Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Last Straw—Literally

Well, not literally literally.  But almost literally.  I mean, literally closer to literally than 95% of the time you see people misuse the word "literally."

What the hell am I babbling about?  Well, I'll get to it, but first I gotta do some lead up to it.  Sorry about that, but I figure if you were the type of person that enjoyed poker blogs where the blogger got immediately to the point in a concise fashion, you'd be reading some other blog, not this one.

Anyway, before I get to the point, I have to warn you that I'm breaking my firm policy about never discussing politics on the blog.  I'm afraid I have to get a bit political with this post.  It seems that the forces of the left and the forces of the right are combining to make Vegas less and less desirable all the time.

This time, there may be no saving the Vegas experience for me.

You will no doubt recall numerous posts where I've complained about how they are ruining Vegas.  Almost everything I loved about Vegas has disappeared.  Gone are the cheap rooms, cheap, quality food, inexpensive shows, low limits (at the pit games),  Now there's ever increasing resort fees, ever increasing parking fees (in the good ol' days you could park everywhere for free), a stunning lack of cheap food and the drinks (unless you're playing a live game) are outrageously priced.  My pal Pete Peters  just returned from Vegas and was reporting they were charging $89 for a Bud Light.  I may have that wrong, perhaps it was a bit less than that.  But it was still expensive.

Vegas had done such a good job of souring me on the whole Vegas experience that my visit there that began in early June was my first time back since my Christmas trip. Yeah, I stayed away for almost half a year.

Returning after such a long time (for me—usually I never go longer than two months without a Vegas visit), I admit it was excited to be back at first, especially with the promise of all that great poker.  But it didn't take long for me to be reminded of all the things that have changed Vegas for the worse.

By the time I sat down to play some poker at the MGM on this particular night, I was already feeling mostly negative towards Vegas.  It didn't help that the poker hadn't exactly been going my way since I'd gotten to town.  And so, as I was playing, I ordered a Diet Coke from the cocktail waitress.  Now, I had played at MGM a number of times on this trip previously, but this was the first time I'd order a Diet Coke.  You see I'm trying to cut out caffeine from my diet, and you can't get a caffeine-free, sugar-free soda in a casino.  So I'm ordering water more and more often.  But this particular time, I really felt like a Diet Coke.  So I ordered one.

When the waitress returned with my drink and handed it to me, I saw that there was no straw in it.  So I asked, "Can I get a straw?"  The waitress surprised me with her response.  "We  don't have straws any more.  We're going green."


I was shocked but I still gave the girl her $1 tip.

While I was thinking about that,  my poker playing neighbor in seat 1 (I was in seat 9 on the other side of the dealer) kind of reached around and offered me a straw!  It was Jan, an MGM reg I've mentioned a few times, the first time was here.  It was a plastic flex straw.  I was almost as surprised by this as I was by being told MGM didn't serve straws any more. "You bring your own straws?" I asked her?  She nodded yes, she has to now that they don't serve them anymore.  I said to her, "Pretty soon they are going to arrest you for that."

Anyway, I hesitated for a second because I didn't see where Jan had pulled the straw from.  Did she just have it lying loose at the bottom of her purse?  I wouldn't want to put that in my drink.  I had to hope she had some kind of plastic baggy she carried them around in.  I mean, Jan always struck me as a hygienic person.  I took the straw, thanked her for it, and stuck it in my Diet Coke.

But I was left to contemplate the significance of this.  A no straw policy?  How is this acceptable?  As it happens, I remembered hearing earlier in the year that the California legislature was considering passing a law that would make it a crime (punishable with imprisonment!) for a waiter in a restaurant to offer customers straws for the drinks if the customer hadn't asked for one.  I never heard if that law passed.  It seems a bit extreme.

But at least you could still get a straw!  This MGM waitress was telling me that I couldn't get a straw no matter what (unless I brought my own, like Jan did!).  Can you believe it?  And this is supposed to be "going green."  Plastic straws are destroying the environment, don't you know.

Those damn liberal tree-huggers!  Environmentalist extremists! They are ruining everything.

(EDITED TO ADD:  When I first posted this, I left out one of the great benefits of straws at the poker table.  Most tables have cup holders right in front of you.  So I can lean over and sip my soda without touching the glass.  This is good because usually the outside of the glass is wet from condensation (or from other drinks on the waitress's tray that spilled on them).  Then you have wet hands and are about to touch the cards and the chips).

But wait.  As I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that MGM Resorts (parent company of MGM Grand Casino) was the entity that started the whole "pay to park on the Strip" thing you've heard me rail about at least a billion times.

They are evil, greedy, bastards, right?  Well, they must be evil, greedy Republicans to be so concerned with profit, right?

But it's the same company!  Are they evil greedy Republicans just trying to squeeze every last dollar out of the poor working schlub, or are they liberal Democrat tree-huggers trying to cripple corporate America with their radical environmentalist policies?

I'm so confused.

All I know is this:  It seems that now the left and the right are teaming up to completely ruin my Vegas experience. 

A pox on all their houses!

My assumption at the time was that this policy applied to all MGM properties (ie, Aria, Mirage, Excalibur, etc).  However, I subsequently played at both Aria and Mirage, and they were both offering straws (without asking) in their soft drinks.  Hmm…..so is it just some renegade tree-hugger at MGM Grand that instituted this?  Do his or her greedy Republican bosses know about this?

Well…..I dunno.  But I can see which way the wind is blowing and I am expecting this policy will spread to the other corporate properties sooner rather than later.  And remember, MGM was the one that started the pay for parking thing, and that spread to almost all the other casinos on the Strip, including CET properties, Wynn and Cosmo.  So it's only a matter of time before the rarest thing in Vegas is no longer a free parking spot, but a damn straw.

Sooner or later, without ceremony, there will be the last straw on the Strip!

Anyway, a few days later, back at the MGM. I saw the full consequences of this new, horrific policy.  Temporarily forgetting about the no-straw policy, I innocently ordered a Diet Coke. When my drink was delivered, I remembered the policy as soon as I saw it did not contain a straw.  And Jan was nowhere to be found.  Oh well.

But there was something in my drink other than the Diet Coke and the ice.  It was a lemon wedge.  I hadn't asked for a lemon wedge in my Diet Coke.  But I made an assumption as to why it was in there.  You see, I know that waitresses will use straws to help them identify the Diet Cokes from the regular Cokes.  Each has her own system but let's say they will put one straw in a drink if it's regular and two straws in if it's Diet.

Of course, now they can no longer do that.  So I also know that some waitresses will use a lemon wedge for this purpose.  No lemon wedge means a regular Coke. A lemon wedge means Diet.  BTW, this was a different waitress from the one who told me about the new policy a few days earlier.

I am not a normally fussy about the lemon wedge in the Diet Coke thing.  It usually doesn’t make a difference to me.  I can notice the ever so faint taste/scent of lemon and it's no big deal.

Now my pal Norm, the one I used to go to Vegas with multiple times a year back in the day, is a different story.  He hates lemons and especially hates them in his Diet Cokes (although he prefers Diet Pepsi).  If he was ever served a Diet Coke with a lemon wedge (or a lime wedge, or an orange wedge, whatever), he'd immediately hand the drink back to the waitress and insist on a "pure" Diet Coke, no fruit.  Sometimes the waitress would offer to take the lemon out of the drink (presumably with a spoon, not her fingers).  Not good enough.  Once that lemon had been in the glass of soda it was polluted beyond all redemption to Norm's taste buds.

We had a third friend who would say to Norm, "You have to tell them when you order you don't want any fruit in it." Norm's response was that he shouldn't have to.  "I don't want an onion in my drink either, I don't have to tell them that!"  But eventually, in self-defense, he started asking for nothing in the drink but the soda he ordered. 

Again, that's not me.  I was never bothered by the lemon.  Until this night at the MGM.  Because you see the lemon was floating at the top of my soda.  And there was no friggin' straw to drink the soda out of.  So every time I sipped the drink, my lips hit that demon lemon wedge.  And worse, the taste of the lemon was also floating at the top of the drink.  So this time I really, really tasted the lemon!  When you have a straw, you're drinking from the bottom of the glass, and the lemon taste hasn't really reached there yet.  Instead of tasting my Diet Coke, it was like I was sucking on a damn lemon!

When the waitress took my next order, I specifically said to her, "….and please don't put any lemon slice in it."

But when it came back, there was a lemon wedge in it!  This is one of the best waitresses they have, so I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that because the room was so noisy she just didn't hear me.

Whatever, I was pissed.  Now the lemon wedge was floating at the very top, and I could have easily just grabbed it out of there.  As I started to do that, I realized then I'd be stuck there at the poker table with a wet lemon wedge in my hand—what was I supposed to do with that?

So I didn't grab it.  As soon as I could, I walked over to the nearest trash can with drink in hand to dump the lemon wedge (which was still in my drink).  But in carrying my glass over there, the wedge had settled down a bit into my drink.  And without thinking, I stuck my fingers into the drink, got them wet with Diet Coke, and then really had to dig deep to get that damn lemon wedge and fish it out of there.  It was actually a bit of a challenge.

Finally rid of the damn lemon, I rewarded myself with a big gulp of my Diet Coke.  Fortunately I tasted only the faintest taint of lemon, I had saved my drink!

But then I realized that I had stuck my fingers, which had been touching both cards and extremely dirty, disease-ridden poker chips, directly into my drink!

"I'm going to die," I thought to myself.

Well, it's been a couple of weeks since this happened, and I am relieved to report that I haven't contracted any disease as of yet.  I may be ok.

But maybe I've been infected with some kind of rare disease with a really long incubation period.  If this is the last post I ever do, you'll know why.  Death by lemon wedge due to MGM's "going green" policy.

Anyway, the new "no straw" policy may just be the last straw for me.  I'm afraid to go back to Vegas now to see the next latest thing they will have done to make the place worse—and less like the place I fell in love with many years ago.

Damn those evil liberal greedy tree-hugging environmental extremist Republicans!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Dreaded Pocket Kings, As Heard on TV

Did you watch ESPN's WSOP coverage Friday night???  Did you miss this?  

Lon McEarhern, long time ESPN poker play-by-play man, the voice of the WSOP, used a phrase that should be familiar to all readers of this blog.  Check it out:

That's right, he said, "The Dreaded Pocket Kings"!!!  This was the night after that infamous hand that I discussed last time (here), which was Aces vs Kings vs Kings.

(I apologize for the poor quality of the video, cell phone video taken directly off the screen of a dated TV is not ideal.  Still, you can hear it, right?)

I was involved in something else when this aired live, but my pal Lightning36 heard it and immediately texted me to see if I had caught it too. Fortunately my DVR was recording the coverage and I was able to find the reference in my recording.

Lightning immediately tweeted out the following tweet:

Hey and - please credit with the term you used tonight - The Dreaded Pocket Kings.

I retweeted that myself but to the best of my knowledge they never commented on this, either on the air or on Twitter.

Now even though I never actually copyrighted the phrase, my blog is proof that I originated it, and I will be contacting my attorney, Pete P. Peters, for legal advice in protecting my rights.  At the very least, if no monetary compensation is offered, I should get to do the "Shuffle Up and Deal" at the next main event, right?  Right?

Of course, I'm kidding.  It was an honor to hear my coined term for the dreaded hand on national TV.  Very cool.

In the meantime, how'd you like the main event this year?  I must admit I didn't stay up for the entire heads up final table.  I did have it recorded and watched the last few hands in the morning, after learning the result.  Both of the final two guys played great and it was very entertaining to be sure.  Congrats to Tony Miles and especially John Cynn, a very worthy champion.

All the guys at the end were solid.  Still it would be nice to see a woman make the final table next year.

I'm sure Kate Hoang (below) would agree.  

And whoever makes it, watch out for those dreaded Pocket Kings.....right Lon?

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Dreaded Pocket Kings (Squared)

You saw it, right?  If not "live" then you surely saw it on poker media the next day, right?  The hand everyone's talking about, one of the most incredible hands of poker ever seen at the Main Event of the WSOP.  It happened Wednesday night.

Just to recap, the situation was that there 10 players left in the main.  Play would stop as soon as one more player busted out, creating the "official" final table of nine.  Each of those nine would be guaranteed at least $1MM (now that's a min-cash I can deal with!).  The bubble (well, the final table bubble) would have to settle for a measly $850K and perhaps more importantly, an opportunity to continue playing for the $8.8MM top prize and the coveted bracelet.   

And then this happened.  Watch it yourself (mostly likely for the fourth or fifth time, right?)

Wow, some hand, huh?  Never have the dreaded pocket Kings been so damn dreaded.  Dreaded times two.  Or dreaded squared, right?

Also…this isn't just Aces vs Kings (another theme I've addressed a lot on the blog).  It's Aces vs Kings vs Kings.  Wow.

Is that crazy or what? 

The hand played out as expected.  No four card flush for one of the players (or worse, for two of the players).  No straight (wheel) for the guy with Aces.  No King-high strait for a chop for the two guys with Kings.Nothing totally bizarre like four Queens and a deuce on the board so the Aces would win that way.  And nothing like a 9-8-7-6-5 board so that everyone chops.

The Aces held.

What was interesting was the discussion afterwards of the preflop play.  The question was, should Antoine Labat, who initially just called Nicolas Manion's raise, have folded the dreaded hand when it came back to him after two all-ins?

Fold pocket Kings preflop?  Even I don't do that (though of course I should….every damn time).  A lot of top players insisted there was enough info for Labat to fold.  Do you agree?  Can you really be sure one of the other players has to have Aces there?  You're sure not putting either of them on Kings.

Of course the situation is critical here.  They are one player away from the final table.  But they are well into the money of course.  Do you tighten up there?  Do you think there's no chance one of the other two players has Queens or Jacks and maybe the other has Ace-King?

All I can say for sure is that whenever I watch TV poker and hear the commentary, I realize that these pros are playing a totally different game from the one I play.  I realize how out of my league I am.  So I can't really say.  All I know is that I can't really imagine myself folding Kings at that point.  And I'm the all-time leading Kings hater, right?

The play I find most unusual is that Labat flatted the initial raise, he didn't three-bet.  That makes Yueqi Zhu's three-bet look less like a really big hand.  He was short-stacked and would have shoved with a wide variety of hands.  If Labat had three-bet and then Zhu shoves, you know he's very likely got Kings or Aces. 

But then what to make of Manion's shove?  Of course, with Aces he's going to do that no matter what.  But if Labat had three-bet and then Zhu shoved and then Manion shoved, then Labat has to know he's behind one if not both hands (hey, if two players had KK, it's possible instead that two players had AA, right?)

The question then, however, if Labat had three-bet, would he be pot committed to calling no matter what?  I guess it would depend somewhat on the size of Labat's three-bet.  But since he didn't three-bet, his call there makes sense to me. 

What do you all think?

Here's the punchline of the story.  The next night, at the final table, Labat, the short stack, got pocket Kings again and of course shoved.  He got called by pocket Queens.  And wouldn't you know, there was a Queen on the flop and Labat was the first bust-out from the final table.

Dreaded Pocket Kings.

Well, I guess it's safe to say that if there's one person on the planet who hates pocket Kings more than I do, it's Antoine Labat.

Oh and by the way, check out this tweet from Poker News.  "The Dreaded Kings."  Hmmmm….I really should have copyrighted the phrase "Dreaded Pocket Kings."  You don't suppose they left the word "pocket" out because they were afraid I'd sue them, do you?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Vegas Poker Scene -- July 2018

Below is my latest column for Ante Up.  Unfortunately, it is still not posted at the Ante Up website, so I can't give you the link for it there.  This is the column as I submitted it.  The actual in print version is likely a little different (amazingly enough, it usually gets edited down by a few words before they run it).  I'll add the link and replace my original draft with the actual printed version when it finally gets posted.  I know the issue is in poker rooms because I saw it before leaving Vegas.

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The Venetian will be hosting August Extravaganza, August 9 – 19.  The series will offer over $400K in guaranteed prize pools.  This will be the first series held at the Venetian that will feature the Big Blind Ante in all of its events.

The biggest guarantee, $200K, is offered in a five-starting flight, $250 No Limit Hold'em event that begins August 14. The top 10% of each flight will be in the money, with the top 5% advancing to day 2.  Players start with 15K chips and play 30-minute levels on day 1, which increase to 40-minutes on day 2.

A two-starting flight $340 DoubleStack event starts on August 10.  It has a $100K guarantee.  Players start with 25K chips and play 40-minute levels.

There are several $200 Rebuy tournaments during the series.  The starting stack is 12K and $100 rebuys are available for 12K chips whenever a player's stack is at or below 12K for the first six levels. The guarantees are $9K or $12K depending on the date.  These events run in the evening.  There are also two Noon $300 Rebuy tournaments with $25K guarantees, with the same rebuy rules.  All of these tournaments have 30-minute levels.

During the month of August, the room is offering a Splash Pot Promotion.  Every 15 minutes between 12:15 p.m. and Midnight, a random table will be splashed with $300.  If the table is a $1-$2 NLH or a $4-$8 limit game, the selected table will get three consecutive $100 splash pots.  If the table is playing $2-$5 NLH or $8-$16 limit, the table will get one $300 splash pot.  Over $446K will be awarded for this promo.

Then in September, players will earn drawing tickets to win a custom Orange County Chopper Motorcycle.  Players earn one drawing ticket for every 20 hours of live play they record during the month.  For every 100 hours of live play, players get five additional tickets.  The drawing will be held October 10.

In May, Etienne Luduc of Canada took the $36K first place prize in the $340 DoubleStack at the May Extravaganza.  Esther Fedorkevich from Austin, TX claimed $22K for second place and Klein Bach, a Vegas resident, grabbed $16K for third.  The event drew 612 entrants, creating a prize pool of $171K, easily surpassing the $100K guarantee.

ARIA:  The room hosted two big WPT events in May.  Darren Elias won the inaugural $10K Bobby Baldwin Classic, taking home $387K.  It was the fourth WPT title for Elias, a record.  Kitty Kuo earned $248K for second place and 2015 WSOP main event champion Joe McKeehen received $179K for third.  There were 162 entries and the total prize pool was $1.5M.

A few days later, Matthew Waxman won the WPT Tournament of Champions, earning $463K.  Matas Cimbolas took second place for $266K.  Darren Elias, fresh off his win at the Bobby Baldwin Classic, placed third for $177K, wrapping up an incredible week of poker.  The event had a $15K buy-in and was open only to previous WPT winners. Eighty players entered and the prize pool was $1.3M.

Aria was also the scene of the fourth annual Super High Roller Bowl.  The $300K buy-in event, was limited to 48 players and had a $14.4M prize pool.  Justin Bonomo outlasted the field, finally eliminating runner-up Daniel Negreanu to take home the $5M first place prize.  Negreanu received $3M.  Jason Koon finished third for $2.1M

BELLAGIO: The first WPT Elite Poker Championship was held in May.  The $379K first place prize was taken by Lawrence Greenberg, with Danny Qutami taking second for $224K and Jim Collopy finishing third for $147K.  The $10,400 event drew 126 players and the prize pool was $1.2M.

The 14th Bellagio Cup takes place July 10 – 17.  $10,400 main event plays out over five days, beginning the 13th.  There are several $1,100 satellites for it beginning July 12.  A $1,100 Seniors event will be held July 11.

RED ROCK:  The room has picked up most of the regular games that were spread at the Suncoast poker room.  That includes the stud games that were regularly spread there.  The famous, long-running "Hoggie" spread limit $2-$10 Stud 8 now runs regularly on Mondays during the day shift.  The betting becomes $2-$20 on 7th street. The minimum buy-in is $100. There's also a regular $4-$8 Stud game that runs Wednesdays and Saturdays with a minimum $40 buy-in.  Sundays you can usually find a $4-$8 Omaha 8 game with a $40 minimum buy-in.

Hold'em fans will always find plenty of $2-$4 limit action there, in addition to $4-$8 limit. The minimum buy-ins are $20 and $40 respectively.  The busy $1-$2 NLH game has a $100-$300 buy-in.  For the $2-$5 game, it's $300-$1,000.  A $5-$10 NLH game runs fairly often with a buy-in of $500-$3,000.

Promos include "Quad Floppers":  Flopping quads on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday wins $500.  A High Hand of the hour promo runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The top hand wins $200, a full house or better is needed to qualify. A Progressive Straight Flush promo runs 24/7. The payout progresses each day a specific straight flush (Jack-high, Queen-high, King-high, for example) fails to hit.  Each straight flush starts at $75.

TREASURE ISLAND:  The room has revamped their tournament schedule.  The popular "Magnum T.I." tournament is now running every Thursday night at 7 p.m.    The $125 buy-in gets players a 30K starting stack and there is a $15 add-on for 15K chips at the end of registration (level 10).  The levels are 20-minutes and the house adds $250 to the prize pool. 

The room has three daily tournaments at 12:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., except on Thursdays when the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. tournaments are replaced by the Magnum T.I.  All the dailies have an $80 buy-in for 12K chips with an optional $8 staff bonus for 8K chips. The levels are 20-minutes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th!

Hope it's not too late to wish everyone a happy 4th of July.  I just got back from a month in Vegas and it is taking me awhile to get back in the groove.  Obviously I'll have more to say about the trip in the coming weeks, if not months.  Hint:  Things didn't go exactly the way I had planned. I actually left Vegas a couple of days earlier than I planned.

In the meantime, I have an Ante Up column to write so not sure when you'll see a "real" post.  So for now, enjoy the rest of your day, celebrate the USA and maybe you might like the pic below.