Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Vegas Poker Scene--September 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 soon if not already.


The main event at Venetian's DeepStack Extravaganza III in Las Vegas went to Jonathan Turner of Myrtle Beach, S.C., earning him $536K. Ukraine’s Artem Metalidi took home $330K for second and Dan Heimiller of Las Vegas received $238K for third. The $5K buy-in drew 537 players, creating a $2.4M prize pool, easily surpassing the $2M guarantee.
Next up at the Venetian is DeepStack Extravaganza 3.5, running Sept. 1-25. The biggest tourney is the $3,500 main event with a $1M guarantee. It has three starting flights starting Sept. 9. The tournament finishes on Day 3 (Sept. 13).
A $600 event with two starting flights begins Sept. 16. It has a $125K guarantee. Price-conscious players will appreciate the $250 event that has five flights starting on Sept. 20. It finishes with Day 2 on Sept. 25 and has a $250K guarantee, which is attractive for the buy-in.
A $250 PLO-PLO/8 tournament plays Sept. 16 ($7K guarantee) and $250 Omaha/8 events are scheduled for Sept. 2 and Sept. 21 ($10K guarantee). The evening tournaments are $200 or $300, a mix of turbos, bounties and rebuts.
All the events have guarantees, totaling more than $2.2M.
The Venetian has revised its regular daily schedule. The highlight is the new noon Saturday tournament. It’s called the Doublestack. Players start with 24K chips for $340. The levels are 40 minutes and there is a 45-minute dinner break after nine levels. The prize pool guarantee is $25K.
There also are two daily tournaments (noon and 7 p.m.). All of the games are NLHE and have guarantees. Except for that new Saturday tournament, all of the buy-ins are between $125 and $200.
PLANET HOLLYWOOD: The main event of Goliath completed on July 10 and saw Jan Eric Schwippert of Germany take first place for $300K.
Another German, Christian Nilles earned $240K for second, while Joseph Johanssy from Vernon, Conn., pulled down $239K for third. There were 2,300-plus entrants for the $1,625 event, creating a $3.5M prize pool, far exceeding the $2M guarantee.
Planet Hollywood is hosting the WSOPC until Sept. 4. The $1,675 main event has two starting flights beginning Sept. 2 and offers a $750K guarantee. A $5,300 high roller runs Sept. 4.
The room just revised its tournament schedule. All tournaments are $80 with 12K stacks and 20-minute levels. They run at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 9 p.m. They all have $1,500 guarantees with $850 guaranteed for first, $450 for second and $200 for third.
Current promos include high hands: $50 for quads, $100 for straight flushes and $250 for all royals except hearts. Heart royals have a progressive jackpot, which starts at $400 and progresses by $200 a day until hit. There is no cap on the progressive.
WYNN: Joseph Cappello of New Rochelle, N.Y., won the $1,600 main event of the Wynn Classic on July 19. He outlasted 1,030 entrants and earned $281K for his victory. Barry Hutter of Bradenton, Fla., took second for $178K and Mitchell Hahn of Carmel, Ind., claimed $130K for third. The prize pool was nearly $1.5M, doubling the $750K guarantee.
The Wynn Fall Classic runs Sept. 28-Oct. 8. The $1,600 championship event begins Oct. 7 with the first of its two starting flights. It offers a $400K guarantee. A $600 tournament with three starting flights begins Sept. 30 and has a $250K guarantee.
BELLAGIO: The $10,400 championship completed July 18 when Kuljinder Sidhu of Britain won the $600K first-place prize. New York’s Nick Schulman scored $557K for second and Denver’s Chance Kornuth received $285K for third. The event drew almost 270 players and the prize pool was $2.6M.
STRATOSPHERE: The popular 12-table room at the north end of the Strip continues to offer its Stratstack tournament at least one Saturday a month at noon. The tournament is a $110 buy-in for a 20K stack and 30-minute levels. Free pizza is served to all players at the first break (2 p.m.) so make sure you don’t bust out before then. Or, you can just re-enter through that break.
The regular 7 p.m. runs nightly and has a $50 buy-in for 4,500 chips, 20-minute levels. There’s an optional $20 add-on for 6K more chips. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the same tournament is offered with a bounty format, and the buy-in is $70. The bounties are $20. Free pizza is served on the first break (8 p.m.), too.
The main cash game is $1-$2 NLHE with a $50-$300 min-max. Promos include high hands, which double when flopped between 11 a.m and 5 p.m. There’s a $50 high hand of the hour between 11 a.m.-noon, 2-3 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. Aces Cracked pays $50.
HARD ROCK: Just a bit east of the Strip, the Hard Rock offers two daily $70 tournaments at noon and 8 p.m. Players get 10K chips and play 20-minute levels. There’s a $600 guarantee and the tournament features a $2K bad-beat jackpot.
The cash game is $1-$3 NLHE. The minimum buy-in is $100 and there’s no cap. Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m., the highest hand of each hour receives $100. Aces Cracked pays $100 during that same time. There’s a progressive royal-flush bonus that starts at $300 and is capped at $2,500. High hands pay $75 for quads and straight flushes 24-7.
CLOSURE: The Linq closed its poker room in August.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"I'm Feeling Lucky"

Continuing now with my review of the tournaments I played in Vegas during the WSOP.  As I mentioned in the post here, the one tournament that really caught my eye was the daily 1PM at Golden Nugget.  It was a $150 buy-in with a $15K starting stack and 30-minute levels throughout.  There was a guaranteed prize pool of $20K (on most days, anyway).  And with a 45-minute dinner break after 10 levels, it was pretty much the ideal tournament for me.

So my second weekend in town, I had that one penciled in for Saturday.

I got off to a promising start.  Very first hand I was the big blind, and it folded to the small blind who just completed.  I woke up with pocket Queens, so I added $200 to the $50 big blind.  The small blind folded.

I raised to $150 with Jack-10 of hearts.  Only one caller.  The flop was Ace-Ace-x and my c-bet went uncalled.

I opened to $125 with Ace-Jack offsuit and had four callers.  The flop was King-Queen-10, rainbow.  Pretty sweet.  I bet $250 and had three callers.  A low spade hit the turn, it was the second spade on the board.  I bet $700 and only one called.  The river was a red 5 and I bet $1,500, he called.  He showed only a King after I showed my straight.

That got me to level 2 (50/100) with almost $19K.  From the button I called $250 with King-Queen of hearts.  The small blind made it $1,200 and the big blind called.  The original raiser folded, as did I.  The flop came Ace-high and it was checked down on every street.  Really?  The river paired the Ace but on the turn I would have had Broadway.  The three-bettor took the pot with pocket Queens.

Skipping ahead to level 5 (25/150/300), I was at $18.5K.  After a limper I raised to $1,050 with Queen-Jack, two callers.  The flop was King-Jack-9.  I bet $1,600.  The first player called and then the other guy shoved for $12,000.  I tanked.  The player who had called my bet had me covered, I had to consider that she might shove behind me if I called.  Even if she folded, I’d be crippled if I called and lost.  I did have a pretty good hand though, a pair and a gut-shot.  At the time, I decided it was still too early in the tournament to take that kind of risk, and if I folded I still had a decent stack to work with.  So I folded as did the lady.  The guy didn’t show, but he told us he had a set.  Afterwards, and the next morning when I was reviewing my notes, I wondered if that was my big mistake of the tournament.  Maybe that was exactly the kind of chance I should have been taking in order to try to win a big pile of chips.  But I do tend to believe that he had a set (mostly like of 9’s).

Or maybe the mistake was on this next hand.  I opened to $800 with Ace-King.  That lady made it $2,600.  She still had me covered.  I folded, thinking it was too soon to risk it with Ace-King.  Reading it over now, I hate my fold there.  Especially since she was called and the dealer put out a King-high flop.  She won it there with a c-bet so I never found what she had.

I raised, c-bet, then folded to a reraise a couple of more hands.

That got me to level 7 (75/300/600) with $10,200, basically shove-or-fold territory.  So when I had Ace-Jack, I open shoved with it.  A big stack called me with pocket 10’s.  The only face card that hit was a King and my tournament was over.

I had busted before the end of registration and I didn’t stick around to see the final numbers.  But by then they had over 200 players and were well beyond the $20K guarantee in prize pool money.

On my way out, I had a nice chat with Andy, the manager of the Golden Nugget poker room.  He’s a good guy.  Anyway, he mentioned he was expecting a really big turnout for this same tournament the next day (Sunday).  This was Monster stack weekend over at the WSOP and he figured a lot of the players who were in town for that but had busted would be looking for a good tournament to play, and this one at the Nugget would be a good option for them.  He anticipated over 400 players, which would make for a huge prize pool.

Up until then, my plan had been to take it relatively easy on that Sunday, and play in the first flight of the WPT 500 at the Aria on Monday.  But I started thinking this tournament at the Golden Nugget might be too good to pass up.  A prize pool of over $40K for a $150 buy-in.  And the way the schedule worked out, it was going to be my last opportunity to play this tournament with a big guarantee.

So I changed my plans a bit.  I would return to Golden Nugget the next day.  If I had a nice run at the tournament, I would take it easy Monday and play the WPT 500 on Tuesday instead.  If I had another early bust-out, I’d still be able to make to Aria on Monday.  Since the Aria tourney started at the ungodly hour of 10AM, there was no way I would try for Monday if the Nugget tournament kept me out too late.  I figured if I made it through the dinner break, I’d skip Monday and hit Aria on Tuesday. 

There was one nice benefit from busting out of the tourney early, as it turned out.  I ended up playing at MGM that evening, and that was the night I found myself playing with the beautiful, delightful Anna Khait, a story told here.  Not a bad consolation prize by any measure.

So the next day, Sunday, I returned to Golden Nugget to try again.  Actually, you’ve already read about the most “heated” incident from this day.  This was the tournament where the young punk accused me of “rubbing it in” when I complained about not seeing his hand after I won an all-in pot from him (see here).

So let’s pick up the tournament after that hand, which got me to about $20K at the beginning of level 5 (25/150/300) and kept me from a really early demise.

I plodded along, treading water until level 7 ($19K, 75/300/600) when I saw the dreaded pocket Kings.  I opened to $1,500 and had one call.  The flop was Queen-9-x.  I bet $2,200 and the guy shoved.  He had a similar stack to mine.  I called.  He showed Queen-8 offsuit.  It scared me for a second because I thought it was Queen-9.  But no, my dreaded Kings held.  It was a full double up, he had just a few chips left.

Last hand of the level I raised with King-Jack of diamonds and was only called by a short stack who didn’t have enough to cover my raise.  He had garbage and King high was good enough to take the pot.

Next level a guy opened to $2,200 and I shoved with Ace-Queen.  He tanked for a long time.  He finally said, “I guess you have something like Ace-King?” And then he folded. I saw him on break and he told me had a pocket pair but it was too small to call with.

That particular player, a young Asian fellow, was the most aggro player at our table.  He called a raise from me with pocket 10’s, and then called a flop bet on a 9-8-5 board.  The turn was a 2.  I really didn’t think I could bet again without shoving, so I checked.  The river was a 4. We both checked.  He showed 8-4 to take the pot.  Yuck.  I said, “nice catch.”  He answered, “nice check.”  Well, I guess he was right.  I should have shoved that flop with the overpair. He had me covered so if I had done that and lost, I’d be through and that figured into my thinking.

By level 10 (200/800/1600) I was once again desperate with only $22,600.  And I went almost the whole level just sitting there waiting for a hand or a spot where I could make my move.  It didn’t come….until the very last hand of the level.

Level 10 is important because it was after this level that the 45-minute dinner break took place.  Yeah, it was kind of an odd format—the breaks were every four levels but they stuck an extra break in there after only two levels back from the last break to give us the dinner break.  It was 6:30PM.  I think they could have waited to 7:30PM for the dinner break but they didn’t ask me.

As I’ve made clear, I really appreciate having dinner breaks. That said, there is kind of a downside to them.  You often get in that situation when you’re just hanging by a thread and that dinner break hits.  Then you take the long break (30 mins, 45 mins, 60 mins, whatever is), only to come back to the short stack, and if you don’t get lucky you’re out of the tournament 10 minutes after it resumed.  And then you’re pissed that you wasted all that time on the break—and rushed through a crappy dinner—for absolutely nothing.  And you wished you’d just busted before the dinner break instead.

Well, as we got down to the last few hands, I was thinking of that.  I was semi-tempted to just shove with any ol’ garbage hand just to avoid having to rush through a meal downtown.  But I never, ever play that way. Nope, as long as I’m alive, I play to win.  I’m never going to try to bust out of a tournament, even one where it looks hopeless, as this one did.

But I suppose it being the last hand before dinner may have affected how I played this one.  A guy opened the pot (I didn’t note how much but it seemed reasonable) and another guy called.  The preflop raiser had been pretty aggressive, I didn’t necessarily put him on a big hand.  I looked down at Ace-Jack, the best hand I’d seen by far in maybe an hour.  I figured if the caller could beat Ace-Jack he would have raised the aggro.  So I shoved.  Now, against a raise and a call, it’s probably a questionable call, going all-in there.  But as I said, it had been a long time since I’d seen a hand this good (or even close to it).  And yeah, maybe the thought that if I busted there it wouldn’t be the worst thing, maybe that had some effect on my thinking.

So I shoved.  The guy who opened the pot snap-called, but the other guy folded.  Turned out that the raiser had pocket Queens, so I was definitely a dog there.  But the card in the window was an Ace.  The rest of board blanked.  I had my double up.

This hand started just before the break hit, our table was the last to finish, so I got a late start to my dinner break.  I practically jogged to the Plaza, where there is a Subway in the food court.  Fortunately it wasn’t too crowded.  It was, however, expensive.  Subways located in casinos are about 25-35% more expensive than ones located in your average strip mall, in case you didn’t know.  But at least I was able to get the sandwich made (by the Sandwich “artist”) and consumed in time to get back to the table for the tournament to resume.  But just barely.

When I got back to my table just as the tournament was resuming, they were breaking my table.  They stopped the clock to get us all settled in.  So instead of sitting down to catch my breath, I had to rack up my chips, gather all my stuff, and find my new table.

They had 412 players, and I think by the time the tournament resumed we were down to approx 150.  They were paying 45 so there was still a long way to go to get to the money.  But the players had been busting out really fast the last two levels before the dinner break as the blinds were increasing faster and faster.

I took about $40K to the new table, with blinds 300/1000/2000.  The very first hand, I found myself looking at a couple of Jacks, under-the-gun.  I raised to $5,500.  It folded to a guy who took a long time in the tank.  He was clearly in agony over the decision.  He had about half the stack I had.  Finally, he announced “all-in.”  It folded to the woman on my immediate right, who also took some time, but ultimately folded.  Her stack was something like $45-$50K.

What to do, what to do?  It’s so bad when you’re in a spot like this at a brand new (for you) table.  I had no idea what to make of the guy’s shove, I had no idea how he played.  Was he maniac?  Was he a nit?  Had he been shoving a lot?  Did he just lose a big pot to be where he was, or had he just doubled up his really short-stack. I had no idea.  But unless he was Hollywooding, it was pretty clear he didn’t have Aces or Kings.  And with his stack, he probably didn’t have Ace-King either, although, that’s more speculative, he could be afraid to risk it all with Ace-King.

I decided to call.  I figured it was probably a race, and I knew I had to win some races to get to the money.  My biggest fear was that he had pocket Queens.  But he flipped his cards and he only had one Queen.  The other card was an Ace.  OK, it was a coin flip, slight edge to me.

There were two face cards on the flop, both Kings.  The third card was a blank.  But he got the damn Queen he needed on the turn.  I didn’t pull off the miracle on the river.  I was down to $17K.

That woman on my right started whining and bitching something awful.  “I had Ace-King.  I never win with Ace-King.  I shouldn’t have folded.”  She wasn’t the only one upset.  So was I.  She probably calls his shove easily if I wasn’t around, but losing to me would have crippled her.  And she knew that if she just called, I’d likely shove if I didn’t fold.  More likely, she would have shoved if she didn’t fold.

Now if she had shoved, I almost definitely fold.  I wouldn’t think my Jacks are good there against two all-ins.  Not sure how I would have played it if she just called.  But if she had shoved, I would have saved a lot of chips.

My stack was super short.  And I was the big blind looking down at Ace-9 off.  It folded to the button, an older Asian man who had the most or second most chips at the table.  He opened the pot to $5,800.  The lady who was still pissed at folding Ace-King the hand before folded.

My situation made a shove pretty much inevitable with almost any hand, I was a pretty lucky to get such a relatively good hand to do it with.  And the Asian’s button raise smelled of a play to steal the blinds and antes. And again, I had no idea how this guy played or how he had gotten all those chips.  I shoved and the Asian man stared at me for a long while and I swear I thought he was gonna say, “I’ll let you have it.”  But nope, what he said was, “You know, I’m feeling lucky.”  And he called.  I flipped over my hand and he said, “Oh, you’re way ahead,” and showed his hand: Queen-7.  Offsuit.

He flopped a gutshot but he didn’t hit it.  Instead he caught a Queen on the river to end my tournament.  Don’t you just love it?

So I had lasted through the dinner break, ran to get an overpriced Subway sandwich for dinner, only to last exactly two hands after the tournament resumed. 

That was annoying but what was even more annoying was when I finally had a chance to study the prize pool distribution.  As I said, 412 entrants.  They were paying 45.  First place was over $10K, second was $6,300. Then $4,600, $3,400 and $2,500.

How do they come with these amounts?  Does first place really need to be $4K more than second?  That seems crazy on its face.  Talk about top-heavy!  Absurd. 

Note:  I’m not necessarily opposed to all things that are top-heavy.  See the pic below, for example.

And the dreaded min-cash?  Why the last nine finishers took home a whopping $210 each for their efforts.

Seriously?  It cost $150 to enter, and they get their buy-in buck plus a lousy $60 profit?  How the hell does that make any sense?  Must have taken a good 8-10 hours to break the bubble (educated guess).  For sixty bucks?  I just don’t get it.

Of course you know I’ve been advocating for the min-cash on a tournament this size to be at least double the buy-in (see here, if you need a reminder).  This payout structure seemed even worse than most.

So, as I frequently wonder when I get pissed off at this, why do I keep playing tournaments?  It’s a good question.  Well, for one thing, it’s still the best way to make a big score in a poker game, if you do get well past the min-cash and last into the final table—and then maybe make a deal.

By the way, I looked it up and in this tournament a deal or two was definitely made.  The actual result was that the top three finishers each went home with almost $5K each (exact same amount).   And the next five all took the same amount nearly $3,400.  Which meant that that the 9th place finisher didn’t even get $1K out of a $46K prize pool.  He took home $968.  Just doesn’t seem like enough for the time invested, the total prize pool, the number of players.  Am I crazy?

And the other reason I continue to play tournaments is, I still think, rightly or wrongly, that I’m a better tournament player than a cash game player.  

The sad fact is, as bad as I felt this prize pool distribution was, it wasn’t really that much worse than others I’ve seen.  So yeah, I came back and played this tourney again before leaving town.  A story to be told later.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

It Only Takes One Maniac to Ruin a Nice Poker Game

Sadly, the streak is over.

After two great sessions in a row here in Southern California (see here and here), I was unable to come up with a third big win in a row on Saturday.  Or any kind of a win.  Or a break-even session.

Nope, all good things must end and I had a pretty good-sized loss.

Furthermore, remember what I said in the post here, about how much I was getting to like Player’s Casino in Ventura, that it was a really enjoyable place to play poker?  Well, Saturday, not so much.  And not because of the loss I took.  It was because of the players, or one player in particular who, as far as I’m concerned, totally ruined the game.

But I’ll start at the beginning.  There was a good sized list when I arrived and it didn’t take very long for them to start a new 2/3 game.  I recognized a few players but couldn’t recall anything particularly valuable about the players who looked familiar.  I bought in for $300 as usual.

I drew the short straw and was the big blind on the very first hand. With Ace-Queen, I called a raise to $10 and it was three-way. I called $22 on a Queen-10-x flop and then $25 on an 8 turn, which made it two hearts and two diamonds on the board. We were heads up after the flop.  A black 9 hit the river and this time he checked behind me and showed his hand, saying, “I have Ace-high.”  Except that his other card was a Jack so he had a straight that he hadn’t even noticed.  Bad enough to lose a pot, but losing it to someone who didn’t even realize he had a good hand was more than mildly annoying.

The very next hand, in the small blind, I call $10 with Jack-10 off.  The flop was Ace-King-King.  I called $10 just to see if I could catch a Queen for Broadway.  But I missed and then on the turn I folded to a guy who shoved for $87.  But someone else called him.  The guy who shoved had an Ace, the winner had a King.  The guy with the Ace was a newbie who didn’t last at our table very long. He was pretty old and it looked like he had a lived a long, hellish life.  It appeared to me that if this was his first time trying poker, it was pretty much the last thing on his bucket list to try. 

I guess I lost a few more chips and hadn’t won a hand when this next hand happened. I called $12 with King-10 of spades and six of us saw the flop, which was 10-7-x, rainbow, one spade. I called $15 or $20.  There were a bunch of callers, I think it was still five of us left.  The turn was another 10, and I called $20 and then saw a guy check raise from early position to $40.  Everyone else had called the $20 so we all called another $20.  But I smelled a boat.  I suppose with all those calls I should have just gotten out.

The river was an 8, no flush possible, and would have filled a gut-shot if someone had Jack-9.  I saw that but was honestly more worried about a boat.  The guy who had checked raised on the turn shoved his remaining $75.  It folded to me.  There was only one person left behind me. The size of the pot was quite large and although I feared the boat, I just felt I had to make the crying call there, so I did.  I did think there was a reasonable chance he just had a 10 and a worse kicker than a King.

And then the guy behind me announced “all-in.”  Damn.  His shove was a bit over $100 and I realized that was more than I had left after calling the $75..  The pot was now really, really big and even though I didn’t really like it, I felt I just couldn’t fold there.  Not for just another $70-$80 or so.  So I called and the guy who had shoved behind me flipped over Jack-9 for the straight.  The other guy didn’t even show!  He claimed to have a 10.  I asked him how big his kicker was and he said, “not big.”  I hadn’t shown but I said I had a King.  He said that was definitely good against his kicker.

Ugh.  I was busted.  I actually said to the guy who won, “If you had shoved in front of me, I could have folded…I would have folded.”  But once I put that $75 to call the first bet, it didn’t make sense to me to fold.  I briefly wondered if I had shoved first, would the guy with the straight have folded thinking I had a boat?  Almost definitely not.  I didn’t have enough to get him to fold and I’m not sure he had enough to ever fold his straight.—although in the face of two all-ins of front of him he might have thought his straight wasn’t any good.

Well, I bought in for another $300 while trying to figure out exactly how badly I had misplayed that one.

Soon after, I called a small raise with Ace-4 suited and then folded to a raise to $88 from an older Asian man.  No one called and he showed pocket 8’s. So he raised to $88 with 8-8.  That was the first time all day he’d done something at all unusual but it wouldn’t be his last time.

The seat to my left—where the newbie had been—had been vacant for awhile.  Finally it was taken by a youngish guy.  He bought in for the minimum, $100.  He raised big on his first hand and then shoved the flop.  There were two Kings on the flop and he was called by someone with a King.  The young guy showed Jack-10 for….absolutely nothing.  It was a total bluff.

He re-bought for another $100.  He raised big pre again and got it all-in on the flop again.  This time he had a hand: King-10 on a 10-high board.  But the guy who called him had Ace-10. 

And so he bought in again, this time for $200.  And the fellow next to him said, “Just leave your wallet out.”

Somewhere along the way I heard him say that he had been there since 3AM.  But he might have meant 3AM the day before, not that very morning.  He said he didn’t know how he was still awake.

The very next hand, he raised big again (his opening raises were like $25-$30).  This time, the Asian man I mentioned earlier shoved in response.  He had about $150 maybe.  Another player (the guy who didn’t know he had a straight in the very first hand) also shoved.  He had slightly less than the Asian man.  The young fellow, who from this point forward we will refer to as “The Maniac” snap called and flipped his cards over.  They were two Aces.  Even maniacs get Aces, you see.  The other two players didn’t show.

Well the flop came Queen-Jack-9.  The turn was a King.  The river didn’t matter.  The Asian fellow showed Jack-10 for a straight.  The other guy showed King-10 for a flopped straight.  The Maniac had his Aces cracked by both of them.  The thing was, the other two players made terrible plays, getting all their chips in with marginal hands. No doubt they were encouraged to do so by the early play of the Maniac.  They assumed he was betting with nothing.  So the Maniac’s maniac act almost paid off.  I mean, you want guys with hands like Jack-10 and King-10 to go all-in against your Aces, right?  But they had both gotten very lucky.

Very next hand, the Maniac open shoved his remaining stack.  He was called by another player (not either of the two players in the previous hand).  Guess what?  The Maniac had pocket Aces again—yes, back-to-back.  And they were cracked again.  By King-10 again!  This time the King-10 had two pair.  Aces back-to-back cracked by King-10 both times.  What are the odds of that?

Well I didn’t know what to make of this, other than those four hands in a row made for a good blog story.  The Maniac got up but asked for to have his seat held.  Frankly, I was assuming—and also praying—he wouldn’t come back.  It was nice of him to distribute his money like that (but none of it to me).  But it made it difficult for me to do anything with this clown on my left.  I had to wait for a hand it made sense to play knowing he was likely getting it all in either on the flop or before.

But it appeared I wouldn’t have to worry.  He was gone for quite awhile.  Someone said he went to play blackjack.  They should have stopped holding the seat open for him—except there was no board, and other 2/3 games had empty seats. I figured I was well rid of him.

But no….he did indeed return.  Apparently he won enough at blackjack to buy in again.  And he immediately went back to raising big and/or shoving and if not shoving pre, usually shoving on the flop.  The only difference was he did occasionally limp or even fold pre.  But he was still earning the “Maniac” name I gave him.

But the game had totally changed because of his presence.  People were playing differently because of him, calling light, raising light, shoving light.

In particular, the Asian man I mentioned was playing against the Maniac every chance he could.  He would never fold to a Maniac raise, and more often than not, he would raise himself—or shove.  He shoved preflop multiple times against the Maniac’s raise, and from what we could tell, sometimes with pretty crappy hands (that he would hit a lot of the times if it went to the flop).  And by this time, The Asian man’s stack was huge, you couldn’t call one of his moves without committing your entire stack, he had everyone covered.  But if the Maniac folded, he would play normal.

As he said once when the Maniac asked him why he shoved when he had nothing, “Because I knew you had nothing.”

I called $10 with 9-8 of clubs and folded on a whiffed flop.  Very next hand I got the same two cards.  There was a raise to $20, a call, and I called as well.  The Maniac was away from the table for this one.  As I called, I kind of felt like it was a tilty move, especially with the Maniac out of the hand.  I mean, if I could see almost any flop that cheap with him in there, it’d likely be worth it with a hand that could pay off like that one.  But against two normal players, it was probably too much to pay.  But I found myself thinking I had to take some shots to get my money back. 

The flop was Queen-7-5, two hearts.  It checked around.  The turn was a 6 of hearts which gave me the straight on a board where two hearts would beat me.  But no one had bet the flop, so I put out $15.  The peflop raiser folded, but the last guy, who happened to be the older Asian gentleman I mentioned earlier, raised to $30.  Damn, did he have the flush?  I couldn’t fold for $15, so I called.

The river was a black King which didn’t change anything.  I checked wondering how big a bet I would call.  But he checked behind me.  I showed my straight and he just mucked.  It was my first pot of the day, at long last.

I called a $6 straddle with pocket 10’s.  Why anyone was stupid enough to straddle in this game with the Maniac around is inexplicable to me.  But I just called hoping the Maniac’s raise would be something reasonable I could call to try to make a big hand.  The Maniac made it $45.  That was large even for him.  Yikes.  I had to see what happened before it got back to me.  So….the Asian man announced “all in.”  Yeah, as I said, he’d done that a few times before, but it wasn’t automatic. The previous time he’d done that, the Maniac folded and the Asian showed pocket Kings. I couldn’t call.  The Maniac hesitated for a long time and then finally did call.

The flop came King-King-5.  Then a Queen.  Then a 10.  So I would have had a boat, in case you missed that.  The Maniac showed….pocket deuces.  The Asian showed Ace-Queen and stacked the Maniac.  Of course, I just shook my head knowing that I would have won a huge pot if I had called the Asian’s shove, but that would not have made sense to me.  And had the hand been played “normally” I would have been out of the hand before the river card hit me.

I had to fight off the tilt.  I was losing patience with the game.  I was debating internally if maybe given the circumstances calling the shove preflop would have been a good play.  With 20-20 hindsight, of course.  And the Asian’s shoving range facing a Maniac raise was damn wide.  Maybe it was the right play.  Shove, get a triple-up or go home.  But damn, whenever that Asian made a play like that with bad cards he always seemed to hit it  The debate in my mind was now edging me closer to tilt than the action at the table was.

Again, the Maniac left for a bit—but somehow came back with more money to buy-in.  They allowed a short-buy and the Asian doubled him up, making him dangerous again.

While he was away I had Queen-10 of clubs in the big blind and no one raised.  The flop was Queen high and I check/called $20 from the Asian. It was three-way.  I should have led out, but I was kind of shell-shocked at this point. I called another $20 on the turn when I picked up a gutshot—I needed a Jack.  It was now heads up.  I missed the straight and again called $20.  He showed Ace-Queen. Damn.

I got Ace-Queen myself under-the-gun.  For the last orbit or two, the Maniac had been a bit more subdued.  So I decided to take a chance and raise. I made it $12.  The Maniac just called.  Phew!  There was another caller or two, but the Asian folded.  Last person to act was the guy who had been sitting on my right all day.  He too was Asian, a perfectly reasonable player.  Until this very moment when he announced all-n!  He had like $400, at least as twice as much either the maniac or I had.

What the f***?  I mean, seriously, what the f***?  I folded.  Maniac tanked and then called.  The flop was Ace-high. It ran out dry. Before showing, both players, almost simultaneously, said they had nothing.  Are you freaking kidding me?  No.  The Asian on my right showed King-10. He shoved with King-10.  Unsuited.  He remembered the back-to-back hands earlier when the Maniac’s Aces were taken down with King-10.  Brilliant, just brilliant.

And what did the Maniac risk his entire stack with?  Why King-Queen offsuit, of course.  Who wouldn’t?  And he got his double up.  Because he had King high with a Queen kicker vs. King high with a 10 kicker! And again, I had thrown away the winning hand because of some absurd move in response to the Maniac.

The Maniac had clearly changed the game, changed the way everyone was playing, and it was not exactly to my liking.  As far as I was concerned, he had totally ruined what had been a pleasant game (and I thought it was pleasant even after I lost my first stack).

For a long time now, I had been considering asking for a table change.  It was a big debate in my mind.  On the one hand, with the action at this table, my best shot at getting my money back was staying there and trying to make a hand.  On the other hand, I needed to get some cards I would be willing to risk the rest of my diminishing stack with.  And I sure wasn’t getting them.    Or maybe I was and was just too wimpy to pull the trigger?

I felt constrained by the fact that I had already lost my first buy-in before the Maniac showed up and changed the game.  I think I might have been more willing to gamble a bit if I had another buy-in in my pocket.  But my stop-loss is two buy-ins.  It was extra annoying because I knew this was my last poker session for awhile.  I’m definitely not playing next weekend and my poker sabbatical may extend longer.

Also, I was short-stacked now, not planning to buy-in for one penny more as I indicated, and I didn’t like the idea of taking the short-stack to a new table where I’d be starting over. If I’m starting over I would definitely prefer a full stack.

Besides….our table was actually short-handed and I likely wouldn’t be able to move tables for quite some time.  And by this time, with the way everyone was playing, a seat change to get away from the Maniac didn’t feel like it would make much of a difference.

So I decided to hang in there.

But then, somehow, the Maniac got even more annoying than he had been.  Suddenly I started hearing music.  Tinny, loud music.  The Maniac had taken to playing music on his cell phone. Without using any head phones or ear buds.  Just loudly blasting music out of his phone for all of us to “enjoy.”

I did not enjoy.

So is this a thing now?  People playing their music at the poker table (or anywhere in public, for that matter) right through the speaker?

I hope it’s not a thing.

It bothered the piss out of me.  I recognized some of the tunes, they were kind of old, but they all sounded terrible.  In fact, I was surprised they didn’t sound better.  He appeared to have a modern phone that looked very much like mine.  And when I play music out of my phone’s speaker it sounds really good.  I dunno, maybe I was just the perfect distance for it to sound bad.  Maybe I was just appalled that I could hear it and he didn’t have the courtesy to use ear buds or headphones.  Although he did tell the guy on his left that it was just Youtube music, not from his own collection.  Maybe that made a difference.

To me it was just noise.  Very loud, very annoying noise.  Did I mention loud?  Although you might not have been able to recognize the song, I bet you could have heard it at The Bike.

I thought about saying something but I didn’t want to come across like a dick.  Or have the guy think I was just being a grumpy old man.  Especially since the older guy on the Maniac’s immediate left was not only enjoying the music himself, but actually encouraging him and doing a running commentary of music from his vast musical knowledge. I would have been spoiling it for two idiots if I asked him to turn down his “music.” So I just keep quiet and stewed.

I limped in with Queen-Jack of hearts, then called the Maniac’s raise to $20. It was three or four of us to see the flop, which was Queen-8-6.  I checked, and surprisingly, so did The Maniac.  The last action was on the Asian fellow to my immediate right—the guy who shoved preflop with King-10 off because he thought King-10 was the hot hand at the table.  I figured if he bet I could call, I likely had the best hand (I checked because I wanted to see how much the Maniac wanted to put in play).  So of course, this Asian fellow announced all-in.  WTF?  Again, he had us both covered.

That was it, I was done.  I had reached Popeye state—as in, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.”  Only instead of wolfing down a can of spinach and beating the shit out of everyone at the table—the Maniac first, followed by this joker on my right—I just mucked and got up to get a rack.  Before I could leave the table, I saw the Maniac fold and the guy on my right show his hand.  It was Queen-6 for a flopped two pair.

I suppose I should have thanked him for saving me some money.  I could have lost more there if he had made a reasonable bet.  But to me, all I could think of was how ridiculous this game had become, thanks to the Maniac—the Musical Maniac, that is.

I beat a hasty retreat, leaving with a bad taste in my mouth for Player’s Casino, poker, and yes, life in general.  That hand where I caught a straight was the only hand I’d won all day.  I dropped a buy-in and a half, give or take.

It just takes one maniac to ruin a nice poker game.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I Was Cold, and So Were My Cards

As I wrote here, my first tournament of the Vegas trip as the 7PM at Planet Hollywood.  The next night I played another tourney, this time the 7PM at Golden Nugget.  I might have just gone back to PH again, but due to a last minute scheduling change, the PH tournament was canceled.  I found that out the night before when I was playing there.  But as I explained here, I had always had the GN tournament on my list of tournaments to play.

Like the PH tourney, the buy-in was $100 for a $10K starting stack with 30-minute levels.

This was my first visit to the Nugget this year, and the Grand Poker Series was in the Grand Ballroom, just like last year.  Unlike last year, the weather conditions inside were extreme.  It was freezing cold in there, at least at our table.  During the breaks, I couldn't wait to run outside to get warm.  This is a very common problem in poker rooms in Vegas; you’ve heard me complain about this before.  But in non-traditional poker venues, it is even more likely to occur and usually more extreme.  For example, people always complain about how cold it is inside the Rio convention center where the World Series is held.  The temperature in the ballroom was apparently set to the “keep ice cream frozen” setting.

The other issue with the tournament was the chipset they were using for this tournament.  Just like at the PH tourney the night before, two different denomination chips were almost identical.  In this case, the $100 chips were pink and the $5K chips were red.  But there was really very little difference and it was oh so easy to get them confused.  I don’t understand why the $100 chips weren’t black, that seems pretty universal.  It seems to me that there are enough colors in the rainbow so you don’t have to make chips colors that are too similar.  But I’ve seen this all over the place so it is a constant problem.

I’d taken a few very small pots when I was dealt Ace-King on the last hand of the first level (25/50).  I made it $250 and had two callers.  The flop was Ace-King-x, rainbow.  I bet $800 and they both called.  A Queen hit the turn and I checked.  They checked behind me. I guess I got a little nervous there because I know how people love to play Jack-10.  But when the river was a blank, I bet $2,200 and they both called.  However, neither showed when the saw my top two.

I really didn’t play a hand during level 2, so I was at $15,900 when level 3 (75/150) started.  There, I had pocket Aces and a guy had raised to $625 in front of me.  I had a little brain-fart there.  I meant to bet $1,800.  But for some reason, I grabbed three $1K chips instead of three $500 chips.  I can’t blame the chipset for that, those two denominations were perfectly clear.  My bet was actually $3,300.  The guy called though. The flop was King-Jack-X and I c-bet $5K.   He folded pocket 10’s face up.  At that point in the tournament, it was probably a bad preflop call on his part.  He had me covered.  I felt relieved my stupidity didn’t hurt me.

Card dead, I snoozed through level 4.  I reached level 5 (50/150/300) with $17,500. I raised to $800 with King-Jack off.  Two called.  The flop came Queen-3-2.  I put out a $2K c-bet and a player shoved for $5,900.  Yuck.  I had to fold.

I started level 6 (50/200/400) with $13K.  I was totally uninvolved until very late in the level, when I raised to $1,100 with King-Jack off again.  Again two callers.  This time the flop was King-high and I bet $3K and didn’t get a call.

Level 7 ($14K, 75/300/600) I opened to $1,500 with Ace-8 off (it was a monster compared to what I’d been seeing).  A short-stack shoved for a total of $2,275.  I had to call.  She flipped over Ace-King and her hand held.

By the start of level 8 (100/400/800) I was down to $9,500 and therefore really only had one move left.  I had just been so card dead all night.  So when I looked at pocket 8’s, I open-shoved.  I got called by a much bigger stack, but he only had pocket 7’s.  I actually flopped a set and rivered a boat for good measure.

Same level, I had enough chips to just raise (to $2,500) with Ace-6 of clubs.  There was one caller.  I flopped the flush draw, shoved, and took it down.

Even with those two hands, the blinds for level 9 jumped to 200/600/1200, so my $20K stack wasn’t enough to do anything but find a hand to shove with.   I did exactly that with Ace-7 off in the cutoff and no one called (it had folded to me). 

After a limper, I shoved with pocket Kings and……didn't get a call.

I reached level 10 (200/800/1600) with $24,500.  Soon after the level started they broke our table.  We were now down to two tables.  They ended up with 67 players total.

In the big blind with King-Queen off, I shoved after two limpers.  No call.

That got me to level 11 (300/1000/2000) with about $25K.  I was about to be UTG +1 when they took our big blind to balance the tables.  So I was UTG and looked down at Ace-Queen off.  Easy decision, I went all-in.  But it was even an easier decision for the guy behind me who had pocket Aces to call.  And I was done.  I guess I busted around 15th, 16th.  They were paying 7 I think, so I really didn’t get close to the money.

It was just past midnight, so I had played a fair amount of poker.  But as you can tell, I was just seriously card dead throughout the tournament.  Just never really got cards I could play.  Very frustrating.

And I was 0 for 2 playing evening tournaments.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Low Key, Positive Start. Oh, and Yes, Hookers

OK.  So let’s go back to the beginning of my June Vegas trip and discuss my very first session.  Recall that my previous two trips to Vegas earlier in the year had featured pretty much nothing but runbad.  My luck was better back in L.A. and I had some decent winning sessions there.  But it seemed like forever since I’d had a decent result in Vegas.

Now, at the beginning of what was going to a 20-night stay in Vegas, it was important for my mental state that I get off to a good start—or at the very least, avoid getting too deep into a hole right off the bat.  I was wondering if it was possible for me to win at a Vegas poker table ever again.  That’s not the best attitude to take into a poker game, for sure, but I knew that it would likely take a winning session or two to “cure” me.

I already mentioned here why my first session of the trip was at the Mirage.  The game I was sent to turned out to be quite nitty, which I didn’t mind.  If I didn’t have to risk a lot of chips to play this first game back in town, it was fine by me. 

It was a 1/2 game and I bought in for $200 as usual.  Early on I had Queen-10 of diamonds and just limped in.  No raise, four of us saw a flop of Q-8-4, rainbow.  I was going to bet $5, but someone behind bet $5 out of turn.  So I just checked and let him make his $5 bet.  I was the only caller.  The turn was a 10 and this time I did bet, $10.  He called.  The river blanked and I bet $15.  He called.  He showed Queen-4 for a flopped two pair.  Nice turn card for me.  It was a nice little pot to win to welcome me back to Vegas.

I limped in with pocket 5’s and it was 7-way.  The flop was Ace-5-3 rainbow.  Someone led out for $5 and two players in front of me called.  I decided to just call, hoping I could keep more players in the hand to pay me off later.  The turn was a Queen and this time it checked to me so I had to bet.  My $20 bet was not called and I took down another small pot.

With pocket 7’s it folded to me on the button.  I made it $6 and only the small blind called.  The flop was King-Queen-8 and I c-bet $10 and took the pot.

In late position I called a raise to $11 with Ace-Jack offsuit.  Five of us saw an Ace-high, rainbow flop. The preflop raiser bet $16 and I called.  My thinking was to get a showdown as cheaply as possible since my kicker might not have been good.  But a bet like that for the size of the pot was likely an indication that he was on the weak side and a raise there might not have been a bad idea.  We were heads up and he bet $16 on a blank turn, I called.  And again when the river blanked, he bet another $16 and I just called.  He showed Ace-10.  I think he might very well have folded earlier to a raise from me but you never know.

Last hand I made note of I had 9-8 of diamonds in the big blind.  Four of us saw a flop that had one diamond on it, no one bet.  A second diamond hit the turn and no one bet.  When the Queen of diamonds hit the river I bet $5 with my medium flush.  A lady raised to $10 and I figured she had a bigger flush, but I couldn’t fold for five bucks.  But it turned out she only had a Queen and I won that little pot.

I was pretty tired from getting up early and the long drive into town, so I was fine with making it an early night.  I was up $80 and settled for that.

After saying goodbye to my friends in the mixed game, I wandered around the Mirage.  Over in one of the pit areas, a woman caught my attention.  I believe I had already determined that their nightclub wasn’t open this night, so I was surprised to see a girl in what I initially thought was a slut parade type dress.  It was powder blue and it was incredibly tight. It looked like it was spray painted on.  The girl had what I refer to as an “exaggerated figure.”  By that I mean she seemingly couldn’t stand up perfectly straight, she was slightly bent over, which accented a rather large derrière and a rather large chest. Honestly, neither of those body parts looked natural.  The dress wasn’t as short as some and it wasn’t low-cut (just super-tight everywhere, including across the bust) and I’ve seen many a club-going girl dress like that.  So I assumed she was going to be going to a club somewhere.

Well, she was on her cell phone and as soon as she got off, another gal came up to her and greeted her by slapping her right on that unnatural looking butt of hers.  That got my attention.  Now from the angle I first saw her, this new gal looked to be dressed very plainly, much more demurely than her friend. Of course, I only saw her from the back.

But I was walking in their direction and as I got past them, I turned and saw her from the front.  Did I say demur?  Ha!  Her top was open down to almost her navel, revealing what were, in all likelihood, surgically implanted flotation devices of the super-size variety. Real or fake, that was a boatload of boobage she was exposing.  I was about to get a second look when, from behind me, I heard her say, “Hi honey, how ya doing?”  I was pretty sure she was saying this to some other guy, not me.  But I beat a hasty retreat and said to myself. “Holy shit….they’re hookers.”  As I’ve pointed out, usually hookers dress more conservatively that that.  Anyway, it was just my first night in town and I had already gotten my first hooker sighting out of the way.  I was officially in Vegas.

And even though it wasn’t a huge result, it was good to enter that first session into the ledger with black ink instead of red.  I followed it up the next night with an even leaner $45 win at MGM, another pretty nitty game.  But it was a good way to ease into a long Vegas trip.