Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 4:37 PM [General]


    What must a poker player avoid doing at all costs? Going on tilt. This is important enough when the game is just a game – but if someone was to be living the game, then it would be all the more essential. That’s why my number one priority, if I was Living The Game in Las Vegas for a week, would be to do everything I could to avoid going on tilt. Winning my way to Vegas would likely make for a once-in-a-lifetime trip: I certainly wouldn’t want to waste it being on tilt the whole time!

    So, how to avoid tilt in Vegas? Well, perhaps you could not gamble – but really, how are you going to not gamble (a little bit) in Vegas? Well, instead of that then, how could I use my time away from the felt to maximise my chances of staying off tilt?

    First I would go for the classic approach – seeking calm. And what’s more calming than the peaceful sounds of crashing water? Vegas offers not just any crashing water, but the rhythmically dancing sight of the Bellagio fountains! More enchanting than a waterfall, the meditative sight of the fountains would be sure to pull the weight off tilt of one’s shoulders, and rejuvenate one’s thought, right?

    But maybe sometimes the true curse of tilt is that you’re doing too much thinking about things in the first place. In that case, I would head to my next to-do on the list, and check out a show. And for this I’m thinking maybe some Penn and Teller. One of the greatest magic acts in the wold (if not the very best), this duo consistently astounds and amazes me whenever I see recordings of their performances. Being lucky enough to see them live would certainly be a treat. Not only that, but their incredible performances blow minds away – leaving no time for thinking about how they do what they do. They are diversion and misdirection experts, and they will have a person forgetting their tilt woes like… well, like magic!

    Penn and Teller are far from the only breathtaking acts that would keep my mind off the goings-on of the felt, too. From the equally mind-blowing acrobatic and other technical feats of Cirque de Soleil, to the abundance of comic talent offering laughs to lift the spirits of potential tilt-sufferers, I know a good portion of my time in Vegas would be spent soaking up the kind of spectacle that only Vegas can offer on such a mind-boggling scale!

    Staying inside all day is not an option though – one of the best ways to fend off tilt is with some good old-fashioned fresh air to clear the mind. Lucky, Vegas is surrounded by places to go – from Red Rock to Lake Mead, a trip up Mt. Charleston or to any of a variety of nearby natural treasures will do the mind and body good. And what beautiful sights I imagine they must be... In addition, while it’s a bit more of a trip out from the city, to be sure, a sneaky skip over to the Grand Canyon would certainly not seem out of the picture – this is likely a once-in-a-lifetime chance, remember! In a similar vein, Hoover Dam would be an inspiring sight too! Getting to the fresh air doesn’t have to mean getting away from the man-made.

    In fact, you don’t even have to get out of the city to get some air – you can just get above it! This is great, because tilt doesn’t always sneak up slowly, but can strike suddenly, so I might need somewhere to retreat to without having to trek out of town. Up it is, then – perhaps to the Eifel Tower (what a world citizen the Vegas visitor becomes!) to enjoy the city lights at dusk. Or, to stick more to the Americana, up Vegas’s very own (and original) Stratosphere tower! Not only boasting perhaps some of the best views of the city, it offers a number of thrill opportunities that seem perfect to an adrenaline junkie like myself. What great fun it would be to bungie jump off the top of a skyscraper, or ride a roller coaster around one! Las Vegas truly is a wonderful city!

    The thrills keep on coming throughout the city too – great for shocking tilt straight out of the system! From fast cars to sky diving, to zip lines and giant-drops, I would want to try everything the city had to get my heart racing! Then, of course, there’s the classic American pastime of the gun-range to shake of some steam if you’re really at risk of tilting!

    Of course, at the end of the day no trip to Vegas would be complete without simply walking the strip, reflecting on everything I’d done, all the things I’d achieved, and of course the 888 Crazy Eights title I’d taken down! (Well, one can dream…).


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    Sunday, April 3, 2016, 9:40 AM [General]

    Again, this has been a challenging topic this month. Partly, that's because of the quick turn around, but more importantly it is because, like a number of other bloggers this month, I do not make extensive use of tags.

    The blog title this month calls for a personal view, but it seems to be a fairly uniform understanding between all the bloggers commenting - who do not use tags - that their use is limited in a number of ways. I agree, the most significant of these is player volume compared to the time one is situated with the same players. Perhaps, however, this is a phenomenon more specific to tournament players, however - which is a possibility I wish to explore.

    Not being much of a cash game player, this is somewhat speculative, but my suspicion is that tags (and even notes, more generally), probably pay off more for cash games than they do for tournaments, specifically because with cash games you have more table choice. That is, if you spend the time making detailed enough notes and tagging people whom you believe you've identified an edge against, then the point at which this becomes most valuable is in table selection. Scroll through those tables and take note of where there's any kind of concentration of tagged players, and seat yourself amongst them once again. In this way you can circumscribe that massive player pool and focus in on fewer, more specific and familiar players you've played with before (and, hopefully, found an edge against).

    By comparison, as a tournament player your table seating is taken out of your hands. Selecting tournaments with a bunch of tagged players could theoretically give you an edge - but it's going to be a slim angle when you might not be seated with any of them despite them being in the field. Again, the prior point I make about cash games assumes you can identify regulars well enough, who play at the same times as you often enough, to make the process work - but it seems feasible to me and would be something I would at least trial.

    As it is, I really only have one exception to my general no-tags use in tournaments, which is when it comes to SNAP tournaments. In those, changing tables so quickly sometimes makes me wonder if a large pre-flop bet is unusual and should be regarded with suspicion, or whether this is the same guy who made a similar raise not long ago, and might be going off like a bit of a cannon. Trying to crawl back through a hand history that fast is much too hard, which can leave you scratching your head - which is where tags can come in handy. On being constantly moved between tables, it is nice to have an instant heads-up about what to expect that hand.

    That brings me to improvements that could be made. For the sake of tournament players, it would be great if a player could choose between setting permanent tags or tournament-duration tags. As others have suggested, players change their style depending on their moods - so I don't want to tag someone who is clearly on tilt and come back to play them a month later and be dominated by playing incorrectly against their (typical) tight aggressive style, now they have their reigns in hand.

    Thanks for reading :)
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    Poker (or Personal) - Past. Present. Future

    Sunday, February 28, 2016, 6:02 PM [General]

    The ‘past event’ which motivated my New Year’s resolution this year was actually not very long ago at all. In fact it was during the very same holiday period – on Christmas Eve to be exact. The resolution I was motivated towards on that day was to get healthy; but not healthy in the way most people might resolve to become healthy in the new year.

    On the 24th of December I was helping move things out of the shed in preparation for Christmas, when I stepped on a dodgy-looking screw that managed to scratch me. No big deal – there was hardly a drop of blood – but it needed some antiseptic and something to cover it, so I went inside to take care of it. I sat down, asking someone to get the things I needed so that I wouldn’t be walking blood (if there was any more I hadn’t seen) through the house. It only took a few minutes to get everything together, but in that time I had lost consciousness and fallen from the chair I was in to the floor. I landed on thick kitchen tiles. It’s not perfectly clear why I fainted – likely a combination of moving in from the (Australian) heat to the air-conditioning inside combined with low blood sugar from having skipped breakfast, on top of the fact that my blood pressure is normally low. Nevertheless, I chipped two teeth (my front ones – and this was the day before Christmas remember. Imagine the seasonal jibes I got!) and bruised my face in a couple of places. I also landed heavily in a way that jarred my back – which I’d been having troubles with for a long time too. A year prior it was suggested that I might have arthritis in my back, related to an auto-immuse ulcerative stomach condition I have.

    I did not have much choice in a lot of the matters that came out of that. On the day I needed a tetanus shot (for the screw) and to generally see a doctor about the fall. But in the following months – and into the present – I’ve needed (expensive!) dental work for my teeth, X-rays for my back (it turns out I don’t have arthritis, but I do have scoliosis – an unnatural bend in my spine), and since getting the results of the X-ray back, a barrage of visits to the physio. My resolution was not only to address these kinds of immediate concerns, but to start being more proactive about my health in general. I’m only 26, but my past feels very much like it is catching up with my body and I’m starting to feel the effects of years gone. So, I also had a biopsy of a suspicious mole I’d been watching for some time, and vowed to be more proactive with my health and not put things like that off in future.

    Waiting until everything has come to a head like this has been costly. Certainly, I mean this in terms of dollars (Dental, pathology, physio and biopsies do not come cheap to an uninsured student!), but more importantly it has cost my health. Perhaps something might have been done if I had pursued help a year ago – made this my resolution last year. It definitely benefited my back last year when (after a lucky break in a poker tournament) I was able to do away with an old, lumpy mattress and buy a new one – but I should have been much more pre-emptive about it. This is what I’m working on at the present.

    Going forward, my pressing concern healthwise (beyond continuing a demanding physio routine) is to concentrate on my eating. Although not the most severe thing – skipping breakfast – in truth my eating probably had more to do with my Christmas Eve fall than I realised at the time. I am not a good eater, largely because food makes me feel anxious. I don’t like the stress of preparing it, it negatively affects my stomach condition, and that has led to eating being not just physically but mentally trying to me. I have consulted a counsellor for advice, and they’ve suggested I have developed a kind of anxious relationship with food that needs to be unlearned.

    That’s in reality a much harder thing to come to grips with than the rest. The idea of these countless physical conditions, while annoying, are easy enough to identify and accept. When I know something is wrong with my teeth, or my back, or my stomach, that doesn’t worry me, because I know I’m more than just my body. But when something is wrong with a behaviour – something that needs to be unlearned – then that feels like something is wrong with you yourself, in a much more fundamental way. But that’s an illusion. In fact the distinction between mental health and physical health is rather arbitrary. Even Alzheimer’s disease is classified as a mental illness, but there is no doubting that there is a causal physical link. And there are more neurons in the human gut than there are in the human brain, which according to recent research means that a physical stomach conditions can have direct neural effects on the mind (this also explains why you often wind up kicking yourself after you overthink things with your brain instead of going with your gut at the poker table!).

    Coming to terms with this relationship, and convincing myself that it’s okay to seek all kinds of medical help, including mental help, has been and will be the hardest part of keeping my resolution to take care of my health, but these facts have helped me. Hopefully if you know anyone struggling with their own issues they might find similar reassurances helpful too. Writing this out as been helpful in itself. Thank you if you got this far.

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    Hole Cards That History Makes Hard To Resist

    Wednesday, October 14, 2015, 10:47 AM [General]

    When people ask me what my favorite hand is, I always tell them AA. "Well, I mean other than AA though obviously," they often say - so I tell them, "Oh, other than AA? Well, KK then."

    I'm mostly a mathsy kind of player when it comes to hand selection, and while this doesn't always mean premium hands (suited connectors in late position is very nice, and early on I might prefer set mining a low pair over getting QQ). But, there are still some hands that history has made seem more likable than others, with not a whole lot of ligical reason to form the basis of that prefernce. Still, being me, those are still pretty nice cards.

    Specifically, I like broadway clubs. I still remember the feeling, playing five card draw for matchsticks, when I threw one club and kept three, playing a speculative draw for a Royal Flush.


    I hit both cards - the King and the Ten - to make the best possible poker hand for the first time in my life. I called the second card, too, turning it face up as I drew it - which made my friends think I'd rigged the deck and cheated. I hadn't, and I think they finally believed me after I bought the old deck off the girl who brought it for a premium over what it would be worth new. I still have it to this day, sitting in a chest on my bookshelf.

    That started an affinity with broadway clubs that to this day makes me occassionally play hands that are suited in clubs that I might throw away if they were diamonds. Until very recently, every Royal flush I'd ever had - and today, 5 out of 6 - were all clubs. So maybe there is something to it.

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    Strange Poker, Extremes, and Confessions

    Monday, August 31, 2015, 7:29 AM [General]

    Just a short post this month, because I struggle to think of anything from my own experiences that fit the bill for this August's prompt. I almost did not post at all, but decided that talking some more about a particular problem lots of us experiences is worth something. What's the problem? Two words: time zones.

    Almost all of my strange experiences and extremes playing poker arise out of living in Australia and dealing with a global poker schedule that is not always too friendly! Lots of setting alarms, playing in the morning (choosing to walk instead of take the car so that I can keep playing deep in a tornamant on my way to work), or - much worse - waking up for a big tournament I qualified for just to get KK first hand, get all the money in on the flop, and have my opponent river a 4 to make their set. So much effort to convince myself out of bed at 4:00am, just to go back to bed 10 minutes later unable to sleep for another hour on the back of the bad beat!

    And then there's the life-poker balancing trick after a morning where you've gotten up earlier and are struggling later in the day. "I just didn't sleep too much last night," I say at the family dinner, "Yeah, something like that" I say to the suggestion that my pillow might have been the problem. Or - as someone who typically is a late riser - "Good to see you up nice and early!" someone will say, unawares that I've yet to actually get to bed at 9:00am (my regular game ran into my qualifier game this morning!).

    So, certainly not as extreme as other people have endured, but a consistent enough problem that I'm sure other people can relate to.
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    Poker, Personalites and Perfection

    Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 7:34 AM [General]


    The 'Four Humours’ of ancient Greek medicine were thought to be four characteristics that made up everyone’s personality according to the balance they were in. Whilst no longer recognised in medicine, these four personality types are often exemplified in popular culture, from Big Bang Theory to Sex in the City (and really anything that has four central characters!). These four personality types are also typified amongst poker players – with each of us having a different balance of the four. This month I want to explore the nature of these personality types and the way in which impact poker – by looking through the lens of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

    Splinter taught them to be ninja teens.
    Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines.
    Raphael is cool but rude, Michelangelo is a party dude!

    Each of the Ninja Turtles has a particular personality that poker players will be familiar with having seen – don’t worry if you don’t know the Ninja Turtles, I’m going to walk through each of them and show how they relate to poker, no prior knowledge needed! Although Michelangelo is introduced last in the show’s song, I shall discuss him first because his is the personality type that probably got a lot of us into poker in the first place. At least, that’s true for me.

    2286016ebb48f7a8fed7d70cd6782526.png?v=25172Michelangelo: the party dude! This is one carefree, relaxed turtle who’d mostly just down to catch some pizza and chill out, man! And that’s exactly how I started playing poker: some friends, a deck of cards, some flimsy plastic poker chips – and some pizza. Sitting around the kitchen table, we definitely thought we were ‘cool dudes’ in our first foray into gambling, as we imagined ourselves variously as either cowboys in a saloon or high-roller spies like Bond in some private room of a casino. Everything was for the fun of the game, and while bragging rights were great and we were certainly out to win, it was much more the friendly company and good times than it was about the money. After all, we only played for $10 each, and it was up to whoever won to pay for the pizza. The outrageous bluffs and big re-raises made for the kind of drama that makes memories, and having a bit of Michelangelo in them can keep pretty much anyone coming back to poker with friends, whether you happen to find that in a pub league or a weekly forum game.

    Leonardo – Leonardo is the leader of the Ninja Turtles. He’s tactical and, as leader, takes ultimate responsibility for the group. He’s the most devout of his team, and the most committed to his craft. As poker players, Leonardo is that part of us that took charge and game us that initial shove after playing casually with friends – moving us into online poker for the first time. Leonardo is the turtle I think most players associate with most. The game is a both a puzzle and a match of one’s wits against others. Concentration and patience must be placed at the game’s core in order to win, and one has to think about what they do and be clever. Observe your opponent. Size them up. What do they want you to do? What should you do? Is it wisest to pick your battles – fold? Or is the last thing they’d expect a bluff? What’s your plan? As simple as poker was for us to learn over pizza, it takes a lifetime to master it. It is a tactical game that will reward its most ardent and dedicated practitioners. It is this quest that provides the hook which holds so many players firmly within the grip of what initially seemed like such a simple game.

    Donat7b76f0662de5baed3b9cfb55641ec1e9.png?v=21480ello – The genius and the inventor. Donatello is a little introverted, perhaps, but has a fascination (and natural gift) with machines and is especially intelligent. In poker terms, this is the guy who knows the math. You can leave the poker tells and physical reads to the other turtles, because Donatello wants the numbers. VPIP? 3-bet range? Pot odds and outs on the turn? This is a Donatello player’s bread and butter. Some poker players will find themselves with less in common with Donatello, and to be sure, it can be exhausting to be him. He’s come a long way from the home game and pizza that Saturday night, and this game has become serious business. Odds calculators and spreadsheets are his deal, and he’s probably customised a HUD to tell him exactly what numbers he needs to know to crush the game. He always knows where he can find an edge. Much more likely to play online, though, where those tools are available to him, and his interpersonal reading skills need not be put so greatly to the test.


    Raphael – Last but not least, Raphael the bad boy. Quick tempered and a turtle not shy to throw the first punch, as poker players we have probably all struggled with controlling our Raphael. This turtle’s catchcry in the show was “Give me a break!” – Something I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves thinking on a river card or two! This is the turtle most at odds with the leader, Leonardo. A lot of the turtles’ time is put towards calming down Raphael, and having a cool head in charge is the only way to do it! From going on tilt to poor bankroll management, our biggest threat to our game can come not from our opponents, but from within ourselves. Despite this, the team would be at a loss were it not for the fire Raphael brings to the table, and too timid a player will shy from betting and raising, opting instead to just call or fold. It is controlling the very same spirit that threatens us which is the key to bringing our best fighting chance to the poker table.


    So, what kind of poker player are you? Personally, I feel a big mix of all four of the Ninja Turtles when it comes to playing poker, and I find that multi-tabling a mix of tournaments online is the perfect way to satisfy me completely. The Donatello in me is most demanding, leading me to play deep stack MTTs where I can use my numbers-knowledge most effectively, especially in the early stages of the tournament, and really get some deep thinking going to match the deep stacks. But this numbers-business is tiring, and I just can’t escape the desire to run on gut feelings and a more subtle tactical approach, which is why the Leonardo in me likes to have an Omaha game going. I don’t know the numbers much at all in Omaha, so I have to play with my gut a lot more and ‘play the player’ just like Leonardo would as the well-rounded turtle that he is. At the same time, though, both Donatello and Leonardo demand a lot of self-control and discipline while playing their respective styles of poker, and sometimes on a bad beat that is very hard to control. This is why I can also often be found with a frenzy tournament or super turbo open, where I can hammer that jam button and let off steam under conditions that reward that more aggressive play. It’s a very different style to anything else, but the focus that’s held on that table keeps my patience at the other tables the highest it can be. Finally, of course, I love a my.888 community game where people are chattier and know one another, and where I’ve started to get to know the people who join in week to week. I am fairly new to this community, but have already been warmly welcomed and encouraged, and that makes it exceptionally easy to kick back and relax here – keeping the Michelangelo part of me happy indeed! If only we could share pizza online.

    When I think about what kind of poker game I would create to bring all of these aspects together, I am reminded of a game those friends I first played poker with came up with when we were playing together in school. First thing on a Monday morning we would start the week by taking five decks of cards, shuffling them together, and randomly choosing 52 of them to form a deck with. We would play poker with that deck in our breaks for the rest of the week. This meant that at first you would have no idea what the odds were of hitting any particular card, and we would have to play the player in the kind of way that a Leonardo player favours. As the week would go on, though, attentive players of the Donatello style would notice things like “hmm, I’ve seen seven fives so far – those will be worth holding onto” and would regain the advantage that the gut-feeling players held early in the week. Of course, one of the greatest parts of the fun was when we would have to let out our inner Raphael to argue which hand actually won after the fact, given that the strange mix of cards made for some interesting new hand possibilities: “A full house that’s also a flush obviously beats four of a kind!” Obviously, this undefined quality of the game prevented anyone from taking it too seriously, which made sure that a friendly game always remained a friendly, relaxed game that let a bunch of friends chill out together – the kind of game Michelangelo would love to be a part of. We never did give that game a name, so today I hereby dub it “Turtle Poker.”


    Thank you!

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