Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
Now Available on Smashwords for Kindle and other ebook readers!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

That's Pretty Cool

Poker Championship

I have registered to play in the
Online Poker Blogger Championship!

This event is powered by PokerStars.

Registration code: 9158749

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Not theatre. God knows I'm overly familiar with those right now. But here's the logo for our upcoming show, in case anyone's interested. It's not a pro-nazi show, it very much details in documentary fashion the crime spree committed by The Order, a group of white supremacists in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-80s. I've learned more about racialist extremists in the past 10 weeks than I ever wanted to know, and I'm sure that I'm on several watch lists for my Ebay and Amazon research orders. Did you know that you can buy fully automatic BB guns on Ebay that are full-size replicas of real guns?

Anyway - Maudie has a great post today referencing a great post by Hank about stages of development as a poker player. It got me to thinking, which is usually hazardous to my health. I've been at this for about a year now, and over the last few months have finally made it to the point where my one $1400 tournament win constitutes less than half my annual winnings, so that's pretty good. I think I'm developing as a player, reading, studying, learning to pay attention when not in a hand, all that jazz. But every time I think I've made a step, I read the blogs of my compatriots and see how low on the learning scale they rank themselves.

That amazes me. I've played with and been schooled by some of these folks, and either they seriously under-rate themselves as card players, or they know a lot mo betta players than I do.

For the record, I think I'm on Stage 2 on Hank's scale - I'm learning. I figure I'll be here a while, because with all the stuff I'm learning, putting it into play is still the challenge, and I get these Ta-Da moments every now and then when I can combine a good read with a "blink" moment to make the right call against all the other indicators, or when my opponent says "he senses weakness" and folds while I'm thinking "yeah I sense weakness, look at how you're holding your cards - you're just looking for an excuse to fold!" Lots to think about, and when you see people whose strategy posts you read rank themselves as learning, I start to think well if they think they're still learning, then I must be WAY behind. Not any kind of self-deprecating crap, I still have an ego the size of Cleveland, but just useful info.


Missed the Bash at the Boathouse. Rehearsals.

The only thing worse than missing what you absolutely know was a helluva party, is reading the trip reports afterwards that prove that is was a helluva party.Check out the blogroll and read the reports - especially Otis.

Now I have to go bonus whoring to build up for the Vegas trip. If I can clear the Titan bonus, I'm totally there.

Show goes into tech on Sunday so not much poker til after we open. Still running the SNGs on Stars, have bumped up the the $10 single-tables, and the play is significantly worse at the $10 level than at the $5 level, at least this week. Waiting for the variance bus to come around the corner again and run my monkey ass over, though.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I'm not dead yet

Been a busy week or so. I was the host and Production Manager for the 2nd Annual Metrolina Theatre Awards this past Sunday, so that took up most of my free time until now, between actually doing the work and recovering from it. The event went well, with several hundred theatre folks from the Charlotte region converging on the McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square to celebrate the work that has been done in our area over the past year. Dozens of awards were given out in categories like best actor, director, and design.

And I finally won! In my 8th time being nominated for a lighting design award in Charlotte, I was named Best Lighting Designer for the Drama category for my work on Anna Karenina. I was really happy, and proud, because I worked my ass off on that show, and it was nice to be recognized for it. Above is a picture of me with my award.

Yes, I wore a kilt. For part of the time. In true awards-show host fashion, I had several costume changes, including two tuxedos and the kilt.

To stay somewhat on topic, the local theatre folks had their monthly “rehearsal” last night, with a $20 buy-in. I came in 2nd, busting out Old Gus after I crippled him with AJ spades, and slowplaying trip 7s to send Chip packing. Chris S. came back and took me out when his KJ off paired a Jack on the turn against my AQ diamonds, doubling him up. He finished me off by catching a flush on the river to bust my top pair, King kicker. I grabbed $50 for 2nd, so I was profitable, and more importantly, I got my money in with the best cards both times, so I feel pretty good about my play. I don’t think I made any real critical mistakes all tourney, paid a little too much for information a couple of times, but I play with these guys a lot, so it will be worth it in the long run.

Happy Late Birthday to Pauly! Sorry I missed the blogger game, but I was playing live and making money.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina Tournament

The only thing remarkable about the tournament tonight was the turnout for a good cause. Over 2,000 people registered, meaning that over $20K was raised for Katrina relief efforts! And this was only the first of 4 scheduled tourneys. Another kudos to Wil for getting that thing set up.

My play went like it has gone all week - less than stellar. I managed to outlast the ghosts, which was decent. I think I went out #528, which at least outlasted Pauly. Good thing, since he registered but didn't play! Something about being on an airplane, geez. Anyway, my KK got cracked by an AQ turning an Ace, then some other BS hand I had got blown up.

But that isn't what matters. What matters is that over 2,000 people got together t do something good for their fellow human beings, in a field where we're usually considered gamblers, reprobates, and degenerates. Of course, we ARE all those things, but that's irrelevant.

Go read my other blog for more random shite in my life, I'm trying to keep this fucker on topic.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sit N Go Strategy

I usually don't do strategy posts, because I suck too much. But I've taken one portion of my game over the last couple of weeks and focused just on that. And it obviously isn't my live play, as you can see from the last few posts on that. So here are my observations on the fishpond that is itty-bitty sit n go tourneys.

I play these all the time. Right now my schedule is: work, rehearse, get home about 10-10:30, log into Stars, play one or two $5 SNGs, sleep. These little tourneys are perfect for my schedule right now, since I'm directing a show and don't have a ton of time in the evenings to play.

For those unfamiliar with the structure (and if you are, how the hell did you find this blog?), a sit n' go tournament is typically a single-table (although all the major sites now offer multi-table SNGs) tournament with an unscheduled start time. Once all seats are filled, the tourney starts. I play mostly at Pokerstars, which has a 9-person SNG format. Party Poker and Empire have 10-person tables, but the tourney fee at Stars is only $.50 rather than $1, so even with the extra $5 in the prize pool at Party, the fee is higher, so you have to win a greater frequency to make profit. At these levels, it really does matter.

Payout in a single-table SNG (and that's all I'm talking about, so I won't refer to them as single-table anymore) is top 3. #1 = $22.50, #2 = $13.50, #3 = 9. There is no difference between 4th and 9th, except to bust out 4th you've wasted a lot more time to get your big bag of nothing.

Here's how I play them. This strategy doesn't necessarily work at higher limits, but I don't know, because I'm still building my online bankroll to be able to play the higher limits. It DOESN'T work on Friday or Saturday nights after 11PM, as that's when the drunks are out, and they will draw out on you every time, because God protects drunks and fools. I've kinda laid this out by blind levels/# of players.

Level 1-3 (7-9 players) - Usually in the first level of blinds you'll lose at least one player. If you have found a particularly lovely table, you'll lose 2-3 folks in the first level of blinds. If you do, mark these people on a buddy list and chase them down, because they will either be (a) good players that got a bad beat or, usually (b) people that play the early stages too aggressively and you desperately want to play against them more often.

The key to these first levels is DON'T BE A DUMBASS. Don't overvalue anything. Be willing to dump any hand. Limp never, unless you're the button or a blind. Raise with AA,KK,QQ,AK and that's IT. Dump anything else. Don't play bad aces, even if they're soooted. Especially if they're soooted. Frankly, just apply that line to your game throughout. But anyway. Accumulating chips in these early stages makes you feared, yes, but it also makes you a target, and you don't want to be a target. You want to be the quiet guy, watching everybody else play, watch their stacks flow up and down, then watch them fade away. Remember that #4-#9 get paid the exact same thing - NOTHING. So stay out of the way unless you have a great hand and a chance to send someone packing. Your goal here is survival.

Level 4-6 (3-6 Players) - Life on the bubble. Continue to stay out of the way. Dodge the big stacks. Don't get pissy when they steal your blinds. The blinds are still cheap enough to not matter, and if you haven't done anything stupid you've probably still got $1200-1300 in chips, which is 8-10xBB, more than enough to make moves in a tourney where there's only a total of $13,500 chips on the table.

These are the levels, though, when you begin to switch gears and steal a few blinds. Button steals are strong moves here, as are strong raises out of either blind, as long as you stay away from challenging the big stacks. Also stay away from challenging stacks that are short, but still big enough to cripple you if you double them up. Yes, you should take any opportunity to knock someone out, but pay attention to whether or not a short stack is going to feel pot-committed if you re-raise them with A10 preflop. You don't need to play a lot of hands. Actually, the fewer you play, the better. I typically play no more than 20% of my hands (including blinds) until I'm in the money. Don't call raises and re-raises unless you're holding the nuts, because someone WILL go all-in.

Note that I'm never even thinking about what my opponent has at these levels. While this is not a typically good strategy, half the time in these low-limit SNGs, my opponents barely are operating at Level 0 thinking, which makes my Level 1 thinking just good enough to win. And why think harder than I need to? Laziness is the mother of efficiency, after all.

When you get down to four players, if you've played solid poker up to this point, you should be 2nd or 3rd in chips, with one really big stack (about 50% of the chips in play) and one really short stack (about 5-8% of the chips in play). You should be able to time things right to pick off this short stack and then make the money. Once you hit four players, the short stack is wearing a target on their chest, so make sure if it's you, the target is Kevlar. Don't get cute. That's my mantra on the bubble. Don't overplay suited connectors, they're not even worth calling a raise when you know the big stack is pushing with an Ace-small. It's not worth being busted. So let it ride, and be ready to flip the switch when the fourth player is busted.

Late Game - 3 players - In the money. Your goal had been accomplished, you have now not wasted your time and money. Worst case, you're profitable for this tourney. Now flip the switch, give it a little nitrous, and your previous rock-like demeanor goes into hyper-aggressive mode. You were playing to make the money. Done that, bought the T-shirt. Now play to win.

Aggressive raises preflop are the way to go here. Yes, you will watch your stack bounce like a Superball, but it will overall continue to grow. Previously unplayable hands are now worth 4xBB raises, because your opponents are off-guard. You will show down next to nothing for the first ten hands of 3-handed play, because if you have junk, you toss it preflop, but suited connectors, any two painted cards, any ace-middle or suited kings or aces are raising hands. If you get a re-raise, dump it unless it's a premium hand. Don't be afraid of the over-the-top push, expecially against the other middle stack. They won't have made the shift, and are playing for 2nd place money. You don't care about 2nd, you've locked up profit, now you want first.

Really, don't show down many hands here, you want folks to think you're raising with junk when you have the nuts, and think you have the nuts when you've got rags. DON'T flash your cards when your opponent folds. NO MATTER WHAT. Time Warner Cable won't send me Constantine if I don't pay-per-view, why would you give your opponent information they haven't paid for?

Exceptions are when you have MASSIVE Implied Tilt Odds - a concept I stole from Phil Gordon's book. If you have a good chance of throwing a tight opponent on tile by flashing a stone cold bluff, by all means show the Hammer.

I'm not suggesting that you raise every hand, or go all-in every time you have an ace. Just open very wide the gates of playable hands, and push with your bullshit as often as you push with real cards. You still will have to exhibit good decision-making, especially when your opponents get pissy about this tactic and re-raise you all in. That's usually a good time to fold and tighten back up for a few hands.

The key to think about is that for the first few levels, you just want to stay out of the way, accumulate a few chips to hold your own, and make the money. But once you make the money, it's balls to the wall, full-tilt boogie until you drag the last pot, leaving your opponents to wonder where that 6-1 chip lead they had went.

I'll be back later for heads-up stuff, but I'm still dialing in my heads-up strategy, so once I figure it out, I'll share it with you.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ah shit, Iggy was right.

So a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...okay, it was last month at Bradoween, when I mentioned in Iggy's presence the stakes and terms of our little weekly home game ($10 buy-ins, etc) and he mentioned to Dr. Jeff "Dude, don't play on that game, you'll develop sooo many bad habits." At the time I was a little offended. I think I suck slightly less than the average trout, and I manage to do pretty well at our little game usually.

Shit, Iggy was right. Over the past couple of weeks I have played like the biggest fucking fish in the world, and it's bled over into my online play, too. I managed to scrape through last weekend as an utter calling station and stay up by a whopping $4 after 4 hours. It's getting tough to take the stakes seriously, which is why I bumped the minimum buy-in up to $20. Still puny, I know, but 3-4 buy-ins at $20 is about all my friends are willing to lay out, so it'll probably stay there. I just need to drill some discipline into my sorry ass and not call with shit because "it's just $.50. or It's just a buck." I did at least manage to throw some discipline back into my online play, cashing in 4 out of 5 SNGs in the last week, so that's got me feeling a little better, but I have to translate some real tightness into my live play, especially since I have a table image that makes G-Rob look like a rock. So while the invitation is wide open for any folks in Charlotte to join our little game, you may develop really bad habits as a result. Or just take money from the fishies, which is never a bad thing.

On a separate note, would any of the folks that read this be interested in a decent-sized buyin tourney in November? I'm thinking the Saturday after Thanksgiving, for a $50 buy-in. Lemme know if anybody from around is willing or interested in coming around.



Tuesday, September 06, 2005


The Fat Guy is right. We can't get anything done anymore without going through 18 layers of paperwork and bullshit.

My day job is, oddly enough, not a poker player. Not really that odd for any of you that have played with me. I work for a theatrical lighting distributor, one of the largest in the world. We supply lighting equipment and expendables to movies, theatres, tv stations, etc. One thing we have hundreds of is batteries. I hear from a friend of mine that the emergency services folks in the gulf are in desperate need of batteries to get their radios and flashlights and other shite working. So I call the Red Cross, and tell them that I have hundreds of C, D, 9V and AA batteries available for donation to the relief efforts. On Thursday. It's now Tuesday and they haven't replied to any of my calls.

I don't have a lot of extra money, and what I do have has already gone into the Pokerstars charity tourneys. But I have batteries and leather work gloves, stuff people need. If anyone out there has any idea how I can get this stuff to the folks that need it, please let me know. I can ship stuff, I just need to know it will get received. But I'm not getting anything out of the powers that be, so maybe somebody out in the ether can help me help some folks. Email me - johnhartness at if you have any ideas.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Go do something good

Go to Otis' Pokerstars blog and read about the benefit tourney's Wil had the grace to help arrange. He's a superhero in my book.

Or go to my cousin Pax's blog and link to the Red Cross site and give them some money.

Or both. I'll be in the tourneys, and I'll come up with some silly prize for anybody who actually reads this and busts me out. Note - the odds of me getting busted out = HIGH, but the odds of any of the three people who read this being the ones to do it = SLIM, so I'm probably off the hook there.