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Poker Goals & Challenges Post your threads logging your travels up the poker ladder as you achieve your poker goals and dreams. "Challenges" does NOT mean prop bets, wagers, etc.

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Old 01-20-2014, 05:10 PM   #76
bob_124
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Review of Poker Faces, Part III




Well, life is a gamble, and the days are just so many decks.
The hours are cards, they deal and you play what you get.
You think of the time that you knew you could call so you raised.
You think of the time that you got out when you should have stayed…
Ah, the good thing about life is they shuffle and deal life again.


—“Deal,” by Tom T. Hall


Why play poker? In his conclusion, Hayano compares poker as a “profession” to other kinds of work; and, second, examines the meaning that poker has for the players—how they use it as a lens or framework to understand themselves and the world.

Is Poker-Playing a Profession?

To what extent can be poker be considered a “profession?” Hayano contends that, while we can talk about players on a case-by-case basis, we have no authentic profession of poker-playing in the sociological sense (for an explanation of why not, see 129-130). The main problem has to do with definition. Calling someone a poker pro depends on results that can rapidly change or be skewed by one big score (Jamie Gold, anyone?). Neither is the idea of a poker pro linked to any formalized education—ability is judged by skill alone, not by a piece of paper saying that you went to “poker school.”

There are problems of self-definition, too. One guy may make $50,000 a year and call himself a part-time player; a different guy may declare himself a pro but eke out a meager “salary” of $2,000 per year. And some guys are flat-out liars or fantasists. “Yep, I've been a pro for the last five years,” says the haggard, hooded guy to your right just before he donks off his stack.

Definitional problems aside, the fact remains that many people support themselves by playing poker. The poker pro's career can be volatile and lonely, filled with rough emotional and financial swings. For every player at the top, hundreds or thousands are struggling to “make it."
Our cultural images of the poker professional--Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan--don't help much either. "In many ways professional poker-playing is a 'dream factory’ that manufactures myths of mobility and wealth,” Hayano writes. “A few players in the limelight have realized these dreams of success. But to the inestimable number of strugglers and casualties of round-the-clock play and broken-down bankrolls, the career is more a chimerical delusion, more like a nightmare factory” (133). To me, the mythical life of the poker pro—the absurdly high stakes, the bling, the gaudy houses and the sexy mommas (http://instagram.com/danbilzerian)—is similar to the myths that we construct about professional athletes. Some of these myths can be useful and motivational, sure—we all need ideals to strive for—but they can also be destructive to the young aspiring pros who see one-in-a-million success stories as “reality.” For more on this topic, I highly recommend Darcy Frey’s The Last Shot, which follows around 4-5 young Coney Island boys—including a young Stephen Marbury—as they pursue bigtime college basketball: http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Shot-.../dp/0618446710. Think Hoop Dreams but a book.

On Life as a Gamble and Gambling as Life

“The most difficult aspects of playing poker professionally are coping emotionally with the losses and coping with the recurring idea that you’re not doing anything worthwhile.” —Mike Caro

Why play poker? One of the challenges of playing professional poker is that it doesn't have a clearly defined essence or meaning. "Because of the relentless instability and uncertainty of day-to-day gambling," Hayano writes, "players continually examine and reexamine their motives, feelings and entire state of being" (138). Each player must define what poker means on his own terms. This is hard to do.

To me, Caro's remark hinges on the word “worthwhile.” In some cases the value of a job is obvious. A few years ago I parked cars at a hotel. A car drove up, I greeted the guest, helped her with bags, directed her to the front desk, and parked her car. The purpose of my job was both obvious and worthwhile. Plenty of other jobs are like this in that we don't question what they're "for"--fishermen, doctors, janitors, firefighters, carpenters.

Now I teach English. "What's literature for?" is a question that my friends and colleagues—“the profession”—argue about constantly. No one agrees. Some people think that, by teaching books filled with a particular ideology or value system, they’re changing students' minds and are thus pioneering the next revolution (onward, Marxists!). Others disagree. One guy, Stanley Fish, says this about writing literary criticism: “I like the way that I feel when I'm doing it.” For Fish, reading literature is like splashing around in the ocean—it's a pleasurable aesthetic activity, an end in itself. And that's enough.

The value of poker is also relative--it depends on who's judging. As Americans, it seems that we wouldn't have it any other way. In an often-quoted comment, the philosopher John Lukacs writes that “...[P]oker is the game closest to the Western conception of life, where life and thought are recognized as intimately combined, where free will prevails over philosophies of fate or of chance, where men are considered free moral agents, and where—at least in the short run—the important thing is not what happens but what people think happens” (138). Life isn't like Life, that epic boardgame in which the winner is the one who accumulates the most assets before death (my money + career + spouse + kids > yours ZOMG I win you lose!).

All of this may be obvious. If so, then here's one merit of Hayano's book: it forces us to pause, think, and reexamine "the value of the totally obvious." (http://moreintelligentlife.com/story...-his-own-words)

The Life and Work of Professional Poker Players—what’s changed?

Another value of Hayano's book is that it shows how many things have remained constant since the 1970s. Table dynamics, metagame strategies, the language of poker, and the social organization of cardroom are close to the same as always. But much has changed, too.

The explosion of popularity

In the 1970s, when Hayano was doing research, poker was linked with gambling and other kinds of “deviant” behavior. Today, the game is more mainstream and acceptable. One reason is that more people are willing to depart from the rigid trajectory of a single career. We take longer to commit (to a career, to marriage) and are more willing to change careers. We have more freedom and less stability. The explosion of poker popularity can also be linked to the usual suspects, of course--to Chris Moneymaker and ESPN, to the “poker boom,” and to...

The Online Game

The emergence of online poker has transformed the landscape of poker forever. Even in those same smoky cardrooms that Hayano occupied, we can find traces of the online world: smartphones with pokertracking apps, and most of all, those young online transplants who have been reared on Cardrunners and 2+2. Online poker hasn't just elevated the technical aspects of the game; it's also transformed our understanding of poker as a profession. Some grinders would rather be caught dead than grind live cash, and vice versa.

Questions:


What are some other ways that the poker landscape has changed in the last 30-40 years?

Why play poker?

Why play poker professionally?

Cliffs

Poker Faces is a rigorous, readable ethnography of poker culture. Hayano's unique book illuminates a misunderstood American subculture, and for that he should be commended. But readers should also be warned:

1. Don't turn to this book for advice on in-game strategy.
2. Poker Faces was published in 1982 and is outdated in many ways.
3. Most of the discussion is abstract and rooted in generalization rather than in concrete details, statistics, or case studies.

I plan to discuss point #3 in my next post, which has to do with the limits of ethnography and why, in my view, Hayano falls short in his effort to "understand" poker culture.

Last edited by bob_124; 01-20-2014 at 05:24 PM.
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Old 01-22-2014, 09:11 PM   #77
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Hey guys,

wanted to post a link to a great blog: http://hardboiledpoker.blogspot.com/

It's written by Martin Harris, an English prof who focuses on poker in American culture. He also blogs for Pokernews so there's good coverage of the major tourneys as well.
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Old 01-24-2014, 01:28 PM   #78
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

You Gotta Represent!



“I have seen the truth—it is not as though I had invented it with my mind, I have seen it, seen it, and the living image of it has filled my soul for ever.”

—Dostoevsky, “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”


In "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" (1877), Fyodor Dostoevsky tells a story of despair and redemption. The protagonist, a self-titled "ridiculous man," lives by himself in a squalid St. Petersburg apartment. He spends his time alone, sitting and thinking. One day he reaches an extreme kind of apathy in which, as he puts it, "nothing in the whole world made any difference." Thousands of questions that once mattered--how will I feed myself? where will I work? Does God exist? Are puppies better than kittens?--slip away and vanish. Not one answer matters. Why not? "Because it made no difference to me," he repeats.

One night, after looking into the sky and seeing a star, the Ridiculous Man decides to shoot himself. "I made up my mind that it should certainly be that night," he declares. "And why the star gave me the thought I don't know." The revolver that he purchased two days ago is in his apartment, ready for when the moment presents itself--and that time is now. But something strange happens:

"And just as I was looking at the sky, this little girl took me by the elbow. The street was empty, and there was scarcely anyone to be seen. A cabman was sleeping in the distance in his cab. It was a child of eight with a kerchief on her head, wearing nothing but a wretched little dress all soaked with rain, but I noticed her wet broken shoes and I recall them now. They caught my eye particularly. She suddenly pulled me by the elbow and called me. She was not weeping, but was spasmodically crying out some words which could not utter properly, because she was shivering and shuddering all over. She was in terror about something, and kept crying, ‘Mammy, mammy!’ I turned facing her, I did not say a word and went on; but she ran, pulling at me, and there was that note in her voice which in frightened children means despair."

Seeing the girl delays the Ridiculous Man's suicide attempt. He rushes back to his apartment, broods on what happened--if "nothing makes any difference," why does he feel such pity for her?--and falls into a deep dream. He discovers "the Truth" and resolves to preach this message for the rest of his life. What's "the Truth"? You'll have to read the story for yourself

The key point here is that the Ridiculous Man isn't saved by some abstract credo—“love others,” “be honest,” “help the poor”—but through the "living image" of a suffering child. Intellect alone is no good: “'The consciousness of life is higher than life, the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness' — that is what one must contend against.” For both the Ridiculous Man and Dostoevsky, the most profound truths can't be fully expressed through abstractions, through reason, or even through words; they're often reached in more oblique ways--though images, dreams, and intuition. In some mysterious way, the little girl’s face teaches The Ridiculous Man everything that he needs to know.

***

Most broadly, Dostoevsky's story has to do with strategies of representation. We have private experiences every day—brushing teeth, watching TV, folding 63o. While many of them are mundane, sometimes we want to share our experiences with others. We re-present them through language (talking, writing, signing) and images (pictures, paintings, film). In a way, the history of art is about strategies of representation. For example: this morning you saw a beautiful sunrise. Think about the ways that you might re-present it and how each form carries with it advantages and limits--a poem, a short story, a song, a painting, a video, a computer game. Now change the subject--you'd rather re-present your experience of a poker game. How would you do it?


Telling vs. Showing

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." —Anton Chekhov


There's no "best" way to represent poker, of course. We only have competing strategies, each with its own advantages. For example, compare these passages. In both cases the author represents a poker game in order to "understand" it, to see poker in a new way. Here’s the first one:

“Full-time poker-playing is a continuous, timeless activity. Many regulars regard daily poker-playing as one long game, interrupted only by periods of sleep. Many regulars eat their daily meals from movable trays positioned directly at their side so they do not have to leave the table or miss a hand. These players mark the passage of time not by clock hours alone but by how well they are doing. By stacking and counting chips at frequent checkpoints—when they win a big pot, when they lose one, in lulls in the game when bored and when ready to quit—they monitor their progress in single games and over long periods. (Often, in the heat of a game, the chips move so fast that players lose them before they are even brought to the table. Some regulars forget the number of checks they have written and must have the floorman ask the cashier how much they are ‘in.”) Except for a single sitting, regulars and pros who play every day are rarely ‘even’; they are usually either winning, losing, or in a state of flux.”

And here’s the second:

"The game inside the rail seemed to have been going on all night. The players were gray-faced and unshaven. They shifted about uncomfortably in their seats, yawned, scratched vaguely at their grubby shirts, lit one cigarette from the stub of another. They looked, most of them, like the uneasy sleepers on the benches in railway stations, sitting there because they could not raise the price of a hotel room. Only the dealer seemed dressed for the occasion: he wore a gleaming white shirt and a narrow black bow tie with two long tails, Western style, inscribed with the word Horseshoe. He checked the bets in front of the three players who remained in the pot, and raked those chips into the pile of chips at the center of the table; then he discarded the top card of the deck he held, and turned over a communal card, to join four already exposed in front of him. A cowboy to his left tapped twice on the table with his forefinger. To the cowboy’s left, an elderly man in a bulging T-shirt stared meditatively at the exposed cards, took two black chips from the stack in front of him, and tossed them toward the center. He seemed utterly uninterested, as if the matter were somehow beneath his attention. 'Two dollars,' said the dealer, in a bored voice. The next player, a nervous young man with a Zapata mustache, cupped his hands around two cards face down in front of him, squeezed up their corners, and flicked them toward the dealer, elegantly, like a fop making a conversational point. Only the cowboy was left. He tilted his Stetson back an inch and stared at the elderly man, unblinking, for a full minute. While he stared, he juggled a pile of black chips up and down on the baize in front of him—up and down, in and out, like a yo-yo on a string. His fingers were agile and surprisingly long. Then his hand stopped abruptly, he lifted seven chips off the pile without seeming to count them, and he pushed them into the center. 'Raise it up a nickel,' he said. The fat elderly man crossed his arms on his chest, sank his chin toward them, and considered the cowboy. There was a long pause. In the same bored voice, the dealer said, 'Five dollars to you.'"


Big difference, right? There’s an authoritative air to the first passage—we get the sense that the description of full-time poker as "continuous," "timeless," and monotonous is more or less true everywhere. The passage gives a generalized description of what life is like for poker-playing regulars. But which regulars? Who, specifically? This is a problem with the passage—it isn’t anchored in specific details or personalities and, as a result, runs the risk of turning its subject, poker, into an abstraction.

The second passage, on the other hand, is filled with images, concrete details, and suggestive language: the “grubby,” “uneasy,” “unshaven” players; the word “Horseshoe” on the dealer’s label; the pile of black chips that are “like a yo-yo on a string.” Rather than saying that the players talk to each other, the terse dialogue is there, on the page—“Two dollars,” “Raise it up a nickel.” We’re anchored in a specific setting, a concrete place and time with vivid faces and objects. But what does this second scene mean? It’s hard to say.

What I've tried to contrast here is the difference between telling and showing, two competing strategies of representation. Telling is authoritative, logical, didactic; the reader's in a more passive role, receiving the "message" from the author. Showing is democratic, intuitive, ambiguous; the reader's in a more active role, searching for the "meaning" that's hidden or absent (what's the meaning of a sunrise, anyway?). Both approaches have their merits and drawbacks--it all depends on what the author want to say.

As you may have guessed, the first passage is from David Hayano’s Poker Faces. Hayano says himself that, in order to understand the game, “we can probe further into the lives of the participants themselves, into their experiences of playing poker as daily work and as a lens for a larger view of the world.” But we get no actual portraits, no details of a pro’s daily grind—just a few quotes from anonymous regulars. As I mentioned in my review above, I think that Hayano’s study would benefit from anchoring his general observations in the concrete details of player’s lives. In order to represent poker culture—to do justice to the infinite complexity of the game and the people involved—writers need to find ways of capturing the game “in action,” as lived experience.

My next four reviews will feature books that, in my view, do precisely this: they offer vivid narratives that offer a "living image" of the game. The second passage quoted above, from Al Alvarez's classic The Biggest Game in Town, offers an example of a genre that's been called "narrative nonfiction" or "participatory journalism," among other labels. I'll move in chronological order, starting with John Bradshaw's Fast Company (1975), The Biggest Game (1982), James McManus's Positively Fifth Street (2003), and, when it comes out in May, Colson Whitehead's The Noble Hustle. This genre of writing has its limits too, of course, but I believe that it comes the closest to describing the realities of poker and poker culture.
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Old 02-04-2014, 08:06 PM   #79
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Some Play Money Hands



No live poker for at least another month, but I wanted to post a few online hands--from the Pokerstars play money tables, of all places. Since I plan to keep posting hands--for both analysis and amusement--it's worth describing what these games are actually like. Stars recently upped their play money limits, which now range from 1/2 (max buyin 200 chips) to--wait for it--5million/10million (max buyin one billion chips). Why? Not sure, although one reason may be to make money from US-based players: http://hardboiledpoker.blogspot.com/...lay-chips.html

This may also explain why sponsored pros are now playing at the "nosebleed" play money stakes. I've seen Chris Moneymaker, Joe Cada, Jason Mercier, David Williams, and Victor Ramdin at the nosebleeds; there may be others. One player asked Cada wtf was going on and he said something like, "Stars wants American pros to play with you guys."

Here's how I would describe the play money nosebleeds:

Game Conditions

1. Players Take the Games Seriously

They really do. Sure, you'll sometimes get the guy who makes an absurd call or starts open-shoving every hand, but this is rare.

This is a good thing because it simulates (however poorly) live game conditions. Which makes for good practice and good fun--which is why I play

2. Three-Betting is Rare, Light Three-Betting is Rarer

Three-bet ranges are closer to lowstakes nolimit than microstakes online. Very few players three-bet light; almost no-one four-bets light (and arguably you shouldn't, since you aren't getting players to fold their nutted three-bet range).

3. Fold Equity is Scarce

People take their play money chips seriously, but they don't like to fold. Which means that the value of bluffing and semibluffing goes down. I tend to play big draws more passively as a result.

In the end I'd describe the games as a weird hybird of live and online tendencies, with the games being a bit closer to live 1/2 donkfests. Overall, the quality of play is quite low, and the games are beatable--which means that you could end up with a boatload of chips and a ton of pride

I'll post a few hands later. For now, here's an entertaining one.

(Chips amounts are in the millions, but for simplicity I'll chop off the zeroes)


Hand One

V1 ($500)--Loose/Passive
Hero ($500)--TAG

V1 minraises from MP to $10, Hero raises to $35, villain calls.

Flop TQJ($70)

Hero bets 55, Villain calls

Turn 8 (180)

Hero bets $125, Villain shoves, hero calls. Villain flips A9o.
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Old 02-04-2014, 08:55 PM   #80
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I assume you had AA there?
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Old 02-04-2014, 09:55 PM   #81
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

my bad...I had AK
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Old 02-04-2014, 10:06 PM   #82
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Wp, nh. I used to play play money on ftp and zynga, it is good practice and the play is comparable to llsnl.
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Old 02-05-2014, 12:15 AM   #83
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Any idea how those chips are worth on the open (black) market? I am assuming that there are plenty of buyers and sellers...
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Old 02-05-2014, 12:35 AM   #84
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

GL
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Old 02-05-2014, 10:12 AM   #85
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dubnjoy000 View Post
Any idea how those chips are worth on the open (black) market? I am assuming that there are plenty of buyers and sellers...
Used to be worth 1-2$ per million with lots of buyers and sellers. Then Stars limited chip transfers to 1000 chips at a time, which shut sellers out of the market. I'm sure there are sellers around, but I'm guessing it's much harder and less profitable than it used to be.
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Old 02-06-2014, 01:04 PM   #86
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Pure_Aggression does a nice job posting clean HHs in his goals thread, which is worth checking out (http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/17...2/index44.html)

Like him, I'll include my thought process in italics.

Here are a few that indicate the diversity of the player pool.

Hand 1

Villain (70): I have a note that says "atrocious," which means he's either a maniac or a massive calling station.

Hero (covers): TAG

Villain raises to 2 otb, Hero raises to 7 from sb with KJ, Villain calls.

reraising for value, planning to continue for value on the flop and after

Flop 7 4 K ($15)
Hero bets 7, villain calls

Turn 3 ($29)
Hero bets 18, Villain calls
River 4($65)
Hero shoves, villain calls 40 with KT and loses

Hand 2

Villain (145): Loose/Passive station.
Hero (covers): I've isolated him in position a few times already. He probably views me as loose/bluffy

Villain calls 1 in MP, Hero raises to 4 otb with AQhh, SB calls, Villain calls.

Flop Q92 (12)
Checks to hero who bet 8.5, SB folds, Villain calls

Turn 6 (37)
Villain checks, hero bets 22, villain calls

In hindsight I think bombing this turn 30ish would be better vs. this villain

River 2(81)

Villain checks, hero bets 55, villain calls with 99 and wins

Sizing is smaller to get value from Qx, plan is to bet/fold. Yes, he just called with his boat here

Hand 3--A rare leveling war

Villain (100): Good lag. The best player in these games, plays a 25/20 or 30/25 and is capable of making moves. Won mid-five figures in tourneys and would be near the top of the player pool at .25/50, 10.25 sixmax.

Hero (covers): villain probably views me as a thinking TAG. He's probably aware of my tendency to bet/fold vs. most players and he's willing to play back at me light as a result. We have considerable history.

folded to hero in SB who raises to 3 with 99, villain flats from BB.

Flop 983 (6), hero bets 4, villain raises to 12, hero raises to 25, villain calls.

I'm betting flop for value and because villain expects me to bet with most of my range. When he raises I expect him to have 98, sets, and (much more often) air/gutshots that he's bluffing with. I 3-bet this flop to polarize my own range and induce him to shove JT/67 type hands or to float

Turn 3 (56), Hero checks, Villain bets 22, hero calls.

Rarely checking this turn because most villains will have a value hand/draw in this spot. But villain is one of the only players who might float this flop, so I want to check to represent that I've given up on a bluff.

River 6 (100). Hero checks, Villain shoves, hero calls and wins vs. QT

I think his turn bet is good (to fold out my air) and his river shove is bad, since if I call turn he shouldn't expect me to fold river.
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Old 02-06-2014, 02:38 PM   #87
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob_124 View Post
...
I think his turn bet is good (to fold out my air) and his river shove is bad, since if I call turn he shouldn't expect me to fold river.
Good post -- but on the last hand, if his river bet is bad (and I agree), shouldn't you anticipate him checking back? In which case, shouldn't you come out betting (perhaps something less than 1/2 which is hardest to read there)?
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Old 02-06-2014, 05:19 PM   #88
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Good question. Maybe.

My goal was to be consistent in representing a bluff, which starts when I 3-bet the flop.

But how can I have air and call a turn bet? A thinking player/better player would realize this and shut down on the river.

3bet flop/Call turn/shove river could represent a missed JT/QT, I guess.
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Old 02-08-2014, 10:49 PM   #89
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

reminders to bet for value/stop being a station

Hand 1

Hero ($100): LAG
Villain (covers): limps most of his range, prone to occasional spazzes

Villain calls 1 in MP, hero raises to 4 from sb with AQ, villain calls

Flop T5A (9), hero checks

Checking for pot control/to induce. I check this flop maybe 10-15% of the time, my standard is to bet/fold on 2 or 3 streets depending on the runout

Villain bets 9, hero calls
Turn 6 (27), hero checks, villain bets 26, hero calls

River K (79)
villain shoves for 76, hero calls and loses to AKo

I hate this whole hand. Check/calling flop is OK sometimes, but I think the turn is a fold

Hand 2

Villain ($123), TAGfish. limp/calls a decent bit and raises his premiums
Hero (covers), LAG


Villain raises to 4 from UTG, Hero calls with A2

Villain has a premium, always. With only 100bb Axsooted is closer to being a fold, but I think that calling in position is fine here

Flop 593 (11), villain bets 11, Hero raises to 35, villain shoves hero calls. Villain had QQ

This is a good example of why it's often good to play draws passively, since villain never even thought about folding (he basically snap-shoved). But in this case my hand is just too strong--I'm 52% vs TT+ and need to realize my equity now

Hand 3

Hero ($100), TAG
Villain (covers) nit, abc

button limp, villain limps from sb, hero raises to 4.5 from BB with KK, button folds villain calls

Flop KAA (10), villain checks hero bets 5.5 villain calls

Turn 2c (21), villain checks/calls 15

River 4h (51), villain check/calls hero's 75$ shove with A3ss

could have bet more on the flop. But the hand shows that these abc villains can't fold trips for any amount. If I had 100-125 back I would have shoved and I'm sure villain would have called

villain (174), TAGfish, abc player much like the one above
hero (covers), TAG

2 calls in EP, hero raises to 5 from MP with AQ, villain calls from sb, one other call and we see a

37Q (16), villain leads for 8, EP folds hero calls

anyone raise this flop? He can have worse queens/draws. But we're deep and just calling in position keeps bluffs/random barrels with 66-99 in his range

Turn 5 (32), villain bets 15 hero calls

not happy about this spot, especially from this kind of villain

River 6 (62), villain bets 18 hero calls

tiny chance that he has KQx here, but this feels more like a vulnerable hand betting small for value

Spoiler:
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Old 02-09-2014, 12:57 PM   #90
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Levels of the Game by John McPhee (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1979)





"Tennis is a game of levels, and it is practically impossible for a player who is on one level to play successfully with a player on any other." (140)




When Hemingway lived in Paris in the 1920s he found the Russians--Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. "To have come on all this new world of writing," he wrote, "no matter how poor you were, was like having a great treasure given to you." I recently discovered two treasures--the work of John McPhee and George Saunders--and figured I'd post my response to Levels of the Game, McPhee's account of a 1968 US Open semifinal match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner.

McPhee is a towering figure in the world of creative nonfiction, but he's not too well-known outside of it. He teaches at Princeton, where he's lived for most of his life. McPhee's subjects, reflecting his personal interests, are highly eclectic [here comes Wikipedia]. He has written pieces on lifting body development (The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed), the United States Merchant Marine (Looking for a Ship), farmers' markets (Giving Good Weight), freight transportation (Uncommon Carriers), the shifting flow of the Mississippi River (The Control of Nature), geology (in several books), as well as a short book entirely on the subject of oranges. One of his most widely read books, Coming into the Country, is about the Alaskan wilderness. Recently he won a Pulitzer Price in General Nonfiction.

McPhee's bread-and-butter strategy is to write in images--in scenes. As the creative nonfiction writer Lee Gutkind puts it, "Scenes are the building blocks of creative nonfiction, the foundation and anchoring elements of what we do. . . . The lazy, uninspired writer will tell the reader about a subject, place, or personality, but the creative nonfiction writer will show that subject, place, or personality vividly, memorably—and in action. In scenes.”

As he crafts his scenes, McPhee's style is less flamboyant than others writing in the genre (Hunter Thompson, Tom Wolfe, David Foster Wallace). Instead, McPhee writes in fluid, economical prose that's anchored in Precise Description:

"Ashe wipes his forehead with his wristband, licks his lips, crouches low, then dances nervously in place, about a foot behind the baseline, waiting. Graebner rocks back, then forward, lifts the ball, and pounds another good first serve to Ashe's forehand. Ashe blocks it back weakly. Graebner, moving in, picks up the shot with a deep half volley that keeps Ashe on the defensive. Ashe hits a top-spin lob. Graebner lets it drop, gets under the bounce, and chops the ball down the line. Ashe gets to it and hits back a total forehand--the hardest one he has hit all day. Graebner intercepts it at the net and sharply punches a crosscourt volley beyond retrieve. Fifteen-all" (129)


What goes into understanding a tennis match? What determines success or failure? Why are some players great while others are merely good? In order to answer these questions, McPhee implies, it's necessary to understand the conditions and environment that brought both players to the court.



McPhee interviewed not just Ashe and Graebner but their friends, coaches, and families. He lets them describe each other, often with little introduction or commentary:

"There's not much variety in Clark's game. It is steady, accurate, and conservative. He makes few errors. He plays stiff, compact, Republican tennis. He's a damned smart player, a good thinker, but not a limber and flexible thinker. His game is predictable" (90).

"I've never been a flashy stylist, like Arthur. I'm a fundamentalist. Arthur is a bachelor. I am married and conservative...He's not a steady players. He's a wristy slapper. Sometimes he doesn't even know where the ball is going. He's carefree, lacksadaisical, forgetful. His mind wanter. I've never seen Arthur really discipline himself. He plays the game with the lacksadaisical, haphazard mannerisms of a liberal" (93).

Precise description, then, is paired with Exhaustive Detail. McPhee delves, to an almost absurd degree, into the lives of both men--into Ashe's and Graebner's families, their circles of friends, daily habits, and their personalities and temperaments. We learn that Ashe dislikes sitting in the passenger seat; the make of Graebner's shoes; what their signatures look like (Ashe's is "bold and timid," Graebner's is "full of sweep and dash"); the books on their respective bookshelves. These details work cumulatively, gradually informing our sense of both players and confirming the idea that "you are the way you play."


McPhee combines these techniques withJuxtaposition: on-the-court action and backhistory oscillate back and forth, much like the action of a tennis match.

Despite McPhee's balanced approach and retreat into the background--he rarely offers his own opinions, never uses "I"--the emphasis shifts to Ashe by the end of the book. And so it should, given that Ashe wins the match and that he's the player who remains an icon--not just because he was an iconic black tennis player, but also because his game has a kind of boldness and imagination that Graebner's lacks. Graeber doesn't do anything wrong--in fact, he plays quite well--but, ultimately, the level of Ashe's game is too high: "I just can't beat this guy. I can't beat him. He always beats me. I can't play the guy. It's not that I'm psyched out by him, but I'm playing great and he hits three all-time winners in a row. I can't beat him" (135).

As I mentioned, McPhee's written on a ton of diverse subjects, so there's something for everyone if you're not into tennis. I plan to read A Sense of Where You Are, McPhee's biography of the Princeton basketball player (and politician) Bill Bradley, and would be happy to post on that book if anyone has interest.

More poker-related posts soon--play money hands and a review of John Bradshaw's Fast Company

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Old 02-09-2014, 04:09 PM   #91
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Thanks for the review. I may not actually ever read the book that you reviewed but it was a pleasure reading the review nonetheless.
Why did you give me a HU about this thread earlier bob?

I wll read your other non-poker hand posts later.

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Old 02-09-2014, 05:10 PM   #92
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

thanks, Digger. I think that I mentioned that, if you do read one poker-related book, you should check out Al Alvarez's The Biggest Game in Town. I mention it in the entry "You Gotta Represent!" and will be posting a full review of the book soon.

I look forward to reading more of your blog--great stuff so far.
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:38 PM   #93
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Narrative Shape



I'm taking a creative writing class this semester. It's great. We read three short stories per week, write one story of our own, and pay attention to not just what the stories are about (their "content"), but also how they're constructed (their "form," or shape).

A good story needs to be carefully constructed, ruthlessly edited, and something meaningful has to happen in the narrative. Narrative shape, my professor insists, is one of those elusive aspects of craft that permits a story to feel complete.

As you might guess, there are plenty of ways to plan a story, many "shapes": the journey (Homer's Odyssey), the visitation (Gandalf shows up at Bilbo's door), the epiphany (a character has an aha! moment, changing her forever), and countless others.

A strange kind of narrative shape--called "borrowed form"--happens when the author shapes his story by "borrowing" from the story's content. In other words, the narrative shape reproduces what the story is "about." Let me explain.

You might "borrow" from:

A sport

In Levels of the Game (see above), John McPhee moves from Arthur Ashe's life to Clark Graebner's life, then back to Ashe, then to Graebner...Ashe, Graebner, and so on. The narrative's back-and forth shape is like a tennis match.

A disease

In "The Way We Live Now," Susan Sontag reproduces the story's subject--AIDS--in the shape of the story. How? Well, think about how AIDS is transmitted--from person to person. Also, who can get AIDS? Anyone can! So the story consists of fragments of conversation among friends concerned about an AIDS patient. The reality of AIDS is "transmitted" through words--by talking on the telephone, over coffee, in the halls of the hospital. The friends have names from A through Z, implying that anyone can contract the disease.

A subject

In "The Things They Carried," Tim O'Brien insists that his subject, the Vietnam war, is too chaotic to be represented. The senselessness of war, in other words, can't be contained in the traditional shape of "beginning, middle, end." So what does he do? He "borrows" a kind of form, the list, that shapes the story around the themes of memory and weight:

"The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water. Together, these items weighed between 15 and 20 pounds, depending upon a man's habits or rate of metabolism. Henry Dobbins, who was a big man, carried extra rations; he was especially fond of canned peaches in heavy syrup over pound cake. Dave Jensen, who practiced field hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-sized bars of soap he'd stolen on R&R in Sydney, Australia. Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe in mid-April."

What about poker?

So I ask myself--and all of you--What's the narrative shape of a poker game?

If poker is "about" certain things--money, anxiety, excitement, boredom, patience, competition--then how might you reproduce them in the narrative shape of a story? What would the story look and feel like?
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Old 02-15-2014, 02:49 PM   #94
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

two play money hands

Hand One

hero ($143): playing something like 25/20.
Villain (covers): bad TAG. maybe a slight winner in these games. does not like to fold. We have considerable history, and he doesn't believe me. He raise/called a Q3457 river with QKo vs. me after I checked back the turn with A6.

Hero raises to 3 on the button with 77, villain calls.

Flop TQ7: (6), villain check/calls hero's $4 bet.

Turn 6 (14), villain check/calls hero's $8 bet.

Don't think there's any reason to slow down vs. this villain, he's calling with Qx and straight draws

River T ($30), villain checks, hero bets 30, villain shoves.

What should hero's betsizing be on the river vs a suspicious villain? What's villain's range for check/shoving?

Spoiler:


Hand 2

Hero (106), same as above
V1 (covers), splashly, loose/passive
V2 (covers), no reads

V1 limps, V2 raises to 3, Hero raises to 9 with QQ, both villains call.

My plan is to 3bet/fold vs. V2. I'm 3betting for value against his raise/call range, but his 4betting range crushes me. V1's limp/overcall range is wide--but I'm not sure how wide

Flop 7JK (30)

Merits to betting vs. checking? If we bet, what's our sizing?
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Old 02-16-2014, 01:10 AM   #95
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Hand 1 : very close in between fold or calling. Most players are not capable of a check-shoving-bluffing the river (and given your description of his play, he doesn't seem to be the type to balance it with some missed draws). Considering the dynamics with him, a call is totally understandable.

Hand 2 : What position on you in? If I am in position, I bet around 35% pot in order to protect my hand, but mainly to get information on the flop and preserve the initiative in order to get a free card on the turn. Depending on run out and subsequent action, it is a fold or possibly - at most - 2 streets of value. In the blinds/OOP, I check to get info and then decide on calling or folding.

edit : I'd actually bet 50% in position hand 2 in a cash game (my brain is in MTT mode...), which is my standard bet on a dry board, while 60%+ is my standard on wet boards. So depending on metagame, I would lower my sizing, but only if it did not send a message as being weak.

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Old 02-17-2014, 12:38 PM   #96
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Yes, I'm ok with the call too b/c of dynamics and the spazz factor that you sometime find in these games. But TT didn't surprise me that much--QT makes the most sense.

Hand two, I'm in position. I agree that a small bet in position is probably best, esp vs villains that will play faceup and not pounce on perceived weakness. Very few villains attack weakness in these games, so I try to value bet thinner/smaller, knowing that if they raise I'm usually beat.

Plus, when a villain takes a strong action--a bet, raise, or call--it usually means what it should mean, that villain has a hand that he likes. I struggle with knowing when to double/triple barrel in these games--but I think that, in general, the answer should be "don't."
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Old 02-17-2014, 05:58 PM   #97
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Fast Company by Jon Bradshaw (High Stakes Publishing, 1975)



"They liked to talk about the past and spoke of it in present tenses" (1).


Fast Company tells the stories of six legendary gamblers: Pug Pearson (poker), Bobby Riggs (tennis), Minnesota Fats (pool), Tim Holland (backgammon), Johnny Moss (poker), and Titanic Thompson (golf). These men are united, first, by their love of gambling--of the hustle and the swings and the risk and the glory. But these men didn't just play; they won. How? Jon Bradshaw, an accomplished literary journalist from the 1970s, tries to find out. "I wished to know what kind of men they were," Bradshaw writes, "what it was like to win and win consistently" (3).

Bradshaw's approach

"What's most impressive about this book is the way the author toys with its form" --The New York Times

The book contains a brief introduction and six chapters, following one player per chapter. As an author, Bradshaw's a chameleon; he changes tone, perspective, and technique with each gambler. Although Bradshaw hung out with Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, anyone?), his style is actually quite different from these gonzo journalists. The basic technique of gonzo is to turn every story into a stage for the author to strut on. But Bradshaw's approach is different: the story centers not on him but on his subjects, which he pursues with a mix of fascination, critique, and (it must be said) sadness. Their stories take us to Vegas and California, to the backwoods of Jackson County, Tennessee and the little town of Hurst, Texas, into pool halls and the Horseshoe Casino. Bradshaw takes us to places we'd never expect: "It was five-o-clock in the afternoon and the old man lay on the rumpled bed in baggy undershorts" (145). We don't meet Johnny Moss at the poker table but in bed, frail and haggard, at a tiny hotel outside Las Vegas.

The Mythmakers

“They all talked at once, their voices insistent and contradictory and impatient, making of unreality a possibility, then a probability, then an incontrovertible fact, as people will when their desires become words.”

--William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

To me, Fast Company is about nostalgia and loss. Most broadly, it has to do with the loss of the untamed gambling wilderness of the early 1900s--the Mississippi riverboats, the private games in small Texas towns and abandoned apartments. Giant personalities were vanishing too: "America, one of the old men said, was overrun by vulgar tribes of businessmen; the high wild players were now extinct or imprisoned in a zoo" (1).

The book, in other words, is about mythmaking--about how these gambling legends (plus Bradshaw himself) remember and embellish their lives. That fat confabulator, Minnesota Fats, offers an extreme example. In part Rudolf Wanderone became known as a pompous poolman because of The Hustler, the 1971 film that led him to change his name to from New York Fats to Minnesota Fats, after one of the film's main characters. But the main reason are the stories. If we believe him, Fats has never lost--not once. "My card games were clabbiasch, stud, skin, pitch, ****-can and gin," said Fats, "and I was fabulous at all of 'em. Most hustlers play both pool and cards, but generally a pool player's weakness is cards and a cardplayer's weakness is pool. Now with me that just ain't so. I'm know as the greatest short-card payer on this whole entire earth. Ask old Titanic and Hubert Cokes. Once, out in Evansville, I ruptured them two. Put 'em both in the hospital" (108). Fats doesn't just tell tale tales; it seems like he really believes them, that he buys them hook, line, and sinker. He lives inside his illusion, like a fish in water. "I'll tell you something you ain't never heard before," he says to Bradshaw. "You can fool an awful lot of people, but you can't fool yourself. That's the nuts, the mortal cinch. I'm tellin' ya like it is, y'unnerstand?" What we "unnerstand," instead, is the immense irony of Fats's words.

Aging Legends

“Age is my alarm clock,” the old man said. “Why do old men wake so early? Is it to have one longer day?”

--Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea


When Fats walks into the Stardust Hotel in 1968 to play a fellow hustler, Weenie Beenie, we expect humiliation. That would be just for a dishonest mythmaker, wouldn't it? As he walks in, the room rings with catcalls and insults. "You're sure old, Fat Man. What happens to old pool players, anyway?" "It's a shame you can't play as well as you talk, Fats." "You're really putting on weight, Fats. I could buy two suits for that kind of money." Everyone is against him; everyone expects him to lose. But he wins. He wins convincingly--with flair. Similarly, when Bobby Riggs is slated to play a Battle of the Sexes tennis match, we expect an account of his humiliating loss to Billie Jean King. But the subject of the chapter is Riggs's match against Margaret Court, which he wins in straight sets. Bradshaw plays with our expectations, offering hints and promises of defeat without showing them. These titanic gamblers will be defeated and embarrassed, he suggests--but not yet.

Bradshaw could have written about anyone at any stage of their lives. He chose old men who cling to the shreds of past greatness. Bobby Riggs is a self-proclaimed "old man of fifty-five." Johnny Moss's face is "creased with fatigue." As Tim Holland "whispers in a dying voice," he seems to be the victim of not only laryngitis but also of seeing too much for too long. After a detailed, chronological account of his life--finally, something resembling a traditional biography--Titanic Thompson sits in his kitchen, playing blackjack with his son: "He wore pajamas and a robe. His white hair fell in disarray about his head; it had not been cut for months, apparently, and lay thick at the back of his neck. He was unshaven. He was tall, though bent, and hard of hearing. He was plagued with arthritis in his left hand. His new set of teeth did not quite fit, causing crankiness and complaint. His eyes were dulled with resignation. He looked like a patient in a nursing home waiting for a visitor who would never come. He would soon be eighty" (237).

How does one tell the story of his life? How long can someone live up to greatness of his youth? What are the rewards and perils of the gambling life? Fast Company offers six answers to these questions, six variations on a theme. Soon these legends will drift away and be forgotten, like the gambler who bets, loses, and disappears into the sea of faces in a casino. And when they've gone, Bradshaw suggests, "something important, some last fine flamboyant gesture will have vanished with them." His book ensures that we remember them just a bit longer.

Cliffs: Fast Company is a rare classic that goes well beyond its purported subject, gambling, to explore themes of loss, aging, and historical truth. Bradshaw writes with humor, honesty, and compassion--and that alone makes Fast Company a worthy and memorable book.

I liked Minnesota Fats's and Johnny Moss's chapters the best. For readers only interested in poker content, the chapters on Pearson and Moss are well worth your time.

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Old 02-18-2014, 10:57 AM   #98
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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Fast Company by Jon Bradshaw (High Stakes Publishing, 1975)


...
I liked Minnesota Fats's and Johnny Moss's chapters the best. For readers only interested in poker content, the chapters on Pearson and Moss are well worth your time.
Thanks for this review. I've added the book to my too-long list and hope to get around to it this year. I met -- indeed played pool with -- Fats when I was a teenager in Houston. He was there as part of a week-long promotion at a place called Le Cue, one of the chic pool halls that opened up during the brief boom in the game. A sleazy guy but a legend in his own way. (He played pretty sloppy pool, by the way, but I presumed that was part of his hustle. So far as I know there were no big money matches in the week he was there. Of course, Le Cue had a big sign up that said "NO GAMBLING.")
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Old 02-19-2014, 09:19 AM   #99
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

ahh, great story! Seeing The Master in the flesh...lol. I actually live in Houston now...maybe I'll check out that pool hall sometime. I wonder if it's still open.

I tried to explain how Fast Company has a preoccupation with aging, which has especially ugly and conspicuous effects in competitive games. For any basketball fans out there, check out this great piece on Steve Nash, who's forty and trying to have one last go in the NBA: http://grantland.com/features/approa...e-finish-line/
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Old 02-19-2014, 10:30 AM   #100
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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ahh, great story! Seeing The Master in the flesh...lol. I actually live in Houston now...maybe I'll check out that pool hall sometime. I wonder if it's still open.
I don't know if it's still open but your remark led me to search for "Le Cue" and Houston -- and I discovered several posts about the place, some of them referring to it as a famous pool hall. (I played there when it was still quite new, before it gathered its regulars and hence its fame.)

I never knew, until I did that search, that there's a 2+2-like forum for pool players (but of course; how could there not be). One of the old timers on it has made a list of his top 5 American pool halls and has Le Cue there. As well, he has a line about another that's so good I couldn't resist making this reply just so I could quote it.
Quote:
The rule in the card room: if you got caught cheating you had to sit out one hand.
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