Showing posts with label jackpots. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jackpots. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Maybe there's another way to play it...

I was at the Stratosphere last night. I witnessed a hand that left me completely baffled.

Our contestants both look to me like celebrities. Seat 5 reminds me of Captain Kangaroo, while Seat 6 looks and sounds just like William H. Macy's character, Jerry Lundegaard, in "Fargo." So I'll refer to them as Captain and Jerry.

Those two plus both blinds (including me, big blind, in Seat 9) limp in. The flop is 5-5-x. It's checked all around. Turn is a king. Captain checks. Jerry makes a pot-sized bet. We blinds fold. Captain calls. I don't remember the river card, but Captain checks, Jerry checks. Captain shows 5-5 for flopped quads. Jerry shows a king and mucks. Captain wins the special $599 flopped-quad jackpot that the poker room has going this month.

Let's consider some of the possible reasons that Captain would play his hand this way.

1. He misread his hand, didn't know what he had. Nope. Even before he revealed it he called out, "High hand bonus!"

2. He misunderstood the rules and thought that if his opponent folded before the showdown he would lose out on the jackpot. This is fairly common among inexperienced players who hit a monster hand, and suddenly realize that they don't know how the promotion works, and can't stop in the middle of the hand to ask. But that's not this guy. He's a local whom I have played with several times before. He shuffles chips expertly. He knows how things work, no doubt about it.

3. He was out of position, so was going for a check-raise. Implausible. This was an incredibly passive table generally, and Jerry was no more likely to get out of line than anybody else. Anybody who tried to play a trapping game was misreading the table unbelievably badly.

4. He was hoping that giving free cards would help somebody make a big enough hand to pay him off. This is plausible for the flop and turn plays, but not for the river. After all, you can't get your monster hand paid off if you don't bet. In fact, as soon as the hand was over Captain explained that he was hoping that Jerry would make a hand that would qualify them for the bad-beat jackpot, which was at $18,000+. Frankly, I don't remember for sure whether a straight flush was possible on the final board, but I don't think so. It was not double-paired, so quads-over-quads was impossible. Worse, by not betting he risked the pot not being big enough to qualify for the $599 bonus. The pot was only $8 before and after the flop. If nothing else, he should have bet at least $2 at some point, hoping to get a call to get the pot to the minimum $10 required for the jackpot.

In short, I can't think of any sound reason why one would not bet out on the river, even if you can imagine a justification for passive play prior to that. Suppose that a straight flush were potentially out there when the board was complete. Are you really going to assume that your opponent has the exact two cards that make that hand, and check out of fear of losing your stack to the only hand that can beat you? That is "monsters under the bed" syndrome on steroids. There will be far more losing hands (straights, flushes, and full houses) that your opponent can have with which he will call a bet or even raise you than ones that can make a straight flush, even when a straight flush is possible (which I don't think it was). Besides, even if you lose your $200 stack to a rivered straight flush, you will win many times that from the bad-beat jackpot. So why not go for some value?

As I said, going for a river check-raise seems unwise, even given Jerry's bet on the turn, because a generally passive player like him will frequently take one stab at a pot, then not bet again. There is clearly more value in leading out with a river bet and hoping for a call or raise than checking with the fairly slim hope of a check-raise.

When I posted the bare bones of the story on Twitter and expressed my puzzlement, my friend Shamus quipped: "He's setting you all up for later when he checks with nothing."

It might be the best explanation anybody can come up with.

CODA: When Captain received his $599 in chips, he asked whether he had to keep them in play. This is a point on which house rules vary quite a bit. Some places require the chips to stay on the table, some require any that will put you over the buy-in cap to be pocketed, some let the player decide. Captain wanted to immediately cash out the whole $599, and just keep playing with what he already had in front of him, which the floor told him was fine. But then an argument broke out about what he would be allowed to do if he happened to want to keep all of that money in play--would he be allowed to? Note that this was not the situation--it was purely hypothetical. Nobody was objecting to Captain pocketing the money. The only question was if he could keep the bonus chips in play if he wanted to. Yet the argument droned on for ten minutes, with players vehemently insisting on one rule or another, claiming that it's done this way or that way everywhere else, blah, blah, blah. Good Lord, it was pointless. The only thing worse than an interminable argument at the poker table over an esoteric rule question is an interminable argument at the poker table over an esoteric rule when there is no possible resolution that will affect the current situation in any way.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Easy game

Tonight was the first time I've been back to the Palms since I tried their new poker room and didn't like it, which was back in May. I go even to places I don't like once in a while for variety and to keep an eye on what's going on and what may have changed.

I took my seat, folded the first two hands I was dealt, then saw 2h-4h on the third hand. OK, let's play!

I rather liked the flop:

Now, usually I'm pretty good at masking any reaction I might feel to cards hitting the board. But I confess that I felt my eyebrows rise in astonishment briefly. I suspect it looked something like how Mr. Spock looked when he was surprised:

Fortunately, I don't think anybody was watching me.

I was first to act and checked. This was not a straightforward decision. On the one hand, I obviously want to get as much money into this pot from as many opponents as I can. On the other hand, when one has the board so utterly crushed as this, it's difficult for opponents to have enough of a hand that they're willing to proceed. I decided to check, not so much for purposes of deception, but to allow a free card and hope that it gave somebody a strong flush, a full house, trips--anything that they'll feel comfortable betting on.

Fortunately, as it turned out, one guy had pocket 3s and had flopped a set, which was enough for him to start the action with $11. Two people folded. I called. With the 7d on the turn, he bet $11 again, I check-raised to $30, and he called. I led out with $50 on the river and he folded. Dang. I probably could have gotten his whole stack if the board had paired, giving him a boat. Oh well. It would be unseemly to whine about the results.

I won the pot plus a $100 high-hand bonus.

I think this is the fifth time I've flopped a straight flush during my years in Vegas, plus several more picked up on later streets, though those are not as dramatic. (But still no royal, dammit! This baffles me. I'm definitely due.) The other four flopped straight flushes were recounted here, here, here, and here. With three of those, there was no possible combination of cards that any opponent could hold with any cards coming on the turn and river that would beat me; I had an absolutely lock on the hand, the mortal nuts. But with today's, as with one other time, I could theoretically end up beaten. If an opponent held two cards from the 6, 7, 8, and 9 of hearts, and the other two from that group of four came, I could get one of the worst possible bad-beat stories, having my flopped 5-high straight flush crushed by a 9-high straight flush. I was, however, not too concerned about that happening.

Incidentally, the dealer said this was the first time he had dealt a flopped straight flush.

Despite this, I still have some readers who doubt the power of the Mighty Deuce-Four. Like, for example, this nutjob, who tweeted to me last night, "2-4 is garbage." WHAT MORE MUST I DO TO CONVINCE YOU PEOPLE???

Flopping a straight flush feels really good. But I've gotta learn to keep those eyebrows under control.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Caution: Pots may be larger than they appear

Yesterday I was planning to spend the afternoon playing at Imperial Palace, but they had no game going when I arrived, so I wandered down the street to the Flamingo, where I had not played since (hang on, checking records) December 16, 2010. I generally don't like it much there, but it will do in a pinch. Sometime recently they opened a new casino. Well, it's really just an extension of the main Flamingo casino, but it is set up in such a way that it looks and feels like it's separate. It's the "Margaritaville Casino." It's tropical-island-themed, with cocktail waitresses in bikinis, Jimmy Buffet music playing overhead, clusters of faux palm trees, etc. It's actually very pleasant, as casino floors go. To celebrate the opening, they issued new chips, as shown above, which, of course, I had to add to my collection.

I was one of the players starting up a new table, and quickly discovered that I had lucked my way into an assemblage of calling stations. Instead of my usual game, I switched to what I think of as my "Bill's strategy," named for Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon, which was the first place I found myself consistently facing a table full of people who would call anything, fold nothing, and be aggressive only with the nuts. The strategy is not exactly rocket science: Value bet the strong hands, check-fold everything else, omit the bluffing. Against such opponents, it does not matter that that strategy means that you are effectively playing with your cards face up. They don't bother looking at them; they see only their own cards, and play accordingly.

The Bill's strategy was paying off well, supplemented by stacking a guy when I had the good side of a flopped set-over-set (my queens to his treys). It was getting close to the time that I needed to leave to catch the start of the Sunday night IP mixed game, when there was a touchdown in the late football game, which meant it was $100 splash-pot promotion time.

They drew a card to determine which table would get it, and mine was the one. Next hand, the floor guy brought over 20 red chips and plunked them down in the middle of the table before the cards were dealt. I was in the big blind and got A-8 offsuit.

My expectations were low. My limited experience with splash pots like this is that people go crazy, like a school of sharks in a feeding frenzy. FREE MONEY! ME WANT! Players raise and reraise crazily, shoving stacks of hundreds of dollars into the pot in an effort to win the house-supplied overlay.

Not this time. It was a family pot limpfest. I was stunned as one by one they all dutifully set two blue chips out in front of them. There was no discussion, no collusion, no collective strategy being deployed. I thought surely somebody was going to put in a raise that I would consider prohibitively large, given that my hand was one that was very likely to be dominated by somebody with a better ace, leaving me with, at best, maybe a 25% chance of winning the hand. With my nice profit for the afternoon about to be locked up, I wasn't in a mood to monkey around with a big chunk of my stack trying to get lucky with odds like that.

As the number of limpers increased, it dawned on me that these people simply could not figure out how to adjust to the radically different situation that the splash-pot promotion was presenting them. There is a very good reason that in no-limit games bet-sizing has everything to do with the size of the pot: You need to figure out what the pot is worth in order to determine how much it's worth risking in order to win it. As extreme examples, it usually would made no sense to risk $100 to win $2, but it would almost always be worth risking $2 to win $100. When the pot starts at $103, as this one did, a player who thinks he likely has the best hand--or thinks that he can convince everyone else that he does--should make a stab at the pot that is many times more than what the standard opening raise would be when just the $3 in blinds is up for grabs.

But when the action got to me, it was still just the size of the big blind I had already posted, so heck yeah, I'll take a free flop.

It came ace-rag-rag. The small blind checked. I thought about what to do. This table was so passive that there was a real chance that all ten of them would check. A pot now at about $115 (after rake) was absolutely worth taking a shot at with top pair, even with--or maybe especially with--a flock of calling stations behind me.

But how much to bet? I did not have great confidence that I had the only ace, and with ten limpers, there could easily be some weird two-pair that had hit and that might remain undetectable until I had committed a lot of money. Especially with my bad position, I didn't want to spend a lot and then have to abandon my children in the middle of the table.

It seemed to me that all of the other players were not perceiving this as a $115 pot. Instead, they were seeing it as a $15 pot with a $100 bonus going to the winner. Of course, logically that is a distinction without a difference. But perception is a fair substitute for reality in such situations, and I decided that I would play along with the table's apparent conventional wisdom. I also had in mind the general axiom that one should not bet more than it takes to accomplish the goal, which in this case was, ideally, to win the pot uncontested, and, failing that, to determine where my hand stood in relation to the strength of the others.

If the other players are seeing this as a $15 pot, then it makes no sense to bet $60 or $70 at it. So I bet $10. Frankly, this seemed like an absurd thing to do. I can state categorically that I have never opened the betting at a $100+ pot for $10 before yesterday. But I was in Rome, and doing what I thought the Romans do.

Like a row of falling dominoes, the players tossed in their hole cards one after the other, and I won a $115 pot with my little $10 bet. I have no idea why this bunch of calling stations--who previously would call three streets of 1/2- to 3/4-pot bets with top pair/bad kicker or second pair/good kicker--all suddenly decided that less than 10% of the pot was too rich for their blood, but that's how it went down.

Sitting here describing it and watching the replay in my brain, I'm still dumbfounded. None of it makes any sense from the point of view of a rational poker player. It may be that I was the only one at the table that might be able to claim that label.

I can't remember ever reading advice on how to handle a situation where your opponents think the pot is different than what it really is, because this must surely be a situation that comes up only rarely. I won't claim that being able to figure out what your opponents think the pot size is will be a skill that you need very often, but apparently it's one that can come in handy at least once in a great while.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Steel wheel

Playing at Imperial Palace tonight, I had the above nice hand: runner-runner 5-high straight flush, starting with 2s-4s in my hand. I won the pot plus a $100 high-hand jackpot. The dealer was Alaska Gal of It was sort of a spontaneous mini-AVP meetup, with TarpieFish and Karapet1 also at the table. I believe that I made a few converts to the Holy Order of the Deuce-Four with that hand.

I have decided that Alaska Gal is the world's greatest poker dealer. In addition to giving me this steel wheel, a few minutes earlier she had saved my sorry butt with a two-outer on the river. I managed to get myself all-in with an overpair (K-K) versus a flopped set of 7s. A third king on fifth street rescued me from the precarious situation. Hilarity ensued. (One reader recently complained that I never tell stories in which I do something stupid. It's just not true, and this is another example.)

I would tell more stories, but I promised Tarpie that I wouldn't tell certain stories. For example, the time he mucked his cards when first to act on the river, only to have his lone remaining opponent show him 5-3 offsuit, which was the worst possible hand for the board, meaning that whatever Tarpie threw away, it was the winner. That's one of the stories I said I wouldn't tell, so I won't. See how faithfully I keep my promises?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Four royal flushes in one hand

A story from TBC's blog, here.

an interesting thing in the eldorado [in Reno] the other morning, and a dealer ended up getting fired. i wasnt at the table but i could hear em on the other table. (i was in the NL game before it broke for the morning tourney, and this was at the STUD table.) seems while the players (all 4 of them) were taking a break, the dealer thought it would be funny to setup the deck to give all 4 the royal flush. essentially no one would be getting hurt, and all get back their money. now everything was going according to plan, and suddenly one old man was screaming how he had a royal flush and wanted his money. the other players told him they ALL had the royal, and i dont know if he was senile, or didnt believe them, but he insisted the floor call gaming, and it seems he eventually got paid and the dealer got fired. i know it seems hard to believe but if u come here u will find out its true. lots of witnesses even dealers at other casinos know about it.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

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, June 24, 2011

I think I win this one

I'm just home from the Stratosphere.

I had been playing for about four hours, sometimes a little up, sometimes a little down, but no net progress. In fact, at the time in question I was down a little over $100 from where I had started, and had been stuck there for an hour or so. I was feeling tired and starting to make some dumb mistakes, so I decided to suck up the loss and call it quits at the end of that round.

But then the dealer started me out with 9c-10c, and augmented that with the well-chosen flop of 6c-7c-8c. It's been over a year since I last hit a straight flush in live play (at least that I wrote about here; but it's possible I hit one and didn't do a blog post and then subsequently forgot about it with my 50-year-old brain cells). That was at the Golden Nugget. It has been almost three years since I last flopped a straight flush (at the Hard Rock)--and back then I did so twice in a month. This was only the third time I've ever flopped a hand so big that it was impossible for anybody to beat me, no matter what they held and no matter what cards came on the turn and river. (The first was described here, the second here.)

I won only $30 or so from my opponent, but picked up a nice $450 bonus from the casino.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hitting the club royal

I was at Bally's again last night, had another profitable and reasonably enjoyable session. I might actually come to like the place, in spite of the noise factor.

The jackpot for hitting a royal flush in clubs, using both hole cards, is almost $12,000 now. Several times last night I had two of the five required cards in my starting hand, which makes one's heart beat just a little bit faster when the flop is about to come.

It got me wondering about the probability of hitting a royal flush, given two qualifying down cards. I just worked it out, using the assumption that I'll see a full board of five community cards every time:

Suppose I start with the Ac-Kc. I obviously have to get a board that includes exactly the Qc, Jc, and 10c. I don't care what order they come in, and I don't care what other two cards accompany them. After specifying the five cards that matter, there are 47 cards left in the deck, from which any two can come. There are 1081 different ways to draw two cards from 47, so there are 1081 different boards that win me the jackpot.

But how many total possible five-card boards are there? Well, I have two cards in my hand, so those are not available to come. You can calculate this in Excel by entering into any cell the formula =COMBIN(50,5). Doing so tells us that there are exactly 2,118,760 different ways to draw five cards from the 50 that are left in the deck.

The final step is to compare the 1081 boards that win to the universe of 2,118,760 possible boards. The answer is 0.00051, or about 0.051% of the time. It will happen only once out of every 1960 times that I have a qualifying starting hand.

Looks like it's going to take a lot of hours sitting in the noise.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

King me

At Hooters last night, I had two kings in my hand, and found another two of them on the flop (along with a queen). That pretty much gave me most of 'em--along with a small pot and a $100 bonus.

Friday, May 06, 2011


Usually I am not much influenced in where I play by the promotions available, but once in a while I'll make an exception. Yesterday and today were unusual because on two consecutive days I went to a poker room specifically because it was running a different kind of promotion that I was interested in seeing.

Yesterday I had a free buffet lunch at the Palms, and was going to catch a 5:30 movie at the theaters there ("Hanna," which was sensational--best action flick I've seen in a long, long time), with some afternoon poker in between. What had caught my attention was the beginning of a new promotion in the Palms poker room called "Action Aces." It's an aces-cracked thing with a twist: Lose with aces, and the room gives you a jackpot twice the size of the pot that you lost, capped at $200.

That strikes me as an interesting variation on the theme. Under standard aces-cracked promotions, one is torn between two choices: (A) inviting everybody into the pot by limping and playing passively after the flop, hoping to lose and pick up a jackpot worth more than the pot you likely would have won by standard play, or (B) play the usual aggressive way, and risk winning only a small pot or losing one so large that the jackpot amount doesn't make up for your losses. I hate that dilemma, and so usually avoid playing in places and at times that such promotions are running. It distorts the game way too much for my taste.

But with Action Aces, you are motivated to inflate the pot, because even if you lose, you earn more money than you would have won had you taken the pot (up to a limit). In other words, you can pretty much play as you normally would, without agonizing over which of two mutually exclusive strategies to follow. It's a good idea. I can't tell you about whether it worked as well in practice as it does in theory because neither I nor anybody at my table had aces cracked while I was there. (We collectively speculated that the poker room management had removed all the aces from the deck just so that they wouldn't have to pay out.)

Then tonight I went to Binion's because they were having a Cinco de Mayo promotion, in which making either a set of 5s or quad 5s paid handsome bonuses--up to $10,000. I got pocket 5s once, but couldn't improve them. I made a little money on the night, but won no jackpots.

One guy left the table soon after I arrived. He said that he had gotten pocket 5s four times in the past hour, and he knew that that was way over what was statistically likely, so he concluded that he wasn't going to be dealt any more potential jackpot hands, and he might as well go home. No matter how many times I hear poker players falling into the gambler's fallacy (the idea that past independent events somehow influence future ones), I just can't figure out how anybody can be a successful poker player if they have such a fundamental misunderstanding of randomness.

On my way out of the poker room, I noticed a sign listing Binion's rotating daily promotions, which I don't think was going on last time I was there, so I snapped a picture of it to share with you, rather than trying to jot down what they all were.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New poker room at the Riviera

I played at the Riviera tonight. It's way down low on my list of preferred rooms, but I heard that they had moved the room recently, and wanted to see the new digs.

There's not a lot interesting to report. Same old tables, same old chairs, same staff, same chips. It's now at the base of the escalator that goes up to the theaters, and adjacent to the entrance to the main-floor theater where they have the Rat Pack show.

There is markedly less foot traffic in the new place. I spoke to the shift manager about it for a minute as I was cashing out. He pointed out that the old location was very near the elevators to the guest rooms, so they would get a lot of people returning from the Strip (often drunk). They'd pass the poker room as they were heading to their rooms to crash, and decide to engage in a little late-night poker as a nightcap. That doesn't happen now, because the room is well off the beaten path.

They are phasing out the high-hand jackpots as each one is hit for the last time, and substituting a splash-pot promotion. At hourly intervals (or so it seemed tonight), a player is chosen at random to spin this wheel for the table:

The amount indicated is put into the pot at the beginning of the next hand, and goes to whoever wins the pot.

I was there for two of these spins tonight; both happened to be for $100. The first one played out in a straightforward manner. The second, though, was kind of interesting. Almost everybody limped in. (I can't say "everybody," because we had some players who had no concept of poker math, and failed to realize that any two cards were worth at least the $2 big blind for a chance to win $100.) I joined them from the cutoff position with K-3 offsuit, hoping for a cheap flop.

The guy in the small blind was the only other smart, thinking player at the table. When it was his turn, he moved all-in for $101. Everybody folded around to me. This was an intriguing situation. If I were that guy, I might be inclined to do that move with any two cards, after the table had all limped, showing weakness. It would seem to have very high fold equity, and hence a high expectation to win $100 without even having to sweat a five-card board.

He was the only player at the table capable of figuring out that that was likely a profitable move, no matter what he held. He knew that essentially every other player was a complete or near novice to the game. They were having trouble just with knowing what the bet was, whose turn it was, how to protect their cards, etc. They were utterly ABC, playing the strength of their own hands with no grasp of how to gauge what others held, and with not a lick of deception among them. (Well, except for when they failed to grasp how strong a particular hand was--e.g., I saw one of them just call on the river with the stone cold nuts, for no apparent reason.) He would know that their limps were not setting a trap for somebody who would try to raise big with air to steal the pot; a $2 call meant that they didn't want to put in more than $2.

All of which meant that he was the one player whose shove could not command much respect from me.

So I called. He flipped over 10-10--a better hand than I had given him credit for. But at least I had an overcard. Sure enough, the flop came K-Q-9, and he bricked out on the turn and river. I suspect that's the first time I've won a $300+ pot with K-3 offsuit.

My opponent did not take it well. "K-3? You've got to be effin' kidding me! WTF were you doing calling there?" Etc. In short, hilarity ensued--at least briefly, before he stomped off.

Had I been able to see his cards, would a call be correct there? I actually don't know the answer as I type this, but let's work it out. PokerStove tells me that I win against T-T 27.9% of the time, while he wins 72.1%, or 2.58:1. I had to call an additional $99 to win a pot that was about $220 after the rake, so pot odds of 2.22:1. That means that my call was slightly -EV, had I known what he held.

However, if we look at his whole range, things look better for me. I have no way of knowing exactly what range of cards he would make this push with, but let's assume that it's any pocket pair and any two Broadway cards. Then he's 65.4% to my 34.6%, or 1.80:1, making the call mathematically correct. My guess is that that is his minimum range for that situation, and it might well be much broader. Or maybe this is all just self-serving justification. I don't claim to know for sure.

Anyway, the structure of this promotion is kind of interesting. One strategy might be to keep one's stack at the bare minimum, buying a few chips at a time, but never going entirely broke (which then triggers the minimum buy-in requirement of $50). Ideally, you'd have just $2 left when it was time for the splash-pot, because you're eligible to win the entire amount that the poker room puts in the pot before the hand begins with that minimal investment. Of course, you can't win more than an additional $2 from any other player, but spending $2 to have a 10% or more shot at $100 is a nice bargain. Obviously, some of the slots on the wheel are much less than than, but others are more. Also obviously, it costs you something to stick around, which complicates the risk/reward calculation.

One of the big drawbacks, it seems to me, is that they announce in advance when the splash-pot will occur, which will give all the local jackpot-hunting jackal nits plenty of incentive to occupy a seat for about two hands per hour, and do something else the rest of the time while leaving the game short-handed and putting no chips at risk--and they'll do it with the minimum buy-in. They could quickly kill the game if they start acting as I predict they will. (A side note: If I can figure out how the scummy angle-shooters will try to game the system, why can't the poker room managers who devise them?)

It won't matter much to me. I only visit the Riviera a few times a year, mostly when there is a billiard or archery tournament going on there. My guess is that this promotion will have run its course by the time I'm back.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Duh, winning!

There are times that the poker gods have decreed, "You will lose tonight," and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You play patiently, read opponents with laser precision, get your money in with the best of it every time--and lose, lose, lose.

There are other times that the poker gods have decreed, "You will win tonight," and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You play loose, from out of position, make every mistake in the book, get your money in bad every time--and win, win, win.

I didn't exactly play that badly tonight, but it was unmistakable that some unseen deity had declared it to be my night.

A year ago, almost to the day, I met reader Matt from Atlanta. As I reported then, he generously staked me in a tournament at the Venetian, just to have an excuse to meet and chat with me for a while. We've kept in occasional contact via Twitter since then. Several days ago he let me know he'd be in town again for a convention. He said he'd be staying at Hooters, and planned to hit their poker room Monday night. I had no other plans, and hadn't been to Hooters in a couple of months, so quickly agreed to meet him there.

I got there early and was one of the four to get the game started. Within the first ten minutes, I had called a raise with 6-6, flopped a set, turned quads, and picked up a $100 high-hand bonus in addition to the pot:

It has been several months since I last hit a jackpot--a statistically anomalous dry spell. It was high time it ended.

After that, the good times just kept rolling. I just Could. Not. Lose. I literally won every pot of over $50 that I contested the entire session, save one; I lost a race with J-J versus A-K all-in pre-flop for $45 each. Other than that, pretty much everything rolled my way. Raise with a good ace, and the flop would have an ace or my kicker as the high card. Call somebody else's raise with suited connectors, and I'd make the flush, straight, trips, or two pair. This streak was completely, utterly, off-the-charts, must-be-rigged ridiculous, and it had the full attention of every other player and all of the poker room employees.

I played for just over 2 1/2 hours, starting with the max buy-in of $200, and cashed out with $980, for a win rate of $297/hour. That is insane!

Matt and I had agreed in advance to a $5 bet over who could win a pot with and show the Mighty Deuce-Four first. Well, before he even arrived, I had scored a double-felting with it. I raised from the button to $15. The small blind moved all in for $27. The UTG player called, leaving himself only $10 behind. I called, too. The flop was K-4-x. UTG tossed in his last $10. I called, of course. Both he and the small blind had K-Q. So what came on the turn? A deuce ex machina. Two pair, thankyouverymuch. Pot to me.

(I explained to the table that not only was it my favorite hand, but it was the most powerful hand in poker. Some actually scoffed at this idea. Another player claimed that deuce-five is much stronger than deuce-four. Now it was my turn to scoff. The silly ideas that some poker players get in their heads!)

Matt was kind enough to pay me off when he arrived and heard about the Deuce-Four double-felting, even though he hadn't witnessed it. I didn't think it should count (even though other players were vouching for it having occurred) since I had an unfair head start. But I think he just wanted to give me this chip anyway:

He had been in Panama on his honeymoon, and brought it back as a souvenir for me, knowing that I collect $5 chips. I think it's lovely, and it's one that I am extremely unlikely ever to have picked up on my own. Thanks, Matt. You're a classy guy.

So how did I repay his kindness? The story gets ugly here. Gory, even. If you have small children in the room, you might want to have them leave before you read on. You don't want them having nightmares.

I had 7s-9s and limped from early position, Matt (on my left) also limped, along with a couple of others. Mr. Deuce-Five raised to $17 from the big blind. He raised a lot, but usually with good position, so this smelled of a real hand. I called, as did Matt. Three to the flop, which was J-7-7 rainbow. Ding! Mr. D-F bet $25. I smooth-called, assuming he'd bet nearly any turn, and it would either be an all-in bet or he'd be pot-committed to me shoving on him.

That's not how it worked out. Matt blindsided me with his own shove, for about $120. Mr. D-F shoved, too, for slightly more than that--almost surely with an overpair to the board. I was pretty confident Matt didn't have J-J, both because he hadn't raised pre-flop and because I think if he were that strong he would milk it more, trying to keep both me and Mr. D-F in. No way was he bluffing, and no way was he foolish enough to think that it would be a good spot to commit his stack with something like A-J, after my suspicious flat-call on a drawless flop. He had to have a 7, no two ways about it. But what kicker? I feared an ace. But Mr. D-F might well have two of the aces, and I also thought that after an ace his most likely kickers were a 6 or 8, for suited connectors. If so, I was ahead by a nose. It seemed to me at least twice as likely that his second card was a 6 or 8 as that it was an ace, so with more than 2:1 pot odds, I called, holding my breath.

I showed my 7-9, and Matt rolled over.... wait for it.... suited 7-10. D'oh!

I just barely had time to process this bad news when, Boom! Nine-ball, corner pocket. Full house. Blank on the river. A roughly $530 pot came my way. When the poker gods have made you their golden boy for the night, hitting a three-outer is child's play.

Fortunately, Matt's lovely young wife was taking the slot machines to school, making up for his sick losses. Also fortunately (for me), he laughed it off like the good sport he is. He left to go do something else, though we may meet up again tomorrow night. I've got to give the guy a sporting chance to return the suckout! Maybe my luck will have run out by then.

But I wouldn't count on it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"I never change seats"

I was playing at Imperial Palace last night. The first open seat was #2, so I took it. I immediately asked for a seat-change button, hoping to move either to one of my favorites (1 and 10), or someplace else if it seemed that strategy were to dictate it.

There was a very pleasant man in seat 1. He heard my request, which prompted him to set about telling me how he had made up his mind long ago that he would never, ever change seats under any conditions. His reason? He played in California rooms with bad-beat jackpots, and he never wanted to have to face the realization that he had moved out of a seat where the jackpot later hit and thus have the regret of having missed it.

Maybe I'm overly steeped in statistical and probabilistic thought, but it took me, oh, about one-tenth of a second to see the gaping hole in his logic. I asked him, "What about the regret of failing to move into the seat where the jackpot would later hit? What if you pass up the chance to move to seat 6, and a few minutes later the new player there wins hundreds of thousands of dollars?"

He got a slightly puzzled look on his face and said, "I hadn't thought about that."

You can influence your chance of being part of a bad-beat jackpot by your initial hand selection, so it's not completely random. But given a particular style of play, which seat you're in makes no difference in your chances of winning a jackpot. It also makes no difference whether you decide to stay in one seat for the entire session, or play musical chairs at every opportunity. I think this guy was smart enough to understand that.

He made up his mind about never moving based on a purely emotional factor: avoiding regret. But for some reason, he was only able to see one side of that coin. Having regret for an affirmative action that he had taken loomed large enough that it decided the entire issue for him. He was willing to pass up any strategic advantage, in terms of having certain players to his right or left, in order to avoid wishing he had not moved. But in years of living with and implementing this decision, the possibility of regret over inaction had never even crossed his mind, even though the chance of that outcome is exactly the same as the chance of the one he so desperately wishes to avoid.

You human beings are kind of funny creatures, what with your emotions and cognitive biases and all.

Incidentally, for a thorough discussion of all of the "what-if" questions surrounding poker jackpots, see Grange95's post here. Cliff Notes version: A bad-beat jackpot requires lots of random outcomes (e.g., the shuffle) and arbitrary decisions (e.g., when a player decides to take a restroom break) all to be aligned just so; it makes no logical sense to assign special value to some of them while ignoring others.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"Wait" means wait

Almost forgot a little incident from the Palms last night. I should have saved my purple felt picture for this post. Oh well.

The Palms has a long-running promotion that they call "Diamonds Are Forever." If you hit a diamond flush, your name is entered into a drawing. The next day they randomly select three names from the previous day's list of players who made diamond flushes, and those three people win $100 each. It's not a lot of money, and it's pretty rare to both make a diamond flush and then get chosen for a prize, but hey, something is better than nothing. I have been selected exactly once in the past.

Last night I called a flop bet with a flush draw, made it on the turn, and called another bet, hoping he would fire a third time. He didn't. I bet and he quickly folded.

As soon as he mucked, I said to the dealer, "Wait," because I could see that she was about to scoop up the board cards. She heard me, but continued with her task, and to my horror I saw the board cards gathered up, turned over, and put in with the muck. As she did this, she explained, "It's OK, he folded."

Obviously, she had concluded that my "Wait" request was because I thought she was mistakenly cleaning up the table before the hand was over. She knew that that wasn't the case, so felt free to disregard my plea.

I don't think I've ever seen this before. In joints that offer bonuses for high hands, bad beats, etc., dealers are usually extremely alert for signs that somebody has made one. They will often pause a bit before clearing away the cards, to give a player a chance to reveal his hole cards for proof of the hand. Some dealers will even ask if there is a qualifying hand, should the board cards make one possible. Motives for this conduct aren't hard to figure out; in addition to wanting to be helpful to the players, the dealer can usually expect a nice tip if the player wins free money.

It turns out that the young woman from last night is only a part-time fill-in at the Palms, and, in fact, this was only her second shift there. She usually deals at the Venetian, where there are no bonuses or jackpots, so no reason to keep the board intact for verification when a hand is over. She seemed not to even know about the diamond-flush promotion.

I was able to show my two diamonds in the hole, and two other players joined me in confirming that there were three more on the board, so in the end I didn't lose out. We'll see tomorrow if I get $100 worth of lucky. (The flush came just after midnight.)

But, hey, dealers: If a player tells you, loudly and clearly, "Wait," here's an idea. Stop what you're doing and find out why that request is being made. Sure, sometimes it will be due to a misunderstanding, and it will waste a few seconds with no gain. But since that's the worst that can happen, how about giving us the benefit of the doubt? Once in a while, we might actually have a legitimate reason to be blowing that particular whistle.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Envelope Poker

A couple of weeks ago I was playing poker at the Stratosphere on a Friday, early evening, and learned that there was a promotion going on. Hitting a flush or better earned you the right to pick an envelope from a box, in which would be an amount somewhere between $10 and $100. This ran until the envelopes ran out--which, of course, happened right before I hit my first flush.

Last night I was at the Stratosphere again, and heard that the same promotion would be running today, starting at 11:00 a.m.. Apparently they have been doing it every Friday for at least several weeks. I was told that there was $2000 to be distributed, divided among 98 envelopes. I had evening plans, so I decided to put in my poker time in the afternoon. I also had played in the 10:00 p.m. tournament last night (came in second), which got me a coupon for an extra $10 in chips, good for the next 24 hours. So the Stratosphere seemed a logical place to hang out today. Neither the extra $10 nor the promotion really mean much to me, but free money is free money, even if only a little. Since the differences between one poker room and another are pretty small anyway, I thought I might as well take what I could get.

I started off playing my usual $1-2 NLHE game. After about an hour I had just broken even, running in place. I had hit one full house, drawing an envelope with the smallest prize: $10.

I had noticed, however, that the next table over, where they were playing $2-4 limit, was sending players to the desk to pick envelopes at a rather astonishing rate compared to ours. This isn't too surprising; it's much easier and cheaper to stay in a hand to the river in a limit game than in a no-limit game. Any promotion that depends on hitting a certain poker hand (high hand bonuses, bad-beat jackpots, the Palms "diamond flush" game, etc.) will always tend to shift the jackpot-drop money from no-limit games to limit games. It's one of the reasons that I would overall prefer that such promotions didn't exist, because as an exclusively no-limit player I will, on average, not get back from them what I contribute. But it's a small effect, so I don't spend much time worrying about it.

As I said, though, the hit rate at the $2-4 limit table was impossible not to notice. Every few minutes they were sending up one, two, or three players. In order to qualify for an envelope, one's hand need not be the winner, nor did one have to use both hole cards. If, for example, there was a flush on the board, everybody still in the hand at the showdown would win an envelope, as long as the pot had the minimum $10 in it.

A while after I had noticed the frequency with which that table was collecting envelopes, I started noticing snippets of their conversation. I put two and two together, and realized what was going on. They were not playing to win pots; they were playing only to hit envelope-qualifying hands at minimal cost.

I have never, in almost five years here, done the "play to win the bonus money" thing. If there's a bonus to be had, and I hit it, fine, it's a little something extra, but I don't go out of my way to try. In no-limit games, it's surely -EV to alter play so as to try to hit some particular combination of cards, because your opponents will just make it too expensive.

In the lowest-stakes limit games, however, that is not necessarily always going to be true. It was clear that the players at the table next to mine had decided, rightly or wrongly, that it was more profitable to try to play for the envelopes than for the pots. I thought this was kind of an interesting situation, one that I hadn't explored before, so I decided to join them.

(As a side note, I used to routinely play $2-4 limit games if that was the only thing available while waiting for a seat at a no-limit game. I eventually figured out, though, that it was a long-term loser for me. Maybe some people know how to play that game well enough to beat the rake plus tips, but I apparently don't. So instead I now carry a crossword puzzle and work on that if I have to wait for a seat. I am considerably happier that way. Now I sit in $2-4 limit games only on the rare occasion that I'm playing in order to be sociable with a visiting friend who doesn't want to play higher. Today was the first exception I've made in a long time.)

Sitting in the game, I quickly confirmed the hunch I had formed from a distance. The play was almost completely passive. People were limping in with what I assume was any two suited cards and any pair, and checking down nearly everything except monster hands. The pot was usually $10 just from the limpers. But when it wasn't, and somebody had a qualifying hand, he would make a little show of counting the pot, make a bet, and somebody would give him a courtesy call to get the pot big enough. Players were obviously willing to do this for each other because they could be confident that the favor would be returned if and when they needed it.

The only time I heard anything explicitly said out loud about what was going on was when one of a cohort of five friends at the table said to a newcomer, "We're not playing to win white chips. We're playing to win envelopes." But it hardly needed to be said. Anybody who knew of the promotion, and who had passing familiarity with how low-limit poker games usually play out, would have immediately noticed how this game was seriously skewed in exactly the direction that that announcement made clear. Players were, e.g., routinely checking flopped sets and two-pair hands, and one can only assume that the reason was to be sure the hand didn't end before getting two shots at turning it into a full house. There was no bluffing, and almost no semi-bluffing with flush draws. Many more pots than usual were checked all around on every street when nobody made a qualifying hand.

It wasn't to be my lucky day. I was at this limit table for about two hours, had a net loss of about $60, and hit only one envelope-qualifying hand. Even that one was bittersweet. I had 8-8, flopped a boat with 8-10-10 and bet it as hard as I could; since I already qualified for an envelope, I figured I might as well also try to win as big a pot as I could. An opponent with K-10 and I got into the only raising war I saw the whole session, which he won when his miracle king came on the river. Grrrrrr. My envelope had $30, which made me about even on the hand.

Others, however, were doing much better. In the photo above, I was in seat 1, so it was kind of hard to take a picture of the guy in seat 10, but you can see much of his stack. He had arrived right at 11:00 and had been playing for envelopes all day. In this picture you can't see that he has two full stacks of red chips. He was sitting behind about $500, an amount almost unheard of in a game of this size. He said, very plausibly, that he had earned $240 in envelopes so far. He was definitely one of the ones I had seen popping up to the desk most often before I joined the table.

I knew only one other player in the game--Cindy (PokerMuffin) from She, too, was trying Envelope Poker for the first time. Like me, she was failing. She hit only one in the two hours or so we were both there.

Late in my session, there was some sort of kerfuffle. I didn't know what was going on, except that the player sitting next to Cindy, who was one of the group of five friends, accused her of having turned them in to the floor person, who happened to be a friend of Cindy's. She denied it. I had no idea what this was about, but soon thereafter the five friends all racked up and left, saying that they were no longer feeling welcome.

After they had gone, I asked Cindy what that was about. Apparently one of the floor people had said something to one or more of the friends--out of my earshot--about them colluding. It's not clear to me whether they left because of a genuine sense of insult, or because they felt that they weren't going to be allowed to play the same strategy anymore. It didn't matter much, because this was all happening just as it was getting to be time for me to leave for a dinner date.

As I was cashing out, the floor person--who has come to recognize me as at least a semi-regular and somebody who knows the game reasonably well--asked me whether I had noticed "collusion" going on at that table. I said no, at least not in the traditional sense in which that word is used. That is, as far as I could detect, the group of friends was not playing against each other any differently than they were playing against everybody else. They were not building large pots with two of them trapping a stranger's second-best hand in the middle, or signaling each other what they held, or soft-playing each other while playing hard against the rest of the table.

But I told her that it was perfectly clear that they were playing to maximize their chances of earning an envelope, neglecting what would otherwise be optimal strategy to win the pot. I also told her about the one verbally explicit acknowledgement of what was going on that one of them had made. She smiled, thanked me, and said that was helpful information.

This all raises an interesting question: Is such play collusion? More generally, is it cheating of any species?

I don't think so. Suppose the casino put $1000 in every envelope, or $1,000,000 in, say, each of 10 out of the 100 envelopes. It would be positively insane to play in any manner other than what I saw--the players tacitly cooperating to maximize everybody's chance of picking up an envelope. I think that mathematically there is a serious question whether the amounts available in this particular promotion were high enough to justify abandoning most efforts to win pots in favor of earning envelopes, but the ethics are the same if we change the amounts so that it is crystal clear that winning envelopes is far more valuable than winning pots.

The players are simply adjusting their strategies to maximize their earnings in rational response to the rather perverse incentives that the casino has offered them. As far as I could tell, they were not breaking any rules. They were just adapting their poker strategy as the situation warranted (or at least arguably warranted). It is no more cheating than when players slow-play aces during an aces-cracked promotion, preferring to win the bonus over maximizing the pot. It is no more cheating than when players drop down to the cheapest limit games and broaden their starting-hand range to include any two cards that can make quads or a straight flush when a bad-beat jackpot is bulging.

When casinos set up incentives that change what poker strategy will make a player the most money, they shouldn't be surprised that players do exactly that. If the room managers are too dense to anticipate how players will adjust their play to take advantage of the promotions offered, the problem lies with them, not with the players. If the room managers don't want the play of the game distorted, then they should not offer incentives that will predictably result in distortions. It is, in my opinion, misguided for the casino to blame players for responding to game-distorting incentives that the casino has put in place. Accusing them of cheating under such circumstances is muddled thinking, if you ask me.

Poker room managers should also be capable of anticipating that a promotion like this will result in many, many pots that just barely make the minimum size requirement, and that this, in turn, will result in lower-than-normal rake for the poker room while the promotion is running. This seems pretty dumb and self-defeating to me--but then again, nobody ever promoted me to be a poker room manager, so what do I know?

(Caveat: What I heard about the accusation and the players' reactions was almost all second-hand. I could have easily misunderstood something, or drawn an incorrect inference from the partial information available to me. Furthermore, it's possible that there was some sort of collusion going on that I didn't notice or know about. I don't believe that there was, but I hold open that possibility. But if the casino geniunely had evidence that there was, then I think their response should have been far more vigorous and definitive than an accusation or warning.)

What if these five friends had explicitly agreed in advance--in an arrangement that they did not disclose to the other players--that they would play this way and after the game make an even split of the profits? Would that be cheating? (I have no knowledge that this happened; I'm just constructing a hypothetical to further probe into the ethics of the situation.) I'm less confident about this opinion and more subject to being convinced otherwise, but my inclination is to say no, because the resulting play does not disadvantage anybody outside their group any more than if ten strangers sat down, each independently arriving at the realization of how silent cooperation would optimize chances for winning envelopes, and played accordingly. Just as when players silently cooperate to "gang up" on a short-stacked, all-in player late in a tournament, it is not cheating because each is still making decisions in his own best interest.

My understanding is that today was the last day of this particular promotion. Sometime next week, the Stratosphere is shifting to some version of the more common progressive high-hand bonus structure. I do not know whether the envelope promotion is ending because the room managers felt that it was being abused, or just that they change things once in a while to keep it interesting, and this one had run its natural course. Either way, I won't be sorry to see it go. It was mildly fun and interesting to experiment with a radically altered playing strategy for a couple of hours, but I don't think it's the best use of my playing time, and I'd rather not have my contributions to the jackpot pool so distortedly be given away in games I'm not going to be playing. A single two-hour trial of Envelope Poker was enough for me.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Not my night

Played at Harrah's. Lost the first chunk with Q-Q. Flop 9-2-3 rainbow. Looked safe, so I moved all-in, as my only opponent was fairly short-stacked. He called. I showed the queens. Board played out 4-5, at which point he turned over 4-5 for runner-runner two pair. Sigh.

Lost the rest in an even more diseased fashion. 10-10 in the hole. Raise. Four callers. Flop Js-9c-10s. Checked to me. I ship it all in. Pay for your draws, fellas. Two callers, so I can't show yet. Turn: Jh. Now with a full house, I relax about the draws. One remaining opponent bets enough to put the other all in, gets a call. River: 10h for quads. Now I'm really relaxed about those draws.

Until the other guy flips over his J-J for better quads.

To rub salt in the wound, Harrah's does not have a bad-beat jackpot these days (though they used to). It is the first time I have ever been in on a hand that would qualify for a bad-beat jackpot by the usual criteria.

To pour some alcohol into the already salted wound, the floor guy checks their house rule book and finds that when there are two high hands at the same time, only the winner collects the high-hand bonus.

I left with nothing but a hard-to-top cooler story, and the package of Double-Stuf Oreos I bought on the way home for self-soothing.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Something REALLY beautiful

Now where's my high-hand bonus?

This is, by the way, the first royal I've hit since living in Vegas, live or online.

Full hand history below, though it's not especially interesting.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The first rule of Jackpot Club is: You don't talk about Jackpot Club

I have kept Richard Marcus's blog about poker cheating and other casino cheating in my RSS feed--despite him being a flagrant, frequent, and unrepentant thief of online content from legitimate writers--because it does serve as a useful aggregator of news about the subject. He had a post today about a poker bad-beat jackpot being nullified at the Royal River Casino in Flandreau, South Dakota, because one player talked about the possbility of a bad-beat jackpot while the hand was in progress.

Because he is an unethical person, Mr. Marcus reprints an article from the local television station, KSFY, without even providing a link to the original. His modest "reform" since being caught habitually plagiarizing is that he now names a source, but then steals the material anyway, with no link to the original. But it's easy to find:

(I'm sure Mr. Marcus just "accidentally" overlooked this notice at the end of the article that he copied without permission: "2010 ksfy Action News. All RIGHTS RESERVED. This MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED.")

The article doesn't give a lot of detail about what actually happened. The claim is that only two words were spoken, and we aren't even told what those words were, or what the exact context was.

For my purposes here, it doesn't matter. What matters is that every poker room I know of that has high-hand and/or bad-beat jackpots has a rule in place to the effect that the awarding of the jackpot may or will be voided if the players discuss the jackpot possibility during the play of the hand.

This rule is eminently sensible. It helps prevent distorting play just to chase down a jackpot.

But even if you were to disagree about its purpose or utility, just the fact that it's there on the books and MIGHT be enforced, as it was in South Dakota, should be enough to shut up the nearly inevitable talking about the jackpot that occurs every time a board makes it possible. It seems that there is always at least one idiot that just can't resist pointing out what is obvious to anybody paying attention, and that one idiot might cost everybody a whole friggin' lot of money.

The worst thing is that the guilty idiot is at least as often the dealer as one of the players. I saw this just a few days ago at Binion's. The flop was three parts of a royal flush. When the turn paired the board, the dealer said, "Here we go!" I wanted to dope-slap him. In fact, I think that dope-slapping any imbecile who violates the rule should be explicitly permitted--even encouraged--by poker room rules.

At least one Vegas poker room recently terminated an ace-cracked type jackpot because of rampant collusion and discussion during the hand.

I have written about the whole problem of talking about jackpots while the hand is still in progress several times: here, here, and most especially here.

Even if you somehow manage to forget the first rule of Jackpot Club, please try to remember the second rule of Jackpot Club: You DO NOT talk about Jackpot Club!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Deuce-four wins big, big, big at Borgata

The above image was just emailed to me, accompanied by the following message. I have no immediate verification, but also no good reason to doubt its authenticity:

Good Evening Mr Grump,

The attached photo shows the the bad beat jackpot that was won at
Borgata yesterday by 2H 4H rivering a straight flush against another players
flopped Quads. By Atlantic City standards it was a small jacpot, only
$52,000. $24k for the quads as the loser, 12k for the straight flush as
the winner, and $3k for everyoune else dealt in the hand.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

"Feeling good, Louis!"

Tonight was one of those rare nights where it all comes together.

I played my best poker, to the extent that I can't think of a single decision that I would have made differently--at least none that would have mattered more than a few bucks.

I never got ridiculously unlucky, and I got lucky in a few good spots. The most notable of these was flopping four queens, which won me a $75 high-hand jackpot in addition to the $180 pot. (That makes at least my fifth set of flopped quads in Vegas. See here for the others, and here for the math of the probability of this occurrence.)

There were blissfully few occurences of the many things on my list of pet peeves.

I played for a few hours at the Venetian and then a few at Imperial Palace, making a decent amount of money in each venue.

In each place I got to share the table with two pleasant and interesting people (making four in all--very unusual for one day) that I have met through this blog and/or through

I had fun with Twitter.

I had some good chats with dealers that I like.

I generated an idea for a new occasional series of blog posts.

I even got to eat an ice cream cone while I played.

In short, I had fun, had some good fortune, played well, made some money, and exercised my atrophied social muscles a little. It's pretty rare that all of those things happen in one day.

I'm going to try to appreciate the resulting good feeling while it lasts.

(The post title is the last line of one of my all-time favorite movies, Trading Places. I'm not sitting on a beach on a Caribbean island with a drink in my hand, my girlfriend at my side, and millions of dollars in the bank, but it's close enough.)