Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Five Dollar Bad Beat

My recent session in Ventura started with a bad beat.  But not the usual kind.  I was out $5 before I even got into the game.  Or should I say, the right game.

I arrived in the room around the usual time and went over to the podium to get my name on the list for the 2/3 game.  By this time the gentleman who mans the podium knows me on sight.  Although it was right after he made the effort to memorize my name that I confused him by switching over to the 2/3 game from the 1/2 game.

There were a few names ahead of me so I took a seat at an empty table to wait.  After awhile, he called me to a game, sold me some chips and pointed me to the empty seat.  It was a table I'd played at before.  Generally speaking, they use one side of the room for the 2/3 games and the other side of the room for the 1/2 games.  The 3/5 game (or bigger, if spread) are on the same side as the 2/3 games and the non-hold'em games (sometimes PLO, sometimes Big O) usually are on the side with the 1/2 games, but it varies.

I was three spots from the big blind so I took a hand right away, I took a couple of more and then I was the big blind.  I had only three stacks of yellow, so I put out a single yellow chip for my $3 big blind.  Oh yes, for some reason in the L.A. area the $5 chips are yellow not red.  I haven't heard anybody refer to them as yellowbirds but I suppose you could.  Now in the few hands I'd been dealt, I folded every time.  I had noticed some fairly large raises, $20, $25. I was beginning to think that this was going to be an expensive game to see a flop. Although one time, I folded junk and everyone else folded and they chopped the blinds.  This time, in the blind, I got another junk hand and after someone made it $25 and there were a couple of calls, I again folded.  The dealer collected the bets, including my $5 chip,  I waited for my $2 change but the dealer went ahead and put out the flop.  So I said to him, "I didn't get my change."

The dealer said, "It's five dollars."  I dunno why, but the way he said it, or the way I heard it, it sounded like he was saying that the first blind a player posts was $5, which would have been a new rule I've never heard of.  He could see by the look on my face I was confused.  So he said, "The blinds are 3/5, sir."  I still wasn't getting it.  For a nano-second I was thinking the blinds in the 2/3 game were now 3/5, which also made no sense.  But then the dealer said, "Did you want to the 2/3 game? We can get you a table change."  So I said, "I asked for the 2/3 game."  The dealer immediately called the podium guy over and told him I was looking for 2/3.

He apologized. "I'm sorry, Rob I forgot that this game was 3/5.  That's usually a 2/3 table."  By this time I was already re-racking my chips and standing up.  As luck would have it, at that moment a seat opened up at the table right next to that one, which was an actual 2/3 game.  I grabbed that seat—but what about my $5 blind that I thought was a $3 blind?

I'd been sent to the wrong game, a game that I no intention of playing or staying at.  It wasn't my fault.  I swear there was no obvious evidence of the game being a 3/5 game until I didn't get change back for my blind. But my $5 was now in the pot of the game I was leaving.  Couldn't they just take it out of the pot and return it to me?  The pot was well over $75, they wouldn’t miss it.

Of course, they couldn't do that and I would never ask.  If they returned my $5, it would mean there was no hand for the big blind, and thus a misdeal, and with all that betting action it was too late for a misdeal.  Besides, what if I had been dealt pocket Aces that hand?  I would have raised (or three-bet) before I even knew it was a 3/5 game and by then, it wouldn't have much mattered.  You can't get your money back only if you don't like your hand.

I did consider what would have happened if that particular hand resulted in the bad beat jackpot being hit. Well, for sure I would be eligible for a table share, since my blind was in the pot and I did get a hand.  Of course, that didn't happen.

I didn't say anything to the guy who sent me to the wrong seat and I don't think he even knew I had found out I was at the wrong table by losing a blind.  He probably would have apologized even more profusely.  Maybe he would have offered me a $5 refund?  Either at the house's expense (doubtful) or out of his own pocket?  I wouldn't object to having the house reimburse me, but I sure wouldn't want the podium guy to pay me out of his pocket.  That wouldn't be right.  So of course I said nothing and just ate the $5.  It's not a big deal and the story is worth at least five bucks, isn't it?

Well, if my day in Ventura got off to a bad start, it ended well.  Very well. 

The first pot I won was a small one.  I had Ace-10 in the small blind, no raise so I added a buck and saw a flop of 10-9-7.  It was four-ways, and I checked and then called a $10 bet.  It was now heads up.  The turn was an 8 and we both checked.  The river was a deuce and again we both checked.  He had a weaker 10.

I limped in with pocket 4's and only 8 of us saw the flop.  It was Jack-5-4.  I bet $15 and just four players called.  The turn was a Jack, filling me up.  This time I bet $70 and didn't get any takers.

In the small blind with Jack-8, there were four limpers in front of me so I added a buck to complete.  The big blind checked behind and six of us saw a flop of Jack-9-3.  I checked and called $11, only one player dropped out.  The turn was an 8 and I checked again hoping to check-raise, but it checked around.  The river was a 10 making me think my two pair was no good. Especially since a back-door flush was possible in addition to the straight. I checked and the flop bettor checked, but an older Asian fellow bet $35.  I shrugged and made the hero call, hoping no one would raise behind me. I was just suspiciousness enough of the bettor to think I might be good. Everyone else folded and then the Asian man just mucked!  I didn't have to show my hand to claim the pot, so I didn't.

Well one of the guys who had folded asked the dealer—not me—what I had.  I think he may have missed that the other guy mucked and I didn't have to show.  So the dealer said he didn't know, but that he could ask me.  For some reason, the player was reluctant to ask me.  So instead, the dealer asked me, "Did you have a straight?"   Well that was a surprise.  Not sure it is the dealer's place to do that.  Is it?  I just shrugged. He tried again. "What did you have?"  I just said, "I didn't have to show, so I didn't." 

Somebody guessed that I had two pair.  And the player who was so curious said something about a 7.  But I couldn't tell if he was guessing that's what I had or if he was saying he had a 7 and folded (thinking I either had the top end of the straight or perhaps the flush).

I opened to $15 with Ace-King suited, only one caller.  The flop was Ace-Queen-x.  As soon as I grabbed some chips to bet, he sent his cards into the muck.

I was getting ready to call it a day.  I was up approximately $100.  Just another orbit or two and I'd be done.  So under-the-gun, I found myself holding the dreaded pocket Kings.  Gulp, I thought. There goes my day's profits.  I opened to $15.  Now having played very tight and opening UTG, you would think it might be difficult getting callers.  It was. I only got six of them!  As it went around and everyone called, the guy on my left (who had called), said something like, "I guess you figured you'd get a lot of callers, huh?"  When it got to the big blind, a guy I've played with many times before, he said, "Well you know I'm calling, how could I not?"

Pocket Kings in a 7-way pot.  What could go wrong?  The flop was Jack-Jack-8.  With so many callers, I sort of assumed someone had a Jack.  I checked, but it checked around. The turn was a low card.  Now I figured I might just have the best hand so I bet $30.  Only three players called that time.  The river was a third club.  I couldn't remember the board but it didn't look too scary except for the three clubs and the two Jacks.  I checked.  The youngest player at the table bet $60, and everyone folded back to me.

Now this guy hadn't been particularly active to this point.  And if he had made any moves, I hadn't picked up on them.  But I did kind of suspect that he was trying to steal it.  I think maybe the fact that he was relatively young played into that, I had nothing else to go on. So after tanking a bit, I made the call.  He said, "I just have 7's," and flipped over pocket 7's, unimproved.  I showed my Kings and took down a nice pot—over $300.  When I finished stacking my chips, I was sitting behind over $630.  (see below).  Well that was a nice finish to the session.  Not only did I win a big pot with the dreaded hand, I won a 7-way pot with unimproved Kings.  What are the odds of that?

I played a few more orbits, got nothing to play, and booked a $335 win.  And had a very nice drive home.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Did She Muck The Winning Hand?

I had a good session in Ventura recently, short and sweet.  The most interesting hand I witnessed didn't involve me. It left me wondering what the loser had.

Here's the situation.  It was 2/3 and I had bought in for $300, the max. I hadn't been there very long when a woman took over seat 1, which I had just vacated.  There was a raise from an older gentleman, then maybe a call, then the aforementioned lady raised to something like $120-$125.  Back to the older gentleman, who shoved.  He had over $300.  This was the lady's first hand so she still had her full $300 stack.  She snap called the shove.

Neither player showed their hands.  The flop was 9-9-8, then there was a King, and finally a Jack.  Pretty sure there was no flush possible.  The guy turned over his hand.  It was King-Jack offsuit.  Of course you shove with that, right?  Anyway, everyone kind of reacted to how the guy had played that hand and how it he lucked into runner-runner.

Meanwhile, the lady kind of froze, and sort of chuckled.  It wasn't a real laugh, it was more like, "really?"  Wasn't sure she was reacting to the way she got beat—runner-runner—or the fact that he shoved preflop with King-Jack.  But after hesitating for a few moments, she just mucked.  She didn't show her hand.

Everyone was curious as to what she had.  I sure was.  The guy on my left was too.  He said to her, "Did you have Aces?"  No, she couldn't have had Aces, I thought.  With the 9's on the board, if she had pocket Aces, she'd have the winning hand, Aces and 9's.  I'm pretty sure that's a better two pair than Kings and Jacks.

She didn't answer, she still had this sort of amused look on her face. But then she said to the dealer, with half a smile, "The King was one thing…you had to put out his second pair on the board too?"

What the hell?  To me that implies that she did have a pair that could beat Kings, and the only pair I know of that does that is Aces.  Again, if she had Aces she had the winning hand.

But what hand could she have had that made any sense—that she would go all-in with for $300?  If not Aces, then what?  Queens?—except for her comment.  She was behind on the turn when the King came, the Jack didn't matter. If she had Jacks she rivered a boat and had the best hand. She could have had Ace-King, sure. Then her comment made some sense.  The turn helped them both and then the river killed her.  But I'm thinking if she had Ace-King there, she would have showed it, just to show the bad beat. Also her comment made it seem like the King was not helpful, but survivable. Certainly not a card she was wanting to see. But maybe I'm wrong.  It's just that the way she reacted sure didn't smell like Ace-King to me.  She could have gone all-in with Ace-Queen but then the Jack on the river would have been irrelevant. 

And what was with the guy asking her if she had Aces?  Maybe he had missed the pair of 9's on the board.  Since he wasn't in the hand, I suppose that's possible.  That guy was sitting behind about $700 so he wasn't clueless.  Must have missed the pair on the board.  But I was actually thinking that the lady may have missed it too.  I seriously wondered if she folded the winning the hand.  That is a mistake that people make.  I know I've done it in the distant past myself—back when I was playing 2/4 limit.  This lady immediately rebought for $300, and then as soon as she could, she went to the 3/5 game.  But hell, even Phil Ivey mucked a flush (that was the winning hand) that time at the WSOP.  Maybe she mucked the winning hand?

I guess she had Ace-King.  It's just that the way she commented about giving him a King, it sure didn't sound like it helped her too.  And again, I think under those circumstances, she would have shown it.

As for my game, well I had to make two seat changes to get a decent hand.  My first seat was seat 1, which was in the very cramped corner of the room.  This table is so close to the wall that whenever there's a dealer change, either the player in seat 1 or seat 9 has to get up to let the dealer in. And also, the player in seat 2 or seat 8 has get up to let seat 1 or 9 up.  So it is uncomfortable.  Plus, while I wouldn't say I'm claustrophobic, it does bother me when I know I can't just get up from my seat and leave the table without asking the player next to me to get up too.

So as soon as I could, I grabbed seat 3.  The trouble with that seat is that for some reason, it was really dark in that area.  Seriously, I think there was a bank of lights out and it was a bit of a strain to see my cards.  So when the guy who was in seat 5 left, I grabbled that seat.  Much better lighting and the board was right in front of me.  Finally I was happy with my seat.

I had only moved two seats away from the button but for some reason here they insist you sit out a hand when you move.  I assume that if I had moved more than two seats away from the button, they would have made me post like they do in Vegas, but honestly I don't know.  So I waited a hand and got adjusted to my new seat.  I could tell immediately that the lighting was much, much better there and between hands I even commented aloud, "Oh wow, I'll actually be able to see my cards now."  Someone commented that maybe I'll get better cards in that seat and I responded, "Well, for all I know I've been getting decent cards and just couldn't see them. I may have gotten Aces three times and thrown them away cuz I couldn't tell."

By this time I hadn't dragged a pot, and I was down to about $220 or so from $300 buy-in.  So I looked at the very first hand I got in my new seat, and the first card I saw was a King.  And I spread the cards and saw the second card, also a King.  Pretty funny that I just joked about throwing away Aces a few seconds ago.

I was in middle position.  There was a limp, and a call.  So I made it $18.  Only four players called.  Gulp.  The flop was Queen-5-4, rainbow, a good flop for me.  It checked to me and I bet $60.  Only one player called.  It was the player who had shoved with King-Jack in that earlier hand.  So I figured he might not have a hand as good as King-Jack.  Although this was my first preflop raise, so he might have assumed I had a real premium hand.  He had me covered.

The turn paired the 4, which looked pretty safe.  I bet $100, more than half my stack. Now the guy had thought about it a bit before calling my flop bet and thought about it some more on the turn.  But call he did.

The river was a 9 and there was no flush possible. But here's where my history with the dreaded hand cost me some money.  I knew I was committed when I bet the turn.  I had less than $100 left and I was never going to fold.  So of course I should have bet the rest of my chips.  But damn, it was Kings.  And as much as I hate to admit it, I always get a little spooked with those dreaded cowboys. I wimped out and just checked, knowing I would call if he bet behind me.  Sigh.  But he checked behind and showed his hand:  King-Queen.  I flipped over my Kings and took down a nice pot.  Suddenly I was sitting behind ~$450 and I had actually made some good money with Kings.  But I knew I left money on the table as he would have of course called my shove.  I tried not to beat myself up too much for that (at least until the ride home).

A while later I got those pocket Aces I couldn't see from the other seat. I was the big blind. After a couple of limps, a guy who had me covered made it $25 and another player called.  My first thought was to make it $100 but I decided to make it a little more and put out $110.  I had forgotten that I had a $5 chip out there for the blind, so my bet was actually $115.  Don't think it mattered much.  The limpers folded instantly.  The preflop raiser tanked for a good while, made some comments that I don't remember, and finally folded.  The other guy folded too.

There was a discussion amongst the players about what I could have had.  "He had Queens."  "At least."  "He hasn't played a hand in an hour, it's better than Queens."  Of course I hadn't shown so I said, "You know, I always do that the first time I get deuce-7."  That got a good laugh.  "You would have shown that."  I laughed and agreed. "Yeah, if I had deuce-7 there, I would have turned them up.  Just for the shock value."

Then I got Ace-King of spades and there was a $6 straddle, under-the-gun (only position where it's allowed).  I made it $18 and only the straddler called.  The flop was Ace-7-7. He checked, I bet $25 and took it down.

Those were the only hands I won.  But it left me up $200 for the session. Quite acceptable.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Vegas Poker Scene—June 2019

Here's my latest column for Ante Up (or the version I submitted).  You can find it in your local poker room.  Enjoy!

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The Mirage, the popular room in the center of the Vegas Strip, runs four NLH tournaments a day.  Monday through Thursday at 11 a.m., it's a $65 buy-in with a 10K starting stack and 20-minute levels. "The Stack" runs the same time Fridays through Sundays, which is a $120 buy-in with a 25K stack and 25-minute levels.

That identical $65 tournament runs Friday through Tuesday at 2 p.m. It also runs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. The other afternoons and evenings, a $100 bounty tournament runs, with a 15K starting stack, 25-minute levels and a $25 bounty.
Nightly at 11 p.m., a $40 tourney is offered.  Players start with 5K chips and play 20-minute levels.  There are $25 rebuys available for 2,500 chips for the first three levels.  At the end of the third level, players are allowed a $25 add-on for 2,500 regardless of the size of their stack.

The Mirage is one of the few places left where you can play limit poker on the strip.  A $3-$6 game runs most of the time, with a $30 minimum buy-in.  Several tables of $1-$2 NLH are always going, with a $100 minimum, $300 maximum

Promos included Aces Cracked. The first six pairs cracked each day (starting at 8 a.m.) earn $100 each.  Progressive quads start at $100 for each rank, and increase by $25 daily until hit.  Once a rank hits, future quads of that rank earn $50.High hands of the hour run twice daily, 5 a.m. – 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.  The prize is $100 and it rolls over if it isn't hit.  A full house or better is needed to qualify. Starting at 9 a.m. daily, $100 Sit-N-Go's are offered, with two places paid.

VENETIAN:  Benjamin Ector of Las Vegas won $39K for topping a field of 450 players in the $600 Monster Stack event at Deep Stack Extravaganza II in April.  Kfir Nahum, also from Vegas, took home $34K as runner-up and Alfredo Leonidas from Southern California earned $30K for third.  The total prize pool for the $600 event was $228K.

A few days later, there was a $250 event with five starting flights.  It was taken down by Tony Gordy from Los Angeles for $37K.  Florida's Vitaly Shafran earned $24K for second and Turkey's Onur Unsal earned $17K for third.  A field of 1200 players resulted in a $244K prize pool.

The next cash game promo begins July 22 and runs through August.  Every day between noon and midnight, the high hand of the half hour will receive $600.  If, during that half hour, a player matches the high hand exactly, that player will win $1K.

WYNN: Eric Blair won the $1,100 event at the Wynn Signature Series in late April, earning $35K for his efforts.  Robert Mantin took second for $21K and Robert Cone finished third for $13K.  The total prize pool was $112K and there were 114 players.  All three players hail from Vegas.

SOUTH POINT: There's plenty of time to qualify for the $210K Summer Freeroll. Players need 120 hours of live play by July 31 to claim a seat.  The first place prize is $40K and everyone receives $120 just for qualifying.  Players receive bonuses for additional hours played.

The room spreads $1-$2 NLH, with a $100 minimum and a $300 maximum.  Equally popular is a $2-$4 limit game with a $20 minimum. Promos include high hand bonuses and the Fully Loaded Flush Fridays promo. Players who make a seven-card flush receive a progressive jackpot that starts at $500 and increases $250 each week it's not hit.
The room recently revised its tournament schedule.  Daily at 10 a.m. there's a $60 NLH tournament.  Players start with 10K chips and play 20-minute levels.  It has a $1,200 guarantee.

The 2 p.m. slot features hold'em only once a week, on Saturdays.  The "Stamina Tournament" has a $150 buy-in and a 20K starting stack.  The levels are 30-minutes.
The rest of the week that slot is filled with an $80 buy-in tournament.  Tuesdays and Thursdays the game is Omaha 8.  Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it's No Limit Crazy Pineapple.  Both tourneys feature a 10K starting stack and 20-minute levels..
On Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, the 6 p.m. offering is a $100 NLH tournament with a 10K starting stack, 20-minute levels and a $1,500 guarantee.  Wednesdays and Sundays it's a $125 Deep Stack with a 15K starting stack and 20-minute levels. The Wednesday version has a $7,500 guarantee and the guarantee on Saturday is $10K.  The Saturday night Mega Stack tournament has a $200 buy-in, with a 20K starting stack and 20-minute levels..

BALLY'S:  The main event at the WSOP circuit event in April saw over 600 players compete for a $920K prize pool.  Brooklyn's Asher Conniff took home the ring and the first place prize of $193K.  Hawaii's Joshua Suyat claimed $119K for second and Vegas resident Justin Young earned $87K for third.

GREEN VALLEY RANCH: The locals casino just started spreading a $1-$3 NLH game in addition to their $1-$2 game. The new game has a fixed $300 buy-in.  The $1-$2 game has a $100 minimum and a $300 maximum.  There are usually a couple of games of each going during regular hours.  There's always several $2-$4 limit games going too, with a $20 minimum buy-in.  This game has a half-kill. 

The newest promo in the room is Poker Pay Day. Players who play between 20-29 hours in a week receive $100.  Players who clock 30 hours or more in the same period earn $200. 

BELLAGIO:  Bellagio Cup XV runs July 6 – 14.  The main event, a five-day tournament with a $10,400 buy-in, begins July 7.  Most of the rest of the events are satellites, but there is also a $1,100 Seniors event on July 11.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

My "Avengers Endgame" Project

Heads up:  There is absolutely no poker discussed in this post.  Nothing about Vegas either.  This is off topic and is (sort of) a movie review but it's actually more than just a movie review.  The last part of this post I will discuss a "project" I was tasked with by my friends—how to see, enjoy and understand AVENGERS: ENDGAME without having (initially at least) seen any of the previous MCU films.

And there will be spoilers, but don't worry, I'll give you plenty of warning before I get to the spoilers.  I'm not gonna just blurt out that there's no truth to the rumor that Rosebud is the name of Thanos's sled, so don't worry. I will give my spoiler-free thoughts first, then, there will be break for some pics, and then I will discuss the film in more detail and with plenty of spoilers. You'll get a warning.

Although, honestly, I'm wondering if it is even necessary to give the warning at this point.  The movie has been out for a month, and pretty much everyone who wants to see it already has, right?  And those of you who haven't seen it yet probably have no interest in doing so, right?  For that matter, those of who haven't seen it by now have already given up reading this post and are now Googling for the latest soccer results.  Either way, if you haven't seen it by now, you probably don't care about the possibility of this post ruining it for you.

Regardless, I'll warn you.

I do have to start off with big confession.  I was wrong.  Totally and completely wrong.  I goofed, and I'm admitting it.  Those of you with good memories will recall that a year ago I did a post after seeing AVENGERS; INFINITY WAR criticizing the ending of that film, really blasting it.  I am so embarrassed by that post now that I shouldn't link to it, in fact I should have deleted it.  But no, I'll let you all have a good laugh if you so chose, so you can find that post here.

Let me just say that in the year since I wrote that foolishness, I've had plenty of time to rethink my position and I was just wrong.  Oh, that was my reaction at the time, and it was a startling way to end a super-hero movie, but I was able to get over it.  And forgive the Marvel folks for taking that creative path.  By the time ENDGAME came out, I had totally forgiven them and was more than ready to see how they were going to get of that corner they'd painted themselves in.

Noticing that INFINITY WAR  was on Netlix, I rewatched it a week or two before the sequel came out. Being totally prepared for the ending really helped my enjoyment of it.  And of course this time I was watching it just a short time before I'd be able to see the resolution and the presumably happy ending.

And there was all the hype for ENDGAME. which I got all caught up in.  Suddenly I was looking forward to seeing the finale as much as anyone. And thus, I did indeed see it on the first weekend (even tho tickets were hard to come by).  Fortunately, everyone I follow on Twitter was good and no one spoiled it.

But I had done a bit of prep work for myself.  There were all kinds of articles on the internet talking about the movie—promising no spoilers—that gave you tips for what earlier movies in the MCU series were especially important for ENDGAME.  So I made sure I brushed up on those movies. The trouble was that every article I read recommending the 6 or 7 "must see" movies listed different films!  At a certain point I just had to go with my best instincts.

Well, the bottom line was, the movie wasn't just good….it wasn't just great.  It was freaking awesome.  I absolutely loved almost everything about it.  Really I thought all the decisions they made in telling the story were just wonderful, and all were easily justified.  Could they have done a few things differently?  Of course.  But I was totally satisfied with the way it turned out.  It is, in my opinion, the best Marvel movie ever, the best super-hero movie ever, and really one of the best film experiences I've ever had.  I left the theater humming a certain song, feeling extremely happy even though my eyes got a little watery a few times.

I spent the rest of the day and evening playing that certain song and scouring the internet for more info.  I wanted explanations/theories for stuff I didn't quite get (or stuff I had to guess about).  And I wanted to find out about all the Easter Eggs I saw and those that I may have missed, which I'd be looking for on my second viewing.  Yeah, I knew instantly I'd be back to see it again.  Hell, if it would have been possible, I would have just sat in my seat and watched it again right then and there (after a quick trip to the Mens Room).

I loved the movie.

And I was back again the very next weekend for a second viewing.

OK, so after a few pics, I'll give the uncensored review of the movie, you know, the one with spoilers.

WARNING: From here on, this post will definitely contain spoilers for AVENGERS: ENDGAME. Proceed at your own peril.

I already said I loved everything.  What did I especially love?  Well I love time travel stories so I loved that aspect of it, and the spin they put on it.  We've seen so many time travel stories with pretty much standard rules, it was nice they had completely different rules, and took full advantage of that. I loved the fact that they mentioned so many other time travel movies and explained how they all got the rules wrong!  I loved the fact that they said (something like) BACK TO THE FUTURE was bullshit (regarding its rules).  And by the way, BACK TO THE FUTURE is one of my all time favorite movies, definitely in the top 3 or 4. That was so damn funny. And I loved the fact that they revisited so many of the earlier movies (and did great spins on them) to complete the "time heist."  Those revisits were so cool (and reminded me of BACK TO THE FUTURE 2).

Captain America fighting his past self was incredible.  Stark's 1970 encounter with his father was incredibly satisfying.  Black Widow's sacrifice was….well somewhat mystifying and of course tragic.  It shocked me because I had heard that she was going to star in a stand-alone Black Widow movie.  We'll have to see how that plays out. 

And then there is fat Thor.  OMG.  I know this is controversial. There are a lot of people who didn't like it, or even hated it.  Of course, women tended to especially hate what they did to Thor, for obvious reasons.  But I loved it and thought it totally worked in the context of the story.  I mean, when I first saw him, fat and shirtless, I think I laughed non-stop for five minutes.  Really, I could not stop giggling.  As I said to one prominent female Twitterer who said fat Thor ruined the movie for her: "That was seriously one of the very best things in the movie...both for the story's sake and for meta reasons. I mean just thinking of Hemsworth's female fan base reacting as you did had me chuckling for the rest of the film."

It must have been a hard decision, risking alienating viewers like that. But I think it totally worked for the purpose of the story.  This was the best Thor we've seen in all the Marvel movies, the richest, most complex character.  And may I just say, Chris Hemsworth is a helluva actor for pulling it off—for pulling off all the versions of the Thor character since the beginning.  He's more than just a pretty face (and chiseled physique).  Perhaps it is evil of me, but thinking of how the ladies in the audience would react somehow made it even better for me.

And of course it led to some great jokes, including his mom saying to him, "Eat a salad."  And Rhodey responding to Thor's question, "Do you know what's going through my veins?" with the answer "Cheese Whiz?"

Certainly the end of the Iron Man story was very sad, very emotional but very satisfying.  Robert Downey, Jr deserves an Oscar nomination for his work here (so does Hemsworth, if you ask me).  A great character and a great performance.  Just amazing. Was I sad to see Tony Stark die?  Of course.  But if Downey is through playing the character, what a send off he got.

But my absolute most favorite thing about the movie was the resolution they gave Captain America.  Wow.  I know this is controversial too.  I read some complaints.  Cap would never do that.  Why not Bucky instead of Sam as the new Cap?  And of course, all the time travel/time line issues it creates. 

But to me, it was perfect.  Cap finally going back and having that dance with Peggy.  As soon as I heard the first notes of "It's Been a Long, Long Time," my eyes got watery (call me a sentimental old fool).  That was the song I couldn't stop playing after seeing the film.  And it was foreshadowed in every movie Cap was in, and even in Endgame it was foreshadowed in the 1970 scene, when he saw her in her office.  Perhaps that's the moment when he decided to return to her at the end?

Anyway, it made an already epic film even better.

The three hours just whizzed by.  It was totally captivating.  Bravo.

Now here is the epilog to my review, and it is probably more important than review itself.  I was tasked by my good friends Woody and LM with "prepping" them so they could enjoy ENDGAME even though they had not seen a single one of the MCU movies previously.


When they realized that everyone on the planet was digging this movie, they asked me if they should see it.  I told them no.  I said you can't just watch ENDGAME if you haven't seen any of the movies that led up to it.  It wouldn't make any sense at all.

Now I should mention that LM read a lot of comics as a kid.  She was a fan, and knew a lot of the original Marvel heroes.  Her brother is a major comic book nerd with a huge comics collection. In fact, her brother and I were both members of the same comic book club when we were teen-agers (although I never knew or met LM at the time, just one of those weird coincidences).  She always preferred DC Comics to Marvel, but knew Marvel. And she had seen some movies based on comics (we saw the Toby McGuire Spider-Man together).  Just not any of the MCU movies.  But she knew who Thor, Iron-Man, Captain America and a few others were, at least from their comic book versions.

Woody was a tougher case.  He had never read comics and had maybe only seen a couple of comic book movies—a few Superman movies.

But they are determined people.  They insisted that this was too big of a cultural phenomenon for them to miss.  And did they really have to see all the previous 21 films???

I think LM said they would start watching a few of the previous ones at random to give them some idea.  I said that wouldn't work.  I thought about it.  I came up with an idea, that was actually kind of dumb—at least the first part of it.  I said that they should first watch INFINITY WAR which was available on Netflix.  One of three things would happen, I predicted.  One, they would be so lost they'd give up after 15 minutes and forget the idea.  Two, they would be extremely confused but somehow enjoy and be intrigued enough to be wanna see a few more films to get some key background information before seeing ENDGAME.  Or three (and this was the least likely scenario), they would like it so much they would be ready to jump in and either see all the previous films or just run out and see ENDGAME right away.

My prediction was the first one.  But what happened was a lot closer to the second possibility.  While they were watching it, LM was texting me all sorts of questions about who the characters were and what their relationships were and whether this character or that character was a good guy or a bad guy. I tried to respond as best I could (they even took pics off their screen and sent them to me, asking "Who is this?")

Although they admitted they were confused and more than a bit lost, somehow, someway they got enough out of the experience to want to see ENDGAME.  Could I help some more?

When I suggested watching INFINITY WAR, I said in the unlikely event they still wanted to see ENDGAME, I would put together a list of a few of the movies they absolutely needed to see before seeing ENDGAME

Now they were calling my bluff.  By this time I had seen ENDGAME so I pretty much knew what I felt were the most important films leading up to it.

As I noted, there were lists all over the internet suggesting which movies were the "must-see" ones to prepare for ENDGAME.  I didn't like any of those lists.  Most of them picked movies based on key plot points that were used in ENDGAME.  For me, the character arcs, especially the character arcs of the three most important Avengers, was what was crucial to enjoying ENDGAME, not the details of where what Infinity Stone was found on what planet and taken from what villain (or hero). 

It was a character driven story, to my mind.

Of course, the list I came up with for them was based on my own prejudices, and tastes. No way around that (other than use some stranger's list off the internet, which would be based on that person's biases and tastes).

Since to me the best moment in ENDGAME was Cap's decision, I thought that all three Captain America movies were absolute musts.  Additionally, all of them were very good movies, among the best of the series.

Now there's Iron Man, perhaps the most important character in the series.  It better be emotional when he dies.  So for sure they had to see the first Iron Man movie, also the first MCU movie.  And it is a good movie too.  What about the other two Iron Man movies?  In a perfect world, yes, but no time.  The other two were not especially good movies, and I thought they could get enough Iron Man characterization from the first film and from the other films I had selected.

And of course Thor.  I wanted to limit it to one Thor movie for time sake.  The best of the three was the last one, THOR: RAGNORAK.  And it was even on Netflix.  So it was the obvious choice.  LM remembered Thor from the comics, so I didn't think she'd be lost not having seen the first two.  Another bonus:  Hulk is Thor's co-star in that film so they'd get important information into Hulk's development. BTW, LM was a big fan of the old Hulk TV show with Lou Ferrigno.

Besides, I was also going to put the first two Avengers movies on my list, which would give them more insight into Thor (as well as Iron Man).  And those two movies would give them great insight into the whole group dynamic, as well as many of the other characters.

That was it.  In order to fill in the gaps, I verbally gave them a lot of info on Guardians of the Galaxy (both the characters and the key plot point they revisit in ENDGAME), Dr. Strange (and the time stone), the Ant-man movies (Dr. Pym, Pym particles, the Quantum Realm and the importance of Scott's daughter to him), Black Panther (advanced technology) and Captain Marvel (especially the after-credit scene, which sort of explains how she was able to find Stark's disabled space ship). Since I skipped the first two stand-alone Thor movies, I also gave them background on Thor, and explained how his (ex) girlfriend Jane wound up in Asgard with the reality stone inside of her, how his mother died when she was there. Also I made sure they knew about Thor's hammer's unique properties (one must be worthy to lift it).  I actually made voice recordings on all of these topics.  I knew what was important to clue them in on, but it was a challenge to discuss these things in a way that didn't spoil anything.

For example, even though I had heard before seeing ENDGAME that they used time travel to bring back the people who Thanos had snapped out of existence, I didn't tell them that.  It turned out to be a great surprise for LM, who loves time travel stories.  Another thing I pointed out, without explanation, was that Thor appeared shirtless in Ragnorak.  I knew it was unnecessary to point this out for LM but I wanted to make sure Woody noticed too.  That was to set them up for fat Thor.

To my delight, they enjoyed every one of the Marvel movies I recommended.  Some of them I had recently rewatched myself, and a couple of them I ended up rewatching the same night they were experiencing them for the first time.  It gave me a chance to point out a few things or answer their questions.

As they neared the end of the list, I recommended that they rewatch INFINITY WAR again, now that they had all the background.  They had decided to do that on their own. Now that they had all the background, it was almost a whole new movie for them (and much better).

Finally they were ready to see AVENGERS: ENDGAME.  I was nervous when they went, I felt like I would be responsible if they didn't like it—it would be my fault that I didn't prepare them well. We joked that I was their professor, and I needed my students to be approve of the course I provided. Well, it turned out to be no problem, they loved the movie.  Although I have to say, LM did absolutely hate, hate, hate fat Thor for the obvious reason.  She wanted to enjoy Hemsworth's abs. 

In fact, LM said she wanted to see it again, so a few days later she joined me for another viewing (her second, my third).  She loved it again, and I was able to point out a few more Easter Eggs and explain a few things.  We both agree that we can't wait until she has the Blu-Ray and we can watch it together on her giant 4G screen and we can stop it at will and I can point out more goodies.

I have to say, I actually had a lot of fun thinking about the movies I wanted them to see, making my voice notes for them, hearing their reactions to them, and kind of re-experiencing the whole series with them.  It was a successful project.

I leave you with the list of the movies I had them watch, in order, and a bit of a make-good for those of you who were disappointed with fat Thor. What do you think of my selections?

1. Iron-Man
2. Capt. America: The First Avenger
3. The Avengers
4. Capt. America: The Winter Soldier
5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
6. Capt. America: Civil War
7. Thor: Ragnarok
8. Avengers: Infinity War.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Robvegaspoker joins Persuadeo's Podcast!

I'm on a podcast!

Check out Persuadeo's latest podcast with special guest--me!

Thanks to Persuadeo for having me on. We talk about my blog, my poker "career" and poker in general.  Then we finish up talking about one hand of mine that perplexed me.  Persuadeo gives me a free poker lesson (and I need it).

Check it out here.  Then let me know what you think.