Watching Poker From The Rail–Online

There were 615 entrants representing a cumulative $6,150,000 to be distributed to winners! Mind boggling. I’ve never heard of anyone being burned by the larger online casinos, but they’re not exactly FDIC insured.

I was getting ready to go upstairs and go to bed when I decided to take a quick look at PokerStars the online poker site. They’re in the midst of their Spring Championship of Online Poker which means a bunch of higher stakes tournaments are running.

Call me crazy but I can’t figure out who buys into a tournament with a $10,000 + $300 entry fee? That’s a lot of trust when the casino is somewhere in the ether and its decisions aren’t answerable to American courts. Most of the players probably won their way in through lower cost satellite tournaments, so the $10,300 figure is a little misleading. Still, there were 615 entrants representing a cumulative $6,150,000 to be distributed to winners! Mind boggling.

I’ve never heard of anyone being burned by the larger online casinos, but they’re not exactly FDIC insured.

They’ve been playing that tournament for 10:30 hours now. 65 players are left. The next person out doubles their money with a little over $20,000. The big winner will get $1,162,350.

I’ve been following a smaller tournament more closely. There are only three players left so a little more tension. The original buy-in 12:33 ago was $50 + $5. 6,542 started this tournament. Top prize is $40,200.

Like the $10k event the $55 buy-in is more trust than I’d comfortably bestow a business I can’t find in the phonebook.

While I was just typing the tournament went to two players. The guy who busted out walks away unhappy though up $18,331.20. A poker tournament payout table isn’t linear. The difference between first and third is immense. Even winners are unhappy in poker when they’re not the big winner.

A while ago when there were four players three tried to fashion a deal to split the cash. One player (based on his reported locale) seemed to be Russian and probably didn’t understand. Play on!

Online poker exists is some sort of nearly legal state. As I understand it what the players are doing is legal. It’s just getting money to the online casino that’s problematic. The games themselves aren’t regulated by anyone within the United States. That much I know for sure. It’s possible collusion or other cheating goes on, but that probably happens in brick-and-mortar casinos too.

People are playing. Lots of them are here in the states probably playing in pajamas. Laws only work when people want them to.

Making Copies

Who knew poker could be a spectator sport? Who was the person who devised the little camera that watches your pocket cards? That was the game changer.

I am dubbing video so we can trade-in the DVR. It’s a boring process. Luckily, I can throw the TV to another tuner and watch other shows while I dub. I’ve got the WSOP on. ESPN has begun the season. Norman Chad has returned with all your favorite one liners.

Who knew poker could be a spectator sport? Who was the person who devised the little camera that watches your pocket cards? That was the game changer. It always surprised me the pros were willing to give up this strategic advantage.

While watching poker, I’m playing poker. Surprise? Nah. It’s a little extremely low stakes 180 person tourney. I have under $5 invested–don’t worry. Like the poker on TV, it’s a time killer.

I’ve been playing poker over thirty years. Sometimes Helaine says, “it’s not your game.” Maybe it isn’t. I still enjoy it. It’s still an intellectual challenge. It makes the time pass quicker while I make my dubs.

Hold ‘Em Royal Flush In Community Cards–Never Seen By Me Until Now!

If I remember correctly the odds of being dealt a Royal Flush in 5-card stud (and this is equivalent to that) is approximately 650,000:1.


I have never seen this before–a Royal Flush dealt as the community cards! If I remember correctly the odds of being dealt a Royal Flush in 5-card stud (and this is equivalent to that) is approximately 650,000:1.

For the non-poker players reading this, anyone who stayed in until the end split the pot. There was nothing they could have individually held which would have improved on this board.


Poker – Even I Don’t Understand

I’m home from work. My tie is off. I’m on the sofa in the family room. I’m playing poker.

I haven’t written about poker in a while.

I’ve had my ups and downs, even moved sites. After being online for a few years, I’m playing about even.

With recent changes to the US law, I’m not even sure I will ever be able to retrieve my stake Somehow, that’s not very important. I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

Here’s the weirder part. While playing poker, I’m watching poker. I’ve got the 2006 World Series of Poker on ESPN.

If you’re not a poker player, you should know, the WSOP has been over for months. Jamie Gold won. He has not been a sparklingly pristine champ.

I know the result of the tournament. I know who Gold steamed through to win. It makes no difference. It is just fascinating to watch the game progress.

Poker is not a simple game of luck.

I’m not even sure it’s correct to characterize it as a card game. I see it as a betting game. Within reason, how you bet is more important than the cards you get. You can win a lot on mediocre cards and very little with the nuts.

Conversely, you’re most likely to lose the most when your hand is good.

Watching how the game is bet, especially on TV where the hole cards are revealed, is an amazing education. There are lots of people who play stupid, even late in a very expensive tournament. Not that I could pass such a test every single time.

In these tournaments, it’s easy to look at the chips stacked in front of each player in a linear fashion. My theory of poker says that’s wrong.

If one player has $6,000 in chips and another has $2,000, they are only separated by one potential hand! That’s why I feel it’s important to not change the way you play, even when you’re behind. You’re never as far behind as the chips make it seem.

The difference in hands is best considered in terms of logarithms. Well, it is to me.

Back to the tournament on TV. They’re down to the final table and each of these players is winning a few million dollars or more. Yet, to a man, as they stand to walk away after losing, they’re unhappy.

That is so weird.

I Need A New Vice

I play poker online. This is no secret. I’ve written about it dozens of times.

I enjoy playing poker, as I have for over 30 years. I’m reasonably proficient, meaning the $250 Helaine and I deposited three years ago is still intact (profit… not so much).

Now a law has been passed making it illegal to do financial transactions with my online casino.

I’m 56. I have never bet more than I could afford to lose – never. After three years, I’m even, so we can assume the ‘house’ is honest. Exactly who am I hurting?

So this vice has been removed from my life (or soon will be). Thanks.

Yes, I’m ticked.

The Man Who Met Norman Chad

Have I mentioned I enjoy playing poker? I continue playing online almost every night and my deposit of three years ago is still there.

For poker players, our ‘world series’ is the World Series of Poker. Conveniently named, isn’t it?

The WSOP is the biggest tournament in the world. Actually, it’s a series of tournaments, culminating in the ‘Main Event.’

Anyone can enter. All you need is a $10,000 ticket. This year, a $10,000 ticket turned into $12,000,000 for Jamie Gold of California.

I’ve never been to the World Series. C’mon – $10,000 is a lot of money and you’re playing against all the best (and some of the luckiest) players around.

My friend Rick played this year. He won his $10,000 entry playing in a satellite tournament. It cost him $1!

Though Rick had a great time, he came home with little more than memories and some tchotchkes for me. One of them is pictured on the left. It’s an autograph from Norman Chad.

OK – it’s on a piece of paper ripped out of a spiral notepad. Can’t it still be a cherished memento?

Chad is a newspaper columnist. He’s also written books and for TV, including a pretty funny episode of Arli$$. Mostly, I know him as the color commentator on the World Series broadcasts.

Rick has had the autograph for months. Tonight was finally time to pick it up.

I don’t have many friends I can visit at midnight besides Rick. He is a professional announcer and sets his own schedule. His business is primarily carried on from a studio in his basement.

If you’re in Connecticut, you’ve heard Rick say “99-1, WPLR” or voice commercials for Bob’s Stores (the clothing, not the furniture stores). If you’re elsewhere, you’ve heard him too, on commercials and promos too numerous count.

He has one of those voices that is just too darned deep. It is accented by gravely side tones which make it mellifluous and friendly.

My voice is so lacking in bass, a program director I worked for in Philadelphia considered using a ‘Harmonizer’ to electronically lower the pitch! I will be eternally envious of Rick’s pipes.

There was actually more waiting for me than the autograph (though that will be my most cherished piece of swag). Rick also gave me a deck of WSOP playing cards, a WSOP chip, t-shirt, and the ‘souvenir’ room key from his Vegas hotel.

We were down in his studio talking when I noticed the full wall of record albums. These were real 33 1/3 rpm vinyl disks. They’re the kind that scratched, popped and hissed when you played them. Looking at the collection was like going back in time.

I started pulling albums off the wall and, on two vintage Technics turntables, Rick began playing cuts. There was early Hendrix and Janis Joplin. I read the technical notes on the cover of the Beach Boys seminal Holland LP. There were more obscure groups like The Buoys&#185 and The Easybeats.

Some cuts, like Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream, I hadn’t heard in 40 years or so! I remembered conversations with friends in the 60s, trying to figure out why Dylan starting the song acoustically, stopped to laugh, and then began again, this time with electric guitar and electrified accompaniment.

Our musical tastes are very different. Rick has a more eclectic, more discerning ear for artistry. I gravitate to pop and ‘the hits.’ Still, there was a lot to share and, as former disk jockeys, stories to tell.

I got home around 3:00 AM, carrying my loot with me.

Forget my WSOP take. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun I had just schmoozing and listening to those old songs.

&#185 – The Buoys hit “Timothy” is probably the best top-40 song about cannibalism ever!

No World Series For Me

Earlier, I won a Pokerstars satellite tournament and qualified for today’s immense online tournament. The payoff – entries to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Final value – $11,000 per package and 150 packages were guaranteed.

When things got going at 4:30 PM, 7377 players were registered. That gave the tournament an actual cash value of $2,581,950! Since Pokerstars was collecting $20 per entrant, it also meant they were earning around $150,000 for running the tournament.

This might have been the largest single event ever played on line. If not, it was close. The numbers are mind numbing.

Early on, as single hands greatly affected the order of the participants, my PC ground close to a halt, trying to keep up with the list.

I did OK, floating up and down, mostly staying in the middle of the pack. As long as you’re not ‘short stacked’ and forced to make drastic decisions, it’s OK to float and hope to stay in the middle as the field is winnowed.

I outlasted 5503 of the 7377 and finished in 1874th place. You get no prize for that.

My Waterloo came when I sniffed out someone’s bluff. He bet strongly, but I held good cards, giving me two pair and a decent kicker. I called him to go all in.

Unfortunately, there were two more cards to draw, and he ‘caught’ on the second. In poker parlance, it was a bad beat – though not the worst by any means.

This one hand was large enough to have vaulted me closer to the lead than the middle. It was just not meant to be.

Amazingly, seven hours after the tournament started, it still hasn’t been decided. I just looked in to see 274 still standing, with 234 taking home the big prize. I feel bad for the next 40 who fall.

Maybe next year.

Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel

I was on the phone with my mom two nights ago. I mentioned poker and she asked if I was a gambler?

When that question comes from your mom, it deserves attention. I stopped to think.

Obviously, I enjoy poker. I’ve certainly written about it enough. It is, in my opinion, a game of skill – but yes, it has to be considered gambling. So, in that regard, I’m a gambler.

As opposed to poker, I hardly enjoy casino games where you play against the house. When I’m in a casino, not playing poker, my involvement is minimal. I don’t enjoy blackjack and I put up with slot machines only because I’m interested in the computing involved! I couldn’t spend long times doing either, and would never go to a casino with those games as my main purpose.

I couldn’t play if I was losing. For me, gambling and losing is not fun.

I have found a poker game where I can, and do, dominate. It is 6-handed, no limit Hold’em. I won’t go into the math, but this particular setup favors very tight players and a lot of patience – my strengths. It is like shooting fish in a barrel.

If I play a few of these six player tourneys over the course of an evening, I nearly always end up ahead.

Now, here’s the answer to my mom’s question.

I do really well in the 6-handed game… but I also play in larger tournaments where the possible payoff is much larger, and where I generally don’t do well at all! I only play these bigger tournaments because the 6-handed ones keep me ahead.

I suppose that really does make me a gambler… though, under these circumstances, ahead of the game for 34 months on PokerStars, it seems pretty harmless.

Patience Through Poker

Every time she emails me, my friend Wendie tells me how much she enjoys reading the blog – except when I write about poker! Wendie, go elsewhere today.

In real life, when I talk about my obsession for online poker (yes, I’ll admit it’s an obsession), the person on the other end of the conversation always brings up luck. There’s no doubt about it, poker is affected by luck – but only in the short term.

This is really important. Luck would be important if poker were just a card game. As played online and in casinos, it’s really more of a betting game – a very important distinction.

If you can quantify the odds of drawing a hand which will win, you can make educated decisions about when to hold ’em or fold ’em. Poker players talk about odds the pot is laying, an obtuse way of asking whether another bet is a good or bad idea.

I think that’s the part of my game which has improved the most. I understand the value of my bets and the value attached to the bets of others. It’s an imperfect system, because you really don’t know what cards your opponent is holding, but you can often tell by how he reacts to certain situations.

If you were to play against me, you’d see me be less aggressive when you’re a passive, though persistent opponents. Often times, passive play is a ploy to suck out bets from an inferior hand. Too often I’d bust out of a tournament by my own aggressive bet made against a superior hand held by someone playing possum.

Big talk for a guy who is not quite even after 2&#189 years of online play!

Actually, I was down to my last $20 a month or so ago. It upset me that I was going to bust out. I mustered whatever discipline I had and tightened my game.

All of a sudden, the swing began.

When I was down to my last $20, I was playing for very small stakes. I couldn’t afford to lose much at one sitting. I entered $3 + 40&#162 ‘turbo’ tournaments or $5 + 50&#162 ‘regular’ tournaments. The downside was small.. as was the upside.

As I began to play tonight, there was $165 in my bank. That leaves me $10 behind my starting point in August 2003&#185! Considering the tens of thousands of hands I’ve played (no exaggeration), and that the casino is pulling a small commission every time I sit down to play, I’m doing quite well.

I decided to play something a little higher risk tonight – a satellite tournament. For $5 + 50&#162, you enter a tournament to win a $530 entry in a much larger tournament (actually the main tournament will pay at least $1,000,000, shared among those ‘in the money’).

The $5 + 50&#162 amount is a little misleading, because you can rebuy for another $5 and then add-on for $5 more. I’m in for $15 + 50&#162, which bought me $5,000 tournament chips. Those paying the minimum got $1,500.

We started at midnight with 431 players. There were 824 re-buys and 217 add-ons. The $7,360 in the kitty means 13 players will cash out for $530. A 14th ‘only’ gets $470.

I played in a much cheaper version of this tournament last Saturday and missed the money by two positions. Ouch. One stupid bet at the end was the difference between something and nothing.

I’d like to do better tonight… obviously.

Nearly three hours in, there are 67 left. I’m in 4th. Obviously, that’s a good place to be, but not even close to a guarantee I’ll cash out.

If I’m not too depressed, I’ll let you know how I did later on.

Addendum – While I edited this entry, the game played on. Now only 50 are left. I’m in 7th place. No guarantees, but this is a good place to be.

Addendum II –

PokerStars Tournament #19966358, No Limit Hold’em

Super Satellite

Buy-In: $5.00

431 players

Total Prize Pool: $7360.00

Target Tournament #19571119 Buy-In: $530.00

13 tickets to the target tournament

Tournament started – 2006/02/22 – 23:59:00 (ET)

Dear ctwxman,

You finished the tournament in 1st place.

You qualified to play in Tournament #19571119 and are automatically registered for it.

See Tournament #19571119 Lobby for further details.

If you choose to unregister from this tournament your account will be credited

with $530.00 Tournament dollars. Tournament dollars can be used to buy into

any tournament.

Visit our web site at for more details.


Thank you for participating.

I guess I’m up now!

&#185 – I originally bought in for $250. Along the way, a friend asked if I’d put $75 in his account, since it’s a pain in the butt to get the money to Costa Rica. That leaves a net of $175.

Let’s Talk Poker

I haven’t written about playing poker online in a while. Maybe I’ve grown sheepish because my play has been so awful.

My original buy-in (August 2003 – $250) multiplied, until I managed to squander most of it!

Actually, a little remedial math is in order. Though I bought in for $250, someone I knew wanted to play online and didn’t want to send money to Costa Rica. I moved $75 from my account to his and he gave me $75 in cash. So, my cash basis is actually $175.

It really didn’t matter. A few weeks ago I was down to $20.

I play all the time. If I had blown the whole $175 over two and a half years – big deal.

It’s not that simple.

To give up my original stake would be a moral defeat. The money is not the point. All things considered, it’s cost pennies an hour for my fun… maybe less. It’s the concept of losing that pains me.

The remaining twenty dollars didn’t give me much cushion. I couldn’t afford to be unlucky. And, obviously, I had to figure out what turned me from winner to loser so I could stop it.

The answer was pretty simple and two fold.

First, a truth about no-limit poker (which is what I play online). You can win 90% of the hands you play, but lose once all-in and you’re gone!

I decided my play had gotten too lose. I was chasing too many hands. Often, seeing a small bet with low connectors (7-8 for instance) will bring you a playable but beatable hand. A cheap bet early costs you a lot more later.

I also realized many of my biggest losses were hands where a player with a better hand let me be the aggressor. He let me lay my own trap! I have turned my aggression down.

You still have to bet, in order to force marginal hands to fold, but I’m not betting as much nor going all-in anywhere near as often.

I said it was a two fold strategy before. Maybe it’s three fold, because there is one other change I’ve made. This probably doesn’t count as strategy, but I’m only playing very low stakes tournaments. In fact, I have stuck with $5+ 50&#162 and $3 + 40&#162 ‘sit and go’ tournaments almost exclusively.

There is a difference in the quality of play at these low stakes games, and all it takes is one or two poor players to tilt the odds. Sadly, I can make more money at low stakes than high stakes!

My strategy has paid off. The $20 is back up to around $100. I’m down $75.25 over 873 days. Playing Texas Hold’em has cost me 8.6&#162 per day.

I wasn’t going to retire on this money, still it’s good to know I can analyze my game when I need to.

I got complacent and sloppy. Knowing how to play properly is not the same as making yourself play properly. Discipline, something I’ve never been known for, must be cultivated to be successful.

I’m trying – really.

What I’ve Learned About Poker

Whether I’m a good or poor poker player is for others to decide. That original $250 investment is still buying me games on Pokerstars over two years later.

Pokerstars, however, is a much bigger winner than I, taking a cut of every game I’m in… and I’ve been in thousands.

When I began to play poker seriously, the first thing I learned was which cards to play and what to lay down. Helaine and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on this, but we’re fairly close. And we’re both fairly conservative.

I think the biggest improvement in my game over the past few months has been my skill as a bettor. There have been many fewer instances of my sloppy big bet, aimed at forcing another player to fold, biting me in the tush.

I’ve heard some pros say smart betting is the real secret to no limit Hold’em. There are no firm rules. Each situation is different. Yet I find myself understanding more about the importance of position and when to use a big bet to cut off action before the turn or river card cheapens your hand.

Sometimes I’m still too committed to a hand, even in the face of cards on the board that are surely helpful to others.

I’ve learned a lot. I’ve got a lot to learn.

Pokerstars Tournament – Two In A Row

Yesterday, I wrote about winning a little $3 + rebuy tournament on Pokerstars and picking up $215. I decided to try again last night – and scored again for another $215!

The first time was pure skill coupled with no bad luck. This time it was a little skill and unbelievably good luck! I dodged the bullet enough to start thinking I was bulletproof.

The turning point came during the first hour. I lost a few moderate sized hands and rebought to add $1500 in chips for another $3. My chip count put me well within the vast middle of the pack.

Then I picked up a pair of 9s.

I limped in – a small pair is no big deal. The flop came with two more 9s. The first 5 cards and I already had four of a kind!

I sat back and just called the two other players as they bet away. I tried to be as invisible as possible. Then, on the river, I went all in. One player folded, but the other went after me and lost. He had a great hand – a full house. Mine was better.

It was a huge hand which quickly moved me into the top-30. At that point I just tried to hang on.

Twice I went in with decent cards only to find better cards from my opponent. Both times I finished with ridiculously good hands against remarkably long odds because of just the right cards falling.

It is much more profitable to be lucky than skillful.

As the table got close to the magic number for payouts, I was unsure if I had enough money to last. Dealt two Kings, I made a big bet, only to have another player call me. Uh oh.

Another King came on the turn, giving me a set! I bet hard – he folded. Now I had enough money to hold on for the win.

The problem with these ‘qualifier’ tournaments, where everyone gets the same prize is, at the end, they turn ploddingly slow.

Interestingly, this tournament took almost the exact same amount of time as the one the night before and had nearly the same amount of players and money in the pot.

My friend Wendie said in an email, these poker stories are boring… so I’ll try and refrain for a while. On the other hand, when you dedicate nearly five hours of couch time to a tournament, how much else is there to write about?

$3 Pokerstars Tournament Winner

Arthur is upstairs fixing the leaking problem with our air conditioner. He figured it out quickly. From a pocketbook standpoint you’ve gotta hope that’s a good sign. And he didn’t have to drag in an arc welder or anything.

Meanwhile, with him moving around in the attic, I’ve got a moment to write about the poker game I played in last night. I go through stages writing about poker. It hasn’t been touched on here in a while, but I play nearly every day.

Obsessed? Me? Sure.

I’m still playing that $250 we sent to Costa Rica two years ago, so it’s an obsession that hasn’t really cost anything more than time. It’s surprising to me that my passion for the game has grown, because I want to play more every day.

Recently, Helaine and I were at Foxwoods Casino. An older man came up to say hello. He told me he had played Hold’em with me at another table. Then, he proceeded to tell me he was a professional playing at Foxwoods every day.

If everyone played like me, he said, he’d have to change jobs and become a weatherman himself. I took it as a major compliment on my poker skills.

Last night I got home a few minutes before midnight. There was a very small stakes tournament starting. I had played it before. It is billed as a $3 tournament. That is such a lie!

For $3 you’re entered and get $1500 in chips. If you’d like, as long as you have $1500 or less in chips, you can buy another $1500 for $3 more during the first hour. Than, after the first hour ends, you can add-on $2000 more in chips for another $3.

A player who buys in for the $3 minimum has a chance, but is severely handicapped starting so far behind the others.

For each $215 in buys, rebuys and add-ons, there is a $200 + $15 entry awarded to another, larger tournament. In that one (played on Sunday afternoon) the prize pool is guaranteed to be $500,000 cash. More frugal players (like me) cash the entry in, getting $215 in cash to play other games.

I went for the whole $9. Others in the tournament played wildly the first hour, busting out and reloading time-after-time.

Let’s get rid of the suspense. I cashed out in this tournament, taking home $215 for my $9.

PokerStars Tournament #9607798, No Limit Hold’em

Super Satellite

Buy-In: $3.00

506 players

Total Prize Pool: $5223.00

Target Tournament #9356555 Buy-In: $215.00

24 tickets to the target tournament

Tournament started – 2005/07/05 – 23:59:00 (ET)

Dear ctwxman,

You finished the tournament in 1st place.

You qualified to play in Tournament #9356555 and are automatically registered for it.

See Tournament #9356555 Lobby for further details.

If you choose to unregister from this tournament your account will be credited

with $215.00 Tournament dollars. Tournament dollars can be used to buy into

any tournament.

Visit our web site at for more details.


Thank you for participating.

As the tournament started, I could see I was at a wild table. People were being very aggressive. At the time I looked at that as a problem. As we continued, I realized these people were just putting more money on the table which was getting shared by all of us.

I finished the first hour significantly up – somewhere in the top-100. Unfortunately, I needed to be in the top-24 to win.

My goal was to play very conservatively. In a tournament like this, where you can accrue enough money to have a stake significantly larger than the ‘blinds’ , it’s often (not always) possible to hold on until good cards come.

That’s what I did – and I did it successfully. I don’t remember any bad beats, though I did lose a few hands. Finally, I took another player all-in, won and wound up in 11th place. It was a good place to be, but there were still hundreds competing.

At that level I really turned conservative.

Steffie had come downstairs. It being the summer, she’s got no reason to go to sleep early. We sat on the sofa in the family room and watched TV while I played on a laptop. Having Steffie there to joke and laugh with was the best part of the game. She is very observant and disarmingly funny.

She probably doesn’t know what good company she is.

I haven’t written this in a while, but the goal in a tournament is not to win. The goal is to not lose! In no limit Hold’em, you can win a million hands – but you’re still busted out of the tournament if you go all in and lose just once.

Players were being shed at a fairly steady pace. We paused for five minutes at 1:00 AM, then 2:05 and 3:10. Those left had larger stacks, but the blinds were getting larger too. There was no chance to sit on a lead yet.

We took our break at 4:15 and once we returned things started to slow down. Some players, sensing their chips would not hold them, decided to slow the play down, hoping that would give other short stacks playing on other tables, more of an opportunity to go out first.

I’m not sure if that strategy works, but it’s a pain in the butt as the play stops while the online clock counts the player out of a hand.

I looked at my chip count and saw where I stood. I had peaked at 8th place. With the number of players down to 50, I decided I wouldn’t play any more hands! I had more to lose from playing than I could possibly win. It was likely I could float my way into the money… or so I thought.

I folded AJ twice in a row. I was dealt two Queens – folded without a bet.

As the deal went around the table and the blinds passed me by, my stack began to shrink. Now I was in the mid-teens with 8 or 9 more players left to go before the payout.

I started calculating. Maybe I wouldn’t last long enough?

And then, the player to my left realized he didn’t have to play either! As long as no one else was playing a hand, he would fold and the chips (my blind, his blind and a table’s worth of antes) would fall to me.

I had too many chips for him to challenge me, so he didn’t! There was no upside to either of us being aggressive.

The tournament had gone from 500+ to 27. We were spread among three tables – all now being displayed on the laptop. Play had become grindingly slow.

Finally, a little before 5:00 AM, the last player folded. I had (along with 23 others) won!

I’m usually very critical of my play&#185, but I was pleased. For the most part, I’d stuck to my strategy. When I strayed, I hadn’t gotten beaten up too badly. Skill got me close and luck too me the rest of the way.

My winnings in 23 months of play are minimal, but it’s been very good cheap fun. I’m still astounded it’s lasted this long.

&#185 – It would seem you should be able to control your own play, but often emotion gets the better of you, taking you into hands you shouldn’t be in and costing you chips. The most important asset a poker player can have is discipline. That’s usually in short supply around me.

Poker’s Sting

Where have I gone wrong? I was doing so well a few months ago playing online and then “poof.” I’m still up, but I’ve been crushed. My stake is no longer an impressive multiple of the original buy-in.

Why? Well, I could be a conspiracy theorist and wonder if pokerstars has decided to stack the deck against me. I read things like that all the time. I don’t believe the theories, but I read them.

The answer is much simpler – I’m not playing as well.

I still haven’t quite figured out what I’m doing wrong, but I am trying to see where I’ve changed. I have also dropped down in class, playing at cheaper tables with the hope the competition is weaker and where I can stretch my money. After all, winning at lower stakes is much better than losing where the potential is high.

Meanwhile, as I often do, I have been playing on the computer and watching the World Series of Poker on TV. They’re replaying the 2004 tournament on ESPN this week.

Surprisingly enough, when they got to the final table’s telecast (at 2:00 AM EDT) instead of playing it back as it aired, a commentary by Greg Raymer was added. Raymer, from Southeastern Connecticut, won the 2004 WSOP and helped lower my taxes by bringing home $5,000,000.

I had seen him interviewed in the past, but only briefly – only in sound bites. This time he’s sitting in front of a TV, probably giving his commentary while watching a playback.

It’s incredibly interesting to watch and hear and he’s very impressive. He’s not a showboat, not a comic, but a very smart guy who understands the game at a mathematical level I’ll never reach. He’s soft spoken and classy – a radical change from 2003’s winner.

Make no mistake about it, he was lucky a few times on the way to his win. But, over time, a player is much more likely to fail because of luck than succeed.

Tournament Update

I hit a few decent hands and then decided to hang on for dear life, hoping others would get tapped out. I folded Ace/King and Ace/Queen… just layed them down. But, it paid off.

PokerStars Tournament #6448734, No Limit Hold’em

Super Satellite

Buy-In: $3.00

666 players

Total Prize Pool: $6735.00

Target Tournament #6254714 Buy-In: $215.00

31 tickets to the target tournament

Tournament started – 2005/04/02 – 21:00:00 (ET)

Dear ctwxman,

You finished the tournament in 1st place.

You qualified to play in Tournament #6254714 and are automatically registered for it.

See Tournament #6254714 Lobby for further details.

If you choose to unregister from this tournament your account will be credited

with $215.00 Tournament dollars. Tournament dollars can be used to buy into

any tournament.

“Unregister” is just what I’m going to do. And breath a sign of relief.