Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Actress Pimps Herself at NLHE

Iggy told me he missed the days when my journal was all about trip and tournament reports. I guess it was probably at it's peak during those days, before it became a true, daily diary and I began ranting and raving.

I was known for long, drawn out reports. No one, however, ever said they were boring, just long. Not much has changed, eh, except now I have long posts discussing other topics? Some readers like my theory and psychology posts best. I am in that camp. I don't really post strategy, so to speak, but I talk a lot about what is behind the hand, behind the cards, and that helps some players who are in a transition stage, working their way up from recreational players to serious players.

At any rate, since I have been running so well lately, I figured a few trip/tournament reports wouldn't be too far off topic of my recent psych series regarding loosening up. It certainly is what sparked my interest in the topic, and I hope it gives you some insight into why I have tweaked my own game, and how you might be able to do the same.

When I played in my first WSOP event, a $1500 Stud event that I freerolled into (won a NLHE sat at Binions), I played late into the evening, and was about 20 outside of the money when I finally busted. Ted went on to win the event, and to become one of my best friends in the circuit world. Another player at our table told me later, "You are the tightest Stud player I have ever seen."

Little did I know at the time, this was NOT a compliment. All this did was enable me to go around bubbling or barely cashing in event after event on the pro circuit for the next year. 15th in the 2k Stud event at Foxwoods (bubble). 5th at the HORSE event at Plaza (bubble but made a save). 17th in Stud at Four Queens (a table from bubble). 35th and 37th in the two O8 events at Orleans (bubble). 3rd in Stud 8 at Four Queens (ITM but not a big pay-out). 6th in Stud at Bucky's (first in the money). 11th in Razz at Four Queens (bubble).

So what has changed? Well, something finally snapped inside of me (more on that in the next few posts). After a year of mostly returning to non-HE cash games and playing very few tourneys, I have a new, huge appreciation for cash games. I rarely played Hold'em, being bored out of my skull, but I have always succeeded at HE. It is a huge catch-22 for me.

I'm not really very good (my apathy holding me back more than anything else), so I can hang in limit games up to about 20/40, or NLHE up to about a $500 max buy-in (if there is no max, let's say where the average player is bringing about $500 to the table).

In limit I tend to either play like a rock, or try to get creative if the table is passive and quiet. I will joke around, and tell superstitious stories that I absolutely don't believe. I will expose a card, or tell a player what I have if we are HU. I will play a blind hand blind, lol. If the stakes aren't important, and the table seems to need a clown, I will be that clown for them. This doesn't happen very often anymore, btw, although I just played it up to the hilt last night at Riverside and won a ton of money for a 4/8 full kill game (more on that later, if my fingers don't start to bleed).

In NLHE cash games, I tend to play tight unless the blinds are very small and I can limp into a lot of hands without much fear of being raised every time. Once again, if I feel I can get away with it, I play around a little bit. Loosey-goosey and passive-aggressive, sometimes rope-a-dope, sometimes lying, sometimes telling the truth. Just playing the goofball.

Most of the time, like I said before, I'm usually the tightest person at the table. Say the blinds are 2/5. I stop being a clown and play seriously. I go back to my old spread limit Stud strategy and start trying to trap. Get a second best hand to put all of his chips in the center with virtually no chance of winning (I have AA, he has AK, flops a king and thinks he's outdrawn me).

This is not "advanced" strategy, by any means. It is just tight, predictable, grinder poker. Which is why I got so sick of Hold'em, in almost any form. Three years of playing virtually nothing but HE and I just wanted to vomit.

Lately, however, as you have seen by the tone of my posts, I have decided to change my game somewhat. Loosen up, play more hands. Return to the clown who ruled the low-limit tables before the poker boom. With today's serious wannabe's, who call time and ponder over a $2 raise for five minutes, while asking the dealer over and over again how much it is to them, or how much they can raise, agonizing over their hand and a $2 raise in front of them, while finally folding with a grimace of disgust, an experienced clown is sometimes what is needed.

I've always been a good actress. All of those years of acting and voice lessons my Mom paid for insured that I'd have a heightened sense of self-importance, but wouldn't be able to make a dime at it. In poker, it can have huge advantages.

After we got home from Orleans, Glenn and I went to play a low buy-in, MTT at Palms. They used to have a good structure. I say "used to" because Dan was the CRM and made it so. But no more. Now Billy has taken over most of the management, while Dan runs both the gaming pit and the poker room as a mostly absentee manager. So Billy made sure everything went back to the quasi crapshoot quality it was before Dan arrived, while still charging the same juice to the clueless players there.

Two cash games were running when we got there, which was about an hour before the tourney. A $2-6 spread limit HE game (ugh), and a $1/2 blind NLHE game with a capped $40 buy-in (LOL). This seems incredibly stupid, and what can I say, it's Laughlin. But at the same time, an instant strategy came into my head, knowing almost all of the players in the game, and knowing how much I could manipulate them.

I usually don't sit down and play HE anymore. I don't play tourneys, especially NLHE tourneys anymore either. But Glenn needs some practice playing tourneys, for the main event, so we have been going all around, giving him the opportunity. He has played in two NLHE events at Orleans, several NLHE satellites and now three MTT's in Laughlin, as well.

But today I'm talking about the Palms, which happened on Wednesday, and the two cash games they had, as well as the tournament that night.

Glenn said he wanted to play in the spread limit. I'd rather cut off my right hand. He figured I'd just sit on their couch and wait until the tournament. But I saw the line-up, and I know how they play, so I figured I could make my tourney buy-in just sitting in the NLHE for an hour. Very little risk, really. So I bought in for the whole $40 (LOL) and took my seat. I believe we were eight-handed.

Very little to say about this game, except that I just simply let them bet into me, and took their money. I played the little girl, unsure of herself and where she is in the hand. Just became a meek little calling station. This is an act I can succeed at greatly if I'm getting the cards, and the players are slightly aggressive. With a $40 cap, the money is going in anyway, almost every hand, so there is no need for me to put all of my chips at risk pre-flop or on the flop, when I can safely just be that timid, calling station woman who isn't quite sure if she is beat or not. Playing with no kicker only reinforces my reluctance to put the chips in early. I was limping into a lot of pots, and most pots were either unraised or someone did a min-raise ($4 or $5).

This is a trick of mine that usually helps me double up at certain tables, while putting the least of my chips at risk early on with marginal hands. It comes across to the table that I don't really know what I'm doing, but the fact is, I have a marginal holding, at best. I have no kicker, I'm not sure if he has middle pair, top pair with a better kicker, worse kicker, or whatever. So by playing passively I can lose less, or win the same amount that I'd have won by being aggressive early, if I do get the call, that is. In this case, I won more.

So by the time the tourney started, my best hand had been KJs and I'd still more than doubled my buy-in.

Acting lessons have worked in ways that my Mom probably never predicted ;)

Next: The NLHE crapshoot tournament at Palms!

Felicia :)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Rocks Can't Win Anymore! (Part One)

Psychological Road-Map for Changing Your Style and Winning Again

Mike Sexton recently said something that started somewhat of a small stir in the poker world. I don't want to quote him out of context, but since the quote itself isn't really the topic of discussion today, I know he'll forgive me if I do:

"Tight players are LOSING players. Tight players can NOT win tournaments."

I was asked by several players if I disagreed with his quote. Or if I was hurt by his assertion. Surprisingly (to them), I said absolutely not, that I agreed with him 100%. The structure of today's modern tournament doesn't reward tight, cautious players. It rewards more of a maniacal personality. Thinking maniacs will always have somewhat of an advantage over non-thinking maniacs, but even the most clueless, loose-aggressive players are hitting closer to the mark these days than rocks like me.

I will provide some examples, even though I know my readers don't need them, and agree with me on this point. Look at the top of the food chain in the 5k Stud event yesterday:

1 William Lin (Denver, CO, USA) $256,620
2 Shahram "Sean" Sheikhan (Las Vegas, NV, USA) $171,080
3 Cyndy Violette (Atlantic City, NJ, USA) $102,648
4 Allen Kessler (Huntington Valley, PA, USA) $76,986
5 Miami John Cernuto (Las Vegas, NV, USA) $55,601
6 Patrick Bueno (France) $38,493
7 Lupe Munquia $29,939
8 Mike Caro (Shell Krob, MO, USA) $21,385
9 Russell Salzer AKA "The Muscle" (New York, NY, USA) $12,831
10 John Womack (Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA) $12,831
11 Brian Goddard (Huntington Beach, CA, USA)

I do not know Mr. Lin. But Sean, Cyndy, Allen, John, Mike and Brian are not known for being rocks.

I am a friend of Brian Goddard's. I don't want to sound like I'm putting him down, although it is going to seem like I am when I say this. Brian has absolutely no clue. He loves Stud. That is why we are friends. We both love Stud. But Brian is one of the most clueless players I have ever played extensively against. He will bet two pair in a Stud tournament when someone else has trips showing. He will bet a pair into three other players who have threatening boards developing (four to a flush, four to a straight, two pair, etc). He doesn't do this for deceptive purposes or to try to increase his chances of a win by getting the second and third best hands to fold (when he is fourth), he does this because he simply doesn't even look at the board cards of his opponents. He always plays his own cards only, and just lives in his own little world.

Yet look at his tournament results compared to mine

Another personal example that I can think of is Terry Myers. No.Clue. Here are some of my experiences with Terry. <----Drawing to two outs and he didn't even have a clue!

An unpublished story:  In a $500 buy-in NLHE satellite (into a 5k event), I was sat at Terry's table. In one hand, I held AQs. I raised, Terry called. The flop came down Qxx. I went all-in, Terry called with virtually no hesitation whatsoever. He held AK. King on the river and that is all she wrote. That's Terry!

I have never seen anything like it. Just lost in the wilderness. Deer in headlights. But look at his stats!

(I am providing these examples as over-the-top, outlandish results in order to make a point. I have absolutely no doubt that both Brian and Terry, along with me, are losing tournament players in the long-term. The above is just meant to shock, not to prove that loose, clueless players are big winners in today's tournament world.)

I remember a couple of years ago at the WPBT inaugural event, Max and I were trying to give some helpful hints to some of the players at our table. This is usually a no-no in tournaments, a no-no in my personal book and a bad idea altogether. But it was a fun, low buy-in event, in which the players had put up money to get to play with the "pros," so once Max started in with the advice, I tried to be helpful as well.

The two tightest players I encountered were CJ and Steve Hall. Let's look at what has happened to both of them since that time.

CJ is now called "The Luckbox" because he has loosened up his tourney game, and played lots of low buy-in SNG's in order to learn to play more hands shorthanded and to learn to take chances. He has since become a force in the tournament world and can keep up with today's environment.

Steve, for all I know, is still a rock. He is still taking pics of the pros in big events, and is not a pro poker player anymore.

I do not highlight these two rocks in order to put either of them down. I like both men, and have nothing but respect for them. The only reason I bring them up is because I'm always using myself as the example of the rock who can't hang, and I want to make it clear that there are many of us in that same boat.

So what will happen to those of us who cannot compete anymore? It's really easy to say "change your style," but it's something completely different to actually do it in practice.

Ray Zee wrote an excellent article about the stages of a poker player many years ago. It addressed progressing from one stage to the next, in what is probably close to a typical player progression.

In my own play, I skipped stage one. I have been around the poker world a long time, and the first lesson I ever learned before stepping into a poker room was to play tight. To fold, fold, fold. I learned that lesson well. Too well.

But my own experience isn't the point here (although it is definitely helping me write the article). The point is that a player goes from loose and completely undisciplined with no discernment whatsoever, to the next stage, stage two:

"This stage of a player's evolution is the tight stage. Most of those that are going to go forward to become eventual winning players will enter this form."

And this is what we are going to focus on today. The tight, unimaginative player who cannot get out of the tight, rockish rut, and finds himself unable to compete anymore. He can't win in today's tournaments, he can't win at any cash games which require a player to actually play more than 9% of the hands he is dealt. He can scratch by in a low ante Stud game. He can break even or make a little dough in a capped NLHE game. He can survive in low LHE. He can nut peddle in PLO8 online. But he is handicapped by his own inability to loosen up and to read players, hands and situations well. He is a rock who will not be moved. And he is falling farther and faster behind every day!

Next:  "Okay, I get it.  But what can I do to change???"

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's All About Hold'em

Ah, isn't it strange how things come full circle in the poker world? Predictions, both good and evil, come to pass. I'm elated when they work out well (Max winning a bracelet), I'm horrified when they go fubar (WSOP under Harrah's ownership).

I remember a few years ago telling Glenn that probably, eventually, O8 would be my best game. Yeah, here I sit, nut peddling. O8 is my best game as far as low limits go, PLO8 online, playing mixed games, tournament play, etc. It sucks to be the king of the special olympics ;)

I also told Glenn that if I decided that I wouldn't quit poker when Stud died (and it's just barely breathing), eventually Hold'em would likely be my favorite game.

In Stud, there is only so much, psychologically, one can do. Trickery is great, but deception only plays a part to a certain extent. You can't fake quads or a straight flush on sixth when three cards on your board don't match up! Your hand, and therefore your strength, is exposed. Laid bare for all to see. Stud games can be the ultimate frustrating games, whether your forte is Stud high, Stud 8 or Razz. Seven card is much better than five card, but you are still only able to do so much. You are hand tied.

Closed card games, draw games are really awesome because you can completely manipulate your opponents. But draw games aren't popular or widely played. Even the high variance action games like TDL aren't spread much, and are usually in a mixed game rotation. So deciding to make yourself a draw game specialist is even worse than being a Stud specialist.

So that brings us back full circle again, doesn't it? And that is what it always comes back to. Hold'em.

Hold'em is the perfect poker game in so many ways. I have always said that. People read what they want to read and are right now thinking I've gone mad, or am saying the exact opposite of things I've always said. That is simply not true. I have always said that Hold'em is going to be the most popular poker game for the foreseeable future, and rightly so. Hold'em mechanics are easy to learn. A beginner can sit in a game with five minutes of instruction. Limit Hold'em has an expectation which keeps the good pro afloat, yet has a high enough luck factor so that the fish is not wiped out. Max buy-in NLHE is a sort of protection for a fish, yet good players can grind out a win virtually every session.

There are absolutely NO downsides to hold'em, other than boredom. And boredom does come. It makes poker more like a job than a hobby, and we have to take frequent breaks from it.

When it all comes down to it, the only game in which I have a true chance of becoming a successful player at any stakes, as well as a successful tournament player, is Hold'em. Even O8 becomes almost HE at the higher limits. The low hands are an aside, additional outs, something good to have for an emergency back-up if things go to shite. If we get caught in a big pot bluffing. If a bad drawing hand gets some miracle. But it's pretty much about Hold'em when O8 hits the higher limits. Even high stakes pot-limit games are virtually all PLO, that is high, not eight or better. It is truly rare to find a live, high stakes PLO8 game, much less a tournament. It almost literally doesn't exist.

Which brings us back to Hold'em. I have a huge love-hate relationship with it. It is the perfect game for poker. Perfect as a cash game, both limit and no-limit. Perfect as a tournament, especially pot or no-limit. Stud is a bad tourney game. Stud, Stud 8, Razz. No Stud variant makes a good tournament game. The five betting rounds are killer. Playing 16 hours straight having to endure that kind of concentration, usually on a huge Hold'em table where one cannot see the board cards on the opposite side, can be a nightmare. I have never advocated Stud games as great tournament games. If the structure is fair, long, with a lot of chips, it turns into a race for endurance. If the structure is short with no chips, it turns into a card catching contest. There is no good way to run a Stud tournament. It sucks no matter which way you look at it. It's not a good heads-up game, either. It just bites on so many levels. Which is one reason it is dying. One of the many.

Okay, so once again, we come back to Hold'em. Where I really, truly have a chance, but no heart for it. I am totally FUBAR in every respect.

And this, my friends, is your introduction to a new series that I hope to get underway before the main event. A series about taking your game to a whole new level. By using psychology, gaming theory and simple blueprints to become a chameleon in the poker world.

I may never be a world class player, but I am going to try my best to make YOU one, if you so desire.

Stay tuned,

Felicia :)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

WSOP Cash Updates

Some more of my friends made it into the money, final tabled or won an event.

Ralph Perry finally got there. I don't know Ralph, but I've watched him play. You might remember him as the guy who came in 3rd at the 2002 WSOP when it was three-handed, he had jacks, Gardner had tens and Varkonyi had aces. He made the push, Gardner made the lay-down.

Mike O'Malley made the money again. Sheesh, dude, if you keep making the money, Party is actually going to have to give you a raise to keep you ;)

A guy I like a lot, Chad Layne, took 5th at the shootout final table. From the looks of things, the FT just didn't go his way. Sometimes we come back from dinner or that second day, and every move we make, someone actually has a hand. Every time we have a hand, someone has a better one. From the CP descriptions, looks like that is what happened to Chad.

Last year Chad cracked me up. The first time we really got to know each other, was in a $1500 HORSE event at Plaza. He asked if he could get my advice on Razz. At first I thought he was joking around, but then he convinced me that he'd never played Razz before. I almost fell on the floor laughing that he'd bought into a $1500 tourney having never played lowball stud.

Then at the series, Chad busted early in the 5k event, and decided at the last minute to join the Razz event. He made it farther than me, if that tells you anything, by making some sick, nasty plays. Over dinner, we talked about Razz and I gave him some advice. He was almost in the money. Of course he didn't follow any of my advice and made some more unbelievable plays after I'd just informed his table that due to my "expert instruction" he was sure to make the money! Oy, vey! In the end, though, he busted out right before the payout, I think maybe 8 players to go or something.

But despite Chad's crazy plays in ALL games, he has an excellent chance of winning tourneys, and he has a wonderful life. He doesn't play full-time because he owns an insurance claims agency (or something like that), and has a real life, including wife and kids. Basically, he's just a great guy and that is that. Go Chad!

So anyway, today I'll try to get to some of my psychological exercises meant to help us change our style at he poker tables. We'll see if that one goes over like a lead balloon, or becomes one of my "best of" type posts.

Felicia :)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cha-cha-cha Changes!

Things change so radically in the poker world, that if one types up some absolute on any given day, he can be flamed and ridiculed the next day for being such a moron.

Just because the poker world changes rapidly doesn't mean that his advice or strategy was wrong, it was just meant for a certain time and place. It can be adapted!!!

The other day I was reading Ray Zee's book again, going over some O8 theory in my head, and how it applies to tourneys. I stumbled once again upon Ray's advice about particular styles of play, particular characteristics of players and the games they may adapt to the best. Nothing in his theory is wrong, and most of it still applies today, even with the poker boom. But it definitely made me pause and remember some of the things that have changed so radically, and how players have a hard time adjusting their own play, not to mention heeding the sage advice of some top players/theorists for today's game of poker.

I remember a few years ago when I was reading Doyle's chapter in SSI on NLHE cash games. I kept thinking over and over again, "Jeez, this advice would rock in tourneys, but I think a cash game player would probably get killed these days!"

I told Glenn that it was probably good tourney strategy. Better than Sklansky's, because of the current times (just at the cusp of the poker boom).

Not long after that, someone was discussing SSI on 2+2 and Mason chimed in with almost the exact same sentiment. Some people can think about something so deeply that they almost instantly realize it's usefulness and adjust or adapt it to current conditions. I am very fortunate that I'm able to do this, although it doesn't seem to help me much in MTT's!!! For whatever reason, that is a huge shortcoming of mine, my inability to adapt greatly in that arena.

Okay, so staying on topic. I have often been able to help fledgling players decide which game is best for them. This comes from a combination of listening to them talk about poker, watching them play extensively and the things Ray said in his book. These days, it's all about Hold'em, I know (I'm not really that blind), so when I say I decide what game might be best for them, it's always about the second game they pick up. The "what comes next?" moment that they have, when they realize it's not always ALL HOLD'EM, ALL THE TIME.

The player who starts out learning and playing LHE seems to be able to adjust to NLHE easier than vice versa. Some players try to play limit after learning and playing a lot of NL. What a trainwreck. They get eaten alive. I see the inability to adjust every day. It is painful to watch. It reminds me of my own shortcomings in tourneys. The player who was forced to really learn limit first is fortunate. He tends to do much, much better adjusting to no-limit play.

Women can hang with high variance games better than men, at times. But they have to have absolutely no respect of money. No fear. Mentally it can be tough to go to a game like PLO or Stud 8 and lose huge pot after huge pot, going in as a favorite. Some men absolutely cannot take these swings, and end up steaming. Women don't tend to steam in the traditional sense as much (blowing off chips; playing badly after running badly). The problem with women in these games is that they tend to have one of two problems. They are either too timid and scared, or they are too hyperaggressive in the wrong hands (no discernment). Either can present huge problems for a woman playing a high variance game.

Razz should be a woman's game. I have always thought this. Thank God almost no one agrees with me, and I typically play against all men. Women can handle losing with a made 65 on fifth to some monkey drawing to a jack and getting an incredibly lucky runner 64. Men go absolutely ape when this happens. I have seen the most calm, controlled, professional men go ballistic. Razz can be a super frustrating game when you forget the odds, forget your edge and let the game get to you. One of the only male players who can hang tough in Razz throughout all seasons is Ted Forrest. He knows that the incredible runner suckouts are what keeps the game from dying altogether. He knows that he makes money by keeping his cool and staying sharp. He just smiles, taps the table and moves on to the next hand. Of course he wants that monkey with a jack doorcard drawing all the way! He wouldn't have any other scenario, and this is what makes him great at Stud games.

Stud High is a great game for action junkies, those who like to play a lot of hands on third, those who like to draw and chase. In good games, the ante is rather high, so players who want to play a lot of hands and go far with them are actually playing much more closely to correct. That it is a good game for them. Although they will lose in the long-term (if they are not top players), they will typically lose less than in other games. If a player is loose and aggressive on third, with no regard for money, and likes to call down a lot of hands, even if he is unsure where he is in the hand, he will tend to do better at Stud High than many other games.

Stud 8 is an awesome game in some respects, and a terrible one in others. It is awesome because a good player can incorporate a lot of trickery into his game, and deception rules. But it is frustrating because it can be the roller coaster ride of a century. When you run well in Stud 8, you think you are the king, the best Stud 8 player ever. And then when mother variance rears her ugly head, you wonder if you ever knew how to play in the first place. The trickier you are, the more deeply you think and play the game, the more of an idiot you can seem when the play doesn't work. When it DOES work out, your tablemates will be shaking your hand and congratulating you on your "world class play." Don't let this go to your head, either positively or negatively. Remember, when a good play works, everyone will proclaim you their hero. When the exact same play, under the exact same circumstances backfires, they will be calling you a moron. Both terms are incorrect. Although an advanced player is the one thinking deeply, on many different levels, this is simply good play. You aren't the master of the game, nor are you the idiot. You are simply playing good poker.

If you are the type of person who likes to overcall a lot, until your hand is made, Stud 8 is a good game for your style. If you think of yourself as a fisherman, sitting patiently and silently, while players all around you are in a rage, Stud 8 may be your best game. Yes, you can simply sit and wait, and then let them give you all of their chips when they are ramming and jamming with you in between. Typically in Stud 8, the first betting rounds are pretty light, the later rounds a chip spewing fest. Stud High is exactly the opposite. Good players slow down in later rounds.

If you're tired and/or bored, games that might keep you sane, but decrease your variance, are low limit Razz, LO8 or low buy-in NLHE. These games are pretty much no-brainers at low limits. I tend to call low buy-in NLHE "wash, rinse, repeat." Razz is easy because there are no suits or high cards to memorize. Only low cards and boards to play. It is typically a board game. Sit and wait for a good doorcard, play your board strongly.

And then we come to LO8. The Special Olympics of poker. The game where you can win a gold medal, but you are still retarded. The brain dead game of the world.

Yes, it takes a special talent to succeed at LLO8. Yes, it takes a certain personality and a ton of adjustment from typical poker. But these talents and adjustments are more like tuning DOWN your game, not ramping it up. Like listening to classical music on it's lowest volume setting, instead of the death metal volume you are used to at rock concerts. For those of us who can humble ourselves and hang out in homes for the mentally impaired, it is a gold mine. For those who want to be gorillas at the zoo, beating our chests and showing everyone how aggressively manly we are, it can spell disaster.

LO8 is the one game where passive play can consistently win. It is like no other in poker. If you can simply slow down. If you can convince yourself that you must be the turtle, rather than the hare. If you can sit and wait patiently. If you can see that overcalling with the nuts will net you 3 more big bets versus the 1.5 big bets you will net if you keep raising. If you can realize that bad beats, in the way that we typically think of them, don't exist in LO8. If you can change your mindset about poker and aggression, you can succeed greatly in this field.

It will not be that exciting. It will not cause a huge rush of adrenaline. It will not have huge swings. If you are playing correctly you won't feel like you are the master. You won't get to boast and beat your chest. You will simply make money. Slowly, surely, painlessly. It is like working on an assembly line versus speculating on the trash stock market.

Which is why I chose those three events at Orleans this year, versus my favorite games, Stud games. Because I could play in a coma. I could play with very little energy. I could play in a mild, passive, predictable way if I needed to. I could wait it out, with tons of chips and a great structure (pretty tough to do at Rio this year, given the structure and lack of chips). I could wake up and come alive when I needed to, but save my energy and strength during those times when I needed to recoop.

I still don't have what it takes to win these events. I did not build up enough chips to be a true force during the hours I played. I didn't build up enough chips to weather more than about five beats or premium hands that simply never got there. I did not take advantage of orphan pots enough (although they are more rare in LO8 than other games). I did not always know where I was in a hand. I misread my hand a couple of times in the final event (luckily during the very first level, after that I was fine). I did not do the things that full-time tournament players do every, single day, and succeed at greatly. For that, I was granted the bubble prize in two out of the three O8 events I played.

But I learned. I learned a lot. And I triumphed in the fact that I was able to play those hours, saving myself for hands which I needed all of my energy and focus. It was a huge boost to my self confidence in tournaments. I needed it greatly, as I have been out of that arena for the past year.

And it also helped me to write this post today. This post telling you theories and psychologies of different games, and how to adjust, to adapt to the ever changing poker scene. It also helped me with some ideas I've been thinking about sharing with you regarding strategies and "blueprints" which might enable you to switch up your game easier, adjust to different games and limits, as well as individual tables.

So for that, the money and time was worth it.

I learned a lot, and I hope to come back better and stronger than ever! After all, Ted and Asher both said I could hang in Stud type games up to maybe 300/600 or 400/800. I wouldn't want to disappoint them, now, would I??? ;)

Take care, and I hope this has given everyone something to chew on.

Felicia :)

Monday, July 17, 2006

WSOP Elaboration

Okay, since I've had so many IM's and other requests to elaborate, I'll try my best.

I'm not going to do your homework for you, but I'll say what I think, and you can do the research yourselves.

I predicted in 2004 that although players would benefit from the poker tournament boom by winning more than statistically correct amounts from prize pools, the real money would be made by the casinos, TV stations and advertisers.

I was very doubtful that players would stick together and demand their part of the pie. I tried to help with a player's union for a time, but that didn't work out. The problem with these sort of organizations is that everyone has some kind of angle they are trying to shoot. It's poker, it's so ingrained in us to be competitive and not play as a "team," that we start naturally looking for ways to even exploit our fellow players, whose best interests we are supposed to be protecting.

As an example, all of the money that was given to Louis Asmo for the WPPA was supposed to be given back to the players. To my knowledge, that money was never given back to anyone besides Asmo, lol. People have complained about his scams with the Ohio charity games, as well.

The players who really wanted to make this happen were also hand tied. I remember talking to David Levi during the festival, and he said he couldn't play. When I asked why, and why he wouldn't support it, he said it was doomed to failure (even if Asmo hadn't been involved), because most name players are backed (sponsorship wasn't something as widespread in those days). And backed players go where the boss tells them to go. They don't go to events with a prize pool of 100k for 2% juice when the boss wants them to go to an event with a prize pool of $1 million and 8% juice. The boss calls the shots, he tells players where to be, and couldn't care less about the juice when the ROI is so much higher in the bigger event.

So players "unions" are doomed in many ways. The players who absolutely refuse to be taken advantage of, and play in raped events simply cease to exist. They play cash games only, or they play in a festival here and there which is known for treating it's players fairly.

If a player gets sponsorship, it's even worse. Now he is REALLY hand tied. His backer says "Play in the series, I don't care how much juice they are taking and how badly they are treating you, I want some kind of payback here!" The sponsor says, "I'm not paying you to play in Joe-Bob's Grand Poker Tournament for 2% juice and ad revenue which might be returned to the player. No one can see my tee-shirt at Joe-Bob's, everyone sees it at Rio!"

So what choice do these players have? Not much. Sure, there are the elite of the elite. The Greensteins, Forrests and Negreanu's who can put their feet down and still survive, but most players have to go where the backers and/or sponsors tell them to go.

Thus Rio wins. Rio wins no matter what. They win by default, no matter how badly they treat the players or media. No matter how much juice they charge, how much they lie, how much they scam. Until the boom dies, Rio will just be sitting around counting up the cash. And when it dies? No problem, they still win. Harrah's has always hated poker, and poker players. So when they feel the poker craze is peaking? They sell the WSOP name rights. And as soon as the boom starts to die? They close up all of their poker rooms worldwide, just like they did before. No sweat, they know they will make way more money with slots anyway.

It's a no-lose situation for Harrah's, it's a no-win situation for tournament players.

WSOP Happenings

Wow, I never thought so much could happen in the poker world within 24 hours. Just yesterday morning I was writing about some of my friends who either cashed, or were still in the race at both the series and Orleans.

Here is an update on them, and some other happenings:

Jerrod Ankenman is the second chip lead going into the final table today!

Both Peter Costa and Thor Hansen made the cut in the O8 event (remember I stated that Thor was barely hanging on, but that he could turn it around? Turn it around he did!).

Harry Demitriou is the big story. Rio screwed up the shoot-out event so badly, that Harry took it upon himself to protest for everyone. While his manner may have not represented the very best in poker players, the result was a lot of media attention (besides CP, who were forced to take down the story almost as soon as they put it up; blackmail anyone?). He was originally treated very harshly, but then later given a full refund (which he accepted although he is a very good shorthanded player and had more than his original starting chips). It also proved to highlight some of the absolute FUBAR's going on at Rio. Whole events being changed completely AFTER players buy-in. Players being given no notice whatsoever that Rio is going to simply do whatever they want, and screw the huge juice that the players have to pony up.

Something this big is going to change tournament poker, imo. I could very well be wrong, but I do believe at this time, the horror we are seeing at Rio is going to unite the players, finally.

Rio is profiting on every aspect of the series, yet charging the players more than ever for the "privilege" of playing there! Then they further anally rape the players by changing everything with no notice, or at a moment's notice.

Something has got to give. I hope for once the players unite and stand together. The guy in the middle is suffering hugely. The guy who is not getting tons of sponsorship. The guy who doesn't have an armful of bracelets or TV recognition. The hugely successful guys who are just barely scratching by due to the lack of lots of wins recently.

These types of things are what helped drive me out of tournament poker. I had lots of reasons to get out of it, and get back into cash games, but surely what is happening at Rio was one of them. I feel so badly for the middle guys that I just want to scream.

I compare it to reality TV. How many people would make this kind of deal?

Say you are interested in being on Survivor. So you go and audition. You pass the audition with flying colors and the TV station says they are definitely interested in putting you on the show. But then they tell you this:

1) You must agree to be filmed 24/7
2) You must agree to a set of rules which may compromise your integrity
3) You cannot and will not give any interviews, magazine article or TV appearances on any other networks without the written permission of the network which airs Survivor. If you break that promise during your lifetime, you agree that the network can sue you and recover any funds you may have won
4) Your friends, family and home will be completely open at all times for interviews and camera crews, regardless of their interest in being on TV. If you are stalked, your home is vandalized or you, your friends or your family are harmed in any way due to your entire life being made public in that manner, you have no legal recourse with the network whatsoever, and can not reclaim any damages from them.
5) If you are hurt or injured at any time during the show, you cannot ask for any recompense.
6) For the "privilege" of appearing on Survivor, and the chance of winning $1 million dollars, you must put up your part of the prize pool, which is $100,000.
7) In addition, you must pay the TV network an "entry fee" of $10,000 for the "privilege" of being on television, and the work that the crew must perform to make sure you are on TV. The entry fee is non-refundable, even if you don't get airtime.

So, if you were forced into this deal, how many seasons of Survivor do you think would have been televised? How many participants do you think they would have gotten? Would people be lining up by the thousands to be able to participate?

Yet this is what cardrooms are doing to players every, single day. For playing in a tournament, the players basically sign their lives away, agreeing to let the house, the TV station and all advertisers profit greatly, while they basically pay for everything. Pay to participate, pay to appear on TV, pay for the "chance" to win part of the prize pool.

I'm not saying that poker players are such a rare commodity that they deserve tens of thousands of dollars just for their appearance. But what I am asking is simply this:

Why does everyone else get to profit from the TV poker boom except the players? The players are still 'paying' to play! Paying huge fees, and getting tons of arguments, changes, cancellations, marked cards and horribly run events! It makes absolutely no sense, except that cardrooms get away with it.

And that is really the bottom line. They get away with it, so why change?

Until players can band together and put a stop to this, it won't end. And even if they do? Will that cut off the poker boom? Will everyone eventually suffer, instead of just the middle guy?

I have no idea what the future holds, and what will happen to tournament poker. The only thing I do know is that I feel bad for the guys in the middle, the Harry Demitriou's of the world, who finally have had enough anal rape for one day, stand up, and protest.

They are my friends, somewhat my peers. And many of them are suffering greatly.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Shout-Outs to Friends!

I had another great trip to Vegas. I'll try to post about it today (just slept over 12 hours straight, I was that exhausted).

For those of you looking for me on the O8 leaderboard, you obviously didn't see my name. Two guys I like a lot, though, Chris Gregorian and Earl Kim both made the final table. Yippee :)

In other news, some of my friends are still in the running of event #23 at Rio, the 3k LHE event:

Jerrod Ankenman is the chip lead (we have played together a few times and he was a very nice guy).

I don't know Mel Weiner, but I always think of a funny story during the series that happened a few years ago in the HU event. Mel was slated to play against Hellmuth, and they were calling their names to announce the HU match about to begin. The TD called out, "Weiner vs. Whiner" is about to start.

Barry has some chips. I saw Barry on the 2nd HORSE day and some woman was asking him to autograph a shirt (?!?). I told him not to put his signature on anything, it might make it easier for the FBI to find him. Barry asked me how poker is going. Ouch. Then he asked if I was still writing. I have a feeling I'm going to hear that a lot from now on :(

Matros is still in. I also saw him at Rio for the first time on Thursday. Great guy.

Harry Demitriou scores another final table in the SH event. I love Harry, and we agree on almost everything when it comes to poker. Some people say he's negative. Well, surprise surprise, they say the same about me! I totally get where he is coming from, and if wanting the best from the poker world is "being negative," well then, so be it. Harry is a top SH player and this makes just one of many scores for him in that arena.

Peter Costa, another Brit, is still in the running in the 3k O8 event at Rio. Thor Hansen and James Van Alstyne are hanging on, but both players are capable of turning short stacks around for a big win. Go, go, go!

Look for some trip reports from me coming up in the next few days. Glenn and I are exhuasted, so we decided to scrap the final NLHE event at Orleans and just come home to rest for a few days before Glenn begins the main event (still don't have his first day starting assignment).

Hope everyone is having a great, summer weekend!

Felicia :)