Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lemon Martinis

Well, it's been over a month since Black Friday hit us like a sucker punch to the collective gut. Different people have handled the ban in a variety of different ways. (1) Some have migrated to traditional "brick and mortar" (B&M) venues, such as local casinos, Vegas, and home games. (2) Others have reverted back to play money tables. (3) Some folks have even given up poker entirely, finding other hobbies and aspects of their lives that had been forgotten. (4) And then there are those who have found other, smaller online poker sites and transferred their money and time to the new venue.

This bug? Well, I'm doing (or planning on doing) a combination of three of these options. Let's break it down:

(1) B&M. Due to work and life commitments, I haven't played any live poker since the ban, but I do intend to try spooling that aspect of my game up a bit. The biggest issue is literally finding enough time in the day to make it happen. By the time you drive out to the local casino, sit down and play (at the rate of 20-30 hands per hour. ouch.), and then drive home, the $/hour that can be earned this way is pitiful. Plus you get spend all that quality time with the, ahem, pillars of society that make up your typical casino card room crowd. Okay, that said, I do need to improve in this aspect of my game, so I'm going to have bite the casino bullet and/or find some other regular (read: weekly or biweekly) live avenue to play. Maybe a semi-regular home game is the ticket. Dunno.

(2) Play Tables. I'm not playing any of the play tables (though I will admit I dabbled a bit at the Rush free tables immediately following the ban-- just to get my daily fix in. Seriously. (I guess that says something about an addiction problem I might have, eh? ;-) ) The biggest problem with play money tables (besides the fact that you're not earning any money for your effort, obviously) is that the players tend not to take the game very seriously (or at least not as seriously as they would if real money were involved). This means that they play strangely, which in turn will affect the way you have to play to beat the game. This results in an undesirable and subtle morphing of your game into something that can beat the play tables, but will get crushed at real poker tables if/when you go back to that venue. Said another way, play tables will ruin your "real" poker skills in short order. Ergo, I've forsworn off playing any more play games at all (Rush be damned).

(3) Get a Life. I have to admit, giving up poker immediately following the ban was hard for me. I had daily routines that had fully integrated online poker into them. Suddenly not being able to play was a blow to what I considered a "normal" life.... ah, but look what just a few weeks of forced abstinence can lead to: a life. I've found time since the ban to get a number of other side projects going. I'm also spending more time with my wife. I'm reading more. I'm smelling the proverbial roses. Hell, even my recent business/vacation trip to Germany was better without the gnawing desire in the back of my brain to try to sneak in a few online hands in the evening in our hotel room when the wife wasn't looking. Now, don't get me wrong: Black Friday sucks (big time), but there have actually been some positives that came from it-- namely, some perspective.

(4) Other Online Poker. Just like prohibition didn't stop people from drinking, the DoJ's closure of 'Tilt, 'Stars, and Ultimate have not stopped online play. There are still numerous places to check/bet/fold/ online, some more legit than others. I've personally signed up with Carbon Poker, which, despite a few glitches in the software, has actually been a decent place to play. In hindsight, I think I would have been better off signing up on Black Chip poker (due to a higher possible rakeback %), but I'm overall happy with Carbon. The rakeback is paid daily into my account (averaging $0.75 per day for the 100 hands of $10NL that I play). I'm also making a steady win-rate at the tables (despite a big initial nosedive during my transition from Rush-style play to "normal" online ring games). I'm making about $8 per hour on average playing at the $10NL games. I initially started with full ring, but have migrated to 6max simply due to the larger number of tables to choose from. Typically, I'm playing 2 tables at once, although I've experimented with as many as eight. The games are soft and the action pretty good. It ain't Full Tilt or 'Stars, but it ain't bad, either.

The other big thing I'm doing poker-related is I'm starting to study the game more seriously than I have in the past. This has involved me putting together a "system" of notes that I've been taking and adding to whenever I'm reading a poker book or watching a video. Poker will come back in a legal form (I'm guessing in ~2 years) for US players. In the meantime, I'm planning on getting a lot better. The Guru has said recently that we've been handed a big bag of lemons by the DoJ. Who among us are going to make lemonade? I for one am planning doing just that. And I might even add a little vodka to the mix.

All-in for now...

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