Best News Story Ever



An Open (and Slightly Creepy) Letter To Variance

Dear Variance: I'm sorry. I didn't realize you felt that way about me. Can't we just be friends? Maybe I've been giving you the wrong impression. In the words of the dearly departed Robert Palmer, I didn't mean to turn you on. But when I said I didn't have feelings for your friend Good Fortune, well, I was just trying to let you down easy. The truth is, I love Good Fortune and don't want anything to come between us. I know you're always going to be dropping by - you're part of the family - but, well, you know what they say about fish and visitors. I know you didn't mean to hurt me. It's okay, I should be walking fine in a few days. A week tops. I'm sure there won't be any visible scarring. I don't think the neighbors heard anything. I won't tell anyone what happened. Really, I like wearing dark glasses! Just do me a favor and get out of town for a little while, okay? Yes, I know you love me, and I know you'll never do it again. I just need some space. You understand that, right? You just take a long walk, clear your head. Maybe when you come back we can talk some more. Maybe we can be friends with privileges. Anything's possible, right? With Love, Bankroll


Tell Your Story Walking (Part the First)

Stories are my bread and butter. Or at least my bread - the butter is sometimes a little hard to come by. (See ICING, CAKE AND, p. 47.) I love a well-crafted story. I will watch any con film - even a bad one - as many times as is necessary to spot the cracks, be it once or a hundred times. I will, on occasion, voluntarily watch a really bad movie just so I can think about structure without being distracted by anything remotely resembling competently written dialogue. This can make me a poor companion for the movies. Fifteen minutes into The Sixth Sense I leaned over and whispered in my wife's ear: "He's dead. Can we go now?" Once my ribs healed I learned to keep my mouth shut. The thing about story is, things in a story don't just happen in a vacuum. They can't. Well, they can in a David Lynch film, and I suspect that Lynch is probably either one hell of a poker player or a distressingly random gambooler, but I digress. Things in a story happen because something else happened earlier - because characters made certain decisions based on personal tendencies coupled with the information available to them at the time. Sometimes these decisions are good. Sometimes they're not. Sometimes the characters are in a horror movie and have all been dealt the cinematic equivalent of the Hammer. I like Hammer movies. Every poker hand is a story, it's true, but most of them are closer to Rashomon than See Spot Run. Viewed as a conversation, every player has their own thread; every player is reacting to the statements of those who've already acted. Some threads peter out early, others are intertwined until the final reveal at the end of the third act. At its most basic, poker is a formalized conversation or debate, one that continues either until someone concedes the point (by folding) or until proof is offered (a showdown). a bet is ultimately a statement: "I have the best hand." If the story's told convincingly enough, the bet may see no callers; otherwise, though, the call is the act of someone who hasn't yet made up their mind as to the bettor's veracity - or, perhaps, the act of someone who already knows better. A raise is a counter-argument - "You sure about that, bub?" A bet and a raise from early position should make matters clear to anyone waiting to act. The bettor and the raiser are both saying they have the best hand; at least one of them is probably telling the truth, and only one of them has to be for you to be in trouble. Unless you've got an awfully strong hand yourself, or you think it's really too early for everybody to be this excited about their hands, you should be saying, "I believe you" and folding.


Call the Doctor

Conditions, conditions. That's what've got me bothered this time around. I spent a week in the backwoods of Wisconsin not doing much of anything - certainly not playing poker - and when I returned home it appeared that my game had, in the meantime, packed up and left town without leaving so much as a goodbye scribble of lipstick on the mirror. First session, -20BB. Second session, -35BB. Third session, a grueling and grinding scrabble up to +6BB. Now, I have up to this point lived a fairly charmed life in re: variance, so it's not like I'm not in line for a downswing. The problem is that I've always been able to identify the leaks in my game without too much head-scratching. But not this time. Some honesty about my game is perhaps in order here. Seriously. Would I lie to you? SoCalPokBlogHomeGame readers, here's your chance to rewrite your book on me. I do everything I can to not play a predictable game. My biggest weakness here is preflop - I've broadened my range of hands with which I'll cold-call considerably while narrowing the range of hands with which I'll threebet, meaning that observant opponents will reliably be able to put me on JJ or better when threebetting. But I'd much rather my opponents be able to put me on a hand when threebetting than when I'm cold-calling, since I've taken to the latter much more often. Postflop I have a limited number of action lines (hey, it's limit). My flop action is often dictated by my position. From the blinds I tend to checkraise with a reasonable draw or marginal hand that I think is best; from middle position I'll lead with just about anything but a stone bluff, especially if I think a yet-to-act preflop raiser will raise and help me weed out some draws; and from late position I will probably bet at any unraised pot just like every other low-to-mid-limit player online today. Except maybe Phil. Turn play should be a lot simpler than it is for someone with my style. I have no problem dropping what I'm sure is a second-best hand on the turn, which may be an exploitable weakness. Mostly I'm talking here about situations where you have odds to call one bet with any piece of the flop even if you suspect you're behind - blind defense in a raised, multiway pot leads to a lot of these. I think I may be giving those up to the double-size turn bet a bit too readily. But I digress. Here's my point: the one thing I really got from Jennifer Harman's limit hold'em piece in Super/System 2 is her emphasis on aggressive (or, rather, "fearless") turn play. I am aggressive in my turn actions with a hand I think is best, obviously, but otherwise only if - and here's the key - if I think they will win me the pot. I was fairly well in the zone before I left. I often play in a pretty small pool (PokerRoom 5/10, where there are often only two or three tables going), and thus most of the players know that I'm going to put them to the test with their marginal hands as much as possible when I have position. So I stole a lot of pots. My table image was fantastic. When I came back? Zero. Zip. Nada. I'm playing exactly the same way (as in, my big cards aren't hitting the flops and I'm betting anyway, my draws never come in, and bitch moan whine yadda &c.), and the good ship Bankroll has a massive hole around the waterline. I get no respect. People are calling me down with hands that, man, it's insulting they're calling me down with those. I am wounded. Matters aren't helped much when I get - three hands in a row - AA, KK and AKs. The first two go down in flames to rivered sets. AKs sees a flop of AK9 and I lose a bundle to a slowplayed AA. That's when I call it quits for the night and start wondering where I went wrong. And here's the lightbulb moment. The deep, dark secret, the a-ha, the moment where I realize what an idiot I've been. My table image has changed because my table identity has changed. I'm still playing the same tables, but via Hollywood Poker rather than PokerRoom. They're not scared of me because they don't know me from fucking Adam. I cannot work in those conditions. Well, says I, that will just not do. So I have some work to do.