Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chris Moneymaker & Me

Some time back there was a great read on the internet about Chris Moneymaker and the 2003 WSOP— the start of the poker boom.  You can find it here on the website, Grantland.  Coincidentally, I mentioned Bill Simmons, the editor-in-chief of Grantland, in my recent basketball post (here). 

I wanted to link to it even though many other tweeters and bloggers have already done so.  I think it’s a great story told extremely well, and if you’re a poker player and missed it, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

But I know that non-poker players read my blog and I urge them to check it out too.  It’s a great bit of history and should be enjoyable for anyone to read.  Also, although there is a fair amount of poker jargon in it, the article is footnoted so that the novice will be able to find explanations for the confusing terms.
It got me thinking about how got into poker, which of course is now a huge part of my life, seeing as how I work for All Vegas Poker and Ante-Up Magazine and spend most of my “free” time writing what is arguably a poker blog.  At the time I got started, I never realized that Chris Moneymaker and his success at the 2003 WSOP were responsible for my new-found interest in poker.  I’m not sure I had even heard of him at the time, several years after his historic victory.
But I do recall how my interest in poker started back a few years ago, around 2005, I guess.
I had played some poker in high school and in family games a few years after that.  I always liked it but when the family game ended I didn’t play again for many years.  The crowd I was in didn’t play, except for one unusual form of poker, which was called “Bullshit poker” or just “Bullshit” for short.
You could play this game with any number of players, the more the merrier, and you didn’t even need a poker table.  We used to play it while we were on line to see a popular movie.  The player who started took 5 cards off the top of the deck and declared a poker hand.  It could be a full five cards or just a single card.  So you could declare the hand a spade Royal Flush or a deuce.  Or anything in between.
You then handed the cards to the next player, who could either accept the hand or call “Bullshit.”  If he/she accepted the handed he/she was required to declare a better hand than what the previousl player had declared.  The player could draw up to five cards if desired.  So if someone called it a deuce, you could of course declare a better hand.  If someone called two pair, say Kings & 7’s, with a 5 kicker, you could change the kicker to a 6 or better and improve the hand.  If you declared Kings & 7’s with an Ace kicker, things got trickier.
Of course, after awhile, everyone had seen the hand but didn’t know what the players after them had done—had they broken up the hand to trap someone or to make a better hand?
Now, if you called “Bullshit” the hand was exposed, and if the declarer had the hand that was declared, or better, the other player got a letter, starting with “B” (like the basketball game, “HORSE”).  If the declarer was indeed full of it and didn’t have a hand as good as he declared, he/she was the one who got the “B” or the next letter.  When you got 8 letters to spell out “Bullshit”, you were out of the game.  Last person standing won.
And that was pretty much the extent of my poker playing for many, many years.  When I went to Vegas, as I did regularly, I’d play blackjack and craps.  Once in a blue moon I’d play video poker, but that was rare.  When they introduced Pai Gow Poker to the casinos, I started playing that because it was relaxing, you lost money a lot more slowly than other games, and it was very social.  I guess that did indeed somewhat whet my appetite for poker.
And then one day I was watching some sports event on ESPN.  I’m going to guess it was a tennis match.  I fell asleep before the coverage was over.  I don’t recall the match; I assume it was not the match of the year.  When I finally awoke, there was poker on the TV, I assume WSOP coverage (very likely a rerun and old news).  For awhile, I was too tired and sleepy to even reach for the remote to change the channel, and before I knew it I was awake enough to be paying attention and I started finding it surprisingly interesting.
I had no clue how to play Texas Hold-em (a statement that will cause some that have played with me in Vegas to say, “And still don’t”) but I started getting the hang of it from watching.  I couldn’t believe I found watching poker on TV even remotely interesting, but it did keep me watching.
I would have almost forgot about it but virtually the same thing happened not long after, as it turned out that on the sports network the Lakers were on, they frequently had poker shows (not the WSOP) coming on right after the games.  I found myself watching them.
For the entirety of my next trip to Vegas, I was toying with the idea of trying the game.  But I hadn’t taken the step of studying the game at all, so I told myself no, I wasn’t going to do that.  I wasn’t going to risk real money on a game I hadn’t learned.  I had read books about blackjack and craps long before I’d ever set foot in Vegas, that was the model I thought I’d use.
But I did notice that one poker room—I suddenly found myself wondering near the poker rooms and just sort of idly checking them out—offered free poker lessons, so I sat in on one.  There was virtually no strategy conveyed, it was just the mechanics of Texas Hold’em, when to bet, what you could bet, when the cards were dealt, etc.  I had something to do right after or might have broken my rule of not putting real money in play for a game I hadn’t studied.
But then on my last night in town, with my bankroll doing ok (either I was ahead or hadn’t come close to losing my allotted “gambling fund”—I can’t recall which), I stood and studied the poker room at Green Valley Ranch for a long, long time.  They offered 2/4 limit, which I knew to be the smallest, lowest level game offered in Vegas.  Maybe I should see if I liked it before I invest in poker books and research back home, which had been my intention?
So I figured, I’d take out a $100 and see what it was like.  I had no clue about strategy or even what a good hand was (though I did know “what beats what”).  I wasn’t playing to win, my main goals were to see if the game might be for me, and then, perhaps more importantly, try not to look like a total idiot at the table.  I meant that more from the perspective of not violating poker etiquette (betting out of turn, folding when I’m the big blind and no raise was made, etc.) than from showing down a terrible hand when someone had a royal flush.
I played a few hours and eventually lost my nervousness.  I remember the thrill I had when I won my first pot—don’t recall how much it was but it wasn’t much, I’m sure—and also when I stopped making silly, newbie goofs.  I left the table a loser but with more than half my $100 buy-in intact.  It was a friendly table too, that helped.  The dealers were nice, the players were nice.
I knew, driving home the next day, I was going to give that game a try on my next trip.  I hit the bookstores and the internet and starting reading up on strategy.  I spent a lot of time studying.  That’s the thing about poker: this was a long time ago and I don’t think I’ve studied anywhere near enough to play this silly game.  That doesn’t stop me from doing it, though. 

Somewhere along the way, in one of those books, I read the story of Chris Moneymaker and the 2003 WSOP, and realized, even though I didn’t know it at the time, that was reason I got into poker when I did.  Well that, and the fact that I couldn’t stay awake during a tennis match.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sluts Win 26 to 6!

I ran a poll here the past week about using the term "slut" in my "Slut Parade" post (see here). I hope you all saw it, it wasn't easily visible because of the template I use.  I guess I should have mentioned it in a post.  Oh well.

Anyway, as I mentioned in the post linked above, my pal Woody didn't think it was a good idea to call that post "The Slut Parade."  I think I answered his concerns in the post.  Then, a few weeks ago, a new blog reader sent me an email stating that while he loved the blog, he too didn't think I should have called these ladies the s-word.

I answered him back and we had a nice back and forth.  We agreed to disagree.  Also, he is coming to Vegas soon and we will probably meet for some poker, and we can continue our discussion on sluts.

Anyway, I just recently noticed the option to run a poll on the blog, so I decided to do it for the question about using the term "slut" to describe the girls who--let's face it--dress like sluts to go to the clubs in Vegas.  You can see the results to your right.  By better than 3 to 1, sluts win!

To be honest, I was surprised that 6 people actually thought it was a mistake to use that word.  I didn't think there would be that many.  Anyway, I have no regrets.  If any sluts--I mean ladies--were offended, well, sorry about that.

In other news, I have something to report that no one will believe, but I swear, I swear, it's true.

I just got an email from my editor at Ante Up Magazine and he wants me to make my future columns longer than they have been.  About 10% longer.

Yes, seriously, he didn't think my columns were long enough.


Finally, I want to mention that I just returned to Vegas today, where I will be through the end of the WSOP.  This means blogging will be more difficult again.  Oh well.

But I know a lot of my various internet pals and acquaintances will be coming through town during the next couple of weeks.  So if want to meet me, get together for some poker, or just have a drink and talk about sluts, give me a holler.  Email me (address to the right), Tweet me, PM me on AVP, whatever.  I'm here.

Off to the tables for now.....

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Plenty of Poker Tourney Options During Lunch Hour in Vegas

My new column for Ante Up is now online and can be found here.

Should be appearing in poker rooms around the country soon, if not already. I never know.

Also folks, I want to call your attention to the link up in the right hand corner.  I've started a Facebook page.  If you have a Facebook presence, please click it to "like" me on Facebook.  You don't have to really like me to do it, you just have to like me in the Facebook sense.  Thanks! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Good Run at the M Resort (At Least, For a While)

As most of you know, fellow blogger “-S”, aka “pkrdlr” is about to become an ex-pkrdlr.  He’s moving to Hawaii, a state that has no legal gambling.  He’s already given notice at M Resort, where he was more or less the acting poker room manager after the manager who opened the room left a few months back. In fact, I think I may be posting those entry on the his very last day on the job for them. Now, the M will presumably be looking to someone else to help them turn the room around. 

A lot of what was going on with M Resort—before –S resigned—was covered by me in the blog post here.  Just a few days after I published that blog post, I played in a tournament at M and did rather well.  I haven’t had a chance to tell the story of that day, but now that –S is leaving M (and Vegas), I thought it would be a good time to tell the story from that day.  Another good reason to run it now is that the end of June is the first HPO Championship Event which is being held at the M.  I’ve mentioned that event both on the blog (here) and in my Ante Up column.
M has been running a monthly deepstack tournament the last Saturday of the month.  The tournament in the post I just linked to was a special HPO event, but in late March I returned to M to play in their monthly deepstack.  Sadly, I didn’t last too long.  But I had heard that my blog post about the HPO experience went over well with some of the The Powers That Be at M.  Presumably they had been told about my post by –S.  So I made sure I introduced myself to the manager at M in March, and he did indeed tell me how much he liked the blog post.  Little did I know that he would be leaving the M just a few weeks later.
When the next deepstack came around, I was a bit torn.  Having just written that blog post giving my well wishes for the M, hoping they could indeed turn the room around, I kind of felt obligated to play in that tournament.  I felt I should put my money where my mouth is, as it were. Besides, as I’d mentioned in the post, I really liked the room.
But as a result of my day job with AVP, I had learned of an interesting competing tournament that day, an even bigger deepstack tournament at Stratosphere.  More chips, slightly smaller buy in, and a bigger guarantee ($25K vs. $10K).  I came real close to skipping the M tournament for the one at Stratosphere,
But no, I wanted to show my support for the M’s hoped-for turnaround.  And besides, the M tournament started at Noon, the Stratosphere didn’t start until 2pm.  If I made a quick exit at M, I might still have time to head over to the Strat and play that one too.
The way things started, it sure looked like I was going to be able make that second tournament.  Until the first break, I was totally card dead.  For a deepstack tournament, the blinds escalate rather quickly in this tournament, so I was almost short-stacked after the break even without losing any significant pots because I just didn’t get any hands to play. 
But after the first break, everything changed.  First, with the blinds 75/300/600 I had Ace-Queen offsuit in the big blind.  One limper, I made it $2000.  I actually considered shoving there but I did have a few chips to play with   Big blind and limper called.  The flop totally missed me, but it looked kind of ragged.  I thought there was a good chance it had missed the others too, and unless someone hit it big, they wouldn’t want to risk the chips I had in front of me.
So, first to act, I just shoved with nothing.  My other thought was, if I got caught, well, I still had time to get to the Strat.  But they both folded.  That got me some chips to work for a bit.
I actually tried the all-in trick a couple of more times, once preflop, once after the flop with marginal hands.  And it worked.
Then came the hand that prevented me from going to the Stratosphere.  Blinds now 75/400/800 and I woke up with pocket Aces.  I was actually thinking of taking a big chance and limping there, hoping to get a bigger score than I could if I just raised.  But instead, an older guy in early position raised first, to $3,000.  He had me covered.
It folded to me and I considered just calling, figuring he would make a continuation bet and then I’d shove against it.  But I decided to make a quasi-min raise instead.  I made it $7,000 thinking he’d probably call that, and then I could shove on the flop.  If he did fold, well, so be it.  And if he came over the top, all the better.  I was willing to risk busting out there to get as much value as I could out of my hand.  Go big or go home (or to the Strat, actually).
He just called.  The flop was 9-9-3, a flop that did nothing to dissuade me from my plan of shoving virtually any flop.  So after he checked, I shoved and he snap called.
Shit.  Did he have a 9?  Nope.  He had….Ace-10.
Ace-10???  WTF?  OK, I understand his preflop raise, and maybe—maybe—I understand his calling my three-bet.  But calling on the flop there, where he had nothing?  No draws at all.  I don’t recall the suits, but his A-10 was offsuit.  He had zilch.  The only way I can possibly understand his call was if put me on a bluff, maybe a crappier Ace than his?  Weird, just weird.
The board bricked out and my Ace’s held.  I got a very nice double up.  So now I had enough chips to go back to playing poker again.  And also, I knew I wasn’t making the long trek from M to the Strat this day.
The other thing about the older guy was, after I won the pot, he gave me a dirty look, like I somehow didn’t deserve to win the pot.  Like I had sucked out on him or something.  Geez, sir, you played that hand about as badly as you possibly could.  That’s hardly my fault.
A bit later I raised with Ace-King suited, got one caller, then made a big c-bet on a blank flop and took it down.
Then, with about 37k in front of me, a guy with about 20k raised before  me.  I had Ace-Jack of spades. I really thought there was a good chance he was raising light with that stack of his (not sure if this was the same level as the Aces or the next level).  So I tested my theory by going all-in (and you thought I played too tight).
He called and flipped over Ace-Queen of diamonds.  Oops.  The flop was King-10-x.  Now that made things very interesting.  We both had gut-shots and we each had each other’s card.  The last thing either of us wanted was to pair our lower card now!
Sure enough, he caught his pair of Queens on the turn, which meant I had the straight.  The river blanked and he was done, and I had all his chips.
Then there was a hand against a kinda weird guy there who had a custom made shirt that had two big Jacks on it.  I don’t recall the suits but he said those particular jacks cost him a lot of money once so he made a shirt to memorialize it. He said with those two Jacks once, he flopped quads and the other guy flopped a boat with his pocket Aces.  And caught quad Aces on the river.  So he lost a huge pot.
But when I said, “Too bad they didn’t have a bad beat jackpot there,” he said, “Actually, they did.  I won more money from the jackpot than I lost in the hand, but still, it pissed me off.”
Huh?  Unless the pot was huge and the jackpot unusually small, I’m assuming he was a lot better off winning the jackpot than winning the pot.  Oh, he did say that the guy’s boat (Aces full) would have been big enough to win the jackpot, but of course in that case, he would have gotten the smaller share, so I’m sure he did ok with his bad beat.
Anyway, in early position this guy raises to $3,000 (blinds were 100/500/1000).  It folded to me in the big blind and so I put in $2,000 more with pocket 6’s.
The flop was Ace-6-Ace.  Always nice to flop a full house, right?  I can’t recall what my thinking was, darn it, but for some reason I shoved.  As soon as I did it, I was thinking how stupid that was, I should have made a much smaller bet, maybe even slowplayed it.
Didn’t matter.  He snap called. I had him well covered.  He said, as he shoved, “I was hoping you’d do that.”  That scared me a bit but he flipped over Ace-9.  My boat held up and now I had even more chips.
I think it was at this point I took a picture of my stack (see below), and tweeted out that I was “running like god” at the M Resort tournament.

Our table broke and I wasn’t quite as hot at the new table.  I tried limping/calling a raise with pocket deuces and missed.  Then I raised preflop in early position with pocket 4’s.  The flop put three to a straight on board (and no four).  Playing aggressive, I made a big bet but the other guy shoved and I folded.  He showed that he had indeed flopped a straight so it was a good fold, but it did cost me some chips.
With the blinds at 100/800/1600 I picked up pocket Queens in the small blind.  There were a few limpers so I made it 8,000 and got three callers.  Flop was 8-7-7, two diamonds and so I shoved.  One guy with a shorter stack than mine called.  I was afraid of a draw or a 7 but he had pocket 10’s.  For good measure, I hit a Queen on the turn and won a nice pot.
At this new table there were two or three young guys who all seemed to be friends, based on the banter.  One of them was directly to my left.  With a couple of limpers already in, I raised on the button with Ace-3 of diamonds.  Two called.  The flop was K-10-2, no diamonds.  When it was checked to me, I put out a big bet and the both folded.  The kid to my left said, “Playing King-Queen is very dangerous, sir.” 
I just laughed and said, “No, I played 10-2, sir.”  He said he folded pocket 8’s.
Then his buddy was texting some girl he had recently met.  He had been complaining about going through a long dry spell, saying it had been a year since he’d gotten laid.  He was saying this girl was “kinda wild” as he kept texting her.  It sounded like he was going to see her that night.  So he turned to the attractive, not quite middle-aged woman to his left and said, “Cover your ears, ma’am.”  And then he told his buddy, “If she comes over tonight, I’m gonna lick her ass.”
The guy to my left said, “Yeah, I know that’s your thing.”
His buddy said, “Yeah, you do know that.  Actually, it’s a little concerning that you know that.”
Back to poker.  I limped on the button with pocket deuces and the flop was all high cards.  Surely someone had one of those.  But when it was checked to me, I put out a big bet and everyone folded.
So I rode that big stack I had accumulated for quite some time.  But eventually the blinds and some of my aggression caught up with me a bit. As we got close to the money, my stack was still pretty big, but there bigger ones at the table.  Still, I couldn’t remember when I had last been in that good of a chip position that late into a tournament. And then, I was moved to even up the last two tables and we were one or two players from the money.
And then, going against the way I usually play in that situation, cost me.  I think the blinds were at 200/2000/4000.  I was in the big blind with Jack-10 offsuit and there were a couple of limpers so I just checked.  The flop was Queen-9-6, so I had the open-ender.  I checked.  One of the limpers bet out $10k.
I hadn’t played with this guy very long, but he was young, had the hoodie, the sunglasses and the headphones, and so even though I hadn’t seen any signs of obvious aggression from him the little bit I’d played with him, I really kind of thought he was making a move.  It folded to me and I thought long and hard about my play.
Close to the bubble, my instinct is to fold there.  But sometimes, I try hard to fight against my instincts.  Instead of folding, I could have just called and seen one more card before risking a whole lot of chips.
But I decided there was a very good chance that, if I made a check-raise there, the guy would lay it down.  He had enough to call my bet without shoving if he wanted to, but whatever happened, I had 8 outs to hit my straight if I needed to and I wouldn’t bust out no matter what. So I made it $2500.
Well, he did take a long time to decide.  He counted his chips, looked at my stack, and the pot.  I really thought he was going to lay it down.  But no, instead, he announced “all in.”
Back to me.  I didn’t take note of the chip counts, but I wasn’t really pot committed there, but it would have hurt to just fold.  I got a count of his chips and I’d be short stacked if I called and lost, but not totally desperate.
I finally decided that this was my chance to get enough chips to finish near the top, or maybe even win the damn tournament, and it was risk worth taking.  I had eight outs and although I was no longer “running like god” I wasn’t running that bad.
So I called.  To my surprise, he turned over pocket Aces.  Yeah, he had limped in with Aces.  He’d taken a big risk, and unless I caught my straight, it was going to pay off.
I didn’t hit my straight.  Ouch.
Now I was second shortest stack and when the 11th player finally busted out—the guy to my left refused to pay the bubble—I was in the money but the shortest stack at the final table.
However badly I played that hand, I’m sure I played my final hand even worse.  I think the blinds were now 600/3000/6000.  I was in the small blind with Queen-8 of diamonds.  No one raised so I limped in for 3K.  The flop was Ace-8-2, one diamond (the Ace).  An older guy bet relatively small compared to the pot, and I decided to call.  I didn’t note the size of my stack, but obviously I still had some chips to play with, even tho, as I said, I was pretty sure I was the short-stack.  When a low diamond hit the turn and the guy put out another too small bet, I called again.  If I missed, I still would have a stack left to make one move with, and perhaps an orbit or two to do it.
I was praying for a diamond.  King of diamonds was my first choice, that would have given me the nuts.  Instead, it was an 8, giving me trips.  The older guy shoved and had me covered.  I wasn’t about to fold trips there, so of course I called.  He flipped over Ace-8 for the boat.  That 8 was the worst card I could have seen, as it turns out.
I was done and had to settle for a min cash of $280 ($125 buyin; there were a bit more than 100 runners).  It’s always nice to cash in a tournament, but very disappointing considering my chip position before that kid limped with Aces and sandbagged me.
But at least my decision to give the M tournament another shot wasn’t an unprofitable one.

(Edited to add:  M Resort closed its poker room 8/2/13 --see here--so this was the last time I ever played there.  Damn.  At least it was a winning session.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

"You Remind Me of Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire"

This is part 2 of my earlier post, "Do You Like My Rack?"  Please click here to read part 1 first, otherwise this post will make no sense (not that it''s guaranteed to make sense anyway).

So......a guy wearing a cowboy hat wondered by, overhearing the jocularity from the next table over.  He and Didi started chatting like they were old friends, but it isn’t clear to me if she was just being her overly extroverted self of if she actually had seen him before.  No matter.  She encouraged him to move over from that “dull” table he was at and join us at our “fun table.”  And so he did, taking the seat to my immediate left, across from Didi.
At first they were getting along well, but then things changed a bit when Didi won a few pots from him.  Didi would occasionally play a hand blind, or at least start off blind look at her cards only when necessary after the flop.  She made some preflop raises blind and that actually worked out ok for her.  Have I mentioned that she was a bit of a luckbox?  Maybe more than just a bit.
At one point, after taking some money from the Cowboy (who came from Missouri, by the way), she said, “I don’t do well when I look at my cards.  I do better when I don’t look.”
This irked the Cowboy and he said, “No shit. Really?  Tell us more.”
This agitated Didi so she said, “Oh, why don’t you go back to that other f***ing table, Asshole.”
Uh oh.  Things were getting nasty. 
There was a few moments of silence and then Didi asked him, “Are you married or divorced?  You must be divorced.”
“Both,” the Cowboy replied.
Didi wanted to know, “Are you happily married or happily divorced?”
“Both,” he replied again.
But before I knew it, they had (metaphorically) kissed and made up.  And she took out her camera and took some pictures of him.
Another time, Didi bet out $11 (preflop)—a prime number, of course.  The dealer, said, “Yo,” which of course is the slang for an “11” over at the craps table.  So the Cowboy said, “Yo, huh?” and then put his right hand up by his head and with a closed fist started shaking it up and down as if he was shaking dice before shooting them.
Didi saw this and said to him, “You must masturbate a lot.”
He just laughed and said, “That’s a pretty good read.”
Then there was the comment she made when someone made some reference to keeping their hair up…..I think it was hair.
“Is that a problem you guys have?  Keeping it up?”
There was a mild-mannered Asian guy sitting immediately to Didi’s right.  He had straddled and when the action was on him, nobody had raised and so he just checked.
This bothered Didi.   “You can’t check when you straddle.  Don’t be a pussy.  Raise!”
After that initial interest in my love life, she was leaving me pretty much alone.  But at one point, my curiosity totally piqued, I asked her what she did for a living.
“Oh, now we’re going there, huh?  You’re the Professor, huh?”
The Professor?  I’d never been called that before.
She went on.  “You know who you remind me of?  Robin Williams.”

That was a shock.  I’d never heard that before.  Oddly enough, my friend Norm has frequently been told he looks like Robin Williams.  The one I get the most lately, especially in and around poker, is Gabe Kaplan.
Because I’m old, I responded with “Nanu, nanu” but I don’t think anyone heard it.  Or got it.
I told her I’d never heard that before and she said, “You remind me of Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire.”
I swear I wasn’t wearing a dress at the time.
“Mrs. Doubtfire?” I exclaimed. “You picture me in drag, do you?”
“No, no….before he put on the dress.” 
Then she mentioned a music video from the movie and couldn’t think of the name of it, but that’s what she meant when she said I reminded her of him.
Because, you know, I was singing and dancing right at the table, of course.
She became fixated on the video.  I hadn’t seen the movie since it had first come out even though I starred in it so I had no idea what she was talking about.  And she had forgotten her phone so she didn’t have it to look it up.  I took out my phone to google it.  But unbeknownst to me, she had asked the Asian guy on her right to look it up on his phone.  And he actually found the video and started playing it for her.
I found this out when suddenly, there was a big thud in front of me and something slid into the guy to my right’s chips, knocking over his celphone and a few of his chips.
It was the Asian guy’s phone.  After he started playing the video for her, she grabbed it from him and threw it towards me (sitting in seat 4) , just so I could see the video of myself, I mean Robin Williams.  It was “Jump Around” which I had just determined myself on my phone. 
The phone did no damage.  The guy picked up his unharmed celphone and a couple of chips and handed me the phone.  I watched a minute of the video and failed to recognize myself as Robin Williams.

Then I waited for the next hand to be over and got up and walked over to Didi and handed her the phone back (which she gave back to the guy on her right).  “You didn’t want to throw it back, huh?”
“No, I didn’t want to throw it back:”
The first bad hand that forced me to rebuy had nothing to do with Didi.  I was dealt pocket Aces and raised to $10.  The only caller was some old fart who had just busted out and rebought.  The damn board was all hearts (I did not have the Ace of hearts) and I made a continuation bet and he called me.  A black low card seemed good for me so I bet the turn, and the old fart raised all in.  He didn’t have all that much more than my bet, it was pretty easy call there even though I felt I might already have been beaten and was drawing dead.
I called and asked if he had a flush.  Meanwhile the dealer put another heart on the board.  He didn’t have a flush when I asked, but he did now.  He had Ace-5 offsuit, but the Ace was Ace of hearts.
Shit.  What the hell was he doing calling my preflop raise with Ace-5 offuit?  And then he shoved on the turn when he didn’t have anything and didn’t have enough chips to get me to fold my hand.  And of course got his suck-out on the river.
But I know….you want people to make calls like that, right?
The dealer was Mike, who has been cracking my pocket Kings since long before I switched to No Limit.  “It wasn’t Kings this time,” I said to him.  “Yeah, I guess we’ll have to add Aces,” he replied.  Then he noticed me jotting down some notes and said, “Oh, that hand is going in your journal, huh?”
I just laughed, and Didi asked what I was writing down, and I gave my standard answer, “My laundry list.”  She didn’t pursue it, surprisingly enough.
It didn’t bust me out, but it left me so short that I immediately bought another $200 in chips.
Didi went through this phase where she was making blind bets before the cards were even dealt.  I think she was trying to button straddle, even though she knew that wasn’t allowed at BSC.  So on this hand, on the button, she put out $10 before the hand was dealt.  I asked Jack if that was binding.  He said, “I don’t know.”  I asked because in early position, I had pocket Aces.  Having played with her enough by now, I was pretty sure she’d call almost any bet I’d make anyway.
So, instead of making my normal raise, I made it $20.  I guess I was prepared to argue that her $10 was in the pot if she tried to fold, but as I suspected, I didn’t have to worry.  She called.
There was a low, innocuous looking flop.  I was short-stacked by then….I didn’t note how short stacked, but I suspect I started the hand with somewhat less than $80-$90.  I just shoved right away, because I was pretty sure she would call no matter what.  She had over $500 in front of her and was making loose calls all night.  Of course, she was hitting an awful lot of suckouts, which was my main concern.
She did called and showed her hand, which was Jack-4.  When a Jack hit on the turn, I expected either a Jack or a 4 on the river but no, it blanked and my Aces held.  Thank you, Didi with the Double D’s, for playing that hand so badly and this time not getting there.
The next time I raised preflop (Ace King, I think), she asked, “Do you have Aces again?) when the action was on her.
I said, “Yes, it’s the only hand I play.”
She said, “That’s fine, but when I call you with deuce-four and hit, you’ll be in trouble.”
I just laughed and didn’t think anything of it.  But now, writing this post, it got me thinking.
Deuce-four?  Was that just a coincidence that she mentioned the mighty deuce-four, the hand made famous by Poker Grump?  The hand I dedicated a post to soon after playing with Grump for the first time (see here).
Hmm…..I had been under the assumption that this was just another crazy woman I’d run into.  And that I had done nothing to encourage such outrageous behavior.  I mean, I wasn’t the one who brought up her rack, she brought it up herself.  I never even noticed her chest until she asked Monte if he liked her rack.
But maybe, just maybe… it possible she did indeed know who I am?  And that’s why she mentioned deuce-four.  Maybe she’s been a long time fan of Grump’s blog and from there, discovered mine.  Since my picture appears every month in Ante Up Magazine, it’s possible she recognized me.  She wouldn’t be the first person who recognized from either Ante Up or my blog or other blogs (one such story is here; other such stories to follow).
And to take this silly notion even further, maybe she told me I looked like a nice guy when she first saw me was because she knew me from my blog.  That’s possible, right?
I bet my pal Woody, whose comments you’ve seen on many posts, will believe that Didi did indeed recognize me and behaved that way just to get mentioned in my blog.  Heh heh.
I think that’s extremely unlikely.  Virtually impossible, I’d say.  But…..since it appears Didi is now a regular at BSC, I’ll likely see her again.  And next time I see her, this post will have appeared.  So perhaps she will say something to me.  I’m not counting on it.
Unfortunately, my next battle with Didi didn’t end as well.  With pocket Jacks and several limpers, I raised to $15.  Of course she called.  The flop was 8-5-3, so I bet $40 and she called.  When an Ace hit the turn, I was a bit concerned, and when she checked, I checked behind her.  That was my mistake.  But I am always mindful of risking too much with a top pair or an overpair hand, as I explained here.  Also, by this time she was playing more sanely than she was during that period when she paid me for Aces.  And I had a bigger stack, mostly due to her.  And I think she wanted to get some of her money back from me, rather than give more away.  So I thought there was a good chance she had an Ace and might be hoping to check-raise me.
The river was a 10 and she bet out $50.  Was she betting the Ace?  I wasn’t sure, but I’d seen her bluff a few times so I felt I had to call and see if she was doing it again.  Nope, she wasn’t.  She had 10-8 for two pair.  Great hand to call a raise with but that was certainly her game.  I actually commented on her calling me preflop and on the flop but she pointed out that I gave the card that beat me for free when I checked the turn.  True enough.
After promising to do so for over an hour, Didi finally took her big rack and left.  And by big rack, I’m actually referring to the two racks of chips she had.  It was well over $600. It was then that I had the hand of the night.  If only she’d been there to pay me off, as I believe she would have.  Except you know, if she had still been there, the cards would have been different.
Anyway, in early position with pocket deuces I limped and then had to call a raise to $10 preflop.  Three of us saw the flop, which was 3-2-2.
Yeah.  I would say that was a pretty good flop for me.  It was actually the second night in a row that I had flopped quads, believe it or not, and the third time this visit I had hit quads.  The first time I mentioned briefly in this post, and I haven’t gotten to the second time yet.
First to act, I checked (I don’t slowplay sets, but I do slowplay quads).  The preflop raiser was next to act and he bet $22.  The other guy called.  Nice.
I tried to Hollywood it as best I could, agonizing over whether to call.  I looked at my cards, studied the board, looked at the pot, looked over the stacks of the other players, and with a pained looked on my face (at least, that’s what I was going for), I reluctantly called.
I have no idea what the turn card was, but the first guy checked this time, and so the next guy bet $35, but that was about half of his remaining stack.  Again, I made it look like I was reluctant to call.  The other guy folded, sadly enough.  He had a lot more chips than the first guy too.  I guess he had just been making a continuation bet on the flop, and when he had two callers and missed the turn too, he was done with the hand.
All I remember about the river was that it was a diamond and there were now three of them on the board.  The guy shoved for his last $35.  When I called, he asked if I had an Ace?  Was there an Ace on the board?  Beats me.  Did I mention that I had friggin’ quads?
I said, “No, I’ve got quads.”  He just said, “Oh wow, nice hand,” and I took down the pot.
As I mentioned, it was kind of hard to play poker with Didi….not because of her outrageousness, but because of her play.  Raising all the time—big raises too—made It difficult to play many hands.  But after she left, I actually made one play that I was proud of.
I had Ace-three off suit on the button and there were a bunch of limpers.  So I decided to raise hoping to steal the limpers money.  I made it $16.   One of the limpers went all in for $15 and two others called my $16 bet.  The flop totally missed me, I don’t even remember what it was.  But it was checked to me and I bet $40.  The two guys with chips left both folded, so that was the last betting action.  I don’t recall the other two cards either.  But the guy who went all in to call my bet had Jack-9 and had missed everything too.  My Ace high was good.
I left soon after that.  I had lost a few bucks, but found a new one of “those woman” and gotten a two part blog post for my troubles. 
The sacrifices I make for my readers (sigh).

(Note:  My next post starring Didi told the story of her giving everyone in the poker room a better look at those 36 Double D's.  Yeah, that's what I said.  See here.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Worst Choke Ever; Worst Coaching Job Ever

I’m afraid we must now interrupt Rob’s Vegas & Poker Blog and temporarily replace it with Rob’s NBA Finals blog.  I apologize to those of you who have no interest in the NBA, and to those of you who came back here looking for the second part of the post I put up on Monday evening.  I know it’s bad that I would interrupt a two-parter like this—although, truth be told, considering the reaction (or lack thereof), my last post got, perhaps you’re all tiring of crazy women stories and maybe I should change this to an NBA blog. Anyway, the regularly scheduled part 2 of my last post will appear shortly, whether anyone wants it to or not.

But I have to interrupt that story to vent about last night’s game and more importantly, the totally agony that one of my friends and fellow bloggers/tweeters put me through.  This post goes in the category of “No good deed goes unpunished.”
I was already in a bad mood. I had awakened way too early this morning—reason #1 for my bad mood.  The reason I got up early was because I had a dentist appointment.—reason #2.
Then I was still somewhat annoyed at last night’s game.  It was one of the all time great NBA finals games but the good guys, the Spurs, just gave the game—and their only “real” chance to win the NBA title—away with some unbelievably horrific play and some horrendous coaching decisions.  Now, long time readers will note that I’m a Lakers fan, not a Spurs fan.  In fact, the Spurs are a major rival of the Lakers, and knocked the Lakers out of the playoffs in the first round this year.
So why do I call the Spurs the good guys?  Because every single person on Earth who is not from Miami hates the Heat and therefore their favorite team is “Whoever is playing the Heat.”  And so I’m one of those Heat haters.
That said, I’m not really going to lose any sleep if the Heat win and the Spurs lose.  I have a mild preference for the Spurs because the Heat are—well, the Heat.  But it’s not the end of the world.  If the Lakers had choked as badly as the Spurs did last night—and just handed the NBA championship over to the other team, I would be beyond inconsolable.  I would be looking for the nearest casino parking structure to drive off of.
As I was about to retire last night, it occurred to me that my friend, Coach, is a Spurs fan, living in Texas and all.  I could only imagine how he must have felt.  I thought, out of the goodness of my heart, I would reach out to Coach and offer my sympathies.  A virtual “there, there” pat on the back via Twitter.  What could be nicer?
So I tweeted to Coach, “How ya doing? What a tough loss. Worse choke of all time?”
The next morning I get a tweet back, “I'm fine. I'm sure that you're talking about the officials, choking on their whistles???”
In hindsight, I should have let it go, let him live with his fantasy that the Spurs were robbed instead of the more obvious explanation, which is, they friggin’ blew it.
Of course the Spurs choked, that was obvious to anyone who had watched the game.  A four-point lead, with the ball, with 2 free throws coming to them with 28 seconds to go and you lose?
That’s a choke.  Calling Mr. Heimlich.
Which brings us to the fourth reason I was in a bad mood this morning.  Because of the unique nature of the game, because of the Spurs’ epic fail, and because it went to overtime, I didn’t get to do any writing last night, too busy watching the game and the follow up commentary.  I watched the guys on ESPN and on NBA TV to get their takes on the game.  Everyone agreed with me.  It was an epic choke job.  Duh.
I thought I heard someone say it was the worst choke job ever. That’s a bar argument for sports fanatics, what’s the worst choke of all time?  But certainly in the immediacy of the Spurs’ choke, last night’s game was a contender for the title.
So it was in that context that I asked Coach if it was the worst choke of all time.  I think I would definitely feel it was if it had been my team.
But he was blaming the officials on this?  Wow.  Yes, there were two non-calls at the very end that went against them.  But before that, as a fairly neutral observer, I felt the Spurs had gotten all the officiating breaks up until then.
So I tweeted back to Coach:  “got the best of the officiating until the 2 non-calls at the end (fouls on Ginobili & Green). Pop worst coaching job ever.”
“Pop” is the nickname of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, considered to be the best coach in the NBA now that Phil Jackson has retired.  It was my opinion that Popovich’s bad coaching decisions were a lot more responsible for the loss than any bad calls the officials may have made.
Twitter limits you to 140 characters. Despite what all my readers think, brevity is not my strong suit.  In order to get your point across without doing a 10 page blog post, you have to use short-hand, you have to use hyperbole (that’s exaggeration for you Celtics fans out there).  I’m sure there have been worse coaching night’s in the NBA, maybe even in the finals, maybe even to give away a championship.  But this was certainly not Pop’s best night. 
I had come to that conclusion while watching the game, and saw almost all the commentators who I watched make the same observations I did.  Pop had made some bad decisions that had been disastrous.  I’ll get to those in a minute.
Coach tweeted back: Stick to poker Rob.”
OK, now I was officially pissed.  I supposed I should have taken that as a compliment to my great poker strategy expertise.  But that’s not how it struck me.
I don’t follow football all that closely these days; I haven’t since L.A. lost both its football teams in the same year.  And it’s been a lot longer since I paid much attention to baseball, losing interest when the Designated Hitter rule ruined the game for me.  And hockey?  I still don’t know what “icing the puck” is. Isn’t the puck always iced?
But basketball?  I know basketball.  That’s my sport.  I dunno how old Coach is, but I think there’s a good chance I’ve been following the NBA since before he was born.  I go back to the mid 1960’s when the Lakers were led by Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.  I’ve seen every NBA Finals since then.  I even watched the entire 1978 series, which was the last time a road team won a game 7 in the finals.
So the implication that I didn’t know what I was talking about, when all the experts were pretty much parroting everything I had thought while watching the game, just really irked me.
So I got in a twitter war with Coach, where he clearly didn’t get that my comment about the coaching was hyperbole and he didn’t realize that my comment about the worst choke of all time was a question.  And suddenly he was demanding that I defend my comments. 
Which I could, and will, but it’s hard to do it in a tweet.  So for short-hand again, I mentioned that I thought it was Magic Johnson that had called it the biggest choke in history.  He dismissed that because Magic had made a bad prediction earlier in the season.
Now, a prediction is one thing, and an observation about something that just happened is another thing.  Not the same thing at all.  So Coach, do you really want it on record that if a guy makes a bad sports prediction, you shouldn’t give any credence to anything he says?  You sure about that?
Turns out, after checking my DVR, I was wrong, Magic didn’t call it the worst choke of all time.  He did say the Spurs choked (duh).  I got confused with what Bill Simmons said on the same broadcast.  Simmons is a sports historian (and a—yuch—Celtics fan).  He said it was the worst loss in 25 years.  And he meant in the NBA finals.  And he went back to a game the Pistons lost to the Lakers the year before the “Bad Boys” won their first title.  So I combined the two in my mind.  BTW, later Simmons compared the Spurs lose to the Red Sox losing the World Series to the Mets when the ball when thru Buckner’s legs.  Aren’t you also a Red Sox fan, Coach?  Was that a choke? 
It doesn’t matter, because what they were saying was close enough to my own feelings, I was just using that as short hand.  Coach tried to insult me by saying I was acting like a disgruntled Lakers fan, which I don’t get.  The Lakers weren’t playing.  I suppose I might have been acting like a disgruntled Spurs fan, which I’m not.  I’m a disgruntled Heat-hater.
Anyway, I was already running late for my appointment, so I cut it off and knew I would have to address this further.  Fortunately, I have a blog, even though it’s not supposed to be about sports.  And Coach has a blog too, and he’s already made his case here.  Now, here’s my case.
If Coach doesn’t think the Spurs choked that game away, he’s pretty much the only one on the planet.   They missed two free throws and two defensive rebounds in the last 28 seconds of the game.  Any one of four of those and they are planning a parade in San Antonio right now.
If you don’t protect a 4 point lead with 28 seconds in a game and you have the ball and you have two free throws coming….that’s a choke.  It doesn’t matter that you were the underdogs before the series started.  What matters is that you had the championship in your hand.  It matters that they were already roping off the floor to protect the court from onrushing fans for the championship celebration.  It matters that they were actually in the process of wheeling out the trophy, the Spurs were so sure of victory.  It matters that even the Heat’s own fans had given up all hope, and had started exiting the arena.
And you lose that game and it’s not an epic choke?  Ridiculous.
Now, as for how big a choke it is?  Well, sure there have been other games, other series, that were more in hand than this one. There have been 20 point leads in the last 6 minutes blown, 8 point leads in the last minute blown.  Big favorites have gone down, of course they have.
But this was no regular season game, no early playoff series game.  The friggin’ NBA championship was on the line, it was right there for the Spurs’ taking.  If it was the biggest choke of all time, it was because of the stakes.  They were 28 seconds from spraying champagne all over each other and they frickin’ blew it.  That’s an epic choke.
If any NBA team was ever in a better position to win a championship that close to the end of the game and lost, please let me know.

As for Popovich’s horrific coaching decisions, where do I begin?  Let’s start with an easy one.  He had a guy playing in his very first basketball game play 35 minutes for him.  Can you imagine that?
What am I talking about?  Surely that guy named “Manu Ginobili” had never seen a basketball before last night.  I know a guy with the same name and same appearance had a great game two nights early.  But that clearly was a different guy.  The Ginobili guy last night was pretty much the worst excuse for a basketball player I’ve ever seen.  He was just awful. 
The Spurs have a great bench, that’s what we’ve been told.  And he couldn’t find anyone on it to play some of those minutes for a guy who couldn’t have played any worse if he tried?  Really?  I mean, yours truly would have done less damage to the Spurs playing in Ginobili’s spot.  Hell, Popovich should have stripped down to his shorts and taken Ginobili’s place himself.   It would have been a vast improvement over Ginobili’s plus-minus “-21”.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yeah I’m using that hyperbole again.  But seriously, with the nightmare game he was having, he surely didn’t need to play so many minutes.
Taking Duncan out not once but twice in the final 28 seconds was mind-boggling.  Great idea, taking your best defensive stopper, your best rebounder, a instant Hall of Famer, arguably the best power-forward ever and one of the top 25 players of all time out of the game at crunch time.
The first time was worse because the Heat had time to drive to the hoop instead of settling for a three.  Didn’t Pop see what LeBron did when the Pacers took out Hibbert in that game?  But LeBron took a three instead of driving.  Lucky Pop.  Oh wait….with no Duncan to get that rebound, LeBron scores on a second chance shot.  Pop should remember what Pat Riley used to say, “No rebounds, no rings.”
No, actually, that wasn’t the worst.  The worst was the second time.  I thought it spoke for itself, with Bosh getting the offensive rebound and feeding Allen for the game tying shot.  But when I watched the end of regulation again this afternoon, I noticed something else.
When Leonard was on the line taking two free throws (which, if he had made both, the game is over), Duncan was in the game.  Of course Leonard missed the first.  It was only then that Duncan came out.  And both teams were out of time outs by then. 
Bad enough you didn’t have Duncan on the floor at the other end to get the defensive rebound.  But with only a two-point lead, how the hell do you take Duncan out when you don’t know Leonard is going to make the second free throw?  You have to keep Duncan in there—who is, I repeat their best rebounder and one of the best rebounders of all time—in case Leonard misses.  You need him in there to try to get that rebound.
Total bonehead move.
Then, at the end of the overtime, they have Parker out for defensive reasons.  Totally understandable, plus he’s nursing a sore hamstring and must be exhausted.  But when you get the ball back with a chance to win down by one, how the hell do you not call time-out there to get your best clutch player (Parker) back in the game?  Instead you trust things to Ginobili who’s playing for the Heat this night.  And instead of setting up a play, you just wing it???
I know, you would like to take a shot before the Heat can set up their defense.  But really, you have to get Parker in there at the end, he’s your best option if you don’t have a set play, right?  Either way, winging it or set play, you have to call time out and get him in the game.
Instead, Ginobili carries the ball like a running back.  He doesn’t even look like he’s making a basketball play.  Sure he may have been fouled, but he had no chance of making a shot anyway the way he was caring the ball.  Because last night, he was the worst player on the floor whenever he was in the game.
OK, was it the worst coaching job ever?  No, probably not.  Worst coaching performance by a Hall of Fame coach in close-out game that he had been thisclose to winning?  Maybe.  Just maybe.
Well, that’s it. Sorry I had to do that, but I needed to get that off my chest.
And I’ve learned my lesson.  I’ll never again try to soothe the feelings of a blogger who I feel may be suffering from a bad sports beat. So when the Blackhawks lose the Stanley Cup, you can bet I won’t be sending any consoling “there there” tweets to Lightning.

((Edited to add:  Congrats to the Heat, 2013 NBA champions.  Game 7 was a much better game than I expected, the Spurs hung tough.  Great series, but the Spurs will forever live with the fact that they had the Championship in their hands and couldn't hold on to it.))