Wednesday, April 18, 2018

This Tournament Was Savage

I can't tell you how many emails, tweets and comments I've gotten asking me, "Gee Rob, when are you going to tell us how you did at last year's WPT 500 at the Aria?  Surely you must have played it."

OK, so honestly, I didn't get any such feedback.  I therefore decided that until at least one person asked me about it, I wasn't going to mention it.  In other words, I'd probably never have to write that post.

However, with the just-announced exciting news the player pools on will be combined beginning May 1, so that players in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware will be able to play with and against each other, I'm in such a good mood that I couldn't hold off any longer with this report.  I for one am looking to take advantage of the new larger player pools next time I'm in Vegas, which I expect to be in June.  And I'm sure that the folks at 888poker are excited and gearing up for it as well. This should be a significant step in the comeback of U.S. online poker.

I really like the WPT 500, and I've played it a few times in the past (see here for the start of the previous year's report).  So I plunked down my $565 and played one of many Day 1's.  Every day 1 ends after the players are in the money, which is nice.  There was a $1MM guarantee.  And a very nice structure (30-minute levels for the first 8, then 40-minutes). 

Plus you never know who you'll run into there.  In 2016, I played (ever-so-briefly) with Lacy Jones and (literally) ran into Mike Sexton.  So in 2017, I actually played at the same table with none-other than Matt Savage, who actually created the tournament and designed its structure in his capacity as WPT tournament director.  The first year Aria offered this tournament, Matt actually ran it for them.  That was under the previous Aria management.  Since the new team came on board after that first one, the great in-house Aria tournament team runs it, so Matt can actually relax and play it.   

Of course I follow Matt on Twitter as everyone who loves poker does.  And on the morning of the flight I played, I saw him announcing that he was playing it that day.  I thought, wouldn't it be cool if I was at the same table as he was?  At least for a little while, anyway.  Well, it turned out that I saw him put down his stuff at the same table I was assigned to.  And even when they broke our table, we were both sent to the same new table.  I was playing with Matt all day. 

Now the mention of Matt Savage gives me a chance to address something that I've been wanting to talk about for a long time.  If you follow Matt on Twitter, you know that players are constantly asking him for tournament (or even cash game) floor rulings.  They'll post a situation that came up in a game and ask for his take on the right way the floor should have handled it.  Now every so often, someone will re-create a tournament hand and say something like, "he bet $5,000."  And the first thing Matt will say is, "no dollar signs on tournament chips."  Well, he probably says it more politely than that.  But the thing is that Matt points out that you should not use a $ sign in front of a bet unless it is a cash game, since tournament chips don't represent actual dollars.

Well, if you've been paying attention, you will note that whenever I do one of my tournament write-ups, I usually do put the $ sign in in front of the chip count.  I'm actually surprised no one has called me out on it.  Yes, I know it is technically incorrect.  But it is a stylistic choice I made when I started talking about tournaments.  There are two alternatives that I know of.  One would be to put a letter "t" in front of the chip count.  Like, "he bet t5,000."  Or "I bet T5,000."  You see that in poker books.  But for some reason, I really find that unacceptable.  I just don't like the way it looks.  I find it clunky, for lack of a better word.

The other way is to just put the number of chips without anything in front of it.  So it would be, "He bet 5,000."  I don't like that either.  The number without a symbol in front of it just looks naked to me—and not good naked.  It just strikes me as wrong.

So basically, I find both alternatives stylistically and aesthetically unacceptable for my blog.  If others do it, that's fine (and again, technically correct).  But for my blog, I want the style I want, and even if it means I am violating some poker standard, that's the way I do it.  It just looks a lot better to my eye to do it the way I do it.  And since no one has complained, I guess it's ok (or, perhaps the sticklers have all stopped reading my blog—or never read it in the first place).  Besides, when I say, "I bet $25,000," no one thinks I bet $25,000 in actual cash money.

Anyway, I had seen Matt at tournaments a number of times, and a year or two ago I actually introduced myself to him and shook his hand when I played a tournament at Commerce (we'd actually had a lot of back-and-forth on Twitter in the lead-up to this particular tournament). Matt is also the TD at Commerce, if you didn't know. But I didn't expect him to remember me on sight.  Thus I took to Twitter to "say hello."  I tweeted about playing at the same table as Matt before the tourney started.  However, he never acknowledged my tweet (either on Twitter or in person). 

Spoiler warning:  I didn't cash.  That should be obvious anyway.  If I had cashed in big tournament you can be sure you would have heard about it well before now.

Thus I'll only mention a few hands.  In the first level I got the dreaded pocket Kings.  I raised and had a few callers.  The flop was Jack-high and I bet and got one call.  I bet again when the board paired a 5 and was called.  The river was yet another 5.  I made another bet and he folded Ace-high face up.

Winning a hand with pocket Kings so early in the tournament made me feel invincible.  OK, not really.  It actually made me feel relieved.

A few levels later Matt made a standard opening raise and I called with Ace-Queen of hearts. It was a pretty good flop: Ace-Queen-8, two diamonds.  Matt made a c-bet and I raised nearly 3X his bet.  It folded back to him and he tanked for a good long while before folding.

A level or two later, I again called a Savage raise with Ace-Queen and we were heads up. I was the big blind.  The flop came Ace-Jack-x.  For some reason, I donked out a bet.  I don't recall why I did that and I didn't explain it in the voice notes I made the next day.  But when Matt raised me 2.5X, I got very concerned.  I tanked for a good long while and remembered why it's not a good idea to call a raise with Ace-Queen out of position.  It's a hand easily dominated.  Eventually I decided to fold.  But I couldn't resist doing something I almost never do.  Since it was Matt, I said to him, "Ace-King, Matt?"  He smiled at me and said, "I'll show one."  And with that he flashed me one card—it was a Jack. I couldn't tell if he checked his cards to make sure which card he showed me. That was the only time all day I saw Matt show a card he didn't have to. I will go to my grave believing the other card was either an Ace or Jack.  No way he had King-Jack or worse there.  Right?

Then there was the standard "if only" hand.  In the big blind with pocket 6's, I folded to a raise and a shove.  It was pocket Kings vs Ace-Queen.  The flop came Ace-6-x.  Would have been a nice triple up for me if only I'd made a terrible call.

The guy on my right was a really poor player who basically liked to see every hand, almost always limped in and stayed too long.  He was also a slob.  He was an older guy and kept ordering coffee (or maybe tea).  He would throw the sugar packets—among other things--on the floor.  When he inevitably busted out, he left all kinds of debris behind.  It was so bad that the cute young lady that was sitting on his right took the time to clean up his area after he was gone.  I looked at her as she was doing this and she gave me a look that said, "Can you believe this mess?"

I lasted through the dinner break and also through our table breaking. There was the guy there that made a kind of mental error that really cost him his tournament life.  First he put out a big stack, but there was oversized chip mixed in with his stack—his bet was a lot more than he intended.  When a guy shoved over him, he must have felt he had too much in the pot to fold.  He had pocket 7's and was facing pocket 10's.  He didn’t improve. He confessed that his initial raise was a mistake due to the his biggest chip being hidden among the others.  Very  next hand, now short stacked, he shoved and was snapped called.  This time he had the pocket 10's.  The snap caller had pocket Aces and the Aces held.

I was actually pretty happy with the way I played but I just couldn’t get my stack built up enough.  And so on level 12, short-stacked,  I looked down at pocket Queens.  There was a raise in front of me, Of course I shoved.  It folded back to the raiser who snap called.  He flipped over two Kings and boy did I dread them. To rub it in, there was King on the flop.  The turn card was a Queen which was a cruel joke.  Could I go runner-runner Quads?  No.  I was done. I have to admit, losing set over set was bad, but imagine how much worse it would have been if the Queen was on the flop and the King was on the turn.  That would have really the ultimate poker-tease.

It was an enjoyable tournament though—as enjoyable as losing without cashing can be, I suppose. BTW—Savage cashed and advanced to Day 2. Apparently directing all those poker tournaments has taught him something about how to play the game.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

"He Was Playing Like a Dick"

This story actually predates my timing blogging.  In fact, I've already told this story to you way back in the very earliest days of the blog.  But I think it's worth a repost, especially since when it ran originally virtually no one was reading the blog.  So unless you're one of those rare folks who has gone back and read every blog post I've ever posted since the beginning, this will be new to you.  And I'm just getting behind in my writing, always seem to have too much going on to get myself to crank out a new blog post for you. Today I finally finished up my taxes and you all know how much fun that is.  So hopefully this will hold you for a few days until I can get some new material to you.  But again, it's highly likely you've never read this.  So enjoy!

A couple of years ago I found myself playing in the 6PM tournament a not to be named locals casino..  I hadn’t played a lot of tournament poker at this point, and really have only recently started playing tournaments semi-regularly.  I played in it mostly because there was no 2/4 limit game going on there (the place was dead) and I didn’t feel like getting back in my car to find another game.  Besides one of the dealers I was friendly with at the time suggested it, and I was thinking they may have sent her home early if they hadn’t needed a second table for the tournament.  So I was playing as a favor to this attractive lady dealer as much as anything else.
As the tournament was about to begin, an extremely attractive young girl took the seat to my immediate right.  She was barely old enough to be in a casino, I assume she was carded before being seated.  She was way beyond cute and had a killer body.  Unfortunately, despite this being summer in Vegas, she was not wearing anything skimpy.  Too bad.  She had on fairly tight shorts (but not that short) and a very tight t-shirt.  It was obvious she had a terrific figure, very thin waist and plenty of curves elsewhere.  But she was probably the only girl her age that I saw on this entire visit to Vegas that wasn’t showing any cleavage, sadly.  

Note:  the famous actress above kind of resembles the memory I have in my mind of what the girl in my story looked liked.  I added the cleavage for your enjoyment.  Because I know my readers come to this blog looking for cleavage.
Her outer-beauty, however, sadly masked a not very beautiful woman on the inside.  She had come to the table with a guy her age who apparently she had just met playing slots.  They sat at opposite sides of the table and talked to each other incessantly during the tournament.  From the conversation (and from reading her players card upside down), I learned the girl’s name was Abigail.  Abigail clearly thought of herself as the world’s greatest poker player.  
From the moment she sat down, she was bragging that she was going to win the tournament.  She said this not just to her friend but to all of us around her.  At first I thought this was just good-natured banter, that she was just kidding around.  But as the tournament progressed, she kept repeating it, and any hint of fun or sarcastic bravado left her voice.  It was clear she meant it.  I’ve heard tournament players kid about winning before and since, but never have I heard anyone this adamant, this serious, and this obnoxious about it.  I began to think that if I looked up the word “arrogant” in the dictionary, I would see her picture.
She wasn’t restricting herself to bragging about winning or her poker expertise.  She started criticizing the other players, and guessing what cards they had from their bets and what they would do….and what they should do….as a result of her guesses.  In hindsight, I have to assume these comments were not said loud enough for the dealer to hear because otherwise she should have gotten warned for talking about the hands, especially hands she wasn’t in.  But out of the blue, if a player raised 3-4 times the big blind pre-flop, she might whisper, “He’s got Jacks” or “She’s got Queens or Tens” or some such.  
The sheer amount of words coming out of her would have been annoying no matter what she was saying.  But as she started criticizing players, it got really off-putting.  And every third sentence of hers was something along the lines of, “I’m gonna win this thing….no one here knows how to play.”  After about half an hour of this, and hearing all of it since I was sitting right next to her, I started to think to myself that she could be sitting there stark naked, look every bit as good that way as I suspected she did, and I’d still would have wanted her to leave.  
Early on I got a personal taste of Abigail’s obnoxiousness.  I had AK suited and hit a King on the flop.  I made a good bet, and she went all in.  She had me covered.  As I mentioned, I didn’t have a lot of tournament experience under my belt.  She could have flopped two pair or even a set.  Did I want to risk my tournament life with top pair/top kicker?  I thought about it for a good 5 or 6 seconds.  My gut told me that she had read me as a timid player (basically true) and that the bet would get me to fold a better hand than she had.  I decided to call thinking I probably had her beaten already and if not, I could still outdraw her.  So I called.  She turned over a medium pocket pair that the board had not hit.  I turned over my AK.  She knew she was in trouble, but wasn’t mad at her luck….she was mad at me!   “Shit, you have AK? What the hell took you so long to call?”  In other words, I was an idiot for not calling her all-in bet instantly.  I of course she have known that my top pair was good and that she hadn’t hit her set. I didn’t bother to respond to her criticism.  Nothing that helped either of us hit on the turn or river and I won the pot.  As I said, she had me covered so she was still alive in the tournament.
Now there were two middle aged guys sitting next to each other at this table that were friends.  And they were even bickering with each other like an old married couple.  They actually joked about being married to each other but it was just in fun, they both mentioned that this was a guys night out from their wives.  One of the guys got into a hand with Abigail and folded pocket Queens to her all-in bet….she showed a fairly weak hand like K-10.  She was quick to criticize the guy’s play.  She wasn’t gloating, she was actually critical of the guy for folding.  Because she knew exactly how to play every single hand properly.
Just a few minutes later, the two of them got into another hand together.  Abigail pushed all in pre-flop, and the middle-aged guy thought long and hard.  He had her covered, but not by much. He would be crippled if he called and lost. While he was thinking about it, Abigail offered that she had a pocket pair….and not a big pocket pair.  The guy thought long and hard…..about 30 seconds if not more, before finally calling her.  She flipped over a pair of fives.  He flipped over a pair of Jacks.  
Abigail was pissed.  Not because she was way behind, but because the guy had taken so long to call her.  By now her buddy had busted out and was standing next to Abigail, watching.  So Abigail said to the player who had called her, “What took you so long?  That’s an obvious call there.  I even said I had a small pocket pair!  Why were you hesitating?”  Of course, no one ever lies at a poker table, right?
The guy actually started to tell her what he was thinking (like it was really any of her business).  In the meantime, Abigail’s friend was agreeing with her that the guy was a fool for taking so long to make the call (probably because he thought that was a good way to get into her pants).  He said something like, “Yeah, what was the big deal?  Why did he need two minutes to call you?”
Abigail had an answer for that, “Oh, he was just acting like a dick.”  If the guy was upset over that, he didn’t show it…instead he continued his explanation, which no one (including me) was listening to.   But the dealer, an older guy who always struck me as quite humorless, definitely heard what Abigail said.  Rather than continue the play of the hand, the dealer held up the action and said to Abigail, “Excuse me.  You just said something not very nice to one of our players.”
Abigail wasn’t interested in the dealer’s comments.  She told him, “Just deal, please.”  But the dealer wasn’t buying.  “No.  I’m running this game, not you.”  He called the floor person over and told him that Abigail had called another player a “dick.”  The floor person lectured and warned Abigail.  Abigail protested.  She said she didn’t call the player a “dick.”  She said he was “playing like a dick.”  OK, big distinction, right?  The floor person didn’t care and said it wasn’t nice, and insisted that she apologize to the player and warned her that next time, she would be asked to leave.    She apologized to the player and the rest of the players too.  But she made a show of looking at the name badges of the dealer and floor person, as if she was planning to report them to some higher authority.
The floor person left and the hand continued.  The turn and river cards didn’t help Abigail, leaving her busted.  As she got up, to her credit, she again apologized to the guy who busted her out.  
She was walking out of the room with her friend, but for some reason stopped at the cashier.  Thinking she was heading straight out of the room, I said to the entire table, “Wow…she was a piece of work, wasn’t she?”  The entire table cracked up, and she looked back from the cashier.  Not sure if she heard what I said or was just reacting to the laughter.
We all agreed that it was a great thing the guy did, busting her out.  The dealer mentioned that she had criticized my play just a few hands earlier.  I had almost forgotten.  We talked about Abigail for quite a while after she left, enjoying her absence. One of the players joked that he thought the player who busted Abigail out was actually named “Dick.”  I had overheard her say that she was a dance instructor and mentioned this.  So someone asked what kind of dance she taught.  I said, “What, you think it might involve a pole?” Everyone had a good laugh at that.
At break, as I left the Men’s Room, I saw “Dick” talking on his cell phone, presumably to his wife.  I overheard him say, “So far, it’s been a pretty bad night.  I’m not doing well in the tournament.  And I’ve already been called a ‘dick!’”
Just a short time after the break was over, I busted out myself.  I didn’t cash in the tournament, but I scored a good story and an unforgettable character.  Thanks, Abigail.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"What Part of Boston Are You From?"

This was from a poker session in Vegas last year during football season.  The poker was pretty dull but I met a couple of guys at the table who had somewhat interesting stories to tell.

These two guys had just met at the table, they were sitting one seat apart, one of them was directly across from me.  They bonded talking about sports.  One guy was from Boston.  He was a huge Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins fan.  So of course, you would expect him to be a huge Patriots fan as well.  But the other guy and I were shocked when he said he doesn't like the Patriots.  Who does he like?  Well, the Denver Broncos, of course.

That demanded an explanation so we insisted on hearing it.  Well, it seems that back when this guy was in grade school, the 1990 Super Bowl was approaching and there was a kid who was a few years older than this guy going around telling everyone that the 49'ers were going to kill the Broncos.  He was saying that Joe Montana was the greatest quarterback in the league and that Denver didn't have a chance against him (sounds like a smart kid).  Well, this guy at our table hated this older kid.  Apparently he was a bad kid and a bit of a bully. So for no other reason than this jerk older kid just had to be wrong, the guy at our table started saying that the Broncos would beat the 49'ers easily.  And of course they had to make a bet on it.  He didn't say how much the bet was, but it was more money than he could get his hands on, naturally.

Of course, we know that San Francisco kicked the crap out of Denver that year, 55 – 10.  And Joe Montana, as he was wont to do, had a great game was the game's MVP.  So this kid from Boston told us that he spent the rest of the school year hiding from this older kid and didn't pay off the bet, until somehow his mother got involved and paid the bet for him.  His mother was not pleased.

Anyway, he said his feelings for the Broncos stuck with him and he's been a Broncos fan ever since.

I wasn't quite getting that.  I said to him, "If anything, that should have made you hate the Broncos, not root for them!  They cost you money, they got you in trouble with your mom, and you're lucky the older kid didn't beat you up for welching on the bet." Note:  He didn't tell us that the guy beat him up, so I just assumed he hadn't.  He replied, "Yeah, I guess you're right."

Now his story sounded fishy to me but I do have to say that of all the sports, I think pro football is the one where I see the most fans having favorite teams that are not their home teams.  I think maybe it's because it's such a national sport, and you can see pretty much every team almost as much as your own home team.  I have to confess that over the years my favorite team has changed many times—usually because of who my favorite QB was at any given time.  So I guess it's not that shocking that a guy from Boston would root for a different team.  But I still say he should hate the Broncos for costing him that bet.  I guess at that age his football crush was strong.

Anyway, as they kept talking, moving on to other topics, the other guy I mentioned asked him, "What part of Boston are you from?"  And I immediately interjected, "The Broncos part."  They both thought that was quite funny, and who was I to argue?

Well we couldn't talk about the Broncos of that era without mentioning John Elway now could we?.  And the other guy (the one not from Boston) mentioned that he actually remembers seeing Elway when he was in High School.  I happened to know that Elway is from Southern California and went to Granada Hills High.  Granada Hills is a well known community to Southern Californians.  So when he said that he'd seen Elway play in High School I said, "Granada Hills, right?"  And the guy was impressed.  That got us talking about where he was from.  He mentioned the community and it is the same community I live in.  So I asked him to be more specific and he gave an intersection.  He mentioned the major intersection that is closest to my house.  Now it turned out that he no longer lives here, he moved to El Paso a few years ago.  But he and I were neighbors for quite some time.

Just one of those small world stories.  Now it's certainly not surprising to run into someone from Southern California in Vegas, more visitors to Vegas are from my neck of the woods than anywhere else. But to find someone who lived so close to me that we shared the same common major intersection?  Well that's a bit of a coincidence.

As for poker, I managed to survive the dreaded pocket Kings twice without disaster.  The first time I opened to $10 and had two callers.  The flop was Jack-Jack-x and I c-bet $20, both called.  The turn was a blank and it checked around.  The river was another Jack and again it checked around.  I know that it was almost certain I had the best hand and I should have bet there, but it was Kings and so I was a bit gun-shy.  I showed my boat and the other two mucked.

The other time was much later.  The guy from my neighborhood limped, the guy from Boston made it $10, the guy on my right called.  I made it $40.  Only the Broncos fan from Boston called.  The flop was Jack-Jack-X.  WTF?  Kings are supposed to be Ace magnets.  This night they were paired Jacks magnets.  So strange to see almost the identical flop the two times I had Kings.  After the Boston guy checked, I bet $50.  He tanked for a long time.  He said, "I think you got one better than me." Finally he folded. He was in some agony over it and he said, "You don't have to tell me now, but before you leave, please tell me what you had."  I agreed.

When I left. I told him I had Kings.  He was happy to hear that.  He had Queens.

I booked a small win thanks to guy from Boston who likes the Broncos because they cost him a bet when he was in grade school.