Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lucky in Love, Unlucky in Cards

For the third straight time, I’m doing a multi-part post.  I guess I can get a little long-winded. Why hasn’t anyone every told me this?  I expect to get this done in two parts.

Since I just reported on what I did for the Labor Day weekend here in L.A., I thought this would be a good time to tell you about what I did on the 4th of July in Vegas.  Because that’s how I roll.

My Vegas trip was coming to a close.  The 4th was on a Monday and I was going to be heading back home on Wednesday.  So just two days of poker in Vegas left.

Honestly, I would have loved to have played a tournament on the 4th.  In theory, all of the summer series should have still been going on, as the main event over at the WSOP was still a few days from starting.  But in fact, there was nothing available.  A few of the series had already ended (Including the one at the Golden Nugget), and the others had their big ticket tournaments, or their main events, going.  All out of my price range.

I suppose I could have just worked during the day and played cash in the evening, but no.  It seemed un-American to me to work on the 4th of July.  What better way to honor this nation’s birth than by playing the all-American game of poker?

I did write a blog post before heading out, so it was late afternoon when I finally found myself in a poker room.  I ended up heading over to MGM.  I hadn’t really played there much this trip, certainly not nearly as much as I usually do.  I figured by getting there in the afternoon, maybe I could see some of my daytime dealer pals that I hadn’t seen in a long time.

It wasn’t really my plan going in, but it turned out this session was all about the MGM promo they had running at the time, so I better explain it.

Recall that at the beginning of the year, MGM got rid of all their old promos (cash drawings, football promo, and the freeroll). The promo that replaced them all in January was one I really, really liked, and it proved very popular.  In fact it was so popular they were actually giving away too much money.  You can read about that promo here.  Basically you had to make five different types of hands and when you got all five, you won $100.

After just a week or two, they were giving out so much that they had to make it tougher to fill out a card.  So the pot had to be $40 instead of $20 to qualify, and you had to use both cards in your hand to get that hand stamped instead of just one card.

That promo lasted through February, and as I mentioned here, they went back to a variation of the drawings in March.  Somewhere along the way they brought the freeroll back and tied it into the drawings.  They might have had something else in between that I’m forgetting, but by the time I got back to Vegas in late June, the “Poker Parlay” cards had returned, and it tied into the freeroll.

They made the parlay card a bit tougher to complete than when they had it going early in the year.  You now needed six hands to complete a card (thus they could no longer call it the “Drive for five.”).  They added a second flush.  You had to make both a black flush and a red flush.  Also, when I got to town, the full house had to be 10’s full or better or it didn’t count.  Yeah that made it a bit tougher, for sure.  I mean, it’s hard enough to get any full house, right?  In fact, the first time I played the new promo in June, I got a “small” full house, presented my card for a stamp, and was informed by my dealer pal to “read the fine print.”  Yep, deuces full of 7’s (or whatever it was) just wasn’t good enough!  The other hands you needed, by the way, were two pair, three of a kind, and a straight, to go along with a black flush, a red flush and a 10’s full or better boat.

I didn’t get more than two stamps on that first card I had, but that was at the end of that period.  Since the parlay card promo tied in with the freeroll, and the freeroll took place once every two weeks, the parlay cards were only good for two weeks.  You had two weeks to fill out a card, and if the period expired with you only having five of the six stamps needed, you were out of luck.

I believe I had only played once at MGM after getting a new card for the new two-week period when I arrived there on July 4th.  I had my totally blank card with me.  Since I was only playing in Vegas two more days, it sure didn’t look good for me to fill out a card and get a hundred bucks before heading home.  My card would expire long before I set foot in Vegas again. And that promo was once again discontinued shortly after I returned home anyway. Although there’s a version of it that ties in with the NFL games, along with some other promos they have going, but honestly, it’s a bit complicated for me to keep track of.

The one improvement they made with the second card I got (the one that was valid for the session I’m writing about now) is that they made it so that any full house qualified.  So yes, a crappy deuces full of three’s boat would get you a stamp.  Phew.  Nice to know such a puny hand is worth something, right?

I didn’t really go to MGM with the expectation of completing a card, but I did at least consider it a possibility.  I was thinking, if I could get four stamps in a long session, maybe it would be worthwhile to return then next night and play my last session there to try to complete it.  But I wasn’t really counting on it.

I got into a 1/2 game, late afternoon.  I may have won a small pot early, but I was down to about $175 or so from my $200 buy-in when, pretty early in the session, I looked down at—stop me if you’ve heard this before—the dreaded pocket Kings.  I was under-the-gun and made it $8.  There were a couple of callers and then a guy made it $30, and it folded back to me.

This guy was a pretty loose player.  I remembered a hand earlier where he had played pocket Queens very aggressively.  He three-bet with them and shoved a big stack on a low flop with two hearts on it (he didn’t have a heart).  So I knew his three-betting range was probably wider than it is for most 1/2 players.  I did what I always do in that situation.  I re-raised.  I made it $90.

The other players folded and the guy who had three-bet me went into the tank.  So I figured he didn’t have Aces.  Finally he called.  We saw a total nightmare flop, Ace-Queen-x, two hearts.  Both of my Kings were red.  I checked.

He almost immediately announced “all-in.” His stack was roughly the same as mine.  What to do, what to do?

It seems so obvious that “fold” is the correct answer, doesn’t it?  I mean that flop is right in the fat part of his range.  And I’ve got Kings.  Shouldn’t I fold them routinely any time I don’t flop quads with them?

But I looked at my remaining chips.  I had less than $90.  In other words, I had put over half my stack in the pot already.  Didn’t that make me pot committed?  Haven’t I read a dozen poker books telling me that?

Plus I did have the back door flush draw.  With more than half my chips already in the pot, was that enough?  Probably not, but for some reason, I thought so at the time.  I called.

We didn’t show.  The turn was a heart.  Nice.  But the river was a brick.  He showed his hand….pocket Queens.  I was a bit surprised.  I expected Ace-King, maybe Ace-Queen. Whatever, those would have beaten me too.  The dealer counted the stacks and I had about $6 left over. Awesome.  I rebought $200, and then took a walk to clear my head.

After a good walk, I sat by a slot machine and wrote down the hand.  I thought about it.  It was a bad call, regardless of half my stack already being in the pot.  It was, right?

Then I started wondering about his play.  Was his shove there a good move?  I mean, although I hadn’t been there long, he had to figure I’m (normally) a pretty tight player.  How many hands am I four-betting with?  Aces and Kings, right?  And that’s assuming I’m four-betting Kings.  Plenty of players would have just called his $30 with Kings.  I’ve seen it many, many times.

If I did have a set of Aces, I very well might have checked to induce a bet.  So when he shoves there, isn’t there at least a 50/50 chance I’ve got him crushed?  Do you like his play?

On the other hand, he’s never folding his set of Queens, and he wants to protect against a flush (maybe, just maybe, I have Ace-King of hearts). So perhaps his play is correct. 

It’s my play that sucks.

When I got back to the table after trying to clear my head, a new dealer was pushing in.  It was Michelle, the dealer who “never pushes me a pot.”  That’s a bit between us going back years, as I’ve mentioned many times before.  But I haven’t discussed Michelle lately because she switched to day shift, thus I rarely see her anymore. I had just missed the big blind, so she asked me if I wanted to buy the button.  For reasons that are unclear to me now, and probably were then, I said yes.  Actually what I said was, “Sure, why not?  You’re my lucky dealer.”  She chuckled and said, “Yes…starting now.”

A few hands later I raised to $10 with pocket Jacks.  The flop was 10-6-6, I bet $20 and got one call.  The turn was a 10 and it went check check.  The river was a 5 and I folded to his $35 bet.  He showed 6-5.

I raised to $8 with Ace-6 of spades. Three of us saw an Ace-high flop.  I bet $15 and took it, proving I could drag a pot with Michelle dealing.

Now, there was this really young kid at the table, and his wife was sitting behind him. Somehow I learned that they had just gotten married.  And they both looked too young to be in a casino. I’m sure they couldn’t walk anywhere inside for more than five minutes without getting carded. 

And boy, were they in love.  How do I know?  Because of the public display of affection they were treating us all to whenever he wasn’t in a hand. Now you know how you might see a couple out in public and they just can’t keep their hands off each other?  And it is so obvious they both really want to go at it but can’t because they’d get arrested?  And you just want to yell at them, “Get a room!”

This wasn’t like that.  It wasn’t the “super-horny” couple scenario.  No, this was the “No two people have ever been this much in love” scenario. They were just giving each other tender, romantic, soulful kisses whenever they got the chance.  But really passionate. And when they separated, they would gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. I dunno if I am describing it properly.  I am pretty sure they were whispering to each other how much they loved each other before and after each kiss.

Anyway, he announced they were taking off.  I have a pretty good guess what they were planning to do next.  I think he had said the last hand was his last hand, but he got dealt another hand and decided to play “one more.”  He raised to $10.  I had Ace-King and called.  We were heads up. 

The flop was King-7-7.  He bet $20 and I called.  The turn was a blank; he bet $45 and I called.  The river was an Ace and he checked.  I bet $60 and he tanked.  But eventually, he called.  I showed my hand, he just mucked in disgust.  He said, “Man, I guess I should have left already.”  The player next to him said, “Yes, whenever you say you’re gonna leave, leave.”

It was not only a nice pot, but it got me my first stamp on my parlay card (for two pair, the easiest to get).  Hey kid, you know what they say, right?  Lucky in love, unlucky in cards.  Or do I have that backwards?

Just a few hands later I had Ace-10 in the big blind.  There were a bunch of limpers, no raise.  The flop came Queen-Jack-4, rainbow.  No one bet.  The turn was a King, giving me Broadway.  Since it was a limped pot, I led out for just $5 and had 3 callers.  The river was 9.  No flush was possible, I had the stone-cold nuts.  I bet $20 and got one call, fortunately.  The caller didn’t show his hand when I tabled mine.  The call put the pot over $40 and thus I got a stamp on my card for a straight; if he hadn’t called, I wouldn’t have gotten the stamp.  Now, if I had been playing for the stamp, I would have bet smaller.  A $10 bet would have put the pot over $40 if he called.  But I wasn’t playing for stamps at the time.

The very next hand, in the small blind, I completed with Ace-8 of hearts.   Seven of us saw the flop, which had two spades, one heart, and an 8. I called $15 and there were now just two of us. A second heart hit the turn and I called $20.  A third heart hit the river, completing my back-door flush.  I wasn’t sure if I should bet or hope he would keep firing so I could raise.  I decided to bet and put out $30.  He called, but said nothing and didn’t show when I showed the flush.  I not only took down the pot, I got another stamp on my card, this time for the red flush.

It was rather amazing.  I had been playing for a considerable amount of time and hadn’t come close to getting a stamp, and suddenly I earned three within a matter of minutes.  The last two on consecutive hands.  One of my neighbors said, “You’re filling up that card of all of sudden, huh.”  Indeed I was.

I had actually planned on taking my dinner break, but I decided to play a little longer to see if my rush continued.  I wanted to stay at least until this dealer was pushed out (this was many dealers after Michelle, in case you’re wondering). 

But the rush was over and I was ready to get some food.  Remarkably, I had worked that second $200 buy-in up to $430, so even with the disaster with the Kings, I was up $30 for the day.

And that’s the perfect place to end part 1. The follow up is now here, so check it out and we’ll see how the second part of my July 4th session went


  1. Great post, looking forward to part 2. The KK hand, I would have mucked face up in frustration. You are beating nothing but a bluff and when he calls your large 4 bet he is unlikely to have weak hands in his range.

    1. Thanks, Paul.

      Can't disagree about the KK hand but I do want to ask....why fold face up? Is that just a reflex out of frustration or is there some strategy to showing the fold. Or do you just want sympathy?

  2. I was at the MGM last weekend. The new promo's are bringing the local grinders out in droves! I sat down at a table with four grinders with over 1K plus in chips a piece. Each was within one flush of winning $500 for a complete a flush of each suit promo. They were in the tail in of 24 hour sessions in an effort to win the promo. Apparently, they made their third flush a while back. They played until midnight and several took off. I played for 3 hours and booked a $900 profit. I had three big hands. Each was a 10-9. The first was a straight. The second was a flush and the third was boat. I didn't see three of a kind or two pair all weekend. I played three days. I would tell you how much I won but it would be bragging. I will say that at my last session half the table were locals playing "bingo" which really killed the action. I quit after a couple of hours; doubled up but disgusted.

    1. Great report, Darryl, thanks. But I'm a little unclear as to whether the promos were helping or killing the action, I guess it was both depending on which promo was operative.

      Glad you had a great poker weekend!

    2. I was at a super nitty 1-2 NL table a couple of nights ago there and recognized a couple of faces. But I don't know if that was just unlucky on my part. Usually the games are at least decent IMO but I haven't played there much in the last month.


    3. That sounded like my table! The locals were just watching the action. I call it poker-bingo. If they actually make a hand they expect the tourists to donate to make the pot. If you get there and there are several people who have requested table changes, then you know you are going to be stuck at nitty table. People go to Vegas for action. Action killing nits are the worse. They are going to chase the tourists if they don't quit the promo's. The local grinders are in the habit of throwing money around. I tried to catch a game at the Aria but there was a waiting list of 25!! I went back to the MGM but was thinking maybe Belagio, PH or Excalibur. Mandeley Bay always has soft games with plenty of action, but it is so far down the strip. Any suggestions from the Vegas experts out there?

    4. @Annony....Yeah some of those promos tend to make the games really bad. I would suggest you try PH, maybe Bellagio. People tell me that the Venetian games are nitty but I've almost never fond that to be the case. Bally's can loose but they do have that freeroll. I would try to stay away from rooms that have freerolls.

  3. I'm not a fan of the promotions where you have to fill out a card. I've been a stamp or two away and then seemed to go card dead. I think it's too frustrating and it can take a long time to hit that one big hand you need.

    I really hate the "make all 4 flushes in a day" promotion. With the card promotion I saw how difficult it was to fill out the card when I needed to make 2 flushes in 2 weeks. Making 4 flushes in a day seems really tough and I've heard about players being one flush away, being in the room all day and not hitting that 4th flush.

    I can't stand the freerolls which gives money to the morning regs (or anyone else willing to get there early) and takes money away from tourists and even the regs who show up later in the day or at night.

    By far my favorite promotion there was the drawings promotion, and it was even better when they had seat drawings during football games. They changed that this year and I decided not to go there on Monday Night. Tourists could win and were happy, regs could win, loose players would get more tickets so it encouraged action (loose players also paid more jackpot money for winning more pots so it was fair), and it was simple when they had just one promotion. Having several promotions and constantly changing them is confusing and I hate having to spend a couple of minutes trying to figure them out. And I rarely get excited when I hear about changes or a new promotion.

    IMO if they're going to take $2 just get rid of the freeroll and all the other promotions and just have the drawings again, but this time have more winners. It's simple that way and it's more fun when you have more winners. One really good promotion is better than several promotions that are average at best.

    If they don't do that the only other promotions I might favor are high hand type of promotions and maybe a BBJ. If they're taking $2 have some high hand promotions and give out a decent amount of money. Mirage only takes $1 and gives out $500 for a royal, $200 for a straight flush and $100 for quads. And they have a BBJ. So if MGM takes $2 they could have a similar promotion with higher payouts for those hands. Maybe don't even have a BBJ and give out something like $200 or maybe even $300 for quads, $400 or $500 for a straight flush and $1000 for a royal. It's really simple and easy to advertise. People will want to play IMO if they can win $500 for a straight flush and $1000 for a royal.


    1. Great report, Steve....practically a blog post of it's own. I really haven't played most of those new promos at MGM so I can't say. Personally I've never liked the idea of trying to get all four flushes in a limited period of time, just find it odd.

      The old football promo they had last year and the year before was the best football promo in town. Trying to fill out a parlay card in a limited period of time sounds like a real stretch.

      The new round of MGM promos seem needlessly complicated to me, that's for sure. But I guess they are bringing in the locals.

      I loved the drawings when they first introduced them, but turned against them when I realized I was making too many dumb decisions as a result of their existence....mostly not leaving a game when I should have waiting for the next drawing.

  4. The four flush promo was amazing. I saw four locals on their last legs trying to get a flush before they turned into pumpkins. They were begging the dealer to deal faster and everyone to fold. It was only 500 dollars and they all had huge stacks that showed at least 900 profit. Still they hung on until midnight bleeding their stacks away. It was profitable but not fun.

    1. It aounds like sheer torture, that four flush promo...having to get there first thing, play all day if necessary, then come this close and run out of time (and probably got five or six extra flushes that didn't count) Poker is supposed to be fun.

  5. You are right, folding face up is probably wrong and is just for sympathy. the only thing it generally achieves is your opponent will nearly always show their winning hand after you do that.

    1. Yeah, I've heard that that is the one reason to show a big laydown, to get the reveal. It wouldn't work with me tho. If someone shows me his big fold, I never show back!

      Also, what if the guy does show and it's a bluff! Do you recover from that? I mean if I folded my Kings face up and he showed me two Jacks, I would have been on much bigger tilt than I was.