shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

Those of you in NYC probably already saw this, but for the sake of those of you elsewhere, I thought I'd link to this article in the New York Times regarding the shooting at a poker club here that I recently wrote about.

I find a few quotes amusing:

“A week ago, there were two or three rooms operating in Manhattan, but now there are zero,” said Steven McLoughlin, a poker aficionado who moderates a poker discussion at and closely follows the Manhattan club scene. ”You don't know what can happen.“

I have no interest in finding the clubs anymore, but this blatantly can't be true. I've gotten SMS and emails from a number of clubs announcing their “new security measures” and offering freerolls. I am sure attendance is way down, but they are still making a go.

And then there's this one:

“But the overwhelming majority are not compulsive gamblers,” he [the broadcast producer who has frequented clubs for five years] said. “They do this as a way of blowing off steam, and that is healthier than sitting in front of the TV.”

First, sitting on your ass at a poker table is probably slightly less healthy than sitting on the couch watching TV. After all, at home, most of us don't have a waitress bringing us junk food and sodas; we actually have to make the walk to the kitchen for that. Second, most people I've met in the NYC poker scene do have some sort of gambling problem, even if it is a minor one.


The people interviewed for this article would not say who sponsors and operates the Manhattan clubs, but insisted that there was no hint of involvement by organized crime.

Obviously, people did not pay much attention. What about the partially confirmed rumors of how the former part-owner of the O. Club had gambling debts with the mob and was funneling money to pay them back? How about the older folks at the E. Club who would just sit and watch? And the stories of how the T. Club had paid for protection to keep them safe?

I agree the connections were tangential and the bigger $10k buy-in games were probably much more connected, but there is somewhat no denying it.

BTW, I've been playing online some, which if probably a story worth posting and might do so soon.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I have been talking about safety issues, busts and robberies for quite a while. I decided to quit playing at NYC clubs over a year ago due primarily to safety issues. It seems my read was right.

I've always felt that robberies were more dangerous than busts. I've also mentioned to many that fear of a young guy making a mistake or getting nervous with a gun would be the biggest threat.

Seems I was right about that too, after last night. There have been a number of stories, of which this seems the most accurate and detailed, and this one is not bad. (Update: This story is much better than the others.) There is also a long 2+2 thread now, that started just an hour and half after the incident.

For those who don't want to chase links: another robbery at a club on 28th street and 5th Avenue has occurred and resulted in our first NYC poker death, due to an apparently accidentally fired gun of a robber.

There is no game juicy enough to risk your life, even if it's a thousand to one shot that you'll get killed. I've played enough poker to find that thousand to ones come in every once in a while and you just have to avoid the situation when you are gambling with your life.

I hope this will help the effort to get legal poker at the Aqueduct race track. For the meantime, I'm glad I left the NYC poker scene when I did.

Update: Newer stories are saying this club was run by the Straddle Club team. Like almost everyone who has run a club in this city, they've always were pretty bad at their business; it's in some ways no surprise it was their club — again. But, frankly, any place that runs a game with less than a $10k buy-in probably simply isn't safe, no matter what.

Another Update: There is a New York Times story now.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

Yet another robbery of a NYC club reminds me why I don't play the local clubs anymore. The chance of being held up at gun point makes it not worth it.

Of course, since there's basically only a robbery once every six months or so, it means you're at least 1-to-182 against to get hit. Probably less, if you avoid the peak 23:00-01:00 hours. Still, I don't gamble with these sorts of things, only poker itself. Especially when there are better ways to spend one's time.

shipitfish: (Default)

I actually do have posts from the rest of the Texas trip mostly written, and will get them up this week. I have a few other trip reports coming as well; I just want to make sure they are reasonably well written before posting.

Anyway, I am posting a program note, as it were, that I'm probably going to be spending most of my time playing online until the full-on crackdown from the law comes. I've actually worked out with the cashier department of Full Tilt Poker to allow me to deposit via Visa Check Card and cashout via standard, paper check. However, I'm planning to do careful bankroll management so I don't need to buy-in again, because the Visa Check Card method will surely go away as soon as the banks start complying with the law, which they'll likely do a bit early of their deadline. I figure I'll probably be able to deposit cashout checks from Full Tilt right up until the deadline; implementation of anti-check depositing systems will probably be last on the list, since it's only semi-electronic.

From a time management perspective, given that I'm relying on $1k/month coming out of poker for expenses, online play is the most rational. The games in NYC are still full of amazingly bad players. However, even though the profitability of the games outweigh the time charges and tokes, it's really a question of time investment. If you can get only 20-30 hands an hour, against annoying people (most of the NYC player fare), and still need to commute to the club, why bother? There's no point when instead you can get 200 hands an hour, against players who make (fewer but) enough mistakes to be highly profitable, and you can instead talk with your wife in-between hands. Is this even a hard choice?

Poker is about maximizing EV, and NL HE is a predatory game. Being a predator is a tiresome business, and meanwhile, I have a real job that is focused on making the world a better place. That job requires substantial time investment, and is actually worth it. It's not worth staying up far too late watching a bunch of insufferable people give you their money, when the same type of folks will instead click buttons and give you just as much money, and you can still get to bed at a decent hour, and go into your day job that you actually like.

Finally, there's the factor that online poker may be gone soon for US Citizens. I may find myself left with only the annoying NYC club scene at some point, and it's clear if it survived the last round of major busts, it will continue to be there indefinitely once online poker is really gone. I can always reevaluate based on new information as the poker world continues to change.

Oh, and on the home game front, I've made a deal with my wife, since it's better for her, to host them once a month but for much longer (1PM-midnight). The setup and cleanup costs are pretty high, so she's convinced me it's a better model to run longer games less frequently. I realized too that this fits a mixed game setup better anyway.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I had waited until I had double-confirmed this, since my last news of a NYC club turned out to be inaccurate, but I now have confirmation from three sources that the E. Club was robbed this week. There had been a previous rumor of robbery there as well, although that was never officially confirmed.

The E. Club is one of two remaining well-known clubs that continue to operate. All other games have gone so deep underground such that if you aren't a very high stakes or an “every night” player, these are the only two games on the more beaten paths of New York that you can find easily aside from home games. Games seem to abound further out in the boroughs, but these are the two you can stop in for a few hours on your way home from work in Manhattan.

Robberies, of course, are more problematic than a police raid. Since the legal status of the club's operation is dubious at best, they can't easily get the protection of the police, unless they buy it. If they don't do such, getting robbed can happen easily.

I am starting to believe the risk of playing public games in New York might be too great. I am sure the high stakes games have better security, but they are games well above the standard recreational poker bankroll. If you are in the “in crowd” of NYC poker, there are other opportunities, but getting into that crowd fully requires more longevity of time in the NYC poker scene or other types of connections.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

There is a Poker Players' Alliance call-in to the USA Senate today until 17:30 Eastern. They set up an automated 800 line that auto-forwards you to one of your senators based on your zip code. The line is flooded right now, so calling your senator directly might be better at the moment.

I'm more the faxing type; that's the way I've always chosen to write to my legislative representatives. Below is what I wrote to my New York Senators. Feel free to cut and paste at will if you want to fax them. You can probably dig up fax numbers on the site.

Dear Ms. Clinton [ and Mr. Schumer],

I am a new resident of New York state; I moved here only one year ago, so it is my first time contacting you.

I am writing to urge you to oppose legislation that would make online poker and other poker-related activities illegal. I know that there is at least one bill of this nature that might be before the Senate this term.

The game of poker is an American tradition dating back to the civil war era, and perhaps earlier. Mark Twain considered it so important to America's culture that he proclaimed that a man who didn't know the “meaning of a ‘flush’” was “enough to make one ashamed of one's species”. Many famous presidents, such as Truman and Nixon, were known for their love of the game. Truman even played it on the way home from Potsdam with the journalists and staffers with him to help ease his mind as he made the key American decisions of the end of World War II. To make poker illegal would deny our own game-playing heritage.

Poker is unlike other so-called “gambling” activities that Congress seeks to outlaw. Poker is indeed played with cards for money, but it is a game of skill, not chance. It is much more like chess than it is like lotteries. Meanwhile, I find it incredibly hypocritical that legislation under consideration carves out special permission for state lotteries, which can be defined no other way than “pure gambling”. No credible reason is given for allowing these wagering activities, while a traditional and quintessentially American game of skill that includes wagering is declared illegal online.

I hope that you will vehemently oppose this legislation on the behalf of me and all New York poker players. As a New York City resident, I have witnessed first-hand a recent backlash and crackdown against those who enjoy a friendly game of poker here in this great city. Poker players and those who make venues available for us to play are currently treated as if we were criminals, while those who run seedy off-track betting establishments are given an endorsement in the law.

I hope you see this hypocrisy and pandering for what it is. Please, don't let it extend any further for New Yorkers than it already has. Oppose all legislation that would make poker illegal. Instead, support plans that would regulate and tax poker for the benefit of the general good, much like those lotteries that are already endorsed by our government. Prohibition has never worked to prevent activities that certain parties dislike; let's instead find ways to build a tax revenue base from this activity that some misguided politicians find “immoral”.


Bradley Sif

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

Perhaps this is a premature report, but there is some circumstantial evidence that one of the two remaining lower limit poker clubs on the island of Manhattan was busted on Friday. I had previously reported the bust of this particular club, as it was shut down temporarily but reopened a few weeks later. Some information indicates that it's really gone this time, but I'll keep reporting as I get confirmation and/or more information.

I have apparently included my luck of visiting clubs just before or after busts. I showed up the afternoon after the New York Player's Club bust to find it gone; I was at All-In the very night of the bust, having left early. This time, I finally decided to visit the highest raked game in the city, find the club bustling with 7 (!) tables, and hear about a probable bust the end of that very week.

I believe the E. Club — a tiny two table club somewhere on Manhattan — keeps rolling on. I know of a few clubs in the boroughs which I haven't visit but may. However, if this bust has happened, it's another major blow to the possibility that New York City poker for the casual player will continue to exist. Heck, maybe AC casinos are bribing the busts in preparation for the high speed train next year?

Of course, there are still super small stakes home games, and there are giant private games (I won't be playing $75/$150 Stud or $10/$20 NL any time soon, for example). But, for the lower limit enthusiast who'd like to play bigger than $.5/$1 NL but below $10/$20 NL, the games are disappearing.

There was an interesting article recently in Bluff Magazine about the NYC poker scene. It's further evidence that if you have really big money to put in play around the city, you can find a game without a problem. But, small-time poker is becoming less and less worth the risk for most club owners. Even the last group associated with the famous Mayfair club, who were still operating in the city as recently as a year ago have given up and aren't running clubs. When I was in Vegas, I ran into the floorperson who, after living through the New York Player's Club bust, ran The Loft then the Studio then the New Studio and finally gave up. Instead, he's a $30/$60 limit HE pro in the games at the Wynn every day now. It's just not worth his while to run his club.

I have the urge to rant and rant about how the city could build a nice tax base making poker legal, that it's no worse than the Off Track Betting store-fronts on every corner, and that we'd find what California has — legal poker doesn't lead to degeneration of society.

I don't know if it's really worth it. Everyone reading the rant likely agrees with me, and we know the legislature is absolutely fine with being two-faced about what gambling they will permit. You see, New York City isn't a dump truck; it's a series of tubes. We can let horses ride through those tubes, but poker chips clog it. Only lottery balls can clear such a clog. (I was fortunate enough to have been in the studio audience of The Daily Show the very day that particular sketch aired. It vaguely makes me feel better. Laughter the best medicine and all that.)

Anyway, I'll go back to being a degenerate New Yorker engaged in activities shunned by my government. People playing poker must be the worst social problem we face in the USA, no? I'll log onto an online poker site and wait for the jack-booted thugs to bang down my apartment door to stop me from engaging in such socially harmful activity.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

Last night, I got all my chips in out-of-position in a multiway pot at a NYC club; Dawn was in the pot. I held the 5h 3s on a 5c 5s Jc board with two clubs. I moved in because we had one all-in-preflop player for the main pot, and I had a bet and a large raise (from Dawn) in the sidepot ahead of me. I decided that I would represent a weak flush draw by check-raising all-in. I had Dawn, based on previous action, on either AJ or QQ (she claimed later it was QQ). I figured she'd call most of the time with QQ and fold AJ. I expected the very tight player in between to fold his flush draw or jack. There was a reasonably good chance I'd win the side pot and end up heads up against the all-in-preflop player

It came out as I expected, the tight player folded, and Dawn thought for a while. Now, I am totally against soft-playing, so I wouldn't have told Dawn to fold or otherwise given her any direct information. However, I really wanted Dawn to fold because I knew what she probably had and knew she'd have trouble folding QQ.

I should interrupt my story to note that I'm typically the type to give off false tells. I've noticed a few tells common with players who have big hands — there's the classic hand-shaking, but also they tend to breathe heavier when they've made a big bet with a strong holding than they do with a bluff.

I try to use a reverse tell in these instances. When I don't want a call, I get myself all excited and breathing heavier, and if I can get it going (usually I can't), I get my hands shaking a bit. I do the reverse when I have a hand.

However, in this situation, I suddenly found myself shaking a bit and breathing heavy. I am usually in total control of this tell and frequently reverse it or otherwise mix it up. And here I am, up against Dawn, knowing that I don't want to see her lose, and I'm inadvertently giving off the correct signals of a big hand.

Dawn folded after much deliberation, and I haven't yet had a chance to ask her if the tell was a factor. I sure hope it wasn't, because I feel somewhat that effectively I made a subconscious soft-play. I agree that a soft-play of any kind is 100% cheating. I think two articles recently on the subject get that point across well.

So, did I subconsciously soft-play? Should I feel bad about it? I know that I am consciously in control of that tell because I used it three other times that night to give the wrong signal to other opponents. But, heads-up with Dawn with a player all-in and one folded, I let it come out as a straight-up signal. By the time I was breathing heavy and shaking a bit and realized it, I couldn't get control of it to stop it, so I let it go. Did I cheat? Should I try to avoid playing at the table with Dawn in the future anywhere but home games?

I think I'm helped by the fact that Dawn likely didn't pick up on the tell one way or the other, but she'll probably comment here to say. Still, that doesn't excuse it if I was, even subconsciously, trying to give her a signal to fold.

Oh, finally, for those who want to know how it turned out, Dawn folded, I claimed the side pot, and had to show my hand to show it down with the all-in player who had committed his chips preflop with Qc 8c and caught the Kc on the turn.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

So, I would have expected to see the usual suspects of NYC small-time players on the Boston vs. New York show, which continues to be so bad I can't stand watching it. I wouldn't really expect it on any other show.

However, right there on the first main event episode, the feature table includes someone I know. Heck, it's even someone that I know well enough to have a pretty strong read on! I was really surprised to see her — still staring at the board when she misses and calling raises with AJo. It's Steph, someone I shared the tables with for many hours at the old O and U Clubs. Until tonight, I knew her only by her first name, as first names only is pretty typical at our semi-legal clubs around the city. Turns out she's Stephanie “windough” Klempner and seems to be PokerStars most ESPN-covered player of the 2006 main event, as she landed on the first day's television table with Phil Hellmuth.

Now, I can't speak to Steph's tournament game, but I suppose now that she's famous, I can take some liberty to make a public comment about what I know of her cash game. Truth is that (at least about six months ago) she was still one of the more beatable regulars that I encountered around the NYC clubs.

However, the big plus side is that she was always a great person to have at the table. Unlike most of the totality of NYC players, she's a kind, friendly person who is polite to everyone. That's a big exception to most of what you see around here. The saying about all NYCers being rude isn't really true in general, but it is almost completely true at the poker table. Steph was always an exception.

So, while I don't think Steph's skill is representative of what can be found in the small games of NYC poker, I'm sure that she, probably by a long shot, made a better impression of proper etiquette at a poker table than most NYC players would have. I'm glad that Steph won her satellite, and sorry she didn't cash. I don't think anyone could pick a kinder player as the token NYC small-time player for the main event.

(Because of his appearance on the first Boston vs. New York, Alfonse has previously been held up as “the quintessential NYC small-time poker player” in the media, and that's just embarrassing to us all. Too bad Steph didn't get enough air time to kill that image.)

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I've spent some time reading the blogs of my fellow NYC players lately. Having moved from Boston to NYC at the height of the poker boom, I usually felt like an outsider from the NYC poker scene. Like everyone outside of NYC, I had read Riding the F-Train, which — much to the surprise of its author — was (during 2004 and 2005) known nationwide as the NYC poker blog. It's primarily because of his reviews, which are all of clubs long since closed, that kept people reading. Having not been out of NYC for poker in a long time, I am not sure what blog is considered the quintessential NYC poker blog now.

I have lamented some that I believe the NYC poker scene is dying. It may be true, in the sense that concerns me most. Namely, as it gets harder and harder to find clubs in NYC, only stronger players will bother to find them. Thus, the games will not be as good nor worthwhile. But, perhaps what I see as death is merely a hiatus and things will eek back to normal once the police vice squad finds something better to do.

Positive thoughts about the future of NYC poker increased since I started reading more of the NYC poker blogs around. They always seemed to be hosted on BlogSpot rather than liveJournal, so I wasn't reading them regularly. I have now finally gone to the trouble to collect their RSS feeds into a single location (using a LiveJournal friends filter, for those of you who are actually LJ geeks). If you are interested, you now have a convenient way to read the NYC poker blogs that I also read. If you know of any that I should be reading but haven't added, let me know.

I should also note that I've got a review of one of the few clubs still around in the city coming soon. Finally, I have thought about maybe starting a serious poker discussion group (like the various Las Vegas Poker Discussion Groups). I haven't really figured out how to filter attendance, though. You want a group like that to have a high level of knowledge to make it useful.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I am sitting here slowly recovering from the “bad beat” W.D. put on me — not a poker one, but a plane-caught cold he brought back from Asia and shared with the office. The coughing is annoying, so to distract myself, I'm playing micro-limit online poker (so I don't abuse my bankroll while sick) and watching television.

Of course, nearly every hour of the day there's another poker show on televison. Most of them are pointless. Producers have not completely figured out yet: people don't want to watch amatuers play, as if poker were some sort of game show!

Perhaps the worst of these shows is YES Network and Party Poker's Boston vs. New York Poker Challenge. I suppose the worst part about this game to me is that I have played with at least half of the players. As someone who spent a lot of time playing poker in both Boston and NYC during the poker boom, I've run into just about everyone who has spent more than a few weeks at poker games in either city.

And, for about fifteen seconds, my reaction to the show was: “Wow, people I know on TV”. Then, I realized that I didn't really like hanging out with nearly any of them when I played regularly in the home games and clubs of Boston and NYC! Of the half I know, there is only one person on the whole show who has extremely strong poker skills (he's a Boston player previously mentioned in this journal years back, for those who want to hunt). And, while he's not a bad guy, he's not the friendliest of folks — he plays poker to take people's money, not to make friends. The rest, well, their company is not the most high quality out there.

Truth is, sitting here, coughing and watching this awful show like it's a train wreck I can't turn my head from, I am reminded that, in poker, I spend a lot of time with unlikeable people. There's a meme going around the NYC poker blogs that states if you want to be a winning poker player, you have to hang around with losers. It's a fact that is difficult to argue; good players choose good games with weak competition. Weak players are, by definition, losers.

On the other hand, it is not that simple. I was a fish in my River Street NL days. While I might have been a loser (per se) in the game, I was working hard to get better at the game and learn more. I was able to keep even by the final days, because I simply passed chips from the truely terrible players to the very good ones.

I wonder if I felt so strongly and positively about that game and the people in it because I was a little bit the fish. When I play now, and find tables with only two or three strong players out of ten, and the rest mostly jerks who I wouldn't think to spend time with otherwise, I wonder why I am playing. If it's for the money merely, I have to consider if I would stay in a job with a mix of co-workers identical to the nightly line up at your average NYC, Foxwoods, or AC poker game. And online? Heck, I can barely stand to have the chat boxes on at all. The level of homophobic remarks alone are enough to make any reasonable person ill.

Ironically, I had been thinking lately that I want to see if the New York clubs are still as bad in this respect as they were the last few times I went. Of course, I won't discover another River Street hiding under a subway station in downtown Manhattan. But, perhaps there is a community of players that has a good mix, where the losers aren't insufferable. Or, maybe the games will be so lucrative again that I won't care so much.

Whatever the NYC poker scene is now or becomes, I'm sure that I don't want to watch it on TV. If I am in a game myself, I have to watch the other players as I try to think as they do and learn as much as I can about their psychology. But, if they aren't the best players in the world, it's going to be downright boring to do that as a mere spectator. If it wasn't for the coughing fits drowning out weak players explaining how they are “in it to win it”, I am sure I'd have changed the channel by now. Oh, wait, I have a High Stakes Poker episode on TiVo.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

There have been a series of busts over the past few weeks in the New York City clubs. Since early March, I have been playing mostly online (if at all). I was only occasionally visiting the clubs — about once every two and half weeks. Each time I look up to see where to go, the whole landscape has been changed by busts.

A club that I once visited called Satellite was busted a long time ago. Another club opened in its location, called Playground. I went once, but it was still busted within weeks of its grand opening. I went to Playroom once, and but it got busted before I could go again. All In (which I called the L Club) has been gone for months. Another club I hadn't mentioned yet, the Straddle Club (made up of some old Ace Point people), was busted a few weeks ago.

I have to admit that the police attack strategy is starting to work on me, for two reasons. First, I am simply fed up with the comedy of errors the casual player must go through to find what clubs are open. I am never a regular; I haven't been one since the old R club and 72nd Street (aka the NY Players' Club). If you aren't tuned in constantly to the NYC poker scene, you have to do some leg work to find out what has happened. I'm in touch with some regulars, which helps, but it's still impossible to go to a club on the spur of the moment unless you are constantly “tuned in”.

Second, the games are nowhere near as good as they once were. Sure, there are some fish about, but the line-ups have gotten substantially tougher. The casual players simply aren't going out to the clubs. Think about this, and it's obvious why: a heavy poker enthusiast like myself, who, all things being equal, wants to play live once every week or two, cannot find out who's in business without 24-hour lead time to email out to regulars to see what's going on. Can you imagine that any casual $1/$2 NL player wants to do that work? Do they even have any regulars' email addresses?

The public policy here is ludicrous, given that Off-Track-Betting is legal throughout the city — it's not like we are a gambling-free zone. But, that argument doesn't help much to solve anything. Meanwhile, rumors abound that owners of some clubs are calling in competing clubs, but this seems quite unlikely. A rising tide of “reduced police heat” would raise all boats here, and I am sure everyone is savvy enough to realize that. More likely, the best of the best club workers are heading the relative safety of dealing and running high-stakes private games (see below).

I know of four clubs still operating around the city, but I have not been racing to get to them. The regular fish that I watched move from 72nd Street to the Loft and Satellite have either quit, or have returned to the baby-limit home games from whence they came, as far as I can tell. For my part, I am finding amazing games online. I miss the social side of it, but I must admit that even that has decayed.

Indeed, I realized something: most of the people in the clubs now are not the people I want to hang around. This is something that [ profile] roryk might have been correct about. I've noticed that the people that I meet at these clubs now — those people that keep coming even after multiple busts and reopens — are not really people whom I want in my poker games. Now, I wouldn't say they are “seedy” people, by any means. It just seems that most of the people who have “stuck with it” are either sharks looking for a good game (who are generally nice people, but not the people I want to be playing against all the time), or just plain jerks who clearly have no ability to be socially connected in any other way.

That's a sweeping generalization and an exaggeration, but it has some truth. I have noticed that once clubs have been around a while, they attract some weak competition who are also nice people. But, the hard-cores really are jerks or sharks. Compare this to the casino, where you get to meet retirees who are just relaxing and enjoying their time off, and vacationing people from all over who play a home game from time to time and have simply picked poker instead of blackjack to burn their vacation dollars. I loved getting to know and “entertaining” people at Foxwoods when I played there regularly, but that's not the feel of a “just opened and could be busted next week” NYC club.

There are, of course, many private games throughout the city, but nothing at low or even medium stakes. I know of a $50/$75/$150 Stud game and a $200/$400 HE game, for example. Those are, of course, way above my bankroll. There are probably serious fish (and serious pros) in those games, but I can't imagine I'll ever play those kinds of stakes, frankly.

I have been invited to, and attended twice, a private “study” game. It was started by one of the local limit sharks who practices securities law in his “real life”. The goal of the game is for everyone to learn mixed games. If it were a pure limit HE game, I'd be throwing my money away with the tough lineup there. But, we play quite a large mix of games (more on this in a later post), and I'm probably a favorite to the game in most of them, given my diverse poker experience.

I look forward to posting about that game, which I'll call “C.H.'s Game”. However, they all have the URL of this journal, so I have to be prepared, as was with the late River Street days, to have all the players reading the posts.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

The U Club was busted. I've confirmed it from multiple reliable sources. It was a false alarm last time, but I think it's for real this time. I'd love to be wrong, of course. Why in the world are we a top priority for the NYPD?

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

So, while the U Club remains open, the L Club was in fact raided on Thursday night! I was actually there that night; W.D. and I couldn't be gladder that we left early to head over to the H Club!

I am sure this was a bust, because there was a a post on Craig's List, a comment in my journal, and W.D. himself stopped by after work yesterday to play a half only to find them gone and not answering the phone.

This club had a number of questionable policies and practices. I heard a rumor that the house people, who often played in the game when they should have been paying attention to the customer needs, were cheating. I doubt this was true, but what I do believe is that they structured table assignment to get a pyramid scheme going whereby extremely weak players dumped stacks to mediocre players who then would be placed at tables with big stacks than they could lose chips to the house players. They implemented this scheme through a creative and strange “must move” policy. (It was unlike any must-move setup I've ever seen at any casino I've visited, in part because the floor manipulated and changed the order of people's moves. They would also arbitrarily suspend the must-move policy for a few halves depending on who was where.)

I can't say I'm sad to see the club go. They had bad customer service, were rude to the customers, and treated their dealers badly. They flaunted their existence on public fora, so it's not surprising that they eventually got busted. I just hope this isn't a beginning of another round of city-wide busts.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I heard a rumor last night that was “confirmed” this morning: The U Club open just a few weeks, was supposedly busted on Wednesday night.

This is third incarnation of the same club. It is professional and well-run. Meanwhile, clubs run by people who have no business sense at all, like the E and L clubs, run interrupted for a year or more. We all know there is no justice in poker itself, but there's also little justice in the world of quasi-illegal poker clubs in NYC.

I am so glad to learn, now later in the day, that this was a big false alarm — there's a little justice at least. Apparently, they were closed for some non-disclosed reason. They could be on a bigger radar screen, which may mean the days are numbered, but they are up and running at the moment.

shipitfish: (u-club-stack-2006-03)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Work Dan and I were playing at the U Club when a fellow dumped a nearly $500 stack to me. He rebought for around $200, and played for a while when the following hand came up between him and Work Dan.

Work Dan (W.D.) called behind this guy, let's call him Stack Dumper (S.D.) (in honor of his earlier dump to me), in late position when S.D. had raised to $10. They saw the flop five handed with $50 and with Dan in position (some earlier limpers called the raise when it came back around to them). S.D. had about $250 behind and W.D. had about $350.

The flop was Ks Qc 9h. S.D. bet $5. He'd never bet so little into a big pot like this. Dan made it $30 to go, the rest of the field folded, and S.D. min-reraised making it $60 to go. W.D. thought for a while and called. There was $170 in the pot and the saw the turn 2d, which left the board without a flush draw.

S.D. thought for a moment and bet $55. Dan thought for nearly a minute and called. At this moment, I was beginning to feel that S.D. had JT. His play was extremely strange and didn't match up with his past behavior. I had no visual read on him that told me anything, but the betting sequence, especially given that it was so different from his past actions, seemed to shout JT.

On the river, which fell Ad, S.D. quickly grabbed the $5 chip covering his cards, put it on his remaining stack and pushed for $127 total into a $280 pot. W.D. thought for a long time. He looked at S.D. and said you have Broadway, don't you? You flopped the nuts, didn't you?. S.D. tried his best to look away, and finally met W.D.'s eyes and grinned and pushed his eyebrows up a few times. This, too, was out of character; he was a very serious player who didn't make faces like this and goof off like that. The only visual tell I noticed was that S.D. seemed pretty calm — which I usually read as a bluffer's tell — but I had no visual read when he bet the nuts to compare it to. I continued to think JT and was rooting for W.D. to fold what I thought was KQ.

W.D. thought and thought and finally called, very reluctantly. I just kept saying in my head that S.D. had the nuts. At the moment of the call, I figured W.D. must have had a set; I figured he'd fold KQ. S.D. showed the Qh 7h for a middle pair bluff, and W.D. won with 9s 9d for bottom set (on the flop).

W.D. and I debated for a long time about how he should have played it. I felt that he needed to decided on the flop or the turn if the guy had JT. If he felt there was a good chance a set was good, he had to move in on the flop or the turn. S.D. would overplay one pair for sure, but he might give up if a third straight card fell, or if the board paired, and he only held a good K. Also, if S.D. has AK, W.D. needed to charge S.D. to draw to a T.

But, after much debate, I realized I wasn't sure how to play it. I wondered some if W.D. could make it $120 to go on the flop and fold to a fourth raise, but that didn't make sense either; the hand seems too strong to fold even on a problematic board. Still, I don't think he's in a good spot when the turn blanks at him and he has to face a bet. Sure, he has position, but he's still trying to decide if the guy has the nuts or not. In the end, I don't know W.D.'s right move here.

shipitfish: (u-club-stack-2006-03)

Back at River Street once, I called a bet that was somewhere between $300 and $400. Until last week, that was the biggest single bet I'd ever called (or made, for that matter) in a poker cash game. Thursday night, I made that new amount $452, which yielded the largest pot I've ever played as well: $1,012.

Work Dan (since there are two Dans commonly mentioned in my journal, I'll start being more careful to distinguish) and I went to the U Club for an evening of poker last Thursday. The $1/$2 NL ($300 max) game was more happening than usual. There were a number of calling stations, and a number of would-be “strong” players who would make big all-in raises when they should have just called (e.g., when holding a straight made on the turn on a board that made a three-flush on the river), or who would constantly overplay one pair.

I had built a stack from my $300 buy-in to $475 when the following hand came up. I limped from middle position after one limper with 5h 7h. Most pots were seeing flops with no raises for the preceding fifteen minutes or so; the table was quite passive. Two more limped behind me and the small blind completed. The big blind (BB), a regular who has good starting hand selection but couldn't fold an overpair at all once he saw a flop, raised, making it $25 to go.

The limper between us quickly folded, and I looked to the left. I got the feeling that one of the two limpers behind me was ready to call (a calling station who would pay almost any amount for a draw). I figured the small blind and the other limper were likely to fold. I was offered 25-to-60 (roughly 1-to-2.5) direct odds to call. These weren't great, but I had a really clear idea of what the BB held. He had AK earlier, and had raised a smaller amount from the blind with roughly the same number of limpers. However, with QQ, he'd raised about this amount. I really eliminated the no-pair hands right there — I felt pretty strongly he wouldn't commit that much (he was a bit of an “absolute amount” better) with even an AKs. I decided TT was maybe a possibility, but JJ-AA were the most likely.

The BB was also very deep; he had me covered for sure (I eye-balled it at around $500, turns out it was $580). I decided to call, because if I flopped two pair or better, he would have trouble folding and put a lot into the pot drawing thin. Two folks actually called behind me (the calling station I expected and the button), and we saw the flop four-handed with $108 in the pot.

I watched the BB watch the flop. He didn't love it, but I felt before I even looked myself that he held an overpair to it. He stared for a moment, then looked at his chips and aggressively said “All in”. I began thinking why did he make such a huge overbet? as I looked down to see 5c 7c 5s. Wow! Ok, so I have the second nuts, and someone likely drawing to two outs just bet $450 at me!

I looked behind me to see if there was any way I could showboat to get the short (relative) stacks to call, probably drawing at a flush. They looked as ready to fold as anyone could look, so I said Call and watched their cards hit the muck. He tabled the As Ah, and stared at me, looking worried. When the fourth five hit the board, I turned my hand up saying: You have outs to the bad beat jackpot, I think. (As it turned out he didn't; the bad beat jackpot at the club had been hit the previous night, and they'd increased the requirement from “any aces-full beat” to “aces-full-of-kings beat”, but I didn't know that until after the hand was done.)

I counted out my chips and said, $452, I think, dealer, please recount me, though. Meanwhile, this guy was going ballistic. I didn't listen to most of it; it went on for a full minute. The last utterance was: what do I need to raise preflop to get you off that donkey shit?. I didn't know what to do, I wanted to remain silent but felt bad and wanted to say something. I gave the only answer that came to mind: If you went all-in preflop, I wouldn't have called. I should have kept my mouth shut, because that probably made it worse, but I didn't know what to do with the guy flipping out. (He fortunately wasn't the beat-you-up-outside-later type, but I made sure waited a full half after he left before leaving.)

He kept muttering but I just ignored it as the dealer squared and shipped. There was a lot of chat after the fellow left (an hour later after he dumped his rebuy to Work Dan — more on that later) about why he'd made this overbet. My best theory remains that he was focused on the other stacks, which were only about $200 at most. I think he thought that he was overbetting by about 2-to-1 instead of nearly 4.5-to-1. It's a great example of making sure you know the stack sizes. I didn't feel bad because I'm always careful to keep my stack visible with all greens up front.

In the end, considering his reaction, I think he was more angry with himself for the overbet than he was at me for playing 57s. And, hey, maybe I am a donkey. But, knowing he'd often overplay an overpair, I think I had reasonable implied odds to call. What do you all think?

Obligatory stack pictures are available as always.

shipitfish: (l-club-stack-2006-02)

A quote often overheard at the old R Club last summer:

Jay, I got the gin. You gotta flop me the juice.

At the old R Club, there was a dealer named Jay — a very young African-American fellow — who also played when he wasn't in the box1. Jay is a strong player when he doesn't go off his game and goof around. He often kept the table entertained, both when playing and dealing, by making off-the-wall comments.

Somehow, he got it in his head that a pocket pair of nines would be called the “gin”. I don't know enough myself about alcohol to know if the number 9 somehow relates to a particular brand of gin. Also, there may be a subtle reference to the game of gin rummy, that I may also be missing.

Anyway, from there, Jay extended it into a name for a set of nines, and related it to a common line from hip-hop songs: I got the gin and the juice. It reached the point where it wasn't possible for someone to raise on a flop containing a 9 without someone at the club saying: He's got the gin — he's got the gin and the juice!. (Of course, that's bad poker etiquette but the old R club was somewhat informal.)

Indeed, the quote I opened with above eventually became a common saying when someone started the hand with any pair 44-99. The other players would know you had a pair, but didn't know what card made a set for you.

Also, a few weeks after this became a common shout, I flopped a set of 8s, going on to win a huge pot, while Jay was dealing. I said to Jay, Hey, what drink did you deal me?. He responded without a pause:

You got the vodka — you got the vodka and the tonic!

It's these goofy cultural crossovers that remind me why I love poker and the poker world. (I must admit that my knowledge of post-1990 rap is sub-par enough that I had to google the phrase last August before I was sure of my suspicions that it was some sort of hip-hop reference.) Over the years, I've expanded my mind and met people I would never have met otherwise, all thanks to poker.

Footnote 1: For my less poker-geeky readers, “in the box” is a phrase used to indicated that a dealer is currently doing his job. It refers to the fact that the dealers seat is usually centered by a rack of house chips (for making change, collecting the rake or time, etc.) and that the seat is always at the same place in the center of the oval poker tables.

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

A while back I posted about abusive use of the semibluff. As I mentioned, using it too often simply makes your opponents realize that when you raise on a draw-centric board, you usually have the draw and not a strong made hand.

The semibluff is however a powerful poker weapon when used with restraint. One place where it can be very useful is live game situations where players have many tells and varied stack sizes and you have a tight table image.

What follows is an example from a hand I played last summer at the old R Club here in NYC. It was interesting situation, since, as was often the case at the R Club, there were people who had very different stack sizes. The players in question for this particular hand were Mike and Pappy.

By this point in the summer, I had logged about 40 hours of play with Mike and had a very good read on his game. He was absolutely incapable of folding any flush draw, and any top pair with an overcard kicker. He usually put in good sized raises with top pair on the flop (i.e., he knew it needed to be protected), but often raised a bit too much, and couldn't fold to a reraise. (By way of example, I once got an entire $400 stack from him on the flop, in a limped pot with the flop T43, where he held QT and I had 44. He just kept reraising!) With draws, Mike played a classic loose-passive style willing to call huge bets to see the next card and try to get there. The one type of draw, however, that he really loved and played aggressively was “a pair and a flush draw”, with which he'd often back with his whole stack on the flop.

I knew Pappy less; I'd only logged about 5 hours of play with him. However, I'd listened carefully to chit-chat about him, and that chat was extensive. Pappy was primarily a tight-aggressive player, although he occasionally was known to put a lot of pressure (i.e., hyperaggressive) preflop and on the flop. He wouldn't commit his whole stack with one pair, and he was even capable of folding two pair when deep enough. He assumed other people played as he did, and he always played his sets cagey. If you made a cagey play, he'd put you on a set and throw away two pair. The joke about him was that he often raised with two random cards, flopped two pair, and then would lay it down to a raise on the turn.

Now, to make a successful semibluff, I needed all this information as the hand progressed. The hand started with Pappy raising from early position to $10, a standard preflop raise in this $1/$2 NL HE game. Usually, a $10 raise here yielded four callers. I was the first to call from middle position with Ac 8c, and Mike called behind me on the button. The blinds folded and we saw the flop three-handed with $33 in the pot. Mike had about $180 behind; I and Pappy each had around $300.

The flop came Tc 3c 7h. Pappy bet out strongly for $25. I knew he wouldn't bet here without a pair, but he didn't seem to have an overpair. I figured he probably had AT, but, as he sometimes raised with random cards, he might have T7. I felt my best bet, with Mike still to act behind me, was to call. I didn't have direct odds to draw, but I felt that I should stay and had some minimal implied odds. (Pappy would still bet once more if the flush card came, for example, and Mike would pay off with a variety of hands should he see the turn.) I felt that I might be able to make a move on the turn if I ended up heads-up with Pappy. However, semibluffing on the flop was a bad idea, because Pappy might reraise with two pair here and I'd have to put in the third raise as a semibluff to get him off it. (Usually, Pappy made his “big laydowns” on the turn.)

Mike called instantly behind me, and I was approaching certainty that he had a mere flush draw, obviously weaker than mine. He didn't usually play straight draws on two-tone boards, and since he didn't raise, I didn't think he had a pair at all. His call swelled the pot to $108.

The turn came 2d. I felt this was a good card for me. It didn't change much about the hand, and when Pappy bet out $50, I felt that he was getting concerned with two callers. Pappy assumed that others played like he did, and with two callers, he probably was worried that only one had the flush draw while the other might be beating him. I saw the $50 as a defensive bet. I knew Pappy could lay down two pair sometimes, and would certainly lay down just one pair, even if I had under-read him and he'd started with KK or something like that.

I decided to “put myself” on a set of threes for Pappy's sake. I figured that he wouldn't be suspicious of the “just call” on the flop, because that's how he'd play a set of threes. Pappy would think, that since Mike acted after me, that on the flop I thought that Mike would fold. And, since I knew Pappy didn't have a draw, calling with my “set” would be — in Pappy's view — a safe play. The pot was $158, and I had just enough for about a pot-sized raise. Since I knew that Mike had a flush draw and no pair on the flop, I figured it was unlikely Mike had me beat at the moment. If I raised here, Mike would certainly commit the rest of his $145 stack on a flush draw; he always called with flush draws if he had less than $200 in front of him.

So, I saw this great opportunity. Pappy would get terrified, even with two pair, that someone who had a stack as big as his had bet all-in, and that someone else called. He wouldn't commit his whole stack on an all-in overcall with two pair or less. I moved all-in with my best “set face”. Mike instantly called. Pappy sighed loudly, shook his head, and tossed his hand to the muck.

His eyes got huge when I turned over my hand. I looked at Mike and said: I'm drawing better than you, I think. He tabled Jc 6c. He had more outs than he might expect — thanks to Pappy's fold the three jacks and three sixes were good. Sadly, the river came 6s. I was sad to see the money shipped the wrong way, but I was very happy with the play! I had gotten the best hand to fold, and gotten a call by a hand with only six outs with one card to come!

Someone whose attention had waned momentarily right after I'd gone all in looked down as the chips shipped to Mike and said: a pair of sixes won that huge hand!?! and Pappy looked ready to fall out of his chair. I had protected the pot for Mike, of course, but it was well worth it to semibluff, get called by the player I was beating, and have the best of it with one card to come!

Plus, if I had to pick between Pappy and Mike getting the chips, I'd pick Mike since he was such a weaker player. If I'm going to protect a pot for someone, I want it to be for the weakest player at the table, and Mike was surely in the running for that at the old R Club.

shipitfish: (u-club-stack-2006-02)

The O Club and The I Club have been merged into a single new club in a new location, which I'll be calling the U Club. This is my new favorite spot to play for a number of reasons that will go in my review (yes, I'm really going to write those reviews RSN). I visited on Tuesday night to play for a few hours after work. I arrived and found a single full NL $1/$2 game, for which I added myself to the list.

While I waited, I took a seat in the $10/$20 limit HE game run by the T.E., the proprietor of the I Club. This was a tough game. I made the sixth player in this short-handed, aggressive game. I knew nearly all the players from previous visits to the I Club. T.E. himself was playing, as was M.S., who is a pro-ish poker player who co-ran the O Club and now helps run the U Club. I can beat M.S. when he's off his game, and he tilts pretty easily, but there was no indication he was there yet, as the game had just started.

I picked the seat that seemed to put the most aggressive players on my right, although, as it turned out, I still ended up with a very aggressive player in my left. I didn't really want to be in this game. But, I didn't want to wait to play. Also, I don't want T.E. to feel he can't draw people into the game at this new club, as this $10/$20 game can get really good. Thus, I don't want this game to stop running for lack of interest. I'm of course not going to stay in a bad game for a long time, but giving it time to keep it going while waiting for another seat seems like a reasonable long-term investment.

I quickly lost $200 by trying to muscle the aggressive players a bit, which was probably a general mistake. I work much better in short-handed limit games like those online, where there are hyper-aggressive people who take flops a bit too easily. Instead, I was surrounded by mostly tight-aggressive players who knew tons about the game.

I picked up my best starting hand in my half hour in this game when I caught Ks Ts in the cut-off. The tight player to my right raised, but I had noticed he'd been attacking the blinds pretty hard. I felt that he didn't necessarily have a hand that beat mine.

Calling would have been foolish; I had to clear the field and decided to three-bet. I was mortified when M.S. called cold from the SB, and was sure I was beat in at least once place. I felt better when that tight player just called. At this point, I had him on probable medium pair or a reasonable ace-high. If he had me dominated, it was by KQ specifically, I thought. But, meanwhile M.S. was the big concern.

The flop came Q-high with two spades. The two checked to me, I bet, M.S. called and the tight player raised. I obviously needed to catch to win, so I just called. M.S. tossed his hand quickly, and I was hoping that maybe we had cleared a K from the field and given myself two additional outs. The turn hit the draw with the As.

The tight player bet and I just called, which I realized was a silly move. I doubted after calling that he'd bet the river, because if he had only a pair, he would be too afraid of the board. OTOH, I suppose raising right away might get a fold from a Q, whereas that Q might check-call the river if I only called the turn. Regardless, I was unhappy with my mere call as the river came.

I was surprised when he bet again. I raised and got paid off. He mucked what he said was two pair, and was a bit unhappy that I played KTs in that spot, but I am still pretty happy with the play from start to finish, save the mere call on the turn.

A few minutes later, I surprisingly discovered that this player was none other than [ profile] brettbrettbrett! A few minutes later, Dan from the old I Club and River Street showed up. He reminded [ profile] brettbrettbrett of a goofy hand where I bluff-raised Dan on the river after misreading the board on the flop and getting in deep with no way to win. [ profile] brettbrettbrett decided that given that loose play, he surely should have three-bet with two pair in our spot just a few minutes earlier. Too bad Dan hadn't shown up a few minutes earlier to give [ profile] brettbrettbrett that advice. :)

With Dan joining the game, it was getting even worse. I was walking away down just $2, and I was glad to see that enough people had shown up to get a second $1/$2 NL game going.

I was also glad to see the new game included a number of regulars from the old O club. Mostly, they were tight-weak players who overplay one pair. At the other end of table, were two players — a woman and a man — who had showed up together, and seemed like they must have been O regulars, but probably from the late period just before the bust since I'd never seen them before. I never caught the fellow's name, but heard the woman, K.A., tell many people her name.

Indeed, it was hard not to hear her. She gave a running commentary of every hand to her friend, cagily trying to cover her mouth as she spoke. This is the moment where I really love the Bose headphones. So many people think I can't possibly hear that well with them on, when, in fact, it is the best way to hear people whispering across the table because they filter out the noise in-between.

Not, however, that there was anything that interesting being said. Her analysis was obvious and lacked insight. She also got amazingly frustrated by the most minor of things. It was as if someone acting out of turn was a personal affront to her sensibilities. She started to get on my nerves.

As my annoyance rose, it brought something about my own play to my attention. From time to time, I used to be a player who wasn't all that different from K.A. Surely I have “been her” at the table more often in the past than I would like to remember. I realized that her ego and self-importance about how poker worked was part of my edge in the game. I'd been there before; I'd made that selfish mistake of thinking the game was there for me, and now I could see her doing the same thing. I had the same edge against her in the game that others used to have against me.

I unfortunately didn't gain a moment against her to use to my advantage, but her money moved around the table enough as she played too obvious of a game, failed to bet out with top pair and bemoaned that those who had called her preflop raise with junk had hit a higher pair on the turn. Generally, she played in that “tight but uninformed” style that I've come from prefer in players. It's amazing to see people who learn enough about the game to not be total fish then just stagnate. People just don't seem to realize that anything worth doing requires a lifelong endeavor of learning to keep pace.

Indeed, the game reminded me about the need for constant vigilance in poker. I made an horrendous call with the nut straight on a runner-runner flush board that was checked around on the flop. I rivered the straight after calling a small bet on the turn, and then made the classic widow poker mistake of not being cognizant that shared cards mean a card that helps you can often help your opponent more. And, after all, straight vs. flush is the easiest of all examples of this concept.

That $82 lost, and being $250 down by then, I looked at my clock and decided I'd leave that game even or better. Now, it's not usually good to set goals that confined in a time frame, since there's often not enough time to recover. But, I felt at that moment if I put some pressure on myself to truly play a better game than all of my opponents, I'd succeed.

I fortunately didn't disappoint myself. I trapped a hyper-aggressive chronic bust-and-rebuy player for his whole stack when we both turned a flush and mine was the nut-flush. (I'll put more about that hand in a post this weekend.) Once I got that stack, I had to tighten up and avoid drawing hands as two reasonable but beatable players were on my left with bigger stacks. I hoped to trap them and double through in a big way, but instead I picked up a pretty good pot by out-kicking a JT with AT against a passive player on my right. I was $100 up as the hour of my departure rolled around.

Sometimes, it's worth looking at a weak game and setting a goal for the night for yourself.

(I took obligatory stack shots.)


shipitfish: (Default)

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