Last night I returned to the Venetian. I knew that the porn stars would all be at Mandalay Bay for the big Adult Video News awards ceremony, and that that would leave just the Consumer Electronics Show attendees. Sure enough, I spotted a few convention ID badges around the necks of my fellow players.
That's right---it was going to be me against the Geeks.
Let me just skip right to the end of the story. I played for exactly three hours, finishing up by $573. I never lost a big pot, never got my money in with the worst of it (except for deliberate bluffs--every one of which was successful). Compare that to Thursday night, playing against the porn stars. My stack fluctuated wildly up and down, finally ending up a fairly pathetic $115 for just under eight hours of play, and even that success was dependent on some lucky flukes.
My conclusion, based on the highly scientific sample size of one table each: Porn stars play better poker than computer geeks. Who knew?!
There was one seminal hand worth describing. Our table was blessed with a Geek Maniac. He was the friendliest, chattiest, smilingest guy there, very affable and enjoyable personally. But he was a maniac. He played at least 90% of his starting hands. If nobody raised ahead of him, he would do the job himself virtually 100% of the time. Sometimes it was a min-raise, sometimes to $6, sometimes $8, sometimes $12. As far as I could tell, the amount didn't vary with his hand strength. Rather, he would go in spurts of a certain amount for a while, then change to a different amount for a while, etc. He would always, always, always continuation-bet the flop. He was an inveterate bluffer--as one would have to be playing that way, because you just don't make real hands that often.
As I trust my readers know, it is impossible to play poker profitably this way. Sure, he won about three monster pots during the time I watched him, but, predictably, it would all either bleed away slowly or get lost in another huge confrontation. But he had a big wad of Benjamins and wasn't afraid to dig into it. Excellent! I recognized two other local grinders at the table, and this one guy was feeding all three of us. (We stayed out of each other's way.)
So late in the day, Geek Maniac is under the gun and straddles, as always. I'm in middle position and see my favorite hand, the 2-4 offsuit. Yay! I can't lose! Position isn't perfect, but I've played 2 1/2 hours of rock-solid poker, never showing a bluff, winning every large pot I contest, showing down nothing but strong hands. So the situation should be a good one for either making a completely unreadable hand or making a plausible bluff. I called the $4, knowing that it was just a down payment, because, as he always did, Geek Maniac raised it, this time to $12. I called again.
The flop was A-Q-2 with two hearts. (I had none.) Geek Maniac bet $15. My lowly bottom pair might be good here, and I might improve to two pairs or trips, or be able to represent the flush if another heart were to come, so I called. Besides, I wanted to see what he would do on the turn. (I should mention, perhaps, that Geek Maniac had a major tell in his bet sizing. When he had nothing or something really weak like bottom pair or an underpair to the board, he would repeat his bet size from the flop to the turn, or from the turn to the river. Huge information giveaway.)
Turn was an offsuit 2, giving me trips, which was almost sure to be the winner here. Of course, he plays any two cards this way, and could theoretically have had the case deuce--or even, God forbid, pocket queens or aces for a full house--but that's mathematically unlikely enough that I felt I could safely disregard it unless he showed real strength. (Another facet of his bet-size tell was that he didn't bluff big; his big bets and check-raises were always the real deal.) This time he bet $25, suggesting that he had top pair at least. I raised to $80. He called without too much difficulty, but with definite trepidation. Again, this let me know that he had a real hand, but certainly no monster. He was very easy to read, both from betting patterns and body language.
River was an offsuit 5, completing no possible flush or straight draws. Beautiful! Geek Maniac checked. I bet $100. He hesitated for no more than two seconds before calling, which makes me wonder if I could have squeezed more out of him. But no matter--I showed the ol' 2-4. He nodded unhappily and mucked without showing. I scooped in the roughly $420 pot. Thank you, deuce-four!
Geek Maniac left the table quietly maybe ten minutes later. I was surprised at the table talk after he was out of earshot. A young woman two seats to my left (I've played with her before and know her to be good) said, referring to me, "I was so happy when he won with that deuce-four! I was, like, 'Yeah! Take THAT!'" (Geek Maniac had stacked her earlier when he flopped a set of queens to beat her pocket kings.) Even more surprising, the dealer then piped up: "Me, too! I know I'm supposed to be neutral, but I loved seeing him get a dose of his own medicine!" Apparently, despite his personal affability, the Geek Maniac's playing style had been getting on everybody's nerves.
I thought this was really strange. From the dealer's perspective, not only is such an overt display of favoritism highly unprofessional (even after the other guy has left the table), but why should she care who wins or loses, or what anybody's playing style is? I could understand it if the guy was a jerk. Then it would be perfectly natural to wish to see him taken down. But as I've said several times, he was really a charming, happy-go-lucky person whom it would impossible to dislike. He was never rude, never churlish, never a sore loser, always complimenting other players on good hands and good play, an extremely generous tipper, etc.
As for the other players, they should have hated that hand--first, because it made a big chunk of chips a helluva lot harder to win than if they had stayed in Geek Maniac's stack, and, second, because it for the first time revealed me to be a lot more potentially tricky and difficult to put on a hand than they had presumably believed prior to that point. Logically, it made no sense for them to be happy with the outcome. But I guess for some people, the emotional revenge satisfaction factor meant more than the implications for their chances of leaving the game winner. Personally, when I see a big pot go down between other players, I always either love or hate the result based on my assessment of whether that mass of chips just became easier or harder to take home; I'm rooting for the worst player to win. Once again, I guess I have to face the fact that the way I think about things just isn't shared by most of the rest of humanity.
Just a "BTW" thing that occurred to me for the first time last night: Since "Venetian" is the adjectival form of "Venice," why isn't it spelled "Venecian"?