Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Kick in the Ass on the Way Out the Door

I'll be in Maryland where I grew up for 11 days starting tomorrow. Thankfully our dear friend Liz loves cats and has graciously offered to keep an eye on the house and Gus and Rio, so don't report us to the SPCA. Thanks Liz!

Since I've been working pretty hard the past month or two I've been ready for a vacation. Also I'd worked every day for 15 days straight between December 2nd and December 16th. So after a few hours on the morning of the 16th I mentally checked out. We had a Christmas party at our house that night and I spent all day Sunday glued to the couch watching football. I'd planned to get back to work on Monday, but instead Jen and I spent the day shopping, eating out and at the movies.

After spending the morning screwing around writing e-mails and generally wasting time I had to do some work to clear a $1,500 bonus before I left town. Things started out nicely as I found myself ahead $300 after 45 minutes. The terrible strain of this herculean effort required me to take a 2 hour lunch break.

I manged to haul myself back to my office at which point I experienced the second worst run of tournament finishes in my online career. The worst run I ever had was over 2 years ago when I had 23 straight SNG's in which I finished out of the money. If you assume that at worst I'm a player who makes the money 40% of the time then I can expect a stretch like that once every 126,625 tournaments. Of course after about 12 or 15 bricks in a row no one is playing their best so the chances of 23 misses in a row are a little better than that. Today I had a stretch that wasn't quite as bad, but still sucked. I had 12 misses in a row, then a 3rd and then 5 more misses.

The worst one was the 10th one in that stretch. Playing 4 handed with blinds of 100/200 and a 25 chip ante I had about 2,200 chips and was first to act. The player in the big blind had about 2,000 and the other two players each had just over 4,500. I raised to 600 with AK of spades and got called by the big blind. The flop came down 8 9 Q with 2 spades. While I didn't have a pair I was still in pretty good shape with two overcards and a flush draw and I knew I wouldn't be folding. In fact, I thought to myself "I hope this guy bluffs into me with a hand like AJ, that would be perfect." Sure enough, my opponent bet 700, I put in the rest of my chips and he called me with A10. "Ah ha!" I thought. Unless he manages to hit a J or a 10, THAT ISN'T A SPADE, I win and even if he does I can still hit a spade to win for sure. As you might have guessed a 10 came on the turn, I failed to hit a spade, or a J or a K on the river and I lost the pot.

But, that is not the end of the story. I still had 135 chips left. I went all in on the next two pots and split them both. Then I won a few pots and all of a sudden I was up to 1500 and back in it. The blinds had gone up to 200/400 and I found myself in the big blind with A4 of hearts. The player on the button inexplicably just called 400 as did the small blind who only had about 1500 total. I moved all in and the first player folded. The player in the small blind who was the same one who nailed me with the A10 earlier and had squandered some of my chips called me with Q8. The flop came down 3 4 J with 2 hearts. "Ha ha!" I thought. "This is just like before when I had WAY the best hand AND a flush draw covering some of my opponents outs. There's no way I can get totally screwed AGAIN after LOSING 9 STRAIGHT TOURNAMENTS." When the off suit Q came on the river and I lost the pot and my 10th straight tournament I was not happy.

Perhaps even more remarkable was the journey of the green dry erase marker that I grabbed off my desk at that moment. While a lengthy stream of F-bombs and other profanities came spewing forth at high volume from my very core, I threw the marker into the middle of the room with all my might. It glanced off a piece of furniture which cracked the marker and removed the cap. The now capless, split marker then managed to fly at a direct 90 degree angle to the direction in which I threw it where it came upon the intersection of a dresser and the wall. The dresser and the wall are also at 90 degrees to each other mind you. Yet somehow this single marker managed to make THREE concentric arcs of dots of ink on the dresser each at least 2 feet long AND a solid line of ink that was also in an arc shape on the wall. Talk about a magic marker!

Anyway I managed to lose about $600 on the day which wasn't how I wanted to go out on my last work day before my vacation, but I've certainly had worse days. I don't expect to write any posts while I'm in MD, but I have grandiose plans to work myself until I'm totally dead in January so that should lead to some interesting posts. Until then, have a merry Christmas and a Happy new year!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A brief comment answer

As I've said before I love comments (it makes me feel like people are actually reading my blog). In a recent comment Timm said "I'm no poker genius, and really not a computer genius either. have you thought about throwing a second video card in your computer so you could hook up a second monitor for dual desktops?"

This is something that I gave a fair amount of thought to when Jen and I moved into our current house in January. In the past I did all my playing on my laptop and was faced with VERY limited screen space so once we got a little more room I knew it was time to buy a desktop. I considered getting somewhat normal monitors and running them both off of one computer, but I instead opted to go for the 30 inch big ass monitor. I suppose, eventually I might want to get another one, but even though it's tax deductible I'm not ready to shell out another two grand for another one. Maybe when prices go down I'll reconsider. Another downside of adding an additional monitor is I need to be aware of what's going on in all of my games at all times and when you bring another monitor into the mix it means that instead of moving my eyes every half second I'll have to start moving my head as well.

If history has taught me anything it's that my super sweet $2,000 monitor will probably be gathering dust in the garage in 5 years rendered worthless by the new technology.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Who says 10 is too many?

Pokerstars is running a promotion until the end of the year where VIP players can turn their FPP's directly into cash instead of the normal merchandise or tournament entries. You get a better conversion rate if you have higher VIP status, but you have to exchange in bigger blocks. For example, if you are a silverstar VIP you can get $285 in cash for 25,000 FPP's, but if you're a supernova (like me) you can get $1,500 for 100,000 points. One small downside of this promotion is not only do you have to spend your FPP's, but you have to earn a certain number of additional points in a given time period to actually get the money, just like a deposit bonus. But, since I'm going to be playing anyway, who cares.

In an effort to get as many $1,500 blocks as I can, I've been trying to play a little more than usual lately. A few days ago, I decided to increase my points per hour generation and jump into a few bigish SNG's. After playing mostly $55's for the past month or so, I've started to lose a little bit of my tolerance for big losses.

As it is, I am probably the most risk averse professional gambler that you'll ever meet. You'd think that after playing 25+ tournaments with buys in's over $1,000 including one with a $5,000 price tag and another with a $10,000 one, I'd be totally desensitized. But I'm not. While this caution makes it difficult for me to take full advantage of a few opportunities, it's also kept me out of trouble. If you talk to many poker pros, including many of the worlds best players, they'll tell you that they were frequently broke during the first few years of their career. I've never been within shouting distance of broke, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where I even get close. With that said, I wish I wasn't such a big pussy sometimes when it comes to playing for big dollars.

While it wasn't exactly big dollars, I did feel a little nervous the other day when I jumped into three $225 SNG's and two $114's. If I blanked on all of them I'd be out just over $900 in the span of about 45 minutes. I got off to a shaky start when I went broke early in one of the 100's with JJ vs AK. Then I went down the toilet in a $225 when I lost AA to 55. YUCK! I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when I went down in 4th place in another $225. Sneaking through with a third in the remaining $100 and another dud in the remaining $225, I found myself stuck $714 for the set and close to $1,000 for the day (I'd lost a little over $250 over the course of about twenty five 55's earlier in the day).

While I was playing, I looked up every player in the $225's on sharkscope (there were a few players in more than one so it really wasn't that many unique players) and found a few players with really interesting stats. Surprisingly there were a bunch of BIG losers. There were 3 guys who had lost more than $50,000 (one of whom had an average buy in of $957 per SNG!) and quite a few more who were in the negative $10,000+ range.

Also, I was surprised by the lack of really strong players. There was one fellow who had an average buy in of $250 and was winning $20 a tournament, but most of the other players seemed pretty average or poor. But, the most shocking of all, was a player who had played 70 tournaments, had an average profit of $1 per tournament and an average buy in of $7! What made this guy decide to play in a $225 tournament? His total profit was only $70 and if you add up all the buy ins of all his previous experience it would only be enough for two buys ins at the $225 level.

Since I saw how shitty everyone's stats were, I decided to not give up and got back in the ring. I jumped into two $114's, two $225's and a $335. If I blanked, I'd be staring at a -$2,000 day and probably kick myself for being impatient and risking too much. On the other hand if I did well I could pick up some quick cash. After all winning the $335 alone would net me almost $1,100.

Happily, I doubled up early in one tournament of each buy in. I started to feel better about my chances of having a small losing day instead of a big one and thought that getting back to even was a possibility. We got down to 4 handed very quickly in the $335 and I told myself to stay patient and play it just how I normally do. After what seemed like an eternity we had a chance for someone to go broke when two players went all in before the flop. One had 4,000 chips and AK and the other had 2,000 chips and 10 10. I crossed my fingers and after an A and a K showed up on the flop I was a 10 to 1 favorite to make the money. A 6 on the turn made it 20 to 1 and...WHAT a 10 on the river! I told myself it didn't really matter and I still had a good chance to make the money. Meanwhile I'd gone broke in one $114 and one $225, but I'd managed to make the money and was still playing in the other two. I thought about how cool it would be to make the money in a $100, a $200 and a $300 SNG at the same time.

Play continued in the $335 and no one seemed to be getting any cards worth going all in with. Even though I was kicking ass in the other two, I really wanted to make the money in the $335 and that was where I directed my focus. I took 1st in the $114 when my 33 beat KQ and then I took 1st in the $225 when I beat AK with KJ (very lucky). Now all I needed was the almost $600 I would get for 3rd in the $335 to get even for the day and anything else would be gravy.

I was starting to get a little short on chips when the following hand came up. I had about 2,000 left (there were 13,500 chips in play) and found myself in the big blind with A4 and blinds of 100/200 with a 25 chip ante. The two other players folded to the small blind (he also had about 2,000 chips) who just called. This guy was a total nut job. He was raising a ton, so by just calling he was telling me he didn't like his hand very much. I decided to put him to the test and moved all in. He thought for a long time and then called me with K3. K3? You dumb shit! What are you doing calling me with K3 for all of your chips 4 handed in a $335 tournament? I was 60% to win, but I was thinking more about the 40% chance I had of losing. After a 3 came on the flop and no help materialized on the turn or river I was out in 4th and left thinking back on the earlier hand where the 10 killed my chances on the river and the dumbass who knocked me out.

Today I took a different approach to generating points quickly when I jumped into 10 $55's at the same time! Gasp! I'd never played more than 9 games at once before and the problem wasn't really managing the games, but rather getting them to all fit on my screen AND be big enough so I could easily read the text. Also, it's not exactly easy to resize and reposition 10 windows while playing in 10 games. Once I got it set up, everything worked pretty well. After dropping two duds, I had a little external drama when my wife blew a fuse while vacuuming and disabled our router thus disabling our internet access. Luckily, I was able to get back on after about 90 seconds. Maybe this interruption was good luck because I went on to make the money in 6 of the remaining 8 SNG's with FOUR 1sts and two 2nds.

Overall I ended up winning what felt like an easy $1,000 today in limited action. I still have to play about 300 SNG's in the next week to earn the points I need to buy another $1,500 FPP block so I'm sure I'll be ready for a vacation when I leave for Maryland next Wednesday.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sharkscope and 100 SNG's

I've come across an interesting service for online poker players. It's called Sharkscope. Basically Sharkscope is a database of all SNG results for the major poker sites. You can search for a player by username and it will give you some data about their past results.

You just type in their name, click on search and about 5 seconds later it will tell you how many SNG's the player has played, their win/loss per tournament (in dollars), their average buy in, and their average return on investment (a percentage). I'm not sure how they get the data and from what I can tell in comparing my (and Jen's) records to their data about us, it's not 100% accurate. But, it's pretty close. The service costs $15 a month for 150 searches a day, but you can do 5 a day for free.

After a few days of doing 5 free searches I put out the big bucks and paid for a month of searches. I've noticed a few interesting things. According to the Sharkscope FAQ section about 2/3 of SNG players are losing players. I thought it would be MUCH higher than that. Also from my searches it seems that about 75% of the players at the $100 level are winning players at some level. While there are a few winning players with average buys ins in the $100-$125 range (and higher) most of the players seem to be winning at smaller stakes and playing a few $100 tournaments here and there.

On the other hand I would expect that at the lower levels you'll find boat loads of losing players. For the most part, the money flows uphill. When I'm winning money at the $100 level it's mostly coming from people who are winning $55 players. These players are winning most of their money from $33 players who have won at lower limits and are trying to move up as well and so on down the line. At the bottom it's all losers pumping money into the system. It's like nature, where the lizards eat the flies and the lizard eaters eat the lizards and the coyotes eat the lizard eaters and the pumas eat the coyotes and giraffes eat the pumas and then we have giraffe steaks on Thursday nights. It's just like the picture of the food chain that all of you who went to California Public schools (except the one my wife went to of course) saw on the wall of your class room. It was right next to the periodic table of elements from 1895 and just above the world map where the U.S. was referred to as "The New World." Mmmmm giraffe steak.

Of course there are plenty of losers who would lose at any level and just want to play for an amount of money that's interesting to them. I was playing 5 handed in one game with a player who'd lost $36,000 over 2,000 tournaments with an average buy in of $145 and another who'd lost $76,000 over about 1,000 tournaments and had an average buy in of $430! It's costing the second guy about $75 every time he plays a tournament. He must REALLY enjoy playing.

So far I'm not sure how much the information I'm getting is going to help my bottom line. I noticed the first day that I was spending too much time looking people up and not enough paying attention to what they were actually doing. But, every time I look someone up I make a note on them with their info (the websites have a function where you can make notes on other players and every time you face them in the future their note is right there for you to look at). That way I never have to look anyone up twice and eventually I'll have notes on a good chunk of the players.

What I've found most helpful is finding a player who is playing way over their head. Anyone who has an average buy in of $20 or less and is playing in a $100 tournament is going to be nervous and really sweating the money. It's easy to push these players around. It's also nice when I notice that they're using tactics that are common to the lower limits, but don't work in the bigger games. The most drastic case of this was someone who had an average buy in of $7 and was losing at that level playing in a $100 SNG with me.

A few times when faced with a big decision I've stopped in the middle of a hand to look someone up. This has been pretty helpful since the same raise will mean two very different things coming from an experienced winning player or a big loser. While it's helped me win a few nice pots that I might not have, I've also screwed myself by calling when I would have folded if I didn't have any data about my opponent. The long term benefits are still up in the air.

On another note I finally managed to play 100 SNG's in a day yesterday. The key was getting my face smashed (repeatedly) by a big, grey, vibrating cat at 7:30 in the morning. I was able to get started at about 8:15 and managed to play 64 SNG's before I took my standard 2 p.m. lunch break. I'd gone back to playing 100's for the past week or two, but I decided to go with the 55's since I knew I wouldn't be at my sharpest towards the end.

When I got to about 85 I really started struggling with mental fatigue, but my results were great. In the 6 tournaments from 86 to 91 (inclusive) I got a 3rd, two 2nds and three 1sts which, while profitable, also meant that I was playing short handed in a ton of tournaments at the same time. To play the remaining 9 felt like it took about 4 hours, but I made it.

I won just over $800 which is right on pace with the $8 per tournament that I managed during my executive week challenge. Over the course of these tournaments I paid $6,000 in tournament buy-ins (the tournaments are actually $55+5), paid $500 in juice, earned 8,750 FPP's (worth $139.55), and played approximately 5,000 hands. If you were to play 5,000 hands in a casino it would take you 143 hours, which is six days straight around the clock without missing a single hand or three and a half weeks working full time. Isn't the internet great?