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.