Poker Update

I felt the pressure. After the discussions here, I was ready to go in, get an early lead and start pushing. It was a good plan. The problem was the first part – getting the early lead.

Early hand: I have Q-7, call one player from the big blind. Flop is A-A-x. I figure I’ll make a stab at the pot. He turns out to have A-A underneath. I was lucky to have folded quickly in that one! Similar hands followed… I just never had anything to work with.

My worst hand of the night: I am big blind. One player limps in, small blind calls. I have A-9 suited. I thought to myself, do I push or call here? I should push. Yet I did not, I called. Flop completely missed me. Checks all around. Turn missed me too but I put in a bet to see if I could steal the pot. One guy stayed with me. The river was nothing. The other guy put in a big bet. I am convinced he has nothing also and I at least have an ace. I call. He had 5-6 suited and had caught the flush on the river. In my head I did a full Chris Farley monologue I’m so stupid stupid!!! It’s exactly the kind of thing commenters have pointed out – my passive play pre-flop allowed a marginal hand to stay in and catch the big hand. Arrghh!

So here I am, someone staying at half the average stack despite not having gotten a decent hand the entire night. With the exception of the above hand, I’ve played OK. Bluffed out some pots. Folded when I should have, etc.

The last hand: Blinds are 100-200, I have ~1300. I have K-3 suited in the big blind. One person puts in 400. I call. The flop is J-8-3. It’s time to push. But… that 400 bet was weird. The guy who bet it usually calls or raises big. What does that mean? Does that mean he’s testing me to steal the pot or does it mean he has very strong cards? I can’t read this guy. Eh, let’s do it. I go all in. I’m instantly called, he has a pair of 4s. I end up losing.

What is a pair of 4s doing calling an all-in bet with two higher cards on the board? Even at 2-1 odds it’s not that great, and he didn’t stop to calculate odds. So – I asked him, why did you call that? He said I took too long to decide, he thought I was bluffing. If I had pushed quickly he would have folded. I found that funny because on three other hands I had deliberately taken a very long time to decide an obvious move, exactly so that taking time later wouldn’t seem suspicious.

Anyhow, it sucked. I must have a good hand or two somewhere, but I don’t remember them. There’s no margin for error if you’re not getting cards and I made at least one big error.

Running Total: $-44

Senate Holds

The New York Times recently had an interesting article about Tom Coburn, a Republican who puts holds in the way of lots of legislation. He is being dubbed Dr. No.

In the Senate, Mr. Coburn has continued down his singular path, driving Democrats and some Republicans to distraction with his prolific use of the “hold” — the ability of a single senator to object to moving ahead on a measure without a debate. He currently has holds on nearly 80 bills, the most of any senator.

It’s bizarre how much power one Senator has when he chooses to exercise it. But I read this very differently than the NYT does. Rules are rules. The entire idea of a hold is the villain here.
It’s a strange idea to allow one Senator the power to stymie 99 of them. But as long as it’s there, Coburn is right to use it.

The hold is not a magic bullet either. There is no reason that it has to honored. “Why in the world does the Republican leadership allow itself to be bullied by the rogue far right of its caucus, which has perfected the art of stopping good bills that help good people?” Mr. Reid asked.

So Reid has no problems honoring the Republican’s hold. But he sang a different tune before. When the godawful FISA legislation was working it’s way through, Chris Dodd put a hold on the excreable bill.

Dodd’s hold during FISA was not respected. Reid conspicuously ignored it. He treats holds from the GOP side with the utmost deference for Senate traditions.

I wanted to call this post, “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game”. Don’t hate Coburn, hate the hold. But the player is Harry Reid. If he is willing to ignore the hold in one context then there is no reason not to do it whenever he wants. There is Dr. No, unless it’s Harry Reid.

And although I disagree with many of Coburn’s stands, I agree with one of his primary motivations, giving time to actually read the bill. There has been some truly awful legislation signed in the last eight years that Congressmen admit they had no idea they had voted on. Coburn does both sides of the aisle a service to read what he votes on, and to force time for others to do the same.

Update: Reason says it also, and then more.

The Stupidest Editorial Ever

Skepticism about U.F.O.’s may render us vulnerable to terrorists or espionage against the United States.

ON the afternoon of Nov. 7, 2006, pilots and airport employees at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago saw a disc-like object hovering over the tarmac for several minutes. Because nothing was tracked on radar, the Federal Aviation Administration did not investigate. Yet radar is not a reliable detector of all aircraft. Stealth planes are designed to be invisible to radar, and many radar systems filter out signals not matching the normal characteristics of aircraft. Did it really make sense to entirely ignore the observations of several witnesses?

A healthy skepticism about extraterrestrial space travelers leads people to disregard U.F.O. sightings without a moment’s thought. But in the United States, this translates into overdependence on radar data and indifference to all kinds of unidentified aircraft — a weakness that could be exploited by terrorists or anyone seeking to engage in espionage against the United States.

More Poker Strategy

What is the right number of bad beats to get?

If you’re not getting any, you’re not playing aggressive enough. Let’s say there is a situation where you are favored 4-1. You should be going all-in with that every time. And one out of five times you will get beat. If you are never getting beat, you aren’t taking winning opportunities. But if you’re getting bad beated a lot, you’re doing something wrong. You’re putting all your chips at stake in coin flips too much. What data can you use to see how you’re doing?

I am reminded of NBA players who never foul out. If you are consistently playing 30+ minutes and only getting 1-2 fouls, you aren’t playing aggressively enough.

Poker: Strategy Update

I’ve been hearing the same chorus of criticisms from the couple readers who care about my poker outings. So I reread all my poker posts and comments.

1) More bad beats in there than I expected. I really don’t think I forget about my good beats – I was surprised to see how many times I went in with the best hand and lost.
2) I’m getting better at bluffing but it is still against my personality.
3) A lot of big hands that I write about could have turned out different if I had bet very aggressively on them.
4) I am an early chip leader a lot.
5) I don’t use a big chip stack to bully people, I use it to wait opponents out.

1) I’m not that bad. Poker has a lot of luck in it. When you play a hand right, go in big with the better hand, but the other guy catches better cards – what can you do? And it’s happened to me more than it has to the other guy. As a statistics guy I know this is often a justification used by losers who aren’t observant and honest enough to remember what really happened. I don’t think I’m that way. When I’ve won due to good luck I’ve been upfront about it.
2) I need to bluff more. I’ve always known that.
3) I am not going to particularly concentrate on betting more aggressively within the big hand. The critics are right to see how some of my hands could have gone better with bigger betting. However, that is still a “could go better” not “would go better”. The harder question is how much better I did by not always being aggressive in hands. I’ve saved lots of money with well-read folds. Sometimes you bet aggressively and you end up losing it all. For the most part I’ve managed to avoid the “big mistake” hands. In addition you don’t want other players piegon-holing you as an always-raising player, you want to keep them confused. I don’t think any of them can read me or my bets and that’s how I like it. But the main reason is that I am instead going to concentrate on:
4) Bullying. Master Men, you’ve got me there. I need to use my big stack to intimidate other players, pick up cheap pots, keep them from ever being in hands against me. Don’t let them limp in. Keep them afraid of playing against me, keep them playing against each other and knocking each other out while I take a “big stack tax”.

That’s my resolve. When I’m ahead, act like it. Instead of playing for a seemingly-certain 3rd or better finish, I’ll use my stack continuously to keep getting richer.

I’ll keep you posted on results.

Links o’ Interest

The stupidest game show contestant. (The best part may be the 3rd grader laughing at her.)

Cartoon ski accident

Rapping Sesame Street

French Lesson – at least it’s not lesson one.

Effective camouflage

Walmart codes for the intercom. Have fun!

Seeing-eye cat

All kinds of home-related breaks in the new housing bill

On the Costs of Parenting (bonus points for the post title)

Rush hits American TV for first time in 30 years – on Colbert Report. And they play Tom Sawyer on Rockband.

Synchronized Motorcycling (from 1950s)

The power of suggestion in voting: ” Essentially, people whose voting booth is located in a church are more likely to put more weight into social issues, people voting in fire houses care more about safety, and people voting in a school tend to put more weight on things like education.”

The Mole strikes in Don’t Ask Don’t Tell hearings
Moveon.Org turns 10

Adding more roads can reduce speed of traffic

More on Benford’s law. A great five minute video.

The cost of immigration restriction

NFL players intelligence, by position

The kinds of pick up basketball players. (another take on it)

The worst player in Madden 2007 responds.

Patriots trying to move on for the New Year.
Key Quote:

The Patriots play the league’s easiest schedule, according to the 2007 won-loss records of their opponents.

Poker Update

A killer of a bubble loss (that means: best player to not finish in the money). I started very strong. Within twenty minutes I have a healthy lead on the table of 11.

Ad-Jd. Blinds are at 50-100, I bet 400. I’m called. Flop is a bunch of low cards. I continue the pressure, 600 more. The turn is an Ace. 700 more. The river is another Ace. 800 more, she folds. I now have double the average stack.

An hour later I am still in strong position. I get the exact same hand, Ad-Jd. Blinds are 100-200, I put in 500 and the same person calls me. The flop is three low cards, one of which is a diamond. I check, she bets 600. I figure I still have two overcards and she bluffs a lot. I call. The turn is a low diamond. She bets 1000. I figure she either had a high pair (kinds or queens) or paired up something small on the board. Any diamond gives the nut flush, an ace wins it, and a jack probably wins it. There’s already 2500 or so in the pot, with her bet included I’m getting 3500 for a 1000 investment. And what the hell, I just feel like gambling. I call and catch the nut flush on the river, knocking her out.

Nothing much happens for a while. Eventually it gets down to four players (top three finish in the money). One other guy has a huge stack and there are two small stacks. I am just waiting for the two small stacks to go away so I can play heads up. We’re at 500-1000, average stack is 6000, I have around 12,000.

The other big stack goes in for 2500. The small stack to my right goes all in with 1750. I look down at Ac-10c. I call the 2500. The flop is an Ace and two small cards. I decide my only goal here is to eliminate the small stack. I check, and make the mistake of announcing I’ll check all the way. I am properly admonished. Big stack bets another 2500. Whatever, I got a pair of aces with a high kicker. If you want to make me pay for speaking out of turn, I’m still here. The turn is nothing special. He bets another 2500. He is also a big bluffer. And he could be playing to get me out so he only has to play for the main pot. Maybe he has a low pair and figures that’s strong enough in four handed. I call. The river is a meaningless seven. He puts his remaining 3000 in. I call. He has A-7, the river gave him his second pair. Darn it, I was ahead of him the whole time and he caught the river, damn damn damn!

On the other hand, it’s hard to complain too much about the river when it gave the nut flush earlier.

I am severely wounded. I only have 3500 left. I am lucky, because three more times players go in against each other. Each team the short stack is behind. If the hand holds up, I sneak into third place ($48). But they don’t, each time the big stack is bad beated. For example…

Player 1 goes all-in. Player 2 calls. They have the exact same amount. So I don’t care which one wins, either way I get into third place or better. I mentally count my money. They flip their cards. Both have K-10, they chop the pot, and we’re still at four players. Damn damn damn!

Eventually my all in with A-8 is beat by A-Q. I am knocked out in fourth and go off to lick my wounds.

Running Total: -$24

Links o’ Interest

Happy Birthday bro! We’ll start with a couple superhero links…

I’m the goddman Batman!

The first trailer for Watchmen. Dr. Manhattan looks awesome, the rest… eh, we’ll see.

20 Supervillain plans, as flowcharts

Jib-Jabs latest masterpiece

Five approved Barack Obama jokes

Improv Everywhere, the human mirror

10 bands who should just stop (I disagree with at least three).

Interview gone bad

The 10 drunk people you don’t want to meet at a bar (I’m closest to #8)

World’s Greatest Dad Loses Title

Floor by floor demolition

No hands, no problem. Check out this guitarist. (I know the chords. He’s playing it straight.)

The eephus pitch

All kinds of economic indicators seem to vary wildly by what party is in power. I don’t know what to make of it either, but the graphs are compelling.

Geek Art (20 examples)

The Two-year Old Strikes

We were driving home.

Him: This is the wrong way!
Me: No it isn’t. This is the way home.
Him: No! This is the wrong way.
Me: I’m sure this is the way home.
Him: No!
Me: [kidding] Do you know where all the roads in Georgia go?
Him: [very certain] Yes!
Me: [laughing] OK, where does this road go?
He pointed through the windshield to indicate forward and said, This way!

Wife: He just outwitted you.

VH-1 Rock Honors: The Who

First of all, if you want to hear the Who’s music, don’t bother with this weak tribute stuff. Go straight to the source. You want live, get Live at Leeds. You want insights, you should watch the Amazing Journey documentary (in heavy rotation on VH-1, and the source for most of the clips they showed.)

Here’s my review of a bunch of bands I know nothing about.

Foo Fighters – Young Man Blues – Awesome. These guys get it. Not only are the great musicians, they bring the right attitude and that counts for a lot. For Bargain they brought out the lead singer of SuperGrass. Terrible! The guy can’t even hold the notes! Foo Fighters, yes!

Incubus – If you’re going to take on I Can See For Miles, you’d better have a drummer who can pull it off. They don’t. They also lost half the dynamic stop start feel of the song and basically destroyed it. I don’t know about their version of I Can’t Explain, I was already fast forwarding.

Flaming Lips (Tommy medley) – Very good. They did a lot of playing around with the music. They managed to keep the essence while doing something new with it. The lead singer came out in a giant plastic ball. He went over the audience, that’s a version of crowd surfing I hadn’t seen. He was either very cool or a giant hamster. Points for stagecraft in general, especially the bassist with a skeleton suit.

Tenacious D (Squeezebox) – I’m done with them. I am no longer amused by Jack Black saying words with excessive weight and seriousness.

Pearl Jam (Love Reign O’er Me) – Fantastic! So Eddie Vedder is a mega-fan of the Who. There hasn’t been a Who tribute or all-star show or benefit that he hasn’t snuck his way into. He has always been good, but frankly I have not been overly impressed. I’ve always wondered why he doesn’t bring all of Pearl Jam out because I would love to hear what they sound like. The answer is through the roof.
Love Reign O’er Me is the hardest Who song for a singer. Roger has always said it was always the biggest stretch for him. I saw them in 1996 with my college roommate. Roger could only hit the note by doing an enormous yelling screeching noise – you could practically hear his esophogaus tearing itself up. As roomie said, “Even if you don’t like the music you gotta respect someone who will do that to themselves just to sing the song right”. Um, what else… they get that the verses are all about the bass guitar it’s gotta be huge booming notes. Okay, back in a second, I’m 99% sure I heard the first note of The Real Me.

…yep, and it was just as good. Anyhow, my point about the Roger vocals is that for once Eddie was doing the all-out rock singing that you have to do. I’ve never been a Pearl Jam fan but I this may have turned me. More bonus points: The bassist did a great Enwistle imitation musically and he even had the tone right. The guitarist managed to do most of the Townshend stage moves (jumps, jumping splits, rump wiggle) and broke the headstock of the guitar at the end.

So far Pearl Jam is dominating. Only The Foo Fighters are even in the same league.

Adam Sandler (Magic Bus, Live at Leeds version): He’s got the feel. The words aren’t very funny at all. What happened to him? Aw, who cares, The Who’s coming out!

The Who!
Baba O’Riley – They start off pretty raggedy and weak. Roger can’t hit a note, Pete is just doing it by the book. About a minute in they hit their stride. They’re much better when they move out of the mindset of “Two old guys who do a really good job of covering Who songs” and into the mindset of “We own this song and we’ll do whatever we please with it.”

Who Are You: Highs and lows. They completely flub the first break section. Pete can’t get his clean sound working right. Roger messes up the verses. And yet when they are together it is incredibly good. It’s the willingness to just play it and damn the consequences that makes it so good when it’s working.

I wish they had done this show midway through a tour. I’ve seen them enough to recognize when they’re rusty. They’re rusty. And in normal concerts, they start with several easy songs to get themselves warmed up (usually I Can’t Explain and Substitute are in the early part) and they hit their stride about 20 minutes in. Here they are tackling two of their harder songs right off the bat.

Behind Blue Eyes: I’m just sick of this song. Here’s a couple more interesting versions.

My Generation: Uch, the missed cues again. The ratio of screwups to brilliance seems to be increasing. As a sidenote, Zak Starkey gets better every year he plays with them, he is fully locked into Pete now. I don’t care how great Pino Palladino is supposed to be, he’s a pale reflection of John. Even when he plays the notes right it doesn’t work somehow. Bring in the Pearl Jam bassist!

So far, this is a pretty bad performance by them. Coming back from commercial, they had a good montage of the boys at work. I’ve seen them a whole bunch of times when they were sixty-plus years old. It blows me away how vital they are, how energetic, how enthusiastic. That’s the part that’s not coming through tonight. They are concentrating on not messing up, they aren’t in the groove enough to hit that next level. That little montage gave a taste of how great they still are. I hope casual fans watching this show aren’t judging them too harshly by it. Eh, who knows, maybe I just see the imperfections because I know the band too well. Honestly, you should rent (or borrow from me) The Who at the Royal Albert Hall (the 2002 allstar show). That is an incredible gig.

Tea & Theatre: This song would be unfamiliar to most listeners, it’s the last track from Endless Wire (their 2006 album). It was the standard closer on their last tour. It’s about aging and loss and acceptance. I really like it as a closer for this also. It’s a very nice song of course. But mainly, it’s dignified. It’s a song written by older people for older people and that’s just how it is. And not just any older people, it’s obviously meant to be performed by Pete and Roger and no one else.

My final order of Performances:
1) Pearl Jam
2) Foo Fighters
3) The Who
4) Flaming Lips
5) Tie with everyone else
6) That loser from SuperGrass.

Poker Update

I hosted a very fun poker game last night. Smaller buy-in, more alcohol, looser play. I ran into more “bad beats” than I can remember. That’s not the righ term, they weren’t bad beats. A bad beat is when you make the right plays, start out ahead and get caught from behind against the odds. This time I had good hands that the odds said should have been high hand, but they weren’t and I just started out behind against the odds.

1) I get A-J suited. The flop is J-8-9. I have top pair with an ace kicker. The turn is an Ace. I lose most of money when it turns out my opponent has 7-10, he flopped the straight. I’m not too disappointed in this one because I didn’t raise preflop here, so I gave him the chance for a miracle flop with terrible cards. It’s always hard to figure out when to play aggressive and when to slowplay, I think this could have gone either way. If you are too consistent you get readable, this is the price for varying your game.
2) I have K-A. The flop is K-A-x. Can’t get much better than that, right? Only two hands can beat me, someone has both the remaining kings or both the remaining aces. He had both Kings.
3) My final hand. I got all in with A-Q. I am called a pair of 8s, I do not get my pair and I’m out.
4) Starting the consolation round, I have 9-2. The flop is 9-8-4. I have top pair, I bet fairly small. The turn is something small, maybe a 3. I bet fairly high, I am still called. The river is another 9, giving me a set. The other guy bets heavy, I call. He has 9-10 to my 9-2.

There’s gotta be a word for this. I never had the absolute nuts, but I had a lot of very good hands where it turned that the other player had a better very good hand. Any good or bad plays I made were swallowed up by these big hands.

I think I spent $30. It might have been $40. I’ll give myself the benefit of the doubt. And who cares, it was great fun.

Running Total: -$4.


Today I was at a vending machine buying M&Ms. Instead of using a dollar bill, I coincidentally had the exact amount in spare change in my pocket. I consider those M&Ms free.