Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Poker Book Review: "Unfolding Poker"

James "Splitsuit" Sweeney has just published a new book, Unfolding Poker.  I think it's a worthy addition to your poker library.

First let me compliment Sweeney on the title.  I love the play on words, "Unfolding Poker."  And it's especially apt since one of the lessons I learned from the book as that I'm folding too much.  I really should be "unfolding" instead.

The book's subtitle is "Advanced answers to the most frequently-asked poker questions."  Sweeney is a poker coach, releases both articles and videos at an impressive rate, encourages readers/viewers to submit poker questions and hand histories to him.  As such, he has a pretty good idea of what the most common questions players looking to fix their leaks are.

As opposed to many poker books, it is not linear.  This is not a step-by-step primer on how to play poker at a particular level.  You don't have to learn everything from one chapter to go on to the next.  In fact, you can pretty much read the chapters in any order you like.  Each chapter stands on its own.  That makes it easy to get through the material at your own pace.

The book is aimed at the beginner-intermediate level.  I'd say closer to intermediate.  You won't learn about posting blinds or what a 3-bet is—but you will learn more about when to 3-bet (spoiler alert: a lot more often than I do).  But as Sweeney says in the preface, "The concepts in this book are not overly-advanced."  It is also aimed at cash games, not tournaments.

Among the most informative chapters for me were "Making money in tight games", "When do I fold or hold an overpair", "3-betting more against fish,", "Should you play looser?" and "When should I change my bet size."  Sweeney gives the answers clearly and in depth.  And always in a very entertaining manner.

That chapter on changing bet size was invaluable for me.  As readers of my blog know, I tend to open the same amount  preflop no matter what I have.  I was told this would make it difficult for anyone to figure out the strength of my hand.  But Sweeney makes the case for varying bet  sizes, and explains when and why to do it.  If I just master this one point, I think it will improve my game significantly.

Of course, everyone who reads my blog knows I should play looser so I will definitely try to take that chapter to heart!  There's also a chapter about the best way to study poker—no, it doesn't just say "read this book!"  There are really good suggestions on how to get the most out of the material you are using to improve your game.

Actually, one of the most fun chapters in the book is one that I might not ever need.  It's about "Running it twice," and when and why you should consider doing it.  I say I might not need this because honestly, I've never been in a game where that was even allowed.  I believe in Vegas, most rooms would only allow that at a 2/5 or higher game, not a 1/2 or 1/3 game.  So it's never been an option for me.  Nevertheless, I found the discussion of whether or not to do it fascinating.

There's a lot of bonus material available accompanying the book.  Most chapters have links to articles or videos or podcasts that Sweeney has produced that help amplify the material even more. All that bonus material is definitely +EV.

I mostly listened to the audio book version (although that does come with a Kindle version and I did actually read some of the chapters).  I recommend the audio for several reasons.  For one, the author reads it in those dulcet tones of his.  Sweeney has such a great voice, I'm thinking I could enjoy just hearing him read the phone book.  But listening to him you can hear his inflections and get a better idea of what are the most important points he's trying to make. 

But what will be great is having that audio version to listen to over and over again. I'm already thinking I will re-listen to it on my way to my next poker session—and even on my way to Vegas in a couple of weeks.  Perhaps if I listen often enough, the parts about playing looser and 3-betting more will eventually sink in fully.  Hey, you know, I could actually listen to it right at the poker table, couldn't I? 

So I can readily recommend Unfolding Poker.  If you want to purchase it, you can use the link at the bottom of this post, and then use the code "robvegas" and get a 10% discount.

Use this link to purchase:  Unfolding Poker.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

"I'm Trying to Save You From a Penalty!"

I finally got a chance to play in a tournament I've been looking forward to playing in for a long time last month. 

Back in July, 2016, the Venetian made some changes in their regular tournament schedule and changed the Saturday Noon tournament.  I was intrigued by this tournament as soon as I saw the structure sheet for it.

It's called the Doublestack and players start with a nice stack of 24K.  The levels are 40-minutes.  There's a $25K prize pool guarantee. And there's actually a 45-minute dinner break after the 9th level.

You readers must know how much I appreciate the fact that it had a dinner break.  For that reason alone, I wanted to try it.

The only issue was the buy-in.  It's $340.  That's a bit more than I'd like the pay for a regular tournament.  But I knew I had to try it at least once.

But because of medical issues, I was MIA for the rest of the year, until my Xmas trip.  And when I was there for the holidays, the Venetian had a special tournament series going for the occasion, so I couldn't try it then.

April was actually my first chance to give it a shot.  So on my first full day in town—which also happened to be birthday—I did indeed give it a shot.

My birthday wasn't the only big celebration going on.  It was also the day of David Wang's Bachelor Party.  

Anyway, I have to say that I was really impressed with the tournament.  I could easily get spoiled with the 40-minute levels. It's a wonderful thing. That, and the huge stack you start with, sure gives you a lot of play.  If you're a tournament player and that price is in your range, you should definitely consider giving this one a try.

Now, I have to say, the first weekend I was in town, Vegas was dead. The excuse given was that this was too close to April 15 when everyone's taxes are due.  I'm usually in Vegas on or around my birthday and although it is a slow time for Vegas, I don't ever recall it being quite this dead.  You could actually drive on the Strip on this weekend if you wanted to (I didn't).  Perhaps people are staying away because of parking fees?  BTW, the Venetian still offers free parking.

So, there were only 30 or so players when the tournament started.  That would have resulted in a huge overlay.  Of course there were six levels of entry and re-entry and they came pretty damn close to making the guarantee.  The final total was 80 players so they did have a $2,600 overlay.

There were a few interesting brouhahas early in the tournament while I was still at my original table. A new player came in, still late in the first level.  He had only been dealt a few hands when the small blind got to him. A guy on the other side of the table from him raised to $250 (the blinds were 50/100).  But this new guy didn't see the raise.  He put out two more green chips to call $100.  The dealer quickly explained that there had been a raise and pointed to the raiser's bet. So the guy said OK and took back all his chips and mucked his cards!  Or at least he tried to but the dealer didn't put them into the muck just yet.  She let them stay in front of him.

The dealer said he couldn't take back his bet, he had to leave the $100 out there.  "What are you talking about?  I didn't know there was a raise. You didn't say 'raise.'"

The dealer insisted he was responsible for the $100 and then called the floor.  The floor said that he had two options.  Muck his hand and forfeit the $100, or take his hand back and call the $250.  He was quite upset but he accepted the floor's decision.  He ended up forfeiting the hundred. Oh and yes, it was mentioned by a player that even if he been allowed to take back his call, he was still of course obligated for the $50 small blind.

After the floor left, the guy said he'd never seen that before. We discussed it.  I said that usually, at least in a cash game, they let you take back the bet if you don't see the raise.  At least that's been my experience.  I have seen it the other way a few times...where you're stuck for the extra money.  But in a cash game it's only a buck or two so no big deal.  I can't recall the hard line taken in tournaments for that matter....I just can't remember.  I'd have to guess that I've seen people allowed to take back money though.  But this house, they are apparently hard line on the rules.  As long as they are consistent, I think it's fine.

Then there was a very disgruntled guy who came to our table and apparently this was already his second or perhaps third buy-in (he showed up during the second or third level).  He spent the entire time bitching and moaning about some supposedly horrific bad beat he took to bust out.  A guy made a call he never should have made and caught his card—you know the story.  The thing was, he tried to explain it to us (not that anyone asked) and it didn't sound like a bad call to me.  But I probably just didn't hear the explanation properly.

Anyway, he was across the table from the guy in seat 1—who actually won the previous day's tournament.  In a hand I don't think the disgruntled guy was in, a flop came and there was a bet.  When the action came to Seat 1, he said something like "I played this all wrong....look at this." And he held up his cards so that only Seat 2, who had folded preflop, saw them.  I was in Seat 3 and could almost see them, but not quite (I too had folded preflop).  And then he mucked his hand. 

The disgruntled guy went nuts.  "You can't do that!  You cannot do that!  Don't show your cards!  You're not allowed to do that."  Seat 1 was taken aback but he said, "Sorry, ok, I won't do it again."

Now, I've played a lot of poker.  I've seen this happen a lot, the player shows his hand before folding to a player who is already out.  Sometimes it's an accident, sometimes it's hard to tell and sometimes it's clearly on purpose.  And yes, sometimes it has annoyed me that I didn't get to see the hand.  But I'd never  seen anyone complain about it before. And this guy was making a federal case out of it.          

That should have been the end of it but the disgruntled guy wouldn't let it go.  "I'm trying to save you from a penalty.  You could get a penalty for that.  I'm trying to help you."  But it wasn't exactly a friendly, avuncular tone he used. It was hostile.  He kept badgering him.

Seat 2 got pissed.  "What do you want from me?  I folded, I said I wasn't going to do it again."  The grouch said, "Well, I'm trying to save you from a penalty.  You should be grateful to me."

It go to the point where the dealer said, "OK, that's enough.  Let me call the floor."  The floor came over quickly.  He agreed with the disgruntled guy that it was wrong to show his hand like that.  He said that the first time, it's just a warning.  So he gave the guy a warning.  Next time there will be a one- round penalty But he also said that what the dealer is supposed to do is put the guy's mucked cards aside, and then after the hand is over show everyone the hand.  Makes sense.  I've just never seen that before.  I had to admit the disgruntled guy was right.  He was just incredibly obnoxious about it.

And there was a funny incident involving me.  I wanted to raise to $500 preflop.  Well aware of the single chip rule, I grabbed a $500 chip and said raise so it wasn't seen as just a call of the big blind.  I had already seen a few times dealers not hear players say raise and think it was a call in that situation.  The bachelor party tournament was getting started behind us and there was some noise from that, plus general casino/poker room noise.  So I took the chip, held it up in front of my face, and said, rather loudly, "Raise!"  Then I placed the chip out in front of me.

The player two to my left said, "Wow, that was a really loud 'raise.'  What is that?  Is that information about your hand?"  I laughed and said that I was just trying to make my action clear since I was using a single chip.  Another guy at the table actually said that too—that I was trying to be clear in my bet.  But I decided to have some fun.  So I added, "actually, yes....I've got quads."  That got a laugh, but not as big as the laugh the dealer got we she said, "Floor!"  But there was a smile on her face and she did immediately add, "just kidding."

Of course before the tournament started they had announced the rules and had emphasized that players were not allowed to talk about their hands.  And we had already seen how strict they were in enforcing the rule regarding not taking chips back when there was a raise that a player hadn't noticed.  Technically, I had violated the rule about talking about my hand!

The dealer was just joking but the floor actually heard her and came over. So even though she didn't think there was a problem with what I had said, she now had to explain to the floor what happened.  Naturally she made it clear that it was preflop and I was obviously joking. The floor said ok and moved along.  One of the players joked, "one-round penalty!"  You know, I did purposely say a hand I couldn't possibly have there.  If I had said, "I have Aces," I would have gotten in trouble (I actually had Ace-King). 

Well that's all for now.  I guess I will discuss some poker hands from this tourney at a future date.  Hint:  Pocket Kings played a key role.  That's not really a spoiler though because half the posts on this blog have the label "dreaded pocket Kings."  But I'm not sure if I'll get back to this tournament in my next post or do something else.  So I'm not calling this a part 1. Hopefully this post can stand on its own.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

So Long November 9, Hello July 9

You've probably heard by now that there's a big change at the WSOP this year—no more November Nine.  Instead of delaying the final table for four months as they've been doing for the past several years, they are going to keep going and finish the tournament in July.  Well, they'll be a slight delay.  There will be two days off after they reach the final table.

The two days is fine.  It's being done for television considerations (like the wacky ways they schedule playoff games in all the major sports), but it makes sense.  The final 9 players will have played an awful lot of poker when they reach the final table—7 days of 12-14 hour days almost all in a row.  Nothing wrong with a couple of days to decompress and rest up a bit.  And it will give the media plenty of time to introduce the final 9 to the poker fans who are following along. 

I've always hated the long delay—it just seems ridiculous.  Imagine if they delayed the Super Bowl for four months after the conference championship games.  Although, I have to admit, on a purely personal note, it worked to my advantage last year.  The November 9 took place during my convalescence from my triple by-pass surgery, and the coverage then helped entertain me for a few nights when I wasn't physically able to do much more than watch TV.  But that was just a fluke.  I'm hoping I won't be recovering from open heart surgery again this coming November.  Or any surgery, for that matter.

Also it sounds like there will be a lot of live, contemporaneous  coverage of the early rounds of the main event on TV, both on ESPN and via live stream from Poker Central.  That can only be a good thing.  In the past, poker fans had to follow along reading written reports online, then watch three-month old recordings leading up to the live final table.  This seems so much better.  Kudos to the WSOP for realizing the November Nine wasn't really working and coming up with a much better delivery system for their product.

Of course, this change won't affect me personally, except as someone who will be following along as a champion is crowned.  I'm not playing in the main event.

But there are some other changes that might affect me more directly.  I already mentioned one a few months back, the new tournament, The Giant (see here).  Another change is a rule involving calling clock on players.  Players will be encouraged to call the clock on players who are tanking too long.  And when the clock is called, the TD may run it for less than 60 seconds at his or her discretion.  You can read about it here

The other change that caught my eye, however, has to do with food.  The highly unpopular Poker Kitchen is being replaced with a "Grab & Go Poker Kitchenette."  They really haven't explained what that means, but I'm assuming it'll be chips, fruit and premade sandwiches and the like.  Hmmm.  I understand the thought—they want to make it a lot easier and faster to get food during those 10 to 20 minute breaks.  Whether this will actually work remains to be seen.  I mean the sheer volume of players looking for food at the same time will still be a challenge.

But the other thing that really caught my eye was this:  "Hot dog carts will also roam throughout the tournament rooms, to service players looking for a quick tableside bite."

Now you're talking!.  Although not exactly health food, at least it's a hot bite to eat that can be consumed obtained without leaving the table for any great length of time.  Of course there are some issues here.

Eating what is essentially finger food while playing cards isn't ideal.  Too easy for mustard or onions or relish (but never, ever mayonnaise) to get on the cards.  And of course, you really don't want to touch the food you're eating with your hands after you've touched those filthy poker chips.  Perhaps the hot dogs will be served so that you don't have to directly touch them?

And I'd like to get reviews of the quality of the hot dog when this rolls out.  A good hot dog (such as Nathan's) is a wonderful thing.  But a bad hot dog—no thanks.

The reason I'm mentioning this is that it has me possibly rethinking whether to play in the Deepstacks this year.  I've played a few in the past.  But last year they made a change and eliminated the 30-minute dinner break.  Considering how crowded the place is, 30-minutes isn't really enough, but at least it's something.  But now, the first two breaks are 20-minutes and then it's 15-minutes after that.  I had no interest in playing them last year.

I've written here about how I think a dinner break for these long tournaments is necessary.  And the good thing about the tournaments around town during the Series is that most of the long ones that start mid-day or earlier have dinner breaks.  So why don't they have them for the 2PM, $235 Deepstack at the Rio?  It doesn't make sense to me.  That tournament is likely to run until the wee hours of the morning the next day.  With no easy way to eat.

Well until now.  Maybe you can get something to "grab and go" fast at the new kitchenette.  And we'll have to see how often that hot dog cart comes around.  Maybe, just maybe, I might consider playing in a 2PM Deepstack or two this year.

Or maybe not.  I'm still not sure that's the best tournament option for me.  Yes, they are hugely popular and create huge prize pools.  But that means you have to survive among a huge field to get the money.  Instead of outlasting 300-400 people at an alternative tournament, you have to outlast maybe 2,000-3,000 players.  Those are tough odds.

True, the number of players means more players are in the money.  But from what I've heard, the pay distribution for those who aren't near the very top is pretty bad.  I always complain about that, but my understanding is it's even worse for the Deepstacks.  Playing 15 hours to get less than double your buy-in back isn't an appealing thought.

Another issue for these Deepstacks is that the Rio is famous for not cooperating with the players when they want to make a deal at the final table. The players are on their own.  I've heard more than one horror story about a player collecting the money, which was supposed to be redistributed to other players as part of the deal, and just running out of the Rio without paying everyone off.  It's a bit scary.

So I dunno.  I'll have to see.  Right now the alternative tournament for me that I like is the $150 1PM tourney at the Golden Nugget, same as I played a few times last year.  That has a $20K guarantee (most days) and will likely easily surpass that most of the time.  To be honest, the juice for that is a bit high, but I think I have a better chance of cashing (both a min-cash or bigger cash) in that than in the Deepstack at the Rio.  There's also one-day events at Planet Hollywood for $200 & $250 that I may consider.  Those have $20K and $50K guarantees respectively.

Well, I still have time to figure it out.  I can wait until I hear some feedback from players about the various venues and tournaments.

What kind of tournaments are you looking for when you're in Vegas for the WSOP?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The $2 Chip Makes an Unwelcome Return

I come here today to talk about the worst thing in poker today—an absolute blight on the game, something the threatens the very future of the game.

I am talking about the use of the $2 chip in a 1/2 or a 1/3 game.

Wait, wait, wait.  I'm not serious.  I'm just being a smart-ass.  The $2 chip is not the worst thing in poker.  It doesn't threaten the very future of the game.  It's not that bad.

Now don't get me wrong.  It is bad.  It's wrong.  It's inexcusable.  But it's not anywhere near as bad as, say, the Designated Hitter Rule is to baseball.  We all know that the use of the DH is the greatest travesty in all of sports, in fact, in all games of any kind.  No reasonable person could argue that.  If you would like to argue that, don't bother, because I don't believe in arguing with unreasonable people.

How bad is the DH rule?  Well, it is exponentially worse than allowing the button straddle in poker and having the action start on the small blind.  Yes, it's just that bad. 

But I digress, we aren't discussing the DH rule here.  We're discussing the use of the $2 chip in a low stakes NL poker game.  And last month, during my trip, I encountered a poker room that used the dreaded $2 chip.

Before I continue, I have to make one thing clear.  In this post, I will not mention the name of this particular poker room.  I have a very specific reason for not doing so, which I can't reveal.  However, I will say this:  If you check back through my Tweets, you can see the room I am talking about it.

The thing is, this is a poker room that used to use the $2 chip, then they stopped using them, and it was only when I was in there last month that I realized they had brought back the $2 chip from the grave.  And that's why I felt obliged to tweet about this recent development.

I have a little bit of background knowledge about this, because, after all, I am "robvegaspoker."

This particular room has undergone a few management changes in the recent years.  Thus when I first played there, three-four years ago, I noticed the $2 chip in play.  Then they brought in a new room manager.  I was actually assigned to interview the new manager for publication.

I am not shy about expressing my concerns about poker room rules and policies with the management folks I deal with.  I'm happy to report that often these managers ask for my opinion about tournament structures, promotions, limits, etc.  I have no problem giving them my feedback.  And also, I have no problem giving my opinion on stuff like this even when they don't ask for it.

I'm never a jerk about it, but let's just say most of the poker room managers and tournament directors I work with in Vegas know how I feel the min-cashes in their tournaments being inadequate, to give one example.

So I was interviewing the new manager, and he was telling me about his plans for the room, how he envisioned improving the room, changes he was going to make.  While he was talking about this, I thought of the $2 chip.  I just very casually mentioned that it was something he might want to look at.  I swear I did this without comparing it to the DH rule!

His response surprised me.  I don't have the exact quote.  This was an issue I brought up mostly for myself, and didn't really think it belonged in the published interview, so I didn't include it.  But he made it very clear in no uncertain terms he totally agreed with my position on the use of the $2 chip.  This is a paraphrase, from my admittedly not great memory, but he said something to the effect of—The $2 chips are all gone from the XXXX poker room—or very soon will be. The way he said it, it was very clear his opinion of the $2 chip was at least as negative as mine was—if not more so.  He didn't say "good riddance to them," but he may as well have.

Since that time, I've returned to the room many times, and never saw a $2 chip in play (I believe they still used them for the rake, which is fine).  But not long after that, the manager I interviewed took on additional responsibilities within the organization he worked for, and eventually the day-to-day management of this poker room fell to another individual. I worked with the new person for a year or two and only in the last month or so did I learn that he was transitioning to another department in the organization.   I was given another person to work with to keep information on the room up-to-date.

This was only a few days before I went into the room to play and discovered the return of the $2 chip.  I asked one of the dealers how long ago they started using the $2 chips again, and he said it's been a couple of months (there was happily no sign of them when I was last there in December). So I can't be sure if the chips were brought back by the very newest person in charge over there, or the person I'd been working with for a couple of years made the change near the end of his tenure.

Or—and perhaps this is the most likely scenario—the decision was made by somebody in gaming above the poker room, and the poker folks had nothing to do with it.  Wouldn't surprise me at all.

Anyway, the reason I felt compelled to do this post is that after I sent that tweet bemoaning the return of the $2 chip to this room, I got some push back from a couple of my twitter peeps, basically asking me what the big deal was.  Both of these fine fellows are poker dealers.  Of course, you know me.  I couldn't possibly respond in the length of a tweet.  So I gave a joke response—that my dislike of them is purely scientific.  "They are unlucky."

So here's the real answer.

They suck.

No actually, I guess there's more to it.

They're unnecessary and they suck.

Actually, I've already written a bit about this topic, a post you can find here.  Now I have to point out, the room I was talking about in that post—the one that was using the $2 chips which pissed me off—was the Monte Carlo poker room.  And I hasten to point out that recently the Monte Carlo closed their poker room.  So a room that used the $2 chips recently closed their poker room?  Coincidence?  I think not.

No, I'm kidding. The room closed because the property is rebranding and they powers that be obviously don't feel the new theme requires a poker room.  But still...why would any other poker room in town take that chance?  Hmm....

Anyway, in response to my post of several years back, I heard from the inimitable Poker Grump who of course informed me that he had griped about the $2 chip years before.  So I'll refer you that post, which you can find here.  Seriously, you should go read it because Grump is a better writer, a better poker player and a better ranter than I am—and is much more concise (no great challenge there).  He really lays out the case against them exceedingly well. I really should just end this post here with that link but no, I can blather on a bit further.

Now one of the problems with the awful things that they often too closely resemble another denomination chip.  Most often (like at the late Monte Carlo), they very closely resemble the $1 chip, making it hard to confirm stacks, and making it easy to tip a dealer or a waitress too much.  One of the twitter peeps I referred to above even implied that they might have purposely made sure every pot they pushed included a $2 chip or two in the hopes that they would get an extra buck tip out of it.  I find that totally unacceptable.  Hey, if a dealer gets an extra buck tip because the player is generous or otherwise thinks he or she deserves it, that's great.  But if I have reason to believe a dealer is purposely trying to deceive me into giving them an extra buck, I can promise you, that dealer will never get a tip for me ever again.  I mean, I could win the bad beat jackpot for $500,000 and they'd get stiffed.

However, at this particular room, the problem was that the $2 chips actually resembled a different denomination—the $25 chip.  Yeah, it was pretty similar.

This is a relatively new development—that you even see a $25 chip in a 1/2 or a 1/3 game.  A year or two ago, almost all poker rooms allowed $100 bills to play at the table.  But in order to satisfy Federal Regulations, most stopped using them.  So that created the need for $25 chips and in some rooms even $100 chips.  I doubt there was much confusion when this room used the $2 chip years ago because the $25 chips hardly ever were seen in the low stakes games.  Now the $25 chips are quite common.

Sure enough, while I was in this game, on two successive hands, the same player bet incorrectly because of the confusion.  The first time, he put out a $25 chip thinking it was a $2 chip, and made a huge raise preflop that had only been limped up to that point.  He tried to take it back but he wasn't allowed to.  No one called him. Note:  I don't remember the exact situation, obviously if he just put a $25 out without saying anything it would be a call, but I know that in this case, it was technically a raise—I think he used another chip too.  Maybe he was trying to call a straddle?  The other time I think he reversed it and put out a $2 chip when he wanted to use the $25 chip and more confusion reigned.

Sure you can say he would learn to be more careful and that it was only a couple of hands.  But a) what if that was the hand where potentially it had a big impact (unbeknownst to us because it didn't play out) and b) what possible benefit could the damn $2 chips have that could offset even the occasional screw up?

Aside from betting....imagine sitting on the other side of the table from someone, seeing greenish chips in his stack and not being sure if they are $25 chips, or $2 chips, or some combination of both?  It's a nightmare.

I must admit, I kind of found myself nearly going on tilt just from seeing them back in a room from which I knew they had been banished, properly, years ago.  I didn't play there very long, I couldn't stop thinking about how much I hated them.  And yes, like Grump, I used every opportunity to get rid of them whenever they were foisted upon me.  Unlike Grump, I came very close to just immediately returning them to the dealer and asking for singles.

As I pointed out in my prior post, I could certainly see using the $2 chip in some games—actually they'd be good in a 2/4 limit game, or maybe a 4/8 limit game.  But in 1/2, 1/3 or 2/5 no limit, they are just needlessly confusing, for all the reasons Grump points out in his post.

And so, rather than being even more redundant than I've already been, I'll just leave it there.  Read Grump's old post.

Case closed.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Roller Coaster Ride at PH (Part 2)

Part 1 can be found here.  

A bit after the AA hand I won, the DM ("Designated Maniac") actually folded a hand preflop, and l limped in with 10-9 from the cutoff.  Four of us saw the flop of 10-6-6.  I bet $5 and had two callers.  The turn was a Queen and it was checked around.   The river was 9.  One of the players in front of me bet $6.  I made it $15 and it folded back to the guy who bet $6.  He thought for awhile and then folded.  But before he did, he showed one of his cards—a 6!  He folded the winning hand for a measly $9?  Admittedly it wasn't a big pot, but still.  I had no idea my value bet was a bluff.  And how could he wait until the river to bet?

By this time the DM had calmed down a bit.  He was playing more like a LAG, not a maniac.  And then a woman came to the table. She was youngish (mid-30's?), somewhat attractive and looked vaguely familiar.  I think I've probably played with her before.  Maybe at PH.  I couldn't really place her though.  She was extremely quiet—didn't say a word—and all business like. She was also pretty aggressive.   When she raised, she raised bigger than anyone at the table with the exception of the DM.

I limped in UTG with pocket 4's. She made it $16 and it folded back to me.  Even the DM folded. I had about $260 and the lady had about $160.  So I probably should have folded.  But there was another limper between us and I was hoping he'd call.  But after I called, the limper folded and we were heads up.   I caught my set on a very dry board--rainbow, no straights.  I was sure she'd c-bet so I checked.  She bet $22.  And then, I decided to just call.  It was such a dry board and I didn't want to scare her off. The turn was a King.  I dunno, I just was sure she'd bet again, she had been so aggro up to this point.  I was going to check-raise.

When I checked, she had her coffee up to her lips and just slowly slipped it.  Well?  I got the feeling she didn't know it was on her.  She didn't say or do anything.  It was almost like she was asleep with her eyes open.  Finally the dealer asked, "Did you say all-in?"  That was weird, I hadn't heard a word out of her.  She said no, she hadn't said anything.  Finally she was just about to take another sip of her coffee when she softly said, "Check."  Damn.

The river was an innocuous  looking 9.  This time I led out for $50.  She surprised me by saying "all-in."  I was only two happy to snap-call.  There was no straight and no flush possible.  Only a bigger set could beat me.  So of course she turned over a rivered set of 9's.

Well that sucked.  Not so much because I didn't bet her off her hand—you don't want folds when you flop a set.  It's just that I wasn't aggressive enough in getting the money in.  But as it turned out, if I had check-raised the flop, I'd likely take down a small pot right there, which beats losing a huge chunk of your stack.

That took me down to about $100 or so.  Not long after, she lost most of "my" chips to the DM on my right.  That too pissed me off.  Although I had to admit there was a better chance to get them back from the DM than from her.  And I couldn't really blame her.  They had gotten into a preflop raising war and ended up all in.  Her Ace-Jack lost to his Ace-Queen.  Nothing had hit either of them, they both had Ace-high and his kicker played.  And he was one of the few players against whom you'd be willing to get it all in preflop with Ace-Jack.

Anyway, I limped in with Ace-9 of hearts after DM folded.  The lady made it $16 and another player called so I called.   My notes are a little unclear, so I may have this wrong.  I know I flopped the flush draw, I believe I called $30 from the lady and we were heads up.  The turn was a blank and she shoved.  Our stacks were similar but I think she had me covered.  And I felt when I called the $30 on the flop I was committed (I should have just shoved then).  So I called. That worked out, as  I caught my flush on the river to beat her two pair.

That brought me back to over $200.  And then the maniac left the game.  By the way, it turns out he not only lives in L.A. but actually lives only about 20-miles from me.  I limped/called $12 with Ace-10 of spades.  The raiser was a guy who had been there awhile but hadn't been much of a factor.  Three of us saw a flop of Queen-Jack-x, with both face-cards being spades.  What a draw!  The preflop raiser bet $30, the other player folded and I called.  I guess I should have raised there, huh?  I should bet my draws more often, especially monster ones like that.  Anyway, a medium spade hit the turn giving me the nuts.  I didn't want to wait for a check-raise this time so I led out for $40.  Although I did consider checking because I was sure that PH had a high-hand bonus for a Royal so I didn't want him to fold, I wanted to see if the King of spades would come on the river.  No worries though, he called.

The river was a brick and I bet $60.  Much to my delight, he shoved!  Sweet.  I snapped and he announced he had a flush—9-8 of spades.  It was a nice big pot   I had over $450 in front of me at that point, and I took a pic of my stack.  But I didn't get a chance to tweet out the pic before I put a dent in it.

I raised to $10 with Ace-King off, and four or five players called.  The flop was King-9-8 rainbow. i bet $30 and one player called--a brand-new player to the game.  This was maybe his second or third hand since he had gotten to the table so I didn't have a clue about him.  The turn was a blank and I checked.  Too nitty?  I was going for pot-control.  He bet $40.  I called.  The river was another 9.  I checked and he bet $100.  Having no read on this guy at all, I decided that was too much to risk with just top pair/top kicker so I folded.  I'll never know if it was a good fold. 

I left not long after that.  I cashed out $375 for a $175 profit.  And I finally tweeted out the pic I had taken earlier with the following caption: "As I once said, poker is fun when you've got the nuts & they raise your river bet (dropped $80 of this after the pic but still nice session)."

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Roller Coaster Ride at PH (Part 1)

It's not that every game I've played at Planet Hollywood is a wild, crazy, roller-coaster ride of a poker game.  It's just that if I'm in one of those insane games, I'm more often than not at Planet Hollywood.

The variance can be alarming.  Usually I seek out places to play where the games are more likely to be saner.  But everyone once in a while a poker player—even a nit like me—needs to take a walk on the wild side.

This was a late Sunday afternoon, third day into my recent trip.  And as soon as I sat down in my 1/2 seat with my $200 buy-in, I realized I was sitting next to an absolute maniac.

Fortunately, he was on my right, not my left.  But he made the game so nuts it didn't much matter.  I think he shoved either preflop or on the flop on the first four hands I witnessed.  After that, he went for a good 20 minutes where he raised every single hand preflop, or, if someone raised first, he three-bet them.  He had to rebuy once or twice and didn't seem fazed by that at all.  The guy on his right was also a bit wild--or at least wild enough to give him plenty of action.

Me?  I just wanted to play some cards.  The Designated Maniac to my right was making it difficult to play a lot of hands, but I wasn't getting much to play anyway.  I knew I had to wait for a hand and try to get him to pay me off for it.  In a game like this, you don't have to have an awesome hand either.  The trouble is, you don't want to be calling a huge preflop raise with something like 9-3 offsuit hoping to catch two pair (although winning with 9-high wasn't out of the question).

I did find a few hands to play without much success.  My stack was thus down to $120 or so when I finally got what most people would could consider a good hand—pocket Aces.  And it happened that I was in the small blind at the time.

Now, PH offers what I guess is called "the Mississippi Straddle," meaning you can straddle from any position, not just under-the-gun or the button.  Mr. DM straddled a few times from other positions, but what he always loved to do—every damn time—was button straddle.  Which meant that my small blind was button-straddled every time from the moment I took my seat.

The button straddle is $10 in the 1-2 game (it's $5 UTG, and it has to be $20 from any other position).  When they have the button straddle on, the rules for play are ones I believe to be incorrect.  That is, the action begins with the small blind, not the UTG.  I've discussed why this wrong before.  Basically, it punishes the blinds way too much, and changes the basic nature of the game—why all of a sudden make the blinds play first when they normally act last?

Anyway. that meant that I'd be the first one to act with my Aces, knowing that the DM had blindly made it at least $10 to play.

Since I'd been at this game, he had raised every single time from his button straddle.  I suppose there may have been one or two times when it was raised first and he just called--or maybe shoved--but if it got to him without a raise you could be fairly certain he'd raise.  Really, I was 99.76% certain he would raise if no one raised in front of him.  Let's put it this way:  I would have fainted from shock if he just checked his option.

So I resisted the temptation to raise.  For one of the few times in my poker life, I just called with Aces.  Now if I had raised, I think there was actually a chance he would have folded.  You see, I had played so few hands he had to notice.  While I assumed that if it was just limped to him he would raise with pretty much any two cards, I also thought his calling/raising range if I was the one raising was a little narrower.  Not much, but a little. I'm thinking he might have actually folded half of his hands if I raised.  But if I just called, he's raising 7-2 and up.

I was a little surprised that no one else came along, and so when it got to him, we were just heads up. He didn't disappoint me.  He made it $35.  Hmm.  With my $120 stack, I couldn't see any bet I could have reasonably made other than an all-in.   So I shoved.

His reaction made absolutely no sense.  Without a second's thought, he said "All-in."  Then he turned to me and said, "Good call....I concede."  Huh?  First of all, I didn't call, he did.  I re-raised.  Second...what the hell does "I concede" mean?  The dealer hadn't even put out the flop yet, so whatever garbage hand he had, he still had a chance to win, of course.

Also, he put his cards face down, slid them ever so slightly towards the dealer--but not nearly far enough so it was an obvious fold--and put a $1 chip on top of them (to protect his hand--the one he had just "conceded" with!)

Well, the dealer dealt out a board--all fairly low cards--and then I showed my Aces.  He looked at them, looked at the board for a bit, then slid his cards the rest of the way forward and said to me, "Nice hand."

And although he had some chips remaining, he took out a couple of hundred and bought some more chips.  And I had a nice double-up.

And I'm afraid I'll stop there for now.  I had no intention of making this a two-parter, but it turns out I spent the weekend geeking it up, spending pretty much all my time trying to bring my desktop PC  back from the near-dead by reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling everything.  I'll let you know how it worked next time, but trust me, it's not nearly as much fun as it sounds.

So I'll break now so I can at least get something for you now.  It's been too long between posts.  I'll see you in a few days.  Well not really.  It's just a figure of speech.  (Note: part 2 is now up and can be found here.)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Try the Cheesecake"

Well, I just drove home from Vegas yesterday (Tuesday).  I have a few stories to tell (though not as many as I’d hoped for), but it will be awhile until I can get a chance to write any of them up for you.  I have a column for Ante Up due before the week is out, and not only haven’t I written any of it yet, I don’t even have a clue about what to write about.  I have to say, trying to get three blog posts a week up is getting to me.  I’m probably going to cut back on the time I spend writing posts.  I may be making other changes as well.

Anyway, this is a story from my pre-poker days, when my pal Norm and I visited Vegas a few times a year.  We played table games and ate at buffets.  I may have the order reversed.

One trip we decided to try the buffet at the Desert Inn.  The Desert Inn was one of the higher end properties on the Strip back in the day.  If you’re not familiar with it, I’ll tell you that a fellow by the name of Steve Wynn bought the property some time ago and tore it down, and replaced it with a resort called The Wynn.  How he came up with that name I’ll never know.

The D.I. was a place that Norm and I could never play at.  There were two reasons.  One, it had higher limits than we wanted to play—we were the textbook definition of low-rollers.  The other reason was that there was almost never any action in the place.  I think they made their money off their golf course and not their casino.  This was back in the day when Vegas casinos actually made almost all their money from gambling.  I guess D.I. was the model for the current Vegas blueprint, where gambling revenue is just an afterthought.  All they really want today is the parking revenue.

We decided to try their buffet because it was one of the few we hadn’t tried, and we heard it was good, and back in those days even the buffet at a fancy schmancy place like the D.I. was cheap.

And it was good, as best as I can recall.  But our server was a hoot.  He was an older gentleman with an attitude.  The attitude was that of a New York mobster. And so when he could see that we had stuffed ourselves enough with the entrees, he gave us some advice as to what we should have for dessert.

He leaned into us and said, “Try the cheesecake.” It sounded like he was giving us a hot, hush-hush tip on a horse.  It was like he was giving us secret information.  It sounded like, “Put a bundle on Epitaph in the fourth.” And it sounded like he knew Epitaph would win because he’d personally poisoned all the other horses.

Now, surprisingly enough, even though Norm and I were both generally huge fans of high-caloric food, neither one of us actually like cheesecake.  So Norm said to him, “I don’t like cheesecake.”

The waiter wasn’t listening.  He just said the same three words again.  “Try the cheesecake.”

But this time, it didn’t sound so much like a tip on a horse.  With the New York accent, the attitude, and his general persona, it didn’t really sound like a suggestion, either.  It was more like an order.  Or a demand.  It was like he said, “Try the cheesecake if you know what’s good for you.”  Or, “You will have the cheesecake.”

We again expressed our preference for not-cheesecake. So he said it again.  “Try the cheesecake.”  Each time he said it, it sounded more and more ominous.  He left, and we went to get non-cheesecake desserts.  He saw we hadn’t gotten any cheesecake and he again said, “Try the cheesecake.”  I’m pretty sure it sounded like, “Hand over you wallets.”

Finally we were ready to leave and I believe he said to us, “You should have tried the cheesecake.”  We decided he must have somehow gotten a commission on the cheesecake.

I believe we were somewhat relieved that we left the buffet without being shot, and also without having been forced to eat any cheesecake.  But the line “Try the cheesecake,” became a running gag between the two of us for years.

(Edited to Add:  Please be sure to read Norm's very different version of the incident (the first comment below). I'm sure Norm's version is the correct one, although I still think it took place at the D.I., not the Sands. Norm's always had a better memory for this sort of useless information than me).

And  speaking of cheesecake….