Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hard Rock stories

Home from the Hard Rock. This was one of the occasional sessions that generated a whole bunch of little stories and observations, none of which really deserve separate posts, so I'm lumping them together here.

New chip

I noticed a bunch of copies of the above-pictured chip in circulation tonight. They don't actually say "2008" on them, but I've never seen them before, and they were all obviously brand-spankin' new--clean, perfectly sharp edges, etc.--so must have just been issued this week. Happy Labor Day, all.

Another jackpot hand

I was in the small blind, unraised pot, with the 6 and 9 of clubs. I threw in the extra dollar to see if I might hit something on the flop.

I guess I kinda did. The flop was the 10, 7, and 8 of clubs. (See photo below.) I flopped a straight flush. It has been only 11 days since my previous flopped straight flush. The interval between the first and second ones had been about 16 months, and now less than two weeks!

Unlike the other recent one at Planet Hollywood, this one was not the mortal nuts. It was the best possible hand at the moment, but in theory it could be beaten if an opponent held two parts of a royal flush and hit the remaining two perfect cards to combine with the 10 of clubs on the flop to make a royal flush. I was not too worried about this possibility. I would have bet everything I own and everything I could borrow that my hand would still be best when the board was complete.

I was actually a lot more concerned about getting the pot to the minimum required, after my little fiasco at the Palms a while back, where I forgot about that requirement and the pot was $1 short of what was necessary. At Planet Hollywood, I had two opponents who did the betting for me, but tonight nobody was interested in the pot. Finally somebody made a $5 bet on the turn, and I min-raised him to $10 in order to virtually ensure a call. Whew! That did it. I made another bet on the river, but he folded what had been just a straight draw that missed.

How hard is it to flop a straight flush with a suited 6-9? Well, there are only two specific combinations of cards that will work: the 7-8-10 of the same suit, as I got, or the 5-7-8. With the two hole cards out of the deck, there are 19,600 different flops possible (disregarding what order they come in, since that is irrelevant), as given by the operation C(50,3). So only about one time out of 10,000 that you see a suited 6-9 will you flop a straight flush.

I'll say it yet again: My unlucky streak is definitely over!

The high-hand bonus was reasonably high this time: I got $231 for my display of exceptional poker skill. That's one of the highest I've ever hit--might actually be the highest, since I don't keep track of them, though I have a vague memory of there having been one over $300 a long time ago.

It was a rough poker night otherwise, with almost nothing working out well for me. That extra $231 boost turned what would have been an "L" in my books into a "W," and that would have broken a nice little streak of Ws I have going, so I was doubly grateful for it.

Celebrity recognition

Fairly late in my six-hour session, two guys on vacation together sat down on my immediate left, in seats 2 and 3. I'm not sure what prompted it, but the guy in 3 said to the guy in 2, while pointing to me, "Show him that picture. I'll bet he'll know who it is. He looks like he follows poker." Uh-oh. The pressure was on.

Fortunately, I did indeed recognize the photo on Seat 2's cell phone. It was Jack Ury, the oldest man to play in the World Series of Poker. (I quoted him for a "Poker Gems" entry here.) Turns out that the guy in Seat 2 is Mr. Ury's grandson. (Come to think of it, maybe it's great-grandson. This guy looked to be in his mid-20s, and Jack Ury is 93, so great-grandson would fit the chronology more naturally.)

I hear that the ESPN cameras spent a lot of time at Jack's table again this year, so when their coverage of the Main Event begins Tuesday evening, we may well get to see and hear more of him. That would certainly be more welcome than a lot of the buffoons and jerks and malcontents they tend to highlight.

The Duke has found Hard Rock

I saw "The Duke" at the Hard Rock tonight. I haven't seen him in months.

"The Duke" is a legend in local poker-playing circles. And by "legend" I mean "laughingstock."

If you've ever seen him, you'll know him by description, even if you haven't heard his nickname before. He goes to poker rooms dressed to the nines: Expensive tailored double-breasted suit, a dapper hat, a carnation in his lapel, pencil-thin moustache, tie bar, jewelry, long hair in a neat ponytail. He seems to prefer downtown, but ventures out to the Strip sometimes. I've spotted him at Caesars and a couple of other places in addition to the Golden Nugget and Binion's, which appear to be his main hangouts.

He gravitates toward games with no cap on the buy-in, so that he can pull his trademark stunt: He plops anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000 cash on the table. Mind you, this can even be in a $1-$2 NLHE game, in which it is uncommon to see even a stack of $1000.

The other remarkable thing about his poker room visits is that he doesn't play poker. He dumps his chips and money on the table, then wanders off. I have no idea what he does during these hours, but it isn't poker. He comes back every 30 or 60 minutes to play one hand, thus preserving his seat in the game, then leaves again. I've never yet seen him do anything but fold the one or two hands it takes for him to hold his seat for another block of time, though I've heard stories from others that he does actually play one now and again. When he does, I hear that his main strategy is to grab his bundles of cash and push them in, forcing his opponents to a decision for all of their chips.

True to form, tonight when I looked over at Duke's table, he was there only about one time in ten. I would see him walk in, apparently play a hand, and be walking out of the room again within two minutes, and stay out for long stretches.

His conduct is really terribly rude, because he ties up a seat that all of the other players would want to see occupied by somebody actually engaged in the game. If I ran a poker room, I would crack down on him, and not let him get away with playing just one or two hands an hour.

If there is to be a cluster of name-brand pros playing anywhere in town (e.g., a charity tournament), Duke will be there. He loves to be seen with them and pretend that they are all his friends. Maybe he has fooled himself into thinking that they are.

I used there a key phrase to understanding this odd little man: "be seen." His poker room visits have nothing whatsoever to do with poker, and everything to do with being seen. It's a pretty sick, pathetic personality that invests so much time and effort in that goal.


I also saw another colorful poker character tonight. Marsh is a guy I used to play with regularly at the Hilton, but have only bumped into a couple of times in the year or so since that room closed. He looks like a classic 1960s hippie transported forward in time: long, straggly grey hair, tie-dye shirt, fringed leather jacket, tinted John Lennon glasses, the works. But he's a very cool guy and a decent poker player--always one of my favorites to have at the table.

The most fascinating thing he tends to wear is a t-shirt on which he has imprinted a blown-up version of his actual Nevada driver's license. I've never asked him about it, but it seems apparent that the reason for this is to show off the fact that his real, actual, legal name is "Marsh Mallow." There are some Mallows in the phone book, though Marsh is not listed. I don't know if he was given that name at birth or changed in at some point. If the latter, I don't know why. But he seems awfully proud of it, however it happened.

Hypocrisy abounds

By far the largest pot of the night happened when three deep-stacked players got into a raising war, ending up with all of them getting all in. One started with about $300, the other two each had well over $400. $1100+ pots just don't happen very often in $1-2 games.

The hand actually looked pretty uninteresting before and on the flop. In fact, I can't even tell you exactly what happened, because I wasn't involved and it looked like nothing much was going to be happening. Then on the turn the raises started and, astonishingly, kept coming until all the chips were in.

Player A had K-3. Player C had K-5. The flop had been K-5-3. I think the turn was a 10. The river card gave the pot to Player A when he hit another 3, with all the money already in, to make a full house.

Player A was the shortest stack, so there was a side pot between B and C, which C took. B never showed his cards.

The strange thing, though, was that as soon as he saw his two opponents' hands, Player B started bemoaning how badly they played, going all in with K-3 and K-5. He kept this up, on and off, for at least ten minutes. Yet he never showed his own hand, and when asked what he had had, just replied, "It doesn't matter." There had been two diamonds on board by the turn, and after B left the table our best guess was that he had been on a flush draw, maybe some sort of combined straight and flush draw. He had definitely been the most reluctant to get his chips into the middle.

But still, he apparently couldn't beat Player C's two pair (kings and fives), else he would have shown his cards and claimed the side pot. So he was openly, loudly, and at length chastizing two players for getting their money in with better hands than he had when he called their bets! This was one of the most brazen displays of poker hypocrisy that I've ever witnessed.

He was seriously on tilt. A few hands later, after rebuying for $300, he got felted again. He had a made hand of some sort (I think it was just top pair), and lost when a gambling-type guy hit a flush draw after all the money was in. This put him on Super Duper Ultra Monkey Tilt, which was highly amusing to watch. Unfortunately, right at that point he was granted his wish for a table change, and went elsewhere to spew his chips. Dang! I wanted me some of that action! He left still spouting off about the horrible play, saying that he hoped he would find a table where people actually knew how to play poker.

I don't think I'll ever get tired of observing the crazy personality traits that poker brings out in people.

OK, you can breathe again now

Maybe an hour after that big hand, Player A, now stacked at around $900, tangled with the other big stack at the table--the same one who had earlier hit the flush to felt the hypocrite for the second time--who was sitting on about $700. I don't remember who started the bets and raises, but they went back and forth reraising each other until they were both all in--and we hadn't even seen a flop yet! I'm quite sure I've never seen a $1400 pot before the flop in a $1-2 game.

Well, the reason for the bidding war soon became clear: A-A versus A-A. There was some drama when the flop brought two spades, but that tension was short-lived when the turn card did not follow suit.

Each player made $15 or so on the hand, because of a couple of others who called the first raise before dropping out of the contest. Heck, it was almost worth that much just in entertainment value!

And that was my rather strange night at the Hard Rock.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)