Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My Poker "Resume" - Part II (Our Hero Goes To College)

Three months after graduating from high school as a smart-assed 17-year-old who thought he had the world by the balls, I walked onto the Boston College campus as a freshman. It really only took about 18 hours for me to realize just how much fun college was going to be. I moved into my dormroom on Friday night the week before classes started. Earlier that summer I had purchased season tickets for football and the first home football game of the season was that Saturday. I had been "advised" by my senior advisor that I should get to the stadium at least three hours before the noon kickoff for the tailgating festivities. Taking his advice, I woke at the ungodly hour of 7:00 to shit, shower and shave before meeting up with a couple of the guys from my floor to go grab a bite to eat before heading down to the stadium. However, we never made it to the cafeteria. A group of alumni had parked a Suburban literally packed full of beer in the parking lot beside our building and had set up a grill right next to the door. As we walked outside, they yelled "Welcome to BC!!!" and handed each of us a six-pack of Natural Light and a sausage covered with perfectly prepared onions and peppers with spicy mustard. God I loved college. Wait . . . where was I? Oh yeah. Any time you have nearly 500 college kids living in the same building, you're going to find a group of guys playing poker. Within two months of moving into the building, we had a weekly game with six regular players and one or two others that joined in from time to time.

The games we played were virtually identical to those we played back in high school - anything that involved multiple wild cards, the chance to buy extra cards, or some wacky rule that cheats the best hand out of half the pot. However, the atmosphere of the game was completely different. Where the high school game was taken pretty serious and had become almost a job for some of us (which is kind of strange now that I look back on it), the college game was far more relaxed. We were not shy about drinking while we played and there was always a plentiful supply of beer.* The room was always loud as music blared and insults flew. In short everyone was there to have a good time and relax. There was certainly money on the table and we all fought hard to come out winner. As a general rule, there was only one player that lost on a regular basis (another wealthy kid that reminded me of a nicer and far more friendly version of some of the kids I went to high school with - great guy even if he was a bad poker player) with the rest of us splitting up his money each week. However the money was a rather small and unimportant part of the festivities and, to be perfectly honest, the right to brag for being that session's winner was far more valuable than the money.

* We actually made a rule freshman year that anyone who forgot to stock up when it was their turn to host the game would have been stripped naked, severely beaten and left ducktaped to the bulletin board in the front lobby. During our four years at school, the rule never had to be enforced as no one wanted to see how serious the group had been when the rule was announced.

As I did in the first installment of this little series of posts, I'll conclude by pointing out the lessons I learned at this stage in my poker career:

1. Unless you are a professional poker player and depend upon poker to feed your family and pay the bills, keep in mind that poker is a game and that it should be enjoyed as such.

2. It only takes one bad player at the table for a game to be profitable.

Monday, February 27, 2006

We Interrupt This Broadcast . . .

I had intended on having all of the Poker Resume posts completed by now and was actually most of the way through the second (covering the college years) when work last week got a bit out of control. Almost all of my non-work time has been spent prepping for the impending arrival of our son:

1. Furniture delivered and moved by yours truly repeatedly to find which setup is just right? Check
2. Swing, bouncer, crib, stroller and dozens of other items with too many parts assembled? Check
3. Winnie the Pooh decorations covering every possible surface? Check
4. Three hundred pounds of baby clothes washed, folded and put away? Check
5. Car seat installed and brought to the local police station for inspection to ensure that the dumbass father-to-be (that's me for those of you not paying attention) did it right? Check

The only time I've had for poker-related pursuits was Friday night. As my wife was brushing her teeth and washing up to go to bed, I noticed that Full Tilt Poker was running a nice $24+2 tourney with a solid guarantee (I believe it was $16k but the guarantee was surpassed by the buyins). After tucking my wife into bed and grabbing a beer from the fridge, I registered for the tourney and opened up a couple of $5+.50 SNGs to keep me occupied while folding hand after hand of crap through the early stages of the tourney.

About 45-50 minutes into the tourney, the player on my right busted out when his all in bet on the flop with 78o was called and his gutshot draw failed to materialize on the turn or river. The spot was almost immediately filled by a player named "factgirl" with a small puppy dog avatar.

From the minute she sat down, I noticed that she was exceedingly friendly and polite, joking with most of the players at the table and generally having a good time. We be began chatting and joked back and forth, her puppy threatening to bite my ankles when I reraised her one hand and and my monkey threatening to start throwing poop at her when she stole my blinds. It was nice to be seated next to someone that genuinely seemed to be enjoying herself rather than being stuck next to another of the all-too-common jackasses that show up in these events and believe that Phil Hellmuth's approach to poker ettiquette should be followed by any serious player.

For some reason, the name factgirl seemed very familiar but I had no notes on her and she was not in my PT database. About two-thirds of the way through the second hour, an observer popped in and started chatting with her. As soon as I read his name (UpForPoker), I knew that it was CJ, a blogger I've read for some time (see links on right). I gushed to CJ about being a "big fan" of his writing and chatted a bit about having just started this site.

As soon as I recognized CJ, I realized why factgirl's name seemed so familiar - she was a member of the WPBT blogging community. While I had not previously read her site (I have since remedied that failure and have added her to the link list), I had read about her in a number of other blogs and had fully planned on reading her as well. While CJ only stuck around for a few minutes, factgirl and I continued to chat throughout the rest of the tourney as we both played our way into the money (I finished 52nd out of field of about 825). I really enjoyed her company and hope to run into her again at the table.

At some point after the tourney, factgirl visited the site, left me my first ever comment, and even went so far as to add me to her blogroll. I'm like famous and stuff. WOOT!!!

I'll be back soon with the next installment of the Poker Resume.

Monday, February 20, 2006

My Poker "Resume" - Part I (The High School Years)

Before I get into any in-depth poker discourse/analysis, I should probably give a summary of my poker experience so anyone that ever reads this will know just how much (or more likely, how little) my two cents is worth.

Like many poker players I know, my introduction to the game came way back when I was in high school. During my junior year, a group of us started to play in the cafeteria during free periods and while eating lunch. The games were the typical home-game selection of baseball, follow the queen, anaconda, and just about any other game that incorporated wildcards and crazy rules. Because gambling was not exactly smiled upon by the school administration, we kept track of all betting on paper with our own form of secret code rather than placing money or chips on the table (all debts were settled at the end of the week). Despite our precautions, I'm fairly sure that at least one of the teachers (I won't give his name since I know he still teaches there and I wouldn't want him to get in trouble) knew what was going on but didn't bother us.

When the game first started, it consisted of a small group of kids from mostly middle-class families. We were playing for very small stakes - nickels and dimes - with no one losing more than a couple of bucks a week. However, my high school was full of spoiled rich kids - to give you some idea, there were 14 BMWs, 23 Mercedes and 3 Corvettes in the school's parking lot and not one belonged to a teacher. When word started to get out that we were playing poker, some of the rich kids wanted to play and we were more than happy to let them join. Over the course of the next year, the number of regular players swelled to more than sixty high school kids, from freshmen all the way up through seniors, and the game continued throughout the day with the cast of characters changing each period as some went to class while others used their free periods or skipped class to play.

I certainly didn't win every day, but I won far more often than I lost. By the end of junior year, I was using my winnings to cover all the costs of owning a car - insurance, inspections, service appointments and gas. By the end of senior year, hundreds of dollars were changing hands on a weekly basis and there were weeks I made more money playing poker than I made working 15 hours a week as a waiter at the local family restaurant.
Very early on I noticed a rather remarkable trend in the flow of money. The (relatively) poor but (relatively) capable players like myself regularly relieved the ignorant rich kids of their oversized allowances. Even more remarkable was the fact that none of the rich kids seemed to care that they lost. They just kept on playing horribly and losing money as though it didn't matter. To them, it truly didn't matter. The game was nothing more than a fun and interesting way to pass time while in school and the money they lost was simply the cost of entertainment. To the less-wealthy kids like myself, the outcome of the game mattered quite a bit as we could not afford to blow money on a regular basis. We took the game seriously, paying close attention both the to cards and to what our opponents were doing. Since they seemed so comfortable losing their money, we were happy to slowly but steadily increse the stakes as our confidence and bankrolls grew.

I didn't realize it at the time, but this was (or should have been) a rather important poker lesson. When you sit down at the table, you should try and figure out your opponents' motivation for sitting at the table. Are they simply there to have fun and gamble it up, willing to bleed off their chips as long as they are entertained? Or are they paying close attention to the action at the table as they strategically try to relieve their opponents of each and every chip on the table?

As much as I enjoyed playing in the high school game, my time in it had to come to an end. However, it continued long after I graduated as the underclassmen took over and kept it alive. One of my best friends had a younger brother that graduated six years after I did and he says the game was still going strong throughout his four years of high school.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Party Relaunches

I have recently been playing quite a few SNG tables at different sites and have discovered that I really enjoy them. I was just getting ready to sit and write up a nice long post comparing the SNG format at Party Poker to that of Full Tilt Poker when I learned that Party had updated their entire software package, including the structure of all tourneys (both SNG and MTT). I haven't had a chance to play with the new format yet, but I have to say I'm pleased with what I've seen for the SNGs. The much longer levels (10 minutes instead of 10 hands) and a substantially increased number of starting chips (2000 instead of 800) should give solid players a chance to actually play some real poker rather than being reduced to a crapshoot after the first two or three levels.

I'll still be posting my thoughts on SNG formats, but it will have to wait until after I've had a chance to test out Party's new platform.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Link List

Despite the fact that I'm technologically retarded, I managed to figure out how to create and edit links on the sidebar. With the exception of the Tao of Poker being listed first (Pauly's site broke my Poker Blog cherry and led me to all of the other sites), they are not listed in any particular order. When I start reading a new blog, I go all the way back to the beginning of the archives and read it all the way through. There have been a number of blogs that I started reading but stopped because they were just too damned boring. The ones listed to the right are the ones that I made it all the way through and continue to read on a daily basis. I'll add to the list as I begin reading new blogs, which will result in newer blogs (at least new to me) being at the bottom of the list.

At some point, I'll add a post in which I give my review of these blogs, describing what it is about them that keeps me coming back.

P.S. - I won't list those blogs that I didn't like. I'm not interested in insulting people here just because their writing doesn't appeal to me as it is purely a matter of personal taste. You will see me insult people for being an asshole and/or saying stupid shit that I find offensive for one reason or another, but that's an entirely different issue.

P.P.S. - I have absolutely no reason to believe that any of the people linked here has ever or will ever read this blog. Their inclusion is not an attempt to get linked on their sites - it's just my list of blogs worth reading.


"Just what we need . . . another stupid fucking poker blog."

I can just almost hear those exact words tumbling from the lips of anyone that accidently stumbles across this blog on their way to something actually worth reading. To be honest, they're probably right. There are already hundreds, if not thousands, of poker blogs floating out there (here?) in the interweb. While most are complete and utter garbage, there are more than just a few that I eagerly look forward to reading every day (the blogs I read on a daily basis will be linked up as soon as my technologically-retarted mind is able to figure out how to create links). Given the standards set by those elite writers, I sincerely doubt that I can possibly create anything to make me stand out from the crowd of mediocrity.

"If that's the case, why bother ?"

While this would seem to be the next logical question, my answer wouldn't make sense without giving some basic background information about myself.

"Ok then . . . who are you?"

Have you ever tried to anser that question? Honestly, take a minute and try to briefly summarize your identity. I thought it would be easy but turns out not so much. While this is by no means complete, I guess I'll start with the following:

Age: 30

Despite the fact that I've crossed the imaginary line leading into my thirties, I look FAR younger than my actual age. I still get carded for lottery tickets on a regular basis (I buy a MegaMillions ticket every now and then just to imagine what I would do if I won) and was asked to show my license before I could buy a ticket to an R-rated movie last summer. Of course, this sometimes drives my wife (who is less than one year older than me) completely nuts:
  • Last year we went out to for a nice dinner on our anniversary and I ordered a nice bottle of wine (Cloudy Bay Savignon Blanc for anyone that cares). The waiter turned to me and asked to see my ID. When my wife reached into her purse to get her license, the waiter quickly turned to her and said "Don't worry ma'am, I don't need to see your ID." What a stupid fucking thing for a waiter to say if he has any hopes of getting a decent tip.
  • My wife switched jobs about 18 months ago and her office had a party after work shortly thereafter (by the way, "thereafter" is one of my favorite words . . . right up there with "operative"). The day after the party, three or four of her coworkers came into her office to ask how old I was. Before she could answer, they made a series of jokes about her dating a younger man and being a cradle-robber.

Gender: Male

Kinda gave this one away by referring to "my wife", though I do live in Massachusetts so anything is possible (for the record, I'm a liberal and fully support the SJC's decision to allow gay marriage's in Massachusetts).

Race: White

Though I am 25% Native American, split between two different tribes, I'm about as white as mayonaisse. Kentrell Johnson is not my actual name. It's a long-running joke between me and some of my buddies from school.

Marital Status: Married

Again, kinda spilled the beans on this one above. My wife and I have been together for about 7.5 years and we got married about 2.5 years ago.

Children: Coming soon

My wife is currently 8 months pregnant with our firstborn. He - it's a boy - is expected to arrive on St. Patrick's Day, which just gives me another excuse to celebrate with a pint (or six) of Guiness.

Occupation: Attorney

I've heard more lawyer jokes than you can possibly imagine. They started coming in about two days after I took the LSAT back in 1999 and have continued unabated ever since. Feel free to post them in the comments. In fact, I may eventually offer a bounty for anyone that can post a lawyer joke I haven't heard that makes me laugh.

Location: Suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts

I've lived in Massachusetts almost my entire life, the only exceptions being that I was born in North Carolina (lived there until I was 14 months old) and that I went to law school in DC. As would be expected of someone from Boston, I am very much a liberal on the vast majority of polical and social issues. However, given the volume of legal/political/social crap I deal with on a daily basis at work, I try to avoid discussing those topics as much as possible when not at work so you don't have to worry about me preaching here. For the record, my wife and I are hoping to relocate to Austin and will do so as soon as I find a job there. I know it may seem strange that a liberal Masshole wants to move to the capital of Texas, a state not exactly known for its liberal tendencies, but anyone that has ever been to Austin will understand. While there are a number of reasons we'd like to move, I'll give three here. First, while I love Boston, the cost of living here is just fucking ridiculous and I work for a small law firm so I don't make the absurd money people always associate with attorneys working at downtown lawfirms. Second, with my son due to arrive soon, I'd like to live someplace where I'm not going to be expected to put in 70 hours per week. Third, my wife HATES the cold. I cannot possibly emphasize that enough.


There is a long list that could go here, but I'll start with these three and add more in my future posts.

Poker - duh . . .

Wine - When I was in law school, a buddy of mine somehow convinced the school adminstration to fund a wine tasting group that would hold monthly tastings. He would pick a theme, usually a particular varietal (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc) or region (e.g. Bordeaux or Burgundy), and would get six different wines at various price points for a tasting after classes wrapped up on Friday afternoon. At the time, I was basically what you'd expect of a recent college graduate - I drank beer and lots of it.* However, this was essentially school-funded pregaming I was not going to turn down an opportunity to drink free wine before going out for the night. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of actually listening to the guy when he explained the wines we were drinking and developed a taste for the stuff. I've been hooked ever since.

* - With all apologies to AlCantHang, whom I admire more than I could possibly explain here, I drink almost exclusively beer (Guiness and Boddington's are personal favorites) and wine (generally prefer red wines, but I'll discuss this more at a future date). There are, of course, some exceptions. First, I will rarely (if ever) turn down a Margarita or Gin+Tonic on a hot summer day. Second, any drink with an umbrella is perfect when on a tropical island. Third, I enjoy an occassionl scotch or sipping rum.

Lifting - Shortly after starting law school, I realized that I was going to have to do something to avoid getting very fat from spending so much time studying (I did actually study during the first year of law school) and drinking (didn't drink during the week, but more than made up for it on Friday and Saturday nights). I started working out in the weight room in the dorm basement and discovered that I REALLY enjoyed it. Over the course of the next year or two, I got myself into very good shape - 190 pounds at 6'1" while cutting my bodyfat down to about 6%. While I was able to maintain the regimen through law school and the first 2 or 3 years of being an attorney, I've slacked off way too much lately and am horrified at the effect it's had on me. It's going to be tough to get back into a regular routine with the baby on the way, but I have to do something.

"Now how about getting back to explaining why you're starting this thing?"

I could try to give some bullshit excuse about how it is my lifelong dream to be a writer and that I hope to follow in the footsteps of Otis and Pauly by parlaying this blog into a writing career. Don't get me wrong, I very much admire what they have done and would be lying if I wasn't insanely jealous. However, I'm a realist.

When it comes to legal writing, I'm fucking good at what I do. I'm not saying that to brag, but I know where my strengths are and I use those strengths to my advantage. Some lawyers have a phenomenal courtroom presence and can grab the attention of the most bored and disinterested jury. That's not me. Though the partners I work for say I do just fine in court, my specialty is legal research and writing. I don't worry about convincing the jury to side with my client because most of my cases are won long before trial based on motions and briefs.

I know that the quality of my legal writing. I also know that my creative writing doesnt come remotely close to the standards set by other poker bloggers. I can only dream of being able to tell a story the way that Pauly does (or to have such amazing stories to write for that matter). So no . . . I don't think that this is going to launch my professional writing career.

What it basically boils down to is this: I need a place where I can exercise a little creativity and write about the things that matter to me rather than spending all of my time and energy writing legal arguments for my clients. I need to tap into the other side of my brain for a while and get the wheels turning. I need to write about poker to help me shape my vague and not-yet-fully formed thoughts and ideas about poker. While I hope that someone out there enjoys what I write, I'm more concerned with taking some time to express myself.

"What should we expect?"

While I have no intention of limiting my writing, there are certainly some things that I expect will come up more than others. As one would expect given the name , I plan on writing about poker. However, I'll also discuss the joys and challenges of fatherhood, my adventures in the realm of trying to find a job half-way across the country in a city in which I have no personal contacts/connections, interesting stories from my past, and just about anything else that comes to mind when I'm seated in front of the keyboard.

Let the games begin.