Saturday, July 02, 2011

Poker gems, #428

David Chicotsky, in Poker Player Newspaper column, July 4, 2011 (vol. 15, #1), page 10.


It isn't hard to beat K-J with Q-J, as long as you take the lead by reraising before the flop.

[This column, which is worth reading in its entirety, was one of the proximal causes of me deciding to try the experiment described in the previous blog entry.]

Kicking it up a notch

After you play enough thousands of hands, you tend to develop a rote system: I raise with this, I fold that, I'll call in that kind of spot. I have my default plays like everybody else, and they work well enough.

I have, of course, been having lots of anticipatory thoughts about the Main Event coming up next week. One of them is an acknowledgement that my ordinary, daily game is fairly passive. I turn up the heat in spots, but I very rarely three-bet pre-flop, for example. I'm enough better at post-flop play than most opponents that I consider it an advantage not to risk turning it into a shove-fest. I play cautiously because for the most part I can wait for spots in which I know I'm a huge favorite before getting the big money in. The marginal spots, those where I'm purely guessing what another player is up to, I tend to pass on. I may be ahead, I may not be, but there's no point in reducing it to a guessing game when, with a little patience, I can get it in as a definitive favorite.

It's a serviceable strategy for cash games against the stereotypical impatient tourist, but it has problems when trying to translate it to tournaments, where patience cannot be infinite--even with two-hour blind levels.

So I decided today to try an experiment. I entered the Golden Nugget Grand series event ($135), which has the slowest structure of any low buy-in tournament in town: 40-minute levels, and Level 6 has a big blind that is just 3% of the starting stack (that's one arbitrary measure I use to judge tournament structures against each other), compared to 5% for Binion's Classic and 4% for Caesars Megastack. My goal was to play with one notch more aggression than my standard, comfort-zone tendency. I wasn't going to turn from a rock into a maniac. But I had in mind that about once each level I would find a spot in which I would raise where my usual play would be to call.

And I did it. To my great delight, every single one of them worked. For example, when the blinds were 100/200/25, and I was in the big blind with the rather awful 3-7 offsuit, six people ahead of me limped in. My knee-jerk reaction is to leave well enough alone, be glad to see a free flop, and hope for a miracle. But this time, in accordance with my goal, I picked this spot to raise. I bumped it up to 1000, and was rewarded with a cascade of folds, and a low-risk profit of 1650 chips.

In another spot, there was a standard 3x open raise from early position followed by a call from the button. In the big blind I had AcJc. I was a big stack at this point. Both opponents were left with about 10 big blinds behind. My standard move in this spot would be to just call, first because I don't want to play a huge pot from out of position, and second because either of them could easily have a hand that has me crushed--AK, AQ, QQ, or KK. But I screwed up my courage, recognized this as a potentially good spot for a squeeze play, and moved all in. The first guy took forever to fold, and looked like he was selling his only child into slavery as he did so. Second guy was quicker, but did the same thing. As I was pulling in the chips, they said that they had folded a suited AJ and an AT, respectively. They also both agreed that my bet looked like I must have AK. Sweet!

In other situations, I check-raised where my baseline play would have been to either check-fold or check-call, or I put in a light three-bet before the flop. Like I said, every single time this worked, and won me the pot without a further fight.

I know that I can't expect such perfect results all the time. But it has made me realize that I have probably not been taking sufficient advantage of the TAG table image I usually acquire. I really can get away with more steals and resteals than has been my pattern in the past. Of course, it would be easy to overdo it, but one extra move every 40 minutes or so (which is about what I did today) is not enough for anyone to begin to suspect larceny. It is, however, enough to make a meaningful difference in the rate of chip accumulation.

I didn't make the money (went out in about 35th place out of 126 entrants, top 13 sharing the cash). Nevertheless, I enjoyed this eye-opening experience so much that I am feeling deeply tempted to do it again tomorrow in one of the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza events, which is an even slower structure than the Grand (though at a substantially higher buy-in, $350). Both Cardgrrl and Daniel Cates told me that they thought that would be a good practice event for me, given that I'm much more used to playing in shorter, hit-and-run sessions. I just might do it.

Team Full Tilt



Here's something that has been puzzling me about this year's World Series of Poker: Why are some members of Team Full Tilt playing and others not?

First I have to be clear about who I'm talking about. The number of pros sponsored in some form by Full Tilt is bewildering, and they use a system of different labels that makes sense to almost nobody outside the family: There's the CardRunner bunch, the Hendon Mob, something called "Team Limpers," then a whole raft of "pros" and nearly as long a list of "friends."

I'm not talking about any of these lesser folks. I'm talking about those at the top of the hierarchy. The official "Team Full Tilt" consists of Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, John Juanda, Jennifer Harman, Phil Gordon, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, Andy Bloch, Mike Matusow, Gus Hansen, Allen Cunningham, Patrik Antonius, and Tom Dwan. See the list and bios here. (Interestingly, while all the other categories of FTP pros are listed alphabetically, this group is not. I suspect this ordering reflects something about power and/or controlling interest in the company, but who knows?)

Of those, I know that Juanda, Harman, Lindgren, Matusow, Cunningham, and Dwan have been playing many tournaments at the WSOP. Ivey is famously abstaining, while he sues his (former?) friends. I believe that Lederer, Ferguson, Gordon, Seidel, Bloch, Hansen, and Antonius have not made appearances, though I could be wrong about some of those; I'm just basing this on who I've seen news stories about, and maybe one or two of them are playing but without any success so far that would bring them to my attention. In an ordinary year, we would have seen all of them out in force, though some (e.g., Lederer, Gordon) typically play fewer events than the others.

My curiosity is about what distinguishes those who are playing in 2011 from those who are not. It could be nothing deeper than personal preferences--who is willing to endure the questions and criticisms and anger from a big room full of pissed-off former customers who all want their money back?

But there are other possible answers. Maybe what distinguishes the players from the non-players reveals something about the ownership structure of the company, and those with enough controlling interest to be worried about criminal indictments are laying low. Maybe it has to do with who had so much of their bankroll on deposit with FTP that they're stuck being unable to buy in now, like lots of other ordinary players. Maybe it depends on what advice they have each individually received from their attorneys and/or PR people.

I don't know the answer, but I sure would be interested in finding out.

Guess the casino, #906







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




Answer: Treasure Island

Friday, July 01, 2011

Word verification for comments

Word verification for comments is now enabled. I hate doing this. I have resisted it for almost five years. I could handle it when the spam comments only averaged about ten a day, but this week some ass-clown has been bombarding me with about a hundred a day, and I just can't stand it anymore. It appears that a bot is going through my archives and trying to submit a comment (there's a rotating list of maybe 20 generic comments) on every single one of them, and it's driving me crazy. I'm really sorry to add to the difficulty of posting a comment for the rest of you, but I don't know of any other way to stop it.

Guess the casino, #905







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




Answer: Mandalay Bay

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Folding into the money

The other day as Cardgrrl and I were talking about the WSOP Main Event, and things like how long one had to play before hitting the money, she asked me whether it would be possible to just fold every hand and last long enough to survive the bubble.


My initial impulse was no. First, if there were a reasonable chance of it working, surely somebody would have tried it already and we likely would have heard of it. Second, there must surely be cases in which somebody registers, but then doesn't show up to play for some reason, and they get blinded off gradually. Again, if a chair empty from the start of the tournament had made the money, I think every poker news media outlet would jump on such a silly story.

But I couldn't stop wondering. So let's try to work it out. The structure sheet is here. Last year the money bubble burst on Day 4, and I think it's safe to assume that that will be the case again this year. I'm going to give this sucker maximal chance to make it, and assume that the dead stack gets a really slow-moving table, dealing out only 20 hands per hour. Maybe the person deploying this strategy irritates the bejeezus out of his tablemates by taking forever to muck every time it's his turn, getting the clock called on him every orbit, just to maximize his chance of squeaking into the cash. I'm also assuming ten-handed play, so he has to post two sets of blinds every hour. One starts with 30,000 in chips.

After level 1, he will have spent 300 in blinds, and be down to 29,700.

Level 2 will cost him 600 in blinds, and he'll be down to 29,100.

Level 3 will cost him 900 in blinds, and he'll be down to 28,200.

Level 4 will cost him 900 in blinds plus 500 in antes, and he'll be down to 26,800.

Level 5 will cost him 1200 in blinds plus 1000 in antes, and he'll be down to 24,600. So he'll definitely survive through the end of Day 1.

Level 6 will cost him 1500 in blinds plus 1000 in antes, and he'll be down to 22,100.

Level 7 will cost him 1800 in blinds plus 1500 in antes, and he'll be down to 18,800.

Level 8 will cost him 2400 in blinds plus 2000 in antes, and he'll be down to 14,400.

Level 9 will cost him 3000 in blinds plus 2000 in antes, and he'll be down to 9400.

Level 10 will cost him 3600 in blinds plus 4000 in antes, and he'll be down to 1800 at the end of Day 2.

Day 3 starts with Level 11, ante of 200 and blinds of 800/1600, so he won't even survive the first orbit unless he gets lucky when forced to be all in.

In other words, no, it isn't possible to just fold, fold, fold and last through the money bubble. Not even close. In case you ever wondered, now you know.



Shelley Berkley and the PPA

The Poker Players Alliance has done some wacky things before (see Grange95's series of posts here, for example), but today they have added another whopper: They are supporting Shelley Berkley for a Senate seat. See article in the Sun here.


Why is this wacky? Because she voted for the UIGEA, the very thing that has brought online poker down. It's true that she said at the time of her vote that she didn't like it, but in the end, when she had to make the call one way or the other, she voted in favor of passage of the final bill.

To me, that's unforgivable. I would think that the bare minimum requirement for getting political support from the PPA would be that you have not voted to kill online poker. There I go, being all unreasonable again. "Let's not bicker and argue over who killed who!"

The reporter for the Sun is guilty of either failing to do the most basic research, or deliberately withholding information that is crucial for a reader to make an informed judgment. He lets Berkley get away with what is literally a half-truth:
[Senator Dean] Heller hasn’t had the chance to prove his word on Internet poker: He wasn’t in Congress in 2006 when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act — the measure that outlawed transactions of bets — was passed.

Berkley was, and sounded the alarm against it.

“I’m not a stranger to this issue. I stepped up very early, in the early part of my congressional tenure, and I’ve been working on this issue for a decade,” she said. “I was one of the few people who stood up during the port security debate and spoke out against adding this provision in — the ban on Internet gaming — from the start.”
It's true that she spoke against adding the UIGEA to the Safe Ports bill. I remember her floor speech about it. But in the end, she voted for the final bill. She voted to kill online gaming--a fact that she conveniently fails to mention in this news story. There's just no getting around that fact. Speaking against a bill and then voting for it is trying to have it both ways. It demonstrates an utter lack of courage, conviction, and principle. The last thing we need in Washington is more unprincipled legislators. They're worthless. They cannot be trusted to do the right thing when the heat is on. Kick 'em out of office and never let 'em back in. Rep. Berkley had one chance to get this right, and she blew it. Done, end of story, end of political career, as far as I'm concerned.

Ms. Berkley, it's swell that you're looking to repair the damage now, but it would have been a lot better if you and your peers had grown a spine and had said "no" to that awful piece of legislation to begin with. You helped make this mess. I absolutely do not trust you now when you say that you want to clean it up. It's too late for that. You betrayed us. You stabbed us in the back. You are one of the bad guys. Your voting records shows that you are an enemy of personal liberty.

And don't bother trying the old line about the UIGEA having been attached to "must-pass" legislation. In the first place, the Safe Ports act was just another round of security theater, a piece of show legislation. Does anybody really believe that our ports are now meaningfully safer than they were before 2006? Of course not. The only sense in which that was "must-pass" legislation is that everybody was afraid of what political opponents would say if they voted no. "She's opposed to making our ports safe!" Well, tough. Deal with that when and if it happens. And if you lose the next election on that basis, so what? You still would have done the right thing. If you're willing to cast votes contrary to your principles because you're worried about what distortions somebody might make of your record, then that means that you care more about reelection than doing what's right for your nation and for your constituents. If that's the case, what the hell good are you, and why in the world should we trust you?

In the second place, if the "safe ports" portion of the bill really was necessary, and if everybody or nearly everybody in Congress agreed with that assessment, then you and all of the others could have voted to kill the amended bill, knowing that the ports provisions would have been reintroduced and would have sailed through on their own in short order later. Of course, that would have required that you vote in accordance with your speech, which is apparently too much to expect of you.

In the third place, consider this hypothetical: Suppose that what had been tacked on to the ports act was not the UIGEA but a provision to send to the states a constitutional amendment repealing the Bill of Rights. It's an outrageous hypothetical, obviously, but it has a point. Would anybody have voted for that amended bill? I doubt it. They would have angrily denounced the unthinkable provision that had been attached, killed the bill, and insisted that a clean, unamended version of the ports act be reintroduced. Ms. Berkley and the others presumably would have judged that not killing the Bill of Rights was more important than the ports provisions. The fact that she did not take the same course of action with the UIGEA proves, in my view, that she considered people's right to use their time and money as they see fit to be much less important than getting the ports act through. Put another way, she does not value my freedom very highly.

Berkley is a demonstrated enemy of online gaming. Her vote was one of the ones that caused all of the current crisis. I consider that an absolute deal-breaker. It stuns me that the PPA would support somebody who actively helped cause the problem they are now trying to fix. I just don't get it.

Gary Johnson

I have heard a few people express the thought that whichever candidate for president in 2012 most strongly endorses legalizing online poker will get their vote.


If that's you, there's no question where your support should go.

Gary Johnson issued this statement on the matter:

“Government has absolutely no business telling Americans what they can do with their own time and their own money on their own computers, and that most certainly should apply to playing poker online. The fact that Americans are now prevented from playing online poker is an outrage. Unfortunately it is but another chilling example of how Congress and the Justice Department continue to trample on our personal liberty.

“As President, I will do everything in my power to restore your right to play online poker, and ensure that such a right can never be taken away again.”

Clear enough?

Did you ever heard such a statement from Barack Obama? No.

His campaign's web page about poker is here.

The fact that he is a strong supporter of individual liberty, constitutionally limited government, and strict fiscal responsibility makes him that much better a candidate. If he and Ron Paul are both still in the race when the Nevada primary rolls around, I'll have a difficult choice. Otherwise, either one is worlds better than anybody else running.

Guess the casino, #904







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




Answer: Green Valley Ranch

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Big pot

Tonight I had the distinct honor of meeting the one and only Julius Goat. He and Shamus and I had plans to meet for dinner at the Rio, followed by Wednesday night pub trivia at McFadden's. So I decided to get in a couple of hours of poker before dinner.

Shortly before it was time to leave, this hand came up. I had 8d-9d in early position and limped. Middle-position guy raised to $10, followed by a late-position call. Small blind reraised to $25. I would normally not call a raise and reraise with this starting hand, especially from bad position. However, I looked left and saw that both of the other two players already had three red chips in hand, ready to toss in, so I was reasonably confident that no four-bet was coming to force me out.

Besides--and here comes the part for which you are free to mock me mercilessly--I had a feeling. Normally, when I hear players say that they made some decision based on a statement like that, I just roll my eyes and sigh at the stupidity, so I'll understand and forgive in advance if you do the same to me. But I had a rather strong premonition that if I folded this hand, I'd regret it. This is a distinctly uncommon kind of experience for me. It's not like I'm getting such impulses on every hand. It probably means nothing more mysterious than some random neural firing, but I decided to go with it anyway. Again, not my usual approach to poker decision-making, and I won't try to justify or defend it further. I'm just telling you what happened.

As expected, both other players called, giving us a $100 pre-flop pot.

Flop: 4d-6c-7d, giving me both a flush draw and an open-ended straight draw. Assuming nobody else had a bigger diamond draw, that meant I had two pulls at 15 cards that would make me a winner. Not bad. In fact, it's precisely the kind of flop one most dearly hopes for when playing suited connectors in a multi-way pot.

Small blind bet $55--surely a big pocket pair, to be have reraised from out of position, then lead out into three opponents. Pot was now $150, after the rake. I had about $250 left behind. I spent maybe 20 seconds deciding whether to flat-call or shove. I couldn't get any read on what the other two were planning to do. I finally decided to risk losing customers with a shove, primarily because if any of my desired cards hit on the turn, it might then be hard to get any further action. I declared myself all in.

Middle-position guy was taken aback. He was visibly ambivalent about what to do, but finally said, "OK, let's do it," and pushed his stacks forward. He had me covered. Late-position guy, who had around $175 left, likewise shrugged, said, "OK," and moved his chips in. Small blind quickly folded, saying, "One pair is never good in that situation."

Middle-position guy had 6d-3d, for middle pair, baby flush draw, and gutshot straight flush draw. However, he groaned when he saw my cards, because the 5 to make his straight would give me a bigger one, and any diamond for his flush would also give me a bigger one. He had to hope that neither one of us improved and that his lowly pair of 6s would hold up, or that he got some runner-runner full house or his miracle 5d for the straight flush. The other player never showed.

The turn ended the drama quickly: 10h, giving me the nuts. The river was the ace of clubs.

The pot totaled $828. I don't keep track of individual pots, so it's possible that I've forgotten something bigger, but I believe it's the biggest pot I've won so far this year. It also gave me a win rate for today's session of $352/hour, just a tad above my average. I'll take it!

In case you hadn't noticed, I've been running kinda good lately.

Guess the casino, #903







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




Answer: Bellagio

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Top Gear in Vegas?

"Top Gear" from the BBC is one of my tippy-top-favorite TV shows. In fact, it's perhaps the most popular TV show in the whole world. Yesterday they started a new season. Of course, I immediately downloaded a bootleg copy of it and watched. Jeremy Clarkson said that they would be visiting Las Vegas during this season! Maybe they've already been here for filming, but if so, I didn't hear about it--and I think I would have, what with daily reading of Vegas news blogs and gearhead blogs. This leaves me with some hope that they are yet to arrive, and I can get all geeky and fanboy-y to a truly embarrassing degree when they're here. I like James May the best. Quiet, deliberate, smart, witty--my kind of guy.

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 2

That's the title I've decided to assign to the series of blog posts reporting on my ticket to the Main Event. It just occurred to me a few minutes ago, though it was probably subconsciously influenced by having read this morning a blog post from Wil Wheaton about his love of the movie from which I'm so shamelessly stealing.

PeeGee. I.e., P.G. I.e., Poker Grump. That's me! Get it?

Today I met up with Daniel Cates and his publicist for two reasons. First, we had interviews to do with the local NBC affiliate station, KSNV "News 3." It was just the basic questions that you'd expect. I stumbled through it. Officially the footage is for their Sunday night sports show, "Sports Night in Las Vegas" (11:30 pm), but I was told they might also run it on the nightly news tonight if there's time. If it ever shows up online and I notice it, I'll post a link. But don't hold your breath; they seem to be slow and inconsistent about making those shows available via the web.

I learned one little factoid from the interactions with the reporter: They had about 300 tickets in all, which means that my guesstimate about how much "drawing equity" my four entries would have was just about right.

Next we went to the registration room to do the buy-in officially. I wasn't quite sure how it would be handled. But Daniel just casually handed me two $5000 Rio chips--not tournament lammers, but the ones that you can actually cash for $5000 each. I've never even handled chips of that denomination before. I had an impulse to stuff them in my pocket and run away. But that wouldn't be very cool. I tried to be just as nonchalant as Daniel when handing them over to the nice lady behind the counter. This is the attitude I tried to convey: "What--these things? Pffft! I lose these in the laundry all the time. They fall out of my pocket when I answer a cell phone call, and, really, they're not worth bending over to pick up, so I leave them for the poor people to fight over. It's not like they're real money or anything!"

In exchange, she handed me this:



I'll be playing on Day 1A. I figured I would get it done and out of the way early, then, assuming I survive, I'll have three days off before my Day 2 to relax. Or to stress. One or the other. (You can see the whole event's day-by-day schedule in the footnotes here.)

As I previously mentioned, an hour of one-on-one poker training is included in the package, and I expect we'll be making arrangements for that in the next day or two.

After Daniel told me he'd text me when he knew his schedule better and we had parted, I realized that I had walked away with the winning ticket stub still in my pocket. Oh well. I guess they don't really need it to prove that I was the winner. I'll add it to my souvenir collection.

In other related news, Jesse May earlier today did an excellent blog post about Daniel, which you can read here. There is an accompanying video interview, posted here. My favorite paragraph, which concludes in an opinion with which I will concur, based on my brief encounters with him so far:
There was a recent New York Times piece written about Jungleman, before Black Friday, where the interviewer went to great pains to infer that Cates was completely out of touch with real people and the real world. While it’s true that Daniel does have that weird genius way of answering questions much like Isaac Haxton, where they are liable to take as long a pause as they deem necessary and then answer in a way where they are actually interviewing you and if you haven’t thought your question through in the first place you just end up mumbling around and staring at a place three feet to the left of their head. Because Daniel Cates is piercing you with unblinking eyes from behind his thick unrimmed spectacles and raising the bet. And if that makes you uncomfortable so that you want to claim he’s out of touch with real people and the real world, then fine. But what the New York Times journalist surely left out is the thing that should immediately strike anyone most about Daniel Cates, especially in an arena where huge egos are part and parcel for the course and arrogance is assumed like eyes and ears. The plain fact about Daniel Cates is that he’s unfailingly polite. He’s earnestly polite. He’s polite in a way so that he must actually believe that the world doesn’t revolve around him, and if I say that makes him the only one in Las Vegas right now then it’s not nearly as much of an exaggeration as the other way around. That, right there, is more than something.
Maybe I'm reading him wrong, but my impression is that he's kind of embarrassed that his gesture is being considered a big deal, and his publicist has to collar him to get him to extract some PR value out of it.

Speaking of PR, a couple more items of some relevance have hit the intertubes. First, my friend Ian, a.k.a. NumbBono of the "Donkeys Always Draw" blog, wrote a nice news piece about this for Rakeback.com, here. Second, "Listening," she of the razz blog and book, sweetly posted her advice just for me, though I'm sure she wouldn't mind if others read it. Brief mention (with name misspelled) by PokerNews here.

A little house in Wyoming connected to Black Friday

I was just browsing the Yahoo news stories of the day, and was curious about this headline from a Reuters story: "A Little House of Secrets on the Great Plains." It turns out that inside this residential address is a company that exists to set up and operate shell corporations for other business entities. OK, that's mildly interesting. But I was greatly surprised to find inside the story a nugget about poker's Black Friday:

Among the entities registered at 2710 Thomes, Reuters found, is a shelf company sheltering real-estate assets controlled by a jailed former prime minister of Ukraine, according to allegations made by a political rival in a federal court in California.

The owner of another shelf company at the address was indicted in April for allegedly helping online-poker operators evade a U.S. ban on Internet gambling. The owner of two other firms there was banned from government contracting in January for selling counterfeit truck parts to the Pentagon....

In 2008, Rubin fled to Costa Rica to avoid arrest for contempt in the civil case. Authorities allege he went on to run another payment-processing operation from abroad: This March 10, he and 10 others were indicted in New York for allegedly running a massive scheme to hide payments made by U.S. customers to the three largest online-poker websites, in violation of a ban passed by Congress in 2006. He was extradited from Guatemala the same month. On June 8, a New York judge denied bail for Rubin.

Stuart Meissner, an attorney for Rubin, said his client was not available for comment.

Guess the casino, #902







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




Answer: Texas Station

Monday, June 27, 2011

Guess the casino, #901







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




Answer: Sam's Town

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guess the casino, #900







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




Answer: Palms