Sunday, March 26, 2017

"You're Not an Ace Shover"

Last time (see here) I talked about deciding to play in the Bike Mega Millions tournament.  Here’s what happened when I played.

The afternoon flight actually started at 11:30AM.  Amazingly, I got to the Bike almost an hour early.  Inexplicably, there was unusually light traffic getting down there.  I expected there to be a line to register even that early.  The early flight on Friday had drawn 212 players I believe, and this being a Saturday I expected a bigger turnout.  But not only wasn’t there a line, the registration wasn’t even open yet!  Less than an hour before a big tournament?  I was surprised. I wandered around and came back and was probably one of the very first people to register at about 10:40AM.  I don’t know if the Bike allows registration before the day of the tournament so I suppose there might have been players registered from the day before, but I don’t think so.

I’m not sure they had even 100 registered when the tournament started.  And at my particular table, there were only three players (including myself) seated when they started.  Thus, they were not allowed to deal us in.  The rule is that you have to have a minimum of five players to begin.  I certainly understand that, I would hate to start the tournament with just three or four players getting dealt in.  That wouldn’t be fair.  But most of the other tables had 6 or 7 people and were starting to play—on time.  That wasn’t fair to us either.  I was especially annoyed because the levels were only 25-minutes long and time was a wasting.  And of course, the value of our chips would only decrease as time marched on.  They would never be more valuable (relatively speaking) than at the beginning of the tourney.

It was especially annoying inasmuch as I was probably the second or third person to register for the thing.  How the hell did I get stuck at a table that couldn’t start yet?  It seemed unfair, to say the least.  Fortunately, a few latecomers showed up soon and I guess we didn’t lose that much time. 

The first big decision I had was about the $100 add-on (remember, $160 for a 5K stack, and the $100 add-on gets another 8K in chips). There was never any doubt that I’d take the add-on.  I knew that going in.  But I had to decide if I should just take it right away or wait.

The argument for waiting is that you play aggressively (or perhaps “worry free”) with the initial 5K stack, knowing that you can reload if you bust (or get short-stacked) for more chips than you started with, at a lower cost.  While there is a certain appeal to that, I don’t think that’s getting the most value from you chips. 

Say I go along and am doing ok with my initial stack and then all of a sudden I lose a bunch of chips (or my entire stack) during level 6, which is the last level you can add-on (actually until the start of level 7, after the second break).   Well the blinds at that point would be 25/150/300.  The blinds for the first level are 25/50.  So that 8K in chips obviously has a lot more value during the first level, where it amounts to 160 big blinds, than in the 6th level, where it’s less than 27 big blinds (and really less, because of the antes).  If you’re gonna pay the extra $100, don’t you want to get the most value for your chips?).

But I was curious to see what the other players were doing.  Before the tournament started, I couldn’t get much information from my table since there were only two other players, neither of whom made any effort to buy the add-on.  I scoped out the other tables and found that at most tables, there was usually one or two players taking the add-on (from what I could tell) and the rest were not.  I was still holding onto my $100 for the add-on when the fifth player we needed to begin showed up at our table and he immediately handed the dealer a $100 for the add-on.  That was my cue to take the add-on as well, right before we started.

As it turned out, most of the folks at the table didn’t take the add-on until they either busted or were short-stacked.  As best as I could tell, they didn’t gain any advantage with that strategy.

One thing at this tourney that was interesting to me personally was, this was the first time I’ve ever played a tournament that was using the Table Captain software, which is sold by PokerAtlas, my employer.  I mentioned that software here.  And I have to say, it was pretty cool.  Later in the afternoon, the Bike had three tournaments going simultaneously—my 11:30AM flight, the 2PM flight (that was the $550 buy-in) and the 4PM flight.  Once the third tournament started, they actually were able to split the screen and show the clocks for two different tournaments on the same monitor.  I’ve never seen that before.  In fact, I’ve played in rooms that were running two tournaments at the same time and they were only able to show a visible clock for one of the two tournaments.  The other one had a manual clock that only the floor person could see.  It was really a pain.

And of course, you had access to all the info that was on the TV screen in the room on your celphone just by opening the PokerAtlas app.

That guy who came late and took his add-on right away was the biggest aggro at our table for a long time.  Although the tables were 10-handed. We were never more than 9-handed until deep into the tournament.  And the seat on his immediate right was open the entire time.  When he inevitably busted out, he was only gone a few minutes.  Late reg was still open and so he re-entered, and was re-assigned to our table.  However, he was assigned to the other open seat, the seat right next to the one he had busted from.  He didn’t last very long there either.

He was on my immediate right.  So at least I was on the correct side of him.  But I was card dead to start.  So let’s jump to level 5 where the blinds were 25/100/200.  I started the level with $10,600 (down from $13K, of course). It folded to me in the seat directly to right of the hijack seat.  Is there a name for that?  That meant my aggro neighbor had actually folded for once.  Now, I had looked at the first card when I got it—it was a deuce, I don’t recall the suit.  But before I had a chance to see my second card, I noticed everyone folding in rapid succession, I decided if it folded to me I would raise without even looking at my second card.  Yeah, I really did.  So when it did indeed fold to me, I opened to $500. However, the older guy on the button, a tight player, made it $2,500.  I looked at my other card.  Of course, it was a 7.  And it was a different color than the deuce.  I folded.

I did that partially because I had played so few hands.  When the small blind came around to me, I had 9-8 of clubs.  It was raised to $800 and two players had called so I called as well.  The four of us saw a flop of 9-7-6.  That 7 was a club. I checked, then called $2,200 from the initial raiser and we were heads up.  I really did consider other options—like re-raising, or even folding.  I think I should have raised, I suppose. The turn was the 2 of clubs.  I had top pair, a straight draw and a flush draw.  So I led out with a shove.  The other guy tanked for a long time and then folded.  I’m thinking he had an overpair?  Anyway, it was my first significant pot of the day.

Level 6 (25/150/300) $14,600.  But the only hand I played was King-10 of clubs.  There was a limper so I made it $1,100.  Just one caller.  The flop was Jack-high, no clubs.  And the guy led out with a donk bet so I folded.

Level 7 (50/200/400) $12,700.  The late registration period was now over.  I believe the final number of players was 225.  Twenty-two would be in the money, with the top 11 moving on to day 2 and getting a $1K payout.  One of the players at my table had played yesterday and made it to day 2 already, and he confirmed they give you the thousand bucks right then and there. In case you’re wondering, if you make it to day 2 from multiple day 1 flights, you take your best stack to day 2 and get paid an extra $2K for each stack you forfeit.  Players coming in 12th-17th would get $400 and 18th-22nd would get $300.

After two limpers, in late position I made it $1,800 with Ace-Jack of hearts.  There was one caller.  The flop was King-Queen-X, two diamonds.  I made a c-bet of $3,500 hoping to take it there but he called.  The turn was a blank and he checked.  I suppose I should have bet again?  I dunno, I didn’t think I could risk any more chips at that point.  I checked behind.  But the 10 I needed for Broadway didn’t show up.  It was a total blank.  He open-shoved and I folded.  That hurt.

Level 8 (75/300/600) $5,700.  I was officially desperate.  I found myself looking down at a couple of Jacks.  The aggro on my right had raised to $2K.  I had no choice but to shove.  Another player shoved as well (he was the second most aggro at the table).  The original raiser was not happy facing two shovers but he reluctantly called.   I had the shortest stack and I think the guy on my right was covered by the other guy.  Aggro #1 (guy on my right) turned over Ace-7 offsuit.  The other guy had Ace-Queen. I was lucky in that they had each other’s cards.  Still, there were two Aces and three Queens that would bust me.  But the Jacks held and I had a triple up.

That got me to level 9 (100/400/800) with $14,600, still a fairly short stack.  After one limper, I shoved with Jack-10 suited. No call.  Then after a lady limped in, I made it $3K with Ace-Jack of spades on the button. We were heads up.  The flop was Jack-high and she didn’t call my $6K bet.

Then it folded to me with pocket 3’s.  I raised to $2K and had three callers.  The flop was 9-5-3, two clubs. I bet $6K and one guy shoved.  His stack was pretty close to mine. I didn’t ask for a count.  I wasn’t going anywhere.  I shoved and the other two folded.  I really expected him to show a flush draw.  But no, he had pocket 10’s.  My set of 3’s held and I really had a workable stack now.

Level 10 (200/600/1200) $45,500.  It folded to me in the small blind and I added $2K to my blind with some garbage hand.  The big blind had just been moved to our table and he folded.  I know I did look at my hand, but by the time I got to make of note of it, I had completely forgotten what it was.  But it was definitely crapola.

That lady open shoved, around $6K.  I looked down at pocket Jacks again.  There were still players left to act.  I shoved to isolate. It was heads up and she showed pocket 6’s.  The flop was kind of low, but was all diamonds.  I looked at her 6’s.  She did indeed have the 6 of diamonds.  I checked my Jacks.  Nary a diamond to be found.  Fortunately she didn’t catch her diamond and I took the pot.

I opened to $3,300 with 9-8 of clubs and didn’t get a call.

Only notation from level 11 was I folded pocket 6’s to a shove.  A big stack called and I would have hit my set and taken the pot.  But it was a good fold.

Level 12 (300/1000/2000) $51K.  I tried raising to $5k with 8-7 off, first in.  Two players behind me shoved and I folded.  It was pocket Kings vs. pocket Jacks.

Level 13 (400/1200/2400) $49K.  Open shoved with pocket 10’s, no call.  Opened to $7K with King-9 of clubs, but folded to a shove.  Open shoved with Jack-9 off, no call. I open shoved with Queen-Jack off in early position.  Guy on my left tanked for a long time, then finally folded, saying, “I figure you have something like pocket 8’s.  You’re not an Ace-shover.”

Level 14 (500/1500/3000) $55K.  We were now down to four tables, it was the first time I’d moved all day.  Unfortunately they were bad at updating the “players remaining” count.  But since we were now playing exclusively 9-handed we had no more than 36 left.

But at this table, there was a guy with a mountain of chips and he opened a lot of pots.  I had to be real careful about being too aggressive as long as he was in a hand because he likely would have called me pretty light based on how he was playing.  He was probably the chip leader for the tournament. Then to make it worse, another huge stack was moved to my table, one player to my left.  Same story.  Made it very difficult to try things.

I open shoved Ace-2 of hearts.  A guy open folded King-Queen of hearts.  He said, “You’ve got pocket Jacks, right?”  I said, “Something like that.”

Level 15 (500/2000/4000) $55K.  I open shoved with pocket deuces, no call.  I was the big blind and it folded to the small blind who just completed.  I checked with Queen-7 off.  The flop was Ace-Queen-x.  He checked, I bet $6K and took it.

After the guy on my immediate right limped in, I shoved with Ace-King.  Folded back to the limper, who asked for a count, decided I had too much to call and folded.  He didn’t show, but a minute later told me had pocket Jacks!  So I wondered why he would have limped in?

Level 16 (500/2500/5000) $63K. History repeated, folds to small blind who completed, I checked with Queen-7.   Ace-Queen-x again!  He checked, I bet $10K and dragged it.  Weird.

Now we were hand for hand, and it was an excruciating 30-minutes.  They didn’t freeze the clock and run two minutes per hand like they do at some places.  The clock kept running, which I think is bad.  We actually had a break during hand-for-hand, and I raced to the snack bar to wolf down dinner (two slices of pizza).  Don’t ask me how it was; I ate it too fast to taste it.

Even though the min cash was a joke, I still played tight, like I usually do on the bubble.  I dunno, when I get to that point, I always find myself thinking I want some money back for all the time I put into it.  But I couldn’t find a hand or a spot where I would have moved in with anyway.

Level 17 (1K/3K/6K) $58,500.  Finally, the bubble broke.  As it happened two players busted (from two different tables) on the same hand.  I believe they split the $300.  So they got $150 each.  If they both took the add-on, that’s a loss of $110 each!

I hung on and survived a few more bust-outs, still not finding a spot. I moved again as we were down to two tables. And we were nine-handed at each.  Meaning if I could survive one more bust-out I’d at least get the pay jump from $300 to $400.  I looked down at King-Jack of hearts in early position and no one had entered the pot yet.  This was the opportunity I’d been waiting for.  I shoved. Unfortunately I was called by two players.  One had Ace-King and the other one had a crappier Ace.  The flop was all red—but diamonds not hearts.  Nobody got a pair and I was out (the crappier Ace was the big stack so I was the only one to bust there).  I took the last $300 payment for a sweet, sweet $40 profit for the day’s work.  Eight and a quarter hours.  Hey, try to beat that $4.80/hourly.  I dare ya.


But I didn’t regret playing and min-cashing at all.  I was glad I played. There’s a certain level of fun and excitement in a tournament that you don’t have in a cash game.  It’s like a war rather than a series of battles.  I wouldn’t like playing nothing but tournaments but every now and again they are a nice change from the cash-game grind.

Note on the pic below.  I was trying to find a pic that depicted "Mega Millions" but I came across this pic depicted "Mega Cleavage" instead.  Hope you don't mind the substitution.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Mega Millions at The Bike—Pass or Play?

Last Saturday, after a whole lot of deliberation, I ended up heading down to the Bike to play in a  tournament.  But don’t worry sports fans.  This post is not one of those lengthy tournament summaries, filled with “boring hand histories.”  That will have to wait for next time.  This is just about making the decision to play there.  An entire post for that, you ask?  Dear reader, do you not know who you’re dealing with by now?

The Bike is currently running a big tournament series.  It started with the WSOP circuit, and now has the “Mega Millions” tournament going.  They’ve actually been running this particular tournament for years, and until this year, I’ve managed to be fairly oblivious to it.  This year I heard about it and looked into it.

It’s unlike any tournament I’ve ever played in before.  For one thing, there’s a shitload of starting flights.  I think something like 30, give-or-take.  And not all the starting flights have the same entry fee.  And also, you can buy directly into Day 2 if you like.  That would only cost you $4,300.  But hey, you start with 250K in chips.

The Bike has been the pioneer in tournaments with multiple price points.  They are the original home of “Quantum” tournaments which can have three differently priced entry points on a single day.  See here for my only experience with them.

They don’t refer to this as a “Quantum” tournament but it sure is similar.  Although most of the starting flights are $160, on the weekends they also have $550 starting flights. 

There are two $160 starting flights a day for 11 days. I think the $550 starting flights only run on the two weekends.  What’s the difference?  The $160’s start with 5K in chips, the $550’s start with 25K.  However, the $160’s have an optional $100 add-on for another 8K in chips.  Otherwise the structures are the same.

The other difference is the qualification to advance to day 2.  Both versions begin payouts on day 1.  The last 10% of each flight (at both price points) get money.  In the case of the $550’s, all those who get paid also advance to day 2.  For the $160’s, they play down to 5% and that last 5% advance to day 2.

If you advance to day 2, they give you $1K—apparently right then and there.  You don’t have to come back on day 2 to get the money.  I assumed the payouts for the players who finished between 5% & 10% would be pretty small. So, in deciding whether or not to try the tournament—and if so, which flavor, as it were—I had a bunch of considerations.

Did I mention that the tournament has a guaranteed prize pool of $1,000,000?  Although, that doesn’t quite seem like “Mega Millions” to me. It seems more like one million to me.  Maybe the “Mega” refers to the large number of starting flights, not how many millions of dollars they are giving away?

To win the tournament, you have to play four days.  And the last three days would all be mid-week.  But if I was playing on the last day, it would surely be worth it.  But I really like the fact that they begin payouts on day 1, so I know the return trip, in mid-week, isn’t a total waste of time (although I later found out that is not necessarily true).

I first noticed the $160 version and that really appealed to me.  I always complain that there are never any good tournaments to play in here in L.A. (at least for me).  I guess I’m spoiled by the Aria $125 daily. The value in that tournament is great. That’s really the standard for me, and there’s nothing even remotely close to it on a regular basis in L.A.  The $160 version seemed like a pretty good approximation, with the potential for a much bigger payout if I ran super good.  Of course, when I saw the note about the add-on, I knew it was really going to be a $260 buy-in.  It wouldn’t make any sense to not do the add-on.  You get more than 1-1/2 times the starting stack for less than 2/3’s of the original buy-in. And besides, only with the add-on do you get what I consider a decent amount of starting chips.  I mean $160 for a 5K start is actually pretty bad.  But $260 for a 13K stack is decent.

So it was really a $260 buy-in tournament I was considering playing.  Then I found out about the $550 version.  Well, first of all, I really wasn’t looking to pay that much for a tournament.  It’s getting close enough to summer to start thinking about squirreling away some funds for some of the big buy-in events I want to play in Vegas.  I figure I want to play in a couple of pricey (for me) events then, can’t spend that money before then.  I’ve only played a $500+ tournament a very few times, and I didn’t want to play one here when there was a lower price option available.

But was it a good option?  I wondered if the set-up put those that bought in for $160 at too much of a disadvantage versus the $550 players.  I wasn’t sure, but I decided that if you look at it as each flight being a separate tournament (which it kind of is), then a potential $1K for a $260 buy-in was pretty good.  I like that four-figure payout for a day’s work.  Actually, I just finally did the math and if everyone at the lower price point takes the add-on, the average chip stack taken to day 2 will actually be more for the lower price than the higher price.  But it’s impossible to know for sure since you don’t know how many add-ons there will be.  If no one took the add-on, the lower buy-ins would have much smaller average stacks than the $550’s.

The other thing was that with either buy-in, your payout for day 1 if you make it to day 2 is $1K.  So that sounds pretty good for a $260 buy-in, not so good for a $550 buy-in.  Of course, you only had to be in the top 10% to advance, not the top 5% as with the $160 buy-in.

One other consideration I had was the levels.  The day 1’s all have 25-minute levels. Odd level time, right?  Of course I would have preferred 30-minute levels, and for that price, it should definitely be 30-minutes.  But at least 25-minutes was better than 20-minutes.  I don’t think I would have spent much time even considering playing if it had been 20-minutes. So I looked over the structure, you can find it here. It is really player-friendly, very slow progression of the levels, lots of levels you don’t usually see. BTW, the levels on Day 2 are 50-minutes, and on Day’s 3 & 4 they’re 60-minutes.  I figured the 25-minute levels were acceptable to me because of the good structure. 

The first flights were on the Friday before the Saturday I was considering playing.  So I was able to see what the pay scale would really look like before playing.  All I really needed to see was what the pay outs were for the players in the second 5%--the ones who got paid but didn’t advance.  And it was pretty bad.  There were two tiers.  The top half got $400 and the bottom half got $300.  So since it was gonna be a $260 tournament for me, I could “cash” and get what would have to be considered the “min” of all min-cashes…a $40 profit.

But I already knew it was going to be low and it didn’t faze me.  I had my eye on the $1K and a ticket to day 2.  As I said, I was considering it more of a one day tournament for $1K.  Actually, it was more like a satellite for a tournament that started on day 2.  A satellite to a $4,300 tournament, in fact.

Except that in a satellite, you’re only playing for an entry into to a bigger tournament (although occasionally there’s a token cash payment).  This time, you’d playing for the entry and a significant cash payout.


Now I don’t usually play satellites. You may think the reason is silly.  But I figure that even the best poker players in the world don’t cash in every tournament they play.  I don’t know what a good percentage is for cashing, but I have the figure 25% floating in my head, dunno where I got that.  But it sounds right.  Anyway, in case you haven’t noticed, I am not one of the best poker players in the world.  I figure I would have to run/play good twice in a row (once in the satellite, once in the main tourney) to make it worthwhile to play a satellite.  That’s asking a lot.  I’m not sure if I could do it in back-to-back tournaments.  If I do well enough to win an entry in a satellite, I’d rather have the cash to show for it than an entry (even if I was gonna turn around and take the winnings and buy my way into a tournament).  I dunno, maybe just a weird mental thing I have.

But this tournament…this “satellite” would be different.  I would be getting some tangible cash if I scored…and the entry to the bigger tournament (aka day 2 of this tournament).  I liked that.

Of course, one difference between this tournament and a real satellite would be that everyone who wins a seat to day 2 would have a different starting stack, whereas a true satellite would get you an entry with the same starting stack as everyone else.

So I did play in it on Saturday. And while there, I heard something that made this event more like a satellite than I realized.  Of course, I only heard this from another player so I can’t say it is 100% accurate.  But it sounds right.  Apparently, even though the money bubble bursts on day 1, they don’t keep making pay outs right away on day 2.

My thought initially was, if I made it day 2, whether they gave me the $1K right then or I had to go back for it, I’d make more money right away just being there for day 2.  So if I lasted just a few hands into day 2, I’d end up making some amount over $1K (total) for the tournament.  But I don’t think that’s how it works.  I heard the guy say you have to be in the final 30% of the total players they get for day 2 in order to get any more money (that’s what I heard, but if they were going to do it this way, I dunno why it would be as much as 30%, that seems high.  But that’s what I heard). 

Anyway, this has been the introduction to my summary of my experience playing the Mega Millions at the Bike. I haven’t started writing the actual tournament summary so I don’t know whether it will be one or two parts.  We’ll see.  Hopefully I’ll post it soon.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Straight, A Straight....My Kingdom for a Straight

This is the conclusion of the story I started last time. You can read part 1 here.  We pick up right way we left off.

A few hands after catching quad 9’s on the river, I got Ace-King.  I raised to $10 and it was either three or four way. The flop was all low cards, and a guy led out for $16, which was all he had left.  Everyone else folded.  For that price, I called with just my overcards knowing that would end the action.  I didn’t hit anything but it turned out neither had the guy who shoved.  He flipped over Queen-10 and my Ace-high was good.

Not long later, still with the same dealer, I had Ace-King in the small blind.  There were a bunch of limpers and for reasons I cannot explain, I didn’t raise, I just completed.  I swear, there was no good reason for me not to raise.  I wasn’t trying to balance my range or be deceptive.  I almost always raise in that situation with Ace-King (but less likely with Ace-Queen).  And in my voice notes recorded the next day, all I hear myself saying is, “I dunno why I didn’t raise but I didn’t.”  Anyway, a bunch of us saw a flop that had not one but two Aces on it.  Damn.

Yes, damn.  Now that decision to limp in was biting me in the butt.  Not only because it meant that if I won the hand I’d win less money than if I raised, but also because now I really had to work to get the pot up to $40.  Because if I won the pot without improving, it would count for the three-of-a-kind stamp on my promo card.  But not only did the trips have to hold up (assuming I had the best hand already) but I’d have to get $40 in the pot for it to get me a stamp.

Since it was a limped pot, I bet $5 and got one caller.  The turn was a blank and I bet $15, and he called again.  Bless his heart, that got the pot over $40.  Now all I had to do was win it.  Another blank on the river.  I didn’t have to bet, but I felt pretty confident the way the action played out that I had the best hand.  I was pretty sure he had the case Ace, so unless he had Ace-King too I was good.  I dismissed the remote possibility that he had somehow paired his other card along the way.  I bet $25 and he called. He didn’t show when I opened my hand.

So I won the pot and got my fourth stamp.  I had been playing less than 45 minutes and the football game was still early in the second quarter.  And I had gone from “maybe I can hit this promo” to “I’m definitely gonna be hit this promo—or I’ll be really, really pissed.” All I needed was a straight. Of course, the other nights I had seen players get their fourth stamp with plenty of time to go and somehow miss. 

Just before this dealer’s down was over, the shift boss came by to give her a fill.  So I asked him, “Can she stay at this table the whole night?  Please?”  Even for me, the King of this poker room (see here), they wouldn’t do it.

But I have to say, when the dealer was pushed out, I really wanted to kiss her.  Not only did I have a mass of chips in front of me, I had 4/5’s of a promo card filled out. It was a good night indeed.

My good run meant two things.  First, it meant I wasn’t taking a dinner break until I completed the card—or the football game was over.  Remember, if I got the final stamp before the game ended, it’d be $300 for me.  If I didn’t hit it until after the game was over (but before midnight), it’d be only $200.  I obviously was invested in seeing as many hands as possible before the game ended.

The other thing it meant was that I was resigned to staying at that table, freezing to death.  Yes, of course, I could have asked for a table change.  But I was obviously running incredibly hot at that table and in the seat I was in.  I know most poker players aren’t superstitious, but I happen to be the exception to that (man, I wish Microsoft word had a sarcasm font).  I’m not going to move away from a seat and a table where I’m running well enough to hit a one-outer or where I filled 4/5’s of a promo card in 45-minutes.  Oh, and also, I had run my $200 buy-in up to around $600.

The problem was that, as I already pointed out, straights are hard for me to hit.  I mean I often go multiple sessions without catching one even if I’m running well.  So, I went into full promo-chasing mode.  I played any two cards that could possibly make a straight.  Not just connectors, but gappers. Big gappers. I would limp in or call a $10 - $12 raise with 10-6 offsuit, or 6-2 offsuit.  And on the flop, I’d call a reasonable bet with not just a gut-shot but a back-door straight draw.  I had to catch that damn straight. 

So yeah, I called $15 with Jack-8 of diamonds.  I flopped the diamond draw (not the straight draw) and only had to call $5 on the flop.  An Ace hit the turn and no one bet.  A Jack hit the river, there was no betting, and my Jack was good.  I won a number of hands like that, playing my possible straight cards and catching something else to win the pot.  When you’re running good, you’re running good.

I limped with Ace-4 off, caught a 4 on the flop, and Ace on the turn.  I took the pot from a guy who flopped two pair with 6-4. It was a small pot, I didn’t note the details.

Another time I limped with 10-8 and caught two 8’s on the flop.  But I lucked out there when the board paired 4’s.  My opponent had Ace-8 and I was lucky to chop.

And I limped in with 10-7, caught two 7’s on the flop and rivered a boat. No call to my river bet so it wasn’t a big pot.

I raised to $10 with Ace-Queen off (finally, a hand I would have played even if I wasn’t promo-chasing) and got three callers. The flop was Queen-X-X, two spades.  I bet $25 and took it.

During all this time, I wasn’t just playing cards to make a straight, of course.  I mean, it wasn’t like was I throwing away pocket pairs because I couldn’t make a straight with them (remember, both cards have to play).  But I was actually disappointed every time I looked at my cards and didn’t see two cards that could complete a straight.

As the game was nearing completion, a new dealer pushed in—a very cute Asian girl.  She wasn’t just new to the table, it was pretty clear she was a fairly new dealer.  And thus…she was slow.  This was frustrating because I was dying to see the hands as fast as possible to complete my card before the game ended.  There was a hand where it was a double paired board and three people had Aces and so it was obviously a three-way chop.  But she didn’t figure that out right away.  Fortunately, the shift boss was right there and helped her figure it out.  But he had come by to give her a fill, so that took precious time away from my while the final few seconds of the game ticked away. And because she was new, she was slower than the average dealer counting all the chips. I didn’t say anything, but I sure as hell said to myself, “Do they really have to do this now?”



Another obstacle was a middle-aged Asian woman who joined the game and was very slow, very deliberate about making any decision.  She tanked preflop when all she had to do was limp or fold.  There were no huge decisions for her to make, but she reacted to a $10 bet like it all her chips at the final table of the WSOP were on the line. 

This reminded me that, the other night when they had this promo going, it was close to midnight and there was a guy who was one stamp away from completing the card, just like I was this night.  And on a hand he wasn’t involved in, he actually called clock on a guy who was tanking just a bit making a decision.  It was a very premature clock, and it pissed the guy off who he called it on, but he explained, “Hey, I’m trying to hit the promo.”  I think he needed a flush, and I think he actually made it.  I managed to restrain myself from calling clock on this woman.

But try as I might, I couldn’t make a straight before the damn football game ended (and the game was running long for some reason—and it was a blowout, so it wasn’t because of OT).  By this time I was starving and my blood sugar was running low so I had to take a dinner break. I still had three hours or so before the promo ended at midnight to catch my straight.  Fortunately I’m a fast eater so I raced over to the Deli and gobbled down a sandwich in about 15-minutes, leaving my chips at my lucky seat.

Despite all the hands I’ve told you about that I won, my stack was down over $100 from its peak.  I didn’t bother to note any of the hands I lost.  Sometimes it was with hands I don’t normally play, chasing.  Other times it was with cards I would play under any circumstances.  But I figure the straight-chasing definitely cost me more money than I won with some of my off-beat wins.

Back from dinner, the same folks were at the table and I kept trying to manufacture a straight.  I played 10-8 and caught two pair to win a small pot.

Sometime later, I limped in with 6-5 offsuit.  The 5 was black, the 6 was a diamond.  Later I couldn’t recall how many limpers there were, it was either three, four or five.  But I remember the flop.  It was 4-3-2. Headline: Man in desperate need of a straight flops a straight.  The trouble was, it was all diamonds. Every damn one of them.

That was one problem.  The other was it was a limped pot.  I had to hope 1), my straight was good; 2). It would still be good if I got the pot up to $40; and 3). I could get the pot up to $40.  I actually thought the odds were against me winning that hand, and certainly against me getting a stamp for it.  I mean, another diamond would kill me if I wasn’t already dead.  Even if no one else had a diamond, another diamond would give me a flush and, while I would win the pot, it would nullify my straight.  And a 5 of diamonds would give me a straight flush, which would surely win the pot for me, but it wouldn’t qualify for a stamp because both cards have to play.  No, I absolutely needed to win with the exact hand I flopped.

I bet $7 I think and the only player who called was the deliberate middle-aged Asian lady I mentioned earlier.  The turn was a black King.  I think I bet $15 and she called.  I was pretty sure that put the pot over $40 (it did, but my brain wasn’t working too well).  The river was, thankfully, a blank.  I just bet $5, I think I was making sure the pot was enough, even though it surely was.  And she didn’t have much left.  I think she had $15 or maybe $20. 

To my surprise, she raised—to $10.  That made no sense.  Did she have me beat?  Had she been slow playing a flopped flush?  And why didn’t she put her last chip or two in the pot? 

I dunno. I just called.  If I was good, the $200 I’d get for the promo meant a lot more to me than her last ten bucks.  And if I wasn’t good, why give her ten bucks?

I called so I should have waited for her to show but the suspense was too much and I showed my hand to see if I hit the promo.  Most of the players at the table knew I was just a straight away from hitting the promo.  Oddly, the woman didn’t know that because she came in after they stopped giving out promo cards. You have to be seated by the start of the 4th quarter to get a card. 

She looked at my hand, heard the dealer say, “Straight,” and mucked.  I had completed my promo card!  I got the card stamped and the dealer called the floor.  It was well before midnight.  Getting it during the game would have gotten me an extra $100, but I was still quite happy, especially since I was having such a good night.

I waited for my money and then almost immediately cashed out.  It wasn’t so much that I wanted to book the win before losing any of it.  It was more that I was still freezing and couldn’t wait to find a place that was warm.  Although, truth be told, it was a bit more comfortable after I got back from dinner.

I took a pic of my chips and tweeted it out with the caption, “Chip porn.”  I cashed out up $375 for the poker, plus the $200 for the promo.  A good night indeed.



Now this is certain to sound a bit self-serving, but I spent a lot of time thinking about that football promo after this night.  And you know, when I first heard about it, I didn’t really care for it.  But having seen it action a few times, I am a big fan of that promo and hope they bring it back when football starts up again this year.  I know it sounds like I’m only saying that because I hit it two of the three times I played it.  But I think I’d say that even if I struck out every time I played it.

As I proved, it really is possible to fill up the card during the promo period.  If a nit like me, who plays so few starting hands, can do it, anyone can.  And remember, I hit four of the five hands in about a 45-minute span.

And that “last chance” drawing at midnight is a great bonus too.  Yes, maybe it will keep you there playing longer than you should.  But it works out better than those drawing tickets they used to have—at least for me.  With those drawing tickets, I almost always seemed to get one about 15 minutes into the new period, meaning I’d have to hang around there for nearly four hours for the long-shot chance of getting picked.  And because it was MGM, I almost always stayed for the drawing.  My reasoning was that since everyone there knew me, I couldn’t risk leaving early and being greeted the next day by all my dealer pals telling me my name was called and that I threw away $400 (or whatever).  I think I’d like that promo better if it was in room I rarely played and no one knew me so that was unlikely to happen.

That can’t happen with this promo.  If I got too tired (or was losing too much) to keep playing to midnight, I’d just throw away the card and there’d be no chance that my name would be called.  I wouldn’t miss out on anything. I like that.

I actually started thinking that you could run this promo even when there’s no football.  No need to tie into a game.  Just start handing the cards out at say 4PM (or earlier), and say that if you fill out the card by 8PM, you get the $300.  If you complete it after 8 but by midnight, it’s $200.  And then have the same last chance drawing. 

All they’d have to do was pick two or three of their least busy nights to run it every week, and it would surely get more people in on those nights.

What do you think of that idea? 

Anyway.  It was a great night of poker.  And did I mention I hit a one-outer?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The One-Outer

This is the first of two parts.  Part 2 will be published Sunday evening.

I’m sure all of my readers have been dying to know how I spent Christmas Day in Vegas.  So at long last, I’m gonna tell you.

Actually it was closer to Christmas night by the time I got started.  I slept late and got a late start for everything I did that day.  I had decided that I would poker at MGM and give that NFL promo another try.  You remember that one, right?  I back-doored my way to $500 the first time I was there for it on my second night in town (see here).

To briefly explain, there’s this game called “football” and…..hmm, maybe that’s a bit more detail than you need.  This took place during the waning days of the NFL season and it was a Sunday so MGM had their football promo.  They have these “Poker Parlay Cards” and they start giving them out two hours before the Sunday Night Football game starts (same for Monday and Thursday night games).  There are five poker hands on it, which are: two pair, three-of-a-kind, straight, flush and a full house.  Every time you make one of those hands, you get that hand stamped.  If you fill out the card with all five stamps before the football game ends, you win $300.  If you fill out the card after the game ends but before midnight, you win $200.  At midnight, they take all the cards that have at least one stamp on them and put them in a drum and pull out two “last chance” winners.  First one gets $500 and second one gets $300.  That’s how I lucked into a $500 win my second night in town.

In order to get the stamp for a hand, there must be $40 in the pot, both of your hole cards must play, and you actually have to win the pot.

I was running so late I didn’t get to the poker room until the football game started.  I hadn’t left my room until then.  I knew at one point I would have to take a dinner break.  I would have to see how I was doing in my quest to fill out the parlay card to figure out when it was best for me to take that dinner break.

I didn’t have to wait too long for a table, I was seated soon after the game started.  And I quite literally was sent to the worst table in the room.  I state that not based on the quality of the game, but based on the weather.  It is in the back corner of the room, closest to the utility/maintenance door which the janitors and the maids open about every 10 minutes to empty the trash or get supplies.  That area is outside the casino and thus in winter, every time they go out there, a huge blast of freezing cold air enters the back of the poker room and hits the back tables, particular the one I was assigned to.  During the summer, when the blast of air is obscenely hot, it’s not nearly as annoying.  Actually, it usually feels good, because the A/C in the casino is set at a comfy 43° year ‘round.  Also, this particular table is sitting directly under one of the A/C vents, so it would be uncomfortably cold even without the door to the outside being opened constantly.

Almost immediately after taking my seat, I wanted to request a table change.  Then I thought I would try to wait it out a bit.  I figured I might take a dinner break early and just cash out, and come back and hopefully get assigned to a new table.  And there didn’t seem to be any point to changing tables if I was just gonna cash out soon.

So I toughed it out, at least for awhile.  But I had to put my heavy jacket on while playing, which is totally ridiculous.  It’s actually a ski jacket and I can assure you I have never taken it skiing.  That kept my upper body almost warm enough but my legs were freezing.  I guess I need to shop for ski pants!


 I had only been at the table a few minutes when I was dealt Queen-Jack of diamonds.  I made it $10 after one limper.  There were only five callers.  The flop came Queen-Jack-X, two clubs.  I bet $35 and no one called.  And I almost forgot to show my hand so I could get a stamp for two pair.  Fortunately, just as I was about to shove my cards face down to the dealer, I remembered and flipped them over.  Stamp #1 in less than 10 minutes.  Cool.

Not long after a new dealer pushed in, one I was mostly unfamiliar with.  She was new.  I may have seen her a time or two this past summer, but not before then.  She comes from a Eurasian country.

Early in her down she dealt me the mighty deuce-four, aka the most powerful hand in poker.  It was even suited (diamonds).  And I was on the button.  I called a $10 raise from the most active player at the table and it was three-way.  The flop was Jack-10-9, two diamonds.  The preflop raiser bet $20, I called and we were heads up.  The turn was the 8 of diamonds, completing my baby flush.  Now I said this guy was the most active player at the table.  He played virtually every hand.   At this stage of the game, I don’t think I’d ever seen him fold preflop.  But he didn’t always raise so he probably had a real hand, at least to start.  The third diamond didn’t bother him, and he bet $50.  Of course, in a situation like that, I’m always worried about a bigger flush. I didn’t think he had the flush but obviously he could have.  I just called.

The river was a black 3 and this time he led out for $75.  Hmm….maybe he did have the bigger flush?  But from playing with him for just a brief time, I knew he was more than capable of making that bet with a lot of hands lesser than the flush—like a straight, for example.  I had pegged him as a recreational player who hadn’t really studied the game much.  Probably plays in a home game back home.  I couldn’t see myself folding.  I called and he turned over Ace-Queen, neither of which was a diamond.  He did have the straight of course.  I took down a really nice pot.  And of course I got the second stamp on my card for the flush.  I dunno why, but for some reason I said to the guy, “I couldn’t convince myself you had a bigger flush there.”  He said, “Yeah, I’m pretty easy to read.”  No, he wasn’t given off any tells.  I just didn’t smell a flush there.

Now I may have gotten some of the details on that hand a little wrong, because I hadn’t started writing notes on it when the next hand started and it was every bit as noteworthy, and then some.

I had pocket 9’s in the cut-off.  The guy from the last hand limped in and then the guy next to him, a fellow who appeared to be from India, made it $10.  I called and so did the limper.  The flop was Queen-9-2, rainbow I think.  But it was checked to me.  The Indian hadn’t been a particular active player up until now, which was a bit of a surprise.  My default stereotype for Indians is that they are pretty aggro.  Clearly not this guy.  So when he checked the flop, I figured he had something like Ace-King, or maybe an under pair to the Queen.  I had to hope the limper would give me some action.  I bet $20 but the limper folded.  However, the Indian called.  Hmm…

The turn was another deuce, filling me up.  Again the Indian checked. He sure didn’t strike me as the type of player who would take a stab at the pot on the river if I checked behind him.  I figured I had to try to squeeze something out of him if I could.  So I bet $25 or $30.  And I was happy to see him call that.

But not as happy as I was to see the river card, which was the case 9.  Sweet.  Even better, instead of checking, he reached for chips to bet with.  Wow.  But he only bet $25, a totally baffling bet.

What to do?  I’ve heard from one dealer pal that if you have the stone-cold nuts, you should always shove.  Sure, you won’t always get called.  But you’ll get called enough in the long run to make it a profitable move.  I’ve never subscribed to that theory, however.  Maybe I should?  I usually just try to figure out the most I can bet and still get a call.

I decided to make a small raise.  Not quite the min-raise, but a little more.  I made it $60.  And I had no idea what he would do.  I figured a fold, a call or a re-raise were all equally likely.  He went for my second choice, a call.

I showed my quads and he turned over—can you guess—pocket Queens!  Holy shit, I was stunned.  I had no idea, none at all, that he was so strong.  Or that I was behind the whole way until the river.  Or….that I had extremely improbably hit my freaking one-outer!

Yeah, I hit a damn one-outer.  Not sure I can remember ever doing that before.  Pretty sure it was a first.

I sorta apologized to him.  I think I said, “I’m not really sorry about it, but that’s a terrible beat.” He said, “That’s ok.”  He was surprisingly good-natured about it.

Then I thought about the hand, the way he played it and all.  We should have gotten it all in on the turn, for sure. I mean, if this was the old west, I would have put my horse, the deed to my ranch and my grandfather’s gold watch in the pot if I could have.  All the while having no clue I was drawing to a one-outer.  But then, on the river, how the hell does he not come over the top when I raise?  Seriously?  He’s got the third nuts but the other two better hands are both quads.  I honestly think I hit my one-outer against the only player on the planet that wouldn’t have shoved on the river (if not before).

I had to ask him…I had to.  “Why didn’t you shove?  Why didn’t you re-raise me?”  I wasn’t asking because I was upset I didn’t get more of his money for my monster.  I was just genuinely curious. 

He replied, “No, no no…I don’t do that.  I don’t go all-in.”

Huh?  I wanted to say to him, “Really? You’re playing the wrong game.”  But of course I didn’t say that.  I didn’t really respond.  I suppose I should have asked him if he would have called my shove or a bigger re-raise (I had him covered by quite a bit, I think he started with ~$200).  I have to think he would have called, but maybe not.  Maybe if I had made it $100 or enough to put him all-in he would have found the fold button?

The thing is, as I kept playing with him during the evening, I realized—and I may have even heard him say—he was new to the game.  I think he was mostly interested in having his one buy-in last as long as possible.  Maybe he wouldn’t have called off all of his chips there if I had forced him to.  I’ll never know.

Now, quads isn’t (aren’t?) on the poker parlay card (neither is a straight flush).  But if you get quads or a straight flush, you are entitled to get stamp for any hand on your card that you need, your choice.  Of course what makes the most sense is to get the highest hand remaining that you still need stamped.  I already had two pair and a flush.  It only made sense to take the stamp for a full house and get that out of the way.  But I have to tell you, the thought crossed my mind to use it for the straight instead.  I swear I make a lot fewer straights than flushes, though it’s not supposed to be that way.  I may even get fewer straights than boats.  I guess it has to do with my starting hand selection.  I really don’t play a lot of connected cards unless they are suited—or really big.  And whenever they’ve run similar promos, it always seems like the straight is the toughest for me to hit.  Nevertheless, I did the “sensible” thing and took the stamp for the full house.

I had been at the table for about a half an hour and had 3/5’s of a card filled out.  I was starting to get optimistic that I could complete the card and win the promo money.

And that’s where part 1 ends. Be sure to come back Sunday for the concluding chapter and find out if I completed the promo card.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Four Flush

I’m disappointed I don’t have a better report from my latest session in Ventura.  At one point I was up over $100, and I left about even.  Grrr.

I was down about $100 (from my $300 buy-in at the 2/3 game) when I limped in from the button with 10-8 of clubs.  It was five-way.  The flop was Jack-9-9, two spades, one club.  There was no betting. The Queen of spades hit the turn, and I bet $10, only one player called.  The river was a blank and I just checked behind, there was just too many ways a straight could be beaten there and I thought there was a chance the villain would check-raise.  But he mucked when he saw my straight.

Very next hand I opened to $15 with Ace-Jack of spades and only one guy called, the same villain as the last hand.  King-high flop, one spade, I made a c-bet of $25 and he called.  A blank on the turn and he led out for $50.  I folded.

Then I got two black Aces in early position.  I opened to $15 and got three callers.  The flop was King-high and all spades.  I bet $40.  After a fold, a player announced all-in and the next guy immediately folded.  The all-in bet was probably a bit more than $100.  It was all in one high-stack.  I had him covered and I didn’t think I could/should fold there with the nut flush draw.  Just to be sure, I did peak at my cards first though.  Yep, there was an Ace of spades and an Ace of clubs staring at me.  I announced call.  Neither of us showed.



The suspense was over early as the turn card was another spade, and he said, “Damn,” as soon as he saw it.  The river was blank.  He turned over 6-4 of spades.  Well, that explains the shove.  I took in a nice pot.

That’s the way it’s supposed to work, isn’t it?  Well not supposed to all the time, but at least a percentage of the time, right?  But honestly, in that situation, it’s never worked out for me before.  Well, not in a cash game.  Maybe in a tournament, which is a little different.  But in a cash game where I faced a shove (or even a big bet) with a naked Ace matching the suit of the three cards on the board and then catching another card of the same suit to make the nuts, I just don’t recall that happening.  I’ve seen it happen a lot.  I’ve seen people do it to me.  I just can’t recall ever coming out on the good side of that in a cash game.

Watch, someone will scour through all my old posts and find where I talked about lucking out in that exact situation.  I sure don’t recall it.

The other thing is….what do you think of his play?  There was one other caller when he called my $15 open.  Is it a good play?  Or—is that what he gets for calling with such a weak hand?  Most of the time he’s gonna end up folding on the flop and just be out $15.  This time he lost his stack.  But, after getting lucky with the flop, he got unlucky on the turn.  That’s poker, right?

Of course, with 6-4 of spades, he’s also thinking about a straight.  When I play a low suited connector or one-gapper, I’m always thinking I’d rather hit the straight than the flush.  I figure a low straight will hold up a lot more often than a low flush.

A few hands later I opened to $15 with Ace-King off.  Only one caller, same villain as in the first two hands.  It was a low flop with two diamonds.  I decided not to c-bet.  A black King hit the turn and I bet $25 and he called.  But damn, the river was the Ace of diamonds.  I checked behind.  He had King-Queen so I took it.

That got me up over $100 profit.  But it was the high point of my day.  I kept getting cards to play and missing.  Especially low pocket pairs.  I got 8’s and deuces a lot.  Remember all those posts where I complained about hardly seeing any pocket pairs?  This session made up for that.  Unfortunately I couldn’t hit a single set with all those pairs. And the black Aces were the only pocket pair I saw above 8’s.

I also lost on a big blind hand where I turned two pair (no one bet the flop) and a guy rivered a straight.  I didn’t write down the details but he didn’t bet enough to get me to fold to his river bet.

I did open to $15 with King-Queen of hearts and had just one caller.  The flop was King-high, no hearts.  I bet $25 and he open folded Ace-7 of hearts.  Good thing hearts didn’t come.

As I said, I ended up breaking even for the day.  I didn’t play it safe when I was up $100—even I’m not that tight.  But for a second when I was cashing out, I almost regretted it.  But no—I played the right way.

So maybe this post will please those folks who think my posts are too long?