Saturday, October 23, 2010

Poker on NPR

It's not much of a story, but we don't get much poker on National Public Radio at all, so we might as well appreciate what there is.

Guess the casino, #669

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

Answer: Palms

Friday, October 22, 2010

We have us a winner

Last night I once again chose the Stratosphere as the convenient locale for the evening fun and games. Unfortunately, play was tight as a drum, and after 2 1/2 hours I was up just $27, with no sign of things getting better.

I had noticed the people taking their seats for the 10 pm tournament. Forgive me for saying this, but I got a strong impression that they were mostly rubes. They looked neither generally intelligent nor poker-experienced. So on a last-second, spur-of-the-moment whim, I cashed out my chips and signed up. I was the last of 20 in. I had done no research, had no idea what the blind structure was, etc. Not exactly the most professional way of going about my game selection. But nevertheless, as it turned out, it was a good move: I winz it.

I took a big early chip lead. First, I took the add-on right up front, which most others did not. You can start with 2000 chips for $40 or 4000 chips for $60, which seemed like an easy decision to me. Then my second hand at the table I was dealt 8-8 and pressed it pretty hard, getting four callers pre-flop, and one on the flop and turn. I think he was chasing a flush draw. When it didn't come on the river and I was facing three overcards, I just checked behind and showed, and he mucked. On the very next hand I had J-J, again got four callers to my raise. Flop Q-J-6 rainbow. Bet, couple of callers, then a large raise. He looked to me as though he were very confident in his hand, so I put him on two pair or a set. Since I thought he would call, I just shoved, even though that was several times the size of his raise. I was right--I was on the good side of set-over-set to his pocket 6s, and finished the hand with nearly 11,000 chips when most people were still at their starting 2000.

It's a good thing I had that lead, because that marked the end of any good hands or situations for the next couple of hours. My stack just slowly dwindled away. By the time we consolidated to one table of ten, I was about 7th in chips. From there I just had to play Short Stack Ninja, shoving to steal the blinds when it was folded to me, which worked enough to keep me afloat. Four places were to get paid, and I was the shortest stack when we were down to six and then five. I kept having the dreaded feeling that I was going to be the honorary bubble boy.

But I hit a few big hands and got comfortable again, knocking out the bubble boy instead of being him. (He tried an all-in steal from the small blind with Q-8 offsuit, and I called with K-Q suited.) Then I knocked out the guy in 4th place when I tried stealing the blinds with Q-6 off, he called from the small blind with suited A-J, and I flopped a 6 on him. (This earned me a stern scolding from the big blind--"Don't ever do that again!"--though I never could figure out why he disapproved.) That put me into second in chips with three left.

I almost became the big stack heads-up when I raised with A-A, and drew a shove from the short stack with 3-3. But, alas, a 3 on the flop skewered me, and we remained at three.

I didn't have to fret about the loss for very long, though, because about one orbit later I called a raise in the big blind with 4-4, flopped a set, hit quads on the turn, and doubled up through the chip leader, making him severely short in the process. He went out a few hands later.

My sole remaining opponent and I were very close in chips. I suggested that we each take second-place money and then chop the remainder proportionate to our stack sizes. He instantly agreed. It turned out that I had a little more: 54,500 to his 47,400, which allows me to tell myself that I actually won the tournament. :-) After tipping the dealers, I ended up with $434 on my $60 buy-in. For three hours of play, that's not half-bad.

The only mildly interesting hand was right before I took out the 4th-place finisher. I was third in chips, in one of the blinds with 7-7, and called a raise from the chip leader, who was easily the most skilled and aggressive player I faced the whole tournament. Flop: A-K-7. Ding-dong, Avon calling! I would most often lead out betting in this situation, hoping for an all-in raise. But I thought he likely had an ace and would therefore bet this flop for me, and even if he had missed he had a high percentage of continuation-betting. So I checked, and to my surprise he checked behind. The turn was some blank. Surely he won't pass a second opportunity to bet, so I checked a second time, planning a check-raise. But he did check again! Argh! Who suddenly hit him with the cautious stick??? River yet another blank, so I finally fired about 3/4 of the pot. He called. I showed. He looked stunned, then said, "You're slow-playing me? Dude, I was slow-playing you!" He had A-K for top two pair. Dammit! I could have had a full double-up there. He said, "I was waiting for you to bet so I could raise, but at the last second I got a bad feeling about it." In retrospect, I should have gone with my usual default plan of taking the lead. But, of course, if I had done that and he had folded, I would have kicked myself for not enticing him to bet.

Even with that misstep, I judge myself to have played about my A-minus game throughout, which turned out to be good enough. There are very few things that I wish I had done differently. Of course, flopping sets in several key situations doesn't hurt one's chances.

When asked about tournaments versus cash games generally, my stock answer is that I neither much like nor do well in casino tournaments, and stick almost exclusively to cash games. But when I look at my records, it turns out that I cash more than 20% of the time that I play, and finish deep more often than would be expected by chance alone, so maybe I don't suck as badly as I tend to think. Leaving empty-handed 80% of the time feels lousy, but the numbers say that I make money playing tournaments in the long run, so perhaps I shouldn't bad-mouth them to the extent that I do.

Guess the casino, #668

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

Answer: M Resort

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Car story from long ago

I like cars, so part of my daily reading is the Jalopnik RSS feed. I just saw this post about a man who maneuvered his car in front of that belonging to a driver who had passed out behind the wheel (due to a heart attack), and successfully brought both cars to a safe stop.

This reminded me of a very similar incident from my past. It was 1992, I believe. I was driving on one of the highways through Minneapolis, when I saw a Oldsmobile Cutlass ahead of me drift out of its lane and bump into a car in the next lane. It then bounced the other direction, knocking over several construction barrels in the closed-off left-hand lane. My first impression was that it was one or more teenage hooligans out for a careless joy ride. But I pulled up closer to take a look and saw that the driver was a middle-aged woman slumped over the wheel. Maybe she had her cruise control on, because her velocity was steady, neither accelerating nor slowing.

This was obviously most likely going to end in disaster for her and/or others. It's lucky the construction workers were all off that day, or on break or something, so that she didn't hit any of them. But sooner or later she would hit something--or someone--for sure. I decided that the only thing to be done was exactly what the hero in today's story did: pull in front of her, then gradually slow down until she ran into the back of my car, and try to bring both cars to a stop with my brakes.

But just as I was starting to accelerate to get around her, she veered off to the left again just enough to clip another line of those orange construction barrels, and, luckily for her and everybody else, one of them rather miraculously fell so as to get lodged under the nose of her car, and caused enough drag that it brought her car to a halt over the course of a couple hundred yards, without hitting anything else. It was pretty amazing. I stopped my car just ahead of hers, backed up so that the cars were almost touching (in case she started moving again), killed the engine, put the manual transmission in reverse, and put on the parking brake. Then I went to her car, found that the door was unlocked (again, lucky for her), got her transmission into park, and turned off her ignition. She was still breathing and had a pulse. She looked classically post-ictal, i.e., as if she had suffered a grand mal seizure.

This was in the days before I had my first cell phone, but apparently somebody had already called 911, because police and paramedics showed up within a couple of minutes.

I never heard any ending to this story. I assume that she was OK, but I didn't learn her name or see anything about it in the media in the following couple of days, and the police, despite having taken my name and phone number, never contacted me to give them any more details, so I really don't know what had happened to cause her to pass out, or what became of her afterwards.

It's pretty rare that I have any occasion to be reminded of this rather memorable incident, but when I am, I'm proud of myself for being willing to act selflessly, but also glad that I didn't have to.


Oops, I did it again. I missed one of my own blog's milestones. Apparently this was my 3000th blog post, two days ago, and I didn't notice. That makes this post #3010. So I'm a little late. So sue me. And it seems like it was just, oh, about six months ago that I passed #2500. Maybe that's because it was.

The photo above is lifted from here, and shows an Austin-Healey 3000, a car I would very much enjoy owning and driving, were somebody to give one to me.

My continued thanks for spending your time with me when I rant.

I voted today

Whew! Even though I ignored the plethora of judicial races (I have no idea why Nevada has such a bewildering tangle of different courts), it took me about two hours sitting at my computer to look up and read about all the other candidates in the wide assortment of elections on this ballot. I always vote absentee, whether or not I technically qualify, because I prefer being able to do it all at once, rather than mark some sort of sample ballot at home then have to copy the results onto an official ballot at a polling place. The Review-Journal has a handy and reasonably neutral voter's guide here, which helped streamline the research process.

Because I didn't trek out to a poll, I didn't get one of those "Kiss Me, I Voted" stickers. But I feel that somebody should kiss me anyway. Volunteers?

Poker gems, #393

John Vorhaus, in Card Player magazine column, October 20, 2010 (vol. 23, #21), page 74.

They can't figure out your strategy if you don't have one.

Guess the casino, #667

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

Answer: Golden Nugget

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What's in a screen name? #12

I believe that a certain somebody of my close acquaintance will find this name and photo combination quite satisfying.


I can scarcely believe that the Deuce-Four would turn on me like that, after all I have done for it.

I am left speechless.


...but extremely flattered at this, from VegasRex (now transitioning to Pacific North Rex, after a move to the Seattle area):

I've surfed a bit over the past month and there are a few locals that are
turning out fresh, non-press release content on a daily basis. Abowitz has
his own site now and Poker Grump is still going strong, so I think the Vegas
blogosphere is in good hands. As a matter of fact, if I get around to
voting for the Trippie Awards this year (which I am obviously no longer eligible
to receive), I will pull the lever for those two. Consider this my


And for those who don't know who the "Abowitz" referred to is, see here: Definitely worth adding to your RSS feed.

While I'm at it, I just realized it's been a few months since I Googled myself to see who what other bloggers might have been saying about me. Most of these I saw when they were first written (since I have about 87 kajillion poker blogs in my RSS feed), others were new discoveries just now:

Poker gems, #392

Phil Hellmuth, on the PokerStars Big Game, October 6, 2010.

I mean, I've added stats and math to my game completely, because, y'know, one of the things I love is the way that the mathematics, the new mathematics in poker, defines the moves that I've made for decades. And I do completely incorporate mathematics and statistics in my game, because why wouldn't you learn that stuff? It takes a couple of hours to really understand the math in poker. Why wouldn't I learn it? I think it's more difficult for them, the mathematical players, to learn what I do, because that's a God-given talent.

[Pardon me while I barf. I bet that Chris Ferguson, Bill Chen, and Jerrod Ankenman are jealous that Phil was able to master the mathematics of poker in just a couple of hours.]

Guess the casino, #666

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

Answer: Club Fortune

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bad etiquette all around

A hand on the PokerStars Big Game concludes with Tony G checking the river, Jason Mercier bluffing his missed draws with 10-high, and Tony G calling. Mercier does not show his cards, just says, "You got it," but doesn't muck. Tony G shows his ace-high and wins the pot. Mercier mucks.

Tony G asks the dealer to open Mercier's hand. Dealer kills it by tapping it on the pot, then shows. Mercier is clearly offended by this request: "Why do you want to see my hand?" Tony G replies, "I just wanted to see what you called the flop with, that's all. I'm sorry. It's nothing personal, right?" Mercier doesn't respond, but makes a face.

At this point, commentator Joe Stapleton adds, "Asking for a hand to be opened is a big no-no in live poker."

Tony G doesn't drop it: "That's fair enough, isn't it?" Mercier says, practically through gritted teeth, "I guess." Tony G says, "I don't want to be nasty or anything." Mercier says, "I don't think it's being nasty, it's just bad etiquette." Antonio Esfandiari repeats Mercier's words: "It's just bad etiquette." (There's also a comment in there from Isaac Haxton which I couldn't make out, but I get the impression he's reassuring Tony G that he did nothing wrong.) Phil Hellmuth pipes up to add his opinion that it was "bad etiquette." Later, Stapleton adds that Tony G's request "was within the rules, but is frowned upon."

Mercier, Stapleton, Esfandiari, and Hellmuth all have a point, but they're also missing a bigger one. The chain of bad etiquette was started by Mercier himself. Tony G called his bet. His obligation then was to either expose his cards or muck them, and to do so quickly. He failed in that duty.

Tony G was well within his rights to ask to see Mercier's cards under the circumstances, but a much better alternative would have been for him to sit quietly, do nothing, and wait for Mercier to take one of his two required actions--waiting until the heat death of the universe, if necessary. Or he could have reminded Mercier of who bet and who called, and therefore who had the obligation to show first.

If he had called and Mercier had insta-mucked, then I would agree that Tony G was out of line to ask for the show. Still technically within the rules, but something I would never do. If a guy mucks without showing after getting called, he had nothing, and the informational value you get from forcing him or the dealer to show his cards isn't worth the bad feelings you engender.

But here, Mercier was the one who created the problem by not showing when it was his turn to do so. Tony G's solution to the problem was not the most graceful, but I assign the greater fault to Mercier for not performing the simple act that he clearly knows is his duty.

Offsetting penalties, no yardage awarded.

I can't say I'm surprised at Mercier's conduct. He was at Cardgrrl's table on the second day of her HORSE event at the World Series of Poker, so I got to observe him from just a few feet away. He basically threw a little hissy-fit at the dealer, who was only doing his job. Mercier had arrived at the table without his identification, and the dealer, following the instructions he had been given, refused to deal him in. He called his supervisor over to handle it. Mercier wanted to play while the problem got sorted out, but the dealer told him he wasn't allowed to deal to him. Mercier got irrationally snippy with the dealer when the problem was one of his own creation!

Then, once that got straightened out, Mercier proceeded to tell another player about his outrage the previous day when a cashier wouldn't violate some protocol for him (I can't remember the details now) in order to get him bought into an event. Again, it was a situation that Mercier had caused by waiting until the very last second to try to register, as I recall.

My amateur diagnosis is that Mercier is a snot-nosed brat who thinks that all sorts of special accommodations should be made for him. His attitude in both stories struck me as the classic, "Don't you know who I am?" sort of thing. Which is why it does not surprise me at all to see him break a rule of play, then accuse his opponent of being the one with bad etiquette. The kid has some serious growing up to do, if you ask me.

Tony G knows

I'm just now getting around to watching the new episodes of the PokerStars Big Game that I missed while I was in Utah. In this shot you see the loose cannon folding when he realizes that he's beat.

There's an error in the graphics, obviously. It was 100% for the Deuce-Four from the moment the cards were cut.

What's in a screen name? #11

I especially like it when a good screen name is paired with an appropriately silly avatar photo.

It's way good, obv

He never had a chance.

Guess the casino, #665

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

Answer: Jokers Wild

Monday, October 18, 2010


You may have noticed that all of my sidebar stuff has disappeared recently. Well, it didn't vanish, exactly, it just got shoved down to the bottom of the page instead of showing up where it belongs. This happened when I tried to insert a new page element in the sidebar (the PokerStars banner). It turned out to be too wide and bled over the text of posts, so I removed it again a minute later (insertion and removal both done via the "Page Elements" graphic feature of Blogger). That's when the sidebar contents mysteriously banished themselves to the bottom of the page.

Even stranger is that if you click on "older posts" at the bottom, or click a link to any single post, the formatting is normal. It's only when the blog is loaded without specification to a particular post or class of posts that it fails (i.e., if you use a label or the archives index, eveything works right).

This has me baffled. I've spent an hour or so scrutinizing the HTML, and have concluded that the glitch most likely resides in the "sidebar wrapper" instructions, but I can't pinpoint it. I suppose I could start from scratch with the template and add the other stuff back in one at a time, but I'd really rather not do that if it can be fixed with a simple edit to the template code.

If there exists a reader with proficiency in web tech who feels like volunteering a little (at least I think it would only be a little) time to locate my glitch and suggest a cure, I'd be grateful. Email address is in the "Profile" section (which, sadly, you will now have to scroll to the bottom to find).

Addendum, October 19, 2010

I didn't do a thing, but the problem has resolved. I have no idea what happened overnight. Utter mystery.

What's in a screen name? #10

I think that is sufficiently self-explanatory!

Guess the casino, #664

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

Answer: Bally's

Why I'll be voting for Sharron Angle

I'm well aware of Angle's "extremist" positions--some of which I agree with (e.g., privatize Social Security, get rid of the Department of Education) and some of which I disgree with (e.g., her views on abortion and immigration). I'm also aware that she won't play well with others in the Senate, and thus will likely be unable to get her way much, not to mention the loss of ability to represent Nevada-specific interests, being at the bottom of the power totem pole rather than having Harry Reid at the top of it.

But for all her faults, she'll be getting my vote. The reasons for this are best expressed by two other writers, so I'll just point you to them.

Steve Chapman: Excerpt: Angle and her ilk "are often accused of craziness—one MSNBC commentator said Angle 'sounds like a mental patient.' But to the tea partiers, that's not a bug; it's a feature. If a $1.4 trillion federal budget deficit represents sanity, they would prefer a candidate who escaped from the psych ward."

Tunku Varadarajan: Excerpt: " However distasteful she may be, the political and symbolic importance of defeating Reid is so great that its imperative trumps all distaste. Reid, to libertarian eyes, is the incarnation of our big-government malaise. If he survives, all our hearts will sink and the world will go dark."

Politicians are fond of labeling everything a "crisis" so as to justify whatever interventional policies they claim are needed to fix it. I am skeptical and disdainful of most such "the sky is falling" alarms. But I am convinced that the single most threatening public policy issue facing us is the runaway spending and federal debt, and the associated general growth and unconstitutional overreach of the federal government (including, not least, the abominable stimulus package, bank bailouts, takeover of the auto industry, and Obamacare). For the foreseeable future, credibility on taking drastic measures to curtail and reverse such matters will dominate any other considerations in my choices of candidates.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Guess the casino, #663

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

Answer: Sunset Station