Sunday, December 30, 2007

A TuckFard Experience

Last night Banky, Kat and I had our first, official, TuckFard experience.

The drive up north took a lot less longer than I anticipated – so when we were almost there 45 minutes early, we took a quick side trip to Starbucks for a latte (for Banky) and a Strawberry Fappuccino (for me). I’ve been craving a strawberry milkshake for weeks – and this finally satisfied it. Somehow I knew this was a good omen for the night.

We arrive just on time, braved the icebergs on Carson’s street, were greeted at the door by Carson himself, and we were whisked into the Carsino. I’ve played poker in quite a few home games, but I think the Carsino has the sweetest set-up I’ve seen…let’s just say he and his lovely wife know how to host a game!

I spotted Bam-Bam right away. He came over to shake my hand, and I was having none of it! It was a hug or nothing! Lucky for him, he obliged ;) Pebbles insisted on her hug too, and then the introductions began. I was worried about my piss-poor short term memory and forgetting everyone’s name…but because I knew them all by their online names, it was surprisingly easy.

Everyone was smiling, laughing, chatting away. In ‘real life’ I find it quite difficult to socialize with new people, but the TuckFards were so welcoming that within minutes I felt like I was one of the gang. I don’t know if all poker blogger gatherings are like this, but if they are, I can’t wait to meet more of you!

Kat arrived shortly after we did, and the poker started soon after.

And the poker was awesome. The structure was so good – it was definitely designed for play. We didn’t lose a player for over and hour and a half! Unfortunately, that player was Banky – but I’ll let him tell his own stories. I was seated with Carson on my right, SuzyQ on my left, and Pebbles, Mike, and Kathy. After about 10 minutes, Carson joked that the random seat generator put all the chatty-kathy’s on one table (not ours) – but between listening to the stories from the other table, and doing a little chatting ourselves, we held our own.

The TuckFard poker play was exactly the kind of play I like – they take the poker, but not themselves, seriously. So it’s a solid game of poker, but fun and lively. A real joy to play.

I didn’t get many hands early on – but at a crucial time I was able to take some big pots, and went into the final table as chipleader. However, the final table was not kind to me at first, and I folded away half my stack. I was extremely lucky in two major hands – I won a race against Bam-Bam with AQd when he held Jacks. Then came the hand of my night.

I had been folding A LOT, and I picked up KQo in middle position. Not a stellar hand, but the table wasn’t overly aggressive and I figured I could go in for a steal.

The blinds were 400/800 with a 200 ante. So I raised to 2400. To my surprise, Carson reraised all-in for 5900 more. CRAP.

Bam-Bam tanked. Double Crap. Then he folded. NutzFirth also painfully folded. It was them my turn to tank. I rarely take a long time to make decisions, but this one required some thought. I didn’t want to call – but I thought I probably had the odds…I knew I needed to do some math. And like Barbie says…”Math is Hard” – but I did my best…

We were 7 handed, so there was 1400 in antes, plus the 1200 from the blinds, plus my bet of 2400, and Carson’s stack of 2400+5900 = a total pot of 13300 (and if I’m honest, I didn’t know the exact amount…I just knew it was over 1200 when I did my count). At 2:1, I reluctantly called.

I was relieved when Carson turned over Tens since neither of my cards were in his hand. But I nearly jumped out of my seat when NutzFirth showed his fold… pocket kings!

I guess my tight play really had been noticed, because he put me on Aces. There’s no way I could have folded Kings there, but I understand NF’s play based on his read of me. Bam-Bam told us he folded Queens – and fortunately for me, and unfortunately for Carson and Bam-Bam, a Queen came for me. I was lucky that not only did I win my race, but the TWO players that would have beaten me had either called, both folded.

Between that hand and the previous hand with Bam-Bam, I had a very large stack, and through some careful play made it heads-up against NutzFirth.

He had his revenge for the folded Kings, however, and pretty much schooled me heads-up. I had the lead going in, and lost pot after pot. Amazingly enough, though, I had a blast doing it.

Banky likes to say “First or Worst” – but I’ll happily take a cash any day – and I was very pleased with my second place finish.

Banky managed both First AND Worst, as he won the side game once it got heads-up between he and Kat.

By this time it was way past my bedtime, and after more hugs and handshakes, we were on our way home.

Thus ended our inaugural TuckFard experience. Great people, great poker – what more can a PokerTart ask for?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Am I better because of poker? Part 2: Career

In this look at how poker has impacted my life, I’ll be covering the following topics:

- Finances
- Career
- Health
- Marriage
- Friendship

Welcome to Part 2: Career

I’m typing this at work at 2:00 in the afternoon. I guess that gives a little indication as to my priorities. I kid, I kid. I’m usually pretty busy during working hours – but the week between Christmas and New Years Eve is notoriously slow.

Truth be told, while I wholeheartedly acknowledge my corporate drone-ism – I actually like my job. On some days, I even love it. I work in marketing and I lead a team of smart, funny, and hard-working people. Venture outside my little fiefdom, however, and the office if filled with every The Office stereotype you can think of. It’s when I have to deal with people not on my team that I want to either punch them in the throat or drink myself into oblivion under my desk. But I digress….back to my career….

I’ve traveled a pretty golden road on my career path to date (barring a few potholes that I fell right into). The path to my current situation started out when I volunteered with Microsoft to get free hours of Internet access (this was back in the days when you paid for Internet access by the hour). The volunteer gig led to a part-time gig, which led to multiple full-time gigs where I got to do interesting things and meet interesting people. The good times, however, did not last and after a couple years of very fruitful freelance contracting, I was without a source of income.

A few months of unemployed self-loathing and afternoon matinees led to a job in my industry, and after 6 months there, contacts there led me to my current employer.

I’ve held 6 different jobs here, each more interesting than the one before. At one point, I was a golden child here. I was encouraged to get my M.B.A. so I could take on more senior level positions. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an undergrad degree. I dropped out of college a few months in, and started working full-time (the Microsoft money was too appealing). However, the program I wanted to attend said they would potentially accept students without undergrads as long as they had 7 years work experience, scored high on the GMATs and had good reference letters – luckily for me, I was able to pull off all 3 (even luckier that my 98th percentile in the Verbal section made up for a piss-poor Quantitative section. Thank God poker isn’t ALL math, or I’d be screwed). I was accepted and began my 18-month quest to get an M.B.A.

I wish I could say I was proud of my accomplishment – and in many ways I am. I know I worked hard, and learned a lot. But this was an “Executive M.B.A.” program – and some of the people in my class were complete and utter idiots. Knowing they ended up with the same degree that I have kind of tarnishes the whole deal. I’ve never held higher education in the same esteem that other people have. But at the end of the day, if a piece of paper reassures other people that I have the knowledge that I know I have, than so be it. The best part of the whole experience was seeing how proud my Dad was on graduation day. That pretty much made up for the 18 months of torture.

While I was in the M.B.A. program I was playing poker online. It was for small stakes, and not all that often (working full-time, plus school every other Fri-Sun didn’t leave a lot of free time). I graduated in 2005, and it was after that that Banky and I started playing more frequently, both online and live.

It wasn’t until early 2006 that poker became an everyday topic of conversation in our house. And it’s really been over the last year that I think it’s impacted my working life – and the impact is thus:

I’ve become apathetic.

And I don’t mean that in a bad way. In many ways, the apathy has been good. In the past, I was extremely emotionally invested in my work. I carried everything home. If work went well, I was happy, chipper, and fun to be around. If I dealt with an asshole, or my boss stole my idea, or if results weren’t as good as I hoped, I’d be devastated. Tears were not uncommon. I would spend evenings ranting to Banky, and being frustrated that he couldn’t understand. I’m sure I was not the most pleasant person to be around. Now, things just don’t bother me the way they used to.

However, apathy can also be bad. I still care about what I do, so perhaps apathy isn’t the right word – but I just don’t care as much as I used to. I feel like I’ve put work in it’s proper place….as a means to an end (the end being a lifestyle that I want). I no longer aspire to a bigger, better, career. I just want to be intellectually stimulated and work with fun, interesting people. I could care less about promotions, and hierarchy, and office politics.

I’m sure my attitude change has been noticed, because I’m not longer on the fast-track that I once was. But I’m not willing to sacrifice my time the way I was before. I leave work at work. Some other chumps can take their Blackberry’s with them on vacation. I don’t even check mine after office hours.

It’s hard to pinpoint that yes, this change in attitude is entirely because of poker – but I have to think that playing, thinking, and talking about poker so much has to have had an effect.

Playing poker has taught me how to deal with bad beats. I don’t get fazed by them any more. Work is full of bad beats! Dealing with an douche, having your boss take your name off a presentation and present it as her own, losing a great employee to another dept. The old me would spent days steaming – but now I’m mad for a few minutes (or a couple hours, if it’s something really bad) but then I shake it off. Just like at the poker table.

Sometimes, in poker, you do your best and you still lose. It’s the same at work. Sometimes you are smarter, better, more qualified than your co-worker, but they still get promoted. It’s like watching a fish catch hand after hand. There’s nothing you can do but play your best game – in poker, and in life.

When I reflect on where my career is now – I have to say that as far as progression, I’m no better off than I was before poker since I've been in the same role since 2004. But because of poker, I’m happier where I am than I would have been without it.

I’m not sure where that nets me out. I still have some thinking to do on this one.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Am I better because of poker? Part 1: Finances

Back when CC was over at Pokerworks, he wrote an excellent series of articles about the impact poker had on his life. It was an introspective and well written series, and I felt compelled to write something similar. I emailed him asking for permission to copy his format, and he graciously agreed. I, however, let time pass and never sat down to write my own series.

Now that months have passed, and I think I’m finally ready for the introspection.

So, in homage to CC’s original series, here is my look at this wonderful, crazy, frustrating and rewarding game and the impact it’s had on my life.

I’ll cover the following topics:

- Finances
- Career
- Health
- Marriage
- Friendship


I decided to start with this topic, because it’s the easiest one to quantify. I’ve tracked my play since the beginning of 2006, so the financial impact poker has made on my life is easily measurable and, luckily, positive.

The first time I ever played poker was in the Flamingo poker room in April of 2003. I had been watching the WPT with Banky on Sunday afternoons for a little while, and was intrigued. On a previous Vegas trip, Banky played 7 Card Stud, but I was too shy to approach the poker tables. This time, I mustered up the courage to give Limit Hold’em a try. I really only remember two things from that time at the tables: calling out that I had a straight at showdown, only to realize that I didn’t, in fact, have a straight and chatting with a tablemate who told me about a place on the web where you could play poker. He seemed shy when I asked him for the name of the site, but eventually he told me it was called ‘PartyPoker’. When Banky and I made it home, it wasn’t long before I signed up for an account.

I played on Party for a long time. I have no idea how much I won or lost. Only that I probably lost more than I won. But I had an amazing time. I then switched to Pokerstars (I can’t remember why). Banky and I started playing in some local home games, and were active on a poker forum. At the end of 2005, we decided that to truly get better at poker, we needed to track our results. Being a corporate drone, I’m an Excel wiz so I whipped up a spreadsheet and we tracked every cent.

Sometime in 2006, Banky discovered PokerSourceOnline where you got “free” stuff for completing bonus at various poker sites, and I became his guinea pig. I played on Pokerstars,, absolute, and Ultimate Bet. We got poker books, a folding poker table and other various ‘rewards’. But the real reward came on one random day in the middle of ’06. I can’t recall why, but I was at home for the day. At the time I was playing on Absolute, and I started off playing 1/2LHE. I had an incredible run that day, and rampaged my way up in levels. Every time I got enough to play at a higher level, I moved up. Soon I was playing 25/50 (or a limit close to that…the memory is fuzzy), and I Could. Not. Lose.

I hit every draw. Every high pocket pair held up. Every call I made was right. It was insanity. When Banky arrived home from work, I showed him my balance. I had made over $7,000. In one day.

Now this amount might be pitiful for some ballers out there. But the highest buy-in games we had ever played were $50 freezeout sng homegames. Online, $20 sngs were on the high side for us. This amount of money was more than I imagined making in poker in a year, nevermind one day.

After a few days, I decided to cash most of it out. In retrospect, it might have been wiser to try and continue to build a bankroll. But I had no delusions of grandeur. I knew that I had been incredibly lucky on one day, I didn’t expect that the luck would continue. I thought that cashing out would be my best bet. However, I didn’t just want to roll that money into our regular bank account. It was, afterall, poker money! So Banky and I opened a separate account for our poker winnings. We dubbed this our ‘poker fund’. At one point, the fund was up to 12,000. In the last year, it’s dwindled down to $4,000 – but not because of poker losses….instead we went to Mexico, remodeled our bathroom and installed some new windows.

I do still take the occasional shot at the higher levels – with various degrees of success and failure. I know it takes big money to make big money. Sometimes I crave the thrill of the higher limits, and sometimes I just want to play for the sake of playing.

As for 2007 – it’s been a good year. We’re both ‘up’ – but not by nearly as much in 2006. The thing is, as much as poker has had a positive financial impact in the sense that I have more money because of it – I’m not as interested in the money as I used to be. I’m less concerned about the financial cost (or benefit) of the poker session, than I am in how I played it and how much fun I had. Having a hobby that pays for itself is a joy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Soooo close

Every other Monday, Banky and I play a game at Woody’s. It’s probably the most fun poker game I play. It’s a bunch of beer-drinking, trash-talking men, and me ;) At first they would censor themselves around me. Not any more. Last night I was privy to discussions about crapping at work, and masturbating while using a bidet – and that was all before the break.

Woody runs the games as a year-long series. At the end of the year, the person who has won the most money is declared the champ – and gets a super-cheesy bracelet, a trophy, and their picture up on the wall. He’s got champs from 2004-2006…and a spot all picked out for the 2007 champ. Up until last night, I held the lead. Now, with one game left in the year, I’m in second place, $415 behind none other than Banky. Mofo!

I’m the only woman that has ever played at Woody’s, and I so want my picture up on that wall. The thing is, I’ll need to win the next game, and Banky has to not place in the money at all. It could happen…

Otherwise, I’m not playing much poker. I haven’t played online in weeks. The online poker bug I get just hasn’t been there. Between the Christmas festivities, a busy work schedule, and not feeling up to snuff, the TV has been calling my name most nights (especially when Christmas movies & specials are on…I am a complete and utter sucker for Christmas specials). I’m hoping to play some more live poker in the new year – Kat and I are hoping to get together a trip to Rama or Fallsview (maybe a Tuckfard get together at Rama is in order…hmmmmmmmmmm?). A few friends and I are hoping to play in some tourneys at Seneca, and Banky and I really should get to the casino more….


I was disappointed not to win the Write Your Way to the Aussie Millions contest – but I gotta give Julius Goat props…his entry was fantastic. A Christmas Carol is one of my fave stories – twisting it poker-style was genius. I did get mentioned in a note from the FullTilt gang, so that was nice. I had fun writing my entry. I'm sure I made myself laugh more than those who read the entry, but that's pretty common in my life. If I can make myself & Banky laugh, I'm all good.

Huge thanks to Al for organizing this amazing event, and good luck to all those playing in the TOC. I’d love to see a blogger take the Aussie Millions down!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No respect for Annette

I’m soaking up the WPBT trip reports – wishing I could have been there with you all. Please keep ‘em coming!

I haven’t felt very ‘pokery’ lately. Work has been both busy and full of holiday activities that it’s all a bit overwhelming. Most days I just want to go home and fall into a TV-induced coma.

I did get the urge to write here last though, when I collected the latest issue of Bluff from my mailbox. I’d been waiting for this issue to arrive, because I assumed there would be great coverage of Annette_15’s WSOP-Europe Main Event win. What I saw, however, was Joe Sebok & Barry Greenstein on the cover. Huh? Annette Obrestad, a woman*, won the main event being both the youngest to ever win a bracelet, and the only woman to win a Main Event – and all she gets is a couple pages in the middle of the magazine? Wha?

Don’t get me wrong – I have tons of respect for Barry Greenstein. I think he’s an incredibly talented player, and I love his demeanor at the poker table. I’m sure the dynamic between a father and a son who both play poker is very interesting. But would this not have been an ideal opportunity to put the record-smashing Annette on the cover?

Banky and I got into a heated discussion over breakfast. I was ranting at how it was sexist – and he said it was because it was the WSOP Europe and the average Bluff reader is a white American male and isn’t interested in a European event they can’t watch on T.V.

I disagree – I think it has way more to do with not wanting to put a normal looking girl on the cover. I’m sure if Annette looked more like Pamela Anderson she’d be splayed all over that cover in a heartbeat. Instead, she’s a normal (if not super-young looking) girl, who is crushing games online and live, and was pushed off the cover by an editorial piece on father/son relationships. Just doesn’t sit right with me.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed with Bluff. I still cringe every time I come across ZeeJustin’s monthly column. It’s pretty hypocritical of Bluff to fire one of their editors who recently got caught cheating online (which I think was the right move), while contracting with Justin (another self-confessed online cheater). So which is it? Cheaters are allowed to write for Bluff, or they aren't? The Bluff moral compass is out of whack.

I guess my problem is I’m so starved for quality poker content that I can’t bear to cancel my subscription.

* homage to Wicked Chops Poker