Wednesday, August 28, 2019

10-High Straight Flash

This was my second night in Vegas last month.  I played at the Venetian.  I actually played cash there quite a bit while I was in town. The reason has a lot to do with when I was there.  I hit town just a few days after the WSOP was over.  That's the deadest time for poker in Vegas.  As such, there were fewer games around town than almost any other time of year.

As soon as the series ended, Venetian started one of their high hand promos.  Between noon and midnite, they were giving away $600 every half hour for the highest hand of that half hour. As such, during that time, Venetian had the most games of any room in town, at least at the 1/2 – 1/3 level.  Some usually busy rooms were struggling to get more than a game or two going.  So it made sense to play there.

At the beginning of the year, the V made the switch from 1/2 to 1/3, so I bought in for $300.  Spoiler warning:  In the whole time I played there during this week, I never came close to catching a high hand.

In the big blind I had Jack-2 off.  There were three or four of us seeing the flop, which was Ace-Jack-2, two clubs.  There was no bet.  A third club hit the turn.  My Jack was a club. I called $10 and it was three-way. The Queen of clubs hit the river.  A guy bet $10, then the next guy made it $20.  I figured one of them had the King of clubs, the only card that beat me, but I called.  The other guy folded.  The guy who bet $20 proudly showed me the 10 of clubs.  He never showed the other card because by that time I'd flipped over my Jack of clubs and took the pot.

In late position I had 7-6 of spades.  There was a bet to $12 and a call.  With only three cards needed for the straight flush (remember that high hand promo), I called.  Jack high, two spades on the flop and nobody bet.  A 7 hit the turn.  The preflop raiser bet $20, I called, then the last guy shoved his last $27.  Obviously both of us called.  The river was a spade, giving me a weak flush.  After the preflop raiser checked, I just showed my hand.  I felt my flush was too weak to bet there.  Both the other players had Jacks, and my flush was good.

For the high hand promo, they use an out-of-date tournament clock and modify it for high hand information.  So there's a clock counting down how much time is left in the period.  Above that, they put they current high hand you need to beat to be the leading high hand.  So it might say "77733" or "AAAA7".  If it's a straight flush, it will say, "7-High Straight Flush."  This is all typed in by somebody as soon as they get the new high hand info.  One time, I happened to look at the clock and it said, "10-High Straight Flash."  That's not a typo (at least on my part).  They had actually spelled "flush" as "flash." 

Of course I found this amusing.  So I said, to the whole table but especially the dealer, "Look at the board, it says '10-high straight flash.'"  He glanced at it and said, "Yeah, 10-high straight flush."  So I said, "No look at it, it says '10-high straight flash.'"  He looked again, as did the entire table, and they all got a good laugh at that.  So one guy said, "Well I don't think I want to see that."  I said, "Really?  It kind of depends on who's doing the flashing."  I think most of the folks agreed that it might be something we'd be interested in.
The next dealer was a guy in his 30's or early 40's I'd guess, and he heard the announcement that "Moe" was being called to a game.  So he said, "Moe?  Where's Larry and Curly?"  I started laughing said, "You must be older than you look." He said "Of course I know the 3 Stooges.  Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk."  I laughed some more and he said, "And don't forget Shemp.  A lot of people forget Shemp."

It was getting near time for me to call it a night and I had a small profit in front of me.  I called a raise to $12 with pocket 7's.  It turned out to be heads up.  I whiffed a Jack-high flop.  He bet $15 and I was about to fold.  But then I remembered a little earlier in a similar situation I folded pocket 10's to his c-bet on a Queen-high board.  And immediately afterward I was wondering if that was a bad fold.  Why didn't I at least call one bet?  He could have had Ace-King (if not worse).  So this time I called the $15.  Then on a blank turn he bet $15 again.  It started smelling like he was just barreling.  I suppose I should have raised, but I just called.  On a blank river, he bet $25.  By this time I had done a decent job of convincing myself he had nothing.  When I realized the size of the pot, I figured I had to look him up. So I called. He just mucked, saying he had nothing.   

Well that got my profit over $100 and I was about ready to leave anyway.  But on the very next hand I was dealt two black Aces.  I opened to $10 and got a couple of calls.  The flop was Ace-high.  Well that was the good news.  The bad news was it was all diamonds.  I bet $20 and got a call.  Then the last guy made it $40.  Jeez.  Was I already losing to a flush?  I called and the other guy called.

The turn was the King of diamonds, which was really not the card I was looking for at all.  I checked. The next guy checked and the guy who had raised the flop bet $35.  I didn't like it, but I decided to call.  I was worried about the guy behind me of course, but if I could get away with seeing the river card for $35, I figured it was a good price to try to catch a boat.  Or quads.  Note:  This was near the end of the 30-minute period.  Throughout most of this period, the high hand was a relative low value full house.  But as this hand was being dealt, they put up a straight flush on the board.  So it would have been an actual pisser if I caught quad Aces and it wouldn't have gotten me the high hand bonus.

Fortunately, the last guy just called, and I was really, really wishing for the board to pair.  But the 8 of clubs didn't do me any good at all.  I checked, the next guy, who had been check/calling, now shoved for his last $53 and the other guy called.  Yuck.

It's not easy to fold a set of Aces but I didn't think there was a chance in hell my hand was good.  I assumed I was behind at least one flush, if not two.  So I had to fold.  Sure enough the guy who shoved showed a Queen of diamonds (and something like a black 10 or 9) for the nuts. The other guy didn't show.  I assume he had a lesser flush, perhaps he flopped it. 

The thing I was somewhat grateful for was the guy who won just called the turn.  He could have checked-shoved there.  With outs to the boat I would have been tempted to call.  I think that would have been a better play than what he actually did.
I think I played another two hands and called it a night, booking a $55 win.  Damn Aces.  Maybe I should start calling them dreaded?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Falling Into The Abyss

Have you heard about "The Abyss"?

That's the name of a tournament being offered at the Commerce as part of their coming tournament series. And it's unique.  As it says right on the structure sheet, "The Abyss seeks to become the deepest tournament in poker history."

Now, they are not making it the deepest tournament in poker history by starting with a humongous starting stack.  No, not at all. It's 20K to start off the tourney.  The buy-in is $360.

What makes this tournament the deepest in history are the levels on day 1.  Or should I say, "level" on day 1.  You see there's only one level.  It's 100/200 with a 200 big blind ante.  But that level remains constant for the entirety of day 1.  The blinds do not increase at all during day 1. All the day 1's (all four of them) will play exactly 8 hours (from 3pm-11pm).

Not only that, but the first two hours of day 2 continue at 100/200/200 for the first two hours.  So if you can keep your stack (or at least part of it), you can play a 10-hour level of 100/200/200. After that, the levels go to 20-minutes until level 25-28 (30-minutes), then levels 29+ are 40-minutes.

You can see the structure for yourself here.  You should definitely take a look at it.

What do you think?  I think my first reaction when I saw it was, "OMG."  Or perhaps it was, "WTF???"  It certainly is different.

I started thinking about the ramifications of the unusual structure.  It is going to play differently than any other tournament.  I mean for the entire first day (and then some), it's going to be more like a deep-stacked cash game than a tournament.  For all that time, there's no pressure on you to be aggressive to build that stack. You can certainly afford to be patient (really, really patient).

So figure a lot of folks would play tight.  If everyone did that, for the entire time, would anyone bust out?  Well sure, there are bust-outs in the first level of every tournament, just not a lot.  Not as many as there are in the 10th level, for sure.  And of course you will have some cooler hands that will bust even the tightest players, you know AA vs KK, that sort of thing.

But everyone is not going to just sit back and wait for Aces and Kings. And that wouldn't be the smart way to play anyway.  Be selective yes, of course.  No need to force the issue when you have plenty of big blinds to play with.  But the goal for day 1 would obviously to be to build up that stack.  And of course, no matter, people will bleed chips.  But going a few orbits without playing a hand, and just losing the blinds, will obviously be a lot less costly in this tourney than any other.

And no doubt, no matter the slow structure (at least for day 1), you can bet you will run into those players that you run into at any poker game you've ever played—the guys who love to gamble and who love to put pressure on you by being aggressive.  The guys who are willing to shove a lot to either bet you out of the hand or take their chances. In a cash game, these folks come prepared to dig into their wallets multiple times and keep reloading.

In this tournament, they can't quite do it, but they can re-enter the same flight one time.  So you may have people who are prepared to buy in twice a day for the four day 1's.  Ten buy-ins if necessary to score.

There's another interesting feature of this tournament I haven't mentioned yet.  You can buy in directly to day 2, for the first two hours of day 2, while the blinds are the same as they were for all of day 1.  So then the question becomes, why even bother with playing day1?

I mean, if you just show up for day 2, you will have the same number of big blinds as you would if you bought in at the beginning of day 1. In any other tournament that leaves registration open through the beginning of day 2, you will start off short-stacked, and the pressure to find an early double-up is enormous.  Not the case here.

Or is it?  Presumably, if you enter on day 2, you'll be facing some pretty big stacks.  Even though the blinds will be low, they'll be able to bet your off hands and you may just have to put your stack at risk anyway.  Now I talked to Justin Hammer, the Commerce tournament coordinator, via Twitter about his expectations for this event. Along with Matt Savage, Justin is the designer of this structure.  He is putting the "over/under" on the percentage of day 1 players who survive to day 2 at 50%.  That would make the average day 2 stack 200 big blinds.  Personally I think less than 50% will make it through but Justin is the expert.  In that case, you'll have half the average stack if you just plan to start on day 2, but of course they'll be many larger than average stacks (and of course some short stacks too).

So it seems to me if you are skipping day 1, you are putting yourself at a big disadvantage in trying to cash.  With so many expected to make it to day 2, this of course is not one of those tourneys where there's a payout just for surviving day 1, where you can bust out late in day 1 and get some money. However, they will pay the top three chip leaders at the end of each day 1 $360.  In other words, you'd get your buy-in back.  But only three players per flight get that.

Thus, if you are going to make it worthwhile to play this tournament, you need to score big on day 2, and the best way to do that would be to build up a nice big stack on day 1 during that 8-hour long 100/200/200 session.

But then you have to evaluate the day 2 structure.  You can't complain about the structure in a tourney that has the first level play for 10 hours can you?  Well….if you look at what happens after that, starting two hours into day 2 (right after registration closes), you see those levels are 20-minutes for the next 22 levels. Really, it's not at all a bad structure, except for the fact that it has the 20-minute levels.  Shouldn't a $360 tourney have longer levels?  Well the answer is, when you average out the length of the levels starting with a 10-hour level, it's very player friendly indeed.  But if you look at it from the standpoint of just entering on day 2, not so much.  It's all a matter of perspective. Of course, there's a $250K guarantee for this event, so that is a nice selling point.

One of the first things I thought of when I saw the structure was, this is set-up to be hugely favorable to the pros and the tournament grinders at the expense of the recreational players.  As much as we recs love the deepstack structures, it's true that the better the structure, the better it is for the better players.  In the long run, given enough time, they know how to extract the chips better than the amateurs.  This is extreme in that regard, giving those pros 10 hours to use that 100 BB starting stack to get the chips from the weaker players.

I decided to ask a well-known pro (and bracelet holder) about just that topic. I promised I wouldn't identify him but I'll bet you've all heard of him.  He agreed with me that the structure greatly favors the pros, but he pointed something else out that I hadn't considered.  He said the better regular players were likely to skip day 1 altogether because they'd have a better hourly waiting until day 2.  They'd more likely play a decent stakes cash game where they could make more money.  Interesting.

If all the good players don't show up until day 2, that edge they have from a deep, deep structure diminishes.  But if everyone just shows up for day 2, they'll all be playing a $360 tourney with a fast structure.  A bit ironic.

So I am really curious as to who shows up for this event, and when they show up.  Since this the first of its kind, no one really knows what to expect.

Will I be playing in it?  As fascinated as I am by the concept, I will not.  The thought of spending my entire weekend (Saturday, and then hopefully Sunday) at Commerce is not appealing.  Nothing against Commerce, it's an awesome poker room, but for me the commute is just awful.  I'd have to be there from 3pm to 11pm on Saturday and if I still had chips I'd have to make a return a return trip three hours earlier on Sunday.  Recall that the last time I played a two-day tourney at Commerce (here), I was kind of grateful that although I cashed, I didn't have to drive back down there the following day.

Also, there is no dinner break. In fact if you look at the structure sheet, there appears to be no breaks at all on day1!  I suppose they figure that with such low blinds the whole day, folks can afford to take their bathroom breaks during play and not lose much.  But squeezing in a dinner break that way seems awkward to say the least.

So why not just plan on playing day 2? Because, as I pointed out, I'd be facing a lot of bigger stacks in a tournament with a fast structure.  Not ideal for my style of play.  Actually the format for day 1 is ideal for my style of play, I suppose.  But I don't want to have to deal with the traffic to Commerce two days in a row when there's no guarantee I'd get a penny back on day 2.

Instead, I'll follow the tweets and see how other players react to this creative idea.  Even though I won't be playing in it, I think it's great that Justin and Matt are trying something so new and different.  Experiments like this can only improve the poker experience for players in the long run.  Way to go, Commerce!

Let me know your thoughts on this type of tournament.  Is there something I haven't thought of? 

Monday, August 19, 2019

14 Pizzas!

This is about my last Ventura poker session before my Vegas trip.  But poker isn't the biggest part of the story.  This is more about what happened before I got to Ventura.  No worries, I will get a little bit of poker in at the end.

To understand this story, I have to tell you about a bit of schtick, or a running gag, if you will, that I enjoy with my pals Woody & LM, who I've mentioned numerous times before.  Also mentioned before is that I like having a slice of pizza and/or a hot dog at Costco.

Woody & LM like the hot dogs and the pizza at Costco too.  Who wouldn't?  The hot dog is the best deal on the planet, I'm quite sure.  For a mere buck and a half (plus tax, where applicable) you get a good sized, quality, all-beef hot dog plus a 20-ounce soda, with free refills.  You might even call it a "jumbo hot dog."  At any food court I'm familiar with, the soda alone would cost more than $1.50, so it's like getting the jumbo hot dog for free.  A slice of pizza is only $1.99 and it's excellent pizza.

The other great thing about Costco—aside from the convenience of being able to buy a 25-gallon jug of mayonnaise—is that they sell gasoline for a lot less than the neighborhood Shell station.  When you live in CA, where the incompetent fools brilliant politicians who ruin run our state keep coming up with newer and higher gas taxes, that really helps.  One more tax increase and it will actually be worth it for me to drive from my home to Vegas just to fill up the tank.

Well, somehow, it got to be a thing with Woody, LM and me that whenever one of us was at Costco, either for gas or the food court (but not for the mayonnaise), we would inform the others.  Frequently, a photo of the food about to be consumed would be sent. We'd get a full report on how long the lines for the gas were (usually plenty long, since it's such a bargain, relatively, that is) or if the food court was crowded.  Or if we ran into any interesting characters at the food court.

For example, one time Woody & I were at the food court (because some of the mechanics we use to fix our cars are conveniently located near a Costco and we look for any excuse to indulge) and we were almost done.  A woman came over to us with some trash in her hand—like used paper plates, used napkins.  It looked like she was on her way to the trash can but she stopped by us and started picking up our used plates and napkins!  We said that wasn't necessary, we could bus our own stuff, but she insisted.  She said, "It's ok.  This is what I do."  And took away all our trash. To make clear, she was just another customer, she didn't work for Costco.  That was weird.

For some reason, I've always felt that "junk food" was the ideal meal before a poker session.  Why have steak when you can have a hot dog and pizza, right?  So I've gotten into the habit of eating at Costco on the way to my Saturday poker sessions in Ventura.  When the weather is good, it is really convenient because there is a Costco just about midway between my house and the poker room.  And it is just off the freeway so I don't have to go out of my way at all to get there. I made the comment about the weather because the food court at this particular location is outdoors.  On those rare occasions when the southern California weather betrays us, it is not a good option to stop there.  Fortunately, the Costco nearer my house has its food court indoors and I can stop there.

So to make a long story short (pause for hysterical laughter, at least from those of you still reading), this particular Saturday I was making my traditional Costco stop on the way to poker.  I had just gotten into one of the lines at the food court to order my food when I got a text from Woody.  It read, "At Costco getting gas.  Taking extreme willpower to NOT get a dog or pizza, or both.  I'm hungry.  I will keep you apprised."

Woody was just around the bend filling up his tank at the very location I was at.  I should point out that Woody tries not to get a hot dog or a slice of pizza at Costco because he is trying to eat healthier.  But he frequently gives in.  He always gives in if I'm involved.  I'm what's known as a "bad influence."

It was such a coincidence.  Of course I texted him back immediately, "I am in the food court line here right now!"

Woody responded with surprise and said ok, he'd join me for a slice of pizza.  "That put me over the top, Rob."

Well I suspected Woody would be awhile at the gas pump, so I figured I would just add a slice of cheese pizza to my order.  My thought was I'd be able to get the food, find us a table and already have his food there so he wouldn't have to wait in line.

That was the plan, anyway.

Meanwhile, LM, who was home, was seeing all these texts.  And she replied, "A clandestine tryst at the food court!"  Yeah, we were kind of stepping out on her.

Of course, my luck, I had  managed to pick the slowest line to get in, it just wasn't moving at all.  I was tempted to get into another line, but you know the rule about lines, right?  The one you are in is always the slowest, until you move into a different line.  Then the line you left moves the fastest and the one you moved to becomes the slowest.  I figured I'd wait it out.

Finally there was only one party in front of me, and I figured it wouldn't take long, it was just one lone guy, he's probably buying a hot dog or a slice of pizza, how long could he take?  Meanwhile, Woody had shown up and had gotten into a different line, and it looked like he was going to reach the counter before I did!

Well the guy in front of me was actually picking up an order that had been phoned in.  So he was waiting while they got it.  The girl brought out four or five whole pizzas.  She had to open the window to hand him his pizzas.  He took off, and I moved up to the counter.  The girl said, "Oh no, he's coming back.  He had to make two trips.  He ordered fourteen pizzas."

Fourteen pizzas? Talk about running bad.  Not only did I pick the slowest line, but then the guy in front of me had to pick up fourteen damn pizzas. I had to wait for him to return after dropping off the first part of his pizza order in his car.  It took awhile.  Parking at any Costco is not easy.  He returned to see the rest of his pizzas waiting for him but get this….now he had to pay for them!  I would have thought a big order like that (over $140) would have to be paid for in advance when the order was placed.  Otherwise, what if he didn't show up?  Also, they gave him at least five pizzas before he paid for any of them, what if he just took the five pizzas and took off without paying?  Man, are they trusting at Costco!  Imagine if his credit card had gotten declined!

I got to the window about two seconds before Woody was about to get to his, so I placed the order.  We found a table in the shade and started to enjoy our meal.  We were sitting next to an elderly woman, whose husband finally joined her with their food.  Woody and I were trying to calculate how many people were going to that party with 14 pizzas. Those are huge pizzas and one could feed at least three adults even with very healthy appetites.  So if it was all adults, it could easily feed 42 people, if not more.  If there were kids involved, figure it could be closer to 55-60, right?  I mean so many people were going, why didn't they invite us?

Woody is a very sociable guy and he started chatting with the guy next to us.  Turned out they had mutual hobbies and Woody pretty much got this fellow's life story out of him in just a few minutes. By the time our lunch was over, the two of them were practically lifelong buddies.  I later joked with LM that Woody had invited the couple over to dinner later in the week.  And then the man started telling us that he was delayed getting his food because a fellow in front of him was getting 14 pizzas!  So it turned out that this guy had been standing right behind me in the line the whole time.

When Woody got up to refill his cup, I noticed there was a text from LM for both of us.  It was a voice text (we tend to use voice texts a lot).  So I started to listen to it.  I believe the old guy hadn't arrived yet so it was just the older woman sitting very near to me.  I start playing LM's voice message and I hear, "So you guys are having a nice lunch while I'm stuck here working my f***ing ass off!"  Gulp.  I immediately stopped playing the recording but it was too late.  I dunno if the woman heard it but it was certainly loud enough that she could have.  What kind of friends must she think I have?

The lady at one point wandered off to get more soda, and didn't return promptly.  Her husband went looking for her explaining that she has some mental issues and sometimes forgets where she is or where she is going.  Ooops.  Fortunately he found her and all was well.

Well, eventually Woody and I went our separate ways and I made it to the poker room. It was 2/3 and I bought in for $300.  I raised with Ace-King, got two calls.  I c-bet on an Ace-high flop and took it down.

Next hand I limped in from early position with Ace-10 of clubs, it was 6 or 7 ways.  The flop was not bad, Ace-10-10.  I checked but it checked around.  The turn was a 9 and someone bet $10, I just called and there were still four of us left in the hand.  The 8 of diamonds put three diamonds on the board, which I liked.  It checked to me and I bet $25.  I did get one call.  He mucked when he saw my boat but he said he had a straight.

Then there was a long stretch where I bled chips, getting playable hands that didn't pan out.  Finally, I called $15 with pocket 4's and it was three-way.  The flop was Ace-4-3.  The preflop raiser bet $15 and I just called.  The last guy to act shoved approximately $100.  The preflop raiser reluctantly folded.  I of course called.  He had Ace-10.  My set held up.

I had King-Queen of hearts on the button.  There was a straddle (UTG) and then a raise to $15.  I called. It was three-way.  The flop was Queen-9-3, rainbow.  The preflop raiser, who happened to be the table's designated aggro, shoved his last $65.  I called and the other guy folded.  There was another 9 on the turn, but that obviously wasn't his card.  A blank hit the river and when I showed my King-Queen he mucked and left the game.

I left with a $90 profit and a story about 14 pizzas.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"You Want to Give Him Money?"

This was my first night in Vegas and my first session of the trip.  It was most notable for an incredibly stupid play I witnessed, followed by a hand with pocket Kings and what I think is a gaming violation.

I was at Caesars playing 1/2.  I bought in for $200 as per usual.  I'm sorry to report that Caesars is still using those damn $2 chips I've bitched about in the past.  I hate them.  And their usage seems to be spreading.  Later in the trip I played at Venetian and they are using them there now too.  My guess is they bought a ton of them years ago to use for the rake, but now that the rake at virtually every Vegas poker room maxes out at $5, they really don't need them for that any more.  So rather than retire them, they are using them in play.

Anyway, it was a rather dull game, not too much action but it was just what the doctor ordered.  I was really tired from the drive up and from the packing and unpacking for the trip.  The act of packing suitcases and packing the car really takes a toll on my chronic back issues.  And that long drive to Vegas isn't as much fun as it used to be.  So I knew it was going to be a short session.  In fact, if not the fact the fact that I was only going to be there seven nights (a short trip by my standards), I might have decided to skip playing that night.  But I couldn't afford to waste a night.  So I picked Caesars because of all the rooms on the Strip, I figured that one required the least amount of walking from my car to the poker room.  Since I was tired, I appreciated the fact that it wasn't a wild game that would require more concentration than I could produce this evening.

Early on I had pocket 6's in the big blind and called $10.  It was three-way. The flop was King-high and I whiffed.  But no one bet.  The turn was a second spade and still not a 6.  Again, no one bet.  The river was the King of spades.  The preflop raiser bet $15.  It smelled fishy to me.  If he had a King, why didn't he c-bet the flop?  Surely he would have.  And did he really luck into a back-door flush?  I suppose it was possible but it seemed unlikely.  So I thought it was worth a call.  He said, "I have nothing," and waited a few beats before finally showing his hand, Jack-8 offsuit, which matched nothing on the board.  My 6's were good.  Also worth knowing he raised preflop with Jack-8.

To introduce this next hand, I have to describe I hand I wasn't involved in.  There was a guy at the table I had already thought was a bit of jerk and this hand totally proved it.  I don't really know why I had already come to that conclusion but there was just something about him, the way he was reacting to results that seemed off.  And he had lost a big pot where he got caught in a bluff and didn't reload.  So he was playing with about a $25 stack for awhile, but he was able to win a pot or two to get up closer to $100.

Anyway, this hand was heads up.  I can't remember whether he had raised or the other guy had, but there was some king of raise preflop and so after the flop the pot was like $13-$15.  The flop came Ace-King-Jack, rainbow.  Neither player bet.  I noted that Queen-10 would be a pretty good hand to have.  The turn was a 10.  Neither player bet.  In my mind, for some reason, I was rooting for a Queen to appear so that Broadway would be on the board.  Don't ask me why I was rooting for that, I just was.  I guess I thought it would look pretty. 
Well, sure enough, a Queen did hit the river.  Damn it.  Apparently wishing for a certain card to hit the board only works for me when it doesn't actually matter to me, never when it does.  Anyway, there was no flush possible and so both players were obviously going to be playing the board.  There was no way anyone could beat it.  It was destined to be a chopped pot.

So the aforementioned jerk goes ahead and bets $10!  See, I told you he was a jerk.  The other player was steamed.  "Why the hell did you do that?  You want to give him money?"  He was pointing to the dealer.  Of course the dealer wouldn't get the additional rake this idiot was creating, the house would.

Then he said, "I suppose I should re-raise?"  But he didn't, he just called, they both showed their hands and of course they shared the pot, each playing the board.

Rarely have I seen such a bone-headed play.  So in this hand I'm about to tell you about, I knew I wasn't up against a rocket scientist.  It was finally time for me to get the dreaded pocket Kings, first time for this trip.  I opened to $10 and got three callers.  Considering this table, that was a lot of callers.  The flop was Queen-9-x, rainbow, and I bet $25.  Only the aforementioned jerk called.  The turn was a 10 and I bet $40, and he called again. 

Now looking at the board, with the Queen, the 10 and the 9, I started thinking that the last thing I wanted was to hit my set.  A deuce would sure look nice to me.  I mean if this guy had a set or two pair he would have raised for sure.  So I was wishing for a low card, the lower the better.

Of course, I only get the card I want when I'm not in a hand (see above).  Sure enough, a King hit the board.  I was confident I was ahead before, but now I wasn't so sure.  All he needed was a measly Jack and he had a straight.  Queen-Jack was certainly in his range.  I didn't have to worry about a flush at least, that was not possible.

Now his stack was up to around $120 when the hand started.  Between that and the hand where I saw him bluff off most of chips earlier, there was no way I was going to fold if he shoved (his likely play if he bet at all).  I'd pay him off.  So I guess I should have bet.  He might very well have paid me off if he just had a Queen.  But it was pocket Kings and with him only needing one card to make his straight, I couldn't bring myself to bet.  But he checked behind.  I showed my set of Kings and he reacted with disgust—like maybe he was mad at himself for not betting/raising an earlier street—and just mucked his cards.

I would be surprised though if he ever had a hand that could have beaten my overpair.  I suppose it's possible but I think more likely he was mad for not trying to take a stab at the pot earlier by raising me when I just had a pair of Kings.  But I'll never know.

I won a few more small pots and was able to cash out after two hours with a $100 profit.  And a 1-0 record with pocket Kings for the trip, so it was a good session indeed.

Now after I cashed out, I headed over to the Sports Book. I had been watching the Dodgers on TV in the poker room and when last I looked they were trying to rally from three runs down with a couple of men on base and a run in.  So I figured I'd find a seat and at least watch the rest of that inning.

But by the time I made it over to the book, I noticed the inning was over and they had failed to score any more runs.  So I kept moving.  But I did see something that I thought was unacceptable in the book.  There, in the front row, was a woman sitting there, watching the screens.  To her left was a small boy, no more than 6-7 years old, asleep.  And the woman had a smaller child, a little girl, lying on her in her chair, also asleep.

Now the book was closed for the night, so there were no ticket writers at all in the place (is that the right phrase for them?  I don't think they like being called "bookies.")  But it is my understanding that children are not allowed in the gambling areas of a casino.  They can just walk through a casino swiftly (accompanied by a parent, of course) but not loiter at all.  These kids were doing more than loiter!

Or does the fact that the book was closed make it alright?  Technically, at that particular moment, it wasn't really a gambling area.  You couldn't place any bets.  As opposed to say, sitting at a slot machine which would of course be a gambling area.

I guess I don't know if that changes anything, but it seemed wrong to me.  But then, I always wonder why parents bring kids to Vegas anyway.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Vegas Poker Scene—August 2019

Here's my latest column for Ante Up (or the version I submitted).  You can find it in your local poker room.  Enjoy!  The actual pdf of the magazine is still not online yet as I post this, for some reason.  I am assuming that means the shift to the new Ante Up website is eminent, hopefully.  But I know the magazine is out because I saw a copy in Ventura yesterday.  

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The Venetian hosts Deepstack Extravaganza III, September 2 – 22.  A $340 No Limit Hold'em DoubleStack kicks things with the first of its two starting flights on September 2.  Players start with 25K chips and play 40-minute levels.  The prize pool is guaranteed to be $100K.  This exact same event repeats starting on September 9.

A $400 MonsterStack has two starting flights beginning September 6.  Players get a 30K starting stack.  The first 20 levels are 30-minutes and then increase to 40-minutes.  The guarantee is $100K.

A $600 DoubleStack event with three starting flights begins September 12.  The starting stack is 30K, the levels are 40-minutes and the guarantee is $200K.

The main event of the series is a $1,100 Mid-States Poker Tour tournament with two starting flights beginning September 20. Players start with 20K chips and play 40-minute levels.  The guarantee is $250K.

A $400 Seniors event runs September 5, offering players 15K starting chips, 30-minute levels and a $20K prize pool guarantee.  Most of the evening events have $200 buy-ins with 9K guaranteed prize pools.  These include bounty and rebuy events.

Also in September, The Venetian will run two cash game promotions.  For the entire month, every half hour between noon and midnight, a random active player will be selected for a $600 cash prize. Additionally, players will be logging hours during the month to be eligible for a cash drawing to be held on October 9.  One drawing ticket will be awarded to players who log 100-199 hours during the month  Five drawing tickets will be awarded to those who log 200 or more hours. 

The regular tournament schedule has been updated.  Mondays through Thursdays at noon, a $150 NLH tournament with an $8K guarantee is offered. Friday a $200 SuperStack runs with a $20K guarantee.  Optional $100 add-ons after levels four and eight are available.  The Saturday tournament is the $340 DoubleStack with a $25K guarantee. Sunday a $300 rebuy tournament with a $25K guarantee runs.

Monday and Thursday evenings, a $125 Bounty tournament with a $4K guarantee and $25 bounties takes place.  Tuesday it’s a $200 Bounty tourney with $50 bounties and a $9K guarantee.  Wednesday a $125 rebuy tournament runs with a $7K guarantee.  Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays the tournament is a $125 SuperStack with a $4K guarantee.

SAM'S TOWN:  The popular locals joint on Boulder Highway is attracting nice turnouts for its two new weekly tournaments.  On Monday at 7 p.m., they offer a $60 Beat the Boss Bounty tournament. Players start with 10K chips and play 20-minute levels.  There's a $10 bounty on each player, plus a $15 mystery bounty at each table.  There is a $100 bounty for knocking out the boss, who moves to a different table every level. 

Saturday at 1 p.m., the $55 tournament has a $2K guarantee.  The starting stack is 10K and the levels are 20-minutes.  There is one $15 add-on for 5K chips available for the first hour.
Both of these tournies have been averaging 80-90 players each week.

Tuesday through Saturday at 7 p.m., a $50 tournament offers players 10K chips and 20-minute levels.  A $10 add-on for 2K chips is available. Every other Friday at 7 p.m., the $50 tournament is replaced by a $125 Deepstack.  Players start with 15K chips and play 20-minute levels. 

Sunday through Friday at 1 p.m. the $45 buy-in gets players 5K chips with 20-minute levels.  There is a optional $10 add-on for 2K chips any time during the first hour.  Daily at 10 a.m., a limit/no-limit tournament is offered for $30.  The first hour is limit hold'em, then the game switches to no limit after that. It's the only tournament of its kind in Vegas.  The levels are 20-minutes.

The most popular live game here is $2-$6 spread limit hold'em, with a $30 minimum buy-in.  A $3-$6 Omaha8 with a $30 minimum also runs daily.  During busier times, you can find a $1-$2 NLH game with a $100 minimum and $300 max.

There are high hand bonuses for both hold'em and Omaha.  Other promotions change regularly, call the room for details on the latest.

BINION'S SUMMER SERIES:  The $1,100 PLO Championship finished on June 21 with the top four players making a deal.  As a result, Jacob Corda of Alabama took first place for $10K, Ray Larouech of New York and Richard Chiovari of Chicago each took home $9K and Evan Shaughnessy of Denver received $8,400. The event attracted 42 entries, creating a total prize pool of $42K.

Aleksandr Shevlyakov of Russia won the $1,100 NLH championship on June 26, earning $72K. Hong Kong's Yunye Lu was runner-up for $44K and Wilfredo Carrion of Texas placed third for $30K. There were nearly 300 entrants and the prize pool was $289K.

GOLDEN NUGGET: Andrew Kivela of Vegas took home the $41K first place prize in the first multi-flight event of the Grand Poker Series in early June. The event had three starting flights a day for three days and offered a $300K guaranteed prize pool. The event drew 3,469 players creating a $537K prize pool, crushing the guarantee.  Chicago's James Battaglia finished second for $31K and Sacramento's James Purdie earned $29K for third.

PLANET HOLLYWOOD:  The top prize money in the $600 Ultimate Goliath Stack was split evenly between the top two finishers in early June.  Michael Lech of Arkansas and Rambo Halpern of Oregon each took home $36K. The event had 660 players and a $346K prize pool, surpassing the $300K guarantee.

ARIA:  England's Ben Farrell parlayed a last minute entry into the WPT 500 into a $155K first place prize on June 27. Farrell registered late into the last of the eight starting flights of the event, which was a turbo flight. India's Nikita Luther received $109K for second and South Korea's Sung Joo Hyun earned $75K for third.  The $570 event had 1,900 entrants and a prize pool of $966K.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Premature Ace of Diamonds

This is just one hand from a poker session up in Vegas last week.  It has to do with a dealer error and a player going on tilt as a result.  I was, arguably at least, the beneficiary of the dealer error.

I won't mention the room this took place, although it really doesn't matter.  This error could have taken place in any poker room in the world; dealers are, after all, human and there is not a one who hasn't made a mistake, or for that matter, this particular mistake.  That's why there's a rule for handling such errors, and as far as I know, it’s the same rule in every poker room.

The game was 1/3 and it was a fairly new table, both the other player and myself had been in the game since it opened.  In the cut-off, I limped in with Ace-7 of clubs.  At least one player had limped in already, maybe two.  No one raised and four or five of us saw the flop, which was 9-8-6.  There was one club, but more importantly, there were two diamonds.

Someone bet $10, and I called with my open ended straight draw, plus the back-door flush draw.  Two other players called and there were four of us left to see the turn.  The turn card was nice for me, it was a 5.  I didn't remember the suit afterwards, but it was neither a club nor a diamond.  I had the second nuts with my straight; only 10-7 could beat me.  The big blind, who is the other key player in this hand, checked.  So did the player who bet $10 on the flop, as did the other player. I was last to act, and I wanted to chose my bet carefully, so I was thinking for a bit.

Obviously there were two diamonds on there and it was very likely at least one of the players who thought the hand was worth $10 on the flop had the diamond draw.  And of course any time you have a straight with four on the board you are very vulnerable to getting counterfeited.  I ended up deciding to bet $40, which was just a bit under the size of the pot.

After placing my chips in front of me, I looked up and saw the big blind was upset, and motioning to me.  Now I was in seat 2 and he was in seat 6.  He was an older fellow and had seemed like a pretty friendly, pretty happy guy up until that point.  But he was motioning to me and said something indicating that I had bet out of turn and it was actually his turn to act.  Huh?  Hadn't he already checked, as had the two players behind him?

I started to say something like, "You checked," when I looked at the board and noticed that there were actually three, not two, diamonds on it.  And that one of the diamonds was in fact the Ace of diamonds.  But it was the last card out there, in the fifth spot.  The five of whatever was no longer the last card on the board. Somehow the river card had been dealt while I was making my turn bet.  I did not see the dealer put out the river card, but the evidence that she had was quite obvious.

I said to the guy, "This is my turn bet." The dealer immediately realized her error.  She said, "I thought you had checked."  I didn't have to insist I had not, she knew immediately that I hadn't.  So she called the floor, while the older gent in the big blind started to stew. I don't think he said anything at this point, but he was visibly shaken.

Fortunately the floor came over right away and the dealer explained the situation.  The floor ruled, as I knew he would, that the river card, the Ace of diamonds, was coming back, coming off the board.  Now I suppose he was going to explain that, after the action on the turn was complete, if the hand was still alive, the Ace of diamonds would be returned to the remaining deck, the deck would be reshuffled, and then a new river card would be put out, which of course, could conceivably have been the Ace of diamonds again.

But he never got that far.  Once he said the Ace was coming off the board, the big blind was just livid.  He flipped over his hand and you could understand why.  It was King-4 of diamonds.  In other words, the Ace of diamonds was absolutely the perfect card for him, giving him the stone cold nuts.  It was exactly the card he was hoping for.  It was the ultimate tease for him, out there for a second and now pulled back.

Anyway, he took the King-4 of diamonds, and threw them away.  I don't mean he mucked, I mean he threw them toward the dealer.  Not hard enough to hit the dealer, they just more or less hit the muck, just hard enough to let you know how pissed he was.

The other players in the hand folded in much calmer fashion, so I was awarded the pot.  I did feel bad for the guy, but his over-the-top anger made me feel less bad for him than I might otherwise have.  After all, he still could have called me.

The guy was expressing his anger toward the dealer.  I think he was just grumbling incoherently, I didn't hear him curse out the dealer or anything like that.  Maybe he said something about how the dealer should have been more careful.  Someone said to him, "Well everyone makes mistakes, she's human."  He said something like, "Yeah….but I've been losing constantly.  I haven't won a pot in two days." 

Meanwhile a couple of the players around me were talking about it too, quietly.  I said, "He could have called, he still could have gotten a diamond on the river, possibly even the Ace.  He didn't have to fold."  Another player, "he wouldn't have called your bet," meaning if the dealer had not put the turn out prematurely, he would have folded to my big bet anyway.  Well yes, I did bet big to deny equity to flush draws, that was my intention.  But here's the thing…I think if play had occurred normally, he would have at least taken time and thought about it.  He would have processed it.  In this case, his anger caused him to react without thinking. 

Despite the bad odds I was giving him, he might have considered implied odds.  If I was betting that big with a straight, perhaps if he hit his flush he could squeeze some money out of me anyway, it's not easy to fold a straight.  Also, he might have considered the possibility that someone else had a weaker flush draw and would call him if he hit his flush.

The thing is, he was never gonna see that Ace of diamonds on the river without having to call a bet on the turn.  It was a cruel tease, but he was not going to get to see it for free.  If there had been no dealer error, he'd have to consider my bet and then make a decision.  Again, I think he might have reasonably considered calling, especially because there would have been two players behind him, either one of whom might have called giving him better odds. Of course, one of them could have raised too, but that seems unlikely.

In fact, if you think about it, since I was always going to bet the turn, that prematurely exposed Ace of diamonds gave him additional information that he shouldn't have had.  Had things happened properly, he would have to take into account that even if he hit is flush, it would only be the second nut flush, and conceivably someone could have had the Ace-high flush.

But with the exposed card, he knew that no one had the Ace of diamonds in their hand.  It was in the deck.  So if any diamond hit the river now, it was as good as the Ace of diamonds.  Because either the Ace of diamonds shows up on the river (again) or it is in the stub.  A deuce of diamonds on the river is just as good for him as the Ace.  If he had had any concern that he could make a flush and lose to a higher flush, he now knew that was impossible.  And he shouldn't have known that and you could argue that the dealer's error hurt me more than it hurt him.

But the poor guy just flew off the handle right away, and didn't take any time at all to consider the situation.  As I said, he was an older guy and seemed to be a fairly knowledgeable player.  So I assume he knew that the Ace would be put back in the deck and could come out again on the river (however unlikely that would be).  Perhaps he thought it was now out of play and that he'd have one less diamond available to him to make his flush, making calling my bet even less EV.  But honestly, it didn't seem like he had time to even think about it.  He just mucked his cards too fast.

Well, it was unfortunate for him the dealer made the error, but he sure didn't help his own cause by flying off the handle and reacting without thinking it through.  So I guess he got what he deserved.

I feel a little bad, but of course we'll never know for sure if he would have called me if the hand had played out as it should have.

In any case, I am suffering no guilt for taking that pot.