trip reports

The Void and the Man, Part II

It’s all old men today.

I hustle past one on the sidewalk, but ahead, another totters over his cane.

When I sit down at a café next to the biotech firm, there is one sitting with nothing in front of him. His hands are filthy and his nails long and dirty. He is covered in a greasy hoodie. He talks to himself.

There is an underpass full of tents and garbage nearby.

I have a with salad and tea and glass of water.

My salad? Seasonal and fresh.


I can’t enjoy this meal with this fellow sitting here, so I offer to buy him something.

He accepts. Do you want cream?

I mean, you need it.

I head to the counter.

Now with a hot drink, the man relaxes and leans back for the first time. He crosses his legs in comfort.

This man’s life is beyond rescue in the sense that I would want, but it occurs to me that this is not his standard.

Yet I don’t have any idea what his standard is. What I think might salvage him may not.

I close my eyes and am in a car that is worn and familiar. I turn the key and switch and over. But there isn’t a lot of time- if any. Maybe I don’t actually have the key, and like a sleep walker, I am sitting my car, fumbling with unseen switches.

There are limitations to everything. What are my standards for what’s next?

Sitting here next to this man, I evaluate my current condition, starting with the physical: The very last disk of my spine hurts, and I know I can’t do anything too vigorous in this state.

Who can be rescued? What can be rescued?

I leave before the man does… I wondered, is he going to start talking to me?

Can I handle that anymore?

I close my eyes and am back at the Borgata Resort and Casino.

The first time I was mess. I took the job on a whim to escape myself- a maneuver following some cliché about doing things that made sense when I still felt remotely human.

For the first days I sat in the shower for long stretches, my head hurting with a dull, dry ache, completely new to me, one which invoked a physical exhaustion and a dehydration of some hidden nodule of the brain.

After a year of hiding in my apartment, sleeping only to awake to nightmares, seeing the sun only to smoke, of searching the blank, overwhelmed faces of those who were supposed to offer help, of burning through almost every dollar I’d ever saved and earned, decimating my bankroll to crisis level, I had found something I could still do well:

Write about poker.

I rose every day to the occasion.  I needed my shift like a psychotic needs his meds. I wore my media pass like a uniform, even when I wasn’t working, to remind myself I have a purpose in existing.

Now, for this second pass I was toughened – and ready. I wanted to feel this purpose again, and sometimes I did.

It’s hard not knowing all the faces. I’m not the legendary tournament blogger Will O’Connor, the man who made tournament blogging cool, pretty much all on his own, apparently. These aren’t my people here in the northeast, and the deep advantage he had as a local was felt in his style and now absent in mine.

What I do is what I know: poker and human details. I focus on stories and give hints of strategy. In truth, I can’t really tell the unknowns from the celebrities. I have to ask famous players their names, embarrassing myself. I ask players four times for their name – part of my depression is affecting my memory. The wise ones oblige kindly, the egotistical give me grief.

I try to be a reporter. If you finished fourth at the Cherokee Tall Stacks Classic, I’m not the blogger who is going to share the good news, I’m afraid. I favor hand histories and their details, quotations from the players on the respective situation, and – critically- action photos of what is happening rather than portrait shots.

This last one is a little dicey. I definitely get some complaints about “not a good” photo, when of course it’s the most accurate photo you will find. Unlike in my drawings, you really do look like that! I enjoy these shots immensely and take pride in getting revelatory ones – grimaces, bugged out eyes, strange interactions, poor posture, tilted unhappiness, or pure ridiculous joy.

I’m not young, and that also affects my work. The breakneck pace is hard on me, and the endless hoops to post and keep to a schedule leaves me distracted, famished and exhausted.

In other words: If only I could do this every day!

However, the best evening was, in fact, when the Borgata blog crashed completely. The developers had not anticipated the level of traffic the massively successful Winter Poker Open would create. From day one there were signs of troubles, with intermittent outages and system errors. A week in: disaster. You’ll have to also forgive them the endless glitches in the website and on my posts – getting this stuff sorted out, or I should say, not sorted out, was also part of the drama.

The blog completely shut down and the back end staff were off and unavailable to repitch the tent: Saturday night. While Kaelaine focused on a desperate work around involving Google Drive, online documents and the long strands of her frizzled hair, I decided to live Tweet the whole thing. Simple. Freed from the process of the blogging site, which takes hundreds of keystrokes and clicks just to format, correct, and mount a post, I kept the players and audience completely abreast of the action for several hours. Instead of hearing from me every half hour, I was able to Tweet every five minutes- even with photos. It would take a whole media team of WPT staff to accomplish this on their own site, and for mostly the same level of detail.

So, everyone in that tournament was happy and I was immersed. Mysteriously, the blog went back up near midnight – probably with the player demand dropping for the evening – and I reluctantly stopped Tweeting and resumed writing posts – inconsistency of medium does not make for good reporting, as access is key. The great parts of the Borgata blog – room for detail and relevant information – are of course valuable, and I make the most of the space with extra photos and detail. However, what the players often want is instantaneous information, and for once, they got it.

One player that was particularly pleased with all the coverage, whether Tweeted or Blogged, was Bladimir Mercedes, the self-proclaimed Donkey of the Sands. His great attitude and big personality made him a natural subject for photography and writing, and I favored him without remorse, attempting to include him whenever I could. It’s not a zero sum game, the tournament blogging, as I can include extra photos very easily and no one has any reason to dispute my choice – unless I am somehow missing an equally fun and charismatic player.

WPT Media Coverage
The media covering the Championship’s final table. Kaelaine and Matt, Borgata tournament bloggers, center right.

However, the carnival ends. Soon I was on the bus to New York, some unpleasant surprises, and back to smoking after two full months of health. Coaching is heating up – a student subgroup is focused on studying some excellent material that will steward them through.

My two stays at the Borgata have kept me afloat but the travels – the hard and the easy part – are over.

Empty event center
3 a.m. of the Final Day in the Borgata event center – yet the final tournament goes on until dawn, covered by TK, behind.

I close my eyes and am back home.

Habits. I’m back in the cafe. I ask for a plate twice, standing a foot from the owner and he hands me a muffin on a paper bag.  He’s pretending to not hear so that he doesn’t have to wash a dish. It’s freezing and he is leaving the doors open. Is he trying to drive everyone away? I wonder if he would burn the place down if the insurance was right. I ask him how things are going and he tells me business is tough. I didn’t have to ask. He’s sunk everything into this endeavor, and changes everything every two months, firing people, the menu, the layout on a regular basis.

I can hit refresh, too. New morning.  Different cafe. I buy a transient I have known for years a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I can handle it, at least now, and I interpret his mumbling for the barista. To my surprise, he wants it in a bag to go, unheated, this rock of reconstituted egg, cheap meat, cheaper cheese, and cheapest bread. He has an appointment of some sort, he explains. A busy day.

I, with no where to go, take a seat at the counter.

A young man sits beside me. After about an half an hour he begins clicking his pen. Soon he moves on to rapping the table. He’s got his head phones on and as these people want to do, he is showing the world how relaxed and in the groove he is. He types a few words on his computer – he has some logo he’s working on adding sales text to – and then starts knocking our shared table again, wanting appreciation. It’s hard to think while he shakes the counter with this thoughtless percussion.

Finally he slams his hands down, imitating the drum flourish only he is hearing, ready to go off to his next oblivious activity. Fed up, I’m about to object – this is what I can’t handle, it seems – but what I see isn’t him when I look his way.

I see all the people in his life who accommodate him, encourage him, put up with and even ignore his stupidities in order to be a part of his better qualities and his great future- the future of a young man.

I close my eyes.


Part I    Part III


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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.