Saturday, January 31, 2009

February Time!

Well, what can I say. I did end up running really hot for the rest of January, and I took my first... Well, second shot at 400NL today, playing just over 1k hands. It's technically my second time playing 400NL, but given that the first time was really just 6 hands where I accidentally sat in on the wrong table and didn't notice until I posted the big blind (ending up winning half a stack on my first hand, no less), I think today still really counts as my first time. It didn't go that well, but I can recognize coolers when I see them and I definitely found my fair share of soft tables to play. I'm setting aside 5 buy-ins, and playing 200NL for awhile if I lose that investment is no biggie.

I'd post graphs, but I made the sort of principal decision not to, anymore. I feel pretty confident about winning nowadays, and I don't really feel the need to post a graph to prove anything to anyone anymore. Not to say that I think that's why people do it, just that I can't really think of any other reason for myself to do it. If someone's curious as to how I'm doing, just feel free to ask. I'll most likely answer.

On a side note, after my first session of 2/4 today, I started thinking about how I've progressed. I'm now playing at what most people classify as mid stakes, which means... Well, it means that I'm playing for quite serious money. Swings at 1/2 were still such that even on a really bad day (or a really good day) I'd still not lose or win more than I make after taxes in a month at my actual job. But the swings at 400NL can surpass that, for better and worse. Mostly for better, given that I expect to win more than I lose. But it gives me some pause.

One of the things that I stop and think about is where I'm actually going with poker. I'm still adamant that I don't want to do it full time. I think I'd be bored, and I'd feel like even more of a couch potato than I do now. Right now, I'm perfectly content having it as a major - but side - source of income. But will that change? If I do really well this year, will I feel that it's defensible still going to work in the morning if it's in effect costing me money - lots of money?

The Fredrik of January 2009 says "hopefully, yes."

I wonder what Fredrik of January 2010 will say.

The second thing that I stopped to think about today was how poker isn't really a game to me anymore. It's not a pastime, it's not a hobby, it's not... For the lack of a better words, "fun." It's work. I sit down to grind in money. Money is what matters to me in regards to poker now, and money is how I measure my success. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike playing poker. It's fun in the sense that I like it and it gives me a sense of achievment. But what triggered this line of thinking today was that I pondered taking up some of the more unusual forms of poker - razz comes to mind - because it might be fun to learn something new. But I stopped myself, because I'm not sure I want to waste a lot of time learning a new variant because of the implicit cost of not playing no-limit hold 'em. That's when I realized that I'm not doing this for fun anymore.

For better or worse.

If things go well this year - or rather, go as I somewhat reasonably expect them to go - then I'll be cashing out a substantial amount in about a year and treating my family to a vacation and probably a new car. And hopefully, I'll still feel excited about going to work in the morning (well, as excited as I can be about anything shortly after waking up). Worst case scenario, I go bust sometime this year (near-impossible scenario since I have no qualms about moving down), but I think the second-worst case scenario is me giving up my real job and spend my days at home grinding the midstakes. So I'm not entirely sure what I'm hoping for. My plan right now is mostly just to see what happens.

And that's not really a plan at all, is it?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Okay, Seriously.

[Not a lot of content in this post. I wouldn't blame you for skipping it. But if you're interested in what I'm up to, this is probably the post you should read.]

Since apparently there are people who read this blog and (to me, somewhat surprisingly) seem to want to know what I've been up to - at least pokerwise - here's the deal:

I'm playing 200NL at Party. Typically 6-8 tables. I try to play about 5-7k hands a week, although it varies a bit how much I play. I've been running like a roller coaster for the past month, with my biggest losing day so far happening a week and a half ago, dropping 12 buy-ins in a surprisingly short period of time. Still, I'm showing a profit for the month - let's hope that doesn't change. I took a day off from poker after the Bloody Sunday but got back in the saddle and worked my way back up.

My plan, before January happened, was to grind up my bankroll enough this month to be able to take a first shot at 2/4 in February. Unless I run ridiculously hot for the rest of the month, this is not all that likely to happen, and will probably be postponed a few weeks. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I'm of course disappointed. My overall goal for the year is to try to move up 2/4 shortly, then probably start playing 3/6 when I find soft spots sometime later on in the spring or this summer. Looking at game selection at Party, however, it seems that there's very few 3/6 games running, but a lot of 5/10. I'm not sure how to interpret that. Perhaps I'll stick with 2/4 for most of the year and start looking for soft spots at 5/10 instead.

So there you have it. My grand plan.


I've also spent a lot of time reading. And I mean a lot. This year, I've read:

"Röde Orm" ("Red Orm") by Frans G Bengtsson, a two-part book about the adventures of the viking Orm.

"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho which I heard great things about but didn't do much if anything for me at all, to be honest - thankfully it was short

"The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins which explains the theory of evolution and how we understand it today

"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card, a sci-fi story that I thought was pretty good

"The Wintersmith" by Terry Pratchett, the third book in the series about young witch Tiffany Aching - the whole series is just plain great

"Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz, a... Well, I suppose you might call it a horror book. I haven't read much by Koontz, but I liked this one. I think I'm going to have to pick up the rest of his Odd Thomas books.

... and I re-read Tommy Angelo's book "Elements of Poker." His writing on quitting is awesome and is perhaps the single most useful text on poker ever written.

And now I've started the book that's been sitting in my "to read" pile for almost a year, a brick of a book called "Mao - The Unknown Story," a 750 page monster that will probably last me for quite awhile. I've lately developed quite an interest in history, but I haven't specialized in anything; I just buy and read books about topics that spike my curiousity. I realized that I know very little about Mao Zedong and decided that should change - so I bought the book. I suppose that someday a specific historical topic might crystallize that I want to delve deeper into, but right now I'm happy to just piece together various parts of it here and there.


Between work, books, poker and all the various appointments and meetings that come with late pregnancies, you might think there isn't much time left for anything else, and you'd be right. Still, we've managed (in great part thanks to Lori organizing and making sure it gets done) to buy stuff for the baby: a crib, a changing table, a baby seat for the car, etc. We've also cleared out the baby's room (used to be the guest room/library), but now the guest room/library has moved to the room that used to be the workroom, and the workroom has moved to the room that used to contain the closets, and the closets have moved into our bedroom.

Now all we need is a baby.

Monday, January 19, 2009

You want me to post an update?

Okay. I post this. I don't know what to say about it, so I won't even try.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

La Muerte Palula!

[South Park spoiler alert, if for some reason you feel that that's necessary]

I don't know if you watch South Park, but one of the latest episodes, a two-parter in fact, was about the kids deciding to start a Peruvian pan-flute band in order to make money. For reasons I won't go into here, the Department of Homeland Security decides that it must extradite all the Peruvian pan-flute bands in America, and ship them to Gitmo. As it turns out, the Peruvian pan-flute bands are not just there to make a little money off of their CDs, they are in fact the guardians from the ancient curse of La Muerte Palula - The Furry Death.

So with all the Peruvian bands gone, the world is invaded by... Giant guinea-pigs.

Now, here's what made me write this post today:

Pre-historic South America actually had giant guinea pigs. I kid you not. I told you in the last post I was reading The Blind Watchmaker and late last night I had to wake Lori up to tell her that the giant guinea pigs existed. Not the size that they were depicted in the South Park episodes, but at least the size of a rhinoceros.

How's that for weird.

Googling for it found me this, check for yourself:

Saturday, January 3, 2009


In the December issue of Scientific American, Skeptic magazine publisher Michael Shermer argues that we - all animals, really - are hard wired parano... Para... Paranoiacs? Paranoids? That natural selection has favored paranoia in animals. The example he gives, and I think it's a good one, is rustle in the grass. Imagine yourself being a gazelle. And the tall grass on the savannah rustles. There's a very low probability that this is a tiger and not just the wind, but it's also trivial to see how the gazelle with the paranoid gene - causing him to run every time the grass rustles - will have a better chance of survival than the gazelle who decides it's probably nothing, simply because the price of running is a little energy, whereas the price of ignoring the potential threat is sometimes death.

This gene is obvious in almost any animal. Not all animals run from what they perceive to be a potential danger (notably, dogs tend to bark at it instead), but our warning systems have been fine tuned over millions of generations, and they're still there even for those of us who are now at the top of the food chain.

Shermer calls this behavior "patternicity" and defines it as  "the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise." I've written about this before, and I'll say it again: Poker is an excellent example of this gene coming into effect. It's not surprising that "Online Poker Is Rigged" is one of the more common topics, or that people think they consistently lose with aces. The reason we find the "I'm so unlucky" pattern when playing poker is because what will happen is this:

  1. We play 10,000 hands.
  2. Let's say that during these 10,000 hands, we have exactly as much bad luck as good luck.
  3. After we're done playing, we will have 10,000 hands in our memory, but some of them are already almost entirely forgotten (hands where we folded preflop) some of them are mostly uninteresting (hands where we bet the river and the other guy folded) and some of them will stick out a little bit (big pots that we've won) and some of them will stick out a lot (big pots we lost) and some of them will be a big spike of painful emotion: Big pots we lost because the other guy got lucky.

As time passes, the boring hands start to fade more and more, and what we're eventually left with is the spikes: The big pots, and most notably the ones that we lost. So we think back on all the hands we played, and all we can remember is how incredibly unlucky we've been. Take this one step further and assume that we don't really believe in bad luck (seriously, people do?) and we must assume that either we're experiencing some really bad variance, or there's something about how the poker sites have implemented their random number generator.


As a sidenote to evolution and genes, I'm reading Richard Dawkins' "The Blind Watchmaker" right now, and I'm almost ready to become a hobby zoologist. It all just seems so interesting.