Friday, October 30, 2009

We're Going Streaking!

I am on a great run! Today I won $1,500 in a few short hours of play on Cake and Absolute poker.

There is this movie Knockaround Guys (which is an OK movie) starting Vin Diesel, Seth Green, and a few other people you might have heard of that I think about sometimes when I'm playing on these other sites.

In the movie the main characters who are a bunch of New York (I think) gangsters, and sons of mafia types who are major king pins, lose a bag of money with hundreds of thousands of dollars in it. They know what town it ended up in, but don't know who has it. So their plan is to go to the toughest bar then can find in the town, find the toughest guy in that bar, and beat the shit out of him. That way everyone in the town will be interested in helping them find their money.

In the online poker world, pokerstars is New York and if you're a tough guy there than you're a tough guy anywhere. While I'm not the mafia boss, I'm certainly a wise guy and sometimes I feel like I'm beating the shit out of the toughest guys in the suburbs.

I'm on one of my best streaks ever. I've won 10 days in a row with no win of less than $500!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cruisin' for a Bruisin!

After a week of vacation I'm back home and I have a post laden with F-Bombs for you! In general my vacation was great, but I have a few choice words (or more than a few...paragraphs) for a certain operation.

The main purpose of this vacation was to go on a 4 night cruise to Mexico with my wife and two of our closest friends (our son stayed with is grandparents and got 4 days of rule bending grandparent love).

I got a little sea sick (think 2 out of 10 with 0 being no seasickness and 10 being puking over the rail the whole time) once we pulled out into the open ocean even though we were sailing through calm waters. The food was better than I expected, and since we were paying for drinks they were very good as well. We drank a lot, sang karaoke (poorly, but with lots of energy) 3 of the 4 nights, and took part in a few of the organized cruise activities.

The highlight of the trip was a one hour Kayak tour of "The Bufadora" which literally means "blowhole". It's a geologic formation that is essentially a long, thin tunnel that fills up with a mixture or air and water as waves come in and then shoots the water between 30 and 100 feet in the air based on the intensity of the wave. We also spent some time paddling around the surrounding bay looking at star fish, rock formations and whatnot.

It was pretty amazing and was only over shadowed by the tacos we had afterwards. We had to take a bus ride from the boat to the Bufadora and on the way back our tour guide (who was a local) took us to a hole in the wall taco stand that was packed. The were making the tortillas and grilling the meat right in front of us. When a taco got to your mouth, 60 seconds earlier the meat was on the grill and the tortilla didn't exist yet. It was awesome.

But this blog is about poker and gambling so now I'm going to talk about the casino on the ship! Here is what I have to say about the Carnival Cruise Line casino (and this is in no way based on my results which were slightly negative, but not unreasonable)...FUCK YOU CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE CASINO!

I'm not sure how many casinos I've been to, but it's at least 50 and probably closer to 100. This was without a doubt the worst one. Allow me to explain why starting with the less significant and moving to the down right ridiculous.

There was a $5 craps game that had 2 times odds as the maximum odds you could take on a passline or come bet. I've never seen that before. But more annoying was how quickly they moved the dice. On a few occasions the stickman was pushed the dice to the shooter before the other dealers were done getting the odds bets from the previous roll set!

Another indication of the rushed atmosphere was that I didn't get at pass line bet down before the come out roll two times in a row. I don't think that's ever happened to me before and I've been drunk at a lot of craps tables for hours and hours. Over the course of 30 minutes there were a half dozen occasions where I thought "Holy Shit! There are the dice! I can't believe the rolled already!" To make things worse, the dealers were making mistakes here and there, so I didn't have confidence that I was being paid correctly (which meant I had to really pay attention) and most of the other players didn't know what they were doing so I had to make sure no one was going to scoop up my money thinking it was theirs.

But that's not really that bad. Worse was that they adjusted the payouts on some of the games! For example they paid 3 to 1 on a flush in 3 card poker instead of 4 to 1. That might not seem like a big deal, but in a normal Vegas casino 3 card poker has a house edge of 2.3% meaning for every $100 you bet in the long run you can expect to get back $97.70. Not too bad. With the table they were using the house edge was 7.3%! ACK! For a comparison roulette (which is one of the worst games) has a house edge of 5.25%. They'd also made similar draconian adjustments to the payout scales on Let it Ride and Caribbean stud which were the only other games that they offered using payout tables.

To sum up they made regular casino games HARDER to beat! The system that Vegas has used to build all those billion dollar hotels was too soft for them! I don't even want to know what they did to the slot machines.

As a brief aside we at dinner at a very large round table and one fellow kindly informed us, as if he was sharing a real gem that we should most certainly take to heart, that "craps and roulette are the best games in the casino." Why thank you kind gent for sharing your expert opinion and giving us lay folk the vital information we need to win in the casino. I'll get right to the roulette wheel. In your opinion what numbers are best to bet?

Some other douchebag (and it's a kindness to leave it at just that) was talking about his "system" for beating slot machines. Shortly after he had to think about hitting 7 in blackjack. You've got a 5 and a 2 pal! Even though they're trying to screw you at every opportunity, there didn't put any 15's in the deck!

Now is where I get extra worked up. On the website they go on and on about how it's a cashless boat and you can bet everything with this magic card. When you get on they give you a card that's liked to your credit card and you can use it to buy anything on the ship. It's also your room key and what you need to show to get off and on the boat at the various ports. In the casino you can buy chips with this card, but they charge you a 3% fee! You bastards are going to gouge me on every game in the house and before you do it, you want to take 3% off the top! FUCK YOU CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE CASINO!

But wait! There's more! You can go to old downtown in Vegas, play $1 roulette and drink for free all night, but the drinks were normal price in the casino! $4.95 plus an included mandatory 15% tip for a Budweiser!

Which leads me to another point. They had a group of $9 drinks on the menu all over the ship. They were good drinks and I was fine paying $9 for them. If you brought a receipt for one of those drinks to the casino cashier they'd give you a "$5 match play" card. Sounds like five bucks off a drink right?" WRONG! If you get promotional chips in a normal casino you play them like normal chips. You bet $5 and if you win you get a normal $5 chip while your promotional chip stays there. If you lose they take it. With these $5 match cards, first of all you had to put $5 of your own money into play as well to use it, and second of all they take the card if you lose AND if you win AND IF YOU PUSH! What's that all about?

I was with my wife and we went up to a black jack table, put down our card with a $5 chip on it, got a 20, the dealer busted and when he went to pay us he put down two $5 chips and took our card. My wife asked what was going on. The dealer and the pit boss then went on a rambling 60 second explanation of how the cards worked using the phrase "just like money."

Just like money? It's not anything like money you dicks! Did I mention that they were dicks? Because if I didn't allow me to now mention that these guys were total dicks! They treated us like we were trying to pull something and like we were idiots, instead of just explaining how it works. Try this you dicks "If you win we pay you an extra $5, but the card is only good for ONE hand and we have to take it every time, win, lose or push (slight understanding frown)."

I'm sure it's not great fun to work in a cruise ship casino, but everyone in there looked and acted like they were in the last 10 minutes of a 16 hour shift.

We haven't even gotten to the worst part yet, but before we get to that let me talk about the poker they had. There was an electronic table with a touch screen at every seat and a large sceen in the middle of the table. I've read a few articles about these tables, but I'd never seen one in person. My review of the table is about the only thing positive I can say about the casino. Actually it's not entirely positive, because I think they should have had a real table, with a real dealer and chips, because that's much more fun and that's what cruise ships are supposed to be about!

But the table itself worked perfectly. The game was $1/$2 blinds no limit hold'em and you could buy in for a maximum of $200 with your magic card. Actually now that I think about it there was one major flaw in the table, which I'm sure was just the cruise people choosing the options. There was nothing about posting blinds to get your first hand. When you bought in, they just dealt you in. If you sat out and missed the blinds when you sat back in they'd just post them for you without asking no matter what position you were in. I guess they thought that would be too complicated for some reason.

When you got dealt in your touch screen would have a picture of cards face down and if you touched them the top corners would peal up so you could see what you had. When you action got to you, you've have a set of options just like in online poker (you couldn't declare what you were going to do before the action got to you like you can in online poker). You'd select an option like check or fold or whatever and then you have to touch the top right corner of the screen to confirm that's really what you wanted to do. If you wanted to bet or raise there were pictures of $1, $5, $25 and $100 chips which you could touch to create a bet amount. So if you wanted to bet $39 you'd touch the $25, the $5 twice and the $1 four times, then touch the "bet $39" button, followed by the "Confirm Bet $39" button. It sounds like kind of a mess, but it was actually pretty easy to use and the action moved along smoothly.

The biggest problem with the poker was the rake. In the games I play they take $1 for every pot over $20 that goes to the flop, $2 for a pot over $40 and $3 for a pot over $60 with $3 being the max (and I get a bunch of it back in bonuses, FPPs and rakaback). In this game they took 10% of the pot up to $40 and some piece beyond that. I didn't play for too long, there weren't a ton of big pots, and I wasn't really focused on working out the precise rake system, but I saw $8 come out of a $150 or so pot. Since most pots were less than $40 they were taking 10% out of most pots. On average the players were in for about $100 each. That means if you took ALL of the money on the table it was enough to pay the rake for 5 or 6 hours (Maybe 200-250 hands).

I lost a few big hands and decided to call it quits with $37 left in front of me. Foolishly I thought this would be credited back to the account that it came from. What was I thinking? They'd have no chance to screw me over if they did things that way! I found out on the last night of the cruise at 11 pm as I was cashing in a few chips that I had to give them my card and they'd give me $37 in cash. Otherwise that money was gone into la la land. It didn't say that anywhere. The only reason I found out was I was in the casino when they made an announcement. I'd been in there for 5 or 6 hours over the course of the cruise and didn't hear a whisper before the 11th hour. FUCK YOU CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE CASINO!

I know this has been a long post, but I have yet to get to THE WORSE GOUGING OF ALL TIME! Yes folks I placed not one, but THE TWO WORST WAGERS OF MY ENTIRE LIFE on this cruise.

The first was bingo. They had a large theater for shows and such and on the first night we were there they had bingo (they had it there other nights, but we didn't go). For $10 you could get one bingo card, and for $20 you could get 3 cards. There was some other reason for this gathering other than the bingo, but I can't quite remember what it was. Maybe 200 people were in the room and it looked like half of them were playing bingo. Without a doubt they'd collected a few grand $40 of which came from our group. Guess what the prizes were? ONE $500 prize. Are you fucking kidding me? They played one game which took five minutes and paid out one $500 prize regardless of the money collected.

But wait! It gets worse! There was also a "black jack tournament." Notice the quotes. Calling this a black jack tournament is like calling goat a finely tuned thoroughbred. They told us that the tournament would last from 7:30 to 10:30 and I was surprised that they would run something that would take so long. It sounded like fun. I figured everyone would start with x number of chips and the minimum bet would gradually be raised or we'd play a bunch of hands and whoever had above a certain chip count, say in the top 25% or whatever would move on and then we'd do the same thing again.

Here is the way it actually worked. For $20 you got ten $100 tournament chips. You had 7 hands to turn those chips into as much as possible. We started at 7:30 and at 11:15 the 7 players with the highest chip total would come back and play 7 more hands at "the final table." By the time the action was underway there were 30 or so people signed up to play. The first set of 7 players played their 7 hands, and the best of them ended up with $1,800 in chips. Everyone in my group played in the second round and the best of us ended up with $1,500 in chips.

Here is where things get fishy. The action started at 7:30 and went until 10:30 and they allowed people to enter more than once. While I wasn't there the whole time as far as I can tell they ran this set up at one table constantly from 7:30 until 11:00. Each round lasted something like 6 or 7 minutes and at most 10 minutes. Every time 7 new players sat down that should have been $140 into the prize pool to be payed out to the players at the final table. Right? Isn't that how this should work? Isn't this just something fun to do on the ship or at worst a way to get people into the casino? After all there was plenty of fun stuff to do on the ship that was free. Karaoke was free, mini golf was free, the water slide was free. Hell even the food was free, with 24 hour room service!

So after three and a half hours of collecting $140 from set after set of players every 7 minutes guess what the prizes were? ONE $500 PRIZE! That's right. One prize. $500 regardless of the amount of money collected.

Even if the rounds all took 10 minutes that would be 21 rounds which is $2,940. That's the conservative estimate of what they took in, and they paid out one $500 prize. What a bunch of dicks! Don't do that to your customers Carnival! What the hell is wrong with you! Take 10% off the top or even 20%, but paying out one $500 prize when you've taking in thousands is just wrong. Even the lottery pays out 60% of the money they take in.

I knew ahead of time that there was only one $500 prize on the line, but when we got there at 7:25 and signed up there were only 10 people registered. I thought it was going to be whoever signs up before or at about 7:30 is in the mix. But letting people play as many entries as they want and continuing to take entries for over 3 hours is nuts! The top chip counts were all over $16,000! Guess what? It ain't easy to turn 1,000 chips into 16,000 in 7 hands and that was the worst of the top 7! How many entries do you think that took?

One more time say it with me: FUCK YOU CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE CASINO! YOU'RE A BUNCH OF DICKS!

Everyone else who worked on the cruise was great or at least fine. The entertainment staff, the dining staff and certainly the bartenders, waiters and waitresses were all friendly and competent if not wonderful.

In other news, after my PANIC! post I have been doing amazingly well. In my last post I mentioned the tournament success. At my in law's house I played maybe 2 hours on Monday and won $700, and hour or two on Tuesday and won $550 and, and hour Wednesday and won $650. That makes 8 straight winning days with the worst of them being $500 to the good. Things have gone from about as bad as they could be, to great. I hope I can keep it up these last few days of the month and into November.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two Final Tables

The only tournaments I've played since the WCOOP have been a handful of freerolls. But today with the plan of taking it easy I jumped into two multitables: a $109 no limit hold'em and a $5 with rebuys with one $25 add on no limit Omaha-8 (yes that is a wacky format).

The Omaha had 179 players and a first place prize of $800 and change. The only thing worth mentioning about this tournament was with 13 players left I was down to 129 chips. Though an insane series of double ups, triple ups and quadruple ups I got my stack all the say back up to 27,000 which still had me in last place! I increased my stack by a factor of 209 and was still in dead last! But while I was winning all of those pots other people were going broke and I went from 13th to 9th which made me a whopping extra $33. There was still a little satisfaction in making the final table and the monster turnaround. I'll try to remember it the next time I'm somewhat short chipped.

The final table of the $109 NLH was much more significant. I got off to a good start early with a double up holding AJ vs QQ. I have to think about that hand when I get pissed about the hand that I lost in the end. I also beat JJ with AKs with all of my chips at risk early.

Much, much later when the blinds were 2,000/4,000 (we each started the tournament with 3,000 chips and blinds of 10/20) I made two strong plays, but still got a little lucky.

On the first occasion, I was in the big blind with 130,000 chips or so and the player in the cutoff who had about 160,000 raised to 9,000. Every time without exception that the action had been folded to him on my big blind he'd raised (at least 10 times) and he always made it between 2X and 2.5X the big blind. I'm not sure why he kept doing it since I called at least half time time and every time I called I took the pot away from him.

The second to last time he made this play (there's a little hint about what he has coming to him) I had 97 of hearts and decided to call the extra 5,000 and see the flop. It came down T 8 5 with one heart giving me an open ended straight draw. I checked my opponent bet 10,000 and I check raised him to 30,000.

He thought for 30 seconds or so and I was trying to decide if I should go for it if he moved all in. Instead of going all in he made it 60,000 and I opted to call and see the next card before committing all of my chips. The turn was the 8 of hearts which meant I now had a flush draw to go along with my hand. It also looked like kind of a scary card for my opponent since I could easily have an 8. I figured I had enough to go for it since there was 140,000 in the pot and I only had 60,000 left so I bet out. After some thought my opponent folded and I was up to 200,000. In retrospect I think he thought that I was check raise bluffing the flop and he put in one more raise to try and resteal.

On the next round we got into it again. This time I had K5 of clubs and decided to take a flop after the villain min raised to 8,000. The flop came down 8 6 4 with one club. I checked and my opponent bet out 12,000. I decided to get aggressive. We were down to 20 players and the prize jumps were starting to get significant so I was hoping he'd be careful and bail out if I pushed him. Since his range was VERY broad, I figured I could blow him off his hand with a big raise. Also working for me was the fact that I had him covered by a lot, and a 7 or a king would likely make me the best hand even if I got called. I moved all in and he instantly called me with 89. Happily the turn was a 7, I made a straight and took down a huge pot. I had 280,000 chips and was in first place.

By the time we made the final table I was in 4th place and liking my chances. 9th place was only $900 or so and first place was $12,500 so it was nice that a few players dropped out quickly and I moved up the money ranks a bet before I got involved in any big hands.

When we got down to 5 handed, four of us had 300,000 or more and one player had 80,000 or so. I was guessing that if we could drop that one guy we could make a deal and split the remaining prize money. While 90% of the time playing it out is going to be in my favor in a tournament of this size and significance, given my recent struggles locking up some big bucks was my first priority. But the stupid Q6 of hearts got in the way of this glorious plan!

Playing 5 handed the blinds were 4K/8K with an ante, Mr. 80K folded and the next player made it 19K to go. The other two players called and it was on me with Q6 of hearts in the big blind. I had 400,000 chips and part of me said "what's the point of playing a hand here? Just wait until Mr. 80K is gone before you do anything fancy."

The other part of me said "You only have to put in another 11K to see a flop, there's already 68K in the pot and if you hit it hard you could bust someone." I decided the pot odds were too good to pass up. The flop came down Q 5 3 with two hearts.

"What the hell do I do now?" I thought. That was a strong flop for my hand, but I could easily be behind (this is why it's not good to get in there with Q6). I decided it would be best to check, see what everyone else did and go from there. To my great surprise everyone checked and the turn came out a non heart jack. Based on the flop action it looked like I had way the best hand.

The small blind bet out 28K which I knew was bullshit. That looked like a jack at best or more likely a total bluff. I thought about popping it, but I decided I'd try to get to showdown as cheaply and risk free as possible. Then the God damned button moved all in for 325K!

The small blind folded and it was back to me. My first thought was "this guys is full of shit too." I knew this was not a monster hand. First of all he checked last to act on the flop vs 3 opponents on a somewhat dangerous board and second of all it was a massive overbet. If he had a set he would have made it 100K or so, not 325K.

But, there was still Mr. 80K waiting to go broke and upon his or anyone else's exit I'd instantly pick up another $1,500. Did I really want to take this chance? There were close to 2,000,000 chips in play and if I called and won I'd have 40% of them and be in total command. If I lost I'd have 50K and one foot out the door.

After 15 seconds I trusted my read, put my balls on the chopping block, and called. My opponent had KJ and I made my flush on the river. Unfortunately it was KJ of hearts and he made a flush too! Bastard! For the record I was a 73% favorite when all of the money went in.

My remaining chips went out the window a few hands later when I lost KQ to AJ and that was it. 5th place paid $3,531! Less that I'd have had with one more break, but I caught my share of breaks already and $3,500 is still some nice bucks!

I'm on a nice little roll here. I've had five winning days in a row and picked up a little over $10,000 during that stretch. I have to admit that the me of 6 days ago would barely have believed that I could go on a run like this at such an opportune time. It's been well into the top 1% of my expectations. All of a sudden everything is back to good.

Now it's cruise time bitches!

Briefly

I got a call from my sister today. After reading my last post she was wondering if I was OK. I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm fine, if not good. I won $800 today in limited action, and after several very strong winning days in a row I feel like I'm back in command of my own destiny.

Moving forward I need to make sure that I always bail out from games that have become unfavorable and if there are no good games going on Pokerstars or AP, I need to just not play! If I stick to that I'm confident I can do what I need to do to make enough to get by. The big bucks might need to be put on hold for a while, but supporting my family is always goal #1 and I'm back to feeling like I can do that.

Monday, October 19, 2009

PANIC!

I try to have a good attitude and a positive outlook on the future. Objectively I can look back on the last 9 years that I've been playing poker and say that I've made steady improvement and that without a doubt I am a winner in every sense of the word. But in the back of my mind part of me still feels like I'm on summer vacation. I worry that this won't last forever and that someday I'm going to have to go try to finish school or get a job. With the exception of someone close to me dying, or my health failing, that is my greatest fear.

I've had a few runs where I've dropped a ton of money. Gobs of money. Shit loads of money. Not new TV money, new car money. Game show money. After these massive downswings it's impossible not to doubt yourself.

I like to keep at least $10,000 in online accounts to work with. That feels like the minimum I need. I've been fortunate to get that number up over $30,000 a few times, but there was once about 2 years ago that I was down to $500.

At that point I was mentally exploring every option at my disposal. I don't just have plan B. I always have plans C, D, E, F, and G in the works. Who can I borrow money from? How much do I need? What about going back to playing in person? Maybe I should try another site. I could start playing a different game or format. Maybe I should go back to dealing cards. Maybe we should move to southern California and live with my wife's parents for 6 months while I play at the Commerce. My wife could get a job and I could stay home and write a book and become and excellent cook.

It's hard to think about anything else. I bounced back from that $500 and again turned it into enough to make a strong living (that was shortly before my successful quest to become Supernova Elite).

Another time earlier in my career I had 8 losing days in a row. I'm not sure how much I lost, but I sure as hell wasn't going into day 9 thinking "No problem, I'm sure I'll be able to turn this around."

My worst month ever was March 2006. In January I'd started playing no limit cash games after struggling in the sit-n-go's that had been my focus for most of my career. I won $11,000 in January, and $17,000 in February playing $3/$6 blinds games and was feeling like the sky was the limit. Then I lost $11,000 in March which is still my worst month ever. The month started well so you can imagine the downswing it took for me to lose $11,000 for the month.

I mention all of this because I've been having some major trouble this month. At the start, I lost $6,000 over the course of 4 straight losing days. I didn't play any higher than $15/$30 and it was over a weekend which is supposed to be the best time to play!

After that I started exploring the other websites in earnest and was doing well for the most part. I wasn't killing it, but I was winning steadily. Then I dropped $4,000last Monday.

I'd been playing all day and was about to call it quits around 6, about an hour before dinner. Then I made it to the top of the waiting list for a great $15/$30 game and decided to sit down. I was losing $1,500 or so at that point and I was tired, but it was a game I knew I could beat no matter how I was feeling. Also I noticed two of the worst players in the universe had joined the waiting list behind me.

This $15/$30 game was the only one going at those stakes, but there was one player whose name I didn't recognize sitting waiting to start a new game. I was thinking that if I started playing him heads up, then maybe the goofs on the waiting list for the other game would join too. They never did.

I ended up playing this guy for 30-40 minutes and I got my doors blown off. I lost $1,000 to him in the first 5 minutes and another $1,000+ over the next half hour.

What gave me so much trouble was my opponent saw 100% of the flops regardless of preflop action so I had a lot of trouble putting him on a specific hand or even a range. In a 6 handed game or even a 3 handed game you can't get away with that. You'd get decimated. But playing heads up, especially in a format where the small blind is 2/3 of the big blind, you're always getting pretty good odds to call. Of course I think you could do better if you folded the bottom 20% of hands, but clearly this guy had committed.

Normally when you have someone who plays every hand preflop they are not a good player and make plenty of mistakes after the flop. But this guy played well after the flop.

Of course he got really lucky in the first 5 minutes winning the vast majority of the pots and all of the big ones. There was one hand where I had AK of clubs in the small blind (which is also the button in heads up) and raised. He three bet and I capped it. The flop came with 2 clubs and he bet into me. I raised and he three bet it. The turn was a brick and he check raised me. The river was a 6 and with both checked. He turned over 67 of clubs and took the pot with a pair of sixes. That was a $330 pot and not an isolated incident.

On top of taking every flop he took it to the turn 85% of the time as well. But the son of a bitch had great timing for letting his hand go. He literally called me down with king high no pair (which was the best hand) when I'd raised the turn and bet the river on one hand and then folded on the flop the very next hand when I had AA. I'd flop the nut straight and he'd fold. I'd have ace high and he'd fire into me relentlessly with 63 and hit the three on the river. He'd three bet semibluff me on the turn and get there while I was missing every draw. I wanted to scream!

Most of the time I just could not make a God damn pair and like I said I was up against a guy who was seeing every flop and calling me down with king high (and sometimes queen high) so I felt totally hand cuffed.

Towards the end of the match I looked up my opponent to see if he was playing any other games. He was sitting by himself waiting to play anyone who came along at two $30/$60 games and a $50/$100. That's not the kind of guy you want to play.

In the end I lost a little over $2,000 to him. If you think about it, we played maybe 125 hands (we were playing very fast so it could have been more like 150 or 175) and our average pot was at least $150 so that means he won something like 70 pots and I won 57. Without a doubt, short term luck fluctuations could be the reason I lost. No matter how good he was, losing that much in such a short time means I ran bad. Maybe he wasn't any good at all, and just ran hot. But it sure didn't feel that way. It felt like I'd been totally dismantled. Embarrassed. Eviscerated. Emasculated. Destroyed.

There was now doubt that I'd been beaten and I felt horrible. All the tension and anger that I was feeling while I was playing, turned into sadness and despair when I was done. I went for a walk down by the water, sat on a log and cried.

Like I said, I ended up losing about $4,000 on Monday. I took Tuesday off and on Thursday I lost another $2,000+. ACK! The problem with these losses isn't just the money. We have plenty of money in our long term savings to get us through and I've lost $2,000 in a day fifty times if not more. The problem with repeated losses is what they say about future prospects.

Online poker games and the state of the poker world is in a constant state of flux. Players come and go. Laws and regulations change. Fads pop up and fade away. New tactics are conceived, written down, taught and implemented. Just because you can beat a game today doesn't mean you'll be able to beat it in 6 months or a year.

I used to dominate $100 SNGs on Party Poker and then on Pokerstars. My ROI was over 10% for thousands and thousands of tournaments (I made over $10 a tournament). Then it was 5%. Then it was 2%. Over the course of a year I went from being able to make $500 a day playing 50 SNGs, to needing to play 80 a day to just make $160. I had to shift gears and start playing cash games to continue making a living and I'm always worried that I'll have to shift again. And I don't want to!

With these losses in the front on my mind, I sat back down to play on Thursday. I started off losing maybe $500 or so. I had about $3,500 left in my pokerstars account and $1,000 on Absolute when I took my lunch break. That looked like two more bad days or one really bad day. By the end of the day I was back to $4,000 in pokerstars and had $1,100 in AP. $100 isn't anything in the grand scheme, but it was good to not have a losing day.

The next day I broke even, but I had a killer weekend. I felt focused, I played well and I got some decent cards. By Sunday night I was up to $6,300 in pokerstars and $3,500 in AP, which is just about the $10,000 I feel like I need.

The money for November's bills has already been set aside, so I'm looking ahead to December 1st when we'll need to pay rent and December 7th when our credit card will need to be paid (we put all of out bills and do almost all of our spending with one credit card and pay it off all the way every month).

So a few days after being in full on PANIC mode, I once again feel fine and hopeful about the future. All of the rakeback that I've earned on AP in October will be paid in one big chunk on November 15th along with whatever I earn in the AP rake race. That should be something like $3,000 total. I'm about to clear a $1,500 FPP block on poker stars, and I'm 80,000 VPPs away from hitting the 600,000 VPP milestone which means another $6,000 before the end of the year. I had all of those things going for me Thursday afternoon too, but they didn't feel like much of a boon then.

I'm going to put in a few light work days today and tomorrow and then my wife and I are leaving our son with his Nana and Papi and going on a 4 day Mexican Cruise leaving San Diego on Thursday. I am ready for the vacation!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rakeback Vs. FPPs: Which is better?

Rake is the money that the websites or casinos take out of the pot or out of the tournament prize pool to make a profit. At first glance it doesn't seem overwhelmingly significant, but it's like running into the wind. Over a few steps it doesn't make much difference, but over a few miles you'll be more tired and won't be able to go as far. Hopefully this post will help you get more streamlined.

As I mentioned in a few previous posts I've been shifting away from pokerstars to some degree. Pokerstars is still home and I hope I can make it my exclusive place of play again in the future, and perhaps make Supernova Elite again. But for now the games have been so tough that I've been forced to branch out.

I mentioned rake, but what exactly is rakeback? Well, it's a discount. None of the websites offer this discount directly, but rather through a few third party websites who get a piece of the pie as well for promoting the pokersites and drumming up new business. All of the major websites offer rakeback (except pokerstars) and they all offer about 30% give or take a few percentage points.

That means if you play a $55 tournament with $5 in juice then you'll get back $1.50. If you play 1,000 of those tournaments you'd get back $1,500. It's a little trickier with cash games, but as best I understand it anytime you put money in the pot they say you've contributed to the rake. For example let's say you raise preflop and the small blind folds and the big blind calls. You and the big blind go all the way to the showdown, put in a bunch of money and in the end the site takes $3 out of the pot. Even though two of you put in a lot and one player put in a very small amount it all counts equally. You, the SB and BB have each payed $1 in rake and you personally would get 30 cents back. Everyone else in the hand who got dealt in by didn't put in any money on that hand would get nothing in terms of rakeback.

This money piles up and gets deposited into your account either once a week or once a month.

This is a message for the poker players out there who read this blog; YOU'RE THROWING AWAY INSANE AMOUNTS OF MONEY IF YOU AREN'T GETTING RAKEBACK! Read it again. I mean it. You MUST start playing somewhere where you can get rakeback (with pokerstars being the one exception).

I came across a blog of a fellow poker player who played high stakes SNGs. He had made about $5,000 in the past 8 months in the actual SNG tournament play and $200,000 in rakeback and bonuses!!!

For those of you who want to know how you can get on board, let me tell you how to do that now so you don't get bogged down in the rest of this lengthy post. While I know there are other sites the one I use is rakebacknation.com. I don't know if they are the best, but they've paid me on time, I got a response for support in about an hour when I e-mailed a question, and they have deals with all of the major sites (and a few minor ones too). In short I trust them.

If you want to sign up for rakeback with an existing account, you are probably out of luck (although there is an area to submit an existing account for rakeback consideration). But it's worth it to have your spouse or a friend open a new account and then let you use it. Or you can switch sites. I know how easy it is to get comfortable at one site, but there's no reason to limit your game selection and like I keep saying RAKE BACK IS HUGE! There is a calculator on the site that will show you how much you can get back and it seems accurate to me.

If you want to sign up please do so using the referral code: wes1279. Or by clicking on the link below.

http://www.rakebacknation.com/?affiliate=wes1279

I have no idea what they're going to give me if I sign someone up, but I assume it's not nothing. In fact if you're going to use my magic code (or even if you aren't) please feel free to post any questions you might have in the comments section and I'll help you to the best of my abilities.

I've written a long post already and I haven't even gotten to what the point of this post is supposed to be!

Pokerstars doesn't do rakeback because they have FPPs that are worth something (the other sites have FPPS, or other points for play, but they're not worth nearly as much). But which is better: pokerstars FPP program or rakeback?

Let's start with what it's worth to play on pokerstars. This year I'm going to end up playing about 430,000 hands of $10/$20 and above which is what it takes to generate 600,000 base FPPs. Assuming I did the same next year, as a regular Supernova I'd earn 2,100,000 regular FPPs which would be worth $33,600. I'd also earn $2,000, $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, and $6,000 milestone bonuses along the way which is a total of $20,000. But each bonus actually costs 50,000 FPPs each (which is kind of a stupid mean trick they play on you) so my FPP total would actually drop by 250,000 to 1,850,000 FPPs which are worth $29,600. So for 430,000 hands of 6 handed $10/$20 I'd get back $49,600.

What could I earn playing 430,000 hands on Absolute poker? There are actually 4 components to the AP bonuses I'd earn. The first is rakeback. I'm not entirely sure about this but my best guess after some limited experimentation is that I'm paying about 28 cents per hand in rake (that includes all hands that I'm being dealt in not just the ones in which I contribute to the pot). So at first glace that looks like 430,000 hands times 28 cents per hand which is $120,400 in rake or $36,120. This is pretty close to what the rakeback calculators tell me I'd make in the amount of time it would take to play that many hands.

But there's actually more to it. The second part of the puzzle is AP's VIP program called FAME. Unlike pokerstars where it took me 365 days of last year to make it to the highest level (Supernova Elite), it took me 2 weeks of playing about half time to make it to the highest level on AP (Diamond Elite).

Playing at the diamond elite level I earn 10 VIP points (I think that's what they're called) every time I play a hand where I put money in the pot which is about half the time. As far as I can tell if I play 100 hands I'll earn something like 450 VIP points. Over the course of 430,000 hands that would be 1,935,000 points which are worth $13,723 (the let you convert points to cash at a rate of 141 points to the dollar). That's actually more significant than I thought! Actually I can only trade in $1,000 a month for cash so I'd have to take $1,723 in merchandise or tournament entries.

But wait! There's more! Rakebacknation runs what they call a "rake race" for their customers. They give out a $4,000 prize pool to the 25 of their customers who pay the most rake on AP each month (there are other rake races for other sites). The player who pays the most rake gets $1,000 with 2nd paying $775, third paying $600 and so on. I don't know much about my long term prospects of winning the rake race, but from what I see right now I like my chances. Last month the winner paid about $8,000 in rake, second place paid $7,000 and third place was in the $4,000 range. My plan above would have me paying $10,000 a month on average. Even not giving it my all I'm in second place for this month and was in first for a while. I expect that I could win the rake race at least half the time and finish in the top 3 or 4 every time. Let's call that $9,000.

Amazingly there is even more! AP also offers frequent reload bonuses. In fact there have been 5 days in the past two weeks where they offered a bonus if you made a deposit that day. For example on the 29th of last month they would match 65% of your deposit up to $150 if you entered a code that was advertised right in the lobby. So I deposited $400 and got $150 in bonus money. This money gets released in $5 increments as you earn points. In practice it takes me about 100 hands to release $5. In total I've deposited $2,260 and gotten $1,350 in bonus money. It's going to take me a total of 27,000 hands to release all of that money, so it's far from instant cash, but it's real money and in the end I'm going to get it.

If these past two weeks were typical (which I doubt a little) then I'll be adding 5 cents a hand to my profits (or a little over 15% more to my rakeback) all year long! That would be another $21,500 over the course of 430,000 hands. I think they can get away with offering so many deposit bonuses because they make it hard to cash out. You can't take any money out within 48 hours of a deposit and they have fees for withdawls (which I think is B.S.)

So in total I'd be looking at $36,120 in rakeback, $13,723 in points and $9,000 in rake race for a total of $58,843. That's pretty close to pokerstars, but if you add in the deposit bonanza it's going to look more like $75,000-$80,000 (depending on the size and frequency of the reload bonuses) in rewards. That is shockingly significant and amounts to getting close to two thirds of my rack back. If I can just win a little from the other players I'll be in great shape.

I won't take you through all the math for two other scenarios, but I'll tell you that the more you play the better pokerstars is in comparison. If you play 7,500 hands of $10/$20 in a year, you'll be a silverstar player and only earn $240 in FPPs, but you would have gotten $630 in rakeback and $240 in VIP points! That is a shocking disparity!


If you play 75,000 hands on pokerstars (just enough to make supernova) you'll make $5,880 in FPPs, but could make $6,300 in rakeback and $2,393 in VIP points on Absolute.

On the other hand if you play 750,000 hands (enough to make Supernova Elite) you'll make $37,200 in FPPs (Or $53,142 if you start the year as SNE) and $59,000 in milestone bonuses and major tournament entries. On AP you'd make $63,000 in rake back and $23,936 in VIP points.

Clearly if you can start the year and SNE and make $112,000 that's the best, but otherwise it's $97,000 vs $87,000 which is closer than I thought. Add on the rake race and it's a dead heat. Add on the deposit bonanza and it actually looks better to play on AP than on pokerstars. Surprising! I was sure supernova elite was the best thing out there. I think I underestimated the value of the VIP points since they seemed pretty worthless as I was earning them and in any initial calculations I made I didn't factor in rake races or reload bonuses! This has turned out to be a fruitful exercise!

The big problem with some of this is that pokerstars has all the games. At peak hours you can find 4 $10/$20 games on AP, but I've never seen more than that. Often times I've been stuck playing either $5/$10 or $15/$30 or 9 handed $10/$20 along with one or two $10/$20 games.

Anyway the worst possible thing you could be doing is playing at full tilt with no rakeback. Those points are pretty much garbage and there are no VIP levels.

Monday, October 05, 2009

My Weekend

My spell check has revolted so sorry for all of the major spelling errors in this post that paint me as a total buffoon!

After a terrible start to the week last week I knew I needed to put in some major effort over the weekend. It's a fact that the games are more beatable on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays. That's when the players who play a few hours a week or a few hours a month are logged on and gambling it up.

Here is a hand from Friday night.

PokerStars Game #33562256651: Hold'em Limit ($10/$20 USD) - 2009/10/02 19:38:33 ET
Table 'Aisakos' 6-max Seat #2 is the button
Seat 1: Stane1985 ($1133.50 in chips)
Seat 2: ACESEDAI ($1199 in chips)
Seat 3: al0075 ($683 in chips)
Seat 4: billx ($270 in chips)
Seat 5: sethypooh21 ($400 in chips)
al0075: posts small blind $5
billx: posts big blind $10
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to ACESEDAI [Td 8d]
sethypooh21: folds
Stane1985: folds
ACESEDAI: raises $10 to $20
al0075: raises $10 to $30
billx: calls $20
ACESEDAI: calls $10
*** FLOP *** [6h 9h Jc]
al0075: bets $10
billx: raises $10 to $20
monk117 has returned
ACESEDAI: raises $10 to $30
al0075: raises $10 to $40
Betting is capped
billx: calls $20
ACESEDAI: calls $10
*** TURN *** [6h 9h Jc] [Qs]
al0075: bets $20
billx: calls $20
ACESEDAI: raises $20 to $40
al0075: raises $20 to $60
billx: calls $40
ACESEDAI: raises $20 to $80
Betting is capped
al0075: calls $20
billx: calls $20
*** RIVER *** [6h 9h Jc Qs] [7s]
al0075: bets $20
billx: calls $20
ACESEDAI: raises $20 to $40
al0075: raises $20 to $60
billx: folds
ACESEDAI: calls $20
*** SHOW DOWN ***
al0075: shows [Jh Js] (three of a kind, Jacks)
ACESEDAI: shows [Td 8d] (a straight, Eight to Queen)
ACESEDAI collected $588 from pot

There are a few things to note about this hand. First of all I three bet the flop with an open ended straight draw with the plan of checking the turn if I missed and betting if I hit it (the old "free card" play). But then my opponent who hit top set on the flop capped it and bet the turn. On the turn I made the second nut straight, but since I pushed the flop my opponents didn't think I had a straight. In fact the guy with the set of jacks probably wasn't thinking at all about what I had, he was just thinking he had a monster hand. and wasn't going to slow down no matter what.

On the turn I capped the betting and the guy with a set fired out into me on the river! This is pure madness. When I get capped on the turn the first thing I put the other player on is the nuts and then I work backward from that. I need a good reason to think I'm not against the nuts to put in any more money than the minimum.

Even more amazing was the fact that he three bet me on the river! I'd put in as much action as possible the entire hand, screaming that I couldn't be beaten and he had the 5th best possible hand on the river (He'd lose to 85, T8, KT or QQ). I thought about capping, but I figured only a fool would reraise me on the river without KT or T8.

Also worth noting is the other guy who tagged along the whole way until the river. What the hell did he have? On a Monday morning this pot would have been half the size it was.

I put in 1,000 hands or so Friday night and lost about $200.

On Saturday I feel like I had some of the worst luck that I've ever had. Big wins and big losses often stem from two things: big pocket pairs and 5 card hands. If you lose with your big pocket pairs or you run into a bunch of big pocket pairs it's hard not to lose. Also if you make very few 5 card hands (straights, flushes and full houses) or run into a bunch of five card hands you're in trouble. I had the perfect storm of missing seemingly all of my draws, having my opponents nail theirs, and getting my pocket aces and kings repeatedly smashed by all kinds of junk.

I also had one guy stomp me worse than I can ever remember. It wasn't that he was so good. In fact it was the exact opposite. He bluffed often and wouldn't fold no matter what when he got involved in a hand with me. But he kept making just enough to beat me.

He was one spot to my left so when he was in the small blind I was in the big blind. The table we were at was fairly tight and so we got into it heads up often. A typical hand would go like this. He would raise K4 from the small blind, I'd reraise with AQ and the flop would come down queen high. He'd check raise the flop with nothing and I'd call. He'd bet the turn, I'd raise, he'd three bet still with nothing and I'd call. On the river he'd hit the king, bet and I'd call.

This kind of thing happened over and over and over. It was maddening! Over the course of 2 hours or so I pumped at least $1,500 into his stack. I think he beat me out of at least 10 if not 15 or 20 consecutive pots where we were heads up on the flop. It was unbelieveable. It wasn't like he was getting AA or KK every time. We usually go into the flop about even or 60/40 one way or the other. If we were playing in person I'd be 95% sure I was being cheated.

Towards the end of the beating this hand came up (note that the table name is nemesis!):

PokerStars Game #33599185337: Hold'em Limit ($10/$20 USD) - 2009/10/03 17:57:06 ET
Table 'Nemesis' 6-max Seat #5 is the button
Seat 1: KID 777 ($357 in chips)
Seat 2: ruwi100 ($399.50 in chips)
Seat 3: ACESEDAI ($563 in chips)
Seat 4: Goldshark ($681 in chips)
Seat 5: fishcentral ($1087 in chips)
Seat 6: Suriek ($307 in chips)
Suriek: posts small blind $5
KID 777: posts big blind $10
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to ACESEDAI [Ad As]
ruwi100: raises $10 to $20
ACESEDAI: raises $10 to $30
Goldshark: folds
fishcentral: folds
Suriek: folds
KID 777: folds
ruwi100: calls $10
*** FLOP *** [Jd 3s 8s]
ruwi100: checks
ACESEDAI: bets $10
ruwi100: calls $10
*** TURN *** [Jd 3s 8s] [Th]
ruwi100: checks
ACESEDAI: bets $20
ruwi100: calls $20
*** RIVER *** [Jd 3s 8s Th] [Qh]
ruwi100: bets $20
ACESEDAI: calls $20
*** SHOW DOWN ***
ruwi100: shows [Kh 9h] (a straight, Nine to King)
ACESEDAI: mucks hand
ruwi100 collected $172 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $175 | Rake $3
Board [Jd 3s 8s Th Qh]
Seat 1: KID 777 (big blind) folded before Flop
Seat 2: ruwi100 showed [Kh 9h] and won ($172) with a straight, Nine to King
Seat 3: ACESEDAI mucked [Ad As]
Seat 4: Goldshark folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 5: fishcentral (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 6: Suriek (small blind) folded before Flop

I just about lost it. Before the flop I was 82% and on the flop I was 95%. A 19 to 1 favorite. I've lost with AA literally thousands of times. I've taken thousands of beats worse than this one. But in this case I was against a guy who had beaten me out of an absurd number of pots in an absurd number of absurd ways. When you get AA in a spot like this all you can do is think "AH HA! I'm going to get this bastard now! I'll grind him into dust on this one! PLEASE try one of the crazy bluffs that you've been running on every freaking hand!" And then I lost. Again. When I was an astounding favorite. Even though the pot wasn't that big it was devestating.

Also notice that my opponent started this hand with $399. I'd directly deposited $1,500 or so into his stack in maybe 90 minutes and he had less than the $500 he started with because he was playing like such a goof that he spewed my chips out to all of the other players like a God damn fire hydrant that had just been hit by a truck!

It was a long day. I won $1,700 or so playing $15/$30, but lost $3,000 playing $10/$20.

On Sunday things turned around. I spent the morning and early afternoon at a brunch party watching football, eating great food, and hanging out with my friends, wife and son. I got home about 3 and put in about 1,000 hands on pokerstars winning $400 or so. I felt lucky to win that much since the games were not good at all for a Sunday.

Since the games were poor I decided to switch gears. As you might recall I opened an account at Absolute poker with the plans of playing on my laptop at night and trying to win enough to pay for a cruise that my wife and I are going on in a few weeks. I'd been doing well in limited action and decided to check out the games. I jumped into four $10/$20 games and picked up what felt like and easy $500 in about 45 minutes.

By that time dinner was close to ready and I logged off. But after dinner I got back on on my laptop. I was amazed and delited by the poor play of my opponents. The were so straightforward! I totally ran them over. It was like they'd never seen someone who would bet the flop and turn without a real hand. "he's betting the turn again! He must have it! 47 hands in a row this guy has bet the turn, but I'm sure he had something every time." I made $1,500 in about 2 hours playing in 3 games.

So all in all I managed to win almost exactly $1,000 over the weekend (not counting $500 or so in FPPs and rakeback) and played a little over 5,000 hands. So I guess you'd have to call that a success.

I've won about $4,000 playing a few hours here and there on my lap top at night. Opperation Pay for Cruise has been a total success and now I'm entering into Opperation Pay for House. I think I'll just bang out about 30 $2,000 days in the next two months and we'll use that money for a house down payment. :)

Friday, October 02, 2009

100 in 100 Challenge

I mentioned in a previous post that I have a goal of playing 100,000 hands of $10/$20 limit hold'em in the last 100 days of the year. The plan is to keep immaculate records and come up with some sort of projection for what I can expect to make in 2010 with a given effort.

So far my projections tell me that I'll be turning to a life of crime by February. I've gotten off to a terrible start! 5,006 hands in I'm losing $3,612 which is -$.72 a hand.

After some time off here and there and after another $1,000 five hour beat down of the players at the Oaks club yesterday, I'm at least feeling neutral if not confident going into he weekend. I'm hoping I can get back on track by trouncing the Friday night gamblers and weekend warriors.

If I can avoid the distractions of real life I should be able to get in 5,000-6,000 hands. Showing a $1,000 profit plus points over that stretch would leave me feeling satisfied and anything much better than that would make me happy.

I'll let you know how it goes.