It has been a quiet week in Lake... Oh, wait--that's somebody else's opening line.
It has been a busy week in Las Vegas. Both Shamus and Cardgrrl have been in town for my birthday. Well, they each claim that something else brought them here--poker tournaments and some equestrian stuff, blah, blah, blah. But we all know the truth.
Wednesday Shamus and I went to the Wednesday Poker Discussion Group at Binion's. As you all know by now, I live about five blocks from there. I've been meaning to get to those meetings for, oh, two years or so now, and then always either forget or have something else come up. It took an out-of-town visitor to finally get my butt in a seat there. Glad I did--it was actually interesting. I wouldn't have thought that you could discuss one poker hand for 90 minutes, but we did. It was one of those weird hands in which you could make a pretty reasonable case for folding, calling, or raising at every decision point, and advocates for each approach were not shy about explaining their preferences.
The presenter, a guy named Alan (Allen?), had played the hand at a $2-5 game at the Wynn. I'll spare you the details, but he took a mediocre starting hand (Q-8) hand up against two unknown, drunk opponents from out of position, and used a completely weak/passive line, largely based on his interpretation of an odd comment the main opponent made early in the hand--a pretty dicey proposition on every front. But (1) it worked out for him, and (2) I had to admit that I could imagine myself making exactly the same decisions. Yeah, it was lousy poker by conventional standards. But sometimes you don't have to play brilliantly to win--you just have to play somewhat less badly than your opponents.
I was reminded of a line that I didn't think I'd ever end up quoting in earnest: Barry Greenstein's "Math is idiotic." His point was that sometimes it all comes down to deciding whether the guy has it or not, and nothing about numbers will solve that riddle for you. That's what Alan was facing, and he got it right. Good for him.
That evening I had a delightful dinner with Cardgrrl, Shamus, F-Train, and BWoP. Pity poor Vera, Shamus's wife, who had to endure a couple of hours with five poker bloggers. Most would consider that a fate worse than death. But we did actually manage to pretend to be normal humans to the extent of finding a few topics other than poker to discuss.
Been hanging out with Cardgrrl a lot, continuing to find her smart, funny, and interesting. Well, except for the nasty little habit of forgetting where she might have left her glasses, necessitating the search of the entirety of one of the largest hotel/casino/resort/convention center complexes on the planet (with the initials M.B.)--y'know, only a few square miles or so.
Late Wednesday night we were playing at Harrah's when our table was joined by a guy with one of the strangest hats I've ever seen. He was black, with apparently a huge afro. But it was all stuffed inside a knit cap that was about ten times the size of his head. Every time I looked at it, it reminded me of a Jiffy Pop container about to burst. Cardgrrl said that it reminded her of Star Trek or some other sci-fi show, with a big-headed alien.
Friday night was Tony Roma's for birthday ribs with my best friend, then "The Sting." It has probably been 20 years since I saw this last, so it was a real treat. I loved Paul Newman, as Henry Gondorff, getting cold-decked by the bad guy with quad threes, with which he was supposed to lose everything to his opponent's quad nines--but then Gondorff turns over quad jacks instead! (See Shamus's take on the scene here.) This leads to a great line of dialog:
Floyd: Doyle, I KNOW I gave him four THREES. He had to make a SWITCH. We
can't let him get away with that.
Doyle Lonnegan: What was I supposed to do - call him for cheating better
than me, in front of the others?
Last night Cardgrrl and I were playing at Mandalay Bay in a rather boring, sedate game, when suddenly I became aware of a familiar face standing behind and chatting with a couple of the other players. He soon joined our game:
That's right--it was Cory Zeidman, he of the infamous straight-flush hand against Jennifer Harman. (See here for a bit of discussion of that, with relevant links.) Also, he of the incredibly tedius, meandering recount of said hand during Phil Gordon's live broadcast of the 2007 Main Event--a story that started with a trip to the dentist, his observations about the dentist's office's furnishings, etc., all interspersed with regular promises that, yes, this background was indeed all relevant to the story of the straight flush. Yeah, right. This had all predisposed me not to like the guy, until he showed up on Poker After Dark recently, so skillfully skewering Phil Hellmuth that I did an about-face and began liking him.
Literally as soon as he sat down, the nature of our game changed. He hadn't even received his chips yet, and he raised the first hand, eventually showing that he had pocket 10s and flopped a set. He quickly became the center of both action and conversation. I found him to be funny and likable--and, obviously, quite a decent player. I had hoped to get him in a situation where I could make a comment about going sightseeing if I lost the hand, but it never happened.
Zeidman quickly ran up against the quirky house rules of the Mandalay poker room. (See here for more on that.) First the dealer made three players remove their cell phones from the table. Not allowed. Then they wouldn't let Zeidman read a poker magazine when he wasn't in a hand. That led to a prolonged discussion with the floor person. It's a little hard to describe the tone of that conversation. Zeidman managed to convey with zero ambiguity how stupid he thought the rule was, all the while maintaining a genuine smile and good humor. He finally found a loophole: The shift manager tried zinging him with the observation that she knew he didn't know how to read anyway, so it shouldn't matter. He acknowledged that this was true, which then meant that they couldn't accuse him of reading the magazine. Instead, he just "looked at the pictures" between hands. They left him alone after that.
These exchanges led to a running joke at the table about other rules. When he ordered a bottle of water and set it down in the appropriate place, I told him in my best faux-serious tone of voice, "Hey, no using the cupholders at the table!" When he was talking during a hand, I snapped, "No talking during a hand. House rule." Well, at least I was having fun with it.
He stayed only an hour or so, but it was definitely an enjoyable short visit.
Poker? Well, poker this week has basically sucked. E.g., playing at the Venetian and being the fourth one to call a raise, with 8h-6h on the button, seeing a gorgeous flop of 6-6-8, and losing it all to a guy holding pocket eights. FML. A "S.I.G.H." if ever there was one. That's how my poker week has been.
But all the other pleasant and interesting stuff happening this week have been almost enough to make up for that kind of thing.