Saturday, August 22, 2009


I saw something the other day while playing at the Wynn that I don't recall ever having seen before. The final board was K-J-K-J-K. One guy bet, got two callers. He then turned over not only the case king, but another jack to go with it. He had four kings and three jacks.

As far as I know, that kind of hand doesn't have a name in poker--but it damn well should have!

Guess the casino, #242

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Answer: Luxor

Friday, August 21, 2009

Guess the casino, #241

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Answer: Gold Coast

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Deuce-four gets a new audience

Yesterday Cardgrrl and I went to the Wednesday Poker Discussion Group at Binion's. I had been there just once before, in April, with Shamus. Once again, several members of the group presented in detail hold'em hands they had played, and at each decision point those in attendance were asked what they would choose to do and why.

One of the hands involved the hero having been dealt the deuce-four--in crubs, no less. Reasons for playing it or not playing it to begin with were offered, but, tragically, nobody pointed out the simple fact that you play it because it is the single most powerful hand in poker. Similarly, at each subsequent decision point, people volunteered various explanations for calling, raising, or folding, but nobody ever said what should be obvious by now: "You bet and raise at every opportunity, because you will inevitably have the best hand by the river." And yes, the guy won the hand with two pair (as if there were any suspense in THAT outcome).

I have much evangelism work yet to do. It is disheartening that a group of players with this amount of collective experience can continue to be so confused about how to play the nuts.

Who knew food could be this pretty?

Tuesday I took Cardgrrl out for a lovely birthday dinner at Tao Bistro at the Venetian, followed by a stroll down to the Bellagio to get dessert at her favorite gelato/pastry shop, Jean-Phillippe (the place with the famous chocolate fountain). The pastries were just too beautiful not to document. She had the key lime one. I just had a small cup of berry sorbet, which was delicious. We ate them while watching a couple of the dancing fountain shows.

Incidentally, if you've ever wondered how high the water shoots in the most powerful of the central jets, you might have a hard time finding the answer online. Incorrect information is given in several places. The real answer--or as close to a real answer as it seems possible to find (we know because we disagreed on our estimates, and spent some time looking it up)--is "over 240 feet," as declared by the firm that designed the fountains, here.

Is it a clue to his playing style?

I seem to be running into a spate of unusual--and unusually large--card protectors lately. This one is a rock, the size of which is suggested by how it nearly covers his cards. It's also nearly pyramidal in shape, so that any dealer reaching out to muck those cards prematurely will get a, um, pointed reminder not to do so.

Guess the casino, #240

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Answer: O'Shea's

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guess the casino, #239

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Bellagio

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New site

A guy I know through his work at Bill's and Imperial Palace is involved in a new poker-related web site: Las Vegas Local Poker Guide. I haven't had time to explore it much yet, but one of the interesting and--as far as I know--unique features available is the "Fish alert." I'm not sure what to think of it yet, but it's an intriguing idea. If others have used the service, I'd be interested in feedback on it through the comments section. Of course, if the site wants to give me a free trial membership so I can report back on it here later, I'm up for that! (Utterly shameless shilling, I admit.)

Happy birthday, Cardgrrl!

I hope you have a lovely birthday today, and that this visit to Vegas is enjoyable, profitable, enlightening, and clarifies some of the difficult life decisions you have ahead of you. I am delighted to have you here, and honored to have you as my friend.

Guess the casino, #238

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Answer: Treasure Island

Monday, August 17, 2009

Poker gems, #307

Ed Miller, David Sklansky, and Mason Malmuth, in Small Stakes Hold'em, pp. 17-18.

The beats do not cause you to lose in the long run. Playing passively does.


The strange notion that your profits might be bigger against better players comes from the exact same trick that poker plays on your brain. The most horrifying result in poker is the "bad beat," when you lose a big pot that you were heavily favored to win. When you experience a terrible outcome, your brain tells you to avoid the cause, the same way your brain tells you to avoid a hot stove after you get burnt. It is trying to help you, but instead it is misleading you! Bad beats happen most often in the very best games. Avoiding bad beats by playing against only good players is the worst thing you can do.

...Your opponents' mistakes create the potential for more profit, but if you play incorrectly, you may not take advantage of it. If you do not win in the long run, it is not because your opponents are making too many mistakes; it is because you are.

Poker gems, #306

Dave Irish, as quoted in Dominick's "Dmuz75" blog on, here.

You can't play level 3 poker against people who don't understand Level 1.

Guess the casino, #237

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Answer: Texas Station

A question from 1979, an answer from 2009

A few days ago I was playing at the Venetian when I noticed that the music playing overhead was Ravel's "Bolero."

1979--the year the movie "10" came out--was the year I graduated from high school. I suspect that most people of my age had either not ever heard or not paid much attention to "Bolero" until seeing how it was put to use in this movie. I also suspect that just about nobody of my age bracket who saw the movie can fail to think of it on every rehearing of the music.

Sitting at the Venetian table with that music wafting, my mind drifted in directions both nostalgic and erotic. Although she answers, rather than asks, this question in the film, I imagined Bo Derek seductively querying me, "And what do you like to do to 'Bolero'?"

Middle age pierced through the daydreaming fog as I heard the voice in my head answer her: "Play poker."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chopping at Mandalay Bay

Playing at Mandalay Bay today, I was surprised to learn that as of two or three weeks ago, players can actually chop the blinds now, as at every other poker room in town that I know of. It's one small step in moving M.B. away from its reputation as having the strangest, nittiest rules in town.

Slight overkill on the card protector

Seen at Mandalay Bay today.

Yes, it's an actual railroad spike. The guy said his name is Spike.

I don't think he has to worry about any dealer accidentally mucking his cards.

Ricky Jay

Cardgrrl sent me a link to an old (1993) New Yorker magazine article about Ricky Jay, of whom I am a big fan. To whet your appetite, here's a sample:

After twenty minutes of disbelief-suspending manipulations, Jay spread the deck face up on the bar counter and asked Nogulich to concentrate on a specific
card but not to reveal it. Jay then assembled the deck face down, shuffled, cut
it into two piles, and asked Nogulich to point to one of the piles and name his

“Three of clubs,” Nogulich said, and he was then instructed to turn over
the top card.

He turned over the three of clubs.

Mosher, in what could be interpreted as a passive-aggressive act, quietly announced, “Ricky, you know, I also concentrated on a card.”

After an interval of silence, Jay said, “That’s interesting, Gregory, but I only do this for one person at a time.”

Mosher persisted: “Well, Ricky, I really was thinking of a card.”

Jay paused, frowned, stared at Mosher, and said, “This is a distinct change of procedure.” A longer pause. “All right—what was the card?”

“Two of spades.”

Jay nodded, and gestured toward the other pile, and Mosher turned over its top card.

The deuce of spades.

A small riot ensued.

See the full piece here:

Two reasons I'm happy

1. My pal Cardgrrl is coming back to town tomorrow night, for three and a half weeks.

2. The following day, Tuesday, will be her birthday. Leave a nice comment for her, either here or on her blog, won't you?

Can you tell me what the rule is, after reading the rule?

I have tried to like the Monte Carlo poker room. I really have.

It's small, and I like small, cozy rooms. It's quiet; I like that. They have freeroll tournaments for accumulated hours of play, but they change the frequency, requirements, and payout schedule every couple of months, so it's impossible to keep track of. Parking, since the Echelon construction began, has been a nightmare, though I hear that there is now a functioning parking garage again. (Last night I started at MGM and walked over to Monte, so I haven't tried it yet.) The tables and chairs are of marginal comfort, at best. I haven't been treated well by the room staff generally; more than most places, I have been made to feel like my showing up and asking for a seat is an annoying intrusion into the time of whoever is managing the list. They also don't track hours on your MGM card for food comps. There's a couple of dealers there that I like a lot, but I had an unusual, uncomfortable, and completely unnecessary confrontation with another one. Most importantly, whether there is a no-limit game going when I want to play is completely hit-or-miss, and when there's one going, it's often one of the nittiest in town.

Then, among other things, there are the weird, nitty rules, and the inconsistent enforcement thereof. This is bad enough that it is prominent discussed in the editor's review of the room. Over the last month or so, I have really come to enjoy sending out tweets about the progress of the session, interesting hands, small observations and amusements, etc. In fact, it's possible that my somewhat reduced frequency of telling poker stories in blog posts is due to having told them already in tweets. I'd like to think that these mini-posts are just as much fun for readers as for me.

So when I read something recently (and I can't remember where it was--perhaps one of Las Vegas Michael's tweets?) about rooms in which one is not allowed to use cell phones, including text messaging, at the table, and Monte Carlo was included, it gave me one more reason to avoid the place. (See here for a good discussion of texting rules.)

Last night I had an unusually profitable session at the MGM, and felt like leaving there to pocket my winnings, but still wanted to play more without having to get in the car and drive somewhere else. So I decided to give the Monte another try, for the first time in several months. It's a short walk across the street to the east.

As I played, I noticed that the big-screen TV nearest the room's entrance had a rotating display of rules, promotions, announcements, etc. I jotted down the exact text of the screen about cell phones a few words at a time. Here's what players are told:



*Please refrain from using your cell phone at the poker table.

* We kindly ask you to step away from the poker table to use your cell

* Thank you for your cooperation.

So what is the rule? Can you use your cell phone for web browsing, texting, etc., while not in a hand? The first part of the rule would seem to suggest yes. The second and third parts would seem to suggest no, assuming that "use" of a cell phone includes not just talking on it but using its other functions. In other words, it's impossible to tell what the rule is by reading the rule. How moronic is that?

As mentioned, I have heard that the rule is enforced so as to prohibit even texting while not in a hand. Last night, however, a couple of players at my table openly talked on their phones while in the middle of hands. I didn't do that, but I did check Twitter a couple of times and read and responded to one text message that I got, when not in a hand, and nothing was said to me about it. These observations show pretty clearly that, whatever the rule is, it is not enforced consistently.

I'm not sure which is worse--having a stupid rule that is enforced to its nittiest bleeding edge (as, say, at Mandalay Bay), or having a stupid rule the enforcement of which is completely inconsistent, varying with the dealer, the floor person, the time of day, etc. Either way, the fact that one can read the rule as posted in the room and still not be sure what is allowed or disallowed is a sign of woeful mismanagement.

Guess the casino, #236

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Answer: Sam's Town