Monday, April 30, 2018

What The Hell Were They Thinking?

WARNING:  This is not a poker post.  It is completely off-topic from my usual content.  It is a movie review of the most popular movie on the planet right now.  Actually, to be more accurate, it is really a rant about what I didn't like about the film.

WARNING:  There is no way I can talk about what I didn't like without spoiling the movie.  So, consider this a major, serious, no-shit-I-mean-it SPOILER WARNING for the hit movie, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. I mean it folks, if you haven't seen AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR well, first of all, I kind of envy you but more importantly, do not read this post unless you are sure you won't be seeing it or don't mind being spoiled.  If you are planning on seeing it, bookmark this and come back when you do and then you can compare your thoughts to mine.  I personally hate spoilers so I trust you have all been properly warned. 

Ready?  Scroll down:
Ok, that should be enough notice.  I don't want to hear any complaints that I "ruined the movie" for you.  Actually, the writers and the producers of the movie did that.  Well, I dunno about you, but they sure ruined it for me.

I just saw the Avengers movie Sunday and I really can't put into words my reaction when the movie was over.  Oh actually I can, but I vowed not to use those type of words on this blog.

My reaction alternated between "What the hell was that?" and "What the hell were they thinking?"

Now for the first approximately five and a half hours of the film, it was fine.  Not great by any means, but certainly a fun, enjoyable Marvel comics movie.  It was more than OK.  It certainly wasn't as good as the best Marvel movie (the original Avengers, which I actually reviewed on this very blog when it was released, see here). Not as good as the sequel or as the better films in the series, (the first Iron Man, the new Spider-Man and the second and third Captain America films come to mind).  But maybe right after those.  It was pretty much what I expected.

Until the very end.  What happened in the end?  Well…AGAIN, SPOILER WARNING.

The Avengers lost and everyone died.

Well night quite.  The Avengers did lose, but not quite everyone died.  Although we can't be sure.  Because the way they died—they just disintegrated after the big bad guy snapped his fingers—implies that more could die after the film ends.  Who died?  Well, if you're a "TLDR" type of person (and you likely are if you read this blog), then it would be easier to Google who didn't die than who did die, that's how much of a blood bath it was.

Now before you rip into me, yes, I know that this is really just part 1 of a two part Avengers story (or is it really like part 19?). I did know that going in. I know that next year we will be treated to the conclusion, and that somehow, through the magic of Stan Lee, movies, comics, super-heroes and bad writing, all the dead will someone return to life and save the world. And it will be thrilling.  And they'll all make jokes about not being dead anymore.  Ha ha.

After all, most of the dead characters already have additional Marvel movies announced (which I suppose could take place before they all died, but probably won't).

But for now, for a whole year, this is where we stand.  A shitload of dead Avengers. 
I'm sorry, this is just not what I expect from a Marvel movie, from a comic book movie.  I was just stunned.  It was so dark.  So (seemingly) final.  So depressing.  So somber. So dismal. 

I sat there thinking, "that's it?" while the credits rolled.  I sat glued to my seat hoping that the inevitable mid or post credits tag would give me some hope for future.  Like Tony Stark popping up on the screen saying, "Joke time's over, sucker!"  But no. The post credits scene just double downs on what we saw and is even more depressing. 

Seriously, Marvel?  Seriously?  I go to a Super Hero movie to be entertained.  It's supposed to be a fun experience.  I should leave the theater with a smile on my face knowing I had a good time for two plus hours.  All the good will in that regard the movie had earned with me for the first 95% went out the window after the last 10 minutes.  That was anything but fun.  I felt cheated.  I felt that all the time I had spent with the previous movies in the series had been wasted. 

I just sat there thinking, "what the hell was that?"  A cliff hanger where everyone is in imminent danger is one thing.  But this is past the point of danger.  If they're dead they no longer in danger.  I suppose that's the "glass is half full" way to look at it. 

Honestly, I see the ending as just a giant F.U. to all the fans who have supported the films all these years. "We know you came here for a good time, but we don't give a shit.  We're going to send you home with a really dark, disturbing ending to ruin your day.  Thanks for your support, and be sure to come back next year when we'll come up with some really hokey way to bring all the characters you love back to life."

A giant F.U.

The thing is, after this experience, I'm not too keen on giving these guys any more of money.  I have zero enthusiasm for seeing the resolution.  Not after this.  I'd sooner write to Marvel and demand my money back for all their movies I've paid for up to now. I sure don't want to give them any more money.

I want to make it clear I don't expect every movie I see to leave me smiling.  I've seen some great movies that do not have happy endings.  Schlinder's List wasn't exactly a laugh riot (although it did have an uplifting aspect to it). But as I said, comic book movies are supposed to be fun.  If you leave a comic book movie in stunned silence (and as far as I could tell at the theater I saw, everyone was very quiet), I think you're doing it wrong.

And by killing so many people, I think it's going to make it really hokey when they bring them all back.  I mean the odd return to the living of some not-quite-dead character here or there is always a bit of a stretch, but if you don't abuse it, it can be forgivable (especially for a really great character).  But a mass resurrection?  That's not respecting your audience. I guess we will see Dr. Strange reverse time, or reveal that the last 10 minutes of this flick is all an elaborate illusion that is part of some great master plan.  That won't make me forget the bad feeling I had as I walked out of the theater yesterday.

The thing that shocks me even more than the ending is the fact that I haven't seen even one other person complaining about this.  Not one.  True that until now I have been avoiding reading much about the film to avoid spoilers, but still, all I've seen is praise (mild and/or strong).  Maybe that's because you can't really rant about this without spoiling the film. Nevertheless, I seem to be alone on this, at least so far.  Just as I was writing this I saw a few people I respect on Twitter all talking about how much they liked the movie, no one said anything about the ending.

Maybe I'm just out there all alone.  Maybe I'm crazy?  And I know the movie is setting all sorts of box office records.  Maybe that will convince Marvel to end all their future movies with 3/4's of the cast dead—not to mention half the population of the world, I guess I left that detail out, that half of all the normal people on the planet also die!  Maybe that makes the ending more upbeat, somehow?

I dunno….I just don't get it.  Instead of driving home rehashing all the fun bits in the film that I liked, all I could think of was how dark and depressing the ending was.

Just ruined the whole experience for me.  (Edited to add:  My long time pal "Norm", with whom I have seen a ton of super hero movies over the years--but not this one--just emailed me his response to this post:  "My two-word comment on the movie:  Avengers Disassembled.")

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Is it a Skill Game--or Weird Science?

"It's a movie about a woman having sex with a fish!"  The older gentleman at the table said that about five times within a short period.  And that's, as best as I can recall, how I knew we were discussing movies at this table.  I knew he was talking about the film, The Shape of Water.  I haven't seen it.  But it won the best picture Oscar, so of course I knew what it was about.  It was, as the guy said, about a woman having sex with a fish.

I finally said, "Well, I'm a fish.  Where is this woman who likes having sex with fish?"  No, really, I didn't say that.  It wasn't until I was driving home that I realized the situation was ripe for someone to make a joke about a woman having sex with a poker fish.

The poker at this session in Ventura, which took place last Saturday, was, umm, interesting.  It was a bad news/good news/bad news session for me.  I'll get to that.  But first I want to talk about the chatter at the table.  Which was mostly about movies.

The table was a bunch of "mature" players.  That's a nice way to say that more than half the players at this 1/2 game were older than me.  It was a friendly group and it was the standard mix.  There was a guy who never saw a hand he didn't like, and a couple of major nits.  As you would expect from a game where the min/max buy-in is $50-$100, there was no one at that table who could possibly make a living playing this game.

But a dealer pushed in who was much younger than the players, and for some reason he started talking about movies.  I'm thinking he knew most of the players and that one of them got him started on this by mentioning some current movie, perhaps it was the movie that was about a woman having sex with a fish.  But he started mentioning a whole bunch of recent movies he had or hadn't seen, and players were giving their one-line reviews of them.  The dealer started talking about older movies….you know like five years old.  It seems he is trying to "catch up" on most of the notable movies he's missed in that five year period.

Of course, Molly's Game came up.  How could you discuss a plethora of movies at a poker table and not discuss that movie?  Everyone who had seen it agreed it was a good movie, although we all did have to allow from some inaccuracies about poker. 

It was actually a fun discussion, and a good distraction from the fact that I was absolutely card dead and just bleeding chips.  But then someone mentioned Star Wars and it seemed like the dealer and I were the only ones who liked it!  Seriously? What kind of freaks were these folks?  Where do you find people like this?

Finally the movie-buff dealer was finished was pushed out.  I asked him, "So, you gonna watch a movie tonite?"  A few people laughed and the dealer did too, and responded, "Yes…well probably, it's date night."

The next dealer that came to our table had a rather remarkable resemblance to a famous movie actor—Anthony Michael Hall.  Or at least he looks a lot like Hall looked back when he was in Weird Science. Oh this dealer is older than Hall was then, and looks it, but you can't deny the resemblance.  So sort of an older version Hall from Weird Science.  Except that he's younger than Hall is now (I guess he's always been younger than Hall is).  One of us (actually it was me), looked it up on that Interweb thing and discovered that Hall is now 50 and the dealer is younger than that.  But the dealer confessed he gets that all the time, he is constantly being told he looks like Hall.  The players were saying that he could/should try to make some money as a Anthony Michael Hall impersonator.  Or be in the sequel to Weird Science.

Yeah, it was Weird Science that they kept remembering Hall from.  Now I did see that flick when it came out, and I have a vague memory of liking it.  But when I think of Anthony Michael Hall, the movie I think of is Sixteen Candles.  That's because in it, he has one of the all-time great movie lines: "I'm kinda like king of the dipshits."

I was pretty card dead and just trying to hit something with the few playable hands I was dealt. I ran low on chips.  I had to add chips a couple of times, so I was in for $200 and I was down to about $70-$80.  I wasn't going to add any more chips, $200 is enough to invest in this particular game.  The only pot I'd won was when I flopped a set of 3's and didn't get any action on the turn…a very small pot.

So on the button with 9-7 of hearts. I called a raise to $8.  It was three-way.  The preflop raiser had me covered and the other caller was the guy who never saw a hand he didn't like.  He was short-stacked.  The flop was favorable: 9-7-3, two diamonds.  The preflop raiser led out for $28.  I looked at my stack and didn't really have enough to make a normal raise, so I just shoved.  The short stack called of course.  The preflop raiser tanked a bit but ultimately called, although he was clearly not happy about it.  The board bricked out (no diamonds).  I showed my two pair.  The preflop raiser showed two Jacks and said, "I couldn't fold."  The shortie stared at the board for awhile and then mucked face down and said he missed his flush.  While it certainly made sense that he had the flush draw, I can honestly say that based on his play, he could have easily had a much worse hand than that.  Like overcards.  Or one overcard.  Anyway, I was more than happy to take a nice pot.

The guy with the Jacks reiterated that he "just couldn't fold," even though he said he "knew" I had two pair.  Ok then.  Then he said, "I should have bet more preflop.  Maybe you wouldn't have called with 9-7 if I bet more."  Now ordinarily in that situation I just sort of smile and say nothing.  But it was a real friendly table and I decided to have a little fun.  So I said, "I dunno, I'm a pretty bad player, I might have called anyway. A good player you could have gotten to fold there, but maybe not me."  Everyone laughed, even the guy who had the Jacks.  But he didn't laugh as much as everyone else.  Then after a few seconds, the guy on my immediate right, who hadn't been in the hand (and hadn't been at the table very long) said, "You hear that?  Silence.  Notice that no one is arguing with you."  Ahem.  Now of course I had invited that kind of comment with my joke.  Still, a few years ago I probably would have been pissed at that.  Not this time.  I just laughed and agreed with him.  I don't mind if anyone thinks I'm a bad player.

The guy with Jacks said something about taking good care of his chips. Like he expected to get them back.  Again, I just laughed.  It was all in good fun.

About two or three hands later, guess who got Jacks?  Yours truly. In early position I opened to $10.  This time the guy with Jacks three-bet to $25.  It was his first three-bet of the day.  It folded back to me. Hmm….Unless he was on tilt from the previous hand, or specifically targeting me, I saw nothing from his game that would indicate he didn't have my Jacks beat, or at the very least, he had Ace-King.  Well….I suppose that, having seen me call his raise with 9-7,  he now might think I was raising light and he could steal the pot from me.  But my call with 9-7 was on the button and my open this time was in early position and surely he would have noticed the difference.

I called.  We were heads up.  The flop was Queen-Queen-X.  I checked, he bet $35.  I tanked a bit and then folded. Now the two Queens on the flop pretty much eliminated one overpair that beat me, but I still was pretty sure I was beat.  When I folded, he said, "Did you have Jacks?"  I laughed and said no.  "I wouldn't fold Jacks."  He laughed and said, "I had better."  I'm sure he did. I know it's possible I folded the best hand but I doubt it.  So I said, "I thought you had quads there."  He laughed and said, "No, if I had quads I would have bet less."  And I said, "If you had quads there you wouldn't have bet."  He sort of agreed.

Sometime later I had King-Queen off in the big blind.  There was a small raise so I called.  Seven of us saw a flop of King-Queen-3.  Once again, a favorable flop.  I decided to take a chance and check, hoping for a check-raise.  Sure enough, someone bet $8 and at least two players called.  When it got back to me, I made it $40.  The guy who led out for $8 shoved for about $100.  He was new to the table.  I had him covered.  A lady with a short stack put all her chips in.  Everyone else was gone. Of course I called. The board bricked out and the guy who shoved didn't show when he saw my hand.  The lady somehow showed pocket 9's, unimproved. 

Another female player, sitting directly across from me, saw me stacking all those chips and said, "What did you say about being a bad player?  You've got all the chips."  I just laughed.  This woman is a regular and I've played with her many times.

Now I had a nice profit.  I was up almost $70, not bad for this game.  I played a few more orbits and decided I was now on my last round.  The guy with the Jacks was still commenting every so often about me having his chips.  It was funny.  I guess it could have gotten obnoxious but he never took it that far.

So it was to be my second to last hand. I was UTG +1.  And I looked down at pocket deuces. I limped in and then the big blind made it $8.  It was multi-way.  The flop was Jack-10-2.  Quite favorable!  The preflop raiser bet $20.  I made it $40.  It folded back to him and he tanked.  Finally he called, reluctantly.  The turn was a brick and he checked.  I bet $40 again.  I was expecting a fold. He tanked again and then finally called.  Damn.  My Spidey sense started going off.  Maybe his reluctance was not whether to call but whether to raise?  Did he have a bigger set?  Or Jack-10?  That's very likely.  People love Jack-10.

What concerned me was this guy had been at the table almost as long as I had and hadn't played very many hands. There was no way this guy was still here with just a pair.  I had him covered but not by all that much.  I was beginning to smell a rat.

When the river was another brick, I saw him seriously thinking about betting.  I decided to play it safe and check behind.  He flipped over pocket 10's.  Ugh. Not so favorable.  He said he thought I had a set of Jacks.

That was it, I picked up and left.  I was up nearly $70 and ended up with a $20 loss.  Of course, I could have lost a lot more on that last hand, set-over-set is a good way to get felted if you're on the wrong end of it. My story of a near $200 loss becoming a $70 win was now a story of a $70 win becoming a $20 loss.  Still, a decent recovery.

The guy with Jacks had missed that hand and just got back at the table in time to see me leave.  He was sorry to see me go.  "I didn't get my chips back."  I pointed to the fellow with the set of 10's.  "Get it from him." 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Poker Season is Almost Here!

That's right boys and girls, poker season is just around the corner.  Soon it will be time for every poker player in the universe to descend on Las Vegas as that game of skill known as poker takes over Sin City.

I know this because I am currently working my fingers to the bone entering all the special summer series tournaments into the PokerAtlas database. And also because the last two columns I wrote for Ante Up consisted almost entirely of previews of all the summer series. Note: Forget about what you learned in school.  Every poker player knows that summer is from end of May to early July.

So since my days are consumed with all the poker series about to commence in Vegas shortly, I thought I'd take some time during my free time to share some thoughts with you.  Hopefully you've already seen part 1 of my summer preview (here).  The second part should be appearing in a couple of weeks, covering Planet Hollywood, Wynn, Binion's and Orleans.

So with all those tournaments to look at as I enter them in the system, I thought I'd talk a bit what events I'm thinking about playing.  Yes, after a long hiatus, I am planning to return to Vegas in June.  But with less enthusiasm than in the past.  As I've explained in multiple posts, I really don't like what they've done to Vegas.  They are doing their best to drive people like me away with skyrocketing room rates, ever increasing resort fees and parking fees and the virtual disappearance of quality (or even decent) low-cost food options.  It's getting to be too damn expensive to go to Vegas, and that's not even considering the possibility of a few bad sessions.  Even the increasing cost of gas makes it pricier for me.  You see, the incompetent morons who run California recently increased our gas taxes 12¢ a gallon.  True, once I get to Vegas I can buy cheaper gas….but it's a bit impractical to drive to Vegas just for a fill up.

Still, I'm not quite ready to completely write off Vegas, and if you're a poker player and you're ever going to go to Vegas, the poker season is when to go.  Even if you didn't ever play a tournament, the cash game action is insane this time of year.

And it sure feels like the poker season this year is the biggest ever—or at least since I've been working in the poker biz.  The WSOP has more bracelet events than ever, and I believe more side events too.  And then there's the Venetian.  Oh, the Venetian.  I hope you read my column just for the section on the Venetian summer series.  Getting that listed on PokerAtlas almost killed me.  They actually have 150 tournaments between mid-May and end of July.  And I had to enter every single one of them into the database.  I just finished on Thursday.  I don't want to say how long it took me but when I started they still had free parking on the Vegas strip. 

Seriously, I'm really looking forward to seeing the set up they have over there.  For most of the series, the events will be held not in the Venetian poker room, but in the Sands Convention Center.  I hear it is going to be a really nice venue, very roomy, a separate food court and who knows what else.  I'd make a point to check it out just to see it even if I wasn’t planning on playing any events.  But I think they have a tournament that has caught my eye and I will take a shot at.  It's the Nightstack, a $400 tourney with a bunch of flights spread out over June on various evenings starting at 6pm. I wrote a bit about it in my column.  It has a $1MM guarantee and each flight is in the money.  The top 10% get paid and the top 5% advance to day 2.  It's actually similar to WSOP's Giant tournament that they debuted last year.  The Nightstack has 30 minute levels all the way through, the Giant has 20-minute levels on day 1.  But the starting stack is bigger for the Giant (25K vs 15k).  Even though it doesn't have a guarantee, the Giant figures to have a lot bigger prize pool (last year's was over $3MM).  And the buy-in is close but the Giant is a bit cheaper at $365.  Giant's payouts probably start sooner although it depends on how many players each flight gets. Giant has a Day 2 and a Day 3, the Nightstack finishes on Day 2.

When I was analyzing the Nightstack and realizing it was similar to the Giant, I checked the dates of each to see if they were competing directly.  Well, none of the Day 1 flights are head-to-head (but even if they were, since there are so many flights, it wouldn't be an issue).  But, it turns out that Nightstack's Day 2 (it's last day) and Giant's Day 3 (it's last day) are on the same day.

When I first saw that, I thought that was too bad that they were competing like that, players would have choose one or the other. But then I thought about it some more and realized it likely wouldn't prevent anyone from entering both events. The Giant starts it's Day 3 (which will very likely just be a final table) at 2pm on 7/1.  Nightstack's Day 2 starts the same day at 5pm.

But there will only be a conflict if you make it to Day 3 of the Giant and Day 2 of the Nightstack.  Otherwise you're fine.  And making it to the final day of both of these tournaments would be a pretty nice problem to have.  I might suggest if you're good enough to make it to the final days of both of these tournaments, you're probably wasting your time playing in events that cost $400 or less!

But think of it.  Players who are in Vegas for most of the summer will be able to play both.  A lot of the Nightstack's dates are the Thursday before a Giant flight (which are all on Friday).  So you play Venetian Thursday and if you don’t survive, you can try the Giant the next night.  A lot of players are probably planning on firing multiple bullets anyway. 

The question is, if you make it to Day 2 in either one of them, do you give up on the idea of playing the other or do you give it a shot anyway?  You are going to be among a very few players to make it to Day 3 of the Giant, and will have survived a huge field.  It will be easier to make it to Day 2 of the Nightstack of course.

What I'm saying is, even if you're Doug Polk (and I'm pretty sure you're not Doug Polk), and you fired every bullet possible in both tournaments, it's still extremely unlikely you'd have your dance card filled with both final days on July 1.

But if somehow you did make it through both?  Well again, a very nice problem to have.  And actually, you'd have three of hours of play at the Giant before the restart over at the Venetian.  I guess your strategy would be based on how deep stacked you were for each event, right?  If you're the short stack at the final table of the Giant (but were deep stacked at the Nightstack), you just keep shoving until you bust the Giant or you get on a roll and can legitimately compete for a bracelet.  Even if you busted the first minute of day 3, you'd be getting a very nice payout.

OTOH, if it was the reverse, and you were the chip leader at the Giant but a shortie at the Nightstack, you play the Giant for as long as you can, and if that short stack at the Nightstack gets blinded off, you can pick up whatever money is coming to you from there at your convenience if you don't make it over there in time to play at all.  Meanwhile, your payout at the Giant would be huge.

The dilemma would be if you were deep stacked at both (and again, a great problem to have).  I suppose at that point you would get out the ICM calculator to help you decide which of the two tournaments you should prioritize.

But of course, it's a real, real long shot that anyone would make it to the final days of both of these tournaments.

Bottom line:  I may just be crazy to fire a bullet in both, and see if I can be that guy with the final day dilemma.  I'm not counting on it, but cashing in both would sure be nice and not completely out of the realm of possibility.

Despite the added bracelet events at the WSOP, nothing new appeals to me, so if I do play the Giant it will be my only bracelet event.  And again, I will keep away from the Daily Deepstacks as I have for the past few years.  The 3pm Deepstack became the 2pm Deepstack a few years back, and now has become the 1pm Deepstack (at a new, slightly higher buy-in, $250).  A few years back they removed the dinner break, which made it quite unappealing to me.  This year they put the dinner break back….but it's not until 9:15pm, too late for me to take advantage of it.  I could work around it I suppose, but when there are other tournaments around town competing with it that are lot more friendly to eating/meds schedule, I see no reason to.

Just last time I wrote about last year's WPT 500 at the Aria (here), and yes, I hope to play it again this year, assuming I still have money left by the time it rolls around in late June.  The $5 increase in the buy-in (to $570) won't keep me away. 

Golden Nugget will once again be running those $150 NLH tourneys most days at 1PM, with a $20K guarantee.  That's the tourney that really appeals to me for a variety of reasons.  I expect to try my luck there a few times.  The Nugget also has a couple of weekends reserved for its $200 Ultimate Re-entry events, with a $250K guarantee. They have 9 starting flights and I can see myself playing in that. All players who make it to Day 2 are in the money.

Planet Hollywood is running some $100 NLH tourneys with $10K guarantees.  I have to consider giving one of those a try, no?  Then they have some $250 "Low Roller" tourneys….multiple starting flights, payouts begin on Day 1, $200K guarantee.  Can I pass that up?   Oh and Orleans has a bunch of $150 NLH tournies with $25K guarantees.  Have to consider those as definitely playable.

Wynn has great tournaments as well, but I think they are a little out of my wheelhouse, buy-in wise.  And Binion's is mostly non-hold'em stuff, as I indicated in my column.

One thing I will point out is that almost all of these venues are using the Big Blind Ante at least to some degree, as I predicted (see here). The exceptions, as far as I can tell, are the Orleans and sorta/kinda Binion's.  I say that about Binion's because for their NLH events, they are going with Button Ante instead of the BB Ante, as I posted on Twitter a few weeks back. Some folks prefer the button ante because then the burden of that inflated ante and the big blind doesn't fall on the same player, it spreads it out better. The issue with that though is that there are sometimes hands where there is no player on the button, whereas there is always a big blind.  Binion's will handle this by having no ante when there is a dead button.  Players interested in that version of the single ante format can try that out and see for themselves if they like it.

But everyone else has at least a few tournaments with the Big Blind Ante, and both Aria and Wynn are exclusively BB Ante for their NLH events.  I think Golden Nugget is only using it for their championship event.  The others are using it for some portion of their events.  Oh and yes, even the WSOP is using it for a few of the bracelet events and some of the daily deepstacks.  By next year I bet it will be close to the standard.

Well that's about it.  I probably won't have the bankroll to play all the events that appeal to me unless I get a few early cashes.  I can dream can't I?  So what events appeal to you?

Note:  My last post was missing my signature gratuitous cheesecake pic.  So to make up for it, I've enhanced this post with a multiple pics of young ladies enjoying the summer.  Happy poker season!  

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

This Tournament Was Savage

I can't tell you how many emails, tweets and comments I've gotten asking me, "Gee Rob, when are you going to tell us how you did at last year's WPT 500 at the Aria?  Surely you must have played it."

OK, so honestly, I didn't get any such feedback.  I therefore decided that until at least one person asked me about it, I wasn't going to mention it.  In other words, I'd probably never have to write that post.

However, with the just-announced exciting news the player pools on will be combined beginning May 1, so that players in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware will be able to play with and against each other, I'm in such a good mood that I couldn't hold off any longer with this report.  I for one am looking to take advantage of the new larger player pools next time I'm in Vegas, which I expect to be in June.  And I'm sure that the folks at 888poker are excited and gearing up for it as well. This should be a significant step in the comeback of U.S. online poker.

I really like the WPT 500, and I've played it a few times in the past (see here for the start of the previous year's report).  So I plunked down my $565 and played one of many Day 1's.  Every day 1 ends after the players are in the money, which is nice.  There was a $1MM guarantee.  And a very nice structure (30-minute levels for the first 8, then 40-minutes). 

Plus you never know who you'll run into there.  In 2016, I played (ever-so-briefly) with Lacy Jones and (literally) ran into Mike Sexton.  So in 2017, I actually played at the same table with none-other than Matt Savage, who actually created the tournament and designed its structure in his capacity as WPT tournament director.  The first year Aria offered this tournament, Matt actually ran it for them.  That was under the previous Aria management.  Since the new team came on board after that first one, the great in-house Aria tournament team runs it, so Matt can actually relax and play it.   

Of course I follow Matt on Twitter as everyone who loves poker does.  And on the morning of the flight I played, I saw him announcing that he was playing it that day.  I thought, wouldn't it be cool if I was at the same table as he was?  At least for a little while, anyway.  Well, it turned out that I saw him put down his stuff at the same table I was assigned to.  And even when they broke our table, we were both sent to the same new table.  I was playing with Matt all day. 

Now the mention of Matt Savage gives me a chance to address something that I've been wanting to talk about for a long time.  If you follow Matt on Twitter, you know that players are constantly asking him for tournament (or even cash game) floor rulings.  They'll post a situation that came up in a game and ask for his take on the right way the floor should have handled it.  Now every so often, someone will re-create a tournament hand and say something like, "he bet $5,000."  And the first thing Matt will say is, "no dollar signs on tournament chips."  Well, he probably says it more politely than that.  But the thing is that Matt points out that you should not use a $ sign in front of a bet unless it is a cash game, since tournament chips don't represent actual dollars.

Well, if you've been paying attention, you will note that whenever I do one of my tournament write-ups, I usually do put the $ sign in in front of the chip count.  I'm actually surprised no one has called me out on it.  Yes, I know it is technically incorrect.  But it is a stylistic choice I made when I started talking about tournaments.  There are two alternatives that I know of.  One would be to put a letter "t" in front of the chip count.  Like, "he bet t5,000."  Or "I bet T5,000."  You see that in poker books.  But for some reason, I really find that unacceptable.  I just don't like the way it looks.  I find it clunky, for lack of a better word.

The other way is to just put the number of chips without anything in front of it.  So it would be, "He bet 5,000."  I don't like that either.  The number without a symbol in front of it just looks naked to me—and not good naked.  It just strikes me as wrong.

So basically, I find both alternatives stylistically and aesthetically unacceptable for my blog.  If others do it, that's fine (and again, technically correct).  But for my blog, I want the style I want, and even if it means I am violating some poker standard, that's the way I do it.  It just looks a lot better to my eye to do it the way I do it.  And since no one has complained, I guess it's ok (or, perhaps the sticklers have all stopped reading my blog—or never read it in the first place).  Besides, when I say, "I bet $25,000," no one thinks I bet $25,000 in actual cash money.

Anyway, I had seen Matt at tournaments a number of times, and a year or two ago I actually introduced myself to him and shook his hand when I played a tournament at Commerce (we'd actually had a lot of back-and-forth on Twitter in the lead-up to this particular tournament). Matt is also the TD at Commerce, if you didn't know. But I didn't expect him to remember me on sight.  Thus I took to Twitter to "say hello."  I tweeted about playing at the same table as Matt before the tourney started.  However, he never acknowledged my tweet (either on Twitter or in person). 

Spoiler warning:  I didn't cash.  That should be obvious anyway.  If I had cashed in big tournament you can be sure you would have heard about it well before now.

Thus I'll only mention a few hands.  In the first level I got the dreaded pocket Kings.  I raised and had a few callers.  The flop was Jack-high and I bet and got one call.  I bet again when the board paired a 5 and was called.  The river was yet another 5.  I made another bet and he folded Ace-high face up.

Winning a hand with pocket Kings so early in the tournament made me feel invincible.  OK, not really.  It actually made me feel relieved.

A few levels later Matt made a standard opening raise and I called with Ace-Queen of hearts. It was a pretty good flop: Ace-Queen-8, two diamonds.  Matt made a c-bet and I raised nearly 3X his bet.  It folded back to him and he tanked for a good long while before folding.

A level or two later, I again called a Savage raise with Ace-Queen and we were heads up. I was the big blind.  The flop came Ace-Jack-x.  For some reason, I donked out a bet.  I don't recall why I did that and I didn't explain it in the voice notes I made the next day.  But when Matt raised me 2.5X, I got very concerned.  I tanked for a good long while and remembered why it's not a good idea to call a raise with Ace-Queen out of position.  It's a hand easily dominated.  Eventually I decided to fold.  But I couldn't resist doing something I almost never do.  Since it was Matt, I said to him, "Ace-King, Matt?"  He smiled at me and said, "I'll show one."  And with that he flashed me one card—it was a Jack. I couldn't tell if he checked his cards to make sure which card he showed me. That was the only time all day I saw Matt show a card he didn't have to. I will go to my grave believing the other card was either an Ace or Jack.  No way he had King-Jack or worse there.  Right?

Then there was the standard "if only" hand.  In the big blind with pocket 6's, I folded to a raise and a shove.  It was pocket Kings vs Ace-Queen.  The flop came Ace-6-x.  Would have been a nice triple up for me if only I'd made a terrible call.

The guy on my right was a really poor player who basically liked to see every hand, almost always limped in and stayed too long.  He was also a slob.  He was an older guy and kept ordering coffee (or maybe tea).  He would throw the sugar packets—among other things--on the floor.  When he inevitably busted out, he left all kinds of debris behind.  It was so bad that the cute young lady that was sitting on his right took the time to clean up his area after he was gone.  I looked at her as she was doing this and she gave me a look that said, "Can you believe this mess?"

I lasted through the dinner break and also through our table breaking. There was the guy there that made a kind of mental error that really cost him his tournament life.  First he put out a big stack, but there was oversized chip mixed in with his stack—his bet was a lot more than he intended.  When a guy shoved over him, he must have felt he had too much in the pot to fold.  He had pocket 7's and was facing pocket 10's.  He didn’t improve. He confessed that his initial raise was a mistake due to the his biggest chip being hidden among the others.  Very  next hand, now short stacked, he shoved and was snapped called.  This time he had the pocket 10's.  The snap caller had pocket Aces and the Aces held.

I was actually pretty happy with the way I played but I just couldn’t get my stack built up enough.  And so on level 12, short-stacked,  I looked down at pocket Queens.  There was a raise in front of me, Of course I shoved.  It folded back to the raiser who snap called.  He flipped over two Kings and boy did I dread them. To rub it in, there was King on the flop.  The turn card was a Queen which was a cruel joke.  Could I go runner-runner Quads?  No.  I was done. I have to admit, losing set over set was bad, but imagine how much worse it would have been if the Queen was on the flop and the King was on the turn.  That would have really the ultimate poker-tease.

It was an enjoyable tournament though—as enjoyable as losing without cashing can be, I suppose. BTW—Savage cashed and advanced to Day 2. Apparently directing all those poker tournaments has taught him something about how to play the game.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

"He Was Playing Like a Dick"

This story actually predates my timing blogging.  In fact, I've already told this story to you way back in the very earliest days of the blog.  But I think it's worth a repost, especially since when it ran originally virtually no one was reading the blog.  So unless you're one of those rare folks who has gone back and read every blog post I've ever posted since the beginning, this will be new to you.  And I'm just getting behind in my writing, always seem to have too much going on to get myself to crank out a new blog post for you. Today I finally finished up my taxes and you all know how much fun that is.  So hopefully this will hold you for a few days until I can get some new material to you.  But again, it's highly likely you've never read this.  So enjoy!

A couple of years ago I found myself playing in the 6PM tournament a not to be named locals casino..  I hadn’t played a lot of tournament poker at this point, and really have only recently started playing tournaments semi-regularly.  I played in it mostly because there was no 2/4 limit game going on there (the place was dead) and I didn’t feel like getting back in my car to find another game.  Besides one of the dealers I was friendly with at the time suggested it, and I was thinking they may have sent her home early if they hadn’t needed a second table for the tournament.  So I was playing as a favor to this attractive lady dealer as much as anything else.
As the tournament was about to begin, an extremely attractive young girl took the seat to my immediate right.  She was barely old enough to be in a casino, I assume she was carded before being seated.  She was way beyond cute and had a killer body.  Unfortunately, despite this being summer in Vegas, she was not wearing anything skimpy.  Too bad.  She had on fairly tight shorts (but not that short) and a very tight t-shirt.  It was obvious she had a terrific figure, very thin waist and plenty of curves elsewhere.  But she was probably the only girl her age that I saw on this entire visit to Vegas that wasn’t showing any cleavage, sadly.  

Note:  the famous actress above kind of resembles the memory I have in my mind of what the girl in my story looked liked.  I added the cleavage for your enjoyment.  Because I know my readers come to this blog looking for cleavage.
Her outer-beauty, however, sadly masked a not very beautiful woman on the inside.  She had come to the table with a guy her age who apparently she had just met playing slots.  They sat at opposite sides of the table and talked to each other incessantly during the tournament.  From the conversation (and from reading her players card upside down), I learned the girl’s name was Abigail.  Abigail clearly thought of herself as the world’s greatest poker player.  
From the moment she sat down, she was bragging that she was going to win the tournament.  She said this not just to her friend but to all of us around her.  At first I thought this was just good-natured banter, that she was just kidding around.  But as the tournament progressed, she kept repeating it, and any hint of fun or sarcastic bravado left her voice.  It was clear she meant it.  I’ve heard tournament players kid about winning before and since, but never have I heard anyone this adamant, this serious, and this obnoxious about it.  I began to think that if I looked up the word “arrogant” in the dictionary, I would see her picture.
She wasn’t restricting herself to bragging about winning or her poker expertise.  She started criticizing the other players, and guessing what cards they had from their bets and what they would do….and what they should do….as a result of her guesses.  In hindsight, I have to assume these comments were not said loud enough for the dealer to hear because otherwise she should have gotten warned for talking about the hands, especially hands she wasn’t in.  But out of the blue, if a player raised 3-4 times the big blind pre-flop, she might whisper, “He’s got Jacks” or “She’s got Queens or Tens” or some such.  
The sheer amount of words coming out of her would have been annoying no matter what she was saying.  But as she started criticizing players, it got really off-putting.  And every third sentence of hers was something along the lines of, “I’m gonna win this thing….no one here knows how to play.”  After about half an hour of this, and hearing all of it since I was sitting right next to her, I started to think to myself that she could be sitting there stark naked, look every bit as good that way as I suspected she did, and I’d still would have wanted her to leave.  
Early on I got a personal taste of Abigail’s obnoxiousness.  I had AK suited and hit a King on the flop.  I made a good bet, and she went all in.  She had me covered.  As I mentioned, I didn’t have a lot of tournament experience under my belt.  She could have flopped two pair or even a set.  Did I want to risk my tournament life with top pair/top kicker?  I thought about it for a good 5 or 6 seconds.  My gut told me that she had read me as a timid player (basically true) and that the bet would get me to fold a better hand than she had.  I decided to call thinking I probably had her beaten already and if not, I could still outdraw her.  So I called.  She turned over a medium pocket pair that the board had not hit.  I turned over my AK.  She knew she was in trouble, but wasn’t mad at her luck….she was mad at me!   “Shit, you have AK? What the hell took you so long to call?”  In other words, I was an idiot for not calling her all-in bet instantly.  I of course she have known that my top pair was good and that she hadn’t hit her set. I didn’t bother to respond to her criticism.  Nothing that helped either of us hit on the turn or river and I won the pot.  As I said, she had me covered so she was still alive in the tournament.
Now there were two middle aged guys sitting next to each other at this table that were friends.  And they were even bickering with each other like an old married couple.  They actually joked about being married to each other but it was just in fun, they both mentioned that this was a guys night out from their wives.  One of the guys got into a hand with Abigail and folded pocket Queens to her all-in bet….she showed a fairly weak hand like K-10.  She was quick to criticize the guy’s play.  She wasn’t gloating, she was actually critical of the guy for folding.  Because she knew exactly how to play every single hand properly.
Just a few minutes later, the two of them got into another hand together.  Abigail pushed all in pre-flop, and the middle-aged guy thought long and hard.  He had her covered, but not by much. He would be crippled if he called and lost. While he was thinking about it, Abigail offered that she had a pocket pair….and not a big pocket pair.  The guy thought long and hard…..about 30 seconds if not more, before finally calling her.  She flipped over a pair of fives.  He flipped over a pair of Jacks.  
Abigail was pissed.  Not because she was way behind, but because the guy had taken so long to call her.  By now her buddy had busted out and was standing next to Abigail, watching.  So Abigail said to the player who had called her, “What took you so long?  That’s an obvious call there.  I even said I had a small pocket pair!  Why were you hesitating?”  Of course, no one ever lies at a poker table, right?
The guy actually started to tell her what he was thinking (like it was really any of her business).  In the meantime, Abigail’s friend was agreeing with her that the guy was a fool for taking so long to make the call (probably because he thought that was a good way to get into her pants).  He said something like, “Yeah, what was the big deal?  Why did he need two minutes to call you?”
Abigail had an answer for that, “Oh, he was just acting like a dick.”  If the guy was upset over that, he didn’t show it…instead he continued his explanation, which no one (including me) was listening to.   But the dealer, an older guy who always struck me as quite humorless, definitely heard what Abigail said.  Rather than continue the play of the hand, the dealer held up the action and said to Abigail, “Excuse me.  You just said something not very nice to one of our players.”
Abigail wasn’t interested in the dealer’s comments.  She told him, “Just deal, please.”  But the dealer wasn’t buying.  “No.  I’m running this game, not you.”  He called the floor person over and told him that Abigail had called another player a “dick.”  The floor person lectured and warned Abigail.  Abigail protested.  She said she didn’t call the player a “dick.”  She said he was “playing like a dick.”  OK, big distinction, right?  The floor person didn’t care and said it wasn’t nice, and insisted that she apologize to the player and warned her that next time, she would be asked to leave.    She apologized to the player and the rest of the players too.  But she made a show of looking at the name badges of the dealer and floor person, as if she was planning to report them to some higher authority.
The floor person left and the hand continued.  The turn and river cards didn’t help Abigail, leaving her busted.  As she got up, to her credit, she again apologized to the guy who busted her out.  
She was walking out of the room with her friend, but for some reason stopped at the cashier.  Thinking she was heading straight out of the room, I said to the entire table, “Wow…she was a piece of work, wasn’t she?”  The entire table cracked up, and she looked back from the cashier.  Not sure if she heard what I said or was just reacting to the laughter.
We all agreed that it was a great thing the guy did, busting her out.  The dealer mentioned that she had criticized my play just a few hands earlier.  I had almost forgotten.  We talked about Abigail for quite a while after she left, enjoying her absence. One of the players joked that he thought the player who busted Abigail out was actually named “Dick.”  I had overheard her say that she was a dance instructor and mentioned this.  So someone asked what kind of dance she taught.  I said, “What, you think it might involve a pole?” Everyone had a good laugh at that.
At break, as I left the Men’s Room, I saw “Dick” talking on his cell phone, presumably to his wife.  I overheard him say, “So far, it’s been a pretty bad night.  I’m not doing well in the tournament.  And I’ve already been called a ‘dick!’”
Just a short time after the break was over, I busted out myself.  I didn’t cash in the tournament, but I scored a good story and an unforgettable character.  Thanks, Abigail.