Archive for October, 2006|Monthly archive page

poker fu, baby

 

Originally, to practice kung fu did not just mean to practice Chinese martial arts. Instead, it referred to the process of one’s training – the strengthening of the body and the mind, the learning and the perfection of one’s skills – rather than to what was being trained. It refers to excellence achieved through long practice in any endeavor. — From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Okay, let me say more than a few words here about Performance Poker and its creator, Anthony Okrongly (aok). This is how I found out about his strategy: Back in August I had a very small bankroll ($50) and I felt like I really needed to use it wisely because I probably wouldn’t be able to redeposit any time soon. I was trying to become a better, profitable ONLINE player. I felt that there was a difference between playing poker online and playing live games although I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I did realize that online games, especially the micro-limits at which I was playing, were much more loose and irrational than live play. So I wanted to find someone who was successful at ONLINE poker and who was willing to pretty much hold me by the hand and teach me. Especially since I was looking at my one last shot, at least for awhile.

So I posted on the Flop Turn River forum that I was looking for a “badass poker mentor.” It was aok who responded. He sent me an email. What he said really got me excited.

What times are you available to play or to watch me play? I normally [play] Wed and Thursday during the day and weekend nights plus some weeknights after 9.

I am a serious poker trainer. I have a system you need to read and a method I follow – so even if you aren’t watching me play I can still help you by reviewing all you hand histories. Not only do I train you, I guarantee your results as long as you follow my system.

“Guarantee my results”?! Well, hell, let’s do this! He had a little questionnaire he wanted me to answer that would give him a better idea of my poker background and experience. Then I went to his site and read the extensive introduction and explanation of the Performance Poker strategies. As I read a lot of bells started going off.

The main, striking difference in his approach to teaching poker than anything else I’ve come across is this: aok understands that the losing poker player, especially the losing ONLINE poker player is, above all other things, undisciplined. There are some written exercises aok asks you to do if you are serious about changing your play and your poker habits. On the surface they seem silly, but I understood the psychology of them and, in the end, found them to be instrumental to me developing a new approach.

At the time, I used to think that I played poker because I liked to win and because I wanted to win. But the reality was that I played poker because I liked the thrill, that pure adrenaline rush. I loved the way my heart jumped in my chest in the time between me clicking the ALL IN button and the deal of the river card. It wasn’t about winning. If it was about winning I would have quit a long time ago. I just told myself I wanted to win. As I learned from aok, winning poker can, at times, be pretty boring.

He told me to get Skype, which I did, and we set a time to get together so he could show me what he does. He called me up on Skype and I watched him play for about 45 minutes. On every hand he explained what he was doing and why. After watching him play live, combined with absorbing the information on his site and in the nifty Quick Start Sheet, I was ready to go.

Very simply, his system worked. It is designed to minimize losses (and bad beats) and maximize profits. It is in it’s essence a tight aggressive style. I call it Poker Fu because on many occasions, in a round of play, you end up using your opponent’s aggression against him. Or, when the other player throws bets at you like punches, you just step out of the way. It’s the way of least resistance in that you don’t try to make people fold. In fact, an important part of the strategy is keeping other players in the hand and extending the betting when you have the best of it.

The biggest struggle I had was sticking to the system. Often when I got away from strictly following the program, I lost money. But when I followed directions, I always ended my poker session with a profit. I still use this system when I play full ring games although I prefer 6 Max NL Hold’em (that’s the adrenaline junkie in me!). aok has written a piece on how to beat that game, too. This may sound obvious but I don’t think it really is… The single most important thing I learned from aok is how to fold my hand. And it is that idea that helps me stay profitable no matter what variation of poker I play.

The bottom-line is this: Since l started using the Performance Poker principles about a month and a half ago, I’ve made withdrawals from my poker accounts for a total of around $140. That’s almost three times my starting bankroll. I’m still going and I haven’t had to make anymore out-of-pocket deposits.

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in your face, senator frist!

By now most of you online players should have heard something about the new illegal online gambling law. According to CardPlayer.com, “On the last Friday in September, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist worked into the night to get the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) attached” to a port security bill. And you may or may not know that it was signed into law by President Bush on Friday. (Read more here.) PocketFives.com had a great podcast on October 5th discussing the act and its ramifications. And if you are really interested you can read a detailed analysis of the act by Nelson Rose, a law professor, here.

If you don’t know what the UIGEA is or does, here is the most succinct yet thorough explanation I’ve found from CardPlayer.com [full article]:

H.R. 4411
After almost four hours of debate, the bill passed by a vote of 317-93. In a nutshell, here’s the meat of the statute and the predictable problems associated with each section of the bill.

Online gaming sites are prohibited from accepting payment from a U.S. financial institution.
Since all online sites are outside of the U.S., our government has no jurisdiction to enforce this part of the law. Simply stated, the U.S. cannot make laws or enforce laws regarding business outside the U.S.

Financial institutions are forbidden from delivering funds to online gaming sites. However, most banks and credit card companies already refuse to send money to offshore sites. Therefore, offshore third-party companies have already been set in motion to handle U.S. financial transactions.

The amended 1961 Wire Act modernizes its language by including the Internet and prohibiting games “predominantly subject to chance.” This will be the start of expensive and time-consuming litigation regarding whether poker is predominantly a game of skill or chance.

A burden is placed upon Internet service providers and other technology providers to block access to online gambling sites when requested to do so by a law enforcement agency. This will prove to be an unenforceable nightmare for all involved.

The bill directs the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to issue regulations outlining policies and procedures that could be used by financial institutions to identify and block gambling-related transactions that are transmitted through their payment systems. If the bill ever becomes law, these entities have 270 days to write such procedures. The implementation is mind-boggling.

The bill contains carve-outs for such things as lotteries, horse racing, and the stock market. Every opponent of the bill criticizes it because while it attempts to legislate morality, it prohibits only certain forms of gambling while allowing others.

As a matter of fact, although the proponents of the bill say that online gaming is destroying the moral fiber of society, the bill allows a state to house an online gaming site for its citizens.

Before this bill actually passed in the House of Representatives, I wasn’t that concerned. I had read a few things about it online and most informed opinions were that it was highly unlikely that such a bill would make it through both bodies of Congress. So I did nothing.

I just kept on clicking bet, raise or fold.

Now the unexpected has happened. Although considerably weaker than its original form, an unlawful internet gambling bill has passed. And we still don’t know the total fallout of this new piece of legislation. So while some of you guys keep talking about odds to call and bad beats, it’s possible that eventually we may all suffer that baddest beat of all: finding most, if not all, online poker sites closed to U.S. players. This thing is not over. In fact, Harrah’s recently announced that it will no longer accept registrations from online sites for its World Series of Poker. What, now I can’t satellite my way into the WSOP?

Party Poker, Titan Poker, and Pacific Poker are three major rooms that have recently closed shop to U.S. players. Also, Firepay issued a statement last week saying “…US account holders can no longer use FirePay for online gambling payments…”

While I do think there is much cause for alarm, there are still many places for U.S. players to play online. FlopTurnRiver.com has a fairly extensive list.

 

When the Nazis came for the communists,

I remained silent;

I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,

I remained silent;

I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,

I did not speak out;

I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,

there was no one left to speak out.

Martin Niemöller

But here’s what I’m getting at… In all honesty, before today, I didn’t even know the names of my Congressional representatives. I’m not as involved and informed in civic matters as I should be. But I know who speaks for me in Congress now. And today I sent the appropriate members of the House of Representatives and Senate emails asking them to amend the UIGEA. It took me about five minutes. And if you want to keep your right to play poker online I encourage you to do the same. The Poker Players Alliance makes it easy to drop a line from their site. I have also been staying up on the lastest related news by checking the National Right for Online Gaming web page.

So it’s on us to get up, get involved and do something. Together we can say, “In your face, Senator Frist!”

i think we should see other people

There are a few things going on in my life currently, that are forcing me to put poker in perspective. Family concerns and responsibilities, financial issues, relationship demands, personal aspirations, etc. And I guess, in the final analysis, I am reminded that poker is a game, a diversion, an amusement. And online poker is almost less than that.

If I was to imagine a visitor from another planet watching me while I played poker on my computer, what exactly would he witness? He would see a person sitting in front of an electronic device, looking at a glowing screen with colored pixels, blips and shapes. He would see a person punching keys and manipulating some sort of pointing tool. And if he was watching me, he would probably see me shake my fist at the screen and make loud, angry utterances with notable frequency.

What I’m saying is that online poker, really online or digital anything, lacks a certain realness… that it isn’t real. By definition, when you work with computers, you are working within a manmade construct, a synthetic reality. That in itself isn’t bad. I just have to remember that computers and the internet and online poker should be seen and used as tools. And a tool is something I use to accomplish something. It is something I control. It is not something to which I should become enslaved. It is not something which should control me. And, most importantly, it is not something which should cloud my perception of reality.

I know that I normally write about what site I played last or how much money I won or lost, but other ideas are on my mind right now. I think for a while, I was really dazzled by online poker, specifically. By all the information, the opportunities to play, the various ways to win (or lose), the software one could find to improve his play, the strategies, and on and on and on. On any given day, I often would be multi-tabling, browsing a poker website, listening to a poker podcast, and checking the live statistics on my poker analysis software, all at the same time. Now, please, don’t misunderstand me, information is power and many of these things I just mentioned are useful, and I have found them personally useful. However, more than anything, one must have balance. At the end of the day, at least for me and considering the level at which I was playing, a hand of poker and its outcome just wasn’t that important. Whether I lost 50 bucks or won $1000, the manner in which I pursued poker just wasn’t worth the cost.

Today I have the beginning glimmers of balance. I’m not speaking strictly of time management. I’m talking about an attitude; I’m talking about a position and a perspective. So now, the time that I do play, I am more focused. I enjoy myself more, and I don’t feel guilty or feel like I am neglecting some other aspect of my life. And I don’t feel a compulsion to play. This may sound weird, but there were days when I would fall asleep after losing a battle to stay awake in front of the computer only to rush right back to my laptop the next morning before I had even wiped the crust out of my eyes.

Today I have enough discipline to at least splash some water on my face before I start splashing the digital pot.