Monday, December 31, 2012

How The Grump Stole Christmas

Sunday I drove home from Vegas, so this is the first chance I've had to do a post about the last night of poker in Vegas (Saturday night) for my 2012 Christmas Vegas trip.  Actually, I won’t have time to discuss all the festivities from that night, including winning a nice pot playing The Spanish Inquisition, winning an even nicer pot from the table maniac at the same session with a set of 3’s (“I thought you had high cards”) and witnessing the girl-on-girl fist fight that occurred at BSC very late into the evening (or was it early morning?) in this post.   That will have to wait.  (Edited to add, those stories have now been told, see here and here)  But I did want to share my thoughts on the most memorable hand of the evening, which has already been discussed by Poker Grump since the hand involved the two of us.
If there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t read Grump’s description of the hand, it would be best if you read that first (see here).  This post is a very lengthy comment on his description of the hand we had together.
It was no coincidence that Grump, Prudence and I ended up at the same poker table at Planet Hollywood this particular Saturday night.  As I was about to get busted out fairly early from the Binions tournament I was playing in, Grump sent a tweet to Prudence and I asking if we were playing that night, the implication being that if we were, he was interested in joining us.  Now, a cynical person might conclude that his interest in playing with us was that he was familiar enough with our games that might feel he would have an advantage.
I am not that cynical.  Grump is so good, he has the advantage over pretty much any player he’s going to be up against, at least at at 1/2 No Limit game in Vegas.  I’m sure he was just being sociable.  Additionally, he had been the following the tweets of our friend Grange from the night before.  Grange had had the experience of running into—and playing with—Prudence, who was at her absolute most uninhibited on that particular occasion.  No doubt Grump felt he had missed out on something special and wanted a chance to experience the wonder first hand.
Being the sociable guy he is, he even gave up his famous, preferred seat at the table (seat 1) to sit next to me and just one seat away from Prudence as the night progressed.  It was there that he witnessed my favorite hand of the night—the one where the aforementioned table maniac paid me off handsomely.  We both had a nice chuckle about the play of the maniac, and as I said, more about that hand will told in a future post.  Of course, I was chuckling more, as I was the one who had collected all those chips, which had turned a stack of about $150 into a stack of somewhat under $400 (from a starting buy-in of $200). 
I was still in a good move from that hand when I looked down at the dreaded pocket Kings. Now, since Grump had moved to my immediate right, we had seen a number of players win pots with KK.  And every time that happened, I said to Grump something like, “Everyone wins with pocket Kings but me.”  He would laugh and tell me that I just don’t know how to play them, all in good fun.  What he didn’t know was that I had already won a hand with pocket Kings right in front of him.  I don’t recall whether it was my flop bet or my turn bet that wasn’t called, but I didn’t show that the hand I had there was KK.
Now I had them again and Grump had limped in right before me.  I raised and hoped he would fold. After all, he knew me well enough to have known I must have had a pretty good hand to raise there, and he didn’t like his own hand enough to raise.  But of course, that level of thinking is way too simple when you’re dealing with Grump.
With a flop of 10-9-6, I had a nice overpair to the board, but with two diamonds and the straight possibly out there already, I had a lot be concerned about.  To my chagrin, Grump check-called my $20 bet.  The turn card put a low diamond on the board, so now both a straight and a flush were conceivably already made hands.  One of my Kings was a diamond, giving me a draw to the 2nd nut flush.  Grump on his post described how he deliberately hesitated before checking, just to give me some more to think about.  I noticed it, but because Grump is so hard to read, I didn’t really know how to interpret it.  I bet out $40 and waited for a response.
It came in the form of a check-raise to $110.  Gulp.  As Grump describes, it took at least three minutes for me to decide what to do, and I went over every bit of information I had during that time.
I knew that Grump was perfectly capable of making a totally naked bluff there.  I would have known that even if he hadn’t texted me to tell me about the total naked bluff he had already pulled off at that very table just an hour or so early.  I read his blog.  I’ve seen him play.
And I surely knew he was capable of making that move as a semi-bluff, that he had something and that even if I was ahead, he had enough of a hand so that he had outs if I just called.  I only had the King of diamonds, did he have the Ace?  Did he have a pair with some kind of draw?  Yeah, that was sure possible.
Or maybe he already had me, which of course was the story he was trying to sell.  Did he flop a straight?  I could easily see him playing the way he did preflop with 8-7, especially if it was suited.  What if it was suited diamonds?  What if he already had the straight and hit the flush on the turn and now had a draw to a straight flush?
OK, that’s monsters under the bed thinking.  But the straight concerned me.  If he already had it, it meant he flopped it and then slow-played it.  To me, slow playing a straight is dangerous, but that’s me.  I tried to think if I could remember any post of Grump’s where he talked about slow-playing a straight.  None came to mind.  I believe it would have been bad form to take out my cell phone and start searching his blog for entries about flopped straights.
I did have another thought as I was deciding.  If I shoved there, no matter what happened, I would have a great blog post.  Imagine, if he called and I stacked him (or close to it), I could blog about stacking Grump—with pocket Kings, no less!  What an awesome post that would be.
If he folded to my shove, that would be a pretty good story to, getting Grump to lay down a hand there (whether he had a good hand, or it was a bluff, still a good story).
Even if he snap-called and stacked me, well, I’d be out some money but I’d still have a good story to write about.  I thought then of this post here, where Grump was also present at the table but it was actually grrouchie that stacked me.  I got a two part post for my $200 there.  What’s a good blog post worth?
But I quickly got that thought out of my head—not a good enough reason to make a near $400 decision.  I went back to considering every action, and everything I knew about Grump.
I never really considered just calling there.  If I called, there’s only one card I want to see on the river, the Ace of diamonds.  Anything else, if Grump moves all in, I have no idea where I stand.  Might as well get all the money in there, on the turn, if I decide to continue.
Of course, as Grump pointed out, he had some “insider” information about me, which he was only too happy to apply.  He remembered the post I recently did about playing scared once I get up a nice sum—especially since I had referenced one of his own posts in my post!
I should point out that every time I do a post and I explain my thought process on how I played a hand, I do actually realize that I’m potentially giving away valuable ammunition to a future opponent.  It comes with the territory and I have to hope that I’ll rarely be at a poker table with someone who has read and analyzed my blog.  In making the decision to play with Grump, I knew he knows a lot about my game and my tendencies; I know he reads my blog and am grateful for some of the valuable advice he has given me as to how to play certain hands.  I also know he’s not going to soft-play me.  But I read his blog too and I am always looking for a way to use some things about his play to use against him, because I’m not going to soft-play him either.  The problem is though, that at our current levels of play, he is much better suited to use his knowledge about me to his advantage than vice versa. 
Anyway, I can honestly say that the decision I made did not have to do with the “playing scared” issue that I had blogged about and that he remembered.  Really.  I was definitely willing to put chips in play to win more money.  It was my last night in Vegas, I had at least three buy-ins I was willing to invest on this night.  If he took all my chips right there, I’d really be out only $200 and would rebuy.   I was not playing timidly—as I proved not long after when I shoved with a baby flush. 
No, my thought process was affected by another “rule” I have.  It was one of the first pieces of advice I picked up when I switched to No Limit.  You see, the bottom line was, all I had there was an overpair.  And so the question becomes, how much money do I want to risk with just top pair (even with top kicker) or an overpair?    I mean, there’s too many things that can beat you, especially on this hand.  Risk nearly $300 (more) with an overpair (whether it was the dreaded pocket Kings or even Aces) on this particular board?  I’d lost stacks three times earlier in the week when I had a set against a straight.  Now I didn’t even the set. 
Another post of mine Grump might have been thinking of was this one where I agonized over a fold I made with top pair/top kicker to a $200 shove.  And while I agonized over that one after the fact—mostly because it was driving me crazy thinking about what the guy had—I didn’t really regret not risking a lot of money with a medium strength hand.
So bottom line, as much as it was in my head that I was up against a player who could very easily be bluffing or semi-bluffing, putting that much money at risk right there didn’t make sense to me.  Not with just an overpair, not when my best draw wasn’t even to the nut flush.  Not with a possible straight and a possible flush already out there.  And not with the thought that the text he sent me earlier was done with the intention of reminding me how capable he was of bluffing, so I would call his bluff there only to see a made hand I was way behind.
Now having said that, I know that anyone reading this—especially Grump—will find it quite enticing to try a naked bluff against me when he or she thinks I’ve just got top pair or an overpair.  So be it.  I’m risking that as long as I continue to blog.
So I folded.  And as Grump turned in his cards, he turned up one of them.  Just one.  It was the 8 of diamonds.  So, did he have the straight?  Did he have the flush?  Did he have the straight flush draw?  I didn’t know.
Grump says I left the table soon after to clear my head, but it was really more to empty my bladder.  But It didn’t hurt to get away from the table for a bit.  I didn’t stay away any longer than necessary though.
I can’t recall if I won another big pot before or after Grump offered the information exchange he described.  His other card was the 6 of hearts.  He had a pair and draws to the flush (which would have been no good) and the straight.  But you know, when he reminded me of the “playing scared” post I did and how it helped him set me up, I’m sure some of the color drained from my face.  Although I must admit, I did have to admire his attention to detail, and his ability to put every single bit of information he could access into his own game plan.
And yes, it dawned on me that he called my raise, out of position, with 8-6 off.  In a good mood, he joked, “Why, is that an unconventional move?”  I said I was pretty sure it wasn’t a play recommended by Sklansky.  But he pointed out that generally, you win the biggest pots by making plays that other players don’t expect.
That’s advice I’ll remember.  Maybe it was worth the money I lost on this hand.
Or not.

1/2/13 edited to add:  Grump now has more to say about this hand, including reactions to some of the comments I received.  You should definitely go read them here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The "Couple a Hundred Bucks" Hooker

This one’s for Woody.

As I explained in this post here, Woody and his wife, Luv Malts, were the two people who most encouraged me to start a blog, based on the tales of Vegas (many of which took place at the poker table, but plenty did not) I was relating to them in person and in emails.  Neither of them have any interest in poker.  Woody’s favorite kind of story is the “woman said” story, and one of his favorite variation of that category is any story at all that involves hookers.  Even if I just describe a hooker I’ve spotted from a distance, and had no interaction with, he seems to be enthralled.  Of course, if I do have a conversation with one, he is especially fascinated and wants to know every little detail, every nuance, every bit of conversation I can recall.  You’ll have to ask him why this fascinates him so, but it does.
I’ve had my share of hooker posts in the blog, but none lately.  The main reason for the absence of them is the story I related in this post, where I almost ran afoul of the law in pursuit of a good hooker story that I could blog about, and perhaps more importantly, entertain Woody with.  But also, the fact is, I am now a lot more involved with poker, both vocationally and professionally, than I was when I started the blog, and thus the blog has weighed heavily toward poker content of late.  No doubt this has disappointed Woody, who had hoped he was encouraging me to start a blog that would be filled with hooker stories.
Well, on the night after Christmas Day (or Boxing Day, if you’re Canadian), despite my best intentions, I scored (so-to-speak) a hooker story that I’m sure will prick Woody’s interest, and will hopefully be of interest to most of the rest of my readers as well.
But it did occur after a night of poker, and the poker actually has some relevance to the story, so let’s start with that.  I was having another less than satisfactory nite at the felt at BSC.  After several hours, I found myself down about half a buy in (which is usually $200), and wanting to call it a night.  I just hadn’t been getting cards, and when I did, the flop was missing me or was hitting someone else a lot harder.  I decided to just play until the big blind came to me, and if that meant I had about $100 left to cash in, that was fine. I wasn’t going to go out of my way to find a place to put my whole stack on the line, but if happened naturally, that was fine too.

So, in what would have been my third to last hand of the session, and thus, in early position, I looked down at pocket Jacks.  OK, that was where I would make my stand.  I knew I was going to raise, and I also decided that, if I met any resistance, I would be willing to risk what was left of my stack with this hand.  I wouldn’t feel that way if my stack was closer to my original buy in (and certainly not if it was more than that), but for about a hundred bucks, I was willing to roll the dice.
Both players in front of me limped, so I raised to $14.  Everyone folded to the big blind, who was an older Asian gentleman who had just returned from a bit of an absence from the table in time to take the blind.  He was a rather conservative player, I couldn’t recall a lot of raises from him, and I don’t remember him three-betted.  So when he re-raised it to $40, it gave me pause.  It folded back to me.
As I said, I’d already decided to roll the dice.  He was not the person at the table I would have preferred to have re-raised me, but I didn’t really hesitate very much.  I recalled on at least two occasions seeing Prudence shoving with pocket Jacks against pocket Aces and hitting her set to take the pot.  Hey, if it worked for her, it could work for me.   So I announced “all in” and was snap called by the Asian gentleman.  I knew I was in trouble, and I was sure I needed to hit my set to win the pot.  Yeah, I was in desperate need of hitting my two-outer.
Neither of us flipped our hands up, but I felt dead when the flop was nothing but blanks.  When the turn was a King, I was sure it was over.  I smelled Kings more than I did Aces.  A blank river and I flipped over my pocket Jacks.  The guy actually kind of slow-rolled me—I don’t think it was intentional—and eventually revealed the two Kings in his hand.  He was the one who hit his set, not me.  I would have lost even if I had had Aces on the hand.
I beat a hasty retreat from the BSC poker room and headed toward the parking area.  My timing was such that the area where hookers are known to congregate—which is on the way to the parking— was very crowded with foot traffic.  I believe a show had just let out and the place was mobbed.  The walkway was filled with people and wouldn’t you know it, some of those people were young, attractive females, which, miracle of miracles, somehow caught my attention.  Actually, I’ve been in this area before when a show lets out and it is a great place to just hang out and people watch.  Not a bad activity to pursue after a rough nite of poker.
There was such a mob that I moved off to the side so I wouldn’t be in the way of all the people headed to the parking.  I leaned up against a slot machine and just watched the crowd.  But when there was a brief break in the foot traffic, I happened to notice a couple of women across the aisle, also standing by a slot machine, also watching the crowd.  One was blonde, the other a brunette, and they were very attractive.  My first thought actually was that they were too attractive to be hookers, but the way they were just standing there, my Spidey sense starting tingling and I began to think they were indeed ladies of negotiable virtue.  They were dressed rather modestly—neither had a short skirt, both were wearing tight pants.  Their tops were also modest, but tight.  The cold weather is probably a factor there.  It was actually the blonde that first caught my eye because—I know my readers will find this shocking—she had rather large breasts straining against her too tight top.  If she really was a hooker--and I wasn't sure at this point she was--only the hooker I described in this story would top her in the category "largest breasts--hooker division."
I kept an eye on them for a few seconds.  As I mentioned above, I’m no longer going out of my way to spot hookers, but I felt this was safe as long as I stayed where I was.  I thought there was so much traffic between us they probably wouldn’t even notice me.  But I underestimated them.

Suddenly the brunette left her post and walked sorta toward me. Actually, I thought she was going to the ladies room but she corrected course and came right up to me. And she was quite brazen in her approach.
She grabbed and sorta rubbed my arm and said, “Who are you waiting for?”

Bingo. My Spidey sense was indeed correct. This gal--and I'm sure the blonde with the big knockers she had been hanging out with--was indeed in the very personal services industry
And so it seemed, like it or not, we were going to have a conversation.  Especially since she was holding on to my arm.
“No one,” I said.
“Well my name is Marguerite and now you know you’ve been waiting for me.”  I really didn’t catch the name she gave me.  It was something unusual and exotic, so I’ll just go with Marguerite, even though I’m sure that’s not what she said.  I’d lay pretty good odds whatever name she did say wasn’t the one on her driver’s license. 
I said, “No, I’m not interested, I’m just trying to chill out after a rough night at the tables.”  Well, that was actually true.
She asked what I was playing and I said poker.  And then I added, “And I lost all my money playing.”  Well, I did lose but it wasn’t true I had lost all my money.  I was hoping that would make her lose interest in me, since I really didn’t think this was a case of “love at first sight” on her part.
She wasn’t ready to give up.  “Oh come on. Give me of couple a hundred bucks and you’ll have a good time and forget about your troubles.”
I wish I was quick enough to say, “For what, poker lessons?  I could sure use them.”
But I was too surprised by her mentioning of couple a hundred bucks, for two reasons.  This was the first time I’d ever spoken to a hooker who was so quick to mention her price.  The only other time a hooker had ever mentioned her actually fee to me (see here), I had to ask. No girl had ever volunteered a price. And please remember, I only asked back then in the interest of reportage, for a good story to report back to Woody. Then and now, I had no intention of ever paying that--or any--price.
The second reason was the price itself.  The girl in the story linked above said it was $500 for “full service.”  This gal was talking about a couple of hundred.  Of course, maybe she was giving me a ballpark figure, and maybe she meant a “couple” as in a “few” and if we had really gotten down to brass tacks, it would have been more.  But the truth is, this woman was quite attractive, definitely in the upper 10th percentile of any Vegas hooker I’d ever encountered.  And much better looking than the gal who quoted $500.  I suppose that, for journalistic reasons, I should have questioned that amount, but I was actually eager for the encounter to end.
So I said to her, “No, sorry, I told you, I lost all my money.”
She stayed there a few more seconds, let go of my arm, and looked like she was considering if there was any point in trying another tact with me.  I guess she decided there wasn’t.
“Oh well, sorry, that’s too bad.  Have a nice night.”  And with that, she walked one way and I walked the other way, and I didn’t see her again.  I did actually see a few other girls on my way to the parking that I suspected might be in the same business, but I managed to avoid them.
This was the first time all trip I’d seen any hookers at BSC or in any big strip casino I’ve been in (but remember, I’m not looking for them).  However, oddly enough, a few nights before Christmas, I saw a couple of the ugliest hookers I’d ever seen at the Orleans at the two slot machines closest to the elevators.  They were also severely overweight.  I didn’t actually notice them at all, and never would have pegged them for hookers, but one of them said something to me as I passed by.  I didn’t hear what it was so I ignored it, but then I heard her say, “Oh, you don’t like me, huh?  OK.”
So that’s the tale of my hooker encounter.  I suspect, as we get closer and closer to New Year’s Eve, it will soon become a case of hot and cold running hookers in the Strip casinos.  I’ll try to avoid them, even though I know my pal Woody is hoping I fail in that endeavor.


This post inspired to Poker Meister to run a great hooker parody commercial and a few others, see here. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The One That Got Away

Or did it?

I sometimes find that, after a good poker session—and by good, I mean profitable—I find myself thinking more about the one that got away than the hands that I won the big money with.  Now, “the one that got away” is actually a fishing reference, and of course, all poker players love it when fish come to the table.  In poker, of course, you seldom know if you let one get away or if in fact, you made a money-saving laydown.

This happened on Christmas Eve just a couple of nights ago, after a week of getting abused at the poker table. I will be talking about some of those bad sessions at a future date.  Finally on this night, I was getting the better of it, and it looked like I was going to have only my second successful day of poker for this particular visit.
It started slowly, with a few chip ups, nothing too earth-shattering.  I recall a hand where I had the dreaded pocket Kings, had two callers to my raise and actually hit my set.  I am no longer in the business of slow playing sets, so I bet out about ½ the pot and didn’t get a caller.  Actually, I have been hitting a lot of sets this trip.  But more often than not I’ve been running into straights with them, so it hasn’t been a particular pleasant experience. 
I guess I had gotten close to up $100 when the big hand hit me.  I raised preflop with pocket 10’s and caught my set on the flop.  But there was a straight draw out there and when a Queen hit the turn, I thought I was gonna lose a big pot to a set vs a straight for the umpteenth time this trip.  I had bet the flop with my set and gotten two callers.  The turn got one guy to re-raise me all in and another guy shoved as well. I had them both covered.  With the two of them in there and having to risk less than an additional $100 to call, I thought it was a pretty easy call.  Even if I was behind to a straight—or two straights—with the two of them having similar amounts bet and what was already in the pot, I was getting good odds to fill up.  After all, I had 10 outs to improve.  No one showed their hand but I was quite delighted to see a second Queen on the river, giving me the boat.  The one guy showed his turned straight and, disgusted, left the table.  I don’t remember the details, but that was his second all-in suck out loss of the evening (not to me, to someone else).  Tough night for him.  The other guy didn’t show, I’m guessing he only had 2 pair before the river or he would have shown his straight.
That put me up over well over a buy in and just a few hands later, with the same dealer, I caught two pair with my Ace-10.  My flop bet was called by two guys making me fear a straight, but a blank on the turn hit, and this time my bet was not called.  Now I had over $300 over my buy in front of me.
I was quite happy, and also determined not to play it too safe, as I have a tendency to do when I get up a nice amount (see the post here).  I kept to that for awhile, but never had another good opportunity to win anything significant, and managed to chip down in the process.  But I still had a tiny bit over $300 profit in front of me when the hand that is the subject of this post happened. 
I was dealt Ace-Queen off suit in late position.  A/Q is a tricky hand to be sure.  I tend to raise with it more often than not, but I do sometimes just limp with it.  This time, I decided to limp after there were a few other limpers.  At the time, I didn’t think it was a sign that I was playing too tight because of my successful night thus far, but maybe it was.  Anyway, three or four of us saw the flop, which was Q-10-3, rainbow.  The first guy bet $6, and the next guy called the $6.  The next guy folded it to me, and I had last action.
I raised to $30.  I didn’t want to give anyone good odds to call if they were on draw.  The first guy folded promptly but the second guy, just as promptly, put his entire stack out in front of him.  It was $201.
Shit.  What the hell did that mean?  I recalled that in either the first or second hand he had when he came to the table, he put out $100 (half his buy in) on the river with a pair of Kings and a lousy kicker.  A guy called him with his entire stack, which was slightly less than the $100 with 2 pair.  He also had a King with a lousy kicker but his kicker had paired as well.
I certainly made a mental note of that play, which I thought was a pretty weak play on his part, but I couldn’t recall him doing anything else I found questionable for the next 45 minutes.  He chipped back up a bet with some raises that weren’t called, but the few showdowns I saw, he always had the goods; he had a reasonable hand, unlike the first hand I had seen.
So I definitely thought it was possible he was making the move with just a Queen and a worse kicker than I had.  But risking his entire stack—$200 no less—seemed well beyond any move I’d seen him make.  Maybe he had the straight draw, but more likely to me was either a set of 3’s or Q-10 for two pair.
You could argue that he was really trying to get me to fold a better hand, and certainly that is a possibility.  But it was a high risk move if that was his plan.  More likely, to me, was that he was eying the big stack I had and felt it was quite possible I would call him with second best hand.  He had only called until he saw that the big stack at the table--me--had shown interest in the hand by raising.
I decided I really didn’t want to risk $200—and 2/3’s of the evening’s profits—on just top pair, top kicker.  So I folded.  And cursed myself for not raising preflop.  But I’m not sure that would have made a difference.  I was sure he wouldn’t have folded pocket 3’s to my raise, and he might not even have folded Q-10 to a raise.  Of course, I’ll never know.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the hand, and my laydown, and realized that I was no longer capable of playing my best game.  I was too distracted by that hand, playing it over in my mind, trying to figure out what he had.  Plus I began to become concerned that I was falling back into being too protective of my winnings to play correctly.  So I picked up my chips and booked a win of $270 before I could do any more damage.
But on the way back to my room, instead of focusing on the very successful night, all I could think about was the laydown I had made, and whether or not it was the right move.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bally High

This story dates back to my previous trip to Vegas, which started the end of November.  I timed this trip so I could play in the WPBT tournament on my first Saturday there (see here), and the AVP XVII Meet & Tournament the following Saturday (see here and here).

It turned out that, the very last AVP Weekly Showdown event of the year was being held the first night I got to town (see here for the story of the last time I played in such an event). So of course I wanted to participate.  Plus Lightning was arriving in Vegas that day and promised to play in the tournament.  It was the regular 8 PM tournament at Bally’s.  Now Bally’s has never been one of my favorite poker rooms.  My biggest complaint is that I just had never, ever won in that room.  And not only that, a lot of the time when I lost, I lost big.  It’s always been kind of a jinx room for me, despite the fact that many of my blogger buddies (Lightning & grrouchie) come to mind), absolutely love the room.
So it was with some trepidation that I entered Bally’s that night after the four hour drive from L.A. This was before they moved the room (as I discussed here) to the new location.  After checking out the then unfinished new poker room, I headed over to the existing room and soon ran into Lightning.  We chatted as he waited to get into a cash game.  Having had a bad run at tournaments lately, he ended up deciding to stick to the cash game that night and didn’t play in the tournament. He was probably afraid of my well known tournament skills, or perhaps he chickened out when I told him that Prudence and her boyfriend Tom had been persuaded (by yours truly, of course) to join us in the tournament.  Actually, I think it was mostly do to him just preferring to play cash games. 
Lightning claimed to be looking forward to meeting Prudence, being quite confident that she would immediately succumb to his alleged charms when they met, as he claims all women do.  But once she got there, he avoided her and never had the chance to meet her (they did meet and even play together—no not that way—the next evening).  I’m thinking that he was intimidated by Tom’s presence.  As for Prudence, I think she was scared of meeting a guy who claimed to such a chick-magnet—and clearly wasn’t.
After I paid my entry fee ($55), I received a tweet from Alaskagal, who is now my colleague at AVP.  She said she was running late and asked me to buy her entry into the tournament for her.  She didn’t want to risk being an alternate.  It is fast structure with only 5,000 in starting chips; being a late entrant would be quite a handicap.  I had never been asked to do that before and wasn’t sure they would allow me to buy someone else’s entry, but there was no problem.  Although the guy I got the entry from asked me if I was sure I could trust the person I was fronting the money for.  I laughed and said I was sure, because Alaskagal is not a dishonest kind of gal.  I looked down at her seat and realized she would be sitting next to me, directly to my right.  I was glad to have position on her, because I know Alaskagal is a professional poker dealer and, more importantly, a really, really good player.
It turned out that she got to Bally’s before the tournament started and before they had sold out the 20 seats anyway.  As she does at these events, she passed out AVP t-shirts to anyone who wanted one (until she ran out).  Of course, I wore my AVP shirt, given to me long before I started working for AVP.
Tom was at my table, but not close enough to converse with (that old Bally’s poker room was very noisy).  Prudence was at the other table.  Alaskagal and I were chatting up a storm with a couple of the players seated near us, one of who I believe joined AVP right from the table.  I pretty much didn’t get anything to play for a long time, but managed to keep my head above water with a few timely raises that for the most part weren’t called.
Then I looked down at Ace/Ace in late position, and was hoping that someone would raise before it got to me.  Someone did, but sadly, it was Alaskagal.  She made a big raise, almost half her stack.  She had me covered.  It was an easy decision to shove there, so I did.  She turned pale.  She probably knows me well enough to have figured out she was in deep trouble.  She shrugged and called because with the big raise she had initially made, she was pretty much pot committed.
She wasn’t surprised to see my Aces, and I was a little surprised to see her King/Queen.  She actually caught a gut-shot straight draw, but missed her Jack. (I’m too much of a gentleman to say she was a “jack off”—oh wait, I guess I’m not).  She is a frequent tweeter so of course she tweeted that I crippled her.  I tweeted back that it was only because I had AA and not KK. 
But not long after that, I looked at my hole cards and found the dreaded pocket Kings.  Of course I raised, and another guy, who had me covered, shoved.  Of course I called.  To my delight, he has King-8.  I guess he thought I was just kidding around and would fold to his shove.  It was a needless risk on his part, but it worked out well for me, a nice double up.
The table was rather tight for a long time, rather surprisingly so.  It took a long time for any bust outs.  But finally the structure dictated that it became a shove-fest.  Alaskagal, Prudence and Tom all disappeared.  After my double up with the Kings, I was the chip leader at the table for awhile.  I was trying to take advantage, making big raises when first in, but I wasn’t getting called and since there are no antes in this tournament, I wasn’t getting that many chips for that move.  And of course eventually I did start getting called, or raised, and I had hands I couldn’t stay with.
The tournament had a $1,000 guarantee prize pool, and with only 23 runners, they had to do an overlay.  Thus first place was $500, 2nd was $300 and 3rd with $200.  At those numbers, no one is thinking of paying the bubble.  Once we had the final table players were busting out pretty fast.
Down to four players, one away from the money, I lost my chip leader status on a nasty hand.  I shoved with 44, which I thought was a good play only 4 handed.  The short stack called with AQ, can’t argue with that.  No Ace or Queen hit the board, and he didn’t make a flush or a straight.
So how did he win the pot?  The board double paired, fives and sixes!  My fours didn’t play, and his Ace kicker with the two pair on the board did.  Three pair is worthless in hold’em.  Suddenly I was the short stack and very much in danger of being the bubble boy.
But I hung in there and some other guy lost enough chips to take away my short stack status.  Then I looked down at Ace/King of clubs.  Easy shove at that point.  The newly crowned short stack called, with Ace/9 of diamonds.  The flop was scary, two diamonds and one club.  But the last two cards were runner runner clubs to give me the nuts, and knock the guy out—and put the three of us remaining in the money. I was back being the chip leader, but it didn’t last long as Stack #2 soon knocked Stack #3 out to overtake me.
Neither one of us suggested a chop.  I almost never suggest it but always agree to it when suggested.  In this case, having seen this guy play for awhile, I was convinced I was a much better player than him and thought I had a pretty good chance to beat him heads up.  I sort of knew he hadn’t been in a situation like this before when at one point, when the announcement was made that we had moved to the next level, he asked if that meant that we were done and the tournament was over.
I was making some moves (and getting some decent cards as well) and soon took over the chip lead.  Then disaster struck when I went all in with Ace/Jack.  He called with his feeble pair of three’s and flopped quads.  Yeah, just quads.
But again, in this case, I was just a much better player than he was.  I kept using my position to make moves, and I stole a lot of chips, and as luck would have it, whenever he called me I actually had a hand.  Soon I was back being the chip leader, and finally shoved with Ace/Queen.  Lucky for me he had Ace/Jack and called.  He missed and that was that.  I had claimed first place, a $500 pay day.
This was the first time I’d ever taken undisputed first place in a tournament.  Over a year ago I was part of a six-way chop of first place at the big Binions tournament I play regularly (see here).  Long before that, I once chopped first place with a guy in a single table tournament at Hard Rock.  That was very different.  At that time, I had no idea how to play heads up, and neither did the other guy.  We were both playing tight and just trading a few chips back and forth before he suggested we just split it.  This time I knew how to play.
So that was a nice start to my trip.  And it was the first time I ever left Bally’s a winner.  So of course, soon after my successful visit to the Bally’s poker room, they had to close down the poker room.  Well, they did close it down to move it, right?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two Different Ways to Win With Kings

This blog is filled with tales of woe regarding the Hold’em starting hand of pocket Kings (see here and skip past this post, which should be the first one there).  There’s a reason that I have a label called “The Dreaded Pocket Kings” and that it has over 30 posts.

On back to back nights recently, I won with them, in very different, rather unusual ways.
First up was a game at BSC where we had just opened a table.  There had only been a few hands dealt, I hadn’t played a one, when the big blind came to me.  After the first card was dealt to me, I peaked at it, a silly habit I have.  I was slow to take my hands away from the card, which was a King.  So slow that the second card hit my hands and “flashed.”  It didn’t turn face up, but anyone to my right who was looking would have been able to see it.  The dealer immediately instructed me to flip it face up, and I didn’t object at all, knowing someone likely had seen it.
Of course, it was another King.  Well that would have been my first time getting the dreaded hand this particular trip.  So perhaps I had just dodged a bullet?
The replacement card was a 9 of a different suit and I lost interest in the hand.  As it turned out, however, there were a number of limpers but no one raised, so I got to see the flop for free.
Again, I lost interest.  It missed me completely and I checked….but so did everyone else.  So I got to look at the turn for free.
The turn card got my interest.  It was a King.  No one had shown any interest in the hand to that point, and suddenly I found myself with top pair (but weak kicker).  So of course I bet, about the size of the pot.  No one called and I won with a set of Kings that wasn’t really a set of Kings.
Ordinarily I don’t show my cards, but under the circumstances I felt I should.  I flipped up my hand as the dealer pushed me the small pot and I made it clear that the first card he had dealt me was the King.  He nodded and said, “of course.”
I said that there was no harm done; based on the action, I wouldn’t have likely won a lot more money if the card had not flashed.  My preflop raise might not have gotten any callers, and no one who did call would have called my flop bet.  Besides, it was my fault the card flashed, not the dealer’s.  I explained that that was why I was going to let the dealer live and he laughed.
The very next night I decided to check out the new location of Bally’s poker room.  I had learned through my day job that they had just moved the day before.  The new location is roomier and less noisy than the old one.  It is closer to food—it’s right next to The Nosh—but farther from any bar.  Despite this, the cocktail service was better than I remember it being.
Anyway, I was having a pretty unmemorable session, and my stack was down to about $140, when I found myself with pocket Kings in late position.  There were a bunch of limpers so I made it $14.  Two callers, both in earlier position than me, called.
The flop was King-Queen-6, rainbow, which I found quite pleasing, as you might imagine. Both players checked and I had last action.  In the past, I would have been tempted to slow-play this and check, but no more.  Too many times I’ve been burned slow-playing a set.  So I put out a bet of $20 to see if anyone still wanted to play.
To my delight, the first guy check-raised me to $60!  Nice.  The other guy folded and I thought for a few seconds about my move there.  The guy had a similar stack to mine, give or take a few bucks.
Clearly if I raised there, it could only be a shove.  I didn’t see any point in waiting.  If the guy liked his hand enough to check-raise me, I figured he’d call a shove; he’d put almost half his stack in play already.  I should point out here that I couldn’t recall this guy (an older gentleman) making a preflop raise before, and in fact, I couldn’t recall him raising on any street since I’d been there.  He wasn’t a very active player.  I had to assume this was likely a “set over set” situation.  Or perhaps he had two pair (KQ?).  Maybe he’d do that with AQ, too.
So I shoved. He snap called, but I was unconcerned, having the nuts at that moment. I decided to show my set of Kings but he kept his hand a secret.  I got a little ill when the turn card was another Queen. True, I now had a full house.  But one of the hands I put him on was pocket Queens, so I had to wonder if he had just seen his set of Queens turn into quads?
The river card made me even sicker.  It was yet another Queen!  Now if that guy had AQ he had just rivered quads to take the pot.
But he hesitated a bit and then flipped his hand over.  He showed Ace-Ace! Wow, that was a pleasant surprise, I really didn’t see that coming.  I was very relieved as I took in the pot.  The guy immediately left the table. (Note for those of you not so familiar with poker:  His actual hand there at the end was a full house, Queens full of Aces.  My hand was better, Kings full of Queens)
So it was one of those Aces vs. Kings situations that seem to happen a lot more often than the law of averages would suggest.  And I lucked out by hitting my set.  And dodged the case Queen.  I figure I’ve more than used up all my luck with Kings for this trip and from here on out, I should just fold them immediately.
The rest of us talked a bit about the guy’s play.  He limped with Aces.  And then, when I raised, he didn’t re-raise me.  That would seem to me the best reason to limp with Aces—expecting someone else to raise so you can three-bet.  But he failed to do so.
Of course, in this case, if he had raised, either first or after my raise, it probably wouldn’t have changed anything.  Despite my history with them, I’m not good enough to fold Kings. *** So if he had raised first, I would have three-bet and he would have shoved and I would have called—or would I have?  I knew he was a tight player, I knew I couldn’t remember him raising before, perhaps I would have been able to put him on the one hand I was behind to and folded.
But we’ll never know.  He sure made it easy for me by letting me get my set of Kings before putting it all in.
***-Actually, I did fold Kings preflop once, a story I told here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A multi-property bad-beat jackpot for Caesars

My latest column for Ante Up Magazine is online and you can read it here.  

It will probably be another week or two before it starts appearing in poker rooms around the country.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

All Guys, Gay or Straight, Are Distracted by Girl-On-Girl Action

Last month, I attended the WPBT Winter Classic 2012.  This was the first time I’ve attended a World Poker Blogger Tour event.  I would have attended last year’s, except for the fact that I didn’t know about it.  I had just barely gotten into blogging in late 2011, and hadn’t really connected with much of the poker blogging community.  But sometime during the year, I heard about this annual get together and knew I had to attend this year.  The big event was the $125 WBPT tournament at the Aria, using their regular structure that I’m quite familiar with.
The trouble is—and this is the story of my life—I’m late to the party.  Some time before Black Friday, both poker and blogging about it were in their heyday.  Today, not so much.  Most of the attendees at this year’s event, as in past events, were major, major poker bloggers back in the day when online poker was the rage.  But now it turns out that most of the major poker bloggers have either stopped blogging altogether or greatly reduced their bloging output. In fact, most of them now basically communicate their thoughts about poker and life via Twitter.  One hundred and forty characters max, huh?  Yeah, you can see why that is not my preferred social media outlet! And of course, they’ve all been attending these events for years together and all know each other.  Some intimately so, as you’ll see. 
Despite the fact that I’ve been blogging about poker (well, sort of about poker) for over a year, I knew I was going to feel like an outsider.  But I was sure there would be some familiar faces.  I knew Lightning was going to be attending.  I also hoped that Josie would be in attendance, if for no other reason than for her to finish what she started in the Mirage poker room in June (see here), but was informed by Lightning that she wouldn’t be coming.
Of course, I strongly suspected that Poker Grump would be in attendance, and somehow we managed to convince grrouchie to join the fun, even though he hates tournaments.  Then, from Twitter, I learned that Grange would be there too.  Grange (or Michael M as he seems to be transitioning to) is one of the veteran bloggers who still blogs (and quite well), and has even dropped by this blog in the past to leave a comment or two.  I was really looking forward to meeting him based on his great blog posts and his incredible wit, and he did not disappoint.  In fact, he had the line of the day.
And I managed to convinced Prudence to join us as well, even though she might not technically be considered a blogger.  But hey, I’ve sort of made her a legend in certain blogging circles. 
I know I should have used the occasion to introduce myself to all the famous bloggers (and tweeters) that were in attendance.  But somehow, probably due to a deep-seeded psychological flaw, I failed to do that.  None-the-less, I did take note of the names (or, twitter-handles) of most of the fine folks I interacted with.  In fact, I was probably following most of them on twitter already.  Some of them (but not all) were following me as well). 
Long time readers are familiar with my penchant for using pseudonyms on this blog.  I actually considered that (in at least some cases) for this post.  But come on, every one there, everyone I am going to mention, is a blogger themselves, and they all knew they were among fellow bloggers.  Trying to hide their identities therefore seems totally unnecessary.  I hope no one mentioned in this report disagrees.  Oh, except for those already mentioned, I’m going to link to the twitter accounts, not the blogs, of the people I mention, since so few of them blog much these days.  And I’ll mostly use their twitter handles instead of their real names (which I might not know anyway), so I guess I am using pseudonyms after all.
Prudence and I arrived at the Aria together and soon found Lightning, who had earlier asked me to be his “last longer” partner.  I know that sounds desperate on his part, but the truth is, I did manage to last longer than he did.  We signed up and then chatted and I had Lightning point out Grange to me.  I went over and introduced myself to him.  Soon both grrouchie and Grump showed up and we all chatted.  And then we headed to our assigned tournament tables. 
Prudence and Lightning were assigned to the same table, to be henceforth called the “fun table.”  It was right behind the table I was at, and throughout the early levels of the tournament, I heard raucous laughter coming from the table every few minutes.  That may or may not have something to do with a rather famous celebrity that was at the same table, sitting right next to Lightning.  It was none other than the Wil Wheaton, star of The Big Bang Theory..
Ok, that’s a joke—and not mine.  In fact Wil Wheaton is famous for the movie Stand By Me and the TV show Star Trek, The Next Generation.  And many other acting projects.  But of course he does have a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory (my current favorite TV show, by the way), playing himself (he’s totally wrong for the role).  Or a twisted version of himself.
But apparently someone at the table where Wil was knew he was famous but couldn’t quite place him.  So the dealer explained that he’s “from the Big Bang Theory.”  That so amused PokerVixen—who was also at that table—that she sent out a tweet about it.  That’s how I heard it. 
At my table was Grange. That was a bit alarming.  I knew from his blog, and from a comment I received here once by JT88Keys, that he would be a very tough player to get chips from.  So I sent out a tweet about playing at his table and that I’d have to beware of The Spanish Inquisition—the deadly starting hand of 6-3.  In much the same way that Grump’s favorite starting hand is the deuce-four, the Spanish Inquisition (so named because, well, nobody expects it) is Grange’s favorite hand.
And thus the tournament began.  Most of the group at my table knew each other from past events and had much to discuss during the play.  So I tried hard to concentrate on the game and see if I could learn enough about how people played to try to win some chips.  I later learned that to my immediate left was DrChako and to my immediate right was NumbBono,.  Also at my starting table was poker journalist Jessica Welman.  They all were tough players, as was everyone else at my table.  This was going to be interesting.
I blew some chips early to NumbBono by first chasing a flush draw, then not pressing the issue when I turned a pair of Aces but had a weak kicker.  I didn’t bet it and then called on the river when I let him catch his second pair. 
But I found that my raises and re-raises were respected and I started stealing some chips.  I don’t recall the “victim” but I did a check-raise semi-bluff on the flop and got the villain to lay down his hand.
A tough female player was moved from another table to ours, placed immediately to Grange’s left. I later found out this was CK, who was well known to everyone in the room.  Not long after, the most unusual moment of the tournament—for me, anyway—took place.  Right in the middle of play, a woman came over to our table and basically sat down on CK’s lap.  I wasn’t sure if she was still playing at another table or had just busted out.  But she proceeded to give CK one helluva kiss smack dab on the lips.  The back of her head was facing me dead on, but it was clear this was one serious kiss, not a little peck on the cheek.
This certainly caught the attention of all the players at our table, most of whom were guys.  I didn’t time the kiss, but it seemed like it lasted five minutes.  I’m sure it was quite a bit less than that in reality (10 seconds, 15 seconds, more?).  At some point the dealer started asking for antes and blinds and pretty much everyone was ignoring him, because we were all paying attention to the kiss.  Eventually the woman got up and we all tried to refocus on the poker.
I believe Grange, who was right next to this and certainly had the best view, was one of the blinds and was understandably tardy in putting out his chips.  After the woman left, he said he was distracted and apologized for not putting out his blind in a timely fashion.  Someone at the table—I think it was the woman who was sitting next to CK—indicated surprise that such activity would distract Grange, who is gay.  So he responded something to the effect, “All guys, gay or straight, are distracted by girl-on-girl action.”
Apparently so.
During one of the breaks, I had to press Grange for the identity of the two participants: he clearly knew both of them.  The woman who sat on CK’s lap and gave her the smooch was Michelle (MrsChako).  I later found out, much to my surprise, that these two lovely ladies had engaged in such public displays of affection previously, and not infrequently.  First, the next day, I noticed a tweet by Poker Grump to Michelle that, with her gone, there was no more chance to be aroused by her making out with CK.
So I tweeted back, saying “You saw that too?  Thank goodness, I thought I was fantasizing.  Now I can blog about it!”
Grump tweeted back that the two have a long history of this stuff, and referenced a performance they put on last year for Grange’s birthday.  I of course a) cursed my bad timing for not being there and b) immediately asked Grump if a write up of this event existed anywhere on the web.  He disappointed me by telling me that it did not.
However, when Michelle caught up with our tweets, she responded with this gem, “One of our favorite pastimes in Vegas.  Right after taking money from unsuspecting males in the 1/2 game.”
I responded that this seemed like an excellent pasttime to me.
As I thought about it, I realized from Michelle’s comment that she and CK had apparently created this routine as their own personal version of the Jennifer Tilly effect. Just another—but extremely effective—way of distracting male players. I can assure you that it works.
But back to the WPBT tournament.  After the first break, I was getting towards desperation territory and it appeared my tournament life was nearing an end.  But then I was dealt pocket Aces and before it got to me, the lady next to CK (sorry, didn’t get her name) raised.  So I went all in, and she called me with AQ.  A Queen on the turn wasn’t enough to help her out and I doubled up.
She was now the short stack, and a few hands later she shoved.  I had pocket Queens, so I shoved too to isolate her.  No one else stuck around.  She had Queen-10, so again I had her dominated. Again she caught a pair on the turn but it wasn’t enough to save her and I had the rest of her chips.  Now I actually had enough chips to play some poker with.
Then our table broke, and I was moved to the fun table (although, after the girl-on-girl action at my table, that no longer seemed appropriate).  This was the table that had Prudence, Lightning and Wil Wheaton to start.  By now, Wil was out—falling victim to Lightning, no less—and Grump himself had joined the table earlier.  I had the good fortune to be seated between two lovely women, Prudence and PokerVixen.  Prudence had had some ups and downs during the tournament.  She started out well, and then fell victim to Grump.  He crippled her when, as I recall the story, she flopped top pair, top kicker and he apparently flopped quintuple 3’s. 
Then she fell victim to TheWookieWay.  He was playing 10-2 out of position (doesn’t everyone?) and flopped two pair.  Prudence’s top pair/flush draw wasn’t good enough when she failed to hit her flush, and she was gone.  (Edited to Add:  I received a tweet from PokerVixen claiming credit for busting out Prudence.  Yes, now I remember.  Wookie merely crippled her. PokerVixen delivered the finishing blow).
During one of the breaks, I noticed Wil Wheaton talking to Lightning and a couple of other people, and I managed to find a way to introduce myself to him and shake his hand.  I not only complimented him on his acting career but mentioned that I remembered his forward to one of the editions of Lee Jones’ great introductory poker book, Winning Low Limit Hold’em.  That book was the first one I really studied when I got started in poker, and Wil wrote a deservedly laudatory intro for it.  Both the book and the intro made an impression on me. We had a brief but very nice chat about the book.   
Now, throughout the tournament, I was finding that my raises were getting a lot more respect than usual.  I wonder if this was because I was playing with better players than I usually do?  Since no one was calling me with questionable hands, I started raising with weaker holdings than I usually do.  I took some chips from both Wookie and Grump this way, but please don’t tell them, let that be our little secret.  One time I had pocket fives, called a small preflop raise, and then bet out when the flop was King high and missed me completely.  No one called.  As I stacked my chips, Grump, from across the table, asked me if I had pocket Kings there.  And then told everyone that pocket Kings was my favorite hand.
Anyway, Grump had a ton of chips when I got to this table, but soon lost them, while I survived.  Grange came to our table with a ton of chips, and he too was gone before I was.  Lightning was long out, and grrouchie had busted out quite a bit earlier.
Meanwhile I stayed alive by raising selectively and never getting called.  At least for a long time.  After those two all ins with the woman at my first table, I went a long, long time without having to shove.  Suddenly I was getting the idea that I might just have a chance to cash.  However, there were only 55 or so entrants, so only five got paid. 
And then we were down to 10 players and they assembled the final table.    Pictures were taken and it was tweeted that I had made the final table.  That was pretty cool, and though I was probably the short stack at the table, I thought there was at least a semi-decent chance I could cash.
Alas, that thought didn’t last long.  After the redraw, I was under the gun for the first hand dealt.  I folded a garbage hand, as I was in fold or shove mode.  The next hand I was the big blind and looked down at Ace/8 of diamonds.  A player in late position, who I later found out was Vinnay, made a big raise.  But with my big blind already in the pot, I thought A8 sooooted was more than good enough to shove there, so I did.  Back to Vinnay who thought long and hard before shrugging his shoulders and calling.
First time my shove had been called in a long, long time.  He flipped over pocket 10’s, so I had one live card, plus the flush possibility.  The flop missed both of us, but has one diamond.  The turn is a diamond….but the 10 of diamonds, so it’s flush or nothing.  The river is a red card…..but the King of hearts, not diamonds.  I am done.  First person out of the final table. 
I had started to tweet that I was at the final table, but for someone reason it wasn’t sent, and by the time I noticed that, I was done.
I picked up my belongings and started to leave, then went back to Vinnay to ask his name.  I wanted to make sure I gave “credit” to the guy who busted me out.  The only two players at the final table whose identities I knew were Wookie and Jess Wellman.  Both of them ended up cashing.  I actually ran into Wookie at another poker room many hours later that night and congratulated him personally for his second place finish.
And with that, I was done.  I do want to mention one more person, April, who was the blogger who actually organized the whole event, as she has done for several years at least, I believe.  She did a great job and it was a really fun event.  I’m sorry I didn’t get to formally meet her during the event.  Hopefully, next year.