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Views: 1685
Date Posted: Jul. 31, 12:07am, 2 Comments

John Wooden passed away earlier this year at the age of 99.  He lived a long and full life with incredible success during his college basketball career at UCLA.  He was known for having imparting a lot of wisdom to his young players.  I read a review of some of them and thought I would write a series of blogs inspired by some of his quotes.  The first one is...

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.“  - John Wooden

I love this quote, because it encompasses the reality of life.  How much of it do we control.  We can plan, plot,and prepare all we want, but we don't control the outcome.  There are so many elements that we don't have much influence over.  Those who are fortunate have their hard work pay off, many others work similarly hard, but don't the results they desire.

Earlier today I was writing a FAQ article about when is the best time to bluff.  Sometimes, no matter how well you set up a bluff, it isn't going to work.  Your opponent may have hit their hand or simply be a calling station with any piece.  You may stack yourself and look foolish, but how do you react to this situation? Do you buy back in and use that new loose table image to your advantage to get paid off with a hand later? Do you start to press and ramp up the aggression to get it back quickly? Do you resume your normal game? Do you call it quits because it doesn't seem to be your night?

Earlier this week, as I was flying home, I missed the connection in Minneapolis, due to weather, and had to get a hotel room in Minneapolis and fly out the next day.  Some people were freaking out at the airline insisting that they should get their room comped even though the airline clearly states, rightly or wrongly, that they aren't responsible for weather delays. Some frantically insisted they make their own arrangements, pissed off at the airlines.  I quietly watched their frustrated antics and how the attendants reacted.  Remaining calm, I was able to rebook my automatically re-assigned flight to an earlier flight by being nice to the attendant.  Then I accepted the discount hotel coupon, booked my room, caught the free shuttle and jumped on the free Internet in my room to get some work done.  My night went smoothly and I got home 14 hours later than planned in Portland.

The key, as I see it, to the quote is making the best of whatever situation you find yourself in.  Is it worth stressing out when you encounter difficulty?  Will that somehow help you resolve or improve your situation?  Will your life be improved or prolonged by fighting your outcome? Outcomes are beyond your control, but how you react to them isn't. You don't control how other people will act or react, you only control your actions.  Can you sleep at night knowing how you acted? Do you feel you gave it your best shot? Regardless of the outcome, did you learn from it and move on?

John Wooden was a mentor to many with his plethora of wise quotes.  I hope to do a little justice to a few more of them in the coming weeks.

Views: 1705
Date Posted: Jul. 29, 6:39pm, 1 Comment

In business, being bigger is better seems to be the dominant mantra.  Being bigger gives you more resources to execute your business plan and security to handle the various business cycles.  It is no different in the online gaming and poker industry.  We have seen PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker bludgeon the competition by outspending and out innovating once they established a bigger presence.

PartyPoker and the iPoker network have been in a protracted struggle to become the clear third place poker network. It has cost both significantly. Now PartyGaming and Bwin have just made official what was rumored for months, their merger to form what they claim is "the clear market leader with leading positions across all of the key product verticals of poker, sports betting, casino and games which includes bingo."  Some have speculated that the merger was more to shore up PartyGaming's sportsbooks than purely for the poker combination, but it will have serious implications in the poker world. Bwin controls the respectable Ongame network, which just saw Betfair, who for several years had wanted to be independent, recently join the larger network. These moves should clearly define the new PartyPoker as the clear third place room and formidable enough to try to tangle with PokerStars and Full Tilt. 

With HR 2267 having been passed in the House Financial Services Committee, we are one step closer to having a new legislation signed into law. The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act has several limiting amendments attached to it, one of which has language that might impact industry behemoths like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and UB who have benefited the last four years from continuing to serve the US market.  I would imagine that one of the benefits of becoming much larger in the interim is that they can afford significant lobbying and legal teams to assert their interests in this process.

The current trend of individual countries licensing and regulating online gaming is strengthening as countries chase after their previously missed tax revenue.  This process creates an extra layer of management and complexity that only the biggest poker operators can handle easily. Marketing to individual markets requires a certain scale of economy.  PartyGaming appears serious about their desire to challenge the top two poker room players and attempt to return to their top spot of pre-2007.  The US government could give them a big boost if they prioritized their licensing and delayed those for the current top two PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker as some form of retaliation for their continuing to server the US market.  I suspect that PokerStars and Full Tilt will employ their massive resources to ensure they remain in the competitive poker landscape for the foreseeable future. Either way, the online poker landscape will continue to be a challenging one for smaller operators. 

Views: 1586
Date Posted: Jul. 28, 6:33pm, 1 Comment

As I fly back home to Portland from my family visit to Virginia, there are two great family moments I will recall with fondness. Both involved all the adults from the four distinct households sharing stories and laughing around the dinner table. Each of our four households has its own stresses and dynamics, but in those two evenings we were able to let those go and just laugh. I laughed until my stomach hurt. It felt so good. The last night, they said I hadn’t laughed like that since I was a boy. It was a laugh that couldn’t be controlled, a laugh that was unlike the usually in control me.


Laughter doesn’t cure your ills. Laughter doesn’t solve your problems or stresses. But what laughter does do is take you to a place where those don’t exist. Laughter transports you almost involuntarily to a space with no conflict or tension. It is a space that realizes that so many of our judgments are absurd, turning them on their head in a hilarious fashion.  A space that perceives the ridiculous and amusing aspects in all our lives. It is a magically jovial space. Laughter and the place it takes you to is also fleeting. I hope to revisit in more often in the future.


40 Years in the making…


I just arrived home today, as last night I missed my connection in Minneapolis due to weather and was stuck over night.  I wanted to share a small moment that was over 40 years in the making.  My stewardess from Detroit to Minneapolis came up to me and freely gave me several extra bags of peanuts, unsolicited.  She said ‘you looked hungry to me.”  Bless her heart, I was hungry. I don’t know if it was her extra sensory perception, her witnessing my attempt to tear open my single super small size peanut bag with my teeth, or the tired and pathetic look on my face, but she didn’t offer extra bags to anyone immediately surrounding me.  I was touched in no small way because in over 40 years of flying I have never been offered anything extra without requesting it myself or it being something they were offering everyone else.

Views: 835
Date Posted: Jul. 27, 10:10am, 2 Comments

SynchronicityGiven a choice, most people would prefer to be in rhythm, than out. There is a joy and peace with being in step with the beats that surround you.  You are not fighting against the flow. Unfortunately, it often isn’t your natural state.  It takes work to maintain a beat or to keep in rhythm.

Lately, I’ve been suffering from some syncopation in my life, especially with my lovely wife.  We’ve been together nearly 20 years, so it’s not that surprising that there are times when we don’t see eye to eye.  I arrived in Virginia to find the intensity of our syncopation had increased.  As we are visiting a house full of family, it wasn’t the ideal place to work things out. 
What we did do each day was start the day with a walk. Today, to my surprise, I noticed we were in synchronicity.  For much of our walk, my every step matched hers.  We rounded a corner early in our walk and an older gentleman was walking about 80 feet in front of us.  Three miles later, he was exactly 80 feet in front of us.  We didn’t look to match his pace, it just happened. At seven in the morning, the birds were doing their early morning singing.  They made her smile.  That made me smile.
Life is a complicated rhythm.  There are so many beats we can keep or try to follow.  It is only natural to come in and out of rhythm when we aren’t paying close attention.  It is quite rare that it is an effortless process.  I know what beat I want to keep and follow. I fly home today knowing that I need to give it considerably more effort to not fall behind or suffer from syncopation, because I enjoyed that feeling of synchronicity.
Views: 752
Date Posted: Jul. 25, 12:07pm, 0 Comments
While in Virginia, I read a Washington Post article regarding a broker's approach to dealing with his clients.  He asks three important questions to determine their essentials needs and desires and then tailors a financial investment package to help them achieve their goals.  
  • If you had all the time or money in the world, what would you do?
  • What do you want to do or be so in the end you will feel that you've lived fully?
  • Imagine your doctor shocks you with news that you have 24 hours to live.  What would you do?
All three questions bring up important issues to consider in conducting our lives.  For the sake of this blog entry, I want to concentrate on the third question within a poker context.  While we all have a variety of motivations in playing poker, what would you like to accomplish in your final 24 hours of playing the game? Given but 24 hours to define your legacy in poker, how would you do it?
  • Would you want to play a certain style of game - cash game, tournament, or sit 'n go?
  • With your limited time, would you want to play full ring, six max or heads up?
  • Would you want to play standard, turbo, super turbo or Rush type structure?
  • Would you focus primarily on the profit you can make?
  • Would you play with some framework of a bankroll, or put all your money on the line stepping up to play as high as you could?
  • Would you like to achieve some infamy by playing against top notch internet talent like Tom 'durrrr' Dwan, Phil Ivey or Patrik Antonius?
  • Would you play your normal style or take big risks hoping for that big one last score?
  • Would you be flamboyant or outrageous in the chat box, or go about your business anonymously?
I find these questions interesting, because while this scenario isn't likely, your choices reflect who you are and what matters to you most.  They help you to understand why you play the game.  Once you come to a fuller understanding of your identity and motivations, you can more fully create a sustainable approach to playing.
Views: 768
Date Posted: Jul. 24, 5:30pm, 1 Comment
Living in Oregon, with our mild weather and long gray season, the typical Oregonian is quite pale.  This weekend I’m visiting family in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The first three days have been broiling, with it being 105, 108, and today 111 degrees. We have had family water outings to a pool and a nearby lake with a beach.  Despite putting on 30 PF sunscreen, I’ve been getting burned.  I don’t have a base and the long hours in the water seem to make it worse.
At some point at the pool today, family members were asking about my recent Vegas trip, and also making fun of me for some unrelated story I told.  I immediately thought of the necessity of having thick skin to handle other people’s criticisms. Like my pale skin, the thought occured that if you don’t have a base built up, your will find yourself overly sensitive to their comments.  If you are unaccustomed to criticism, you are less likely to deflect it or handle it well.  It is something that comes with practice.  Thick skin is something that comes with effort and work.  I recommend building up a good base if you are going to be in long and repeated exposure to the harsh elements.
Views: 734
Date Posted: Jul. 23, 5:49pm, 1 Comment
Randy Pausch once said "When you don't get what you want, what you get is experience."  The older you get, the more experience you accumulate. It often isn't the type of experience you would have predicted. Your lifetime may be filled with moments that veered in a direction different than what you would have preferred.  The question then becomes how to handle this experience.  Does it make you bitter and angry?  Does it make you hopeful or inspired to overcome it? 
I've spoken previously about my typical negative early results in most of my poker sessions.  My extensive experience has created a confidence that I can remain calm and persevere to overcome the deficits. I have also become resigned to the fact I continue to run below my expected EV.  With rakeback and decent play, I am able to register positive if significantly lesser results. 
I often joke that I act as a life guru to some in the poker community. The reality is the last several years I've been in a concentrated period of acquiring a lot of life experience.  More crudely said, I haven't been getting what I want.  I choose to face the hurdles and obstacles undeterred from my goals.  I may or may not achieve them, as that is beyond my complete control, but my attitude as I face them is.
Any serious poker player of note will gain tremendous experience at the table.  They will see multitudes of disappointments and frustrations.  A poker career is rarely a linear affair.  How will you handle the eventual downswings and negative results?  How do you use the experience you acquire in the poker world?  If your ultimate poker goals are out of your control, how will you navigate the poker world with the experience you attain?
Views: 780
Date Posted: Jul. 22, 11:25am, 2 Comments
While I was in Las Vegas spending my long days at the Rio, I picked up all the free poker magazines on display (CardPlayer, Bluff, Poker Pro, Poker Player Newsletter and PokerNews).  But just like last year, I didn't open any of them while in town.  Even when I returned home it was difficult to find motivation to read them.  I finally decided to bring them on my long day of plane flights yesterday, as I traveled from Portland to Charlottesville via LA and Detroit.
Reading them all yesterday simply reaffirmed my existing opinion that poker magazines serve little purpose for the online poker player. We are used to a lightning fast world of information.  Due to the lag in preparing content, editing, and publishing the magazines, most of their content is quite dated.  Whereas in the early years of the internet, a newspaper would create an online edition to supplement its core physical presence, it feel that it is the reverse now.  The important and timely poker news, information and opinion is broken and shared online and then rehashed later on in the magazine.
If timeliness is of no concern, a poker magazine can serve as a good archive.  There is the occasional feature interview with nice glossy photos, along with a variety of dated informational news and results, supplemented by regular strategy articles. Judging from the advertising, they mainly serve as an advertising forum to reach live players in casinos.  For instance, the PokerNews magazine was a glorified travel informercial for the 2011 Aussie Millions series in Australia.  The four largest US facing poker rooms are the biggest advertisers, but followed by a surprising number of land based casinos advertising their events. 
It is just my opinion, but in the age of Twitter, blogging, and the various online poker sites, that printed poker magazines will play a smaller and smaller role with poker players, both casual and serious.
Views: 772
Date Posted: Jul. 20, 8:05pm, 3 Comments

Taking NotesI was working on a poker strategy article for beginners today when I came to the 10th and final tip - Keep Notes.  For those of us without photographic memories, this can't be stated strongly enough.  It has saved or earned me untold sums by having previously typed or had notes on a player.  The online realm is an anonymous world and any efforts to gain clarity is extremely helpful.

In the real world, we have many visual cues that help us to assess a situation.  We observe the person; their age, sex, dress and mannerisms.  When we move to the online world, we are without those easy automatic visual assessments.  What do you say when entering in a chat room? ASL? We look to type the person by age, sex, and location to give us a base point to proceed.  At the poker table, we have limited information as well.  We can see what country they are from, but that has limited value. We can observe their play, but there is a costly learning curve while we attain some discernible patterns.

So what are the types of notes that are most helpful? For me, I like to know if they are particularly loose and aggressive pre-flop, versus tight or passive limping into pots.  The second important area I like to have notes on is if the player is straight forward or tricky.  If they will bluff or pull a particular move, that shows a greater likelihood of it in the future.  Knowing a player only bets with strong hands is incredibly helpful to play against. You can also take notes on bet sizing or specific patterns to their play.

There are many serious players who employ poker tracking software and heads up displays to assist them in this typing process.  The limitation is that two players with similar statistics can play quite differently.  There is always room for interpretation of what the statistics mean about their hand ranges, bluffing tendencies and the like. It is only one more set of information for you to factor in.

Some poker players will take note taking further than others, developing whole systems to micro-analyze their opponents, but I found that having general notes or especially color dot typing a player is sufficient to send off a warning light when you encounter them next.  It gives you an immediate sense of what they are capable of doing.  There is no guarantee that they won't deviate from your typing and notes, but it gives you something instant and concrete to begin your current evaluation.  And no, I won't be offended if you type me as weak tight. Watch me play PLO and you will see that note is outdated.  GL at the tables...  

Views: 1038
Date Posted: Jul. 19, 4:55pm, 0 Comments

Claiming victoryThe November Nine are set.  They have to wait 111 days to return to play for the nearly $9 million dollar top prize.  While we wait, I am left wondering if it's worth it. Over 70,000 entrants from 117 countries put up about $200 million dollars to play for their share of fame and riches at the 2010 WSOP.  Under 70 of them won bracelets or get the fame accorded with being part of the November Nine.  What percent of the thousands returned home profitable? Is the journey more valuable than the destination?


Hundreds of people supplement the players at the WSOP, whether they are press from around the world or the large Harrah's led crew of dealers, masseuses, tournament staff, food and accommodations people. We each play our part in creating a positive environment for these warriors to battle.  We seek to present this quest for fame and riches in the best light. For the poker players, is it their innate desire for competition that brings them back each year? Is it a desire to potentially enrich themselves that motivates them?  Can their fame and exposure for their poker careers be achieved in any other concentrated fashion? For those that come for the entire series, is it also about the camaraderie of being with fellow poker friends in such an entertaining city?


To me personally, the most poignant comment overheard this year...


"My wife might even like me then." - a random poker player's comment about winning the Main Event


Any passionate poker player invests a lot of time and resources into a game they love.  Certainly, that is time that could be spent elsewhere.  They play for various reasons; love of the game, the stimulation of competition, and of course for hopes of profit.  Those around them, family and friends, often don't understand or appreciate their efforts.  Unless you achieve some big score or visible victory, it is unlikely that they will ever embrace you. 


To many people, results are all that matters.  Your sweat equity in poker counts for little.  So when a PC member recently queried me about how to get their spouse to appreciate them more, I said show them results.  Manage your life so they see you have a balance with your poker.  Manage your results so that when you profit that they somehow benefit from it. Learn to manage yourself so they can come to embrace your poker journey, even if they remain without any desire to join you in the details of how you get your results.


The WSOP represents the most intense period each year at which a poker player can seek those desired results.  I'll see you next year.

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