Poker Update: Tournament of Champions

Tom Brady

I wore my Tom Brady jersey for the big poker tournament tonight. The kids asked about it. I said, “The New England Patriots are winners. Tom Brady is a winner. Tonight, I hope wearing a winners shirt will make me a winner.” They completely understood. And the shirt delivered!

I played well. I did indeed play well. But let’s be upfront about this. I was lucky. Very lucky. I had great cards all night. Playing well meant avoiding major mistakes and bullying people around and getting yet another good flop. That’s not very hard to do right. Oh, there were so many notable hands… luckily I was taking notes!

The tournament structure was different than our usual game. For starters our initial chip stacks were dependent on how many points we had accumulated in the regular season. I was solidly middle of the pack.

Starting Chips for the Tournament of Champions
Starting Chips for the Tournament of Champions

In addition:

  • Only eight players
  • No chumps
  • No rebuys
  • Winner take all
  • Slower blind escalation in the later stages
  • Bigger stacks

This added up to a structure with deeper relative stacks. Which in turn meant that there would be more skill over luck. I’m not sure if that happened. The people I knocked out probably thought I was just lucky and they may be right. I took notes this time, so there is more detail than usual. At first they were laughing at my note taking, but the laughs dwindled as the chip stack grew.

Let’s get to the hands! Blinds are at 25-50, shuffle up and deal!

  • I have A-J clubs. I call the pre-flop raise to 150. The flop is x-x-x. He bets 200. I call. The turn is my Jack. He bets 200, I call. The river is a blank. He bets 200, I call. He had king high. A promising start.
  • I have A-K. My pre-flop raise is called. The flop is A-K-5. I check, he bets big, and I call. The turn is another Ace. I have the nuts. I have the bloody absolute nuts! It’s been a long time since this has happened. How do I get the most money out of him? I check. He bets a lot, I call. The river is a blank. This time I bet 2,400. I am called. He has A-5, for a full house of Aces over fives. It isn’t good enough to beat my full house of Aces over kings. I get about 5,000 profit out of this hand and cripple the opponent.
  • I have A-8 clubs. The flop is x-x-7. He bets 300 into a 300 pot. I call. The turn is an Ace. He keeps betting, I keep calling. He has 6-7, and I get another 800 or so profit as the blinds go up.
  • Let’s take stock. In the first 20 minutes I have increased my chip stack from 6,800 to around 12,000. I have had one monster hand – and even better – when the other guy had a very strong second best hand. I have converted two marginal hands into big profits. I have done this without raising much. The rest of the table is scared of my checks, they don’t know if it means I’m slowplaying them.
  • I have K-K. The board eventually gets to J-8-7, x, 10. If the other guy has a 9 he has a straight. I call his big bet. He had K-A, I get another 2,500 or so.
  • I’m definitely playing loose right now. I am playing 50% of the hands. I don’t mind losing lots of blinds, but I am hoping that I will flop some big hands to take down a big pot. I am clearly inspired by Phil Helmuth’s play in last night’s WSOP broadcast and my own luck tonight. I’m playing loose. I am wondering ten minutes later if I’m playing too loose, I have given back 1,500 already. May be time to tighten up a little?
  • I have 2-2. The blinds are raised from 100 to 375. Two players in the pot, and I call. The flop is 10-10-2. Ha! Last week I caught hell for whining about not catching a set. Well lookie here! I flopped a set! In fact I flopped a full house! I got another 1,200 or so out of that. I should have gotten more, but the other guy didn’t have enough of a hand to call my last bet. As the blinds go up to 75-150 I have 15,000 in chips. That’s roughly 30% of the chips in play.
  • Q-10, I limp from the small blind. The flop is 10-x-x, I have top pair. I put in 400. He reraises to 800. I was not expecting that. Is he just trying to push back against me? I call. The turn is a blank. I bet 600. He re-raises to 1,800. I’m not sure why, but I don’t have him figured for K-10 or A-10. There are now 2 spades on the board. I’m not sure why, but I have him figured for a spade flush draw. He’s hoping to push me out of the pot, but he has outs if I stay. I do stay, calling his 1,800. The turn is the King of spades. I check and he puts in 3,000. Damnit. I’m not sure about my read, but there are too many hands that beat me now. I think about it for a long time but I fold. This hand is killing me, should I have called him or not? Should I have? I hate poker!
    (When the night was over he said he had 3-4 off suit. It was an over-the-top bluff for the sheer hell of it. “It was a really stupid play. I shouldn’t have gotten away with it.” So I was clearly wrong to fold and my read was way off.)
  • It’s blind vs blind. Small blind limps to me. I call with Q-10. The flop is K-J-10. He bets 300. I call with my middle pair and open-ended straight draw. The turn is an Ace giving me the straight. I eventually rake in another 1,000 profit. (Yes, I am counting profit throughout this blog post, not pot size. It was a 2,000 chip pot.)
  • I raise as dealer with K-8 to see if I can steal the blinds. I get two callers. The flop is 10-7-5. I call a bet of 400. The turn is another 5. He bets 400, I come over the top with 1,200. He thinks about it for a while and folds.
    I like this hand. I’m sure the other guy had the better hand. But I won it with skill. And position, and my big stack, and my table image to pull off a naked bluff. A nice 800 or so.
    I have around 17,000 in chips. The blinds are moving up to 150-300.
  • I just stole the blinds twice. But then folded after putting 800 in the pot. I guess that’s holding even. I am hovering now. The game has gotten much more aggressive. I am trying to pick my spots a little more carefully. Nothing interesting happens for the next two rounds.
  • At 300-600, there is a pre-flop raise to 2,500. I have A-Q suited. I think for a moment, but it’s an obvious call. I have the big stack and premium cards. The big blind surprises me by also calling. There is 7,500 in the pot. The flop is A-2-2. Great flop, I have highest two pair with a queen kicker. I think for a minute. What can beat me? A pair of aces, but that’s unlikely since two are accounted for. A pocket 2, but that’s unlikely with these huge pre-flop bets. A-K beats me and that’s very possible. Nevertheless, I have to push. I put 5,000 in the pot – pushing any callers all-in. I am the big stack. I don’t want to make the tough call, I want them to make the tough call. The big blind grudgingly folds. The original raiser thinks for a while. He eventually calls with A-J. My hand holds up. (Not only did he have a tough call, but he had just lost a large pot on a bad beat to a 4% river card. He was understandably frustrated at going from 2nd stack to busted in two straight hands.)
  • The next hand I have pocket Qs and quickly end up all-in against the small blind and his A-K. It’s a classic coin flip! The flop is A-x-x. I am groaning already, I don’t notice that they are all hearts. The turn gives me a flush that I don’t even notice. I sheepishly rake in all his money.
  • We are now at 3-handed. I have 50-60% of the chips. Within five minutes I knock out the short stack. As we go into heads-up play I have ~70% of the chips.
  • My luck continues in heads up. I push with K-8. I push with Q-10. I limp with 10-7 and 10-7-x comes on the flop. I get pocket 2s that hold up. With Q-Q I put his A-5 in and easily win to take the night. (He later told me that besides the Ace, he didn’t get a card over a nine during all of heads up.) Hey, I won! Holy schnikes, I did it!

Tell ’em the news Freddie!

My winnings are $390, my biggest win ever in poker. But not just money, the win itself was sweet, and it comes with a heaping load of neighborhood glory.

Could the GOP get any Worse?

Holy cow.

Michael Duvall is a conservative Republican state representative from Orange County, California. While waiting for the start of a legislative hearing in July, the 54-year-old married father of two and family values champion began describing, for the benefit of a colleague seated next to him, his ongoing affairs with two different women. In very graphic detail.

You got to read the details. It’s just awesome.

Bryan Reesman Blog

A lot of you readers know my ol’ buddy Bryan Reesman. Bryan has made a name for himself in the review writing world. He focuses primarily on music, but steps out for general pop culture once in a while. His work has appeared just about everywhere you’ve ever heard of.

Bryan started a blog this year also. It’s good stuff. His latest post was on the first page of reddit today, which is no small feat. So head on over, check it out.

Links o’ Interest

Man, that is one great looking cupcake

We’ll always have the Batman

Beavis and Butthead return

Finding common ground

Another guy who goes to extremes to avoid nagging wife: robs bank

Don’t piss off the guys with the bulldozers

Amazing Beach Boys recording sessions. Up for 14 days only.

Disturbing motherhood

That is a bad date.

A morning of awkwardness

Cockney ATMs: Reading your bladder of lard

I yelled at a congressman today…

Banned for using a time-distortion field

The washing machine saga from Dooce (one of the top “mommy-bloggers” out there)

It’s the simple things in life

This will make you feel good

This photo makes me giggle


The Boston Globe photo archive is amazing. Here’s a Ted Kennedy retrospective.

A weird oversight in the torture debate: strategic efficacy.

The Redskins front office is awful. Just awful. Update: They retreated. Clearly because of Muttroxia’s far-reaching impact.

It was just too much, having to return to court twice on the same day to contest yet another traffic ticket, and Fire Chief Don Payne didn’t hesitate to tell the judge what he thought of the police and their speed traps. The response from cops? They shot him. Right there in court.

Not funny, just a random good song

Something About NPR

I need more test posts to see if I have fixed the problem. And this old one attracts spam, so I’m deleting the original and pasting the text below (from 11/29/2007).

I was listening to NPR today, and there was a story about the arrest of some people who were allegedly plotting to blow up the Sears Tower. The report, after giving the basic facts, went on to say that “The Administration conceded that the scheme was only in the planning stages.” Note the use of the words “conceded”. To concede means you are giving in, that you have lost a point in an argument. But NPR didn’t tell us what the argument was. They didn’t even say there was an argument, only that the Administration had lost it. It’s a very odd way to state facts. It’s as if I told someone that you had conceded you read Muttroxia. It’s not a concession unless you unsuccessfully deny my assertions.

So why this phrasing? Liberals like myself believe that the Administration’s arrests have mostly been ludicrous PR campaigns that bear little reality to any real terrorist threat. Viewed from this context, a reporter would want to find out if the plot was serious or not. If the Administration said that no action had been taken, it supports that viewpoint, and may be seen as a concession.

Here’s another way of looking at it. Would you rather have these people blow up a building!? Of course not, you want to arrest them before anything happens! You could equally well say “Reporters conceded that no harm had been done to innocent civilians”.

And that’s bias goes in the media. Supposedly objective journalism that really isn’t. I happened to pick on NPR here, but there are a thousand examples every day.

There are certain words that trigger my skepticism (that’s why I remember one lone sentence in a news report). Conceded is a new one for me. Also notice the use of the word “only”. “The Administration conceded that the scheme was only in the planning stages.” Is that word needed? What does is add? More bias!

The worst offender is the word “just”. I am guilty of it myself (see here, here, here, and here for starters). I sometimes make people repeat sentences without using the word “just” and when they do they realize they aren’t saying anything important.

2009 Update: For some odd reason, the spam merchants have focused on this one post exclusively. So I’m editing a few phrases in the hopes it will help. If not, I’ll try removing links, or maybe even removing the post altogether.

Muttrox is Hacked

Let me know if you follow this blog with any RSS feed, particularly Google. I got hacked somewhere along the way. I am looking for more information about the hacking.

Among other measures I just deleted a bunch of weird user accounts. If you can’t log in, that’s why. Just set up a new account, or let me know via email and I’ll set one up for one.

There’s some more steps I need to take, but they are a technical challenge to me, so I’ll see if the basic first steps I’ve taken.

Book Recommendations (Non-Fiction)

  • Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Aren’t Fair (and What We Can Do About It)
    by William Poundstone: I have always been interested in the mathematics of voting. It is not a simple problem to figure out the best way to select a winner based on a group of preferences. What you think of as the “normal” way (the person with the most votes wins) is about the worst there is. See the 2000 election the Bush, Gore, Nader dynamics for example. But it’s worse than that. Nobel-prize winning Kenneth Arrow proved that in any ranking voting system (I like him better than him) it is impossible to have all the basics of fairness. (It’s more mathy than that, but by basic I mean things like “If one person is favored by all voters, they ought to win” or “in comparing candidate A to candidate B, it shouldn’t matter if candidate C is there or not”.)

    This book walks through many real life cases that illustrate the problems with voting systems. It then shows you some of the options. You’ve probably never thought about it much, but there are other voting systems. (Order all the candidates, check all of them you approve of. etc.) In my book group, I changed our voting system to approval voting, which is a much stronger system.What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are their chances of ever being used in the real world?

    The book was written in 2008. The author lists three politicians who are supporters of voting reform. Two of them are John McCain and Barack Obama.

  • Nudge: (Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein)
  • You’ve probably heard about this book already since Cass Sunstein got a job with the Obama administration. This books shows how in many areas of life, the way choices are presented can nudge people towards certain outcomes. They call it paternalistic libertarianism, in that the state influences what you do for your own good, but doesn’t mandate or dictate what you do. The perfect example is 401(k) accounts. Very few people opt-in to these even though 99% of workers should be. A very simple change to the choice architecture is to make the default opt-in. Workers are automatically enrolled, but they can easily opt-out anytime they choose. The outcome is much higher rates of worker savings. The book is filled with examples from all walks of life how institutions (usually the government) can do a better job getting to the outcomes it wants without truly infringing on liberties.

  • The Way we Shop (Paco Underhill):Have you ever thought about why the milk is in the back of a supermarket? How the endcaps are arranged? How you are guided throughout a store? How the cash registers are set up? Underhill is a researchers who by chance got involved in these questions and has since made a career out of it. How do humans interact with a retail environment? The writing is only so-so, but the information is fascinating. You’ll never look a store the same way again. (It also has the anecdote I referenced (badly) in the bathroom flower post.
  • Tall Tales (Terry Pluto): An oral history of the early days of the NBA. If you are a basketball fan like it has loads of great anecdotes to entertain you. My brothers father in law was on the Minneapolis Lakers, he gets a couple paragraphs. (My oldest son says, “AWESOME!!!”) It seems he had unusually dark skin and got involved in a racist incident even though he’s white. It was a different world back then, hustling owners, two-handed set shots, Wilt Chamberlain, Celtics dynasty, racism, and fights fights fights.
  • The Chris Farley Show: Chris Farley has never appealed to me every much. I don’t like comedians with one basic joke. After seeing the fat guy fall down a few times I got the point. Nevertheless, I read this book because the Sports Guy said it was good. He was absolutely right. This is a biography, told in bits and pieces by the people who knew him best.

    Chris Farley is fascinating subject. His rise to fame took more twists than most. You get an insiders view on trying to make it, and making it, in comedy. You get great portraits of Farley’s character. Turns out he was a nice guy. A genuinely naive nice guy, character traits that often held him back. And the addiction. Wow. There are addictive personalities and then there are addictive personalities. Farley was the latter. From the very first sip of beer he ever took, he was a goner. He was practically doomed from the start, it just took a few decades to play out. By the time the book comes to it’s inevitable conclusion you may have just misted up a few times along the way.

    As a Who fan, I couldn’t help but see the obvious parallels with Keith Moon’s life. Both were crazy for public attention, and would do anything to get it. Too often the “anything to get it” meant bigger and bigger jokes at their own expense. Both felt they had to play the outrageous comedian role to succeed. And both had no self-control with drugs, unable to stop the lifestyle they had lived so long. And of course, both died young. (Although Moon was clean and dry at the time, and was ironically killed by anti-alcohol pills.)