trip reports

The Void and the Man, Conclusion

The screenwriters are gone. I’m alone at a long metal table in a back room of a café with my laptop.  The meeting had in fact been successful, but it was short. Two members with work scheduled to present didn’t come. While the group had deliberated, I stared at the chat app, waiting to hear from the one that hadn’t even informed us of her whereabouts or intentions. Maybe she’s somewhere preaching better behavior in “Trump’s America”. Maybe she’s dead.

I can live with a curtailed meeting, but don’t want to. After all, what do I do with myself now?

I remember when I took over running the show. The founder was a worried, thin woman who had recently left a high stress, high pay job in the tech sector. She had long, thin hair and a pained face– the eternally neglected wife, her spirit depressed by the mystery of her life. She was one of those bewildered people who had discovered but not accepted that checking off boxes of life accomplishments and subscribing to contemporary tropes would not lead to an abundance of joy. She hung on, however. Her calling card script, borne sympathetically of her world view, was everything a film resume might be – high concept, sweetly P.C, light, and bashfully romantic. It was her cloud.

She needed one. Her brown eyes were tired and pretty but what I really noticed was her delicate wrists. I focused on them, not merely because of the beauty of the feminine limb, but because she’d rub her hands together with anxiety. The cause was the work being shared, which was almost universally hopeless – or, more precisely, she couldn’t see the hope or the nature of the hope within.

Rub, rub.

The reality was that the state of the “scripts” was too inane, too amateurish, too nascent for her to help at all. Her training in gentle scolding and “constructive” criticism – as if observations that are true can then be reshaped without losing their power – were useless in getting to the heart of the matter: probably any matter. More mysteries for her. What we read didn’t have shape or they didn’t have logic or what is even more important – in trying to reach out to some ironically mirroring contemporary trope, they didn’t show their character: the sign and the light to the genius in all of us.

She tried to tiptoe around the pile of confusion and shit and sweat and effort, and say “you should look into…” She’d read an article, no doubt, with some tip on how to deliver bad news. She exhaled deeply when the critique was over and no bombs had gone off.

Rub, rub.

This wasn’t what she was here for, not at heart. What she really had wanted was to create that society, that circle you imagine and need. Where something magical happens, where everyone is supportive and gentle, like her protagonists.  Where pages of saturated future film flow like mint tea and we all enjoy a savoury biscuit and argue about sluglines and adverbs and how amazing someone is. Where even Ponytail Guy uncrosses his arms and smiles and lets out a (rather big) belly laugh.

Rub, rub.

Instead, the scriptwriter’s group was a live low-stakes game. Instead of her imagined circle of gentle geniuses, the community had shown up – and she certainly wasn’t allowed to wear headphones and sunglasses. After less than a year, she announced, without warning, that she was leaving the group. Someone had to step up or it would simply dissolve.

I didn’t just fall into the organizational role. I myself was coming out of a personal disaster, and one that could have been avoided had I sought help for the first one – but that just wasn’t me. I had to do everything myself. I have my own ways, however, even in my madness, and some nugget of wisdom stayed with me as I hid at home in the haze of Vicodin, the first real drug that actually sedated my feelings. (There’s an f’ing tip for you.) I had a giant projector screen, and comfortable at last, watched the entire Weeds series, able to laugh and analyze myself and the show. I was jealous of all the family, all the things people did that I never got to do, of little dramas that mean nothing, of self-discovery and fun – but I didn’t have to feel anything while knowing it.

There’s some magic, sweetheart. If only I could feel that good again.

However, after my halcyon days in a waking coma, I eventually had to go back to work. I needed something to help me carry on, though. That’s when I remembered that pearl of wisdom: you survive by creating your own society, your own support.

So I took over the group. I created that little society. And this time, it prospered, because I could handle the public: the community. I told them what they needed to know. With some choice comments, I lost irritating Ponytail guy: victory. I got us away from reading more than was necessary – sometimes just the tip turns out to be telling if not satisfying enough. I laughed at the comically bad and sighed at the badly comical. I wasn’t afraid to say something was not right, or dissent from milquetoast opinions. I fought to create a culture of actual feedback and resisted support and coddling. We lost the losers and the Contemporary Tropers. Our membership skyrocketed. I was sought for advice on how to run such a group, on how to make it all happen.

No rubbing needed.

It helped me, I know. I looked forward to the meetings, to all the work. I did the reading, I took the notes, I showed the way. It was something to do – it was purposeful. Now, it never helped my own screenwriting much – not directly- because I always gave space to other members over myself, but really, that wouldn’t have mattered.

Because… I couldn’t finish my work. Something is still missing.

The table is long and cold – I can imagine myself at it, see myself on the other end. It’s a terrible realization. I took over the group many years ago, maybe six, and tonight it dawns upon me that I’ve been telling myself it has only been three. I only know this because now, with my second breakdown behind me, the impossible one, the one where Vicodin is helpless, I realize I’m still here, still wanting this group.

Only this time, this time, it’s not enough. And now, they want to break early.void and the hand

No! I need to be useful! You can’t just leave me here with nothing to do.

Tonight, for the first time – although I had seen the trend rising, of course –  I’m just the referee. I don’t need to make commentary. Am I getting lazy? Too tired? Worn out?

No. They simply know how to look at things, how to analyze, and to express themselves without reserve. They did all my work for me. Great work, guys, but what about why I’m here? I need to be useful. And now our little society departs for the evening. What about our mint tea and sluglines and, and…

What have I done? I can’t be alone for the next few hours.

Because all this was really for some other reason:

I can’t handle any more of the Void tonight.

(Is it the second time the tragedy or is the second repetition the farce? They never explained that very well.)

So I stay after, me at this table whose hard edge I have been clinging to for six years. I did this once, right? Did it not occupy the time?

This time, though I can’t write. I go online looking for how to deal with extreme unhappiness. It’s all pretty silly. Then, I seem to find one that starts by sounding more realistic. The words almost match the gravity of the matter. I follow along anxiously, and then the author gets to an example: “You were expecting your friend to go out with you and she didn’t. Now you are unhappy and…”

Jesus Christ, are you serious? Is this a joke? Your friend did not go out with you and now you are feeling a little blue? What universe am I in?

I go through a few more articles, mostly in shock. Really, tips? Is this what they tell people?

Tips. Tips and tricks.

Tips for overcoming perfectionism, tricks for not focusing on the past.

Tips for playing pocket jacks.

Tips aren’t answers. Tips are evasions of the central question.

Tips are the worst.

The other week, I talked to my only serious adviser once again. It was one year ago when he gave me his opinion of the matter, and it included impossible truth that no one can accept. Perhaps that’s what makes it truth.

This time, something different was what chilled me: I heard the indifference of age in his voice. The kindness, but also the indifference of the Void.

Where all is right because it all ends.

Am I already there? What happened? The world grows further and further from me. The meetings will all end and then the endings will seem like happy memories, like fond recollections of watching comedies on opioids.

The opposite of tips and tricks is strategy. A real plan – the answer – in life or your poker game.

But I haven’t been able to solve this problem… all my answers have failed me. I can only hope.  And hope, as they taught me in my past life, is not a strategy.

People tell themselves interesting lies to make themselves feel better. I had stacked a competitor at the table the other night by exploiting his opinion of me. He’d caught me in several good bluffs. I couldn’t even believe one, where he floated me while I attacked another player then burned me on the river with an ace high call down that no one should be making. Sick play, bro.

So when I rivered quads and double potted it, he found agony. He did not want to be outplayed, not when I was serving up stacks. Then, he found a call. His body collapsed in disappointment when I turned over the pure nuts. He was essentially broken for the evening. Soon after, even with plenty on the table, he disappeared, wordless and stuck.

Yet a week later, when he was relaxed at a more friendly table with me, he complained about my call preflop, inventing that I’d had J4. I explained to him that I didn’t have that hand but a more reasonable one. “Not even suited, though,” he snorted, still smarting from the big pot a week later.

Interesting – it had been suited (of course). I had gone out of my way to stack him from the button with the always fun jd8d

Whatever helps you, bud.

I don’t know what will help me. Unlike him, I don’t believe my own lies because there is no longer any room for them. There is no time for days in a haze watching Nancy sell milf weed and spread her legs to remind herself of what’s real. I want reality, too – but there seemed to be no hope in what he told me.

“Life can only be lived forward.”

Into what? Into the Void?

Your friend did not go out with you, and so you face the irrevocable disappointment of a life of pain. You read some tips on playing jacks. Here’s a trick for a satisfying narrative approach in the second act: having no happy memories and no future and no family and no children. Tip: Never limp. Here’s how to be aggressive while your body’s condition worsens into chronic illness. Cheer up, life can only be lived forward. Don’t complete the small blind so you don’t have to fall asleep and risk the next, always more terrifying nightmare.

Oh, and always raise, always, always raise into the Void.

The table is long and cold.

Your friend did not go out with you, so you, so you, so you, so you…

Stand up, step outside, light a cigarette, and think out your own answer.

persuadeo in the void

Part I    Part II


  1. “tips for playing pocket jacks”. Ha, so my friend plays professionally, and I used to really respect him as he got me to take the game more seriously, definitely a “mentor” to me but recently I’ve realized he is just a TAG equity pusher. So he was showing me this app made by “pros” and in it was a “how to play jacks” with scenarios and options. The scenario was I “open” for $15 in $1-3…and a “TAG” 3-bets me to $45 ($500) effective…it’s options said “fold, call or raise?”. I immediately said “raise” and the app by pros says “NOOOO this TAG has said “i know your open is early position is strong…but I’m saying mine is stronger! Just flat here”. To which I scratch my head and say…but no…I wanna 4-bet my jacks. I’m OOP. I feel fine 4-bet folding, or playing in a 4-bet pot and then if they flat, potentially barreling as if I had AA-QQ. I can get AK to fold. I can potentially get QQ to fold. No longer do I enjoy playing the “let me flat OOP check on board where I have an over pair and play the AK guessing game”. I wanna drive…move over please. BTW what was the ace high call?

  2. Good for you. The cal ldown? Well the main one was where I reluctantly took a price with a10o from the blinds (it’s the right play overall but against the EP raiser it plays its worst) and it went three way. When the EP PFR checked a low board, I knew he had AK/AQ, natural from his position. I floated the button bet, a loose player who will give up, but the PFR came right along. I led the turn, and he called again, but now the button folded. I bet the river and the PFR quickly calls with AQ hi for the win. on a nine high board. Oops.

  3. Sometimes I scratch my head in these scenarios when people say to me “na I knew you didn’t have any of that” but I’m like…uh out of the small blind? I’m supposed to have all of that coming out of the small blind and you can almost never have any of that expect 99 or A9s. But hey stay tuned folks because I guess I never have any of that with the J8 hand either.

  4. I think you might enjoy renting a kayak this summer from UW or at Green lake? A good workout and maybe a new ‘society’ for you???? XO

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The OOP Lexicon is a user-developed poker glossary.

Absolute Position
Being last to act (e.g. closest to the button) postflop.

Advancing Leverage
Aggressive actions intended to shift the leverage point closer to the current street.

A bluff or value hand which is a natural candidate for balancing another hand because of their shared qualities, such as AA and AK; usually helps planning range splitting and line construction.

Auto profit threshold (APT)
A bluff made with positive expectation resulting from the opponent under defending vis-a-vis bet sizing. The inverse of MDF.

Choosing to support either value bets or bluffs with their converse.

A bet is a proposition.  It’s the first offer on the pot with regard to the outcome of the game. Each player, in turn, has the opportunity to lay or change the price on the pot to the rest of the players. “The language of poker.” The bet, as opposed to the raise, is most often and most easily allied to the merged pricing construction.

To remove combinations of hands from a range based on cards in your hand or on the board.

Cards which influence our combinatorial assumptions. Ex: We face resistance on T76ss while we hold As7d. Both our cards act as blockers. Our ace of spades blocks (limits) a number of flush draws our opponent could hold, while our seven blocks a number of two pair and sets our opponent could hold. *See also Block and Unblock

Blocker Bet
A small bet made by an out-of-position player.

Board Texture
The available community cards and the set of conditions which inform its relationship to a logical range.

The worst hands in a betting range.  Depending on context this could be the worst hand in a value bet range or the bluffing section of polarized range.

A range descriptor indicating a range shape with a specific high or low boundary.  A range bounded high won't contain some number of the best linear hands ranked from the top down.  This is equivalent to a "capped" range.  A range bounded low won't contain some number of the worst linear hands ranked from the bottom up.  This is often useful to describe a range that doesn't include any air or very weak hands.

A strategic mode in which a player is attempting to deny their opponent(s) equity share of the pot through aggression. Often referred to as “denying equity” or “buying up equity”.

A range is capped when it represents little to no nutted combinations as confirmed by prior action.

A continuation bet. A bet made by the player with initiative as a continuation of their initiative on a prior street.

The ability to accurately range an opponent based on all available information at a decision point.  An understanding of your hands exact equity.

Closing Action
Acting last where no subsequent action is possible behind you.  For example calling a UTG raise in the BB or calling in position postflop with no players behind.

Cold Call/Cold Bet
An action is considered “cold” when it comes from a player entering into the pot has not previously put chips voluntarily in the pot. Ex: the UTG opens, the BTN 3bets. If the SB were to call or raise, it would be a cold-call or a cold-4bet.

The branch of mathematics the deals with finite number sets. Used in poker in determining the amount of combinations of certain hands in a range.

When a blind that is not the biggest blind calls the amount of the biggest blind. Ex: At $2/$5, action folds around to the SB and the SB completes. Meaning they just call. The BB can complete when there is a straddle.

A capped range that contains only middling value hands. A range without the polarized portion.

Logical advancement of combinations across streets.

Dark Side of the Deck
The large swath of hands, often off-suit, that fall outside of conventional playable recommendations. Counter-equity hands.

Dead Money
Money in the pot that is not being fought for.  A passive player creates dead money when they call a bet preflop and looking to play fit-or-fold postflop. Dead Money is often confused with the money in the pot.

Delayed Cbet
A cbet made on the turn by the preflop raiser when the flop checked through.

Delaying Leverage
Passive actions intended to maintain a likely late street leverage point, or possibly to avoid a leverage point entirely.

A strategic break from one’s standard construction as an exploit of a particular player’s profile or construction.

Diminishing Medium Value Category
A Seidman concept in which when one’s middling value hand range is too small and transparent to our opponent and thus either that range should be shifted into the top of a polarized range or the nutted portion should be shifted into the medium value range. Ex: AQo or TT being 3bet preflop.

A cbet that is less than the preflop raise. Ex: BTN opens to $25, we 3bet to $90 from the SB, BTN calls. On the flop we cbet $70.

Dry Board
A board texture that yields relatively few logical hands value. Often containing one medium or high card and disconnected low cards. Ex: Q53r, T622r.

Dual Mentalities
A Seidman concept in which when we decide to go postflop with a weak hand against a nutted range, we should either be looking to out flop it or steal the pot away. We base our decision against the player type we are up against and never go post with both mentalities at once.

Dynamic Board
A flop texture in which the runout is very likely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: 954tt, 742r.

Effective Stack
The smallest stack to VPIP in a given hand. Their stack decides the amount of money that can be played for or threatened before an all-in.

Effective nuts
A value hand that can be played for stacks as if it were the actual nuts.  This is a relative hand ranking based on range assumptions and opponent type.

A measure of how well the equity of a hand is deployed. Efficiency can also be used as a measure of what is risked vs what is gained for a given bet size.

Either/Or Philosophy
A Seidman concept in which a particular street can be a very good spot for value, meaning our opponent is never folding, or a very good spot to bluff, meaning our opponent is never calling, but that those spots cannot be concurrent.

Borrowed from economics, a measure of the sensitivity of a range or hand relative to the price offered.  Ranges (or hands) described as elastic will narrow, sometimes quickly, in response to increases in price.  Those described as inelastic will not.

The percent pot share of a holding or range on any given street if the hand were to go to showdown with no further betting action.

Equity Pusher
A analytic approach to the game in which a player views the correct actions only through the lens of their hands equity vs. their opponent’s range. Often this player type has a lack of understanding of overall strategy and plays their range face up with few bluffs.

Expected Value
The mathematical formula for how much a player’s action is expected to make with their hand vs. their opponent’s range. EV = ($towin * %ofwin) - ($tolose * %ofloss)

Face Up
A player is playing their range “face up” when their actions directly correspond with their desired outcome. Ex: A player bets half-pot three streets with a range that has no bluffs. A player 3bets to 7x with JJ.

False Polarization
Otherwise known as Faux-Po; a polarizing action taken with a merged range.

The result of losing your entire table stakes. All the way down to the felt.

A call of a cbet with a weak holding with the likely intention of taking the pot away when the opponent shuts down. Often done by an in position preflop caller.

The convergence of positions, stack depths, and preceding actions at a given decision point.

A mathematical formula developed by Phil Galfond for calculating the expected value of one’s range construction vs. an opponent’s holding.

A computer programming term that means "garbage in, garbage out" which also applies to poker forums when a poster seeks an in-depth conversation about a hand, but fail to provide pertinent information such as stack sizes, bets sizes, table dynamics and player tendencies.

Game Theory
The applied science of combining mathematical models with logic to craft winning poker strategies.

Game Theory Optimal
A set of strategies is GTO if no player can unilaterally deviate and increase his average profit. ~ Will Tipton.  GTO does not mean best possible response, highest EV, or maximally exploitative play.

Implied Odds
Additional value likely to be accrued if you make your hand on a later street.

Sometimes referred to as the betting lead, a common situation in which the passive player yields to the aggressive player postflop, or the last aggressor continues betting on subsequent streets.

A bet or raise intended to force out the rest of the field in order to play heads up against a weaker opponent who has entered the pot through limping, raising, or posting the blinds.

Loose aggressive player type. Generally overused and inaccurate.

A bet made from out of position after a passive action. Often referred to as a donk bet on the flop.

He knows that I know that he knows I know.

A bet or raise that signals the hand will be played for stacks.  Within reason, it is accomplished by betting with a sizing that will create RSP equal to 1 on the following street.

Limp First In

A consecutive range of hands decreasing in strength from top to bottom; generally meaning value hands. Equivalent to "merged."

Lockdown Board
A board on which the nuts have often already been made.  More prevalent in PLO but sometimes useful in no-limit, for example on monotone flops and boards with available common straights e.g. JT9, T98, 987, etc.

1) A range of hands that includes both strong and medium value; 2) in reference to medium value; 3) the merged construction describes the natural representation of a wide range through a bet.

Mini Stop-N-Go
A Seidman concept, a line taken by a OOP PFR where flop is check/called and turn is lead.

Minimum Defense Frequency (MDF)
The necessary defending (calling/raising) frequency to prevent an opponent from auto-profiting.  The inverse of APT.

Natural Action
A check, bet, or raise which is exactly suited to a player's range and situation (e.g. a pfr's continuation bet on AK2r).

A player who will not put chips into the pot without a very strong and sometimes only nutted hand.

The best possible hand.

Nuts-To-Air Ratio (NAR)
In a polarized betting line, the ratio of value to bluff.  As used by Seidman, not limited to polarization but sometimes used to label general opponent tendency of value to bluff.

Old Man Coffee. Typically an older, retired player that likes to play bingo with ATC, but will only continue with the nuts.

The first voluntary action. The first action or bet to voluntarily enter the pot.

A bet that is more than the size of the pot.

Perceived Range
Refers to the range of hands that your opponent thinks you could have in a certain playing situation. This can be interpreted and thus misinterpreted from your playing style and position at the table.

A range consisting of very strong and very weak hands.

Post Oak Bluff
A small bluff on a late street that has little chance of winning the pot.  Generally interpreted as “gutless” in the past but now fulfilling certain functions as betting efficiencies are understood.

Positional Protection
When the strength of a range is perceived to be capped or uncapped based on which position an action is taken from.

When an action or player is perceived to have strong hands in its range.

Protection Bet
A wager which denies equity to hands which will only give action if they significantly improve; "a value bet which does not want a call."

The rejection of the offered price and the laying of a new higher price.  Raises represent a more narrow range of hands and trend towards polarization.

Range Advantage
Implementation or study tool that refers to 1) most basically, equity measurement of one range against another; 2) or also including a combination of further factors including availability of nutted hands, the nuances of the runout, and positional protection.

Range Manipulation
Deliberate line work/bet sizing made to narrow a range or keep a range wide.

Range Switch
A deliberate change in range composition made to thwart a player who is reading our range too accurately in any spot.  Reduces transparency, fights assumptions, and wins the leveling war if implemented correctly.

Ratio of Stack To Pot
RSP. The stack to pot ratio at any point in a hand, generally used post-flop as opposed to Stack to Pot Ratio.

Taking a hand to showdown and realizing its full equity.  Generally used with regard to passive actions.

The mutual exchange of chips resulting from similar play and ideas.  Reciprocity is a common bi-product of group-think.  A true edge by definition cannot be reciprocal.

Relative Position
A player’s position measured against the aggressor's position.  Generally this is used going to the flop.  For example, if UTG raises and several players call behind, calling in the big blind would give you the best relative position.  You will act after seeing how the field responds to a likely continuation from the preflop aggressor.  In the same scenario calling immediately after the preflop aggressor results in the worst relative position.  You will have to act immediately after a continuation without seeing how the remaining players will respond.  Strong relative position confers an information edge.

The ability of hand to maintain equity across streets against a betting range or as part of a betting range.

Reverse Implied Odds (RIO)
Hands that often win small pots or lose large pots suffer from reverse implied odds.

Popularized by Mathew Janda, a descriptor for how well a hand retains equity over streets of play.  Hands described as robust have equity that does not suffer as an opponent's range becomes stronger.  Often these hands are currently both strong and invulnerable, or have the ability to become very strong by the river, relative to the opponent's range.

Fourth and Fifth Street cards following a given flop texture.

Scale of Protection
Poker theorem which states that the more protected or strong an opponent's range is, the higher the degree of denial or retention a counter will require.

Sklansky Bucks
Dollars won (or lost) in expected value regardless of actual hand result.

Any one of many possible poker archetypes found at low stakes games.

A reraise made after a player has raised and one or more players has called in-between.

Static Board
A flop texture in which the runout is unlikely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: AK7r, KK4r.

A passive action followed by an aggressive action, out of position.  For example, a call followed by a lead on the next street.

Streets of Value
A crude shorthand measurement for how much betting a hand can tolerate and still be best at showdown more often than not.

Tight aggressive opponent type. Generally overused and misapplied.

TAG's Dilemma
The paradox created by having a top-heavy range played so aggressively that it misuses equity vis-à-vis position and holding.

The Great Range Fantasy
The common idea that we know our opponent’s range and frequencies precisely; most commonly seen in post-hoc analysis to justify microedge decisions.

Thin Value
A bet that is only slightly more likely to be called by worse than by better. Associated with the merged pricing construction and bet-fold lines.

Three Fundamentals
The most fundamental variables for decision making: position, stack size, and community cards.

The best hands in a given range.

Two-Way Bet
A bet that expects calls from worse hands and incorrect folds at the same time, a simultaneous value bet and bluff line.

The psychological effect of feeling like you’re losing because your stack size isn’t as large as it once was during a session, even though it’s more than what you’re in the game for.

(e.g. You bought in for $100, ran it up $450, but now only have $175 in front of you.)

A hand that has no negative card removal effects on the target range.  Bottom set, for example, unblocks top pair top kicker.

A range that is perceived to contain the nuts in any given line.  Capped ranges may become uncapped during transitions for example from preflop to flop, or flop to turn.

A turned nut straight after raising flop with a gutter.

Value Owning
Making value bets with a hand that has less than 50% equity when called.

Voluntarily Put Money In Pot (VPIP)
The frequency at which a player limps, calls, or raises preflop.

Volatile Board
A flop texture where equities will often shift on the turn and river.  See “dynamic”.

An illusory cooler where one player makes a massive mistake equity mistake and loses his stack with a strong but second best hand; also known as a Jam Basket.

Wet Board
A board texture that allows for a lot of logical hands to continue. Often made up of medium rank connected cards. Ex: KT9tt, Tc8c6s-7c-Ac.

“Walk In, Fuck Shit Up, Walk Out” a hashtag used by instagram poker players.

Winning Player
A forum poster who offers reciprocal advice under the guise of questionable positive low stakes results. A weak player or fish, in general.

Young Man Coffee. Is very much an OMC, but younger.  They usually only continue with the nuts, often under the illusion of playing a GTO style.