Monday, December 2, 2019

Vegas Poker Scene -- December, 2019

Here's my latest column for Ante Up. You can find it embedded in the entire West region report here.  Remember, I just write the Vegas part.  You can find it in your local poker room now.


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Bob Shao of Texas won the Wynn Fall Classic’s main event in October, receiving $223K. Eugene Tito of Los Angeles scored $165K for second and Ping Liu of Michigan earned $140K for third. The $1,600 event had 1,024 entrants, resulting in a $1.5M prize pool.
The series hosted a $3,200 event with a $200K guarantee as Tucson’s Adnan Aidi earned $100K for first, while two Las Vegans, Mitch Garshofsky and Alexander Condon, claimed $88K and $44K, respectively. The prize pool of $409K more than doubled the guarantee, as the event drew 128 players. 
The inaugural Wynn Winter Classic runs Dec. 2-22. The $5,300 championship is a three-day event with one starting flight Dec. 18.  The guarantee is $1.5M. Players get a 50K stack and 60-minute levels. A $1,100 NLHE event starts Dec. 12 with a $500K guarantee. Players get 40K chips and 40-minute levels. There are plenty of $400 events, too.
VENETIAN LAS VEGAS: The October Deep Stack Showdown saw Eric Baldwin of Las Vegas win the $400 monster stack for $52K. Andrew Campbell, also of Vegas, took $33K for second and Maine’s Daniel Pickering earned $24K for third. More than 800 players created a prize pool of $275K.
Later in October, Diogo Goncalves Bento of Portugal was the big winner in the $225K Lucky Shot Series and Drawing, taking home $31K for first in the $250 main event. New Zealand’s Paul Hockin earned $19K for second and Shadd Baudoin of Vegas received $14K for third. This unique event had a fixed prize pool of $150K regardless of the size of the field. There were 645 players.
The next Deep Stack Extravaganza runs Dec. 12-Jan. 12. The biggest tournament is a three-day $3,500 event that starts Dec. 21 with one starting flight. Players start with 40K chips and play 60-minute levels. The guarantee is $500K.
A $600 doublestack has the first of its two starting flights Dec. 17.  Players get 30K stacks and 40-minute levels.  The guarantee is $150K.
The $600 monster stack is Dec. 27 with three starting flights and a $300K guarantee. Players get 35K chips and 30-minute levels on Day 1, 40-minute levels on Day 2.
The series guarantees $1.8M-plus.
SOUTH POINT: The new schedule features a 10 p.m. tournament and has guarantees for all tournaments.
The $60 NLHE tournament runs daily at 10 a.m. and
10 p.m. It also runs Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., as well as Monday, Tuesday, Thursday at 6 p.m. Players start with 10K chips and play 20-minute levels. The guarantee is $2K for the 10 a.m., $1K for the 6 p.m., and $500 for the 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. offerings.
Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m., a $125 deepstack. Players get 15K chips and 20-minute levels. Wednesday the guarantee is $5K, Friday and Saturday it’s $7,500 and Sunday it’s $10K.
Fans of Omaha/8 get their chance Tuesday and Friday at
2 p.m. The $60 buy-in starts players with 10K chips. The levels are 20 minutes and the guarantee is $500.
Cash games include a busy $1-$2 NLHE game with a $100 minimum buy-in and a $300 maximum. Recently, the room has been spreading a $2-$3 game ($200-$600 min-max). The room has become a popular location for the meet-up games of vloggers Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen. When they are there, there are multiple tables of $3-$5 NLHE, which has a $300-$1,500 min-max. 
Limit players will find multiple tables of $2-$4 with a $20 buy-in and there’s $3-$6 limit with a $30 minimum.
GOLDEN NUGGET: The Moose International series runs Jan. 10-15. All events, with the exception of the main event Jan. 13, are open to the public. Buy-ins are $75-$200 and a portion of each buy-in is donated to a Moose charity. Traditionally, these events are wild and loose affairs, with the juicy action spilling over into the cash games.
M RESORT: The HPT event scheduled for mid December has been postponed with an eye toward a return next year.
THE STRAT: After rebranding the casino and moving the poker room, the Strat abruptly closed its poker room in October.

Monday, November 25, 2019

"You Are Going to Go Broke on That Runout"

As promised, this is the follow-up to my previous post (here), with the pocket Jacks.  As I made clear, I was really bummed by the hand, and my reaction at the time was that I had badly misplayed the hand.  I spent way too much time obsessing over the hand for the next few hours, and then did my best to just forget about it after that.  As I said last time I promised myself at the time that I not only wouldn't blog about it, I wouldn't mention it to anyone.

Of course, if you read the comments I got to my write-up on the hand, you will notice that it is the consensus that I didn't misplay the hand at all (at least not in any way that would have changed the ultimate result) and that it was just bad luck.  Given the other player and the cards and the way they played out, there was nothing I could have done.  I was supposed to go broke on that hand.

Which brings me to the question, why didn't I realize this at the time?

It's a good question.  I've certainly played enough poker by now to have had hands like that before.  It was far from the first time I've been kicked in the pants by the poker gods.  If it was so obvious to everyone else, why wasn't it obvious to me?  For whatever reason, I wasn't able to look at it objectively.  I'd like to think if that exact hand had happened to one of my poker buddies and it was related to me, I'd have been able to recognize that it was just one of those tough hands that there's no way to get away from.

One thing that may have played in to it was that I was having a nice run since I'd arrived in Vegas.  Which is unusual.  For some reason, usually when I start a Vegas trip I tend to run bad to start, then spend the rest of the trip digging out of a hole.  This time I started out winning and had never looked back.  I had left every session ahead until the session the night before this one.  And even then, I didn't lose much.  And to this point, I had never been down a buy-in (or anywhere close to a buy-in) in any session.  So I guess I'd maybe almost forgotten what it was like to have a rough session.

Whatever, I had been back in L.A. for at least a week before my brain returned to that hand.  And it no longer gave me a pain in my gut to think about it.  I still wasn’t ready to analyze it myself, but at least I figured I could talk about it.  So I did what I usually do when I have tough hand to work through.  I discussed it with my buddy Don.  Don is not only a real student of the game, but he is being coached by top poker pro.  When I run hands by him, I get his take (it's sort of a good quiz for him), which is influenced by the coaching he's getting.  Then he often runs it by the coach to see if he's on the right track.  So I get some great input.

I texted him the hand history.  I did preface it with a confession that I was really bothered by how I played it and at the end I said, "I was really pissed at my play." 

After reading through the hand, Don replied, "I don’t think you should be pissed at your play. I think you are going to go broke on that runout."

He went on.  "Preflop, you’ve got the 4th (or 5th depending upon where you rank AK) best hand. You make a normal raise and a guy who is really aggressive repops it big, which is his standard play. Honestly, I’m never folding there."

I reiterated that I never considered folding preflop.

"Let’s say he is playing the top 25% of hands and 3-betting the top 1/4 of that range. That would mean his 3-bet range is something like 6% of hands. That would be basically something like 10-10 plus, AJ suited plus, AQ off plus, and KQ suited. Running that range through Equilab, JJ is a slight underdog to the range. Honestly, I might have 4-bet him right there. But, looking at that Equilab result, I think flatting is the better play preflop.

"So, let’s go with that call. The other guy folds and you go to a flop with a pot of $132 (his $63, your $63, the flat call of $12 and the small blind, minus $7 in rake and jackpot). You have about $280 behind so, you are a little over 2-1 stack to pot. The guy bets $53, making the pot $185. Honestly, given what you’ve told me, I rip it in right there. You have an overpair, and the flop connects with none of his range. If his range is as I laid out, then it contains 60 hands and against his entire range JJ is a 53% to 49% favorite. So, push the edge and get it in there.

"Out of the 60 hands in his range, 21 (the combos of AA, KK, QQ and 10-10 which flopped a set) have you crushed and you are most likely going to get called by all of them. Although, he could conceivably consider a fold with QQ if he thinks you are that nitty. If he folds that, it’s a HUGE HUGE win for you. The remaining 38 hands in his range, you are crushing as a whole. However, most of those hands have a lot of equity against you. For example, AK suited with a backdoor flush draw has 27% equity against your hand but is going to have a hell of a time calling a shove. KQ suited with a flush draw has 32% equity against you and also has a hell of a time calling.

"So, to get to the question that my coach always asks me to think about 'What part of his range are you attacking with your bet?' The answer is that by shoving you are attacking the 38 hands in his range that have decent equity against you and shoving to deny them that equity. In addition, there is one hand in his range (the other combo of JJ) that you chop with and are trying to deny the chop to. Furthermore, there are 6 hands in his range (the combos of QQ), that have you crushed, but that could potentially find a fold versus a shove.

"The reason that I think shoving the flop is better than calling the flop is that once you call, you are basically committed. The pot becomes $238 and you have about pot left behind. Therefore, if you are already beat, (aka, you ran into the top of his range), then you are almost certainly going broke anyhow. So, the better play is to deny equity to the remainder of his range.

"As a bonus, you put tremendous pressure on the weakest part of the top of his range (QQ and JJ) and could get a fold from them."

I responded, "So as played, I pretty much have to call the turn even without the extra equity I picked up?"

Don replied, "As played, with that turn, you have to stack off"

Yep.  I wish I could have justified my play myself.

He did ask his coach if his own take was indeed correct.  Here is what his coach said.  "Yup that all looks good, although since he’s in position I do think flatting (on the flop) is ok here as well since we only give him one free card, but I also like just shoving to deny equity to all his 2 overcard hands. But maybe it’s best to raise JJ and flat the slightly stronger hands like QQ/KK that have less vulnerability. Then we call almost any turn (we have to consider folding to an ace on the turn) in order to trap his bluffs."

So Don really had a great take, as confirmed by his excellent coach.  I was just destined to lose my stack there.

Well then.  I didn't butcher the hand (as you all told me).  But I probably should have just shoved the flop.  In this case, it wouldn't have made any difference.  Although I did consider the possibility that the guy had me pegged as so big a nit that he might have folded his Kings to a shove on the flop, thinking I either flopped a set or had Aces (and didn't four-bet them preflop).  Don said he is never folding Kings there.  Probably not….but I do think there is a greater than zero possibility that he might have.  OK, maybe just a 0.0015% chance?

Anyway, I'm glad I reached out to Don and I thank him (and his coach) for his feedback.  And thanks to all you guys for the feedback too.  I wanted to include Don's comments because of the excellent mathematical analysis.  Really valuable.

The session has a somewhat happy ending, but I'll save that for a future post.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Dreaded Pocket.....Jacks?

This is going to be a multi-part post.  This first part will mainly about one hand from my Vegas trip.  I will explain my thought process at the time.  I would like feedback as to how I played it and how I should have played it.  Then in the next part I will tell about some feedback I did get back about it later.  Then in that part or perhaps a third part I will talk about the rest of the session.

This was a session at the Venetian, my evening cash session after playing the Wynn tournament that I discussed here.  I had driven over to the Venetian from the Wynn and after dinner at CafĂ©  Lux, I got into a 1/3 game, buying in for the usual $300.  The high hand promo was still going on.  As I've mentioned, the games sometimes get real nitty when they have that promo, but this game was anything but that.

I should mention that up until the evening before, my trip had consisted of nothing but winning sessions.  Then I had a losing cash session at the Wynn the night before this where I was just totally card dead and probably lost the minimum.  Not anywhere close to a full buy-in.  And on this day I had lost the tournament buy-in for the Wynn tourney.  But in none of the previous cash game sessions had I ever been down even a buy-in before turning a profit for the session.

There were a few loose cannons at the table, the loosest of them were the two characters directly to my right.  Now I made a bad read initially and thought these two clowns were buddies.  Only after this big hand played out did I figure out that they had just met that very night at the table.  But I swear based on their conversation you would have thought they had been lifelong pals. However, it turned out they had bonded, I guess, over their mutual enjoyment over each other's aggressive game. About the same age (20's, maybe early 30's), the only notable difference was that one was Asian and the other was Caucasian. The latter was on my immediate right, and the Asian was on his immediate right.

Both were aggros who were clearly not playing just to hit a high hand.  At the risk of shocking you, I will tell you that the Asian was the more aggressive of the two.  But the other guy, who I'm going to call "Pinto" for this tale, was plenty aggro.  It turned out that Pinto was a local and a reg in the room and the Asian was just visiting from L.A., usually played at the Bike and was staying across the street at the Mirage.  But this I didn't know at the time.

They both liked to three-bet and when they raised, or when they three-bet, they bet big.  No min-raises or anything close to that for these guys, no sir.  Although the other guy three-bet or raised preflop with slightly more frequency than Pinto, Pinto always raised bigger when he did raise.  His three-bets were much larger than standard.  By the time I'd arrived at the table, he had already accumulated a ton of chips, and had I guess nearly $1K in front of him (remember, $300 is the max buy-in).

Here's the note I wrote on Pinto:  "He played a fair amount of hands, but he wasn't a total maniac, he had a fold button. I never saw him show a bluff, but he usually got folds before the showdown. I assumed based on his frequency he was not always playing good cards."

I had started the session on the positive side and after winning several small, not particularly noteworthy pots, was up to around $340-$345.  Under-the-gun, I looked down at pocket Jacks.  I opened to $12.  I got a call from probably the third most aggro player at the table.  It folded to Pinto who counted out a bunch of chips and pushed them out in front of him.  It was $63.  I told you he liked to three-bet big when he three-bet.

Hmmm… Well I never really considered folding.  Not to this guy.  There were a few others at the table who might have gotten me to fold those Jacks to a big three-bet, but Pinto was none of those players.  My only question was, do I re-raise or just call?  I figured a raise to $150 or so would commit me and I didn't really want to risk my entire stack with Jacks.  OTOH, I couldn't get the feeling out of my mind that Pinto was full of shit, or at least that there was a good chance he was.  By this time he might have seen me as a nit and that I would likely fold my Ace-King, my Jack-Jack or possibly even my Queen-Queen to a big three-bet.  No way I was going to give into that.  Of course maniacs get dealt Ace-Ace or King-King just as often as nits do.  And he would certainly do that with Ace-King or even Ace-Queen. If that were the case here, seeing a flop would be most interesting.

So after tanking for a bit, I called.  The other guy folded.  The flop was 10-9-5, rainbow.  Pinto, being the big blind, was first to act and he bet $53. Well now, that seemed like a rather small bet for the size of the pot.  With an overpair, I couldn't possibly fold to that bet.  And I was thinking it was now even more likely he had an Ace-King type hand and was just c-betting, trying to get a fold.  I just thought if the flop hit him he'd have bet more.  I considered raising—or at this point shoving—but just called.

The turn was a 7, no flush possible.  So I had picked up a gut shot.  Honestly, I thought he would most likely check.  But he did the opposite of that.  He announced, "all-in."

Well that was a fine kettle of fish.  A part of me still thought he was trying to bully me, he was just trying to bluff me off the pot.  After all, a bet that big does kind of scream "bluff" right?  I'd seen him buy pots doing that before.  OTOH, seeing how sticky I'd been to this point, he could have had a big hand and thought he could get all my chips. 

I tanked for a long time.  My Jacks could be good right there.  If I needed help though, I had six outs, the other two Jacks and the four 8's.  The nit in me was saying , "fold, fold, fold."  But I couldn't shake the feeling this guy was full of crap.  And then I was thinking that I just had to overcome my nittiness.  There was a decent chance I was good (I still thought Ace-King was a good possibility and he was just barreling) and if not, I'd picked up those extra four outs.

Reluctantly, I called.

Pinto wasn't exactly happy, but he wasn't miserable, either.  He said to me, as he showed me his cards, "I don't know if I'm good here or not."  The two cards he showed me?  The dreaded pocket Kings.  Yuck.

I looked for one of my six outs on the river but none of them showed up.  It was a harmless. Queen, the bitch.

For some reason, I showed my hand, and slid all my chips over to Pinto.

At that moment, I thought, well, I'm never going to discuss this hand on the blog, I'm never going to tell anyone about it.  I will never speak of this hand.  I thought I really butchered the hand and had just cost myself a $300 buy-in.  I just couldn't figure out where I should have folded.

Before I say anything more, I'm going to end this post.  Please let me know what you think.  Is it perhaps just a cooler and was I destined to lose my stack based on the cards and the image of Pinto?   If not, where should I have folded?  Or should I just have played it more aggressively, which wouldn't have made a difference in this hand but would have at least been the "right way" to play?

Appreciate your thoughts.

NOTE:  As promised, the follow-up to this post is now post and can be found here.