Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wasting Away in Donkeritaville

Thursday I went over to play at the Rio (The World Series of Poker) for the first time this trip. There was a little bit of a crowd there, but still very light. I got a seat immediately, locked it up so that I could open my box and get chips. There is one window for the boxes, and there was someone ahead of me opening a box for the first time. It takes a lot more time to do that than to get into one that you already have rented. By the time I got back to the table, my locked up seat was gone. They had taken my seat card and returned it to the board even though I told the dealer what I was doing. Oh well, it was just a few minutes before I got another seat.

They have a seat card system this year to prevent people from jumping the line. The reason people were jumping the line last year was because the board was not keeping up and there was a long list at the same time that several tables were short-handed. I see no signs of improvement in the board operation, so I predict that the seat card system will break down in the next day or so.

Having gotten my second seat-card and gone to the assigned table, I saw just the kind of action for which I was hoping. That is, donkey central. There were certainly several solid players at my table, but there were two or three really soft spots. If the spot is soft enough, you really only need one. For example, this one player sits and posts immediately. He was not behind the button or in the hijack seat. He posted under the gun. Within two hands, he needlessly stretches out his arm so that people can notice his WSOP Circuit Event bracelet. If those two things are not clues enough, you have to check out the action in the first hand he showed down.

I was the button. I am straddling the button every time (more on that in a later post.) He is the cut-off. The small blind and big blind call the straddle, as do three other players. There are six players and $60 in the pot and this donkey shoves for $370. All fold to the third limper who goes into the tank and then calls with AQo. The donkey flips over A6o, the dealer runs the cards and the donkey makes a straight.

I am delighted to have a donkey with chips on my right. There is also a donkey on my left. The weakest donkey I have ever seen. He called off his chips several times with nothing. He was buying in for $200 at a time. I didn’t think that was so terrible until he told me he was playing the $10,000 Pot Limit Holdem event the next day. I almost lost my mind when he told me that. On the inside, that is. Outside, I politely smiled and wished him the best of luck. It goes on from there, but you get the idea.

Throughout the session, I have no big starting hands, I make no big hands, and I don’t get involved in many pots, but I end up bleeding off a little just out of shear boredom. I catch myself doing this and get up immediately. I am stuck $200 for the session. No big deal.

I head over to the Venetian to meet a guy that is a Tilt regular and a 2+2er. I saw him post on 2+2 that he would be here and would meet up with other 2+2ers, so I had set that up before I came out here. We were going to have a beer, but he was still in the midst of a bad case of food poisoning. It appears that he got it from eating something at Caesars, another Harrah’s property.

We talked for a while about playing for a living and such. I think he and I could collaborate. He has a lot more experience multi-tabling on-line for a living than I do. I have a lot more experience with all things computer related. I am going to help him with some of the tools I am using and so on. He is going to talk strategy with me, help me review tricky hand histories, etc. And we may cross-sweat each other as soon as I get him hooked up with YIM, because AIM blows for that.

The next day, I went back to the Rio. I was having a really solid session. I played well, stole some mid-sized pots, and caught a few good hands. I was up about $750 and thrilled to be having my first decent win. Sadly it did not last long and there was nothing I could do about it. I am about to tell you how I lost a huge pot. It is not a bad beat or cooler story per se, it is more about the thoughts that went through my head after the pot was pushed.

I had AQh in the big blind. There was one limper in EP, MP makes it $30 to go, I call, the limper folds. Heads-up to the flop with $67 in the pot, the board is Q86, two hearts. I feel that my opponent has a limited range based on how I have sized her up and the limited number of hands I have seen her play so far. I fear AA or KK, but don’t think she is raising a small pair. She could have a number of other holdings that she will c-bet with and then fold. I decide that a check-raise is the way to go. I check to her, she makes it $60, I make it $150 on top. She jams back over the top. Now it is either stone cold bluff (unlikely), same hand, AA or KK. There is $487 in the pot, not including her raise, and about $350 more to call. I am getting good enough odds to call even if she has a set. I have played this scenario enough to know that without doing the math, so I insta-call. She shows me aces. I whiff on the hearts and the queen and she takes down a pot worth close to $1,200.

Now here is the reason I am telling you this story: I acted correctly with a minimum of anguish, and I wasn’t even slightly upset when they pushed the pot her way. It takes a certain indifference to money to play poker properly that is paradoxical, especially when the bottom line is the ultimate concern. I feel pleased with myself that I am not upset. I am friendly with her as the pot is pushed, as the game continues, and as I am leaving. And again, later, when I return to retrieve my sweater that I had left behind. Losing money never felt so good.

I had been playing several hours, needed a break, and, potentially, some food. I decided a change of venue is in order, so I cash out for a $167 profit and leave. I head over to the Mirage where my 2+2 friend is playing. When I get there, I discover that he is stuck quite a bit in a 1/2NL game and is in no mood to go back to the Rio with me. I play in his game for a few hours without result and call it a night.

I feel a little disappointed about not having a big session yet, but it is a high level concern and did not change my play while I was sitting. I am not seeking to have no emotion at all about poker, just not while I am playing. I am slightly above water for the trip and feeling frustrated.

The Rio will be a zoo on Saturday due to the first affordable event for the large donkey demographic. I likely will not play there.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Lost $20,000 at the Rio

Yes, it is true, but this post is about my first twenty-four hours in Vegas, so I will get to how that happened in a bit.

Here is how Day One went: My flight arrives close to on-time, I am close to the front so I am out and rolling quickly, not trapped behind a herd of blue-hairs. I get to the luggage carousel and the luggage starts coming out in drabs. Forty-five minutes later, I finally have my bag. McCarran is okay to good in many ways, but the luggage handling is always the soft spot. Always.

I jump into a cab and head over to Miami Don’s place. No sooner did I arrive than I was pressed into service by Carmen . She was playing the Skillz, Don was still in it, and she had decided it was a lost cause because the blinds were 100 and 200 and she only had 1,500 chips left. So I played out the rest of the tournament for her. I pumped the stack up to 13,000, above average at the time, and within striking distance of the final table. Some douche bag with plenty of chips decided to get all-in pre-flop against me and my QQ. Douche bag’s AJo sucks out and I am nearly crippled. Fuel decides to race me for the rest of my chips and I am out. It was not even my account and I am not sure I would have been rewarded for cashing, so I should not even care. I really need to work on not caring about things that do not have a potentially significant outcome.

Almost ready for bed, I decided to call over to the Rio cage to check on my wire. The cage seemed like a logical place to keep my money. I had decided before the trip that I would like to have a box at the WSOP side game cage. I don’t want to walk around the Rio Convention Center parking lot after dark with thousands of dollars in my pocket. If I have to walk to the main cage when I am done to deposit to a front-money account, so be it. But I will try to get a box before I commit to making that walk twice a day. But if I did have to do that, it would not be so bad; I do need regular exercise. And it is a long, long, long walk.

After looking up the number and dialing, I get the Rio and ask for the cage. I get a clerk who is unintelligible. I slowly get out of her that they don’t see the wire and that it has not yet come. I explain that a wire is a single day transaction, and it has been received. She starts muttering something about accounting and being busy and suggests that I try back “tomorrow or the next day.”

I ask to speak to the cage supervisor. She is intelligible, but not at all intelligent. She tells me the same stuff the clerk told me. She completely fails to apologize for the trouble and fails to provide any sort of reasonable explanation as to how the wire could not have made it from their mythical account department to the cage. She asks me when it was sent. I tell her that it was at 4:30PM, Eastern time. She posits that it was 7:30PM local time when the wire arrived at the Rio, that the accounting department was closed, and that is why they don’t have it. I am clearly wasting my time. I end the pointless conversation quickly.

It seems quite difficult to get to sleep. I am not at all surprised at the gross incompetence of the Rio staff. After all, it is a Harrah’s property. Any gambler or poker player knows that Harrah’s is a giant black hole of suck. Their business model is to make money off of slot players and low end table game customers. They don’t understand how to cater to serious gamblers or poker players.

They fought against poker until it was clear that poker was here to stay. Then they bought up the WSOP, turned it to suck. They continued the vortex of suck by bribing Bill Frist into jamming through the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. They saw internet poker as a threat to their business rather than a business development tool. They don’t get it and they suck.

I somehow manage to get some sleep. I roll out of bed early. I was told that WSOP SNGs, live action, and registration will be open for business at 9:00am. I want to get a box before they are gone. Don drives me over there because I don’t have my car yet. We get to the convention center. Not too many customers, but there is a little SNG action. Live action area not open yet. We take note of the new layout and make the long walk over to the main cage.

We get there, and I attempt to claim my wire. They shuffle about for a bit and, eventually, the cage supervisor appears. This is the one that was on mids. She was still there. She is a different supervisor from the one I spoke to on the phone. She is very apologetic. She tells me they have a record of the wire arriving at the cage, but they are having trouble locating it. She actually admits that they had lost the wire. So I did manage to lose $20k at the Rio without even bellying up to a gaming table. She gives me her card and offers to take my cell number so she can call me when they have it sorted out. She promises me that she is not going home until this is resolved.

I am absolutely shocked. A Harrah’s employee was nice, competent and actually seemed to care about the customer. As Mrs. Weak later says to me on the phone, “She doesn’t seem to know the Harrah’s way. She needs to stop being so nice before she gets fired.” Exactly. It is sad that getting the normal world expected response in that situation is shocking. But that is how they roll.

Don and I wander back towards the Convention center. We stop so I can get my boots shined. We get there and check out the SNG area again. I wander back over to the live action area. Still not open. I ask to be admitted on the pretext of wanting to speak to the cage manager about my missing wire. I am admitted, but they misunderstood the meaning of “cage manager.” What I got instead was a cage supervisor for the WSOP area. That does not help. But I ask if I can get a box while I am in there. They need to train their green-as -hell clerks in this aspect of the operation, so I help the one guy that knows what he is doing teach the green-as-hell clerk the ins and outs of lockbox operation. Present key, verify id, have customer sign for entry, present box, take box back, have customer sign for receipt of their box key. I know the drill but the clerk didn’t. The instructor and I taught her what she needs to know, I hope. In any case, I come away with my box and its key. Just then my phone rings. They found my money.

We hoof it back to the cage, collect my money, hoof it back to the convention area, I drop it in my box and away we go. We head out to eat, but end up at the rental car area. There is a really good Mexican lunch place next to it, so we grab a bite. I pick up my car, a brand new something or other. It has power everything, which is awesome; my last rental didn’t even have power locks. Why didn’t I get a rental at the airport? Because I am here for a month and the airport fuck-me-in-the-ass fees come to an extra $200. I scored a primo rental for $200 less. And I have my money in a box. I am starting to feel good.

I arrive back at the crib, chill for a bit. I play on-line for an hour and a half; I am two days away from achieving Iron Man status on Tilt. I chill for a little longer and finally saddle up and ride on out to play live.

My plan is to play only 1/2NL for the first session. Again, I am not here to test my game or play at the highest level possible, I am here to find games that I can beat consistently for a decent earn rate. 1/2NL games can be very profitable. And, word has it, many of the 2/5NL games have gotten tougher over the last several months. Not that there aren’t still plenty of soft ones. Not that there aren’t going to be Marshmallow Peep soft games over at the Rio a few days hence. But this is where I am starting. I am here for the money.

I play over at the Venetian for a few hours. The table is soft at first, but the chips keep leaving and the spots keep getting filled with people that know how to play. I decide to head over to the MGM. Their 1/2NL games are pretty reliably filled with certified donkeys. I grind out a $50 profit in an hour and change. Unfortunately, I spend the proceeds on hookers and blow a chair massage and a pastrami sandwich. I am tired and decide to call it quits. Making the rounds, but no dollah, dollah, dollah yet. I am okay with that for the first day.

I head home and play on-line for a bit more; I make Iron Man, but have a losing session only due to an epic suck-out. I fail to care about the suck-out. It is par for the course. But the suckee immediately starts berating a regular whom I respect for good-beating him. It is on now. I smack-talk him into submission while I take the remainder of the hands I need to make Iron Man. I really need to stop caring about crap like that.

Day one is complete. I am happy even though I am no richer.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pre-Road Downs

Time has really slipped away from me. I am getting into a groove as far as playing on-line. I have a lot of good structure in place. I cleaned up my office and made a comfortable work place. I have invested time in getting proficient with some tools I need, such as PT3 and FTS. I have gotten into some good habits as far as when I play, when I quit, and looking at my game critically afterwards.

I am now ready to move up the number of tables I play at the same time. I started at two and then quickly jumped to three or four. Now that I feel comfortable with FTS, I am totally ready to play six to nine. Unfortunately, I will not be able to get in enough hands in this new configuration before I leave for Las Vegas. My flight is late Tuesday afternoon, and I haven’t even started to pack yet.

Also, I am not totally prepared emotionally for being gone for that long. Mrs. Weak and Baby Weak are going to come visit me for a few days while I am out there, but it will still be really hard to be away for that long. Thinking of it as a business trip doesn’t help much. On the other hand, I am really looking forward to the WBPT .

On the whole, I am really happy with how things are going. I have seen 22k hands and I am beating 1/2nl for 4.5ptBB/100. I expect things to improve as I continue to improve my game. Of course, I may give up a bit of that when I go from four to six to nine tables. But anything I lose there will be more than made up for in extra hands seen. I have now determined that I need a new CPU and one or two large monitors. That almost makes me want to stay here and play on-line and skip the Vegas thing altogether. Yeah, that is way sick, I know.

But I really want to beat the live games. It has to be part of my balanced approach, at least until I know if I am going to be living within easy access to live poker. I still want to be a successful live mid-stakes NLHE cash game player. But I am starting to see that on-line can be much more profitable. Profit, fun, challenge: It is going to take some work to balance all of those things.

Speaking of fun, here is a shout out to BrainMc. I played in his home game last night. I was not together enough to make it there in time for the tournament. I had been up until 5:00am playing poker and spaced on the time. But when he called me, I packed up my computer and headed over there. I played on-line while I was waiting for people to bust out of the tournament and start the cash game. I got to meet ISS Spock and I dropped the hammer pretty hard on Surflexus . Good times.

I am nervous and excited about my trip and I really need to go get my stuff together for it. And then I will six-table my ass off until it is time to go to the airport. I will be playing one or two hours a day on-line while I am Vegas, mostly for process, not for profit. I will post again after I get there, get my car, pick up my roll at the cage and drop it in a lock box and get back to MiamiDon's house where I will be crashing for the month. Catch you then.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Weak Player Returns

Why have I been absent for more than a year? What was I doing in Vegas last year? What else have I been doing in that time? What am I doing now? Why did I decide to start posting again? These questions and more will be answered if you read on.

First, I would like to genuinely apologize to anyone that I left hanging and to thank you for caring enough that you were left hanging. If there aren’t any of you, that is cool. I am doing this for myself. I would love for anyone interested to come along for the ride, but this is for me. I think most bloggers probably think the same about their own blogs but may not often articulate that in their posts. For me, I was never clear on that with myself so I was always ambivalent about my posts. Add to that severe doubt and confusion about the future direction of my life, and you can see why I couldn’t commit to posting regularly.

Let me explain. When I first got interested in poker blogging and the poker blogsphere, it was because of my friend Sox Lover. He convinced me to put some posts up so I could go see what the WPBT is about. I got to like it and enjoyed it for a while. During that time, I was having a crisis with my work, with my family, and with my health. Something had to give and I decided to take a year off from work. I quit my job and did absolutely nothing for a time. That was what I needed. By the time that I started thinking about what would come next for me, things had changed again. Against all reasonable hope, my wife and I conceived a child. I started to work out in my head what I was going to do. Did I want to stay at home with my baby? Did I want to play poker for a living? Did I want to go back to what I was doing before?

About the time that I was starting to get a sense of that, things changed again. My wife lost her job. The highest priority in our lives, other than our new baby, became her getting a new job. Since her work is very high level and specialized, it could take some time for her to find a suitable position. And, it would almost certainly mean that we are moving. This added more uncertainty to my life. I tried to plan it as though we were packing and moving at any time. As the weeks stretched into months and the months into almost a year now, I woke up one day with the feeling that I must live my life to its fullest starting right that minute.

Okay, I know that sounds obvious from the outside, but it was a significant moment in a long journey for me. It was the first time in recent memory that I felt I had a purpose and I had a drive towards that purpose. How am I going to occupy myself while I am waiting to see where we are moving to and how my wife’s new job is going to change our lifestyle? By playing poker, of course.

Now, you may think: Uh duh, Weak always is playing poker. But it is different now. Before, I played to pass the time, for recreation, to avoid doing other things, for social reasons, and for any number of other reasons. But, recently, I have come to what I really want to do with poker. I want that to be my job, and I want to be successful at it. Now, don’t get all excited. It is not nearly as glamorous as it seems. Actually, it is probably, in some ways, a fairly bad job to have compared to my former life in the corporate world. But I think I can play well and improve my play. I have established to my satisfaction that I can earn at a rate that will make it worthwhile and cover our monthly expenses. Of course, I need to play a few more hands to get to the 95% confidence interval on that. But I can live with that.

I have been playing seriously since the beginning of May, so that is not a very long period. I ran the confidence intervals with my numbers and the ranges are broad. On the other hand, I have established a regime of post-play analysis and am plugging the holes in my game. I am also doing the same for my opponents: how to extract more, how to lose less for given opponents. So, even with iffy confidence numbers, I expect to beat the game sufficiently. I am not so sure that I want to get deep into on-line strategy here. It has all been done before. And if ever I were to do something new, which is unlikely, I am not about to share it with anyone that I am playing against. I think I would prefer to write on my journey as a player and where it is taking me in my life. Few hands, little strategy, mostly how my recent outlook is affecting my life, for good and for bad. At the very least, my life can serve as a warning to others.

As for what I was doing in Vegas that last time I wrote, I was there to try to beat 5/10NL. I stepped up to the game and held my own, but I did not beat it or even come close. But it was an experience I had to have, and it was at a time where I didn’t really care if I lost my entire roll. I am going back to Vegas this coming June to play. My roll will be the same, but capital preservation and win rate will be my top priorities. I will not be playing for pleasure, though I will try to have a good time. It will be interesting to see how that experience stacks up with last year, and I hope I can share that with you over the coming weeks.