Rewind: March 2006

Priority number one in early March was a trip upstate to Turning Stone casino for their annual March tournaments. These tournaments were not very expensive (the grand finale was only $1,000), so they fit my bankroll nicely. I have a lot to say about the Turning Stone facility and will devote an entire blog entry to it later. The highlights of this trip were a nice cash game session at a table populated by internet kids and Al Krux of 2004 WSOP Main Event final table fame and my car breaking down on the New York State Thru way on its way to the Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse.

OK, the car wasn’t really a highlight; it was awful. I waited over an hour for a tow in 15-degree conditions. A day later, I took a cab to scenic Utica and hopped a bus home to Manhattan. Particularly memorable were the two passengers seated behind me: two hideous biker babes Greyhounding their way to rural South Carolina and the Florida panhandle, respectively. Their conversation, which was inappropriately loud, alternated between stupefying and horrifying. Topics included, but were not limited to, American Idol, tattoos and dildos. Both of these self-described badasses refused to disembark at Port Authority for their half hour layover because they feared they’d get mugged in the big city. I fled to the safety of my apartment.

I returned to online play with uninspiring results. I treaded water for three weeks, notching small wins here and there and then blowing through the profit on new buy-ins. I was still working on a couple of projects for my father, which was growing very tiresome. It was around the middle of the month when I learned of the pending grand opening of PokerXFactor. is an instructional tournament poker website run by “JohnnyBax” and “Sheets.” In the insular world of online poker, these two guys (those are their Pokerstars screen names) are behemoths, celebrities. I don’t know the exact details of their story, but the general background is this: Sheets (real name Eric Haber) was working on Wall Street and Bax (real name Cliff Josephy) was his client. Both discovered online poker and began playing, discussing it regularly. Soon they were discussing it more than whatever financial stuff they were supposed to be discussing. Both became obsessed, and through their constant play and strategic discussion, they improved drastically. They improved to the point where they became two of the best players on the net. Bax in particular, now a WSOP bracelet holder, he’s basically the Babe Ruth of online tournament poker. Today, both are revered, almost idolized, by scores of online players who aspire to similar success.

I personally witnessed Bax and Sheets’ ascent to the top, having played against both of them a few times prior to, during and after their climb. My reason for liking them runs slightly deeper: both are family guys in their late 30’s or early 40’s residing in Syosset, Long Island, ten minutes from where I grew up. And I have no way of verifying this, but I believe both are non-observant Jews (like me). They’re also funny, personable people (like me!). Through no fault of their own, Bax and Sheets came a little late to the online poker party and are constantly pitted against younger foes (like me). When Bax and Sheets talk (in actuality, type, or “chat”), I feel a kinship, it reads like something I might say. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. I could learn a lot from them. So when I found out about their website, I immediately signed up, despite the pretty steep cost, more than double what similar sites charge.

PokerXFactor allows you to watch tournaments played by the instructors as they narrate along. It’s a great tool. And it immediately plugged a few leaks in my game. Namely, after watching only one or two videos, I learned:

  1. stop stealing so much early in tournaments, particularly with weak aces;
  2. when and why to re-steal (a move I was generally too timid to implement previously); and
  3. how to handle small blind/big blind confrontations late in tournaments.

pretty soon i’d be putting these concepts to work.

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