Friday, April 20, 2007

Crazy night of poker (non-grumpy content)

Nothing profound herein--just two stories from a wild night of play.

Went to the Hilton, played normally, built up my $200 investment to a little over $700, and was feeling ready to quit, when....

HE walked in.

HE is this insane dude that comes in once in a while. I've only seen him there once before, but everybody that plays with him even once remembers him, and the poker room staff know him well. I won about $300 off of him a couple of weeks ago.

Here's how he plays: He buys $100 or $200 or $300 in chips, sits down, and announces himself all in before the cards are even dealt. He's just daring people to call. He doesn't even look as his cards until the hand is over. He considers this tremendous fun, whether he wins or loses. If he wins and doubles or triples up, then he starts actually playing, although even then he goes all in at the drop of a hat. But he thinks the game doesn't really start until after he's doubled or tripled his chips through dumb luck at the beginning.

Tonight he lost 8 times in a row, never winning once. And he left laughing.

Well, I got more than my fair share of that, because on about his 5th rebuy, I was in the big blind (last to act before the flop) with pocket aces. And 3 other people called the maniac's $100 raise before the action got to me. Aces are a big favorite against any other hand, and even against any 2 other hands. But start putting them against 3 or 4 other hands, and the probability of winning drops. Against 5 hands, the aces are less than 50% to hold up. So I reraised to $400 (I was very glad I had enough chips to do that). One of the callers had only about $170 total, so he was pretty much obligated to call, but the other two callers dropped out, which meant that there was $200 in dead money in the pot. My aces held up nicely against both remaining opponents.

So I finished up with my biggest Hilton cash-out ever: $1239, a $1039 profit.

It was just after midnight. The Sahara runs a popular midnight tournament, usually getting 50-75 people. If you can time it right, getting into a no-limit cash game when people are busting out of a tournament can be very profitable, because they tend to be angry and frustrated, and they play a little crazy. So I went there. Within the first few hands, I doubled up my initial $100 against a guy who really should have known he was beat.

Went card-dead for maybe 30 or 45 minutes. Then the crazy hand occurred.

I have the two red 8s. I limp in. Guy on the button raises to $15. Six or 7 people call, because he raises way too often to always have good hands when he does. The flop had three hearts, K-10-9. First guy checks. Second guy bets $25. It's my turn.

I've got three pieces of a straight flush. I don't really expect the next two cards to both be the perfect ones to give me that, but I can make a flush with any heart, and there are some combinations that can also make me a straight. But most importantly, I've been playing very few hands while I get to know the table, so I think I can pull off a big bluff here. I assume that the first two players don't have flushes right now; the first guy could have nothing at all, since he checked, and I think it's most likely that the guy who bet has a king, maybe even 2 pair, and likely also has one heart for a flush draw as sort of a backup plan. If I go all-in here, they will have to guess that I have 2 hearts and I flopped a flush. With my tight image, it has a decent chance of working. There's already about $100 in the pot, so it's worth trying to win it.

At first it looked like it might work, as the players behind me folded. But then the guy who checked went all in, and so did the guy who bet the $25! Yikes! That wasn't supposed to happen! Even worse, my guess about their hands was completely wrong--they BOTH had 2 hearts in their hands, so they had BOTH already made their flushes. And both were higher than the flush I could make, even if another heart came! (One was the ace-high nut flush, the other a queen-high flush.) Disaster! Oh well. Sometimes these things work and sometimes they blow up in your face. But I wasn't devastated, because (1) I felt like I was already playing with free/found money; and (2) getting caught bluffing can repay any losses later when people call me when I have a really strong hand, because they tend to think I might be bluffing again.

But hold the phone--the next two cards were another king, then the 8 of clubs. I made a full house (three 8s and two kings), and beat both flushes! When I got home, I used a web-based poker odds calculator to enter the scenario: when all the money went in after the flop, I had only a 3% chance of winning.

That is one of the worst suckouts I've ever pulled off. To get the two perfect cards to make a full house to beat TWO other all-in players who weren't on draws, but already had made flushes, is just extraordinarily lucky. One of them got pretty pissed off. The other just said, "Unbelievable. Oh well--it happens." I should have lost about $130 on that hand, and instead ended up making almost $300.

This is the cruelest game ever invented. But it's nice to be on the giving side of the cruelty for a change, instead of the receiving end.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Feels so good (non-grumpy content)

On Friday, for some reason, I was thinking about the frequency of getting the high poker hands (four-of-a-kind and straight flushes) that qualify for jackpots in many local casinos. To the best of my recollection, I had not hit a straight flush since about August, though I had seen quads three times since then. I was thinking that I must be about due for a straight flush.

Yesterday I played in the weekly Hilton Saturday afternoon tournament--went out as the week's official Bubble Boy. Oh well--it was a "nothing you can do about it" situation. Anyway, I then sat down in a $3-$6 limit game while waiting for a $1-$2 no-limit seat to open up. My second hand, I had the 7-8 of diamonds.

Flop came 4-5-6 of diamonds. Not only did I flop a straight flush, I flopped the highest possible straight flush. This was that rare situation of the immortal nuts: I was 100% certain to win the pot, no matter how many other people were in it, no matter what hole cards they had, and no matter what cards fell on the turn and river. You just don't get that very often. It was particularly sweet because 6 other people were in the hand, and betting and raising to the cap! I won what I'm pretty sure is the biggest pot I've ever taken in a $3-6 game.

Alas, the jackpot amount was only $34, the lowest of all of the straight flush jackpots available, since it was the only one that had been hit recently. *sigh* just my luck. The rest of the straight-flush bonuses were hovering between $150 and $505, and I get the one that's sitting at $34. The last two times I had quads at the Hilton, on each occasion the same hand had been hit earlier in the day, and I racked up the big $20 minimum bonus.

Still, it's one of the loveliest sights in poker: an all-diamond flop of 4-5-6 when I'm holding the 7-8. So, so, so pretty!