Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ironman tournament

I went to the Aria today, knowing that it was the last tournament in this year's Ironmen of Poker schedule. I had hoped to spend some quality time with the boys. Sadly, in the four hours I lasted, I never had one of them at a table with me (as far as I know; there are a couple I haven't met, so perhaps one was with me and I didn't realize it), which felt like a big ol' cheat. I should have asked for my money back.

Three things of note happened.

1. Ejection.

A couple of minutes before we were to get underway, I heard a loud call for "Security!" I have heard this much more often as a joke than as a real alarm, so I didn't think much of it. But I looked to see what the source was. To my great surprise, it was Todd Brunson, charging out of Ivey's Room. This was no joke; he was obviously pissed off.

I follow him on Twitter, so I knew that Shawn Sheikhan had been causing trouble for the Aria games recently. Sure enough, that's who the problem player was again. I snapped this picture, which unfortunately is basically useless:

The guy in the dark jacket stepped in front of me just as I was documenting Sheikhan and the other guy nose to nose and chest to chest, looking about ready to erupt in fisticuffs. By the time the stupid phone camera reset for another shot, the poker room personnel had separated them, so the moment was lost.

A few minutes later, Sheikhan was escorted out (via a private elevator that I had never noticed before--just a few steps from Ivey's Room) by four large men in black suits.

Here are the relevant portions from Brunson's recent Twitter stream:

It sounds like Sheikhan may have finally gone too far, and managed to get himself permanently excluded from the property. Seriously, WTH is wrong with that guy? He is Bad For Poker. We don't need people that prone to violence.

2. First hand.

First hand of the tournament, I am happy to look down and see A-A. We all started with 8000 chips, and the blinds are 25/50, so we have 160 big blinds. Because people play the first hands so cautiously, I thought I would probably raise, pick up the blinds, and that would be that. Nope. I raised to 150. Guy three to my left reraises to 450. I add another 1000 on top of that, and he immediately announces "All in." Hmmm, let me think. What should I do? OK, I call. He has K-K. I win.

Doubling up on the first hand of the tournament--that was a new one for me. I wish I could make it happen more often.

3. Telescope.

A couple of hours in, I was moved to a new table. We had a visually impaired player there. I didn't know it at first, because I didn't notice anything abnormal in his appearance or conduct. But I raised my first hand at the table, and he asked the dealer for a estimate of my stack. The dealer had just sat down, and others at the table quickly explained to her that the player really couldn't see that far. (I was across the table from him.)

On subsequent hands, I noticed him using a small telescope-like device to see the cards on the board:

He was, however, apparently able to see his own cards, though it looked like it took some effort on his part.

This was another new thing for me. I've played with Hal Lubarsky, who has an assistant tell him the cards and the action, but I've never before played with somebody who used an optical assist device. I'm really curious what his diagnosis is that makes him unable to see cards less than two feet in front of him, but it didn't seem like it would be polite to ask.

Guess the casino, #797

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below. (The name of the casino has been subtlely erased from the photo. If you look really hard, you might be able to tell where it was.)

Answer: Hooters

Friday, March 11, 2011

Just a thought

The Ironmen of Poker are in town. As part of this year's adventures, they have implemented a "Third World Poker Tour." As explained by Grange95:

Santa has finally implemented a plan he and I have been mulling for a couple of years—The Third World Poker Tour. Ironmen will be randomly assigned—sentenced—to play a two hour session at some of the finer poker rooms in Vegas: Tropicana, Hooters, Excalibur, Luxor, Stratosphere, Sahara, Circus Circus, Riviera, and Imperial Palace. Santa and I agree that one of the best parts of the Vegas poker experience is playing at some of the less-glamorous rooms. Most of the Ironmen are poker snobs who live at Venetian, Bellagio, Wynn, or Aria, and whine about "slumming it" at Mirage or MGM (don't even suggest Planet Hollywood, TI, or Bally's!). Hopefully hilarity, hijinks, and arrests will ensue.

I saw Tweets originating from the Stratosphere today, so I know that the plan is being implemented. It got me to thinking....

If one usually plays the lowest-stakes no-limit hold'em games at the Venetian, Bellagio, Wynn, and Aria, then goes "slumming" to the IP, Stratosphere, Sahara, Riviera, etc., would that be considered seeing how the other $1/2 lives?


Guess the casino, #796

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

Answer: Tuscany

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guess the casino, #795

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

Answer: Mirage

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Submit your photos

Today I put together the next bunch of "Guess the casino" posts so that they will keep popping up while I'm away in Florida. It made me realize that I'm starting to run short of usable pictures (not surprising, after about 800 such posts now).

If you have photos of either the interior or exterior of Vegas-area casinos--limited to those that have or have had poker rooms within the last few years--that you think would make good material for this feature, please feel free to email them to me (address is in the "profile" in the left-hand margin).

I still have plenty of shots of the handful of most obviously visually interesting and photogenic places--Aria, Venetian, Caesars Palace, Bellagio. It's others that I'm lacking.

Small legal points: Please only send photos that you have taken yourself, not ones that you found somewhere else on the intertubez. Also, sending them implies giving your permission to use them, though it will only be for this silly little feature, and only once--I'm not compiling a book or anything. Please also include a notation about how you would like to be attributed, e.g., full name, nickname, anonymous, or whatever. I need your real name on the email (because I'll be suspicious that anonymous submissions are not using their own work), but will publish or withhold whatever you prefer in terms of identification.

Obviously, I can't promise to use everything you might send; I might not think a picture works, or it duplicates something I've already done, etc. But I'd really like to try to use what I reasonably can. Finally, please identify the casino for me--don't make ME guess!


Vegas palaces

Extremely short quiz for you today: How many casinos are there in the Las Vegas/North Las Vegas/Henderson area that have, or within the past five years have had, poker rooms, with the word "Palace" in the name of the casino?

Scroll down for the answer.

Five. Specifically, Caesars Palace, Imperial Palace, Nevada Palace (closed, renovated, and reopened as the Eastside Cannery), Palace Station, and Poker Palace.

Guess the casino, #794

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

Answer: Harrah's

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

New blog

Nelson Rose, one of the most prolific and accessible experts on gambling law, has finally set up his own blog on that subject. It was an instant add-on to my RSS reader.

Nothing to lose

In one of the last matches of the "regular season" portion of the Doubles Poker Championship, an unusual dynamic emerged. Gus Hansen and Johnny Chan were paired up. Hansen could not make the finals, no matter how well his team performed in this last match. Conversely, Chan was the overall point leader, having finished tops in all three of the first matches, and so would finish the "season" in the #1 spot, regardless of the outcome of this last match.

All three of the other three teams, however, had either one member or both who could not afford to be the first out; they needed at least a third-place finish in order to accumulate the last few points required to make the finals. It was as if there were a tournament bubble for everybody except for Hansen and Chan.

The two recognized the situation for what it was, and exploited it mercilessly, raising and reraising with total air, openly daring their opponents to call and risk elimination. They had some motivation to try to win; they would split $10,000 for winning the match. But in essence they had nothing to lose, while everybody else had a lot to lose.

Sunday night I was playing in the hyper-fun Donkey Island blogger tournament. I had been cruising well most of the way, but then had a serious downfall, and was reduced to something like six big blinds. I followed what has now become standard tournament advice, and pounded the hell out of it. If the action folded to me, I shoved with nearly any two cards in order to steal the blinds and/or get called and have the chance for a double-up.

This wasn't subtle; I wasn't trying to look like I was being less aggressive than I really was. It was flagrant enough that BuddyDank, doing live commentary for BuddyDank Radio, commented on it a few times: "Rakewell is stealing a lot of blinds." "Who's going to stop him?"

The run finally ended when I open-pushed from the button with K-10, got called by A-10 in the big blind, and couldn't get lucky.

If I just sat back and waited for a premium hand, the most likely outcome would be getting blinded down to a point where I would have to shove with a stack so small that it would guarantee a call, when even a double-up would still leave me critically short. Doing nothing to save myself would have meant washing out. It was therefore both correct and obvious to take rather drastic measures in a desperate attempt to regain a workable chip stack, because the worst that could happen was what was going to happen if I didn't do so--get knocked out.

The point, though, was that I was playing as if I had nothing to lose, because, well, I had nothing to lose.

You see the same sort of play in free games and freeroll tournaments. When people have nothing invested, they feel as though they have nothing to lose, and so play like complete maniacs. What's the worst possible outcome? They lose...nothing.

It's not too often that one gets to play poker as if there is nothing to lose. It's kind of fun and liberating when the rare opportunity comes along.

Bonus: I'm incapable of thinking along the lines of "nothing to lose" and "can't make it worse" without fondly recalling the great stoning scene from Monty Python's "The Life of Brian." So for your viewing pleasure:

Strange televised hand

Thanks to a Tweet from PokerListings for alerting me to this post on, which in turn points to this page, where you can watch a video of one of the strangest hands ever on televised poker. It starts at about the 2:20 mark.

I don't recognize any of these players, but the one identified as Vicente open-raises with A-J. When he thinks that everybody has folded, he shows his cards--but he has missed the fact that the big blind, identified as Alfredo, has not yet acted. Alfredo, with 9-9, gets to play the hand knowing what Vicente holds. He calls.

Alfredo flops great: 9-2-J. He bets out, gets raised, reraises, and gets called again. J on the turn gives Alfredo a full house, Vicente trip jacks with ace kicker--a seemingly ideal situation for both players getting all the chips in. Instead it's just bet and call.

The river is where it gets astonishingly weird. It's another 2, double-pairing the board and counterfeiting Alfredo's boat. Understandably, he checks. Also understandably, Vicente bets. But then comes the inexplicable:

1. Alfredo check-raises all in.
2. Vicente calls. (OK, that part is not inexplicable.)
3. The hands are revealed, and, though it's hard to be sure, it seems from the reactions that both players think Alfredo is the winner!

So did Alfredo really believe that he had the best hand when he bet his last chips? If so, how did he misread the board and his opponent's hand so badly? If not, did he really think that the top full house would fold for fear of having run into the only hand that could beat him (quad deuces)?

Did Vicente really believe that he had lost the hand when Alfredo's 9-9 was opened? If so, how? I mean, before you call an all-in bet, don't you explicitly list in your head all the hands that might have you beat? In this case, it was only 2-2. Nothing else. So how could he think he had lost to 9-9 there?

I seriously don't understand either player.

Isn't poker supposed to be easy if you're looking at your opponent's cards?

(For extra fun, have Google translate the page and try to follow the action. You get, e.g., this: "It all begins when Vicente, one of the online classified hand opens up with garlic." This in itself is a small comedy of errors. First, the web reporter got the hand wrong. It was Ac-Jc, but he wrote it as "AJo" (ace-jack offsuit). Because the Spanish word for garlic is ajo, that's how Google translates it.)

Guess the casino, #793

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

Answer: Excalibur

Monday, March 07, 2011

Guess the casino, #792

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

Answer: Treasure Island

Seed and Cunningham know

They know 2-4 always gets there.

"How can I lose?"

I have finished watching the "regular season" portion of the Doubles Poker Championship. One of the last matches had two back-to-back hands worth sharing.

In the first, somebody says the words in the title of this post, and something happens in the hand to cause the priceless quartet of faces you see above (screen shot cropped to eliminate the cards). Try to catch all the things the players say before the denouement, as they greatly enhance the fun.

The second hand is maybe the best example from the shows so far of what happens when two partners disagree on what to do in the middle of a hand. Annette Obrestad was throughout the series the one most willing to be openly critical of her teammates, so it's not surprising that she's in the heat of it again here.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Guess the casino, #791

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

Answer: Santa Fe Station

Doubles poker

I just watched the first three episodes of the "Doubles Poker Championship" that was shown on the Game Show Network a while back. It brings an interesting new twist to the game. 32 players enter for $50,000 each, then get randomly assigned into teams of two. Four teams compete in a match, so it takes four matches to complete one round. Points are assigned for finishing first, second, third, or fourth in a match. They redraw for partners for a second round, which I'm in the middle of now. After the "regular season" four rounds, the top half of the field with the highest point totals go on into the finals, paired up by point totals, and at the end the team that wins splits $1,000,000.

The disappointment is that the structure is obviously fast, and the editing is extreme. In one match, for example, the first hand shown was in level 3. It seems that only a couple of hands are shown before they get to the all-in/fold stage.

But the interesting aspect is the team dynamics. The players alternate streets: A handles pre-flop and turn, B handles flop and river, and they can't discuss it as the hand plays out. You sometimes end up with personality and/or style mismatches.

The biggest clash so far was Annette Obrestad giving Huck Seed a rather severe dressing down for a move she thought he shouldn't have made--raising with two pair on the turn on an intensely coordinated board. As the commentators noted, from the harshness of her words and tone it really seemed that she thought Seed had no idea how to play poker. (I think it's fair to say that his resume would suggest otherwise; he was winning the WSOP main event when she was 7 years old.) Conversely, in a post-show interview, he confessed that he thought she misplayed the river on that same hand--they might have been able to steal instead of ending up with a chopped pot--but he was much more subdued in raising his point. She responded that she didn't know how to manage that spot, because her style of play would not have put her in that situation.

It makes for an interesting and entertaining format, a genuinely new and different twist on televised poker shows.

I wish only two things--first, that they had doubled the number of shows in order to include more play before it got to the shoving point, and, second, that somebody had shown Huck Seed how to use a comb and a razor.