Friday, October 21, 2016

This Alternative to Being in Vegas Really Sucks

Just a quick update.  I was supposed to be in Vegas tonite, through Halloween Weekend.

Not happening.

I am in L.A., in a hospital, waiting to be told when my Triple Bypass Surgery is scheduled.  Should be by Monday, the latest.

The problem was caught early, which is good, obviously.  There's no reason why I shouldn't have a complete recovery.  But it won't be quick, for sure.  After I am released, I am looking at six weeks of limited activity and no driving.  So Vegas, or any form of live poker, is out during this period.

So I won't have much if any of my usual content to write up.

The circumstances that got me here might be interested though, and after I am able to write again, I may turn this (temporarily, at least), into a hospital story blog (one story even involves a medical tech who likes to martingale blackjack!)

We'll just have to see what develops.

Thanks in advance for your well wishes.

(Edited to add: Just found out I am scheduled for surgery tomorrow--Saturday--at 7:30AM) 

(Edited to add #2:  I changed it so that comments to recent posts, including this one, do not need my approval.  Figure it might be awhile for me to be up to approving them.  I will delete the spam comments that get thru when I get the chance)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Sir, I Write for a Poker Magazine"

This is a follow-up to my previous post (here).  It’s not a second part, this session was never meant to be a two-parter. It’s just that a few hours after publishing the previous post, I realized I’d left out this little part of the session, and I thought it was worth mentioning.  So since I need something to post anyway, I thought I’d do it as a separate entry. Hopefully this will please those of you think my normal posts are too long.

At one point during the session, the seat to my left opened up and a distinguished looking gray haired man took it.  I had noticed he had been playing in the now-broken 3/5 game that had been right next to ours.  I sort of recognized him.  I couldn’t remember anything about his play, but I knew I had seen around this room before.

He apparently didn’t recognize me at all.  But he must have noticed that I wasn’t playing any hands.  Now at one point, I misread where the button was and put out a $5 chip for the big blind when I was actually under-the-gun.  Said gentleman said to me, “Are you straddling?”  I double checked and realized my error, took back the chip and said to the guy, “No, I just thought I was the big blind. Thanks.”

Well that should have been the end of it, but he said something like, “You’ll be the big blind next hand.”  Well, duh.  I assumed he was just trying to be funny.

But when the next hand came around, he said, “Now you’re the big blind.”  Thanks for the lesson, Sparky.  This isn’t my first rodeo (actually, to be honest, it wasn’t a rodeo at all, but I digress).

So play continued and next orbit, the guy on my right was away from table when it was his big blind.  I posted the big blind of course.  I don’t think the guy on my left gave me any coaching this time.  Next hand, I put out my small blind and just then, the guy on my right returned and wanted to buy the button.  I was looking at my phone so I didn’t notice immediately.  So my “helpful” neighbor on my left, instructed me to take my small blind back and then launched into a brief lesson on what it meant for the guy on my right to be buying the button.

Up until that point, I wasn’t really sure, but it was now clear to me that this guy thought I was a total poker newbie.  He thought I knew nothing about poker!  Hey, if he thinks I don’t know how to play poker tactically, I’m not gonna argue with him, I know I’m not Phil Ivey (never mind that I still was playing any hands for him to discern this).  But I do know the rules and the etiquette of the game fairly well. 

I’m sure he gave me one or two more “lessons” in how the blinds work before my session was done.

I was more amused than annoyed.  I didn’t say anything, I was just kind of nodding as he educated me,  but in my head I had all sorts of responses that I decided not to give him.

“I may not know how to play poker well, but I do know the rules.  In fact, I work in the poker business. I work for one of the most popular poker websites there is.  I write for a monthly column for a poker magazine.  Oh and I by the way, I have my own poker blog that’s received well over a million page views.  I think I understand how the blinds work.”

I said nothing, no point.  It’s a small room with a relatively small cast of characters, and I don’t want to out myself as a blogger.  Besides, if I ever did play a hand, it would work to my advantage having this guy think I was clueless.  Sadly, I never got to test this theory.  

That’s all I got.  The pic below has nothing to do with anything, but I’m guessing most of you will like it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"I Admire Your Patience, Sir"

I played poker yesterday at PC in Ventura.

I mean, I guess I did.  I was at a poker table with chips in front of me.  They kept putting two playing cards in front of me.  That’s poker, right?

But almost immediately after getting those two cards, I returned them to dealer with touching my chips.  Over and over and over again.

Basically, I was mostly just taking up space.

I guess that’s the long version of saying, “Boy, was I card dead.”  But since I’m famous for my pithiness, I thought I’d change it up and go for verbosity for a change.

Fortunately, there were a couple of hands that other people played that I observed that kept me from falling asleep at the table.

Within minutes of taking my seat at my table, another seat opened and a guy likely in his mid-30’s took it.  We will call this fellow the table’s “Designated Maniac” or DM for short.  He bought in for $300, the max.  The dealer asked him if he wanted a hand.  He was going to be under-the-gun, so he might have decided to wait a few hands and then come in behind the button. But no, not only did he take a hand, he decided to straddle (for $6, remember the game is 2/3 NL).

A few players called his straddle, including the big blind.  DM then added $25 to his $6 to raise.  It folded back to the big blind, who announced “all-in.” That escalated quickly, as they say.  The big blind had about $260 - $270.  DM wasted almost no time in announcing “call.”  They didn’t show and the flop was Ace-Queen-X.  The last two cards were low and unpaired.

The big blind showed pocket Kings.  I’m sure he dreaded them when he saw that Ace on the flop.  But DM studied the board for a few seconds, and then meekly mucked his hand, face down.

Huh?  What the heck did he have?  Obviously not the most obvious hands, like AA, QQ, AK or even AQ.  So pocket Jacks?  Tens?  Worse?  Remember, he called a huge shove for nearly all of his stack.  Sure, in that spot, he could have raised his straddle with any two cards, hoping to steal.  But you would think he’d have to have a premium hand to call the shove. 

DM immediate bought another $300 (he had to pocket a few $5 chips to keep his buy-in at the $300 max).  And within a hand or two, he lost that one two (I think he shoved on the flop, got called, and lost to a fairly weak hand, again not showing his hand).

For the first orbit or two, he raised pre every time, big raises.  Not $12 or $15 like is common there but $20-$25.  He lost more chips,. Added $200 again, and finally, finally slowed down.  He would occasionally limp in and would occasionally fold to a big bet post flop.  But I’m pretty sure he never ever folded preflop.  That seems impossible but honestly, I can’t remember once when he did.  By the end of my time there though, he was limping in much more often than he was raising preflop.  He would pretty much call any prelop raise (if he didn’t three-bet, which he did a lot at first, until he slowed down).

He also sometimes won some big hands. Even maniacs get pocket Aces sometimes, and one time he did.

He was sitting two to my left, and I was only able to move one seat to my right to get a bit away from him.  My strategy almost immediately went to “wait for a hand and push” mode.  I wasn’t waiting for a great hand, or even a good hand.  Just a hand.  A decent or even semi-decent hand.  There were few limped pots and thus I had to get a hand that was arguably playable in a raised pot.

And I was just obscenely card dead.  For over an hour I did not put any money in the pot voluntarily.  Just the blinds.  I may have seen one or two pots when I was the blind and no one raised.  And of course completely whiffed.

During this period, I did witness one hand where I saw what I thought was a huge mistake.  There was a “mature”, very nice woman at the table.  She raised to $25 from the button.  I’m pretty sure it was a three-bet after DM had initially raised—by this time his opening raises were more “normal.”  She had three callers including DM.  The flop was Jack-high, two spades.  The lady bet $50.  That was too small for the size of the pot ($100), I thought.  She had two callers.  DM actually folded.  The turn was a second club, and this time she bet $100 (also too little).  Both of the other players called.

OK, the pot was now huge.  We’re talking $550, give or take, right?  The river was a third spade.  And this time, the small blind, with first action, led out.  He shoved for his last $110 or $120 or so.  That’s all he had left.  The next guy, who had closer to $200, folded instantly.  And thus the action was on the lady who had forced all the action until the river.

She still had over $300 left.  The pot was now at least $660.  It was huge.  I didn’t imagine that this lady was barreling twice with air.  She must have had a pretty good hand.  But she tanked.

“You didn’t,” she said to the guy who shoved.  “You couldn’t.”  OK, obviously she was worried about the flush.  That’s what the guy was representing.  And the way the hand played out, it made perfect sense that he had the flush, right?

Still, that bet was much too small to fold a bluff-catcher for the size of the pot.  I knew the lady had to call, I knew there was no way she could fold there if it was even remotely possible she had the winning hand.  There was no further action so after all she’d put in the pot, what’s another hundred bucks?

I don’t remember exactly what the guy was saying to her questions/comments about him having caught his flush.  It was non-committal, hard to read. But to me, it didn’t matter.  It was just a question of math.  She had to call there.

But she didn’t, she folded, politely cursing the guy who she folded to (in a very ladylike manner).  He was about to turn in his cards when he said, “Do you want to see?”  I think she said, no, or she didn’t care, but a few others said they wanted to see.  So he showed.  It was King-Jack.  One of them was red.  I think the other one may have been a spade, but he didn’t have the flush.

The other guy who folded said he had Ace-Jack, but assumed the lady would call and that one of them for sure had him beat.  He would have called if the lady was already out…and won.

The lady was as calmly and quietly livid as I can remember seeing anyone.  “I hate you.”  She didn’t say exactly what she had but she said it was a bigger pair than Jacks.  Most likely she had Aces, maybe only Kings.  She was fuming, but in a nice, pleasant way.  As she kept muttering about it, she eventually verbalized that it was her fault, that she shouldn’t have folded for that amount of money.  Lesson learned for her.  Amazing to me the guy got away with a bluff like that.  Good read on the lady on his part.

Another point….I did mention that I thought her flop and turn bets were too small.  That certainly kept both players in, when maybe bigger bets would have gotten them out.  But if she had bet bigger both times and the small blind had still called, he wouldn’t have had any chips to shove/bluff with!  I’m sure the other guy was just looking for a showdown and she could have taken the pot.  Good lesson for everyone there.

It was an hour before I actually got a hand to play.  It was Ace-Jack of clubs.  I limped in because DM was behind me and I didn’t want him to three-bet me off it.  Instead the guy in front of him raised to $18, DM called, another player called and I called.  I totally whiffed the flop and had to fold.

After nearly 90 minutes, I thought about it and realized that I had not seen a single pocket pair.  No Ace-King or Ace-Queen.  Not a single suited connector. It was almost comical. Actually, it would have been comical if it had happened to someone else.

So I was in the big blind with Queen-4 offsuit, no one raised.  The flop was Queen-high.  It checked around twice.  On the river, which paired the board (6’s), DM bet $3.  I called and took it (he had a pair of deuces).  First pot I’d won all day, and it was yugggge!  I suppose I could have gotten DM to call a few bets but I really didn’t like my kicker.

I finally got a pocket pair.  It was 9’s.  I called a raise with them and folded on the flop that was all over cards.

I got 9’s again, and the exact same thing happened.

Then I got Ace-King under-the-gun.  I raised to $12.  I was surprised no one commented because that was not only the first raise I’d made all day, but it was one of the few hands I’d played.  But no one said anything.  Only DM called.  The flop was Ace-8-4, I bet $20, he called. The turn was a blank.  I checked, thinking he would likely bet and I would call.  He was still playing every hand and any two cards.  He could easily have lucked into two pair.  But he checked behind.  The river was a King, and as I started to grab chips to bet, he folded.

So that was the second pot I won and a bit more chips than the first one.

About 10-15 minutes later, as I folded another garbage hand, DM must have seen some frustration on my face as I sent the cards back to the dealer.  “I admire your patience, sir.”

I smiled and said, “Just not getting anything to play.  Total garbage.”  He responded, “Well, that doesn’t stop me, I don’t wait.”  Really, sir?  I hadn’t noticed.

At that point, a few others who had been at the table the whole time commented.  “Is there a person in that seat?”  “Have you been here the whole time, I hadn’t noticed.”  I just laughed. 

I said, “I’ve only gotten two pocket pairs all day, and nothing else.  Just ridiculously card dead.  Believe me, I’m not usually this tight.”  True enough.  Even the biggest nit in the world would have played more hands than I had.

Just then, the next hand was dealt, and wouldn’t you know it, I looked down at two Queens!  I opened to $12.  Everyone went crazy, like it was only because I was commenting about being so card dead that I raised.  So I played along.  “Yeah, since you all noticed, I really have total garbage again, I’ve got nothing.  Just tired of not playing.”

No one bit—except DM.  Of course he called. He always called.  Unless he three-bet, that is.  The flop was low, I bet $20 and he folded.  At this point, I knew I’d be leaving soon, so I didn’t think there’d be any harm in showing my hand, so I did.  Someone said, “See, you complain and look what you get.”

Well, I stuck around another orbit or two and gave up.  I had managed to lose only $25, rather amazing for being so card dead.  Well for sure, I didn’t lose any big pots.

When I left, I said good-bye to everyone, and wished them good luck.  Then I added, “I’m sure when you see me again, I’ll actually play a few hands.’  Again, one guy said he didn’t even know I was at the table.  So I said, “Well, you tell me, is 9-4 a good hand?  Cuz I sure saw that a lot.”

Well, a few people said, “Ask him!” and pointed to the shift manager, who I see almost every time I play there.  And suddenly I remembered hearing him say once (or confirm), that indeed, 9-4 is his favorite (or lucky) hand.  I even remember him saying, “Everyone knows that….they even know it in Vegas!”

Now here’s the odd thing.  I actually don’t recall getting 9-4 once yesterday.  I just pulled that hand out of my ass right at the moment.  I mean, I got every other bad hand imaginable, but not that one.

And if you had asked me five minutes earlier what the shift manager’s favorite hand was, I’m sure I couldn’t have come up with it.  But still, I have to wonder, if, on some subconscious level, I knew about the 9-4 and that’s why it came to me.  Weird.  Or just a coincidence, maybe.

That’s it for this post. I am including the picture below of this rather ordinary-looking young lady because I need your help.  As you can see, she is holding the 10 of hearts.  If you’re like me, that’s probably the only thing you find you noticed in the pic.  I just can’t figure out why she is holding the 10 of hearts.  Can you?  Let me know.  My curiosity is aroused.

EDITED TO ADD:  Brief follow up to this post can be found here, just something I forgot to mention in this post.