Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Crib Sheet

Edited to add:  ok, it's 6/18 and I'm in Vegas (see "imminent Vegas trip note" below).  I am debating whether to do a blog post about yesterday's festivities or just go out and play some poker right now.  Among the things that happened yesterday: I played 2/5 NL for the first time ever--at the WSOP;  A woman greeted me there by taking her shirt off; I finished the day up $300.  Hell, that can wait, I'm gonna play some poker!

(Imminent Vegas trip note:  I'm going to be back in Vegas starting tomorrow (6/17).  While there, I hope to meet up with visiting bloggers VeryJosie, Lightning36, MemphisMOJO, and hopefully others.  And of course I expect to run into local Vegas bloggers grrouchie, Poker Grump and Stump too. If I left anyone out, I apologize.  Anyone caring to meet up with me as I try to find the fishiest fish at the Vegas poker tables can contact me via email or Twitter, contact info for both is to your right.

Also on the agenda is the All Vegas Poker AVP XVI Meet on Saturday, June 23 at The Mirage, or as I call it, XYZ casino :).  I sincerely hope that this event goes better for me than the previous AVP meet, a sad, sad story that I detailed in the post here.  There's also going to be a meeting of Tony's followers, but the details of that are supposed to be a secret, so if I told you all about it, I'd have to kill you.  However, last I heard, the guest of honor will not be in attendance.

Really looking forward to meeting as many fellow poker degenerates as possible.  Now, back to the regularly scheduled blog post.....)

Ironically, as I am about to embark on my next trip to Vegas, I relate what I believe is the last story to report from my previous visit there, one of the more unusual things I've seen at a poker table.
Fairly aggressive No Limit game with a lot of action.  A young Asian kid comes to the table, buys in for the max, $300.  He still had most of his stack when this hand occurred, which was fairly soon after he sat down.  So no one really had much of a read on the kid.
I don’t recall much of the action until the river, but that’s when it got interesting.  I wasn’t in the hand. The board was all kinds of scary; it was paired, there were three hearts, there was a possible straight out there….in fact, there was a possible straight flush out there.  The cards were low, I think the biggest card was an 8.  The pair was 6’s or 7’s.
It was the river card that made the straight, the flush, and the straight flush possible.  There had been some big betting before the river.  The guy to my immediate right had been the aggressor, and he bet out on the river. The Asian kid had been calling all his bets.  This time he hesitated and then did something I’d never seen at a poker table before.
He reached into his pocket or his wallet and took out a card.  The size of the card was between a business card and a playing card.  He looked at this card intently for some time.  He then looked at the board.  He looked back at his card.  Then he looked at his hole cards.  Back to the board.  This routine lasted at least a minute, maybe two, maybe even three.
Finally he said, “all in.”
The guy next to me who had made the initial bet was totally lost.  He was beyond confused.  He showed me his cards—I don’t remember whether it was intentional or not.  He had a full house, which he had made on the turn.  There was a possibility of a bigger full house that could beat him, or the straight flush.  What the hell was on that card that the kid had looked at?
The kid had the guy with the boat covered.  So a call would risk his entire stack (probably over $225, total).  But after a fairly short amount of time he called.
What do you think the Asian kid had?
“I have a straight.”  That’s it.  A plain old straight.  He went all in on a board with a possible flush, and a possible full house (or even quads) out there.  The guy turned over his boat and exhaled.  I think this hand took a year off his life.  I mean, you can’t really lay down a full house there, can you?  He said he was more worried about a bigger full house than a straight flush, but he thought about that too. We asked if the guy looking at the card and making his decision based on the card made it easier or harder to call?
He said it didn’t really matter, he would have called regardless.  But it made him think for a few extra seconds, mostly trying to figure out what it all meant.
We all started giggling.  Everyone at the table was talking about it.  It was mostly solid players at this game.  Everyone said they’d never seen anything like that. Since he had the guy who won the pot covered, he was still in the game.  He seemed just a bit bewildered to have lost the pot, but he was taking it ok.
So finally someone asked him what was on the card he had looked at.
Without a hint of embarrassment, he said, “Oh I just wanted to make sure I had a straight, and to see what it would beat.”  So indeed, what he was looking at was a crib sheet. A list of the hand rankings.  Perhaps it also explained exactly what a straight is.
Here’s a clue.  If you need a card to refer to just to see what hand beats what, you shouldn’t be playing poker in a poker room in Vegas.  Or anywhere else, for that matter.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. This was not the first time I’d seen someone playing poker in Vegas that didn’t know hand-rankings cold.  I remember the first time I witnessed something like this (cue the flashback, grrouchie).
I was playing at a locals casino in Vegas, 2/4 limit back then, one of the first times I’d actually played poker in Vegas.  I was having a good nite, and there was a young guy next to me who had been playing there for at least a few hours.  I swear I didn’t have any hint of his cluelessness until the moment when, on the river, facing a bet (of $4, it was 2/4), he suddenly asked, “This is bad to ask this, I know.  But does a straight beat a flush or does a flush beat a straight.”  I’m pretty sure someone—it might have been the dealer—told him that a flush beats a straight.  Now that I think about it, I believe it was inappropriate for anyone to answer that question in the middle of the hand.  Poor guy should have brought a card to the table like the Asian kid I just described did.
Anyway, when he was given the answer, he folded.  I guess we know what he had.
Since that moment, I’ve heard that question asked at least half a dozen times at a Vegas poker table.  Worse, one time someone asked, “How does a flush do against a full house?”  That time was at BSC and the dealer told him that she could not answer that question.  I think he figured it out and folded.
Almost every time I’ve seen this, it was at the 2/4, the “beginner’s game.”  But one time when I just started playing NL, a guy at the table said he’d been playing NL in Vegas for three days and just found out that morning that a flush beat a straight.  And when I asked him how he was doing, he said he was ahead for the trip!  He might have been kidding, but it sure didn’t sound like it.  I joked that by not knowing that, he may have won some money by bluffing out his opponents when he didn’t himself realize he was bluffing.
I realize that a lot of people are coming to Vegas just to have fun, and playing at a poker game in Vegas is fun, and therefore they don’t do a lot of study on the game before giving it a shot.  And these are exactly the kind of people we want playing in our games, right?
But still, it is amazing to me that someone would risk actual, real money, at a Vegas poker room, without knowing the hand rankings cold.  Even at 2/4, where I’ve mostly seen it, it’s still a pretty good way to lose money.
Back to the Asian kid…he lost the rest of his chips a few hands later and took off, never to be seen again.  I’m pretty sure everyone at the table was praying he’d re-buy.   


  1. *Gasp* if you had mentioned you want to meet me I would have let you take a picture for your blog of my impressive cleavage.

    1. Sorry, Carmel, I was totally thinking of poker bloggers and those I've played poker with before, didn't mean to slight you. Of course I am eager to meet you. I can't wait to see Josie motorboat you, as she promised.

      Regarding the cleavage pic, I prefer watching a woman taking pictures of another woman's cleavage, as I discussed here .

      Any volunteers?

  2. Man, I really really really want to do that now.
    I want to pull out the cheat sheet, look at it and the board and my hand about 30 times or so and then finally push all in.

    Currently, I don't know if I want it to be a bluff or to be holding the nuts when I do it though so I'm going to have to leave that up to table conditions.

    1. Oh wow, maybe I started something? I suggest you do that preflop with the ol' 7-2 off and go from there.

  3. As I was reading this, the first thing that came to my mind was he was trying to do a slow roll, like Phil Gordon did to Phil Hellmuth after hitting a boat.

    1. Not familiar with that story, Herb. Do you have a link?

    2. Not much of a story from what I can find online. I've seen it in Gordon's books. It's from Season 1 of the WPT in Aruba. One recap is here at, about halfway down the page.

    3. Thanks Herb, I'll check it out when I get a chance.

  4. In a tournament one time, about an hour into it, the guy next to me leaned over and asked which was better two pait or three of a kind.

    1. LOL, MOJO.....amazing. How big a tourn was it? Please don't tell me it was bracelet event.

  5. I've never played in a cash game in Vegas - just a low-priced tourney earlier this year. For my first cash game, I am absolutely positive that anybody who can read (a person) past a 3rd grade level will recognize my nervousness. Maybe if I pull out a card like that it might make them overconfident...

  6. Thanks for reading and commenting Tim. May I call you Tim? And btw, what do those who don't call you Tim call you?

    I was nervous as hell too the first couple of times I played poker in Vegas. But once you get a time or two playing under your belt, you're fine. There's nothing to be afraid of, we've seen it all before.

    The only thing I'm nervous about right now is worrying about just how hard Josie is gonna smack me when we meet up later this week!