Friday, July 25, 2014

Giving Verizon Money Shouldn't Be This Difficult

Ok, this is going to be another long rant resulting from a frustrating experience with a big company.  They seemed to be among my most popular posts (see here, here or here, for example).

So, for this post, my blog about poker and boobies Las Vegas will be suspended while I tell you what I went through to get a new cell phone.

It all started a month or so ago when my cell phone started acting up.  I had the Samsung Galaxy S3, a great phone.  But it started losing the Wi-Fi connection to my router for no apparent reason.  Sometimes turning the wi-fi on and off fixed it,  other times I had to reboot the phone.  That was mostly just a minor annoyance.

But then suddenly, the connector started going bad.  It got harder and harder for me to get the plug in and make contact to charge the damn phone.  When charging, I would constantly hear the phone click in and out of charging mode.  On top of that, I could no longer connect it to a computer to transfer files.  The computer would charge it, but it wouldn’t connect well enough to read it as an external storage device. Additionally, the phone would run out of juice faster and faster.  I dunno if it was the batteries (I had two), or the flaky way it was charging or the phone was just going thru power like nobody’s business, but I couldn’t get thru a day on a single battery if I wasn’t hooked up to a power source.  My last trip to Vegas, I had to change the batteries every day, unless I stayed in working until 6PM (and thus had it fully charged).

It was so bad while in Vegas I considered getting a new phone (or attempting to) while there—afterall, I had gotten the Samsung while in Vegas (I’ll get to that)—but decided I didn’t want to waste all the time necessary to set up and learn a new phone while I was supposed to be having fun.

Of course, if you want a new phone, you have to make sure you’re “eligible” for the upgrade.  You know how it works.  You can only get a phone every two years, at least in theory.  I knew I had that phone—and been with Verizon—for pretty close to two years.  It was a little less than that, but I didn’t think that would be a problem.  Boy was I wrong.

You see this was my first renewal with Verizon.  When I got my first cell phone, around the turn of the century (and by the way, that’s actually literally true, that was around the time I got my first cell phone), I went with AT&T.  I don’t even remember why.  I guess it was because they were cheaper than Verizon, more minutes for less money (remember when we chose cell phone plans based on phone usage?—seems like ancient history).

I stayed with AT&T for years.  And I’m pretty sure every time I got a new phone, it was less than 2 years since the last one.  I can’t remember how early I could upgrade—in my mind it could have been as early as 6 months, but for sure it was at least 2-3 months before the end of the contract.  I am positive of that.  I’d always find some reason to shop for a new phone, and I’d always check and even though it was less than two years, they’d say I was eligible for a upgrade at the discounted price.

I assumed it would be the same with Verizon. (Note:  At this point I originally veered off into a tangent on my time with Sprint, but that’s not what this post is about, so I moved it to a separate page, if you’re interested, you can find it here).          

On returning to L.A., I went online to check the date it said I would be eligible for an upgrade.  I thought it was close enough to two years so that it would say I could the upgrade any time now.  But no, instead, it said I was eligible for a new phone on August 10.  That seemed too long and I checked my records.  I bought the Galaxy S3 and signed up for Verizon on August 10, 2012. 

So, no grace period for the early upgrade?  None at all?  That seemed very odd to me, based on all the experience I had upgrading early with AT&T.  But I figured it was just about three weeks away from the contract date, I was sure that it would be a mere formality to arrange the every-so-slightly early upgrade.  What business turns down orders?

With the weekend coming up (last weekend) I did my due diligence and researched phones.  I narrowed my choices to two, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G3.  I figured I’d look at them both, pick the brain of a Verizon rep in the store, and then make a decision.

So last Friday I went online and saw on the Verizon website both phones were “on sale” at special promotional prices, $99 each (upgrade or new contract price).  Fantastic.  All I had to do was get Verizon to let me do the upgrade a mere three weeks early and I was good to go.

While on the website, I first tried chatting with them to ask if I could do the upgrade early.  They said I would have to call a special customer service number to request that.  OK, so I called the number and spoke to a woman named “Maria.” Yes, that’s the name she gave me.  No phony names in this post.

Maria first told me that I couldn’t do an early upgrade. She gave me the option of signing up for their new “Verizon Edge” program, where I wouldn’t pay for a phone up front, I would pay for it in 20 monthly installments added on to the bill.  I would have to trade in my old phone but I would be eligible for a new phone after a year, not two.  However, the cost of the phone this way was around $400, a mere four times what I could get for if I was eligible for the normal upgrade right then.

I didn’t go for that. I explained that I had always done early upgrades with AT&T and it was actually their policy to encourage it—I never had to ask.  Then I explained that the reason I didn’t want to wait three weeks was that my phone was giving me a lot of problems.  I had insurance for this phone too but I couldn’t see paying the deductible on a phone that I would be replacing in mere weeks.

I mentioned one other concern while waiting.  I noted that the seemingly low price on the two phones was advertised as a special “limited time, promotional price.”  I said, “What if the promotional price is gone on August 10?”  She said that particular promotion would end soon (she quoted me a date, which very well may have been today’s date) but added, “We always have a promotion going.”  In other words, don’t sweat the price.

Maria then asked me what phone I wanted to get.  Progress!  I told her that I had it narrowed down to two.  I told her that I wanted to see both phones, compare them in my hands, and then decide.  She asked when I would be able to compare them and I said tomorrow (Saturday).  Well that was a problem.  She wouldn’t be in over the weekend.  But if knew what phone I wanted, and I called her back, she strongly implied that I would be able to do the early upgrade.

She even gave me a special phone number to call her back on when I was ready.  It was not the 800 # I reached her at, but a number with an Arizona area code.  She said, “I’m in Arizona and my day is just starting (this was around noon).  So if you go today, call me back today, I’ll be here for some time.”  She said the number she was giving me was a “special number’ and that I wouldn’t necessarily get directly to her, but that I could leave a message and she promised she would call me back.

Well, at first I agreed to that and I hang up.  But I kept thinking how frustrating this all was.  What was the big deal about upgrading three weeks early?  I would be giving Verizon my money now instead of in three weeks.  Money today is better than money in 3 weeks.  Everyone knows that.  More importantly, they’d be getting what they really wanted—my commitment to give them monthly service fees for the next two years, right now.  Why give me three weeks to figure out that maybe another carrier would meet my needs and be easier to work with?

I realize you have to draw the line somewhere (it’s sort of like the argument of paying the money bubble in a poker tournament), and I don’t know what that sweet spot is.  I can see why they wouldn’t want people to be doing early upgrades every three months.  But surely no one could possibly see a problem with allowing me my early upgrade a lousy three weeks early.  Right?

I was rehashing the conversation in my head and getting a little confused about what Maria was actually agreeing to.  I was bewildered, and I decided that I wanted to contact her again and see what she was committing to and if there was some way I could get her to just set up my account so that I could buy a phone the next day in a Verizon store and go on with life.  And by the way, I would have been totally fine if they started the new two-year period from the day the old contract expired, and not from the day I got my phone.

So I called the number in Az that Maria gave me.  There was a problem with the number.  It was a number for activating a new phone only.  There was no option to talk to a human or leave a message.  Nope, I put in my cell phone number and all they would do was attempt to activate my phone. Which was already activated.

That totally frustrated me.  So I called the 800 number I had earlier used that got me through to Maria.  Of course, Maria didn’t answer the phone.  But the person who did, a guy, seemed to know Maria, or found her in the directory.  He said he would send an email to Maria to call me.  He looked at the clock—it was around 2PM—and said that Maria would be able to get back to me before she left work.

So I waited for Maria to call me back.  And waited, and waited.  Among the people who didn’t call me on Friday were Kate Upton, Emily Ratajkowski, LeBron James, The Pope….and Maria from Verizon.

While waiting I had another idea.  I figured I’d send out a tweet to Verizon publically chastising them for the strict upgrade policies (using a different twitter account than my “robvegaspoker” one).  I’ve done this before to get big companies’ attention and sometimes it works.

My tweet got a response from Verizon customer service.  I explained my issue over several tweets and they replied that they would look into. In the meantime, someone from AT&T saw my tweet and started tweeting to me that they could make me a better deal.  Considering that I never had this kind of issue with them, I was definitely thinking about it.  I even mentioned that AT&T seemed to want my business in a tweet back to the Verizon guy.

After a bunch of back and forth, the Verizon guy tweeted back to me, “Good news!  You can upgrade your phone today by signing up for Verizon Edge.” And gave me a link explaining the program.

I was livid. All that and all they could come up with was a terrible deal that I already knew about and rejected?  I said AT&T wanted my business and asked how much to cancel my contract early.  I actually had no intention of cancelling early; I just wanted to see if I could make them sweat.

They said it would cost me $125 early termination fee.  I didn’t even respond to that bullshit.  Sprint only charged me $75 to cancel early when there was a lot longer to go in my contract!  This seemed like highway robbery.

I gave up dealing with the Twitter people.  A few hours later, I had a long shot idea—maybe Maria was still there and I could somehow get to her.  After all, she had told me she was just starting her day when I spoke to her.  I called the 800 # and asked if by any chance Maria was still there, and of course, Jane who answered the phone this time had no idea who Maria was or where she worked.  She started looking her up and I told her the story of the number in Arizona which wasn’t any good.  Then Jane revealed to me she was in South Carolina!  And so if she figured out which Maria I was talking too—a long shot—all she could was try to send her an email.

It was obvious I wasn’t getting thru to Maria this night.  Jane than asked what the issue was and she would try her best to help me.

Well, I went thru the whole story again and after a few minutes, Jane said she could indeed help.  In fact, she could take my order for my new phone right then and there and authorize the early upgrade.  Success!

Well, not quite.  In order to do this, I’d have to order the phone from her—in other words, I’d have to order it sight unseen, and pick one of the two phones I was interested in before seeing either one.  Oh well, I knew if I didn’t order the phone right then from Jane, I couldn’t count on getting the same answer when I called again—and I certainly couldn’t count on ever speaking to Jane again.

Well, I had done a bit more research in the meantime and I was now heavily leaning to the LG G3.  I just bite the bullet and said, let’s go with that.  But I wanted to make sure it would be done as in-store pick up since I wanted someone to set up the phone and also show me some of the features.  At first she said that wasn’t possible because the phone was so new, but she checked and said it could be done, there were plenty of the phones in stores in my area.

So she went over the order and said the cost would be $199.  What?  I said it clearly said on their website that it was $99.  Yeah, well, that was just an internet special price.  The way to get that price was to order it over the internet.  Which of course, I couldn’t do because the internet wouldn’t let me upgrade early. If she placed the order, she would have to charge me $199.

I was totally exasperated at this point.  I couldn’t see throwing away $100. I just gave up.  I remembered Maria saying “there’s always promotions” and figured I’d be able to get a better deal on another day.  And I hadn’t given up on the idea of reaching Maria on Monday and getting her to make good on what I thought was a promise. I sadly said goodbye to Jane, no closer to getting a phone than I was 10 minutes earlier. 

The next day, Saturday, I drove over to a local Verizon store.  Maybe once I was there, in person, with a credit card in my hand, they would realize how stupid it was to turn away a customer.  Before heading for the store I checked online and guess what?  The internet price for both phones was now $199, not $99.  I wondered what the in-store price was?

Well, I got to the store and they looked up my records and told me in no uncertain terms that they would not be able to upgrade me today.  No way.  I told them about Maria and Jane and they said there was nothing they could do from their end, but if I called Customer Service and could get them to authorize it, that would work.  But the in-store price was $199, not $99, and again, I didn’t feel like throwing away $100.  I assumed that one way or another, I could get the phone eventually for $99.  Hey, $100 is half a buy-in at a 1/2 game. 

I did look at both phones and had someone “help” me with them.  What the help consisted of was the lady looking at her iPad and reading me the same comparison chart that appeared on their website.  It sure sounded like she knew less about either phone than I did.

But I saw them both and decided that the LG was the way to go.  Three reasons.  More onboard storage (32gig vs 16gig), more RAM (3gig vs 2gig) and a slightly bigger screen, but with the design difference, no discernible difference in the physical size. But I left with no phone and no plan on getting one this weekend.

On Sunday, there was a Verizon ad in the newspaper.  It showed both phones now on sale for $99.  This was the in-store price.  And suddenly, again, the price on the internet.  There was exactly one day that you couldn’t get the phone for $99.  The one day I actually went to the store, naturally.  But I didn’t both to try to talk them to again, I was waiting for Maria on Monday.

And indeed, around the same time I reached her on Friday, I called back on Monday.  But I used the Arizona number.  I wondered if I didn’t respond at all to their voice prompts, could I actually get to a human being—and hopefully one who knew who the hell Maria was.

Amazingly enough, I actually was able to reach a live person that way!  Why didn’t I think of that on Friday?  However, this live person—a female whose name I can’t recall—didn’t know Maria. But she offered to help me and since I was able to almost order a phone with Jane late Friday, I thought I’d give this lady a shot.

After another retelling of the whole sordid tale, this lady eventually said she could authorize the upgrade, but she couldn’t actually take the order.  She said she would transfer me to the sales department and explain the situation to them so I could easily order my new phone.  Great!

Except when I got to the sales department, the person I spoke to, Michael, had no clue what the situation was, the lady I had just been talking to told him nothing.  He heard my story and read some notes that the other people I’d spoken to had made on my account.  And apparently the notes indicated that my issue was getting the internet price, not getting the early upgrade. Oh geez.  I told him the price was no longer an issue since the in-store price and the internet price were currently the same.  At least for this very minute.  Who knows what it would be in another few hours?

Michael didn’t switch me back to customer service to get the upgrade approved.  He put me on hold and spoke to someone.  I was on hold for a long time.  Fortunately, like most people, I have nothing better to do than sit on hold with the phone company.  He came back once to tell me he was still working on it and hadn’t forgotten about me.  Then he came back and told me he could take my order!  Yes.  I could order the phone.  And he would give me the internet price.  Which was the only price they had at the moment.

Then he asked me my address.  I started to give it to him and then said, “But I want this to be done as an in-store pick-up.”  No, no, he couldn’t do that.  If he took the order, it would have to be sent to me.  But he could probably send it overnight at no charge.  WTF?  I couldn’t believe all these stupid rules, which seem to totally change from one person to the next. 

Just as I was about ready to face the horror of asking him to send me back to customer service, he said that….lo and behold….it now said on my account that I was eligible for the upgrade.  Really?  “No shit,” he said.  OK, he didn’t really say that.  But he insisted that my account was now reflecting that I could upgrade any time now and that I could therefore go into any Verizon store in America and buy any damn phone Verizon sells. 

That’s when I asked him to verify his name.  And he even spelled it for me.  Because Michael is a hard name to spell. Anyway, I thanked him, hung up, and then immediately regretting not checking my account online to confirm what he told me before hanging up.  But I did so as soon as I could and yes, yes, it said I was now eligible for the upgrade!  Victory?

Well, I decided to get my ass over to the Verizon store before they flipped another switched.  I called the store to make sure they had the LG G3 in stock and they confirmed they had plenty.

And with that, I went over there to get my phone.  Of course, there was one last hitch.  When I showed up and gave them my phone number and they checked my account, they said I wasn’t eligible for the upgrade until August 10!

I was pretty close to losing it.  This was worse than having your dreaded pocket Kings cracked. I explained as calmly as I was capable of that, no, I was told it had been changed and that I had even confirmed it online myself. He resisted, but I was insistent and finally he said, “Let me see what I can do,” and disappeared into the back. I then realized that I have the app on my phone that can check all that and I loaded it up and sure enough, it said I was eligible for the upgrade.  I kept that page on my phone for when he returned.  I was gonna get my phone today or start taking hostages.

He took a long time and when he finally returned, he said it had just now shown up on their system in the store that I was eligible for the upgrade. Phew!  He apologized and blamed their slow servers or something.  Anyway, he could sell me the phone and he did, and I finally walked out of there sometime later with my new L3.  Phew.

But man what an ordeal.  It shouldn’t be that hard to give someone your money, should it?  I can’t believe Verizon puts a customer through so much hell just to get the money three weeks early.  If their coverage wasn’t so much better than their competitors, I would have told them where to go.  I guess that’s how they can get away with it.

Note:  The girl below is actually the T-Mobile girl (or was, until recently).  You know, the one in the pink dress. But I don’t think there are any female Verizon spokespeople who look as good. Or are dressed like this. So I also included a pic of the famous, “Can you hear me now?” guy.

Hey Verizon, can you hear me now?  Why do you put your loyal customers through such hell? 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Table Stakes are Different Since James Garner Played Maverick

I heard the news about the great James Garner’s death just before I was getting ready to write this post, and I realized that I could actually tie in the subject of this post with one of Garner’s most famous characters—TV’s Maverick.

For people of a certain generation—ahem—the late 50’s, early 60’s TV show Maverick may very well have been their first introduction to the game of poker.  If you watch Maverick or any early TV or movie depiction of poker, it bears little resemblance to the game you seen in any card room today, of course. For one thing, the game was usually five-card draw, and when was the last time you saw that playing in a poker room—or anywhere else, for that matter?

Of course in those old westerns, you always hear someone say, “I’ll see your $500 and raise you another thousand.”  We all know that’s a string bet and would only be a call in any card room today.  And you see the guy throwing the deed to his ranch, or his watch, or his horse, into the pot.  But we all know how table stakes work.  In fact, just recently, Poker Grump, as part of his excellent “Casino Poker for Beginners” series for Poker News, did a column on table stakes, and even referenced how inaccurately poker has been depicted in popular culture.  You can (and should) find that column here if you haven’t already read it.


Well, last month I ran into a couple of guys who didn’t seem to understand how table stakes work, and caused much delay and confusion at the table.

Just for fun, we’ll call these guys Bret & Bart, like the Maverick brothers. They were both senior citizens—and then some.  They were definitely old enough to have been around when Maverick was on first on, I can assure you of that.  Bret had lots of very silver hair.  Bart was pretty much bald. They were from Texas.

Now as I arrived at the table, it seemed they were getting into it.  I had no idea they knew each other.  All I can recall was that Bart made a pretty big overbet—something like three or four times the pot—and when Bret folded, he made some snarky comment about Bart’s bet sizing.  You know like, “Way to get value for your hand.”  And Bart replied, “I won, didn’t I?  How’d you do on that hand?”

It seemed to me like it was getting nasty.  This was really odd, you very rarely see a couple of older folks get into it like that.  Usually it’s younger hot-heads.  If you do see an older guy battling with someone at the poker table, it’s almost always a young “whipper-snapper,” not a fellow old-timer.  I actually thought it was possible that the floor would get called over to settle them both down. 

But, after a few minutes, I suddenly realized that these two guys were actually friends!  Not newly-made at the poker table friends, but friends from way back, probably going back to when Maverick was a new show.  As I listened more, I learned that the two of them had left their wives back in Texas and had come to Vegas for a 3-4 day trip.  They were even sharing a hotel room. In fact, Bart joked that Bret wanted them to get a room with just one bet but that Bart said no way.

During the evening, they bickered and fought constantly, like an old married couple. At one point, Bret won a pot from Bart and was kind of rubbing it in. He kept talking about the hand, which he did a lot after winning a pot Bart was involved with. Now, let’s say Bret’s wife name is Ethel.  It isn’t, I can’t remember what it was, but it was definitely an old-school name that no one under 50 has, so Ethel works just fine.  Bart said to Bret, “After you have sex with Ethel, do you talk about it for an hour? Or is it just winning poker hands you do that with?”

The more I watched, the more I realized that Bart mostly made those big overbets when he was against Bret.  Not always, just most of the time.  I suppose it might have looked like collusion but I really don’t think it was.  I actually think they were playing against each other really hard.  Bret was playing most hands, and catching cards and winning pots with a lot of regularity.

At one point he had a pretty big stack.  Bart had had to rebuy at least once that I saw, but then he built up his stack nicely and he too had a nice stack of chips in front of him.  I would say they both had about $300-$400 when the relevant hand happened.  Bart had less than Bret, but not by much.

Apparently, before I got there, Bart had borrowed $100 from Bret, money he used at the table.  Now that came up presently as it was claimed that Bret had given him the $100 off his stack, and no one had said anything.

Clearly that would have been a violation of the “Table Stakes” rule.  Once money is on the table, it can’t come off until the player is ready to leave the game.  And of course, you can’t just give money to another player.  You see that attempted all the time.  Usually it’s a married couple, one of them busts out and the other one, with plenty of chips left, tries to give the busted spouse money of his or her stack to play with. 

Anyway, they got into a big hand together and Bart was all in, Bret called, and Bart won the pot.  He now had a ton of chips, and Bret was short stacked.  Bret took out some money to rebuy.  Included in the pot were several hundred bills (which play).  Bart took one of the hundreds he’d just won and handed at across the table to Bret and said, “Here’s the $100 I owe you.”  They were sitting across the table from each other, so everyone could see this.

The dealer stopped it immediately.  And then Bart proceeded to launch into a long story about how he had these money orders on him and they were from Wells Fargo and he assumed they were the same as traveler’s checks (do people still use traveler’s checks in this age of ATM’s?) but the cashier at the casino wouldn’t cash them.  And so he had to borrow money from Bret in order to play, and he was just paying him back.

Now, as far as I could tell, Bret had plenty of cash and didn’t need the money paid back right away.  So I’m assuming that Bart wanted to return that money specifically to make sure that he didn’t lose it to someone else before he had a chance to return it to his pal.

The dealer said none of that mattered, he couldn’t give $100 off his stack to another player. He was more than welcomed to give him money out of his pocket, just not off his stack.  Then Bart and Bret told the dealer that a previous dealer had allowed just such a transaction.  The dealer said it didn’t matter but wisely called the floor over because the two of them were pretty much ignoring him and the $100 from Bart’s stack was sitting in front of Bret.

The game went into pause when the floor person arrived and to explain the table stakes rule.  Again, the story of the money orders that the cashier wouldn’t accept was told.  Again it was explained that a previously dealer had allowed it.

At this point, another player spoke up.  He wasn’t a friend of either of the two, but had been playing with them for a long time—since before I had arrived.  He vouched for the fact that a previous dealer had allowed it.  And then he said, “Who cares?  It’s not a problem.  I have no objection with him giving him the money.”

Well glad you don’t object sir!  Who the hell put you in charge?  Now me, I did object, because it’s a violation of the rules and everyone has to follow them.  You don’t make an exception because a guy from Texas doesn’t know the difference between traveler’s checks and money orders.  I didn’t say anything because I was sure the floor would get it right.

Anyway, the floor told him the only way he could take money off the table was to leave the game.  He could play in a different game and not have to keep all the money on the table.  For example, there was a $3/$6 limit game going at the time, he could move to that game and buy in for the minimum.  And stay out of a 1/2 game for an hour (it might be two hours, I’m not sure).  Or he could just leave the game and come back in two hours and enter any 1/2 game for the minimum buy-in.  But if he stayed at that game, the $100 belonged to his stack, not Bret’s.

The floor person said if a previous dealer had indeed allowed it to happen, she would find that dealer and have a talk with him. It didn’t change the rules. Again, I wasn’t there, but I don’t think the story about a previous dealer allowing it is true.  But if it did happen—if Bret did give $100 off his stack to Bart—the dealer didn’t so much allow it as he just didn’t see it.  Especially if it was a bill, it could fairly easily be done without the dealer noticing, especially if he was concentrating on a hand neither Bart or Bret were in at the time.

The other thing I want to point is this.  As I said, it didn’t appear Bret was hurting for cash, I assume he had brought traveler’s checks with him and seemed to have plenty on him.  So the only reason that Bart was so intent on giving Bret his money back right then instead of after their session was over was precisely to get around the Table Stakes rule!  If he lost that money, all $600 or whatever it was, he’d still be on the hook to his buddy for the $100. 

It’s sort of like the Steven Wright joke.  “I was walking with my buddy late at night and a guy sticks a gun in our faces and says, ‘Give me all your money.’  So I said to him, ‘Hang on one second,’ and turn to my buddy and give him a bill and say, ‘Here’s that hundred I owe you.’”

That seemed to settle it, and after about five minutes play resumed.  Actually, I think there might have been a few hands dealt then with both Bart and Bret being dealt out.  Bart said he would move over to the 3/6 game.  The floor person left, and a second or two later, Bret announced he was going to take a bathroom break.  On his way there, he stopped over to talk to Bart, and then, to my astonishment, Bart just took the same $100 bill that the floor had insisted he take back from Bret and handed it to Bret!  And Bret proceeded to head over to the Men’s Room.

Well, the dealer called the floor back and she was quite upset and she made it clear to Bart that the $100 he had just given Bret was still in bill—in Bart’s stack.  And that he was playing “$100 behind.” I suppose a case could be made for asking them both to leave since they had both so clearly violated a rule that had been explained to not once but twice, and which they said they understood.  But they did a good job of acting like they were confused old man, rather than two guys trying to get away with something.  At the time I thought the former, but as I was writing this up, I started to lean toward the latter. 

At first, the floor waited for Bret to return, and watched the play of a few hands, announcing that Bart was $100 behind several times. But Bret took his sweet time returning from the Men’s Room (like I said, he wasn’t a young man). So she left and made it clear to the dealer that Bart was $100 behind and he even announced it a few times when he entered pots.  At some point Bart again indicated he was going to leave this game and move to the 3/6 game, and even started racking up his chips.

But then another player at the game came up with another solution.  This guy happens to be a former regular in the room I hadn’t seen in many, many months.  He was having a good time this night and so he proposed that he himself would accept one of Bart’s money orders, and give him a $100 out of his wallet, which Bart could then give to Bret to repay his debt.  No money would come off the table. 

It took some explaining to Bart to make him see that this wasn’t the same thing as what he was trying to do and that it would be ok, but he agreed, and he didn’t have to leave this game to move to the limit game.

And that’s what happened.  Bart added the $100 from the long-time reg’s wallet to his stack, and Bret got to keep his $100 when he came back.  And the reg had a money order in his pocket which he was hopefully able to cash (it was from Wells Fargo, Bart repeatedly pointed out, so it has to be good.)

Well, that’s the end of the Table Stakes story.  On the TV show Maverick, what Brett and Bart were attempting would have been perfectly ok.  But not here.  Not now.  Not in the real world.

There was actually a lot of good poker to blog about—and by good I mean I won—but that will have to wait for another time.  But I’m pretty sure both Bret and Bart figure into that story too, so don’t forget about them.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"I Hate it When People Call Me With Nothing!"

As I get older, I seem to become less and less able to put up with fools.  Fools, idiots, jerks, assholes, douchebags.  You know.  Annoying people.

And the more I play poker, the more I run into them, sadly.

A lot of jerks play poker.

Here’s the story of one such jerk.

I don’t know this guy’s name, but he mentioned (frequently) he was from Colorado.  He didn’t say what city.  I don’t want to blaspheme the entire state of Colorado by calling him “Colorado.”  So I just did a search of cities in Colorado and the city of “Two Buttes” jumped out at me.  You can look it up, there really is a city called “Two Buttes” in Colorado.  Somehow, it seems appropriate—the kid I am about to describe was definitely an ass, and maybe two.  So we’ll call him 2Butt for short.


This session happened to be the first—and so far only—time I’ve played poker with my pal Prudence all year.  She and Tom came by BSC while in the vicinity to play. Lately, Prudence has played almost exclusively online, finding that more enjoyable than playing live.  And after playing a few minutes with 2Butt, I was starting to see why.

Prudence and I were at the same table and we weren’t there for more than a minute when 2Butt started making an impression on us.  The first thing I noticed was that he was wearing a backwards baseball cap.  That’s frequently a sign of douchebaggery.  Recall the post here where I first revealed my displeasure at this particular “fashion” fad.  In a stroke of great timing, just the other day I actually received a brand new comment, from Mr. Anonymous, to that post in regards to my displeasure with that odd fad.  Since no one reads comments on two year old blog posts, and because it was so good, I’ll go ahead and reprint it for you:

“Some people like to wear their hats backwards, get off your high horse, you're not the fashion police. I mean, I don't personally wear my hat backwards because I'm not an idiot, but I wouldn't judge anyone who does.”

Thanks, Mr. Anonymous, great line.

Anyway, 2Butt was a young punk with a baseball cap on backwards and he couldn’t shut up. I guess he was late 20’s, early 30’s chronologically. Maturity-wise, he was about 7-1/2.  He talked nonstop and everything he said was stupid.  Sometimes it was about poker, or specifically about the hand in play, and other times it was about everything else.  He had an opinion on everything.  Only he didn’t really express it as an opinion.  It was more like a fact.  Actually, it was more like the word of God.

There was a real nice lady from Boston next to him, and I’m sure his stupid comments drove her away.  At one point, she said something totally innocuous, and he said, “Well, you’re from Boston so I’ll allow that.”  Mighty big of him.

Once she raised, and he said, “You didn’t mean to do that. You shouldn’t do that.  That was a mistake.”  Well, he won the hand and he said, “Now you know not to do that again.”  He wasn’t using a nasty tone, but he wasn’t using a joking tone, either.

The lady had revealed she was a pediatrician.  At one point she said, “I’m sure I’m the only doctor at this table.”  2Butt disputed that.  “No, no, you don’t want to make that bet.”

He repeated this several times. You might say he obsessed over it, but he kind of obsessed over everything. Ok, he must be a doctor himself right (a rather scary thought)?  He was asked and he hemmed and hawed and finally admitted he wasn’t a doctor. “I’m only in I.T.  You’re better than me, I admit it.”  And then he conceded that she probably was the only doctor at the table. 

He played most every hand.  He didn’t raise much pre, but he limped in or called most raises before the flop.  And he was having a good night; he seemed to be catching cards with alarming frequency. 

He was so immediately obnoxious that if I hadn’t been playing with Prudence, I probably would have asked for a table change before the big scene he caused took place.  But the room was really busy this night and I didn’t want to move to a different game from Prudence and then have her move (assuming she wanted to move), we would lose too much time and her time was limited.  We were not sitting next to each other at this point, or I would have surely whispered to, “Now I know why you prefer playing online.”  Before I had a chance to say it to her, she texted me basically the same message, that this guy is the worst and she can avoid jerks like him by sitting in front of her computer playing in her pajamas.

I got into a couple of hands with 2Butt.  When I raised with my pocket Aces, he was the only caller. I bet out on a low flop and he folded.

Then came a hand where I lost some money to him.  Another guy had raised preflop, $8-$10, something like that.  I called with Ace-Queen diamonds. So did 2Butt.  The flop was Queen high, two clubs.  2Butt, first to act, led out for $25.  The preflop raiser called.  So did I.  I considered raising, but I’m still a bit cautious about investing too much money in one pair hands.

The turn was the third club and this time we all checked.  I’m thinking in hindsight it would have been good for me to bet there and represent the flush. Oh well.

The river was another club.  2Butt stuck out another $25.  The other guy folded.  I tanked. Based on his play, he could easily have bet that without a club.  I thought there was a reasonable chance my Queens were good.  And I was getting good odds, there was now over $125 in the pot and it only cost me $25 to call.  I decided it was worth it, so I put out five redbirds.

He had Queen/Jack.  Only the Jack was a club (good thing, since the Queen of clubs was on the board).  That was enough to take the pot.  I really wasn’t bothered too much by it, I thought that, considering the player, my action made sense.  I mucked without showing, of course

Then he got into a hand with the short stack on his left.  I don’t remember the full details, but on the flop, 2Butt bet out and the short stack shoved. He had a lot less than $100 and I didn’t note the size of the pot.  But I don’t think there was much in it until the guy shoved.

It folded back to 2Butt who gave a speech.  There were two hearts on the board and 2Butt started speculating that Shorty was on the flush draw.  He liked to talk about hands when there was action pending anyway.  Earlier, he had to be warned by the dealer for speculating about his opponent’s hand when there was another player behind to act. Also, he had to be warned about showing his cards (he showed one in that case).

“You got a flush draw there?  I think you’re working on a flush draw.” Finally after he ran out of ways to speculate that the guy had a flush draw, he called.  They didn’t show.  The board ran out and no more hearts appeared.  2Butt showed top pair.  Shorty showed his cards instead of mucking—he did indeed have the flush draw, two fairly low hearts. With that, he got up and took off, never to return.

You would think 2Butt would be pretty happy about that.  You know, winning a nice pot.  Isn’t that we all play poker?

But no, instead, 2Butt got hysterical.  He went ballistic. “Oh man, I hate that!  I hate when people call me with nothing.  God I hate that!”  He was shouting loud enough for at least half the poker room to have heard him.  He didn’t let up.  He kept bitching and pissing and moaning, all the while stacking his chips.  That he had just won.  From the guy who had called him with nothing.

Apparently, the guy’s actions had so upset him that he totally forgot how the action had played out.  The guy hadn’t “called with nothing.”  He raised with a draw.  It’s called a “semi-bluff,” 2Butt.  You should look it up.  It’s in every poker book.  How has anyone who plays NL not seen that move a thousand times?

Of course, the short stack actually had some fold equity there, and indeed, it sure sounded like 2Butt came pretty close to folding.

None of us could believe 2Butt’s reaction.  He was actually visibly angered after winning the hand. You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears.
He kept on ranting and raving and saying, “God I hate that.”  You would think that someone had tipped over his grandmother’s wheelchair or something.

Unfortunately, the dealer at this time was not the best to handle this situation and said absolutely nothing during this whole time.  And the room was real busy, and there didn’t happen to be a floorperson anywhere in the vicinity.  The guy just kept going on and on as the next hand was dealt.

At this point, I seriously considered getting up.  Not so much to ask for a table change but to find the shift boss and complain.  Life is too short for me to have to sit at the table with a jerk like this.

But I didn’t. I had two minds, and the other one was saying, “You can’t leave.  The blog post practically writes itself.”  Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Fodder for this here blog won out.  Although I also thought I might get a story if someone in authority finally heard him and warned him.  Of if someone else complained.

He was the big blind the next hand.  The lady from Boston had left a bit earlier, no doubt tired of hearing this guy’s non-stop bullshit.  Her seat was taken by an older regular, a tight player who always comes to the table with $100 in chips.  He still had his starting stack for this hand.

The reg knew Prudence from her days as a reg herself and had said hi.  Other than that, he hadn’t said a word to anyone at the table, including 2Butt.  And so it folded to the reg in the small blind and he turned to 2Butt and asked if he wanted to chop.

He raised his voice in response. “No no no.  I’m not gonna chop.  Not after what just happened. I’m not chopping.”

WTF?  What did the previous hand have to do with anything?  2Butt had no beef with the reg.  They hadn’t said a word to each other or played a hand together.  It was a total non-sequitur. He’s mad at the player who just left (and who gave him all his money) and thus he won’t chop with a new player?  Huh?

Like I said, the guy was a total jerk.  And by jerk I mean a word I don’t use on this blog.

The reg shrugged his shoulders, said ok, and put out three red chips on top of his $1 small blind.

2Butt raised back.  I don’t recall the amount.  But I was thinking that the reg might have been raising there to spite the jerk for not chopping and might not have a great hand.

The reg thought for a bit and shoved.  2Butt snap-called.  They didn’t show, but there were two 10’s on the board and 2Butt flipped over King-10.  Now it was the reg’s turn to be mad. He kind of threw his cards down, sort of flashing them first.  I thought I saw Ace-King but Prudence said it was Ace-Jack.  Still, a big hand heads up.

“You had to put two 10’s on the board, not just one?  You had to put out two!”  That was the reg yelling at the dealer.

 Meanwhile, 2Butt was yelling at the reg.  “I hate it when people call me with nothing.  I was way ahead of you.”  Clearly he hadn’t seen the cards the reg flashed.  Or he didn’t care.  Maybe he thinks King-10 is ahead of Ace-Jack?  The reg turned to me and said, “Can you believe this?  He was ahead of me?”  He didn’t talk to 2Butt, he just got quiet, and while seething, bought in for another $100.

Finally after a minute or two, 2Butt came to his senses—a little bit anyway.  “You know, it wasn’t you I was mad at. It was that other guy.”  You know, the guy who gave him all his money!  I would be mad at a guy who gives me all his money too.  Who wouldn’t be?

I was now extremely close to getting up and finding the shift manager to complain.  I figured I already enough for a blog post, and it could get nastier from here.  Who knows, the next person to get into with him could have been me.  And really, who wants to be around such a total, unadulterated asshole?

But while I was considering it, the guy’s girlfriend came over.  They talked about going to dinner, and finally decided to.  Fortunately, the guy did not leave his chips on the table.  He picked up to leave us in peace.  He didn’t return…at least to any table I saw.

All I could think of was, “How the f*** does a prick like that have a girlfriend?”  She wasn’t bad looking, either.  She wasn’t a super model, but she was alright.  Truly, there is no justice in this world.

The reg was actually disappointed that 2Butt left. He had seen the way he had played and figured it was only a matter of time before he gave it all back.  I conceded his point.  And he said to me, “I didn’t understand why you paid him off (on the 4-card flush hand), but now I do.  He could have had anything. I might have paid him off too.”

Around this time, Prudence moved next to me, and we were able to exchange some gossip.  But she no longer drinks and drives plays poker, so there was no Prudency behavior to report. Just her complaining about a guy who called her shove on a scary board with only a pair of 7’s.

I’m not sure if she was gone or not when this hand happened. There was a lady at the table who had impressed me with how little she knew about how to play. Unfortunately, I didn’t write down complete notes of the hand.  I recall that I was the big blind and had 9-4 offsuit.  I saw the flop for free and no one bet the flop, which had two hearts on it. My 4 was a heart.  I caught a 9 on the turn and I bet small and the lady called me. The 9 was the third heart, by the way.

I checked the river, which was the Queen of hearts, giving me a little bitty flush.  The lady now bet $25 and I tanked.  There were two reasons I considered calling there.  One was that they had the cash drawing promo, and if I called and showed my flush, even if I lost the pot, I would get a drawing ticket.

The other reason was I honestly thought that lady was such a bad player that she might be oblivious to the four hearts on the board and might be betting with something less than a flush. I really didn’t value the drawing ticket to be worth $25, but I honestly thought that my flush could be good.  Not because she was bluffing but because she had a hand and didn’t even notice the flush.  Seriously.

So I called.  She had caught a queen on the river, that’s it.  She had a pair of Queens, no heart.  I have no idea why she called on the turn.  But yes, she was that bad.

So I got a ticket and everyone said “good call,” and then someone asked, “Would you have made that call if it wasn’t for the ticket?”  The answer is yes, because of the player, but what I said was, “I’ll never tell.”  Except of course in this very blog post.

I limped/called $7 in late position with 8-7 off.  The flop was 9-6-6. No one bet the flop.  The turn was a 5, giving me the straight, and I bet $20.  The reg was the only caller.  Note, he was not the preflop raiser.  The river was another 6.  Ugh.  Suddenly my straight didn’t seem so good.  I checked and the reg bet $40. Knowing his game, I thought he must have had some kind of pair and therefore a boat.  Quad 6’s wasn’t out of the question.  I hated to do it, but I folded.  And I was a bit perturbed about it.  I was even more upset when he didn’t show his hand after I folded. Remember, they have these drawings. If he had a boat, he would have wanted to show his hand to get a ticket for it.  He certainly knows that.  So if he didn’t show his hand, that must mean he didn’t have the boat.  Which meant my straight was good! 

That bothered me a bit and I might have made it a bit obvious to anyone paying attention—like the reg—that it was getting to me. So much for a poker face.  But not long after that, the reg picked up his chips and left the game.  As he was getting up, he leaned into me and whispered, “pocket 10’s.” I knew he was referring to the hand I just described.  So he did have the boat.  And he didn’t show it for the ticket because he hadn’t planned to stick around for the next drawing, which was a couple of hours away at midnight.  I felt better.  I know he could have been lying, but I doubt it.  Why would he lie? I suppose you could make a case that since he knows he’ll play against me again, lying about his bluff this time will make it easier for him to bluff me next time.  But I really don’t think that’s what he was up to.

That brings me to the best hand of the night for me.  I had been up and down and was hovering around $100 at this point, down from my $200 buy-in. Couldn’t get any traction.  I had won a hand with pocket Kings and then lost to those same Kings to a lady who didn’t three-bet me with them (I raised with Ace-Queen). I thought the Queen on the board was good but she called me down and showed the well-disguised cowboys
Earlier, that lady had won a huge three-way pot when she rivered a Royal Flush.  She was pretty conservative from then on, not risking a lot of chips.

Anyway, I was on the button with 9-8 diamonds and someone had made it $10 and two players called in front of me, so I decided to come in.  Then the big blind bumped it to $27.  He was a new player and I kind of got the vibe that he was pretty flaky and I didn’t assume the three-bet meant what it usually means when a player three-bets.  So when two of the players in front of me called the $27, I thought about it and decided to call.  With my stack, I knew I wasn’t risking a lot if it went bad.  And with the pot over $100 before the flop, I had a chance for a big score if I got lucky.  I suppose an argument could be made for shoving there, but I just called and closed the action.

The flop was 10-7-7, one diamond.  Not a bad flop for me.  The preflop raiser checked, the next player checked, and the last player before me to act bet $100.  From his play, I thought he could easily have just a 10 there.  Maybe even a pocket pair less than a 10 (since he hadn’t raised pre, I thought an overpair very unlikely). I couldn’t put him on a boat because he wouldn’t have bet, or he would have bet a lot less. 

As it turned out, I had the perfect size stack ($65-$70) to play along.  I called with the open-ender (and back-door straight flush draw).  But hey, if 2Butt was there, he would have bitched that I “called with nothing.”  The other two players folded.  We didn’t show.  The turn was a diamond that made a straight flush impossible, but a flush very possible. The river was not a diamond, just a Jack that gave me the nut straight.  The other player turned over Queen-10.  My read was dead on.

I said, “Nice river card,” to the dealer as I stacked my chips.  Suddenly I was in the black for the night.  I won a few more small pots, lost a few small pots, and left up $50.  Since I was down $100 just a little bit earlier, I was pretty satisfied with that. I was also happy that I never saw 2Butt again.