Saturday, February 09, 2008

Chop chop




Last night at the Luxor I saw that rare species of bird, the Conditional Chopper.

Some background, for those who don't play in casinos regularly: Occasionally the pre-flop action is a hold'em game is fold-fold-fold all away around to the two blinds. Most poker rooms offer to let the players in the blinds agree to just take back their proferred chips, pretend that the hand played out, move the dealer button forward, and go on to the next hand. The only Vegas casino I can recall offhand that does not allow this is Mandalay Bay.

When I first started playing live poker, I was a purist on this point and considered it scandalous that we would consider not playing the hand. Over time, I learned why it's done. Basically, it's a waste of time. In order to make any money on a hand, two players must each have a hand they consider worth investing in. It's rare that both players in the blinds meet that condition. Usually either they both have trash or only one of them has cards that he likes. If they are forced to play it out (such as at Mandalay), usually a pre-flop raise by one player will end it, and if not, usually a bet on the flop will, or they both just check-check-check all the way. In each of those common outcomes, the winner profits $2, minus any house rake and tip.

Unwritten etiquette is that if you and the person you'll be making this decision with are going to chop, you do it every time, regardless of what cards you're dealt (though some will make an exception if they have, e.g., two parts of a royal flush, and there's a big jackpot they want a chance to hit--in which case they'll say something to that effect explicitly). I've heard that at least one room in town forces such consistency as a rule, but I can't remember which place people have said that about, and I've never seen anybody try to enforce it.

Personally, I don't much care which way we go. My default is to go for the chop, but if the other guy wants to play (maybe he's in Vegas for only a short time and wants to play every hand he can, or maybe he likes getting practice at one-on-one play), that's OK with me, too.

But once in a while, you run into somebody who wants selectivity. That's what happened last night.

We were playing shorthanded because several players had left all at once. The first time a chop opportunity arose, I was in the small blind. I was in the 10 seat, so I leaned around the dealer to catch the eye of the guy in the 1 seat, and asked, "Wanna chop it?" He grinned and said "No way," quite emphatically. OK by me. I had something dumb like a Q-4 offsuit, and tossed in the extra dollar. As I sort of expected, he raised by another $5. Fine. The flop missed me completely. I checked, he bet, I folded. He proudly showed the J-10 of hearts, giving him a flush draw on the flop. He said to me, "Sorry. Usually I would chop, but not with this kind of hand." That was my first indication that his intention was to agree to a chop selectively, based on his cards. He apparently thinks suited J-10 is too precious a gem to waste. Idiot.

Because of the noise level at Luxor and the dealer sitting between us, it was impractical to engage in conversation with him. I knew that he would eventually figure out that I was going to hold him to playing it out every time, now that he had set the precedent.

If I had been sitting next to him, I would have asked him, "So you're planning to agree to chop when you don't have a strong starting hand, but play it out when you do have a strong hand, is that right?" Presumably he would say yes.

Then I would ask him the question that had apparently not entered his thick skull: "Why on earth would I agree to terms like that, which always favor you?"

The next time the situation arose, I had Q-Q in the small blind. This was great, because I thought he might read my raise as being just revenge, not reflecting real strength, and play back at me with nothing. He called, but then folded to my bet on the flop, which meant that we each netted zero from the exchange. Soon after, the table broke up as we were moved to other tables.

Celebrity sighting




I played poker Wednesday night with Dr. Pauly, one of the uber-bloggers of the poker world.

I was at Mandalay Bay from 10:20 p.m. to 12:05 a.m. (according to my records). When I sat down at the back table in seat 1, I looked around the table and noticed that the guy in seat 9 looked an awful lot like the photos I had seen of Pauly. But with the dealer to my immediate right, I couldn't get a good look. Besides, when you've only seen someone in pictures, it's hard to identify him or her confidently. If I had been keeping up with his blog (http://taopoker.blogspot.com/) lately, I would have known he was in town, which would have made me more confident of my impression.

Anyway, now I know that I was right, because he mentions this session in his entry for Thursday:

I got up and walked back to the Excalibur. Insomnia struck and I couldn't
sleep. I headed down to Mandalay Bay to play at 2am. [Note: He's a little off here.] There was one 1-2 NL table running. I sat down next to a hot thirty-something chick from Southern California that was hammered. She slurped a frozen daiquiri from Ruby Tuesdays and kept asking the dealer, "Is this my big blind?"

She didn't have too many chips. But she was bleeding off $100 at a time.
She'd rebuy. Piss it away and dig back into her Gucci purse and rebuy again. The
accent told me she was from the East Coast originally. She had mentioned that
she played at the Bike on occasion and had lived in Los Angeles. She had a rock
on her finger the size of a Titleist and she had a fake tan. I could sense the
inner emotional turmoil that drove her to drink. She was the your typical Las
Vegas drunk girl, and the perfect example of someone you want at your poker
table. Rich. Reckless. Drunk.

Drunk Girl was the mark, but we only got involved in a couple of pots
together. She kept trying to buy me a drink. I was only drank gingerale, and she
questioned my manhood. I told her that I was higher than Snoop Dog at 4:20. She
let out a wicked laugh and asked me where she could score any pot. Our dealer
was a grumpy old white guy, and yet that made him crack a smile.

Then I got to tango with Drunk Girl.

Four of us limped. I had As-3s from the small blind. The fop was A-A-8. I
checked. Drunk Girl bet. I check-raised her for half of her stack.

"I don't like you!" Drunk Girl screamed. "I thought we were friends."

"You're from L.A.," I explained. "You're used to having fake friends who
always stab you in the back or fuck you in the ass."

Drunk Girl thought that was the funniest thing she had ever heard. She
repeated the line three times. I got a warning from the dealer for dropping the
f-bomb.

"What? Why he can't say fuck?" Drunk Girl inquired.

That slowed up the hand for about five minutes as she got into a drunken
debate with the dealer over what exactly is bad and what is acceptable.

"That's a stupid fuckin' rule," Drunk Girl said.

She also got a warning. We still had a hand to play. We had to verbally
reconstruct the hand for her to get her up to speed. Drunk Girl eventually
called my bet. The turn was a 6. I bet a stack of red chips. She sighed and
picked up her cards. She showed me an 8. I didn't see the other card. She called
for her last $20. I tabled my trip Aces which held up. Rebuy!

I won another decent sized pot with Kh-Qh. One player from UTG raised. The
button called. I had re-raised from the big blind. They both called. I decided
to check-raise the Ace high flop with two hearts. I checked. UTG bet the pot.
The button folded. I check-raised for his entire stack. He tanked before he
folded his hand face up. I just showed him the Qh and I raked in the pot.

I was running good until I lost a $400 pot when I got rivered by a two
outer. My kings got snapped off by threes. That sucked. I decided to cash out.
The table was not fun anymore. Drunk Girl had left the table an hour earlier and
was probably passed out somewhere.

I was there for much of Drunk Girl's time in seat 8, and clearly remember the "I don't like you anymore" hand. She kind of annoyed me because she was never paying attention (about half the time, a friend from whatever convention she was attending was sitting or standing by her, chatting about whatever (I couldn't really hear them from my end of the table), and she just tuned out the fact that there was a poker game going on that she happened to be involved in. When she first sat down, I licked my chops, because she was clearly an easy mark, but I never got a situation in which I could take advantage.

The only hand I remember playing against Pauly was this: I had Q-Q, raised, he called from one of the blinds. Flop was A-x-x. He checked, I made a standard continuation bet. He check-raised me. I folded the queens face-up. (Note: This isn't the same hand as Pauly describes above, unless we're remembering it very differently. I don't recall getting reraised pre-flop, I don't think there was a third person in the hand, and I didn't take any time at all to fold the queens after the check-raise.)

Not very exciting.

He was running good, but I was having one of those dreadful nights when I couldn't do anything right: I called when I should have folded and vice-versa. Couldn't get a flop to match my hole cards no matter what. Lost $300 in that roughly 90 minutes. Ugh. Fortunately, those nights don't happen too often.

I'm just glad that my lackluster performance didn't become the target of one of Pauly's jibes. It would have been well-deserved, I'm afraid. My inner donkey was showing.

Nice to (sort of) meet you, Dr. P!

(Photo above used without any permission whatsoever, from http://www.lasvegasvegas.com/pokerblog/archives/2006_02.php.)

Hooters--maybe not a place for wise owls





I just got home from playing poker at Hooters hotel and casino. I had been there only once before, 18 months ago. Didn't like it, so I never went back. But after posting my recent list of smokiness of the various Vegas poker rooms (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-smoke-free-is-smoke-free.html), some commenters informed me that Hooters has reconfigured its poker room, and my rating wasn't really valid now. I noted in an edit that I should probably go check out the revamp. I was passing right by it on my way home from the Luxor, so decided that tonight was the night to give the joint another look-see.

The commenters to my previous post were right. As you can (sort of) see from the first photo above, there are two tables outside the poker room proper. You can see through the window into the actual poker room, and the door leading to it is right behind the desk where the guy in black is standing. The second photo is inside that room.

But they keep the main action at the two outside tables, and there's a big sign posted reading "Smoking OK." So Hooters really did buck the no-smoking trend and joined the tiny list of places where smoking right at the table is permitted--not at every table they have, mind you, but at least at the ones they use the most.

It wasn't quite as noisy as the din I remember from last time, but it was still what I consider to be annoyingly loud--players had to speak pretty loudly to hear each other.

We had two dealers rotating for the one table in action, and they were both first-rate--attentive, quick, friendly, but strict on the rules. I didn't witness a single slip-up of any kind.

The players were a mixed bunch, poker-wise, though uniformly a friendly lot. The skill level was generally lower than what I'm used to at other comparable games around town. It was driven by three maniacs. They nailed me with agonizingly unlucky (for me) situations for two buy-ins before I was able to put on my sheriff's badge and make them pay big fines for driving way over the speed limit. I ended up with a $321 profit in just under 90 minutes. It was like riding a bucking bronco, but I emerged with the best of it.

Somebody ordered a big mess o' chicken wings, and four players were sharing them, eating with their fingers (naturally, not one of them left to wash his hands first), then sort of vainly wiping them on their pants before picking up the cards and chips. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwww!

Hooters won't go on my list of the "worst of the worst" places to play, because that's reserved for the handful of places that are populated almost exclusively by elderly locals playing the lowest limits they can find, trying to hit jackpots, and it's nearly impossible to make any money consistently. Unlike those places, there is definitely big money to be made at Hooters, if you can stand the environment. I can't, at least not very often, and not for very long.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Weirdest poker book review




I'm reading Poker Player newspaper, and find in Ashley Adams's "Stud Sense" column a favorable mention of a new poker-themed novel by Susie Isaacs, White Knight Black Nights, which I hadn't heard of before. I go to amazon.com to try to find more reviews of it, see how much it costs, and maybe add it to my wish list. It's not listed.

So I do a Google search to find other reviews. The first one that pops up is the following, at http://roomreview.net/book-review-white-knight-black-nights-by-susie-isaacs/, which I repost here in its entirety, because otherwise you might not believe just how unreadable it is. It sounds as if it were written in another language and rendered into English by Babelfish or some other computerized translator.

When you get involved with poker employ, you might have heard of the poker
player Susie Isaacs, it is very successful and in the international poker scene
best known. In addition to gains in a number of major live tournaments in Las
Vegas, has Susie 1998 at $ 10,000 buy-in WSOP Main Event, 10 Space. It also has
the women’s events in 1996 and 1997 won. In 2007 it succeeded in to the WSOP
among the top 5% to place.

If you are in the last few years, poker magazines have read, they certainly Susie Isaacs also as a writer of texas holdem articles. Isaacs has a number of poker items with the name “chip Chatter “is written. 1000 Best Poker Strategies and Secrets, Queens Can Beat Kings, Ms. poker Up Close and Personal, and the two-piece Ms. poker I ‘ m Not Bluffing.

What you may not know is that Susie has recently also to the successful novelist authors heard some time ago, the book White Knight, Black Nights (White knights, black nights). I have just finished reading it and can only recommend.

It is not just around a poker book, it is not mainly with poker. Although it is predominantly in Las Vegas plays the main character a professional poker player and also a few other poker players for the act are important - they are certainly no better poker player, if you read this book. It is for you but in any case very entertaining, to read this book.

Isaacs presents us his dramatic story about discoveries - a woman discovers her own identity as a writer and poker player. It presents the reader with the world of unconditional woman, she accompanies this woman in dramatic and painful twists up to the date of their conversion is finished and they are under great difficulties and extensions driven by fear of a self-confident and independent woman has developed.

But the story does not end there. Also featured are some of them Isaacs mass murderer, general chaos and sex addicts.

Isaac’s story sounds almost like a biography - at least in some parts. Writer, poker player, and the surroundings of Las Vegas, which sounds so, as if the author himself fictionalized. But Isaacs wants the readers in this book presents more than just the main character. It shows us a diverse cross-section of society, credible and well described. The dialogs of the characters sound very authentic. The descriptions of events is extremely interesting are sometimes very touching. The action is based on several levels of action, making the book even more intriguing.

I have this book on several things well liked. It is very economically written - in an honest, factual style. I do not believe that the author tries the reader through an excessive “literary” presentation to impress - a problem which many authors of debut works. It is for the characters in this book is not one dimensional caricatures,
there are no easy place for the plot of the book. The fates of the individual characters touched me and I suffered with them.

But I liked best the depiction of poker and Las Vegas in this book. I liked it in an ultra-luxurious suite casino on the Strip to be brought. I liked the action at the poker
tournaments. I wish it would have been a little more in the book to - and I am sure that with their experience Isaac a whole book would have to fill. Perhaps this is indeed the topic of her next book on the action live poker tournaments - I can hardly expect it.


Wow. OK. Glad you expressed yourself so clearly there. Yeah.

Still not sure about the book, though I managed to develop some very definite opinions about the roomreview.net web site.


Incidentally, the lovely etching above is "Tower of Babel" by the great M.C. Escher, as found at http://britton.disted.camosun.bc.ca/escher/jbescher.htm.


Addendum, about ten minutes later

I went looking for other book reviews, and the next one I found was by Ashley Adams, a longer version than the one he wrote for his "Stud Sense" column. See http://www.pokernews.com/news/2008/01/book-review-susie-isaacs-white-knight-black-nights.htm. I was immediately struck by the similarity of the sentence-to-sentence structure of this review with the one I reprinted above. Take a look for yourself.

I think that somebody at the roomreview.net site took Adams's review and ran it through a translator twice, once into another language, then back into English. Why would they do this? Perhaps to change enough of the words that it wouldn't be immediately obvious that they were stealing somebody else's material. In fact, it's hard to think of any other plausible reason for such a maneuver.

Very strange.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Poker gems, #82





James McKenna, Poker Player newspaper column, February 4, 2008, p. 10:


[O]ther players don't cause tilts. We do it to ourselves.... No one can put you on tilt without your consent.

I'm in Card Player magazine again




No, that's not me on the cover.

About three months ago, I did a post about two situations of rule violations by other players where it wasn't completely clear to me whether I had handled things correctly. (See http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/11/should-one-speak-up-when-not-involved.html.)

I knew that Card Player columnist Mike O'Malley writes a lot about rules, ethics, and etiquette of player conduct, so I emailed him a link to the post. I told him that if the situations I described caught his interest, I'd be happy to have him respond with his thoughts in the comments section of the blog, or on his own blog (http://rzitup.blogspot.com/), or even use it as the jumping-off point for a column.

With my permission, he used the two stories basically as his entire column for this month, on pp. 102-104, in the issue pictured above (volume 21c, number 3c, dated February 13, 2008), just out in the casinos today. I'll post a link to the column when it's available online at Card Player's web site (which usually seems to be a month or so after the print issue hits).

The column is a bit confusing, because Mike sometimes uses my first-person account without quotation marks, which sounds like he's describing his own experiences, and sometimes uses my name and the accompanying third-person pronouns. A little editing glitch, I suspect. Ah well. The last paragraph is his comments on the two events.

For those wondering about the "again" in the title of this post, this has happened before. See http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/07/article-in-card-player-magazine-non.html.

A dealer unclear on the concept




I was at Mandalay Bay tonight, waiting for a no-limit game, and had to endure a $2-4 limit game until a seat became available. (The CIA may waterboard suspected terrorists, but they won't go so far as to subject them to $2-4 limit poker. No question that that would constitute illegal torture under the Geneva Convention.)

One woman commented on what a lucky session it had been for her. The dealer, a young Asian man with a heavy accent, said, "It's a good time of year to play, right after the Chinese New Year."

I said, "It can't be good for everybody."

He looked puzzled and asked why not.

"Because in poker," I explained, "every time somebody wins, somebody else loses."

He got a thoughtful look on his face for a second, then said, "I guess you're right about that."

Poker is not a zero-sum game--it's worse than that. It's an overall negative for the players, considered as a group, because tips and the house rake take money out of the game. The sum of the cash that the players walk away with will always be less than the sum of the money they bought into the game for. There might be nine winners and one big loser, or one big winner and nine losers, but there will be at least one person losing.There isn't enough luck in the world to prevent that outcome--even during the Chinese New Year.

It's astonishing to me that a poker dealer had apparently never realized that rather basic truth about the nature of the game.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Great comeback

This happened a couple of months ago, but I was just reminded of it, and I didn't post it at the time. Better late than never.

Playing hold'em at Suncoast (I'm not in this hand), the final board was 2-4-8-9-Q, with no flush possible. The two-way action on the river was big bet and a call. The bettor turned over two pair. The caller turned over J-10, for the nuts. Somebody asked him why he didn't raise. He said, "I thought he (pointing to his lone opponent) might have the higher straight."

A smartass at the end of the table said, "Right. If he had the jack, ten, AND king in his hand, he would have had you beat."

Officially, of course, I must express my strong disapproval of such comments. First, we don't want to smarten up the clueless players and make them harder to beat. Second, making somebody feel stupid at the table is likely to result in him picking up his chips and leaving a lot sooner than he otherwise would.

But I've gotta admit, it was very, very funny.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

First readers' tournament results: no donkeys, winner "Pemite"



The most important result (being just a wee bit self-centered here) is that I didn't make a complete fool of myself. I think I only applied one bad beat, but was on the receiving end of several, which is a reasonable indicator that I was usually getting my money in at the right spots. I managed an embarrassment-avoiding, just-barely-snuck-into-the-money, very-very-slightly-above-average finish of third place, out of seven who played.

The double-stacks thing on Full Tilt really does give a lot more play than standard formats. We went a long time before seeing the first casualty, "kazor," who unluckily ran his A-K into my pocket aces. I had been below average in chips until that point, and it vaulted me into the lead:





It is, of course, the hallmark of a great professional player to know how to pick up pocket aces when an opponent has K-K or A-K, so that you get all of his chips. Poker is all skill, you know.

The next big inflection point for me was when my Q-Q ran into the K-K of "redbullandpoker" (Ted O'Neill; see his poker blog at http://redbullandpoker.blogspot.com/). It had predictably ugly results:



Oops. So much for the hallmark of a great professional....

Things toodled along sort of mediocre like that for a while. I got a boost when I picked off Ted's all-in bluff on the river with my queen-high flush, praying as if I were Jerry Yang that he wasn't holding a higher one. He wasn't. Whew!

"Festus 9" went out next. It must be noted that he was playing at a significant disadvantage, with a storm causing him frustrating interruptions in his connection at some crucial moments.

I think that both "sendit2kj" and "I_P_Icicles" went down to a double knockout by "Lucypher." Other participants are welcome to fill in the details in the comments section. I may be bollixing everything up from how it actually occurred in these middle sections. (Dang--I should have turned on Poker Tracker; then I could check the log electronically and pretend that I just have a phenomenal memory.)

Judging by Ted's post earlier today (http://redbullandpoker.blogspot.com/2008/02/poker-grump-readers-tourney-tonight-on.html), I'm guessing that "sendit2kj" was Kelly Jo McGlothlin, who was the next-to-last woman left standing (eliminated in 95th place) at last year's WSOP main event--see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19758035/. I had not seen Ted's note when the tourney started, so I had no idea who it was, until just now.

Anyway, that left us looking like this in the standings:



Next, "pemite," our only non-American participant (his information said something about a "U.K." nationality--what kind of weird country name is that, anyway??? Sounds like something the damn Brits would make up), took out Ted on the bubble with quads (slight overkill) leaving us here, going into three-handed play:



I'm second out of three--respectable enough!

There was a lot of jabbing and feinting and stealing and threatening. But no big all-in clashes for quite a while.

Then the end came. (Warning: Extremely sad story ahead. We're talking "Love Story" sad. We're talking "Brian's Song" sad. We're talking "Terms of Endearment" sad. You might want to go grab the Kleenex box right now.)

I was in the big blind with Q-Q. Both opponents limped in for 400 each. I raised it to 1400, and they both called. The flop was J-x-x. Sweet! No overcards! I moved all in. "Pemite" thought a while, then called with suited J-9 for top pair. It was looking good for the Grump, until a very ugly third jack showed up--completely uninvited, I might add--on the turn. And that was the end of that:




But as all experienced tournament players know, you can't blame the outcome on just the last hand. It's everything that led up to it that gave me a much smaller stack than "pemite" had, so that I was precariously situated and it took just one unlucky card to topple me. One of the great advantages of accumulating a big stack is that you can withstand a couple of bad beats and walk away bruised but still alive. Not so when you've allowed yourself to get whittled down before the bad beat happens.

My elimination gave "pemite" a virtually insurmountable lead, and it was only a few minutes later that "Lucypher" ran his pocket tens smack into pocket aces, and couldn't beat them, giving us these final standings:




Congratulations to those two for finishing first and second.

I thought it was a lot of fun, and could only have been better by having more of you there.

Or by me winning. Yeah, that would have been OK, too.

I don't know when the next event will be--probably a month or two. The $10 profit I took ($32 payout minus $22 entry fee) will go into the pot somehow for that tourney, probably as a small bounty on my head. That should make things interesting.

Thanks to all the players for spending a little time with me. I really had a great time.

And, most importantly, I didn't completely suck.

Poker gems, #81

Steve Badget:

Besides lovemaking and singing in the shower, there aren’t many human activities where there is a greater difference between a person’s self-delusional ability and actual ability than in poker.

Poker gems, #80




Helen Chamberlain (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Chamberlain), runner-up in the 2005 Ladbrokes Poker Million Final, a year later, announcing that she was through with poker, as quoted in Graham Sharpe, Poker's Strangest Hands, p. 227:


Sitting in silence for four or five hours round a table of people who you know are out to smash you to bits at every opportunity is not my idea of fun, plus I don't know one professional poker player who isn't a kook or a weirdo.

Readers' tournament--final reminder

It's tonight. See http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/01/special-announcement-poker-grump.html and http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/01/poker-grump-readers-tournament-update.html for details.

I have to add an explanatory note. A friend who read my announcement of the tournament said it sounded kind of odd, as if I were saying, "Hey, I'm not so bad at online poker after all, so come play against me and let me take your money." Honestly, that's not at all what I had in mind. I don't think I'm any more likely to win than anybody else who has some experience with multi-table tournaments at roughly this buy-in level. My experience with other private tournaments is that they're a lot more fun than open ones, because people chat and laugh more, play a bit less fiercely (showing hole cards, making crazy plays just for the fun of it, etc.), and are playing for the bragging rights as much as for the prize money. That's what motivated the endeavor, not greed on my part.

In fact, just to clear my conscience of any possibility of being--or being perceived as--exploitative, if I manage to take any cash from the tournament, I'll feed it back into the next event as an overlay on the prize pool or a bounty.

If we sit down at a cash game together, online or in Vegas, yeah, I'll do what I can to put your chips into my stack. But that's not the goal of this event. I cringe that it didn't occur to me that some might interpret my invitation as being motivated by a desire to take readers' money. It wasn't--for once in my poker career!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Cheating at poker




I'm thinking about cheating. No, no, I'm not thinking of engaging in cheating; I'm thinking about the subject of cheating, as it pertains to poker. It's hard to know exactly what to say about it, beyond "Shame on you" and "What the hell is wrong with you?" and "Didn't your mother teach you any better than that?" I don't know that I'll end up writing anything more articulate than that. But here goes.


1

The latest scandal in online poker comes from a European site, Betfair. See here for the details, so far as they are known: http://www.pokernews.com/news/2008/01/players-cash-betfair-programming-glitch-sng.htm. Basically, some players somehow discovered a glitch in the software such that if all of the players in a six-seat tournament (a very common format online) went all-in on the first hand, the winner would get the first-place money (of course), but the site would erroneously award second-place prize money to all of the other five players, for a sum well above the total entry fees. An unknown number of players rapidly conspired to exploit this software bug for as much money as they could wring out of the system before Betfair discovered the leak and plugged it.

Significantly, the "terms of service" document to which all players must agree upon creating a Betfair account contains this language: "9.2 If you are incorrectly awarded any winnings as a result of (a) any human error on the part of the Service Providers or (b) any bug, defect or error in the Software or (c) the failure of the Products or the Software to operate in accordance with the rules of any of Poker's games then the Service Providers will not be liable to pay you any such winnings and you agree to refund any such winnings that may have been paid to you as a result of such error or mistake."

There's a long discussion thread about the whole matter here: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showthread.php?t=101864, and more about it here: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showthread.php?t=119512.

I find it depressing to read. It's not exactly news or shocking to me to discover that people will be dishonest and unethical (after all, I had my life horribly disrupted by having my car stolen last year), but I hate getting slapped in the face with such overt evidence of how scummy people are. Peruse these threads, and you'll read players admitting that they were involved, others saying that they wish they had known about it so that they could get some of the free money, and lots of people saying that they see nothing wrong with what the players involved did.

For example, a guy who goes by the name of "Superluminal" writes, "Well, yes, for one that isnt cheating - the site made the screw up which made the games pay out more than they took in - this is certainly not cheating by any definition available." (This and all other quotations need to be chock-full of "[sic]," but I'm not going to bother.)

"Bad Beat Bill" said, "I think that most of us, if we found a bug like this would probably have tried to exploit it too. Being honest I would have tried knowing that I wouldn't have much to lose...and potentially a whole lot to gain." Psychologists out there will take note of the phenomenon of projection: He would do it, and therefore concludes that "most" other people would, too. I bet that "Bill" has no inkling of the irony in asserting that he is being "honest" about his dishonesty.

Similarly, somebody calling himself "ariston" wrote, "Any poker player who can put his hand on his heart and say they wouldn't have sat in a few of these if they saw what was happening is kidding themseleves or is lying." Note to ariston: I wouldn't have, hand on my heart. You may wish to believe that I'm kidding myself or lying, but I know better. I've done enough things in my life of which I have later had to be ashamed that I have developed both a genuine desire and a fairly keen ability to avoid such regrets in the future. It's a pity that you haven't.

Ariston also posted, "Oh and as I have already stated if I had been up that night I would have gotten involved and played these as well. I can honeslty say I don't know a single person who wouldn't as human nature/greed would've kicked in." To which the insightful poster "Bonified" replied, "Don't you know anyone with the foresight to realise how they'll feel about something later before they do it?"

One poster ("chillin_dude"), who admitted to having been involved, wrote, "I do think that people [apparently meaning those who have expressed outrage at the participants] took this a massive step too far in their judgements and their condeming of the players that took part, and that if they were in such situations themselves, it wouldn't be such a clearcut right or wrong...." Bullshit. I would have had zero difficulty determining, in about two nanoseconds, that it was a "clearcut" wrong. I'm not any super-saint, just a pretty ordinary guy. I think that the majority of people are on my side, and you and your despicable ilk are in the minority.

In a later post he added, "I truely do doubt that many people wouldn't get involved if they found out something like this was going on in the heat of the moment."

Apparently, the "everybody's doing it" (and its close cousin, "everybody would do it") defense is alive and well.

Another ("lucymagem") who confessed involvement is complaining bitterly about how Betfair is treating her. Among other things, it froze her uninvolved father's account. (I assume this is because they wanted to prevent the possibility of her dumping her ill-gotten gains off to his account.) She is so blind that she can't see the strangeness of having tried to rip off a company for several thousand dollars, and then crying foul when the company does everything within its power to prevent the fraud from succeeding.

2

Because I don't really play online much and don't spend a lot of time keeping up with online poker forums (yeah, I know that should be "fora," but it just sounds too pretentious for me), I was only vaguely aware of the "JJ Prodigy" scandal. Interestingly, unlike any previous online cheating episode, this one is spilling over to have effects on the perpetrator in the world of live poker, too, as he got banned from one prestigious live tournament. (See Gary Wise's columns for ESPN's Poker Club about "JJ Prodigy" specifically, and online cheating generally: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/poker/columns/story?columnist=wise_gary&id=3210798 and http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/poker/columns/story?columnist=wise_gary&id=3224481.)

Good. Count me in with Greg Raymer and Dani Stern (both quoted in Wise's first piece), wishing that the poker community as a whole would band together to ostracize known cheaters. Casinos should ban them from both cash games and tournaments, just as they would ban cheaters who had been caught by other casinos and placed in the infamous "Black Book" of "excluded persons." That they were caught cheating online, rather than in person, should make zero difference. The possibility of a lifetime ban from both online and brick-and-mortar casinos might actually give pause to those whose defective consciences alone are insufficient deterrent to cheating.


3

To get some inkling into how many people will cheat at the game, given the opportunity, check out this twoplustwo.com thread, which invites members to confess their poker sins: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showthread.php?t=90438. This is, of course, just a tiny sampling.

4

It's not exactly about poker, but contemplation about cheating generally prompted me to recall an online exchange from last year.

Last summer, somebody on http://www.allvegaspoker.com/ (specifically, here: http://www.allvegaspoker.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2002&highlight=) posted this:

on my recent trip to las vegas i played a little blackjack at the golden
gate casino downtown. they had a $3.00 table so i sat down with $20.00 and
played for abour 1/2 hour. i left the table with 8 $5.00 chips and went to the
cashier. she counted them out and said "$175.00" and took the money from her
drawer and counted it out in front of me. i said "dear would you count those
chips again. thats $40.00" i got the correct amount and left.

i was wondering if i shouldn't have just taken the $175.00 and left, but
then i know she would have been short when she balanced at the end of her shift
and the whole transaction was probably taped, so i think i did the right thing.

I found this so irritating that I posted this admittedly rather nasty reply:

I think:

1. You are not genuinely wondering if you did the right thing, but just
wanted to brag about having been honest.

2. If you are, in fact, genuinely wondering "if i shouldn't have just taken
the $175.00 and left," then there's something seriously wrong with you.

3. If, in fact, you have concluded that pointing out the error was correct
for the reason you stated (because "the whole transaction was probably taped"),
then you're truly a moral midget. That is, your statement pretty clearly implies
your conclusion that if you had reason to think that the transaction were *not*
taped, then walking away with the $175 would be OK. Which means that despite
your apparent attempt at bragging about your honesty here, you are not actually
an honest person--just one who'll reluctantly manage to be honest if the chance
of being caught in your dishonesty is too high.

Criminy.

5

I recently discovered a whole blog devoted to the subject of casino and poker cheating: http://www.richardmarcusbooks.com/blog.htm. Might be worth bookmarking, if the subject interests you.


Wrapup

There is, sadly, abundant evidence that lots and lots of people have no meaningful ethical compass to guide their decisions. If an armored car's door accidentally opens and cash spills on the street, they'll help themselves to as much as they can grab, and run off with it. If a cashier gives them too much change, they'll dummy up about it and smile at the windfall. If the bank credits their account with an extra "0" in a deposited check, they'll try to withdraw the money before the mistake is discovered. If they hear of a software bug that allows them to drain money from a poker site, they'll exploit it as fast as they can. If they can figure out a way to multi-account a poker tournament or purchase another player's position late into the game, they will.

The only things preventing them from being dishonest are various external constraints that reduce their ability to cheat and steal, or that raise the cost and/or other disincentive to do so (e.g., locks, surveillance cameras, threats of prison sentences, iron-clad software).

Meanwhile, I worry about whether I'm being unethical when I inadvertantly know one of an opponent's cards because of a mark on it (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/02/ethical-dilemma-non-grumpy-content.html), or take a commemorative chip off the table without putting another $5 into play (http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/10/going-south-and-not-for-winter.html), in technical violation of the rules. I don't mean to sound or act holier-than-thou; I'm just struck by the strangeness of my worrying about being even a hair's breadth over the line between ethical and unethical, while sharing this worldwide poker community are untold thousands of unabashed cheaters and scammers, perfectly willing at the drop of a hat to take money that isn't rightfully theirs; untold thousands more who would do the same if they could do so without being caught; and at least hundreds more who will take time and energy to write and post rationalizations and justifications for all of the above.

I would dearly love to be able to believe that poker players are, on the whole, more honest than the population at large. Unfortunately, I think that's a fantasy. The best I can realistically do is hope that we're not statistically less honest than the general population.


I lived in Minnesota before moving to Nevada. We had four, um, interesting years with professional wrestler Jesse Ventura as our governor. Among the countless controversial things he said and did during his term was to give a speech to University of Minnesota students, in which he told them that he had lived by the motto, "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat."

I wonder if he's a poker player.



Note: So that I'm not engaged in a different type of cheating, I need to point out that I stole the idea for illustrating this post with a photo of cheetahs. Wicked Chops Poker did this a few weeks back for a post on the Chris Vaughn/Sorel Mizzi scandal (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/im-not-cheater.html and http://wickedchopspoker.blogs.com/my_weblog/2007/12/chris-vaughn-an.html). I thought it was funny enough to copy, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all. (Yeah, that's a stolen line, too.)


Addendum, February 5, 2008

See Gary Wise's comment on all of the above at http://www.wisehandpoker.com/blog/index.php/gary-wise/2008/02/05/the_missing_word.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

How smoke-free is "smoke-free"?




Last June I submitted to http://www.allvegaspoker.com/ (a site dedicated to contributors' experiences with Vegas poker rooms) a proposed classification of smokiness of local poker rooms (see http://www.allvegaspoker.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2231&highlight=). Since then, some rooms have closed, some have relocated within the casino, I have played in some that I had not visited back then, and I have more experience with others. As I sat choking in Boulder Station today, it occurred to me that it was time to update the list. I also added the two rooms in Mesquite, Nevada. Finally, I've added links to room-specific reviews that I've written since having this-here blog.

I realize that not every reader will be interested in this information, but I think that posting it here will make it more readily found by search engines than when it's buried in the AVP forums. I can also easily make additions and modifications as needed here, which I can't easily do there.

******************

I personally really dislike cigarette smoke, so one of the most important features for me in selecting which places to spend a lot of time is the probability that I will leave feeling the need to take a shower and change my clothes because of smelling of smoke.

I propose here a tentative classification of Las Vegas poker rooms based on the degree of isolation from smoking areas of the casino. Some of them I've only visited once, and my memory is a little vague, so I could be persuaded to shift some rooms up or down a level. Also, I realize that the borders between these categories are somewhat fuzzy and subjective--but it's the best scheme I could come up with.

The shorthand version is that smoke is generally not an issue that I think about before setting out to play in poker rooms that fall into the first three categories; those in the last three categories require me to decide whether I'm willing to put up with the smoke exposure.

Debate, disagreement, etc., are welcome in the comments section.


1. Room physically separated from smoking areas by walls, doors, and/or corridors; as close to truly smoke-free as you'll find.

Binion's (Note added November 3, 2008: This refers to the new poker room opened 10/30/08, a vast improvement over the old room, which had been in category 3. See http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/11/more-on-binions-new-poker-room.html.)
Caesars Palace
Harrah’s


2. Room open on one end or side to smoking area, but little or no infiltration of smoke is noticeable. (Caveat: in some of these, certain tables may be close to the open area, and if people are smoking right in the doorway, the experience may be irritating temporarily. Overall, though, I think they're easy enough on the lungs that it's just not an issue.)

Cannery

Gold Coast (This is the new poker room, opened early December, 2008, a great improvement on the previous one. See http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/12/new-poker-room-at-gold-coast.html.)
Golden Nugget
Green Valley Ranch

Hard Rock (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/08/hard-rock-may-have-winner-on-its-hands.html)
Monte Carlo (closed as I write this due to recent rooftop fire, but expected to re-open once repairs are finished; no reason to think that the poker room will be altered)
Oasis (Mesquite; see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/mesquite-flavored-poker-part-3-oasis.html)
Palace Station (Note added November 3, 2008: Palace Station used to allow smoking in the wee morning hours, but I have just learned that that practice was discontinued a few weeks ago.)
Palms (Room becomes a Category 6, with smoking allowed at the tables, after 2:00 a.m.)
Red Rock
Sam's Town
Suncoast
(Note added November 3, 2008: New room recently opened at Suncoast, but smoke rating remains the same. See http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/10/summerlin-poker.html.)
Treasure Island (TI)
Tropicana
(see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/search/label/tropicana)
Wynn


3. Room open to smoking areas on more than one side, but actual amount of smoke entering is not bothersome, due to distance/buffer zone between smoking and non-smoking areas and/or effective ventilation. I rarely if ever notice smoke during a poker session or on my clothes after leaving.

Bellagio
Circus Circus
M Resort
Mandalay Bay
MGM Grand
Mirage

Rio (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/could-i-have-found-new-poker-home.html)
Santa Fe Station
South Point

Sunset Station (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/08/new-poker-room-at-sunset-station.html)
Venetian (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/08/another-poker-dump.html)


4. Room fully or almost fully open to smoking areas (usually just a roped-off section of the main casino floor, or surrounded by a useless half-wall). Smoke is frequently noticeable while playing. It's usually a minor annoyance rather than a real assault on the senses, but I can expect to smell of smoke when I leave, sometimes lightly, sometimes heavily.

Bally’s
Eastside Cannery (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/08/newest-poker-room-in-town-eastside.html)
Eureka (Mesquite; see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/mesquite-flavored-poker-part-1-eureka.html)
Fiesta Henderson (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/lets-have-fiesta.html)
Flamingo
Luxor
(new room opened late 2007, old room was much worse; see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/02/luxor-improves-to-mediocre.html)
Orleans (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/upgrades-at-orleans.html)
O'Shea's (new poker room in the back; see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/poker-harrahs-way.html. The configuration of this room is actually like those of category 2--open on just one end--but it's so small and ineffectively isolated that the experience I had the one time I was there was much more like the others in category 4, so after some debate with myself about how to list it, I moved it here with this explanatory note.)


5. Physically similar layouts to category 4 above, but, additionally, smoking allowed within a few feet of tables and/or such poor ventilation that there is lots of infiltration from smoking areas, even if they are more than a few feet away. I am frequently or constantly bothered by the smoke while playing and will definitely reek of it when I leave. These rooms are only marginally better than those in category 6.

Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/05/newest-poker-room-in-vegas.html)
El Cortez (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/04/armpit-of-las-vegas-poker.html)
Excalibur
Fitzgerald's
(see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/09/annals-of-perfect-timing.html)
Hooters (Edit, 2/4/08: I originally had this in category 4, which is how it was the only time I played there, but the comments received convinced me to make it a category 6 now. I'll try to stop in there sometime soon and see for myself.) (Edit 2/10/08: Went there tonight and confirmed those reports. See http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/02/hooters-maybe-not-place-for-wise-owls.html.) (Edit 2/4/10: On a visit last night, I learned that the policy changed many months ago, and players must now step away from the table to smoke. Hooters is therefore now listed in category 5. See http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2010/02/upgrade-at-hooters.html.)
Imperial Palace (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/poker-harrahs-way.html)
Jokers Wild (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/08/i-think-im-going-to-throw-up-part-2.html)
O'Shea's (two poker tables in front of casino; see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/poker-harrahs-way.html)
Plaza (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/plaza-another-stinky-dump.html)
Planet Hollywood (note that this is the new location of the poker room as of early October, 2008, which is much worse than the old location; see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/10/planet-hollywood-doubly-annoys-me.html)
Poker Palace (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/01/poker-palace.html)
Railroad Pass (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/smallest-poker-room-in-nevada.html)
Rampart (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/rampart-poker-room-what-city-hasnt-been.html)
Riviera
Sahara
Stratosphere
(new room opened late 2007; much worse than the old room; see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/01/stratosphere-upgrades-by-making-things.html)
Tuscany
Silverton (temporary poker area roped off from main casino floor while new room under construction; much worse than previous poker room; see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/12/silverton-poker-room.html)


6. Smoking allowed right at the tables; bring your own iron lung along.

Arizona Charlie's-Decatur (see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/08/another-poker-dump.html)
Boulder Station
Club Fortune
(see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/08/i-think-im-going-to-throw-up-part-2.html)
Palms (after 2:00 a.m.) See http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/07/dont-go-to-palms-poker-room-after-200.html.
Texas Station This is a recent (July, 2009, apparently) change.


The unknowns: There are still a few poker rooms in the valley that I haven't played in yet.

Railroad Pass (listed above because I have been there and can easily tell how it would be, but there was no game going at the time)

Speedway (which apparently hasn't spread a poker game in months; see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/01/poker-palace.html)

Hacienda (I'm not completely sure they even have a poker room anymore)

Nevada Palace (ditto; see http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2007/08/i-think-im-going-to-throw-up-part-2.html and http://poker.wikia.com/wiki/Nevada_Palace and http://www.vegastexasholdem.net/poker/NevadaPalace.htm). Edit: Nevada Palace is now officially defunct, and has been replaced by the Eastside Cannery.