Wednesday, May 29, 2019

My "Avengers Endgame" Project

Heads up:  There is absolutely no poker discussed in this post.  Nothing about Vegas either.  This is off topic and is (sort of) a movie review but it's actually more than just a movie review.  The last part of this post I will discuss a "project" I was tasked with by my friends—how to see, enjoy and understand AVENGERS: ENDGAME without having (initially at least) seen any of the previous MCU films.

And there will be spoilers, but don't worry, I'll give you plenty of warning before I get to the spoilers.  I'm not gonna just blurt out that there's no truth to the rumor that Rosebud is the name of Thanos's sled, so don't worry. I will give my spoiler-free thoughts first, then, there will be break for some pics, and then I will discuss the film in more detail and with plenty of spoilers. You'll get a warning.

Although, honestly, I'm wondering if it is even necessary to give the warning at this point.  The movie has been out for a month, and pretty much everyone who wants to see it already has, right?  And those of you who haven't seen it yet probably have no interest in doing so, right?  For that matter, those of who haven't seen it by now have already given up reading this post and are now Googling for the latest soccer results.  Either way, if you haven't seen it by now, you probably don't care about the possibility of this post ruining it for you.

Regardless, I'll warn you.

I do have to start off with big confession.  I was wrong.  Totally and completely wrong.  I goofed, and I'm admitting it.  Those of you with good memories will recall that a year ago I did a post after seeing AVENGERS; INFINITY WAR criticizing the ending of that film, really blasting it.  I am so embarrassed by that post now that I shouldn't link to it, in fact I should have deleted it.  But no, I'll let you all have a good laugh if you so chose, so you can find that post here.

Let me just say that in the year since I wrote that foolishness, I've had plenty of time to rethink my position and I was just wrong.  Oh, that was my reaction at the time, and it was a startling way to end a super-hero movie, but I was able to get over it.  And forgive the Marvel folks for taking that creative path.  By the time ENDGAME came out, I had totally forgiven them and was more than ready to see how they were going to get of that corner they'd painted themselves in.

Noticing that INFINITY WAR  was on Netlix, I rewatched it a week or two before the sequel came out. Being totally prepared for the ending really helped my enjoyment of it.  And of course this time I was watching it just a short time before I'd be able to see the resolution and the presumably happy ending.

And there was all the hype for ENDGAME. which I got all caught up in.  Suddenly I was looking forward to seeing the finale as much as anyone. And thus, I did indeed see it on the first weekend (even tho tickets were hard to come by).  Fortunately, everyone I follow on Twitter was good and no one spoiled it.

But I had done a bit of prep work for myself.  There were all kinds of articles on the internet talking about the movie—promising no spoilers—that gave you tips for what earlier movies in the MCU series were especially important for ENDGAME.  So I made sure I brushed up on those movies. The trouble was that every article I read recommending the 6 or 7 "must see" movies listed different films!  At a certain point I just had to go with my best instincts.

Well, the bottom line was, the movie wasn't just good….it wasn't just great.  It was freaking awesome.  I absolutely loved almost everything about it.  Really I thought all the decisions they made in telling the story were just wonderful, and all were easily justified.  Could they have done a few things differently?  Of course.  But I was totally satisfied with the way it turned out.  It is, in my opinion, the best Marvel movie ever, the best super-hero movie ever, and really one of the best film experiences I've ever had.  I left the theater humming a certain song, feeling extremely happy even though my eyes got a little watery a few times.

I spent the rest of the day and evening playing that certain song and scouring the internet for more info.  I wanted explanations/theories for stuff I didn't quite get (or stuff I had to guess about).  And I wanted to find out about all the Easter Eggs I saw and those that I may have missed, which I'd be looking for on my second viewing.  Yeah, I knew instantly I'd be back to see it again.  Hell, if it would have been possible, I would have just sat in my seat and watched it again right then and there (after a quick trip to the Mens Room).

I loved the movie.

And I was back again the very next weekend for a second viewing.

OK, so after a few pics, I'll give the uncensored review of the movie, you know, the one with spoilers.

WARNING: From here on, this post will definitely contain spoilers for AVENGERS: ENDGAME. Proceed at your own peril.

I already said I loved everything.  What did I especially love?  Well I love time travel stories so I loved that aspect of it, and the spin they put on it.  We've seen so many time travel stories with pretty much standard rules, it was nice they had completely different rules, and took full advantage of that. I loved the fact that they mentioned so many other time travel movies and explained how they all got the rules wrong!  I loved the fact that they said (something like) BACK TO THE FUTURE was bullshit (regarding its rules).  And by the way, BACK TO THE FUTURE is one of my all time favorite movies, definitely in the top 3 or 4. That was so damn funny. And I loved the fact that they revisited so many of the earlier movies (and did great spins on them) to complete the "time heist."  Those revisits were so cool (and reminded me of BACK TO THE FUTURE 2).

Captain America fighting his past self was incredible.  Stark's 1970 encounter with his father was incredibly satisfying.  Black Widow's sacrifice was….well somewhat mystifying and of course tragic.  It shocked me because I had heard that she was going to star in a stand-alone Black Widow movie.  We'll have to see how that plays out. 

And then there is fat Thor.  OMG.  I know this is controversial. There are a lot of people who didn't like it, or even hated it.  Of course, women tended to especially hate what they did to Thor, for obvious reasons.  But I loved it and thought it totally worked in the context of the story.  I mean, when I first saw him, fat and shirtless, I think I laughed non-stop for five minutes.  Really, I could not stop giggling.  As I said to one prominent female Twitterer who said fat Thor ruined the movie for her: "That was seriously one of the very best things in the movie...both for the story's sake and for meta reasons. I mean just thinking of Hemsworth's female fan base reacting as you did had me chuckling for the rest of the film."

It must have been a hard decision, risking alienating viewers like that. But I think it totally worked for the purpose of the story.  This was the best Thor we've seen in all the Marvel movies, the richest, most complex character.  And may I just say, Chris Hemsworth is a helluva actor for pulling it off—for pulling off all the versions of the Thor character since the beginning.  He's more than just a pretty face (and chiseled physique).  Perhaps it is evil of me, but thinking of how the ladies in the audience would react somehow made it even better for me.

And of course it led to some great jokes, including his mom saying to him, "Eat a salad."  And Rhodey responding to Thor's question, "Do you know what's going through my veins?" with the answer "Cheese Whiz?"

Certainly the end of the Iron Man story was very sad, very emotional but very satisfying.  Robert Downey, Jr deserves an Oscar nomination for his work here (so does Hemsworth, if you ask me).  A great character and a great performance.  Just amazing. Was I sad to see Tony Stark die?  Of course.  But if Downey is through playing the character, what a send off he got.

But my absolute most favorite thing about the movie was the resolution they gave Captain America.  Wow.  I know this is controversial too.  I read some complaints.  Cap would never do that.  Why not Bucky instead of Sam as the new Cap?  And of course, all the time travel/time line issues it creates. 

But to me, it was perfect.  Cap finally going back and having that dance with Peggy.  As soon as I heard the first notes of "It's Been a Long, Long Time," my eyes got watery (call me a sentimental old fool).  That was the song I couldn't stop playing after seeing the film.  And it was foreshadowed in every movie Cap was in, and even in Endgame it was foreshadowed in the 1970 scene, when he saw her in her office.  Perhaps that's the moment when he decided to return to her at the end?

Anyway, it made an already epic film even better.

The three hours just whizzed by.  It was totally captivating.  Bravo.

Now here is the epilog to my review, and it is probably more important than review itself.  I was tasked by my good friends Woody and LM with "prepping" them so they could enjoy ENDGAME even though they had not seen a single one of the MCU movies previously.


When they realized that everyone on the planet was digging this movie, they asked me if they should see it.  I told them no.  I said you can't just watch ENDGAME if you haven't seen any of the movies that led up to it.  It wouldn't make any sense at all.

Now I should mention that LM read a lot of comics as a kid.  She was a fan, and knew a lot of the original Marvel heroes.  Her brother is a major comic book nerd with a huge comics collection. In fact, her brother and I were both members of the same comic book club when we were teen-agers (although I never knew or met LM at the time, just one of those weird coincidences).  She always preferred DC Comics to Marvel, but knew Marvel. And she had seen some movies based on comics (we saw the Toby McGuire Spider-Man together).  Just not any of the MCU movies.  But she knew who Thor, Iron-Man, Captain America and a few others were, at least from their comic book versions.

Woody was a tougher case.  He had never read comics and had maybe only seen a couple of comic book movies—a few Superman movies.

But they are determined people.  They insisted that this was too big of a cultural phenomenon for them to miss.  And did they really have to see all the previous 21 films???

I think LM said they would start watching a few of the previous ones at random to give them some idea.  I said that wouldn't work.  I thought about it.  I came up with an idea, that was actually kind of dumb—at least the first part of it.  I said that they should first watch INFINITY WAR which was available on Netflix.  One of three things would happen, I predicted.  One, they would be so lost they'd give up after 15 minutes and forget the idea.  Two, they would be extremely confused but somehow enjoy and be intrigued enough to be wanna see a few more films to get some key background information before seeing ENDGAME.  Or three (and this was the least likely scenario), they would like it so much they would be ready to jump in and either see all the previous films or just run out and see ENDGAME right away.

My prediction was the first one.  But what happened was a lot closer to the second possibility.  While they were watching it, LM was texting me all sorts of questions about who the characters were and what their relationships were and whether this character or that character was a good guy or a bad guy. I tried to respond as best I could (they even took pics off their screen and sent them to me, asking "Who is this?")

Although they admitted they were confused and more than a bit lost, somehow, someway they got enough out of the experience to want to see ENDGAME.  Could I help some more?

When I suggested watching INFINITY WAR, I said in the unlikely event they still wanted to see ENDGAME, I would put together a list of a few of the movies they absolutely needed to see before seeing ENDGAME

Now they were calling my bluff.  By this time I had seen ENDGAME so I pretty much knew what I felt were the most important films leading up to it.

As I noted, there were lists all over the internet suggesting which movies were the "must-see" ones to prepare for ENDGAME.  I didn't like any of those lists.  Most of them picked movies based on key plot points that were used in ENDGAME.  For me, the character arcs, especially the character arcs of the three most important Avengers, was what was crucial to enjoying ENDGAME, not the details of where what Infinity Stone was found on what planet and taken from what villain (or hero). 

It was a character driven story, to my mind.

Of course, the list I came up with for them was based on my own prejudices, and tastes. No way around that (other than use some stranger's list off the internet, which would be based on that person's biases and tastes).

Since to me the best moment in ENDGAME was Cap's decision, I thought that all three Captain America movies were absolute musts.  Additionally, all of them were very good movies, among the best of the series.

Now there's Iron Man, perhaps the most important character in the series.  It better be emotional when he dies.  So for sure they had to see the first Iron Man movie, also the first MCU movie.  And it is a good movie too.  What about the other two Iron Man movies?  In a perfect world, yes, but no time.  The other two were not especially good movies, and I thought they could get enough Iron Man characterization from the first film and from the other films I had selected.

And of course Thor.  I wanted to limit it to one Thor movie for time sake.  The best of the three was the last one, THOR: RAGNORAK.  And it was even on Netflix.  So it was the obvious choice.  LM remembered Thor from the comics, so I didn't think she'd be lost not having seen the first two.  Another bonus:  Hulk is Thor's co-star in that film so they'd get important information into Hulk's development. BTW, LM was a big fan of the old Hulk TV show with Lou Ferrigno.

Besides, I was also going to put the first two Avengers movies on my list, which would give them more insight into Thor (as well as Iron Man).  And those two movies would give them great insight into the whole group dynamic, as well as many of the other characters.

That was it.  In order to fill in the gaps, I verbally gave them a lot of info on Guardians of the Galaxy (both the characters and the key plot point they revisit in ENDGAME), Dr. Strange (and the time stone), the Ant-man movies (Dr. Pym, Pym particles, the Quantum Realm and the importance of Scott's daughter to him), Black Panther (advanced technology) and Captain Marvel (especially the after-credit scene, which sort of explains how she was able to find Stark's disabled space ship). Since I skipped the first two stand-alone Thor movies, I also gave them background on Thor, and explained how his (ex) girlfriend Jane wound up in Asgard with the reality stone inside of her, how his mother died when she was there. Also I made sure they knew about Thor's hammer's unique properties (one must be worthy to lift it).  I actually made voice recordings on all of these topics.  I knew what was important to clue them in on, but it was a challenge to discuss these things in a way that didn't spoil anything.

For example, even though I had heard before seeing ENDGAME that they used time travel to bring back the people who Thanos had snapped out of existence, I didn't tell them that.  It turned out to be a great surprise for LM, who loves time travel stories.  Another thing I pointed out, without explanation, was that Thor appeared shirtless in Ragnorak.  I knew it was unnecessary to point this out for LM but I wanted to make sure Woody noticed too.  That was to set them up for fat Thor.

To my delight, they enjoyed every one of the Marvel movies I recommended.  Some of them I had recently rewatched myself, and a couple of them I ended up rewatching the same night they were experiencing them for the first time.  It gave me a chance to point out a few things or answer their questions.

As they neared the end of the list, I recommended that they rewatch INFINITY WAR again, now that they had all the background.  They had decided to do that on their own. Now that they had all the background, it was almost a whole new movie for them (and much better).

Finally they were ready to see AVENGERS: ENDGAME.  I was nervous when they went, I felt like I would be responsible if they didn't like it—it would be my fault that I didn't prepare them well. We joked that I was their professor, and I needed my students to be approve of the course I provided. Well, it turned out to be no problem, they loved the movie.  Although I have to say, LM did absolutely hate, hate, hate fat Thor for the obvious reason.  She wanted to enjoy Hemsworth's abs. 

In fact, LM said she wanted to see it again, so a few days later she joined me for another viewing (her second, my third).  She loved it again, and I was able to point out a few more Easter Eggs and explain a few things.  We both agree that we can't wait until she has the Blu-Ray and we can watch it together on her giant 4G screen and we can stop it at will and I can point out more goodies.

I have to say, I actually had a lot of fun thinking about the movies I wanted them to see, making my voice notes for them, hearing their reactions to them, and kind of re-experiencing the whole series with them.  It was a successful project.

I leave you with the list of the movies I had them watch, in order, and a bit of a make-good for those of you who were disappointed with fat Thor. What do you think of my selections?

1. Iron-Man
2. Capt. America: The First Avenger
3. The Avengers
4. Capt. America: The Winter Soldier
5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
6. Capt. America: Civil War
7. Thor: Ragnarok
8. Avengers: Infinity War.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Robvegaspoker joins Persuadeo's Podcast!

I'm on a podcast!

Check out Persuadeo's latest podcast with special guest--me!

Thanks to Persuadeo for having me on. We talk about my blog, my poker "career" and poker in general.  Then we finish up talking about one hand of mine that perplexed me.  Persuadeo gives me a free poker lesson (and I need it).

Check it out here.  Then let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

From the Early Days: She Doubled Down on Blackjack

Well, I dunno when I'll be able to post a new entry, especially since I haven't even figured out what I'm gonna write about next.  So I thought I'd do something I haven't done in awhile, repost on of my old stories from the very early days of the blog. And even when i posted this, it was an old, old story from my pre-poker days in Vegas.  This is actually one of my most memorable stories from my very early trips to Vegas.  Hope you enjoy it!
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This one goes back a long, long way.  It happened some 30 years ago, give or take.  This was well before I started taking notes on my Vegas trips so I’m going entirely by aging memory.  But I told this story so often for years that I think I can get most of the details right.  If not, I’ll just make them up.
My friend Norm and I used to visit Vegas regularly at this time, two, three times a year.  We enjoyed gambling of course.  Mostly blackjack and craps, with the occasional foray into Keno if we were losing too much.  We also enjoyed the mass quantities of cheap food that was available then.  The buffets back then were not profit centers, they were loss leaders, and almost every hotel had extremely cheap buffets where you could easily stuff enough food in your face to make you sick for just a few bucks.  And it was good food too.  In those days, we were actually young enough, stupid enough, and gluttonous enough to sometimes have more than one buffet a day!  I sure as hell don’t do that any more.
We also saw a lot of shows back then.  Whatever headliners we liked (almost always comedians, not music stars) and the big production shows too.  Again, they were a lot cheaper in those days.
After a few visits, our favorite casino, and indeed, our favorite hotel, became The Maxim.  As I explained recently here, the Maxim was located on Flamingo, across the street from the Bally’s employee parking lot.  Except that Bally’s was actually the MGM when we first started playing and staying at The Maxim.  The Maxim closed down many years ago and something called the Westin Casuarina now sits in the same corner.
We liked the Maxim for a several reasons.  As a hotel, it had the benefit of being cheap, and so were we.  Being off the Strip, it was lower priced than the rooms on the Strip.  And the room was nice enough, not luxurious but quite pleasant for the price.  Also, it was close enough to the Strip that it was an easy walk to it, right past The Stage Door bar that I talked about in the post I just linked to.  And that corner of the Strip had a ton of casinos we also liked to play at, such as Barbary Coast (now The Cromwell), Flamingo Hilton (now without the “Hilton” attached), Imperial Palace (now The Linq), the Holiday Casino (now Harrah’s), The Sands (where the Venetian now sits), The Dunes (where Bellagio now resides), Caesars (though we could never afford to play there) and the aforementioned MGM.
But we also loved the Maxim casino.  It was smaller than most of those on the Strip, but it was also a lot friendlier.  The dealers on the Strip were robotic and soulless.  The dealers at the Maxim (most of them, anyway) were friendly and often funny.  Hey, if you’re losing your money in a game where the odds are stacked against you, you might as well be entertained.  We even got to be fairly friendly with some of the dealers because we started going there so often.  If I’m not mistaken, Norm actually made a friend of sorts of the very attractive, very exuberant lady dealer who worked the Wheel of Fortune (or Big 6 Wheel, whatever the called it).
More importantly, the Maxim, being off the Strip, had lower limits than a lot of the Strip casinos, and that was important to us.  We could only afford to go to Vegas so often if we could play $2 blackjack and $2 craps.  And yes, it was still possible to find games like that in those days.  But the bigger, nicer casinos had already started to phase them out, so that was what was so appealing about the Maxim.
So if we stayed at the Maxim, we’d end up in that casino for our last session of the day before calling it a night.  So there I was, one night, playing $2 blackjack before retiring.  I don’t recall if Norm was with me at this point or at another game, or whatever.  All I know is that a rather cute, very young girl sat next to me and bought into the game.

OK, so I remember her being cute.  I don’t remember if she was provocatively dressed.  I suspect she was not, because, knowing me, if she had been, I’d remember it.  Actually, this took place so long ago it might have predated the era when women dressed sexily in Las Vegas.  Hell, it might have taken place before cleavage was invented.
And she sat down next to me and started chatting with the dealer.  And ordered a drink.  Yes, she definitely ordered a drink.  Repeatedly.  From the conversation she was having with the first dealer, it was apparent that she used to be a cocktail waitress right there at the Maxim.  I soon learned that she was now working as a blackjack dealer somewhere else. But not in Vegas.  I’m not sure if she was working in one of the (then) two casinos that are located in what is now known as Primm, which is right on the California/Nevada border, or she was working in Laughlin.  Laughlin wasn’t much in those days.  Neither was Primm.  I gathered she was working at a locale like that because she was brand new as a dealer and was attempting to get some experience on her resume so that she could work her way into a position in Vegas.
So she knew all the dealers and the cocktail waitresses who were serving her—they were all her old colleagues.  She was getting tips from the dealers as to how to be a better blackjack dealer.  And she was tipping big herself whenever she won, which wasn’t very often.  She was also tipping the waitresses generously for the drinks they kept bringing her…..and bringing her.
It seems she was depressed about something, but I can’t remember why.  Maybe she didn’t even say.  But it was obvious that she was there to get hammered as much as for any other reason.  She was drinking to forget.  And it worked, because, all these many years later, I’ve totally forgotten what was bothering her.  I’m sure she also wanted to visit her old friends, and tell them she was now a dealer and no longer a waitress, as well. 
She was friendly at the beginning, but mostly with the employees.  As she downed more and more drinks, she started interacting more with the other players as well.  One thing she was upset about, at least at the beginning, was the way the deck was treating her.  She was losing money rather quickly, and had to keep buying in.  I guess I must have doing ok myself, as I stayed there for quite some time.
At first, she was playing totally normal, totally by-the-book blackjack.  And losing steadily.  After awhile, though, she started veering off the basic blackjack strategy, and started playing based on “feelings” and “hunches” and guesses about what the next card would be.  I’m sure some this was due to the fact that she was losing with the basic strategy, but most of it was due to the alcohol.
Now, as she was getting more inebriated and thus more outgoing, she started taking it upon herself to help me with my game.  This wasn’t really necessary, but she couldn’t help herself.  Interestingly, as she kept playing crazier and crazier, she never gave me the wrong play.  So for example, she would stick on a 16 when the dealers up card was a face card, because of a hunch, but she would tell me to take a card in the same situation.  Again, to be clear, I didn’t need her help, she was just being “helpful.”  Have I mentioned she was drinking a lot?
She also started doing weird things whenever she got a double down, or a split situation, or a soft hand.  She would split cards you shouldn’t split and vice versa, double down when she shouldn’t, and even not take a card when she had a soft hand that she couldn’t bust.  But again, whenever she offered me advice, it was always dead on the correct play.
The combination of being drunk and playing crazy had an amazing affect.  She started winning.  The crazier she played—and the more she drank—the better she did.  She started winning almost every time she did something dumb—like splitting face cards, or hitting hard 12’s, weird things like that.  She frequently told me before she did something stupid that she was going to do it.  I would of course say that it was a bad play and suggest she not do it.  She ignored me and made the bad play and usually won the hand.
As she started winning, she started getting very excited.  The dour demeanor of a drunk woman disappeared, to be replace by a bubbly drunk.  And she started interacting with me more and more.  For one thing, every time she won one of her crazy bets, she would actually grab my arm in delight.  Sometimes, she would put her arms around me and hug me.  When I won a decent sized bet, she also grabbed my arm.  I’m not a touchy feely type, but I didn’t object. 
As I said, she started giving me advice, making suggestions as to how to play my hands. Again, I didn’t really need this, nor did I ask for this, she just couldn’t help herself.  But she never once suggested that I do anything but play by-the-book blackjack.  She always gave me the correct advice.  And when it worked, she would squeal with delight and grab my arm. 
I knew the basic strategy, and almost always played it, but I have to admit, that some of the double downs on soft hands, and some of the splits, were a bit problematic for me.  They came so rarely that I didn’t always know them cold.  Then too, it seemed that anytime I did make the right play doubling down on a soft hand, it didn’t work out, so a lot of times I didn’t make that play, and just took a card instead.  A couple of times she caught me doing this and suggested—more like begged me—to double down (the right play).  As long as she suggested it, it worked.
I suppose you might be wondering if, with all the arm grabbing she did, and all the hugging, this is going to veer off into something tawdry.  But then, as now, I would never take advantage of a drunk female.  Now, I might offer them a ride, but I would never take advantage. 
As she started winning, she started betting more and more.  This too paid off, as she was still having her run of luck and was therefore winning more and more money.
This went on for awhile and then after a couple of nice wins, she put out the biggest bet she had all night.  I don’t remember what it was.  But since it was $2 table it was likely around $40, $50, I doubt it was more than that.  Still, it was a big bet for her, having sat there because she wanted to play for two bucks a hand (and consume a lot of liquor).
And thus, with that big bet out, she was dealt a blackjack.  It was the first one she had been dealt in quite some time, probably since before she started betting more than just a few bucks.  She squealed and jumped up in her chair and grabbed my arm.  I noticed that the dealer’s upcard was a 6.
I really don’t know what possessed me to do what I did then.  It’s possible that, back in those days, I might have had an adult beverage or two myself at that point.  Or maybe it was because she had been ignoring all my good advice, and she had been only too willing to offer me her advice.  But I got a little devilish right then.  As she was celebrating, I suddenly found myself saying to her, “You should double down on it.”
Now she had done some stupid plays before, but nothing that stupid.  But she stopped celebrating to consider it.  “What?  Really?”
I continued, although I knew I shouldn’t.  “Yeah.  I mean, it’s just an ‘eleven’ right?  You could double your win.  You’ll probably get a face card, and the dealer’s gonna bust anyway.  You should definitely go for it.”
I’m sure I felt at the time that there was no way she would do anything quite that stupid.  Giving up a guaranteed $150% payback while risking 100% of her bet—with only 50% more reward if she won?  She wasn’t that drunk, was she?
But she started thinking about it, and stopped the dealer from paying her off for the blackjack.  “I don’t know.  Should I really do it?  Should I?”
It was that at that point that I meant to say, “No, no, I was just kidding.  You don’t double down on blackjack.  Take the money.”
But somehow, it came out, “Sure, go ahead.  Do it.  It’s practically money in the bank.”
And she pondered it a few seconds longer and then—just as I was about to say, “No, no, I’m kidding, don’t do it,” she grabbed some more chips and said, “Double down.”
I think I kinda prayed there for her to win the hand.  I would have felt like shit if she had lost.  I don’t recall the details, I don’t remember if she drew a face card or what.  But she definitely won the hand.  She squealed and yelled like she had just won a million dollars.  She leaned over and gave me a really big hug.
Of course now, I was only too willing to take credit.  “See, I told you.”
She thanked me and kept squealing.  And then…..
Well, that’s all I remember.  I don’t even remember for sure if she left the table before I did or if it was the other way around.  I can’t recall if she ended up keeping all those chips or not.  I seem to have a vague recollection of her asking one of her cocktail waitresses buddies to drive her home at one point, which was a very good thing.
But for years and years, I had a story about the girl who doubled down on blackjack, and how I was the one who talked her into it.

(May 2019 addendum:  I should have noted that since this took place years and years ago, of course the blackjack paid 3:2.  This was in the good ol' days when nobody would even dream of offering 6:5 blackjack.  So, I suppose if this story had taken place in 2019, at a 6:5 table, her play wouldn't have been quite so horrible.  Still a dumb play, but the math would be a little better.)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Should I Have Led Out?

A recent session in Ventura was a profitable one even though I won only two pots.  It was the 2/3 and I bought in for the max, $300.  It had taken awhile to get into a game and they finally had enough players to open a new table.

Fairly early on I was dealt two red 7's in the small blind.  A player in early position opened to $20. That was a pretty big opening raise, but a few hands earlier, he had opened to $25.  I later found out that he didn't have a player's card, so perhaps he was new to this room.  Anyway, two players in front of me called the $20.  I still had nearly all of my $300 buy-in and the three players already in had either more than I did or were pretty close to my stack. So it made sense to call and set-mine.  Then the big blind shrugged and said, "Well, with so many callers, how can I not?" So he called too.

The flop came Queen-9-7, two spades (the Q & 7).  I was first to act, and decided not to lead out.  I was assuming the preflop raiser—or someone, at least—would bet and then I'd check-raise.  But the preflop raiser checked.  Fortunately, the next player, who we'll call The Beard, bet $40.  Then the guy on my right called the $40.

So I could proceed with my plan to check-raise.  My default there is 3X.  But with a call, I figured 3X + the call.  Honestly though, the bet of $40 was kind of small for the size of the pot, I briefly considered betting more.  But I did settle on the 3X + the call, so I bet $160.  The big blind and the preflop raiser folded instantly.  The Beard took a bit of time, He talked a bit, "Guess you have something, huh?"  That sort of thing.  He finally folded, the guy on my right folded instantly and I took in a pretty decent pot.

That was fine with me.  But afterwards, I wondered if I did the right thing.  No, I'm not questioning the size of my bet (though you are welcome to), but I wondered if I took too big a risk not betting out first.

In a five-way pot, there's certainly no guarantee the preflop raiser is gonna c-bet, right?  I mean, Ace-King isn't likely to c-bet.  A pocket pair lower than Queens would likely check. Not even sure Queen-Jack or Queen-10 would bet with so many in the pot. 

Or were the percentages on my side?  As I initially suspected, someone would bet, right?  I just needed one of four players to bet to be able to check-raise.  Being the first to check meant that I had four chances for someone to bet.

The thing is, with a board like that, so many draws, I sure didn't want to give a free card to four opponents.  Do I have to lead out to play it safe?

I should point out that the table was still new and I didn't have a lot of information about the players.  No obvious maniacs or aggros had revealed themselves to that point.

It worked out but did I do the right thing?

A bit later, with Ace-Queen of diamonds in early position, I opened to $15.  There were two players, including The Beard who was in the small blind.  The flop was pretty nice, all diamonds.  Always nice to flop the nuts.  Even better, The Beard did what I didn't do in the previous hand. He donked out.  In fact, he bet all his chips, $51.  Sweet.  I just called in case the other player wanted to come along.  But no dice, he folded.

The Beard said, "I think I need some help."  I showed my hand, saying, "I guess you do."  He didn't show his hand.  After the board bricked out, he just mucked, and left to get some more money.

Damn.  He never came back, and they opened his seat up 20-minutes later.  And I never won another pot.  That guy was my personal ATM.

I did get pocket Kings about an hour later.  But I was in the big blind, it folded to the small blind and we chopped.  With Kings, I consider that a major victory.

Eventually the table got short-handed and very boring.  So I called it a day and booked a $140 win. It was a pleasant ride home, but I kept thinking about whether I should have made the donk bet on the first hand.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Don's Incredible "Woman Said" Session

WARNING:  This is a "woman said" tale and is really, really out there.  I mean this is probably several times more salacious than anything I've ever posted before.  Those of you are who sensitive to this type of material may want to think twice about proceeding.

But I must say I am lucky that my friend Don was able to provide this tale from a recent poker session of his in Vegas for us.  It has been way too long since I've been able to provide you a story of the "woman said" category and I miss them.  I hope I can someday write a new one of my own, but this one from Don is definitely a worthy addition to that label.

So, with that fair warning, take it away, Don.

A very loud, somewhat drunk woman comes into the poker room and is first on the list because. She decides she wants my table, proclaiming it's the "fun table". One of the guys is not far from leaving and tells her as much.  She is talking loudly to her friend the whole time she is waiting and talking loudly is something she will do nonstop for her entire time in the room.

When she gets to the table we find out she is a stay-at-home mother of two, that she has also been a bartender and a manager at a chain restaurant/bar.  Also that she met her husband in college and that they've been together for 15 years and married for almost 9—this last fact is important later in the story.

Her mostly monologue goes on throughout the session, although a few other people, myself included, do join the banter.

Shortly after sitting down she says "shit" and then asks the dealer if swearing is okay.  Being that it is after 3am on a Friday night, he replies that it's mostly fine as long as it's not directed at other players and other players aren't upset by it.  So, she continues to freely use profanity.

She also likes to give people nicknames.  She is Mel, because her given name is Melissa and in 5th grade when "you can't spell and are still figuring yourself out, she dropped the 'issa' and has never looked back." Mel proceeds to nickname me "Red" because I'm wearing a red shirt.  I ask "well what if I'm not wearing a red shirt tomorrow and we play?". She said I'll still be "Red" because once she nicknames someone, that's it.

The guy next to me is wearing green as are two other players at the table who she calls "Drew" (short for Andrew) and "Mike" (because that's his name and she likes the name Mike).  But, my neighbor can't be "green" because she's already used shirt color for my nickname, so she gives him a choice of "Leprechaun" or "Green Goblin."  He chose "Leprechaun" and remained so for the rest of Mel's time at the table.

So, play goes on with Mel talking loudly and almost nonstop.  A new dealer, Reginald, pushes in.  He a good guy, but he is younger and less tolerant of cursing at the table.  He mentions this to Mel a couple times and she said she asked about it before he got to the table and was told it was okay—I then relayed to Reginald that she was told it usually wasn't a problem as long as no one minded and it wasn't directed at another player.  He was okay with that, although he did ask Mel to try to rein it in a little, which she did for a bit.

Then, Mel got beaten in back-to-back hands by Mike (a very small pot) and Leprechaun in a $50 or so pot with a lucky river.  Mel got a bit upset and said.  "Dammit, and I like you guys. If I weren't married, I could f*ck that green cock."

Reginald told Mel that the comment was inappropriate, to which she replied "it wasn't directed at anyone, there are 3 guys wearing green here and I didn't say which green cock I would f*ck."

Reginald turned a little red and Mike said "Mel I'd say if it's something that would embarrass Reginald, then it went too far."  While she laughed at that she was still a bit upset that this particular cursing was not allowed and again said something about f*cking a green cock.  At this point, Reginald, clearly fed up said "look you don't have to talk about f*cking green cock, so just don't."

Mel was a little annoyed but, acquiesced and while Reginald remained as dealer didn't swear.  However, she did say that she couldn't use any curse words or dirty language, you know, words like "F" (meaning f*ck) or "C" (meaning cock) or "A" (meaning ass).

Time passes and another dealer pushes in.  Mel, now a bit chastised, continues to not swear and use other more family friendly words for things—like "buttocks" instead of "ass".

As she going on in her monologue, Mel mentions that she chose our table because "there are 2 vag's over there" (referring to the 2 women at the other table) and she thought she "should spread the vag's around."

The dealer has clearly worked graveyard for a while and at this point indicates he is less particular about the swearing rule than Reginald, which ultimately leads to the next "woman said" moment.

Mel's monologue turns to her family.  She talks about her daughters, 4 and 6.  She talks about her husband and how they met at college.  She then says that they've been married almost 9 years and that means that it's getting close to their 10 year anniversary promise, "her buttocks."  Now, Mel is a little overweight and was wearing a dress, so I really didn't notice her behind.  But, I thought, getting a butt lift seems like a weird 10th anniversary gift, but hey to each their own.

I was wrong about the meaning. A few minutes later Mel says, "yup in a little over a year, my buttocks is losing its virginity.  I'm kind of worried about it.  I've heard it hurts, and that I'm going to need a lot of lube, but we promised."  After some discussion that it was natural and wouldn't hurt too much, Mel said "yep, I promised.  I figured at 10 years, the marriage is losing its excitement and that he'd need a new hole.  So, I figured that the ass would keep him from screwing around with other women.  I'm not thrilled about it, but if it keeps him interested, then it's better than the alternative.  I guess anal can save your marriage."

Don's story ends there.  Apparently this got a laugh and everyone moved on.  Perhaps Don (or even yours truly) wil run into Mel a year from now and find out how it went.

Thanks for the great story, Don!