Quite a lot, in fact. Been another busy year at Hard-Boiled Poker.
As far as playing goes, it was mainly a lot of low-stakes pot-limit Omaha online, where I’m ending the year a winner though not as big a winner as in ’08. I did play more live poker this year than ever before, including a lot of limit hold’em during my time in Vegas (a short trip in April, and a summer-long sojourn during the WSOP). Also played in a few live tourneys, including some charity events where I was lucky enough to sit at the table with folks like Dan Harrington, Linda Johnson, and Dennis Phillips. And speaking of lucky, I also managed to win a live tournament -- the media event at EPT Kyiv.
Yeah, that’s right. I’m undefeated outside the United States in poker tourneys.
That trip to Kyiv, Ukraine to cover the EPT event was a big highlight of the year, for sure. So was the opportunity to cover the 2009 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas from late May to mid-July for PokerNews, my second summer out there. In addition to all that live blogging, I was also fortunate to be invited to write various other poker pieces for different outlets as the year went along. And this was the year I managed to publish my first novel, Same Difference, a hard-boiled detective story set in 1970s New York City. Still waiting for that to appear on Amazon (soon, I’m told), but you can check it out (and even buy it) by clicking here.
So a lot of playing, and a lot of writing. 291 posts’ worth here on Hard-Boiled, where I managed to publish a post at least once per weekday, and more often at times, too. As I did at the end of ’08, I thought I’d run through a recap of the year, again splitting it up into three posts. This one covers January-April.
Looking back, I’m seeing how I began the year full of uncertainty about my own game and where I wanted to go with it. Posts with titles like “False Start” and “Leaving the PLO Party” make it sound like I was getting tired of PLO and remaining stuck in the same low-stakes groove. Am having those feelings a little bit again this year, with thoughts of different games or higher stakes again creeping in as the new year approaches. Of course, while I played a lot of LHE during the first part of ’09, I’d end up settling back into the PLO groove as the year progressed. Perhaps it’s more groovy for me than I thought.
The slightly-crabby self-analysis continued in a post called “Level Zero Thinking at the Micro Stakes.” That one got a number of hits, actually, probably from folks who found something familiar in the experience of playing against seemingly unthinking opponents. Another post that got some attention was “A Game for All Situations” in which I suggested that while poker certainly provides numerous analogues to certain other aspects of life, simply proclaiming that “poker is like life” usually isn’t saying all that much. Had another one in there called “On Being Results Oriented” which further reflected the influence of Tommy Angelo on my thinking.
In non-Shamus news, I noted how John Caldwell had stepped down as Editor-in-Chief over at Poker News (“Poker News News”). Caldwell’s spot would be ably filled by Haley Hintze through the late summer, at which point Matthew Parvis took the helm. On the last day of George W. Bush’s presidency (January 19), the finalized regulations of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 went into effect (“The UIGEA Era Begins”), although banks were still not required to implement them. I also wrote a post compiling some of the various applesauce we were witnessing over at UltimateBet, titled “The UltimateBet Follies (Winter 2009 Edition).”
Finally, January saw me sticking with a couple of resolutions. One was to do more running, which I alluded to a bit in “Going the Extra Mile” and “Running in Place.” I was running a couple of miles every day until May this year, then Vegas happened and I never did quite get back on track (so to speak). I also started 2009 with a plan to do more frequent podcasts, and produced three episodes of The Hard-Boiled Poker Radio Show in January. That, too, slowed down as the year progressed, although I did manage to crank out ten shows by year’s end (making a total of 20 thus far).
I mentioned Tommy Angelo, who remained on the brain as February began. A post titled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Poker” commented on the unceremonious closing of a Two Plus Two thread about Tommy Angelo’s book Elements of Poker, ultimately drawing a distinction between what might be called the Angelo Approach and the Malmuth Mindset.
Speaking of Two Plus Two, a link from that forum to the post “The (Unexpected) Return of the Prodigal Son” helped make it the single most clicked-on post of the year on Hard-Boiled. The post wasn’t that special, but it reported on yet another bit of account-compromising on yet another site by Josh “JJprodigy” Field.
Looking at stories from the world of online poker, the post “Milestones (in Cluelessness)” discussed folks at the micro tables incredibly folding their hands and saving their pennies rather than have a shot at the hundreds of dollars being given away by PokerStars as part of its 25 billionth hand promotion. Also, I shared everyone’s enthusiasm when over on Full Tilt Poker we saw Patrik Antonius and Tom Dwan finally square off, writing about it in “Watch & Wondurrrr: The Tom Dwan Challenge Has Begun.” Of course, that enthusiasm waned after a while. (Indeed, they still aren’t even two-thirds of the way through the challenge!)
Toward the end of the month came a post called “The Games of Life” in which I reflected a bit on the value of games to the elderly. It was just a coincidence that I would be writing about zombies in the very next post, “Speaking of the Dead: An Afternoon with George Romero.” I had a chance to attend an event with the Night of the Living Dead director and so shared some thoughts from that.
Of course, I always liked Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, the tremendous sequel to the original horror classic. Wrote a sequel of my own a few days later titled “Speaking of... Online vs. Live (Part II)” in which I revisited an old theme.
I don’t usually try to talk about economics on Hard-Boiled Poker, because it tends to hurt my jingle-brain to do so. Nevertheless, I did start the month trying to consider the matter a bit in a post called “Economics Is Hard.” I reflected some there on how this whole economic downswing we were all talking about in early ’09 was perhaps affecting the game we love. Followed that a few days later with a post titled “The Recreational Poker Player” which got a bit of attention. That post was actually something of a revelation for me, one in which I finally managed to get a handle on what kind of player I am (at least as far as I’m capable of doing so).
The big story in early March was the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Championship, eventually won by Huck Seed. Had a few posts related to that event, culminating with one titled “Huck Lights Out Ahead of the Rest” in which I gave some details of (and a little commentary on) the super-fast structure for the sucker. Further structure geekiness came later in the month with a longish discussion of the WSOP structures, “Whatcha Gonna Do With All Them Chips? (On Changes to the Structures at the 2009 WSOP).”
In other high-stakes news, March was the month we saw Tom “durrrr” Dwan win that wild hand versus Barry Greenstein and Peter Eastgate on “High Stakes Poker.” Seemed like everyone was talking about that one for the next two weeks at least. I wrote about it here: “Tom’s Adventures in Durrrrland.”
Was still at the LHE tables in March, where I found myself one day pondering what might seem an unusual topic, “Stack Sizes in Limit Hold’em.” As anyone who plays LHE knows, certain hands occur in which one is doomed to lose -- perhaps the maximum -- despite one’s best efforts to avoid doing so. It was after one such hand I evoked Kurt Vonnegut and coined a term in a post called “The ‘So It Goes Hand’” (abbreviated S.I.G.H.).
Had another one of those “Moments of Inspiration” a few days later when I thought of a nifty feature for online play for whenever an opponent complains in the chat box that the site is rigged -- a tinfoil hat for the player’s avatar. (See post for silly pic.)
And speaking of inane-slash-paranoid chatbox banter... “I Am Irony Man” is one of probably two dozen posts that have appeared on this blog that attempt to chronicle the peculiar form of madness embodied by Phil “Poker Brat” Hellmuth. This is one of the funnier examples, relating his especially unselfconscious tirade versus Matt Hawrilenko during a heads-up limit hold’em match on UB.
Ended the month by commemorating the sixth anniversary of the groundbreaking first televised episode of World Poker Tour (March 30, 2003), “Looking Back: The World Poker Tour Debuts.”
Had a genuine “shot in the dark” with the appropriately hard-boiled title “When You’ve Begun to Think Like a Gun.” There I make a point about aggression and using one’s chips as a weapon, although the title -- lifted from a John Cale song -- might be the best thing about that post.
During the first part of the month I got to help out covering PokerStars’ SCOOP series (the spring version of WCOOP). It was while covering one of those events I saw Daniel Negreanu complaining a bit in the chatbox about players purposefully delaying as the tourney approached the bubble. Wrote a post about it called “The Waiting Game” which got a ton of hits after Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler linked to it from Two Plus Two. Wrote a follow up a couple of weeks later, “Time Is Money: or, the Return of the Waiting Game.”
Let's see here... “Bonomo Ban No Mo’” talked about PokerStars’ decision to allow Justin “ZeeJustin” Bonomo back onto the site. And “Follow You, Follow Me” talks some about Twitter (and my having finally gotten an account -- @hardboiledpoker).
“The Ever-Present Existential Struggle With Change” is not about the coins one finds in one’s pocket. Nor is it about Change100, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working both on the PokerStars blog and at PokerNews. No, talkin’ about, well, “life stuff” there, and perhaps first suggesting something in that post about a big change for me that ain’t coming until 2010. (More to come on that.)
Later in the month I made it to Vegas for a short visit with Vera Valmore, chronicled here in a series of posts. Managed to write a few posts while there: “Sleep Is for Suckers,” “Good Eats and Comfortable Seats,” and “I Would Need GPS To Find Memory Lane.” Then got home to do a formal five-episode recap, starting with “Shamus in Vegas: Episode 1 -- Prelude.”
Speaking of recappin’, that’s plenty for today. May through August tomorrow.