Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Beware of Grandma

This past Saturday, I took a wild ride on a bike.  No, check that.  What I mean is, I took a wild ride at the Bike.  The Bike being the Southern California casino in palatial Bell Gardens.

I went through a whole bunch of emotions on this day, and it didn’t end when I got home.  Just as I started writing this blog post, I learned something that made me realize that something I should have been upset about, that I was no longer upset about, was something that I had every right to be upset about all along.

What the hell am I talking about?  Well, it’s a long story. (Yeah, I know, nobody wants to see me write those words.)

I decided to spend one day of my weekend playing some poker at the Bike.  I knew that they were finishing up their WSOP circuit event, meaning that sometime soon the Noon tournament I sometimes play in would be coming back (see here).  It was on temporary hiatus during the circuit event.

I got an email from the Bike with their April calendar.  It clearly showed that on April 5, they were having their normal “Nooner” tournament with the $2K guarantee ($55 buy-in, including add-on). I decided that that was my preferred choice, the tournament over the cash game, at least on this day.  Smaller investment for a bigger potential payout, that’s what I wanted.

As usual when I schlep down to the Bike, I was a tad late for the tournament.  Damn that car that ended up in the bushes on the Freeway.  I had shoved a lousy baloney sandwich down my throat on the way down there so I wouldn’t need to worry about lunch during the tournament.

There was no line for the tournament, a surprise.  I found my seat with eight minutes already elapsed in the tournament.  I got the last seat at this particular table, and was shocked to see that only three tables were going (10-handed).  Well, ok.  Either there would be a lot latecomers or the Bike will be making a very nice overlay to make up the $2K prize pool.  I rather liked that.

From another table, I heard the dealer ask the TD if there was a guarantee today.  I’m pretty sure I heard her say no, that the guarantees wouldn’t start until tomorrow.  This was the first day they were running any regular, non-WSOP circuit tournaments.

Huh?  Well that really sucked.  I had zero interest in playing in a $50 tournament with around 35 players!  That would make the prize pool about $1,000.  That wasn’t what I was looking for at all.  If I had realized that, I would have waited until Sunday to go down there or….I would have taken my time, gotten there at my leisure, left the baloney in the fridge and had a nice free lunch while playing $2-$3.

I wanted to get up and go over and ask the TD if I heard right.  But I was sort of stuck in my seat.  I was in seat 5, the tables were crammed together and there was no good way to get out…..people on either side of me at the table behind me had food trays blocking me.

Besides, I wanted to do a little research first.  I checked my email.  I downloaded the calendar to my smartphone to see if I had made a mistake.  No sense in embarrassing myself (Yeah, I know, that sounds funny coming from the guy who publishes this blog).

That took awhile and it prevented me from paying much attention to the game.  Always a good plan.  I finally saw the calendar and sure enough, the calendar did indicate that on this very Saturday, they were having the Nooner with a $2k guarantee.  But I still couldn’t get out of my seat to inquire about it.  Besides, there was one more thing I wanted to check.  Perhaps they had a sign by the registration area indicating no guarantee today.  That would let them off the hook.  In my haste to get started, since I had been late, I might have missed it.

Meanwhile, the tournament was so poorly attended that even before the first break, they had to take the big blinds from our table twice to balance tables.  So finally I had the ability to get up.  I headed over to the reg area when the button passed me.  Absolutely no sign at all saying anything about a guarantee.

In the meantime, between being card dead and being totally distracted by this, I was in danger of not even lasting in the tournament to the first break.  Which made the question kind of moot.  Except, not really.  I was blaming being distracted by this for my poor showing.  Besides, if they sent an email out saying they had a guarantee this day, it was unfair to everyone who was playing if they called it off without notice, not just me.

I pondered what to do.  After all, I do work in the poker industry.  Should I throw that at them?  Probably not.  I don’t think my employers would really appreciate that.  Could I even rant about this in a blog post?  Not sure I could do that either.

I decided I was definitely going to question it during the break, which was nearly upon us.  See what they say.  Show them the calendar they sent me.  Maybe I could convince them that they had to up the prize pool to $2K. I mean, it would be less than $1k to the Bike, what’s that?

But I was playing less optimally because I wanted to ask about it.  I didn’t want to bust out before I could ask, because if I was out, I didn’t want the answer to be, “What does it matter to you, you’re out anyway, you’re not getting any part of the prize pool.” 

Right before the break, I looked at the calendar again.  What I hadn’t noticed before was that, on the top of the calendar, it said, “DAILY TOURNAMENTS RESUME ON APRIL 4TH WITHOUT GUARANTEES. THE REGULAR TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE STARTS ON APRIL 5TH.”

Ugh.  There it was. I had screwed up.  The tournament guarantees didn’t start until Sunday.  I was wrong.  Well, at least I saw it before I embarrassed myself.

Except that….it wasn’t until I got home, looked at the pdf calendar again on the big monitor at home that I realized that no, I was right all along.  The 5th was Saturday, not Sunday.  There were now two listings on that calendar indicating the tournament I played on Saturday should have had a $2K guarantee.

But because I misread it the last time I looked at it while I was at the Bike (or rather, forgot what day it was), I never actually asked about the guarantees myself.  So I can’t even say for sure that they didn’t have the guarantee.  Maybe I misheard.  Maybe the woman was talking about something else, some other tournament.  They have a lot of tournaments at the Bike.

So I can’t at this point blame anyone but myself for the confusion—and for the fact that I was so distracted by this whole thing that I blew any chance I had of cashing at the tournament—whatever that cashing would be worth.  Note:  After all this, I sent a tweet to the Bike about it and they responded that all the guarantees were on for this day.  So it was, apparently, all a big misunderstanding on my part.  Yeesh.

I busted out soon after we returned from the first break.  I was the big blind with Ace-5 and since it hadn’t been raised, I decided to see the flop before shoving.  I only caught a 5 and didn’t bet.  I only had to call the amount of the big blind (200) on the flop so I did.  The turn was an Ace and put a possible wheel out there.  No one could be playing 2-3, right?  A guy bet and I shoved.  He called with his wheel.  No boat for me on the river and I was done.  Honestly, with all the consternation I was having over this whole damn tournament, I was actually glad to get out of there.

There was one hand not involving me that I found a bit interesting.  In a limped pot with little betting, the board was AA8810.  The order of the cards isn’t important.  One guy flipped his hand and said, “I’m playing the board” and flipped over pocket 7’s.  The other guy flipped over the other two sevens.  I said, “You guys were destined to chop that pot from the get-go.

I wasn’t in a very good mood and I considered just going home.  But the Bike is such a trek for me (35–60 minutes, depending on traffic), I didn’t want to have gone all that way for such a brief poker experience, and a bad one at that.  So after clearing my head, I got into the $2-$3, buying in for $300 as usual.

Within the first few hands I was looking at pocket Jacks.  I had no feel for the table.  I was in early position so I bet $12.  Two players called.  The flop was Jack-6-5, rainbow.  I don’t usually slowplay sets, but this time I did.  I checked.  My thinking was that my hand was more disguised than usual.  I usually c-bet with 2 or 3 players and by checking, I may give away my hand (see the post here).  But since no one had ever seen me play before, it wouldn’t necessary be that noteworthy that an old fart like me was not c-betting after he raised preflop.

Sure enough, the last person to act bet $25 and I just called (the other guy folded).  I checked a blank turn and this time he put out $50.  So I went ahead and check-raised to $100.  He called.  Another blank on the river and this time I bet out $100, which looked close to (but a bit more) than the size of his remaining stack.  He called.  He was really pot committed of course.  He mucked when I showed my set. 

That put be up around $200, give or take.  Not bad for being at the table less than 10 minutes.

Just a few hands later I looked down at pocket Queens.  A guy with a huge stack bet out $15.  I three-bet QQ more often than not these days, but since I was still trying to figure out the players and the table, I just called. We were heads up the whole way. The flop, turn and river were all undercards to my Queens.  But the guy led out on every street ($25-$40-$60, I think) and I called every time.  Since this was the Bike, he could have been doing that with Ace-King.  But I figured he either had KK or JJ.  I was right, When I called, he showed Jacks and my Queens were good.  I was now sitting behind a stack of around $600 or so and I still hadn’t played an entire orbit.

It was beginning to look like that screw up I made with the tournament was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Then I raised to $15 with Ace-King and had two callers.  The flop missed me and I bet $25.  One guy called.  When I still had nothing on the turn I checked and folded to a bet.

I limped in with Ace-3 hearts in late position.  I flopped the flush draw and no one bet.  I made my flush on the turn and someone led out for $10 and got a caller.  I made it $50 and the original bettor folded but the caller—the guy with the biggest stack at the table—called.  The river was a blank and it checked to me.  I bet $75 but he folded face up.  He had one heart (a Queen) and a Jack (for a pair of jacks).  Unfortunately, with that, he picked up his huge stack and left the game.

I had more than twice my buy-in front of me.  Yes, I was having a very good session.  Now, whenever I am doing this well, I always worry about my tendency to get too protective of the win and thus play too tight.  I’ve written about this many times, most notably here.  Well, I had to start watching to see if I was gonna be able to continue to play poker or not with that big stack in front of me.

I have good news and bad news.  Yes, yes, I was able to play poker.  I didn’t get so caught up in trying to book the win that I was afraid to put chips in play.

The bad news?  Well, you’ll see.

I played a good while without anything memorable happening.  But I played enough without winning to get below $600.  No problem, I wasn’t concerned.  And then, I came up against “Grandma.”

Grandma was this sweet, elderly woman with white hair who had mentioned she had been playing poker for 30 years.  Someone said, “Every day?”  She laughed and said no….if she had been playing poker every day, she’d be out on the street.  In a hand I wasn’t in, the guy to my right raised to $8 and five players called, including Grandma in the big blind.  She called on every street, never raised or led out.  Her opponent, who was not the guy who had raised preflop, showed King-something for top pair.  Grandma turned over pocket Aces to win a pretty good pot.

The loser said, among other things, “Beware of Grandma.”  The original raiser was aghast.  “You just called my $8 bet.  With all those callers, how could you not raise preflop?”  We all wondered the same thing.  That was the perfect situation for a big bet, and it was incredibly risky having all those players see the flop with her Aces.  But it worked out just fine for her.

Now I was UTG+1 and UTG had limped in.  I looked down at Ace-Queen offsuit and made it $15.  Three players called, including Grandma, who was the big blind again.  I thought I liked the flop, which was Ace-Jack-x.  But Grandma led out with a $30 bet.  Hmmm.  I can’t fold top pair, second best kicker, can I?

I looked at Grandma’s stack, which wasn’t that much.  A bit more than $100 after she made that bet.  It folded to me and I just decided that with her stack, I wasn’t going anywhere.  If she had had more chips, I would have reconsidered.  I suppose I could have raised there to see if she came back over the top, but I suspect if she had me beat she would have been content to just call.  But maybe that would have prevented her from betting the turn.  I dunno.

I called and called $30 again on the turn.  My hand didn’t improve on the river and she put out $60.  Oddly enough, she still had about $15 behind that she didn’t bet.

Sigh.  It was hard to imagine her betting that way and not being able to beat top pair.  But I had come this far and was pot committed.  I called and waited for Grandma to show me a set or Ace-Jack.  It was a set.  Of Jacks.  Jacks were hot at this table. 

WTF was I thinking going up against Grandma?

I was mad at myself.  And I had to wonder if my early success had led to a different problem than being too cautious.  No, not thinking I was invincible.  But instead, playing hands and staying in hands just to prove to myself that I wasn’t being too cautious?  Is that why I lost so much money to Grandma?

A few hands later I butchered pocket 10’s, only limping in with them and calling a bet on the flop when I thought the bettor might be trying to steal a flop he missed.  I called on the turn too.  But I folded on the river and it turned out he had 7-4 and had flopped two pair.  Think he would have called my preflop raise with that?  Actually, this player might have.

So the next time I had pocket 10’s, I raised to $15 and had two callers.  The flop was Jack-Jack-4.  I dutifully put out a $30 c-bet, the next guy called and then a guy check-raised to $130.  This guy had been at the table the entire time I was there and reminded me of my Vegas pal Abe, similar height, similar face, but a little younger.  Of course I folded.  Abe’s look-a-like had pocket 4’s for a flopped boat.  The other guy had Jack-crap for trips. 

So that’s the bad news…..I had now lost pretty much all of the profit for the session.  Yeah, it was all gone.  Then suddenly, as the players came and went, the table became something really weird.  It became the tightest table in the history of the Bike.  No one was limping, let along calling a raise.  Hand after hand the blinds were chopped.  This was like $2-$4 at the nittiest locals joint in Vegas.

I actually picked up some chips by stealing blinds.  But it was petty theft at best.  When someone raised to $8 preflop, I was so excited at the thought of actually seeing a flop I went ahead and called with King-5 of hearts from late position.  Three of us saw a King high flop with one heart.  I called a $10 bet.  There was a second heart on the turn so I called a $15 bet.  And then the Ace of hearts hit the river, giving me the nuts.  This time the guy checked and my $20 bet wasn’t called. 

I stuck around a little longer but nothing was happening at the table.  When all was said in done, I had managed to eek out a $58 profit.  That’s exactly $3 more than what the tournament cost me.  But I also got a free dinner out of it.  So maybe the wild, bumpy ride was worth it.

Or not.

(I do want to explain the pic I’m using for this post.  The woman is, of course Sophia Vergara, one of the stars of Modern Family.  I was looking to find the hottest “Grandma” I could find.  In searching, I found a list of hot Grandma’s that included Ms. Vergara.  Of course, that's a cheat.  She is not a grandmother.  But on the show, she does play a step-Grandmother because she is the trophy wife of Ed O’Neill’s character, who has four grandkids on the show.  Needless to say, the Grandma who took my money looks nothing like Sophia Vergara (very few women do).  But hey, any excuse to post a pic of a hot woman, right?  It's my blog, after all.  On your blog, you can post a pic of grandmother who looks like your actual grandmother. On my blog, I'll  post of a real sexy "grandma" in a bikini.)


  1. its NOT the length of the posts thats at issue. the issue is u update the blog so often, i cant keep up with updating it as often (mine that is).

    1. Thanks, Tony.

      I guess you're referring to a comment I made in the comments section of my previous post.

    2. tony here is a form letter 4 yr blog. i won/lost x amount at poker and/or dem machines,something stupid about god,obama,or a world event,then u ate at mcds,sockroll update,and then(NO AND THEN) u go to sleep. but sometimes u buy something or mention vince is drinking and bitch about how stuff like rent,etc,etc is too xpensive. rinse then repeat

    3. anger, I think this should have been posted on Tony's blog, not mine.

  2. Ha ha. Right now at the top of your screen, you have one of those "THIS IS NOT A JOKE! YOU ARE THE 100,000TH VISITOR" ads. I'm looking at the 363,075 and saying, "No I'm not..." :)

  3. I just read your previous post, and the comments (particularly TPM's) . . . like 4 times. Let me know how much I owe you two for the poker lesson! Seriously, great stuff.

    1. Thanks, PPP. I dunno about TPM, but I'll take 10% of all your future winnings (and be responsible for ZERO percent of all your future loses! :)

      BTW, I didn't mention it in your post, but TPM and I did discuss you at the table, talking about you and he live fairly near each other and have somehow never met or figured out a way to get together for some poker. You should try playing with him, he'll give you a lot of free advice!

  4. sexy grandmas?hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. how about sarah palin? or did mimi rogers daughter ever get knocked up?

    1. What happened was that I found an article on 10 sexiest grandmothers and as I was skimming through it, I saw that pic of Sophia and pretty much stopped in my tracks.

      Case closed, I was running that pic.

    2. oh i am not complaining. i was just trying to think of sexy older women that mayb grandmas