Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Poker Room Manager at the Tropagala Reacts

Here's something different.  

My pal Woody, my good friend and avid blog-reader, just made a video for me.

Woody was mentioned in my last post (here) here's another gift he gave me.

I want to be clear, I had nothing to do with this video, nothing at all.  

Except for the fact that I'm posting it on my blog, I guess.

But I think it is hilarious and wanted to share it with my readers.  (Of course, it's all about me and the blog, so how could I not love it?).

I hope you enjoy it as well.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Amazon Gift Card From Hell

This story has a happy ending (no….not that kind…..get your mind out of the gutter!) but man, oh man, did I have a few really frustrating hours dealing with an Amazon gift card I received.

My birthday is just around the corner and over the weekend I visited my friends Luv Malts and Woody, the two people most responsible for me starting this blog, this past weekend.  They gave me a very generous birthday gift.  It was a gift card from Amazon.  We were headed to dinner but I had my laptop with me and since I had some time, I tried to enter the gift card code on my Amazon account so I would have the money there when I needed it.

Should have been easy, right?  But no, it wouldn’t accept the code that was on the back of the card.  I tried it multiple times.  I had both LM & Woody read the number and we all agreed on what the number was.  Now there was some doubt whether one of the characters was an “I” or the numeral “1” but I tried it both ways and no luck.  LM took to my keyboard herself to enter it and it didn’t work.

One thing that was weird was that on the page it said that the activation code was a 14 or 15 digit number.  But the code on the card was 16 digits.  I tried the code without the last number, no luck.  I tried the code without the last two numbers and….no luck.

Finally we realized we had to call Amazon.  That’s not easy.  They make it real hard on Amazon to figure out how to contact them by telephone. In fact, you can’t call them.  You have to give them a phone number and they will call you.  What is this, the CIA?

They did indeed call me back right away.  And were unable to help me.  They said the activation code that I was looking at was invalid.  I should mention that my friends had bought the card at the local CVS pharmacy.  I’ve bought gift cards in retail outlets before and I knew that you had to be very certain that the cashier “activates” the card when you buy it, otherwise, it’s not worth the plastic it’s printed on.  They showed me the receipt and it clearly stated that the card was activated.

But Amazon customer service couldn’t locate that number.  There’s another number underneath the code and they had me read that to them and, although they recognized it as a good number, all they could tell me was that there must have been some problem with the activation process at the store it was purchased and that I should see if the people who gave me the gift still had the receipt and could take it and the card back to CVS and resolve the issue at the store.

Well that was convenient.  OK, so now it was just damn lucky I was still with LM & Woody, and luckier still that I had thought to register the gift card while I was still at their house.  Suppose I had waited a few days?  Possibly after they had lost or thrown out the receipt?  Yikes.

But ok, I had gotten “lucky” I suppose.  I was with my friends and had the receipt and the CVS was on the way to where we were going to dinner so it wouldn’t be too big a deal.

We arrived at CVS and Woody told the store manager what happened.  He said there really wasn’t anything he could do because according to his system, the card was properly activated and “gift-cards are non-refundable.”  But he said he would call Amazon right then and there and see what he could do.

Oops.  As I already pointed out, you can’t call Amazon.  Fortunately, they had called me on my cell phone and the number that they had called me from wasn’t restricted. It was right on my phone.  I was concerned that the number would only be good for calling out and would not accept incoming calls.  But no, the number worked and the manager was able to get through to a human being.

He explained the problem and then they asked for my email address.  I should have stopped that conversation right then and there.  You see, in my original conversation with a different customer service rep, we had never gotten to the point of discussing my account.  I was just trying to get them to acknowledge that the card was valid.  They had no idea what account I was trying to get money applied to.  They were telling me the card was not valid.

Nevertheless, the manager handed me the phone and from that point on, I was on the phone, standing at a CVS register, talking to Amazon about this gift card for about 45-minutes.

I remind you that this was all about a gift I received. 

The young lady from Amazon, like the guy I spoke to before, said the activation number was no good.  We now had another set of eyes—those belonging to the CVS manager—confirming that I was giving them the number as it was printed on the card.

The customer service rep was at a loss.  She put me on hold and when she came back, she asked for the number underneath the activation code.  I gave that to her.  She had to look that up in a different system, I believe.  Finally she came back on and told me that the second number was good and that it did indeed show there was an amount available on that card number for the amount of the gift card.  Victory!

No, not quite.  I asked her to give me the correct activation code for that number so we could be done with this.  But no, she couldn’t do that.  She didn’t know what to do and put me on hold again.

Finally she came back and said there was only option left.  I needed to scan the front and back of the gift card and email a copy of the scan to their “Escalation” department. And send them a detailed explanation of the issue I was having.  I must admit that I found that option totally unacceptable.

After all the time I’d already invested in this, to do this additional work seemed totally unreasonable.  Suppose I didn’t have access to a scanner?  Not everybody does.  And then I had to put this all down in an email explaining to them?  Do they think I have nothing better to do?

I told them that this was way too much for something that was supposed to be a gift to me and she apologized but insisted that was all that could be done.  I suppose I might have made a bigger stink if I wasn’t in a public place but finally, after repeating how unacceptable this was, I finally wrote down the email address of the escalation dept.

I still don’t get why they just couldn’t give me a working activation code right then and there, they must have had one assigned to that card number, right?  And also, reading between the lines, it sounded like what they were telling me was that that the card my friends purchased was misprinted, that it came with an invalid activation code.  This was clearly Amazon’s fault and yet somehow, I was the one who had to do all the work to get it fixed.

Didn’t seem right.

I should mention that while I was on the phone with Amazon from CVS, I did hear the store manager tell LM and Woody that one way or the other, he would see that the issue was resolved satisfactorily.

Anyway, when we got back to their house after dinner, LM volunteered to scan the card for me so I could dash it off to Amazon right then and there.  Well, to prove that Murphy’s Law is absolute real, her PC decided to die right there and then, before she could scan the card!

Seriously, that’s what happened.  Truth be told, she knew that her PC was on its last legs and was planning on taking an inventory of all the important files on it the very next day before buying a replacement.  And the damn thing died about 12 hours too early.  We wasted another hour trying in vain to get her PC to actual boot.  She kept getting an ominous message warning her that a fatal hard drive failure was eminent!  Unreal.

It was kind of ironic I was there to witness the death of this particular PC.  I was actually there at this computer’s birth, many years ago.  I helped LM set up an elaborate dual-boot mechanism that she needed for her work when she first bought this computer.  So I had come full circle with her PC.

When I got home later that evening, I was able to scan the card and email it to Amazon, with a long explanation (do I ever do any other kind?) of the issue and expressing my frustration with the whole process.  I sent this off right before retiring for the night.

When I awoke, there was an email from Amazon saying that they had credited my account for the amount of the gift card.  So at least I didn’t have try to enter a damn activation code.

Anyway, the issue is resolved and I got my gift.  I think I worked harder for that gift than I do for my paycheck (but don’t tell my boss that).

I think there’s a lesson here.  Be careful with those gift cards you buy at retail outlets.  Maybe don’t send them to someone who doesn’t live near you, in case they have to bring that card back to the location it was purchased.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"This Guy Must Be Very Special For You to be 4-Betting JJ"

This is about another great cash session at BSC.  It was the Wednesday before the second weekend of March Madness.  Soon after I took my seat, a couple of Euros showed up.  Scandinavian, I think.  One of them looked familiar, I think I’d played with him a few nights earlier.  He hadn’t made much an impression.  But his buddy—well, I’d never seen him before—but he made an impression on me instantly.  He was an absolutely maniac.  Raised most pots preflop, big raises too.

I remember an early hand he had which definitely caught my attention.  He had raised pre and had a couple of callers, including his non-aggro Euro buddy.  The flop was Ace-Ace-Ace.  Maniac led out, his buddy called, everyone else folded.  There was a 7 on the turn, and Maniac led out again, his buddy called.  The river was another 7, putting a boat on the board.  He led out again and this time, his buddy shoved in response.

Maniac agonized for some time and kept repeating that he had a good hand.  Finally he called.  He flipped over pocket 9’s.  Of course his buddy had the case Ace, and an offsuit 3 to go with it.  Maniac was not happy, but he immediately rebought.

It wasn’t his night and he went through a couple of buy-ins before I got to mix it up with him.  With his style of play it was pretty easy for him to go through chips.  But his big raises were costing me chips as I couldn’t catch anything.

And then in middle position, I had pocket Jacks.  I made it $10. It folded to the Euro Maniac in the big blind who made it $20, and then folded back to me.

The min-raise confused me.  If he was going to three-bet, I would have expected a bigger raise.  Did he have Aces or Kings?  I thought the small bet was an invitation for me to call.

But then…well, he was such a maniac, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling he was three-betting light.  I figured my Jacks were ahead of at least 75% of range.  Honestly.  I rejected just calling.  I figured I’d repop it and see how he responded.  I don’t think anyone had ever four-bet against him at the table before.

I thought I could probably fold if he came back over the top.  I remembered what happened when I played Jacks aggressively in the story here.  But I was going to keep my options open.  I settled on a $35 bet so I could get away from it cheap if I had to.

He thought about it a bit, which was a good sign.  He asked for a count of my bet.  Finally, he called.

The flop was 9-8-3, two hearts.  I did have the Jack of hearts.  He checked, I bet $50.  He check-shoved.

His shove was about $150.  My stack, including the $50 I’d already bet, was also about $150.  So the SPR there made it an easy call, although the check-raise did give me pause.  He could easily have played pocket 9’s or pocket 8’s that way.  But no, I have to play the percentages.  Besides, he’s a Maniac.  He might have pocket deuces.

He immediately flipped over his cards.  He had 10-9 of hearts.  So top pair and the flush-draw (and a back-door straight flush draw).  I don’t think I showed my hand.  The turn card was a black 7, giving him an open-ended straight draw too.  But the river card was the absolutely gorgeous Queen of spades.  He’d missed.  My jacks were good.

It turned out we both had exactly $146.  Odd that we had exactly the same amount.  So it was a very nice double up for me. 

That had worked out so perfectly that I had to text my pal Abe about it.  He wasn’t in the poker room yet and I wasn’t sure he was coming.  My text to him read, “Just 4-bet an Aggro Euro with JJ and he doubled me up.”

He replied, “This guy must be very special for you to be four betting JJ.”

I responded “Google ‘maniac’ and you’ll see his picture.”

He was shaking his head, calling me lucky.  “How could I be so unlucky to miss everything?”  He rebought.  I’m not sure if it was then or after he lost his next buy-in (not to me, alas) when he came back from the casher saying he was down to his last buy-in--$200.  He said he didn’t have his credit card and couldn’t get any more cash this evening.  At one point, playing against someone else, he actually was debating whether to call a bet or not and I heard him say, “I want to call but I can’t.  This is my last buy-in.  If I lose it I’m done for the night.”

Someone suggested that he could borrow some money from his buddy, who had lots of chips in front of him.  “No, no, he won’t lend me money.  But he should let me play with his chips.  He’s a bad player.”  Ahem.

I won a medium size pot with Ace-Queen when a queen hit.  Then it was back to mix it up with the Euro Aggro one more time.

He led out for $9, had a few callers and so I called with Ace-8 of hearts. Five of us in the hand.  The flop was King high, all hearts.  Maniac checked, as did everyone until it got to me.  I bet, $40 I believe.  Sounds too high?  Yeah, probably was.  But honestly, I really thought the Euro would call if he even had the tiniest piece of the board.

It folded back to him and he didn’t call.  No, he shoved.  He had most of his last $200 buy-in.  I had him covered—thanks to him.  Of course, I snap called with the nuts.  He said, “I’ve got a flush.”  Oh my.  Those were exactly the words I wanted to hear.  He flipped over 10-7 hearts (that’s a good hand to raise in early position with, right?).  I flipped over my hand and he saw that he was drawing dead.

I took the last of his chips and he had no choice but to get up and leave the table.  He came over in front of me and told me again how lucky I was.  I said nothing.  If I’m stacking a guy’s chips, I’m more than happy to take any abuse he wants to give me.

I won a couple of more small pots, then lost some chips raising with pocket Queens and folding when a tight player bet an Ace-high flop.  When I cashed out, I had a nice triple up--$400 profit.  Almost all of it thanks to the Euro Aggro.  Nice to meet you sir and have a pleasant stay and a nice trip back to Norway (or wherever). 

Sometimes in poker and in life, you really are in the right place at the right time.

Note:  Anyone in the San Diego area:  There's a charity poker tournament, "All in for a Good Cause" on May 10, benefiting Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  You can find the details here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Two Ante Up Ambassadors Walk Into a Poker Room...

The first night of my March Madness trip, I finally met Dave Palm. 

Dave (and yes, that’s his real name) is my Los Angeles counterpart for Ante Up Magazine.  Like me, Dave does a monthly column about the poker scene in his assigned territory.  (We’re actually called “Ambassadors” so show us some respect!).  He covers the Los Angeles rooms—you know, The Bike, Commerce, Hollywood Park, Hawaiian Gardens and Hustler).  Like me, Dave lives in the L.A. area.  Unlike me, he lives near the territory he covers for Ante Up.

I first heard from Dave not long after I started writing for Ante Up.  Turns out he reads the blog (in other words, he is a man of impeccable taste) and was surprised to learn I live in L.A., not Vegas.  We emailed and tweeted back and forth about getting together for some poker and to compare notes.  You would think we would have been able to arrange a day and time to get together in L.A.—say at a poker room, like the Bike—since we both live here.  But we always kept missing each other.  We just never were available at the same time.  Often when he would suggest a joint visit to the Bike, I’d be in Vegas.  Last year when he hit Vegas during WSOP time, it was during the short period of time that I was in L.A. 

But early this year, Dave told me he was going to be in Vegas on St. Patrick’s Day and for a few days later.  It turned out that his last night in town was going to be my first day in town, the night before the official start of March Madness (assuming you don’t count those annoying “play-in games”)  So we both agreed to do our best to get together for some Vegas poker.

Dave was staying at Harrah’s and so we agreed to meet in the poker room there.  I hadn’t played at Harrah’s since they moved their room last year, so it was a good opportunity to check it out.  So after settling in to my room in Vegas and having some dinner, I headed over to Harrah’s.

Dave told me that he was wearing a Tigers shirt.  But he noticed me wondering around looking for someone first.  He was already in a game, and after we exchanged pleasantries, I got on the list for a 1/2 game.  One of Dave’s first comments to me was, “Hey, maybe you’ll get a blog post out of this.”  I said, “Yeah, that’s what I’m here for.  That’s my number one priority.”  He responded that my priorities may be a bit messed up.

Even before I got into the game, I noticed that Dave was taking advantage of the fact that Harrah’s offers the button straddle.  Ugh.  I groaned and he said, “Hey, if they offer it, it’s +EV to take advantage of it every time.”  I didn’t get into a debate with him.  Or tell him that I did a long post once entitled, “Why I Loathe The Button Straddle,” which you can find here.  All I did was ask which version of the BS (short for “Button Straddle”) they used.  He said first action was on the small blind—in other words, the worst form of the BS imaginable (again, read the post I just linked to for an explanation as to why this the worst form of BS).

After I got my name on the list, I went over and saw that they had the latest issue of Ante Up, which was good because they were all out of them at the Bike when I visited there 10 days earlier.  I strongly considered taking the issue, going over to the guy who was running the room, showing him Dave’s column as well as mine (and which have a pictures) and explaining to him that he had two “celebrities” in the room tonight.  But it would have been too out of character for me to call attention to myself like that.

I got called to a different table (they had 4 1/2 games going) but just then a spot at Dave’s table opened and I took that instead.  We were on opposite sides of the table and trying to carry on a conversation was a bit problematic.  But after a few orbits, the seat to Dave’s immediate right opened and I moved over there.  Now, I had seen enough of Dave’s play to realize he was a real good player, no doubt much better than me.  But there was no way I was going to sit on Dave’s left. No way was I gonna put myself in a position where I’d get button straddled every time I was the small blind.  So I preferred being on his right.

Dave seemed to be having a good night, he hit a few big suckouts and had lotsa chips.  At least he hadn’t won any from me.  I was so card dead I barely played a hand for the longest time.  As it was my first night in town, I was just trying to ease into things anyway and didn’t see any need to try anything cute with a weak hand.  Besides, it was an action table and I felt like if I made a hand, I would likely get paid off.  I lowered my calling standards a bit trying to find that hand, but the crap I was getting was unplayable under any circumstances.

While sitting next to Dave, I realized this momentous occasion needed to be recognized, so I sent out the following tweet:  “Playing 1-2 @POKERHLV with @Dave_Palm. @anteupmagazine Ambassadors game.”  And Dave tweeted back, “thankfully I have position and am a luckbox.”  I responded with a retweet of Dave’s tweet and the addendum “ßtrue dat.”

We had a great time trading stories and impressions of Vegas & L.A. poker rooms.  And of course, poker in general.  Now, the Lakers were on TV, getting their asses kicked as per usual this year, and so at one point Dave said, “Thank god the Lakers are bad this year.”

Dem’s fighting words.  I said, “You hate the Lakers?  We have nothing further to discuss.”

Well, as it happened, the cocktail waitress had just come over to us at that point to deliver our drinks.  And she thought my last comment was meant for her.  “What I’d do?  What I’d do?”

“No, no,” I explained. “I was talking to him.  You’re wonderful.”

This thrilled her.  “I’m wonderful?  Could you say that louder, please.”  And then as she walked away, I heard her saying several times—not sure to whom—“I’m wonderful.  Did you hear that, I’m wonderful!”

Truth be told, I was very impressed with the cocktail service.  I have to say, it was the best cocktail service I’d ever seen in a poker room, or at least since a certain blonde bombshell waitress had a baby and got married and retired (see here).  Really.  We were served by two different waitresses during the evening and I’m pretty sure there was never more than five minutes when the waitress wasn’t in the poker room.  It was fantastic.

So when I told the woman she was wonderful, I actually meant it.

Another time she saw me writing in my notebook.  She said to me, "Oh, come's not that interesting."  First time a waitress ever commented on my note-taking!

But back to Dave.  Of course, the Tigers shirt was a tip-off.  It was the Detroit Tigers, not the LSU Tigers.  Dave is an escapee from Michigan so he likes the Pistons.  At least they’re not having a better year than the Lakers are!  We did spend some time reminiscing about the great Lakers-Pistons rivalry from the late ‘80’s.

After what seemed like forever I finally got a hand to play, Ace-Queen in late position.  After a few limpers, I made it $15 and only one person called.  Nothing on the flop but my c-bet took it down.  Very next hand I got a low pocket pair and limped in.  All the cards on the flop were higher than mine.  But when it checked to me, and with only one player left behind me, I decided to take a stab at it and bet.  No one called.

Then, in the cut-off seat, I looked down at the dreaded pocket Kings.  Now, if I was in the cut-off seat that meant that Dave was the button which meant he was BS’ing.  As in Button straddling.  Three or four limped in (for $4), so when it got to me I made it $25.  Only one player called, the only woman at the table.  The flop was low enough—no King, no Ace.  I bet $40 and she thought for a bit but folded.  As I collected the pot, I whispered to Dave, “My favorite hand.”

He responded, “Oh, I thought it was the ‘dreaded’ hand.”  “Yeah, that’s what I meant.  ‘Favorite’ was in quotes.”  Everyone who reads this silly blog knows what my “favorite” hand is.

By now I had found some hands to play and all that did was cost me chips.  I was down to about $155 from my $200 buy-in.  Under the gun, I limped in with pocket deuces and had to call a raise to $10 to see the flop.  Four of us saw the flop, which was 9-7-2, two hearts.   I led out for $25 and had one caller, a new player who had just come to the table.  The turn was a 10, a non-heart.  With $119 left, I just put it all in.  The guy thought for a long time, asked for a count (we had similar stacks, actually).   Finally he said, “If you’re already ahead, I’ve got outs,” and called.  The river was a blank and I showed my set of deuces.   He showed pocket 8’s.  So he had picked up the open-ender on the turn.  And missed.  (Edited to add:  Until I saw Dave's comment below (under "Unknown") I had forgotten that Dave totally called my hand (before I had to show it).  He could tell by my bets that I had the pocket deuces.  He's good.  Or I played my hand face up--getting accused of that a lot lately).

One more hand I’ll discuss.  In late position, I had pocket Jacks.  The lady who folded to my Kings earlier raised to $7 and another player called before it got to me.  I’m three-betting with Jacks more and more often these days.  This woman had been very active at the table, but more for calling a lot of hands than for raising.  So I made it $25.  The lady re-raised to $95.  Gulp.

The other guy folded and I thought for quite awhile but finally folded.  Dave asked me, “The dreaded hand?”  I laughed.  “No, I’m not folding Kings.  Lower than that.”  “Jacks?”  “Yeah—do you think it was a bad laydown?”  He emphatically said no, it was not a bad laydown.

And that was about it.  I played a little longer but as it was just my first night in town, I didn’t want to stay up too much longer.  I cashed out up $60 and said goodbye to Dave.

The room at Harrah’s was good.  They recently added some tables and the action was good.  They had 4-5 tables full all the time I was there.  And the room was well-run.

While I was so close to it, I did want to check out The Linq for the first time, since it was mostly open by then.  The Linq is basically a shopping and restaurant area between The Quad and Flamingo.  The famous High Roller “observation wheel” hadn’t opened at this time (it has opened since) but frankly, I’m not really interested in spending $35 to stand up in confined space with 30 strangers for half an hour.  But I did walk the length of the Linq and didn’t really see anything that wowed me at all, Just some bars, restaurants and stores.  But then, I don’t suppose I’m their target demographic.

I was curious about something called The Brooklyn Bowl.  I wasn’t sure if this was an actually bowling alley or not.  It seemed to be a place that hosted musical acts.  The name didn’t convince me.  After all, I’ve been to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and there are no bowling lanes there.

But yes, apparently this place offers bowling in addition to the current musical acts.  So now, bowling is so cool that you can mix it with rock groups?  When did bowling get to be cool?  In my day, only dorks went bowling.  I know, cuz I was one of the dorks.

I also checked out O’Sheas, newly re-opened.  I already knew that, unlike the previous O’Sheas, this was not a stand-alone casino.  No, it’s built into the side of the Quad.  But the dealers and waitresses do wear different uniforms than they do at the Quad.

And I was done for the day.  All in all, a very nice first day in Vegas.  Won about $60 playing poker, had a great time with a fellow Ante Up Ambassador (and glad to finally meet Dave) and got my exploration of the Linq accomplished.

And played in a Vegas poker room that I hadn’t (technically, at least) played in before.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Beware of Grandma

This past Saturday, I took a wild ride on a bike.  No, check that.  What I mean is, I took a wild ride at the Bike.  The Bike being the Southern California casino in palatial Bell Gardens.

I went through a whole bunch of emotions on this day, and it didn’t end when I got home.  Just as I started writing this blog post, I learned something that made me realize that something I should have been upset about, that I was no longer upset about, was something that I had every right to be upset about all along.

What the hell am I talking about?  Well, it’s a long story. (Yeah, I know, nobody wants to see me write those words.)

I decided to spend one day of my weekend playing some poker at the Bike.  I knew that they were finishing up their WSOP circuit event, meaning that sometime soon the Noon tournament I sometimes play in would be coming back (see here).  It was on temporary hiatus during the circuit event.

I got an email from the Bike with their April calendar.  It clearly showed that on April 5, they were having their normal “Nooner” tournament with the $2K guarantee ($55 buy-in, including add-on). I decided that that was my preferred choice, the tournament over the cash game, at least on this day.  Smaller investment for a bigger potential payout, that’s what I wanted.

As usual when I schlep down to the Bike, I was a tad late for the tournament.  Damn that car that ended up in the bushes on the Freeway.  I had shoved a lousy baloney sandwich down my throat on the way down there so I wouldn’t need to worry about lunch during the tournament.

There was no line for the tournament, a surprise.  I found my seat with eight minutes already elapsed in the tournament.  I got the last seat at this particular table, and was shocked to see that only three tables were going (10-handed).  Well, ok.  Either there would be a lot latecomers or the Bike will be making a very nice overlay to make up the $2K prize pool.  I rather liked that.

From another table, I heard the dealer ask the TD if there was a guarantee today.  I’m pretty sure I heard her say no, that the guarantees wouldn’t start until tomorrow.  This was the first day they were running any regular, non-WSOP circuit tournaments.

Huh?  Well that really sucked.  I had zero interest in playing in a $50 tournament with around 35 players!  That would make the prize pool about $1,000.  That wasn’t what I was looking for at all.  If I had realized that, I would have waited until Sunday to go down there or….I would have taken my time, gotten there at my leisure, left the baloney in the fridge and had a nice free lunch while playing $2-$3.

I wanted to get up and go over and ask the TD if I heard right.  But I was sort of stuck in my seat.  I was in seat 5, the tables were crammed together and there was no good way to get out…..people on either side of me at the table behind me had food trays blocking me.

Besides, I wanted to do a little research first.  I checked my email.  I downloaded the calendar to my smartphone to see if I had made a mistake.  No sense in embarrassing myself (Yeah, I know, that sounds funny coming from the guy who publishes this blog).

That took awhile and it prevented me from paying much attention to the game.  Always a good plan.  I finally saw the calendar and sure enough, the calendar did indicate that on this very Saturday, they were having the Nooner with a $2k guarantee.  But I still couldn’t get out of my seat to inquire about it.  Besides, there was one more thing I wanted to check.  Perhaps they had a sign by the registration area indicating no guarantee today.  That would let them off the hook.  In my haste to get started, since I had been late, I might have missed it.

Meanwhile, the tournament was so poorly attended that even before the first break, they had to take the big blinds from our table twice to balance tables.  So finally I had the ability to get up.  I headed over to the reg area when the button passed me.  Absolutely no sign at all saying anything about a guarantee.

In the meantime, between being card dead and being totally distracted by this, I was in danger of not even lasting in the tournament to the first break.  Which made the question kind of moot.  Except, not really.  I was blaming being distracted by this for my poor showing.  Besides, if they sent an email out saying they had a guarantee this day, it was unfair to everyone who was playing if they called it off without notice, not just me.

I pondered what to do.  After all, I do work in the poker industry.  Should I throw that at them?  Probably not.  I don’t think my employers would really appreciate that.  Could I even rant about this in a blog post?  Not sure I could do that either.

I decided I was definitely going to question it during the break, which was nearly upon us.  See what they say.  Show them the calendar they sent me.  Maybe I could convince them that they had to up the prize pool to $2K. I mean, it would be less than $1k to the Bike, what’s that?

But I was playing less optimally because I wanted to ask about it.  I didn’t want to bust out before I could ask, because if I was out, I didn’t want the answer to be, “What does it matter to you, you’re out anyway, you’re not getting any part of the prize pool.” 

Right before the break, I looked at the calendar again.  What I hadn’t noticed before was that, on the top of the calendar, it said, “DAILY TOURNAMENTS RESUME ON APRIL 4TH WITHOUT GUARANTEES. THE REGULAR TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE STARTS ON APRIL 5TH.”

Ugh.  There it was. I had screwed up.  The tournament guarantees didn’t start until Sunday.  I was wrong.  Well, at least I saw it before I embarrassed myself.

Except that….it wasn’t until I got home, looked at the pdf calendar again on the big monitor at home that I realized that no, I was right all along.  The 5th was Saturday, not Sunday.  There were now two listings on that calendar indicating the tournament I played on Saturday should have had a $2K guarantee.

But because I misread it the last time I looked at it while I was at the Bike (or rather, forgot what day it was), I never actually asked about the guarantees myself.  So I can’t even say for sure that they didn’t have the guarantee.  Maybe I misheard.  Maybe the woman was talking about something else, some other tournament.  They have a lot of tournaments at the Bike.

So I can’t at this point blame anyone but myself for the confusion—and for the fact that I was so distracted by this whole thing that I blew any chance I had of cashing at the tournament—whatever that cashing would be worth.  Note:  After all this, I sent a tweet to the Bike about it and they responded that all the guarantees were on for this day.  So it was, apparently, all a big misunderstanding on my part.  Yeesh.

I busted out soon after we returned from the first break.  I was the big blind with Ace-5 and since it hadn’t been raised, I decided to see the flop before shoving.  I only caught a 5 and didn’t bet.  I only had to call the amount of the big blind (200) on the flop so I did.  The turn was an Ace and put a possible wheel out there.  No one could be playing 2-3, right?  A guy bet and I shoved.  He called with his wheel.  No boat for me on the river and I was done.  Honestly, with all the consternation I was having over this whole damn tournament, I was actually glad to get out of there.

There was one hand not involving me that I found a bit interesting.  In a limped pot with little betting, the board was AA8810.  The order of the cards isn’t important.  One guy flipped his hand and said, “I’m playing the board” and flipped over pocket 7’s.  The other guy flipped over the other two sevens.  I said, “You guys were destined to chop that pot from the get-go.

I wasn’t in a very good mood and I considered just going home.  But the Bike is such a trek for me (35–60 minutes, depending on traffic), I didn’t want to have gone all that way for such a brief poker experience, and a bad one at that.  So after clearing my head, I got into the $2-$3, buying in for $300 as usual.

Within the first few hands I was looking at pocket Jacks.  I had no feel for the table.  I was in early position so I bet $12.  Two players called.  The flop was Jack-6-5, rainbow.  I don’t usually slowplay sets, but this time I did.  I checked.  My thinking was that my hand was more disguised than usual.  I usually c-bet with 2 or 3 players and by checking, I may give away my hand (see the post here).  But since no one had ever seen me play before, it wouldn’t necessary be that noteworthy that an old fart like me was not c-betting after he raised preflop.

Sure enough, the last person to act bet $25 and I just called (the other guy folded).  I checked a blank turn and this time he put out $50.  So I went ahead and check-raised to $100.  He called.  Another blank on the river and this time I bet out $100, which looked close to (but a bit more) than the size of his remaining stack.  He called.  He was really pot committed of course.  He mucked when I showed my set. 

That put be up around $200, give or take.  Not bad for being at the table less than 10 minutes.

Just a few hands later I looked down at pocket Queens.  A guy with a huge stack bet out $15.  I three-bet QQ more often than not these days, but since I was still trying to figure out the players and the table, I just called. We were heads up the whole way. The flop, turn and river were all undercards to my Queens.  But the guy led out on every street ($25-$40-$60, I think) and I called every time.  Since this was the Bike, he could have been doing that with Ace-King.  But I figured he either had KK or JJ.  I was right, When I called, he showed Jacks and my Queens were good.  I was now sitting behind a stack of around $600 or so and I still hadn’t played an entire orbit.

It was beginning to look like that screw up I made with the tournament was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Then I raised to $15 with Ace-King and had two callers.  The flop missed me and I bet $25.  One guy called.  When I still had nothing on the turn I checked and folded to a bet.

I limped in with Ace-3 hearts in late position.  I flopped the flush draw and no one bet.  I made my flush on the turn and someone led out for $10 and got a caller.  I made it $50 and the original bettor folded but the caller—the guy with the biggest stack at the table—called.  The river was a blank and it checked to me.  I bet $75 but he folded face up.  He had one heart (a Queen) and a Jack (for a pair of jacks).  Unfortunately, with that, he picked up his huge stack and left the game.

I had more than twice my buy-in front of me.  Yes, I was having a very good session.  Now, whenever I am doing this well, I always worry about my tendency to get too protective of the win and thus play too tight.  I’ve written about this many times, most notably here.  Well, I had to start watching to see if I was gonna be able to continue to play poker or not with that big stack in front of me.

I have good news and bad news.  Yes, yes, I was able to play poker.  I didn’t get so caught up in trying to book the win that I was afraid to put chips in play.

The bad news?  Well, you’ll see.

I played a good while without anything memorable happening.  But I played enough without winning to get below $600.  No problem, I wasn’t concerned.  And then, I came up against “Grandma.”

Grandma was this sweet, elderly woman with white hair who had mentioned she had been playing poker for 30 years.  Someone said, “Every day?”  She laughed and said no….if she had been playing poker every day, she’d be out on the street.  In a hand I wasn’t in, the guy to my right raised to $8 and five players called, including Grandma in the big blind.  She called on every street, never raised or led out.  Her opponent, who was not the guy who had raised preflop, showed King-something for top pair.  Grandma turned over pocket Aces to win a pretty good pot.

The loser said, among other things, “Beware of Grandma.”  The original raiser was aghast.  “You just called my $8 bet.  With all those callers, how could you not raise preflop?”  We all wondered the same thing.  That was the perfect situation for a big bet, and it was incredibly risky having all those players see the flop with her Aces.  But it worked out just fine for her.

Now I was UTG+1 and UTG had limped in.  I looked down at Ace-Queen offsuit and made it $15.  Three players called, including Grandma, who was the big blind again.  I thought I liked the flop, which was Ace-Jack-x.  But Grandma led out with a $30 bet.  Hmmm.  I can’t fold top pair, second best kicker, can I?

I looked at Grandma’s stack, which wasn’t that much.  A bit more than $100 after she made that bet.  It folded to me and I just decided that with her stack, I wasn’t going anywhere.  If she had had more chips, I would have reconsidered.  I suppose I could have raised there to see if she came back over the top, but I suspect if she had me beat she would have been content to just call.  But maybe that would have prevented her from betting the turn.  I dunno.

I called and called $30 again on the turn.  My hand didn’t improve on the river and she put out $60.  Oddly enough, she still had about $15 behind that she didn’t bet.

Sigh.  It was hard to imagine her betting that way and not being able to beat top pair.  But I had come this far and was pot committed.  I called and waited for Grandma to show me a set or Ace-Jack.  It was a set.  Of Jacks.  Jacks were hot at this table. 

WTF was I thinking going up against Grandma?

I was mad at myself.  And I had to wonder if my early success had led to a different problem than being too cautious.  No, not thinking I was invincible.  But instead, playing hands and staying in hands just to prove to myself that I wasn’t being too cautious?  Is that why I lost so much money to Grandma?

A few hands later I butchered pocket 10’s, only limping in with them and calling a bet on the flop when I thought the bettor might be trying to steal a flop he missed.  I called on the turn too.  But I folded on the river and it turned out he had 7-4 and had flopped two pair.  Think he would have called my preflop raise with that?  Actually, this player might have.

So the next time I had pocket 10’s, I raised to $15 and had two callers.  The flop was Jack-Jack-4.  I dutifully put out a $30 c-bet, the next guy called and then a guy check-raised to $130.  This guy had been at the table the entire time I was there and reminded me of my Vegas pal Abe, similar height, similar face, but a little younger.  Of course I folded.  Abe’s look-a-like had pocket 4’s for a flopped boat.  The other guy had Jack-crap for trips. 

So that’s the bad news…..I had now lost pretty much all of the profit for the session.  Yeah, it was all gone.  Then suddenly, as the players came and went, the table became something really weird.  It became the tightest table in the history of the Bike.  No one was limping, let along calling a raise.  Hand after hand the blinds were chopped.  This was like $2-$4 at the nittiest locals joint in Vegas.

I actually picked up some chips by stealing blinds.  But it was petty theft at best.  When someone raised to $8 preflop, I was so excited at the thought of actually seeing a flop I went ahead and called with King-5 of hearts from late position.  Three of us saw a King high flop with one heart.  I called a $10 bet.  There was a second heart on the turn so I called a $15 bet.  And then the Ace of hearts hit the river, giving me the nuts.  This time the guy checked and my $20 bet wasn’t called. 

I stuck around a little longer but nothing was happening at the table.  When all was said in done, I had managed to eek out a $58 profit.  That’s exactly $3 more than what the tournament cost me.  But I also got a free dinner out of it.  So maybe the wild, bumpy ride was worth it.

Or not.

(I do want to explain the pic I’m using for this post.  The woman is, of course Sophia Vergara, one of the stars of Modern Family.  I was looking to find the hottest “Grandma” I could find.  In searching, I found a list of hot Grandma’s that included Ms. Vergara.  Of course, that's a cheat.  She is not a grandmother.  But on the show, she does play a step-Grandmother because she is the trophy wife of Ed O’Neill’s character, who has four grandkids on the show.  Needless to say, the Grandma who took my money looks nothing like Sophia Vergara (very few women do).  But hey, any excuse to post a pic of a hot woman, right?  It's my blog, after all.  On your blog, you can post a pic of grandmother who looks like your actual grandmother. On my blog, I'll  post of a real sexy "grandma" in a bikini.)