Tuesday, January 09, 2007


You know what happens when you make a blog post about how you're running good, and feel like you're playing well?

That's right, you know.

Current online poker bankroll: $1577.36

I figured I'd hit a correction soon. I was running lucky before and starting to play a bit more on autopilot, probably reinforcing bad habits. Just as well, I will pull back and review, reread my books, and get ready for live poker in Vegas from Saturday.

I watched The Cincinnati Kid again over the weekend. The story is a lot more interesting now than it was when I first saw it when getting into poker 1.5 years ago.

Also rereading The Theory of Poker again, too. Also a lot of items are making more sense. Many of the examples from Stud and Razz I had skipped over the first time or two, but now that I am a bit more familiar with the games now, I am reading them closely and making sure I follow what he is saying. Not sure if it has affected my game yet, but it shouldn't hurt.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


It must have been the mixed games on Friday night - today I felt like playing some cards, but not really so much holdem. I'm not cut out to be a professional poker player - many times I don't feel much like playing, and if I play anyhow (for lack of anything better to do, or to work towards clearing a bonus, etc.) I play very poorly and lose money doing stupid shit I know enough not to do.

So I have my goal to earn enough for a new laptop, but while I'd love to get it quickly, I'm not going to hurry myself. The longer it takes, the cheaper the thing will get, anyhow.

So I fired up Full Tilt and tried one of the new Mixed Game cash tables. Lowest limit was .25/.50, which was perfect. I just wanted to have a good time and get my fix. Played for about an hour and made $2. I had a ball. I just wish I had more opportunities to play Razz live.

I mentioned Cardrunners before - I signed up with them about a month ago. I felt my game was stale and not going anywhere. I decided I needed to try something different to give myself a kick in the ass. Cardrunners sounded interesting - I figured that I had enough books, but some people would learn better from videos, and I might be one of those people. So I gave it a try.

It has been a real eye-opener. So many books I have read have emphasized the importance of position. "Position, position, position." "No other factor in NL Holdem is as important as position." That kind of thing. I must have read similar statements in a dozen different places, and I thought I understood it.

I hadn't.

Granted, the players in the videos tend towards the Loose Agressive type of player, but I was still shocked at some of the hands they played in position, and how easily they managed it. It didn't always work out for them, but the vast majority of their hands they were in full control of the action.

So I have been trying to apply what I've been seeing, and so far it has worked out very well. I've only played about 2500 hands or so since I signed up, but I'm showing a win rate of about 10 big bets per 100 hands, which is pretty reasonable. More importantly, my decisions come so much easier. If I'm in there with a marginal hand, I have position on my opponents 95% of the time. If I'm out of position, I usually have a strong hand to begin with and don't have to worry as much about where I stand.

And it is fun to play as a LAG, after playing so long as a somewhat weak-tight TAG. It's been a kick in the pants, all right, and I'm looking at the game a lot differently now. In this respect, Cardrunners has been worth every penny. And if I can earn enough for a new notebook from it, even better.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Duke - 5 Jan 2007

I went to Duke last night for their first post-New Year's games. Since I'll be heading to Vegas soon I could use a bit more live practice. I thought Mike would be coming but his schedule didn't work out. Really gotta bring him around to the joint sometime.

I fiddled around outside the building for a bit with my mobile phone, trying to get the built-in GPS to give me or mail me the latitude and longitude of Duke's location for the "Pub Poker Games In Tokyo" information page I am planning. No dice, apparently the function on my new(ish) phone now requires a monthly subscription. Bastards, the GPS on my previous phone was free. Oh well, I'll dig the location up with Google Maps or something.

I showed up 30 minutes early for the 7:30 start of the first game, so ordered a Guinness and exchanged the traditional new year greetings with the other early arrivals. Shiono-san and Celica-san were swapping information about casinos in Seoul, since Shiono is planning a trip there next week. I asked about poker rooms, since I heard there wasn't much poker there yet, and Celica assured me there were rooms open there now, but the limits are pretty high, like the rooms in Tinian and the Phillipines. It sounds like $10/$20 is the most likely limit you'll find. Holy crap. Think I need a bigger bankroll and more confidence before I'll be playing in these asian casino poker games.

I busted out early from the first tournament, limit holdem. Played poorly with mediocre cards and a lot of missed flops. Ugh. My limit game needs a lot of work. (Like my no-limit game doesn't?) Played some chinese poker until the second game began at 9:30pm - this time mixed games, TTOS. Texas Holdem, Texas Holdem, Omaha hi-lo, and Seven-card Stud. Sometimes we'll have a proper HORSE game, but I think those tend to be on the once-monthly Saturday games. A shame, because the world needs more Razz.

I really like the mixed game nights now, although they made my head hurt the first few times. Now it's refreshing to switch to a new game and have to shift gears. Lately I seem to accumulate chips in Stud, probably because almost everyone is very hesitant in the Stud round. With fairly low chip stacks compared to the blinds, losing one hand of Stud can cripple you. I felt this pain early on when I raised with a pair of tens, one exposed, and got called by Min-san with a King showing. I thought he might just have high cards at that point, no pair. I fired on most of the later streets and he kept calling, as I received two fives and he two queens. My resolve that my two-pair was good faltered at the end, and I checked. He bet out, and I knew he had suckered me and had the King down. I paid the last bet to see it. Nice play.

I struggled on with my few remaining chips, and started to rally. I thought I was finished when we got to Omaha-hi and I got a free flop from the BB with 2-3-4-6, three hearts. The flop came A-2-7 rainbow, and I had to stare at it for a minute to confirm I had a made nut low. But there were a lot of limpers into the hand and somewhere in my poker travels I learned how much it sucks to be quartered, especially when you really thought you had a lock on half the pot. I checked and Saitoh-san, a previous Vegas Cup winner, bet. It was folded around to me. I called to the river, internally chanting "please don't get quartered, please don't get quartered," and heaved a sigh of relief as Saitoh-san flipped over a slightly worse low. He'd paired a medium card to take the high, so we split it and I could breathe again.

It came round to stud again, and I got into a hand with Psyka-san, who is a very good holdem player but doesn't seem to like Stud much. I don't remember the details, but I think I had a wired pair that made trips somewhere around fifth street. Blinds had been increasing all this time so Psyka called his last few chips with something like two pair, well concealed. Ouch. With his stack, though, I was back in the running.

When we got down to the final table, it switched to NL Holdem. This arrangement may piss players and viewers off at the World Series HORSE event, but it works well when you have to finish your small tournament in 2.5 hours so players can make the last train home. M's are small all around, so the remaining players take their shots and flame out quickly. I pushed all-in from early-mid position and J.O. called me with a slightly smaller stack, declaring with a smile he wanted to bust me. The smile disappeared as I flipped over my AK, and he showed his AQ. Mine held up, and it looks like our good-natured gunning for each other will continue.

I got down to heads-up with Saitoh-san, and hit a couple of lucky cards to stay in the game when I really should have been gone. Back and forth, back and forth, and I had a slight chip advantage into the last hand. In the small blind, I called with J-6, I think it was, and Saitoh-san pushed his remaining few chips. I knew he had a better hand, probably a king or ace, but it was only two more chips to play and I figured my cards would be live. He flipped over something like A-5. Yep, at least I called it right. The first card of the flop was my 6, and the third was a jack. He missed an unlikely flush at the end and I took the game. Whew!

Saitoh-san is a good player... hell, all these guys are good players. If I had to look around the bar to spot the sucker, I probably wouldn't be able to find one, and we know what that means. But I get lucky sometimes, and any win still feels good.

Tonight was the regular weekly game, so my first place finish earns me 5 points towards the season 4 Vegas Cup. Saitoh-san is already at 135 points, and eight or ten others are over a hundred. Somebody cue up the Rocky Balboa music for me? Thanks.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Stuff I have won or paid for from poker winnings:

Nintendo DS - around 20,000yen ($168)
iPod nano 4g - around 25,000yen ($210)
Dyson vacuum - 35,000yen ($294) [Costs more than this, but this is the amount of poker money I used for it]
Trip to Vegas - around $1700

Add in my current bankroll, and it starts to look like some real winnings. Unfortunately, only the Nintendo and Dyson are really covered by my online bankroll. The iPod and Vegas trip I won in the local pub games, which have entry fees I pay for out of pocket. Over the span of the last 1.5 years, those fees probably add up to about the value of what I won.

Still... looks good on paper, though!

The Prize

Okay, this is what I'm after. A new iBook... whoops, sorry! MacBook. That's going to take some getting used to. Currently the slightly faster model is a 2ghz Intel Core 2 Duo chip, which would make the thing a bit faster and more powerful than my current desktop.

Do you remember when laptops all cost around $3000? I do. Everything today seems cheap by comparison. Speaking of price...

I'll need to bump the memory up slightly to 2gigs, and the hard drive up to 120 gigs, to give enough resources to run Parallels on the thing and have a simultaneous Windows session running on the thing. This works wonderfully for me on my desktop machine, and this laptop will actually have a faster cpu so should have even less of a problem. Of course, if they came out with a Mac version of PokerTracker, maybe I wouldn't have to go to such lengths. Oh, and PokerAce HUD. And a Mac client for PokerStars. (Which they say will never happen.) And PokerPatterns would be nice. And a way to view the Windows-based DRM-protected videos from Cardrunners.

I said I would stop with the whining, right? Okay, all done.

Prices are pretty damn close between the US and Japanese Apple Store web sites, with the current exchange rate at something close to 119 yen/dollar. It's worth paying an extra $60 for a Japanese version to get the Japanese keyboard and to be able to get it serviced locally if something goes wrong.

Current online poker bankroll: $1657.91

If (when!) I get this up to $2000, I'll start looking at pulling out a grand for the new toy and pay for the balance with "real" money. Macworld is coming, which may bring lowered prices or new models. And if I continue to run well, I may press on until I can pay for the whole thing with poker money. I don't see myself as that patient, but I guess stranger things have happened.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


A year ago I figured I would work on limit holdem and build up my skills and bankroll to be playing regularly in the $2/$4 games online. It hasn't turned out that way at all.

Somewhere along the line I switched to no-limit and have had better results and enjoyed myself more. I can see the merits of getting better at limit, but no-limit is the current low-hanging fruit.

I'm still playing low limits though, so I have to work at improving my skills and moving up. In the shorter term, though, I've been longing for a new Mac notebook for a while. My current iBook is about 4-5 years old and starting to feel its age. It still works, though, for most things I do on a notebook, so I haven't been able to justify spending the money for a new one. I mean, yeah, the battery is old and getting to where it can't keep a charge anymore, and the power adapter cord is frayed at the connector and I've patched it up with electrical tape twice now to keep a good connection, but otherwise it's fine. Not cherry, you know, because I did manage to bust the LCD screen that time when I propped it up on a window ledge and then caught the power cable when vaccuuming and yanked it down, crashing the display into the corner of my kotatsu. Replacing the screen would have cost me about 90,000yen, but I found someone selling a replacement screen on Yahoo auctions (much more popular than eBay here) for 30,000yen, so I took a chance and cracked the thing open and replaced it myself. Never having worked on laptops before, it was a nightmare of figuring how to take the thing apart and keeping track of 17 different tiny screws and still having two left over when I got the thing back together. But it worked! And still does.

I was going somewhere with this, I know I was.

Right, the point was, it still works fine so replacing it is a luxury. But I'm liking the idea of funding small luxuries with poker winnings, so I get to buy something I otherwise would not have, and have motivation to keep playing and improving to win more. The Nintendo DS Lite I bought for C was with poker money. So was about half of the cash for the Dyson vacuum cleaner we bought for Christmas. (It was her idea, I swear.)

So my next goal is to build my bankroll to where I can pull out $1000 to dedicate to a new iBook without decimating it, then cover the rest from "real" money. Depending on how things go, maybe I'll keep going and pay for the whole thing with poker money. That would be nice, but maybe too optomistic.

The new iBook would run Windows, too, so I could play on PokerStars with it. That would be "paying for itself" on a new, subtle level.

Anyhow, let's see how this first goal goes and I'll set a new one after that.


Enough of that whiny crap.

I think a good first step will be a decent listing of the various pub-style poker games in Tokyo, with maps and other details. Should be useful content for someone who is actually looking for poker games in Japan.

Planning to go visit Duke on Friday for their weekly games, so I'll take a couple photos and write up how to get there, what games they play, etc. Hopefully I can fill out the list of other public games in Tokyo and keep a reference link to it on my main page.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Lemon juice

You know what is frustrating?

Writing about poker, Japan, and poker in Japan (granted, infrequently at times), then one day deciding to do a Google search for "japan poker blog" and not finding any links to your blog in the first 50 pages of results. Although I did find this link to Tokyo fashion picks for winter coats in the results.

I had slightly better results when searching for "tokyo poker blog". There was a link to me on page 25. Maybe if I work on my blog a bit more I can make it up higher in the rankings than this article on women being groped on the trains here.

Yeah, it does kind of sting.

Vegas trip

Short version: I'll be in Vegas from January 13 to 23. Yeah baby!

God, I am looking forward to this trip to Las Vegas.

Marisuke had warned me that the travel agency got the best prices around two months before a planned trip, so with a bit less than a month before my planned departure date, it could get expensive.

That sat like a cold rock in my stomach for a day or so while I tried to get the time off sorted. If it were so expensive that I'd have to drop a thousand or two of my own dollars in addition to what the Vegas Cup winnings covered, I couldn't justify the trip. I'd have to cancel again, and that would really push me over the edge into the "I hate my job, I hate my life" zone I've been skirting.

But when I called the travel agency, they quoted me a very reasonable price for the airline flight, about 69,000yen round trip on United. Aside: hey, you remember when the price quote for an airline flight was the total price and you didn't have to add in $200 of extra taxes and fuel fees? Ah, those were simpler times.

Still, it was not the 200,000yen last minute fare price I was dreading. Finally I was catching a break. One time, come on, one time!

I don't know what's going on in Vegas on Jan 13-14, but hotel rates on the Strip for those nights are crazy. $400 to stay at the Luxor on Jan 13? No thanks! I'm renting a car so I went with The Orleans instead, off the strip and a lot cheaper.

The full schedule and price came from the travel agency by registered mail two days later. It will be close, but I think my Vegas Cup winning should cover it completely. Yes!

My company is also going to cover the cost of my training class there, which wasn't a sure thing. I even got a 20% discount on the cost of the class when I called the training center to book, which may be a standard discount that everyone gets but it still felt nice. I must have been a good boy this year, because things are actually working out.

Damn, hope I didn't jinx things by saying that.