What’s Up Hurricane?

Here’s a quote of a quote of a quote. I was reading Dr. Jeff Master’s weather blog this morning. He put numbers on the tropical weather of 2006.

In a word – average

The Atlantic was down. The Eastern Pacific was up. The rest of the world helped make the average… well, average.

Strong storms are up numerically, but experts now think strong storms were vastly underestimated in the pre-satellite, pre-radar, era. We were pretty blind back then.

Then, he quoted a recent statement from the World Meteorological Organization concerning hurricanes and global warming.

A consensus of 125 of the world’s leading tropical cyclone researchers and forecasters says that no firm link can yet be drawn between human-induced climate change and variations in the intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones.

In a statement issued in Costa Rica at the World Meteorological Organization’s 6th International Workshop on Tropical Cyclones, it was also declared: No individual tropical cyclone can be directly attributed to climate change. Tropical cyclone is the umbrella name for hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones.

The recent increase in loss of life and damages from tropical cyclones has largely been caused by rising concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal regions.

In other words, if you build on the coast, you’re going to be hit when coastal storms come along. Period. End of story.

There’s no need to use global warming as a stalking horse to invoke fear. There will be devastating ‘big ones,’ because people have aggregated where big ones have always come in the past.

The Gulf Coast, from Florida through Texas, is alive with people. Same thing for the East Coast. Sure, Florida has been populous for a long time, but now there’s major development farther north in Florida and into Georgia and the Carolinas.

Even here in Connecticut… no, especially here in Connecticut, our shoreline is crammed with people, few of whom have heard of, much less remember the devastation of the Hurricane of ’38.

You don’t need to worry about ‘Super Storms.’ What Mother Nature naturally packs is bad enough already. You’ll see.

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 http://www.pokerstars.com/tournaments.html 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.

$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 http://www.pokerstars.com/tournaments.html 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.

New Haven Advocate Best Of

I was very pleased to hear I’d won the New Haven Advocate’s Best Of Readers’ Poll. Though I usually pick up the Advocate when I get coffee at Roberto’s, I missed the voting issue so I didn’t even have a chance to stuff the ballot box.

That this is a vote by viewers makes it all the more gratifying.

There are some interesting, nearly dubious, honors bestowed. Some categories are split so many ways that you’d better get something. And, I totally understand that the Advocate does this as an advertising booster (look in the print issue and see all the back slapping ads). It’s still nice.

Christopher Arnott, who I’ve known for years, wrote my little blurb – and now I’m blushing.

Tonight is the ‘get your award’ dinner, and I’ll be going. I’ll bring my camera.

Best Local TV Personality

Geoff Fox, WTNH Channel 8

Geoff Fox stops by the Advocate offices in the early afternoon. The energy of the 9-to-5ers in the room is starting to lag, but Fox is wide-eyed, funny, fresh, loud-voiced, glad-handed–the life of the party.

He woke up about an hour earlier. His workday’s just begun.

“Basically I live my life in Hawaiian time. I wake up at noon, and I don’t get home until midnight. I’m used to people calling me and waking me up. I liked it when I had a friend living in Singapore; he’s the only one who’d call me when I was at the right time.”

Geoff Fox has weathered that rough-and-tumble schedule for over 20 years as a weatherman, and he’s been a broadcast professional since 1969. And despite cleaning up annually as Advocate readers’ choice for Best Local TV Personality, he’s still improving his job prospects, studying meteorology for the past three years.

Geoff Fox New Haven Advcoate photo

One thing that makes Geoff Fox so engaging in person is his quick wit, and it’s a skill he’s able to use on the air. “I get to do stand-up. I get to ad-lib. I’m the only one who works without a script.” Some of his best exchanges are with the Channel 8 directors and cameramen; he’s like a comedian who delights in cracking up the house band. “For me, it has a lot to do with growing up watching George Burns, Soupy Sales and Sandy Becker,” TV comics who loved to break the fourth wall and display the nuts and bolts of the TV set.

Offscreen, he engages with viewers via his weblog, for which he’s already penned over 1,100 entries. A self-admitted tech geek, Fox has built a few computers himself, and he has connected another of his passions–poker–to the net by playing an online game through a casino in Costa Rica, almost tripling his initial investment.

It’s a life well lived, on air at 5, 6 & 11 p.m. (plus 10 p.m. on Channel 8’s sister station, WTXX) and “on” constantly from noon until his wee-hours bedtime.

On the same page: Yale wins the Best Local Four-Year College category. Who woulda thunk it?

Blogger’s note: The writeup says I’m on WTXX, but our 10:00 PM news is on WCTX, channel 9 on most cable systems.

Poker Observations

Earlier this evening, while I was out at the Gateway Community College Hall of Fame Dinner, a woman stopped me to say she had been reading my website. “You write about poker a lot,” she said.

That reminded me. I really haven’t written much about poker at all recently. Let me change that.

Our poker playing had become hot as could be over the summer. The original $250 stake had rolled itself to well over $1,000. I was feeling good and maybe a little too confident.

My play started to suffer. I took foolish chances. In poker parlance, I was on tilt. Before long – actually last week – we were back to that starting $250 and still sinking.

I knew my play was poor, yet was unable to play correctly.

It’s the strangest thing. I knew my moves were foolish as I was making them. Everything I knew about the math behind risk/reward in cards was out the window. Maybe it was a desire to rapidly leverage my winnings or the thought that I was such a good player I could do no wrong?

As I realized I’d soon be out of money (and it seems foolish to want to send more to Costa Rica under these circumstances), I took a long hard look in the poker mirror. Changes were necessary.

First, I made a vow to play conservatively. There would be no chasing or bluffing. My biggest, hardest losses had come when I was too aggressive.

Second, I stopped playing in turbo games. In these games the blinds (forced bets) go up in value very quickly. If I was going to be conservative, I’d have to have enough time to wait for the right cards to come. Slow play, not turbo was what I needed.

Even where I had good cards, I wouldn’t try to take it all at once. That’s a sure strategy for failure in a game where you can win a zillion small and moderate hands and bust out with one single loser.

So far I have been playing this way for over a week. I am a much more consistent winner than I had ever been before. I’ve made up the deficit and am well over my original stake.

Helaine, whose play remains steady and dependable, is also moving the needle upward.

Now, the question is, can I avoid this temptation again? If I got up a moderate amount, will the small incremental wins I’m getting be enough to make me happy? It was my undoing before. Maybe I’ve wised up?

Poker Philosophy

Poker is such an exceptionally intricate game. It has elements of skill and elements of chance. On any given hand, chance can turn a losing hand into a winner. Over the long haul, the effect of chance is greatly diminished.

It is fascinating to play. I am surprised that there are people who find it fascinating to watch on TV.

Last week I wrote about a streak of bad luck that had brought our stake from +$200 to -$25 (or so). It was frustrating because I was losing consistently while playing well. I lost with Aces. I lost with Kings. I lost to someone who stayed in with 7-2 off suit (statistically, the worst two cards you can get) and drew a full house!

Since that time we’ve come back. In fact, we’re a little under +$200 again.

Poker philosophers talk about going into ’tilt.’ That means you let your emotions get the better of you and play with a vengance… almost as if you had a grudge against the cards. Going into tilt is something losers often do. It is something a good player should watch for and take advantage of.

I often see players on tilt, winning big early in tournaments. I’ve gotten to where I can often predict their final outcome. They nearly always bust out.

I tried my best not to go into tilt while we were down, and I think I succeeded. Just to make sure, I even stepped down in stakes – going back to $5.50 tournaments.

Luck changes – or at least it disappears over the long term.

I was reading while playing last night and came across some poker philosophy which might help me be a better player. In the tournaments we play in, the top three finishers get paid. That’s very different from playing in a ‘live’ game where each hand means profit and loss.

The article pointed out that busting other players was not an obligation or even objective of playing. Players busting would take care of themselves. My goal is to survive.

This philosophy comes in to play toward the end of tournaments, where a player might be hanging by a thread and so will go ‘all in’ on hands which he might not have played earlier. Instinct says, if you have a lot of cash, keep him honest by calling. It’s everything to them, and much less significant to you. That’s a bad move… or so said the article – and I agree.

Often, going in will stake that opponent and allow him to play on. I have done that in the past and had it bite me in the tush. I will attempt to restrain myself in the future.

In the meantime, I’ll be playing against real people at Foxwoods this weekend. It is something I seldom do, but look forward to. The games will be much slower than what I’m used to online. I have no idea how the play will stack up, though I anticipate the game having more better and more worse players with fewer in the mid skill level. I will be playing against some people who are earning their living.

It will be interesting to see how I fare. Even if I run into bad luck, I think I understand cards well enough to gage my play.

Meanwhile, as I typed this I was also playing in a $16 turbo tournament. A little run of bad luck at the end held me to third, for $27 or $11 net profit.

Blogger’s note: If you’re interested, all my poker entries are chronologically strung together by this incredible blogging software (all the way back to sending my money to Costa Rica) and can be read by clicking here.

Back to Poker

Looking back at my $250 stake in online poker, I chuckle. It was supposed to be a small buy-in for a few weeks, maybe a month, of fun playing online. Here we are 7 months later – still playing.

We’ve been down as low as $40 a few times but we’ve bounced back. The big strike was a $300+ tournament win, no doubt. That was a nerve wracking tournament and a heck of a payout for $21 invested.

Every time I think I understand poker strategy, I change and do it differently. It’s possible that strategy is a fluid thing, and changing is what you have to do. Maybe I’m just placing to much credence in anecdotal evidence and being reactionary.

Recently, I’ve been successful, late in the single table tournaments I play most often, by playing possum – sitting back and letting others start betting when I have a powerful hand. That’s also called ‘slow play’ and is normally frowned upon as a strategy because you often let those without good hands catch the cards they need.

Helaine just played in a $10+1 tournament and placed 2nd. With that $27 payoff, we have gone over $500 in the bank. Now all I have to do is run down to Costa Rica to pick it up!

Poker obsessed

This is ridiculous. I have become poker obsessed.

I have a few days off and went to try and play on-line. Pokerstars.com have some free tournaments, with 1,000 entrants. Before I could figure out how to enter, it was full!

I’m willing to put some cash into this, but my credit card company will not approve payments for Internet gambling (they being smarter than I). There’s a method where you tie your checking account… need I go further? That’s not happening.

What I will do is bring some money to Stop & Shop and wire it to Costa Rica via Western Union.

Even as I say this, I realize this is probably a dumb thing to do. However, I will limit my loss to less than what I won this past weekend and see what happens.