Saturday, May 22, 2010

Guess the casino, #515






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




Answer: South Point

Friday, May 21, 2010

Quick life update




Nope--not writing about the fish found at poker tables. The above is part of the decor at Kinkead's, one of the nicest restaurants I've ever dined at. Cardgrrl and I ate there tonight, my belated Valentine's Day gift to her, as it's her favorite eatery. I'm not so big on seafood, which is their speciality, but I had a Jamaican whole roasted yellowtail snapper with banana-habernero ketchup and mango salsa, which was surprisingly good. I was even so adventurous as to take a couple of bites of Cardgrrl's squid appetizer. Then we had for dessert the most luscious sorbets I've ever tasted--a trio of pineapple, sour cherry, and mixed berry.

We spent much of the day shopping for some clothes for her and for a gift for the wedding we're attending tomorrow. (For those keeping score, that's two new life experiences in one day--clothes shopping with Cardgrrl and eating squid.) Thursday Cardgrrl was at the TedXPotomac conference with some friends, which had been planned long before this trip. I just slept, puttered around, and went for a walk in the neighborhood. Tomorrow is the wedding, and after that I really don't know what the rest of this trip will entail. It's not like we spent months planning out every minute.

That's what I've been up to. Yeah, I know it's pretty uninteresting to read about--no need to express such a gripe in the comments.

Guess the casino, #514






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




Answer: Sahara

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guess the casino, #513





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




Answer: Planet Hollywood

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Go west, young man

Us old guys are heading east.

Back to the grind next week.

Guess the casino, #512





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




Answer: Orleans

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The future of online poker

"bill rini" writes about the business of online poker with more insight and better analysis than anybody else, if you ask me. So when he did a post today with the same title as you see above, I paid attention to it. I was right to do so. He brings up points and issues and likely developments that I had not thought about before. If it's a subject you care about, go read what Bill has to say, here.

Guess the casino, #511






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




Answer: M Resort

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to make $250 in three hands--plus, an announcement

Hand #1

I had just taken my seat at the MGM Grand this afternoon. I played one hand, then got a call from my friend Cardgrrl (about which more later).

When I got back to the table, the blinds had just passed, so I had to post. I was dealt 9-10 offsuit. Guy two to my right raised to $17. Obviously I had no idea who he was or what he was capable of, nor what this rather large bet size represented. About 99 times out of 100, I would toss this without a second thought. My usual approach to a new table is to sit back, play tight, and observe until I have a better feel for my opponents' tendencies and skills. It's not the time to be splashing around with speculative hands.

For some reason, though, I decided to take a flier here, and called. I'm not defending this as being smart; it's just what happened. Part of it, I'm sure, was that he was the table big stack, so he had plenty of chips to double me up if the stars lined up right, and it also gave me the suspicion that he was trying to play the big-stack bully--which, if true, might mean that he would push too hard if I luckboxed my way into something good. But this was far more speculation than fact on my part, admittedly.

The flop came K-9-10 with two clubs. Bottom two pair for me, but it's nowhere near a lock on the hand in this situation. That flop is too coordinated for me to relax.

He bets $15. I raise to $45. He thinks for a while and calls.

Turn is a red 10, giving me a full house. Now I'm pretty dang comfortable with my hand. Unless he had KK, I'm good. He checks. I decide that I'd like him to think that I was just trying to steal, so I check behind. Of course, this risks him making a better full house if he has a pair bigger than 10s and hits on the river. On the other hand, he might hit a straight or a flush that will make him overconfident in his hand--or, if I'm super-lucky, he'll have something like 7-7 and hit a lower full house.

The river is 2c. I hope with all my heart that he just made his flush. He bets $40. I raise to $120. He folds, and I'm up $100 on my first hand. Not quite felting him, but good enough for starters.


Hand #2

A few minutes later, I had to leave the table again for another phone call. This is highly unusual. It's probably less than once a month that I either get or make a cell phone call while I'm playing, and this is twice within the first short bit of one session. Once again, when I came back I had to post. I have Kh-2c. I'm one of three or four limpers. Flop is Kd-8s-6s. I check. Button bets $10. It's folded back to me. I think that he could have a king, could have second or third pair, could be on a flush draw, could have complete air just trying to buy it. So I call to see what happens.

This is where something unusual and unexpected happens. I'm watching my opponent to see how he reacts to the turn, but the turn doesn't come. I look down and see that the dealer has just swept the board cards up and tossed them onto the muck. I ask, "What are you doing?" Somebody else at the same time points out that the bet had been called.

The dealer is horrified. He asks, "Does anybody remember what the flop was?" I do, of course. But in a flash, I concoct a crazy plan for how to manipulate this situation. Instead of just naming the cards in a neutral fashion, I spin it: "Six and eight of spades, plus a king. I don't know what suit the king was. I think it was red. I just know it wasn't another spade." Somebody else volunteers that it was the king of diamonds.

As you might infer, this is fiendishly designed to set up my opponent to be absolutely certain that I called him because I'm on a spade draw. I had had ZERO time to think through the consequences of this. It's not like I had planned it in advance. (I do have a few sneaky plans in my head ready for deployment to exploit some unusual situations that occasionally come up at the poker table, but this was not one of them.) The obvious upside is that if another spade comes, I'm in great shape to represent the flush, and I'll just have to hope that this other guy isn't on a real spade draw. The downside is that if a spade doesn't come, it's going to be hard for me to represent anything else.

The dealer confirms that the three named cards are, in fact, the ones sitting on top of the muck, and reconstructs the flop. He picks up the stub, and continues.

Burn and turn: Four of spades. Bazinga!

I quickly check. The other guy looks like he's not thrilled with this, but I can't tell for sure if that's real or if he's throwing off a fake tell because he actually loved that card. He bets $25.

I'm uncertain whether this is going to work or blow up in my face, but I decide that I set it up, so I might as well follow through. I check-raise to $75. He cuts out the $50 for a call, thinks about it, rechecks his hole cards, but finally mucks.

That's another $40 or so profit for me.

I have to admit: I was and still am ridiculously proud of that spontaneously invented bit of trickery.


Hand #3

A few hands later, and after yet another break from the table for a phone call (hang on, explanation is coming) I'm in the cutoff with the red 10s. The same guy I tangled with in Hand #1 open-raises to $25. This is absurdly large. I still have virtually no idea what range of cards he plays. I have been at the table for only about 30 minutes total, and half of that has been away while texting and making calls. (Don't you hate people like that? I sure do. But it's rare as hen's teeth that I'm one of them.)

The woman between us also calls. This is significant because the only hand I've seen her play ended with a terrible call into the nuts with just one pair, giving me hope that her stack is extremely easy to get. $25 is a lot to pay to go set-mining, but the raiser still has me covered, and this woman nearly does, too, so there's huge potential.

The potential grows even better when both blinds come along. We have us a $125 pot pre-flop. I'm thinking, "Oh please please please please please please please please please please PLEASE give me a 10, and I'll never ask for anything ever again." I might have even had the words "One time!" flash through my head, though if so, I would never admit it.

Flop: 10s-8s-2h. Could it get any more perfect than that? I think not!

Original raiser bets $20. Hard to know if this is as weak as it looks, or if it's an A-A/K-K type hand trying to look weak in order to induce a big raise, to be followed by a pounce on that seemingly safe board. The woman called, making the pot $165 now. I'm not in the mood for pussy-footing around. With that many people in the hand, there are too many turn cards that could turn my stomach and leave me with an expensive and difficult decision to make. Besides, if the first guy was trolling for a raise, I wanted him to get what he was looking for.

So I raise to $100, and all four opponents fold like dominos falling.

Those three hands totalled about $280 profit. I had spent $30 or so in other hands that didn't end up going anywhere favorable, giving me a net uptick of about $250 in a little more than half an hour. I wait until the blinds come my way again, then rack up and leave.

Why not stay when I was running so good? After all, I had been planning on being there for several hours. Well, that has to do with the phone calls.

One of Cardgrrl's best friends--one that I met on a previous visit and like very much--is getting married Saturday. I had tentatively been planning to head east for a visit centered on that weekend. But the horrendous run-bad I hit in April kind of put the kibosh on that idea. I felt like I needed to stay and rebuild the money supply, not take time off and be spending extra on luxuries like trips.

Poker has been going very well since then, however, making me feel a little more comfortable about life. To boost the incentive, Cardgrrl's call was to tell me that she had found that she had a bunch of frequent-flier miles that she could use for a free ticket for me, if I could make a last-minute trip.

One of the most advantageous aspects of my lifestyle is the degree of flexibility I have. I can pretty much work/play when I want, take time off when I want, with nobody to be accountable to, nobody to ask permission of. I had made a couple of appointments and commitments for later in the week, but nothing that couldn't be rescheduled. That's what some of the phone calling was about, and I needed to make a couple more calls and get home and check my computer's calendar to be sure I hadn't forgotten anything.

So we haven't quite clicked the final "purchase" button on the tickets (we need to chat one last time later tonight), but it looks like I'll be leaving Wednesday for a trip out to D.C., coming back home the following Tuesday. That will mean yet another hiatus in blogging about poker (sorry, all you complainers who feel like I owe you uninterrupted content), but I'll try to sneak in some general life updates with whatever adventures might be in store for me out there.

The Smothers Brothers are a lot older than I thought

The Smothers Brothers announced their retirement from touring last night. Here's what the Las Vegas Sun's web site says:

"Those confidantes knew the announcement was coming, and many came from different states to be a part of it. While some were in disbelief — it's difficult to process change after more than 40 decades of consistent performances — the atmosphere was positive, a celebration for what the Brothers feel is a new chapter in their lives."

Wow! They've been performing together for more than 400 years! Who knew?! I'm just surprised that that isn't the lead. I mean, having two brothers both three times older than the previously recorded oldest person--that's your story, not that they're finally retiring.

Guess the casino, #510





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




Answer: Harrah's

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Boulder Highway adventures

I mentioned recently that I've been trying to call Club Fortune and find a time when they're spreading a $1-$2 no-limit game, because I've never seen their new poker room, even though it has been open for months. After being told that this virtually never happens, however, I resolved to head out there sometime and put up with a low limit game, just so that I can report on the room. I decided that today was the day.

But on the long drive out there, I got interested in a news story on the radio and missed the turn. Before I knew it, I was at the point where Boulder Highway becomes limited-access, and there was no way to turn around for several miles. The first opportunity to head back north comes right at Railroad Pass.


Railroad Pass

I've been to this place once before, in December, 2007. I took a couple of pictures of its one lonely, unused poker table, and did a post about it titled, "The smallest poker room in Nevada."

I had not been planning to visit it again, but as long as I had accidentally ventured that far out (22 miles from my downtown apartment, right on the border between Henderson and Boulder City), I decided to peek in and see if the one table was still there.

It is not. I have no idea when they stopped trying, but there is definitely no poker room at Railroad Pass now. Which means that I can claim to have played in every currently operating poker room in the area. (Unless Speedway still has a table or two. I kind of doubt it, but I don't know for certain.)


Club Fortune

I headed back north on Boulder Highway and managed not to miss the turnoff this time. I quickly found the new poker room and got a seat:












Aesthetically, it's a fairly nice little room. The colors are tasteful. It's quiet and genuinely smoke-free. There is plenty of room around the tables, which are a nice tan felt. I wouldn't mind spending many hours there, if (1) it weren't so far away, and (2) they had a game at which I could make money.

In terms of game selection, well, you already know. They typically have either a $2-4 or $3-6 LHE game going evenings. I hear that they often have a stud game one night a week.

What kind of place is it? It's the kind of place where you can, and will, frequently hear the dealer announce, pre-flop, "All in for $2."

It's the kind of place where you can, and will, hear a good ol' boy say, while throwing in the chips for a crying call on the river, "I'm suckin' hind tit but I gotta call ya."

It's the kind of place that does one better on the annoying (but, thankfully, dying) practice of chopping $1 chips into half-dollar coins: They use quarters. (If you think it's slow waiting for some old geezer to gather up four $1 chips for a call, wait until he has accumulated that much in quarters, and wants to get rid of them by putting them in the pot.)

It's the kind of place where a player next to you will ask you to trade you a white chip for four of your quarters, saying he needs them to tip the cocktail waitress. It's the kind of place where he will not be kidding.

The play was typical $2-4 LHE, maybe a little worse than average. Let me tell you about a few hands.

1. My first hand at the table I was given pocket jacks in the cutoff. I raised. Eight callers. Flop KdQd7s. Checked around to me. I think it's pretty hopeless, but ya never know, so I bet anyway. Six callers. Jumping to the end of the story, I'll tell you that it was won by a guy who had 7d-9d. He rivered the flush. He had flopped a pair and a flush draw. Can't fault him for playing it, really, though he would have been better off betting than playing it passively. But passive play is a hallmark of this structure everywhere, so he's just doing what everybody else does.

2. A few hands later, I have Ks-Qs. I raise. I was already getting dirty looks. Apparently raising twice in one orbit is a significant faux pas, and makes one stand out. Five callers. Flop A45 with two diamonds. Once again, with perhaps more hope than sense, I bet when it was checked to me. Surprisingly, I had only one caller this time, the button. She obviously has either an ace or a diamond draw, right? Turn is 10d. Check-check. Hmmm. River: offsuit king. I check. She bets. I think most likely she has an ace, and checked the turn not for deception but because she feared I hit the flush. But she has me a little puzzled and curious now with this late bet, so I make the crying call. She has Q-10, no diamonds. I win, with considerable surprise. So play back what happened: She called on the flop with no pair and no draw. When she actually made a pair on the turn, she checked behind. Then when another overcard came on the river, she bet. Go ahead--you figure out her logic. I can't.

3. I have A-J offsuit in the small blind. There are, I dunno, about 30 limpers ahead of me. I raise. I think one of them folds. Flop is a lovely A-A-2. Two hearts, of which I have zero. For a second I consider slow-playing, going for the check-raise. But I quickly rule that out, since even in a family pot, this crowd could easily check it all the way around, and if they're all going to be as inclined to keep calling as history has shown, I'd like to let them. So I bet. Not only do I get callers, I get raised, and reraised. It was the only time the entire hour I played that a betting round got capped--five ways! My head was reeling. What the hell was going on? How many aces are there in this deck anyway? I can guess that one of these knuckleheads has the case ace, one or two have a flush draw. But what about the others? Did somebody luck into a boat with 2-2? I am completely at a loss to understand what is going on.

Turn is an offsuit 9. I don't know where I am in the hand, but I bet out anyway. Three callers this time.

River is a king, putting a third heart out there, which I hate. I give up and check, because surely at least one of these people just made his or her hand. But to my amazement, the action is checked all around. Seriously, now--WTF? Why would somebody with a full house have checked? Why would somebody with a flush have checked? It all made no sense whatsoever.

I show my hand first. The big blind slams his A-10 down on the table face up, uttering an unpleasantry in the process. The others quietly muck. So no flush, no full house. What in the world were those people calling with? What caused them to cap the betting on the flop, then let one bet stand on the turn, and check the river around? I still have no idea. It's one of the most bizarre, inexplicable hands I've ever played.

4. The final board is 6-10-6-10-2. On the river, Player A bets, Player B raises, Player A calls. Player B shows, not too surprisingly, suited 10-9. Player A lets out a sigh of relief and flips over his 6-6.

Monsters under the bed, sir?

5. Final board: K-3-8-2-9, no flush possible. There is a bet and call. Bettor shows 2-3 offsuit, bottom two pair. Caller flashes Q-10 offsuit before mucking.

Nice call, sir. Way to keep him honest.

I played my requisite hour, then said good-night and went on my way. Next stop:


Jokers Wild

Again, this is a place that I scratched off of my list of rooms to play in about a year after I moved here. It was so bad I thought I'd likely never return. I wrote two stories from my one hour in that particular patch of poker purgatory, here and here.

My main purpose in stopping was to snap a few photos for the "Guess the casino" series. (This constitutes fair warning for those of you who play along.) I had not yet hatched that idea when I first visited. I did stop by the poker room. They had a one-table tournament going, no cash game, so I didn't have to ever consider whether to subject myself to another stretch of locals $2-4 LHE.


Eastside Cannery

I gave a friendly wave as I drove by. I might have stopped to check out the poker action, but decided I had better things to do than to spend a night in jail for trespassing, so I kept driving.


Boulder Station

There are now just three poker rooms in the city that allow cigarette smoking right at the table: Boulder Station, Texas Station, and Arizona Charlies--Decatur. Boulder has a distinct advantage over the others: It consistently has a no-limit hold'em game, at least in the evenings and on weekend days. The others do not. It also has worse-than-average players. My friend "Las Vegas Michael" frequently Tweets about his big scores there, tilting the local rocks when he cracks their big pairs. So I reluctantly try to hit it once or twice a year, just to keep it in the rotation. And as long as I was in the neighborhood, I decided tonight would be such an occasion. (Upon getting home, I see that it has been just over a year since my last time there, a visit that featured one memorably wild hand.)

Alas, no such stories to relate tonight. It was one of the tightest, nittiest $1-2 games I've played in a long time. Raise and take it, win $3, over and over again--or a continuation bet and win maybe $10. I ended up with a little extra pocket change by the time I left, and a serum nicotine level that will probably be off the charts for a while. Good Lord do these people smoke! The guy next to me went through seven cigarettes in the two hours I played. Ugh.

The only remarkable thing that happened during my time at the table was that the power went out. That is a first for me in a casino, despite the number of hours I've logged in them over the last four years. In fact, it happened twice, a few minutes apart. The lights flickered, and the cable or satellite feeds on the TVs went out, but otherwise not much happened. The backup generators apparently kick in extremely rapidly. The staff had to reset computers and their connections to the other Stations poker rooms (for the combined-property bad-beat jackpot), but that was about it.

The greatest thing about Boulder Station is that its poker room is the only one out of the 60 in the valley that is right next to a Dairy Queen. Just about everything is made better if one is eating a Snickers Blizzard while doing it, and that includes playing poker. Nom nom nom.

Then I went home. The end.

Question for casino employees

One of the odd little things that I've noticed repeatedly over my Vegas years, but have never been able to figure out, is this: Usually (though not always) when a player buys chips from either the dealer or the cashier, the bills are turned face down and spread on the table (or counter, or whatever other surface is handy). Obviously, spreading them out is so the overhead cameras can record the amount in case of any dispute, to prevent pilfering by employees, etc.

But why face down? It isn't always this way, but it is done that way far more than just chance. I frequently notice the employee going out of his or her way to turn the bills that way. In some casinos, it's face down every time--pretty clearly a house policy.

With modern bills and modern cameras, it is not plausible that this is done because one side of the bills is more easily recognized than the other. My only guess is that it's a holdover policy from earlier days, when cameras were low resolution and bills were more similar to each other; in those years, the backs may well have been more distinct than the fronts.

If anybody knows for sure, or even has better speculation than mine, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Poker gems, #362




Howard Lederer, in the ESPN broadcast of the 2004 WSOP razz event.


After playing razz for a whole day, you really feel like you wanna go beat someone up.

Guess the casino, #509





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




Answer: Flamingo