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. 


  1. Well as I read the remodel details I was thinking to myself "keep all the space and remove some tables" and sure enough the Venetian produced a poker room with plenty of space in between tables and removed the previous packed-in-like-sardines table layout. Good for them! High-five....

    1. Well, I don't recall the (old room) being packed in tight. I thought it was always pretty roomy. Especially as compared to Bellagio or Aria. I mean, I love the Aria but man it gets crowded in there when the room is busy. And the room is always busy.

  2. Tough spot, similar to me being short-stacked in a tournament with JJ, going all-in, and getting called by AA and AK. AA won but a K on the flop was adding insult to injury. Rob, do you have an opinion (and maybe even a post) on how poker vlogs are becoming more popular than poker blogs? And, are the blogs going to become obsolete?

    1. Gosh, I sure hope not! :)

      As for Vlogs becoming more popular than the written blogs, it's just a sign of the times. The visual is always more exciting than just the written word.

      There'll always be the written word--movies didn't make books obsolete--but they are a lot more stimulating to the eye--and the ear.

    2. Good point, as for visuals, you do a great job with the photos :)

  3. Wouldn't play there!

    The Venitian is one of the Sand's group owned by Sheldon Adelson.

    He's been a huge opponent of online and his donations have supported keeping national online away from us.

    1. I know, Ken, a lot of people feel the way you do, and you are free to feel that way.

      I feel that the Venetian is one of the biggest promoters of live poker with their Deepstack series. And I try not to boycott people because of their political views. It's a free country and we are all entitled to our beliefs...and to lobby the powers that be in favor of our beliefs.

      But I do respect your opinion to feel otherwise.

  4. I am a big proponent for verbalizing my bets. You can take your own sweet time to put the stacks that match the amount you announced.

    This example you cited wouldn't be a perfect example of verbalization, as the player didnot verbalize the correct amount. Single chip always results in confusion whether you verbalize or not in early levels.

    The angle shooters are usually in full force to take the advantage of the same most of the time.

    I feel the advantage of verbalizing is, it allows you to think what exactly you want to bet than wasting time in counting the chips to arrive at the same number. Also, you can take your time, as an example if you say 330, you can take four iterations back and forth to keep (100+100+100+30) the 330 in play.


    1. Thanks, Golfpro. The title of the post is meant to be sarcastic. Obviously the way this guy verbalized his bet it was a big mistake. But generally its not a bad idea and I think I'll try to start doing it more often than I have.

      The good thing about it is if you say and for whatever reason take your sweet time counting the bet out, the action can continue around the table since verbal is binding.

  5. This ruling is fairly standard (and i'm almost positive there is a TDA rule that speaks to this, but I've been out of the game for awhile now and can't remember). If you make an unclear bet, you get the less of two amounts if both are valid bets.


    1. Thanks, Stan. I think you're right, but a lot of dealers would have just whizzed right by it and let it go for what he obviously meant.