This Snow’s Got Potential

The amount of snow is less important than most people make it out to be. It’s like worrying about changing diapers before your child is born. Trust me–diapers are the least of your worries!

Some folks like snow. Some folks don’t. Count me in the don’t column.

OKAY….I am loving this potential for tomorrow….just an fyi ! 🙂

snowy-wood-pile.jpgThat was a tweet I got from Gil Simmons. Count him as a do.

His love doesn’t make any difference does it? We don’t control it. We can only hope to be right.

I am a poker player. I can’t tell you how many pots I’ve lost while playing my hand perfectly. Stuff happens. Educated predictions don’t always work. Still, this potential Nor’easter for Wednesday is tantalizingly well modeled by the computers.

Actually, there’s no way to know that until after the storm! It’s been consistently modeled. That’s for sure.

If you forecast weather you begin to assume that consistent outputs from the computers mean they have a handle on what’s going on.

Wait. I’m going to add a proviso again.

Consistent output means the storm’s relative position and strength remains constant run-after-run-after-run. It decidedly doesn’t mean consistency in predicting how much snow. That’s never consistent! The amount… the “quantitative precipitation forecast” is never right. Never! And, of course, it’s what the viewers want the most.

Here’s what I think I know.

  • Wednesday start, just before dawn.
  • Wettish snow to start, but becoming fluffier over the day.
  • Strong, gusty northeast winds–a classic Nor’easter.
  • Reasonable chance for thundersnow and/or a snow burst in the afternoon.
  • At least a half foot of snow. Probably much more.

The amount of snow is less important than most people make it out to be. It’s like worrying about changing diapers before your child is born. Trust me–diapers are the least of your worries!

Once the ground is covered 90% of the problems are in place. Yup, somewhere between &#188″ and &#189″ is all it takes. This state screeches to a halt!

Three inches is another break point. Until then snow is easily cleared. Above three inches and many roads lose lanes as snow piles up at the curb.

Once we’re above eight inches additional snow hardly matters! Pretty much all optional outdoor activity has been cancelled. Cars on residential streets are plowed in, much to the consternation of their owners.

For me it’s a better time to travel because nearly everyone else is off the road. I am a speedy driver except in snow! I respect snow.

Most likely Wednesday’s storm is in this last accumulation category. Nearly everything will stop!

Five more model runs (every six hours) before it hits. I’ll deconstruct them all.

The Final Table

As poker playing goes, I’ve had better stretches. I still enjoy the game. Still play all the time. I’m just not playing as well as I have.

This time of year card playing gets increased attention because of the World Series of Poker. The WSOP is a series of 55 poker tournaments, all played in Las Vegas. There are different games played at different stakes, but the big daddy is the “$10,000 No Limit Texas Hold’em Tournament.”

It’s called the World Poker Championship. No dispute there.

In Hold’em, each player gets two cards. He tries to make the best five card poker hand using a combination of those two and five common cards, shared by everyone at the table.

No limit means any player, at any time, can push in all his chips. That’s a gutsy, risky move, that’s sometimes worthwhile.

This isn’t like a bad Western. No one has to put up the deed to the ranch to stay in the game. You are only on the hook for what you’ve got on the table.

Hold’em is interesting because it’s a betting game more than a card game. Yes, luck enters into it, but the really good players consistently show up at final tables. There is more than a little skill at work.

My friend Rick, probably more poker obsessed than I am, invited me to stop by his place after work. He was buying the pay-per-view broadcast of the final table and planned to watch until there was only one man standing.

The fact that there’s a pay-per-view broadcast (cable, satellite and online) of this event is testament to how hot poker has become. It’s also moved from a game played by old guys to one played by loads of twenty somethings.

I showed up around 11:50 pm and was ushered down to the basement. The ‘game’ was on one computer monitor while Rick played cards on the other. This was poker player Nirvanna.

What had started as a 6,358 players was down to four. Over $40 million in prize money had already been handed out, but the big payouts were still to come. No one left would win less than $1.8 million and one of them would head home with over $8 million!

Unlike ESPN’s after-the-fact edited coverage, the live broadcast didn’t reveal all. There were no hole card cameras to show the player’s secrets. I found it difficult to follow the live action with the same enthusiasm I’ll have watching later.

Rick cashed a small win in a 45 player tournament and signed off his account as I took over, losing two nine person tournaments. Grrrrrr.

By 3:00 AM I was ready to call it a night.

In the three hours I spent in the basement, no players were knocked out. In fact, as I write this (with even less compelling audio coverage on in the background) the same four players are at the table!

There are no time limits in effect. They could be done in a few minutes or play on into Wednesday. The forced bets, or blinds, keep going up. That guarantees the game can’t last forever, but nothing’s being forced right now.

I think I’d like to go in Vegas to play in the World Series. $10,000 is too rich for me (especially since I’m likely to be ‘dead money’ against this competition), but there are other cheaper games played in the weeks leading up to the big show.

It seems a little decadent. It seems very exciting.

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.

$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.

Steffie – Reoriented

Tuesday we took Steffie to college and came home without her. Maybe she doesn’t realize this was a seminal moment, but Helaine and I did. We may joke about diapers and Desitin but it’s all true – all part of the fabric of our lives.

Steffie should still be a baby in much the same way candy bars should still be a nickel, phone calls a dime and the subway fifteen cents.

We came home ’empty nesters.’

With nothing to do Wednesday (I took another vacation day), we decided to head to Foxwoods Casino&#185 to try our luck. We’re lucky because Connecticut’s two casinos are close enough to get to with no problem and far enough to keep us from going more than a few times a year.

As a poker player I’m always looking to see how my brick and mortar skills stack up against what I do online. I think I’ve become a good player and this would be a test.

I sat down at a $10-$20 table, hoping to hold my own and setting a ‘stop loss’ amount in my head. With a break for dinner, I played around nine hours.

My bankroll went up and down like a cork bobbing in a stormy sea. I was up early, then watched the money bleed away. After a few hours I went ‘all in’ on a hand, risking my limit, but winning the pot.

As I approached our time to go home, and my last hand, I was down enough to note, but not enough to matter. I was big blind – forced to bet. My two cards were King and Four of Spades.

Normally, I’d throw them away, but I was in by virtue of the blind bet.

The flop came with two more spades… and then the betting. The odds were less than 50:50 I’d pick up another spade. On the turn, nothing – what poker players call a rag.

More betting. Now, with one card left, my odds were under 1:4. Because of the substantial money already in the pot, over the long run it made sense to invest in this hand. Sure I’d lose most times, but when I’d win it would more than make up for the busts.

The river card brought the Ace of Spades. My flush was made – and I bet.

I had ‘the nuts’ – an unbeatable hand. The one other person in the pot (I’d later find he had two aces already, giving him 3 of a kind) immediately knew I’d hit. He called my bet, adding twenty more dollars to the stack of chips.

That one hand took me from small time loser to substantial winner.

I got up and cashed in my chips. Then I walked across the casino floor to where Helaine was playing Caribbean Stud Poker. She was sitting at a moderately full table with at least one semi-obnoxious drunk. Everyone else, including the dealers and bosses, were very nice.

After a few minutes my cellphone rang. It was Steffie and she was very upset. There had been a dance to culminate her orientation session. When she returned to her room, her Ipod was gone!

She had done all the right things – spoken to campus security and filled out forms. That isn’t the point. Even the cost of the Ipod, substantial as it is, isn’t the point.

Having someone enter your private space and go through your belongings, then take something of yours, is unnerving. You feel unclean. You have been violated. It has happened to me and I feel her pain.

That this would happen in her second night in a dorm is awful.

I told Helaine my hope was there would be a silver lining in this cloud – and there was. The kids Steffie had become friendly with stayed at her side. She said a contingent actually slept on the floor of her room.

Today, when we came to get her, it was obvious she had been bruised by this experience – but not scarred. That is an excellent sign.

Other than the Ipod incident, everything went perfectly. She got the classes she wanted at the times she wanted. She wouldn’t go to school too early on Mondays nor too late on Fridays.

I am so jealous.

I have a good feeling about this college thing. Steffie exudes a confidence and maturity I haven’t seen before. She wears it well.

She had always been told, kids from her high school found college to be easier than what they’d just experienced. As she began to hear this year’s expectations of her from the school administrators, she realized that was no fairy tale. They were scaring kids with stories of work less demanding than what she’d just completed!

She has the preparation and ability to thrive.

I will miss Steffie when she goes to school. The truth is, life with her has never been better or more fun. I’m not writing anything she doesn’t already know.

&#185 – Connecticut has two casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. They’re both quite nice. Mohegan Sun is a little closer. It used to offer poker, but mysteriously (about twenty minutes before the big poker explosion) they closed their room and moved in slot machines.

Greetings From Palm Springs

Helaine and Steffie are sitting on our little patio here at the hotel in Palm Springs. Of course, if you would ask them, they’re on the lanai.

Palm Springs is beautiful. We have certainly had less than optimal Palm Springs weather. It has rained, a little, each day. But, as soon as the rain ends, the sky clears.

Last night was a perfect example. We had been indoors during the evening. We had obviously missed a shower or two. The roads were wet. Yet when we looked up, the sky was full of stars with no clouds in sight!

I know what happened overnight in Connecticut. Snow! Where I live, there’s around 6″ of snow. Her, today, we’ll hit the mid 60&#176s, with the temperature getting into the 80s over the weekend (alas, we’ll be gone).

We got here on Tuesday and checked into the Hyatt. We had made a conscious choice before we got here to stay downtown, on the main drag. The reviews for this hotel were actually quite lackluster with people complaining that the hotel looked tired and shabby. We have not found that to be the case.

It is a suite hotel, and though this is not the ‘classic’ suite you might see in the movies, Stef now has here own ‘room’. The suite is significantly larger than our room in Century City.

Before we left Helaine had found a deal to get the room plus free breakfast every morning – even room service. Helaine’s diligence has saved us a lot of money, because she spent a lot of timing shopping and comparing before we left home. We changed our hotel and car arrangements more than once as new, better deals became available.

Speaking of cars, we had originally reserved a full size car. As I became more attuned to our baggage needs, I started to think an SUV might be a better idea. I believe the rental description called for a Chevy Blazer or similar. We ended up with a Chevy Trail Blazer.

I am used to driving a Ford Explorer. This Trail Blazer is significantly larger. That makes it tougher to park and get around in traffic. I’m sure this is the kind of thing that gets easier with time.

Tuesday, when we got in, Helaine and Steffie headed to the shops in Palm Springs as I headed to the Palm Springs Aerial Tram. Palm Springs is surrounded by tall, steep mountains and the tram is the only easy way to the top of one of them.

To get there, you drive out of town, past the wind turbines, and into the mouth of a canyon. As you drive further, the road steeply pushes upward. I believe the mile or two of canyon road climbed over 1,000 feet in elevation from the valley floor. I have attached all the tech specs for this tramway. Only click if you’re really geeky.

The tram climbs up the mountain in a little over 10 minutes. The car rotates slowly as it rises, which is good for most, but was bad for me. Every time I got to where I wanted to take a picture, I moved… or was moved. There are some open, tilt out windows, but most of the vantage is through glass or something like it.

As air rises, it cools. It was in the low 70&#186s at ground level. It was in the upper 30&#186s on the mountaintop, and the clouds often drifted over the observatory. There was a reasonably large snowpack (measured in feet) surrounding the paths and patios to the vantage points.

The interior of California unfolds below you. The horizon is wide and very far away. The sky itself is so blue that I took a picture of it!

The visibility to the valley is somewhat reduced. I noticed that from the mountain and I have noticed it from ground level as well. The culprit – blowing dust.

Sometimes the dust is in discrete little storms, so you can see them from a distance. Other times, often when looking down from the mountain, the dust is less defined but obvious in the lack of sharp focus at a distance.

There is one very strange thing I saw at the base of the tramway. The parking lots are named after local animals in much the same way you might park in a Disneyworld lot named “Goofy” or “Pluto.”

Let’s just say the local animal names are less cutesy than Disney’s!

I met up with Helaine and Steffie and, in showery rain, we headed out to dinner. We stopped at Kaiser Grille, a nice looking restaurant on Palm Canyon Drive. Even with the rain, we sat outside on a covered, open air, patio.

Dinner was very tasty. I had pasta with shrimp and scallops. It came quickly and was piping hot. The service was attentive.

It was still early, so while Stef chatted on the computer, Helaine and I headed to one of the Indian casinos here. A few years ago, there were restrictions on these casinos that made blackjack and other games different from the same games in Las Vegas or Connecticut.

That’s changed for the most part, though I understand craps is played with cards instead of dice. Very strange. I have a bad reaction to people, or businesses, that follow the letter, though not the spirit, of the law. That seems to be the case with diceless craps.

I ended up going to two casinos while here, playing poker at both. This was not my finest moment as a poker player.

Of the two, the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage was more to my liking. It is small as casinos go. The poker room didn’t have many more than a dozen tables. The dealers and other players were friendly. There was more drink service (I don’t drink alcohol, but do drink coffee, water and soda) than I’ve ever seen in a poker room. That’s no small thing!

The other casino, Morongo, was larger and adjacent to a huge outlet mall where Steffie and Helaine spent an afternoon. I just didn’t like it as much. I was also amazed to see the age limit there was 18.

I was playing poker with 18 year olds – and I didn’t like that. It is only my opinion, but 18 seems much too young. You’ll notice I didn’t get up and refuse to play. But, it is part of the reason I won’t go back.

There is one more thing of interest we did here in Palm Springs. We went house shopping.

OK – maybe that’s a little drastic of a description. We went and ‘window shopped’ a development in Rancho Mirage. The thought is, maybe when we retire, this would be a nice place to go.

The homes, on small parcels of land, but often with amazing views of the mountains were more expensive than similarly sized homes in Connecticut. We did find one design, with an immense open space encompassing a gourmet kitchen, family room and breakfast area to be very appealing. There was even s small swimming pool out back.

This is a very attractive lifestyle in a beautiful place. Desert living isn’t for everyone. It is astoundingly hot here in the summer… and the summer is very long. Temperatures of 115&#176 for days on end is not uncommon. Yes, the humidity is very low, but it is still hot like an oven.

On the other hand, the only snow you see is looking at the mountain peaks while drive dry roads in the sun and warmth.

Stormy Saturday

Steffie was away at Field Hockey Camp. The weather was forecast to be rotten. There were no movies worth seeing. Helaine and I decided to drive the hour or so to Foxwoods where I could play poker while wearing something other than pajamas.

The traffic was horrendous. Well, for our little part of Connecticut it was horrendous. I’m sure Californians or Long Islanders would disagree with my threshold of traffic pain. We hit the first stoppage on I-91, approaching I-95.

The new Ikea was supposed to attract more cars. Since it has opened, I have noticed much slower traffic where I-91 empties into I-95. It might be a coincidence. I hope it is. I don’t want to think this will now be the norm.

I crossed the “Q” Bridge and headed east on I-95. Since I-95 runs from Maine to Florida it’s considered a north – south road. Signs point you to I-95 north or I-95 south. Unfortunately, here in Connecticut it is entirely east – west. It is somewhat confusing in the beginning.

A few minutes later I heard what sounded like touch tones on the radio, then silence, then National Weather Service radio broadcasting a tornado warning for Northern New Haven County.

I picked up the phone and called the station. I wanted to make sure we were on it. Thankfully we were.

Gil Simmons was heading back to the studio from the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament. A crew was heading to Wolcott where we had reports of storm damage. Our automated equipment had instantly posted the tornado warning on the air.

We continued the drive – in heavy traffic on I-95. As is so often the case, we never found out why the traffic was heavy. One minute we were in bumper-to-bumper stop and go traffic, the next we were cruising along at the speed limit.

Skies remained threatening, but we beat the storms to the casino. The valet parking area was fairly empty and we pulled right in. As it turned out we beat the thunderstorms by about 30 minutes.

Since July, and Las Vegas, I have spent more time in casinos than ever before. Of course I’ve been going because I’ve been winning. Somehow online poker has made me a much better ‘live’ poker player. And since I am willing to risk more in person, a good night can be very rewarding.

The poker room at Foxwoods is bigger than ever, just having added 12 tables. It was also more crowded than I’d ever seen it with long waiting lists to play. I signed up and Helaine and I left to walk around. I came back in time to play.

Recently, I had been having good luck at $10/$20 Texas Hold’em, and went there again. Foxwoods deals tables of 10 at Hold’em – and the table was full.

I bought in with $200 and was soon down around $60. The things began to turn around. By the time we were ready for dinner I had won $483.&#185

We went to the coffee shop for dinner. Foxwoods has some beautiful restaurants and one disappointing buffet. I had a French Dip sandwich, fries and a bowl of chowder. Dinner couldn’t have been nicer.

To its credit, this coffee shop is reminiscent of Vegas coffee shops. It is bright and airy, more room between tables than you’d expect. The food is very good. The menu is more limited than most Vegas coffee shops, but there’s no problem finding something good to eat.

We headed back upstairs and I got reseated for poker. Even though my dinner break allowed me to be second on the list for players coming in, it took nearly a half hour for me to sit.

I never felt I was doing that well, but before long I could see an extra few stacks of $5 chips in front of me. I was up over $200 before getting sucked into a hand that better judgment should have kept me from. I left the table up another $143.

As was the case when I played in Atlantic City, I keep waiting for my big loss. It is coming – I just don’t know when. Even a great player, and I am not a great player, can’t sustain the string of wins I currently have at brick and mortar casinos.

That loss didn’t come Saturday night.

On the way out I picked up some brochures for Foxwoods big series of tournaments which comes in October. The entries are a bit pricey, but I would consider playing in one event.

In a somewhat sobering observation I realized I am eligible to play in the Senior Tournament. All I need to do is bring proof of my 50+ age… and a lot of cash.

&#185 – When I play poker, I buy in for a round amount. When I cash out I subtract that amount to come up with my win. During the course of playing I tip the dealer after any winning hands and tip the waitress when I get a soda or coffee. Those come from my stack, so they reduce my winnings. Whether they should be part of my winnings or losses is academic. It is easier to calculate it this way, so I do.

A Year of Online Poker

It was about a year ago that, like an idiot, I went to Stop and Shop, bought a Western Union Money Order, and sent it off to Coast Rica! That $250 was our stake to play a little poker. Who would have thought, a year later, it’s still there – and larger than when we began?

It’s time for the backstory. I had been playing poker very infrequently for 20 years or more. I thought I was good. I was awful. Since I didn’t play often, I didn’t lose much. It was harmless fun.

With two casinos in Connecticut, I was invited to a Press Poker Tournament for charity. It was the kickoff to Foxwoods’ World Poker Finals. Somehow, entirely by luck, I came in near the top and won $1,000 for Blue Jeans for Babies.

I am not being modest. It was luck – blind luck&#185.

As the day progressed and the tables were consolidated, I found myself playing with Jan Fisher of Cardplayer Magazine. I had no idea who she was, but when I found out I wanted her to tell me how I played.

I was waiting for some nice words of encouragement – but she said nothing. She thought I played poorly, but was looking for a way not to say it.

Jan Fisher turned me around as a poker player. She doesn’t know she did, and I’ve never thanked her. If you see her, tell her.

By the time August of 2003 came along, I had tightened up my game enough to break even. Considering the house takes a cut of every pot, that’s not bad.

It didn’t take me long playing online before I realized I’d have to tighten up and be even more disciplined. I did. Though to this day, my biggest losses still come when I lose my sense of discipline.

With a computer, it is possible to play hundreds of hands of poker a day – often while doing other things at the same time. This is the kind of experience that good players used to take years to get.

We now sit with $900 of profit (could be more or less – I’m playing now). I won’t quit my day job. I have to believe that’s as good or better than 70-80% of the other people playing online. The online casino has collected thousands and thousands of dollars in fees while I’ve played. They were taken from me, but replenished by others.

The most important part is, I still enjoy the game. I get frustrated when I play poorly. I enjoy being strategic when it helps me win.

&#185 – As I got closer and closer to placing in the money, I became more and more nervous. Playing for big stakes, even when it’s not your own money, is nerve wracking.

It’s All About the Water Pressure

About this time in every vacation, though I say I will keep the blog up, I start to fall a little behind. That’s bad, because I want to stay current. It’s good because it means we’ve been busy.

My sister and brother-in-law remain sort of AWOL on this trip. They have been making sales calls for their business, meaning they haven’t been around. Other than 2 minutes when we first got here, we haven’t seen them. They have been busy with sales calls for their business, which is a good thing – so it’s certainly defensible.

I think I’ve already established that I love this hotel. There are many reasons… well known reasons, and at least one more esoteric reason – water pressure in the shower. I believe every hotel can be fairly judged by the pressure of the shower water and the size of the towels. That’s how Mirage became a 5-star hotel to me.

We had heard about the $12-$13 million rebuild of the buffet, now know as Cravings. This was our night to try it.

I’d been a fan of the original Mirage Buffet, and one night years ago when I saw Steve Winn (then the owner) sitting there with his family, went and told him so. I still like the buffet, but I’m not sure it’s with the same passion.

There is no way to know that this buffet was even built in the same space. There’s nothing left from the position of the food stations to the shape of the room. The dining area itself is immense. The old room was more segmented and split up. This is wide open.

Lighting is diffused and comes in through gold colored louvered fixtures on the ceiling. They’re very pretty.

The food was excellent. There was sushi, shrimp, prime rib, pizza – anything you can think of. And there’s the desert section which has cakes and pies and other baked goods.

After dinner, Helaine, my parents and I went to see David Brenner. He’s playing as the ‘house act’ in the David Brenner Theater at the Westin Hotel on Flamingo. The hotel is low key and subdued which is a weird juxtaposition against the small casino which sits in the center of the entry area. In design, it’s tough to have a casino look right without having over-the-top decorations. That doesn’t necessarily mean garish – though garish usually works.

Brenner was great. Helaine and I had seen him before. He’s very bright, very much in control and confident on stage. He worked a solid hour and a half and had the audience every step of the way.

It’s a small theater, and even then it was less than half full. He made a reference about 100 people, which sounded about right. With promotion and good word of mouth, this guy should be packing them in. It’s a shame. I’d see him again in a second.

We headed back to Mirage and I sat down to play poker. I spent about 5 minutes at $3-$6 until a seat opened up at $6-$12. It was a good table. I recognized one player from earlier trips, and she was doing well. I did well too.

If you’re a poker player you’ll recognize these hands, otherwise feign excitement. I flopped a straight flush and I flopped a full house. The full house didn’t win me much but the straight flush was very nice. I ended up +$162. So, I’m pretty close to even now at poker, which is fine.

This morning, we were supposed to go ballooning over the Nevada desert, but the winds weren’t cooperating. It will have to be rescheduled later. It’s a shame… except for the fact that the phone didn’t ring at 4:00 AM

Losing At Poker

A few weeks ago, I hit it big at Pokerstars. I turned $3 into $966, winning a 1296 person tournament. I felt as if I were on top of the poker world. Since then, I’m not sure if I’ve won a hand!

OK – that’s an overstatement. Still, the poker fortunes have decidedly turned. It’s not that I’m playing badly (I’ve really worked hard to avoid going into tilt). It’s just a really long run of bad cards – and it’s driving me a little nuts.

If there’s a way to lose, I have found it. This past weekend, playing in the same tournament, I finished 128th. Only the top 81 were getting paid. I played my Kings against another player who had 2s. Of course the third two turned on the last card.

That in and of itself isn’t unusual. Bad beats are a part of poker. It’s just I’m getting ‘bad beat’ all the time.

Last night, with a King, Queen in my hand, I watched 2 more Kings come up. I bet them hard, all the way to the end, only to see my competition turn over King, Ace.

Helaine has hit the same rut too! She just told me about her loss this evening, playing Kings against a lower pair and losing when her opponent made trips on the river.

It can’t last forever. Well, actually, it can. It shouldn’t – but it can.

Rather than squander my money away, I have moved down in stakes, hoping to gain some advantage by playing less savvy opponents. Still, we’ve given back a few hundred dollars of our winnings.

Right now it’s frustrating.

Oh – one more poker note before I go. Last night, one of our reporters interviewed the winner of the 2004 World Series of Poker. Greg Raymer. Though he’s physically built like a poker player (don’t ask, but think about all that sitting), he seems a sharp contrast to last year’s big winner Chris Moneymaker. Raymer is an attorney from nearby Stonington. He’s well spoken and seems well liked. And, he plays at Pokerstars and Foxwoods Casino – the two main places I play… just for a whole lot more money.

Big Boys Playing Poker

I am watching the 2003 World Series of Poker on ESPN 2. This is… oh, maybe the ten thousandth time this has been on TV. I know who won, and have seen much of the action before, but still enjoy watching. The reason is, TV has added an angle to the game which never existed before.

Let me backtrack a second. I was in Las Vegas, playing at a $3/$6 Texas Hold’em table at the Mirage Hotel. Two players were head-to-head. The first raised and the second paused, thought and then folded. As the cards were being mucked, he asked the winner what cards he had. The reply, “This is a pay-per-view game.”

It’s true. Unless you pay to see them, the winner’s hand is never shown. Was he bluffing? Did he have the nuts? You’ll never know unless you pay for the privilege. That is major power for a poker player. Without his hand being exposed, his true strategy remains a secret.

Enter TV. Now every hand is exposed from the deal. There is no secrecy. The play of a master can be dissected and understood. The huge advantage that a very good player might possess is gone.

Of course TV has brought so much new blood (and money) into the game that it isn’t quite a pact with the devil. Still, the curtain has been parted.

The players at the WSOP level aren’t that much better than those I’m playing with… but they are better. Every time I sit down (online) at a low stakes, one table tournament, there’s guaranteed to be someone who really doesn’t know what he’s doing. Yes, that person can win – Kenny Rogers was right in saying “Every hands a loser. Every hand’s a winner.” But over the long run, he’s going to get drained.

I am fascinated to see the odds displayed on the screen as the games plays out. Calculating pot odds is something I should be better at. I have a sense of where I stand, but if I could really make the calculations of my chances versus the pot, it would make me stronger.

Meanwhile, Helaine and I continue to do fine playing our online games. At last check we are up about $300 since August 2003.

Over the course of this weekend, I will try and play in some of the larger tournaments available (larger in participants, not stakes). Though the payoffs can be large, it’s unlikely I’ll cash out in any given weekend.