Wednesday, September 18, 2019

I Finally Found a Hand to Play

This was my Friday night session in Vegas in July.  It was my first—and, as it turned out, my only—visit to the MGM this trip.  This session is basically all about one big hand that I didn't play well but, you know, luck is a good thing.

I was quite card dead for most of the session, and it was kind of a decent game.  After texting me to see where I was playing, my pal Don showed up, but we never played at the same table.  When he texted me he asked how the games were, and I said they were good but I couldn't find a hand to play.  By the time he showed up and was waiting for a seat, I showed him my stack and told him, "I finally found a hand to play."  He said, "I see that."  I added "But you won't like how I played it," I warned him.  "Probably not," was his reply.

I couldn't have had much less than my original $200 buy-in because of not playing anything.  Finally I got pocket 10's in early position and I limped in.  Don and I had discussed that hand just the night before.  Of course I should raise with it and he was reminding me of that very fact.  I explained that whenever I do, it seldom works out well for me.  So with the first pocket pair I'd had all night, I just limped in.  No one raised and five of us saw the flop.

And a fine flop it was.  Jack-Jack-10.  Always nice to flop a boat.  The lone woman at the table bet $10, a guy called, and I just called.  The others folded.  The turn card was a 9.  I checked, the lady bet $40, and the guy called.  When I checked, I was thinking I'd probably check-raise.  But when the guy called the $40, I started thinking I might get more money if just called and didn't chase anyone out.  So I just called.

I didn't like the river card, a Queen.  Players love to play Queen-Jack.  It struck me as plausible someone just hit a bigger boat than mine.  Hell, for all I knew, the lady had Jack-9 (another hand people love to play) and I was beaten on the turn. After my check, the lady bet $55 and the other guy called.  It struck me as very possible my hand was not the best.  I hated it, but I just called.

The lady turned over Jack-something.  The something wasn't matched with anything on the board.  The guy turned over pocket 8's.  At least that's what I think it was.  He only had it face up for a second. Maybe I missed something.  I mean, it's hard to believe he would have thought that was good against two other players. He couldn't have had a straight because he was obviously disappointed to see the lady's trips and he hadn't seen my hand yet. Whatever, my boat was good and it was a nice pot, but I know I cost myself some value there.

Not much happened after that either.  I had 5-3 in the big blind and no one raised.  The flop was 6-3-2 and no one bet.  The turn was a 5 but now I had to worry about a low straight.  I checked and called a bet of $10 from the aggro Euro at the table.  The river was an 9.  There was no flush possible and I checked.  This time the Euro put out $30. I just had a gut instinct that he was full of crap.  I shrugged and called.  All he had was a deuce for bottom pair.

And that was all that was worth reporting on.  I was able to cash out with a $110 profit.  During the game I had a good seat for the parade of scantily clad females attending the nightclub, and I was able to explore said parade more fully after I cashed out.  But I have to say, it was a disappointing show. For some reason there wasn't a big crowd for the club that night. But the extra money in my wallet was most welcome.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

I Showed Her the Nuts

On this particular night in Vegas, I met up with my pal Don for some poker and dinner.  Don graciously offered to burn through some of his comps for dinner.  We ended up deciding to play at Mirage and eat at the burger place there (LVB Burgers, I believe it's called).  I'd eaten there once before with Lightning.  It was fine, nothing special, and not cheap.  We each had the burger/fries/drink combo, and after tax, the bill came to $51. That's two burgers, two orders of fries and two sodas.  Twenty-five bucks for a burger & fries at a casual burger place?  Like I've been saying for years now, Vegas ain't what it used to be.  Fortunately Dave's comps covered it.  Of course I volunteered to cover the tip.

After the meal we headed over to the poker room as planned.  We not only got into the same game but were sitting right next to each other, Don on my immediate left.

It was an ok game. It was short-handed a lot of the time. I managed to win a few hands, but Don had terrible, terrible luck.  He was mostly card dead and when he did get something to play he couldn't win a damn pot.  There was one time when he did win a small pot, and he said to the dealer, "Count the deck….I'm not supposed to win a pot here, something's wrong."

Early on, after three limpers I made it $12 with King-Queen of spades.  No one called.

Then came a more interesting hand.  In early position, I opened to $10 with Ace-Queen of diamonds. It was four-way.  The flop was rather favorable for me:  King-7-4, all diamonds.  I was first to act, and I figured even though I flopped the nuts, I had to bet.  So I decided to bet, but bet small.  I put out $15.  A guy made it $35 and it folded to me. 

What to do?  If I assume he had a weaker flush, I just have to call and keep calling as I take his money.  But what else could he have?  Two pair?  A set?  Would he raise with those hands?  I thought he might.  If he did have a set, I didn't want to make it cheap for him to draw to his boat. And if he did have a set, he'd call a raise from me, and I could build a nice pot (hopefully for me and not for him if he ended up catching his boat).  I put $60 on top of my $15.  He tanked.  But finally he folded, saying, "I don't have a diamond."

Well what did he have?  Did he raise on that board with just a King?  Two pair?  Hard for me to believe he folded a set there.  Don and I talked about afterward.  He thought it was a mistake to re-raise.  He said I should have just called, the only hand he could have had was a smaller flush (he hadn't heard the guy say he didn't have a diamond—of course, we don't know if he was telling the truth).  He said he wouldn't have raised with a set but I dunno if that's true.  He might raise with a set hoping to protect his hand against someone with a naked Ace of diamonds.

So I won the pot and possibly misplayed it.  What do you think?  Should I have just flatted his $35 bet?

There was a woman at the table, across from me, who was wearing a low-cut top.  I know you're surprised that I would notice such a thing, but somehow I did.  She was in seat 2 and I was in seat 7 so I had a fairly unobstructed view.  Now when I saw her stand up, she really didn't have a great figure, and I couldn't get a good look at her face because the baseball cap she was wearing kind of hid it.  But I did notice the cleavage—there was a lot to notice if you know what I mean.

We had seen her win a few nice pots and at first we thought she was a good player, but as we watched her more we came to realize she wasn't that great a player and she had just gotten lucky.  

Anyway, I had Ace-6 of hearts in the small blind and just about everyone limped in.  So I completed and we saw a flop.  Six, seven of us?  Something like that.  I couldn't tell you what the flop was, but there was one heart on it and it checked around.  The turn card was the something other of hearts.  The aforementioned lady bet $15.  With the nut flush draw, I called and we were now heads up.

The river was another heart, giving me the nut flush through the back door.  This lady had been fairly aggressive all night and I figured she was likely to bet again on the river since she had bet the turn.  So I took a chance and checked.  My instincts were solid.  She put out $50. 

My inclination was to make it $150 but I thought about it a bit.  My check-raise there is going to scream "nut flush."  Especially since I had been playing so tight.  She could easily fold.  But I thought there was some chance of a call, she had been so aggro.  I decided to make it only $125 figuring it would be slightly easier for her to call that.

She went into the tank.  I was thinking she was going to fold but no, she did call.  Sweet.  I showed her the nuts and she mucked without revealing her hand.

Later, I was in the small blind with pocket Jacks.  After a bunch of limpers, the button made it $20.  I called, no else did.  The flop was Ace high and it went check-check.  The turn was a blank and he bet $20.  I called.  No betting on a blank river. Before we flipped our cards over, Don said to me, "You have Queens?"  He was thinking I had Queens and the button had Kings.  Very close.  The button had the Queens, still good enough to win.  Dave suggested that maybe I should have bet the turn since he checked the flop.  Maybe he would have folded his Queens?  Who knows?

Meanwhile, Don's horrible night continued.  He lost the last of his buy-in when his top pair/top kicker lost to a flopped set in a three-bet pot.  He didn't rebuy and I cashed out a little bit later, up $115.

It was a fun evening, for me anyway.  I wish Don had had a better night.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

With A Little Bit O' Luck

Well, maybe just a tad more than a little bit.

My most recent session in Ventura wasn't going so well.  Another session where I was totally card dead.  Up to this point I had had a total of two pocket pairs.  Both times it was pocket 7's.  BTW, is it just me or does it seem like whenever you get so few pocket pairs that you notice how few it is, they always seem to be the same pocket pair?  Anyway, those two hands didn't pan out.  I never saw Ace-King or Ace-Queen or any big cards where I could play them.  No suited connectors (well, I think I might have gotten 3-2 suited under-the-gun once). 

I did manage to win a very small pot early when I was in the big blind and no one raised.  My King-9 caught a 9-2-2 flop.  I bet something and didn't get a call, even tho six of us saw that flop.

But that was it.

So after a several hours, I was about ready to call it a day.  The table at my 2/3 game had started off fairly juicy, with a few aggros putting chips into play.  I never had anything to battle them with.  Then the aggros left and the game got dull.  A lot of chopping the blinds.  We were short for awhile but another game broke and we got a player from that table.

That new player had a short stack, around $55-$60.  For the first few hands, he shoved every time he entered a pot.  After a few times doing this, he managed to get enough chips so he started playing more seriously.  He got his stack close to $100 and then up over $100 when this hand happened. 

I had decided to play no more than another two orbits after posting my blinds.  And on the button I looked down at a couple of Aces.  Finally a pocket pair.  And it wasn't any damn 7's, either.

The fellow I just mentioned who came to the table shoving his short stack was under-the-gun, and raised to $15. By now his stack was over $100, but not much over.  After a few folds another guy called the $15.  His stack was over $300.  It came to me, and I was sitting behind around $220 at this point (down from my $300 buy-in).  I made it $60, which I thought was the right size.  My assumption was the initial raiser didn't have enough to call, he'd either shove or fold.  And my money was on shoving.  Since he had stopped open-shoving, it didn't appear to me that he was opening light.  I couldn't imagine him having a hand good enough to raise with that he would let go easily, especially since he had demonstrated a willingness to put his chips in play.

The guy on my left, the small blind, had me covered at least three times over  He had been one of the aggros when the other aggros were there, but once the others left he had been fairly quiet.  So I was a bit surprised when he cold called a $60 from the tightest player at the table. 

Now it was back to the initial raiser, who did what I expected and shoved.  The other guy folded instantly.  It was back to me. I asked for a count of the shove, and it was $111.  I thought that was enough for me to be able to raise, but I have to say, I've seen some weird rules interpretations in this room (really all CA card rooms) so I asked if I could raise.  The dealer did some math and told me I could indeed raise.  No one at the table objected.  In fact, the guy behind me, who had called me, actually said "yes" to my question before the dealer did.  Hmm….maybe he wanted me to raise?  Did he have Kings perhaps (or, a long shot, the other two Aces?)

Anyone think I should have just flatted there?  It didn't make sense to me.  And I couldn't really raise without shoving.  "All-in," I announced.

The guy on my left spent a good bit of time in the tank.  Finally he said, "I know you've got me beat," and reluctantly folded.  He did, however, show his hand.  Pocket 10's. I was thinking his initial call of my $60 kind of sucked, but what do I know?  I was grateful for the dead money.

The dealer put out the flop.  It was Jack-high, two fairly low cards.  At which point the other guy flipped over his hand.  Two Jacks. Yuck.

Fortunately I didn't have much time to dwell on my misfortune because the dealer quickly put out the turn card, which was a beautiful, gorgeous, smokin' hot Ace.  The river card was something or other.  I had started to turn my hand over at the sight of the Ace but I don't think I beat the dealer to putting out the river card.  Anyway, the guy with the Jacks groaned, I said something  like "Gee,"—you know to indicate that I was at least acknowledging my good fortune (after his initial good fortune).

Then the guy said, "One more Jack…..jackpot."  Huh?  Then I realized what he meant.  "And you would have had the bigger share, with the losing hand."  Yes indeed. The minimum hand needed to be beaten to qualify for the bad beat jackpot here (and in the other CA rooms I've played in) is Aces full of Jacks. Had he caught his one-outer to taken the pot from me, I would have been very happy.  The BBJ was worth $15K.  So I would have gotten a tasty $7,500.  He would have gotten $3,750. and the rest of the table would have split the rest.

Ordinarily I wouldn't even mention it, but this was probably the closest I've ever come to actually hitting a BBJ. And it was all set up for it too.  All that was missing was the case Jack.  Hey, it was only a 1-in-42 chance (counting the fact that we'd seen two 10's in addition to our own hands.  That's a better chance than I usually have, right?

Oh well, winning the pot with a little bit o' luck and turning a losing session into a profitable one would have to do.

I played another two orbits, just as I had planned, and called it day.  I cashed out up $92.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Vegas Poker Scene—September 2019

Here's my latest column for Ante Up.  Guess what?  The Ante Up website has finally been updated, and they just posted my latest column on it last night.  You can find it embedded in the entire West region report here.  This is the actually column as is printed in the magazine, not my draft version as it has been for the past few months.
=  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  = 
Andrey Pateychuk of Russia won the Deepstack Championship Poker Series’ $5K main event on July 20 at the Venetian Las Vegas for $547K. Yake Wu of China received $336K for second and Stephen Chidwick of the United Kingdom earned $245K for third. The event drew 564 entrants for a $2.6M prize pool.
The room hosts the DeepStack Showdown series Oct. 14-20. It features a $400 Monster Stack with a $250K guarantee and five starting flights beginning Oct. 15. Players start with 30K chips and play 30-minute levels on the first day, 40 minutes on Day 2. The top 15 percent of each Day 1 flight will be in the money, with the top 5 percent advancing to Day 2.
Also in October, the cash-game promo is a high-hand giveaway. Every half-hour between noon and midnight, the best hand receives $600. If a player matches the winning hand, that player will receive $1K.
GOLDEN NUGGET: The $600 championship event of the room’s Grand Poker Series finished June 30 and had 1,313 entrants. Michael Policastro from Pennsylvania won the title and $90K. Jeffrey Colpitts of New York took home $80K for second and Israel’s Oren Orly earned $78K for third. The prize pool was $677K.
PLANET HOLLYWOOD: Ben Farrell of the United Kingdom won the Goliath main event for $162K in early July. Ignacio Molina of Andorra won $154K as runner-up and Remi Castaignon got $152K for third. The $1,700 event had 744 players and a $1.1M prize pool.
BELLAGIO: Turkey’s Akin Tuna won the Bellagio Cup in July for $430K. Houston’s Greg Back grabbed $254K for second and Bulgaria’s Fahredin Mustafov took home $166K for third. More than 140 players paid $10,400 to enter, creating a prize pool of nearly $1.4M.
ORLEANS: The final four in the $400 championship event in late June agreed to a deal with Brett Murray of California taking the top prize of $30K. Michael Plaxco of Alabama, Kazuki Sasaki of Japan and Evan Biscow of California each took home $20K. The event had 583 entrants and the prize pool was $200K.
WYNN: Connecticut’s Justin Adams and Virginia’s Sang Ku Kim chopped the Wynn Classic main event in July for $345K each, with Adams declared the winner. Clifford Goldkind of Maryland received $246K for third. The $1,600 event drew 2,300 players for $3.3M prize pool, smashing the $2M guarantee.
ARIA: Tom Marchese added to his nearly $20M of career winnings by taking home $1M for winning the PartyPoker Millions event in early July. Jeremy Ausmus took home $650K for second and Ana Marquez earned $445K for third. The event had 536 players and a prize pool of $5.3M.
SOUTH POINT: Qualifying for the holiday freeroll runs Sept. 1-Nov. 30. Players must log 120 hours of cash-game play to qualify for the freeroll, which runs in December.
Players earn double credit between 9 a.m.-noon, 4-7 p.m., and 10-midnight. You’ll receive cash-bonus payouts for playing more than 120 hours during the qualification period. First place for the freeroll receives $40K. All players who qualify receive $120.
CAESARS PALACE: The room runs five tournaments daily. At 10 a.m., it’s $100 for 12K chips with a $1.5K guarantee. At 2 p.m., it’s $150 for 15K chips with a $2K guarantee. The
6 p.m. tournament is $125 for 12K chips and a $1.5K guarantee. At 9 p.m., the $150 tournament starts with 15K chips and has a $2K guarantee. The midnight tournament is $100 for 10K chips and a $1K guarantee. All events have 20-minute levels except the midnight tourney (15 minutes).
RIO: Tournaments run four times a day at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 and 9. Each has a $65 buy-in and starts players with 5K chips. An optional $5 dealer add-on gets players 5K more. The levels are 20 minutes and there’s a $500 guarantee for each.
FLAMINGO: Six tournaments run daily, except Fridays when there’s no 10 a.m. tournament. A $65 tournament runs at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 9 and midnight. These start with 20K chips, have 15-minute levels and offer a $500 guarantee. At 6 p.m., an $80 bounty with a $700 guarantee is offered with $25 bounties. A $55 turbo with 10-minute levels runs at 4 p.m.
Limit hold’em still thrives here with a popular $3-$6 game (minimum $30 buy-in) that’s always running. A weekly freeroll is available for 12 hours of live play. There are high-hand bonuses.
COMINGS AND GOINGS: Mark Selby has returned to Westgate to manage the poker room after a four-year stint running the room at the Stratosphere. Selby opened the poker room at Westgate when it was known as the LVH and ran it for two years before leaving for the Stratosphere. He once managed the poker room at Riviera, too.
Andrew Simon is the manager at the Stratosphere. He has been there for more than 10 years and has been a supervisor for four years.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

10-High Straight Flash

This was my second night in Vegas last month.  I played at the Venetian.  I actually played cash there quite a bit while I was in town. The reason has a lot to do with when I was there.  I hit town just a few days after the WSOP was over.  That's the deadest time for poker in Vegas.  As such, there were fewer games around town than almost any other time of year.

As soon as the series ended, Venetian started one of their high hand promos.  Between noon and midnite, they were giving away $600 every half hour for the highest hand of that half hour. As such, during that time, Venetian had the most games of any room in town, at least at the 1/2 – 1/3 level.  Some usually busy rooms were struggling to get more than a game or two going.  So it made sense to play there.

At the beginning of the year, the V made the switch from 1/2 to 1/3, so I bought in for $300.  Spoiler warning:  In the whole time I played there during this week, I never came close to catching a high hand.

In the big blind I had Jack-2 off.  There were three or four of us seeing the flop, which was Ace-Jack-2, two clubs.  There was no bet.  A third club hit the turn.  My Jack was a club. I called $10 and it was three-way. The Queen of clubs hit the river.  A guy bet $10, then the next guy made it $20.  I figured one of them had the King of clubs, the only card that beat me, but I called.  The other guy folded.  The guy who bet $20 proudly showed me the 10 of clubs.  He never showed the other card because by that time I'd flipped over my Jack of clubs and took the pot.

In late position I had 7-6 of spades.  There was a bet to $12 and a call.  With only three cards needed for the straight flush (remember that high hand promo), I called.  Jack high, two spades on the flop and nobody bet.  A 7 hit the turn.  The preflop raiser bet $20, I called, then the last guy shoved his last $27.  Obviously both of us called.  The river was a spade, giving me a weak flush.  After the preflop raiser checked, I just showed my hand.  I felt my flush was too weak to bet there.  Both the other players had Jacks, and my flush was good.

For the high hand promo, they use an out-of-date tournament clock and modify it for high hand information.  So there's a clock counting down how much time is left in the period.  Above that, they put they current high hand you need to beat to be the leading high hand.  So it might say "77733" or "AAAA7".  If it's a straight flush, it will say, "7-High Straight Flush."  This is all typed in by somebody as soon as they get the new high hand info.  One time, I happened to look at the clock and it said, "10-High Straight Flash."  That's not a typo (at least on my part).  They had actually spelled "flush" as "flash." 

Of course I found this amusing.  So I said, to the whole table but especially the dealer, "Look at the board, it says '10-high straight flash.'"  He glanced at it and said, "Yeah, 10-high straight flush."  So I said, "No look at it, it says '10-high straight flash.'"  He looked again, as did the entire table, and they all got a good laugh at that.  So one guy said, "Well I don't think I want to see that."  I said, "Really?  It kind of depends on who's doing the flashing."  I think most of the folks agreed that it might be something we'd be interested in.
The next dealer was a guy in his 30's or early 40's I'd guess, and he heard the announcement that "Moe" was being called to a game.  So he said, "Moe?  Where's Larry and Curly?"  I started laughing said, "You must be older than you look." He said "Of course I know the 3 Stooges.  Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk."  I laughed some more and he said, "And don't forget Shemp.  A lot of people forget Shemp."

It was getting near time for me to call it a night and I had a small profit in front of me.  I called a raise to $12 with pocket 7's.  It turned out to be heads up.  I whiffed a Jack-high flop.  He bet $15 and I was about to fold.  But then I remembered a little earlier in a similar situation I folded pocket 10's to his c-bet on a Queen-high board.  And immediately afterward I was wondering if that was a bad fold.  Why didn't I at least call one bet?  He could have had Ace-King (if not worse).  So this time I called the $15.  Then on a blank turn he bet $15 again.  It started smelling like he was just barreling.  I suppose I should have raised, but I just called.  On a blank river, he bet $25.  By this time I had done a decent job of convincing myself he had nothing.  When I realized the size of the pot, I figured I had to look him up. So I called. He just mucked, saying he had nothing.   

Well that got my profit over $100 and I was about ready to leave anyway.  But on the very next hand I was dealt two black Aces.  I opened to $10 and got a couple of calls.  The flop was Ace-high.  Well that was the good news.  The bad news was it was all diamonds.  I bet $20 and got a call.  Then the last guy made it $40.  Jeez.  Was I already losing to a flush?  I called and the other guy called.

The turn was the King of diamonds, which was really not the card I was looking for at all.  I checked. The next guy checked and the guy who had raised the flop bet $35.  I didn't like it, but I decided to call.  I was worried about the guy behind me of course, but if I could get away with seeing the river card for $35, I figured it was a good price to try to catch a boat.  Or quads.  Note:  This was near the end of the 30-minute period.  Throughout most of this period, the high hand was a relative low value full house.  But as this hand was being dealt, they put up a straight flush on the board.  So it would have been an actual pisser if I caught quad Aces and it wouldn't have gotten me the high hand bonus.

Fortunately, the last guy just called, and I was really, really wishing for the board to pair.  But the 8 of clubs didn't do me any good at all.  I checked, the next guy, who had been check/calling, now shoved for his last $53 and the other guy called.  Yuck.

It's not easy to fold a set of Aces but I didn't think there was a chance in hell my hand was good.  I assumed I was behind at least one flush, if not two.  So I had to fold.  Sure enough the guy who shoved showed a Queen of diamonds (and something like a black 10 or 9) for the nuts. The other guy didn't show.  I assume he had a lesser flush, perhaps he flopped it. 

The thing I was somewhat grateful for was the guy who won just called the turn.  He could have checked-shoved there.  With outs to the boat I would have been tempted to call.  I think that would have been a better play than what he actually did.
I think I played another two hands and called it a night, booking a $55 win.  Damn Aces.  Maybe I should start calling them dreaded?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Falling Into The Abyss

Have you heard about "The Abyss"?

That's the name of a tournament being offered at the Commerce as part of their coming tournament series. And it's unique.  As it says right on the structure sheet, "The Abyss seeks to become the deepest tournament in poker history."

Now, they are not making it the deepest tournament in poker history by starting with a humongous starting stack.  No, not at all. It's 20K to start off the tourney.  The buy-in is $360.

What makes this tournament the deepest in history are the levels on day 1.  Or should I say, "level" on day 1.  You see there's only one level.  It's 100/200 with a 200 big blind ante.  But that level remains constant for the entirety of day 1.  The blinds do not increase at all during day 1. All the day 1's (all four of them) will play exactly 8 hours (from 3pm-11pm).

Not only that, but the first two hours of day 2 continue at 100/200/200 for the first two hours.  So if you can keep your stack (or at least part of it), you can play a 10-hour level of 100/200/200. After that, the levels go to 20-minutes until level 25-28 (30-minutes), then levels 29+ are 40-minutes.

You can see the structure for yourself here.  You should definitely take a look at it.

What do you think?  I think my first reaction when I saw it was, "OMG."  Or perhaps it was, "WTF???"  It certainly is different.

I started thinking about the ramifications of the unusual structure.  It is going to play differently than any other tournament.  I mean for the entire first day (and then some), it's going to be more like a deep-stacked cash game than a tournament.  For all that time, there's no pressure on you to be aggressive to build that stack. You can certainly afford to be patient (really, really patient).

So figure a lot of folks would play tight.  If everyone did that, for the entire time, would anyone bust out?  Well sure, there are bust-outs in the first level of every tournament, just not a lot.  Not as many as there are in the 10th level, for sure.  And of course you will have some cooler hands that will bust even the tightest players, you know AA vs KK, that sort of thing.

But everyone is not going to just sit back and wait for Aces and Kings. And that wouldn't be the smart way to play anyway.  Be selective yes, of course.  No need to force the issue when you have plenty of big blinds to play with.  But the goal for day 1 would obviously to be to build up that stack.  And of course, no matter, people will bleed chips.  But going a few orbits without playing a hand, and just losing the blinds, will obviously be a lot less costly in this tourney than any other.

And no doubt, no matter the slow structure (at least for day 1), you can bet you will run into those players that you run into at any poker game you've ever played—the guys who love to gamble and who love to put pressure on you by being aggressive.  The guys who are willing to shove a lot to either bet you out of the hand or take their chances. In a cash game, these folks come prepared to dig into their wallets multiple times and keep reloading.

In this tournament, they can't quite do it, but they can re-enter the same flight one time.  So you may have people who are prepared to buy in twice a day for the four day 1's.  Ten buy-ins if necessary to score.

There's another interesting feature of this tournament I haven't mentioned yet.  You can buy in directly to day 2, for the first two hours of day 2, while the blinds are the same as they were for all of day 1.  So then the question becomes, why even bother with playing day1?

I mean, if you just show up for day 2, you will have the same number of big blinds as you would if you bought in at the beginning of day 1. In any other tournament that leaves registration open through the beginning of day 2, you will start off short-stacked, and the pressure to find an early double-up is enormous.  Not the case here.

Or is it?  Presumably, if you enter on day 2, you'll be facing some pretty big stacks.  Even though the blinds will be low, they'll be able to bet your off hands and you may just have to put your stack at risk anyway.  Now I talked to Justin Hammer, the Commerce tournament coordinator, via Twitter about his expectations for this event. Along with Matt Savage, Justin is the designer of this structure.  He is putting the "over/under" on the percentage of day 1 players who survive to day 2 at 50%.  That would make the average day 2 stack 200 big blinds.  Personally I think less than 50% will make it through but Justin is the expert.  In that case, you'll have half the average stack if you just plan to start on day 2, but of course they'll be many larger than average stacks (and of course some short stacks too).

So it seems to me if you are skipping day 1, you are putting yourself at a big disadvantage in trying to cash.  With so many expected to make it to day 2, this of course is not one of those tourneys where there's a payout just for surviving day 1, where you can bust out late in day 1 and get some money. However, they will pay the top three chip leaders at the end of each day 1 $360.  In other words, you'd get your buy-in back.  But only three players per flight get that.

Thus, if you are going to make it worthwhile to play this tournament, you need to score big on day 2, and the best way to do that would be to build up a nice big stack on day 1 during that 8-hour long 100/200/200 session.

But then you have to evaluate the day 2 structure.  You can't complain about the structure in a tourney that has the first level play for 10 hours can you?  Well….if you look at what happens after that, starting two hours into day 2 (right after registration closes), you see those levels are 20-minutes for the next 22 levels. Really, it's not at all a bad structure, except for the fact that it has the 20-minute levels.  Shouldn't a $360 tourney have longer levels?  Well the answer is, when you average out the length of the levels starting with a 10-hour level, it's very player friendly indeed.  But if you look at it from the standpoint of just entering on day 2, not so much.  It's all a matter of perspective. Of course, there's a $250K guarantee for this event, so that is a nice selling point.

One of the first things I thought of when I saw the structure was, this is set-up to be hugely favorable to the pros and the tournament grinders at the expense of the recreational players.  As much as we recs love the deepstack structures, it's true that the better the structure, the better it is for the better players.  In the long run, given enough time, they know how to extract the chips better than the amateurs.  This is extreme in that regard, giving those pros 10 hours to use that 100 BB starting stack to get the chips from the weaker players.

I decided to ask a well-known pro (and bracelet holder) about just that topic. I promised I wouldn't identify him but I'll bet you've all heard of him.  He agreed with me that the structure greatly favors the pros, but he pointed something else out that I hadn't considered.  He said the better regular players were likely to skip day 1 altogether because they'd have a better hourly waiting until day 2.  They'd more likely play a decent stakes cash game where they could make more money.  Interesting.

If all the good players don't show up until day 2, that edge they have from a deep, deep structure diminishes.  But if everyone just shows up for day 2, they'll all be playing a $360 tourney with a fast structure.  A bit ironic.

So I am really curious as to who shows up for this event, and when they show up.  Since this the first of its kind, no one really knows what to expect.

Will I be playing in it?  As fascinated as I am by the concept, I will not.  The thought of spending my entire weekend (Saturday, and then hopefully Sunday) at Commerce is not appealing.  Nothing against Commerce, it's an awesome poker room, but for me the commute is just awful.  I'd have to be there from 3pm to 11pm on Saturday and if I still had chips I'd have to make a return a return trip three hours earlier on Sunday.  Recall that the last time I played a two-day tourney at Commerce (here), I was kind of grateful that although I cashed, I didn't have to drive back down there the following day.

Also, there is no dinner break. In fact if you look at the structure sheet, there appears to be no breaks at all on day1!  I suppose they figure that with such low blinds the whole day, folks can afford to take their bathroom breaks during play and not lose much.  But squeezing in a dinner break that way seems awkward to say the least.

So why not just plan on playing day 2? Because, as I pointed out, I'd be facing a lot of bigger stacks in a tournament with a fast structure.  Not ideal for my style of play.  Actually the format for day 1 is ideal for my style of play, I suppose.  But I don't want to have to deal with the traffic to Commerce two days in a row when there's no guarantee I'd get a penny back on day 2.

Instead, I'll follow the tweets and see how other players react to this creative idea.  Even though I won't be playing in it, I think it's great that Justin and Matt are trying something so new and different.  Experiments like this can only improve the poker experience for players in the long run.  Way to go, Commerce!

Let me know your thoughts on this type of tournament.  Is there something I haven't thought of? 

Monday, August 19, 2019

14 Pizzas!

This is about my last Ventura poker session before my Vegas trip.  But poker isn't the biggest part of the story.  This is more about what happened before I got to Ventura.  No worries, I will get a little bit of poker in at the end.

To understand this story, I have to tell you about a bit of schtick, or a running gag, if you will, that I enjoy with my pals Woody & LM, who I've mentioned numerous times before.  Also mentioned before is that I like having a slice of pizza and/or a hot dog at Costco.

Woody & LM like the hot dogs and the pizza at Costco too.  Who wouldn't?  The hot dog is the best deal on the planet, I'm quite sure.  For a mere buck and a half (plus tax, where applicable) you get a good sized, quality, all-beef hot dog plus a 20-ounce soda, with free refills.  You might even call it a "jumbo hot dog."  At any food court I'm familiar with, the soda alone would cost more than $1.50, so it's like getting the jumbo hot dog for free.  A slice of pizza is only $1.99 and it's excellent pizza.

The other great thing about Costco—aside from the convenience of being able to buy a 25-gallon jug of mayonnaise—is that they sell gasoline for a lot less than the neighborhood Shell station.  When you live in CA, where the incompetent fools brilliant politicians who ruin run our state keep coming up with newer and higher gas taxes, that really helps.  One more tax increase and it will actually be worth it for me to drive from my home to Vegas just to fill up the tank.

Well, somehow, it got to be a thing with Woody, LM and me that whenever one of us was at Costco, either for gas or the food court (but not for the mayonnaise), we would inform the others.  Frequently, a photo of the food about to be consumed would be sent. We'd get a full report on how long the lines for the gas were (usually plenty long, since it's such a bargain, relatively, that is) or if the food court was crowded.  Or if we ran into any interesting characters at the food court.

For example, one time Woody & I were at the food court (because some of the mechanics we use to fix our cars are conveniently located near a Costco and we look for any excuse to indulge) and we were almost done.  A woman came over to us with some trash in her hand—like used paper plates, used napkins.  It looked like she was on her way to the trash can but she stopped by us and started picking up our used plates and napkins!  We said that wasn't necessary, we could bus our own stuff, but she insisted.  She said, "It's ok.  This is what I do."  And took away all our trash. To make clear, she was just another customer, she didn't work for Costco.  That was weird.

For some reason, I've always felt that "junk food" was the ideal meal before a poker session.  Why have steak when you can have a hot dog and pizza, right?  So I've gotten into the habit of eating at Costco on the way to my Saturday poker sessions in Ventura.  When the weather is good, it is really convenient because there is a Costco just about midway between my house and the poker room.  And it is just off the freeway so I don't have to go out of my way at all to get there. I made the comment about the weather because the food court at this particular location is outdoors.  On those rare occasions when the southern California weather betrays us, it is not a good option to stop there.  Fortunately, the Costco nearer my house has its food court indoors and I can stop there.

So to make a long story short (pause for hysterical laughter, at least from those of you still reading), this particular Saturday I was making my traditional Costco stop on the way to poker.  I had just gotten into one of the lines at the food court to order my food when I got a text from Woody.  It read, "At Costco getting gas.  Taking extreme willpower to NOT get a dog or pizza, or both.  I'm hungry.  I will keep you apprised."

Woody was just around the bend filling up his tank at the very location I was at.  I should point out that Woody tries not to get a hot dog or a slice of pizza at Costco because he is trying to eat healthier.  But he frequently gives in.  He always gives in if I'm involved.  I'm what's known as a "bad influence."

It was such a coincidence.  Of course I texted him back immediately, "I am in the food court line here right now!"

Woody responded with surprise and said ok, he'd join me for a slice of pizza.  "That put me over the top, Rob."

Well I suspected Woody would be awhile at the gas pump, so I figured I would just add a slice of cheese pizza to my order.  My thought was I'd be able to get the food, find us a table and already have his food there so he wouldn't have to wait in line.

That was the plan, anyway.

Meanwhile, LM, who was home, was seeing all these texts.  And she replied, "A clandestine tryst at the food court!"  Yeah, we were kind of stepping out on her.

Of course, my luck, I had  managed to pick the slowest line to get in, it just wasn't moving at all.  I was tempted to get into another line, but you know the rule about lines, right?  The one you are in is always the slowest, until you move into a different line.  Then the line you left moves the fastest and the one you moved to becomes the slowest.  I figured I'd wait it out.

Finally there was only one party in front of me, and I figured it wouldn't take long, it was just one lone guy, he's probably buying a hot dog or a slice of pizza, how long could he take?  Meanwhile, Woody had shown up and had gotten into a different line, and it looked like he was going to reach the counter before I did!

Well the guy in front of me was actually picking up an order that had been phoned in.  So he was waiting while they got it.  The girl brought out four or five whole pizzas.  She had to open the window to hand him his pizzas.  He took off, and I moved up to the counter.  The girl said, "Oh no, he's coming back.  He had to make two trips.  He ordered fourteen pizzas."

Fourteen pizzas? Talk about running bad.  Not only did I pick the slowest line, but then the guy in front of me had to pick up fourteen damn pizzas. I had to wait for him to return after dropping off the first part of his pizza order in his car.  It took awhile.  Parking at any Costco is not easy.  He returned to see the rest of his pizzas waiting for him but get this….now he had to pay for them!  I would have thought a big order like that (over $140) would have to be paid for in advance when the order was placed.  Otherwise, what if he didn't show up?  Also, they gave him at least five pizzas before he paid for any of them, what if he just took the five pizzas and took off without paying?  Man, are they trusting at Costco!  Imagine if his credit card had gotten declined!

I got to the window about two seconds before Woody was about to get to his, so I placed the order.  We found a table in the shade and started to enjoy our meal.  We were sitting next to an elderly woman, whose husband finally joined her with their food.  Woody and I were trying to calculate how many people were going to that party with 14 pizzas. Those are huge pizzas and one could feed at least three adults even with very healthy appetites.  So if it was all adults, it could easily feed 42 people, if not more.  If there were kids involved, figure it could be closer to 55-60, right?  I mean so many people were going, why didn't they invite us?

Woody is a very sociable guy and he started chatting with the guy next to us.  Turned out they had mutual hobbies and Woody pretty much got this fellow's life story out of him in just a few minutes. By the time our lunch was over, the two of them were practically lifelong buddies.  I later joked with LM that Woody had invited the couple over to dinner later in the week.  And then the man started telling us that he was delayed getting his food because a fellow in front of him was getting 14 pizzas!  So it turned out that this guy had been standing right behind me in the line the whole time.

When Woody got up to refill his cup, I noticed there was a text from LM for both of us.  It was a voice text (we tend to use voice texts a lot).  So I started to listen to it.  I believe the old guy hadn't arrived yet so it was just the older woman sitting very near to me.  I start playing LM's voice message and I hear, "So you guys are having a nice lunch while I'm stuck here working my f***ing ass off!"  Gulp.  I immediately stopped playing the recording but it was too late.  I dunno if the woman heard it but it was certainly loud enough that she could have.  What kind of friends must she think I have?

The lady at one point wandered off to get more soda, and didn't return promptly.  Her husband went looking for her explaining that she has some mental issues and sometimes forgets where she is or where she is going.  Ooops.  Fortunately he found her and all was well.

Well, eventually Woody and I went our separate ways and I made it to the poker room. It was 2/3 and I bought in for $300.  I raised with Ace-King, got two calls.  I c-bet on an Ace-high flop and took it down.

Next hand I limped in from early position with Ace-10 of clubs, it was 6 or 7 ways.  The flop was not bad, Ace-10-10.  I checked but it checked around.  The turn was a 9 and someone bet $10, I just called and there were still four of us left in the hand.  The 8 of diamonds put three diamonds on the board, which I liked.  It checked to me and I bet $25.  I did get one call.  He mucked when he saw my boat but he said he had a straight.

Then there was a long stretch where I bled chips, getting playable hands that didn't pan out.  Finally, I called $15 with pocket 4's and it was three-way.  The flop was Ace-4-3.  The preflop raiser bet $15 and I just called.  The last guy to act shoved approximately $100.  The preflop raiser reluctantly folded.  I of course called.  He had Ace-10.  My set held up.

I had King-Queen of hearts on the button.  There was a straddle (UTG) and then a raise to $15.  I called. It was three-way.  The flop was Queen-9-3, rainbow.  The preflop raiser, who happened to be the table's designated aggro, shoved his last $65.  I called and the other guy folded.  There was another 9 on the turn, but that obviously wasn't his card.  A blank hit the river and when I showed my King-Queen he mucked and left the game.

I left with a $90 profit and a story about 14 pizzas.