Saturday, October 01, 2011

Bellande 2

Finally found video of the Bellande gambit I mentioned last night. Here ya go:

Deuce-Four at the WSOP

Pathetic little pocket queens try to take on the Mighty Deuce-Four. What do you think happens? LDO!

Personality test

Downtown Vegas is hopping this weekend, primarily because of Bikefest being in town.

The following were among the many unexpected sights seen on my walk to and from Binion's last night. The personality test comes down to this: Which do you prefer to look at?

A) Cute puppy.

(Apologies for the pictures all being so crappy. It was dark, my cell phone camera is not very good under the best of circumstances, and this little guy just WOULD NOT STAY STILL FOR A PORTRAIT!)

(Sorry, Jen, but he might have been ever cuter than Vinny, though that's a hard standard to beat.)

B) This woman (and/or the naked cowboy off to the side).

C) Cupid.

D) A Delorean, complete with Doc Brown impersonator (but, sadly, no flux capacitor).

E) Her. Or, um, him. Or whatever.

Me? I'll go for the puppy first, Delorean second. For the others, well, I think I'd prefer to scoop out my eyeballs with a rusty grapefruit spoon.

Trying Poker Tracker

I downloaded Poker Tracker 3 for its 60-day free trial. I've been waiting for version 4 to hit, but it seems to keep turning into vaporware. "Soon!" we are told endlessly. Well, maybe it will be out by the time 60 days are up. We'll see.

For now, though, I'll play with version 3 and see what it does for me. My initial impression is annoyance, because it puts the stats for a player with the name/avatar of the adjacent player until you manually move every one of the displays around--and you have to do this anew with every table. That's just bad design.

It also seems to have a weird glitch that it recognizes screen names across tables and combines stats for other players, but not for me. In the above screen shot, for example, you can see that "Ape567" has twice as many hands tracked as I do. We were at two tables simultaneously. The software correctly merged the information from both tables for him, but not for me, for reasons that are not at all obvious.

However, I do like being able to see mucked, unshown hands without having to open Bodog's hand history page.

I'm keeping an open mind on whether the advantages are worth the cost and fuss of it.

Guess the casino, #997

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

Answer: Hard Rock

Brer Bellande

I was watching this week's WSOP installments earlier today, and saw something unusual that I thought was worth commenting on. Jean-Robert Bellande raised with K-J and was rewarded by flopping a full house. He bet at it, got one caller. As it happened, the caller had 8-4, i.e., nothing at all. Bellande couldn't know whether the caller had caught a piece of the flop or was just floating him, but for his purposes, it didn't matter.

The turn card was something inconsequential. Here's where Bellande shined. He immediately started cutting out some chip stacks as if he were trying to settle on a bet size, but then looked up and checked instead.

I have seen this move hundreds of times, and I have never known it to be anything other than weakness. The player doing it is trying to convey strength to his opponent. The gesture is meant to make the opponent think, "That guy was about to make a big bet, but then checked instead. He must be trying to trap me, so I'll just check behind."

Bellande, however, was using it as a reverse tell, which I've never seen anyone do before. He knows perfectly well that that move is usually one performed by a player feigning strength, so he pulled it off when he was actually strong. It was brilliant. He pulled it off perfectly. I think I would have been suckered in if I had been the one in position against him. After you've seen it done a few dozen times, the move, meant to be intimidating, actually comes to resemble a green light.

That's certainly how the other guy with the big stack read it. He shoved. Bellande called, obviously, and got his double-up.

It was a really nice example of silently manipulating an opponent into doing exactly what you want him to do.

"'I don't keer w'at you do wid me, Brer Fox,' sezee, 'so you don't fling me in dat brier-patch. Roas' me, Brer Fox' sezee, 'but don't fling me in dat brierpatch,' sezee.

"'Hit's so much trouble fer ter kindle a fier,' sez Brer Fox, sezee, 'dat I speck I'll hatter hang you,' sezee.

"'Hang me des ez high as you please, Brer Fox,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'but do fer de Lord's sake don't fling me in dat brier- patch,' sezee.

"'I ain't got no string,' sez Brer Fox, sezee, 'en now I speck I'll hatter drown you,' sezee.

"'Drown me des ez deep ez you please, Brer Fox,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'but do don't fling me in dat brier-patch,' sezee.

"'Dey ain't no water nigh,' sez Brer Fox, sezee, 'en now I speck I'll hatter skin you,' sezee.

"'Skin me, Brer Fox,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'snatch out my eyeballs, t'ar out my years by de roots, en cut off my legs,' sezee, 'but do please, Brer Fox, don't fling me in dat brier- patch,' sezee.

"Co'se Brer Fox wanter hurt Brer Rabbit bad ez he kin, so he cotch 'im by de behime legs en slung 'im right in de middle er de brier-patch. Dar wuz a considerbul flutter whar Brer Rabbit struck de bushes, en Brer Fox sorter hang 'roun' fer ter see w'at wuz gwineter happen. Bimeby he hear somebody call 'im, en way up de hill he see Brer Rabbit settin' crosslegged on a chinkapin log koamin' de pitch outen his har wid a chip. Den Brer Fox know dat he bin swop off mighty bad. Brer Rabbit wuz bleedzed fer ter fling back some er his sass, en he holler out:

"'Bred en bawn in a brier-patch, Brer Fox—bred en bawn in a brier-patch!' en wid dat he skip out des ez lively ez a cricket in de embers."
From Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings, by Joel Chandler Harris, available here.

Clash of the titan hands

I was playing at Binion's tonight. At one point I had 8s-8d and limped. Button limped. Small blind raised to $17, an unusually high raise. This immediately suggested to me that he had one of those pairs that so many $1-2 NLHE players just don't know how to play after the flop--queens, jack, tens, and nines, with jacks being the #1 suspect, as that is the one hand with which I most commonly see the over-sized raise. I called, as did the button.

I flopped a set as I had hoped to do, but apparently I did not specify with sufficient clarity the texture of the flop that I wanted to go along with my set. What I got was 8c-9c-10c, which is maybe the worst possible flop containing an 8 that I could imagine. If I wasn't already on the bad end of a set-over-set situation, or up against a straight or a flush, about half the deck on the turn would give me a very hard decision and maybe an ulcer.

SB bet $30. He had both started the hand with $120 or so. I had a little more than that. I moved all in. Button folded. SB called instantly and enthusiastically. Ruh-roh.

It wasn't the worst possible scenario, but it was close. He had pocket jacks, include the jack of clubs, giving him an open-ended straight flush draw. Ugh.

I didn't have to nurse my ulcer for too long, though, as the dealer quickly found the case 8 for fourth street. That was awfully nice, but it still wasn't over.

Memo to the poker gods: When you've got quads made on the turn, YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE TO SWEAT THE RIVER!

At this point, another player helpfully announced that he had folded the 7c, which reduced the SB to one out. That helped me relax. I can usually dodge one-outers.

And I did. A harmless 10 hit the river, giving me quads full of tens, or something like that. I won the pot and a $50 jackpot--the minimum one, since it had just reset after somebody else had hit it a short time before.

And now for something complete different: A bonus story, having nothing to do with the above, except that they both took place in the same session.

I got up to throw away a water bottle. Coming back my seat (#1), I noticed a blue $1 chip on the floor between my chair and the dealer's. I knew I hadn't dropped any chips. I was pretty sure it must have come from one of two places. First, the dealer had gotten a fill of blue chips a short time before, and one of them could have been dropped unnoticed. Second, soon after I sat down, a young woman had joined the table across from me, and had dropped her chips on the floor as she tried to move them from the rack to the table. One of them could have easily rolled under the table in my direction.

So when the hand was over and the dealer could listen, I told her that I found a chip, and perhaps she should count her tray to see if one was missing. She did. The count was right, but then (and we are finally getting to the point of the story here) she added, "But I'm always willing to take donations."

Really? Begging? For a $1 chip you're reducing yourself to open, shameless begging? How low can you go? It was pathetic.

On the rare occasions that I find a stray chip on the floor around a poker table and nobody can plausibly claim it, my usual practice is to give it to the dealer as a tip. That wasn't my plan on this occasion, because I had a good idea who the rightful owner was, but if it had been the usual situation, that comment would have caused me to deviate from my normal course and keep the chip rather than rewarding the dealer's scummy groveling for it.

The woman who had dropped her chips earlier happened to be away from the table when this occurred, so I just rolled the chip over toward her seat. When she came back, she didn't question where it had come from, and I didn't volunteer anything about it. I saw no need to open the subject. I especially didn't want the woman to decide she wasn't sure it was hers and give it to the dealer. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Homage to the Bellagio fountains

See here for the delightful show:

23 days, 100 SNGs

As I've been telling you, I have recently experimented with a pattern of doing four Bodog single-table sit-and-go tournaments a day, two in the early afternoon and another two before I go to bed. (Sometimes there's an extra one or two thrown in if I feel like it, or if I get knocked out of one extremely early.) I had been doing this for a couple of weeks before it occurred to me that I should probably be keeping track of my results. Nearly all of the SNGs I have done in the past two or three years, prior to this month, were HORSE games on Full Tilt or PokerStars, and the skills for that don't translate very well to no-limit hold'em. I thought that I probably had a lot to learn about optimal strategy, and that a spreadsheet would help me spot problems and successes.

I started on September 8 and just now completed #100. They have all been $5.50 entry fees, ten-handed, non-turbo, paying top three spots 50%, 30%, 20% (i.e., $25, $15, $10).

Results: $550 spent on entering, $665 won, net profit $115, return on investment 1.21.

Broken down by place of finish I get this distribution:

1: 17
2: 10
3: 9
4: 6
5: 12
6: 12
7: 12
8: 12
9: 5
10: 5

I am very pleased that #1 is my most frequent position in which to finish. I also like that I'm pretty good at managing to avoid going out in the first two spots, and that I bubble only rarely. I'm cashing 36% of the time, and when I make the money, I'm just about 50% to take first.

The fifth- and sixth-place finishes are mostly OK. That is, they are disappointing but mostly unavoidable. By that stage of the game, I either have a comfortable stack and can easily make the money or I'm short and have to find a spot to shove, which is just bound to blow up a good percentage of the time. It's still the right way to play.

But the fairly large number of seventh- and eighth-place finishes is an area of potential concern. Talking it over with Cardgrrl a couple of days ago, she suggested keeping notes on how those occur, which I think is an excellent idea. My sense is that most of them are bad beats and coolers, with the decision-making process correct. These are the situations that Shamus aptly calls SIGHs--"so it goes" hands. However, without keeping records on what happened, this might be wishful thinking and/or selective memory on my part.

Looking at the pattern over time, you can see that I struggled some at first, but then seemed to figure out a good formula for winning more consistently:

What I had to learn was to be extremely tight and patient through the first few levels, and to mostly remove bluffing from my repertoire of moves. These games are so filled with horrible calling stations that bluffs just spew chips. Value bet, value bet, value bet.

I hope that now that I seem to have settled into a generally winning approach, my ROI will increase, as that ugly section of early negative results fades into the distance.

Incidentally, I discovered an unexpected psychological phenomenon in myself: Being able to chalk up a first-place finish in my spreadsheet was at least as powerful a motivating factor as the money. I knew I was tracking my results, and that I would end up reporting them here sooner or later. I wanted to have good numbers and a good-looking graph both for my own pleasure and to show my readers. Neither the $5 entry fee nor the $25 top prize mean much to me in terms of my overall poker results. As a result, sometimes it was tempting to shove in marginal situations or make curiosity calls that I knew were most likely losers. In such circumstances, I would have a flash of a thought that the amount of money involved was trivial and didn't matter, but then that would be followed by the sobering realization that I'd have to enter a bad finishing spot in my spreadsheet. That usually cleared my head when the money was insufficiently motivating. I had not expected that to be the case, because winning money has always been virtually my only reason for playing poker. It is, however, another argument for keeping good records.

I have not tracked how many hours I've invested, but I know that it's a dismal hourly win rate overall. That's OK. My goal was to see if I could figure out how to beat the game with reasonable consistency--which I think I have done--then go from there. In order to increase my hourly return, I plan to start doing either three $5 games at a time or two $10 games at a time (probably some of each strategy, alternating by days), and see if I can keep up or even improve my frequency of first-place finishes while doing so.

I'll let you know how the next 100 go with those variations in place.


Is there anything prettier than a straight flush, in crubs, on an all-crub board? OK, maybe a royal, but that's about it.

(I shoved, was sad to see a fold.)

Guess the casino, #996

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

Answer: Treasure Island

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I beat Mrs. Lederer heads-up for the winner-take-all world championship of 8-game mix. Only six players on the face of the earth were deemed qualified to even play in this prestigious event. To win, I had to suck out on her over and over again, with the most ridiculously unlikely combinations, in every one of the games, but I was up to that challenge!

Now I just have to decide how to spend my 3000 points.

Making the natives restless

I almost never engage in trash talking in the chat box when playing online. Once in a while, though, I see an opening for an exchange that will either be fun and amusing or put the other guy on tilt, which I consider to be a win-win situation. One such just occurred in one of my daily after-lunch Bodog SNGs.

First, you have to look around the table at the avatars to get the context. Click to see larger:

The player called "TunaMack" started it:

TunaMack: hey beautiful is that really ur pic

He's obviously talking to "muckitbaby," though he didn't specify, so I decided to interject. After all, you've got to admit that I make one very cute little lamb.

Rakewell: Why, yes it is, and thank you for noticing.
Rakewell: Or were you talking to Phil Ivey there?
TunaMack: talking to muck
Rakewell: You’re not into lambs?
Rakewell: Or Ivey?
Rakewell: Little lambs eat ivy.
Rakewell: I bet you don’t understand that reference.*
TunaMack: fck u and ivey
TunaMack: understand that
Rakewell: Such a sweetheart.
Rakewell: But I still think you’re either into animals or men.

Some time passes. He hasn't said anything for a while, and the urge to goad him a bit more is welling up inside me.

Rakewell: I’m sorry, Tuna, but I don’t think it would work out between a horse and a lamb.
Rakewell: You do have nice long legs, though.
Rakewell: Besides, I have so many more chips than you, I can’t see it working out between us.

Immediately after I wrote that, he was all in:

He had pocket kings, lost to “otisttd,” who had pocket 5s and flopped quads, scoring a nice triple knockout. (He and I would end up heads-up for first. I won.) The brackets around Tuna’s name after this point indicate observer status, as he was out.

Rakewell: lol
Rakewell: nh
[TunaMack]: yeah right btch
[TunaMack]: fckn rigged site
Rakewell: bye lover
[TunaMack]: fck rake u lamb fckn ******
[TunaMack]: A lamb u must b a lil btch
Rakewell: We’ll miss you. *kiss*
[TunaMack]: hey muck lets go get a drink

Notice that my initial salvo was not inflammatory or insulting by nature. If Tuna had been a laid-back, fun-loving guy, he could have taken it with a laugh and engaged in a bit of good-natured dialogue, pretending that we were our avatars. He chose, instead, to be an asshole about it. That's when I decided to have the fun all by myself, at his expense.

This incident reminded me of a nice column by Dr. Pauly for Poker Player newspaper a couple of years ago (available here), in which he discussed tactical use of the chat box:
Once in a while, if I'm feeling saucy, I'll antagonize one of the clowns in the chat box. As Sun Tzu said, "If you enemy is angry, irritate him." I like to goad them into senseless arguments. Several of my friends prepared witty responses when someone rants about their bad play. Here's an example, after you suck out on your opponent and they spew, "nice catch @%#&*!" or "nc" into the chat, I'll respond with, "Thanks. I have a large glove." One of my poker buddies, BadBlood, came up with that gem which always gets lots of laughs from the peanut gallery.

My number one response that is guaranteed to tilt a furious opponent? Type, "nonsense" into the chat. It works. One of my favorite bloggers, JuliusGoat, came up with that stunning response. He explained, "Whatever they say, just answer with 'nonsense.' This is the magic word. It's the auto-tilter."

If your opponents routinely remind you about your atrocious play, then quickly type, "Nonsense." If they call you a donkey or a fish, then respond with "Nonsense." The best way to beat a bully? Bully them back. After a while, they'll simply give up and hopefully, tilt their stack off your way.

*In case you don't get it either, see

Guess the casino, #995

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

Answer: Mandalay Bay

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guess the casino, #994

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

Answer: Green Valley Ranch

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This is your life

You hear that Party Poker is running a contest to win a seat in its annual televised 48-hour marathon "Big Game." You play your heart out night and day for two solid weeks to earn the most points in the cash games, and get the long-awaited notification that you've made it. You fly from Sweden to England. The big day arrives. You wait in the green room for your turn. The previous qualifier gets knocked out early, and it's finally time. Kara Scott announces your name for the studio and television audience, and you walk out, theme music blaring. You sit down at the table where chips await you--the $13,000 cash stake that you won. You are allotted four hours to play, keeping whatever you win above that buy-in.

It's your moment in the sun, and you're ready to shine. You've been waiting for this ever since you learned to play poker.

And then this happens:

(Let the whole episode load, then skip ahead to the 48:15 mark.)

Guess the casino, #993

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

Answer: Bellagio

Monday, September 26, 2011

Twitter splitter

I've decided to split my Twitter feed--both incoming and outgoing--into "poker" and "everything else." Obviously, the poker-related subject matter will continue to be @PokerGrump. The "everything else" category will be under a second Twitter account I just set up, @RandomlyBob. This will include personal updates (travel, etc.), pointers to interesting stuff I find in web browsing, jokes and puns that I think of, new words I learn, etc. Subject matter may include guns, politics, religion, and other controversial things. This way I won't bore/annoy/offend people who want to follow me only for poker-related tweets. I will, of course, continue to bore/annoy/offend others, but only those who choose to let me bore/annoy/offend them! (Because of the restricted subject matter, poker-related tweets are much less likely to rankle.)

What's in a screen name? #36

C'mon--who doesn't love Dogbert?

Who not to trust in political prognostication

Barry Greenstein, October, 2007:

I'm sure it will be less than 6 months before Congress realizes that they
need to pass legislation contrary to the UIEGA. If it hasn't already happened,
it will happen in a few weeks.
Yeah, right.

I was reminded of this by reading today's post from Shamus, in which he quotes Phil Hellmuth in a recent Card Player magazine interview:
Online poker is going to be licensed and regulated very soon. There are things happening right now that the rest of the poker world doesn’t realize. I think it’s going to happen at the federal level, and frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened by December.
My guess is that he'll end up looking just as deluded as Greenstein did.

Or maybe I will. One never knows. But in the matter of online poker licensing, as with predictions of the Rapture, skeptics have a far better track record than believers.

Poker as a "mind sport"

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago on attempts to get poker (specifically duplicate poker) included in the World Mind Sports Games.

As an aside, when I read gaffes like this in a publication as prestigious and presumably fact-checked as the WSJ, I am forced to approach everything in every medium with ever more skepticism:
[S]tories proliferated about Americans with glazed eyes playing relentlessly via their computer screens as they gambled away thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

That trend prompted the U.S. government to outlaw online poker playing for money earlier this year.
We should hold a contest to see who can list the most things wrong with those sentences.

(If the above link gets you to only the first couple of paragraphs of the story, but not the whole thing, and you don't want to subscribe, then do what I did: go here, then click on the first link listed.)

Guess the casino, #992

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

Answer: Texas Station

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I really don't know what it is about Bodog and the quads

I really don't put in nearly enough volume to explain the frequency with which this is happening. Bizarro.

(This is not a SNG, but a weekly freeroll for which I qualified by cashing in several SNGs. Currently one of the chip leaders, but it's still very early.)

Bodog makes straight flushes easy, too

But that whole stupid "doesn't count if you folded" thing still comes into play.

Meanwhile, in other "teh pokerz iz EZ" news:

Guess the casino, #991

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

Answer: Sam's Town