Saturday, January 22, 2011

Imperial tales


Last night at Imperial Palace I inadvertently did something that I had managed to avoid doing in five years of casino poker.

As I often do when playing at IP, I took a break after a couple of hours to get an ice cream cone. With a restroom stop first, I was gone for at least 10 minutes, maybe closer to 15. I returned to the room and sat down, mostly focused on preventing drips and spills. (The ice cream was disappointingly soft and melty, obviously having been kept in an insufficiently cold counter freezer.)

Even before I sat down, I noticed that there had been a dealer change--no surprise, given how long I was gone. I said, "Hi, Matt." He said, "Hi, Grump." (He always calls me that.) Then I noticed that the guy directly across from me was a new player. OK, somebody had left and been replaced while I was gone. No problem. Next I noticed that the guy next to him was different, too. And my bottle of water was missing. And all of the chip stacks at the table were gray ($1), not red ($5).

This was all very disorienting. Just as I was processing why so many things had changed, Matt teasingly asked, "You need some chips?" It was only then that I noticed that my chip stacks were gone, as was my silver dollar card protector.

The conclusion finally hit me just as Matt tried to resolve my puzzlement: "You're at the wrong table."

Indeed I had sat down at the first table past the desk instead of the second one. When I moved to the right table, all was well--the same dealer I had left, the same opponents, my chips and card cap, my water bottle.

This was mildly embarrassing, but there was no harm done. I've seen other people make this mistake before, and always wondered how they could be so dumb. Now I know.

I guess you could say I got the wrong IP address.

No jackpot

I saw somebody flop quad queens, but get no bonus. I checked the list of bonuses on the wall, and it listed only $200 for a royal flush. I've never seen the IP not have high-hand bonuses for quads and straight flushes. I asked the dealer about it, and he said that they had had an accounting error in their jackpot fund, and as a result had to cancel almost all their payouts until they build the reserve back up. Which means that for now they're collecting the jackpot dollar but giving out essentially nothing.

Oh well. It's a minor thing. I just hope it wasn't the same kind of "error" that the folks at Planet Hollywood had with their jackpot money.


Here was my best move of the night. After I had been in Seat 1 for a while, somebody I didn't know joined us in Seat 2. He was about as good a player as one ever sees at these limits, playing a very effective, difficult, loose-aggressive style. Among other things, he straddled both UTG and on the button every time, and nearly always exercised his option to raise it.

I was getting a little tired of that, so I determined to limp-reraise one of his straddles whenever I had a half-decent hand. The very next time it was my big blind and he straddled, I found Ah-Kh. Nobody raised before me, so I added an extra $2 to my bet, anticipating that it was a mere down payment. Sure enough, Mr. LAG bumped it up--another $25, his biggest opening raise yet.

Well, apparently several other players had noticed his pattern and were ready to look him up. I was quite surprised when three others called him before the action was back to me, making a $100 pot. It was not enough to pot-commit any of them. I had not originally planned to reraise all-in, but with that much in the pot, it was suddenly worth taking down right then, rather than put in a smaller raise and have to make further decisions from out of position. I thought it was a near certainty that I had the best hand or, at worst, would be racing against a medium pocket pair. So I announced all-in, and moved my last $208 across the line.

One by one, they all folded, and I won a nice pot without a showdown or even seeing a flop. The suited AK made it a pretty easy decision, but I think I would have done the same thing with a wider range than that--any pair about 8s or more, any ace, and any strong king, maybe.

The French connection

We had at the table a man visiting from France. The conversation turned to the state of online poker there. I vaguely remember a while back hearing that France had authorized online poker, but with various restrictions. Here's how our French friend described the situation:

They have lots of choices of online rooms, including Full Tilt, Stars, Party Poker, etc., but they are all segregated from the rest of the world pool. That is, they're playing on, e.g.,, not People from anywhere in the world can, in theory, join the games, but few actually do, because the sites have to collect a 6% tax (capped at 3 Euros) in addition to the rake.

Our visitor said that the situation sucks, because there are, obviously, a lot fewer players per site than there were previously, so they have fewer choices in cash games, and essentially no tournaments with big prize pools.

It was my first indirect foretaste of what online poker might become if the whole things gets balkanized, as it is threatening to do. If the U.S. gets separated from the rest of the world (as required, at least for a while, under the Reid bill), it would be bad, though not as bad as in France, since we have a large enough group of players to be workable. But if we start having individual states broken out into their own player pools, it's just going to completely suck.

There are lots of kinds of services that, in order to be useful, have to have large numbers of people using them--telephones, fax machines, and, in the Internet age, things like Facebook and Twitter. Online poker is among them. Sites with small player pools tend to shrivel up and die, because players don't find games going and turn elsewhere. Conversely, the most popular sites become more popular, because there's lots going on and players find what they're looking for and tell their friends. It's a rich-get-richer sort of thing. (See Bill Rini's perceptive post, "Why Smaller Poker Operators Should Shut Their Doors Right Now.")

It's just not going to work to have states run isolated player pools--even the most populous states, such as California, don't have enough people to make for really good poker sites with a wide variety of offerings. We can hope that states would be smart enough to authorize reciprocal or collective arrangements, as they do with lotteries, but I wouldn't count on it.

Playing with Mr. Magoo

In the first 30 minutes at my table, I saw one player twice, twice, call off his entire stack--at least $200 each time--after misreading his hand and/or the board. Both times he thought he had a straight, and even announced it as such, but the first time had just one pair and the second time nothing at all. Seeing it happen once is odd enough, but two times in less than half an hour? Truly bizarre. He was not drunk, as far as I could tell.

Maybe casinos should offer vision tests while you play, in addition to massages.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My wife and I are heading Vegas in a couple weeks to play poker and look at condos.
This post has given me the idea to ask at every poker table we sit down at, "Is the grump here?".
If you are I'll thank you in person for the fun I get reading your blog.
All The Best
Farmer Don