Friday, April 28, 2017

David Wang's Bachelor Party Tournament

Who is David Wang, you might be asking after seeing the title of this blog post?  You mean you never heard of David Wang?  Well, neither have I.  I have no idea who he is.  But on Saturday I was there for his bachelor party poker tournament.

You see I played in a tournament at Venetian that day.  And when I got to my seat, I noticed on the wall, right next to the tournament clock for our game, was another tournament clock that said, "David Wang's Bachelor Party Tournament."

Now I've seen private poker tournaments for special events in Vegas poker rooms before.  But this is the first time I saw the room put the "name" of the tournament right on the tournament clock display that was visible for anyone in the vicinity to see.  I thought it was pretty cool that the Venetian could and did do that.  I hope one of his friends took a picture of that tournament clock as a keepsake.

The tournament that I played in was a very good one (though—spoiler alert—not a profitable one for me personally). And you can be sure I'll discuss it in detail when I get a chance to write the post about it.  For now, this will be just be a quick story about the David Wang Bachelor Party tournament.

Now, unlike my usual practice, I have not changed the name.  It actually said "David Wang" and I assume that's his real name. Since I never met David, and have nothing bad (or, for that matter, good) to say about him, I figure I can use his real name. 

David's tournament was a $100 buy-in with 20-minute levels (it said so right on the clock) and started at 1PM, an hour after my tournament started. It was a one-table affair, and took place right behind the table I was at.  I was disappointed to see that the group didn't have any special t-shirts or uniforms for the event.  There were a bunch of young guys (late 20's or early 30's I suppose) dressed like pretty much every other guy that age you see in Vegas. 

I've seen my share of special apparel made up for occasions like these in Vegas.  Often I see a group of girls going to a nightclub and you can tell it is a bride-to-be and her bridesmaids.  The bride will wear a veil, and a white, slutty version of a wedding dress.  Frequently she'll wear a sash that says "Bride" or "Bride to be."  And the other girls will have sashes that say "Friend of the Bride" or "Bridesmaid."  If you see these girls earlier in the day, you sometimes will see them wearing t-shirts that say "Team Bride" on them, possibly with the name of the lucky girl, and even with the date of the actual wedding printed on them.

I've seen groups of guys with custom made t-shirts too. The most memorable one I ever saw was actually in the T.I. poker room a long time ago (when the room was in the old location).  It had the name of the groom and the date of the bachelor party weekend on the front.  So let's say the guy's name was, I dunno, Holden Caulfield.  On the front it said, "Holden Caulfield's Bachelor Party, Las Vegas, June 17-19, 2009."  And then on the back, and I'll never forget this, it said, in a script font, "One vagina for the rest of your life.  Way to think things through, Holden."
But as I said, these guys were dressed normally.  To look at them, you'd never know they were in town for a bachelor party.  Also, I have to say, they weren't in the least bit rowdy.  They well quite well-behaved, in fact.  I have to believe that this poker tournament was the least salacious activity they had planned for the weekend.  At least, I certainly hope so.

At my table, started talking about the bachelor party tournament.  The only female at our table was the dealer.  So when the waitress came around to our table, one of the players there said, "I'll bet the table behind us wants drinks." That reminded me of the other thing that bachelor parties are famous for. I couldn't help myself, I asked the dealer if a stripper was going to show up later to the bachelor party tournament.  She laughed and said, "No, we don't allow strippers in the poker room."  Then she thought about it and said, "Well…."

I finished her thought, "You don't allow strippers working in the poker room.  I'm sure you have strippers in here from time to time."

As I was writing this post, I thought of a line I wish I thought of at the time.  I should have said, "I wonder who the lucky bride is?  I sure hope David Wang isn't getting married to Aces."

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vegas Poker Scene--May 2017 Ante Up Column

Here's my newest column for Ante Up.  The link for it on the Ante Up website is here.   Remember, my contribution is embedded in the entire West Coast report.  So below is just my Vegas report.  The magazine should be in your local poker room soon.

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PLANET HOLLYWOOD: The Goliath series May 25-July 13, and is offering $7.5M-plus in guarantees. The series starts with the Ultimate Goliath Stack, a $600, five-day tournament that has a $250K guarantee. The Goliath Milly has a $1M guarantee for the same buy-in.The first of its four starting flights is June 4.
Many of the weekend days feature the $50K in a Day tournament, offering a $50K guarantee for a one-day, $250 buy-in. There are also a number of $20K in a Day $200 events with a $20K guarantee.
July 2 is the start of a $250 Low Roller.It has five starting flights and a $250K guarantee. A two-day PLO High Roller starts July 6 and has a $5K buy-in.
The main event has five starting flights starting June 27.The buy-in is $2K and the guarantee is $2M. The Grand Finale has a $1,650 buy-in and a $1M guarantee.The first of its three starting flights is July 9.
There are also numerous Omaha, HORSE, Triple Draw and Dealer’s Choice events throughout the series.
The main event of the Goliath Warm-Up series ended in a three-way chop in April. Tuan Mai, Daniel Engels and Sinisa Zimek took home $84K each. The $1,650 buy-in event had 340-plus entrants and a $530K prize pool.
GOLDEN NUGGET:  The Grand Poker Series runs May 30-July 3.It features a few multi-flight events with affordable buy-ins and big guarantees. The first one starts June 2 and has six starting flights over two days. The $150 buy-in has a $100K guarantee. The identical tournament runs again June 23.A $200 buy-in version begins June 8. It has nine starting flights over three days and has a $200K guarantee.
Most days start at 11 a.m. with a non-hold’em event, most with a $250 buy-in. Those usually are followed at 1 p.m. by a $150 tournament with a $20K guarantee.
Oklahoma Johnny Hale hosts Seniors Week starting June 15 with the $360 Seniors Championship. See the ad on Page 21 of our May issue for details.
A $250 tournament runs June 17. The $1K High Roller is June 18. The Super Seniors (for those 60-plus) is $250 and runs June 19. The $250 Seniors Choice event runs June 20.
A $570 PLO Championship is June 21 and a $570 mixed PLO/8-Omaha/8-Big O tourney is June 27.
The $570 main event has three starting flights beginning June 29 and has a $500K guarantee. The series has $1.4M-plus in guarantees.
ARIA: The Aria Poker Classic is June 2-July 9.The highlight is the WPT500.That event has nine starting flights, beginning June 26.The first seven starting flights have 30- and 40-minute levels.
The final two starting flights are July 3 and are turbos with 20-minute levels.Players can enter multiple flights and take their best stack forward to Day 2.The buy-in is $565 and the guarantee is $1M.
The Classic also offers a two-day, $1K event June 23.There are two $465 senior events (June 15 and June 19). There are PLO events on June 8 and June 12. HORSE runs June 6. PLO/8 is June 22 and a Triple Draw Mix, featuring deuce-to-seven, ace-to-five and badugi, runs July 5. Omaha/8 is June 25.All of these events have $465 buy-ins.
Most days offer a $400 tournament and most evenings run a $240 tournament.
WYNN:  The Wynn Summer Classic will be June 2-July 16.The series starts with a $400 Survivor event June 2. The top 14.5 percent of the field will get $5K and the guarantee is $50K.On June 7, a $400 PLO event will have a $50K guarantee. A $600 seniors event with a $100K guarantee runs June 12.
The first multi-starting flight event begins June 14 with a $1,100 tournament.It has four starting flights and a $1M guarantee.A $600 tourney with two starting flights is June 27 and has a $250K guarantee.
Two-day $1,100 tournaments run June 24, July 13 and July 16 with $200K guarantees.
The rest of the schedule is filled with one- or two-day hold’em events with $400 or $550 buy-ins and guarantees of $50K and $100K, respectively.
The $1,600 championship, which has a $1M guarantee, has three starting flights July 4-6.
Wynn is offering $4M-plus in guarantees for the series.
BINION’S: This year, the summer series is called Binion’s Dog Days of Summer Poker Jam. For those of you who prefer disciplines other than NLHE, this is the series for you.
HORSE is featured June 5 and July 1.Omaha/8 is June 6. On June 8, it’s PLO/8.June 9 will be a stud event.An Omaha/8-stud/8 event runs June 10. Razz will be June 13, followed by stud/8 on June 14. Two PLO events are June 17 and June 30. Triple Stud runs June 24. All of these events have $365 buy-ins and $20K guarantees. There’s also a $475 razz event June 23 and a $475 Omaha/8 tourney July 3.Both of these have $30K guarantees.
A $585 PLO Championship with a $50K guarantee has two starting flights June 15. The $585 HORSE Championship has a $50K guarantee and the first of its two starting flights begins June 20.
There’s still plenty of NLHE, too.Most are $365 with a $20K guarantee, with a few $475 buy-ins with a $30K guarantee mixed in.
The series offers three WSOP main-event qualifiers. These run June 19, June 28 and July 4. The buy-in is $365 and one $10K main event seat is guaranteed in each.
The NLHE Championship has three starting flights beginning June 25.It has a $850 buy-in and offers a $200K guarantee.
SOUTH POINT HOTEL AND CASINO: The poker room’s $175K hold’em freeroll is June 12-14 at 6 p.m. with the finals running on June 17 at 10 a.m.
Players can qualify with 100 hours of live play by May 31. All qualifiers receive $100 and 10K in chips for the freeroll. First place pays $35K, second place is $15K and third is $10K.
The tournament is limited to 20 qualifiers each night.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Freeze Out

This should be the last post about my December trip to Vegas.  So it's a good thing I arrived in Vegas on Friday to celebrate my birthday (which was yesterday).  I need more stories about Vegas and poker, seeing as how this is Rob's Vegas & Poker Blog.  Hopefully I'll be able to get some posts for you while I'm still here.

The temperature during that December trip was uncomfortably cold.  I don’t mean the outside temperature, although it was certainly a helluva lot colder than someone like me, who has spent most of his life in balmy Los Angeles, likes it.  I’m referring to the temperature in most of the casinos and poker rooms I visited.

Since this is 2017, you would think science would have invented something that keeps the temperature inside structures at a reasonably comfortable level.  But apparently modern heating & air conditioning systems haven’t progressed to that level quite yet.

This story took place on my very last full day in Vegas, so it was already the New Year.  I had spent a few hours during the day at the Aria not cashing in their tournament.  You can read about that here.  What I didn’t mention in that post is that after an hour or so, the temperature in the poker room over there was quite uncomfortable for anyone who wasn’t a polar bear. 

After I left Aria, I headed over to my usual room to play my final cash session of the trip.  And froze.  The first table I was at was in the back of the room, not far from the utility door I’ve mentioned before, which gets constantly opened and lets the cold outside air in.  Actually though, on this night, I’m not sure that cold air from outside was any colder than the air blasting through the casino’s A/C ducts.  I was actually too cold to concentrate on the poker.

But the game was short-handed and I knew I wouldn’t be able to table-change to try to find a warmer spot, at least for awhile.  The issue resolved itself when the table got so short-handed it actually broke.  I was allowed to take any empty seat in the room and found one at the table farthest away from the draft.  Usually that table is fine, but not on this night.  I think perhaps because the room (and the casino) was not particularly busy, it was cold everywhere.  But at least this location was an improvement from my first table.  I was only moderately uncomfortable instead of freezing my ass off.

I was ridiculously card dead.  It was very frustrating because I was really hoping to finish the trip with a bang.  Instead, I just kept folding hand-after-hand. I was actually up for awhile taking a small pot or two, but had dropped down to about a $50 loss when this table thinned out as well.  Between open seats and a walker we were playing 4 or 5 handed, and finally someone called the floor over and requested that we break the game and fill up open seats at other tables if possible. 

Well, it was indeed possible as there were three tables with two open seats each and it turned out that only two of us left wanted to keep playing.  I was one and the other one was Boris.

Boris was a Russian fellow who denied being Russian.  I mean, he had a Russian accent but when I asked him if he was Russian he said no. He insisted he was from New Jersey.  Poker players tend to lie and I knew he was lying.  OK, if he wasn’t from Russia, he was certainly from that part of the world.  Let’s put it this way, he sounded a lot more like Putin than he did Tony Soprano.  Note:  I was actually going to call him “Putin” but I remembered I already called another player Putin in a post from about three years ago.  Can’t repeat myself.  So I’m calling him Boris after Boris Badenov.  Perhaps Boris wasn’t from Russia after all and was too embarrassed to admit he was really from Pottsylvania.

Anyway, Boris was a strapping lad—tall, blond, and dare I say, rugged.  I only point that out because even in short sleeves, he didn’t act in any way like the cold was bothering him.  In fact, like Putin, he looked like the kind of guy who would be happy to go around shirtless in any kind of weather.  On the other hand, I had totally dressed for the cold weather.  I had a long undershirt, a long-sleeve shirt and of course my ski jacket.  And I was still cold.

Now the floor person who broke the game was new to me.  I may have seen him once or twice this trip but I don’t think I’d seen him before that.  In other words, he didn’t know me like most of the floor people over there do. Not that that likely would have changed anything. 

He pointed out the three tables that had opened seats.  One was actually farther away from the cold part of the room and the other two were right smack in the middle of freezing zone.  He didn’t tell us which to go to so I immediately went over to the one that was farthest from the problem area.  I didn’t notice but Boris apparently headed there too. 

So I took one of the two open seats and started to settle in, only to see the floor man come over and tell Boris and me that one of us would have to go to other side of the room because he couldn’t fill up this table while other tables each had more than one open seat.  “One of you is going to have to go to one of the other tables.”

There was no way I was going to go the side of the room where I knew it was freezing cold.  Not a chance.  So I said, “I’m not going to one of those other tables.  I was there earlier and it was freezing over there.”  He turned to Boris and asked if would go to other side of the room, or if he wanted to draw for it.  “Let’s draw for it,” Boris said, rather gleefully.

Yeesh.  So I said, “Well, if I lose, I’m not playing over there, I’ll just leave.”  The floorman asked Boris again if he wanted to draw for it, or if he would just go over there.  “We’re in a casino, let’s gamble.”  Now, I can’t say this with absolute certainty, but I don’t think Boris had objection to playing at one of the other tables on the other side.  He never went over there to check them out.  He didn’t seem cold—and unless he was paying attention to what I said, he didn’t even have any reason to know that it was colder on the other side of the room.  But he was Russian and he liked to gamble.

I was pissed but well, I had a 50-50 chance of winning the draw.  So the floorman spread a deck out on a nearby empty table and we drew cards.  Boris took a card first.  It was a 6.  But wouldn’t you know, my card was a 4.  I wasn’t surprised.  I told you I was card dead all night.  All I needed was a measly 7 and I couldn’t find one.

Boris started celebrating.  Seriously, he was acting like he just won the Main Event.  I’m not kidding.  He was jumping up and down and cheering and saying, “Look at that, I drew a crummy 6 and I still won!”

I said, “Well, I’m done then, I’m not going over there.”  And I started to gather my things.  The floorman didn’t believe me.  “There’s two tables over there, you can go to either one.”  I said no, it was too cold to play over there and I was done.  And so I took my chips and cashed out. I definitely left with a bad taste in my mouth.

I know the floorman was just following procedure, which I’m pretty sure is the same at every room. But honestly, isn’t there a better way?  I had been playing longer than Boris. Maybe that should have entitled me to have first choice of tables?  They could easily confirm that I was playing in the room before Boris by checking their Bravo system.  Maybe that would be fairer?

I mean, suppose Boris had just gotten to the table, had played only one or two hands when the game broke?  Would it still be ok to decide by draw instead of putting Boris in the back of the line?  Maybe the rooms should consider giving preference to the person who’s been in the room longer?

But it was Boris that really pissed me off.  I believe he had no reason at all not to want to play at the other table.  He just wanted to gamble.  Thrilling, a bet over who gets a seat on one side of the room.

If he didn’t have any preference and he knew I did, couldn’t he have been a sport and just let me have the seat?  Is that too much to ask?  I kind of think he was being a dick.

So that was it, I took off.  I would have played another hour, but instead, I called it an early night.

I’ll never know what happened, but is it wrong for me to hope that Boris lost half-a-dozen buy-ins at that table?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

I Didn't Raise With the Nuts

This was one of my last sessions in Vegas.  In fact, it was so late in my December trip it actually took place in January.

I was off to a rough start, and was already down about $75 when I got Ace-King of hearts in the big blind.  I called a raise to $10 and it was 4-ways.  As I’ve pointed out before, I rarely three-bet Ace-King in cash games and am very unlikely to do it out of position.  I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, it probably isn’t, but just pointing that out.  The flop was nice: Ace-King-6, two diamonds.  I checked, expecting the preflop raiser to bet, but he checked also.  However the next guy bet $25 and the last guy folded.  I decided to just call, thinking that a check-raise there might scare him off and perhaps just letting him bet would be the best way to get all the money in.

The preflop raiser folded and the turn was a blank.  It appeared the guy was ready to bet again, so I checked. He did indeed bet—$60.  I shoved for $88, he of course called.  We didn’t show.  The river was another 6, which I didn’t like.  However, when I showed my top two, he just mucked.

I limped in with Ace-4 of spades.  Four of us saw a flop that had a 4 on it (low card) and one spade. There was no betting.  The turn was a second spade and I called $8.  There were three of us left.  I caught the flush on the river.  The same guy led out $13.  Next guy folded.  I made it $30.  The guy who bet the $13 said, “Well, it’s my last hand….”  To me, that’s what someone who is about to raise would say.  I was kind of hoping for a crazy shove there, seeing as how I had the stone cold nuts.  But all he did was call.  And he mucked when saw my hand.  Good to his word, he left the game.

I limped in with Ace-2 of spades and it was three to see the flop which had two spades.  Someone bet $10, there was a call and I called.  The turn was a blank and same guy bet $10 again, and again we both called.  The river was a spade, again giving me the nuts.  The same guy bet $10.  This time the next guy made it $65.  It was a weird bet because the guy had only a few chips left behind.  It looked like it was only some blue chips ($1 chips) and less than ten of them.  Why wouldn’t he have shoved instead?  Strange.  The guy who kept betting $10 had plenty of chips.  I decided not to re-raise, even though I had the nuts.  Of course the guy would have called with his last few chips (unless he was making a crazy bluff), but I didn’t want his last ten bucks, I was $55 from the first guy.  Or perhaps more if he would re-raise.

So I made the tactical decision to just call and see if the first guy would cooperate.  Unfortunately, he folded.  Oh well, it was worth taking a shot, risking $10 (really less) for a chance at $55 more.  The guy who bet the $65 showed something like 6-5 for a pair of 5’s with no kicker.  Really?  Why aren’t there more players like these in my games?

Those were the three most interesting hands in a plus $100 session.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What Do You Do if You Think The Deck is Fouled?

This happened in one of my last sessions in December in Vegas. It was a situation I’d never encountered before and I wasn’t sure how to handle it.

I was sitting at seat 9, right next to the dealer.  The dealer was new.  I had never seen him before and I could tell by the way he was dealing that he was inexperienced.  Not that he made any mistakes, but he was methodical and a little bit unsure of himself.

In this particular hand, I had pocket 7’s.  I think I called a small raise.  There were multiple players in the pot, and the flop missed me and had overcards.  So when there was a bet, I folded.  There were still multiple players in the hand.

The turn was the 7 of diamonds and I started cursing the poker gods.  But not for long.  Didn’t I have two red 7’s?  I really thought that both of my 7’s were red.  I couldn’t be 100% sure, but I was at least 97% sure.

The players were betting and calling and I was wondering what to do.  I figured I had to say something. If the deck was fouled the hand should not continue.  But I couldn’t prove anything right then and there, and I knew there was a possibility I was mistaken.

And if I was mistaken, speaking up then and saying that I folded a 7 would give away valuable information to the players.  If I was right, it wouldn’t matter, since the hand would be dead and everyone would get their money back. But if I was wrong, it would improperly affect the hand in play.

Fortunately I was sitting right next to the dealer, as I already noted.  So I leaned over and whispered to him, “I’m not positive, but I really think I folded the 7 of diamonds.” I added that I folded pocket 7’s and I thought they were both red.  At first he didn’t seem to grasp the significance of this, but then finally the light bulb went off over his head.  “Oh, I see the problem.  Let me think….”  He obviously didn’t know what to do.  Neither did I, but then, I’m not a professional poker dealer.

Finally he said, as the action on the turn was coming to a close, “Well, I’ll just check the deck when the hand is over and we’ll see.”

Sounded reasonable, but…..well the hand played out, there was a showdown and somebody “won.”  And the dealer pushed the pot to the winner.  Really?  What if, after checking the deck, it turned out I was right?  The pot would have to be returned to the center, right?  And by then, the winner would have already mixed the pot in with his own stack.

Well, he looked through the muck.  I think I was the only one who saw what he was doing—he didn’t explain to the other players why he was doing this.  And he found two 7’s right next to each other.  One was a heart, but the other one was black. No extra 7 of diamonds in this deck.  I was wrong.  My memory ain’t what it used to be.  They say that the memory is the second thing to go.  I can’t remember what the first thing is.

Anyway, I was relieved and in the end, no harm was done. Well, except that I felt damn foolish.  But I wondered if I had handled the situation properly.  More importantly, I wondered if the dealer had.

For my part, I was lucky that I was sitting next to the dealer and I could easily whisper my concern (also, in the end, that saved me the embarrassment of the whole table knowing I was so wrong).  But what if I hadn’t been sitting next to the dealer?  What should I have said?  Any thoughts?

Again, if I spoke up so that the other players could hear, I’d be giving away information about cards out of play.  I mean even if I said something semi-vague like, “I think I threw away one of the exact cards on the board,” it would be obvious I was talking about the turn card since I hadn’t spoken up after the flop.

So, if I hadn’t been able to whisper in the dealer’s ear, how should I have handled it?

As for the dealer, I think it was a mistake to push the pot to someone if he was gonna check the deck per my comment.  I think he should have had the winner keep his cards, and say, “Before I push you the pot, I have to check the deck, this player thinks we might have a fouled deck.”  Yeah that would embarrass me if I turned out to be wrong, but better that than giving a pot to someone that has to be returned a minute later.  Perhaps even better, before pushing the player the pot, he should have called the floor over and explained what happened.  Because not only was the dealer new and unsure about what to do, but if there was a fouled deck, the floor is going to have to be involved anyway.

How do you think the dealer handled it and how should he have handled it?

In the end, it was just my faulty memory playing tricks on me, but fouled decks do happen every once in a great while.  What should have happened?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Siren


If I’m ever going to improve as a poker player, I need to play hands like this much better, I think.  I dunno, maybe it’s just a cooler hand, but I kind of think I played it wrong and should know better.  So I’m asking you for help.

This is another session from December in Vegas and I’m only going to talk about one hand because it’s the only hand that mattered. I was having a pretty good session. I was up about $60 from my $200 buy-in.  In early position, with Ace-King offsuit. I opened to $10.  Only five players called.  So it was an inflated pot preflop.

Well, I caught the worst looking two pair you could imagine.  The flop was Ace-King-Jack.  All spades.  Every last one of them.

What to do?  I mean, seriously, what should I have done?  I didn’t want to check.  There’s no guarantee someone has a made flush (or for that matter, a made straight).  I thought I had to make anyone with a single spade pay to see another card.

But the more I think about it, the more I feel I should have checked.  No one with the Queen of spades—or even the 10 of spades—is going to fold anyway, right?  Maybe someone with a medium spade is calling too.  Or a Queen or a 10 of another suit.  And of course, no one with a flush or a straight is folding.  And there’s the slim but greater than zero possibility that someone’s flopped a Royal and I’m drawing dead.

So I bet $40.  Bad play?  Horrible play?  Defensible play?

The next guy made it $80.  It looked like he had $100 left after his bet.  And then, a truly bad player called the $80.  He was an older guy who had convinced me that he was a bad player.  Unfortunately, my voice notes don’t give me any further clue about how this guy was bad.  And I don’t remember.  I just noted that he was a bad player.  I felt like he could be sticking around with almost anything.  Of course, even really bad players flop Royal Flushes once every 649,740 hands, right?  But, the $80 he had was more than double the chips he had left after calling.  So maybe one of the reasons I thought he was a bad player was that, if he was gonna stay in the hand, he should have gone all-in there and not called.

Everyone else folded and it was back to me.  The pot was now ~$260 and it was only $40 to call.  Even so, should I have folded?  Surely one of them had me beat.  Of course, unless one o of them had the Royal, I still had outs if I was indeed behind.

I just couldn’t see folding for $40.  Is that wrong?

The turn didn’t help me at all.  It was a red 3.  I checked and the guy who min-raised on the flop shoved for his last $107.  The older guy called for less—it was like $30-$40. 

The pot was now like $450.  And it was “only” $107 to call.  And, unless someone had the Royal, I had 4 outs. 

I knew I didn’t have the right odds to call, but still, I couldn’t stop thinking about how big the pot was.  It was like a siren calling out to me—trying to seduce me. 

 And of course, my call would end the betting for the hand.  I didn’t have to worry about putting more money in on the river.

So, I let that big pot—the Siren—seduce me.  I called.

The river was a blank.

The first guy showed the nuts, Queen-9 of spades.  I am calling that the nuts even though if you just look at the board, the nuts is clearly Queen-10 of spades for the Royal.  But he had the Queen blocker.  So he knew no one had the Royal.  He knew he had the nuts even if no one else did.  Is it fair to call his hand the nuts then?

Anyway, the other guy didn’t show.  I suppose he could have had a smaller flush, or a straight.  But I think it is just as likely he had just a pair.

So that was it.  Should I have played it different?  Was it just a cooler hand?  My gut tells me I played it poorly and gave money away, but I would love to hear some of your thoughts on how and why (and especially where) I went wrong.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Monster & The Fish

Sometimes you get paid for catching a monster.  Sometimes you get paid off by a fish. This was a session from late December in Vegas where only two hands mattered.  But they were two really good hands.

It was 1/2 of course, and I had bought in for $200. I was down to about $170 when I looked down at pocket 8’s.   After a limp, a guy made it $11 and I called.  The limper called as well.  The three of us looked at a lovely flop—Queen-Queen-8.  Flopping boats is nice!  The preflop raiser led out for $20 and we both called.  The turn was a 9, and this time the guy who had originally limped moved all in.  Cool.  His stack was approximately the same as mine, give or take.  The preflop raiser, who had us both covered, tanked for a long time but finally folded.  I of course called the shove.

I don’t remember the river card because it didn’t matter.  I showed my boat and the other guy showed Queen-Jack.  Sweet.  He had me covered as it turned out, but just barely.  I had around $360-$365 after the hand.

 It was quite awhile before I noted any more hands and my stack was now a bit under $300.  And I looked down at pocket Aces.  Before it got to me, a guy opened to $15 and another guy called.  That guy is the key player in the hand.  He had only recent arrived at the table.  There were still a few people who hadn’t acted yet when it got to me.  I made it $60.  Another player tanked, said something like, “How big is your pair?” I said nothing of course.  He finally called.  The preflop raiser folded, but the guy who called the $15 called.  So it was close to a $200 pot before we even saw the flop.

The flop was 6-5-2, rainbow.  Surely no one was playing 4-3 for $60, were they?  It checked to me.  I meant to bet $100 but my stack was off and I only made it $95.  The guy who asked how big my pair was insta-folded and said, “That was a bad a gamble.”  But the other guy called.

The turn was a Queen.  This time, the other guy open-shoved.  It was like $60-$70 and I had him covered.  I had no idea what he could have had.  Did he turn a set of Queens?  Or did he just have Ace-Queen or King-Queen?  Or did he really flop a straight?  All I knew was the pot was way too big for me to fold for that bet.  I called. 

I don’t recall the river because it didn’t matter.  I turned over my rockets and he turned over—8-6 offsuit.  Well bless his little heart.  It sure helps to play against really bad players, doesn’t it?

So let’s see.  With that mighty 8-6, he called an initial raise of $15.  Then he called the re-raise to $60.  With 8-6 off.  On the flop, well, he did have top pair, with no kicker.  Well, ok, to be fair, he did have a back-door straight draw.  Let’s not forget that.

I guess by the time the Queen showed up—an over card to his top pair—he must have figured out that he was pot-committed. Maybe by then he realized he should have shoved on the flop instead of just calling—if he was going to stay in the hand, that is.

The pot was over $500.  Nice to drag those in a 1/2 game.

Unfortunately, he didn’t re-buy. I didn’t get anything else to play, and there were no fish left for me to take advantage of.  But I cashed out with a nice $335 profit for the night.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Give Back

This incident took place the same day I played at the Venetian tournament (see here).  But it’s not really a second part to the story, since this took place in a cash game, not a tournament.  Consider it more of a follow-up.

So after I busted out of the tournament so early, I had a fair amount of time on my hands.  Since I was playing hooky to play in the tournament, I could have just gone back to my hotel and gotten some work done.  But I didn’t really feel like that.  I had planned to spend the whole day playing poker and by golly, that’s what I intended to do.  And I wanted to play cash at the Venetian anyway.  Not only is it a comfortable room, but I want to keep my comps current.  You see a few years ago they changed the comps so that they expire if you don’t play in the room for a full year.  As long as you play cash there once a year, they’ll last forever.  So I make it a point to play there at least once every Vegas trip.  In fact, after this session, I treated myself to a delicious steak at the CafĂ© Lux at the Venetian, courtesy of my poker comps.  They also serve an excellent burger.

This was nothing like my meal that night
The cash game session for me was not particularly memorable.  I only wrote down four hands and only one of those is worth writing about—and then only because it involved the dreaded pocket Kings—and a favorable result with them at that!  I opened to $10 with them and only had one caller.  It happened to be the guy I played with earlier at the tournament who messed up his bet by saying “5” when he put out a $5K chip.  The flop was Ace-high of course, and I dutifully put out a continuation bet of $15 which he called.  The turn was a blank and we both checked.  But the river was nice—a King.  I bet $35 and he tanked for awhile, but eventually he called.  He didn’t show when he saw my not-at-all-dreaded Kings, but he later insisted he had an Ace.

But the situation I want to talk about involved two players who I’m certain didn’t know each other before they started playing at this table, sometime before I showed up.  One guy was a middle-aged guy, maybe approaching senior citizenship.  The other guy was much younger.  I’m bad with ages, he could have been mid-late 20’s or even early 30’s.

I think the first hand between them may have started before I even got to the table.  All I can say for sure was that there was a Jack on the flop, and a flush draw and some low cards and I dunno who said “all-in” first but they both got their money in on the turn.  They didn’t show.

The river was a 4, which paired the board. The younger fellow was only too happy to show his hand—4-3 for a full house.  But the paired board on the river had turned the older fellow’s set of Jacks into a bigger boat and he took the pot—and all of the younger guy’s chips.  It was at least a $300 pot, maybe more.

The older guy was apologetic (“Oh sorry, tough beat,”) and unlike most “I’m sorry’s” after a cooler hand, it sounded sincere.  The younger guy was totally a good sport about it.  It was no big deal.  He’s played a lot of poker, he’s seen it all, it happens, etc.  And he also pointed out that even though he had two pair on the turn, he knew he might have been behind and was really hoping to complete the flush.

The older guy kept acting guilty over it and the younger guy kept saying it was no big deal.  As he was waiting for his rebuy chips to show up, he said, “I’ll get you back when I get some more chips.”  And the older guy said, “I hope you do.”  What?  You hope someone takes your chips?  Really?  It was an odd thing to say, but then the whole thing was odd.  After all, the guy who won the pot was ahead the whole way.  Had a blank hit the river, his set would have beaten the other guy’s two pair.  It wasn’t like he’d hit a one or two outer to win. He was supposed to win that hand.

Anyway, the two of them introduced themselves to each other and somehow became instant pals. One of them went over to the other and they shook hands. They actually were bonding over the hand.

Fast forward an hour or so later.   By this time I had determined that they were both pretty decent players.  The younger guy was more aggressive but they were both solid. And then came a hand where there were four diamonds on a 10- high board and it was pretty damn obvious to even a bad player like me that the younger guy had a flush.  But on the river they got it all in.  The older guy called the younger guy’s shove.  He still had more chips than the younger guy but it was another pretty big pot between the two of them.

So the younger guy showed his flush to the surprise of absolutely no one.  And the older guy showed 10-9 for top pair, crappy kicker.  Huh?  You call a big shove with just top pair? When he was certainly a good enough player to put the other guy on the flush?  Really?

That left the older guy with a pretty small stack.  But he seemed happy that he had lost his chips to the same guy who he’d won them from before. 

I was going to write that it was almost like he wanted to give the guy’s chips back to him, but honestly, I don’t think the word “almost” belongs in there.  It was pretty much exactly like he was trying to give the guy “his” chips back.  I was sitting next to the dealer and actually said something to him about it.  “Did he give his chips away intentionally?” The dealer shrugged and said, “Well….it was pretty weird the way it played out.”

I wondered if I should have said something, somehow complained.  The thing is, no one else was hurt by this giveback.  There were no other players in the hand.  And it wasn’t a tournament.  If the older guy wanted to give the guy back “his” chips, what was the harm?  In fact, since he left not long after, he actually was doing the rest of us a favor by leaving his chips behind so that the rest of us could try to win them.

But I found it very strange.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Don't Verbalize Your Bets!

During the Christmas/New Year’s break, the Venetian regularly runs a tournament series and this past year was no exception.  After my “success” at the Aria tournament on Boxing Day (see here), I made a last minute decision to play in one of the events that was part of the V’s “New Year’s Extravaganza.

It was a $250 buy-in “SuperStack” event with three starting flights. I played in the second of the three flights, two days after the Aria tournament.  Had I survived Day 1, I would have returned to the Venetian two days later for Day 2.  The tournament started with $20K chips and had 30-minute levels through level 15.  After that, the levels went to 40-minutes.  The tournament had a $250K prize pool.  So you can see, it was a pretty attractive event.

This was my first visit to the Venetian poker room since the most recent remodel.  In this case, it was a down-sizing.  As it happens, just when I started working for PokerAtlas (or as it was known then, AllVegasPoker), the Venetian was just completing its poker room expansion.  But quite a few poker rooms n Vegas have closed since then as the poker boom is long over.

When the downsizing project was announced (or revealed), it was also announced that the Venetian was adding a Bad Beat Jackpot, and high hand bonuses during certain months and for certain time periods.  Of course they would now be taking a promo drop for this.

I had heard several folks criticize the newly remodeled room, so I was interested to see it for myself.  And I found the criticism to be totally unjustified.  They had way too many tables for the current state of poker in Vegas.  The new room looks different, obviously, than it did with all those extra (and mostly unused) tables.  But it looks great.  And you know what?  With “only” 37 tables, no other Vegas poker room is bigger.  It is tied with Bellagio for the most poker tables in one casino.  Also, unlike a lot of rooms I could mention, but won’t, the place is roomy.  You can actually walk between the tables, even when there are players seated at them.

And you know what else is in Venetian’s favor?  As of now, there is no charge to park there.  Yes, that’s right, unlike any poker rooms on the Strip that either MGM or Caesars own, parking is free!

Anyway—spoiler alert—my experience at this tournament was not even remotely positive.  But at least it was quick.  It is mostly memorable for a questionable floor ruling and my nightmarish last hand.

It turned out, this was probably the toughest first table I’ve ever been assigned to ever since I started playing tournaments.  It really was a “no-limp” table.  Almost every pot was raised preflop.  There was one maniac at the table who busted early.  He was replaced by an even bigger maniac.  The latter raised virtually ever time he could preflop.  And he was sitting two to my left making it difficult for me to do anything.

At one point, a new player came to our table.  After about five hands he joked, “Can I get a table change?”

The most interesting story came in the first level of the tournament.  The blinds were 50/100 and there must have been a limper or two because I made it $400 with Queen-Jack of clubs.  Someone made it $1,200, one of the limpers called so I called as well.  The flop was all low, but had two clubs.  It was checked to the three-bettor who put out a $5K chip—the biggest chip in play at the time.  That’s an overbet of course but still a somewhat reasonable bet.

Here’s the problem.  As he put the $5K chip out, he said, loudly, “Five.” Not “five thousand.”  Just “five.”  And the dealer said, “$500 or $5,000”?  The player of course said he meant the larger amount.  The dealer, however, said that a $500 bet would have been totally acceptable (since the big blind was $100 at the time).  He wouldn’t continue, and he called the floor for a ruling.

I think in that situation, I’ve often seen the dealer just take the player’s word for it.  But this dealer wanted to get the floor to decide, which is probably the best way to go.  The floor came over quickly and heard the story from the dealer.  Now obviously a $5K bet makes more sense there than a $500 bet into a $3,600 pot—but hey, I’ve seen either bet in similar situations before. Of course, the player had plenty of smaller chips to use if he wanted to bet $500 (he had pretty much his original starting chips since this was so early).  In fact, I’m sure he had a $500 chip or two in his stack!

The floor ruled that in this situation, the smallest legal bet was the proper interpretation to use.  If the BB was $600, there would be no other way to interpret the bet.  But since there were two valid ways, the way to go was with the smallest legal bet. That may be right as a matter of practice, but I’m not sure that was the best way to handle it.  What do you think?

It’s funny.  You often hear that it is best to “verbalize” your action to make it clear.  In this case, the guy verbalized his action and made it very unclear.  Had he just put the chip out and said nothing, it would have been perfectly fine, and the bet would have been what he wanted.  He only had to speak up if he wanted to bet less than the $5K.  Perhaps his original thought was to bet something like $4K and at the last minute he changed his mind?  Of course, if he said “4” there he would have had the same issue.

Today’s lesson….don’t verbalize your bets!  Or, if you do, make sure you’re really precise!

Of course, with such a great price the other two of us called.  The turn was a brick and this time the guy put out the $5K chip and said loudly enough for them to hear at the Wynn, “Five thousand!!!!”  Well the other guy called.  I figured I could score a big pot early to get out of the starting gates fast if I hit my flush so I foolishly called as well.  I missed and folded to the guy’s $10K bet.  The other guy folded too.  Note:  I later ran into this guy after we were both out and though he remembered his verbal flub—but couldn’t explain it—he wasn’t sure about what he had. He said it was at least top pair but it was more likely an overpair since I noted it was a low flop.

So I guess I was down to under $11K towards the end of level 3, with blinds of 100/200.  On the last hand of the level, I was in early position and looked down at Ace-10 of hearts.  It was one the rare chances I had had to open a pot with something anywhere near that strong so I made it $600.  I didn’t get three-bet—but I did get a mere five callers. 

The flop was Ace-2-2.  Should I have bet there or checked?  You have to bet, right?  I put out $3K.  I got called by the guy immediately on my left and at least one other player.  I wasn’t sure I was liking my hand so much anymore.  But the turn card was another Ace.  I had the second nuts.  I figured the other Ace was likely out there and it would be a chop—unless the river matched one of our kickers.

Sure quad deuces were possible but I remember one of the first poker books I ever read warned  you about fearing “monsters under the bed.”  So I shoved. I was snapped called by the guy next to me (who had me covered) and one other guy (who had us both covered).  The guy next to me turned over Ace-King (it might have been Ace-Queen, but it didn’t matter).  The other guy flipped over pocket deuces.  Yeah.  I bet into quads.  I don’t recommend doing this, if you want to know the truth.  A full house doesn’t beat quads, you know.

And my tournament life was over, barely 90 minutes after it started. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Future Home of Bad Rams Quarterbacks"

This past Saturday I returned to Hollywood Park Casino.  I had that recurring appointment in West L.A. late that morning, and it brings me a lot closer to HPC than Ventura.  I had found the 1/2 game there, with a $40 min and $100 max, playable, so I went for a return visit.

The absolute worst thing about the game there—and this is true for all 1/2 games I know of in the L.A. area—is that they insist on using $1 chips instead of $5 chips.  It’s such a pain.  Especially when you’re fortunate enough to win a big pot.  And not to spoil anything, but yeah, I was fortunate.

When I first sat down the table was in a state of flux, players coming and going.  But then we settled in and it was actually a fun, chatty group.  One Asian woman was complaining about this not being her day.  This was her third table of the day as she tried to find a table or dealer that would be lucky for her.  She finally won a few pots and then left to play in the tournament.

We talked about the Rams new stadium which is being built right on the complex.  There’s a lot of construction going on, both right next to the casino and right behind it.  The player on my left said you could really see the progress they were making on it from the sky, and he had just flown back to L.A. the other day and flew right over the construction site.  The place is just a few minutes from LAX.  He said that they were actually building down, digging deep into the ground. I dunno if this is true, but he told us that they can’t build the stadium high like you normally would because of the proximity to the airport.

So the Asian woman said, “I wonder if they found anybody buried there….oh just kidding.”  I said, “Hmmm…..Maybe they’ll bury some bodies in the future.  ‘Future Home of Bad Rams Quarterbacks.’”  She liked that.

 I was down to about $90 from my initial $100 buy-in when I was dealt Ace-3 of diamonds. I called $5 and then it was three-bet to $15.  The initial raiser called and I came along as well.  The flop was pretty good, 9-4-2.  The 4 and the 2 were both diamonds.  I checked, the preflop three-bettor bet $15, the other guy called and I called.  The turn was a blank—less than a 9 but no help to me.  This time he bet $25 and I called, we were now heads up.  The river was an almost perfect 6 of diamonds giving me the nuts.  Almost perfect because if it had be the 5 of diamonds it would have given me the steel wheel.  Not that they have any high hand bonuses there—but it just would have looked so pretty.

I led out for $20.  I know that sounds too small.  But I figured it was so obvious that I had caught the flush, he probably wouldn’t have called much more.  I wasn’t sure he would call that.  I hadn’t been there very long.  He went into the tank for a long time, and then finally said, “I have to call.”  He added something about having put so much money into the pot.  I showed my flush, he showed…pocket 10’s!  Well true, it was an overpair.  But honestly, did he “have” to call?  I think it was because I made it so cheap for him.  Would he have had to have called my shove? I don’t think so…but maybe.

My now bigger stack started dwindling in unremarkable fashion.  Then I got pocket 10’s on the button and just called a bunch of limpers.  The flop was 9-high, two diamonds.  I did have the 10 of diamonds.  It checked to me and I bet $8.  Now it was 3-way.  The turn was another diamond, but low.  This time a guy bet $6.  We both called.  The river paired the 9.  The guy who bet the turn checked, the next guy bet $5.  I called and the other guy called.  The guy who bet the river had a 7 for a pair of 7’s.  The other guy mucked when he saw my pocket 10’s. 

Then something happened I didn’t like, based on the rules of the casino.  The guy on my left busted out.  He bought back in for $20.  “I want to short buy,” he told the dealer.  And he was allowed to buy-in for the twenty bucks, even though the minimum buy-in is $40.  I’ve seen this at other rooms, once you buy-in, you’re allowed to do a short buy.  Some rooms you can only do it once, other rooms you can keep doing it.  But it’s a bad rule and here’s why.

The very first hand he had with that short buy, he shoved after a small raise preflop.  There was a call and the hand played out.  He lost, but he showed his hand—9-4 offsuit. So he was just messing around hoping to get lucky and get a double or a triple up with a garbage hand.  If he won, he’d have enough money to play with.  If not, he’d be only out $20.

Well, after he lost the $20 he took out a $100 and bought in for that.  He could have just bought in for that in the first place, but he was using the $20 to play bingo first.  It was a poker game, not a table game.  I don’t think short buys should be allowed.  If you have a $40 minimum to enter the game (which, let’s face it, is low enough as it is), you shouldn’t allow a rebuy for less.  It’s absurd.

I was down to just a bit more than even when I got pocket Aces.  There were a few limpers so I made it $10.  The way this game was playing I thought that was the right amount.  At a “normal” 1/2 game I’d raise more.  I got three callers so I guess I had indeed raised too little.  The flop was King-Jack-6—all hearts.  Did I mention both of my Aces were red?  The guy on my right bet $21 before it could get to me.  I considered raising but decided to just call.  It was now heads up.

Another heart hit the turn, giving me le nuts.  This time the guy checked, and it was obvious the way he checked he hated that turn card.  Me, I loved it.  I bet $40.  He tanked for a long time but eventually called.  Now the river card was the one I didn’t like.  Another Jack.  He checked again.  Which brings us to a leak in my game (one of many).  Betting the river when something like that happens.  He seemed disgusted when he checked the turn but he was not emotional at all when he checked the river.  I had assumed he had a low flush, but was it possible he had a set?  He could still be unhappy with the fourth heart if he had a set, since it made a flush even likelier. 

I dunno, I just felt that if my initial read was correct, and he had the baby flush, he wouldn’t call again anyway. So, I just played it safe and checked behind.  He showed 7-5 of hearts. 

Maybe it could have been more, but it was still a huge pot for this game.  So here’s where it got to be real annoying that we were using $1 chips.  It took me forever to stack those suckers.  And when they moved to the new casino, they got all new chips, so they were slippery as hell.  So unnecessary. Of course, if I ever won a pot with that many $5 chips I wouldn’t be complaining about how long it took to stack them. 

After a limper or two (maybe three?), I made it $10 with pocket Jacks on the button. Three others called. The flop was 8-6-3 rainbow.  It checked to me, I bet $25 and didn’t get a call.

I was in the big blind with Ace-4 off.  There was a raise, but only to $4.  I called and it was five-way.  The flop was Ace-Ace-7.  I called $5 and then someone made it $15, I called that.  Now it was heads up.  The turn was blank and we both checked.  Another blank on the river and I bet $25 and he mucked.

And that was it.  The cards turned cold for me and I racked up $250 for a $150 profit.  Not bad for a 1/2 game with a $100 max buy-in.