If you don't use it …

Math equation dice d6

Math equation dice d6 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My dad used to quote the old saying “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” and I am starting to see just how true that is.

Whither it is poker dealing, my new and latest profession, or blogging, or exercise, or just about any other activity you can think off, this seems to be true.

I used to be very good at business math but for the past five years, I  have not had to do any heavy math and certainly not without a calculator. Now, I am required to quickly compute pot sizes, rake amounts, side pots, and a variety of other dealer tasks that requires math. I found that I have to practice math in order to pick up speed and accuracy.

The same is true of the physical aspects of poker dealing. Usually, before I go in to work, I practice at least 15 to 60 minutes doing my shuffling and card pitching exercises. as well as chip cutting and counting.

Physically, I am much better off if I take the time to exercise my body as well. Some light weight lifting involving my hands, arms and upper torso are helpful. Even light walking helps to build my stamina.

It appears that the old adage is much more than just a quaint old saying.

Another saying, along the same line is “practice makes perfect”.

But that goes without saying.

Oh.

Wait.

I just said it.

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When free poker is not completely free …

Last Sunday evening, Diane and I do what we always do for an evening of free poker. We drive to Manchester NH to the City Sports Grille located on 216 Maple Street.

We play free bar poker sponsored by City Sports and run by TavernTainmenT. This weekly event draws more than 45+ serious people to play No Limit HoldEm tournaments. There are two sessions, the first starting at 5 pm and the second around 7:30 pm, depending on if the first session has completed.

Player experience runs from total newbies to extremely skilled. Usually someone volunteers to deal at each table. There are usually five and sometimes six tables filled with poker players, young and old, male and female. For the most part, the tables are cordial and fun (at least at my table, where I am dealing; fun people come to my table even though the seating is random).

The only costs that the players have are those for buying drinks, snacks and meals from the City Sports Grille. It is a win win for the bar and for TavernTainmenT.

That being said, the costs at the City Sports Grille are not extremely expensive. Except last Sunday night. For me personally.

I forgot to charge my cell phone and before the evening was out, my phone shut off due to the battery running down. I placed my dead phone in my back pocket and forgot about it. Later, while in the restroom, I some how managed to drop my phone into a body of water (Don’t ask!).

Needless to say, the phone did not survive. Luckily, I had insurance so the total cost to me to replace it, was $90 plus my annual premiums of $96 a year. This is the second time that I used it this year, so I am ahead. If I had to pay for the phone itself, out of pocket would be about $600, so the insurance is a good thing. I now have to be extremely careful as I have used up my entire benefit for the year.

—- Note: This post also appears on MompopPow.com

Winning

Play Money

Image by mandiberg via Flickr

$63,015 is my current play chip balance at FTP.

I am still awaiting their transfer back to me of my real cash balance with them since “BlackFriday“. But that is another story.

I am still allowed to play poker at FTP, but by using play chips that are free. I am also allowed to use the FTP phone app to play at the Rush Poker Tables. So when I am on the road and unable to play online at the remaining US friendly sites, I can use my SmartPhone.

The game that I play the most is Omaha 8, which means that the high hand and the low hand might both share the pot. Even though this is for play chips, I am still playing as though the chips were real money. FTP allows me a starting chip count of 1,000 which I can reload up to the 1,000 as often as I need to. Thus far, I have been able to build up my play chips from 1,000 to 63,015.

Could I do as well with real money. Probably not. I am not really sure. Losing a thousand with play chips might not bother me psychologically as real cash might. It might be harder to play if you fear losing real cash versus play chips.

With the current state of online poker and the fact that the DOJ might close down any of the remaining sites that I play on, keeps me from wanting to deposit or have on hand more than $250 at any one site. A $250 bankroll on a site allows me to safely play .02/.05 to .05/.10 games. Thus trying to win thousands that I might not ever be able to withdraw or have at this time seems a little silly to me.

Are you playing online poker? Do you use the play money option? If yes, do you treat play money the same as real?

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Online Poker is just about gone for US based players

No surprise if you are an online poker player, but our options of playing online have effectively been taken away from us. The UIGEA law enacted in 2006 made it illegal for banks and financial institutions to transfer funds to and from online Poker sites.

On April 15, 2011, the DOJ used that law and stopped all online play by US players from occurring on two or three of the major US facing online poker sites. This event was named “Black Friday”. US players were no longer allowed to play for cash on either PokerStars or FullTiltPoker. These sites were charged with fraud and money laundering.

These charges are basically true because credit card companies and banks were restricting the transferring of money to and from poker sites. So the sites got creative and coded the transactions so that it appeared that the product or service being purchased was not “poker”. As in all creative accounting ventures, they eventually got caught. Well, actually the person who taught these companies how to process the money ended up as a government witness against them, or so the story goes.

The DOJ has made it hard and even next to impossible to withdraw our funds from these sites. It may take several weeks or even months before US players can even request their funds.

In all likelyhood, it will probably be two or more years before we will be able to play on an online poker site for cash legally.

Yes, I know that Carbon Poker, Cake Poker skins and others online are available., but we still have the same problem of legally depositing and/or withdrawing our funds. We know that the DOJ will be watching and going after the next largest violator of the law. In reality none of the offshore sites will be truly safe for US players until there is legalized online poker in the US, regulated by either the State or Federal government.

So in the meantime we need to contact our local and national government officials and let them know what we want to see happen to online poker in the US. This is not an easy task but we must all do our part. Bickering and complaining about won’t help. Even organizations like the Poker Players Alliance needs to step up their efforts and work for us in an effective manner. They should be thinking about more than just public relation efforts to support our cause.

I still have funds on Bodog, Carbon Poker, DoylesRoom, PokerHost and TruePoker. I will play on those sites and I will withdraw whenever I have $250 in profits. I may take a shot at playing larger tourneys or higher level cash games if the games look beatable. I will certainly start withdrawing any winnings on these sites before they are also locked out to us.  But I will certainly try to keep my risk of loss as low as possible in any case.

The next few years won’t be easy and they will not be as fun as they were prior to April 15, 2011.

I will not be making anymore deposits until online poker is legal in the US. This is getting easy because there are practically no deposit options left that I can use. There were online payment processing companies that allowed you to either deposit by credit card or bank transfers from your banks. Then you could transfer the money to the poker sites. Most of these companies have had their funds seized.  This was very similar to what happened with NetTeller a few years ago. But at least with NetTeller, I was able to get my money back after about a year wait. This time, I lost all that I had on account with the two payment processor that I was using.  One of them offered to wire transfer my money to me but were going to charge me a $50 processing fee which was more than I had on the account.

I will probably visit my local New Hampshire poker rooms three days a week or more.

What are your future poker plans since “Black Friday”?  Where do you go from here?

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Playing within my bankroll

Money Bankroll Girls February 08, 20113

Image by stevendepolo via Flickr

I am currently on a new poker quest. It may sound the same as some of my prior goals, but this one is a little different.  I am trying to play online based on my bankroll at the sites I am playing.

Ideally, I should have a bankroll on a poker site with equivalent to 100 buy-ins. If I am playing .02/.05 No Limit games with a buy-in of $5.00, my bankroll should be $500.00.

But I am unwilling at this time to deposit more funds at the sites as I have been losing. So I will go with what I have left and try to grow those funds organically, meaning I need to win more than I lose.

I am also mixing it up in that I am playing in step tourneys hoping to advance to a higher step and use that step’s  ticket to play a tourney that would give me a change to win to increase my bankroll by winning.

In the past, I have had more than a couple of poker friends suggest that I was playing too high a game for my bankroll and it turned out they were right. Sometimes it takes a sharp whack on the back of the head to understand I guess.

Currently I am playing mostly on Full Tilt Poker, an affiliate,  but that is because they offer a Mobile Poker app that I can use to play Rush Poker on my Droid smartphone.

I will try to keep you update with the interesting things that happen along the way.

And thank you for your suggestions and comments.  You have really helped me out.

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… follow-up to "I am a losing poker player!" post!

Example of position in texas holdem
Image via Wikipedia

As I mentioned in my last post, I have finally decided that I am not having a run of bad luck which is causing me to lose at playing poker.

It is how I play that causes me to lose.

It is when I fail to extract extra value for my good hands.

It is when I fail to fold hands even when the evidence is in that the hand is in trouble.

It is when I go on tilt and bluff away my stack.

There are a lot of leaks in my game that need to be plugged.

But I am working on it.

My last twenty four sessions on Absolute Poker playing No Limit .10/.25 has seen me winning enough to be in the black so far for April. In fact, if I just look at the last 24 sessions alone, I have won over $63 or almost $2.75 per session. I realize that is not a lot but it does mean that I am moving in the right direction.

Now, looking at my spreadsheets, I see that I have had some good runs in the past and then went down hill from there, so I will not get too over confident that I am now the improved player of the year.

What this does mean is that my bankroll on Absolute is growing to the point where I will be able to move up to the next level, .25/.50 and see if my success continues.

What am I doing different?  I play with the idea of winning small pots, I watch my position versus the big and small blind, I keep track of the other player’s tendencies, I try to mix up my play so that I am not easy to read. I try to pick off the bluffs that in the past caused to fold winning hands.

I still need to learn to back off when I am re-raised and I don’t have the best hand.

How do you adjust from being a losing player to a break-even  player and finally to a winning player?

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The evidence is in – I am a losing poker player!

and then he lost it all
Image by lucy and her dent via Flickr

This does not come as any surprise to me as I am making re-deposits to my online sites each year when I finally run my balance with a site down to $10.00 or less.

There is only one site in the last three years that I actually have more than what I started with and I don’t play there very often.

Why am I saying this?

I have always had aspirations that I would one day be a great poker player and would make a living at it.

Based on my earnings so far, I could be losing that weight I have been meaning to take off, because I would not be earning enough to buy food with.

Where do I go from here?

I love the game, I love the action, I love the books, videos and poker shows.

So I will probably end up being a recreational poker player. I will probably play a few tournaments a year and I will probably continue to blog about my successes and my failures. Now this could change if I have three or more winning years in a row. But I am not holding my breath until I do. I am blue enough already.

I will still read new books about poker and will share my thoughts about them.

In fact, I have just received two books courtesy of Robbie Vorhaus, written by his cousin John Vorhaus.

One is a book of poker fiction, titled “Under the Gun” and the other is a poker book titled “Killer Poker Online 2 – Advanced Strategies for Crushing the Internet Game”.  Both of these books look like a great read and I can’t wait to get started reading them.

Do you know what type of a poker player you are? Are you a recreational player? An amateur? Semi Pro? Pro?

Does knowing what type of player help your expectations when you play?

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Beware the "isolation play", it can backfire if not executed properly…

Basement Isolation Booth
Image by aplumb via Flickr

In Texas No Limit Hold ‘Em the “isolation play” can be used in an attempt to get all other players to fold so that you are just heads up with one opponent.  When you think or know that someone has raised with a worse hand than yours and you want to play against him only, you try raising an amount that will cause the remaining opponents to fold.  There is an art to this and I ended up finding that out the hard way.

I was just two positions to the left of the big blind or UTG-1, “under the gun” minus one. I was dealt KsKc, a very good starting hand and I raised to $2 or twice the big blind, 2BB. Four other players folded and it was up to the short stacked player in the cutoff position to play.  As was the case most of the evening, he raised to $8 or 8xBB which he had been doing all night. I took this as an attempt to steal the blinds and my raise. The big blind called his raise. I knew that the short stack had been making moves all night and I decided that this was the time to put him to the test.

Generally, the isolation play requires that you make a pot sized or double the pot size re-raise in order to get other players to fold, but I got a little to0 fancy, and shoved all in. I expected that the short stack would call as he probably had a small pocket pair, but I failed to take into account the fact that the big blind had already called the $8 raise.  The short stack called as I expected he would.

My shoving in $98 into the pot was not such as good idea. The only reason I did not lose all of it was because the big blind called me with his remaining $40, leaving me with $50. I had started the evening with $75.

The short stack turned over a pair of eights, as I expected. But the big blind was an altogether different story as he turned over a pair of Aces, one of them being a spade.

The flop was 7d 2s 5s with two spades on the board. The turn was a 10 of spades. The river was a 9 of spades, giving both the big blind and myself a flush, mine King high and his Ace high, the best hand to win the pot. The short stack was busted and left the table, perhaps in search of other opportunities to double up with a pocket pair.

As for myself, I had not given myself a chance to fold pre-flop. I should have put in a pot sized bet and then if the big blind raised or called,  I would have been able to decide what to do next. As he was a fairly tight player, I could have folded to a raise and saved some of my dollars.

You can be sure that I will pay more attention to what the players are doing when I find myself in similar circumstances in the future.

Do you ever try to execute the “isolation play”? How do  you do it? What has been your success with this play?

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Pocket Aces in a cash game – there are many blogs talking about them!

Ace of spades
Image by thun via Flickr

It turns out that the discussion about how to play pocket Aces in a cash game is a very common one and a well discussed topic. I used Google Search and turned up over 43,00o hits on the topic. I have since read over a dozen of them and have digested what I have read to the point where I now know that I did in fact play the hand incorrectly.

The following paragraph was from my original post titled “Aces cracked on my first hand of the session!”

When it was my turn to be the big blind, I was dealt a pair of pocket Aces, the best starting hand possible before the flop. Two players to my left folded but the aggressive player raised by betting the pot, $1.75.  Everyone folded to him and when it was my turn to bet,  I raised the pot to $5.00 and the aggressive player called for $3.25. The flop was 8s,Tc,6h and I bet the size of the pot or $10.25 and the aggressive player called. The turn card was a king of hearts. Again I bet as much as I could, less than half of the pot, which put me all in for my remaining $14.75. The aggressive player called. He turned over an A6 off suit. He had only a pair of sixes against my pair of aces. The river card was a 6, giving him three sixes or the best hand and the aggressive player won the pot containing $57.25 which included my entire stack and whatever he bet, less the rake that DoylesRoom took from the pot.

According to the articles I read, where I went wrong was to continue to bet out as it appeared that my opponent was calling with some kind of draw regardless of the size of my bets. The rule of thumb about pocket aces is that you can win small pots with them or lose big pots with them. Even though I had the best hand right up to the turn, I failed to limit the amount of money I could lose if he hit his magic card on the river, which he did. That said, I had position on him and I had a good read on him and I hit a bit of bad luck when he hit the river card for three of a kind.

If I played hard only when I had the nuts, the best possible hand, I probably would not play many hands at all. In fact, for the most part, I fold almost 93% of  my hands. I even fold the small blinds if I have junk cards most of the time. I do not defend the big blinds often without good cards but on occasion will re-raise a cut-off or button raise as they often try to steal the blinds.

The following are just a few of the links that I found regarding this topic and the articles that I have read on this topic.

http://www.rakebackriches.com/unfoldable-aces.htm

http://poker-info.com/tips/playing-pocket-aces.html

http://www.hollywoodpoker.com/green-room/poker-lifestyle/poker-stories/poker-coach-pocket-aces.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_2256053_play-pocket-aces.html

http://www.towergaming.com/online-poker/school/strategy/pocket-aces-howto.html

http://stonecoldbluff.co.uk/articles/how-to-play-pocket-aces/

And these are just online resources. I am sure there are poker articles about playing pocket aces out there as well.

Where do you go to learn about playing pocket aces? What has you success been with the approach you take?

Being on personal tilt – how that affects you!

Leaning Tower of Pizza
Image via Wikipedia

Wednesday, an indirect personal interaction took place that left me on emotional tilt for the last few days. Initially after it happened, I tried to play in a cash game but did not have the ability to focus on the game. I was unable to play my game in the tempo and manner in which I normally play. After being dealt about 27 games, I clicked first on the “sit out” button and then clicked on the “leave table” button.

Thursday, I was still on tilt when it was time to write my blog so I did not even bother. Personal tilt ended up affecting both my poker game and my blogging.

By Thursday night, I had calmed down enough to try playing in the cash game. I wanted to try working through the personal tilt, recognizing that some day I might be at an event or tourney and I would be required to play regardless of what my emotional state might be.

Overall, I played about 280 hands of poker and lost over $45 in the process of trying to work out playing on personal tilt. I know that some hands were played poorly but overall I had accomplished what I set out to do in spite of the bad results.

Have you ever been on personal tilt? Did you try to continue as though nothing had happened? How did that affect your game, let alone your life at that moment?

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