Sunday, August 31, 2014

There Actually is a Bad Time to Flop Quads

Ok, before we get to today's regularly scheduled post, which was prepared for you reading pleasure when I was still in L.A., before this current Vegas trip began, I need to propose an important rule change for the  poker tournaments.

I believe this new rule should be immediately adapted by the TDA.

The rule is simple:

A player not in the hand may not verbally predict, request, or suggest a card to come when there is an all-in situation.  A player involved who needs a card can of course request a card, that's fine. But a player not in the hand needs to mind his/her own f-ing business and keep his or her big freaking mouth shut or face severe penalities.

If the card the non-participating player suggests hits, the player who uttered that card should be assessed the following penalty:

He/She is immediately eliminated from the tournament, and all his or her chips shall be turned over to the player who just got sucked out on, which only happened because this asshole uttered the deadly card that hit.

In addition, he/she should be banned from all poker rooms on Earth on the spot.  Further, if he/she has a hot wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or significant other, the person on the receiving of the suckout may have his/her way with him/her after the tournament, or if not the preferred gender, may offer him/her for sale to the highest bidder.

I think this will definitely improve poker tournament etiquette.  

Of course, you'll have to stay tuned to this space for an eventual explanation of why I decided to suggest this rule.

And now, your regularly scheduled blog post.

For this post, I’m reaching back to November of 2013.

Back at this time, MGM was running three promos.  One was the cash drawings I’ve discussed a lot.  Another was the Sunday/Monday night football promos (pick a random winner for every score).  And then they had one I don’t think I’ve mentioned before.  It was something like Progressive Hourly High Hands.

To win, you not only had to hit a high hand (quads or better), but you had to hit the right hand at the right time.  Each hour had its own hand or hands that would win the prize. Example: between 6 and 7, both AM & PM, you needed either quad 6’s or a 6-high straight flush to win. Between 10 and 11 (AM & PM), it was either quad 10’s or a 10-high straight flush.  If you had a Jack-high straight flush, you got nothing (except, presumably, the pot).  Between 1 & 2, quad Aces, quad Kings or straight flushes to either would win.  For 2, 3, & 4 only quads would win, since you can’t have a 4-high straight flush.

It was progressive.  I’m not sure what they started at (either $50 or $200) but they would add $50 every day it wasn’t hit.  By the time I got to the poker room on this night (which was also a Monday night, so they had the football promo going too), the biggest prize was the 9-10 hour.  It was $2,650 if you got quad 9’s or a 9-high straight flush.  Note: if you did have the 9-high straight flush on the turn (or the flop), this is one time you would want to shove and make sure there was no river card, on the slight chance the river was the 10 of the same suit and thus disqualified you from the bonus, as your hand would be a 10-high straight flush instead of a 9-high straight flush.

The night before, the biggest prize was given away when quad 6’s were hit for the first time since they started the promo.  That winner got $3,500 and the dealer told me that he was given a whopping $20 tip from the guy who hit it.  Twenty bucks for $3,500 in found money?  Yeah.

Anyway, there’s a reason I’m telling you this.  And there’s also a reason I haven’t told you this story before.  You see, at about 8:25PM, with my pal Brent dealing, I had pocket 9’s and limped in.  Five of us saw the flop, which had the other two 9’s.  I checked and called a $10 bet, everyone else folded.  We both checked the turn.  First to act on the river, I bet $15, not sure he would even call that.  He tanked and eventually did call. 

I flipped over my cards and said, “You’re a little early, Brent.”  Brent was disappointed too.  As it happens, the shift manager was right next to us and he asked him, “Hey, we can say it’s 9 0”clock, can’t we?”  Unfortunately they couldn’t. 

I would have had a real nice bonus there, but for a few minutes.  And this was the problem with the promo—people felt ripped off if they hit a high hand at the wrong time.  I was told there was one time when they actually had to go to the surveillance tape to see if a high hand qualified or not, to check the time stamp.  I think that’s why this particular promo didn’t last too much longer.

At my table was a regular who I’m going to call Curtis.  Curtis is a big guy, and a big aggro.  He likes to bully the table and he plays a lot of hands, raises with a lot of hands, and to me, has always been a bit of luckbox.  He always seems to have a lot of chips in front of him, and a lot of it is because he’s a good player, but I swear, I’ve seen him show some incredibly crappy hands that hit just right.

I haven’t seen Curtis very much lately, he must have found another place to bully people around.  Also at this table was the maniac I’ve named “Amos.”  Curtis and Amos are buddies.  I think they met in the poker room and became friends because they both play like assholes aggressively. They admire each other’s game.

Aside:  When this session occurred, I’d only run into Amos once or twice before and didn’t know his name.  So when I recorded my voice notes for this nite, I couldn’t name him, I just described him.  Long after this session, I learned Amos’ (real) name and got to know him better.  So when I just recently listened to my old voice note for this post, I was quite amused when I realized this guy I was trying to describe was actually Amos.  My description of him from this early meeting was quite vivid, to say the least.

Curtis and I get along fine but he can rub people the wrong way. Usually he takes losing with a smile but not on this night. On this one hand, he had some crappy two pair that he shouldn’t have even been playing, and a guy with one pair shoved into him.  Curtis was only too happy to call.  But a 10 on the river gave the guy a better two pair than Curtis had.  I don’t recall Curtis’s two pair—I’m not sure he showed—but the guy who sucked out on him had King-10.  So shoving with top pair/mediocre kicker was indeed a questionable play.

Curtis did not like this, tho I’ll bet I’ve seen him on the other end of a situation like this a lot more often.  He bitched and moaned about the guy hitting his three-outer. He made it perfectly clear he thought the guy played the hand terribly (which he had).  Curtis had tons of chips and after doubling up the guy, he still had a lot of chips, but he was muttering and whining and complaining about this for some time.

There was another hand where a very similar thing happened. I didn’t note the details but again a guy sucked out on him.  And he bitched and moaned some more.  He started giving Amos descriptions of all the players. “This guy’s a nit, this guy’s a calling station.”  He said it loudly enough for the players to have heard. He was saying it in a nasty way. I was actually right next to Curtis.  He didn’t say anything about me.  As I said, we get along fine.

So there was this older guy at the other end of the table, and he had had enough of Curtis’s bitching.  “You’re such an asshole.  Why are such an asshole?  You don’t win with grace.  You don’t lose with grace.  Why are you like that?”

Curtis replied, “I guess I just don’t have as much experience losing as you do.”

I had to admit, that was a damn good response.  Now, the dealer at this time was Ginger, and she didn’t say anything, although she gave me a look like “Whoa.”  I think she should have warned the old guy that he can’t call players assholes.  However, she knows Curtis and knew that he could take care of himself, and was probably the last person in the room who would ever complain to management about another player’s personal insults to him.

Curtis obviously started playing differently, and was concentrating on taking the old guy down.  At one point he made a huge bet against him, and accidentally-on-purpose knocked over the big stack of chips he had put out, so that some of the chips splashed the pot.  Later, he apologized, “I didn’t mean to do that….I did and I didn’t.  I know it was kind of a dick move, but it made my point.”

Anyway, the old guy soon asked for a table change.  It took awhile but he finally was called to a new game.  At this point—and I have no idea what possessed me to say this—I said to Curtis, “You should ask for a table change to his table.”  I’m not usually that kind of a trouble-maker.  I guess I had an ulterior motive…..I wanted Curtis to move to another game so he wouldn’t raise me out of so many pots.  Anyway Curtis said, “You know, I was just thinking of doing that.”  And so he did.  A few minutes later he got called to the same table that the old guy had just moved to. 

And what happened?  Curtis played one hand there and the old guy immediately picked up his chips and left the room.

I know this because Curtis soon changed back to my table and even got his old seat right next to me.  He actually enjoyed that, chasing the guy away.  Then he told some other stories of how people avoid him at the poker table.  His favorite was one time when he went to take his seat at a game right next to a guy who he recognized who had just won a huge pot.  He hadn’t finished stacking his chips when he looked up at Curtis taking the seat right next to him and said, “No.” And with that he racked up and left.

The other story he told was about playing with this absolute fish who was spewing chips like crazy, had busted out like six times, and had lost at least half of his money to Curtis.  The guy asked, “Where’s the ATM?”  And Curtis said to him. “Oh, please sir, let me take you there.”  And he escorted the guy to the ATM.  On their way back into the room, the fish saw the shift manager and he told him, “You have the nicest players in this poker room.  This gentleman was kind enough to take me to the ATM.”

For me, the poker was totally uneventful.  Just the bad timing on the quad 9’s.  No other memorable hands. My one drawing ticket for the quads didn’t get picked.  I missed out on the football promo. I made it an early night and more or less broke even.

As in life, timing in poker promos is everything.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Welcome to Vegas, Here Are Your Pocket Kings

As you may have heard, last night we played "Blogger's Poker."  Pete Peters, ~Coach and the awesome Alysia Chang all at the same poker table, along with yours truly, laughing, joking, ostensibly playing poker, having a total blast. PPP has already done his report on this epic event here. And ~Coach's report is here.

Sadly, I had to work today, at not one but two jobs. I had to work because of the money I lost last night to Alysia with that outrageous bluff I just two minutes ago found out she successfully pulled off against me.  Did I say she was awesome?  Awesomely evil, I meant to say.

Anyway, the point is I didn't have time to write up the blog post about last nite's festivities today.  I will likely not get around to writing that post until I return home next week, but we'll see.

In the meantime, I'll be sticking pins in my Alysia Chang doll, and you can read the post here, which I have ready for your amusement..... 

It was my first night back in Vegas for my late June/early July visit.  I had only been at the table for about four hands or so and hadn’t played one yet.  A hand or two earlier, Michelle pushed into to deal.  Michelle of course is the dealer who “never pushes me a pot.”  She’s also famous (at least to me) for saying “Jack-Ball me” (see here). After saying hello to her, I said, “Come on, Michelle, “Jack-Ball me.”

She didn’t do that, but on her second or third hand, she King-Kinged me.  Yeah, she dealt me my old pals, the dreaded pocket Kings.

Really, I thought, really?  Hadn’t played an orbit yet, hadn’t made or called a bet yet, and I’m starting with the cursed hand so early?  And from Michelle?  Was there even a point in playing these things?  Should I just fold?  I tell you, it was probably the closest I’d ever come to folding them preflop.

But no, the player in front of me had limped and so I made it $10.  One guy cold-called and then the limper called.  The limper was a regular based on his conversations with other players and the staff, but I was having a hard time placing him.  But he is one of those non-stop talker types.  Friendly, perhaps just a tad overly so.

The flop was 4-4-2 and all I could think of was, why the hell didn’t I have the most powerful hand in poker instead of those lousy Kings?  I bet $20 and it folded back to the limper on my immediate right, the regular I didn’t remember.  He called. 

The turn was a 3.  He checked, I bet $50 and he called.  Did he really have something?  Ace-5? A four?

The river was another 3. Double paired board. Ugh. This time he bet….all of his chips.  But he only had $45 left.

Hmm….my Kings could easily be no good.  After all, they were Kings and I had them.  Plus it was Michelle dealing.  I never win with her.

But… was a pretty small bet considering the size of the pot.  I really couldn’t fold to that size bet for all the money in the pot.  So I called.

The limper said, “good call” and just mucked his hand without me having to showing mine.

Wow, winning with pocket Kings so early in the trip, and with Michelle yet.  Nice.
I have to say though, Mr. Regular I couldn’t remember, you just didn’t have enough chips left to bluff me. Lucky for me.

 Not long after that, Michelle dealt me pocket Kings again.  WTF?  I raised to $10, and had two callers.  The flop was Jack high, I bet $20, and no one called.

Two for two with pocket Kings. 

A while later—after Michelle had moved on—I had Ace-2 of hearts and limped in. Four of us saw the flop, 10-5-3, two hearts.  I called $12 and we were heads up.  The turn was a blank and I called $18.  The river was a red 4, but the diamond, not the heart.  I had to settle for the wheel.  I called $25. I was a bit concerned of a higher straight, as unlikely as it was.  He had Queen high!  I guess he wouldn’t have called my re-raise anyway.

And another similar hand.  I limped in with Queen-9 and the flop was Queen high.  I called $12 and $18 on the flop and turn, and we checked the river.  I was worried about my kicker but the guy who bet the flop and turn showed King-7 for absolutely nothing.

Then I got pocket Kings for the third time this session.  I had been there less than two hours, so that was pretty amazing.  The other amazing thing, the three hands with the Kings were the only times I’d had a pocket pair all night!  It was a little freaky, honestly.

I raised to $10 and had three callers.  The flop was Queen high and after two folds, the last player before me bet $10.  Pretty small raise into a $40 pot.  I made it $45 and he folded.

Three for three with pocket Kings on this night, and zero for zero with every other possible pocket pair.

I had played a little over two hours and was up over $200.  I was having a good night and it may well have been the start of a great night.

But…..I was really tired from the long drive into town, and from all the unpacking I’d done at the place I was staying in the 105 degree heat.  And it occurred to me that starting the trip with a nice win—a bit more than a double up—would not only get the trip off to a nice start but put me in a good mood to start things out.  This was the next trip after the Vegas Trip From Hell, so starting with things going in the right direction was important to me.

Plus, I had beaten the odds (my own personal odds, that is) of winning thrice with Kings.  And winning a couple of pots from Michelle.  Could my luck hold up indefinitely?

I think the only thing more demoralizing than just a standard losing session is a losing session where you start out up a good amount and then lose. 
And I feared the fact that I was more tired than usual made that more likely than it might otherwise.

Faced with the opportunity of leaving the poker room with an extra $200 in my pocket to start out my first full day in town, I decided to grab it.

So I picked up and cashed out.  And then I enjoyed the scenery.  This was, after all, a Friday night.  So there many pleasant sights in the casino to enjoy.  The kind that can distract a fellow from poker. 

It was a good start to what was going to my longest Vegas stay this year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pasquale & The Promo

It was the end of my May trip to Vegas, last night in town.  Actually it was Sunday, June 1.  And it came very, very close to being a very, very good session for me.  Very close.  Oh, so close.

This was the VegasTrip From Hell and a nice session would have been a great way to end the trip on an up note.  Before hitting the poker room, the internet problems that had plagued me all trip were worse than ever, and I was barely able to get online successfully enough to file my Ante Up Magazine column that was due that day.

For the new month, the cash drawings they’d been having at the MGM were redesigned and this was the first day of the new format.  Until then, there was never more than one winner per drawing.  That winner would be selected and then would select an envelope with an amount anywhere from $100 to $5,000.  The biggest prize changed every month, I think it was $2,500 or $3,000 max in May.  I also believe that in May they only had drawings four days a week. 

But for June, it was back to seven days a week, every four hours, at 12, 4, and 8, AM & PM.  And each drawing would have multiple winners.  Before picking names, they would first pick an envelope that would reveal the prizes given out.  There would be different combinations of prizes and numbers of winners.  For example, an envelope might give out $200—$100 to two different tickets.  Or there might be four $400 winners.  Or five $200 winners.  Or two $500 winners.  I think they even had some that would give $200 to ten winners.  But $2,000 was the most they’d give out at anyone drawing.  Also, if you had multiple tickets, you could win multiple times for the same drawing.

Keep the drawings in mind, because they come into play.  I got to the room not that long after the 4PM drawing was held, so I had plenty of time to earn tickets for the 8PM drawing.

When I first got to my 1/2 game, there was some annoying conversation going on.  At the other side of the table, there were three youngish guys who were really, really into golf.  I think they were sharing their experiences on their respective college golf teams.  I only have a problem with something like that if it is loud, and incessant, and about a topic I have no interest in.  This was all three.

And the guy next to me was worse.  He was otherwise quiet, but he took a phone call at one point and carried on a twenty-minute conversation without stepping away from the table, playing the whole time.  I tweeted this out: “It turns out that someone carrying on a cellphone conversation loudly next to you at a poker table is just as rude as at a restaurant.”  With his booming voice, I heard every damn word he said.  The topic: high school baseball (I think he might have been the coach).  I really didn’t give a damn which players he was counting on to be his shortstop or his new catcher.  Very annoying.

And from another table we all heard the player I’ve called “Sammy” yell out, “You exposed yourself, you exposed yourself!”  One of the golfers at our table said, “I’ll expose myself right here.”  The lady dealer we had, who is British, said, “Oh, please wait until I’m gone before you do that.”  The guy was insulted.  “Why? I’m a good looking guy.”  At least he wasn’t talking about golf for a second there.  She insisted she had no interest in seeing the guy expose himself.    

The session started well for me.  Early on, I called $6 with pocket 5’s.  Only seven of us saw the flop.  It was King-King-6.  When the raiser led out for only $20 I decided to float and I called.  Although this was not really the ideal situation for it, I’ve started calling the preflop raiser’s flop bets with weak holdings on occasion on the theory that my hand has showdown value and the bettor might only be c-betting with just big cards that whiffed.  Although with so many callers though, he probably wouldn’t be c-betting with air there.  None-the-less, it was such a small bet compared to the pot I took a shot. The brilliance of my move was proven when a 5 hit the turn.

This time he didn’t bet though, so maybe my logic wasn’t so bad.  However, this was before I had re-evaluated the whole slow-playing thing (see here), so I checked behind him.  Low card on the river and he checked and didn’t call my $30 bet.  I guess he probably had Ace-Queen, Ace-Jack, something like that.  But I showed my boat to get my first drawing ticket.

A while later I had pocket 6’s and limped in.  Six of us saw the flop, which was Queen-Queen-6.  Flopping boats is cool.  Everyone checked the flop.  I bet $5 on the turn and only one guy called.  I bet $10 on the river and he called again, and mucked when he saw my boat.  The only reason I’m mentioning this hand is because it was my second drawing ticket.  Remember this ticket, folks. 

I had pocket 7’s evolve into a straight and won some more chips.  Then, I had Ace-7 diamonds in late position, and a whole bunch of us limped in.  The flop was Ace high, one diamond, I called $10 and three of us saw the turn.  The same player bet $10 and then the other guy raised to $30.  With top pair and the nut flush draw, I called.  The original bettor folded.  The river completed my flush and did not pair the board; I had the stone cold nuts.  He led out for $45 and I made it $90.  I probably should have bet a little more there, but not too much more.  He called and I won the pot and got my third drawing ticket for the 8PM drawing. 

I won another small pot when I flopped a set of 5’s.  Then I got another ticket and a small pot when I there were four spaces on the board and my lousy 9 of spades was the only spade in play.  I was the big blind and no one had raised, and I had called a small bet on the flop because my other card (a low card) had paired with the board.  It went runner-runner spades.

When the shift boss came around to collect the last batch of tickets for the drawing, he noticed that our table had quite a few.  He said, “I have a feeling there’s gonna be a winner at this table.”  Of course, for all I know, he could say that to all the tables.

At this point, I turned my $200 buy-in into $420-$425, something like that.  And then the shift boss announced that the envelope he’d just pulled out of the drum indicated that there would be two winners for this hour—each getting $500.  I’m pretty sure that for this month, $500 was the highest individual prize.  Now, when I had arrived to the room soon after the 4PM drawing had been held, I was told that they had given away $2,000 to five winners, and that one player had been called twice, getting $800.

Anyway, he waited a few minutes to make sure he had all the qualifying tickets in the drum and then announced a floor person was pulling out the first winner.  And then he announced, “I knew it was gonna be table 8….Robert….” Yeah, it was me.  I jumped up to claim my prize.  They had to confirm I was the name on the ticket, even though it would be hard to find a person who works there who doesn’t know me.  I almost forgot to look at the winning ticket but then remembered to check it just in time.

You see, when I fill out a ticket, I write the name of the dealer who gave it me on it, so I can be sure to take care of the dealer who dealt me the lucky hand.  It turns out that this was the dealer who dealt me the flopped boat with pocket 6’s.  I looked around to see if he was still there, and I was happy that he was.  I knew that he was a daytime dealer who normally leaves at 7PM, but fortunately he was working overtime this night.  He was dealing at a tournament table.  I didn’t want to take a chance on missing him, so even before they brought me my $500, I grabbed some chips off my stack and went over to give him his tip.  I don’t think many people do this for this promotion (as opposed to a high hand payout where you get paid right away, and from the dealer who dealt you the high hand) and he was very appreciative.  In fact, before he left for the night, he made a special effort to come by and say, “Thanks again, Rob.”  Since he’s a daytime dealer who doesn’t see me that often, I was impressed that he knew I go by “Rob.”

I also gave $5 each to the other dealers who had given me tickets for that drawing, even though they weren’t winning tickets.  And to the floor person who had pulled my ticket out of the drum. 

Oh and by the way, in theory I could have been called again right away and won another $500, but of course, I was not.

Anyway, when they bring you your money, you have a choice of keeping the money in play or taking it off the table immediately.  In theory, if you even play one hand with it still on, it’s in play until you leave—especially if there’s a “Rules Nit” like me at the table. I already had over $400 in front of me and had no problem deciding to pocket the entire $500. I didn’t need to play that deep.

Yeah, I was having a real good night.  Great finish to the Vegas trip from hell.

And then…and then…Pasquale happened.  Pasquale and the guy wearing his baseball cap backwards.

I wasn’t catching cards after that, and after an hour or two, my $425 had dwindled down to $375. 

Pasquale had replaced the nice guy from Phoenix who had replaced the baseball coach that was sitting to my immediate right.  I’m calling him Pasquale because that’s his real name.  I have no idea if he spells it that way (there are a number of variations of spelling for it) but I do know that’s his name and you know what?  I have no idea how I found out his name was Pasquale, but I did.

He had an accent and I think it was an Italian accent and so I’m gonna assume he’s from Italy. Since I’d never seen him before and have never seen him since, I assume I’ll never ever see Pasquale again. so I can call him by his real name.  Plus, by assuming he’s Italian, I have an excuse to run this otherwise totally gratuitous picture of Italian babe Monica Bellucci to accompany this post.

In early position I had Jack-10 offsuit and I meant to limp in but I accidentally raised to $6 by grabbing a red chip in place of one of the two dollar chips I was planning to put in the pot.  Then the punk with the odd hair (pointed up at the center, what’s that called?) made it $12.  He had been raising a lot since he had gotten to the table.  Pasquale called, the backward baseball cap guy called, and I called.

The flop was 9-8-2 rainbow.  Pasquale, who had been at the table for less than 10 minutes, checked.  I decided to bet my draw and put out $30.  Baseball cap called, the preflop 3-bettor folded and Pasquale called. The turn was a Queen of hearts, giving me the nut straight and putting a second heart on the board.  I wasn’t going to slow-play it anyway, but Pasquale didn’t give me any choice.  He led out with an all-in bet.  It was $98.

OK, nobody’s ahead of me and I had baseball cap covered so I just shoved myself.  Baseball cap went into the tank.  Now, when I had announced all in, I heard Pasquale mutter something to himself.  I thought he said, “I hit the straight.”  I thought to myself, damn, I’m only gonna chop this pot with Pasquale.  And so I really, really wanted baseball cap to call, because I thought I was gonna chop it with Pasquale and at least we’d divide up baseball cap’s money.

But as I was about to find out, I misheard Pasquale. What he must have said was, “He hit the straight.”  The “he” being me.

Anyway, baseball cap reluctantly put all his chips in play, over $200.

Nobody showed their hand.  I knew I didn’t want to see the board pair, and secondarily, I didn’t want to see a heart. The flush was less concerning because it would have been backdoor, but who amongst us hasn’t lost a big pot to a backdoor flush before?

Anyway, not wanting a card to come has no effect whatsoever one what card comes.  And sure enough, another damn 9 hit the river.

And actually, even before I had seen that it was a 9, good ol’ Pasquale had seen it, and he jumped out of his seat and starting screaming, “Yes, Yes, Yes!”  He probably has relatives in Italy who heard him.  He triumphantly threw his hand on the table—face up, of course—while he kept yelling “Yes!”  He had 9-8 offsuit. 

Then baseball cap turned over pocket deuces.  He had flopped a set and slow-played it.  I guess it paid off for him.  I’m thinking if he had raised my $30 flop bet, Pasquale probably would have gone all-in in response, and I’d likely fold my draw.  Hmm, maybe I should re-reconsider my thoughts on slow playing.

That hurt.  Baseball cap took the side pot, Pasquale took the main pot, and I had a whole lot fewer chips than a few seconds before.  It cost me about $250.  It was around a $650 pot so I would have made $400 if only the damn board hadn’t paired.  I was the complete opposite of happy.

I had a couple of tickets for the midnite drawing, so I stayed.  My stack dropped down to about $85 and I didn’t add to it, it was getting close to midnite, when I was planning to stop, so I was just hanging on at this point for the drawing. Maybe lightning could strike twice?

I had Ace-Jack offsuit, raised to $10 and had three callers.  The flop was Ace high and I bet $30.  I thought of shoving since I was so short-stacked, but I was trying to get more value for my hand and I didn’t think anyone would call my shove.  The only woman at the table called, the others folded.

I shoved on the turn when a blank hit and she called.  The river was a seemingly meaningless 9—but she turned over Ace-9 for a rivered two-pair.  This was the same dealer who had destroyed my straight.

I was stunned.  “Are you kidding me?” I recall saying as I watched the dealer push all those chips in the lady’s direction.  It had all gone south in such a short period of time. 

Ugh. It was just a little bit before the drawing and I so I bought back in for only $100 so I would be eligible for it.  I dropped down again, made some money back when I won a pot with middle pair.  I didn’t get called for the drawing this time (surprise) and I ended up with $102 when I left after the drawing.

So basically, I had lost $200 playing poker and won $500 hitting the promo.  I was up $300.  I should have considered it a good night, but I kept thinking about the money I lost with that damn straight.  The Vegas trip hell from hell could not end on a totally upbeat note. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Room for Caesars Las Vegas Means No More Poker Series

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

The issue should be available in your local poker room now.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Unseasonably Hot

This post is going to be a little different.  It’s gonna be half rant, half reminiscence. And it’s also the “origin story” of one of the oldest running gags amongst my oldest circle of friends.

I was thinking about this particular catch-phrase of mine because we it was excessively hot in L.A. recently.  It was really, really hot.  But you know what it wasn’t?  It wasn’t unseasonably hot.

It was, after all, late July/early August.  You know, the middle of summer.  When you’d expect it to be hot. 

And it was the middle of summer the first time I ever visited Las Vegas, lo those many years ago.  How many years?  Well, let’s just say the year was 19xx and leave it at that.  It was a time before the internet existed, before there were cell phones, before I ever played poker in anything but a home game for mere pennies (and then, rarely). It was a time when little economy cars had really crappy air conditioners that weren’t built for Vegas summer heat.

None the less, I had two weeks vacation coming to me, and I wanted to see Vegas for the first time.  I also wanted to see San Francisco for the first time.  The question was….could I do both in one two week period? 

I wanted to take my car, but it seems Las Vegas and San Francisco are in two different directions from Los Angeles.  How inconvenient.  We had no idea that Google would eventually be invented so we bought a giant road atlas of the US from a book store (you remember them from before, right?) and figured out how to make it work.

There’s no very direct route between Vegas and San Francisco, so we hit upon the idea of going to San Francisco by way of Lake Tahoe/Reno first.  We’d make a giant circle.  L.A. to Vegas to Reno/Tahoe to San Francisco, and back to L.A.  We could do that in two weeks.  Actually less because the final destination was actually San Diego for the San Diego Comic Con, which we used to go to before it was cool to do so. Now, all the cool kids go there, and every hit movie is previewed there.  Back in the days when this took place, only nerds and geeks went there.  Guilty as charged.

The “we” in this case were myself and my two pals, Norm and Danny.  At least that’s what I calling them now.  You’ve seen Norm comment on my posts here from time to time. 

One of the purposes of this trip was to break in my new car, a Toyota Corolla, which had precious few miles on it (I always got a ride to work).  Now both Norm and Danny had been to both LV & SF before, unlike me.  And Norm really loved Vegas and didn’t care much for San Francisco.  And Danny really loved San Francisco and didn’t care much for Vegas (which is kind of ironic, because he now lives there).  And the way it worked out, Norm was going to drive with us to Vegas and then fly back to L.A. while Danny and I headed north from Vegas to Tahoe and then to the City by the Bay.

I should mention that this particular vacation was quite memorable as it turned out.  It got me hooked on Vegas, for one thing.  And I actually wrote up a full trip report, many, many pages, that was circulated among a certain audience (but again, remember, this was before the interwebs) and proved to be quite popular.  In fact, I’ve flirted with the idea of reprinting that report—as I wrote it back decades ago—right here.  The problem is, I’m not sure I can find a copy of it.  And since it was on paper—did I mention that no one had personal computers or even word processors in those days?—I’d have to transcribe it word for word if I could even find it.  So it seems like a long shot.  It would probably be about a 10-part post if I ever did it.

Toyota Corollas were a lot smaller in those days then they are now and fitting three adults who all consumed way too much junk food was no mean feat.  And the A/C didn’t even come close to reaching the back seat, where poor Danny had drawn the short straw. 

And so we got to Vegas in late July and it was hot.  Ridiculously, obscenely hot.  I’d been in L.A. heat waves before, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this.  I’m sure the temperature reached at least 135 degrees every day we were there.  That’s probably only a mild exaggeration.

In those days covered parking was very rare, when we would go into a casino (and we visited most of them) the car would be out in the hot sun.  Entering the car after it had been there for a few hours was no fun.  We’d burn our hands on the door handles.  Getting in the car was like entering an inferno.  And my car was never moving consistently enough for the A/C to do much good (it didn’t run when I was stopped at a light).  We’d open the windows but that did little good.

At one point, pressed in the back seat, which was probably like 150 degrees, and getting no air, poor Danny yelled out, “Oh dear lord, press a watermelon into my shorts.”  That definitely became a catch phrase with us for years.  But not that one this post is about.

After a few days of seeing Vegas, I discovered that I enjoyed playing games where I put chips out in front of me and they sometimes took them away.  But sometimes, they put more chips next to mine.  I liked that part.  Anyway, we dropped Norm off at the airport and headed to Tahoe.

We had already figured out that driving the 8-9 hour drive between Vegas and Tahoe (a mostly two-lane highway, not divided) during the heat of the day during July wasn’t really a good thing to try, possibly testing my car’s cooling system and A/C more than it could survive testing.  So we did the trip in two parts, driving up halfway during the evening hours, and taking the second half of the trip the following morning.  This meant stopping over at a motel in a nothing of a town called Tonopah. That was a rather eventful journey, but if I do tell the story, it will have to be another time.  However, I will say this.  In the middle of nowhere, all alone in what would have been total pitch darkness if we turned off the car’s lights, we did pass by an actual, 100% legal, house of prostitution.  You could see the red light from miles before we got there.  It was one of Nevada’s legal brothel’s, and yes, we were so far away from civilization we were in a county where the world’s oldest profession was legal.  We drove past another one the next day in the daylight.

We were looking forward to Tahoe because it would be so much cooler than Vegas.  Of course, Tahoe is known for its great skiing during the winter.  We knew it wasn’t going to be that cold but were expecting much cooler temperatures than in Vegas. 

Now back in those days, Vegas hotel rooms were really cheap—and so were we.  By avoiding a fancy place (Caesars Palace was probably the classiest joint in Vegas at this time) we paid very little for the Vegas room.  We noticed that the rooms at any place with a casino in Tahoe were a hell of a lot more expensive than they were in Vegas.  Less competition, I guess.  There weren’t that many casinos in Tahoe as compared to Vegas.  By the way, we stayed in Tahoe the whole time we were in this area and made a day trip to Reno.

We were young and poor and cheap, so we wanted to do this as cheaply as we could.  The less we paid for the room, the more money we’d have for fun stuff—like gambling. So we decided not to stay at a hotel with a casino.  Instead, we would stay at a motel near the casinos.  This meant staying in South Lake Tahoe, which is actually in California.  So we found a cheap motel a couple of blocks away from the state line and thus the casinos.  We could walk or drive to the casinos when wanted to play. 

By the way, one of the things that amused was that Harrah’s Tahoe, the biggest and nicest casino in the area (at least back then) was built right up to the state line.  And the parking lot for it was in California.  You had to park in California and walk to Nevada.  Once when we parked there and got out of my car, I said to Danny, “Now, we can’t gamble here in the parking lot, we have to wait until we enter the casino for that to be legal.” 

So it turned out that the cheap motel we found didn’t have air-conditioning.  Not central air, not even a damn wall unit.  We could open the windows.  We knew that in advance but we were sure it wouldn’t be a problem because it never gets really hot in Tahoe.  Never. 

Until the very time we were there.  Sure enough, as we got to town, we heard on the radio that a rare heat wave was hitting the Tahoe area. They were expecting record, unheard of high temperatures for exactly the two or three days we would be there.  Of course, it wasn’t anywhere near as hot as Vegas had been, but in Vegas, we would go inside and cool off, either in a casino or in our hotel room.  Well, in Tahoe, we could cool off in a casino but not our motel room.  It was hot in there.

Remember, no internet, so we would listen intently to the radio (or try to find a weather report on the TV) to hear if the weather was going to break or if we would have to suffer the entire time we were there.

And then we heard it.  The guy (or gal) doing the weather on the radio said, “Well, it’s been unseasonably hot in the Tahoe area today.”

Wait, what?  What did he say?  It’s going to be unseasonably hot?  Unseasonably?  No sir, I’m sorry.  This is July.  This is summer.  We are in the Northern Hemisphere.  This is exactly the season for it to be hot.  It may be extremely hot.  It may be record-breakingly hot.  It may be unusually hot.  It may be hotter than anyone living can remember it ever being in this area. It may be unreasonably hot.

But it is not, it is most assuredly not, unseasonably hot. If it’s ever gonna get hot, this is indeed the season for it.

I said all of this to Danny and he no doubt contributed to it as well.  From that moment on, whenever we’d mention how freaking hot it was, we’d joke that it was “unseasonably” hot. And then the other one would say, “No, this is the season for it.” 

I swear we heard people on the radio or on TV refer to it as “unseasonably” hot several times after, causing much amusement for us.  And we carried it with us back home.  Of course, we told Norm and our other friends about this silliness.  And when winter rolled around, and we had her first cold spell, one of us would say to the other, “Yes, it’s extremely cold, it’s setting a record for cold, but it’s not unseasonably cold.  Whenever the weather got extreme one way or the other, one of us would say, “It’s unseasonably cold (or hot)” and then we’d think about what time of year it was and see if it worked.

I mean, it can’t be unseasonably cold in winter and it can’t be unseasonably hot in summer. Of course, in Los Angeles, it often is unseasonably hot (or at least unseasonably warm) in winter.  That’s fine.

Now in spring or fall, where you don’t expect extreme temperatures either way (at least in southern California), it can unseasonable cold.  Or unseasonably hot.

Got it?

Anyway, that was one of the last bits that’s stayed with me all this time from that first visit to the state of Nevada.  To this day, hearing (or reading) a weather report, I’m always on the lookout for someone saying it is “unseasonably” hot (or cold) when that can’t possibly be.  Every now and then, I catch them.  In fact, a year or two later, Norm and I were in Vegas for the Christmas season and they were indeed having record cold temperatures.  I think a couple of nights it dropped into the single digits, temperature-wise (but not below zero).  I think the low temps as well as the high temps for a couple of days were Las Vegas records for cold.  And sure enough, I heard at least one weather report that stated it was unseasonably cold in Las Vegas.

I spoke back to the radio.  “No, it’s winter, it is not unseasonably cold.  If it gets to 150 below, it may shatter all records for cold, but it won’t be unseasonably cold.”  Just too freaking cold.  Which it was.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The River of Dreams

This post needs to put in context. It was Memorial Day, which meant it took place in the middle of The Vegas Trip From Hell.  And I had spent the entire day dealing with internet connectivity problems that had plagued me from the moment I’d hit town.  I ended up wasting all of the day neither working nor playing poker but moving…across the hall, in an attempt to solve the problem (it didn’t).

The next day I had to be at the Rio at Noon to play in my first ever (and likely last ever) WSOP bracelet event, a nightmare you can find here.

Since I had a big day tomorrow, I knew I wanted to make it an early night.  In fact, if I had had a normal day, I might not have played in the evening.  But the day was so frustrating that I knew I had to get out of the room I’d just moved into and play at least a little poker or I would have gone completely insane. 

In May, the drawings for the cash giveaways were at 2,6, & 10, so I figured I would play until 10 PM and then pretty much call it a night.  Just a few hours in the poker room to get my mind off the horrors I was having trying to get on the internet.

When I got to the poker room, they were just starting a new table which I joined.  There was a player I recognized who plays the starring role in this drama.  Let’s identify him as DDB since I’ve never given him a name before.  Why DDB?  Well, he happens to be the boyfriend of the girl I call “Didi”—she of the 36DD purple bra fame (see here).  He was a regular in the room long before she was.  Unlike Didi, he is a solid player.  And it was a few days earlier that Didi had explained to me that every time she now comes back to town to visit him, she wears him out (see here).  And I don’t think it’s from building shelves (unless that’s what the kids are calling it these days).

Once the game started however, I could tell my mind wasn’t really into the poker.  I had to force myself to concentrate with marginal success.

Early on I had pocket Aces and Ace-King.  I raised with both and took both hands down with flop bets that weren’t called.

Then I had pocket 10’s in the small blind.  It had limped around, and I just completed the blind.  The flop was low, my 10’s were an overpair so I bet around $8 (I think six of us saw the flop).  Two players called.  The turn was an Ace, and I checked.  The player behind me, a woman, bet out $20 and the other player called but I folded.  The river was a blank and she bet out again, not sure how much, and the other guy called.  She turned over pocket Aces for a set.

Huh?  She hadn’t raised preflop with them.  Now this was hardly the kind of table where you could count on someone raising so you could go for the limp/re-raise.  I don’t think that was her plan.  I think she was just a total nit.  I’m kind of surprised she bet on the turn with the set.

Anyway, the very next hand, I had pocket 4’s on the button. Every single player before me limped in.  If I had been concentrating better, I would have realized that this would have been the perfect time to raise with my pocket 4”s and tried to steal all the limpers’ money.  Fortunately, as it turned out, I didn’t think of that.

Neither of the blinds raised and all nine of us saw the flop.  Hence, it was what’s known as a “family pot.”  Does anyone know how that expression came to be?

The flop was good news/bad news.  The good news was that it was Queen-8-4.  The bad news was that it was all spades.  Someone bet $5 and two others (including DDB) called.  What to do, what to do?

Do you just call and hope to get to a showdown cheap with your set that could already be behind a flopped flush?  Or do you bet big, not only to get some value for your set but to charge anyone who has a single spade too much to go for the draw?

I decided to raise. And raise big.  Someone please tell me the right amount to bet because I know I was way off.  I made it $75.  Why so much? I wanted to give bad odds to someone who had a single spade. I had had about $185 when the hand started.

The first two guys in for five bucks folded pronto but DDB took a moment or two and then announced he was all-in.  He had me covered. Back to me.  I had already seen DDB make an unsuccessful bluff a little earlier.  I didn’t put him on a naked bluff, but to me, that move smacked of someone with a single spade, likely the Ace of spades—a semi-bluff.  I didn’t put him on a set because he would have raised with either pocket Queens or pocket 8’s.  I didn’t think he had the flush either, because if he had the nut flush he likely only would have called and if he a weak flush he would have raised the $5 before it got to me.  That was my reasoning, at least.

I thought for a bit.  This is the time you can consider folding a set, right?  When the board is all one suit.  But no, I didn’t fold.  I called.  Having put nearly half my stack in already, I was basically committed to putting the rest in when I made that big raise.

DDB asked me if I had a flush.  I said no and he said, “I’m not folding a flush.”  Really?  He did have a flush?  Damn.  But neither of us showed.

The turn was some meaningless red card.  The river was not so meaningless.  It was another Queen, giving me a boat.  DDB showed 9-2 of spades.  He had indeed flopped the flush.

Suddenly, I had $400 in front of me, a really nice double up.  “Nice river,” I said to the dealer as I gave her a generous tip. Was it really “the river of dreams”?  Well, I suppose there’ve been hands where the river card made me more money, for sure.  But it sure looked sexy at the moment.  

And speaking of sexy, yeah, I know that Christie Brinkley hasn’t been married to Billy Joel for a long time, but she used to be.  And I’d rather see her in a bikini than her ex in one.  But for those of you who think I’m short changing Billy, I’m embedding the video of his classic, “The River of Dreams” at the bottom of this post.  I understand it’s my fellow blogger Pete Peters favorite song.  Or something like that. :)

I have to say, DDB is a good player but I don’t like his play there.  With a weak flush (and honestly, why was he even limping with 9-2?), doesn’t he have to raise the $5?  OK, say he was worried about someone already having a bigger flush?  In that case, with a weak flush like that, shouldn’t he be able to get away from it when I make my overbet?  He’s only in for $7.  True he has a flush, but with a tight player like me having made a big overbet—he had to know he could be drawing dead.

Well, the question he asked the dealer may explain it.  He asked if he wasn’t entitled to a drawing ticket.  Actually, she had forgotten to give either one of us drawing tickets.  I got one for my boat, and he got one for his flush.

Now, here’s how those ticket works. You don’t have to have to have the winning hand to get one, but your hand must be live at showdown to get it.  Which meant that if he had folded to my $75 bet, he wouldn’t have gotten a ticket.  If it had gone to the river, he would have to call a river bet in order to get the ticket.  You can’t get one if you fold to a bet.

So that may have been why he did what he did and why he said, “I’m not folding a flush.”  He wanted a ticket.  This was the end of the month, and I believe they still had a number of big cash prizes left ($2,500, $3,000, something like that). I think the percentages were actually pretty good for scoring more than the minimal $100 prize.  So maybe that’s why he never considered folding his mediocre flush.

That might also explain why he limped in with 9-2.  Because it was sooooted and he was going for the flush to get a ticket.

In that case, he got a ticket to the drawing that cost him nearly $200.  And by the way, neither one of us won the drawing that night.

Later I hit another set, this time with pocket 6’s.  It was a limped pot and I raised someone else’s bet on the flop.  No one called.

Then came the hand that proved why I shouldn’t have been playing this night. My $200 profit had been cut down to around $155. It was near drawing time, and nothing had happened to convince me that I should stay much past it.  I still wanted to make it an early night because of the WSOP event the next day.  I guess I had already mentally checked out and was playing the last few hands before the drawing was going to be held (I just had the one ticket).

As such, I was thinking I really wanted to leave the game up over $100; it would be a real positive for me going into the tournament the next afternoon.  Especially since my mind was not really into it and, let’s face it, I had gotten real lucky on that double up.

So I found myself with pocket Queens in early position.  I raised to $10.  Honestly, I really did consider limping there, if not folding.  But no, I made the obligatory raise.

Three people called the ten bucks.  The flop was Jack-high, rainbow. I put out $30.  The first guy folded, but the last guys—the blinds—both called after checking the flop.  Grrrr.

The turn was a second club but otherwise innocuous.  When they checked—I checked behind them. Sigh.  Yeah, I just felt like I didn’t want to risk a lot more money on just an overpair. I figured I would have had to have bet $100 there and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  If I wasn’t about to leave, if I wasn’t thinking about the tournament the next day, I would have bet.  As I said, my mind wasn’t in the right place to keep playing, so I went into super-nit mode.

The river was a third club, if that mattered.  I also noticed there was a ugly looking straight possible, though unlikely.  This time the first guy led out for $75.  The next guy folded and I tanked. 

Instead of doing the math, instead of using everything I’ve learned since I first started playing NL, I went back to the first thing I learned when I started playing NL…..don’t lose too much on just a top pair or overpair hand.  And I was thinking how much it would mess with me mentally to leave up just a few bucks after a quick session where I was once up two bills. 

So, as embarrassed as I am to admit it (and the whole way I played this hand, honestly), I folded.  I would have felt ok if the guy who took it flipped over two clubs for a back door flush (he would have showed to get a drawing ticket.)  But no, he didn’t do that.  He didn’t show, but he whispered to the fellow next to him (the other guy who was in the hand until the river),  “He made a mistake, he didn’t bet the turn.  I had Ace-King.” Of course I had the misfortune of overhearing that.  So yeah, I should have bet the turn or called him on the river.  I think that made me feel worse than if I had lost my stack with the damn Queens.

A few minutes later, they had the drawing and didn’t call my name. I got the hell out of there before I could do any more damage to my psyche or my wallet.

It was an early night, but not early enough.  So I tried real hard to focus on the sweet river against Didi’s boyfriend, and not on the wussy way I played those dreaded pocket Queens.