Thursday, November 20, 2014

Experience Is What You Get When You Don’t Get What You Want

Well, the WPBT is coming up soon and I guess it's time for a blog entry, or at least some grammatically challenged stream of consciousness. I also received a very random and flattering email recently that has got me thinking about blogging some more again.

Mostly I think I need to blog, not for you but for me. I often tell my patients to seek out a therapist and that it doesn't matter if they are good or bad. If you reserve an hour a week to just talk to the wall and let out the volumes of experiences during the week that is locked up in your brain it would likely be helpful. There is no question that when I am blogging about poker and taking the time to think about it more analytically my performance improves. Right now my performance is in dire need of improvement.

 Let's face it. Poker basically has looked like and felt like this.

I am not sure what came first, the feeling or the result. Likely they are enmeshed.  Life has been stressful and without a doubt has substantially decreased both how well I have played and how often I have played. Couple this with an ebbing new player pool and a more educated/stronger field of players than ever before and viola, we are skiing downhill.  My results have been poor and poker has not been much fun. Many times I have felt like I was forcing myself to play just to keep sharp. We all know how well it works to force things in poker.

Not long ago I sent this message to the Poker Grump, being that he is a former professional poker player that moved from Vegas and gave up the lifestyle.

"Poker feels like a relationship that is taking way more work than reward. There was a time early on where I was intoxicated with the relationship. Now every time I force myself to go out on a date I keep trying to rekindle old flames. I'm curious if you relate."

It's been quite a while now that I have been seriously thinking about tanking this game as a regular hobby. Financially I was struggling, I was losing every time I played, and it was becoming something that was not going to be an option for me unless I started to win. Of course I would get angry that I have worked so hard throughout my life and my poker budget was getting slimmer and slimmer. Even my wife, who always supported poker, because it was profitable, was reminding me that this was becoming an expensive hobby. None of this makes for a clear poker mind.

My wife and I decided on February 17th, 2014 that we would close our joint healthcare practice. The practice was growing and grossing more and more each year. I was working more each year also, but I was not making anywhere close to what I expected. It would take a 500 page blog post full of rants and criticisms of our healthcare system mixed with personal mistakes to discuss the situation and the decision process to fold. Much like my poker game.

When we decided to close our private practice, I transitioned to practicing full time wound care and  hyperbaric medicine. Things were feeling great at first. I was working 30 hours a week, and making more money than I ever had. The decision from both a time and financial perspective was a successful one. Like many times in my poker life, when my personal life was in a flow the cards seemed to be less brutal. That graph up above turned around significantly when I won a Venetian Deepstack event during the end of June. That was just 3 weeks after I closed my practice.

Playing this tournament was a last minute decision. Tommy LaRosa (@VenetianTD),  expressed that the tournament numbers were picking up, I had the day off, and the rest is history. Although I am not in any way a fan of Sheldon Adelson, this poker room is hands down the best run operation in Las Vegas. I won't say I played flawlessly but there was certainly no significant string of unlikely events that led to my winning. I played aggressively, patiently, with reasonable pot control, and without tilt when I was unlucky. I can not remember getting my money in bad and getting lucky the entire time. It was a nice win, and  it felt good but I admittedly was not in the throws of any poker passion at the time. When my brain is focused on poker I am studying it, watching it, reading about it and I am blogging about it. Like now.

Life is good. Finances are better. I have more free time. My marriage is strong, my children are fun and thriving. I love my work. I truly am blessed to have stumbled upon a career in medicine that offers an excellent lifestyle and is incredibly rewarding.  People do not care much when you fix their blood pressure, but when you fix a hole in their body it's a party!

Unfortunately working less hours than I ever have in my life did not jive well with my brain and lent to some convoluted feelings of self doubt. I was not playing poker in my spare time nor was I productive in any sense. I began to think more of the demise of my practice and my emotions began to get mixed. What I once believed was a strategical fold was now being reframed in my mind as a failure. I was not exercising, I was eating poorly and I began to gain weight. I then had my first episode of sigmoid diverticulitis (like appendicitis but on the left side of your stomach) that landed me in the emergency room. I survived, luckily without needing surgery, but the $15,000 ER bill was denied by my health insurance (that costs me $800/month for my family), Sierra Health and Life, under the premise that it was not a true emergency.  I could write an entire blog on that as well. Currently the decision is being appealed.

At any rate I have not been in a good mental or physical frame lately. I looked at my fortieth birthday as being the final kick in the balls. I am clearly in a pit of a mid-life crisis. Yes I fell in it, but I do not plan on staying stuck in it. I am exercising again, eating much healthier,  and finding a passion again for life in general. Although my results have not shown it I am in somewhat of a poker zone.Recently I have picked up my tournament play and I have been looking forward to playing. My biggest leak has been my emotionally fragility in the face of variance.

My emotional fragility parallel's the size of my buy-in. A few days ago I played in a $100k guarantee WSOP-Circuit event at Planet Hollywood. I made a lot of schedule arrangements to play this tournament. It was exciting since there were a lot of pro players there and the event did not make the guarantee and had an overlay.

The first 8 levels were going great. For the most part I played an aggressive, position focused and pot controlled game. At one point I was moved to a new table and inherited Alex Outhred to my right. Within a few orbits I flopped a set 5s against his pocket 10s and took his stack. I ran my stack up to 37k and slowed down when I called a 12k shove with AQ from a villain I felt was on tilt. He had AK and the odds held. I have been overly passive ever since.  I entered the second break with 45bb.


Notable Hand #1- My stack is 28k, Blinds-Antes are 300/600-75

I am in the small blind with KsQs. I have been relatively inactive for the last 2 orbits and I do not have much of a reputation at this table as I was moved immediately before break.

Everyone folds to the button who has 30k+ and limps in. Again.

I have been watching this guy to my direct right and noticed on more than one occasion he is very loose calling with marginal hands and has been getting lucky.

The BB is short stacked at about 3.5k. I should be raising here but I don't. I am in passive mode at the time.

The BB shoves his 3.5k and the villain on the button called.

I feel good about my hand but don't want to over commit until I see a flop. I can handle a 3-4k loss if I miss. I'm still passive but maybe now I'm justified.

Flop: Kh7h2c

I am happy with this flop. The range of the bb is absolutely huge and I feel certain that I have the button beat and maybe if he got some strange piece of it or has Ace high, or is coordinated in any way I might get some value. Usually in this scenario I would check it down.

Trying to pot control into a 10k pot I bet 4,000 and the button calls.

I imagine he has a small pair or heart draw but I do not give him credit for anything bigger.

The turn is a 5s and once again I fire a pot controlled 6k in to the pot. The button calls.

When the Ace of diamonds peels off on the river I know things have turned for the worse, but I can handle the short stack hitting their Ace. I meekishly check to the button. When he shoves in response I know I just got rivered. The thought of having a solid 20bb apparently disgusts me enough to call hoping that he missed a draw.

He shows A2, bb shows A10 and I walk home.

It's a scary thing when you make a stupid call like that. You know its stupid but you do it anyway. It's unnerving when you feel you can not trust yourself to make clearly correct decisions. My brain try's to push the gross call away and get hung up on the fact that I am a huge favorite on the turn. It hurts, but I have to  force myself to focus on the painfully horrific call I made on the river. I also need to evaluate the lack of pre flop aggression that I feel was clearly appropriate at the time. At the end of the day, most of my bad decisions come down to poor emotional regulation.

I took this loss particularly hard and threatened retirement. I went into this tournament emotionally keyed up from a tourney I played just three days prior.  I perceived to have taken a more serious kick in the nuts from Jeff Madsen when I entered a Venetian Deepstack event. I was struggling somewhat with getting any decent hands but I was playing strong and holding my own. Sometime in level 4  Jeff Madsen was seated to my immediate right. Among many other things, playing with strong well known players is one of the joys of poker for me. Maybe its my competitive edge, but I think it's more of what I call the Disney effect. You grow up watching cartoons of Mickey and Donald hoping one day to go to Disneyland. When you arrive and hit the breakfast table its not unusual for Donald, Mickey or Goofy to visit you and steal the bacon off your plate. Just like a child with that same Disney excitement, when you are seated with a Sklanksy, Jerry Yang, Amarillo Slim, or a Minh the Master it makes the experience that much more fun. That is, of course, until they take your bacon.

As usual I did not follow the rule of "staying out of pots with strong players." There may not be much immediate equity but I believe that mixing it up with strong players helps improve your game in the long run.

Madsen was attentive on several occasions where he saw me fold to three bets. There was one hand in particular that I got involved in that set the stage on how I played my final hand.

Notable Hand #2  My stack is ~16k, Blinds-Antes are 150/300-25

In the last orbit I folded AJ, AQ to a 3-bet pre flop and pocket 10s post flop. My stack was dropping and I was tilty and picked up pocket 6's under the gun and limped in.

I rarely open limp and there is probably an argument for all lines of action with small-medium pocket pairs in early position. Mike Caro suggests "let others bet your small pocket pairs for you." I was clamped down but hoping to hit a set or take advantage of a good spot.

UTG+1 calls, and everyone else folds to Madsen in the bb who raises to 1250. I believe Madsen has a huge range and sees this as a good spot to pick up a pot from passive players.

I send my passive self on a vacation and get cute when I re-pop to 3k. UTG+1 instantly shoves and Madsen folds.

I fold. Madsen scoffs. UTG+1 tables Aces.

Notable Hand #3 I have ~12k, Blinds-Antes are 150-300-25

I have Q7off in the sb.
Middle position limper,button (Madsen) and I call. BB checks.

Flop is Q92 rainbow.

Checks around to Madsen on the button who bets 900. I call, everyone else folds.

Turn is a 2.

I check the turn. Madsen checks as well.

River is a 10. Madsen bets 1400. I call and he shows air.

Madsen was actually very nice and cordial at the table but I'm guessing he doesn't like me right about now. He is compulsively playing games on his iPhone, which is pretty much what I do when I am bored and not in my poker zone. About 2 orbits later I find myself in one final hand with Madsen.

Notable Hand #4 My stack is ~ 16k, Blinds- Antes 300/600-50
                            Jeff Madsen ~19k

I am in BB with JJ. Everyone folds to Madsen who raises his small blind to 1500.

I raise to 3500.

He shoves. I insta call. He shows A5.

I have a nervous habit of standing during these situations.

The board comes KQ10 and the turn comes a 7.

Then I do something I rarely do before the river. I relax and sit back down.


Jack hammer on the river.

I did not take it well. I guess I had good public graces and overall maintained composure but inside I was 3 year old throwing a tantrum. The real horror, the true mistake was re-entering this event. I was warned by my friend and online poker pro Matt Vengrin (who cashed that event) to be wary of re-entering. Of course he was right. The very first hand I play K5 off  hyper aggressively, out of position, and against a 50k+ stack. I lose half of my stack. An orbit later I tilt-fully shove heads up into the big stack with A10 off. He calls with A9o, and even though I am rewarded with domination for my tilty shove the poker gods decide to teach me a lesson regardless and bring a 9 to the board.

I couldn't get the Madsen hand out of my mind and by the time I was leaving I sent him a message. I really had no purpose in communicating with him but there was some closure in his response.

This is where I fall short of being a professional player. I follow my friend Bob Lauria who is a professional tournament grinder, closely. I watch how time over time he builds his stack only to get side swiped by some unfortunate series of hands. He is able to take it in stride with minimal emotion and play his 6bb with rational strategy. I guess when you play often enough you have no choice but to game numb to these outcomes. I am not there and I know this is where I need to be if I am to bring my game to the next level. By the way if you're ever looking to invest in a poker player, Lauria has been +EV for me over the last several years.

Funny how my last post over a year ago is about the wise mind. My wise mind has been on vacation somewhere and I need to find it for both my life and poker game. I have successfully fixed/removed so many stressors in my life that it is a stark reminder for me that happiness is not externally based but comes from within. It reminds me of my frequent experiences with the 500lb patient who is miserable, has a gastric bypass surgery, loses 350lbs, and yet the misery remains. I wouldn't say I am miserable, but here I am at 40 years old, thinking more about my mortality and wondering what it is I want to do with the rest of my life. Since I was in kindergarten there has always been a next step, a defined next goal, all to culminate in my career as a physician. The destination is here and the universe is reminding me that it is not the destination, it is the journey. The fact hat I have no defined journey at the moment I believe is the source of my issue. Hopefully through eating well, exercising and reflection I will remedy the obscurity of my next adventure. I have been sitting on this post for a few days because I am somewhat hesitant to publicly display my issues but I feel it is a very positive step for me and possibly others in terms of understanding myself and this game of poker.

To be continued....

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Wise Mind

When I am playing live poker it is rare that I bring up my career in medicine. Conversely, quite often I bring up my poker experiences while caring for my patients. Today I found myself bringing up emotional detatchment in poker.  This  concept of turning off emotion can also be important as a means to manage ones weight and health in general.

In poker emotion can be disastrous. If you fly off the emotional meter and self indulge in anger, fear/anxiety, despair, frustration and even confidence you put yourself in a position to make some seriously poor decisions. Likewise, being aware of and understanding others emotional state improves your ability to make better decisions. Controlling ones emotions might be more a matter of perspective than inherent ability. Our brain is an organ. Just like our hearts, lungs, kidneys and liver. Organs do things typically without our consent. Our brain is no different. In many ways it is designed to protect us. The knee jerk emotions and thoughts that our brain manifests are not necessarily in our immediate control. Fortunately this unwelcome mood swing usually needs help to progress. Fueled by internal dialogue, the emotion is reinforced and exacerbated.

Insomnia for example is frequently associated with mental rumination. Our brain sends messages about what we need to do tomorrow or what we should have done today. Frequently we choose to engage it. "The files! I can't believe I forgot to do that today. Holy crap what will Carl think? Oh no. I forgot about Carl..." and on and on. We can choose not to engage the brain in dialogue the minute our first thought pops into our head. "Thank you brain for trying to protect me, but no thank you." Easier said than done. Sure. Start practicing it when you identified an unwanted thought/emotion. The brain can be a dangerous place. Don't get lost in it.

Direct triggers from the outside world can also start an emotional cascade. For many the weight on the scale is a particularly brutal emotional trigger often degrading decisional abilities. Detaching from these emotions clears the path to making better decisions necessary to achieve a healthier weight.

I am not suggesting that we strive to become vapid emotionless individuals. I am suggesting we learn to temper unwanted or counter-productive emotions by tapping into a place we don't consider. Psychologists use a form of therapy called DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) that embraces the concept of the "wise mind." The wise mind is the non-judging mind. It is the mind that knows absolute truth. Who knows if this wise mind is a structure in our brain or if it is our "higher being/soul/spirit." We have all experienced it and we can tap into it by deliberately paying attention to it. The wise mind, the place where the rational and emotional minds perfectly negotiate, can help us in managing our health, but more importantly in poker.

Just kidding.

Dominic L Ricciardi, MD


Read more about the wise mind and DBT.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wynn Fall Poker Classic

I am going to sleep early tonight. I don't like going to sleep early, much like a child who wants to stay up and play.  I have worked 12 hours today, the kids are sleeping , my wife is having a long conversation with her cousin, and I really would love some time for myself to read, watch a movie or play a game. To sleep now is an easy decision.  I'm playing at the Wynn day 1a of their fall poker classic. My first serious tournament since the World Series debacle. It will be a long day. I have a number of patients to see in the morning and the tournament begins at noon. Play will last until after midnight. I like that my brain is naturally assuming I will be playing 12 hours. I don't think I have been thinking that way for quite some time. Let's hope I get this game back on track.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Poker Paranoia

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.
-- Kurt Cobain

It's 4pm on Friday at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas and I am playing $1/$2 NL Holdem. The table is mainly full of locals who are over the age of 50 and clearly know each other and likely have played thousands of hands together. At the table is this one out-of town kid who really sticks out. He has long curly hair and the word fish written on his forehead. I expected him to be hyper-aggressive and to my surprise he was extremely tight and spent most of his time observing and writing down notes on the action unfolding.

Wearing my over sized bose headset, a green cap and a green angry bird "King Pig" shirt I sat down and bought in for $300.

To be honest, I can't play no limit cash games anymore. I am a losing player statistically. Why? They bore me incredibly. I look back at the days that I was grinding $1/$2 at the MGM on Saturdays and cant imagine where I got the patience from. I made a decent profit playing a tight aggressive action Dan style. Maybe the novelty of being able to make a regular profit from a game kept me content. Maybe it was because I never tasted the thrill and excitement of climbing into the depths of a tournament as a force to be reckoned with.

Tournament poker forced me to evolve from tight play. In low limit cash games you win money by waiting. It's really quite easy. In tournaments you do not have the luxury to wait. You have to get those chips. You have to be good at small ball poker, understanding your opponent and most importantly being aware of how you are perceived.

So at this table I just can't sit. Pre-flop pots are averaging $8. My plan? Give up a lot of pre-flop equity in exchange for post-flop equity. I did this by raising 5x approximately 50% of the hands. It doesn't take long until everyone opens their range up and we start seeing 5 way flops with $50 pots. Post-flop I played more cautiously, trying to take down 1/4 pots with air, and getting some serious equity from people who had marginal holdings when I had a decent hand.

Within 90 minutes I made over $500,but the only friend I made was the fish dude that sat to my right. I was not rude or even chatty, always tipped the dealer but I was despised. It twists peoples hearts to see you turn up a 53 when the board is Q33 and they flat called you pre with AQ, thinking that your big loose aggressive bets are just going to jump in their stacks...I really don't get joy out of upsetting people. I do not enjoy the fact that I am disliked, but I am not there to make friends. I am there to win every body's chips because that is the goal of the game. Or at least that is the game in a tournament! A lot of these guys are there hoping to limp in to a few hundred flops hoping to hit a house jackpot. They don't like seeing the flop for $10. They don't like me for making it $10 with a huge range of hands.

It was about time things were working out for me. Since my last blog I had been on a real bad run. Earlier that day within 4 hands I had busted out of the opening event of the World Poker Tour 5-Diamond Classic held at the Bellagio. How did that happen? Small pre-flop war, I flop a set of Queens and villain flops a set of Kings. Thank you for playing.

I headed down to the South Point and bought in for a $60 turbo. I ran up a great stack, and got it all in with Aces up against another big stack who called with his Ace. The board paired and I got cripplefitted.

But now I am at profit, my game is on, people are calling my made hands and folding to my bluffs and semi-bluffs.

I'm seated #8 and seat #3 across from me has the next biggest stack with about $650. He looks like a biker but has been playing even tighter than the rest of the table. When the #9 seat left he quickly took it. I should have taken that move as a compliment, that he wanted to get out of my way after I acted, instead I took it as a threat, that he wanted to have position on me to teach me a lesson. My suspicion was reinforced after a few hands went by and he 3-bet my $10 raise. I folded.

The very next hand is when it happened. This is where I become a serious donkey.

Notable Hand:

I have 66 in the cut-off and I have 2 limpers before me.

I raise to $12.

Why? Because I'm raising everything. They have no idea what the hell I have and if I hit a set its gonna hopefully be payday.

Biker dude 3-bets me again to $30! Everyone folds and I decide to flat call and see the flop and see what I can work with, especially since I suspect he has opened his range up to fight me. The flop comes Q92 rainbow. I check and he lays out a pot sized bet. It didn't make sense to me. If he had AQ or better why would he bet so big after I have shown so much weakness, flat calling and checking. Why wouldn't he have made it a thinner bet to get some value possibly? What do I do when things don't make sense to me. I raise... to $150. He calls. Shit. Would he call a check-raise with AQ or worse? Could he have Kings? The turn is an Ace, and I convinced myself he has KK or is bluffing. I feel the way I have played my hand could easily be interpreted as AQ and a shove here would reinforce that.

I shove all-in.

He tanks for like 5 minutes and at one point I really think he is going to fold. He asks me if I have AQ and I think to myself ...Yes! The Jedi mind trick worked!... He then calls and promptly turns over pocket 9s.

Yeah right, he was bluffing me. The dude played super tight all day. He probably moved to my left because he was afraid of me. I swear I almost got him to fold a set of 9s. I don't know why I thought he had it out for me. I guess I did a good job representing AQ. Ha! It sucks when the hand you are trying to pretend you have is beat!

The look on the faces of the old dudes after I turned up my 6's was priceless.

So the run of bad cards gets complemented by stupid. And so what is my lesson to learn? Feel free to post...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Event #1 -Venetian DSE- How do you people do this for a living?

The other day on my new Internet based radio show 'Everything Weight', I interviewed blogger and professional poker player William "Poker Monkey" Souther. Monkey does this poker tournament thing for a living. He couldn't have made more sense when he commented on the show, "the game of poker lends to depression." This is especially true in tournament poker. This is really really true if you do tournament poker for a living. Because honestly, as a hobby, it shatters my innards. Thankfully it just ruins my night...and by the next day I'm usually over it. And honestly, when I lose, I don't believe it matters emotionally if I lost after making a wrong or correct decision. Especially after spending such long hours, 20 to be exact. Although a lot of the tournament was fun, overall it was a lot of work and stress. It did not feel like a day off from work...but try convincing my wife that, who thinks it's all shits and giggles. Hell, I think I have had less stress being the responsible one for a code blue (cardiac arrect) in the hopsital. I think though, that if the financial security of my family relied on poker I would go absolutely insane.

Tonight I placed 14th out of 751 at event #1 of the Venetian DSE. Yes I got lucky at times...but I played my A game. Day 1a I did a lot of roller coastering and then at the end of the day got real lucky to have a complete donk to my right that dumped a bunch of chips my way. When I have a huge pile I become incredibly lethal, and it is hard to stop me. I just kind of barrelled my way through Day 2. Even though I was crushing for hours today when the field hit the last 3 tables the competition became tough. Not to mention, during most of the final 27, I was 3rd or so in chips and kept getting larger stacks moved directly to my left. Really?

When we were down to 18 I got placed at a table that was very aggressive and it was a struggle to find good opportunities to take pots. The #9 and #7 seat were very LAG, and they often seemed to be getting into a "who has a bigger penis" contest with 3 and 4 betting each other. Occasionally the #3 seat got involved in the penis games. They took ENORMOUS amounts of time to make their plays. It was painful and torturous and seemed to be a good method for Al Qaeda to employ.

Notable Hand #1

I am in the cut-off (seat #6) With about 950k. Blinds are 10k/20k with 3k antes.
I am looking at Pocket 10s

Seat #3 was short; maybe 200k or so. He open shoves.

I don't mind flipping in this situation, and there is a good shot I'm doing better than a coin flip.

Seat #4 & 5 fold.

I call. I thought about raising or shoving but wanted to see the rest of the action and from whom, before I committed more. Maybe I should have shoved....#7 and #8 fold, and then #9 takes his usual 20 million years in the tank before he decided to shove his 700k.

I have no respect for him after the ranges I saw him playing with and the risks he was making with crappy hands.

I think to myself:

1. Again, I'm either WAY Ahead, or coin flipping; against just him; if he wakes up with a huge hand, bad luck, this guy is doing shit like this way too much for me to give him much credibly. I decide if I am flipping I am probably doing better than that since there is a good shot he is sharing over-cards with seat #3.

I call.

Denny Robinson, a friend and patient of mine (yes he has agreed to allowing me to disclose that information) was coincidentally sitting on my right at this table. He clearly didn't approve of my call. But honestly, I'm not waiting on pocket Aces to take a stand against this aggro punk.

Both of them turn up AJ. SWEEEEEEEEEEEET!

I couldn't watch the board, but no Ace or Jack came. The river made a flush. I don't remember either AJ being suited and so it must have been a four flush.

It was pretty nauseating. After being crippled I open shoved my 6BB with deuces in the cut-off and lost, placing #14.

I am over it now. I had a lot of fun. My bankroll is healthy. I have been playing well and just won an event at the MGM Series 2 weeks ago, and also won a daily event at the Aria shortly after my Main Event cash at the WSOP. I am getting more known in the poker world and earning respect as a player from other professionals. I also have plans to once again get more active with QuadJacks, and recently did an extensive interview with them that I felt was pretty awesome. The notoriety, with pro-poker players, I think will be a useful business tool for my practice in the future.

Best of all, I am balancing my family and business well with poker lately.

This game is a sick game...but often life is sicker. I say if you can master your emotions in poker, you can master your life.

This game is a great game.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Writers Block

If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.
- --Margaret Atwood

Sometimes I feel as if all of my problems could be solved if a day were 48 hours long. I apologize to everyone who reads my blog and has been expecting to see my 3rd day at the main event. This blog is so hard for me to keep up with. Here are a list of my responsibilities. Tell me if you think I'm spread thin.

1. Be a Father
2. Be a Husband
3. Be a Doctor
4. Be a Business Owner /Boss
5. Be the Chief of Staff of a hospital
6. Be the Medical Director of a wound care center
7. Be a Professional Poker Player
8. Be a Blogger

I think I have excelled most in #1, #3 and #7...No, I do not think I am a bad husband, but I wish my wife and I had more personal time. Although I am pretty bad at #8, I unfortunately feel #4 is my biggest weakness.

I have lost a lot of passion for running my business. I have not lost passion for my work...but I had a creative fire when I opened my practice...creating and developing programs, classes and various forms of medically related media. This is my you tube channel. I have a brain full of intense and amazing ideas for my practice, but can not seem to get anything into gear. Outside of focusing on my patients, my kids and poker, I feel frozen in my mental ability to produce creative new plans and material for my business.

I think the reasons are multi-factorial. Poker clearly has taken up a lot of my brain, mainly because I was getting more positive reinforcement, both financially and in some ways socially. The biggest reason however is a not always evident fear of my doing something mediocre. Nick Hornby, an English writer, has a very true quote in regards to writers block. "We can't be as good as we'd want to, so the question then becomes, how do we cope with our own badness?" Many people cope with a distorted view of themselves by fleeing. I see this in weight management all the time. If people do not live up to their expectations, because they have such a strong emotional attachment to their weight, any perceived failure results in pain, often fueled by self deprecating internal dialogue. The ostrich comes out and we bury our head in the sand. The one week becomes a month, becomes a year. Suddenly you have gained 50lbs.

So whats the answer? Well google gave it to me via a wonderful quote from an American poet William Stafford. "Lower your standards and keep writing."

Things are about to change again in my office. It is an inflection point. I have some great ideas...I just need to lower my standards and put something together and stop running from myself. I'm planning on making one interesting move that is worth mentioning. I am going to involve poker into my wellness practice/future plans. Exciting stuff...just need to realize the clay looks dull at first.

Monday, July 18, 2011

WSOP 2011 Main Event. Day 2 Highlights

Sunday was a great day to have off. I was able to be with my family, hang out at the Rio pool and enjoy watching day 1d go on from a pressure free distance.

I swam, exercised, and enjoyed watching my children have fun. My diet was spot on, low starch, lots of vegetables, lean fish and poultry. Tons of water and not a sip of booze. Caffeine didn't make the cut...but I was feeling good.

I had plenty of time to research my table for day 2a.

I was fairly happy with my table draw. I was a pretty good chip leader here. After investigating their records (which I know is flawed) I imagined the two Europeans, thankfully to my right, were going to be the most skilled. I underestimated David Lin because I could not find anything about his poker history online. He was probably the next best after the Swede Kovacs and Jasper the Dutchman. He pretty quickly took control of his end of the table and hit Todd Brick pretty hard without ever showing down. The Swede came out swinging too, but got often got flatted in position by either myself and/or the Dutchman. He must have epically missed a lot since he seemed easy to push out post-flop. Then about 1 hour into the first level this hand goes down.

Under the gun I limp with AKs.


So I guess I am giving away one of my plays. You may not agree with me but I find it highly effective and profitable.

I do not often raise with AK, unless maybe I'm happy just to take a pre flop pot.

I do not raise with AK... Sam I am. I do not raise with them in or out of position! Not on a boat! not with a goat! Not in the dark! Not in a tree. Not in a car! You let me be! ~~~ I'd rather get in cheaply and see a flop. If I hit I am well disguised and usually make a decent profit. If I don't I can get away scott-free with a dud of an AK. BTW one of the things I learned some while ago is AK is not a drawing hand with a dry flop! Don't leak with this hand post flop and get rid of it.

But beware, in some situations I use AK as an atomic bomb. But playing with bombs can be dangerous. Back to the hand.

````Diversion End`````

Short stack to my left, Jeremy Renz, limps too. It gets folded all around to the Swede...who does what I expect a Swede to do.

He raises. He has 45k behind. I have about 135k. I put him all in. Renz folds and he deliberates...and the calls shortly.

QQ...Its a coin true Euro-style.

He fades the flop, turn, and river.

I'm down to 90k.

But I am happy with my might think this is risky but AK has HUGE equity in these situations. First of all there are only two absolute disasters AK can run into, AA and KK. After that you're looking at 50-50 shot...which honestly part of the purpose of building a big stack is to be able to get into these coin flips but yet survive them if you lose. I have many times with a big stack called relatively small stacks (less than 20% of my stack or so) with medium to low pocket pairs hoping to run into two big cards and swallow them with a coin flip. You win a few of these babies with a big stack and you become an immortal poker pac-man and get like 3-free lives. All of which I need because I am good at screwing shit up.

What I am really looking for the Swede to do is fold an inferior hand or call a dominated hand (any A or K). That's where the real equity is at. And the fact that he can make this bet light and knows that I know this, might call with a dominated Ace. Unfortunately its Queens, but its still not a bad deal for me. Just didn't work out and it didn't bother me too much. In fact I don't start getting tilted until I lose 3 of these in a row....Oh yeah did I mention the only coin flip I won was knocking out a shortie on day 1 with my medium pocket pair? Any way, there was a lot of intense play. Although it varied per orbit I estimate I was involved in 25-30% of the pots on average. I really liked having the 20 minute mental break!

During one of the breaks my cousin had told me about some dude in the series dressed as wonder woman in the tourney and asked me to snap a shot if I saw him. I ran into him in the stall. No I did not do it discreetly. All social discreetness in that bathroom had vanished when Wonder Woman arrived.
At my second break, as I was waiting to return to my seat, I shared some time with Mike Caro. Unlike my usual "have no idea I'm next to a poker super star" I knew who Mike Caro was. My wife apparently became buddy buddy with his girlfriend/wife on the rail. She had no idea who he was until I reminded her about the book of tells in the guest bathroom. I haven't seen much animated Mike Caro, but read TONS of his stuff. The name Mad Genius is so apropos and I could not help but to snap a picture of the pacing poker philosopher deep in thought.

I wound up playing the Dutchman a lot in position, and was happy to bluff him off some post-flop hands, but unfortunately at the same time was unable to get much value from him when I hit some good cards. I remember getting it in with David Lin a few times. In the BB I checked a limped multi-way pot with K6 and flopped K93. I bet the flop and got called by Lin only and we both checked the turn and river. He must have had a 9 and started griping that I was running like God. I wonder if God has a 6kicker when he hits his King.

Eventually I was moved from the pavilion to the Amazon room after dinner and sat down at a table where I was a big big chip leader, and clearly scared the snot out of the whole table. Furthermore I was about 5 feet away from the rail and I had a pretty big mostly Italian crew. I think that was intimidating too. It amped me up, and I played some good poker and within 10 minutes hit a 99Q flop with A9...and took down at least a 25k pot.

Within minutes I watched my chip lead get surpassed by two others at my table. Both of them delivering sick beats, all-in with AK, in multiway pots. Both times it was AK vs KK vs Ax. It was a sobering reminder of how fast shit can go down in this game. I'm doing my best to stay disciplined and stay out of those kind of pots...for the most part I am doing exceptionally well with pot control.

At the end of the night I bagged 220k in chips. I felt I was able to accomplish a strong day 2 for several reasons:

1. I had a big enough stack to survive coin flips and post flop bluffs that I needed to drop
2. I continued to maintain an emphasis on pot control
3. I was lucky that my whole stack was covered only for about the last hour of the day.
4. I kept up the pressure and took blinds/antes as often as I could
5. I effectively used 3 betting against individuals with wider open ranges
6. I was confident

When my friend Matt Klein saw my chip stack he gave me crap for stacking them like a cash player and not stacking them to the ceiling in an effort to intimidate. I responded "I don't show boat Matt, I just kick ass."

This was my starting stack on Day 1, and this is what I was able to literally grind out at the end of day 2. The copious amounts of small chips are a testament to never having gotten into a huge pot today. I did good with blinds/antes, 3 bets and post flop play. Little activity beyond the flop. I played strong, aggressive, controlled poker. I am very critical of myself, but I truly feel I earned this stack. And yes...Matt Klein wins.

Oh yeah...after all that crazy AK stuff that went down some quiet skinny kid, wearing his baseball cap backwards sat in one of the execution seats. His arms were crazy hairy. I am a seriously hairy Italian dude, and when I see someone hairier than I, it grabs my attention. He seemed uninterested and tired to me, and I must have picked up about 20k off of him in post flop pick-ups...a combo of real hands, semi-bluffs and bluffs. I discovered who he was while thumbing through poker news the next day. He didn't look near as scary as he does in this picture.