Thursday, April 24, 2014

1 Pot

This most recent weekend found me winning 30 big bets in 1 pot. Yep, I was hovering +/- $200 for most of the night, when for a short span of about an hour or so in the wee hours of Sunday morning (yes, Easter Sunday), virtually every pot was either 3 bet or capped a minimum of 7 ways. I watched big pot after big pot elude me for what seemed like an eternity.

Then it was finally my turn. After two others limped, I looked in mid position with an offsuit JT. Knowing that this pot was surely going to be raised, I'm not sure why I thought I'd see a flop for just $20. This mega donator Maurice/Morris/Whatever to my left raised, a cold caller behind him, Han 3 bets and everyone behind him called. 7 people minimum. We capped the flop of JT7. I had a feeling I was behind Marco who told me later that he flopped the nuts with 89. Btw, EVERYONE called. The turn was a beautiful T, the best card I could ask for. I bet the turn and I'm pretty sure everyone called. The river was another T. I thought about check raising the river. I don't know how many calls I got there, but it was at least one since Han showed QQ. Nice play by Han there not to raise the river, which I thought was pretty impressive. About an hour later, I called it a day.

In other news, I'm playing a lot of Blizzard's (the creators of Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, et al) "Hearthstone," a turn-based card collecting game for iPad, PC, and Mac. Soooo addictive. Basically, it's a simplified version of Magic: The Gathering. I've always been fascinated by MTG but my dwindling social circles over the years and my focus on a different kind of card game has led me down another path. I don't like to half-ass it when it comes to an activity that I should excel. I enjoy gathering as much resourceful information as I can, and looking to apply what I've learned into a winning strategy. It's the same approach I've taken to poker. Like any good strategy game (poker or chess), Hearthstone punishes players that lack fundamentals, so whacking newbies is quite satisfying, haha. I also like having jumped on the bandwagon at a somewhat early stage since it's a bit intimidating to start playing MTG when there are players out there with over 20 years of cards and collecting experience.

You can find me on there, my handle is "akhobbes".

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Just When You've Got It All Figured Out..."

I took the previous weekend off from poker to visit Kelly's maternal aunt & uncle, and grandparents down in Virginia Beach. I was looking forward to some time off away from the poker table and meeting them. Unfortunately, due to her grandparents ailments, they were unable to attend our wedding last year and Uncle Matt had to stay behind to look after them. So after our initial trip was cancelled by an impromptu snowstorm back in February, we finally made it down there.

My initial observations of the Virginia Beach area struck me as very similar to Atlantic City and what a wonder it is that humans turn ocean front property into places of commerce and resort. And then I was later struck by the idea of how homogeneous suburban life in America is. There's a big box shopping outlet minutes away from the next one that's interspersed with large residential communities. I guess that can be said of New York City as well, but the appearance of it all took me by surprise. Because if you told me that I was in Suffolk county, or Delaware, or some part of NJ, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

And that's not meant to be a knock against our American society. On the contrary, no, I think it's quite impressive. We've created a culture that has managed to replicate itself along the Atlantic Coast, and perhaps the entire country. How many countries can say that? In a very general sense, for thousands of miles, you have a similar way of life, with some exceptions like a major metropolis e.g. New York.

So I had some great conversations with Kelly's extended family. I was particularly fond of hearing her grandpa's WWII stories (he was in Germany and actually fought against the Nazis!) and his memories of some old sports heroes. He grew up in Manhattan, and was still armed with his sharp, old school New Yorker tongue. I almost felt like I owed him some money, haha!

On the day of our departure, right before I left, he said to me, "Just when you've got it all figured it out, then you die." As morbid as it sounds, it inspired me. I want to try my best to figure it all out waaay before then. I think that's been my modus operandi all along. Just figure things out.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Long Weekend

So I played my longest session at $20/40 so far, about 25 or so hours straight. Yes, summoning the endurance for one of these sessions seems really foolish, but I take a great deal of pride that I'm able to play for that long, and more importantly, play well. Unfortunately, long sessions don't usually translate into winning ones. I was also stuck $2200, my deepest hole ever. I know that's only 55 big bets, but I have to admit when I think of being stuck two dimes, I get a little sick to my stomach.

I didn't make as many mistakes as I did the prior week, so I was really happy with my play. My decisions were fairly easy, considering that I rarely made it to the river with anything capable of winning. So flops and holdings simply weren't cooperating for something like 20 hours. I'd win a pot here, then lose two. I'd win a decent pot, then lose 3 more. I hadn't flopped a set all night (I did eventually flop two boats) and I hit only two flushes  (one was good, another wasn't). However, I did go 3/4 with AA, 2/2 with QQ, 1/2 with JJ, and 2/3 with KK so big pairs were somewhat decent. So it was a rather bumpy ride for quite some time.

I felt like a major league pitcher on a bad day, but still giving his all and finding ways to give his team a chance. No zip on the fastball, missing the corners, down, but not out. I knew I was just off by a little, and that my cards would soon start to hold up and dictate effectively.

And finally somewhere around 8pm on Sunday, having started around 9pm the night before, this magical golden goose walked in. His name was Roberto, and I've heard the regulars talk about him. He's some jetsetter who likes to donate. I believe he's a former pilot or something like that. I had slowly worked my way about halfway to even, when after two pots with Roberto, I was actually up a few dollars.

I'll be taking this weekend off to visit Kelly's maternal grandparents down in Virginia. I'm looking forward to just having some time off. Then the following week, Local H is in town. Can't wait to see the new drummer, Ryan!

I caught up on some movies over the week. Irreversible was a movie I had been wanting to see for over ten years but I never got around to it and had almost completely forgotten. The story is told in reverse and it depicts a harrowing tale about a woman who is savagely beaten and raped, while her boyfriend and ex-boyfriend (strangely enough) go looking for the creep. I recall hearing about a controversial scene Monica Bellucci had filmed back when The Matrix Reloaded was released. Well, I finally saw it. It was pretty brutal, but I have to say I enjoyed the film. I love stuff that makes you feel a little uncomfortable. Now I want to see the director's (Gaspar Noe's) other films, "Carne" and "I Stand Alone".

Then I finally caught up on Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds". We all love Tranatino for his creatively quirky and interesting characters. Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz were especially amusing. I see how Waltz won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hans Landa, whose character was frighteningly clever. His was easily the most charming Nazi if I ever saw one.

Lastly, it's just a few days before the Nirvana RNR HoF induction ceremony takes place. I'm debating whether or not I want to go see it at the Barclay Center. This is a once in a lifetime performance, and it may be the closest I'll ever get to seeing Nirvana live. Hmmm...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The HTC M8... and 3 Hands I Played Bad.

So I got my grubby paws on the HTC M8. I'm a gadget junkie and I've been a big fan of HTC since the HTC Touch days, and even before that with the T-Mobile Dash. With the exception of the iPhone, all of my phones have been HTC branded. Every flagship phone that they've produced seems to match my data crunching needs and rivals anything Samsung or Apple make, yet they're in big financial trouble. So I fear the M8 may be their last grasp at greatness.

It's a looker just like my former phone, the M7, the HTC One. I like the slightly boxier design of the M7 better, but I was due for my upgrade from ATT and I wasn't going to let that money slip away. What I mean by that, is that you should always upgrade your phone to the most expensive phone possible when you're under contract with ATT or Verizon so that you can turn around and sell your old phone for maximum value. This helps offset the cost of your contract. But anyway, I digress...

They've made a lot of the usual improvements, faster processor, bigger screen (this is 5" compared to the 4.7" of the M7), fancier camera, a micro SD slot (HTC listens to their customers!), and an improved version of their latest software HTC Sense. Throw in a cool retro styled dot view case (seen below) and this thing is ready for battle against the iPhone 6 and the S5.

Why do I like HTC more so than its competitors? For starters, I prefer Android rather than iOS devices. The open file system of Android is a big winner here. You have to jailbreak your iOS devices to experience that kind of freedom. And having to use iTunes or other alternatives instead of dragging and dropping media files is a big pain. So what does the M8 have over the S5? Actually, not much. I do prefer the premium construction that uses a brushed aluminum vs the plasticky feel of the S4 (and still mostly plastic S5). I don't find HTC Sense is as annoying or intrusive as Touch Wiz (Samsung's Android addition). I feel the choice of the HTC M8 vs the Galaxy S5 is more a style preference since they are pretty similar hardware-wise, while I admit the S5 has a few more bells and whistles (a heart rate monitor, waterproof features, removable battery, etc.). One feature that I love on the HTC handsets are the inclusion of an FM radio app. This is a must-have feature for me, since I use it at work and consumes less power than an internet radio app.

On the poker side of things, I had a great time at the tables this weekend despite having played about 18 hours straight of $20/40. Game was sooooo good. This Asian guy was playing 34o and 52o under the gun!!!! So you know how that game was. This week marked the first time I scored a win (~30 big bets) while the game was full whereas the last few weeks I made all of my money shorthanded.

Some other unusual circumstances, I think I played my poorest session in quite some time. Yes, having played 18 hours straight is not what I had intended, even though I was having a lot of fun. I was up $1400 at one point but I got greedy because the game was so good. But I think fatigue was a factor in some hands that I regret my decisions.

1st mistake: I 3 bet a late position opener with JTo. The button and blinds call, as does our opener. Flop is JJ3 two spades. I bet every street and when the ace of spades hits the river, the most straightforward player at the table who rarely bluffs leads out and I called him. Of course, he had the flush. I thought there might've been a chance he had something like AQ or maybe AK. I don't normally pay these guys off.

2nd mistake: I called a raise in the big blind with J2s. I lead out when the flop hits 228. Lam and Mac fold, our opener from the last hand was in the sb and he check raises me, I call. A brick hits the turn, and I pop him, and he calls. The river is an 8, and he leads out. I make a stupid call and he turns over K8. I'm annoyed because I know he had an 8 and I still called the river. Ugh.

3rd mistake: Joe raises from early position, our villain from the last hands cold calls, I 3 bet with JJ, Alan Perelman (Mr. Borgata) calls 3 to the face, Joe and villain calls. Flop is A79 two diamonds. I lead out and they all call. The turn is an A. I bet again, they all call, but our villain raises. In my mind's eye I KNOW what he has, a really weak ace. I thought that Alan had a flush draw and Joe might've had QQ, so I think my only chance to win this is to 3 bet and lead a non diamond river. I 3 bet and only Joe folded. We all check the river when a 3rd diamond hits. Our villain turns over A3 and Alan has AT. In hindsight, it seems really foolish because I should know that NO ONE is laying down trip aces in this game.

If I play my worst session in months and still win, these guys are really in trouble.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Salvo of Distortion and Dread

I'd like to respond to all the latest hoopla surrounding Kurt Cobain. Aside from my parents, I was deeply influenced by Nirvana. As an easily impressionable teenager, Nirvana's music and philosophy spoke volumes to me. As far as I was aware, I was the only Korean kid growing up in an old school Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn. I had always felt different. I was accepted by friends and family, but racial and cultural differences stick out like a sore thumb when you're growing up. Cobain made it cool to be an outsider, to be different, to be weird.

I found his most influential words to be not from his lyrics or music, but from the liner notes to Incesticide:

"At this point I have a request for all of our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us - leave us the fuck alone! Don't come to our shows and don't buy our records."

Here was the world's biggest rockstar, on his soapbox, sticking up for what's right. It was illuminating. Why can't we just get along? I had realized from that moment forward, I was a damn hippie. I wanted two things: rock n roll, and people to just leave each other the fuck alone. Peace, love, and empathy. So simple. And the fact that Kurt was championing that cause nearly 30 years after Woodstock, I was sold.

I had fallen in love with In Utero, their last studio album. I had missed the Nevermind bandwagon. I avoided MTV. But In Utero caught me. I was instantly mesmerized by Heart Shaped Box. In Utero was a dark, moody, sometimes frantic album, and some songs might even be considered completely intolerable to the uninitiated (see Tourette's and Radio Friendly Unit Shifter). But I saw a hidden beauty in these "ugly" songs. Kurt couldn't bury Nirvana's talents completely beneath the veil of serrated distortion and foot stomping rumble that would be In Utero's trademark. Somewhere, after the initial crashing chords of Serve the Servants, you could hear those glimpses of Kurt's gift for seductive melody and pure catharsis. You could hear it in the buzzsaw guitar solo of the opener that sounds like an aircraft jettisoning through your skull. He tried to hide his Beatle-loving ways, but couldn't hold them back in Dumb and All Apologies. It was the hypnotic marriage of Dave and Krist's loopy rhythm entangled with Kurt's manic verses, right before the repeated, visceral shrill of "Hey! Wait! I've got a new complaint! that reminds you that this is a pop song. I could see the artistry here, woven with threads of sincerity and agitation, dissonance and noise. It's like that scene in "Hook" where the Lost Boys start stretching Robin Williams' face searching for a resemblance to the Peter Pan they once knew, "There you are, Peter!" In my head, I was doing that with In Utero, seeking the melodic candor beneath this sludgy yet precisely coordinated "sonic assault of the senses". And for a 13 year old kid, it was extremely satisfying.

I'll sometimes indulge myself and read YouTube comments on some Nirvana performances and videos. I get annoyed when I read comments that accuse Kurt of cowardice. For starters, I think it takes a lot of guts to kill yourself. We're programmed to be afraid of our own death, otherwise the will to live wouldn't be so strong.

Secondly, I'm not big into the martyrdom. I like to think that "St. Cobain's" music would be as meaningful if he hadn't shot himself. For a short period of 6 months, I was a Nirvana fan while he was alive, and their music was considered revolutionary back then. Did it galvanize his legacy? Sure. But I don't think that made their music more meaningful. Pearl Jam's Jeremy is still regarded as a classic, and I don't think Eddie Vedder needed to off himself to cement their status as a legendary band.

And I also dislike that people label Kurt as a martyr because he was reluctant about stardom. Kurt WANTED fame and fortune. He wanted to be the biggest rock star in the biggest band in the world. He prepped for interviews and photographs. Kurt knew exactly what he was doing. Whether he was able to handle it all is a different story.

So with all these Nirvana related events happening, I'm soaking up all of the attention my sentimental favorite band is getting. I used to be embarrassed to call myself a Nirvana fan because they were so popular. I don't care anymore. Now I'm just bored and old.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pair the F#$king Board!!!

So I won $300 at $20/40 this weekend, but it was probably the best $300 I've ever won. And that's because by 4 am Sunday morning, I was the deepest I've ever been in a game, 4 racks. Now at $20/40, that's only 50 big bets, but from a monetary standpoint, that's "holy shit" money.

Sure, I've been in $2k holes before, but that was over the course of days, weeks even, but not hours. 6 hours in and I was stuck nearly $1800.

So how did things go so awry so quickly? Easy. I flopped 7 sets and lost 5 of those hands. Each pot was roughly a $200 investment. So that's $1k down the drain right there.

So here's an example of a hand I lost. It also introduces you to my newest target, Korean Phil.
Korean Phil's wife plays also plays in the game, unfortunately I'm not sure of her name yet. She's much nicer than him, doesn't say a word, but has this constant look of distress and grief on her face, like she was about to cry or something. Being married to Phil, I can understand why. So anyway, she opens from relatively early position, Phil 3 bets, loosey goose button calls, Elvis caps it from the small blind, I call from the big blind with 77, everyone calls.

We're five handed and the flop is 867. Not my favorite flop, but I'll take it. Elvis leads out, I raise, wife and Phil both call, loosey goose folds, Elvis calls. The turn is a 5. This is arguably the worst card in the deck for me, but I'm not afraid to bet here in a bloated pot with a set. Phil's wife folds, Phil pops me, Elvis folds, and I 3 bet. You can make the argument that this is a little spew-ey, but like I said I don't care because I has a set. Also, I wanted to see if Phil had a 9. When he just called my re-raise, I know he didn't have a 9. I thought he might've had a set of 66, maybe even two pair or even KK or AA.

I bet the river (Q) for value. He turned over 44. Phil wins this enormous pot and begins to chatter about how foolish my turn re-raise was. He looked at me and said, "I THOUGHT YOU HAD A 9!" He's talking to the guy on his right about why my raise was stupid on a board with a 4 card straight out there. AK (the guy I played heads up last week) basically told Phil to shut up and be a gracious winner. I like AK :)

So this hand made me wonder about the possible collusion between Phil and his wife. Are we to believe that Phil is so competitive that he's gonna go after his wife with a small pair? How many people does he 3 bet with 44? My point is that he's isolating her and offering her protection, charging a premium for anyone to enter THEIR pot.

Also, I love how Phil likes to rub it in there and criticize my play. If he thought I had a 9, why did he call? He's criticizing me because I re-raised him without a 9, possibly representing a higher one, and yet he still called. I love the hypocrisy. He's drawing dead if someone in the pot has a nine. He called two bets to the face with a draw to the low end of the straight. It's hard to believe that he can keep making plays like this and still be a winner.

Another interesting facet about Phil is that he always wears the same garb of clothes: a baseball cap, a windbreaker, his shades, and chews gum almost seemingly non-stop. He's like an uninteresting comic strip character with very little to say that isn't annoying, argumentative, or facetious. I'll enjoy going after him.

So somewhere around 5am or so, things started to change. I ran into two psychos at the main game. One of whom I watched donate $900 in 15 minutes. He 3 bet or capped every hand preflop. Then I won the biggest pot during my near 3 years at Borgata. I 3 bet QQ against one of the psychos, we see a flop 5 handed. Capped the flop, I raised the turn (3 players), and bet the river heads up. By session end, I was up $300 smackeroos. It felt sooooo good.

I won another $360 at the $10/20 on Sunday for a rather easy afternoon.

Monday, March 17, 2014

More $20/40 - #Idesofmarch

Had a rather easy session with my new adventures at the $20/40 game. So last week was unusual because I ended my session playing a few hours 3 handed, this week began with me playing 3-4 handed and then heads up with one of the most respected players in the room, AK. I know his name is Andrew or Andy, but I know of him because of the few times I've played with him, there was always confusion as to who was next to move because our initials were the same. From what I've seen of him, he's pretty solid and I was impressed with his bluff selection.

So drawing him as a heads up opponent wasn't the most thrilling situation, but I welcomed the challenge. I knew we weren't going to play long since we were next to move to the juicy must-move game. I was lucky and caught a few cards against him to be up a few big bets. He's certainly a player I respect and I don't really have enough of a history with him to suspect a significant edge against him.

But I REALLY got lucky at the must-move game. After 5 hours, I was up $1500. I had 4 people to my left who were REALLY bad.

For example, this lady whom I've never seen in the poker room before opens with Jc7c on the button. She gets 3-bet by the kid from the small blind. Heads up, the flop was KQT with two clubs. The turn was a K and the river was a J, no clubs. Kid bet every street and she called down, EVEN the river!!!! Kid turns over AcQc for the straight. For those of you that may not see how terrible her river call is, let me ask you, what hand does she beat?

That's how good the game was. From what I've sampled so far, I think the worst players in the $20/40 game are worse than the worst players in the $10/20 game, which is great. But I think the best players in the $20 game are better than the best players in the $10.