Sunday, February 28, 2016

"How Big is Yours?"

Saturday found me once again at the PC Ventura for another 1/2 session.

Before I get to the session, let me address something from my previous post about this poker room.  The title of that post, which you can find here, referenced what I thought was a dealer error.  The dealer failed to rule that a player had made a string bet.  Fortunately, I called his attention to it and got the correct ruling, so the dealer pushed back the player’s second stack of chips, I called and won the pot.

I was very surprised when a couple of readers commented on the post and said that they had played in rooms where it actually is up to the player to call out a string bet and that it was quite possible that the dealer in my story was following the house rule and, in fact, made no error.  I had never heard of that before, but I figured it was certainly worth asking about next time I played in this room.

Well, I did ask on Saturday, and sure enough, I was told by the person running the room that indeed, the house rule is that the dealer is not supposed to call out a string bet, it is up to the player to do it.  He said that they reason is that they don’t want the dealer to affect the action, or take sides, or something to that effect.


Well, I don’t get it, and for what it’s worth, I don’t agree with that house rule at all.  To me, that would be no different than allowing a player to make in improper raise as long as the player facing the action didn’t question it.  That is, suppose a player bets $50, and another player, with plenty of chips in his stack, tries to raise to $75 in a no limit game.  We would all agree that’s an improper raise, it would have to be $100 minimum. That surely wouldn’t be allowed, what is the different about that and the dealer not immediately halting a string bet?

Every single introductory poker book I ever read discusses the string bet (I use string bet and string raise interchangeably). They warn players that it is not allowed (and usually explain why) and I sure don’t recall them ever saying that rule varied from room to room and that the player was responsible for calling it him or herself. 

Just seems very basic….if something is not allowed, the dealer should stop it immediately. In the situation I was discussing, I was right next to the player so I was quite certain he hadn’t called out the amount he was betting.  But another player was across the table.  Maybe she figured, since the dealer hadn’t called it, that he had called out an amount?

Now, that lady was a regular and likely knew the house rule.  But what if she hadn’t known? OK, of course, if she was interested in the pot for the amount he first pushed out, it is her responsibility to question it regardless of the house rule.  Still, if she is used to playing in a house with “normal rules,” it would be easy to miss this.  Suppose she had never played there before, and just assumed it was right if the dealer hadn’t called it?

In fact, I’ve played in that room at least 20 times previously and never knew they had this odd rule.  I’ve never seen it before.  As far as I know, no room in Vegas has this rule.  I could be wrong, it’s possible there are rooms there that do it that way that I just haven’t played in enough to have encountered it.

This led me to think of this scenario.  I’ve seen many times, when a player makes a string bet, other players call it out.  Sometimes it’s a player who doesn’t have the action yet, and sometimes it’s even a player who is not in the hand.  What would happen if a player without cards called the string bet out?  Would the dealer warn him about talking about the hand?  I wonder.

Of course, now that I know the rule here, I could see it working to my advantage.  On the one hand, I could make the string bet in certain situations and see if the player knew to call it.  On the other hand, suppose a player makes the string bet when I’m holding the stone cold nuts?  No reason to point it out then, is there?

But honestly, I really don’t get it, and I don’t like it.  How do you all feel about it?

Anyway, to the session at hand. I got a seat right away, and I noticed two things about the table.  First, it was, shall we say, an older crowd.  Just by sitting down, I probably lowered the average age at the table by about 10 years.  The other thing though was that there were some big stacks at the table.  Mostly big stacks.  Big stacks for this game are stacks over $200, and this table had about 5 or 6 of those, including one gentleman who had about $600-$700.  This table must have been going for some time since the max buy-in for the game is $100.  So I knew I wanted to stay at this table.

It wasn’t a very aggro table but it wasn’t too nitty, either.  I never saw the blinds chopped.  There was at least 4 players seeing every flop, unless someone raised everyone out preflop.  That rarely happened.  The raises were smallish, ($4-$11).  But there was decent action.

Last time, I talked about the rake and how it was changed.  Well, I did see pots as small as $3 on the flop when only 4 players were in there without a raise.  In fact, early on, I was watching the dealer closely to see how the rake was taken.  And in doing so, I noticed one pot where the dealer absolutely forgot to take the rake.  They do it right after putting out the flop, and this time, she didn’t do it.  Didn’t do it after the turn.  And after the showdown, she pushed the entire pot to the winner without taking a single chip out of it.  I was rather surprised.

And so…I was wondering, should I say something?  I mean, it kind of bothered me.  I wasn’t in the hand of course, but I felt like the winner of the hand was getting a bonus he didn’t deserve. And of course, if it was discovered later (via security tape?), I thought maybe the dealer, a nice woman, would get in trouble.  But then I also thought….the casino will survive just fine without that five bucks.  And that’s five bucks more in play that I have a shot of winning, right?

But ultimately, the reason for not speaking up was…..I didn’t want to be like that kid in school who says, “Teacher, teacher, you forgot to give us homework!”  Right?  Anybody out there think I should have said something?

For the first hour or so, nothing was happening for me.  I dripped down to $53 from my $100 buy-in.  Now, in the past, I’ve thought that, for this particular game, I might as well just play with the short-short stack, wait for a semi-decent spot and shove, and try to build it up that way.  But with all those big stacks at the table, I figured a better way to go was to add on and try to actually play some poker to win some money.  So I bought $40 more in chips when the button came to me.

Still, I was bleeding chips. Very much card dead.  I was down to $68 when I looked down at a pair of Queens. Now as the cards were being dealt, the character in Seat 9 said, “I’m gonna raise to $13 this time.  I feel it.”  He hadn’t seen his cards yet.  I hadn’t seen my Queens either, and I resisted the temptation to ask if his verbal declaration was binding.

The reason I refer to him as a character was that he liked to raise blind.  Once I realized that, I was careful to watch him to make sure he looked at his cards preflop before he acted.  At least ¼ of the time he would not look and raise.  He especially liked to do that if the player two spots before him had straddled, as that player often did.   If the guy straddled and the next player folded, he’d put out $8 blind and only look if there was another raise.  So it was always important to know if this guy had seen his hand or not.

This time, before acting, he did look and then, as promised, put out $13.  This didn’t mean a lot.  I think based on his pre-look declaration, he would have made it $13 with almost any hand. Still, it was good to know that he had looked at his cards.  I should point out that the $13 was the largest opening raise I saw at this table the entire 3-1/2 hours I was there, except maybe for a few short-stack shoves of a bit more.  This guy though had a ton of chips in front of him.

Two players called the $13 before it got to me.  These were newer players who had come in after I got there. I was surprised to see two players call such a big raise at this table.

I wasn’t sure how to proceed.  I really didn’t want to just call there.  I felt I was well ahead of the character’s range, and probably ahead of the two players calling ranges as well. Almost no three-bet I could make would likely get anyone to fold, other than a shove.  And even then…..So, I did indeed shove.  The pot was already decent sized and if I had to take my chances with my two queens, I was ok with that.  And since they do have a “no flop, no drop” rule, the pot would be all mine, no $5 rake, if I got everyone to fold.

The character took a long time to decide.  I really thought he would call.  I figured the other two would fold even if he called, most likely.  Finally, the character decided to fold, the next guy folded instantly, and the last player, the one on my immediate right, took a bit of time to fold. Although he didn’t show, the character claimed to have pocket 10’s.

I may have won a really small pot before, but I tend to think this was the first pot I’d won since sitting down, and it did kind of get me started.

Now that guy on my immediate right, let’s call him “Benefactor.”  You’ll see why.  At one point, he thought he was going to move to a Big 0 game (I think it’s 3/6 but I’m sure it plays much, much bigger than this game), but it turned out they never got that game started.  He was probably the most aggressive player at the table once he got there.  He’d open for $10-$12 a good chunk of the time.

So it wasn’t too surprised when, a bit later, he raised to $10 after one limper.  The surprising part was that I was dealt two Aces.  I made it $28 and he called, we were heads up.  The flop was quite ugly.  King-Queen-Jack.  Then another Jack.  Then a 3.  I dunno, maybe too nitty, but I checked behind him every time.  He only showed one card, a 3.  O.K.  What the heck does he raise pre, then call a three-bet with that doesn’t hit that flop?  Or that has a 3 but obviously not pocket 3’s? No idea.

From the big blind, I completed with pocket 6’s.  Six of us saw the flop.  That’s a lot of 6’s!.  So for good measure, there was a 6 on the flop.  It was bottom set, rainbow flop. I led out with a $7 bet.  Three players called.  The turn was a blank and represented the fourth suit.  This time I bet $22.  Only one player called.  He only had $6-$8 left so I don’t know why he didn’t shove, but he didn’t.  Another blank on the river and I bet him all in. He put the rest of his chips in. He didn’t show when he saw my set.

Damn….my notes are missing a hand.  I did get Ace’s a second time, and now I can’t remember the details.  I raised with them (maybe $8), and only Benefactor called.  I bet all three streets, he called me on all three streets and didn’t show when I showed my Aces.  No idea what he had.

I open to $7 with King-Queen of spades.  Only the character in seat 9 called.  The flop had two spades on it and I c-bet $12.  He said, “I want to see one more card,” as he called.  Thanks for the tip.  When the turn was a blank, I started to bet $20 and he insta-mucked.  Hmmm….wonder if he had the flush draw too?  If he did, I don’t think he would not have folded the nut flush draw, so I might have made some nice money if I had caught my flush.

At this point, I had about $180 in front of me. Then Benefactor, sitting behind $90, opened to $7, and I had Ace-9 of hearts.  The $7 was a small raise for him (but more in line with what the rest of the table was doing).  I called and there was a third caller, a new player who had replaced the character in seat 9 (turns out the last hand I described was also his last hand, maybe that’s why he didn’t call me on the turn).  This player was the youngest player I’d seen at the table all day, he was wearing a Lakers baseball cap (the right way), so I immediately liked him (I mean, with the season the Lakers are having, I have to love anyone not embarrassed to wear that!).  He had a bit less than $100. The flop was Queen-high and every single card on it had one of them lovely heart designs on it.  The Lakers guy, who had been one of the blinds, checked, and to my delight, Benefactor put out a bet of $14.  

Now, normally, I don’t slow play flushes.  But I decided to take a chance this time.  And I was hoping maybe Lakers guy would come along if I only called and didn’t raise.  But he folded.  The turn was a blank, and as I was deciding whether or not to raise if Benefactor bet, he saved me the trouble by immediately announcing, “all-in.”

Seriously, is there any better sound in poker than hearing your opponent say “all-in” when you’re holding the stone cold nuts?  I think not.

Science has not yet developed an instrument with a fine enough precision to measure how little time there was between his saying “all-in” and yours truly saying, “call.”

And so, he started to flip his hand over even before the dealer was putting out the river card.  And he said, “How big is yours?”

Ahem.  That’s a rather personal question, isn’t it?  Rather than answer verbally, I simply showed him my nuts.  I mean, I showed him the nuts.  He showed Jack-7 of hearts (always a good raising hand, no?).  There was actually another heart on the river for good measure that didn’t change a thing.  He left, giving up all hope of beating me on this day.  This time I didn’t even need pocket Aces to take his money! 

He hadn’t pushed his chips in or towards me, but it was no bother at all for me to slide them from his now abandoned spot to mine.  In fact, I rather enjoyed it.

One of the other players asked me if I had gotten that guy’s number so I could find out when/where he was gonna play again.

I left a few orbits later, having been dealt nothing to play.  I ended up winning a bit over $140, not bad at all for the size of this game. 


  1. I don't think it's been asked yet: why did you decide to move down to the 1/2 50BB game? Isn't the 2/3 100BB game far more profitable?

    1. I always wanted to try it, for variety sake, and now I'm kind of having some fun trying to figure it out.

  2. "One of the other players asked me if I had gotten that guy’s number so I could find out when/where he was gonna play again"

    Now that's a funny line

    1. Yes...I was actually thinking of something similar, like, "Don't go, please" but of course didn't. Thanks

  3. There is absolutely nothing more annoying in the casino than a player who "wants to help" and lets the dealer know that the casino is entitled to money that they were getting ready to push to you.

    This has happened to me at blackjack, Paigow poker, you name the game. These people are generally losers in life who love to show off that they know more than the dealer. I can't stand these people.

    If someone did that to me at a poker table, I would immediately color up and leave. I honestly do not pay enough attention to the rake but I would still find it annoying. People can say that this makes me a bad person but there have been plenty of occasions where the casino has taken money that was rightfully mine and many many more occasions I have seen her take advantage of an impaired or confused player.

    1. Heh heh.

      Leaving seems rather extreme. Maybe targeting the person who ratted you out?

      Like I said, it was a case of not wanting to be the guy who told the teacher she forgot to give homework. And also, I had a shot at winning that money.

    2. Exactly .. More money on the table should be good for you assuming you have an edge.

      I have kind of been on a paigow kick lately and dealers make more mistakes than I would expect. Very few players will try to be the "teachers pet "but those that do are extremely annoying. I feel like telling them you do realize that you just made the dealer look bad in front of their boss?

    3. What kind of mistakes do they make in Pai Gow? Setting their hand wrong?

  4. Sometimes they will miss a straight or something. I've also run into dealers who get to visiting and forget to pay your losing bets on occasion. They don't pay you but they forget to take your money.

  5. When I saw the title of your post "How Big is Yours?" I thought this may be a political blog post of sorts! How's that? Well, Marco Rubio was talking about The Donald's small hands implying he had a small 'well you know'. I thought maybe that questions on 'size' may becoming a trend ....

  6. Rob, Any poker room that makes its players do its dealers' jobs is not a poker room that likes its players. It is a dealer's job to run a game properly, and that includes making sure bets and betting actions are made by the rulebook to enforce the integrity of the game. If a room leaves rule enforcement up to the players, the door is wide open for cheating.

    1. Yeah, I'm not happy about, seriously. Thanks for the input, Annony.

  7. Rules for how dealers should handle string bets/raises vary from room to room, just like straddle rules and other stuff. Valid arguments can be made for either approach, which is why there's no consensus. Not sure why you're so bent out of shape about it. It's not like they took away a glass with half an inch of Diet Coke in the bottom of it.

    1. There actually IS a consensus....its right there in the TDA rules that dealers should call out string bets and string raises. I've never played a tournament in this room, but the manager sure implied that it was a house wide rule that applied to their tournaments too.

      Most rooms use TDA rules for cash games too, unless there are technical differences that line up more for tourneys than cash (like the rule that in tourneys, whenever everyone is all-in all hands MUST be exposed.

      Just in general though, I think for basic stuff like this it would be better if all rooms had the same rules, makes it so much simpler for the players.

      And don't you dare take my NOT empty glass of Diet Coke