Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Table Conduct

In a small attempt to periodically update this space with something other than infrequent (and probably rather boring) bankroll or tournament updates -- and maybe more importantly to move beyond the plateau to some sort of growth -- I'm going to attempt to throw up a few things on more general strategy and thinking. Below is the first of these posts.

Somewhere along the line I picked up a little quote that should be every players guide to conducting themselves appropriately at the table:
Win with grace, lose with dignity, and never ever tell a sucker what he's doing wrong.
Let's examine the three parts of this.

Win with grace

Winning with grace is probably the easiest to achieve of the three parts for most players. We win a hand or a tournament or a race situation... We're pleased... We're in a good mood. Typically people with such a mood are naturally gracious to those around them. We may shrug our shoulders to our losing opponent, or offer some condolence if we won via a bad beat or even-money situation. The hand-shake is frequently seen as a way to soothe egos and establish that we, the winner, aren't somehow gloating over our (perceived) dominance of the other player.

Being a gracious winner is really the only way to be a respected winner, and achieving that status in other player's minds is simply put, good business for future encounters at the table. (And often just as importantly, away from the table.)

Personally, I think I do pretty well with this. By nature, I am an empathetic person, and tend to be quite cordial when I'm in a good mood - when hands are holding up - when I'm making good decisions - when the game is running as it is "supposed" to run.

But there are still paths available to slipping from being a gracious winner. Perhaps a (losing) opponent will insult your play. Sometimes, prior history with an opponent may incline you to gloat or insult. The "there, moron, take that" sentiment can be quite strong. This kind of gloating behavior belies an attitude that is completely counter-productive in poker: it's as if you are seeking out confrontation to prove your mastery, when the more appropriate approach often is to avoid confrontation... to tip-toe around it... to stop when your opponent "goes"... to zig when they zag. Simply put: It reveals that your ego is involved.

Poker is definitely not the game for someone who derives pleasure in adding insult to injury.

Lose with dignity

Yeah, this is the tough one. The second-bests keep coming in an unbroken chain. The 9 and 4 and 2 outers cripple us. Every raise we make is hijacked from behind with a re-raise. 80/20 situations feel like races, and races feel like domination.

I don't need to say much about why players struggle with losing in a dignified manner - every player knows these emotions all too well. Some will whine and complain - some will hurl insults and passive-aggressive remarks.

Personally, I can be horrible in this arena. I'm a naturally animated person (which is obviously a formidable handicap as a poker player). A coolly-intended statement can take on the feel of an exclamation when you're inclined to be so animated. Often there is a disconnect between how I actually feel about a beat or a loss, and how what happens after is displayed or perceived by others. I may be "okay" with the result, but something said intended as a tension-relieving joke may be seen as bitterness. An innocently-begun postmortem may end up looking like whining or anything else other players don't want to hear.

Perhaps the best I've ever done was leaving the room entirely after a particularly bad beat. While this may not be necessary, and may in itself be somewhat of a surrender of your dignity (the little baby can't take it so he runs off to cry), it's far superior to a lot of other things that can happen after a loss. Ideally, and most appropriately for players who share my problems detailed above, silence may be the best option.

So why be dignified when losing? Simply put: people like watching train wrecks. We all secretly love seeing others in distressed situations. We take delight in seeing a player lose his cool, if for no other reason than he might rebuy and fuel the game with tilt. He's not thinking clearly and coolly, he's putting blood in the water and chips in the pot. In a game where skill can take a painfully long time to dominate luck, perhaps the only real domination we can accomplish in the short-term is to get another player frustrated and off his game.

And here's the point: the more a player tends to become an undignified loser, the more others at the table want to see him lose. Your ego is on your sleeve and good players will recognize this as the sign of a target.
You will be seen as a likely source of profit. They'll take shots against you they might not take if you were more respected, seek out your weaknesses, and then pick them apart, while they likely leave other, quieter, players alone.

(Side note: don't even think that you can get more action by acting like an ass. I've yet to see a player who can pull this off to the desired effect.)

Never ever tell a sucker what he's doing wrong

As a long-time player, I've "been around the block" I think. I've seen and played in a lot of different games, and one of the worst things that can happen to a game (and it always does if the game goes on long enough) is that the dead-money players which fuel the game and give us a profit will inevitably leave. Hopefully they leave broke, but for one reason or another, they always leave.

Why would you encourage them to do so? Telling someone what they are doing wrong is not only the sure sign of someone with an ego that needs propping up, it's a sure way to discourage a poor player from continuing to be a poor player. He might leave, or he might correct his errors, but either way, the driving force of the game has left the table. Poor players not only directly fuel the game, but they indirectly often run good players that you might normally struggle to beat, right into your monster hands. Simply, they encourage and drive action.

The most common form of this error occurs when a poor player plays poorly and is rewarded for his efforts. The loser's superiority has not manifested itself in the end result of the hand, and he will feel the need to exert this superiority in some other way. Thus, he tells the sucker what he's doing wrong.

Perhaps the most glaring form of this error is missing the fact that different people play poker for widely-varying reasons, and for some of them, it is purely for fun. Now, if you are ultimately going to profit from their fun, and they are going to have a good time, what does pointing out their poor play accomplish? Likely feeling insulted... perhaps even beginning to feel like an "outsider" at the table, they are not likely to be enjoying the experience, and when they leave or alter their play, you're no longer profiting: everyone has lost exactly what they came to the game for.

In conclusion

Analogous to "Win with grace, lose with dignity, and never ever tell a sucker what he's doing wrong", is the similarly-minded quote "Never complain, never explain." By never complaining and never explaining at the table, you're likely to be a gracious winner and a dignified loser. I have to assume that these things will aid your game, if the majority of other technical aspects of play are in place and you feel that you are at a plateau.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Nice Multi Win

Still alive, still grinding away...

After a few bankroll decimations -- the good kind I suppose -- to pay for various things in my life since my last long-ago update here, I'm back hitting the online tables with regularity. Micro limits... bankroll building...

Despite a growing FTP balance which I should be using to take more shots at satellites, I generally avoid tournaments most of the time. As a poker player, you work hard (and often to little effect) to maintain some kind of sanity and emotional balance... and well, I probably don't have to tell you how a string of time-sucking tournaments that end in bad beats or coolers can upset that balance. But still, I don't think I've ever been in a MTT online where I wasn't in awe of the amount of dead money. (I did satellite into the Sunday Million once a few months ago with FTPs and didn't cash.)

So Full Tilt has added these new "Knockout" tourneys, where most of the buy-in goes into a traditional prize pool, with some reserved for each player: Knock someone out, and you win their bounty. Tonight I finished in first place in a 90 player, $3+.30, winning $72, and KOing 10 players for an extra $5 (.50 a-piece).

My play was good, and I ran good. I busted 5 of the 9 players at the final table, all desperate short stacks, and overcame a 2:1 deficit heads-up in a several level battle. Now, I can't really comment on the effect of the bounties on how people play... I didn't observe any situations where .50 is going to influence your decisions, but perhaps less-rational players might. What those little bonuses do accomplish is to help offset the buy-in of the tournament, even if you don't cash. At the above noted structure, busting as few as 3 other players is going to get you nearly half of the total buy-in back. In effect, the bounties "flatten" out the prize structure- typically in a 90 player tourney, 9 players will cash (10%), where in a knockout tournament I'd guess somewhere around 25-40% will get at least something back for their efforts. Take a horrible beat on the bubble, and chances are you may still have made money or broken even.

Of course, if you bust out early yourself, you probably still are down the whole buy-in, but in general playing knockout tournaments vs traditional tournaments should lower your bankroll fluctuations, and help offset some amount of variance.

Good luck out there.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Poor Play In NLHE

Having not posted here since February... a minor poker update might be called for before I get to the actual subject, a companion post to Smart Play In NLHE.

I'm still playing quarter/half short-handed NLHE online working on that $2k bankroll I'm forcing myself to have before moving up to .5/1. I'm showing an earn rate of ~$3.50/hour, and although I still think this can (and should) be more, hey, it's positive. (Quitting sessions when things sour would probably boost my earn by a dollar or more.) Live results in tournaments have been mediocre, as those things tend to be, with typically strong positive showings in cash games.

Once you've been thinking about poker and seriously playing poker for a few years, there usually isn't a whole lot that can happen in a given session, or month, or maybe even year that seems all that exceptional (hence the relative lack of post around here... I assure you I've been playing). In the beginning, you're learning new concepts with every session... later those concepts become solidified and redefined and there's still a new thing here or there to pick up. At some level of poker maturity and development, new ideas plateau out and are few and far between. This is the "learning curve" poker players talk about.

With that said, most of my own gains (in both experience and profit) in the last few months are due less to technical progress, and more to personal progress like improved concentration, discipline, etc. I've talked many times about the players who you will see playing smart, tight, solid poker for 2 hours, and who blow their whole stack on one poorly timed and poorly played bluff or similar play. They have the technical skills to win, just not the self-control. Playing optimally, means playing optimally on every hand.

So, that brings me to the hand I'd like to examine in depth... balancing recent posts out by showing a hand that I lost money on and that I misplayed, that really touches on some key aspects of playing optimal NLHE, and some common leaks and traps.


I'm sitting on ~$150 after a set of fours held up against a nut flush draw. (Beware good results in a session like this... it can seem consciously or subconsciously like "hey I'm going to book a positive session here, I can gamble some". This can be a serious leak.)

I'm under the gun with JJ, and make a 4xBB raise to $2. The player behind, who I've seen long enough to know plays tight and very solid values (and almost never raises or re-raises preflop, re-raises to $6.75 of his ~$50. Everyone else folds. This is the critical point in this hand for me: I can be at least 80% certain that I'm against AA, KK, QQ, or a mild possibility of AK.

Checking the odds will reveal that it would cost me $4.75 to call, into the $9.50 pot, or 2:1 pot odds. Now here's the problem, and this did cross my mind at the time: There's really only one flop that I can feel good about, and that's one that contains a Jack. If I would hit it, my opponent has ~$44 left that I may well get. For $4.75 more, I have a 7.5:1 chance of getting $44, or just over 9:1 implied. Calling is viable here but... The real problem (if you're still following me), is the danger of the flop containing cards all Ten or lower. I'd have flopped an overpair (hard to let go, even for experienced players), and would likely still be very far behind in the hand, to my opponents presumably bigger pair. On the whole, taking the flop here isn't bad, so long as you are completely committed to laying the hand down unless a Jack flops.

In reality, I called, saw a Seven-high flop, and checked my overpair. My opponent bet $11.50. In some breakdown of discipline, fueled partly by the well-ingrained pattern of picking off continuation bets (even out of position), I called. Of course at this point going to the turn, I know I can't bet out (as I might normally here to complete the pick off), because habit has thankfully been replaced by conscious thought, and that thought is still saying I'm way behind to a bigger pair.

He moves in on the turn (a Ten), and I quickly and wisely fold. This wasn't a huge mistake from a financial standpoint (I lost $11.50 more than I should have), but:

1. Losing $11.50 seems insignificant, but when your earn rate is $3.50/hour, it represents 3+ hours of play.

2. It was a blatantly stupid error. I knew what I was against. I knew what I had to do. I didn't do it. At few points in NLHE are you this certain of your opponents hand, so by all means, listen to the certainty, and make your errors on the tough decisions, not the easy ones.

This hand is also particularly interesting, because it's precisely the type of hand that many players will lose large on, and will take comfort and consolation in saying "What could I do? I had an overpair. It was just bad luck/timing to run into a bigger pair." ---when you can see from the analysis above that the player not only had every opportunity to back away from the hand, but had nearly every reason to as well.

Hopefully the analysis above drives home three old poker adages:

1. "Bad players pick their hands, good players pick their spots". This was a bad spot, even if an overpair is usually a profitable hand.

2. "Don't throw in good money after bad". I realized instantly that I had made an error, and corrected it by folding as soon as possible. Being stubborn is a good way to be broke.

3. "Stop small errors while they're still small". In poker, one seemingly-insignificant or loose call early in a hand can lead down a path to disaster. Many times once you're in a hand, it basically plays itself (i.e. a hand you're not going to get away from), but there are subtleties in knowing what hands and what spots may lead to possible trouble. You can't fear demons at every turn in a poker game and expect to do well, but with the relatively small implied-odds equity in the hand above, not to mention the possibility of set-over-set (or my opponent getting away from his hand at some point, drying up my implied odds), perhaps the best play was a pre-flop fold.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Smart Play In NLHE

I've been working the short-handed quarter/half no limit tables again, and recently with encouraging success, making a respectable hourly rate. Part of this success, I'm certain, can be attributed to putting a lot of skills together well. As a player, at one time or another I have most of the "pieces" and skills needed to win... such as hand-reading, odds, starting selection, table texture and adjustments, and so forth. But to win, and consistently, these things all have to work together simultaneously, or at least most of them. Not a revolutionary idea, but difficult to apply.

So here are two hands that hopefully show what I mean that I'd like to go through and actually post some real poker content:

Example #1

I'm on the button, 6-handed, with A6o [Ac 6s]

The SB is a rabbit, who can be counted on to fold without a strongly-flopped hand, and let you know if she has it. The BB seems to be a tight/solid player who plays with some measure of craftiness.

Now, A6o is good enough to play here short-handed on the Button. My gut is that I should probably raise here, but my hand isn't very strong, and I know I can easily outplay one of my opponents, and I'll have position. I elect to call and we go three to the flop:

8s 2h Th

Checked to me. I usually adore firing at a pot like this, but there's some compelling reasons not to. I still have a weak hand, and no strong outs (save maybe the 3 other Aces), and although that suggests trying a bluff (it may be my only way to win), there's just a tiny pot out there, and there's not much chance of me forcing out a better hand or a draw. This is a mistake that's easy to make: you take a stab at a pot you may well be winning, get a caller or callers, and now you're playing a bigger pot with a (still) weak hand. I still have position, it's a small pot, and I may have the best hand: I check.


Checked to me again. Now the flush became possible, not to mention somebody likely has a flush draw, and that's not me. Though I've been checked to twice (usually a good spot to fire at), again, there's no pot (thanks to my earlier refusal to stab), and no compelling reason to bet. Managing pot size like this, even when certain situational factors are telling you to do otherwise, is one of the keys to playing effective NLHE.

I'm sure some may feel this is elementary, and others will criticize my completely passive play here, but keeping pots small is perhaps one of the most overlooked elements of what people term under the larger heading "discipline"... if only because it's far easier for discipline to collapse in larger pots. I've seen others (and myself) play good solid poker for hours, and then a pot plays out (characterized by early round pot-building) where either because of straight pot odds, implied odds, or just plain poor play, your stack is deleted. Never underestimate the possible negative effect of what seems like, at-worst, a small error early.


SB checks and BB bets the pot. Now here is where being able to judge an opponent's skill level is paramount. I've made a pair of Aces on the river, usually good enough to win this small and previously uncontested pot, but I have to consider my opponent. He's been crafty and solid so far, and I question why he would make a pot bet here. It's entirely possible he's sensing weakness via all the checking going on and just trying to take it down. He may also assume that I wouldn't just limp an Ace on the button.

But I sense there's more here... if he had a hand that might justify a bet on the river, that I could beat, it would have to be one pair, or some sort of really weak Ace... neither very likely for him to pot bet. Based on the player, there's a good chance he made a flush, straight, or possibly two pair.

I'm getting 2:1 if I call, so I'd only have to pick off a bluff 1/3 of the time here to break even, but again, knowing the player reasonably well, I fold.

The last important point of this hand is applying relative values... all this discussion about a $3 pot? This is a concept that amazes me that people who should (and DO) know better fail to apply. Making a good decision in poker has nothing to do with the absolute amounts of money involved, only the relative amounts. 2:1 is 2:1 whether it's $1000:$500 or $3/$1.50.

Example #2

Here's a classic situation that you'll see over and over...

I'm in middle position this time with AJs [Ah Jh]. Still .25/.50. I open for a raise to $2. The SB and the BB call. The SB has been loose with his calls, especially pre-flop, but otherwise avoids trouble. The BB has been generally solid, but predictable and "by the book".

3s Ks Kc

The SB checks. The BB bet's $5 into the $6 pot.

Let's examine this briefly. The SB is known to call loosely pre-flop, so it is conceivable that he holds a K or a flush draw (the only two hands I really fear), but his check makes either of these a little less likely, and of course, it's most likely he has nothing. The BB was getting 3:1 to call preflop, so his call doesn't necessarily signify anything powerful. Furthermore, one of the possible holdings that I could fear, AK, he has shown a tendency to re-raise with pre-flop. Also, the BB's tendency to be predictable and "standard" (whatever that means) has been strong, and would not likely lead to such a strong bet if he in fact held a King. I would actually expect a check from this player.

The paired flop like this is a classic situation for a re-raise steal, especially here, as the already presumed weak SB would have to have a very real, very strong hand to call my reraise with the original bettor still to act behind. Furthermore, I'm assigning a near-zero probability that the BB has a King, so the only hand that *might* even get a call from him is a flush draw.

I reraise to $10 and both players fold.

You'll see this time and again, where on a flop of something like QQ8, some dolt will bet pot or near it, usually holding an 8. Most people reason that if they get action after making such a bet, they are done with the hand, so don't disappoint them by folding. Of course, be sensible in situations like this and consider your opponents and the number of them, but these can be prime opportunities to win nice pots with no hand at all.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

8k FT Sunday Night Guarantee

I'm trying the 8k Guarantee ($10+1) on FullTilt again as I posted about recently, and figured in the absence of real content here, I'd live blog it.

988 players
153 places paid
1,888.07 = first place


Whew. Level one, I limp K5s (I know, I know) from the cut off in an unopened pot and flop top pair, calling pot and turn bets from the BB, hit two pair on the river, and reraise his third pot bet, which he folds after pot committing himself. Up to T2500. Ranked 95/900.


Level two, a poorly flopped AKs and some blinds play has me back down to T1850.


Fold Fold Fold. Level 5, double through ATs with AJs on a Jack high flop and dodge his flush draw. T3120, ranked 195/471.


First Break, nothing significant... T2620, 238/395. Work to do.


Level 7: double through KQs with A9s after I boated on the turn and let him catch the nut flush on the river. T5240, ranked 96/356.

Level 9 (100/200), knock out A4o with AKs, up to T8015, then KK gets some limpers to fold, then QJ turns trip Queens against middle pair taking me to ~12k, then TT vs 77 all-in flops A77 ONCE AGAIN proving that 80/20's are like coin flips whether the 20% can make quads against me*, putting me at about 8k though still. Then I get A8o in the BB, SB opens for a raise which I call: flop AJ8, he bets, I raise, he goes all in (has me covered) I call and he shows KT for the gutshot, WHICH HITS. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, OVER.

Seriously. out 236.

* Recently in tournaments, I've had 99 make quads on my AA, TT make quads on my QQ, and now 77 make quads on TT. All were all in preflop, and two of those cases I still made a boat. I've made the statement that I'd gladly lose 80% of races if I could just win every 80/20, or hell, 80% of them.

I might as well play bingo.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Multi-Table Tournaments

At another web place last July, I chimed in an answer to a question like "where will you be 1 year from now", and on that short list of goals, I remember throwing in something about taking more shots at multi-table tournaments (MTTs) online.

If you've been following along, and I don't know who this might even apply to, I started poker online hitting the single-table sit-and-gos pretty hard, eventually migrating to short-handed cash games. But along the way, I've hit a few freerolls and other big MTTs, and really seem to do well in such a format.

Last night, needing a break from some work and rather on a whim (perhaps with last July's goal in mind) I jumped into a 90-player deep-stack $1.25 entry-fee MTT on FullTilt, and won. (netting a life-changing $21.25) Probably the most amazing part of the tournament was sitting three-handed with ~25k in chips, with an 18k stack and a (lucky) but huge 200k+ stack. I busted Mr. 18k, and buckled down to drill into this huge lead that my heads-up (and loose) opponent had. I eventually worked up to a 1:2 deficit, then we did the 2:1 flip and I was in front. Next hand after the flip, my tilting opponent shoved with 98o and I called with AJo to finish the deal.

In around a half hour at midnight, I'm enrolled in a $10+1 $8k Guarantee, currently with ~180 players registered (and growing). My goal is simply to cash, but $1536 sure isn't bad for first, with some bankroll boosting numbers for any mid-to-top final-table seat. I'll post updates in the comments so check there for how this all turned out.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Backgammon and Poker, Part 2

Backgammon is easily as aggravating as poker can sometimes be, and it seems perhaps more so. I don't know if they call it a suckout when a player who is very far behind lucks into a win, or if backgammon players tell "bad beat stories", but whatever the terminology is, the nature of the game is the same.

The backgammon equivalent of "rivering" someone is coming from behind in bearing off (when all the checkers are "free" of one another and each player begins removing them from the board according to dice rolls, with the winner getting his/her's off first.) I won't go into detail but let's just say that rolling doubles (6-6, 5-5, etc) is generally very advantageous.

Now with 36 possible ways to roll a pair of dice, and 6 of those ways being doubles, we can say the odds of rolling doubles are 5:1 against. Pretty long, but with the average bear-off requiring something like 6-9 casts of the dice, well, you should roll doubles at least once. Yet I have seen game and again where I was comfortably ahead, and my opponent rolled 3 sets of doubles, sometimes consecutively, to win. Odds of 3 consecutive doubles? 125:1 ...you don't commonly see odds like that in poker, I can tell you that.

But maybe... Let's say player one holds 99 and player two has AA and the flop is 994. Player two needs running Aces, which is 22.5:1 to hit one on the turn and then 45:1 to hit one on the river. Unless I'm a moron and can't do odds anymore, that's a combined probability of over 1000:1 or something like 0.1%. I'm sure it's happened to some poor guy at one time or another.

Another common scenario involves your opponent needing exactly one number to do very bad things to you, like for instance he must roll a six, or you will likely win. Again, with 36 ways to cast two dice, 11 of them will include at least one 6, so the odds are about 2.3:1 against. Consider it a common A6 vs 88 70/30 matchup in poker.

Thinking (and rambling) about these kinds of probabilities -- and perhaps this is the point -- shows how the two games are similar yet different. NLHE allows a player to deny the other(s) the odds they will need by varying bet and raise sizes accordingly, but there is a problem: he doesn't have complete information. In other words, though you can control the pot odds, you must infer and guess at what those odds should be to make your opponent be in error to call, and that's if you are ahead with the best hand, which you also are often uncertain of. (Incomplete information is why bluffing is possible.)

On the other side, backgammon is a game of complete information. You know your position and your opponent's at all times. But (excluding the doubling cube, which is going into too much detail for a poker blog) you don't really "bet" to deny your opponent odds, and you often cannot force him to resign (like folding): he gets his turns and consequently, often gets his chance to suck out, no matter how far behind he may be. You must use the odds much more subtly, using probabilities of certain occurrences to guide your strategy and moves in a more indirect way.

Putting this all together, poker becomes more psychological because of incomplete information, and a good deal of the time involves looking backward in a hand to infer information and guide decision-making. Backgammon on the other hand relies heavily on examining countless future scenarios and balancing these rather complex possibilities with the current position.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Backgammon and Poker

So my wife bought me a backgammon set for xmas, which was a great gift considering it's a game I've been curious about for a while now, but had literally no clue how to play. We've all probably heard of the famous poker players who also were/are apparently accomplished backgammon players; Harrington, Magriel (who wrote the backgammon "bible"), etc... so I knew there must be something to backgammon.

I'm still getting up to speed with the game, but the seemingly confusing rules at first are easily mastered, and then the real strategy starts to develop. The similarities to poker, most specifically NL Hold'em, are many:

- the above noted "minute to learn, lifetime to master"
- a rather optimal balance of luck and skill (short-term variance, long-term positive results for good play)
- places within the game where moves are automatic, others that involve tough decisions and gambles
- always having outs: either game allows you to be very far behind, yet arise to victory
- starting position has a powerful effect on outcome and subsequent strategy: in backgammon, this deals with "opening moves"; in Hold'em, starting hand selection
- the ability to escalate the stakes and put your opponent to tough decisions (as well as the reverse)
- those awful moments when your opponent can simply do no wrong, either always rolling exactly what you fear, or catching exactly the card he needs

As you can see (or already know if you play both), the two games are a good match. Backgammon's complexity may be best demonstrated in the fact that programmers were able to simulate and write effective chess playing programs, before they could do so with backgammon. Interesting as well, are the other variations of "tables" games played similarly on a backgammon board.

I've been playing at play65.com, and although my rating there took a big hit getting up to speed with the game, I've been winning more, and scored my first "backgammon" (and it was doubled!). I'm not sure how seriously I'll end up pursuing backgammon, and poker is still the focus, but backgammon may be a welcome break from poker for those times where you just need to put your mind somewhere else for a few days.