Wednesday, September 26, 2018

"You Had the Best Hand"

Damn.  This is one post I really wish I'd been able to write while I was still in Vegas.  I really wanted to get this one posted while all the Vegas summer series were still running.  But I had difficulty finding the time to write anything when I was up in Vegas this summer.  I guess I would have been more eager to write this up if I had done better in the tournament.  But as with all my tournament action in June, this one was a dud. 

The main reason I wanted to write this up at the time was to talk about the venue I played, which currently no longer exists.  I wanted to tell you about the temporary tournament venue that the Venetian had this summer.  Of course it's gone now, so maybe this post is completely irrelevant.  But I suspect that they will use the same venue next year (or a modified version of it) so if you're thinking of hitting Vegas next summer, bookmark this post.

Anyway, rather than just add some tables near the poker room for their big Deepstack Championship Poker Series (that's what they called it this year), the Venetian took an entire huge conference room in their Convention Center.  And it was quite a setup.

For a temporary venue, it was unbelievably comfortable and player friendly.  They had over 100 tables there, and amazingly, all of them had automatic shufflers. When I heard about the auto shufflers, I couldn't believe it.  I've never seen temporary tables have auto shufflers before.  And over 100?  Impressive to be sure.

The tables were well spaced, not cramped at all (you know I hate cramped seating). The chairs, though not adjustable, were quite comfortable (which can't always be said for a temporary venue).  And the lighting was great.  Now I heard a few complaints that it was too bright, but I sure didn't feel that way.  There was a nice stage area for final tables, which was not being used while I was there.  The tables didn't have chargers, but there were work benches and charging stations around the periphery.  There was also a huge, comfortable eating area, five different food "stations."  I believe they rotated the kind of food regularly.  When I was there, there was a hot dog place, a BBQ place, a spaghetti place, an Asian place and a salad place.  All of these places really only had one item for sale each, so not a big selection.  I suspect that this is exactly the kind of food available there when they have a more traditional convention in the hall. 

One small issue was that there seemed to be only one set of restrooms for this huge place, which were both relatively small, and which were far away from the tournament area (again, the place was really big).  You kind of had to try to use the restroom during the tournament or the line would have been too long during the breaks.  And again, it was a big hike from some of the tables. 

The one complaint I did hear from others who played there was the walk to the actual venue. It was a long walk from the casino.  Unfortunately it wasn't close to the parking garage either.  No way to avoid the long walk unless someone dropped you off right outside the convention center.  It's actually located right on Sands Ave so if you could get a lift there it would be pretty nice.  But no place to park there—not sure if Uber would drop you off right there.  But now that I think of it, if they have same set up next year and I play an event there, I might consider using Uber instead of driving over, could save a lot of steps.

Anyway, the event I played there one Thursday evening was the $400 Nightstack, which I discussed at length in my summer preview (here). That was the Venetian's version of the WSOP's Giant.  They had a bunch of flights leading to a day 2 on July 1.  The flight I played had 177 players, so 18 were in the money and 9 advanced to day 2.  For all the flights they had a total of 2,570 players and there was an overlay of $126K to make the $1MM guarantee.

As for the tournament itself, not much to say.  As usual, I was card dead.  I didn't make it past level 9.  I'm just gonna mention my last hand, not because it is so interesting but because of a comment I heard after I busted. 

Desperate, I looked down at Ace-10 off.  A woman who had just moved to our table had limped in.  If she had raised, I likely would have folded.  But since she only limped, in my situation, with no one else yet in the pot, shoving was the obvious play.  It folded back to her and she called with pocket 7's.  Not bad, really.  At least I wasn't dominated.  A coin flip is pretty much what I'm hoping for there.  The flop was all low cards, 6-5-3.  It was looking bad for me but the turn card was a beautiful Ace and I was in great shape.  But then the river card was a 4, which miraculously filled in her gut shot and ended my tournament.  Well that's poker, right?

Now there were some oohs and ahhs when the 4 hit.  Maybe there was some reaction from the table when the Ace hit before that.  But after the 4 hit and the dealer announced her straight as the winning hand, I heard another player say to her, "Well, that's good because you had the best hand."  Like she deserved to win.  I didn't say anything as I slunk away but come on….I had the best hand before that.  I had the best hand on the turn, right?  OK, it's true, before the flop she had the best hand—but barely.  I mean they don't call it a coin flip for nothing.  She was only a 55/45 favorite, it's not like she had me crushed.

You know, I could see someone saying that if I had Kings and she had Aces, then I hit my King and she rivered an Ace.  Yeah I was supposed to lose that (I'm always supposed to lose with Kings) and in the end, justice would have prevailed. But in this case, I wasn't a big underdog to start out, then was an 86% favorite to hold on the turn.  And she hit her six-outer.

I'm not saying I was really upset by that comment, it just made me wonder if the person who said it really understood poker. Now maybe they said it cuz they were happy that I busted and they were one player closer to the money. Or they were just trying to be nice to the lady who won.  But how about showing some sympathy for me, huh?  I lost when I was a 85% favorite.

Oh well, another bad tournament run for me in Vegas this summer.  I took the long walk back to my car and called it a night.

Still, I really did like the Venetian tournament venue this year, and look forward to seeing it again next year.  Maybe next time I'll have a better run.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

7th Anniversary Post: Remembering the Hard Rock Hooker

I publish this post on the seventh anniversary of this blog's debut.  Yes this is a reprint of the very first post I ever published (well, sort of, read on).

You see, a few weeks back I suddenly realized I was coming up to the anniversary of the blog, and I got the idea of commemorating it by reposting my first blog post.  But why do this for the seventh anniversary?  It's not like seven is normally a big deal.  I guess i should have done this two years ago for the fifth anniversary--but the truth is I didn't think of it.  And why not wait for the 10th anniversary?  Well, because I might not remember then.  Also, who knows if I'll still be doing the blog three years from now.

Anyway, technically, this isn't quite the first post I did.  On September 20, 2011, I actually published two posts, just a few minutes apart.  You see, I wanted to make sure I had enough content ready so that this blog wasn't going to just be a one-post wonder.  I published two that first day and two more the very next day.  Then after a day or two another post, and then another day with two more posts.  By the end of September, I had nine posts up.

The actual first post was a review of my previous experience staying at the Excalibur.  Since that experience dates back to like 2010 it has almost no relevance today.  In fact, I should take it down, but I don't want to diminish my actual post-count. I guess I thought I might periodically review hotels in Vegas, but I never did that again.  It was just a mindless rant.

Besides, this post below is a hooker story--obviously the first one of many to appear here.  What better way to kick off the blog?  As you know, hooker stories are a staple of the blog.

For the record, I was able to research this and figured out that the actual incident I describe below took place in the summer of 2008--so this is like the 10th anniversary of the story taking place..  I can't vouch for things being the same over at the Hard Rock.  Perhaps the place is hooker-free.  Perhaps they've replaced the hot female bartenders at the pool with senior citizens (I rather doubt that).

I must admit, when I reread this post to publish it again, I sort of cringed.  I feel that if I wrote this today, it would be a lot different in terms of writing style, word usage, sensitivity (ie, a bit more PC) and even grammar.  I was tempted to change a few words and some phraseology.  But I decided to present it in all it's original glory--I didn't change a thing.  But I feel I'm not the same person today who wrote this seven years ago.

Oh, I did change one thing.  Back when I started the blog, I didn't add pictures to the posts.  I didn't start doing that for a few months--in fact, I didn't even know you could do that.  I'm sure you will all agree that the blog is better with the pics.

I'm sure this post, like a lot of my early ones, was adapted from an email I sent to my friends relating this story to them (using those emails was one of the reasons I was able to post so much material right out of the gate).

Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane!

=  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =

A few years ago I decided to go to Hard Rock (not a pseudonym) to check out the pool.  I told the guy I wanted to play blackjack but he didn't seem to care.  Not sure if it was because it was a weekday or not, but all he was there for was to make sure no one took anything glass into the pool area and to make sure they didn't take any bags there (I guess they don't want anyone smuggling outside food and drinks in).  Anyway, I got into the pool area and looked around.

Oh my gosh.  This is the place I wanted my ashes scattered when I die.  The female employees who work in the pool area--all of them wearing bikinis with very tiny sarongs wrapped very tightly around their bikini bottoms--are nothing short of sensational.  I mean they all have killer bodies. Unlike the cocktail waitresses inside, they all seem to be natural on top.  Basically, they don't hire girls for the pool unless they make the average Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model look like Rosie O'Donnell.  I'm not kidding, these girls were unbelievable.

Of course, the clientele in and around the pool isn't bad either.  About 80% of the girls there are various degrees of hot.  Every now and again you see a girl in a bathing suit and you wish she was covered more but that's rare.  This is eye candy at its absolute best.

I eventually made my way over to the bar/casino area.  Behind the bar, there were two female bartenders in turquoise bikinis with virtually perfect bodies.  Don't ask me what their faces looked like, I never got there.  They could look like Greta Van Sustern for all I know.  They not only had one swim up blackjack table but three blackjack tables next to the bar for people NOT in the pool.  These were manned by two awesome looking bikini -clad dealers and one guy, who, sorry ladies, was wearing a shirt.  The minimums for the BJ were $15, $25, and $100.  Frankly, the girl dealing at the $15 table was so hot that I was tempted to play there even at $15 a throw just to get a better view of this gal, but there was no room.  And as hot as the other dealer was, I wasn't quite prepared to play BJ at $100 a hand to get close to her.

But I decided that, while it might not be worth a hundred bucks or so to hang around, it was definitely worth the price of an overpriced drink.  There was an open spot at the bar which I took, which offered a pretty good view of the pool, a great view of the two awesome bartenders and a nice view of various hot girls walking right past me to and from the bar, the casino area and the ladies room.  Also the hot waitresses getting drinks to deliver poolside.  It's pretty much the best experience a guy could have without taking off his pants.

So I sat at the bar and waited to order a drink.  I knew the drink would be ridiculously expensive but I figured it was worth it to buy me, say, 1/2 hour at this venue. I decided to order a Bud Light Lime that I had seen one guy at the bar the always stays cold aluminum bottle.  I had heard a couple of guys at poker the day before raving about how great these new bottles were.  And I figured domestic beer would be cheaper than a Corona or a mixed drink.  However, the bartender was totally ignoring me, like she didn't see me.  Not really a problem, gave me more time to enjoy the view.

Which I was.  But then at one point I noticed a few feet from me a girl drying herself off who I definitely did not want to see in a bikini, even though she was indeed wearing one.  This was an example of the one in five patrons who wasn't hot.  Oh, I guess her face was nice enough, but she was definitely too heavy to get away with wearing a bikini.   I wouldn't call her obese, but she was a million miles from being "trim."   Even though she did have big tits that were natural because her bikini showed a lot of cleavage and they were quite sagging.  Hey, if a girl is showing lotsa cleavage and I want to turn away, you know there's a problem, right?

So it didn't take me very long to look away from her and go back to looking at the hot bartender who was ignoring me.  But, within five seconds, the girl I was just describing came over to me, rubbed up against me and said hello.  She was actually getting me a little wet--and not in a good way.  She started chatting me up and since I wasn't born yesterday I immediately realized that the gal was a hooker.  So, they don't just work on the Strip casinos at around 1:00AM, it seems.

She asked me my name and gave me hers (which I immediately forgot) and asked where I was from, what I was here for, what I like to play, was I going into the pool, etc.  And constantly rubbing up against me.  She even complimented my shirt, which was just a plain old pocket T like I usually wear.  I lied to her and said I was leaving town in a couple of hours but it did not deter her.  In hindsight, I know I should have said that I didn't have a room at this hotel to see how she would deal with that, although I thought that was implied by my saying I was leaving town soon since this was around 3:00PM and I would have been checked out of my room by now.  Subtlety was wasted on this girl, apparently.

I was annoyed because she was just a total distraction from what I was really there for.  I mean, even if I was open to the idea of hiring a hooker, this was not the girl I would ever hire.  I probably shouldn't admit this but if I'm being totally honest, if this gal had looked like one of the bartenders, it's not outside the realm of possibility that this story might have a totally different ending.  And one I wouldn't be putting in a blog post. But this girl?  No way.  She would have to pay me, not the other way around.

Now here's the most embarrassing part.  She asked me if I was going to order a drink.  I said that I was trying to but that I was being ignored.  Then she asked if I would buy her one.  I just didn't know how to handle this situation.  I guess my instinct was not to be rude and say no.  Or to tell her to get lost like I should have.  Or make up something about meeting my girlfriend any minute.  So before I knew what I was saying, I said yes, I would buy her a drink.  Such a gentlemen!  Such a putz!

She immediately flagged down the bartender who was ignoring me.  She ordered something, I couldn't hear what, and I ordered the Bud Light Lime.  I really didn't know what it was called so I had to point out the guy who was drinking what I was talking about.  The bartender went to get the drinks.  I got out a twenty figuring that there was no way two drinks could be more than that, including tip.

What I didn't realize was that this slut ordered two drinks.  The bartender put two drinks in front of her (one was huge bottle of bottled water and I didn't know what the other one was) and gave me my beer.  Then she said the tab was $33!  Thirty Three dollars!  I gulped, reached back for my wallet and took out another $20.  You have to tip a buck a drink, right, so that's $36 this little adventure is costing me.  I looked at the receipt.  My beer was $7, so was the bottled water (Large Fiji water).  Now the seven bucks for the beer is outrageous enough, but how do they have the balls to charge the same price for the goddamn water?  And the other drink?  That was a "Red Bull Tiki" and the cost of that was $19!!!!!  Yikes!.  What the hell is a Red Bull Tiki anyway?  For $19 it better be one awesome drink.

Well, it was an expensive lesson but I was trying to figure a way out of it.  I didn't really want to sit there with this chunky hooker and chat with her.  Fortunately, after she had the drinks, she asked me if I was going to be  there that night.  I reminded her that I was leaving in a couple of hours.  She asked I was sure and if I might be interested in joining her for a hot tub party instead.  I insisted that I was not staying long.  She then started to pack up her stuff and said she was taking off but told me, "Don't go anywhere, I'll be back."  Screw that.  As soon as she was out of view, I grabbed my overpriced beer and got the hell out of there!  Back inside the casino.  I didn't think she'd be trolling inside, not in that bikini that was revealing much too much flesh.

I do wonder if this gal has some kind of "arrangement" with the hotel.  She was definitely in the pool and the pool is for guests only.  I doubt she has a room at the Hard Rock.  Does she sneak by or does she have a deal with the hotel?  Perhaps the hotel gets a cut, or maybe the hotel is just okay with it because it brings in customers?

Anyway, it was a pretty annoying experience, and not just because of the $28 I was out (I was willing to spend $8 for the beer I ordered for myself).  It cost me a good half an hour or more of eye candy viewing.  Because there was no way I was hanging around the pool and risking having to deal with her again.....or perhaps some other hooker who was working the pool.

The saving grace is that, at least I got a great story out of it.  By the next day it almost seemed worth it for the story.  And now, I can honestly say that I have spent money on a hooker.  And also, that I got screwed by one.  Just not in the way you'd want to.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Scenes From a Poker Tournament

This post will consist of a few random stories from a tournament I played in Vegas back in June.  I busted out of this one fairly quickly due to a total lack of decent hands.  Because of some of the things I will tell you about, I prefer not to identify which tournament this was or what poker room it took place in.  Really, it wouldn't be a big deal to reveal it, but I prefer not to.  To be honest, this could have happened at any tournament I played during the summer poker season.

You see all the rooms that run series are quite desperate for dealers.  There just aren't enough to go around.  A lot of "retired" dealers come out of retirement to deal at the WSOP or one of the other series around time—or both.  Many dealers double up and do two full shifts during this time.  Rooms hire brand new dealers, with predictable results.  The ones that can handle it get better as the summer rolls on.  Some don't make it.  Last summer I was dealt to by a high school math teacher who was dealing to make money during summer vacation—he was excellent.  You never know who you'll run into.

In this room, after I busted, went over to say hello to the poker room manager, who I've been working with thru PokerAtlas and Ante Up for six years.  He was impressed and a bit overwhelmed with how busy they were.  He pointed out that another room in town was offering virtually the exact same tournament as he was and they were getting like 300 people a day for theirs—just about the same as he was getting for his.  And he talked about how difficult it is to keep properly staffed for it.

He kept losing dealers.  They needed the temp dealers to work long shifts—but the dealers couldn't work longer than their assigned shifts because they had their other job—their real job—to go to.  And they couldn't be late for their real job or they'd get fired.  This job was only temporary.  It was a real challenge.

Anyway, there was one male dealer who was bantering with one of the players.  And the player had a bad result in the hand so of course he said something disparaging about the dealer, like it was the dealer's fault he lost the hand (not exactly a rare complaint).  And so the dealer said, "If that comment had come from a good player, I'd be offended."  I dunno why, but that line really tickled me.  I started laughing. 

Now, as it happened, I had been spending a rather inordinate amount of time looking at my phone. It seems someone was complaining to me that there was some key information missing from PokerAtlas and I was researching it.  I couldn't find anything missing, but this person was insisting.  So I was distracted. It turned out that the person was of course wrong and it was just human error on this person's part –nothing was missing.  But it caused me to bury my face in the phone for awhile.  Which was where it was when the dealer made that crack.  So when I laughed, the dealer was a bit surprised and he gave me a look.  So I said to him, "You didn't think I was paying attention, did you?"  He said, "Actually, I didn't."

Now, there was one dealer at this tournament I want to tell you about. She was super, super friendly.  Perhaps too friendly.  It wasn't long before I found out that her regular gig is as a table games dealer at a locals casino, one that used to have a poker room but no longer does. But she only started working there after they stopped offering poker.  So I dunno where she learned how to deal poker.  I suspect she played poker even though her gig is table games.

Early on, she told us this joke.  "Why are men like a deck of cards?  Because you need  a heart to love them, a diamond to marry them, a club to beat them and a spade to bury them."  Ok, then.

Then later a player was trying to remember how the last hand had played out and asked another player about it. But this dealer voluntarily told him who had raised, how much, how much the flop bet was…etc.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Is a dealer to suppose to help out players that way?  I mean if the player couldn't recall how the hand went down, that's his problem right?  Unless another player wants to help him out, I kind of don't think the dealer should. 

But the weirdest, and worst thing I saw her do was when the a player announced "all-in" for the first time at our table (since she had been there).  As she grabbed the "all-in" button and threw it towards the player, she immediately said, cheerfully, "Good luck, all-in."


Now I've made it clear in this space I really think saying that is beyond stupid (see here).  But I get that people like to say it or perhaps just can't help themselves.  But for a dealer to say it?  That is so wrong.

Of course, since it's such a meaningless phrase, it's not like the dealer is actually affecting anything or even favoring the player who first went all-in. I didn't think the dealer was really wishing that player better luck than anyone who might call. But still, the dealer is supposed to be impartial, and here she was wishing one of the players good luck, presumably at everyone else's expense.

You know, sometimes you hear a dealer at the beginning of a tournament, or opening a new cash game—or even just pushing in or out of a table—saying something like "good luck, everyone,"  which is ok, because that's aimed at everyone.  Although I often wonder how everyone can have good luck.  OMG….if everyone has good luck, that means skill will actually be a factor!  Damn.

In this dealer's case, this is one of the reasons I assume she is a poker player.  She must have gotten into that dumb habit as a player, so it just sort of reflexively comes out of her mouth when she hears that "all-in" while dealing too.

It wasn't a big deal.  I certainly wasn't going to say anything, just struck me as a little odd.

And that's really all of note from this particular tournament.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Why Did He Shove?

Saturday I had another 1/2 session in Ventura.  I will probably be playing that game more often than the 2/3 game because I think it might be more +EV.  The 1/2 has a max $100 buy-in, which is too low, but I'm starting to believe that the quality of the competition in that game is significantly lower than in the 2/3 game (which has a $300 max buy-in). 

Anyway, there is a hand, the last big hand, that I want to discuss.  Obviously, I try to learn how to improve every time I play.  A lot of time I analyze my hands (or ask you folks to help analyze them).  But you can obviously also learn from how your opponents play or misplay hands.  In this case, the villain did something I found odd which may—or may not—have helped me out.  I don't understand why, maybe you can help.

I'd been having a fairly good session.  I'd run my $100 buy-in to $165 and was ready to call it a day.  One good hand came when I had Queen-8 off in the big blind and with no raise flopped two pair.  For good measure an 8 hit the river filling me up.  I took a decent sized pot off the guy who will be referred to as the "villain" in the big hand coming up.

Another noteworthy hand came when I raised with pocket Queens, got called only by an off-duty dealer.  I c-bet the Ace-high flop and he folded a low pair face up.  Oh, and I opened to $8 with pocket Aces and didn't get a call.  The table was weird, a few aggros but lots of limping too.  We went a few orbits where most times the blinds would chop, and then others where there were some big raises, big pots.

I had decided to leave when the big blind came to me, but as I played my UTG hand, I decided I should play one more orbit. So in that hand, I picked up pocket 10's.  A guy in early position opened to $5 (a very common open for this game).  The villain also called.  I threw in the three extra bucks to call as well.  Note:  I'm not sure if there were one or two other players in the pot.

Anyway, the flop was sure nice:  Ace-10-9, rainbow.  I decided to check to the raiser.  And if the raiser didn't bet, I had a strong felling Villain would.  Both of these guys had big stacks, had me covered by over $100 each.  The preflop raiser was a fairly average player who had made a few hands.  Perhaps he was a bit on the nitty side.  But the Villain was fairly aggressive, and as he built up that big stack, he had tended to get more and more aggressive.  If it checked to him, I figured he'd likely bet to steal it even if he didn't have anything. 

Well, the preflop raiser bet—but only $5.  If there was anyone else in the hand, they folded to Villain who smooth called.  Now it was back to me.  Honestly, with that fairly dry board, I might have been tempted to slow-play it and just call there, but the size of the bet was too small to do that.  I felt I needed to get the pot bigger, and if I bet everyone off of it and picked up a small pot, so be it.

So I made it $20.  The preflop raiser said, "Oh, the ol' check-raise, huh?"  Now it is no big deal, and I've heard that before, but honestly, isn't that poor etiquette?  I mean there's another player in the hand, perhaps he wasn't paying attention and didn't know it was a check-raise and not a regular raise?  Or perhaps just his pointing out that it was a check-raise would make him think about the hand more than he otherwise might?  I mean really, what's the difference between saying that and saying, "Oh, there's two spades on the board, you on the flush draw?"

Whatever, after tanking for a bit, he folded. I wouldn't have been surprised if Villain folded too, but instead he very much did surprise me.  After a few seconds, he announced "all-in."

Really?  I didn't snap call, I gave it some thought, though, honestly, am I ever folding middle set there?  Maybe on a monotone board (I said "maybe") but as I said, this was a rainbow flop.  So I had the second nuts.  And there was no way I could see him playing a set of Aces this way.  Realistically, there was no way he wouldn't have three-bet pocket Aces preflop.  And it seemed unlikely he would keep slow-playing a set of Aces and just have called the $5 flop bet (though I think a call there is more likely than a call preflop).  Regardless, if he's trapped me with a set of Aces and I lose my whole stack there, that's poker.  I leave, the drive home is less than pleasant, and I'm out my $!00 buy-in.

So I called.  As the dealer was about to put out the turn card, Villain proudly turned over his hand.  Ace-10 (I believe off suit).  So he flopped two pair, pretty good flop for him.  I turned over my 10's, and he groaned.  Someone else at the table said, "Oh, what a cooler."

He still had outs, but I was better than a 90/10 favorite.  No Ace came. One of the cards was a  7 and the other was like a 5 or a 4.  All it needed to be was not an Ace.

The guy took it pretty well and I suddenly had over $300 in front of me.  Not to look like a hit-and-runner, I stayed an extra orbit on top of this extra orbit I'd already stayed for (and was quite happy about that last minute decision, obviously).  I didn't get another playable hand.

I cashed out $335, a $225 profit.

It was a fun ride home.  Eventually though, I started thinking about how he played that hand.  The more I thought about it, the less it made sense to me.  I was thinking I really lucked out that he played it so aggro, because he didn't have to double me up there.  Now, I'll get back to that thought later, but for now, let's just consider his shove.

At the time, I assumed his shove was most likely a big Ace.  Probably not Ace-King because he didn't three-bet pre. But maybe Ace-Queen, Ace-Jack.  I had seen him shove top pair, mediocre kicker earlier in the session (but that was on a wetter board).  Maybe he would do that with a straight draw, like Queen-Jack, but he hadn't raised big with a draw before that I had seen.

Why didn't I think he had Ace-10 or Ace-9?  Because if he thought he had the best hand with two pair, which he clearly thought he did, why would he bet so much?  Now, when I watch poker training videos I sometimes hear the poker coach talking about "allowing your opponent to play perfect poker."  This is an example.  With that huge bet, going from $20 to effectively $140, he allowed me to play perfectly.  I'm not gonna call with just an Ace.  Not unless I think there's a really good chance he's bluffing or semi-bluffing.  Ace-9, well yeah, I probably call off my stack.  Queen-Jack?  Well, he didn't give me the odds to call and chase the draw.  In other words, he made it so I'm pretty much guaranteed to only call if I am well ahead of him.

I should add that this guy had been playing with me for a couple of hours.  I'm sure he noticed that this was my first check-raise of the day.  Oh and in case he hadn't noticed that I check-raised, the guy who opened the betting had just reminded him (at least he hadn't said that it was the first time I'd check-raised all day).  So….does he really think I'm doing that with just a straight draw?  If he's been paying attention at all, I don't see how.

To me, my play screams that I have a set, and I would have preferred not to play it that way, but again, I felt I needed to build the pot.

Does he think I'm doing that with Ace-King, Ace-Queen?  A check raise?  Again, I suppose he might have if he hadn't noticed how tight I'd been playing.  But if I was in there with a hand he beat, why not just call or perhaps raise a more reasonable amount—say to $50-$60—and get more value for his top two?

Ok, so maybe my check-raise is a big hand, but not as big as his top two?  And I will call off my stack.  But again, that could only be Ace-9 (that he beats).  Does he want me to fold Ace-King or Ace-Queen so I can't hit my three-outer to beat his second pair?  I would think he'd want Ace-King or Ace-Queen to keep calling his bets.

Also, if he was prepared to shove there, why did he initially just call the original $5 flop bet?  To keep me in?  To get just $5 more out of me?  I'm not sure I get the transition from calling the $5 and then shoving over my check-raise.  Maybe he put me on only two hands…Ace-10 or Ace-9.  If I call with Ace-9 that's sweet for him.  If I call with Ace-10 we chop it up.  And maybe, just maybe I fold Ace-10 putting him on a set.

The initial thought I had was, he didn't have to double me up.  If he slowed down he could have saved himself some chips.  But after thinking about it, it was probably inevitable.  I mean if he was trying to get max value for his hand, he was gonna keep betting until I'd be able to get the rest of my stack in by the river. That is, unless he sniffs out that my check-raise means there was a good chance I had the set (and he'd put me on 9-9 before 10-10 since he had the case 10).  But he can't be certain and so maybe he wants to get to a showdown as cheap as possible.  If he does that, and just calls, calls, calls, I probably don't get all my chips in on the river.  Not because I wouldn’t want to, but because I'd bet smaller to make it more likely he'd keep calling me. But that wasn't the type of player he was.

As long as he was seeing his two pair as the best hand (despite my check-raise), he's gonna double me up.  And if that's what he thought, why did he shove on the flop and make it easy for me to play perfect poker?

I'm not complaining, to be sure.  But I want to try to learn from his mistake.  Maybe I'm missing something.  Any thoughts?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Kings, Then Aces

This past Saturday I played in Ventura and actually had a nice session, short but profitable. I was playing 1/2—which has a $50 min/ $100 max buy-in.  And at least for a week I can't complain about being card-dead.

I was still playing my first orbit when I was dealt the dreaded pocket Kings. So I figured that naturally I'd be down a buy-in before I'd warmed up the chair.  There was a $4 straddle (UTG) so I made it $12 and got a couple of callers. The flop came 10-9-5, rainbow.  I bet $20 and one of the two tanked, but neither called.  Winning!

In the cut-off with King-7 of spades, I limped in behind a bunch of limpers.  Not a hand I normally play, but I decided to play a few more speculative hands this time.  Five of us saw a flop of 9-6-5, two spades.  Someone led out for $7, a lady shoved her last $10, I called and another player called, the first guy added $3 to make the call as well.  The turn was a red 8, giving me a straight while still having the second nut flush draw.  So I led out for about $25 but no one called, I was heads up against the all-in.  The river was a blank—no flush—and the lady didn't show when I flipped over my 7.

I opened to $8 with Ace-Jack of hearts.  The big blind three-bet me to $25.  The guy was new to the table and I somehow got the vibe that he was trying to steal it.  So I called.  The flop was Ace-Queen-10, giving me not only top pair but a gut-shot to Broadway.  He  checked so I bet $30.  He open folded pocket Kings!  Well, my read was certainly wrong there. But I was happy to take the pot.

The very next hand I got a couple of Aces, I opened to $8 and had two callers.  The flop was Ace-10-4, two clubs.  I did have the Ace of clubs.  Never sure what to do there.  A lot of people would slow play it, even with the two clubs.  But I think you want to start building the pot, no?  It's pretty likely no one has anything to call with though.  I decided to make a smallish bet of $12 and to my surprise, they both called.  I guess at least one of them had a flush draw. The turn was the 7 of hearts and this time I put out $20 (which, now that I think of it, was way too small).  The first guy called instantly but the other guy went into the tank.  I had seen him bust out earlier but he rebought for $100 and then had won a big hand.  Our stacks were similar.  He thought and thought and finally folded, saying, "This is a sick fold."

The river was a red Jack and I put out $40.  The guy didn't have much more than that and I assumed he would either fold his busted flush draw or shove since he wouldn't have much left if he just called.  But no, he did in fact just call.  I showed my Aces and he mucked, but the happiest guy at the table was the guy who folded on the turn.  He said he had Ace-Jack and if he had made the call he would have given me all of his chips when the Jack hit the river.  Damn.  I guess I should have bet smaller, not bigger (that's results-oriented thinking and I don't mean it).

Then the deck turned cold for me and I was mostly just watching.  I was ready to leave, but made a last minute decision to play one more orbit.  A guy opened to $5 (a common opening raise in this game) and I called in late position with Ace-Queen off. Six of us saw a flop of Ace-Ace-6, rainbow.  The preflop raiser checked, but a lady bet $10 in front of me.  Hmmm….This lady had been at the table for a few orbits and I couldn't recall her playing a hand.  She was, well, a "mature" woman and certainly fit the stereotype of a nit.  I proceeded with caution. I thought she wouldn't bet that flop without a big hand.  Maybe she had a weaker Ace than mine, but I also thought it was very possible she had Ace-King.  I wouldn't expect this woman to three-bet with it preflop.  A pair of 6's and thus a flopped boat was not out of the question either.  I just called, and it was heads up.  The turn was a blank and this time she bet $20, I called.  There was another blank on the river and this time she hesitated and only bet $10.  That confused me.  Why bet so little there?  I was still thinking she was the nit of all nits and that just maybe she was trying to get me to raise her when she had a monster.  I took the coward's way out and just called.  She turned over pocket Queens!  Wow, I never would have put her on that, betting into two Aces on the board. But I wasn't surprised that she hadn't three-bet with them preflop.  Anyway it was another nice pot, my last one of the session.

After another orbit I racked up and cashed out $315.  So a $215 profit. Pretty good for that game.

Note, the pic below has nothing to do with this post.  But the NFL season did start the same weekend this session took place so it is not quite a total non sequitur. I think most of you will like it even if you're not a Packers fan.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Calling the Clock on Kings

No Vegas for me this Labor Day Weekend.  As I've made clear in numerous posts, the folks who run Vegas are giving me less and less incentive to go there all the time.  So I just could not find the motivation to make the trek.

Instead I played a big tournament at Commerce, part of their Commerce Poker Series, the Saturday of the holiday weekend.  It was a $350, $100K guarantee, two-day tourney. They called it a Triple Stack because the starting stack was 30K.  The levels were 30-minutes on day 1, 40-minutes on day 2. It had the big blind ante which is great and which every single NLH hold'em tournament from now on should use—seriously, Tournament Directors, what are you waiting for?  One out of every 8 entrants made it to day 2 and if you made it to day 2 you were in the money.

I played for a long time—8 hours in fact—but (spoiler!!!) didn't make it to day 2 or the money.  Still I want to talk about some hands and one hand in particular that kind of perturbed me the more I thought about it.  A player not in the hand may have affected the result of a potentially big hand I was involved in by doing something he had every right to do….but still, I wonder if I got a bad break.  I dunno, when I get to it, I will lay it out for you.

It's amazing I lasted so long because of course I was extremely card dead.  But a few times along the way when I really need a miracle to survive, I got one (until the last time, when I didn't).  And that makes it so frustrating. I mean I pulled a few horseshoes out of my ass and still wasn't able to make the money. What hope do I have when I don't get these miracles?

Early on the first pocket pair I saw was Aces. I raised and bet all three streets and some clown hit a gutshot on the river to take the pot.

I started level 4 (300/200/300) down to $15,500.  There was a hand where I probably made a bad fold poker wise but results wise it was correct.  I was in late position with King-Queen off.  A fairly conservative player opened to $800 and I called.  So did this Aggro-Russian who played a lot of hands and liked to raise and re-raise.  The flop was King-Queen-10, two hearts.  The preflop raiser bet $1,400 or something like that.  I made it $3,800.  The Russian snap called, no surprise.  The preflop bettor announced all-in and he had me covered (so did the Russian).  I tanked.  Based on his play, I would have been shocked if he had done that with just the flush draw, or even a pair and a flush draw.  But of course I could be wrong.  My thought was he likely had a set, most probably a set of Jacks since I had blockers to the other two sets.  Of course Ace-Jack was also possible and if he had flopped Broadway then jamming there to protect against the flush would make sense.  I finally folded.

The Russian laughed and talked a bit and finally folded face up—King-Jack.  Wow, I'm surprised he folded such a good hand.  But he asked the guy (who he was sitting next to), "You have Ace-Jack?"  And sure enough the guy nodded, laughed and did us the favor of showing his hand—Ace-Jack.  Wow.  Then Russian started giving me a hard time.  "How could raise and then fold?"  I said, "Because I knew he had me beat."  Of course I never told him what I had.  I'm not sure if a poker coach would approve of that fold there, if the numbers were in my favor or not (I mean if you give the guy a range and matched up your hand against the range).  But in real life, it was an excellent fold and kept me alive, barring a suck out (and one of my outs was obviously out of play, so I had just one King and two Queens as outs).

Now we move to level 8 (800/400/800), down to $16,300.  By this time I'd had only one other pocket pair—10's.  I raised with them, got several callers and folded to a donk bet on the Ace-high flop. So now I looked at pocket deuces and decided it was time to take some risks.  I shoved, under-the-gun.  At this table, it was almost impossible not to get a call.  A few players would call almost any bet.  I didn't expect to get it through but I figured I'd take my chances if someone would call with big cards.  And maybe medium pairs that had me beat would fold.  Whatever, I was shocked that I didn't get a call.  Oh did I mention that the Russian had busted by this point?  That partially explains it.

Same level I got another pair, pocket 8's.  There were a few limpers and I almost shoved again.  But I decided that after my last move, and with a bunch of people at least interested enough to limp, that wasn't such a good idea.  I just limped in myself and no one raised.  The flop was Ace-8-X.  The table luckbox with a big stack led out for a bet and I shoved.  He snapped called and showed Ace-King.  Huh?  I can't believe he only limped with that. He hadn't been shy about raising preflop before this.  Whatever, my set held up.  Nice double up.

Level 10 (1200/60001200) $18,800.  In late position, I open shoved Jack-10.  The big blind who had me covered snap called and showed two Queens.  Ugh. It's over, right?  Well the flop was King-Queen-X, giving him a set and me an open-ender. The turn was a 10 which didn't really help me.  But the river was a miracle Ace and I was alive and kicking with a nice double-up.  I was up to around 40K.

Now we come to the hand I alluded earlier, the one I really want to discuss. Late in that same level, I finally meet up with my old friends, pocket Kings.  First time this tournament.  And a guy with a big stack who was fairly aggro (he'd taken over the seat from the Russian and this new guy was Asian) opened to $3,800.  It folded to me and I made it $10,400.  This guy was opening a lot and I'm ahead of most of his range….unless this is the time he actually has Aces.

It folded back to him and he tanked.  Phew!  Once he didn't snap call or shove I knew I was ahead.  Now at that point, I of course want him to re-raise or at least call.  If he has to think about it, I'm in great shape.  And yeah, taking down the pot there is ok, but I need chips and a double up is what I really need to get to day 2. If he has Ace-King or Queens or Jacks and sucks out on me, well, I'll be out but the consolation prize is I'll have one more dreaded pocket Kings story for the blog and I'll know I got the money in good.  So when he goes into the tank, I am hoping he calls and I'll just take my chances (knowing if I bust I'll be driving home shouting "dreaded pocket Kings"  at the top of my lungs all the way home.

As I said, this was late in the level and also right before the next break.  And he's apologizing and saying "Sorry, but this is a tough decision."  And yeah, he's taking his time but it didn't seem to me like he was taking too much time.  I think at one point he was counting chips and it looked like he was gonna continue one way or the other and I was happy about that.  I tried to remain stone-faced of course.  So maybe I lost track of time but suddenly the guy on my immediate right, who hadn't been at the table all that long, said something about "clock."  And it turns out that there was a floor person out of nowhere who was saying "Thirty seconds."  And the guy was on the clock.  I really didn't need that.

The guy was a little unhappy the clock had been called on him and I was too, because I didn't want it to affect his decision and I think he would have talked himself into playing on (probably just a call as you'll see).  But as he was running out of time, he picked up his cards and mucked them. Face down.  But he said soon after that he had Jacks.  And I have no reason not to believe him.

Before the level ended, he kept agonizing over his decision.  "I think it was Ace-King.  I think I should have played.  He had Ace-King.  It feels like Ace-King."  Well I could do a whole separate post on whether or not he should have been willing to take a flip against Ace-King with his Jacks in his position.  But let's get back to the guy calling the clock.

The guy was upset about the clock (and of course I never said anything, never discussed what I had or anything like that).  But he started giving the guy a hard time for calling the clock on him.  "Was it really that long?"  Obviously I didn't think so.  The guy next to me said it was, it had been at least a few minutes. Then I found out what really happened.  It just so happened that the clock-caller had noticed a floorman walking by as the other guy was tanking, and just called out to him to start a clock.  Well that's not the way it's supposed to happen. A player has every right to call the clock, but he has to tell the dealer, and the dealer calls the floor.  Players aren't supposed to go to the floor as the first remedy.  And since I was concentrating on keeping my poker face, I may not have heard everything—I certainly didn't hear if the floor even asked the dealer if he thought the player had had enough time to decide, which is what the floor is supposed to do.  So this may or may not have been handled by the book.

But regardless, we all know that any player at the table has a right to call for the clock, no question.  The guy said it was taking so long that he didn't want the whole level to run out without any more hands.  But so what?  There'd be more hands the next level.  And the button was on the other side of the table.  There was no chance he was going to be able to post his big blind (and the big blind ante) before the level changed and the blinds increased.  In other words, it was no big deal for him if the clock ran out before the level ended. I think we had about 4 minutes left when the hand ended.  I doubt the guy had take more than a minute before the guy called the clock (and it was only a 30-second clock, not a 60-second clock). 

Well, I guess I'm always happy to win chips with the dreaded hand, but I can't help thinking a player not in the hand affected the outcome.  Oh and get this, seeing the guy was pissed at him, he said, "You know, sometimes the clock makes you think clearly, maybe make a better decision than you otherwise would have. Makes you more focused."  Well thanks for helping him out, buddy (although I suspect he was just saying that to get the guy off his back).  The other thing he said a few times was, "It's no big deal, you’d either have 30K more chips or 30K less."  Yeah, I'm sure that made him feel better.

Anyway, the guy who folded spent the rest of the level fuming about it, mostly because he thought he made a bad fold.  He was still thinking I had Ace-King.  I did nothing to dissuade him from that notion.  After we got back from break, before the guy who folded got back to the table, the guy next to me said, "You should tell that guy you had pocket 10's.  Really put him on tilt."  Yeah nice.  I wanted him to be on tilt cuz he called me with Jacks and lost a huge pot.

So there it is, wanted to get that off my chest.  Any thoughts?  I know it's in the rules but….I should also point out that the guy who had the Jacks had never tanked before, or after. He wasn't abusing the clock.

So level 12 (2K/1K/2K), $30,500.  Ace-King and there was a shove in front of me from a shorter stack.  I shoved.  A big stack called.  The short stack had two Queens.  The big stack had two 10's.  There was a King on the flop.  And another one on the turn.  Trip Kings hold.  Not quite a triple-up but a really nice pot. Still alive.  Oh, the guy whose QQ I'd crushed earlier with my rivered Broadway noted that this was the second time I'd cracked Queens.

The tournament ran on and I just couldn't get any momentum from the few really good pots I'd taken.  I swear I was looking for spots to make moves and there weren't any.  Our table broke and the new one had the same dynamic…..there was almost always a raise before it got to me.  And I didn't have enough to shove over a raise.  Or I'd be in early position with no raise in front of me and I'd have some total garbage hand that I couldn't shove with—because it was almost impossible to get a raise through.

I got to level 15 (4K/2K/4K) with 51K.  There had been 398 total players (prize pool $120K) and according to the clock we were down to 99.  But I knew they weren't updating the clock promptly.  Most likely they were updating every time they broke a table. Fifty would make day 2 (and the money). 

So we were probably down to 90 when I got Ace-10.  First really playable hand I'd seen in about two or three levels.  The guy on my right, who was the luckbox from the first table I was at, opened to 3X or so.  I shoved.  It folded back to him and he snap called (he had me covered of course).  I'd played with him most of the tournament and knew my Ace-10 was mostly likely ahead of anything he could have.  Sure enough he showed Queen-Jack.  Cool, I was almost a 60/40 favorite.  But he flopped a Jack and that was all I was out, probably about 40 away from the money.  After 8 hours of poker.  Note:  the min-cash for the bottom five who had to return to Commerce for day 2 was a measly $550.  You know how I feel about that, but this isn't the post about increasing the min-cash payouts.

Anyway, I did get a lot of play for my money.  Money would be better.  And I'll always wonder what would have happened if that impatient guy hadn't jumped the gun and called the clock so fast.