2014 round-up

Wondering what I’ve been up to in the past year? I was invited to write some blogs and articles for Pokerstars and Bluff Magazine! Here’s the lowdown:

Elena’s PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (February 4, 2014)

Elena’s UKIPT Dublin Adventures (April 11, 2014)

Elena’s UK Adventures Part II: London (April 17, 2014)

Les Aventures d’Elena à Montréal (June 16, 2014)

Girl Talk With The Groupie: Elena Stover on how not to be a table creep (August 22, 2014)

The Groupie Classes it Up: Modern casinos need to step up to survive (September 24, 2014)

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Pokerstars PCA blog!

I was invited to write a blog for Pokerstars Women on my experience at PCA this year! Here it is:


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What I learned in London

I found this blog that I wrote on the way back from London last year and decided to publish it. I’ll have a new update for 2014 coming soon!


This morning I was half asleep in Heathrow airport, with snow swirling wildly around the planes outside the windows, huddling in my thin jacket that I never had any business thinking would suffice for a trip to Europe in the middle of winter, my shoulders frozen stiffly in place from cold and smarting from my two overloaded carry-ons, which contained both my shitty laptops and an art book weighing a full 2 kilograms from the Max Ernst retrospective in Vienna for my sister the artist. I feel like Max Ernst is one of those artists who would occasionally come up in offhand conversation with art people in LA and I’d always feign familiarity with his work. It was also snowing in Vienna. I’ll be glad not to see snow for a while.

But what was random about this instance of freezing my ass off in the airport at an ungodly hour of the morning, was that all of a sudden a very verbal dialogue of memories started flooding my half-consciousness, almost like excerpts of blog entries or snippets from a memoir. These self-narratives were so detailed and persistent that I thought they had to be premonitions of my death. That’s what they say, that your life and your memories all flash before your eyes when you’re about to die. I’m on the airplane now and I haven’t died yet, but I suppose it’s still possible so I’ll try not to jinx this by thinking I’m out of the woods yet. If this plane goes down and the cheapest rinky-dink laptop of all time somehow manages to survive the crash, someone can marvel at my supernatural macabre foresight.

This thing my delirious mind was writing even already had a name: What I learned in London.

The thoughts weren’t about London at all, but for some reason that was the title. But I suppose maybe they began with the Pokerstars blog report that was published when I was playing the UKIPT in London. This is the first time my real name has been printed in conjunction with my online screenname, so it was sort of this weird merger of two identities that I’ve been doing my best to keep separate. When I realized it had happened, I immediately panicked and my first impulse was to email them asking to take it down. Instead I did nothing, but worried about the consequences if someone happens to google my name and come across it. But then I started asking myself, what was I really afraid of? One of my delinquent or disgruntled students coming across my twitter account? Someone from the administration finding it and firing me? They can’t fire me unless they want to find someone else to teach the most boring class on their curriculum for a joke salary. Being an adjunct professor is almost as big a scam as research science, it’s just slightly less time consuming.

But back to the things my brain seems to think I learned. The initial ideas in my mind were about what would happen if I went ahead and posted a blog post outing my ‘true’ identity and linked it on Facebook for all my limited world of acquaintances to see. Maybe having to defend the meaning of a jokey provocative nickname I gave myself 13 years ago that has somehow persisted until the present day. How I’ve lived this divided life for so long, taking great pains to never associate my ‘real life’ identity with my online persona.

I remember when Facebook first started allowing people with non-university accounts to sign up to the site. My account had as little information as possible on there so that none of my students or professors would inadvertently find out anything about my personal life. But when everyone started flocking onto Facebook, I realized I couldn’t hide everything about these dual sides of my life. I had to merge them in some way. So I did, sort of. But not fully. I still had me the grad student and thegroupie the party girl, and thegroupie took care not to post anything too revealing on my facebook page. Thegroupie says what she wants, does what she wants, and doesn’t give a fuck what you think about it. But she knew that “I” kind of still gave a fuck. Even now.

When I finished my Ph.D. I wanted nothing more to do with academia, but at the same time there seems to be a part of me that can’t let it go. Or can’t let go of caring what they think. I’m not sure who “they” even are. The adults, maybe; for some reason I am still terrified of adults, worried about getting in trouble, worried that they are going to find out what I’ve really been up to. I know most of this is in my head, but there is also real and distinct disapproval for my lifestyle from some factions of the people in my life.

When I took up poker I latched onto it as my new identity. Then Black Friday happened and the whole tower of cards (oh brother!) collapsed. I’m still not sure whether it was ever real. I know I made the majority of my income in 2012 playing poker, even with the limited options available to US players. I did better than I ever thought would be possible. But I spent that money paying for life and shit, and there was no way to maintain or grow my bankroll. I am no closer to any sort of financial stability or security. I am still saddled in credit card debt with no clear plan for the future, and am currently on my way back to a country where my options for playing online are more or less nonexistent.

I keep feeling like my life is a neverending version of one of the boring scenes in ‘Girls’ where someone is having an existential crisis. Who am I, why am I living in this expensive apartment, what do I want to be when I grow up, boo hoo. The problem is, I am grown up, I’m like ten years older than those people are supposed to be and this is still my life. The other problem is, Elizabeth Wurtzel already wrote this same stupid fucking essay a few weeks ago, so now my life is just one big hipsterific Girls/Elizabeth Wurtzel shit sandwich. How am I this much of a cliche? How did I get this old without learning anything about what I want from my life?

I frequently have the self-indulgent impulse to blame a lot of stuff on what I would term “unfulfilled expectations.” When I was a child I was told my IQ was in the 99th percentile, and I was taken out of school and transferred to a special school with other budding geniuses. We all learned probably the same stuff that other kids learned, but felt a bit smarter and smugger while we were doing it. And after that there was always an intangible pressure behind everything, because of all the 9-year-olds, WE were the ones who were going to do great things with our lives. Life went on and I continued to do well in things. I went to a relatively elite university for college. I got a fucking Ph.D. for fuck’s sake. When am I going to be fucking done trying to live up to some ridiculous child-prodigy narrative?

I find myself wishing for some fairytale infusion of success, some perfect made-for-Facebook story complete with plenty of photos of my shining accomplishments, where I prove to all the naysayers that I didn’t need academia. Some objective evidence that I found a more fun career and became wildly successful at it and went on to achieve great things. And then of course I start feeling like it’s sad that I crave that fantasy success in order to validate my life choices to the people who I perceive to be skeptical or disdainful of my lifestyle. Do I really need that moment when I get to “show” everybody, to prove them all wrong? Why do I even fucking care about the people who doubted me? Aren’t those people pathetic that they don’t have better shit to do than sitting around doubting people?

I think one reason I still can’t find my direction is because graduate school destroyed my confidence, my ambition, and most aspects of my personality. My life went from an awkward dichotomy of school-all-day/party-all-night 23-year-old energy during the first couple of years, to barely being a shell of a person by the time it was over. As the years went by I gradually became more and more isolated, both from my school life and my personal life, until there was basically nothing left of either. I developed depression that at times was so bad I believed I was permanently lost in the cloud of hopelessness and despair that was occupying the space between my ears. There were long stretches of time when I saw no way out, but I forced myself to believe that there was a way out, that I would regain control of my thoughts one day, that I wouldn’t be shrouded behind this fog of apathy that was currently driving the ship.

I tried my hardest to succeed in graduate school. I thought that if I worked hard enough I would succeed, because that’s how life is supposed to work. If you do a lot of work and put in a lot of effort and are a smart person, someone should care and there should be some reward. Based on all my prior experience, I thought I was supposed to be good at the things that were valued in the academic world. I didn’t yet understand that I was never going to be good enough, because graduate school is a problem that doesn’t have a solution. We always felt that we were somehow superior to the regular workforce, but the lofty enterprises of the ivory tower can be boiled down to a pure issue of supply and demand. Nowadays there are just too many “geniuses” trying to do very special esoteric things that no one cares about and no one cares to pay them to do.

I finished grad school, and that was an accomplishment. But the entire ordeal left me shattered, and I had no idea how to put the pieces back together into something meaningful or productive. It’s hard to shift to thinking about what you want out of life when for the past few years you have been mostly just focusing on getting through each miserable day and occasionally trying not to die. People sometimes ask me if I regret going to grad school, and it’s sort of an irrelevant question. Of course if I knew in advance what I would be put through I would not have dreamed of going. But at the time I made the decision, it appeared to be a great option.

I remember when New Order did a reunion album sometime in the early 2000s, one of the songs was called ‘Regret is a Useless Emotion.’ I can’t remember how the song even went, it wasn’t particularly memorable, but I like that sentence and that sentiment. I think people who waste time regretting the past are some of the most pathetic life forms of all time. If you wish you had done something differently, too fucking bad. Just because you can’t go back to the point at which you think you made a bad decision, that doesn’t mean that bad decision has ruined your life forever. If you are unhappy with a choice you made, learn from the mistake and make a different choice next time. For any decision, all you can do is make the best choice you can given the information at your disposal. You can always make more decisions if you are unhappy with a previous decision, but what is the use in fretting about something that has already happened that cannot be undone?

I have no patience for people who let life happen to them. If you spend your time sitting around wondering about ‘what could have been,’ you’re a fucking miserable idiot. People who don’t understand this concept do not fit into my world.

Nevertheless, I wish I could be more assertive in crafting my own destiny. I want to go after what I want, but the problem is I don’t really know what I want. I thought it was poker, but I wanted poker when it was something I could do from my home, in America. I don’t know if I want it if it means having to uproot everything again and move to another country. I love the idea of living abroad for several months, but I don’t know if I have the means to make it work. It would be a huge gamble. During my time in London grinding on Pokerstars I ended up with a small profit, but it could have just as easily been a small loss. Poker is not a guaranteed salary, and I’m not in a position where I can just move to a different country for several months with no assurance that I’ll make enough to live on. My options really suck right now.

So many people live their lives in pursuit of money. Acquiring and hoarding currency is a completely pointless exercise to me. I don’t give a fuck about buying shit or saving for the future, all I want is enough money that I don’t have to worry about money all the time. It’s so frustrating that while money is one of the things in life that is really NOT important to me, it is the only thing I am missing in order to secure my freedom. And I can’t seem to figure out how to get money in a manner that doesn’t petrify and disgust me (i.e. working in an office from 9-5).

In the coming months I hope I’ll have some more clarity on what to do about everything. I hate this feeling that everything about my life is up in the air. I do know I’ll be in the US through the WSOP, so at least that’s something I can be certain of.


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WBCOOP: we shall rise again!

Guten Morgen! I’m writing now from Vienna, Austria where Mickey and I have called the district of Gasometer City our home for the past week! We have been here for WPT Baden where Mickey did very well, winning the High Roller event for 50,000 Euro$. I’ve mainly been hanging out and exploring Vienna and Baden. It’s been alternately snowing, raining, and slushing so it has been difficult to do much sightseeing, but yesterday we did get a chance to check out the Max Ernst exhibit at the Albertina museum. With all the live poker we haven’t had much of an opportunity to grind online this week, but we are heading back to London today and I’m looking forward to getting back to my usual tournament schedule.

Now that I have relocated to London, I have been grinding Pokerstars like a fiend, playing every MTT I can within my waking hours. I have a simple yet very effective setup with a 27″ monitor, my laptop, and a wireless mouse and keyboard. It’s been amazing being back online. After dealing with the utterly dismal US-facing sites for the last year and a half, playing on a real poker platform with a real player pool and huge tournaments is incredible. I still need to adjust to the huge fields in Pokerstars tournaments, since I became accustomed to grinding on sites where there is a lot less traffic. It’s an added bonus that Pokerstars even has Womens tournaments that are becoming very popular, and I hop in these whenever I see a pink title in the lobby :)

So I just saw that WBCOOP was about to begin, and I thought I’d submit an entry in the hope of playing the series! In 2011, WBCOOP was one of my last memories playing on Pokerstars before Black Friday and the demise of online poker in the USA. When the DOJ allowed Pokerstars to refund US player balances, the only thing in my account was a $215 tournament ticket I won in a WBCOOP event. It was converted to cash and wired to my bank. Unfortunately, the same thing did not occur with Full Tilt, where nearly all the money I’d made from poker until that point was (and still is) stuck.

I never imagined that it would be 2013 and the US would still be no closer to having legal online poker, but I’m fortunate that my online teaching job allows me to work from anywhere in the world. In 2012 I was able to rebuild my bankroll on the US-facing sites, but nothing compares to playing on a real site like Pokerstars with a wide variety of tournaments running all day and substantial guarantees (even on the weekdays)! My best poker moment has to be the moment I regained access to my account, and every moment since! I’ve already had some crazy swings, but 2013 has been great so far and it’s just awesome to be back to work. I’m excited to play some WBCOOP events and hopefully improve on my 2011 performance!


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Hey everyone,

I know it’s been a while since i last updated this blog; I’ve actually been working on a catch-up entry that has now become several pages long and that will come sometime soon. Anyway, after my mini-stint in Vegas last year, I went ahead and found a couple of “real” jobs, and I’m now an Adjunct Professor at an east coast university teaching classes for an online undergraduate program. It’s a part-time gig which has allowed me to play poker and work on my game basically all the time when I am not teaching, and I have been grinding MTTs steadily on Merge for the last year. I’ve been doing really well – much better in fact than I ever did on Full Tilt pre-Black Friday. I’ve won a bunch of tournaments recently and have a lot of confidence in how I’m playing right now. Here are my stats:

I’ve only played one live event since last summer, UKIPT Nottingham in April, which I ended up cashing for 1480 UKP (which is like a ton of money in USD) while visiting my boyfriend Mickey Petersen, who is an online pro for Pokerstars. Mickey doesn’t coach me or anything, but I do make him talk to me about poker sometimes :)

So I’m heading out to Vegas for a couple weeks, and decided to put together a little summer package for the first time! It includes three ladies events and a few Venetian Deepstacks.

The Schedule:

Sun 6/24/12 – Venetian DSE – $600
Mon 6/25/12 – Caesar’s – $240 Ladies Event
Tue 6/26/12 – Venetian DSE – $400 Ladies Event
Wed 6/27/12 – Venetian DSE – $600
Fri 6/29/12 – WSOP – $1000 Ladies Event
Sat 6/30/12 – Venetian DSE – $600 day 1a (or day 1b Sun 7/1/12)
Mon 7/2/12 – Venetian DSE – $600

Total buyins: $4040
Markup: 1.24
Total with markup: $5000 (rounded down)

1% = $50
5% = $250
10% = $500
20% = $1000

I believe I have a significant advantage in these fields, and particularly the ladies events which tend to draw a lot of recreational players. I am selling up to 50% of my action, and will play these tournaments regardless of how much I sell. Anything not played due to overlap or making day 2 of another tournament will of course be refunded with markup.

Mickey has reserved 10% so there is another 40% available.

I can accept the following methods of payment:
Pokerstars (to Mickey’s account – mement_mori, city London)
Carbon (thegroupie)
Bank wires
Cash in Vegas (over 5% only pls)

Please make sure I confirm before shipping any funds online! If I cash for a lot of money (>5K I think) I will need your info for tax purposes etc or I will have to withhold taxes. Also please note that while Mickey is very graciously allowing me to accept funds to his account on Pokerstars, we won’t be able to ship back $ on stars until after August 1 when he returns to London, since he can’t make transfers while in the US.

Thanks for checking out my package!! Hoping to make this a great summer :)

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vegas report (part 2)

finishing up the long overdue conclusion to my vegas trip report! it will probably be a little less detailed than the first chapter, as it’s been a few months since my trip!

wednesday june 29 :: venetian ladies event

the venetian ladies event was fucking. incredible. i was the youngest person at my table (with the average age of poker scene these days, that’s an accomplishment!) and most pots were limped 6-7 ways, unless i raised the limpers, and they’d get annoyed and grumble but fold anyway. or they’d get annoyed and call, and then check/fold the flop. it’s not often i get to be the young whippersnapper at the table who’s causing all the trouble! i don’t think i showed down a hand once in the first couple levels, just raise some limpers and take it, or c-bet and take it. this was so easy and i loved it! i got myself in a really stupid situation though, when i was in the big blind in a 7ish-way limped pot with 84s. the flop was Q84 rainbow, which was nice for my hand. i wasn’t quite sure (and am still not sure) what the most optimal way to play this hand was though, given the vulnerability of bottom 2-pair on future streets. i discussed this hand with a couple people afterward and the opinions seemed equally split between leading out versus checkraising on the flop. anyway, i decided to lead out for a pretty large bet (probably 2/3 pot or so), and got two callers – one older woman who was generally a calling station, and the button, who was the only other young-ish person at the table, an asian lady in her mid-30s with a baseball cap. she had been playing very tight, but aggressively in the hands she did play, and was one of the only other players putting in pre-flop raises, c-betting, etc. the turn was a 3 of hearts, which was one of the only turn cards it was great seeing, but it was the second heart on the board. i decided to lead the turn again; middle-aged calling station lady gave up her hand, but the button raised my bet about 3x.

this had now become a very awkward spot. i don’t remember now what the blind levels and stacks were so i can’t give exact numbers, but the amount of her raise was about half of my remaining stack. so this became a situation where i would need to commit myself to the hand if i wanted to proceed. i was confident based on my read of this player that this was almost never a bluff, but i was also very confused about what value hands she could be doing this with. i assumed given her tight play until that point, she would almost never be in there with a hand like Q8, even if it was suited. i also thought it unlikely she would play 43s, though it seemed a hair more likely than Q8. i was 100% certain she would have raised a string of limpers preflop with QQ and about 90% certain she would have raised with 88 and AQ, so those were all out. that left 44, KQ, or QJ in the range of hands she might limp behind preflop, call on the flop, and raise on the turn. i could beat two of those hands; however, i couldn’t see why she would ever want to raise on the turn with either KQ or QJ.. unless – could i give her credit for a semibluff!? what if she had now picked up a flush draw with top pair, which would be a legitimately big hand?! sitting two to my right, she had no doubt been observing my aggressive play and general running-over of the table, and maybe she wanted to take a stand and teach me a lesson! obviously that was what was going on. i pushed all in! and.. obviously ran into the only hand she really could have in that spot, 44. she had me covered by a little bit and that was the end of my ladies event. once i thought through the hand afterward i realized what a huge mistake it was to get in with 2 pair in that situation. she was just never ever bluffing and it was also unlikely she was even semibluffing. at the time it seemed crazy to conclude that she had to have the last two 4’s in the deck, but that was absolutely the only hand that made any sense, and i should have been able to fold. i was beating myself up about it for the rest of the afternoon.

in the evening i went back down to the poker room and played a little cash, and also got to meet katie dozier aka hotjenny314, who was still hanging out in the ladies event and ended up making a deep run! also earlier in the day i finally met one of my first internet poker friends sketchy1 who was playing a more fancy venetian event at the same time as the ladies event. on this trip it was awesome to be able to meet so many people i’d been talking to online over the last year. when i’d visited vegas in 2010 it was more just to party since i only knew a couple of people from poker, but this year i was finally starting to feel like i had a bit of a community going on.

thursday june 30 – sunday july 3 :: WSOP adventures

on thursday i packed up groupie headquarters from the lavish Palazzo and relocated to the Rio. the rooms were way not as nice, and this was made even more painful by the fact that because of weekend rates i was paying twice as much for my room (not sure why they think they can call it a “suite” just because they dump a couch in there; it was the size of any regular hotel room) at the Rio than for my very decadent Palazzo suite. but i didn’t care too much – i wasn’t there to hang out in my room!

i got situated and went downstairs to meet up with rob who was hanging out for the TD convention, and we walked around a bit and checked out what was going on in the Rio. we stopped by to rail my former coach alex in an omaha8 event and ran into a bunch of awesome kids i’ve talked to on twitter including marie-lizette and writer jen! after some socializing i moseyed over to the registration window to register for the ladies event the next day, and then headed for one of my favorite vegas destinations – the hooker bar – for some champagne and video poker while i figured out the rest of my evening.

i knew there was a TWSS (the girls twoplustwo forum) meet-up happening at the cosmopolitan, a fashionable new hotel on the strip, and i was eager to meet up with katie and jen shahade and some of the other fine females i’d been conversing with on the internets. it sounded like it was going to be a ton of fun – but that was kind of the problem. i know myself too well, and i know that once i get to a party with a bunch of fun people and drinks aplenty, there’s no going back. i was going to be playing my first ever WSOP tournament the next day, and i couldn’t risk having a hangover for it!

in the rio hallway i ran into marie-lizette, who reminded me that there was a pokerati game ($1/2 NLHE and PLO mix) going on at the palms casino that night.

the palms is right across the street from the rio, so walking over there and chilling in the cash game for a little while seemed like a good low-key plan. the palms poker room was a tad more confined and underwhelming (er like 8 tables??) than i expected, and they only had one snotty waitress who came around maybe every 45 minutes, which was kind of irritating. but the table was a lively bunch which made the game a really good time, and i’d never played live PLO before so that was exciting. i stayed for a couple hours before heading back to rest up for the ladies event.

friday july 1 :: WSOP ladies event

thanks to my non-getting-drunk smarts, i woke up refreshed and ready to tackle the ladies event. i got some coffee and some breakfast and mentally prepared myself for what would be my first WSOP event ever! i thought i would be more nervous, but since i’d already played one of the dailies at the Rio and had hung out for a couple days walking around the tournament area, i felt calm, relaxed, and ready to grind. i always underestimate the time it takes to walk through a casino, and i found myself a couple minutes late for the 12pm start time and rushing in a panic through the casino floor and down the seemingly-neverending hallway that leads to the tournament area. on my way to my seat i ran into mariana, a friend from college who had come to town with her family and was also playing the ladies event. i was indeed a few minutes late, but luckily i had nothing to worry about – there was some kind of nonsense presentation on stage and then lots of music over the loudspeaker and a “flash mob” …yeah. so the tournament was delayed for a good half hour and i was there in plenty of time.

my table seemed like a very good one at first glance. there were four or five older ladies to my left, and a couple of french girls to my right. i figured that they would be the opponents who would give me the most trouble so i was happy to have position on them! one of the french gals was spazzing and dancing around to the “flash mob” and everyone seemed to be in a really good mood. despite all the cheesy intro stuff i do love the vibe at ladies’ events. they are much more friendly and less serious than in regular tournaments. of course, there were a dozen or so dbag guys who decided they were going to crash the party, and whenever one was eliminated the whole room would erupt in cheers and applause.

the BS justifications that some guys have for playing this event are just so ridiculous that it barely even merits arguing about, but since this was my first year playing the WSOP ladies event i feel i should have an obligatory blog rant about it. these guys want to play a soft event, plain and fucking simple. they aren’t doing it for the “principle” or because it’s “unfair” that women get their own event. they are doing it because the average player in a ladies event is far less skilled or experienced than the average player in a regular bracelet event. i would estimate that for at least 90% of the participants, the ladies event was the only tournament they would be playing at the WSOP, and for the majority of them probably the only tournament they would be playing all year (aside from maybe some other ladies events). there are just far fewer female pros than there are male pros, and everyone knows it.

but do you want to know why ladies do (and should) get their own event? i’ve heard varying estimates that women made up between 3 and 5% of the entrant pool this summer in mixed events at the WSOP. that is downright fucking absurd. some women (the obnoxious annie duke comes to mind in particular) like to argue that there shouldn’t be ladies events because “women are just as good as men” and “should be able to compete on a level playing field.” well i agree with both those things, so what is the explanation for why the fuck there aren’t more women playing poker? obviously, women have historically been oppressed in the majority of world cultures. we have made great strides in the last half-century with regard to equal work and education opportunities. when my grandmother got her ph.d. in the 1950’s she was one of the only women in her department. nowadays, more women are going to college than men! so why is there still this massive inequality in the poker world?

i will tell you the reason. the poker world is one of the last bastions of unadulterated, unabashed misogyny. mosey over to any twoplustwo forum and be prepared for animated .gif avatars of gyrating girls in thongs, and random “NSFW” photos of random slutty chicks in bikinis popping up in any random thread. expect to see more comments about melanie weisner’s boobs than her poker skills. when you turn on a WPT broadcast, expect to see more models paid to stand around in skimpy strapless dresses and stilettos than there are female players in the tournament. poker culture delights in objectifying women to an extent that it would be very hard to match in any other industry. because of this pervasive attitude, i’d estimate that playing live poker is about 2-3x more work for a woman than it is for your average male player, because of all the unwanted attention you have to deal with at the table and in casinos in general. every time i enter the card room i am met with “hey baby”s and “what’s goin on little mama”s and most recently, “oooh there she blows!” (er i think i’m offended, but what does that even mean)?

there is no way guys have any idea of the bullshit we put up with on a regular basis simply to play this game. a savvy player will figure out ways use it to her advantage, and adapt to the guy who thinks he can bully you and push you off hands because you’re a girl, or the guy who thinks you always have the nuts because girls are tight, or the guy with a pocket full of roofies who is scheming to buy you a drink. i do think being female is an asset in poker, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still annoying. in my opinion it is best to keep a jolly atmosphere at the table because it keeps the game looser and people aren’t as upset to lose money or keep buying in. i’m friendly with the fish who flirt with me at the table because i want them to play pots with me and give me their money, but then i risk getting followed to the parking lot and getting asked for my number.

if you are a guy reading this and thinking “oh, rough life, guys think you’re hot and want to flirt with you, must be nice” please consider this thought experiment. think about when you sit down at a table, and there’s always one really annoying guy who keeps yammering on about random shit and won’t shut the fuck up. now imagine that every time you sit down at a table, that really annoying guy ESPECIALLY wants to talk to YOU. doesn’t matter if you have a hoodie on. doesn’t matter if you have your headphones on. you are always the target for the most annoying people at the table. or imagine there’s some ugly skank who wants to get all up on your jock whenever you see her, and you have to go out of your way to avoid her. now imagine that every time you go to play poker, you are sitting down to a table with 8 ugly skanks who want to get all up on your jock, who are constantly making comments about you and trying to chat you up. would that be fun for you?

it takes a really strong woman to be able to deal with this shit, and in my opinion that is the reason more ladies don’t play poker. the vast vast majority of women who play ladies events would likely not even consider playing in a mixed event. the chauvinistic environment and the lack of any real effort on the part of male poker players to fucking step into this century is the reason that women deserve their own event. women are already disrespected thoroughly in poker; please don’t add insult to injury by trying to infiltrate our events under the guise of “fairness” or “equality.”

anyway end rant, back to the tournament! the overall level of play was certainly higher than in ladies events i’ve played previously, but the table was playing pretty much as i’d anticipated, with the euro girls playing aggressively and the older women checking and calling a lot. i chipped up playing actively and winning small pots in the first level, but had to raise/fold a couple times as people eventually started playing back at me and 3betting. i tightened up a bit and didn’t play many hands in the second level, and everything was going smooth until just before the first break. i was sitting on just under my starting stack of 3k chips, which was about to become 30bb at 50/100 so i knew i had some work to do when we returned from break. they announced the break over the speaker with about :20 left on the clock and everyone began to gather their stuff to get up from the table, but the dealer, who’d been in the midst of shuffling, said “wait guys, we can get in one more hand!” dun dun dun….

it folded quickly around to me in middle position as everyone was ready to get to the break, and i looked down at AK of diamonds, pretty nice hand. i felt like i probably wouldn’t get action because of the break, but when i opened i got called by two of the older ladies, one to my direct left and one in the big blind. the flop was AKx with two spades (the ace and whatever the other card was. yeah i’m pretty sure you’ve already figured out what’s gonna happen here). but looked like an awesome flop obviously, and even awesomer that the big blind donked right out into the pot. i went ahead and raised because of the flush draw, got flatted by the lady to my left, and the big blind folded. at this point i probably had about 1.5x the pot left in my stack, and the turn of course is another spade but i just don’t think there’s any way i’m ever folding. so you guessed it – i bet, get raised all in and call off vs KJ of spades and don’t boat up. sigh. i was pretty sure she had a value hand since why would she be bluffing, but i knew i had outs if she did have me beat. i did consider checking the turn and seeing what she did, but i didn’t want to give a free card to a lone spade, and anyway i just didn’t think i was folding there no matter what she did, so yeah. two ladies events, two ugly 2-pair hands i couldn’t get away from to send me out the door.

my friend mariana had also busted from the event, so we went over to check out the free slippers. here are my “1K slippers” as she termed them!

we walked around for a little while, and snapped a fan photo with poker legend doyle brunson in the hallway.

i was still feeling pretty juiced up from the ladies event, so i went ahead and registered for the daily deepstack at the rio. it was uneventful; played for a while, went kinda deep but no cash as usual. i busted just around dinnertime and was starving and not too interested in the food options in the poker kitchen, so i wandered around and found a pretty nice steakhouse on the 50th floor of the rio. i got a salad and a nice espresso martini to drown my sorrows, and included was some bread and possibly the healthiest portion of butter i’ve ever seen:

mariana was also playing the deepstack and busted a little while after me, so we met up later for some drinks and gossip. we railed whatever final table was going on in the thunderdome for a while, but railing in the thunderdome really sucks; you can’t see anything that’s going on and the announcers do a horrible job of calling the action. i did get to meet poker photographer and twitter legend BJ nemeth who was snapping pics in the thunderdome, and i also got to say hi to matt matros who was going deep in the mixed limit/no-limit event. matt and i have been playing boggle (it’s a word nerd thing) online for a while on facebook and have some mutual friends, so it was awesome to finally meet! i believe this is at the final 2 or 3 tables.

so a really fun day all in all, despite bricking both my tournaments (and indeed, all the tourns i’d played up until that point). playing the ladies event was an awesome experience and i was really happy i was able to sell enough action to make it possible. i think i was more disappointed that i didn’t come through for my investors than for my own sake, but i have no regrets about playing and will almost certainly play it again next summer if i have the opportunity.

saturday july 2 :: the final failure

on saturday i played the deepstack again, and unsurprisingly played for 6 or 7 hours and fell short of the money once again. nothing interesting to report, and being pretty experienced with bricking live tournaments at this point it didn’t faze me too much. also, matt matros was now at the final table of his event so i got to go rail in the godforsaken thunderdome again! whilst railing i also met some of his fun buddies including lana o’brien and action bob, who also plays the boggle. in keeping with the theme, yet another word game fan and poker sicko nick abou risk turned up to rail as well. despite how hard it was to follow the action at the final table, it was a pretty exciting night because matt won! bracelet #2, such a badass!

we met up with him later on to celebrate at a tapas bar with a bunch of people. so fun!!

so, that was my vegas trip. it’s kind of odd, but the whole experience dramatically increased my confidence in my game despite not cashing in anything. i think i got a good handle on what the tournaments and the structures and the level of play are like. and also just the experience of playing at the WSOP and actually being able to hang made me feel optimistic that i will eventually have some live success.

unfortunately though, the vegas trip was a pretty big “shot” for me to take, and it did not pan out as i was hoping as far as results. as i said i have absolutely no regrets and had an amazing time, but since the trip was exceedingly unprofitable, i was left with very few poker-playing options when i returned. in my next blog i’ll update you about what i’ve been doing post-WSOP!

xoxo thegroupie

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vegas report!

i went to las vegas between june 24 and july 3, and i had an incredible time. i will do my best to document the whole trip!

when i first planned this excursion, i’d been fixing to stay less than a week. i had my room covered for the first three nights, when i’d be partying with my friends from the east coast. i booked another room on my own from june 27-30, and i planned to play three $200-350ish tournaments – there were a variety of events going on at the venetian, rio, and binions. i mentioned a couple entries ago that i was very torn on whether to sell action for a package that would include the $1k WSOP ladies event, and eventually came to the conclusion that i was not going to do that. but – ! – after writing my last entry i went off to the card club for some tequila-fueled birthday antics, and ended up +$1300.. largest single-session score yet! in the two weeks leading up to my vegas trip, i was now up nearly $3000 in live cash games, and feeling great about poker.

thanks to this little pad to my bankroll, and some mentorly encouragement from mentor shane and a couple of other pro friends, i decided i was going to go for it – i was going to stay for the ladies event on july 1! playing a WSOP event this year has been a goal of mine ever since i got a brief look at the scene when i hit up vegas last year, and it just seemed ridiculous to go there and NOT play the one tournament that i wanted to play the most. it would still have been inadvisable to buy into a $1k tournament myself, but i had a couple friends who’d expressed interest in buying pieces if i decided to play that event. i felt reasonably confident that i could sell enough action to people who i knew and trusted, and could avoid dealing with internet randos and sleazebags. i extended my reservations in vegas and booked a room at the rio through july 3. off we were!

june 24 – 26 : birthday bash

although one of my motivations (er.. justifications) for going to vegas was to celebrate my own birthday, the party was not orchestrated for me, but a friend’s step-mom. the family is very wealthy and organized a lavish weekend-long birthday blowout in vegas, and i was lucky enough to be invited and partake in the abundance. when i arrived at mccarren airport in the early evening, i met up with my friend nadia who had flown in around the same time, and we found that a car service had been arranged to pick us up! i come from a family of coupon-cutters and discount-outlet bargain hunters, so it was cool to experience some ridiculous rich-people shit. first time i’ve had a driver holding a sign with my name at the airport, pretty cool.

our first item on the agenda was a dinner party at SW steakhouse at the wynn. me & nadia outside on the patio:

we were standing in front of this lagoon/waterfall thing, which later featured a gigantic animated robot frog that sang old crooner songs. it was awesome in that “wtf is this”/” errr seriously.. WTF?!?”/”only in vegas” kind of way.

there was of course champagne. a lot of very good champagne!

i have a weird relationship with red meat. i don’t eat it much, but i will have a steak once every 4-6 months or so, and it will be fucking amazing. this one did not disappoint:

my friends were jetlagged and decided to call it a night after dinner, so i went to check out what was happening in the wynn poker room. i was surprised when i found it was rather small and quiet; for some reason i’d envisioned a boisterous high-roller kind of environment. it was around midnight on a friday and it took a while to get my $1/3 seat, which was part of a new table they opened up. as soon as i got to the table i knew it wasn’t going to be a good one – all young males who seemed like solid players ready to grind. one guy already had earphones on and his nose in some poker magazine. no tourists, drunk people, short-buyers, or anyone who looked fishy. i probably should have table changed, but the guy next to me was cute and i was pretty buzzed from several hours of unlimited wine and champagne. i donated a buy-in to the table before i wisely called it a night :P

the next day we hung around for most of the day in a set of cabanas that had been reserved at the encore beach club.

drinking champagne in the pool is always decadent!

at night there was a huge ridiculous party at a private ballroom in the wynn, complete with everything from a karaoke room and temporary tattoo artists, to a red hot chili peppers cover band (yes rly), go-go dancers, and of course lots of great food and drinks.

and cat masks.. obv

i believe we are in the midst of a very horrible rendition of “hungry like the wolf” here.

show me the way to the next whiskey bar….

the dance party lasted through the wee hours of the morning.

so that was all super crazy fun, and i was happy to get some vegas debauchery in before it was time to get to work!

monday, june 27 : poker begins!

partying is great, but i was excited to get down to business and start playing some tournaments. i’d been thinking about playing the ladies event at binion’s, but decided it would be more fun to head over to the rio where all the action was going on!

i registered for the $235 deepstack tournament at 2pm. these were running daily and had a decent enough structure, at least in the early levels. starting stack of 15,000 chips.. my first stack of official WSOP chips of the summer :)

i was a little nervous at the beginning of this tournament. it was my first time playing at the rio, and it was slighly intimidating taking my seat in the giant bustling amazon room. i had heard that the fields in these dailies were soft, but my starting table seemed rather solid, which was kind of annoying. what was with all these capable opponents i was running into?! two guys next to me immediately started talking black friday/internet stuff, and once play started there didn’t seem to be anyone playing obviously weak or bad. one guy, however, was a little spazzy and liked to bluff people and show it, and i ended up busting in a hand with him just before the first break. i had KJ on a K55 board in a limped pot, and i probably normally wouldn’t go broke there, but my opponent seemed like the type who might enjoy going a little apeshit on a paired board. i was last to act during the multi-way hand and i bet after it was checked around to me, and spaz guy checkraised it. when it folded back to me i studied him a little and started a bit of my trying-to-get-a-read line of questioning – “you really have that 5, huh?” dude gave me a very chatty “i’m in the big blind, of course i have the 5. you should fold. save your money” speech. it wasn’t that i thought i had a sick read that he absolutely didn’t have the 5, but i did know that this particular opponent could have a lot of bluffs in his range, and i also thought that given i’d bet when it was checked around to me in position, he could potentially be going for a checkraise with a weaker K or maybe even a random small pocket pair. anyway, the reverse-reverse spiel worked and he had it, oh well!

as i was getting up one of the other players asked if i was going to re-enter, which i wasn’t aware that you could do. players could in fact re-register and hop back in with the starting stack at any time before the end of the first break! i thought about it, as with 15k i’d have 37.5bb going to the 200/400 level after the break, but i was feeling sheepish and annoyed with myself for not finding a fold in that last hand. i decided not to re-enter, and just chill and hang around the rio for the afternoon. the 10k 6-max event was going on, so i went to rail shane & my new friend (and recent bracelet winner!) andy frankenberger with my trusty vegas tour guide (and recent HPT champ!) veerob. rob’s friend lon liked my glasses (upside down).

yes, i wear sunglasses when i play poker. yes, i’m an asshole. when i first started playing live i think it did make me feel more comfortable, since i was afraid of giving off tells. after playing live for around a year now, i feel pretty confident i am not giving away information with my eye movements or facial expressions, but i still do wear my sunglasses – mostly because it is convenient! they are prescription and i can’t wear contacts for long periods of time because my eyes get super dry. and my regular eyeglasses are too dorky and not badass-looking enough for poker. so there you have it. i know some people think it’s super douchy to wear sunglasses at the table, and some people DO wear super douchy looking sunglasses, but i like mine okay.

anyway! at the rio i also met a bunch of cool poker media peeps i’ve been following for awhile, including f-train, jay newnum, and michele lewis! my friend mariko from LA was in town and she came to meet me at the rio. we did some railing and hanging out. mariko and lon had similar shoes, which i thought was cute:

we did some more railbirding and then called it a night!!

tuesday, june 28 : venetian deepstack

i was super excited to play my first $350 venetian deepstack. i like the layout and vibe of the venetian poker room and tournament area, and i felt the structure was better than the rio deepstack structure. once play started i found i also had a much better starting table than i had at the rio the day before. there were a couple of very spewy guys at the table, including a german guy on my direct right who was playing almost every hand, and had amassed a ginormous stack by using the strategy of Never Folding Ever. i was comfortable at this table and felt i had good reads on most of the players, and was ready to take advantage of spots. however, i got into a couple really annoying hands where i had to fold after putting in a lot of chips, and to add insult to injury my beautiful table broke just as i’d been knocked down to around 20bb.

though i was displeased about my spewtastic table breaking, it was a pleasant surprise to find new friend lon at my new table. it was a pretty good table as well and i lasted a couple more levels chipping up and maintaining my stack, but eventually got in reshipping 20ish bb with AQ over a supremely bad player’s opening raise. he called with KJ and got there :\ as it happened, new friend lon busted shortly after i did, and we went out to the pool area, where there happened to be $10 blackjack tables. we decided to sit with $100 apiece and play some just for kicks. when i’d been hanging with the birthday party crew over the weekend, we’d had a few conversations with a guy who was a professional blackjack player and had written two books on it, so i was semi-apprised of appropriate blackjack strategy. blackjack is still a luck game more than a skill game, but for some reason lon and i crushed the shit out of it, and within an hour we had each doubled our buy-in and made $100 in profit. how about that?!

i can see how people get addicted to (or at least, tempted by) luck-based pit games. it’s no work, all you have to do is hit that card you need or roll the right number, and you double your money for basically zero effort. in a cash game it could take hours to double your buy-in; in a tournament, it could take days. when you win money in casino games, it feels stupidly easy and fun compared to poker. we bounced around the casino floor at the venetian all afternoon and played some craps and roulette, and surprisingly broke even on those games. but got free drinks the whole time which is cool. we even fucked around at some $4/8 HORSE for a bit. though i’d recently attended a $.50/1 mixed-game home game, and though i’ve sat a few times at the omaha-8 table at my local card club, i’d never played HORSE in a casino before, so that was another new experience for me. i pretty much suck at all stud games and hate them (though for some reason i hate razz less than the other two), and spewed a bunch before getting back to even when i scooped a big 3-way pot in trusty old omaha-8.

i also got a chance to take a spin at the limit hold-em heads up machine, which turned out to be boatloads of fun. i was skeptical at first as i find limit HE pretty tedious and and i’m not that familiar with the strategy (especially for preflop heads-up action – i.e. what ranges to raise, call, 3-bet; when to fold, if ever). postflop i felt pretty good about my decision making, since it mostly revolves around looking at your pot odds just as in no limit. i believe the machine employs a few different types of strategies or “personalities” and switches between them at random, and we definitely caught him in monkey mode. he loved to checkraise with complete air – i’d say probably c/r’ed over 50% of flops from out of position. it was impossible to make him fold at any point before the turn without putting in 3 or 4 bets; i don’t think he folded one flop, and would bluff raise frequently, and even called me down once with K hi on the river. one cool feature was that you could always press a button to see the machine’s cards at the end of a hand, even if you had folded, so you never felt obligated to call bets solely for information. overall i think we won around $20 playing at .25/.50. i found it really entertaining to play against a bot, especially with the ridiculous and tricky (but often spewy!) plays it was making. i would love it if they could get these machines in california card rooms!

to be continued..

so last night i think i fucked up and accidentally hit “publish” on this too soon, and since it’s getting long i think i’m gonna go ahead and put it up now, and post another entry for the remainder of my trip june 29 – july 3. part II will include: the venetian ladies event, the WSOP ladies event, assorted rio & palms adventures, and very likely a lot more name-dropping because i met way too many cool people. stay tuned!!!

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nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years

greetings readers. tomorrow is my birthday, so tonight seemed like a good time to try to impose some order on the pile of disarray my life has become. it’s been another several weeks of turmoil and uncertainty, but in the last few days i’ve been more hopeful that there will be some kind of happy ending in store (cue dirty joke).

at the time of my last update, i was still waiting to see whether it looked like full tilt would return player funds by the end of the summer. however, after phil ivey came out with a scathing denouncement of the site a few days later, i knew there was no chance of that happening. until that point, i kept telling myself to just be patient a few more weeks for full tilt to get their shit together – all i needed was to get my online bankroll, and then i could use it to make a fresh start playing live. but when it became apparent that they do not actually have the money, and that i will not see my funds ANY time soon, or possibly ever, my financial reality became too bleak to ignore. i’d squandered all the profits i’d made playing live up until then, and was left with only a few months’ living expenses, and i knew it was too dangerous to try to use that money for a live bankroll.

it seemed delusional to think i could somehow continue with poker under those circumstances. i couldn’t play online anymore, and i had no bankroll for playing live. at that point i made the decision to abandon the idea of playing poker professionally. i gave up.

it was the worst feeling i’ve had in a long long time. it felt like the tenuous strings that were holding me together emotionally frayed and broke apart, for real, and for good. i was transported back to the despair i felt just after i finished my ph.d., to the feeling of being stuck in some horrible limbo state with a fancy – but mostly useless – degree, and no idea what to do with my life. from late may to early june i spent a couple “lost” weeks being drunk out of my mind and doing stuff i mostly don’t remember. once i got it together a little bit, i spent another few days aimlessly applying to temp agencies and random office jobs on craigslist to no avail (i have yet to hear back from any of them).

i was still playing online on carbon just for kicks; i’d won a $3 rebuy tournament for $1300 in mid-may, and that was helpful in reassuring me i can at least still play poker. however, with the current state of online poker and the merge network in particular, i am skeptical i will ever see that money. after that score i requested a check withdrawal from carbon (conveniently they offer no visa, bank wire, or electronic withdrawal options for US players), and it has been “pending approval” for at least a month now. on twoplustwo forums i read that checks take 4-6 weeks, and many of them bounce upon arrival, soo.. great. anyway, i’ve been continuing to fuck around on there and in the beginning of june i had a $700 score for a 2nd place finish in another MTT, so that felt good as well. again, i have absurdly minimal expectations of ever successfully withdrawing that money, but it’s nice to be able to play online, even if it’s just to keep my skills sharp.

the world series in las vegas kicked off in the beginning of june, and of course i’ve been jealous out of my mind reading updates from all the pro players on twitter, obsessively keeping up with the reporting on pokernews as all the tournaments progress, and watching most of the final table live streams on the WSOP website. once upon a time i’d hoped i’d be there too, but after my “retirement” i had fully resigned myself to the fact that i wouldn’t be going to vegas this summer.

but then.. ! a fortuitous occurrence!

one of my best friends ever in the entire world from back east texted me, saying that she would be in vegas the weekend of the 24th, that her boyfriend’s mom was throwing some big ritzy party at the encore, and that they had reserved a room for me there! so of course, this got the wheels rolling in my mischievous head. i’d already worked up a schedule of events for late june back when i was thinking of selling action for a package, so i knew there were a few tournaments around that time. there were ladies’ events at binions and at the venetian, along with the usual deepstack schedule there, not to mention this daily deepstack thing at the rio, low buy-in nightlies at aria, and of course juicy cash games everywhere..! basically, everything i could ever want poker-wise, and more, is happening :)

as you can imagine, i didn’t need too much convincing to book a flight to vegas. my own birthday is june 22, and while i’d envisioned some exciting plans involving a bottle of cheap prosecco, my cat, and some talking heads records, obviously i couldn’t say no to a free room in vegas and a chance to celebrate with friends i’ve been dying to see for months. however, i realized that if i was going to be partying with my friends all weekend, there would not be much time for poker. so, ill-advised or not, i decided to go ahead and make a little trip of it, and booked another room through thursday the 30th so i’d have time to play some small buy-in tournaments and maybe get my groupie on at the world series.

after this glimmer of hope about vegas had been restored, i think it gave me peace of mind in some perverse way. it didn’t change anything about my dismal financial situation, but it was like this absurd and irrational assurance that things were all going to be okay again. for the first time in weeks i started feeling motivated about life in general, and i started having the strong desire to play live. i knew it was not sensible to put money that i needed at risk, but i just had this resurgence of confidence and sense of well-being, that this is what i was supposed to be doing. all it took was the idea of potentially going to vegas this summer, to somehow make things right again in my fucked-up world.

i took a trip to a casino i’d never been to, about half an hour north, and within two hours i’d turned my $200 buy-in into $700. it was one of the first winning sessions i’ve had since black friday. my spirits up, i then went over to my usual card club, and turned another $500 profit there. in a few hours, i had made $1k! so that was awesome, and after some really awful sessions just after black friday, the last couple weeks have been huge in restoring my faith in my live game. since that night i’ve played a few more times, at a couple of home games and down at bay101, and i’ve had winning sessions every time! i’m so happy about that – i’ve got a little vegas fund going now, and i’m hoping i can grow it further in the next few days before i head out there.

so now i’ve got approximately three hours until the clock strikes BIRTHDAY. i’m going to finish my champagne and head over to the card club to hopefully continue the winning. i am so ridiculously excited about going to vegas on friday! and even though i’m aware that there isn’t a great likelihood i will win a lot of money (or any money), i’m just so glad for the chance to get out there, and i’m looking forward to meeting lots of people and just being part of things in my mostly sad groupie capacity.

off to the tables, wish me luck, though hopefully i won’t need it!!! ;)
xoxox thegroupie

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pick up the pieces and go home

the last month hasn’t really been going as i’d hoped.

i tried to do the live-pro thing, and basically got massacred every time i sat down at a table. i couldn’t figure out why it was, that in the same games where i usually turned a nice profit every time i played, i just couldn’t seem to have a winning session after black friday. i’ve been playing live with winning results consistently since last july or so, but somehow it just evaporated. and it was not in any way due to an influx of internet players – i’d see a new face here and there, but it’s not like a bunch of online ballers were coming in and dominating my local card rooms. it was 95% the same donks, donk regs, and degens as usual. there was no reason why i shouldn’t be taking a few hundred dollars off them every night as usual. but after black friday something was different.

it took me a little while to realize – i was what was different. in the last couple weeks i did take a bunch of legitimately disgusting beats for buy-in after buy-in that i won’t bore you with the details of. but instead of say, quitting after dropping two buy-ins to gross suckouts, i’d buy in again. and order another drink. and start looking for spots to gamble and get even, start trying to bluff in spots where i should know a live donk will never fold his bottom pair or gutshot, and otherwise unwisely lag it up in attempts to prove that i could own these jokers who kept on getting lucky on me. which of course, wouldn’t happen.

i lost my discipline and i lost my patience. before black friday, i was playing live maybe 2 or 3 times a week at the maximum, and i’d rarely play sessions longer than 4 hours. i’d go on friday or saturday nights, and have some fun with it. playing live used to be a nice break from grinding online, and it was almost kind of like a treat, as it has generally been the maximum extent of my social activity in 2011. if i took a frustrating beat or was otherwise annoyed with the table, i’d just go home and fire up some super turbos or hop into a succulent multi-entry crackhead omaha.

after black friday i didn’t have a choice anymore. it was either the annoying table where i kept getting sucked out on, or the other annoying table that i took care not to sit at in the first place – or go home annoyed and stuck. which is almost always the most prudent course of action in this situation. but that requires patience and discipline, and as i mentioned, those are skills that seem to elude me at present.

it wasn’t a conscious thing at all, but i think now i realize that once live poker became a “job” rather than a friday night diversion, i started to just NOT enjoy it. i don’t want to be a live cash pro. i don’t want to spend every day interacting with smelly depressing men, being leered at constantly, listening to the same goddamn playlist over and over on my iphone because i’m too lazy to make a new one that will play long enough for a long poker session, obsessively rubbing hand sanitizer on my hands every ten minutes, scanning the casino menu for the umpteenth time trying to find something safe (forget healthy) to order besides french fries or grilled cheese.

i now realize just how much of the appeal of playing poker was being able to work from home the majority of the time, in a clean environment that i like, with all my music and food and a comfortable chair and no one fucking bothering me. i just wish things could go back to the way they were, because i still love poker, and still like it much better than any other activity one can make money at (yah, i’m pretty sure you can’t get paid to drink champagne, and having sex for money is kind of a no-no). and i don’t dislike playing live, i quite enjoy it when i have the hankering to play live. but the past month has taught me that i do not have the capability to make a career of playing live cash – at least at the stakes i can afford at present.

so now i am faced with some depressing decisions in the face of the looming WSOP and tournament-packed summer in las vegas. i was hoping to run up some money playing live and have a little cushion to allow me to play some tournaments this summer. instead i spewed all my money, and basically cannot play any more live poker until i get my online bankroll back from full tilt. this means that until full tilt releases player funds, i won’t be making any plans to go to vegas. a couple people have asked me: why not just sell most or all your action, so you can at least play some tournaments and get some WSOP experience? the answer to that is mostly personal rather than financial. for the last few weeks i’ve been going back and forth on making a package of events (venetian deepstack tournaments and the WSOP ladies event in particular) to sell action on, and i did receive more interest than i expected, from a few investors. i want more than anything to be able to go to vegas this summer and play some stuff, but it may not be realistic given how i like to do things.

i think it is quite feasible i could sell enough action to play the tournaments i want to play if i don’t get my money from online in time. but if i am going to be backed, i want to be backed by people i trust, by people who know me, who understand the way i think, and who have faith in my game and my abilities. i don’t want to have to sell 1% and 2% pieces to random people who i feel i have to prove myself to, and deal with a bunch of paypal transactions or run all over vegas trying to meet up with a slew of creepy forum dudes to collect the buy-ins. one of the things i like best about poker is that i can do it on my own terms, and not have to answer to anyone. i suspect that having to sell myself to potential backers might completely negate that aspect of things. i’d continually be having to explain myself, to justify to them why i was worth their investment. i spent six years in graduate school doing that – having to prove my worth compared to other people, having to beg professors for research funding or apply to assorted institutions for grants, feeling like i was never good enough, never competitive enough, never deserving enough.

in poker i answer only to myself, and i like it that way. i understand that i have done things the hard way by trying to build a bankroll on my own, moving my way up through micro and low-stakes games. i know it might seem ridiculous in this day and age to try to be like durrrr and deposit $50 and never look back. but that’s what i’ve done, and it’s worked for me so far. i know it would be “smarter” to exaggerate my credentials and find some sleazy backer who will stake me for whatever i want to play, run a debt up to 20 or 40K in buy ins for “real” tournaments before i randomly bink something, and then instantly “become” somebody. but that’s not the way i do things.

so the plan for now is, for full tilt to give everyone back their money before late june (pls? whee!!) and for me to go out to vegas and play some nice juicy stuff on my own mini-roll. and of course bink and instantly “become” somebody :) but i am pretty certain i’m not going to make any kind of schedule or sell shares on a public forum in advance. it may be stubborn, but i am determined to do things right, and whether it’s advisable or not, that means playing most tournaments on my own dime. however, if and when i do figure out what events i’m playing, i’d certainly be interested in selling a percentage or two to people i know personally (or internet-ly). if you want to get in on it, you can let me know either here, on twitter, or via email (thegroupie@thegroupie.com).

hopefully full tilt will hurry the fuck up and sort themselves out, and i’ll be seeing you in vegas in a month or so :)

xo thegroupie

Posted in poker | 3 Comments

april is the cruellest month

it’s been a week since black friday. if you don’t know what that means, you should probably stop reading this blog. i’m no longer in a state of active despair and panic, but i think i’m still half in shock. a week ago i was grinding along on my merry way, and i had never felt better about my poker game, never more confident, never more focused. everything seemed to be coming together. i was doing well live, and since that 2k score a couple weeks ago i was continuing to have consistent results online, building up momentum in the right direction. it felt like 2011 was going to be my year. i had never been more certain that i was on the right path, and never more excited about my future.

and then – just like that – i woke up one day and it was gone. now i find myself surveying the wasteland of my former optimism, wading through the wreckage to see if i can find anything from which to rebuild.

after the initial shock, a lot of the players who have been around for awhile seem to have adopted the attitude of “well, we knew this was going to happen eventually. it didn’t happen the way we wanted, but now we’ll finally get a regulated system in place, let’s suck it up and do other stuff in the meantime while we wait for online poker to come back.” this is a pragmatic and sensible viewpoint. it’s also a viewpoint that is easier to have when (a) you have saved up lots of money to live on; (b) you already have a large bankroll and/or a staking arrangement to play live events; (c) you have already attained some success, respect, and a generally secure footing in the community.

i have none of those things. i was just beginning to lay the foundation for those things. for an established player it might not be a big deal to take a break from playing online for a few months (or even a few years) while the politicians, casino conglomerates, and indian gaming interests hash it out for their share of the future government-regulated online poker market. for someone just starting out, it is the worst disaster possible. i’ve spent over a year nurturing the beginnings of a career in poker, starting from nothing and painstakingly building it brick by brick, doing it completely on my own. no bankroll, no stake, no poker friends, no support system. i was just beginning to figure out the poker world, and now its whole infrastructure has been violently uprooted. and the little piece of it that i’ve been carving out, that i’ve put all my energy into, that i’ve taken all this care to build from scratch, has been toppled right over along with everything else.

my loss is nothing compared to that of a lot of the online grinders who were having really substantial success. i kind of feel like a joke fretting over a few thousand dollars in limbo online and the loss of a budding career, when a lot of people have hundreds of thousands tied up and much more profitable online careers that are now in jeopardy. but in the same way this is probably everything to them, it is also everything to me.

what the fuck shall i do now? try to grind it out on merge and cake and some other half-baked poker sites? it might be a start. i actually started messing around on carbon a couple months ago, and was amazed at how bad the players were compared to the big sites. i got the feeling that was how it was on partypoker back in the poker boom days. but, i got bored with their sparse MTT schedule, and also my HUD doesn’t work properly with their software which makes it a pain to multitable. i’ll probably start playing a little more there given that it’s one of the only remaining sites still allowing US players, but i don’t think that can be a full solution.

say good game, throw in the towel, and find a “real” job? maybe. i’m sure my parents would love that. a week ago it would have been laughable, but i am now faced with the reality that i no longer have any means of online income. live play happens at higher stakes, and i will no longer have the luxury of bankroll management. my plan for now is to try to make it work playing live cash full time, as i am feeling good about my cash game lately. in general it has been more consistent money than playing tournaments, but i don’t know if it is a sustainable long term source of income, and i also don’t know how many live hours i can realistically put in on a weekly basis. right now i enjoy playing live poker – when i feel like playing live poker. i don’t know how much i’d enjoy grinding it out 8 or more hours every day in that environment. plus the games at my local club suck during the day, filled with the nittiest of nit regs and crotchety old retired guys who buy in for $40 and only play a hand when they have aces. i’d probably have to adopt a graveyard shift schedule if i wanted to maximize my profits, and i’m too fucking old to be staying up all night.

the no-bankroll-management part is probably the scariest part though. i’ve been comfortable playing live cash games that are well above what my bankroll should dictate, partly because the players are just so terrible that it’s not extremely high-variance, and partly because i’ve always had my online roll to fall back on. now i guess my whole roll is going to have to be a live roll, and live buy-ins are huge. i have no cushion and no room for error; once i’m busto, i’m busto. so my last resort is to re-enter the white collar workforce, but my plan for now is to do it up live and (hopefully) not go busto.

these fragments i have shored against my ruins; online poker might be gone, but my dream is not. i am going to play live cash until i drop, and play as many live tournaments as my feeble bankroll will allow. i am still as motivated and as confident in my game as ever, and this is the first time i’ve felt like i’m doing what i want to be doing with my life. i can’t bear to give it up.



Posted in poker | 4 Comments

מינוטן פֿון בטחון

in keeping with my theme, that’s yiddish for “moments of confidence.” it is also the title of one of my favorite yiddish songs, written by mordechai gebirtig in 1940, imploring jews in krakow not to give up hope, to be patient and have confidence that things would get better, as their world was being dismantled and destroyed around them. you can listen to a version of the song on that website if you’re so inclined, or you can listen here – i like this version better (mp3).

i actually traveled to krakow and some other places in europe a few years ago, if you’re feeling adventurous you can check out my travel blog from that trip. i meant to link that before since i now have my homepage URL referring directly to this here blog. i like to travel, i haven’t gone anywhere cool recently, but the year after that i went to israel & sweden and then the year after that i spent a summer in belgium, and i keep meaning to organize those pictures in a similar fashion and put them up. so this is my official reminder to myself to do that already. anyway, enough about the long lost days when i used to have a life, we’re here to discuss poker!

as i talked about in my last blog, my online results during the first few months of 2011 were not particularly stellar, and i wasn’t #winning much at all. as my bankroll continued to stagnate, i started getting discouraged, and for the first time in a long time i felt my confidence begin to slip away from me. it was becoming more and more difficult to suppress the nagging fear that i might just not be cut out for this mad poker world. i described in a previous entry how i generally have better results in live cash games when i’m feeling good, and the fact of the matter is, an absolutely critical psychological and emotional element of being a successful player is having confidence in yourself.

poker players always emphasize not being “results-oriented,” meaning that you must focus on the decision-making process rather than the outcome. this is an oversimplified example, but if you get all the money in when you’re a 70% favorite to win a hand, you’re still going to lose that hand the other 30% of the time. and that 30% of the time when you lose all the money in front of you, it sucks. a lot! but you still made the right play. if you continue to make that decision every time you are in a situation where you are a favorite to win, and you play hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands of hands (i recently hit 300,000. groupie milestone!), you make money at poker. that’s the whole point of poker! making the decisions that will result in the maximum expected value over time, regardless of the outcome of one particular instance.

but the problem with this, is that you’re stuck in a position where you have no idea if your lack of immediate results means you’re on a downswing attributable to normal statistical variance, or if you just plain suck and need to get better. and recently i’ve had no discernible evidence to suggest that i have been making progress, but i have had plenty of poor results that could indicate that i might, in fact, suck. rationally i know that i can’t be results-oriented, but those nagging feelings of insecurity about my ability and my potential for future success just kept resurfacing and eating at me, and i think it was beginning to affect my game.

so a couple weeks ago, i was chatting on twitter with shaniac, aka shane schleger, who has been a successful high-stakes tournament pro for many years and recently got a sponsorship as a member of the pokerstars online team. he also has one of the most interesting blogs written by a poker player – it’s not a detailed and minute account of poker hands or situations or strategies, or a pointless regurgitation of what time he woke up for the gym and what he ate for breakfast. i think it’s one of the only blogs i’ve come across that has given me any real insight into what life playing the big high-stakes tournaments might be like. anyway, he had read my blog here and decided it would be fun to make me a “poker protege,” offering to stake me in two sunday tournaments on pokerstars: the sunday storm (which used to be the sunday quarter million; it’s an $11 buy in but now with a whopping $1m guarantee), and the sunday million, which is the canonical high-stakes sunday MTT that all the pros play (and that every noob like me desperately wants to play)! of course i gladly accepted this offer. i don’t play much on pokerstars for a few mostly circumstantial reasons – i’ve built my roll up on full tilt and it’s a pain to transfer funds between sites, and i’ve also got a nice database of hand histories on my full tilt opponents since i’ve played so much there. as much as i’ve disavowed academia, i’m still a scientist at heart, and if there’s one thing about scientists – we love data! i consider it a huge advantage to have prior statistics on my opponents; this can be essential for predicting their behavior and determining how to play against them. but in any case, i don’t have the bankroll yet to play ANY $200 tournaments online, so this was a really exciting opportunity for me. unfortunately i didn’t cash in either tournament, so it was a lame and not very protege-esque performance. i actually got close to making the money in the sunday million, but it was not to be. i got in some weird spots, blah blah, i don’t know if i feel like going into specifics about hands in this entry so i’ll just leave it at that.

anyway that was two sundays ago, and i’m pissed i didn’t take down the sunday million because that would have been cool and stuff, but i think that the simple fact that a legitimate pro who i have an immense amount of respect for would consider me a potentially good/random/interesting investment, even if it’s just for twitter kicks, really revived some of my confidence. part of what i love about poker is how individualistic it is, and how i can set my own goals and standards for success – but for someone who is just starting out, it’s so hard to determine whether i’m actually doing anything right. sometimes you can make all the best decisions and get unlucky and lose hand after hand; sometimes you can be doing everything totally wrong and luckbox your way into a major score. because of this disconnect between skill and results, i feel like i’m not necessarily qualified to judge if what i’m doing is working – i need someone with experience and expertise to tell me if i’m on the right track! but that gets back to another problem that i also described recently: so many poker players think they know everything and are the awesomest fucking thing ever. sometimes it feels like people who are trying to “help” me are really just trying to pad their own egos by pointing out things that they know and i don’t.

as corny as this is going to sound, i think i just needed somebody to believe in me. because a couple days ago.. i finally won a big tournament! it was a dinky $3 buy in, but there were over 5,000 entrants so first place came out to over $2100, making this my new largest online cash by about $100! yay! it was also the first big MTT that i’ve won outright, my other four-figure cashes all having come from third-place finishes or lower. winning is pretty fucking rad :) this has also brought my bankroll to its highest point yet, which is going to allow me to work some more mid-stakes MTTs into my routine.

so yeah. winning! i’m finally feeling good again. this has gone a long long way toward restoring my confidence. perhaps that might be results-oriented thinking, but i’ll take it for now :)


Posted in poker | 2 Comments


(that’s yiddish for spring)! my god it’s almost the end of march. i’ve been in such a poker bubble that it takes me by surprise whenever i pop my head out to check on what’s going on in the real world.

right now i am struggling with some contradictory feelings about poker, in terms of my play and my progress. subjectively, in my own mind, i have the strong sense that i am improving at a rapid rate. it really seems like every day i play poker and watch training videos and rail high stakes games and read pros’ blogs, i learn more and get better. on the other hand, my bankroll online has basically been at a standstill for the last 6 or 8 months. well, not a standstill really – i’ve been playing a lot of volume and it fluctuates quite a bit from day to day – but i haven’t been seeing consistent growth. part of this has to do with shifting my focus to live play for several months, and part of it is certainly attributable to the high-variance nature of playing MTTs. but how big a part of it? how much longer do i essentially need to operate on blind faith that i am going to really win a tournament for $5K or $8K or $20K one of these days? because i NEED TO so i can stop being stuck in this bankroll limbo. i’ll have small losing days and small losing days and then maybe i’ll win $800 or 1K for a 5th or 6th place finish every few weeks. and it just repeats over and over. i’m getting impatient.

when i think about that, i get discouraged. it feels like i’m on a stationary bike, pedaling in place. but then when i think about the bigger picture, it feels like i’ve come insanely far. last march, i decided i would go down to the bay 101 to check out the WPT shooting star. i had been playing micro and low stakes MTTs online for several months and had watched every televised poker event i could get my hands on, but i had never even played in a card room or casino. one year ago, live poker was a completely alien phenomenon to me; even being inside bay101 at all, was intimidating. i recognized all these big time poker players i’d seen on tv shows, and i tried to watch for a couple of hours, but quickly realized that railing a tournament is the most boring thing on the planet. after a beer or two i was on my merry way, and i told myself that the next time i went back there, no way i’d be slumming it on the rail – i’d be playing that tournament!

last week i returned to the bay 101 shooting star, unfortunately not to play (turns out that jumping into 10k events after playing poker for one year was a bit of an ambitious goal, haha), but to say hi to my buddy veerob from vegas who was running the live feed, and meet up with a couple people i’d been chatting with online. just thinking about what it was like to return to that setting, and the enormous strides i have made in the last year, is kind of mind boggling. first of all, i’m not a total random gawker anymore – i actually know some people in the poker world! and i might not be playing WPT events yet, but i’m a real life live poker player now. when i first set foot in bay101 i was nervous and intimidated; i’ve now played there a bunch of times and get excited about popping down every few weeks to take money from silicon valley nerds.

so yeah, i kind of alternate between being disappointed with my lack of progress online, and amazed by my progress as a poker player on the whole. i think one of my problems is i want to do everything all at once, right now. i want to be a great online tournament player and i want to do it while multitabling 10 tables and i also want to be a great live cash player and the most important goal, a great live tournament player. i want all of it!! and i think trying to do it all at once, means it has been slow going. i think if i had focused solely on playing online for the last 6 months, i would have a lot more results there. but then i wouldn’t have all these live skills and live knowledge! so i guess i have to accept that becoming a well-rounded poker player has to be a slow process if i want to do it right, and just have faith that my efforts are going to be rewarded. MTTs are a sick and brutal business and luck is something i can’t control, but i can put myself in the best position i can to capitalize on it when it decides to go my way. one of these days i’m going to win that giant flip at the final two tables. one of these days i’m not going to get 2-outed when we’re down to 5-handed, and i’m going to win the tournament. and the better i play, the more i learn, the more deep runs i will have, the more final tables i will get to, the more chances i will have to acquire that all-important big score. so i’m just going to keep at it online and try to play my best and make good decisions at every point.

live poker has been pretty good to me in the 2011. not live tournaments of course, but live cash games. i seem to win almost every time i play these days. i’m up around $1500 over my last twenty sessions (this is at $1/2 spread-limit). normally those profits would be squandered immediately on live tournament buy-ins, but i’ve banned myself from playing the tournaments at my card club. it pains my MTT-devoted heart to have to do that, but i need to suck it up and admit to myself that tournaments with such abominable structures are not good investments. if i have a skill edge, it is completely negated at the endgame when there is no play left and you literally NEED to luck out with your 8bb average stack at the final two tables. furthermore the buy-ins are too high for my live pseudo-bankroll. it’s just not a good use of my money all around. so i’m saving up my live earnings and using that money for bills and practical stuff, kind of viewing that as my ‘salary’ while i continue to work on my online game.

so what about live tournaments? as i say, i’m off that junk for the moment. i canceled my trip to reno for the ladies event weekend, when i looked closely at the numbers it didn’t seem worth it to eat $400 in travel costs for three tournaments with small buy-ins. the fields don’t get that big in ladies events so i’d pretty much have needed to win one of the tourns just to break even on the trip. plus, the structure sheets weren’t posted anywhere online, so i wasn’t even going to know whether i’d be driving 3-4 hours to play reasonable events or turbo spewfests. there’s a ladies event next sunday at bay101 – the LIPS tour – that i am considering playing, but the structure doesn’t look super great. 10k in starting chips is nice, but 20 minute levels and ginormous antes aren’t; it’s basically like one of my terrible nightlys but with double the starting stack. and it starts at 9:30am which is pretty disgusting, even with the enticement of an 8am players “champagne buffet.” we’ll see if i feel like it; i love ladies events and one with a $300 buyin is going to make for a nice prize pool. i also think there is huge value in getting exposure in live tournaments and making contacts in the poker community. but honestly, that gnarly start time is probably going to dissuade me even more than the questionable structure. i couldn’t even wake up yesterday for the 10am miniFTOPS event.

so i guess i’m putting live tournaments on hold for now, while i save up a roll playing cash games. i think that’s going to be my best course of action. when i’ve got a few more dimes lying around i will return to live tournaments, my one true love..


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girlish pride

this hasn’t been a great week. something has been off with my patience online, and i had a -1 buy in live session on friday which i’m obviously not happy about given that i’ve been mostly winning when i play live cash lately. right now i’m still half fuming from donking myself out of yet another live tournament last night, a few places from the money as usual. i had around 11,00 chips and i believe the blinds had just gone up from 600/1200 to 1000/1500 (lolstructurements) with 18 or so players remaining and 10 spots paying. average stack was around 20,000 give or take (they don’t update this reliably on the tournament screen so i usually just calculate it on my phone). point is, average stack with 18 players left was well under 20bb.

at this stage of the tournament, the final two tables, every nitty old dude with no concept of ICM is simply trying to get into the money and make the final table, where 5, 7, or even 10-way chops are pretty common. only a few things happen at the final 2 tables:

-everyone folds around, walking the big blind.
-the one guy with a giant stack 3x’es it if it’s folded to him, everyone folds.
-someone open shoves, and everyone folds.
-someone open shoves, and someone calls only if they have a very good hand or a giant stack.
-blinds eat everyone. quickly.

with my stack having just gone from a little under 10bb to more like 7bb, i decided to open shove A7o from early-middle position. the guy with the giant stack called with QQ and held.

why am i so tilted about this? it’s a fairly standard play (unless you are chip leader 3 handed at the main event of the WSOP.. in which case you might want to consider not playing A7 vs QQ for all your chips lol. not the same situation obv but i just realized it was the same two hands). any raise was getting folds around the table unless someone woke up with a hand, which is what happened in my case. it’s just unlucky. am i more pissed about getting unlucky, or more pissed that i could have actually raise/folded in this situation? i keep telling myself about to just NOT SHOVE when i have a hand i’m “supposed” to shove but will certainly be a losing hand if i’m called. i keep telling myself to just fucking fold my way to the money one time so i can get this monkey off my back about not having any live cashes.

i could have 2.1-2.3x’ed it with A7 with the intention of folding to a shove (2x raises are a little dicey when you are talking about live regs. even with average stacks of <20bb, they still make a standard raise to 3x. yes they are dumb, but the point is that a raise to 2x the big blind will not get folds often enough. i made the mistake of 2x'ing with 32o into a guy's bb who'd been blinding himself down for hours and had about 5bb, figuring he'd just fold as usual. he looked at his cards, said "hmm - i'm suited!" and defended. luckily for me he check-folded the flop hahaha). but i'm not playing the tournament to mincash. i don't want to fold my way to the final table with 3bb. but, i also don't want to keep not cashing. it's just really really frustrating to NEVER RUN GOOD when i get to the end of one of these tournaments. just someone not waking up with a monster hand every time i shove a marginal one trying to pick up the blinds, would be nice. is that too much to ask?!??! not gonna even bother begging the poker gods to let me get there with a 30/70 hand one time when i'm pretty sure my 80/20s hold up about half the time in live tournaments. anyway, i don't mind my shove i guess, but i mind it a little in this situation because it didn't work out, and it NEVER seems to work out. at this point i am starting to need to be results oriented because i don't have any live tournament results and as i've said before, i can't afford to keep on playing tournaments and not cashing. so i'm feeling bummed and annoyed and generally fed up with poker today. another thing that really tilted me last night, was this middle aged reg who i chatted with last week in the bar area. he had been playing at my cash table on friday, and it was the first time i'd played with him. he doesn't normally play the game i do (1/2 spread limit), i think he is more of a high stakes limit player. anyway for some reason he was playing my game that day, and when i got to the table i could tell he was paying close attention to how i was playing and inspecting my moves, blatantly staring at me the whole time i was involved in hands, etc. it was pretty tilting but i tried to just ignore it. i was relieved when he got up from the table after an hour or so. i still didn't have a good session after that, and maybe that was partly the reason. i have found that my mood is much more dramatically correlated with my success in live cash games than i was first inclined to believe. the night i probably won the most i have ever won in one session (around $1200) was when i found out that my nasty methhead upstairs neighbors were moving out. these people had been stomping around and playing loud music and instruments for months and driving me really crazy. they refused to quiet down even after i involved the landlords, i had to call the police several times, etc. so you can imagine how overjoyed i was when i found out they were leaving. it was really one of the best days of my life. and then i went on to have my largest cash ever in a live game. of course it could be a coincidence. but on the same token, i have also started to notice that when i have losing sessions, it generally occurs when i'm in a bad mood or annoyed by somebody at the table. not necessarily annoyed/frustrated by their play - this DOES happen to me a lot online if i have a good tricky player to my left who will never let me steal their blind, 3bets me a lot, etc. this kind of stuff really doesn't happen a lot at 1/2 cash games. it's just a different situation and people aren't going to be doing those kind of tricky moves to make you frustrated. but often times there is someone who is just plain annoying at the table, who won't shut up or who smells really bad or who is trying to hit on me or who is scarfing a big plate of pork chow mein or buffalo wings right next to me. or in this case, who is staring at me for inappropriate amounts of time. it's fine to look at someone while they are playing. people SHOULD look at people, i look at people, it's good for information. but in a couple of instances, in a couple multi-way pots, this particular guy was staring directly at me while other players were acting, and also after i had already acted. completely ignoring the other people in the pot who were acting. as i say, it made me pretty uncomfortable at the time. so yesterday this guy sees me waiting for the tournament and comes right up to me and goes, "would you like some constructive criticism?" uh.. eyeroll. lemme think. i really had no interest in his opinion on my play - obviously i knew he'd been "evaluating" me at the table and suspected he thought i was playing weak (i was involved in maybe like 2-3 pots while he was at the table and i think i ended up check folding postflop in all cases), but i was like "okay sure." and he starts talking about how i make it too obvious when i'm not going to continue with a hand postflop and he can tell i'm not interested in the pot and etc. actually the main thing i was not interested in was having this creep stare at me for minutes on end, which is probably why i didn't bother contesting any $20 multi-way pots when he was involved and when i didn't have a hand worth contesting a $20 pot with anyway. i mean, it might be valid criticism and i'm certainly going to pay more attention to maintaining a standard posture during hands so as not to give away anything. so i was like "okay. thanks for letting me know, i didn't realize i was doing that. that's good information." and in this super condescending way he is like "yeah. you know, it's just something to think about, if you want to be serious or make any money." and i'm like "umm. i make money in that game." and he's like "..really?" and looks super skeptical. obviously at this point i just want to bitch slap this guy. i could have shown him my stats (which i keep track of using a nifty app for iphone called pokerjournal) or told him to ask any of the spread-limit regs, or any of the dealers for that fucking matter, that i am up a substantial amount in that game and generally win when i play it. but it's not like i had anything to prove to this doucher. i just said, "yes, i'm a consistent winner in that game." and ended it at that. what tilts me so much about this is not that someone was attempting to offer me "constructive criticism." i welcome criticism if it is genuinely constructive, especially if it will help me with my play. what tilts me is this guy, who has never played with me and who does not regularly play the $1/2 spread limit (it's basically the same thing as no-limit except there is a cap of $100 on each bet), thinks he has the RIGHT to come in and criticize my play after watching me for an hour. it's not 30/60 limit holdem where the same eight regs and two props sit there playing mind games and having dick measuring contests. in $1/2 you don't win money by making fancy moves and blowing your opponents off middle pair. you win money by having or making the best hand and getting value on it. for the most part, people aren't trying to fuck with you; they are trying to give you money with a hand that is weaker than yours. occasionally i will make a big play on someone, there's one guy who is always trying to kinda fuck with me at the table - not in a mean way, but just constantly trying to get the better of me i guess. i called one of his raises with 76 and flopped middle pair, i think the board was like J hi rainbow without many reasonable draws. i bet out like 20 or 30 and he raised me 100 on top (the maximum raise). i thought about it, decided he was full of shit, and raised him another 100. he snap folded and i showed my hand (which i sorta thought was a bluff but which might have been the best hand). everyone at the table was like "whaa." that shit i will do, when i know the players and i know they are trying to fuck with me. i also recently moved all in on a guy with complete air after he straddled for $4 and then raised it to $30 or so after 6 or 7 people limped the straddle. there are two kinds of straddlers: a passive straddler who will just check it when people limp in his straddle unless he has a hand, and an aggro straddler who wants to "take control" of the pot, mostly with any 2 cards. i knew this was the type of player who was going to straddle just so he could make a giant raise when everyone limped the straddle. i had limped the button with Q9 after all the limpers, and i flatted preflop after they all folded to his raise. he snap bet $40 on the A hi flop and i could tell he was already ready to bet no matter what the flop was. i moved in for $80 or 90 more and he folded. in tournaments obviously it is necessary to make many creative moves if you want to be successful. in live cash games where i am 100+bb deep at all times and playing against amateurs and card club regs, i only make moves when i have a really good read and have a reason to believe they will be profitable. maybe i have too much pride and just don't like being criticized, but it's something i've noticed people want to do a lot, with me. i don't know if it's just because i'm a girl, or because i'm a relatively new player who is open about just getting started. but a lot of people (i.e. men, though i don't really know any other female players in person) think it's their right to criticize every move i make, whether or not they even understand the particular game i'm playing, and whether or not i've solicited their advice or have any interest in their opinion. poker players are notoriously egotistical, and confidence is certainly something that will contribute to success. but just about every male player i have met thinks he knows drastically more than me, and has all kinds of random advice that he is absolutely certain i should be following, without really understanding any of the other variables. i should be playing more live. i should be playing more online. i should try online cash. i should be playing PLO. i should read this book or watch this video. i should never open X hand from Y position. i'm not saying i know more or am better than any of the armchair "coaches" who want to criticize my play and give me advice. i just don't appreciate being an automatic target for those sentiments. and i do think it has a lot to do with my gender. i want to learn from as many people as i can, but condescending dudes who think they know everything can eat me. /end rant xo

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never let me down again

hello world. what’s been going on so far in the ’11, you ask?

well, january & february i’ve been mostly playing online. full tilt’s double guarantee multi entry week was a huge grind; i was definitely glad i’d spent some weeks leading up to that working on my multitabling, because otherwise i wouldn’t have been able to take full advantage. with my new 32″ monitor i’m comfortable doing 6 tables, but that’s pretty much the limit for my visual attention. my eyes have been hurting a lot lately due to the long hours i’ve been putting in online. for the last two weeks i’ve played pretty much all day every day (anywhere from 8-16 hours). yesterday i was doing my usual sunday grind but almost felt i needed to stop after a few hours because of how much my eyes and head were hurting. i struggled through it, and even managed to go deep in a couple things, but it is way not optimal to be playing under those conditions. i don’t want to overexert myself, so i decided not to play online today, and might instead go play a tournament at the card club tonight. i haven’t played live in about two weeks and i’m really itching to!

i’ve played two or three live tournaments in the last few weeks, again with no success. it’s becoming a kind of vicious cycle because i almost always turn a profit when i play live cash, but then i go and blow it on live MTTs, where i have yet to make the money. in my online play i am a huge bankroll management nit; i will almost never play tournaments for more than 1% of my bankroll, and the average tourns i grind online at the moment are the $11 MTTs, which is something like 1/3 of a % of my bankroll. i think this has allowed me to survive through a couple of really bad downswings i’ve taken. but the drawback is, without taking any shots i’m not playing tournaments where i have a chance to have a REALLY big score. i want to get my bankroll to at least 10k before i even think of taking shots at the $200 sunday majors or FTOPSes, for example. and even then that would be a big shot.

however, my live ‘bankroll’ is a total shitshow of a joke. i do not actually have a live bankroll. i have money i make at the cash tables which i then use to play MTTs. there are pretty much no live tournaments in this area that you can enter for under $100; if i wanted to apply proper BR management techniques i’d need a live roll of $10k to play $100 tournaments! which, of course, i don’t have. basically, i need to HAVE a big live cash before i’ll have anything resembling a roll. if i ship one of the nightlies for $3 or 4K, that will be a nice start! so that needs to happen pretty soon because right now i’m stuck chasing my own tail, taking two steps forward and two steps back.

some friends have suggested i stop playing the horrendously-structured live tourns at the card club and just stick to the cash games, where i am clearly profitable. this might be a good idea. but i don’t know if i can do that; i just love tournaments too much. once i went to the card club on a tournament night with the intention of NOT playing but instead sitting at the cash table, in order to take advantage of the tournament bustouts who inevitably sit down at the cash game on mega tilt and spew brilliantly. but while i was waiting for my seat, i saw all the tourn regs heading to the tournament area, the donk nits who fold themselves down to 2 bb so they can get to the final table and chop it 10 ways, and i was like fuck this! i HAVE to play the tournament!

and the thing is, i pretty much only have to win one or two of these live tournaments to pay for all the buyins i’ve lost so far. i think i’m insanely +EV against the field; i guess the main question is whether the structure renders the whole thing a more or less pointless endeavor, and whether it would be better to save my money for tournaments with non-absurd structures. the thing is, tourns like that are not common here in the bay area. they require travel to reno, or tahoe (or LA and vegas obv), and travel+hotel costs are going to add on a few hundred $ on top of whatever the buyins for the tournaments are. so it’s a trade off. neither option is optimal.

there is one series i will definitely be playing: i have made my accommodations to attend the nevada ladies poker championship in mid-march, which i’m very much looking forward to. there are three tournaments as well as some brunches and seminars and other ditzy ladies things :) but staying at the peppermill is going to add $300 to my costs, not to mention gas/food/etc; put together that’s probably equal to the amount of all the tournament buyins! so basically in order to justify traveling to a tournament, i need to think i’m going to be TWICE as much +EV (er if that makes sense?) than playing a tournament that does not require travel costs. so.. yeah. i don’t know. like i say, my main goal is just to win something, anything, so that i have a viable roll to begin my live career from.

there is also the option of seeking out backing for live tournaments, which i think i definitely would have to do if i wanted to play any WSOP events this summer. right now i’m just beginning to even consider the idea, and i haven’t approached anyone about it. i hear horror stories about players being stuck in makeup for years, so i don’t know if i’d want to enter into a long-term arrangement like that. but on the other hand i have no live results to date, so it’s unlikely anyone would want to buy large %s of my action for individual tourns/series or stake me on a tourn by tourn basis. so yeah, right now it’s something i am beginning to research heavily, and that i’ll be thinking about more seriously in the next few months. if anyone has any thoughts/suggestions/advice on staking issues, please post in the comments, i’d love to hear from anyone with experience in this area!

hmm, so. live tourns are expensive, i can’t seem to win them, and i have no roll. writing about that made me a little depressed to be honest. there are only so many times i can let myself down before i am going to get too discouraged with poker and go be a boring scientist or something. perhaps a stop at happy hour before tonight’s tourn is in order! wish me luck :)


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it’s the beginning of a new age

greetings, 2011.

i think this year is going to bring some incredible things. i have never felt better about my poker game, and after some holiday travel in december i’ve been excited to get back to work. the last two weeks i’ve been working nonstop, putting in some serious hours online and live. i took this morning off to go see black swan, which was a pretty twisted and cool movie. i’m surprised it took me this long to see it, since i’m a big fan of the films i’ve seen by aronofsky (pi, requiem for a dream). i never particularly cared for natalie portman, though i guess the last time i thought about her was like 10 years ago when i lived in boston and she was all smug and snooty about being a harvard student. oh and then when she was just godawful in star wars. but to be fair, the character was godawful; there’s prooobably not too much you can do with padme. ick. but anyway, this was a great role and she did a great job with it. and she looks fucking good, i mean she’s gotta be like.. my age! heh. so two thumbs up from thegroupie.

i grinded (ground?) for like 14 hours online yesterday which made me feel slightly out of whack, so today was a good little break to clear my head. now i’m having a glass or three of champagne and thought i’d take a moment to update the interwebs on my exciting life before i head off to the card club.

i went back to the east coast for the first couple weeks of december to visit family and friends. and one thing i did while i was there was hit up the WSOP circuit event in atlantic city! i would have liked to play more events, but i had limited time on the east coast, and my sister was coming with me to atlantic city (and to new york afterward), so the trip wasn’t all business. with that in mind, i decided to just plan to play the ladies event on saturday, december 11, which was a $230 buy in. my sister and i drove up to atlantic city from DC late on friday night, and i was dead tired but thankfully decided to take care of registration for the tournament that night, because it took me over an hour to figure out where everything was. naturally i headed to the poker room, but then was informed that they were not doing registration for the WSOP events there, and that i had to go to the main casino cashier in harrah’s. at the main casino cashier, there were a bunch of drunk juiceheads in line (oh yes, we picked up some hip jersey shore slang while we were up there) and no one was manning the window for tournament registration, so that took forever. once i finally got the registration taken care of, it took about another half an hour before i found the area where the tournament was going to take place. sheez! then it was off to bed in our rather unimpressive hotel room. the poker rate for friday & saturday was $99 a night, which was cheap compared to usual hotel prices in AC for the weekends, but the room was one of the crummiest i’ve stayed in for that price. no frills, dingy, and the thin walls afforded us way too much familiarity with our neighbors’ bedroom activities. the ONE good thing about the room was that we had a refrigerator that you could actually put things in without getting charged money, because naturally we had a bottle of champagne to celebrate my imminent ladies event win :)

from comments on my twitter and from checking the WSOPC website, i was expecting a bigger field in atlantic city than in lake tahoe. this event was also double the buy-in that the tahoe ladies circuit event was, so with those two factors i was excited for a much bigger prize pool. the tournament began at 11 am on saturday morning, and i barely had time to finish half the bagel i’d grabbed beforehand as i had failed to allocate enough time to account for the snail-paced service at the one coffee shop in the casino. i was beginning to see a pattern at harrah’s: everything took fucking. forever.!!! i hightailed it to the tournament room, which was not the usual poker room at harrah’s, but a hotel-convention room type thing filled with tables. i actually didn’t catch the total number of entrants, but i think it was somewhere under 200 – it looked like 12 tables give or take. the structure was actually quite good for a ladies event – rather than having a turbo-ish structure akin to the daily/nightly tournaments as was the case in tahoe, the ladies event in atlantic city had the same structure as the ring events. this was of course great for me, as better structures and lower starting blinds allow for more play and less reliance on picking up cards.

when i got there (a couple minutes late) i was displeased to find that not only did they not have carts to put my coffee cup on (it is pretty standard in poker rooms to have little carts on wheels that patrons can put their drinks and/or food on), but they also did not even have any of the plastic cup holders that sit on the tables. the dealer joked that i could keep it on the table, because they were $100 clap-trap tables from wal-mart and it didn’t matter if it spilled. they *were* pretty cheapo tables. i just kept my coffee under my chair, which was fine, but that was just another issue that, while seemingly minor, could be very easily rectified and would help things run smoother and make for a better environment for the players. at harvey’s in lake tahoe they had bins full of the plastic table-top cupholders for the players to use, not to mention they provided free food during one of the breaks. in atlantic city, no such nothing.

but as poker players we adapt to our environs and make the best of them, and my attention quickly turned from my awkward coffee situation to my adversaries at the table. from the start i could tell that this would be a tougher field than i faced in lake tahoe, but i don’t know if it was actually possible to face a *less* tough field than tahoe ;) so i was prepared to face people with slightly more of a clue. i didn’t pick up much of anything in the way of cards for the first hour of the tournament, but that was fine, because with my headphones on at a low volume i was picking up massive amounts of information on my opponents. if there’s anything about ladies, they LOVE to talk. a couple of them were local tournament regs, a couple were in these sort of ladies poker leagues, one had come with her husband who was playing a bunch of events. they were all around 40-50 years old, most if not all had kids, who of course they enjoyed talking about nonstop.

while collecting info on your opponents is great, it is only worthwhile if you can use it to your advantage while playing poker. i think i was able to do that pretty effectively; there were a couple spots where i was able to bluff and pick up pots when i could tell that my passive opponent was not going to give me any resistance. for several hours i was playing smart and chipping up. but as always seems to happen with me, i get in a gross spot and make the wrong decision. so a few hours in, maybe near 4:00pm or so, i was hanging out with a pretty decent stack, probably average chips. i had been chipping up and winning the blinds and small pots here and there, but hadn’t been overly active, and hadn’t been involved in any big pots. that’s fine with me, but the blinds were going up faster than i was accumulating chips. there was certainly no need to panic and play any differently than normal with 30bb, but i was starting to get slightly concerned about my stack size relative to the blinds. i had to make something happen pretty soon or i’d find myself getting into short stack mode.

so it happened that a weak-passive, “stereotypically female” player limped in early position, and a lady who i knew was a tournament reg and seemed to play by the book tag, raised it to 3x. it seemed like a small raise given that there was a limper, and while i hadn’t been paying particular attention to this player’s bet sizing, the standard open for the table was at least 3x, so a 3x *after* a limp was on the small side. i put the limper on what-the-fuck-ever-who-cares and the tourn reg raiser on a medium pair or some other medium-strength hand, trying to isolate the limper without committing too many chips. she seemed predictable-tag and i was fairly certain she would have raised bigger with a premium hand. in late position, i looked at my cards and had AK. now, that’s a very good hand, but with my stack size i was in an awkward spot. a 3bet would have been 1/3 of my chips, essentially committing me to the hand. online it’s a spot where i would very often shove that stack size over a standard raise, or 3bet hoping to induce a shove. but in this situation, i had about average chips, and the raiser had me well covered. i didn’t need to flip 30bb against a medium pair, especially when i felt i had a skill advantage against the field. i call. everyone else folds.

we go to the flop and it is K hi with two small cards, with two diamonds. there is no reason for me not to love that flop, and the raiser leads for something around 2/3 the pot. given her pre-flop aggression and general TAG-ness, i’m expecting her to cbet with pretty much all her hands, and with AK i am almost certain i have the best hand unless she has flopped a set. i don’t want to scare her off, so i elect to call and let her keep bluffing if she is bluffing and/or control the pot if she has a set. the turn is another small diamond and she checks. at this point, given the action, i am fairly convinced that she has a medium pair lower than a K, something like 77-TT (because i think she would have raised more with JJ+ preflop), and is now is either in check-call mode or shutdown mode. i bet large, maybe 2/3 the pot, figuring she might call but would probably just fold. she insta minraises me.

now, this is a weird spot. this is becoming kind of a trend online and people do this ALL the time – the insta minraise or check-insta-minraise postflop – as a total bluff or with whatever medium strength hand, figuring that you’ll fold if you don’t have the nuts or at least top pair. these players are quite easy to identify and exploit. but that’s online; this lady is a fortysomething live tournament reg. would she know that move? is she just playing big stack bully? i was getting worried, but for a minraise i wasn’t about to fold top pair top kicker. i called.

the river was an offsuit blank and she asked what i had left. i nudged my big chips into her view; i had 4k in big chips and a few stacks of smaller chips left behind, and i think the blinds were at 300/600 at this point. she instantly tossed 4k into the pot. now i had a rough decision. she had a lot more chips than me; was she just trying to barrel me off the hand? was she ever value betting for 90% of my chips? wouldn’t she bet much smaller if she wanted a call? the line she took was so weird that i was having trouble putting her on a hand. i tanked for a couple minutes, i figured if she had a set so be it, but the way the action had gone i was pretty sure she either had a medium pair i could beat, or something like KQ or KJ which i could beat, or – what i was starting to think was a very likely possibility – that she also had AK.

i thought it was likely enough that i had either the best or the same hand, and if i folded i would have to give up a giant pot and be left with 10bb. i didn’t like it, but i called. she turned over AQ of diamonds for the nut flush. to be honest, the flush didn’t even cross my mind, though it should have. i have to give her credit for confusing me enough to pay her off! i shipped her all my big chips and was left with 4 or 5 bb in little chips, which i shoved in shortly thereafter with AJ only to be bested by K3. and that was the end of that!

so that was my ladies event. maaaaaybe i could have gotten away from the AK when she checkraised me on the turn, or maybe i could have folded the river. but with my stack size, after flopping the K i think i was committed to the hand. i could definitely have folded to one of the more tight passive limpy players, but the woman i was up against in that hand was aggressive and savvy enough to make those bets with a hand that i could beat, so that kind of fucked me up.

on the plus side, i busted before the dinner break, so my sister and i went and had a nice dinner and drank our bottle of champagne! we went down to the poker room, which was buzzing nicely on a saturday night. we drank some dranks and i made a little money back at $1/2 while she sat behind me doing sketches (she’s an artist) of the degens at the table. we went to NYC the next day and saw some old friends and had a great trip, and overall i was happy i stopped in atlantic city, despite not cashing. i’m still so new to the tournament circuit that i feel like every tournament i play increases my knowledge and experience exponentially. i’m planning to play as many as my bankroll will allow in the coming year!

well, that took awhile to write, and now i’ve had a bunch more champagne than i anticipated. watch out card club! and watch out 2011!


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WSOP circuit event!

for the better part of my twenties, the only relevance that the word circuit had to my life involved synapses, neurotransmitters, and connectivity between neural regions. however, in recent weeks i’ve discovered a new kind of circuit that excites me very much – the WSOP circuit events!

as i’ve mentioned in the past, my goal in poker is, eventually, to be among the best and most profitable in the game.* to explain to the non-poker folks: the world series of poker (WSOP), which takes place every summer in las vegas, is basically the biggest deal in poker. every professional tournament player makes success at the WSOP their main priority. however, for the rest of the year, the WSOP also puts on these regional circuit events at casinos all around the country, which last two or three weeks apiece. in the actual WSOP, tournament winners receive a bracelet; in the circuit events, the winners receive a ring – hence certain events are termed “ring events.” the buy-ins for the tournaments range from $100-200 for the non-ring events, which are 1-day and have a pretty quick (i.e. crappy) structure, much like your average nightly at a card club or casino. the ring events are generally two-day, with a very nice structure, and run between $350-550 for the buy-in. and then there is always a main event, the biggest one with the best structure, often 3-day, and is around a $1500 buy-in (and is also a ring event).

*(aside: i don’t think i can become the best, for the simple reason that i was introduced to poker late in my life as compared with the majority of successful players. the 21 year olds who are owning the poker world these days have been playing online since they were 14, throughout critical stages of learning and development. their growing brains have adapted to efficiently process and analyze information related to poker, in the same way as a pianist who has been playing from a young age develops larger areas of cortex devoted to the sensory input from his fingers. but i have to work with the situation i’ve been given, and i think i’m a pretty quick learner. i am pleased with the amount of progress i’ve made over the past year, and i continue to learn and figure out new things each time i play).

despite my horrifying lack of success in live poker tournaments, i decided that it would be fun to check out the circuit event in lake tahoe in november. at first i’d only planned to play the ladies’ event, which was a $120 non-ring event (though the winner gets a pendant which is kinda cool). but looking over the schedule and the structure sheets, i realized that i really ought to play a ring event. for months i had been dying to play a live tournament with a good deep structure, and the beautiful structure sheet for the $345 ring events basically seduced me into it. my plan was to take a stab at a ring event that started on a friday, and if i didn’t make it to the second day, then i could still play the ladies event that saturday.

i got to harveys lake tahoe on thursday evening, and decided to check out the live games going on in the poker room. i wanted to make sure my observation powers were sharp for the tournament, but more importantly i wanted to get comfortable with the environment before the event. little things – becoming familiar with the layout of the table numbers, finding where the closest bathrooms are, or figuring out the quickest route to the coffee stand – go a long way to setting me at ease in an unfamiliar poker setting. i sat at a pretty nitty $2/3 no limit table for a couple hours and spewed through a little bit of money, but i wasn’t really worried about it because it was productive for me to spend that time in the poker area and get comfortable in my surroundings.

11/19 ring event
my first event, the $345 ring event, started at noon and drew 318 entrants. my table wasn’t tricky by any means, but there were a few active and aggressive players. for the first few levels i think i let the deep-stacked structure give me a false sense of security; i mean, we started with 400 big blinds for gods sake! so i was messing around with a lot of suited connectors and gappers, but was not hitting flops with them and was slowly bleeding chips. i actually don’t think i won a single hand in the first two hours. by the first break at 2pm i had spewed about 1/3 of my 10,000 starting stack. i realized it was getting too costly to splash around with speculative hands, so i tightened up and decided wait for good spots to double/pick up a lot of chips with solid holdings. this strategy worked pretty well, and by around 4pm i had won a couple large pots and finally managed to get above starting stack for the first time all day. when we resumed after the second break i had about 12,000 chips going into the 200/400 (ante 50) level.

for a little while nothing was doing. the stack sizes were starting to get more varied and people were starting to get short and push, and as usual i wasn’t picking up hands. i was down to a little under 20 bb when a slightly shorter stack pushed all in, and it folded to me in the big blind with AQ. that hand isn’t stellar, but i knew i was only in terrible shape against four hands: AA, KK, QQ, and AK. and a short stack’s shoving range is obviously plenty wider than that. i suspected i was probably flipping, and early in tournaments i try to avoid those kind of situations, but by then i was pretty short myself, and decided i needed to go with it. i called and found myself up against pocket 6s. unfortunately, i lost the flip, and as i barely had the other guy covered i was left with something like 3bb. and that would spell the end; i couldn’t pull off a comeback and was eliminated a couple hands later.

i was obviously disappointed not to cash in the tournament, but overall i was happy with how i played and felt i took appropriate advantage of the situations i was given throughout the day. i went up to the bar on the top floor of the hotel overlooking lake tahoe and had a leisurely dinner and a couple of espresso martinis, and then went back downstairs to see what was doing at the cash games. it was a friday night so the poker room was hopping, and i sat down again at the $2/3 no limit, but took better care to pick a table where it looked like people were gambling. now that i’ve been playing live for a few months i’ve come to understand the importance of table selection in cash games, and i conscientiously avoided sitting down with any people who i recognized either from the night before or the tournament that day. tournament regulars are some of the nittiest players in cash games, and as a sooooomewhat nitty player myself, those are the people i do NOT want to be playing ;) playing against tight players is not that fun, and it’s not that profitable either. but it seemed like the table i chose had a couple of maniacal types in attendance, and within a few minutes of sitting down i had doubled my buyin of $200. over the course of a couple hours i ran it up to over $700 before cashing out, which was a nice confidence booster. i called it an early night and went back to get a good nights sleep and prepare for the ladies event the next day.

11/20 ladies event
i was pretty excited to play the ladies event – first off, i have heard ladies events are some of the softest tournaments, and in general it’s always nice to play against players who are probably worse than you. but i was also just plain excited to play with women; poker is such a male-dominated activity and it’s pretty rare to even have another female player at the table, let alone nine other females!

i do believe the public tends to underestimate women in poker, and there are many female players i admire – annette, vanessa selbst, christina lindley, and liv boeree to name a few – who consistently take massive shit down and impress me whenever i see them play. but my starting table at the ladies event basically confirmed every stereotype i have heard about female poker players. passive. weak. tight. limpatrons. calling stations. there were a couple ladies who did seem to know what they were doing, but for the most part these gals were playing like fish – limping around, not understanding appropriate bet sizing and making weird minbets or insane overbets. it was pretty awesome and i was getting a great feel for the table, winning pots, and just feeling good in general. again, i hate to confirm or perpetuate negative stereotypes about women, but this was by far the softest table i had ever played in a live event.

however, the fun was not to last. it was not even an hour into the tournament when i picked up AA in early position. i made a standard raise, and a tight/passive lady behind me who’d won several large pots and had me covered snap shipped her big stack into the middle. loldonkaments! fuck yes! i could barely believe my eyes, which by that point had actually turned into dollar signs. what could be a better situation than to double up my already fairly large stack and take a dominating lead over a field of fishettes? my chips were in the middle faster than you can say “pendant” and i was up against KK – one of the best preflop situations you can ask for in poker. and…… of course the K hits on the turn. sigh! i was incredibly disappointed my hand couldn’t hold up there. it always sucks to be eliminated from a tournament early, but it especially sucked to be eliminated from that tournament. i was feeling great about my play and i knew i had a huge skill advantage over the field, and by all rights should have been continuing the day with a huge chip advantage as well. :(

after that gross beat in the ladies event i found myself with a saturday afternoon to kill, and looking over the tournament schedule i realized there were going to be two mega-satellites to the $1600 buy-in main event, which started the next day. i should mention that before i got to lake tahoe, i had absolutely positively NO intention or hope of even trying to play the main event – or even being in town for it, for that matter. i had only booked my hotel room through saturday night and was scheduled to leave on sunday, the day the main event was starting. but a surprise (well, surprise to me anyway, as i am dumb and didn’t think of checking the weather in advance) snowstorm that began on friday and ran through the weekend had me firmly snowed in east of the sierra nevadas. cars weren’t allowed to travel over the mountains without chains or snow tires, not that i would have wanted to attempt that drive even if i did have such equipment. so after the snow had started i went ahead and extended my reservation through tuesday, which was when the snow was supposed to let up, and fortunately was still able to get the very reasonable $39/night poker rate.

so i’m not superstitious in any way, but this turn of events had started me thinking a little bit. i was now going to be snowed in at lake tahoe for the entire duration of the 3-day main event. i had taken a stupid beat to make an abrupt exit from the last tournament i’d been planning to play, but i was still feeling great about my game. the players i had encountered in general at this event were not that skilled. what if.. i could satellite into the main event?!

11/20 main event mega-satellite

i put my poker face back on and headed downstairs for the 4pm main event mega satellite! i’d never played one of these before, but it was basically a normal MTT with a pretty fast structure. it got somewhere around 100 entrants, and the top 11 spots got main event seats. 12th place also paid about $1k in cash. as soon as i got to my table i realized that it was going to be a serious donkathon! people were messing around with all kinds of silly hands and gambling hard unnecessarily, early in the tournament. i play plenty of satellites online and it was clear that most of the players had no conception of appropriate satellite strategy. which was awesome for me. i basically played straightforward, chipped up, stayed out of trouble, and let other players donk themselves out until we were down to the final 3 tables.

however, pretty soon it was time for me to gambol. i had a pretty large stack at the last 3 tables, but in two unfortunate hands i doubled up two shorter stacks, rendering me a short stack, which is never a fun situation. i hung out and waited for good hands, shoved a little bit, and stayed alive on around 10bb for a while. by the time we were down to two tables, i was still probably the shortest stack. the situation was looking dire, and as the cocktail waitress came around i decided i might as well order a champagne. i will be the first to admit i drink like a fish (and likely play like one, but i can’t necessarily blame that on the alcohol) when i play cash games, but i try not to drink too much during tournaments. but, at that point i basically had one move only, and it wasn’t going to take advanced brainpower to shove in my pitiful stack with any decent hand. and what do you know – as soon as my champagne arrived, i pushed in with KQ and doubled up!

i continued to shove in good spots and double up when necessary. i definitely ran good – i won several flips at crucial moments, where i would have been eliminated if i’d lost them. it annoys me that so much of poker just boils down to getting lucky and having hands hold in those spots, but i was happy that i finally ran good for once! i played smart, didn’t take unnecessary risks once my stack was out of the danger zone, and let others donk out around me as i sipped on my cheap casino champagne. and before long, we were down to 11! i had secured a $1600 main event seat!

i have played something like 20 live tournaments in total, and this was actually my first ever live cash. as much as i wanted to play the main event, i knew it would be foolish from a bankroll standpoint to play a $1600 tournament as opposed to just taking the cash. but luckily that moral dilemma was soon settled for me – the tournament director informed me that the prize was a must-play entry, and i would not be able to take the cash. when i’d entered the satellite i’d assumed that winners could take the cash instead of the seat, since in online satellites you can almost always take the cash unless it explicitly says otherwise. but i wasn’t too disappointed to have to play the main event – what an amazing opportunity!

11/20 main event

the main event! in total there were 246 entrants, creating a prize pool of over $350,000! the structure was of course excellent, with 40 minute levels, antes beginning the 5th level, and 20k (400bb) in starting chips. when i got to my table for the main event at noon, i resolved to keep my poker face on but was inwardly jumping up and down like an idiot as soon as the cards were in the air! this was a BIG. DEAL. for a noob like me. i was pretty tickled when the photographer would come around to take my picture during hands, or when i saw pokernews reporters getting the inside dirt on the interesting early hands. the main event at the WSOPC! people actually care about this shit!

i was feeling really good, first of all because i had drawn my favorite seat at the table (seat 8 – it’s on the corner of the table, so you get a good view of the rest of the players, as well as more elbow room than some of the other table positions). second, the table seemed friendly – there was one guy from my satellite the night before, and the other guys around my end of the table were chatty and nice. i was playing solidly but conservatively, which is my general strategy in deep-stacked events. some people like to mix it up with a lot of suited connectors and random silly hands in early stages of tournaments like this, and i’d tried some of that in my first ring event but it hadn’t worked that well for me. i kept to the strategy i’m comfortable with: aggressive play with good starting hands, and in the first few levels i won several pots and had chipped up to about 22,000 from the 20k starting stack.

as i mentioned, the guys around my side of the table were very friendly, but the guys at the other side of the table.. not so much. in fact, they seemed like bitch asses. one guy was clearly tilting after taking a couple of early hits, and was one of the first people to be eliminated from the tournament. i wasn’t letting the surly side of the table faze me in any way, but i started noticing that a certain quiet guy, who seemed to be otherwise playing rather tight, was flat-calling in position every time i opened a pot. i know that pros will try to sniff out weak players and isolate them in big pots, and this guy surely must have heard some of the conversation between me and the other guy from my satellite. i started to wonder if he thought i was just some satellite donk and was targeting me as a weak player, because he seemed absolutely intent on playing big pots with me.

when i open a pot early in a tournament, i generally have a reasonable hand to be doing so (pocket pairs, AJ+), and there were a couple times when i got into pots and ended up laying down very legitimate holdings on the turn and river to this particular player, because of the large amounts he was betting. as i mentioned, he had seemed in general to be playing tight. i don’t like playing huge pots early in tournaments (unless i have the nuts obviously) and gave him credit for having monsters. i gave him the benefit of the doubt that he wouldn’t just be fucking around and making wacky moves this early in the tournament. but after the second time this happened, and i had to fold in a very large pot on the river after calling off over 5k of my chips on the flop & turn, i started to get suspicious. he wasn’t playing that many hands, but he seemed to be in every hand i was playing. i wasn’t going to do anything foolish, but this guy was now hardcore on my radar and i was determined not to let him bully me.

not too long after this incident, i picked up JJ in early position. this is obviously a good starting hand, and i was happy for an opportunity to earn some of my chips back. after a solid two hours of chipping up, i was pretty annoyed i’d given up so many chips in that big hand. i made my standard raise, and got a couple of flatters behind me – the last one being the guy i previously mentioned. i smiled inwardly, thinking “yes!! go on and flat this time, you douche. you are not getting me off this one.” the flop came 965 with two diamonds. this is a decent flop for JJ with no overcards, but it was definitely a draw-heavy board. rather than lead out and let people just flat call with potential draws, i decided to check with the intention of hopefully making a sizable checkraise. i always want to get value with big pairs, but with that many people in the pot and a slightly scary board, i figured the best option would be to end the hand as soon as possible. checking and allowing it to just check around would be terrible, but i was certain that if one of the other two flatters didn’t bet out, that the douche guy would definitely bet if it was checked around to him in position.

and that he did. it checked to him and he bet over 2/3 the size of the pot, around 1600. i raised to 4000, leaving myself a little under 12,000 left in my stack. i watched his reaction, and he was clearly uncomfortable. at that point i wasn’t sure what kind of hand to put him on, because my feeling was that he was calling my raises with pretty much any random bullshit and trying to outplay me and muscle me off hands postflop. i did not put him on a set or a made straight, although i knew those were possibilities. he thought for a while, like over a minute a while, and it really did not look like “i’m going to pretend to think for a while” thinking. it looked like he legitimately didn’t know what to do. he started counting out the call, and asked me if had one or two blue (5k) chips left. i responded that i had two. he thought for another second or two, and then announced all in.

now, i was really in a quandary. what in fuck was going on? i suspected he was calling with bullshit and betting the flop with his bullshit because it had been checked to him, and that a hefty checkraise would be the end of it. i went into the tank, but i can admit now that it was not a logical or productive tank. EVERYTHING about the situation as i had analyzed it until that point screamed for me to call – the prior flat calling and barreling during every hand i opened, his obvious discomfort at the checkraise, his question about how much i had left. it felt like he did not have a made hand and that he was trying to get me to fold, and he didn’t think i could call off all my chips. why would he push all in with a made straight or a set? i obviously had an overpair the way i played it; i would be drawing dead if he had a straight and to two outs if he had a set. he also knew i had over 10k behind me and that i could still fold and leave myself with 50bb at the 100/200 level of the tournament. but did he really think i could fold after committing 4k to the pot?

during the time i was thinking about it – which was probably over two minutes; i apologized to the other guys at the table for taking so long, luckily they were nice about it and no one called the clock – the analytical and rational part of my brain basically talked me out of calling. another factor that influenced me not to call, was that the table was breaking like, right then. during the time i was tanking, a tournament official had come up with chip racks and the new seat assignments. this was a terrible situation, and if i called and was wrong i would be out of the tournament. i could still fold and have a totally reasonable amount of chips, and i wouldn’t even be at the same table with that asshole guy for one more hand. i had lost half my starting chips, but it was still way early in tournament. i couldn’t afford to be wrong on this one – or so i convinced myself. i folded and the table broke.

when i thought about it later, i realized that it was the biggest mistake i made in that tournament, and maybe one of the biggest mistakes i have ever made in my poker career, given that this was the biggest tournament i have ever played and was an insane opportunity for me. there was just no way that guy was value shoving with a made hand given how the action had gone. i think what he likely had was some kind of combination draw that he didn’t want to fold, like an A8 of diamonds. he couldn’t just flat my raise on the flop and then not know what to do if he bricked the turn. i think he figured that shoving he had fold equity, but that if i didn’t fold he had outs against my hand. he could have had a draw that was actually a slight favorite or about 50/50 against my hand (like a flush draw with two overs – AK, AQ – or a flush draw with a gutshot or an open ender – A8, 34 of diamonds), but i still should have called given the amount i’d already invested in the pot. it would have been an easy fold against anyone else at the table, but against that player, i think i needed to call. and i felt sick to my stomach after folding. although i wasn’t capable of thinking it through clearly enough at the time during the tournament, i knew in my gut that i had made the wrong decision.

after i was moved tables i never really recovered or got anything going. i was put at a pretty active table and was card dead like i have never been in my life. i don’t think it was folded to me once, because someone was always raising or shoving before it got to me, and i’d look down at J2 or 73 offsuit every hand and could do nothing but fold it. of course in retrospect i identified a couple spots where i could have maybe made steals, and i hate making excuses or blaming it on the cards, but at the time it just seemed hopeless. people were loose, they were raising and then calling shoves – not folding when someone shoved over their raise. i didn’t want to bluff all my chips off when i could just wait for a real hand and double up. only, that real hand never came. i sat patiently for hours folding awful hand after awful hand, and blinded down from 30 to 20 to around 10 bb, when i looked at 76 utg. gasp – connected cards! plus, i hadn’t played a hand – literally – in about two hours. so i’d shove and obviously everyone would just fold, right? yeah.. that didn’t happen. a guy had KK and it held and i was eliminated shortly before the dinner break.

in the ring event i’d played friday, i’d been eliminated at around the same time, just before dinner break, but in that one i wasn’t beating myself up about it, because i’d been happy with my decisions. i’d lost a flip to be crippled/eliminated, and unfortunately flips are just sometimes necessary when you are starting to get short. however, i left the main event feeling just plain gross, and only afterward did i realize it was because i didn’t go with my instinct in that big hand i described. it is true i was legitimately card dead for the rest of the tournament, but that one hand tainted my mindset and inhibited me from making any creative moves. i didn’t trust my read, and that was a fatal mistake. i told myself before the tournament that i was going to play my game and trust my instincts, and i let myself down. even if i had been wrong in that spot, and the guy had had a set or a straight, or a big draw that subsequently got there, i would rather i had gone with my instinct, even if it was dead wrong. but i think it was right.

so that was my main event! i was not satisfied with my play in that one difficult situation, but every experience in poker is a learning experience, and i am going to learn as much as i can from the mistakes i made in lake tahoe. i am getting better and better with my live reads and now it is just a matter of trusting them. overall it was an amazing opportunity to be able to play such a high profile event, and i met a lot of cool people – dealers, players, circuit regulars who i hope i’ll be seeing more of. in about a week, i’ll be heading back to the east coast for the holidays, and.. i’m planning to make a stop at the circuit event in atlantic city!!! for now i’m just planning to play the ladies event, but anything could happen.. ;)

happy hanukkah, and send me luck!!!

xo, thegroupie

Posted in poker | 3 Comments

it was a very good year

it’s a chilly night here in northern california and i’m holing up in my chateau with some champagne, some daniel negreanu videos on Poker VT, and a saturday night tournament or two. i’m hanging out with a nice stack nearing the bubble in one of my favorites, midnight madness. i can’t believe it’s already october; it was about a year ago that i made the decision to leave los angeles and, in a lot of ways, start over from scratch.

at this moment in 2009, a month after submitting my dissertation, i was still mired in what seemed like an endless decompression period from my six years of graduate school. finishing grad school was frankly almost as stressful as still being in grad school. i had a piece of paper saying i was a doctor and a brain full of esoteric knowledge about how the brain works, but i had no idea what i wanted to do with myself. and what was worse, i had no idea how to figure it out. i came to the conclusion that in order to make any progress in finding a career/life path/sanity, i would have to orchestrate a massive life upheaval. the first step was moving, and i chose the bay area because it was the closest reasonable metropolis i could move to from LA. i think i also chose it partly because i didn’t know many people here, and that forced me to concentrate entirely on myself and what direction i wanted my life to head in. i think it was probably the best decision i ever made.

it was not until i left LA that i really felt free from the clutches of academia. it took me a couple months to really embrace the idea that i wanted to try to be a professional poker player, and now i’m absolutely sure of it. i was looking at some monthly stats on my play today, and november of 2009 was my first winning month in poker tournaments! i was playing $2 tournaments so i wasn’t winning a lot, but i was winning. and i’m still winning more and more, and i hope i’ll be winning a lot more soon. i get the sense that some people (especially people who aren’t too familiar with poker) think i’m just slacking off and fucking around, but this is actually a very difficult career. it requires intense patience, concentration, and emotional resilience. attaining the necessary skills is hard enough; even when you have them, many skilled players allow themselves to tilt and lose focus, or get into a downward spiral after a long losing spell, or go through massive swings playing above their bankroll. but i am an extremely logical and rational person and i think i have the capability to not only master the skill aspects of the game, but to persevere through the psychological rollercoaster that a poker career entails.

in the last two months i’ve been splitting my time about evenly between online and live play. in online play my bankroll has been holding steady; i’ve been cashing consistently, and winning $200 here and $500 there, but nothing really substantial to report in the last two months. i’m really hoping to make a deep run soon, and i’m going to give the sunday MTTs my best shot tomorrow. playing live has definitely taken time and energy away from my online routine, but i think gaining experience is necessary if i want to be truly competitive in the live circuit. and it has been profitable; so far in october i’m up over $1k in cash games. that is of course satisfying, but i’m also down a LOT in live tournament buy-ins. i’ve taken a couple of field trips to reno for tournament series at the peppermill and at the grand sierra, and played in two tourns on each of those trips, but i have still not cashed in a single live event. i’m trying not to get discouraged because it’s such a small sample size (<20), and i can easily play 50 tournaments online without cashing, but online i'm playing $10-25 tournaments, not $100-250 ones. those live buy-ins fucking add up! so right now my poker focus feels sort of fragmented. there aren't enough hours in the day for all the things i want to do! i want to continue to progress with my online game and play a proper volume of online tournaments, and i am a tournament player first and foremost. but it can take forever to take down a big tournament, and i can make immediate money off of the donks in the live cash games. but, playing ABC poker against incompetent novices isn't really helping me progress with real poker skills. i'm learning a lot about live situations and tells and other things that will help me with live tournaments, but i obviously don't intend to make a career of grinding $1/2 against card club crackheads. so one of my goals for the next couple of months is to get back to grinding the big tournaments online on a daily basis. that doesn't mean i'm going to stop playing live, though. i enjoy playing live cash, but it's obviously tournaments i have my sights set on. despite my pitiful lack of success thusfar, i intend to continue to take as many stabs at them as my limited bankroll will allow! i am tentatively planning to play some events at the WSOP circuit series in lake tahoe in november, and potentially at the one in atlantic city in december if it coincides with my holiday travels back east.

so that’s what’s doing. hopefully i’ll have a big score to report soon. perhaps i’ll take down tonight’s midnight madness, in the money now.. ;)


Posted in academia, poker | 2 Comments


hello internet, it’s been two months since i last wrote, so i figured it was high time for an entry! though i still consider myself an online player and intend to focus on that to build my bankroll, i have spent the majority of july and august attempting to develop my live poker game.

as of my last post i had played the cash game at my local card club a few times, and had taken stabs at two tournaments there. starting in july, i began playing there an average of 3-4 times a week, and have now taken shots at 9 tournaments there. when you are playing on the internet, you are playing against people who at least have enough of a clue about poker to want to deposit their money online and play, but i have found that live poker is an entirely different beast. anyone can walk into the card club and sit down at the table, and wading through these fields of casual players, random gamblers, bored retirees, young aggros who saw the WSOP on tv and think they’re phil ivey, and awful loose-passive donks not otherwise specified, has required a huge adjustment to my game.

and as with online play, there are vast differences in tournament play versus cash game play. i have been accumulating a lot of experience live, and feel i have now made significant steps toward mastering the techniques necessary to handle both types of live situations. however, i still have a LOT to learn. in the nine tournaments i have played at the card club, i have yet to cash once. this is partly because the structure is the most godawful thing i have ever seen; in every tournament i have made it to the final three tables (the nightlies generally draw anywhere from 80-120 players and pay 9-16 depending on the number of entrants), and in most i have made it to the final two tables. but at that stage the blinds are so large that the average stack is between 6-8 big blinds, with ridiculous antes. it kind of becomes a crapshoot. i do think i can (and have been trying to) adjust my play to the tournament structure, which starts off relatively normal/deep stacked and then turns into something equivalent to a turbo after antes kick in (as far as the ratio of the blinds to the average stack and the relative increase per level) and then super-turbo after 3-4 more levels. i think there is still value in playing these tournaments because of how soft the fields are, and i learn so many new things about live tournament poker every time i play, so i will probably enter more of them in the coming weeks. however, these experiences have made me realize just how crucial it is to play tournaments with good deep-stacked structures, and why so many pros are constantly emphasizing that.

i have still been playing online a bit, but the sheer amount of time and energy that live poker requires has reduced my amount of online play dramatically. i was also back on the east coast for the first couple weeks in august, and was not playing online at all during my travels. i did make it to a new casino at the charles town races in west virginia where they had just installed a poker room, and that was rather amazing. seriously, if i thought there were donks and recreational players at MY card club…! this racetrack was probably the juiciest fishfest i’ve ever seen. the guy next to me was literally playing every hand, and people at my table were stacking off with middle/bottom pairs, ace-rags, and gutshots every few hands. i only stayed a few hours since i was there with my sister who does not play poker, but scored a couple hundred $. i would definitely have stayed there all night (and probably gone back as much as i could!!) if i wasn’t busy visiting with family and friends.

i am now very comfortable playing live cash games at my local club, and am at the point where i can sit down PRETTY comfortably in unfamiliar places and still play my game. on a psychological level it’s much easier to play in a familiar setting, where i am friendly with the employees and dealers, and usually recognize/have mental notes on a good percentage of the players at my table. but i felt i held my own in WVA after getting over the initial nervousness of being in a new setting, and i’ve also gone to play at a couple other bay area card rooms in the past few weeks. i am still kind of in sponge mode with live poker, accumulating learning experiences and figuring out how to play the best that i can in whatever situation i happen to find myself. the best poker players are the ones who can adjust to their surroundings and to how their opponents are playing, and use that information to their advantage.

one of my major poker goals is to be able to play live in at least one $1K event in next year’s world series, and i think if i continue to amass experience at this rate, i will be in great shape to do that. now i just need to build up the bankroll.. :)


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my dreams are getting better all the time

so i think it’s safe to say that my downswing is dead and buried! i’ve been doing well lately in the POKERS – both online and live.

after i wrote that last post on friday june 18, i went back to the card club to play some more $100max (which i just learned is not $100 maximum buy in, but $100 maximum bet per hand. i just assumed $100 referred to the buy in because people usually buy in for $100). i’m getting a lot better at using information live, figuring out how to play against different types of players, and identifying who to target. i had a great position at my table, with a loose-aggressive crazy directly to my right who kept playing wild, losing his stack and rebuying. i won a lot of chips from him. i also got paid off with Q10 vs QJ on a QQxx10 board, obviously a lucky river for me :) and ended up with a profit of over $500 on the night! it was rather amazing actually. i was hitting hands, but i was also playing well; i’ve become so much more comfortable playing live and being aggressive live, and i think it’s really starting to pay off for me.

then that sunday i hopped into a $10+1 superstack tournament online. i usually play at least one of these a day; i started out playing turbos and superturbos, but i much prefer playing with deep stacks now, because it gives me the best chance to really play, and if i get unlucky i’ll still have enough chips to recover. i think this is a sign i am getting better at poker, especially when it comes to postflop play. i ended up making the final table and took 5th place (out of 2500 players) for $1300! it was so nice to FINALLY rake in another decent cash, and it was a couple days before my birthday, so that was a nice present for me. on my actual birthday, last tuesday, i took another trip to the card club and ended up with $100 in profit.

i went out to VEGAS last weekend to celebrate, and 5 of my friends from LA came out to party with me! it was a fun birthday trip.

my new friend rob hooked me up with a sick suite at the venetian and we spent friday observing the bro-fest down at the pool, hanging in the casino playing craps (well, my friends were; i don’t know how to play craps nor do i really care to learn), and eating yummy italian food. saturday we went to this swanky place craftsteak to have birthday steak, which was amazing!! then we went to a party a ways from the strip, at the house of some young hotshot internet players. i met up with a guy from pokerstatic and we talked about potentially doing some kind of blog or video series for the site, which would be awesome! i’m hoping that works out. after the party we went back to the venetian and i tried my hand at some $1/2 at like 4am. with no success, ha ha. i lost one buy-in after i pushed in with a set of 4s on a 432 flop; got called by AA and she rivered the 5. i bought in again but by that time i was getting hammered (free drinks ftw) and not really on my game. i went for a squeeze play all in with AK over a raise and call; the original raiser had KK, ohhh well. so no poker profits to report, but it wasn’t really a poker-playing trip for me so much. none of my friends who were there with me play any poker, and i didn’t want to just run off and sit at a table for hours when they were all there to celebrate with me!

on sunday we had brunch and then my friends headed back to LA, and i went over to the rio to check out the WSOP! i got there just as one of the tourneys was going on a break, so as i was walking down the hallway toward the tournament rooms, a flood of players were walking toward me, including quite a few i recognized, which i totally got a kick out of. i spotted chris ferguson, phil ivey, and joe hachem, who i believe were all there for the tournament of champions. my coach alex outhred was deep in a $1500 NL tourney, and i got to rail for a minute but he busted with JJ vs QQ shortly after play began. that was a bummer, but he took $16K for that event which is pretty fucking awesome!! rob was also at the WSOP playing the 1K and busted around the same time, so we all went to have some drinks at a bar in the rio which is supposedly infamous for its hookers. unfortunately there were no hookers there! kind of a let-down. whatever. over the course of the afternoon i met a whole bunch of people who i’ve been chatting with on twitter, and that was super fun. it was definitely exciting to be at the world series, though i have to say it seems much more glamorous on TV. i guess everything is probably more glamorous on TV though. i’m really hoping i’m good enough to take a stab at a 1K event next year!

it was a great weekend, but vegas is really a weird place. the tourists and crowds alone would be enough to drive my agoraphobic ass insane, and the other thing was that i don’t think i’ve ever seen such a high concentration of sluts anywhere else on earth. every girl there is teetering around in 5″ heels with her fake tits ready to bust out of her micro-minidress. where do they all come from? what do they do? they can’t all be hookers! aren’t their parents ashamed of them? haha. anyway, it’s clear that i could never in my wildest nightmares live in las vegas. i’ll be happy to go there for tournaments, but after 3 days of partying there i was pretty well exhausted.

so i’m feeling great about my game lately, and as i am getting more confident playing live, last night i decided to take a shot at a LIVE TOURNAMENT at the card club. i’ve only played in one live tourney before, a few months ago. it was $100+20 buy in and i had someone staking me for it; unfortunately i didn’t cash, and i think i was playing a lot more conservatively than i normally would; i suspect it may have affected my game to be playing with someone else’s money. it was just too much added pressure on top of the anxiety about playing my first live tournament. but in the last few weeks i’ve gotten much more experience in the live cash games, and i figured if i can win at those, i should be able to have live tournament success, since all i play is tournaments online! i’ve also been offered potential backing during an upcoming tournament series at the bay 101 in august, and if i want to play that i definitely need to get some live tourney practice in. so last night’s tourney was $80 (+20 tourney fee) with an optional $80 rebuy at any point in the first 4 levels, regardless of chip count. i decided to do what i’d do if i were playing that structure online, which was to take the rebuy right away. so i knew i would be in for $180, which is WAY out of my bankroll, but right now i am keeping a distinction between my online bankroll and my live winnings, so i justified it because the cash for this tourney was coming out of last week’s card club earnings.

so i started with 5000 chips (2500 starting stack + 2500 for my rebuy). it seemed like about half the players at my table took the rebuy immediately. i decided to do it up unabomber-style for this tourney: hoodie, sunglasses, headphones, no table talk. i have heard some women say it helps to be nice and flirtatious at the poker table, but i think the stealth attitude works to my advantage right now because it allows me to focus on what people are doing, without distractions. i’m still learning how to process all the additional information that comes into play with live poker (counting my chip stack, counting other people’s chip stacks, counting the chips in the pot, keeping an eye on the tournament clock, watching for body language, trying not to give off “tells,” etc) and i don’t need to mess around with table chatter while i’m trying to do all that stuff. so a few hands in i picked up KQ, and lost about half my starting stack trying to bluff a guy off a scary coordinated low-card board that started as a multiway pot (possible straights and flushes, plus pair of 4s on board). i’d seen this guy fold to pressure a couple hands previous, and it seemed like a nice spot for a bluff since i hadn’t played a hand yet. i fired big bets at the turn and river, but unfortunately his hand was a lot stronger than i expected (he had AA) and he called me down. so that was an awful start, and i had to show the bluff which meant i wouldn’t be able to do much more bluffing for a while, but i still had 2700ish chips which was more than the people who hadn’t yet rebought.

i laid low for a while and picked some good spots, and doubled when i had a set hold up against an open ender. i also semi-bluffed a guy by moving all in with 99 on a J hi board with 3 diamonds on the turn. i’d bet the flop and he called, and i knew he had something but i could tell he didn’t like the board, and i KNEW he didn’t like the third diamond on the turn. i think i probably got him off a better hand, and i won a lot of chips there, so i liked that play. by the first break i had something like 10K chips and it looked like i was the chipleader at my table. i wasn’t being overly active, but i was being aggressive in the hands i played, and hanging on to my chip lead. there were something like 100 players to start, and we were down to around 30 with top 16 getting paid, when a slovenly fat guy with a huge stack was moved to my table two to my right. he was playing just about every pot and seemed to be bullying the table, which he probably was. unfortunately for me, i got tangled up in a hand with him when he actually had it. i believe blinds were 300/600 at that point, and i raised to 1500 from early position with AQ. he called from the big blind and the flop came 7 hi. he fired out a small bet at the pot, something like 600 when the pot would have had over 3000 in it. based on how active he had been, my feeling was that he had a couple of high cards and he probably also put me on a couple of high cards, and was making a weak attempt to steal the pot. i raised his flop bet there, and unfortunately he called. the turn was another low card, and he bet enough to put me all in. obviously i can’t call all in with overcards and had to fold, and he showed 1010.

so another bluff gone wrong, and i was left with around 10 big blinds to work with. i knew i basically had to find a hand to shove with at that point, and about a minute before the second break a guy in early position raised, fat slovenly flatted, and i looked down at AK. it seemed like a perfect spot; i figured i’d probably be a flip (or even a favorite if he had a weaker A) against the first guy and slovenly’s flat call would be dead money, so it was an obvious all in. and exactly as i hoped, the original raiser pushed in over the top to isolate me, but slovenly didn’t seem to want to fold, and tanked for about two minutes. the other tables had already gone on break and the dealer was pushing him to make a decision – and i don’t know if things would have turned out differently if she hadn’t – but he decided to call, with JJ. i think JJ against two all ins is an obvious fold because the best you are hoping for is a flip, and it was for at least half his chips. anyway, it was really unlucky for me that he called, because the original raiser turned over A7 (!!) and the JJ held up to eliminate both of us.

so that was my second tournament experience. i am disappointed i didn’t cash, but i think i played much better than i did in my first tournament, so i’m glad i played it, and every time i play i learn tons of new stuff – especially live since i’m so new at it. i enjoy playing aggressively and i think it worked out except for the times i got caught bluffing. i am learning more about how the live players at the card club play; they seem to be pretty straightforward. they don’t make any fancy moves, no one is 3-betting either pre or post flop, and i am reasonably certain that no one bluffed me all night. i now know that i mostly have to respect their bets and flat calls as indicating a reasonably strong hand, pound my real hands for value, and give up on trying to get people off their hands because they just aren’t gonna fold. learning, learning..

so that’s what’s been doing lately. i’m feeling really on top of my game right now and i’m hoping it will continue to pay off. tomorrow is friday which seems to be degenerate fishfest at the card club, so perhaps i will give the cash game a go. luck and no unluck please!


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the best is yet to come

a lot of good shit has happened since my last entry. first and foremost, a couple weeks ago i was featured in an LA times article on PhDs who have gone into non-academic careers. here is the link!

LA Times: Universities are offering doctorates but few jobs

the main gist of the article is that universities are continuing to recruit and churn out new PhDs at record pace, but there is no demand for them; the number of faculty positions available at universities is only decreasing. i thought that the reporter, alana semuels, did an excellent job of conveying my sentiments toward academia. i’m not exactly bitter i spent six years doing a PhD, and i’m proud of my accomplishment because it was pretty fucking difficult. when i started graduate school in 2003 i didn’t quite know what i was getting into – and with something like grad school, you really can’t know what it’s going to be like until you get there – but one core assumption that i had (and that i think most people have) was that a PhD would open the door to a wide variety of career options. but when i was nearing the end and finally admitted to myself that i didn’t want to look for postdoc positions, i was at a total loss on how to proceed. i sought out help wherever i could, but asking a tenured faculty member for advice on jobs outside the academic sector is like asking a high-stakes pro for tips on how to beat $1/2 at the card club. not only do they not really know, but they also fundamentally don’t really care; the world outside the ivory tower is so irrelevant and beneath their radar that it’s a ridiculous question to pose in the first place. if you are not shooting for the tenure track, it’s not because there is anything wrong with the massive ponzi scheme that is academic science, it’s because you just can’t hack it.
the LA times ran a different photo in the print edition. a couple people have asked if i was actually playing poker in these photos. the answer is, duh.. no. i just pulled up some random table for the photo shoot, which lasted a few hours :)

the washington post’s college blog also picked up on the story and included a quote from me on some of these issues: Whitman grad with Ph.D. plays online poker

after these stories came out i received a flood of positive feedback. i was invited to be on a morning radio show in LA, and got dozens of emails from people in PhD and masters programs who found themselves in a similar predicament: either not wanting to or not being able to find an academic job, and having no idea what to do with themselves. doing years of specialized research in a very specific subdomain of science doesn’t translate well into marketable skills you can put on a resume. when i was trying to adapt my CV to a one-page resume i could actually use for job applications, i got so dejected because i looked like a one-dimensional broken record: research internship, research job, another research job, six years of grad school doing – surprise – research! on paper the only thing i was qualified for was the one thing i absolutely did not want: an academic research position.

there are two fundamental problems with graduate education, as i see it: (1) the disparity between the rising number of new PhDs and the diminishing jobs available for them, and (2) the failure on the part of doctoral programs to acknowledge this reality and provide guidance or training for their students in obtaining non-academic careers. this results in a situation where the majority of grads who are looking for work at universities can’t find any, and the ones who try to go outside the system are tacitly (and in many cases overtly) belittled by their peers, and made to feel that they have failed. i think so many people are appreciating my story because they are starting to realize it’s not necessary to buy into that mentality. there is a whole world beyond the ivory tower, where success is measured by criteria other than how many conference talks you gave last year, how many NIH grants you’ve managed to land, or how many first-author journal publications you have. you can go do something wacky like.. playing poker – and probably get more respect!
so with that, enough about academia! now let’s talk about POKER.
so i did feel a bit disingenuous in terms of my poker credentials potentially being exaggerated in the LA times, and i wanted to clarify that. if you’ve been reading my twitter or this blog you know that i am totally committed to this, and spend all my time playing poker and learning as much as i can about the game. i fully hope (and intend) to join the highest echelons of the poker world. however, i have only been playing seriously for about six months, so by no means do i consider myself a “pro.” i am just starting out and building my bankroll, which peaked in early april at a little over 4K and is now holding at about 2.3K after my recent downswing. i am lucky enough to have some savings to tide me over while i am in hardcore training mode, and i am not living off poker income, though i do think i’ll get to that point within the next few months.
so yeah, just wanted to be transparent about that. i felt super honored to be featured so prominently in a major publication, but at the same time it made me uneasy because obviously i wish i had better poker numbers to show for myself. i don’t expect to be taken seriously by real pros until i have real results. but, i just need to keep reminding my n00b self that it’s not like i’ve been playing poker for 10 years and now decided to turn pro; i started from scratch here. and i am dedicated to this in a way that i have never been to anything else. i have full confidence in my ability to continue to learn, continue to grow my bankroll, and hopefully rack up some major successes in the near future.
one piece of good news is that the downswing has finally leveled off. i dipped under 2K for a little while, which was beyond depressing, but i’ve had a few nice runs and i think i’m back in the swing of things. i’ve had two live lessons and three online lessons with my coach alex, and through him i also got a trial membership on the website for a training program he works for, Deepstacks university. i believe it was started by mike matusow, and they do live bootcamps and stuff, but the website is great because it has interactive lessons given by a lot of well-respected live and online pros, so i’ve been spending some time going through those things. i feel like every time i play i learn something new, and i just get more and more confident!!
i’ve also been working on my live game, and i’ve had a couple recent successes playing low stakes cash games at the card club. last night i went there and sat down at the $100max table (maximum buy in $100, blinds 1/2) and doubled up the first hand i played, and won a couple more pots to end up with $250 in under two hours. i’m finally getting more comfortable playing live, but i still do have trouble with counting chips and figuring out how much is in the pot. i know it just comes with practice so i’m trying to get in as much as i can, though it is not getting any easier for me to stomach the atmosphere at the card club. it’s a dirty degenerate place, full of sad smelly old men with missing teeth and little asian dudes reeking of cigarettes. of course being female attracts insane amounts of letch attention; i only saw one other woman in there actually playing at a table. i jumped in the shower as soon as i got home last night, even though i’d already showered yesterday. i suspect in vegas the poker scene is not quite so seedy.
so i am going to vegas next weekend for my birthday!!!!!! and i’m itching to play either a tourney or maybe just some low stakes cash against the tourists. i’ve been to vegas quite a few times, at least 5 or 6 when i lived in los angeles. my friends and i would mess around at the blackjack tables in old town vegas, but at that time i didn’t even know how to play poker, so i think it’s going to be a much more interesting experience this time. i’m also very excited to meet some of the players i’ve been talking to online who are there for the WSOP. i obviously don’t have the funds to buy into any WSOP events (they start at 1k buy in) but i will definitely be making a trip to the Rio to at least check out the scene.
maybe i’ll see some of you there? :)
xox, thegroupie
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the last couple months have not been good. in fact, april and may have been more or less barren, cashwise. though i feel that my play has improved tremendously in the last six weeks, my bankroll has been decreasing slowly but surely every day. and i have not been able to figure out how to stop the hemorrhaging.
i am well aware that variance is a normal part of a poker player’s career. downturns happen to everyone, particularly to players like me who do not play cash games or spend a lot of time grinding single table sit-and-gos (SnGs). for the present i have chosen to focus on multi-table tournaments (MTTs, for those of you not familiar with poker acronyms) and *some* multi-table sit-and-gos (MTT SnGs). in the big MTT tournaments, there are often thousands of opponents to get through, and it’s usually the top 10% who make it into the money. but making it into the money a few times won’t keep you afloat if you are playing a high volume of tournaments. the minimum cash is usually about 1.5x the buy in for the tournament. so you could buy in a tournament for $10 with 1500 opponents, and make it through 1400 of them to finish in 100th. you would win something like $15. you might have worked for 5 or 6 hours, and then basically just get your money back. whereas top prize on the other hand would be around $3000! the prizes are weighted disproportionately to the top few spots.
i’ve heard various statistics on how often good players should cash – i.e. the percentage of time they make it into the money (ITM) – and 15% seems to be a generally accepted number. i’m ITM 16% now, so i’m right around where i should be! i’m cashing in the correct *percentage* of tournaments that i am playing. the problem is, that lately i keep having these MINIMUM cashes, where i just barely get my buy-in back. and that doesn’t pay for the buy-ins i lose in the other 84% of tournaments i am playing where i DON’T make it to the money. in order to keep my bankroll healthy i need to WIN some of these big tournaments, or at least make it into the top 3 spots.
so i’ve been chugging along, still playing as many tournaments as i can fit into a day, and trying to figure out how to rectify this situation. i think one problem has been that after a large cash in early april i started playing more expensive tournaments regularly, and i need to go back to smaller buy-ins. this downswing has definitely been affecting my outlook, and the last couple months have been sort of emotionally harrowing, but the best players are the ones who can persevere in the face of disappointment after disappointment. it’s very hard to stay positive when you have a day where you get aces cracked three times in a row, or take a bad beat and finish just outside the money in a big tournament. that’s where the champagne comes in i suppose. and the gym. i’m getting (slightly) better at discerning when i am so tilty that i need to just stop playing and go do something else.
i’ve also started lessons with a coach in the last couple weeks (alex outhred) and these have been hugely helpful. i feel stronger than ever; now it is a question of synthesizing all this new knowledge into my own strategy, so that my game becomes profitable once again.
so i guess that’s where i’m at right now. in a bit of rut, but optimistic that i will be out soon. wish me luck!
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greetings and salutations

finally figured out how to embed a blog in this bitch! i will primarily be using it to blog about poker, but perhaps will discuss other related and unrelated topics of interest.
first of all, why am i thegroupie? in a past life, one of my favorite activities was going to rock’n’roll shows, and for several years i haunted the music scene in cities up and down the eastern seaboard. consequently i became friends with a lot of musicians, but since i am not one myself (and since these were mostly males) i always felt a bit like a groupie. i adopted the nickname for my online endeavors about 10 years ago, as sort of a tongue-in-cheek jab at myself. i am not a “real” groupie of the “almost famous” variety (terrible movie btw), but i find aspects of that culture intriguing, and i admit i do still have a soft spot for boys in bands ;)
this website has been up in various incarnations since 2001. i started it as a place where people (including me) could post photos of themselves with their favorite bands. i did a couple silly little interviews with music friends, as well as legendary groupies pamela des barres and cynthia plastercaster. maybe i should put those back up. i haven’t been using the site for much of anything lately, but i figured it would be a nice place to house this new poker persona of mine.
so yes, poker. i have a lot more to tell you about myself, but right now i will just describe how i got to this point. i spent the last six years working on my ph.d. at an esteemed west coast university. when i finally finished, in early autumn of 2009, i had absolutely no idea what to do with my life. the only thing i was certain of was that i needed to get the fuck out of academia, and fast. the constant guilt, stress, insane workload, minimal pay, unrealistic expectations, and lack of encouragement or respect that comes with being a grad student pretty much destroyed my soul. no matter how much i did, it was never enough to keep up with the overachieving rodents on the perverse rat race up the ivory tower. even if there were plenty of academic jobs out there for new ph.d.s (which there aren’t), it didn’t matter. i was done.
i had learned to play poker one night drinking wine with some friends in los angeles a couple years ago, and we played a few times in very very casual home games. my friends and i basically just knew the rules for what hand beats what; there was no strategy going on whatsoever. i knew i enjoyed playing poker, but my friends weren’t that interested in keeping the games going and they died off. at some point i think i saw a full tilt ad, and decided to throw $50 online just for kicks in april of 2008. i’d play the lowest possible stakes cash games when i was drunk and bored at home, get a huge kick out of it whenever i won a hand, gradually lose the $50 over several months, deposit again. i knew there was supposed to be some strategy behind poker, but i really had no interest in finding it out; i enjoyed gambling purely as entertainment.
after i finally finished my ph.d. i had a little more time on my hands, and it randomly occurred to me that maybe i should try to look into how to play poker for real. i had always won money when i played against my friends, so i assumed i was pretty good; why was it that i kept on losing when i played online? so i found some article for supernoobs online that was called like “how to stop sucking at poker” or something, and i was so fucking appalled – i was a total fish! i was doing ALL of the things people do who totally suck! playing any hand with a face card, chasing out any straight or flush to the river, and fuck if i knew what “position” i was in or why that had any relevance to anything. at first i was daunted; i knew poker was complex, but i didn’t realize it was THAT complex. it looked like way too much boring crazy crap to learn.
at that point my main goal was to get some sort of boring “real job” that paid me a lot of money. or at least, more than grad school did. one of the dirty little secrets that no one tells you about grad school, is that they pay you *half* of a minimum entry-level salary. i just wanted a job that was easy and mindless, with minimal responsibilities, that i could do 9-5 and go home and NOT THINK ABOUT. so i went to the campus career center, and met with a counselor a few times. we did all these personality and skills assessments – meyers-briggs, etc – to help me figure out what kind of job would best suit my temperament. among other things, i am highly independent, introverted, and logic/analysis-oriented; she came up with a lot of suggestions for jobs that might be a good fit, like stuff to do with accounting and computer programming, but honestly they all sounded TOO boring. when this wasn’t really getting anywhere, she started asking me about my hobbies and personal interests, i.e. what stuff i actually LIKE doing. i went through a bunch (i am scarily obsessed with word games such as scrabble and boggle; i have been learning yiddish for the last few years; i figure skate; very interested in music obvs) and i mentioned as an afterthought that i’d been learning to play poker. she immediately pounced on that idea and was like “omg that is the perfect career for you – a professional poker player!” i’m like, “huh?” and she’s all, “haven’t you seen the world series of poker? those people make millions of dollars! you can work independently, set your own hours, use your analytical skills..” and i’m like “uhh.. ok,” but thinking, yeah right – that’s not a valid job! i just got a fucking ph.d. and i’m going to go be a professional gambler?
i absolutely did not take that suggestion seriously, but i did continue to read up on poker on the internet, and bit by bit started understanding how the strategy worked. i was already familiar with the concept of expected value, as part of my dissertation looked at how different areas of the brain are involved in aspects of reward prediction and processing (this falls under the trendy new field of neuroeconomics), including the neural regions that code for probabilities of different outcomes, magnitudes of the expected rewards, etc. this boring poker stats stuff wasn’t really that hard – in fact it was a lot of stuff i already understood! i continued to read up, i started downloading gigabytes upon gigabytes of tournament videos, and after a little while poker just started making total sense to me.
and i guess the rest is history! i have been playing pretty much every day since september of 2009, at first still harboring the idea that i was going to get a “real job.” in december, though up only a pathetic $250 from my $50 deposit, i decided that i was going to abandon the real job thing and REALLY commit myself to trying to play poker for a living. i told all my family and friends about it when i went home for the holidays. i won my first big cash ($900) in january, and have just been continuing to work as hard as i can to become as proficient as possible. i spend all day playing, watching poker tournaments, reading poker books. i have had several more large cashes and am up over $3500 at present. and i am so confident that i will continue to have success, as i can feel myself improving every day. i am aiming for the stars with this; if grad school taught me nothing else, it taught me how to work hard, and with the rate i am progressing i see no reason why i won’t someday be playing in the biggest tournaments!! :)
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