Saturday, September 13, 2008

Praise for alert dealers

After being evicted by the Hard Rock poker room because they didn't want my business (and consequently will be getting a lot less of it than they likely otherwise would have), I drove down the road to the Rio, which is where I had originally been planning to put in today's session, before making a last-minute change to the Hard Rock.

(The drive over, incidentally, took about 30 minutes, far longer than the usual 10 or so. I concluded from the density of traffic near the Strip that there must be some huge event in town tonight. Sure enough, when I got home and did a news search, I learned about boxing at the MGM. This is how closely I follow sports: I deduce that there is a big sporting event somewhere nearby by being stuck in the traffic jam it has created.)

Picked up the chip shown above. I have enough Rio chips now that it's become pretty uncommon for me to spot one not in the collection.

It was a mostly uneventful session, unworthy of comment, except for one hand.

I make plenty of mistakes in playing poker, of course--it's the nature of a game of partial information. But it's pretty rare that I make serious mistakes in the mechanics of the game, after a couple of years of playing 100+ hours per month. It's probably less than once a month that I accidentally act out of turn, or other error of that sort. I think there have been only two occasions since living in Vegas in which I have exposed my hand before it was time. Today was almost another one, and would have been #3, if not for an exceptionally alert dealer.

My stack had dwindled down to about $50, so I took another $100 bill out of my wallet and put it on the table. I don't like playing with cash. I always buy chips instead, and on the rare occasion that I have an unwieldy number of chips to deal with in front of me, I color them up to $100 chips, not cash. There are several reasons that contribute to this preference, but chief among them is exactly the problem I ran into today: it's easy to overlook cash. I'm so habituated to gauging chip stacks that sometimes I don't even notice the currency.

However, from the time that I plopped the C-note on the table until the critical hand occurred (just two hands), there wasn't a good time to ask the dealer to change it for chips. Furthermore, he barely had $100 in red chips in his tray, so he would have to ask for a fill as soon as he sold them to me. I decided that this time I would just wait until a chip runner was at the table for somebody else, and get chips then. I won a small pot in there, so I had maybe $75 in chips in addition to the Benjamin.

(Readers sometimes tease me in the comments for being so set in my ways. Heck, sometimes I make fun of myself for the same thing. But having well-established patterns and habits does help prevent mistakes. Today turned out to be a prime example of what can happen when you deviate from your customary practices.)

I had A-Q on the button and raised to $13. Guy on my right who had limped in then called. Flop was Q-x-x. I bet $20. He called. Turn was another Q. Here's where I made the crucial error. The pot had about $65 in it. I looked down and saw approximately $40 or $45 in chips in front of me. Of course, in the most literal sense I also "saw" the $100 bill, but because I'm used to thinking just in terms of chips, my brain didn't include that $100 in my stack. It looked like an obvious all-in move to me.

I didn't say "all in," but just gave a little shrug, stacked up my remaining chips, and moved them forward, leaving the bill behind. As soon as my opponent said "Call," I moved my silver dollar off of my hole cards and started to turn them over. They were about halfway over--players on my left would have been able to see them--when the dealer got an alarmed look on his face and shouted, "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! You're not all in!" He was just in the nick of time.

It was really unbelievable how quickly he reacted. In fact, I don't think it would have been possible for him to figure it out after he saw me start to flip my cards and still intervene in time. I think that what must have happened was that he saw me put all of my chips in, and thought to himself, "That doofus might think that he's all in, if he is forgetting about that hundred-dollar bill sitting on the table. I'd better watch out for him exposing his hand before the next round of betting." Then when it started to happen as he had suspected it might, he was able to step in very fast, because he had already analyzed the situation and made his contingency plan for what to do in case I screwed up in the way he anticipated I might.

He might well have saved the pot for me. I don't remember the exact final board, but the river brought an ugly scare card, completing both a possible flush and possible straight. Had my opponent seen my cards prematurely and considered the situation, it would have been a prime spot for an all-in bluff, which would have been very difficult for me to call. As it was, it went check-check, because my opponent had second pair, not a draw that got there, and he had to be afraid that I had been on a draw that got there--a fear he would not have had if he had seen my cards.

So my hat is off to Woodrow for his admiral alertness and quick reaction. It's not often that I need a dealer to save me from making a big blunder, but I'm sure glad to have a good one in the box when it happens.

Hard Rock blows its grand opening, makes the Grump grumpier than usual

I had read over on Pokerati that today was the grand opening of the Hard Rock poker room. If you're thinking, "Huh? Didn't they open a few weeks ago?" you haven't been around Vegas enough. This is how things are done here. There is a "soft opening," followed later by a "Grand Opening."

I thought it would be fun to be in the room playing while keeping an eye on the progress of the invitational tournament they were holding, snapping occasional photos of the celebrities, etc. So I headed over there. I arrived at 4:15, knowing that the red carpet event would be at 5:00. Got seated in a $1-2 NLHE game. Picked up the cool chip shown above with my first buy-in; it doesn't say 2008 on it, but I'm pretty sure it's a new design for this year's Independence Day.

I had played for only about five minutes when a floor guy came over and said something about us having just ten more minutes. I didn't understand exactly what that meant. We were at a table close to where the red carpet pathway had been set up, so I thought maybe they were going to move us to another table.

To my shock, though, about ten minutes later they came by with chip racks for everybody. We weren't being moved--we were being kicked out! That's right. The Hard Rock commenced the Grand Opening of its poker room by evicting all of the poker players! There was no explanation given. I had not been told of this when I checked in. The press release said nothing about it. I would not have wasted my time driving there and parking in order to play for 15 minutes, nor just for rubbernecking the tournament.

This was completely unexpected. My initial impressions of the room on previous visits had been highly positive (see here and here for details). Nothing had given me reason to think that they would treat their customers with such utter contempt and disregard.

I have never known a poker room to close down its cash games for a tournament. Hell, even the world's largest tournament, the WSOP, imports scads of dealers in order to keep cash games going. As far as I know, Benny Binion never stopped letting cash players in, no matter how crowded the bullpen got. Even the lowly, tiny Hilton poker room kept a cash game available during its monthly freeroll tournaments, despite the tournament usually occupying all but one of its eight or so tables. I've been around all sorts of poker rooms when they have been hosting all sizes of tournaments, and I have never before seen them shoo away the cash game players. I'm not saying it hasn't ever happened, somewhere, sometime, but I've never seen it, and certainly had no reason to anticipate it today.

This was incredibly rude and insulting treatment by a poker room. They communicated very, very clearly to me how little they value my patronage. I am utterly unimportant to them. So are all of the other non-celebrities (three tables' worth, at least) that were all unceremoniously pushed out the door. And they couldn't even be bothered to put a couple of extra people to work in the cage to handle the simultaneous closing of three tables--30 people make for a long line in front of one cashier to cash in chips.

There was no explanation given, no apology, no effort to tell us what time the cash games would re-open, no attempt to offer even a token compensation or consideration for the insult and inconvenience. As far as I could tell, they hadn't even bothered to put up a lousy sign at the check-in desk warning that the room would be closed to uninvited players during certain hours.

I was too pissed off to stay and take pictures, even though I had brought my good camera along. Even now, some six hours later, I still can't believe that the Hard Rock was so stupid and clumsy as to celebrate the grand opening of its poker room by kicking out the poker players! "Welcome to the Hard Rock. Now get the hell out of here. You're in the way."

The Hard Rock poker room is not going to survive by catering to celebrities. They can only sustain a largish 18-table room by attracting a stable clientele including a large mix of local regulars. In my opinion, they took a huge step backwards from this already-difficult task today, by insulting and chasing away players whom they should be welcoming with open arms, even groveling to make happy.

I'm not so headstrong as to say I'll never go back there again, because if I can make money in a poker room and it's reasonably accessible, I'll keep it on the list at least for occasional visits. But today's conduct was perhaps the most offensive, unnecessary, and shortsighted bitch-slap a poker room has ever hit me with, and it seriously eroded the positive impressions I had made of the place on my first two visits.

I'll go back sooner or later, I'm sure, but I'll never feel as positively about it as I did before, now that they have made explicit where I and other ordinary poker-playing Joes stand in their list of priorities: way down there at at the bottom.

How many possible flops?

During Tuesday night's WSOP broadcast, just before a commercial break, ESPN flashed on the screen this "Poker Fact": "There are 19,600 possible flops in Texas Hold'em."

I wonder how many people checked them on that.

I did. Yeah, that's how pedantic I can be. (This is the point as which the haters click on "submit a comment" in order to make a wisecrack about obsessive-compulsive disorder.)

The answer is not correct. Or, at least, it's not clearly correct, and it's not the answer I would have given.

The number of combinations of cards you can select is given by a straightforward (though often cumbersome-to-calculate) formula: see here for details. Fortunately, spreadsheets have a built-in function for this, reducing the work to a fraction of a second. That makes it easy to determine that C(52,3) (i.e., the number of combinations of three cards from a 52-card deck) is 22,100.

So how did ESPN come up with 19,600? Apparently they are assuming a 50-card deck, because C(50,3) is indeed 19,600. In other words, they are providing the answer to a slightly different question than the one they were asking.

Before the dealer shuffles the cards for a hand, if you ask how many different flops might theoretically come up in the next hand, you would have to say 22,100. Of course, if you are a player in the game and know your own two cards, then the universe of possible cards is reduced to 50. You might then say that the number of possible flops is 19,600, because you can eliminate the 2500 flops that contain one or both of your hole cards. But then you are not answering the question "How many possible flops are there in Texas Hold'em?" but, rather, "How many possible flops are there in Texas Hold'em, given that your two specific hole cards are known to be unavailable?"

Even that is a little bit dicey, because once the dealer has shuffled and cut the deck, there is only one possible flop that can come (barring dealer error). So if you're asking the question after the deal, as is implied in the answer that ESPN gave, the answer might better be 1 than 19,600.

The 19,600 is usually going to be the more useful number when you are doing post-hoc and/or theoretical analysis of a hand. But I submit that ESPN got it wrong. When asking the number of "possible flops," without specifying any preconditions or limitations or exclusions, the answer has to be 22,100.

Poker gems, #164

Norman Chad, in September 9, 2008, broadcast of the WSOP Main Event Day 1d, when Phil Hellmuth answers a cell phone call at the table.

Omar Bradley is calling--probably wants his riding crop back.

Poker gems, #163

Richard Taylor, in Bluff magazine column, May, 2007, available here.

There is nothing noble or gentlemanly about trying to take someone else’s mortgage payment to make your car payment. It is not a knitting circle; it is a war fought on felt.

Foolishly showing off

During one of the first hands I played in a session at Bill's last night, two players got it all in before the flop. The short-stacked player had A-4 suited. He was up against K-K. The guy with K-K looked at the situation and said, "You're about 26% to win." I didn't think that was quite right, and on checking now I see that it's actually about 33%.

But that's not the point.

The point is the effect that quoting the number had on me. So early in the session, I still had no clue which players were the experienced ones I needed to be a little wary of, and who were the dundering calling stations. This guy made that a whole lot clearer for me, as far as he was concerned, without me needing to invest any more effort in analyzing his play. People who know, even approximately, hand-versus-hand winning probabilities for pre-flop confrontations are not beginners.

I didn't get much chance to confirm the impression this left with me, because this player (1) was extraordinarily tight, (2) tended to wander around a lot, missing many hands, and (3) left the game not too long after this. But I was left shaking my head at his self-revelation.

One of the skills that I noticed developed most rapidly for me after moving to Vegas was the ability to figure out opponents' skill levels. You know the old saying: If you can't spot the sucker at the table within 30 minutes, it's you. It's true, insofar as inexperienced players have a hard time gauging the relative strength of their opponents. Maybe they'll eventually figure it out, but why help them with comments that instantly signal them that you know the game more thoroughly than they do?

Sometime within the last year I read a column in one of the poker periodicals (sorry--I've spent half an hour trying to find it, and I can't) suggesting that one put one's ego aside and deliberately misstate some poker fact out loud to the table. The example given was something like this: "I can't believe I haven't hit a set yet today. When I start with a pocket pair, I should be flopping a set one out of three times, but I've had nine in a row with no set!"

The idea, fairly obviously, is twofold. First, you plant in knowledgeable opponents' minds the notion that you don't know even basic poker math. Second, you may draw out the egotistical player who can't resist openly correcting you. Knowing that somebody at the table knows basic poker math and yet values his ego more than money is a great insight into how to beat him.

I'll admit that I can't pull that off. I'm so naturally quiet that I just don't think I could be convincing. I also can't do any of the things recommended by Richard Taylor in this great piece for Bluff magazine, designed to convince opponents that you're a complete idiot and put them on super monkey tilt.

I don't act out of turn as if I don't know any better, or naively ask the dealer whether a flush beats a straight. It's just not in me. But at least I know not to flaunt the fact that I'm usually more experienced and poker-savvy than most of my opponents. (Incidentally, this is also high on the list of reasons that I have deliberately avoided ever learning any chip tricks. Excessive dexterity with chips signals a history of long hours at a poker table even to a player too clueless to figure out by other means who the good players are.) If they deduce that on their own over time, fine--but I'm not going to help them rush to that conclusion. Why put them on notice that they're up against better competition than they face at their home game in Podunk, Louisiana? It's easier to win their money when they haven't figured that out yet.

Sights and sounds around town (minimal poker content)


Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon just got new felt on their tables. That's usually not cause for a photo and post, but these are really wild--easily the most colorful in town now. The wood looks so real that you have to touch it to convince yourself that it's not actually a wooden table.

Rumor has it that the cowboy shown on the felt, who is also on all sorts of other promotional materials around Bill's, originally had no moustache. But then the aggressive lawyers for Pixar objected, saying that the cartoon looked too much like a certain iconic character from a certain successful 1995 animated feature that that company had made, so Bill's added the moustache to better differentiate the two.

Sorry, but that's the end of the poker content for this post.


I passed this car in the parking lot the other day. I liked the license plate so much I had to stop and take a picture of it.


I was at Red Rock casino yesterday afternoon. All three of the remaining stories herein took place there within the space of five minutes.

I was in a stall of the men's room taking care of business, when somebody entered the stall to my right. I saw his shoes. He was standing up against the wall separating us, with his heels toward me, back against the wall. I figured he was going to engage in one of the various pre-business rituals that I've grown accustomed to hearing take place: wiping down the seat with toilet paper, putting down a paper seat cover, maybe a preparatory flush. But no, it was nothing like that. It was much stranger.

There was a series of loud, non-human noises I couldn't identify. Then I heard the slosh slosh slosh of what was unmistakably something being swirled around inside the toilet! I found this rather alarming. Lots of shuffling around. Things being wiped with a lot more vigor than expected. I couldn't figure out what he was doing.

But then I heard a sound that clarified everything: a brush. Aha! It's the cleaning guy!



As I was exiting the stall, I had to pass by the row of urinals. I saw something there that I have seen only once or twice before: An older guy accessing his, uh, parts by hiking one leg of his shorts way up. That's actually why I couldn't help noticing--the contrast of him having black shorts covering up one half of his backside, and his exposed lily-white thigh and butt cheek on the other side. It was seriously weird.

I don't get this behavior. I can't believe that it's faster, easier, or conveys any other advantage over the more traditional routes.

(That's right. This blog has now devolved into bathroom humor and observations. Maybe it's time to give it up, eh?)


Upon leaving the restroom, I passed by a small decorative fountain and pool. Wherever there is such a thing in a public place, people will toss coins in. Here, though, I caught an old man bending over and fishing a quarter out. He gave it a vigorous shake to throw the water off before slipping it into his pocket. He then looked up and saw me staring at him. I'm not the confrontational type, because it's really not my business. But I hope my disapproving glare gave him a little jolt of shame.

People are so strange.


My out-of-town visitor left this morning. One of the last touristy things we did yesterday, after the lunch buffet at Red Rock, was to visit the Las Vegas Art Museum in Summerlin. I had never been there before.

I can't recommend it. It costs $6, and there are only three rooms of art. Now, if these were three rooms filled with Monets and Cezannes and Rembrandts, OK, I'd consider that a treat and a bargain. But--pardon me showing my ignorance here--these pieces are mostly just crap. There were one or two things that were OK, that I wouldn't mind hanging over the sofa. But nearly everything else there, if I noticed it sitting in a Dumpster, I not only wouldn't bother retrieving it, I'd think that it had been put there with good reason.

Addendum, September 21, 2008

A reader sent me the photo below, showing the Bill's cowboy before the moustache was added, which adds some evidence to the rumor I heard about his alteration.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Electronic tables nixed for Aliante Station

James Klosty, poker room manager for Texas Station, has been picked to also manage the poker room at what will be the chain's newest facility, Aliante Station, scheduled to open November 11, 2008 (at 11:11 p.m., which is more than a little bit silly). There has been a longstanding rumor that the room would open with all electronic tables, provided by PokerTek's rival, Lightning Gaming. This was not just idle chat; it genuinely was under serious consideration.

However, James has given me permission to quote him as follows on the final decision: "Aliante will have real dealers."

He also adds, "The entire building is gorgeous and the poker room is spectacular."

Photo above shot on August 5 by the good folks at Vegas Today and Tomorrow. See here for their Aliante updates.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palms freeroll

The Palms poker room just started a series of weekly freeroll tournaments for frequent customers. They use a structure unlike any I've seen before.

If you play 12 hours in the preceeding week, you qualify to sit in a single-table satellite. You can qualify for additional satellites for more hours of play. The last two standing in each satellite receive $100 and entry to the main tournament, where $3000 is up for grabs ($1000 for 1st, $400 for 2nd, $300 for 3rd, $200 for 4th, and $100 for 5th through 15th).

So far so good, at least in theory. But in practice, there are problems.

The first problem is scheduling. You don't pick or get assigned to a specific time for your satellite. They are run from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday. You show up, they add you to the list. I arrived at 2:05 Tuesday, and found that the first satellite had just started, the list for the second one was already full, so I was placed on the list for the 3rd. They thought it might start between 3:00 and 3:30.

As it turned out, the first one took an hour. They started the second, and I was thinking I'd have to wait another hour. But then they decided to start #3 with a second dealer while #2 was still running. It got underway at 3:20. But the point is that you can't really know when you'll be playing. You might arrive at 4:00 and find that there are five full satellites ahead of you, and you won't play until 8:00. I also don't know what they do if you arrive at, say, 7:30 and they don't get enough to fill up another satellite. Are you just out of luck? Do they run a short-handed satellite? And what if you arrive at 7:30 and there are four or five full satellites? Will they keep running them past the announced close time of 8:00? I don't know.

The main tournament is run on Wednesday evening. This means that basically you have to expect to spend all or most of Tuesday afternoon or evening and Wednesday evening on this tournament. With no definite times for Tuesday, this is a big commitment of time to expect people to make on a weekly basis. Of course, if there are tables running, you can play cash games and be building hours toward the next week's qualification, if you are so inclined. But those may not be the optimal times for playing (i.e., the room will likely then have more locals than tourists, compared to prime evening/night hours).

There's another huge problem with the satellites: the structure. You start with 1200 in chips, and the first round of blinds are 100/100. That's right--you start with 12 big blinds, and an "M" of 6. Blinds go up every 15 minutes: 100/200, 200/400, 300/600, 500/1000/100, etc. You can buy an optional 500 chips for a $3 dealer contribution, which everybody does, of course.

This is the most ridiculously short-stacked tournament structure I've ever seen in any venue. In the first level, suppose you make a standard 3x BB raise from the cutoff, the button calls, and the big blind calls. Now the pot contains 1000 chips, and you have 900 left (or 1400 if you've done the optional chip purchase). Your only rational choices after the flop are to shove or fold. That's it. That's your shot. That's your whole tournament. One hand.

It's so absurdly biased toward luck over skill that I would literally prefer that they just randomly pick 20% of the qualifiers' names to receive the $100 and tournament entry. It would be just as fair and would save hundreds of currently wasted man-hours. Post the winners' names on the Palms web site and be done with it. You then wouldn't have dozens of people having to drive over, sit around for an unknown number of hours to play what often boils down to a one-hand luckfest tournament.

As it stands, the time commitment and stupid structure are such big turn-offs that I don't think I'll be making much effort to qualify for for these things. If I happen to put in two or three longish sessions at the Palms in a week and qualify, OK, I'll endure it. But in my opinion, the Palms has made their freeroll so unappealing in terms of time commitment and structure that it's not worth much extra effort to try for. If instead of weekly they made it a $20,000 monthly deal for, say, 40 hours of rated play, I would find it more interesting, because I'd only have to be making those additional two trips out there for unknown amounts of time once a month instead of once a week.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Playing my regular $2-4 PokerStars razz game this afternoon I had a rather jolting experience, when a player not in the hand stepped in via the chat box, and probably altered how the hand played out.

Here's a screen shot of how the hand looked when it was over. We ended up with the same best five cards, and split the pot.

As you can see, we both started with excellent hands. Predictably, we capped the betting on 3rd. I improved nicely on 4th; he did not. And he got even worse on 5th. So he had decisions to make when I bet out in both spots.

Here's the relevant portion of the hand transcript, so you can see how things played out:

*** 4th STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell1 [Ah 3h 4d] [2s]
Dealt to Phoinix [4h] [Tc]
Rakewell1: bets $2
Phoinix: calls $2
*** 5th STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell1 [Ah 3h 4d 2s] [Ts]
Dealt to Phoinix [4h Tc] [Qh]
Rakewell1: bets $4
Phoinix said, "u lucky"
bizzlenuts said, "he paired"
Phoinix said, "u might have a deuce"
Phoinix: calls $4

So "bizzlenuts" appears to have planted the suggestion that my 2 on 4th street paired one of my down cards. What the hand history doesn't show is the delays. "Phoinix" first got the 15-second warning, then it showed him having requested extra time. It is in that window of time that "bizzlenuts" speaks up with "he paired." After another delay we get "Phoinix" saying "u might have a deuce" (i.e., another deuce in the hole--a pair).

It's pretty clear that he couldn't call there with a 10 and a Q showing without making the decision that I had, in fact, paired up. Now, maybe he would have come to that conclusion on his own. But it sure looks like it was the chat suggestion that pushed him that way.

This is so obviously wrong I hope I don't have to explain it. It's as clear a violation of the "one player to a hand" rule as I can imagine. And in this case, it likely cost me half of the pot, because without it, I think my opponent would have folded on 5th street.

This ticked me off enough that I fired off an email to PokerStars support, with the relevant portion of the hand history included. Here's the reply I got back:

Thank you again for bringing the actions of this player to our attention.

His comment was inappropriate and violated the rules listed on our

Although many of our players are not aware of all proper rules and
etiquette, this player has been informed of the rules now. A future infraction
by this player is potential grounds for chat revocation.

The help of players like yourself is integral to maintaining the
integrity of our games on PokerStars, and we appreciate vigilant players like
yourself who help us police our games.



PokerStars Support Team

Personally, I'd prefer that they forcibly confiscate the money I believe I lost on that hand from "bizzlenuts" and transfer it to my account as just compensation. I suppose that's asking a bit much, though.

What is so damn hard about just shutting up about the one subject that is forbidden to discuss while playing a poker hand, which is the hand in progress? It's like Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit. There's a whole garden full of every variety of things to eat, but what they go for is the one thing that is off-limits. It's the same with poker. The entire universe of possible topics of discussion is open, with one exception--the hand currently being played. Yet that is the one thing that players seem most unable to refrain from commenting about.

I will never, ever understand this.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Two Palms stories

People often ask me how I select a place to play on any given day. There's no good answer to that, other than that it's highly arbitrary. Sometimes there's a confluence of reasons. Tonight was one of them.

The Palms has a new promotion. During NFL games on Sunday and Monday nights, whenever a team scores, they randomly select a table and seat, and the player in that seat wins between $50 and $300. (The amount is apparently selected at random from a list of quantities. $50 is by far the most common, though just in the past two days I've heard a couple of $100 and one $300 being called out.) I also noticed that the duration of the two ESPN Monday night games would be just enough hours to qualify me for the new weekly freeroll tournament at the Palms (12 hours per week, and I had already spent nearly 6 hours there in the last few days). Third, they just rolled out a new series of $5 chips, which I will be happy to collect while they're still new. Finally, I had an errand to run a short distance from there. So the Palms it was.

Two reportable stories for you.

"I can't believe he went all in"

I was in the small blind with 5s-5h. I'm in Seat 10, big blind is in Seat 1, with the dealer between us. There was one limper ahead of me, and I called. The big blind raised to something like $12. This is a guy I've played with before. He has a pretty wide range for pre-flop raising, and cares little about position. I also know that he will put in a continuation bet virtually every time if post-flop action is checked to him after he has raised. Both the limper and I call.

The flop is 6-7-8, all spades. It just misses being my third flopped straight flush in as many weeks. But an open-ended straight-flush draw is obviously full of potential for good things happening. I checked. The big blind bet $20. He would do this pretty much no matter what, so his bet didn't help me define his hand. The limper called, but looked troubled about it. My read was that he liked his hand too much to fold, but not enough to raise, and he would have preferred a free card. The pot was about $75. I had $102 left in front of me. I shoved it all in. I didn't know if the big blind would fold or not, but it was OK either way. I felt reasonably confident that the limper would fold and leave an extra $20 in dead money in the pot.

The big blind called rather quickly. Limper folded. The five of diamonds hit on the turn, giving me a set. The river was a blank. Three of a kind was good enough to beat the big blind's pocket kings, which included the king of spades (thus explaining his rapid call).

As the pot was being pushed to me, the Seat 2 player, who had stepped away, was returning, noticed the large pot, and asked Seat 1 what had happened. Seat 1 summarized things, speaking softly, probably thinking that I was too far away to hear him. He closed his summation with, "I can't believe he went all in with pocket fives when there were three overcards."

Well, I guess that's one way of looking at it. It kind of misses some relevant facts, though. It's true that had I known that the big blind had exactly K-K, including a spade, I would not have pushed there. But K-K of any suits is at the very upper end of the range with which he puts in a pre-flop raise (even from out of position; he's one who likes to try to steal the limpers' money with a raise from the big blind with nothing). Even if I could somehow guess that he had an overpair to the board, there's only a 50-50 chance that he's holding a spade, and even then, unless he has the ace of spades, he has to worry that I have it, and/or already have a made flush. He could be drawing nearly dead, even with the K or Q of spades. In short, given his range of possible hands here, I have a ton of fold equity with the all-in check-raise.

As for the limper, I'm confident he doesn't have a made straight or flush, else he would probably raise big to protect his hand (unless he miraculously flopped the nut flush or a straight flush). He could be on the nut flush draw or nut straight draw. If so, my 5x raise is not giving him correct odds to call. If he has two pair or a set, again I would have expected a protective raise, so I think those less likely, but I have lots of outs just in case that's what he has.

All in all, even after thinking about it for a long time after the fact, I conclude that it was an eminently defensible move on my part. It's not the only possible reasonable way to play the hand, but there's nothing crazy about it. Again, if I could have seen my opponent's exact cards, it's not what I would have done, but that's not an especially useful way of analyzing the situation. Knowing his wide range, there was an excellent chance I was already best, and with the panoply of draws I had, I was a big favorite against his range. It was entirely possible that I had 17 outs that would beat both of my opponents (9 spades, 2 fives, and 3 additional fours and nines).

But I gather from his snide little comment that he thinks I should have known how far behind I actually was, and retreated from his routine continuation bet with my open-ended straight flush draw.

Sorry, pal. I guess I'm just not that good.

The deuce-four strikes again!

Regular readers know by now that once in a while I go a little crazy with the 2-4 offsuit. (See story toward the end of this post and links therein for the explanation.) Why offsuit instead of suited? Well, obviously, because I can make two different flushes!

My favorite way to play it is on the button when there has been a raise in front of me. That way, when it hits the flop, it's an absolute blindsiding, because nobody is insane enough to call a raise with a 2-4! Those were the circumstances tonight, so I did my thing.

Four of us saw the most unbelievable flop: 4-4-2. Oh, please don't let me pee my pants before this hand finishes playing out! Flopping a full house with unpaired cards in the hand is about a 1/1000 proposition. Not quite a straight flush, but I'm not complaining!

First two players checked to the pre-flop raiser, who bet $10. I called, as did one early-position player. I don't remember what the turn card was. I didn't care much care, except that it put two hearts out there, and I was hoping that somebody would hit a high flush on the river. This time the raiser bet $20. I min-raised to $40, and got two callers. Yummy pot taking shape here.

The river didn't complete the flush. It was checked to me. I bet $60, which happened to be exactly what the raiser had left. Sadly, both he and the other guy folded. I showed my hand to tell the table: I am crazy and unpredictable--be afraid, be very afraid!

Those hands were nice, but I never got a high-hand jackpot, a football scoring bonus, or even a diamond flush (which, at the Palms, gets one entered into a drawing for three $100 cash jackpots the following morning). See how hard my life is?

Monday, September 08, 2008

The problem nobody's talking about

The town is all abuzz about today's start of the O.J. Simpson trial. But not a single news outlet or commentator that I have heard has mentioned what is, for me, the most serious ramification of this whole mess: how the trial is going to be a huge obstacle to O.J.'s all-consuming, never-ending search for the real killers.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Poker gems, #162

Mike Caro, in column for Poker Player Newspaper, July 23, 2007, available here.

The cards probably won't break even--not in gin rummy, not in poker, and not in real life. There's a common misconception that if you play poker long enough the cards will break even. Fat chance! Maybe, if you could play forever, never stopping, never sleeping, eventually you'd break even on luck. But not in just one lifetime! Early on you'd probably break even on, say, the number of full houses you were dealt, but it would take much longer to break even on circumstances surrounding those full houses.

You might lose more hands than you should lose on average. On the other hand, sometimes opponents might have nothing to oppose you with, and you'll win nothing. You might get many full houses when you're sitting in big-limit games, or you may receive most in smaller games.

You might be against weak opponents, you might not. On and on. And the more factors you consider, the broader the range of luck, and the longer it will take for you to break even.