Pump Up the Volume!

Pump Up the Volume!

Last week, Collin had to make a last minute trip back to Maryland to see his family, and I had to stay to watch our pets. So, I decided to grind my heart out:

That game count was composed of mostly 180-mans, and some 45-mans, 27-mans, MTTs, and one single table. The solitary SNG was one of the two weekly 15,000 FPP VIP One Tables that run on Stars. These SNGs have a $350 bounty on the Stars Pro, and $1k for first (with 4 places paid).

After scoring the knockout of the Stars Pro early when I cold 4-bet shoved close to 50 BBs with AQ>QJ, I really wanted to get the win! At the same time that tournament was short-handed, I was heads-up in the weekly €55 EPT Ladies satellite, where I took second the prior week for around €200. This week though, only 1st place had a prize, of €500. After losing a few flips, the ladies table didn’t pop back up to the top of my stack, but I did take down the VIP one table, for a total cash of $1,350 in that SNG!

Most importantly, I found that focusing on putting in my highest volume week so far for 2014 helped me to maintain playing my A+ game, even when getting up to my total peak of 55 games running at once!

Being home alone, meant that I could sing (scream?) songs without anyone hearing—well except for Wilbur, who was camped out next to me while I played.

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The song I sang more than any other:

The successful week underlined to me the importance of focusing on volume: both of my number of games and of the blasting music! It can be easy in poker to be very results-oriented, whether that is winning a tournament and thinking you’re the best ever, or having a downswing and thinking you’ve forgotten what the point of a c-bet is.

For me, focusing on volume (as well as studying) helps me to be driven by what I can control in poker. I’ve played almost 23,000 tournaments this year and am so excited to cross the 30,000 goal that I set for myself at the beginning 2014—while singing along to whatever song blasts from my speakers!

There’s No Place Like Home!

There’s No Place Like Home!

To say I had fun on my combo San Diego/Vegas trip would be a dramatic understatement! In Mexico, Collin and I live a pretty isolated life, which comes as a surprise to many that think of Mexico as being very crowded. Rosarito is actually a quiet coastal town, where the focus is on a laid back life with time to enjoy the same enviable weather as Southern California!

I made a detailed account of my trip in my CardsChat thread here!

My favorite part of the trip was when my Mom came to Vegas. She came on the first day of the Monster Stack, and it was the first time she had ever seen me play live poker. If you’ve never been to the Rio during the WSOP, there is simply magic in the air—perhaps it is the force of thousands of players dreaming of winning, or the crackling sound of so many chips being shuffled. Having stood in that room years ago as a micro-super turbo grinder (to watch Collin play), it was part of my inspiration to become a full-time player.

My Mom, despite my protestations that watching me play must have been very boring, watched me for hours. Every time I looked over at her, she would smile broadly, and I was reminded once again, that I have the best Mother in the whole world! It also helped that I had a friendly, talkative table that day—I even got everyone to wave to her on the rail!

Because of the massive turnout in the Monster Stack, dinner break was cancelled—but Collin and my Mom brought me a plate of food on one of the 20 minute breaks!  This was especially thoughtful because eating quickly on a ketogenic diet is tough, since I don’t eat processed food.

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When I made day two of the Monster Stack, I was initially annoyed that they shortened the day one, and changed the restart from noon the next day till 3 PM. This meant that there was a much higher chance that I would be unable to play the Ladies as a result of still being in the Monster, and that I could bust out of the money without being able to play the ladies. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened, but considering that it meant I got to spend more time with my Mom I was actually happy with the result!

Poker wise, I had a fun winning cash session, but bricked 4 WSOP events. I’m a firm believer that nothing makes you appreciate playing online quite like playing live does—so I guess it’s not too surprising that I’ve played almost 2,000 tournaments since getting back home to grind online. My Hot $75 win was an extra nice victory, since if I had opted to stay in Vegas for the Main, I wouldn’t have played in it!

So for me online poker > live poker, but the experience of seeing my Mom and so many friends made the trip a definite win! Here are some of my favorite moments:

My Mom took this picture while I was being interviewed by Mark Hoke:

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Jayne Furman for PokerNews capturing me grinding a short stack:

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The TwoPlusTwo That’s What She Said (Ladies Forum) Annual Meetup:

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With Jamie Kerstetter:

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At the San Diego Zoo with Collin:

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Thanks to everyone that rooted for me on the trip! I’m excited to be back home and grinding online! :)

Hot $75 Win on PokerStars!

Hot $75 Win on PokerStars!

Woooohoooo! I got back home to Mexico from Vegas under a week ago, in time to take this one down for my biggest score of 2014 (so far)!
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Here’s a fun hand from Heads-Up play:

And the winner’s lobby! :)
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Rail Thread on CardsChat

Rail Thread on CardsChat

I’m posting the rail thread for my vacation/WSOP tournaments on CardsChat. Here’s the thread!

So far, I’ve posted updates about my amazing trip to San Diego, and my first night back in Vegas in almost a year!

I’ve already been on two boats! One while playing limit hold ‘em, and here:

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Latest PokerStrategy Video Released

Latest PokerStrategy Video Released

My latest video for PokerStrategy has a “Nash Pop Quiz” format on a 180-man Hand History. Anyone can watch the first few minutes, and the whole video can be viewed with gold status or higher on PokerStrategy:http://www.pokerstrategy.com/video/33199/.

Fun Hand in a $3.50 Rebuy 180-Man

Fun Hand in a $3.50 Rebuy 180-Man

When we started this heads-up match, we were over 50 big blinds deep– which is likely the deepest I’ve ever gotten to heads-up in around 25,000 of these tournaments!  My opponent was a reg, which allowed for a lot of interesting post-flop lines, like in this hand:

 


Thanks in large part to this hand, I ended up shipping it! :)

5 Ways to Make Poker More Fun

5 Ways to Make Poker More Fun

The most fun that I ever had playing poker was day one of the WSOP Main Event in 2012.  As I blogged about, my first table was a side feature with my poker-author hero Dan Harrington.  When I was learning the basics of how to play poker tournaments, I remember lying on the couch in my sorority house between writing classes reading the Harrington on Hold ‘em trilogy.  Then, in 2012, I got to check-raise Harrington, who told my husband with a smile on a break (they’d met before through their mutual publisher) “Tell your wife to stop beating me up!”

Besides the fact that I was making big hands, what really made that day so much fun was the social aspect of the table, and the total lack of pretention.  I’d guess that every person at that table besides Harrington was playing in the biggest buy-in of their life, and yet we were talking between hands and sharing quirky stories. When Harrington was announced to the whole room and received applause for being a Main Event Champion, he was in the middle of raising.  When he got no callers, he flipped over Aces and we all shared a laugh.

No one was hiding behind neon-orange reflective sunglasses, no one was taking two minutes to raise pre-flop.  No one was talking about Nash Equilibrium, nor balanced 4-bet ranges. And my guess would be that the four self-professed first timers there have all played it again since.

Recently, I read an interesting interview of Joanne Bartley, marketing manager for PokerStars Women by Barry Carter on Pokerstrategy.com, which closed with this excellent paragraph:

More importantly, marketing the game to be more appealing to women seems to face almost exactly the same challenges as making the game more appealing to recreational players in general. It is about reasserting that poker is a fun social activity first and foremost, and that is something I believe benefits everyone in poker. 

So how can we make poker more social? Here are the top five things I think pros can do to make the games more fun for new players:

1.)    Ditch the costumes: Unless you’re suffering from the flu (in which case, please stay home!), don’t come to the table with a hoodie covering so much of your face that you could win a costume contest for dressing like a mummy. Don’t wear obnoxious sunglasses with a hat.

Phil Laak took this idea to the utmost the day that he was unrecognizable in full costume as an old man.   People that do this might argue that they are pro players getting an edge by camouflaging themselves, but I disagree with this.  When I play with someone trying to hide themselves, it actually makes me pay even more attention to the tells they are so desperate to hide.

Wearing sunglasses doesn’t hide stare-downs—if we are in a pot and you’re wearing sunglasses pointed in my general direction, then I assume you are staring at me.  Therefore any reaction you think you get out of me is way more likely to be acting than if I felt more comfortable by your lack of a costume.

2.)    Stop pretending to be in a bad movie: Of course, as poker players, acting is part of our job description, but there’s no reason to spend 5 minutes staring down your opponent to see if his blinking frequency can confirm that he holds the nuts and you can hero fold the 2nd nuts—because you won’t be folding. 

The least fun I ever had playing live was in a $300 heads-up tournament. I have to assume that my opponent had no idea I was a pro, yet he put on sunglasses, routinely took over a minute to raise pre-flop, and would stare at me for over two minutes before deciding to c-bet with a smirk. Later I was told that this guy was a high-stakes heads-up SNG reg online.  Wasn’t his perceived edge against me enough to make him feel comfortable, without pretending to audition for a sequel to that ill-fated ESPN show, Tilt?  Had I been a recreational player, it could have been my last time playing live.

3.)    Don’t take forever to act: This one goes hand-in-hand with the last point. Some players say they do this to avoid timing tells—but guess what—you’re just as balanced if you act quickly instead of slowly, with Rob Salaburu being a prime example of this. Plus, live poker is a very slow game as it is, and it’s difficult to think that every player hating you at your table could possibly be an advantage.

Some of the worst offenders of this are some of the biggest names in poker. It’s seems vicious to me when recreational players are heads-up in a pot versus one of the best players in the world, since they probably feel uncomfortable enough without having to wait 3 minutes for that player to puzzle out his optimal c-bet size.

4.)    Never talk strategy at the table: As I discussed in a blog last year, this is one of my absolute biggest pet peeves in poker, and again, it’s a problem where some of the biggest offenders are huge poker names. Nothing makes me lose respect for a player faster than them throwing around mathematical poker jargon at the tables, and it often exposes leaks in their logic that I try to exploit.

An even darker side of talking strategy at the tables is the grotesque display of a pro berating a weaker opponent.  I wish that players that do this were not so often exalted in the poker world, and that others will find strategic ways to squelch this awful bullying.  If you find yourself wanting to do this at the tables, find a private outlet instead and redirect your wrath towards working on your mental game.

5.)    Help your table to be fun: This doesn’t mean you should show up with a rainbow-striped clown wig and dole out animal-shaped balloons—though I would be pretty excited to be at your table if this were the case!  Starting conversations as trivial as complementing someone’s witty t-shirt can put players at ease and give them entertainment value that will inspire them to keep playing. Daniel Negreanu is an excellent example of making poker fun, and it has to be a big part of why he is arguably the biggest name in poker.  

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Many of the above “don’ts” are things that players do to gain an imperceptible tiny edge while they are playing live. From my viewpoint, most of these perceived “edges” have as much chance of backfiring as of succeeding in the short-term that is a single poker tournament.

However, multiplied by the many offending players, these actions are stifling the game of poker, and continue to make the difficulty of the game increase.  It’s time for pros to think about the meta-game, and assist in making fun memories for all poker players!

Black Friday Three Years Later

Black Friday Three Years Later

That day three years ago, I’d just moved to Vegas a few weeks ago, and woke up to a flurry of texts from Katie Stone.

“Have you seen this yet?!”

Katie Stone + Me at the 2013 WSOP

In a groggy state, I logged onto 2+2 and clicked on an hours-old thread with hundreds of replies.

I had to see for myself.  I went to the PokerStars website and was met with that fateful seal of seizure.

Like other bad poker news in the past, I hoped I was just blowing it out of proportion. Even though I had already been a disillusioned libertarian for quite some time, there couldn’t be any way the government would just steal my job in an instant, right?

Over steaming mugs of ironically Mexican coffee, Collin helped calm me down, but as the day wore on, I was glued to poker websites and my usual optimism was fading away.  Signing a check to pay my taxes felt a like a cruel twist.

Three years later, and the pre-Black Friday era is spoken of by poker players like we’re aging frat boys harkening back to the “good ole days.” While many steps are being taken in the right direction, I can only hope that we make further progress to accessing world-wide internet poker in America in the next three years than we have come in these first three.

My life has changed a lot in those three years— as I have chronicled on my blog and various articles, I’ve moved to Rosarito, México. When I first arrived, full of American naiveté, I found it tough to get used to things like an internet company missing their window for arrival for the 5th straight time. On the flip side, I was immediately drawn to the friendliness of strangers and their warm acceptance of my broken Spanglish.

I’ve found that I feel more at home living in a foreign country every day. However unscientific the studies are, Mexico is continually ranked higher than the US in terms of general happiness, despite that the median income for a Mexican is almost 1/10th of the median income for an American.

I’ve learned a lot by watching and befriending people here (thanks in no small part to my vast improvements in speaking Spanish). One person I admire is a man that gets groceries for me.  He used to have a stained glass business downtown, but after September 11th, the border security was vastly increased at the Tijuana crossing and tourism fell sharply as the wait time back to get back into the US rose.

He was forced to close the business he was so passionate about, but explained to me that he is actually happy about his new job because he spends more time now with his wife and kids. This is despite the fact that he makes 10% of what he used to make years ago.

While we unpacked groceries together this week, his excitement extended beyond finding perfect purple eggplants for me. When I ask him how his week was, he answered with a smile that “every day is a gift.”

It turns out that the gift to me three years ago today was to get to live in a country where I’m inspired by the man that gets my groceries– where the focus of the culture is on happiness and finding el sol even on a cloudy day.

The Top 5 Poker Clichés in Movies

The Top 5 Poker Clichés in Movies

Perhaps the most cruel cliché ever is that clichés are well … cliché, with the full negative connotation that word carries. Maybe I’m alone here, but I really enjoyed each of the clichés I collected below and count myself as a fan of each of these movies!

5.) Risking it all:

Oftentimes, the “no table stakes rule” cliché shows up in cinema with our hero throwing the deed to his house on the table.  While at a cash table once, I witnessed a new player try to reach into his pocket to get out his wallet to call a bet that would have just put him all in. With this cliché being so rampant in entertainment, his confusion is understandable!

4.) Weird and 100% reliable tells:

If only poker were so easy! In real life, players often strive to be read-less by wearing sunglasses, keeping their poker face on, or splattering their mug with reverse tells that make a thinking player question their motives.  Sadly, I can’t ever say that eating a cookie has changed my decision in a hand!

3.) Royal Flushes:

In real life, a royal flush occurs once in about 650,000 hands in Hold ‘em. Fortunately for our viewing pleasure, the probability in movies of a royal flush occurring when a player holds AKs is about 100%!

2.) String Raises:

Clearly the old “I see your bet….and raise you!” doesn’t fly outside of a very relaxed home game—or if the words are uttered by George Clooney!

1.) Slow rolling:

The most common cause for bickering at the tables I’ve been a part of is with slow rolls—though I have never been at a table with a person that takes over a minute to display a straight flush! Sometimes a dynamic evolves in certain games where slow rolling becomes part of the fun.

Here’s a link to perhaps the most dramatic slow roll in real life, which makes the cut because, although this isn’t in a movie, it feels like it is and should be!

Clichés can be a form of stereotyping that can offer us a glimpse into understanding a world that we know little about. For many people, poker is one of those categories, and to make it entertaining for the masses, clichés allow the audience to feel a part of the game without so much as knowing the all the rules. Exposure of poker to the mainstream, even in the most cliché fashion such as the colloquial use of “going all in”, is undoubtedly something that has a lot of power to get new players into the game we love!

Meanwhile, I’ve got to get back to playing poker as I have just been dealt AKs, have thrown the deed to all of my possessions on the table, and am preparing for an epic slow roll when I inevitably hit a royal flush!