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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 05-22-2013, 04:34 PM   #1
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The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

I've learned a bunch from the strategy/life posts on 2+2 over the years and want to involve others in my own poker-related goal: to play, write about, and better understand poker in the U.S. By "better understand poker" I don't mean learning when to reshove with 20BBs vs. a loose opener. I'm more interested in the tougher-to-answer questions that you may have asked yourself from time to time. How is poker important to me? Why does my family discourage (or support) poker as a hobby/profession? What does poker mean to different parts of America and to different parts of the poker-playing community? How does poker appear in literature and film? Why do so many players write about their experiences (insanepoker7, anotherkidanotherdream)? What can we make of this impulse for storytelling?


My Goals

Contribute to the (more or less nonexistent) academic literature on poker

I'm a teacher-researcher who studies literature, narrative, and American culture. In the fall I'll be starting a two-year post-doc in which, as a kind of secondary project, I plan to write about poker. I have two pretty clear ideas for articles and one big, hazy idea for a book. This thread will hopefully serve as a journal/blog/place to brainstorm and hear from 2+2ers.

Become a better poker player

I'll detail my poker story in the next post. The cliffs is: found poker around 2005, played semi-seriously online from 2007-2011, and transitioned to live cash around 2010 (1/2NL, very part-time). For me, getting better means more creativity and rigor in my approach to the game; developing a more intuitive grasp of poker fundamentals, esp math; and moving up in limits (2/5 and 5/10, if the bankroll allows).

With these goals in mind, you can expect a few different kinds of posts in this thread:

Session reports

I should play a decent bit this summer and hope to recount some of my sessions. The content will be similar to my trip reports from Nola (http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/27...-nola-1221845/) and Florida (http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/27...-back-1173699/). The goal is to write entertaining stories with some strategy mixed in. My "home base" for playing will be in the Gulf Coast area: Houston, Lake Charles, Nola, and Biloxi.

Book Reviews

I plan to review both poker fiction and non-fiction. These posts will probably include a brief summary, my assessment of the book (if I like/dislike, whether it's "well-written"), and questions to think about.

Links to worthwhile poker content

Like this!: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/...-39-25-million

Thematic Posts

on topics like tilt, storytelling, aging, regionalism, literature, strategy--whatever comes to mind!

I'm starting this thread rather than a blog because it encourages dialogue. Part of why I like poker is because it's rooted in stories and people. I'd love to ask and receive questions from you guys for as long as this thread exists. Lookin fwd to it!
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Old 05-23-2013, 02:00 PM   #2
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

My Poker Story

I can still remember the first time that I played poker. It was the summer after college and I had tagged along with friends to a home game. My one buddy explained the hand values to me in the car ride over, and I luckboxed my way to 5th or 6th out of 20 players--just out of the money, but a clear win in my mind. I had, after all, outlasted both of my friends!

I moved up to Boston and started playing 10$ freezeouts with my friends. I also deposited 50 bucks onto pokerstars--the great Bob_124 was born!--and 1-tabled sit-and-gos. I've always enjoyed games--Risk, Stratego, Chess--and poker appealed to my strategic, competitive side. Poker traveled down with me to Texas for grad school. I played mainly online and, after finding Pokerxfactor, migrated from one-table sit-and-gos to multitable turbos. Once I started taking poker seriously--at the high point, I played between 10-20 hours a week--I settled on the Stars 180 mans and .25/.50 cash as my primary games. Just as cardio complements weightlifting, poker worked out a different part of my brain. Playing wasn't only fun and competitive; it was relaxing. Making money was also nice. I gradually built up my roll until, before I knew it, I had paid off my college loans, started an IRA, and bought a pink Bentley (2 of these 3 are true, can you guess which? )

Despite some success, I don't think I've ever been a good player. STT and MTT tourneys are mechanical games, and I didn't have a firm grasp of handreading that comes with deep-stacked play. Neither could I make the moves that I saw and envied when I was railing high-stakes games--bold bluffs, epic calldowns, masterful soul-reads. I lacked (and still lack) creativity.

I was also content to beat up on weaker players at the micro- and low-limits rather than test my mettle in midstakes games. Part of my reasoning was that my current stakes offered stability and a familiar terrain. Pushing my limits might cause stress and anxiety--not to mention a terrible downswing. I was content to rail CTS, ADZ, JohnnyBax, and other high-stakes players in order to focus on school. In a way, then, I both participated in and missed out on the poker boom.

When Black Friday hit, I was still entrenched in my normal games. Sad but not devastated, I left the online world behind and played occasionally with Stars play money (lol), on Lock Poker, and in my weekly 5cent/10cent home game (affectionately known as "The Big Game"). I never lost the appetite to play, though, and devoted some attention to figuring out live cash. Coming from the online arena, I'm sure that I approached the games with a certain amount of arrogance. "Who are all this donks spewing chips with a VPIP of 50?" I'm sure that this thought, along with a bunch of others, crossed my mind. But the simple fact is that, although I've always done OK in live games--patience and aggression remain my strong suits, which really help in a live setting--my approach was seriously flawed. I had no concept of villain ranges, didn't know when to 3-bet (and still don't!), and was generally in the dark about how to play optimally.


Having logged a few hundred hours over the last year or two (yea yea...lol sample size), I think that my approach to the live game has improved--and I see the potential for so much more improvement. Practice, Bart Hanson's podcasts, and the LLSNL forum on 2+2 have been huge helps, and I look forward to spending more time in live games. What's more, I don't only enjoy competing and making a bit of money; I really enjoy meeting people at the table. A quote jumped out to me from the Grantland article on Moneymaker: "When we walked into Binion's for the first time, you were immediately struck by what an interesting group of people this is. Poker had this stereotype of backroom games, cigar smoke, maybe some seediness to it. And that's not what we found at all. When we sat down to interview people, we knew right away — wow, we have met our match. These are really interesting, intelligent people who think about a game on a level no one really realized at the time." --Dave Schwartz. This rings true with my own experience, even at the low stakes. Even if people aren't intelligent poker players, they're often intelligent and successful at their profession--or they're just outright quirky, which is cool with me.


I'm ready to start playing regularly--hopefully once or twice a week--and plan to log some hours during road trips. In the meantime, I run a Sunday night homegame on Stars with some friends (which you all are welcome to join): You are invited to join my private poker club for Home Games online.

- Click the 'Join a Poker Club' button
- Enter my Club ID number: 741422
- Enter my Invitation Code: greatbarrier


So that's it! It's been a long ride and I'm not even close to finished. I'm passing through Nola this weekend and will log a session or two. I'll write up a session report in my next post.
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Old 05-26-2013, 01:00 PM   #3
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Session Report: NolaBiloxiNola

I stopped in Nola during the tail end of the WSOP Circuit Event. Although the action on my end was pretty tame--I didn't play in any of the tourneys, and only logged a few cash game hours--the poker room was hopping. "Can I get 300 hundred red and a hundred green?" I asked the cage. "Sorry," the cashier replied, "we're out of greens." That's right--on the last Friday of the series, all of the green chips were in play!

After sitting down at my 1/2 table I scanned the poker room, which was at capacity. As some of you may know, the Nola room plays pretty deep; it's common for 1/2 stacks to grow to 1K or 2K+, and the 2/5 and 5/10 games are similarly deep. But today had even bigger games--the biggest, I think, was 5/10/25 PLO. All the types were there--wealthy businessmen, grizzled Nola regs, those young internet wizards who emerged from their mom's basement or their dingy dorm room, and even a few name pros (Josh Arieh was at the PLO table). Fun atmosphere.

Despite the action all around me, my table was pretty standard. Deep stacks, a lot of passive/bad players, and good action. In my first or second hand at the table, I looked down at AA in the BB and make it 17 to go vs. three limpers. Call, call, call and we see a

J82 flop ($70). I bet 40-50ish with the intention of calling a shove vs. two short stacks and reevaluating vs. the sb (400+). One short stack shoves, I call, he proudly flips J9o for top pair, and I hold.

The SB was an asian reg who, as I later learned, played higher than 1/2. He didn't seem particularly good and was content to limp/call most any raise. In literally the same spot as the last hand, I looked down at QQ in the BB, made it 17 to go, and got three calls.

($70) Q89 and the sb ships for $200 into 70 wtf. With about $400 in front of me and two players behind, I did stop and think about this for a minute, but I never seriously considered folding. I shove and the guy immediately asks, "You have flush?" "No flush. You have flush?" He shakes his head no as the turn brings the T (sigh) but the river brings the Q. I flip my quads and he shows 67off, no diamond (again, wtf!).

And it was all downhill from there. I got the money in vs a shortstack with top pair vs. a combo draw and lost, had a few cbets go wrong, and slowly bled down to about 200BBs. But the major hand happened vs. a young asian women who was the main reason that I was at the table. She had run her stack up to 600, lost it, rebought, and was playing an 80/20 game--basically she was somewhat passive preflop and very aggro post. We had a bit of history. She had made it $15 to go UTG, I made it $35 with AT and she called with about $150 behind. Flop 826 she donks $25, I shove and she tank/folds.

In the hand, I raise a limper in a straddled pot to $25 with JJ, asian women calls from the sb and everyone else folds, flop T82. With about 350 going to the flop, I bet $50 into $55ish and she snapcheckraises to $250ish (basically grabbing two red stacks and moving them into the pot). This is a pretty quick fold for me vs. most players, but vs. this woman I though that it was closer. Would she spazz with a ten? a flush draw? Could she be making a move?

After tanking for a few minutes I make the call, she flips T2 and holds. Anyone else calling here? FWIW I do think in hindsight that this is a fold. I'm effectively risking 300 to win 400, so I need 43ish% vs. her range. Unless she's spazzing pretty hard an overpair doesn't do well enough.

Biloxi

After my brief Nola visit, I drove up to the Asheville area to visit family. Ziplining, anyone? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAnJR...ture=endscreen). On the way back I decided to stop off at the Beau Rivage to take a driving break and watch the Heat-Pacers game.

I love the Beau and its uncapped games, friendly staff, and good food comps. After taking a seat with my standard $300 buyin, I found myself in two notable hands--the first and last hand of the night. I was seated next to a guy with a massive stack of chips + about 5 or 6 bills (cash plays at the Beau) who was drinking and splashing around right when I got to the table. So that was my only read when I looked down at AKo and faced his 6$ open from early position. I made it $25 to go and he called pretty quickly.

Flop AJ3 ($55), he checks I bet $40 he calls. Turn 6, check check (anyone continuing here?), river 3 and he pretty quickly bets $90 into $135 and starts talking. "You don't want it, you don't want it." He's jovial and clearly baiting me...but does he want a call or a fold? I tank fold and he tells me later that he wanted a call--but he could easily have been bsing me.

I played for another hour or so before getting tired.I looked down at my final hand UTG, AQo, and made it $15 to go (with a $300 stack). Four of us see a A82 rainbow flop, I bet $40 into $60 and get called by the button, a middle-aged guy who seemed like an average reg. He had made some hero/bad folds against the guy in the previous hand who had put him to the test for his whole stack. My read was that he was a careful, if splashy, player who wasn't eagerly stacking off with any piece of the board. My image, at this point, had to be nitty (if he was even paying attention). For these reasons, I decided to check the 8 turn with plans to value bet the river. The turn checks through and we see the J, which I don't like because of the obvious AJ possibility, but I stick to my plan of getting two streets from weaker aces and bet $75 into $140. He pretty quickly throws a pile of hundreds into the pot and I instamuck

Nola, part deaux

I played a final session last night for about four hours. The table was very good. One guy, in particular, was a terribad player who would limp/call for any amount and stack off light. In one hand, he flatted a $10 raise and, after a reggish player made it $35 on the button, called the additional $25. He checked and called a $55 bet on a 665 flop, the action checked down, and the reg disgustedly mucked after the donk showed 45o.

I took advantage of the bad player (who was on my direct left) when I raised QQ to $15 and got 4 calls. I bet $40 on a Q74flop only to see the donk make it $50 more to go. I shipped in the rest of my $300 stack, got snap called, and held (he didn't show...lord knows what his stackoff range is there).

I seat-changed two to the donk's left and ran into an interesting spot. I made it $20 to go over a bunch of limps with AA and picked up two customers: the donk and a girl to his left (to my right) who was playing sticky but super passive. She didn't like to fold, but I don't think that she realized she had the option to raise. She would flat her entire range pre and postflop, even with very strong hands.

On a Q97flop, Donk leads out for 25 into $60 and the girl flats (effective stacks are about $350). Now I'm in the awkward position of raising for protection vs. Donk, but value-owning myself vs. the girl. I decide to call and we see a Tturn, Donk leads for $30 and the girl and I flat. River 5, check/check to me. Same situation as the flop and turn: I feel like a bet gets looked up by Donk all day, but the girl will check/call with two pairs, a straight, maybe even a flush. I decide to bet $75 into the $220ish pot, hoping to get looked up by Donk. He quickly folds and the girl laughs. "If you have a flush, you got me," she says, and I know I'm cooked before she flips over 77.

Overall, I ran pretty poorly and played "ok"--maybe a B or B-, if I had to grade myself. My next post will probably be a book review. Thanks for reading!
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Old 05-29-2013, 11:35 AM   #4
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

"After hearing some exciting things about my brain, I then got the bad news. The bad news is that what poker puts the human brain through is unsustainable. I was told that if I choose to play online poker as a full time career, I will likely die of a stroke before the age of 50. They said that the human brain simply does not have the capacity to put itself through 8+ hour days of mass multi-table online poker. They said that playing online poker to that degree was quite literally one of the very worst things you can do to your brain and body. They said it wasn’t quite as bad as being an NFL player or someone who works full time around organic solvents, but it wasn’t far off. It was on the doctor’s urging that I retire from full time online poker." --Dusty Schmidt


A fascinating blog entry from Dusty "Leatherass" Schmidt: http://dustyschmidt.net/dusty_schmidt_blog/ ("This is My Brain on Poker"). To be clear, Dusty isn't suggesting that everyone who plays online will damage their brains by playing poker. But he is suggesting that we think about the (often subtle) effects of mass multitabling, the quest for Supernova Elite, and the role that poker plays in our lives.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch some of WCGRider and OddOddson's 16table HU match.
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Old 06-12-2013, 12:39 PM   #5
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Big Deal, by Anthony Holden (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990)




To draw or not to draw, that is the question.
Whether 'tis safer in the player to take
The awful risk of skinning for a straight,
Or, standing pat, to raise 'em all the limit
And thus, by bluffing, get it.


This poker riff on Hamlet, which Anthony Holden quotes in Big Deal, gives you an idea of the book as a whole. Literary, playful, and philosophical, the book details the author's year-long stint as a professional poker player. While the book is part instruction manual, part strategy, and part history (of poker, of Vegas, of America and gambling), Big Deal is ultimately a poker autobiography. We get a glimpse of Holden's beginnings—his weekly “Tuesday game” and life at the Victoria Casino in London—to his whirlwhind poker adventures that take him to Malta, New Orleans, a poker cruise, and, repeatedly, to Vegas.

Most of the narrative, then, is Holden on Holden—which is usually a good thing. He comes off as a likeable guy, an excellent writer, and a less-than-stellar poker player (more on this in a bit). Holden is a writer by trade—he wrote biographies of Shakespeare and Tchaikovsky—and his prose is readable, accessible, and often insightful. As an added bonus, he's an affable, "cheeky" Brit who's all too willing to assess, and poke fun at, American culture.

Vegas

“From the air, your first sight of the place has already been otherwordly, whether you approach it from Los Angeles and the West across Death Valley, or from London, New York, and the East over the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead. Either way, there's an hour or so of infinite desert to savor from a safe seat above, with misty imaginings of the wagon trains of the old frontiersmen, and of the certain death facing anyone wandering about down there right now, before you catch your first extraordinary, breathtaking glimpse of this clutch of fantastical towers and glass palaces slapped down at random in the middle of this moonscape, this vast and utter nowhere. By night, Las Vegas from the air looks like a convention of ocean liners huddled in the midst of a dark and limitless sea” (3).

Holden is repeatedly drawn to Vegas like a moth to light, and much of the book follows his adventures there. The best portrait of Vegas, in my opinion, is still Al Alvarez's The Biggest Game in Town (1983)—another English writer who plays in Holden's Tuesday Game—but Holden's sections on Vegas hold up nicely. Unlike Alvarez, who's content to describe the highstakes action as an observer, Holden actually plays in the World Series of Poker. He thus offers us a first-hand glimpse of a different era, playing hands against Stu Unger, Johnny Chan, Jack Strauss, Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim, and other legends. Moss, especially, comes off as a larger-than-life figure—a guy who's bought into his own mythology and seeks to embellish it whenever possible. "Ah didn' wanna win that pot anyhow," Moss drawls after Holden sucks out with a rivered set: "All that stackin..." (291).

Unfortunately, Holden's in-hand thought process—generated by at-the-table notes and, no doubt, some revisionist history—is the weakest part of the book. I couldn't tell if Holden's goal was to poke fun at himself or slyly suggest that he's, in fact, a good player. Some of the hands are lolbad—flatting raises with 4BBs and folding the flop, blinding down to 1BB in a tourney, rivering top boat and fearing the all-powerful quads. To be fair, Holden never professes to be an expert. As he puts it, "I'm well aware that the poker played in these pages is far from world standard” (xvii). The important point, I think, is that you shouldn't read this book for strategy. Be sure to take the subtitle of the book—“a year as a professional poker payer”—with a grain of salt.


Enter the Shrink


“Which of us, if any, thought hard enough about his poker performance to learn deeper truths about himself?” (184).

Chapter seven, "Enter the Shrink," is an oddball chapter in which Holden addresses “why” question. Why spend a year playing poker professionally? Why, after writing on a variety of academic subjects, did Holden want to tackle poker? Why, as his shrink puts it, has the role of poker in Holden's life “grown quite so dangerously out of proportion?” (188).

One answer, for Holden and for many others, is the countercultural impulse of poker. It offers, or at least symbolizes, freedom: “Amongst all the poker players I have known, from the hardened pros of Las Vegas to my amateur Tuesday Night brethren in London, have had one specific characteristic in common: they were all people who like to feel that they had bucked the system. They were determined to live life on their own terms” (182).

Beyond the personal, the chapter also delves into the importance of poker to American political figures: Nixon (177), Truman (179), Kennedy (180).

Notes and Questions

In Walter Matthau's opinion, “[Poker] exemplifies the worst aspects of capitalism which have made our country so great” (69). Agree or disagree?

Poker as metaphor: “By betting as if you are holding the best hand, by 'representing' strength, you can frighten every other player out of the pot and take their money without even having to show your cards.
This is true of no other game except life, with which poker has a great deal in common. Most human beings conduct their lives as a series of risks, some more calculated than others. They may not like to admit it, especially to themselves, but they bluff their way through Life's complexities, both professional and personal, every day” (73, 75).

“Dostoevsky? Did you say Dostoevsky? You're reading Dostoevsky in Las Vegas?” (124). Again and again...why Dostoevsky?

Nola and poker history: “The game of poker had been born in New Orleans a few years before, in the early 1820s, when French sailors imported their own version of a game called as, which they had picked up in Persia” (263).

Cliffs

Big Deal is a well-written personal narrative about poker in the early 1990s. It presents a window into Vegas culture, the lives of early poker legends (Moss, Ungar, Chan, Amarillo Slim), and Holden's own life as a writer and poker player. Holden's style is learned and literary but also quite accessible. The book also addresses the broader significance of poker in Holden's personal life—which, by extension, prompts the reader to ask similar questions. Holden does not, however, offer useful poker strategy (nor does he pretend to). I enjoyed this book and plan to read Holden's sequel, Bigger Deal (2008).
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Old 06-12-2013, 02:52 PM   #6
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

my first "book review" is above. Let me know if there are any specific books that are worth reviewing/that you'd like me to review. If any of you have thoughts on the books that appear in this thread, I'd love to hear them.

Not sure what I'll do next, but I'm leaning towards King of a Small World (1995) by Rick Bennett.
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Old 06-14-2013, 10:42 AM   #7
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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Big Deal, by Anthony Holden (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990) ... Notes and Questions ...
“Dostoevsky? Did you say Dostoevsky? You're reading Dostoevsky in Las Vegas?” (124). Again and again...why Dostoevsky?
It's been a while since I read Big Deal but I recall enjoying it and I would rank among the best of the books about playing poker. Much better than Bigger Deal -- which had its moments (and was interesting in seeing Holden having to adjust to the many changes that had taken place since his first book), but was generally only OK. I found his conclusion—that he now wants more from life than just existing on the poker circuit—interesting.

As for why Dostoevsky, I would presume because he was for a time addicted to gambling -- roulette, not poker. About a year ago I finally got around to reading his short novel The Gambler, a book he wrote in a hurry to help pay off his debts. Though there's not as much depiction of gambling as I'd anticipated (it's really about the personal relationships of the characters), there are notable scenes of a wealthy old woman and then of the narrator plunging at the tables. And, in the closing sections, there is an incisive portrayal of the narrator having become overwhelmed by his compulsion for wagering. (There has been some debate as to whether or not he will be reformed after the narrative closes, but I don’t think that that's implied—even though Dostoevsky himself was able to put roulette behind him.) Elsewhere, there are some acute observations of what it’s like to be gripped by gambling mania: “as though ... delirious with fever … my whole body tingled with fire,” and “Every gambler knows how a person may sit a day and a night at cards without ever casting a glance to right or left.”

Last edited by RussellinToronto; 06-14-2013 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 06-14-2013, 10:56 AM   #8
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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my first "book review" is above. Let me know if there are any specific books that are worth reviewing/that you'd like me to review. If any of you have thoughts on the books that appear in this thread, I'd love to hear them.

Not sure what I'll do next, but I'm leaning towards King of a Small World (1995) by Rick Bennett.
I went on a kick a while back and read most everything I'd heard recommended. I recall Michael Craig, The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King (2005) as one of the standouts. And I also enjoyed James McManus's book about playing in the World Series, Positively Fifth Street (2003)
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Old 06-14-2013, 02:49 PM   #9
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Yes, there's an extended discussion of Dostoevsky (esp The Gambler) in the "Enter the Shrink" Chapter of Big Deal. There's a lot that I want to say about Dostoevsky, but I'm going to wait for now and just keep reading. I will say that it's crazy how often he's pops up in books about poker/gambling--whether it's namedropping, discussions of his books, or blurbs on the book jacket.

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Originally Posted by RussellinToronto View Post
I went on a kick a while back and read most everything I'd heard recommended. I recall Michael Craig, The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King (2005) as one of the standouts. And I also enjoyed James McManus's book about playing in the World Series, Positively Fifth Street (2003)
thanks. I think Andy Beal's story is one of the most interesting that I've heard, and I've wanted to read Craig's book for a while. I'll put it at the top of the list.
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Old 06-14-2013, 10:28 PM   #10
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Plato and Poker

Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

Plato, The Republic





I was listening to a podcast about Plato's allegory of the cave, which got me thinking about how its "message" might apply to poker. The guest on the podcast suggested that the cave allegory can be understood in three essential ways:

1. as a religious story: We live in ignorance and illusion--we "see through a glass darkly," in the apostle Paul's words--until a moment of religious illumination jolts us out of darkness and into the light of truth.

2. as a visionary approach to this world: From this perspective, the important thing isn't about turning away from the world (to the afterlife), but about seeing with a fresh, renewed perspective. Many of the Romantic poets urge us to develop an intensity of vision and a heightened awareness:

"To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour." --William Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"

3. mere sightseers vs. the educated observer: Take cricket. As an American watching cricket, I have a dim sense of what's happening on the field: who's scoring, when a player's committed an infraction, etc. But, as someone who's never learned the strategy (or even the rules) of the game, I'll never understand the game the way that a Brit or an cricket expert does.

The key point, in each case, has to do with distinguishing appearance from reality. This is hard to do. The prisoners in the cave are not only blind to the sun that shines outside the cave; they're being actively deceived and distracted by the puppeteers behind them.

All of which raises the question:How is the appearance of poker different from its reality? What are some key misconceptions about poker?

I'm sure that these questions can be answered in a bunch of ways. The "reality" of poker might involve an accurate understanding of what the game is "really like" or the "best" way to play it (optimal strategy). Thoughts?

One way to think about the reality of poker is to think back to your own journey from "darkness" to "light." Imagine that you walk into a poker room having never played a hand before. What's more, you don't even know how many cards are in a deck or what an "ace" is. If you sit down at the table, playing a game of poker would be like speaking in a foreign language. It would be hopeless. At this stage, you have a level 0 understanding of poker.

Next, think back to when you first started learning the game. You may have played with friends--heck, you may have even read Super System--and you know that a flush beats a straight and that a straight flush is best of all. You have some basic poker strategy--raise (or reraise) with high cards and pairs; "tight is right," "no set, no bet"; don't play hands in early position. Finally, you've developed a bit of poker etiquette: you know it's frowned upon to berate the dealer or to delay in revealing a monster hand ("the slowroll"). You've evolved into a level 1 player.

At some point, if you've put in the studying and the time, you start to realize that "common sense" will only get you so far. You begin to understand that, in order to understand poker more deeply, you must study the game in a more rigorous way. You embrace math, psychology, and counterintuition. For me, one revelation came from learning sit and go strategy--especially optimal play on the bubble. Example: there's four players left, three places pay, blinds are 200/400. There are three even stacks of 2000 and you, the chip leader, have 6000. The action folds around to you in the small blind and you look down at 29. What's the correct play?

"Common sense" might dictate that you fold your rags. But a deeper look at the situation--at the payout structure, ICM, fold equity, and villain tendencies--suggests that this is a trivial shove. Congratulations! You're now a level 2 player. When a level one player berates you for shoving with your garbage and sucking out on his AK, you simply keep quiet, knowing that he's oblivious to the deeper truths of the game.

The challenge, and the allure, of poker is that its "reality" is elusive--maybe impossible--to grasp. Players continue to study and to evolve, leaving mere "level 2" players like myself back in the cave: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QEKESA0mwg

Another question comes to mind: Who are the puppeteers that deceive or distract us from poker "as it really is"?

* The media—both mainstream and poker.

* literature, film, art.

* the poker community. Who gets to distribute and regulate poker knowledge? This was, and still is, a problem for players who make instructional videos. To what extent should players "in the know" give back to the poker community and further our communal understanding of the game? What if this knowledge reduces their winrate? One of our fellow 2+2ers has a thread discussing his life as a live grinder, and he's recently shared some insightful tips on live PLO strategy. Which got this response:

“Dude these last 3-4 pages you are giving people way to much free information. Random people in other coutnries that play PLO have spoken about this thread.

Good thread, but i really dont think you are doing anyone a favour by giving out all this information.

Keep more stuff secret imo. Cant imagine it helps your LA games at all either” (http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/sh...postcount=1514 )

Plato reminds us that the journey to "see more"--in life or in poker--is difficult but rewarding:


"When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day? Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is."


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Old 06-17-2013, 10:43 PM   #11
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

King of A Small World by Rick Bennet (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1995)




"I never worry about losing money gambling. I always worry about losing it in life. Having it fall out of my pocket. Having it stolen. Something. It's a compulsion. The more I win, the more I feel it" (16). --Joey Moore

Rick Bennet has written a very fine poker novel. Novel should perhaps be emphasized here, since the book is about much more than poker. The action is narrated by Joey Moore, or “Pinocchio Joe,” a 25-year-old grinder living near Baltimore. Joey's obsession with poker intersects with a host of other subjects: race and class relations in Maryland; the politics of running a charity poker room; romance, fatherhood, and family; and, most broadly, the tension between freedom and responsibility.

Joey's entire life--his friends, acquaintances, even his landlord--is shaped by his decision to play cards for a living. We couldn't have a better guide through the world of underground card rooms, charity casinos, and spontaneous trips to Vegas. Joey often contrasts the life of the cardplayer—especially the freedom it represents—to the 9-to-5 grind: "I love movies, and I love to go alone. In the work week, midday, when the theaters are least crowded. When the suckers are at their jobs, and I have the place to myself" (25). Joey later explains that “Guys who make more money than me, have more money than me, are always worried about money. And I don't want to live like that...I have the only thing that counts—my freedom.” (79).


The book is also a poker novel. Throughout Big Deal, Anthony Holden never convinced me that he was a capable poker player (which, as I mention in a review of that book, isn't his primary goal). But Pinocchio Joe comes off as a skillful rounder—a guy who proves himself through his actions and plays at the table than through any longwinded poker strategy. The longest digression that we do get on poker fundamentals is worth quoting:

"Good poker is hard work. Technical skills, you might say. Learning the odds, remembering exposed cards, having the discipline to fold, maintaining attentiveness to your opponent's appearance. Great poker is courage. Technical skills will get you through most poker situations because most poker situations don't give rise to your emotions. But the big decisions do. By definition, you might even say. You certainly want to keep your emotions down but if they do come up, as they will at key moments, you have to deal with them. And the secret to finding the truth in emotional moments is this: your conscious fear will mirror your subconscious knowledge. If your subconscious knows your opponent is bluffing, your conscious will fear that he isn't. And then, if you have strength, pride, character, or whatever you want to call it, you'll conquer that fear, and act on what you know to be the truth" (11).

Beyond these brief flashes of poker insight, Bennett realizes that less is more when it comes to poker. Only a few hands are detailed in the novel.

A major development occurs when Joey, who's prided himself on his poker acumen and the freedom of being his own boss, is offered a job as the manager of a charity poker room. I had no idea that Maryland allowed (allows?) casino play for charity (the official purpose of Joey's charity casino, for instance, is to help women get off welfare; the employees make their money by skimming off the top). Suddenly, Joey makes 3000 a week for only a few hours work, and he doesn't have to deal with variance or bad beats. To borrow from that other Baltimore-based work of art--how could I resist?--Joey considers the value of the “game beyond the game.”




You know, Avon, you gotta think about what we got in this game for, man. Huh? Was it the rep? Was it so our names could ring out on some ****ing ghetto street corner, man? Naw, man. There’s games beyond the ****ing game. --Stringer Bell

This newfound stability doesn't last. Joey's girlfriend, Laura, announces that she's pregnant. What makes matters worse, one of Joe's poker opponents—a forty-something guy nicknamed Lotto—claims that he, not Joey, is the father of Laura's child. Joey tries, and fails, to convince Laura to get an abortion. “'There's nothing more important than being a mother,'” she says. I guess pregnant women keep that statement ready like a robber does a gun” (103). The action rapidly shifts to a number of other problems involving Vegas debauchery, Joey's family past, and--wait for it--the mob (I'll spare you any spoilers. The ending doesn't disappoint, though).

Notes and Questions

“Poker is life. Human interaction. The interaction of desires. All of life, except love, can be found in the game. And not all of life can or should be about love. Poker is what life can be apart from love: rewarding of honesty and courage; punishing of childishness and egotism; creating of an understanding of the nature of randomness; developing of qualities that lead to love, of self and others, of friend and foe” (267).

* another parallel between luck in poker and luck in life. Convinced that he was dealt a bad hand by Laura's unplanned pregnancy, Joe instantly falls in love with his son and commits to raising him. He realizes, only in hindsight, that “Sometimes good luck is bad luck, and bad luck good...You just don't always know. There's no such thing as not gambling” (271).

* "Poker is all about having the courage to confront the truth. To admit to yourself what you know to be true, no matter how much you wish it weren't" (15).

* lies and "lies." Joey's skill in betting and bluffing gets him the nickname of "Pinocchio Joe: Yet he repeatedly stresses an ethic of honesty. "I don't lie, cheat, or steal. How many businessmen can say that? How many lawyers?" he asks his sometime-girlfriend, Katrina. His best friend Nug, a reliable guy, "shares [his] code of honesty." Any contradiction here?

Cliffs

King of a Small World is a must-read. Like Rounders, the book doesn't dwell on poker but uses it as a springboard to touch on a variety of powerful themes. While the writing isn't quite as good as the acting in Rounders (but, really, how could it be?), Bennett has written a gripping story. Read this book!
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Old 06-22-2013, 11:30 AM   #12
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Good luck. You're going to have one Hell of an adventure! Keep it going. A few passages from "The Big Deal" is all it takes for my poker juices to rise to the top. Love gambling stories! Have many myself, just can't write as elegantly as you. My old arse is only good for a short story here and there. @DennyArky
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Old 06-22-2013, 05:12 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by arkyten View Post
Good luck. You're going to have one Hell of an adventure! Keep it going. A few passages from "The Big Deal" is all it takes for my poker juices to rise to the top. Love gambling stories! Have many myself, just can't write as elegantly as you. My old arse is only good for a short story here and there. @DennyArky
thanks! i really value your feedback. I would love to hear some of your stories, if you have the time.

next up is a review of Broke, by Brandon Adams
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Old 06-25-2013, 10:42 AM   #14
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Broke, by Brandon Adams (iUniverse, 2008)




"Look, if you're a poker player, you've got to be able to take bad beats well. Here's the secret: When all the money's in, and everything is left to chance, tell yourself that you deserve to lose" (15).

Brandon Adams is a successful online poker player, part-time Harvard professor, and economist (he just wrote a book on America's role in the global economy): http://www.amazon.com/Setting-Sun-Th...=brandon+adams. He's probably more well-known--at least in poker circles--as that Harvard guy who plays well and occasionally owns Phil Helmuth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1tcCH2a7Fg. There's no substitute for experience, and Adams clearly knows the game that he's writing about.

It's hardly surprising, then, that Broke reads like a poker autobiography disguised as a novel. The protagonist, Raf, represents the protypical online prodigy of the 2000s--young, fearless, and grounded by math rather than intuition. For Raj, the game can be separated into four essential categories: basic poker math, conditional probability, game theory, and psychology, or "tells."



One of the distinctive things about the novel is that it's one of the first to capture poker in the online era. The story begins when Raf walks into a Bellagio hotel room where his friend, Matt, is stuck deep in a heads up match on Ultimate Bet.Thousands are won and lost with the click of a mouse Adams thus captures the early online poker boom--a time when there was plenty of money to be made and no awareness of the impending UB scandal, UIGEA, and Black Friday.


Raf (and his two friends Matt and Rob) struggles to define the role that poker should play in their lives. Put simply, Is poker the problem or the answer? "To an outsider," Raf declares, "I"m just another case of talent wasted on poker. As one of my friends likes to say, something is wrong when the best minds of our generation are calculating pot odds. I like to think that my case is unique, in that poker pulled me out of a deep hole instead of leading me into one" (12). Our assessment of of the book depends on this "I like to think." Is poker indeed capable of saving Raf, or is he just duping himself?

Unfortunately, we never get enough information to make a judgment on Raf's relationship to poker. What is this "deep hole" that Raf fell into? Forget about Raf's merits as a player; what about his qualities as a person? Aside from a brief discussion of a motorcycle accident in Europe, there's almost nothing about Raf's part, present, or future--just trips to and from Vegas and Atlantic City, with a few discussions of game theory thrown in. The book would have been much more effective, in my opinion, if we learned more about Raj and his friends. One of the chief merits of King of A Small World was its strong characters who were people away from the poker table. The three characters in Broke are wholly defined by the game that they play.

The pace of the book also leaves much to be desired. At a mere eighty pages, the book is comprised of 4-5 page "chapters" that discusses various subjects--girlfriends and poker, an online heads up match, sports betting, staking, traveling, and a few other topics. When we do reach a section that has some potential--a juicy AC tournament in which Raf plays for an 800K first prize--the scene is almost laughably short. The novel ends as it began--abruptly, with little indication of whether Raj has learned something from his experiences. Having lost a bunch of money, he considers getting out of the game and into finance, but nothing is certain.


Poker and Health

Adams is less intent on describing the highs of poker than its lows. The second chapter, "Addiction," explicitly links poker to smoking and drug use. As Raj puts it, "The MRI of a gambling addict's brain while gambling look nearly indistinguishable from the MRI of a coke addict's brain on coke. Both are pretty effective at shortcutting the pleasure circuit. We're just a couple of addicts chasing dopamine jots to the brain" (7). "There is one drug that people slow down on when they start poker--nicotine. Apparently poker is more addictive than cigarettes. Most poker rooms are nonsmoking, and it is not uncommon or two-pack-a-day smokers to go three hours without a cigarette while playing" (33).

As Raj's comments might suggest, he's a level-headed and perhaps a brilliant guy who falls prey to the very addictions that he discusses. After losing 50K in a 400/800 live limit game, Raj discusses the toll that poker can take on the psyche. It's not surprising that antidepressants are popular among poker player. Xanax, pot, and even cocaine are used among pros. "All this suggets that poker is, on the whole, extremely damaging to health" (32).



Notes and Questions

Is poker bad for your health?

Raf explicitly links poker with addiction. At the same time, he believes that the game "saved" him from ruin. Which is it?

Yet another first person narrative. Why this impulse toward first person in novels about poker?

* poker is personal. it's always hard to get outside one's own perspective, although this is precisely the challenge when thinking through a hand or estimating your opponent. Any poker novels out there with multiple perspectives/narrators? Think of what Faulkner did in As I Lay Dying...a book filled with first-person accounts of people watching and judging each other. This approach could be put to good use in a poker context.


Cliffs

Brandon Adams's foray into fiction-writing leaves much to be desired. Broke is a novel written by a poker player rather than a poker book written by a novelist. At its best, Adams offers an insightful glimpse into the lives of precocious grinders--and perhaps into his own life as a successful jack-of-all trades figure. But the book would have benefited from deeper character development and a more consistent plot.
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Old 07-12-2013, 12:47 PM   #15
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

"So I raise with two queens and Doyle calls me. Flop comes with two queens and a king. He checks and I bet. Doyle calls. Turn comes and he checks, so I bet again. He calls. I bet big on the river and Doyle folds two Kings face up. 'Son,' he tells me, 'your quads are good.'"

The old man to my left--a bald, grizzled construction worker--stopped talking and turned his attention back to the table. I wondered whether his story was true or whether this was yet another piece of poker mythology. As we sat next to each other--the old man talking and telling, me listening and nodding--a man with horn-rimmed glasses and an LSU hat sat down to our left with a stack of $400. After being dealt his first hand UTG, he took a red stack of chips and slammed it onto the table. "Let's go!" It folded around to my construction worker friend, who grinned and paused to check his cards in the BB. "I know what you got." "I know you know!" said LSU, flipping over the A. LSU got a fold and proudly flipped over his other card, the A. "Don't want any nonsense from this table. We're playing poker now, boys!"

Yes. Yes we are And I look forward to writing down some of it here...should get a lot of hands in during the next month or so.
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Old 07-20-2013, 12:14 PM   #16
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Is the Pelican a Good Mascot for a Sports Team? part one

I hadn't played live poker in a while and wanted to grind out a good 4-5 hour session and get back into the groove. One of the challenges of writing about poker is the need to play in different kinds of games with different kinds of players. This means experimenting with different limits and formats, which I hope to do throughout the summer. Eventually I want to be able to play in any games that look (a) good and/or (b) interesting. Of course, the bankroll will need to cooperate, so that's the first challenge. I've come up with a pretty aggressive plan that will allow me to sit in some deeper games. The first step was last night, where I'd sit down in the 1/2 games that I've grown familiar with.

Session 1

I sit down with a 300$ stack and fold for 45 minutes. Didn't play a hand. My table was filled with older, generally weak players, with the exception of a thirtyish guy who was opening about a 5-10% range to 20$ (premiums with some speculative hands like 57ss or TJ thrown in).

I finally ran into a good/interesting spot when I limp behind in MP with 54, and the BB raises to 15. Call, call, I call (marginal but ok, I think, given that at least two villains aren't interested in folding overpairs at any point and I have about 300 behind). Five of us call and see a 7::J3 flop, it checks through to 6 turn, bink! The sb, an older guy who was a mediocre reg but on a freefall during this session, bets $40 into 75; I make it 140 to go and he calls. At this point I'd put him on a flush draw, a jack, or something more speculative like 89. River J ($350), he checks. I have about 150 behind and am not sure whether check > fold. Is this river a shove?

I decide to check and he mucks and leaves the table. I take his spot to sit to the thirtsomething's (Cooper's) left. Another tricky decision came up in a hand vs. a young player two to my right (he regaled us with stories of being a doorman at one of the Bourbon street strip clubs). The kid was limping a bit, opening all kinds of hands to 10$ preflop---AA, 23o, 95o, etc. With 400$ effective stacks I flat 64 on the button. I consider 3betting but decide to keep the stacks deep with a disguised hand that plays well multiway. Flop 645 rainbow (40), he bets 25$ I call others fold. Turn J, he bets 50$. My suspicion was that he was randomly barreling and that calling allows him to continue doing so on the river. Plus--and this was something I had to consider on both the flop and turn--stacks were about 200BBs when the hand started. River 3 (240$), he bets 105$ I call pretty quickly and lose to 24o. We had a good laugh about this hand afterward, and I demanded some VIP passes to his club the next time I was on Bourbon . I think that this hand has interesting decision on all streets, and that I play it differently if I'm shorter-stacked (ship turn probably) or out of position.

I got the best of Cooper in two hands. In the first, I was dealt QQ on the button and face his 20$ raise from the cutoff into a few limpers. Given that this is his standard opening size, I think that a 3-bet is mandatory here (tbh I'm probably 3bet/folding vs him with 400$+). I make it 65$ and he quickly flats. Flop AQ6 rainbow, he checks I bet 100$. "Maybe I should have moved you in preflop," he mutters, flashing JJ. Thinking about shipping pre vs. actually doing it is why 3bet/folding is probably best here vs. most villains.

A bit later, Cooper raised to $20 UTG and, with $500 effective, I flat with KK. I think a flat is clearly best vs. this kind of player, who's deepstacked and better than your average donk. I keep my range wide vs. him and can try to own him with position. Two others call and we see a 846 flop, Cooper bets 40$ I call the others fold. Turn 9 he checks I check. I'm putting him on overcards or a midpair that doesn't want to play a big pot. River 3, he checks I bet 100$ and he snapcalls with JJ. Possible that I missed a turn bet.

I raise 20$ from the sb into four limpers with AQo and get two callers: an old guy from early position and an attractive asian woman with 200$ effective. Flop A83 ($60), I bet 40$, old guy folds and she calls. Turn 3 (160$), I bet 80$ planning to shove all rivers. She cuts out a call, pauses, and then ships her stack in. Not thrilled with this spot but I'm not folding, since some people spazz out with a weaker ace. River 8 and I scoop vs. AT.

Two final hands with my Bourbon street friend. I had been thinking about how to exploit his wide opens--he had folded to aggression a few times preflop--and decided to 3bet his 10$ to 35$ with KJo. It folds around and he flats. Flop Q6x rainbow (70$), I bet 40 he quickly makes it 100 with 200 behind. "You can show the bluff, I don't mind," I say with a smile. "I would if I could," he replied.

Same situation a bit later, except this time I have AA. He makes it 15$ with 150 behind, I reraise to 35$ with AA, he flats. He leads for 50$ and stacks off with JT on a KT5 flop.

4 hours, +720. A good start to what hopefully will end up in a chance to shortbuy into some of the bigger games. Heading to play again later, where I'll sit at 1/2 and keep my eyes on the 2/5 games.
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Old 07-21-2013, 11:09 AM   #17
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Session 2

I sat down at 5pm with my friend, Bobby, who instantly got involved in a tough hand that exposed a major spot at our 1/2 table. With about $350 going to the turn, Bobby bet out on a 3459 board. An older man--he looked European but was from Georgia, as I later learned--made it 65$ to go. As Bobby went into the tank, I tried to range both of them. It was clear that Bobby had a true decision with a hand like two pair or a big draw. I figured that the old guy, on the other hand, would have a straight or three nines at worst.

Bobby called the turn, checked/folded to 200$ bet a 6 river (200$), and watched as the old man proudly flipped 94off. This told me a few things: that the old guy seriously overvalued his hands and that his bet sizing was out of whack. I managed to switch seats to the guy's direct left and topped up to $500 to cover him, but couldn't get anything going. Instead, I only played two significant hands before we took a dinner break--and my decision to play with 250BBs had a big impact on this next hand.

A middle-aged black guy who had been nitting it up made his first raise of the night to 16$. I flat on the button with 97 and four of us see a T62 flop (64$). The BB leads into the original raiser for 30 and it's quickly raised up to 75$; action to me. Now, with 300$ (my normal starting stack), I think that this is a pretty mandatory shove. The original raiser has announced he has an overpair, I haven't played a hand, and I think there's a decent chance (25%?) that I can get folds around. With 500 behind, though, I don't like any option. A raise commits me to the hand, flatting may entice better flush draws into the pot, and folding...well, the idea of folding this flop makes me sad! Thoughts on the best line?

In the end, I do fold and fireworks ensue (in a characteristically weird way). The button (600+), an middle-aged guy who struck me as pretty bad, flats the 75$, the BB folds, and the turn brings the J. The original raiser bets 125$, the button shoves pretty quickly and gets tanked called by KK. The river brings a 6 and the button flips...AA! He scoops and I wonder wtf I should have done.

In the second hand, I make it 15$ to go into a straddle with AQ--the sizing was designed to entice a bad, shortstacked straddler into the pot--and got flatted on the button by the middle-aged guy in the previous hand. Flop A58 ($35), I bet 35$ and get minraised to 70$. In some spots I can just fold, but this villain was splashy, if passive, and had previously minraised/folding the flop. I ask myself, "can he be minraising with a weaker ace?," answer, "maybe," and call. Turn K, I check he bets 100$ I fold. He flashes 55.

***

After dinner, Bobby and I returned to different tables. Mine was reg-heavy and action-heavy, and I considered moving. After sticking around for a bit, though, I realized that the table could be very profitable. After about an orbit of folding I saw a hand that showed just how crazy the deepstacked Nola 1/2 games can be. It involved two asians--the first, a decent/good reg (1000+) and an unpredictable, spazzy reg (1000$). Decent reg isolates some limpers to 15$ and gets called in three spots: K87 flop. This is where the action gets insane. Before I continue, ask yourself: with which hands are you comfortable stacking off here for 500BBS? 77? 87? T9?

Spazzy reg checkraises the 40$ cbet to 100$, decent reg makes is 325$, spazz INSTASHIPS and decent reg goes into the tank before calling. K8 holds against the spazz's slowplayed AA and decent reg ships the 2K pot.

I switch to the spazzy reg's left and wait for a spot, which comes in the form of 43 in the BB. The action is limped and checked through to the 3Q6A turn, where I bet 10 into 10, get called, and then get checkraised to 60$ by Spazzy. I think about hidden outs and implied odds and decide to call. Turn J, he checks I bomb 130$, he gives a brief speech and calls.

I played one other significant hand in which I was able to valuetown the **** out of a mediocre/bad reg. I had seen the guy before--he's a young, Russian player--and noted that he was opening to $12 with a decent frequency. I thus decided to repop AK to 40$ on the button vs. Russia and a shortstacked flatter. Russia pauses, asks how many chips I have behind (I have him covered with 400$+), and he flats; the second guy folds.

Flop K 42 ($95) and I check behind. When he flats my raise I think his range is pretty clearly defined/capped at TT-QQ, AK and maybe KQ. Not much value to be had and I can disguise my own hand by checking. Turn 3, he checks I bet 60$--on the smallish side to get value from his weak range. He calls pretty quickly and the river brings the 6 (215$), he checks I bet 100$ and he basically snapcalls. I flip AK like it's the nuts and he mucks.

5.5 hours, +325$

Most of this session was spent folding garbage, so it's nice to book a decent win despite few good cards/spots. I'll be playing 2/5 either today or tomorrow for the first time in a while; let's hope that it goes well!
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Old 07-21-2013, 08:52 PM   #18
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In the 45cc hand jam river for value he would rarely check a flush or a boat oop otr.
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Old 07-21-2013, 09:19 PM   #19
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In the 45cc hand jam river for value he would rarely check a flush or a boat oop otr.
Thanks. Another important details was that, a few hands earlier, the guy shoved a paired board with the nut straight (and got paid off by a worse straight). So this would make it even less likely that he'd check to trap or b/c he was scared. My guess is he had a bare jack or busted draw and I missed some value.
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Old 07-22-2013, 04:24 PM   #20
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Session 3

Enter phase two of the trip: transitioning from 1/2 to the 2/5 game. I glanced at the 2/5 game running--it was filled with an older crowd and 500BB stacks--put my name on the list, and sat at a new 1/2 table for $300. I played two significant hands.

In the first, I complete with 99 from the sb along with 5 limpers. flop JT9 (12), I lead for ten and get two callers. Turn J, I bet 40 and one caller comes along. River low card, nondiamond (122$), I bet 75 and get looked up by Q8.

In the second, I make it 17 to go with AK from the sb and get three calls--including one from the button, a middle-aged man who was either tilting or just spewing. Flop KT8 (68$). I bet 40, all fold except the button, who calls with about 175$ behind. Turn K (148$) and I have a decision. Check to induce, or bet to get value? I check, he quickly checks behind. River 4, I check he checks. "Wow. Glad a club didn't come!" he remarked. Meh.

At this point the floor starts a new 2/5 game and I decide to play. My plan was pretty simple: start with a minbuy (200$) and look for chances to squeeze over a raise and a few calls or limp/reraise with a strong range. This would mean lots of folding and a chance to soak in the atmosphere and style of play. After shortstacking for two hours, I can understand why this strategy, while profitable, is probably nonexistent in live games. foldfoldfoldfoldfoldfoldfoldfoldfoldfoldfoldfoldfo ldfoldshovefoldfoldfoldfoldfold

The best part of my session, then, wasn't any hands that I played but having the chance to watch one player absolutely own our table. He is, I believe, a pretty regular player who made a deep run in the Main Event a year or two ago; I had seen him around and wondered how he would play. Now, I'd finally get the chance to see. In short, the guy ran over the table; it was a lot of fun to watch. On literally the first hand, it limps around 4 ways to a A88 flop and is checked through to a 7 turn. Our hero (who I'll call Ryan ) checks from the BB and an older guy bets, he calls. River Q, completing the flush. Older guy bets 25 or so, Ryan makes a confused face, calls, and his 74o is good.

After isolating limpers to 25 and taking down pots with a few cbets, Ryan autostacked an asian guy who, with 500$ effective, limped and called a 30$ raise from the sb. Flop 982 (bet/call), turn 2 (bet/call) river T (shove/call). Ryan flips KK and wins.

One hand confused me and showed me just how profitable these games can be. Ryan opens XX to 25 and gets calls from two older guys (both $400ish effective). He cbets 30 into 75 on an A34 flop and gets raised to 90 by the first guy; the second guy coldcalls the 90 and Ryan calls as well. Turn blank--like the 8--the original raiser checks, second guy shoves for 175$, Ryan calls original raiser calls. What does Ryan have in this spot? Can you profitably calls with a flush draw here? In any case the river bricks, Ryan mucks, the two older guys chop with AT

Since our 2/5 was a must move, I switched to the main game where, once again, I did nothing but fold and observe. I may have missed a profitable chance to shove on the very first hand. In a straddled pot, UTG (huge stack, 5K I'd guess) makes it 25 to go and gets three calls. I look down at AJo and consider shipping. I think this is a close decision--AJsooted I probably shove--but my lack of reads/no table dynamic led me to a fold. Whether or not this is a shove with 200$ (I think it's close), these are the kind of spots I'll be looking for if I shortbuy at 2/5 or 5/10. Spots where I can get folds with dead money or flip getting 2:1.

3.5 hours, +165.

I have two or three sessions left in me. Need to find out when the 5/10 runs during the week...I think it's Tuesday or Wednesday but must double check.
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Old 07-28-2013, 04:56 PM   #21
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Is the Pelican a Good Mascot for a Sports Team? conclusion

Alas! Some life stuff prevented me from shottaking the 5/10 game. And by "life stuff" I mean getting hit by a truck while biking back from the French Quarter

Nevertheless, despite a broken arm and some bruises, your faithful hero vows to continue writing about his poker adventures. And there were some exciting stories to be had--especially a game that featured perhaps the biggest drooler I've ever encountered.

After resting for a few days and preparing for my return trip to Houston, I played one more session of 1/2. I was in for a treat. A regular in the room whom I'd heard of but never played with--he's a middle-aged asian guy I'll call MegaDonk--sat down with $500 and immediately started spewing. The distinctive thing about Mega was his jovial attitude; the guy might win or lose a thousand dollar pot, but he won and lost with an irrepressible cheeriness that's impossible to fake. The guy truly loved to gamble.

His main foil was a young asian reg who ran over the table with well-timed aggression and supreme rungood. The kid (I'll call him Destin, after his hat) was an online transplant who had clearly worked out the kinks of his live game and was crushing. I had played with him once before--he was the same guy who won a 2K pot vs. aces with top two on a K8x board--and he had a very good grasp of game flow, villain dynamics, and relative hand strength. Plus he had history with Mega, with served Destin well after
he checkraised a KTT board to about 125$ vs a cbet and a call. Mega called the flop raise, called again on a 7turn, and shoved in his last 200$ on a 5. "I call," said Destin, showing QT. "Did you river me?" "Noooo," said Mega cheerfully, flipping 33, "but I try to make you think that!"

Destin went on to win a monster pot vs. a clueless older lady who, with about 900$ effective, raised 20$ preflop (aces or kings always) and, on a 762 board raised a donkbet from 30 to 200$. Destin, who had flatted on the button and has oldlady covered, goes into the tank and raises it up to 500$. Older lady snap shoves, Destin calls and flips 54, he binks and wins a 2K pot. Vs. a player who's folding <5% of the time, are you happy raising and getting in your monster draw here? Or is there merit to just flatting the 200$ and seeing a turn? Yet another example of how playing deep can lead to some very rare/difficult decisions.

I limped 87o after a few limpers on the button on Mega's BB. Flop 762 (10), checks to me I bet 10 and get two callers, 5 turn (40$). Action checks through to the 7 river, Mega donks 50$ and I win vs. King hi.

The action went on like this for about two hours, with Mega winning or losing (usually losing) huge pots, happily marching over to the ATM, and returning with a fresh wad of hundreds. At this point I had largely stayed out of the fray, aiming to wait for a good spot. With 4 limpers to me on the button I raised A3 to 20 and get three limp/calls, Mega included. While I often limp behind with this hand, the table was extremely deep; at the time, I was the short stack with $600 effective. My goal here is to raise speculative hands like suited connectors or pairs so that I can get paid when I hit. The flop comes A53 (90$), I cbet 60$ and Mega calls. Turn 7 (210$), I bet $125, he tanks and shoves for 490$ total.

The turn shove surprised me, since Mega had been choosing to bluff-shove rivers after chasing and failing to hit his draws. I go into the tank. He can have all combos of 24 and 46, he can have a better two pair, I tell myself. Would he shove air here? Is he that crazy? After a few minutes I fold for two reasons: (1) he hadn't shoved the turn as a bluff, and his line is very strong; and (2) I had nitted my way around the table for the most part, even leading Destin to comment on my "tight image," which would make Mega less likely to go after me. Both reasons, it turned out, were less relevant than Mega's maniacal tendencies: he flipped J5 and raked the pot.

After kicking myself for bet/folding the turn, I played for another hour or so, booking a very unsatisfying win. In the meantime, Destin got the best of Mega once again in a characteristically wild hand. Flop A24 (can't remember preflop action), Destin checkraises a 50$ Mega cbet and call to 175$, Mega calls second guy fold. Turn 3 (450$+), Destin tanks and bets 250$, Mega calls with 700$ going to the river, which is the Q (1050$+). Destin bets 250$, Mega shoves for 700$ and get snappcalled by Destin's K7. "Nice hand!" cheers Mega, who flips QQ for rivered trips before journeying back to the ATM.

5.5 hours, +160. Unhappy about the A3 hand, but I'll live and learn (that's the hope, at least!). I'm on a pokerplaying hiatus for the time being--heading up to Montana to visit my brother; anyone want to see some grizzlybear pics?---but I have some other posts coming soon. Next up should be a review of
The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King.
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Old 07-31-2013, 03:20 PM   #22
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

King of a Small World is a must-read. Like Rounders, the book doesn't dwell on poker but uses it as a springboard to touch on a variety of powerful themes. While the writing isn't quite as good as the acting in Rounders (but, really, how could it be?), Bennett has written a gripping story. Read this book![/QUOTE]

This book is basically taken from real life, when the "charity" poker rooms were running in Prince Georges County Maryland. I played with a lot of the characters who are depicted in the book back in the 90s. It's a very true to life depiction of that poker scene.
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Old 07-31-2013, 04:41 PM   #23
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time, by Michael Craig (Warner Books, 2005)



"I think there was more pressure on everybody because it was so high. I could see the people playing in it were affected by it a little bit. That's what he wanted to do. Get everybody out of their element. And I think he did it a little bit with $100,000-$200,000 because after it was over, we all said, 'No, we're never going to do that again.'" --Doyle Brunson (239-40)


In February 2001 Andy Beal, a highly successful banker and entrepreneur, came to Vegas and sat down for some poker. After growing bored with the "small" limits of 80/160, he casually requested a higher-stakes game--much higher. News spread quickly among the sharks. Who was this bold fool playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars? After a few sessions, the pros were forced to ask: Who was this bold fool winning hundreds of thousands?

And so a rivalry was born. On about ten occasions from 2001 to 2004, Beal played heads-up limit holdem against some of the best players in the poker world. The core group of players involved--known as "The Corporation"-- included Todd and Doyle Brunson (the reluctant ringleader), Jen Harmon, Chip Reese, Chau Giang, Howard Lederer, and Ted Forrest. Peripheral players included Barry Greenstain, Gus Hansen, and even the Great One himself, Phil Ivey. The matches ranged from stakes of $4000-$8000 to a staggering $100,000-$200,000. The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King is Michael Craig's well-researched, gripping account of these matches and the players involved.

Who is Andy Beal?

Andy Beal is the Chuck Norris of the intellectual world. Beal got started in real estate at only twenty-four, transitioning to a number of other ventures until he turned to banking in the late eighties. By 1992, Beal Bank was worth 1.2 billion in assets (92). Much of his success--including his approach to poker and to risk itself--involved flouting accepted wisdom: "By ignoring, and even contradicting, conventional wisdom, he became extremely wealthy" (7).

But Beal's successes didn't begin or end with money. After establishing himself in the finance world, Beal branched out to such arcane subjects as theoretical mathematics; he spent considerable time working out his "Beal Conjecture" (http://www.bealconjecture.com/). In 1997, after studying satellite technology, he launched Beal Aerospace. After numerous setbacks the company closed in 2000, with Beal reportedly spending 200 million dollars of his own money. Nevertheless, Beal insisted that "it was a wonderful experience, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, not even the money I spent on it" (96).

Despite enormous success, Beal remained unassuming. "If his money made him a public figure," Craig tells us, "it was not with his consent. To the contrary, he delighted in his relative anonymity. He rarely gave interviews (and usually regretted it afterward) and kept his business out of the public eye as much as possible. He had a strong social conscience, but there were no Beal medical centers or colleges, nor were there Beal foundations doing the good deeds he supported. He never indulged, like other members of the Texas super-rich, in a sports team, television station, or reality show" (93).

Beal remained--and remains--an enigma: one of the great entrepreneurial minds of the twentieth century, a colossal figure in Dallas real estate and business, and yet he managed to remain largely anonymous (indeed, we learn that the Bellagio allowed him to register under the name "Anonymous") (6).

Beal vs. The Corporation

Thanks to an obsessive work ethic, a love of numbers, and an endless bankroll, Beal eventually turned his attention to poker. Initially, Beal was outmatched during his early skirmishes with Todd Brunson, Chip Reese, Ted Forrest, and others. But as his obsessive nature kicked in, Beal began making demands and concocting strategies that would keep his competition off-balance:

*requiring that matches be played heads-up in order to prevent collusion
*arriving spontaneously in Vegas
*demanding matches at 7am
*and--most famously--negotiating astronomical stakes for the matches, hoping that the money involved would throw the pros off their game

In order to mask any conceivable tells, Beal bough dark sunglasses and

"built a tiny battery-operated motor that he placed inside his sock. The motor would issue a small vibration every eight second. Andy would make his decision--fold, check, call, bet, raise-in whatever amount of time it took to decide. But he would wait to act on the decision until the next vibration. That could be a half-second or up to eight seconds after he actually decided what to do. There would be no pattern to how long it took Beal to bluff, slow-play, check and call, or make other decisions during a hand" (153).

Eventually, the skill gap began to close. As the stakes rose to 100K/200K and the swings entered the tens of millions, Andy hung with the pros blow-for-blow--and this, despite getting minimal rest and facing an array of strategies.

Hero vs...Hero?

As readers, are we expected to take a side? and which side?

On the one hand, with The Corporation, you have an assortment of personalities and egos so diverse that it seems impossible to lump them into any one category. Among this eclectic group, I enjoyed Craig's portrait of Ted Forrest the most. The opening scene of the book--when Forrest stumbles into the opening heads-up match between Beal and Chip Reese, sits down with his own money, and wins over a million dollars--is unforgettable. It isn't hard to embrace the group of pros as the deserving heroes of Craig's book: their edge in poker doesn't mask their underdog status in life, which lets us appreciate their victory over the Texas billionaire businessman.

For me, though, Andy Beal is the hero of this book. One of the most inspiring parts of Beal's story is his tenacity and willingness to master the skills of almost any field imaginable--real estate, mathematics, space flight, and (of course) limit holdem. And, as we've seen, he doesn't represent the ugly side of big business: its extravagance, conservatism, elitism. Instead, he offers a refreshing contrast to showy elitism; he's the Anonymous who cares more about a new challenge than any dollar sign.

In the end, though, a great virtue of Craig's narrative is that it doesn't take sides--and neither must we. I found myself rooting for Beal and The Corporation as they battled on the felt. Here were two sides that, despite superficial differences, surely had even more in common. In a way they were united in a battle against the status quo and conventional thinking.

Round Two...Macau?

Despite differences in personality, temperament, and sleep schedules, The Corporation successfully "wins" the contest against Beal. The showdown ended as it began: abruptly, with no indication whether the games would resume again. After some verbal sniping, Beal issued a final challenge:

"Put up or shut up. Come to Dallas and play me for four hours a day and i will play until one of us runs out of money or cries uncle. If your play is so great and your wins have been as large as you claim, you should have plenty of bankroll and be jumping at the chance to come and play another 100,000-200,000 game and win a lot more money" (255). Beal remains defiant, undefeated, and a formidable poker player. Indeed, Barry Greenstein admitted that, if they accepted Beal's challenge to play him in Dallas, "it's not guaranteed that we'll win. Andy's a pretty good player."

Beal has recently turned sixty and a rematch hasn't happened. Maybe it never will. But who knows? Macau is only a plane ride away.


Notes and Questions

How would the contest change if the game was no limit instead of limit? Beal's interest in limit makes sense, given his interest in math and its ability to "solve" different games.


Is Beal admirable or foolish? There's no question that his desire to play and beat the best is admirable--up to a point. But perhaps his boldness tips over into foolishness. Can he really think that he has an edge on the best players in the world? Or is he simply a gambler looking for an edge? I came across an interesting discussion of this subject on Andrew Brokos's blog Thinkingpoker.net (well worth checking out, btw). One poster, after reading Brokos's book review, raised precisely this question about Beal's zeal for competition. Is Beal in it for an "edge" or merely for "action"? As Brokos puts it,

"The distinction between “action” and “edge” is a good one. Although I play poker for a living, I don’t consider myself a gambler. I never touch table games, I don’t bet sports or horses, and neither winning nor losing is particularly exciting to me. Obviously I like winning, but not in a thrilling, roller-coaster sort of way that I understand to be the experience of the gambler. Most importantly, I don’t find losing to be exciting. I’m generally far more likely to get despondent and quit than to be driven by losses to keep playing to get even, move up in stakes, etc. I think you’re mountain-climbing analogy is a good one. If anything, Beal was addicted the challenge, and the money was just a tool he was using to overcome it.

Actually, it’s interesting that you chose mountain climbing. The little bit that I’ve read about it (primarily Krakauer’s Into Thin Air) makes it sound very much like an addiction/compulsion that avid climbers can barely control. It seems that at some point, virtually everyone who attempts a dangerous climb such as Everest looks back on it with regret, whether he was successful or not. They feel foolish to have taken such a crazy risk, yet they felt at the time they had no choice and would have been driven crazy if they hadn’t attempted it" (http://www.thinkingpoker.net/2010/01...-daniel-craig/).

I think that the mountain-climber analogy is an apt one, as is the tragic rise and fall of Chris McCandless, the hiker from Krakaeur's Into the Wild who lost his life wandering in Alaska. It seems that there's always a fine line between courage and foolishness.


Cliffs: A group of Vegas rounders play an ultra-high stakes game of poker against one Texas billionaire. This almost mythical showdown had some serious potential as a book idea, and Michael Craig delivers in a big way. The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King is the most gripping poker book I've read so far.


Off to Montana! I may have a chance to put in a session or two on the tail end of the trip.
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Old 07-31-2013, 07:54 PM   #24
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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Originally Posted by jrr63 View Post

This book is basically taken from real life, when the "charity" poker rooms were running in Prince Georges County Maryland. I played with a lot of the characters who are depicted in the book back in the 90s. It's a very true to life depiction of that poker scene.
Did you get a chance to meet the author? He must have played a lot in those games. I enjoy the fact that guys like Rick Bennett exist. He's written maybe one novel, isn't really known, and then--BAM--King of a Small World just emerges out of thin air. I wonder what he's done since.
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Old 07-31-2013, 09:52 PM   #25
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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Did you get a chance to meet the author? He must have played a lot in those games. I enjoy the fact that guys like Rick Bennett exist. He's written maybe one novel, isn't really known, and then--BAM--King of a Small World just emerges out of thin air. I wonder what he's done since.
I may have met him but did not know it. I think he left the scene about the time I got there. But several of the characters in the book I knew pretty well. One of the dedicatees, Cong Do, basically taught me how to play limit holdem (saw him this year at WSOP - playing the high limit games in Bobby's Room now). "Sam" ran home games (as described in the book) - played in them for a few years. I always expected to see another book - not sure what the story is.
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