Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Opening day

Above: Tropicana Field is home for the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.

I attended Opening Day Monday with the Tampa Bay Rays fighting it out with the Baltimore Orioles. The fans were jacked up and there was electricity in the air.

I've purchased a nine-game flex pack. That means I can go online and pick out nine games that suit my schedule. They sent me what's called a Rays Card and the admission information is loaded to it. It's about the same size as a credit card. I swiped it to park, to enter the game, and to buy food at the game. They encourage you to do this by offering discounts. Parking, for example, was half price.

I don't think the Rays will be any good this year. They have some pitching, but their hitting is awful. Batting third was Astrubal Cabrera. Cabrera had 14 HRs and 61 RBIs last year. James Loney batted fifth. He had 9 HRs last year and 69 RBIs, not who you want in this position. Evan Longoria batted clean-up and he's a good player, but you can imagine what some of the other hitters looked like.

I'm used to rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals. I guess I need to stop being a spoiled brat, and get in the spirit of things. I will say I enjoyed myself. Also, Boston, New York, and many other teams that I'd love to see are coming to town, so should be a fun summer.

Above: When you watch a baseball game in a dome, it's not the same as at an outdoor stadium. No sunshine, and funky views, such as this one.

Above: Baltimore Oriole hitter Adam Jones takes a whack at the ball.

Above: Fans came early and weren't afraid to tailgate.

Photos taken with my point-and-shoot.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Saturday at the Shoe

Above: The Horseshoe Tunica (we call it the Shoe) has the largest poker room in the Tunica area.

I had to bring mom back north from Florida. I brought her to Memphis, and my brother and sister came and picked her up for the rest of the trip to Illinois.

I haven't played much poker lately, so while here I decided to play in the Saturday Horseshoe $160 buy-in $12K guaranteed tournament. There were 99 of us (actually they allowed reentry, so that was not 99 discrete players) who wanted to donk around spend Saturday playing poker.

About two hours in, I picked up K-K and raised a full three times the big blind. I got one caller, a guy who held K 10. There were two diamonds on a queen-high flop and I couldn't bet the villain out of the hand. A diamond on the river meant I had lost 7000 out of my 14,000 chip stack (we started with 12,000).

I dribbled down to six big blinds, and shoved over a limper with J J, got called by another short stack and by the button who had A-Q. My hand held for the triple up (plus), and I was back in business.

One more hand: a guy limped in from UTG with Q 10 (mistake No. 1 -- either raise or fold) for 1200. I raised to 4200 and he called (mistake No. 2). The flop was a queen and two low cards. He checked and I bet and he called (mistake No. 3). The same thing happened on the turn and the river (for two more mistakes), and we were all in by then. I won't even tell you my hand, because it doesn't matter -- I had him crushed. You see when you play crap from UTG, and hit your hand, and lose your whole stack, there's something wrong with this picture, no?

When down to two short tables (around 15 players), I ran hot. Had aces twice and flopped a set on another. I also had some good hands that I won uncontested, and built my stack from around 100,000 up to 200,000.

At the final table, we eliminated some players, looked around and saw that everybody had a playable stack (the short stack had 25 big blinds), so chopped for about $1400 each, sweet.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Don't rest on your laurels

Above: The laurel shrub has given rise to the idiom "Don't rest on your laurels." It means to feel comfortable because you've been successful in the past. (See here.)

I haven't been blogging much, but I have been busy. Last summer I went to the WSOP, entered two events, played seven days and won a lot of money. At my age, I could be excused for (as they say) resting on my laurels, but I haven't done that.

Shortly after returning, I explored online training videos again, something I had talked to PokerBug about in private e-mails. This was something I tried before, and became discouraged. Most of them are so poorly produced, that I can't stand to watch them, even if under all the crap there is some worthwhile content. Here's an example: A guy opened up six or seven windows and played a MTT in each. Folks, this is confusing. He kept opening and closing windows, and I couldn't follow what was happening. In one, he had pocket 6s and folded early on. I'm not sure why because stacks were deep enough that set mining would be profitable. If you think it's right to fold, then please say why, ok? I just gave up -- too much work to follow it for too little benefit.

On another, the guy who was conducting the video kept sniffing and making funny sounds with his throat. He also kept raising his voice to a loud volume, then talking low as he ran out of breath. Why make me work to hear what you are saying? And I'm paying you money? The guy was doing this as part of his profession, but perhaps he needed a voice coach himself in how to not be so obnoxious distracting.

Finally, I found Jonathan Little's web site. He is not only a good poker player, but has good teaching skills. After digesting the free stuff, I signed up for his paid site, Floattheturn.com. It costs $10 per month, cheap enough, but he teases more content that he charges extra for. I'm okay with that. If I like it (he usually gives you a free hour, then charges for the whole package), I'm okay with paying more. If I don't think it's worth it, I don't pay. Easy peasy. In the meantime, there are webinars and other content more than worth the 10 bucks.

There is a ton of free content online, too. Have any or you watched Jason Somerville on Twitch TV? Jonathan Little is also on Twitch. Really valuable stuff for free if you are willing to go there and use the search function!

Podcasts by Andrew Brokos and Nate Meyvis also are free and have strategy sections as well as interviews with interesting poker players. The price is right, so why not?

I've also bought more poker books. I've read enough of them, that I've gotten fairly good at guessing which will be worthwhile. Here's one by Zachary Elwood: Verbal Poker Tells. If you don't want to buy it, why not go to his web site where he gives you free content (See here.) He has posted 10 or so videos on You Tube and you can link directly to them from here.

Changing gears, sort of. Thirteen months ago, I damaged a disc, the L5 lumbar vertebrae. Sitting and playing poker (or bridge) for hours can be painful because of that. I've been going to a fitness center to try and strengthen the muscles that support that disk.

When I go to a tournament, I try and eat right and make sure I get plenty of sleep. At the WSOP, I dropped by the Poker Kitchen one day during the dinner break to pick up a salad to take to my room. I saw players loading up with huge meals. Don't try and tell me they can play their best doing that. Notice I said go to my room? Getting rest, avoiding distractions and NOT talking about poker during the break are important. Energy is like a glass of water -- you only have so much of it (certainly true at my age). Yet, I can hang with the young guys because I pace myself.

I have lots of time now that I'm retired. No reason not to work on my game. Going to a casino and playing isn't enough. If you have bad habits, playing more just reinforces those.

Another thing: When I go to Las Vegas, I buy my entry ahead of time. Why wait to the last minute and stand in line? When the tournament starts, I'm fresh and ready to go. Another advantage of buying early is this: I have trouble seeing the board cards from Seats two, three, seven, and eight. I usually ask to have a seat in one of the others, and they've always accommodated me. I suppose it helps being accommodated when they see this little old man. I suppose it helps I come early, such as the day before when there's no line.

I know my limitations as a poker player, but I'm trying to maximize the skills I have. What about you?

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Where did the expression "Rest on your laurels" come from? If you are wondering, click here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Two bridge deals from NOLA

Playing with Buddy Hanby in the final session of the Silodor Open Pairs, I picked up:

J 5 2 A K J 5 Q 5 J 10 9 6.

With the opponents silent, Buddy opened 1, I responded 1 and Buddy rebid 3.

We were playing a weak 1NT (12 to 14 high-card points), so 2 would have been 15 to 17 HCP. Therefore, his jump rebid showed 16 to 18 points with a distributional hand or 18 HCP and a balanced hand. If he has the balanced hand, we have 30 HCP and hands like this often make the same in notrump as in a trump suit -- you are off the same tricks in either.

I rebid 3NT knowing he would pass with the 18 balanced and correct with the distributional hand. Buddy passed, and here are all four hands (I was North):


East led the K and I ducked. He shifted to the 10 which I won to play the ace of clubs and another. When East didn't rise with his K, I was able to set up a second club trick to make four for a score of 630 and 72.5 matchpoints on a 90 top. Most players were in 4 going set one with the horrible split.

Here's another deal with the same principle. My partner Sandy opened 1NT (15 to 17 HCP) in the Mixed Pairs, and I held:

9 6 A K J 5 3 K 7 Q J 7 3.

I again knew we had 29 to 31 HCP, so bid 3NT. Here is the layout:


The opening lead was the 10, but it didn't matter. The opponents won their two aces, the same two tricks they would win in 4. This one was even more spectacular scoring 62.5 on a 64 top. Sometimes when you bid like this, they lead your five-card suit. Notice this South picked her doubleton spade, but she could have just as easily led a heart.