Tuesday, March 31, 2020

My Last, Unpublished Ante Up Column

This is the last column I wrote for Ante Up.  The last so far, that is.  Hopefully poker will return and there will be more to write about in the near future.  But as I post this, I would normally be sending off a column for the May issue right now, but I have not written a column for the May issue.  There will be no May issue of Ante Up, it's been cancelled.

There is no April issue of Ante Up, either.  I wrote a column for it which I sent in a month ago.  But seeing as how there are no poker rooms operating anywhere in the U.S., the editors decided there was no point in printing up an April issue, since most of the circulation of the magazine is the copies they distribute to poker rooms for free.

But they did have all that content that the columnists submitted, including my contribution.  They did publish that content on the Ante Up website.  You can find my column here, or below.  Actually, I dunno if they published everything that was submitted for the April issue, I only know for sure they published my column.

So here is my column that you will not find in any poker room anywhere, if you can even get into a poker room, which currently, you cannot.

Before you read it, if you are going to, let me explain.  Around this time of year, I do previews of the Vegas summer poker series being held around town simultaneously with the WSOP.  As my deadline last month approached, I knew I had to get started--if at all possible--on the previews.  There generally are seven rooms that run series, so in a perfect world I would be able to split them up, three or four in April, the others in May.  The last thing I want is to have to do all seven in May, I wouldn't be able to do justice to any of them.  Unlike my regular blog posts, I can't make my column as long as I want, I have a strict word limit.

So I begged all the room managers and TD's at the rooms for their schedules.  Even a rough draft, one that hadn't received final approval, would be ok, so I would have something to write about and be able to spread everything out over two columns.  Plus, if none of them showed up for the April issue, I'd basically have nothing to write about for that issue!

Well, the folks at Orleans, Venetian and Golden Nugget, bless them, came through for me and I had my column.  At the time I wrote this, I knew there was a chance that maybe world events might possibly impact Vegas summer, but I had to write as if nothing would change.

So I want to thank the managers of those rooms for helping me out.  And now I am presenting a column--and who knows if anything I wrote is relevant.  Are any Vegas summer series going to take place?  All I can say is that as I post this, I have not heard officially of one cancellation of the Vegas summer events. And as of now, the WSOP has not been cancelled or postponed.  Will it be?  I'd say there's a pretty good chance.

So it might be sad to read this, and I'll understand if you want to skip over it, seeing all the events I talk about that will likely not take place.  But perhaps it will make you feel nostalgic for a time when things were normal and we could all be looking forward to a regular summer of Vegas poker. And maybe there will be a miracle and these events all will take place?

With that, here is my column.  I usually say "Enjoy!" before posting these columns but I'm not sure any of you can.  Note:  I'm including the editor's note from the website.

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Editor’s note: Ante Up refrained from publishing its April issue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While most of the news in the issue would have been obsolete, we are publishing online what we deem still newsworthy. There’s no predicting the future so while we may be mentioning some upcoming events, there is a very good chance they will be canceled as well. So, be sure to double check with poker rooms before returning to them.
The Orleans Summer Series was scheduled for May 29-July 7 in Las Vegas. It starts with a five-starting-flight event over that opening weekend (one on Friday, two each on Saturday and Sunday). It’s called Wild Deuces NLHE and has a $222 buy-in and a $222K guarantee.
Most weekdays at 11 a.m., the series runs a $150 tournament with a $25K guarantee. The evenings feature mostly disciplines other than hold’em, usually for $150.
The room is running its regular, hugely popular Friday night tournament, a $130 buy-in with a $20K guarantee during the series, starting at 6.
Two-day championship events with $400 buy-ins run June 6 for PLO, June 7 for HORSE, June 14 for Omaha/8 and June 21 for PLO/8. All of these have $50K guarantees. The $400 eight-game mix championship runs July 5-6 and has a $40K guarantee.
The two-day, $300 LIPS championship runs June 20. The $400 Seniors Poker Tour championship runs June 13-14.
The $400 NLHE championship has five-starting flights beginning June 26 and has a $400K guarantee, finishing up on June 29.
New this year is a Final Table Freeroll. All players who make a final table through July 2 are eligible for a $20K freeroll on July 3. Players who make more than one final table will start with extra chips. The first-place prize is $5K. The top 21 finishers will cash. See the ad on Pages 24-25.
VENETIAN LAS VEGAS: The Deepstack Championship Poker Series is slated to kick off May 4 and runs until July 26. There are numerous events with guarantees of $1M-plus.
The first of these is a $1,100 Mid-States Poker Tour event with four starting flights beginning June 1. The guarantee is $3M. Then a $1,600 MSPT event with three starting flights begins June 8 and features a $3M guarantee.
A $1,100 seniors tournament has the first of its two Day 1 flights June 15 and offers a $1M guarantee. The three-starting-flight $1,600 monster stack starts June 24 and has a $1.5M guarantee. There are two $1,100 Summer Saver events, each with a $1,100 buy-in and $1M guarantee. The first Day 1s for these are July 3 and July 7, respectively. A two-starting-flight $5K event begins July 14 and has a $2M guarantee.
A $1,100 pot-limit Omaha championship has two Day 1s beginning June 6 and guarantees $400K. The PLO/8 version with the same details starts June 28. The two-day LIPS event starts June 14 and has a $50K guarantee.
The two-starting-flight $1,100 Summer Kickoff event begins May 25 and has a $400K guarantee. There’s a $600 Epic Stack with five starting flights beginning June 19 and guarantees $750K.
Of course, the schedule is filled with plenty of shorter, smaller buy-in events, some as affordable as $200.
GOLDEN NUGGET: The Grand Series is supposed to be May 26-July 6. Once again, there are three tournaments daily. Throughout the series, a $150 tourney with a $25K guarantee runs at 1 p.m., except when displaced by a bigger event. Most evenings at 7, a $120 tournament with a $5K guarantee takes place. The
11 a.m. tournament is most often a non-hold’em discipline, usually with a $150 or $250 buy-in.
As in the past, the schedule on most weekends is filled by a huge multi-flight event, with three Day 1s each Thursday, Friday and Saturday and Day 2 on Sunday. These $200 buy-ins begin May 28, June 4, June 11 and July 2. Note: There are only two flights on June 11. The guarantees are $250K each, except for the last one on July 2, which has a $200K guarantee.
The $250 senior event runs June 20 with a $100K guarantee. The $1,100 senior high roller runs June 20-21. The $400 senior championship with a $100K guarantee runs June 21. A $250 seniors Omaha/8 tourney is June 23 with a $10K guarantee. The $1,100 Omaha/8 championship is June 15. There’s a $600 event with a $500K guarantee and three starting flights beginning June 25. The $1,100 HORSE championship is June 22-23.
SAHARA: The property at the north end of the Strip, formerly known as SLS, has restored the historic name Sahara and with it brought back poker to the remodeled casino. The beautiful room opened mid-February with seven tables and comfortable chairs that are getting rave reviews. Steven Pique, formerly of the Aria, is the poker operations manager.
The main cash game has been $1-$3 NLHE, with a $100 minimum, $300 maximum buy-in. A $4-$8 mixed game has been running fairly regularly, the minimum buy-in is $40. A $1-$2 PLO game with a $200-$500 min-max also is offered.
Promos included progressive high hands, Aces Cracked and a bonus for making flushes in all four suits. Players get $2 an hour in comps, which jumps to $3 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Call the room for information as the schedule evolves.
CAESARS PALACE: The poker room has begun offering promotions for cash games. The initial promo is the popular Aces Full. Players who hit aces full or better receive $100. That starts the clock and if they hit another high hand of aces full or better within 24 hours, the payout is an additional $499. A player catching a third high hand within 24 hours of the first hand receives $1K more.
The room is taking a $2-max jackpot drop per hand to fund the promo. That’s $1 at $10 and $2 at $30. That’s fairly standard for the rooms in Vegas. The switch to offering promos leaves Aria, Bellagio and Wynn as the only rooms in Vegas to not offer promotions for cash games.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

"I Don't Even Play Kings"

Well last Saturday, March 7, I played at PC Ventura.  At the time, I didn't realize it would be the last time I played live poker for awhile.  All the local and semi-local casinos are closed now, and who knows when they will reopen.  My blog output will likely get a lot lighter than it has been, and of course it has already been fairly light.  We live in interesting times.

Nevertheless, I can still talk about that "last" session, and so I will. There was one good hand to report. I also have some news and a couple of interesting stories.  Well, they're interesting to me, hopefully they will be to you.

First the news.  When I went over to the podium to add my name to the waitlist, I told him I wanted 2/3.  The (relatively new) guy working the podium asked, "Just 2/3 or 2/3/5?"  Huh?  That was a new one.  Without asking details, I reflexively replied, "Just 2/3."  Then I went over to look at the board more carefully.  I had already noted that there were four 2/3 games going when I walked in.  Now I noticed that there was also a column indicating that they were spreading a 2/3/5 game.  And they in fact had two tables of it, and at least 4-5 names of players waiting for it.   There were many more names waiting for the regular 2/3 game, and I was thus hopeful that they would start another table soon.

I was pretty sure I had never seen them spread a 2/3/5 game before.  I do remember that in the past, the sometimes spread a 3/5/10 game, but I hadn't recalled seeing that in awhile. 

While I was waiting I asked the guy what the buy-in was for the new game.  Not that I ever intended to play it.  I mean, you guys know me.  Can you imagine me playing a game where there is, essentially, a forced $5 UTG straddle every hand?  Not bloody likely.  Anyway, the min/max is $300-$600.  The buy-in for the 2/3 is $100-$300 and I always buy in for the max.

When I finally got into a game, I overheard some talk and it appears that they just started offering this game at the beginning of the week, and it seems to be fairly popular.  I just hope it doesn't displace the 2/3 game, as I have no interest in the bigger game.  Even if started getting more tables than the regular 2/3, it would be bad—it might make it harder and harder to find a good 2/3 game.  I hope the 2/3 game remains dominant.  Note: this was written before all the closures.  Who knows what will happen now when they reopen?

Well, I finally got into a game, right before they called down the list for a new game.  I was assigned a corner seat at the existing game, which had bad lighting.  Also the chair was broken so I couldn't adjust it.  And I have problems seeing the board from the corner.  So after a few hands, when the guy to my immediate left got called to that 2/3/5 game. I grabbed his seat.

I hadn't played a hand to that point, and as I moved over one seat, I looked down at a couple of Aces.  You might say "good seat change" but no one had yet taken my old seat so I would have gotten the same hand if I hadn't made the move.

On this hand, there had been a $6 straddle (UTG, the only spot they allow it).  And the next player called the $6.  Then the guy right before me made it $40.  He had about $110 or so left after that bet.

Nice.  That was an overbet to be sure.  I didn't know how the table had been playing and I'd never seen this guy before.  I've seen people overbet like that with the dreaded hand, but it more often is pocket Jacks.  Truth be told, I've seen people with Aces bet like that, as in, "I hate getting my Aces cracked."

My normal three-bet is 3X plus any limpers.  In this case it would be plus the two straddlers.  Oh and by-the-way, would my raise technically be a four-bet since the straddle could be considered a raise?

But I decided that $120 was enough without adding anything for the straddlers.  I figured I was unlikely to get a call from any of the players left behind even at "only" $120.  I assumed there was a good chance though that the guy betting $40 would call, because he didn't have all that many chips left, and unless he was just trying to steal with nothing, he probably really liked his hand to make it $40.

So I put out $120 and it quickly folded to the guy who made it $40.  I thought he said all-in.  But when the dealer said, "Sure you can go all-in," I wondered if the guy had said, "Can I go all-in?" instead.  This was my first clue that maybe he was somewhat of a newbie.  Any experienced player wouldn't have to ask if he could go all-in.  I confirmed with the dealer that he had indeed gone all-in.  So of course I called.  Although it wasn't necessary to do it right away, the dealer counted his stack and told me I need to add $30 to make the call, which I did.

The guy didn't show, so neither did I. The flop was Jack-high and dry.  It remained dry except that by the river there were two 8's on it.  I think we flipped over our hands at the same time.  He had Ace-7 offsuit for….nothing.  My bullets were good.  And I was certainly grateful to the guy by playing so badly and getting me off to a really nice start. Also glad that he had Ace-7 and not A-8.

He left to get more cash.  That was more good news.  Seriously, what the hell was he doing playing Ace-7 like that?  Once I caught his steal attempt (if that's what it was) he should have folded like a cheap suit.

Now the guy did come back, but after another orbit or two he got called into the 1/2 game.  Based on how he played subsequent hands it was obvious he didn't really know how to play and he definitely made the right decision to switch to the smaller game. I dunno if he had ever played poker before but he definitely wasn't ready for 2/3.  I almost felt guilty for taking his money.


I managed to win a whopping two more hands for the day.  About 45-minutes later, I looked down at two Jacks.  There was a straddle and a two callers so I made it $30.  Only one caller.  The flop was King-high and I c-bet $40.  He folded fast.

Near the end of my session, in my last big blind, I had Queen-Jack off.  No one raised and four of us saw I Queen-high flop.  I bet a whopping $5 (the pot was only $6 after the rake) and took it down.

Other than that, I was obscenely card-dead.  I think I only got one other pocket pair—8's that went nowhere.  No Ace-King or Ace-Queen.  Suited connectors?  One.  It was 9-8 and I was UTG so I just mucked them.  It was pretty pathetic.

As it happened, the guy who took my old seat a hand or two after I had those Aces noticed how few hands I'd been playing.  He had relocated to the other end of the table.  At one point he must have said something to the fellow next to him, because the fellow responded, "Yeah, he placed Aces once."  I looked over there and the first guy said to me, "No Aces or Kings, huh, sir?"  I just shrugged.

I didn't appreciate the comment.  He's giving free information to the other players—that I haven't played a lot of hands.  You say it should be obvious to anyone else at the table?  Well yeah, it should be.  But believe me I run into plenty of players at this room that aren't paying that kind of attention—why help them out?  It's one player to a hand, after all. 

There was a female player who did a couple of annoying and disgusting things. She apparently moved over from another table, with the waitress following her with her food order.  Apparently she ordered the Ahi tuna salad.  The waitress herself pointed out that the tuna seemed to be overcooked.  The player agreed and the waitress took it back to get it replaced.  Of course the women complained about being hungry the whole time waiting for her new meal.

Eventually the waitress brought her back a new meal.  The woman immediately picked up a leaf or two of lettuce off the plate—with her hands—to examine the Ahi, to see if it was cooked to her liking.  She said it was and then picked up a lemon wedge off the plate and squeezed lemon juice over her meal.  Again, she did this with her bare hands that had just been touching the cards and the chips. Has she not heard of the coronavirus? Even before the casino closed, it was in all the papers. It was never a good idea to touch food you are about to put in your mouth with your bare hands after touching casino poker chips.  But these days, it's a really, really bad idea.

Then after she finished eating, she made a call on her cel phone.  And she put it on speaker so the whole table could hear her call.  She was calling Netflix because she was having trouble changing her password.  Seriously?  She had to do this at the poker table?   First we heard the automated attendant thanking her for her call and telling her how important her call was to them.  Then we heard about 15 minutes of that horrific music they play when they put you on hold.  Then we heard her talking to someone from Netflix walking her through what she had to do to change her password.  Yes, we heard the Netflix person through her speakerphone. All this while she was playing poker!

It was annoying and rude.

Anyway, it came time for me to leave.  I had booked a $120 profit.  As he saw me racking up my chips, the guy who had commented earlier about my tight play said to me, "Leaving, sir?  No Aces or Kings?"  I ignored him.  But in order to get to the cage, I had to walk right by him.  So as I passed him, I said to him, "I don't even play Kings."

I had planned to add, "They're Ace magnets, haven't you heard?"  But I saw he had his face buried in his phone and didn't appear to have heard me.  So I didn't say it.

However, the guy who was next to him—the guy who pointed out that I played Aces once—laughed and nudged him and said to him, "Did you hear what he said?  He said he doesn't even play Kings!"

I was gone by the time the guy had a chance to answer, if he did.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Suppose They Gave a Poker Tournament & Nobody Came?

Poker & The Coronavirus

I am a victim of coronavirus. 

No, don't get me wrong.  I don't have coronavirus, thankfully.  But I am a victim of it, nonetheless.

More accurately, I am a victim of the hysteria surrounding it.

You see the other day I went to Walmarts to do my weekly shopping.  And a lot of items were just missing from the shelves. 

Even before I started shopping, I noticed that those disinfectant wipes that they usually have as you enter—you know, to sanitize your shopping card—were missing.  Apparently they were all out of them.

I wasn't in the store for five minutes before hearing an employee tell a shopper that they were all out of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and alcohol (the kind you sanitize things with, not the kind your drink).  And as I did my shopping, I saw that all those things were indeed missing from their shelves. 

Also missing:  water.  I mean bottled water.  All gone.  Mostly missing was hand soap, they had maybe 10% of their usual stock on the mostly empty shelves.  Toilet paper was available, but that section was at about 25% capacity.

It was kind of ridiculous.  Why this virus should produce a run (so-to-speak) on toilet paper is a mystery to me.  The virus is not known to produce gastric distress.  But perhaps the threat of the virus has a lot of people scared shitless, thus the stocking up of TP.  Apparently some people bought hand sanitizer as if to prepare for a year of shortages.  And people must be using those disinfectant wipes and alcohol to rub down every item in a 100 yard radius.  And I guess they think the virus will get into the water system and infect our water?

I'm not a doctor or an epidemiologist—and I don't play one on TV—but I don't think this kind of panic is anywhere near warranted.  I could be wrong of course.  Perhaps in a month, the last surviving human being on the planet will come across this blog post and get a good laugh at it.  But that seems unlikely to me.

I mean, I use Vegas as my reference.  Late last week they reported the first known case of Covid-19 there.  Think about that. If any place is susceptible to an epidemic, it's has to be Vegas.  Thousands of people flying in and out every day, from all over the world.  It's gotta be the germ capital of the world.  I can't count the number of colds I've contracted there.

If the virus was as bad as the panic would seem to indicate, by now every single resident of Vegas would be dead by now.  At least, everyone who spends a few hours a week in a Vegas poker room (or really any part of a casino) would have contracted the disease, right?  Those cards, those chips, they're filthy and germ-ridden.  You mean to tell me no one from China or Italy or South Korea or the state of Washington who has the virus (and presumably doesn't even know it) has found his or her way to a Vegas poker table by now?

And it seems to me that unless you're old (over 70) and/or have a chronic medical (respiratory) condition, it isn't that serious if you do get it.

But with a willing media needing something to hype, they are making it sound like this is the end of the world.

Thus the shortages.  Thus I am a victim.

My non-professional advice….relax

Now, I could be a victim of this virus in another way.  And that has to do with my job.  If you pay attention to poker Twitter—or any other place poker is discussed—you've no doubt seen some discussion that the WSOP could be cancelled this year.

Up until a few days ago, I thought this was a preposterous suggestion that could never come to pass.  I just never believed the health risks would warrant it.

Now I'm not so sure.  Seeing how the panic and hysteria have set in, I have a genuine concern that enough people will be scared off that they might just decide that it wouldn't be profitable to hold it this year.  I still think that's a long shot but I can't rule it out.  After all, conferences and conventions all around the world have been cancelled because of concerns over this virus. And they just cancelled a major professional tennis tournament because one person in the county (presumably not connected with the tournament) tested positive for COVID-19.

Needless to say, such a cancellation would be quite a blow to the poker world.  And if poker series in Vegas and elsewhere start getting cancelled, I wouldn’t have much work to do, would I?  (Yes, it's always about me).

I started thinking about this when I was writing my next Ante Up column last week.  In order to write it, I ended up begging a few poker room managers/tournament directors to give me an advanced peak at their summer schedules so I would be able to write about their series.  I got a few to review, and for the moment, all the schedules appear to be prepared assuming business as usual.

That means that, as in the past, a large percentage of the scheduled tournaments have guarantees.  And the guarantees on based on normal attendance, based on how many folks showed up last year.

I can definitely see a problem with that.

Now I assume if the WSOP does actually get cancelled, most of the Vegas series around town will be cancelled too.  I mean, those series are all based on the belief that every poker player in the world will flood Vegas to play in the WSOP and these other series.  With no WSOP, the poker players certainly won't be coming to Vegas in the numbers we're used to. 

But I started wondering what happens if they hold the WSOP and vast numbers of players are afraid to attend? That they stay the hell away out of fear. 

Most of the WSOP events do not have guarantees, so they could just run them and have smaller fields and therefore smaller prize pools.  They might just decide to forego the guarantees on the events they run that usually do have guarantees in order to insure they don't have any huge overlays.

I could see that happening.

But what do the other venues around town that run summer series do?  They pretty much rely on their guarantees to attract players, to compete with the WSOP and the other venues.  Guarantees are expected these days.

But what if, at some point, it becomes obvious that this summer, people are just not going to show up in the numbers that they usually do.  You can be sure that all these poker rooms around town that offer these summer tournaments around town are not going to just have overlay after overlay on their poker tournaments day after day.

At what point will they change things? After a big overlay or two?  Or before anything even starts because they see reservations down and hear from their regular players that they are staying away?  You can be sure that if there is still widespread panic over COVID-19 come May, those guarantees will be reduced or removed.

Since, again, this is always about me, let me just say that if they all do change their schedules and their guarantees at (near) the last minute, I would have the opposite problem I alluded to earlier.  Instead of too little work to do, I would be overwhelmed, changing details and guarantees on tournaments I already entered once.  In fact, I might have so much work to do at the last minute I'll be wishing the coronavirus had already taken me out.

Of course, it's not just the guarantees that will be affected.  Whole tournaments will likely be cancelled.  The summer is when you see a whole lot of mixed games/non-hold'em events run, not just at the WSOP but all around town.  They can offer them because the sheer mass of poker players tends to ensure that there are enough players in town who have interest in these events (which are much less popular the No Limit Hold'em tournaments). Some of these events typically do not have guarantees (though plenty do). But with a lot less people coming to town, can they even afford to run them if they will be poorly attended—even if they don't have guarantees?

Another thing to consider is that poker players look at all the schedules around town to plan their trips.  When can a week in Vegas (or whatever amount of time they have to take off) get them the most bang for the buck, i.e., the most tournaments that they want to play?  If they plan based on certain mixed game events, and also certain big guarantee tournaments, what happens if those events get cancelled?

It'll be a mess, to be sure. 

And if the venue decides to run events as planned, and sees they are getting hammered by overlays, how long before they do remove or lower the guarantees?  Obviously once a tournament starts, they can't (legally) lower or remove the guarantee.  But they can do it before hand (after a day or two of big overlays on their previous days' tournaments).  How much before?

Well, legally I think they can do it right up until the first card is dealt—assuming they announce that and offer a refund to anyone who wants to opt out before seeing the first hand.  But on a practical basis, what is enough "notice"?

As I said, people plan months in advance.  If players come to town and find out a day or two before a big guarantee is gone from an event they planned their trip around, there will surely be some upset poker players.

How would you feel if you were about to buy into a tournament with a huge guarantee only to see a sign at the registration window informing you that the guarantee had been removed or greatly reduced?

Or would it be the case that if this was necessary, the health news would be such that this was pretty much expected and no one willing to play would be surprised or disappointed?

Because that's what, at this moment in time, is what I think is most likely to happen.  The WSOP will take place, as will the other events around town. And they may have to take a look at any tournament offering a guarantee to see if it is still realistic.  And players will hopefully be understanding.

How much notice would you consider fair for a change or an elimination of a guarantee?

Of course, what we would all love to see is that everything gets back to normal relatively soon, in time for a very normal Vegas poker summer.  And I still think that is very possible, and perhaps even likely.  That's certainly what I'm hoping for, as I'm sure you are all (because it would mean the threat from the virus has either been greatly reduced or it turned out that it wasn't the threat some have feared).

I guess we'll see what happens.

In the meantime, relax, take a deep breath, don't panic and drink a Corona.