Saturday, November 07, 2009

Guess the casino, #319

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

Answer: Riviera

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thinking too high

This post from Shamus today details Darvin Moon's recollection of the big hand in which he knocked Billy Kopp out of the World Series of Poker main event, just before getting to the final table. Shamus also points to this interview with Kopp, in which he lays out his thinking as the hand was progressing. I haven't been paying much attention the November Nine, so I had not been aware of either of these sources.

The contrast is stunning. Kopp is thinking, oh, about 17 levels ahead of Moon. Moon isn't even correctly aware of what the cards on the board are, let alone getting inside Kopp's head. He's playing somewhere between that infamous Level Zero and Level 1.

This reminds me of several things, all of which are basically making the same point. First is a little tidbit I read just today in Jeff Hwang's column in Card Player magazine (November 4 issue, vol. 22, #22):

In poker, we might assume that our opponent took a certain action for a
reason, when the reality may be that he has absolutely no idea what he is doing.

For example, your opponent--a tourist who has never played poker
before--bets $600 into a $1,000 pot on the river. You wonder what he has. You
wonder what he thinks you have. You wonder what he thinks you think he thinks
you have...and so on. And you try to analyze his bet amount.

For all of the multiple levels of thinking you've done, it's possible that
his bet size and action is completely random. Maybe the minute timer on his
watch read "00," and maybe a girl walked into the room who looked like a "6," so
he simply put the "6" and "00" together and decided to bet $600!

Next is this from Bryan Devonshire, which I posted as a "Poker Gem" last year:
I always laugh when people fail to realize when players are not paying
attention and try to put moves on them, because some people wouldn't notice if
an African elephant walked across the table, much less what your bluff bet was
supposed to be representing.

Then there was this from Dave Irish:
You can't play level 3 poker against people who don't understand Level

And finally, there is a great chapter by Rafe Furst in the Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide, in which he cogently discusses what can be learned about poker from roshambo (rock, paper, scissors). The basic idea is summarized nicely in this exchange between Furst and Michael Craig, the book's editor (p. 414):

FURST: Against expert roshambo players, you have to go many levels deep in your
CRAIG: How many levels do you usually have to go to win?
FURST: The amount never varies: one level deeper than your opponent.

The point is, of course, that going one level too deep is just as disastrous as going one level too shallow, and that is true no matter what your opponent's depth of thinking might be.

Billy Kopp probably knew that before this year's World Series of Poker. If not, he learned the lesson in the most expensive way possible. Either way, my guess is that he will never, ever forget it.

Poker gems, #324

John Vorhaus, in Card Player magazine column, November 4, 2009 (vol. 22, #22), p. 92.

Look, no one plays perfect poker. It's a dream we can chase, but not a goal we can ever achieve. In the face of this reality, I find that it helps to be patient and impatient at the same time; that is, patient enough to forgive my mistakes, and impatient enough to demand better of myself next time.

Everyday probability

My mind works in some very peculiar ways.

(If the sentence above is a sudden revelation to anybody, welcome to the blog, since it must be your first day reading.)

One of them is that playing and reading about poker so much has caused me to think about probability a lot. Really seriously a lot. It seems to confront me everywhere, in all sorts of contexts.

Like f'r instance. I have allergies, so I take some medicines for them. One of the things I take is Allegra-D. This is a tablet with two sides, one white, one tan. I assume that one of them is the antihistamine and the other the decongestant part of the combination. They come in blister packs of ten pills, as you can see from the photo of two such packs above.

I assume that in the manufacturing process, the tablets tumble into the dimples in the plastic packaging, and that how they land is effectively random. It certainly looks that way to me, after having seen many, many such blister packs.

How many have I seen? Well, I've been taking this drug for maybe ten years now, though I used to get it in standard prescription bottles. Since moving to Nevada three years ago, I discovered that I could get it much more cheaply by ordering through a Canadian pharmacy, which is what I have been doing ever since. That's when I started receiving it in this kind of packaging. I take one pill a day (occasionally two, when things get really bad). So let's guess that I've taken 1200 of these tablets. That's about 120 of the blister packs, at ten pills apiece.

I have not yet seen one where all the tablets landed in their little target spots facing the same way, i.e., showing me either ten white sides or ten tan sides. I did once see a pack that had nine out of ten. And yes, it gave me a little thrill. But every time I open a box (each box has three packs in it), it's like scratching off the spot on a lottery ticket to see if today is my lucky day. You can see that the top pack in the picture above is completely uninteresting, with six one way and four the other. The second one did a little better, with seven and three.

What is the probability that any given pill pack will be all one way? That's easy to determine. I don't care which way the first pill lands. The second one has a 50/50 shot of matching the first. If it does, the third one similarly has a 50/50 chance of matching those two, and so on. So the overall probability is 1/2^9, or 1/512. That is, on average one out of 512 such packs will be all matching.

How lucky or unlucky is it that I have not seen such a package yet? Let's go to the binomial calculator! Our value for p is 1/512--the probability that any given pack will be all one way. The value for n is 120, my estimate of the number of packs I have inspected. The value of k is 1--my humble target. The calculator tells me that the probability of by now having seen one or more packs in perfect unity of color is 0.209, or about 21%. The probability of having seen none is therefore about 79%. The implication is that I have not been especially unlucky; it would not be surprising to have found the pack I wish to see by now, but my situation is the expected norm, rather than the exception.

(I realize it's kind of philosophically problematic to speak of the probability of things that have already happened. They either did or didn't, and there isn't truly any probability anymore. Schrodinger's cat is either alive or dead. A more accurate way to phrase it would be, "What is the probability that there will be at least one all-one-color pack seen among 120 of them chosen at random?" But I trust you all knew what I meant anyway.)

If I keep it up for another similar interval of time, i.e., another 120 packs, what is the probability that I will by then have seen the package of my dreams? Ha! It's a trick question! The probability is 21%. Why? Well, if you ask the probability of finding one or more monochrome packs out of 240, the calculator will instantly tell you that it's 37%. But it would be incorrect for me to say that my probability of finding one in the next 120 packs is 37% on the grounds that it's a total run of 240 packs and I'm halfway through it without having seen one. The universe does not give me any credit for having already examined the first 120. It does not know that I have done this, nor whether I have already found one. (I guess the universe does not read my blog, which is kind of sad.) The odds are new again with each package, or, if you're looking in bunches, it's new again with every n number of trials you're planning to run. To think otherwise would be to fall for the classic gambler's fallacy, akin to thinking that you will surely make this flush draw, having missed the last eight in a row. But the pills, like the cards, have no memory for past events.

Assuming that they don't invent either a cure for allergies or a drug that works better for me than Allegra-D (and I find it nearly perfect, controlling symptoms nicely with essentially no discernible side effects), I will keep taking the stuff, so it seems almost inevitable that sooner or later I will find the magic package that I have been looking for. At that moment I am going to feel like Charlie spotting the golden ticket inside his Willy Wonka candy bar wrapper. I probably won't use the medicine or open the pack, just hang it on the wall or something as a monument to the weird but wonderful laws of probability.

Yes, I really am just quirky enough to do that.

Guess the casino, #318

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

Answer: O'Shea's

Thursday, November 05, 2009

More on the Million-Dollar Cash Game

I posted Sunday about my impression after watching the first episode of season 3 of the "Full Tilt Poker Million Dollar Cash Game." I have now watched all nine episodes that have been put up so far. They are absolutely riveting. Unlike "High Stakes Poker," they edit out all the boring hands, so every hand that is shown is interesting. Also unlike HSP, they have the mics on the players not involved in the hand turned down so the background chatter is just that--background, easy to ignore. The commentary and graphics are pretty bad, but the poker itself is the best that I've ever seen on television. Great players. Deep, deep stacks. Boatloads of money. Incredibly good play, and a few moments of insanity and stupidity. Sick hands. Real suspense. Egos crushed. And Phil Hellmuth losing over $200,000.

It just doesn't get any better. Go watch.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Las Vegas will have sunny skies and another shot for the high temperature
record book again today, says the National Weather Service.

Forecasters predict today's high will climb to near 84 degrees, which would
match the old record for this date set in 1980.

The normal high for a Nov. 5 is 71 degrees. The record low temperature is
28 degrees, set in 1940. The normal low is 48 degrees for this date.

Today's morning low temperatures was 57 degrees at 5:56 a.m. at McCarran
International Airport. The temperature will climb to 71 degrees by 9 a.m., to 78
degrees by noon, then top out at 84 around 3 p.m., forecasters say.

Temperatures have been running about 10 to 12 degrees above normal this
week, reaching near-record levels. Wednesday's high was 81 degrees, a few
notches below the record of 85 for that date.

Well, clearly y'all should be here today.

(Especially you, Cardgrrl.)

Guess the casino, #317

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

Answer: MGM Grand

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Deuce-four's little brother

The above are the lastest $5 chips issued by the Palms. I think the Palms may now have more different $5 chips in circulation than any other casino in town, although the Rio and Hard Rock must be in contention, too. I had never seen Farrah Fawcett on a poker chip before. I don't know whether she had any special connection with the Palms.

I played at the Palms tonight. It was one of those rare sessions in which my entire profit came from one hand. Literally. After four hours of play, I had been up $50 and down $50 a few times, but no real forward progress. I think I was up $20 from my $300 buy-in, and just thinking that maybe I should get up and go somewhere else or even just go home, when the key hand occurred.

The tightest player at the table raised to $8 from second position. I was on the button with 2-3 offsuit. It was folded to me. I called, because I thought (1) I could put him on a very narrow range of hands, and thus easily determine where I stood with just about any flop, and (2) he might stack off with aces or kings if I hit something sneaky. Nobody else called.

The flop was A-5-9 rainbow. He bet $10. I wasn't yet sure if the smallish bet meant that he had kings or queens and was testing the water to see if I had an ace, or if he had A-A or A-K, loved his hand, and wanted to be sure not to chase me off.

I called. Now, normally I don't go chasing gutshot straight draws. But this was a small bet with big implied odds if he had A-A or A-K. He had demonstrated a tendency to go all the way with that sort of hand, so if I could catch a miracle, I could get paid big-time.

The dealer (Lori), bless her heart, rewarded me with a 4 on the turn, giving me the nuts. My opponent bet $17. I thought a while, then raised to $40. This time I was the one not wanting to scare off my customer. But the most important consideration was what I wanted him to think. A raise just a little more than the minimum would, I believed, suggest to him that I had a weak ace, that I wasn't sure whether he had a better ace, and I was probing to find out, and to make him lay down queens or kings. I hoped that he would see fit to give me a blaringly loud answer.

He sure did. With no hesitation at all, he arranged all his chips into one big stack and shoved it forward. It was all I could do not to imitate one of Phil Hellmuth's frenetic insta-shove-calls. (If you've never seen him do this, take two minutes to raise the level of hilarity in your life by watching this funny clip from "High Stakes Poker.") Poor guy had A-A and had flopped top set. He never saw it coming.

I texted my friend Cardgrrl about this, and the evil pleasure it gave me to win such a large amount in such a sneaky manner. She replied, "You are a bad man!"

But she's one to talk! While I was playing live, she was online. When I got home a short time later (I left at the end of that orbit--"hit and run" at its finest), she sent me this screenshot from one of her sit-and-go tournaments:

I understand that she called all-in on the flop. Of course, she couldn't lose, with the deuce-four, but she claims to still be an unbeliever, so I'm not sure what possessed her here.

The 2-3 was so slick in that hand tonight that I briefly wondered if I have been misled, and it, rather than the 2-4 is actually the most powerful hand in poker. But then I remembered that that question has already been definitely answered by the two monsters clashing against each other directly. See here for the results.

I'm willing, however, to entertain the possibility that the 2-3 has some serious potential to it. I may not be able to center an entire religion on it, but it could be, y'know, like one of the saints or demigods in the Holy Order of the Deuce-Four.

Live by the 2-4, die by the 2-4

I have noted often here that not only has the Mighty Deuce-Four* been good to me in terms of profit, but I have never lost a big pot to somebody else playing it against me. I have frequently thought that sooner or later it was going to happen. Last night it finally did.

I was at Caesars Palace. My first 2-4 hand went perfectly. I was up against a pretty good player, a young woman who looked and sounded almost exactly like Vanessa Rousso, complete with designer shades. I limped in from early position with 2c-4d, then called her button raise to $10. The flop was 3-5-10 with two hearts, giving me an open-ended straight draw. I check-called $15. She was an aggressive player (mostly appropriately so, not maniacally), and always made continuation bets, so I didn't necessarily put her on much. The turn was a 4, giving me a pair and therefore more outs to win even if she had an overpair. She bet again. She and I had been involved in two pots before, both of which had gone exactly the same way: Me on a draw, check-call the flop, miss the turn, check-fold to her second bet. So I was not surprised that she bet again. That history made me decide to call again ($40), because she could easily think that I had nothing but a flush draw and would fold as I had in our prior clashes, when she priced me out of continuing to chase. River was the 4h, giving me trip fours. I had about $115 left and the pot was about $130. I shoved. She tanked. She asked, "Did you really call me down with the heart draw?" She eventually concluded out loud that I had not done so (good read, so far as it went...) and called, showing A-A. I win. I had her covered by just a few bucks. She and her friend both left the game, muttering epithets about the idiot who had played 2-4 that way.

That broke up the table, which had already lost three players in rapid succession before. I was moved to a new table. Unfortunately, I ended up to the right of a classic drunk maniac, who was raising nearly every hand, betting every flop, turn, and river. He was getting ridiculously lucky and winning with the most amazing trash when called down, and successfully bluffing when not called (and giddily showing it every time). He was sitting on $600+ when I arrived.

In such situations, absent some strong physical tell, you pretty much just have to pick a spot that looks good and go with it, recognizing that he might have something that beats you that you can't possibly put him on. Well, long story short, I ended up in a monster pot against both him and a player between us whom I correctly read for a flush draw that didn't get there. I had no clue what the maniac had been raising and betting with, but my 9-9 seemed likely to be good on an all-baby board. Unfortunately, the flop had been 4-4-8, and this time he was playing the Mighty Deuce-Four. I lost about $200 on that hand, after check-raising his flop bet, then calling him on the safe-looking turn and river. The trapped third player, of course, swelled the pot and made calling even more irresistible.

Prior to that, I had already lost back my day's profit on this new table. That hand reduced me to about $90 of my original $300 buy-in. Fortunately, I recovered quickly. Just four or five hands later I saw A-A, limped in and got the expected big raise from the maniac--to $25. The guy to my right called, and looked to me as if he had been planning the limp-reraise trap of the maniac just as I had been. I shoved, the maniac called, and the guy to my right called for a little less than I had. He had A-K. Maniac never showed. A-A held up, and I was back to about my original buy-in.

My friend F-Train arrived soon after this and I told him the tale in brief. He said that such things were to be expected; if 2-4 is a good hand, it's good for everybody, not just me. I disagree. I certainly don't mind other people learning of its power and making money with it--I'm not selfish here--but I think that my discovery of the hand should give me immunity against it. It should be kind of like when you sell somebody a property in Monopoly with the proviso that they give you free rent when you land on it for the rest of the game. Other people are welcome to fatten their poker bankrolls with the 2-4, but I should get "free rent" against the it for life as my reward for unveiling it to the poker world.

It seems only fair.

*See here for a recent story of somebody other than me referring to the 2-4 this way. But do not read if you are weak of heart: the most powerful hand in poker lost there.

Guess the casino, #316

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

Answer: Imperial Palace

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Guess the gizmo

(Warning: No poker content.)

I played at Caesars Palace this evening. While I was there (hint: not in the poker room), I spotted this unusual little device. I had never seen one before--or at least I had not seen one quite like this. I knew almost instantly what it was, but only because of the specific location in which I saw it. Can you discern what this thingamajig is without the contextual clues that I had?

I'll wait a day or two before posting the answer in the comments, though I suspect that somebody out there will figure it out and spill the beans before I get to it. (So don't read the comments unless you're prepared for spoilers!)

More A.C. photos

I can be such a dodo sometimes. I completely forgot that I had pictures from Harrah's A.C. taken with my real camera out the hotel window. I had downloaded them to their own special folder upon arriving home, then zoned out when I was doing the previous post, and only used the crappy ones from my cell phone camera.

From the hotel window I could see these unusual but kind of visually interesting things (don't really know what they are) on the roof of the adjacent parking garage. Maybe the leaves spread out and join to provide shade when it's sunny, or maybe they're purely decorative. Who knows?

Much better view of the windmills during one of the brief sunny interludes we had in what was mostly unbroken cold, rain, and clouds.

This dome encloses the swimming pool, which becomes a nightclub after hours. It's tropical and kind of pretty inside it. I'm surprised that this sort of thing isn't more common in Vegas. Despite being in the desert, winter gets cold enough that outdoor pools are virtually unusable for a few months of the year. An enclosure like this would fix that problem, as well as counter the intolerable heat of mid-summer.

Harrah's Atlantic City

I finished my brief Atlantic City trip with Cardgrrl two weeks ago yesterday, which means that my promised report of Harrah's A.C., where we stayed, is now two weeks past promise. Sorry about that.

I suppose that the most general thing to say about the place is that it's perfectly acceptable. It didn't blow my socks off in any way--nothing like, say, the Venetian does when I have stayed there. But I had a quiet, comfortable room without problems and with a nice view. In terms of a hotel, I don't need much more than that. What little time I spend in the room is mostly unconscious, and amenities don't carry a lot of weight with me at that point.

As regular readers know, I'm not much of a gambler, so I can't tell you anything about Harrah's A.C. as a casino--except that it's really big, and an annoyingly long walk from the Bayview Tower to the poker room, which is the only part of the casino I care about.

So how is the poker room? Again, it's perfectly fine. Nothing special, but--and this is uncommon for me--also not a lot to gripe about. But you just know that I'll find something anyway, right?

Here was my first experience: I get my name on the list. A while later I hear it called. I go to the desk. The guy there tells me, "Go talk to David [I'm not sure that was the name, but it doesn't matter]. He'll get you seated." They apparently just assumed that I would know who this "David" was and where he was. I didn't. I had to ask. When I found him, he was quite busy, and I had to follow him around from table to table for a couple of minutes before he got to me. Then he was surprised that I was asking him for a seat, because he hadn't been told that anything was available. It was a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing. He finally found me the seat that had opened up. It was only then that he informed me I'd have to go fetch my own chips for the initial buy-in. It sure would have saved time if somebody--anybody--had told me this beforehand, and I could have had it taken care of while I was waiting. To make it worse, David just said, "Go get your chips from the cage." I had no idea where the cage was. From where I was standing in the poker room, I could see two cage-like windows, but both of them had signs on them reading something like "Race bets only." I asked David where this cage was that he spoke of. He just pointed in the direction of those windows. I told him that it looked to me like those signs were indicating a cashier. He then explained that there is another window around the side of the same area (which wasn't visible from where I was) that was the cage.

In short, everybody seemed to assume that I already knew my way around and knew the room personnel. As a point of customer service, it seems to me a better default position to assume that it is the patron's first time there, rather than that they know all the ins and outs.

I did not at all like how they handled the member card for tracking hours. There are no card readers at the tables, only one at a computer in the center of the room. That means that everything after the initial swipe requires the dealer to call out to the floor person that a player has changed seats or left the game. I can only imagine that that relay system is highly prone to errors and failure. I have no idea if I actually got the proper credit for the hours I put in.

Speaking of hourly credits, I learned that Harrah's A.C. gives 30 "tier points" per hour for playing $1/2 NLHE, and 60 per hour for $2/5 NLHE. That compares to the 28 per hour given by the various Harrah's properties in Vegas for any game. "Tier points" are what give you Gold, Platinum, Diamond (or higher) status, with their associated perks.

There is one seriously strange thing about how this poker room is run. Apparently fills have to be brought by a security team, rather than by a chip runner, another dealer on break, or whatever. This means that they are incredibly slow in coming, and dealers routinely run out of change-making chips long, long before a fill will ever come. The result is that players end up volunteering to go buy--out of their own pockets--$1 chips from the cage, then bringing them back to the table and selling them to the dealer. They do this because otherwise the game grinds to a halt. It's utterly ludicrous and moronic to run things this way. I have no idea what state regulations there might be, if any, that cause things to be done this way, but I could hardly believe my eyes the first time I saw it. That the casino management just blithely allows this insane practice to continue is the most tangible sign I saw there that they just don't care about presenting a professionally run poker room.

The dealers were mostly unremarkable--neither especially great nor awful. But there was one who was truly incompetent, so remarkably so that she deserves to have the following stories told about her, all of which occurred during a single down during the one tournament I played there (Sunday afternoon):

1. She took a full three minutes to get herself signed in. This was largely because she noticed a problem with how the previous dealer had signed the sheet (something about his badge number or employee number or whatever not having been recorded), and spent time trying to fix it for him, while nine players sat there impatiently watching the tournament clock tick by. She seemed completely oblivious to how she was affecting the game and annoying the players by her stupid insistence on fixing that problem right that minute.

2. She was the slowest dealer I saw the whole trip, by a large margin.

3. During one deal the ace of clubs flipped face-up to the under-the-gun player. No big deal--that happens to every dealer occasionally. But how she handled it was inexcusable. She replaced the card as per protocol. But then when that player folded, the dealer took it upon herself to peek at the two mucked cards, then got a look of obvious relief on her face, and said, "That's good." To anybody paying attention, that made it clear that there was not an ace folded there, and probably not two clubs, either. There is no reason whatsoever for that kind of thoughtless dissemination of potentially crucial information. The dealer has no business even knowing what cards a player mucks, let alone hinting to the table what the cards were.

4. There was one giant hand that involved five players and two side pots. This dealer screwed it up beyond all recognition. She just didn't know how to set up two side pots, so she was reduced to taking instructions from the players, who, of course, completely disagreed with each other about how she should do it. It became a mass of confusion. The hand took about ten minutes because of her utter incompetence.

5. The tournament clock had tipped over to the next level while that hand got sorted out. One of the players didn't notice that and put out the previous blind amount. I pointed out that he needed more. He said, "Oh, the blinds went up already?" I joked, "Yeah, we only got that one hand in on the previous level." The dealer heard this and freaked. She stopped in the middle of pitching cards, fixed me in her glare, and said, "Do you want to sit here and do this?" Note that I hadn't said anything about her directly, or why the hand had taken such a long time. But it was an indisputable fact that it had taken a large part of one entire blind level. I couldn't believe (1) that she was being so sensitive about a joke that was nearly literally true and that, additionally, didn't blame or even mention her as the cause, and (2) that she would further slow down the game to complain to me about it, rather than doing the honorable thing and apologizing to the players for having screwed up so badly. So I just stared back at her, curious to see how long she would hold up the action. It was about 30 seconds of her repeating her question to me and me doing nothing but staring back at her, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of engagement, before she gave it up and went back to the task at hand.

This woman doesn't deserve her job. But as I said earlier, she stood out from the pack as the sole example that I saw of somebody who truly was sub-par.

I really had no other meaningful complaints about the room. It was reasonably comfortable, reasonably well-run, pretty good in terms of noise and smoke infiltration from other parts of the casino, readily accessible restrooms, and had the nice touch of drinking fountains for refilling water bottles. I can't say that I loved the place, but if it were in Vegas, I would certainly have little reason to dislike or stay away from it. For a chronic complainer to be able to come to that conclusion, they're doing pretty well.

Many people I have subsequently run into who knew that I took this trip have asked me about the competition. Frankly, I didn't notice any obvious systematic differences between the manner or quality of play between Vegas and Atlantic City. Plop me down blindfolded, and I sure wouldn't be able to say, "Oh, yeah, this table action can only mean we're in A.C." The addition or subtraction of a single player can change the game far more than putting the table down in either Vegas or the east coast. Or, as the statisticians would say, the within-group variation exceeds the between-group variation by a long, long way.

I played $2/5 for the last couple of hours before we got on the bus back home--something I don't do too often. Good thing I did--it turned what would have been a small overall loss on the trip to an overall win. The play was unbelievably passive--even more so than I usually see at $1/2. Cardgrrl, who was at the table with me, later agreed that it was seriously abnormal play for those stakes. She has played a lot of $2/5 in that room, and assures me that that's not how it usually goes.

So the big question: Would I go back? Yes. Absolutely. I very much want to. In fact, I'm already hatching plans. We'll see if I can persuade Cardgrrl to drive up there next time instead of taking the bus, so that we have both more time and more flexibility to visit other cardrooms. When and if we do, you know that I will spill all the details here.

Here's a few bonus photos of the place for you:

I love that this is the artwork most easily visible from a few of the tables in the poker room. Fish! Perfect!

Stepping out the poker room door and finding an ocean is not exactly the norm for Las Vegas casinos. It's an odd but pleasant sensation.

View from the hotel window. In the photo you can just barely see the power-generating windmills in the background. In reality, they were very prominent in the landscape, but the bleak weather, low-contrast light, window reflection, and my general incompetence as a photographer combined to make them almost disappear here.

Poker gems, #323

Emil Patel, in Card Player magazine interview, November 4, 2009 (vol. 22, #22), p. 41.

You would think that people would start to play a little bit tighter because everyone is playing almost psychotically these days, but I don't really see it. Pretty much everyone combats aggressiveness with even more aggressiveness. In a six-handed game three or four years ago, if you got four-bet preflop, you could easily fold kings in lots of situations. Nowadays, when you get four-bet preflop and have something like A-Q or pocket nines, you get giddy, because it's usually a good situation to be able to get all in.

Guess the casino, #315

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

Answer: Green Valley Ranch

Monday, November 02, 2009

Guess the casino, #314

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

Answer: Flamingo

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Dealers: One funny, one lazy

I generally like interacting with dealers. It's one of the big reasons that I prefer the two seats on either side of the dealer: I get to chat with them. When there's a dealer I know and trust, I can make comments on how people are playing, share snarky jokes, etc., all in a voice soft enough that it's not likely to be heard by anybody else at the table, unless they're deliberately trying to listen in. I can also quietly point out the common errors or problems that I notice (player being passed over for action, pot not being quite right, misreading a hand, cards getting flashed, or whatever), without having to shout to make myself heard. I don't like being noisy. I don't like being the center of attention.

One of my favorite dealers is Wayne at Mandalay Bay. He's the one that looks like Al Roker. He always brings just the right mix of seriousness and lightheartedness to the table. He is able to keep players smiling even as he keeps the game moving and under good control.

He had two consecutive downs at my table today. When he had been in the box for about 55 minutes, and I assumed he was about to be pushed finally, I realized that I had not won a hand that entire time. So as he was cleaning up the detritus of one hand, I asked him, "Doesn't it say in the Official Dealer's Manual that you're supposed to push a pot to Seat 1 at least once in a while?"

Wayne didn't miss a beat. He replied, "Yes, it does. But right after that it adds: 'With the provision that Seat 1 has to be very, very patient.'"

As they say on "Family Feud," good answer, good answer!

Earlier in his shift, there had been a monster pot in which several people lost a lot of money, and one guy got seriously enriched. I had folded from the small blind, so didn't get hurt. As Wayne was getting ready for the next hand, I told him, "I think I played that hand better than anybody else--I only lost one dollar!" Again, he took no time at all for the zinger in return: "Congratulations. That is a marked improvement!"

I actually laughed out loud at that--kind of a rarity for me at the table.


Sometimes, though, dealers are just annoying because of being inattentive or incompetent or too talkative or a hundred other sins. Last night at Binion's I had one that was startingly lazy.

My usual practice when making a bet is to make a single stack of chips and slide it forward. It's often difficult for an opponent at the other end of the table to see how much the bet is when it's done that way, but that's deliberate. There are bits of information to be gleaned from watching and listening to the other player as he asks the dealer what the bet is, and how he reacts to the answer.

Last night I bet $35, and the other player in the hand asked, "How much is that?" The dealer at that point is supposed to count it out. This doofus, though, instead turned to me and repeated, "How much is that?" It caught me off guard, because I've never had a dealer relay that question to me instead of determining the answer himself. I said, "$35," before I had a chance to think about it. But as the other player was contemplating a call, I got annoyed at the dealer for expecting me to do his job for him, and causing me to speak during a hand, which is against my religion. I decided that I wouldn't do so again.

The player made the call. Turn card came, and this time I slid out $55. Again the player asked, "How much is that?" Again the dealer turned to me and repeated, "How much is that?" This time, though, he was met with stone silence, and was eventually forced--horror of horrors--to actually do his job and count the bet.

I did not run into that problem again thereafter.

Dealers. Give me the funny one over the lazy one anyday.

Million-Dollar Cash Game

On the blog that used to be called "Poker on TV" and is now called, for reasons that escape me, "Fifth Street Journal" (i.e., I get the title, but I don't understand why the change from the previous perfectly good, perfectly descriptive title), I saw this little note:

An English-language version of Million Dollar Cash Game season 3 has
finally become available for downloading or streaming. The production is
poor, particularly the onscreen graphics, but it's a huge cash game so I'm sure
some of you will want to watch it.

I found a torrent of the first episode and just finished watching it. The blog note was correct: It's really good poker, though kind of crappy production. You've got Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Chris Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth, David Benjamine, Tom Dwan, Eli Elezra, and Gus Hansen playing. How could it not be good? On the first hand, Ivey and Antonius agree to go all-in blind for their starting stacks of $100,000 each. The most interesting hand is played out between Dwan and Ferguson near the end of the show.

The commentary isn't anywhere near as good as "High Stakes Poker," but the poker play is of the same high caliber. I'm going to download the other episodes released so far, and I'm also feeling inclined to go back and check out the previous seasons, which have somehow escaped my attention until now.

If you don't already know how to watch such things on your computer, follow the instructions that you'll find linked to in the blog post cited above.

Guess the casino, #313

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

Answer: Circus Circus

Halloween on Fremont Street

I walked down to Binion's, played a little poker, made a little money, then came home. Not a very exciting evening. Well, except for the THOUSANDS of Halloween revelers that I had to press through to get back to my apartment! I took my time and had fun with it, though. You can see the resulting photos here.