Saturday, January 23, 2010

Guess the casino, #396

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

Answer: Palace Station

Friday, January 22, 2010

Guess the casino, #395

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

Answer: M Resort

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guess the casino, #394

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

Answer: Luxor

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just wondering

Is there any reason you couldn't run a tournament in the new "Rush Poker" format? On a first run through my brain, none occurs to me, but I might easily be missing something really obvious.

Guess the casino, #393

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

Answer: Imperial Palace

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Poker gems, #341

Steve Zolotow, in Card Player magazine column, January 13, 2010 (vol. 23, #1), pp. 72-74.

[Zolotow's friend Ray] was playing in a $2-$5 cash game [at the Borgata], and made the nuts on the river against an obnoxious opponent. He shoved for around $300, and his opponent said, "OK. What do you have?" Ray, as would many players not used to angle-shooters in casinos, assumed that this meant he was calling. He turned up his hand. His opponent mucked, but insisted that he had never said, "Call," or put his chips into the pot. The floorman made the obvious ruling: Ray hadn't been called. Later in the session, this same player was sucking on a lemon drop (to sweeten his disposition). Somehow, he managed to inhale the lemon drop, and couldn't breathe. Ray leaped out of his seat, remarking, "I can't believe I have to save your miserable (bleeping) life!" He walked around the table and performed the Heimlich Maneuver. The lemon drop shot halfway across the room. The man's life was saved. Someone else remarked, "Ya should have let him choke." But Dr. Ray did the right thing.

Folding aces

In Tommy Angelo's blog post today he links to a story he wrote in 2003 about deliberately folding aces before the flop, just to experience what it felt like. It's a great read. Go check it out here.

Quick take on quick poker

I just tried Full Tilt's new game format, "Rush Poker." There's a full tutorial available here, but the basic idea is this: You enter a large pool of players, and as soon as you either win or fold one hand, you and eight other available players from the pool are instantly assembled into a new table, in random positions, and play a new hand. If you don't like what you are dealt, you click "fold," and you're whisked off to yet another new table with new opponents and new position.

I lost my first $10 buy-in in a $0.05/0.10 no-limit hold'em game when my pocket queens went down in flames on an all-undercard board to a flopped set of 8s. I then lost another couple of bucks when my pockets 10s lost to a flopped set of 6s from a short stack. Have I told you lately how much I hate sets? I have? Oh, well, then never mind.

Anyway, the action is just as fast as promised. In one stretch I folded about nine trash hands in a row, and it couldn't have taken more than about 45 seconds total.

Obviously you have to adjust by giving opponents credit for bigger hands than usual, because people will be folding junk much more frequently, when they don't have to wait around for a premium hand anywhere near as long as would ordinarily be the case. Just as obviously, you don't have the luxury of watching opponents' patterns over time. Basically you're reduced to playing your cards. At least it seems so to me after a grand total of about ten minutes of experience.

It is indeed quite a "rush." In the video introduction, Phil Gordon says that it feels like multitabling at one table, and that's a pretty good description of it. For me, it's a cute and extraordinarily clever novelty, but I'm not going to spend much time playing that way. I'm not an action junkie by any stretch of the imagination. I think I have my edge by being more patient and analytical than most of my opponents, and those attributes are not what gets rewarded in this game format. But I have to give Full Tilt's programmers credit for yet another novel and interesting variation on hold'em.

Guess the casino, #392

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

Answer: Harrah's

Gimme a break!

I played two HORSE sit-and-go tournaments on PokerStars tonight, simultaneously. I came in first in the $10 one, and third in the $5 one. Big double cash for me.

One hand after we got down to three-handed in the $5 game we switched to razz. We played 33 hands of razz, then switched to stud. We played 37 hands of stud before I was eliminated.

I got the feeling that I was being assigned the bring-in an unusually high frequency during this stretch of 70 hands. But such perceptions can be misleading--you get a few in a row, then really start noticing every bring-in you have to make, even if it's only about one out of three (as it should be three-handed). So I checked the hand history to see if I was just overreacting.

Nope. Out of 70 hands played three ways, I had the bring-in 36 times, just over half.

How unlikely is that? Let's turn to our old friend the binomial probability calculator! We input 70 for n, 36 for k, and 0.333 for p. In a flash, we learn that the probability of getting the bring-in 36 times or more in 70 hands of three-handed play is only 0.00134, or about 0.1%. That is, if you played 1000 blocks of 70 hands, you'd expect to have to bring it in 36 times or more in a block only one of those 1000 runs.

I was not imagining things. PokerStars really was sticking it to me in a major way.

It's all totally rigged, you know.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's not my birthday, but I'll cry if I want to anyway

Saturday I wrote about a difficult hand at Caesars Palace in which I arguably could and/or should have folded a set on the flop, and lost all my chips because I didn't. (The most common reaction from commenters seems to be approximately, "Yeah, maybe you could fold, but I would have gone broke, too.")

I went back to Caesars yesterday (Sunday) and tried again. Here's how that session ended: I'm sitting on about $250 in a $1/3 NLHE game. I've had a long dry spell, so when I find Ks-Js one off the button, I put in my standard-for-the-day raise to $13. The big blind calls, as do two of the previous limpers, making a pot of about $47 after the rake.

Flop is J-9-5 rainbow. It gets checked around to me. I bet $35. The only caller is an older, quirky gentleman that I've played with a few times before. He could call here with any piece of this flop, so I'm not worried. Turn is the jack of the fourth suit, giving me trips with a king kicker, no straights or flushes, no flush draws, and only minimal straight draw potential. The guy checks. This time I bet $95. He calls. This greatly narrows his range. He either has the case jack--almost certainly with a worse kicker--or a full house. The river is a blank--a deuce, I think. He moves all in. I have only a little over $100 left, and the pot is effectively about $305. I believe that he would make this move with a jack with any kicker, thinking it's good. Since I have no way to distinguish that from a full house, and I'm getting 3:1, it's an easy call. He turns over 5-5. He flopped a set, turned a boat.

Today I was playing at Planet Hollywood, playing $1/$2 NLHE. It was the first time I've made a point to get there during one of their aces-cracked promotional periods (Monday, 2 to 4 p.m.). I was curious about the flow of bodies into and out of the room around the time that the promotion begins and ends. As it turned out, my back was to the podium, and Holly Madison was doing a photo shoot just to my right (see immediately preceding post), so I was kind of distracted and didn't pay much attention to the ebb and flow of the room. Can't tell you anything about it.

There was an odd series of hands in which I had pocket pairs four consecutive times, and each time the guy on my left raised to $10 after I had limped. He was a very typical tourist--not horrible, but making the most common mistakes that are endemic to the species (playing too many hands, making too many loose calls, being predictable). On the first of these four, I correctly called him down with pocket 9s when he continued betting small after missing the flop. On the second and third, I had to let go (but with only the $10 pre-flop loss) after flopping overcards and other players seeming to like what the board gave them more than I did.

On the fateful fourth of these in a row, I had the red 5s. Mr. Tourist raised to $10 for the fourth consecutive time. This sequence was highly unusual for him. He had not had good results with the previous three, so I didn't think he was raising with air, but he could have just about any pair, any half-decent ace, any two Broadway cards. I called.

Flop was K-8-5 with two clubs. I checked. He bet $15, I think. There had been one other pre-flop caller, who now folded. I just called. I wasn't worried about him holding two clubs. He tended to c-bet once on a missed flop, then shut down or bet very small on the turn. I thought he would bet small if a blank came, big if he got a card he liked, and either way I could go for a check-raise.

Turn was the ace of spades. If the king wasn't the money card for me, that ace very likely was--especially if I were lucky enough for him to have had A-K to start with. I checked again. He bet $20. I was a little disappointed in that, because the weak turn bet suggested, from his previously established pattern, that he was not very strong, and therefore might not put any more money in. So I did just over a min-raise, making it $45. I thought that amount would be irresistible if he had any piece of the board, and a call would get him feeling sucked in for a big bet on the river. (I had started the hand with about $350; he with about $300.)

To my surprise, he responded by moving all-in. But that was fine with me. I thought it was most likely that he had made two pair, especially with A-K. Sadly for me, though, this time he had A-A, making his bigger set on the turn, and there was no one-outer rescue for me.

(The anti-climactic end of the session's story was this: I was left with about $50. That went away when I followed a bunch of limpers on the button with K-8 of diamonds and flopped the second nut flush. I called a small bet on the flop, then raised all-in for only a little more than my opponent's turn bet. She had just the nut flush draw with the ace of diamonds. A fourth diamond hit the board on the river, obviously.)

The long and short of it is this: in three days, I have been felted twice and very nearly so a third time with and/or by sets--twice with the bad end of set-over-set situations, and once with strong trips losing to a set-cum-boat. Total damages from these three hands: about $825. Twice during that three-day stretch I have flopped sets and won with them--both times just a small pot, with everybody folding immediately.

Combine all that with the still-recent memory of my biggest-ever loss with a flopped set last month (to C.K.), and you may understand me harboring this sentiment: I never want to see another set as long as I live, not in my opponents' hands, and not even in my own.

Celebrity sighting

I was playing at Planet Hollywood this afternoon when a bunch of people started coming in and setting up equipment around the next table over. Lots of cameras and lighting equipment was being brought out, so clearly some sort of shoot was about to get underway. I asked the dealer what was on the agenda. He didn't know.

A short time later I looked over my shoulder again, and saw Holly Madison sitting at the table--clearly the object of the shoot. She had a couple of her dogs with her. Over time, I deduced from wisps of overheard conversation that she is promoting "I Love Dogs Diamonds," boutique jewelry for canines.

All I know is this: when C.M. Coolidge painted his famous pictures, the dogs playing poker were NOT wearing diamonds.

What is this strange word of which you speak?

This is the forecast that popped up when I fired up the computer this morning.

Today: Rain. Highs in the mid 50s. South wind around 10 mph early in the morning
becoming light...then becoming east around 10 mph in the afternoon.

Tonight: Rain in the evening...then rain likely after midnight. Lows in
the mid 40s. South wind 10 to 15 mph.

Tuesday: Mostly cloudy with a 40
percent chance of rain. Highs in the upper 50s. South wind around 10 mph.

Tuesday Night: Cloudy with rain likely. Lows in the lower 40s. South
wind around 10 mph in the evening becoming light. Chance of rain 70 percent.

Wednesday: Cloudy with a 50 percent chance of rain. Highs in the mid
50s. West wind around 10 mph.

Wednesday Night: Cloudy with rain likely.
Lows in the lower 40s. Chance of rain 70 percent.

Thursday: Rain. Highs
in the mid 50s.

Thursday Night: Rain. Lows in the mid 40s.

Friday: Cloudy with a 50 percent chance of rain. Highs in the mid 50s.

Friday Night: Cloudy with a 50 percent chance of rain. Lows in the lower

Saturday: Cloudy with a 40 percent chance of rain. Highs in the mid

Saturday Night: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of rain.
Lows in the upper 30s.

Sunday: Partly sunny with a 20 percent chance of
rain. Highs in the mid 50s.

Do you see any particular word recurring here? Do you see anything wrong with that word being used so often? I do.

Hint: It's a freakin' desert!!!!

Guess the casino, #391

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

Answer: Bill's

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rumor mill

While playing at Caesars Palace today, the table talk turned to remarkable hands we've seen. Somebody mentioned the astonishing one that took place at the WSOP main event in 2008, with four aces being beaten by a royal flush.

The dealer told us that he had been dealing that day (not at that table, however), and that there had been no ESPN cameras at the table in question when the hand went down. They had the players reenact it for the cameras during a break later in the day, so what you saw in the final broadcast was a little play-acting by the participants, rather than the hand as it originally occurred.

I had not heard this before. I have no way of knowing whether it's true, though it certainly seems plausible on its face. After all, it was not a featured table, and they couldn't have known in advance that something that rare was going to occur. On the other hand, it seems likely that the loser of the hand would have vacated the premises by the time that ESPN learned about the hand and made a decision to stage a reenactment.

I know that among my readers are a good number of people who were there as players, as dealers, as bloggers, as reporters, etc.. If anybody knows for certain about this from first-hand knowledge, I'd be interested in your report. You can submit a comment anonymously if you like. Or you can email me directly, and let me know if it's OK to post here whatever you have to report, and whether it's OK to use your name.

Inquiring minds want to know!

Poker and dogs

I played at Caesars Palace today with a guy named Antonio. He mentioned that he has recently started a web site,, as a portal for information about two of his loves. Can you guess what they are? That's right--poker and dogs! There's not a lot up yet, but he mentioned some ambitious plans for it. He seemed like a perfectly decent and highly passionate man, so I'm happy to give his fledging site a little free attention here.

Hey, Antonio: I see your earlier blog post about dogs being sensitive to our human "tells." I am confident you would enjoy the novel I wrote about here, which largely revolves around a guy whose dog helps him play poker successfully because of that very keenness of perception. It's a fun read. Good luck with the web site.

Guess the casino, #390

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

Answer: Bally's