Haven’t Talked Poker In A While

I was speaking to a friend yesterday – someone on his way to Las Vegas next week. We talked a little bit about what he did there and how much he would win or (more likely) lose. I told him he should learn to play poker.

At least with poker he’s got a fighting chance.

I continue to play online and it amazes me how much I play – nearly every night. It also amazes me how well Helaine and I have done since we deposited $250 in August 2003.

When I say how ‘well,’ I don’t mean we’re running out to buy a new car. We’re up from the $250 – and that’s enough. To put it in proper perspective, we could use the winnings for a few fancy dinners.

I find, much like a baseball player, my play goes through streaks. Some of them, like a terrible run last spring and fall, are because of bad play. I buckled down and became more focused and disciplined&#185. My latest bad streak has been luck induced. Hey, stuff happens.

Helaine has said in the past she feels the online games are fixed. I read people complaining constantly about bad beats in online games – the implication being they’re crooked.

If the games were crooked, could we be playing this long on the house’s money?

Every time we play a game the house gets something. I’ve been playing $20 + $2, single table, sit and go tournaments lately. That means every time I sit down (and the tournaments run anywhere from an hour to hour and a a half) the casino makes $2. The fee the house takes is called a rake.

Over the last year and a half we have paid thousands of dollars to the house in rakes. They’re coming from someone… just not us.

We’d actually be doing even better if I could resist the temptation to play in 1,000+ player tournaments. The payoff for a win in those is amazing. I’ve been in some where the winner walked away with over $10,000. Unfortunately, the payoffs are structured so a huge percentage of the pool goes to the top three finishers.

Skill aside, the odds of being one of those top finishers is minuscule.

If there’s one part of my game that has improved over time, it’s how I play in these sit and go tournaments when we get to the last two or three players. Since the winner gets 50% of the pool versus 30% and 20% for second and third respectively, placing well becomes as important, maybe more important, than just placing! Third place makes a net profit (after the rake) of $14. Coming in first brings a net of $78.

Maybe I’m making a mistake by playing at the $20 tables. If the competition is less at $5 or $10 tables, I might make more over the long run. I’m just not sure.

In the meantime, it’s fun. I enjoy the analytic aspect of it.

The is one poker truism. I read this somewhere, and it struck me as correct at the time and seems even more correct now, that poker players never remember their winning hands and never forget what they were holding when they lose.

I guess that’s because a decent player doesn’t stick around in pots where he thinks he won’t win. An ugly loss is much more unexpected than an ugly win.

&#185 – This might be the first time in my 54 years on the planet that I have been referred to as focused and disciplined. Admittedly, even then it came from me.