Tuesday, November 22, 2005

My No-Limit Cash Game with Phil Gordon

I was over at the MGM Grand last night and spotted Phil Gordon on a $1/$2 no-limit hold'em table. Thanks to the always-kind floor people at the Grand (and the fact that it was after midnight on a Monday), I managed to get into the game pretty easily.

The table was really annoying to play at because everyone seemed to be trying to impress Phil with their knowledge of the game. I had trouble focusing because no one would shut up about how great they play. Phil didn't seem to mind--he was having a blast playing a lot of Rochambeau for about $20 a shot with an arrogant kid who ultimately lost $50-$100 from his inferior rock/scissors/papering.

I only got involved in a few hands with the host of Bravo's Celebrity Poker show. I raised his blind a couple of times with hands like A-K and bricked. He took a few small pots from me. Then I got pocket aces in early position and made a weak $6 raise. Phil asked for a chip count of my stack and decided to raise enough to leave me with $1 left (I'm not sure what that was about, but I went ahead and put my last dollar in when the action came back to me). Anyway, Phil had pocket queens and was unable to outdraw my aces, so I doubled through him. That was really the only substantial pot we played.

I was a little off my game that night, and we only played for a couple of hours, but regardless, I have to admit I could never get any sort of read on Phil Gordon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The pain of a loss...

Barry Tanenbaum has a nice article in the latest Card Player called "Understanding Poker Errors Through Prospect Theory -- Part 1, The pain of a loss is about twice as much as the joy of a gain."

Here's an excerpt:

To Mr. Spock, $100 is $100. It represents a value used to purchase goods and services. With humans, it is a different story. To most people, losing a fixed amount like $100 hurts more than gaining the same amount feels good. So, the subjective benefit of gaining $100 is less than the subjective pain of losing $100. In poker terms, people feel much worse (actually, about two to two and a half times as bad, according to Rachel) losing a bet than they feel good winning one.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Howard Lederer on Poker and Zen

"The Professor of Poker" Howard Lederer talks about how Zen has influenced his game:

"Staying in the moment is the path to poker mastery. And it is poker tournaments that present the greatest challenge to this goal. How is it possible to think only about the current hand when you have made bad plays and taken bad beats only minutes before? How is it possible to stay mindful of only the current hand when if you could win this tournament it might change your life? These are questions that can only be answered by each individual player. But, I believe that the study of the Zen arts can lead you down that path.

"I realized that the more I could stay focused on the present hand and forget about bad beats and bad plays from my recent past, the better I would play. I also concluded that even more damaging to my focus on the present hand might be the nervousness brought on by thoughts of winning the tournament. Staying in the moment at the poker table is not an easy task. But, when I read "Zen in the Art of Archery," there was a concept that stayed with me. The master archer hits the target without having aimed. This meant that the more I tried to focus on the moment, the more I would not succeed. I could only find that focus from within myself. I decided that I would sit at the table and relax. For two years now, I have been practicing my own form of poker meditation. Instead of trying hard to focus, I allow it to happen through relaxation."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Negreanu and Lindgren in the New Yorker

"I went to speak at Ohio State and I ended up jokingly saying that I'm starting my Stay Out of School program," [Daniel Negreanu] said. "I was totally kidding, but, realistically, it's not that far-fetched an idea. For kids that are eighteen, nineteen years old, that are going to go to college, get a dead-end job where they make fifty or sixty thousand dollars a year, I can take that same kid, teach him how to play poker, and in three months show him how to make more money than he would ever make in that dead-end job.

"The stock market is gambling, right?" he continued. "This kid studies and he makes money in the stock market, and this is considered by society O.K. A poker player, a kid, sees all these idiots making poor investments on these poker hands and says, 'Wow, I could do a better job than they're doing,' and he studies, and he makes it. How is that different, realistically, than a stockbroker? I mean, I don't see the difference."

"Well," Lindgren said, "there's more cheating and collusion in the stock market."

- "THE PLAYERS: A new generation makes a card game a career choice" by KEVIN CONLEY

Monday, May 23, 2005

Richard Nixon's poker career

An excerpt from my signed copy of The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

"My poker playing during this time has been somewhat exaggerated in terms of both my skills and my winnings. In Whittier any kind of gambling had been anathema to me as a Quaker. But the pressures of wartime, and the even more oppressive monotony, made it an irresistible diversion. I found playing poker instructive as well as entertaining and profitable. I learned that the people who have the cards are usually the ones who talk the least and the softest; those who are bluffing tend to talk loudly and give themselves away. One night in a stud poker game, with an ace in the hole, I drew a royal flush in diamonds. The odds against this are about 650,000 to 1, and I was naturally excited. But I played it with a true poker face, and won a substantial pot."

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Mark Twain on Poker

"There are few things that are so unpardonably neglected in our country as poker. The upper class knows very little about it. Now and then you find ambassadors who have sort of a general knowledge of the game, but the ignorance of the people is fearful. Why, I have known clergymen, good men, kind-hearted, liberal, sincere, and all that, who did not know the meaning of a 'flush.' It is enough to make one ashamed of the species."

-Mark Twain

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Exposed Cards at the Borgata

One of the sillier ways of protecting your hand in poker is to actually show it to the table while the action is still live. Players view it as a form of insurance, even though it goes against the whole idea of poker. An example would be, like, if you had pocket aces on the button, and before the flop someone made a big bet and was called by three or four people. There's a decent amount of money in the pot, and you know you have the best hand, so you move all-in preflop and show your aces knowing that no one has the odds to call you and you'll win what's in the pot without risking anything. I can't see myself ever doing that with aces, but one of the players at my no-limit table at the Borgata brought up the rule and mentioned that he had done it before and that it was perfectly legal. At the time that he mentioned it, I didn't give it much thought. Coincidentally enough, I ended up intentionally exposing my cards during a hand at that same table about an hour later, only for slightly different reasons.

Over the course of a few hands, I saw a friendly Asian kid lose his entire stack--about $600--on bad beats (AA losing to KK, my flush beating his flush, etc.). He rebought for $300 determined to win his money back. On the first hand he played after buying back in, I limped in with pocket fours from middle position, and he limped in on the button. The flop came 9-7-4 with two hearts. One of the early position players went all in for $27, and I flat called. The Asian kid then came over the top, making it $75. That put about $150 in the pot overall, I had about $500-600 left in front of me while the Asian kid had $225 or so left. I knew I had the stronger hand, and I felt bad for him, so I said, "I have you beat," and showed him my set of fours as I went all in. He turned over 9-7, thought about it for a minute and folded, knowing he could only win if one of the four remaining nines or sevens came out. The turn card was a nine, which meant he would have beaten me, but since I showed him my cards, I took the pot down (the other guy in the hand was on a flush draw) instead of losing $300.

Sometimes it pays to be nice.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Katy Lederer Interview

Hey, go read my interview with Poker Face author Katy Lederer, in which she states:

Both writing and poker function as economies of status and prestige, and both require a survivalist's iron will. That said, they both are such elegant and beautiful art forms. Both appear on the surface quite simple, and it is only after some time spent practicing them that it comes clear how incredibly complex they can be. The sign of both an expert writer and an expert poker player is that they make their respective endeavors look easy.

The thing is, neither pursuit is easy. It took my brother [Howard Lederer] two years to make any money at all playing poker. It took me ten to become proficient enough at writing that I could pull off a full-length prose narrative. In both art forms, it is possible to make money in dribs and drabs--to do well intermittently. What separates the professionally successful in these fields from all the rest is their ability to stay steady, to have stamina. It is one thing to write a good sentence, another to write a good book. Similarly, it is one thing to play a single, phenomenal hand when the deck's on your side, another to patiently wait when the deck has run cold. The person who can pull of the latter is the one who is eventually paid off.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Stomach stapling and poker?

One of the identity theory staff members sent me this Chicago Tribune article, "The Making of a Poker Star", and said, rightly, that it would interest me "in an anthropological kind of
way."

The article covers the Hollywood-ization of poker and focuses on Annie Duke as an example of the changing face of poker.

[Annie Duke's] face adorns the cover of "Tournament Poker 2005," a video game by Plainfield's Donohoe Digital and Eagle Games. She is managed by Brian Balsbaugh, a former golf agent who has built a stable of high-profile card players. She also is represented by the heavy-hitting talent agency International Creative Management.

There's a book coming out next year with her name on the spine, and Duke is developing both a movie and television sitcom based on her life (the latter through "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow's production company and NBC).

Although she became poker's highest-earning female moneymaker of all time in 2004 -- capping her achievement with a win at ESPN's Tournament of Champions and capturing a World Series of Poker bracelet -- Duke says her success isn't solely based on her card sense.

"I'm the right story at the right time," Duke says.