Mixed Results

Yesterday was a day of mixed results. Mostly good, but with a down ending.

My crowning achievement of the work-day was reading a bug and figuring out what was going on without actually looking at any code. This got a “Yep, that’s exactly what’s happening!” comment from the engineer who’s working on that code. It’s a good feeling when your guesses turn out to be correct (not least because a good guess is worth several hours of digging).

In the evening I joined the guys for some low-stakes poker.

The first couple of hours I could do practically no wrong. I was hitting straights and flushes left and right, bluffing people off hands, etc. One hand I went all-in on the turn on a board of K-7-5-K, and my opponent thought for a long time and finally called with 7-5, for 2 pair. I was trying to bluff him off and showed A-T. I rivered the Ten for a better two pair and stacked him. I felt a little bad that I sucked out to win, but was pretty happy with how I played anyway.

I went card-dead for an hour or so but still scratched out a few winnings.

By midnight I had tripled up on the evening, and looked down at pocket Kings in a raised pot. I reraised and got two callers. The flop was 6-5-4 with two diamonds. I bet, got raised, and reraised. My opponent – the other deep stack at the table – thought for a long time and went all-in. I called immediately and she showed 4-4 for a set of 4s, and I missed the turn and river and got stacked.

I realized that I’ve lost more money against sets than any other hand in our no-limit hold ’em home games, and that I rarely win much money with sets. I think I have a blind spot when thinking about whether I might be up against a set (although to be fair, the power of the set is that it’s well-disguised). In this case I certainly thought I had an excellent chance of being good on my first bet. When I got raised I thought there was a good chance he had anything from Aces down to Tens, or was even trying to bluff me off with two big cards (e.g., A-K). I didn’t really think he’d called with a small pair (even though I do myself sometimes) and made a set. By the time he went all-in I felt pot committed, so it was too late to back out then. I guess I could have called his raise, or even checked the flop, although the latter seems very risky on that board. Maybe there was just nothing I could do here.

One thing I keep thinking of is that when you get down to it, Kings is still just one pair, and losing a huge pot with one pair is lame. So when faced with a big bet, I should certainly be thinking that my opponent can beat one pair. Maybe that’s the mindset I need to be in.

Anyway, despite going down I played for 5 hours in twenty bucks, and that’s cheaper entertainment than a movie. Others at the table had worse luck then I did, so I shouldn’t complain. I’ll get ’em next time!

It was fun, tho. We have a pretty competitive group, and none of us are easy marks to any of the others, which makes for some lively sessions.

Low Variance

Poker last night was fun. Lee hosted, which meant we spent some of the evening trying to seduce his cats (and then trying not to get clawed or nipped by his over-stimulated cat).

I had a blah evening on the poker side, never being down or up more than $4 at a time (we play with 5¢/10¢ blinds). We did play with a new wrinkle, giving each of us a special randomly-select hand – from cards no higher than an 8 – and if we showed down the winning hand with it then we’d win 10¢ from each other player. Mine was 8-3, and I managed to win one pot with it. Watching people play crappy hands makes for some very strange play, since it’s not clear why they’re playing so weirdly, when it turns out they’re just trying to see a showdown with their pair of 3s.

Otherwise I decided to make a few wacky plays, but ended up missing the flop too often to make it worthwhile. And most of my best hands got folded to preflop. So it was basically a grind-’em-out evening for me.

Bex had the most dramatic evening, losing her buy-in and then coming back to almost even by the end of the night. Moreover, she made a downright heroic call of Andrew’s all-in on the turn in one pot, showing A-K against Andrew’s A-T on a Q-J-x-x board to win. Andrew couldn’t believe she made that call. She was getting 2-to-1 so it was a good call if she thought he might be bluffing 1 time in 3. Moreover, she had a chance to hit her straight or top pair, so really he needed to be bluffing only 1 time in 4 or even 5 for it to be a good call.

Of course, I wouldn’t think Andrew would be bluffing there 1 time in 5, but that’s me. I’m not the one who won the huge pot!

We also tried to come up with peoples’ “indian poker names” (a la Dances With Wolves). A few we came up with:

  1. Folds to Pressure
  2. Calls Too Often
  3. Raises with Nothing
  4. Grinds For Hours

The fact that there was whiskey available to sample may have had something to do with this silliness.

But silliness is half the point of social poker anyway!

Poker Weekend

We’re just back from a long weekend in Las Vegas! Last year we went for 4 nights since we went out to see the Hoover Dam, but I think we felt that was a little long, so we cut it back to our usual 3 nights this time around.

We flew out Saturday afternoon and despite worrying about the weather (it’s been raining a lot in the Bay Area, and some in Las Vegas, too) and whether the fire at the Monte Carlo would result in people rebooking their hotel stays and keeping us from getting our room, everything went perfectly smoothly. I guess the fire made life hell for a lot of local workers for a while, but we didn’t notice. (You couldn’t even see the damage from the Strip, since it’s on the other side of the hotel.)

We’ve been staying at the Excalibur the last few trips, largely because it’s really cheap to stay there, but this time we got a decent deal and stayed at the MGM Grand. Not only is it in the monorail, but it also has Fat Tuesday, the daiquiri place we patronize.

MGM Grand Exterior

We were really impressed! Not only did we actually get a king-sized bed (something the Excalibur always seemed to promise but never delivered) but our room wasn’t down at the end of the hallway. It’s also kind of neat how the hotel’s exterior lights give the room a green glow when you get back at night.

MGM Grand hotel room
(click for larger image)

Yes, it’s the little things. But fundamentally we were happy with the bed, and the shower, and the location, which is pretty much what you pay for in a hotel. So I’m sure we’ll be going back.

We weren’t sure which show to go see this time around, although there are several that interest us. But while I was browsing various hotels’ web sites looking for information about their poker rooms, I came across the winner: We bought a couple of tickets and went Saturday night to see Wayne Brady, whom we’ve enjoyed for years on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, who’s playing at The Venetian. Although Brady was the headliner, he had a partner/foil for his improvisational comedy. The 90-minute show featured a song for an audience member, and the side-splittingly hilarious sketch where Brady and his partner alternated words in a story. This one was so funny I nearly peed myself. Brady is also a talented singer and performed several soul and funk songs with a strong backing band. It was a great show and we might go back next time.

I played a lot of poker this weekend. The reason I’d been checking out the casinos’ poker rooms on-line was that I’m interested in playing 7-card stud, but it appears that stud is all but dead on the Strip. The only stud game I actually saw going in the rooms wde went to was at The Mirage, but the 8 people seated all looked to be older, serious players, so I expect it was a very tough game, and I decided to pass on it.

I’d also expected to crack no-limit hold ’em in a casino, but I ended up playing a lot of low-limit hold ’em and was having pretty consistent success at it, so I figured I’d stick with what was working.

Although another reason we decided to stay at the MGM was that they have a large a good poker room, I actually only played there once. Instead I played in a lot of different rooms this time, mostly ones I’d never played in before:

  • The Venetian: I played in the 4/8 game here, which was lively and felt tough, although I only played for an hour before Wayne Brady’s show. I didn’t get a strong feel for the room, but it felt classy.
  • The Mirage: I played in 3/6 game here. The Mirage seemed skewed toward an older crowd, but I was happy to play there for several hours. The chairs were particularly comfortable, I thought. (This might sound frivolous, but after a couple hours of folding hands and tossing out chips, you come to appreciate the quality of the chair you’re sitting in.)
  • Planet Hollywood: Formerly the Aladdin, PH has substantially renovated this hotel. Unfortunately I had a bad experience playing 2/4 in their brand-new poker room, in that the table had a couple of ill-tempered players at it which gave the whole thing a bad vibe. I left soon after I got there. They also don’t have a computerized waiting list. Disappointing.
  • Bally’s: Despite having stayed there once and gambled there many times before, I’d never played poker there. The poker room is small and in the middle of the casino floor, which means it’s not as isolated from the ambient smoke as other rooms. That said, I had a terrific time here playing 3/6: The dealers were friendly, funny, and professional. The chips are stylish. The other players were friendly, too. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. I’d definitely play here again.
  • Mandalay Bay: This is why I only played at the MGM once: Mandalay Bay has a terrific poker room, with excellent dealers, high-quality tables and chips, and fantastic table service. Also, the 2/4 game has only a single $2 blind, eliminating the $1 small blind, and no requirement to post to come in. The players were a mix of younger and older players, but the older players mixed in well with a younger crowd. I recommend this one.

I had a very up-and-down time playing poker (which is sort of how poker goes, really). But I did end up winning money at it overall, though only a few bucks. I feel like I’m getting there in becoming a good low-limit player. I still make a few bad plays, but I’m making some good ones, too. A few memorable hands:

  • Rivering quad Jacks and getting paid off by someone who made a full house.
  • Flopping top pair (a pair of 8s!) and getting bet down to the river by an opponent. An Ace hit on the river, he bet, I thought for a short while, and finally called. “Nice call,” he said, turning over King-high. Somehow I just couldn’t buy that he had me beat. More importantly, I figured I had the best hand at least half the time, so the pot odds made it worth the call. This sort of thinking is what I’m most pleased with in my development.
  • Playing K-J on a K-Q-x flop, betting and getting called by two players. The turn is a J, giving me two pair, and the river is a Q which also completes a diamond flush. One player bets, another one raises, and I just see too many ways I can lose, so I fold. Naturally I folded the best hand, which was a bummer since that was my biggest losing session of the weekend.
  • Here’s the big one: One guy is playing almost every hand and raising preflop every time as well. Preflop he goes all-in for $5, and every player at the table calls him – a 9-way pot. I call with A-To. Flop is T-8-3 with two hearts. I’m first to act (I was the small blind) and I bet with top-pair-top-kicker. Everyone calls. The turn is an 8, and I bet. Only one player folds. At this point the dealer remarks on what a big pot this is. The river is a 7, so someone could have hit a straight, but the flush didn’t come in. I bet, and only 2 players call. I show my tens-and-eights with top kicker, and one other player shows tens-and-eights with a King. The other two fold, and I win. Wow.

There’s still plenty of room for improvement, of course, and I haven’t even cracked no-limit other than against my friends, but still, I had fun and I feel like I’m getting better. Can’t beat that.

Monday night we rode The Deuce bus (so called because it costs $2 each way to ride) downtown to the Fremont Street Experience, which is basically “old school” Las Vegas. It’s where the World Series of Poker began, at Binion’s Horseshoe. Fremont Street has been turned into a partially-covered pedestrian mall with an hourly show projected on the roof in the evening. It was worth a visit, but I wasn’t especially impressed (the show was an impressive display of technology used for very frivolous ends). Binion’s is surely nothing like it was back in the day, but it does have a large poker room and a number of displays related to poker history. Worth a look.

It was interesting to me that some of the old Las Vegas kitsch is still there (like the cowboy above the Pioneer casino), but the insides of the old casinos feel very classy, with wood paneling and stylish decor. Contrast to the “new Vegas kitsch”, like the Luxor‘s elaborate Egyptian themes, or even the swank Italiana of the Venetian. The newer Vegas seems more self-conscious, whereas the old Vegas seems to scream, “It may be goofy, but we guarantee you’ll have fun!” If a 50-foot-tall neon cowboy can seem more authentic than a giant glass pyramid, then that’s what Fremont Street has going for it.

The rest of our trip involved the usual good food (including our annual trip to Bally’s Steakhouse) and visits to a few more hotels we hadn’t been to, like the Sahara, which purports to be the last original Rat Pack hotel remaining. Also the Tropicana, where part of the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever takes place. I think I figured out where they might have filmed some of the scenes, but nearly 40 years later you can’t really tell. (The Tropicana was apparently brand-new when the film came out, but it’s slated to be demolished in the next few years.)

And of course we played some slot machines and video poker. And didn’t win at either, although Debbi seemed to do better at them when I wasn’t around. Plus we got to brave some rain both on Fremont Street and while wandering around on Monday. But nothing like what the Bay Area’s gotten, I understand.

The weekend went by way too quickly, and I definitely don’t feel like going into work tomorrow. But, all good things etc. As always, it was a fun trip and we’ll go back if not this year then next winter. Maybe by then I’ll be ready to play some no-limit hold ’em in a casino.

The Scarier Side of Poker

Last weekend the San Mateo County Sheriff raided a home poker game:

San Mateo County Sheriffs Dept raids our home game (it was the season ending freeroll tourney). 10+ armed (and some heavily protected) officers stormed into the home where we play a majority of our home games. 20 of us were there for the freeroll tourney.

(For those unfamiliar, San Mateo is the county south of San Francisco.)

This also got a write-up on BoingBoing, and there are some additional accounts linked from there. There’s also a write up in the San Mateo Daily Journal:

Two people were arrested and a 13-year-old was referred to Child Protective Services after undercover officers determined a San Mateo house was holding illegal Saturday night poker games.

I can’t figure out from these reports exactly what happened, or in what way the game was illegal. It sounds like either charging a fee for food and drinks was considered illegal, or that there was a more general suspicion that one participant was scamming the others out of money.

The blogger in the first link above says that the poker group is “a tight group with over 100 friends”, but how tight can 100 people really be? That large a group, with people coming and going, seems like a risky proposition when gambling is involved. Heck, it could be as simple as someone showing up for several sessions, losing consistently, figuring he couldn’t possibly have lost because he’s a bad player, and called the cops.

So I don’t know what happened. But it does seem too bad that the police couldn’t find a way to avoid ruining the afternoon of a whole bunch of innocent people.

The frightening thing is this: What’s to stop this from happening to any home poker game? Poker is legal in California, although regulated. Where’s the line this group crossed? Or was it just one bad egg that the cops were targeting?

I wonder if we’ll ever find out?

Pokers, We Hosts It

Last night’s poker session at my house went really well! Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun, and things went really smoothly! Well, a couple of people were a little late in arriving, but we still got in over 6 hours of poker – which means I was up until after 2:30!

Our roster consisted of me, Andrew, Adam, James, Daniel, Lynne, Subrata, and Bex, who are mostly people from work. Subrata’s wife Susan and Andrew’s girlfriend Lindsay both showed up, Susan to play games (mainly dominoes) with Debbi, and Lindsay to say hi on her way home after her day.

Needless to say, the kitties were very put out, but all of them eventually got used to things as people stopped arriving and settled down, so they could keep an eye on us. By the end of the night all of the cats were settling down and falling asleep despite the people and the noise. Andrew was a little disappointed that the cats didn’t really want to be held by him, but maybe we’ll see if he wants to sit for them on one of our vacation – that will probably help them warm up a lot.

As usual we played no limit hold ’em, nickel-dime blinds, with $20 or $10 buy-ins. The story for most of the evening was Adam’s impressive run, as he was sitting on about $80 after the first hour or two, mainly at the expense of Daniel and James. He was hitting his hands a lot of the time, and bluffing people off the rest of the time (and then showing his hand to drive people nuts).

I mostly managed to avoid the carnage, because I kept folding hands and then hitting improbable flops or rivers long after I’d folded. For instance, folding 9-To preflop in the face of two raises, and seeing that I’d have flopped the nut straight. Or folding a pair on the flop when overcards came and someone bet, then watching everyone check the hand down when I would have rivered my set. Sheesh. Frustrating, but I think I’m getting better perspective about folding weak hands in bad situations even if it ends up that I should have stayed in – usually, it’s better than I fold. It’s taken a long time for me to get to this point, and overall it saves me money.

Subrata’s heart didn’t seem to be in poker; as he put it, he didn’t get many good hands, and he felt he didn’t play well when he did. That’s the way it goes, and obviously if you’re not into the game, poker is a game to not play. I actually busted him on his second buy-in when he called my preflop raise with my pocket Queens, and pushed all-in on a King-high flop. I thought for a moment, called, and he showed pocket 7s, and I took the pot. (James was extremely surprised that neither of us had a King.)

Subrata, Daniel and Lynne all left the game around 10:30 (Subrata went to join the dominoes game, Daniel and Lynne called it a night), and Bex showed up a little before they left, leaving us with a 5-person game. 5 people is about the smallest game I really enjoy playing; below that the game borders on the random, with lots of autofolded hands preflop or on the flop. (James and Andrew both have said they enjoy fewer people, since everyone can play more hands. I guess I see their point, but I guess I prefer the more standard sort of game.)

Sometime after 11 I went on a run of very good luck. The most memorable hand in this run went like this:

  1. Under the gun I look at pocket 9s, and raise to 40 cents. James folds, and Bex calls.
  2. Adam raises to $1.50. Andrew folds.
  3. I call. Bex gives me a mock-grumpy look – I think she wanted to play Adam heads-up – but calls. The pot is $4.60.
  4. The flop is 7-8-9 of clubs, giving me top set. Adam checks.
  5. I think: Someone could have a flush or a straight, but I think that’s unlikely. More likely is that someone has an overpair, two overcards, and/or a flush or straight draw. For instance, I could easily see one of them holding A-T, A-J, J-J, or two high cards with a club. I think I have the best hand, I want to push out any draws, and I would be happy to win the pot right now, so I bet $5.00.
  6. Bex makes another mock-grumpy sound, and folds.
  7. Adam thinks for a little while, then goes all-in. He has me covered, so he’s effectively betting about $12.00 into a $9.60 pot.
  8. I think again. I doubt Adam has J-T, T-6 or 6-5 (made straights) since he wouldn’t reraise preflopwith most of those hands (he might reraise with 6-5 just to be perverse, but probably not with a middling hand like J-T). He might have a flopped flush, but that seems improbable. I just envision many more ways that I can be ahead than behind, and I still have 7 outs to a full house or better, so I call.
  9. Adam shows pocket Queens – with no clubs – and doesn’t hit his 2-outer and I take the pot.

I soon won another large pot from Andrew, where I had top pair with K-Q in the hole. I’m not quite sure what he was betting at me with, but since he mucked at the showdown I didn’t find out. I infer he was bluffing, and I’d suspected he was either bluffing or had a set. That was kind of weird.

After my run was over (I also won some other decent pots in that span), Andrew went on an amazing run, managing to bust Adam by the end of the evening – quite a feat given his huge stack earlier in the night. Andrew and I were the big winners for the evening, which made me feel good since I think this was my first winning night with this group.

The night was additionally fun because Subrata and Lynne haven’t been regular members of our poker crowd, which meant they added some styles of play which we weren’t used to. Lynne is a relative novice to poker (or so she said), but she ended up winning a few dollars, so it worked out for her.

Vast quantities of beer and candy and potato chips were consumed by the group (mostly beer), and we had a bit of confusion when we lost a $20 bill from the kitty, until we found it having fallen under the table. But mostly the night was all about the poker, and everyone had a lot of fun. So I hope I can host poker sessions a little more often in the future. It’s nice to have people over to my house once in a while.

Dens of Probability

“Subrata’s Den of Probability” was what my friend Lee once called Subrata‘s Wednesday gaming night. I still chuckle about that.

As if New Year’s Eve wasn’t enough gaming, yesterday was another day full of games. I took the rest of this week off to finish resting up from my busy fall, and I’ve been glad that I did. It’s hard to believe my vacation is almost over, though!

After having lunch with Debbi yesterday I went over to Lucky Chances and played in a 3/6 Hold ‘Em game. The first hour I was getting slowly bleeded off with mostly-crappy cards. Other than QJo, most of my best hands were things like K4 and A3 (and more of the former than the latter). I won one small pot in my big blind, but that was about it. Having whittled my $100 buy-in down to about $30 I bought another rack of chips, since I didn’t want to leave after only an hour.

My day turned around, though. I drew pocket Queens and raised to see a T-9-3 flop. I kept betting as the turn and river were both 3s and I won the pot against a guy with a 9. Later on I played QT and hit top pair and got called down to the river – by two people both playing Q9, so my kicker won it for me. I had a repeat of this pot later on when I flopped 2 pair with JT, and beat a player who had 2 pair with J9. I also managed to river my flush with AKs (in a pot that was big enough for me to keep chasing). Overall I won back my buy-in and won a last pot before I left to finish up $65.

Overall I’m slowly crawling back to even for my poker-playing “career”. But since my total losses at my lowest point were less than the cost of a Playstation 3, it’s not like I’m betting the farm here. Mostly it feels good to think that I’m at least figuring out low-limit Hold ‘Em. (I could still stand to be more aggressive, though.)

I also spent some time watching a 7-Card Stud table while waiting for a seat, and I’m curious about learning how to play that variety of poker. But maybe I should stay away. 🙂

In the evening it was off to the Den of Probability where I played a game of Russian Rails against Subrata and Susan. My game stalled out mid-way through thanks to a horrifying run of being hit by disasters, and Subrata ended up crushing the both of us. But that’s the way it goes. I suspect RR is better with 4 or more people – not uncommon for the Empire Builder series of games.

We had a large number of people there last night, and the rest of the folks played Munchkin and then a logic game called Zendo. Zendo seemed pretty neat at first glance, but as it went on it seemed that it was too easy to come up with puzzles which were very difficult to solve. Arguably some of us perhaps outsmarted ourselves by trying to come up with solutions that were more clever than what the puzzlemaster intended. So the jury’s still out on that one. It is a pretty simple and clever game, though.

I’m feeling a little gamed out now, though, and will probably skip a friendly poker game being suggested for tonight. Plus, I feel like I’m coming down with a cold. So taking it a little easy is probably for the best.

Cheering Up

At the end of the work-week I was feeling decidedly glum. I was getting frustrated with my current project at work (which isn’t my favorite sort of project even when it’s going well), and I’d tried and failed – twice – to organize a Magic draft, but not enough people were interested. So Saturday morning I was feeling lethargic and not enthusiastic about anything we might do that day. (This despite an impromptu trip to the coast to see the sun set Friday night.)

After going out for lunch, though, I motivated myself to go down to Bay 101 to play some low-limit poker. And although it took more than an hour to get seated, I ended up having my best session in many months, and coming away feeling considerably cheered up!

Not only was it a fun and profitable session, but it was also memorable. Some notes:

  • I came in on the big blind when I sat down, and then got dealt crappy hands for the whole first orbit of the table (oddly, I got dealt Q-5 four times in those nine hands). At one point, worried that people would see me as an extremely tight player (and thus not want to play with me), I idly said, “Someday I’ll get some high cards…” The guy on my left commiserated with me and said that he’d learned that Hold ‘Em is a game that requires patience.

    My big blind came back around and he said, “Okay, here’s your high cards. Now you gotta play ’em!” I said, “I will, if no one raises me!” He laughed, and the woman on his left said, “Well I’m going to raise you!” So she raised and four people called. And I looked at my cards… and had two Aces! So I said, “Well I’m going to re-raise you!” Everyone called, and five opponents isn’t a great situation for pocket pairs unless you hit a set (three of a kind), but the board was an innocuous collection of low cards. I bet the flop, and everyone called. I bet the turn, and got two callers. And I bet the river, and only the original raiser called, and then mucked when I showed my Aces. So I won a huge pot!
  • About 15 minutes later I got Aces again in my big blind – the two red Aces, this time. I raised, and got 5 callers again. And the flop, the flop was… A-A-9. Yes, I flopped four Aces. Everyone checked the flop, everyone checked the turn, so on the river I hoped someone had hit something, so I bet, and everyone folded. “You guys are No Fun At All,” I said as I showed my Aces. Everyone groaned, and one person said, “Well at least you got your preflop raise in!” Not a huge pot, but not bad at all.

    Afterwards I said, “I do actually raise with cards other than Aces,” just in case anyone was wondering.
  • An hour into the game our table got broken up. The casino wanted to reclaim one of the low-limit games for a high-stakes game, so they waited until there were enough open seats at other tables and then we got dispersed. I learned that – at Bay 101 at least – if you get moved, then you come in after the dealer button has passed and effectively get to play a round without posting the blind. So that was nice. The new table was a little tougher than the first table, but I also got a little luckier, so it worked out.
  • At the new table, I got dealt Kings twice, and won once and lost once. I lost most of my winnings to the player on my right, who was both playing well and catching a lot of cards, but then I managed to chip up again over the course of several pots.
  • The most memorable hand at this table involved playing a trick on another player. I played Q-Jo from the big blind, and the betting went like this:
    • Five players, including the woman who played the whole hand, limped in. I checked my blind (Q-Jo isn’t a hand I’m thrilled to play for a raise against 6 players, although maybe I should have).
    • The flop was Q-8-3 rainbow. I bet, and the woman calls. Everyone else folds.
    • The turn is another Q. Now I have trip Queens, and I’m thinking, “Hmm, if I bet, she’s going to assume I have a Queen and fold. So maybe I can be sneaky to get one more bet out of her. Better yet, she might bet into me!” I check, and she checks.
    • The river is an 6. No flush possibilities. I bet, and the woman thinks for a bit and calls. I win with my trip Queens (she didn’t show her hand).

    I was a little surprised this trick worked, and actually felt a little bad about it (but only a little). I assume she had middle pair or maybe Jacks, Tens or Nines, or maybe even two pair (she might have been playing 8-6, for instance, though that’s not very likely as she was a moderately tight player). I’m not sure what she put me on, but it’s not she might have thought I had the same sorts of hands.

    Several other players declared they were suspicious of my check on the turn, but who knows what they might have done in her place!

So I left feeling considerably cheered up, and better about my poker playing than I have in a long time. Okay, I know I had a bit of a lucky streak, but it seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve had a lucky streak. It made me happy.

The rest of the weekend was also fun, although not something conducive to deconstruction: Saturday night we joined some friends for bowing at Strike, an upscale bowling alley in a nearby mall. The food and drinks were good (if a bit slow to arrive), and bowling was fun – always kind of entertaining to play a game that I’m not much good at, and don’t have much interest to get better at. My friend Josh cleaned up, but then, I think he’s bowled more than the rest of us.

Sunday morning some other friends came over and we went to the farmer’s market, and then for a bike ride, stopping at the Shoreline Cafe for lunch. It was just about a perfect day for a ride, and we had a good time. Afterwards, Debbi and I went out for coffee, and when we got back I spent some time working on some Magic decks for a constructed game another friend hosts each week.

So all-in-all it was a good weekend with friends and relaxation and some good luck. And maybe it’s recharged me enough to tackle the new week head-on.

Gamed Out

I’m feeling gamed out right now. I’ll probably get over it soon. 🙂 But I’m happy for a break for the rest of the week.

Sunday I went over to Lee’s to play poker. We played our usual low-stakes no-limit cash game, with 5¢/10¢ blinds and a $10 buy-in. Five hours later I was out $20 (I rebought once). It’s not the loss of the $20 I lament, it was my crappy luck and my not-much-better play.

The defining moment of the evening came just half an hour in when, I drew a pair of Kings, and lost almost my whole buy-in to Lee when he slopped a set of Eights. Lee suggested that I should have re-raised him when he raised my initial bet before the flop, which makes sense; it would have been a reasonable pot to take down right there. But I didn’t, and I ended up pushing on the turn, and obviously didn’t river a miracle.

Anyway, I rebought, but things kept going downhill. I won a few small pots shortly after rebuying, and at one point I did flop a set of Kings. But those were small consolation.

Adam suggests that I should play more aggressively, and also loosen my standards of what cards I play, since he points out that when I open a pot, he knows I tend to have high cards, and he can play low cards against me profitably. So that’s something to think about. It’s awfully hard to look at Q-7 and play it, though; what sort of a flop am I hoping to hit?

Monday a bunch of us gathered at Subrata’s to play Magic. We did a Ravnica draft (one person arrived late and assembled a Ravnica sealed deck to play with us on roughly even footing). I ended up with what I usually seem to end up with in Ravnica: A blue-green deck with a splash of a third color. I ran out of energy around 11 pm, so I only played against Adam and Subrata, winning against Adam and narrowly losing against Subrata (who always seems to end up drafting the most powerful guildmages in the block – I don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to grab one).

So that was fun. I’d like to do a 7- or 8-person Time Spiral draft sometime soon.

But maybe not this week.

Insanity Week

The latest semi-irregular round-up of my life since I haven’t been posting regularly lately.

For most of my co-workers, this is insanity week.1 For me, last week was insanity week, and it had nothing to do with work, which has actually been quite reasonable for me lately (read: I’m not actually presenting anything at WWDC).

Last week was nuts for a lot of little reasons, and most of it revolved around gaming:

Last weekend I had wanted to host a Magic booster draft, but I wasn’t able to get enough interest, so it didn’t happen. That bummed me out. So I made plans to host again this past Saturday, since Debbi was going to be busy from late morning to mid-afternoon. Unfortunately, a couple of people couldn’t make it until mid-afternoon, which made the whole thing questionable.

Meanwhile, my new(ish) friend Lee wanted to host poker on Thursday, which I was also into, but for quite a while it looked like we might not have enough for that either. I eventually recruited my friend James for poker, and we jointly twisted my co-worker Daniel’s arm, so we had 7 people on Thursday, which was nice. We played a mini-tournament and I finished 4th (i.e. “just out of the money, again”), mainly because I took a couple of bad beats when I was the big stack which crippled me. (When I call an all-in bet with my A-9 and my short-stacked opponent turns over A-9 too, and then makes a flush on the river, I think that’s a bad beat.) But I mostly think I played very well, never going all-in until my final hand when I was forced to, and playing with the big stack for quite a while, which was fun. I certainly made some mistakes, but I managed to get away from them. No doubt a close assessment of my play would still make me appear as a newbie, but I was pretty happy.

And then on Saturday we played Magic, specifically the Mirrodin block, which is artifact-based, and which was new to all of us. Again, we had 7 people, and it was a lot of fun. A very interesting block to play. I ended up with a better-than-average deck, I think, with a couple of bombs, but a few weaknesses, too. I got very lucky a couple of times while playing, but then, that’s part of what makes it fun!

Unfortunately, Lee ended up getting sick and wasn’t able to make it, so he still hasn’t been over to see my house and meet the kitties. But we might get together with him and his wife sometime outside of gaming time to make that happen.

So all the gaming turned out well, but it took a lot of time and energy to organize it than it seemed like it ought to have taken. I guess that’s life sometimes. It reminds me why I’m less willing to take on ongoing organizational tasks like the fantasy baseball league these days, though.

Meanwhile, the first weekend we ended up going to a little party thrown by my friend Lucy, whom I haven’t seen in quite a while. It was a party with a Tiki theme and revolving around her writerly friends, but Debbi and I had a great time anyway (by which you can infer that my writing has not been going so well lately). I drank more alcohol at it than I have in quite a while, and was glad Debbi was willing to drive home when we packed it in late in the evening.

And then I had to read the book for last night’s book discussion, Karl Schroeder’s Lady of Mazes, which I kept putting off and then had to frantically finish up Sunday afternoon. Review forthcoming. Okay, this hole I dug myself. But still.

My weekend wrapped up with the discussion itself – which ran about 30 minutes long – and then packing up some stuff I sold on eBay so I could mail it today. And then, whew! My crazy week was over. Fun (mostly), but very tiring.

So anyway, yeah. Now it’s WWDC. I’ll be working in the labs a few days this week, answering questions for folks. Not as easy as it sounds: The questions can be difficult, and there’s a lot of working in-depth with folks to figure out how to do what they need to do. So it’s mentally pretty tiring. But it’s nice to see people out there using the code I’ve written. If you happen to be at the conference, feel free to stop by and say “hi”! (Which would be an interesting change of pace, since I’ve never experienced WWDC as a social event, as I know some people do. I’ve always assumed this is because Mac programming is my vocation, not my hobby, but I don’t really know why. Of course, it takes some effort for me to experience science fiction conventions as social events rather than geeking-out-in-my-own-headspace events, so it’s probably just me.)

(1 It’s not really insanity week, it’s just a very busy week, and many of them enjoy it very much. But it is a very different week from the other 51 weeks in the year.)


PokerWiki is – you guessed it – a wiki for all things poker. It’s actually an impressive resource. For instance, it has a map of casinos in the Bay Area. Also, it appears that local casinos don’t spread No Limit Hold ‘Em because it’s illegal in Santa Clara County (according to the Bay 101 entry), and maybe in the state (according to the Lucky Chances entry).

I’ll have to dig into this site more deeply.