Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Check Raise That Wasn't

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, why the heck not?) saw my tweet last night about a questionable interpretation of the rules for raising in No Limit Hold’em that I witnessed at the Aria.  Since it normally takes me 1,000 words to tell a 150-word story, there was no way I could tweet out the issue, but fortunately I have this very blog where no one can limit the amount of words I use to tell a story.

In doing so, I want to make clear that I think Aria is one of the premier poker rooms in Vegas and what I witnessed in no way affected that  opinion.  If, as I suspect, I witnessed an incorrect ruling, I chalk it up to the fact that the ruling was made by a human (well, two, actually, counting the dealer) and that to the best of my knowledge, we have yet to discover the human being who has never made a mistake.

The game at Aria is 1/3 and I had only recently taken my seat.  The player on my immediate right limped in to the pot, and I raised to $15 with Ace-Queen of clubs.  A player behind me called, the blinds both called, and the limper called.

The flop was King-7-3, two spades and a red card.  Not exactly a great flop to me.  I figured I was done with the hand but it checked to me, with only one player who hadn’t acted left.  The manner in which everyone checked—very quickly—made me consider a continuation bet.  Ordinarily with that many players I wouldn’t do it, but it was early, I had my full $300 starting stack, and I have seen such a bet work on occasion…..and if it didn’t work, I’d have time to get it back.  So I put out $40 with nothing more than one overcard and a backdoor straight draw.

The last player folded but one of the blinds, a woman, put all her chips in, but it was $49 total, just nine bucks more than my bet.  The last player left, the guy to my immediate right, asked if he could re-raise.  Note:  At the time, I wasn’t sure if he had asked if he could re-raise or if he was asking if I would be allowed to re-raise if he merely called.  The second question was certainly legitimate—not knowing what he had, he might want to call if he knew it was just $49 but would think twice if the preflop raiser was allowed to bump it up some more.  However, it soon became apparent that he was specifically asking if he could raise the $49 bet he was now facing.

The dealer said no, he couldn’t raise. His explanation was that her raise was not at least 50% of my bet.  It had to be at least half of my bet again in order to re-open the action.

I’ll refrain from my own commentary until I finish the story.  But I said nothing.  Other players insisted that he could raise.  I’m not sure if the player facing the bet questioned it all that much but two other players not in the hand were adamant that he could raise.  The dealer called the floor, and received the full explanation of the situation from the dealer.

The floor said that he couldn’t raise because the bet wasn’t more than half the bet she was facing.  In other words, if she had been able to go all-in for $61, he would have been able to raise.  That’s my own example for illustration, not what the floor said, but that was the clear interpretation of what both the floor and the dealer were saying. The other players pointed out that she hadn’t raised the player facing the bet, she had raised me, and that he hadn’t put any money into the pot at this point on this street.

The floor asked if the player facing the bet had acted at all on this street.  When told he had, but that he had checked, the floor ruled that since he had had a chance to act on this street, and had checked, he couldn’t re-opening the betting because the lady’s all-in was not large enough to re-open the betting.

And so, that was the ruling.  The player to my right could only call.

I swear this is a completely accurate retelling of what occurred at the table last night.

OK, so what do you think of this ruling?  How many mistakes do you see made by the floor and the dealer?

I count two. 

The player to my right was not trying to raise the lady, he was trying to raise me.  The fact that he had initially checked means nothing, unless this is the first poker room I’ve ever played in that doesn’t allow check-raising!  But in fact, the lady herself had checked-raised me!  So, of course he could raise…he could raise me.  The only thing that was a question in my mind was what his minimum bet would have to be.  Would he be allowed to bet only $80 (double my bet) or would he have to bet at least $98 (double the lady’s bet)?  I’m assuming that $98 is the right answer.

But seriously, how could he not be allowed to check-raise there?  How was the fact that he had initially checked the flop relevant to whether or not he could raise?  Check-raising is a key part of poker.  He had obviously checked hoping that I would c-bet and I had totally fallen into his trap.  

Note: clearly if he had just called (as he ended up doing), the betting would be closed to me, I would not have been able to re-raise.  But that brings me to the second mistaken ruling at the table by the dealer and the floor.

Both of them stated that the action could only be re-opened if the lady’s all-in was 50% or more of the bet she was facing.  For the player to my right, that was irrelevant, as I’ve just explained.  But for me, if he had just (voluntarily) called, it was totally incorrect.  The 50% rule applies to limit games.  In No Limit hold-em, it’s 100%.  Many dealers—and even floor people—get this wrong.  I did a post not long ago covering this very topic.  You can find it here.

Say I had hit the flop, and would have been more than happy to re-raise there.  I couldn’t have because her bet was only $9 more than my bet.  But even if her all-in was $79, not $49, I wouldn’t have been able to raise, because this is No Limit, not limit hold-em.

Note, in that post I just linked, there was some back and forth, and it was determined that there are actually some poker rooms across the country that do have it as a house rule that re-opening of a NL betting is the same as in a limit game.  But I would be totally shocked if Aria was one of the rooms with that particular house rule.

Anyway, to finish off the story with the results of the hand, for those curious, the guy called the $49.  I knew I was badly beat, but for the size of the pot, I couldn’t fold for a measly $9.  The pot was over $200!  So I threw away another nine bucks on a gazillion-to-one chance I still had a shot at the pot.

The turn card was another 7, and the guy on my right shoved all-in for about $200.  I folded like a cheap suit.

Turns out he had flopped a set of 3’s and turned the full house.  The lady had a weak flush draw.

Note….I think the shove was not a great play on his part, but I think because he couldn’t raise the flop he was already in shove mentality (because of the flush draw) and couldn’t stop himself when he turned the boat.  Not that it made any difference, I wouldn’t have put another penny into that pot at that point.

I should point out though, that the error did cost me $9.  If he had been allowed to raise on the flop, a real raise, not just nine bucks, I would never have called it, and saved myself the nine bucks.

After the hand, we were all discussing how absurd it was that the floor ruled the guy couldn’t check-raise.  But I was the only one noting that the 50% interpretation was incorrect as well.

Unless I’m wrong?  So, dealers, floor people, poker room managers…..please let me know.  Have I gotten anything wrong?

Or did I just witness what humans sometimes do….make mistakes?

(Edited to add: a bit of a follow up to this story can be found at the bottom of the post here).

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Vegas Poker Scene (July Ante Up Column)

Here's my newest column for Ante Up.  The link for it on the Ante Up website is here.   Remember, my contribution is embedded in the entire West Coast report.  So below is just my Vegas report.  The magazine should be in your local poker room by now.

MIRAGE: Just in time for the WSOP, the Mirage opened its newly remodeled poker room in late May. The room had been closed since January but is now a beautiful 12-table facility in the same area as the old room, near the sportsbook.
Though the main game spread is $1-$2 no-limit hold’em ($100-$300 buy-in), the room also spreads a popular $3-$6 limit game with a $30 minimum buy-in. Promotions include high-hand bonuses of up to $500 for royals, Aces Cracked and a bad-beat jackpot. Players earn $2 an hour in comps, there’s free wi-fi and you can charge your mobile devices at the tables.
The Mirage has two daily tournaments (11 a.m. and 7 p.m.). The morning tournament offers an 8K starting stack and 20-minute blinds, except on Saturdays when the popular “Stack” tournament is held. This one features 25K starting stack for $120 and 25-minute levels. Friday evening is the $100 bounty tournament with a 15K stack and 20-minute levels. The rest of the week the tournament is the same $65 tournament held in the morning.
SUNCOAST: The locals room in Summerlin just started running a $100 stud/8 tournament on the last Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. The starting stack is 7K and a $10 dealer bonus gets you 3K more chips. The levels are 30 minutes. The first one drew 40-plus players.
Suncoast features daily $45 tournaments at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. On the first Friday of every month, there is a $100 deepstack at 6 p.m. with a 10K stack and an optional $20 add-on for another 5K chips. This tournament has 30-minute levels and the winner gets a watch valued at $180.
On Wednesdays, the Suncoast spreads a $4-$8 dealer’s choice game for a $40 minimum buy-in. There are 17 games to choose from, including 2-7 triple-draw, badugi, badeucey, razz, pineapple and Omaha/8.
Suncoast still hosts the long-running “Hoggy” $2-$8 stud/8 game Mondays and Fridays at 11 a.m. The qualifying low hand is eight or better and a pair of jacks or better is the minimum high hand.
PLAZA: The downtown room with five electronic tables has named Gary Vickery as its manager. Vickery comes from Philadelphia, where he ran a poker league. He moved to Vegas last August to work in table games at the new SLS casino (formerly the Sahara) but is happy to get back into poker.
The Plaza specializes in affordable buy-in tournaments, as cheap as $5 at 10:30 a.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The 2 p.m. and
9 p.m. tournaments are $12, except for the Thursday night $35 deepstack. Mondays at 10 p.m. is a $12 stud tournament and Tuesdays at 10 p.m. is a $12 PLO event. These tournaments are great for beginners, but many experienced players who play these and have a blast with them, not having to worry about losing much. All of these tournaments have guarantees.
POST WSOP: With the WSOP closing shop for another year, players will miss the big buy-in tournaments that were all over town. As things return to normal, assuming anything in Vegas can be described that way, players still have a multitude of great options, though the buy-ins and the prize pools will be a lot smaller.
The Aria’s $125 tournament is one of the most popular dailies in town. It runs twice a day, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., and costs $125 for 10K chips and 30-minute levels. Players who bust out early are allowed one re-entry.
The Venetian also has two tournaments a day at noon and 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays at noon it’s a $150 event that starts with a 12K stack and 30-minute levels. Re-entry is unlimited. The Friday and Sunday tournaments are $200 bounty events. Same levels and starting stack and the bounty is $50.
Saturday is a $100 bounty tournament with a $300 buy-in and the same details otherwise.
The evening tournaments are $125 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and $200 on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The Friday tournament is a rebuy event, players are allowed a $200 rebuy for 12K more chips and that can be taken for the first two hours any time the stack is at 6K or worse. All of the rebuy goes into the prize pool with no rake and all of the tournaments have guarantees between $5K and $20K.
The Wynn offers a popular $140 tournament Mondays through Thursdays with a 10K stack and 30-minute levels. On Fridays and Sundays, there’s a $10K guarantee and it’s $200 with a $100 add-on for an extra 5K chips. Saturday offers a $25K guarantee with 40-minute levels and unlimited $200 rebuys through the first two hours. The starting stack and the rebuy chips are 10K.
The Orleans features two tournaments a day at noon and 7 p.m., but the can’t-miss event for tournament lovers is the Friday-night event. The $125 buy-in has a 12.5K starting stack and 30-minute levels. This is the most popular regular tournament in town and regularly attracts 225-plus entrants. Though re-entry is allowed for the first 90 minutes, there are usually so many alternates that those wishing to re-enter are frequently shut out. With a prize pool that exceeds $22K regularly, a winner is seldom declared before the wee hours of Saturday morning.
And don’t forget the Binion’s Saturday deepstack with its $10K guarantee. The $140 buy-in brings a 20K starting stack with 30-minute levels. It starts at 2 p.m. and the last few entrants are usually battling it out past midnight.
No bracelets on the line, but as you can see, there’s always great tournament action in Vegas.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cleavage Redhead

Question of the day:  If a person peers over your shoulder and reads something you wrote that was not meant for her eyes—or anyone else’s eyes, for that matter—and is offended by what you wrote about her, is it your fault, or hers?

As you know, I take notes during my poker sessions so I can reasonably accurately report on the more interesting hands I am involved in.  When I started doing this, I was a total luddite and took these notes in a small notebook that fits in my shirt pocket.  For months (years?) people have been suggesting that it would be more efficient and more practical to use my smart phone to take these notes. I resisted because a) I was used to doing it the old-fashioned way and rather set in my ways, and b) I have trouble entering text fast and accurately with the virtual keyboard that smart phones have.  I knew whenever I tried this, it always took longer than just scribbling the notes with a pen.  And that meant I was even more distracted from the game doing it that way than by hand.

But the appeal of doing it on my phone has become more and more obvious to me lately.  For one thing, my handwriting is really bad, even when I am not rushing.  Often I would read my notes the next day and have no idea WTF I wrote!  So that was a problem.  Another problem:  it really attracts attention writing notes at the poker table, and I was drawing undue attention to myself by doing it.  I was getting tired of having to answer the question, “What are your writing?  Are you taking notes on the game?  Are you taking notes on me?”  Note: my standard answer was that I was working on my grocery list.  Or that I was working on a novel.  No way would I ever admit that I was taking notes for a future blog post.

But tapping into a phone attracts no attention whatsoever because pretty much everyone at the table is doing it.  It’s pretty normal these days.  They assume I’m texting someone about dinner plans.  Or perhaps trying to book a booty call on Tinder. 

I should mention that the typed notes aren’t always that much easier to decipher the next day, thanks mostly to auto-correct.  I usually rush thru them and don’t take the time to see if auto-correct has made my notes totally incoherent.  The weirdest thing that auto-correct does is arbitrarily change numbers.  I don’t get it.  Why does it think that 100 is what I meant when I typed 10?  At least I know I didn’t open raise to $100 with King-10 suited.  But sometimes the numbers are changed in stranger ways than that, like 18 becomes 313 or something.

Anyway, so far this trip, I’ve actually been exclusively using the phone to take notes, and am getting more and more comfortable with it. 

There is a problem doing it this way, however.  The fact that the notes are easier for me to read means that the notes are easier for someone else to read.  In fact, I already mentioned this in a previous post, when somebody sitting next me did read something I typed into my phone, and actually assumed I was texting someone reports of the salacious dialog that was taking place at the table (see here).  If only I remembered that story—and acted on it—on the night a few weeks back that this story took place.

I was minding my own business, playing some 1/2 at BSC when an attention-getting woman took the seat immediate to my right.  I guess she was in her 20’s and she had really unnatural looking red hair.  Actually, in thinking about it the next day, it was more magenta than red.  But at the time I was thinking she was a redhead, because as far as I know, there’s no such thing as a magenta-head.

OK, there was one other thing about her that was attention-getting.  Maybe two other things.  The girl was wearing a loose, low-cut top that revealed a lot of cleavage.  And truth be told, she had a lot of cleavage to reveal.  And I’ll say this for her… there was enough revealed to lead me to think that unlike her hair color, her chest was most likely a gift from mother nature. Another clue to this was that the girl was, ummm, not at all skinny.

She also wasn’t at all talkative.  Until the moment I’m about to describe, she didn’t say a word the entire time she was there.  I don’t think she smiled or looked at all like she might be enjoying herself—but in that way, she wasn’t different from any number of male poker players her age.

Anyway, at one point a very nice hand went my way.  The actual poker from this session will be reported in some future post, no time for that now.  But the important thing to know is that on the hand in question, the girl to my right started things off by raising preflop (note: I didn’t win most of the money from her, there was a guy at that the table who was my main benefactor in this hand, the girl just started the action). 

When the hand was over and I had dragged in a rather nice pot, it was time for me to type the notes into my smart phone. I had taken a few notes about previous hands, but this was the first decent pot I’d won, and also the first time I had reason to mention the redhead in my notes.

So I started my note—meant only for my eyes, so that, if this session turned out to be worthy of a blog post, I’d have the details right—by typing, “Cleavage redhead raised to $8….”  I continued the note with the rest of the hand, or at least some of it before I had to put the phone down to play another hand before I finished the note.

I could have just referred to her as “girl” or “lady” I suppose (“player on my immediate right” takes too long to type), but as it happened, there was another female at this table, a rather nondescript middle-aged woman immediately to my left (actually, she reminded me of someone I went to high school with, but that’s not really relevant).  So I had to distinguish this girl from the other woman at the table.  So it was “cleavage redhead.” I should point out that the "predictive text" feature on my phone's virtual keyboard--for reasons I can't even begin to figure out--always seems to predict "cleavage" whenever I begin a word with "cl."  So it's real easy for me to use the word "cleavage" on my phone.

In retrospect, I’m real glad I didn’t go with the other option I was considering for identifying her, which was, I must confess, “Big tits.”

Anyway, as soon as we were both done with the current hand, and before I could pick up my phone to finish my note about the big hand, she finally opened her mouth and spoke, and directly to me.  She said, “"Could you please not take notes on everything I do?  I can see everything you're writing."

Oh shit.

I was mortified. 

All I could think of at that moment was that I had referred to her as “cleavage redhead” and I was 100% certain that’s what she was referring to and that was what had ticked her off.

I didn’t know what to do, or what to say.  At least I hadn’t referred to her as “Big tits.”  So there was that.

I put my phone away and didn’t say a word.  It took me a few seconds to realize that neither one of us was going to be comfortable there for the rest of the night.  And no way could I continue taking my notes as long as we were at the table together.  I didn’t think going back to my hand-written notes in my notebook would fool her.  And honestly, there’s no way I want to be prevented from taking notes, I have a blog to write and cannot depend on remembering details the next day.

I felt I had no choice but to request a table change.  So I got up and asked for one.  Fortunately it didn’t take too long for me to be called to a different table.  The few minutes I spent back at the table sitting next to her were among the most awkward of my life.

So I heard my name called to a new table and I racked up my chips.  As I was about to depart, I leaned and whispered to the girl, “I apologize.”  She grunted something unintelligible.

I was rather bummed out about the forced move—I thought the table I had left was a pretty good table.  The guy who had paid me off on the hand that started the whole kerfuffle was still there and I thought quite capable of paying me off some more.  So that sucked.

I stewed for a while and had trouble concentrating on the new table.  I cursed my decision to use the “cleavage” descriptor in my notes.

But the more I started thinking about it, the more I wondered if I was overreacting.  I mean, first of all, I have every right to take notes at the poker table, right?  A lot of poker coaches tell their students to take notes on big hands to study later, away from the table.  I could have just been doing that (in fact, I do take notes on hands or from sessions that won’t make it into the blog just so I can possibly learn something from them).  And who is she to tell me I couldn’t do that?

You see, if only I had not used put the adjective ‘cleavage” (which of course is not actually an adjective but I used it as such—this is your grammar lesson for the day) in front of “redhead,” I would be totally guilt free.  She couldn’t complain about being referred to as a redhead.  I would have been well within my rights to respond to her request with a retort such as, “I’m sorry, but I like to take notes on my hands to help me improve.  I’m doing nothing wrong. If it bothers you that I’m taking notes, I suggest you request a table change.”

I suppose I could have said that anyway, but when she first spoke to me, all I was thinking about was the rude way I had referred to her in my notes.

In my notes.  My notes.  Notes meant for no one else’s eyes but my own.  Was it my fault that I was sloppy and let someone see what I was typing (yes, but mostly because I wouldn’t want someone to read what hand I had played if it wasn’t tabled), or was it her fault for reading notes that weren’t meant for her to ever see?

I mean, if you read something that wasn’t meant to be seen by you, isn’t that the chance you take?  It’s like the downside of being able to read minds that no one ever thinks about.  Sure it would be great—especially at the poker table—but you’d always “hear” some pretty nasty thoughts about yourself from the people around you, and would you really want that?  If she could have read minds, I’m sure she’d hear a lot of nasty comments about how ridiculous her magenta hair looked. 

The more I thought about it, the more I felt like the aggrieved party, and what the hell was I apologizing for?  She sticks her nose in my notes, and doesn’t like what she reads, that’s her fault, not mine.  Am I right?

It's just that, in my mind, she had seen the word "cleavage" and probably jumped to the conclusion that I was writing other salacious comments about her.  Of course, it's not like what I did write was so bad.  She couldn't deny she was showing cleavage.  I'm sure that was pretty obvious to her when she selected that she was wearing.  I dare say it might have been an intentional attempt to work the Jennifer Tilly effect on the guys at the table. 

It's just that it was tacky that I had reduced her to just her physical appearance/attributes.  But again, that was just for my own use.  I suppose if she had never said anything, if she had never seen my words, I probably would have figured out a way to mention that this anonymous girl was wearing an attention-getting top in addition to the attention-getting hair when I blogged about the session. But she would have been long gone by then and there would be almost no chance she'd ever see it.

Anyway, from now on, I’ll try to be more careful about keeping prying eyes away from my typed notes.  And I’ll avoid descriptions that might offend those prying eyes.  Not that I should have to.

The punch line is that it turned out to be a good table change for me, I did even better at the new table than I was doing sitting next to Cleavage Redhead (again, details in a future post).  So I guess I should be grateful to her and her prying eyes.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Colossal Failure (Part 2)

I apologize for the delay in getting this second (and final) part posted.  To refresh your memory of how we got to this point, you might want to read part 1 again (or for the first time, even) here.  We pick up right where part 1 ended, right after I my set of 9’s had been beaten by a straight. 

They had been breaking tables before this and sure enough, as soon as this hand was over, the broke ours and a couple of more.  I was in the Brasilia room and we were given bags to put our chips in.  I later found out that bags (instead of racks) meant you were moving to a different room, not just a different table in the same room.  And because they were moving several tables at once (at least three, might have been more), we all had to wait for the last hand to be completed at all of the tables they were breaking at this time.  So we were ready and we just had to wait around for all the other tables to finish their hands and gather all their belongings.  In the meantime, there was a woman in a red shirt telling us that when we started moving to follow her, and that we were headed for the Amazon room.  

After a few wasted minutes—and remember, the tournament clock is still ticking during all this—we finally started moving, but we were following some guy, not the woman who told us to follow her.  I dunno….maybe she was now at the end of the line, but it didn’t seem like I had any choice but to go with this group, at least there were players from my table in this group.  When we got into the hallway, we sort of almost got mingled in with a different group that was coming from a different room and headed to a different room than we were.  I have no idea if I even ended up where I was supposed to be.  But it seemed like it took forever to get to the Amazon room, where the guy who led us there, couldn’t seem to find anyone who know where we were supposed to go.  Eventually a floor person showed up and started handing us seat cards and I managed to find my seat.  Sheesh.  That took not an insignificant amount of time.

At my new table, there was a lady in the center who was getting a massage, and honestly, for a few minutes, I thought she it was a guy.  Not that she was unfeminine looking.  It’s just that she was buried into the chair (and the cushion the massage girls use) completely covering her front.  She had long red hair but it was wrapped around her face so that at first glance it looked like it might have been beard.

Anyway, in late position I opened to $275 with King-9 of hearts.  Only the bearded lady called.  The flop had two hearts on it.  The lady donked out $525 and I called.  The turn was a blank and we both checked.  I hit the second nut flush on the river and the lady bet out $1,025.  I just called, although it was unlikely she had the nut flush.  She showed a busted straight draw.  Sweet pot.

Back to $5900 at the start of the 3rd level, with blinds of 75/150.  The only hand I noted from this level was a raise with Jack-10 of diamonds and taking down the blinds. 

That took us to the first 20-minute break.  I had considered taking a bathroom break during play, knowing that the Men’s Rooms would be mobbed at break-time.  But when I saw how fast they were breaking tables, and how they were doing it, I decided not to.  I couldn’t imagine the hell that would result if they broke a table and someone was away from their seat at that moment.  Would they wait to do the march to the next table until that player returned?  Would they take everyone else and just a leave a note on the chair for the missing player?  Would someone be assigned to move the person’s chips and all their belongings to the new seating assignment?  I didn’t want to find out.

The lines were ridiculously long at all the Men’s rooms near the venue.  This was one time it when there was much less of a line (if any) for the Ladies room.  I thought if I just walked all the way into the Rio, I’d find a Men’s room without a line.  But a lot of other people had that idea too.  By the time I gave up and got into a line, I had walked all the way to the Men’s room nearest the Rio poker room (if you know the layout of the place, you realize that’s a really long walk—any further and I would be peeing in the parking lot furthest away from the WSOP venue).  At least this line wasn’t too long.  The trouble was that by the time I was done and heading back to the convention center, my 20-minute break was almost up!  I walked as fast as I could without actually running and missed about two-three minutes of the next level, one or two hands.  At least I wasn’t one of the blinds and the antes hadn’t kicked in yet.

Started level 4 (100/200) with $5,450.  After a player limped in, I raised to $700 with Ace-King off.  The limper called and we saw a flop of King-Queen-x.  He donked out $700.  With stack sizes what they were, I thought I should just shove so I did.  It was my first all-in of the night and he folded.

Then I stole the blinds from the cut-off with 8-7 offsuit.  First in, I raised to $500 and took it down.

Started level 5 (25/100/200) with $6,750.  I three bet Ace-King of spades from $500 to $2K, and didn’t get a call.

Not sure how I got down to $6,100 at the start of level 6 (25/150/300) as I didn’t write down any bad hands.  Was it just from blinds and antes? 

Midway through the level they were breaking tables again, and it appeared my table was not long for the world.  Sure enough, they came by with chip racks—meaning we were all moving within the room, not moving to another room.  I got my seating assignment and it was two tables over from where I was.  In other words, the table they sent me to would be breaking real soon.

And in fact before I had even finished getting my small supply of chips out of the rack, they were moving my new table, where I had never played a hand!  They were moving a bunch of tables at the same time, and we had to hang around and wait again for a few other nearby tables to break.  This time we were given bags, meaning we were moving to a different room.  Finally we were ready to march to our new location.  Guess what?  They were taking us back to the Brasilia room, where I had started out!

Another long march through the hallways of the Rio convention center.  When I finally got to my new seating assignment, I had easily lost 15 minutes of the 40-minute level.  Umm, that really sucked.  Sure not playing saved me some ante money, and maybe even some blinds money, but I couldn’t afford losing the opportunity cost of not playing any hands for that much time out of a 40-minute blind level when I was desperate to find a way to pick up chips.

I was still trying to get my bearings at my new table when I thought I saw an opportunity to steal.  It had folded to me on the button so I raised to $800 with Ace-4 offsuit.  The blinds folded, but somehow, I had missed the fact that Under-the-Gun had limped in.  Damn.  I probably would have made the same move if I had noticed, but I would have raised to a bigger amount if I saw the limper.

And then the limper made a big raise (the ol’ limp/re-raise!) and I had no choice but to fold.

The level was coming to a close and we were about to take our second break.  My now less than $5k stack was going to be pathetic at the next level (50/200/400).  So I was quite happy to look down at pocket Queens as I saw the tournament clock tick down under a minute.  This was the first decent hand I’d seen in a long, long time.  A player with a similar stack as mine went all-in in front of me.  I really had no read on him since I had just gotten to the table, but it didn’t matter, no way could I do anything but go all-in with the ladies.

It was heads up and he flipped over Ace-King offsuit, which was ok by me.  It was a flip and I had a slight edge.  The flop was something like 7-7-6.  Another low card hit the turn. Only one card standing between busting and a double up. And then a damn red Ace hit the freaking river.  The dealer counted stacks and he had a few more chips to me.  The break had started and my tournament was over.

So I gathered my stuff and headed for the parking lot.  It was after 11PM and I was through with poker for the day.  Too tired and frustrated to even consider heading anywhere else, I knew it was back to the room for the night.

On the way out, I happened to pass by The Trooper who was hurriedly heading back to the tournament area, still alive at that point.  We said hi but he was rushing to make it back to the tournament, so we didn’t really talk.

If you follow this stuff, you know there was some controversy at the end of the event over the prize pool distribution.  First place turned out to be “only” $638K, with the total prize pool being $11.1 MM.  Some of the game’s more well-known pros howled about first place being such a small percentage of the pool.  That’s less than 6% of the total pool.

Really, pros, really?  That first place was 1,130 times the buy-in.  Seems like a pretty good ROI to me.  This was always supposed to be “the people’s tournament,” a tournament for the masses. I don’t think any of the big name pros bothered with this, this was a bracelet event for the rest of us.  Once you realize they have to pay out 10% of the entrees…a whopping 2,241 people…..how much do you think they were going to pay first place?

I’ve ranted before about this (see here), the problem is that they pay the bottom too little, not that they pay the top too little.  Go ahead and try a winner-take-all tournament and see how many paid entrants you get.  I actually almost approve of the min-cash for this tournament… $1,096.  That’s close to double the buy-in (but not quite), which to my mind is the absolute minimum the min cash should be for any sizeable tournament.  So anyone who isn’t happy to collect $638K for a $565 buy-in should just not play it next year, and shut the fudge up.

A few days later I was happy to learn that my retired blogging buddy Chris Abramski was not stumped by the tournament, and finished 977th, to take home $3,300.  Nice going, Chris!

Things to come: One of the reasons for the delay in getting this second part posted was that I was involved in another tournament—a long one.  For the first time ever, I actually made it to day 2 of a multi-day tournament and had the experience of “bagging and tagging” my chips!  I had a nice payout and it should make for a few epic blog posts in the hopefully near future.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Win a Seat to a WSOP Bracelet Event for Only $10!

I want to alert everyone to a great opportunity for all of you who will be in Nevada on June 28.

It’s a chance to win a seat into a $1,000 WSOP bracelet event for a mere $10 entry fee.

Yeah, just 10 bucks.  How sweet is that?

The link is right here.

The excellent site Poker Update is sponsoring a $10 satellite to WSOP Event #64.  It’s a new event this year.  It’s the “online event.”  It starts at Noon on July 2 online at WSOP.com.  After a couple of days of play online, the final table will be assembled live at the Rio on July 4. So the final table will be just like all the other events.  It’s the getting there that’s very different.

How cool would it be if the winner of Poker Update’s $10 satellite made it to the final table? Or even cooler, if that player took home the jewelry?

It could happen. 

The online event should be one of the more interesting bracelet events this year.  All those online specialists will be vying for the chance to prove that they can convert their online game to live play when the bracelet is online. 

I’m wondering what that final table will look like?  Will there be any known live pros?  Will it be all players who only (or mostly) play online?  What happens when those online specialists have to play live at the final table?

Will that table be 100% hoodies and headphones and sunglasses?  Will you be able to see anyone’s face?

Is there a chance some old-timer sneaks in?

The field for this event should be huge, since no one will have to get off their couch to even enter.  And a huge field means a huge prize pool, of course. And you’ve got a chance to play for it for only $10. 

So I want to make sure all of my readers who are eligible will take advantage of this really special opportunity to satellite into a WSOP bracelet event for just a $10 buy-in.

If you don’t usually play online, this would be a great time to give it a try, wouldn’t it?  If you do play online, you can show your stuff for only a $10 investment.

That link again, is here.  Take your shot for 10 bucks, and good luck!

(Edited to add: an explanation of why this satellite never ran can be found here). 

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Colossal Failure (Part 1)

As you probably already know, I played in Colossus a few weeks back, and I finally have a chance to write about it.

Colossus was pretty much guaranteed to be the world’s largest live poker tournament (by the standard of the most entrants) from the minute it was announced.  A $5 Million guaranteed prize pool for a $565 event, held on the first weekend of the WSOP.  Except for the annual Employees only event, a $500 buy-in, this would be the lowest entry fee ever for WSOP bracelet event and the lowest ever for any event open to everyone.

As soon as it was announced, everyone started talking about and I got swept up into the hype.  Knowing there would be a massive tournament, I figured well, I had just as good a shot as anyone.  Now, I don’t mean winning the damn thing.  Let’s not be crazy.  Obviously I had as much chance of winning the bracelet as I have of having Kate Upton, Emily Ratajkowski and Scarlett Johansson show up at my door and offer to take turns giving me lap dances. OK, maybe even less of a chance than that.

But I figured I had as good a chance as anybody of cashing, even if not big.  With such an expected huge field, I figured a lot of lousy-to-mediocre poker players would luck out and finish in the money.  And let’s face it, when you think of lousy-to-mediocre poker players, you think of me.

I actually thought that there would be so many bad players that I might actually be better than the average player.  Not that that would help me get in the money.  I knew with such a large field, luck would play even a greater role than in a normal tournament.  It was pretty much a crapshoot—at least until the field was narrowed down and the good tournament players that had survived were fighting for the top pay spots. 

The thought of playing in what was going to be the world’s largest live tournament was too enticing to pass up. Even if it promised to be a gigantic fustercluck. And of course, no matter what happened, I’d get a blog post out of it.

So before I left town in March, I went ahead and pre-registered.  There were four starting flights (Day 1’s), two each on Friday (5/29) and Saturday (5/30).  The times were announced as 10AM and 6PM.  I opted for one of the 6PM starts as I believe that 10AM way too early to be playing poker.  The evening session sounded more reasonable to me.  Yeah, it would end a bit past 2AM (if I was still alive), but I’ve played that late before.  Sounded a lot better than starting at 10 in the freaking morning.

Then, the day before the event, the WSOP threw me (and everyone else playing) a curve.  They changed the starting time of the evening flights to 7PM.  And they added another level of play to Day 1. The reason for this was based on the play of the first few events, they figured out that not enough people would bust out Day 1 if they only played 10 levels. So they needed to add another level of play to all the Day 1’s so that Day 2, with everyone returning at the same time on Sunday, would have a manageable number of players.
This meant that my starting flight would end at almost 3:30AM.  Ugh.  Not what I was anticipating.

So….I took it real easy the day of the event, tried to take a nap in the afternoon, so I would be as rested as possible.

I got to the Rio a little early and walked around.  The place was totally mobbed.  Not just the WSOP area, the entire hotel/casino.  I walked past the Rio poker room and they were set up for the Colossus, not regular cash games.  The hallway leading to the convention center had poker tables in use for the event.  They even closed down half of the Poker Kitchen, the fast food place that serves the WSOP, to put tables in for the tournament.  I think if they had enough tables and enough dealers, they would have put some out in the parking lot. The closer I got to the convention center, the bigger the mob.  The halls were just packed, as people were still leaving from the 10AM flight and everyone was coming in for the 7PM one.  And the rooms themselves were locked up as they were setting up for the new flight.

Now to give credit where credit is due, the fact that they did in fact get everything set up so our flight could start in time is a minor miracle and I must salute the WSOP staff for doing such a great job under extreme circumstances.

They had some different rules for this event because of the sheer size they were anticipating.  Unlike most bracelet events, this was a re-entry event.  However, you could not re-enter the same flight.  And unlike some multi-flight tournaments, you could not play more than one flight if you still had chips remaining from an earlier flight.  So if you survived Day 1 with just a couple of big blinds, you had to decide right away if you wanted to fire another bullet or if you would take your incredibly slim chances with a really short stack on Day 2

They anticipated that many players would want to take more than one shot at this.  In fact, many folks were prepared to play all four Day 1’s if necessary to make it to Day 2. And because of the demand, they allowed players willing to fire multiple bullets to buy into multiple flights in advance, and if they survived one of the earlier flights and wanted to take that stack forward, they would refund the money.  That meant that after the very first flight, there would be seats sold to the event that wouldn’t be used because the purchasers had already qualified for the next day.

Therefore, they would hold a seat for you for X-amount of time (three levels, I think), before opening it up to someone else who wanted to play.  And since they didn’t know at the outset if a person who wasn’t there at the start was going to show up or not, they did not put their stacks in play if they showed up late.  This is pretty different from any tournament I’d ever played in, but it was the only way to do it under the circumstances.

At my first table, for example, there was an empty seat from the start into the second level.  Finally a player showed up to claim the seat.  Now the action had to stop, because one of the regular WSOP policies is that every player must show the dealer his identification (driver’s license, or passport) before being dealt a hand (in addition to turning in his tournament receipt).

So waiting for the dealer to confirm the new player’s identity took some time off the tournament clock for our table.  Remember, the levels are 40 minutes, whereas for most bracelet events, they are a full hour.  The player explained that he had played in the morning flight, but had busted out late, so he went back to his room to take a little nap.

Frankly, I don’t understand the thought process behind playing multiple flights.  The appeal of the tournament is the huge prize pool (well above the $5MM guarantee) for a relatively low buy-in.  If you are prepared to buy in four times, you’ve turned it into a $2K+ buy-in tournament!  And one that you’d have to survive more land mines than any other event to cash in.  Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to buy into it once and use the rest of that money to buy into a $1,500 event where you’d probably have a better chance of cashing in (just based on the sheer numbers)?

And I guess because of the sheer crowds, they couldn’t do “alternates” the normal way a tournament does, though I’m not sure why.  Instead of adding alternates as players busted, they had several additional “waves” at scheduled times.  All the original seats sold out before the tournament.  Then they sold seats to people who would be seated hours after the tournament started.  These were all at scheduled times, and they somehow knew exactly how many seats they could sell for these second and third waves.  Players would come in with full starting stacks but at the blind levels that were in effect at that time.  Considering the starting stack was only 5K to begin with (with blinds starting at 25/50), this was a pretty bad deal but plenty of people were willing to do it.  This is why I had the sense to register two months before.

In my mind, they still could have entered people one at a time, as people busted out.  But no, they just had scheduled these second and third waves to bring the “alternates” in.  I bring this up because it certainly affected how the tournament played out—for everyone, but especially for me.

In order to accommodate the second and third waves, they started breaking tables almost from the first level. They needed tables asap to set up for those second and third waves.  In an ordinary tournament, they would have just filled those empty seats as players busted with an alternate, but instead, they wanted whole tables available for the next waves.  And they had it all set up in advance which tables they wanted emptied.  So it didn’t matter if one table had lost a lot of players and another table hadn’t lost any.  If that latter table was one they wanted to use for a second wave, they would send all 10 players to another table.  It was kind of weird, honestly.

I guess to best illustrate how this affected the tournament, I’ll talk about my all-too brief tournament life.  I got stuck with the big blind on the very first hand, and looked down at Ace-King offsuit.  There were two limpers, I raised to $250 and both the limpers called.  The flop was Jack high, two hearts.  I c-bet $600 and took it down.  Exciting!  Won the very first pot of Colossus.  Only 154,759 more hands to win and I’d get a bracelet.

I raised to $125 with pocket 8’s, and had four callers.  The flop was 4-3-3, rainbow and I c-bet $500.  One player called.  We checked it down the rest of the way and my 8’s were good.

On the button I opened to $150 with Ace-8 offsuit.  But the big blind made it $525 and I let it go.

I started level 2 with $6,125, the blinds were now 50/100.  Midway through the level I stumbled.  I raised to $250 with pocket 9’s and had one caller.  The flop was 9-6-5, rainbow.  I foolishly checked, deciding to slow play my set.  He checked behind.  The turn was a 7 and I bet $600, he called.  The turn card was an 8.  Damn.  There was a straight on the board, making my set worthless.  I checked and he bet $1,025.  Did he really have a 10 or was he playing the board and trying to steal half the pot?  I felt compelled to call and see.  He showed 10-8 (it was soooooted).  He actually turned the straight and just called then.  Yes, he called my raise with 10-8 suited.

And....that's where I'll leave it for now.  You'll see exactly how the format for late entrants affected my tournament life in the second (and final) chapter which is now posted and can be found here.