Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cinci Sean: "A Virtual Brouhaha"

Apparently the fellas over at Lord Admiral Card Club are keeping their eyes on us. And apparently, we're misbehaving.

A few weeks back there was a serious hubub, a katzenjammer, a brouhaha even, on the Card Clubs board. There was some discussion about the upcoming (tonight) Ali Babba tournament, and the distribution between prize money and the tournament fees. One of our Chicago Poker Club forum contributors was unhappy with the way the tournament was being publicized. The breakdown between prize money and tournament fees, she asserted, was misrepresented. She had a good argument, exactly what we're looking for here at the Chicago Poker Club, and our friends over at Ali Babba corrected the details right away.

Case closed. Justice upheld. Right? Well, not quite.

She was now unhappy with the way the breakdown was reflected. $58+$7 + a 15% rake. This is an odd way of representing the contributions, to be sure. But was it intentionally misleading? No. I don't think so. It was a long way around, it may have even made the fees sound more attractive than they are, but the information was accurate and complete...

An all-out war erupted on the board, name calling ensued. One member suggested that she would "call the authorities" on the game, and get it broken up.

Now you've gone too far.

The first comment was helpful. It was the contribution of a good Chicago Poker Club citizen. The second comment was personal, it was intended to get them to do things the right way. It was semantics, and not content.

Where I take issue is the threat to end the game. I mean, come on. Chicago-area players have a hard enough time finding a good, regular game. I've talked about the commute to the casino, and the lack of quality casino options. The charitable games are fun, but it isn't good poker. On top of that, they take a bigger cut of the buy-in at their tournaments.

Ali and his buddies offer the best game in town for poker players looking for a tournament-style game, or the experience required to become a decent poker player.

If you don't like the way they run things, by all means, don't play. Furthermore, if you believe they're being unfair, I respect your right to say so. Please do.

But please. Don't kill the Ali Babba Tournaments. The Chicago Poker Club is grateful to have them around.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Tournament Style and Philosophy

Do you have a particular overrriding philosophy when you play hold 'em tournament? How about playing poker in general, whether it be tournament or ring game, Hold' em, Stud, or Omaha?

I was listening to an interview with Steve Dannenmann on one of the many emerging poker podcasts, and he discussed his mindset, style, and philosophy that took him to the final table of the World Series of Poker. I listened, and I thought about it a great deal the last time I played poker, and it paid off.

First, Steve made a list of principles for himself. If you watched the final table, you probably saw him pull out a list. He read this aloud, "folding to a raise is only a little misstake", or something similar. The page was full of lessons for poker, if not lessons for life. Each individual statement may not have been important, but the general concept, reinforcing one's playing philosophy, sound table play, smart decisions, while at the table is probably a good idea. If you need to write it down, go for it. If you need to call your guru after every level, why not? But most importantly, formulate a sound strategy for yourself. Revisit it regularly. Stick to it while you play. It is easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, to overextend yourself, and to get in big trouble.

Steve's specific philosophy comes from his life as a businessperson, and accountant specifically.Like me, Steve is an office professional first, and a poker player later. Steve advised himself similarly to the way he advises his clients. When he started the WSOP Main Event, he viewed his chip stack as 10,000 in starting capital. For each hand he got involved in, he viewed it as an investment. How many chips am I willing to invest on this hand? Am I getting a fair return on my money? Am I throwing good money after bad?

It seems like a unique, perhaps profound philosophy for playing. It isn't complicated, nor does it seem like a new discovery. Come to think of it, it's not profound at all - but it does feel like it. I've never heard anyone articulate it like that before. It's smart. Very smart. It's topical. It worked.

Your philosophy doesn't have to be the same as Steve's. It doesn't have to be rooted in business or finance. What's more important is that you have a philosophy when you sit at the table. Reinforce your playing experience, your book learning, and your real-world knowledge. Go back to your philosophy often. Are you playing true to it?

Change up your play regularly to keep you opponents on their heels, but stick to your underlying philosophy throughout, and succeed.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving Poker Tour

I took a little road trip to Detroit to visit family over Thanksgiving week. It's always nice, yet stressful, to spend extended periods of time visiting family. What better way to unwind than to find a poker game or two?

As it turns out, 2/3 of my poker experience was mostly unrewarding. I enjoy playing always, but rarely reflect back on a trip as good, or fun, if it was a losing session.

I hit three casinos across three cities, three states, and two countries over the last week. I played at the Greektown Casino in Detroit, Michigan on Monday. I played at Casino Windsor, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada on Friday. And I played at the local fave, Trump Casino in Gary, Indiana on Saturday.

The first two sessions returned modest losses, though the Trump trip made up for those two prior trips, and the last couple month poker drought. It was my most successful casino trip to date.

Detroit has three casinos, not counting the casino on the Windsor side. They are MGM Grand, MotorCity Casino, and Greektown. MGM doesn't have a poker room. Of the other two, I've enjoyed Greektown more - basically just gut feel. MotorCity has odd blind structures (see MotorCity Letdown), a small room, and an odd ambience. Greektown is horribly managed, and half of the floor is smoking. Despite this, there are many more tables, and the setting is pretty cool, so I choose Greektown.

My brother and I headed there together late on Monday night, let's call it 11:00pm. We had called ahead to put our names in, and waited about 20 minutes for a seat upon arrival. The room offers a variety of games, though my brother really only has experience with NL Texas Hold'em, and is a small stakes player. We sat at the $100 max buy-in, which has $1-2 blinds. Unless you win a couple decent pots to start with, this is a difficult table to play. The players are very mediocre, but you're playing short stack poker the whole time. With $1-2 blinds, a pre-flop raise of anything less than $10 will put you up against 4 or more players post-flop. With $40 in the pot, and $60 left in front of you, there isn't a lot of room for creativity. What's more/worse, you cannot rebuy chips until you have no chips left. If you're down to $12, let's say, you cannot buy $88 in chips, you have to tip the dealer generously (i.e. your remaining chips) or take a flyer pre-flop against what's likely to be 3-4 players. I did that very thing with $15 and tripled up. I ended up leaving after 3 hours, down $29. Silly.

Friday, my buddy Steve (a.k.a. Southside Darnell) and I headed to Casino Windsor. I really liked their setup. The Casino is nice enough. The area by the poker room felt like the hallway of a big hotel, with the poker room itself seeming like a banquet hall or meeting room. The room was non-smoking, well managed, clean, and there was abundant table service. Again the table was $100 max NL hold'em. I lost my first $100 in about 25 minutes when my AQ went up against A7 and my opponent flopped two pair. I re-bought for $100, and played slowly for a couple of hours. After what felt like days of bad cards, I got AK, TT, AK, and KJ on successive hands. I raised the first three of those pre-flop, and limped in late position with the KJ. Those four hands cost me the $270 of the $260 that I accumulated over the previous couple of hours. I took my remaining $10 and lost it on 13/16 at the roulette table.

Yesterday I stopped at Trump on the way home from Detroit. I sat at a $200 max NL Hold'em table. In the first 35-40 minutes my stack was slowly shrinking. It got down to a low of about $120 before the cards start to come my way.

I raised pocket nines in late position and bet into a flop with one overcard. I got called by one opponent. Another 9 came on the turn, and I made a set. My opponent checked to me and I bet. He raised me to $150. There was a straight possible, but I just couldn't conceive that he would have played J-8 or 8-6 the way he did, calling my raise pre-flop or big bet post flop. The only other hand that could beat me was pocket 10s, again, this seemed highly unlikely. I re-reaised all-in, to $250. He called with his last $60 and showed a set of twos. I raked a huge pot.

An hour later I found Aces in the whole, and re-raised an early raiser. He re-raised all-in, and flipped over kings aftr my call. My Aces held up, and I took his remaining chips. The cards mostly went my way for the last two hours, and I avoided any major confrontations. Eventually I collected my winnings and headed home.

I've been practicing a new philosophy that I heard Steve Danneman talk about on a poker podcast. It makes good sense to me, and seems to be working. I'll share more in my next post.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Chicago Poker Club Forum Reaches 500 Posts!

Have you checked out the Chicago Poker Club Forum over at If not, you should. We have a great community going over there, with lots of insightful poker discussion.

Come join ChicagoJoe, KngKonga, BigMas621, Dolphin13, cosmicpowers, oldmangrimis, and friends in Chicago's largest online poker community.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pass the Sugar!!

I just finished watching the Main Event of the WSOP, and it will come as a surpsrise to no one that Joseph Hachem, of Melbourne, Australia won the whole durned thing. On at least one occasion our man Joe screams "Pass the sug-ah!" when turning over the nuts (though they were fairly vulnerable to a redraw). What IS that?! What did he mean? Is this his "catch phrase"? Does he say it all the time? WHAT does it mean?

Before we talk about favorite catch-phrases, I decided to do a little digging. I came up with very little, but did find reference to an old Betty Boop episode. Is it possible that Hachem is a big Boop fan? Could this possibly be where it came from?

What's your favorite poker catch phrase? Personally, I enjoy screaming "Hassan Habib"! It's fun to say. It just rolls off the tongue. This has become a battle cry for many at, and away from, the poker table. I don't know how it became popular, nor does the cry's namesake - Hassan, himself.

Do you know? What's YOUR favorite poker catch phrase?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tournament Rebuy Strategy

I played in a 96-person tournament last night, with the following logistics:

  • $50 Buy-in for 2000 chips.
  • $25 Unlimited re-buy (or add-on if you have <=2000 chips) for the first hour.
  • $50 "Bubble Buster" after one hour for 4000 chips, regardless of your current chip count.
  • Rapidly raising blinds - 25-50, 50-100, 100-200, 200-400 every 15 minutes for the first hour, then 300-600, 400-800, etc. thereafter.
As you might guess, everyone played fast and furious for the first hour. Two people at my table were all-in, all-out, and re-bought at least four times each. If you didn't get good cards, and have them hold up, you were dead in the water. Even if you finished the hour with the 2000 chips you started with and bought the 4000 additional chips, your 6000 chips gave you an "M" of 6.5 with blinds going up again in 15 minutes (i.e. 7 hands).

Oh yeah, here's an interesting wrinkle - there are twelve people, count 'em, twelve at the tables for at least the first couple of hours. What two cards are playable pre-flop against a 120% full table?

Putting aside the fact that you probably would not play in this tournament if you had options, and you might not even play in it if you did, what would be your buy-in/add-on strategy?

Chew on this...

you don't HAVE to play at all in the first hour. If someone gets knocked out and opts not to rebuy in the first hour, you can buy-in for their seat. That's IF there's a seat available. By doing this, you avoid much of the erratic behavior of the first hour, but eliminate any opportunity to take a reasonably sized stack into the second hour.

I think this gets close to the optimal solution. What if you bought in for $50, and locked up your seat. Just before the end of the hour, if you have less than 4000 chips, you take your closest to good hand (for me J-10 off was the best hand I got ALL tournament. No, I'm serious) - take your closest to good hand and push all of your chips in. Either you double up and then also buy 4000 chips, guaranteeing >8000 chips, or you get busted, and double-rebuy (you can buy 2000 chips for $25 twice - after the first re-buy you have exactly 2000 chips so you're still eligible). Then, at the end of the first hour, you buy 4000 more chips. Now you have exactly 8000 chips. Not great, or even good, but feasible.

The biggest problem with this strategy is that you have to spend $50 to buy in, $50 for your double re-buy, and $50 for your double bubble, making your minimum investment $150 to even have a shot. Consider that there are 96 entrants and 9 get paid. You really will need to finish in the top 2 or 3 to make a reasonible profit for all that investment.

Is there a better way? Assuming you would subject yourself to this, what's the best way to play it?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Live Poker Options Abound in Chicago

It wasn't long ago that finding a live poker game in and around Chicago was a challenging proposition. There are no casinos in the city, the closest poker rooms are in Gary, IN and Aurora, IL - not always easy drives. In fact, traffic in Chicago can make traveling to either of these loactions down-right prohibitive, depending on when you're jonesing for a game.

Home games are illegal, technically, and within the city limits, at least, this law has been enforced to varying degrees. There are many reports of small stakes games being busted by local law enforcement. That hardly seems polite, especially since we don't go storming into the Chicago PD to bust up their games! They're probably using your chips right now. (Please enjoy this as tongue-in-cheek. I have much respect for the officers who protect our city, some of them are personal friends.)

So, what are your Chicago Poker options?


First of all, there ARE home games in, and around, the city. They are quiet affairs, or in some cases, are held in suburbs less interested in enforcing an archaic, and frankly, silly, law. I won't report of specific games here, but there are resources to learn about them. Two examples would be on our forum: Chicago Poker Club at and Meet-Up groups Chicago Texas Hold 'Em Meetup and The Chicago Poker Meetup Group. I would like to give a shout out to the Ali Babba guys, who run a great tournament.

Additionally, Rockford Charitable Games is sailing a good ship. They have several games per week, in the name of charity, hosted all around Chicago. Visit their website to learn more about their upcoming events, including WPT and WSOP qualifiers. These are great events for beginners, as there are low limits, cheap tournaments, and many learning players.

Finally, if you plan around rush hour, the casinos are a viable option. My personal choice is Trump Casino in Gary, IN. Trump was actually just purchased by Majestic Star, the sale is finally at the first of the year. We'll have to see what changes, if any, occur. If you're in the western suburbs, Hollywood Casino is your only option. I've never been there, but I hear t'ings...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What's the Worst Online Poker Room?

This week I vote for Man, it sucks.

I checked it out because I heard that 1) the SnG tournaments were better, giving you 1500 chips to start (instead of 800 on PartyPoker), and 2) you could create your own private tournament table. The first is true, and in fairness, is far superior to other online poker sites. The second, however, is not true. There is a menu item for creating a private table, but only works for ring games, and is grayed out for tournaments. A search in PokerRoom's online help revealed assistance with private ring games, but may no mention of private tournaments.

Now having more starting chips is great, but the gameplay is really bad. First of all, you cannot see what blind level you're in, nor how soon blinds will be going up, from the table. If you have the lobby open in the background, you can go through the list of tournaments in session, find yours, and see what level you're on (i.e. Level I, II, etc.) You cannot see what that equates to, or how long until they increase.

Second, the graphics are fancy and 3D-looking, so they stand out, but the text is in a bad font and really small - white on black. That makes it very difficult to read the chat/dealer info window or more importantly, to see how many chips your opponents have. Sure, the information is there. Absolutely. My complaint is that the visual aesthetic is so poor that you need to work to look for the chip counts on a regular basis, rather than your eyes stumbling across them easily, as is the case with the others (Pacific,, Party Poker, for example).

The interface offers you the ability to rate players using a colored dot (green, green plus, green minus, yellow, yellow exclamation point, red). You can assign descriptions to these markers, but apparently those descriptions sit in a file on your local machine, not the server. I typed each of the six descriptions in, only to find them absent from my interface when playing on another machine.

Finally, my largest complaint, it is A LOT of work to actually muck your cards at the end of a hand, whether you're laying down a hand to a big bet, or after you've lost a showdown. There are global preferences that can be set to auto-muck your cards. They don't work. I set this option to yes, and went to a tournament table. I got called on a big raise on the river, and wanted to quietly muck my cards. I got the message "Do you wish to show your cards?", even though I had checked auto-muck. I was shown a single response button - "Yes". I didn't want "yes", so I waited (there wasn't a "no" button). After less than a second, my cards were shown to the table. I was card dead for the rest of the tourney, and no one ever laid down their cards to my raises. This continued to happen to me.

I tried the software on a second machine. I changed the Auto-Muck setting to off. Now I was presented with two buttons, "yes" and "no". One must check the "no" IMMEDIATELY (less than a second, seriously) or the cards are shown.

Another artifact of this failed "auto" feature is that I was asked if I wanted to show my cards at the showdown without the software having revealed the hand's winner. This may be intended to emulate live play, but has two problems - 1) I've never seen it before, and there was no explanation. Would my hand be dead if I say "no"? If I wait and my opponent shows winning cards, do I still get a chance to muck? How long does it wait before making a decision for me? Will it be the right reason. Oh... and, um, 2) This causes players to inadvertantly slow-roll their opponents all of the time. How rude.

In summary, I'm going to cash out (or go broke) soon, and take my online fun elsewhere.