Saturday, December 13, 2008

Remind me not to complain about bad beats for a while....

PokerStars Game #22885667985: Tournament #125323965, $3.00+$0.30 HORSE (Hold'em Limit) - Level XVI (1800/3600) - 2008/12/13 15:33:43 ETTable '125323965 37' 8-max
Seat #3 is the button
Seat 1: airhairlair (10867 in chips)
Seat 2: kermet (48655 in chips)
Seat 3: uscjess (18059 in chips)
Seat 4: RayRay32 (5127 in chips)
Seat 6: Mesq_Lady2 (20393 in chips)
Seat 7: KBinVA (26569 in chips)
Seat 8: petergun7 (49523 in chips)
RayRay32: posts small blind 900
Mesq_Lady2: posts big blind 1800
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to uscjess [6c 6d]
KBinVA: raises 1800 to 3600
petergun7: folds
airhairlair: folds
kermet: folds
uscjess: calls 3600
RayRay32: folds
Mesq_Lady2: folds
*** FLOP ***
[6s Jd Qc]
KBinVA: bets 1800
uscjess: raises 1800 to 3600
KBinVA: raises 1800 to 5400
uscjess: raises 1800 to 7200
Betting is capped
KBinVA: calls 1800
*** TURN ***
[6s Jd Qc] [6h]
KBinVA: bets 3600
uscjess: raises 3600 to 7200
KBinVA: raises 3600 to 10800
uscjess: calls 59 and is all-in
Uncalled bet (3541) returned to KBinVA
*** RIVER ***
[6s Jd Qc 6h] [4s]
KBinVA said, "WOW"
*** SHOW DOWN ***
KBinVA: shows [Qd Qh] (a full house, Queens full of Sixes)
uscjess: shows [6c 6d] (four of a kind, Sixes)
KBinVA said, "nh"
uscjess collected 38818

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Break Up: A Photo Essay in 3 Parts

I just can't get enough of my cookie peeps!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Run, Run as Fast as You Can

My little friend and I meet again. Try to run now, Cookie Man!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Nerdin' It Up Again

I wrote a short paper for a class as a precursor to a larger project. Thought I would post it here, cause, you know, I can?

The Work of Online Poker in the Age of Digital Reproduction

Internet gambling and online poker are recently new phenomena, but in their brief history they have already stirred up extensive discussion and debate amongst their users regarding issues of ethics. In the past year alone, members of various internet poker forums uncovered no less than four major cheating scandals and at the heart of discussion and debate regarding each scandal are questions of identity and presence. In two of the scandals, employees of these sites were discovered using “super-user” accounts which allowed them to see what cards their opponents were holding; they are able to play the game as if everyone’s hands were dealt face up. The remainder of the scandals typically dealt with an accusation that a player is “multi-accounting”. To briefly elaborate, the terms of service of most every major poker site stipulate that each customer may only have one account which is identified by a user name, or screen name, that serves as your virtual identity every time you play. There are many varieties of multi-accounting, but the common thread tying them together is that users play on more than one account in order to gain a competitive edge over other players.

While the participants in these ethical debates may not directly identify super-users and multi-accounting scandals as issues of identity, I would argue that their ethical frameworks are rooted in concepts of identity and presence that are applicable to a person in an actual, physical space, but become problematic when employed in a virtual realm. A detailed exploration of the specifics of these frameworks will have to wait for another time though, as I would like to focus my discussion here on an examination of why one’s identity at a corporeal poker table in a casino differs so greatly from its digitally represented counterpart. To help guide this analysis, I would like to examine the virtual replication of an actual space through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s seminal essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. Though Benjamin’s work focuses of the loss of aura in a mechanically reproduced work of art like a film, many of his ideas and concepts are equally productive when considering a digitally reproduced text like a virtual poker table. By considering the detachability of a reproduction from the original, the relationship between aura and presence, and changing modes of perception it becomes increasingly clear that one’s virtual self cannot be evaluated and considered in the same way as one’s actual self.

The title of Benjamin’s essay may suggest that his discussion of replicas and reproductions is limited only to man-made artifacts and cannot be effectively applied to an intangible concept like identity, but within his argument he expands his definition of a work of art to include instances of theatrical performance as well. If we consider performance using Richard Bauman’s conception of the term, which considers it to be a “distinctive frame” that can be used not only theatrically but in everyday communicative interactions, one’s presentation of self fits into Benjamin’s framework (Bauman 10). Moreover, we must also remember that a virtual identity is, in fact, a replica of self. While a player may control the actions and decisions of their avatar at a virtual poker table, that avatar is not an actual person; it is a signifier of that person.

In his discussion of film actors, Benjamin denotes the difference between the person and his filmic counterpart as such: “the projector will play with his shadow before the public, and he himself must be content to play before the camera” (740). This description is a useful way to consider the detachability of a reproduction from its origin and how this removal from its origin leads to what Benjamin terms “a loss of aura” (734). In the case of online poker, it is precisely this inability to authenticate a virtual identity as an extension of the actual player it is supposedly signifying at the heart of the multi-accounting debate. Since online poker is still in its incipient stages, it is overly reliant on the rules of its traditional counterpart to serve as its ethical guidelines. However, as Benjamin notes, not only is a reproduction detached from its original, it also, “detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition” (734). Therefore, this attempt to regulate this digital frontier with traditional rules has, for the most part, been problematic and unproductive. In addition to problems of authentication, the very nature of presence is fundamentally different because players may occupy seats at multiple tables at a time when playing poker online. Like a mass-produced book, the numerous copies of a digital avatar coexist in an online poker room and none of them can singularly claim the status of being “the original”. In this constructed virtual world, there is indeed no place for the original because everything from the avatar to the image of the poker table to the cards themselves is nothing but a representation of an actual object. This absence affirms Benjamin’s assertion that, “technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach of the original” (733). While this may seem self-evident, online players still problematically refer to everything that transpires in this virtual world in concrete terms despite being fully aware that it is nothing but a reproduction of reality.

As a result of this troublesome paradox, players also conceive of presence at an online poker table in the same way as they would if the players were sitting directly across from them. As a reproduction of an actual space though, the loss of aura is also indicative of an absence of presence according to Benjamin. One might suggest that since there is a present, actual human being controlling the actions of their avatar some semblance of presence remains. A comparison of this particular instance to Benjamin’s discussion of motion pictures helps to clarify the situation though. The filmic actor makes decisions about how to depict a particular character, but his performance is ultimately controlled by the mechanical device recording him—the camera. Benjamin suggests the illusory nature of film, in which the divide between the real and the medium presenting the representation of the real is masked from its audience, removes the “unique appearance of a distance” that defines an object’s aura and, in turn, its presence (735-40). The online poker player is aware they are playing a game on a computer, but the divide between their opponent and the representation of their opponent is as blurred as a film. Because the players at a poker table do not share the same physical space, though they are consciously aware of a person controlling the actions of the digital avatar, there is no evidence of such on their computer screen. Additionally, when someone plays at multiple online tables at one time, there is not even a guarantee that they are directing their attention to a particular game. Their avatar may be occupying a virtual seat, but it cannot be considered to be present and accounted for.

As I have mentioned, an avatar at a table is not an indicator that a player is fully engaged with the virtual game transpiring within it. Multi-tabling several games at once is a common practice amongst internet poker players and is a prime example of Benjamin’s distracted viewer. Unlike the live poker player, who is considered to be focused and concentrated on his immediate surroundings, competing windows vie for the online player’s attention. Benjamin suggests this distracted viewer is a byproduct of the mechanical age. He compares the concentrated and distracted viewer and argues that while the concentrated viewer is absorbed by a work of art, the opposite is true for the distracted viewer, who absorbs works of art. At the heart of the concentrated vs. distracted polarity is a change in the mode of perception that has arisen as a result of the proliferation of the masses according to Benjamin (749). As he mentions earlier in his work, mass production has divorced the work of art from ritual practices. In turn, the sense of the sacred previously associated with the work of art and its aura has begun to dissipate and with it, the solemn and pensive engagement between art and its audience. Taking its place is a distracted and detached engagement embodied in present-day computer usage. Overlapping windows, pop up ads, and simultaneously operating programs are specifically designed for the distracted glance of its users. Online poker is no exception and this awareness of a different form of engagement provides even more context to understand the fundamental differences between what appears to be the same game.

Returning to the debate of what is the optimal, ethical way to engage with the world of internet poker, it is now clearer specifically why the metadiscourse of how to play this game is still unsettled. Players continue to grapple with the detachability of their digital replications because they often perceive it to be inextricably and problematically linked to their human original. These scandals consist of incidents in which the disconnect between the user and their virtual identity is unavoidably foregrounded. What I have tried to do here is draw our attention to these moments of discord by framing the virtual identity as a performance or text so that we may decontextualize it and consider it in and of itself. As Bauman and Briggs note in their “Poetics and Performance as Critical Perspectives on Language and Society”, performance is a helpful frame that intensifies entextualization (Bauman & Briggs 74). As noted previously, the frame of this virtual identity is blurred when the user never sees the performer controlling its actions. It is my contention that until online players more clearly distinguish between the user and the username this debate of ethics will continue to discover more problems than solutions when it comes to internet poker regulation.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Check out the lil guy who came with my gingerbread latte! Isn't he cute? I was almost sad to eat him, but then I bit off one of his delicious legs and it was sayonara mr. gingerbread man.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

How About a Nice Hawaiian Punch?

I get miserably hung over about twice a year. Today was one of those days.

When I am hung over, I do not want food, I do not want water, I do not want coffee. I only want one thing: Hawaiian Punch. You can ask many of the people who have gone on quests for Hawaiian Punch with me during my times of need that I do not settle for much else unless I have to. If my punch cannot be found Powerade will do, but Gatorade will not. I'll take an Orange Hi-C but not orange juice. In other words, I am picky.

Needless to say, when I made my pilgrimage to CVS today to pick up a prescription and aforementioned beverage I was devastated to find neither Hawaiian Punch nor any of my standard alternatives. I was forced to settle for....Grape Vitamin Water.

For those who are curious, Grape Vitamin Water will not be repeated as an alternative hangover remedy again, but that is neither here nor there. What I really want to talk about is this....

As I am sitting in the little waiting area by the pharmacy, a man walks up to the counter. He is in his mid-30s and is wearing a pair of pajama pants with bottles of Corona surfing on them. He has a basket with an array of cold medicines in it. He asks to speak with the pharmacist (this is one of those places that you can ask the pharmacist medical questions).

The pharmacist emerges and he explains that he has a cold and he was hoping she could recommend an over the counter medicine for him. She goes through his options and explains which one relieve which symptoms and such and the man is summarily disatisfied.

"So none of these really make the cold go away faster?"

"No, they just relieve some of the symptoms typically associated with colds."

"But none of these will, you know, cure it and make it go away?"

The pharmacist is a) clearly not amused and b) clearly has to explain this to 10 people a day. And at this point, I am completely blown away because I know I tend to overestimate the general intelligence of people, but who on Earth manages to go 35 years without ever hearing that there is no cure for the common cold??

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Worst Forum Member Ever

I have to be perfectly honest that I have just not been in a blogging mood as of late. Moreover, I don't really feel like I have much to blog about that isn't going to come across as overt and outright bitching about ivory tower politics.

However, what bertminatti wants, bertminatti gets when it comes to birthday requests and his birthday request (sad, but true) is that I update my damned blog.


A blog, huh?

Well, let me talk about this: I have been mildly obsessed with Pokerroad ever since its inception. I listen to all the shows (yes, even Cash Plays) read all of the blogs, and I should have been jumping for joy when they finally started a forum for their legion of followers and fans. However, there is a tiny problem: I never have anything to post about.

I have the same problem at PocketFives. The joke amongst the reporters is just how bad and mindless my posts are. "The Rio is indeed cold, you should consider bringing a sweater". "Mike Watson won $1.6 million! Yay!". "There are 4 parking levels at the Horseshoe Southern Indiana parking garage".

In other words, they are the epitome of ascinine. However, I was intimidated to ever volunteer my poker opinion in PD because I am not particularly skilled at poker. While I play my fair share of $3 KO 90 man SNGs (my new obsession---brag coming....186% ROI kids! Granted, small sample size, but shhhhh), I don't think I am qualified to answer strategy and I just think to myself "oh no one really cares what I have to say about that".

With the PR Forums I had high hopes things would be different. After all, while I may not know poker, I do know Pokerroad. But now that the forums are up and running I keep encountering the same problem---what can I add of value to this conversation? "QFT", "+1", "Oh Ali, you so funny"? These seem equally bad in terms of post quality. But I find myself not really having anything enlightening to say about "Know Your Casino" or feel compelled to add to the "What's your favorite episode?" thread. Does anyone actually give a shit what some random stranger has proclaimed to be the best PRR episode ever? Because I don't. I truly don't. And I just have a hard time believing that others eagerly sift through 6 pages of responses to learn what random peoples' favorite moment is.

What I do believe is that the posters that help these forums thrive and keep them going are those who have no filter stopping them from saying "well, who would genuinely care what I have to say about this?" And God bless them for it. There are people on Pokerroad's forums that have found 500 things to say about various posts in a matter of around a month while my piddly post count sits at 7. So, with that in mind, I salute you bertminatti for your endless knowledge about fantasy sports, your quippy and sasstastic comments in response to stupid threads, and your fountain of knowledge about various abbreviations and internet lingo. Most importantly, I salute you never being "internet mean" and managing to evade the plague of early-20s assholeishness that tends to plague that place from time to time (I'm looking in your direction OT)

Happy Birthday (one day late) Brett!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

1 Week Down, 14 to Go....

I have survived the first week of the semester and it went a little faster than I expected, which is always nice. My schedule is such that the first half of the week is really slow but my Thursday and Friday are a bit crammed. Obviously I am not complaining about the perpetual three day weekends and the minimal amount of obligations on Tuesday and Wednesday, but this early in the semester there is just not a lot of work to fill the time with. Now that my syllabi are in my possession all that will quickly change.

In typical grad school form, there was a fair share of Republican bashing in the classroom. Most everyone in my cohort knows that this is my grad school pet peeve to end all pet peeves and this particular incident sparked a reaction from everyone, not just me:

In my Media Ethnography class we watched a brief clip from a 1950s propaganda video entitled "The House In The Middle". The basic gist of the film is that your house is less likely to burst into flames in the wake of an atomic blast if you keep it tidy and uncluttered. They would blow up a "messy" house and watch it burst into flames that engulfed the home in a matter of minutes. Then we saw how the "tidy" house also had the roof blown off as a result of the blast and still caught fire, but this fire was much more easily "extinguishable". I don't know about you, but I would hazard to guess that I don't have a fire extinguisher handy when/if an atomic bomb goes off. And, considering my house is so tidy, I doubt there would be a blanket or some other tool to smother the blaze sitting around either.

I digress. One of the comical aspects of said film strip was the tinge of excitement in the narrator's voice when he got to say "bomb", "fire", "blaze", or any other word related to nuclear explosions. As we were discussing this a man in class raised his hand to add his own thoughts on the matter. His comment began discussing the 1950s atomic bomb film and then, apropos of nothing, the subject changed to...Sarah Palin.

Yes, that is right, Sarah Palin. I don't know about you, but apparently this fellow made the logical jump from 1950s nuclear film strip narration to the rhetoric of the hockey mom VP candidate with the greatest of ease. He explained how Palin would seem sweet and nice, but then she would inject something "venomous" or even "mean" into her speech. I must admit I did not watch the RNC despite being a registered member of the party--I do not like John McCain and I am in a bit of a quandry about where my vote is headed. What I do know is that I will not be voting for him, ergo I found the task of watching the RNC to be unecessary.

Based on this man's remarks and what I have read in the news, it sounds like he was hating on her in part because she was sarcastic. This is really beside the point though. The man said point blank that Palin is mean, evil, and venemous and no one in the classroom said anything to challenge 1) the way this information was presented as a fact everyone had to agree with rather than an opinion or 2) the pertinence of this information to the discussion at large. Even I kept my mouth shut because I am just tired of having this discussion week in and week out, but I rolled my eyes rather overtly and began to watch the clock, hoping class would just end.

One week down, 14 to go. I got through the week with 3 anti-Repub references in class, so I am going to set the over/under at 70. Any takers?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rainy Days, Chinese Takeout, and the Biz

After class today it began to drizzle outside. As I talked to Dani in the lobby I began to notice the rain falling harder and harder and I realized I needed to book it home--and fast. However, I also needed sustinance--and fast. I popped into Dragon Express on the way home and enjoyed a leisurely early dinner of Chinese takeout eaten at my bedroom window.

It is kind of hard to explain the layout of the rooms here, but I will do my best. The wall opposite the door consists of mostly window. The window extends across all but a foot or so of the wall and is probably five feet in height, stopping just below the ceiling. There are several features of said window that I am quickly growing to enjoy:

1) My bed being located right next to the window allowing for ample natural light. I think that copious amounts of natural light is quickly becoming a dealbreaker on whether or not I am willing to reside somewhere. Nothing compares to the feeling of sunshine on you when you wake up in the morning.

2) The view. My window looks out away from campus and, since the building is located on the edge of campus, there is a vague illusion of nature. Most of what I see is tree tops and I can pretend I live in seclusion rather than on a hall with several dozen other students who are 5 and 6 years younger than me.
3) The ledge! The window ledge juts out a good eight inches or so from the wall allowing for objects, such as Chinese food to be perched upon and consumed from the comforts of my bed. If you have never tried eating Chinese food in bed on a rainy day, let me assure you that you are really, really missing out.
Duncan is trying to persuade me to drive up to the Horseshoe this weekend, but I have numerous social obligations of the utmost importance here in Btown, the first of which is the 80s themed party at Casa del Pyramids tomorrow night. I have my Little Mermaid t-shirt clean and ready to go, but other than that I am lacking in the costume department. Maybe I will go and buy a scrunchie tomorrow.

The second fiesta is James' birthday shenanigans Saturday night with our traditional trip to Nicks and rousing games of Sink the Biz. I cannot explain the game to you nearly as well as the blogger in the link has, but let me assure you that game is a beast. Here is a horrifyingly unflattering photo taken from James' previous birthday extravaganza:

If the expression on my face does not convey it on its own, let me explain how over this evil metal bucket filled with beer I truly was. First of all, I loathe beer--carbonation really messes with my tongue and the taste of it can only be described as putrid. Secondly, James is a Sink The Biz Nazi and if he thinks you are not drinking enough, he will purposefully attempt to get the Biz to sink on your turn, thereby forcing you to drink. He will massively overpour on the turn prior to yours, he will pound the table during your turn, and he will blow on and shake the bucket before the next person goes. James, you know I love you dearly, but I am putting my foot down this year. There will by no Biz sinking for Ms. Welman! There will be alcohol consumption, oh trust me, there will be that. But it will not be beer and it will most certainly not come out of a bucket!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Poor Form All Around

Now I know everyone has been talking about Scotty Nguyen's poor sportsmanship in the $50K HORSE event and I wholeheartedly agree. However, what really, really surprises me is that more people are not annoyed with the antics of Michael Dimechele. Within five minutes of watching this episode I had decided this guy was acting like a complete douchebag. The excessive celebration, the hollywooding in a stud game (SUCH poor form), I was not a fan of any of it and I was actively rooting for this kid to lose. As we established last time, I am no HORSE genius but I play enough to understand how the games work and I was less than impressed with his play--I mean, the kid couldn't even read what cards he had at one point.

I am sure he is a nice guy away from the table and I actually found his interview on Cash Plays on PokerRoad rather interesting, but I find this to be an aspect of tournament poker that I am growing increasingly annoyed with. I guess you don't notice it on TV as much, but being around the final tables this year I began to realize just how often the cheering sections of the various players were acting like total tools. Don't ham it up for your drunk and disorderly friends. You are adults, behave like adults. If your friend gets it in bad, don't chant crap like "suck out suck out", just wait politely and see how the hand plays out. Even if Scotty Nguyen did behave in an equally unbecoming manner, don't scream out "brick" when 7th street gets dealt. It is tacky, it is in poor form, and it makes it increasingly more difficult to present poker as a competitive game for intelligent people rather than a vice.

I have to be perfectly frank that, before I worked at the WSOP this summer, I was generally skeptical of internet players. I don't particularly enjoy internet poker nearly as much as I enjoy playing live so I am biased to begin with. Moreover, I watched enough poker on TV to see several young online pros who were presented in less than flattering light. However, within a week of working the WSOP, I realized I had judged too quickly and these were genuinely nice guys (and girls) who, for the most part, behave just as respectfully as everyone else.

However, every once in a while, when they get in big groups and, perhaps, too many substances are consumed, they cement the reputation that they are cocky, ungrateful, disrespectful players. I think the antics of Demichele and his cheering section, at least for me, fell into that category. I have gotten a chance to speak with and get to know some of the guys I spotted in his cheering section and I know categorically that they are really, really nice people and I don't doubt for a minute that they didn't mean anything by it. I just think it is odd that no one is bringing up in the forums that this doesn't reflect well on poker players under 25. Just because Scotty Nguyen's douchebaggery far outshined that of everyone else doesn't mean that everyone else doesn't need to take some time to think about how their behavior comes across to other people.

At the end of the day all I can say is I love Erick Lindgren and I think everyone else does too. Man, that guy is a class act all around and I continue to marvel at his stellar play throughout the WSOP this summer.

Monday, August 18, 2008

So bored I'm playing $1 MTTS

For no particular reason I elected to play in a bunch of stud game MTTs on Stars tonight. In part, it was spurred on by my victory at the shed in our HORSE tournament on Saturday. Let me explain how ignorant this reasoning is on my part. 12 people played in this thing and two had to leave early and were blinded out. The rest just plug did not know how to play HORSE, especially shorthanded HORSE. I am not going to shun $200 in profit, but I am not stupid either. Let's be realistic, I am no HORSE genius.

However, I do really enjoy the rotation of games and I would really like to get better at it. Rather than playing in the Ladies Event at the WSOP next year, I would love to play in one of the $1500 HORSE or Stud Hi/Lo events. Devo blogged about how soft the stud fields were this year and, while I am no Stud 8 genius, I definitely know more about the game than the average person and it seems like a worthwhile investment of my time. I am sure that stud odds software exists, I just need to make an effort to track it down.

My weakness in HORSE has and always will be Omaha. Every hand, save for obvious ones like A267, always look awful to me so I fold everything. I tend to fold big flush draws on paired boards, anything but the nut flush draws otherwise, and draws to the low end of the straight. However, as much as I think this discipline has its benefits, I am almost certain I am folding WAYYYYY too much. But the hands are all just so ugly. So ugly. Not to mention that it feels like every flop is just brick, brick, brick. If only I had a lucky cat to help me out...

In other news, I am morbidally depressed to find this great $1/$2 game in Lexington only to have to go back to Bloomington and abandon it. I had another profitable night last night (though $80 is nto $350, I will gladly take it). Money can also not buy my two favorite quotes of the night.

1) We were playing Omaha 8 and on a rainbow AK6 board it went bet, call, raise, call, call. There was another bet when a 6 came on the turn and, after a 7 came on the river, the guy who had been passively calling the whole way suddenly started raising. Then the initial reraiser, Guy, looks at him and says, "you didn't do what I think you did? If you called all those bets and raises with only a draw to the low you are immeasurably retarted." Well, apparently, he was, because he had 2-4. Whoops.

2) On a Ac Jd 5c board in a multi-way limped pot of NL Hold Em I checked in the SB, immeasurable tard bets $7, Chris flats behind him, and I reraise to $30 total. Josh The Immeasurable Tard folds, and Chris looks at me and asks, "how big is your kicker?"
Josh taps him on the shoulder and says, "you don't really need a kicker when you flop two pair" and Chris folds. GG me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Two Things... (be forewarned--this is long)

First of all, I have literally been racking my brain for nearly three days trying to figure out the math of the following situation:

On a board of 5h4d2h if you have 2-2 and you know categorically that your opponent has flopped the wheel with A-3, what odds do you need to call? A little bird told me you only need 2-1 which seems preposterous to me. If you have 7 outs on the flop (so you're like 5-1) and 10 outs on the turn (so 4-1) how does the power of being able to backdoor a full house make it so that seeing both cards makes it 2-1?

I see how you get there. (7 outs + 10 outs) X 2 = 34, but it still seems mathematically unsound to me. Can someone, anyone, provide a more thorough explanation of how being 14% to win and then 20% to win makes you 34% to win overall. I would think you can't just add those together to make those odds...if you told me you were 17% to win, that would make more sense to me. I mean, I normally pride myself on not being completely math retarted, but I still don't get how this situation is possibly ever 2-1.

Problem #2. I am going to warn my few readers in advance that this is going to sound a lot like bitching that typically gets flamed on P5s and such, but I am 100% sincere when I say I just can't figure out how to beat these games. Over a 2 year sample size of weekly cash games, I consistently am more profitable in games with players who are ostensibly better players than the much cherished LAGtard.

But man, those LAGtards....I can't beat them to save my life. I have listened to numerous people tell me these are the people you are going to make money off of in the long run, but I am not kidding when I say I just don't. And what I am about to say is going to make me sound like such an intellectual snob, but I am going to do my best to not sound totally terrible:

The absolute biggest hole in my game is that I assume a general level of intelligence from people that vastly overestimates their aptitude. I do the same thing in life more generally. I refuse to believe people in the world can truly be as stupid as they are and they never cease to amaze me. Talking with my friend Brian, whose game I really respect, he told me, "you need to stop putting your tendencies on your opponent's decision making." He then explained that his wife does the same thing. Maybe it is a gendered issue, but I generally have to play against people who operate with some sense of logic because I just can't figure out what the hell is going on otherwise.

I hear about people who only operate on Level 1 of thinking, but I have a very difficult time giving people that little credit in the cash games I play. My thought process is if you are putting up a nearly $100 buy in to play in $.50/$1 on a weekly basis you are past Level 1 thinking. At the free poker league I used to play in, I expect Level 1 from some people, but even then I still have a hard time. If you play a game twice a night two and three nights a week for something like 3 years at what point do you not realize you need to consider what your opponent has?

To me this is like playing checkers twice a week for two years and acting surprised when someone jumps you to get kinged. The very nature of the game is that each person has their own hole cards! How in the hell can you play this game on a weekly basis for what is more than just pennies (I know it sounds like a very small NL game, but considering the fiscal situations of most of the parties involved, it isn't that small) and not realize you need to think past what two cards you have?

Here is the best example I have. The absolute worst player in the game is a man named Brad who is the quintessential defenition of LAGtard. Any suited face card and he is all about seeing it through to the river. Last night I saw him bet the river on a J-10-8-7-A board with just A-K (yes, he stuck around until the river on that board with just A hi) and call a huge raise on the river with a single pair.

Brad plays on FTP nearly daily, he plays in home games twice a week, and he subscribes to PXF, but he is still incapable of folding. He claims he is a "hunch" player, which I find absolutely hysterical considering to play by hunch and instinct requires at least a base consideration of the type of player you are up against. He openly admits to having no concept of odds and no desire to learn them. He raises irregardless of position with hands like A-4 os or K-6 suited.

The vast majority of my playing style is contingent upon table image and pricing people out of things. In games overrun with Level 1 thinking and an absence of fold equity, this style simply isn't profitable. However, I am baffled as to how to combat a game in which you are trying to deflect 3-4 LAGtards pretty much any time you are in a hand.

My first instinct is to play tight and in position, which I generally do. But the next question is one of pot control. In this game the standard raise is 4-5 BBs and typically flops are going to be seen at least 4-5 ways. With that in mind, each pot has $25 going to the flop. Let's say you have flop something like a straight on a 5-6-8 with you holding 7-9 board with two hearts. How do you play this? My first instinct is to protect my hand, but I also know that there will be no consideration of odds and there are inevitably players who are going to not only call any bet with hands like 6-7os or Kh3h, but are going to lead out at it.

I have gone about this a number of ways. I have raised huge on the flop only to get called by multiple players. I have also waited for a brick on the turn before raising big, but even with only one card to come, I still can't protect my hand from the flush draws and the possible chop. Moreover, because people are leading out with hands like 6-7 os there, the pots are quickly getting pretty big and I am forced to stick my whole stack in there in an effort to protect my hand. Sometimes I will have something like 10-10 or J-J on that board and I literally just give it up on the flop because it is going to be too damn expensive to try to see where I am at or get my hand to hold.

I know, I know, "you want someone with a flush draw to call you there." In all sincerity, can I just say that I don't? I really, truly don't. This is yet another hole in my game, but I am generally petrified of being drawn out on and, though I don't keep detailed records, it generally happens more often than I would like in these games. Additionally, when you are trying to dodge both the straight draw of one player and the flush draw of another, it quickly becomes a lot more outs you have to fade in order for your hand to hold up.

Brett and I were discussing it and he said he would love to be in a game where you could raise big with pocket aces and get called by 4 people. I don't see how this is going to be a profitable game though. A-A is a great hand, don't get me wrong, but it is not something I want to take to a flop against 4 other players because, even though you may have the best starting hand, the strength of A-A is greatly diminshed in multi-way pots.

I guess my ultimate, overriding question is how do you beat a game in which every hand is going to make it to showdown and typically it is oging to be against more than one person? How do you play in a game with a complete and utter absence of fold equity? Most importantly, when you are going through a stretch where you just aren't getting great starting hands, is there any other option but to just pick up and cut your losses? Because the problem with home games versus casinos and online play is there isn't that element of game selection--you are just kind of stuck with what you're given.

I am getting sick of losing money to people who make me worry about the future of civilization and I find myself going back week after week under the presumption that, at some point, the math has got to catch up with them and I am going to come out ahead. However, after 2 years of nothing but consistently losing results in these types of games, I think I am really left with no other option but to just not sit down in the first place.

Thankfully I have my $.25/$50 game on Tuesdays in which I have logged two losing sessions in the same two years. I also have picked up a Sunday $1/$2 game which is going exceptionally well so far and seems to be the type of table I am generally going to be at or above break-even. There are one or two players who overvalue hands like A-10, Q-J, but they are far outnumbered by people who are thinking at or above Level 2 and it just makes the game so much simpler.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


*********** # 1 **************PokerStars Game #19511196881: Tournament #101308833, $11.00+$0.50 Hold'em No Limit - Match Round I, Level III (25/50) - 2008/08/10 - 14:03:31 (ET)Table '101308833 1' 2-max Seat #2 is the button

Seat 1: uscjess (1075 in chips)

Seat 2: Eric2441989 (1925 in chips)

Eric2441989: posts small blind 25

uscjess: posts big blind 50

*** HOLE CARDS ***

Dealt to uscjess [Kd 7d]

Eric2441989: raises 75 to 125

uscjess: calls 75

*** FLOP *** [7c Kh Qc]

uscjess: checks

Eric2441989: bets 950

uscjess: calls 950 and is all-in

Eric2441989 said, "nh"

*** TURN *** [7c Kh Qc] [5d]

*** RIVER *** [7c Kh Qc 5d] [8s]

*** SHOW DOWN ***

uscjess: shows [Kd 7d] (two pair, Kings and Sevens)

Eric2441989: shows [9c 6c] (a straight, Five to Nine)

Eric2441989 collected 2150 from pot

*** SUMMARY ***

Total pot 2150 Rake 0 Board [7c Kh Qc 5d 8s]Seat 1: uscjess (big blind) showed [Kd 7d] and lost with two pair, Kings and SevensSeat 2: Eric2441989 (button) (small blind) showed [9c 6c] and won (2150) with a straight, Five to Nine

I am not going to complain, I understand people have run worse. I am just going to say that, plus the state of my Sharkscope (pictured below) has made me wonder if I have learned a damned thing about poker this summer.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Welcome to the Horseshoe

My boat has changed on me while I was gone. In a rather humorous development, Harrahs decided to rebrand Caesars Indiana as a Horseshoe Casino. Understandably, they didn't want to waste their premium brand on a casino in the middle of Southern Indiana, so they decided to downgrade the brand. Here is the humorous part: as part of the rebranding, they remodeled both the boat and the casino and upgraded everything, so now we have a crappier brand on the much spiffier boat.

So I decided to pay my newly made over boat a visit last night, despite not really feeling like I was in the mood to play. However, boredom kicked in and I drove up there nonetheless. I really, really like the new look. It is much less gaudy than the cheesy Roman motif. I must admit though, I really miss the Bacchus Conference Center. For those of you forced to take a mythology class at some point in HS or college, I hope you appreciated the reference as much as I did.

I started out at $4/$8 because $1/$2just hadn't been going very well for me lately. Let me explain that the $4/$8 crowd is...well, effing old is what they are. I have a good 20-30 years on most of them, though my friend Shane joined the game later in the evening bringing the median age down from 65 to 60. Oddly enough, Brian Powell (snagglepuss) was at the boat too and he was also on the 4/8 list, but didn't move when they called his name.

When my friend Brad showed up, I decided to pick up from 4/8 since I was down fifty bucks and couldn't really get anything going. We grabbed a bite to eat and when I got back down to the room, I decided to give $1/$2 NL a go.

I had only been sitting 15 or 20 minutes and I hadn't really played any hands when a player in early-ish position made it $17. This may seem like a big raise, but it is actually fairly standard for the boat. Another player called and I called in the CO with KsQc.

The flop come KcJc8c and it checks to me. I start to count out chips and I start out with 40, take two back, add one, then decide that yeah, I was right the first time, I want to bet $40 and push my bet out. Both players fold and, as I am raking the pot the guy to my right looks at me and says:

"Miss will you do me a big favor?"

"What's that?"

"Will you never play a hand with me? You scare the shit out of me"

At this point, the initial raiser from the hand chimes in, "it's true! She's frightening! Did you see her count out her chips? I am completely scared"

Now, this is a table I LOVE. Guys who find the little girl who bets big rather frightening are great opponents for me, because I don't necessarily have to have a huge hand all the time like I do against most $1/$2 tables. But, I decided to have a little fun and responded:

"Scary? Lil ole me? I look like I'm 11! I'm as intimidating as Little Orphan Annie!"

"Exactly!," the man to my right exclaims. "Annie looked like Satan! Like you do! I don't care what you say, I am watching out for you."

Well, the rest of the evening anytime I was involved in a hand, this hilarious redneck to my right would start belting out "The sun will come out tomorrow!" The table was generally hysterical and I managed to just keep picking up smallish pots here and there.

I think the only other semi-big hand I won came when hysterical redneck made it $7 and I called behind with Jh10h. The button, who is a good player and a regular, calls and the guy in the big blind calls as well. The flop is AhQd2h and it checks around to the regular who bets $20. I realize this is not the price to call, but I figure the implied odds are with me considering he wouldn't expect me to call with just the heart draw, plus if the king hits I am golden. Its heads up to the turn, which is the Kh. We both check. The river is a blank, I bet $30, he calls, I show, he mucks.

Thrilling, right?

That is about as eventful as it got all night. Took a guy's last $24 when I got QQ, raised with AA twice, got called both times by a couple of players, bet the innocuous flop and they folded.
This is my kind of $1/$2 game. Really, I just needed the morale boost of being able to take down some hands without going to showdown and finding a table where I had a table image that garnered some respect. I suppose I could have stayed longer, but Brad was about to leave and I wanted to catch up with him, plus I still had the drive home to consider, so I picked up with $60 more than I started. After rake, tips, and food, that put me at even for the day and down for the trip when you consider the cost of gas. However, it was one of my first winning $1/$2 sessions since I first got to Vegas and I was very happy to just see a few things go my way. I will probably be back next weekend to see if I can turn in another semi-profitable performance. fingers crossed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Running Well at THE BP

In my previous blog I talked about the random, useless things I run well at. Well, I got to thinking about it and it reminded me of a fun night in Vegas towards the end of the summer when I ran well at something equally ascinine:

I had started working on the Bellagio Cup, but the WSOP was still going, so we had finished up at the Rio and Adam, Jill, Brett, Elissa, and I met up with Court back at the Fontana Lounge at Bellagio to hang out since it was still kind of early. BJ was still there finishing up chip counts and such and the whole lot of us decided to head over to Bally's for my new favorite table game----Texas Hold Em Bonus Poker.

A quick primer: THEBP is a table game version of hold em in which all of the players are playing against the dealer, but not against themselves. Everyone antes a minimum bet before the cards are dealt and, if they like their hole cards, they pay double the ante as their flop bet. The weird thing is that you can show the other people playing the game what your hole cards are, which makes your decision making a ton easier. The flop is then dealt and you have the option to bet or check based on whether or not you think you have the dealer bet. Same on the turn, but there is not a round of betting on the river, the dealer just turns up your cards and then their cards to see if you beat them. If you do, your bets, except the ante, are matched by the house. If you lose, house gets everything.

This is not a comprehensive guide and I have left a lot out, but you hopefully have a basic enough understanding to appreciate the story. Here goes...

I was not playing because the minimum bet was $10, which is a little too rich for my poor white trash blood, but Court, Elissa, and Brett were playing while the rest of us watched. I was standing behind Brett during a hand where he only had eight high by the river. No pair, no nothing. However, I just had a feeling and I looked at him and said rather convincingly, "eight high is good."

When the dealer flipped up her hand and showed us 2-7, eight high was indeed good and we marveled at my abilities. Perhaps Adam put it best when he exclaimed, "oh my God, Jess just soul read that dealer."

Well, a few hands later, Court showed us that he had been dealt pocket queens.

"How am I going to lose this one?" he joked. After all, he had not been faring very well thus far.

"I am guessing there will be both an ace and a king on the flop," BJ replied.

"No," I said, "there is going to be straight on the board.

The flop comes 3-4-5 and I laugh and look at BJ, enjoying that the straight was still a possibility. It got funnier when a 6 hit on the turn, and the 2 on the river sent BJ into near-shock at my clairvoyance. The best part? The dealer had a 2 and, if it weren't for the river, Court, who had been betting every street, would have lost everything rather than pushed on the hand.
Like I said, at least it is nice to run well at something. If only it could be like that when I play THEBP myself though.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Big Phan of Hand-For-Hand

If you made it through to the end of my last, epic blog, you may remember me discussing Hand-For-Hand coverage. You may also recall that when it got down to one table Andy and I traded off transcribing the hands. We could have done more than one hand at a time if we had liked, but trading off every other one kept us from having to stand for long stretches of time...or at least, in theory that was the plan.

On occassion, I run well. Very rarely do I run well at something that matters, like poker for money or my love life. I run well at relatively useless things like fantasy sports leagues in which no money is on the line, free poker at bars, games of tic tac toe, or finding pennies. On this fine day in July though, I began to run well at Hand-For-Hand. How do you run well at Hand-For-Hand you may ask? Well, here's how...

In poker, sometimes hands are over very quickly. Bob raises from the cut off and everyone folds. He wins the blinds and antes. Other times, hands take longer. Heck, every once in a while we even see flops, turns, and once in a blue moon a river. I have been told sometimes there is even a point in the hand where the players involved turn over their cards and a winner is declared.

I did not encounter many of these situations during Bellagio Cup Hand-For-Hand experience. Most of my hands were over preflop after one raise and, if I was unlucky if I encountered a reraise with some thought before the initial raiser folded. Andy, on the other hand, had to deal with the wrath of John Phan. Many of you may know that Phan is notorious for just how long he takes to make decisions. I often wonder what a day in the life of John Phan must be like. Does he tank on everything? If so, can you imagine him at McDonalds? How long does John Phan stand in front of the closet every morning, contemplating what to wear? What about really important decisions like who to marry or what to name your kid? Do these types of decisions take him literally years, if not decades, to decide upon?

Sorry about the John Phan tangent, I am just morbidly curious. Anyways, I would literally not even write down half the hands because it was easier for me to just verbally dictate the hands to BJ. I would tap Andy and he would look at me with indignation and say, "are you serious?" I would then sit down and 10-12 minutes would pass before Andy would return with the previous hand. I'd get up, watch the next hand, and return less than 30 seconds later, provoking Andy to become more and more cranky.

"I used to like you, you know."

"I was going to say it will be sad working without you until December, but I take it back.

"I hate the new girl."

At one point Phan tanked for, I kid you not, over ten minutes. Granted, it was a fascinating hand that I later learned was a pretty ballsy bluff on the part of Mike Watson, but that entire time Andy was languishing in Hand-For-Hand hell while I sat at the table sipping on my strawberry julius, reveling in the fact that I may not always win many coin flips in poker, but at least I run well at something.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Day In the Life

My friends and family continue to ask what exactly it is I do every day when I am working. Considering most of them have little to no understanding of poker, the task of explaining a typical work day becomes markedly more difficult. However, I am going to try to give it a go.....

11:00AM - Arise. The other P5ers will attest that I generally get up earlier than this because I am a bit of a freak, but I am going to say 11AM to convey to you how late the day starts. It is fantastic and one of the best things about the gig.

11:15AM - When I was with P5s, we would usually leave right around now to drive to the Rio. At WPT I was fortunate enough to stay at the Bellagio, so I literally just took the elevator down to the "office".

11:30AM-12:00PM - This is the time right before play starts for the day. I will set up my laptop, gather pen and paper, etc. At P5s, we had the text phone to deal with and, since I adopted this task as mine, I would go through the texts and figure out where people were seated. The logisitcs of preparing for the WSOP are much larger in scope than the WPT. At Bellagio, a good glance around the room and I was ready to go in terms of knowing where people were sitting. At WSOP, we had to figure out if people were playing in any of the other rooms like Brasilia or Tropical or even if people had been seated over in the casino, which was about 1/3 of a mile away.

12:00PM-2:00PM - Now, depending on what day of play it was, this time would vary drastically. If it was the first day, at P5s we tried to go and get pictures of players to upload to a gallery. Sounds simple, right? ::snicker, snicker::

Photos are an unbelievably time consuming process because they must be uploaded, edited, cropped, resized, named, uploaded, and named once again. Several other steps have been omitted from the process, but just trust me that it was always a major pain in the ass. I actually LOVED taking photos and felt like I got to be a decent photographer by the end of the summer, but I also felt like I wasted away several hours of my life I won't be getting back seated in front of my laptop, missing the action, trying to edit the countless cans of All-In Energy Drink out of the frame of a picture.

As an aside, if you ever look at the photos on P5s Live, you can easily figure out who took which photos. Jill's are the beautiful, almost artistic looking ones. They are of a quality that shames the rest of us and I am super jealous of her mad skills. Mine are the ones that are quite closely cropped. They also tend to have all sorts of crap like water bottles, food, etc in them, because I am so short that my angles are a little low sometimes. Adam's, God love him, are usually of people looking down or not paying any attention to the camera nor the action at the table, and Brett's, because he is so tall, look as if they have been photographed from space =)

Anyways, this is the time I usually just figured out who was playing and where they were sitting. I would try to catch a couple of big hands to report on and tried to do one chip count as well, but this was usually when I would do more non-poker related posts about what is going on around the Rio since the hands and pots were generally rather small and less than thrilling.

2:00PM-Dinner Break - This was the time where we would start to catch more big hands, eliminations, early chip leaders, etc. As the WSOP progressed, this part of the job got much easier because players began to recognize and get to know us. Oftentimes, if we missed a big hand, they would tell us about it to report on versus us returning to their empty seat and wondering whatever happened to them.

During breaks, especially at the WPT, I would try to snag the guys who were doing well and chat with them about how their day was going that way I could provide some sort of explanation as to how someone went from having 100 chips to having 150,000.

Dinner Break-End of Play - At the WSOP, often several events would be running at the same time and we would just try to divvy up the workload by events with each of us taking two that were being played in close proximity to each other. It was also the time where things got to be a bit more exciting. For those who have never watched a poker tournament before, it is fascinating to me to watch how the demeanor of the players changes as play progresses and this was the point in time where it would start to get really nervewracking as their would only be 4 or 5 tables left and you began to really think someone you were covering was going to win.

For the WPT, we actually started Hand-For-Hand coverage when there were only two tables of players left. To quickly explain, Hand-For-Hand coverage is detailed descriptions of what occurred during every single hand played at the table. It is great for those following the event over the net because they are able to see trends and patterns in the way people are playing. For example, if you look back at coverage of Bellagio Cup, you'll see that once we were down to 7 or 8 players, Per Ummer went nearly 30 hands (which is quite some time) without voluntarily putting a single chip in the pot.

I would imagine this would be a great way for players to review their play too, much in the same way online players review hand histories provided by the poker sites. I have never asked anyone about it though, so I could be wrong.

In terms of logistically how we as reporters were able to do Hand For Hand Coverage, when it was down to 2 tables, we split into teams of two. Jeff and I would trade off and watch 5-6 hands and return to the computer to type them up while the other person watched play. Once it got down to one table, Andy and I traded off transcribing each hand and bringing it to BJ, who would type it up on the computer.

Wow, this is very quickly getting uber-long, but that is basically the gist of my day. On early days of play, we would get done at a relatively reasonable hour, but some events at the WSOP had me staying until 5AM and 6AM (mostly the shootouts). Once again, thank goodness for the noon starting time.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Its Been a Long Time Since I've Blogged a Good Rant

As I mentioned in my last blog, I am both fascinated and frustrated by online poker names. Some are simple enough and strike me as relatively inoffensive. "aaronbeen", "shaundeeb", "JasonGray", the ones I don't even have to type when I report because they become redundant--these are great. I don't even mind the simple number/name/school combos like "USCPhildo", "mattg1983", "ckingusc", "AJKHoosier1", "JP OSU", "uscjess" (heh heh), "THAY3R", etc (although I think the excessive number of "USC" names, albeit the wrong one, make me appreciate them more than I should).

There are even several online poker names that I really just love and appreciate because they just sound cool: "FatalError", "snagglepuss", "SLOPPYKLOD", "MrCasino", "BigRiskky", "THE_D_RY" to name a few.

Then there are the indecipherable. hfus832gai. YGhas&t76dq. Ones that look like that. First, let me just be up front and admit that I am lazy. I don't like having to set aside two minutes to type out someone's online name. It is also unbelievably difficult to memorize these and I hate not being able to quickly rattle off the online names to other people.

Now this is where I may lose some more ardent online poker fans. To say that I hate when people are only referred to by their online names in real life would be excessive. To say I just don't get why people do it would not adequately address the issue. Why don't we just say my feelings rest somewhere in between those two poles and that I do not like to refer to people by their online name rather than their given one in a live setting?

In my line of work reporting on the online poker pros playing in live tournaments this can be somewhat problematic. Oftentimes players ask me who someone is and I respond "Oh that is Justin Rollo."

"No, I mean his poker name."


I understand. When you play online poker as your occupation, you have only the name and perhaps an avatar to define these people by. I get that, I really do. But I must admit, it is kind of humorous to me when I divulge their online name and the player I am talking to will say something like "oh yeah, he's a buddy of mine" or "I know him" despite clearly admitting he/she does not even know this person's name.

Brett and I actually got into a bit of a debate regarding the online vs actual name debate regarding photos on P5s Live. One of the odd glitches in our photo galleries on the site is that the captions cannot extend past one line or else it will throw the rest of the photos in a given gallery out of alignment. Therefore, several names must be abbreviated in order to fit into the allotted space.

In these situations, Brett elects to use the first initial of a person's name, their online moniker, and their last name. I always opt to forgo the online name altogether for a couple of reasons. First of all, the space consumed by the quotations marks around the online names further restricts the number of letters you can fit on a line. Second, I find the quotations to look cluttered when they aren't adequately separted from the first and last names with a space. Third, it is much less time consuming to just quickly type their first and last name and photo galleries can easily eat up hours of our time. Finally, and most importantly, I adamently believe that we should never forgo someone's actual name for their online name.

As I explained to Brett, these are people, not video game characters. Craig Gray's mom likely does not refer to him as "My son, MrCasino." This is the obnoxious academic in me I suppose, but I am concerned that our identities in a virtual space are spilling over into real life. I completely understand that many of these guys are only known within the community by their online poker names so, whenever I am writing a post, I always include both. However, in instances like photo captions where one must be chosen over another, I can't reconcile eliminating someone's actual name to make room for an Internet identity.

Part of the appeal of online identities is their inherent ability to deceive and manipulate. It is a chance to be someone you are incapable of being in real life and the control you have over your persona on the web is obviously appealing. Plus, the lack of policing and verification of identities on the Internet results in the opportunity to create an identity that in no way reflects your personality in real life.

It might have been in his WPT Final Table interview with Amanda Leatherman, but I remember Luke "IWEARGOGGLES" Staudenmeier explaining that he chose the name as means of getting action at the table because it is kind of silly. We can't do this in real life as easily. I can't really dsiguise the fact I am a female and I look like I'm 12 when I am playing live, although many times I wish I could. While I can ham it up sometimes--throw on a Little Mermaid t-shirt, wear my hair in pigtails, etc, etc, I still have to work within a certain set of parameters of my actual identity. Not only in online poker, but in other games/sites in the virtual world like WoW, Second Life, and MySpace people are able to become someone they are not or an exaggerated version of themselves with relative ease. As someone who has spent most of their life leading a relatively dull existence, I can absolutely see the appeal.

That does not change the fact that these online personas are not actually us in real life though. I know this is going to sound rather paranoid and silly, but I am sincerely worried for the day when a fabricated construction on the Internet is able to become its own personality and entity outside of the computer without a name and a face behind it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What's In a Name?

I am currently in Los Angeles visitng with some old friends from USC. It is a little surreal being back here after three years, especially considering I haven't seen some of these people since we graduated back in 2005.

One such person is my friend, Heather, who was my roommate freshman year of college. But here is the really odd thing: since we have last seen each other, she has decided she no longer wants to go by "Heather" and instead refers to herself as Demetria, a play on her maiden name (she got married our senior year).

WTF right? Please tell me others find this as bizarre as I do. Another friend and I were talking about it and agree that you can't just up and change your name, much in the same way you can't just go and give yourself a nickname rather than earn one in a more organic and natural manner. If people ask, I tell them I go by Jess a lot, but I find it bizarre to even introduce myself as anything but Jessica because Jessica is my given name and Jess is something people who have gotten to know me call me.

They also call me Fetch. Sad, right? Poker is a world of nicknames--everyone has some alternative identity. For the online players, their screename serves as their nickname (we'll return to this in a future post) and, for many live pros, their nickname indicates the nature of the way they play like John "The Razor" Phan or, more hilariously, Allen "The Chainsaw" Kessler.

How did "Fetch" come about you may wonder? Court Harrington, that's how. Well, Court and the fact that I tend to just do what I am told without much of a fight. "Walk from the convention center to the Masquerade Tower? Sure" "Go take this to Joe Sebok" "OK!" Obviously, you can just stand to reason how he took to calling me Fetch.

Perhaps my favorite Fetch story is when I received a text message from Court that read: "Fetch-there is a bottle of tylenol in my backpack. Take that and $100 to Jeremiah please."

A few things to clarify:
1) Jeremiah is Jeremiah Smith, a former poker media person turned frequent tournament chip leader. Every event Jeremiah plays he manages to be the chip leader in, unfortunately just not at the very end of play when it matters the most.

2) The $100 is not in Court's backpack. It is assummed Fetch will take $100 of her own money and pass it along to Miah so he can get more masseuse time.

3) Jeremiah is not a P5er, we are not covering him for P5s Live, and therefore it is in no way expected of me to perform this task as part of my job.

Yet, I find myself not even questioning it as I wander into the media room, grab the Tylenol, get $100 out of my wallet, and trapse back out to the Amazon Room to Jeremiah's table.

After the task was complete, I simply texted Court back: "Fetch to the rescue."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


So, as you may have gathered from the photo of Brett a few posts back, there was a non-bracelet event at this year's WSOP where the winner instead got a ridiculously large trophy.

This event, the media event, was also sans buy-in and anyone who made the final 9 were able to choose a charity and a donation would be made to that charity in their name. Both Court and I decided to play for the foundation established for Devin Porter' s dad. I had told Devin about the event and he kindly texted me to check on me shortly after we combined to the final 3 tables. Then, I kid you not, Devin hops in a cab from the Palms and I get myself a lil railbird.

Unfortunately, the event was designed to be over with in like 4 hours, so I very quickly found myself rather short stacked. Brett and I were put at the same table and he raised in early position when I was in the BB. I look down at 5-5 and very quickly ship it in. He looks frustrated and calls. Before he turns his hand over he asks, "do you have a pair?" I turn over my pocket fives and Brett laughs as he turns up---the other two fives. The board then runs out J-6-6-9-J and we are both playing the board to chop the pot.

A few hands later it folds around to me and I have A-Q, so I very quickly ship it for 9 big blinds or so. The dude from Bluff in the big blind beats me into the pot and I think I am in bad shape until he turns over his hand and shows me K-10.

K-10? Well, I am ahead, but not a huge favorite or anything and the guy manages to spike a gutshot straight on the river no more than ten minutes after Devin arrives. Apparently Devin has nothing better to do though, because he sticks around to cheer on Brett with us in addition to wish ill will on the K-10 guy (we even booed and hissed when he was introduced at the finaltable. Sore loser? That's me!)

Also on the sidelines watching the action is an hysterical Swedish man with a proclivity for punctuating his sentences by a long pause followed by a drawn out "hoooooookkkkaaaay?" He was also dressed like the most stereotypical tourist you'll ever encounter, complete with: fanny pack, socks with sandals, and an appalling print shirt of dogs playing poker. Don't believe me? See for yourself:

He was laying odds for the players at the final table and, when it was 3-handed, he offered 2-1 odds to Devin on Brett. Devin took him up on the bet and put down $5 on bertminatti taking it down. Well, when it is almost over and Brett has a HUGE chip lead, CrazySwede comes back to Devin and says he is about to win $10. Devin corrects him, "No, you mean $15."

CrazySwede then proceeds to explain to us that odds are very different in Sweden and 2-1 is equivalent to doubling your money. He and Devin debate the semantics of oddsmaking for a minute or two before Devin is finally like, "bet's off...give me back my money." Needless to say, CrazySwede was the life of the party and had everyone, including Nolan Dalla, rolling on the floor laughing.

In the end, Brett took it down and won a ridiculously large trophy, but I still maintain he should have thrown the event in order to get 2nd or 3rd, which also received trophies. The difference was that these trophies were open/challice-like objects, perfect for consuming copious amounts of alcohol out of while Brett's larger, ostensibly more prestigious trophy had a closed top and was essentially good for nothing.

In completely unrelated news, I randomly googled myself today and stumbled upon this. I can't quite figure out the context of the post, even when I read the posts preceding and following it in the thread. Nonetheless, I am going to just take it as some sort of compliment that I exist in the 2+2iverse. I have no idea who "clowntable" is on 2+2, nor any idea why he/she would have any clue who I am, but still, kinda bizarre.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Grand Marquis

On Day 3 of the WSOP Main Event, I was trying to keep track of several P5ers still in the running for the bracelet and there was a table boasting a couple of P5ers including Hunter "The_HUNT_D" Frey, who was chip leader at one point. As we were covering Hunter, Jill, Adam, and myself slowly began to convince ourselves that another player at his table was more than likely an online kid as well.

Hunter is a friendly enough guy that wheneverI came by his table we would chit chat a bit. Eventually, the mysterious online player began to chime in and later, he introduced himself as Craig. I asked if he was a P5er and he explained that since he mostly played cash games online, he never bothered to join.

From that point on, every time I saw Craig, he would always make an effort to say hi and I would check in on his progress in the ME. Before long, there were only three tables left and Craig was one of the final 30 players. I was unable to cover much of the ME once the Bellagio Cup got going since I needed to be there most of the day, but I learned that Craig was one of the final ten players. They only needed to lose one more player before we were done until the November 9 returned to finish the event in a few months.

At one point, Craig was all-in against another player who had him covered and he was in bad shape with A-Q against the other player's pocket queens. As Craig backdoored a flush to suck out on him, the other reporters in the media room literally booed at the hand, frustrated they couldn't go home. However, I was so relieved because he was the only person left in the tournament that I had much of a rooting interest in. Granted, we have P5er Scott Montgomery, but we didn't find out about him until I was done reporting.

I had the same conflict with my fellow reporters at WPT. Everyone was just looking forward to going home, so when Mike Watson spiked an A on the river to double through David Benyamine during heads up play I got many a glare when I let out an audible "yeah!", happy to see someone I had been following the whole summer do well.

I wonder when I will hit a point in tournament reporting when I am more excited for the thing to just be over versus wanting someone I feel like I know to do well. Hopefully not anytime soon, considering that might be an indication that I am getting tired of what I am doing.
In the meantime, good luck in November Craig Marquis, I'll be rooting for you.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


So I have a ton of great stories from the WSOP, but things got so hectic during the series that I was unable to post a lot of them. I realize part of the medium of blogging is contingent upon timeliness, but I am going to post some old stories as I get a chance to write them. Hope my contingent of 5 loyal readers (I'm growing!) doesn't care

Looking Back

I am on a flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and I can feel a palpable depression setting in. Perhaps it is because I lost more money than I wanted to playing $1/$2 Hold Em at the Venetian and Caesars Palace today. Maybe its because I didn't really get to say proper goodbyes to all of my friends.

It certainly isn't because I am LA-bound. It is somewhat surreal to think I am finally going to see my school friends again after nearly two and a half years. I am already looking forward to my future LA visits for the WPT. It guarantees I will see my pals twice a year as long as I am working for them. I feel as though I should be more excited to get to California, but I think my feelings towards Vegas are interfering.

I am not one to whine...oh wait, yes I am. But, for the sake of saving face we will refer to this post as "reflecting" rather than whining. I can say categorically this was the best summer of my life. I came in with a certain amount of expectations about the job and the experience more generally and reality went above and beyond all of them.would be a recurring example in academic debates about the real and the concept of realism more generally. To actually live in this place, be in this environment day after day completely alters my perspective.

I can see how people would let Vegas get to them. I also concede I could never live there. But, if it remains to be my adult summer camp for the next few years, you won't hear any complaints here. I hardly got to see any of the more tourist-ish things on my agenda, including a Cirque Du Soleil shows, Old Vegas on Freemont Street, and the inside of Excalibur to compare and contrast if it is as delightfully tacky as its exterior.

I did manage to do several things I didn't think I would have a chance to though. Partying at Ghost Bar for Alex's birthday, talking about USC at a beautiful rooftop bar with Devo, stay in a room at the Bellagio, take a limo to the Rhino, and, my personal favorite, chill on a rotating bed in a suite at the Palsm overlooking a city.

In addition to the experiences, I already miss the people dearly. Poker is a strange hobby and it is always hard to find someone who gets the lifestyle that comes with playing it on a regular basis. I am far from a serious poker player, but I can tell you most of my friends have no idea why I find cards to interesting and, while they were quite supportive visiting PocketFivesLive, they had no idea what our posts were even talking about.

I can only hope I stay close with the other P5ers. I'll be seeing Court on the circuit, but I may foist my company upon him sooner since he made the mistake of extending an invite to NC my way. Trips to Costa Rica and Chicago are also potentially on the horizon for more inter-reporter fraternizing. Not to mention my lame ass parked at the Caesars Indiana circuit event amusing those who earned the privilege of reporting on the event.

Finally, I think I am just bummed to not be around the players. In addition to learning so much just from watching them, they were all so unbelievably nice and helpful and funny and all-around good peeps.

Ideally I am going to be back working with the WPT full-time come December focusing specifically on the online poker world, so hopefully I can suffer through these last four months of school relatively quickly and get back to the ridiculously amazing job that is tournament reporting.

Gavin Smith My Ass

So I am working the World Poker Tour Bellagio Cup IV event and I am engrossed in the action at one of the tables.

I hear a familiar voice behind me ask in a shocked tone, "are you taking a picture of her butt?"
I turn around to find one of my favorite photographers, Steve, pointing his camera in a downward angle that does indeed appear to be aimed right at my posterior. I also see one of my favorite players, Gavin Smith, staring at Steve as well and I realize it was him who asked Steve what excatly he was up to.

"You just took a picture of her butt didn't you?"

", I, I was adjusting the settings, see?" Steve says, clearly embarrassed and starting to blush. He futilely tries to show Gavin and I that his camera is not on "photo mode", but Gavin is having none of it.

"That's why you're blushing, you're embarrassed you got caught." Again, Steve tries to explain he was just adjusting the settings. I decide to join in on the ribbing...

"I see how it is Steve, my ass isn't even worth taking a picture of, that's fine."

"Oh trust me," Gavin replies, "it is definitely worth taking a photo of."

I smile to myself, wondering how on earth I ended up where I am and go about my day.

Later, I am once again caught up in the action at a table when I hear the distinct click of a camera shudder. I turn around just in time to see Gavin run up to me and show me the photo of my butt that he's just taken on his phone.

"You know, so you don't feel bad about yourself," he explains.

As play winds down for the night, I walk by the table one more time as I hear Smith tell the table, "anyone want to see a picture of a really cute butt?"

I love the WPT.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pong and Circumstance

So Brett, being an Off Topic mainstay on P5s has a few friends in the poker community. Last night, we decided to meet up with them at what might be the strangest casino I have ever entered: O'Sheas.

This casino has a food court in it. And an area for beer pong tables. That is right, I said beer pong! We will be returning to that subject shortly, but first, let's discuss this food court.

So this was basically the saddest mall food court I had ever seen. Bright plastic, neon lights, and a bunch of non-chain skeezy restaurants with your token Subway nestled in the middle. Brett decided he wanted pizza. That is, until it arrived and looked a little something like this. I suggested to Brett and Wein that this pizza was likely featured in the 1987 teen film classic "Fast Times at Ridgemont High".

The fact that his pizza likely rivaled him in age only slightly deterred Brett from consuming it. As you can tell by his expression, it was decided that avoiding eye contact with the slice was the best option. Shortly after Brett gave up on this little culinary adventure, more P5s peeps began to filter in. Amit Makhija, Chris Vaughn, Dan Martin and others arrived and so began the distinctive degenrate behavior of a group of twenty-something year old poker players.

Which, of course, meant money was very quickly put on the line in a game of beer pong. In case you can't decipher the photo, there was $1k on the line in a Sean and Wretchy vs Brett and Chris Vaughn showdown. A ten cup pyramid to start with was agreed upon and the epic game of beer pong began.

Wretchy and Sean were off to a great start. Focused and undeterred, they were pinging, ponging, and pwning the competition.

Chris and Brett, on the other hand, were having some issues. Despite being a solid part of the Brett/Wein tandem in earlier games of pong, Brett...well, sorry to say this Brett....he totally choked. As you can see, Chris and Brett attempted to talk some strategy and even briefly considered employing the patented Amit jump fader style of beer pong tossing in an attempt to even the playing field.

Needless to say, Team Wretch/Sean proved victorious. More importantly than them winning though, please tell me you notice the uber-klassy teriyaki restaurant behind them. Post-game, Chris attempted to win back his losses on the craps table with little success, while Brett opted for his old standby, Texas Hold Em Bonus Poker, with even less success. With the night very quickly turning into the morning and several guys attempting to win back their losses, we all ended up at our home away from home: the poker table.

The guys, being the crazy degenerates that they are decided it wouldn't be fitting to actually play poker, but instead to go all-in blind before the flop and see who had the best hand. I want you to notice how many chips Brent Hanks has on the left. This is after he has won a couple of hands, not even how much he started out with. Now check Brent on the right here...see the mountain of $5 chips? When the day was done, it amounted to $2400. If only the WSOP could be so easy, no?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Photo Adventure--Again.

After our less than stellar findings at Treasure Island, we opted for classier fare and headed off to the Venetian. The naked/semi-naked girl motif, as you can see, was much more tastefully done. Jill looks impressed.

It took much less to impress me. We found a Coffee Bean, which I have not seen since I left LA in 2006, so I absolutely flipped out. This was taken right at the onset of my caramel ice blended-induced bliss.

Next on the agenda was the Mirage. While the Venetian has and always will be my favorite casino, the Mirage may now be second on my list. Jill paused briefly to admire the gorgeous fish tank behind the reception desk. We also stopped at every restaurant to admire the menu. Not gonna lie, looking forward to when her boyfriend and friend come to visit since they are staying there and we are dying to take advantage of the pool.

You would think after the success of such classy places we would continue in that vein, but you would be wrong. I think any establishment that lures customers with signs like the one pictured here can only be described as klassy....with a big ole K. This is the Casino Royale. Not very Bond-esque at all I must say.

That is not to say that we don't have a klassy side ourselves. Jill was rather hungry and we elected to go with the ole standby. Don't you love how even the Denny's sign in Vegas has to be covered in lights?

The food was tasty, but Jill became somewhat discouraged when she noticed the unusual texture of her sausage links. If sausage aged like people, I would hazard to guess this particular piece of sausage was, say, 93 years old.

Despite their disconcerting appearance, Jill then saw fit to play with the sausage links, because that is just what people do when they elect to go to Dennys at 1am.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ask and You Shall Receive

So Jill and I decided to take advantage of our night off and go on a casino-exploring adventure. And what better place to start an adventure than Treasure Island! Right?? Right.....? As you can see, Jill and I were both rather excited at the prospect of free entertainment, so we decided to wait in a giant mass of people outside the casino in order to take in and enjoy "The Sirens of Treasure Island". Well. While the majority of the script of this little presentation was rather tongue in cheek, the best, most hilarious line in the whole show is completely, deathly serious. After the pirate the sirens has kidnapped introduces himself, one of the lil sirens completely deadpans the line: "They call me Cinammon." Needless to say, Jill and I about peed our pants and I was literally laughing so hard I had tears coming down my face. No one around us seemed to be laughing though, so we left disappointed in the show and the intelligence of mankind in general. See for yourself:

I realize the pics are a little all over the place, but you will have to bear with me as my blogger tools are acting up on me. I also think it may not be able to handle too many pictures, so you will just have to stay tuned for our next installment tomorrow when we travel to the Mirage on our Casino Adventure Night.

Friday, June 6, 2008

What a Waste

I took this picture of Phil Collins for P5s about an hour before he busted out of the event in a brutal hand with Shannon Shorr (the guy sitting next to him). I liked it so much that I had to gank it and post it here though. Plus, Phil is one of the nicest guys on earth so I thought I would give him some props after a very disappointing finish. Phil is one of many, many great guys we have been covering in several of the events.
As for the photo itself, I don't have a background in photography, but I am constantly trying to make my P5s pictures more interesting and innovative than the simple portrait shot. Hopefully I will just continue to capture shots like these, but I don't want to get my hopes up.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Seeing the Sights

The past two days have been loads of fun. At work, one of the guys, Brett, and I have been on the morning shift. This means we get to the Rio around 11am and have been sent home around 5pm. Not too shabby, right? Well, with all the extra free time in the afternoon, we have decided to go exploring and see as much of Las Vegas as we can.

Day one of our little adventure went as follows: We decided to head straight to the strip after work. We parked at Bally's, wandered through Paris, tried out the video poker at the Bellagio (unsuccessfully), and Caesars Palace before spotting a Cheesecake Factory in the forum shops and deciding we needed sustinence. Post-food, our degenerate tendencies kicked in and we decided to play some cards.

Caesars poker room is BEAUTIFUL! Each table is equipped with cushy swivel chairs for all the players and a nice footrail underneath the table to prop your feet up on. When I wasn't in a hand, I spent a lot of time deducing some way to steal one of the chair's with some elaborate "Ocean's 11"-esque scheme, but I couldn't figure out anything.

While the room was beautiful, the play in there was so solid that it became somewhat difficult to win much money off of everyone. I am going to have to eat my own words and admit I missed the excess of donkeys Caesars Indiana has to offer. Granted, I only missed one or two of them, not a whole table full, but it was definitely unusual to play in a smaller stakes NL game with a bunch of people who actually pay attention to player tendencies. Brett managed to rack up 30 bucks while I walked away with $85, so I am going to consider this evening a success.

Yesterday, Jill (I can't find her P5s profile, or I would link), Brett, and I were sent home around 5pm and we came back to the house for a little bit to eat, unwind, and watch some "COPS" (no cable here, so we take what we can get). Jill was exhausted and decided to stay in for the evening while Brett and I headed for the MGM Grand. "Headed" being the operative word here. After passing the Grand and eventually making a giant loop that took upwards of half an hour to complete, we finally arrived only to park, walk in the opposite direction through the parking garage, and make yet another big loop on foot. This trend of making a big circle in order to get to our destination continued throughout the evening.

Brett made a great call when he said we should video poker it up again. I had a machine that was hot hot hot and turned my $20 into $75 after hitting quad sixes three different times. Brett, who is not the seasoned video poker pro I am, did not fare as well and, in fact, appeared to be suffering from some VP tilt, so we decided to go play real poker instead.

MGM Grand's room? Not as nice as Caesars, but the granite inlay around the rail of the table was nice. Unlike Caesars, where I was surrounded by super friendly and talkative people, this table played $1/$2 in virtual silence. On top of that, I could get nothing going and it was getting late, so I played kinda bad and managed to lost $60. For those of you keeping track, that means I am only up $40 over two days, but I will take any victory, no matter how small.

If you want to read some more poker-centric blogging of my escapades in Vegas, you need to check out asap! Or, whenever you get a chance, considering we will be covering events for the next six weeks.