Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: "The Me Generation.....By Me"

OK, this is gonna be a total departure for me.  A book review.  A book recommendation, really.

And it’s not a poker book.  Not at all.

The book is over a year old, but it is timeless.  Actually, it is not so much timeless as it is time-stamped.  It’s all about growing up in the 1960’s—one man’s history of the 60’s.  It’s a personal memoir, but it captures the era perfectly.  Oh, and it’s hysterically funny. That’s because it’s written by Ken Levine, one of the best television writers ever.  I first recall seeing his name on the writing credits of my then-favorite TV show, the classic M*A*S*H.  Then I noticed he was the writer/consultant/producer of a little show called Cheers, which is actually my favorite TV show of all time, and one of the best sitcoms ever.  He’s also written for Fraiser, Becker, The Simpsons, a whole bunch of other shows, movies, plays, you name it.  He’s won Emmys and other awards for his writing and producing. He is a man of many talents—he’s also been a play-by-play baseball announcer for several Major League Baseball teams (this was long after he made it big as a writer/producer).

So I knew who Levine was before I knew about the book, which I heard him mention a few weeks ago when he was filling in on a local radio talk show one night (yeah, he can do that too—in fact he used to host Dodger Talk on L.A. radio).  He was taking calls about long-gone Los Angeles landmarks, and I couldn’t stop listening, it was fascinatingly nostalgic.  Luckily, I heard him mention his book.  Just based on the show and the topic of the book—growing up in the 60’s—I ordered the Kindle version immediately, and I have been enjoying it ever since.  I actually haven’t finished reading the book yet, but even if I don’t laugh a single time the rest of the way, it’ll still be the funniest book I’ve read.

The book is called The Me Generation…..By Me (Growing up inthe 60’s).  As I said, I knew who Levine was before hearing him on that talk show, but what I didn’t know was that he grew up in Southern California just like me.  He’s only a few years older than me, so I can relate to all the references, all the landmarks, all the history he talks about.  Now, he grew up in “the Valley” and I grew up on the “Westside”—but we both crossed over the hill enough so that I pretty much remember every single person, place or thing he talks about.  Every restaurant, every hang-out, every movie theater that no longer exists that he discusses….I remember.

He captures the 60’s perfectly.  It’s like I’m living through it all over again…except, fortunately, I’m not.  He captures the Los Angeles of that era perfectly too.  He captures what Junior High and High School was like.  As an aside, like me, Levine is Jewish, so I can relate on that level as well.

I just got to the part where he started going to UCLA—just like I did.  When he talks about the parking, he mentions that he was relegated to the infamous “Lot 32,” as wasI!  I hadn’t thought about Lot 32 in years.  You see, UCLA had a huge commuter population and they couldn’t fit all the cars for the staff and the students on the campus.  So there was this huge parking lot—a mile or two away from the actual campus—where those of us who didn’t qualify for on-campus parking would park.  You had to take a shuttle bus to get to the campus. We paid for the parking permit, of course, but I think we paid a little less than the folks who actually parked on campus did.  I recall that one time, during finals, someone slashed the tires of all the shuttle busses and I was late for an important final.  I’m fairly certainly that Lot 32 was only slightly closer to the UCLA campus than it was to rival USC’s campus.

For all the reasons I’ve mentioned, the book has a special appeal to me.  But I really think that even if you didn’t grow up in the 60’s, if you’ve never been to Southern California,  if you’ve never attended a Bar Mitzvah, you will still enjoy this book.  Levine does an excellent job of explaining the L.A. landmarks and institutions in very brief, but very clear, fashion.  Man, do I wish I had his gift for brevity.  But if you never heard of Lloyd Thaxton before, you’ll get him as soon as Ken introduces him.

Besides, if you didn’t grow up in the ‘60’s, your parents probably did.  Or your (gulp) grandparents did.  And the 60’s was such a strange, ridiculous era. Hippies, drugs, The Beatles, the protests, the wars, did I mention drugs?  Oh, and I’m pretty sure that sex was invented in the 60’s.  It’s all in this book, told in the most amusing way possible, because Levine lived through it all. 

By the way, he explains at the beginning that for many of his friends, teachers, and the other real people that are a part of his life, he uses pseudonyms to protect their identities.  Ahem.

Levine talks about the movies, TV shows, and music of the era.  He touches on politics because you can’t talk about the 60’s without that.  The funniest thing I’ve read so far was his comment on the “classic” 60’s show, My Mother the Car. Do younger folks even know about this show?  I mean, around the same time, the show Gilligan’s Island came on, and I’m pretty sure even today’s teenagers know that one.  But My Mother the Car?  Does anyone under 40 know that show?  It was a sitcom where the lead character’s mother was reincarnated as an old car (a 1928 Porter)?  How did they ever sell that?  I mean, if she came back as a cat or a dog or a horse, fine….but an inanimate object?

Anyway, here’s Levine’s reaction to My Mother the Car:  “Has there ever been a more terrifying Oedipal concept for a teenage boy than his mother being his car? Short of My Mother The Dick I can’t think of anything worse.”

And if you’ve never been to Los Angeles, you know enough about it from pop culture to get it anyway.  And you all have funny relatives, just like Ken did.  And you were all teen-agers once, and you will certainly be able to relate on that basis as well.  The dating/relationship/sex stuff is priceless.

It’s just a damn good book.

I should mention that Ken Levine is a prolific blogger, and you can find his blog here.  In fact, I discovered his blog because of probably the only poker post he ever did.  It’s here.  You should read it because he tells about playing poker at a regular home game and not having a clue as to how to play any of the games.  So of course it’s very funny. And besides, by mentioning his lone poker post, I have just justified posting this book review on my Poker and Vegas blog.  I believe one of my poker peeps tweeted out the link to that post, and as a result, I started to read his terrific blog and follow him on Twitter.  And that’s how I found out about the guest-hosting gig he did where I learned about this incredibly funny book. 
Which, as I said, I highly recommend

((Edited to add:  Damn.  As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I haven't finished reading the book yet.  Now I wish I had waited.  I just came to the part in the book where Ken tells us how he saw Goldie Hawn's vagina!  It was when she was 23 years old and starring in the TV show Laugh-in, which gave her start.  So we have not just a vagina mentioning, but an actual celebrity vagina mentioning--and sighting--at that.  Like all of all Ken's stories, its very funny and you need to read the book to find out how and why Ken saw Goldie's goodies.)) 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Missed it byThat Much!

This would be a much better post, by a long shot, if only, if only….well, you’ll see.
This is about the only two tournaments I played in Vegas in August.  The first one was short and not even remotely sweet.  I decided to play in the big Friday night Orleans Tournament.  As I write this I’m surprised to see that it had been close to a year since I last played in it, and the story of that successful run is told here.  But sadly, my run this time was almost non-existent.
I was card dead in the extreme, and for the entire time I had a workable stack in front of me, I won exactly one pot.  I raised preflop with Ace-Jack, got two callers, flopped a gutshot, made a c-bet, and no one called.
And that was it.  I wasn’t getting too many hands to play, but whenever I did get a hand (mostly checking from the big blind), I had to abandon it on the flop.  By about the 4th or 5th level, I was in fold-or-shove mode.  I did indeed shove a few times and didn’t get called.
Then, with about 6,500-7,000 chips (which was a “tournament M” of about 7.5), I got pocket Queens.  A guy with a slightly bigger stack than mine raised pretty big, and a brand new player at the table called (he had moved there to balance tables).  Of course I shoved.  My raise wasn’t big enough for the guy to repop, so he just called.  The new player tanked.  “I just got here.  What have I gotten myself into?”  But he called.
The flop was low cards, and it looked good for me.  The original raiser shoved with his remaining stack.  The new player called reluctantly.  When they flipped over their cards, you could see why.  He had Ace-King, and nothing on the flop hit him.  The pot was just too big relative to the bet to fold (he had a pretty big stack).  The original raiser had pocket 10’s, and as there was no 10 on the flop, I was looking good.  Turn was a Jack.  Still looking good for me to triple up—until the river produced a King.  The new player had taken two of us out.  I had played less than three hours.

The next day I played at the Binion’s 2PM deepstack, always a favorite of mine.  I vowed to be aggressive if I got any kind of playable cards at all, or even if I didn’t.
First level, I raised with pocket 10’s and flopped a set. There were two clubs on the board.  I bet, and there was one caller (two had seen the flop).  Ace (not a club) on the turn, I bet double my flop bet, no call.
Same level, I limped in with 8-9 offsuit from middle position.  The flop was 10-7-5.  I led out with a $300 bet (blinds were 50-100), two callers.  Turn was an 8, I bet $1300, no callers.
Second level (100-200) I raise to $500 with A-K, two callers.  Low flop, I bet $1200, no callers.  Then I raised to $500 with pocket 8’s, got three callers.  The flop was A-K-Q, all hearts.  Yucch.  I did have the 8 of hearts though.  We all checked.  The turn was the Queen of diamonds.  It was getting worse.  We all checked again.  The river was the 9 of hearts.  I had the flush, but I really didn’t like my hand.  A tough female player—an older woman—bet out $1K.  I almost folded but thought more and more about it.  Her bet was half the pot and I had a flush.  I figured it was worth the risk there so I called.  Good call.  She had Jack-10 for a 6-card straight.  But no hearts.  My baby flush was good.  Everyone was praising my gutsy call while the dealer turned over my cards and started pushing the pot to the lady with a straight!  I caught him in time and got my rightfully earned chips.
Fourth level (200-400), I had Ace-3 of spades in middle position.  Two limped in front of me, I raised to $2k, two callers.  A-8-8 flop, I bet $4500, no one called.  Then I had Q-Q under the gun and raised to $1200, one player called.  Flop was King high, I bet $2k, no call.
The very next hand I had King-Queen off in the big blind.  I just checked behind two limpers.  K-5-4 flop, I bet $1k, and this older guy raised to $2K.  I called.  Second King on turn.  I checked, he bet $2k and I called.  I wasn’t sure where I stood.  Then a third heart hit the river and we both checked.  He mucked his hand when he saw mine.  Phew.
Same level, I bet $1200 in early position with Jack-10 off, two called.  Flop was 10 high, I bet $3k and no one called.  At the end of the level I had $35k in chips (starting stack is $20k). 
Last hand of level 6 (400-800), I had pocket Jacks and raised to $2200.  Two called. King-Jack-x flop, 2 diamonds.  I bet $4500 and they both called.  Third diamond on the turn.  My gut told me neither one of them had the flush, but I assumed at least one of them had a diamond (the Jack of diamonds was on the board).  I shoved.  I had them both covered.  The first guy insta-folded but the other guy tanked.  And talked.  “I don’t think you have a diamond.”  He repeated this several times and then finally folded.  Hours later, when he busted out, I told him I had a set and he said he folded a gut-shot.  But he was right that I didn’t have a diamond.
At the start of the 7th level, I had $41k in chips.  Blinds were now 500-1000.  A few limpers in front of me, so I made it $4500 with Ace-King of spades.  A guy behind me shoved for $13,600.  For an additional $9100 that’s an easy call there, right?  It wouldn’t have made sense to fold (all the limpers had folded).  So I called.  No I figured that with his stack he could have been shoving pretty light, but he flipped over two Aces.  Ouch.
Except that the flop was all spades.  Nice to flop the nut flush there.  The turned paired 4’s so that gave him some outs to boat up, but the river card was a blank and I won a nice pot.
But I got an interesting comment from the old guy who had raised my flop bet when I had K-Q.  “Did you think you were ahead there?”  I guess in hindsight I should have either said nothing or said something like, “I’m a bad player, sir.”  But I haven’t learned to do this yet.  I said I didn’t think I could fold there based on the bet I had made.  Plus he could have indeed been shoving light.  The guy just shrugged and said, “I guess I’m just too conservative.”
At the end of level 8 (100-600-1200) I had $56k.  Last hand of that level, I had pocket Queens in the big blind and everybody at that table, the next table, and across the street at Golden Nugget, limped in.  I thought the only move there was to shove; otherwise I was giving good pot odds to call.  And if one person called, they all might.  I didn’t want to play my Queens against half of downtown Vegas. So no one called but everyone seemed to think it was an odd move.  Really, I’m sure there at least three Aces amongst those limpers, and I sure didn’t want to see one on the flop.  With the antes and all the limpers in the pot, taking it down there was a pretty decent payday.
So now I had $62k at the start of level 9 (200-800-1600) and our table broke.  My very first hand at my new table I had Ace-7 hearts in late position.  I raised to $5500, no one called.  But the big stack at the table commented, “First hand at the table and you raise huh?”
By level 10 (300-1000-2000) I was at $60k.  By this time though, that was only an “M” of 10, so it really wasn’t that good.  As I’ve explained before, I really start thinking of shoving preflop whenever I get even a little bit below 10.  You’ve got a lot of fold equity there and by then, just taking the blinds and the antes is a nice pick-up.  And I was still a long way from cashing.  They were only going to pay 9 as they didn’t make their guarantee ($10K).
With one limper in front of me, I raised to $9k with Q-J.  One caller, the original limper.  The flop totally missed me, 6-4-6, and she led out with a shove.  I had her covered but losing there would have crippled me and since I had zilch, it was an easy fold.
So now I really was going to shove or fold.  I made a few shoves with weak hands, like Ace-3 suited, and didn’t get calls.  I was also able to raise/steal whenever it was folded to me in the small blind because the guy to my left never put up a fight.
On the last hand of the level I was in late position with pocket 7’s.  A few limpers to me and I shoved.  Several of the limpers thought long and hard about it but no one called.  After they folded, they all compared notes and all of them had high cards.  So they asked me if I had a pocket pair and how big it was.  I said nothing of course, but they were on to me.
That comment and others made me aware that for a change, I had a very aggro image.  I had found quite a few spots to shove and never been challenged.  Despite that, I wasn’t really gaining much in chips, the blinds and antes were eating away at the small pots I was picking up.  So the next time I raised, I didn’t shove. I felt I had to mix it up even though I felt shoving was the best strategy.  But I had Ace-7 offsuit and decided just to raise 3X the big blind.  After all the shoves, that might make it look like I had a much bigger hand than I did.  I guess it worked; no one called.
At level 12 (300-1500-3000) I still had around $60k.  I raised to $13k with pocket 8’s.  The big stack called and I wished I had shoved instead.  The flop was low, 6 high.  I shoved instantly and he tanked—and folded.
Level 13 (400-2000-4000) started with $82k.  In late position I limped in with Q-J spades.  I needed to vary my play, I thought.  Five of us saw the flop, which was Q-9-8, rainbow.  The big stack led out with a good sized bet and it folded to me.  I shoved.  I thought top pair and the gut-shot was plenty for the shove.  He thought about it for a bit and then folded.
I started level 14 (500-3000-6000) with a $102k.  I raised to $20k with K-7 of hearts.  The guy on my left was now the guy from the first table who had insisted I didn’t have a diamond.  He called.  The flop was 9-8-6, no hearts.  My notes say I made a c-bet, but I didn’t write down the amount and I can’t imagine what bet would have made sense there considering my stack.  Anyway, he called and we checked down the next two streets.  I had King high, which was good.  He had Jack-10 and flopped the open ender (as did I) which is why he called my c-bet, whatever it was.  He was so pissed he hadn’t bet!  “Damn, I knew I should have bet!”
The thing I didn’t like about that was that I had to show my hand. I had raised with K-7.  I knew that sooner or later someone was gonna call me when I bet light like that.
I raised to $23K with pocket 10’s.  Both the big stack and lady whose straight had lost to my flush many hours earlier called.  The flop was 8 high and I shoved.  Neither called.
This brought my stack to $192k and as there around 15 players left, I was feeling pretty good about my prospects for cashing. But that didn’t last long.  In late position I had King-Queen.  One limper, so I made it $21K.  The limper was the only caller.  Queen high flop, but all hearts.  My King was black.  He checked, I bet out $35k, and the limper check-raised all-in.  He had been short-stacked when I got to the table but had built his stack up nicely.   He seemed to be playing tight but I never saw his hand, he was taking pots without a showdown, much like me (except real early when he was short stacked and got lucky on a couple of all ins).  I put him on the flush.  “Do you have one heart or two?” I said as I folded.  That hurt, cost me $56k.  I spent the rest of the night wondering if I had made a good lay down there.  He might have only had one heart.  Maybe. 
I think I should have called.  I had him covered, but not by much.  I had played a long time—6-7 hours—but I was not quite at the point where it would have been positively excruciating to have played that long and come up empty.  And if I had won that hand, I almost certainly would have cashed in the tournament.  But I folded.  Shit.
Before I knew it I was back down to about $90k, and I was definitely back in shove-or-fold mode.  And by now, we were down to 11 players, and as I said, 9 got paid.  Bottom prize was $300—which would have been a $175 profit.  So I tightened up and hoped I could hang on to get into the prize pool.  I didn’t get anything to play and I was no longer of the mind to shove or raise light, hoping to cash.  It’s amazing how your mindset changes after playing 7-8 hours, suddenly you realize the $125 buy-in is long gone and that $300 sounds very nice.
I figured that after the 11th player busted, they would probably make a deal to pay the bubble.  Trouble was, I was now the short-stack and with our table being 6-handed, those damn blinds were just killing me.  Hell, at this point, even the antes were killing me.  I had to pray for someone to somehow bust out first, or for me to get a big hand.
So on the button it folded to me.  I had Jack-10 offsuit.  Without any limpers in front of me and only two players behind me, that looked like a monster.  I might have shoved there with a much worse hand, because the next big blind (8K) was gonna kill me.  So I shoved.  The small blind folded but the big blind—the lady whose straight lost to my flush a lifetime ago—called.  She turned over pocket Queens.  Damn.  I caught a Jack on the flop, but got no more help and I busted out 11th.
So I played something like 8 hours and got nothing, absolutely nothing.  I didn’t stick around to see if they paid the bubble.  I assumed they did. 
If only I could have played a little longer and cashed, it would have made this a much better blog post—at least for me.
As it was, I missed it by that much.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Boxed Card

The second to last nite of my most recent Vegas trip, I found a whole new way to lose a big pot, one I had never even considered before.  No, it didn’t have anything to do with the dreaded pocket Kings.  Actually, the dreaded hand was pretty good to me this visit.  Pocket Queens, on the other hand, not so much.

I was playing at the BSC.  My very first hand I was dealt two Kings.  Yeah, no sense waiting for them, right?  There were a couple of limpers in front of me, so I raised to $12.  Three people called me.  The flop was Ace high (no King, of course).  It checked to me and I put out $35 as a continuation bet, fully expecting that at least one or two players had an Ace and would call.  But no, amazingly, all three of the preflop callers folded.  My Kings held up against an Ace high flop!  As I said, they had been rather kind to me this trip.

Less than 20 minutes later, with the same dealer, I was dealt two more Kings.  I raised again and this time only one person called.  The caller had been away from the table the entire time I’d been there and just returned a hand or two before, so I had no idea what I was dealing with.  This time,      there was no Ace on the flop, and my flop bet went uncalled.
I had won a few hands between those two so I was starting to think maybe this was going to be a good session.  I mean, winning two hands with KK during one dealer’s down was certainly a record for me, and even though they weren’t big pots, I was quite happy with that.
Just a few hands later, only minutes before this same dealer was about to be pushed out, he sent me a couple of ladies instead of two more cowboys.  I kind of shuddered.  This trip, it hadn’t been Kings that had been my downfall, it had been pocket Queens, which had bitten me quite a few times already.  I’m sure I’ll have more posts about QQ in the near future.
I was under-the-gun so I made it $8 as I usually do.  Two called, including the Big Blind directly to my right, a Euro-type.  In fact, I think he may have been a traveling buddy of the German tourist I mentioned here who told me about the flying panties.
The flop was low but it was all spades.  Ugh.  I had the Queen of Spades though.  I led out with a $18 bet and one player folded but the Euro called.
There was a low red card on the turn, and I checked behind the Euro’s check.  I wasn’t really interested in bloating the pot with my overpair to such a scary board.
Then the river card came and it was a red Queen.  So now I had a set of Queens on a board with three spades.  There was a straight possible too, but I was much more concerned about the flush.
Especially when the Euro led out with a big bet—$80.  He hadn’t really been playing particular aggro since I’d gotten there.  On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of players make a bet like that to represent a flush that they didn’t have.  I mean, if he flopped the flush, he had slow-played it.  I wondered how many Europeans would do that?  I suppose he might have been surprised when I checked behind him on the turn and had planned to check-raise there.
I probably could have gotten away from the hand there if the river hadn’t been a damn Queen.  I could have laid down the overpair with that board.  But now with a set, I just couldn’t.  I felt there was too good a chance he was bluffing,or maybe even had some kind of weird two pair that I was now ahead of.
So I made the crying call.  And he showed King-7 of spades for the flopped flush.  Grrr.  All I could think of was, “he called my preflop raise with K-7?”  But I did mention he was European, right?
I wasn’t felted but I did have to buy some more chips.
Not long after this happened, I got my revenge on the Euro—by proxy, at least.  I don’t recall all the action but on the river there were three hearts on a Queen high board.  The guy to my left put out a $100 bet, which was more than the pot.  The Euro was the other player in the hand and was in agony over his decision.  The way the hand played out it sure looked like the other guy had a flush.

The Euro said he had a really good hand and asked the bettor point blank if he had the flush.  Of course the other guy said nothing.  He asked the guy if he would show his hand if he folded.  At first the guy said nothing but then said, finally, he would show his hand if he folded.  So the Euro folded face up.  He had pocket Queens and therefore a set. 
And sure enough, the guy showed his hand before dragging the pot.  He had not a single heart in his hand.  “I’ve got a pair of 10’s,” he said as he showed.  Yeah, that was it, a 10 in his hand to match one on the board.  It wasn’t even top pair, obviously.  The guy had done to the Euro what I thought the Euro might be doing to me!  And he got the Euro to lay down the best hand.
The Euro was visibly distraught about his bad laydown, and within three hands picked up his chips and cashed out.  I’ll bet he lost sleep thinking about that hand.
The guy with the pair of 10’s there was still sitting on my left when I got King-Queen in late position.  I raised to $12 and he was the only caller.  The flop missed me completely and I made a $20 continuation bet.
He thought about it awhile and then said, “Seems like you play here a lot.  I’m going to give you that “old man respect.”  And he folded.
“Old man respect?”  WTF is that?  I laughed a bit while the guy next to him kind of went “Whoa!”  The guy said “That doesn’t mean you’re an old man, I’m just giving you that ‘old man respect’!”  Riiiiiight.  But I took the pot with nothing, so who cares, right?
Sometime later, I was dealt pocket Queens for the second time this session.  I have to admit that by this point in the trip, my reaction to seeing two ladies in front of me was starting to resemble the reaction I usually get when I said KK.
I was in the big blind and before it got to me, the small blind raised to $8.  He hadn’t been particularly active at the table, in fact, I mostly remembered him for asking for a table change earlier, actually going to another table, and then immediately returning back to this one and sending the new player to the other game.  I dunno what it was, but he clearly didn’t like something or someone at that other table.
I don’t automatically three-bet with QQ, especially out of position and especially against a player who I hadn’t judged to be particularly aggressive.  But he had only a few red chips behind him left, so I thought maybe I should just put him all in there.
Except that, one of the limpers before him was a young, very aggressive player.  He had been the most active (and talkative) player at the table since arriving about a half hour before.  He had me covered.  Based on the play I’d seen so far, I was sure he’d call the small blind’s raise, but I didn’t know if he’d call my three-bet. He had been there long enough to peg me as a tight player and he might very well fold if I re-raised.  And since I couldn’t win any money from the original raiser, and I had been looking for a situation for that aggro to pay me off, I thought more and more about it and decided to just call.  If he called, then, depending on the flop, I’d have somewhat disguised the strength of my hand.
The young Aggro called, as did the other limper, so four of us saw the flop.  What a flop!  It was Queen-Jack-10, rainbow.  So I flopped top set on a really, really wet board.

The small blind bet out $15, which was all he had.
I of course wanted to raise, even though the flop was scary.  You can’t just assume someone has flopped a straight, right?
I thought about shoving with my remaining stack, about $140.  But that seemed like too much of an overbet.  Instead I bet $45, fully committing the rest of my stack.
The young Aggro asked me how much I was playing and I moved the rest of my chips out for him to get a better look.  He announced “all in.”  The other guy folded and since the original bettor was all in too, it was up to me to announce “all in” and of course I did.
The Aggro said something about someone—not himself—having 8-9 for the bottom end of the straight.  He said it as a question, not as if he had it.  And I couldn’t put him on Ace-King since he would have definitely raised preflop with that.  King-9?  Or just the draw?  The original raiser’s hand was irrelevant since his stack was so small.  It was really between me and the kid for most of the money.

I dunno if betting only $45 instead of shoving was the right move or not, but I can tell you that it would have made no difference.  He would have called if I had shoved first, that’s for sure.
None of us showed.  I was worried about the straight and was definitely wanting to see the board pair.  Or ,you know, the case Queen.  The turn card was a red 3, didn’t seem important.
And then, just as the dealer was about to burn a card, he noticed something about the card he was about to burn.  It was face up!  It was what is known as a “boxed card.”  The card was a black 8, definitely a card I didn’t want to see hit the board, since it would give anyone with a 9 a straight.  But it was supposed to be the burn card, not the river card.
For some reason, I had only recently heard a discussion from a dealer about what happens when there is a boxed card.  I remembered it well.  The boxed card is nothing, it is meaningless, it is just a scrap of paper.  It basically doesn’t exist.  It is taken out of play, put in the muck and the next card is used in its place for whatever that boxed card was supposed to be (a burn card or a board card).
The dealer stopped everything and called the floor over.  He explained the rule to us but he had to get the floor to officially rule on it.  Sure enough, the floor made the same ruling.  The black 8 was put in the muck and the next card was burned.  And the card after that burn card was the river card.
The river card—the replacement river card, that is— was the King of spades, not exactly a card I wanted to see.  The Aggro said he had a King high straight and showed Queen-9.  So he had flopped top pair and the open ender.  As I said, he was never going to fold his hand.
The short stack had Ace-9 for the Ace high straight.  He won the main pot, which wasn’t a lot of money.  But the Aggro won the side pot which was a lot more money—my money.
My stack was gone and I was not prepared to buy in again.  Losing twice in one session with sets of Queens was enough for me.
I must admit, it took me awhile to realize exactly what had happened.  Oh, I knew I had flopped a set of Queens and lost to a rivered straight, I got that. I was ahead the whole time. It sucks, but that’s poker.
But eventually it dawned on me that the King of spades that cost me should never have been on the board.  Because of that damned boxed card, the card that should have been the river card was burned instead, and that friggin’ King of spades, which never should have been dealt, was the new river card!

Talk about bad luck.  Of course, I’ll never know what the card that should have been the river card was.  Maybe it was another King.  Maybe it was 8.  And I still would have lost.
But maybe—and more likely—it was any other card in the damn deck but a King or an 8 and I would have dragged the pot.
And you will notice that the boxed card—which should have been the burn card and thus was never going to be in play—was another card that would have made a straight.  Just one more little thing to annoy me about losing the hand the way I did.
The dreaded boxed card.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Splash the Pot

I'm just about to head back to L.A. after my latest Vegas visit.  No time for a "real" post, just a couple of quick things I find amusing to hold you until I can get back to regular blogging.  Hang in there folks, those in-depth posts that take you days to read will return soon.

The first is one of the most clever tweets I've ever read, from someone named Andy P.  I have no idea who Andy P is, but one of my Twitter peeps retweeted this and I immediately retweeted the retweet.  In case you don't follow me on Twitter, or missed it, here it is.  And thanks to Andy P for such a great tweet, which I am borrowing without permission!

Just asked Siri "surely it's not going to rain today". Siri said "it is and don't call me Surely".
Forgot to take phone off Airplane mode

The  other thing is a story I heard last nite at the poker table.  A German tourist told us this one.  Sometime Saturday night/Sunday morning, say around 3-4 AM, a young lady was coming out of the Hakkasan night club who had, one can assume, indulged in quite a few adult beverages.  He didn't really describe her appearance, but I presume she was a member of what I have lovingly referred to as The Slut Parade.  And as she walked by the poker room, she tossed her panties on one of the tables, a table where a game was in progress.  

The German tourist was unable to say exactly where the young lady was when she removed her panties--assuming she did.  Perhaps she just had a spare pair of panties with her for just such an occasion.  Perhaps she always keeps an extra pair in her purse.  I rather doubt that she removed them right there, outside the poker room. But hey, this is Vegas, anything's possible and as I said, I assume much alcohol had no doubt been consumed.  

Regardless of where exactly they came from, they landed on the poker table where the tourist was playing and the male dealer scooped them up and put them in his pocket.  Since this is the graveyard shift I probably don't know the dealer who claimed the undies.

The tourist said he took the panties as a "tip" but I said the panties should have been put in the pot and given to the player who won the current hand.  It would give new meaning to the term, "Splash Pot."  Especially if the panties were, um, you know, damp.

Unfortunately, I didn't see this incident and can only report it second-hand.  No doubt if I had witnessed it myself I could build an entire lengthy post about this.  Sadly, all I can do is trust that a German poker player wouldn't lie at a poker table and make something like this up.

Frankly, I doubt he was capable of making this up, so I'm going with it.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Today is the anniversary of this very blog.  It was two years ago today I posted not one but two posts, and followed that with two more the next day.  I didn't want to launch the blog until I proved to myself I could I had more than one post in me.  I guess I proved that.  This will be my 328th blog post, and the blog is, amazingly enough, approaching a quarter of a million page views.

After two years, I almost can't believe how much I enjoy doing the blog.  It's been a great experience.  I really enjoy writing up the posts—especially those really long posts that my readers clamor for.  Sadly, this will not be one of those extra long posts.  Oh well.  But I have to say, nothing beats getting favorable reaction to one of my posts.

It is fair to say that the blog has led to my current working relationships with both All Vegas Poker and Ante Up Magazine.

Doing the blog has directly and indirectly led to meeting some great people who have become good friends--both in cyberspace and in the flesh.

And there have been some surprising benefits to doing the blog beyond anything I could imagine.  Recently someone told me that being written about in the blog led to something really, really positive for her in a totally unpredictable way.  Sorry, but I promised not to reveal the details of it.

And, although I'm hesitant to discuss it, I will mention that I recently heard from a member of Jace's family to thank me for my comments about him.  The family apparently really liked what I wrote about Jace and had sent the blog post around to all his friends and family.  They said I captured the Jace they knew.  That made me feel real good (under the circumstances, of course).

And the blog and the magazine gig have given me a lot more notoriety than I ever could have imagined.  I discussed that in this post here.  And just last nite, I was playing poker at good ol' BSC when a guy said to me, totally out of the blue, "Say Rob, how many magazines do you write for?  I know you have a blog and write for Ante Up, but anything else?"

I recognized this guy as someone I'd played poker with before, but I don't recall ever discussing the blog or the magazine with him.  I asked how he knew my name, and he said that he recognized me from my picture in Ante Up.  He was reading my column once and realized he had played poker with the guy who had written it the nite before.  Neat.

The blog has changed in ways I couldn't have imagined when I started it.  That's mostly due to the fact that I was strictly a 2/4 limit player when I started it.  Switching to No Limit changed the focus of the blog into more of an actual poker blog than I initially expected.  Not that I don't still post my share of silly stuff--you know, the hooker stories, the "woman saids", the boobs mentionings, the genital mentionings.

Speaking of which, to commemorate the second anniversary, I thought I'd share this little ditty that dates back to the days when I was still a 2/4 player and that I've never posted until now. It is more typical of the way the blog started out than it is today.....

It seems that at the 2/4 table several years ago, there was a psychologist playing, and one player in particular found this fascinating and started pumping him for information. The guy doing the questioning was a nice guy from the Bay Area, there with his wife, also very nice.  Let’s call them Pete & Gladys. Note:  you see a lot more couples playing together at the 2/4 game than you do at 1/2 NL.
Once Pete found out a shrink (actually a marriage counselor) was there, he started asking him all sorts of psychological questions.  I tried hard to tune it out because this is not really the kind of conversation I want to hear at a poker game.  At one point though, the idea of a "metro-sexual" came up, and the shrink claimed he wasn't familiar with the term.  Pete and Gladys tried to educate him, and he said he understood it, he just hadn't heard the term. Now I had already sorta overheard the shrink say something like he really like big asses (on women), and that this preference dates back to the caveman era when women were always taken from behind (I wish I heard this better to report exactly how he had actually expressed this but I believe I have the gist of it).  Too bad this was before I had met Prudence No doubt she would have accused the shrink of being “obsessed with asses.”
So when the metro-sexual was described, he said something like, "Well, as far as I'm concerned, if you look at a penis for more than five seconds, you're gay."  
I suppose in thinking about this now, a couple of years later, I have to wonder if the guy was really a shrink.  That doesn’t sound like something a shrink would say, does it?  But then, there had been copious amounts of alcohol consumed.  And I don’t mean to imply the guy was disparaging gays at all, he was not.  It seemed like he was merely trying to make a witty observation.
Pete then announced to the entire table that, “I look at my own penis longer than that, and I’m not gay.”  One of the guys asked why he would look at it so long and there was so much laughter I didn't hear anything else. I think the logical thing would have been to ask Gladys if Pete’s peter was worth looking at for so long, but if someone did that, I missed it.  Anyway, at that precise moment, some little gray haired old lady next to me got up from the table. 

The dealer, who had just come to the table, asked the rest of the table to “bring it down several notches, we'd already lost a player.” The old lady came back 10 minutes later, played a few hands but then moved to another table.  I asked Gladys if she thought the woman had moved to other game because of her husband’s comment and she said most definitely yes.
She also kind of laughed and shrugged and indicated that she after all these years, she was used to her husband saying bizarre statements like that in public. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Take That, Pocket Kings!

This goes back to July, in fact, it happened on the evening of July 4th.  I was playing at BSC and I was a bit frustrated.  I started out doing pretty well, got up a bit over $100 and then slowly found myself going into the red.  The table had started out pretty tame and then went aggro.  I was trying to keep up with the table’s mood swings.

At this point, I was down to about $130 from my $200 buy-in.  And I could see that I was either going to have to lower my standards a bit or just sit there twiddling my thumbs waiting for Aces or—dare I say it—the dreaded pocket Kings.  So when I was dealt 8-7 sooooted (spades) on in the cut-off seat, I figured I might just call the inevitable raise in front of me.  Sure enough the guy to my immediately right made it $8.  Surprising that no one had entered the pot until then.  Also surprising that no one came in behind us, it was just the two of us to see the flop.
The guy who raised was not one of the bigger aggros at the table, but he seemed more than willing to play along with the other action players.
The flop was 6-5-4, rainbow, which I figured was pretty good.  The only suit not represented on the flop was spades, but I was pretty happy flopping the nut straight instead of some mediocre flush draw.

The guy led out with a $15 bet, and I raised to $45.  OK, I’m not inclined to slow-play a straight.  Even on a rainbow flop, a straight just seems too small a hand to slow play.  Am I wrong?
In this case, it didn’t matter.  His response to my raise was to re-raise all in.  He had me covered.  Of course I snap-called.  The turn was an 8 and the river was a low, meaningless card.  There were players at this table who easily could have raised with 9-7 but fortunately, not this guy, at least not this time.
He flipped over pocket Kings!  I have to admit, it was especially sweet to beat that dreaded hand.  I enjoyed it more than if I had cracked his Aces.  Finally, finally, I was on the other side of a bad loss with that freaking hand.  I mean, nothing against the guy who lost, but it seemed to me like the poker gods owed me that one.
The other fun thing about this hand was the dealer.  It was my pal Mike, who, as I’ve mentioned before, always cracks my Kings.  Actually, the joke with him goes back to my days as a 2/4 limit player.  He had observed one time that it seemed like every down, he dealt me pocket Kings.  Pocket Kings is not that big a deal in a 2/4 game.  You can raise with them, but it won’t do much good, you’re not getting anyone to fold.  Especially someone with an Ace.  So many people see the flop that you pretty much have to catch a set or better to win with them.  And of course when you lose you don’t usually lose much.
But when he cracks my Kings in a NL game, it can be painful (see here).  So this was extra nice.  As I stacked my chips, I said to Mike, “Hey, you cracked somebody else’s Kings!” 
He laughed and said, “I do it all the time.  I did it just earlier tonight.”  And then he said, “You cracked them.”  About 10 minutes later, when he was pushed out by the next dealer, he said to me, “I’ll get your Kings tomorrow night.”  I said he probably would but, fortunately, he did not.
An hour or so later, as I was starting to think of wrapping up the session, I did get pocket Kings myself.   I was in early position, so I opened the pot for $8.  Three players called me.  The flop was 10-9-x.  I bet out $25, and no one called.  Phew.  A totally successful night with my cursed hand.  Good for me, bad for my opponent. 
There was a hand that didn’t involve me that I’ll mention.  One guy who came to the table was ridiculously aggressive to start out.  He bought in for $300 and raised, three-bet or four-bet almost every hand.  He won a few pots with his sheer aggression, but it didn’t take him long to lose his initial buy-in.  As he re-bought, another player at the table, a regular I’ve seen many times before, told him, “You’re too aggro.  You can’t possibly be getting hands all the time.  Your range is much too big.”
Anybody think it’s a good idea to tell a player that?  I believe that’s what’s known as “tapping on the glass.”  Why not let him keep betting like that with nothing and wait for him to give you some of his money?
Anyway, when he bought in a second time for another $300, he was a total different player.  I dunno if it was the other player’s comments that had affected him, or it was because he had gone through his first buy-in so fast, but he was much less aggressive this time.  He limped a lot, seldom raised, never three-bet. 
Except this one time.  The guy to my left raised, and the reformed aggro shoved.  He had nearly $300 and so did the guy who raised first.  The original raiser had pocket Queens and the guy on his second buy-in had Ace-King.  I guess he didn’t mind being in a race for nearly three bills.
The flop was all blanks, but there was a King on the turn and, for good measure, an Ace on the river.  That didn’t seem fair to me, but then, poker is seldom fair.
Just ask the guy who ran into his dreaded pocket Kings into my flopped straight.