Friday, July 28, 2017

The $12,000 River Card

I guess you could call this post a follow up to my previous post (here) because the main point of it is to tell you a story about the pyramid promo I discussed there.  It's a happy story, but sadly, it doesn't involve me—I just heard about it.

This took place the night after my last post took place.  By this time I had heard that for the previous week, ending Wednesday at 1PM, the very top prize in pyramid promo had been hit, and it had progressed to a cool $12K.  I also learned that the dealer who dealt the big winning hand was my pal Heather, who's been appearing in my blog posts for almost five years.

I was getting ready to quit for the evening when I saw Heather was about to push into my table. So I decided to stay for her down.

I immediately asked about the big promo-winning hand and she confirmed that she had dealt it and that it was a good story. She proceeded to tell me about it.

It was like 2 or 3 AM, Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and there was just one full house remaining to be hit.  And since the pyramid hadn't been completed for a few weeks, the prize was up to $12K.  The hand needed to win the prize was Jacks full of 6's.  Note: It would appear that the story I told last time, about the guy winning $6K for Jacks full of 4's, would have been the second to last hand of the pyramid, and must have hit just a few hours before this one.

When Heather came in to deal at that table, she recognized one of the players as not only one of the regs at MGM, but as someone she had played with recently at Golden Nugget.  So the player asked her if she was going to play in the main event of Golden Nugget's GPS series, which was going on at the time.  Heather said no, she didn't think so, it was a bit out of her price range at the time ($570).  So the reg said to her, "Well, if you deal me the winning hand for the full house promo, I'll buy you in to it."  She laughed and said, "O.K."  A real long shot of course.

Heather dealt her down and was talking to the reg all the way through.  On the very last hand of her down, it was heads up and the other player was all-in and the reg called.  This was on the turn.  So the reg turned up his cards and he had a set of Jacks.  One of the cards on the board was a 6.  The reg said, "Come on Heather, you gotta do this.  Remember, I'll buy you in if you do it."  Heather said to me, "no pressure, right?"  Well, not like she had any control over it.

So she peels off the river card and yes, it is indeed a 6.  The entire table erupted.  Heather calls the floor over to confirm the hand and the reg doesn't wait for his payout.  He takes out his wallet and hands her six hundred dollar bills.  And he says, "You don't have to use this for the main event if you don't want to."

How cool is that?

Spoiler: I saw Heather after the main event at Golden Nugget took place and she didn't play.  She had other uses for the money.

The poker for me this night wasn't nearly as exciting.  Early on, I made a full house that didn't qualify for the promo.  I called a raise with pocket 10's and the flop came Ace-Ace-Ace.  I called $17 on the flop and there was no more betting.  The last two cards were both 3's.  The other player said, "I'm playing the board."  I said, "I'm not," and showed my 10's.  I was fairly certain that it didn't qualify for the promo (even though Aces full of 10's was still on the board) but I asked anyway.  I mean—I made Aces full of 10's with a pocket pair in my hand, and both cards played.  But no, you have to have a pocket pair of the three-of-a-kind used to make the boat.

Later I was down to about $90 and from the big blind I called $12 with Jack-10 of hearts.  The flop was 8-7-6, two hearts.  In fact, a 9 of hearts would have given me the straight flush. I called $23.  The turn was a red 9, but it was diamonds, not hearts.  I didn't think I could bet less than a shove, so I shoved. He folded.
Later, now down to about $80, I woke up with the dreaded pocket Kings in the small blind. There was a raise to $7 and two callers.  So I just took half my stack and added it to the $1 small blind.  Nobody called.  Hey for me with Kings, that's a great result.

I ended up booking a small loss.  No promo money for me this time.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Pyramid And The Maze

This was a mid-week session at MGM last month.  I had a few good hands then things went sour for awhile.  Then my night was saved by the full house promo they have.

Unfortunately, I lost most of the notes I took this night.  This was the second time since I'd arrived in town that my usually reliable system for taking notes on my cell phone during play failed me.  After it happened this time, I knew I had to come up with another way of keeping notes.  My method at the time was to simply open up a new email message in Gmail and keep updating the "draft."  But it turns out that you can have multiple windows of the same draft open, so if you're not careful about which one you're using and add a paragraph to the message that isn't the latest, it will save that one and other notes you made in the other window will magically disappear.

So I finally figured out that I should open up a Google Doc and that automatically saves it each time you enter something new.  And it won't let you have more than one window of the same doc open at a time, so that solves the problem I was having.

But on this nite, I have no notes for the majority of the session and did a pretty bad job recalling hands the next morning.  Now, before I tell you about the one hand worth mentioning, I have to tell you about the Full House promo MGM is running.

At the time, it was called the Progressive Pyramid (since changed) and it paid out for making certain full houses with one of three designated pocket pairs (it changed each week).  The three-of-a-kind for the boat had to be the player's pocket pair along with one card on the board.  Then every possible full house you could make that way with each pocket pair would win a prize, but once a specific full house was hit, it was no longer eligible.

The designated pocket pairs were picked at random each week, starting Wednesdays at 1 pm.  Say the pairs were Queens, 7's and deuces.  The first person to make deuces full of Aces, or Kings, or Queens, etc, would win a prize.  Once deuces full of Aces was hit though, the next person to make deuces full of Aces would get nothing.

The prizes started at $100 and moved up the pyramid until the last of the 36 hands was hit, which had a big pay day (starting at $3K).  Any spots on the pyramid that didn't hit by 1pm the following Wednesday would increase by the value of that spot on the pyramid.  So if the final spot didn't hit one week, the next week it would be worth $6K.

This being a Wednesday night, the board and the winning hands had just been reset earlier that day. That meant that the next winning prize would be $100.  However it also meant that virtually all full houses for the three designated pocket pairs would be eligible.  You can see that on a Tuesday night, when the payoff might be $3K or more, there's just one or two specific hands left that you need to hit to win.

For this new week, the boats you needed to win were Aces full, 9's full and deuces full.  Fortunately, I had looked at the display when I came in and knew which hands were potential promo winners.

So down about $100, I was dealt pocket deuces.  I limped in with a bunch of other people and saw a flop of 10-8-4, rainbow.  I figured I was done with the hand, but no one put out a bet.  The turn card was a deuce, giving me a set.  One of the regs led out for $8.  I was about to raise when I remembered the promo.  It wasn't a long shot, but I figured I'd chase the promo.  I had a strong feeling that the guy who bet just did so to try to steal it and wouldn't call a raise.  So I decided to just call.  There was one other caller.

Well the river was a 10, pairing the board and filling me up.  I couldn't see the display from my seat but I was pretty sure that only one deuces full hand had been made and taken out of play—and what were the odds that it was deuces full of 10's? The player who bet the turn checked and I bet $15.  But both players folded.

So I flipped over my hand and asked, "Does this qualify for the promo?"  Sure enough, it did.  I'd won $100 for the full house promo.

That triggered a story from the guy next to me.  He said that the previous night, he won $6,000 for another guy at his table.  Apparently from the previous week's hands, there were only two left, and the person who hit the next one would get $6K.  This guy knew what the remaining winning hands were, and on a board with a Jack on it and a pair of 4's, he knew that if someone had two Jacks in his hand, his Jacks full of 4's would win that $6K prize.

He was in the hand with the guy, and he folded to a bet.  The winner of the pot was just about to muck his cards when the other guy said, "I hope you have pocket Jacks."  The other guy said, "Why?"  "They're worth $6,000."  The guy had no idea what he was talking about, knew nothing about the promo.  "What?  Get out of here."  "Yeah, yeah....there's a promo, if you have Jacks full of 4's, you'll get $6,000."  "Are you serious?  Really?"  "Yeah, just show them."

So the guy turned over his cards and he had pocket Jacks and won $6K.

If the guy was telling the story honestly (and who knows), I figured the winner should have given that guy a pretty big share of the money, since if he hadn't said anything, he would have gotten nothing (other than the pot).  So I asked him if the guy gave him anything.  "Yeah, he gave me $100.  Same thing he gave the dealer."

Hmmm..What do you think?  Was that the right amount?  A case could be made for splitting it 50/50, no?  Of course, there are tax implications so that wouldn't fly and I can't imagine anyone giving away three grand like that.  But since that guy sitting next to me was almost totally responsible for the guy's windfall, maybe $100 wasn't enough?  I dunno.

Anyway, I ended up down $100 for the night, but with the promo money, I left the poker room with same total cash on me as I started.

But I didn't make it back to my hotel without incident.  As I've mentioned before, I frequently park at NYNY when I play at MGM and this was one such time.  When they converted to pay parking, they added a extra entrance/exit to the NYNY parking structure from the third level of the structure.  It doesn't give you access to the Strip, it accesses Frank Sinatra Drive (which is actually very convenient for me).

So I got in my car and headed towards that back exit.  And then I finally experienced something I've been fearing ever since I heard about paid parking.  For those that don't know, at all these places on the Strip that now charge for parking, it's pretty much self service.  There isn't some geezer in a booth to take your ticket and your money (think Mike Ehrmantraut in Better Call Saul).  They just have gates and a machine that will open said gate if you make the machine happy (by either inserting a ticket that shows you paid already, or sticking in a qualifying MLife card).  There's an option at the gate to pay with a credit card, but not with cash—and they strongly prefer you take care of payment before you get to your car at one of the conveniently located kiosks near the elevators of the garage.

When they first introduced paid parking, they hired a bunch of parking attendants that hung around the gates and even at the payment kiosks to coach you thru the experience.  Now that they've been doing this for awhile, there are still attendants in the vicinity—sometimes.  Sometimes not.

So as I turned toward the exit gate I planned to use, I saw there were two cars in front of me waiting to exit.  I didn't pull up to the second car, I waited a bit to make sure the gate was working and everything was flowing smoothly.  This particular exit only has one gate for entering and one for exiting and I didn't want to get stuck in a big mess, waiting for cars behind me to back up if there was an issue.

Apparently there was an issue.  The gate was not opening.  I have no idea what the problem was but the car was just stuck there.  I waited for a minute or two, surely the guy would figure it out or an attendant would show up to help out.

But no, nothing happened.  I saw the second guy's back up lights come on.  Fortunately, I was far enough away from him.  But then I saw the guy at the gate try to squeeze out of his car (his car was up really close to the machine).  I knew then this was a disaster in the making.  Was the guy unable to pay?  Did hs MLife card not work?  Was he a scammer?  Or was the damn gate just broken? I had no idea and I wasn't about to stick around to find out.  I had left myself enough room so I could turn back into the third floor of the garage and get to the other exit, so that's what I tried to do.

Except that the entire third floor of the garage was closed to parking for this particular night.  In fact, the way I turned was blocked off by several traffic cones.  No problem.  I just got out of my car, kicked one of them aside, and got back in my car and drove thru the empty floor of the garage. 

But those weren't the only barriers.  When I got to the place where I thought I could easily take the down ramp to the first floor (and the other exit), I found that it was blocked off too, and this time by wooden barriers that I couldn't just kick out of the way.  Holy shit, I was stuck there.  Meanwhile I could see a bunch more cars backed up at that exit gate that wasn't opening.

I drove around the floor two or three times trying to find a way to get to the down ramp.  With the barriers, it was beginning to look like it wasn't possible—although I had seen that if I had tried to go that way in the first place, I would have been able to do it, so there had to be a way.  I was thinking that because I had broken thru the traffic cones I had somehow entered no man's land from which there was no escape.

I was about to just park the car (illegally, I suppose, since the whole floor was closed to parking) and walk into the casino and tell security that someone was stuck at the gate and I was trapped in their damn parking garage when I saw another car drive around and find the down ramp.  Aha!  I could see what he did and that solved the maze for me.  I took the same route.  Fortunately, I'd also noticed that he had gone down using the down ramp and not the up ramp—which was a mistake you could easily make from where we were approaching it from—and found my way to the other exit, which was not particularly backed up.

And got the hell out of there, cursing the lovely corporate suits at MGM Resorts for wasting 20 minutes of my life because of their damn paid parking scheme.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Some Thoughts On The Main Event

For the first time in, like forever, I watched a whole lot of the WSOP main event this year.  Although one of the things that got me into poker was seeing some televised poker, I really haven't spent a lot of time watching the game on TV since I actually started playing myself.

I did watch some of the November 9 coverage last year, mostly because I was recovering from my triple by-pass and I didn't have a lot of other things I could do to keep me busy or entertained.  Even so, the time of the coverage meant I didn't see all that much of it, and missed the critical moments of the coverage, including the final hand (hey, I couldn't stay up forever, I needed my sleep). 

But this time I watched a lot, including the entire final table.  I kind of surprised myself with how much I watched.

I definitely feel the change in the way they covered it on TV had a lot to do with my watching so much. I really liked the fact that they had live coverage on ESPN or ESPN2 virtually every day.  So much better than the canned, tape delay shows of hands months after they took place.  It kept me interested in following the progress of the players.  I didn't subscribe to PokerGo, but watching a few hours of the main event every day kept me interested and enhanced the stories I was following online.

When the final table started Thursday night, I was familiar with all the players and the big story lines.  And thus watched every bit of it.

So first off, congratulations to all the final 9 and of course most of all to Scott Blumstein for an incredible main event run.  He is a worthy champion and bracelet winner.

Blumstein played great of course. To my non-expert eye, however, I think the best player at the final table, and certainly of the final three, was Benjamin Pollak, but what do I know?  He just couldn't get the cards to cooperate.

And runner up Dan Ott picked a terrible time to become totally card dead, didn't he?  Once it was heads up, Blumstein seemed to get the better cards time after time after time.

I will say I think Ott made one of the worst plays at the final table, when he shoved with King-9 after Pollak's shove.  As  soon as I saw his hand after Pollak's all-in, I thought to myself, "No way he's calling, he has to fold."  Of course, he did indeed shove.  All the commentators agreed that it was a bad play on Ott's part.  Lay it down there, hope Blumstein calls and knocks Pollak out, and get heads up without risking another chip.

But no, he shoved, Blumstein called both with Ace-Queen, and Ott managed to get to showdown with the best hand when a King hit the flop.  I tweeted this out at the time:  "Ott's all in there was terrible yet he was rewarded for it. #skillgame. #WSOPMainEvent."

Just my opinion of course.

And what can I say about the awesome John Hesp that hasn't already been said?  The 64-year-old Englishman was a delight to watch, and made for some real entertainment.   Everyone is saying he helped bring back fun to poker.  It was so refreshing to see someone just out there having a great time playing, wasn't it?  No doubt he was good for the game.  Hopefully the sheer joy he exhibited while playing will become contagious.

I had a couple of observations watching so many hands.  The first was that, for long stretches, I wondered why everyone at the table was playing like me!  And by that I mean nitty.  Seriously, I saw a whole lot of really, really tight play. They were folding hands that I would play!  I dunno if it was the pressure of such a big moment, or if my style of play is catching on.  I kind of think it is the former.

The other thing is that, well, everyone was card dead!  I mean I couldn't believe how many bad hands there were.  It just seemed like there were very few premium hands delivered to the players.  Take the first night.  We saw pocket Queens dealt three or four times in the first couple of hours (and every time to Hesp if memory serves), but I remember thinking that it took forever for someone to wake up with pocket Aces or pocket Kings (once each on the first night I'm guessing).  And I don't think anyone ever had pocket Jacks.

And once heads up play started, as Norman Chad pointed out, there were no pocket pairs to either player for almost the entire run of it. It was only the second to last hand that pocket 6's were the first pocket pair dealt. I don't recall a whole lot of Ace-Kings either.

It seems when I play a tournament, I'm seeing pocket pairs, and even premium pairs, shown by players all the time.  It struck me as odd.  Maybe it's because in a tournament I play in, I don't see all the cards and am maybe assuming they have big hands when they don't.

Whenever I do watch TV poker, I try to use it as a learning experience as much as possible.  I was happy that I correctly predicted what Antonio Esfandiari would say about a situation a lot of the time.  When I couldn't (or guessed wrong), I would listen carefully to his explanation and try to make a big mental note of it.

That said, I'm not sure how much I will be to incorporate into my game.  The issue is, he is basing his thinking on opponents playing at a certain level—a level high enough to run deep into the main event.  I'm not sure most of the players I face in the $125 tournaments I play are using the same thought process these players were.  When Antonio explains why a bet or a check means a player couldn't have X, I know in the games I play, there's at least a 50/50 chance the player could exactly have X.  Still, it was great to hear the thinking of a successful pro.

Oh, and what was with all the ridiculous slow play of some of the players, Damian Salas in particular?  I don't mind taking your time in a tough spot, but Salas seemed to be stalling, sitting there tanking on no-brainer plays.  I mean, if you have 7-2 and there's been a raise and a three-bet, couldn't you just fold instantly instead of taking 10 seconds to stare into space before the inevitable fold?  Seriously, that's bad for the game.

Anyway, this was definitely the most TV poker I've watched in a short period ever.  And I really enjoyed it, and maybe it brought my enthusiasm for poker back some.

Good show, WSOP and ESPN. 

Oh, and how about that deuce on the river?