Wednesday, July 25, 2007


After doing so well at Binion’s Women’s Ultimate Poker Challenge I decided to attend the Women’s WSOP Poker Academy, June 8-9 in Las Vegas. The Academy was going to have a tournament that would send ten women to the WSOP women’s tournament. I took enough money to play in the WSOP women’s tournament even if I didn’t win my seat. I really wanted to play. In the time between trips I read many poker articles, watched poker on TV and played in my poker league to help keep me focused for the tournament.

Our plane was scheduled to leave early Thursday morning, June 7th. On Wednesday my husband and I dropped our son, Justin, off at the respite home he would be staying at. Our son was injured in an auto accident many years ago and we have to have specialized care for him when we go on vacation. Usually we only go on vacation once every 12 to 18 months. Because of medical problems we did not go last year. I was leery of leaving him again for a week but I really wanted to attend the academy and play in the WSOP. Everything turned out just fine for my son. He was well taken care of and very happy.

After getting the boys settled in, my youngest Aaron was staying with friends; we finished packing up our stuff and headed for the hotel. We decided to stay closer to the airport since our flight was leaving before 7:00 am the next day. It is so awesome to realize that we can do what ever we want from now until next Wednesday. No kids to worry about, no house to worry about, no bills, no pets, no nothing for six whole days.

We had reservations to eat with friends at Zingermens’ Road House Restaurant in Ann Arbor. The food was great and the company even better. We headed back to our hotel around 9:30 pm and relaxed until bedtime. It was a great start to our vacation. At 5:00 am we got up, got ready and headed out the door for the airport. Check-in went fast, we reserved Spirit Plus seats for the long flight out and regular seats for the ride back since it is usually not as crowded coming home. It was a good move since the regular line was loooooong when we got to the airport. Zipped through security pretty quickly, it would have been faster if two women hadn’t tried to bring make up cases on board full of large containers of shampoo etc. When will people learn to check everything except the bare necessities? Flight was uneventful except for some turbulence over Denver. Arrived in Las Vegas after four-hour flight at 8:00 am Vegas time. Woo hoo we gained three hours back.

We rode the white buses to the new rental terminal. Zipped out of there in ten minutes, register on line it will save you lots of time. Loaded up the luggage in the trunk of the car and headed to the South Point Casino, our home for the next six nights. It was too early for a room so we left our luggage with the bellhop and headed out for breakfast. It was already hot by my standards. I am half Canadian and do not like the heat. I knew it was going to be very hot but we must make sacrifices if we want to play in the big girl tournaments. I know it is a “dry” heat but it was still f****** hot!

We have developed a tradition of having an authentic Mexican meal for our first day. We used to eat at a dive near the Stratosphere, this time we ate at a place near the Orleans that my husband found. We did eat there in February and it was very good. We will eat there four times by the end of our trip and one time at the old place by the Stratosphere. We had steak tacos every time; they are very tasty and not too filling. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day so we ate there late at night a couple of times.

After breakfast, we headed back to the South Point Casino to play some slots. We had agreed before hand that we would not play any poker other than Video Poker so that we could enjoy our first day together. We had dinner plans at Pearl and tickets to see Wayne Brady in the evening. We put in a few dollars here and there with no big hits. I was playing slots here and there when I saw this one: It’s called “Hot Flashes”. I laughed so hard that people started staring. I had to play it. I played for a while when I hit the bonus which asks you to chose jobs for your man. I chose the ones I don’t like to do, laundry and cleaning toilets and won the most points or pennies for the bonus. I would play this slot on and off through out our trip. I didn’t make huge amounts of money on it but I did make twenty here and there. It was lots of fun. The men would whine and the girl friends would bitch!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

WPT Boot Camp

First of all, I'd like to thank Maryann (Goddess) for the opportunity to attend poker school. For those that don't know, I won this opportunity through WPC league play. This was a multi-week tourney with WPC members and through a lot of tough competition, I won first place.

I went to Las Vegas over Memorial Day weekend to attend the WPT Boot Camp. This was a $1700 Boot Camp---and well worth it, I might add.

The main instructor was T.J. Cloutier. He is a delightful man with many, many years of experience. He does not mince words---always says what is on his mind. Vnessa Rousso was in the hospital so was not able to instruct. Crispin Leyser was an instructor. Jules Leyser was an instructor---she was very good. Tom McEvoy also delivered some of the sections.

The boot camp is a full two days. Saturday begins at 8:00 a.m. with breakfast and concludes at 11pm after a student tournament. This tournament paid the first place winner a $1K satellite for the WSOP. There were 60 people in class that participated. I finished 12th and was the last woman standing.

Day two started at 8:00 and ended at 5pm.

There were a couple of neat things about this particular boot camp. Every major lecture was followed by a lab. Every student sat at a poker table and we played hands practicing and reinforcing what we learned in the lecture. The dealers were the instructors. This was very valuable.

Another thing we did on Sunday was to watch and listen to player critiques while Tom McEvoy played the PokerStars Million Dollar tournament. This was also invaluable---especially to see if he actually applied what we were learning in class. He did!! Not sure how he did in that tournament though---it goes on for many, many hours.

The WPT has two other boot camps which I think would be equally good---one for women only taught by Annie Duke and another one for cash games.

I know some of you would like me to translate my notes here---but I don't think that would be fair to the WPT----so let me give you just a few tidbits:

1. The goal of poker is to make good decisions! You can't control the cards---be they luck or unlucky. But, you can try to always make good decisions.

2. Don't be satisfied with just placing in the money. Play for the win!! (Most of the good money is at the top---first 9 or 10 players.)

3. TJ says that you should only read the poker books that are written by known people. He says there are a lot of books out today written by people he never heard of.

I'm going to leave it with those words of wisdom. I hope that each of you gets an opportunity to attend a boot camp to improve your poker skills.

Thanks again to Goddess and the ladies I competed with during our league. We have some great ladies and some wonderful poker talent.

Good luck at the tables!!

DontMessWthTX (Jane)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Upping the Stakes

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not I should raise the stakes in my online play. For the past two years I have stayed strictly to mini-stakes ($1-$5, but mostly around $2 & $3). I am quite proud of the fact that I have played hundreds of games and for over two years on only $55US. Yet, as my game improves I’ve been wondering if I might be ready for a greater challenge. Here is a run down of what I have been doing lately to try and expand my horizons and maximize my poker profits!

First: some background on me. I was introduced to NL Hold’em at a friend’s 30th birthday in 2005. My poker experience at that point was so thin that I had to have a little cheat sheet that night, showing me the relative strengths of each poker hand! Still, I am a lifelong card player so I picked the game up quickly and made it to 4th place. Most importantly, I LOVED the game and was immediately hooked.

Shortly after this experience I made my first deposit to an online poker site and stretched that $25 out for a couple of months. Disappointed, I retreated to play money tables while hitting the library and reading a big pile of books on the subject. I’m a very competitive person by nature, so if I was going to take on this new, exciting hobby, then I wanted to improve my game and learn everything I could.

Fast forward to 2006, when I made my second deposit on a different site. Here I eked out all the pennies I could, and slowly improved my game, eventually turning my $35 into $150 or so. (Did I mention I am super-cheap?) It took me months to move from the $1 tables to $3 ones; even longer to take the odd stab at $5 tables. To be honest, these $5 games were very scary to me – here were players who really paid attention to what was going on! They stole blinds, even! LOL. These “high stakes” were too much for me though, and I soon went back down a level.

In March of this year I moved some money onto yet another site. I had some initial success here - say the first 5 to 10 games - but soon was below my initial deposit of $75, and actually getting down to my last $15-$20 by the end of April. And this really was even worse than it appears as I had earned $30 in bonus too, so I was about $80 in the hole. Not good. I was playing 9 player sng's almost exclusively, at both $2 and $5 buy-ins; I would have the odd win here and there, but I didn't seem to be making any progress. (I have stayed at single tables for the most part ever since I read Mike Sexton's book, Shuffle Up and Deal, as he suggested that players should learn to play with only the one table's worth of opponents to study, until they feel they can safely move up to a multi-table format.) I couldn't seem to find a table that had a) enough fish, throwing their money away, and b) few enough sharks, eating my money! Different times of day, as well as the days of the week, affected my results. (Weekends are often gonzo bingo matches, which are unpredictable and hurt my bottom line. Late evenings at the $5 buy-in are FILLED with really strong players who pay VERY close attention to everything, so they almost always trounced me.

A peek on showed that my greatest return (most profitable game) was at the $2 level, gaining slowly at about 20%, and that at the $5 I was actually slowly losing, at a rate of about 10%.

At the start of May I noticed a few entries on discussing when one should move up to the next level. There seemed to be agreement that once your rate of increase (ROI) is 20% you can be comfortable moving up, although others argued that your bankroll had to be considered too, and that you shouldn't move up until you had 20-50 or even 100 buy-ins at that level.

Another discussion thread that I thought was interesting was by a few guys who seem to know a lot about statistics (which I DO NOT have a brain for AT ALL). They said that if you look at your results for 100 games, you should have a good enough sample to gauge how well you are doing at that level.

Obviously my strategy needed some tweaking and I decided to amalgamate these ideas into my own plan. I would play 100 games of 9 player $2 TURBO sngs, keep track, and then see where to go from there. I also started playing fewer games, often quitting at just one a day, whereas before I often would play two.

The first 7 games went VERY badly, placing in the money only once. I re-evaluated my plan and ditched the TURBO format. Starting over, I went to the $2 - regular speed - 9 player sng and immediately saw much improvement.

I didn't get any money the first game, but beyond that one, I have always been in the black column. Over 29 games, I made it into the money 15 times, (7 - 1sts; 4 - 2nds; and 4 - 3rds) for a total profit of $33.75. Including rake, I spent $65.25 and had $99 to show for it, showing a return on investment of roughly 33%. A profit, yes, but still very little to show for all of that time playing. I kept track of the time, roughly: 23.5 hours of playing netted me $33.75 - - - or $1.44/hour, $1.17 profit/game!!! If I’m trying to make money, I might as well open a lemonade stand outside my house!

Added to my discouragement over these piddly profits, I was also getting pretty bored with this same game over and over again. Out of sheer boredom I played a couple of $5 - 9 player sngs, and then tried a $5 - 18 player game...and came in 2nd, for a profit of $20.50! I kept playing these 18 player games and have now played ten, for a total profit of $86.50 in 10.5 hours of play. I have paid $55.50 to amass $142, showing a rough ROI of 150%, if my math isn't off. At this rate I am profiting to the tune of about $8/hour. Perhaps most importantly, my balance is finally above where I started ($75 + $30 bonus), for a balance of $138 and change.

Why am I more successful here? Well, for starters, there are MANY donks in this game, willing to chase. I am playing tight-aggressive and almost always doubling or tripling up by 30 minutes in. Even when I don't have any cards, just by playing tight I can get to the final table, and wait for my luck to change. Although the blinds move quickly in this game (every 6 minutes), the raise is VERY gradual - only 10-20 chips for the first 45 minutes. This really lets me take my time, conserve my chips until I find good cards, and then really control the game when I catch something big. Also, I am finding that the game REALLY tightens up by the final table, as people just try to get into the four paying spots. I bluff my patootie off here, and steal many pots.

Of course, it is really early in my experience at this tournament level, and maybe I will tank as I continue. Still, I am finding this methodical approach really interesting, and it may help me fine-tune my game. Maybe some of you might benefit from trying something similar to analyze your game and maximize your profits.

Lori “OllieStar” Astle

Friday, May 25, 2007

Poker and Marriage

On the Women’s Poker Club forum they have a thread that asks about family and spousal support. There were a wide variety of answers from very positive to mixed feelings to not liking that their spouse or family member played poker at all. This got me thinking about how much poker has become a part of my life and how it has affected my marriage. In early posts I talked about the family support I have and how my husband and I support each other.

We have been married twenty years and have had a pretty good relationship. We have had our ups and downs like most families and some very trying times when our two sons were seriously injured in an auto accident in 1994. There was a time when we didn’t think we would make it through but we did.

As our children grew we found more free time to spend with each other. It was great at first and we had many stimulating conversations about the children over lazy lunches. Over time though we became a little bored and when we agreed not to talk about the children we found that more and more we had nothing to say to each other. We drifted a little and our conversations lagged. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we needed to find something to occupy our time away from each other so that when we were together we had something to share.

Over the years I had developed a close friendship with a woman whose son was also in an accident, while riding his bike he was hit by a truck, he had issues similar to my son. We supported each other and used each other for resources. She started working for an organization called the Arc as an advocate for persons with developmental disabilities. She asked me if I would be interested in being a board member. I had never done anything like this before and until my son was injured had no experience with persons with disabilities. After some persuasion on her part I said okay. I also started volunteering for activties at the Arc and even started a book club. This added meaning to my life, gave me something to share and talk about with my husband. I am still on the board of directors and even did two terms as President of the board.

This experience taught me that even though I love my husband and family very much I need to have something meaningful to do that is just for me. I didn’t want a regular job because I needed the flexibility to take care of my son and also because I like having my days free to do what I want.

When my husband first started playing poker I was supportive but not that involved in what he was doing. I would listen to him talked about players and hands but didn’t really understand what he was talking about. I was just happy that he found something that was making him happy. He bugged me to learn the game because he wanted to be able to play poker in Las Vegas without feeling like he was leaving me behind. I did learn and as you know have fallen in love with the game. It has also given my husband and I something to talk about and support each other. We have also learned that we can take trips without each other. Several times a year I will take a trip with my girlfriend or family and my husband will do the same for himself. I have married friends who are always together and are unwilling to try something new or unable. Boredom and stagnation was causing us to drift apart poker has given us a way to come together again. Someday we may become bored with each other again and have to find something else to keep us entertained until then we don’t have to sit and stare at each other over the lunch table.

Friday, May 18, 2007

My First Victory!

In September 2004, my husband and I went to Las Vegas to play in a friend’s tournament. This would be the second time we played in this tournament. The tournament was a three-day affair at the Sunset Station Casino in Henderson. This time we stayed in the hotel. It was very nice and had floor to ceiling windows across one wall that showed a fantastic view of the mountains. I left the curtains open the whole time we were there. On Friday we went to a small private welcome party in one of the conference rooms. It was very nice with good food and friendly people.

The first tournament was on Saturday. It had sixty participants and was also held in a conference room. We had prizes and gifts, even our own bartender. The dealers were fun, hilarious and very professional. We had the tournament director announcing some of the action. They even had a Sunset Station jacket for the first person out. It was funny watching a couple of the guys fight over who would win the jacket.

Even though we only had around sixty players they came from all over. We even had a young man from England come to play. He was very sweet and funny. I played tight and very basic poker. I was still new to the game and needed to work on my confidence in my decision-making.

When we got down to three tables I was moved to a table with M. from England, my husband and a girl friend named T. She is a very aggressive player and was running over the table. I watched her closely for a few rounds and started seeing a pattern to her betting. I started playing back at her by re raising and sometimes going all-in. After a few hands of this she re adjusted her play and started slow playing big hands. She got me a couple of times but not enough to put me out. I again had to adjust to her play and slow down. I knocked out M. from England with a hard to see boat. He didn’t believe that I would play anything before the flop other than premium hands and this allowed me to mask my hand.

He was so sweet he wanted to give me a hug after I knocked him out but wanted to make sure it was okay with my husband first. I laughed and said hug away I say it’s okay. There weren’t a lot of big hands after that and the table slowly whittled down to four people. After the forth person was out it left husband, T. and me. We decided to chop three ways and give the dealers a nice tip, then play on for the trophy and 1st place bragging rights.

It didn’t take long for T. to be out. Then it was just my husband and I. We had agreed before the tournament started that we would play each other just like anyone else if not harder. I wanted to beat him so bad. We went back and forth with lots of cheering from the railbirds. It was getting late and I felt that some of the people were getting a little antsy so I started pushing with any king, ace or connected cards. I finally knocked my husband out of the tournament with A6 and he held something like 87. I was so excited. I received a very nice trophy and a Sunset Station jacket. The bartender even made me a very yummy “fruity” drink, since I’m not a big drinker.

Overall it was a great experience. I really felt that we were treated like high rollers. It was well organized and lots of fun. The first trophy I have ever won in anything sits on my fireplace mantle. When my husband’s ego starts to get on my nerves I pick up my trophy and tell him I’m going to polish it.

Lisa "Shion" Torres

Friday, May 11, 2007

What are they playing?

In November 2001 my husband and I went to Las Vegas for the first time. We had a budget of $100.00 each per day for all of our expenses including gambling. We pretty much stuck with five dollar blackjack and some slots.

One day we were walking around Binion’s Horseshoe Casino when we passed by the poker room. My husband used to play Stud every Sunday with a group of friends when we were first married. He wanted to check it out. They weren’t playing Stud though it was some game called Omaha and Hold em. We didn’t have a clue what these games were and how to play them. We watched for a while but were too chicken to play.

After we arrived home from our trip the interest in what they were playing was still there. At this time poker on the internet was just getting up and running. My husband researched the games and found that a game called limit hold em was becoming popular. He learned how to play the game and signed up at Party Poker. I was too worried about security for my money and nervous about playing. My husband kept nagging me to learn so that we could play together. After awhile I gave in and said okay. He taught me the basics of the game and would beat me every time we played together. I would have given it up if not for the competitiveness between us. He tends to beat me at most competitions such as Jeopardy, cards, scrabble etc.

A few months later we heard that the casino across the river from us was opening a small poker room. We decided to give it a try. It really wasn’t a poker room so much as a couple of tables in a roped off area. They only had 5/10 limit hold. That was a little steep for me but it was the only choice for live poker. We each sat down with $100.00 each. I was very nervous and sat by the dealer so that he could help me with betting etc.

I made lots of mistakes and got yelled at by the dinosaurs who made up the rest of the table. I let their words flow around me. One of the first things my husband said was that I would need a tougher skin to play poker. I had to learn to put up with the snide comments about my play, being a women etc. I did river my husband a couple of times which pissed him off. I told him I was going to play him just like everyone else from the beginning or I would be too intimidated. Underneath it I was thinking “Yeah baby, I finally found a sport I can beat you at.”

We both went home with double our buy-in. That was it for me I was hooked. I would practice every chance I could get. We would play poker once or twice a week. I would watch poker on tv and try to copy what the pros were doing. I subscribed to Card Player and read it from front to back. I stuck with the articles on hold em. I read Super System and drove my husband nuts with all of my questions. I was on my way to being a poker player.

Next time I will talk about winning my first tournament.
Lisa "Shion" Torres

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Cards Gone Bad

It’s been a long few weeks that all poker players will eventually have to go through if they play long enough. “You’re not getting any cards or luck”. It seems that everybody else on the table are getting good cards, with lots of action happening around you, raising and reraising of the pots, hands going to the river with good cards being shown down at the end. You can’t seem to even get two connectors, let alone two flush cards so suited and connected – forget it. As for pairs – you end it preying for even a pair of ducks…

You try to make some moves to win the blinds but with others catching cards, its hard to bluff and when you try to win a race you fail. It can be a very long tournament when this is happening and a long slow death can happen until you’re eventually all in with the best “card” you’ve seen all day – or basically what you hope will be any “two live cards”.

Not much you can do but ride it out and keep your fingers crossed that it will end sooner rather than later, but know it will eventually come to an end. Statistically this will happen to everybody at sometime.

In the past year this has happened to me on two occasions, December 2006 was a very bad month and left me in negative equity for that month. But after the New Year it changed and I was able to play some good poker and finish in the money on quite a few tournaments more than making up for the previous losses.

The next time it started at The Amateur Poker Players Tour (APAT) Scottish Championship in Edinburgh on 14 April. Somehow I managed to last six hours with no cards. Once I did get a pair, QQs on the BB. With five callers in the pot I took the option and raised my BB by 9x the blind. All five called the raise… !!!. Flop came A52, SB came out betting. Starting to get frustrated I reraised him (I was the original raiser, wanted to make sure he had hit that Ace, but with six people in the pot it was a bad move – one of them was sure to have an Ace and there were four people behind me still to act). The rest of the table folded and the SB reraised me all in. I had to reluctantly fold after a few minutes of dramatics. SB showed an A 5o, you know your luck is out when he hits two pair on the flop, with all the callers out there I don’t really know what he thought he was beating preflop. You just have to hold your head in your hands and bemoan the fact that it had to happen in a large tournament.

Finally, last Friday and Sunday (4th and 6th May), my luck turned and I started to get hands I could play some poker with and I started to hit some of the flops. Friday I finished 1st and Sunday 2nd. Only the weekly tournaments at our local Casino - not big championship games but not bad payouts and not only am I back into positive equity for the month I have a nice profit.

Just remember negative swings in luck do happen to every player. Try not to let it get to you and don’t ‘push’ trying to win your money back. You’re not the only player out there it’s happening too (just feels like it at the time). Eventually it will end and you will start to get your fair share of playable hands and good flops for your cards.

Luck is just statistics and it does even out eventually, so with good play and good management of your bankroll you will be able to ride the bad times and make up for it in the good times. Good play will always be a pay off.

Linda Iwaniak
UK Ladies Open Poker Champion