psychological aspects of poker, it seems a bit ironic that Barry would release a book that at times seems to be barely more than a picture book--not a good psychological reaction for someone who just plunked down $25 for it.

Although some of the chapters are depressingly brief, overall the book is great. I found the collection of quotes that accompany each chapter nearly worth the price of the book alone. He has a fair number of hands towards the end of the book that I enjoyed greatly, especially his collection of tournament hands, which as someone who is (for some inexplicable reason) trying to get more proficient at touraments, I found invaluable.

Overall, I highly recommend the book to anyone. Much of the material might not be all that interesting to more casual players (expect perhaps those with an academic interest in what makes a successful profesional gambler), so someone who fits into that category might want to borrow the book from a friend rather than plunk down their own money for it, but ultimately I think there's something in there for poker players at any level, with a lot of matieral in there for those serious, aspiring professionals.

As an aside, I experienced one personally-entertaining moment while reading the book. On page 60, Greenstein writes,

Knowing the value of money is negatively correlated to being a good poker player. I have never heard anyone say, "He is not afraid to bluff for his last dollar, but he is a careful shopper."

Why that's so funny, at least to me, is that the day before I was in the mall. I was in the mall because I had lost my phone charger and my phone's battery had just died. I had looked online and found a charger for $7, shipped, but that would take a few days. I was willing to pay the $10 or $12 or even $15 the mall would charge me to have it immediately.

Well, I finally found one and asked the sales lady how much it was.




"But online they're $5 plus shipping!"


And so off I went empty-handed, back home to order one online and go phoneless for three days. It's the principle, dammit!

But yeah, I guess I'll have trouble ever being a good poker player...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

So I arrived in Vegas last Wednesday, July 6. That's almost a week, now, and it really doesn't seem like it. It's funny--I feel like I've been in Vegas for only a day or two, but when I think back to my very first night here it seems like a lifetime ago. Such a strange contradiction, I know.

That first night I spent in a hotel, before finally seeing my apartment for the very first time on Thursday. I'm definitely impressed with my ability to randomly look at apartments online and choose a good one. I'm a 10 minute drive from the strip, and, well, what else is there to know? I also bought a tempurpedic bed. Expensive as all hell, but it's fantastic. It wasn't going to get delivered until 9am Friday, so I had to figure out some way of sleeping Thursday night. Then it hit me. I'm in Las fucking Vegas with no job, no responsibilities and the best poker room in the world 10 minutes away. So off I went to the Bellagio, to return only two hours before bed-delivery time.

I played the 30/60, where I would also spend Friday and Saturday nights (and where I will spend a significant portion of my live play in general, at least to start). Wow, I don't know if it's just because it's WSOP time or what, but those games were juicy. Some of these guys just try to give their money away.

There was one all-star who just loved to limp-reraise no matter what. If he limped (which he did at least 60% of the time) and someone raised after him, he was reraising about 80% of the time, with no rhyme or reason. It was great. I had one good hand against him when he limped UTG+1 and it folded around to me on the button. C'mon, what else could I do with any semi-decent hand? I saw Qd8d and of course raised. Both blinds called, damn them, but then the all-star three-bet and I of course had to four-bet. One blind got the hint, but the SB was stubborn.

Three of us saw the 752 flop. All of my suit. The SB eventually got out on the four-bet flop, but then the turn was the 6d, putting a four-flush on the board. Unfortunately, the all-star was halfway intelligent postflop, and so his willingness to go four bets on the flop told me he at least had a diamond, and probably a decently-sized one since he would generally play big cards. He also loved to check-raise. So when he checked to me, I wimped out and checked behind. I can only look at it in hindsight, but I think I should probably have bet. But I'd hate to get CRed in that situation.

He bet the Td river and once again I wimped out and just called (the deck was running out of small diamonds I could beat!). He showed T9o with the 9d, and I dragged the pot, thinking I might have left a bet or two on the table.

Another all-star was playing 30/60 for the very first time, as he was so willing to tell me. But then he mentioned playing the 80/160 the previous night. "I'm actually a small stakes player. I usually play at the Orleans," he told me.

Er, so why the sudden jump to 80/160 and 30/60?

"I just won over $100K from a weekly Pokerstars tournament, and so now I'm having fun!"

Let's just say that I was planted to his left for as long as he wanted to play.

After I three-bet him preflop with KQ and he called down with what I think was a small pocket pair on a JT9xx board, he gave me the typical internet-player lashing, "what, you three-bet me with that crap? You were dominated preflop, dude. Just keep playing like that. Gooood hand."

Me: "Thanks."

Him: "I was being sarcastic, dude."

Me: "Really? I couldn't tell."

Him: "I really was."

Me: "I was being sarcastic."

Another hand I had A5s and flopped a flush draw, gut-shot and overcard, and so I ended up capping the pot three ways, with him on a smaller flush draw. After the turn and river bricked and we both lost, he showed me his 87s flush draw and asked what I had. So I told him honestly--nut flush draw and gutshot. He looked at me like I had three nostrils, "Are you just flat-out insane? You capped the flop on a draw?" Er, yeah, I estimated myself to have 50% pot equity with three players in, so sure. (Plugging in the hands later, I determined it was only 47%, but that's close enough for governement work, as they say.) I of course simply responded to his "are you flat-out insane??" with a simple, "Yes." Next hand.

He finally left after my AQ beat his 44 and he was incredulous at my preflop three-bet, and willingness to call him down to the river (eventually spiking an A on the river). "You had nothing, dude!" He went to play 80/160, and was I ever tempted...but it was already after 5am, and I was winding down mentally for the night.

Speaking of 80/160, it seemed as though they had more of those games going than the 30/60! That seemed to be the game of choice for a lot of WSOP players in town. Or maybe I just noticed how popular they were for the first time. But not only were there a bunch going, but they all had tons of action. I may have to try my hand at them sooner than I had planned...

Rich guys with more dollars than sense would be a theme for the weekend, as I met another guy who had also recently just come into a little bit of money (I forget now exactly how) and was there playing in the WSOP ME. If he played online, his stats would look like 60/60/5 or thereabouts. I of course was on his left, and was able to get a nice chunk of his stack before he left at 5:30, $2000 poorer and with a 10am wakeup time.

Finally, there was a great old man who would play semi-normally in multi-way pots, but only had one setting in heads-up pots--raise, raise and keep raising. I had 99 and raised UTG and he CCed from middle position. Heads up, flop came KK7. I bet and he raised, of course. I three-bet and he four-bet. The only times I'd ever seen him slow down HU were when he completely missed and it was obvious his opponent had a real hand, then he'd (eventually) fold, or when he hit a monster then he'd slowplay. Well, he wasn't slowplaying or folding here so he didn't have a K and he didn't have nothing, so it meant he most likely had a 7.

The turn was an A and that got me slowing down a little bit, as the hands of his I could beat got slimmer and slimmer (TT, JJ, A7, heck any A were all ahead of me now). Then the river made my hand wonderful: (KK7A)A. Yes, I now had 9-high. There were now very few hands I could beat, and so I checked to him but he kept firing. But he would do that with any two cards. I went into the tank a bit.

He has a 7, that I'm very sure about. TT or JJ are possible, but he'd probably have three-bet preflop with those. So, what hands with a 7 would he play? He was still relatively tight, so Q7s? Possibly. J7s, T7s? Possibly, but all those were far apart. More likely, he had a suited connector, like 78s, 67s, whatever. There was also the small possibility that he had an A. But basically I had tremendously good odds to call, given his possible range of hands. Which I did, allowing me to drag the decent-sized pot with 9-high when he turned over 78s.

The table was amazed, and he couldn't let up. "How do you call that with 9-high?" A very strong player hadn't seen the whole hand but he saw the size of the pot, and saw the shown-down hands and was baffled as well.

But even at the time I wanted to kick myself, because once again I had made a critical mistake: I should have raised! As I said he could back off when he had absolutely nothing, and could fold for one bet in such instances, so rather than simply call and be good those times he had 67 or 78, I should have raised and taken the pot those times he had TT, T7, J7, and perhaps Q7, although I think he quite possibly would call with a Q. But I do knock those other hands out of there. I do face paying off a three-bet in that situation, but I'd say he's able to desperation-bluff-three-bet often enough that it's worth it.

Aargh. I really, really need to get better at situationally raising my weaker hands.

Sunday and Monday would be spent checking out the WSOP, days 2 and 3, respectively. What a madhouse. I can't really add much if anything that isn't already in a thousand poker blogs, but it was definitely an experience. Okay, one thing--while walking from the poker room to the bathroom I pass a row of massage chairs and there's this one guy getting a massage on one, and he's staring at me evily. I'm a little put off and just keep walking, but then I realize I recognize the guy. It's Devilfish! And he just keeps staring at me. My lord does he have an evil gaze. I just kept walking, but geez, is that what he does, practice his gaze on strangers and see how they react, for better use at the poker table?

I played a couple satellites to the $1500 and $1000 side-tournaments going on at the Rio, but busted out fifth each time. 15 minute levels and T1000 to start with 25/25 blinds made it more of a crapshoot anyways. I probably should have just bought in directly, but as people know, I hate tournaments (even though I'd like to get more proficient at them).

So yeah, the first week or so has gone great. I even made it to the gym a couple times. Sleep all day, play poker all night. What could be better?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hello, my name is Eric, I'm 26 and, as much as I hate the term, a professional poker player.

I have a long history of working menial jobs and occasionally going to school, most recently one year ago. After my most recent academic stint, I finally entered the "real" world and got a "real" job but six months of that bullshit was all I could take and so last month I said "screw it!" quit my job and last week I moved out here to Las Vegas.

Before moving to Vegas, I lived in Austin, TX, where I would play primarily online with an approximately-monthly trip to a real live casino mixed in, be it Vegas (many times), LA, Phoenix, Lake Charles or New Orleans. What can I say, other than Vegas is Vegas and many a time after visiting I wished I could just come out here and stay for good. And so, what the hell, I went ahead did just that.

Despite the numerous casinos literally minutes away, I plan on still playing a bunch online. Online is much, MUCH more profitable than live play. But I'll also play a fairly considerable amount live. I figure I'll play maybe 20 hours/week online to earn my money and another 20 hours/week live as recreation.

Anyways, this will be a very self-centered blog. This is for friends, family and anyone else who cares to see how I'm doing. I'm not going to focus on much other than me, what I did, what I'm doing and what I'm hoping to do (mostly, try not to go broke). I'm not going to spend much time gossiping about so-and-so big-name player or practicing idol-worship. It's all about me, me, me!

Hopefully I'll provide a pretty candid view into what it's like to be an unknown, moderately-successful poker player living in Vegas. For every big-name Doyle Brunson or Gus Hansen there are probably hundreds of players out there making their living playing poker but without any of the notoriety of those big-names. Instead of playing televised tournaments and making headlines with occasional big wins of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, these practically unknown players play cash games day in and day out where they earn their tens or hundreds of thousands per year in a slow, steady crawl rather than quick bursts.

And to be honest, many of these cash game players do better than many tournament players, who after tournament entry fees, traveling costs and lodging have a lot to overcome even before considering that even an excellent player can go a very long time between significant cashes.

So, yeah, I probably won't be on TV any time soon and I don't really care to be, but for anyone interested, maybe you'll see what life is like for the non-televised sect of poker players.

I'll be back soon with my first-week thoughts of living in Vegas, baby, Vegas!