Thursday, February 26, 2015

Transitioning to live poker: Topping up your stack

As a player who mostly studied the game online, I've had to adapt a lot to playing live: stop being a tell-box, dealing with distractions, wearing presentable clothes, counting and learning how to handle chips, etc.

Today I'm sharing another adaptation that most live players don't do: automatically topping up.  Failing to do this as a winning player is costing you money.
When you play online, the software has an option to automatically rebuy back to whatever level you want immediately after you lose money.  It's smooth, seamless, and it maximizes your EV compared to topping up only when you get felted. Those extra big blinds matter when you double up through someone who has you covered.

But how would you do this live? Playing in a brick and mortar establishment, refilling means getting out cash and bothering either the dealer or the cage to get more chips. This is okay-ish for $100+, but it would be a real bother for a small amount of chips, and doing it means you slow down the dealer or miss a hand going to the cage.

Solution? I buy extra chips beforehand and stuff them in my pocket. If I drop below the max buy-in, I just flip some out to my stack.  Voila! Automatic (okay, analog, shut up) topping up in live poker. 
I take all credit if you win more, but no responsibility if you lose extra money doing this fancy maneuver.

Atlantic City 2015- A Dying Land

The landscape has changed.

I haven't played much over the last few years except my annual Atlantic City trip with friends, and this year was drastically different.

Not only did 1/3 of the casinos close down in the last year, but so have four other poker rooms within casinos. 

Sadly that includes my favorite at Trump Taj Mahal. RIP! You will be missed as my 2/5 launch pad.
Tropicana, Bally's, and Caesar's also closed their poker rooms, but Bally's renovated and opened a new one in the Wild Wild West casino.  It's actually really nice. They provide free Wifi (ask for the password), and it meets WSOP standards so they can hold circuit events.  

Then again, both Caesars and Bally's were included in a January bankruptcy filing by Caesars Entertainment Corp. Damnit. 

In 2016, will the city even be worth visiting anymore?  More casino closings are all but certain. Crime and unemployment are sure to go with them. Borgata may one day be the only poker option left.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Enter Omaha Poker, the pinnacle of action

NLHE is still my main game (and what I'm most skilled at/ where most players are), but I've reached the point of no return for my poker addiction.  Sometimes, I just need more... action.

Enter Omaha. It's very similar to Hold-Em with the flop, turn, and river, but I'm dealt twice as many cards to start, giving me SIX two-card hands instead of one. Do you know how many more hands I can play with that?

Harry Potter has cravings, too.
But it's not enough to satisfy my cravings. Oh no. I need even more action. PLO is just my gateway game.

And that's why I sat down at a game that shoots action directly into my veins to explode out my eye-sockets: Pot-Limit Omaha, Eights or better (PLO8). Not only do you have 6 two-card hands to play, you ALSO play for two separate pots, the "Hi" and the "Lo" (there's too much action in PLO8 to care about good spelling, trust me).

This means it's a good investment. Trust me.
There is always a Hi pot, following regular Omaha rules, and the Lo pot only happens whenever a player has a Lo-qualifying hand, a 5-card, unpaired hand of 8 and below using exactly two of your hole cards and three on the board. Low pots follow Razz scoring: straights and flushes don't count against you, whoever has the "worst" poker hand wins, and hands are ranked from corresponding high and low cards. Here's how you rank, say, 34568 vs. A2378. Their 5th highest card is the same, so we go to the 4th highest. 34567 beats A2378 because 6 is lower than the 7. Oh, and the Hi and the Lo are each half the pot, with any odd numbers going to the Hi pot. Also, the Hi and the Lo can each be split multiple ways in the case of a tie.

All this is to say, nobody knows what the hell they're doing in this game. The session I played, I didn't even know what hands I held some of the time. It's so complicated that there are probably very, very few people who are any good at the game. How can I say that? Well, as a beginner, I promptly won two buy-ins over an hour at Seals with Clubs just based off of general poker knowledge, a spirit of gambool, and a brief primer from my copy of Super/System II on the fixed-limit version of O8 (and a healthy dose of sheer luck) .

There's nothing like drawing to 21+ outs or rooting against it for your opponent, and in two different pots in the same hand.

I just may try my hand at Maryland Live's PLO8 tables next time I go. I remember seeing they actually spread the game there. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spend it like Big Government! The Great Money Hole of 2013

I cannibalized my poker roll (plus most of my savings).

It may not have done any favors towards
furthering my poker goals, but it was a massively +EV life decision.

A lot's happened since my last post, and I haven't played too much poker in the interim. What I DID do was buy my first house, my first car, and get promoted at work to my first supervisory position. Then I went on a spending spree and dropped a ton of money on clothes so I could literally look like a boss.

In other words, I'm recovering from a massive spending binge.

Asian babies are clearly the cutest.
Oh, and little Thorn arrived! Though I should mention that he carries a hefty price tag himself. Our thankfully, surprisingly good maternity coverage paid for all but $75 of his delivery (average expenditure is over $1,000 WITH insurance, for a routine birth), but formula, diapers, and clothing adds a significant amount to baby-raising costs.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: Daycare costs $370 per week. Yes, that is not a typo. Per month, that's a whopping $1603.33. It's actually on the cheaper side for my area, but that still runs more than college tuition PLUS room and board... and I couldn't take out any fancy loans for it.

Now I know why Americans don't have many kids on average.

I'm slowly building a poker roll back up on Seals. More poker updates to come, including a few trips I made to the newish Maryland Live! casino, a horrible poker mistake that's cost me $2,000, and forays into the crazy game of Pot-Limit Omaha.

Stay tuned this weekend!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Atlantic City Poker! +EV Blackjack too!

 Trip Total: $900.00 in poker profit over 5 sessions, $95 in Blackjack profit over 1 hand

The 2/5 table I had at Trump Taj Mahal was probably the tightest table I've ever encountered live. I'm glad I developed a good LAG game in the last year because it served me very well here. I burned about $300 here because I forgot people, including relatively tight players, actually limp behind with AK in late position live (an exploitable read of mine from being an online player that the villain took full advantage of), and I didn't read her for the straight that came down against my set.

I played at Tropicana because it was conveniently next to where I stayed at the Atlantic Club, but their games don't often run higher than $1/2 for NLHE. I also stopped in at Borgata for $2/5, which has easily the biggest poker room and the most action there. I got the impression that the good players at Borgata were better than the ones I've met elsewhere, and the bad players were pretty much as bad as can be. Very good action, but if you go there, be aware you can and should change tables if you  get seated at a tough one.

Finally, who says that poker's the only way to get advantage gambling?  I'm talking about Blackjack, baby! And I didn't even have to learn how to count cards! I played exactly one hand because Taj Mahal gave me a $50 free matchplay based off my play the last couple years. This meant that with a 43.31% chance of winning the hand, I risked $50 to win $100 ($95 because I planned on tipping the dealer $5 if I won). There's also an 8.8% chance of tying (no gain/loss), and a 47.89% chance of losing (-$50).

My EV for the hand was +$17.1995, which isn't bad for the 2 minutes it took. Even better, I hit it and ran above EV, so I walked off with an extra $95 to the cheers of the table. Hah, I'm running good! I hope they give me another matchplay next year!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Seals with Clubs Poker Room Review

I love Seals with Clubs. It's exactly the site that beleaguered Maryland players like me need since our only "mainstream" poker network option is the disaster of the Revolution network (aka Lock "takes over 100 days to cashout" Poker, Intertops "charge you $50 for a check" Poker, etc.), and it's practically tailor made to what I was looking for.

Here are the reasons I play there as a recreational cash gamer.

1) Steady action up to the equivalent of NL50
2) No mass multitablers and no HUDs = no professionals on the site
3) Possibly tied to #2, the games are very, very beatable
4) Very low rake (2.5%, with 50% "table starter" rakeback for playing at 2-3 handed at 6max or full ring tables). On top of that, you can get rakeback if you play there long enough, and there's no losing rakeback levels (it's cumulative and eternal).
5) Very generous promotions/freerolls. There's a high hand bonus that you don't have to use both cards for, just get quads or better. There's a free roll every hour where the winner gets the quivalentof $1. Their twitter account sends out codes for free chips every few days, and they also run special monthly promotions for freerolls or extra rakeback and the like.
6) Site uses Bitcoins. This means that it doesn't violate UIGEA sinc bitcoins aren't a legal currency. Also, cashing in and out is easy and quick (12 hours max) since they don't have to dodge regulators. Converting to USD via exchanges is only a 1% fee each way (some charge more).
7) Seals also uses a system that I think helps people to play better poker, helping disassociate the chips on the table and their real money value. You play with Seals chips (1000 seals chips = 1 BTC).


1) Software is not amazing. The main chat can get annoying since you can't really mute people, just replace what they type with a "*".
2) You have to get the currency (Bitcoins) through a third party. Seals has some resources and FAQs about Bitcoins themselves, it's pretty easy to pick up, but it is a minor inconvenience.
3) Low traffic. It's been picking up as the site gets more notice, but there isn't a wealth of tables at each stake. Currently, I play at their highest regular game at 10/20 (in seals chips), and it's not uncommon for a game to fizzle and die (just this morning I had everyone sit out or leave on two tables after about an hour of play) and not have another one running.
4) Collusion is a possible concern if they play higher/get more traffic. It's not a concern for cash games (most colluders end up being easy money despite collusion), but I'd be concerned if I played tournaments on the site.
5) Few tables run and no HUDs, so if you're used to that, you won't get it here.
6) Nothing runs higher than the equivalent of NL50 with regularity on the site.

All in all, it's a great site for micros players to have fun in and get better or practice for live play. This is really what I'm doing; I'm looking more towards playing live, and this 1-2 tabling at SWC is really good practice. I have an Atlantic City trip in four days where I'm planning on hitting 2/5 at the Borgata... so wish me luck!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bitcoin Poker

I'm definitely back, and oddly enough, I'm now a cash gamer.

Current bankroll: 28 bitcoins ($574.56 at today's market rate) That's right, my bankroll is being held not in dollars, but in bitcoins.

What's a bitcoin, you ask? Well, it's pretty much the best currency for online poker in the US since Black Friday happened. Bitcoins are a digital crypto-currency made up in 2008 by some group of possibly Japanese programmers.

Here are the important parts: It's as good as cash, it operates in a legal grey area because it is not a legal tender, and it can't be frozen by any government or law enforcement agency. This means that all those laws under UIGEA that shut down poker and gambling web sites for illegal money transfers don't apply, cashouts are blazingly quick from bitcoin poker sites compared to USD poker operators like Merge and Revolution, and most importantly, there's no chance of funds being frozen like on Black Friday!

At the site I play at (Seals with Clubs), it takes 12 hours maximum for a cashout. Compare that to waiting half a month to four months for a check from the dollar-denominated gambling sites, as well as ruling out another Black Friday, and you have a site that dominates the competition. Bitcoin poker is here to stay, and I'm very glad for it!

I'll do a more in-depth write-up of Seals soon.