Saturday, April 03, 2010

Poker plate

Seen earlier today at the Rio parking garage. What game do you suppose he was there to play?

Poker gems, #348

Matt Lessinger, in Card Player magazine column, February 24, 2010 (vol. 23, #4), p. 60.

[U]nless your name is Phil Ivey, you aren't going to scare your opponents just by staring at them.

But if we can't get our opponents to fear us, we can at least make sure that they don't start getting brave against us. There are always opponents who make me think to myself, "When they're in the blinds, I'm going to look to raise." It's not just because they are tight, but because they are tight-passive. They are either going to fold to me or not punish me for getting out of line. Their style inspires me to get aggressive. They inspire anti-fear. That's instant death in the poker world, and something that you must avoid at all costs.

Steam coming out of the ears

If, like me, you enjoy watching Phil Hellmuth boast about being the best in the world and then get his face rubbed in doggie doo, I highly recommend watching this "Poker After Dark" segment, particularly the two consecutive hands between Hellmuth and Brandon Adams, starting at about the 7:00 mark. Hilarity definitely ensues.

Guess the casino, #466

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

Answer: Bellagio

Friday, April 02, 2010

Holy day

Just a reminder that today is the second holiest day in the liturgical calendar of the Holy Order of the Mighty Deuce-Four in the U.S., where we write the date as 4/2, and the holiest day in most of the rest of the world, where today's date is typically written as 2/4.

You know what you need to do to celebrate properly.

That is all.

Guess the casino, #465

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

Answer: Caesars Palace

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Five live

I have played in five live poker tournaments over the past ten days or so, which is highly unusual for me.


The first was last Monday at the Venetian. A reader generously offered to pay my buy-in for the nightly 7:00 tournament, to give him a chance to meet me and to say thanks for the blog. (He cleverly titled his introductory email, "Free money," which effectively got my attention.) This is a pretty well-structured tournament, except for one boneheaded part in which the blinds and antes increase way too much in one step.

My favorite hand was one fairly early in the game in which I called a preflop raise, along with about six others, with 7-9 of diamonds. The flop was 9h-8d-2d, giving me top pair and a flush draw. I checked. The original raiser bet, followed by a couple of callers, then I put in a big check-raise, which narrowed the field to just me and one older gentleman. The turn was the 6s. Now I had top pair, a flush draw, and an open-ended straight draw, with about half my stack in a very large pot. Well, duh! I don't need too many instructional videos to tell me how to play this. Shove. The other guy called. He had Ad-xd for just the nut flush draw. The river was the 5c, completing my straight, though just the pair was all it took to win. The gentleman shook my hand at the next break (he was left very short-stacked, but doubled up a couple of times to survive) and told me he realized what a dumb move he had made and that he should have known better.

But that hand was all I could do. There followed a long stretch without any forward progress. Before too long I was in fold-or-shove mode. I managed to steal the blinds about as often as I had to pay them, keeping myself afloat, but without making any headway. This happened ten times or so without ever getting called. Finally I did it from the small blind with 10-10, and was called by a doofus with 10-9 offsuit. The board came with a 7, 8, and J to give him a straight, despite me being an 85/15 favorite going in. And that was that.

The tournament also gave me the chance to meet one of my Twitter followers, youknoyoulov3me. She was at my table for the latter part of the tournament. I gather she is a dealer at Bellagio, and is self-evidently a fine player.

Thanks again to Matt for the freeroll!


Cardgrrl was in town, of course. One of her reasons for coming was a get-together of folks she knows from Poker Academy, an online site where she did much of her early poker learning. The group had a private tournament Wednesday at noon at Harrah's. The Harrah's structure is thin and fast, with virtually no room to recover from an error or bad beat. It's an amateur-hour luckfest.

I chipped up some early on, but within an hour suffered a pretty horrible beat. I called a raise with A-K. Flop came king-high. Original raiser shoves with K-J. I call. Jack on the river for the 3-outer. That left me short-stacked. Then I was in the big blind with Q-6 (I think; not sure of the kicker now). Under-the-gun guy had limped, so it was just us seeing the flop. It was Q-8-9, so I shoved. He called, having flopped the nuts with J-10. That left me in "any two cards" mode. I don't even remember what hand I put it in with, nor what I was called with, but it didn't turn out well.

Still, it was a fun bunch of people to play with. I even got to steal a pot holding the mighty 2-4, and showed it. After all, this crew is from "Poker Academy"--they're there to learn, right? They need to know about invincible hands.


Friday night at Treasure Island was the first of two tournaments sponsored by It was a kind of strange mixed-game format, with Omaha-8, deuce-to-seven triple draw, stud-8, and razz. The fun of this was that--let's face it--none of us really knew what we were doing much of the time.

My favorite hand of the tourney was at the final table when I was dealt "number one," 2-3-4-5-7, in triple-draw. I expect it will be a long, long time before that happens again. I didn't play it optimally. After David Stucke raised, I three-bet it, when it clearly would have been better to flat-call and let a couple of others in. The chance that anybody would even tie me for the pot was negligible. But the tourney ran much longer than the organizers expected (we ran several past the number of levels they had planned out), so we had been playing for seven hours at that point. To make matters worse, I had eaten something that rather unpleasantly disagreed with me, and had been focusing mostly on not throwing up all over the poker table (which I believe constitutes grounds for a time-out). Combine that with having next to zero experience with triple-draw, and it explains why I didn't play it better. David put in a few more chips and was all in. I called, obviously. (I wasn't quite so impaired as to fold the stone-cold nuts.) I made another mistake at this point, though not too critical: I put my cards face-up on the table. I'm just so used to there being no more decisions to be made after all the chips are in that I forgot that there remained three decision points in this hand, even with no more betting to be done. It didn't really matter, though. Even if you know that you have to improve all the way to #1 in order to chop the pot, it's awfully difficult to do, and the cards didn't cooperate for David. He finished in 8th place.

Four spots were paying, but we negotiated a chop when there were six of us left. I was second in chips by that point, and was one of two people to take $300. (Entry fee was $65.) Two others took $275, and the remaining two (including Cardgrrl) took $250 each.

More details, comments from the players, and lots of photos of both AVP events are available here.


The second part of the AVP bash was a no-limit hold'em tournament Saturday at the Mirage. Not much to report about it. I just never got anything going. On my last hand I got it all in pretty decently, with A-K versus 5-5 for my 10-BB stack, and couldn't improve for the double-up. Oh well.

Cardgrrl did extremely well again, finishing in fourth place (six spots paid). She was the only one to cash in both AVP events, which tells you something of her ability. She is a threat to win in essentially any tournament she enters. I was, as always, very proud of her.


Tuesday evening, after Cardgrrl had left, I was at Harrah's planning to play cash. But it was 7:30, and their nightly tournament was starting. It's the same rinky-dink structure as was used for the private Poker Academy tournament. But there were only five people playing, and looking at them I recognized all the classic symptoms of complete newbies--looking nervous as all get-out, not sure what to do with their chips, asking basic questions about rules, unclear as to seat numbers, etc. I watched them play one hand, and it confirmed my impression that not a single one of them had any idea what was going on. So I called an audible on myself, took my name off the waiting list for the cash game, and entered the tournament.

We finally ended up with eight players after a couple more late entries. I chipped up some, then made one bad call when I should have folded. As I said, this structure is completely unforgiving. That one mistake left me short. I lasted long enough to see three others eliminated. Once again, when I was down to exactly 10 big blinds, I got it all in good, with A-10, called by the big stack with A-6. I was in good shape, until a 6 on the turn did me in--killed by yet another 3-outer. Sigh.

So that's one cash in five tournaments--and, ironically, the one in which I made a little money was probably the only one in which I had essentially zero edge on the field. Total buy-ins: $390 (not counting the Venetian one). Total payouts: $300 (minus $15 for dealer tip). See why I don't usually play tournaments?

Guess the casino, #464

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

Answer: Sandia (Albuquerque)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Guess the casino, #463

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

Answer: Green Valley Ranch

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Valley of Fire State Park

Sunday Cardgrrl and I went to Valley of Fire State Park. It's a pretty amazing place, and we had absolutely ideal weather. We stayed only about two hours, but you could wander around for days and days without seeing the same thing twice. We took the loop trail at White Domes and looked around Silica Dome. Friends had recommended other parts of the park, but we'll have to save those for another trip.

The photos I took are here. None of them accurately reflects what I saw. The range of light and shadow was simply too great for the camera to capture. For example, in many shots the sky looks white, when in reality it was one of the brightest blues I've ever seen; it gets washed out in order to emphasize the range of colors in the rocks and darker areas of the scene.

I think the prettiest shots are these:

However, easily my favorite of the bunch is this one:

It nicely shows the enormous range of colors and shapes nature has on display in these rock formations, set against a gorgeous, clear sky. I think the shadow of a human figure (it's Cardgrrl, though in this case that doesn't really matter) provides both a sense of physical scale and contrasts our smallness and frailty and the brevity of our existence with the might and longevity of the mountains.

On another matter, if you want a little lesson in photo composition, which is indisputably one of the most important things setting real photographic artists apart from us mere snapshotters, look at my picture of this rock:

It's a very, very pretty rock, full of vivid and unexpected colors. But the photograph is completely boring and lifeless, I'm afraid.

Now look at how Cardgrrl saw the very same rock here. It's an actual scene, not just a rock. Well done, my friend.

Coming up next: Actual poker content!

Some catching up to do

I'm just home from taking Cardgrrl to the airport for her flight home. It was a wonderful visit, but her departure makes me sad and lonely and feel like not doing much. One of her best friends is getting married in May, and I'm thinking that might be a good excuse for a visit to the East. It doesn't take much to persuade me to hop on a plane, if Cardgrrl is at the other end of the flight.

The last thing she told me was, "Write lots of blog posts so your readers don't abandon you." Also, one of my faithful, long-time readers gently accosted me at the Mirage Friday night with, "I don't mind the 'Guess the Casino' posts, but I really need more than that for my Grump fix." Well, that shouldn't be a problem. I played in four tournaments last week, yet to be reported here. We spent some time at the Valley of Fire State Park, a place I've never visited before. We saw a great show. All of those deserve posts. Furthermore, I'm a week behind in reading poker blogs, I'm several issues behind in poker magazine reading, and I want to go back and watch last week's "Poker After Dark" (the second week of the cash-game lineup). There is potential post material in all of those activities. Besides, I still owe you the second half of my "Best of Times..." post, and I'm now four weeks delinquent in writing about my trip to the Sandia casino.

No shortage of material. I'll get to it all as the days unfold here. But I also had precious little time for cash games this past ten days (and what there was was a litany of expensive second-best hands--ick), so at the same time I need to get back to some serious earning time at the tables.

Hang in there. Much more coming.

Guess the casino, #462

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

Answer: Flamingo

Monday, March 29, 2010

Guess the casino, #461

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

Answer: Venetian (Thanks to Cardgrrl for the photograph.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Guess the casino, #460

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

Answer: Mandalay Bay