Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Weekend Trader - Three ...

And then there were three. Some thoughts heading into the final trio of 2008 sessions.

Foxwoods Recap - 'Twas a very interesting day yesterday as I continue what I consider time in my poker "simulation tank" of $1/$2 no-limit cash games. I say simulation because I truly view it as a continuing training ground for me before -- if ever -- I decide to up the stakes, similar to trading simulations for apprentice traders. And like trading, I believe in real money, heat-of-the-moment experience as the best teacher ... not conceptual B.S.

Suffice it to say that I sat down at noon with the maximum buy-in of $300, and then spent the next 8 hours and five minutes trying to manage with horrendous starting cards. And we're talking consistently horrible as in 2-6, 3-8, 4-10 ... not even potential "buster cards" which are often the big winners in cash games like low suited connectors or something resembling one has a chance.

In fact while I'm typically the quietest one at the table (always trying to follow the table "class" example that Barry Greenstein, Allen Cunningham, and Mike Baxter show) I remember saying in the seventh hour, "I'm beginning to think it's statistically impossible to get the cards I've gotten for this long a time." And yes, it absolutely reminded me of recent December days where the market has also been dealing 2-6 over and over again.

Anyway, I think I handled the day well, getting to see occasional cheap flops where I might be able to make something out of nothing, or bluff on the river if I was still in and figured someone else missed their draw. So for most of the day, my chip stack floated from $200 - $300, and I actually managed to take a few pots down to cover some of the cost of feeler bets.

Then, at 8:05pm (I know the exact time because I purposely looked at my watch), I finally made the nuts that also happened to take down another strong hand ... Ace high flush besting a King High flush. And I felt I played it well, disguising my hand (which hit on the turn, as did his) by just calling the better on the turn (risk of losing to a full boat at that time was low), and then putting in a nice solid value bet on the river that he called. That pushed me to a little over $400, at which point I almost left.

Instead, I decided to play just one more hand (hello Archie??) as I had the opportunity to see an unraised family pot flop for just $2 with Q-5 of spades. If it didn't hit, I'd be gone. But then the flop came Q-5-6, which was checked all the way around to me where I bet $40 wanting to take it down right there. Everyone folded, except one who raised me all-in for his last $115.

Now the first thought I had was from someone commenting in a prior post who said "never go broke with 2-pair". And I'm well aware of the danger and false sense of security that two pair can bring. Yet after thinking it over for several minutes, I put him on either a Queen, 5-6, or a straight draw. I discounted a pocket overpair or even 5s or 6s for possible trips as he didn't raise pre-flop, ane even if he was slow playing the overpair, I'd still have him with the very unusual Q-5 two-pair. I also felt he was simply getting ready to go home. And since I had him well covered, I decided to call.

Well, he also turned over Queens up, except his was Qs and 6s ... besting my Qs and 5s. Go figure (comments appreciated ... it still seemed the right thing to do, and that was one hand I couldn't put him on ... just like I thought no one could put me on Q-5!). btw, if he had a larger stack and had gone all-in, I'd have folded.

And after no miracle 5 rescued me on the turn and river, I called it a night and went home down exactly $36. Yet all in all, I was pretty pleased with my play in that I had very few opportunities, and held my own for eight hours. Which brings me to my next thought ...

The Candy Store - Steve Zolotow had an excellent piece in the December 31 Casino edition of CardPlayer magazine ... which I of course was reading while getting dealt nothing for eight hours .. entitled "The Candy Store Isn't Always Open". Even if you don't play cards, I encourage you to get a copy, which contains the following excerpt:

"In recent times, poker has been booming. Right now, the poker candy store is open. But don't be fooled. There will always be poker, but it won't always be this good. If you are making a lot of money playing poker, try to hang on to it, or better still, invest it. Don't blow it on (he lists several things) ... thinking the candy store will always be open. It won't. Games will get tougher."

And he goes on and on, making several great points including the fact that participants get smarter, games change, and that you should protect yourself from thinking that you're a great winner and that you can do anything since you can always win more.

In 2008, the market was a candy store for some of us. For others, prior years were candy stores before 2008 turned into their personal horror show as strategies that had "worked" for decades came to a crashing demise as the VIX surged to 40, 50, 60, 70 ... and then over 80 forcing liquidation after liquidation. My broker has repeatedly told me that many historically strong traders got obliterated this year. Yes, traders.

Even top CTAs rarely repeat year after year. In looking back at the top ten CTA trader returns published by Futures Magazine over the last few years, only two traders listed in the 2006 top ten for managed accounts < $10M repeated in the 2007 top ten, and only one appeared in both lists for accounts > $10M. It will certainly be interesting to see how 2008 shakes out when the final CTA #s are released in early 2009.

Those of us that were fortunate enough to be able to quickly adapt to the historic market conditions on the fly and prosper this year should heed the closing words of Mr. Zolotow, "Make a new year's resolution to do something constructive with your winnings."

And as a result of my stumbling across the article, yesterday may be the best $36 ... and eight hours ... I've ever spent.


Anonymous said...


I am glad that the comments I made after your fall trip to Mohegan Sun/Foxwoods came into play during your tough hand this past weekend. I think you played the hand well given the circumstances, but here is another thing I always keep in mind (besides don't go broke with two pair):

"Be cautious in unraised pots unless you have the nuts..."

While putting him on a Queen with a decent kicker, fives and sixes, or a draw was a good read, you put yourself in a situation to lose your hard earned profit and some capital in an unraised pot with Q6.

I like the Archie Karas analogy... if you get some reading time in between trading sessions, check out "One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey The Kid Ungar". He was the greatest poker player of all time, but he blew every last dollar on sports betting and drugs. Unbelievable book.

As a young broker/trader, I have learned a lot from you since July. Congratulations on a great 2008 in the markets and have a Happy New Year.


Don Miller said...

Thanks Evan.

I appreciate the comments and input. Great stuff and I'll check out the Ungar book.