peterbirks: (Default)
I just heard on Radio Four a wonderful tribute to Peter Donaldson -- perfectly timed to lead up to the Six o'clock News. It was a tribute, but it was also a Masterclass in newsreading, diction, pacing, rhythm, tone, pronunciation, and scriptwriting.
Donaldson, after his retirement, went for a voiceover job, but failed to get it because he was "too BBC". At his retirement drink in the Yorkshire Grey, he raised his glass of wine to being "too BBC".
His talent was such that you didn't notice it. He spoke quickly, but his pronunciation was so clear that it didn't seem as if he did. He knew the art of the pause. He emphasized precisely the right words with exactly the right sense of pace. It was an unparalleled talent. He spoke, indeed, as most of us wish we could write, with that fantastic ability to vary the pace and tone and yet not to appear artificial.
It's a cliché, but one could quite easily have listened to him read from the telephone directory and feel that what was being said was incredibly interesting. As one of the commentators in the tribute said (the newsreaders were queueing up to say nice things about him) he had a voice that, even if the Apocalypse was being announced, if Donaldson was reading the news you would feel that it would all be okay really.

Donaldson's death was announced on the same day as that of Colin Welland and Tom Graveney, although Donaldson had the good sense to die at an hour that meant he made the Today programme on his own.

Graveney was a great cricketer to watch; I saw him play Test cricket a few times, including one game when he hit a century against the West Indies )when that collection of countries bred cricketers rather than wannabe basketball players) at which point, like many other 10-year olds, we ran onto the pitch to try to congratulate him. Like Donaldson. Graveney was a stylist in a way that made it all seem rather easy. Languid with a talent that was later echoed in the stroke play of David Gower. And, like Donaldson, he had his run-ins with the powers-that-be, which resulted in him having far fewer England caps than he deserved.

And finally we say goodbye to Colin Welland, a great screenwriter and a competent actor, while also being a bit of a "professional northerner".

With three Englishmen of note dying on the same day, I was reminded of Robin Day's reference to what it was like to grow old. Both Donaldson and Day loved their work, and for people like this, retirement is difficult. Sir Robin, as he later became, described his post-retirement life as like being in the Departure Lounge of a special airport, where the only destination is Death. You aren't quite sure when your plane is going to be called or what particular gate you will be departing from. So you kill time, a bit of reading, some eating, a bit of shopping. You can't leave the airport, and, anyway, you don't really have time to get anything serious done.

That "Departure Lounge For Death" is a tempting metaphor. In a sense we are all in it from the moment we are born. The difference is that the younger you are, the more planes there are going to other places in the meantime. As you get older, there are still planes to other places, but they tend to be short-haul. For me, there's not much point in training to be a watchmaker or a cabinet-maker, or anything that requires 20 years work before you become any good at it. But I am still "young" enough to take some short-haul flights - learning more history, possibly more languages, research, and doodling around in music without trying to be too serious. As the years go on, the number of short-haul flights gets smaller and smaller. And, in any case, catching any of them seems like too much of an effort. Eventually, the departures screen shows several planes, but just a single destination, and you sit quietly in Starbucks, sipping a latté, waiting for the tannoy to announce that your flight has been called.

I saw a couple of clips on You Tube yesterday of Fred Rogers, host of a US public network children's programme called Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Rogers appears not to have had a bad bone in his body. When he received his Lifetime Achievement Award Emmy in 1997, you got the feeling that the entire audience had grown up watching him on TV. But Fred Rogers would have no hope of getting such a magnificent educational programme (each edition's budget in the 1960s, $6,000) on the air today. Rogers would be too white, too middle class America, too male, and too insufficiently diverse.

Donaldson too had become a newsreader who would not be employed by the BBC today. Times have changed. But his influence remains. I confess that when Kathy Clugston began reading the news on Radio Four I was in despair, not least because there were instances when I wasn't sure what word she had just said. Thankfully she has tamed her Northern Irish accent (not completely, but sufficiently) for the more extreme NI varations in vowel usage to be brought back to (for me) comprehensibility.
It was this that Donaldson always emphasized. If someone who understands English can't understand what you are saying, it is your fault, not theirs. Asserting the benefits of diversity just won't cut it if the listener hasn't the faintest fucking idea what you are talking about. You can't put subtitles on the radio. Communication is about communicating, and knowing the right word is only about 10% of the battle. You need to understand phonetics, have some actor training (or, ath the very least, some voice coaching), and you need to speak to people other than those who grew up in the same street and went to the same school as you did.
peterbirks: (Default)
David Young posted a link to this article on Spiked:
which asserts that narcissism, rather than guns, is the main cause of mass murders (I deliberately use the word "murders" rather than "shootings", because, obviously, with greater gun control, you would reduce the number of mass shootings, but this does not prove that you would reduce the number of mass murders. As they say on the BBC, "other weapons of mass destruction are available").

The binary nature of US politics cannot but help become part of the gun control debate.

While I agree that gun control will not "solve" the problem (which runs far more deeply through American society) that does not necessitate me opposing a greater degree of gun control.
I don't think that it's even "just" narcissism. Indeed, this implies that narcissism is a "disease", which I would dispute. Narcissism that goes out of control is the problem, just as with guns, it's an out-of-control use of guns that is the problem.
In other words, I would posit that distorted narcissism and distorted gun use are both symptoms, not underlying problems. But I would still support greater controls of gun sales and greater awareness of the problems created by distorted narcissism.
That narcissism isn't the sole problem is not completely addressed in the Spike article.
The author notes that
narcissistic, affirmation-hungry character, the same infantile determination to place oneself at the centre of the world (indeed, the very act of leaving a ‘message to the world’ speak to an urge for self-glorification)
but fails to address the point that often such characters do not indulge in mass slaughter. Indeed, among females, suicide attempts seem to be a much more common to try to be the centre of the universe. Then there is the (much rarer) Munchausen-by-proxy (also a mainly female manifestation). With young males in the UK, suicide itself looks to be the main ultimate narcissistic act. (Clearly the lines blur; some cries for help are also genuine suicide attempts. Some non-narcissists become mass murderers, but not in a single act).
So, what is the underlying problem? There is clearly something rotten in the heart of US society that is leading some young males down this route. Is it a sense of entitlement? Is it the ease with they can externalise the anger that they feel because that sense of entitlement is not being fulfilled? Is it, indeed, a system that is distorting the impact of testosteronal flow?
In part, it's possibly an inevitable by-product of things getting "bigger and better". In a hermetically sealed small-town world, where everyone knows everyone else, this kind of anger would have resulted in fights in a bar on Saturday night. In a far wider more sophisticated world, that isn't enough. The modern equivalent is a mass murder.
Would making the US smaller and quieter solve the problem? No, because you can't make it "smaller and quieter". It's a genie that can't go back in the bottle.
In other words, searching for "an answer" is futile, because in anthropological terms, America is a society that will produce these responses from a limited number of young males. The males haven't changed -- what has changed is their sense of entitlement and their imagination as to the possible response.
The best that the US can hope for, I think, is to undertake bit-by-bit changes in a large number of areas, not least the early identification of the so-called loner/narcissist, and pro-actively making sure that they feel included in society rather than excluded. The problem is, these characters are often "difficult". They seem to invite exclusion even though that is not what they really want.
In the meantime, you can try to make gun-ownership look "girlie" ("a real man can use his fists") and try to divert young males' hormonal drives into other areas of -- less fatal -- violence. Instead of condemning these things with middle class superiority, they should be encouraged.
peterbirks: (Default)
I spent my 30th birthday in a Chinese restaurant in Hastings, or somewhere on the coast. I spent my 40th in a two-rosette restaurant in France, and my 50th where I am now, in front of a computer in Lewisham. The computer has changed, but (at least for me) technology has changed less from 2005 to 2015 than it did from 1995 to 2005.
That's partly because many of the more recent advances have been for "computing on the go", so I notice the changes in modern computing more when I am at a poker table in Las Vegas, or perhaps when I am using my Smart TV, than I do when I am at my office desk.
When I reached 50, 40 seemed a long time ago, not least because my life changed a lot in those 10 years.
Writing today at the age of 60, 50 seems like only yesterday. Far less has changed. Except, of course, I have now retired. But that's a recent event -- its impact will be felt far more in the decade to come (should I live all of it -- for the first time I am entering a period where a sudden death sentence is far from an academic theory) than in the decade passed, and past.
Indeed, most of my 50s was spent simply preparing for the (I hope) two decades and a bit to come. All that I really did was all that I really aimed to do - accumulate enough money to retire. In fact I made more money (certainly in percentage terms) in the decade 1995 to 2005. The past decade has been building on the previous decade. In 1995 I was effectively penniless, and by 2005 I owned my own home without a mortgage.
Now I one home without a mortgage and another with a (relatively small, but in absolute terms rather large) mortgage. That's been less of a percentage gain because I've lowered my gearing significantly.
So, I think that time passes faster when fewer things happen, when there are fewer events of note, be they good or bad. I deliberatly entered a period of emotional flatness. I did not have an alcoholic drink in my 50s. I eliminated as many emotional highs and lows as I could. It's not a recipe for Facebook posts of overwhelming joy, but it also isn't a recipe for posts of unalterable despair. Mainly, I've managed it. These are penalties that you have to pay for past foolishness, but they are also the consequence of being emotionally risk-averse. A very wise poker player once observed to me that the area of emotion is the one area where men in particular are not risk-averse. They take extreme gambles because the failure to take those gambles has a consequence that their subconscious mind cannot tolerate. Sometimes those gambles pay off (those are the ones we hear about and see photos of on Facebook) while in other cases they do not -- and those are usually the cases we do not hear about, because those males end up in solitary lives with no-one to record the failure. And most of them are not willing to boast about it.
And in some cases you get exceptions, such as me, who reach a balance of solitude; a balance that irritates a few (because I am not playing the game that males are meant to play) and baffles others (because I enjoy my own company quite enough not to have to go out to meet people at weekends). I'm a paradox of gregariousness and a dislike of the social scene.
I can't say that it's great to reach 60; although, as the saying goes, it's better than the alternative. There are consequences of growing old that you can only let the young eventually find out for themselves. The consequences are physical, mental, and external.
This might seem a strange thing to say when the Labour Party has just elected a 66-year old to lead it, but those in their 60s and 70s who carry on working generally do so for one of two reasons; (a) they can't afford not to, or (b) they have no other life.
I can afford not to, and there are many many things that I want to do outside of my old work. There are so many books to read, films to see, musical pieces to learn. There's so much knowledge out there and, thanks to the Internet, much of that knowledge is now free.
The downside is that being one of the voluntarily idle poor "kicks you out" of your old places in society. One of the things which I didn't think would hit me, but which did, was that I no longer had a business card to give to people. To your friends, your position in the working world is irrelevant. But most people you know are not your friends -- they are acquaintances whom you know because of who you are. And when you met most new people (people who might perhaps become your friends one day) you were meeting them because of what position you held rather than who you were as a person.
Not hearing anymore from people who never stopped phoning you when you were an editor is, of course, no loss, and I don't miss it in the slightest. But it does require an adjustment. You have to find something new about yourself that goes beyond "I used to be....". I'm still getting the hang of that.
I'm still somewhat in the honeymoon period of loving my time being my own, not having to take any shit from anyone. I remain strongly committed to free enterprise, but what 20 years of working for larger companies revealed to me was that employees of large companies are nothing to do with free enterprise. Most of capitalism is nothing to do with profit-maximisation; it's about covering your arse and climbing the greasy pole of corporatism. That, obviously, didn't fit in with my personality at all, and I disliked most people who subscribed to it. The miracle therefore is the large number of people whom I met within "the system" of private enterprise with whom I am still friends, rather than the large number of corporatism devotees whom I will, with luck, never cross paths with again as long as I live (most CEOs of large companies fall firmly within the latter category, BTW).
For the next decade, paradoxes remain. I have long suffered a lack of imagination and ambition. "Getting out there" requires a phenomenal act of will on my part. It's for this reason that I tend to return to the same places again and again on holiday. I like the familiar; I dislike the unknown. But the risks of the unknown, the "what's the worst that can happen" need to be faced. OK, Rome might be a nice place full of shits, and Paphos might remind me a little bit too much of Manchester in exile, but I only found Nice by accident; I only discovered San Francisco because I was willing to fly 5000 miles to see a movie, and I only saw Arizona because my job took me there.
Other places like this exist, and I need to find them before my health gives out. As, inevitably, one day it will. I need to balance that with not going broke. And, indeed, I've played with the idea of just trying to make a bit more money over the next few years. That would certainly not be through writing and/or freelancing. I've had quite enough of dealing with companies -- going cap in hand with the "have you got any work, please?" is so far out of the window that it might actually be in the house over the road.
But, as I have told people many times, making money is quite easy if all that you want to do is make money. Part of the trick is to enjoy making money, rather than (which is how most people see it) enjoy getting the money so that you can spend it. The making of money has to be the game in itself, rather than just a means to an end.
Where else in 2015 to 2025? Who knows? My only takeaways from the first 60 years of my life (there won't be a second 60 years of my life) are that (a) nearly everything that people tell you is wrong and (b) you don't need to get it right first time. If you don't repeat your mistakes, you are ahead of 99% of the population.
peterbirks: (Default)
A major weakness amongst politicos is the inability to see the opposition as a coalition. While they can see the infighting and demands for compromise in their own faction, they tend to see opposing factions as homogenous masses of like-thinking (where "like-thinking" equals "wrong-thinking") fools.
This has been repeated with Corbynism; both the left- and right-wing press see Corbyn's victory as one of a small faction of the Labour Party, but they therefore (and incorrectly) assume that it's a united faction.
This is even weirder because, when you think about it, fans of Burnham, Kendall and Cooper have much more in common with each other than they do with Corbyn, but that does not stop three factions appearing in a (rather narrow) part of the political spectrum.
With Corbyn's fans, the potential cracks are even larger. Four groups appear to me to make up this "coalition". And Corbyn will find it very hard to please some groups without displeasing others.

(1) The unions, particularly Unite, Unison, and the RMT. The "traditional conservative left".
It's not hard to see what the leadership of this group will fight for: (a) legislation making life easier for the unions and (b) actions that will not threaten the jobs of existing employees.
Potential source of conflict: Trident, other "politically incorrect" industries that provide jobs in certain narrow geographical areas. Second potential source of conflict: immigration and refugees/migrants.

(2) What we might loosely call the "hard" left, both inside and outside the Labour Party. Those who perhaps left the Labour Party but re-affiliated to vote. People with a sympathy for Respect, Socialist Worker, Morning Star, or elsewhere on what was once the Bennite wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Potential source of conflict: Backtracking on Trident, NATO, Hezbollah, anti-Israeli sentiment, any alignment/discussions with the USA or indeed any government not politically approved.

(3) The New Puritans. Into which I would place hard-line feminism, people who think that LGBT issues are more important than anything else rather than just a single factor in social change. Also hard-line environmentalism, hard-line animal rights.
Potential source of conflict. Quotas. Representation.

(4) The New Enthusiasts. Let's not deny that Corbyn has galvanized a previously jaded and cynical non-electorate aged 18 to 25. What is worrying is that much of this has been based on two dangerous themes - anti-politics and populism.
Anti-politics is always a short-term honeymoon -- look at Syriza, or the comic in Italy. It's a short-term honeymoon because to get anywhere in the real world of politics you have to act like a politician. If you don't (hello Yannis Varoufakis) even your friends will drop you.
Populism is more dangerous because it is the devil on the shoulder of democracy. As many countries have found out, populist decisions such as subsidies for the price of rice or wheat or other food staples, are very easy to introduce and very difficult to get rid of. On the plus side, you can maintain populist stances in opposition without upsetting anyone except people who can add up the cost.
We have seen New Enthusiasts many times before in other countries -- think Obama volunteers or, in my youth, the great Eugene McCarthy (perhaps the closest parallel in recent history to the Corbyn movement). McCarthy got shafted by the Democratic Party establishment, so the New Enthusiasts were able to maintain their faith. How well Corbyn can keep these New Enthusiasts onside in the face of the special interest groups in the unions and New Puritanism will be the first real test of his leadership (the second, of course, will be how he copes with the significant opposition within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP)).
Other potential sources of conflict with the New Enthusiasts: Europe, Scotland, Economic Strategy, Union-supported job laws that will benefit those in jobs at the expense of those coming onto the labour market.

Which brings us to Corbyn's other major problem. While he has to manage one kind of coalition amongst his supporters, he has to manage another, entirely different set of factions, within the PLP. His dealings with the first group will impact on his relationship with the second, and vice-versa.
All of this will demand a great talent for compromise, pacification and, I fear to say, fudging. Although this is a good short-term tactic for keeping a coalition together, it is a bad long-term strategy because it turns you into "just another politician", using words that don't mean very much because these are the only words that won't upset anyone apart from those people who would like meaningful statements.
But, hang on, meaningful statements are precisely what the New Enthusiasts want.

IN all of this, the Conservative Government, Conservative policies, do not figure, except that Corbyn will try to rally a unity around opposition to the Conservative policies. But the things on which all of Labour agree will pale into insignificance compared with

As you can see, that makes for a difficult time ahead. Thatcher would have solved this by ruthlessly ditching former allies so as to maintain a single force. Lenin did the same. Hitler, on the other hand, played the "let them plot against each other" hand, on the sound grounds that if they were plotting against each other, they would be plotting against him.

What path will Corbyn take? My fear is that he will not be a strong enough personality (or ruthless enough) to impose his will the way Thatcher did. The analysis this morning that Tom Watson will be a crucial character in the drama that will unfold, is undoubtedly true. Watson is the most important Deputy Leader that the Labour Party has ever had.
He's the LBJ to JFK.
And we all know how that one panned out.


Sep. 12th, 2015 03:19 pm
peterbirks: (Default)
So, this is what I want from Corbyn.
(1) Plans to renationalize/nationalize without compensation (a) railways (obvs) (b) steel (Indian) (c) motor manufacturing (Japanese) (d) water (all cunts) (e) banks (f) Post Office
(2) A plan to introduce complete open borders. That is not to say no processing. A system similar to that which existed when the Flemish weavers and French protestants came over. Registration, record-keeping, no welfare or right to free medical treatment until taxes have been paid for five years.
(3) Abolition of the monarchy and total reform of the Upper House to a system similar to that in operation in India and/or Germany. Labour Party to boycott parliament as "sham democracy" until it wins a majority.

But none of that will happen. Why? Because Corbyn has already started focusing on "hooray" words like "fair", "justice", "security", "confidence" etc -- words that people bandy about with no intention of defining what they mean. Anything as controversial as the ideas above will be ditched (if the ever existed) on grounds of "practicality".
And if Corbyn WAS to propose some of the above, I could see many of those claiming to be left wing, who voted for Corbyn, suddenly talking about incomers undercutting the wages of people already here. I can see those claiming to be left wing starting to talk about "steady as she goes". What many of the Corbyn supporters really want is a crony conservatism (and puritanism) that benefits them rather than someone else; this is cloaked in a veneer of radicalism of which I have seen little evidence apart from some rabble-rousing speeches that say very little.
Make no mistake, this is a very British leader working within a very British tradition, and the "radicalism" of those who supported him would quickly disappear if it stopped being a vague "let's be nice to everybody apart from the bankers" and became "oh, sorry, you'll have to pay some extra tax for all of this, didn't we say?"
peterbirks: (Default)
Or, Why Grexit is a misnomer, why it will end with a whiumper rather than a bang, and why Greece's international trade will probably still be denominated in euros by the end of 2015, no matter what happens this Sunday.

I have a lot of time for Poland's PM Donald Tusk; he has proved himself to be an efficient, albeit somewhat technocratic, Polish leader, and has brought a similar no-nonsense but low-profile approach to the EU presidency.
However, Tusk and other European leaders seem to be making a fundamental economic error when they talk about Greece "exiting the euro" if a deal is not reached by next Sunday.
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission (the European bureaucracy requires lots of leaders) was somewhat blunter when he referred not just to the fact that a detailed plan was in place for Grexit, but that these plans included "humanitarian aid". It was, as it were, the first admission that the incompetence of political leaders could lead to a country in Europe suffering a humanitarian crisis because of economic incompetence on all sides.
But what puzzled me is that the politicians and the journalists have once again failed to read the history books. There will be no Grexit on Monday, whatever way things go. And the euro will not suddenly cease to be the currency of Greece. It is not up to the eurozone to say that Greece can no longer use the euro. Indeed, given the restrictions on individual central banks, any actual statement that Greece is no longer a part of the eurozone will have relatively little impact on day-to-day processes. The euro will still circulate. Goods will still be priced in euros. For international trade (which is going to be the real sticking point) export and import deals are still going to be signed in euros. The major impact of a so-called Grexit on Monday will mainly be the reaction of the markets and the manifestation of what we have known for more than two years – that the Greek banks are bust.
If Greece is "chucked out" of the euro, there's nothing to stop the Greek Central bank creating their own euros (on paper), although this will of course have the confusing effect of creating the Greek euro and the rest of Europe euro. I have discussed this matter before and I will not cover the same ground. It will be a mess, but it will not be the end of days. Indeed, Greece's membership of the euro will end with a whimper rather than a bang.
There is of course the minor matter of the €70bn owed to Germany alone – meaning that every German taxpayer is on the hook for about €2,000. A neat bit of sidestepping by the German banks there, since initially the Greek debt was theirs. But this is not a terminal debt. It is, so to speak, a whole new can that will be kicked down a whole new road.
No, the interesting thing in economic terms is at the micro level. At the moment Greece's economy is paralyzed. It is paralyzed because traders want to operate on a so-called "bullion" basis (where euros represent bullion) and there isn't enough bullion to go round for an economy to function. Since the velocity of bullion has probably slowed to virtually zero (if you get a euro in Greece you hang on to it for as long as possible) we are in a situation where for the economy to function you need to return to a credit economy, but no-one trusts anyone else to function on a credit basis.
How does one square this circle? What eventually happens is that the economy sputters into action by something (it could be stamps, it could be cigarettes) working as small change (but still with a euro as a measuring stick) and someone (it could be the Greek central bank, but it could equally be a respectable local merchant or landowner) doing the accounting. That accounting eventually sees the issue of IOUs, and those IOUs, if they are trusted, becoming de facto paper money. This emergence of paper money (frequently called fiat money, but this is a mistaken misinterpretation of the false dichotomy between paper money and, say, gold or silver – another article there one day) of its own accord has been recorded time and again in history. It follows the wish to anonymize transactions. Initially the debts of account, the IOUs, are transparent. You know who got what and who owes what. But once those IOUs start being passed around, transactions become anonymized and, indeed, the extent of economic activity becomes harder to measure.

So, from next Monday, we could see ourselves in the unique situation of a developed economy that has been paralyzed because of a lack of a fungible currency with any volatility (the euro has become a kind of ersatz gold) entering currency ground zero, because we are months away from an official new paper currency being printed and introduced officially. Economics abhors a vacuum almost as much as nature. Just because the current lack of cash has frozen the economy does not mean a continued lack of cash will mean a perpetually frozen economy. Cash will emerge to facilitate economic activity. It will emerge in different forms for different types of economic activity – perhaps stamps as ersatz euros, with accounting-based euro-denominated credit for internal transactions. For the few real euros still in play, they will be reserved for international transactions.
And, also, international players, facilitators, will also appear, because there will be a profit to be made here. That is why the euro itself will not vanish from the Greek economy, even if Greece has been kicked out of the euro. A facilitator will be starting with a clean slate. Unlike the ECB, he will not have the burden of the money already thrown at Greece.
And in a sense this is one of the keys and the basis of Tsipras's delusion. If Greece is "thrown out" of the euro, the biggest short-term headline impact will be that the ECB and the EFSB will have to write off what they are owed. It's Europe that is biting the bullet, not Greece.
peterbirks: (Default)
And so the trip is coming to an end. I packed all of my stuff, checkedd out, drove into town and played three sessions for a net gain of $103.
Most of the exciting stuff occurred in the first 10 minutes, when in a six-handed game I hit some pearlers.
Ace Queen of diamonds on the button first hand was the beginning.
I raised a limper to $7 an got a rather pleasant flop of QQT. Limper checks and I bet $13. He calls.
Turn is an eight, QQT8 two hearts. Limper now bets out $20. Now, that's odd. 88 or TT don't make much sense, but J9 definitely does make sense. Then again, so do QK and QJ. I decide to flat-call.
River brings a blank, a black four or something. Opponent now leads out for $30. This really is a bit of a tingler to get first hand out of the traps. I think for about 20 seconds and decide that QK and QJ are a fraction more likely than 9J (partly because he limped before the flop, which only really makes sense with J9 suited, while QJ off and KQ off might merit a limp).
I call and he shows QJ. A show AQ and take the pot, at which point he says "No raise with AQ?" in that tone of "clearly you are a moron". I should have shrugged, but instead I bit and explained to him why a call was right, given the number hands he could feasibly have that beat me and the number that he could have that I beat. Young player on my left says "exactly", just to rub it in, and middle-aged American guy shuts up for the next 45 minutes, duly told who precisely was the moron in that hand.

Shortly after (like, two hands later) I got 66 under the gun and raised to $7. The young European kid on my left called, heads up on the flop.
That came down 963 two diamonds. I bet out for $12 and he calls. Turn is a slightly worrying 7, but I can't really see this guy cold-calling a raise with T8, even if it was suited. There are many more hands that he could have which I can beat. So I bet out $20. He calls.
River is an apparently worrying 8, making a board of 36789. I check and he fires out $30. The thing is, a 10 here is much more worrying than a 9, because for the nine to help it needs to be a gutshot. Sure, the gutshot might be back-up for, say a diamond draw. But I still think I am beating more than I am losing to. I call and he says "good call", showing Ace-Jack of diamonds.

I then lost $50 back on a very difficult hand. I get KK on the button and raise to $7. Small blind pushes it to $17 and Big blind calls. I push it again to $47, called in two spots. I have $160 behind, about the same as the small blind. Big Blind has $55.

Flop comes a horrible T98 two hearts. Small blind checks and Big blind shoves his $55 and I tank. The whole sequence of calculations here is horrible, but it basically comes down to, if I am ahead, I am probably no better than 70:30 (possibly 65:35), whereas if I am behind, I am likely to be 9:91, with only two kings to help me.
And, of course, small blind is still to act..
Reluctantly and with a heavy heart I fold. Small blind calls and show AJ with one heart. Big blind shows AK with no hearts. Shit.

I get a reasonable amount back with KK again. This time the board runs out 7644J and I call a $30 bet on the river into a $60 pot. He shows 76 for a flopped t, which is no good against my two pair Kings and Fours.

The subsequent session at Bally's was far more mundane, with the only hand of note being one I misplayed on the river with AK. To be honest I was so pleased to see an Ace on the river that it didn't occur to me that my opponent had anything other than Queens or Jacks (I had three-bet out of position pre-flop and she had cold called. I continued with $25 on a 953 rainbow flop and she called promptly. I checked the turn of a 7 and so did she. I'd just given up on the hand. The Ace stunned me and I checked again. After all, how can she bet or call with QQ or JJ now? As it happens she had AJ suited. Sleepy play from me with my eye not on the ball. I won $50 on the hand, but should have won $75.

The rest of this session and an hour at the Flamingo was a drift down, missing flops.

I now had $37 on my card that I needed to spend. I chose a Pad Chow at the Food Hall in Harrah's – a rather excellent noodle bar that I had not used before.
Still with $23 on the card and a relatively full suitcase, I picked up a pair of cheapish headphones ($27).
Dropped car off at airport without any problem, although I confess that I never have the faintest idea whether I have been charged the right amount.
The apartment charged me $5 a night more than I had been quoted, but the amount initially quoted was so ridiculously cheap that I didn't have the heart to make a scene.

Final thoughts? Not sure how badly I ran, but my hunch would be that it was to the tune of about $600 in cash and $300 in tournaments. I finished $130 up, with $150 or so in Total Rewards.
I could have played better in at least a couple of spots (both failing to extract maximum value on the river) and that one night in the Flamingo I probably lost $200 because I was tired.
I could also perhaps have won more (although I might also have lost more) by staying in games with double my initial buy-in, but a good prospect of either doubling up again or losing the lot. If I lived in Vegas I would take these high-volatility plays. But if I lived in Vegaqs I would be sitting down with $300 rather than $120 anyway.

The apartment did the job, but I wasn't sorry to leave it. Apartments are good, but the 6.5 miles in either direction gets a bit tedious after three weeks. I would like a nicer apartment in a different location. The weather gets you down and discourages activity. I didn't spend much time in the open, but after a few weeks that leaves you living a rather restricted life with a small horizon. I didn't even cross the strip to Caesar's or the Belaggio. I didn't go to the Fashion Mall or the Wynn, let alone the Rio.

So, happy to be heading home. Vaguely hoping that the plane won't be too full.
peterbirks: (Default)
There was an interesting post on Facebook a few days ago "liked" by Nicholas Whyte, in which the poster followed the general German/Europhile line on Greece. What was interesting about it was that it repeated the dire warnings of apocalypse if the Greeks voted no. It also seemed to believe that the Greeks would not do this, because the imagined consequences of them so doing were so horrific.
But, they did.
In fact, if Greece had voted "yes", the offer which they were voting yes to wwasn't even on the table. It had expired. I suspect that if someone in Germany had banged some heads and said "look, if you vote yes, that offer is back in play, we guarantee it", then the vote would have been a lot closer. It's an example of the headless chicken bureacracy-bound nature of Brussels, Berlin, Paris and New York (can't we set up a working party sub-cmmittee on it? Er, no, there isn't time, you fuckheads.) that they couldn't even manage that.

The difficult situation that the troika of the ECB, the eurozone financial ministers and the IMF now finds itself in is that, in any negotiations with Greece, the Greek leadership can say that they have a mandate from the Greek people which they have to follow. The Eurozone leadership cannot say that they have a mandate from the European people that they in turn have to follow.

That doesn't mean that Tsipras has "won". Indeed, the short-term prognosis for Greece is fairly horrific. Tsipras in the past few days has been as deluded as Merkel was when she said "where there's a will, there's a way". Well, there isn't a way, even if there is a will. Just because teh Greeks backed Tsipras does not mean the troika will say "oh, ok, we need you so much we will lend you more euros". They won't.

The situation now exposes the fundamental hole in the theory of the euro. Unlike the currency union of the USA (a parallel that has been used in the past), there is no printer of money of last resort when it comes to the euro. The ECB is prevented by one set of rules from doing what another set of rules asks it to do.

Greece's leadership (backed by a popular plebiscite) will say that the ECB, or the EFSB under the leadership of the eurozone finance ministers, should give Greece more euros to keep the economy functioning. Because, make no mistake, Greece is now in a position where the economy has effectively halted due to lack of currency. The European leadership are looking at a set of rules which, when put together by economic illiterates, fails to tell people what to do when a country within the eurozone runs out of euros. It can't print its own. So, what happens? This isn't a kickable can of accountancy. This is literally a case of banks having no cash. Not just insolvent, but cashless.

The Greek banks have been insolvent for years. Remember, Greece has already defaulted (in 2012). They just pretended at the time that it wasn't a default. But try telling that to the Cypriot banks that went broke as a result, nearly bringing down the Cypriot economic system with them.

More recently, the ECB just pretended that the Greek banks were not insolvent because it was the line of least resistance. Indeed, the entire Greek crisis has been one of politicians taking the line of least resistance in the vague hope that the problem will go away.

Now, I have to emphasize once again (because so many people think I am saying one thing when I am not), this is nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of the debt. I am fully aware that the Greeks lied through their teeth to get into the euro, and that public sector workers and pensions have been far too high for a decade. Any Greek public sector employee or pensioner who says that they didn't get any of this money they are said to have got need only look at the standard of living in Bulgaria, a neighbouring country with a similar level of absolute GDP per person, to see that everyone in Greece has for the past 10 years been living at a level commensurate with western European production, but without the production to match.

When I say that this is "besides the point", these "debt moralists" say that, au contraire, it is the entire point, that there is no other point, that any "forgiveness" of this debt will have practical knock-on effects. But, what they are really saying is, borrowing what you know you can't pay back is wrong, morally wrong, and you must be made to pay it back.

Sadly, as is evidenced throughout history, money borrowed at interest quite often is not paid back and cannot be paid back. The moral niceties have to be set aside; the rights and wrongs of the case on either side have to be ignored, and you have to work out how to solve this in a civilised manner, rather than in the manner used in India more than 1,00 years ago, when debt was passed from generation to generation and a class of what were effectively serf land-farmers came into being. In Greece today there is no hope of this money being paid back. Do the debt moralists think it "right" to create a modern version of this generation-to-generation indebtedness? Why not bonded servitude? Why not slavery? For, if a person has not the cash to repay, should they not be forced instead to give up their freedom? Slavery as a result of indebtedness does, after all, have a noble (Greek) history.

It is this which I have tried to argue most forcefully. I think that the Greeks were mendacious in getting into the euro; I think that they were avaricious and stupid to borrow the money without any real idea of how that money was going to be paid back. I think that the commercial banks in Germany and elsewhere were almost criminally stupid to lend the money (which they lent because their other commercial clients needed customers for their washing machines and cars) and, most of all, I think that the federalists in Brussels who foresaw the impossibility of a monetary union without a fiscal union, but deliberately went ahead because they thought the result of the inevitable crisis would be a fiscal union, should be brought to trial for crimes against humanity.

But, in the grand scheme of things, none of that really matters at the moment. The "blame game" is both pointless and fruitless. What now faces Europe's leaders, and what Merkel and Hollande will have to discuss today, is what you can do about a country that is running out of the currency it needs for the economy to function on any level at all. We are, to be blunt, weeks if not days away from a humanitarian crisis.
This is in its own way a fascinating test of modern monetary theory. Will Greece try to create an ersatz euro? That would appear to be the logical step in this world of denying reality. The Greek Central Bank prints its own fake euros to lend to its own insolvent banks. That has a certain symetry to it. The banks are bust so lend them currency that you aren't allowed to print, which you pretend has a value that it doesn't have.
Reality will quickly get in the way and the ersatz euro will probably fall to an exchange rate of 1:4 against the real euro. The ersatz euro might have "euro" printed on it, but if it walks like a drachma and talks like a drachma, that is what it really is – no matter how much the Greek Central Bank will deny it.
I am afraid to admit that I am watching this from an economic viewpoint with grim fascination. It's hard to take a detached academic viewpoint when the actions of a few could lead to the complete collapse of a wannabe western economy. But my suspicion is that, because the short-term problem is going to be "just" a lack of fungible currency, within a few weeks we will see an alternative fungible currency emerge. This is because fungibility of fiat currency is a necessity in a developed economy. We aren't going to return to a bullion economy and we aren't going to return to barter. Someone, somewhere, is going to create paper that someone else will trust. The Greek central bank is the obvious favourite candidate.
That would throw the ball back into the troika's court, so to speak, in that they would then have to take the decision to eject Greece from the eurozone. That, clearly, is something Merkel, Lagarde, Draghi, Djisselbloem and Schauble do not want to do. They might move the goalposts again (how, we do not as yet know).
peterbirks: (Default)
A day of three sessions, at Flamingo, Bally's and Flamingo again, for a net gain of $0. Yes, $0.
As I was heading to the car for the stressful drive to Downtown for what turned out to be an excellent and entertaining meal with Kevin O'Leary at Le Thai (he really is a charmer – no wonder staff remember him) I pondered the three-week cost of coffee and dealer tipping.
Neil Channing didn't tip at the Vic and explained to the dealers why this was the case, but said that he would try to make up for it by encouraging others to tip.
I can't follow that route. I just don't have the heart, the courage or the charm to get away with it.
However, let's hypothesise that I win a couple of hands an our and tip a dollar for each on average. That's $2 an hour. I probably also tip an average of $5 a day for coffees. That would mean I have tipped dealers about $150 since I got here, and cocktail waitresses about $110.
My net profit for the three weeks is $27. So, if (and this is hypothetical, because it isn't going to happen) I did not order drinks from the cocktail waitresses (I know poker players who do not) and I didn't tip dealers (not a good EV move, by the way), I would have been $287 up.
When you are about $1,500 up the $260 seems less important than when you are scrambling around breaking even.
Now, let's suppose I played for a year. That would translate into roughly $3,900 a year in tips. That isn't small change. But it is a necessary part of the equation. And, t of course, you do get 1,250 coffees out of it.
Today's play was staggeringly uneventful. I tried a bit of aggressive play early on with Ad 7d, raising in late and betting into an opponent for $11 and then $37 on a flop of Qxx two diamonds and a turn of Kc. I put him on a weakish Queen (in fact it was Q6 of clubs) and hoped that the turn would force a fold. I only had another $45 behind, so I couldn't see myself pushing him off the river. No diamond or ace came to save me.
I then lost the rest with AQ vs QJ all in pre-flop.
I doubled back with AQ, which I three-bet to $24 and got the original raiser (tired, drunk, on my right) to call. Board came A Q x rainbow, which made my decision to call opponent's all-in rather easy.
Finished $34 down.

At Bally's I just built up my stack relatively slowly. It included an aggressive couple of raises on the button and, in one case, an aggressive shove on the flop. But I think the most profitable hand was the ever-exciting Ace-six suited on the button, with which I limped and called a small raise from the small blind. Board of Axx elicited a $15 bet from small blind and a raise from me. He called and we checked down turn and river. He showed pocket queens.
Finished $115 up.
SB in question was the father of Flip Schultz, who had been headlining the comedy set at Harrah's. Nice guy who had flown in from Florida to see his son.

The third session at Flamingo was jst one of card-dead, missing any sets or improvements with suited connectors. Played for two hours and lost $81.

After some mix-ups I found Kevin, and we got to the restaurant on time. You can choose heat ranked 1 to 5 and Kevin said that three was bloody hot. So I erred on the side of caution and chose a '1'. This was quite tasty, but appears to equal "no chili at all". So perhaps level 2 next time round.
But the various chicken and beef dishes were yummy, especially the sticky rice.

Finished about 8.30pm and drove back to apartment. Checked in online.
Tomorrow I'll check out of the apartment and drive to the strip to play for five or six hours. I'll also try to spend my Total Rewards points (I've got more than $35 to get rid of somehow). Then it's return car to rental depot, get shuttle to check in, read book for a while and attempt to get some sleep on the plane.
peterbirks: (Default)
Friday night was a "meh" couple of hours. I won $13 with no hands of interest.

Saturday morning and I'm seeking to win $133 so that I can go home with more than $3k. I get to Flamingo at about 11.45am and there's a table with three people who have been there all night.
There's a view that getting to these tables first thing in the morning is a good move because you are fresh and they are rather drunk. I do not really follow this line. The ones who survive that long tend to be rather good. The weak players have gone bust overnight.
1) In this particular case the strength or weakness of the opposition played no part. I trundled along and within half an hour saw KK under the gun. I played my normal limp-reraise. Two more limpers. Button raises to $12 Big blind calls, and I reraise to $37. Button calls and Big Blind folds. I have $77 behind. Flop is KJT two clubs and I bet $40. Opponent goes all in. I call. He shows AQ. No improvement for me and I am a stack down having done nothing wrong at any point.
I reloaded but did not hang around for long. I think that it's a good idea to move to another casino when something like this happens. It's a "fresh start" for you and it gets you away from a table where you are pegged by the others as "unlucky", thus tempting them to take a shot at you.
2) Over to Bally's and I win a short-stacked all-in (opponent only had $47) with QQ vs T9 suited. Amazingly, he didn't even have an out on the river.
I slowly built up to $190 from my $120 start.
3) Then came the oddest hand of the week, which opponent misplayed to a quite staggering degree.
I had QQ in the Big Blind and I reraised a late raise of $11 to $32. He flat called. I have about $85 behind, a fraction less than he has.
Flop is A T 5 two clubs. I ponder a continuation, but in my experience this tends to end in tears in this scenario. So I check.
He checks.
Turn is a King and, well, that's about it. I am ready to check-fold. I check, and once again, he checks. What does he have? 88? 99? JJ?
River is a very nice Jack, giving me the nut straight. I bet a derisory $25 and he calls. Now I am even more mystified. QK? QJ? Nope, he had KK.
Always nice to win a pot that you had no right to at all, particularly from an opponent's misplay.

4) I returned to the Flamingo the grand sum of $1 up for the day. A short session with Sean on my left was brought to a close when the table was broken so that a tournament could start. An odd decision by the floor manager, but one that was to work to my advantage.
The table I moved to had one guy with a very large stack, but I just had a feeling about him. After about three hands I picked. up AK off under the gun. This is a different dynamic from the normal limp-reraise. I put in a small raise to $7 One caller and my large-stacked friend duly raised it to $35. I shove without hesititation and he looks at me and says "Don't be mad at me when I suck out on you". I assured him that I wouldn't be mad.
Board came 8d 7h Ts and he said "Gutshot!" To be honest I am not optimistic. I'm less optimistic when Turn comes a 2 and River comes a 3. However, he turns over 54 off (!!) and my AK high is good for a double through to $230.
He stacked off most of his $1000 fairly quickly after that, and was down to $200 before he decided that it might be an idea to play sensibly. At that point I took my leave, at about $85 up.

It's July 4th and the fireworks have started. I didn't want to stay on the strip because I was frightened of New Year's Eve style traffic jams if I stayed until late in the evening. And I had been playing for seven or so hours.

About $58 up for trip, plus about $140 in Total rewards benefits. Still less than $3k in cash, though. :-(
peterbirks: (Default)
On Thursday I decided to drive to the Outlet Mall to buy a few things, mainly because I couldn't be bothered to wash the clothes that I had.
I picked up two polo necks, a pair of Wranglers jeans, three pairs of socks and two pairs of boxers for just $61. The value at that Outlet Mall never ceases to amaze me.
Unfortunately in this heat you can't even hang around in the mall, because the car is out in the open and is overheating.

When you initially get here, anything over 100f is just "unbearably hot", but, as the weeks go buy, you begin to differentiate between, say, 99f and 109f. Las Vegas has had highs of at least 42c (107f?) for three weeks, reaching 46c (115f?) at least a few times. And this is in the shade. Come 5pm, in the sun, you are at least 10 degrees f hotter than that.
That's hot, even for Las Vegas, and I see that the day after I fly back the top temperature is dropping to a more manageable 37c or 38c.
Although I spend most of my time in air-conditioned places, the insistently searing heat does tend to restrict and discourage activity. That's a pity, but I can list it as a learning experience.

Thursday evening in Bally's was a resoundingly depressing four hours. I was quite stunningly card dead. I drifted down to $70 until I found TT in the big blind with a button straddle. You can see how card dead I had been in the sense that this felt like a monster. I limped. I think there was one other limper. Button predictably raised (to $12) and small blind (a not very good player) called. I shoved my remaining $66 and the middle position limper and button folded. Unfortunately small blind decided that hs JJ was good enough to call. N 18% shots for me, and I am a stack down.
I rebought, continued to drift down, and quit when in arrears to the tune of $137.

There was one slightly amusing/uncomfortable incident, although I fear it was unfair of me to take pleasure in someone else's discomfort. However, it exemplified the status of some relationships to such a degree that I can't resist recounting it.
A youngish chap (from Dallas, an Asian Indian) who had been drinking a bit, said "deal me in" to the dealer. The chap's wife, who clearly could play a bit but was no expert, was sitting behind him. The dealer dealt the cards, but the player had not yet returned. The dealer said to the wife "you can play the hand", which, while correct, is not the whole story. Although the wife could play the hand, once she started playing the hand, she had to finish playing the hand. The "one player to a hand" rule applies.
You can guess what happened. A $12 raise went in and she called. Husband then reappears, wife moves to get out of the way to let her husband "take over" and dealer tells them the bad news, that the wife has to conclude the playing of the hand.
Flop comes down and and another player puts in a $25 bet. Wife now has to make a decision. But, she can't. I mean, literally, she can't. She instinctively turns to her husband. Clearly this is a couple who consult each other on all financial matters and, in poker matters, it's the husband who knows best, but now she has to make a financial decision, a poker financial decision, with her husband there, but without consulting the husband.
The psychological strain this put her under was horrifying to see. Naturally, her instinctive reaction was to freeze, to postpone the fateful moment. She did nothing. Eventually the dealer told her that she could either fold, call, or raise. Once again she instinctively turns to her husband. He stares at her hopelessly, knowing that, if he tells her what to do, her hand is dead. She returns to inaction. As I say, one has to feel sorry her and the dilemma in which she found herself, but on the other hand it was in a way a problem that the couple had brought upon themselves.
After an eternity, with the dealer once again telling her that she has to fold, call, or raise, she decides to give up the $12 that she has already put into the pot, and to fold. Much to the relief of all concerned, and we moved on to the next hand. Tension over.

Friday morning saw the final freeroll. It progressed as usual. I managed to win one "ordinary" pot with a raise and a continuation bet. Then I got AA in mid and mini-raised to 400 (we start with 3000 chips, blinds are 50-100 to start and double every 15 minutes), but got no customers. That put me on about 4000 chips at the first colour up.
With blinds at 600-1200 I got it all in with AQ, but T3 suited in the Big Blind decided that, with just under half his stack in the pot as the blind, he couldn't fold. Needless to say I was never in the race. He flopped a pair and hit a flush on the turn.
That reduced me to a single 100 chip. Miraculously I quadrupled through the next hand and then went on a tear (although never being in bad shape in any of the all-ins) up to 4000 chips. That brought the blinds to 1000-2000, with 35 players left and 20 spots being paid. Or, more accurately, there was about 20 minutes to the money, equal to a round and a half.
That meant that I MIGHT, be able to pass my way to the money. However, when I picked up AQ of diamonds in mid, there's no doubt that I have to shove.
Unfortunately I was called by the big stack and by the big blind. That sounded worrying until I saw TT and J5 of spades. I'm not in bad shape for a triple through to 12000 chips, which would make me favourite to reach the top 10 and the $350 group (spots 11 to 20 pay $150). Unfortunately the flop came T22 and that was that. Once again I fell at the final hurdle.
That made me 0 for 4 in tournaments on this trip. Eliminations were TT v JJ, JJ v QQ and (effectively) AA v KQ, all in positions with less than 10 big blinds. So, just the bad rub of the green – which is so often the way with me and tournaments. Even online (where I have the statistics to back me up) I have run badly over the past 12 months – well below expected value in all-in situations.

The cash game afterwards continued the misery of the previous night – card dead for three hours.
I put in a raise with AK off on the button and got a call from the big blind. Flop came QQ5 and I initially misread it as QJ5 (I still had my glasses on and I need to take them off to be able to see the board clearly!) I continuationed for $12 and Big blind flat-called. That really smells.
Unfortunately the turn was an Ace. BB checks and I check behind (which kind of commits me to call the river). River is a 5, making a board of QQA55, and I have Aces and Queens with a King kicker.
BB now bets $25 into a $40 pot and I make a crying call. He has Q9.
Can I get away from this for less? Well, the flat call on the flop is a bit of a tell. With a pair in the hole he is likely to lead out. But I have made the mistake in the past of overrating opponents.
My check behind when the Ace comes on the turn is made with the specific purpose of eliciting either a bluff on the river, or a low blocking bet if opponent does have something like, say, 77, or a value bet of he has something like AJ. I beat all of these and lose only to a Queen or a (very unlikely) five.
Anyhoo, I was completely card-dead after that, even though I managed to get into see a few flops cheaply when I had suited connectors or a low pair. When I got down to $20 I reloaded to $120 (as per my own rigid rules) and started afresh, three hours in.
Within 15 minutes I had built that $120 up to $190 by virtue of a couple of lumpy three-bets on the button. The first one (three-bet to $30 a raise to $10 and a caller) took it down – unsurprising given I had hardly played a hand for two hours. The second, a three-bet to $35 of a $12 raise by the same player and the same caller, came a round later. The initial raiser, clearly somewhat peeved at the fact that I have suddenly sprung to life, flat called this one. The initial caller now sees value and also calls. That makes it a $105 pot already. (I have $140 behind).
Flop is 865 two hearts. Two checks to me and I shove. Two folds and I take down the pot.

I left the table about 20 minutes later, with a $31 deficit feeling like a win.

I'm typing this early Friday evening. I am not sure what I will be doing. It's Friday night and the games should be good. But I've been doing so badly in these "lively" games of late that I am thinking of reassessing my playing style (and starting stack) when I am in them. On the other hand, the last three days of the holiday is perhaps not the best time to start restructuring your game.

For trip, minus $72 in cash. Total Rewards benefits, $132.
peterbirks: (Default)
Well, Wednesday was rather more interesting than Tuesday. It started off with the freeroll for a Main Event Seat, plus 10 spots paying $200, plus $300 cashback for all the hours that I put in at Harrah's in the past two weeks.
85 runners.
Of those three rewards, I got only one.
It was a fast structure. A Polish chap sat to my right, declined to pay $10 extra to increase his stack to T7000 from T3000, and shoved every hand. He got a double through, lost half his stack to the man who had beaten a couple of hands before, pushed a couple of shoves through, and finally lost to the same man again, being eliminated after about 12 hands.
Meanwhile I had hardly played a hand. I thought about giving the mad Pole some business with Ace-8 off in the cut-off, but I decided against it. Turns out he had 7-7 on that one.
After 45 minutes or so I was down to 5100 chips. Button (the big stack) raised to 1600 and I shoved with Tc Td. He snap called with Js Jh, so I am not in good shape. I am in worse shape when flop comes down Ks Qs 9s.
There's an argument for not shoving pre flop on the grounds that the big stack won't be folding, so I have no fold equity. On the other hand, I'm in good shape against his range, so I don't really mind a race, especially with a fast structure.
The immediate sight of Ks Qs 9s might make you think that I now don't have Ts as an out because that gives opponent a straight flush. So, just Th to help me, right? Wrong, obvs. That also gives opponent a straight. In fact I still have two outs, but they have become Jacks instead of 10s.
The turn is a blank and the river is, of course the ten of hearts, giving me a set and opponent a straight.
I hate that fucking dealer as well.

On to the Flamingo for a cash game and the nightmare continues. This is an interesting one.
I was on about $95 when I picked up KK on the button. It's passed rorund to the cut-off who raises to $6. I raise to $18, and an old guy in the small blind raises to $36.
Now, there are a few old sayings in Las Vegas, and one is "the old guy always has it". A four bet min reraise in the small blind just SCREAMS "Aces".
But, this is why I sit down with a smallish stack, so that I never have to make difficult decisions with kings. I now take a line that I don't like but which is perhaps the best strategy against a conservative player. I flat call. Anyhoo, It makes no difference. Down comes xxx. He goes all-in and I call and he shows AA. A buy in down.
I rebuy, but leave about a round later. Walk away when you are running bad at a table.

That brought me to a rather entertaining hand in Bally's. I'd drifted down to $75 with zero cards. Bally's now runs nine-handed; it also offers a $5 straddle, rather than the $4 straddle in the Flamingo.
And, in the vital hand, we were six-handed and I was in the small blind. Button straddled, it was me to act first and I saw AQ off. I completed to $5, guy in MP2 calls and button raises to $20. I shove, MP2 promptly reshoves for $130 and Button calls! Whoops.
Board comes Kjx … T …. x giving me the straight. Button turns over AcKc and MP2 turns over AA, having played the same game as me, waiting for the button raise!
I don't even apologize for these any more. I've had enough bad beats with all ins pre flop in the past two weeks to take the good beats as well. I did nothing wrong – just happen to come up against two monsters in a short-handed game.

So, that put me roughly level for the day.

I went to Planet Hollywood and had definitely the best-value meal of the week; the 8oz Prime Rib, with fries and a salad starter, comes to $10.80 with a Total Rewards card. That's $2 less than a Johnny Rockets burger and twice as nice. I paid with my points.

Played another hour in Bally's and picked up KK in the small blind with a button straddle. Played the old limp game again and got a rise to $30 from a decent player in middle position. I shove, he thinks, and shows AQ suited as he folds. Left after an hour, up $50.
Drove back to the apartment and suddenly I was in the middle of a lightning storm! Luckily, the rain didn't hit the road, but I could see lightning strikes every few seconds to my left. Quite frightening.
Also to my left was a sequence of planes, presumably in a holding pattern. At least eight of them.
And, on TV, Back To The Future II. Next, Back To The Future III. Excellent.
Profit for the day, $328. Profit for trip, $101.

Rest of the holiday really is very much "do as I wish". Haven't decided yet what that might be.
peterbirks: (Default)
Not much grinding on Tuesday. A couple of shortish sessions led to a $24 loss in the first and a $23 gain in the second, with nothing of interest to report in either.
I had dinner with Lee and Jamie in the Hard Rock Cafe, since they fly back today. Also popped in to see Kevin O'Leary in Planet Hollywood playing the $100k guaranteed, only to spot also Anthony and Cindy from the Harrah's room running the tournament (along with quite a few other people, obviously!).
I looked at the new location for the PH poker room, which is frankly ridiculous – more so given that the blackjack tables in the old location were completely empty, while the poker room was full.
The old location made PH seem generally busier. Now a busy poker room just makes it look as if there's a large number of people queueing for food. Photos to follow on Facebook.
peterbirks: (Default)
Reading Graber's "Debt, the First 5,000 years", it struck me that I could create my own early economic and monetary system by getting an allotment, growing excess food, and "giving" it to my neighbours, along with a note that, if they had any skills or produce of which they had an excess, some kind of return, at an unspecified time in the future, would be appreciated.
This would not be barter. I could quite easily write paper notes saying "X - 10 tomatoes", and, if X signed it, that person could be said to owe me the equivalent of 10 tomatoes, with tomatoes thus becoming a de facto "currency", equal to whatever X and I decided was a fair service in return (say, 15 minutes' work).
So, if my neighbour was an accountant, they might one day help me with a small tax problem. Or if my neighbour were a lawyer, they might one day help me with a legal problem. Electricians, plumbers, cleaners, writers, administrators,etc, could all partake in this neat little economy, which would add to the national wealth, but which would not appear in the state's records of GDP.
But there are two areas, quite different from each other, where my neighbour could not be a member of this system. The first would be where my neighbour was in human resources, or marketing (I am sure there are other types of job that fit into this category, but those were the two that first occurred to me). What could that person offer me in return?
It's tempting to say that this shows how useless these professions are, but that would be too simplistic. They are in essence jobs which are a product of a developed economy. In the simple kind of economy, they have no place. Marketing is, I feel, essentially zero-sum. It's not increasing total wealth; but it can increase individual companies' wealth at the expense of others. Human resources, meanwhile, is a product of large organizations. It is not needed in small mini-economies. It is, in effect, a small "price" to be paid for the far greater production levels that can be achieved by larger organizations and more complex economies.
The second area is one where the state has nationalized the service and made it one that is supplied without cost to the individual user and that cost is shared by all members of the economy who pay tax. Why should I operate my own mini-economy with a person whose services I can get for no payment elsewhere?
I do not know if this area of economics has been covered at length elsewhere, but it's an interesting point. Once a service is made "free", any person offering that service has no value within a mini private economy, unless that person can offer an added value (such as out-of-hours service, more personal service) that can be assigned a value.
So, if any of my neighbours are electricians or plumbers or lawyers or accountants, they could become part of my new economy, but people in marketing and human resources must, I fear, work within the large economy alone.
peterbirks: (Default)
A remarkably uninteresting day made unusual only in the sense that I won a 50:50 and had three winning sessions, all of them short and all of the winnings modest.
Session 1 in the Flamingo eventually saw me pick up As Ks in early and it went the standard route of limp, raise in late, reraise form the button and a shove from me. Button called with JJ and this time it was my turn to be the real happy person when Js came on the turn (giving me a flush and opponent a set).
I picked up another decentish pot with Ac 3c. Once again, the game is easy when you hit flops and J33 was always going to be nice, especially when you have position. It then becomes a matter of value extraction. What's the maximum that you can bet on the river that opponent will call?
$128 profit for session.
A trip over to Bally's for the first time this trip saw me get KQ off the first hand, with a KQx rainbow flop. Won about $20 on the hand.
Then another Ace-King suited, reraised to $32 by me in the big blind after and $8 raise got called in one spot.
I got one caller and I think he was virtually all in. Anyway it was checked down to the river when an Ace came. I bet and he called, presumably with AQ.
A 90 minute session got me to $44 up.
And finally this evening a two-hour session in Flamingo got me a $10 profit, mainly with AJ on the button and no callers or raisers in front of me. It's like being online.
Board ran out Axxxx and I managed to extract maximum from Big Blind who had something like third pair.
My heart wasn't really in it, so I decided to come back to the apartment to write this.
Plus $182 for the day which gets me back to about minus $230 for the trip.
peterbirks: (Default)
As a troll might put it, "for someone grinding a profit at Las Vegas, you don't seem to be doing a very good job".
A point which, it must be said, is hard to deny, ameliorated only by the fact that I'm still a long way ahead of the troll in terms of money in the bank and that he's got a tedious job and a bedsit in Kensal Green, and is really just jealous.

A couple of Monday sessions, both at Harrah's and both grim.

1) I sat down in a very lively game (that had clearly been running all night) where, if luck is with you, a big amount of money can be made. Having had a four-day Aces drought (about 1,000 hands, roughly a 1% chance) I got it all in with Ac Ah. Early raises to $10. Japanese iPhone addict raises to $40 and I raise to $80. First raiser folds and Japanese kid goes all in. I call for my remaining $30. Flop comes Qc 3d 8c and he shows QQ, just like my loss with AA on day one. Turn brings Jc and river brings 3c, giving me the flush. Unfortunately it also gave him a full house.
The Japanese kid would later go broke in a $1,000 pot with QQ as an overpair on a T 8 5 board. Opponent had T8.

2) The next loss with Ah As saw a limp UTG and a raise to $13 from me in UTG+1. Five callers, mega-non-lolz.
Flop is Qd Jd 3s. I bet $65. Get two callers. Turn is 3d. I shove. Player on my left raises all in and third guy folds. I call for my remaining $40. He has Qc Kd. River is, of course, a diamond. Down two stacks.

3) Get a stack back from the same guy who hit me with the KQ when I limp re-raise all in preflop with Ad Kd. Board runs out Axxxx and my hand is good. I was either 47/53 or 76/24 on the hand. Probably the former.

End up one stack down after three hours.

I came home and had a nap and drove back in for my final five hours to reach the 80 needed for the freeroll on Wednesday. It was a grim time.
Cliff notes. I busted off three stacks, got a single stack back and then lost most of it again when I and made a hero fold that might have been a stupid fold.

4) The first of the stack-offs was a drift down to $50 and then picking up 9c 8c under the gun. I think that I raised to $7 and decided that the remaining $43 was going in if I had any of the flop.
I was to lose all three of my stacks to the same guy, who was probably better than me. So let's think of it as a learning experience.
The flop came 8d 2d Jd.
This guy bet and I shoved. He called for not much extra and looked worried when a diamond came on the turn. But river was a blank spade. He had As 8h, and his kicker was good.

5) Second stack-off was the one I think that I should have got away from, even if tired, playing badly, and not thinking straight. I had As 9s and called a smallish raise because six players were in. Board came 5h 5s 3s, giving me a four-card-flush and overcards. There's a good chance that someone has trip fives, but it isn't in anyway a certainty.
I lead out for $11 into a $40 pot from early and everyone folds to tricky player who raises me $19 to $30. This is the point at which I should get away. Opponent is capable of raising without a five, but the size of the raise smells. And if he HAS got a five, he can reasonably safely read my hand for what it is, spade overcards.
Turn is a blank. I check and he bets another $30, about half my stack. River is a very irritating nine, giving me two pairs Aces and Nines. I bet and he puts me in for my remaining $30 or so and I call. He has something like 85-off. I played this hand badly and I knew it.
But the point is, one is bound to play some hands badly. You read this in isolation, but over 1000s of hands you make 1000s of decisions. You can't always bring your 'A' game. The trick to winning at poker is not to play perfectly, but to minimize your losses when you aren't playing perfectly. Even if I wasn't on top form, I think I could have got away from this. But the other guy (and he was quite capable of playing the same way without the five, except that I think he would have raised more than $19 on the flop if he hadn't had it) was just a good player and he lulled me into stacking myself off. Well played him.

6) The second stack-off to the same guy was not so bad. I picked up AQ off in mid and reraised an early loose raiser. Tricky guy flatted for about $20, equal to about a sixth of my stack. One other caller.
Board comes Q 4 4 rainbow. I bet $25. Tricky guy calls and other guy folds. Turn is a blank. I check, tricky opponent bets about $20 and I raise all in. He has the four (five four off this time I think).
I was unlucky flopping TPTK and he was lucky flopping the four. There was $20 of my money in there already. So I will always play this hand this way because in the long run it is a profitable line. And this was not a case of me being able to sense whether opponent had hit his hand or not. So, $360 down for the evening.

7) I got a buy-in back with QQ, check-raising all-in on the turn on a board of 8h 5s 2s. Opponent had As 8s. No help for him on river, and I am back to $240 down, $360 down on day.

Unfortunately that left me with $250 or so in front of me, and then a rich old Texan guy with $700 (won at table games) and a big drink in his hand sits down at the game. He is told that the maximum is $300.

8) He looks clueless, so when I put in a raise with Ad Td and he calls, I'm not unhappy to see a flop of Th 5s 4d. He bets $12 (with some help from the dealer) and I raise to $25. He calls (once again with some help from the dealer). Turn is a deuce. He bets $12 again. This time I raise to $35. Only in retrospect is this an error and only in retrospect might my subsequent line have been wrong. Old guy suddenly wakes up and says "let's make it $50". Is told that he cannot underraise and that he has to make it $60. Which he does.

Bleaaaggh. I should have cold-called him down.
And if I only had $120 in front of me my decision wouldd also be easy. All of it goes in.
But I have $250 in front of me. I am out of my comfort zone. In retrospect (I saw how the guy played later hands) I should shove all in, even though if I lose I am $480 down for the night. If he folds I am back to about $50 down and if he calls and I win, I am about $100 up for thenight and level for the day.
But, and this is also a factor, it is "only" $25 to call, and there is no certainty he will bet the river. I might also improve on the river with an Ace or a Ten. If he does bet the river, he might bet small.
So I call.

River is a Jack and he bets $60. I know that in normal circumstances a $60 bet into you when you have second-pair is an autofold, I knew that it was far from the case here. My instincts were telling me that the deuce on the turn gave him two-pair. The $60 was just a bit too big. Many bad, players can be worked out by their bet-sizing, which matches uncannily the strength of their hand.
BUT, this guy was no good. Maybe he had JT, maybe he had QT. I tanked for a minute (very unusual for me) and decided to fold.
Back to $360 down for the night and $480 down for the day.

It is here that we come across some of the few positive aspects of the evening. I didn't tilt, I didn't get annoyed. I kept playing as I normally play, for perhaps another 90 minutes. I got AJ in mid, raised, got three callers, continuation betted an Axx flop (two callers) and had the courage to go all-in on a blank turn (about a pot-sized bet) which was enough to take it down. Proper play played properly.

And I left when I felt that I was getting tired, even though the rich guy was still around. In other words, I learnt my lesson from the previous Friday.
(The madness of this guy, whose bets were randomly sized and whose hands were equally random to match, was illustrated by a huge multi-way all-in with a couple of $70 stacks, one $200 stack and the rich guy. The $200 stack scooped the lot with KT on a bouard of Txxxx.)
These games can be profitable (albet volatile) but they are not games in which I have played a lot and they are not therefore games where, through experience, I have worked out the best lines. I have to play them to work out the best lines, and I have to accept the volatility. But for the moment I am sure I have a higher EV in the tighter day games where there are fewer multi-wayers, lower volatility, and pots can be won through reasonably intelligent play.

If we take poker "levels" as being 0 to 10, with me being something like a level four player, I reckon that the tricky guy I was up against in the evening was a level six or something. I can cope with level five players, steering clear of them. My ideal opponents are level two and level three, because I can get inside their heads. But level 0 and level 1 players are difficult for me. I have to "unlearn" stuff in my head such as "he can't have this because he did this" sort of thinking.
I also have to completely restrategize because there are so many multi-way pots. Much of poker is learnt behaviour. You see something happen again and again and again, and you know what to do. This is why Londoners can walk London's streets so much more confidently than tourists.
Just because a game is weaker that does not mean it is easier, at least, not until you have had lots of practice. The harmonica is an "easier" instrument to play than a sitar, but that didn't mean that Ravi Shankar could put down his sitar and outperform Larry Adler.
It's the same in these "softer" games. A level two player who is used to playing these games will outperform a level four player who is used to playing a different type of game.

Now $410 down for the trip.

Losing $450 in a day is, of course, less enjoyable than winning it. And poker is a game that seems incredibly easy when things are going right, and very difficult when things are going wrong. And, when things ARE going wrong, it is immeasurably harder to continue to play well. In that sense, yesterday was not that downheartening. Despite getting Aces cracked twice (I'm now 0 for 3 in Aces all in pre-flop, and yesterday I was 0 for 2 with Aces when I was 80% both times – although in the second case the final money went in on the turn. If I had won all four of these, I would be up about $900 rather than down $410) and not getting the rub of the green for most of the day, I kept my cool.

But, eventually, you have to look at the bottom line because that is the only way of keeping score. You have to decide whether you are good enough, but are being unlucky, or whether you aren't good enough. This is not a cut-and-drieg decision, and there are many players out there carrying on playing because they are deluded in thinking that they are unlucky, rather than bad.
It's almost a Phil Dickian problem. Is my perception correct, or am I in fact not good enough?
Unlike most players, I have spent 15 years being racked by this self-doubt. That's an advantage rather than a disadvantage, in that I suspect my grasp on reality is greater than that of most poker players, which should in turn mean that I am more likely to spot that it's time to call it a day.

The last time I had a losing trip to LV was in April 2007, and then I didn't come back for more than four years. And I didn't really miss it.
And, of course, the trip isn't over. I might end up breaking even. I might end up $1,000 down. Neither is that significant in the grand scheme of things. I'm never going to be in the situation where I am playing poker and having to win to eat.
When I get back to London I am thinking of doing a version of the bonus-hunting circuit in the London casinos, although I am not sure that I will be able to stand the company. If I don't enjoy it, I will quit fairly sharpish. But it would be an interesting experiment.

Online, I also need to re-evaluate, but that's a topic for another day!

Not sure what I am going to do today. The apartment is cleaned on Mondays, else I might have just sat around. This is the kind of day when the hot weather is such bad news, because I would love to go for a long walk. That's not feasible when it 106f out there.

peterbirks: (Default)
After the Friday late-night stupidity, I managed to sleep until about 8am. Got up, faffed around, and went back to bed. Didn't get into the Strip until 2.30pm.
Started off at Harrah's and it was fairly quiet until I put in a small raise with Ah 3h and got callers in the Big Blind and under the gun.
Flop came As 9s 3s, giving me top-and-bottom. There's $24 in the pot and I've only got $80-odd to play with, so the general rule when short-stacked is that you have to play rather hard with anything equal to or better than top pair top kicker (TPTK).
I bet $20, and got two callers. I'm kind of hoping that there's a draw and a bare Ace with a decent kicker (say, Ace-Jack) out against me. Neither opponent is all that good an neither looked as if they were slow-paying a flopped flush.
Turn was something like Jack of Diamonds, but I don't sense that anyone is too excited about it. I am checked round to and I decide to commit. I shove, and both opponents call.
River is also a blank, but the Under the gun initial limper shows Ace-Nine for a higher two pair (the other guy had Ace-King off).
One stack down.

I drifted down with my second stack until I hit As Jd in late. I put in a reasonable raise over two limpers and got called in the Big blind and by my nemesis in the Ace-Three hand.
flop was Jd 6h 4s, giving me TPTK. Big blind bets $20, nemesis folds, and I have to take a view. I do, and I shove. He calls. Turn and river are unexciting and opponent shows Jack-eight off. Yes, the opposition really is that bad. Back up to $190 in front of me and $50 down.

Then I put in a small raise with 5s 4s and got four callers. Flop came 5 5 Q. Bet from a bit of a tricky lag in the Big Blind. That's fairly standard. Flat call from me. Turn brings the final 5, not only giving me quads but also possibly hanging the lag out to dry if he decides to try a bluff-shove. He duly bets small and I duly call. River is a jack. Lag bets $22 and I raise to $50. He calls reluctantly. I suspect that he didn't even have a queen, more likely a very small pair. I think he might have shoved if he'd had the queen.
Ended the session $36 in front. Not bad after being $150 down at one point.

Moved to the Flamingo and had a rather tedious time of it. Qd Qh in late looked to be in trouble on a flop of Ad Kd 5h. Check to me and I bet. Big blind calls. Looks to me to be a baddish Ace. Turn brings Jd. Check from opponent and check from me. River brings 8d, giving me the nut flush. Opponent checks and I bet smallish. He calls with no diamond. Up to about $150 in front of me.
That drifts back down a bit until a laggy player who has lost a big stack shoves his remaining $50 from under the gun. That's a wide range despite being 25 Big blinds. I look down and find KK in mid. I reraise all in. He shows AA and I lose. Down to $90.

Further drifting over the next couple of hours sees me at around $60. I call a small raise and one call, with 55. Flop comes 5 5 7 two hearts, which is nice. Check from me, $6 bet from opponent and a call from me. Two players. Turn brings a six and I decide to bet small. $10 goes in and opponent calls. River brings another six.
Now, if opponent turns out to have a pair of sixes in the hole I think I will top myself. Flamingo had a $28k bad beat won a couple of days before and, that being the fourth time it had been won in a month, the poker room manager had stopped it. So all I would get would be the $50 high hand bonus, rather than the $12k that I would have got before.
I bet $10 and opponent calls and my quads, only the second-nuts, is good. Up to $55 in profit.
And $50 up is how I finished about half an hour later, also not bad from $60 down.
I had an interesting time in both games, chatting to players. The difference from the misery of the previous late-night game was like chalk and cheese. It's the chat that I like, and I am quite prepared to play against far better players if it means I get interesting chat to go with it.

So, $86 up for the day. Met a lovely guy called Sean (possibly Shaun!) from Sheffield. Looks a bit like Miles Jupp, of whom he has never heard, partly because Sean possibly Shaun lives in Hong Kong, where he teaches Mathematics.

Home, cooked meal, felt content with life. No more late-night shenanigans for me.
About $42 up for trip, plus, $120 Total Rewards rakeback, plus two freerolls nearly qualified for.
peterbirks: (Default)
Is the euro crisis finally coming to a head?
It is beginning to look as if this is the case.
And, although the final cause might be one of personalities rather than policies, the underlying reasons are fundamental. In simple terms, there is only a finite period that you can continue pretending that fiction is fact, pretending, as Angela Merkel said "where there's a will, there's a way".
Because the sad thing is, Greece has really been insolvent for quite a long time. Unfortunately the European Union functions in such a way that many of its institutions are forced to act as if falsity is truth. One has to feel sorry for the European Central Bank, which has been lending short-stop funds to Greek banks (via the Greek Central Bank) under the fiction that the banks are suffering liquidity problems. The ECB is specifically barred from lending to insolvent institutions, so (and here we see how the road to hell is paved with good intentions) it started lending "a little bit" to the Greek Central Bank under the pretence that it was a bit of a payday loan to cover a short-term liquidity shortage.
Unfortunately, once this had started, there was no going back until it was way too late. It was like giving a payday loan to someone without the cash even to cover the interest rate payments.
This means that when the "emergency liquidity funds" are cut off, the chaos that will ensue will be far greater than if they had never been provided in the first place. The only way to put off the chaos is to lend even more. And, since the EU is addicted to kicking cans down the road, that is what the ECB has been doing – to the turn of more than 100 billion euros, a sum that, when those loans are not repaid, will hit the eurozone taxpayer.
As I have said before, the people who should have taken the hit on the money lent to Greece since 2000 were the German commercial banks, the institutions that lent the money in the first place. Lending at interest is a commercial decision. If you lend to borrowers who have no obvious means of paying the money back, you are stupid and you deserve to suffer for it. The German commercial banks were stupid, but they have made sure that it is the euro taxpayer who will suffer for it.
So now we have reached an impasse where the eurozone finance ministers are saying that they do not want a Greek exit, but where the only way they can avoid it is for the Greek government to capitulate. Rather than rescue funds being there "to rescue", it has become a bargaining game.
The Greeks should be enacting economic reforms in order to facilitate a recovery (that is what Ireland did). Instead it has reached a stage where the Greeks are using reforms as a bargaining counter. "We will only institute this reform if you lend us more money", the Greek negotiators say. Even if the Greeks know that a reform is a good thing in the long term, it is now in their interest not to implement it unless such a move obtains more cash from the IMF, the ECB, or any other euro lender that happens to be in town. That, clearly, is an insane situation.

June 30th always looked like being the fateful day, ever since earlier this month when a repayment to the IMF was put off for just a few weeks – the first time this had happened since the 1990s. Complete carnage often develops over weekends (it was that fateful weekend in October 2008 when the UK banking system nearly collapsed and RBS quite possibly would not have had functioning ATMs on the Monday morning) and Greece will not be a good place to be in on Monday morning, I suspect.
Will a last-minute "rescue" (i.e., another can-kick down the road) be found? Perhaps, although it's getting hard to see where it can come from. The ECB is between a rock and a hard place. It doesn't want to be the agency that makes the final decision to push Greece into a full-blown financial collapse, but it is getting close to the stage whereby it cannot throw any good money after bad.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, an awful choice for the head of the Eurogroup finance ministers (as I said at the time), has said that finance ministers would be meeting over the weekend to "prepare what is needed to ensure the stability of the eurozone at the highest level", which is clear code for "we are prepared to see Greece go". But, politician that he is, he also emphasized that it would be up to the ECB to decide whether to supply "emergency liquidity funding" (yes, he actually called it that) to the Greek banking system. As Athens burns, European politicians are still seeking to cover their arses and not be the group that finally pulls the trigger.
How will it pan out in the next few weeks? My hunch is that Greece will run out of euros but will not, in the short term, leave the euro. This is a final can-kick and it depends on the co-operation of ordinary Greek people (not something that is guaranteed) to accept Greek bank-issued IOUs denominated in euros. There is a significant risk that this will cause a "parallel euro" to develop, with these IOUs being exchanged (illegally, obviously) at a discount for "real" euros. The fiction will be that they are of equal value, while the fact will be that Greece has its own currency. Foreign exchange players (such as travel companies) won't accept these IOUs, but will insist on "hard" currency. But the "soft" currency might work as an internal monetary system, not least because the alternative is even worse.
There is a history of such "soft" and "hard" currencies working in parallel, sometimes successfully and for many years (the communist states of eastern Europe pre 1989, for example), but the capital controls that come with such a system will not be easy to impose in the exceedingly permeable Greek borders.
The effect of this will ultimately be the same as a Greek exit from the euro, but, as has been the case for the past six years, it will be a death by a thousand cuts, rather than an overnight move to the new drachma.
That's one possible scenario. There are others. Somehow a deal might be cobbled together to kick the can down the road again, but I think that most of the euro politicians realize that the game is up. They believed that Greece would capitulate because Greece desperately wants to stay in the euro. Unfortunately Greece's Syriza leadership doesn't have the strength to impose the cuts that the Eurogroup wants. it was, after all, elected to reverse earlier cuts. Both sides believed that the other side would back down. But Greece is no longer as vital to the eurozone as Syriza believed it was (or, rather, the principles behind the formation of the euro are no longer as sacrosanct as Syriza believed) while the Greek political leaders are not as powerful with their own people as the Eurogroup imagined.
There's a collection of complete economic incompetents in charge in Europe, from the 17 finance ministers of the eurozone, through the 17 prime ministers of the eurozone, through the politically-controlled IMF. Draghi at the ECB (who knows what he is talking about) has been caught in the crossfire here and might end up being the fall guy for the politicians, the poor man who has to explain why the ECB's decision to abide by its own rules was the cause of the collapse of the Greek banking system. In fact, Greece's banks have been insolvent since before the days of the Cyprus crisis in 2012. It was just that Greece at the time was too big to be allowed to go the same way.

There's one final possibility – Russian financial aid. A few years ago this would have been a distinct possibility, but Russia has problems of its own. Much though it would like Greece as an ally (Greece, you might recall, was where the UK and the US "drew the line" on communist takeovers) Putin's foreign policy strategy is more focused on places with significant Russian ethnic minorities (particularly the Baltic states). And Putin would know that any "bail-out" of Greece would be throwing money down the drain.
And would the Greek people want to see their nation depicted as a Russian whore? Is that a price they would be willing to pay? Perhaps it is.
peterbirks: (Default)
Technical matters first:
Flamingo Freeroll Tournament, 10am. Got no cards for four levels, apart from a pair of nines which I used to build up my stack from $3k to $3.6k. By this time the blinds were 200-400 and I had only 9bb, so I shoved JJ, and was called in Big Blind by the Big stack with QQ (it always seems to be the big stack that has a hand against me). Also, I never seem to win the 18%-ers here. Out.
There were 94 runners this morning, a disappointingly high number. So, 0 for 2 in tournaments so far.
Harrah's session 1. 11.15am to 2,45pm. Lost $202, but purely through run bad rather than play bad.
First I had a couple of $15 bets that I had to put in because it was a multi-wayer, I was last to act, and I was getting storming pot odds (and even higher implied odds). Both missed. That left me with $75. I picked up Ad Kd under the gun and limped. Lagtard to my immediate left raised to $10 and he was called by two decent players. So far, all according to plan. I promptly shove, and lagtard calls me. The other two players fold. Board runs out A x x x Q and lagtard shows QQ. Standard. Rebuy 1.
Carry on playing well for a couple of hours until I get Th Ts in late. I raise and get called in four spots. Flop comes Ah Qd Tc, giving me a set of tens. Checked round to me and I bet a near pot bet. Big Blind reraises all in and I call. He shows Kc Jc for the flopped straight. No help for me on turn or river and I am on rebuy 2. $240 down.
Work my way back to $202 down and leave.
Play for four hours in Flamingo, working hard with little material. Profit of $4.
Dinner with Jamie and Lee at Planet Hollywood. A nice Prime Rib.

At 8.30pm, hit the evening game at Harrah's. I have been told by several players that I should focus on the weaker games, of which Friday night is the most notabble example. Unfortunately, I listened to this advice.

I probably shouldn't be writing this right now, as it's 2.30am, I've had a shit day ameliorated only by a pleasant dinner with Lee and Jamie, and I am feeling distinctly cranky.
I have learnt that when you have had a really bad day at cards, it's best to look at the positives. They are few and far between and are far outweighed by negatives on several fronts.
But, on the plus side, the $120 I lost in the Friday evening session could have been lost three times over. Also, I was on tilt and recognized it, so I got up and left. Finally, I didn't crash the car on the way home.

The negatives? I have told myself several times that it doesn't matter if you are in a weak game, if you are tired, your tiredness is a bigger negative than the weakness of the opposition. And yet, once again, I ignored this sage advice to myself. I watched hopeless players lose money to less hopeless players. I saw hopeless players win money from good players. I was affronted at the awfulness of their play and the fact that (a) often they were not punished for it and (b) if they were, I was not the beneficiary.
And yet, for hours, for HOURS, I gritted my teeth with a single buy-in. I had said to myself I would leave at 11pm, but there were a succession of bad players, most going broke, some not going broke. And as a result I stayed. MISTAKE. My tiredness should have been my major consideration, not the weakness of the opposition.

I was card dead for hours. When I finally got KK, I put in a continuation bet on a flop of Q T x rainbow, and was raised all in by another English guy. I stared sadly at the ceiling, told him that he had Q T (which he subsequently showed), and I folded. I had given up a third of my stack and most players on a Friday night would not have got away from losing their entire stack with KK in that situation. But, I was still losing.

The last hand, against a weak player, I played so badly I can't even bear to recount it. Tiredness had set in. I could have got away for a $20 loss, but instead it was an $80 loss and my third $120 stack of the day was dust.

The negatives of today are that most of the lessons are lessons I should already have learnt. I don't like playing ultra-weak players because I have nothing to say to them, I find the game tedious, and when I don't win their money I see myself becoming a miserable old git. I only retained my sanity a couple of hours into the game tonight (when one of the bad players was on a particularly galling winning streak, and was being paid off by players who should know better – including, in one case, me) by putting on my headphones and listening to Bruce Springsteen.

This, of course, is precisely the kind of thing that Neil Channing rails against – players who block themselves off from the social aspect of the poker game. But when the only alternative is berating the opponent for being so awful that they should be allowed out with anything sharper than a crayon, perhaps putting on the headphones is a better second-best. Neil just happens to be good at chatting to awful players and getting them to want to give Neil their money.
In meta-terms, I am hopeless at this kind of game – which is yet one more reason that I should avoid the ultra-weak games on a Friday night.
Perhaps if I wasn't tired it would be different. But, hey, I can't HELP being tired late at night. I am not and never will be a "get up at 1pm" kind of guy. So, the best strategy for me in live games in Vegas is definitely not to seek out the really weak players. It's bad for my equanimity. It's not profitable for me. And it makes me hate the game.
I will be that kind of player that Neil hates – the one discussing a hand after it has been played with another player at the table who is also a thinker. Why? Because that is how I keep my sanity at the table. Tonight was hell. I couldn't talk to anyone. I couldn't comment on awful play. I couldn't comment on hands. I had to suffer in silence losses to opponents who made atrocious plays (I couldn't bring myself to smile and say "well played", but at least I didn't make any sarcastic comments like "nice catch".)
And, in the end, the mental strain of all this, suffering bad cards, watching bad players win, all in turn LED ME TO PLAY BADLY. What I should have done (and what I have told myself to do many times before) is get up and leave, despite it being a game of weak opponents. But I didn't do it. I listened to the conventional wisdom, that these were the games you needed to be in because these were where most of your poker profit lay.

Which brings me to the crux of the matter. Do I need to develop my game so that these do become the games where my profits lie, or is the conventional wisdom wrong? Are these types of games in fact only super profitable for a certain type of "good" player, whereas for me, the more profitable games are not against the truly dreadful, but against the players only slightly less competent than me? Do I need to change my game? Or is the conventional analysis wrong?
I don't know the answer to this. My instinct is that I should be able to make most of my profit in these weak games, but my experience has been misery, and seeing my own game become worse because of the weak opposition I face.
For the moment, I am going to keep the faith in myself and steer clear of Friday nights, of games where five of the 10 are certain to lose their money within a couple of hours. Because I am not the player who benefits from it. I just find myself losing money trying to adapt my game to these weak players.

So, as you can see, the negatives of today outweigh the positives. I didn't lose three buy ins tonight, but I did lose one, and it was one more than necessary, because I didn't listen to myself, and I didn't stick to my rules, the rules which I have hammered out hard over many years and which work for me, even though they look stupid to most other "good" poker players.

Current position – minus $47 for the trip. Doubt that I will sleep that well tonight.
peterbirks: (Default)
Well, a fascinating day's poker for one where I finished up $12 after seven hours and did not have a rebuy.
I am learning all the time how to play this particular game, and in one case in particular I applied a dictum that I discussed last night with Greg Hawes, one which I would never use online but which was almost certainly right in this case.

1) As8h in the big blind and I get in for nothing. Six players. Flop comes Ac 8s Jc. I lead out for $7. Get two callers. Turn is 8d, giving me a full house. I bet $10. Get one caller. River is the beautiful Kc, putting a possible flush on the board. I bet $15 in a way which I hope will make it look like a blocking bet that is scared of a flush. Opponent dutifully raises to $30 and, at this point, I decide to push it to $60. Opponent calls and I win the pot. And, yes, he had the flush. A good example of why not to chase a flush when there is already a pair on the board.

2) Qd Td in the Big Blind. Got in cheaply, possibly a mini-raise. Flop is Qc Th 4c. I bet $7, get called. Turn is 8d. I bet $11, get called. River is, again, Kc. I bet $18, and opponent raises to $40. I think for a minute, decide that I can only beat a bluff, decide that opponent is not bluffing, and fold. A week ago I think that I would have made a crying call here, given the size of the call and the size of the pot.

3) Ad Jh in late. Put in raise and get called by button and by someone in the big blind who couldn't play the game. Flop is Ac Jd Tc. I think that BB has checked and so fire out $16. I'm happy to win this right now TBH. Suddenly it appears that BB hasn't checked. He puts out $5. Well, that makes a lot of sense, as my $16 bet would stand if he checks, so why bet? But it helps me, because button now folds. Big Blind calls.
Turn is a brick, say, 3h. He checks and I ponder. I have precisely $66 left in front of me. I can shove here, but I really want to extract maximum value, and I think I can get a call for most of my money and then get a call from him with a weaker hand on the river. So I bet $40. He calls.
River is (and, yes, you may be ahead of me here), the King of clubs.... AGAIN. That's just about the worst river I could see. Opponent now shoves in all his chips (about $90) in such a fashion that I am not even sure that he has seen that I have only $26 left.
Now (and this is the interesting part and is related to the discussion I had with Greg the evening before), according to ordinary poker theory I should call here, because opponent has probably made his mistake by calling on the turn (he might have been drawing to a flush, but I think that he has AQ and has fallen in love with top straight), which dictates that in the long run I make money by always calling. BUT, in this situation, for this particular hand, I cannot see my hand being a winner. And $26 is still $26. So, I pass.
Opponent then rakes in pot, asks dealer where he can cash his chips, and vanishes. An odd state of affairs.

It now gets even more interesting. One of my rules is that I do not rebuy until I go broke, and I play my chips as if they are a short stack in a tournament. There is solid logic behind this. If you are at a table with large stacks, a small stack is at quite an advantage. Many players hate playing, say 13BB in a cash game. They are convinced that it is giving up potential profit. But if playing a short stack buy-in is a valid strategy, then, as you can see, continuing to play with below the minimum buy-in is an even better strategy.

And, for once, this worked out. I got KK on the button shortly after and raised all-in, doubling through with a bit on top.

4) I drifted back down again over the next half hour to $37, and then picked up Ad Jd in early. I limped and a player two to my left raised to $8. Four people called behind him and I now shove. Original raiser reshoves for $300, and another player behind him calls for $200. Final two players fold, and I am slightly less optimistic than I was.
Thankfully the board decided to include three diamonds and I scooped. Up to $155, $35 up, and no rebuy!
The additional plus (for me) from not rebuying when I went down to $26, is that if I had rebought and built up to be $35 up via some other route, I would have had $275 in front of me against two tricky big stack players. I am far happier being $35 up with $155 in front of me against these players than being $35 up with $275 in front of me.

As it happened the game now fizzled a bit until I decided to leave. I drifted down to $132, and people were going away to dinner. I had more than seven hours in and was getting a bit tired, so I decided to call it an early night.

That gave me an opportunity to pop into Boulder Station. Photos are on Facebook. There was a surprisingly active poker room, with only one table of $1-$2 NL, but with THREE tables of $4-$8 limit Omaha with a half-kill. (also a couple of tables of $2-$4 limit and one table of $2-$6 spread limit).
The bad beats and the jackpots here are interesting. They have a single table bad beat, but it looks to me to benefit the limit tables at the expense of the no limit tables. Didn't see what the rake was. If it was $4 max it would be worth playing.

I popped into a 7-11 on the corner of Boulder and Lamb, just by the casino. I needed some bread and some more Mountain Dew (it's yummy!). But from the look of the people hanging around, this wasn't a place I fancied pulling out my cash. Took some fancy fingerwork to extract only small bills. The guy before me and the guy behind me were paying for their purchases in quarters. There were also a couple of African-American soul brothers of the heavily tattooed genre hanging around. Certainly a place where caution rules (I'm cautious everywhere, but the EV of being cautious here looked to be greater than normal).

Freeroll Friday morning in Flamingo. I now have 60 hours in at Harrah's, so for my next 20 hours there I am effectively getting $11 an hour rakeback. This is because of the way that they have structured their Main Event Freeroll.

August 2017

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