Sunday, September 27, 2009

Miscellaneous stories and observations from the last couple of nights of poker


I played at the Sahara last night, for the first time in (checking records--hold on a sec) seven months. I was very surprised to find in my buy-in a couple of the chips shown above. In the three years I've lived here, the Sahara has never had even a single commemorative chip anywhere to be seen. I like such little treasures, of course. But I'm left wondering: With all of the events, holidays, conventions, etc., that have occurred in the past however-many years, was "Bikefest 2009" really the most significant one, the big thing that finally caused some executive in the casino to say, "By Jove, we have got to get us poker chips celebrating this"?


While I was playing at the MGM Grand tonight, my friend Cardgrrl was playing in a home game somewhere in the D.C. area. She posted a Twitpic along with this message: "Just win a big hand on this board. Can you guess what I had? Hint: Thanks @pokergrump :-)"

The photo was this:

In a text message to me, she confirmed that, yes, she really did have 2-4 offsuit there. What's more, she called a pre-flop raise with it! The pot she won was $80 or so. (They apparently use tournament chips in this game, devalued by a factor of 100.) I have no idea what the action was, or what her opponent held.

I was so proud of her. Naturally, I texted her right back to ask if she is now a believer, and if we would be seeing a conversion-story blog post. Her response: "Ummmm. Let's see... NAH!"

Sigh. She has plenty of evidence. See here, and here, e.g. But some people are just stubborn, I guess. With this refusal to accept the obvious fact that 2-4 is the most powerful hand in poker, I'm afraid that, as I have told her privately, she is good, but she will never become great. It's so sad.


Last December I blogged here about how the MGM Grand had been like Kryptonite to me, but that I had finally broken the curse with a win. A month ago I reported that it was continuing to be good to me.

I'm pleased to say that that trend continues. I have chalked up four winners in a row, averaging $252. I'm still at a net negative because the first few losses I had there (this was mostly back in 2006, after which I stayed away from the place for a long time) were unusually large ones. But the trend is clearly set.

This tends to confirm my suspicion that there wasn't anything really mysterious going on--it was just a result of variance acting all in one direction over a small sample set, perhaps combined, after the first two or three visits, with some subtle fatalism creeping into my mindset and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once those two things are broken, poker can get back to normal. (And, fortunately, for me, "normal" = "usually winning.") In fact, I'm kind of getting to like the joint. All signs point to it becoming a more frequent hangout for me.


One of the small things that will contribute to that happening is that this evening I discovered a different restroom. The most obvious one to use, right by the Stage Deli (incidentally, this is the same Stage Deli that sells wonderful GIANT COOKIES, to which I treat myself every time I play at MGM now), is small, cramped, usually overcrowded for its capacity, and not cleaned regularly enough. Using it has always been a distinctly unpleasant experience.

Tonight it was just too crowded to tolerate, so I decided to go in search of an alternative. Not knowing which way to turn, I just continued in the same direction--away from the poker room past the deli and restrooms. I was rewarded for my adventurousness. (Yes, looking for a different restroom in a casino is what counts as "adventure" in my life. Pathetic, eh?)

About 50 steps past the restrooms you come to the "West Wing Bar." Just walk right through it, enjoying the piano player/singer on the way, and on the other side you will find the bar's own set of restrooms. These are clearly not MGM Grand standard-issue, but designed to go with the bar. The lighting is low. There is actual decor inside--slate gray in the men's--with, of all things, real potpourri in wicker baskets between the sinks. The room is spacious, infrequently used (judging my my two trips tonight), and quiet. It makes for a surprisingly effective respite from the cacophony of the casino floor.

But don't tell anybody else, OK? Let's keep this our private little secret.


On the negative side, the MGM Grand's parking garage is right up there among the worst-designed of such structures in the city. I think it is topped in badness by the ones attached to Imperial Palace and Hard Rock, but it scores a solid third-worst. It's too late at night for me to feel like elaborating, but I'll just say that when I'm driving in it I feel lost, and when I'm a pedestrian in it I feel perpetually endangered by the vehicular traffic. That's not a good combination.


I had a major cooler of a hand last night at the Sahara. I had the top full house, and lost to a straight flush. There were only two exact two-card starting hands that had me beat: pocket 5s to make quads on this double-paired board, and the two cards that would complete the only possible straight flush. So, not surprisingly, my opponent and I raised and reraised each other on the river until we were both all in. I thought he might have the same hand I did, or a lower full house, or maybe even the nut flush. I saw the other two possibilties, but didn't want to fall prey to "monsters under the bed" syndrome. So I lost nearly all my chips.

I'm telling you this in order to comment about my opponent's reaction. First, when I called his all-in bet, I immediately showed my cards, without waiting for him. I don't usually do that, but just felt like it here. He gave me a mild slow-roll by issuing this speech before the reveal: "I have to apologize to you for this, sir." Then he showed the stone-cold nuts.

OK, so that was bad enough. But then he kept trying to assuage me. As he was stacking up the chips, and I was counting to see how little I had left, he called out to me to get my attention, then gave me a "nice hand" kind of table thump. He told me I played it fine and just got unlucky. He smiled and tried to get me to smile back.

Bollocks. I hate crap like that. Just leave me alone. You won, you have the money--can't you let it go at that? What are you, my mother or my therapist, feeling some need to make me feel less bad about handing over my stack? I mean, if he is actually feeling guilty about it (and I see no reason that he should--I certainly don't when I come out on the good side of such clashes), then give me the money back to get rid of the shame. But if you're not feeling guilty, then what's all the BS that seems designed to make you feel less bad about it?

Look, dude, you're not a sufficiently skilled emotional manipulator to be able to make such a loss sting any less than it does, so don't bother trying. Maybe I'm the only person in the world who feels this way, but you're adding to my annoyance rather than relieving it. (I doubt that that was his intention--he seemed like a genuinely nice person.) Besides, it's just not your job to make me feel better.

To add to my misery, it made me think of all the stuff I've read from Mike Caro about being the person at the table that the fishies don't much mind losing to--becoming their friend and confidante and supporter and cheerleader, so that they can continue to put their money in bad and not notice or not mind that that's what they're doing. Which made me wonder, "Is that what this guy is doing for me? Does he see me as the live one here, the one that needs TLC so as not to get mad or despondent and leave the game?" Because if that's what he was thinking, well, it just makes me even more irritated.

So here's my message: Just take the money and shut the hell up about it.


genomeboy said...

ahhh, a fine grumpy rant! excellent

Anonymous said...

RE - The cooler hnad....

Remember the comment Cardgirl made?
Being 'Grumpy' about it, doesn't help your persona....obviously it didn't bother you to the extent your opponent thought it did...why let his comments afterward get to you.

Often when someone won't let a winning hand go without making comments they are looking for more validation of their own ego, i.e., "look how brilliant I am for playing that hand that way."

Grange95 said...

As I always like to say:

"Never say you're sorry if you're stacking their chips."

P.S. Good to see you back in prime Grump blogging form!

Cardgrrl said...

I believe the technical term for the behavior that so annoys you is "Being a Gracious Winner."

Expressing sympathy for someone else's misfortune is NOT the same thing as regretting having won. It is simply an acknowledgment of the other's likely pain and disappointment, and recognition of the fact that it happens to us all and it is a miserable experience.

It's a polite and generally sincere way of saying, "sucks for you, I know." Since you say the guy seemed nice, and since it was such a ridiculous cooler, it seems highly unlikely there was anything manipulative about it whatsoever.

Rakewell said...

I do not consider conduct "polite" and/or "gracious" if it makes me feel more annoyed than I would be with a diplomatic silence.

Am I an anti-social freak and the only one that is more put off than soothed by his kind of gesture? Maybe. But I have a hard time imagining that such words would actually serve to take the sting away from anybody in the loser role there. And if I'm right that they would not have such effect for me or for others, then it's hard for me to see why they should be deemed "polite" and/or "gracious."

I suppose there's the argument that one should do it even if there is no beneficent effect on the listener, kind of like the perfunctory "good game" that we teach Little Leaguers to say to each other no matter how the other team actually played. The argument, I guess, is that there is some vague benefit to the psyche by going through the motions, and/or that society is generally made more pleasant by the fact that teams do these things. But surely nobody imagines that the losers of a heartbreaker have their disappointment consoled even in the slightest by this ritual. To me, that says that it's a pointless gesture that can and should be abandoned. That is the officially sanctioned misanthropist view.

Rakewell said...

Just this last thought. To quote from "A Christmas Carol":

"“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.... "It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s."

The Vegas Flea said...

A couple of comments.....

4. Thanks for ruining our little secret. lol, just kidding (kinda)...I actually frequent that little bar after a poker session or to just be able to get away from the casino floor every once and a while. It's nice.

5. I like to park in the Hooters/Tropicana parking lot across the street off of Tropicana Ave. There is always ample parking spaces, no hassles and the walk to the MGM poker room seems quicker, although it may not be, but it sure feels like it.

Cardgrrl said...

Just a few brief points and then I'll fall silent:

The behavior you dislike is, I think, generally both construed and intended as diplomatic. It acknowledges the good play of an opponent and expresses sympathy for his or her misfortune. This is good etiquette, in my view, if it is not overdone or excessive. I don't think it's a question of "soothing" anyone, but a matter of showing respect and acknowledging the vagaries of fortune in a game of skill.

(Apparently, the only way you feel respected is if people STFU in this circumstance. There may be others who feel the same way, I don't know. I am largely neutral on the subject, myself, and find a murmured expression of sympathy or acknowledgment of my good play perfectly acceptable and unobjectionable, and I appreciate the attempt at civility. If they say nothing, that's fine with me too, unless their non-verbal behavior suggests smugness, which I might find irritating.)

I do think there is an element of "good sportsmanship" training involved. To the extent that it plays a role, I believe it's a good thing as a whole ~ especially if it reduces incidents of bad sportsmanship by maintaining a civil and pleasant tone. Even if you think being a "good winner" is annoying, surely you must agree that being a "bad winner" is much, much worse!

The "good game" remark falls into the same category of sportsmanlike behavior. It is done as a sign of respect, an acknowledgment of an opponent who has shown up to compete. As you observe, it is not a literal commentary on the quality of the competition. It is as much a part of the ritual order of business of a game as the elaborate bows of sumo wrestlers.

As for Scrooge... If I recall correctly the entire point of the story is that he subsequently has a radical change of heart and comes to regret that particular sentiment.

Anonymous said...


On winners:

vae victis


Anonymous said...

You are fortunate to have Cardgrrl as a friend. There is much you can learn from her.

Brian said...

Cardgrrl: As for Scrooge... If I recall correctly the entire point of the story is that he subsequently has a radical change of heart and comes to regret that particular sentiment.

Haha. She has a point there Grump.

Though Cardgrrl, I would hold off on the embroidered "Happy" sweatshirt for the time being, ok? Even a Christmas visit from 2-4s of past, present, and future would be unlikely to turn our strong-willed hero.

And then who would read that blog? Haha.

A said...

Grump, you really are a Grump aren't you~lol

And, what Cardgrrl said, ditto!!

MorningThunder said...

"Just take the money and shut the hell up about it."

Amen brother