It Always Comes Back to Balance, Doesn’t It?

Hey Guys,

Couple of things before I get into this post… I’ve finally gotten my blog rehosted and up and running.  There should be no problems from here on out.  I should warn you, I’ve been sleeping very poorly, and I’m currently failing at trying to fall asleep.  If this post is a bit rambly and weird… no complaining… you’ve been warned.

I wrote this without thinking or editing much.  As I said when I started this new blog, I want to share a little more of the real me.  So far the feedback I’ve gotten has been in tune with that… you guys said you liked seeing how I handle my downswings, how I think through things.  I’ve been continuing to deal with the current downswing, and I wanted to share a bit more about it.  I’ll continue to try my best to be open and honest.  For anyone out there who still views me as invincible or a poker superhero, I hope I don’t completely shatter your image of me.




I feel like half of the advice I’ve ever given, regardless of the topic, could be summed up in one simple word:

“Advice”  Just kidding…   “Balance”

In high level poker, being well balanced is something I stress tremendously, and something I think about constantly while playing.  Anyone who’s read any articles or watched any videos of mine probably gets annoyed by how much I stress it.  Sometimes I even add it when it’s unnecessary:  “I think the best play here is to check-raise… obviously I’ll have to balance with check-raising some of my weaker hands, and of course I won’t ALWAYS check-raise this hand… maybe 80% of the time.”  PHIL, just say “I’d check-raise.”

I can’t help it.  It’s kind of an OCD type thing in poker for me, where I feel if I don’t state the disclaimers that I’d be giving incorrect advice, or be advocating a flawed strategy.  And if I were to ever employ a strategy that is drastically unbalanced, I don’t know what I fear would happen.  My face would fall off or something.  I just can’t bring myself to do it.

Anyways, what I was thinking about today was another kind of balance that I’ve always advocated to poker players: Balance in life.

Ever since I started playing poker, I’ve had plenty of poker playing friends.  However, the friends that I spend most of my down time with were always non poker players.  This was something that was extremely soothing (can’t find a better word to describe it) for me, especially during my early-ish years where I was grinding day in and day out.  After I dropped out of college, I stayed in Madison, WI for a while.  I loved it there, and I loved my friends there.  I would go from a 60 hour week at my computer to hanging out at a bar with eight people who knew absolutely nothing about poker, and barely knew anything about the details of my career in poker.   I’d play for 14 hours and then wind down by watching a couple hours of TV with my roommate, who, again, had a relationship with me built entirely on non-poker life.

Even though I’d stopped school (which had been helpful for balance), I had my friends, I was in an improv company that performed and practiced weekly… it was as if I was leading two lives, in a way:  Phil-the-poker-player and Phil-the-regular-person.  This was very very helpful for me.  I needed an escape from poker.  I truly believe it’s absolutely necessary in order to live a healthy and happy life.

From Madison, WI, I moved to New York, NY.  I moved their with a friend of mine, and following a handful of our other friends who had moved there in the previous 1-2 years.  I built (not literally) a home that I loved, I played some flag football, formed new relationships while maintaining my current ones, and achieved a balance similar to the one I had in Madison.  I was happy again.  Or happy still.  Whatever.

Fast forward to 2011.  Boo.  2011 sucked.  I was already having a bad year, and then Black Friday turned my world upside down.

My life is not at all the same.  I don’t feel as though I have a home anymore.  I spend some time in Vegas, some time in Vancouver, a tiny bit in New York, and some more in Maryland.  I sleep in four different beds.  I don’t feel as though I can focus and build a life and routine anywhere.  The only city of those that I have a solid core of non poker friends is New York, where I’ve spent the least amount of time.

So, I rarely hang out with friends anymore, other than a few poker friends.  Don’t get me wrong, I have some poker friends who I absolutely love and love spending time with… It’s just not an escape from poker.  I don’t have any regular activities going on, as I don’t know how worthwhile it is to start doing something ‘regularly’ when I’ll be in a different city soon.

My daily routine usually consists of waking up whenever I stop sleeping, playing poker, eating while playing poker, waiting for games to run, playing poker, and trying to fall asleep while I watch TV.  I’ve lost my balance.

For the first few months, this was fine.  I missed online poker badly, and I was so excited to be playing.  I was crushing, studying my game, working hard and putting in a ton of hours.  And I was having fun doing all of that.  All seemed great.

Things have changed since then.  First of all, it’s been a while, and the reality is setting in that this is not a business trip… it’s my new life.  I don’t know if and when I’ll move back full time to one city, or what city that would even be.  I have left behind many of my best friends in the world, who mean much more to me than anything poker can give me, for who knows how long.  I no longer miss online poker, as I’ve now played more hands in six months than in any of the last five years.

And now, what’s worse is: I’m losing.

See, normally, I have a lot of things going on in my life… a lot of things that make me happy.  If poker was going badly, I had my friends, my activities.  I truly was leading two lives.  Phil-the-poker-player was losing and stressed, but Phil-the-regular-person had a full life outside of poker that even a $1.5m downswing couldn’t put a scratch on.

So now, I’m in Vancouver on a downswing.  A somewhat rough one, though no worse than I’ve experienced many times before.  But this time, it’s different.  I step away from my computer and what do I have?

I can go out with my poker friends.  It will be fun, but I won’t stop thinking about poker.  We’ll definitely talk about poker.  I won’t forget about how much money I just lost, or how much EV I’ll miss out on if I don’t have enough online $ to play in some good bigger games if they run.

I can go for a walk.  That helps me sometimes.  It’s a nice escape, for maybe an hour.  Now I’m back home.  I can go watch TV?  I can take a nap?  I can look at the Pokerstars lobby and watch other people play poker.  I can talk to friends on AIM (mostly poker friends) while watching other people play poker.  I can write a blog post for other poker players to read.

I think that just about does it for my options.  Sound depressing?  It feels depressing, but like… I know I’m not supposed to be depressed.

The reality is, my life is great.  I would be an idiot to think anything different.  If the above sounds like complaining, well, it kind of is, but I know that I have it good.  Better than good.  I think I chose to write about this now because I know it will help me.  I know that when talking to you guys, I have to admit to myself that I have a very good life.  I’m forced to accept that fact.  I’m forced to stop feeling sorry for myself because I know how many poker players would love to be in my shoes.  I have had every advantage in life, and if I am unhappy and remain unhappy, I have no one to blame but myself.

Look, downswings hurt.  They’ll always hurt.  Losing is painful, and losing money is stressful.

But the truth is, as long as I keep my level of play up, put in some reasonable hours, and stay responsible, I should never be under any “real world” financial stress.  I really should treat poker like a video game.  The money shouldn’t matter outside of the game.  Sure, I’m competitive and passionate about this game, and I want to win badly.  I will of course feel bad when I lose.  But once I shut down the game, turn off my computer, and leave my office, I’m back to my regular life.  The game is left behind until I play it tomorrow, or whenever it is that I start again.

My regular life should be awesome.  I have the freedom to work when I want, and my job is playing a game that I love.  I have great friends, my health, an amazing family.  So why doesn’t it feel that way now?

Obviously it’s my lack of balance.  I need my friends and my real life to remind myself that there is a Phil-the-regular-person.  I need to be reminded that there is more to life than how much money I won or lost today, or how much confidence I have in my game, or how much EV I’m missing out on by not playing tonight.  I need to remember that it’s just a game.

When Waluigi wins a race in Mario Kart, he feels amazing.  When he loses, he’s miserable.  That’s all he has.  When you turn off your Wii and to out to dinner, he’s still in there racing.

For the last eight months, I’ve been living my life stuck inside a game.  When I lose, it hurts badly, because it’s all I have now.  Some days I win, some days I lose, but it has to be either one or the other.  There are no alternate outcomes for me each day.  I am either playing poker, or doing other things in order to play poker… I need to grab something for lunch and dinner so I can play all day.  I need to fall asleep soon so I can wake up for games tomorrow.  I need to go for a walk to clear my head so I’ll play well.

What I really need to do is leave the game and walk away into my real life, but I don’t have a real life to walk away into anymore.

Over the last few months, I’ve actually tilted to the point of clearly playing worse on more than a couple of occasions.  That’s something that never has happened to me in my first full seven years as a poker player.  That should have been my first clear warning sign that something was very wrong.

At least now I know what the problem is.  That’s the first step, right?  Next, I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to do about it.  Easier said than done.

My current plan:  Post this blog.  Sleep.  Figure it out later.

Thanks for listening, guys.  Sorry if this was ridiculous.  At the very least, hopefully you can take this as a warning to not fall into the trap that I managed to avoid for seven years before falling into now.  Balance is important, and I believe that nothing is more important in your life than your relationships with other people, and your day to day happiness.  I’d even go so far as to say that those are very important parts of your poker game as well.

Take care and good luck.


Sometimes I Lose

Hey guys,

Two videos in a row!  This one is just me talking with no plan.  I was thinking that would make it more of a “blog” than, I dunno, a speech.  I covered my recent downswing and my own mentality during downers, my NYC condo, and I forget what else.  As always, feedback and questions are much appreciated.


Let’s Make Some Changes

Hey Guys,

Heads Up Action!

I wrestled a bit with how to present some of these thoughts.  I think that this covers some important topics, and I really hope that I can spark some discussion and potentially improve online poker for all of us.  I first thought that I’d write this like a proper article, collecting opinions from all of the players I respected, and carefully offering some well thought out solutions to many of our problems.

I changed my mind, though.  This is my blog, and I should share my own thoughts and opinions.  I shouldn’t create an artificial discussion, where it’s only between me and my poker friends.  I should present problems, weigh in, and let the discussion grow organically from there.  I sincerely hope that this post will lead to the entire online community discussing some potential improvements and solutions for the way the games are played these days.  I hope (and expect) that this will be something that the poker sites will listen to.

Because of this, I’d ask that you please spread the word, share this, and form discussions wherever you feel would be best.  You have my permission to re-post the full contents of this page.  (Though you’ll probably want to just use clips)

These are simply my observations and opinions, and I encourage everyone to chime in with theirs, even (and especially) if you fully disagree with me.  I will write a follow-up post some time in the future, after taking into account any discussion I can find.  Thanks.


The online poker landscape has changed over the last few years.  Unfortunately, for the most part, things have changed for the worse.

As edges (and the regulars’ bankrolls, it seems) have decreased, extra edge-seeking has grown and grown.  In my opinion, it’s now past a reasonable level.   It’s gotten to the point where I think the overall quality of the games is suffering.

Game selection and seat selection are part of the soft skills that make a professional, along with tilt control, bankroll management, and all other kinds of work ethic.  I thoroughly respect and endorse playing within your means and your comfort zone.  I have no problem whatsoever with people who choose only to play in great games.   It’s starting to go much further than that, however.

As soon as a “spot” leaves a game, zero to one hands are played.  It literally instantly breaks.  It’s worse when the player hasn’t even left the table, but has simply busted his stack, or clicked sit out.  Everyone sits out with him, and when he reloads, everyone sits back in.  How would you feel if you were playing poker for fun, just lost a $10k stack, and the 5 people at your table instantly sit out?  Takes a little bit of the fun out of poker, I would think.  I know that I personally would go from being annoyed that I lost a big pot to being completely embarrassed that this whole table and waitlist full of people think that I’m so bad that they are all only there because of me, and wouldn’t even play a single hand of poker with each other had I not been there.

Some of this issue stems from people having an unreasonably sized fear of playing in a –EV game.  Ignore for a second that playing with tough players will make you a better player yourself, or that poker is a sport-like game that you were attracted to because of your love for competition.   How many BBs will you lose in EV playing 30 hands with a few regulars?  Are you really that much worse than all of them that it will cost you greatly?

-2bb/100 is a pretty high loss-rate for any regular in a game of regulars.  So if you stayed another 30 hands, you’d lose two-thirds of a BB EV at most, if you’re the worst Reg at the table.  If you can’t afford that risk, you’re playing above your bankroll.

The next problem that seems to have caused this is a trend that made its way over from the limit games:  Button wars.  I believe that there are plenty of games that would normally continue running after a weak player leaves, but everyone INSTANTLY sits out due to their fear of getting buttoned.  I don’t honestly know how much EV I’m losing by trying to keep the games going, or how much people are making by rushing for the button.  I just know that it’s causing the games to run less often, and the casual players to be more forcefully humiliated.

The poker community as a whole usually decides what’s acceptable, ethically, and what’s not – and it’s ever changing.  Nowadays – sitting at a HU table and playing only your button = bad, Multi-accounting = bad, datamining = questionable, HUDs = cool, PTR = ???? etc.

Things like instantly sitting out when a game breaks, or 3 people sitting at a table but sitting out (waiting for someone specific usually)… they haven’t been fully condemned or approved yet, it seems.

Yes, I was annoyed enough to take a screenshot.

In addition to the sit-down-sit-out problem, we’ve had the Heads-Up lobby problem for a long time: 50 people waiting alone at HU tables, 95% of whom won’t play a hand with anyone but an absolute fish.

As much as the poker community can frown upon something, there’s only so much they can do to stop individuals from doing it.  I believe that it ultimately, for changes to occur, it will have to come from the poker sites themselves taking action.

I’ve heard plenty of ideas about how to deal with certain problems, and I’ve come up with some on my own.  I wanna take a minute and share my thoughts on how I think we can improve the games.

Before I dive into some, we should start with what this even means: “Improve the games”

Improving the games will look different for some players than for others.  For instance, it would benefit me if they created a rule that when you sit down to play at a table, you’re locked in for 30 minutes, regardless of who comes or goes, unless you get stacked.  I would get more action from the bumhunting regulars if a spot left games.  This, of course, isn’t good for everyone, and isn’t something we should all accept as good for the games.   Another example that would benefit me is making all tables anonymous… no screen names when everyone sits down.  Again, this is something that many would disagree with (and something I’ll revisit later).

In determining if a rule or feature is “good for the game,” I believe the goals are as follows:

1.       Make playing poker an easy and fun experience for both pros and recreational players

-Should be self-explanatory.  Let’s not scare anyone away

2.     Close loopholes that allow unethical players to gain an advantage over those who choose to be more honest.

-Don’t punish the good guys

3.       Promote the play of more hands

-In addition to more regular games being good for players, it’s obviously something that poker sites have major financial incentive to do.  We need their goals to be met as well as ours.

Okay, now that we have something to work with, let’s dive into the ideas/problems (These are not necessarily my ideas, just ideas I’ve heard and my opinions about them):


Databases/HUDs/Tracking Sites

I’ve heard differing views on these, whether they are good or bad for the game.

It’s my opinion that result tracking sites are bad for everyone.  For the recreational player, it could be embarrassing for their losses to be publicly displayed.  For pros, it’s led to an increased level of bumhunting… much less action, which is bad for the poker sites as well.

Personal DBs and HUDs are a bit different.  No one’s results are public, which takes care of a lot of my issues with tracking sites.  That said, databases and HUDs put the recreational player at a greater disadvantage than they already are.  Sure, they’re allowed to use a HUD as well, but that’s a dumb argument.  I am not saying DBs and HUDs are UNFAIR… only that they hurt the recreational players further.

What’s more important, by far, is that they are scary.  If a recreational player saw what your screen looked like while you played against them, how much less would they be excited to play?  And some may not understand what a HUD is… some will talk about how the internet pros use programs that play for them or cheat, and use that as a reason not to play online.  Obviously, that’s not what we’re doing, but we can’t prevent people from thinking that.

I personally don’t think the sites should ban HUDs.  (I do think they should shut down tracking sites however possible)

The main reason I’m against banning HUDs is that it’s unenforceable.  Players will still be able to “illegally” use HUDs and gain a large advantage over those who abide by the rules.  If they could actually stop them, I’d be all for it, but that’s just not a reality.

The best way to slightly level the playing field, and to derail tracking sites, is with screen names.

1. Screen Name Changes

Some sites already allow you to change your screen name every so often.  Some sites don’t, and they punish multiaccounting as best they can.  Some are very lax with opening new accounts on different skins.
The main problem with the sites that don’t allow screen name changes is that some people will multiaccount and not get caught.  This will give them an unfair advantage over those who choose not to multiaccount.  In a perfect world, multiaccounting (or name changes) is either completely allowed, or it’s strictly enforced.  Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for a site to catch everyone.  For this reason, I tend to lean towards allowing screen name changes as a solution to this problem.

Downsides of allowing SN changes:

1. More difficult for the public to uncover collusion or other cheating

2. Railbirds don’t get the enjoyment of following their favorite players


1. No one gains an unfair advantage

2. Tracking sites and DBs become less accurate/usable (much better for pros and recreational players)

With any decision, there will be pros and cons.  None of these issues I cover will be a slam dunk.  I’m sure many people will disagree with my views for the above reasons or for some that I haven’t considered.  With all of this, my goal is to start discussion.  I’m not assuming that I have all the answers.

My suggestion for the screen name issue is as follows:  Sites allow players to change their screen name every 2 months.  Players will still have a main account name (where you send transfers to, that they login with).  At stakes 50/100nl/plo and higher (and equivalent limit games), players account names will show at the table.  At stakes 25/50 and lower, only their screen name will.  (I firmly believe player notes should NOT be carried over when one changes SN, as it defeats the purpose and encourages real multi-accounting)

This system is mostly the normal screen name change system, but it has a loophole so that people can still rail the high stakes games.  Under this system, sites should be very vigilant in going after those who multi-account at high stakes.  We also should have faith in the site’s security, as we’ll be more dependant on them to stop collusion rings and other potential cheaters.

2. Anonymous HU tables (or 6m tables)

This idea has been thrown around a bunch, and used sometimes.  The benefits and risks are very similar to the above section (changing screen names).  I personally believe that SN changes accomplishes the same thing, but better.

Players won’t all of a sudden start playing more games because they’re anonymous.  If anything, all of the game selectors will be overly frightened that they’ll be playing an elite pro.

I’m not opposed to offering some Anonymous HU tables as an option, in case people want it, but I don’t think it solves much, and certainly not anything that SN changes wouldn’t already solve.

3.  HU Tables/Lobby

This is a tough one.  I’ve heard many players debate the two most common systems for HU tables:

1)  Infinite HU tables – Whoever wants to create and sit at a HU table is allowed to.  Lobby displays all of the tables.

2) King of the Hill – A specific number of (non-full) HU tables are allowed at any point.  This means that those willing to play anyone will end up “holding” the tables, as the only way to take it from them is to play against one of them until they leave.

I probably will tiptoe a bit on this one, as I am clearly biased.  A King of the Hill situation would be very profitable for me.  I’ll do my best to be objective, and hope that this can spark some good discussion.

I believe that something HAS to be done to the current system.  A lobby of 25 players sitting alone at HU tables is ridiculous, and bad for the game, in my opinion.  As much as no player deserves priority over another, it’s clear that someone who gives action is better for the game and better for a poker site than someone who doesn’t.  That said, someone who chooses to exclusively bumhunt is well within their rights, and should be allowed to do so.

The problem with Infinite tables is that it discourages action, both amongst regulars, and between regulars and recreational players.  I truly believe (though I have no data) that many recreational players have been turned off enough to stop playing by the way that games form around them, and ONLY around them.  All of the players sitting alone looks awful.

King of the Hill (from now on: KotH) encourages action between regulars and makes online poker less intimidating and embarrassing for recreational players.  It gives priority to stronger players, and those who give action.  (This could be considered a good or bad thing, but certainly is good from a sites perspective, as it encourages players to give action)

A major downside of KotH is that it could prevent some games from occurring.  If average reg A and average reg B would be willing to play each other, they no longer have a chance to, since neither will claim a HU table, and neither wants to play Tough pro A, B, or C in order to get that table.  This was a very good argument against KotH structure four years ago.  It doesn’t totally hold water today.  It’s very rare that these HU matches are taking place.  That said, it still would be bad to prevent them from happening, should things ever change and people start playing poker again.

My proposal is:  Maximum of 5 HU tables that aren’t running.  Infinite running tables, of course.  At a 6max or full table, you can right click on anyone, and choose ‘play HU’ in a drop down menu.  They are NOT notified of this.  If each of you click it for each other, a button pops up that says “Create HU Table with xxxxx?”.  Assuming you both click yes, you get a HU table created for you (and you can always add more HU tables).

The reason I think people shouldn’t be notified is that everyone will challenge the weak players, and it will get embarrassing and annoying for them.  They may feel pressured to play HU to ‘not back down’ even when they’re uncomfortable with it.  Sure, you can both decide in chat that you want to, but I think that system won’t be any worse than the current system… people still try to steal weaker players from a game in chat.

What I like about this solution, is that the lobby won’t be full of HU tables, but anyone has the opportunity to play HU.  You can have a HU table when you are ACTUALLY going to play someone HU.

It gives a small advantage to the players willing to play anyone, who will get to hold the static tables, however I don’t think that’s unfair.  Hopefully it will encourage some action to fight over those spots.  The down side of this, mainly, is that it’s a little bit complicated.  I just thought of this, so I haven’t worked out the kinks, and I hope people will discuss it and perhaps come up with some cleaner solutions.

I’ve also heard it suggested that anyone at a HU table should be forced to play 10 hands if someone sits with them.  While I understand the value in this, I like my proposed solution much more.

4.  Round Robin Tables/Games  (Similar to Rush Poker)

The idea here, basically, is that rather than joining a table of 5 other players, you join a group/lobby of, say, 30 players.  You’re randomly seated at a table of 6, and that table changes.  Rush Poker had it change every hand.  Maybe it could change every 10 hands, or 30 hands.

The point is, many more games will run off of fewer ‘spots’.

I like some of the merits of this idea, but I’m not 100% sold.  I do feel strongly that it shouldn’t replace the normal poker table system, as table dynamics and history are a very important and interesting part of the game.  One major downside here is that we split the player pool at each limit.  Half may choose to play at Round Robin tables, and half at traditional tables.  This could potentially lead to fewer games running.

5.  Must Move Tables

This is the idea that I feel most strongly about.  It’s worked in cardrooms around the world for years.  Why do we not have it online??

Must move tables are pretty self explanatory.  If over 4 people are on a list for a game, a must move game is started with them.  I believe that no one should be forced to play HU in a most move game.  I think 4 players is a good minimum, though perhaps 3 could work.

Clearly, this would lead to at least twice as many games running at higher stakes.  (especially with must moves into the must moves)

Do I really need to expand upon this?  Guys, Pokerstars?  Can we please do this?!?!

6.  Rewards/Promotions for Game Starters and Hands Played

This is really a couple of random ideas.  The first is simply that sites could hold promotions every week, day, whenever.  “During the hours of 6pm and 10pm EST today, whoever wins the most BBs and whoever plays the most hands wins $5000 each”  (and other prizes, you can be creative)  Obviously, this needs to only count at 6max or full ring tables, to avoid friends chip dumping.  This doesn’t solve any huge problems, but seems like an easy promo to get people to play more (and more tables) which is something the sites want.  I assume the extra rake generated will pay for the prizes easily.  This seems to me like a more exciting and more tangible replacement for ‘Happy Hour’.

The 2nd has to do with VPPs, rakeback, whatever else sites can offer players.  I believe that players who start games are more valuable to a poker site.  If you played 300k hands this year, but only when a massive fish is at a table, sure you raked $ for the site, but you didn’t really make them anything.  Had you not been there, someone else would’ve sat in your seat and played.  The poker site would have made the same amount of rake.  They shouldn’t value you, to put it bluntly.  I don’t think they should punish you, of course.  I just think that they should go out of their way to reward the players who are bringing value to the site.

If I’m a recreational player, and every time I sit at 25/50, I can start 3 games from nothing, I think I deserve more in rewards than the players who flock to me.  If I’m a reg who’s willing to take on anyone, who is the first to sit and the last to sit out, I believe I deserve more rewards as well.

The rewards will never be big enough to change the way games are started/played at high stakes, but they could make a difference in the smaller games, and to be honest, I think it’s just more fair.  Those who create games should be rewarded.  (by the way, I don’t personally create many games, so I’m not talking about myself)

7.  Addressing the Button War Problem, Games INSTA-breaking

Guys, this one has me stumped.  I could use some help.  The way that everyone rushes for the ‘sitout next BB’ button as soon as someone leaves the table (or even sits out) is so horrible for the games.  It’s embarrassing, honestly.

I can’t for the life of me come up with a solution, though.  Sure, you can force two hands to be played when it breaks to HU, but then everyone is just buttoning the last two players rather than the last one.  I’m not sure if this can be fixed with rule changes, but I don’t have much faith in the community to change it on it’s own.  As much as I believe it really doesn’t hurt anyone to play an extra 20 minutes at a tough table, I know that most people don’t see it that way.  As long as everyone has a fear of being buttoned, they’ll continue to button each other.


Okay, that’s all for now.  Again, please chime in, whether here, or on any forum you think a discussion could grow on.  Not sure if tackling one idea/issue at a time, or trying to touch on all of them (+ any more ideas you guys have) will be best.

Thanks!  Take care, guys.


Video Blog Test Run

Hey Guys,

As promised,  here’s my first shot at a vid blog.  I just wanted to get something done quickly so I could get some feedback and ideas for future videos.  Please, please, please let me know what you like/dislike and what you’d like to see in the future.

I hand-picked a couple of the questions from the comments on my previous blogs.  In the future, I might go ahead and ask for questions, or give you an email address to send to or something.  Again though, I’m looking for any ideas/suggestions you have.





A Couple of Hands

Hey Guys,

I know you’ve had high expectations of me after my two long blog posts on my first day.  I’ve been at the tables almost nonstop since then.  The nature of higher stakes cash games is such that sometimes I’ll have plenty of free time, and other times I’ll have none.  I guess that’s my preemptive apology/excuse for the next time I’m gone a while.

I probably will go to bed soon and try to wake up for tomorrow’s games, but I didn’t wanna leave you hanging for too long, so I’ve decided to share a hand with you that I think some may find non-standard.  For some, maybe it is standard, but perhaps for the wrong reasons:


Poker Stars $50/$100 Pot Limit Omaha Hi $20 Ante – 3 players

DeucesCracked Poker Videos Hand History Converter

BB: $10165.50

BTN: $21627.00

Hero (SB): $11465.00

Pre Flop: ($210.00) Hero is SB with K of diamonds 7 of clubs J of clubs K of clubs

BTN raises to $300, Hero calls $250,

Both players are strong players, though their tendencies differ.  The button opens fairly wide in late position, but I feel that calling the first time around with my KKJ7cc plays a little bit better for many reasons, even though I’m certainly well ahead of his range here.

Looking at my options facing the initial raise:

1) I can 3bet

The + side is that I’ll be well ahead of the button’s range, and he’ll often call with a hand that mine dominates.

The – side(s):

-The button is a strong player, and he has position on me.  Although my hand is strong, I don’t think I’m making a ton of money playing a 3bet pot OOP to him.  He will do a good amount of floating/bluffraising/slowplaying/etc. to make my life hard.

-BOTH the button and the BB are capable of 4betting light.  They both, of course, will also 4bet AAxx.  With my particular hand, I would be in an extremely tough spot facing a 4bet from either player, and this is a reasonably likely possibility.  If they were both so reckless that I could count on a 4bet, it would be a different story:  I just 3bet and happily jam over their 4bet, but I think they both have very “good” and balanced 4betting ranges in this spot.

Basically, I view 3betting as:  Best case, I’m HU oop with slightly the better hand against a very strong player.  Worst case, I face a 4bet and hate my life.  I either fold the best hand too often, or get it in with 30% equity too often.  The fact that I have specifically KK in this spot makes their 4betting tendencies a big problem for me.

2) I can call:

The – side of calling is that I don’t get more money in against the buttons loose opening range.  If you want to look at it more meta: I don’t punish his loose opening strategy, and I “let him get away with” stealing light.  I’m not super worried about this, as I still have plenty of hands in my 3bet range (as does the BB).

The + side of calling is that I have a hand that plays very well in a single raised pot, both HU or 3way.  Sure, I have a hand that could be a profitable 3bet, but that doesn’t mean that a call isn’t as or more profitable.  There’s still plenty of value in playing this hand for one bet.

Another benefit is…

BB raises to $1260, BTN calls $960,

The BB has a wide 3betting range here vs. a button open and SB call (both not very strong ranges, so he’s right to have a wide 3b range).

I now find myself in another interesting spot where I have some options.  This is where I think my opinion differs from many of my opponents.

I have the ability to re-pot here and get in about half of our stacks with a reasonable equity advantage.  This might not be true against some other opponents, but I believe that the Button has AAxx less than 2% of the time (and still has a good chunk of his stealing range hands), and the BB has a range of, I’d guess maybe 20%ish of hands, slightly less probably.  Against those ranges I have:

Not bad at all.  

The problem that I see with 4betting is that I’m pushing a very small edge in a spot where I think I can find a bigger one.  (I should point out, that if I 4bet, BB calls, and button folds, that would be very good result for me as well)

When I 4bet with this hand, I’m going to be pushing a very small equity edge preflop, and essentially no playability edge postflop.  What I mean by that is, my opponents aren’t going to be making more mistakes than I am postflop.  For instance, it looks a lot like I could have AAxx when I 4bet.  However, if the flop comes A87r, and one of them has AKT3, they aren’t folding with 1/3 PSB left.

This is how I like to analyze decisions on all streets between forcing the money in now or waiting till later:  First, do I have an equity edge or fold equity?  Second, who is going to have the advantage on future streets?

In this case, I’d say that I have a small equity edge with very little fold equity.  I’d say that the Button has the slight playability advantage, followed by me, and then the BB, who will have to face my flop shove with the Button yet to act behind him.

Given those things, I can be sure that a 4bet is “profitable” in that it’s better than outright folding my hand.  However, I think that calling has a lot of value that many people may overlook.

When I call here, I still am getting SOME money in good (just not as much).  But what’s very important, in my opinion, is that I have a ton of playability postflop.  

1) My hand is one that flops well very often.  

2) Most of the time that my hand suffers a huge equity loss against their ranges is when an Ace flops.  This is extremely easy for me to identify (just look to see if there’s an Ace on the board), and play accordingly.  I call this having good “visibility,” which will allow me to make very good decisions postflop.

3) Even though I’m first to act, I actually have the BEST position of all three of us.  

Very often, I’ll check, and the BB will cbet with a lot of his range.  Now the Button is forced to make a decision (for his stack, usually), and I get to wait and see what he does.  If the button folds, I can breakdown the BBs preflop range, estimate how often he’d cbet that particular board, and make an informed decision.  If the button shoves, I can get away from a lot of marginal hands, or reship with my monster hands.

OR, the BB will check behind, indicating a weak range, the button will then bet a (likely) polarized range, and I still have a very good grasp of their ranges.

Looking at it from their perspectives, it should be obvious that the button will be in an awful spot on the flop – facing a cbet with me behind him.  If you think about it, the BB is also in a pretty tough spot, deciding if he should cbet into two, knowing that if he doesn’t, he’ll give his hand strength away as weak (usually), and that the button is still behind him to take advantage of that.

Because of all that, I believe that calling is a better option than 4betting, even though we are “leaving” money on the table with the best of it.


Hero calls $960


As it turns out in this actual hand, everything came together perfectly for me.  I flopped a very strong draw, the BB cbet, forcing the button into a VERY tough spot with his weak draw, and I was able to reship behind with way the best of it:

Flop: ($3840.00) 3 of clubs A of clubs T of hearts (3 players)

Hero checks, BB bets $3200, BTN raises to $13439, Hero calls $10185 all in, BB calls $5685.50 all in

Turn: ($33095.50) A of hearts (3 players – 2 are all in)

River: ($33095.50) 3 of hearts (3 players – 2 are all in)

Final Pot: $33095.50

BB shows 4 of diamonds Q of clubs J of diamonds 8 of clubs (a pair of Aces)

BTN shows 6 of clubs 5 of clubs 4 of clubs 7 of spades (a pair of Aces)

Hero shows K of diamonds 7 of clubs J of clubs K of clubs (two pair, Aces and Kings)

Hero wins $2599.00

Hero wins $30495.50

(Rake: $1.00)


Aaaaaand for my second hand, I’ll just whine:


Poker Stars $50/$100 Pot Limit Omaha Hi $20 Ante – 2 players

DeucesCracked Poker Videos Hand History Converter

Isildur1 (BB): $64780.00

Hero (BTN/SB): $51263.00

Pre Flop: ($190.00) Hero is BTN/SB with 6 of spades 4 of spades 2 of clubs 4 of diamonds

Hero raises to $300, Isildur1 raises to $940, Hero calls $640

Flop: ($1920.00) 4 of hearts 9 of spades 3 of diamonds (2 players)

Isildur1 bets $1400, Hero raises to $4350, Isildur1 calls $2950

Turn: ($10620.00) T of diamonds (2 players)

Isildur1 checks, Hero bets $7850, Isildur1 raises to $34169.50, Hero raises to $45953 all in, Isildur1 calls $11783.50

River: ($102526.00) Q of hearts (2 players – 1 is all in)

Final Pot: $102526.00

Isildur1 shows 8 of spades J of hearts J of clubs 7 of clubs (a straight, Eight to Queen)

Hero shows 6 of spades 4 of spades 2 of clubs 4 of diamonds (three of a kind, Fours)

Isildur1 wins $102525.50

(Rake: $0.50)


Take care, guys.


Goodbye 2011, America, and Other Bad Things

Hey Guys,

It’s finally 2012!  By the way, it’s easier to type “2012” if you call it “twenty-twelve” rather than “two-thousand-twelve” in your head.  I always first type out “20012” before correcting it (which is actually neither, now that I think about it).

2011 was definitely the roughest year of my life to date, both professionally and personally (coincidence?  doubt it), so I’m extremely excited to be done with it and moving forward.  It was a rough year for all of us who call online poker our profession or even those who just love to play.   I’m frustrated enough that I had to leave my home, friends, and country to continue working.  When I think about some of the poker players who aren’t as fortunate as me, I get even more frustrated for them.  Those with families that they can’t simply uproot, those who don’t earn enough to be able to travel back and forth out of the country and cover the cost of two leases or mortgages, those who were playing part time while working another job or going to school.  All of those people had online poker completely taken away from them.

I don’t know any more than the rest of you guys in terms of when and how things will change for online poker in the US, but I’m very hopeful for it’s future.  It just seems like a no-brainer, win-win-win situation for the US to get I-Poker legalized and regulated (my uneducated opinion).

After Black Friday, I left New York and headed to Vegas early.  I normally head there right around the start of the WSOP.  I had just started renting an apartment in Vegas year round, which turned out to be great timing for me.  Compared to past summers, staying in hotels or in houses with huge groups of (awesome) guys, I really enjoyed living alone in my own space.  That’s something that’s extremely important to me, for my happiness and sanity.  It’s the reason I don’t travel the circuit, playing the EPTs, WPTs, NAPTs, WSOPEs, and all the other letters.

Some people love to travel.  They go crazy doing the same things day in and day out, and can’t wait for their next adventure.  I’m not one of those people.  Waking up in the same bed, sitting at the same desk, walking to the same grocery store… I need those things.

After leaving my comfortable NYC home and routine, I slowly settled into my Vegas home and routine.  The summer went, I don’t know, fine.  I won a little bit in the cash games, though not as much as I’d have liked given how good they were, and how much I was playing.  I probably played more hands of live poker this summer than the rest of my life combined.  I also played only a few tournaments, with no success (whatever).

At the end of the series, I left Vegas with a couple of friends and headed to Vancouver.  New home, new routine.  (All of a sudden, I find myself having three homes… wtf)  It’s been almost five months now (though I’ve been out of town for a good chunk of that), and I’ve finally gotten comfortable and used to it here.  I love the city.  Vancouver has most of the great things NYC has, but with friendlier people, cleaner streets, more nature, and better weather.  Sure, it rains a lot here, but I like the rain.  I actually think Vancouver is my favorite city I’ve spent time in.  (As a matter of fact, I’ve really liked everything Canada-related thus far in my life)

Since I moved here only knowing a few people, and poker people at that, I decided to make it a business trip of sorts.  I’ve been playing hard, working on my game, trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, I even started doing some writing in my “free time” (In reality, all of my time is free time).  I’ve played around 200k hands since August… pretty crazy for someone who has been playing under 50k hands a year.  I started off crushing, but have been hit the other side of variance lately.  I’m still very proud of how productive I’ve been over this time.

Online nosebleeds have disappeared with FTP, so I’ve mostly been playing 25/50 and 50/100.  Sure, some 100/200 and 200/400 mixed in, and some 500/1k limit games from time to time, but it’s mostly been just (regular) high stakes.  I’m actually loving it.  Since I’m comfortably rolled, I’m not nearly as stressed as I used to be when playing.  (Spending a week waiting for good 500/1k PLO games to run so that you can 2 table it is an awful career and lifestyle)

Due to this, I’ve completely fallen back in love with poker.  Almost every day, I wake up and can’t wait to play.  I walk to my desk praying that there will be 6+ tables running… 3 tables isn’t enough action for me.  I suppose some might call this a gambling addiction, but I like to pretend that it’s good work ethic.

Since I’m well rolled for the smaller games, there’s no PLO game I won’t play in.  I’ve always wanted to take on any and all comers, as I love HU PLO, and love challenging myself.   In the past, at $200/400+, I haven’t been able to afford playing any and every game, as the risk of a massive downswing was too high.  At 25/50 or 50/100, I get to challenge myself anytime someone will play.

Another nice thing about this is that my schedule isn’t at the mercy of the games.  No game is good enough that I need to miss out on sleep, and no game is bad enough that I have to sit it out.  I can play whenever I want to.  This leads to such a healthier and happier life, I’ve found.  If and when nosebleeds are back, I’m going to attempt to make some changes in order to keep a better schedule, even if it costs me some money.

I’ve even been taking on many of the regs at 500/1k 2-7 triple draw when there’s no PLO action.  I’m not anywhere close to as strong a player there as I am at PLO, but I love the game so much.  I would honestly play it every day if I could, but now oogee is the only person sitting and waiting who will play, and though I’ve tried many times to play with him, I know I’m very outclassed.  I will give him (or anyone else) another shot soon (for fun and practice), but I need to climb out of my recent downswing first.  I really feel as though I can get good enough to seriously compete at that game by the end of the year.

Though I’m loving Vancouver and loving poker, my life is a bit one dimensional lately.  I miss my friends in NYC (and elsewhere) a tonnnn.  I may make more of an effort to make some friends in Vancouver (non poker people), as I think it’s important to get away from poker once in a while.  That will be easier said than done though… not like I run into lots of interesting people while sitting at my computer desk all day.

Anyways, that’s my life since April.  This ended up being a little bit longer than I meant for it to, so thanks for those of you who are still with me!

I’m very much looking forward to the rest of 2012.  I’ll be playing hard and keeping you guys posted.  I already have more to say, but I’m trying to keep these at a manageable length.  Please post any feedback or questions you have.  I’ll do my best to get to them (though they’re piling up fast!  Thanks guys).

Take care.


New Year, New Blog

Hey Guys,

I’d like to wish you all a belated Happy New Year, and to welcome you to my new blog!  I just threw this together quickly.  I might have someone make it look prettier in the future.

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions personally.  That said, my New Year’s Resolution this year was to put more effort into, well, this?  Basically, I decided to try and make a concerted effort to be more accessible and communicative with the poker community.   Though I’ve never hidden from anything, I’ve definitely been fairly private.  For as much as you guys all know about my approach to the game, strategy, and my daily wins and losses, I don’t talk much about my everyday life, mindset, opinions, etc.  I’ve actually already written a post (that was going to be part of this one, but got too long), that I’ll post in a little while.

Poker, and the people who play it, have been looking not so great as of late.  All of the scandals and stories of people being unethical or just generally crappy people have been bumming me out.  I love poker, and I know a TON of poker players who are first class, honorable, amazing people.  Many of the most trustworthy and good hearted people I know, actually, are poker players.  It’s a shame that it’s not as interesting for the poker media or 2+2ers to talk about positives nearly as much as it is to talk about the negatives.

A lot of the pre-internet pros have told me about how it used to be… how telling someone you were a poker player got a much different reaction than it does now.  Because of the poker boom in the early 2000s, it’s now cool, and even respectable, to be a pro poker player.  I’d hate for it to ever go back to being something you’d be embarrassed to tell people.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for the way that Daniel Negreanu has been an ambassador for the game.  The first live event I ever played, I was at the same table with him – I was star-struck, actually.  What was crazy to me was how comfortable he made everyone at the table.  He talked to me- like, had actual conversations with me, and I was an absolute nobody.   Daniel is the first to stand up for something he believes in, to criticize someone who he thinks is in the wrong and to praise someone who deserves it.  He’s extremely accessible to the public, he’s outspoken, he’s likeable, and he’s respectable.  Daniel gives poker players a good name.

I don’t have any delusions about being like Daniel.  I’ll never be as outgoing, talkative, or as bold as he is.  I’ll never be as well-known or liked by the general public (nor do I think I’d want to… it seems hard).  I’ll also never have the tournament success Daniel has.   I just will try to put a little more of myself out there and hope that I can set a good example for some of the young online pros (now that I’m an online dinosaur), and try to play my part in giving online poker players, and all poker players, a better name.

I still plan on maintaining a certain level of privacy, of course, but hopefully you’ll be hearing a lot more from me from now on.  I’ll be putting some more effort into twitter as well (here) and I’m thinking about maybe trying to work on some video blogs or other videos sometime.  It sounds nice in theory, but I don’t really know what I’d talk about or do that wouldn’t get very repetitive (‘Hi, I lost $50k today.’  ‘Hi, I played this interesting hand’).  Any ideas?

Thanks for reading, guys.  I’ll do my best not to disappoint with this blog.  Good luck this year, at and away from the tables.

Take care.