Monday, November 11, 2019

The Answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything

My session at Ventura was a real roller coaster ride, full of craziness. I mean flopping quads should make for a profitable session, right?  Except—then I got pocket Kings.

After a few weeks of high winds and deadly fires, it was an absolutely picture perfect day in Southern California.  In fact, it was actually too hot.  Definitely unseasonably warm for November.  I mean, I made my usual pre-poker session stop at the Costco food court, which was extremely crowded.  This food court is outside, and the lines were backed up into the parking lot, highly unusual.  I was standing in the direct sunlight, and the sun beating down on my back was actually bothersome.  Still, I was able to obtain my traditional pre-game meal (call it my version of a tailgate party, if you will) of a jumbo hot dog and a slice of pizza.

The poker room was weird.  The parking lot was fairly empty.  There were a bunch of games going and long lists but they weren't opening any new tables.  My thought was that they had sent too many dealers home because it was quiet, then got busier, but I overheard  them say that five dealers had called in "sick". I bet they were just sick of staying inside and wanted to enjoy the great weather.  I guess maybe unlike Vegas they can't call in extra board dealers.  So I had to wait over 45 minutes to get seated.

The table I finally made it to was a rather fun table.  I got a big surprise from one of the dealers—a dealer I was seeing for the first time, I believe—early in his down.  A player had put out a bunch of chips to bet, which included some $5 chips and a couple of $1 chips.  The other player asked for a count.  The dealer broke it down and said, "42—The answer to life, the universe, and everything."  OMG.  I couldn't help cracking up and smiling at the reference.  In all the times I've played poker, I never heard anyone—dealer, player, anyone—make that reference about a $42 bet before.  Admittedly, $42 is not a very common bet, but still.

If you don't know that reference, you need to familiarize yourself with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by the late, great Douglas Adams, in at least one of its many forms (radio series, TV series, movie, novels, you name it).  Just brilliant science fiction humor.  I have to give a shout out to my long-time pal Norm, who I made infinite Vegas trips with back in the day, for introducing me to this brilliant series.  At least one of our drives to Vegas was taken up with the two of us listening to the original radio series of Hitchhiker's Guide (it's original format).  We laughed all the way to Vegas, I assure you.

The dealer gave me an acknowledgement for getting the joke, and said, "Only one gets it huh?"  The player on my right had initially acted like he didn't get it, and questioned how 42 could be the answer to the ultimate question and the dealer, while smiling at me, just repeated that 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything, and made some reference to the other guy not knowing the origin.  Then the guy said he did get it, he was just protesting that the it wasn't really the answer.  But I suspect he was just trying not to look ignorant, since no one who knew the reference would dispute it.

Another time, a player was about to get up to use the restroom.  "I have to pee," he said as he stood up.  But the dealer slid a "missed small blind" button to him.  So he said, "Well, I better wait then."   But he reiterated that he really did have to go and it was not easy.  So a few players and the dealer started making amusing references.  "Did I ever tell you about the time I went to Niagra Falls?"  "Yeah that water is really impressive." Other players having been to Niagra  Falls too.  "There was the time I couldn't fall asleep because of this really bad leak in the bathroom.  Drip, drip, drip."  One guy made "woooshing' sounds.The guy was struggling to laugh while he strained to hold out….and unfortunately for him, he liked his hand and played it all the way through.  But he managed to avoid having an accident at least.

There was one other funny thing at the table.  At one point (still the same dealer this whole time), a player made a big bet on the turn.  The King-Queen-Jack of spades were all on the board, with some offsuit low card.  The other player tanked and then folded.  I said to the guy who won the pot, "Show the Royal."  He ignored me and slid his cards to the dealer face down.  I said, "No Royal?"  He said, "I wouldn't show even if I did have it."  The dealer said, "You wouldn't show a Royal flush?"  "No, why should I?  There's no bonus for it."  I said I would show it for sure….and take a picture of it.  I mean, I've still never had a Royal flush.  Another player said he'd had a couple but not in many years.  The dealer said he'd never had one and he plays poker nearly every day.  I asked him how many he's dealt.  He wasn't sure, but he had dealt some.

Well, I swear, the very next hand, after the turn, there was a possible Royal out there.  The dealer and I started laughing (after the hand was over).  He said, "Can you imagine if I dealt a Royal right after we were just talking about it?"  I agreed that would be sensational.  And I swear, for the at least three more consecutive hands, there was a possible Royal on the board.  It was incredible.

Anyway, on to the poker.  I was definitely not card dead. I called $15 with pocket Queens.  When the flop came Ace-high I called a c-bet but then there was big raise so I let it go.

Then I got pocket Jacks.  There was one limper so I made it $15. There was a call and a short stack shoved $39. I called and the other guy called.  The board bricked out for me—and everyone else.  The flop was King-high and both of us with chips just checked it down.  My Jacks held up against Ace-Jack (the short stack) and Queen-Jack.  Well, for sure I wasn't going to catch any more Jacks on that hand—but hold that thought.

I had Ace-10 off on the button—but because of the way they do it in CA rooms, I was also the small blind for this hand.  I just completed and six of saw a flop of King-King-Queen.  There was no betting.  An Ace on the turn caused someone to bet $15, which I called and we were heads up.  The river was a Jack giving me Broadway. It checked to me and I bet $30 but didn't get a call.

I was now up to about $340-$350 (from my $300 buy-in in this 2/3 game).  Then I got pocket 10's.  It folded to me in late position so I made it $12 and got a couple of calls.  The flop was 10-5-4, two clubs. It checked to me and I bet $25, both players called.  Another club hit the turn.  It checked to me again and I bet $45.  The next guy folded but the short stack (same guy who shoved into my JJ hand—he kept rebuying for $100) called.  He didn't have many chips left and I thought it was odd that he didn't just put them all in there.  I hated the river card which was another damn club.  Of course the guy put all the rest of his chips in.  It was only around $30 or so and I just couldn't fold for that small a bet, considering the size of the pot.  Besides, I did have the 10 of clubs, so I actually did have a flush.  Maybe it was good?

Nope.  He showed the Ace of clubs (and some other highish card, not a club).  Yuck.

I had been up some before that hand and now I was down to around $240 or so.

Then I got pocket Jacks again.  Before it got to me, a guy raised to $30.  He had a huge stack, had me well covered and hadn't really been playing crazy so his making a big bet like that seemed odd.  Then another guy with a somewhat smaller stack (but more than me) called.  Well it seemed like I had a pretty good reason to call so I did.  Another guy called as well and it was a $120 pot preflop.

So imagine my reaction when I saw the flop.  Jack-Jack-9.  Bingo!  Yahtzee!  Yabba-Yabba-Do!  I guess you could say the flop hit me.  I tried to act disinterested.  Now, I just had to double check my cards to make sure I hadn't made a ghastly mistake.  As nonchalantly as possible I sneaked another look at my hole cards, just to make sure I hadn't mistaken QQ for Jacks, or perhaps I was thinking of my last hand.  Nope, those two other Jacks were still there. I've flopped quads before but it is very rare and very wonderful thing. Before I could give it much more thought, the preflop raiser kindly put out a $35 bet.  And the next guy called the $35!  Oh lucky day.  I of course just called.  The other guy folded.

Now at this point I had to start wondering if the bad beat jackpot was in play.  Maybe the first guy was just c-betting with an Ace-King type hand, but for sure the guy who called him must have something?  Something good enough to turn into a jackpot?  One could only hope.

Not sure if I've explained how they've changed the BBJ in this room.  Used to be it was always Aces full of Jacks or better beaten by quads or better.  It still is, but at odd hours, they make it a super-jackpot.  If quads are beaten by quads during those hours, the total payout is $100K.  It has to be quads vs quads.  If quads are beaten by a straight flush, no super-jackpot.  Of course, the "regular" jackpot is always on, which is a progressive that starts at $10K.  It was up to $23K when I got there this day.

And at this point in time, the super-jackpot was in effect.

So if someone had pocket 9's….well if somehow they hit their one outer, they'd still lose the pot but win $50K for the super-jackpot.  I'd settle for $25K (and the pot).  Now let's say the guy who opened to $30 had pocket Aces.  If he caught an Ace on the turn or the river, Ace's full of Jacks would qualify us for the regular BBJ.  And if by some total miracle, he caught runner runner Aces, I'd actually be on the losing side of the super-jackpot for a cool $50K.

Of course that was all just fantasy.  I certainly couldn't count on that and it really didn't affect my play, because if someone had a hand that potentially could mean a BBJ I really didn't have to worry about them folding.

Anyway, the river was a 10.  Wouldn't it be nice of one of those guys had King-Queen at least?  But they both checked.  Now I wasn't sure what to do.  As I've commented before, you don't get a lot of practice playing out-and-out monsters.  I decided to just check and make sure I gave them both a chance to catch up.  Was that wrong?  In hindsight, I think maybe a very small bet might have been better.  But I dunno—if I put out $35-$40, considering the size of the pot, it would sure look suspicious.

The river was another 9.  Now it truly was possible for that BBJ to be in play, if one of those guys had pocket 9's. But wouldn't someone with 9's full of Jacks on the flop and turn have bet the turn?  You would think so.  Or at least bet the river?  Because they checked to me, sadly.  I tried to come up with a bet they could call that would get me some chips but wouldn't look too suspect.  I put out $65.  The first guy (the preflop raiser) folded quickly but the other guy tanked for awhile….but folded.  Damn.

Well, unlike that guy who said he wouldn't show a Royal, I proudly (though somewhat disappointedly) flipped over my cards.  There was a lot of oohs and ahhs with everyone talking about the possibility of the BBJ, all the things I've mentioned already. Neither of the other players with cards revealed their hand.  I suspect the raiser had Ace-King, and the other guy had a pocket pair.  Maybe Kings or Queens?  But would he have folded Kings or Queens for $65?  Maybe a smaller pair, 8's or 7's?  I'll never know.

That gave me a nice $120-$130 profit.  So of course, I had to get the dreaded pocket Kings. I opened to $12 and it was three-way.  The flop was ugly.  Not only was it Ace high, but it was all hearts.  However, I was holding the King of hearts, giving me the nut flush draw.  I bet $25 and the next guy made it $50.  The other guy folded and I called.  The turn was a blank and I checked, the other guy bet $65.  Jeez.  My Kings were likely no good, but I still had the draw to the nuts.  I called.  No heart on the river, it was another brick.  I checked and so did the other guy.  He showed Ace-7 of diamonds.  So he didn't beat me with a flush, just Aces.

In the big blind, I got 7-deuce.  No one raised, six of us saw the flop.  It was Jack-7-7.  I checked and called $6, down to three-way.  I bet $20 on a blank turn and didn't get a call.

That was the last hand I played.  The trip 7's got me a little bit over break-even.  A profit of $10.  Seems like you ought have a better overall result on a day where you flop quad Jacks.  Oh well.


  1. I remember the time we waited in line at the A Change of Hobbit in Santa Monica to get Douglas Adams to sign our copies of his books (which thankfully were not hurt when my basement flooded). I was amused to note that Mr. Adams wore an analog wristwatch.

    1. Thanks, Norm. I guess I'm primitive....I still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

  2. I think it was back in the 90s a group of hackers named themselves Group 42. Yes, it was a reference to the Hitchhiker's story.

    1. Makes sense. I wonder if they wore digital watches (see Norm's comment above).

  3. I've never personally had a royal in live play (or video poker), but twice in one night when I was playing 3-6 limit holdem at my local casino the final board was a royal. One of those times a player bet and one of the remaining players folded.

    1. OMG, that's crazy. Especially the part about the players folding to a bet. i have seen players actually fold when the board was absolutely the nuts before, but never when it was a Royal. How in the world could the other players miss that???? What are the folding to? A Joker????

  4. it is possible your mystery man may have been right- and 42 is not the answer. See "restaurant at the end of the universe"