Monday, January 23, 2006
Sure enough, I was able to keep my focus up for most of the tourney, taking 4th place before losing my chips with A-4 versus the other guy's A-9. I made the final table, I made the money, and that was good enough for me.
I still need to work on my tournament stamina. After an hour and a half or two hours, I get restless and a bit bored and do stupid things that eventually get me knocked out. Unfortunately, the way to work on this would seem to be to play more tournaments with larger and larger fields until I can play a consistently good game for 3, 4, 5 hours or more.
I dread this. I really do. I'm going to have to do this one step at a time, slowly increasing the size of the fields and the buyin so I can try playing for longer periods of time for possible payoffs that are large enough to actually keep my attention for that time. If I have to play serious poker for 5 hours to make $80, well, it's just not going to appeal to me.
I'm not going to the WSOP anytime soon, so I'll just build up slowly.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
(Nine players are at the table, with stacks ranging from $50 to $2210)
Situation: An hour into a single-table satellite tournament.
Whoa, where the heck in Harrington playing? An hour into a single table tourney and only one player has been knocked out, and the blinds are only at $50/$100? Damn, every SNG I play in is over in an hour!
I tried one of the $2 tournaments on Party when I got home from work yesterday. 876 people entered, and the top 90 spots paid. I busted out after 90 minutes or so in 171st. This was better than I was expecting, actually, but it did highlight one of my problems with tournaments - patience. After an hour and a half I got restless and impatient and made a stupid call and got knocked out. Maybe if I am going to work on tournament play I should stick to 3-table MTTs or SNGs - those will be about the size of the live tournaments I normally play here in Tokyo.
Back to my Harrington study.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Coming up on March 25, the buy-in is an unprecedented 10,000 yen! (Let's call it around a hundred bucks... I always just lop off the last couple zeroes to make things easy.) Even the buyin for the last JSOP main event game was only something like 5,000 yen, so this is serious money! (Relatively speaking.)
What's more, if I am reading this right then entry will be restricted to players who have either:
Let's see... that rules me out! Although I did win an Everest Cup (and my beloved iPod nano) that one time, I've never got close to winning one of the JPPA's regular "Hops", "Steps", or "Jumps" games.
But there is still hope for wannabes like me. On March 22, there will be a Super Satellite for the JPC! I'm not sure, but I think this is a first for the JPPA. I've seen some of the photos of the last couple of JPC events, and it looked like the Ueno room was packed full of players. There's been a pretty reasonable growth in the number of local players this year, so the new restriction is probably a practical one since there will not be enough room for everyone to play!
This is pretty cool.
There will also be several special overseas guests participating in the JPC. Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and Mark Gregorich, all from Card Player Magazine, will be attending. I'm sure they'll be trying to wrest the JPC title from the locals, but Bluejay and the others will not make it easy for them!
Prizes for the winner are not specified, other than a specially crafted gold bracelet for the event. It's not certain yet, but Inside Poker may also film the event for later broadcast in the states, too.
Damn. Guess it is time to work on my NL tournament skills so I have a shot at playing in this. 10,000 yen is, in one sense, not a huge amount of money for me, but the most I've paid for a tournament entry so far is about 3000yen, or around $20 online. First I would have to win a seat in the satellite, though, and that is far from certain. But it'll be fun to try! Time to finish reading Harrington, then play, then reread, then play some more. Those 2006 goals for my limit play may have to wait a while.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
I busted out early, 17th of 26 entrants. It was my own fault - I raised in EP with AJ suited, got one caller on the button. The flop came A-A-8 or so. I made a continuation bet, he called again. By now both our stacks were hurting; the turn was a rag, I checked, he pushed his remaining, and I called. He had the A-Q and it held up. What was I thinking? Did I really think he had A-10 or worse? I gotta stop doing that.
On the positive side, the younger guy who beat me, who I believe goes by the handle "Genki", went on to win the thing. I am reminded of that bit from "High Fidelity", where Rob finds out that his first girlfriend went on to marry and live happily ever after with the guy she dumped him for.
You get it? That's fate. That's got nothing to do with me, that is beyond my control, beyond my fault...
After 10 or so people busted, they started up the second chance tournament; this time was Omaha Hi-Lo. The Everest Cup games are free, but the other tournaments have entry fees - this one was 1200 yen (a bit over $10). I balked at paying $10 to join a tourney for a game I have mostly only played at $.01/$.02 stakes online. Stupid. I should have given it a spin and saw how it went. I've done well enough at those micro-micro-stakes online games, but I was concerned that the JPPA players would actually know how to play the game, instead of everyone limping in to see the flop and then starting to bet big if it actually hit them.
Instead I gravitated to the live game table, where a 500 yen (about $5) buyin gets you a rack of 100 chips for whatever game they choose that week, this time 2/4 NL Holdem. These games tend to start out with everyone playing tightly, then get looser and crazier as everyone relaxes and realizes it's play money. Towards the end of the evening the minimum raise becomes one stack of 20, and those chips are flying back and forth. Players can rebuy at any time, 500yen for another 100 chips, so after an hour or two there's quite a bit in play. At the end of the evening, every 200 chips you have gets you a coupon good for 1000yen towards later tournament fees.
I rebought once, so invested 1000yen into the game, but got lucky with a couple of all-ins in the last two hands and finished above two racks and got my money back in the form of a coupon. Not too bad.
Yesterday I was still kicking myself about not giving the Omaha hi-lo game a try, so I sat down for a $5 Omaha hi-lo SNG, which would have been about the same as the game I skipped on Friday night. Except I failed to notice that the SNG was limit Omaha Hi-lo.
I'd never played an Omaha SNG before, and never played limit Omaha before, but I took third place and won $10. Nice. Most of the lessons from Holdem worked well in Omaha. I folded crap-looking hands instead of calling, as most were doing. I raised good-looking potential hands to build the pot. When I got a big stack, I bullied small stacks with raises that would put all their chips at risk, depleting them and getting them knocked out more quickly. I even successfully check-raised a few times with the nuts, and everyone called. It felt good.
I really shoulda played that Omaha tourney on Friday. Damn.
Friday, January 13, 2006
It will be my first trip back to the JPPA card room since I got back from my holidays. I've been playing almost exclusively limit poker (and playing poorly, to boot), so I don't have high hopes for tonight's no limit holdem tournament. But hell, it's another Everest Cup, sponsored by Everest Poker, which means I can play for free. And if I get amazingly lucky and manage to win, I'll have to choose between another iPod nano, or a Sony PSP.
Oddly enough, I think I would go for another iPod nano. My girlfriend seems to like mine, so I think she'd appreciate one of her own. A PSP would be nice to play with the mobile video features, but... I live about 10 minutes walk to work, and would never really use them. Six months ago when I rode the trains 45 minutes to work every day, no contest, though.
Who knows, maybe Friday the 13th is my lucky day?
Thursday, January 12, 2006
I'm not just a pretty face, you know. My favorite book is:
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Geisha girls are pretty sexy. I mean, the kind of life they lead is pretty sexy.
Let's see, it's been a while since I read Memoirs of a Geisha. As I recall, the main character was sold off into slavery as a young girl, and never saw her parents again. She was separated from her sister, who was sold to become a common prostitute, while she was taken in as a servant who might someday become a geisha. Most of whom are basically slaves, owned by the brothel and rarely if ever able to pay off the debt they owe. Having no other means of escape, she trains and manages to learn the traditional geisha arts, and eventually becomes popular enough that she can sell off the rights to take her virginity away to the highest bidder for such a price that she might be able to buy her freedom. She falls in love with some guy, but must come to grips with the fact that she's going to have to search for a patron who will pay her lavishly for her company regardless of what she thinks of him. But eventually the absolutely improbable happens and the guy becomes her patron and keeps her happily as his indefinite paid mistress until the end of their days.
If Miss January finds this kind of life "sexy", then she must be some self-loathing bondage submissive type, hoping to use her sexuality to snag some meal ticket who takes care of her needs but whom she secretly despises. Or maybe she just didn't really read the book.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
An online friend had recommended the Mirage as his favorite poker room, and I had read that it was basically the home of high stakes poker in Vegas until the Bellagio opened. So I went to check it out. I already described my one session there in my earlier entry about hitting quad aces.
It's a nice room. I didn't pay too much attention to the tables and chairs, but the decor was nice, the dealers competent, and the action was quick. It was crowded and lively, which is nice if that's what your in the mood for.
But I really liked the MGM room. In contrast, the room felt large and open to the rest of the casino. The tables were spaced well apart so you never felt like people were walking back and forth behind you, and the ceilings were high and lofty. There seem to be a lot of mediocre players there (myself included!) so it's probably very profitable if you're a good player.
The brushes use the PA to make flippant comments to each other, which contributes to the fun feel of the room. I was there when they called a player to his new tournament table as he was hurriedly finishing up at his ring game table, playing the last hand, racking his chips, gathering his stuff up. "This is the third call for Rob G, your tournament spot is open.." came over the PA, and the guy shouted "I'M COMING!!!".
This got a few chuckles on its own, then the announcement came over the PA, "Um, I think we need a wet cleanup on table 12..."
I stopped by the new Caesars poker room, since it had just opened. I went by on the evening of the 21st, which I think was the first day it was operating. It looks nice, but after the MGM all I noticed was the rectangular walls and low ceiling. Unlike the MGM, which only ran holdem games from what I saw, they were running stud and omaha games, but the limits on all games were high, much higher than I could consider. I heard they had some 3/6 holdem there the first night, but all I saw was 10/20 and up. Whew! No thanks.
I poked into the Excalibur room a couple of times to see if I could get lucky and spot Dr. Pauly there spinning the wheel, since he was in town at the same time. I looked around for Phish baseball caps several times but never found him. Ah well. Maybe next time.
My first week working towards my goal of earning 300BB at the 1/2 tables went poorly - I never seemed to get things going, and fell back into the red. I think it's both a string of bad cards, and bad play on my part. I'm hitting the books and reviewing PT to try to find out what I am doing wrong.
It's depressing and humbling. I thought I had got a handle on playing limit, and had reached a point where if I played patiently and waited for reasonable cards, avoided talking myself into playing bad starting hands out of boredom or excitement, and then bet aggressively when I was likely to have the best hand, I would slowly and steadily build a profit. I've tried to do that, but it's not going according to plan. Good cards seem few and far between, and aren't holding up for me.
Poker is not a simple game, though. I know I am the type of person who would like to find a simple formula that I can follow over and over to grind out a profit in the long run. The obsessive-compulsive in me couples with the boring uncreative tendencies to seek out the big red button I can push over and over that will pop out food pellets at regular intervals from here to eternity. Unfortunately it's not going to work like that, is it?
The games seem harder than they used to. It's only $1/$2 on Party, but I have difficulty finding games with VP$IP greater than 22%, and it seems like every table I get onto has 3-6 players marked as "Good Player - Tight Aggressive Solid". I still hope that it's largely because I am typically logging in at 4am ET because of the time differences and only the hardcore players are up and working, but maybe I just suck.
Feeling a bit down, I dropped onto a $.50/$1 table last night to play a bit without racking up more red in 1/2. Suddenly it was like I remembered Party being. Lots of idiots calling with absolute crap, chasing to the river with nothing to show for it. I can handle that. I think I will drop back to the lower level for a while, try to erase my red figures for that category in PT and then come back to 1/2 when I feel a bit more confident. I know that I will have to aggressively search out flaws in my game, consider new strategies, and play my opponents if I want to beat this game. But did I mention that I am lazy, too? It's not going to be easy for me.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Several times I flipped on the tv and channel surfed a bit, and came across poker shows, mostly the ESPN episodes of the WSOP. It was... weird. Flip on the tv and there's poker! Folks in the states probably take it for granted, but here I have to search poker tv shows out, downloading for hours with Bit Torrent. It felt a bit like... being a big fan of the Dirty Harry movies and having watched them all dozens of times, and then moving to San Francisco and suddenly looking around and all the scenes you've seen in the movies are real places, right there in front of you, as blandly tangible as you please.
Speaking of tv, what the hell is with all the drug commercials?! It seemed like every commercial break there was some commercial hyping a new drug that you should check with your doctor about, including a 30-second long disclaimer about the possible side effects spoken in soothing tones. The one that stood out the most was one for Restless Leg Syndrome. Yes, if you have restless legs, which want to get up and move around when you're trying to relax or sleep, there are now new drugs for you to ask your doctor about. You may experience sleepiness, dizziness, unsteady gait, fatigue and eye twitching, but that's a small price to pay for relief from this crippling disease.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Getting into the United States is getting harder and harder. I guess that's what they want, but it is annoying for those of us who just want to get to the city of sin and gamble.
When my GF and I went 7 months ago, they had started photographing and fingerprinting all foreigners entering the US, regardless of visa status or the relations with the US. We had to go through the process when we flew into San Francisco airport, and it was a nightmare. There were only about 5 agents for two planefuls of arriving passengers from Asia, and it took what seemed like hours. They set up a couple lines for US citizens and breezed us through, but then didn't reassign those lines for foreigners, so the agents stood by idle while the huge lines at the other agents slowly processed. I waited patiently for the GF to process, which finally finished up about 45 minutes later. We rushed to pick up our luggage from baggage claim, and submit it to the new inspection station. There was a huge line of bags to process and the worker there didn't seem to be in any hurry. We ran, really ran, to catch our connecting flight to Vegas, since we'd been delayed so long by homeland security, and barely made it. Maybe I should have seen it coming, but our bags didn't make it onto our flight. When we called from the Venetian to check on them, no one knew where they were. We ended up taking a cab out to Walmart to pick up toiletries and a change of clothes and got stuck out there as it got dark because the cab companies we called said they were coming out to pick us up, but never showed. Our bags arrived at the hotel about 2am the next morning with no explanation.
The processing center in SF airport is huge now - there must have been about 30 lines of agents and most of them were occupied and chugging through incoming visitors at a steady pace. They still had separate lines for citizens and visitors, but both were well staffed and I though we'd be fine. Nope. I got through quickly and waited for my GF to finish up, since she had reached her agent just as I cleared. He started to ask her a number of questions about why she was visiting and where she was staying and she seemed to be having difficulty answering, so I started to walk over. He noticed immediately and called out in a firm voice, "Sir! Stay back, please!"
I stopped and waited by the wall near the exit area, where I could watch and hopefully hear if there were any problems. The agent would have none of it. He stood up and nearly shouted, "Sir, you must proceed through the exit area!", pointing. Other security guards were starting to stare at me, and I reminded myself of the new United States and air marshals and guys off their medication getting bullets in the head. If a homeland security agent tells you to move along, you better fucking move along.
I passed through the exit gate and tried to hang out in a position where I could see the agent and my girlfriend. After another minute, he sent her down to the other end of the processing hall, where I could not see what was going on.
That was the last I saw of her for about 45 minutes.
I was starting to freak out. I asked the other agents what was going on, and they would not answer. "Just wait for them to finish, please." I had visions of back rooms and invasive searches, of "finding" items on her or in her bags that incriminated her. I worried that we'd miss our flight, despite the extra time we'd given ourselves this time around. I worried about getting stuck in SF for days trying to get this worked out. I worried about her getting refused entry into the country and sent back to Japan. I had almost even started to worry about her being held for three years as an enemy combatant, uncharged of a crime and without contact and legal representation.
She finally showed up, looking flustered and irritated. "What happened, what were they doing to you?!" I blurted out. "Nothing," she snorted. "They sent me over to the end of the hall for someone else to ask me questions, and it took him 40 minutes to show up! Then he asked me a few of the same stupid questions about where I was heading and where I'd be staying, and he let me go four minutes later!"
Who needs visions of facists when simple imcompetence will do?
We made our connecting flight and got to our hotel, the Monte Carlo, only slightly delayed. There we found that they had no record of our reservation, the one I had made on the web via Vegas.com, with confirmation printouts and emails and credit card records. We spent another two hours on the phone with Vegas.com customer service, waiting for them to work out what happened to our reservation. We couldn't check in because the Monte Carlo was completely booked. Eventually Vegas.com gave up and got us a new reservation at Treasure Island. I doubt I will be using Vegas.com ever again. On the other hand, one of the customer service agents at Monte Carlo, Angela, was extremely helpful in trying to work out our problem and really put us at ease. I hadn't even had a chance to tip her on the sly and push for a room upgrade! Next time I go back, if I stay at the MC I will ask for Angela and be sure to bribe.. er... tip her very generously.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
I found a very interesting thread there about the merits of playing $.50/$1, 1/2 full, and 1/2 6-max, which gave me some food for thought. They also mentioned the figure of making around 300BB at a given limit before considering moving up - it sounds like the 300BB figure is a round figure that most can live with.
I'm not keen on dropping down to .50/1 again, but it does seem to be a good idea to be certain I can really make a profit at these limits in the long run before moving up to a higher limit. So in the spirit of making new year goals, I'll go along with it.
So this year, 2006, I will:
This actually doesn't seem like a very aggressive goal set to me. But I usually play about 10 hours a week - if I assume I can profit 1 BB per hour, then I'll need 30 weeks of play to clear each of the 1/2 levels! Looks like it might be a long year of grinding for me.
Monday, January 02, 2006
But the 31st was the day we flew back into Tokyo, and I didn't even get back home until 6pm and was in no shape to go out afterwards. Damn. I guess I'll have to watch the web site to see if they put up the video sometime.
I found that the JPPA also put up a copy of the Japanese newspaper interview with Tony G from when he visited. And in the photo with the article... there I was! Sitting to Tony's left! It must have been taken a few minutes before I made the ill-advised call to his all-in with A-T against his A-J. I'm also hunched over and with a goofy look on my face. Which is probably pretty representative for me, come to think of it.
Maybe I better hold off on further media appearances.
So I found a promising-looking table on Party, played for an hour or so, and eventually made some good hands and cleared about a $45 profit. This pushed me just slightly over into the green zone in my PokerTracker results for $1/$2 tables! Finally! It feels good!
Sunday, January 01, 2006
I played for several hours at the Mirage this trip at a $3/$6 table. I had never played there before and a friend said the Mirage was his favorite poker room, so I tried it out. I thought this limit might be too high for me, but a couple hours at a $2/$4 table at the MGM the previous day drove home how much slower live play is than online, and that if I played tightly I could last at the table a long time even if I never won a pot.
My table was a mixture of player types. Two or three retirees, quietly frustrated guy, a couple young student types (not obnoxious ones), and two off-duty Mirage dealers. One was on break or standby or something, and simply had a coat zipped up over her uniform. The other was in plain clothes, apparently on his day off.
Most of the players were pretty passive pre-flop, limping in, then would start throwing the chips around after the flop, even with some pretty marginal hands from what I saw at showdowns. After playing tightly for 30-40 minutes, I looked down in MP to see pocket aces. There were several limpers before me, including the day-off dealer on my right, so I raised it up. About 7 players called.
The flop came A-8-T with two spades. The players in front of me checked, so I tried for a check-raise to try to drive some players out. One of the late-position players bet, so I happily raised. There had been no check raises so far, and several players went "Oooo, a check-raise!" and dropped out. But one late-position player called, as did the dealer to my right.
A third spade fell on the turn, and the dealer to my right raised.
He knew what I had. I was sure of it. And he knew I knew he knew. And here he was raising me. Shit. I called, and the other guy dropped. A King came on the river, he bet, I called. "I didn't have the spades," he commented as he flipped over Q-J offsuit for the straight. Dammit.
"Ouch, that had to hurt," someone commented. Ayup.
About three hands later, I'm still off balance, trying to work out how that happened. Now under the gun, I look down and find... pocket aces. Oh joy, here we go again.
This time I just limped with them, and again about 7-8 players limp in to see the flop. It came A-5-J of mixed suits. Checked to me, so I hesitate slightly and bet. Quietly-Frustrated guy raises and about 3 other players call. Thankfully dealer-to-my-right folds out. I consider for a second and then call.
The turn comes an Ace. Like, the last one. I've just made quad aces and all I can think is, Thank god, at least I'm not going to lose this one. I stare at the ace for a second and then deliberately bet. Quietly-Frustrated calls, along with one other player. The river comes a small card and I bet again, and only Q-F calls. I flip over my aces and the tables makes appropriate, "Oooo, four aces!" noises. Q-F's hand hesitates, whether pondering to show what he was playing or unwilling to believe that he is beaten, then he mucks in disgust.
This brought me back up into the black, but it did not last. I got KK cracked a bit later, and played K-J offsuit offsuit a couple of times, but got nothing else worth playing for the rest of the evening. I watched several other players bust out, including Quietly-Frustrated, who just grimaced, smiled tiredly to the dealer and made his way out. They broke up our table after we dropped to 5 players -- I was stuck for $100 but not feeling too bad.
I looked around to see where the chips had all gone. Players had busted, and the ones that were left had dwindling stacks. All the chips had found their way to the two dealer-players - the lady dealer had migrated to a starting tourney with two racks of white and red. Dealer-to-my-right had been making "I better head home" noises for about an hour but kept on winning pots and so stuck around until his rush wore off.
Gotta watch out for them dealers.
Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!
Although nowadays many younger Japanese will abbreviate this new year's greeting to "Ake Ome!", whenever I try it I feel like I'm not young and hip enough to use it.
Aside: a while back, I was walking with my girlfriend though a park area between two of the office buildings by our station. It was a pleasant evening and already dark out, and many young couples were hanging out in the park chatting (one assumes) in the darkness. I muttered to my GF, "It's only couples here..." and she laughed at me. I had used the word アベック abekku for "couple" - the word comes from the French word "avec" and used to be reasonably hip. My GF knew the word but suggested that no one used it in the last 20 years. Nowadays they use カップル kappuru from the English "couple".
All I could retort with was that it couldn't be 20 years ago... when I learned it as a student here, a mere 17 years ago, it was in common use. I couldn't see in the darkness if she rolled her eyes, but if she didn't, she should have.
We got back into Tokyo early yesterday evening, the last day of the year. It was a long, tiring trip, so I'm glad to be back in my own home. Jet lag sent us to bed at 9pm, but also woke us up at 4am, so we were easily able to see the first dawn of the new year, a Japanese tradition. Too bad it was too overcast to actually see the sun.
I didn't blog during my trip, so I'll try to write up some bits of my Vegas trip and general America impressions over the next few days.