Monthly Archives: May 2008

Knowing when to take a Chance

Everyone knows that the ideal situation to push most of your chips into the pot would be having the nuts against an opponent who has only a second rate hand.  However, there are often times where this perfect scenario just isn’t possible and you are the one with a decent hand but not the best.  And, in tournament situations especially, sometimes you just have to take a chance when holding cards like A-Q, K-Q or middle pairs.

But when is the best possible time to make such a move?  In my opinion, it’s when you feel your stack is slipping and a move needs to be made before winding up short-stacked.  And the best way to do this is by trying to isolate someone who has a shorter stack than you.

To go about this, I try to look for a short-stacked person who is the first one to limp into a pot.  If other limpers follow, then it’s a great opportunity to jump into the pot with a raise hoping the original and short-stacked limper calls it. 

Now obviously, this type of move needs to be done when one is preferably in later position but it can also be pulled off from middle position.  There are some dangers to trying this from middle position such as one getting burned if someone behind them has a great pocket pair and raises the raise thus knocking out the original short-stacked player.

But one thing is for sure and this is that sitting by idly while your stack dwindles isn’t exactly a great option either.  And if the stack gets low enough, taking a chance won’t pay off nearly as much as it could’ve before.  In fact, you might be the one having to go all-in when the stack is too low.  And that always leaves a good chance of busting out.


Do Poker Players forget about their Health?

In late 2003 and early 2004, when poker started getting really popular, I can remember some misunderstood members of the media (especially the sports media) bashing the game and its star players. 

Their main criticism seemed to be the typical stereotype at the time of a bunch of unhealthy, fat guys sitting around a table smoking cigars and throwing their money away.  Being a participant and fan of the game, I was somewhat appalled by their description of poker and thought that it was a very unjust view from people who had no idea what they were talking about.

Now that I think about it though, they may not be way out of line with regards to questioning the health of poker players as a whole.  Just think of how many players can be seen at tournaments eating hotdogs, hamburgers, drinking pop, and generally digesting everything that any dietician would advise against.  I mean when is the last time you saw someone drinking V8 while snacking on an apple?

Yes, the tournaments can be long and eating healthy isn’t always an option but what about other aspects of the game that are disastrous to one’s health.  Some players are constantly traveling which again leads to some poor food choices and others drink alcohol quite often at the tables.

A lot of players choose the no exercise route as well which is probably a direct result of the long hours put in at the table whether it be live or online.  The adrenaline rush that comes from big hands isn’t good for the body either as one’s heart rate can skyrocket and this is way worse for a person than just sitting on the couch watching TV.

Now granted, not every poker player travels or puts in long hours at the table but the majority of those who play significant hours each day are definitely at risk.  And as long as there’s plenty of money to be made in poker, I don’t see too many players cashing in their chips for time spent improving their health anytime soon.

Poker Club embodied what is Great in the Game

It’s easy to forget about some of the more cheerful aspects of poker with the way the game is sometimes today.  Things such as [[Online_poker|online poker]] room scandals, players being busted for housing home [[Gambling|gambling]] circuits, and some stars of the game having heads that have become too big for their shoulders taint poker and make people forget about why it was started in the first place – To have fun and develop camaraderie with friends.

But one story that’s been circulating around lately reinforced what good can come from [[Poker|poker]] if people truly enjoy the game.  Some people may have already heard about the Seattle area poker club that had been playing for 46 years straight.  And unfortunately, they may have also heard that this poker club started by Grant Erwin recently ended its run. 

Called the Puget Probability and Chowder Society, the group that participated in this poker club played at various homes throughout the Seattle area during the four and a half decades.  The interesting thing about these people is that they engaged in low stakes poker games but money wasn’t exchanged between the players.  Instead, it was given to Erwin and the money won was kept track of by tokens placed into a baby food jar.

Now Erwin didn’t just keep the money as he instead invested it in different stocks.  The way the shares were kept track of was through the tokens in the jar.  Eventually, those $10 and $20 winnings turned into $100,000 of collective profit amongst the group. 

The stock portfolio was recently cashed in by the group that included plenty of men in their 70’s and 80’s but the memories from the games will always live on with them.  The club often had members rotate in and out of the circle due to people moving away or passing away but those that remain still keep close ties.

To me, it’s great to hear a story like this because it reminds me that poker isn’t all about what goes in the major tournaments or how much money one can win online. 

Medium Pairs in the Middle

In poker there are many actions that are debatable.  And I would certainly throw the decision of what to do with a medium pair such as 9-9 in middle position in that equation.  Most would say that one should call with this hand as long as a tight player in early position hasn’t raised or anything.  But there is another school of thought that says to either raise or fold with such a hand.

I happen to agree with the first line of thinking in that this is a good hand to call with and see what action takes place behind me.  When I was playing a few days ago, I was in this very situation where I had a pair of nines and was pretty confident that a call would be the best decision to make.

The game was an online $5/$10 Hold’em cash game and one person called before me.  My line of thinking was that a pair of nines wasn’t going to win the hand so I should just try to see the flop as cheaply as possible.  Two players behind me called as well so no raises were made.  The four of us saw the flop come up 5c-3s-5h. 

The player in front of me folded while I checked.  One of the two players after me checked and the other one bet out.  When the action came back around to me I debated on whether to call this bet or not as, once again, I figured that two nines weren’t going to cut it and I only had a couple of outs to make my hand.  Plus, I figured that the player who bet had something like A-5 and had just hit a set.

In the end, I decided to fold and the other two people played the hand out till the end.  I was right in that the player who initially bet out after the flop was holding A-5.  And this made me question my initial decision of simply calling when I had 9-9 in middle position with no raises in front of me. 

It sort of makes me lean towards the thinking that a raise or fold is better with none out in from of me.  This way, I think I might have made the person with the A-5 fold and they never would have hit a set on the flop.   

Is Poker in Danger? (Part 2)

The last post I wrote looked at a few of the online trends occurring in poker today that might make one wonder if the game is in any sort of danger as far as losing its popularity among people.  This post is going to focus on the TV side of poker and some of the major shakeups that have happened or may be in the works with regards to the televised side of the game. 

First, let’s go over what has already occurred:
– At this point it looks like the [[Game_Show_Network|Game Show Network (GSN)]] is moving towards canceling the show [[High_Stakes_Poker|”High Stakes Poker”]].  This comes after news surfaced that no new episodes were filmed in March or April which is when they filmed them in the past.  
– There have also been some reports that the [[World_Poker_Tour|WPT]] is in trouble after lackluster ratings.  This is only speculation but they can’t be in real good standing with GSN after PokerStars chose to no longer advertise during WPT’s time slot.
– The already oft-reported news about the [[World_Series_of_Poker|WSOP]] final table being moved to boost ratings for ESPN’s coverage of the Main Event is just another event which makes me wonder what kind of state the popularity of poker is currently at.

Now these events certainly don’t spell the doomsday for poker as I’m fairly sure that the game of will always be around since too many people enjoy playing it for poker to ever fade away.  But the TV occurrences coupled with the online trend of the FTOPS definitely raises some questions though.

And most of these questions revolve around whether the glory days of poker – that saw Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu have become household names and tons of people flock to card rooms across the Internet daily – are starting their decline. 

I sure hope not but we’ll have to wait a couple of years to truly find out.

Is Poker in Danger? (Part 1)

Ever since 2003, the game of poker seems to have grown to epic proportions with each passing year.  Not only has the number of players entering poker shot up but so have the amount of TV shows dedicated to it.  But this growth seems to have really slowed as of late in both the online and TV sector and many people around the industry are starting to worry.

For instance, the 8th annual [[Full_Tilt_Poker|Full Tilt Online Poker]] Series just finished up on Sunday and perhaps the most telling numbers of the event were that the highest number of participants in a single tourney was 5,090 and the amount of people in the Main Event was 4,750. 

These numbers certainly indicate that poker is still popular enough to where people will pay $100 to $500 to buy-in to major online tournaments but contrast the FTOPS 8 figures with that of FTOPS 7.  In the 7th annual Full Tilt Online Poker Series, the stats were significantly higher as the biggest tournament featured 6,000 people in it while the Main Event had 5,291 people in it. 

Looking at the Main Event, this means that 541 more people chose to play in 2007 than did this year.  And it can’t be blamed on the buy-ins either as both years they were set at $500 +$35 (maybe 541 people just didn’t like [[Jennifer_Harman|Jennifer Harman]] as the host).  The prize pool was down too from $2,645,000 to $2,375,000.   

And while the FTOPS Main Event is just a single online tournament, it is one of the biggest and most publicized on the net and definitely deserves a look.   It also prompts one to question whether the popularity of poker as a whole is going downhill.  Thursday, I’ll talk about some of the TV trends as well in order to bring this into a bigger perspective.

Be Glad you don't live in Washington

I’ve heard of the states that are extremely strict on people who participate in home poker games.  Oklahoma is one that comes to mind right away as this state declares that anyone caught playing at a home-based poker game where money is exchanged is subject to a misdemeanor.  It’s even worse for the host as they could be charged with a felony and could wind up in jail or even prison depending on the case.

However, I wasn’t aware there were states that declared online poker a felony.  That is until I came across a recent story about how the state of Washington has this type of law in effect and refuses to overturn it despite pressure from many different sources.

In Washington, the state’s law says that online poker is illegal and anyone caught playing is subject to a $10,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison.  This has been in effect since 2006 and has caused plenty of outcry.

And justifiably so too as it’s a little hard to reason that putting an online poker player in the same cell with a rapist or murderer makes sense.  Luckily, most other people in the state see how stupid Washington’s government is in allowing this kind of legislature.

Former Washington governor candidate and current lawyer Lee Rousso has sprearheaded the charge to rid the state of their outrageous online poker law.  Rousso has been arguing that it is unconstitutional to have such a law and it is only in place to protect the state’s lotteries and live card rooms.  Member of the [[Poker_Players_Alliance|Poker Players Alliance (PPA)]] such as [[Barry_Greenstein|Barry Greenstein]] have also made efforts to get the state to overturn its law but Washington refuses. 

It’s difficult for me to imagine living in a place like Washington where I could go to prison for playing poker for money over the Internet.  It would be like living in a different country from a law stand point and what kind of poker player would want to live in such a place?  Hopefully the Washington government will ask themselves the same thing and overturn this ridiculous law.

Overcoming a Bad Stretch of Cards

If there’s anything that can ruin poker for me, it’s catching a ton of bad cards in a row.  It’s almost like the slump that people who play other games and sports experience but it is even worse.  You can’t control the cards that you’re dealt and worse yet, you might try to force things as the bad cards keep piling up.

I know that when I’m stuck in this bad stretch of cards, I start to play tight when I should be playing more aggressive or even revert to the opposite and play too aggressive when I should be reigning things in more. 

But in my opinion, the worst thing one can do if they truly like playing poker is lose their liking for the game.  I’ve known a few people who’ve soured on Hold’em after experiencing a bad run with what’s in their hand.  I’ve always tried to look at it as if everything will even out in the end and the good cards will eventually come.

There’s been times when I don’t want to wait though and this has always been a good opportunity to switch from playing Hold’em all the time to something else like Omaha.  I may not be that great at Omaha but it’s a nice break from the norm.  Sometimes I’ll switch the limits that I play in Hold’em as well to change things up a bit and hopefully get away from the bad cards.

Sometimes stepping down to a lower limit and playing with people who aren’t as serious about the game can be a big relief from getting bad cards.  The bottom line is though that I try to do anything to avoid just stopping my poker playing period.  If I just stop playing because of some bad cards, then I’m not having fun with poker.

What to make of Bodog's Celebrity Poker Odds has made a habit recently of giving gamblers betting odds on some pretty obscure things.  The latest odds I’ve seen Bodog cook up was for who will win the fourth season of Hell’s Kitchen.  To be honest, I’ve only seen the previews for the show and a screaming chef isn’t enough to entice me to waste an hour of my life every Tuesday. 

But one set of odds that I did find interesting were the latest ones on which celebrity will have the biggest cash out at the upcoming 2008 WSOP Main Event.  Now these odds are interesting for two reasons:
1. It’s odds on which celebrities will make the most money 
2. Who Bodog lists at the top of their list.

Coming in at the top are [[Daniel_Negreanu|Daniel Negreanu]] at 5/2 odds and newly signed Team Bodog member Justin Bonomo at 3/1.  My question is; How does Bodog think that these two players belong in the celebrity odds line?  Sure Negreanu is a huge celebrity in poker (and even beyond) while Bonomo is becoming more popular but these two are also pros as well.

I mean if Bodog signed [[Kobe_Bryant|Kobe Bryant]] and [[Steve_Nash|Steve Nash]] to promote their basketball betting section, would if be fair to hold a celebrity three-point competition, throw these two in there, and declare them the odds-on-favorites to win the contest?

Anyways, getting to the rest of the odds, Shannon Elizabeth, James Woods, and Jennifer Tilly check in next at 5/1 odds.  Montel Williams is sitting pretty good at 13/2 while Ben Affleck, Don Cheadle, Boris Becker, and even Norm MacDonald (I didn’t even now he played) have 9/1 odds at bringing home the most cash from the WSOP.

Getting to the people that Bodog has very little faith in (and for good reason), Hank Azaria, Penn Gillette, Lennox Lewis, and Jose Canseco are in the cellar of the odds list at 30/1.  But on a good note for Lennox and Jose, they will be heavily favored by Bodog to win any future celebrity boxing or baseball contests.

I wish I were Lucky like Jamie Gold – Celebrity Poker Tournament

I can’t help but thinking what life would be like to have the luck of [[Jamie_Gold|Jamie Gold]].  And no, I’m not just talking about the time he won $12 million using some of the luckiest bluff in the history of the WSOP.  Instead I’m talking about how he has the good fortune of co-hosting the third annual Celebrity Poker Tournament at the Playboy Mansion. 

Gold will host the event which takes place on May 17th with Khloe Kardashian from “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”.  Not only will Jamie have Khloe by his side as long as she can stand him but he will also be amidst the usual crowd of curvy Playboy Bunnies.  It’s almost enough to make a man jealous.

But not jealous in the sense that Gold actually has a chance with Khloe or the Bunnies (unless he brings some of his 2006 winnings along).  More so of the simple fact that Gold, despite his consistently average poker ability, seems to remain one of the stars of the poker world.

Anyways, for all of you West Coast people, the Celebrity Poker Tournament is a fund raiser as well for the Urban Health Institute which means it’s general admission.  The general admission is a little pricey at $500 and so is the buy-in for the tourney as it’s $1,500. 

Obviously though, this isn’t your average $1,500 buy-in ($2,000 counting admission) considering that you’d be inches away from the Bunnies and will get to see celebrities such as Phil Ivey, comedian Anthony Anderson, Phil Laak, Super Bowl Champ and Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce, and others listed that I have no idea of who they are.

Plus anyone who attends can participate in a silent auction where one of the items up for bids is private poker lessons from Jamie Gold.  Now this must be the real reason everyone is going.  Expect some fierce bidding.