Friday, July 31, 2009

The Anthropic Principle

Some of the most awesome - and I'm using that word literally - moments in my life have been when I've come across and understood an idea that has made me go "ahhhh! That makes so much sense! How cool is THAT!" Today, I present you with one of the ideas that made me feel giddy like that the first time I came across it (and still, to some extent, does): The Anthropic Principle.

Life as we know it - and this is a key way of phrasing it - depends on a whole lot of things being true. It depends on having plenty of carbon and water (and a whole slew of other elements) available, it depends on our planet being just the right distance from the sun (too close and we burn up, too far away and everything is a frozen wasteland), it depends on our planet being roughly the size it is lest the gravity is too overwhelming to make moving around difficult, or so light that our atmosphere wouldn't stick around. It's also dependent on water being at its heaviest at 4 degrees celsius or our lakes would freeze from the bottom up. We likely have the gigantic Jupiter to thank for not having more comets and other Big Objects that hurl through space crashing into us and wiping us out. Our planet's iron core creates a magnetic field that is believed to stave off the worst of cosmic radiation that had otherwise wiped us out. It's a stroke of luck too, of course, that DNA is just the kind of molecule that replicates itself with very high fidelity but not too high so that we can mutate often enough for natural selection to actually pull off the amazing feat of producing Life As We Know It. And let's not forget that conditions on our planet 4 billion years ago had to be just right in order for the first self-replicating molecule to appear at all.

Our Cosmic Goldilock's List of Requirements could be made very, very long and could be made to include the basic properties of our solar system (for instance the fact that the Sun is a "young" star is what gives us the heavier elements of which we are composed; it takes a star made out of exploding earlier stars to achieve that) and even the very constants of the universe, including the speed of light, the strength of the known forces (Electromagnetic, Gravitational, Strong and Weak respectively). In short, it all seems very delicately calibrated to create life on planet earth and eventually humans. One explanation for this happy coincidence is to invoke a deity (or deities, depending on your preference), and that's understandable - it's a bit ridiculous to expect everything to match our needs so intimately just by sheer coincidence. But, to me, thereal answer is not just a more powerful explanation of the circumstances but also beautiful in its simplicity:

We're here to marvel at just how perfectly the universe in general and our world in particular fits us specifically because if it hadn't, we wouldn't have been. We couldn't have been here to grudgingly complain about how poorly the world suits us because we wouldn't be in a world that suits us poorly. We're like a puddle of water gasping in awe over how amazingly well the hole we reside in fits us when in reality it's the hole that dictates our shape.

In a universe or a world that was very different from the one we're in or on now, it's likely that there wouldn't be life at all. But if there were and that life evolved intelligence and science, they, too, would marvel at how incredible and unlikely it was that they should wake up in a universe that happened to fit them so well in everything from how atoms (or their corresponding basic particles; who knows how the laws of physics would work where they would live) were constructed all the way up to how lucky they were to live on a planet that was 2000 degrees in the day because without the massive heat they wouldn't survive.

That, in a nutshell, is the anthropic principle. You can read more about it on Wikipedia:

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I was interviewed by and wasn't entirely prepared for the interview to be published as quickly as it was. Because of that, the top post of my blog for when many of the PND readers arrived was one about automatic-fire farts.

I apologize for that.


On second thought, no I don't.


As a random treat, here's a picture that Debi and Joe took of me and Ben in our Vegas hotel room. Yeah, this is a post filler. So sue me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


As I was playing the piano, I could hear Lori going "oh, my!" in the kitchen. At first, I was happy because I assumed that it was some kind of way of showing how much she admired my piano-playing (maybe, for instance, it was my near-seemless transition from "As Time Goes By" to "Wonderful World" that had evoked such an exclamation of enchantment), but then I went into the room and asked what was that about and she explained that it was because of something Benjamin had just done.

She called it "automatic fire farting."

There's a hyphen missing from that phrase, and my mind put it between the last two words, whereas the messenger's intention was between the first two words. This caused some discussion on what my interpretation of the words would mean, and we agreed that it would be when you can set your farts on fire without using a lighter or a match.


You're welcome.

How To Win At Online Poker

I haven't been writing much on the game of poker itself lately - more trip reports and the like - but have had some thoughts that I think are share-worthy. Here goes:

You're not as good as you think you are.

This is true for virtually every poker player in the world. Very likely all of them. The reason I bring this up is because of a post I saw recently in a forum that said, and I paraphrase but it's pretty close: "I'm a 10bb/100 winner for the whole year, but this last month has been just sick and I can't seem to win!" I have bad news for you, buddy. Unless your win-rate is 10bb/100 AFTER the sick downswing, you're not a 10bb/100 winner for this year. You can't disregard downswings when you look at your win-rate, unless you also disregard hot streaks - and no one does that.

I think it's a fair guess to say that most people lie about their win-rates. Not just to others, but to themselves, too. They think it makes sense to look at the best part of the year and assume that to be their expectation, and then wonder why they keep running so bad.

My tip: Stop worrying about your win-rate. Unless it's negative, it doesn't tell you much that you can use anyway (and if it's negative the implication may be that you should stop playing poker altogether), and there are plenty of things poker-related for you to occupy your mind with that doesn't have to do with win-rates. And stop comparing you win-rate to that of other players; what good can come of that? If you want a pastime with bragging rights, take up golf and compare handicaps or high jump and compare personal bests, but comparing win-rates is like comparing... See, I don't even have a good analogy for it, that's how dumb and useless it is. And it's dumb especially because some people may have low win-rates over a huge number of tables, while others have a very high one playing 1-2 tables only. Why is the comparison interesting? We already know that we give up a little expectation with every table we open.

Which sorta brings me to my next point:

I'm not the best player I know.

I discussed this with Debi in Vegas at some point, and while it hurts my ego a little to admit it, I don't think I'm the best cash game player at CardsChat. Some of you reading this will go "duh!" and that's fair enough, but I haven't gotten to the point yet:

I don't think I'm the best player at CardsChat, but from what I gather, I may be the most consistent cash game winner. Curious, isn't it? And I'm obviously not looking at win-rates here (although if you talk about consistency they may have some merit) but just long term consistent results. Most people, and some of them quite possibly better players than I am, just don't seem to be able to "stay" at 200NL, and I've never left once I got there. So what's the difference?

My guess? Tilt.

Not just angry-spewing-chips-because-someone-sucked-out-on-you tilt, but what Tommy Angelo would define as tilt: Not playing your A-game. Like playing for 7 hours in a row, without a real break. Playing too many tables when you start losing focus and not close a few of them because your ego and pride tells you that you can still win. And lot of this is caused by chasing bonuses and rakeback when your objective should be to win the other guy's money.

The focus on "volume" is so very misplaced. Yeah, you need to put in a certain amount of time every month to make whatever amount it is you've decided you need to make, but volume is the means, not the goal. Once you make it your goal, you're on the path to self-destruction, and it starts by chasing bonuses and things like supernova-status. Because all of a sudden, you distance yourself from your goal of winning money - and you probably already know that you make the most money when you're alert, playing a sensible number of tables and taking real breaks at least every two hours - and instead sit and "grind" until you can't keep your eyes open anymore.

(I wish there was some way of filtering for winnings as a function of how long into the session the player is. My bet is that looking at such a graph would be a wake-up call to many online grinders. On second thought, perhaps I shouldn't wish for such a functionality; it's in my best interest to keep the other regulars tired and desperate.)

Seriously, play your A-game. If you can't play your A-game, don't play. If you're "only 3,000 hands away from making platinum star" and you need to finish that today and you're tired, then shrug and go "aww, I guess I won't be making platinum star this month" instead of desperately trying to get the volume in when you're not in shape to play.

If you tell yourself that you're good enough to beat 200NL while playing your B-game, you're most likely kidding yourself. The 200NL tables at most sites (at least all of them that I've played) are full of people who play for a living, and while your B-game may theoretically beat their A-games, you're not playing a zero-sum game. Over the 250k+ hands I've played at 200NL, I've paid about 5.8bb/100 in rake. So you have to beat your tables by more than that to show a profit at all. I wonder if people understand that. What I'm saying is that it's not enough for you to be better than your opponents, you have to be a lot better, otherwise you won't be a winner - you'll just be the guy who loses the least. Grats, you.

So yeah, while I'm pretty sure there are people at CardsChat whose A-games are better than my A-game, I think I'm the guy who spends the most time actually playing my A-game. Or there are CC members who've won a lot more than I have and just shut up about it - that's quite possible, but is beside the point. I'm not writing this to impress or upstage anyone, but I'm trying to point out that being awesome* isn't enough - you actually have to play awesome just about every second you spend at the table. Playing "ok" won't cut it.


On Monday, before lunch, I had played more hands of poker than in my entire stay in Vegas.


It's good to be home.

* And I know awesome when I see it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Leaving Las Vegas

If Otis Redding is dead, who's making all the elevators?


Yeah, who needs Twitter.

Anyhoo, it's my last day in Vegas, as we're flying out tomorrow morning. I can't wait to get home. I'm not looking forward to the 24-hour trip, but... I can't wait to get home.

I decided, sort of on a whim, to switch hotels from the Monte Carlo to The Palazzo, and this place is in a whole other league. My room is insanely cool, the view is all-but breathtaking and quiet which the room at Monte Carlo most certainly was not. Besides the very loud music from the pool and being able to hear any and everyone moving in the corridor outside, I could have participated in the conversations being held in the room next door. And that was a suite.

Being 30 floors higher up, in a very well insulated room that I could imagine living out of for a long time, makes enough of a difference that the $5 extra per night I'm paying for it seems ridiculous.

Seems ridiculous? It is ridiculous. I'm kicking myself for not switching here earlier, but what is done is done.


Speaking of ridiculous, here's irony for you: I'm stuck over four buy-ins at the live games here, but I'm up $100 on slots. What the hell? Maybe I suck at live poker. Or maybe, which I at least would like to think, I just haven't gotten much in the way of hands. And that's a stark reminder of something that bothers me with live poker: Being a nit is bo-ho-hooooring. Should I play a wilder game for fun despite it being -EV? No, I'd just hate myself for it. So I sit there and fold and fold and fold and hope that if I once in a blue moon hit a hand - and I'd settle for something like pocket tens - that I'll win more than just the blinds and/or not lose a big pot.

Being a 10-tabling nit is not so bad, though, because even if I'm folding 100 hands in a row, that's 10 minutes of folding. Not three hours.


I can't wait to get home. Did I mention that?


It's been great fun to hang out with all the CardsChat people, though, not the least Debi who's been kind enough to let me hang out with her for the past few days. She got me hooked on slots, which I'm not sure I should be thankful for, but she's been great to hang out with and hopefully we'll get to meet soon again. Perhaps not too soon; I don't think I'll be travelling anywhere on an airplane for the next 6 months. Or I hope I'm not. I can't wait to get home. I'm sure I must have said something to that effect already.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Yay, Books!

Why, in car commercials, must we know that it's a "professional driver on a closed circuit?" It has a "don't try this at home" ring to it, which seems strange to me since nothing the driver does appears to be reckless or even unusual. Are they warning me not to drive on a country side road with beautiful scenery?


Today, we took a cab over to the Boulevard Mall, because we happened to know that there was a Barnes and Noble in the vicinity. And boy, do I like American book stores. Not that we don't have book stores in Sweden, of course, but I just happen to read mostly books in English - and Swedish retailers naturally tend to specialize in books in... Swedish. The books available in English usually occupy only one shelf (if even that) and many of the books I want aren't translated. My common way of solving this is by ordering books from Amazon, but there's something quite a bit more exhilirating about walking around in a book store and picking out stuff for myself.

I went there looking for two books: "The Lucifer Effect" by Philip Zimbardo (see this post for reference) and Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea." I ended up, while browsing, also picking up:

  • Dennett's "Consciousness Explained"
  • Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" and
  • "Pale Blue Dot"
  • Terry Pratchett's "The Color of Magic" and
  • "Light Fantastic" and
  • "Equal Rites," also known as his first three Discworld novels. I've read a few of the books from his Discworld series (and quite a few of his other books) including, as it were, "The Color of Magic" but I wanted to start over and move through the whole series. The man is a genius.
  • Simon R. Green's "Swords of Heaven" which is some kind of fantasy book, that Lori's friend Pat recommended. It's apparently a whole series of books and this was, if I understood the backside brief correctly, the first three in the series combined in one cover.
So 10 books total. I'm pretty pleased with myself.


I have a few more days here in Vegas before returning home and Lori and I decided that she'd go to the Twin Cities and visit her parents for a few days before we return home. Because of the kind of tickets we have with KLM, she has to come back to Vegas before we get on the flight home, despite the first leg of our return ticket stopping in the Twin Cities. So she'll leave MSP airport on Wednesday afternoon, land in Vegas, and then go from Vegas back to the Twin Cities on Thursday. Makes perfect sense, thinks KLM. They flat out refused our suggestion that she just board there instead of here, despite how it would obviously be cost saving to them (not to mention us) but because of unfortunate circumstances there was no better way of solving it. Grrrr.


Now if you'll excuse me, I have a big pile of books awaiting my attention. I'll start with "Cosmos" I think.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What Really Happened

As my last post was just a few paragraphs trying to give a brief account of my short run at the 2009 WSOP Main Event, I figure I owe a more complete telling of the story, so here goes:

I arrived at the Rio Monday morning, probably around 10:30. I was a bit nervous, a bit anxious, and while I hadn't had any breakfast (except a bite out of a blueberry thing that Lori got me from Starbucks that I thought was way too sweet for my taste), I wasn't really hungry. Nervousness and anxiety tends to make it difficult for me to eat and I'm sure some if not most of you can relate to that. So while there was plenty of foods in the Party Poker hospitality suite, I wasn't in the mood for it. I chewed down a banana and drank water. Had some crackers. More water. Waited for the clock to strike 11, which is when we were supposed to get our table and seat assignments.

Sometime during the water drinking and waiting, I heard one of the Party Poker representatives hang up a phone and mutter "shit!" to herself. "That doesn't sound good," I interjected and she shot me a slightly stressed out smile and mumbled something about how it was probably not a biggie. As it turned out, that "shit" was more ominous than I thought at the time because, as you should be aware of by now, the Main Event's last day was sold out and the Party Poker players weren't in it. But of this I was blissfully - or, well, nervously and anxiously I should say - unaware at the time.

But as the clock not only strikes 11 but passes it, I start hearing conversations about how we're still waiting for more information because apparently there's a "situation." I ask if it's alright if I can go to the bathroom quickly or if I need to be here right this minute to be informed about the "situation" and am told that no, that's fine, there won't be anything happening for quite awhile. I realize that those words were uttered as a reassurance, but to me they were anything but. The fact that cards would start being dealt in less than 40 minutes combined with how I didn't have a seat assignment yet didn't make it feel alright that I could just take off for awhile and not worry about missing anything.

I could make this story several pages long, but I won't. Suffice it to say that what had apparently happened was that Party's players were preregistered and were guaranteed seats but somehow Harrah's had sold our seats to other players, so we didn't get to start playing until after the first break. A lot of those of us who were supposed to start playing at noon were bitching at the Party Poker crew about how fucked up this was, but I wasn't one of them. I've been around for long enough to know when bitching has zero effect, and this was definitely one of those times. Better to save my energy for things that I could affect, like my mental state and making sure I was prepared to play. I was unhappy about missing the first level because the first level was the time we would be playing 300 blinds deep which, as I've mentioned before, was huge for a cash game player; lots of wiggle room and creative four-street play.

So I finally get my table and seat (table 39, seat 6) at 2:20 and sit down and start folding hands. I've been card dead before, but being card dead in live poker and card dead online are two different beasts. I went through the first level winning only a single hand and it played out weirdly enough to warrant recounting:

I'm second to act preflop and find pocket aces. Awesome. And then I make the classic beginner's mistake of forgetting about the one-chip rule and toss in a $500 chip without declaring "raise" which means that it's a call. Fortunately I was fast enough to realize my mistake and not go "oh crap, no I meant to raise" because then I'd not only put in the minimum but also let everyone else know I had a hand. So I openlimped aces. Not a great start, but then again, I'd seen some aggressive play at the table (raising limpers, etc.) so it probably wasn't a disastrous mistake to make - I was still miffed that I forgot about it though.

It's folded to the button, an elderly gentleman who was very loose postflop and who liked to bluff when checked to, but didn't do a lot of raising, who also limped. Small blind folds and the big blind - asian woman in her 30s or early 40s - checks her option. Effective stack is more than 100 blinds deep. The flop comes Td8d4c and it's checked to me. I bet 400 into the 700 pot, and the button calls and the asian lady checkraises to 1300. Hrm. I had seen her involved in only one pot, and then she had been very nervous in getting money in with bottom set so this set off an internal alarm in me. I called - considering how vastly underrepresented my hands was, I definitely couldn't fold - and the elderly gentleman called as well.

Turn was the jack of hearts which was a bad card for me. 97 just filled up, and two pair became a real possibility now. The lady checked to me and I had to decide if she was trapping or if I should bet for value/to protect. That's when I remembered that the older guy had previously done some betting when checked to and I figured that I could perhaps kill two birds with one stone by checking; it might encourage him to bluff and if she then checkraised again I would feel pretty good about just folding. If he bet and she folded, I would checkraise to extract value from his draws (and fold to a 3-bet) and then check the river if called. Sure, I run the risk of giving free cards to lots of different hands but I glanced at the gentleman and he sure looked like he was preparing to bet.

Indeed, he did bet. Asian lady called. I now figure that she had an aggressively played flushdraw or maybe a combodraw of some kind (T9 or so) and so I just called which I don't think is correct but I was feeling terribly confused by the whole thing. This was my second worst decision in the hand, and sadly the preflop mistake wasn't #1. The river came an ace (not of diamonds), which gave me top set (and a very likely candidate for having the best hand since only the straight beats me) and she checks to me. I don't think either of them have KQ unless she has specifically KdQd so anyone filling a straight on the river to beat me seemed unlikely. Should I bet or hope to check/raise the field? I think there's a good chance that the older guy will bet when checked to and I think she will not be folding much when he does. So I check, which I now consider my biggest mistake and watch as the older guy checks behind. Why was this the worst mistake of the hand? Because it would take balls of solid brass for him to try to bluff two people on an A-high river with air, and there was very little air left even in a very wide range. I sheepishly turn over AA, for rivered top set.

Quite a few eyebrows were raised at that point and I felt kinda dumb but figured, as the results-oriented kinda guy that I am, that the pot I ended up dragging was probably about as much as I could realistically have hoped to win anyway. And all of this because I managed to forget about the one-chip-rule. Not a mistake I'm likely to make again.

After that, like I said, I didn't win any more pots in that level. I was involved in a few other hands, the most notable of which was when I opened 8c7c in the cutoff and Josh Arieh calls in the small blind. Flop comes Kc-Tc-4h and he leads out for 2/3rds pot. I consider raising but decide that with all the folding I've been doing he's unlikely to fire a second barrel on a naked bluff if I call the flop, and if he checks the turn I can probably represent something big enough to get him to fold when bluffing when checked to.

The turn is the 6s, which gives me a few more outs to the nuts and Josh bets again, again sizing his bet to about 3/4ths pot. Now I think his range has narrowed considerably and is more polarized. Again I consider raising but I had also seen him make some relatively loose calldowns with weak top pairs when raised and if he has a monster, I wouldn't want to forfeit my 12-out equity if he 3bets so I call again after thinking a bit. The river is an offsuit ace and he bets half pot. I think one last time about raising (I think I could represent quite a few hands) but then I remember that I'm new at this and chances are I would be horrible at disguising the fact that I'm bluffing and that a failed bluff would leave me with less than 13k in chips and that trying to out-aggro the aggressive player with a small stack is not ideal at this point. So I fold.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, one horribly played AA and a calling-station way to play a draw; that's the guy you've been rooting for the in the main event. Sad, isn't it?


Then I went back to mostly folding again. Josh was very active in stealing, 3-betting and squeezing and with my dwindling stack that didn't leave me a lot of options in terms of getting creative with trash - which was all I was dealt. I won three hands in the third level of play (my second level since I missed the first one) and all of them small. I open kings and everyone folds - of course they do; I hadn't opened a single hand in that level up until that point - and I open AQo and take it down on the flop with a continuation bet, and one more hand like that. My stack was down to about 20k when we went on dinner break. My fan club - the CardsChat people who had been railing me - had left for the party at Nick's suite, and I was alone in an ocean of people. I sat down and talked a little with some fellow Swedes in the Party Poker room but couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't having fun, that I'd rather be somewhere else.


Came back to the fourth level of play and it was more of the same. I got no cards, and when I did get something just strong enough to open, I was 3-bet and had to fold. Now, no one likes to listen to a whiner, let alone read a longwinded whine, so I'll stop here and just say that from this point on, I don't believe I made any more mistakes. Not that it helped; with a stack this short you have to get it in over and over again and hope that you double up. I didn't; I stole the blinds a couple of times before I ran 99 into AA and that was that.


Something interesting did happen in the fourth level though, and it's this: It turned out that five of the players around the table were high stakes online pros and had played each other, in some cases extensively. They had a little chat about it, "really? what's your screenname?" and after that the dynamic of the table shifted dramatically. They were outlevelling each other left and right; valuebetting AJo on a K-J-4-5-9 four-flush river without a flush in position (and being called by the ten-high flush), value-betting tiny on a scary river card and calling a river checkraise because they thought that they-knew-that-he-knew-that-they-knew-that-he-knew that they could be bluffing etc. It was hilarious. Or would have been, if I didn't have that drowning feeling.


All-in-all, I was about 30 minutes away from day 2 when I busted but I have no regrets about not trying desperately to fold my way into day 2. Because seriously, what am I going to do in day 2 with an 8 blind stack? My decision to double up or go home was trivial, I thought, and I'd play it the same today if I had the chance.


One of my better moments at the WSOP was meeting Pauly. Now, I've read his blog for a few years - although I'll be brutally honest and admit that sometimes I've been skimming through it - and while I'm usually pretty good at estimating what kind of a person someone is based on what they write, I was a little off when it came to the good doctor. I thought him a person with a good sense of humor but understandably cynical after his tours around the poker circuit, and wasn't sure what to expect when confronted by a reader who held out a hand to shake. I assumed he wouldn't just ignore me and walk off, but I also didn't expect him to be anywhere near as cordial and nice as he actually was. He not only shook my hand but stopped and talked to me, asked questions about how I was doing in the tournament, what the deal with party poker was (admittedly could have been his journalistic duty, but still) and even told me that if I wanted to, he could try to track my standings on his blog if I just let him know how I was doing here and there.

Now, don't get the wrong idea. I'm not easily star-struck and this isn't me telling you how cool it was to meet my lifelong idol. But I'm not used to meeting someone who is THIS easy to talk to when he's clearly busy doing his job. And for all the poker so-called celebrities that were roaming the corridors, the Iveys and the Hellmuths and the Matusows and what have you, I think my conversation with Pauly outranks them all on the "hey, this is really cool" scale.


And I must not forget Shamus, who Pauly was nice enough to direct me to, and who - for reasons I'm not sure I can discern - apparently reads my blog. I've been reading his blog as well for years and he was there reporting for PokerNews and getting to say hi to him was also cool. The world suddenly felt a lot smaller; two people just went from "virtual-and-unreachable" to "real." There's a value in that that can't quite be measured. As a sidenote, I'm not sure if Shamus had drawn the short straw or if he had pissed some WSOP official off, but the poor guy sat all by himself in a corner. I hope he didn't mind me interrupting him by coming over to introduce myself, but he certainly seemed like a genuinely nice guy. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised to meet genuinely nice people but the world of poker generally speaking doesn't create a lot of friends, so while I'm happy to have my cynicism cracking a bit I hope I'm forgiven to have expected less.


I'm not sure what the rest of our Vegas experience will look like, but our options with a soon-12-week-old baby are pretty limited. Two friends are flying in and one of the CardsChat people is still in town, so I'm sure some socializing will be in order and probably another visit to the Rio on Friday to see what's going on there but as to whether or not I'll be playing any more poker, well... We'll see. Maybe to see if I can turn some other virtual stranger into a real person.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Busto (but not sad)

Yeah, this is going to disappoint those of you who were rooting for me, but I'm out.

I won three hands in the first two levels. I think I saw a grand total of 15 flops of almost four levels of play, and did not have any luck stealing preflop, either. I don't know what my image was like, but I don't think "nit" is quite harsh enough. Aso, I've either severely underestimated the average skill level of a day 1 main event entrant, or I drew a really tough table. At least five of the players at my table were high stakes online players (0ne of whom were Josh Arieh, who also had the chip lead for awhile, and he was 3 to my left).

So my stack was blinded down to about 15k, when I ran a bluff with 97s in the hijack versus the guy on my immediate left but while he looked unhappy about continuing versus the local nit, he flopped top pair with AJo and I lost about half my stack. After that, it was push/fold mode and it lasted a little while into the last level of the day when I started out 3bet-shoving the first two hands (AA and AKo respectively) without getting action and then going mostly card dead again until I 3-bet-shoved 77 on the button versus a loose cut-off opener, took it down, went card-dead, and then open-shoved 99 in the cut-off and button calls with aces - and I'm busto.

But here's the dirty little secret:

I don't enjoy tournaments. And I don't particularly enjoy live poker. So when, during the dinner break, I go to the bathroom and am sitting on the can, I think to myself: "what am I doing here?"

[Did I mention I started push/folding after the dinner break?]

See, tournament poker feels like drowning to me. It's like being chained up inside a tank that's slowly filling up with water. If you get really lucky and manage to double up, the water level will become half of what it was before, but it's still rising and it's only a matter of time until it's unnervingly close to your nose. I don't think I can explain it in any better way.

Now I have some reading to do and some water to drink; I'll try to write a more comprehensive summary tomorrow.

Monday, July 6, 2009


As of the dinner break, Fredrik was down to 20K (they started with 30K). They haven't yet finished the next level, so I don't know much more. Gotta try to get a crabby boy to sleep.


The players have returned to the tables after a 20-minute break, but I haven't received any update from Fredrik. Hope it's going well! I'm soon heading over to the MGM for the CardsChat party, but perhaps I can keep updating from there.


I hope Fredrik doesn't mind how I'm updating his blog. Don't get me wrong, he told me to do so, I just hope he doesn't mind the WAY I'm doing it.

It's interesting to read about the possible riot going on over at the Rio, heh. The following blog, which I gather Fredrik follows very closely, has some details (and he even mentions talking to Fredrik, if you look at the 12:20 update -- meta-cross-blogging!): Tao of Poker.


SMS from Fredrik 14:24, during the day's first break in play:

"Finally got my table. Missed the first level but at least I get to play. Will report in later; play starts in 5 minutes."


From the WSOP website:

"Mon, 06 Jul 2009 12:13:13
It's Official - We're at Capacity
From the laptop of a Harrahs official: "The Main Event registration is officially closed. All seats available on Day1D have been sold. Final entrant numbers and prize pool information will be available late this evening after all reconciliation has been completed." Biggest. Day 1. Ever."

Sounds better. Haven't heard more from Fredrik. Hope that means he's seated and playing!


Hey, this is Lori, relaying an SMS I got from Fredrik:

"There's a 'situation'. Sold out and Party is on reserve. We're still playing but may not start 12. Waiting for others to bust and open seats."

I call shenanigans. If they go in only after someone else has busted, they'll technically be at a disadvantage. Why aren't the people who have registered recently (or are registering right now -- I read on the WSOP website that the registration lines were really long this morning) on reserve instead? Oh well. I'll keep editing here to let you know about any further SMS's.


I've packed cough drops, ibuprofen, noise-cancelling headphones, iPod, phone and wallet. Left to do: Brush my teeth and receive a good-luck kiss from Lori (and maybe a good luck smile from Benjamin), then I'm out.

Reminders to self:

1. Play well. You know how to do this. With 300BB starting stacks, you have a huge edge over most of the other entrants. Don't be afraid to leverage it.

2. It's worse to play weak-tight and inevitably bust near the bubble than play well and bust early.

3. Have fun and remember that you're not the only one in the room doing this for the first time.


Alright, I'm off. Rawr.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Day Before Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 10am, I'll take the shuttle out to the Rio, having breakfast there courtesy of Party Poker, some coffee, load up on water and then go take my seat at noon. I'm a little jittery, and while I'm sure my hands will display some shaking early on that early nervousness should really settle after a few hands.

Note to self: Bring ibuprofen. If I for some reason get a headache, I'll kick myself over and over if I forget to bring something that can fix it.

After last night's dinner with Debi, Joe, Joe's coworker Sam and Sam's wife Nancy, they drove us downtown and we parked on top of Binion's. Fremont Street is nowadays roofed with one giant TV-screen and they had special shows running on the 4th of July theme. It was very cool. You can find some pictures and Debi's running trip report here:


On a different note, it seems that there's some weird stuff going on with the number of levels played every day. For those not familiar with poker tournament structures, I'll just briefly explain the basics first before going into the details:

Everybody starts with 30,000 in chips, and the blinds start at 50 (small blind) and 100 (big blind). Differently put, everyone starts with 300 big blinds. Now and then players get eliminated, but their chips are now in the hands of other people, so the average remaining stack of chips will grow from 30,000 as players get knocked out. In order for the tournament to ever finish, it's necessary to raise the blinds progressively so that we don't end up in a situation where someone has so many chips in relation to the blinds that they can fold for three days straight. The blinds are raises (usually doubled, but sometimes slightly less) every two hours, and every two-hour slot with a certain blind size is called a "level."

Before the tournament started, it was stated that ever day 1 (of which there are four, and I play on the fourth - day 1d) would play five levels. Right before day 1a started, this was changed to just 4 levels. Uh, okay. Making last minute changes is at their discretion.

But now that day 1a and day 1b has been played, they're now playing day 1c with FIVE levels, which is one more than the first two days. In effect, there's a bigger risk for players playing today to get eliminated after only one day of play than the first two days.

On the surface, this may look incredibly unfair but in reality it probably doesn't matter because I assume that tomorrow (day 1d) will ALSO play five levels, and since they're playing two separate day 2s, and day 1a and day 1b will play against each other on day 2, it doesn't matter much - it just means that day 2a will be longer than day 2b.

For me, however, these news suck. They mean that I won't be back early enough to meet up with the CardsChatters who are having a party on Monday; yesterday I thought I'd be done playing at 10:30, now it's more like 1a.m. Not much I can do about it, I guess. Except maybe go bust early.

My plan for today was to try to relax, maybe get some hours of live poker played and meet up with the CC:ers coming into town today (which is the majority of them). I went down to the poker room but unfortunately there wasn't any no-limit game going so I headed back upstairs to do some relaxing instead. If I don't get to play anymore before tomorrow it's not a big deal; I feel about as prepared as I can be.

I'll try to make a final post before leaving for the Rio tomorrow and let you know how I'm feeling about it all, but in case I don't - wish me luck.

Today, I saw the Rio

We went to the Rio today with Debi and Joe to check out the WSOP and see what it was like. When there, we met up briefly with CardsChat members Pifan and Jamile, and Jamile was nice enough to give us a ride back to the hotel. Jamile's from Hawaii and his posts at CardsChat tends to make that pretty clear. I had pictured him to look like Rob Schneider's character "Ula" in 50 First Dates, but not quite.

Some observations about today:

Benjamin, 11 weeks old, was not allowed into any of the playing areas because they had a 21-year-old age limit. I assume this is according to law, but it still feels a bit dumb not to be able to bring an infant in a BabyBjörn into the tournament area (or many of the other areas) and it makes Lori's cheering me on during play all but impossible.


Party Poker had a pretty cool room set up for their players. They served drinks and food, had couches, full-body massage chairs, a Nintendo Wee and the staff was very nice. I don't know exactly how many have qualified for the series through Party Poker, but I think I overheard them saying that they had 20 people starting yesterday and 6 had been eliminated. If that's the case I'm guessing that there may be around 100 players total from PP.


When first arriving at the Rio, I felt a little intimidated by the whole thing. So many players, so many tables, so much pressure. That anxiety has now started to lift a bit and I'm approaching more of a lust to play. I keep reminding myself that I have nothing to lose and if I'm knocked out on Day 1, I'm in good company and shouldn't worry about it.


A rough estimate when walking around in the Amazon Room is that about 90% of the players seem to try to look as tough as possible. A lot of tough guys, or at least a lot of guys trying to look tough. Maybe it's their way of trying to look like pros. Who knows. I don't think that will be me on Monday; I don't look very tough and I don't think I particularly want to try that sort of posturing either. Joe put it nicely in pointing out that perhaps instead of looking like the toughest player at the table, I can just be the toughest player at the table instead.

It's really hard to gauge how good of a player I am compared to most of the other entrants, but the way I figure, someone beating 200NL for a healthy amount while 10-tabling has to at least have an edge over the field, if not even a pretty big edge. I'm a humble guy, but if I try to honestly assess my skill, I think I'll have gotten a tough draw if I get more than one player at the table who I feel has a big edge on me.


I can't do chip tricks. I don't know if this is something I have to know how to do, but it seemed to me like a lot of the players must have practised. The whole room has a constant chip-handling background noise to it. Joe compared it to crickets, which is pretty close to the truth.


Beat: While having some lunch in the Party Poker Hospitality Suite, I managed to break the (plastic) fork while cutting up a steak, and in the same motion managed to cut my left index finger.


I think that about sums up my day. Debi, Joe, a coworker of Joe's and his wife and me are going to some Italian place tonight. Lori took a raincheck; her lack of sleep last night (Benji was active) finally caught up with her when we got back to the hotel from the Rio. I'm not super-energetic myself but I need to eat and I think I'll have a good time. Meeting them downstairs in five minutes so I think I'll just wrap it up here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Las Vegas - July 3rd

This will be a brief post, because Debi and Joe are on their way over to visit us.

Yesterday, I headed downstairs to play the 1/2 no-limit game spread in the casino and got a seat immediately which was nice. The primary reason for playing was to get some experience in chip and card handling. Secondarily came fun. Third and least came profit. Fortunately for me, I got all three. The game was, I've understood, extremely atypical for a live 1/2 game. It wasn't a "tough" game by my standards (if the same players sat down at Party 1/2, you'd have to pry my mouse out of my cold, dead hands to get me to leave that table). However, it was probably one of the toughest 1/2 games going yesterday in Vegas. Half of the table were Party Poker players, and quite probably more. It happened more than once that a preflop raise took the pot down uncontested, and it was even folded to my big blind once in the hour that I sat there.

Other than that, we've spent most of the time in the hotel room recovering from jetlag and making sure specifically Benjamin recovers from jetlag. He's having a little bit of trouble with it: since he's tired, he can't eat properly. And since he's hungry, he wakes up often to eat, but falls asleep before he's finished. Vicious cycle, but I hope we've broken it now.

Tonight, dinner with Debi and Joe. Possibly a few drinks. More on that tomorrow, perhaps even with a picture or two.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Las Vegas, July 2nd

First off, the trip went very well. I mean, I've had trips that were a lot smoother and more comfortable than this, but considering the 11-week-old we brought with us, I'd say it went extraordinarily well. Bennie was a trooper. Mostly a sleeping trooper, but that's fine with us.

A few random observations about the flights:

1. On the Linköping-Amsterdam flight, they gave us a separate seat belt for Benjamin that he had to wear, and an extra (presumably small) life vest. On the other two flights, these things were not only not given to us but the mere idea of a seat belt for a baby seemed ludicrous to the stewardess. I don't know what to make of that.

2. A BabyBjörn is a lifesaver for travelling with babies. Unless he was very hungry, he'd just doze off pretty much as soon as he was strapped into it. He slept for the majority of the trip, when not flirting with the flight crew and neighboring ladies. And some neighboring men. For some irrational reason, it's slightly more eyebrow-raising when it's a bearded guy in his 40s that goes "awwwww" when he sees a baby, and I don't think that's fair to paternal bearded guys in their 40s.

3. I didn't sleep much at all the night to Wednesday. The Swedish phrase "Travel Fever" has never applied to me before, or at least not for a very long time, since I've spent so much time on intercontinental flights all over but before this trip I was actually nervous. Nervous about the tournament, nervous about travelling with Benjamin and nervous about being too tired from not being able to sleep because I was so nervous. But when we got to the hotel, one out of the three of us was completely rested and his internal clock told him it was morning. It was not me or Lori. Damn you, BabyBjörn.

Also, we were checked into a (the?) Monaco Suite at the hotel. And because of that, I need to apologize to Party Poker for accusing them of sticking a 100% profit margin on booking the hotel using Party Points. However, I feel little of the blame for the misunderstanding is on me given that I directly asked them if they were booking a suite and they didn't answer. I also asked the same question of the Monte Carlo Hotel staff and they answered "no." So my assumption that the price was ridiculous made sense. Now is no time to be results-oriented in other words.


This morning, local time, we - or more correctly, Lori - woke up because the room next door had an alarm that went off at 6 a.m. At 6:10, it was still going strong and it was at that point that Lori poked me and asked me if I could hear it, too. After being poked (and woken) I could. After that I tried calling the front desk to have them send someone up to turn it off, but I sat for 10 minutes listening to modern classics waiting for someone to pick up the phone at the front desk. After that I gave up, got up, got dressed and headed down to ask someone about it directly. They'd send someone up they said. Fine. I head back up for another 20 minutes of "BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP" before someone turned it off. Sleeping before it was off was not an option. And by now, hunger had reared its ugly head and told me that if I could forget about any attempts to take a nap before eating something. So we got dressed and headed down to try to find the breakfast buffet, which apparently was not included with the room and cost $25 for the two of us. That's alright. Good buffet.

Here, I want to make a brief digression and talk about how Las Vegas buildings are designed. This was first discovered by us at the airport, when we noticed that at any point at the airport where people could conceivably be believed to stand still for more than 10 seconds, there were slot machines. By the baggage claim. By the restaurants. Outside the bathrooms (hey, maybe you're waiting for your husband while he's taking a dump - why not push a few quarters in?). And there is an area of slot machines between the front desk of the hotel and the elevators. And, which we found this morning, in order to get to the breakfast buffet you have to walk through the entire casino. And it's a big casino.

From a functional point of view, this is bad design. Hotel guests would of course like to get to the elevators and quickly as possible and to the breakfast buffet as quickly as possible. But the hotel has no qualms about giving you as many chances as humanly possible to gamble on your way there. In fact, the casino is oblong; it follows you as you walk to the buffet. A more space efficient way to cram that many slot machines in would have been a square casino (or ideally a circular one, but that comes with other architectural problems) but they're not interested in having many slot machines for the sake of having many slot machines. They want you to PASS many slot machines. The only way they could have made this more blatantly obvious would have been to build a square casino and make us zig-sag through it in order to get to the buffet. I would not be in the slightest surprised to find such a design somewhere in Vegas. The same principal can be found in IKEA storehouses. And the same idea is behind the common practise of putting the candy bars by the cash registers in warehouses. It just feels slightly more cynical when it's slot machines, but it's only a matter of degrees not absolutes.


My first day of play is now set: I'll be playing on Monday, and (hopefully) on Wednesday and then (hopefully) again on Friday. The "hopefullies" are there because I don't know if I'll be eliminated before that. Cross your fingers. I was informed of this when I went to the Party Poker conference room here and was handed my complimentary backpack, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt and hooded shirt. Lori got a pink hooded shirt. We were also invited to a pool party they're throwing across the street tonight, and we'll try to make it there - could be fun.

Next up on our agenda is going to the closest convenience store we can find and by some stuff that we chose not to pack, notably diapers. I'll also try to finish unpacking so we can get the suitcases off the floor. Normally when staying in hotels I live out of the suitcase and never bother with the drawers and closets but because there's three of us and because we'll be here for 16 nights, I figure it worth the trouble. It's also incentive to make our entire stay here be in the Monaco Suite instead of changing to a normal room when Party's no longer paying. It costs us a bit extra but this is a pretty nice room. I'd have preferred a better view but you can't have everything.


I wonder how tired I'll be tonight. On a scale from 1-10, I'm hoping for an 8. Worst case scenario is that I'll be a zombie during the day and jetlag kicks in and I'll be awake and alert when it's bedtime. Hoping for the best.


Tomorrow, Debi (Dakota@Cardschat) and her husband Joe will arrive in Vegas and we'll get to meet them again - we met them last year in London. They're awfully nice people and we're both looking forward to seeing them again. Debi's excited to meet us too, she says, but she was also nice enough to point out that we were second on her list of priorities - at the top for her was meeting Benjamin. After less than three months he's already stealing the show. Spoiled little brat.


I've been wondering what is considered appropriate when it comes to meeting "celebrities" in this small world of poker that I'm currently living in. If I see Pauly at the Rio, should I go up and say hi and tell him that I'm a fan of his blog? Or am I one of about a thousand handshakes that day that he'd rather not have to go through? Who knows. I'll have to wing it. Maybe if I bring him a beer.