I was watching Live at the Bike last night, where LA grinder and LATB commentator JJ de la Garza was gettin' busy. He’s a sharp looking guy, appropriately and comfortably dressed for the poker battle. His hair is tied up in a knot, poker samurai style. JJ seems a bit hot-blooded, antsy. He looks like he works out on exercise machines while the sun drowns the Angelenos: he’s obviously fit but a little pasty and splotchy. He gives off waves of well-being, and I imagine his girlfriend and family love him quite a bit. He has a broad grin when he laughs and chats.
Mr. Manbuns is no cool customer, though, and will brazenly resaddle multiple times to get into better position for the race. Things haven’t gone his way, and the evening is fast passing into night. So far, the easy money has eluded him. He’s been bluffed by a slippery reed player in a goofy hat and Bernie swag; it’s not that big of a deal on a paired board where only a flop bet went in and all pairs can get value, but the small mistake apparently requires a walk to simmer down.
Now he’s back. JJ is looking for the perfect spot to get everything he thinks is coming to him from a loose player.
I’ve never been great at seat selection myself, and one of my posted laments is the lack of wisdom out there about it beyond a few simple ideas. I know why this is the case – it’s really about knowing the tendencies of all your opponents, and I conversely spend a lot of time casing them before I care enough to know where I want to be – but observing the general principles of money flow is probably such an overwhelming factor that I am likely making it too difficult. JJ kept to the overriding principle, and got himself where he wanted to be. Beyond my strategy, I’m often too reticent to be so obvious and too arrogant to think it matters: I like to think I can come up with a strategy for anyone from anywhere, but I am often jealous of the easy scores my opponents make when they take JJ's approach at the Village cash fountain. Nights like last night, where I am playing my ass off, and some dumpling is repeatedly pressing an ATM withdrawal button with his fat thumbs, are annoying and the feeling of missing the boat wearisome.
Gargamel is another like JJ who openly bumhunts. Not only does he work hard to sit exactly where he wants, the first thing he does when he sits down is ask for a seat change button. He knows what his plan, now just a habit, is and will stick to it. A second thing he does better than me – maybe better than anyone – is watch the game list. While I’m busy searching for the faintest correlations in physical actions, counting stack sizes, and formulating plans, he has one eye not only on the potential players, but on all the tables, the rest of the room, and even the rail beyond. He’s seeking out the marks. He bragged to me the other day that no one in the casino knew before he did when a noted whale was in the casino. I believe him.
I couldn’t help but relate all this to the very thoughtful post and thread started by Imperator on RC. In the course of the debate, Soto and Berkey crossed over a topic related to Manbuns’ Warrior Quest: finding spots. While I agreed with Imperator in principle - and how could I not because he wasn’t saying anything exactly new but instead, rephrasing a poker truism almost suspiciously well - it was never really much of an argument in terms of theory and his real hunting dog, the pursuit of excellence. My opinion that money matters perhaps comes from my personal experience and wrapping my mind around punching above my weight; yet I, of all people, do not reduce the game to the "nuts and bolts of cards, money, and decisions," among other things. I wrote a bunch about the thread, taking on a wide range of the the discussion for the blog, including morality and love of the game, but as the thread and my essay wore on, I grew weary of it all. I liked what I was writing and don't like restraining myself, but I'm not in the mood for musings and assertions. Everyone knows disregarding the money is key. This very night I again went to war with people whose net worth is up to fifty times mine. Yet I played well and it was I who put the fear in them - which is only possible because it's obviously not all about money. My problems lay elsewhere. So thanks, Imperator, for refocusing us.
Seats are opening up on LATB: unusual. I often think, mistakenly, that I should be able to beat my opponents from any position. I’ll stay at a tough table because I don’t like backing down. I can also be just straight out lazy about moving around because, frankly, I like and do a lot of things for my own sedentary convenience. I don’t drive in bad traffic, so I either arrive early for the games or too late, often missing the so-called “Happy Hour” at the Village, where the software folks provide a download of cash. Even when I had a 9-5 job, I made sure to live nearby so I could walk to work. With seniority and accomplishment, I pushed back my starting hour until noon seemed like an early day. I don’t cook for myself much anymore, and luxuriate away too much of my winnings in the most irresponsible manner. I would do better by my bankroll if I took up JJ and Gargamel’s EZ button strategies. One of the most disturbing comments to me personally was the Imperator’s observation that smart people often harm themselves and others around them the most – it would not hurt me to go about this business of poker, among other things, in more humble, straightforward way.
However, in a summary and slightly terrifying monologue late in Imperator's thread, Berkey painted a picture of the future of the games I have not contemplated. You see, in my mind, the games will always be good. Poker has not changed that much in twenty years at the low to mid-levels. There is still plenty of dead money (often just the nearly literal kind, dumped loosely and undefended into the pot) in games up to 5/10. The 2002 in a lot of players, hidden for a few orbits, often emerges pretty quickly despite a lot of 2016 makeup. Yet what if this is not the case? What if I move back up, push on a little further, and have not done my best to be prepared, to stay ahead of the game? What if, in following Gargamel and Manbuns on the prowl for spots and easy exploits leaves me in a bad place? With Poker Snowie, PIO Solver, and a host of GTO products breaking in even to the 1/2 rank and file, where does trapping Bdonk really get me in the end?
Gargamel runs hot against me, always has, still does. Sometimes I have to bluff him just to get a little even, despite our general avoidance of each other. Just the other night, I finally had him with AA, for only the second time in what seems like a decade of poker, and he ironed it out again in a four bet pot. Scarcely believable, if you knew all the hands and details. However, it’s really a drop in the bucket, and I have a hard time caring. It’s an inexplicable thing and part of the mystery of variance. The future, however, is worth considering more seriously. The future can be attacked strategically. Money is quantified energy, and time is money. It’s all cash, all big blinds, and all of it is finite, especially at my age.
Or is it? If I have the ability to turn my funds into much, much more, to turn poker into the nest egg I need, I must to find a better way to study and improve my game a few ticks. Some of my poker abilities are amazing, but I am like your neighbor’s Jaguar you once envied but that’s always in the shop. For a few weeks now, I have been realizing that my selective reading and autodidact methodology might not be good enough, but I don’t precisely know what would be better. Studying poker through books just seems a tad like cheating (I realize that is absurd but is just a sort of gut sense I suffer from), and I’ve never finished one (aside from Let There Be Range, but that’s more a pamphlet), bored or irritated by the writing style or the lack of logic in the presentation. Pretty shallow, perhaps, but I do prefer thinking it all out on my own, using the books for selective reference, or discovering the game in the give and take of online dialogue. (Having read Berkey's comments on that, I am inspired to get the hell out of the forums I muck up, and find a new way.) Even if there is no acceptable outlet for learning, even if playing with the bad boys and the rich kids is gambling and negative and basically crashing a party of my betters, I still have my own mind, my desk and a cup of coffee. If anything for me specifically came out of Imperator’s thread, it’s that I need a more thorough plan, and soon. The games change and shift, and I may not always have the best seat – or any seat - at the table.
The evening wears on. Players prematurely vacate the notorious RFID table, disconsolate over their results, tilted by their own narcissism. It's hard enough losing on your own if you are a tilter: imagine all your peers watching you do it. However, it’s working out for Manbuns: he finally gets where he wants to be, right up next to the loose player.
At last, he’s ready to get his payday. JJ’s smiling. Everything's good. The topknot perches just a little higher.
The future can be planned for but is hard to predict, however. Within an orbit or so, the loose player, eyes black and beady and cunning, senses something, something perhaps indefinable but clearly adverse.
He racks up. The loose player leaves. This game will not last.
Thank you for reading this blog, I hope you enjoy it half as much as I enjoy creating it. Unfortunately, I must take a break to deal with personal issues, so I’m putting myself on blogging hiatus. This is not a soft ending, or a retirement, I hope. I have loved doing this as much as anything I've done in a long time, so you can imagine I'm not stopping for light reasons.
I’ve promised several blog reviews to different bloggers, and should I return to "OOP," I will get to them right away. In fact, thanks to all of you fellow bloggers who put up with my impertinence. I hope you understand that I love writing and reading and thinking about what we say and put out there. I planned on reviewing many things, actually, including what should be a good piece on the phenomenon of “Pokémon"; makes me smile just thinking about it. This is has been a great pleasure.
Lastly, I can't help but notice that it's been two years now since I've played poker for a living. I'd like to share with you everything I've learned (and somehow still haven't fit into my ridiculous pieces), but the time is not right.
So good-bye for now, and I wish you the greatest in all your endeavors.