Sunday, February 28, 2016

"How Big is Yours?"

Saturday found me once again at the PC Ventura for another 1/2 session.

Before I get to the session, let me address something from my previous post about this poker room.  The title of that post, which you can find here, referenced what I thought was a dealer error.  The dealer failed to rule that a player had made a string bet.  Fortunately, I called his attention to it and got the correct ruling, so the dealer pushed back the player’s second stack of chips, I called and won the pot.

I was very surprised when a couple of readers commented on the post and said that they had played in rooms where it actually is up to the player to call out a string bet and that it was quite possible that the dealer in my story was following the house rule and, in fact, made no error.  I had never heard of that before, but I figured it was certainly worth asking about next time I played in this room.

Well, I did ask on Saturday, and sure enough, I was told by the person running the room that indeed, the house rule is that the dealer is not supposed to call out a string bet, it is up to the player to do it.  He said that they reason is that they don’t want the dealer to affect the action, or take sides, or something to that effect.


Well, I don’t get it, and for what it’s worth, I don’t agree with that house rule at all.  To me, that would be no different than allowing a player to make in improper raise as long as the player facing the action didn’t question it.  That is, suppose a player bets $50, and another player, with plenty of chips in his stack, tries to raise to $75 in a no limit game.  We would all agree that’s an improper raise, it would have to be $100 minimum. That surely wouldn’t be allowed, what is the different about that and the dealer not immediately halting a string bet?

Every single introductory poker book I ever read discusses the string bet (I use string bet and string raise interchangeably). They warn players that it is not allowed (and usually explain why) and I sure don’t recall them ever saying that rule varied from room to room and that the player was responsible for calling it him or herself. 

Just seems very basic….if something is not allowed, the dealer should stop it immediately. In the situation I was discussing, I was right next to the player so I was quite certain he hadn’t called out the amount he was betting.  But another player was across the table.  Maybe she figured, since the dealer hadn’t called it, that he had called out an amount?

Now, that lady was a regular and likely knew the house rule.  But what if she hadn’t known? OK, of course, if she was interested in the pot for the amount he first pushed out, it is her responsibility to question it regardless of the house rule.  Still, if she is used to playing in a house with “normal rules,” it would be easy to miss this.  Suppose she had never played there before, and just assumed it was right if the dealer hadn’t called it?

In fact, I’ve played in that room at least 20 times previously and never knew they had this odd rule.  I’ve never seen it before.  As far as I know, no room in Vegas has this rule.  I could be wrong, it’s possible there are rooms there that do it that way that I just haven’t played in enough to have encountered it.

This led me to think of this scenario.  I’ve seen many times, when a player makes a string bet, other players call it out.  Sometimes it’s a player who doesn’t have the action yet, and sometimes it’s even a player who is not in the hand.  What would happen if a player without cards called the string bet out?  Would the dealer warn him about talking about the hand?  I wonder.

Of course, now that I know the rule here, I could see it working to my advantage.  On the one hand, I could make the string bet in certain situations and see if the player knew to call it.  On the other hand, suppose a player makes the string bet when I’m holding the stone cold nuts?  No reason to point it out then, is there?

But honestly, I really don’t get it, and I don’t like it.  How do you all feel about it?

Anyway, to the session at hand. I got a seat right away, and I noticed two things about the table.  First, it was, shall we say, an older crowd.  Just by sitting down, I probably lowered the average age at the table by about 10 years.  The other thing though was that there were some big stacks at the table.  Mostly big stacks.  Big stacks for this game are stacks over $200, and this table had about 5 or 6 of those, including one gentleman who had about $600-$700.  This table must have been going for some time since the max buy-in for the game is $100.  So I knew I wanted to stay at this table.

It wasn’t a very aggro table but it wasn’t too nitty, either.  I never saw the blinds chopped.  There was at least 4 players seeing every flop, unless someone raised everyone out preflop.  That rarely happened.  The raises were smallish, ($4-$11).  But there was decent action.

Last time, I talked about the rake and how it was changed.  Well, I did see pots as small as $3 on the flop when only 4 players were in there without a raise.  In fact, early on, I was watching the dealer closely to see how the rake was taken.  And in doing so, I noticed one pot where the dealer absolutely forgot to take the rake.  They do it right after putting out the flop, and this time, she didn’t do it.  Didn’t do it after the turn.  And after the showdown, she pushed the entire pot to the winner without taking a single chip out of it.  I was rather surprised.

And so…I was wondering, should I say something?  I mean, it kind of bothered me.  I wasn’t in the hand of course, but I felt like the winner of the hand was getting a bonus he didn’t deserve. And of course, if it was discovered later (via security tape?), I thought maybe the dealer, a nice woman, would get in trouble.  But then I also thought….the casino will survive just fine without that five bucks.  And that’s five bucks more in play that I have a shot of winning, right?

But ultimately, the reason for not speaking up was…..I didn’t want to be like that kid in school who says, “Teacher, teacher, you forgot to give us homework!”  Right?  Anybody out there think I should have said something?

For the first hour or so, nothing was happening for me.  I dripped down to $53 from my $100 buy-in.  Now, in the past, I’ve thought that, for this particular game, I might as well just play with the short-short stack, wait for a semi-decent spot and shove, and try to build it up that way.  But with all those big stacks at the table, I figured a better way to go was to add on and try to actually play some poker to win some money.  So I bought $40 more in chips when the button came to me.

Still, I was bleeding chips. Very much card dead.  I was down to $68 when I looked down at a pair of Queens. Now as the cards were being dealt, the character in Seat 9 said, “I’m gonna raise to $13 this time.  I feel it.”  He hadn’t seen his cards yet.  I hadn’t seen my Queens either, and I resisted the temptation to ask if his verbal declaration was binding.

The reason I refer to him as a character was that he liked to raise blind.  Once I realized that, I was careful to watch him to make sure he looked at his cards preflop before he acted.  At least ¼ of the time he would not look and raise.  He especially liked to do that if the player two spots before him had straddled, as that player often did.   If the guy straddled and the next player folded, he’d put out $8 blind and only look if there was another raise.  So it was always important to know if this guy had seen his hand or not.

This time, before acting, he did look and then, as promised, put out $13.  This didn’t mean a lot.  I think based on his pre-look declaration, he would have made it $13 with almost any hand. Still, it was good to know that he had looked at his cards.  I should point out that the $13 was the largest opening raise I saw at this table the entire 3-1/2 hours I was there, except maybe for a few short-stack shoves of a bit more.  This guy though had a ton of chips in front of him.

Two players called the $13 before it got to me.  These were newer players who had come in after I got there. I was surprised to see two players call such a big raise at this table.

I wasn’t sure how to proceed.  I really didn’t want to just call there.  I felt I was well ahead of the character’s range, and probably ahead of the two players calling ranges as well. Almost no three-bet I could make would likely get anyone to fold, other than a shove.  And even then…..So, I did indeed shove.  The pot was already decent sized and if I had to take my chances with my two queens, I was ok with that.  And since they do have a “no flop, no drop” rule, the pot would be all mine, no $5 rake, if I got everyone to fold.

The character took a long time to decide.  I really thought he would call.  I figured the other two would fold even if he called, most likely.  Finally, the character decided to fold, the next guy folded instantly, and the last player, the one on my immediate right, took a bit of time to fold. Although he didn’t show, the character claimed to have pocket 10’s.

I may have won a really small pot before, but I tend to think this was the first pot I’d won since sitting down, and it did kind of get me started.

Now that guy on my immediate right, let’s call him “Benefactor.”  You’ll see why.  At one point, he thought he was going to move to a Big 0 game (I think it’s 3/6 but I’m sure it plays much, much bigger than this game), but it turned out they never got that game started.  He was probably the most aggressive player at the table once he got there.  He’d open for $10-$12 a good chunk of the time.

So it wasn’t too surprised when, a bit later, he raised to $10 after one limper.  The surprising part was that I was dealt two Aces.  I made it $28 and he called, we were heads up.  The flop was quite ugly.  King-Queen-Jack.  Then another Jack.  Then a 3.  I dunno, maybe too nitty, but I checked behind him every time.  He only showed one card, a 3.  O.K.  What the heck does he raise pre, then call a three-bet with that doesn’t hit that flop?  Or that has a 3 but obviously not pocket 3’s? No idea.

From the big blind, I completed with pocket 6’s.  Six of us saw the flop.  That’s a lot of 6’s!.  So for good measure, there was a 6 on the flop.  It was bottom set, rainbow flop. I led out with a $7 bet.  Three players called.  The turn was a blank and represented the fourth suit.  This time I bet $22.  Only one player called.  He only had $6-$8 left so I don’t know why he didn’t shove, but he didn’t.  Another blank on the river and I bet him all in. He put the rest of his chips in. He didn’t show when he saw my set.

Damn….my notes are missing a hand.  I did get Ace’s a second time, and now I can’t remember the details.  I raised with them (maybe $8), and only Benefactor called.  I bet all three streets, he called me on all three streets and didn’t show when I showed my Aces.  No idea what he had.

I open to $7 with King-Queen of spades.  Only the character in seat 9 called.  The flop had two spades on it and I c-bet $12.  He said, “I want to see one more card,” as he called.  Thanks for the tip.  When the turn was a blank, I started to bet $20 and he insta-mucked.  Hmmm….wonder if he had the flush draw too?  If he did, I don’t think he would not have folded the nut flush draw, so I might have made some nice money if I had caught my flush.

At this point, I had about $180 in front of me. Then Benefactor, sitting behind $90, opened to $7, and I had Ace-9 of hearts.  The $7 was a small raise for him (but more in line with what the rest of the table was doing).  I called and there was a third caller, a new player who had replaced the character in seat 9 (turns out the last hand I described was also his last hand, maybe that’s why he didn’t call me on the turn).  This player was the youngest player I’d seen at the table all day, he was wearing a Lakers baseball cap (the right way), so I immediately liked him (I mean, with the season the Lakers are having, I have to love anyone not embarrassed to wear that!).  He had a bit less than $100. The flop was Queen-high and every single card on it had one of them lovely heart designs on it.  The Lakers guy, who had been one of the blinds, checked, and to my delight, Benefactor put out a bet of $14.  

Now, normally, I don’t slow play flushes.  But I decided to take a chance this time.  And I was hoping maybe Lakers guy would come along if I only called and didn’t raise.  But he folded.  The turn was a blank, and as I was deciding whether or not to raise if Benefactor bet, he saved me the trouble by immediately announcing, “all-in.”

Seriously, is there any better sound in poker than hearing your opponent say “all-in” when you’re holding the stone cold nuts?  I think not.

Science has not yet developed an instrument with a fine enough precision to measure how little time there was between his saying “all-in” and yours truly saying, “call.”

And so, he started to flip his hand over even before the dealer was putting out the river card.  And he said, “How big is yours?”

Ahem.  That’s a rather personal question, isn’t it?  Rather than answer verbally, I simply showed him my nuts.  I mean, I showed him the nuts.  He showed Jack-7 of hearts (always a good raising hand, no?).  There was actually another heart on the river for good measure that didn’t change a thing.  He left, giving up all hope of beating me on this day.  This time I didn’t even need pocket Aces to take his money! 

He hadn’t pushed his chips in or towards me, but it was no bother at all for me to slide them from his now abandoned spot to mine.  In fact, I rather enjoyed it.

One of the other players asked me if I had gotten that guy’s number so I could find out when/where he was gonna play again.

I left a few orbits later, having been dealt nothing to play.  I ended up winning a bit over $140, not bad at all for the size of this game. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The First Win

As I’ve documented earlier—months ago, in fact—my Halloween trip to Vegas was not a very good one, poker wise.  I came back battered and disillusioned, with my confidence wavering and my poker bankroll diminished.  So I was sure hoping to get my next Vegas trip, at Christmas time, off to a better start.

It didn’t turn out that way.  My first five days in Vegas left me without a single win to book.  The good news was that the loses had not been too severe.  Also, I had managed to win a couple of $100 promos in that time—one for the cash drawings and one for the football.  So my bankroll wasn’t suffering nearly as much my ego.

On this night, my sixth night in town, I wasn’t even sure I was going to play poker.  My friends from L.A. had driven into town, and I offered to take them to Tap, the Sports Bar next to the MGM poker room, for dinner.  Of course, I had plenty of poker comps in reserve to cover it.

We had a nice dinner. My friends were tired from the long drive so after they went back to their hotel, I had a few hours to get some poker in. I got on the list, must have been around 10PM. It didn’t take long before they opened a new table.

The first pot I won, early, was with pocket deuces.  I missed the flop, but no one bet it or the turn.  Finally someone bet the river—a whopping two bucks.  Since the river was a deuce, I made it $10 and didn’t get a call.  Guess I should have done the min-raise there.

I raised to $7 with King-Queen off in late position and had two callers.  The flop was pretty nice: Ace-Jack-10 (well nice if you consider flopping the nuts nice).  There were two clubs on the board.  I bet $16 and didn’t get a call.

I raised to $7 with Ace-3 of hearts and Badger raised to $15.  Badger?  Yeah, my friends had noticed this guy waiting for a game when we got to the poker room and thought he looked like the Badger character from Breaking Bad.  I called and we were heads up.  There was one heart on the flop and we both checked.  The turn was a blank and we both checked. The river was a 3.  I guess I should have bet, but I couldn’t imagine him calling with Ace-high so I just checked and he showed his hand...Ace-Queen. My measly 3 was good.  Hmm….if you’re gonna 3-bet with Ace-Queen, why wouldn’t you c-bet the flop?  I would have folded.

I raised to $15 after a few limpers with Ace-King off.  One caller.  The flop was Ace-Queen-2, two clubs.  I bet $25, he called.  The turn was a deuce, which put two diamonds on the board.  I bet $60 and didn’t get a call.

Then I gave some money away.  I raised to $8 with 9-8 of clubs and had four callers.  The flop was Queen-10-7.  The 7 was a club.  I called a donk bet of $20, we were heads up.  The turn was a blank.  I called $40.  The river paired the 10, we both checked.  She showed a Queen.

I limped in with pocket 7’s and then called $12 from a guy who had just joined the table. It was three-way. The flop was 10-7-4, two clubs. The preflop raiser led out for $20, I made it $60.  The third guy tanked and finally folded.  The first guy shoved.  I had him covered.  I snap called.  He showed pocket Aces.  Nice.  For good measure, I caught a 10 on the river for the boat. I won about $150 on that hand.

The very next hand I had pocket Jacks, raised to $10, and had two callers.  The flop was King-high, but my $20 c-bet was enough to take it down.

Sometime later I had pocket 10’s, raised to $10, had five callers.  The flop was Jack-high, but my $30 c-bet was good enough to drag the pot.

By the time I was ready to call it a night, my profits had dwindled down to $70.  I cashed out, booking the first win of this trip, and it was a good feeling to do that, even if it wasn’t a lot of money.  As you may recall, this trip turned into a profitable one by the time I came home, and this small win was the start of the turn-around.  In fact, the very next night was the big score I already told you about at Harrah’s (see here)….and I was off to the races.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"When Was The Last Time You Saw an Asian Straddle?"

This session took place on New Years Eve, but there isn’t much to report that is really New Years Eve-ish.  The entire night I only saw two outrageous drunks.  One was a playing at my table when I got there.  He was a middle aged guy who could barely keep track of his chips or look at his cards.  It was only 7PM and there was just no way this guy was gonna make it to midnight before passing out.  Unfortunately, he managed to lose his stack to other people, not your humble scribe.  Ordinarily I might have been sad to see him leave without donating more money, but he was so smashed he was just slowing up the game, he couldn’t focus on when it was his turn, took a long time to act, and frankly, I kind of expecting him to just pass out at the table any second.  When he did bust out, he somehow managed to walk out of the poker room under his own power.  This was before 8PM.

The other outrageous drunk was a Slut Parade girl much, much later, like around 2:30AM.  She was leaving the club and could barely walk.  Actually, she couldn’t walk.  But her boyfriend was with propping her up as they walked.  No way she could have taken two steps without his support.  In fact, I think she almost took the both of them down a couple of times. 

Other than that, it was more or less an average Slut Parade night, just a lot more people than usual. Yes, there were plenty of attractive young ladies demonstrating a myriad of ways to display the female form without quite violating decency laws.

I was assigned one of the prime SP viewing tables, but the seat was one where my back was to the foot traffic.  So as soon as sat down, I asked the dealer for a seat change button.  I had a lot of time for one of the two prime viewing seats to open before the heavy traffic would start flowing. 

The fellow on my left was a young Asian man, much better dressed than the average guy you see playing poker in Vegas.  He immediately reacted to my request for a seat change.  “What’s wrong?  Do I stink?  You just got here and you want a seat change?”  I just laughed, and he continued, “Do I talk too much?  Don’t you like Asians? I took a shower today.”  He seemed to be joking around, so I just smiled and said nothing.  I wasn’t about to tell him that I wanted a better seat to enjoy the coming parade.  Actually, although I didn’t know it just then, it turned out that yes, he did talk too much.

Not long after I got there, he apparently thought he was the big blind when he was actually under-the-gun.  He put out a red chip.  The dealer asked if he was straddling, and he immediately grabbed the chip back.  “No, no, I’m not straddling.  I thought I was the big blind.  An  Asian straddling?  When was the last time you saw an Asian straddle?”  I got a good chuckle out of that.

Sometime later, he asked me, “Do you live here?”  I decided to give it back to him.  “Here?  You mean on this planet?”  You couldn’t take it as well as he could dish it out.  He seemed genuinely bothered by my witty comeback (it was a witty comeback, right?) and basically didn’t say another word to me the rest of the evening.

He wasn’t drinking a lot and didn’t appear to be drunk.  But he kind of got carried away with his schtick when a female Asian dealer pushed in.  This girl was very, very small.  First the Asian dude asked if she was Korean and she said no.  He insisted she was.  “I know you’re Korean.  You’re actually from North Korea, right?”  The poor dealer did her best to ignore him.  The more she ignored him, the more he harassed her, and this was no longer fun, at least from my perspective.  At one point he referred to her as a “midget.”  Yeesh.  She was a small girl, but not anywhere near that small. 

There was a Chinese woman at the table that he also was chatting up a lot, making jokes about—basically at her expense. She didn’t talk much and I think her English wasn’t very good.  I believe she might actually have been visiting from China rather than being a Chinese-American.  She mostly giggled to his comments, or said nothing.  Or denied whatever “playful” accusation he was making. 

There was a guy there with a much younger man—likely a father & son combination.  The older guy looked to me like Dustin Hoffman, only a bit older (or maybe what he looks like now, for all I know).  And he was bantering with the rude Asian guy and to some degree was joining in with him in harassing the poor Chinese woman.  And at one point, the Chinese woman said something which unfortunately I didn’t hear, but it prompted Dustin Hoffman to say to her, “The only person at the table I want to see naked is you.”  She didn’t react to that at all.  Seems a little inappropriate to say to a total stranger at a poker table though, right?  I suspect it was the rude Asian guy that had somehow brought the topic of “naked” into the conversation but I didn’t hear how.

Actually, this guy made a number of insults to both the dealer and the player.  Some of them seemed a bit vulgar to me, and some were just Asian ethnic slurs.  I guess he’s “allowed” to do that because he himself was Asian? The thing is, by the time I did my voice notes very late the next day, I had forgotten them.  Just as well, I suspect they would not have been appropriate for the blog (not that usually stops me).

By the time the small Asian dealer had completed her down, I had moved into the stinking drunk’s chair after he busted—one of the two prime SP viewing seats next to the dealer.  So I said to her, whispering, that she really shouldn’t have taken that abuse from the rude Asian guy.  I told her she should have said something to him or called the floor.  But she said it was no big deal and she hadn’t even heard most of it. 

As for the poker, I had noticed the Dustin Hoffman guy was fairly aggressive.  I saw one hand where he raised preflop and bet all three streets like he had a big hand.  He was called on the river and showed a lowly pair of deuces.  However, the river was actually a deuce, and he took the pot.  Until then, he was betting with the worst hand each time. I noticed he was showing down other hands with fairly marginal holdings  So I kept that in mind on the first hand I went up against him.

I had 7-6 offsuit in the small blind and completed.  Seven of us saw the flop, including Dustin Hoffman.  The flop was King-7-6, rainbow.  I led out for $10.  Only Dustin Hoffman called.  I bet $20 on the turn, which was a 10.  He called.  The river was a deuce.  I bet out $50.  He tanked forever.  He started talking.  “How good is your kicker?.....There’s no way you have two pair….you got a good kicker? I got a good kicker….you can’t have two pair.”  At one point he asked if I would show if he folded.  I said, “No….I never show.”

He finally called and I proved to him that I indeed did have two pair.  He mucked without showing, but he later claimed he had Ace-King.  Highly doubtful.  He would have raised preflop with that, and also, why was he asking me about my kicker when he had the best possible one? Boy did he howl though.  “7-6?  You played 7-6?  I can’t believe you played 7-6.”  Well, I was the small blind, which I didn’t bother reminding of.  With all those limpers it would have been criminal not to throw a buck in with a connected hand there.  But he kept fuming the rest of the time at the table that I had played 7-6.  Of course, that was a premium hand compared to most of the hands he was playing.  For some reason, the more he bitched about my play, the sweeter the victory became.

After a crapload of limpers, I made it $18 from the big blind with pocket Aces, no call.

I raised to $8 with Ace-King, three called.  The flop was King-Queen-9, I bet $20, two called.  I checked a Jack turn, as did the others.  The river was a blank, I bet $30 and didn’t get a call.

After the rude Asian kid left, followed soon thereafter by Dustin Hoffman and his younger companion, the table filled up with some of the worst poker players I’d ever seen. Actually it would be unfair to call them bad poker players. They weren’t really poker players at all.  They were obviously very new to the game.  I’m not sure how well they understood the basics of the game, let alone any strategy.  But it made it extremely difficult to play against them.  The would sometimes play garbage hands like they were monsters, and could play monsters like they were bottom pairs.  And I think it was mostly because they didn’t really know what they were doing.  Two of these players were Asians themselves, but they couldn’t have been more different from the typical stereotypical Asian player.  It did strike me as very odd that three or four people who knew very little about poker would decide to play the game on New Year’s Eve.  Hmm….maybe it was because the minimum bet at any blackjack table was probably $100.

By the time I had Ace-King again, the bad players had arrived.  After a few limpers, I raised to $16.  It was four ways, including the worst of newbies.  The flop was King-high and I bet $40, getting called only by the worst player at the table.  It was scary because he could have easily had a set of Kings—or 7-high.  There was another King on the turn and I bet $60 and he called.  The river was a blank and I really had no idea what the guy could have had.  I decided to just check behind him.  He had an unimproved pair of 4’s.

Unfortunately, a hand or two later I gave it back to him.  I had Ace-9 in the small blind and just completed.  The flop was Ace-King-4.  The newbie led out for $10, the other player folded, and I just called.  I called $20 on a blank turn.  The river was another blank and he shoved his last $52.  I should have folded, but I thought it was at least 50/50 he either had a lower pair or a worse Ace than mine, so I did call. He showed King-4 to take it.

I called $6 with Ace-King and it was four-ways.  The flop was King-high, and the preflop raiser checked.  I bet $20 and she called, it was heads up.  I bet $30 on a blank turn and she called.  I checked the river, which paired a 7.  She had King-Queen and I dragged the pot.

Somewhere along the way, my pal Abe had joined the table.  He opened a pot with 10-9 of hearts and was called by one of the clueless guys.  Abe never caught anything, and I don’t recall if there was any betting after the flop.  But Abe’s 10-high was good against the clueless guy’s 3-2 (he had a gutshot).  Abe enjoyed winning with 10-high and said to me, “In your blog, make sure you say that I thought I might be good there.”  Done.

In the big blind, I had King-Jack of diamonds and it was 6-ways. The board was all red—but all hearts, no diamonds.  The high card was a King.  It was checked around. I bet $7 on a blank turn and $15 on a blank river and was called in three spots each time.  No one showed when they saw my King.

In the small blind, I called $6 with Ace-3 of clubs.  It was four-ways.  The flop was Ace-high with one low club.  I called $20 from one of the clueless guys, and it was heads up.  The turn was a 5 of clubs, which gave me not only the nut flush draw but a gutshot straight flush draw.  I called $30.  The river was the Jack of clubs.  I was wondering if I should bet.  Clueless as this guy was, he could probably see three clubs on the board.  But he helped me out.  Before I acted, he went to grab some chips and was about to bet before the dealer stopped him and said it wasn’t his turn. OK….in that case, easy decision.  I checked.  Since he hadn’t actually made a bet, he wasn’t really committed to betting, but I wasn’t worried about that.  Sure enough, he bet $55.  Sweet.  I wasn’t sure how much to make it, I decided on slightly more than a min-raise.  I put out $120.  He tanked for awhile and I was wondering if he might re-raise (would have had to have been a shove).  He didn’t do that.  He just called.  He didn’t show when the dealer called out my flush.

That gave me a double up for the night.  Didn’t get much else to play for the rest of the night.  It was well into the new year when I quit, up $220.  A decent start to 2016 (even tho most of it took place in 2015.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Isn't it a String Bet Whether I Call it That or Not?

I returned to PC Ventura yesterday and played some more 1/2 NL ($100 max buy-in).  I figured since I dedicated my last two blog posts (see here and here) to this game, I should try to see if I had learned anything and if so, could I put it to use?

Not sure if I played any smarter this time but I didn’t face the kind of situation I talked about before.  But I came out ahead, pulled off a nice bluff, saw a really weird rules interpretation, so it was a worthwhile few hours.

The first thing I want to mention is, I found out why a min-raise to $4 was so common in this game.  What I hadn’t realized last time was they recently changed the way they take the rake here.  It used to be, no rake if the pot was $18 or less.  If the pot was $19 or more, they took the full rake ($5).  Remember, taking the rake in one lump sum instead of at $10 intervals (like in Vegas) is the normal way they do things at the L.A. area poker rooms.

But now, they take the rake up front, just like they do at the other area rooms.  If there is a flop, they take a rake, no matter what.  No flop, no drop, I believe.  I mean, I think if everyone limped in, then the big blind made a big raise and got everyone to fold, there wouldn’t be a rake. And there’s some kind of consideration for if there are only two or three players seeing a flop in an unraised pot.  Like maybe if there are two limpers and the small blind folds, they leave a dollar in there.  I definitely saw a pot where two people were playing for a dollar pot.  There was another pot tho where there was actually no pot, they took away all $4!  Maybe that was blind vs blind and they didn’t want to chop?  Not sure, I should have questioned it more.

But that explains the small raise….to get the pot at least big enough so that after the rake there’s at least a few bucks in there.  Usually in this game, if there’s an early limper, it’s not a problem, there will be a few callers.  But if you want to limp late, you need to raise to make sure there’s still a pot.  So a raise to $4 is mostly a marginal hand not worth raising, barely worth limping, but one a player wants to play to see a flop.

Of course, that still doesn’t explain this move I saw, early in my session.  A bunch of us limped in, including myself with a small pocket pair.  There was at least $10 in limps when it got to the small blind.  The lady there made it $4.  Huh?  She didn’t need to inflate pot to make sure there was one, there were more than enough limpers.  What does a $2 raise accomplish?  No one is folding.  If she’s got Aces or Kings, she should have raised bigger, right?  And a lesser hand, since she’s not chasing anyone away, why not just complete and see what the flop brings? She was not an aggressive player.  In fact, I heard her say she prefers playing limit poker—that’s what she plays when she goes to Commerce—but there’s no limit game here.  I guess she had a hand she’d raise a single bet with in a limit game.  She was playing it like it was a limit game.  But it is no limit.  So after we all started calling the $2, the guy on my left, who had limped in, shoved for $29 and got everyone out.  Almost like there was some collusion there.  Lady could have seen the flop for a buck, but got cute with a raise.  She folded, very annoyed.  Had no one to blame but herself there.

I raised to $8 (actually meant to make it $9 but miscounted those damn dollar chips) after one limper with Jack-10 offsuit in the cutoff.  Only the button called.  So much for having position.  The flop was Ace-8-8.  I valiantly put out a $12 continuation bet.  He called.  The turn was a blank, I checked and folded to his $20 bet.

After one limper, I raised to $9 with Jack-9 of hearts. Three of us saw a low flop.  It checked to me, but one of the players who checked, an older gentleman, looked like he was going to grab some chips to bet and thought better of it.  I decided not to c-bet.  The turn was a 9, a lady bet $8, the gentleman called and so did I. The river was a low card and the board now was 9-5-4-3-2..  The lady bet $20, we both folded and she showed an Ace for the wheel.

I had Queen-9 in the small blind and completed.  It was four of us seeing the flop.  The flop was Queen-Jack-2.  I led out for $4 and had two callers, including the guy directly to my left.  The turn was a King and I checked.  The guy on my left bet $10, the lady called, and I called.  The river was a low card.  I checked.  The guy on my left bet.  But here’s what he did.  He took a stack of $1 chips and slid them in front of him, and then immediately slid another stack of similar size right next to them.  Before I had a chance to point out it was a string bet, the lady in the hand folded instantly.

The guy was right next to me so I was 99.99769% sure he hadn’t called out an amount.  So I said to the dealer, “Wasn’t that a string bet?”  And the dealer said to me, without a moment’s hesitation, “If you call it a string bet, it’s a string bet,” and pushed one of the two stacks back to the guy. Huh?  How does that work?  It’s only a string bet if I call him out on it?  Isn’t it a string bet no matter what? It’s not up to me to make that decision, it’s up to the dealer.  If the dealer noticed it was a string bet, shouldn’t he have said something immediately?  He didn’t even ask the player (who didn’t complain at all, by the way).  He knew it was a string bet but was gonna let it go if I hadn’t said anything. How is that right?

And I was thinking, what about the woman who folded?  Maybe she would have called the $11 whereas she was folding to $22.  She was on the other side of the table, and maybe thought the guy might have said raise.  Too late to get her cards back.  But she didn’t say anything so I guess it wasn’t an issue.

I was surprised, I have found the dealers to be very good in this room, probably better than a lot of the dealers I encounter at the Bike.  I had never before witnessed what I thought to be a obvious goof like that.

The irony was that a few minutes later, we were talking about other L.A. area poker rooms and this dealer himself bragged about how well he controlled the game, comparing himself favorable to dealers at the Bike, Commerce, etc.  I was inwardly amused.

(Edited to add: For more discussion about the string bet issue I just addressed, you can read the follow up post here).

Anyway, as for the hand, I had seen this guy make bluff bets on the river before, or bet the river with mediocre holdings.  So for $11 I decided to see if my Queen was good.  Good call.  He showed Jack-10.  My pair was bigger than his (so-to-speak).  If I hadn’t spoken up, I would have likely folded to his $22 bet.  It pays to pay attention. That was a pot I almost gave away.  And of course, he had himself to blame for betting improperly. He was not a novice player, he knew he had screwed up.

I was down to $45 from my original buy-in and that gave me almost a double up.  I limped in with pocket 6’s and then called a raise to $6.  It was 5-ways.  The flop was 6-5-3, two hearts.  A woman shoved for $26, it folded to me.  I called of course. The only player behind me had a bit more than the $26 so there wasn’t any point in raising, but he folded anyway.  The turn and river were a black Queen and a black Jack, but she didn’t have the flush draw.  She had pocket 4’s for the open ended straight draw that missed.

First time all day I had more chips than I started with.  I called $8 with 9-8 offsuit in the cutoff.  The guy who raised was on my immediate right and almost never limped in.  In fact, it was because of him that I learned how the new rake worked.  He was saying earlier how it made no sense to limp in and that you could never beat this game because of the rake.  So he generally only came in for a raise unless there were many limpers.  Point being, I didn’t think his $8 raise (which was actually kind of a big opening raise for this game) meant he just had a monster.  So I took a shot.

We were heads up and the flop came Queen-10-4.  He bet $10 and I called with my gut shot.  The turn was a blank and he checked.  I should have bet there, but I checked.  There was an Ace on the river, and he checked.  This guy was almost definitely the best player at the table, for what it was worth.  Which meant, I thought I could bluff him.  Hard to bluff a bad player.  As soon as I saw his check, I wasted no time and immediately grabbed a $20 stack and with great confidence, set it out in front of me.

He tanked and tanked.  I was sure he was gonna call.  I guess he had something or he would have folded instantly.  But after a good long time, he mucked, asking, “You have Broadway?”  I said nothing, of course.  Then he said, “Hung around and caught your Ace, huh?”  I kind of half laughed, which I think he took as a “yes.”  I didn’t want to tell him I had won the hand with 9-high.  I bet he could have beaten that!  Pulling off a bluff feels really good, doesn’t it? 

He was a real nice guy, and I felt maybe when he left I should have told him it was total bluff, but didn’t get a chance.  Actually, from talking to him, it turns out he is involved somewhat in the poker business, on the tournament side of things for a few different rooms.  He is not someone you’ve heard of—at least I assume, I never got his name—but he mentioned a partner whose name was familiar to me.  I don’t want to say more for fear of identifying him.

I got distracted and didn’t take full notes on my last two hands of note.  Once I had pocket Queens—the only big pair I had all day—and took it down with a preflop raise.

Then, as I was ready to leave, I called a small raise, not sure how much, from the button with 3-2 of diamonds.  There were many in the pot and I figured I’d invest a few bucks to see if I could smash a flop.  And I did.  It was 5-4-3.  The 5 and the 4 were diamonds giving me an open-ended straight flush draw (and a pair, of course).  I called a small bet after everyone else had folded.  I didn’t think I had any fold equity to the guy’s small stack so I didn’t raise.  The turn was a blank and he put out the rest of his chips.  It was $22.  I called.  He turned over his hand as the river card was about to be exposed.  He had Ace-2 off for a flopped wheel.  The river was diamond, however (like a 9 or 10, so no straight flush) and I took the pot.

That was it.  I left with about a $70 profit for a nice 3 hour session, and I was satisfied with that. Now that I know how the rake works, when I play this game again I will be more inclined to raise, for sure.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I Should Have Three-Bet

This is the follow up to my last post, which you can find here.  No point in reading this if you haven’t read that one.

I want to thank everyone who commented, got some great feedback which I think will help me in the future.

One common theme was that I should have three-bet preflop.  I guess so.  I did consider it but as I said, not really used to three-betting 9-9 and also, the shorter stack sizes made it tricky.  Didn’t want to get too easily committed to the hand, plus I couldn’t rule out someone shoving preflop against with a shortish stack and thus blowing me off the hand.  But I’m taking that advice to heart.

Before I give you my decision and how the hand played out, I want to do some further analysis.  As I mentioned last time, I ran this by my buddy Don and he helped me think it through and also pointed me in the right way to think about it.  BTW, Don was ok with not three-betting there.

Perhaps the biggest oversight on my part was not giving enough consideration to the possibility that one or both of the other players did not have a straight.  I recall when I first started playing poker I had a tendency to assume my opponents always had the nuts, and then make my decision based on that.  I’ve gotten away from that, but perhaps I fell back towards that on this hand.

It’s important to consider because if you put the other players on a range of hands, and not just straights, the math will obviously dictate a different play than assuming you need to improve to win the pot—and also assuming there’s no way you can bet the lady off her hand.

What if the lady had 10-8 or 10-6 and that explains her turn bet, picking up a second pair there?  Is that possible?  The short stack slow played a set on the flop and then shoved the turn?  Is that possible?  Or maybe two pair for him is a possibility.

Don ran the numbers.  I don’t have his calculations but I trust his reportage.  First he put the players on ranges that included any 7, any two pair hands, any set (including a turned set of 10’s.  Then he separated the two players and did the numbers as if there were two separate hands.  Hand A I was against the short stack.  Hand B I was against the lady.  And he ran it assuming that I would shove the turn and the lady would call (I’ll get back to that).

Against those ranges, the math indicates a shove by me would have been the right play.

On the other hand, If I put them only on straights, the math is against me, and the right play is to fold, I just don’t have enough equity to catch my boat.  Actually, if either one of them absolutely has a straight, it’s a fold.

That’s all well and good, but of course, poker is a game of reads.  And honestly, I was really, really sure of my read there that they both had straights. Maybe that’s why I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking of non-straight ranges  For the lady, I could see her playing through the flop that way with either a flopped two pair or a flopped pair that turned into two pair.  But the way she was playing, I really couldn’t believe she would have bet the turn if she had less than a straight.  If she had flopped an under-set, she would have gotten aggressive on the flop, and either led out or check-raised me.  And with all those straight cards on the turn, if she caught two pair I’m certain she would have checked and tried to see the river for as little as possible.  I’m really 99% certain here.

The shover is a bit more of an open question, but again, if he caught something on the flop, it wouldn’t make any sense—especially in this type of game—to not be aggressive on the flop.  I gave him the opportunity to check-raise if he wanted to do it that way, and he didn’t.  He almost had to have a draw.  The only non-straight hand that made sense was pocket 10’s, but he likely would have made a small-to-medium bet on the flop with the over pair.  I’m about 95% certain he had a straight or an unlikely turned set of 10’s (of course, that’s worse for me than a straight, it leaves me with a one-outer).

So based on the confidence I had in my reads, it’s a fold.  But it was rather a somewhat of a close call. If I felt there was more chance than I assumed that they had less than straights, it’s probably a call (or  a raise).

And then….well, after Don read my post and saw what I said about my reads, he came back with this great insight: “when someone who ordinarily just check calls comes out and bets, they almost always have a monster and when a tight short stack who hasn't been that active shoves over the top of that, he's got the nuts. Remember, in this case you aren't even relying in just your read on two opponents. You have the information that the second player shoved over an unusual lead from the British lady in the blind. That adds up to a really strong hand from him.”

So the odds didn’t justify a call.

Which brings us to the other question.  If I continue, do I call or shove?  Don said that in his opinion, calling was the worst of the three options.  It’s either a fold or a shove.  We didn’t really discuss that much, and I’m not sure about that.  One of the reasons it was so tricky for me at the table was that I was considering both options, shove or call, and trying to work the math for both.  It was confusing.  One advantage of just considering fold or shove is it makes the math a lot simpler. 

But again, I was assuming no fold equity there.  If we go back and consider the lady might have two pair or an underset, does she fold?  And does it matter (since that will put me heads up with someone who can’t fold and probably has a straight)?  Because if I shove and she does fold, I don’t have the odds I thought I had (but I end up risking less). 

I still maintain that the $60 or so I might have saved by just calling there was not insignificant in a short-stack game like this.  Or, maybe a call keeps her in with her two pair, whereas a shove folds her out?  And if I call, I might not get her money if the board pairs.  On the other hand, to call my $60 for the size of the pot might be something she would do, even if he did think I had boated up.  Maybe she thinks the short-stack has the boat and she can win the side pot from me?

So I’m still not sure if, had I decided to continue, a shove or a call is the best play.

With all that in mind, here’s how the hand actually played out.

After tanking, I ended up folding. I didn’t think I had the right price to go for the boat. The lady did call, although more hesitantly than I would have expected.  She showed Jack-7.  So I was right about the straight.  The short-stack showed Ace-7 for a smaller straight.  The lady was relieved of course…..she said that she was very concerned he had Queen-Jack for bigger straight.  That’s why she took a bit to call. 

Well, that tells me that she may have folded to my shove.  She probably would have assumed that one of us a bigger straight than she did.  And my chips would have cut into her profitable day.  I dare say, based on her comment and her hesitancy to call, she might have even folded if I had just called.

I wanted to ask her the hypothetical—would she have folded to my turn shove?  But I didn’t want to reveal anything about what I had.  But that dialog from her made the hand stand out in my mind more than it otherwise would have.

Well that and the river card.  It was a 6, which would have given me the boat.  And the pot.  Probably wouldn’t have gotten all the lady’s chips (though maybe I would have) but it would have been a nice pot to drag in.

So based on my read (which turned out to be completely correct), it was marginally a good fold.  We’ll just forget about the results-oriented thinking that makes it a bad fold, ok?

And next time, I’m three-betting with pocket 9’s in that spot.  I am, I am, I am.