Archive for September, 2008


September 23, 2008

Returning from the park with Maize and Winnie a small dead branch drops off a tree and falls in my hair.  I reach up to remove it and discover that its not foliage, its a fresh green bird turd, sloppy enough to run down my face and down the front of my bright yellow jumper.  I smile at passers by as the thick soup soaks into my scalp.  I wonder if thats good for my hair.  What creature had produced such a large load?  I look above but do not see the culprit.

I remember that its very good luck to have a bird sh*t on your head.  Hopefully then the avian mark will show the end of a grim period of poker misfortune.

Recently I laughed at a punter in the card club who was so pessmistic and expectant of bad things happening, he never felt good about his hand until he held the mortal nuts on the river.  He did not break his dark frown until he was absolutely certain that he could not be beaten.  If there was any doubt that his hand was not good, he preferred to throw it away.  Of course when I say I laughed at him I meant I was laughing inside.  A very large middle aged man, he wore a suede baseball jacket and a strange crumpled leather baseball cap perched on his fat head – which he shoke slowly when a less jaded player at the table got money in with a hand that was merely almost-unbeatable, and intoned ‘unless you’ve got the nutssss….’

Time and time again he would fold the winning hand, making some great laydowns sometimes but most of the time it was like a bookmaker had offered him odds on the Manchester United – Stoke City game, but the odds had been mixed up so Stoke City were favourites and United were two-to-one underdogs, and any gambler would sell his car to put money on before the mistake was noticed, but my guy would not like to take the risk… because he didn’t have The Nutttsssss

Or there’s Carl ‘The Dean’ Sampson who writes for poker magazines where his dour face stares out at you, and his wise words of wisdom warn just how bad things can get and how difficult it is to be a pro and how pronounced a downswing can be and how long you can go without making any money and how many of the successful young players are just the ones who ran good and for every rich young man there are a hundred broke young men.

The rich young men don’t know what its like to run bad, perhaps they don’t think it will happen to them.  But the older generation know what its like, and they know that it will happen.

I’ve played a hundred tournaments over the last seven weeks, and lost more than 30% of my bankroll.  Thats apart from losses on cash games.  During this time i’ve been improving my play almost everyday, and have been making less mistakes than ever!  Its character building stuff.  To keep plugging away not knowing when the reward will come, to adjust downwards in stakes, to keep your head on and not get frustrated, not let the dry run affect your play, five hours deep in another tournament, a few hands away from a big payday, you tee up a player to let him give you all his chips, you hold the cards to do it, the right flop comes down, you bet, he raises you all in, you call gleefully, and then…. a bird shits in your eye.  Two of a possible forty-five cards will be dealt.  Forty-two of them will put you in pole position, three will bust you from the tournament, leaving you to enter another zero in your spreadsheet.

When you start in poker, you don’t see this happen straight away, because it doesn’t happen so often.  You don’t really believe it can happen to you, or at least it won’t happen very often.  If you are lucky you might just keep winning and winning for a while, and when you’re winning you don’t worry about losing.  But the bad luck catches up to us all after a while, and I suppose its how we deal with it thats important.  You might end up like some of the old crags I see at the club, so jaded by bad runs they have ended up believing that they were born to lose.



September 17, 2008

A photographer from Left Lion took our picture yesterday outside the Malt Cross on St James Street, and I think this will be appearing in the next issue of the magazine in a feature where bands comment on Nottingham music venues.

The photographer tried to get shots of us ‘looking like a band’ but most of the time we were grinning and gurning or otherwise not looking moody and mean into the camera like most bands do.  F*ck that.

On my To Do List today:-

i) good sleep                                                                 √

ii) write blog                                                                  √

iii) guitar – play song/work on songs + exercises        √

iv) analyse hand history from last night                        √ (half done)

v) watch instruction video                                             

vi) take dogs out

vii) make food

viii) go gym and go work

I added up the time it would take to do all these things and it totalled seven hours! So I would have to get up at ten to even have a chance to get it all done.

I follow a specific routine for guitar which pays dividends.  After a couple of warm up exercises to get my fingers moving up and down the fretboard, I pick a song to work on (cover or original idea) and identify the scale being used in it.  Usually this will be a straightforward major scale, often with one or two extra notes.  Pick out the scale on the guitar – in one position at first, then multiple positions if you have the time – and sing or hum the notes along.  Up and down the scale, repeatedly.  Now stop playing the guitar and sing the scale on your own.  Its difficult at first to get all the notes right, particularly for unusual scales.

Play the scale, play and sing, sing the scale on your own, play and sing.

The aim of the exercise is not brilliant singing.  The aim is to put your ear before your fingers.  There are two ideas behind this:-

i) you cannot or should not be able to play something before you can hear it in your head, or imagine it.

ii) Hearing music in your head is the same thing as singing it.

So what you’re doing when you play the scale, then sing and play simultaneously, is teaching your mind to hear the scale.  Then your mind can repeat the notes without any help from the guitar. 

This approach is very different from simply teaching your fingers to play the scale – that might be a purely mechanical exercise without you having to hear any music.

When you’ve completed the exercise you will be able to ‘play’ the scale inside your mind as well as on the fretboard.  You’ve forged a bond between what your fingers are doing and what you’re hearing in your mind.

The dividends of your hard work are realised when the process works the other way.  Now the bond you’ve created means that there is no delay between imagining a phrase and playing it with your fingers.  You can play something as soon as you think of it, and therefore you don’t feel that you have to think at all.  It just happens.

So improvisation flows very easily.  And when away from the guitar, and you have a musical idea, its easy to see in your mind’s eye where your fingers will be on the fretboard.

The more often I work at it, the more I get out of it.  It takes just a few minutes every day to work on perhaps one scale in one position, but this is enough to maintain the bond between my fingers and my musical ear.  After a good session I can just take off on the guitar and play for a while in a very relaxed and pleasing way, and sometimes come up with a new song.

Oops was meant to write this everyday

September 16, 2008

The reason I started a blog was to exercise writing everyday – or at least three or four times a week.  Like the gym I must keep it up.

Tom organised a works trip to Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham where fifteen of us slipped on wetsuits and went white water rafting.  To be honest it was a bit tame – no great speed or danger – but we had a jolly good time.  Its just good to do something with a group of people that involves healthy activity.

Tired, the time rolled forward.  Very quickly it was eight’o’clock and I registered for the tournament at Circus Casino in the Cornerhouse.  My God, thank God, there are still plenty of bad poker players out there.  This tournament, like several I’ve played recently, was really encouraging because I actually displayed most of the patience, discipline and forward thinking I want to use in every hand of poker. 

The last time I played live was a watershed result, but in the few weeks that have gone by since that win I’ve been working on my cash poker and had a very tough time with it.  Tournaments are easier.  Reviewing my recent tournament play i find less and less mistakes – this is as it should be.  When blinds are high its possible to go long periods playing a perfect strategy, based on your cards, your position, your assumptions about your opponents’ calling propensities and the stack sizes.  Often the perfect strategy means not playing for 25 minutes.  Being not mindful of the perfect strategy you will naturally deviate from it – you’re supposed to be playing poker, and you haven’t played a hand for 20 minutes.  Are you puzzled when your instincts compel you to raise?

So it feels good to play well, knowing that I haven’t really f*cked up that many times, If the hands we played could be played again I’d do one or two things differently, if we play again i’m quietly confident that my number remains bigger than yours.  What does that mean?  Look at forty people sat down at the start of a poker tournament.  They all have different levels of skill.  Start with one hundred percent, divide it by forty and adjust up or down for skill.  Thats their number.  And the difference between mine and yours is a lot less than one percent.

The results haven’t caught up yet.  The result of the tournament I played tonight was no score.  But the result of any given tournament is irrelevant.  I feel I have a great handle on the value of my cards relative to position and stack sizes, and I’ve stopped raising for the wrong reasons.  Now add to that a curtailing of my bluffing ways, and some funky fresh hand analysis much practiced during my weeks learning how to play cash games, and now can I say it? I’ve got game.

So the blinds are 500/1000 I’ve got 6500.  Eight players.  Folded to me on the button.  The small blind will be all in as he has only 100 remaining after he posts.  The big blind has about 9000.  I pretend to look at my cards before I shove all my chips in, and the big blind cannot believe it when I flip over T3.  He continues to shake his head during the next hand ‘I can’t understand it’.  And as this is live poker with real human people I think about asking him if he’s got a pen and paper and ten minutes to spare – partly because I would actually like to discuss it with him and partly as a sarcastic comeback, to defend my pricked pride BECAUSE I’M RIGHT AND HE IS WRONG, the brow of the face inside is creased and the corners of the mouth turned down… but the outside face is not so.  And speaking of faces, I note that a good player at the table picks up strength in my body language whenever I move with a good hand, the body language relaxed because I’m happy for another to call my bet, and I think ‘wouldn’t it be better to worry about that rather than worrying about the guy who thinks you’re a jerk for betting with T3’ and I travel on along the learning curve, which is a lot less steep now than it was, but requires much time and application to roll on, and which should not be mentioned in the same room as the curve of your results, which is up and down and wild, where the learning curve is smooth.

Back from Holiday

September 8, 2008

What a wonderful weekend we’ve had.  I finally got the opportunity to visit the Black Sheep brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire.  While we were in the area I dropped in to the wedding of my friends Andy and Becky at the Swinton Park Hotel.  It was a lovely do. 

Previous to that my sister Theresa and I had holidayed in Alanya, Turkey for one week.  I’ve never known such hot weather.