Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Hammer Strikes

Time for a poker posting, not least `cause the next Bloggers tourney is in the midst of being scheduled, (currently set for Wednesday, Feb 2nd at 9pm EST) and there’s a faction that wants it to be bloggers only. Why, only the proponents know. I suspect it's for the same reason sf fans call the general populace, "mundanes." It's an "us vs. them, that ant's the wrong color, that lamb don't smell right" sort of thing.

But thus, consider this the official poker blog of ricoM, by God, where we don’t do anything but eat, sleep, read, and write about poker. We even occasionally play. Our top subjects:

  1. All online poker is rigged.

  2. How could that idiot call me with that hand?

  3. How could that idiot have beaten me with that hand (see #1)?

  4. Sign up at (insert name here) using bonus code (insert bonus code here)

  5. I’m giving up my job and becoming a pro.

  6. The pros and cons of using THE HAMMER

Well, maybe not that last, as there has been a furor in the poker corner of the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks that was apparently first triggered by one bloggers’ commentary that raising with the so-called “hammer” (7 2 off-suit, usually termed “the worst starting hand in hold `em”) is a “stupid move.” These two words unleashed an unbelievable torrent of criticisms, counter-arguments, personal vendettas, and escalating insults in different blogs. “Unbelievable”, of course unless you’re familiar with on-line communities, where every molehill has the potential to grow into Everest.

Apparently because of this another blogger has closed her blog to all but visitors she authorizes. A pity, as I enjoyed reading her postings, although though I thought she was a tad touchy even before this incident – especially with people who disagreed with her. And I’m using “apparently” repeatedly because the arguments seem to have been conducted equally through blog postings, emails, and commentary in several different blogs, making it extremely difficult to determine exactly what everyone is getting so crazy about. UPDATE: See Felicia's note in the comments on her reasons for closing her blog.

I’m not quite sure why, maybe it’s the nature of the beast, but most poker bloggers, and most poker players come to think of it, are very opinionated about play. Very sensitive when they feel their strategy is being criticized; very outspoken about other players’ strategy… especially if they consider a play a bonehead move, and even more especially when stupidity is rewarded, which it often is.

Poker tends to reflect the real world.

As I play more, I’m coming to the belief that most of the advice or commentary I read doesn’t have much to do with what I’m doing. As it stands, I do enough self-criticism of my own play to suffice the entire Red Chinese Army, as Peg will tell you, and I’ve found trying to apply someone else’s style to my play makes me resemble the centipede who was asked how he was able to keep his legs marching in sequence… and was never able to walk again.

I think it may be because my focus is on SnG’s and tournament play, or it may that I’m just not at the level yet where I can apply some strategies. Dunno. But much of the ring game strategy I read doesn’t work for those variants in my experience – or only will work in certain exceptional situations, at least for me. When you’re starting with a limited stack, and you’re gone when that stack is gone, you can’t play too aggressively or loosely. Can you raise with the Hammer and get away with it now and then? Sure, as you can in any game. But, get crazy, raise $200 with a $1,000 stack, get called, and any face card flops, now you’re faced with the decision of getting even more aggressive, with the potential to lose even more, or to cut your losses at $200.

And you’re down to $800. Make a few more loose moves, and you’re gone, unless you get lucky fast.

And before I invite my own firestorm of commentary (not from my handful of regular readers, who are a polite bunch, but if you happen to stumble across this by accident): IMO, only, `kay? Please keep your opinions to yourself. If you’re a poker blogger who has taken offense, go find me on PokerStars or Party and whup my poor little stake, if that’s your pleasure. But please keep how you think I should play to yourself, and I’ll do the same.

Having said that, here’s my personal Hammer story: I was playing in a PokerStars SnG, which is where I make most of my little money. It’s early in the game, still $10/20 blinds. I’m UTG and get 7 2 off-suit. “What the heck,” lil’ Rico thinks, and raises to $60, which I can afford to lose. Everybody folds up to the Button, who just calls me. The SB folds and the BB calls.

The flop hits 7, 2, K, and I have two pair, which ain’t bad, Rico thinks, and he bets $120. I get one fold and one call.

The turn is a nothing card, so I see how Mr. Caller feels and double up again to $240.

He calls. And the flop is a 2, giving me a full house. I go All-In… and he calls. He has two aces in his hand, which he’s been slow-playing.

The loser, who has been providing free advice to everyone on nearly every deal, goes ballistic when he sees what he’s lost to. He goes into the familiar on-line player, “You’re so dumb, how could you play that crap?” refrain where the lyrics change but the song remains the same.

I can’t resist. “THE HAMMER,” I taunt, “is Mighty!” The guy rants so much and for long that I think the Admin guys finally shut him off, at least he gets cut off in mid-rant.

In regards to another situation I recently told Peg, “The only thing better than getting money is taking money from someone you really don’t like.” That’s as true in poker as in anything else. My favorite line from the Hammer debate has been, “To be honest, if she liked me, I wouldn't like myself. While it wouldn’t end the debate, nor make anyone love anyone else better, it’d be fun to see the various parties squaring off at each other at the tables. Probably won’t happen… but it’d be fun to watch.

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