Monday, July 28, 2008

DOWN GOES THE KID! DOWN GOES THE KID!: K.O.'d in the Negreanu Semis

Future poker legend? Maybe. Still a fish? Most definitely. It hurts to admit, but before you can truly know where you are going, you must first realize where you're currently at. And where I'm at is the land of the fish, me being one of them. That lesson was taught to me by the sharks that ate me this past Saturday.

I started the tournament at a table with 4 of the nine sitting out. The active agressive players took turns stealing the blinds and I felt helpless, so I tried making a run at them myself, but to no avail. I had to back down and the cards were never in my favor. Then, I got moved to another table, this time with 5 people sitting out and the other 3 were big stacks with about 3 times as many chips as me on average. I played tight and couldn't break through their agressiveness. I'd then get medium pairs all the time, hoping to hit trips on the flop then try to make a move, but after an empty flop and not enough chips to chase 'em away, I was done for.

By that time, I was desperate, frustrated and went all-in from the cutoff with A-J offsuit and was called and beaten by the big blind. Ouch. Finished 4272 out of 6686. Two weeks preparing, only to challenge the wrong people and get my butt whooped the worst it's ever been whooped. I can't sit now. It hurts too much.

Despite this lackluster showing, I will say U-E The Kid will be back. Mark my words, people. Mark my words.

Friday, July 25, 2008

CRAMMING FOR THE FINAL... WELL, SEMI-FINAL:Negreanu Semi’s this weekend.

I'm a day away from the Weekend With Daniel Semi-Final online tournament that I qualified for last week and I've been trying to get in as much poker knowledge as possible. Being a slow but thorough reader, I'm now about half way through the second installment of Dan Harrington's Hold 'Em series of books. I've also been running through jungles and swinging from vines with Yoda on my back to get my stamina up. Oh, and punching frozen meat in a meat cooler to get my... meat... punching... in a cooler abilities up.

The last few days I've been trying to apply what I've learned and my results in the Hubble Free Roll Tournaments have fallen off: 5094 out of 12000, and 756 out of 12000. But hey, sometimes you gotta get worse before you get better. Harrington describes how to stay in contention in these quick tournaments where the blinds go up like crazy and it involves taking a lot more risks. I swear, in the one where I finished 756, I felt like I was developing an ulcer by the end, what with all the all-ins and agressive betting. Playing poker is stressful! Screw this, I'm getting an office job with tight deadlines and presentations to give.

But the proof was in the stats: I had won about 25 pots when I was eliminated, 20 without a showdown. I definitely came out of it feeling a lot stronger as a poker player. I pretty much just made one big mistake at the end, challenging the wrong guy at the wrong time. Otherwise, I was in the best position I had ever been in stack-wise for that late in a tournament considering the cards I was getting (i.e, mostly crappy ones). The time I finished 234 out of 12000 I seemed to be getting A-A, K-K and Q-Q at all the right times. The 756 finish feels like my best so far.

And the beat goes on for the kid...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

WHAT THE, WHO THE... WHERE AM I????: We're Not In Texas Anymore. We're In Omaha!

So I'm fresh off winning my first single table sit & go tournament (1.20 buy-in, won 4.50! Yay!), then I come in 3rd place in a slightly higher buy-in sit & go (3.40 buy-in, won 5.40), and I feel I'm ready to take on the 5.50 sit & go. But the tables fill up super fast, you have to be quick on the mouse click to get in on them. A couple people beat me to it as I try to get in, but the next one comes up and I'm in there just in time!

I'm relaxed, ready to take down the $13.50 first prize... And suddenly, they start dealing out FOUR cards. Apparently, in my haste to get into a Texas Hold'em tourney, I entered an Omaha Hi-Lo tourney by mistake! Baaahhhhh!!!! I was choked.

After whining like a school girl for a bit (just a split second though, tops), I suck it up and try to pick up the game as quickly as possible. I take out my copy of Poker For Dummies and read the Omaha chapter as quickly as possible, and beginner's luck must have kicked in or something, because I took down about 5 out of the first 15 hands, doubling up a couple times in the process!

So things are looking good, I'm in first place, way out in front. That's when my Dad asks me to help him move some furniture. Since I'm up big, I figure missing a couple hands won't hurt. We end up re-arranging the whole living room, then eat lunch and only afterward do I realize I totally forgot about the tournament! When I got to my laptop, I had already finished in 5th place out of 9. Blast! Lost opportunity.

After that, I was intrigued by the hi-low aspect of Omaha. I decide to try it out at a regular table. I get this one hand, can't remember what it was, but it was a decent high hand and a KICKASS low hand. I decide to get a good chunk of my stack into the pot. The two other players and I showdown our cards... And I come away empty! I'm thinking, "What the hell? How'd they beat my low hand?" It turns out I was in a regular Omaha game where you're trying to win with the high hand, not a high low game. So yeah, now I'm thinking of dying my hair blonde, just for shits and giggles...


Although I haven't managed to place in a Hubble Free Roll yet, I decided to try my luck in some of the cheapy buy-in tournaments on I entered a $1.10 buy-in tournament and was playing quite conservatively. No decent cards are coming my way so I decide to splash the pot a little bit. Rookie mistake. Discipline, U-E discipline! I come out of it with about half my stack, but manage to get some decent wins afterward to get up to starting stack size of 1500... Unfortunately by then, the average stack is about 5000 and the blinds are comin' up on me like a bat outta hell!

So finally, being dealt K-K, I decide to take my shot, short stack vs. short stack (the other dude has me covered ever so slightly). I'm all-in, we show down our cards and I see he's got J-6. And that's when the "That's Poker" gods took over:

Flop: T J A
4th: 3
River: 6

He beats me with 2-pair.

Ouch. Not impressed.

After that horrible defeat, I entered a 50 cent buy-in tournament and placed, scoring 96 cents!!!! Probably could've done better, I was on fire early, but made one huge mistake, calling a dude when I had 2-pair with a straight draw on the board. He did end up having the straight and I lost half my stack. Oh well, live and learn. But on the positive side, progress has been made!

Monday, July 21, 2008

POKERSTARS HUBBLE FREE ROLLS: Houston, We Have A Training Ground!

Day 2 of the poker blog and I'm still going strong! I've been searching for poker blogs similar to mine and there are quite a few of them out there... with their last entries being 2-3 years ago. Ouch. Must've gave up the good fight, one all-in or bad beat too many, I suppose.

I also stumbled across an article that claims that poker sites have created "'fake poker blogs," in which a company will create a poker blog simply as a marketing tool to promote their site.'". People want to hear about real authentic individual experiences, not some crap disguised as a blog. And although my first two entries sound like I'm a fake poker blog for Pokerstars, I'm not. It just so happened that they're the first site I've tried and I'm sticking to it for now until I have a reason to join another site. So I will let you all know right now that I AM REAL! Would a fake blog use words like poop, fart and boobies, like I'm doing now? Huh? Huh? Worry not, my loyal reader of two entries, I am real. In fact, here I am:

And to finish off the above topic, I'd like to call out Pokerstars right now to start paying me to do this blog! Yeah, that's right! Average Joe Schmoe pluggin' their site with wit, poops, farts and boobies (Hey I'm unemployed, I have absolutely nothing to lose by writing this part in here, so I will).

Rewinding back to 9 days ago when this obsession began, I was looking for a place to learn how to play against real people without losing all my moolah and without playing against people who go all-in right from the get with Q-5 offsuit (like they usually do in free-play tournaments) Just to clear things up for those that don't know, free-play tournaments are for play money and free-rolls are where you can actually win real money and/or real entries into bigger tournaments.

Enter the Hubble No Limit Hold 'Em Freerolls taking place a few times daily on They take a hell of a long time to play without the upside of decent prizes (the top 98 out of usually 12000 entrants get entry into a $2000 tournament of their choice), but for my purpose, a cheap place to work on my game, it'll do juuuuusssst fine :). Unfortunately you do get those crazies who go all-in from the get, but from my experiences so far, within the first half hour to an hour, a good portion of the crazies are eliminated and it settles down into some decent poker with actual strategies being used like I've read in the Harrington book.

So, you wanna know how I've done in them so far? Well, I haven't quite gotten to the top 98, but I'm inching closer and closer every day! Check it:

  1. July 15, 2008 - finished 8069 out of 12000

  2. July 15, 2008 - 5566 out of 12000

  3. July 16, 2008 - 5035 out of 8279

  4. July 16, 2008 - 2181 out of 120000

  5. July 17, 2008 - 998 out of 12000

  6. July 17, 2008 - 716 out of 12000

  7. July 20, 2008 - 234 out of 12000

The numbers don't lie, I am getting better! I am like some kind of crazy super cyborg pickin' up knowledge and adapting as I go! Remember when John Connor taught the terminator to say Hasta La Vista, baby? I'm like that! And by next week, I'll be fluent in the whole damn spanish language! And the poker cats out there will run from me in fear, watch out now! And then suddenly, I will start speaking with an austrian accent and become governor of California! (lost the metaphor there, somewhere... oh well) I can almost smell the top 98, smells like chicken! I hope it tastes like chicken... Shake n Bake chicken... Italian flavored and dipped in a Ketchup-Lousiana Hot Sauce mixture. Okay, I'm tired and rambling now. See y'all later!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'VE BEEN BIT: How I Caught The Online Poker Bug.

"What are you all into? You folded on 4th Street? You hit trips on the river? Someone check-raised you? ... What the sam hell language are you guys speaking, anyway?"

Ahhh Poker, a game I'd heard about for so long, but had no interest in playing. All I knew was you were dealt cards and you had to bet on how good your cards are. It all sounded kinda stupid to me. Screw poker, I'm gonna go play Text Twist on Yahoo games.

That was then, this is now. I signed up for 8 short days ago and I've been hooked on online Texas Hold 'Em tournaments ever since.

So how exactly did I go from one extreme to the other? Let's have a look at my poker timeline:

September 2002 - I moved to Vancouver to pursue a career in acting after spending 5 total years gaining a Bachelor of Computer Science degree and 2 years at a software programming job. I was pretty darn decent at my job, but it just wasn't my passion. The day by day struggle to stay awake and not drool on myself or battling the "noddy sleepy head thing" was too much. And I'm a dreamer, baby, dare to dream! What relevance does this have to poker? Patience, eager one, we'll get to that in due time...

December 2003 - I return home to visit over Christmas. I notice that my extended family and friends talk in this weird language with rivers and trips and big blinds and buttons and cut-offs... Weird...

May 2004 - I get a job testing video games at Electronic Arts in Burnaby. A lot of my co-workers love poker and keep talking about it. Still not interested.

May 2005 - I get a job at a restaurant in Burnaby. My coworkers have a regular poker night after work on Tuesdays... Or was it Mondays? Meh, who cares, they invited me out and again I declined. "But dude, you're an actor! That would totally help you play well at poker!" Nice try fellas, but you ain't takin' my money, no sir.

August 2006 - I return to Nova Scotia to attend my sister's wedding. Before I leave to go back to Vancouver, there's a big family get together. What's everyone doing? Yup, you guessed it, playing poker.

January 2008 - With the acting career not panning out the way I had hoped, I once again return to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (affectionately known as The Dark Side) with my tail between my legs. Ah well, at least I get to hang out with friends and family.

Late January 2008 - My buddy Joe has a birthday party for his son, Logan, my godson. Once the presents are opened and done with, BAM! Poker tables out, here we go again... But THIS time, U-E says "Sure, I'll play. Buy-in is twenty bucks? Alright, I'm in."

Famous last words.

I got up about 5 bucks early and thought, "Man this game is easy! These guys are suckers! Hahaaahahaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! ...... Hahahahahhaaaaa!" Fast forward to half an hour later and my twenty bucks is gone. My favorite moment was folding from the big blind when I could have just checked. "This game is stupid anyway," I thought. But OOOOOOO, I hate losing! They haven't heard the last of me...

March 2008 - I get myself a copy of Poker Superstars II and start randomly trying to beat the game. No such luck, Virtual Johnny Chan OWNS my ass... DAMN YOU, VIRTUAL JOHNNY CHAN!!!!! DAAAMMMMNNNNN YOUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!

May 2008 - Another family get together, more poker, I sit out. I'm unemployed and can't afford another twenty bucks. So I start reading the Texas Hold'Em chapter of "Poker For Dummies." You know you're reeeeeeaaaally bad at something when you read a "For Dummies" book (that little Where's Waldo/Fido Dido lookin' dude on the cover of those books really mocks you, doesn't he?) But after reading just that one chapter, BOOM! I was a contenda, baby! Poker Superstars II was beatable!

June 2008 - DOWN GOES VIRTUAL JOHNNY CHAN! DOWN GOES VIRTUAL JOHNNY CHAN! That's right, I finally beat computer generated opponents! I had one stretch where I played 8 seasons of the game, winning 4 World Series Of Poker tournaments, one time doing it back to back and getting to either the finals or semi-finals the other 4 times. I was livin' large, ready to take on the world! I told my buddy, Romes how good I had gotten, to which he replied "PFFFFFFTTTT!!! Computer opponents? Play against real players live or online, THEN get back to me." And then, in one of the greatest moments in verbal comeback history, I said:

"Yeah... I WILL get back to you."

Brilliant, U-E, brilliant.

July 2008 - Still an unemployed bum, I decide to try and get my computer programming skills up to date again so I can get a computer job and make something out of my life. Every day, wake up, Java tutorials, Java books, java this java that, PHP this, J2EE that... My brain hurts.

While taking a break from the mind-numbing brain cram, I happen to see a "Win a Weekend Playing Poker With Daniel Negreanu! Free at" Hmmm... interesting. I download the software, fire it up... and all of a sudden I'm battling for the prize! On this particular day and time, only 1100 people signed up for the free-roll (no entry fee) with the top 1000 making it to the semis. Twenty minutes later, I'm in the semis! I basically made it by default. As Homer Simpson would say "The two sweetest words in the English language. Dee Fault! Dee fault!"

But in order to actually have a chance in the semis, I need more knowledge of the game. Knowledge is power. Must... learn... about... poker. So I get myself a copy of "Harrington on Hold 'Em Volume 1: Strategic Play", read it throughout the week, taking part in free-roll tournaments as I go, and tournament by tournament, my results get better and better! Thank you Dan Harrington. AND he's still got two more volumes of books to read, too. Things can only get better.

Then I started doing a little more research and there's a good number of pro poker players who have a background in Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics, all disciplines I've studied in the past. Let's have a look:

  • Barry Greenstein - Graduated with a Bachelor in Computer Science (so did I!) and was studying for a PhD in math but left (I was a math major in a science undergrad degree with a diploma in engineering before switching to BCS)

  • Phil Gordon - Graduated with a BCS and worked for Lockheed (I worked for Lockheed Martin Canada)

  • Lee Jones - Bachelor of science in Computer Science and a masters of science in engineering

  • Chris Ferguson - PhD in Computer Science

  • Phil Laak - graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering

  • Freddy Deeb - studied mechanical engineering

  • Huck Seed - Was an electrical engineering student (I was accepted into electrical before switching to computer science)

  • Bill Chen - Software Designer, PhD in mathematics.

  • Allan Cunningham - Civil Engineering

And let's not forget the acting thing, too. There's a lot of respectable actor poker players:

  • Jennifer Tilly - has a World Series of Poker bracelet

  • Ben Affleck

  • James Woods

  • Shannon Elizabeth - saw her on TV commentating up a storm. She knows her stuff.

  • Will Wheaton

  • Tobey Maguire

The old acting skills might come in handy for the live poker play if I ever decide to do it.

And finally, there's my hometown poker hero. Cory Carroll! I think it's funny how he has that picture from the World Series of Poker with a hood on and our hometown of Dartmouth is called "The Dark Side" (By the way, if you also thought that was funny, you're a bit computer geeky like me. Admit it, it's nothing to be ashamed of. Sith lords foreevaaaa!!!!)

So there you have it. Technical nerdy background, an acting background. On paper, it seems like I have a lot of the qualities needed to play the game. And most importantly, in one short week I've developed a love of the game. So far my weird range of career choices and interests have left me unemployed and wondering when it will all come together. I'm a big believer in synchronicity and things happening for a reason, so who knows, maybe this is the start of something big.

It has begun!

Am I going to keep getting better at poker? Is this a hobby that's going to make me a little money? A lot of money? Can it be a profession for me? Whoa, it's a little too early for that kinda talk. One week of poker playing does not a career make. Only time will tell. Come for the ride as I experience the rush of the bluff, the thrill of the check-raise, hitting the nut flush, doubling up... And that crappy sinking feeling when you know you just got outplayed and you're left with a tenth of your stack, waiting to be blinded out while wondering what the hell just happened, sitting in stunned silence.

Join me on this journey, folks.

I'm all into it.