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. 



  1. Hi Rob You did fine. You shoved with the best hand. Jack on the flop and top kicker. This is why tournament poker can suck. I have played so many tournaments that I do not consider suck outs bad beats anymore. Yeah I curse my luck on the drive home but I believe if I keep getting it in good on the flop and my opponents keep playing inferior cards I will make a deep run sooner or later. Keep grinding that is all you can do.

    1. Thanks, Ed, but actually, I didn't shove on the flop, I shoved preflop. I could have called preflop for just barely more than an additional big blind. If I had done that and shoved with top pair and then gotten sucked out on I never would have questioned my play--only why the poker gods hated me.