Friday, December 30, 2011

Know When to Quit (not alcohol related)

This is probably the last post for 2011.  There’s just too much football on tap for the next couple of days to spend much time at the keyboard, and…well, I plan to take a few days off of poker for other reasons, which is the subject of this post.

Knowing when to quit is a useful skill for so many things, including playing poker.  Plenty of scribes besides myself suggest that one should only play when one WANTS TO and is in good mental condition.  To play while “on tilt” is recognized as something everyone should avoid.  And yet, so many succumb to play when they shouldn’t.  Tilt or no, your mental state of mind is important in playing your best, and you are less likely to win when you’re not playing your best.

I mentioned in the last post about a series of bad beats, and one or two of these, while depressing, should not be considered enough to put one in a horrible mental condition.  That is, unless you let it.  I’ve always been a level headed person, not prone to panic, always thoughtful and careful in planning (and execution).  So when bad beats happen, I usually shrug them off, take notes, do my homework, (see last post), and get back to playing good poker.  Usually.

But this week has been a bit different.  The spouse has been under the weather, and the weather here has taken a turn for the rainy worse. On Tuesday, I decided to play some short-handed turbos to practice my ability to read players and to gauge their skills (and mine) in determining proper pot odds.  Since short-handed turbos tend to feature a lot of poor “all-in” play at the lower levels (more for scaring opponents than actually challenging them), I thought I could also pick up some easy money.

I’d play well until some fateful hand where two of us would tangle in what eventually became an “all-in” affair, and I always had the best of it until the last card, when I made a quick trip to the rail (or was so crippled that the rail soon appeared in my sights).  Four tables in a row I was favored, and in all four I met defeat.  I decided to end my scheduled two-hour session early, and planned to make a comeback on Wednesday.

And the first two tables on Wednesday brought more calamities.  First table: four players left (of the original six), me with pocket aces on the button, and I raise twice the BB.  Small blind is chip leader, and pushes all in.  Everyone folds back to me, and of course, I call.  Bully has Q-4 offsuit, and the flop brings…nothing rainbow!  A 10, 7, and 3 of different suits, and there’s only one way I can lose.  Yup, Queen-Queen giving him trips.

Second table, down to three players (two are paid) and I’m the chip leader on the button with pocket deuces.  I limp, the small blind completes, and the big blind (the bully) checks).  The flop brings 10-7-2 (eerily similar, huh?), giving me trips.  Small blind check, Bully bets two-thirds the pot, and I raise.  Small blind folds, bully goes all in.  I figure he MIGHT have a set, too, but most likely has either a pair of tens with a good kicker, maybe two pair, or maybe a diamond flush draw, as the 7-2 are both diamonds.  I have him covered, but barely…and I call.  He only has one diamond, the 10, with a King kicker, so I am way ahead.  The turn brings another 10, giving him trips, but I now have a full house, twos over tens.  Only pairing the 7 on the board or his King kicker gives him a better house and the hand.  And of course, the river would be the king (hey, that’s the title of this blog!  Coincidence?  Yes.).

I was down to less than the cost of the blinds and was quickly eliminated, and instead of signing up for the next table…I quit.  I was in no mood to continue to play, even though I lost not because of playing poorly, but by bad luck.  Still, I knew a change was in order.

I spent some time nursing the sick spouse, made dinner, and wrote some notes on the subject of bad beats.  Returning to the computer on Thursday I found Tom Leonard’s column on bad beats, and instead of playing poker, I wrote about it.  I then continued my poker moratorium and wrote this one.  And vowed not to play (for money) until 2012.

Every now and then one needs to start refreshed.  Sharp   Mentally alert.  I realized I could not do that unless I took some time to collect myself and come back to the game once these beats were exorcised.  Writing about them is actually cathartic for me, and so, come next week, I plan to be raring to go.  Hope you are too (unless you’re at the same table), so here’s to a great new year for us all.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bad Beats vs. PokerStove

I had been thinking about a follow up to my book for small-stakes tournament players on the mental aspects of the game.  I wondered if I really had enough material for a full book, seeming as the many players who participate at the small-stakes level don’t really have much of a “mental aspect.”  A column in today’s Poker Player Newsletter (online) was eerily similar to some thoughts I had written down and yet to publish on the subject of “bad beats,” so with Tom Leonard’s column in mind, here are some slightly relevant thoughts on the same subject.

To quickly summarize his column, he asks you to compare the number of times you suffer from “bad beats” versus the times YOU inflict bad beats on your opponents.  He contends (and I agree) that if you put the hurt on more than you suffer, then perhaps you’re playing too loosely and are just getting lucky.  His legendary quote from Amarillo Slim is priceless - when asked by his wife why he didn’t “bad beat them back he responded, “Because I don’t get my money in with the worst of it, that’s why!

I found myself at the end of a series of brutal beats the other day (and more today…that’s fodder for another post).  I did what all poker players initially do - cry and swear, not necessarily in that order.  No, seriously, I lamented my misfortune (in both cases I was at least a 85% favorite, only to be rivered to death), but then I contemplated whether I played the hand as best as I could.  And for that, I opened up PokerStove.

It is one thing to know you’re ahead; another to know HOW FAR ahead you really are.  I detest coin-flips, especially when I have a great deal (or all of it) at stake. I prefer 2-1 odds, or 3-1…the more the better.  Especially at small-stakes levels, your opponents are more likely to get it with straight and flush potential, and are completely unaware of pot-odds.  You should get to know how to calculate your outs when drawing, but more important, you should be able to ascertain what kind of hand your opponent is holding and how many outs HE has.  Then play accordingly.

In addition, if they continually get in with the worst of it, you should target them, not run from them.  Yes, they have a stash of cash on account of cleaning someone else’s clock, and that tends to make them even cockier.  They may have gotten lucky before, but how often can a player expect to pull a 14% underdog rabbit from a hat?  If you don’t know the answer, consider taking up dice or bingo.

And don’t become discouraged even if you have the best of it against one of these lucky dogs.  The next day, after my series of “bad beats” and PokerStove research, I went back into action and did OK.  Won a couple of single-table SnGs, finished close to the money in a couple more, and felt pretty good about my play.  And even though the last game ended in a brutal beat, it provided material for my next post.  Tomorrow IS another day, after all.  Read it then.

And here’s a link to Tom’s column in Poker Player Newspaper

Monday, December 26, 2011

Where to play in 2012? Survey!

Despite my optimism (see post below), it's been 8 months, and quite frankly, I'm getting itchy.  I am considering placing a small deposit at one of the "new" online poker joints, but, quite frankly, I'm not terribly excited about any of them.  I admit it - PokerStars spoiled me (I still play for free there, but the thrill is gone). 

I would love to hear from anybody with good/bad experiences at any of the following sites:
·       America's Cardroom
·       Bodava (used to be Bodog)
·       Iron Duke
·       BetOnline Poker
·       Poker4Ever
·       Carbon Poker
·       South Point Poker online
·       PokerHost
·       PKR
·       Zen
·       Cake Poker
·       HiLife Poker

I have downloaded all of these except the last two, and I'm experimenting, getting the feel of the software, game turnover, etc.  If there are others not listed above, please let me know what you think!

Of course, if Nevada does allow online poker, it will be for in-state residents only, so until Oregon follows suit I’ll have to do with one of the above.  Please post your thoughts, suggestions, and all the rest in comments, or drop me a note at:

Mike dot Exinger at gmail dot com.  Thanks.

Did Christmas Come Early for Online Poker?

Actually, it appears that Christmas came right at Christmas time, as the memory of “Black Friday” may soon be just that – a memory.  Two important bits of info for those of you (like me) hankering for a return of real online poker (for money, not that fluky free crap) – one, the DOJ recent clarification about online gambling and poker (made in September but just released), and the Nevada legislature’s new rules for licensing online poker (see links below).  Despite the US government’s inaction, perhaps the states will take matters into their own hands.  We’ll see, as my Mom says.  Should be an interesting 2012…and I am very hopeful things will happen, and soon.

In the meantime, this would be a perfect opportunity to get your game to the next level.  May I humbly suggest a book to read that may assist you in this endeavor?  My book?  See at right, and thanks… 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The reviews are (not) in…but soon…

Now that I’ve had a chance to catch my breath (never easy during the holiday season), I’ve been doing a little shameless self-promotion getting the word out about the eBook.  OK, it’s part promotion and part self-flagellation, in that I’ve been contacting various poker blogs, poker sites, poker magazines…anything and everything poker (almost) to tell them about the eBook and to solicit reviews.  My ego can take it - and I really do want to know, good or bad, what people think of it.

I do know, like so much in life, that “people will think what they want to think” regardless of whether they’re right or not.  Those of you who ever had me for a teacher know about that.  Of course, you also know that I’m a big fan of trends - if some people think one way and some think another - this can leave room for some doubt.  If EVERYONE thinks you’re an ass…they just might be on to something. 

Hopefully those who review the book will remember my target audience (the novice and the nervous) and find that I’ve provided enough information to justify the $6.99 price.  In addition, I hope they’ll notice the material is provided in an easy-to-follow manner to encourage people to actually READ the damn thing and then follow through on what it says.

I had a phone interview with a reviewer earlier today.  Al Spath gave the book a read (already!) and provided me with some good insights (and some credit).  I am hopeful that others will do likewise.

If, for some reason, you are a poker writer, reviewer, or other poker dignitary that I somehow left off my mass mailing, and would like a copy of the eBook for review, contact me at the email address:  mike dot exinger at gmail dot com - specific format (.pdf file is easiest for those without a Kindle or Nook), and give me an idea when and where you’d review the eBook.

Oh, and if you bought the eBook (bless you), feel free to post a review at the site where you bought it (though I think they’ll let you post a review at Amazon even if you bought it somewhere else, hint hint).  Don’t lie, be honest, be fair, and remember that I know where your kids go to school.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

eBooks got samples!

Just a quick reminder to those of you thinking about buying my eBook (or any eBook for that matter).  Most (if not all) eBooks come with a "sample" feature.  This feature varies from vendor to vendor (Amazon has the infamous "look inside" while Smashwords allows you to actually download a portion of the book designated as "sample").  The length of the sample varies from author to author (I've given about 15% of the book in the sample).  It's a great way to see if you really want to spend the $$$ for the book - I recommend it. 

I also recommend buying my book.   Duh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why an eBook? Let me count the ways…

A friend asked me why I decided to publish “Be the King” as an eBook, especially since I don’t own a Kindle or Nook or even a cell phone!  The main reason is simple - the book is geared toward online play, and younger poker players, and THEY are most likely to have such devices (or consider utilizing an eBook) and hence, duh!

There are other reasons…because of the special nature of the book (poker tournament strategies), the market for same would be…small (this isn’t something you’d expect to see in a mass-market publication from Random House).  The expense (to me) to get it published in PAPER would be considerable, provided I actually COULD get it published.  Not to diss my own writing skills, but this isn’t the first book I’ve written.  It IS the first one to see the light of day by being published, however.

In fact, I plan to take portions of that unpublished tome (on gambling) and publish them (updated, of course) as eBooks.  And that’s another advantage of eBooks - they can be updated!  Ain’t technology grand?

Now I still don’t own a device, but I have equipped my computer with the Kindle for PC, and I’ve downloaded a few books to “get the hang” of reading this way.  You can teach an old dog, etc. etc.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

So why buy your own book?

This isn't just about ebook publishing, but for ANYTHING you put your name on (or your boss's name).  Review it.  Don't just assume that everything went "as planned" because it rarely does (see my story below).  Before the below occurred, I thought about two other such cases (not mine, thank you).
  1. There was a local art sale where I went to the website to review the items, and all I saw was the red X (as in, no picture).  I noticed that the link to the pictures all began "C:\PROGRAMS\FRONTPAGE\..."  So, when I contacted the gallery host, I was told "It looks OK on my computer."  I asked them if they were looking at the Internet, or how it was created in their FrontPage program (this was a while ago).  "Oh....yeah, I can't see it either."  They never bothered to check the web, but only looked at it on their computer (and of course, all the pics were there!).
  2. I was a beta tester a long time ago for a video content producer.  When I signed up, I only had Internet access at work, and so the video looked great...just like they said it would.  Because we both were using T1 lines.  Two months into the project I finally got a 56K modem set up at home, and   it   was   much   s  l  o  w  e  r.  And they couldn't understand why.  because THEY had never tried it on a phone line.  When they did...they  also  saw  that  it     w a s     m..."  Well, y'know.
At the ice cream shop, we insist that the clerks go out to the lobby every so often to make certain that the displays look like they're supposed to look.  And you can't tell by being BEHIND the counter, so we toss 'em out in the lobby.  That works.

So make it a habit to check your work like the rest of the world checks it.

OK, the book is back on for sale

Well, mostly.  This isn't the "immediate" process it seems to be.  I still haven't been able to take it OFF yet, let alone put the corrected version back on.  Amazon should be up shortly, and Smashwords (the main site) seems to be All-OK.  We'll see. 

To be 100% honest, I still have some issues, but it doesn't look like it's with the book format, in that I think the PC version of Kindle works differently than the device, so I should just shut up now.  OK.

Book is on hold!

I said previously that I would explain why I bought my own book.  Here's one reason - to make certain everything came out as I expected it would.

It didn't.

I have a bit of a problem with the format, and so...I am suspending publication until I get the %*&$! thing fixed.  No idea how long that will take.  Sorry.  It appears that the book still shows in some sellers' locations.  Working on THAT, too.  Maybe I am too old to be messing with this new technology.  Dang.

More news later as it becomes available on most of these stations...

Friday, December 9, 2011

The ebook (MY ebook) has arrived!

I will no doubt squawk about this repeatedly over the next few days, I am THAT excited.  After a lot of work, editing, and learning all about new eBook formats (I have opinions now that I did not before), I have FINALLY published my first eBook!  Here’s the details:

TITLE: Be the King! (of Small-Stakes Tournaments)
SUBTITLE: Poker strategies designed for the novice and the nervous
If you’ve seen Poker tournaments on TV, you’ve seen amateurs and poker-unknowns battle it out with top professionals for millions of dollars.  If you’ve played poker online, chances are you’ve played for much, much less than that.

This is YOUR strategy book.
All the top strategy books have worthwhile information and are great for top-line players, but for the rest of us (the small stakes 90%), we are in need of something a bit different, because the conditions at those $10,000 buy-in tournaments don’t exist in our $5 Sit ‘n’ Gos.  So in the vein of “it takes one to know one,” a winning small-stakes Hold ‘em player (and gambling writer) shares insights as to how you, too can “Be the King” (of small stakes tournaments.
This easy-to-read guide is specifically designed for “the poker novice and the nervous.”  It contains real-world ideas and strategies to so that players can play aggressively (but not like a maniac), understand opponents’ thinking (and lack thereof), and make the final table.  And win!

If you’re going to plop down what this book costs in entry fees without a second thought, why not “invest” that money instead on a way to actually win some of your money back?

Be the King!

So where do you get it?  Here’s the main link:

The book is in ALL formats - Kindle, Nook, etc.  There’s also a .PDF version and an .HTML version.  In other words, no excuse not to whip out the old card and spend $6.99 for a quick education on small-stakes poker tournament strategies.

You can also do a free preview (of the first part of the book) here, so what ARE you waiting for?

No doubt I will put up a permanent ad on this site once I learn how...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Birds in Our Backyard

This IS a poker post, all about bluffs and what (not) to do. 

This time of year we get lots of different birds at our two feeders in the backyard.  Right now we host Chickadees, two types of Blue Jays, Juncos, Doves, Flickers, and Thrashers (though not all at the same time).  There is a (pardon the pun) “pecking order” as the littler birds wait their turn if there’s a crowd. 

The Western Scrub Jay is pretty polite, but his cousin, the Steller’s Jay, barges in whenever he feels like it.  What a jerk.  When he comes swooping in, everyone scatters, especially the little Chickadees.  They then go over to the grape arbor and wait (we call it the “staging area”). 

Sometimes, one of the little Chickadees makes a bluff.

You see, what scares the other birds isn’t a fight, but a FEAR of a fight with a bigger bird.  Hence, when the Jay comes a callin’, everyone takes flight, ‘cause here comes a BIG BIRD.  I’ve seen the Chickadee bluff more than once, and it’s quite effective.

One of the little guys takes off from the grape arbor, and then is careful how he approaches the bird feeder where Mr. Steller’s Jay is busy eating.  With the sun at his back (in the eyes of the Jay), he comes in with wings WIDE open, flapping.  Essentially, he’s saying “WATCH OUT FOR THE BIG BIRD.”

And these birds relate to bluffs in this manner…a bluff is a story.  When you make a bluff, you’re trying to represent is a good, believable story.  The Chickadee’s story is believable because with the sun in his eyes, the Jay can’t really tell HOW big the bird coming at him really is...all he knows is that it looks like a BIG BIRD and he takes off.

At the poker table I too often see bluffs on the river where there really has been no good reason to believe my opponent holds what he’s representing to hold.  The board is tepid, with no possible straight, flushes, or big hands.  If he hasn’t made any bets so far, and then comes out with a bet…just what is he supposed to have?  Usually these bluffers are just taking a stab at a pot that no one has indicated desire for, and they’re just tossing something out there in hopes you’ve already clicked your FOLD button (don’t do that, by the way).

Sometimes they overbet, playing little bird with the sun in your eyes.  They’re saying, “No one wants this pot, and I’ve made a huge bet to take it, so WATCH OUT.”  If you’ve been watching this player in other hands, you know whether or not they usually have the goods. 

This type of player likes to steal pots like the Chickadee steals bird seed.  Don’t let the sun get in your eyes – know your opponents, and only play hands you can defend against types like these.

Any other strategy is for the birds.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Post #1 - creative title, huh?

So give an old man a break, huh? This is the first post on my new blog, and I'm just gettin' the hang of it. I expect that I'll look back on this and smile slightly, smile, and then say to myself "What the hell was I thinking about?"

The goal of this blog is to give me an outlet to blab about life and poker, not necessarily in that order. Life is something everyone has an interest in; poker is a bit more a specific interest, but there are lots of things in common. We'll find a few here.

Of course, there's a material aspect to all of this. More to come.

Feel free to comment, as I'm curious as to how that works, too!

Holy cripes...there's no spell-check...oh, wait, found it.  Whew.