Thursday, March 31, 2016

Brillo Head and The Friggin' Ace-King

This is about a single hand that happened in my very first session of my recent Vegas trip.  In fact, it was the very last hand of my first session. There was a lot from this session to write about, but at the time, this hand haunted me so much that I really wanted to isolate it into its own post so I could properly vent about it.  Originally, I was going to write this up while I was still in Vegas--a quick short post that wouldn't take me too long to write.. But I never got around to writing it up while I was up there..

Now I find myself in need of a post I can write quickly, this time due to the fact that my deadline for my next Ante Up column is breathing down my neck, and I need to finish this post tonite so I can start writing the column.  So as originally planned, I’m gonna talk about this one hand from a 4-1/2 hour session.

For reasons I will explain eventually—when I get around to talking about the rest of this session—I was down to $68 and had no intention of adding any more to my stack.  I mean from my wallet, that is.  Contributions to my stack from the other players would be most welcome.  Actually, a bit before this hand, I was down to $19.  Again, I will explain why I was playing such a small stack in a future post.

In late position I looked down at pocket Jacks.  Several people limped in and I made it $14. I thought about just open-shoving, but thought that $68 was just a bit much to try it there.  I was surprised to get three callers, including this old dude I had already decided I was calling “Brillo Head.”

It was his hair.  As I said, he was an old guy and he had this ridiculously looking mop of long, curly hair.  It was extremely blonde.  Did I mention it looked ridiculous?  Sorry, I suppose it is good that at his age, he still had so much hair.  But curly as it was, it would have looked a lot less hideous if he kept it short.  Now I suppose since it was blonde, “Brillo Head” isn’t really apt.  It certainly wasn’t the color of a Brillo pad.  And it wasn’t really coarse enough for a Brillo pad.  So, really “Brillo Head” is actually not a good name for this schmo.  Perhaps “Cotton-candy Head” would be more appropriate.  Tough.  My first thought when I saw this guy was “Brillo Head” and I’m sticking to it.

Brillo Head had been at the table for awhile when this hand took place, and had not really made an impression on me.  As far as I could tell, he was a nit.  I couldn’t recall a hand he had played.  That said, I should point out that this took place on St. Patrick’s Day, and it was a Slut Parade night.  It was in fact, a very, very good Slut Parade night.  And I had an excellent seat to view the festivities.  So it’s possible I was a little distracted.

Anyway, the flop came 6-5-2, two hearts, one diamond.  All three of the other players checked.  Well that sure looked like a great flop for pocket Jacks, right?  So I shoved (really didn’t have a big enough stack to bet less).  The first guy folded instantly, and then it was Brillo Head’s turn.

He had at least $200 in his stack. He asked for a count, and when told it was $54, he thought for a bit and started counting out chips.  Very methodically, very slowly.  But he hadn’t said anything yet, so he wasn’t committed to calling. You see that all the time of course, someone counting out the chips even before they decide what action they will take.  Sometimes they just want to see what their remaining stack will look like if they call and lose (you see this especially in tournaments).  I should mention that I noticed the guy next to him, the last player still in the hand, was obviously ready to fold.  You could tell by the way he was holding his cards that they were about to fly into the muck as soon as Brillo Head completed his action.

Finally, after Brillo Head counted out exactly $54 (because he had at least four dollar chips, of course), he said “call” and pushed the chips forward.  As expected, the next player’s cards hit the muck a nano-second later.

We were now heads up with no further betting action possible. We didn’t show.  The turn card was a black King and the river was something not relevant to this story.  I turned over my Jacks, and he turned over…Ace-King.  Ace-King!  One was a heart, one was a diamond.  He caught his card on the turn and thus ended my night of poker.  Also notice that he had originally limped in with Ace-King.  Didn’t like it enough to raise with it pre-flop.  But now, with just two cards coming, he loved it enough to risk $54 on it!  Huh?

I said, “nice call,” as sarcastically as a person can.  Really?  Really?  Does anyone like that play there?  Yeah, he had a back-door flush draw.  And yes, he did have a back-door wheel draw.  But basically, he had a pair draw.  And he hit it.  I suppose he could have decided I was c-betting a flop that missed me.  But the most likely hand I would show up with then was…Ace-King.  Was he calling $54 just to chop the pot?  Yeah, I could have had Ace-Queen or worse, sure.  Still…..he had nothing.

Now if there were some implied odds available, I could maybe see his call.  But since I was all-in, that wasn’t a factor.  And if he noticed the guy next to him, as I said, couldn’t wait to get rid of his hand, he’d have known he wasn’t getting any money from him.  And since I was all-in with a pretty big bet, you can’t consider his call a “float.”  He was calling either because he thought his Ace-King might be good or he figured he had 6 outs.  Of course I could have Aces or Kings there myself, right?  I would have played it the same way with Aces or Kings.

Anyway, I was done, and pretty pissed.  Even though the poker hadn’t been treating me kindly, I was having fun at the table and as I said, I was committed to putting no more money in play.  If I had been willing to risk more this night, I would have already topped off my stack, and not let it get to $68 (or $19 before that).

Well, that stinking hand—the interesting call by Brillo Head—put a damper on the rest of my evening.  Of course it would have really nice if he had made the call and missed.  That would have given me a decent stack to play with.  But I would have been very happy with him folding there and taking the pot as is (especially in light of how it played out).

At the time, I didn’t realize it, but now, a few weeks later, in retrospect, I think it’s fair to trace all my poker woes for the trip back to this single hand.  It started me on the downward spiral from which I never recovered.  If only Brillo Head had folded there, my whole trip would have been different.  I would have won at every session I played.  I would have come home several thousand dollars ahead.  It wall goes back to that one stinking hand.

Brillo Head and his friggin’ Ace-King ruined my trip.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Do You Like Bounty Tournaments?

I guess this is going to be my first “real” post in awhile.  I returned from Vegas last week, and I’m still trying to figure out how to write up the posts I have in my mind from the trip—what is the best way to do them?  I mean, not only was the poker lousy for me, but I have to say, I have kind of soured on Las Vegas, as those of you who follow me on Twitter probably noticed.  I really wasn’t sorry to come home, and right now, I don’t feel any urgency at all in returning.  That is not because the poker was bad, it has more to do the Vegas itself.  Vegas is constantly changing and I don’t think what’s been changing is for the better—quite the contrary.  But I’ll get to that in the (near?) future.

When I got back home, I was a bit under the weather and thus ended up taking the weekend off (from blogging and pretty much everything else).  So that leaves me with precious little time to get a blog post ready for you good folks now. I don’t have time to go over my notes from the trip for a post, so I’m going to do something a bit different.  I’m going to talk about poker tournaments in a general sense. Specifically, bounty tournaments.

I’ve had the idea to talk about this running around on my brain for awhile, and I was recently reminded of it by Nick.  He was reviewing some of the upcoming summer poker tournaments and a $400 bounty tournament at Venetian caught his eye. He asked me if I had any idea what kind of turnout they’d get and how long the tournament might last.  I don’t think I was much help, but it did make me wonder—why a bounty tournament?

So let me throw the question open for discussion.  What do you all think of bounty tournaments?  Do you find them preferable to a regular tournament?  Less desireable?  Or does it make no difference to you?  And more importantly, why?

Bounty tournaments obviously have their fans (in addition to Nick).  They are a major part of a lot of series—a good percentage of Venetian’s evening events during the Deepstacks are bounty tournaments.  A lot of rooms have them on their regular schedules.  Most don’t have them daily, but they might replace their regular non-bounty tournament with a bounty version once or twice a week. 

They’re in the minority—most tournaments are not bounty tourneys.  So I guess they’re not quite as popular as regular ones.  So maybe some people just like them as a change of pace, to add some variety?  Yet I suspect there are some players who are “bounty hunters’—folks who prefer the bounty tourneys and play those almost exclusively.

So what is the actual the appeal of them?  Of course, I asked Nick and he pointed out the obvious—that if you knock a few players out, as you tend to do in a good tournament run—you get some of your buy-in back with the bounties.  Maybe you even knock out enough people so that you get all of your buy-in back, and maybe make a profit even if you don’t cash.  Right?

Well sure that’s possible.  To me though, that’s not worth the trade-off.  You’ve heard me bitch and moan over and over again about the payouts in tournaments, particularly the dreaded min-cash (here, for example). Well, those bounties just reduce the prize pool up and down the line, and/or reduce the number of people who actually cash.  So someone like me is not going to be happy with the pay scale of a bounty tournament, to be sure.  Of course you can make up the difference with the bounties you get, but that’s kind of hit-or-miss.

Or is it?  Because the next question I have is, does the fact that it’s a bounty tourney affect your style of play—and should it?  Are you more inclined to call a short stack’s all-in knowing if you bust him out, you get some money right then and there?  And is that really a good strategy?  If you are trying to win a tournament, why be distracted by something like that?  Your decision to call should be based on several factors, but should a $25—or even a $100—bounty, be one of them?  What if you call to get the bounty when you otherwise wouldn’t, and not only fail to knock the other play out, but cost yourself the chips you need to cash in the process?  Yes, of course, it could work the other way.  Maybe the bounty encouraged you to make the “right” call and helped you get chips, in addition to the bounty.  But to me, I don’t like having an outside factor affect my decision making.

What I really don’t get is when the bounties are small.  I mean, the one Nick was looking at has $100 bounties.  That’s certainly meaningful (but also means a very meaningful hit on the size of the overall prize pay outs).  But you see some bounty tournaments with really small bounties, and you have to wonder, what’s the point?  I guess I could be convinced that a $25 would be worthwhile, but once you get under that, I can’t see how it is even worth the effort to keep track of them. I guess that’s a knock on bounty tournaments—they create more work for the dealers and the players to keep track of.  And for a small bounty, it just doesn’t seem worth it.

I actually wrote a blog post about a bounty tournament I played at the Bike (see here).  It was a small tournament with $10 bounties and I honestly thought the bounties were just dumb.  I mean $10 bounties?  Absurd.  And I know there are actually really small tourneys around the country—say with $25/$30 buy-ins—that have $5 bounties!  That’s just nuts.  But then, I guess if you’re gonna play in a $25 tournament, you’re probably not much of a serious poker player anyway.

I seem to recall a few times last summer, when everyone had their big series going on, I was looking for a tournament to play and the only ones in my price range were bounty tournaments.  So I passed.  Frustrating.

And by the way...sometimes rooms run bounty tournaments where the bounties (which may be prizes, rather than cash) are funded by the room, not the prize pool.  Those are definitely worth playing, not at all what I'm talking about.

But maybe you guys have convincing arguments on the awesomeness of bounty tournaments.  Let me hear them.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Vegas Poker Scene (April 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 soon.

PLANET HOLLYWOOD: The poker room recently moved to a central location in the casino next to the Pleasure Pit, which is an area where table games are dealt by attractive women wearing provocative clothing. That should give the poker players something to distract them when they are card dead.The new room has 10 tables.

The tournament schedule has been revamped, too. The $75 tournament runs daily at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. Each has a $1,250 guarantee with guarantees for the first three places.First place pays $700, second is $400 and third is $150.Players start with 10K chips and play 20-minute levels.
A $65 bounty tournament runs nightly at 6. The bounties are $25, the starting stack is 8K and the levels are 20 minutes.The $125 Players Choice tournament runs Tuesdays 11 p.m. with the same starting stack and levels, but the bounties are $50 and there’s a $500 guarantee.
The main cash game is $1-$2 no-limit hold’em with a $100 minimum, $300 maximum buy-in. Promos include high-hand bonuses and hourly splash pots of between $25 and $250.
The next Phamous Poker Weekend is April 22-24.The main event will be the River Card Poker Tour event that offers a $100K guarantee.The buy-in is $350 and there are four starting flights, two a day beginning April 22.The evening events are $130 double-stack turbos.On April 24, while the second day of the main event is taking place, there’s a triple-stack turbo bounty tournament ($50 bounties) for $130.That one offers a $5K guarantee.
BINION’S: The downtown poker room has changed the buy-ins for its tournaments. The daily (except Saturday) 1 p.m. tournament is $75 for 10K chips, with a $10 add-on for 5K chips more. At the first break, players may buy 5K chips for $10. The levels last 20 minutes. There’s no change in the popular $160 buy-in Saturday deepstack with a $10K guarantee.
The 7 p.m. is $55 for 5K chips, with a $10 add-on for 3K and a $10 add-on at the first break 2K more. The levels are 15 minutes.
There’s a new Live Play Bonus promo offered for tournament players.Those who have played 5-20 hours of live poker in the seven days before any tournament they play are eligible for a progressive prize should they win the tournament.The minimum prize is $1K for the afternoon tournament and $500 for the evening offering.If the tournament winner has played five hours the previous week, he earns 25 percent of the progressive prize pool. For 10 hours it’s 50%, for 15 hours 75% and 20 hours gets the player 100% of the progressive pool. The prize pools increase daily by $100 for the afternoon and $50 for the evening tournaments.
Cash-game players get $2 per hour in comps and there’s a cash-back program for playing. It’s $50 for 20 hours, $150 for 30 hours, $250 for 40 hours and $400 for 50 hours. The main cash games are $1-$3 NLHE with a $100 minimum and no max and a $2-$6 spread-limit hold’em game with a $30 minimum.
WYNN: The poker room is moving and the property is promising an “elevated experience” for players.The new location will be adjacent to the Encore Players Club, the Encore Beach Club, the Surrender nightclub and Andrea’s restaurant.The room will occupy 8,600 square feet and have 28 tables.There will be sportsbook window in the room as well as 35 65-inch televisions.The room is scheduled to open May 26.
MANDALAY BAY: On the south end of the Strip, the 10-table room offers great tournament and cash-game action.Two $40 buy-in tournaments run daily, at 10 a.m and 3 p.m. Players start with 4K chips and get 20-minute levels. A $5 staff bonus is worth 1K chips.The 10 p.m. tournament is $65 and offers 15-minute levels and a $10K starting stack.
The main cash game is $1-$2 NLHE, with a $100-$300 min-max. The room also offers a $1-$3 game with $100-$1K min-max, as well as a $2-$5 game ($200-$2K min-max). On occasion, a $5-$5 game runs ($500-$2K).

The room also offers a Luckiest Player Challenge. There are two periods per week, one Monday through Thursday and the other Friday through Sunday.Players earn points toward these challenges for hours played and for hitting qualified high hands. The top-five point-earners on weekdays get paid between $100 and $900, while top-four point-earners on weekends get between $200-$600.
Another promo is the Big Slick Royal Progressive. Catching a royal flush with ace-king as the player’s hole cards earns a progressive jackpot that starts at $500 and grows $25 a day until it hits.
In addition to progressive high-hand bonuses for quads or better on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays there’s a tiered bonus for hitting the high hands.Catching the high hand on the flop is worth $300, on the turn $200 and on the river $100.
VENETIAN: Jordon Cristos of Palmdale, Calif., took home the $132K prize for winning the $1,600 main event at the Deep Stack Extravaganza on Feb. 22.Angelo Spinazzola of Las Vegas was runner-up ($93K).Eric Baldwin and Ryan Welch, both Vegas residents, each claimed $80K.The prize pool was $750K and there were 509 entrants.
ALIANTE: The three-table room, using electronic tables in North Las Vegas, closed in March.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Leaving Las Vegas

That's what I'll be doing tomorrow, if all goes as planned, tho so far nothing this trip has gone as planned.  Like I sure didn't plan on being card dead for the entire trip, but that's what happened so far.  I didn't plan on getting sick, either.  Actually not sure if what's going on in my throat is a cold or just an extreme case of "Vegas throat" but at this point I'm not sure I'm even gonna be playing tonite, my last nite in town.  

No time to do a real blog post, I definitely need to keep my day job and get some work done now.  I need to replenish the ol' sockroll, u see.  So this is another filler post.  Despite the runbad, I will have a few stories to write up after I return home.

Now, I'm not quite leaving Las Vegas in as bad of shape as Nicolas Cage did in the movie that I stole this post's title from.  I won't spoil it for you, but it didn't end well for the old Nicster.  Although he did get to bang a hooker played by Elisabeth Shue in it, which is more than I can say.

So I leave you with some pics that celebrate the Vegas movies that Nic Cage has appeared in.  And even a pic from the only movie about Vegas that was allowed to be made that didn't star Nic Cage.  It starred Elvis instead.  

Hopefully back soon!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Fat, Sober & Card Dead is No Way to Go Through Vegas

But that's how I'm doing it.  So far, Vegas poker has been treating me like a baby treats a diaper.  Just can't get any cards to save my life...or my sockroll.

How bad is it?  Well, after nearly 18 hours of poker since I got to town, I haven't had the dreaded pocket Kings even once, yet I am still down a shitload of moola.

Have to head back to the tables now to start cashing in on what remains of March Madness weekend.  Cards are streaky, and when I finally start getting some, I'm due for the run of my life.  Should be able to make it all back in a few hours once it turns around, right?  Any minute now....

So no time for a real blog post, gotta be at the table when that rungood comes.  So for now, I'll just post some random pictures that I have run across, even though this guy won't like them because they are sinful....particularly the girl-on-girl ones.  For the rest of you, enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Who You Should Vote For in the Coming Election

Ha!  The title of this post is a total misdirect.  Or maybe you can call it disingenuous.  That’s the polite way to call something a lie.  And since this is a political post, why not use the political term for lie?

I am not going to tell you who you should vote for.  I mean, I could, because I know who you should vote for, but I have always tried to steer clear of politics on this blog.  And that’s actually the point of this (re) post.

As you all know, this election year is the craziest election cycle in our lifetime (even if you’re really, really old).  And I have many, many thoughts about it, which I have thus far not expressed here. But it is really, really hard to stay silent with all the craziness that is going on.  In fact, the other day, I was just about to burst at the seams.  And I told my pal LM that I was going to violate my own personal “no politics on the blog” policy and really pontificate on the current primary scene.  But she convinced me not to.  So…I will refrain.  In all honesty though, I don’t know if I can stay silent much longer.  And by the way, if you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a few tweets about a certain Presidential candidate who shall remain nameless. I suppose you could say I’ve already violated my oath, but since it’s just on Twitter and not on the blog, I haven’t technically broken that campaign pledge yet.  That’s what a politician would say, anyway.

So to help remind me about how I feel about mixing poker and politics, I thought it would be a good idea to repost a story I told here almost exactly four years ago—in the midst of the previous presidential election.  As such, it was one of my earliest posts, as the blog was less than six months old at the time.  I am reposting it now even though it was quite popular at the time it first ran, and it actually received quite a few comments.  Still, although many of you may have read it back then, it was long enough ago that you likely won’t remember it too well, so hopefully if you read it then you can enjoy it all over again.

It just seems especially relevant today as we are in the middle of this insane political year.  I hope by running it again, I can use it to remind myself why I should keep politics off this blog.  But honestly, I can’t totally promise that.

So here’s the post from four years back, March, 2012. Note: this post is so old, it predates the time I would routinely add a graphic to every post.  So I've added one now that wasn't part of the original post.  I hope you like it.  It was originally called……..

Politics and Poker

Should politics be discussed at the poker table?
Really, no.
A thousand times, no.
This story took place on my second night in Vegas, last month.  I had just arrived at BSC and been sent to an open seat at a 1/2 game.  As I was settling in at one of the middle seats, I couldn’t help hearing the conversation over at the end of the table, seats 1, 2 and 3.  In particular, seat 2 was especially vocal.  The subject was politics, the current political situation in the country.  Seats 1 and 3 were participating, but the conversation was being completely dominated by seat 2.  He was basically pontificating on the current political scene, non-stop.
Now I’ll be honest.  His political views were diametrically opposed to my own.  Pretty much 180 degrees from me. But I’d like to think if everything he said was in 100% agreement with my own point of view, I wouldn’t think this was appropriate conversation for a poker table. 
What were his views?  I’m not going to say.  It’s not relevant to my story, And this is key—I am not about to reveal my own political views on this blog.  This is a blog about Vegas and poker (and hookers and bosoms), not politics.  Just as I do not believe that political discussion belongs at the poker table, I don’t believe it belongs on this particular blog.  As it happens I have very strong political views, and I very intently follow the current political scene.  But if I wanted to air my political views, I’d start a political blog and I’d do it under another name.  (Note, I link to many fine bloggers who do indeed discuss their personal lives a lot more than me, and aren’t at all hesitant to discuss their political viewpoints.  That’s fine, and I respect them for doing that, but that’s not what I want to do with my blog)
Why am I so adamant about not wanting to discuss politics on this blog, and about not revealing anything about my own political views?  Well, I have a specific reason, but I will save that explanation for the end of this post, since it is not the main point of the post.
Anyway, this guy was really loud and really overbearing, and the fact that I’ve rarely encountered anyone who was as in love with the sound of his own voice as this guy certainly didn’t help. But the thing is, one of the reasons I play poker is to escape the “real world.”  And you can’t get any more “real world” than politics, especially in an election year. 
As I’ve indicated in many of the posts on this blog, I certainly enjoy many of the conversations  that take place at the poker table; in fact to a large degree, this blog exists because of such conversations, as I’ve certainly enjoyed recounting some of the more outrageous such discussions.   But some subjects are best left to other venues than the poker room. 
So I enjoy hearing talk about Vegas, shows, hotels, restaurants, movies, sports, occupations (to the extent people can talk about their own without it becoming too “real world”) and even, yes, hookers.  But generally speaking, people have the good sense to leave much of the real world out of it when they are there to have a good time (or, for the grinders, there to make their living).  Sure there’s an occasional Letterman/Leno type joke about some political situation or figure, and that’s all fine.  But in the past, whenever I’ve heard anyone say anything too serious about politics, the other players had the good sense not to respond, or perhaps respond in a way to shut down the conversation.  This time, I couldn’t really tell whether the other two guys were encouraging him to go on or just couldn’t figure out a way to shut the guy up, or maybe shutting the guy up was just impossible. 
Then to make matters worse, a couple of the dealers who were at the table started joining in.  I wasn’t sure if they were really agreeing with him, or just adding their own two cents, because I was doing my damnest not to listen.  To no avail.  And truth be told, this guy talked so much, if you were only 150 degrees from him politically, he probably said something you would agree with, because he had so many, many things.  But I really didn’t appreciate that my dealer buddies were encouraging him to keep babbling.  Or maybe even agreed with his offensive (to me) views.  I was thinking to myself, “don’t bother pushing me a pot, I’m in no mood to tip you.”  Yeah I was that upset.  Fortunately for them, I didn’t win anything during this time.  And you will note I’m not even identifying these two dealer with fake names.  It still pisses me off a bit.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, he moved on to religion!  Religion talk at the poker table.  Are you kidding me.  He even started joking about, saying, “Yeah I know you aren’t supposed to talk about religion or politics, but I can’t help it.”  Perhaps some duct tape over this guy’s mouth would help.
So I was quite unhappy.  I could not concentrate at the game at all, I was just sitting there getting more and more pissed off that I had to listen to this loudmouth.  As I said, the nonstop talk would have been annoying no matter what he was saying.  And if he had the same political viewpoint as me it would have somewhat less annoying I suppose, but it still would have been way, way, way excessive.  I don’t think I could have taken it even if he was on my side of the argument.
I really think poker is the place to get away from this, beyond a few minutes or a joke or two.  I recall one time at a 2/4 game a guy told us he was a marriage counselor.  The guy next to him was fascinated by this and started peppering him with all sorts of questions about his work and about relationships.  He wasn’t talking about himself, at least he didn’t say he was.  It was always “a friend”.  So maybe he was just trying to get free advice.  But then he started asking the marriage counselor about famous people and what they needed to do to turn their lives around!  The poor guy didn’t seem to mind answering the questions, so maybe he too was in love with the sound of his own voice.  But I found it really annoying to hear such serious talk at the poker table.  Fortunately, because the discussion was only annoying and not offensive to me, I was able to put it out of my mind for the most part.  But not this time.
Of course, after just a few minutes, when I realized that this guy was not going to shut up and there was no chance he’d get off the topic, I put in for a table change.  I was actually concerned the guy was so loud that unless I got into another game all the way on the other side of the room, I still be able to hear him ranting.  Finally, at long last, I was indeed called for a table change.  I got just far enough away to not hear the guy.  Then, irony of irony, about 10 minutes after I moved, I saw him pick up his chips and depart, never to return again, presumably crawling back under the rock he came from. Still, that 10 minutes I didn’t have to put up with this jerk may have added a year or two to my life.
So I’m interested in hearing what people think about this.  Do you think it’s appropriate to talk about politics and religion at the poker table?  Did I over react?
I know some of you might find it annoying that I won’t reveal the details of the politics, his views and mine.  Sorry about that.  Just assume that my views are 100% in agreement with yours.  But for those interested, here’s a story from my “real life” that will explain my position on this.
Well over 10 years ago I had a boss who, like the guy in this story, also had political views the complete opposite of mine. And he too liked to talk about politics.  But because we usually we had to talk about work, he didn’t get a chance to piss me off with his commentary all that often.  And when he did, I had long ago developed a skill for such situations.  Rather than debate him, I would either say nothing or just act like a pundit and say a bunch of non-committal things that, if you weren’t paying close attention, might lead him to believe that I was agreeing with what he just said.  I would do this whenever politics was brought up in the workplace because I never felt anything was to be gained by revealing my political leanings.  So I suspect that this boss really did think I was on his side of the political aisle even though that couldn’t be farther than the truth.  I should point out that I always found it particularly ill-advised to get into a political argument with your boss, why give him one more thing to be upset with you about?
This boss retired and I moved on to another position but we kept in contact.  We exchanged emails every so often and even spoke on the phone a few times.  Fortunately, politics were never brought up.  We got along great and you could say we were friends. Then one day he forwarded a fund raising email from a particular organization to everyone in his address book, myself included.  He added an introduction, asking all his friends, who of course he just assumed all thought the same way he did, to consider contributing to this fine organization in anticipation of the upcoming election.
If it the email had come from one of the major political parties, I probably would have just ignored it.  Surely my ex-boss didn’t expect everyone to contribute and of course he would never know if I had or not.  But this organization was, in my opinion, a particular extreme one that supported his side of the aisle.  I was frankly surprised that my ex-boss would be on the mailing list, let alone be a contributor to, such an extreme group.  I didn’t realize he was that far to the extreme of the political viewpoint I so oppose. So, thinking that inasmuch as we would never work together again, there would be no harm in leveling with him as to how my views differed so much from his.
I was polite in my response, but I wanted to make it clear that he was wasting his time sending me email like this.  So I said very politely that my own viewpoint was totally different from this organization and that I would be eagerly voting the other way in the coming election.  Then I said, “I'm not offended that you sent me this, but you might just want to not include me in this in the future, since I am not exactly the demographic you are looking for.”
I got back a four word email, “That explains a lot.”
And that was basically the last I heard from him.  He didn’t respond to any of at least a dozen emails (non-political of course) that I sent him, even one where I congratulated him on his new grandchild that I had heard about.  I called him a few times, if I left messages he never called back.  If I got through, he was always very terse and said he was busy and would call me back, and he never did.
So I lost a friend, not because of any heated political debate we had, but just because he couldn’t accept having a friend who didn’t agree with his political views. 
We live in very polarized times, I’m afraid, and although this is an anomaly and I do have friends whose politics I very much disagree with and we get along great, I see no point in giving anyone who may feel like my ex-boss a reason to stop reading this blog.  My ex-boss can’t be the only one who can’t handle dealing with something who doesn’t share their politics.  Me, I am just fine with Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, Moderates, Declined to States, independents, Socialists, pro-choicers, pro-lifers, whateverer’s, reading my blog. If someone stops reading my blog because they are tired of hooker stories or my “obsession with bosoms” or they think my analysis of poker is too unsophisticated, that’s fine, that’s fair.  But if someone were to stop reading my blog because they didn’t like my politics, when I never discuss politics on the blog, that would be very upsetting to me.
So that’s why there’s no political discussion on this blog.    

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Promo is Dead! Long Live the Promo!

Well, this is going to be the last post I have about my most recent Vegas trip, the one that encompassed Christmas and New Year’s.  Fitting, I suppose, as I am just about ready to return to Vegas for the first time since then. 

This post concerns my very last poker session of that trip.  When I played back my voice notes, I realized that to some degree, the session revolved around the new MGM promo that had just started a few days before, a promo I liked very much, and even wrote a blog post about, here.

In that post, I said I didn’t think the promo would affect my play, which is one of the things I really liked about it.  But it turned out it did affect my play a little bit.  However, that all appears to be pretty much irrelevant now, as that promo was discontinued on March 1.  Yeah, the “Drive for Five Promo” at MGM is no more, at least for the time being.

To replace it, they brought back the old cash drawings, slightly modified.  It appears they are still giving away $2K a day, but now no one prize will exceed $100 (they had $200 and $400 prizes available previously).  Also, there is a freeroll attached to it—directly to the cash drawings.  At the beginning of April, they will have a $25K freeroll for eligible players.  Players won’t earn entry into the freeroll for hours played as in the past.  Instead, players must win at least three cash drawings during the month of March to be eligible.  And their starting stacks for the freeroll increase for every ticket drawn.  The top two finishers in the freeroll get $5K each.  Bottom two get $1K each and you can probably guess the rest.

The promo they got rid of was very popular, and I’m assuming as many (including yours truly) thought, they were just giving away too much money.  Soon after I wrote the post, they changed the rules to make it tougher to get paid, but apparently they couldn’t make it tough enough (this is just speculation on my part, I have no first-hand knowledge).  For example, they changed the minimum pot requirement from $20 to $40 to get a stamp.  They changed it so both hole cards must play to get a stamp, instead of just one.  Then they reduced the cash amount of the drawings they held.  It was a max of $25—or winning players had the option of getting a stamp of the hand of their choice instead of taking the $25.

All that happened after I was long gone.  This session was played under the initial rules of the promo.  I only had two sessions during the promo before I headed home.  The first session I played about 1-1/2 hours and earned two stamps (the two easiest, two pair and three-of-a-kind).  This was my final night in town (as I explained here, I cut my trip one day short due to weather) so the question was, could I fill up a card with three more hands (straight, flush and full house)? I wasn’t sure when I’d be back, and thus not sure if the promo would still be running when I did return.  Thus, if I couldn’t fill up the card during this one session, I might never get a chance to complete the promo.

And that was one of the things that affected my play a tiny bit.  I played more straight and flush type hands than I normally might, hoping to fill out that box on my card.  I limped in with some hands I might not otherwise play, and when I had some hands I might ordinarily raise with, if there were limpers in front of me, I just limped so the pot wouldn’t get too big and force me to play a bigger pot than I wanted to try to make a hand.

I know that’s bad, but I told myself that I was only doing it because the time was so limited for me.  If I had a week to play that promo, I told myself I would have played my normal game.

The other thing I soon figured out was that it was better to open pots a little bigger when I opened them.  Now, my default at a Vegas 1/2 game is to open for $8.  That’s four times the big blind.  People have suggested that’s too small, but I find that it’s pretty much the right starting point for most games.  Sometimes I adjust according to the game, of course.  Sometimes that’s not nearly enough.  Occasionally, it’s actually too much, and I can only open for $6 (those are the games I will try to get away from).  But $8 works pretty well.  Of course, if there are limpers in front of me, I add to that—generally $2 per limper.  So if there are two limpers in front of me, I’ll raise to $12.  My raise is never dependent on the strength of my hand.  It’s the same whether it’s pocket Aces or a suited connector.  It amazes me though how many players think otherwise, because they don’t realize I am raising different amounts based on the number of limpers.  They think a raise to $14 after three limpers means a bigger hand than a raise to $8 under-the-gun.  I like players like that.

But with the (then) $20 requirement to qualify for a stamp, I decided to never raise to less than $10.  That way even if I only got called by one player, the pot would be already be big enough to get the stamp no matter what—should I make an appropriate hand.  One time early I raised to $8 and was only called in one spot.  I realized that if I made a hand, I’d have to make sure I had a bet called to qualify (I didn’t make the hand anyway).  So that was a small change I made because of the promo.

As for the actually poker….I had the dreaded pocket Kings and opened to $10, it was three-ways.  I bet $20 on a Queen-high flop and had one caller. The turn was a King, I bet $30, no call.

A bit later I got those Kings again.  This time my $10 raise was called by three other players.  The flop was 8-7-4, two spades. I didn’t have the King of spades. I bet $25 and a guy who had me covered made it $100. Did I mention that the dealer was Mike, the guy who always cracks my Kings?  I let it go.

With Queen-Jack of spades on the button I raised to $10, it was three-ways.  The flop was King-10-5, one spade.  I c-bet $20 and had one caller.  Ace of hearts on the turn gave me Broadway.  I bet $40 and he folded.  I showed my straight to complete that hand on my card.  Spoiler alert: That was the only stamp I received in 6-1/2 hours of poker.  And now I have a 3/5’s completed card that is worth…..nothing.

I had pocket Aces three times.  Once, after a zillion limpers, I made it $20 from the small blind. No call.  Next time I opened to $10, two callers.  Low flop, my $20 c-bet got one call.  Another low card, I bet $30 and took it.

Then I opened to $10 with them again and had three callers.  The flop was 7-2-2.  I bet $25 and one guy made it $50.  Hmm….did he have a deuce?  I called and we were heads up.  The board bricked out and there was no more betting. I was confused to be sure.  He flipped over pocket 9’s, unimproved.  As I dragged in the pot, he saw the look of surprise on my face and explained, “I wanted to slow you down.”  Hmm….well, in that case it worked. Interesting strategy.

The biggest hand of the night was when I called a raise to $12 with Ace-King of hearts.  As you know, I don’t usually three-bet Ace-King and in this case, I was kind of hoping I could hit a flush for my card.  Three of us saw an Ace-high flop.  I called $30 and it was heads up.  There was another Ace on the turn and he bet $30 again.  I raised it to $65.  He called. The river was a blank.  He checked.  I bet $50 and he tanked….and called.  He had Ace-Jack.  Sweet.

I ended the session up $225, which was a good close to a good trip.  I also had to hope that the promo card would still be good whenever I returned to Vegas so I could make two more hands and collect $100.  But as I found out while back in L.A., that ain’t happening.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Just Another Post From Your Card-Playing Half-Uncle

Persuadeo’s Review of Rob’s Vegas & Poker Blog

Yesterday I was checking my Twitter feed and saw that the blogger, persuadeo had just published another in a series Poker Blog Roll posts where he reviews other poker blogs. Persuadeo is a relatively new poker blogger.  I have been remiss in not giving his blog the attention it deserves.  I only became aware of it fairly recently.  Mr. persuadeo discusses poker and hand histories in a deep, thoughtful way, certainly more cerebrally and educationally than anything you’d find here.  I have added his “Out of Position” blog to my blog roll, and I strongly recommend you check it out. 

I had checked one or two of his other poker blog review posts, wondering if he had found my little corner of the poker blogosphere worthy of mention.  And the ones I had seen made no mention of me.  Now, Mr. persuadeo had on at least one recent occasion (see here) commented on one of my posts, so I knew he was aware of my blog.

But I guess because I wasn’t following his blog regularly enough, I had missed his review of my blog.  In the post he did yesterday (see here), he reviewed a site that purported to list “The Top Online Poker Player Blogs to Follow 2016,” and complained that it listed a lot of blogs and a lot of “really not” blogs that aren’t very active any more. But he claimed that the site did mention Rob’s Vegas & Poker Blog.

Well, as it turned out, I guess by the time he published his post, the link he put in for that listing had been finally updated, and they no longer list my blog on their recommendations.  Oh well.  Mr. persuadeo himself complained about the general worthlessness of the site, so I don’t think I’m losing out on much.

But more importantly, he pointed out that he had reviewed my site previously, and linked back to his post with the review.  And here’s what he said in the newer post:  “One of the few (blogs) to make it through the clutter is soft-porn aficionado Rob, a lovable low stakes grinder in Vegas we’ve already reviewed…”

Well that certainly got my attention. I followed the link to his review of my blog. I read it of course, and it was….interesting.  It was quite flattering….for the most part. It was very funny.  It was accurate and opinionated.  I was certainly glad to be included on a blog that covers poker strategy so much more in depth than I presume to do here.  Mr. persuadeo is an excellent writer and has a definite way with words. 

The link to his post about my blog is here and without asking for permission to do so, I am reprinting his review below before I respond to it.  Perhaps it is bad form to reprint it without asking for permission, but I feel it is fine to do so since it is about my blog and about me.  So here is his review:

Posting Frequency: Superb

Design: Clickbait

Writing quality: Buoyant

Overall rating: One of the Regs

This blog is a pokosphere standard. This blogger has earned it, with hundreds of posts apparently approaching an astounding 875k total pageviews. This is the bottom stakes life of Vegas, and if you are a weekend warrior 1/2 player with a hankering for a trip or to retire in the gambling desert, you can save yourself a great deal of vacation money and trouble by following Robvegas. Amusingly, the second subtitle of his blog is nearly Atari pixelated, and combining that with the out of focus background, contrasted with the very readable black on white text boxes, we get to share the feeling of one of those old dudes who leans forward and squints to read the board… probably not a coincidence.

This blogger is engaged: he posts, tweets and promotes all kinds of poker things. He covers the daily Vegas tournament scene, like a drunk recounting midday happy hour specials, in one of those casino monthlies designed to soak up coffee spills. He has written so much he has four posts in the category of “Penis Mentionings.” This guy, in other words, is poker room furniture. The writing is simple, clear, and is spaced well, a nicety for internet reading. He even generously tries to rescue his own posts with threadsaver photos, dirty granddad style. He’s your card playin’ half-uncle who makes every game and seems to like your mom quite a bit. You have to root for him, because if you’ve read his hand histories, it’s the classic story: the nice guy with all the yarns who loves poker and gives his all for the game, but just isn’t very good at it. It’s touching and fun. Go Rob.

I laughed all the way through it, even though there were a few times I cringed just a bit.

I’ll grant that Mr. persuadeo was exaggerating for comedic effect a couple of times.  I mean, in the new post, saying that I am a “soft-porn aficionado.”  Ok, an obvious reference to the pics I usually use to complement a post.  They are not soft-porn, of course.  They are cheesecake. It kind of started as silly schtick. But readers seem to like it (even the female ones) and whenever I do a post without an “appropriate” pic, I get complaints.

To pick a nit (which makes sense, because I am such a nit), he refers to me as a grinder.  I don’t consider myself that at all.  A grinder is someone trying to make a living at poker, to the best of my understanding.  I’m a recreational player, never claimed I could win enough money to survive at the game.  I make a living in the poker biz, but not as a player.

He did make me re-think the logo on top of the blog, perhaps I should explain.  It comes from a pic I took of t-shirt I got from the Excalibur many years ago for playing in their “Strip poker tournament.”  I seem to recall discussing this recently, or maybe I didn’t.  That was the slogan for the tournament where they had a woman taking off her clothes during a poker tournament.  Since it was in the middle of the casino, the lady only stripped down to a PG-13 rating.  But just to put something up there, when I started the blog and had no idea about graphics, I took a pic of the part of the t-shirt that says “Every pair’s a winner” and used it.  I suppose the blog has been successful enough that I really should make it look more professional, he surely has a valid point.

In fact, not long ago, someone sent me a new, nicer logo to use.  It has the same slogan and you can actually see on it my Twitter profile page, although it doesn’t fit fully there. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it fit on the blogger template I use at all.  I suppose when I have more time one of these days I will work on the whole look of the blog, I reckon it could use some sprucing up. 

Now, he says, “He has written so much he has four posts in the category of ‘Penis Mentionings.’”  This is just factual incorrect.  In fact, I have 25 posts in that category.  But more importantly, I have 30 posts in the category of “vagina mentionings,” and he fails to mention that at all.

This line totally cracked me up: “He’s your card playin’ half-uncle who makes every game and seems to like your mom quite a bit.”  Again, obviously totally exaggerating for comedic effect, right?  Because you know, I’m much more into 25-year-olds than MILF’s. (Now you see, there was my turn to make a joke).  

But being the serious poker player he is, Mr. persuadeo can’t leave without taking a shot at my poker playing skills—or should I say lack thereof?  “You have to root for him, because if you’ve read his hand histories, it’s the classic story: the nice guy with all the yarns who loves poker and gives his all for the game, but just isn’t very good at it.”  Here I suppose he is not exaggerating for comedic effect.  I take that as a legitimate criticism. 

As I re-explained very recently, I never intended this blog to be in-depth discussion of poker strategy, or to show off my vast poker knowledge (good thing, huh).  But it worked out differently than I intended. You know, I’d much rather be writing the next “vagina mentionings” post than the next post where I talk about how I played (or misplayed) a hand.  But I have to kill time between the “VM’s” with poker content.  So yeah, I know going in there’s an excellent chance I will make myself look clueless about poker when I write about hands.  I do it as a service to my readers, who want fresh content and hopefully, I can make that entertaining for them. And at least discussing my errors gets me some good feedback that can possible help my game (or not).

Mr. persuadeo leaves on a positive note.  “It’s touching and fun.  Go Rob.”

Actually, that’s pretty awesome.  If I can entertain a serious student of the game such as persuadeo with this silliness, I am quite pleased.  And I can also take comfort in the fact that he failed to lay on me the one criticism I get from just about everyone—that my posts are too long. That alone is pretty sweet.

So, in closing, I want to thank Mr. persuadeo for his review, for his support, for his well-wishes and his praise (along with some tough love).  Check out his blog, it’s worth reading even when he isn’t talking about me.