Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Chip-Tease

This was a profitable session at MGM back in June.

I was in the small blind with Ace-5 of hearts and there had been a few limpers, so when the button made it $10 I called, hoping for multi-way action.  But the big blind and all the limpers folded so we were heads up.  The flop was Ace-Ace-Queen.  I checked and then called $15.  I checked a blank turn and he checked back.  I bet $25 on a blank river and he tanked but eventually called.  He mucked when he saw my hand.  I guess maybe he had a Queen?

I just checked from the big blind with Ace-Queen it was four-ways.  The flop was Ace-high and I bet $6 and had two callers. I bet $15 on a blank turn and they both called.  I bet $25 on a blank river.  One guy folded and the other guy called.  He showed Ace-Jack and I took it down.

I had King-10 suited on the button and just limped in behind a bunch of limpers.  Seven of us saw a flop of King-Queen-7.  I called $15 and we were heads up.  The turn was a blank and I called $30.  The river was a 10. This time he checked.  I was worried about the straight so I just checked behind.  He showed King-Jack and I was good.

On back-to-back hands I raised preflop with Ace-King and pocket Queens.  There was no call either time.

There was an amusing middle-aged woman who came to our table at one point.  She was with her friend, same age, who was at another table.  I figured out (or just assumed) that they were a couple of ladies from the East Coast (most likely New York) taking a few days vacation away from their husbands on a girls trip to Vegas. She was chatting non-stop but she didn't say anything interesting enough for me to remember.  Except that she needed to charge her phone.  The USB plug at her seat wasn't working.  She asked the guy next to her if she could try his.  Didn't work.  She asked the guy on the other side.  Didn't work.  She asked me if she could try mine even though I was two seats away from her.  I already knew mine didn't work but I decided to let her see for herself.  It still didn't work.

She finally called the shift manager over to complain about the plugs.  He apologized and said that they do tend to break often due to overuse.  USB phone chargers at the table are a great idea but I think they are no better than a 50/50 shot at working when you need one.

Anyway, she had bought in for $100 and on this particular hand she raised to $11 after a few limpers.  I looked down at two Aces in the big blind so I made it $35.  She said to me, "I thought this was a friendly game.  You got a pair?"  I just laughed.  She took a while to call but she did and we were heads up.  The flop came 10-8-8.  Before I could act, she grabbed her stack and moved it forward a bit to make it look like she was going to put it all-in, whether I bet or not.  So I decided to check and see if she'd bet for me.  But she tanked a bit and then checked behind.

The turn was a blank and this time I bet $50.  She didn't have much more than that.  She acted like she was going to call (or shove) but then folded.  She was a chip-tease.

I opened to $6 with pocket 6's (again, almost never open-limping these days).  But a guy made it $20.  It folded back to me.  I called and we were heads up.  The flop was 8-7-4 rainbow.  It checked around.  The turn was a 9 and it checked around again.  The river was a 6.  I had a set, but there were 4 cards to straight on the board.  I checked and he checked behind.  He didn't show when he saw my hand. I guess he must have had an Ace-King type of hand.  But why wouldn't he have c-bet with that in a heads-up pot?  Doesn't make sense to me.  I guess it was pretty unlikely he had a straight there, huh? I should have bet, but if he just had big cards he wasn't calling me.

I was playing my last orbit when I had Ace-9 of hearts.  Someone raised to $10 and there was a call so I called and it was four of us seeing a flop.  There were two hearts on the flop so I called the preflop raiser's $35 bet and we were heads up.  I turned the flush, this time he checked.  I bet $50 and he tanked a bit before folding. 

That was it.  I booked a $100+ win and called it a night.        

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What's Wrong With a Dead Button?

I had another 1/2 session ($100 max buy-in) in Ventura on Saturday.  It was a good game and I'll get to some hands but first I want to talk about a couple of poker rules type thingies.

I was just getting settled in at the table when I heard the guy on my immediate left say to the dealer, "both hands."  It was the river, I really didn't see it but I knew the guy was asking to see both hands that were alive at showdown, whether or not they voluntarily showed them.  It's the "I want to see that hand" of the worst rules in poker.

We all know the intended purpose of the rule.  It is to prevent collusion.  In theory, this would expose a player who was calling or raising when he had no chance of winning to inflate the pot for his confederate.  I've never seen the rule actually used that way.

In fact, thankfully, I've rarely seen it used in all the times I've played poker in card rooms.  But when I have seen it, it's always been just for the purpose of gaining information on how a player plays—information that the player should be allowed to keep secret if he so chooses. 

In this case, any doubt I had that the rule was being abused was immediately erased when I heard the person who asked for "both hands" to be shown say to the lady on his left, "I want to see what he raised like that with."  In other words, it is exactly the wrong reason to invoke the rule.  He didn't suspect collusion at all.  He wanted to see if the player was raising with garbage (it turned out he was). 

The player who had his hand exposed didn't complain at all, and for the rest of the session the guy on my left didn't ask to see another hand like that.  Neither did anyone else.  He got the information he wanted with that one hand.

But it was clearly an abuse of the rule.  This is a rule that probably dates back to the rough-and-tumble days of the game and I think is no longer needed.  If you legitimately think two players are colluding, the floor should be notified and they can probably figure it out rather easily.  And if you think a person is raising with garbage, surely that information will be revealed legitimately sooner rather than later.

As it happens, the great poker writer Tommy Angelo has written about this and he agrees with me (or, I agree with him if you prefer).  You can see an article he wrote about it here, and this was recently re-published  somewhere very recently.  When I saw it, I thought, well, it's so rarely invoked, why bring it up?  But then I just saw it Saturday so I guess it's not completely gone.  It should be.

The other thing is something the rooms in the L.A. area all seem to do and it baffles me.  I've seen it at both the Bike & PC and I'm assuming the other rooms around here do it to. It's bugged me forever but I don't think I've ever mentioned it before.  I dunno if there's a name for it but I call it the "No Dead Button" rule.

Let's say the person who is supposed to be the button for the upcoming hand busted out on the hand before and doesn't rebuy.  Or perhaps he just got up from the table because his need to use the bathroom (or smoke) is so great he is willing to pass on being the button.  In Vegas, it's just a dead button, so the person who was in the cut-off seat last time is essentially the button twice in a row.  No big deal, luck of the draw.  If you play long enough, it will happen to you eventually.

In Vegas, that is.  In California, they slide the button over to the person who is suppose to be the small blind.  And that person has the button but he or she still has to post the small blind.  From the button.  But he still gets the last card dealt.

Well it's weird but I guess it isn't a big deal.  It's just a buck and if the small blind/button stays in the hand, he gets to act last the rest of the way.

But what makes it weirder is that, in this situation, they insist on there being two big blinds.  The person who would otherwise be under-the-gun now has to post a second big blind.  So for this hand, there are two big blinds and a small blind.  And the pot starts at $5 instead of $3 for no reason other than the player who was supposed to be the button took off.

Then on the next hand, the button and the small blind move together and this time there are two small blinds and one big blind.

Why the hell should there be two artificially inflated pots (admittedly, inflated by just a buck or two) just because of a the button not being there to play his hand???

And so if you were planning to take off—either for good or for a break—when the big blind came to you, you suddenly have one less hand to play before you have to post the blind, because you're posting that big blind a hand earlier—again for no good reason.

The other thing is that, unlike in Vegas, you cannot have "a single big blind."  Every once in a while the big blind will get up after the hand (or most likely, bust out on that hand) and there's no one to post the small blind.  In Vegas, that's perfectly ok, you just have the big blind posted and the pot is short by a buck.  There dealer will even announce, "There's one big blind." But in CA, you can't do that.  They make the person who was supposed to UTG post a second big blind.  Then on the next hand the same players each post a small blind and there's a big blind posted.  It's weird.  At least that makes a little sense because, since they take the rake off the very top, you'd risk having no pot if you didn't have at least two people post blinds.

I wonder if it's a state law or something?  Or just "tradition"?  I also wonder how it is around the rest of the country.  I've only played poker in Vegas and CA.  Maybe the Vegas way is the unusual way and everyone else does it like CA?

Anyway this happened a couple of times during the game Saturday so I was thinking about it. The guy on my right liked to take cigarette breaks when the button came to him (I could tell by the way he reeked when he came back to the table) so I was the small blind/button a few times.

I said it was a good game and that's because there was a lot more action than you usually find at the 1/2 game at this establishment.  That was mostly due the fellow who's aggressive betting had encouraged the guy next to me to ask to see "both hands."  Let's just say that this guy lived up to the moniker "Crazian."  He liked to make bigger than standard bets preflop and if he stayed in on the flop, he often overbet the pot.  He did it with some air of course, but since even maniacs get Aces, he had his share of big hands too.

In fact, although some of the nits (like the guy on my left and the lady next to him) were getting frustrated by his big raises, the guy on my right was rather happy about it.  "I like this table."  The guy on my left said, "Then take it home with you."  The guy on my right was pointing out that if you hit a hand you'd get plenty of action, unlike some of the games.  All you had to do was catch a hand.  I felt the same way.  But you couldn't really do anything other than wait for a good hand and get value for it.

So, my second or third hand, I got Ace-King offsuit.  Someone had raised to $5, there was a call and I called. I was still getting a feel for the table so I didn't three-bet.  Six of us saw an Ace-high flop.  Some guy donked out a $10 bet, the preflop raiser called and I called.  Same guy bet $15 on the turn and we both called.  The river put a flush out there and this time the guy checked, the preflop raiser checked and I just played it safe and checked behind.  I know I played that really timidly but I just felt more comfortable playing it that way, not having any knowledge of the players.  The donk bettor had a weak Ace and the original raiser had something like 4-5 suited for a missed straight draw.  He was an older gentleman and I was really surprised he raised with that.  But he left the game not long after.

I got pocket Aces and made it $10 and it was four-ways.  The flop was Jack-high, rainbow.  I bet $30 and didn't get a call. The guy on my right showed me one card before he folded, a Jack.  "I believe you," he said. 

With pocket Queens I made it $10 and again had three callers.  The flop was 9-high and I bet $30.  One guy shoved for $27 and the others folded.  All he had was pocket 6's, unimproved and a gut-shot.  He missed and I took the pot.  I was disappointed that he didn't rebuy.

I completed from the small blind with King-Queen and most of Ventura County saw the flop of King-9-8.  I led out with $6 and the guy on my right made it $15 (this was a different guy than the guy who said he liked this table, he had just left). I called.  We were heads up.  I checked the turn, a blank, and he checked behind.  The river was a Queen.  I considered that the Queen completed a straight for Jack-10.  But I thought the guy was unlikely to have raised me on the flop with just a gut-shot.  And I was trying to get some value for my two-pair hand (for a change).  So I went ahead and bet $18 because my $20 stack of $1's was short two chips).  But the guy raised it to $37.  Damn.  Well, it was basically a min-raise and I didn't think I could fold for that.  So I called and sure enough he showed me Jack-10.

I called $6 with Ace-Queen and it was four-ways.  The flop was Queen-10-9.  Someone bet $15 and I just called, as did another player.  The turn was a 7 and it checked around.  The river was another 9.  Again it checked around.  It was a pretty scary board where I had showdown value and I had just been burned with the straight earlier, so I didn't bet.  My Queen was good, one of the players had weaker Queen and the other guy didn't show, I assumed he missed his draw. 

It was good session, I made a few bucks.  Can't complain.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

At Least I Got My July 4th Post Up Before Labor Day

I went to MGM for my 4th of July session, starting in the late afternoon.  They were running a special promo just for the day.  If you flopped quad 4's, they'd pay you $4,444.  If you hit quad 4's on the turn or the river, it was still good for $444.  Spoiler alert:  I didn't win the promo.  I never got pocket 4's even once.  However, by the time I got to the poker room, one person had already been paid $4,444 for flopping quad 4's.

The very first hand I was dealt was Ace-9 of clubs.  There were a few limpers so I limped in too.  Six of us saw the flop, which had two clubs on it.  I called $9 and it was four-way.  The turn was a blank and it checked around.  The river was an 8 of clubs, giving me the nut flush but not the nuts.  A straight flush was possible with 6-5 of clubs.  Someone bet $15 and there was a call.  I made it $40.  The first guy called and the other guy folded.  He had 6-5 for the straight but neither of his cards was a club. Nice to win that first hand of the session.

A few minutes later, my old pal Michelle pushed in to deal.  Long-time readers with good memories will recall that Michelle is the dealer who "never pushes me a pot."  Back in the day when she used to deal to me regularly she once said she owed me 100 pots for all the ones she never pushed me over the years.  Thereafter, I used to do a running count backwards from 100 on those rare occasions when she did actually push me one.  I lost count somewhere in the high 80's.

But a few years back she changed her shift to days.  Now I rarely see her because she's gone by the time I get there.  So it had been awhile since I'd seen her and even longer since she'd actually dealt to me.  But I still expected her to recognize me.  I was somewhat across from her and she dealt her first hand without even noticing me.  Finally when she turned to me when it was my turn to act, I waved to her and she finally noticed it was me.  She kind of jumped in her seat and smiled and said hi. "You didn't notice me?" I asked her.  "'s been a long, long time. Where ya been?" 

I said, "Well, you changed your shift."  She said, "That's a long time ago."  I agreed—after all, that was my point.  She asked me how I was doing and we caught up. 

The second or third hand she dealt me was Jack-9 off in late position.  There were a few limpers so I came in too.  No one raised and the number of us who saw the flop was somewhere between a basketball team and a baseball team.  It was a good decision to see this flop because it came Queen-10-8, two clubs.  Someone led out for $11 and got a call.  I made it $35 and didn't get a call.

As Michelle slid the pot towards me, I said, "You see, it's been so long, you forgot how to deal me losing hands."  She countered with, "That was a long time ago."

Very next hand I limped in behind a few other limpers with King-10 of diamonds.  I flopped a flush—the second nuts.  It was Queen-9-5 of diamonds.  I knew I didn't want to see another diamond unless it was the Jack of diamonds for the straight flush. That might have killed my action but it probably would have guaranteed me winning the high hand promo; a King-high straight flush is hard to beat!  I bet $12 and had two callers.  The turn was indeed a red Jack—but it was hearts, not diamonds.  I bet $40 and we were heads up.  The river was a blank and then the guy who had been check-calling me all this time led out with a shove. Gulp.  It was about $120-$130.  I had him covered. 

Was he slow-playing the nuts all this time?  Or did he have a straight?  Or a lesser flush?  I hadn't been at the table very long so I really didn't have a read on this guy.  I suppose I considered the fact that Michelle was dealing and that I'd already won a pot she'd dealt and what were the odds that I'd win a second one—in a row, yet?  But....I had a feeling I was good.  I sighed and announced call.  He said, "straight" and indeed that's what he turned over.  I showed my hand and Michelle was suddenly my good luck charm.  And imagine that, I'd flopped a straight and a flush from her on consecutive hands—and won both.  Miracles do happen.

Then everything reverted back to normal and I went card dead.  Not just with Michelle dealing but for a few dealers after that.  The good thing was that after the two hands with Michelle, I was sitting behind $440, more than a double up.

There was a hand where I got a lucky chop.  I didn't note the entire details but I think I was the big blind and flopped middle pair and a gutshot.  I called a small flop bet and there was no betting after that.  We were heads up after the flop.  Well, there was a straight on the board after the river and we both were playing the board.  But he had actually flopped a set of 8's and I just had a measly pair of 9's.  I said to him, "I feel like a winner, but you got screwed."

I had pocket Aces and opened to $10. It was three-way and I c-bet $20 on a low flop.  One caller.  But he didn't call my $40 turn bet.

I called $7 with Ace-7 of clubs and we were heads up.  I flopped the draw and called $10.  I caught the flush on the turn and he bet $15.  I made it $40 and he tanked for a good long while before folding.

I limped in with Ace-9 of clubs and there were four of us seeing an Ace-high flop, one club.  I bet $5 and got one call.  But he folded to my $10 bet on the turn when another Ace fell. 

I ended up cashing out a $280 profit, most of the money coming when Michelle was dealing.  I guess that now the Michelle has seemingly learned how to deal me winners, I should come in on the day shift more often.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

They Might Be Giants

One of the first posts I wrote after returning from my summer Vegas trip was the one here, talking about my brief appearance at Planet Hollywood for the "Blogger's Game."  In that post, I mentioned that I was exhausted from having played in the Giant at the WSOP that evening, and then I semi-promised that I would talk about that tournament another time.  Well, ladies and gentlemen, that time is now.

Back in February I discussed the Giant, what it was and my thoughts about possibly playing in it (see here).  So at this point in my trip, it was the Friday night I had reserved for it.  The day leading up to that evening didn't go exactly as planned.  I was running late the whole day, I got out of bed late even though I'd had a lousy night's sleep, I lost a bunch of time making a special trip to the Rio to buy into the tournament in the afternoon so I wouldn't be stuck in line buying in when the tournament started and I absolutely had to do laundry that day.  I did leave myself a little time for a late afternoon nap—but I couldn't fall asleep.

But I made it to the Rio with time to spare.  In fact, when they finally let us in the tournament area, I was the first player at my table.  The first dealer was an older gentleman, very friendly, who kind of fancied himself a comedian.  And a sports trivia buff.  Once the tourney began, he would ask us some really obscure sports trivia.  Don't worry, I had forgotten most of these choice tidbits the next day so I won't bore you with them.

But as I was the first one at the table, when he handed me my stack I looked at it and said, "Oh that's right, it's a 20K starting stack."

He said, "Yes, but notice the chip distribution—it's weird."  I had already started counting the stack and did indeed notice it was rather odd.  For even a 10K starting stack, you would expect to start out with eight black $100 chips and eight green $25 chips, right?  And the rest in $1K and maybe some $500 chips. The blinds started at 25/50, so you'd need plenty of green chips at the beginning. 

But this distribution was very different.  There were three $5K chips, three $1K chips, three $500 chips, four $100 chips and four $25 chips.  I confirmed with the dealer that it was weird.

He said, "So guess what I'm going to be spending a lot of time during the early levels doing?"  I knew the answer.  "Making change."  He said "Yep, there aren't enough black and green chips on the table.  I'm going to be asking people for change every hand."  Yes, and he might have to go around to a few players to get change because no one would be able to accumulate large stockpiles of the small denomination chips.  There just weren't that many to be had.

That was one of two reasons those 20-minute levels seemed even shorter.  Yes the dealer did indeed take a lot of time getting change, pretty much every hand.  It took almost no time for someone to have to post a $50 blind with a $5K chip.  Good luck making change for that from one player.  It was pretty messed up.

There was another reason that we lost time.  At the WSOP—and at most of the other big tournaments that are part of a big series in Vegas these days—whenever a new player comes to the table with their buy-in receipt, the dealer is forced to ask the player for a photo I.D.  Just the receipt isn't enough.  So some player comes to the table with all their stuff (headphones, hoodie, phone, tablet, water bottle, food, backpack, purse, etc), and their receipt in hand and gives the dealer the receipt.  Where upon the dealer asks to see a photo I.D. and we all have to wait until the player digs out his or her driver's license or passport.  It kills a lot of time in those early levels.

Those 20-minute levels seem more like 12-minute levels.  And yes, I know I just did a post where I said that I really hated 20-minute levels.  But if you go back to the post I wrote in February about the Giant, you'll see I made an exception for this tournament.  Besides, had I lasted past the first day, the levels on day 2 were a respectable 40-minutes.

So, I was the big blind to start the first three levels, and I swear, we didn't play more than one orbit any of those three levels.

By the way, at some point, I think I figured out why they had that odd chip distribution.  It's just a guess but I'm thinking that they did it to make the color-ups for the green and then the black go faster than they otherwise would have.  With half the quantity of each to color-up, they'd be done with that chore much faster than otherwise.  That's my theory, anyway.

The scarcity of smaller chips contributed to one rather unpleasant incident.  The player on my right was having worse luck than I was—no easy feat—and very short stacked. And he was very much disgruntled. By this time he had just a few chips—one $5K chip and a few smaller ones.  He had them stacked in one stack, with the $5K chip on the bottom.

At this point, a new dealer pushed in, a very nice black woman.  You'll see why I mentioned her race in a minute.  She was sitting right next to the disgruntled player.   So she politely asked him to put his big chip—the $5K chip—either out in front of the rest or on the top of his stack (standard rule in poker, right?).  That set the guy off.  "Are you kidding me?  I've got three lousy chips left, and you're making an issue of the larger one not being visible?  Seriously?  That's ridiculous."

The dealer said that that was what she was instructed to do with all players, regardless of the stack sizes."They tell us to do that."  Sounds right.  The player reiterated that the request was absurd and didn't touch his stack.  The dealer very gently repeated her request that he make the one big chip he had more visible to the other players.

The player got nasty, and in a noticeably raised voice said,  "Man, I'm having a great WSOP experience.  Lousy cards, can't win a damn thing, and now I have to put up with dealers like you asking me to stack my chips a certain way."

Regardless of the specifics of what he said, just the nastiness in his tone at that point would have justified the dealer calling the floor over, in my opinion.

But the dealer didn't do that.  Instead, she said, "'Dealers like you'?  What do you mean, 'Dealers like you'?"

Uh oh.  It was clear that she was thinking that the "dealers like you," line was a reference to her race.  I'm not sure if the guy understood what she was getting at.  He was too upset.  He said something about the ridiculousness of asking a guy with so few chips to rearrange them to please the dealer.

I think she asked what he meant by "dealers like you" a second time and didn't get much of a response.  She let it go, the player let it go, and he kept his chips stacked the way he wanted to for the rest of his down.  Or at least until he busted out a bit later.  I can honestly say I was quite happy to see the guy bust out.

For what it's worth, in my opinion, he didn't mean his comment as a reference to her race.  My feeling is he was just a jerk, not a racist jerk.  But that's just my opinion and I can't really put myself in the dealer's shoes.  I felt bad for her.  She didn't deserve it.

As for my run in the tournament—it wasn't much of one.  I was incredibly card dead.  The levels whizzed by. I was involved in so few hands—and of course won so few pots—I'll just flash forward to level 9, where the blinds were 200/600/1200 and I had a stack of $21K.  So, I felt that maybe I had one hand left to raise with before being in shove-or-fold mode.

Early in the level I had King-Queen of clubs.  I raised to $3,500.  A guy with a similar stack to mine called.  Then a huge stack shoved.  Tough spot, but I raised instead of shoving there so I had an exit ramp......and I took it.  The other guy called.  That guy flipped over King-Queen off.  The big stack showed pocket 10's.  There was a King on the flop.  Damn.  Then there was a 10 on the river.  The other guy with King-Queen was toast.  And I would have joined him if I had called.

I wondered what would have happened if I had open-shoved instead of raised.  I might have been able to take it preflop.  But I could easily see one or both of them calling.  Or not.  No way of knowing how they react to a shove.  But the guy with pocket 10's had at least three times our stacks, so he might have called me, especially if the other guy had folded.  Dunno if I played it right, but I do know—results oriented thinking—folding to the three-bet worked out for me.

Not long after a guy in early position opened to $2,500, barely more than a min-raise.  He had done that a few times by now.  I never saw his hand, so I wasn't sure what he was doing that with.  He had a smallish stack but he had me covered.

I was the big blind with Ace-Jack of diamonds.  By this time, I was definitely in shove-or-fold mode. I guess my stack was around $17K  As soon as I looked at my hand I thought, "this is it."  I suppose I might have changed my mind if there had been significant action before it got to me.  A shove or two would have given me pause for sure.  But it folded to me.

I wasn't about to make a small raise, but I did consider just calling (I never considered folding).  It wouldn't have cost me many chips to just call and see the flop and re-evaluate.  Shove if I catch any part of the flop, otherwise check/fold?  I considered it.  But I decided that Ace-Jack suited was so much better than any hand I'd seen in a long, long time, I was very short-stacked, and I probably had a decent amount of fold equity. And I figured Ace-Jack suited was ahead of his range. There was just a few minutes left in the level so my current stack was about to get that much smaller—with a lot less fold equity on a shove. So I jammed.

He took forever to decide.  But finally, with a shrug, he called. He turned over King-10 offsuit.  Wow, I thought that was an incredibly bad call on his part.  If he lost, he'd still be alive but he'd have only a few big blinds.  It was a needless risk, he could have gotten away from it cheap.  I mean, why min-raise if you're gonna call a shove from one of the tightest players at the table?

I was glad to see his hand, but of course there were five cards to come.  The flop was great, Jack-high and nothing that helped him.  But the damn turn was a King.  And the river was a brick.  And my WSOP experience was over for the year.

I staggered out to the hallway, sat down and took notes on the hand. And spent a lot of time wondering if I made the right play.  In 20/20 hindsight, the right play would have been to have just called his preflop raise.  And then shove the flop when the Jack came.  With nothing but a back-door straight draw, he'd have to fold, and I'd still be alive with a bunch more chips.

But of course, at the time, I didn't know the Jack was gonna hit the flop.  So I just had to wonder if that would have been the right play anyway and I just blew it.

I dunno.  What do you think?  Even to this day, it sure seems like a call rather than a shove was the right play, but again, my thinking is colored by knowing the result.  And honestly, my shove there got him to make a bad play. I got the play I wanted, really—my opponent calling all-in with a worse hand than mine.

I thought about that hand a lot over the next few days, pretty haunted by it. 


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Misdeal

This will be a short post even though I am discussing two different topics. 

The first was an interesting "ruling"—if that's what it was—in a tournament.  They had just announced that the blinds were going up next hand.  The dealer had already cut the cards for our next hand and per rule (or is it just a tradition?), we were playing this hand at the old blinds.  The dealer confirmed this.

However, there was a misdeal.  I think he forgot to deal in one of the player for some reason.  Anyway, he had everyone return the cards that had been dealt and he reshuffled them and redealt.  However, the dealer insisted that the blinds were now up for this hand.  Huh?  This hand was the last hand at the old blinds.  It wasn't any of the players' fault that he misdealt it.  Shouldn't we have still have had that last hand at the old blind levels?

A couple of the players, myself included, questioned it but the dealer was adamant that the blinds were now up for this very hand,  It didn't make any sense to me—we were entitled to one last hand at the old blind levels and we didn't get that because of his error.  However, with the dealer insisting and already starting to deal the cards, I decided to let it go and not insist on him calling the floor.  It was early in the tournament, the jump wasn't that much, and I figured we'd get screwed even more (in terms of lost time) by having to wait for a floor person to show up.

So we played the hand at the new blind level.

But does anyone know the rule for this?  And regardless of the actual rule, do you think this is right?  Again, it wasn't a big deal so early in the tournament but it it had happened later in the tournament, when the blind jumps would be big, it might have had considerable impact.

Ok, now we turn to a brief cash game session at MGM.

From the small blind, I completed with Queen-10 off.  It was 6-way. The flop was King-10-10.  I bet $5 and only had one caller.  The turn was a blank and I bet $10, he called.  The river was another blank I bet $15, this time he raised to $30.  Shit, did he have a boat?  I just called.  He showed King-3 (there was no 3 on the board, he just had top pair, terrible kicker).  Thank you, sir.

After a few limps, I limped in with pocket 9's.  I flopped a set with two hearts on the board.  I considered slow playing it because the Pyramid promo that week included 9's full.  I just needed the board to pair—the right pair, anyway—and I'd win some promo money.  But I couldn't give free cards with the hearts out there.  I bet $6 and had two callers.  Blank on the turn and I bet $15, one call.  The river was a blank and was not a heart.  I was grabbing chips to bet and the guy mucked before I even bet.  So pretty sure he was on a heart draw.

Then, in early position, I had pocket 5's.  I was trying to avoid open limping, so I raised to $6.  It was 4-way.  The flop was fairly low but no 5. I decided to c-bet $20.  There was one call.  It checked the rest of the way and I took it with my unimproved 5's.  The other guy had Ace-4 (there was a 4 on the flop).

I had pocket Aces and there were two limpers in front of me so I made it $12.  It was three-way. The flop was nice, Ace-high, rainbow.  I bet $20.  One call.  I bet $35 on a blank, and took it. 

I ended up leaving that session up $80.  Not the most memorable session to be sure, but a win's a win.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

No Antes? No Bueno

One evening back in June I decided to do something I haven't done in quite awhile—play in a small, low buy-in tournament. 

For the past few years, I've almost exclusively played tournaments that have $100+ buy-ins, figure to have at least 90 or so runners and have 30-minute levels or more.  Once I started playing those, the smaller buy-in tourneys didn't much appeal to me.  I was "spoiled" by the Aria and the Binion's tournaments I would play regularly whenever I was in Vegas.  I branched out to play even bigger (buy-in wise) tournaments that were part of a big series.  And I pretty much left the small tournaments behind.

The larger prize pools were a big factor, but honestly, the biggest reason was the length of the levels.  Also, the bigger tournaments tended to have larger starting stacks.  In other words, there was a lot more play in them than the smaller tournaments, as you would expect.  And I got used to that.  The downside was that you could play in those bigger tournaments for a long, long time and bust out after hours and hours and have nothing—or very little—to show for it.  At least with the smaller tournaments, well, they were over fast and if you didn't cash you hadn't lost a whole day or evening (or both) for nothing.

So generally, when thinking of playing a tournament, I don't even look at anything that cost less than $100.  And if I see a tournament with levels less than 30-minutes, I also am inclined to give it a pass.

But on this particular evening, after working all day, I really felt like playing a tourney.  And when I considered my options, I decided to give a smaller tournament a shot.  This time of year, with all the big series running, there were actually a number of options for bigger tournaments that started in the evening.  But the best options were ones that would likely run until 4-5 AM—and I had to work the next day too. 

So I looked at all my options to try to figure out the best value.  Fortunately I had just written a column about tournaments around town for Ante Up.  There were actually some tournaments that had buy-ins at $100 or more that didn't figure to last more than 3-4 hours.  Right amount of time, but why would I pay over a hundred bucks for tournament when I was sure I could find one that had a lower buy-in with relative similar structures (and therefore length).

To make a long story short (yes, that's a joke), I ended up at the Mirage for their $65 tournament at 7pm.  It had a 10K starting stack with 20-minute levels and the structure seemed ok.  I noticed that there were never any antes in the structure, so I figured that would make the tournament play a little longer.  Seemed like the best deal available at that hour.

I thought I would like the fact that there were no antes.  When I first started playing tournaments, I wasn't thrilled with antes.  I wasn't used to them, since you never see antes in the low-limit cash games I played.  They were a nuisance and I saw that they helped bleed your stack when it was getting short.  One of the things I really liked about the Binion's Saturday tournament when I first started playing it was that the antes didn't kick in until the 8th level (since changed).

But I got used to the antes and I understood the concept that they induced action.  Still I figured that fact that the Mirage tourney I was playing didn't have them would be a good thing, especially for a low buy-in tournament designed to last just a few hours.

Well, I was wrong.  The tournament convinced me that antes are necessary.  What happened was that I was really card dead and so I got short stacked.  And thus I was at the point where I was in shove or fold mode.  But the trouble was, I realized that shoving and winning without a call wasn't worth very much.

By the time I get to that point (if I do) in one of the usual tournaments I play, it's good to steal the pots that way because the antes on top of the blinds make it worth it.  But without antes, all you get is a blind and a half. It doesn't have much an impact on your stack.

Yes, I know, without antes your stack bleeds slower, and that should make up for the lack of return when you steal....but your stack gets short anyway and then you can't make up for it with steals.  It doesn't seem to balance out.  That steal attempt is no longer worth the risk when it usually only get you 1-1/2 blinds.  Whereas it would be if you were also pulling in the antes.

As such, I quickly realized that I had to adjust my thinking for when it was time to shove.  I mean I did it once or twice when I thought I should have but then I realized I wasn't accomplishing much.  So I actually changed my strategy.  I started just raising in spots where I really had too few chips to do that, where I should have shoved.  The idea was that I was committed but I was hoping for a re-raise so I could shove (which is what I wanted to do) so there'd be more chips when I did it.  Of course that was riskier because I had less fold equity and might get called by a hand that was better than mine but would have folded to a shove).  I just felt because of the lack of antes I had to take more risk to get chips.  Maybe I was looking at it the wrong way, but I was kind of making this up on the fly and that's what I came up with.

So for example, in the 6th level, I was down to about $12K and had about 7 big blinds (the big blind was $1,600). That's ordinarily just a shove or a fold for me.  But with pocket 9's I instead raised to $5,000 instead of shoving.  Well that time I didn't get a call so it didn't make a difference.

But later I had Ace-10 and a big stack limped in.  I made it $7K and the big stack called.  The flop was 10-9-7 and he had checked dark.  I shoved, which I was planning to do with most any flop.  He folded.

Then I had Ace-10 again.  A short stack shoved for $2,500. I thought about shoving but I was still trying to figure out the best play with no antes.  So I just called.  There was a guy behind me who had a similar stack to mine.  He took forever but finally called. The flop was Ace-high, 1 club.  I shoved.  Again, he went into the tank.  But again, he called and turned over Ace-7 of clubs.  I was ahead. All I had to fade was a 7 and running clubs.  So of course he caught runner-runner clubs.  To add insult to injury, the river card was the 10 of clubs, giving me a losing two pair.

I had less than a blind left so I went all-in on the next hand with King-8 and lost.

My assessment was that tournaments without antes are bad.  I won't play them again.  But good for Mirage and other rooms for offering them.  Obviously some people like them, and it's great that they have that option.

But then, I still don't like playing low buy-in, quick tournaments with 20-minute levels.  I just got spoiled a long time ago with the 30-minute levels at the Aria where you get much more play, at the "cost" of playing a much longer time if you run well.  I honestly wonder why people like those quicker tournaments.  I mean obviously the shorter length has an appeal, as it did for me on this night.  But they turn into shove-fests after just a level or two.  I don't enjoy that.  Others must, because except for a few of the biggest rooms, you find just about every room in town offering them. 

They're just not for me.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Was This a Good Play?

This is a hand from a session that otherwise wasn't very interesting.  Oh, I left with a small profit, and I did win with pocket Kings (raise, 2 callers, c-bet takes it).  But no hand I was in was really worth talking about.

However, there was an interesting hand that I observed, and then got a little more information about.  I think it's worth a blog post, but you can tell me if I'm wrong.

There were these two guys in town from Minnesota, there to have a good time, and they were both fairly aggro.  Bigger than standard raises preflop, fairly aggressive post-flop. Not afraid to three-bet preflop either.  This hand involved one of these two guys, the one on my immediate left.

The other player in this drama was a regular I've referred to in the past as Dean.  You might want to look back at the post where I first mentioned him (here)  because the hand I discussed nearly three-years ago has some relevance now.  You can scroll down near the bottom of the post to find it.  The key point was that Dean was surprised that I had raised "so small" with pocket Aces and I therefore fooled him with my hand strength.  As I pointed out in that post, I raised what I would have raised with any hand I would raise, and Dean was anticipating that I'd raise based on how good my hand was.

As we start this hand, the guy from Minnesota was sitting behind nearly $500 and Dean had around $340.  Dean opened the pot for something in the area of $10-$12—a perfectly normal raise. The guy from Minnesota re-raised to something like $30-$35 (it might have been as much as $40, but no more).  When it folded back to Dean, he instantly announced "all-in."

Huh?  Seemed like a bit of an overbet no?

It folded back to the guy from Minnesota and he went into the tank forever. He was talking too.  Dean said nothing but the Minnesota guy was saying things like, "I can't fold this...I know you've got Aces but I can't fold this....Oh man, oh man."  And so on.

I couldn't figure out what Dean had that made any sense.  I wasn't thinking Aces.  I mean why shove with Aces?  You're not getting value for them.  You're almost always going to get a fold.  If you raise 3X the three-bet, you might get a call.  Of course, if the other player has Kings, it could work out, but...

Now as I said, this guy was fairly aggressive, so it's not like he's only three-betting with Aces or Kings.  He could be doing that with a lot of hands that he might call a three-bet with but wouldn't call a shove with.  If Dean's opponent is a total nit who would only three-bet with AA or KK, then yeah, if he had Aces it would make sense to shove there with them.  But then, if he's that nitty, you might scare him off Kings too.

So Dean must have something other than Aces.  Kings? Is he trying to get Ace-King to fold so he doesn't worry about an Ace hitting?  Seems extreme. 

What about Queens or Jacks?  You know Jacks—three ways to play them and they're all wrong. So get him to fold preflop.  But you can probably accomplish the same thing with a big four-bet that's a lot less than a shove and doesn't risk your whole stack.

Would he do that with Ace-King?  You know, if you get called, guaranteed to see all five cards and you have the two biggest ones.  You're still a slight underdog against QQ or JJ tho and you're getting crushed by AA or KK.

Well, eventually the guy from Minnesota listened to himself say "I can't fold this," enough times that he called.  He flipped over two Kings and Dean showed two Aces.  And the board was nothing but blanks and Dean had a real nice double up.  There was kind of sick look on the guy's face but his buddy tried to cheer him up.  "You couldn't fold that."

Not long after, the seat on Dean's immediate left opened up and I moved to it—just because I could see the cards better from there.  Dean and I have played many hours of poker together and so when I settled in and we were both out of the hand I couldn't resist asking him about the hand.  I assumed he would be willing to talk to me about it.  I was right.

"I was really surprised you shoved there with your Aces.  I can't figure out why you would do that."

"Well, I knew he was strong and I thought he would call.  And when I shove there, it looks weak, it looks like I don't want a call."

Hmmm...I guess that makes sense. Especially after I saw it work to perfection. But do you think that's a good strategy?  Should you always four-bet shove with Aces?  Even when you start the hand with over 150 big blinds?

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Another Dreaded Post

Saturday I was back in Ventura playing some 1/2 ($100 max buy-in).  It only took me three hands to say hello to my old friends, the dreaded pocket Kings in the big blind.  After a few limpers, a guy made it $10.  I added $30 to my big blind. A short stack who had initially limped shoved for his last $8.  Everyone else folded.  He showed Ace-2 of spades.  Of course there were two spades on the flop.  But the third spade didn't come.  Neither did an Ace and my Kings actually held.

With King-Queen off in early position I made it $6 and had one caller.  On a flop of 9-9-4 I made a c-bet and took it.

I called $6 on the button with Ace-7 off and it was four-ways.  The board totally missed me but no one bet.  A 7 hit the turn and it checked to me.  I bet $6 and didn't get a call.

In the big blind I had 8-7 of hearts and no one raised; there were a bunch of limpers.  The flop was Ace-8-7.  I bet $6.  Another guy made it $15.  Now, on the previous hand, this guy, who was fairly new to the table and I think was waiting for a bigger game, had shoved a pretty good amount on the flop with just  a gut shot.  Of course he hit his straight on the turn and won the pot.  But shoving with a gut shot (in response to a bet) made an impression on me.  So I made it $40.  I only had $10 behind.  He tanked and shoved and of course I called.  The last two cards were bricks and when I showed my two pair he just mucked his cards.

I raised to $8 with Ace-Jack off and it was three-ways.  The flop was low, I made a $15 c-bet, and a lady shoved.  Easy fold.  The other player folded too.  She kindly showed us pocket Jacks.  Well, good thing a Jack didn't hit the flop!  But it was interesting she didn't three-bet with the Jacks.  Earlier I had noticed she three-bet with pocket 10's.

I had pocket Queens and there were many limpers. I made it $12.  Only one call.  The flop was low and the other guy donked out $20.  I made it $50 which looked like about what he had left.  It turned out to be a few bucks more than he had.  He called and showed pocket Jacks.  The ladies held.

Now, there was this kid at the table who wasn't really familiar with the game.  And I do mean "kid"—he really looked like he was barely old enough to be in the casino.  I'm sure he was carded.  He didn't really seem to grasp all the rules of the game.  One of the first questions he asked the dealer was, "What's the most I can bet?"  When it was explained that it was between $2 and as much as he had in front of him, he said, "Oh, I'm used to it being a fixed amount and then you can double it."  He was told that he was talking about limit poker and this was no-limit. 

Of course the newbie had some serious beginner's luck and soon had more than doubled up his original $100 buy-in.  And he was making some odd plays.  He three-bet a surprising amount of the time, and one time I noticed he had three-bet with Queen-7 off.

Anyway, on this particular hand he was under-the-gun plus one and made it $4.  However, I realized that he hadn't actually meant to raise there.  He had seen a couple of bets close together and thought he was calling a $4 straddle.  There was a call to his bet and I found myself looking down at pocket Kings again.

I made it $16.  It folded to a "mature" woman who was probably the tightest player at the table.  She shoved—but she only had $27.  It folded back to me and of course I snapped. But she flipped over pocket Queens and once again my Kings held.

Sometime later, the kid disappeared from the table for awhile and when he came back, we noticed that two racks of his chips were gone.  The dealer asked what happened to his chips (he still had about $30-$40 left).  He said he cashed them in.  Of course, the dealer told him he couldn't do that, he had to keep that money at the table as long as he was still playing.  So he thought for a while and took the rest of his chips to the cage and cashed those in too.

Winning twice in a session with pocket Kings—unimproved Kings at that—was a nice day for me.  I booked a small win and headed home. 

How does the pic below tie into the post?  Well, Ventura is right on the Pacific Ocean.  And this is an example of the type of native creatures you might find on the beach.