Sunday, March 22, 2009

Donkey Boy vs D-Bag

March 10-12th, 2009

"I'm going to play some big pots", I proclaimed.

We were driving down to Harrah's Resorts, making a Atlantic City run after a long hiatus. Mudmucker had just informed me that he wasn't going to play any poker, because he didn't feel like grinding it out for hours. I concurred; I wasn't going to grind it out either, and that's when I announced my aforementioned strategy aloud.

After sucking down some oysters and drinks at happy hour at Phillips on the 2nd day, I finally sat down for some $1-2 no-limit poker at the card room in Caesars. After a few hands, I got dealt A-5 of clubs in the big blind. A d-bag, the only person at the table wearing sunglasses (lightly tinted, so clearly it was for looking cool and not to obscure his eyes), raised it to $11 from the cut-off [he had raised 3 out of the last 4 pots]. I called and the flop came 10 high with 2 clubs. I checked, and d-bag led out for a pot sized raise of about $30. My previous tight poker incarnation would have just called, but this time, sticking to my new anti-grinder mindset, I popped it to $100- about what he had remaining in his stack. We got all the money in the middle for about $10 more, and after a blank on the turn, I hit the club on the river. I showed my nut flush, and he smirked before finally mucking. I assumed I had cracked either a pair of jacks or higher.

He muttered something about having been rivered 3 times already, and told me, "Nice hand, donkey boy. Keep playing that way."

"Thanks", I replied.

The d-bag soon changed seats at the table, moving from my right to my left. He continued to spew off chips to everyone at the table, busting, re-buying, and insulting people the entire time. D-bag was on serious tilt, enhancing his douchbaggery by ordering Coronas with lime wedges, raising pre-flop blind, and criticizing the play of everyone else. When he left the table to take a break, the entire table ribbed him, and we all agreed to "not to tap aquarium glass" (Don't scare the fish! Don't antagonize him, just smile and collect his chips!).

I soon got into another hand with d-bag. He raised from early position to $8. There about 4 callers, and I looked down at Q-Q in late position. I re-raised to $40 and after considering it for a while, d-bag was the only caller. I checked in the dark, and the flop came Q-4-5 rainbow. Boy, was checking in the dark ever the right move. I watched as he put out a $42 bet, which I considered, and smooth called. The turn was a bit scary, a 6. I didn't think he had 2-3 or 7-8, but maybe he had a 5-7 which would have given him a pair and an open-ended straight draw. I checked again, and he shoved for about $100 more which I insta-called. The river came another 4, and I flipped over my boat. He stared for a long time at the board and at his cards, saying he couldn't believe he lost with his hand. He called me "donkey boy" again, and reached in his wallet to rebuy for another $200. He claimed he had pocket sixes, which meant he was behind every step of the way in the hand.

I scooped a few more uncontested pots, and ended the session up $375. By my conservative estimation, d-bag lost at least $1000 in just the couple of hours I had spent at the table. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Lungfish's Poker Challenge update:

I'm currently north of $70, having graduated from $0.02-$0.04 to $0.05-$0.10 and recently, after my last session, I'm on to the $0.10-$0.20 tables. Nothing exciting, just playing solid A-B-C poker. Still doing cash games, but maybe I'll try some sit and gos soon too. It seems that every internet poker phenom I see on TV nowadays claims they started with just a $50 initial deposit and never looked back.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lungfish's Poker Challenge

My online sportsbook account has been tapped out for a while now. I'm loathe to redeposit any more money since a) getting payments from these guys seems to get increasingly more troublesome and unreliable (it's taken over three months to get a check the last two withdrawals I've made) and b) I'd rather buy undervalued stocks with any spare cash I have right now.

Therefore, I'm going to try to build up a bankroll with purely house money. How? Well, a couple of weeks ago, I placed 75th out of about 2500 players in an Omaha Hi-Lo freeroll tournament (not bad for my first time ever playing that game), winning $1.30.

I figured that was enough of a bankroll to get me started on the micro no-limit hold'em tables. I sat down at the $0.02-$0.04 tables, and after 26 hands, I'm now at $3.03.

I'm going to grind it out playing freerolls and the micro limit games and see how much scratch I can generate. Also, it will keep my poker game sharp, so I don't get slaughtered at the cash games (which has been the case my past few outings) in the poker rooms of Atlantic City.

My muses for this idea are Chris Ferguson (who turned $0 into $10K in 16 months) and Daniel Negreanu (who is attempting to turn $10 into $100K playing only no-limit ring games). Let's see how I fare!

Monday, February 9, 2009

25 Random Things About Me: Gambling Edition

I don't have a Facebook account (a popular guy like by just can't be handcuffed by that cap of 5,000 friends; I can't tell my other 15,000 buddies to just go take a hike). Therefore, I'm not part of this '25 Random Things About Me' fad sweeping the digital world... which is probably all for the better. After all, who cares about which Jonas brother is my favorite and my hackneyed stories about chasing the dragon in that underground opium den in Chinatown.

However, my pal Mudmucker tagged me to do a special gambling version of '25 Random Things' on this blog, so without further ado:

1) I'm afraid to shout out "monkey" when rooting for a face card in blackjack (part of the blackjack lexicon for those uninitiated), just in case a black guy just happens to walk by and misconstrue the context.

2) I got sucked into a gambling ring in high school. A friend of a friend knew an actual bookie, a Mr. D'Agostino. My neighbor and I became runners, getting paid $20 for each new client we recruited and relaying their bets up the chain.

3) My neighbor and I started pulling in quite a bit of volume, so we ceased to operate as the middlemen. Instead of passing along the bets to that guy in touch with the bookie, we started acting as the house and covering the bets ourselves. We had a short-lived, but profitable two week run. Things ended abruptly when my neighbor's mom got suspicious of the suddenly heavy call volume to their house.

4) The gambling ring as a whole got blown up a while later, when an "in over his head" student turned snitch and ratted out the primary conduit to the bookie. Thankfully, none of us underlings were implicated. However, that student ended up going to the same college as me- whenever I saw him, all I could think of that he was a rat fink.

5) I've lost $200 on the past two Miss Universe contests (Miss Mexico in 2008, 4th runner up, and Miss South Korea in 2007, 2nd runner up).

6) When I throw dice in craps, I arrange my dice with the '3's facing up and forming a '/\' that points towards the back wall like the tip of an arrow. When I'm throwing my come out bet, the point of the '\/' faces away from the back wall.

7) I once had to talk a buddy of mine out of hitting a hard '21' in blackjack. By the way, he's a doctor.

8) We once saw Pete Rose signing autographs at an appearance in Caesar's Palace in Vegas. I shouted at him, "Pete, who do you like in the Reds game?".

9) If you know anyone going to Las Vegas between now and the start of the baseball season, I will give them $50 to plunk down on the Seattle Mariners to win the AL pennant (at 50-1; $50 to win $2500). While they are going to struggle to score runs, they are going to be Rays-like in their run prevention and solid defense. King Felix and Brandon Morrow have ace potential, the bullpen has a variety of interesting arms with different looks, and their front office is now run by very smart people. If Jeff Clement can blossom, and if Beltre and Ichiro can squeeze out a good offensive year, they could win a weak AL West.

10) Out of all the times I've been to the track (horse racing, about 10-15 times), I've only won money once. However, I'm still up and in the black over my lifetime off the winnings from just that one time (and one bet actually). I'll post a detailed write-up at some point.

11) Whenever I play mini-baccarat, I only bet on the banker. The other Asians at the table are writing down whatever it is they write on those cards, and I don't even bother with it. Always bet on banker.

12) The largest bet I've placed on a single hand of blackjack is $200.

13) It was on online blackjack. I have a gambling problem when it comes to online blackjack (yes, I know it's rigged).

14) How's this for Black History Month? I've won money betting on Denzell Washington (Oscar), Kanye West (Grammy), and Barack Obama (DNC nomination).

15) A few years ago, a former co-worker got involved with a bookie, and maxed out his line of credit. He fronted me a bit of cash, and had me use my name to place bets for him instead.

16) I once had to go to the bar at Chili's to collect my co-worker's winnings, since they were under my name. The bookie passed me a rubber-banded wad of cash under a USA Today and told me to go into the men's room stall to count it. This bookie, Pat, was a real shady guy. I remember being nervous that I was going to get set up and rolled by another lowlife waiting to ambush me in the bathroom or the parking lot for the over $1500 in cash I was holding. What can you do? You're either dealing with a shady bookie or a shady online sportsbook. Pick your poison.

17) This bookie we were dealing with actually had muscle backing him up. No joke, this enforcer's nickname was "King Jack Moose".

18) I've dropped $40 in a sitting playing the Top Gun slots machine.

19) The night before I won a 200 person no limit tournament at The Taj Mahal, I was throwing up from drinking too much at an afternoon barbeque with my co-workers.

20) I've never won any money from playing the March Madness brackets pool.

21) I've bet on simulcast greyhound racing at Mohegan Sun. I bet on the only dog that didn't have his tail between his legs in the paddock. Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, said that a dog with his tail between his legs is in a tentative and scared state of mind. My dog got crashed into by another dog on the turn and finished last. I lost two more bets after that, and swore off betting on anorexic dogs for the rest of my life (I would however, bet on fat dogs in an eating contest though).

22) I'm unclear on tipping etiquette for winning fantasy leagues or office pools. Generally, I tip 10% rounded up to the nearest $20 increment.

23) When a casino has its air conditioning on too high, I like to order a hot chocolate with whipped cream.

24) I like to play in the Borgata poker room from the hours of 1am til the early hours of the morning. My purpose is to prey on the drunk guys that come stumbling in straight from club Mixx.

25) I have a weakness for betting on grey horses at the track.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lungfish's Greatest Plunders and Worst Blunders, vol. 3

This one still sticks in my craw. I'm not sure exactly where my craw is located, but by golly, this particular thing is so deeply embedded that it can't be extracted with a pair of needle-nose pliers and a strong grip. Let's flashback to 2002. The online sportsbook was offering prop bets on the NFL draft. There were multiple over/unders they were offering on where certain players would get taken in the draft.

Now I had gleaned some information from a couple of draft insiders that had been interviewed on WFAN (the local sports talk radio station). They had a strong hunch that the Giants were going to draft a tight end with their 14th pick, namely Jeremy Shockey from the University of Miami. Well, that was good enough for me. I checked, and the over/under was set at 15.5 for him. However, there was one bit of semantics that I needed to be cleared up for me.

Usually, betting over/unders is pretty clear cut. Say the over/under line in a baseball game is set at 7.5 runs. You can bet if you think the combined score in that game will be over 7.5 runs or under 7.5 runs. If you bet the under and the final score was 4-3, you're buying a round with your newfound cash. If you bet the under and the final score was 5-3, you're crying in your beer.

Now in this case, since I thought Shockey would get drafted 14th, did that mean I should bet over or under 15.5? One one hand, using the same logic as before, 14 is under 15.5, so it would be an under bet. On the other hand, if this was a race and Shockey finished in 14th place, that would be be over 15.5th place, right?

Anyway, I decide to call up customer service. Since gambling over the internet is illegal here in the States, online sportsbooks are usually based in seedy offshore islands. This sportsbook was centered in Antigua and so was their customer service. I was on the phone for 30 minutes, asking this question 50 different ways, making sure. There was a bit of a language barrier- I'm not sure what the native language of Antigua is, but the agent I spoke to had a thick accent. The customer service rep told me, unequivocally, that I should bet the over if I thought Shockey would get drafted in 14th position, since 14th position was over 15.5th position. I got his name, thanked him, and got my $500 in on the over.

The next day, the more I thought about it, the more I doubted what was told to me. I called up customer service again, and I was now being given a different answer! This new customer service rep was saying I should have bet the under, and that I was an idiot because clearly, 14 is under 15.5. I asked to speak with a manager, and after being put on hold for an eternity, the manager told me the same thing. I asked if they could just refund my bet then, and again, I was stonewalled. They said that if I wanted to reverse my bet, I'd have to place a bet the opposite way and eat the juice. Well, this wasn't an option for me either, since I'd placed the maximum allowable amount already ($500)... and they wouldn't raise the limit of action they'd take on the bet to accomodate me. I cited the previous rep I'd spoke to on the other call and demanded that the tape of my conversation be pulled. The manager consented and placed me on hold. After literally being on hold for 1 hour, I hung up seething.

I called up my friend, Slewyou, who also had an account at the same sportsbook. I told him I'd cut him a check for $500, if he'd deposit $500 into his account and place a bet on the Jeremy Shockey* under. He did, and of course by this time the line had moved. $500 would only win $333 now. I'd be losing $167, but that was better than losing all $500.

Straight Wager 04/19/02 18:29 ET
381.00/346.36 Result: Wager Lost
Jeremy Shockey - Over/Under Draft Position
Over/Under Draft Position 14
Over/Under Draft Position 0 04/20/02 (12:30 ET)
Over 15.5 (-110)

Straight Wager 04/19/02 18:24 ET
119.00/108.18 Result: Wager Lost
Jeremy Shockey - Over/Under Draft Position
Over/Under Draft Position 14
Over/Under Draft Position 0 04/20/02 (12:30 ET)
Over 15.5 (-110)

* Jeremy Shockey's broke his leg in 2007 and did not play in the Giants' win in Superbowl XLII. After arguments with his head coach and GM, he was traded to New Orleans. He played in only 3 games with the Saints before season ending hernia surgery.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Lungfish's Greatest Plunders and Worst Blunders, vol. 2

A gambler is always looking for an arbitrage situation, or to put it simply, a guaranteed chance to make a profit without any risk (see, my economics degree isn't totally useless). One such situation emerged back on a Friday in March of 2002 quite unexpectedly. March Madness was just beginning, and Michigan St. was supposed to play Indiana in that evening in the Big 10 tournament. However, due to an impending snowstorm, the game was moved to an earlier start. The game started at about12pm, and by 3pm, Indiana had won easily. My co-worker, who was an even worse degenerate gambler than myself, was browsing the the online sportsbook and saw that the Michigan St. vs Indiana game was still posted, with the original tip-off time, and still open to be bet on! [Editor's note: This was in the good ol' days when companies didn't block websites, and allowed unfettered access to the internet]

He called me over, and we both couldn't believe our eyes. George Clooney in "Ocean's Eleven" says:
"...the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you bet big, then you take the house."
Well, the house had slipped up, and we were going to punish them for it. We both emptied our accounts and got our bets down as fast as humanly possible, lest the folks at the sportsbook wised up suddenly and delisted the game. Even after we placed our bets, we were still anxious. These offshore gambling sites were unregulated, and kind of like the wild, wild West. What if they invalidated our bets... or worse, what if they saw this as grounds to suspend our accounts and freeze our funds? All of the sudden, what were both sweating out what was supposed to be a sure thing. We already knew the outcome of the game, we just didn't if know we were going to slip one by the house.

Straight Wager 03/08/02 15:11 ET
261.78/237.98 (paid 499.76) Result: Wager Won
MichSt 56
Indiana 67 03/08/02 (23:30 ET)
Indiana -3

Well, it worked! They actually graded the game before we had even left work. At happy hour, we partied like George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The caper we pulled off wasn't quite on the scale of an Ocean's Eleven, but it was at least a "Lungfish's Two".

Do you know what's worse than drunk dialing? Drunk gambling- it's why casinos ply you with free alcohol, and how they can afford to spend millions of dollars on a replica of the f'n Eiffel Tower in the middle of a desert. When I got home, I flipped on the computer and logged on to my gambling account again. I saw another arbitrage situation. Cincinnati had already played Marquette that day, and they still had a prop bet up on the amount of points that their point guard, Steve Logan, was going to score against Marquette. I checked the box score, and saw that he scored less than the over/under. I poured my money in on the under, and phoned my buddy to do the same. What was going on? This website was going to go out of business if it continued to operate in such a careless manner, I told myself as I went to sleep.

When I awoke the next morning, I went to read the newspaper, and pulled out the sports section.... to my horror, under the TV schedule, there a time listed for a Cincinatti-Marquette game in about 30 minutes! This wasn't a mistake by the sportsbook, the 2 teams were playing on back-to-back days, in the regular season finale, and then for the opening of the conference tournament. I immediately called my friend and told him of my alcohol-induced error. He must've been drunk, because he was going to let the bet ride. I had sobered up, and was going to just eat the vig and hedge by placing a bet on the over. I had to make a $500 deposit into my account, having emptied it on this foolish bet.

Straight Wager 03/09/02 11:04 ET
500.00/525.00 (paid 1025.00) Result: Wager Won
Steve Logan (Cincinnati) Total Points - Must Play
Points 26
Points 0 03/09/02 (11:40 ET)
Over 22.5 (+105)

Straight Wager 03/08/02 23:57 ET
500.00/454.55 Result: Wager Lost
Steve Logan (Cincinnati) Total Points - Must Play
Points 26
Points 0 03/09/02 (11:40 ET)
Under 23 (-110)

As it turned out, it was a good thing I had covered myself. My friend was not so lucky.

[fade to black]

Steve Logan was drafted in the 2nd round by the Golden St. Warriors. He was soon traded to the Dallas Mavericks and cut from the team. He since has played professionally in Poland, Israel, and Venezuela. He has never played a game in the NBA.

[fade to black]

Lungfish and his former co-worker continue to battle their addiction with gambling. Despite their best efforts, they have both gambled while drunk since.

[fade to black]