Wednesday, June 21, 2017

There's a Reason I Call Them "Dreaded"

Sigh.  In my last post (here), I mentioned that I'd had the dreaded pocket Kings a few times so far this trip and won a few, lost a few, but nothing too dramatic.

Until Sunday night. I was having an ok session, down a little but mostly due to still being incredibly card dead when my buddy Mike came to deal.  The night before, I'd actually won a few small pots during his down, so I was hoping the trend would continue.

Now those of you who have ridiculously good memories might recall me mentioning here that Mike seems to deal me pocket Kings more than any other dealer.  Actually, I'm not sure that's true.  But going back to the days when I was playing 2/4 limit, we both noticed that there was a time there where Mike seemed to deal them to me at least once every down that I was at his table.  Of course, when you're playing 2/4 limit, pocket Kings can't do as much damage as they can when you're playing no limit. And losing with them is pretty common.  Usually 4 to 6 players see the flop, so even pocket Aces don't hold up very often unless they are improved.  So it was just a running gag between the two of us.

It wasn't till I started playing NL that those Kings started killing me so much I came to dread them (and I still regret not trademarking the term "dreaded pocket Kings.")  Honestly, I can't say the pocket Kings Mike has dealt me over the recent years have been any deadlier than KK dealt to me by any other poker dealer. And truth be told, despite the running gag, Mike hasn't been sending Kings to me in pairs very often for some time.  In fact, I can't remember the last time he dealt them to me.  Well now I can….it was Sunday night.

So near the end of his down, Mike dealt me a couple of cowboys just like old times.  I was in late position and someone in early position had raised to $8 and it seemed like everyone but Wonder Woman called the $8.  So I made it $50.  Everyone folded until one guy went all in, but he only had $37 to shove.  We were heads up.

We didn't show but the flop looked harmless enough to me.  Just a couple of 7's and I can't remember what else.  There was no King, of course.  So when we revealed our hands, naturally the guy showed pocket 7's.  Of course I would lose with pocket Kings to freaking flopped quads with Mike dealing!  It seemed so right.

Well, Mike pointed out that it could have been worse because he was short-stacked.  True enough, but if he had a decent sized stack, he likely wouldn't have called a $50 bet with two lousy 7's.

Before Mike left, he dealt me two 4's and I limped in, along with five others.  I flopped a set, bet $5 and got three callers.  I bet $20 on a blank turn and didn't get a call. 

A new dealer came in to replace Mike.  On his first hand, I opened to $8 with Ace-9 of spades.  It folded to the guy to my right who made it $28.  I decided to let it go.  The guy showed his hand….pocket Kings.

The very next hand, in the big blind, I got the Kings.  This was less than 10 minutes after Mike had dealt me the Kings and exactly one hand after the guy on my right had Kings.  An early position player had opened to $7 and there had been a caller.  I made it $28. 

The original raiser—who had just come to the table and who I didn't know from Adam—made a large re-raise that was more than I had left.  It folded back to me and of course I called off my stack.  We didn't show.  The flop was Queen-Jack-X, which I figured was bad news.  The turn was even more bad news—an Ace.  The river was a brick. 

I mentioned to the dealer, who I was sitting next to, that it was a horrible board for my hand.  He said, "pocket Kings?"  And when the river was dealt I showed them.  The other guy took his sweet time to flip his hand.  Now that I think about it, he kind of slow-rolled me.  And he showed….Ace-King of course. 

I was done.  Losing twice in a 10-minute span with my cursed hand was a signal it was time to call it a night.  It was getting late and I didn't think I'd get off tilt before it was time to quit anyway.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Vegas is No Place to be Card Dead

You can consider this a mid-trip update but I'm not yet at the midpoint of my current Vegas visit.  Although if the cards don't start coming, I might have to cut it short.

Been in Vegas for eight nights so far.  One day, I didn't play at all.  Still, that's a lot of poker and it's a lot of poker to be card dead.

For example, until last night, I had gone all those poker sessions without seeing pocket Aces, pocket Queens and pocket Jacks even one damn time.  Not once.

Of course, I did get the dreaded pocket Kings a few times.  Won a few, lost a few.  Without listening to my voice notes, I can't recall an especially horrendous loss with them.  And a couple of the "wins" consisted of me raising with them preflop and not getting a call (of course, that's an excellent result as far as I'm concerned).

But yeah, no Aces, Queens or Jacks.  How do you play that much poker and not get those hands even once? And I just had to Google "suited connectors" to remind myself what exactly they are, it has been so long since I've seen them.  Yeah, I've had an occasional Ace-King or Ace-Queen.  But mostly I've been seeing just total garbage hands.  All this time.

Last night, things changed a bit—a bit.  I did get pocket Queens for the first time this trip—and won with them.  I got pocket Jacks twice; won one, lost one.  And near the end of the session I did get Aces.  They held up for a smallish pot.  That put me in the black for the session, and I left that way.  Maybe it means I'll start getting more playable cards.  Sure hope so.

At least the total unplayability of the starting hands I'm getting means I'm not losing too much.  Throwing away your hand preflop is a lot cheaper than going to showdown with the second best hand.

But it doesn't get me many blog posts, either.  I guess I have a few stories to tell when I have more time, but the blogging material has been almost as bad as my starting hands.

This is short even by other blogger's standards, and practically a tweet by my standards, but I wanted to get something up on the blog.  Hopefully I'll have something spectacular to report sooner rather than later.

Oh, did I mention that right now EDC is going in Vegas?  It's sorta like this…..

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wake Up! It's Time to Play a Tournament

If you follow me on Twitter you know I'm back in Vegas now.   I drove up Friday and had a brief session that night.  Not sure if there's much to blog about from that game even though I was able to book a small win.

I didn't get much time to relax before I found myself playing in the first major of the trip—the $200 NLHE tourney at Golden Nugget the very weekend I got to town.  It had no less than nine starting flights spread out over three days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), with Day 2 Sunday and a $200K guaranteed prize pool.  With 3,329 entrants they ending up smashing the guarantee with a total prize pool of over $500K.

I figured I had to take a shot at this tourney as soon as I entered into PokerAtlas and then once I realized I’d be in town for the entire last day of the starting flights.  The trouble was the timing.  The flights started at 11am, 3pm and 7pm.  The morning flight just the day after I spent a good chunk of time on the road seemed way too early.  I might not get out of bed before 11!  Besides, 11am is too early to be playing poker anyway.  But the trouble with the 3pm and 7pm flights were the timing of Day 2.  Each of those starting flights figured to last 8-10 hours—maybe more.  Originally, Day 2 was scheduled for Noon the next day (Sunday).  After I questioned whether it was "fair" to the players who survived the 7pm Saturday flight have to come back to play at Noon the next day, they changed it to 2pm.  Important note:  I'm not saying it was my inquiry that caused them to change the time. I don’t know that.  I'm just honestly reporting the sequence of events.

But even with the 2pm time, I thought it might not be enough time for an old guy like me to do that turnaround from either the 3pm or the 7pm flights. And there was no point in playing if I didn't feel I had a chance to make it to Day 2. Ideally I think, I would have played the 3pm or 7pm flight on Friday or even Thursday.  But I wouldn't be in town then.  It was Saturday or nothing.

And that meant hitting the 11am flight on Saturday.  It also meant packing a sandwich so I could gobble down my lunch in the 15-minute break after the first four levels.  I'd only do that for a really special tournament and this qualified.

So I went downtown and gave it a shot.  I was tired, but I don't think it affected my play at all.  The truth is, there were two other things that frustrated me this tournament.  One was being exceptionally card dead.  The second thing was that somehow, I managed to lose a bunch of my notes about hands that I had taken while playing.  Not sure what happened.  One time, I went to add on a note about a hand that had just taken place in level 5 or 6, and saw that everything after a level 2 note had completely disappeared!  Actually though, it wasn't that much of a disaster.  I was so card dead that I had several entries that just updated chip counts and demonstrated that I'd played an entire level without playing a hand.  In other words, not that many hands were lost.

As such, I won't attempt to do a complete report of hand histories, I'll just talk about a few.  Unfortunately one of the best ones was deleted from notes and I tried my best to recreate from memory the next day.

The starting stack was $15K and the levels were 30-minutes (40-minutes on Day 2).  It was like the 3rd or 4th level and I wasn't quite in shove-or-fold mode (the tourney had a nice structure) but my chip stack was getting worrisome.  I limped in with pocket 6's, and someone with a big stack made a reasonable raise.  There were a few callers before it got back to me so I thought a call was the right move.  The flop was Ace-7-6 and I believe it was rainbow.   The preflop raiser was the big blind and so he led out with a pretty big bet.  It folded to me and since his bet was so big, there was no real option to raise without shoving.  So I shoved. I knew unless he was just c-betting with total air, he'd have to call, which I obviously wanted.  And so he did.  He showed Ace-8, the board blanked out and I had a much needed double up.

The last hand of level 7, with the blinds 75/300/600, I had pocket 3's in the big blind.  An early position player made it $1,700 and he got two callers.  Once again, I thought I had pretty good odds to call there even though my stack was very much short (had I not been the big blind there, I think I would have folded rather than limp in).  The flop was Ace-10-3, rainbow.  I checked, expecting the preflop raiser, who had the biggest stack at the table and had been having the rush of his life catching cards, to bet.  But he checked, dammit.  However another player bet—it was at least $4K, didn't really matter cuz I knew what I was gonna do.  Next guy folded and I shoved.  The preflop raiser asked for a count. It was something like $10,700.  He called.  The guy who led out on the flop folded and the preflop raiser showed the dreaded pocketKings. In this case, he dreaded them more than I did.  The board bricked and I dragged a big pot, bringing me to over $30K. 

For the next level, all I could do was steal some blinds and antes raising with Jack-10 suited and and Jack-7 suited (that was an open from the cut-off).

I got to level 9 (200/600/1200) with $33K.  And then I spewed some chips.  In the small blind I had pocket 7's.  There was one limper, I completed and the big blind checked.  The flop was Ace-6-6.  I checked, the big blind checked and the limper bet $2K. Hmmm….it seemed to me like it might just be a steal attempt since it had been checked to him. I figured I'd take a flier for $2K so I called. The big blind came along as well.  The river was a blank and it checked around, and I still thought my 7's might be good.  After another blank, I checked and the big blind bet, but only $3K.  The next guy checked and I thought about it.

The big blind was an older gentleman, had only recently been moved to the table and hadn't been too active.  Part of me was saying, "Nit, nit! He's got a boat."  But another part of me was saying, "He's a wily veteran of the game, he saw everyone check the turn and he's trying to steal it."  And the $3K was a really small bet compared to the pot.  So I decided to call.  He showed 8-6.  Ugh.

I figured I had one more raise left before I went to shove-or-fold move.  So with King-Queen off I opened to $3K and had two callers.  The flop was Queen-high, two low cards, uncoordinated.  The big stack led out for $5K, I think. He was one of the blinds. The other guy folded and I didn't think I had any choice but to shove.  I'm not folding top pair, second best kicker at this spot in the tournament.  There was no point in just calling, I'd be committed and it would all be in by the river anyway.  So I shoved.  He turned over Ace-Queen.  And I was out.

Sigh.  I thought it was a tournament worth trying, even though the circumstances weren't ideal.  I had two big hands when I flopped sets, but otherwise, was just too card dead to make a deep run.

On the plus side, I was able to head back to my room to take a much needed nap.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

"Do You Always Look So Happy?"

This dates back to one of my last sessions from my April trip to Vegas.  Don't panic—I've still got plenty of tales from that trip to relate to you one of these days.  I've just been slow in getting to them.  Actually this was supposed to be my last night in town, but I extended the trip for a day to attend Mike's birthday party tournament the next night.  Mike's birthday is the day before mine, and you can read more about these games here.  Unfortunately, although I had a lot of fun at that game, we didn't get the right combination of drunk and crazy people at that game for it to merit a write-up.  But the point is, since this was my last "real" poker game of the trip (the birthday event featured a rotation of Crazy Pineapple, Omaha and Omaha 8), I figured it was my last chance to actually win some money.

Earlier in the evening, before the "incident" took place, I heard a very loud, very obnoxious sounding guy with a heavy British accent enter the room.  He was loud and somewhat comical.  He was wearing a silver fedora covered in glitter.  And he kept saying things like, "Send me to the fishies.  Fishies, I'm coming for you.  Where are the fishies? Send me to the fishiest table." He was quite flamboyant.  I actually thought initially he was just putting on the British accent for effect, that it was part of his schtick, but eventually I realized it was his natural speaking voice.

When the dealer at my table heard him (and trust me, you could have heard him if you were at the Mirage) he said "oh no, him again."  He said that he was going to be loud and obnoxious and then probably get his assed kicked out.

Fortunately, he didn't come to my table, he was sent to another table where he greeted all the players with a sweet, "Hello, fishies."  I think he may have also said something about how they would all be donating their chips to him before the night was over.  When he got settled in at his table, you could hear him talking nonstop.

He was exactly the kind of player I hate playing with.  And the fact that he was still in the room later, when I first considered asking for a table change, helped dissuade me from moving.

But you might find this amusing.  Later, he did something to warrant having the floor called over. I heard the Shift Manager say to him, "We love having you here but..." And the obnoxious Brit said, "No you don't.  You've kicked me out the last three nights.  And you'll be kicking me out again tonight."  That was pretty funny.  And guess what?  Sometime later, he was joined by a friend of his. I didn't hear the friend, but I did see and hear when the Shift Manager came back to warn his friend to stop putting his feet on the poker table (the very one they were playing at).  The guy refused to comply and guess what?  The two of them were asked to leave.

As for my game, it was pleasant enough for a good long while. Except for the part where i was card-dead.  I couldn't get anything going even though I felt I had pretty good reads on most of the players.  One young woman was creating a lot of action preflop, but generally slowed down if she didn't catch anything.  Another woman was obviously an experienced player.  I caught her name and researched her to find that she had a few cashes listed on Hendon Mob. The way she was handling her chips she was not only an experienced player but possibly also a dealer or former dealer.  She was tough, but I thought played straight-forward enough that I was ready for her if we battled. The other players were fairly conventional.

Until two punks from Texas showed up. I'm going to have to give these punks names to make it easier to tell the story.  So I'll just make up some names out of thin air.  Let's call them Beavis and Butt-head.  Beavis took seat 7 and Butt-head was in seat 1.  I was in seat 9, near Beavis and with only the dealer between Butt-head and myself.

They were chatty and joking around and they kept talking about how they were just killing time before going to the nightclub.  Not Hakkasan mind you.  They were planning to go to the night club at The Encore.  As the night progressed, they kept talking like their departure for The Encore was just moments away (one more orbit....ok two more orbits). 

They were talking to each other a lot across the table, and Butt-head was making friends with the two people closest to him on his left.  On his immediate left was the husband of the aforementioned experienced female poker player.  And she was sitting on her husband's immediate left.  But the husband was clearly not the poker player in the family.  When he wasn't bullshitting with Butt-head, he had his face buried in a book.  It was actually a text-book that had "Neurology" in the title.  I'm thinking he was a med student.

Anyway, everything was fine until one hand, after a couple of limpers, I made it $12 with Ace-Queen of clubs.  And Butt-head re-raised to $30.  It folded back to me.

Now, both Beavis & Butt-head had been more aggressive than anyone else at the table (well, except for that gal who was aggro preflop and not-so-much after that).  But they weren't close to being maniacs.  And I could scarcely remember either of them three-betting preflop before.  So I didn't think he had a particularly wide three-betting range.

I decided I didn't really want to play my easily dominated hand out of position in a three-bet pot.  And if I did flop the flush draw, with my stack size, I'd likely have to put all of it in play to chase the flush.  So I reluctantly folded.  And since it had been quite a few orbits since I'd actually had a hand to play—let alone one I wanted to raise with—I was kind of pissed about it.

But not as pissed as I came to be a few seconds later when I saw Butt-head pick up his cards, clearly show them to the guy on his left, and then put them face down and muck them.

As the dealer went to sweep them into the muck, I said to him, "Can I see those?"  I sure did want to know what the guy had had three-bet with and whether or not I did the right thing in folding.  Dealers rarely enforce the rule on their own, however.  You generally have to be alert and ask them to do it. 

Well I was alert and I did ask but the dealer swept the cards into the muck anyway.  Now, I know this particular dealer well—he's probably been dealing to me for over 10 years. He's good.  And he knows me (he once shouted out to me by name in the Fry's parking lot).  So I'm going to have to assume that either he didn't hear me or I spoke up too late for him to catch himself from sweeping in the cards.  This dealer does work pretty fast.

Well, that was going to be the end of it.  Nothing I could do, and I wasn't about to make an issue out of it. But then Butt-head said, "Why should you see those?"  Well, I guess it fell on me to explain one of the most basic poker rules to this clown. I replied, "It's show one, show all, that's the rule."   He replied, "No, that's crazy."

I said, "You can't just show them to one person.  You have to show them to everybody."   He said, "I didn't show them to anybody."  Yeesh.  I said, "You showed them to him," pointing to his neighbor on his immediate left.  "Oh, well he's my buddy."

Aha!  That's exactly why the rule is there.  BTW, I am 100% sure Butt-head had never seen the guy to his left before in his life, not that it matters. I said, "You can't do that, the rule is show one, show all."

Butt-head either didn't believe me or didn't want to believe me, and said,  "Well, show me the book where it says that."  Well since you asked....Now, actually, I was pretty sure I had a copy of the TDA rules on my phone, but I thought it would be better to get the floor to come over and explain it to him.

I immediately asked the dealer to call the floor.  It took awhile, and play resumed in the meantime.  I wasn't concerned since I knew I was right.  And it didn't really matter, since the damage was done.  But the guy asked me a direct question, I answered, and he didn't believe, he asked me to show him the rule and I was going to show him.

It turned out the Shift Manager was on break.  So Bill, the floor person came over.  Bill is one of the first Vegas poker people to learn my name, we go back a long way. 

Bill made his way over and the dealer whispered something to him—I didn't hear it.  At this point, I wasn't really interested in pursuing this any further. I just wanted the satisfaction of Butt-head learning that he violated the rule (an apology from him would have been nice but way too much to hope for). 

So Bill explained the Show One, Show All rule to Butt-head as I knew he would.  And then Butt-head said, "I didn't show my cards to him. I just picked them to look at my hand."  Bullshit.  A total lie.  Before I could say anything—and honestly, at this point, I wanted to stay out of it—Bill said, "Well, you have to be careful when you pick up your cards because people can see them and that's not right."  So Butt-head said, "OK, fine, I'll be more careful."

And again, that should have been the end of it.  But Butt-head said one more thing.  "Can you get him a tissue please?"  He meant me.  "A tissue?  What for?"  "To wipe his tears."  Oh man.  That rotten little smart-ass.

I didn't take kindly to that.  I started to speak up, and I was going to tell Bill that he had lied and quote back his "He's my buddy," line.  But Bill stopped me (I think Butt-head was also talking).  He gave the entire table a global warning about being well-behaved and being nice to one another and mentioned something about not wanting to have to ask anyone to leave the room.  I wasn't worried about getting kicked out but Bill's a good guy and I didn't want to make his life any more difficult so I shut up.  Butt-head did likewise.

I was perturbed, to say the least.  My inclination was to just get a table change.  I should have. Whenever I have a confrontation like that, I have concerns that the other person will target me.  It could work out well for me, but I don't like that. And I had to worry if his buddy would take it out on me too.  As for me, it has the opposite effect. I don't target them, I actually try to avoid getting into a hand with them.  Sure, it would be extra sweet to take their chips.  But it would piss me off five times as much to lose my chips to an asshole who I just had a confrontation with than anyone else. 

But, as I said, I liked the other players in the game, and knew them.  At a new table, I'd be starting at square one trying to learn the players.  And that obnoxious Brit was still at one of the other tables and there weren't that many other games to move to.  And finally, and this was really the clincher, Beavis and Butt-head were still talking about leaving for The Encore nightclub any minute.  Like a fool, I took them at their word.

So I hung around and hoped to wait them out.  And so it went for quite some time.  Me being miserable, those two clowns having a good time.  There was no reference made at all to our little kerfuffle.  It didn't come up.  I did raise once and this time Butt-head folded.   But I was distracted by the whole thing. 

I kept thinking about trying to get away from them, especially when I noticed the obnoxious Brit was gone, but every time I considered getting up to ask for a change, one of the clowns said something that made it sound like they were just about to leave.  Maybe I could wait them out.  Even though it was now certainly late enough for them to get into the nightclub, they stayed put.

So I was deep in thought, still debating internally about getting up and asking for a table change.  But the seat next to me opened up and this big, overweight Asian guy with a very deep voice (a smoker's voice, really) came to take the seat.  I didn't know this guy from Adam.  I'd never seen him before in my life, and he'd never seen me.  So as he went to take his seat, he took one look at me and said, "Are you always this cheerful looking?"  I actually looked at him and laughed.  A real laugh.  I'm not sure if it was a sincere laugh because I thought it was funny or it was an instinctual thing to show him I wasn't totally miserable.  But I laughed. I even put a smile on my face.

But I guess that wasn't good enough.  He continued.  "Yeah, I thought all of us were here to have a good time, but I guess not."  Seriously dude?  You talk to a total stranger like this, first words out of your mouth?  Maybe I just got off the phone with someone telling me there had been a death in the family.  Maybe I had just taken a horrific bad beat just as he showed up.

I was near my breaking point but before anything else happened, Butt-head spoke to the deep-voiced Asian.  "Hey, you gotta be careful with him....he's already called the pit boss on me. Don't mess with him."

That was the proverbial last straw.  I didn't hesitate, I didn't say a word.  I was done.  I just grabbed my chips and headed to the podium to cash out.  No, a table change wouldn't be good enough.  I knew I was in no mood to play any more poker that night. 

Bill was back, but I didn't want to talk to him as long as Beavis and Butt-head were there—he was too close to that table, I didn't want them to hear me, or even see me talking to him.  I wasn't upset with Bill at all, I just wanted to vent and tell him that the guy flat-out lied to him about not showing his cards intentionally.  I felt if I got it off my chest I'd feel better.  I knew that Bill would believe me.

So I wandered the casino for awhile, hoping that B&B would eventually make good on their promise to leave for the club.  Fortunately, the club at MGM was open so there was enough nice scenery to keep me entertained—and to distract me from my misery.

But when I returned the poker room about 30-45 minutes later the clowns were still there, and showed no signs of leaving.  So I went back to my room without even having had a chance to unburden myself a little by venting.  I figured I'd tell Bill the full story the next day when I returned for the birthday game, but it turned out he was off.

So I never got a chance to vent to anyone about it—until now, right here. And the fact that I waited this long to write this up means I actually did put it past me fairly quickly, as of course, I knew I would.  But it did ruin my last night or "real poker" in Vegas.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Getting Rewarded for Bad Play

The title of this post may or may not be a bit misleading.  I'm not sure if I was actually rewarded for bad play—in fact I probably cost myself some value along the way—but I'm not proud of the way I played the hands that were favorable to me.  This is not a session I'm going to learn anything from, that's for sure.  But it worked out in the end and variance (or bad play?) has been biting me in the ass lately so I'll take it (not that I have a choice).

This was a session a week or so ago at PC Ventura.  I ended up in the 1/2 game, not the 2/3.  The list for the 2/3 was long, and I was able to get in the 1/2 right away.  Once there, I was just too lazy to move.  But seriously, there were a number of big stacks at the table, and I'd begun to notice that the players sitting behind them weren't the best poker players I'd ever played against.  So stayed there.

Actually, there were an unusual number of females at the table.  All of them were, ahem, "middle-aged" (being very generous here).  And the ladies all knew each other, and were talking about their families and such.  In fact, it kind of resembled my dear, late mother's weekly Mahjong game when I was growing up. I almost, but not quite, felt like an intruder.

An intruder who was card dead, at least at the beginning, after one early pot.  I had Ace-10 off in late position and made it $10 after a limper.  Two callers, the flop was Jack-10-5 and I bet $15 and took it.

For the next 90-minutes or so, I got exactly three playable hands.  All of them were pocket Jacks.  And that was the only pocket pair I saw for that period.  It was JJ or nothing.  I didn't see an Ace with a kicker higher than a 6. 

The first time I had Jacks I made it $8 and it was three-way.  The flop was King-Queen-3, not exactly a good flop for me.  But I c-bet $12 and took it down.

The next time I got Jacks, I was in early position.  Remember, this game is played with $1 chips (and also has a $100 max buy-in, which is what I bought in for).  I started to grab some chips to count out a bet and before I did anything the lady on my left folded her cards.  That started a flood of folds until it got to the small blind just as I put out my raise (I think it was $8).  I think the dealer finally said something about all the out-of-turn folds by the time I got my bet out, and the lady in the big blind, oblivious to this, asked the lady in the small blind if she wanted to chop.  The dealer said they couldn't chop, there was a raise. I dunno, perhaps in their Mahjong game you can chop even if there's a raise. So they both folded and I took the blinds.

I was annoyed with the dealer.  He should have spoken up about the out-of-fold turns right away and put a stop to it.  Not that anyone who folded to a $2 blind was going to call my raise, of course not.  But this way it looked like I was trying to just steal their blinds—I might have done that with any two cards at that point, seeing everyone fold to the blinds—and not that I was making a perfectly legitimate raise considering my hand. 

One more time I got the fish hooks.  I raised to $8, two callers.  The flop was Ace-high.  Despite that, I boldly (or foolishly, perhaps) put out a $12 bet and found out that no one had called my raise with a crappy Ace. I took it down.

After awhile, the unplayable hands I was getting had somehow managed to cost me more than a few bucks.  I had $51 left in front of me.  So I bought another $50 in chips.  That gave me $101, technically one dollar over the maximum.  Honestly, I wasn't sure if the dealer or anyone else would know I had too much money.  But right is right, and I obeyed the house rules even if no one forced me to, and I put a single $1 chip in my pocket.

Shortly thereafter, I was dealt Ace-King off suit in the big blind.  A lady had raised to $6.  It folded to me.  Here comes the start of the bad play on my part.  I just called.  I know, that would have been a perfect spot for a three-bet, but I didn't want to play it out of position.  She likely would have called anything but a huge overbet.  I might have shoved if I hadn't just added-on....she wasn't likely to call a $50 bet and if she did I'd see five cards with a pretty good hand.  But at the time, all I decided to do was call.

The flop was Queen-9-8, two diamonds.  I had the Ace of diamonds in my hand.  I checked and she bet $8.  With overcards and two back-door draws, I decided to float.

The turn was the 10 of diamonds, giving me both a nut-flush draw and a nut-straight draw.  I checked and she bet $20 and I called again.  I think the call is ok with all my outs.  But maybe I should have check-raised?  Or even donked out a bet?  What do you think?

The river was the 4 of diamonds. I didn't have the nuts, a straight flush was possible.  I just didn't think it was very likely.  I mean, if she has it and I lose my stack with the nut flush there, well, that's just the way it goes.

I wasn't sure what to do.  I had a real strong feeling that she would bet if I checked.  And if I led out, it would probably shout that I had the flush.  Having played with her for a few hours, I wasn't sure she'd be concerned about it if I checked.  So I took my chances and checked.  Sure enough, she bet—$40.  Well, I didn't have $80 left to even min-raise, I had no choice but to shove.

She tanked for a bit and then said. "Oh, you've got the Jack?" she saw the straight.  Didn't she see the flush?  It's usually easier for players to be aware of a flush than a straight, especially if there's four to a suit out there.  She tanked a bit more and folded.  She said again, "I guess you had the Jack."

I said nothing of course, but the guy to my right said, "There were four diamonds out there."  She replied, "What?  There were?  I hadn't noticed.  I was worried about the straight."  Yeah, obviously.  I still said nothing.  Should I be upset at the guy pointing out what I probably had?  The hand was over. Does it matter?

I was still stacking my chips when I looked down at my first pocket pair that wasn't Jacks—two 4's.  I limped in and called a small raise by a different woman at the table.  Three or four of us saw a flop of Ace-10-4.  The lady made a smallish bet and I was the only caller.  I was planning on check-raising the turn.  But the turn paired the Ace.  When she made a slightly bigger bet, I panicked, worried that she might now have a bigger boat.  I know, that's monsters-under-the-bed thinking, but I refer you to the title of this post.  I check/called her river bet as well.  All she had was 10-8 for middle pair on the flop.  I was mad at myself for playing so wimpy, and also not having already figured out that she'd raised preflop with such a weak hand.  But then, I did recall at the time that earlier I saw her not open-raise preflop with Ace-King.

Despite that, when she raised again (to $6), I just flatted with pocket Queens from the small blind. I think three of us saw the Ace-high flop.  I called her $8, then $10, then $12 (we were heads up after the flop).  I guess I should have raised, but this time she had to have the Ace right?  So why did I call?  Cuz I'd just seen her play 10-8 as if it was the nuts.  She showed pocket 10's and I took another decent pot.

Well, I may not play well myself, but taking advantage of the bad play of other players is a skill, right?  I know I can't count on just bad oppenents and getting lucky to win.  But for that day, I was ok booking the $85 win.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Vegas Poker Scene--June 2017 Ante Up Column

Here's my newest column for Ante Up.  The link for it on the Ante Up website is here.   Remember, my contribution is embedded in the entire West Coast report.  So below is just my Vegas report.  The magazine should be in your local poker room soon--or now, even.


The World Series part of the summer is the best time of the year for poker players here. In addition to all that great action at the Rio, there are great tournament series all over town, as we’ve documented in previous issues.
Of course, that’s not all. Every poker room is busier and you can find great cash games everywhere. Be warned: Waitlists for cash games can get extra long and it’s not just for no-limit hold’em. You may see PLO, Big O and even mixed games in rooms that never spread them the rest of the year. And you’ll see small rooms spreading $2-$5 NLHE and bigger games.
Tournament players have plenty to appreciate, too. If the buy-ins for those series events are too much for your bankroll, consider playing in the smaller, regular tournaments at just about any room in town. The turnouts will be much more than usual, meaning prize pools will be larger, too.
Let’s take a look at some of the regular tournament offerings.
MIRAGE: The 11 a.m. $120 tournament Friday through Sunday starts players with a 25K stack and has 25-minute levels. The rest of the week, a $65 tournament with a 10K starting stack and 20-minute levels runs at that time, as well as 2 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. most days. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. tournaments offer $25 bounties and a $100 buy-in.
FLAMINGO: Tournaments are six times a day, all featuring a 20K stack. At 10 a.m., it’s a $60 buy-in with a $500 guarantee. At 1 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m., and midnight it’s a $60 buy-in with a $600 guarantee. All of these have 15-minute levels. The 4 p.m. is a turbo with 10-minute levels, a $50 buy-in and a $500 guarantee.
BALLY’S: The $60 tournament runs daily at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Players start with 5K chips and play 20-minute levels. Each tournament has a $500 guarantee.
SOUTH POINT: The $60 tournament runs daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and has a 4,500 starting stack, 20-minute levels and a $5 bounty. The same structure is offered at 7 most evenings, except for Sundays and Wednesdays.
On those days, the evening tournament starts at 6 and has a $100 buy-in for 7,500 chips and 30-minute levels. A $10 dealer add-on option gets players 2,500 more.
MGM: There are two $70 tournaments daily (11 a.m. and
7 p.m.). Players start with 15K chips. The levels start at 15 minutes and increase to 20 at Level 10. The morning tournament has a $2K guarantee ($1K in the evening). Turbo tournaments for $50 run daily at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. The levels are 10 minutes and the starting stack is 10K. The guarantee is $500.
ORLEANS: The room offers great variety in its schedule. Tournaments run at noon and 7 p.m. daily and events include HORSE, Omaha/8, Omaha/8-stud/8, PLO and NLHE. The room is expected to adjust buy-ins and starting stacks for the WSOP.
One thing not likely to change is the Friday 7 p.m. $130 NLHE event, the most popular regularly scheduled tournament in town. Players get a 15K stack and enjoy 30-minute levels. Expect to compete with between 175 and 250 players in this one.
TREASURE ISLAND: At 11 a.m., a $65 tournament with an 8K stack starts things off. At 2 p.m., it’s $75 for 15K chips. That one has a $500 guarantee. The 7 p.m. is $55 for 8K in chips. At 10 p.m., the $75 buy-in starts players with 15K and features a $1K guarantee. Late Saturday night, at 1 a.m., an extra $65, 8K stack tournament is offered. All levels are 20 minutes.
SUNCOAST: Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m., it’s $45 for 4K chips, with a $20 add-on for 4K more. Fridays and Saturdays at 6 p.m., it’s $60 for 6K, with an optional $10 add-on for 2K more. The evening tournament has a $1K guarantee. All levels are 20 minutes.
VENETIAN: First place in the main event of the Deep Stack Extravaganza went to Joshua Berman-Turnball from Brookline, Mass. He took home $112K, followed by Steve Sung of Torrance, Calif., ($69K) and Hien Nguyen of The Colony, Texas ($50K). The $1,600 buy-in drew 338 players and had a $488K prize pool.
The Venetian will host another DSE Aug. 10-20. Among the events is a $340 doublestack event with the first of its two starting flights on Aug. 15. Players start with 25K chips and play 40-minute levels. The guarantee is $75K.
The series starts Aug. 10 with a $250 event that has three starting flights and an $80K guarantee.
The starting stack is 15K and levels 30 minutes, increasing to 40 at Level 19. Along with bounty and rebuy tournaments, there’s a PLO-PLO/8 event Aug. 16 that has a $250 buy-in and offers a $7K guarantee.
WYNN: Kenna James of Las Vegas and Gary Margolis of Southern California each took home $55K at the Wynn Signature Weekend in April, with James claiming the title. Bob Shao of Northern California was third ($44K). More than 700 players paid $600 to enter, resulting in a $368K prize pool.

ARIA: The room is hosting several high roller events this summer. In June, $25K buy-in events run June 9, 10, 16, 17 and 24. All of these events start at 2 p.m.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

"I Wanna See You Naked....."

Now I'm getting back to that $340 tournament that I played at the Venetian on my birthday.  You know, the one I mentioned here.  To remind you, the tourney had 40-minute levels, a 24K starting stack, a $25K guarantee and even had a 45-minute dinner break.

The blinds start at 50/100.  The very first hand, I was under-the-gun with Ace-10 of clubs.  I opened to $250 and had two callers.  The flop was 10-high and I bet $500, one call.  I bet $1,000 on a blank and he called.  We both checked a blank river and he showed 10-9.  I don't recall ever winning the first hand of a tournament before.  In the greater scheme of things, it means absolutely nothing.

Folded to me in the small blind, I made it $300 with Ace-10 off. He called.  Ace high flop, I bet $500 and took it.

After a limper or two, someone made it $600.  I called with pocket Jacks.  It was three-way.  The flop came Ace-high and everyone checked.  The turn was a blank and this time the preflop raiser bet—$800.  I was tempted to fold, thinking I was losing to an Ace but then I thought some more. If he had an Ace, wouldn't he have bet the flop?  I mean if he raised preflop with Ace-anything, how does he not bet the flop?  I figured if he had an Ace, the only way he wouldn't bet the flop was if he had two Aces and was slow playing a set.  So I called. It was now heads-up.  He checked a blank turn.  I considered betting but I figured if I was right he wouldn't call and why risk money if I was wrong and he showed up with a crummy Ace?  A lot of tournament players raise with any Ace.  So I checked behind and he showed King-Queen for nada. 

I'll skip ahead to level 5 (25/150/300), where I had $17K.  I had Ace-King in the big blind.  There were two limpers so I made it $1,800, both limpers called.  The flop was Ace-King-x.  I checked hoping to see if someone else would bet, but it checked around.  After a blank turn, I bet $5K and got one call.  The river was a blank and I bet $8K, but didn't get a call.

The I got pocket Kings.  After a limper, I made it $1,100.  It was three-way.  The flop was 10-5-2.  A guy donked a $2K bet.  The other guy folded.  I considered just calling, but did the guy really flop two pair with that board?  And if he caught a set I figured he would more likely check and let me bet.  So I raised to $5K.  He tanked for a long time and then said, "If I call, I'm here to the end."  And with that, he folded.

Level 7 (75/300/600) $26K.  Late registration ended as we started this level.  Recall that we had started the tourney with around 30 players.  We ended up with 80.  There was a slight overlay of $2,600.  Not bad. At the beginning it looked like there'd be a much bigger overlay than that. I thought it was interesting how this was reflected in the prize pool.

The whole time during the registration period, they showed the prize pool on the clock as being what it would be if there was no guarantee and no overlay.  I wondered why it didn't show the prize pool as being $25K since that was the least it could be.  But no, it jumped a little bit with each entrant.  Finally, a few minutes into this level, right after reg closed, they made the adjustment and it showed the full $25K prize pool, and all the payouts showed a small increase.  They were paying 8, with $8,500 on top, $5,200 for second.  The min-cash was $1K, which I thought was pretty good. Well more than the "double the buy-in" requirement I have.

It folded to me on the button so I made it $1,700 with Ace-6 off.  Both the blinds called.  The flop was Ace-King-2, I bet $4K and got a call and a fold.  The turn was a blank and we both checked. The river paired the deuce. He led out with a $4K bet.  He could have had trips but I thought it was much more likely he had an Ace and we'd chop.  I know, the "rule" is you're never suppose to call if you only expect to chop, but I felt like not calling there was most likely throwing money away.  So I did call.  Sure enough, he had Ace-8.  The 8 would have played but for the deuce pairing on the river.

As soon as that hand was over, they broke our table.  We were down to 50 players.

Last hand of the level, I opened to $1,600 with Queen-10 of clubs, two called.  There were two Aces on the board but also two clubs.  I c-bet $3,500 and took it down.

Level 8 (100/400/800) $27,500.  I opened to $2K with Ace-Jack.  Only the big blind called.  Flop came King-10-X.  I c-bet $3K and he check-shoved for $12,500.  I thought about it awhile but decided I wasn't yet desperate enough to risk half my stack with just a gut-shot.  I folded and he showed one card—a King.

I got Ace-Jack again and raised to $2K.  One caller.  Condensed version: we both had Ace-Jack and we chopped it on a Jack-high board.

I messed up a hand with pocket 7's.  I opened to $2,100 and got a call.  The flop was Queen-Queen-Jack.  I tried a c-bet of $3K and he called.  There was a King on the turn and he shoved (slightly less than my stack).  I folded.

In the big blind with Ace-9, it folded to the small blind who just completed.  I snap shoved.  He folded.

After a limp, I shoved with Ace-Queen; no call.  Next hand I had Ace-King.  This time I opened to $2,200.  It was three-way. I shoved a King-high flop and took it.

Level 9 (200/600/1200) $24K.  I shoved with pocket 10's after a limp.  The limper tanked forever but eventually folded.  He showed his cards—Ace-Jack off.

It folded to me on the button with Ace-7 off.  I shoved.  The big blind tanked forever before folding.

That got me to the dinner break.  It was nice to have 45-minutes to eat rather than wolf down a meal in 10 minutes.  I don't think I could have eaten that foot-long from Subway in 10 minutes.

Towards the end of the level right before the dinner break, I noticed something unusual.  They had broken another table (not mine) and we were now down to three (10-handed).  But somehow, one of the players didn't have a seat.  Yes, they goofed up and broke the table one player too soon.  Rather than re-assemble the table, they just stuck the player roaming around look for a spot into a full table and made that one 11-handed until another player busted out!  Awkward.  Fortunately it wasn't my table.  I dunno how they decided what table to shove 11 people into. I hope they decided by eyeing them and picking the one with the skinniest people!  It was a few hands into the next level before someone busted and we were down to three 10-handed tables.

Level 10 (200/800/1600) $23,500.  Under-the-gun plus 1, I open shoved Jack-10 off and took it. In the small blind with Ace-King, following two limpers, I shoved.  One guy tanked for a good while, but I took it down.

Level 11 (300/1000/2000) $29,400.  Soon after the level began, I was moved to balance tables. I saw a couple of players from my first table there.  There was also this older guy next to me who started singing.  Presumably he was singing along to the music he was hearing thru his ear buds.  He kept singing the same line over and over again..."I wanna see you naked. I wanna see you now."  Not sure he sang anything else, he was singing that line over and over again.

I tried to ignore it but one of the guys from my first table was giving him strange looks for the song he was singing.  The guy kept insisting that it was from The Ramones.  "It's a Ramones song.  You must have heard it. 'I wanna see you naked....'"  The guy kept singing it between hands, sometimes even during the hand.

Finally the guy who didn't like the song asked the guy, "Who sings that song?"  The guy, somewhat exasperated since he'd mentioned it a dozen or so times, said "The Ramones."  And so the guy from my first table said to him, "Well it should stay that way." 

I was impressed.  It was the most clever and least aggressive way I'd ever heard anyone tell someone to shut the f*** up.  And it worked.  The guy stopped with the "I wanna see you naked."

Now it may come to a shock to my readers but I'm not a big Ramones fan, even though I think I I liked the movie, "Rock N Roll High School."  (By the way, there's a poker connection with that movie—Vince Van Patten was in it.) I wasn't familiar with the song he was singing so the next day I tried to Google it.  And I couldn't find any such Ramones song.  Anybody know what he was talking about?  The best I can figure out is that there is a song from them called "I Wanna Be Sedated" and maybe somebody did a parody of it and turned it into "I wanna see you naked" or something close.

There was a woman at the table and if the "I wanna see you naked" lyric bothered her, she gave no indication of it.  She was a very attractive woman, blonde hair, mature, smartly dressed.  She was not a kid.  Still, it was shocking when, in response to one of the guys talking about being "old," she said, "I'm older than you are."  I dunno how old the guy looked but he clearly thought she was younger and everyone else did too.  I can't recall if the guy ever said how old he was but she said, "I'm 57."  Wow, she looked amazing for 57.  Actually she looked great if she was 37.  And to be honest, she could easily have passed for early 40's or even late 30's.  As I said, a very attractive woman.  No one could believe she was 57.

Note:  I know poker players cannot always be trusted to tell the truth.  And furthermore, women lie about their age all the time.  But I've never heard of a woman lying about age to make herself older.  The exception would a teen-age girl with fake-I.D. trying to get into Hakkasan or a someplace similar.

It folded to me in the cut-off with pocket 4's.  I shoved and didn't get a call.

And then....and then....well, I got the dreaded pocket Kings.  Believe me, I was very happy to see them.  I was beyond desperate for chips.  Of course, as soon as I saw them I knew my chips were all going in.

But first, the beautiful 57-year-old woman made a standard opening raise in early position.  She was well-stacked.  Hey, I mean she had tons of chips, get your minds out of the gutter.  No seriously, I think she was the second-chip leader at the table and I'd already seen her open a fair amount of pots.  Also, she had folded a few times to three-bets, and even mentioned that last time she folded.

She was obviously a good player and taking advantage of her big stack to pick up more chips.  So her opening range was pretty wide.  But then another guy shoved and it folded to me.  The guy who shoved appeared to have a similar stack to mine. In other words, he was desperate too. 

I didn't even ask for a count.  There's no way I'm folding what everybody on the planet except me thinks is the second best starting hand in Hold'em in that situation.  With his stack, in response to a standard raise from a big stack, his shoving range is a lot more than Aces and Kings, right?  He'd shoved Ace-King, maybe Ace-Queen, Ace-Jack, any Broadway pair, maybe even 7's or 8's up.  I've seen people in his spot shove King-Queen or King-Jack—maybe not even suited.

So, easy shove for me, a decent chance for me to get right back into it with a double-up or even a triple-up. It folded back to the lady.  She tanked for a long time.  She said something like "every time I raise, someone else has a hand,"  And finally she did indeed fold.  And she said, "You won't believe what I folded."

The two of us remaining flipped over our cards.  Of course, he had two Aces.  Yes, two god-damned Aces.  Long story short:  I didn't suck out.

After the count, it turned out I had him covered—barely.  I was left with $3K—2/3's of the big blind!  Whoop de doo! 

Meanwhile the lady said, "You know why you didn't catch your card (to the other guy) and you didn't catch your card (to me)?  Because I folded Ace-King."

Ok, it didn't appear that I'd ever be able to use that information.  But the guy next to me was obsessing over it.  He said to me, "I don't believe it.  No way she folds Ace-King.  She's got so many chips.  She'd call if she had Ace-King."  So she'd lie about her age and that she folded Ace-King?  I dunno.  I don't think she'd lie, unless she had figured out that somehow telling that story there would help her in the tournament down the road.

I dunno that it was such a bad fold, either.  The first guy's shoving range is pretty wide, but my shoving range—in response to a raise and a shove—has got to be a lot narrower, right?  And against not one but two all-ins, how good is her Ace-King?

A hand or two later, I shoved with Ace-3 off.  There were two callers.  They didn't bet any street.  I flopped an open-ended straight draw.  Missed it but caught an Ace on the river and that was good enough to get a triple-up.

But a triple-up didn't help much when I was so crippled.  Next hand I got Ace-10 and shoved again.  The big blind called me with King-7 of clubs.  First he caught a King, then he caught a flush.  I had the Ace of clubs but there was no fourth club to save my sorry ass.  I was done.

It was 8:45 PM, so I had been there for 8-3/4 hours (eight hours of play when you consider the dinner break).  I think I busted out like 24th or 25th.  Despite the lack of cashing, I really had a good time, enjoyed playing in the tournament, and felt the $340 investment a worthwhile one to play that much poker.  

As I said earlier, I really like the format of this tournament.