Saturday, February 12, 2011
Mike Caro recently posted an interesting riddle on his blog: "What's the weakest hold'em hand you can have and still end up on the river with an absolute certainty of victory?"
Friday, February 11, 2011
This is from the Bulletin of Pharmacy, volume 17, page 154. It is a lecture delivered to pharmacy students at the University of Michigan in 1903. I don't know where the speaker got the story. It may well be apocryphal. But it's something that Twain ought to have said, whether he really did or not. I direct your attention to the second paragraph below:
Now here's something that we can attribute to Twain much more confidently:
ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS--[Written about 1865.]
"MORAL STATISTICIAN."--I don't want any of your statistics; I took your whole batch and lit my pipe with it. I hate your kind of people. You are always ciphering out how much a man's health is injured, and how much his intellect is impaired, and how many pitiful dollars and cents he wastes in the course of ninety-two years' indulgence in the fatal practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal practice of drinking coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in taking a glass of wine at dinner, etc., etc., etc. And you are always figuring out how many women have been burned to death because of the dangerous fashion of wearing expansive hoops, etc., etc., etc. You never see more than one side of the question. You are blind to the fact that most old men in America smoke and drink coffee, although, according to your theory, they ought to have died young; and that hearty old Englishmen drink wine and survive it, and portly old Dutchmen both drink and smoke freely, and yet grow older and fatter all the time. And you never try to find out how much solid comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment a man derives from smoking in the course of a lifetime (which is worth ten times the money he would save by letting it alone), nor the appalling aggregate of happiness lost in a lifetime by your kind of people from not smoking. Of course you can save money by denying yourself all the little vicious enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do with it? What use can you put it to? Money can't save your infinitesimal soul. All the use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment, where is the use of accumulating cash? It won't do for you to say that you can use it to better purpose in furnishing a good table, and in charities, and in supporting tract societies, because you know yourself that you people who have no petty vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you stint yourselves so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and hungry. And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor wretch, seeing you in a good humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you; and in church you are always down on your knees, with your eyes buried in the cushion, when the contribution-box comes around; and you never give the revenue officers a full statement of your income. Now you know these things yourself, don't you? Very well, then what is the use of your stringing out your miserable lives to a lean and withered old age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless to you? In a word, why don't you go off somewhere and die, and not be always trying to seduce people into becoming as "ornery" and unlovable as you are yourselves, by your villainous "moral statistics"? Now I don't approve of dissipation, and I don't indulge in it, either; but I haven't a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices, and so I don't want to hear from you any more. I think you are the very same man who read me a long lecture last week about the degrading vice of smoking cigars, and then came back, in my absence, with your reprehensible fireproof gloves on, and carried off my beautiful parlor stove.
That's from Twain's Sketches New and Old, published in 1882, available from Project Gutenberg here.
Wolynski also quoted Fran Lebowitz. Many years ago there was a segment on "60 Minutes" about smoking. Mike Wallace (I think) asked Lebowitz something like this: "Doesn't it bother you that you could die from smoking?" She answered approximately this: "It would, if I thought that otherwise I wouldn't die from anything else."
Thursday, February 10, 2011
I just finished a home game on PokerStars. I was heads-up with Mrs. Lederer for the title and $15 in first-prize money. She had survived into the money only because when there were five of us left, she sucked out both a low and a flush with AA3 to beat my AAK in stud/8, capped on 3rd and all in on 4th street.
I had taken a substantial chip lead when this hand came up, capped on 3rd, all in on 4th:
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Something that I've come to think about is that perhaps there's something about the world of poker players that's fundamentally unhealthy. This generation of online poker players and its culture has existed for less than ten years, yet I've always had some assumption lodged deep in my psyche that if I'm not finding happiness through poker that it's just something wrong with me. And yet, there are so many people at every level of poker who are so deeply unhappy. It leaves me wondering.
And perhaps that's what really is the most difficult challenge for this generation of poker players. To infiltrate a world that is at its root, deeply unhealthy and imbalanced. To grab this bull called poker by its horns and to try to tame it for as long as we can. We hold on, and the bull bucks and tries to throw us into the droves of insanity around us. Some hold on, some don't. And maybe some are being dragged along the ground by this bull, and think they're still okay because they haven't let go. I remember writing over a year ago that as much as we learn about the game of poker, nobody really teaches us how to live as poker players. Nobody teaches us when we're supposed to let go of the bull.
A couple of years ago, I explained in gory detail the proper method of stacking one's chips at the table. I'm sure some readers thought I was kidding, but I wasn't. During the first few hands after joining a game, it is far, far more important to segregate out the commemorative chips and get them hidden away from view than it is to do stuff like watching the action, figuring out how opponents are playing, and so forth. This is especially true at the Luxor, because the Criss Angel chips are just plain creepy. He's giving you the stinkeye, and if you leave his face exposed to view from the tops of your chip stacks, it will curse your game. These are just scientific facts, folks. The freaky chips must be buried underneath regular chips as quickly as possible.
It is because of my habit of doing this that I noticed something recently. For the three years or so that Angel has been at the Luxor, the Angel poker chips have consistently amounted to a little under half of the total chips in circulation. I'd buy into a game, segregate my chips when I wasn't in a hand, and find that usually there were a few more generic chips than Angel chips, but a nearly equal balance.
But last month when I played at the Luxor, after having not been there for a couple of months, there was a drastic change. I bought in for $200, and only 2 of the 40 chips were Angel ones. I thought this might be an anomaly (i.e., maybe the guy who had cashed out right before I got there separated his chips, too, so the ones I got weren't representative), but I watched the rest of that session as other players' chips went into the pot, and that ratio was fairly consistent throughout.
This, however, was a one-time observation, a single data point. Last night I added a second one. I played at the Luxor again, bought in for $200, and had just one Angel chip among the 40 I was given. Again I watched chips going into the pot, and again the creepy chips were almost completely absent.
This can't be a coincidence. The fraction of commemorative $5 chips cannot go from nearly 50% to less than 5% over the course of a couple of months without the casino taking active steps to make this happen. It appears that the Luxor has instructed its cashiers (or the people behind the cashiers, in the secluded counting/sorting area) to selectively take the Angel chips out of circulation as they come through.
This is not unprecedented. I have written before about noticing that the Venetian had pulled its Gordie Brown chips out of circulation when he moved over to the Golden Nugget, and that Ceasars Palace had done the same when Celine Dion ended her run there.
But if I'm right that the Luxor is deliberately pulling Criss Angel chips out of circulation, it will be the first time I've noticed this happening before the act is terminated. It makes me suspicious that somebody at the Luxor has already decided that Angel is on the way out. Obviously, I have no hard evidence of this, just this one very peculiar observation. It's no secret, of course, that his show has been struggling since it opened, almost universally panned by critics and ordinary patrons alike.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe what I have observed is just a crazy fluke. Or maybe there's some other explanation for it. But my prediction is that before the end of the year, we will see Angel and the Luxor part ways, and this will have been one of the early indicators of it.
The last ten days have been my worst-ever struggles with technology. My new computer had a catastrophic failure, as I mentioned several days ago. Turns out that one of the RAM modules went bad, which was causing all sorts of random, sudden crashes. Then either that or the extensive testing of them that I did to diagnose the problem caused the operating system to get corrupted, leading to inability to perform basic tasks (like access the Internet), even when the crashes had mostly ceased. A couple of days in the repair shop and about $250 later and I'm back in business. Nearly everything is working again. Now my main problem is mess and disorganization. The repair place did a partial data backup and restoration, then I had Carbonite send me my data back. That led to a bunch of duplication and confusion, especially since Carbonite stores and retrieves even stuff that I deleted weeks and even months ago. The hard drive is just a big mess now, making it hard to find stuff. But at least things are operational. I haven't played any online poker for these ten days now. I'll try it in a day or two to be sure that's all still working normally, too. I haven't specifically looked for my "casino photos" folder, but I'm confident that it's lurking in there somewhere. Sometime in the next few days I'll locate it and restart some GTC posts.
Monday, February 07, 2011
That's what this is:
Sunday, February 06, 2011
My computer is back and apparently healthy, but I'm still having to do lots of work to restore everything to the way it was. Carbonite backup service is really paying off, but it's going to take more than another 24 hours to get everything back to me.