Steve Brust, as quoted in Chris Wallace's column for Poker Pro magazine, February, 2010, p. 77.
Probably the biggest thing I'm working to overcome is fear--fear of losing money, and fear of looking like an idiot. The answer to fear is math: if the numbers say it is profitable to make a certain play, then you make that play. Math overcomes fear. If word of this gets out, it may change the world.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Steve Brust, as quoted in Chris Wallace's column for Poker Pro magazine, February, 2010, p. 77.
Friday, January 29, 2010
In early December, Las Vegas Michael, editor of the wonderful allvegaspoker.com site, posted some notes about the Planet Hollywood poker room, after playing a few sessions there for the first time in a while. Among other things, he wrote:
Many Dealers, though friendly, seem to not be knowledgeable on properIn reply, I posted this quick observation:
mechanics. I have too often seen dealers matching stacks on all ins, rolling the
deck, squaring the muck, and significant amounts of extraneous talking and
theatrics. I will grant that the theatrics and talking might be a venue driven
situation, since at PH, the atmosphere is significantly more casual than other
properties, but the procedural issues with stack matching, etc, are
Strange--my experience with the PH dealers is almost 100% positive. There
is one that I would deem genuinely incompetent. A couple of weeks ago I was
involved in a big three-way all-in with a side pot, and she attempted to
completely screw it up. Fortunately, I was paying close attention, and THREE
TIMES in the same pot kept her from making what would have been disastrous
errors (first reading the hands wrong, then trying to shove the whole pot to one
player, then counting out an amount for the side pot from the biggest stack, but
LEAVING that with the player and trying to take the other part of the stack).
She just doesn't pay attention to what's going on. But other than her, I think
the PH dealers are a good bunch. I do notice the technical flaws, but they don't
bother me as much as they do LVM. Keeping things (1) moving, (2) enjoyable, and
(3) under control (i.e., in terms of enforcing rules) are generally done quite
I was there playing again last night, and again had problems with this same dealer--enough now that I'm ready to label her as among the worst in the whole city.
First I need to tell you how we got to the situations that provoked this post.
My first hand at the table (before the dealer in question joined us) was AA, one off the button. This is only the third time that I can recall getting dealt aces in my first hand in a session. It's a bit of a rush, but also somewhat problematic, in that I have no sense for how people are playing and hence how to get maximum value. I put in a raise to $15. Only the small blind called. The flop was K-10-x rainbow. He checked to me. I bet $25. He check-raised to $105. He was the big stack at the table, and I had to wonder whether he was just bullying. Alternatively, he might have thought that I was trying to take control of the table by raising my first hand with any two cards, and had decided to quash that effort. I'm perfectly capable of folding aces when I'm convinced I'm beat, but he wasn't convincing me. I called. The turn was check-check. On an apparently innocuous river, he bet $100. I still wasn't persuaded. I thought a while, then called. He instantly mucked without showing, so apparently my read was correct. I moved from my $300 buy-in to about $520 in one hand.
Just a few hands later I was in the big blind with the horrible 6-10 offsuit. But the pot was unraised and I flopped two pair. I bet it and got called on the flop and turn by two players, taking my stack to about $590.
At this point, the former big stack two seats to my left went on an extended break (he didn't return until just before I cashed out), and we were joined by a nice young married couple. I was in seat one, she took seat two, and her husband took seat four, so they were effectively the two positions to my immediate left.
As I've reported here many time, I usually don't talk much at the table--or in any other social situations, either. But I was in an unusually good mood, and I do keep reminding myself that being Mr. Nice Guy is something I really need to work on, for reasons of increased profit. I could tell in a heartbeat that these two were novices to casino poker. They were unsure about all the rules and procedures, and each bought in for the minimum of $50. But they were smiling and laughing, clearly there to have a good time. So I decided that this was a fine opportunity to channel Mike Caro and pour on the Mr. Friendly act.
I chatted them up, asked about their trip, made dumb jokes that they laughed at, etc. Almost as soon as they sat down, the husband noted my chips and said, "Looks like you're doing well." I brushed it off: "Just got really lucky in a couple of good spots."
Maybe one orbit into their time at the table, we now have Bad Dealer in the box. I'm in the big blind. Wife limps from under the gun. Husband raises to $6. There's a couple of other callers. I have K-6 offsuit. I call. Flop is J-7-6, giving me bottom pair. I check. Wife checks. Husband bets $6. It's folded around to me. I call. Wife calls. Turn is a king, giving me two pair and the likely winner. I check. Wife checks. Husband bets $12. He's now into the hand for $24, has only about that much left, and there is about $55 in the pot. I assume he'll feel pot-committed, so I check-raise to $50, which, of course, is enough to cover both of them. Wife folds. Husband folds, surprisingly.
I don't want to look like a bully, so I show the two pair. While doing so, I say, "I'm sorry--I just got ridiculously lucky on you. This is a terrible hand. I should have folded before the flop, and I should have folded again on the flop."
I meant it as a phony self-deprecating remark.* I specifically had in mind Caro's suggested script, which I liked and remembered from having posted it here:
You should never deliberately upset opponents.... So, immediately after
you've tricked an opponent and won a pot, utter something friendly that
indicates you were just having fun. I like to say things that suggest I played
the hand badly and simultaneously enhance my loose image, such as, "I was hoping
you'd call, because I've been out of line so many times. You're way ahead of me
overall, but I'm still trying the same stupid tricks." Just giggle and move on.
Your opponent isn't likely to be offended, because you're talking about your bad
plays, not how superior you were with this one.
The husband took it well, smiled, and said, "Oh, nice hand!"
To my shock and chagrin, at this point the dealer injected herself into the conversation. She turned to me and said, "But he didn't raise before the flop." Before I could regain my composure and figure out how to respond, she corrected herself. "No, wait--he did, but it was only a small raise, so it was OK for you to call."
GAAAAAAAAA! Is she really this clueless? Well, yes, apparently she is. First, she has no business commenting on the play of a hand, whether it's in progress or completed, period. Editorializing is not in the job description. It is virtually certain to annoy somebody who was in the hand. Second, she's trying to assuage me, apparently, because I'm saying that I played the hand badly. But the result is that she is implicitly--and darn near explicitly--criticizing the guy that I'm trying to assuage and be friendly with! Her remarks serve to (1) alert him to raise more to prevent the kind of play I made, and (2) make him feel that he misplayed the hand. How can she think this is a good thing to be doing?
A short time later I'm on the button with A-10 offsuit. There are a few limpers. Sometimes I'll limp along in this kind of situation, but this time I decided to raise, maybe pick up dead money, maybe narrow the field. I made it $14. An early-position player (let's call him A) called. A middle-position player (let's call him B) looked at his diminished stack and decided to move all in, for a total of $27. I quickly did the math to confirm that I could legally raise. I preferred to isolate and play against just the all-in guy, without having to be faced with more decisions to make with such a mediocre hand. I also didn't think that A would want to keep putting more money in. So I announced a raise: another $30 on top of B's all-in bet.
I put in the amount of the call, but before I could add the extra $30, the dealer stopped me. She said I couldn't raise because my original bet was $14 and the all-in was $27, which wasn't quite double.
I wasn't too surprised by this. It's an easy mistake to make, and the amount was so close that I had had to silently double-check myself before I was certain that a raise was legal. I pointed out that my original raise was $12, and B's reraise was $13 more, so that reopened the action to me.
This kind of situation has happened a few times before, and every previous time that I can recall, the dealers immediately recognize their mistake and we go on. Not this time. She continued to argue with me. She wasn't even a little bit uncertain, as far as I could tell from her words and tone. She was absolutely positive that all that mattered was that my bet was $14, and B's raise was to $27, which wasn't a full raise, so I was not eligible to reraise. I had to go through the whole thing twice more, explaining that my $14 bet was a raise increment of only $12 over the big blind, which was what mattered. She finally caught on and allowed the raise, as I was on the verge of asking her to call the floor over, on the assumption that she was too thick-skulled to ever figure it out.
This seriously annoyed me, her insistence on sticking to an incorrect conclusion even in the face of being told differently by somebody who, if she had a lick of sense, she would realize seemed like he might actually know what he was talking about. I also resented that I basically had to come out of "hiding"; the interaction made it perfectly clear to everybody at the table that I was very experienced and understood the rules of the game better than the dealer did. That is not the image I was shooting for.
I'm pretty forgiving of occasional dealer errors. Nobody's perfect. I don't ask that dealers never make mistakes. I only ask that they respond appropriately after making one: fix it, call the floor if necessary, apologize, and move on. But this particular dealer has now exhausted my tolerance. She doesn't pay attention to the game and she makes critical errors at a much higher frequency than anybody else that works there. Now, on top of that, she goes out of her way to interfere with me trying to make another player feel good about his play, then irritates the bejesus out of me by refusing to acknowledge that she was wrong until I finally had to badger her into recognizing the situation for what it was.
(Incidentally, here's how the hand played out: Player A surprised me by moving all-in. It was only $11 more than my $30 reraise, so of course I called. I showed my cards, as did my opponents. I was up against K-Q and K-J. It hardly mattered, though. The flop came an incredible A-10-10, giving me a full house, and leaving both opponents drawing almost dead. This not only won me a nice little pot, but gave me a chance to make further jokes with my target couple about how skilled I was to be able to flop full houses when I needed to.)
In general, I think that the team of dealers Planet Hollywood has on staff is one of its strongest assets. But this one dealer is a black mark on a room that I otherwise like quite a bit. I don't like the thought of anybody losing his or her job, but she just isn't up to the task, and there are scads and scads of unemployed dealers who would handle the responsibility far more professionally than she does. I hope she is replaced by one of them.
*In retrospect, however, what I said was probably true. In light of the low implied odds being offered by the short stacks this couple had, I really should have folded that crap.
Addendum, April 14, 2010
In retrospect, I should not have check-raised the tourist couple. Another of Caro's frequent teachings is that check-raising carries a high risk of destroying the light spirit of a friendly game. It's too war-like and aggressive. It might maximize profit for that one hand, but it will tend to make the opponents much more wary of you thereafter, thus reducing profits for the whole session. He suggests betting out or check-calling instead. That rings true with me, and if I had it to do over again, I would just bet out on the turn, after having made two pair.
Last night I finally made it to City Center for the first time. I must be the last local to set foot in the place.
I won't bother with a full review of the Aria poker room; if you're interested, then by now you've either been there or read what everybody else has written about the place (e.g., here). I'll just add that it is indeed as nice as they all say. Aria is simply the most lavish, gorgeous, visually compelling casino I've ever laid eyes on.
With pictures as with the commentary: others have already done it far better than I could, so I'm keeping them to a minimum. (The first four are actually from Crystals, the shopping mall through which I passed on the way from the pedestrian bridge across the Strip to Aria. But hey, it's all City Center.)
It's a beautiful room, certainly on par with Wynn and Venetian. It seems somewhat louder than either of those places, though, with slot-machine and pit noise more prominent. I hate noise. Other than that, it's hard to find fault.
I was tired and played for only an hour, winning just over $100. That was mostly on a rather daring all-in check-raise bluff on a big scare-card turn; it completed both trips and a possible flush, and I was pretty sure my opponent was on an overpair and wouldn't dare call. He tanked for about three minutes, but then folded in disgust. Thankyouverymuch.
I will most certainly be back there many times.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
I wasn't really feeling much like playing today, and it showed in how I went out, a mere 20 minutes into the thing. I won't even try to defend my play here.
But, just as an aside, how many crubs were in that deck anyway?
Tomorrow: 8-game mix, which should be amusing.
You may remember when Pauly discovered turbo pot-limit Omaha sit-and-go tournaments. A true action junkie, he described them as being as addictive as "smoking crack dipped in chocolate and wrapped in bacon."
In retrospect, that was nothing. He has now discovered Rush Poker. And it has finally been his undoing. Read here, then send an email to Full Tilt asking if you can contribute to their rehab charity fund for players who can't stop.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I was reading Card Player magazine earlier today. Todd Brunson's column talks about some hands he played in a tournament in Venice. Illustrating the column is a photo of a tower in San Marco Square, Venice.
Looking at it, I thought it seemed familier. Then it clicked: The Venetian has one that looks just like that!
I had had no idea that it was modeled after actual structures in Venice. I thought they had just taken the name, threw in a few fake canals, and left it at that.
I had an IM chat open with Cardgrrl at the time I made this astounding discovery, and shared my new-found insight with her. Since it wasn't a video chat, I can only imagine the rolled eyes and snorts that might have been going on. She proceeded to point out to me that the whole facade of the Venetian is copied from San Marco Square.
Well, apparently just about everybody except me, that's who.
I can be really slow to catch on to things sometimes. (I admitted that to Cardgrrl. She didn't disagree, but she did say that I'm cute, which makes up for it.)
In closely related news, this new discovery sent me scurrying to the interwebs, and guess what else I found out? You know that tall steel tower thingy in front of the Paris Hotel and Casino? There's another one just like it--except even taller--in Paris, France!
Today was WBCOOP event #3, back to no-limit hold'em. By far my best performance so far. As you can see, I finished 45th out of 1843. I'd call that doing tolerably well, though short of impressive. I did outlast all of my poker blogger friends, so I suppose I gain the world's most minor bragging rights as a result. I also won a $16.50 ticket to a bigger tournament later.
Once again, the first 60 to 90 minutes was just a joke. There were only three players actually at the table, the rest were no-shows, getting blinded off. It was so bad that it tempted one player into no-no land, as this chat snippet reveals:
acehighness: lets take turns in raising
acehighness: and just rape their blinds
Rakewell1: Um, it's probably best not to attempt overt collusion via chat
Rakewell1: It's called "cheating"
acehighness: is it cheating if they are not playing? really ?
I didn't bother replying. I don't know whether the guy was really that unethical or just completely clueless. (Also: I love the casual use of the word "rape" there, don't you?)
Because the thing lasted for 4 1/2 hours for me, I'm too tired to try to do anything like a full evaluation of what happened. Instead, I present to you a comprehensive account of how the Mighty Deuce-Four played for me today. I had it eight times, and you can watch the results in a single Flash movie. Take particular note of #3, in which the 2-4 takes down not just a pocket pair of queens, but a flopped set of queens. Ho-hum, all in a day's work for 2-4.
There are four other hands that I thought interesting or dramatic enough to present separately.
First, there was this bizarre blind-versus-blind confrontation. I don't want to spoil the drama by telling you what happened in advance. Just watch:
Remember what I wrote recently about never wanting to see or have a set again? Well, OK, I rescind that now.
Next up is this one, which I think was the worst I played during the whole tournament. I always try to confess my mistakes, and give you my ugliest plays as well as my prettiest ones.
I probably misplayed that about as badly as possible, with the exception of not losing any more on the river. I had been cruising consistently in the top 10% or so of the leaderboard until this hand cost me a big chunk of my chips, taking me down to just under average, and it was an uphill struggle from there to the end. One badly played hand can really undermine your whole tournament.
Here's the other spot where I escaped potential disaster with a touch of good luck:
I don't know why the hand animator software screwed this up, but that big ol' side pot actually came to me, otherwise I would have been out. I lucked out on the river with a bigger two pair than my big-stacked opponent had made on the turn. Of course, I did have 13 outs on the turn (eight clubs, two 3s, and three kings), so I wasn't in completely horrible shape.
Finally, there's the hand that I went out on. Watch it, then I'll discuss it a bit:
This one is actually pretty interesting. Goral is a PokerStars pro. He hadn't been at my table too long, but he had been making a lot of small raises to steal blinds from the shorter stacks, as one might expect. Both times that I had been in the big blind and it was folded to him, he did such a raise, making it a pretty clear pattern. I was ready to shove with just about any two cards if that happened again. But this situation came up first.
My buddy Cardgrrl tells me she would have shoved pre-flop. It almost certainly would have won, because I can't imagine him calling that much with A-4 offsuit. But it wouldn't have helped my standing in the tournament very much. In my view, a push there is one of those moves that only gets called when I'm either a huge underdog or, at best, a coin flip if he has A-K or maybe A-Q. I really wanted a big move forward, instead of hovering near the basement. On the flop a shove is still a huge raise, but not as ridiculously so as on the flop. I did think about it, but decided that I was willing to risk losing the hand in order to try to milk more out of him. It was a calculated chance, and it backfired, but I don't think it was a bad way to play the hand.
I'm not sure I understand Goran's shove on the turn. He couldn't really want a call, but what did he think I had that I would fold? If I had flopped two pair or a set or a flush draw (which seem to me the most likely things with which I would have called his flop bet), he can't except me to fold. Seems like a bad move to me. Anyway, as it was, he had 13 outs (nine hearts plus three 3s), and hit one. So be it. I got my money in as a 3:1 favorite to not only double up, but become the table chip leader and be in strong position to go very deep in the tournament. I'm OK with the decision, though disappointed in the outcome.
Oh, and that thing about never wanting to flop a set again? It's back on.
If you are, like me, perpetually fascinated by the differences--real and perceived--between how men and women behave at the poker table and get treated at the poker table, you may be interested in the juxtaposition of these two posts, which were consecutive in my RSS reader this morning:
This time I made someone else at the poker table cry (and don't miss the links to other "crying at the table" stories at the end of the post)
Boys will be boys
I think it's in my best interest to post these links without further comment. What I agree with, what I disagree with, and what I might want to smack somebody for saying or writing, well, you'll just have to guess at that. I'm keeping it to myself.
(Thanks to Wolynski for the photo, taken during the 2009 WSOP ladies event, sent to me at the time, and used here without permission but hopefully without objection. And see her VegasImages blog, too.)
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Dalai Lama, as quoted by David Apostolico in Card Player magazine column, January 27, 2010 (vol. 23, #2), p. 25.
To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else.
[Note: Mr. Apostolico did not provide a reference for the quotation. I'm always suspicious of such things. Sure, one can find this attributed to Dalai Lama all over the web, but is it genuine, or a misattribution? Fortunately, with a little probing around I found the source. It's from The Path to Tranquility, by Renuka Singh and Dalai Lama, 2002, page 5. Although less relevant to poker, the rest of the thought is also worth considering: "Rather than speaking badly about people and in ways that will produce friction and unrest in their lives, we should practice a purer perception of them, and when we speak of others, speak of their good qualities. If you find yourself slandering anybody, first imagine that your mouth is filled with excrement. It will break you of the habit quickly enough."]
I've never done a pot-limit Omaha tournament before (at least not that I can remember). But that's what the WBCOOP schedule called for today, so that's what I did. I had no serious hope of performing well, with so little experience in the game, but it was a fun diversion.
I did get a couple of lovely-looking hands, though they didn't pay off at all well:
The game was easy at first, with hands like that. I also got AAxx hands ten times in the first 143 hands. Most remarkably, I won every one of them, mostly with a pre-flop raise, but once felted an opponent with KKxx when we both flopped sets.
That frequency of AAxx starting hands seemed kind of high to me, so I ran some numbers. If I've done my math right, there are 14,700 starting hands containing exactly two aces, and 270,725 possible Omaha starting hands, yielding an average probability of being dealt two aces of 0.0543, or about 1/18. My 10/143 is 0.0699, or about 1/14, so only slightly higher than average. And then I went card-dead, never seeing them again, so my overall tournament frequency was 10 in 209 hands, or 0.0478, or about 1/21, slightly less frequently than would be expected. (No, I'm not thinking that AAxx is necessarily a monster hand in Omaha. I get how it's different from hold'em. If you don't, see here for a primer.)
My first table might have been the easiest one in the whole tourney. There were five people sitting out who just got blinded off. Of the other three players, none was tricky. They would bet when they had something good, check otherwise. Even better, when I was on the button, the small blind was sitting out and the big blind would only defend his blind when he had a really big starting hand. When I was in the cutoff, the button and the big blind were both sitting out, and the small blind was that same non-defending player. I was thus able to steal relentlessly. When I was in the small blind, the big blind was sitting out, and when I was in the big blind the small blind was sitting out, with not too many steals going on, so I got lots of walks. Easy poker! I chipped up nicely and was sitting pretty for the first hour and a half or so.
But then things all went south. The sitter-outers got blinded off, I went card-dead, and some of the tourney monster stacks with hyper-aggressive styles got moved to my table, pretty much all at once. That's a bad combination. Predictably, my stack stayed pretty much static while the tourney average rocketed up. And I was toast.
In short, I can play PLO really, really well when (1) you hit me with the deck, and (2) put me at a completely passive and straightforward table. Give me some card trouble and aggressive opponents, though, and I wither away. Yep, that's me, the big-time pro player!
Here's how I went out:
At first I thought that he had check-raised me on the turn with nothing but the king-high flush draw (and I tweeted to that effect). It was only in looking at the replay that I noticed that he had a made straight there, too, so I can't fault him. But I had two pair, straight draw, and queen-high flush draw with a below-average stack, so I think that my shove was pretty defensible, and maybe the only sensible thing to do there. After all, even if I gave him credit for the straight, I wouldn't think that he would be so lucky as to also have one of the only two flush draws that would beat me, and even if he did I had the boat possibility. The odds calculator at cardplayer.com tells me that I was 58% to win before the flop, 67% on the flop, then only 25% on the turn. But I think it would be hard to be sufficiently confident of being in that badly at that point so as to make the fold, and, besides, it would mean being left with a really short stack in a fast-moving tournament. Players with more PLO experience are welcome to comment about whether I blew this hand or handled it reasonably.
Ah well. It was kinda fun anyway. Back to hold'em for the events of Wednesday and Thursday.
When I watched the third season (the first one that I had seen) of "Full Tilt Poker's Million-Dollar Cash Game," one of the little incidents that stood out for me was Phil Ivey snapping at Mike Matusow because Matusow folded out of turn. He explained that he didn't know that the other player was still in, because his cards were partially hidden by his chips. Phil chided him for not knowing who was in, and claimed that he always knows who's in a hand with him. (Sorry, but it's too much work to go back through all 12 or so hour-long episodes trying to find this moment and give you the exact details and quotations.)
I thought this was dubious. Nobody can fail to make this mistake once in a while. I just don't think it's possible to maintain perfect focus forever. Particularly with Phil always watching sports, keeping track of prop bets about the flop cards, etc., I didn't believe him when he said that he always knew who was in or out of a hand.
Just now while eating lunch I was watching "Poker After Dark," which is a rerun this week, but one I haven't seen before. It's "Top Guns II," Tuesday's installment (when they do reruns, the entire week is available all at once), segment 4. In the screen shot above, you can see Ivey attempting to either call or raise a bet. But it's not his turn. Action is on Howard Lederer, immediately to Ivey's right. You can see the alert dealer's hand as she tries to wave Ivey off, recognizing what's about to happen. At the same time, Lederer chirps up: "Wait a second, sir!" Ivey replies, "I didn't even know you had a hand." Lederer's cards are in plain view out in front of his chip stacks.
Mr. Ivey, would you like to revisit your claim that you always know who is in the hand with you, and that you never make the mistake for which you so soundly criticized Mike Matusow?
(As a side note, don't you love how I captured Patrik Antonius snorting a line of cocaine?)
Yeah, that's what I said when I saw the abbreviation, too. But it's the central point in this interesting article by "business and technology lawyer" Daisy Yu in E-Commerce Times, to which I was alerted by Richard Marcus's blog about poker and casino cheating. Go see what it's talking about, and how EULAs may relate to the various online cheating scandals our favorite game has produced in recent years.
Incidentally, the last time I mentioned Marcus's blog was when I discovered that he was ripping off other people's material and pretending it was his own. Now it seems that he has partially reformed, and at least names a source before reposting--presumably without permission--entire articles. I think it's generally preferable to give a link to the original, rather than reproducing whole works.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Saturday I was playing at Caesars Palace. A hand in which I was not involved had a final board of 3c-6c-7c-Qh-3d. At showdown, a woman tabled Ac-Jc (giving a wave to BWOP), and won.
This is where it got interesting. One guy at the table said, "She had the nuts." The guy next to him said, "No, straight flush would be the nuts. She only had the second nuts." First guy said, "Well, yeah, OK, but she had the nuts if you don't count the straight flush." Second guy said, "That's right."
At this point, I feel like giving them both a dope slap.
For the record, the woman with Ac-Jc had the ninth nuts. She would be beaten by any player holding:
No, I did not speak up to correct the dopes. Not my job to teach them how to read the board. Better for me if they can't figure it out.