Sunday, June 10, 2012

I'm Telling You

I've recently been reading a really good new book on tells.  Reading Poker Tells, by Zachary Ellwood does a great job not only of describing common tell behaviors, but also looking at the emotions that underlie those behaviors.  I think understanding those underlying emotions takes you further down the road towards understanding the basic difference between how a person behaves when they're relaxed as opposed to when they are stressed, and that is a fundamental part of reading people.

Another thing the book has caused me to do is to become more aware of some of my own behavior and the tells I might be giving off.  Now this process requires concentration and a good deal of self awareness.  You've got to be able to pick up the subtle changes in your own behavior, but it's a good exercise.  I want to tell you all about a particular tell I realized I was giving off in the hopes that it will give you a shortcut to making sure you aren't doing the same.

So the scene is the Bellagio and once again I am playing with AVPer turdferguson and his wife, Mrs Turd.  This is a different night from the time discussed in this post, and we're just there getting the last couple of hours the turds need to cover their poker room rate.  The conditions are even more cramped then they were the other night as we were seated at a smaller than usual poker table (a stud table I believe) that is tucked into one of hte back corners of the room.  This wasn't a great table, with only one or two real spots, but we're just getting the time out of the way with the plan to head out to Aria once the Turds have punched their clock.  I've also managed to end up again with TF a couple to my left which is not a great position.  I know that his post flop skills are well above mine and that he's going to have a big advantage over me in any big pots we play.  Between that, the general table conditions and the fact we weren't going to be playing there long I was keeping things pretty snug.

Since this was as much a social event as a money making endeavor I decided to have a cocktail and had ordered a mojito.  As the side of the table I was sitting on was close up against a wall, there was no way to get a side table in there (do they even have side tables at the B?) and so I set my drink on the table, tucked right against the rail and to the right of my stack.  My general practice is to protect my cards in my left hand, check them quickly using both hands to squeeze the cards when the action was just about on me, and then bring my right hand back to cut out chips as needed.  Consistent with trying to manage tells, I've been working on keeping a consistent physical routine when I play a hand.

In the hand in question, I am in the BB and TF opens from early position.  His range here is still pretty wide approximately one astronomical unit wide and because folks have been paying some attention he gets about three callers before it gets back to me.  I look down at QQ which is nice because a three bet here looks a ton like a squeeze and so I think I can get some action from TF with weaker hands.  Post flop can be fun because I'm going to have to be willing to go further with a marginal hand than I might otherwise like to, but I'm ready for that.  I'm calculating how I want to size the reraise and start to bring my right hand around to count out the chips...

Annnnd .... right into the beverage.  At least I managed to direct out into the felt and not where it covered anyone's hands cards or chips.  I was in shock for a moment never having done anything like that before, but went ahead and put out my raise while the dealer called for a towel.  Everyone's cards hit the muck before the towel arrived and I raked in a decent pot just off of everyone's raises.  I certainly didn't maximize value however.

So there it is, the mojito tell of strength.  I know that it's an easy tell to give off without realizing it, so I hope that my experience allows all of you to avoid doing it ... unless of course you are pulling a reverse tell while three betting with junk.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Actual Poker Content

OK, it's definitely a challenge to come up with material for posts in a poker blog when you don't actually, you know, play poker.  That's definitely the situation I have found myself in over the last few weeks as I just wasn't playing at all.  As I posted before, I've taken on some new commitments with music that have occupied a portion of what was previously poker time.  That's only part of what has kept me away from the tables though.  The fact that work is buzzing along pretty well is also part of it, but there have still been times that I've had available to play, and intended to play, but when it's come right down to it, I've generally found myself deciding to do other things instead.

I've reflected on this situation a lot.  I was wondering if I had just lost my interest in the game.  I did not believe that was the case as I would still enjoy the mental stimulation of thinking through a poker hand.  Thinking about actually going and playing would produce kind of an "ugh" reaction however.  What I finally decided was that I was giving myself a break from most of the people that you tend to find sitting around the tables.  Before I go any farther, I should clarify that I don't include poker bloggers or poker blog readers in that group.  The fact is though, that is a relatively small subgroup out of the overall group of poker players.  You know the kind I'm talking about - generally miserable people who seem to exist to complain about things and just throw a lot of negativity around.  I think in general I was just tired of spending so much time around that group.

Last week though I ended my hiatus from play.  I actually had a false start in my return to the tables.  Last Tuesday I went to an after work reception that was supposed to last a couple of hours.  Since I was going to find myself down in the area of the Strip in the evening, I decided to take a shot and sent Rob a twitter message asking if he was going to be playing at "BSC" later that evening.  He responded quickly that he would and I said I would probably swing by.  True to recent form though, other things came together to keep me away from the tables.  The reception ran a little long and then some friends asked me to go grab a bite afterwards.  I was wanting to catch up with them, so I sent my regrets to Rob.

Two nights later though I had made some plans to visit with an AVP member who was visiting from the Great White North.  That would be user turdferguson.  Turd grabbed my attention as soon as he started posting since his board handle comes from one of my all time favorite SNL sketches:

I have met him here a couple of times in the past along with his wife, the lovely "Mrs Turd" (who by the way is cool enough that she thinks it is hilarious to be called Mrs Turd) and he had sent a message on AVP letting me know they were visiting last week.  We decided to meet Thursday evening at the Bellagio.  They were going to be staying there a couple of nights on the poker room rate and needed to get their hours in.  I wanted to check it out as, believe it or not, I had actually never played at the Bellagio before.

I got to experience for myself some of the things I had read about the room, most notably the fact that the table were really squeezed together.  I did not experience what I have seen reported before, namely an attitude from the staff that low stakes players were not really worth their time.  I found everyone who worked there to be helpful.

I arrived at the room about an hour ahead of time and grabbed a seat.  Here I started noting another thing that singles out the game there.  The B's buy in for $1-$2 game is $100 min $200 max.  I like to buy in for $200 so that was not a problem but having a buy in range between 50 and 100 bbs really works to make the game play short.  As Turd noted later when he arrived, so many poker problems at the B are stack size problems more than anything else.  Still, the overall effect of that is to simplify decisions in the sense that you're deciding fairly early usually whether you are willing to play for stacks and once you make that adjustment the play is not overly complicated.

When I started out the table was very soft and also very passive.  After about an hour, Turd showed up and was able to get sat at my table.  Not to soon thereafter, Mrs Turd also arrived and likewise got seated at our table.  I was in the 2 seat and Turd was in the 3 seat.  Now the Turd likes to play a very aggressive style, so having him on my left was not the most favorable situation.  I dealt with it though I thought I was going to get some relief when Mrs Turd arrived.  You see, the seat that was open for her was the 1 seat and she remarked that she didn't want the two of us on her left.  I observed to her that she was probably pretty likely to get the 3 seat and have him move to the 1 seat if she wanted, a move that I was sure I could not pull off.  She elected to go ahead and take the 1 seat however, leaving me sandwiched between the Turds (yes I find that amusing, I'm embracing my inner 12 year old boy).

As the Turds were coming into the game, the table was in the midst of a metamorphosis.  Still very soft players, but the aggression was increasing.  We ended up with a bunch of Euros at the table including a group of 3 guys all together who I believe were Russian.

Turd and I observed that the table was great.  People were plenty interested in splashing around and getting money in bad.  Unfortunately, these Russian guys had perfected the art of getting money in bad and getting there.  It probably started in a hand where one of the Russians and I both flopped top pair on an A high board.  I was  pretty sure I had him dominated and he was playing very short at that time, so we got it all in on the turn I believe.  I do recall the river being a four and him quickly rolling over A4 for a rivered two pair.  I sighed a bit and sent my cards (AT if I recall correctly) to the muck.  I had met my Newman.

That was kind of how the night went.  Everyone at that table was pretty easy to read.  Unfortunately, they were also getting run over by the deck.  Twice my flopped two pair out of the blinds got overtaken (once against a short stack who had flopped the straight and once by Newman turning a better two pair after the money all went in.

The night ended in fitting fashion.  Newman limped under the gun. and it folded to me on the button with AT.  I raised, the blinds folded and Newman three bet.  Again, this was a stack size problem I was deep enough to have some fold equity that I thought could fold better Aces and, if he was doing this with a smaller pair then I wanted to get his money in the pot before the board scared him so I shoved.  He gave a textbook snap call and rolled over his AA.  *sigh*  You know folks, every time someone open limps/three bets with AA a puppy dies.  Don't be mean to puppies OK?

I actually turned a gutter draw and thought it would be sweet irony if someone sucked out on Newman for a change (he had amassed a huge stack by this point) but the river did not come in for me and that was all of my second buy in, so I decided to call it a night.  I bid Turd and Mrs Turd adieu.  We had plans to meet up Saturday night along with Mrs Flops for dinner ... but that's another post.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Have a Thing for Blondes

Ah, things are bustling in my world these days, but I do have a few stories cued up to tell.  For starters I need to tell everyone about the new woman in my life.  She's blonde with a long lean body and a deep throaty voice.  She's super sexy and I definitely have the hots for her.  Things have actually progressed pretty fast, in fact, she's moving in to the house today.

Some of you may be asking, "wait, what about Mrs. Flops"?  Well, for those of you who haven't already figured it out, Mrs. Flops is a super cool chick and she is welcoming this new lady with open arms.  In fact, the Mrs. has been pretty blunt about how she's looking forward to watching me do my thing with this new hottie.

So, I thought you might want to see a picture of my new lady.  Is it safe for work?  I suppose that's up to you, and really why would you want me to tell you in advance.  Half the fun is not knowing:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekend Update

The Flops had a very busy weekend.

Friday after work, I met up with someone that I know that plays in a band.  I mentioned in this post that I need to find some folks to play with.  A week or so after I decided to pursue that, I found out this guy who I have known casually for a few years in fact played guitar in a band.  I was at a lunch with him and just plunged in with, "so do you guys need a bass player?" and it turns out they did.  We arranged to meet last Friday evening for the band's regular practice.  It turned out really well.  I played real simple stuff but for the most part was able to fit things into the songs.  Although I wouldn't call my playing performance ready by any stretch I think I made clear that I understood the basic role of the bass player in a band and that I had enough knowledge and basic talent to give them faith that I can get up to speed by the time they perform next which is sometime in May, so ... I'm in my first band.

Which means Holy Crap, I've got a bunch of work to do!  Their set list has over 30 songs on it, some of which I had never heard before last Friday and none of which I really know how to play yet.  There are a couple of tunes which have parts which will technically challenge me, but I think the challenge is exactly what I need to improve my technique (i.e. the physical manipulation of the instrument) and having more confidence in my technique will allow me to get over one of the really big hurdles I've had as a musician.

Saturday was breakfast with Mrs. Flops followed by my bass lesson.  As you might imagine from the work I've outlined having to do above, I'm seeing my lessons with a heightened sense of urgency.  My teacher was definitely excited to hear about me taking this step and he's promised that we'll go through the whole song list and that he'll help me get ready.

After the lesson, the Mrs. and I headed out to run errands, the biggest of which was me making a run to the mens store to pick out some new suits.  That was an involved process, but I'm very happy with what we've picked out and think it will help me stay looking sharp during the day job.  When we got home the Mrs. announced that she had a bunch of work to do around the house and suggested I should go play poker.  Who am I to argue with a suggestion like that.

I got to the room about 10 minutes before the evening tournament was supposed to start and there was also a cash game going.  I elected the tournament which ended up only getting around 20 folks.  That was fine with me as I was starting to feel pretty tired (up late the night before and early that morning) and I knew the tournament wouldn't stress my brain too much.  

I was groovin' to some great music in my ear buds while I was playing and was able to get into a zen like state pretty quick that helped me be very aware of what was going on.I spent most of my attention focusing on the player two to my left.  I was able to pick up some tells on him, both bet sizing and physical which really let me know where he was at pretty solidly.  The hands he was in where I wasn't (which was a lot since he was playing just about every freakin' hand) I would watch his behaviors and then make a prediction on what he would showdown and I had him pretty well dialed in.  Unfortunately, the main way I got to put those observations to actual use was to know when he had hit some crazy hand that now had me crushed and making laydowns.  Meh, that's how it's going to run some time.  I played patient and as my stack dwindled and the blinds escalated found myself in EP with two 9s and about 11 big blinds.  I stuck it all in and it folded to the button who went into the tank and started counting his chips seeing how much he had left after a call.  The tanker had about twice my chips.  In my experience at this level of play someone taking this long to make a decision almost always has a hand that has decent equity against something like 99.  In this case it was AK.  Flop king, turn brick, river king.  I smiled and said, "that last one was just kind of rubbing it in."  Stood up, wished everyone good luck and headed out of the room.  It's nice to be able to bust out of a tournament and not feel that whiny "why can't I ever win a flip" feeling that can be so prevalent among poker players.  It's nice to be able to divorce the results from your analysis of how you played.  I was actually really happy with how I played especially with being so locked in on one player and knowing that if presented witht he right opportunity I would definitely be able to exploit him.  That fact that the deck didn't present me with that opportunity in that session is just the way it goes.  Besides, I was freakin' tired and the idea of crawling into bed was pretty appealing right then.

Sunday the Mrs and I got up and started working on a meal we were taking over to my Mom's apartment that afternoon.  We made the traditional Easter fare of cheese enchiladas.  That's one of Mrs. Flops' specialties and we worked on it together.  Rolling enchiladas is kind of a PITA, but when you have two people doing it it feels better cause it goes by faster.  I also smoked a chicken to take over to Mom's.  We wanted to make sure she had plenty of food at her place that she could just heat and eat because, well, because Mom is starting to show signs of not being so great at taking care of herself ... but that's a whole nother post.

Anyway, we shared a nice meal and then headed home in time to crash and get ready for another week.  It was definitely a busy weekend, but also a fulfilling one.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Honey Badger Don't Care

I suppose I should strive for some occasional poker content in this here poker blog...

Last weekend I played quite a bit all at the MGM and all involving related activities.  First up was Day 1 of the first AVPT event and the next day I played in the AVP XV Meet Up tournament.  I took some video while I was there so expect that in a few days.  As a teaser I will tell you that the AVPT day I played was the toughest group I have ever played against.

For today I thought I would talk about a certain poker hand.  I've come to appreciate the power of so called "trash hands".  Trash hands is a misnomer because while these are starting hands that the untrained eye regards as having little potential for showdown value those wise in the science art science/art of the power of "trash hands" know better.

The pioneer in this field is of course, Dr. Grump who was the first to unlock the mysteries of Duo Quattuor.  As with many areas, further advancements were spurned on by what are most likely highly classified government operations working under the deepest cover.  Of course, I am referring to the Ironman of Poker.  Sadly, these men advanced perhaps too quickly in the field.  They simply did not have time to fully consider the ethical implications of their work.Sadly, if they had such time available, they might not have unleashed the Spanish Inquisition on the poker world.

Now up till very recently I was one of those naysayers, the ones who disregard these powerful poker tools.  Recently though, my eyes were opened - and it was all due to, the Honey Badger.  You see, every time the Ironman travels through Las Vegas, another powerful signature hand is unleashed upon the town.  Each such signature hand has a nom de guerre and this most recent trip it was to be 52 aka, the Honey Badger.

Now here is the interesting thing.  Long before this past IMoP trip I had been exposed to the Honey Badger, just not by that name.  You see, at my local casino 52 - or fiddy deuce as they like to call it is know as the nuts.  It's a point of pride among some players to felt someone with fiddy deuce and yet, I was never one of those who got it.

The moment it all coalesced for me was when I played in one of the Ironman tournaments from their last trip. The Ironmen all descended on the Aria for their daily tournament and I settled in hoping to see some hilarity ensue.  Deep down, I knew I should be looking for opportunities to deploy the Honey Badger, but still I resisted.

In fact, I was even presented with a golden opportunity to do it.  An early position raise ... a call ... folded to me on the button and I squeeze up the cards to gaze at 5 of hearts, 2 of hearts ... a Honey Badger sighting.

Now of course, the first rule about the Honey Badger is, Honey Badger Don't Care.  Mere pocket Aces?  Please.  In that moment, I would like to report to everyone that I felt the spirit of the Honey Badger move through me and that I called, or perhaps even was brave enough to throw in a substantial three bet.  Alas, I could not pull the trigger.  I played smart poker, conserved chips and sent my cards to the muck.  On to the flop then:




Yup, Honey Badger would have hit Donkey Kong.  Now you might think this is the part of the story where I talk about seeing the light and appreciating the power of the Honey Badger.  Nope, we're not even there yet.  You see after the action of the hand completed and as we were preparing for our next round of combat, the rather striking young Asian lady on my right uttered these words, "Huh, I folded five two."

There is no doubt in my mind she spoke the truth, she and I folded the same hand and then watched as one of the last two fives and both of the last two twos in the deck came on the flop.  Ladies and gentlemen, I'll defer if the Grump wants to correct my math but I believe that is about a 5000-1 shot.

OK, I may not be the quickest on the uptake, but even I can take that hint.  Just to make sure I got it though, the Poker Gods saw to it that immediately after disrespecting the Honey Badger I began the process of stack implosion.  OK OK, I learned my lesson.

I'm happy to report that since then, I have deployed the Honey Badger on several occasions with much success.  Plus, when you take a big pot off of someone and they start asking how you call with that, you get to look at them and say, "What?  I had the Honey Badger."  For some reason, hearing about that vicious furry bugger just makes people smile and maybe even helps them forget the beat they just suffered.

So, fair warning, if you ever find yourself at a table with me and the board is favorable to the Honey Badger, tread lightly.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Play That Funky Music

I've always had strong roots in music.  Those roots stem from my mother's side of the family.  My maternal grandmother got a masters degree in music back in the early part of the 20th century when the idea of women pursuing higher education wasn't such a common thing.  My grandmother, mother and mother's sister were/are all accomplished vocalists and my grandfather and uncle on that side of the family were/are also singers.

I sang in church youth choirs as a child, and I remember when I was in third grade one day the music teacher came in with a violin.  She was talking about how in the fourth grade students could start taking violin lessons in school.  I knew I wanted to play an instruments in addition to singing and since this was my first opportunity to do so, I rushed home to talk to my parents about getting in the violin program.

My mother had enough musical background to know that it was important to have a solid foundation before moving on to advanced levels and so her requirement before I could take up any other instrument was that I do two years of piano lessons.  I did, but rather than really diving into the piano I treated it more as a box to get checked off so that I could get on to the fun stuff.

By the time I finished my two years of piano lessons I was now old enough that in addition to taking up the violin, I could choose to learn how to play wind instruments.  So many opportunities!  I basically narrowed things down to clarinet and trumpet.  I remember deciding on the clarinet because I thought I would have too difficult a time playing different notes on the trumpet because there were only three buttons to push.  On the clarinet, there would be a certain fingering that would produce a certain note - easy right?  Yeah, that's what I thought, but I was like 10.

I played all throughout middle school and high school.  I really enjoyed my time as a "band geek" and it led to some wonderful opportunities.  I've played halftime shows at NFL games, played before Major League Baseball games, marched in the Rose Parade and spent a summer touring the US and Canada performing in a competitive drum and bugle corps.  

Fairly early on in my musical experience I found myself attracted to the low end instruments.  I moved from clarinet to playing bassoon and baritone sax and learned how to play a baritone bugle for the drum corps experience (those groups have brass only).  Something about those bass notes really drew me in.

As I got older, I got away from music.  Other things just kind of took over.  I missed having music in my life though.  Of course, I would share that fact with Mrs. Flops and about 10 years ago, she brought me an electric bass starter kit.  A good friend of mine who has since moved away was taking guitar lessons with a great teacher who also taught bass.  I started taking lessons.

I treated my playing as just sort of a getaway.  Frankly, I didn't put a ton of effort into it.  It was a good way to unwind though.  My teacher is a very wise soul who understood what I was there for and allowed me to have that experience be what I need.  So, it was basically good (and cheap!) therapy, but it wasn't anything that was driving me to share my music with anyone else.

So I just basically farted around with going to my lessons for about ten years.  I'd have fun with my teacher but really, I was spinning my wheels.  It was OK though, because spinning my wheels was what I needed in my life at that point.

All that changed a few weeks ago.  I don't know how to describe it any other way than saying that I found something that was always missing from my musical experience, passion.  Before I had always discounted the idea of finding people to play with.  I wasn't good enough and wasn't prepared to invest the time needed to get there.  One day we went to some friends' house, one of whom is a legitimate professional musician (albeit with a day job).  He urged me to bring my bass to the house so we could play and we did.  I kept it pretty simple, but I was playing with someone else.

It was awesome!  I needed more of this.  The point of music isn't to sit in a lesson studio working on things, the point of music is to express yourself and maybe I finally realized that I had things worth expressing - or maybe it was just that it was fun.

I've also started to see how a deeper understanding of what is involved in making music can carry over into other areas of your life.  In fact, I've got a post brewing around that I'm working on that will even tie music into poker.

So in addition to poker discussion in here, you can expect to see more talk about my musical journey.  I can't wait to tell my first story about some woman throwing her underwear on stage!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another Year ...

Yesterday was my birthday and it was an exceptionally nice day.  Things started off with Mrs. Flops delivering me a birthday cupcake in bed.  In this case, that is not a euphemism.  I had planned to take the day off and so once I got up I just took the day as it came to me.  I did some blogging, some AVPing and spent some time practicing the bass.  One of those great days that unfold exactly the way you think of on a day when you're busy and you say, "man, if I didn't have anything I had to do today I would ...".

We had planned to hit a showing of The Hunger Games, but we ended up whiling away the daytime hours relaxing.  Presents were opened and, as usual, Mrs. Flops thoroughly spoiled me.  The pinnacle of the spoiling was the evening's meal.  This was no ordinary meal, the Mrs took me to eat at experience e' by Jose Andres.

For those not familiar, e' is an intimate, interactive dining experience.  A "restaurant within a restaurant"  at Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan that has a small capacity of eight guests per seating.  The meal is a series of close to two dozen small courses and the fare is based on Spanish food, but prepared using techniques of molecular gastronomy.  Basically, it's what happens if you cross a chemistry set with an kitchen.  It was really an amazing dining experience and it will be the subject of a detailed upcoming blog post - complete with pictures.

Today I have my usual Saturday bass lesson and then I am heading out to play day 1B of the inaugural All Vegas Poker Tour event.  I'm feeling good and I'm armed with some powerful music to listen to while playing.  It helps keep my head in the right place!