Monday, June 05, 2006

I'll take a shot

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 9704796

Friday, June 02, 2006

Is it hot or is the heater on?

I played at Sandia Casino and Resort last week while in Albuquerque on business and while sitting in a 1/2 NLHE game, I heard a fellow make an interesting comment. I should probably fill you in on a bit of detail so you can understand the significance of his comment.

The game was mostly tight with a maybe three loose cannons in the game (myself being one of the three). The game being 1/2 NL had a min buy in of $50 and a max of $200. The table was being fed by a must move game, so the stacks were relatively large compared to the must move table. I think most players had $400+ in front of them. The gentleman in question was definitely a solid player with plenty of experience. When I came to the table, he was the chip leader with about $900 in front of him. He wore glasses and a ball cap, and his facial features were so similar to a celebrity that a new player that took a seat next to me asked me; “Are we playing celebrity poker?”. I asked him why and he said, “Cause that guy down there looks just like Steve Martin.” Looking again, I had to agree with him, he did look like Steve Martin. He certainly seemed to have the demeanor of Steve Martin, constantly smiling and joking. Except for the fact that he had all of the money on the table, I think he was a pretty likable fellow.

Steve Martin seemed to make some pretty remarkable connections too. For example, he top pair, but made a gut shot straight on the river while an opponent had flopped top two pair. He later made another straight on the turn when his opponent had flopped a set of Aces. Resistance is futile and their stacks were assimilated. Sitting on about, $1500 now, he was all smiles.

The fellow beside him is a regular at this casino, I’ve played with him on every business trip to Albuquerque now. He is an average player in my opinion, who’s strongest point is playing aggressively in position. He leans over to Steve Martin and says, “You’re pretty lucky tonight. It’s been a while since I’ve had that kind of luck.” Steve Martin turns and says, “I think people make their own luck.”

Later that night, I sat and pondered on that statement, “… people make their own luck.” After some reflection and observations, I am inclined to agree with Steve, at least in part. People do make their own luck, good or bad.

The statement is true in everything, not just poker. Take if you will a person who loses their luggage on a flight. Bad luck, right? Maybe. I fly quite often and every once in a while, my bag is mishandled. In fact, on the return trip from Albuquerque, I sat at the carousel to no avail. My bag was somewhere in baggage land. My wife says that I am unlucky as my bag does seem to get mishandled a lot. But, am I unlucky or not? If I didn’t check my bag, there is a very good likelihood that my bag will not get lost. However, I chose to check my bag, therefore I provided the opportunity for it to get lost. Additionally, I fly a lot more than the casual flyer, therefore, there is a greater likelihood that my bag will get lost because I fly more often. Additionally, I had a connection in DFW. Anytime you fly with a connection, and especially in a major airport, you again increase your likelihood to have a bag get lost. So was I unlucky? Probably; but I suspect not as unlucky as one might think.

In poker, a player can influence how their game is going to be just by their demeanor and table image to the other players. If I bet more aggressively and with such authority that I instill fear in my opponents (because “he must have the nuts”) I have a much greater likelihood of winning this hand and the next with this image. However, on the flip side, if I am making crying calls and show a sullen despondent table image, I am more likely going to lose as weaker hands who would otherwise have folded now are inclined to call.

Have you ever been on a Heater? You know; when it doesn’t matter what cards you have, you are going to win this hand and the next 4 of 5 hands. Is it luck? Maybe. A skilled player will recognize when the conditions are ripe for a player to go on a heater. It usually happens when there is a large pot and the player who is a severe underdog to win the hand, makes an incredible call to win a huge pot. Was he lucky? Maybe, or maybe he had the right pot odds to call. In either case, he is setting the stage to go on a heater. After winning a large pot, he plays the next hand regardless of what it is. He catches a bit of the board and bets aggressively. He narrowly wins, but wins this pot all the same. All of a sudden the chemistry is just right for a heater to happen. Players are back on their heels; the hero has a large infusion of confidence and bets accordingly. Others who enter the pot on draws throw away piles of chips when their draws don’t come to fruition. Starting hands of the opponents are less than desirable, so they start to tighten up and start mucking more often. Yet the guy on the heater continues to gain more confidence and bets even more aggressively. Both have the effect of reducing the field and increasing the chances of winning. He continues to win pot after pot. The next thing you know, he wins like 8 out of the next 10 pots and his chip stack grows exponentially. It happens, I’ve been on them, I’ve seen others on them. But why does it happen? Is it just dumb luck? Or maybe the player made his own luck by being aggressive, narrowing the playing field, and making draws exceedingly expensive to try and hit. What do you think?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Legal Public Competitive Poker in Texas

Will it happen any time soon?

Greg Abbott, State Attorney General of Texas, issued an opinion nearly a year ago on June 20, 2005 regarding the legality of playing poker tournaments in bars and restaurants. The opinion was prompted by a letter from the Ector County District Attorney, John W. Smith, requesting the Attorney General’s opinion on the legality of playing poker tournaments in two distinctly different scenarios.

In the first scenario, a bar hosts a poker tournament in which all of the entrants pay an entry fee or buy in. The fee being of equal or greater value than $25, is pooled and then divided among the winning entries; be it 3, 5, 7 or whatever, depending upon the total number of entrants. In other words, you pay $25, which goes into the pot to be won by the top 3 or more. In this scenario, the bar or house does not remove any money from the pot – every dollar which was paid in is paid out to the winners. Is it legal?

No. Why? Because, the bar would be operating a gambling place according to the opinion, in which players are placing a bet on a game in which the outcome is determined by chance or at least partially by chance (until proven otherwise).

How about scenario 2? In this scenario, the same bar hosts a poker tournament in which the entrants do not pay anything. It costs nothing to enter. It’s free. The tournament maybe a one time tournament or a progressive one in which the winners of each qualifying tournament earn seats into a final tournament. In either case, winners receive gifts of varying value. It could be a t-shirt; it could be a gift certificate. In a progressive tournament, the overall winner could win a seat into a major tournament event such as the WSOP. Is it legal?

Yes. Why? Because the bar operators are not operating a gambling place since the entrants did not bet anything (entry was free!) and therefore were not gambling.

Alright! We can legally play in free bar tournaments.

This opinion is a good thing for poker as an industry in Texas. These free tournaments introduce many players to the joys of playing poker for only a little investment of time. It is a breeding ground for new players when you think about it. It’s a great way to learn how to play, have fun, maybe win a prize, and you can’t lose anything. Even well experienced players enjoy playing them because it’s an easy way to try and win prizes as one might feel their skill and experience will give them the edge to beat out their novice opponents.

The opinion however would seem to seal the fate of buy-in tournaments in a public place in which players can win money. The same is likely true for ring games. Although the opinion does not directly address ring or cash games, one might figure that if an entry fee into a tournament is considered a bet, so would the buy-in to a ring game.

Has anyone in this state taken a look around? Poker is everywhere. Competitive LEGAL poker is being played all around Texas. Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, and now Mexico have legal competitive poker being played for money. Yet Texas remains staunchly committed to stand up against the evils all around our borders. Texas is a state of high moral fiber, devoutly religious, and considers gambling to be wrong, immoral, and sinful.

Well, except horse racing. We’ll let you do a little betting on the track. But there can only be so many tracks allowed. We don’t want them all over the place you know.

Oh, and we do have a heart, so you can spend all you want on a chance to win those money prizes at your local charity bingo hall.

What’s that? The lottery? Well, yeah; I forgot, we have one of those too, with scratch off tickets available also. In fact, we know poker is so popular; we named one of our scratch ticket games after the popular game Texas Holdem. The TEXAS lottery – TEXAS Holdem; see the similarities? It’s almost as if the poker game was named after our State! Besides, you can’t loose your house playing those. I mean they are only a dollar or two, right?

I still am trying to figure what it is about gambling that is so immoral.

Is it because it is immoral to win something for nothing based on a game in which the outcome is determined by chance, or at least is determined partially by chance? Wait, that can’t be defined as gambling because you didn’t make a bet if it was for nothing. See the Attorney General of Texas opinion, previously mentioned.

Maybe we don’t allow gambling because it is immoral to make a wager to win more than what you wagered on a game in which the outcome is determined by chance, or at least is determined partially by chance. No, that can’t be immoral. Otherwise, all of our churches who have bingo halls would be doing something immoral and we know that isn’t the case. Otherwise, we would then have to classify bingo as a game of skill with no possibility of chance determining the outcome.

Perhaps it is because it is immoral to make a profit from operating a game in which money lost on the outcome of a game that is determined by chance, or is at least partially determined by chance. In other words, it’s immoral to make a profit from the loses of participants for hosting or providing the opportunity for such a game to take place, regardless if the profit was made directly or indirectly from the game. That’s it, the profits are immoral.

OK, let me get this straight, if you make a profit off of operating or providing the opportunity for gambling to take place it’s immoral, UNLESS we call the profits charity or taxes, in which case everything is ok.

Isn’t all of this just so very silly?

Will poker ever be legal to play in public card rooms in Texas similar to other states? Not as long as we fight over whether poker is a game of chance or a game of skill. I personally think it is a game of chance played with skill. What does that mean? It means that a skilled player can use the tools of the game more effectively to gain advantage and win than a player who is not as skilled in the same situations.

Skill or chance, who cares? Defining poker as a skilled game will never happen. So it isn’t even worth anyone’s time in trying to do so.

The only way to get legal public card rooms in Texas is to change the law. Let’s do a little education. Remember school house rock?

The law which needs to be changed is part of the Texas Constitution. The Texas Constitution is not an easy document to change. The process goes something like this:

Someone writes a bill which hopefully becomes law one day. A State Senator can sponsor a bill to the Senate. Likewise, a State Congressman can sponsor a bill to the House of Representatives.

Once the bill is submitted, it goes to committee. A committee is made up of legislators who then decide if a bill is worthy of being sent to the floor for a vote. They can edit the bill, send it back to be re-written, or submit it to the floor. Most bills die in committee. The floor could send it back to committee or vote to pass it or kill it. If they vote to pass it, it gets sent to the other house for consideration and goes through a similar committee process. Once a bill is approved by both houses, it goes to the Governor for signing. There are time constraints all along the way. For example, the Governor has 10 days to sign it. He can either veto it, or not sign it. In either case, it would go back to the Legislature which would require a 2/3 majority vote to override the veto. After all of that, it goes to the people to vote on.

I have left out a lot of details to simplify the process. Even still, you can see that to change the law will require a monumental effort. Can it be done? Yes, but not likely in the next session, and perhaps not in the session after that. Why?

Because our legislators believe that the voting public does not want poker to be legalized. Did you read that last line correctly? I didn’t say the public, I said the VOTING public. Are you registered to vote?

Poker players tend to be very passionate people, especially when it comes to poker. But the truth is, most of them aren’t even registered to vote. If all of the poker players united, under one voice or organization, donated tax deductible money to the organization to generate the funds to hire lobbyists, and more importantly, these players were ALL registered to vote, we could change things.

The organization would give the players an orchestrated voice, the direction to move as an organized body. However, it is the individual REGISTERED players who would have the most influence.
If every Texas resident poker player did these four things:

2. Write or call your legislator and told them you want them to legalize poker.
3. Tell your legislators that to receive your vote for their re-election depends on them voting for pro-poker legislation.
4. Join a common organization who’s fundamental purpose is to legalize poker in Texas.

We could legalize poker in Texas.

I had mentioned in a previous post a few organizations that were working on this endeavor of legalizing poker in Texas. The first was Texans for Poker. The organization floundered and I believe it is now defunct. The second is the Texas Card Players Association. (Website still under construction.) This group formed last fall and have only just elected a board of directors. Lastly, there is the Texas Poker PAC. They have partnered with the TCPA in a joint effort to legalize poker. These two organizations are still somewhat in their infancy. Considering the TCPA formed nearly 9 months ago shows slow progress, but progress none the less. While I am hopeful that they will champion the cause, I am cautiously hopeful.

In the mean time, if you are a poker player who is not registered to vote you can help out immediately by going and getting registered. And don’t give the excuse that you don’t want to register because you will get snagged for jury duty! The truth is that you can get snagged for jury duty even if you aren’t registered to vote.

We all need to band together to even have a chance to force change!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

This confirms I belong in Ireland

You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.

Farewell to a Great Man. George Stephen

I am sure those who knew George, also knows he passed away April 27th. His obituary was printed on Sunday May 7th in the Austin American-Statesman. I've also posted it below.

I met George at a poker game probably 7 or 8 years ago and have played with him many times since. He was a very respected man whom I found to have a great sense of humor, a fierce competitiveness, extremely intelligent, and out right fun to play with. While my only interactions with him were primarily poker related, I knew him to be a man who I am sorry that I only knew in his twilight years.

One of George’s friend (and long-time fellow poker player) and I were reminiscing about him and some of his poker antics tonight. He was telling me about his conversation with George when he last saw him not long before his passing. George stated, “You know, if I hadn’t chased all of them damned straights and flushes all those years, I’d finished a winning player.”

George; in my book you did finish a winner. Farewell. Fair winds, and following seas.

George A. Stephen died at his home in Austin in the company of his family on April 27, 2006. He was a nationally-recognized tax lawyer and authority on civil and criminal tax fraud. Until his final illness, he was in private law practice in Austin and Washington, DC. He had retired in 1973 as Chief, Intelligence Division, United States Internal Revenue Service, based in Austin. During his 25 year career with the IRS, he was twice given Outstanding Performance Awards and at retirement received the Albert Gallatin Award, the Department of Treasury's highest career service honor, conferred by US Treasury Secretary George P. Shultz. He earlier received a Special Commendation by US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for outstanding achievement in the extended federal investigations of the US Task Force on Racketeering and Organized Crime. George was a visiting lecturer on civil and criminal tax fraud at the University of Texas School of Business and Texas Junior Bar Association and a seminar instructor in financial investigative techniques for the Texas Department of Public Safety Investigative Training Schools. He was past chairman of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and former chairman of the Board of Directors of the Government Employees Federal Credit Union. George received a BBA degree from the University of Texas at Austin and completed all accounting courses for an MBA there. He received a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from South Texas College of Law, Houston. He had earlier completed 3-1/2 years of Texas A&M's 5-year petroleum engineering degree program when he was drafted after Pearl Harbor. He was commissioned by the US Army Air Corps as a Bombardier Navigator at Kelly Field, San Antonio. After graduating from Pan American World Airways Advanced Navigation College at Homestead, Florida, he flew in bombers and multiengine aircraft in combat in every WWII theater of war. He also served as a special consultant on fuel-conservational transoceanic and transpolar route planning. Later, he was among the volunteers who flew the "Hump" over the Himalayas between India and China to supply Chinese and Russian Allies. Following the end of WWII, "five years, a wife, and one baby later," as he often said, he began college anew at UT while working full time as a radio news and sports announcer. George was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, July 14, 1920. As a youth, he lived in five Texas and Oklahoma cities as the family followed his father's oil business. He attended San Jacinto High School in Houston as a freshman, where he drew attention on the track team as a prospective Olympics high hurdler. When the East Texas oilfields boomed, he moved with his family to Kilgore, where he starred as an all-regional basketball player and left end on the championship football team at Kilgore High School and met his future wife, LaVerne Anding. He was preceded in death by his parents, John Earnest Stephen and Vida Klein Stephen; his wife of 53 years, LaVerne (MiMi) Anding Stephen; and his son, David Darden Stephen. Survivors in his immediate family are his brother, John Erle Stephen of Austin; granddaughter Sarah Stephen and daughter-in-law Jeanna Hamilton Stephen of Bulverde; niece Leslie Stephen and her husband, Anthony L. Renzi, of Austin; nephew Kurt Stephen and his wife, Victoria Shawn Stephen, of McAllen; and great-nieces Elyse Stephen and Sophia Stephen and great-nephew Alexander Stephen, all of McAllen. George was admired for the intelligence, insight, and integrity he brought to all his dealings and relationships. He had a fun-loving spirit and wit, and his wisdom and generosity enriched the lives of many friends and relations. He was a fierce competitor at bridge, chess, and poker, which he played regularly until a few weeks before his death. He supported many charities as an Honorary Member of the Stephen F. Austin Chapter-Order of DeMolay, Honorary Lifetime Member of the Elks, 25 year member of Hill City Lodge No. 456 AF&AM, Scottish Rite Mason-32nd Degree, and sponsor of activities of the Austin Area Boy Scouts and Vaughn House, Inc. He also was a director of the Austin Area Garden Council and organized the Austin Rose Society, serving three terms as its president. A Life Member of the University of Texas Ex-Students Association and Member of the UT Longhorn Club, his other memberships included the Travis County Bar Association, American Bar Association, Federal Bar Association, American Judicature Society, Association of Former Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service, Austin Chess Club, Texas Chess Association, and US Chess Federation. George's family is grateful to all the dedicated professionals who cared for him over the past eighteen months, most especially to Angie Richter, Ida Sparks, and Ernest Valle, and to the huge circle of friends and professional associates who showed their love and respect for him in so many ways. In keeping with his wishes, George was cremated and his remains will be buried privately by the family at Lake Side Cemetery, Eagle Lake, Texas; a farewell gathering of his friends and family will be held in Austin on June 7th at 4:30 p.m. in the Amphitheater at Laguna Gloria. Memorial contributions may be made to Vaughn House, Inc., of Austin; Houston Shriners Hospital for Children; or Scottish Rite Learning Center of Austin. Published in the Austin American-Statesman on 5/7/2006..

You're so Jaded

I am sometimes amazed at how poker players think. In some ways, we are so jaded when it comes to the value of money. Perhaps the old adage fits the bill here: Penny Wise - Pound Foolish.

Case in point: Sitting at a table in Las Vegas last week and the conversation turned to oil and the rising prices of gas. Players at the table offered up the amounts they had recently paid for a gallon of gasoline. The players being from different locations around the country clearly showed that gasoline prices were higher all over. Regardless of location, prices are clearly reaching $3.00 a gallon and more in some areas.

“It used to cost me about $35 to fill up my tank. I just filled up on the way to the airport before flying to Vegas and it cost me almost $50! It’s ridiculous how much money these big oil companies are making!” The player making this statement was clearly angry for having to spend so much more money to fill up his gas tank.

Let’s assume that his vehicle gets 400 miles between fill ups. I believe most vehicles get between 350 and 450 miles between fill ups depending upon their size and function. 400 seems like an appropriate number to base our assumptions on. In real terms that would mean he went from paying 8 cents a mile to fuel his vehicle to 12 cents per mile, or…$15. Come on! Are you serious? $15? Hell, how far will a taxi take you for $15?

Yet these same players were buying and re-buying into the game for HUNDREDS of dollars. I made a point to ask the guy when he bet $75 into me on a particular hand, “$75? Your hand is worth a tank and a half of gas?” To which he replied sheepishly, “uh, call me and I guess we’ll see.” I didn’t call him, but some else did, much to his dismay.

I guess it all comes down to how much value you place on things. Apparently bluffing at a pot for $75 must have more value than the extra $15 it cost him to fuel up his vehicle. Luckily I can see the silver lining for him. At least when he bluffs off all of his money, he is guaranteed to get home from the airport since his vehicle has a full tank of gas. Surely having that feeling of security is worth the extra $15. Don’t you think so?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Are you drunk or do you always talk this much?

I was playing at a game last night where there was an older gentleman who was rather inebriated. He was having a good time and winning some big pots. He also was VERY talkative. His slurred words and unsolicited opinions seemed to be annoying a few players at my end of the table. I personally liked him being this way – he was providing all kinds of action, raising pre-flop, straddling, and betting with apparent abandonment. He was definitely playing loose, but I think some of the players were underestimating his ability to discern where he stood in hands and he was cleaning up rather nicely – or at least his growing chip stack seemed to support such a notion.

At any rate, after a rather long diatribe about something which none of us could quite comprehend I stated, “Well; it could be worse.”

To which a fellow player asked, “What? Like if there were two of them?”

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Wiggly Good Time

I recently returned from a family trip to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. We took our daughter and her Grandparents joined us for 4 of the 6 days we were there. We kind of scheduled this trip around taking our daughter to see The Wiggles in concert. They were performing at the Thomas & Mack Center.

If you don’t have kids, you probably have no idea who The Wiggles are. I can tell you I didn’t know who they were 2 years ago. Kids are addicted to their funny antics, catching songs, and wiggly dances that they perform. They hail from Australia and families came from all over to see them. We heard one woman “bragging” that they had come from Virginia just to see the Wiggles. Their US tour will take them to many cities, but Las Vegas was just the right place for us to see them.

We arrived on Sunday and while I watched our daughter, my wife went off to play blackjack. She loves to play blackjack and doesn’t get to do so very often, so I wanted to be sure she could get some play in. We later learned that it is not at all uncommon for parents to just leave their kids unsupervised in their hotel room while mom and dad run off to the tables. Personally, I think this is criminal and couldn’t imagine a parent doing such a thing.

At any rate, it wasn’t until 9am on Monday morning that I was able to play my first hand of poker. I walked over to the Bellagio and signed up for a single table satellite to their $500 buy in daily tournament. The buy in was $130, and the top two received a seat. I busted out 4th. Incidentally, John H. was in the same satellite and we were able to catch up on his adventures since moving to Vegas last summer.

After I busted out, things seemed kind of slow at Bellagio, so I headed over to Caesars where the World Series of Poker Tournament Circuit events were taking place. I really wanted to play in Event 8. ($1000 +60 buy in NLHE on Wed) They run single table satellites all day every day so I entered a $130 single table which paid the winner 2 $500 tournament entry chips and $170 in cash. Unfortunately, I busted out 4th again. This trip was definitely not starting out the way I wanted.

After busting out of my second satellite, I decided to try my hand in the cash games and promptly bought into a 2/5 NLHE game. A couple of buy ins later, I walked out of Caesars having lost nearly every hand I played. I was beginning to question whether I should even play anymore the rest of the trip.

I walked back over to Harrah’s were we were staying and decided to play some blackjack. While blackjack is not my favorite game to play, I do like to play occasionally. After a couple of hours of playing, I doubled my money and cashed out. Even so, I was still down over $700 for the day.

My wife’s parents flight was severely delayed, so while we waited on their arrival, we decided to take a stroll on the strip. We walked from Harrahs north to the Wynn and back to Harrahs taking in sights along the way. We then headed south to Belagio to see the fountains and maybe catch Leslie on a break while there.

This was Monday May 1st and the illegal immigrant march was taking place as we started to head to Bellagio. There were so many people in this march, when you stood on one of the bridges over Las Vegas Blvd, you saw a sea of people in both directions. I don’t know how many showed up, but there had to be in the neighborhood of 100,000 marchers. The march lasted nearly 2 hours. I wonder how Las Vegas would operate if all these people were “sent back” as some have suggested.

I awoke Tuesday morning (Wiggles day) and decided to head down to see what was going on in Harrah’s poker room. But on my way, I heard it calling to me. You see I don’t really play slot machines. Truthfully, they are nearly the worst thing you can play in a casino, but there is one machine which calls to me and I must answer the call. I usually play $100 a trip in these machines and as I had to pass right by them to get to Harrah’s poker room, which means I had to stop. WHEEL OF FORTUNE! There is just something about getting that wheel spin. After 20 mins and blowing the $100, I walked into the Harrahs poker room just as they were starting a $50 tournament. So I bought in. I didn’t realize that this was a re-buy tournament and that there was absolutely no way I could finish it (if I were that lucky) since the concert started in 3 hours. It’s a good thing anyways, as I couldn’t stand this tournament. The dealers treated the players like morons. Well, that was because half of the table was made up of very inexperienced players who had no clue as to what was going on. Normally, this would be a good thing, as they have virtually no shot at winning the tournament. But I found that my patience was worn thin as every hand was a lesson on how to play a tournament. I know you have to start somewhere, but damned this was just too painful to sit and play. There were 3 ladies at this table who had only seen poker on TV and had never actually played before. You can imagine how slow and agonizing the hands were. All the while, knowing that I had to leave before the tournament would finish, I decided I was not going to re-buy and that I should probably just bust out for my own sanity’s sake.

I went back to the blackjack table and waited on the family to come down for lunch. When they came down, I cashed out (for a loss) so we could eat lunch before we headed over to see the Wiggles. If you are trying to keep track, I was down over $1100 for the trip. Thankfully, my wife had booked some wins at blackjack, so we were positive overall, but the losses weren’t helping my ego any.

After the show, Grandma and Grandpa took over babysitting so we could both go play. I headed over to Caesars and my wife stayed to play BJ at Harrahs. Still wanting to play in Event 8, I entered another single table satellite. This one was for $200. The winner got 3 $500 chips, plus $310 in cash. When we were down to two players, we chopped the pot. I took 2 $500 chips for my tournament entry into event 8 plus $140 in cash, the other guy got the other $500 chip and the rest of the cash.

Feeling good about my win and wanting to get plenty of rest before the tournament, I headed back to Harrahs where I found my wife still playing BJ. We hadn’t played “together” yet, so I sat down at her table and bought in for $500. She was up quite a bit, so we played together for a while. After some brutal shoes and dumping all of my $500, we cashed out her winnings and headed up for a good nights rest before the tournament.

I entered event 8 and was hopeful to make the money as were the other 210 people that entered. Sadly, it was not meant to be and I went down in a blaze of glory, AKs losing to a gut shot Q on the river to KJd. I am not even sure how far into the field I lasted, there were still more than 100 players left, so I wasn’t even close. Oh well, I’ll try again next time.

After losing so much at no limit, I decided to try some limit poker. I prefer 15/30 and 30/60, and as I hadn’t been to the Wynn poker room, I decided I would give it a shot. I stopped by Harrahs and Grandma, wife, baby, and myself headed over to Wynn. Grandma hadn’t been to the Wynn before and said she wanted to go check it out. We stopped for lunch on the strip and then strolled over to the Wynn. I think Grandma was impressed, as anyone would be. The Wynn is a beautiful casino with perfect attention to every detail.

I got on the list for 15/30 and bid the girls adieu. After about 20 mins, I settled down into the 15/30 game to play. There were some very aggressive players on this table and I had to get out of no limit mode and back into limit poker play. The table was a must move game and the whole time I was there (maybe an hour and a half) the table was short handed. Players were moved to the main table, others sat out, walked away, or just cashed out. At one point we were 4 handed for about 20 mins with 2 players missing from the table. I finally decided to book the win before I blinded it all off. I cashed out +$106. Wooohooo! I finally won at poker. Hell, that only left me down -$1900 for the trip. Things were looking up!

I left the Wynn and jumped into a cab to head back over to Caesars. When I arrived, the room was packed. The tournament was down to about 15 or so players, plus they had started the second chance tournament at 7:00pm. It was nearly 8pm and I decided to try my chances at no limit again. I bought into a 2/5 nlhe game for $300. As players busted out of the tournament, they would fill seats that were occasionally vacated by busted players in our 2/5 game. I was doing ok, up about $180 or so around midnight. I considered calling it a night, but this guy sat down at our table and I saw him make a bold steal. He showed his hand of 67o and I decided I was going to take his stack.

Reminiscent of my trip to Vegas in March of ’05, I ordered a chilled Tuaca to loosen things up. One of the players at the table then turned me on to a drink called an oatmeal cookie (Baileys/Butterscotch Schnapps/Goldschlager). After a few of these, I wasn’t feeling any pain. I then proceeded to go on a run of cards you get when the deck hits you square between the eyes. What made things even better is that many of the players thought I was being “over aggressive” in my inebriated state – how wrong they were. A local who was playing with us said, “You are unbelievable! You’ve knocked out like a dozen players.” My chip stacks steadily grew. One player even pointed out that I had a “dirty stack”. I responded by saying, “I know. That’s my nickname. Dirty Stacks.”

I must have tipped out over $400 to the dealers/chip runners/floor people. One particular chip runner named Tej, became a personal assistant of mine if you will. I informed him that every time we had an empty seat, it was his job to get it filled. I rewarded him handsomely and his tokes were probably better than he had ever received as a chip runner.

The dealers were all my friends too. (Funny how that happens when you are throwing tokes around.) On one particular hand, I was getting a massage from one of the massage therapists that work the room, and I looked down to find KJd in my hand. I raised preflop and the board came QJ8 with 2 diamonds. I made a small bet and my target stack raised me. There were 3 callers when it got back to me so I went all in to isolate. He called. I told the dealer (Patches) if he hits this hand he was getting 10%. I wonder if he believed me as he was getting pushed as soon as the hand was completed. There was no waiting for the diamond and I told him I’d get him after I counted the size the pot. It took a while to count the pot down as my manual dexterity seemed to be non-existent at this point in the night. With the help of a couple of the players, we determined that I owed Patches $65.00. So I cut out $65.00 in red chips and walked, err, stumbled, over to the table he was on and plopped the handful of chips into his shirt pocket with the familiar clanking that only true clay chips can make. I then said, “I told you, 10% - I’m a man of my word.”

Later still receiving my massage, Patches came over to join in giving me a massage. I am sure all of the players at my table were either entertained by all of this or completely in raged that some drunk ass is winning all of the money, and getting all of the attention. I didn’t care what they thought though – in fact, I probably wasn’t coherent enough to even know that anyone was steaming.

After winning another large pot, I decided I was going to toke ALL of the dealers and stumbled to every table in play and toked every dealer dealing, and then the girls at the cage, and then the floor persons, the girl who maintained the wait list, even a nice Hispanic fellow who was wiping down tables. Hell, “It’s not my money!” I exclaimed. “Share the wealth!”

Around 3:00am, I determined that I should stop drinking as my trips to the rest room became more frequent and more difficult….as I couldn’t walk straight anymore. I decided it was time to call it a night and go. How much did I win? I wasn’t sure as all of my stacks were dirty and I wasn’t in any condition to rack them up. So my personal assistant, Tej, racked up all of my chips for me. I told him I had bought in for $300 and he said, well, you’ve had a good night – I count you at $3,120.00.

Call it $3,100 and keep the $20.

Finally, I was in the black, for the trip.

But then came the time to pay for my foolishness. I exited out an emergency exit as a short cut and the wave of alcohol hit me like a tidal wave. After puking 3 times in the bushes, I staggered back to Harrahs to sleep it off. It’s a wonder I actually made it. Wondering through the casino, I ran into my wife and family. Thank goodness. She guided me up to bed.

Well, I didn’t really get any sleep. I was soooooo sick for the next 12-14 hours I could barely do anything but run back and forth to the restroom. We were scheduled to fly out this day and there was just no way I could fly. So we extended our trip for another day. (Maybe that was my plan all along!)

The rest of the trip was rather benign, although I did get to play one more 3 hour session Friday night before we headed off to the airport. It was a worthwhile session as I booked another win for just over $500. So all in all, it was a good trip. Baby got to see the Wiggles, Grandma won playing BJ with my wife, Grand parents spent time with their granddaughter, I won, my wife won, we paid for our room and Grandparents room in cash, covered all of our expenses and came home with more money than we left with. What more could you ask for on a trip to Vegas?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Breakfast of Champions

There is a certain poker player that plays in Austin: whom many of you know. I recently heard a story involving this player which happened many months ago, but I have only just heard it and thought it was humorous.

A group of players made a road trip from Austin to play in New Orleans for a few days. After a rather difficult night of playing poker and busting out, our hero found a buddy at another table and said something like this:

“Hey man, I’m kind of hungry, can you spot me some, so I can get breakfast?”

The player looked up from his cards and said “Sure, man. How much do you need?”

To which our hero replied:


Monday, April 17, 2006

The Sky is falling.

Well, it’s been a long hiatus, for those of you that venture back here occasionally. I think the biggest reason I stopped posting was that I was beginning to feel that my postings really didn’t fit into the poker blog world.

Most poker blogs focus on personal play, strategy, bad beats, and poker in general. I wanted this blog to be about poker, but I wanted to focus more on the political, social, and economic aspects of the industry, with of course my own opinions on the issues, solicited or otherwise.

And then there was the issue of writing something that was worthy of posting. When I get started, I can be a real conversationalist. However to talk about something and to write about it are two entirely different things. It takes me entirely too long to write a post. I write, and then re-write. I go away and come back and re-write it again. I tell myself it is because I want to be sure that what I write is clear and concise, and if you know me, I am anything but concise.

So here is a post. I won’t promise that I will post everyday. I won’t promise I will post every week. But I will post….eventually….and who knows? Maybe we will both be surprised Comments always welcomed.

Some one mentioned to me the other day that the “poker fad” has reached it’s peak. I was surprised to hear that. Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t. All I can tell you is that I run into new poker players all the time, and often asked things about poker from people who don’t play. I sat down and decided to put down a few anecdotes for you and let you make your own conclusions.

Yesterday we went for a walk in my neighborhood and we noticed a man doing some wood working in his garage. It was evident he was making a poker table. We didn’t know the neighbor, so we walked up and exchanged pleasantries. I was curious to find out more about the table and maybe find out about a game I was unaware of.

It turns out this man doesn’t even play poker. He only makes the tables because he enjoys woodworking. He builds these as a sort of a hobby, making a small profit. He built one and next thing you know, people kept calling him to build one for them. He now has 8 on order. Clearly there is still a need for poker tables, an indicator that the industry is still growing.

I too ventured into the table building business. I’ve made several tables. Each one was a bit better than the last. What I discovered was it is difficult to make an affordable table without mass production. A sentiment my neighbor also agrees with. The amount of labor involved makes it hardly worth the time, unless you do it as a labor of love – either for love of wood working or love of poker.

I also made a proto-type folding table. The table was 9’x4” oval (10 players/dealer), but you could fold it up into a 3’x2’ square and fit it into the trunk of your car. It had inherent problems, but it did work. We played poker on it for greater than 6 months. The biggest problem we found was it just weighed too much to make it reasonably portable. I had visions that this kind of table would do well in charity events where portability was a very important feature. I tell you this because when you see the cost to build one versus the cost of mass produced tables imported from China, it would be a very hard sale. Yes, it will store in a broom closet, but it would be 4x the price and the set up would be 4x as complicated

When a game room furniture store in Austin closed, I went by and looked at their inventory of poker tables. They had a few high dollar tables and dozens of the low cost tables imported from China. The focus of their business was on billiard tables, but clearly they had thought there was a market for poker tables. The fact that they went out of business could be an indicator that the fad is slowing.

I also learned that a gambling supply house in Austin is likely to close. I somewhat find this remarkable, but then maybe not. Clearly you can obtain many of the items that they carry from internet shopping. In fact, if you know what you want, you can find almost all of the items they carry for a better price online – so long as you can wait for it to be shipped to you. This too could be an indicator that the supply has outpaced the demand. Forcing smaller margins and reducing or even nullifying any profits from operating a brick and mortar retail outlet.

Legalize poker in Texas. There are at least 3 groups that I am now aware of in Texas who’s intent is to legalize public poker card rooms in Texas. This is a hot issue that I think I should discuss in more detail in a later posting. But suffice to say, the fact that these groups are organizing and that there is more than just one of them, suggests that poker is still gaining momentum.

I am also privy to some local poker television that is in the works. Will it make it to the airwaves? Who knows? It is however, an indicator that there are still some people willing to gamble that poker hasn’t reached its peak just yet.

There is a new poker site that is in the works and will hit the internet very soon. I too thought that the number of onsite poker rooms had reached its peak, but this would suggest maybe not.

Venetian® Resort Hotel Casino recently opened a new 10,500 sqft - 39 table - poker room. Are you kidding me? 10,500sqft? Do you know how many slot machines you can put into that kind of floor space? The fact that the casino industry recognizes poker is hot and is dedicating large chunks of precious Las Vegas Strip real estate to let people play; well, that has to indicate something. Las Vegas Casinos don’t usually make multimillion dollar gambles like this one unless they feel reasonably assured it will make a return and a good return at that.

I saw a player wearing a t-shirt the other day that depicted Snoopy and all of Snoopy’s brothers playing poker. (Do you know all of their names? I didn’t.) I was in Garden Ridge this weekend and they had Texas Holdem door mats. I went and got a haircut last week (I get one every 6 weeks or so, whether I need it or not.) My barber was sitting outside smoking a cigarette and playing an electronic hand held TEXAS HOLDEM game. Go figure.

Maybe it has peaked, maybe it hasn’t. Apparently, there is still plenty of money being spent whether it is still on its way up or down. I just hope I can get some of it.