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About Me

On business in Bozeman, Montana in August of 2007, I visited the single table in Mixers, a smoky college, dance bar.  Since gambling is legal in Montana, like any other bar, Mixers has several slot machines.  Like a few other bars in town, it also has a friendly poker table.  It seemed like something to do at night so I went to play the $1/$2 blinds no-limit you-call-it they play there.  I won the freeroll and so I got $20 to play with.  When the real game started I had plunked another $100 on the table.  That $100 was payment for my first lesson as a few of the members of the table (who play very often at that same table) taught me what it felt like to win, but mostly to lose.  I lost all $120 in a matter of about 2 hours.

A few weeks before my trip to Bozeman, I had been told by a co-worker that was also going to be there that week, that we’d be playing poker.  I loved the idea.  Until this point I had only played poker with one group of people, my parents, 2 brothers, 2 sisters and 3 cousins.  In the past it had been the poker you play first in a game of Tripoly.  But in recent years, we’d moved on to small hold ’em tournaments.  No money.  I knew that other people played differently than my family.  I decided I needed to learn a little before I went.  So I opened an account on PartyPoker.net so I could play poker for play money against real players.

Playing poker for fake money doesn’t teach one much that helps at the real table.  I ran my initial bankroll, 10,000 play money chips up to 120,000 chips in no time.  The key to play money poker is to play speculative, hidden hands and almost never bluff.  Play a lot of flops and fold if you don’t hit, but when you do, punish the other players.  So I would play 7 9 suited, and when the flop would come down 5 6 8, I’d check.  Then, when the next card peeled off an Ace (play money players will play a pair of aces like a straight flush) I’d put them all in and they’d call.

The next night in Bozeman I went back to Mixers.  This time I just missed winning the freeroll.  I plunked another $100 on the table.  This time I played all night, for close to 6 hours on that $100.  At one point I had close to doubled it.  I’ll never forget my final hand.  I went all in, $70, on the dumb end of a straight.  My opponent with his stack of $400, most of which he’d won that night, had the smart end.  Good night.  Thanks for playing.  Please come back tomorrow for another $100 lesson.

I’m not conservative with my money.  Not really.  But I need my money.  My wife stays home with our three children.  The boys attend a very good (read: expensive) private school.  All five of us live in a nice 1300-square-foot home in the suburbs of Chicago.  That’s what we could afford.  It’s a little cramped, we need more (read: more expensive).  I don’t feel like I can afford to lose thousands of dollars on poker.  So these lessons were too expensive since I sensed I’d need another 20 before I was any good.

So for the next few months I threw myself into books and play money poker.  I stopped playing “cash games” for play money–an ironic idea.  I started playing only the tournaments and sit n’ gos.  Play money players take these more seriously, because they want to win, for pride’s sake.  The problem with play money sit n’ gos is that it is very typical for users to buy in for 11 play money chips and go all in on the first hand with any 2 cards.  I would not, as a matter of principle.  The few times I decided to try it, always with AA, KK or AK, I lost like 90% of the time to the guy who kept 3 5 off suit but got the straight anyway.  I believe these were good lessons, these single table sit n’ gos, because I was forced to battle a guy with 6000 or 8000 chips to my 2000.  I won at least 1/3rd of the time.  I felt like I was getting good.

Then in January 2008, we welcomed our third child.  I love having children.  What I don’t like is newborns.  I don’t like missing sleep, but what I like even less is being stuck in the house and my wife being unavailable.  It’s a recipe for boredom and for some of us to slide into our extremes.  For me, that meant playing lots more poker.  It was this month that I took second in a tournament of 3800 people on PartyPoker.  Still play money, but it felt like an accomplishment.  I’d been creeping closer for months, I’d made it into the money a number of times and I figured that I was getting paid every 5 or so I played.  Not enough to justify a play money career at poker.  But this felt like a milestone.

Then it happened.  I had a friend at work who plays.  He’s a poker snob.  “It doesn’t count unless it is for money,” he’d say.  Or he’d tell me “I don’t want to talk about poker unless there was money on the line.”  I told him that when I was going to play for money, I was going to do it at FullTilt.  They seem to have the best interface, best endorsements, best reputation and best promotions.  Not that I’d done exhaustive research.  I’d tried to deposit once before, but I wasn’t able to.  He was.  He put $100 in his account and transferred half to me.

On February 23, 2008, I started playing poker for money online.  These are my stories.

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