Thursday, July 31, 2014

"It Would Be a Better Story If It Was Kings"

This one goes back to the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend.  This was early in the “Vegas Trip from Hell” (see here) and by the time I got to BSC, I had wasted most of the day dealing with internet issues.  I wasn’t in the best of moods. I was deep in thought, looking forward to a long session of poker to cheer me up.  What could go wrong?

As I was walking past the lobby from the parking structure, walking right in the area where I’ve been known to encounter a hooker or two, I thought I noticed a familiar face out of the corner of my eye.

I stopped and looked back, and sure enough, it was the one and only Pete P. Peters, blogger extraordinaire. He was parked in front of some kind of gambling machine.  I assume he not only emptied his wallet into it but a good chunk of his 401-K too.  I did recall Pete saying he was visiting the promised land for this holiday weekend.  I assumed we’d run into each other in the poker room but from reading his subsequent write-up of this trip, he apparently indulged in everyone of his degeneracies but poker (you know, sports betting, boozing, gourmet eating, concerts, and banging Starbucks baristas).  So we never got together other than this impromptu meet-up.

I do want to point out that Mr. Peters failed to mention running into me in his blog post about this trip.  And here I’ve mentioned him prominently (and oh so flatteringly) in the very third paragraph of this post.  Just sayin’. 

Soon after I arrived in the poker room they opened a new game and Nancy was the dealer.  Nancy is the one who had been dealing with a cast as she had broken her hand punching out another woman (see here). I can’t recall if she still had the cast on this time or not, but I did ask her how her hand was coming along.  She said it was getting better, getting stronger.

I said, “Yeah, it’ll be fine as long as you don’t punch anybody out again.”

And she replied, “Well, she hasn’t been back in town yet.”

Things went south for me early.  Third hand of session, I was on the button with Ace-Queen, offsuit.  There were a few limpers so I made it $12.  It folded back to the Asian guy in the cut-off who looked familiar.  I was pretty sure I recognized him as a bit of a loose player. 

Just the two of us to see a flop Ace-8-8.  He checked, I bet $15 and he check-raised to $40.

If this was the guy I remembered, he could have easily done that with a weaker Ace than mine.  No way did he have Ace-King or he would have raised before it got to me.  So I went ahead and called.

The turn looked like a blank and he shoved—for $76 more. The pot was about $100 before his bet, and I reluctantly called. I was trying to figure out how he could have an 8 that he would call my raise with, when he knew it was just gonna be heads up.  I couldn’t come up with a good way, other than he was loose.  But that also made me think it was possible he had a weaker Ace. 

Another blank on the river and I asked if he had an 8.  He didn’t say a word, just flipped over 8-7.  It wasn’t even sooooted!  Ugh.

I took a break, skipped an orbit or two to recompose.  I stopped by the cashier to pick up another stack of $100.

I got pocket Queens and after one limper, I raised to $10.  Four callers and the flop was King high.  I was probably overly cautious and checked, as did everyone else.  No one had a King?  A blank on the river and this time I bet $40.  It folded to a guy who I had already pegged as a pretty bad player, kind of a newbie.  He thought long and hard and finally folded.  I thought he might have folded a weak King there.

I got Queens again a little bit later but a tight player raised to $15 in front of me.  Again, proceeding with caution, I just called. It’s heads-up, and the flop came King-Queen-3.  He bet $20 and I called. This was long before I had written the post about slow-playing (here),  and I had started experimenting with slow-playing sets. The turn was another King which I liked a lot (unless he was prepared to show me pocket Kings).  He bet $30 or $35 and I shoved for my last $93.  He thought for a good long time, then finally called and showed pocket Aces.  The turn was a blank and I had taken in a nice pot.

Having almost fully recovered from the early disaster hand, I took an extended dinner break.  The table wasn’t full, and I thought it was in danger of breaking anyway.  Thus I didn’t really consider leaving my chips at the table to eat.  I was gonna take too long anyway and I figured I’d be fine with just going to a new game when I was ready to play again.

After dinner, I got back and was given my choice of four tables, each with one open seat.  And to my surprise, not only was the game I left still going with mostly the same players, but my same seat was the one available.  It was as if they had been holding it for me.  None of the other three games looked any better, so I rejoined my old friends.

I started losing chips, drip, drip, drip, and then a new player came to seat 1.  I was in seat 9 (it’s 9-handed). He was young and loud, a big guy.  “What’s the most I can buy in for?”  He was told $300 and handed over three hundred dollar bills. 

His very first hand, I was the big blind.  He could have waited to come in behind the button for free, but no, he took a hand.  And open raised to $15.  Under-the-gun.  First hand at the table.  As far as I could tell, he didn’t know a soul at the table.

To my surprise, four players call his $15 bet before it got to me.  I had 9-8 suited and figured that, for those odds, I should call, so I did.

I don’t remember the flop, other than that it totally missed me.  I checked and new guy put out a big bet, I don’t remember how much.  Only one guy called, a middle-aged, very serious gentleman who hadn’t said a word the whole time he was there.  He was there before I went to dinner too.  I think I recognized this guy as someone who mostly plays $2-$5.  The new guy bet bigger on the turn and the serious man called.  On the river, the new guy went all in for his last $155.  He had managed to get his entire $300 buy-in into the pot on his very first hand, betting all streets.

The serious man took a long time.  He counted out his chips.  He had the new guy covered.  He restacked his chips and thought some more.  I really thought he was going to call, and I was sure hoping he would because I was dying to see what the hell the new guy had.

But after a long, long time, he folded.

The new guy of course didn’t have to show.  But he flipped over his hand, which was Jack-3.  Offsuit.  There was a King and a Queen on the board, but no Jack. No 3 either.  The guy never had a straight draw.  He never had a flush draw.  He had Jack high.  That’s it.  And oh, by the way, yes, he raised preflop, under-the-gun, with Jack-3 off.

The new guy said, “Oh, I was so sure you were gonna call, I was all ready to muck it and say, ‘good call.’”  The serious man said nothing.  Not a word.  He had a poker face, but I’m pretty sure he was not a happy camper.  Pretty sure he could beat Jack-high there.  He actually left the game a short time later, and I suspect that hand was the reason why.

Well, the new guy was every bit the maniac you might expect from this hand.  He rarely folded preflop.  He never limped in.  Once maybe.  He came in with a raise every time.  Every time.  And a big raise too.  That $15 he raised with the first hand was the bottom end of his bet-sizing.  More often it was $20-$25.

OK, I know some people love to play with a maniac like that, but I don’t. Especially in this case, since he was to my left.  But I resisted the temptation to get a table change, at least for a while.  I figured all I need is a hand, one hand, and I could get paid.  Just sit there patiently, wait for a big pocket pair, limp in, let him raise, and then do the old limp/re-raise move I love so much.  This time, I would love it if it was against him.

So I put up with him for awhile and waited for a hand.  When I got playable hands I played them and that cost me chips when I’d miss.  Please, poker gods, please, give me a big hand.  Give me the goddamned pocket Kings even.  I’ll take my chances getting it all in against his 7-deuce.

But no, it didn’t happen.  And with each and every huge preflop raise he made, I got more and more annoyed with this maniac.  Meanwhile, a really nice guy had taken the seat on my immediate right.  Very friendly fellow, seemed like a good player, was talking about how he liked to play tournaments and was probably gonna play in the 10PM tournament that night at BSC.

Anyway, the nice guy had a small stack, a bit over $100 I guess and had raised preflop.  The maniac re-raised and the nice guy called. On the flop, the nice guy checked and the maniac bet more than enough to put the nice guy all in.  The nice guy reluctantly called for his last $75.  At which point the maniac flipped over one card—a 6.  There was a 6 on the board (and one or two paint cards).  “My six is good, isn’t it?  I bet my six is good.”  The nice guy didn’t show any cards or say a word.  When a 10 hit the turn, the maniac said, “Oh shit, I bet my six is no good now.”  But the nice guy said nothing.  And after the river, the nice guy just mucked without saying a word.

At which point the maniac got up and started shouting—with delight—“Yeah, yeah, my six is good.  My six is good.  Yeah, yeah, damn it, my six is good.”  He practically got up on the table and started dancing.  He kept this up for a good thirty seconds.  It was one of the most obnoxious displays I’ve ever seen at a poker table.  It was sickening

And then the nice guy left the table without saying a word.  He had been real friendly to the players around him, but he left without acknowledging any of us. I could hardly blame him.

I had had enough.  Life is too short for me to spend time with assholes like this one.  Right then, the shift boss happened to walk by and I grabbed him and asked for a table change.  He accommodated me immediately and I grabbed my chips and moved to the open seat at the table he pointed to.

I really should have told him about the disgusting display I had just witnessed.  Actually, the dealer should have. I think the dealer did mention to the player something about “excessive celebration.”  But more than anything else, I wanted to get away from this jerk.

As I said in a recent post, I seem to be running into more and more jerks at the poker table lately, and I have less and less tolerance for them.

The guy to my right at the new table was a guy who talked non-stop, but at least he was pleasant.  I can best describe him by telling you that people asked him if he had heard he looked like Curtis Jackson (aka 50 cent) before and he said he got that a lot.  He talked about every decision he made, every decision someone else made. “That flop was good for me,” or “That flop didn’t hit you.”  The turn card came and he’d make similar comments.  He was in love with the sound of his voice. He played a lot of hands and it didn’t take me long to figure out he was a pretty loose player.

The player on my left seemed like a nice, quiet gentlemen, um, middle-aged, I guess, who I was 100% sure I had never seen before in my life. For reasons I will soon reveal, I’m going to call this guy “Joe.” Joe didn’t say hi to me when I came to the table (no reason he should have).  But I guess he was observant enough to notice me carrying on conversations with the first two dealers I played with there.  In fact, Nancy was dealing when I got there and she had heard the jerk celebrating that hand he had just won, and could even see him standing up and practically dancing.  She asked me what that was all about and I gave her a brief rundown of what had happened and why I got away from him.  I probably told her that he had been making huge opening raises nearly every hand.

The first hand I played at the new table was the dreaded pocket Kings.  There were a few limpers and I made a standard raise, but nobody called me. 

Not too long after that, I looked down at pocket Aces in the Big Blind.  I made it $8.  It folded to the small blind, aka 50 cent. He played a lot of hands, but I was thinking, damn my luck, I’m not going to get anything for a big pocket pair again, he’s gonna fold.  But no, he not only didn’t fold, he raised!

He started counting out chips and said, “Let’s make it $29.”

An odd amount, I thought.  I wanted to say something cute like, “Twenty-nine?  Well if you made it $25 or $30, I would fold, but since it’s $29, I’m going to have to raise.”  But I thought better of it, feeling that might give away something.  I counted out chips.  I wanted to make it $70 but I miscounted and put out $75.

Fiddy said, “Really?  Oh really?”  And then counted out chips. I actually thought he was gonna re-raise, but no, he just called.

The flop was Queen-Jack-3.  He checked and I shoved for around $110.  He had me covered.  He thought for a long time.  Several other times before this, when he would call a big bet, he’d say, “I’m betting the come.”  He might have said it this time, not sure.  But he considered it for a long, long time and then he said, “I think I’m gonna hit it.”  And he still took some more time before announcing he was calling.

And he said to me, “Come on, let’s show.”  Ok, fine, so we both flipped our cards over.  He had pocket 9’s.  He really was betting the come.  This was the first hand he’d seen me play on the flop. He couldn’t possibly believe his 9’s were ahead of me.  He was counting on hitting a two-outer.

The board bricked out for him and I had a very nice double up.  Thank you, 50 cent!
I was pretty happy and gave the dealer a nice tip and as I was stacking my chips, I heard the fellow on my left—the guy I’m calling “Joe,” say, “That would have been a better story if it was Kings.”

Did I hear that right?  I was sure I did.  He made a reference to pocket Kings.  To me.

I didn’t respond.  I was too happy stacking my chips.  And I thought that maybe it didn’t mean anything.  A lot of people have issues with pocket Kings, right?  It’s not just me.  Just a coincidence.  I looked over at him again and was still sure I had never seen him before in my life.  Just a weird thing to say.  Although, I was thinking maybe I should ask him what he meant by that.

So I let it go for the moment, and then, as I was still stacking, he said to me, “You know, I read your blog.”

Holy shit.  I don’t remember what exactly I said, other to ask him if we’d ever met (we hadn’t) and how he recognized me.  From my pictures on the blog, he said. Plus, he saw me chatting with the dealers and he could tell I was a regular. Maybe even some of the conversation I was having gave him further clues.  Besides, I suppose, the fact that he knew has playing at BSC and might have suspected there was a chance he’d run into me.  In fact, although he said he didn’t comment much, he did say he actually had commented one time asking (or guessing) about the true identity of “BSC.”  No, I haven’t looked through the over 4,600 comments that are on the blog to find that one.

I asked him his name and he said it was Joe.  Yes, that’s his real name I’m using.  For two reasons.  One, I don’t have anything embarrassing to say about him.  Oh wait, I just told the world he reads my blog, I guess that could be embarrassing.

And second, Joe is such a common name no one could figure out who he is anyway.  Joe is from back east, and he told me he discovered Josie’s blog from a Google search and that led him here.  Then he showed me on his phone that he put a link to the blog right on his home screen.

Naturally, I was quite flattered, and we started chatting up quite a bit. Joe was a real nice guy—as you would expect from one of my blog readers. It turns out that he and his wife made a last minute decision to hit Vegas for the holiday weekend and when they got to town, his wife heard about the Cher concert that was that night.  He had no interest, so she was enjoying Cher while he had a few hours to get some poker in.

So I told him that the first dealer when I joined the table was Nancy, the dealer who punched out her friend.  I gave him her line from earlier in the evening about her friend not being back in town yet.  I identified a few others from my “cast of characters” and even got to introduce him to Abe, who came over to say hi.

And oh yes, at one point, getting back to his pocket Kings reference, I did tell him that the first time he saw me raise and not get a call, I did indeed have the dreaded hand.

I ended up calling it an early evening.  It was a mentally exhausting day from all the issues I was having with my hotel room, and I was finding it difficult to concentrate on the poker.  I figured I better leave before I spew away all those chips 50 cent gave me.  I said goodbye to Joe and thanked him for making my night by telling me he liked the blog and recognized me.  And I left with a small profit, which was pretty nice after the way the evening started.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"I Knew if I Bet, You'd Call"

A few posts ago, I was talking about the session with the two old-timers who had to have the concept of “table stakes” explained to them (see here).  I mentioned at the end of the post that there was some good poker to talk about, so here’s how the session went for me.

In addition to Brett and Bart, and the former reg (who I’ll refer to as “FR” for short) that I mentioned in that post, I should introduce you to a couple of other players.  One is the Crazian. Need I say more?  Ok, just your average Asian player who lived up to stereotype of being a maniac.  Then there was “HPO guy,” who I’ll refer to as HPO for short.  This took place during the weekend the HPO event at M Resort was being held (see here).  And I had played a lot of poker with a guy from Virginia who was in Vegas because he won a seat in the HPO event at casino near his home.  West Virginia I guess, they don’t have any live poker in Virginia, right?  I played with him many times this week as he was getting ready for big event at the M.  This night took place after he was done though, he had busted out on Day 1.  I’m sure he told me his bad beat story but I can’t remember it, but that’s ok, I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

Soon after I arrived, I looked down at pocket Jacks in the big blind.  Under-the-gun had straddled, a bunch of others had called the straddle, so I made it $20.  Three players called.  The flop was Jack-8-5, rainbow.  With the nuts on such a non-scary board, I decided to slow-play it and checked (this was before I wrote the post here).  No one else bet, either.

Turn was another 5, filling me up.  Now I had to get some value for such a big hand, right?  I have no idea what the right bet should have been.  I hadn’t been at the table long enough to have much a read on anyone.  I bet $15 hoping someone would bite.  Maybe a couple of people, I made it so cheap.  The guy behind me went all in for $35 and the other two guys folded. I snap-called. The river was meaningless and the other guy showed Ace-8.  It was a nice pot to get the evening started.

I won some more chips when I called a raise with Ace-7 offsuit in position and ended up with two pair by the river.

So I was up almost double my buy-in when this next hand took place. I definitely want some feedback on this one.  Not necessarily on my play—though you’re always welcome to talk about that.  But I’m really curious to hear feedback on HPO’s play.

I guess I was feeling pretty good, up that much early in the session. How else do you explain my raising to $10 under-the-gun with King-Queen offsuit?  I will frequently fold that hand in early position—too easily dominated.  Other times I’ll limp.  But I don’t usually raise.  But this time I did.  Mixing it up, as it were.
Two players called and then HPO raised to $30.  Hmm.  There’s now $60 in the pot and it’s $20 more for me to call. That struck me as too small an amount to three-bet.  I figured it was worth calling to see if I could get lucky.  One player called, the other folded, so the pot was $100 (before rake).  The flop was Ace-x-x, rainbow.  No good straight draw either.  I checked, planning to fold to HPO’s c-bet.  But after the other guy checked, HPO checked behind him and we saw the turn for free.

The turn was a King.  So I bet $60 and both players folded.  As HPO folded, he said to me, “You hit it huh?  Made a bad call and you hit it.”  He didn’t say it in a criticizing way, it was actually a friendly ribbing.

HPO and I had a relationship after playing so many sessions together during the past week, so I did something I don’t normally do, I responded.  “You should have bet the flop.”

He replied, “I couldn’t bet the flop.  You could easily have Ace-King there and you’d come over the top.”  I just shrugged, I didn’t want to give any free info.  But I was thinking that if I did come over the top, he could let it go.

I actually spent a lot of time thinking about his play and I thought it was bad on his part, but what do you think?  I’m assuming he had a big pair—10’s, Jacks, Queens.  With only two other players in the hand and last to act, don’t you have to c-bet there?  Even with an Ace on the flop?  You c-bet and then you can fold to a check-raise. If you just get called it’s trickier but still—I couldn’t understand not c-betting.  What do you think?

With pocket 8’s I limped/called $12.  Three of us saw the flop, which was 8-5-2, two hearts.  I checked again, fairly sure the preflop raiser would bet.  He did, $20. The other guy folded, I check-raised to $60 and he folded.  Should I have just called?  Or raised less?

Then I had an interesting little hand against the former reg (FR).  He bet $8 and I had Ace-King in the big blind.  If it was the Crazian who had raised, I would have three-bet in a heartbeat.  But FR is a pretty tight player, very solid (he makes his living grinding). I just called. Four of us saw the flop, which was all bricks.  But FR didn’t bet and neither did anyone else. And in fact, one of the players in the hand mucked his hand on the flop even without a bet. Another brick on the turn and no one bet.  A final brick on the river and I considered betting to steal it.  But I checked, because at this point, I actually thought my Ace-high had pretty good showdown value.  The other guy checked.

And then FR didn’t bet right away. He hesitated a long time, and the longer he took to act, the surer I was that I’d call any bet he made (within reason).  I was convinced that the board had totally missed him and he didn’t c-bet because there were too many in the hand.

After awhile, he actually had a pained expressed as he said “check.”  I showed my Ace-high and he showed King-Jack.  The other guy didn’t show.  I took the small pot and FR looked directly at me and said, “I knew if I bet you would have called, that’s why I didn’t bet.”  Did he read my mind?  I said, “Well, yeah, especially the way you were agonizing.” He said that only happened after he had decided not to bet.  That’s probably true.  If he had bet instantly, I might not have called.  Not sure.  I really thought his line screamed of air rather than anything that could beat an Ace.  It was a small pot but a nice little moral victory.

I had 5-4 offsuit in the big blind, no raise.  The flop was 7-5-5, two hearts.  I bet $10, only Bret called.  I bet $20 on the turn, a face card, not a heart.  He called.  The river was also not a heart and before I could even grab some chips to bet with, Bret mucked his cards.  Gee, do you think he had the heart draw?

Then came the big hand of the night.  The Crazian raised to $10 in early position.  The player to my right—a newbie just learning the game—called.  I had two Jacks.  OK, if ever there was a time to three-bet that hand, this was it.  I made it $40.  When the big blind called, I was sure the Crazian would call too—at least.  Hopefully this wasn’t the time when the maniac actually woke up with a big hand.  But he surprised me by folding.  Guess he really did have nothing.  I mean, $30 when the pot was already $90?  But fold he did, as did the guy to my right.

The flop was 9-high, rainbow.  Big blind checked, and I put out $80, which seemed like about half his stack.  And then he check-shoved.  Hmm….I asked for a count, but I was pretty much committed. If he had trapped me with a set of 9’s, a bigger pocket pair, whatever, I was screwed.  It was $155 total, give or take a buck, and I announced call.

He showed his hand…pocket 10’s.  Nice.  I flipped my Jacks over. The last two cards were both Queens, so my Jacks were good and swept in a very nice pot.  The dealer was a fellow I don’t usually encounter, he normally starts at Midnight.  But he started an hour earlier this night because they were so busy.  “You know, you’re a really good dealer.  I should stick around for you and not leave so early,” I said to him as I gave him a nice tip.  “No, it’s just the cards. I’m just a monkey.”

I was still stacking my chips when, on the very next hand, In late position with Queen-10 off, I limped in. I think I had to call a small raise from someone behind me. The flop was Queen-10-x, and Bart led out with a bet of $25 (I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the preflop raiser and that the preflop raiser had checked the flop).  I made it $75 and Bart called.  The turn was a blank and I checked behind Bart.  I’m not sure why.  Thinking about it now, I don’t know why I didn’t bet.

But it worked out, as the river was another 10.  Bart checked and I bet $100. Bart folded instantly. I flipped over my hand to show my boat to get one of those drawing tickets.  I again complemented the dealer on his exemplary dealing skills.  Nice back-to-back hands there.

I won a couple more small pots and then my buddy Jack came to deal. I limped/called $12 with pocket 4’s. The flop was 7-6-4, rainbow. The Crazian (the preflop raiser) bet $5, and two players called. I made it $25.  Only the Crazian called. The turn was another 4.  He checked, and I checked behind him.  He checked the river and folded to my bet.  I flipped over my hand to show my quads—and get another drawing ticket.

Jack said, “Oh, I’m gonna be reading on the blog about how ‘Jack’ got you started on this incredible rush and you won a boatload of money.”  But no, that wasn’t the case.  My rush was actually over.  I think I won another small pot with Jack, and then, after I didn’t get called for the drawing, I called it a night.

But I was up $500, so it was good night indeed.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

We Get Letters: Ohcowboy12go's Dilemma

I love hearing from my readers.  My friends, really. 

Of course I get plenty of comments in reaction to my posts, all of which I appreciate.  Well, almost all. 

But I also get tweets and emails from you folks, and I appreciate those too.  One of the things people write to me about is online poker. It seems that with further USA options opening up,  there’s a lot of interest in playing online.  It's great playing from the comfort of your home, and I always found it great practice for when you're ready to hit the brick and mortar rooms.  I actually learned how to play online.  I started with really small stakes and then worked my way up. Great way to get into poker--and to hone your skills.  Just remember that the games tend be a lot looser online.  Although with some of the crazy play I've seen live, maybe not so much anymore!

Then there are the folks who love to tell me about the hand they just lost with the dreaded pocket Kings.  And of course I’m always willing and able to offer them sympathy when I hear a story like that.

And sometimes, a reader writes in to tell me of a situation that want my reaction to, some feedback on.  I have to say, it’s not usually poker strategy.  I guess my readers are pretty smart in that regard.

But I do talk a lot about etiquette and floor rulings. There are quite a few posts here with that label.  So it wasn’t that surprising when an email from “Ohcowboy12go” showed up a few days ago. I’m gonna call him Cowboy for short, I hope he doesn’t mind.  You’ve seen his comments on my blog and most of the others in our blogging community.

Anyway, here’s his email: 
"I’ve always respected your approach to the game of poker and wanted to get your opinion on how you would have reacted to the following situation.

Let me first give you some background to the situation.  I was playing 1-2 cash at the Cincinnati Horseshoe Casino and was having a slow night.  I was down about $130 for the evening and was probably playing my B- game because I was not focusing on every hand.

After a couple of limpers, I raise it to $10 with TT and we go to the flop 5 handed.

Pot (53);  Flop T96dd;  Checks to me and I bet $35 and get called by 2 players.  One player has $6 left and the other player would call with any pair or any draw.

Pot (158);  Turn Kh;  First player goes all-in for $6, 2nd player calls $6; and I shove my last $110 into the pot.  2nd player calls.  I knew he would still call with any draw, any 2 pair, a smaller set or obviously a straight.

River; 2s;  First guy turns over his hand and shows QJ for the nut straight.  I turn over my set of tens.  The other guy turns over his hand and I see an 8.

The dealer starts to count my stack (I had less than player 2) and then mucks player’s 2 hand.  I had assumed that I had won the side pot since I didn’t see the other player’s hand.  The player sitting next to the 2nd player stated that he had a straight also and that player said yes I had 87 for the straight to the ten.  The dealer apologized and agreed that she missed the straight and gave the side pot to the 2nd player.

All hands were tabled and nobody mucked their own hand.  However, the 2nd player didn’t protect his hand until the pot was given to him.  Now part of this issue is my fault because I was not being 100% alert and getting all of the info that I could and looking to see what player 2 called me with.  Due to the dealer’s actions, I was already calculating how much of a gain/loss I had on the hand given winning the side pot and losing the main pot.

I don’t believe the other players were lying or angle shooting on making up the straight hand.  Given all of this info, would you have called the floor to get a ruling?  I think if I would have done this, I would have ended up winning the side pot due to player 2’s hand being mucked.  (This is based on other rulings I’ve seen at this casino).  

Conclusion:  I didn’t call the floor and accepted the loss.  

Let me know your thoughts. "

I’m going to give you my initial response to Cowboy’s story, but I would also love to hear from the rest of you to see if you agree.

Here’s what I said: 

"It's a tough situation.  If you thought that maybe the dealer didn't see the straight and was taking the other person's word for it, then I would definitely have asked for the floor.

But if you think the dealer saw the straight and just made a mistake, I wouldn't question it.  Yeah, technically you could say the guy deserved to lose the pot for not protecting his hand but.....maybe you deserved to lose it for not paying attention to his hand when he showed it?  I think it would be a bit extreme to claim a pot you didn't win based on his neglect.  If the error wasn't discovered until later, and no one but the guy could verify his straight, that's one thing but....not as it played out. "

Cowboy wrote back and said: 

"Thanks for your input.  I felt the same way that you did and that is why that I acted in that manner.  I’m not 100% sure that the dealer realized the straight, but I think she was persuaded by the players that were adamant and I didn’t protest so it was an easy decision for her. "

I had also asked him if it would be ok if I reprinted his email as sort of a guest-post and he said fine.

Not only is this worth discussing because of the issue involved (protesting the pot being awarded to someone else) but I think it is once again a great reminder of “protecting your hand.”  Of course, the guy in the story didn’t protect his hand….but neither did Cowboy.  By not focusing on what his opponent hand, he left himself questioning whether the dealer had done the right thing.

Actually, I sometimes have difficulty seeing what my opponent is holding at showdown, if he’s on the opposite side of the table.  My eyes are not great.  In that case, I always ask the dealer.  Some dealers are not very good about taking the winning player’s cards and putting them in the center so everyone can see them.  In this case, the dealer didn’t do that because she thought he had lost, initially. So it is a bit of tricky situation.  I’d be interested to see if anyone thinks Cowboy should have contested the ruling.

Another thing people contact me for is advice.  Where to play, where to stay, where to eat.  It’s nice that they respect my opinion.  I do the best I can, but when people ask me where to get great Mexican food in Vegas, they’re asking the wrong guy.  Anyway, it’s no wonder I get questions like that.  According to this article in the RJ, tourism to Vegas is on a record pace. With so many people coming to town, of course a few of them will be desperate enough to ask for my advice!

Anyway, I always appreciate hearing from you, whether it’s by email, or tweet, or a blog comment.  And by the way, if you can’t find my email address right over the right side of this blog, you could always get in touch with me by leaving a comment on the current post.  No comments are published until I approve them, so just start your comment by saying, “I don’t want this published but….” And I will read your message and respond appropriately.  Or inappropriately, as the case may be.

Just remember….in the words of Frasier Crane, “I’m listening.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Giving Verizon Money Shouldn't Be This Difficult

Ok, this is going to be another long rant resulting from a frustrating experience with a big company.  They seemed to be among my most popular posts (see here, here or here, for example).

So, for this post, my blog about poker and boobies Las Vegas will be suspended while I tell you what I went through to get a new cell phone.

It all started a month or so ago when my cell phone started acting up.  I had the Samsung Galaxy S3, a great phone.  But it started losing the Wi-Fi connection to my router for no apparent reason.  Sometimes turning the wi-fi on and off fixed it,  other times I had to reboot the phone.  That was mostly just a minor annoyance.

But then suddenly, the connector started going bad.  It got harder and harder for me to get the plug in and make contact to charge the damn phone.  When charging, I would constantly hear the phone click in and out of charging mode.  On top of that, I could no longer connect it to a computer to transfer files.  The computer would charge it, but it wouldn’t connect well enough to read it as an external storage device. Additionally, the phone would run out of juice faster and faster.  I dunno if it was the batteries (I had two), or the flaky way it was charging or the phone was just going thru power like nobody’s business, but I couldn’t get thru a day on a single battery if I wasn’t hooked up to a power source.  My last trip to Vegas, I had to change the batteries every day, unless I stayed in working until 6PM (and thus had it fully charged).

It was so bad while in Vegas I considered getting a new phone (or attempting to) while there—afterall, I had gotten the Samsung while in Vegas (I’ll get to that)—but decided I didn’t want to waste all the time necessary to set up and learn a new phone while I was supposed to be having fun.

Of course, if you want a new phone, you have to make sure you’re “eligible” for the upgrade.  You know how it works.  You can only get a phone every two years, at least in theory.  I knew I had that phone—and been with Verizon—for pretty close to two years.  It was a little less than that, but I didn’t think that would be a problem.  Boy was I wrong.

You see this was my first renewal with Verizon.  When I got my first cell phone, around the turn of the century (and by the way, that’s actually literally true, that was around the time I got my first cell phone), I went with AT&T.  I don’t even remember why.  I guess it was because they were cheaper than Verizon, more minutes for less money (remember when we chose cell phone plans based on phone usage?—seems like ancient history).

I stayed with AT&T for years.  And I’m pretty sure every time I got a new phone, it was less than 2 years since the last one.  I can’t remember how early I could upgrade—in my mind it could have been as early as 6 months, but for sure it was at least 2-3 months before the end of the contract.  I am positive of that.  I’d always find some reason to shop for a new phone, and I’d always check and even though it was less than two years, they’d say I was eligible for a upgrade at the discounted price.

I assumed it would be the same with Verizon. (Note:  At this point I originally veered off into a tangent on my time with Sprint, but that’s not what this post is about, so I moved it to a separate page, if you’re interested, you can find it here).          

On returning to L.A., I went online to check the date it said I would be eligible for an upgrade.  I thought it was close enough to two years so that it would say I could the upgrade any time now.  But no, instead, it said I was eligible for a new phone on August 10.  That seemed too long and I checked my records.  I bought the Galaxy S3 and signed up for Verizon on August 10, 2012. 

So, no grace period for the early upgrade?  None at all?  That seemed very odd to me, based on all the experience I had upgrading early with AT&T.  But I figured it was just about three weeks away from the contract date, I was sure that it would be a mere formality to arrange the every-so-slightly early upgrade.  What business turns down orders?

With the weekend coming up (last weekend) I did my due diligence and researched phones.  I narrowed my choices to two, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G3.  I figured I’d look at them both, pick the brain of a Verizon rep in the store, and then make a decision.

So last Friday I went online and saw on the Verizon website both phones were “on sale” at special promotional prices, $99 each (upgrade or new contract price).  Fantastic.  All I had to do was get Verizon to let me do the upgrade a mere three weeks early and I was good to go.

While on the website, I first tried chatting with them to ask if I could do the upgrade early.  They said I would have to call a special customer service number to request that.  OK, so I called the number and spoke to a woman named “Maria.” Yes, that’s the name she gave me.  No phony names in this post.

Maria first told me that I couldn’t do an early upgrade. She gave me the option of signing up for their new “Verizon Edge” program, where I wouldn’t pay for a phone up front, I would pay for it in 20 monthly installments added on to the bill.  I would have to trade in my old phone but I would be eligible for a new phone after a year, not two.  However, the cost of the phone this way was around $400, a mere four times what I could get for if I was eligible for the normal upgrade right then.

I didn’t go for that. I explained that I had always done early upgrades with AT&T and it was actually their policy to encourage it—I never had to ask.  Then I explained that the reason I didn’t want to wait three weeks was that my phone was giving me a lot of problems.  I had insurance for this phone too but I couldn’t see paying the deductible on a phone that I would be replacing in mere weeks.

I mentioned one other concern while waiting.  I noted that the seemingly low price on the two phones was advertised as a special “limited time, promotional price.”  I said, “What if the promotional price is gone on August 10?”  She said that particular promotion would end soon (she quoted me a date, which very well may have been today’s date) but added, “We always have a promotion going.”  In other words, don’t sweat the price.

Maria then asked me what phone I wanted to get.  Progress!  I told her that I had it narrowed down to two.  I told her that I wanted to see both phones, compare them in my hands, and then decide.  She asked when I would be able to compare them and I said tomorrow (Saturday).  Well that was a problem.  She wouldn’t be in over the weekend.  But if knew what phone I wanted, and I called her back, she strongly implied that I would be able to do the early upgrade.

She even gave me a special phone number to call her back on when I was ready.  It was not the 800 # I reached her at, but a number with an Arizona area code.  She said, “I’m in Arizona and my day is just starting (this was around noon).  So if you go today, call me back today, I’ll be here for some time.”  She said the number she was giving me was a “special number’ and that I wouldn’t necessarily get directly to her, but that I could leave a message and she promised she would call me back.

Well, at first I agreed to that and I hang up.  But I kept thinking how frustrating this all was.  What was the big deal about upgrading three weeks early?  I would be giving Verizon my money now instead of in three weeks.  Money today is better than money in 3 weeks.  Everyone knows that.  More importantly, they’d be getting what they really wanted—my commitment to give them monthly service fees for the next two years, right now.  Why give me three weeks to figure out that maybe another carrier would meet my needs and be easier to work with?

I realize you have to draw the line somewhere (it’s sort of like the argument of paying the money bubble in a poker tournament), and I don’t know what that sweet spot is.  I can see why they wouldn’t want people to be doing early upgrades every three months.  But surely no one could possibly see a problem with allowing me my early upgrade a lousy three weeks early.  Right?

I was rehashing the conversation in my head and getting a little confused about what Maria was actually agreeing to.  I was bewildered, and I decided that I wanted to contact her again and see what she was committing to and if there was some way I could get her to just set up my account so that I could buy a phone the next day in a Verizon store and go on with life.  And by the way, I would have been totally fine if they started the new two-year period from the day the old contract expired, and not from the day I got my phone.

So I called the number in Az that Maria gave me.  There was a problem with the number.  It was a number for activating a new phone only.  There was no option to talk to a human or leave a message.  Nope, I put in my cell phone number and all they would do was attempt to activate my phone. Which was already activated.

That totally frustrated me.  So I called the 800 number I had earlier used that got me through to Maria.  Of course, Maria didn’t answer the phone.  But the person who did, a guy, seemed to know Maria, or found her in the directory.  He said he would send an email to Maria to call me.  He looked at the clock—it was around 2PM—and said that Maria would be able to get back to me before she left work.

So I waited for Maria to call me back.  And waited, and waited.  Among the people who didn’t call me on Friday were Kate Upton, Emily Ratajkowski, LeBron James, The Pope….and Maria from Verizon.

While waiting I had another idea.  I figured I’d send out a tweet to Verizon publically chastising them for the strict upgrade policies (using a different twitter account than my “robvegaspoker” one).  I’ve done this before to get big companies’ attention and sometimes it works.

My tweet got a response from Verizon customer service.  I explained my issue over several tweets and they replied that they would look into. In the meantime, someone from AT&T saw my tweet and started tweeting to me that they could make me a better deal.  Considering that I never had this kind of issue with them, I was definitely thinking about it.  I even mentioned that AT&T seemed to want my business in a tweet back to the Verizon guy.

After a bunch of back and forth, the Verizon guy tweeted back to me, “Good news!  You can upgrade your phone today by signing up for Verizon Edge.” And gave me a link explaining the program.

I was livid. All that and all they could come up with was a terrible deal that I already knew about and rejected?  I said AT&T wanted my business and asked how much to cancel my contract early.  I actually had no intention of cancelling early; I just wanted to see if I could make them sweat.

They said it would cost me $125 early termination fee.  I didn’t even respond to that bullshit.  Sprint only charged me $75 to cancel early when there was a lot longer to go in my contract!  This seemed like highway robbery.

I gave up dealing with the Twitter people.  A few hours later, I had a long shot idea—maybe Maria was still there and I could somehow get to her.  After all, she had told me she was just starting her day when I spoke to her.  I called the 800 # and asked if by any chance Maria was still there, and of course, Jane who answered the phone this time had no idea who Maria was or where she worked.  She started looking her up and I told her the story of the number in Arizona which wasn’t any good.  Then Jane revealed to me she was in South Carolina!  And so if she figured out which Maria I was talking too—a long shot—all she could was try to send her an email.

It was obvious I wasn’t getting thru to Maria this night.  Jane than asked what the issue was and she would try her best to help me.

Well, I went thru the whole story again and after a few minutes, Jane said she could indeed help.  In fact, she could take my order for my new phone right then and there and authorize the early upgrade.  Success!

Well, not quite.  In order to do this, I’d have to order the phone from her—in other words, I’d have to order it sight unseen, and pick one of the two phones I was interested in before seeing either one.  Oh well, I knew if I didn’t order the phone right then from Jane, I couldn’t count on getting the same answer when I called again—and I certainly couldn’t count on ever speaking to Jane again.

Well, I had done a bit more research in the meantime and I was now heavily leaning to the LG G3.  I just bite the bullet and said, let’s go with that.  But I wanted to make sure it would be done as in-store pick up since I wanted someone to set up the phone and also show me some of the features.  At first she said that wasn’t possible because the phone was so new, but she checked and said it could be done, there were plenty of the phones in stores in my area.

So she went over the order and said the cost would be $199.  What?  I said it clearly said on their website that it was $99.  Yeah, well, that was just an internet special price.  The way to get that price was to order it over the internet.  Which of course, I couldn’t do because the internet wouldn’t let me upgrade early. If she placed the order, she would have to charge me $199.

I was totally exasperated at this point.  I couldn’t see throwing away $100. I just gave up.  I remembered Maria saying “there’s always promotions” and figured I’d be able to get a better deal on another day.  And I hadn’t given up on the idea of reaching Maria on Monday and getting her to make good on what I thought was a promise. I sadly said goodbye to Jane, no closer to getting a phone than I was 10 minutes earlier. 

The next day, Saturday, I drove over to a local Verizon store.  Maybe once I was there, in person, with a credit card in my hand, they would realize how stupid it was to turn away a customer.  Before heading for the store I checked online and guess what?  The internet price for both phones was now $199, not $99.  I wondered what the in-store price was?

Well, I got to the store and they looked up my records and told me in no uncertain terms that they would not be able to upgrade me today.  No way.  I told them about Maria and Jane and they said there was nothing they could do from their end, but if I called Customer Service and could get them to authorize it, that would work.  But the in-store price was $199, not $99, and again, I didn’t feel like throwing away $100.  I assumed that one way or another, I could get the phone eventually for $99.  Hey, $100 is half a buy-in at a 1/2 game. 

I did look at both phones and had someone “help” me with them.  What the help consisted of was the lady looking at her iPad and reading me the same comparison chart that appeared on their website.  It sure sounded like she knew less about either phone than I did.

But I saw them both and decided that the LG was the way to go.  Three reasons.  More onboard storage (32gig vs 16gig), more RAM (3gig vs 2gig) and a slightly bigger screen, but with the design difference, no discernible difference in the physical size. But I left with no phone and no plan on getting one this weekend.

On Sunday, there was a Verizon ad in the newspaper.  It showed both phones now on sale for $99.  This was the in-store price.  And suddenly, again, the price on the internet.  There was exactly one day that you couldn’t get the phone for $99.  The one day I actually went to the store, naturally.  But I didn’t both to try to talk them to again, I was waiting for Maria on Monday.

And indeed, around the same time I reached her on Friday, I called back on Monday.  But I used the Arizona number.  I wondered if I didn’t respond at all to their voice prompts, could I actually get to a human being—and hopefully one who knew who the hell Maria was.

Amazingly enough, I actually was able to reach a live person that way!  Why didn’t I think of that on Friday?  However, this live person—a female whose name I can’t recall—didn’t know Maria. But she offered to help me and since I was able to almost order a phone with Jane late Friday, I thought I’d give this lady a shot.

After another retelling of the whole sordid tale, this lady eventually said she could authorize the upgrade, but she couldn’t actually take the order.  She said she would transfer me to the sales department and explain the situation to them so I could easily order my new phone.  Great!

Except when I got to the sales department, the person I spoke to, Michael, had no clue what the situation was, the lady I had just been talking to told him nothing.  He heard my story and read some notes that the other people I’d spoken to had made on my account.  And apparently the notes indicated that my issue was getting the internet price, not getting the early upgrade. Oh geez.  I told him the price was no longer an issue since the in-store price and the internet price were currently the same.  At least for this very minute.  Who knows what it would be in another few hours?

Michael didn’t switch me back to customer service to get the upgrade approved.  He put me on hold and spoke to someone.  I was on hold for a long time.  Fortunately, like most people, I have nothing better to do than sit on hold with the phone company.  He came back once to tell me he was still working on it and hadn’t forgotten about me.  Then he came back and told me he could take my order!  Yes.  I could order the phone.  And he would give me the internet price.  Which was the only price they had at the moment.

Then he asked me my address.  I started to give it to him and then said, “But I want this to be done as an in-store pick-up.”  No, no, he couldn’t do that.  If he took the order, it would have to be sent to me.  But he could probably send it overnight at no charge.  WTF?  I couldn’t believe all these stupid rules, which seem to totally change from one person to the next. 

Just as I was about ready to face the horror of asking him to send me back to customer service, he said that….lo and behold….it now said on my account that I was eligible for the upgrade.  Really?  “No shit,” he said.  OK, he didn’t really say that.  But he insisted that my account was now reflecting that I could upgrade any time now and that I could therefore go into any Verizon store in America and buy any damn phone Verizon sells. 

That’s when I asked him to verify his name.  And he even spelled it for me.  Because Michael is a hard name to spell. Anyway, I thanked him, hung up, and then immediately regretting not checking my account online to confirm what he told me before hanging up.  But I did so as soon as I could and yes, yes, it said I was now eligible for the upgrade!  Victory?

Well, I decided to get my ass over to the Verizon store before they flipped another switched.  I called the store to make sure they had the LG G3 in stock and they confirmed they had plenty.

And with that, I went over there to get my phone.  Of course, there was one last hitch.  When I showed up and gave them my phone number and they checked my account, they said I wasn’t eligible for the upgrade until August 10!

I was pretty close to losing it.  This was worse than having your dreaded pocket Kings cracked. I explained as calmly as I was capable of that, no, I was told it had been changed and that I had even confirmed it online myself. He resisted, but I was insistent and finally he said, “Let me see what I can do,” and disappeared into the back. I then realized that I have the app on my phone that can check all that and I loaded it up and sure enough, it said I was eligible for the upgrade.  I kept that page on my phone for when he returned.  I was gonna get my phone today or start taking hostages.

He took a long time and when he finally returned, he said it had just now shown up on their system in the store that I was eligible for the upgrade. Phew!  He apologized and blamed their slow servers or something.  Anyway, he could sell me the phone and he did, and I finally walked out of there sometime later with my new L3.  Phew.

But man what an ordeal.  It shouldn’t be that hard to give someone your money, should it?  I can’t believe Verizon puts a customer through so much hell just to get the money three weeks early.  If their coverage wasn’t so much better than their competitors, I would have told them where to go.  I guess that’s how they can get away with it.

Note:  The girl below is actually the T-Mobile girl (or was, until recently).  You know, the one in the pink dress. But I don’t think there are any female Verizon spokespeople who look as good. Or are dressed like this. So I also included a pic of the famous, “Can you hear me now?” guy.

Hey Verizon, can you hear me now?  Why do you put your loyal customers through such hell?