James Yates blog      Welcome to the personal blog of ChessandPoker.com founder James Yates. In an effort to gain a wider market share for our internationally-acclaimed website, James has pledged to go above and beyond, stretching his literary prowess to the fullest extent by posting up to THREE blog entries per year, eclipsing all previous yearly totals combined and likely setting some sort of interweb record for endurance. And when he is not hard at work fulfilling this goal, you'll often find him solving the Rubik's cube in his boxers and talking about how Tetris perpetually cheats him by only giving him the piece he needs after it's already too late. He also enjoys crafting multiple run-on sentences with way too many grammatical errors and commas to be aesthetically pleasing. You're welcome.

Top Five Most Annoying Suckouts in Online Poker

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As I sit here still simmering after losing with AKo after getting it all-in preflop versus KQo AND 42 suited (42 was tilting after a bad beat and the KQ called off 85% of their stack after the 42 raised and I re-raised all-in) and losing to BOTH hands in a pot that would have propelled me into the top 10 in chips, I decided to do a quick review of the most annoying pre-flop suckouts that I frequently observe in online Poker. Tell me if these look the least bit familiar to you:

5. The Short Stack Loses with Anything, Big Stack Wins with Anything

The first half of this annoyance is the case of the short stack always losing against a much larger stack, regardless of their starting hand. For example, a player with 900 chips picks up AA and moves all-in in early position. Everyone folds around to the Big Blind who calls with K7o, probably because he has a stack of 8000 and it just doesn’t hurt him that much. Flop is KK7 or 977 and the Aces don’t catch up. However, the only person that usually complains is the victim of the brutal suckout, because the other players actually benefit from their misfortune. Someone types “ouch” or even more annoyingly “nh” or “I folded a 7”.

The second half is probably more easily recognized by the table. Apparently the algorithm in place at your favorite online poker site has randomly selected an unknown player at your table who shall be invincible to any hand they face. You shove with AA and they call with 83o and send you to the rail. You put them all-in on the turn where they need to hit a one-outer to survive and they drop the hammer on you at the river. For whatever reason, they are calling with anything and winning everything. Rigged? No. Poker enthusiasts have a name for these disappointing streaks of bad luck. It’s called variance. More on that.

4. The Dominated Hand Catches

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve raised or re-raised my opponent all-in with AK and feeling very good about my chances when they flip up a poorly played KQ for all of their chips. They are drawing very slim, as my hand has a shared card and a higher side card. That is, until the turn or river brings one of three outs to save the day for the trailing hand and send my thoughts to chip-spewing mayhem.

This unfortunate situation is bound to occur from time to time, but I’m not sure I can feel particularly comfortable with my supposed advantage when leading over a dominated hand when it happens 15-straight times to an array of different opponents…over the course of 1 hour. I know, I know. Variance.

3. The Smaller Pocket Pair Flops a Set

Another amusing happening that typically waits until much later in the tournament, mostly after 2 1/2 hours of hard work have already been logged, is the blissful moment when you once again are the beneficiary of an overplayed pair of 6’s which have fortunately (for you) run smack dab into your steely Pocket Aces. Lock it down, you think. The board thinks otherwise, and it peels out one of the two cards left in the great big deck of random cards to crush your chip-accumulating chances.

Once again, this is bound to happen from time to time. Variance. But you’ll sometimes see this an unbelievable amount of times in an hour on any given day. Playing multiple tournaments at once? Watch the carnage as players flutter out of your tables after having their foes drawing nearly dead…and just hope it doesn’t happen to you. And when it does, just repeat to yourself with an all-knowing smile: It’s just variance, and then glibly sip a toasty cup of your favorite beverage and go about your day, chanting Variancccccccccce.

2. Flopped Flush loses to Single Card Flush (or bigger flopped flush)

So you have a big stack and you’re doing your laggy best (as we all do) by raising pre-flop with hands like 97 of hearts and so forth. You get a flat call from the player on the button and the flop comes out A-6-2 ALL HEARTS. Sah-weet. You bet out with your monster hand, only to face a swelteringly big bet from your opponent. You put them all-in and lo-and-behold they call you with KQ with the King of hearts. Ha Ha Haaaaaaooooo ****. A fourth heart on the turn? Can you make a straight flush? No? I guess you lose then.

Another happy moment is when you have the same situation as before but they just call your bet and the turn actually comes an off-suit club. You bet again but this time you’re raised. Action ensues and you eventually turn up your flopped flush, only to see that their 10-3 OF HEARTS had you all the way. And yes, they did call off 20% of their stack in order to put themselves into position to crush your feeble play. Variance, son.

1. The One-Two Elimination Punch

And then the coo-de-graw (or however you spell it) of all frustrations. Let me set it up for you, because I’m sure you’ll have seen AND experienced this many, many times. You take one of the horrifying beats I’ve just described. Easy to explain, right? Variance. O. K. But what happens then? A mood-saving pair of Kings pops up onto your screen, a gift to rectify this uncalled for abuse you’ve so recently been forced to endure. You think to yourself, “I can bet and overplay these things because the entire table is putting me on tilt. I’m going to get all the action I can handle. Bwah-ha-ha.” So you make your ridiculous shove in the Small Blind and are insta-called by the big stack who flips up 85o. Boom. So slide the chips to….them. 885 flop. Ouch.

What you’ve just experienced is something I call the one-two punch. Watch for it, it’s out there and it’s going to happen to both you and your opponents soon enough. Is it the Poker gods punishing you for calling off all your chips with AJo early in a tournament? No. Is it the devious online poker site you so dearly cherish performing a sweep-and-clear of your now shortened stack in order to move the tournament along at the breakneck speed needed to finish a 3000+ player tournament in only 4 hours start to finish? No. We know what it is. I don’t even need to say it.

But I will…

IT’S JUST VARIANCE!

gg misunderstanding

*editors note: James does not like variance. at all. but he now feels slightly better. apparently it was just “mood variance”. MOOD VARIANCE!

Back on Track

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After a semi-exhausting training regimen, which involved lots of time deep in study and mucho reading, I feel like I’m now back on my Poker game and sharper than ever. It never ceases to amaze me what I can accomplish after I am thoroughly fed up with something, walk away for a few days and then come back with fresh eyes and a more focused outlook. Most people would learn a lesson here, but I don’t have that long of an attention span and hey that car had a cool paint job, awesome!

As you can see in the picture above, I’ve also continued to do battle (unwisely) with my offspring, this time taking a bitter-but-hardfought loss in the Daily Drink-off competition. That guy is going to make some girl proud one day when he sets the world record for Jager-bombs in one night, he can flat out drink. Surely there is a game I can dominate my household at. Oh…I have it….no, I’m 0-78 at Othello too. Pfft. Who needs to be King of games when I am the undisputed household champion of Worst Weekend Personal Hygiene routine. Lifetime, and counting :)

P.S. I have two really cool guides just about to be released. Shhhhhhhhhhh.

I won Dad, that means you lose

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You could say I’ve been on a downswing lately, at least concerning game playing. To punctuate this point, I’ll begrudgingly let you all in on the disheartening fact that I just lost 7 consecutive games of Hungry, Hungry Hippos. To my 4-year-old. As we headed upstairs he said the title to this post and then forced me to change my office television to Cartoon Network. Pwned, obviously (actually I had a blast, a very refreshing, much needed break).

Poker wise, however, I have bipolar disorder. Either I win/Final Table, or finish approximately dead last. I have a particular streak going in Multi-table tournaments where I lose when ahead AND lose when behind, a.k.a. lose any hand I play for all my chippies. Dominated Ace? Here you go, I didn’t want to double up anyway, hit your card. Over pair to your under pair? Tonight’s menu includes delicious Quads for the underdog, hope you enjoy. Pair of Queens versus A3o that called for 85% of your chips? Luckily we’ve placed 17 Aces in the deck and all of them hit the flop. 96o equals flopped straight all-in preflop versus AA. Rinse, repeat.

Sigh.

I’m thinking I can pinpoint my Poker woes. I may perhaps be falling out of love for the game. It’s a bit too early to tell, but I’m definitely making eyes with Chess again, and she’s wearing a dangerous-looking short skirt (and nerdy glasses with the tape). I’m pretty sure the increasing ultra-competitive streak doesn’t help, either, and it’s starting to overwhelm my outlook on the game. If I win a sit-n-go I think, well that’s what’s supposed to happen. When I take 7th out of 850 I think to myself jeez I can’t get deep in these things. Something just isn’t clicking for me right now, although my play is at it’s strongest level since I started playing the game regularly about one year ago. We’ll just have to wait and see, but unfortunately this will impact the timeline for our Hold’em strategy guides since I’m just not feeling it, at least not at the level of attention required to produce the quality I’m aiming for. I’ll post updates soon.

And I’m going to build an uneven Hungry, Hungry Hippos board tilted to my Hippooooooooooooooos.

New Guide Released!

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I’m so glad I got around to finishing this guide since it is one that has been hanging around in the back of my head for quite some time. Now found in the main menu at the ChessandPoker.com homepage…….the Peg Solitaire guide!! If you’ve ever come across this puzzle, and really who hasn’t at this point (except that when I asked my wife to read the guide she said “huh? what kind of game is Peg Solitaire”…hmmmph) then you’ll secretly be thanking me for providing the optimal 18-move solution in an easy to memorize format when you come across it again. I used to play the puzzle game during dinner outings at Pizza Hut and it was very frustrating to constantly have it waiting for me at the table, unsolved and very satisfied with itself. But then I grew up, made a popular website and exposed it’s secret solution to over a million ChessandPoker.com visitors a year.

Bwaa haa haaaaaaaa.

F’n puzzles. Enjoy :)

Chess and Poker Store Launched!

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We’ve partnered with Amazon.com to launch the Chess and Poker Shopping Center! I think it’s very cool to be able to shop for all the items I’m searching the web for right here on the ChessandPoker.com site. Browse some of our favorite selections and the full Amazon.com catalog, which is one of the most comprehensive collections of merchandise available anywhere. Amazon.com is one of the industry’s most highly regarded ecommerce sites and we’re happy to work with them now and into the future. So visit and shop, I know I will!

Check it out here: http://www.chessandpoker.com/shopping-center.html

No Handshake, No Game

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Nigel Short recently won a Chess game by default after raising a formal complaint against his opponent Ivan Cheparinov, who had refused to shake his hand at the start of their tournament game. Short reportedly offered a “traditional” handshake to Cheparinov, who had arrived late, as he took his seat at the board. Cheparinov ignored it for whatever reason. So the next time he raised his head up Short again stuck out his hand, apparently unable to take the hint the first time. This time his opponent just shrugged and went back to studying the board. Short immediately raised a complaint to the tournament arbiter who, after consulting the FIDE website and listening to the persistant objections from Short, was forced to forfeit the win to Nigel.

GIVE. ME. A. BREAK. This is what Chess has been reduced to? Our nerdy elite would rather throw a tantrum about a handshake than play a game of Chess. After the commotion Cheparinov reportedly had even agreed to go ahead and shake hands with the giant 4-year-old but Short told reporters, “It was clearly a calculated insult” and restated that the offense had already been committed. Amazingly, instead of sending both of them to separate sides of the sofa he actually defaulted Cheparinov’s score to a loss.

Actual complaints, such as someone secretly using a computer for analysis or making some type of move error, I could understand. But to whine about a friggin’ handshake? Give Nigel a binky and let’s PLAY CHESS. If you came to nitpick over every conceivable rule instead of playing Chess go be an accountant (no offense to accountants btw). I propose a new rule concerning the handshake: the next time someone complains that their opponent isn’t playing by the rules by refusing to shake hands, immediately give them the prerequisite wedgie and ridicule they so rightly deserve.

Where is Garry Kasparov, and can we start a petition to bring him back?

Bobby Fischer Dead at 64

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The world-famous American Grandmaster, and one of the best all-time Chess players, Bobby Fischer has died at the age of 64 from a serious but unspecified illness in Reykjavik. While in recent years Fischer was known for his shocking activities away from the Chess board, including racist radio ramblings and wild conspiracy theories targeted against the United States, the games he played will stand the test of time as some of the most purely-brilliant displays of Chess understanding and talent to have ever been played.

The clarity and power of Fischer’s moves swept away even the most decorated Chess competitors of his time (including Petrosian and Spassky) and remain beautiful time-capsules of great Chess play today. I’d prefer to focus on the Chess of Bobby Fischer and let that be his legacy. A troubled but ultimately legendary Chess star, Bobby Fischer’s contribution to Chess will surely be his most remembered fingerprint on the game he once so truly loved.

Blackjack and Video Poker are back

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After receiving several emails as to why we removed the Blackjack and Jacks or Better Video Poker strategy guides from our main site the decision was clear: bring ’em back and make them even better than they were before! Located in the strategy guide list on our home page you can now once again select the detailed guides for these gaming favorites, now optimized and streamlined into an even more powerful and easier to learn format. We also appreciate hearing from everyone, so take notice that we listen and respond whenever you speak up. Enjoy!

Carcassonne Strategy Guide!

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We are immensely pleased to announce the much-anticipated release of our Carcassonne strategy guide! If you’ve never heard of this game, you’ll definitely want to check it out as it covers the rules in great detail and even includes the basic strategy of the game. The game of Carcassonne is hands-down the most addictive game we’ve ever played and it is a must-own for anyone who hasn’t yet discovered it. My wife and I play it more than all of our other games combined. Let me know what you think by contacting us with your comments or post up some questions in the forums. Carcassonne rocks!

Chess and Poker Resolutions

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It’s New Years Eve and therefore time for the prerequisite listing of the ChessandPoker.com New Year’s resolutions!

Much more Content: This year we’ll be rolling out the new Chess and Poker sections, which focus entirely on our two namesake games. Along with this, there are always several in-depth strategy guides in production so stay tuned for even more feature length strategy guides to come.

Development of our Forums: Our newly launched forum community will be a primary focus of 2008, with ideas for building up our membership and interacting with our visitors in a much greater scope. I’ll personally be more active there and hope to see you around.

More Blog Post: I’m already getting a good start on this one today :) You’ll also see more entries into our ‘Back of the Napkin’ strategy sections where we’ll feature neat new games that haven’t quite made it to the main site yet. If you know of any good ones, send ’em along!

Have a safe and happy New Year in 2008!