Thursday, July 30, 2015

Let's Go to the Tape

During the session I described in my post (here), I witnessed something I’d never seen before in a poker room, and I thought it was unusual enough to report on it.

Three players saw a flop. Player A, first to act, may or may not have checked.  Players B & C both behind him checked behind him, whereupon Player A moved all in.

Players B & C, almost simultaneously protested that Player A had checked.  Player A insisted he had done no such thing.  The dealer said he did not see the player check.

Now, all three of these players had been playing together for a good two hours.  This had never come up before.  I personally hadn’t seen it, I believe I had my face buried in my celphone putting in a note about a recent hand.

Everyone was insistent on their position.  The dealer said he didn’t see it, but when the other two continued to insist A had checked, he asked if he should call the floor and B & C said yes.  The game was halted, the floor came over and had the dealer explain the issue.

I expected the floor to make a ruling right then and there.  Since the dealer hadn’t seen the check, I would have expected the floor to go with that and say the bet could stand, he has to go with his dealer in this instance.

But no, that’s not what happened.  After hearing everyone’s version, he said, “Well, do you want me to go to the tape?  I can look at the tape right now if you want.”  The players agreed to that.  And so, the floor disappeared, and the game was held up for I guess around 5 minutes.  When the floor returned, he said that there was no check and the bet that Player A made stood.  The other players weren’t happy, but they reluctantly accepted the decision.

Interesting.  Has anyone else ever seen that?  I think there was only previous time I actually witnessed a tape being reviewed during a poker game. And that was a dispute about much the pot should have been in an all-in situation.  The floor tried to recreate the pot, and when it didn’t add up, he went to review the tape.  Meanwhile, the game continued on. He came back about 20 minutes later and confirmed that the person questioning it was entitled to some more money from the player who had lost (it was less than $100 as I recall).  I probably would have blogged about it at the time but I think it came from a session I’d just as soon forget (I wasn’t one of the people in that hand).  I don’t recall if the floor person (who was the shift manager) claimed to have reviewed the tape himself (doubtful) or he was getting word from the surveillance people.

But that was quite different, because reviewing the tape didn’t hold up the game (though the floor trying to recreate it manually before the tape review did).  But in the check/no-check dispute, the game had to be completely held up while the review was being made, We were all sitting there waiting for a ruling, which fortunately, wasn’t too long in coming. 

I wonder if it’s just because PC is so much smaller than a Vegas casino that they could do this so quickly that they even attempted it?  I imagine with all the gazillion cameras that must be going at a big Vegas casino at any minute, it would take way too long to find and the review the tape (assuming the tape was capable of proving whether or not there had been a check).

So that was a first for me.  Anyone else ever seen a tape review of phantom check?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How Not to Play Ace-King

At first I thought this post should be called, “Variance, Part 2” since it was about another up and down session at Player’s Casino, just like the one I described here. It occurred exactly one week after that session. 

But then I realized that the real focus of this post is going to be how badly I played a single hand, costing myself a decently profitable session.  My intentions were good, I’ll say that.  Of course, there’s that expression that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I know have to get out of the same old rut when I play and somehow expand my game from being a full-time nit.  Whenever I try that, however, it seems I just turn into a donkey.  In this session, I played a hand in a manner I never usually play it, way out of my comfort zone, and got bitten on the ass.  So, either I need to stop playing out of my comfort zone, or I need to actually learn how to play poker.

It was the same 2/3 game I always play there, and as always, I bought in for the $300 max. After a few orbits of nothing, I finally got a hand to play—pocket Jacks.  I bet $12, had one caller, and saw an Ace high flop which was all diamonds, unlike either of my Jacks.  I c-bet $16 and took it down.

Next hand worth playing was pocket Queens on the button.  Everyone limped in.  Yes, everyone.  So I bet $30 and took it down. 

Then I got the dreaded pocket Kings.  I opened to $12, had two callers, saw a Jack-high flop and made a c-bet of $25.  Both players folded.

The very next hand, I got pocket Kings again!  Again, I raised to $12.  This time only the player behind me called, a white-haired gentleman who was the nittiest player at the table. The flop was Ace-high.  I bet $16 and the gentleman took a bit of time to decide.  He finally called.  I read his hesitation as him having a weak Ace.  Ordinarily I might be tempted to check the turn, but I had a strong feeling that another bet could get him to fold his weak Ace.  So on a brick turn, I put out $30 and he indeed folded.

A bit later I got pocket Queens again.  The table’s designated maniac—I’ll have a lot more to say about him in a minute—opened for $20.  I should have three-bet him for sure.  But I just nitily called.  We were heads up.  The flop was Jack-high and he checked.  I bet $30 and he called.  The turn was a blank and he checked again.  This time I put out $100 and he folded.  I overheard him mutter something about “lousy Ace-King” to his buddy, who was sitting between the two of us.

So let me tell you about this guy…the table’s designated maniac.  I’ll refer to him as DM from now on.  He was a older/middle-aged white guy.  A few minutes after I got situated into seat 9 (the tables are 9-handed), he came over to the older/middle-aged white guy who was in seat 8.  The greeted each other like long lost pals—the guy in seat 8 stood up and they hugged.  Looked a little weird for a couple of older/middle-aged white guys to be doing that, if you ask me.  It was obvious that they were just bumping into each other coincidentally and this had not been a planned meet-up.  The new guy sat on the food/beverage tray that was already between seats 8 & 9 when I got there and chatted up his bud.  He was waiting to get called into a game—any game, as far as I could tell.  He didn’t seem to care which one.  Eventually he was called into our game, in seat 7, right next to his pal.

The very first hand he was dealt, he opened for $25.  Then he said to his buddy, “I do that a lot.  At least you’re on my left.”  So was I, just one seat over, and I was pretty glad about that.

He occasionally limped, and occasionally folded preflop, but more often than not he raised pre.  And never less than $20.  He probably made it $25 (and sometimes $30) about 25% more often than he made it $20.  He’d go bigger if there were limpers.  Didn’t three-bet a huge amount of the time but when he did he’d make it really, really big.

After the flop (when called) he could fold for sure, but he rarely checked.  He bet pretty much every flop he had raised pre.  He did make some loose calls apparently (didn’t show his cards so hard to know what he had) but again, he was capable of folding.

This pattern led me to make an absolutely perfect read on a hand I wasn’t involved in.  He raised to $25 after a limper or two and had three callers.  The flop was Queen-9-9, two diamonds.  The first three players all checked, and he bet….$25.  That’s it.  He had never, ever bet that small on the flop after he had raised.  Not even close.  He was much more likely to bet more than the pot than he was to bet 1/4 of the pot.  I was shocked.  I actually said to myself, “It’s almost like he flopped quads there.”

He had two callers and then a third diamond hit the turn.  It was checked to him and he bet $65.  A very small bet for a pot that was now $175.  But no one called him.  He showed his hand….pocket 9’s!  I was right.  He bet small cuz he flopped a monster.  He said, “I thought someone might have had the flush….”

Anyway, I was in the big blind with Ace-Jack off and shockingly enough, DM folded on the button.  Five of us saw the flop.  It was 9-5-2, two spades.  I did have the Ace of spades.  So with back door straight and flush draws and overcards, I thought I had enough to call the small blind’s $10 bet.  The guy on my left, the older gentleman who I had beaten with my pocket Kings earlier, also called.  Then a guy made it $25.  The small blind called.  I shrugged my shoulders and put out another $15 even though it was probably a bad call.  I didn’t think for a minute the old guy would raise and the pot was now getting up there, I figured I’d take a shot.

The turn was a four and thus gave me a gutshot.  The flush possibility was gone though.  The small blind bet again…only $10.  That was just odd, I couldn’t figure that out.  But I figured I’d come too far to fold for ten bucks.  Then to my shock, the old guy did indeed raise…but only to $20.  I wondered if the guy who had made it $25 on the turn was going to come over the top, but no, he only called the $20.  The small blind just called and so for another ten bucks I could see the river.  And the river was pretty good….a 3.  But it was a spade, my wheel could be losing to a flush—or to a bigger straight.  Small blind bet again…only $25.  I called, hoping no one behind would make a bigger bet and put me in a tough situation.  But the white-haired gentleman just called and the last guy folded.

What did they all have?  Well, the small blind had 9-3 for two pair.  The old guy showed Ace-3 offsuit.  Holy cow. He had turned the straight but only raised $10 to $20 when it hit?  He obviously should have bet a lot more.  I mean, I hate to be like the Norwegian guy from my last post, but sir, “You didn’t bet enough.”  I was happy that he kept me in to chop the pot with him, I still made more than a few bucks from the other two players.  And unlike my Norwegian friend, I didn’t say a word to the other gentleman about his bet sizing.  Definitely one of the weirdest hands I can recall.  Crazy bet-sizing all the way through.

At this point I had about $425 or so in front of me.  And if you’ve been paying attention, you will see that the only hands I had raised with so far were big pairs…Jacks, Queens, Kings.  I had not been dealt AK, AQ, KQ, suited Aces or suited connectors once all day.  The couple of times I had pairs smaller than Jacks, I just called raises with them.  The Ace-Jack off hand, where I might have raised from a different position, I just checked from the big blind.

Which leads me to the (nightmare) hand of the day.  In middle position, I looked down at Ace-King offsuit.  And of course, before it got to me, DM opened for $25.  What to do, what to do?  Perhaps to my detriment, I rarely three-bet Ace-King, it’s something I’ve talked about before.  But if ever there was a time to do it, this sure seemed like it.  DM had less chips than me, but to be honest, I kind of over-estimated how much he had at the moment.  With his maniacal ways, he had already busted twice and rebought a full $300 after each time.  Sometimes I’d see him with a huge stack….sometimes he’d be down to less than $100.  His stack was changing dramatically each hand, it seemed.  He had a lot of $1 chips and he wasn’t stacking his chips in a normal way, he had huge towers, not stacks of 10 or 20.  I really thought he had more than he did.

So I fought off my overwhelming inclination to play this like I always play Ace-King.  Instead of just calling, I raised.  I put out $80.  That got everyone behind me to fold quickly, but DM just counted out his $55 and made the call.  I thought there was a least a reasonable chance he’d fold.  I mean, he was clearly opening with any two cards and had played with me long enough to see me as being very tight.  This was my first three-bet of the day.  OTOH, he might have figured I was smart enough to take advantage of my image and also to realize he was raising very light.  One thing I didn’t consider:  he might not have cared about the money very much.

Like or dislike my play so far?

The flop was Queen-Queen-10.  And he checked.  Now what do I do? 

Sure he could have had a Queen.  But with his wide range, the flop had most likely missed him. So I thought of doing what I’d almost always do in that situation—continuation bet.  I even had the gutshot if I needed it.  If he called, I had outs (unless he flopped a boat or quads). 

With nothing though, and $160 in the pot, should I have just checked behind and let it go—unless I caught a Jack?

I remembered the time he said he had Ace-King and folded when I double barreled my Queens.  I figured if I bet, there was an excellent chance he’d fold.

What to bet?  Well, I admit, I didn’t pay enough attention to how much he had.  My bet was based on the size of the pot, which was $160.  I suppose I could have bet $100.  But I thought a little more would be better.  I took a stack of $100, added five more chips, and put out $125.

He didn’t take long to say, “all-in.”  I threw up a little a little in my mouth.  He didn’t have enough more than my bet for it to be a bluff.  Not that Ace-high was much of a bluff-catcher.  Once I saw him push all the rest of his chips out, I could eyeball it and I realized that it wasn’t nearly enough more than my bet for me to fold.  Not with the pot that big.  I didn’t bother with the count, it was like $50-$60 more than my bet, so I couldn’t fold.

But I knew I had f’d this one up good.  We didn’t show.  I caught an Ace on the river but it did no good against his Queen-Jack offsuit.  He had one of my four outs—his Jack was the card I needed.  (Edited to add:  As pointed out by Grange in the first comment, a Jack would have given him a full house and thus not have done me much good.  Well I didn't know he had the Jack when I got the money in but it just makes my play even worse than I thought).

And when the dealer paid him off, I was down to about $180 or so, and feeling rather ill.  I would love some feedback on how I should have played this.  Obviously if I had taken my normal line I would have been out only $25 instead of over $200.  Should I just have done that?  Or was there something in the middle that I should have done?  Three-bet but checked the flop?  Put out a very small bet on the flop just to test the waters?  What?

And btw, I know I screwed up, but man, calling my three-bet with Queen-Jack off?  Seriously?  Well, damned if it didn’t work and get DM a nice double up.

A few hands later, still reeling, I called DM’s $6 straddle with Ace-10 of spades.  Another player made it $20, DM just called so I did as well.  The flop had two spades.  Preflop raiser led out for $25.  DM bumped it to $75.  I have to admit that the mood I was in, I wanted to just shove my stack in there and hope for the best.  And you know, I might have done that but I didn’t want the preflop raiser to fold.  I figured DM would have called but I wanted the preflop raiser in so if I did catch my flush, I’d get more money.  So I just called.  I guess you could say I was on tilt.

But the preflop raiser thought for a bit and folded. The turn was the most beautiful Queen of Spades I’d ever seen.  Also beautiful?  The sound of DM’s voice saying “all-in.”  I snap-called.  The river was a harmless red card.  I didn’t wait for him to show though I should have, I just knew I was getting a good chunk of my money back so I showed my nut flush.  He said nice hand, claimed to have two pair, but didn’t show.

Up to around $440, I wish I could end this post there.  But no, there’s a couple of more bad hands to report.  I raised to $20 with pocket Queens and another player made it $60.  He had three-bet exactly one other time and showed Aces then.  I recalled one hand where he bluffed on the river but I had to assume he had a big pair.  I think I might have folded pre but DM called the $60 and announced, “I apologize in advance for the bad beat I’m going to give you.”  Ok, I figured I should call pretty much with the thought of set-mining only. 

The flop was Jack-high.  We both checked to the three-bettor.  He tanked for awhile and then shoved—about $180 it looked like.  DM folded and so did I.  Honestly, the smallest hand I could see him three-betting with was pocket Jacks, and I didn’t like my Queens against a set of them.  Ace-King seemed like a remote possibility.  So I ditched the ladies.  The guy kindly showed his hand…two Aces.   He looked at me and asked, “What did you fold?  Queens?”  I didn’t say anything, but I kind of laughed involuntarily.  He said, “Wow, if you threw away Queens you’re a really good player.”  I wanted to respond, “Did you see how I played Ace-King back there, sir?”

I called DM’s $25 open with Ace-King of hearts (no way I was three-betting that hand again, not on this day).  Four of us saw the flop, which was Queen-Jack-9, one heart.  After a check, the guy in front of DM donked out $25.  DM called, I called, the next guy called and the guy who had initially checked made it $75.  Now it was too pricy to chase my gutshot and my back door flush so I folded after DM did.  The other guy called.  Turned out the check-raiser had a set of Jacks and the other guy had a straight draw which hit when the river was an 8.  He had 10-something but didn’t catch his straight until the river.

DM busted out to someone else and didn’t rebuy this time.  There didn’t seem to be a likelihood of winning much as the table was now short-handed.  I called it a day with a mighty $10 profit. 

Could have had a nice day if I hadn’t screwed up that Ace-King hand so badly.  Please someone, tell me how to play that.  Thanks.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"You Should Have Bet More"

This was supposed to a post about a bad beat, about a horrific call my opponent made, and about his comment later that showed he didn’t understand that he made a horrific call.

Then I wrote the post.  The entire time I had been thinking about this hand, for the past month, I never thought about the implied odds the guy had.  When I wrote the post, it suddenly hit me that the implied odds might just change the way I thought about the play of the hand.

So now I’m a bit confused, much more so than before I wrote this.

Since I’m confused, I’m going put this out there and ask readers to let me know how they feel about the hand.  So let me have it, good or bad…..

In my last post, I reminded you that I spent a lot of time playing limit hold’em (usually 2/4) before relatively recently switching to NL.  While I think playing a lot of limit was very valuable for me in my poker education, I have to admit that I may have learned a few things that I had to unlearn when I started playing No Limit.

Specifically, I “learned” some things about NL from the limit players I was playing with.  It seemed, more often than not, I’d find myself playing the limit game with players who had experience playing NL.  And I can’t tell you how many times I heard a certain expression.  It was after someone lost a pot where he or she was ahead and someone ended up hitting their draw to take it down.  And the loser would say, “I couldn’t bet you off the hand.”  Then they would add something to the effect that, if we were playing No Limit, he could indeed have bet enough to get the other person to fold their draw.  There were variations of this, like players complaining they couldn’t “protect” their hand in limit.

No matter how much I read up and studying NL when I switched to it, I couldn’t get the idea that you had to “bet people off their hands” out of my mind.

And every time I’d get my Aces or Kings cracked by someone playing 9-4 offsuit, I’d think, well, I just didn’t bet enough.  I should have bet more to get them off their hand.  But no, when I told these stories or posted them on the blog, I would get the voice of reason as feedback.  “You want them to call.”  Of course that’s true.  You want people to make bad calls.  The odds are in your favor and most of the time you’ll win.  But since there’s luck involved, sometimes you’ll lose.  But as long as you always get the money in “good”—when you are the favorite—in the long run, you’ll win.  So you don’t want to bet some huge amount to get people off their hand, to protect it.  You want to bet enough so that your opponent has bad odds to make the call—and you hope they do make the call.  You want them to call when they have bad odds, right?  If they fold and you take down the pot, well, ok, you’ve won a small pot.  But you win bigger pots when you give them bad odds to call and they do so anyway.

In the short term of course, that guy calling with bad odds may hit his hand.  In the short run, that sucks.  But you’ll come out ahead in the long run.

Of course, that reminds me of what the famed British economist John Maynard Keynes said a long time ago.  “In the long run we’re all dead.”

Which brings me to this hand from last month, which is more interesting for the post-hand commentary than the hand itself, though it was sort of a brutal bad beat (everyone loves bad beat stories, right?).

I was playing my usual 1/2 game in my usual place.  The guy on my immediate right was Norwegian and a fairly typical European aggro.  I had about $240 in front of me (from my $200 buy-in).  The Norwegian had me covered.  An early position player raised to $10, there was a call, the Norwegian called and I called in late position with pocket 4’s.  So there were four of us in the hand.

You could say I liked the flop; it was 10-10-4. I was disappointed that the preflop raiser didn’t c-bet. It checked to me, last to act. I decided to check.  I had a monster, the flop didn’t seem to hit anyone, and I had to hope that somebody would like the turn card enough to give me some action.

The turn was some harmless looking card, an 8 or a 9, whatever.  The first two players checked, but this time the Norwegian bet out $30.  I took some time to consider my action.  I had planned to bet this time if it checked to me—you have start trying to build a pot some time, right?  But now that the Norwegian had led into me, what do I do?

I considered just calling.  I really thought that, based on his play, he didn’t have much and was just trying to steal it.  If I raised, I didn’t think he call.  Perhaps I could induce another bluff if I just called?

But I did decide to raise.  I made it $90.  The other players folded immediately and the Norwegian tanked.  He took a good long time to decide.  I really thought he was going to fold.  We’d been playing together for a couple of hours.  He surely had noticed that I had been playing tight.  He had to know I had a big hand if I was raising.  Finally, after a long time, he called.  I was certainly fine with that.  I didn’t read his hesitation as deciding whether to call or shove with a bigger hand than mine.  I was sure he came real close to folding which meant I was in great shape to pick up a nice pot.

The river was a 5 and he quickly moved all-in.  I honestly didn’t think about it at all.  I snap-called.  I’m not folding a boat there.  If he had slow-played quads until then, well, sucks to be me.

It did suck to me, but not because he had pocket 10’s.  He flipped over pocket 5’s!  Ouch!  He totally sucked out on me, hitting his four-outer.  I was in a bit of shock as I reached into my pocket to get another $200 to re-buy.  I can’t recall if I managed to utter the totally insincere “Nice hand,” or not.  But he did say to me the equally insincere, “Sorry.”  Actually though, he was a pretty nice guy and to the extent that any poker player means it, he maybe might have.

But then he added, “But you didn’t bet enough.  You should have shoved there.  I wouldn’t have called a shove.”

I try not to explain my actions at the table—or give poker lessons—but I couldn’t help responding, “That would have been a horrible bet, shoving there.”  He just shrugged and said, “I wouldn’t have called if you had shoved.”

Well that may be true, but that would have been a bad bet, not getting value for my monster.  It would be like shoving preflop every time you get pocket Aces—that would really reduce your chances of getting them cracked.

I didn’t say anything else.  But what I wanted to say was, “Sir, I wanted you to call there.  You made a horrible call.  You wouldn’t have called a shove?  You shouldn’t have called for $60 more. I was a 90/10 favorite when you called.  I wanted you to call…….I just didn’t want you to hit your four-outer.”

Instead, I took a walk to clear my head.  When I came back, he patted me on the shoulder and apologized again—in his own way.  “I’m sorry, man.  You didn’t bet enough.”

I was now totally silent.  But it wasn’t lost on me that the guy had tanked a long time before calling my turn raise.  Was he calculating the odds?  That’s would I would have thought.  How did he calculate them?  He must have known his 5’s were behind at that point.  What hand that I would bet with was he beating? He had to know he had to hit something on the river to win.  In fact, he could have been drawing dead—what if my pocket pair matched the turn card (an 8 or a 9)?  The way the action was, it was totally logical for me to have a bigger boat than he was drawing to.

Not much later, talking about another hand where he had a nice catch, another player commented on it.  And then said, “And you got lucky before when you got that full house.”  And he replied, “Yes, but he didn’t bet enough.”

He was a nice guy, as I said, but this was annoying.  I really did feel like telling him that I wanted him to call there.

Note: this is where, when doing the first-draft of this post, I started thinking of the implied odds.  Because I did call his shove,  And he won more than the $60 raise that he called.  But….still I was making a value bet, I wanted him to call, and you know, how could I possibly fold a boat on the river, especially against this specific player?

Sigh.  I paid him off.  Was it a good play by him after all?  Should I have shoved the turn?  Note: I might have gotten out of this if I had bet the flop, but I don’t think he would have folded to any reasonable flop bet I would have made.

Poker is not an easy game.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


I had one of those sessions over the weekend that makes me wonder how they do it.

The “they” is the professional poker player.  Not necessarily the big names you see on televised poker, but the grinders.  The folks who grind out a living playing 1/2, 1/3, 2/5.

I mean, how do they deal with the variance without going crazy?

You’d think I’d understand by now, be used to it, but honestly, it’s not easy.  I’ve been playing poker for quite some time.  As long-time readers will recall, when I started this blog I was almost exclusively a limit player—low stakes: 2/4 3/6 and the occasional 4/8.  It seems like just yesterday I switched to NL cash games, but it’s been over 3-1/2 years!  So why aren’t I better at poker and why aren’t I used to the wild swings that happen in these games?

For my first post-Vegas trip poker session, I once again chose Player’s Casino in Ventura (see here, for a refresher on the room).  When I arrived around 1PM this past Saturday, the place was absolutely packed.  There were long lists for every game.  The guy at the podium said they would open another table as soon as a tournament table broke.  There were a couple of empty tables but no extra dealers.  I suspect the weather had something to do with the crowd.  An extremely rare July storm was passing through Southern California. It never rains here in July.  Never.  But somehow, there were heavy thunderstorms on and off all weekend.  I suspect the inclement weather kept people away from outdoor activities and encouraged them to head inside for some poker.

One of my few issues with Player’s Casino is that they don’t take call-ins to get on the waiting list. So I had to wait an hour for a seat in the 2/3 game. It was a new game (the second game they opened since I’d been there, the first one was a bigger game).  I grabbed a seat and I actually recognized one of the players.  I recalled playing with him the last time I was there and remembered that he was kind of a maniac.  The other players were all new to me, as best as I could recall.

It didn’t take me long to confirm my suspicions.  The very first hand, this guy open raised to $25 in middle position.  The big blind raised to $50, the first guy called.  The flop was low and the three-better shoved.  The original raiser folded but the three-better showed his hand: pocket Jacks.  Hmm….seemed like an interesting table!

I believe the next hand I was the big blind and it folded to the small blind and we chopped.  Next hand I lost the small blind folding to a raise.  So my starting stack of $300 was missing only two bucks when, on the button, I woke up with pocket Aces.  There were a couple of limpers so I made it $20.  Three of us saw the flop, which was King high, two spades (I didn’t have the Ace of spades). It checked to me and I bet $50.  Only the guy to my immediate left, the small blind, called.  Another low card on the turn and this time the small blind bet $100.  Hmm.  He only had another $20 left, which was odd.  I shoved and he of course called.  As the dealer was in the process of putting out the river card, the guy was turning over his hand.  He had pocket 3’s for a set.  I thought he might have had a set but he didn’t have enough money to get me to fold my Aces.  And then in the microsecond I was considering the fact that my Aces were cracked by a set of 3’s, I noticed the river card was an awfully nice looking Ace!

So suddenly I had a nice big pile of chips in front of me, less than 10 minutes into the session--$509 to be exact.

Not too much later, maybe an orbit or three, my old friends the dreaded pocket Kings showed up.  My first thought was “OK, here’s where I lose all that money the AA suckout got me.” I opened for $12 and there were four callers.  On a Queen-high flop, I led out for $45 and only the guy to my immediate left, the guy who had the set of 3’s earlier, called.  The turn paired 4’s and I put out $100.  He tanked and then finally muttered, “I don’t think my kicker is good enough,” and folded.

At this point I had pretty close to a double up.  If only I felt like calling it a day after less than an hour of poker and driving home in the thunderstorm.

I still had over $500 in front of me when the next significant hand occurred.  From the big blind, I called $13 with pocket deuces.  The raiser was that guy I mentioned at the outset, the guy I recalled being a maniac.  He had already rebought at least once, possibly twice.  And five of us saw the flop.

Said flop was Jack-7-2 two diamonds.  First to act, I checked.  The preflop raiser would be second to act, and I wanted to see what he’d do, as well as the players behind him.  I was absolutely certain it wouldn’t check through and about 99% sure the preflop raiser would bet.

But the guy next to me, the set of 3’s guy, led out for $35.  The preflop raiser just called, as did one of the two remaining players.  Time to unleash my check-raise.  I made it $150.  Too little?  Too much?  The first and last guys had not that much more than that, but the original raiser had close to a full $300 buy-in. 

To my surprise, after a few seconds, the guy to my left announced all-in.  Damn.  Did he have another set?  I wouldn’t be so lucky this time.  If he had a set, it had to be bigger than mine and I’d have a one-outer.  The original raiser folded.  The last guy tanked forever. 

Eyeballing his stack, he didn’t have all that much more than the bet, so it seemed to me if he was gonna stay in, it made no sense to just call.  He tanked forever, and I could practically see the calculator running over his head.  Finally he announced “call.”  Really?  He didn’t have that much behind, but oh well.

It was only $26 for me to call so of course I did.

I wasn’t 100% sure the board pairing would help me, unless it paired the deuce.  But I knew for sure I didn’t want to see a diamond.

So of course the turn card was a diamond.  The guy who had tanked happily put all the rest of his stack out.  It was around $60-$70 as I recall and I couldn’t fold for that.  Assuming the other guy didn’t have a set, I was getting great odds to draw to a boat.

After I called, the guy who had just shoved said, “Don’t pair the board.”  Funny, that’s exactly what I wanted to happen.

But it didn’t. The river was a brick.  The second guy—the one who had tanked—showed the nuts—Ace-9 of diamonds.  The other guy showed King-Queen of diamonds. My set of deuces was only good for the bronze.

Interesting discussion afterwards.  The guy now stacking all the chips said to the other guy, “I never would have called if you hadn’t.  If you had folded that’s an insta-fold for me. But you priced me in. And….if I had known you had diamonds, I wouldn’t have called.” 

Obviously I was unlucky there, but I’m not sure if I played it badly or not.  Thoughts?  I mean, I could have just open shoved the flop, which might have taken down the $60 pot, but that’s not the right play.  You want to get value for your set.  But would the King-Queen guy have folded?  Maybe not, he seemed eager to get it all in with his second nut flush draw.

I guess once it got back to him after my re-raise, with his stack size, his call/shove makes sense.  Not sure I like his $35 donk bet.  What do you think about his play?

Anyway, I now no longer had profit from this session, I was losing. That big stack was gone.  And of course, I had been drawn out on.

Now logically, I had no right whatsoever to complain.  Even though I had 75% equity when we got most of the money in the pot.  After all, the beat I laid on the guy to my left with my rivered set of Aces against his flopped set of 3’s was much, much worse.

But I sure did miss those chips.  And all I could think of was, if I had won that huge pot, I’d have a big score, I would call it a day and book the win.  I’d have pleasant thoughts to keep me occupied while driving home in the rain.

But no.  I kept thinking how ridiculous it is where one damn card means so much.  One great card in the early hand and I’m really happy.  One bad card on this latest hand and I’m miseable.

Again I ask, how do the grinders do it?

A number of orbits later I had Ace-2 of spades in early position.  I raised to $12 and it was four to see the flop.  All three cards were spades.  I bet $25 and the maniac shoved.  He had about $110 or so left.  Of course I snap called, it was just the two of us.  He had a baby flush.  So with that, I now was back to having a small profit for the day.

But not for long.  On the button with Ace-Jack of diamonds, I called $15.  It was just heads up.  The flop came Ace-King-10, rainbow.  The raiser led out for $20, I called.  The guy who had raised was one of the least aggro players at the table, so I thought he could easily have Ace-King, Ace-Queen or even a set.  I didn’t want to raise but my hand had showdown value, plus I had the gutshot to Broadway.  The turn blanked and I called $30.  The river was another King.  Ugh.  I couldn’t dismiss the possibilities of quads.  But when he bet $70 I thought that was small enough to call just in case he had a worse Ace or maybe the same hand as me.  Nope, he had pocket 10’s for a boat.

And that was the last hand I noted.  I don’t think I won another pot.  I didn’t lose any more money in spectacular fashion.  Just the normal way.  And my once nearly $300 profit was close to a $200 when I hit the wet freeway to drive back home.

And the whole drive home—when I wasn’t worried about the terribly visibility due to the storm—all I could think about was variance and what a bitch it is.  And how one damn card can be so damn important.

I should explain the pics I’m using here.  I Googled “variance” just to see what it came up with.  It turns out there’s actually a line of lingerie called “Variance.”  No kidding.  I believe it’s a French company which is I suppose why I had never heard of it.  So all the lovely ladies in these pics are modeling Variance lingerie.

Now, I could have just included one picture in this post, as I usually do.  But I decide to include multiple pics because…well, variance.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Return Trip Was Worth It After All

Golden Nugget $150 Tournament, Part 4
At last we come to the final chapter!  See here,  here and here for the first three parts.  We pick up immediately after we lost the first player from the unofficial final table and were down to 9 players.

The TD polled us about continuing, and, as I expected, two players immediately vetoed the idea of continuing for the night.  It was past 2AM and we were bagging our chips.   I bagged $88K and was clearly the short stack.  Worse, that bust-out hand had given the guy on my immediate left the big chip lead….he had nearly $700K.  The next smallest stack was $123K and there was a $188K stack and everyone else had at least $200K.

And when I looked at that and then reviewed the pay scale for the umpteenth time, I kind of regretted the decision to maybe play a little bit more towards trying to get the tag & bag experience rather than busting out so I didn’t have to return.  It seemed overwhelmingly likely that I would be the next player to bust and that would get me $635.  If I had busted 10th that night, I would have gotten $514.  Was the $120 extra even worth the inconvenience of making a return trip the next day (and thus skipping work for that Friday!)?   Oh and by the way, Sam and I had a nice chat after part 1 of this epic came out.  He's not mad at me for what I said about his structure being "too good."  But he did tell me that after he left, new management at GN did change the pay schedule.

Hmm…..the tag and bag experience was ok, nothing exciting but it was just nice to finally get to experience.  It didn’t seem like a lot of the other players had done this before either.  Basically, you just count your chips, fill out a form with your name, table # and your chip count, pull one copy for a receipt and then put the chips in a sealed plastic bag.  No one else counts your chips to verify, but since you are gonna get that same bag back, I guess it doesn’t matter.  In theory I could have written down that I had $2MM chips and it wouldn’t have made a difference.  Pretty sure everyone wrote down the right count.

It was after 3AM when I left downtown, and like 3:30AM or so when I pulled into my hotel’s parking lot.  And remember, I had to be back at the Nugget the next day at 2PM.

As I went to sleep, and then as I woke up, I was more unhappy than happy about the whole situation…having to go back downtown to collect less than a $500 profit.  Was it worth it?  I had a real negative attitude about my chances of moving up, even though I had leapfrogged ahead of the guy who was last out to end Day 1 just by doing nothing.  How long would doing nothing work for me?  Not very long, I suspected.

I envisioned getting a hand to shove with the very first hand of Day 2, and busting.  Really that thought was going through my mind like crazy. Although at my chip stack, there were a lot of hands I should have been willing to shove with, I think in my mind, for that very first hand at least, I was kind of thinking I’d only put it all in with Aces, Kings or Ace-King.  And Ace-King was 50-50!  Then I said to myself that was ridiculous, I have to play smarter than that.  But…..

As I drove back to downtown the next day, making sure I left the Strip area early enough to be able to make it on time even if there were unexpected traffic problems, I started thinking that maybe some of the players wouldn’t show up, or would be late, and I could move up a few spots because they’d be blinded out.  I was actually hoping—long-shot tho it was—that the kid from Australia with the biggest stack—the guy directly to my left—somehow wouldn’t show up.

Of course, when I got there the next day, he was the first person after me to arrive.  I even said to him, “Gee, I was hoping you’d forget to come back and not be able to bully me with that big stack.”  The kid was surprisingly humorless and didn’t say anything.

And so one-by-one the players returned, all on time, except for the one woman at our table.  She had the fifth biggest stack at $234K and was in seat 7.  I was in seat 1.  They just dumped her chips in front of her spot and left them unstacked as we resumed play pretty much on time at 2PM.

The first hand was in fact pivotal.  The missing woman was UTG, the first person to actually act made a big raise, about 4X the bb.  The next guy folded and I looked down at Jack-10 offsuit.  I dunno if I would have shoved or not if it had folded to me.  I think that would have been the right play, but I might have folded because of the “don’t bust the first hand” syndrome I explained above. However, with a big stack ($380K) already making a big raise, it was fairly easy to find a fold.  But a guy with a slightly bigger stack than the raiser, who was in the small blind, called and I got to see the flop.

Initially, I was a bit sick, because I would have flopped a open-ender with a King and a Queen on the board.  There was some betting and we saw the turn card—an Ace.  Ugh.  If my hand was alive I’d be sitting there with Broadway and looking at a sweet, sweet triple up (assuming my shove would have been called in both spots).  More betting, no folding.  But the river was another King.  The original raiser put out a big bet and the other guy tanked forever and finally folded, but he’d lost a lot of chips.  The original raiser didn’t have to show his hand, but he did..Ace-King.  So my straight would have been crushed by his boat. So by results-oriented thinking, my fold was of course the right play. Dunno what the other fellow had.

I should mention that the fellow who called and then folded had already brought up the possibility of a chop—yes, a 9-way chop—even before we resumed play this day.  Well that was never going to go anywhere.  Now if he had suggested it—lobbied for it—the night before, as we were bagging and tagging, to save us all a return trip, he might have had a chance.  But to come back just to chop it up? Not likely.  I did mutter something about doing it by chip-count, and also said, “I don’t think he (pointing to the kid to my left with all the chips) would go for it.”  The kid, again, said nothing.  Another player—one with just about twice my stack—said he wouldn’t go for it, he wanted to play it out.

And just to be a little bit politically incorrect, I will point out that the fellow who was suggesting the chop happened to be Asian (middle-aged tho, not young).  Who says all Asians are gamblers?

The very next hand, the missing woman was the big blind, so dead money in the pot.  And I looked down at Jack-10 again—though this time it was suited (hearts).  It folded to me.  There were still plenty of players behind me, but I thought being first in was a better spot to make my move. Especially since the big blind, perhaps the most likely player to call me, wasn’t there to defend her blind. That made it even a better play, to my mind. I went all-in.  No one called.

Later, I open-shoved with Ace-Jack, no call.  Then I was the big blind with pocket 7’s.  It folded to the small blind, who just completed.  I shoved.  He folded.

That got to me the next level, which I think was level 20 (2K/6K/12K) with about $86K. But here’s the thing.  Somehow, in getting there, I had outlasted three players who had started the day with more chips than me—while never getting a double up myself.  I didn’t take the time to write down what happened to them, how they lost, but one-by-one, they got eliminated.  The first one to go was the guy who I had caught a straight against with Jack-10 to survive against his set of 9’s.  The next guy was the Asian guy who lost a bunch chips on the first hand of the day.  The third guy out was the guy who said he was not interested in any kind of chop whatsoever.

With each bust, I moved up on the pay scale, which made me happier and happier.  Starting out the day thinking I was getting $635, I survived that and the $796 payout as well and so, when we were down to 7, I was assured of at least $1,014….breaking thru to that “four-digits” territory that meant so much to me (tho not yet a four-digit profit for the event).  Then, when we lost the third person for the day, I was now assured of at least $1,309—four digits of profit for my 14+ hours (thus far) of poker.

And again the subject of doing a chop started coming up.  This time it was the woman—who had shown up a few hands after I had stolen her big blind—was talking about it.  I really didn’t say much, though I would have loved it of course.  I hadn’t chipped up at all—I was just treading water stealing the occasional blinds & antes—and was now even further more entrenched as the short stack, with the next three shortest stacks all gone.  When I’m that short, I don’t feel right lobbying for something that will help me so much more than anyone else.  But I did say, again, we could do a chip-chop.  I’m not sure if anyone else really knew what that meant.  But the big stack, still to my left, no doubt did and he was incredibly silent on the topic.  No one directly asked him.  I had a feeling that if I could dodge another bust or two, and get to five or even four handed, we could make a deal that might get me a really nice payday.

But I had to stay alive, which meant more stealing blinds and sooner or later, I was going to have win an all-in or two.

In the big blind, there were two limpers and I just checked with the mighty 9-4 offsuit.  The flop was 10-9-3.  First to act, I just shoved with my middle-pair, no kicker.  No one called.

Then I got King-Queen UTG.  Easy decision.  I shoved.  It folded to the lady who was now the small blind.  She tanked for a bit, asked for a count, and then shoved.  The big blind had a big stack, he had the woman covered, and he tanked.  Damn.  Did two players have better hands than me?  How lucky was I going to have to be?

He finally folded.  The lady had Ace-3 offsuit.  OK, not bad.  She didn’t have a made hand.  I was only a 58%-42% underdog there.  Probably as good as I could have hoped for.

But the board was nothing but bricks.  Ace-high took it, and I was finally done, after a little more than an hour of play on Day 2.  BTW, the big blind who folded said he had Ace-Queen.  If he had called he would have busted the two of us and had a whole lot of chips.

I got paid out.  Having gotten twice the money I was expecting when I woke up that morning, I was feeling pretty good right then.

And then….well, I hadn’t eaten lunch yet because I had gotten up so late. So I stayed downtown to eat.  Here’s a tip:  The Subway at the Plaza downtown is overpriced (but not nearly as overpriced as The Subway at the Monte Carlo food court).  I went over to Binion’s to check on whatever tournament they had going over there.  I happened to run into the guy who bested my pair of 9’s by hitting two 10’s with his 10-9 shove.  He recognized me and asked me how I was doing.  I told him where I finished and then said, “I might have done even better if you hadn’t sucked out on me with 10-9 against my pocket 9’s.  He actually didn’t recall the hand at first.  Of course….the loser in that situation always remembers it longer than the winner.

Then, walking around GN trying to find the way to my car, I ran into one of the players from the final table.  He was still alive when I busted.  So we greeted each other and he told me the result.  They played about an hour after I busted and no one else busted.  They kept talking about a chop. At first the Aussie kid with the huge stack was the hold-out.  But guess what?  He started losing a few pots and suddenly he was the short-stack (I believe the expression for this is, “that’s poker”).  And so they did eventually agree to do the chop.  Not a chip-chop.  A five-way, equal chop.  He said they all got $3,500! (Note, I checked online and actually, they all got over $3,600).

And suddenly, I didn’t feel like such a winner any more.  Damn.  If they had made that deal when we were 6, I would have gotten $3,100.  Or if a Queen or a King had shown up on that last hand….maybe I would have gotten $3,600 (or gone on to smash the tournament, even).

I know that’s the wrong way to look at it.  I should be looking at all the hands where I did get lucky on (or didn’t get unlucky on), that kept me alive. I could have easily busted first on this day, or anytime earlier the day before.  I did get my somehow “magical” four-digit profit.

I didn’t play perfect, by any means.  But I think I did well playing a short stack most of the day to 6th place.  I got lucky sometimes and unlucky sometimes.  I got lucky playing at the same table as Santa Claus.

But I ended up feeling bad about about a $1,300 pay day, cuz I came soclose to a much bigger pay day.  And that’s what drives me crazy about poker tournaments!

So knowing how I felt after this, knowing that the top-heavy pay scales drive me crazy, this had to be the last tournament I played up in Vegas this trip, right?

No of course not. I’m crazy, remember? There are more tournaments to talk about. Another day. Another time.