Saturday, February 20, 2010

An unusual day

Yesterday was a pretty strange day, full of one-of-a-kind experiences.

Car trouble

It started by dropping off my car for some repair work. I had grown suspicious of the shop I have usually used; it's under new management lately, and I think they are now both less competent and more prone to selling services I don't actually need. So I've been exploring other options. The one I tried yesterday is called Hondatronics. As the name implies, they deal almost exclusively in working on Hondas and Acuras.

Everybody I had consulted had agreed that the scary squeal emerging from under the hood was a failing power steering pump. Well, I'll spare you the details, but the Hondatronics guys did an impressive diagnostic job, eventually discovering that the trouble was, in fact, in the pulley that turns the belt that run the power steering pump, though that was not at all obvious. In fact, when it was all said and done and the mechanic showed me (with great enthusiasm, like a first-grader excitedly telling his mother about the first day of school) the parts he had replaced and how it all worked and fit together, I was mightily impressed with the acumen it took to figure this out. I thought about writing it all out here, but it would take too long and probably not interest anybody. But take my word for it--it was a serious piece of automotive detection to find out what the trouble really was. It took them 6 1/2 hours instead of the 2 that had been estimated for the pump repair, but it was perfectly understandable, under the circumstances. This place has quickly won my confidence in their skill and honesty, and will be the first place I turn for car work from now on.


One of the other lovely coincidences of Hondatronics is that it's a five-minute walk from the Orleans. Now, the Orleans is not on my top ten or even top twenty favorite places to play. But it's pretty consistently profitable, so if I can spend the car-repair time making money playing poker instead of reading books and magazines, it's a bonus. (And with a car that's nearly 18 years old and has 170,000 miles on the ticker, time in the shop is just a given.)

So off to the Orleans I went. I got my name on the list and sat down. Within a minute or two I heard one of the dealers yell out, "Jackpot!" and pandemonium broke loose. The Orleans is one of the few places in town with a bad-beat jackpot. Lose with quads or better and you, the winner of the hand, and everybody else in the room playing the same game will share a jackpot that is kept at a minimum of $50,000. Yesterday it was at $58,650. Given that this was morning and there were only four tables running, the "room share" worked out to $1173 apiece. Not a bad bonus for just sitting in a game when the thing hit.

I snapped a photo of the jackpot hand, quad aces beating quad nines:

What I had not anticipated was how this event would bring the room to a complete standstill, as far as me getting into a game was concerned. I waited an hour and 45 minutes, almost all of which was because everything stopped while they worked out the horrendously complicated paperwork involved in that sum of money being shared by that many players. The room staff didn't even try to get anything else going in the meantime. At one point I counted 55 names on the lists waiting for games, but nothing was happening. It was about an hour before play resumed on any of the tables. During that time, all the players were just sitting around doing nothing, though they didn't seem as irritated as the people waiting to play. After all, they each had nearly $1200 free money coming, and we didn't.

If I had had any idea how long my car was going to take and how long this jackpot mess was going to take, I would have caught a shuttle bus to the Strip and played somewhere else. The delay was seriously aggravating. I attribute it to incompetent room management, that they were unwilling or unable to accommodate literally dozens of people wanting to play for an hour and a half.

This was the first time I've ever been in a poker room when a bad-beat jackpot hit. I'm not looking forward to it happening again, unless I'm going to be one of the ones to profit from it.

Tell me how to beat you

I did eventually get a seat and played for about five hours, making a little over $200. Not stellar, but certainly more profitable than anything else I could have been doing with the down time.

There was only one hand worth telling about. The donator at the table was a drunk guy who fancied himself an expert player, but was really not very good at all. He was highly unpredictable, however. As happens so often, he had been on a sick run of good luck before I got to the table and for the first hour or two thereafter (amassing so many chips that he stopped bothering to stack them, and just kept them in a big messy pile in front of him), but then had both luck and his own fatigue and overconfidence push his fortunes the other way, and he started to give them all back.

At one point I found the diamond A-K in second position, and raised to $8. Drunk guy was on the button and reraised to $23. This was the first 3-bet I had seen him make, so it gave me pause. On the other hand, he had sometimes raised with things like 9-3 offsuit, and he was overly fond of bluffing (I had snapped him off a couple of times myself), so I wasn't ready to credit him with just A-A/K-K, as I might with a local rock in the same situation. I called.

The flop was J-10-x. While I was deciding what to do, drunk guy bet $20 out of turn. (He did this a lot. He just wasn't paying attention, and was always overly eager for it to be his turn, as if he had ADD or something.) The dealer had him take it back. I checked. He put out $25. The dealer made him reduce it back to the $20 he had bet out of turn. I called, partly hoping to hit the nuts if a queen came, partly because he was most often just a one-barreller if he missed the flop and was up against somebody whose play he respected.

Turn was another jack. Once again while I was pondering my options, he bet out of turn: $50. The dealer made him take it back. I thought for a while about what to do, finally settling on a check. Strangely, he checked behind. The dealer pointed out that he had already committed himself to the out-of-turn bet. He protested, "I changed my mind. I don't want to bet now." This was an interesting development. I really would have been happy to take a free card with him, but I thought it was best to continue my usual policy of not talking during a hand and let the dealer sort it out. She called the floor. While we were waiting for the floor guy to come over, drunk guy started talking, and that proved to be his downfall.

Apparently my pause before checking had put a notion in his head that he couldn't shake. He said, "Come on, let's just check it down. I know you have a jack, and you checked to trap me. You want them to make me put that money in so you can raise." (I hadn't said anything along those lines, but that's apparently how he interpreted the situation.)

Now, some players are skillful enough in deception to make a speech like this when holding the stone-cold nuts in an effort to induce a bluff. But he was, frankly, too dumb and too drunk to pull that off. His mini-tirade continued for 30 seconds or so while we were waiting for a floor decision, and the longer it went, the more certain I was that he was calling it exactly as he saw it.

So, when the floor made the only possible decision--that his $50 bet had to stand--and drunk guy shook his head in disgust as he reluctantly put the chips back in, I did what he told me to do: I check-raised to $150! He immediately said that he couldn't call. He hemmed and hawed, but finally did as he said he would have to do, and folded. Then, as a last touch, he said, "Out of respect, I'm going to show you what I'm folding." He had A-K in hearts.

I sensed that he was hovering on the edge of some serious tilt and could be toppled right into the abyss with the smallest push, so as I was raking in the chips, I flipped up my cards and told him, "You had an excellent hand, sir."

I was right. That pushed every button he had. Among other things, he said, "I was just about to leave, but now I'm going to stay just so I can play against you again!"

Bring it on, dude! I love it when people target me for vengeance. They will nearly always try to force the issue with a lesser hand than they would usually bring to battle, because if you're zeroing in one just one opponent, it effectively means that you can't wait for your premium hands, or your target won't be there. You have to go with what you have when your target is playing. That automatically gives your target the huge advantage of choosing when to play for big pots. (For a story of a time another guy got mad at me and kept me in his sights for the rest of the session, see here. For another story of how a drunk opponent told me exactly how to beat him, see here.)

Sadly, he didn't follow through on his threat and I didn't get to tangle with him for a big pot again.

Social evening

They finished with my car just barely in time for me to make the dinner date I had previously set up with Jennifer, one of my playing partners from the blogger tournament in December. She was in town to work for the PokerStars blog on the big NAPT tournament at the Venetian. We were joined by C.K. for dinner at the Grand Lux at the V. (I see that Jen has already beaten me to writing about her evening, here.) They had to take off right after dinner to get ready for a big Stars party.

I played in the V poker room for about an hour, then headed off to the airport. Shamus was coming to town to work the same gig as Jen, and I had offered to pick him up at the airport. He unknowingly walked past me at the airport (I had my nose buried in a crossword puzzle to pass the time), and as we were talking on our cell phones, trying to determine our respective geographical positions, I had one of those weird moments when I realized I was hearing his voice through the phone and through the air simultaneously, and looked up to see him standing about six feet in front of me.

I waited while he got checked into his room at the Venetian. While doing so, I spotted an opportunity to catch a picture of him while still preserving his super-secret identity, which only, like, 7000 people know:

We then headed back downstairs to the Grand Lux (it's very strange to enter the same restaurant twice in one evening). He had dinner while I chowed down on the dessert I had skipped earlier. It was an item I haven't seen on the menu there before: "Cupcake Collision." It's three chocolate cupcakes with a bunch of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream:

Sorry for the bad picture--low light of a restaurant is to blame (and lack of flash on phone camera). Good stuff, keeping me fattened up for the slaughter.

It looks like Shamus, too, is ahead of me in posting about his arrival. See here.

Anyway, I had a lovely evening with three friends and finally headed home after what turned out to be a highly unusual but pleasant and interesting day in Las Vegas.

No comments: