Saturday, July 05, 2008

Poker gems, #141

Yet another vivid description of our beloved game from Pauly at Tao of Poker:

If you want a happy hobby, try a ceramics class. If you want to have your balls shaved by a cheese grater every couple of hours, then poker is for you.

Poker gems, #140

From Tao of Poker's Pauly, reporting on 2008 WSOP Main Event Day 1b:

During breaks the massage girls huddle up in the corner, sit down, relax, and exchange masseuse bad beat stories. One of the hot ones complained about one guy who smelled very bad. Another talked about the old creepy guy who wanted his feet massage. I know what you were thinking. It wasn't Sklansky.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Stories from the WSOP Main Event

Here are a few mostly unrelated stories from the first two days of the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event, which began yesterday, all as reported by PokerNews, plus my comments on them.

The "All In" Paddle

Many poker fans will remember the debacle involving the Milwaukee's
Best "All-In Button" back in 2006. The idea behind it was for players to be able
to push the button into the middle in lieu of moving in towers and towers of
chips. Naturally, there was a great deal of confusion regarding the button, and
some pros were so horrified at the concept that they immediately threw it away
upon arriving at their Day 1 table.

In 2008, we now have the "All-In Paddle." Given to the dealers only, it
resembles something one might use to bid at an auction. The paddle will be
raised to notify the floor of all-in-and-call situations at each table.

Mercifully, there have been few paddle sightings thus far in the opening
hour of the Main Event.

I don't have anything worthwhile to say about this year's "all-in paddles" for use by the dealers, but I find the characterization of the 2006 trial of the all-in button puzzling. I thought the all-in button provided to players was a great idea. I still think that, in fact. Yes, it caused some problems, when players thought they could toss it in as a joke and not have it count. They quickly learned, though, that such action was taken in about as much humor as TSA screeners have when you "joke" that you have a bomb planted in your suitcase.

The great advantage of players having an all-in button is that it eliminates the problems of players not hearing a verbal all-in declaration. This can happen because of the ambient noise in the room, because of a player's hearing loss, music playing in earphones, just not paying attention, etc. Doyle Brunson was knocked out of the 2004 Main Event because of exactly this problem, and it would not have happened that way if he could have had an all-in button to push into the middle of the table. In fact, I suspect that his accidental elimination was one of the prime factors behind the eventual implementation of the all-in button. (See here for details of the Brunson story.)

I never heard of any problems with the trial other than the clowning around. I also never heard of whatever complaints professional players had about the idea, mentioned in the PokerNews post. Then again, I wasn't nearly as tuned in to the poker world then as I am now, so I could have easily missed such discussion. If any readers know what problems or complaints led to the trial lasting just one year before being abandoned, I'd like to hear about it in the comments section. What made it a "debacle"? Absent anything horrendous, if I were in charge, they'd keep using the all-in button.

She Said, She Said

Erica Schoenberg raised to 525 from middle position and a woman in the big
blind called. The flop came 7h-4s-10h. The BB checked, Schoenberg bet 700, and
her opponent called. The turn was the Kd. Again the BB checked. This time
Schoenberg bet 1,500, and again was called.

The river brought the 8s. The big blind checked, and Schoenberg bet 2,500.
Her opponent tossed out a 5,000 chip, though didn't announce her bet.
Schoenberg, thinking she had been called, turned over her hand -- Kc-10c, kings
and tens. Her opponent, thinking she had been called, showed hers -- 6s-5d, a
rivered straight.

Schoenberg, seeing she was beat, was obviously not putting anymore chips in
the pot. After some discussion, it was ruled as if she had folded to the
check-raise. Schoenberg now has 12,000.

If this is really what happened, then it may be the worst floor ruling in the years that I've been paying attention to the WSOP. There's a lot of variability from casino to casino in the details of their poker rules, but one constant (at least I've never come upon an exception) is the oversized-chip rule. This says that in both cash games and tournaments, a player facing a bet who places into the pot a single chip that is larger than the amount of the bet will be deemed to have only called, not raised, unless the player announces a raise before the chip hits the felt. This is true even if the chip is large enough to constitute a full legal raise, and even if the player has plenty of other smaller-denomination chips that he could have used to make the call. (The latter is a frequent protest of a player who learns about this rule the hard way. "If I had wanted to just call, I would have put in one of these $100 chips, not a $500 chip!" Too bad, dude.)

This is not an obscure, infrequently-resorted-to rule. In fact, it comes up on nearly every hand of poker that is played, at least at the $1-2 no-limit games that I frequent. In the majority of hands there is at least one player who limps in for the amount of the big blind by putting out a single red ($5) chip without saying anything. Both he and the other players all rely on the rule to know that this is a call, not a raise. It is absolutely inconceivable that any dealer or floor person at the WSOP doesn't know of this rule, or that the WSOP doesn't abide by it. In fact, it is codified in the 2008 WSOP rules, at #55: "Putting a single oversized chip into the pot will be considered a call if the player doesn’t announce a raise." (Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that they will always abide by it, as we have documentation of other cases of tournament staff disregarding the written rules.)

Schoenberg's opponent's offering of a 5000-denomination chip in response to a 2500 bet should absolutely have been deemed just a call.

Actually, this ruling is, or would be, so off-the-wall bizarre that for once I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the WSOP staff, and assume that it's PokerNews that got the facts wrong, or at least omitted something crucial. I contacted the blogger who wrote the story, and he admitted that he wasn't sure it was right, and the reporter who had relayed the facts to him had apparently been similarly uncertain that he had all the necessary details. Given that, frankly, I think that PokerNews shouldn't have run the story in the first place. If they do, in fact, have something wrong in the report, then they have falsely made the WSOP tournament staff look like they either don't know their own rules or are making incredibly stupid and arbitrary decisions. They're perfectly capable of such, but before making that accusation, I'd prefer to be as certain as possible that the facts really do indict them.

[Edit, July 5, 2008] I think I must have had a stroke at some point. Somehow I read the PN post as implying that Schoenberg was required to match--and lose--the full 5000 that her opponent had put in. That would indeed be a horrible decision. But it doesn't say that. Somehow my brain translated the statement that Schoenberg had folded (or that it was decided to treat the situation as if she had folded--same thing) into saying that the decision was that Schoenberg had called the raise, then mucked. That's not what it says.

Look at it this way: There are only two possible functional outcomes--either Schoenberg loses just the 2500 that she initially bet, or she loses 5000. It's kind of strange, rules-wise, to conclude that her opponent's raise was valid and that Schoenberg folded to it, but the end result is the same as if her opponent's action were interpreted as just a call. The proper decision would be that her opponent just called. But either way, Schoenberg loses 2500, not 5000, so in practical terms it doesn't really matter much what labels are put on the actions.

Of course, nothing that I wrote above explicitly says that the final decision was that Schoenberg was forced to forfeit 5000. But it would be dishonest of me to deny that that's what I was thinking when I wrote it. Besides, I wouldn't have deemed the whole thing worthy of a rant if I had been thinking that the outcome was that Schoenberg just lost the 2500. My apologies for basing that whole grump on a misreading of the PN post.

Finally, these last two stories are just for amusement, and don't need further comment. When you have somewhere between 5000 and 8000 poker players churning out hand after hand through a 14-day tournament, you're going to get all sorts of astronomically improbable card combinations, such as these two (one from yesterday, one from earlier today):

Quad Aces are Good, Right? ... RIGHT?

Motoyuki "Moto" Mabuchi raises to 850 in middle position and the button

The flop is Ax-Qd-9x and both check. The turn is 10d and Moto bets 1,600.
The button calls. The river is Ad and Moto bets 2,500. The button raises to
8,500 and Moto reraises all in.

The button calls. Moto shows Ax-Ax for quad aces, but the button has Kd-Jd
for the royal flush. Moto is eliminated in stunning

Knocked Down on All Fours

Huge roar from across the room just now as we had an all-in on the
river with the board showing 4d-Kh-Qc-Qd-4c.

The one who was covered showed 4h-4s for quad fours. His opponent
turned over Qs-Qh for quad queens.

I tell ya, tournament poker is SO rigged!

Game integrity not worth much at the Flamingo

One of the TV commercials that I probably saw a thousand times in my misspent, lazy youth featured some grizzled old cowboys playing poker, while one of them (or maybe more--I can't remember for sure) is eating a chocolate bar. One of them scowls, "These cards are marked!" Another one chimes in, "They're a mess!" A third one says, "A chocolate mess!" Sure enough, there are chocolaty fingerprints all over the cards. The players are up in arms--literally. But just before they shoot the guy with the sticky fingers, the M&M guys show up and save the day, because you can enjoy those candies without getting chocolate all over your hands. (Sadly and astonishingly, it seems that nobody has put this classic spot up on the web anywhere. I wanted to link to it or embed it here, but couldn't locate it.)

You see, there was a time when poker players and dealers actually cared about marked cards.

It appears that those days are gone--at least at the Flamingo, where I was playing last night.

I was one of ten players starting up a new table. On one of the first hands, when I looked down at my face-down hole cards, I instantly noticed a crease along one of the short edges of one of the cards. I noted that it was the 7 of spades. I was in Seat 1, so as I folded, I pointed out the crease to the dealer and suggested having the card replaced. She squinted and tilted the card this way and that, but said she couldn't see the crease. I pointed to it again. She finally saw it, but said, "I don't think anybody could see that from across the table," stuffed it in the muck with the rest of the deck, and moved on.

I wonder who at the Flamingo decided that the standard for deciding to replace a card is whether the distinctive flaw can be seen from "across the table," and when this rule was implemented, and where it is written down. It's an absurd criterion. I only need to be able to see it when it's lying on the table in front of the player next to me in order to gain an advantage. Additionally, if I'm sitting next to the dealer and can see every card from up-close as it is mucked, I don't need Superman's telescopic vision to see prominent marks or creases.

Suppose I'm in the big blind and get to see a free flop while holding the 7-2. The flop is, say, 7-7-K. Now, I like my trip sevens, but I would normally have to worry that somebody else has the last 7 in the deck with any kicker bigger than my deuce. On this hand, however, maybe I noticed that creased 7 of spades pass right in front of me as the player to my left mucked it from first position before the flop. Knowing that that card is out of play gives me an enormous amount of leverage in the hand--and I didn't have to be able to spot the flaw from "across the table."

Anyway, I decide not to put up a big fuss about it yet. I'll just wait and do my usual process (which I explained in a previous post here). Maybe an hour later I looked down at my hole cards and spotted that pesky edge crease again. Sure enough, it was the same 7s. Now I had proven to myself that I could identify it with confidence, and would prove that fact to the dealer at the next opportunity. It was maybe half an hour later that the crease caught my eye again as it headed for the muck, folded by another player. I asked the dealer to check the card, and if it was the 7s, they should probably replace it. It was, and they did. This dealer didn't fuss or argue about it, just called for a new card. I liked her for that.

She lost my endorsement, however, just a few minutes later. I was dealt the ace and king of spades. The ace had an enormous dimple in the center. I have no idea what caused it, but it looked as though somebody had tried to punch a hole in the center, but didn't quite penetrate. It was large enough that the other card couldn't lie flat on top of it, but wobbled like a teeter-totter. This had to be quite new, because I surely would have noticed it before.

When the hand was over, I pointed out the dimple to the dealer. She called for the replacement, but clearly didn't think it necessary. No less than three times while she was waiting for the floor to respond, she told me that I could find flaws like that in every deck in the room, and it really didn't need replacing. She ended each of these little speeches with a chuckle, presumably so that I wouldn't resent her comments, but they were unmistakably calculated to try to keep me from asking for any more card replacements. She said that the fingernails of female players often put little marks in the cards.

I understand that, and know the kind of tiny marks she's talking about, but this was ten or twenty times more prominent than that. It was a preposterous comparison to make.

A few weeks ago I was playing at Imperial Palace. On my first hand, I noticed a small but visible crease in one of the cards. I dutifully pointed it out to the dealer, who smiled, and told me that I'd find those on most of the cards. At first I was annoyed that he was ignoring my concern, but as I was dealt more hands, I learned that he was entirely correct. Apparently that room has one or more out-of-tune Shufflemasters that is putting a little crease on cards as they run through it. The majority of the cards have one or two such marks, all in the same location (or in symmetrical locations, if the card has been marked twice, once in each orientation). It's kind of strange, but it's not a problem, because the ubiquity of the marks means that they don't give away any useful information.

That was not the situation at the Flamingo with either of the two damaged cards I noticed. I'm not making mountains out of molehills.

When I was in poker dealer school, I bought, for practice purposes, a deck of top-grade Kem plastic cards, the brand used in most poker rooms. I think it cost $30. I assume that the casinos get them substantially cheaper than that, buying in large quantities--especially a huge chain like Harrah's that is buying thousands of decks at a time. So let's assume that the Flamingo can get a deck for about $10 each. That's about 20 cents per card, or about 4% of the amount of the $5 maximum rake that they take on one hand. Yet they balk at replacing cards that have become so damaged that they are readily identifiable to any player who is paying attention.

How much is game integrity worth to the people that run the Flamingo poker room? Less than 20 cents, for sure, since they put up a fuss about spending that much to protect it.

Addendum, July 5, 2008

Many thanks to commenter "Michael" for pointing me to this:

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Toothpick People redux

Back in April I groused about The Toothpick People, guys who sit at the poker table sucking/chewing on toothpicks. It's stupid and makes the person doing it look stupid.

Even worse, though, is doing it on national television. Look at this bespectacled moron, Brett Faustman, who was on the World Poker Tour last week. (I'm just getting around to watching it now.) He chewed on his pointy little pacifier through the whole final table.

I think that when he was preparing for his television debut, he thought, "How can I show the world what a country bumpkin Southern redneck hick backwoods hillbilly inbred half-wit imbecile I am? [Light bulb clicks on over his head.] I know! I'll chew on a toothpick! Everybody recognizes that as a symbol of pure good ol' boy idiocy!"

And whaddaya know--it worked. It projected exactly the image he was shooting for. Next best thing to growing out a mullet.

Congratulations, you dweeb.

Unconvincing response from PokerStars

Astute readers may have noticed, in my last post about a painful razz hand, that I have moved up in stakes. For the last ten days or so, I've been playing $1/$2 instead of my previous comfort level of $0.50/$1. I have Shamus to thank for that (though he doesn't know it). He shared with me some of his razz hands by email, and I noticed that he was playing $1/$2.

This had two effects. First, I thought, "Well, dammit, if he can do it, so can I." Which, in this case isn't really an ego thing like it sounds, just a recognition that I'm pretty sure he hasn't played much more razz than I have, so the step up apparently doesn't require a lot of additional experience. Secondly, I noticed in the hand histories that the play isn't markedly better a step higher on the ladder. So I made the leap, and, sure enough, have continued to turn a small but consistent profit.

Anyway, that's not what this post is about. This is about how tired I'm getting of every table having one or two players that, for whatever reason, won't turn on the auto-ante option. I can't figure out what they have against it. It's a royal pain in the butt to have to click "ante" at the beginning of every hand, and it annoys everybody else at the table to make them wait while you do it.

Today I had had enough, and wrote the following email to PokerStars support:

I hope you can explain something to me. I have been playing a lot of razz
cash games on your site lately. It seems that nearly always there is at least
one player at the table who won't turn on the auto-ante feature, and every hand
is delayed for 10 or 15 seconds while we all wait for the same guy every time
around. It's really annoying, and also cuts way down on the number of hands per
hour we play (and thus cuts down on the rake you can collect).

I can't figure out why auto-ante is an optional feature. If a player is
going to be in a hand, he's going to have to put in the ante, so why is doing it
automatically optional? If somebody wants to sit out for a hand or for several
hands, there's the "sit out next hand" button. In effect, all that having
auto-ante be optional does is to give every player the ability to delay the
beginning of the next hand anytime he wants to, or anytime he is not paying
sufficient attention. I can't for the life of me see any positive benefit to
giving players the power to delay the game.

Can you explain what advantage PokerStars sees in having auto-ante be
optional, given its obvious downside?

Thank you.

To the site's credit, their team responded as quickly as they always do. Within about an hour, I had this reply:

Thank you for your email. I appreciate your comments. The reason that
players have the option of ante-ing is only because, if they are involved in the
prior hand, they may not have time to turn of the ante feature should they take
a bad beat and decide not to play anymore. I suspect that many would be upset at
losing a big hand and then being forced to play the next one when they may well
have wanted to walk away from the table or even quit the game. To that end, we
must give players the option of the decision.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to explain. Please let me know
if there is anything else that we can do for you.


PokerStars Support Team

I think this is bogus. That is, I'm willing to believe that that really is the rationale underlying the decision, but I think it grossly misbalances the pros and cons. They're willing to let one slowpoke at the table irritate seven other players every hand for hours on end, so that, once in a while, one person who suffers a big loss and wants to leave the table without playing even one more hand, can slip away without paying one little lousy ante, if he has had the foresight to leave "auto ante" off the entire time he has been playing.

Huh? How is that even close to a rational justification? From my point of view, the burden and annoyance imposed is about a thousand times greater than the annoyance potentially avoided. If a player has just taken a huge loss (yet something less than all of what he was playing, obviously, because anteing for the next hand is not an issue if you just got felted)--say, at these levels, a $50 pot, which is huge--is he really going to be so much further devastated by having another dime taken from his stack for the next hand's ante before he can click the "leave table" button? That makes no sense at all to me.

Furthermore, if the stated concern were really at the heart of it, PokerStars could add an option that would address it. As I envision it, you could set it to either (1) stop the deal and ask you if you want to continue, or (2) automatically put you in "sit out next hand" mode, if some triggering threshold event occurs. That threshold might be your stack getting down to X dollars, or the loss of X dollars in one hand, or whatever. Personally, I wouldn't use such a feature. But I can understand that some players, after taking a big hit, want a break to get their emotions under control, or whatever. This would allow them to set up the software to prevent the auto ante for the next hand after a threshold loss, while leaving auto-ante on absent such a triggering event. After the feature gets triggered by a loss, if the player decides he wants to continue, he just clicks "yes" (if it's option 1 above), or clicks the "I'm back" button (if it's option 2 above).

Such a system would fully address the concern that PokerStars claims is behind making auto-ante optional. It would allow the player who wants this feature to have it ready in reserve if needed, without having to endure the tedium of manually putting in the ante every hand, just so that he can maybe avoid that one unwanted ante at some point. And, obviously, it would mean that a whole bunch less time is wasted on the vast majority of ordinary hands, because auto-ante would be compulsory for every player, unless and until a pre-defined triggering event or situation comes up.

This kind of option would be a ton more useful to players (and make more money in rake for the site) than having 5000 different combinations of colors and backgrounds available to pick from--but it seems that that's the kind of piffle that their software engineers spend their time on, rather than building in something that would make the game move along faster and more smoothly.

I don't understand why their priorities are so mixed up.

If you play stud-type games on Stars and are similarly annoyed by the constant delay of anteing, and you think that a solution like what I'm proposing here makes sense, please shoot an email to, with a link to this post, and tell them that you'd like to see them implement this feature, so that we can get on with the game already. Maybe a few dozen messages will get their attention.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

...but some poker players are more equal than others

Another disturbing-if-true story of highly selective application of the rules by WSOP tournament staff, found here (thanks to Pokerati for the link):

My first table of the 1500 had an empty seat on it for over 2 hours. If
you've played any WSOP events, you know that an empty seat at your first table
is *always* a pro running late, but usually, they tend to show up within an
hour. This time, the stack was being blinded off all the way to the 100/200
level, so by the time the pro - who turned out to be Scotty - showed up, he was
already down to 1800 chips.

Naturally, Scotty was unhappy about that and asked the dealer why he didn't
have 3K. But at the WSOP, only late registrations get their full 3K chips (and
get seated in Seat 10); everyone else gets a regular seat and then gets blinded
off if they're late, which is normal. Scotty, though, obviously didn't like the
idea of starting out with a 9 bet stack, said "I'm not playing", and went off to
find the tournament director. I think he just wanted to be allowed to
unregister, but instead, a couple of minutes later, the floor showed up with a
full stack and gave it to him. On the one hand, this is pretty much blatant
cheating - it's a free 1200 chips that nobody not named Scotty Nguyen would ever
get; on the other, I a)kinda sympathized with the guy and b)personally was of
the opinion that I was better off with Scotty having 15 BB at my table than him
having 9. (Don't get me wrong; he clearly plays well. But much like every other
live pro, the guy's not particularly math-oriented and doesn't know short stack

Poker gems, #139

From installment #8 of "Stupid/System," here.

Limit Hold 'em. "The Toyota Camry of Poker." This game is played exactly like Hold 'em, but without excitement.

Pot Limit Omaha. ...The best thing to do with PLO is to offset your limited outs with careful play. Wait until you have four cards that are all one suit, so you only have to flop one card for a VERY well-concealed flush. Or if you're dealt three or even four of a kind, you might consider betting your quads. As you can see, this is a game designed for slow-playing.

Oh, look--a royal fizzbin!

I was just kind of aimlessly wandering through these interweb thingies when I came upon this page of excellent "inspirational" posters based on Star Trek scenes and characters. What--I've never done a Star Trek post before? That seems hard to believe. (I just did a search for "trek," and found that I have mentioned the series at least three times before, so now I've tagged those with a "star trek" label. Don't know why I didn't do it earlier.)

Two of the posters were ones I thought I could make some sort of stretch to poker in order to justify reposting them here. The first one, above, is the great scene in which Kirk makes up a card game called "Fizzbin" that sort of vaguely starts out seeming like stud poker, though it's much, much more complicated. See the rules here.

It reminds me that one of my favorite occasional amusements when I'm bored at the poker table is making up rules. My preferred target is a tourist playing in a casino for the first time. It has to be somebody that obviously has a good sense of humor. It helps if he has been drinking. I wait for some opportune moment, then catch him off-guard with the announcement of some make-believe rule. "Oh no, sir, you don't get the high-hand bonus for that straight flush--the cards have to come out in consecutive order for you to qualify." "No, I win the pot. It's a special promotion on Tuesday afternoons: straights beat flushes." "Um, sir, if you're tipping the cocktail waitress a dollar, you have to give one to everybody at the table. House rule. It's right up there on the wall." "You can't raise. When the board is double-paired like that, one bet is the cap."

I can usually get the sucker to bite at first, because most of the time I'm very quiet and serious, so nobody is expecting me to try to be funny. It helps if the dealer is quick-witted and fun-loving enough to go along with it, though that's not common. (I usually just get dirty looks from them.)

It's all in good fun, and I never leave the victim hanging for more than a few seconds before giving them a smile or a wink to let them know they've been had, and let the game go on.

I guess that writing so much about UltimateBet recently is what made this one stand out for me. 'Nuff said.

It hurts. It hurts SO bad.

The pain is so deep, so intense, that I cannot comment. I can only post the facts, and hope you understand. (Non-razz players need read no further. You cannot know. Just kindly avert your gaze from my pitiable state of agony, and move on.)


PokerStars Game #18524408984: Razz Limit ($1/$2) - 2008/07/02 - 02:04:30 (ET)
Table 'Aisakos III' 8-max
*** 3rd STREET ***
Dealt to owlycat [6d]
Dealt to mondo nutz [8s]
Dealt to Fast Normie [Jc]
Dealt to Tactix [Kd]
Dealt to DaviTeresina [Ac]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [2h 3h Ah]
Dealt to JohnnyB3692 [8d]
Dealt to jbrennen [5c]
Tactix: brings in for $0.50
DaviTeresina: raises $0.50 to $1
Rakewell1: raises $1 to $2
JohnnyB3692: folds
jbrennen: folds
owlycat: calls $2
mondo nutz: folds
Fast Normie: folds
Tactix: folds
DaviTeresina: calls $1
*** 4th STREET ***
Dealt to owlycat [6d] [9d]
Dealt to DaviTeresina [Ac] [5h]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [2h 3h Ah] [Ad]
DaviTeresina: bets $1
Rakewell1: calls $1
owlycat: folds
*** 5th STREET ***
Dealt to DaviTeresina [Ac 5h] [Qd]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [2h 3h Ah Ad] [7h]
DaviTeresina: bets $2
Rakewell1: calls $2
*** 6th STREET ***
Dealt to DaviTeresina [Ac 5h Qd] [2c]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [2h 3h Ah Ad 7h] [Ks]
DaviTeresina: bets $2
Rakewell1: calls $2
*** RIVER ***
Dealt to Rakewell1 [2h 3h Ah Ad 7h Ks] [3c]
DaviTeresina: bets $2
Rakewell1: folds
Uncalled bet ($2) returned to DaviTeresina
DaviTeresina collected $16.55 from pot
DaviTeresina: doesn't show hand


Boils all over the body? Family being killed off? Those are nothing--bring 'em on. If God had really wanted to hurt Job, he would have forced him to play razz.

The illustration above, incidentally, is a depiction of a face in pain, another fine piece by the remarkable neurologist, Charles Bell, about whom I wrote a bit here. I found it on this page, which is part of the UCLA biomedical library's site devoted to a 1998 symposium/art exhibit they put on devoted to the history of understanding and treating pain. Interesting stuff.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

An update on UltimateBlecch

Eric "Rizen" Lynch has announced his resignation as a member of UltimateBet's team of pro players, less than a month after signing on. In his two blog posts on the matter (here and here) he doesn't go into much detail as to his reasons, though he is emphatic that it's not because he thinks it's an unsafe place to play. Something about how they handled the announcement of his signing, and not getting promised changes in place soon enough. One has to suspect, though, that the barrage of abuse he took for throwing his name into that sewer had something to do with him reversing course. Interesting development, whatever the motivation may have been.

Dogs playing poker in the dirt

Regular readers know by now that I love the schlocky "Dogs Playing Poker" paintings. (There's a whole label devoted to it; click at the end of this post, or in the list at the lower left.) Here's a unique rendering of the one called "A Friend in Need," done by artist Scott Wade in the dirt on the rear window of his Mini Cooper. The last three detailed photos are after a bit of rain.

To see all of Wade's rather amazing dirty-car art, click here.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Poker gems, #138

Matt Damon, as Mike McDermott, in "Rounders."

It's immoral to let a sucker keep his money.

Changing and selective enforcement of WSOP rules?

Being something of a poker rules geek, I was interested in this report from Bryan Micon. Unfortunately, I find his story quite credible. Hellmuth's reported behavior is certainly consistent with everything we've come to expect from the jerk. And tournament officials can indeed be as arbitrary, dictatorial, and unhelpful as the ones described by Micon.

We should be able to expect a lot better from the poker world's premiere event, but, sadly, multiple stories from highly credible sources every year (see, e.g., this post about another horrible floor decision from early in this year's WSOP) leave me with the conclusion that we can't.

Harrah's should give out a printed copy of the rules to every player upon registration, so that when the floor people don't know the applicable rule, somebody at the table can point them to it.

Mike Wilson

Since I'm generally a cold, unfeeling, cynical SOB (and a tad grumpy at times, or so I've been told), stories that most people find moving and inspirational tend to leave me saying, "Meh." In particular, stories about people getting by in life despite a disability don't do a lot for me. All the fuss about Hal Lubarsky, for example (who went deep in last year's WSOP Main Event despite being legally blind, and needing an assistant to read the cards for him) made me just roll my eyes. People have problems, they find ways of dealing with them, and in general I think it's both boring and mistaken to make a big deal about it. Hey, I'll admit it, I don't like most people that I meet, and the fact that somebody may have dealt successfully with some physical adversity doesn't make it any more likely that I'm going to find that person smart or funny or interesting.

But I have to admit that I enjoyed reading this story on PokerNews about a guy named Mike Wilson, despite its overblown rhetoric about him being heroically courageous and an inspiration to us all, blah, blah, blah. (Cue the violins here.) First, the nature of his disability is interesting to me as a former health-care professional. It's certainly not the everyday sort. (The article doesn't mention it, but both his age and the nature of the birth defect are suggestive of thalidomide. It sounds as though he was most likely born in Canada. But I don't know offhand if thalidomide was used in Canada the way it was in Great Britain.) Beyond that, though, is that he just sounds like the sort of person I would enjoy knowing: smart, funny, and interesting (my main three criteria for what makes somebody worth being friends with).

So read it and make up your own mind. If you find Mr. Wilson's story inspirational, fine. I don't, particularly. But I do find it interesting, which, for me, is a far more important quality.

Poker gems, #137

Michael Craig, as quoted in this New York Times story on prop betting (link found on Wicked Chops Poker here):

These guys may play poker 10 hours a day, but that leaves 14 hours in which they need to do something interesting.... If they are home watching TV, they bet sports. If they are driving through the rain, they bet on how long it will take a raindrop to reach the bottom of the car’s window. They want to have gambling in every aspect of their lives.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Don't tell me how to play!"

Last night at Bill's, one of the good players was on my immediate right. I'll call him "Canada," since that's where he's from. He got into a hand against a guy at the other end of the table, who had been hemorrhaging money. I'll call him "Loser."

The details don't matter a lot. Suffice it to say that Canada flopped middle pair and an open-ended straight draw. Being appropriately aggressive, he led the betting, and got called all the way by Loser. He hit his straight on fifth street and went all in. Loser called. Turns out they had both made the same straight and split the pot, but Loser had been calling with no pair and only a gutshot straight draw--saved on the river.

Now, the right thing for Canada to do here is make a mental note of how badly Loser plays, smile, and let it go. But he doesn't do this. Instead, he starts a little tiff. "You called me down with just a gutshot straight draw?"

Loser defends himself with, "I got there, didn't I?"

Canada: "Dude, I'm not trying to criticize, but that's just crazy."

Loser: "You play your game and I'll play mine."

Canada: "You know, you'll only make that straight about 15% of the time."

Loser, now getting seriously agitated: "Don't tell me how to play!"

Canada apparently now realizes that this is a pointless argument, and shuts it down, just shaking his head.

But I heard him mutter under his breath the zinger of a reply that a sick, evil part of me wishes he had said out loud: "If I was telling you how to play, you'd be winning."

Excitement at Bill's

Last night was my fourth time playing at Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon. As I've mentioned, the little two-table poker room is just inside the doors that lead out onto the sidewalk along Las Vegas Boulevard, between Flamingo Road and the Flamingo Hotel. Maybe 20 feet from these doors is an elevator and escalator that go up to the elevated pedestrian walkway over the Strip. (If you think traffic along the Strip is bad now, you should have seen it before they moved all the foot traffic overhead. Total gridlock. You could sit through 10 green lights without moving one car length.)

At some point, there were sirens nearby, and then a police car, an ambulance, and a fire truck all pulled into the little driveway between Bill's and the Flamingo. One of the other players stepped outside to see what all the commotion was. When he returned, he told us that a bunch of people were stuck in the elevator. The elevator has glass walls, so it was easy to see them, he said. He estimated it was a dozen folks in there.

Didn't sound too exciting to me. But after playing another couple of hands, it dawned on me that letting this event go by was neglecting my sworn duty to my readership. So I walked outside and snapped the above photo of the end of excitement, after the rescue had been effected. Then, because of my devotion to bringing you breaking news as it happens, I waited a mere 12 hours after getting home to write this up.

Hey, it was late and I was tired last night!

This is undoubtedly the same elevator that was involved in the shenanigans described by Flamingo poker dealer "S" in his post a couple of weeks ago. It's a story well worth reading for general amusement, and to remind yourself how stupid people can be.

Las Vegas has had its share of problems with elevators recently. See here for a story about the new, unmarked thrill ride at Paris (and here for a slightly more accurate recitation of the relevant facts, though not nearly as funny as VegasRex makes it), and here for another casino stuck-elevator story. I notice that all of these incidents occurred at or adjacent to Harrah's properties. Hmmmm.

If you're coming to Vegas in the near future, I highly recommend using some of our excellent escalators. They break down at least as often as the elevators, but at least you can usually extract yourself from the situation with a little effort. Well, unless you're these people.

For a fascinating (well, I thought it was, anyway) peek inside the world of elevators--how they work, how they're designed, what people do in them, what breaks about them, their history, their future, what that "close doors" button really does, and much more--see this excellent article from the New Yorker magazine.

By the way, last night was my first losing session at Bill's, down $58. About half of the table consisted of decent players, as opposed to the other times I've been there, when there was only one or two people I had to watch out for. I don't know if this is a trend or just a coincidence, or perhaps because the World Series is in town. But, as "S" notes in another recent post, it's one of the natural laws of the poker world that good players learn where the bad players are and go there. A shark doesn't get to keep juicy little pools of fishies to himself for very long. Still, even with the small loss last night, my average profit per session at Bill's remains at about $200, so it's far from time to cross it off of the list of places to hit.

Poker chip collecting

Nice little story about the hobby in the New York Times, available here. Thanks to Foucault, the Poker Philosopher, for the pointer.