Thursday, April 28, 2005

Busted Out...Again...

So I've gone bust again. I had built my initial bankroll of $100 up to $750 before it all came crashing down. It's funny how it only takes a few bad beats to nullify the hours of effort and work you put into building up your money.

But I think I'm over-attributing my early success to skill. It's true that I made some right moves at the right time, but it's even more true that my cards were hitting and my favorites were holding up. This was probably luck at this point. But as soon as the cards started turning bad, I wasn't able to hang on and play it out correctly. I ended up losing it all. As Harrington says in Harrington on Hold'em, "Anyone can win a pot when he flops a monster. It's how you play when you don't flop one that will decide whether you're a winner or a loser."

Usually, when I bust my bankroll (not that it happens constantly...this is my third time in my poker career), it took me a long time to overcome the emotional turbulence. I would have to step away from the games for about a month in order to gain my confidence back and start over again. But strangely, this time around, I'm actually ready to get back into it. Sure, I was upset for one night. But I feel like today's a new day.

This either means that I've grown and matured as a player, and I accept the ideas of variance and "bad luck" more or that I've become addicted to gambling. I hope it's the former and not the latter.

Either way, even though I feel emotionally ready to play, I think I'm going to take a few days off. My orders from Amazon.com have just arrived (as can be evidenced by the Harrington quote), so I think it's best to spend some time reading and learning before I play again.

Time for more study.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

*&*%!*^

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Words can not describe the frustration and anger I'm feeling right now. I've just lost over five max buy-ins in No Limit Hold'em at Pokerstars. Four of them lost to people catching a two-outer on the river. The last one was when I flopped a boat only to lose to someone who flopped quads. Unbelievable. Arg.

The 8's Were Out Tonight

So around midnight, after about two hours of playing basketball, my friends get the brilliant idea of going to a casino. I didn't hesitate in joining them as the players at this card room are typical low limit players: loose and passive calling stations. I remembered I won about $110 in two hours during my previous session there. So I quickly changed and got in the backseat of the car to pay tribute to our local Indian tribe, or as one of my friends calls it "Palms, Jr." because it's designed exactly like the Palms in Las Vegas, both interior and exterior.

We got there around 2:15 A.M. and my poker-playing friend and I immediately headed for the card room while my other two friends decided to play video poker and blackjack. We checked in for 3-6 with a kill but got seated at different tables, and I took a look around to quickly size up the competition. I sat down at Seat 4, in between a Korean kid to my left and a middle-aged lady to my right. Seat 6 left soon after and was replaced by a middle-aged Korean lady. To her left was a college student of Middle-Eastern decent, then two more Korean kids to his left. Seat 1 was filled later on by a middle-aged Asian man, and Seat 2 came during the latter part of my session, a caucasian man in his twenties. It looked like a pretty easy table. Except for the guy seated immediately to my left, the other college students were loose, calling stations. The tighter players were to my right, and I thought I had good position at this table. (I use the term kid although I'm probably the same age as they are, and I knew they were Korean because they kept speaking Korean in between hands.)

After throwing away a couple of hands, I looked down to see pocket 8's in mid position (to the right of the cutoff). Lady to my left calls, and I limp in as well hoping to catch a cheap set on the flop. The four college students join in the hand, and we go to the flop.

Q-J-8 with two hearts.

Beautiful. Action gets checked around to me, and I bet. The guy to my left folds but the rest of the college gang stay in and call. Lady to my right folds. Turn is a...

Blank.

I come out firing chips. The Mid-Eastern kid calls and the others fold. River:

A.

Mid-Eastern, who was the small blind, checks. This board could spell trouble, but I felt I had to bet, so I do. He raises (what the heck?!...a check-raise?). I look at the board again and see that the Ace is a heart. With a sad feeling in my chest, I mumble something about catching a flush, and I call. He turns over Pocket Rockets for the set and takes a fairly big pot.

Ouch.

The son-of-a-bitch caught a two-outer on the river to beat me. What just happened here? But this was just the beginning of things to come.

As the night progressed, I watched in horror as Mid-Eastern just kept bleeding his chips away (those are my chips, damnit!), and the Korean kid next to him starts catching cards like crazy. He goes on a monster rush as his any two cards catches straight after flush after boat over and over again. And meanwhile, my stack just keeps dwindling down, slowly but surely. Three dealers change shifts, and I still haven't won a single hand. The best hand I get is a Q-9o under the gun which I promptly folded only to see a Queen and a 9 on the flop. Sigh.

During this time, the table sees 8's flying around almost every hand. When three 8's are out by the river, the Korean kid next to me says he folded the case 8 preflop. Then the Korean lady shows down another 8 a couple of hands later with three other 8's out on the board. My initial buy-in of $100 is down to $60. I look at my hand in mid position and see pocket 8's again. Will this be my redemption?

I limp with everyone else into a huge mutliway pot. But the flop comes all overcards, and as soon as the action was bet and raised before me, I had no choice but to muck. At the showdown, I see the Seat 2 player had pocket 7's but caught a flush on the river. I think back and realize one of my 8's would have won me the pot with a higher flush. Sigh again.

About an hour and half into my play, a young Asian kid walks up to the table and starts talking to the Asian lady he recognizes. "I still haven't left," he declares, "two days and two night, and I'm still here." I think to myself, "Well, good for you idiot. Please sit down, so that I may take some of your money." I immediately peg this guy as the maniac. He takes a seat at the now vacant Seat 9, and he proceeds to raise, reraise, and cap with nothing. He loses his initial buy-in of $60 and immediately reloads. But then I take notice that he tightens up. Was he just putting up an act to loosen the table up? I don't know, but we'll have to see.

Towards the end, I was probably on tilt, and I started trying to get lucky. I've seen Mr. Any-Two-Cards catch flop after flop, Mr. Maniac catch miracle card on the river, and I still can't win anything.

I finally counted down my chips, and I had $24 left. My friend had busted out earlier and was watching me play. I knew he was disappointed at his loss, so I figured that I'd just end this quickly and go home. Seat 2 posts a live-straddle, and I take a peak at my cards, and what do I find? Yup. Pocket 8's. Under-the-gun calls. I call. Korean kid calls. Asian lady folds. Mid-Eastern kid calls. Other Korean college student calls. Maniac raises. Asian man in the Big Blind calls. Caucasian guy who posted the straddle (who was playing pretty wild and agressively himself) reraises. The rest of the table calls, and we go to the flop. I eye the huge pot, and I'm just salivating and praying. "Please God. Let me win just this one!"

Flop comes 7-5-2 rainbow. Check, check, check, check. I bet 3. Fold, call, call, call, call, call, call. Uh oh. I hope I have the best hand. Turn is a...

6.

I get scared but also realize I have an open-ended straight draw. I proceed to bet when it's checked to me. Two callers. We see the river is a...

10.

Straddler checks. I bet my last three. I'm all-in. Mid-Eastern guy surprisingly folds. Wow! But wild Caucasian guy takes a look at me and says, "What the hell. It's only $3 more!" And he calls, flipping over...

K-9 offsuit for King-high. My pocket 8's hold up, and I win a mega pot. I went from $24 to $125. After tipping the dealer, I stand up and cash out. Lucky me, those 8's pulled through for me in the end. What a wild night.

On the drive back, my friend relates his story of how his flopped full house (he had pocket kings with a flop of K-T-T) were beaten when a maniac (holding pocket nines, underpair on the flop) kept raising and reraising only to catch a 9 on the turn and another 9 on the river for a four-of-a-kind 9's. My friend lost a ton of money on that hand, and all I can say is, "Wow." I really don't know what to say, and he keeps repeating, "What are the chances of that?" all throughout the ride home. I tell him it's 959 to 1 (I remember because it came out in the ESPN series "Tilt"). He keeps repeating the question, and I turn away in silence. Nothing I do or say can console this man tonight.

What a wild night, indeed.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Cool

Iggy has put me back up on the bloggers list. Yay! Thanks, Iggy. There's no greater reward for a small-time blogger like myself than to be recognized by the Blogfather himself.

I've also been fiddling around with the Poker Tracker's auto-rate feature. I've gone from a frowning face (uh-oh, I'm a loser!) to a happy face (still too loose, but at least I'm aggressive) to an exclamation mark (using the rules that the Poker Tracker Guide came with). Neutral Aggressive Solid.

I guess my hand selections are still a bit too loose. My goal is to get to the moneybag icon. Tight Aggressive Solid. So I must work on tightening up a bit.

So far, the Poker Tracker Guide has helped me to reduce my cold calls with weaker hands. I'm trying to fix the holes in my game, and my recent results prove that I'm doing something right. Go buy the guide if you haven't done so already. HDouble and Iggy did a fantastic job putting it together. Many thanks to the authors for helping me improve my game.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What's In A Name?

I was going over the blogger list on Iggy's site, when I noticed two things. First, I'm not on it, even though I was for a while. =( Secondly, there are a few poker blogs with similar titles. There's Poker - It's Life, Life's a Grind, and The Poker Game of Life among others.

Now, I'm not a writer, so I don't know if writers go through this or not. But I've always had a hard time coming up with a title for whatever I write. And it's not that I don't like my blog's title or whatever, but it seems that it's too similar to other blogs. And while there's nothing wrong with being similar, I wish my blog would stand out a bit from the other generic poker titles around.

It's inevitable, with the recent boom in poker and blogs, that blogs will bear resemblances to one another's titles. I mean, there's only so many phrases one can use when one wants to equate poker to life as I intended to when I first created this blog. (By the way, not to nitpick or anything, but I had this blog title before any of the other guys so don't think that I bit off any of their names.)

So I'm trying to come up with a new title for my blog. I'll still keep my id as "pokerlife" as it's up on the WPBT board. But I'll be coming up with a new name soon. Time to put on my thinking cap. =/

AD ASTRA PER ASPERA

- a rough road leads to the stars...

Funny thing is I got that quote from the movie Armageddon. It's a good quote though. And I think it describes the path a poker player takes when he/she devotes oneself to becoming a greater player.

I've decided to look at my recent failures as experiences to learn from. And I've taken my feelings of hopelessness into a resolve to become great. I want to be great at poker. And I have hope that I will get there some day.

I've also decided to study multi-table No Limit Hold'em tournaments. I've played in quite a few of them and have always had mixed results. But I've just splurged on Amazon.com, and I have quite a bit of reading to do. Thanks to Dr. Pauly's recommendation, I'll be starting with Harrington on Hold'em. Hopefully I'll gain some insights into what I need to do in order to be more consistent with my tournament game. And perhaps, I'll be able to make a run at the WPBT title (if there is one).

Another purchase I made was the Poker Tracker Guide. I've been keeping hand histories on the program, and I've been using the default auto-rate feature, but other than that, I haven't really done much else with it. I'm not sure where or what I'm supposed to be looking at to improve my game and so on. So I've decided to make a small investment and made the purchase.

With all this money spent on books, I probably could've reloaded into my Party/Empire account, but I've decided to study the game instead. And later on, when I've aquired new skills and have the money to, I'll probably go back to the fishiest poker games online.

Good luck at the tables.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Hopeless

"It happens to everyone; time to time, everyone goes bust." - Rounders...

I know it happens to a lot players. But this is the second time that my poker bankroll has completely gone bust. The sad thing is that I had built it up quite nicely until now. My bankroll was the highest it had ever been. And then in a matter of a couple of days, in one fell swoop, it was all gone.

The thing is, I can't blame anything except myself. Like Michael McDermott, I took my bankroll and played in a game which stakes were too high. I don't know why I did it. Perhaps I was looking for a thrill. Maybe I wanted to get lucky and double up quickly. But all it took was one tough beat, and I was done. There's no one to blame but myself. I feel extremely foolish right now.

And I don't have the funds to reload into my Party/Empire account for now. So any poker I wish to play online will have to be with the tiny amount I have left in my PokerStars account after I cashed out there. I've never really done well on Stars until that one Blogger tournament. And I wasn't able to play in the last one. So I'm gonna have to start from scratch again, playing on a tougher site. Hopefully I'll learn from my mistakes this time. And I'll play it right.

But I have to say that it really hurts right now. It hurts to lose it all. And I don't know if I'll be able to get back to where I was.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Frustrating

I've dropped twelve straight $30+3 sit-n-go tournaments at Empire. I've finished in fourth 8 times out of those twelve. And if I was losing because I was truly beat, then I would understand. But everytime I've gotten knocked out, it was on a coin flip or where I held the favorite. And I've always gotten knocked out going all in preflop. I've been eliminated twice when I held pocket Kings. Once to an A7o who called my all-in preflop raise (of course that ace had to hit on the river!) and one other time to a QTo. Why oh why is my luck running so bad?

These sit-n-go tourneys had been very profitable for me. And I believed that I had been playing them with the correct strategy to maximize my winnings. Is this just one of those unlucky streaks or is there something deeper behind it all?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Viva Las Vegas!

It's been a while since I've posted. I've just been swamped with so many things that I haven't had much time to post or even play as much as I wanted to. But this past weekend, I took a little trip to Sin City with my friends, and it was the refreshing little boost I needed to get my poker juices flowing again!

We were scheduled to leave on Thursday afternoon for the 4 hour drive from my apartment to Las Vegas. And I knew that once I got there, I would definitely play some poker. But because I haven't played much in a while, I wanted a little tune-up before the trip, so a friend of mine took me down to pay homage to our local Indian casino: Casino Morongo.

Morongo is built exactly like the Palms (as I found out when I went to Vegas). From the exterior of the building to the interior layout, it's almost exactly the same. But thankfully, the Morongo poker room is a wee bit bigger than the "low" limit poker area of the Palms.

I signed up for a 3-6 kill table. This would be first time playing poker in a casino, and my friend told me it was the perfect game to get my feet wet in. My friend immediately got a seat, but I had to wait a while as the games were going strongly on all tables.

When my time finally came, I sat down at the 7 seat (ten seats total) and took a look around the table. Gulp! The table was filled with old guys who had a ton of chips in front of them. The only other youngster was a guy to my right whose stack was quickly dwindling. I knew I had to play smart to avoid any trouble at this table.

But I still couldn't manage to stop my chips from bleeding away. After only twenty minutes, I saw that I lost $60 from my initial buy-in of $100. I tightened up and decidedly to play aggressively. Win or lose, I was going to play strong.

Luckily, I caught a couple of decent hands and was able to build my stack back up to even. Then I caught my lucky hand of the night. A maniac raised in early position, and I saw Big Slick between my hands in the cutoff position. I didn't want to reraise and catch nothing on the flop, so I just decided to call. An old Asian guy immediately to my left on the button then reraised it. Small Blind folds, Big Blind calls, maniac calls, and the guy on my right calls. I put my chips in to complete the preflop play and we saw the flop with five players in. Flop came Jack high but all diamonds. Maniac bet out, and the guy to my right called. I took another peek at my cards and saw that I was indeed holding the King of diamonds, so I called. Button raises it, and maniac calls. The guy to my right drops out, and I call for one more small bet.

At this point, I knew that if I didn't get lucky, my stack would have taken a huge hit. Turn is a blank. Maniac checks; I check; Button bets. Maniac folds, and I call.

River is a beautiful diamond. Yay! But I check to the button who bets. Then I called.

Now, looking back at this hand, I realize that I should have check-raised the river. But maybe it was because I was nervous, and it was my first time playing at a casino, or maybe I just got caught up in the game and wasn't thinking straight. But I couldn't see that I should have raised at the end. I actually made a scared call. I really didn't think he held the Ace of diamonds, but I just blanked out.

Anyway, the button turns over pocket Aces (of course), and I show him my King high flush and take down a rather nice pot. Sorry about the bad beat.

I play for about two hours total and leave the table with a nice $113 profit. Not bad for my first session at a casino, eh?

So, with my small success, I was geared up and ready to hit the casinos in the gaming capitol of the world. Vegas here I come!

The first night, we got a great rate at the Jean. (The room was free...I told you it was a great rate). We went down to downtown, and ate at the Main Street buffet. It wasn't bad, but I can't say that it was that great either. Afterwards, we headed to Fremont street and took a look around at the shops and casinos there. I went in to Binion's to see the world famous poker room, and I saw that they were preparing for the WSOP. There were tables and cameras everywhere portioned off. What a sight to see! When we were done there, we headed back to our hotel and finished the night with some $2 blackjack. Unfortunately, I quickly lost $20 there. Not a good start.

The next day, we woke up and had some breakfast at the restaurant they had there. Then it was back to the tables for more punishment. And then we headed off to the Strip.

We basically walked up and down the strip from the Aladdin to the Mirage and down to the Bellagio. We saw every casino, visited every poker room they had, and I ended up with a nasty blister on my foot. Oh joy.

The one bright spot about the walking tour was that we got to see Gus Hansen playing at the Bellagion. He had his back to the crowd, but I was able to instantly tell from his shaved head and bony features that it was him. There was a man preventing people from standing behind him and gawking at him like I wanted to do. So I sat down at the closest slot machine and kept staring at him. I have no idea what limit he was playing, but I'm guessing 300/600 which seems small for a professional like him. I mean Daniel Negreanu wrote the other day that 2000/4000 didn't feel like a real game to him because he was so used to 4000/8000. Wow. Negreanu also wrote that he picked up over $12,000 in a 100/200 No Limit game, and it wasn't much. Yikes! If I made that much in 3 months of play, I would be ecstatic. But these guys do it at a single session of play! Speechless. Anyway, I didn't play any poker on Thursday or Friday, but another friend of mine and I decided that we would enter in one of Luxor's little tournaments the next day.

It's a shame that I played in that tournament. It was the most disorganized tournament I have ever witnessed. The dealers were bad. The games were run poorly. The tables were tiny, and they had ten of us squeezed in per table. It was just the worst experience. We started with 250 in tournament chips, and the blinds started at 10-15 and were raised every 15 minutes. I've played in home game tournaments with better structures than this. It was just awful. Needless to say, I couldn't catch jack, and I ended up on the rail with about 15 players left. My friend, surprisingly, was still in it and made the final table. Top seven were paid, and my friend finally busted out 9th. We both spoke about how terrible the tournament was, and I vowed never to play poker at the Luxor again...which is sad because the Luxor is actually one of my favorite hotel/casinos.

Later that night, we were back at the Aladdin for the buffet which I've been told is the best in Vegas. But we arrived a couple hours early for dinner, so I went to their poker room, and I bought in for the 3-6 with a half-kill game. Now, I really enjoyed the Aladdin poker room. First off, it was actually a room, not just some space portioned off like in most other casinos. The dealers were friendly and the experience was very enjoyable. Unfortunately, I had the worst run of bad luck there. I had pocket Kings twice which were both beaten by A-4o and a Q-9o. The second time I lost with the kings, I knew I was beat and mucked em, but not before showing my hand to the guy next to me. We both sighed when the player two seats to my left showed his Q9 proudly for the two pair he caught on the turn. Sigh. Apparently, the rule in these low limit games is that you can't win with hands that are favorites before the flop. But then again, I have to remember that I cracked Aces with Big Slick just a couple of days before. So I guess it's just my luck evening out, and eventually, everything would go back to normal. Or so I wished.

So I left the Aladdin poker room down about $65. But at least I can say that the Aladdin does indeed have the best buffet in town. Unfortunately, I had filled myself with one of those Megadogs down at Westward Ho earlier, so I couldn't eat that much. But it was still very delicious.

My friends and I were driving back down on Sunday right after the Copperfield show, so we decided that we should sleep early Saturday night and be well-rested. Yeah right. We went back to our hotel at Circus Circus, and my friends and I headed down to their poker room. The only game they were running was 3-6 with only one blind. And there were four tables going at 2 A.M. So I bought in for a measly $60 and just wanted to spend some time playing with my friends. Across from me was a young guy who said he bought in for $100, but had about $500 in chips in front of him. I would have to watch out for that guy.

Well, the night went by with me losing with pocket Kings twice again. Once to that huge chip leader who won with the Big Blind special of 4-2o. Strange that he actually called my preflop raise though. Another time, I raised preflop with Kings and got four callers. This was strange because I had been playing extremely tight that night because of my small buy-in. And I knew that the players who came in were pretty decent players. Were they actually holding the goods or did they just have it in for me? I don't know. But I mucked my kings when an Ace came on the flop and there was heavy action. Sigh. But I was happy I made the right decision when the winner showed A-7 for top pair. A-7 huh? But they were suited. Yeah...good for you.

One thing that the Circus Circus poker room had was a daily raffle at 8:30 A.M. for $100. To be eligible you had to win with a flush or better between the hours of 11:30 P.M. and 7:30 A.M. to receive a raffle ticket. And you had to be playing at the time of the drawing. Well, there was no way I would miss this! With two raffle tickets, I hung on until 8:30 A.M. winning a couple small pots to keep me afloat. But I did not win the raffle. So I racked up and left with about $60 extra. Nice. At least I wasn't down. But considering I played about 6 hours during the wee hours of the morning, not as much as I had hoped for.

I got one whole hour of sleep, and then we had to get ready and check out. Played some blackjack here and there. Lost some, won some. Copperfield was great but so short. Headed out to Primm Valley for dinner, and then onward to home.

This was the first trip to Vegas where I actually gambled and came with the intention of gambling. It was a great experience, and I hope to go again some time soon.

Good luck at the tables.