Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Vegas Poker Scene--March 2017 Ante Up Column

Must Read Column!!!!  

Ok, it's not exactly must-read.  I mean, the world won't end if you don't read it. But I just want to let you know that even if you normally don't read my Ante Up Columns, I sure would like you to read this one.  or at least the first couple of paragraphs.

You see, I'm especially proud of this one.  I managed to figure out a way to get a very subtle (but meaningful) dig at all those Strip casinos that are charging for parking!  Yes, that issue I've been ranting about for nearly a year now finally made it into one of my columns for Ante Up.  I honestly wasn't sure if my editor would let it run when I submitted the column last month.  But he did and now it's out there in a mainstream publication.  I'm very pleased.

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 soon if not already.


Stations Casinos always have been popular among the Las Vegas locals. Tourists often have ventured away from the Strip and downtown to enjoy them, too. But now you can expect Stations poker rooms to attract even more tourists. As you may have heard, many casinos on the Vegas Strip began charging for parking last year.
You can expect virtually all of them to have parking fees in the near future. The locals casinos insist they’ll continue to offer guests free parking. This only affects the visitors who drive in from neighboring states or rent a car when in town, but if you do have a car while visiting Vegas, you may want to consider the Stations casinos as great options to stay and play.
The chain is once again offering the Jumbo Hold’em Progressive Bad Beat Jackpot. There are three stages for the jackpot prize. When the jackpot is less than $50K, it’s split among the players at the table where it’s hit. When the jackpot is $50K-$75K, it’s split among all players in the poker room. And when the jackpot exceeds $75K, every player in all of Stations poker rooms at the time earns a share of the prize.
The money is awarded as follows: The loser of the hand gets 50 percent, the winner gets 10 percent and the remaining players eligible split 40 percent. The qualifying losing hand starts at quad kings and reduces in rank each time the jackpot increases by $10K.
Stations has two other property-wide promotions. Flopped quads are worth $500 on Tuesdays and Saturdays and there’s a progressive jackpot for flopped quads. As each quad is hit, starting with deuces, the next ranked quad is the jackpot hand.
Let’s take a closer look at the five Stations poker rooms.
RED ROCK: The newest room in the chain, Red Rock is in Summerlin and has 20 tables. The $1-$2 NLHE game has a $100 minimum buy-in and a $300 max. A $2-$5 game almost always runs, the buy-in is $300-$1K.
Limit hold’em is available in $2-$4 and $4-$8 flavors, both featuring a half-kill. The minimum buy-ins are $20 and $40, respectively. Players can enjoy Omaha and Omaha/8 at the $4-$8 level, both versions have a $40 buy-in and a half-kill.
Tournaments run daily at noon and Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 p.m. All have guarantees. Sunday afternoon it’s a $125 deepstack starting with 13K chips, offering 30-minute levels and a $2,500 guarantee. Monday through Friday it’s $60, a 6K starting stack and a $1K guarantee. Saturday’s $100 bounty event ($25 bounties) has 20-minute levels, a 10K starting stack and a $2K guarantee.
Sunday evening is a $60 buy-in with 7K starting stack, 20-minute levels and a $2K guarantee. Mondays and Thursdays offer a $100 bounty event ($25 bounties), 10K starting stack, 20-minute levels and a $3,500 guarantee.
Tuesday and Wednesday it’s a $60 bounty tourney ($15 bounties) with 6K starting stack, 20-minute levels and a
$1K guarantee. All tournaments have a $10 optional add-on for 2K chips. Hitting quads in any tournament earns a free entry into a future tournament.
GREEN VALLEY RANCH: The 22-table room is Henderson. The $1-$2 game is $100-$300, and the $2-$5 is $200-$500. The busy $2-$4 limit game has a $20 buy-in. It also regularly runs a $3-$6-$9 limit game; it’s $3-$6 but the bet on the river is $9. It has a $30 buy-in. There’s also hold’em and Omaha at the $4-$8 level, a $40 minimum buy-in.
A $45 tournament runs daily at 10 a.m., starting with 3K chips and 20-minute levels. An additional $5 gets $1K extra chips. There is an $800 guarantee. There’s also a high-hand bonus for quads or better in the tournament.
SANTA FE STATION: The 14-table room is in the northwest part of Vegas. The limit action is $2-$4 ($20 minimum) $3-$6 ($30 minimum) and $4-$8 ($40 minimum). The room spreads $3-$6 Omaha ($30 minimum). The buy-in for the $1-$2 NLHE game is $100-$500.
There are two $50 tournaments daily. They all have a 6K starting stack, a $20 add-on for 4K chips and 20-minute levels. The tourneys run at noon, and Sunday through Thursday at 7 p.m. (Fridays and Saturdays at 6 p.m.). There are high-hand bonuses and a bad-beat jackpot for the tournament.
BOULDER STATION: The 11-table room is on Boulder Highway and is known for its wild $4-$8 Omaha game with a half-kill. The minimum buy-in is $40. The limit games come in $2-$4 and $4-$8 varieties ($20 and $40 minimums, respectively), the latter featuring a half-kill. The $1-$2 NLHE has a $50-$300 buy-in.
The room doesn’t run any regularly scheduled tournaments.
PALACE STATION: The nine-table room is the closest Stations casino to the Strip, just west on Sahara Avenue. There are no tournaments here and the room specializes in limit and spread-limit games. The $2-$6 spread-limit game has a $30 minimum buy-in and the $2-$4 game with a half-kill has a $20 minimum.
MONTE CARLO: The poker room has closed.
VENETIAN: Deep Stack Extravaganza runs March 27-April 16 and will offer $1.4M-plus in guarantees. The biggest event is the $1,600 SuperStack starting the first of its three starting flights April 6 and concluding with Day 3 on April 10. It starts players with 30K chips, has 60-minute levels and a $400K guarantee.
Other big events include a $400 SuperStack on March 27 with a $150K guarantee (three starting flights) and a $250, four-starting flight event with a $150K guarantee that starts April 11.
The Venetian also is offering a March Weekend Extravaganza March 14-19 with $340K in guarantees. A $600 SuperStack starts the first of its three starting days on the March 16 and offers a $200K guarantee.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I Didn't Look at My Cards—Honest!

Well, this is going to be a follow-up to my last post (here) which was about a session at PC Ventura that was—amazingly enough—saved by the dreaded pocket Kings

The next weekend—that would be yesterday—I returned to PC Ventura with the thought that I would try the suggestion I half-kiddingly gave myself in that post, if the circumstances were right.  That suggestion was, if I had established a tight image (the usual case) and I thought the players were paying enough attention to notice, I would try raising blind from the cut-off or the button.  My exact quote from that post was, “I’m actually thinking that—just as an exercise—I should try raising in late position a few times without even looking at my hand.  Because if I look and see how bad it is, I’ll get cold feet.”

Well, the session was going extremely uneventfully until I was just about done, when one of the last hands I played made the day worth writing about, even though it didn’t have a happy ending (by any definition).

I was card dead again but my plan was initially aborted due to a few aggros at the table, one in particular.  And he wasn’t even the guy I saw take down a set of 7’s by hitting a straight with 10-6 offsuit.  Did I mention the 10-6 offsuit called a $15 raise out of position preflop?  But the guy in question referred to himself as “unpredictable” and indeed he was. 

I limp/called $18 with Ace-8 of spades.  The flop was Ace-x-x, two diamonds.  I folded to a $35 bet from this “unpredictable” guy.  This was early in the session and I had never seen him before.  I assumed he had me beat.  I didn’t like my kicker.  Maybe he had a diamond draw.  He got called in one spot.  There was no more betting and he took it with a pair of Jacks—the Jack was on the river.  But he had the diamond draw and missed that.  I was pissed that I lost that for not calling the $35 on the flop.

Very next hand I had Ace-Queen and opened to $15.  Only this guy called.  The flop was Queen-7-7.   I bet $25 and he called.  There was a Jack on the turn and I checked.  He bet $110.  I folded.

I studied this guy and saw that he liked to make really big flop or turn bets.  And then when I saw a few more of his hands I realized he was betting light, with draws, or middle pairs, or even stone cold bluffs. He showed his bluffs a time or two, but usually didn’t show his cards unless he had too.  He did show a set once when he didn’t need to.

He almost never folded to a preflop raise.  I figured the best way to play was to wait for a good hand, and then try to get him to pay me off.  The second part might not have been that difficult.  The first part was proving to be impossible.  I wasn’t waiting for the nuts, just a hand with showdown value.  If that hand with Ace-8 had happened later in the session I would have called in a heartbeat.  And I probably would have kept betting the Ace-Queen hand.

But the cards never came.  I was not getting anything to play.  And I wasn’t about to raise blind knowing he was gonna call almost anything. 

The first pocket pair I got was pocket 6’s.  The other aggro at the table opened to $20.  His stack was only about $110.  Looking at who was left in the hand, I thought it was very likely we’d be heads up (the unpredictable guy had actually folded).  So I folded and I was right, no one else called.

I got Ace-King and raised to $15, got a caller.  I c-bet $25 on a low flop and took it.  It was the first pot I’d won.

By this time, unpredictable guy had taken off with a lot of chips.  Well, at least I wouldn’t be distracted by him anymore.  I got Ace-King again and raised to $15.  This time it was three-way.  The flop was Queen-Queen-X.  I bet $30 and took it.

That was the second pot I’d won and it wasn’t lost on me that the only hands I’d won were ones I’d raised preflop.  So I opened to $15 under-the-gun with Jack-10 of hearts.  No one called.

By this time the other aggro had left, and the game was pretty tight.  Although the older woman who replaced the other aggro was a regular I’ve played with a lot and she is, against type, a bit of an aggro herself.

I called $12 with pocket 7’s—my second pocket pair of the day—and it was three-ways.  The flop was Queen-7-5, two clubs.  The preflop raiser checked.  Damn.  Well, I had to bet, right?  Both to build the pot and because of the two clubs out there.  I bet $25.  The guy behind me thought a long time but folded.  The preflop raiser folded instantly.  Kind of a waste of a set—but it beats getting sucked out on, I know.

Now it was getting late.  I was down about $110 or so from my $300 buy-in.  And I thought it was time to try blind raising from late position—at least once.  For science, if for no other reason.  But I couldn’t do it.  At least for awhile.  Sometimes there were raises in front of me, and I sure wasn’t going to 3-bet blind.  And then, the other times, there always seemed to be a bunch of limpers, and I figured at least one or two of them would call. I just couldn’t do it.  No guts.

I kept giving myself pep talks, to get myself to do it.  But no, every time, I found myself looking, seeing something like 10-3 offsuit and then throwing it away.

Finally, I was the button.  And I knew it was gonna be my last orbit before heading home.  But there were three limpers in front of me.  I couldn’t stop myself from looking.  And yes, it was 10-3 off.  So I folded.
But…but….as soon as I did, I was really pissed at myself.  So I said to myself, “What’s the big deal…so there’s three-limpers…..you bet $21 there and see what happens.  If it’s reraised you look and likely throw it away, twenty bucks isn’t gonna kill you. If you get calls you look and just maybe you’ll get lucky.  Heads up, maybe you can take it with a c-bet.”

So while that hand was playing out, I actually took four $5 chips and a $1 chip and put them aside.  And I told myself, “Here’s your bet if it’s three limpers to you.  Don’t wimp out!”

So the next hand was dealt.  And wouldn’t you know, before it got to me in the cut-off, there were exactly three limpers, just like the last hand.  Three.  No more, no less.

I had the $21 set aside.  I pretended to look at my cards.  But I didn’t.  I forced myself not to look. And, without looking, I put the $21 into the pot.  Of course, I was really hoping for everyone to fold.  Note: I actually didn’t put the chips I’d set aside out. I realized that would suspicious. So I took the chips off my main stack and used those.

But the guy on my left immediately called.  There was another call, and another….and by the time the action was done, there four callers.  Four!

Gulp.  Well, there’s twenty bucks down the toilet, I thought.  As the dealer was gathering all the chips and about to put out the flop, I of course looked at my cards for the first time.

I couldn’t believe it.  I saw two Queens!  Holy shit, I thought.  Only my third pocket pair of the day.  And it was Queens.  And I had accidently made the same exact bet I would have made if I had actually looked at my hand before betting. 

It wasn’t even a hand I would only consider raising with if I had looked—like a low pocket pair, a suited connector, Broadway cards.  It was a hand that I would always raise with in that spot. Every single time.  No exceptions.  I would have bet the $21 if I had seen the hand first.  My betting blind had in fact made no difference whatsoever.

I almost started laughing, it struck me as so incredible, and so funny.  It took every ounce of self restraint I had to catch myself from turning over my hand to show everyone right then and there and say, “I raised blind! I didn’t look at my cards before I raised.  Honest!”

Of course, I didn’t do that, and then I looked at the flop.  King-high, two unconnected small cards, rainbow.  It checked to me.  What to do?

Five-way I had to figure someone had a King (at least).  But I couldn’t see checking there. Maybe I should have?  I mean, I might have punted on Ace-high flop.  But King-high?  I bet.  I put out $60, hoping somehow that would take it.

But the guy on my left called.  If he had raised, I’d be gone for sure.  He was fairly aggressive when he’d first gotten to the table but also, he was hitting hands.  He had a big stack now.  And he had never shown a bluff.  I recall one hand where he had called a raise with Queen-9 off, caught a 9 on the flop, a Queen on the turn and a 9 on the river to stack some guy.

The elderly Asian man called as well.  He was a tight player, and a good one.  I wasn’t sure though that he had a King because I thought he would have raised if he did—unless it was crappy King. He had us both covered. The other two folded.

Well, the last two cards were bricks and no one bet.  I suppose I might have bet on the turn, but with my stack (a tad over $100), I didn’t think anyone would fold.

On the river, the guy on my left didn’t check, he turned over his cards—two Jacks.  I eagerly showed my Queens.  I thought I was going to win because, again, I thought the Asian man would have raised the flop or bet the turn or river if he had a King or better.  But no….after he saw my cards for a second he turned over….King-Jack.  And he took the pot.

I was surprised, but then figured he was most likely afraid of me having Ace-King.  He was worried his Jack wasn’t good enough against a nit like me.  That said, I am 99% sure that with my stack, he would not have folded if I bet the turn.  In fact, the guy with Jacks next to me might not have either.  But for sure the guy with King-Jack wouldn’t have.

Ugh.  I played a few more hands and racked up my chips and called it a day, out $200.

But all I could think of on the way home was how crazy it was that the first time I raised blind I ended up with a big hand that I would have bet the exact same way if I had looked at as I did betting blind.  What are the odds of that?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

And Then I Got Pocket Kings

Last Saturday I once again returned to PC Ventura for another session of 2/3. 

When I got there, I was surprised to see the place was really packed.  I expected things to be slow.  It was the Saturday of President’s Day Weekend.  Since this is a locals room and has no hotel—and is certainly not a destination poker room—I expected a lot of the usual suspects to be out of town on little vacations.  Perhaps a lot of the regs would even be in Vegas for the weekend.  And if anyone had come to Southern California for poker this weekend, they most likely would be at Commerce (which is a destination poker room), where they are having a big tournament series going on.

Plus the weather was bad.  The day before, we’d just had the worst storm in many years come thru, and it was still gloomy and somewhat showery. It has been an exceptionally wet winter.  So if anyone tries to tell you that there is still a drought in California, call it what it is—fake news.  But perhaps the rain actually made it busier, as people were forced to stay indoors to find entertainment.

Whatever, I had to wait nearly an hour to get into a game (PC does not take call-ins for the list). And perhaps it was a bad omen that when I finally got called into a game I was sent to the exact same table and same seat as the one I had the previous Saturday.  But it was an entirely different cast of characters, I really didn’t recognize anyone initially.  I finally realized that there were a couple of unremarkable players I’d encountered before.

Very first hand I was dealt pocket 3’s and called a $10 bet preflop.  I whiffed and folded to a bet.

A bit later, I had Ace-King. I bet $15 after a limp and was called in two spots. The flop missed me but it did have two spades and I had the King of spades.  I c-bet for $25 and the lady on my left made it $50, the other guy called and so did I.  The turn was a blank and it was checked around (I would have folded to any bet).  A third spade hit the river.  The guy on my right, a senior citizen, checked, I checked and so did the lady who raised me on the flop.  The guy on my right showed Ace-10 of spades for the nuts.  Huh?  Why didn’t he bet?  Was he going for a check-raise?  I’ll never know.

Then I went incredibly card dead.  I had two more pocket pairs over the next 90 minutes—4’s and 7’s—and missed.  No more big cards. And can someone remind me what a suited connector is?  I hadn’t seen one all day. I was down over $100 and it was only that little because I didn’t get any cards to play.  So when I was dealt 7-6 off on the button, and there were a bunch of limpers, I limped too.  Yes, I actually did consider raising and I should have, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Seven of us saw a flop of Queen-5-4.  Those last two cards were hearts, my 6 was the heart.  I called a $13 bet and we were down to five players.  It checked around on a blank turn.  The river was the 8 of diamonds, giving me the nuts.  There was a bet for $10 and a call.  I made it just $25 hoping I could get both to call, or at least one of them.  The first guy called, the other guy folded and the first guy didn’t show when I turned over my straight.

That it was it for a long while.  I limped in with Ace-9 of clubs under-the-gun (when I’m running bad I revert to bad habits like limping instead of raising).  Six of us saw a Queen-high flop with two clubs. I checked/called $12 and it was three-way.  The turn was a brick and the player who bet the flop checked, but the other guy bet $25.  I called and it was now heads up.  The river was an Ace of spades.  I checked and he checked behind me.  He had a Queen.  That was the second pot I’d won all day.

I finally got Ace-King again and made it $18.  Only one caller and the flop came Jack-10-9, rainbow.  I bet $25 and he called.  The turn was a blank, no betting.  The river was a King, but with all those Broadway cards out there I was afraid to bet it.  The King was good; he said he had a smaller pair.

I had played few enough hands to start thinking I could get away with some things. So I tried to force myself to look for ways to be aggressive with marginal hands, at least from late position.  I even vowed to myself to really try to find hands to raise with from late position.  Every time the cutoff came around, I would study my hand carefully and see if I could raise with it.  But I swear, the best hand I had during this time was 10-2 suited.  And I just couldn’t find the “raise” button.

I still had nearly $200 left of my original $300 buy-in.  And I was seriously thinking of calling it a day.  The sun was now out, and at least I could get home before it started pouring again.

Meanwhile, someone I definitely recognized had joined the table.  It was Cookie, the lady who had run so hot one day that I did a post about it (here).  This day she was not running so hot—she had already had to re-buy once.  But she was still a tough player and a hard one to read.

And so I looked down at my fourth pocket pair of the day.  Can you guess which pair it was?  If you said the dreaded pocket Kings you are correct!  Before it got to me, Cookie opened to $12.  I was thinking about my three-bet when another player made it $32.  Well now, that was interesting.

My $180-$190ish stack had Cookie covered, but the raiser had in excess of $300.  He had come to the table before Cookie, and when I first saw him, I figured he’d be aggressive. He was by far the youngest person at the table.  And as soon as he sat down, the older, Asian gentleman across from him said, “You bluffed me the other night, didn’t you?”  The younger fellow didn’t respond.  The Asian man brought it up a few times and the guy wasn’t giving anything away.  One time, in response to the bluffing question, he said, “Maybe.”

But in fact, he turned out to be a pretty tight player.  Never saw him do anything out of line.  I had to assume he had a premium hand.

I had noticed that Cookie limped into a lot of pots—most of them.  I’d say she played well over 60% of the hands she was dealt.  And called most, if not all, reasonable preflop raises.  She didn’t raise preflop too much more than the average nit.  It was obvious she liked to see flops.  So her raise indicated she likely had a pretty decent hand.

Of course, my default would be to four-bet.  Yes, even I’ll four-bet with Kings.  But I thought about it.  If I re-raise, I’m basically playing my hand face-up, right?  Especially with my image being so tight.  I mean, even if I had Aces there, perhaps just a flat call might be the best play.  Am I wrong?

So mostly because I didn’t want to give my hand away, I decided to just flat his three-bet.  I guess, if I’m being totally honest, my luck with pocket Kings may have played a bit into my decision.  But honestly, it was mostly to disguise my hand at least a little.

Well, as soon as I started to put chips out, the three-bettor groaned.  “Oh no.”  Then he added something like, “If he calls…..”  It was pretty clear my tight image was very apparent to him. I suppose it could have just been my appearance that made him wary, but I doubt it, I was far from the oldest looking geezer at the table.  No, he had been very aware of how little I was playing. Damn.  I should have raised with that 10-2 suited earlier.

Cookie called and the three of saw the flop.  It was lovely.  King-2-x, two spades.  The “x” was a middle card, like a 6 or 7.  So I wasn’t worried about a straight, but I was very much aware of the flush possibility.  The King of spades was on the board.

Cookie checked and I kind of expected the young fellow to check too.  I figured he was scared of me being in the hand.  But no, he counted out chips and bet $45.

Well, I’m not sure slow-playing a set is ever a good play, but with those two spades out there, I sure wasn’t going to slow-play this one.  The trouble was, when I looked at my remaining stack, I realized that my standard raise here—three times the bet I’m facing—would leave me almost nothing behind.  I mean, a bet to $135 would leave me like $15-$25 behind, I figured.  I started to count, then realized that it made absolutely no sense to raise if I wasn’t going to shove.  So I announced all-in.

Somewhat surprisingly, Cookie called almost immediately.  As I said, it looked like she had slightly less than me. She probably said “all-in” just so there was no need to count.  Unless the young fellow wanted to call.  But he wanted no part of this.  He folded instantly.  I’m sure he folded in his mind as soon as he heard me say “all-in.”

We didn’t show.  I almost said, “Are you on a flush draw?” and flipped over my hand, but I didn’t.  I was 99% sure she had the flush draw.  The only other possibility was a set-over-set situation and those are rare.  But I could easily see her risking her entire stack on the flush draw with two cards to come.  I’d seen her play enough to think that.

I was not happy when the turn was a spade.  I immediately thought, “Oh well, another disaster with pocket Kings.  Even a set of Kings isn’t good enough.”  But the river was the most beautiful deuce of clubs you could imagine, pairing the board and filling me up.  Top boat is a wonderful thing.

Even before I flipped over my hand, she flipped over hers and kind of threw her cards in disgust, so sure she was beat.  She had Jack-9 of spades.  She was quite upset, asked the dealer to hold her seat while she got more money for another re-buy.

I actually hadn’t seen her cards.  I mean I knew she had the flush, but wasn’t sure what the ranks were.  So I asked the fellow who had three-bet pre, who was sitting right in front of where her cards had landed, exactly what her hand was.  He told me, and he also said that he had pocket Jacks.  “I knew I was in trouble when you called.”

So I said to him, while Cookie was still away, “Do you think she calls my four-bet preflop?” He said no way.  “She would fold, it’d be heads up.  Well, maybe. I might not have called you there.”

I have spent some time wondering if I liked Cookie’s play there.  I mean, she was getting pretty close to the right odds with two cards to come.  But her flush would have been only Jack-high.  Would it have been out of the question for one of the other two players to have had, say, Ace-Queen of spades?  I mean I could have called the three-bet pre with that hand.  Of course, it would be hard for her to imagine me shoving all my chips with just the nut flush draw, I admit.  What about the preflop raiser?  Is Ace-Queen of spades in his three-bet range?  Maybe not.  Maybe it was a good call on her part.  It almost worked, after all. But what about calling a three-bet preflop with Jack-9 suited?  Good play?  Like I said, she liked to see flops.

The pot was close to $500, biggest I’ve won in a while.  And with Kings yet!  Miracles do happen.

I was still stacking my chips when the next hand was dealt and I looked down at Ace-Queen of clubs.  I was just too busy enjoying the moment to think about raising there, so I mindlessly limped in.  That older Asian fellow I mentioned raised to $21. It folded back to me. Out of position, that’s an easy fold, but was suddenly flush with chips. I figured what the hell, I just caught a boat, let’s go for the flush this time and I called. The Asian groaned, just like the young fellow had the hand before. He too was afraid of my image. It was heads up. 

The flop was pretty damn nice.  Ace-high, and two clubs.  I thought about donk betting, but I wanted to see what his bet would be and then consider a check-raise.  But I should have paid heed to his displeasure at my preflop call.  He was wary of me and he checked behind.

The turn was not a club but a Queen, giving me top two.  This time I grabbed chips.  Before I bet, he asked, “How much?”  It sounded like he was gonna call, so maybe I should have bet more, but I said, “$30.”  He did indeed call.  The river was a blank and I bet $50.  He didn’t call. Instead, he folded face up—two Kings!  Ordinarily I wouldn’t do this but I made an exception and showed my hand.  “Top two and the flush draw…I had everything.”

I stuck around a few more orbits, but I went back to being card dead, and didn’t have quite the same incentive to look for marginal hands to raise with.

But it’s obviously time to take advantage of my tight image and loosen up with preflop raises (and three-bets).  I’m actually thinking that—just as an exercise—I should try raising in late position a few times without even looking at my hand.  Because if I look and see how bad it is, I’ll get cold feet.  The thing is, I’d rather try that in a 1/2 game in Vegas than at a 2/3 game in L.A.  But we’ll see. 

I left up $200 with a great story about the beloved pocket Kings.  A good day indeed.

(Edited to Add:  The following Saturday I returned to the poker room. Did I try to raise blind?  How did it work out?  See the follow-up post here)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Since When Do We Allow Side Bets Here?"

New Year's Eve, 2016
Part 3

This is the third and final chapter.  See parts 1 (here) and 2 (here)

As we pick up the story, a new player came to the table.  Let’s call him, oh, I dunno, Jose. 

Jose was not a happy camper and was having a bad night, poker wise.  He soon revealed he came over from the 2/5 game, which apparently broke.  Now I understand why Rick was at our 1/2  game, he must have come from a broken 2/5 game too.  Pretty much the first words out of Jose’s mouth were, “Whatever you do, don’t give me Aces.  I can’t win with Aces.  I had Aces two times in that game, raised big both times, and both times I lost to a set of Queens.  They called and ran me down.”  In case Rick hadn’t heard him, he said to him, “You were there, you saw.”

Jose changed the dynamic of the game.  He was betting like he was still playing 2/5.  He would often open big--$25, even $40.  Other times he would limp or raise to a more reasonable amount.  But he was definitely quite the aggro. And he kept muttering about how bad he was running all night. 

I soon learned that Jose was waiting for some folks to join him, he and his friends were going to Hakkasan for New Year’s Eve.  The way I learned this was by listening to him shouting into his phone. He wasn’t on the phone, it appeared that he was voice-texting.  “Where are you?”  “Get your ass over here!”  “No, I don’t want to go to the club without you.”  “No, I don’t want to meet you inside.”  After sending one fiery text, he said to the entire table, “I’m gonna kill these people when they get here.” For whatever reasons, the rest of his party was delayed, and Jose was not pleased about that.

Not long after Jose came to the game, a dealer I’ll call “Dewey” took the seat next to me.  He was on the clock and made it very clear he was trying to get an “Early Out”—get off the clock so he could drink.  But that wasn’t in the cards for him.  He had table changed to get there, and I originally thought he wanted this table to be with his colleagues, Ginger and Jennifer.  Make it sort of a dealer’s game.  But I later found out that wasn’t the case at all.

I had never played with Dewey at all and I was surprised to see that he was super-aggressive himself.  Pretty much a match for Jose.  He only had about $100 when he got to the table but he wasn’t afraid to put that stack in play, making big opening raises just like Jose did and often open shoving or three-bet shoving when Jose had opened.  I was frankly surprised a dealer would play so aggressively in his own room.  I would think they’d want to be a little less aggro knowing that the other players in the game may be in a position to tip them (or not) in the future.  I think that’s why a lot of dealers prefer to play in other rooms, not the ones they work in.

This made it very difficult to play.  Between the banter of the ladies I was trying to overhear (for this very blog post), and the incredible distractions provided by the NY’s Eve Slut Parade (as described the previous post(, it was hard to concentrate on the poker. And now that there were two maniacs at the table, I just tightened up completely, knowing that I couldn’t concentrate well enough to succeed at this suddenly high stakes game.

Finally, Jose was getting ready to leave (not sure if his party had shown up or not, but he had clearly had enough poker for one night).  I’m sure he had gone thru several buy-ins and was now down to less than $100.  And so, he just started open-shoving with his diminutive stack.  Actually it was anywhere from $40-$70 or so.  He didn’t do it every time so he was being at least somewhat selective.  I didn’t get any hand to call with.

Jose was getting upset that he couldn’t just lose his chips so he could go.  Really.  I guess he was looking for a double-up (which would make the trip to the podium to cash out worthwhile) or a bust-out.  The blinds he was picking up shoving weren’t enough.  When he did get called, it was by a shorter stack and he didn’t make enough to satisfy him.  Or he would lose to a shorter stack and still have chips.

Apparently he knew Rick, and I suspect they knew each other from before that earlier 2/5 session they had played.  And Jose said, “Man, I just gotta lose this and bust and then I’m leaving.”  Now, I dunno who suggested it, but Jose and Rick made an agreement.  They had a side bet between the two of them on this one last hand, whoever had the better hand at the end would win.  The stakes?  Jose’s entire stack.  Jose said this would be his last hand either way. They didn’t want to play against the other players, so they both folded and asked the dealer to put their hands off to the side so they could see how they compared to the board later. I’m not sure they even looked at their cards.  The dealer put their hands to the side, but then, someone else raised and there was no call so there wasn’t even a flop in this hand.  Rick and Jose asked the dealer to put out a board anyway, and after hesitating for a bit, he complied.  He put out a five-card board and then turned over both of their hands and it turned out Rick won.  Jose was fine with that and he gave Rick all the rest of his chips (well under $100) and took off to go kill his friends.  Or at least meet them and go to the night club with them.

I was happy to see Jose leave. With his constant complaining about his cards, his yelling into the phone to his friends, and his aggro betting, I felt we were well rid of him. And I didn’t give much thought to the little wager they made that got rid of him.  If I had thought about it much, I would have been grateful it worked out the way it did.

But Dewey was livid.   He said to the dealer (his colleague), “Oh, we allow side bets here?  Since when?” The dealer said, “Well, he was gonna leave anyway.”  That was true.  Then he said, “I thought they were doing it out of their own pocket.”  I doubt he actually believed that.

I didn’t really understand at first what Dewey’s problem was.  Yes, it was not strictly within the rules.  But it was New Year’s Eve, it was supposed to be an evening of celebration. Forget about Jose, Rick was one of the best regulars in the room, was it a big deal to bend the rules a bit to accommodate him?

But then Dewey made his point clear.  “I’m trying to win his money.  It’s a lot easier to win it from him than it is now, from Rick.”  Yeah, true.  Rick is a tough player, and Jose had just been spewing chips. 

However, I would have had more sympathy if it had been more chips.  It was less than $100, as I said. Not that I wouldn’t want to win that amount myself, granted.  But it’s not like he was cheated out of an opportunity to win a shitload of money.  And it made Rick happy, and I’ll bet that Rick has tipped Dewey generously in the past (and will in the future) when he’s been dealt to by him.

The argument between them got very heated.  The dealer kept saying, “He was gonna leave anyway.”  And Dewey kept saying, “My point is, it is more beneficial for that money to be in his (Jose’s) hands than Rick’s.” And so Jennifer and Ginger weighed in.  They tried to reason with Dewey, saying he was over reacting.  But they also admitted that what the dealer allowed was really unacceptable.  The amazing thing was that, this close to midnight, both Jennifer and Ginger (particularly Ginger) were coherent and not just raging drunks.  They were somehow sympathetic to both points of view.

Dewey actually got up and complained to the shift manager, which I found really stunning.  Ratting out one of your co-workers seemed extreme.  I mean, this was clearly a one-off. 

At that point, the dealer turned to me and said, “You heard him say he was leaving after that hand, didn’t you?”  I confirmed that I heard that.  He asked if I would vouch for that if it ever came up.  I said sure.  You see, the dealer figured that, as a reg, my word would hold some weight.

Anyway, they never really settled things, the dealer was pushed out, and Dewey was still upset.  Then, midnight was approaching and most of the players took off to go outside and watch the fireworks.  I think I may have been the only person left at my table.  So I just chatted with the new dealer for 20 minutes.

Slowly, the people started filing back in.  One of the first guys back to our table was a younger fellow wearing a baseball cap.  So it was just him and I and the female dealer at the table and the guy said to me, “Does Jose Canseco play here a lot?”

What?  Initially, that struck me as the biggest non-sequitor question I’d ever heard.  What made him think of Jose Canseco, I wondered.  He might have well as brought up the Sultan of Brunei.
I said—or started to say—that I’d never seen him in there when, the light bulb went off over my little brain and it occurred to me he just might have meant the aggro fellow who had just taken off to go to the club.  Could it be?  I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have a real picture of Canseco in my mind.  But that’s what he must have meant, right?

So I asked him, “Wait.  Was that Jose Canseco who was in seat 5?”  “Yes, it was. I wanted to say something to him, I wanted to thank him for all the great baseball memories, but I was too shy.”

Holy shit.  How could I have been playing with one of the biggest baseball stars of my lifetime and not have known it?  Especially one that I knew played poker. I immediately whipped out my celphone and Googled “Jose Canseco today.”  And sure enough, some pictures came up that made it quite clear that I had been somewhat annoyed at Jose Canseco for the past several hours. Indeed, I had spent New Year’s Eve playing poker with Jose Canseco.

I dunno if I would have said anything to him if I had recognized him.  Likely not. He didn’t seem as open as Orel Hershiser was. At least with Hershiser, I eventually did recognize him, even if it took about an hour.  This time, if that guy hadn’t spoken up, I never would have known.

And of course, now you know why I named him “Jose”—that’s actually who it was, even if I didn’t have a clue at the time.  If I never found out, I probably wouldn’t have even given him a blog name.  I would have just referred to him as “Aggro” or “Maniac” or something like that.

A few minutes later, the rest of the players showed up, including Dewey.  I immediately asked him if he knew that was Jose Canseco in seat 5.  “Of course….that’s why I wanted this table.  And that’s why I was pissed about that side bet.  The whole point was to try to get his money.  I know how he plays.”

Shit, now it made sense.  He was angling for a table change the minute he saw Canseco at our game.  And those early aggro moves he made were all designed to play at Canseco.  He’s probably both dealt to him and played with him before.   Suddenly, I felt I had a better understanding about why he was so upset with side bet.

Dewey went on to mention something I had totally forgotten about—if I even noticed at the time.  At one point, he said, Jennifer was about to toss him a plastic water bottle from across the table.  And he said, “Don’t do that, it may hit someone in the head.”  Apparently, Canseco reacted to that, and it was intentional on Dewey’s part. There was a famous incident when Canseco got hit in the head with a fly ball and it bounced in the stands for a home run.

As for the poker at this session…well, not much to report, actually.  There were obviously a lot of distractions.  I was trying to hear the ladies banter—and I was distracted by the foot traffic.  Honestly, it was so good I was starting to get annoyed when I had to look away from it to look at my cards.

I wasn’t getting good cards (at least, I think I looked at them long enough to determine that, but I can’t really be sure) and it was obvious early on that I wouldn’t be able to give the game the concentration necessary to play my best game.  If I wanted to have a successful poker session, I should have asked for a table change to a table in the back, away from the club traffic.

Of course, I did no such thing.

But I really liked my seat.  I was not only potentially getting material from Jennifer and Ginger, but honestly, the seat I was at was providing me more entertainment than I’d had in months (but then, I’d just spent 7 weeks recovering from open heart surgery).  I really didn’t want to risk a lot of money under the circumstances.  I nitted it up and tried to make my one buy-in last until after midnight so I wouldn’t have to give up my seat without re-buying.

And that’s just what I did.  Early on, I lost the minimum with the dreaded hand when I ran into a set of Jacks.  I got Aces twice in relatively short order and won two small pots.

When we were short-handed, it folded to me on the button with pocket 6’s.  I raised to $6 and the blinds both called.  I made a c-bet on a blank flop and took it. 

I had pocket Queens when someone straddled and someone called the straddle.  I made it $20 and it was four-way.  There was a low flop, and my $40 c-bet took it. 

After midnight, when I was more or less ready to quit the game, my stack was down to less than $50.  Since I felt I could leave then, I just shoved with Ace-8 off (a Jose Canseco move!).  I got called by pocket Jacks.  I got both an Ace and an 8 on the flop, and doubled up.

I kept playing for awhile, and would have stayed longer. But a new player took the seat to my left and he just couldn’t stop coughing.  It was quite annoying and I was worried about catching the bubonic plague from him.  So after an orbit or two, I had enough and cashed out, a relatively small loss.  I still needed to kill sometime in the casino before all the roads would be open and I could drive back to my room.  Fortunately, there was still plenty to look at all over the casino.  So I did.

Finally, after 3AM, I got in my car and headed back.  Despite losing some money, it was definitely an extremely fun New Year’s Eve celebration.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

"What Else Are Breasts For?"

New Year's Eve, 2016
Part 2

This is the second of three parts.  Part 1 is here.  I’ll post part 3 Tuesday evening.  We continue right where we left off.  Ginger, Faith and Jennifer had been away from the table for over an hour to have dinner.

The ladies did return within the allowed time and they were in very good moods.  But then something happened that soured Faith’s disposition.  She and Jennifer were in a hand, as was a third player.  I believe it was on the flop and Jennifer went all-in.  Her bet was a bit less than $100, let’s say it was $75. Faith was next to act.  She had Jennifer covered and she had her chips stacked very high.  She put one of stacks out in front of her. She didn’t say what she intended and she hadn’t counted the stack, but it was clearly more than Jennifer’s bet—quite a bit more.  It looked like it could have been double Jennifer’s bet; if not, it was close to that.

Faith apparently didn’t realize that there was another player in the hand, she must have thought she was heads up with Jennifer.  But before the dealer could ask her to clarify her action, the third player, who had Faith covered, announced “all-in.”  This took Faith by surprise, and then she started taking chips off the stack she had put out in response to Jennifer’s shove.  The dealer said she couldn’t do that.  He was about to count her stack, insisting her bet was a raise.  Maybe only a min-raise, but definitely a raise.  She said, “No, this was just a call, I’m taking back the chips that are more than Jennifer’s bet.”  The dealer stopped her from pulling the chips back and immediately called the floor.

The problem was that since Faith never said “call,” the chips speak for themselves.  Her play would have been fine if it was just heads up but her action was unclear since there was another player to act and that player announced all-in so fast the dealer didn’t have a chance to clarify her bet.  I believe what should have happened was that the dealer should have counted out the chips she had pushed forward and if the extra chips in excess of Jennifer’s bet were more than half of Jennifer’s bet, it would be considered a min-raise (to $150).  If they were less than half, it would just be a call.  So, if it was $120 total, it would be considered a raise to $150, and if it was $100 total, it would be considered a call of the $75 and she could take the extra chips back.

At least, as I understand the rule, that’s the case.  Anyone think differently?

Well, you didn’t really need to count because it was obvious that Faith’s stack was very close to being double Jennifer’s bet, you could just eyeball it and determine that.  Anyway, the shift boss did the count and it turned out she was only $15 short of making a legitimate min-raise, even though she insisted she was only calling.  Faith put up quite the argument, insisting that it was only a call and she was only responsible for the $75.  The shift boss refused to change his ruling, and didn’t care one bit that Faith was a long-time regular in the room (nor should he have).

Here’s where it got a bit dicey for me.  I think he not only should have insisted that all the chips Faith put out remain in the pot, but he should have made her put an additional $15 in there since she, by rule, made the min-raise.  I am not 100% certain of this, but I don’t believe he did that. I think she was just on the hook for what she put out initially and not the extra $15.

But maybe, if I’m correct, it’s ok.  I think I’ve seen situations where players put out excess chips that indicate a raise (or a call of a raise they weren’t aware of) and were allowed to just leave the chips out with completing the bet.  And it was only $15. 

Anyway, Faith folded and the guy who shoved won the pot

But Faith was really pissed. And she took it out on Jennifer, for some reason.  She immediately asked for a table change to get away from Jennifer!  Although the ruling was right, I could understand her being pissed at the shift boss.  That might have encouraged her to change poker rooms—but as I’ve already explained, that would have been difficult on this night.

I couldn’t figure out why she was so pissed at Jennifer that she wanted to get away from her, but she clearly was.  She somehow blamed Jennifer for the whole problem, when all Jennifer had done was go all-in, a perfectly acceptable poker move.  Well, the three ladies were bantering and sorta playing at each other all night.  Perhaps she thought Jennifer was just making a bluff there and because she was so sure she (Faith) had caught her, she forgot about the other player and that the whole problem was somehow Jennifer’s fault.  I didn’t see the hands there, perhaps she got pissed if she found out Jennifer was shoving with air.  But why would Jennifer do that unless she too forgot about the third player in the hand, and I find that unlikely.

So Faith moved to another table, leaving her good friend Ginger behind. I don’t think Faith was mad at Ginger too but then, I really don’t understand women, so who knows?

I’m happy to report that before the evening was over, Faith returned to the table in her original seat, and seemed to have forgiven Jennifer for whatever crime she had committed.

Now, before the three of them had gone to dinner, another person I recognized showed up at the table.  It was Rick, a reg in the room.  Rick almost always plays 2/5 when it’s running, so I hadn’t had much experience playing with him.  Maybe once or twice over the years he was at the 1/2 table with me.  And I’m pretty sure he was the guy who busted me the last time I played in the MGM Invitation (freeroll).  But I knew by reputation he was a really tough player.

Oh, there’s one other thing I should tell you about Rick.  And I tell you this only because it’s relevant to the story.  Rick is a “little person.”

So when Rick came to our table, Jennifer was almost ecstatic to greet him, it had been a long time since she’d seen him.  Rick initially was sitting in the seat to my immediate left. Not too long after Faith left the table, the guy who won that pot left the game.  Rick moved over to take his seat, which was right next to Jennifer. 

But before Rick moved, the salaciousness began.  At one point, Rick and Jennifer were in a hand together.  I’m sure Jennifer has real respect for Rick’s game.  Rick, who was sitting across the table from the ladies at the time, had made a big bet and Jennifer went into the tank.  Then she spoke to Rick from across the table, “If I fold, are you gonna show me your nuts?”  I cracked up but Rick didn’t hear what she said and asked her to repeat it.  I tried to repeat it for him, but at the same time, Ginger also respnded but with a slight variation.  She shouted, “She said, ‘How big are your nuts?’”  Rick was unfazed, and he kind of balled up his fingers and his thumb to approximate the size.  “And that’s only one,” he emphasized.  Remember, Rick is a “little person.”

And there was a question about the size of a related part of his anatomy.  I didn’t catch the context, but Jennifer said something about “six inches.”  “That’s six inches,” or something. Rick responded, “I don’t know if it’s six inches.  I know when I walk, I get carpet burn.  Is that six inches?  Or is that eight inches?”

During this back-and-forth, Jennifer said something which Rick took as a slight on his ability to, um, get a woman.  I didn’t hear the set up, but I heard Rick say, “What? You think I can’t get laid?  I’ll have you know I’m getting laid tonight!”

Now to explain this next part, I have to discuss something I don’t like talking about—cleavage.  OK, that was silly—no one would believe that.  Well, in the entire history of cleavage, there was never more of it to talk about than this night.  Even better, there was never more to see than on this night.

Seriously, the eye candy was noticeable at 4PM when I got there, and even early in the evening, long before the club goers usually show up, they were out in force.  From the time I got the preferred viewing seat right after dinner, there was almost a non-stop stream of girls, dressed to the nines (or perhaps more aptly, barely dressed to the nines), walking by. 

As I’ve explained before, there are three elements to a Slut Parade dress, which is pretty amazing, because there’s barely enough material in those dresses for one element. The dresses are generally very short, very tight, and very low-cut. Most dresses emphasize two of those three elements.  Often, the girls wearing tight, short dresses aren’t showing much (if anything) on top—except perhaps due to the tightness of the dress.  So, some nights, there isn’t that much cleavage to admire, and also, on some nights, the ladies that show up are not as great looking as on other nights.

This night was something else.  It seemed like virtually every woman who walked by had picked an outfit out that really showed off her boobs.  There was cleavage, there was side-boob, there was under-boob.  There was just a lot of boobs. And a ridiculously high percentage of the ladies were smoking hot.  Sizzling, in fact.  The average wait time to see at least two really gorgeous women walk by was 1.7 seconds.  Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit.  But not by much.  I’ve heard that there are men with an above average interest in women’s breasts (not that I know anybody like that).  This was in incredible night for any such man.

Honestly, since I’ve observing the Slut Parade, this was without question the most girls I’d ever seen.  And the highest percentage of really hot girls.  And the highest percentage of really revealing, really low-cut dresses.  What was there not to like?

It would have been a great night to have hidden about a dozen (or maybe 100) video cameras at various locations in the casino to record the lovely young ladies there to celebrate the new year.  Unfortunately, doing so would be extremely illegal.

At one point during the evening, I tweeted out the following:  “The cleavage on display tonight is unreal. Of course, I mean that in both senses of the word.”

I don’t want to imply that on this night there only eye-candy for the tit-men.  Not at all.  Leg-men and ass-men were also extremely well served.  As were fans of virtually all body-types.  There was something for everyone—and a whole lot of it.

The one problem with the view from the poker room was that, at various times during the evening, passersby would decide to stop at the rail of the poker room, right in front of our table, and just park themselves there, watching us play.  I doubt most of these folks were poker players and I have no idea what they found so fascinating about watching us.  But they did.  And thus, they were partially or mostly blocking my view of the foot traffic.  Often, there would be only a small window to peak thru to enjoy the ladies as they passed by.  It was frustrating.  Frequently I didn’t get a chance to admire the short dress, or the tight dress.  I so wanted to shout at those looky loos, “Get the f*** out of the way, you’re blocking the view!”  But I managed to avoid doing that.

So, it was in that context that Jennifer started complaining about the traffic.  It wasn’t that she objected to the girls in their revealing outfits.  It was that it was just unfair.  She couldn’t help but notice how distracted all the guys at the table were by ladies.  So she said, “There’s nothing for us to look at.  Look at the guys, there’s no guys worth looking at. It’s only the girls.  Only the girls are worth looking at.”

“And they’re all fake.”

Ginger disputed that there was nothing for them to look at.  “I like looking at good-looking people of either sex.”

Then Jennifer, noticing all the boobage on display, stated flatly, “Anything more than a mouthful is a waste.”

The dealer at the time, a male and a long time co-worker of both Jennifer and Ginger responded, “Is that true for men, too?”

Jennifer replied, “No, your equipment has multiple functions.  Breasts are just for two things—babies use them, and for sex play….What else are they for?  Milk and sex play.  That’s it.”

I dunno…..I think they’re also nice to look at.  When properly displayed, they tend to turn men into blithering idiots.  When properly displayed at a poker table, they can distract male poker players from playing well.  This is known (by readers of this blog, anyway), as the Jennifer Tilly Effect.

But that was all Jennifer had to say about breasts and their usefulness, and we moved onto other topics.

And thus ends part 2.  The final chapter will see two dealers having quite the argument, and a “delayed” celebrity sighting.  See here.