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I've been playing pretty well the last week or so; nearly all NL HE. I've been very happy with my play, and somewhat happy with the results. I've gotten very good at manipulating the pot size so that people get all their money in when I have flopped a very good hand. I haven't been all-in with the worst of it in the last 20-30 all-in situations I've been in. Yet, I didn't win them all, of course, and I find this quote calming when it goes the wrong way:

If you are an excellent player, people are going to draw out on you a lot more than you're going to draw out on them because they're simply going to have the worst hand against you a lot more times than you have the worst hand against them.
&mdash Bobby Baldwin

Added to this, I also note that if you're a pretty good player, you're going to be particular good at tricking your opponents to take the worst of it, and thus adding to the times your hand can be outdrawn. The nice thing about NL HE against limit HE is that you almost always can set up these situations in the former where your opponent is mathematically incorrect in calling/raising you. Often in limit HE, you get the “I'm correct in betting and he's correct in calling” situation.

I also noticed no one has started keeping a running tally of how many days remain until banks must comply with the UIGEA. I am enough of a long-time net.citizen to recall when Internet countdown sites were still the rage, and I thought about adding a retro one to my journal, but for the moment, I'll just note that the final day of free Internet poker banking appears to be Wednesday 10 July 2007. Only 185 days to go. Here's a Perl one liner to tell you how many days to go:

perl -e 'use Date::Manip; print Delta_Format(DateCalc("today", DateCalc("13 October 2006", "+ 270 days")), 0, "%dt\n");'
shipitfish: (foxwoods-stack-2006-01)

I've never mentioned in this blog too directly the excessive influx of televised poker, other than to say it is a major contributing factor to the "boom". I of course watch most televised poker shows (save Celebrity Poker, which is basically unwatchable), and find myself looking to playing online while watching to avoid the boredom. Televised 55/45 "crooked coin flips" for rungs in a tournament prize pool ladder isn't exciting after the first few times.

Indeed, late tournament play (should you have nothing on the line yourself) is exciting only if randomness excites you. Sweating draw and redraw with all the chips in middle and cards face-up doesn't entertain anymore once one gets serious about poker. And, frankly, the playing part -- wondering how John Juanda can read people so well preflop and put them on AK so he can call with 77 -- doesn't stay interesting after the twentieth time.

Poker has a lot more to it than figuring out whether the opponent on the first betting round has "the pair" or "the overcards". World Poker Tour forgot that as its seasons progressed. ESPN does better with its WSoP airings, but even they seem to focus more and more on final tables and high-blind play.

This is why I was elated when Card Player ran a piece about High Stakes Poker on GSN. This was touted to be real cash game poker for television. This would show, (albeit at the highest of stakes) the games that run every day in every casino and online card room. It would be NL HE, where the blinds don't go up and people play for as long as they'd like, buy-in when and for how much they like, and battle all night long.

I was so excited, in fact, that I was worried I'd over-hyped in my own mind, and had set myself up for disappointment. I am elated, having just tonight watched the second episode, to see that this show is all I hoped it would be.

As I watched my recorded copy, my wife looked up at the screen briefly to see the left-hand side of the screen full of information, showing many players hands. "Wow,", she said, "so many hands?!" She's used to seeing the (usually) heads-up-to-the-flop tournament poker I usually watch. I excitedly replied, "yes, these are the games I play in all the time. Seven people to the flop with that variety of hands. This is 'real poker'".

Now, that's not to say tournament poker isn't "real poker". But, around the world each day, there is much more cash game action than there is tournament action. Plus, the true "interesting play" comes up in the cash games. This is when there is no "pressure to play", unless the psychological situation dictates it. You don't have to play to stay alive; you don't fear being "blinded out". You can sit, play and think through the situation and decide when your time is right. Tournament poker, please recall, is an artificial imposition invented specifically to make a poker game where a single winner could be declared. Generally, poker, like life, is more complex and colorful than that. Many people win, and many people lose, and some "lose" and still "win".

I really think all this comes through in High Stakes Poker. I go on to say why, but minor spoilers are included for the first two episodes, so you have to click through to see the full details. )

These priceless moments of cash game NL poker are what is interesting to watch; it's what entertains me in my daily games when I'm not in a hand, and it's even better to watch the pros do it. We can see a wealth of plays and complex situations that come up when there are deep stacks behind the players and lots of time to play. This is the real experience of poker. I am so glad that there is now a poker TV show where I can see situations that I've truly been in (well, that is, if I move the decimal point two places to the left :).

I wonder if the subtle points of this will be lost on the "average TV poker fan", who probably doesn't know all that much about the game. I'd love to hear comments from both serious players and the casually interested to see how this show is hitting people. I absolutely love it and will likely truly enjoy seeing each episodes multiple times. I would love to see this thing last at least a few seasons; I'd hand in four tourney shows to keep this one cash game show on the air, that's for sure!


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