Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bombarded with Mortality

I'm in Red Deer right now visiting my sister. Well, that's not entirely true - I'm sitting in the basement writing in my blog while my sister, my mom and my girlfriend partake in an orgy of scrapbooking. When I go upstairs all I see is a flurry of cutting, taping, stamping and god only knows what else.

As some of you may already be aware my mom ended up in a hospital in Mexico while attending my cousin's wedding. My mom, dad and sister went down there and shortly after arriving mom was not feeling well but they wrote it off as her having a cold or something else benign. After a few more days they realized that it was not something minor and off to the hospital she went. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, which, from what I read online, is when your heart is congested and your body is not getting the supply of blood that it requires. Your lungs begin to not function properly and accumulate fluid. This is what happened to my mom, she basically couldn't breath.

Fortunately my family is very conservative and took travel insurance and after a battle with the insurance company my sister managed to secure payment for hospital services rendered and for a medical escort for my mom back to Canada. It took a few days to arrange but a nurse flew out from Toronto with a supply of oxygen and then my mom was given a first class ride home escorted by the nurse and the oxygen supply. I guess that's one way to get into first class.

She was met in Edmonton by an ambulance and taken to the Royal Alexander hospital for observation. She spent three or four days in emergency before she finally got a bed. At least our health care is free though eh? Fuck Klein and fuck PC's and fuck our failing health care system. She arrived Wednesday and was released on the following Wednesday with the diagnoses of "a combination of factors resulting in atrial fibulation", which I translate to "we don't know what happened but we are doctors so it is required for us to appear to look smart so we are going to give you a vague non-conclusive answer. Go team!"

She's fine now, which is why I don't mind joking a little about it but to be honest it scared the crap out of me. When they told me why she was in the hospital the analogy they used was, "It's what grandpa had." "When he died?" "Yah."

While this was going on a friend of mine in Grande Prairie died of a massive heart attack. He was an older gentleman, I'm guessing 60'ish but I'm not really sure. He was a poker acquaintance of mine and as I mentioned in my original blog post I basically started my poker odyssey in the Grande Prairie game so he was influential in my development as a player as well as being an all around great guy. I never knew his real name, he was known simply as Guppy and he was known and liked by everyone. His poker game was fundamentally horrible while artistically beautiful. Watching him play helped me shed my weak tight mind set and opened my mind to the possibility of other styles of play that may be winning. Even today I am over dogmatic in my approach to poker, but when I think of Guppy my views soften slightly. But, more than poker, Guppy was a great guy with great stories. He was everything in excess, including personality and I enjoyed every minute of time I spent at the tables with him. RIP Guppy, you will be missed.

I've played a little poker during the past few weeks since my last blog, but I don't really feel like writing about it. Maybe later.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Too Cool

This video is too cool. What a simple, yet highly sophisticated program. I'm downloading it now.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Two posts in one day? Crazy!

Two posts in one day may be a bit much but there are a couple of hands from the weekend I've been wanting to write about.

Last week there was a pretty good tournament at the Cash Casino. I didn't play in it because of the bad run I've been on - I didn't feel like putting $800 into a tournament. If I was flush with cash that would have probably had been different. But, a friend of mine was in town to play and of course, during tournament time the cash games are always good so I went down to the Elbow to play $15-30 a few times (Wed, Fri, Sat... I already wrote about Wed).

So Friday I'm playing in $15 and have been playing pretty snug and winning some nice pots. Everything has aligned itself so that I have a pretty snug image since I've been getting an easy distribution of hands (83, 83, 92, AK, 82, etc) so I haven't been in many pots and when I've had to showdown a hand it's always been a pretty good hand. This image set up a nice play for me though.

It's a kill pot, which I've explained in the past, and the killer is two to my right. Everyone folds to him and he checks his option. The next player folds and it's on me in the cut-off. I have Q8o and pop it. Through the night the button has kind of been staying out of my way when I've gotten involved so I thought there was a good chance that he would fold, instead he put his last $55 into the pot and the SB also called. SB is a really good player, but is much too loose pre-flop in my opinion. He is quite agressive post-flop and is also has good imagination. The killer also calls, but he sucks. So we see the flop 4 ways with $15 in the side pot and $235 in the main pot.

The flop is JJ4 rainbow and it's checked to me so I fire a $30 bet. SB check raises pretty fast and the killer folds his hand. What to do? Well, in reality, with my hand and the fact that the side pot was really small and their was no way for me to win the main pot with a bluff I probably should have checked through on the flop and then given up on the turn if I didn't improve. In hindsight, as I write this, that seems like the best move to make. But, I bet, and was faced with a raise by an imaginative player. It felt like he probably didn't have anything and if he did at most he had something like 55 or 66. Now, he may have a Jack, but odds are against. He would play a Jack, or any pair this way (except big pairs) and would also make this check raise with an ace and also with some bluffs. Well, shit... now I don't want to give up getting 3.5-1 in this side pot. I can reraise now, which is what I do a lot of in these spots, but this time I took a different route. I just called his check raise.

The turn was a blank. In reality, I was probably going to bluff raise every card on the turn except for a Q or 8 and possibly a 4 or J, so most of the deck is a blank in my eyes. That was my plan when I called the flop so this card didn't change anything for me and when my opponent bet out $60 I popped him to $120. He thought for a few moments and folded. The button who was all in says, "Well, you must have me beat." "I doubt it," I reply calmly and turn over my Q8. He turns over ATs and wins the main with ace-high. The tricky player I beat was quiet, which is hard for him, and looked very solemn. I have rarely seen someone look so dejected and taken aback and I was giddy with excitement.

Fast forward to Saturday night and I'm in another juicy game but have been card dead for a while when I pick up 45s on the button. Now, this is not a good hand, but I would definitely like to play it in a multi-way pot from the button. Everyone folds to middle position (rare in this game) who raises the pot and this opponent is the same one from the above hand. A late position player cold calls and this guy is the big fish in the game. It folds to me and I kind of say and decide to gambool and call. Now, I give people shit for these momentarily lapses in judgement so it's hypocritical of me to play this hand in this spot for two bets, but I'm ok with being a hypocrite. I freely admit this call is a mistake, so I don't feel bad criticizing my friends for making it. Both blinds call and we see the flop 5 ways.

The flop is A3x (can't remember the last card but it might have been a 9). The blinds check to my buddy who bets and the donkey calls. I'm getting 12-1 with my beautiful gutshot that no one in their right mind will put me on so it's an easy call for me (actually, I call pretty liberally with my gutshots. Some of you have experience with this tendency of mine.) Both blinds fold so we go to the turn three ways.

The turn is a 5 and my buddy bets again and donkey calls again. Now, I have a pair to go along with my gutshot but there is little chance that my pair is good. What the pair does do for me is to make my draw a lot stronger which means I now have a lot more equity in this pot. There is no way for me to fold in this spot so my choices are to call or raise. I insta-raise. My tricky opponent calls my raise with a speech and the donkey deliberates and folds. Having a tight image is nice.

I mentioned my opponents speech. What he was saying was, "I guess I have to pay you off. I guess I have to pay you off." He said a few other things along this line as well, but in reality what he was saying is, "I want to showdown please don't bet." I don't remember what the river was but he checked and I fired out a bet at which point my opponent disgustingly mucked pocket kings face up. Booyaa! I quietly slid my cards face down into the muck and stacked the chips. I expect to play against this opponent many times in the future and it is profitable for me to keep him in the dark.

These type of situations don't come up very often in 10 handed games, but they are very profitable when they do.

What to do about all that "free time"?

Since "going pro" I've had a fair bit of spare time to take advantage of. I've been spending a lot of that time reading. Before University I used to read a lot, but, for whatever reason, during University I stopped. Of course, I read text books, but that's not what I am referring to. I'm referring to reading for the pleasure of reading. To experience life through the eyes of another.

But I've been revitalized and it's wonderful. I've been reading non-fiction as well as fiction and I find this balance keeps things fresh. There is a lot of really interesting, easy reading, informative, non-fiction available and when read with an open mind I think an individual can learn a lot about themselves and the world around them.

I've just finished Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and have started No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy as well as The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. Blink is non-fiction and is about "the power of thinking without thinking", which is also the sub-title. I liked it a lot. It's a very light read with some interesting insights into human nature and our bias's that we are not even aware that we have. It also has some good information about intuition. At times I knew about the things he was talking about intuitively, but had never seen them explained before so it was still interesting.

As an aside, let me discuss one of the bias's that people have that they aren't consciously aware of. What's the average height of a North American adult male? According to Blink it's 5'9", and that seems pretty reasonable. It's what I would have guessed. Now, if I asked you to guess the average height of a Fortune 500 CEO what would you guess? Something greater than 5'9" right? You'd probably guess 6'0"+ and you'd be right. Why is it that CEO's of Fortune 500 companies are that much taller than the average person? Is it because tall people are smarter or more qualified than short people? No, that doesn't make sense at all. The answer is much simpler. We perceive help as a natural quality of leadership. This is not a conscious quality. If I asked you what you wanted in a leader you would not list height, but it's what you want. Subconsciously we are biased towards tall people.

Anyways, that is just one example that I'm paraphrasing from Blink. Another concept that I found interesting was "priming". One of the stories about priming I found interesting was about an experiment that two Dutch psychologists performed. In this experiment they took two groups of students and asked each of them 42 "fairly demanding" questions from Trivial Pursuit. Before they were given the questions one group was asked to spend five minutes thinking about what it would mean to be a professor and to write down everything that came to mind. The other group was asked to think about what it means to be a soccer hooligan and to write down everything that they thought. The first group, the "professor" group, got 55.6% of the questions correct. The second group, the "soccer hooligan" group, got 42.6% of the questions correct. That's a huge difference, and the conclusion of the experiment is not that the first group was in any way smarter than the second group. In fact, both groups would have been quite equal in that regard. The conclusion is that the first group was primed to be "smart" and thus, did better than the second group, who were primed to be "dumb". Neat eh?

Well, maybe it's not just neat. Maybe it has practical monetary applications to poker. I'm going to start each session I play by mentally priming myself before I begin. I have always noticed that if I start a session alert and anxious to play I typically do better than if I start off being a little tired or simply not into playing. Maybe it's coincidence, or maybe not. It can't hurt. I'm not exactly sure how I am going to prime myself so if you have any suggestions please feel free to post them.