Friday, September 30, 2016

The Last Summer Tournament (Part 1)

This is the report on my last tournament in Vegas this summer. The previous tournament recap started here, the Aria WPT 500.

We are now at Sunday, July 3rd.  I couldn’t play in a regular tournament Saturday because of the charity event I played in that day (see here).  And by this time, with most of the big summer series winding down, there really weren’t many options for me, tournament wise.  As I explained here, I knew that there would be absolutely no tournaments I wanted to play in on the 4th, so for sure this Sunday was really it for me.

It was the last day they had the 1PM, $150 tourney at the Golden Nugget.  And since it was the last day, they knocked the guarantee down from $20K to $10K.  Oh well, I was sure they’d beat the guarantee, it would still be a nice prize pool.  And I did like the tournament.  And really, it was my only viable option.  So I headed downtown.

As you might remember, the tourney started with $15K stacks, 30-minute levels, blinds starting at 25/50.  The first hand I got involved in ended up as a three-way chop.  I had Ace-9 and there was a wheel on the board.

A few minutes later, with the tournament less than 15 minutes old, I had pocket 7’s in the big blind and called a normal raise.  I think three of us saw a flop of Queen-7-2, rainbow.  The preflop raiser bet, and I decided to just call, it was now heads up.  The turn was a brick, the guy made another bet, I check-raised, he re-raised and we got it all-in (I didn’t write down complete notes, so I dunno if he shoved or I did).  He flipped over pocket Queens.  Damn.  Tell me, does anyone out there sniff out a set of Queens and slow down there?  Let me know.

We both had similar stacks, basically the starting stacks.  I missed my one-outer, and after counting our stacks, I was left with exactly two $25 chips.  Time for the miracle comeback of all-time. 

I was now the small blind so half my stack was posted before I saw my next hand.  Of course, I was going all-in no matter what I had, but it turned out to be King-Queen, not bad.  It was heads up and I don’t remember what the other guy had but when I caught my King on the river, it gave him a flush and I was done.

Wow.  That sure wasn’t what I had in mind for my last tournament.  As I gathered my things, I started thinking about the full day ahead of me.  I hadn’t really gotten my tournament itch scratched.  Furthermore, I already knew that there were no tournaments I wanted to play in the next day (the 4th of July).  This was it.

I virtually never re-enter a tournament, but this seemed a good time to make an exception.  There was, after all, more than half of the first level left.  It’d be pretty much like starting a brand new tourney.  It actually made a lot of sense to re-enter.  By the way, the only other time I can recall re-entering a tournament was also a situation where I busted set-over-set, a story I told here.  But that time, I was ahead when I got all my money in, and the guy sucked out on me.

So I went back to the podium and plunked down another $150.  They sent me to a table that was just opening.  In fact, there were only a few players there and a dealer was just starting to set up.  So I had to wait.  Then I noticed a guy I recognized with a tourney entry in hand.  It was someone I didn’t really want at my table.

I’ve mentioned this guy before, he’s the guy I called “Bruce” in the post here.  He’s a nice guy, but man, is he a tough player. He usually starts out a tournament being extremely aggressive, raising more than half the time preflop, big raises too.  Can be a real pain in the ass.  Again, just talking playing style.  I’ve looked him up and he has more than his fair share of big tournament cashes in his tournament career.

If I thought my luck was bad losing set-over-set in the first level, it appeared it was getting worse.  Bruce not only was coming to my new table, he had the seat directly on my left.  He was almost guaranteed to make my life miserable for the rest of the day.  The only positive was that I knew what I was in for from the get-go, and thus could adjust the best I could.  I was thinking that I had made a big mistake re-entering, just knowing I was going to have to deal with Bruce.

As I mentioned, Bruce is a nice guy and he recognized me as well, and while we were waiting for them start dealing at the table, we were having a friendly chat, talking about the summer tournaments we’d played.  Just the other day, he had chopped this very tournament three-ways at around 2AM.  I asked him if he was planning to play in the main event at the Rio.  He said he was and was hoping to satellite in.  Hmm….that reminded me.  I knew that across the way at Binion’s, their tournament was actually a satellite for main event seats.  It was a $565 buy-in and they were guaranteeing one seat.  I knew registration was still open.

So of course I mentioned this to Bruce. He was intrigued, and said he wished he knew about that before he’d bought into this tournament.  I pointed out that, since we still hadn’t been dealt a hand yet, it probably wasn’t too late for him to get a refund and walk over to Binion’s for the satellite.  He seemed very interested.  Man, I would have loved to have gotten him out of my hair.  But despite my best efforts, he stayed where he was, directly on my left.

By the time the dealer was ready and there were enough players to start, the second level had just begun.  So that was mildly frustrating.
And as if my day wasn’t already full of bad luck, the first playable hand I got at this new table was the dreaded pocket Kings (although why I consider that a playable hand is beyond me).  Someone had raised to $300 so I made it $900.  Only the initial raiser called.  The flop was 7-5-2, rainbow.  I bet $1,500 and the guy check-raised to $3K.  I called.  The turn was a low card, this time we both checked. The river was an Ace, and we both checked. He showed Ace-8.  Strange.  Am I supposed to bet the turn after his flop check-raise?  I guess he figured I might have an Ace-King type hand and might fold to his check-raise.  Whatever, it was a bad start.

I opened to $275 with Ace-King and it was merely 6-ways.  The flop was low and no one bet.  I bet $1,500 on a King turn and took it.

That got me to level 3 (75/150) with $13,500. I called $600 with pocket Queens; it was three-way. The flop came Ace-high.  I called a $1,200 thinking it might be just a c-bet or a lesser pocket pair.  I figured it was worth a call on the flop to see.  But a King hit the turn and I folded to a big bet.

I opened to $400 with King-Queen, had two callers, and took it with a c-bet on the flop.

In the big blind, I had 10-9 off and there was no raise.  The flop was 10-7-2, I called $600 from the small blind.  Called the same bet on an Ace turn.  She didn’t bet the river and took it with Ace-7.

The last hand of the fourth level was kind of interesting.  I opened to $400 with King-Jack of spades.  There were a few callers and then a guy made it $3K.  I folded and then everyone else seemingly folded.  The guy who made it $3k slid his cards forward and the dealer swooped them up.  There was just one problem.  The guy on his right still had his cards and was thinking about his action. 

But the three-bettor’s hand was gone, and the pot was awarded to the only player left with cards, the guy who had only called my initial $400 raise. The guy who had accidentally mucked his hand was really pissed, but there was nothing that could have been done.  The dealer said that he had warned the guy before that he was mucking his cards too fast (if he had done that, I hadn’t noticed).  He said, “Consider your cards as a security deposit.  You don’t give me the cards until I give you the pot.”  The truth is, however, that the dealer should have been more alert and not accepted his cards knowing that the action was on the player in front of him.

The guy said he had pocket Kings.  Geez, and I thought I had lost every possible way with Kings.  But that was a new one on me.

Called a few hands during level 4 that I had to abandon after the flop. That got me to level 5 (25/150/300) with $7125. I opened to $800 with Queen-10 and didn’t get a call.  Then I opened to $800 with Ace-10 and had two callers.  The flop was Ace-high and my flop bet took the pot.

Level 6 (50/200/400), $7800.  I open-shoved with Ace-Jack and took it.  Then I raised to $1,100 with Ace-Queen and took that as well.  Raised to $800 with Ace-9, one call, took it with a flop bet on an Ace-high board.

Last hand of the level, I had King-7 of clubs and no one raised.  Seven of us saw a flop that had two clubs.  I led out with a bet—unfortunately I didn’t note the amount.  I had two callers.  The turn was a King and I shoved, and there was no call.

Level 7 (75/300/600), $15,700.  In late position, it folded to me so I bet $1,700 with Queen-7 of diamonds.  A short stack called.  The flop was low, so I bet $2,200, which was enough to put him all in.  He snap called with pocket Jacks and took the pot.

I opened to $1,800 in early position with King-Queen and didn’t get a call.

We’ll leave it there and wrap this up next time, see here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Talk is Cheap—Or is It?

Have you heard the latest controversy in poker?  Poker social media is all abuzz over a hand that was telecast recently as part of ESPN’s WSOP main event coverage.

The fury is over a penalty given to a player for his excessive table talk during a hand, and for taunting a fellow player.  I won’t describe it, but fortunately through the magic of YouTube, you can watch it yourself.  And for this post to make any sense, you just have to watch it for and then return for my comments.  I’m not sure if it is cool for me to imbed the video, so I’ll just provide the link (It’s here).  It’s the very first hand of the episode, and to understand everything I want to cover here, you should watch at least the first 12 minutes of the show (up to the first commercial break).  Go ahead, check it out, I’ll wait.

Back?  Good.  So what do you think, was the one-round penalty given to William Kassouf fair?

Certainly, on the most basic level, it is proper to give him a penalty—he was warned and kept doing what he was warned about after being warned, so of course he should be penalized.  And if you go this link here, which has a good debate about the penalty, you will see a list of the various TDA rules he violated. 

Of course, if you wanted to, you could make the argument that the rules need to be updated so that what Kassouf did is allowed.  Or you could say he should have been given a milder penalty.

You won’t hear that argument from me.

To me, Kassouf comes off as a world-class dick.  While there is no law against being a dick (if only….), I think it is in poker’s best interests to minimize dickish behavior as much as it can.  See my recent post (here), for example.

It comes down to how much and what kind of “table talk” should be allowed. Readers should not be surprised at my reaction, especially if they recall my post here where I got very upset at a player who was acting much like Kassouf was. 

I recognize that a lot of the very best players—Daniel Negreanu, to name one—are experts at table talk and consider it a key part of their game.  And there are great arguments for what an important element of the game it is.

But as far as I’m concerned, non-stop talking, becoming harassment, has no place in poker.  It’s abusive and it takes the fun out of the game.  Maybe there’s a line to be drawn somewhere, but clearly Kassouf crossed it.  Then erased it, stomped on it, and urinated on it.  If Kassouf had done that to me, I would have gotten up and slugged him.  I might have slugged him if I was just a bystander at the table.  What a world-class douche.

One thing to note about allowing such table-talk is that you can only allow it in a heads up situation.  Had there been a third player in the hand, he wouldn't have been able to say a thing.(because you might be giving away information to that third player).  While I get the distinction, does it really make sense to have one set of rules for heads-up play and another set for a multi-way pot?  That’d be like saying in baseball, it’s three-strikes and you’re out if no one is on base, but it only takes two strikes and you’re out if there’s a man on base.  Ok, that analogy sucks, but really, why is it ok to have different rules just because there’s an extra person in the hand?

I ask you, is the “skill” involved in using table talk to your advantage a legitimate poker skill, or is it just a form of angle shooting?  I’m sure it alienates some players (I mean, in addition to me) so is it good for the game to allow it?  Clearly Kassouf’s opponent wasn’t very happy about it (I mean, even before she folded the winning hand).  And she is a professional poker player, not some newbie.

And….I actually think allowing such table talk is worse in a tournament than in a cash game.  I acknowledge I might be in the minority and some people might have no problem with it or even like it.  Maybe the person who is the “victim” of it actually can outfox the person doing the talking and get a great read and turn it around in his favor? Or at the very least, finds the other guy’s chatter amusing and not bothersome. Fine and dandy.

But if a player doesn’t enjoy it and it’s allowed, well, if you’re in a cash game, after the hand is over, at least you can get a table change if you like.  That’s what I did in that post I linked to above when I felt abused.  But in a tournament, you don’t have that luxury. You may be stuck with the abusive talker for hours.  That’s why they need to be more vigilant in keeping the talk to a minimum in a tournament.

Anyway, of course Kassouf deserved the penalty.  Not only for his talking, not only for flaunting the warnings he received, but then, for his totally classless act of rubbing it in when he exposed his hand.  “Nine-high… a boss.”  I think the Tournament Director himself should have punched him for that.  And keep in mind, we didn’t see the entire hand play out, we came in at the end. Presumably he had been an asshole for awhile (even a few hands earlier, according to the announcers).

Finally, Kassouf is totally unrepentant even after the penalty.  He is happy as a clam for getting penalized by not just any tournament director, but by the Tournament Director of the World Series of Poker!  And he even appears to be happy when the person he bluffed busted out while he was serving his penalty.  Although, to be fair, that may just be editing and it is not certain that is what he is reacting to.

I hope you also noticed the guy who called the clock on the player (Stacy Matuson) who was being harassed by Kassouf.  Now that was totally out of line.  Under the circumstances, with all the warnings and everything else, totally unfair to call the clock there.  Although again, to be fair, the floor person could have—and should have—said that it was too soon to start running the clock under the circumstances.

Anyway, I’m interested to hear other people’s takes on this.  I might be the only one who feels the way I do.  I just feel that poker is supposed to be fun and friendly. Not everyone is going to enjoy this kind of talking at the table.  I suppose a compromise would be to allow it until the person being spoken to says, “Can you please be quiet?  And then the person would have to sit quietly until the action was complete.

So what are your thoughts?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Where Does All My Time Go?

I'm sorry to report I don't have a real blog post for you tonight.

I just don't know where all my time is going.  I got behind last week and so far this weekend, have only gotten further behind.

I played hooky Friday.  Saturday, I got a late start and then had some unexpected personal business to take care of that killed most of Saturday.  And after watching UCLA blow that game to Stanford Saturday night, I guess I couldn't quite find the energy to start on a new post.  Today I got an even later start and then got involved watching the Rams-Tampa Bay game.  I expected to be able to just have it on in the background while I wrote, but the game got way more interesting than I expected (I expected the Rams to suck so bad that I'd lose interest).  So I watched the whole game while switching over frequently to watch the Dodgers clinch the NL West against the Rockies (what a game that was!).

Then for good measure, when the two-minute warning of the Rams game came, they had to stop the game due to a lightning storm!  I may never forgive Lightning for this.  Well, at least that let me watch the end of the Dodgers game without distraction.

So now it is time for a post, and I have nothing.  I had actually come up with an idea for a post that wouldn't take long to wrote, but I don't even have time for that now.  So I was left with the option of doing this placeholder post or post nothing.  Actually, nothing may soon win out.  I'm pretty much out of material save two more interesting sessions, and I'm not returning to Vegas for a while longer (hopefully Halloween).  It may not be practical to keep up my three posts a week goal.  I could use some guest posts, folks.  Don't be shy.

In the meantime, I figured you guys never seem to mind when I post a bunch of pics of the type I've somehow become associated with.  


(And thanks to VegasDWP for the first pic....seems appropriate)

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Troglodyte Check

Some people are just obnoxious jerks, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Some of these obnoxious jerks play poker.  And if there’s one at your table, it can be really ruin the game.

This particular Saturday night, at MGM, there was a real obnoxious jerk. A shithead. Young guy.  I didn’t recognize him but it appeared that most of the dealers knew him.  How I had managed to avoid running into this guy before, I dunno. 

He was in seat 4, and I started out in seat 6.  I immediately asked for a seat button change, because this was a club night and although I had one of the prime tables for viewing, my back would be to the pedestrian traffic.  Seat 1 or 9 were the best seats.

In seat 1 was a tall, really young kid who was very aggro and also happened to resemble Phil Hellmuth.  He looked like a younger Hellmuth, so in my mind (and in my notes), I referred to him as Hellmuth, Jr.  He straddled every time he was under-the-gun, keep that in mind.

When I first arrived, the aforementioned shithead was giving the poor fellow in Seat 9 a hard time.  Seat 9 was a middle-aged guy with a foreign (European?) accent.  Apparently the shithead thought seat 9 was a really bad player.  He was making jokes about how he would call with anything preflop, and how he’d never fold.  Sometimes he’d actually predict what kind of crappy hand he had.  I’m assuming that before I got there, seat 9 had won some hands from the kid by playing crap and sucking out on him.

Seat 4 found a partner in teasing this guy in Phil Hellmuth, Jr.  Junior wasn’t nearly as bad as shithead, but he was clearly enjoying his “jokes” at seat 9’s expense.  Whenever they would talk to seat 9, he never said a word back, so most of the teasing was shithead talking to Hellmuth, Jr. about how bad a player seat 9 was, certainly loud enough for seat 9 to hear him if he was paying attention.

I have no idea if the criticism bothered seat 9 or not.  It’s possible he didn’t understand some of what was being said.  But it was incredibly rude.  And it was also stupid.  If shithead was right and seat 9 was a bad player, why in the world would you want to say or do anything that might encourage him to leave the table?  Why not instead be nice to him, keep him in the game, and win your money back when the law of averages eventually catches up with him?  I was disappointed that none of the dealers said anything to the shithead about his comments, I definitely think they should have.  Maybe the fact that he was laughing so much (as was Junior) made it seem like it was all in good fun.  Seat 9 was not laughing but he didn’t appear annoyed.  He appeared oblivious.

Anyway, seat 9 finally cashed out.  Whether the comments from the rude kids had anything to do with that, I have no idea.  But that gave me the opportunity to take over seat 9 to get the view I wanted, which I did.  Up to this point, I don’t think shithead had said anything to me, but he couldn’t help expressing surprise that I would change seats to seat 9.  “Why would you do that?  Why move there?  It makes no sense.”

I’m assuming he felt that way because that meant my big blind would be straddled every time by Hellmuth, Jr.  Or that Junior was in general an aggressive player I’d probably prefer not having on my immediate left.  I suppose he had a point.  But by this time I’d figured out that Junior wasn’t quite the poker player his “father” was.  I felt I had enough information on him to be able to deal with him, straddles and all.

As it happens, my buddy Mike was dealing at this time.  He of course knew full well why I wanted that seat.  I really didn’t think I owed shithead any explanation at all, but I said to him, “I want to sit next to the dealer.  I want to talk to him.”

Unfortunately as it turned out, Mike decided to out me and give the real reason.  “He wants the view.”  Now shithead had already been nudged once or twice to pay attention to his hand when hot girls had walked by.  But that didn’t stop him from saying, “Oh the view. Really sir?” I ignored him. And then he said something really bizarre.  It was something like, “Oh, you wanna be like Michael Jackson?  Looking at kiddie porn?  These girls are underage and you want to look at them?”

What the hell?

Apparently, he’s young enough and ignorant enough to think there is a time in a man’s life when he no longer is interested in looking at attractive young women.  I guess he figured I was so old, I’d be past that.  As I just mentioned, he himself had demonstrated a roving eye for a few provocatively dressed ladies.  I’m not sure what was more insulting.  That I was old or that I was some kind of pervert.

Listen, Skippy….men never outgrow their fascination with the female form.  It develops in the early teens and lasts at least until death.  Maybe longer.

I’m reminded of a story I heard from a radio talk show host years ago.  A female doctor called to tell him about a recent experience in the hospital.  She was checking on a very old, very sick man.  The guy was quite literally on his death bed.  And as she was checking his vitals, she noticed he was looking down her shirt.  And she was offended by that!

The host told her that it was a great story and that he was glad that perhaps the very last sight the old man saw before he moved on to the next life was something he really, really liked. 

Aside:  Since when does a female doctor see patients wearing a top that you can look down?  But I digress.

I said nothing to the shithead.  I didn’t even bother to point out that the girls passing by would not be under-aged or they wouldn’t be allowed in a casino (yes, I know some might be using fake ID’s).  I just kind of seethed silently.  I was waiting for Mike to say something to him about that being an inappropriate thing to say to another player, but he just laughed.  Gee, thanks, Mike.

I didn’t make an issue of it.  I just tried my best to ignore it and concentrate on the game.

 After Junior busted out, a couple of brothers from Costa Rica came to the table. Between hands they would speak in Spanish to each other. Shithead decided they were pretending to be inexperienced players but were really good.  They seemed like pretty average players to me.  But a couple of times, shithead said to one of them, “Oh you’re acting like you don’t know what you’re doing but that’s not the way you folded your cards.” The brothers ignored him.  They may not have understood what he was saying.  I didn’t have any idea what he was talking about but it just may have been that he realized he hadn’t done anything dickish in awhile so he had to come up with something.

The poker session was rather blah for me, so I’ll only talk about one hand, one where I was up against the star of this post.  I limped/called $12 with Ace-9 of diamonds. It was three-way, including shithead, who was one of the blinds.  The flop was Ace-high, one diamond. It checked around.  The turn was a blank and this time shithead bet $25, I called and the preflop raiser folded.  The river was a blank, he checked, I showed my hand, he showed Ace-3.

So I won the hand, and shithead said, “Why did you check?”  I didn’t say anything. “I had Ace-3!”  Yes, I saw that.  But only after the hand was over.  I didn’t know he had Ace-3 when I checked did I?  Nine is a pretty weak kicker, I had no idea his was worse.  He continued to express his disbelief that I checked and at one point said, “That was a troglodyte check.”

Again, I said nothing.  But by this time he had won the title of “shittiest human being I encountered on this trip” in a walk.  By the way, he never had a drop of alcohol the entire time I was at the table with him, so he didn’t have that excuse.

He eventually busted out, but damn my luck, it happened when I was in the restroom, denying me the pleasure of seeing him lose all of his chips.

Call it a hunch, but I bet he lost them making a troglodyte call.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Brad Garrett Charity Tournament

Like the rest of you, I had never played in a charity poker tournament before. OK, that’s unfair, maybe some of you have played in charity poker tournaments. Some of my readers may indeed be better people than me. But I never had until my summer Vegas trip this year.

I already mentioned this tournament in one of my seemingly infinite posts about MGM parking fees (see here).  As I wrote there, I had written about the charity poker tournament MGM was hosting for Ante Up magazine (see here).  In essence, I helped promote the tournament, which is always a big fund raising event for the charity.

That charity is the Maximum Hope Foundation, which does some truly great work and you can read about it here.  The charity was started by comedian Brad Garrett.  Since Garrett is an avid poker player, he’s had a charity poker tournament in Vegas yearly for quite some time now.

It’s been hosted by MGM for as a long as I’ve been aware of it.  A few years ago, MGM opened up the Brad Garrett Comedy Club, but I think that MGM has been hosting it long before that.  I know from many of my MGM dealer pals that Garrett often played poker in at MGM when he was in Vegas to perform.  I think he used to perform regularly at the Tropicana so it was convenient for him to play at MGM.  Word always was that he was good poker player and a really nice guy.

Months before the event, my editor suggested I write a few paragraphs about the event and the foundation for the issue of Ante Up coming right before the event.  I was happy to do so.  Both my editor and I were working with Brad’s assistant, who goes by the name Izzy, to get the details accurately.  Izzy very generously offered both of us VIP entry into the tournament.  I was in a position to accept the invitation so of course I did.

As I said, I had never played in a charity event before, but I was somewhat familiar with the general format from having entered a ton of them into the PokerAtlas database of the past few years. 

In case you didn’t know, charity poker tournaments are quite different from regular poker tournaments.  Now, why do you play poker?  Why do you play in a poker tournament?  Well, you might say to have fun, sure, but basically, you want to win some money.

You don’t play in a charity poker tournament to win money.  You play to give money to a good cause.  And to have fun of course, and to maybe meet and play with some celebrities.  But you don’t play for the money.

Most charity tournaments have one big cash prize.  Yes, one. They use that big cash prize to help promote the tournament.  The next few places generally get prizes of merchandise donated by companies to support the charity.  So whereas the min-cash in a regular tournament might be only 150% of the buy-in, the min-cash in a charity event wouldn’t be any cash at all.  It might be a set of ear-buds.  Or a really nice travel mug.  Or a gift certificate for Starbucks. Or a meal in one of the restaurants at the casino hosting the tournament.  Maybe a free night’s stay there. Now second or third place might be a really valuable prize, but it would be a far cry from the first place prize, which would be a large cash amount.

The other thing about charity tourneys is the structures.  They are very, very fast and always have multiple re-buys and add-ons during the registration period.  The structures are designed so that people will bust out fast, re-buy many times, with all that re-buy and add-on money going to the charity. For a poker player trying to make money, these charity tournaments don’t have the value players look for.  That’s not the reason to play.  The reason to play is to support a worthy cause.

For this Brad Garrett charity event, the grand prize was $10K in cash.  And after that, well some lovely prizes.  I actually didn’t even find out what the prizes were, I’m sure there were some good ones.  But in a regular tournament with a $10K first place prize, you would expect second place to be at least $5K.  I’m going out on a limb and guessing that the prize for second place was not worth anything close to that.

But again, that’s not the point. The point is giving money to a great cause.

When I had the chance to get a VIP invitation to play in this event, I took it immediately.  I mean, who wouldn’t want a chance to play in a tournament for free, right?  As unlikely as it was, I had at least a greater than zero chance of getting that $10K first place prize, right?  Besides, I have to confess that it didn’t hurt my ego any that I had made a big enough splash in the poker world that I was invited to play in the event as a VIP. There was a certain coolness factor to that.  And meeting Brad Garrett sounded pretty cool too.

But as the event got closer, I did start developing some reservations.  I was concerned that I would be expected to take some (or all) of the add-ons and also re-buy if I busted out before registration closed. I mean, especially since I hadn’t paid anything to enter.  I guess I should give some details here.  The buy-in for the event was $250.  The re-buys and the add-ons were $100 each.  Players started with $5K in chips, levels started at 100/200 with 15-minute levels.  The re-buys and add-ons were also for $5K chips. The re-buy period lasted five levels.

There was no way I could justify allocating any of my poker bankroll (which had gone in the wrong direction this trip) for add-ons or re-buys for a tournament that had such a low possibility of a return.   And honestly, my charity bankroll didn’t have the funds for it either.

I was wondering how guilty I was going to feel if I played in the tournament for free, busted out early (as I was almost assured of doing) and then didn’t re-buy.  I was really concerned about that.

Fortunately, I had a chance to discuss my feelings with my pal Prudence.  I remembered that she had played in a charity tournament at MGM a few years ago.  I believe she even finished “in the money,” which, since it wasn’t first place, meant she won a pair of really high quality sunglasses (if memory serves).  When I expressed my concern, she kind of glossed over it because she had something more important to tell me that I hadn’t thought about at all.

She said that the person who wins that big money prize for taking first place in the tournament is more-or-less expected to turn around and donate the winnings back to the charity!

Gulp.  So if I I somehow managed to win the entire tournament, I would be expected to just turn around and hand the cash back to them?  Then she said that, well, if a poker player won it instead of a celebrity, maybe they wouldn’t expect the poker player to return all the money.  But a good chunk of it, yes.

So I had a few things on my mind as I got to the tournament that day. As I mentioned in that parking post, I ended up misremembering the start time and ran late.  I knew I wanted to introduce myself to Brad’s assistant, Izzy, before the tournament started.  I had to find the location because it wasn’t in the regular poker room.  With just a few minutes before the start, there was a long line to register.  Fortunately though, there was a VIP line that wasn’t crowded.  I had to hope my name was on the VIP list as I had been told; otherwise I’d have to find Izzy first and I had no idea what she looked like.

The people manning registration were all familiar faces to me who knew me, so as soon as I got there and I started to say, “I’m supposed to be on the VIP list….” They all confirmed I was.  So I got my seat assignment.  For the occasion, the MGM had brought in two “showgirls” all decked out like, well showgirls.  White outfits with plenty of feathers.  They were over by the side.  I asked one of my MGM pals if Izzy was around and was told she was over there, wearing a white dress.  “Over there” was right where the two showgirls were.  I said, “There’s a bunch of girls wearing white dresses over there.”  My female floor person friend said, “She’s the one not wearing feathers.”

I knew that “Izzy” was short for Isabelle (although I think she spells it differently).  In my mind, the name “Isabelle” is kind of an old-fashioned name, not a name for a millennial or even a Gen-X’er. .  I was expecting a matronly, possibly gray-haired woman.  But the only person in a white dress in the vicinity and not in feathers was a girl who looked too young to be in a casino. She was very slim, very blonde and very attractive.  Not at all what an “Isabelle” looked like in my mind.

But it seemed like it was her as she was talking to everyone and clearly managing the social aspects of the event.  So I asked if she was Izzy and she confirmed she was.  I introduced myself and she proceeded to gush about how great it was of me to write the piece for Ante Up.  Really, she was extravagant in her praise. 

Then she asked me if I’d gotten a picture with Brad yet. I said no and she asked if I’d like one.  Of course I said yes.  She tried to find him to bring him over but by this time, it was time to start the tournament, and Brad had the microphone in his hand to start the introduction and the welcoming speech.  So she said to me, “Come see during the first break and I’ll make sure you meet him.”  Ok, that was great.  I mean, assuming I lasted to the first break.

I hurried to find my seat assignment.  I recognized almost all the dealers, it seemed like they not only had the regular day time dealers in for the Noon start, they had brought in the swing shift dealers in to make sure they were adequately staffed.  I saw one of my dealer pals and asked him if he knew where table 24 was.  He pointed to two tables over.  “I think it’s that one, where Mike is dealing.”  Yes, my buddy Mike, who I almost share a birthday with and who was cracking my Kings before it became a thing.  So I said to my pal, “Not Mike.  Damn, I’ll bust out on the first hand.”  He laughed.  I found my seat as Brad was starting his schtick.

Man, I wish I had recorded his intro.  The man was extremely funny but I couldn’t really recall much of what he said the next day.  It was also extremely politically incorrect, which I loved. The one line I remember is that, while he was roaming the room talking, somebody walked right in front of him. Brad said, “What, you busted already?  Here’s a suggestion…buy a book.”

Brad discussed the great work his charity does and thanked a bunch of people who support it.  And he introduced the celebrities that were there.  The most noteworthy professional poker player was Jonathan Little.  The most famous Hollywood-type (aside from Brad himself) was Willie Garson (from Sex & The City) who happened to be at my table and who had won the event the year before.  Once the tournament started I found him to be a real nice guy.

And then he introduced Kato Kaelin. Yes, the Kato Kaelin from the infamous O.J. Simpson case, then known as the world’s most famous houseguest. After Brad said his name, he added, “And he doesn’t know anything.”  I was really surprised to hear the name, and I spotted him as he stood up.  He looked just like I remembered and I must say, he barely looked any older than I remembered him. A side note:  That evening, when I was playing at MGM, he came in and played cash.

One other major celebrity of note.  The “shuffle up and deal” was done by Robin Leach.

Finally the tournament started.  Izzy had been so nice and so grateful to me that I was already feeling guilty over the thought of busting early and not doing any re-buys.  Plus now I had to hang on through the first break to meet Brad.  So I had a very different strategy for this tournament than any other one I’ve ever played in.  I was not playing to win.  I was playing to survive. At least until the re-buy period was over. That was all I was trying to accomplish.  If I made it past the close of registration with even a single chip, I’d be happy, and wouldn’t feel quite so guilty about not taking any re-buys (even though I still could have taken the add-on),

With a $5K starting stack, blinds starting at 100/200 and 15-minute levels, it seemed unlikely I could accomplish my mission. And wouldn’t you know, unlike most tournaments, I started off getting a bunch of playable hands.  Nothing great, no big pairs, no Ace-King, but big cards and medium pairs that I would be happy to play in a normal tournament. I folded some, raised with some, but then folded too easily when I met any resistance, trying to preserve my meager stack.  My second goal was to, at the very least, avoid being the first person to bust out!

One of the things about charity events I didn’t mention earlier is that you get a lot of players who really aren’t poker players.  Some just like the charity and think this is a fun way to contribute to it, or they want to meet some celebrities, or are friends of the sponsor or of some of the other people playing.  So they come to have a good time while contributing to a good cause.  Maybe one of the positives then is that some of these novices will have a good enough time to cultivate an interest in the game.

The point being that there was a girl at my table who knew about as much about poker as I do about Bulgarian fashion design.  So of course, making a terrible call, she accumulated a lot of chips.  I didn’t write down the details but I think she hit a two-outer after making a call that no one who’d ever played poker before would have made.  Thus, she was the chip leader at our table when a guy went all-in, another guy went all-in behind him, and it folded to her.  She had plenty of chips and losing to either one would have hurt her, she should have only called with a really big hand.  Well she called and flipped over pocket 5’s.  The other two hands were like Ace-Jack and King-10.  Of course, she faded all the Broadway cards and felted both of them with a pair of 5’s.

The importance of this is that this was the first time anyone from our table had busted out, and I really had no idea if anyone had busted from the other tables or not.  But both of these players just grabbed their things and took off—they made no effort to re-buy.  So at the very least, I had achieved one goal—not being the first person to bust out.  I wouldn’t even be the first person to bust out at my table.

Which was good, because when the blinds got to 300/600, I was down to $1,500 in chips. Any other tournament I would have found a place to shove before then, but this time, I was just trying to hang on as long as possible. I figured I would have to be all-in when the big blind came to me, but a few hands before that was going to happen, guess what?  I found my old friends, the dreaded pocket Kings. Of course, I shoved with them.  I got called by a bigger stack with Ace-9. This guy wasn’t a very experienced player either, but with his stack size it was probably a good call.  The flop was all bricks but of course he caught his Ace on the turn and I was done.

I left my table and started feeling guilty (again) about not re-buying.  I went over to Izzy and she was unbelievably nice and gracious.  And then she said she would try to get Brad right then and there, in the middle of the tournament, so I could meet him, and not have to wait for the break.  Unlike me, Brad still had chips.  So I waited, still feeling guilty.

Brad was actually making the rounds, talking to folks, so it took a while. In the meantime, I noticed a big glass display case which had racks and racks of MGM one dollar chips.  I asked the floor person I knew if that was actually the $10K first place prize in dollar chips and she said it was.  Wow, were they really going to give the winner 10,000 chips?  I said, “You must not have any dollar chips for the 1/2 game!”  She said yes, they were joking that they wouldn’t be able to do a fill in the poker room all day.

I saw Izzy get Brad’s attention and they talked a bit before she brought him over to me.  What happened next was rather incredible.  Brad Garrett is the celebrity, but he treated me like absolute royalty. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Vegaspoker. Thank you so much for the mention in Ante Up.  It was wonderful. Thank you so much.”  Yes, he called me Mister!  He went on and on gushing over me.

I of course repaid the favor, telling him what a great job he was doing for such a worthy cause, and also complimenting him as a comedian.  “You’re very funny.”  He thanked me for the compliments. I also said the obvious to him, “You’re very tall.”  Then I added, “I guess you hear that a lot.”  He laughed.  I got Brad Garrett to laugh!  Check the pic of the two of us below.  I’m really not a midget.  Brad is just really, really tall.

Izzy got the photographer to take a few pics of Brad and me..  In addition to the professional photographer, there was another guy who volunteered to take a few snaps with my own cell phone. Very cool.  By the way, the professional photographer happened to be Asian. So Brad said, “Oh look at that.  An Asian with a camera.  Imagine that.”

Anyway, Brad and Izzy were both so incredible nice and gracious to me that it only made me feel more guilty for not contributing financially to their very worthy cause.  But after I left, I started thinking about it and they both seemed real sincere that I had contributed by putting the notice in my column.  I hadn’t taken up any space that otherwise would have gone to a “paying customer”—there were plenty of seats available.  And the fact that there was a VIP list means I wasn’t the only person who played the tournament for free.

It was a pretty interesting experience all in all, and I’m sure glad I did meet Mr. Brad Garrett, a true class act.  And funny.  And tall.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

In Search of the Great Black Flush

This is the second (and final) part.  Be sure to read part 1 first, here.

We pick up with my decision to go to dinner,   Our table had been short-handed for awhile so I didn’t really want to leave my chips on the table and take up a seat while I ate.  For one thing, I feel it is rude to be away from the table that long just holding a seat.  Also, I was concerned they would break the table soon after I left, it sure looked that was quite likely.  So I racked up my chips to cash out, planning to return to the poker room after eating.

The thing was, with that late little rush, I had managed to work by second $200 buy-in up to $430.  So I was actually up thirty bucks for the session.  Nice recovery from that damn Kings hand.

Hmm, I knew what the house rule was regarding taking money off the table in such a situation. When I returned, I’d have to buy in for the $430 I took off the table earlier.  Unless I was gone at least two hours, that is.  After two hours, I could return and buy in for any amount between $100-$300. I learned that in the post here.  Prior to that previous session, I thought the time frame was one-hour, not two. 

I thought about it, and I decided that unlike the session I just linked to, this time I did want to rathole.  That $430 I’d have to buy back in for represented a profit of just $30.  It would be different if it was $230 profit.  But as I was essentially buying in to a whole new session, why would I want to buy in for twice what I usually buy in for?  It didn’t make sense to me.  I mean, if I wanted to buy in for $400, I’d play in a room where there’s either a $500 cap or no cap (Golden Nugget, for example, has no max on the buy in for their 1/2 game).

But if I was going to rathole, I was going to do it legitimately.  I would just wait the requisite two hours before getting back in a game.  Hmm….is it actually ratholing if what you’re doing is totally within the rules?  Maybe not.

Now the truth is, I probably could have gotten away with coming back much sooner.  At least I think I could.  My buddy Stan, the person who “stopped” me from ratholing in that previous post, no longer works in the MGM poker room.  The guy at the front was relatively new and didn’t really know me.  If I just came back an hour later, was he really going to remember how much I cashed out for?  Or that I only left an hour ago?  I kind of doubted it.  I could have tried it.

But no, I’m a guy who plays by the rules.  If it’s two hours I have to stay away, two hours it is.  Unlike some other people I could mention, I have no problem hanging around a casino and not gambling for two hours.  So after I walked across the street to grab my dinner at New York New York, I walked around, checked out “The Park” area for a second time, wandered over to Excalibur, checked out their poker room. 

I actually considered killing time by getting into a game at Excalibur.  I probably would have if I hadn’t filled up half of my parlay card.  Maybe I would have just finished up the night playing at Excal.  But by this time, I was interested in seeing if I get some more stamps on my card and possibly fill it up before leaving town two days later.

So just wandered some more, relaxed, and finally walked up to the MGM poker podium just about two hours after I’d left for dinner.  I did notice that the table I had been playing at earlier was closed up, so it was definitely a good thing that I didn’t leave my chips behind.

I took my normal starting stack of $200 to a different 1/2 game.  It was a wild table when I got there.  There was one particular maniac with a big, big stack.  He would open to $30 a lot, call big shoves, make big shoves himself.  By the time I got there, it appeared he was in the process of giving back all his money.  There was one hand where he called a shove of at least $200 on the turn with just a gut-shot—and missed.  Not much later, now playing with not so many chips (but still plenty), he made a shove himself on the river. When he got called (by someone who had him covered), he stood up and left, without even waiting for the guy to show his hand.  I don’t think he even mucked….he just left with his cards still sitting, face down, in his spot.

There was an Asian fellow there who was waiting for a seat in the 2/5 game.  He was pretty aggro.  He was there with his girlfriend, who was also playing.  He said that on their first date, they played poker.  However, the girlfriend was not nearly as aggro as the guy.  Her thing was to overbet the pot, particularly on the flop.  She was obviously not nearly as experienced a player as her boyfriend was, but she was definitely a step or two above a newbie.

Another player there joined us from an broken table, soon after I got there.  He seemed to me to be a newbie.  He took a really long time to make seemingly routine decisions.  He also seemed continually confused about the single chip rule and other poker etiquette.  Any chance he had to impress me with his game went out the window when, in the big blind, after at least five limpers, he raised to $5.  He’s not the first person I’ve seen make a raise like that, but still….it strikes me as one of the dumbest moves you can make in a hold’em game.  He wasn’t going to get anyone to fold, and if he had a big starting hand he wouldn’t be much of a favorite against the field he was inviting in.

But he did tell me something that I found somewhat disheartening.  He was considering getting into the 10PM tournament.  But he wanted to buy into it right before registration closed. He was convinced that was the smartest thing to do because the week before, he had entered the 7PM tournament right before reg closed and ended up winning it.  He won over $800 and there were 48 players.  I thought to myself, “Man if this guy could win a tournament, it really must be all luck.”

With most of my starting stack in front of me, I raised to $8 with pocket 10’s.  A new player to the table made it $25 and then another guy shoved for $27.  It folded back to me.  Knowing that the three-bettor couldn’t raise if I called, I called.  He did indeed ask if he could raise, but he was told he could not.  The flop came King-Queen-3 and it went check-check.  The turn was a 9 giving me a gut-shot.  This time he bet $25 and I went ahead and called.  I missed on the river and I folded when he bet $35.  He showed Ace-King.

I called a $5 straddle with pocket 5’s, then the straddler made it $10 so I called that. Five of us saw a flop of Jack-3-3.  No one bet.  The turn was another 3 and still no one bet.  The river was a 10.  This time someone bet $15.  It folded to me and, I just couldn’t fold a boat for that price, so I called.  But the guy had 10-x.

I was down to less than $100, and planned on top my stack off with another $100 when the button got to me. But before that happened, I was in the big blind with Ace-2 offsuit.  Now, I couldn’t remember the next day if there was a small raise that I called or it was limped.  It would have had to have been a very small raise for me to call. There were three or four of us in the hand. The flop came King-Queen-Jack, all clubs.  And my Ace was a club.  I checked and the Asian girlfriend I described earlier bet $35.  Definitely an overbet, just not sure how much.  I should have just shoved the rest of my small stack with my monster draw, I just called.  I guess I was thinking I could save a few bucks if the turn card was really ugly.  We were now heads up.  The turn was a brick and she bet $35 again.  That was about all I had left and I called (it was actually $34).  But the river bricked as well and I went bust.  She had 9-5 of cubs for the flopped flush.

So I bought another $200.  Very next hand, I limped in with pocket deuces.  No one raised and just eight of us saw a flop of Queen-Jack-2, rainbow.  Sweet.  The girl who had just busted me led out for $20.  I decided to just call, hoping maybe I could get another caller or two.  But everyone folded and we were heads up.  The turn was a blank and she bet $20 again.  I made it $50 and she called.  The river was a King.  She checked and was wondering if maybe she caught a straight.  Basically I was way too cautious there and just turned over my hand without betting.  She had Queen-6. The kid next to me—the seemingly novice player—burst out with, “Are you shitting me?” when he saw her hand.  “I threw out Queen-6!”  You see, he hadn’t noticed my hand and apparently thought she had won the pot.  When he finally saw my hand, he said, “Oh sorry, I didn’t see your hand….I’m so glad you won that pot, I thought I threw away the winning hand.”  Man that sure sounded like a newbie to me.

Well, it was nice to win the first pot after my rebuy, and also, that got me another stamp on my card for three-of-kind.  Only two to go.

The game wore on.  I lost some chips and probably won one or two really small pots.  Then finally, I got pocket deuces again.  When I limped in, I was thinking, “What’s the point?  There’s no way I’m going to flop a set of deuces twice in one session.”  Four or five us saw a flop of 8-8-2.  So I was right about not flopping a set of deuces again.  Flopping a boat was even better.  Someone bet $12, there was a call and I called.  The turn was whatever, but this time it checked to me.  I bet $15 and they both called (I bet small there to try to keep them in, figuring their checks were a sign of weakness).  On the river, whatever it was, it checked to me again, I bet $25.  I didn’t get a call, but I showed my hand to get a stamp for the full house.

Now I was just one stamp away from completing my card and getting $100.  All I needed was a black flush.  Could I get one before I called it a night?  It was getting towards 11:30 and I had figured I’d stop no later than midnight.  But I thought about it and decided if necessary, I could go to 12:30.  If I hadn’t hit my flush by then, I’d call it quits and return the next evening.

From that point on, I had a keen interest in seeing either clubs or spades (but not both) on my hole cards. I usually look at my cards one at a time, and whenever I saw the first card was red, even if it was an Ace, I was disappointed.  But when that first card was black, I would pray for the other card to be the Ace in that suit.  Or even the King of that suit.  Or a suited connecter.  And if the first card was a black Ace, I wasn’t wishing for a second Ace….I was hoping to see any card in that same suit.

Well, I’ve told you before, promos make me stupid (see here).  But seriously, although I was wishing for certain cards, I don’t really think I played any differently. I never called a big raise preflop with two crappy spades or clubs. Actually, I don’t think I really had the chance. For all my wishing, I didn’t see two black suited cards.  One time I did have Ace-Queen of clubs and raised with it, but totally whiffed on the flop.

It was close to midnight. Opening my hand, the first card I saw was the 9 of spades. Praying for the Ace of spades, I checked out the second card.  It was an 8….of spades.  OK, I’ll play that for sure.  I limped in, no one raised and three or four of us saw the flop.  Sorry, I didn’t’ write down the details, but there were two spades on it.  No one bet.  The turn card, whatever it was, was not a spade but did give me a gutshot in addition to the flush draw.  There was nothing in the pot, so I figured I better try to build one in case I caught my flush on the river.  I might not be able to get the pot to $40 if there was nothing put in the pot after the turn.  I bet $5 because the pot was small I didn’t think anything more would be called. Fortunately two players called.

The river was indeed a spade, and now I had two concerns.  One, did anyone catch a bigger flush than mine?  You have to win the pot to get the stamp.  And two, can I get a bet called so the pot will be over $40?  I bet $15, knowing that I only need one call to get the pot big enough. The first player folded but the lady who had busted me earlier called.  She had a straight. Phew.  I confirmed with the dealer that the pot was big enough for a stamp.  “Barely,” he said. Actually, by my calculations now, I really could have bet smaller, even $10 would have been ok.  But I needed that one call and I did thank the lady for calling.  But she wasn’t going to fold her straight for $15 anyway.

So I made it!  That was the last stamp I needed, I had managed to fill out a card entirely in one day.  And as soon as they brought me my $100, I took off.  That pot got my stack to $300.  But since I had bought in twice, it meant a $100 loss for the second session.  But with the $100 promo money, it became a break even session.  So for the entire day at MGM, I had a $30 profit.

It was fun filling out that card all in one day.  But man, it would have been super frustrating if I had come thisclose to completing the card and missing.

The pic below has nothing to do with this post, but since it is being posted on the second Sunday of the NFL season, I think it is somehow appropriate.  I hope the Packers-haters among you aren't too offended.