Sunday, December 25, 2011

Men are All Alike—Even When They're Dogs!

My friends took their annual Xmas trip to Vegas this year and tried something new; they brought their dogs with them.  They have two absolutely adorable, male, Maltese dogs, and when they heard that the Rio offers pet friendly accommodations, they decided to try that out.

In order to get from their room to the "dog relief" area, it is necessary to walk the dogs through the actual Rio casino.  The gamblers and tourists all fell in love with the cute pups, and the scantily clad cocktail waitresses did as well.  The waitresses are used to seeing pooches walk through the casino on the way to the doggie restroom.  Most of them who saw my friends' dogs asked if they could say hello, and the dogs loved greeting the sexy cocktail servers.

One time a comely waitress stopped them to say hello.  She asked if she could greet the doggies, and my friends said of course.  She was a well-built blonde with a thick accent; they asked and she hails from Peru (it probably helps this story to imagine her accent saying what I am about to report).

She bent down to meet the dogs.  The friendlier of the two dogs was eager to make a new friend and immediately rushed toward the lovely waitress.  Now, the Maltese breed is known for excessive licking; they love to lick people.  The dog greeted the waitress with his tongue.  And the juiciest, biggest, and most accessible part of the waitress's anatomy to lick was, well, the girl's more than ample cleavage, so that is indeed what he licked as soon as he reached the girl.   

The girl had no problem with this but did ask my friends, "Are these boy dogs or girl dogs?"

My friends told them that they were boy dogs.

"Oh," said the girl, "No wonder they wanted to lick my ta-ta's."

Here's a pic of the dog behing held by the waitress.  You will note that he is looking down the girl's top, just like any guy would!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Aria--not this time

Just a quick update to let you know that I am now back in Vegas and hope to blog some from here. 

Yesterday I returned to the Aria tournament and did not repeat the success I had last time.  But I hope to post a detailed account soon. 

Will try to hit the Binion's 2PM tournament this weekend.

P.S.  Poker is hard!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Aria Poker Tournament—Another Successful Run

I blogged about my first “big” score at a Vegas tournament here.  Four days later I scored again.

In telling the story of the six-way chop at the Binion’s tournament, I inadvertently left out one other tournament experience I had prior to that success.  On the day before Thanksgiving, I played in the 1PM Aria tournament for the first time.  This was a day after I tried the 2PM tournament at Binion’s, which as I mentioned, is very poorly attended mid-week.  I wanted to try a “deep-stack” tournament again, but didn’t want to play in such a small event.  So I made it over to the Aria for their big 1PM tournament.  I had heard this particular tournament “talked up” while playing in the LC2 evening tournament a few nights before.  A player there was raving about it, saying it was probably the best tournament in town.  He mentioned that one night he played in the 7PM tournament at Aria, which has the exact same entry fee and structure as the 1PM one, and won it, and didn’t realize that until he left the Aria with his winnings and noticed it was daylight out that it was almost 7 AM!  Well, I figured if I was going to play for 12 hours (yeah, right), I better start at 1PM and not 7PM.

So I played there that Wednesday before Turkey-day.  I was totally card dead the whole time, but stayed afloat for a few hours by making some moves and stealing blinds and such.  I was starting to master the art of bluffing!  After a few hours, my being card dead was taking its toll on my stack and I was near the point of desperation.  But not there yet.  In middle position I find pocket 10’s.  I wasn’t at the point where I had to go all-in or fold, so I raised 4X the big blind.  There had been a couple of limpers before me but I was the first raise.

A guy in late position who had been playing fairly tight and had at least twice as big a stack as I had surprised me by going all-in.  It folded back to me and I had a tough decision to make.  This was his first all-in move and with his stack, he certainly wasn’t in a desperate situation.  He hadn’t played many more  hands that I had, he was not playing aggressively as far as I could tell. 

I had to respect his move.  He hadn’t shown himself to be the kind of player who would make that move without a pretty decent hand.  If I called and won, his stack would take a severe beating.  If I folded right there, I would still have enough chips left so that I wouldn’t be forced to make an all-in bet as my next move (I would be kind of close to that, though).  The old me would have certainly insta-folded there, but I thought long and hard and decided it was time to take a shot.  Those 10’s were the first good hand I’d seen in over an hour and who knew when I would get a better hand?  If I stayed card-dead for a couple more orbits I would then be forced to go all-in, likely with a lot worse than the 10’s. 

So even though I thought he might have a bigger pocket pair than me, I called.  Now I was hoping he had AK or maybe AQ and I’d win the “race.”  If he had two ace’s or two paired face cards, I would need a real miracle to stay alive.  But I thought there was a decently enough chance he had only a big Ace so that’s what I hoped for.

Imagine my surprise when he flipped over KJ offsuit!  I was happy about that.  He had two “live cards” but I was ahead and he had basically 6 outs.  It was as good as I could have hoped for.  The flop and the turn were blanks, but the damn river card was a Jack and he busted me out.

To this day I can’t figure out why he went all-in there.  He didn’t need to.  KJ is hardly a hand you stake your tournament life on when you don’t have to and he surely didn’t have to.  I guess he figured I would fold and he’d take down the pot uncontested.  He sure hadn’t played that way up until then.  I was baffled and a little pissed, to be sure.

Anyway, a week later I returned to the Aria for another shot at their 1PM tournament.  Before that but after my score at Binion’s, I played two more tournaments.  I returned to Binion’s the day after my win (Sunday) and did ok, but didn’t come that close to cashing out.  Lightning didn’t strike twice.  And the night before returning to the Aria tournament, I again played at LC2’s evening tournament where I was beyond card dead and didn’t last long at all.

Since I was planning on returning home from Vegas on Friday, Wednesday was likely my last chance to give Aria another shot.  I had to force myself to get there in time for 1PM.  When I’m in Vegas, it is very difficult for me to get anywhere that early!  I know, that’s not early, but you know, for me it is.  I sometimes don’t leave my room until 2PM or later.  The 2PM at Binion’s works for me, even tho it’s a bit of a drive downtown, but noon tournaments on the Strip are almost impossible for me.

Especially if I want to eat lunch first, which I do.  I have a little breakfast in my room that I bring from home, but lunch is usually my big meal when I’m in Vegas and it is tough to have a big lunch and still be someplace by 1PM.  On this day, I rushed to Aria, figured out the back way to get to the Aria valet parking without actually driving on the Strip (something I avoid at all costs) and got there in time to eat something at the Aria before the tournament began.

But what?  I knew the Aria would not have any cheap places to eat, but they bring the word “over-priced” to a whole new level.  The options were a $10 hot dog or a $15 burger, with no place to sit down to eat!  But for some odd reason, my stomach wasn’t feeling quite right.  I didn’t think I was ill, I just felt extremely not hungry.  So rather than buy a ridiculously overpriced meal, I bought a can of peanuts and a diet soda from the gift shop (still way overpriced!) and didn’t even start eating the nuts until the first break.  The breakfast I had in the room and my own lack of hunger would hold me until then.

So again, I did well.  I got some cards and won a few big pots, but mostly I was chipping up by making some moves, using position to steal blinds and limper’s calls.  Early on I had AK, raised, got called.  Ace on the board but the caller had Ace-rag and hit his rag for two pair.  He shoved, I called (had him covered) and busted him out when I rivered a King.

The hand that really made me was when I shoved with pocket Jacks.  I didn’t need to shove, but it was close to that point.  I shoved in early position to try to take down the blinds and antes.  I got two callers, both had me covered!  Actually one of them shoved too and the third guy called.  Turns out they both had AK!  Since they had each other outs, I had a big edge and neither a King or a Ace showed up.  I tripled up and then went on a nice little streak where I took down some decent sized pots. 

After the first and second breaks I ate my can of peanuts, then had nothing more to eat the rest of tournament.  I couldn’t even order diet cokes because they tasted funny.  Somebody said it was real coke but it didn’t taste like that either.  I had a couple of bottles of room temperature water (I hate water if it isn’t ice cold) and nothing else.  But I hung in as people kept busting out.  There were 87 entrants and they were paying nine places. 

When it got to two tables I refused to play it safe to just make a little money.  I was going for it.  At that point I was in the middle of the pack, chip-wise.  I kept making moves and taking chances, but unfortunately a young guy at the table (who I hadn’t played with before we were down to the last two tables) went on a nice run.  When I first saw him he was short-stacked, hit on a couple of shoves, and was off to the races.  He started raising quite a bit, and didn’t get called for awhile.  He did us the favor of showing us his hands even though he didn’t have to.

That was damn nice of him.  Turns out he wasn’t just making moves, he was getting cards like you wouldn’t believe.  He had pocket Jacks three times when it was 6 handed at the table.   Had AK a couple of times. AQ once, KQ suited twice. He was just on a great run.  Suddenly he became the chip leader at the table.  I tried a few plays that worked sometimes but I ran into this guy with the hot hand a few times and had to back down when I raised with garbage.  That cost me and it put me in “looking for a chance to go all-in position”—that was the only move I had.  But every time I did—I went all in with some really marginal hands—I didn’t get any callers and just chipped up a bit.  I swear I wasn’t playing it safe but I couldn’t double up when I needed to. 

So without playing it safe, the cards and the play dictated that I didn’t bust out until we were down to 10 players.  As they made the final table of the 10 of us, we voted on and agreed to pay the bubble player.  So I was in the money.  What was strange was the way we did it.  I’d never seen this before.  We all agreed that each of us would chip in $15 for the 10th place finisher.  And we each came up with $15 cash out of our pockets and put it in an envelope for the next person to bust out.  So 10th place got $150 cash, $15 of which was his.  So, he made ten bucks!  But at least he didn’t play all that time and lose money.

It was now well into the evening, 8PM or so.  I was starving but I was happy I was going to make some money.  And I wasn’t avoiding making plays to survive, it was just whenever I shoved (and that was still really my only move left), I didn’t get called!  Others were not so lucky.  We played one hand after assembling the final table and agreeing to pay the bubble (and each coming up with $15 out of our pockets) before the next break. As soon as I saw the garbage I had I left the table and headed to the Mens Room.  Upon returning, I found out I missed the 10th guy busting out on that last hand before break.  He had taken the envelope and was gone.  I couldn’t even remember who he was.

Ninth place was I think $190 and I had no problem if I had a hand to shove with, busted out, and took down that money.  There was one guy who had a smaller stack than me, and he shoved a couple of times and won, but even with that, he didn’t catch up to me in chips.  But I was willing to shove when I had a hand that warranted it, and the few times I did, I didn’t get called.

One by one they fell, and soon I looked up and saw that I was in line to take down over $500, which was great.  But they kept falling.  With five left, I made a shove with a not great hand but I was UTG and didn’t want to have to shove on the BB.  I think it was like Q-8 suited.  Figured that was going to be better than my next hand, where I would really have no choice.  But no one called.  This kept me going until another guy busted out, so down to four players.  Two players (including the kid who had gotten real hot that I mentioned earlier) were about equal with huge stacks.  Suddenly as I was UTG again, I was no longer the short stack.  The BB, who had me way covered when we first formed the final table, had only a few chips left after posting his BB and ante.  I knew I would thus throw away anything but a premium hand, knowing he would have to shove.  I got garbage and small blind (the chip leader) put the BB all in, and sent him packing. 

My stack was now miniscule compared to the huge two stacks I was looking at.  It would take a miracle to get me in contention for 1st or 2nd place, but I didn’t care, because the board said I would take home over $1200 for being the next person to bust out!  I was ready to shove with any face card.  Sure enough, next hand I got J/6 off suit.  I was BB but the button raised forcing me to fold or shove.  I would have shoved anyway (although if they both folded to me and conceded the hand, I wouldn’t have complained, there was no small blind this hand).  The button actually had an Ace, and I believe he hit that not that it mattered.  I was gone, the remaining two players agreed to chop but I was thrilled with my $1200 third place prize.  Of course I had gotten lucky a few times but I knew I played well and deserved it.

It was 9:30PM, I was exhausted and extremely hungry.  Even with my nice winnings, I wasn’t about to eat at Aria prizes so I was able to hang on until I made it to NYNY and had my traditional Nathan’s dinner (hot dog and a slice of pizza).

It never tasted so good.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Playing Good Poker at the Bike Tournament

Before I post the long version of my success at the Aria tournament mentioned here and here, I want to blog a bit about what happened yesterday at The Bike while it is still fresh in my mind.

I played good poker.

I base this on the fact that there were over 115 entrants in the Noon tournament ($40 buy-in) and I cashed out in 9th place while not getting any cards.  Since the buy-in was small, all I got for that was $75.  But the important thing is, I did that getting mostly garbage.  I wouldn’t say I was totally card dead, but I sure didn’t get a lot of good cards.

I played poker for almost 5 ½ hours.  In that time, the highest pocket pair I was dealt was 9/9.

Yes, five hours of poker and not one pair of rockets, not one pair of face cards, not even 10’s. 

So….I got 9’s once, raised pre-flop, it was folded to me without contest.

I got 7’s once.  I limped in under the gun, got raised by the big blind and then shoved.  BB called me and when he saw my 7’s he said, “Oh, you got me.”  He had pocket 5’s, didn’t hit anything and I doubled up (he had three times the chips I had, so he survived).

I had 2’s, 3’s, 4’s once each, limped in, hit nothing, folded on the flop each time.

That was it for my pocket pairs for 5 ½ hours!

I got AK (offsuit) once, raised, got no callers, won the blinds and one limper.

I got AQ once, shoved (this was late in the tournament), got no callers.

I got AJ twice, once suited.  Shoved both times.  Once no callers, once got called by Ace –rag with less chips than me, he didn’t hit, I busted him out.

I got KQ twice.  Once offsuit, I limped, folded on the flop.  Once suited (hearts), I raised, got one caller, flopped the 2nd nut flush.  Made a big bet on the flop, got called.  When a blank hit the turn, I shoved and got called by a smaller stack than mine.  He had middle pair and the Ace of hearts (exactly what I suspected he had).  I shoved to discourage him from calling and sucking out with a fourth heart on the board.  He called anyway and missed.  Bye bye.

That was it for my good cards, pre-flop.  I got a lot of garbage and survived.  How?  I stole a lot of pots, making strong bets in position when I had little or nothing.  I got lucky a few times, as one has to do.  I shoved with Q-10 offsuit when I was kind of desperate and got called by pocket Jacks.  A Jack even hit on the turn.  Which I needed to make my straight. 

I shoved with Ace-deuce suited, got called by A-9 (he had me covered) but chopped the pot when the board paired 10’s on the river.  He had flopped two pair!  But it was Aces and 10’s for both of us and the Jack on the board played.

When we got down to getting close to the bubble, I had no intention of playing it safe and trying to finish at the bottom of the money.  The bottom four places only got $60, a $20 profit for their trouble.  I wasn’t interested in that.  But even so, my aggression didn’t get me a lot of chips.  It seemed every time I shoved when we were 10 or less players from the bubble, I never got called.  Not once.

So I didn’t double up.  I guess the next thing I have to learn is how to shove under the gun with 7-2 offsuit and get lucky and double up!

All the time, I realized I was playing well.  I made a couple of mistakes, and my attempted steals didn’t work every time, but overall, I am very satisfied with my play.

Finally when we were down to 9 players, and despite my best efforts to be aggressive I was still the short stack at the final table, I got K-J suited.  I shoved.  It folded to the button who was the chip leader, who called.  He happened to have two Kings!  My luck was over.  I needed a flush, a straight or a couple of Jacks and got nothing.  Time to collect my little prize and go home.

The money didn’t mean much, but as I reflected on how I made it to the money without getting very many good cards, and not a single high pocket pair, it felt good.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Maybe I am Getting the Hang of this Tournament Thing

As I mentioned here and here, I had some success recently playing tournaments in Vegas on my most recent visit there.  This despite the comment here that I seldom play tournaments.

Actually I’ve played them for some time, various size tournaments, various entry fees.  And I’ve cashed before.  In “big” tournaments (more than 50 players), I’ve cashed twice—in The Bike’s $40 noon tournament, but cashed out low, toward the bottom of those who got paid, never getting back even $100.  I cashed a few times in very small Vegas tournaments, where there were less than 25 players, at Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood.  Best result, chopping first place at HR where there were 11 players and getting back around $225 for a $60 buy-in.

But I want to do better and I find that mixing in tournament play (and even some No Limit cash play) makes things more interesting on my poker trips.  Just playing 2/4 or even 4/8 limit can get to be a little tedious after awhile.
I knew I had to improve my game if I wanted to cash out in bigger tournaments.  So I’ve been reading Dan Harrington’s first two volumes on NL tournament poker.  It’s amazing how much there is to being a good poker player.  I think it would be easier to become a nuclear physicist.  But I’ve delved into these books and have tried to absorb as much as possible.  I still have plenty to learn.
So on this trip, I tried a couple of tournaments with poor results.  First time was LC2 where I did horribly played horribly, knew I was playing horribly as I was doing so.  It was like I had never read a poker book in my life.  I deservedly busted out early and was furious with myself for not remembering anything I had read about tournament play. Back to my room to re-read the parts of the Harrington book I needed to emphasize! Next I tried Bininon's 2PM tournament during the week, when they only had around 12 players, and busted out fairly early as well.  Won a few early pots, went card dead and my “moves” weren’t successful.  But at least I knew I was playing better, I was remembering what to do and making some smart plays that usually didn’t pay off, but that’s poker.  I was feeling a lot better about myself.  But I got crippled when I needed to move all-in with A-J and a Jack on the board, only to be called by a guy with pocket Jack’s!  Ouch. 
Since I felt I had played a lot better this time, despite not getting a better result, I wanted to try to again.  I had heard that on weekends, Binion's 2PM tournament gets closer to 100 players so I headed downtown once again on Saturday.  Wow, what a difference a weekend makes.  Instead of two tables of 6 each, there were 10 tables full!  They ended up having 110 players for the Saturday event.  During the week they have the tournament in their regular poker room, but on the weekends they have a special room set up because the regular room couldn’t hold this turnout. 
The players seem mostly locals and regulars, which was unsurprising for the downtown location. They were mostly nice people, a lot of older folks.  I wouldn’t say I was one of the younger people there but I don’t usually find myself in a room with such a large percentage of folks my age or older!
I did ok at first.  The format is a real “deep-stack” which I like.  For $105 entry fee you get $20,000 in chips and after the first three 20 minute levels, the levels are 30 minutes.  You get some play for your money, to be sure.  I was adding to my stack consistently.  I never was one of the larger stacks but I stayed out of trouble for quite a few hours.  I had eaten lunch at the little deli at Binion's but suddenly it was 7, 8, pm and I was still there.  I really wasn’t anticipating being there so late!  I had to gobble down a hot dog from the deli during one of the breaks.  You could have taken in more food than that and eaten it while playing, but I don’t like eating while playing in a tournament, that’s too much multi-tasking for me.
I looked at the clock and watched as the number of players still alive kept going down.  They were paying the top 12, and once they got down under 20 and it was well into the evening, I did exactly what you are not supposed to do and started playing extremely conservatively.  The smart move is to take advantage of everyone playing tightly, trying to hang on long enough to finish in the money, by being aggressive against all those tight players.  That’s what you do if you want to win the tournament.  But sorry, I was there so damn long that just like everyone else, I wanted to hang on if I could to make even a little bit of money.  If I finished 12th, I would have gotten a little more than my money back but that seemed reasonable for the time I’d spent; playing 7 hours and leaving empty-handed would have been a major pisser.  Besides, I was well down from all the chip leaders and frankly, didn’t have the confidence that I could really finish in the top three or four (or even six or eight).
So I played ultra tight and stayed alive as players busted out.  Suddenly we had 13 players and someone suggested that we pay the bubble (meaning the first person to bust out out of the money would get something).  All the players left would have to agree and then agree on where the bubble money would come from.  The suggestion was it come from 1st place which was nearly $3,000.  But one kid, who was the chip leader at the table I was at (but not at the tournament as it turned out) objected.  Apparently he was confident he was going to win and didn’t want to lose any of his prize money.  So we pressed on and soon lost player #13, guaranteeing me that I’d take home some money….although I think the bottom prize was only $150, so it would only be a $45 profit….less if I tipped the dealers.  But though my stack was dwindling, I kept surviving as others kept busting out while I played excessively tight.  Yeah I kept playing tight for awhile right after I finished in the money as I wanted to get a few places up the ladder, prize-wise.
Finally we were down to the final ten, which meant the final table.  We redrew for seats and I ended up in the same seat. I looked at the new players that had joined us, I was clearly the short stack when the table was set.  So I was fine with that and taking home 10th place money if I busted out next (I think somewhere around $250).  But other players kept doing me the favor of busting out first!  Now I had stopped being so tight and with my small stack I was just looking for a hand to go all-in on and either double up or call it a day and take home some money.  But a few times I went all in and didn’t get a call, so instead of a double up I chipped up a little instead.  Still a long way from the chip leaders, though.
Key hand:  I guess we were around 8 handed and I was still the short stack when I got J-9 suited.  Perfect hand to go all in on as I was close to being blinded out.  The woman to my right was a regular (and a very nice lady) and she had been in bad shape until recently hitting a couple of double ups herself.  She called me with AQ offsuit.  When a Queen hit I looked dead, but I rivered a miracle straight to double up and stay alive.  From then on I was never the absolute shortest stack, just second or third shortest. 
Meanwhile, the kid who refused to pay the bubble had gone cold and ended up busting out 7th or 8th.  So he didn’t make any money by stiffing the bubble guy.  When it got down to 7 of us, a buddy of the guy next to me, who had played in the tournament but was now just watching his friend. observed that if we took a 7 way chop of the first 7 prizes, we’d each take home more than 3rd place money.  I was the short stack so I didn’t say anything, of course that would be great for me but I didn’t think the chip leaders would even consider it.  Another guy who had slightly more than me did speak up.  He was friendly young fellow with a British accent who had mentioned that he had and his wife had a nice dinner planned and that was now out the window  since it was around 10PM.  At least he had a big breakfast at the Golden Nugget buffet.  Anyway he said he would surely go for the chop but that he realized it wasn’t his place to even suggest it since he was so short stacked.  The chip leader, an elderly gentlemen, immediately nixed the idea, he was not interested in a chop.
We pressed on, and the fellow who’s friend had suggested the chop was next to go.  Now it was down to 6.  As the blinds and antes kept going up, we played a long time; two (maybe three?) levels six-handed and no one busted out.  Close to midnight, the elderly chip leader had had some reversals and lost a few big pots to players going all in.  He still had a good number of chips but his lead was no longer overwhelming.  An older woman who had been the chip leader when we formed the final table had also had some reversals and was no longer swimming in chips.  The British guy was no longer starving for chips but not the chip leader either.  But when we took a break around midnight, he did some calculations on how much we’d all get if it was chopped among the six of us.  It would be a tick under $1200, almost $200 better than 3rd place money.  The former chip leader was now in agreement with the chop saying he was tired.  The fact that he was no longer in such a dominant chip position and we’d gone a long time without anyone busting out was no doubt a huge factor in his change of heart.  We had to find the woman who had earlier been the chip leader….she was out of the room, smoking.  The dealer knew her well and said he didn’t think she’d go for it, “she’s stubborn.”  But when the British fellow found her outside the poker room puffing away and she agreed to the chop without any hesitation.  It was a done deal, we were all taking home nearly $1200!
This was a sensational result for me personally.  I was close to busting out many times, and I think there may have been one person with less chips than me at the time, but it was close.  I had been looking for an all in move for some time and would have been delighted with sixth place money (can’t recall the exact amount, but I think it was around $500).  So I was very happy.
While management was drawing up the paperwork, I chatted a bit with the British bloke. Turns out he and I both post on the forum and in fact, we had exchanged posts about the very tournament we had just competed in before he had left England for his Vegas vacation. Talk about a small world!
That was enough for me.  Ten hours of poker and a nice cash prize, I was ready to call it a night.  But I wasn’t done playing in tournaments.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

3rd Place in Aria tournament!!!

More later but yesterday I played in the 1 PM tournament at Aria and hung on until I busted out in third place.  There were 87 players to start, it was past 9 PM when I finally went out.  Third place was a little over $1200 for a $125 buy in. 

All I ate all day was a can of over-priced peanuts from the Aria gift shop.  And their diet coke tasted like regular coke (sorta) so I could only drink lukewarm bottled water. 

But obviously it was worth it.