Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm Getting Better.

It's hard to quantify exactly how much better I've gotten since starting coaching with Alan Jackson, but my confidence is sky-high right now and my bottom line isn't in bad shape, either. I did this month what I did last month and went on a 10-buyin downswing tear in the first few days which immediately removes almost any chance of the month setting any monetary records, but I've done well anyway. Including a $525 cash in the Sunday Warm-up, I'm up a little over $2,000 for the month which is a decent result for me, given the relatively low volume of hands I manage to play. I'm still hoping for a small christmas miracle to make December my BME (Best Month Ever) but I won't have a chance to play much more before new year's - it's chiefly this weekend and then maybe a day or two before new year's eve, since we're leaving Monday to visit my parents over christmas.

Anyway. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I leave you with this video. It's from a Norwegian television show, but the singer, I'm proud to announce, is Swedish.

... I think.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Wiki Challenge

I have a new game for you, a variation of the Kevin Bacon Game, where the idea is simple:

Come up with two topics that have articles on Wikipedia, and find the shortest number of clicks from one to the other.

Simple and lots of fun. For instance, cartoon character Bart Simpson and Swedish 18th century composer and singer Carl Michael Bellman are connected thus: to

So four clicks.

Can you beat my score on that path? Or come up with your own.

"Elephantiasis" to "World Trade Center" is doable in three clicks, but wasn't that hard.

Wiki-Challenge your friends!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lori on Immigration and Integration

My wife - Lori - wrote a pretty comprehensive summary of how she feels about the attitude to integration and immigrants in Sweden, which is well worth reading.

And probably well worth reading even if you're not from Sweden or don't care about Swedish immigration politics.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Good Poker Player

What does it mean to be a "good poker player?"

The question popped into my head because of something that Short-Stacked Shamus wrote, where he mentioned Richard Nixon being a good poker player. And some part of me thought "well, he'd almost certainly get his butt handed to him by your average $25NL player today, though." The other part listened to what that part of me had said, and thought "yeah, that's a good point."

There's just so much new material, so much more research done, so many computer programs and simulations done now that what was considered "good" before can't possibly cut it anymore. I play with the idea that the toughest pros of 20 years ago if brought forward to today's game would cause huge waiting lists of other people wanting to sit in for the easy money. I have a feeling that if you took the final table of the WSOP ME in 1988 and plopped them down at a Party Poker's $200NL game, I might make a killing.

[How I'd fare in a live game versus the same players is possibly a different story; my point regards the theoretical understanding of the game]

You don't believe me? There are plays and strategies today that weren't figured out yet at that point. Many of them. To take a limit hold 'em example, it wasn't until relatively recently (late 90s) that it was first postulated that raising and re-raising with a flushdraw on the flop when you have two or more other players in with you is a winning move. "Equity" wasn't a concept people were good with, in large part because without a computer to calculate it, equity was at best a sketchy guess. And if equity as a concept is largely unknown to you, or you don't particularly have any idea of what your equity might be like, your plays must be mostly based on guesses.

Let's say I'm dealt the two black kings, raise in the cut-off, called the big blind, and the flop is 9-8-7, two hearts. Let's say I have a pretty good idea of what range my opponent has. Should I bet? Given my opponent's range, I can estimate my equity pretty well, probably to the point of +/- 5%. Would Doyle have been able to, 20 years ago? I doubt it. I remember reading that David Sklansky spent a lot of time sitting with a deck of cards, just dealing out hands and writing down results to figure out some kind of equity. An extremely slow version of PokerStove, you might say.

Certain things about poker are timeless. Reads. Tilt. Playing tight. But in the past few years, with the help of computers and not the least the amazing boom in poker that made lots of very intelligent people who otherwise may have spent their brains analyzing something other than a card game suddenly argue flop textures, we now know things about continuation betting, bluffing, equity and EV, that we just flat out didn't know 20 years ago. Or 40, in the case of Nixon.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Limit is science, no-limit is art

Just a quick heads-up to all of you who've heard, said or believe that "limit is science, no-limit is art."

They're both sciences.

The only difference between the two is that the science behind no-limit is several orders of magnitude more complex, so most people just guess blindly, and when prompted for why they took a certain action decide to call it "art."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Vista? No.

So I ordered a new computer on Friday. It surprisingly promptly arrived on Monday, at which point all the parts needed to be assembled, the OS installed, etc. I had a free choice on OS, and no I did not install a cracked copy. All legit. And with 8GB of RAM in this puppy, I needed a 64-bit OS, so "naturally" I went with the best and finest: Vista Ultimate. Nothing is too good for me and my computer!

Except Vista sucks. I hate it. Detest it. Can't stand it.

Okay, in fairness I should perhaps say that it's not Vista that sucks, it's the applications written for it. Often, the bugs that occur in Vista should have occurred in other operating systems as well, but they were not as rigorously written for security so they don't show up there. I can see that happening.

But it doesn't matter whose fault it is. Case in point is that I can't run Vista and do the things I need to do. Like run Holdem Manager (which requires an installation of PostgreSQL which flat out won't work on Vista Ultimate, because Windows Installer has decided that something else is already installing - don't ask). So, tonight, after another cascade of failed attempts at googling the error symptoms and trying to set things straight, I gave up and simply installed XP x64 instead. Good ol' XP. 

It took 30 minutes to install, as compared to Vista's 4 hours. It runs faster, as far as I can tell, and I know how to work it. Now, three hours after a fresh install, most of the programs I want installed are installed.

So, no poker has been played this week. It was just about five minutes ago that I got HEM installed and up and running again, and now I have some database importing to do and that's going to take awhile. Still, good to have my computer back.

Screw you, Vista. Screw you right in the ear.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Coached part II: Homework

Stuff I want to check out at the earliest possible convenience:

1. Filter in HEM for big pots on the flop. Basically, Alan has got me 3-betting and squeezing more than I have been before. This in turn has put me in more spots on the flop with a big pot (the relatively rare times that my raises get called) and I've been feeling a bit uncomfortable about how my game there. So, I will try to construct a filter in HEM for these spots and how I'm doing in them. The filter will be something like this:

  • All hands except for JJ-AA and AQ/AK.
  • Did 3-bet preflop = true
  • Saw flop = true
  • all hand values worse than two pair.
Now, clearly I will lose a lot of money in these spots. That doesn't make the 3-betting/squeezing unprofitable in itself, because those plays are immediately profitable. No, what I need to make sure is happening is that I'm not losing more than my fair share of money once the flop hits and I don't hit a miracle board. The $24+ that I've put in with my 3-bet/squeeze is dead money at this point and what I want to know is that I'm not losing more than that on average because at that point I'd be essentially better off just giving up immediately unless I flop a monster.

So that's something to investigate.

2. I should be firing a second barrel often (always?) when I whiff the flop, but pick up a strong draw on the turn. The situation didn't come up very often last night during the coaching session so I want to go back a bit in time and see what my standard play for these situations is. I have a feeling I check back the turn often with a strong draw, opting to take the free card. If that's the case, I need to do some pen-and-paper work and figure out what my equity is likely to be and what I perceive his range to be and find out if a semi-bluff makes more sense than trying to hit a 20% draw.

3. At some point, I really do need to spend some serious time with PokeRazor. I've downloaded it, installed it and tried it out but I haven't done the work yet. Shame on me. :(

Will post the results here when I have them.


As a sidenote, I'm trying to clear GoldStar on Stars this month for a $100 bonus. A little bit silly, perhaps, with the stakes I'm playing nowadays, but every little bit counts. And why give up free money? But the real reason I put myself up to achieving these goals is because it forces me to put in volume. And I'm a real slacker. Without little mile stones to shoot for, I just don't play as much as I feel I should. This month, I'm hoping for 25k hands. I'm at about 20k right now, which is quite a lot for me. Let's see how I do tonight.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bike Hero

Okay, seriously, this needs to be linked:

I'm a big fan of one-take Youtube stuff, so here's some more, older stuff that you may not have seen:

And after Daft Hands, check out Daft Bodies:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One down.

And my spite-removing of RSS-shortened blogs has yielded its first victim: Daniel Negreanus blog is no longer something I read.

I wonder how he'll sleep at night once he finds out.

Guinness and Poker is still there, though. Then again, Iggy hasn't made a new post yet so who knows whether or not he has changed his ways.

... and there are others, too. Oh yes, I know who you are.

Tick-tock, bitches.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bloggah, Please.

Please, please, please don't use the function of cutting off your blog posts in your RSS feeds. I realize you're doing it for commercial reasons so that people will visit your site and click your links, but I'm this close to spite-removing all blogs from Google Reader that require me to open them in a new window. It's a tiny, tiny HUGE hassle.

I'm looking at you, Iggy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I should probably have made this post almost a week ago, but here's roughly what happened:

Wednesday night, I had my first coaching session. By the time it was over, I was up way past my bedtime and simply crawled into bed and tried to fight off the urge to think about poker and instead sleep. I failed, but that's neither here nor there.

Thursday when I came home from work, I itched badly to play. I wanted to work on the things I had gone over with my coach, Alan. See below. I could have blogged, sure, but playing takes precedence.

Friday night, we were invited over to a friend's house for board games. I went there almost directly from work, so no real time for blogging.

Saturday, a coworker was hosting a small private poker tournament. It took almost all day (and no, no heroic victory for yours truly; although I think I played well the whole time) and after which Lori and I went to another friend's place to celebrate his birthday. Came home late. Came home drunk. Not a good time to blog, either.

Slept awfully that night because my back hurt really badly. Spent Sunday very tired. Had no interest in computers. Stayed away from it, mostly.

Did not sleep at all Sunday night/Monday morning, thanks to the above-mentioned back pains. Went to work, drank lots of coffee, called and got a time the same day with a chiropractor. Went there, he straightened some parts of me out but I'm going back tomorrow. Still, very tired when I got home and not really in a mood for poker or blogging.

Slept better last night, but not great. Still well enough to feel energetic enough after dinner to play a few hundred hands, and now I have exactly 12 minutes until House is on TV, so this leaves me some time to let you know how things have gone.

... and things have gone great. Although one single session is a bit too early to gauge anything from, I'm confident I made a good pick in who I got for a coach. The session went well, at least in terms of what I feel I got out of it. In fact, I figured I'd show you a copy of my post-session notes, and you should keep these two things in mind when you read it:

  1. I am not - or at least was not - very comfortable in situations regarding 3-betting. My own 3-bet percentage is lower than it should be, and I don't particularly enjoy being 3-bet myself. This was one of the topics I informed Alan before-hand that I wanted to look at.
  2. I still haven't shaken the limit hold 'em habit of c-betting every flop. I don't actually c-bet every flop, but it's not far from it. This was another area for Alan in which to talk some sense into me.
So, the four things I made explicit notes of post-session:


Basically, I want to shoot for a number that's closer to 8%, as opposed to my 5% of today. The way I will do this is not by widening my overall 3-betting range, but instead looking for profitable spots to essentially 3-bet 100% of the time when I have opponents on my right that fold too often.


After sleeping on it, I've decided I'm going to try a new approach to c-bets. Coming from LHE, the default move as the preflop raiser is to always c-bet the flop so that's the default action I've taken with me to NLHE. Instead, I'm going to default to checking and look for a reason to bet, as opposed to defaulting to betting and looking for a reason to check. We'll see if it works. I noticed that a lot of the times I was supposed to check, my instinct to bet was mostly just because I didn't really know what else to do.


My stealing percentages are fine in general, but I should look for tables where I can steal virtually any-two on the button and have at it, not widening my overall range. The same situation as with the 3-bets, in other words.


Download it, use it, love it.

Of course, there was a lot more covered in the session, but in broad strokes, these are the four things I really want to work on right now.

So how have I done? To be perfectly honest (and why not) I haven't done that well. I think a large part of that comes from simply not having a chance to play much yet, which I hope to rectify in the upcoming days and especially this weekend. But part of it is also that I don't yet prepare before a session in a way that lets me focus on the items that I want to work on before I play. And that's where I'll try to be smarter next time; set up goals for the upcoming 500 hands for things I want to work on. If I'm playing 4-6 tables, I think working on items 1-3 simultaneously should not be a problem.

Okay, 1 minute to House. I shall wrap it up here, then.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

TT Out Of Position

$1/$2 NL at Party, I'm dealt TcTd in the hi-jack, and open to $6.

My primary reason for being at this table, the cut-off, is a 70/9/1.5 player who takes any pair to showdown and is probably really easy to double up against. He unsurprisingly calls my raise with what I can only assume are two cards.

On the button sits one of Party's better regulars at 200NL, who raises it up to $32. The blinds fold and the action is on me.

Effective stack is $200 (they both have me covered). What's my play?

I ended up calling. The flop came 7-7-3 rainbow. A nightmare flop; I have $168 left and the pot is almost $100 and I have an overpair. I can't easily get away from my hand. I'm first to act. What's my play?

I decided to check and see if I could get some useful information out of their actions. The CO checked as well and the solid button bet $70. Action's on me. What's my play?

So again I'm stuck with the "well, I can't fold" dilemma, but this is also the committment threshold right here. Since I can't fold, all my money is now set on going into the middle. How do I make the best of it? I decided that just calling his bet (as opposed to shoving) was the way to go. A shove will doubtfully make any better hand fold - I don't think he'll fold JJ here - and while my fold equity vs AK is nothing to sneeze at I'm more interested in getting the awful CO in the action with me.

The turn is a 5, I now have $98 left and the pot is $239. Again, I fall back to my defensive line; better to get all the money in with him shoving than with him calling since his shoving range contains bluffs where as his calling range does not. Then again, if he checks back the turn he gets a free look at the river with what's often going to be 6 outs.


I think this is a tough hand on almost all decisions except for my initial raise. I think the biggest problem I faced was on the flop, because I'm about to commit and I don't have a plan. The guy I'm hiring for coaching, Alan, suggested a different line on the flop that I agree with: Lead out instead of checking. It has some advantages:

1. I will immediately "find out" if the bad CO is interested in continuing or not. It's his money I'm shooting for, after all, not the button's. If CO folds, I'm suddenly in a reverse implied odds situation and can basically give up if the button continues. Some of the time, button will call my flop donk with a better hand and then check back the turn and river fearing that I'm trapping, but I think this particular player is good enough to realize what I'm doing once I check the turn, though.

2. If I lead out and CO calls, button's going to have a Very Hard Time (tm) raising anything but hands that have me crushed. The pot is protected; he's not going to raise with KQs or any kind of bluff hand here. We're committed and he knows it.

3. It prevents the free card disaster that could happen if both CO and button check. Together they may have as many as 12 outs if I'm currently ahead, and a free card is expensive for me in such a big pot.

So, in conclusion: A better plan would have been to lead the flop, for maybe $55, and set myself up for a situation where I can more easily get away from my hand if the bad player folds and the good player calls.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I've decided to pay for private coaching, to speed up my learning curve a bit and make me prepared for 2/4 and 3/6 (and, maybe just maybe even 5/10) in 2009. The coach is Alan "Dixon" Jackson from Stoxpoker, and I'll document the experience as best I can.

Before we get started, he has requested that I send him a quick bio where I include info about what I want out of poker and spots that make me uncomfortable. This is what I sent him:


About me
I'm 31, live in Linköping, Sweden, married to Lori since a little over a year back and we have a baby on the way which is exciting but nerve-wrecking. I work for a small company (about 30 people) who develop software for set top boxes (digital TV).

Playing poker
I first started playing poker with some friends in high school. Obviously had no idea what we were doing, and playing no-limit poker without table stakes is clearly lunacy. But the bug bit me and so when playing poker online became available, I jumped at it. Paradise Poker, specifically. I bought in for $50, lost it quickly and then decided that there were more fun computer games out there for me to play, and I got stuck with EverQuest for a few years.

In the summer of 2005 I was travelling in business quite a bit and wanted something to do while sitting in hotel rooms in various cities in the world, and decided that online poker would be a good choice since it required so little in terms of network connection and computer hardware; it would have been more difficult for me to install and run World of Warcraft or some other high-graphics game on my work laptop. So I went with poker, and started looking around for tips on how to play on the web.

Found a site called, read some of their articles, registered on the forum and got involved in discussion. I very quickly appreciated the theory behind poker, and decided to read all the poker books I could get my hands on. Went through Hold 'em for Advanced Players, Theory of Poker, and essentially started to order everything 2+2 had published. I played limit hold 'em, starting at the micro limits and moved up from there.

I could never play very much poker because of my job and other commitments, but I studied it carefully and tried to make the most of my time spent playing. I climbed the limits up to $5/$10 and some $10/$20 but at that point I was outmatched and very ill prepared for a downswing, both in terms of bankroll management and mentally. So when the downswing came, I gradually lost most of my bankroll in the late summer and fall of 2007. I moved down to $1/$2 and kept grinding, but felt frustrated with limit hold 'em and eventually decided to take the plunge and move to no-limit permanently. I had played a little NL here and there but not seriously.

So on April 1st this year, I loaded up a few $25NL tables at Stars and started trying to learn how to play. I had about a $2k bankroll at the time, but didn't want to start higher than $25 because I wanted to limit the potential loss. After a successful month at 25NL, I moved up to 50NL, and then in June started playing a little bit of 100NL when I found good tables. In August, I had been fortunate enough to get a bankroll sized to play a little bit of $200NL and that's where I've been since then. It's been going up and down a bit, but mostly up and I think I've learned a lot in the past few months.

I'm naturally a bit passive, and I've had to work pretty hard to become more aggressive.

Poker goals
Poker will probably never be my primary income, but I want to maximize it as a secondary income. If I can comfortably play $3/$6 and maybe some $5/$10 and have a modest win-rate, I'd be more than happy with that. A lot of what holds me back is the volume of hands that I play which means I need to learn how to multitable better. I've installed AHK and I have a dual monitor set up (20' + 24') but I still feel like I need to get more decisions on autopilot in order to play more than 6 tables at once. Basically, I'm hoping to, in 2009, reach a level of skill that allows me to play ~30k hands a month of 3/6 profitably.

Spots that make me uncomfortable
Being 3-bet by aggressive players. And although I've gotten better I'm still not entirely comfortable with when to c-bet or not. I used to c-bet virtually every flop (and in the 30k hand sample I think this will be reflected somewhat; I only in the past few weeks started checking flops more frequently). I try to table select pretty carefully because I just don't feel like I'm a winning when I'm playing regulars. I don't think I'm necessarily losing, but if there's a profit there, it's probably eaten by the rake.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big Hands, Big Pots

One of the habits I brought with me when I moved here from the CardsChat blog was to make strategy posts: instructional posts about poker. I made a lot of those on the CC blog, because that's what the readers requested. I'm going to stop that habit, because quite frankly I don't feel up for the job. I could rehash basic principles of poker but I'd feel kinda dumb about it because what I love about poker is its complexity and beginning strategies of play are always extremely oversimplified and take away that beauty, in my opinion. They're necessary to keep from drowning in the beginning, but they're not poker.

Poker is valuebetting second pair on a really scary river because your hand reading skills deduce that your opponent is unlikely to have top pair or a flush. That extra $40 of value that you get out of that river that a lesser player wouldn't.

Poker is adjusting your bet sizing to different opponents and board textures.

Poker is exploring all the options you have to play a hand and then making the most profitable decision.

So in the future when I make strategy related posts, they're going to be personal reflections rather than instructional articles, if you will. And I'm starting today, with the concept of "big hands, big pots." I'm not 100% sure about the origin of the phrase, but I think I saw Ed Miller use it first. The idea, in case you're not familiar with it, is this:

A very strong hand should play in a way that enables it to win a big pot.

A mediocre (but "showdownable," which is now a word, thankyouverymuch) hand should try to keep the pot size down and aim for winning a small pot.

The basic reasoning behind this is pretty simple: When all the money goes in postflop, it's unlikely that AJ on a J-8-6 board is going to show a profit simply because there are few hands that any opponents are willing to get their whole stack in with that you can beat. So you try to avoid getting yourself in a situation where you have to make a decision for your whole stack with a vulnerable hand.

Conversely, a hand like 88 on the same board cannot check back the flop because you should work on building as big a pot as possible, shooting for your opponent's stack. Big hands, big pots.

So what am I getting at? I'm not crazy about this principle. I don't think it's flawed per se, I just think it falls into a very common trap of simplification: hiding the difficult part. Because poker didn't get trivial when I started thinking of "big hands, big pots." It's a good thing to think about but it doesn't make the decisions automatic. Before this catch-phrase, we used to have people answering the question "should I valuebet AK on a K-high river?" with "it depends." Then came "big hands, big pots" but "it depends" is still the answer; it's just the answer to a different question: "is AK on this K-high river a big hand?"

By introducing "big hands, big pots" we didn't eliminate the problem, we shifted it. It reminds me of linear algebra where you can change the base of calculation and hope that the answer becomes easier to calculate. Sometimes - often - that's true, but you still need to do the calculation, easier or not. A different perspective can make a decision easier but it doesn't solve it.

Because, really, whether or not AK on a K-high river is a big hand depends on the texture of the board and what you know about your opponent. It's a "big hand" if he's likely to call a big bet with a weaker hand. And while "big hands, big pots" may work for some people, it never quite did the trick for me, but now I've found a way of addressing these situations that I find easier: I ask myself the question "how many bets can I win with this hand vs. this opponent?"

Example: $200NL, I open KQo to $6 in the cut-off and only the small blind - a fairly typical regular in these games - calls. We see a flop of Q-7-7. How may bets can I win off of my opponent if my hand is best?

My best guess: Two. My opponent is not going to put in three streets of action with an underpair, and he's fairly unlikely to have coldcalled preflop with a weaker queen than mine except (maybe) QJs. And what I need to figure out is how to extract those two bets in a way that maximizes my chances of winning. Perhaps checking back the flop and seeing if he bets the turn (which increases the chance of him bluffing), or perhaps betting the flop and hoping he takes one off with a medium pair and then I can check back the turn and hope he bluffs the river or calls a value bet.

And once I have that part of it thought through, I can start to think about how I want to size a potential bet to maximize value. Perhaps the turn brings a third flushcard to the table and I have to flush my plan of checking back the turn to induce a river bluff in favor of betting the turn and checking back the river since there are now more hands he could call a second bet with that wouldn't call the same bet on the river unimproved. Etc.

And while this opponent might have "two bets" stapled to his virtual forehead, another opponent with exactly the same hand could make me think "three bets, easily, and I'm happy to get it all-in at any point" or "one, tops."

No, this perspective didn't "solve" poker, either. It can't; it only shifted the calculation. Because, in the end, it still depends.

And that's the beauty of it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday Warmup

First, some poker progress report:

I'm 2/2 in cashing in the Poker Stars $200 Sunday Warm-up tournament. I'd like to go deeper, but I really can't complain about the results. The main reason I'm even playing it to begin with is that it's probably the most +EV way for me to use my FPPs at Stars.

I'm also doing a lot of work on plugging leaks in my cash game. So far, I feel it's been very productive. I've been looking at hand textures and ranges, trying to improve my c-betting habits, and my postflop and preflop bet-sizing. Couple that with some very aggressive table selection, a lot of good hands, and my results between now and the last post have been very good. If I were a superstitious man I wouldn't make that comment, but fortunately I'm not.

Second, a comment on my general state of blogging:

I'm not doing it much. Frankly, it's because I haven't felt like it. I've had too much other stuff that I'd rather do, including watching movies, reading books, hanging out with friends and playing and studying poker. I haven't felt like there's anything particularly newsworthy going on in either my own poker world or the poker world in general that I want to comment on. So I haven't.

I'm not particularly interested in the fucked up courts in Kentucky that are seizing domain names of gambling sites.

The November nine? Oh yeah, I guess the WSOP final table is coming up. Uh... Exciting?

Frankly, in reading the blogs it seems that most writers are experiencing a slow news month. Or maybe they're more excited than ever and it's just my own apathy that makes me interpret it that way. Whatever the reason, I don't particularly find anything interesting enough to bother writing about so I haven't. I'm glad I scored a small cash in a tournament yesterday, though, as it gave me an excuse to write something.

Wow, what a depressing post I just put forward. I guess I better end it with something positive. How's about a picture of me playing the banjo?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Wish I Hadn't Said That.

Yeah, so in my last post I cautiously mentioned that I've been doing great this month. I ended it with the caveat that I hope my next post wouldn't be "I wish I hadn't said that." And, well... What can I say.

I wish I hadn't said that.

My 24" widescreen monitor has arrived though, and I have a two-monitor set-up now that allows me to feel like an evil genius. I sit around going "muhahahaha!" and Lori rolls her eyes and shakes her head.

My plan as per poker for the rest of the month is to play less and study more. A lot more. In fact, I may not play many more hands this month. I have a lot of Stox videos to catch up on, and I'm going to do some serious soul searching and leak-plugging for the next 10 days. And hey, if I don't play another hand this month, I will at least end the month up about $500. That's, uh, something.

So, poker gods: Please forgive me. I promise I won't express joy next time you shine on me. I'll pretend I haven't noticed. Really, I will. We cool now? Ok, thanks.

End of month update will include the amusing-looking graph of this month, complete with a little marker that shows exactly where in the graph I made the fatal mistake of mentioning that I had been running well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Late Night Business Decision

Sunday night - or technically, Monday morning - I was suffering from a bit of insomnia. A combination of several things, I'd guess, not the least of which was the full moon. Not kidding; I generally have a bit of a tougher time sleeping those nights. Sleeping in late on Sunday probably helped, too, and a tingling of stress about the upcoming week couldn't have made it better.

So after lying in bed for 45 minutes tossing and turning, I turned on the light and picked up my book. Read a chapter. Turned off the light, tried to sleep. Didn't work. Finally just gave up and got out of bed at around midnight and turned on the computer.

On a whim - and this is how I like my purchases - I ordered a 24" flatscreen Dell monitor. My thinking was that if I have a bigger monitor, I could play six tables which a nice big size instead of just four. 50% more hands per time unit. This investment will pay for itself in no-time.

I hope.

It hasn't arrived yet, but it should later in the week or maybe next week. The decision might have been on a whim, but is not one I regret. A bigger monitor really does mean more hands per hour, and that can't be a bad thing. I used to play 8-9 tables on this old monitor, and that was simply too much for me to handle. Not only did I not have enough time to think through all my decisions, but each table was also too small for me to actually fit all the information from the HUD that I like to have up. With a bigger screen, and sticking to six tables, I should not have to compromise. I'm expecting to take a bit of a cut in the win-rate anyway (although rarely, I still make the occasional mistake at four tables that I wouldn't have had I played only one - and it's unlikely to get better if I add two more), but hardly a 33% loss.

Also, it was 30% off. $340 including delivery. Last time I shopped for a monitor, those babies cost closer to $1500, so what's not to like?

Lori had insomnia as well and wasn't quite as enthusiastic about my midnight electronics purchase, but after a little bit of negotation that ended in a compromise that I get a new monitor if we'll make sure to buy new furniture for the workroom (a deal that I'm not entirely sure has a negative for me, but I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth) I clicked "Complete Transaction" on the Dell website.

Now I'm just waitin'.

As a sidenote, I've been absolutely killing at the tables this month. Only 6k hands, but when you're making 50 cents per hand, that's still something to be pretty excited about. I'm just crossing my fingers that my next post will be a "I wish I hadn't said that" post.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I'm having difficulty finding the right vocabulary (or "verbiage," as Sarah Palin would say) for what I'm about to write. The first problem arises when I want to say that I "realized" something last week, because "realize" isn't at all the word I want to use. It wasn't new to me, it was just the first time I thought about it consciously.

And what I "realized" was that I have what I fail to find another word for than "quirk" when it comes to the money I win and lose at poker. It's not a "quirk" per se, but rather an angle that I think might be different from others'. Anyway, forgive the poor language.

So last week I "realized" that I have a "quirk" when it comes to money I play poker with. To the US players, what I'm about to say might make little sense, but bear with me: I don't think of a good night at the tables as "winning money," I think of it as "winning dollars." And for me, with the Swedish krona as my currency, dollars don't necessarily represent money, subconsciously. Rationally they do, of course. I understand fully that I can withdraw from my bankroll and spend it on stuff. I've withdrawn a decent amount over the past few years. But, and I think this goes back to my past rabid obsession with computer games, when I lose or win a buy-in (typically $200) I don't see it as money won or lost. I see it as "points."

And I check my score in Hold'em Manager.

When I have a big winning night, I'm not excited because I'm better off financially now than before, I cheer because my score just improved.

On the surface, this appears helpful, because the angle makes me focus on correct things at the table. No tilt induced by losing a lot of money because what I'm losing isn't money. Right? Except that I think I tilt just as much as I would be if I had thought about it as money, if not harder. Because I care about my score, as I would in any game.

But, and this is the real divide, it's the $ Won column in HEM that constitutes my score. Not the money in NETeller or even how much money I currently have at, say, Party Poker. No, THAT money is real money. Bonuses that I clear, in other words, don't count towards my subconscious idea of reaching a high score.

I wonder how that came to be. I don't know what the practical difference is other than that I rarely put a big pot won or lost into the context of real money (that is, mentally convert it to my own currency), although the times I do that I sometimes go "oh wow, that's actually quite a bit of money."

So yesterday I won an $808 pot. I was happy because it put my score for the night at $670. A short while later, while brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed, I multiplied the $800 by 7 (which is about the exchange rate) and realized that the size of that pot was 20% of my monthly income after taxes from my employer. It put things into perspective for me.

But only for a short while. Now I'm back to thinking about points. Good thing, too, because I'm not sure I would like to play for that much real money.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I Was Rewarded

Party Poker representatives apparently read my blog and swiftly rewarded my previous post by toggling the boom-switch. These were the hands I played (at 200NL) today after making the post:

Thanks, Party!

Party Poker

Oh, where to start...

I've had a terrible relationship with Party Poker for a long time. I love the fact that they're a big European site with lots of traffic, because it allows me to play poker without playing taxes (a plus that they share with Bet24, Ladbrokes, Betway, and many others) but without having to compromise game selection - a feature that the other sites decidedly can NOT offer. When there are only 5 games of $200NL running at Betway, and all of them have 5 of the same 6 players on them, you can be pretty sure that the games aren't that juicy as they're all filled with regulars.

And I've lamented the fact that if only they had a better client than they do, they'd be, if not great, than at least a good site. If they could fix the bugs in the software, if they could perhaps update it to something a little more modern than what seems to be a 2002 version of a poker room, then it'd be awesome. What I love the most about Poker Stars is their client software. It's fast and smooth. It doesn't frustrate me.

And now Party Poker has updated their software. My expectations were low. Very low. So while my expectations weren't hard to exceed, they did not only exceed them but I now think they're almost on par with Stars in terms of client software. And in some cases, they outdo even Stars.

They have an auto-reload feature (which for the life of me I cannot figure out why Stars doesn't have for all ring games), they have buttons for betting pot, 3/4ths pot, etc. They have table selection software that lets me browse tables based on pot size, average players per pot, and even a waiting list feature that doesn't make me want to shoot myself.

In short, their new software is great and they deserve a great big kudos for it.

I'm sure there are still kinks to be worked out (although I haven't found anything major yet). I presume their customer service is still as poor as it ever were, although I don't particularly feel like trying it out. I notice they even added the same kind of bot protection that Stars added, see screenshot below.

Anyway, I'm now excited to be playing there, in contrast to before when I felt like I had to play there but didn't really want to. Good job, Party.

I never thought I'd say that.

The text, in case you wondered, roughly translates to:

"Code Verification
Type in the characters that are displayed in the image below.
(The characters are not case sensitive)

You have 110 seconds to give the code. If you do not finish the confirmation sequence within the given time frame you will be forced to sit out the next hand.

This process helps us prevent the usage of automated gambling systems or BOTs on our software. Thank you for your cooperation."

Friday, October 3, 2008

I'm alive, if not kicking

Back from Spain Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, back at work 8 hours later, and in full crunch mode. There's no energy left over to do anything but work and catch up with recorded episodes of The Daily Show, 30 Days, The Office and reruns of The West Wing.

We finally managed to clear the list of shows tonight, and now I'm moving my attention to Google Reader with 170 unread items, and a brick biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. Having recently finished a biography of Thomas Jefferson: American Sphinx, by Joseph J. Ellis.

(The above widget may or may not work when I actually publish this post, and I have no idea how the RSS readers will pick up on it)

I liked it. I was watching the HBO miniseries on John Adams before reading this book, so I had "the other perspective" somewhat in mind when I took on Jefferson, but I'm not sure I would have had to. This is not a book written to put Jefferson on a pedestal, it's a book to explain why he thought what he thought. And what he thought. And, perhaps most importantly, how he thought.

As a sidenote, I watched Sarah Palin in an interview the other day, saying that she's "a federalist" because she believes that states should have more say. Thomas Jefferson cringes in his coffin.

I just cringed in my couch.


The reason I'm now onto Napoleon is because I've been "around" him in history for awhile now (with the American revolution, the French revolusion, the Lousiana Purchase, etc.) and now I can't really contain my curiousity about the man himself. That's how history lessons should be.

Too bad I hated it in high school.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Yup, it's raining. Yup, we're playing lotsa board games.

Notable moments include me eating a sausage that we bought in the store that looked good. While I'm chewing on it, I read, on the package, "Cocinar completamente antes de su consumo." My Spanish skills being somewhat questionable, I reach for the dictionary and look up "cocinar."

Turns out it means, which I guessed but wasn't sure, "cook."

The other words I could figure out without looking them up. "Completamente" presumably means "finish," and "ante" means "before." Consumo, of course, being consume, or eat.

So... Finish cooking before you eat it.

I read this as I chew on what I now realize is a raw sausage. Not only that, but a cheap raw sausage. With an explicit warning that it should be cooked before eaten.

So I go and pour myself a deciliter shot of whisky.

I'm still fine.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Off I Go, Again

In about an hour, I'll be back out travelling. This time, though, it's just a private vacation - spending a week in my parents' house in Spain. Me, Lori and two of our best friends. It's going to be great, I think, even though the weather forecast of course shows rain and thunder for the upcoming week. Thanks, Weather Gods.

Fortunately, all four of us are board game geeks, so the idea of being "stuck" in a house in Spain with the rain pouring down isn't as dreadful as some others might have found it. Not that I wouldn't have preferred sun - don't get me wrong - it's just that we're not as dependent on it for a good time as some others may be.

But of course something had to go wrong the last minute. As we pack up the cats this morning to take them to the cat hotel for a week (oh boy do they ever love being locked up in a cage for a week - not to mention the SAME cage; there's no sibling love between this particular brother and sister), we find that Ada has a wound on her chest. So quickly off to the vet with her, they say that she needs to get stitched up and probably needs antibiotics which makes the whole thing with the cat hotel quite a bit more difficult.

Fortunately, our friend Maria is the nicest person in the world and offered to go to our house once a day for the next week and feed the cats and make sure that the wound doesn't get infected. So the cats got a free pass from the cat hotel (or "prison" as I'm sure they think of it as) this time, and it all ends up for the best. Except maybe for Maria who needs to go to our place once a day.

I've played some poker since I got back, and I've run horribly. Completely awful. I won't bore you with the details other than to say that it would be nice if I could ever get some action with AA/KK preflop, and if I could perhaps avoid being dealt JJ and QQ at the same time as someone else gets AA and KK. Oh, and perhaps it would also be nice if I could win QQ vs. AK at least once.

I said I wouldn't bore you with the details. Sorry about that; I should have kept the lid closed on that particular Pandora's Box.

But never mind poker and downswings! Spain! Rioja Wine! Sun! ... or rain. Or whatever. It'll be good to relax and get my mind somewhat off of work for a week, although I'll be bringing my cell phone with me, and I expect to take some calls from the office.

I leave you with this, my greatest musical hero of all time - Tom Waits. Words are superfluous. He blows me away. The music is a bit tough to digest for some people, but... Oh, brother. Tom Waits. I don't know what else to say.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Waits:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Da, Comrade

Got back from Kiev Thursday night, exhausted. It had been a very long week with days consisting of what my boss jokingly calls "working halftime," meaning 12+ hour days. The results were good, though, and by any measurement the trip was a success. So I'm tired but happy, I guess you could say.

Oh, and we found hats that we absolutely needed to buy. Here's a picture from the office we sat in while there. Apparently it's a "sauna hat" which makes absolutely no sense to me because I can't figure out why you'd want to wear a hat in a sauna. Nevertheless, there it is - red star, and everything. In the back is my coworker, who also got a hat. The ukranians must have thought we were, well, special people. I guess that's not entirely untrue.

So now I'm home for four days before a much-needed vacation of one week in Spain, and we're leaving Tuesday. Full speed at work for two days, try to take care of the poor, neglected garden during the weekend, be social with friends and desperately try to play some poker in between. Oh, and hang out with Lori.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Next stop: Kiev

I've been more quiet than usual the past two weeks, and that's chiefly due to being busy at work. It sort of culminates with my upcoming visit to Ukranian capital Kiev tomorrow, and I'll be there until Thursday.

Having never been there before, I'm not entirely sure what to expect. I checked it out on Wikipedia and the city itself looks pretty enough. 2.6 million citizens. I'm not at all sure how much time I'll get to spend on things that are not work, but I bet there are things to do in Kiev - even if you only stay for four days. I've gotten the idea that they're big on tourists - or they'd like to be - so I'm sure it'll be hospitable enough.

That's really all the update I have for you right now.

Oh, and maybe a poker half-month update: "Only" 8k hands played this month, but a good win-rate now that I'm only playing 4 tables makes for a decent profit. I say "only" because it's less than I have played in the preceeding months, but it's at the level that suits me. We'll see if I make any real marathon sessions this month, but I'm happy getting a few hundred hands in here and there. Of course, I noticed that Party Poker has a $500 redeposit bonus that requires surprisingly little effort to clear (and they'll let you clear it $100 at a time) so I'm probably going to go for that, and that might require me to play a bit more than my lazy self would actually like. We'll see about that.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 Years Ago

7 years ago, on this day - at about this time - I was in the air between Newark airport, New York/New Jersey and Dulles Airport, Washington DC.

I wasn't supposed to be. I was actually supposed to have reached my destination the day before, but weather conditions over Washington made the flight delayed and finally cancelled, so me and my coworker had to get a hotel in New Jersey for the night and book ourselves on the first flight out of there. Because of all the problems at the airport that afternoon, we hadn't had a chance to eat anything. The last meal I had had was the airplane breakfast before landing in Newark, and we didn't get any more food that day.

We got up very early on the 11th to catch the first flight out. The hotel hadn't started serving breakfast yet, that's how early it was. Get in the cab, drive to airport, get on board and head for Dulles. I made the devastating mistake of thinking that now our little travel problem was over. As we were taxing out on the runway, we saw the New York City skyline in the distance. A skyline that was very shortly about to change dramatically.

We landed in Dulles at about 8:15, if my memory serves. Our connecting flight was supposed to leave at 8:45, and was the smallest airplane I've ever been in. 12 seats, I think it was. Maybe 16. Felt more like a small bus than an airplane. Only me, my coworker and one other guy on it.

The pilot turned around - not like there was a point in using the speaker system - and said "uh. Looks like we'll be a bit delayed."

"Ok" we thought. Not like it mattered a lot, we were still on our way.

A couple of more minutes pass, and then he turns around again and explains that we're going to have to leave the airplane "because of the events in New York." We didn't know anything about any events in New York. But I'm not one to argue with pilots onboard an airplane, so I got my carry-on and we walked off the plane and back into the terminal. Once there, we did what any good little Swede would do - sat and waited by the gate.

But we were hungry. Remember, we hadn't eaten for near 24 hours now. Very hungry.

So after a bit of waiting I decide to do something about it, so I get up and ask the lady at the gate if she thinks the plane will be leaving shortly. She chuckled at the notion of the flight taking off soon, which I thought was a bad sign. After the chuckle she informed us that we had no need worry; we had PLENTY of time to get something to eat.

At this point, we hadn't really started to wonder what had happened in New York. I don't know if I figured much of anything, but I think I had some vague notion of there perhaps being a traffic control problem or something of the sort. Maybe a connecting flight that was delayed that we had to wait for. I didn't know, and I didn't particularly care - my mind was in a must-get-food state.

So we stroll on down the hallway, find a place that sells hamburgers. There was a TV in there and a big crowd watching it, and while standing in line we try to figure out what they're watching. There was smoke coming out of the WTC. "A bomb?" I asked my coworker. "Uh. I dunno." Then they show the footage of an airplane flying into it and my first instinct wasn't terrorist attack, it was "airplane malfunction" or "pilot falling asleep" or any number of things. Terrorists didn't really factor in. I didn't even know what to do with the information.

As we finally get our food, however, it's apparent that it was a terrorist attack. By now, everyone's jumpy. Terrorists are targetting airplanes, and we're sitting at one of America's most prominent airports, near the country's capital. A crowd suddenly panics and starts stampeding past us where we sit, apparently running away from something down the hall. "Fight-or-flight" instinct kicks in, and we figure that we don't know what they're running from, but they have more information than we do so we should perhaps start legging it as well. The people around us come to the same conclusion, and now I've witnessed first-hand how the dynamics of a crowd panicking works.

I didn't run, though. For better or worse (mostly worse) I'm equipped with a very powerful "food first" mechanism. At this point, I hadn't eaten for 24 hours, and even though I didn't know what they were running from, I was not just leaving my food here. I carefully packed everything up - fries in one pocket, coke in the other, carry-on in one hand, hamburger in the other - and made my way away from whatever it was I was supposed to make my way away from.

Turns out, it was just a secure door that hadn't shut properly. When such doors don't close, they usually inform the people around them about it by starting to beep after 20-30 seconds. Some lady had interpretted the beeping as a warning signal for a bomb about to go off, I guess, and started screaming and running. People around her didn't know why, but panicked as well. Eventually, the crowd wasn't just the lady - it was 500 people. It got sorted out, though.

Like I said, people were jumpy.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, but shortly after this episode we were evacuated to the main terminal. We were informed that we wouldn't be getting our checked luggage back at this point, because basically the entire airport was shut down. We were asked - via the speaker system - to leave the airport. That, my friends, was harder than it may sound. The line to the taxi booth was at least 400 deep. The only buses around were greyhound buses and I didn't particularly know which one to get on in order to get closer to Lynchburg, Virginia.

So we just sat down and leaned up against the wall outside the airport. I had very little energy and absolutely no ideas. I figured we might as well wait it out for awhile and see if things calmed down a bit and maybe we could ask someone for help on how to procede.

It took awhile - I'm going to guess about 2-3 hours - before the emergency evacuation plan for the airport kicked into gear. Then buses came to shuttle us away from the airport and into evacuation centers, basically emptied warehouses and such, where they had set-up some phone booths, a small coffee-and-snacks kiosk and a 24" TV where we could follow the news.

Tired, still hungry, and desoriented, we still managed to get a few necessary things done: Call our families and coworkers back home and let them know we were okay (the last thing they heard from us was "we're flying out tomorrow morning from Newark Airport", so it's a good bet they were going to be worried). We also discussed our options for getting to where we were going. Maybe rent a car and drive; it was only a few hours away. Maybe try to find a bus. Train? Do they have trains? We didn't know.

As we stand in line to the phone booths, the gentleman in front of us did something many Americans do, but Swedes basically don't: He turned around and talked to us. Just general pleasantries. Where were we going, etc.

Now, and this is the real kicker of the story: He was from Lynchburg Virginia. He was originally planning on going to Chicago on business but as it was clear that he wasn't going to reach his destination he was going to call some buddies from his office and ask them to come up and get him in Washington DC. He asked if we wanted a ride.

How's that for long odds.

The chance of not only being at the same place after evacuating 20,000 people from Dulles Airport, but being behind him in line, AND the topic of "where are you going" actually coming up. He called his friends, asked them to rent a minivan instead of just taking a regular car, and 4 hours later we were on our way, by car, to our destination.

Long odds, indeed.

Finally, very belatedly, we arrived at the Hilton in Lynchburg and checked in. We exchanged addresses with the guy who we had to thank for getting us there, and thanked him again and again for his kindness. I really don't know what we would have done if he hadn't helped us out.

Some terrible things happened on that day, and I was, if not smack in the middle of it, at least in fairly close proximity. The thought that I very likely got to the airport and checked in at about the same time as the hijackers has certainly crossed my mind. That I was lucky not to be on one of the planes they decided to take has crossed my mind many times.

But they didn't, and I was instead fortunate enough to witness how America turned from one of its most devastating moments into one of its finest weeks. The solidarity and compassion that bound everyone in America, and in large parts around the world, that week is something I won't soon forget. Things that just the day before had seemed like big problems were suddenly realized to be minor details.

The ugly truth of the terrorist attacks was very powerfully outshined by the finest traits in human nature just the minutes after it happened. I will never forget that.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Don't slowroll.

I can get annoyed with a lot of things, but the only thing that really makes me angry is when people in a position of power use it to knowingly and "just because I can" screw others over. Kicking on someone who's down, stepping on ants, etc.

And so, the one thing that really, really gets to me at a poker table is when someone slowrolls the nuts on the river. I can take virtually any berating that gets thrown at me for "playing bad" and I can - mostly always - handle being beaten by a two outer. But I tilt so very hard when someone slowrolls. Not because I lost the hand - that in itself is no worse than just a regular bad beat - but because they're knowingly and willfully being assholes about it.

The hand in itself was nothing spectacular. A bad loose/aggressive player who can make river laydowns called two barrels in position from me on a 4-7-9-K board and when the river came with a K, I shoved for about a pot sized bet and he pauses for awhile. Says "Thanks!"

... doesn't call...

"lol" he says.

... doesn't call, almost times out.

Calls with one second on the clock and - by now I had guessed it, as have you, of course - KK.

Me, I had a busted draw - JT - and was banking on him folding a better draw or a smaller pair to my shove (which I think is justified thinking based on the history between us), but that's neither here nor there. He could have had ace-high and called and I would still have been beaten. I realized when I shoved that I had a very good shot at losing my stack.

But slowrolling is so despicable. It's the cop who gives you a ticket when both you and he knows you weren't speeding, but he doesn't like the way you look and knows you're screwed either way. It's the teacher who gives you a worse grade on a paper because you don't particularly like each other. It's the popular guys in high school who pick on the inseceure kid with a broken home.

It represents the absolute worst trait I know in humans. And I hate it.

I called him on it. I don't swear or type in profanities in the chat box, but what I said was "seriously, slowrolling is so incredibly rude. Don't do it."

"why not? lol, loser."

The conversation ended there. And that short exchange confirmed that it wasn't just a mistake. He wasn't excited about getting quads and just being busy trying to take a screenshot or calling his wife over to come see or anything like that. He was just intentionally trying to be a prick.

And I tilted so hard. I was fuming. My heart was pounding hard and I could feel my head getting warm. I didn't leave the table until he was bust. I didn't get to bust him, and I didn't get to take much of his money, but - and this is rare for me - I took pleasure in every pot he lost. A good argument could probably be made for not continuing to play when I was tilting, but I knew I was tilting. So I tightened up. And I willingly lost a bit of win-rate just to sit there and see him lose his money. I believe the term is "opportunity cost."


Anyway, I've had a rough couple of days at poker, but have managed to win enough pots without going to showdown (picking spots to bluff is so extremely much easier when I'm playing four tables that it's not even funny) to scrape by with a break-even result for the past few days. So no complaints, really.

Besides losing some faith in humanity.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Don't Settle.

Regarding win-rates, I've heard that 1-2ptbb/100 at $.50/$1 no-limit and up is a very strong result over the long run. I agree, it is. Any win-rate above 0ptbb/100 is of course good.

But don't settle on 1-2pt/bb. Don't fall in the trap of thinking that just because you've achieved that win-rate over the past 50k hands that your focus should be on logging more hands and not working on your game. Thinking that you're "good enough" at poker is probably the best way to ensure that you soon won't be.

You think 5ptbb/100 longterm isn't achievable at the games you play? Do you table select? Do you actively leave tables that have less than two bad players sitting at them? Do you notice when your table becomes a tagfest of regulars?

And do you make mistakes? Small mistakes add up in an alarming rate in this game of ours. Do you adjust your opening raise size depending on the stacks of the people who are left to act? Do you sometimes accidently 3-bet someone and only after the fact notice that he only has 30BB left and is committed?

Do you make a standard call and notice too late - or not at all - that your opponent is the nittiest player ever?

Do you take extensive notes on players? Even on hands that you're not involved in? Do you notice when the weak player gets up and a strong player sits in? Do you know who the weakest players are at all the tables you're playing?

Do you know who the strong players are at all the tables you're playing, or do you just assume you can beat them all?

Do you know what range a specific opponent 3-bets with, not just with what frequency?

And, pertaining to specifically multitabling, do you ever time out on a table? Like, ever?

You can get better. And as I've stated in the past, win-rates aren't origo-based and linear. The implication in that post was that your win-rate may well drop by quite a bit more than half if you double the number of tables you play. But the flipside of the coin is that you may well increase your win-rate by more than a factor of two if you pay fewer tables.

I've scaled back down to playing only four tables, and while I can't speak for you, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that I'm making more than twice as much as I was when I was playing 8-9 tables. Table selection is difficult when I'm playing 8 tables because I have so few spare seconds to look for the fish. Note taking is extremely cumbersome. And always noticing immediately when someone leaves and someone else sits down is borderline impossible.

Don't be content with a 1.5ptbb/100 win-rate. The $100NL and $200NL games can be beaten for much more than that, of this I'm certain. And active table selection - and de-selection - is the biggest key by far in achieving a monster win-rate.

Don't settle.

Monday, September 1, 2008

4-bet bluffing in no-limit hold 'em

I did sort of promise this post, so here it is. It's inspired by a recent thread on CC, and a lot of what I'm saying here is what I said there, but I feel I can perhaps expand on a few points.

What Jagsti asked is "when, why and how" one 4-bet bluffs, and also with what hands. I think this is a pretty good starting point for the reasoning, so I'll use a similar format, albeit in a different order:

The obvious answer is that it's extra money in our bankroll. 4-bet bluffing is often profitable in a vacuum against aggressive regulars in the online games; just by occasionally 4-bet bluffing we can show an immediate profit. As an added benefit we also add some deception and make sure that our opponents can't squarely put us on QQ or better when we 4-bet preflop, thus allowing us to get more action on our big hands. Trust me, if your opponent shoves after you 4-bet and you fold, you can be certain that he just made a note on you. You should probably make a note back saying that he has seen you do this and avoid making your next 4-bet against him a bluff.

Here, I'm itching to actually answer the "when" first because a lot of what I want to say about "how" depends on the "when," but I think there's pedagogical value in doing this in reverse so I'll try it. When I 4-bet bluff preflop, I do it with hands that I can't profitably call the 3-bet with, and I do it to an amount that lets me get away from the hand if my opponent shoves.

The second part of that sentence is key. I need to be able to raise a large enough amount that my opponent doesn't just call because he's in position with good pot odds, but a small enough amount that I don't get pot odds myself to call a shove with any-two. A min-4-bet, in other words, is out of the question. A 4-bet that puts considerably more than a third of my stack in is also a bad idea.

After doing some simulations and a tiny bit of math, it seems that 4-betting to about a third of my stack (or rather, the effective stack) does the trick and is about as high as I can go without being committed. Perhaps needless to say, I use the same raise size with my big hands as well. This brings us very quickly into the "when."

Now, since I want to 4-bet with (at most) a third of my stack, I need my opponent's 3-bet to be small enough that my 4-bet allows this without being a pesky min-raise. If my opponent 3-bets to 25BB (with 100BB stacks), for instance, 4-bet bluffing is not an option for me. But the standard open-raise is typically between 3 and 4 big blinds, and the standard 3-bet for most regulars in the games I play seems to be between 12 and 15 big blinds. A 4-bet to 35 big blinds, then, achieves what I want to achieve, and is what I aim for in these cases.

It's imperative, then, that the effective stacks are at least 100BB. Otherwise, I'll have put in more than a third of my stack and will be very close to break-even on calling with any two cards when/if my opponent shoves, which I certainly don't want.

Furthermore, the whole point in 4-bet bluffing is that we think there's a decent chance that our opponents will fold whatever they have, so we want some history between us that shows that he's capable of 3-betting light. If you use stats, the "3bet preflop" number should typically show at least 7% for me to start considering 4-bet bluffing, and it's of course also a given that our opponent must be "smart" enough to fold the worst part of his hands when we bluff. Don't bluff a calling station - and definitely not preflop.

I also said that I want to do it with hands that I can't profitably call the 3-bet with, which adds to the when; I'm more often out of position than in position when I 4-bet bluff. In position I can often take a flop and play a big pot in position with some of my weaker hands, albeit certainly not all of them.

With what hands?
I'll cut to the chase: I (almost always) 4-bet these hands before the flop: QQ, KK, AA, AKo and AKs. Out of position, I also 4-bet all suited connectors from 76s up to JTs. In position, I 4-bet bluff with JTo.

It might seem like I'm being predictable if I always use the same hands, but I don't think that that's true. The way the combinations of these hands work out, I will "have it" about 75% of the time when I 4-bet. That's decidedly enough not to make shoving over the top immediately profitable for my opponents, and it's also enough that I still add a little bit of profit. So why have I picked these precise hands?

Because I want to be able to make the decision to 4-bet bluff automatic. I have two reasons for this:

First, it frees up time in my decision making when I'm multi-tabling (which I typically always am). A few seconds saved on making a decision on one table means a few more seconds to make a better decision on another table. This is pretty important and why I'm a big fan of having default ranges on reflex. That doesn't mean that I can't adjust, but some decisions I really just prefer to have made for me.

Secondly, it takes away the risk that I'm overdoing it. I think a lot of aggressive regulars seriously overdo the LAG style of their play and simply go nuts too often. They might "know" that they should be bluffing with a certain small frequency, but simply guessing how often they've been doing it lately is borderline impossible. By using a set of pre-determined ranges, I know for a fact that I'm bluffing with a frequency that I've decided on. No guessing. No 4-betting because I'm tilting.

So I pick JTo when I'm in position and suited connectors when I'm out of position, and you may already have guessed why, but it's simply because these are hands that I typically can't play profitably when I get 3-bet. In position, I can opt to call with JTs on the button when the small blind 3-bets. But I can't play that hand out of position for 14 big blinds with effective stacks of 100BB. And I typically can't play JTo profitably even in position when I get 3-bet.

An argument could perhaps be made to pick the weakest part of my range instead of these hands that are sort of in the middle. But I don't think it matters that much since these hands were all going in the muck otherwise anyway. There is an upside to choosing hands that are no better than J-high though, and that is that in the rare cases when the other person cold-calls the 4-bet (a move that I seriously question is legitimate for any hand but AA, and probably not even then), I don't have to be in the sticky situation of flopping nothing and wondering if I'm best.

This is not a hugely important point, but it matters at least a little bit, because if I see a flop with the bluffing part of my range and my opponent open-shoves out of position, I don't want to have a difficult decision to make. Of course, sometimes this is going to happen anyway. I might flop top pair with JT, but that's a much better situation to be in than to flop nothing with A7o and be worried that I might be laying down the best hand with ace-high. Since you're bound to ask, yes, I've had opponents stop-and-go a 4-bet on me with KQs unimproved and similar from the SB. Fortunately I wasn't bluffing at the times that this has happened, so I didn't make the mistake of folding, but I mention it as a reason for why I'm unhappy 4-bet bluffing with hands that have some chance of being the best hand. "Typically don't bluff with the best hand" is a valuable lesson I learned while grinding limit hold 'em, and it applies here, too.

So: 4-bet bluff because it adds profit and deception, do it in a way that lets you get away from your hand if your opponent shoves, do it versus opponents that you have reason to believe are 3-betting light often, do it with hands that you can't otherwise profitably continue with and do it with a range of hands that you've decided on before you are even dealt the cards.

And do it because, frankly, big bluffs are fun.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm Not Dead

Just a quick post to let everyone know I didn't drop off the face of the planet. We went to Karlstad over the weekend to visit my parents, and we got back about 30 minutes ago. Last night got late with lots of wine, so I'm not too energetic right now and definitely not alert enough to make a long blog post about how and why to 4-bet-bluff in no-limit hold 'em cash games.

Although I might write that post tomorrow.

Oh, and obligatory "month-in-conclusion" numbers:

Despite a really bad downswing mid-month, the rest of the month's been a big heater and I ended up about $1,200 over 24k hands. So average results are definitely good, although for my psychological health I think a more even curve would have been more suitable. Still, I'm not going to complain - the result is what counts, and the tally looks good to me.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Ethical Dilemma with Poker

There was an aspect of poker that bothered me, or more succinctly put, gnawed on me. For me, it was the proverbial elephant in the room, my bad conscience and something that I most times avoided even thinking about, because I didn't particularly like where the train of thought took me. But sometimes it's good to challenge one's demons, and in this particular case, I discovered that my demon was fictional.

What troubled me is the idea that when I play poker, I don't contribute to society. That's it, in its simplest form. In the best case scenario I'm just taking money - value - that someone else has created from the system and putting it in my own pocket. That made me feel like a thief. In the worst case scenario, someone else is winning my money. That made me feel like a loser.

See, when I make money doing what I actually do for a living - creating software for set top boxes - I contribute to the GDP of Sweden and the world. When I make money playing poker, I don't contribute. This constituted a great ethical dilemma for me, because I need to feel useful. I think I made the connection that playing poker isn't useful, and if I'm not useful, I'm a leech. Therefore, playing poker makes me a leech.

But I don't think this is true anymore. Or at least sort-of not.

Why would playing poker be a worse pastime than, for instance, playing golf? Well, okay, besides the obvious reasons (one is highly stressful, the other usually relaxing, one is done sitting on your ass in front of your computer or in a smoke filled casino, the other is out exercising in Mother Nature), but looking at it from a macro economical perspective, both are activities that for the majority of people cost money and take time. Both are volontary. And both are hobbies, of sorts.

A lot of people play poker and lose money. They may not particularly want to (or even think they do) lose money, but in effect they're paying to play cards as a hobby. If this was like golf, everyone would lose money in the form of green fees, membership costs, equipment, cost of getting to and from the golf course, etc. so why should it bother me that instead of all the "fees" that people incur from playing poker just going into the game itself, some of it goes to me? In fact, most everyone who plays do it with the hope that they'll be the ones who have a good day.

I should not feel guilty about having more good days than others. I've worked hard to earn them.

The reason it's perhaps taken me more time than most others who have thought about this to reach the conclusion that it's morally OK for me to play this game and win money is because I reached the wrong conclusion the first time I thought about it and I've been a coward and mostly avoided the thought since then.

But there you have it.

Now, there is still a potential ethical problem with poker, and that is that some of the people I play against are bound to have serious gambling problems. They might be playing with money that they need to buy food for their kids, they might be playing with stolen money and they might lose it all to me. This is a far cry from the majority of my opponents (which seems to be what the republican bible-thumpers are suggesting and Barney Franks so eloquently disagrees with) but there are bound to be some of them. For this, I still feel a sting of guilt. But even if I knew who they were - and that's borderline impossible when you're playing online - I'm not sure how to do anything about it. I'm falling back on the semi-faulty thinking that "they're not going to stop playing if I'm not there" which is essentially the same thing as saying "it's okay to do it because everyone does it."

That one I still don't know how to tackle, and I'm not sure I can or, honestly, have to. Perhaps I can accept that this is a part of the game I love and I counter that part with all the other things that are so magnificent about it. Poker is like a simulation of life itself in many aspects, and perhaps the misery of a few people are a needed reminder in the microworld that not everything is OK in the macroworld, either. A mirror of life that contains only rosy pictures is a poor mirror, after all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This is apparently a poker blog

I've been feeling very energetic, lately. After two weeks of nausea, fatigue and tilt I'm now fully recovered. I sleep well at night, I come home after a productive day of work and I have energy left over to do stuff around the house and even play the occasional hand of poker!

As part of this energy, I've also been spending time thinking about what to do with this here blog and reading up on ways to improve it. I've been toying with Google Analytics and I've installed FeedBurner. This will, by the way, be the premiere feed going via FeedBurner, so that's, well... Something. I kid around that I have about 6 readers, but the number is actually close to a devout and loyal 50, which is tiny in the great cosmos of the internet, but kinda big for me. And I don't even have friends or relatives (not counting myself or my wife) who follow my blog, so that's 48 relative strangers who actually visit this site semi-regularly or has a subscription in Google Reader.

A large chunk is of course regulars from CardsChat.

A couple of other readers came over from Bill Rini's blog after I had a "guest-appearance" with an article. A total "clickthrough" of 17, which is actually quite a bit lower than I expected. I know Bill has a lot of readers, but I guess I hoped more of them would peek at the link in the blurb at the bottom. Ah, well, such is life.

And then, the biggest jump by far in Google Analytics, is the day that The Poker Grump mentioned that I had mentioned him. It's blog back-patting at its finest.

Finally, quite a few have come here looking for dirt on Betway. I wonder if I'm doomswitched yet.

So figuratively and literally, there you are. I'm humbled and thankful that you read what I write, and I hope I can continue to write stuff that you, for whatever reason, like reading. What's clear to me, however, is that I'll stick with what I know - and that appears to be writing about poker.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Taxation Madness, Part II

When I wrote about my decision to play at Betway, I gave taxation as one of the basic problems with playing at the large sites like Stars or FTP. The thing is, these sites are not based in Europe and therefore I have to pay taxes on my winnings if I play there. If I play on a site based in the EU, however, that's not the case. Now, on the surface, I'm dodging a 30% extra "rake" by playing in the EU. But it's not quite that simple.

I'm sure you've all seen Swedish guys playing at Stars. Wanna know something about 'em? They're tax evaders. No, really, they are. Yes, I'm sure. Yes, that sure.

Because there's no way they'd be playing there if they were following the letter of the law, and I know this because I very recently was informed what the letter of the law actually means. As I explained in the post I link at the top, the way Swedish tax law for poker is written (presuming it takes place outside of the EU) is that I'm taxed on my winnings but cannot deduct my losses. And it's on a per-pot basis. So if I win $10 in one hand, I get to keep $7. If I lose $10 the next hand, tough break. 50k hands of $3/$6 6-max limit hold 'em works out to owing the government about $70,000 - (almost) regardless of net result.

So when you see someone from Sweden playing $3/$6 at Poker Stars - a site based in Costa Rica, i.e. "not EU" - then you can consider it a safe bet that he isn't being entirely honest when he fills out his tax declaration.

The way this law works is pretty sickening. See, I can accept the idea of paying taxes on net poker winnings outside of the EU. It would still make a whole ton of sense for any professional Swedish poker player to stick with the European sites (Ladbrokes, Party, etc.) since the extra 30% off the winnings that he or she would have to pay for winning money at another site is difficult to offset with game selection, although I suppose plausible at the highest tiers. But as it stands now, it's not financially viable to play on a non-EU site. The term I used in my email to Skatteverket was "financial suicide," in fact, and the lady who replied didn't disagree with it.

But now that I've gotten the confirmation from Skatteverket, it's time for me to move this fight to the politicians. I'm not entirely sure how to best go about it yet. I've contacted them about this law before but without result. This time, I'll have to try a new angle. Maybe I can get Poker Stars to help me apply some pressure? This really is in their best interest as well.

I'll have to think about that.

Lori lets me know that it's dinner time, and it's smells deeeee-lish-us! Of course, that might not be dinner, that might be the blueberry cup cakes she baked. Either way, I'm in for a treat. Jealous? You should be.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bye, Bye, Betway

Yes, like Blackbird, Betway is now going Bye-Bye for me. I'm sorry, but I can't take it anymore. The software is gnawing on me and every annoying little detail adds up until frustration just gets the better of me.

  1. Not being able to top off my stack until two deals after I lost the money is annoying.
  2. So is being dealt AA when I have a stack of less than two blinds.
  3. Having the support staff tell me that I can't top off my stack until I go bust completely is not only false, but - you guessed it - annoying.
  4. Being further told by the support staff that there's no one to send a request to fix this "rule" (yes, they called it "a poker rule") in their software is annoying.
  5. Them calling it a "poker rule" is annoying.
  6. Them referring to not being able to fill up my stack between hands in casino poker as an explanation as to why they have it this way is annoying.
  7. The entire software occasionally freezing for 4-5 seconds when I open another table is annoying.
  8. ... and timing out on some other table because of that is annoying.
  9. Having about 80% success rate in even starting the software to begin with (usually hangs at "graphics loading") is annoying.
  10. The little sliders in the lobby that you're supposed to use to set the limits of the table not actually being usable - I click and drag, click and drag, but they don't move - is annoying.
  11. The "show empty tables" check boxes not necessarily working is annoying.
  12. And finally, having to spend 10 minutes even figuring out how to withdraw my money from the site, when I'm fuming and just want to get the hell off it, is annoying.
So, bye bye Betway. I'm now back at Party Poker, which, for all its faults, has software that doesn't drive me insane. Yet.


Tomorrow, we're driving up to Stockholm to see Mamma Mia (the musical) with my parents and sisters, which will be fun, so I'll be gone for the better part of the weekend. When I get back, I hope to share with you the stupidity and, in my opinion, hypocrisy of the Swedish Skatteverket (our IRS) that I got sent as a response to an email asking how taxation of poker winnings work.

Have a good one, everyone.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sloppy Editing

I've written about this before (on the now dormant Cardschat blog), but some things bear repeating:

When I buy an instructional book, I don’t pay money to the authors because they’re so very knowledgeable. I pay them money on the promise that the book will teach me the things they know. I mean, I didn't get Stephen Hawking's book "Cosmos" because he's so very good at cosmology. I got it because I wanted to learn more about it myself. This is an obvious point, I would think.

Let me re-state it in a way that is seemingly less-than-obvious to a lot of poker book authors:

If the book contains great information but does a poor job of explaining it, the book doesn’t deliver. Now, bad grammar or spelling doesn't necessarily mean that someone does a poor job of explaining what they mean. Bad spelling (and/or grammar) doesn’t bother me in itself, either. I’m perfectly capable of understanding what the author means when he writes “stratagy” or "stradegy." What bothers me, and I'm taking the liberty of quoting my original post from Cardschat:

When there are many typos in a published book, it’s an indication that the book hasn’t been proof-read thoroughly. And I want my books to be very thoroughly proof-read, because - as I said above - it’s not what the authors know that I pay for, it’s their ability to explain it to me. A writer of course knows exactly what he’s trying to say. When he reads something he’s just written, it’s probably going to seem crystal clear to him. But he needs other people - preferably people who aren’t already knowledgeable about the subject - to give him feedback on whether or not the explanation is satisfactory.

Certainly a book may be very good in its very first version. Perhaps an author manages to write a full 300 pages explaining the most complex ideas simply without having anyone as much as look at the manuscript before it went to print. Does it seem likely to you, though?

Let me re-state the main point: It’s not the presence of typos that’s the problem. It’s the fact that where there are typos, there generally aren’t proof-readers, and without proof-readers I feel that the the author hasn't gone through the appropriate hoops to make sure he does a good job of explaining the ideas that he’s trying to convey. A good idea would be, in the case of poker books, to let a novice poker player read the chapter that was just finished, and then have the novice explain to the author what the chapter tries to tell him. If he gets it wrong at all, re-write it. Keep this up until the point that you’re trying to get across is crystal clear.

(I was reminded of this pet-peeve of mine when I read some posts over at The Poker Grump.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


It's my birthday. I don't know exactly when it happened, but at some point in the past few years I reached the age where I wasn't counting down to my birthday. Last night, I wasn't aware that it was going to be my birthday today, and this morning I didn't open my eyes and think "ooh, birthday!"

31 is also an age that is firmly within the 30s. Being actually 30 is borderline 20s, so that was younger. I'm not sure how to feel about 31. Lori asked me if I feel 31, and while the answer is perhaps "no," I don't actually feel like any other age, either. I guess I mostly just feel like myself.

That's a good thing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nausea and fatigue - and tilt.

I felt tired and hängig (meaning "hangy" which is an excellent Swedish adjective for how I feel - shoulders slumped, uninterested and apathetic) and wrestled a little bit of a headache all of last week. I also slept very, very poorly. If the sleep deprivation was the cause or effect isn't really clear, but I figured it should be mentioned. On Sunday, the feeling of sickness escalated, and yesterday and today I simply stayed home from work, trying to get some rest. I slept for 11 hours last night, which is probably a good sign.

In other news, I've managed to hit another 17 buy-in downswing, which is pretty awesome. I take complete responsibility for the tilt-spew that is my own doing, but as with the last one, I'm also completely aware of how badly I was running. In a matter of 20 minutes, I lost with AA vs 88 preflop, kings ran into aces, AKs ran into aces, and AKo ran into kings. When I made obvious bluff-catching calls, they weren't bluffs or they got there on the river. Out of chaos comes harmony, however, and here's what I learned, or... Well, here's what I already knew, but have gotten reinforced by the universe's sick sense of humor:

If I look at the past month-and-a-half (which includes no-less than two of these bankroll devouring downswings) I'm break-even. My bankroll is where it was at the beginning of July. And if I now take a moment to ponder how many buy-ins I've lost not because of cards but because I was tilting, and then I reclaim that money, I'd actually be up. Not a huge amount, but I'd probably be up a few hundred bucks.

It's useful for me to remember that I still tilt. For awhile, I felt like I wasn't. I felt like I could just shrug off bad beats and misfortunes easily. And I can - as long as there aren't too many of them lining up in a row. So now I will go back and work on tilt again, and try to identify the causes of it. One thing I'm absolutely positive that I do is that when I'm losing money left and right, I make much looser calls, probably with the mentality that given how much money I've already lost, I'm not going to lose yet another pot because of being bluffed off of it. No, sir.

Anyway, I end this post with a reading recommendation:

The Poker Grump

This is an excellent poker blog. A good writer can make anything seem interesting, so it's hard for me to tell if Rakewell's stories are actually interesting or not. But they provide reading pleasure, so it's all good. It gives me some kind of sick masochistic joy to read about casino poker which I can't really identify. It's like... Well, you know the saying that America as compared to Europe is culturally inferior but morally superior? I won't go into a debate whether that's true or not, but I think I have this idea that Casino poker is fancier and online poker is tougher. The fancy people play in casinos. The smart people play online.

No, don't start. I already know this isn't true. I know this, because I've been to casinos, and there are a lot of words suitable for describing the people that frequent them, but "fancy" rarely comes to mind. But I think I have a tad of the "grass is greener"-emotion when it comes to playing live poker. So it's fun to read about a guy who plays in casinos and his experiences and feelings about it - especially when (or maybe exclusively because) he writes so well about it. I've read other live-poker-blogs and they usually fall pretty short. The Poker Grump doesn't.

So, go read. Now.