Saturday, August 09, 2008


That's right, I have somehow managed to concoct yet another hundred things to write about poker since my last mini-milestone of #700, exactly one month (31 days) ago. I guess I've been on something of a blogging tear, because that's by far the fastest hundred posts yet, breaking my previous record of 42 days. Honestly, I'm not trying to do that. I just write when I feel like saying something; sometimes that's more frequent, sometimes less so. But geez--when I think about it, how can any one person average more than three things worth writing or reading about poker every day???

Traffic continues to gradually build. By a handy coincidence, it was just a tad shy of a year ago that I installed the Google Analytics tracking code and started watching how many people were looking in on me. You can see the year's worth of data below. (The dip to zero in December is not real. It's an artifact caused by overhauling the look of the blog, and forgetting to put the Google Analytics code back in for a week or so.)

My deepest thanks for reading, for adding me to your blogrolls, for recommending me to friends, for submitting comments, and for clicking on the ugly Google ads over there on the left.

Poker gems, #157

Jennifer Tilly, in Bluff magazine column, May, 2008, p. 48.

I used to like poker because I thought I had control over my future. Now I realize we are all just buffeted by destiny. We are cannon fodder. Remember that shot in Saving Private Ryan where everybody is charging the shore? The ones who survived were lucky, that's all. They were not better soldiers. They just didn't run into any bullets.

The next new Vegas poker room

I haven't driven down Boulder Highway in many months, so I was oblivious to the fact that the Nevada Palace is being replaced with the "Eastside Cannery," apparently set to open August 28. The photo above is dated July 7.

See here for the casino's description of its poker room.

Incidentally, Vegas Today and Tomorrow, where I found the photo, is usually the best place for checking on progress of Las Vegas construction projects.

PokerStars customer support

Are you curious what PokerStars does when you report a possible instance of abuse of the disconnection protection feature? I was, because before the incident I mentioned earlier, I had never noticed what I considered to be a suspicious disconnection. Well, today I found out what they do about it.

(A word of explanation for those who don't play online or otherwise haven't faced this issue. Suppose your Internet connection goes dead in the middle of a hand. You have money in the pot, but cannot act when it's your turn. What should the site do? It seems unfair that you would have to just reliquish all claim to the pot as if you had folded. After all, you might have the best hand. Conversely, if somebody else has the best hand, it's unfair to him to simply give you back whatever you had put into the pot, which is another possible solution to the problem. The most common compromise is the all-in protection. This means that the site temporarily acts as if the amount you had put into the pot at the time of the disconnection is all that you had on the virtual table. The hand plays out. You cannot lose any more money, but you also cannot win from any other player more than what you had in the pot when the disconnection occurred. Other players still in the hand can continue betting, creating a side pot for which you are not eligible. It's a pretty good solution, but some players are known to abuse it. If there is a situation in which a player has a fair amount of money in the pot, but he's unsure whether he's ahead or behind, he doesn't want to fold and lose what he has already invested in the hand, but he also is fearful that he'll have to put in a lot more money before the hand is done, and he doesn't want to do that, because he's not sure he's going to win. So he pulls the plug on himself. It limits his potential gain, but also limits his potential loss. The sites consider this an abuse of the disconnection protection system.)

Here's the email I got a few hours after reporting the possible abuse:

Hello Robert,

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our
attention. The integrity of our site and games are of utmost importance to us,
and as such, we take any hint of unethical play extremely seriously. I have
completed my investigation into the play of 'BTB13'.

The first
thing to do in such cases is look at the hand in question. We consider an all in
to be suspicious if the user is facing action, or the prospect of action, with a
medium strength or drawing hand. Indeed I would term this a somewhat
suspicious all in.

That said one hand neither proves or disproves
abuse; with all in abuse cases, we look at *all* of a player's recent all in
protection hands.
Hands with all in protection can generally be
classified into one of three

1) Suspicious, where
the player holds a medium strength or drawing hand, and is facing action or the
likelihood of action

2) Neutral, where the player holds a hand of
no value, and disconnects facing small action (the most common of these is to
disconnect in the blinds preflop)

3) Unfavorable, where the player
holds a hand that is clearly worth betting, and disconnects instead, costing him
the chance to bet. This also includes hands where the player disconnects preflop
and has his hand folded, or when facing no action post flop - without the
likelihood of action from the remaining players

For all in abusers,
we look for a pattern whereby the player's connection history shows almost all
suspicious all in protections, a few neutrals, and essentially no unfavorable

In reviewing this players connection history for
the past couple of months I find that this player generally has an average
connection to the site.
With that said whilst the player has logged
plenty of hours on the site there were only a few other hands where the all in
protection was used.
Of those other hands there was definitely no
noticeable pattern. In fact I found many hands where disconnection was
clearly unfavorable to the player. The following hand is the


Game #19349887999: Triple Draw 2-7 Lowball Limit ($2/$4) -
2008/08/04 -
09:39:40 (ET)
Table 'Catriona' 6-max Seat #4 is the button Seat 1: moobaC
($81 in chips) Seat 2: razvan1ian ($148 in chips) Seat 3: Jovanella ($129 in
chips) Seat 4: mile.p1 ($118.50 in chips) Seat 5: BTB13 ($84 in chips) Seat 6:
Mighty Chub ($147 in chips)
BTB13: posts small blind $1
Mighty Chub: posts
big blind $2
moobaC: raises $2 to $4
raises $2 to $6
Jovanella: folds
razvan1ian said, "master of the
mile.p1: folds
BTB13: calls $5
Mighty Chub: folds
said, "mile p1"
moobaC: calls $2
*** FIRST DRAW ***
BTB13: discards 1
moobaC: discards 2 cards
razvan1ian: discards 2 cards
BTB13: bets
moobaC: calls $2
razvan1ian: raises $2 to $4
BTB13: raises $2 to
moobaC: calls $4
razvan1ian: raises $2 to $8
Betting is
BTB13: calls $2
moobaC: calls $2
stands pat
moobaC: discards 2 cards
razvan1ian: discards 1 card
has timed out while being disconnected
BTB13 is being treated as
moobaC: checks
razvan1ian: checks
razvan1ian said, "lol"
razvan1ian said, "wuss"
razvan1ian said,
BTB13 is disconnected
razvan1ian said, "gimme a 4 3 maybe
BTB13 has timed out while disconnected
BTB13: stands pat
discards 1 card
razvan1ian: discards 1 card
moobaC: checks
*** SHOW DOWN ***
BTB13: shows [2s 5c 8s 3c 6s] (Lo:
moobaC: mucks hand
razvan1ian: mucks hand
BTB13 collected
$42 from pot
BTB13 is sitting out
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $44 Rake
Seat 1: moobaC mucked
Seat 2: razvan1ian mucked
Seat 3: Jovanella
folded before the Draw (didn't bet) Seat 4: mile.p1 (button) folded before the
Draw (didn't bet) Seat 5: BTB13 (small blind) showed [2s 5c 8s 3c 6s] and won
($42) with Lo:
Seat 6: Mighty Chub (big blind) folded before


think you will agree with me that this hand can certainly be classified as
unfavorable for the player!

I can only conclude that player
'BTB13' is not abusing their all in privileges. I will however make a note
of this investigation in their account for future reference.

there is anything else that I can help you with, don't hesitate to let me


PokerStars Support

This is so excellent. They took the report seriously, investigated it in an apparently thorough manner, and reported back to me quickly, including an explanation of how they look into such things. They have successfully dispelled my suspicion.

PokerStars support is simply the best in the business.

The geopolitical awareness of poker players

Doyle Brunson writes this in his book, My 50 Most Memorable Hands, p. 93:

Not many people realize the insular world a lot of the true gamblers live
in. I remember "Corky" McCorquodale, one of the original inductees into the
Poker Hall of Fame, asking me, "What is Vietnam?" This was almost at the end of
the Vietnam War. Another well known pro asked me, "Is the Isle of Man close to
the water?" Also he asked, "What language do they speak in London?"

I was reminded of this tonight while playing poker at Suncoast. Several players obviously knew each other. This snippet of conversation ensued:

Player 1: "Did you hear what's happening in Russia?"

Player 2: "No. What?"

Player 1: "They're having a war."

Player 2: "A war? With who?"

Player 1: "Georgia."

Player 2: "Georgia?"

Player 3: "Not our Georgia. There's another one over there."

Player 2: "Well, I'll be damned."

Friday, August 08, 2008

My first $100 razz pot

Maybe 10 or 12 days ago I came close to my first $100 razz pot. It totalled $102.75, but then PokerStars took out a $3 rake, and I was left with a $99.75 reward. Close but no cigar. I had to wait until today to get one officially, and it was well over that threshold--$130 after rake. Probably would have gone even higher if one of them hadn't been disconnected during the hand. (Highly suspicious of an intentional self-disconnect there, if you ask me--suspicious enough, in fact, that I reported it to Stars to see if the same player has a history of such conduct.)

I have to give credit for the assist to the player in Seat 6, whose name and avatar I have blotted out in the screen shot above, and whose name I have playfully changed in the hand history below. He helped me cap the multi-way betting all along, while the other players, without his raises, would have just called me. In fact, his play was sufficiently atrocious and suspicious that one of the losing participants accused us in the chat box, after the hand, of having colluded. He was dead serious. He might even report it to the site. I can certainly see, in retrospect, why an opponent would view this as a possible classic trapping play, in which he was the victim. I'm not worried about an investigation, though, since there were no such shenanigans--just a desperately hopeful player on a draw to what would have been a good hand, had he gotten there.

Nevertheless, his play--raising and reraising, when calling until he hit would have probably been smarter--was awful enough that I'm shielding his name both to spare him embarrassment and to help keep him my little donating secret! I will be looking him up when I'm online.

PokerStars Game #19465781008: Razz Limit ($2/$4) - 2008/08/08 - 18:43:00 (ET)
Table 'Montezuma III' 8-max
Seat 1: BTB13 ($80 in chips)
Seat 2: eyes101 ($43 in chips)
Seat 3: quickstudy ($54.75 in chips)
Seat 4: Rakewell1 ($106.50 in chips)
Seat 5: bonzai39 ($91 in chips)
Seat 6: DonatorToRakewell ($66.50 in chips)
Seat 7: eich ($74.75 in chips)
Seat 8: AcesUp_PI ($72.75 in chips)
BTB13: posts the ante $0.25
eyes101: posts the ante $0.25
quickstudy: posts the ante $0.25
Rakewell1: posts the ante $0.25
bonzai39: posts the ante $0.25
DonatorToRakewell: posts the ante $0.25
eich: posts the ante $0.25
AcesUp_PI: posts the ante $0.25
*** 3rd STREET ***
Dealt to BTB13 [7c]
Dealt to eyes101 [9c]
Dealt to quickstudy [8s]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [5d 3h 4c]
Dealt to bonzai39 [Jc]
Dealt to DonatorToRakewell [Kc]
Dealt to eich [Kh]
Dealt to AcesUp_PI [9d]
eich: brings in for $1
AcesUp_PI: calls $1
BTB13: raises $1 to $2
eyes101: folds
quickstudy: calls $2
Rakewell1: raises $2 to $4
bonzai39: folds
DonatorToRakewell: raises $2 to $6
eich: folds
AcesUp_PI: calls $5
BTB13: calls $4
quickstudy: folds
Rakewell1: raises $2 to $8
Betting is capped
DonatorToRakewell: calls $2
AcesUp_PI: calls $2
BTB13: calls $2
*** 4th STREET ***
Dealt to BTB13 [7c] [Kd]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [5d 3h 4c] [2d]
Dealt to DonatorToRakewell [Kc] [4d]
Dealt to AcesUp_PI [9d] [5s]
Rakewell1: bets $2
DonatorToRakewell: raises $2 to $4
AcesUp_PI: calls $4
BTB13 has timed out while being disconnected
BTB13 is being treated as all-in
Rakewell1: raises $2 to $6
DonatorToRakewell: raises $2 to $8
Betting is capped
AcesUp_PI: calls $4
Rakewell1: calls $2
*** 5th STREET ***
Dealt to BTB13 [7c Kd] [6s]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [5d 3h 4c 2d] [3s]
Dealt to DonatorToRakewell [Kc 4d] [6h]
Dealt to AcesUp_PI [9d 5s] [3c]
Rakewell1: bets $4
DonatorToRakewell: raises $4 to $8
AcesUp_PI: raises $4 to $12
Rakewell1: raises $4 to $16
Betting is capped
DonatorToRakewell: calls $8
BTB13 is disconnected
AcesUp_PI: calls $4
*** 6th STREET ***
Dealt to BTB13 [7c Kd 6s] [Td]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [5d 3h 4c 2d 3s] [Ah]
Dealt to DonatorToRakewell [Kc 4d 6h] [Qc]
Dealt to AcesUp_PI [9d 5s 3c] [9h]
Rakewell1: bets $4
DonatorToRakewell: calls $4
AcesUp_PI: calls $4
*** RIVER ***
Dealt to Rakewell1 [5d 3h 4c 2d 3s Ah] [7s]
Rakewell1: bets $4
DonatorToRakewell: calls $4
AcesUp_PI: calls $4
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Rakewell1: shows [5d 3h 4c 2d 3s Ah 7s] (Lo: 5,4,3,2,A)
DonatorToRakewell: mucks hand
AcesUp_PI: mucks hand
Rakewell1 collected $94 from side pot
BTB13: mucks hand
BTB13 is sitting out
Rakewell1 collected $36 from main pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $133 Main pot $36. Side pot $94. Rake $3
Seat 1: BTB13 mucked [4s 2s 7c Kd 6s Td 6c]
Seat 2: eyes101 folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 3: quickstudy folded on the 3rd Street
Seat 4: Rakewell1 showed [5d 3h 4c 2d 3s Ah 7s] and won ($130) with Lo: 5,4,3,2,A
Seat 5: bonzai39 folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 6: DonatorToRakewell mucked [Ad 2c Kc 4d 6h Qc 8h]
Seat 7: eich folded on the 3rd Street
Seat 8: AcesUp_PI mucked [2h 7d 9d 5s 3c 9h Js]

The same player, just seven minutes later, made an even more desperate attempt to recoup his losses against me--at least, that seems the most likely interpretation of his bizarre actions in this hand:

PokerStars Game #19465944969: Razz Limit ($2/$4) - 2008/08/08 - 18:50:11 (ET)
Table 'Montezuma III' 8-max
Seat 2: eyes101 ($16.25 in chips)
Seat 3: quickstudy ($71.25 in chips)
Seat 4: Rakewell1 ($190.75 in chips)
Seat 5: bonzai39 ($86.25 in chips)
Seat 6: DonatorToRakewell ($34.50 in chips)
Seat 7: eich ($82.75 in chips)
Seat 8: AcesUp_PI ($31.75 in chips)
eyes101: posts the ante $0.25
quickstudy: posts the ante $0.25
Rakewell1: posts the ante $0.25
bonzai39: posts the ante $0.25
DonatorToRakewell: posts the ante $0.25
eich: posts the ante $0.25
AcesUp_PI: posts the ante $0.25
*** 3rd STREET ***
Dealt to eyes101 [Qh]
Dealt to quickstudy [8h]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [5h 3d 7s]
Dealt to bonzai39 [Jh]
Dealt to DonatorToRakewell [3h]
Dealt to eich [5d]
Dealt to AcesUp_PI [Ts]
eyes101: brings in for $1
quickstudy: folds
Rakewell1: raises $1 to $2
bonzai39: folds
DonatorToRakewell: raises $2 to $4
eich: folds
AcesUp_PI: folds
eyes101: folds
Rakewell1: raises $2 to $6
DonatorToRakewell: raises $2 to $8
Betting is capped
Rakewell1: calls $2
*** 4th STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell1 [5h 3d 7s] [Ah]
Dealt to DonatorToRakewell [3h] [Kc]
Rakewell1: bets $2
DonatorToRakewell: calls $2
*** 5th STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell1 [5h 3d 7s Ah] [9d]
Dealt to DonatorToRakewell [3h Kc] [3s]
quickstudy leaves the table
Rakewell1: bets $4
DonatorToRakewell: raises $4 to $8
Rakewell1: raises $4 to $12
DonatorToRakewell: raises $4 to $16
Betting is capped
Rakewell1: calls $4
*** 6th STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell1 [5h 3d 7s Ah 9d] [4s]
Dealt to DonatorToRakewell [3h Kc 3s] [Kh]
Rakewell1: bets $4
DonatorToRakewell: calls $4
*** RIVER ***
Dealt to Rakewell1 [5h 3d 7s Ah 9d 4s] [4c]
Rakewell1: bets $4
DonatorToRakewell: calls $4
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Rakewell1: shows [5h 3d 7s Ah 9d 4s 4c] (Lo: 7,5,4,3,A)
DonatorToRakewell: mucks hand
Rakewell1 collected $68.75 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $70.75 Rake $2
Seat 2: eyes101 folded on the 3rd Street
Seat 3: quickstudy folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 4: Rakewell1 showed [5h 3d 7s Ah 9d 4s 4c] and won ($68.75) with Lo: 7,5,4,3,A
Seat 5: bonzai39 folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 6: DonatorToRakewell mucked [9h 2s 3h Kc 3s Kh Qs]
Seat 7: eich folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 8: AcesUp_PI folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)

Note that he called on the river with a K-Q-9 low. The only way he could win at that point was if my three down cards were all pairs or at least no better than K-Q. But I had not even once played--let alone shown down--any starting hand that was not three unpaired cards 7 or lower (except in a couple of steals, which this obviously wasn't), so for him to think he might be good in this spot was, well, pretty freakin' desperate.

Between my own personal Donator, some other nice hands, and a series of hero calls on the river that nearly all proved to be correct, it turned out to be a +$186 razz day, in about three hours of play, again while I was doing other computer work and paying attention only when I had a playable hand.

Time now to go out into the world and see if I can find a comparable Donator in the casinos!

By the way, I really wish I knew of an online hand replayer for stud/razz hands. The only ones I know of work only for hold'em and/or Omaha hands. It would be much cooler to be able to embed an animation or direct you to a site to see the hand play out than posting these boring text-only hand histories. If any reader knows of a web site with a stud/razz hand replaying feature, please leave a comment about it.

Poker gems, #156

Hesiod (Greek poet, c. 700 BCE), in "Works and Days."

Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Interesting development

Ladbrokes about to start accepting U.S. players? See here.

A horribly unprofessional dealer at the Luxor

Before I headed over to the Excalibur (see post immediately below), I spent an hour or so at the Luxor. I saw a dealer inject himself into the game three times in the course of one 30-minute down. This is the same guy who I referred to as "Dealer #6" in a very similar story here. He is obviously an unrepentant chronic offender.

1. It's nearly a family pot. After the flop, the first player makes a small bet: $5. About five others call him. The action is to the button, who is to be last to act. He hems and haws a bit while deciding what to do, holding his cards like he might fold. The impatient dealer said, "Pot odds" (clearly implying to this player that the dealer thought he would be right to call with just about anything in this spot). That resolved the player's ambivalence, apparently, and he called.

2. Only two players in this hand. The flop contained two spades, and it went check-check. The turn was a third spade. Player A bet. Player B paused to think, and said to his opponent, "Spades?" (With only two players left in the hand, it's perfectly OK for one to speculate out loud about what the other has, or even query his opponent, because there is no other player that might be helped by the talking.) The dealer said, "That's what he's representing."

3. Flop was Ad-3d-As. The dealer said, "There's a high hand coming." The turn card was the 2d. Now the dealer said, "Oh, the straight flush might beat the quad aces."

I long ago ran out of new and different ways of expressing how outrageously inappropriate these kinds of comments from dealers are. I cannot believe that Luxor poker room management doesn't know about this guy's nasty habit, since he does it three times in 30 minutes! But I also can't figure out why they apparently don't care enough to force him to stop doing it.

If a player, new to the casino environment, said any of these things, perhaps carrying over a bad habit from a casual home game, he'd be gently reprimanded the first time, warned more sternly the second time, and perhaps asked to leave on the third offense. Yet the Luxor is so lax about two of the most fundamental rules of poker--nobody can help a player make decisions, and, to that end, you cannot talk about the hand in progress--that a dealer does it repeatedly, openly, and unabashedly.

Shame on you, Luxor. What other rules don't you care about enforcing?

Tales from the Excalibur

1. Huge change in the works

The way I pick a room to play in on any given day is largely arbitrary, involving a lot of eeney-meeney-miney-moe. So it was purely a coincidence that I was at the Excalibur this evening when I learned that they had made a huge announcement earlier in the day: They will be closing their traditional poker tables and going to all electronic (apparently Poker Tek brand) tables. Apparently August 18 will be the last day of poker the old-fashioned way, and August 22 the first day of operation of the new wave.

I was excited to be the first to publicize this news, but when I got home a short time ago, I checked, and sure enough, there have already been two threads started about it, here and here. It's tough to beat that site for poker room news, when they have several hundred pairs of eyes and ears all over town, alert for just this sort of thing.

The comments there are nearly all laments. I don't share those views, at least not entirely. Poker needs growth and experimentation and differentiation. There may well be a market niche for this. People who are comfortable playing online but are intimidated by sitting down in a casino for the first time may find this a nice intermediate step.

Some will consider me a traitor and/or a fool, but if the games stay as soft and profitable there as they traditionally have been, I'll keep patronizing the Excalibur (assuming that I don't hate the electronic tables--and I have no reason to think that I will). Heck, they might even have a lower rake, with no dealers to pay. Tipping dealers constitutes a pretty small percentage of my poker income, but I can't say I'd object to pocketing that extra $10 or $20 per session. (That's just an offhand guess; I've never tried keeping track of what it amounts to.)

I welcome pretty much any innovation that keeps variety in how the game is offered to customers. I think it is silly doomsday posturing to say that this portends the beginning of the end of poker as we have known it. No, it's just an experiment. (To be clear, I haven't heard anybody at MGM or the Excalibur say that it's an experiment, but practically everything new in casinos is. If something new doesn't bring in good money, they get rid of it. If it makes them more profit, they enlarge and duplicate it. That's an experiment, in my book. This is the same deal.) If it doesn't bring in a lot of money, they'll dump it and other rooms won't be encouraged to copy the idea. (I think MGM has an exclusive license for installing the machines in Vegas anyway.) And if it does bring in lots of money, that will be because the poker-playing public finds it enjoyable, for whatever reason. That can't be a bad thing. What Vegas really doesn't need are 50-55 rooms all offering the same thing. Variety is good.

Incidentally, I have also heard rumors that when Stations opens its newest property, the Aliante, in North Las Vegas (tentatively scheduled for November 11), it, too, will have an all-electronic poker room.

2. Funny hand

Two seats to my right was a visitor from Canada, here to celebrate his 21st birthday. He was a horrible player, just spewing money. (Welcome to gambling, young man! Please rebuy until your wallet is empty!) He also had rather unmistakable psychological problems--ADD at least, and maybe in a manic phase of bipolar disorder. I don't think it would be possible to describe him without including the word "hyper" somewhere among the adjectives: he was restless, talkative, agitated, animated. Anytime somebody won a decent-sized pot, he'd yell "WHEEEEEEEEE!"

Anyway, in one hand he and one opponent went to the flop, which was A-7-8. Mr. ADD bet $30. His opponent called. For some reason, Mr. ADD either thought that no more cards were coming or that his opponent was now all in, and turned over his pocket kings. Oops. Well, there's nothing to be done about it except keep playing out the hand. The turn card was a 9. ADD checked. His opponent--a solid, unimaginative player, whose bets had always accurately represented the strength of his hand thus far--made another bet, maybe $50. ADD called. The river was a 6, putting four to a straight and four to a flush on the board (though not one that was completed by either of ADD's kings). ADD checked. His opponent moved all in. Mr. ADD called. His opponent didn't have either the straight or the flush, but did have A-K, and won the hand.

To be sure, some players will take advantage of the exposed cards and bet as a bluff. The logic is this: I want my opponent to think that I'm not crazy enough to bet if I can see his cards and know that I have the losing hand. Therefore, he should conclude that I have the winner and fold the better hand. But given that this particular opponent was a pretty untricky guy, that he had to have something strong enough to have called a large pre-flop bet, and that he had called $30 after an ace hit the flop, it was pure kamikaze insanity for Mr. ADD to keep calling two more large bets--quite enthusiastically put out by the opponent, I should add--after his kings were revealed. Pure stubbornness on display.

I had to work pretty hard to suppress a laugh when the obvious conclusion of the opponent having a strong ace proved to be true.

3. The Grump turns junk into gold

I had A-6 offsuit in the small blind. Nobody raised, so I tossed in the extra $1. The flop was A-9-2, rainbow. I bet just under the size of the pot, and got two callers. There were no straight or flush draws, so I naturally concluded that one or both of them was/were sitting on an ace, and probably with a better kicker than mine. Oh well.

But then the turn card was another ace. Ah! I like that. Maybe only one of them has an ace, and the other hit the 9 or had a medium pocket pair to explain the call. Or, if I'm really lucky, that explains both of them, and I'm the only one with trip aces now. So I bet again to find out, this time getting only one call. Hmmm. Well, the conclusion has to be the same--he has a better ace. Oh well. Time to shut it down for this hand, check the river and hope he checks behind so that I don't have a difficult decision to make.

To my great surprise, however, the dealer found yet another ace in the deck, and added it to the board! Let's see. That's one, two, three of them out there, and one under my silver dollar. That makes four. Now I'm pretty, pretty, pretty confident that my sole remaining opponent does not have an ace of his own. The only remaining question was how much he might call. I settled on $35. He called so quickly that I regretted not trying to push it higher. He had a 9, and said that he thought that I did, too, and thought that we would be chopping the pot, even saying that he simply didn't believe I had an ace. Dang. I wish I had pushed all in, hoping that it would look like I was trying to buy the pot and push him off, and getting the hero call in response. (I consistently find that to be the most difficult decision in poker--knowing how much an opponent will call when I have an absolutely unbeatable hand.)

Excalibur is the only place in town that I know of where there is a high-hand bonus for quads and straight flushes with only one hole card playing. Unlike most rooms, where there is a progressive jackpot amount increasing daily until it is hit, at Excalibur you get to spin the wheel of fortune. There are amounts ranging from $20 to $100, as well as a "double" and a "triple" space (after hitting which you get to spin again to see what amount will be doubled or tripled). I hit $35, about an average bonus, just half a click short of the "double" slot. But it's been several months since I hit any high-hand bonus, so I was pleased with even this small amount. And I had never gotten to spin that wheel before, so it added a bit of fun to my night.

4. Odd new chip

I noticed that the dealer was using very unusual chips to do the rake. They were denominated at $2.50. I had never seen $2.50 chips before. A very nice young woman (who also happened to be a fine player) was sitting on my right. It was clear from her interactions with the dealers that she was a local and played at the Excalibur a lot more than I tend to do. She told me that they just got these new chips within the last couple of weeks.

My first impulse was to buy one from the dealer, just to have such an unusual piece in my collection. But for some reason, I was overcome with a wave of self-consciousness at being thought an oddball. (I usually fully expect to be considered an oddball, and don't let it bother me, so I can't easily explain why this stifled my action on this particular occasion.) But then this nice young woman said, "I bought one the first day I saw them, 'cause they're so unusual." Yay! A fellow oddball! I chuckled and told her that I was just thinking of doing exactly the same. And so I did.

My scanner did a horrible job capturing the color. The chip is actually an intensely bright orange, akin to reflective safety vests and flags--really quite striking, whereas my scanner somehow picked it up as a dull pink. WAY off.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Poker gems, #155

John Vorhaus, in Card Player magazine column, July 30, 2008 (vol. 21, #15), p. 105.

There's nothing more expensive than a cheap flop.

One more whine before I quit for the night

I apparently didn't get the email from the poker gods warning me to just stay off of PokerStars tonight.

After the unsuccessful tournament, I tried my usual $2-$4 razz cash game. Up and down for a while, nothing spectacular. But then I went unusually card-dead. I checked the hand histories, and actually went for 45 consecutive deals without getting three unpaired cards 7 or below.

On average, one should get such a good starting hand about 14.8% of the time. Using the handy binomial probability calculator here I found that the probability of not getting one in 45 hands is 0.00074. That is, if you start at any arbitrary time and ask, "What are the chances of the next 45 starting hands all being bad ones?" the answer would be 0.074%; it should happen only about 7 times out of 10,000 trials of 45 hands each. That's pretty impressively bad luck, I'd say.

I did actually win one hand in there, with a K-Q-Q, when I had the bring-in and nobody even called it.

Then did I get rewarded for my patience? I certainly did. The hand that broke the streak was a nice 2-4-6. I raised and won the antes and bring-in. About three hands later the same thing happened again. Woohoo!

I was down about $20 for the session at that point, and started mentally composing this little rant. But then I caught a bit of a rush against a guy who apparently thought I was bluffing and unwisely tried calling and raising me, in three almost-consecutive hands, when I actually had the goods, and I logged off up by $30. Yeah, I did a hit-and-run on him. I was tired of playing and feeling like that was probably the peak of my good luck for the night.

So it wasn't a complete loss.

But I'm still gonna whine about it. Why? Because I feel like it, that's why.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

And I love this game WHY?

It's actually been a long time since I entered an online multitable NLHE tournament (EDIT: I guess that's not quite true. I forgot about the Doyles Room bounty tourney last week), but the one being held tonight on PokerStars in honor of Dr. Pauly's five years of poker blogging (on which, BTW, mad props, dude) seemed like one I should participate in.

Started out quite badly, chased for too many chips when it wasn't really warranted. Then I got lucky and pushed all in with A-J against two opponents, one of whom had 9-9 and the other A-K. I sucked out a jack on the turn to knock out both shorter stacks and nearly triple up. Had another huge all-in with my K-K against another guy's Q-Q and nearly doubled again, pushing me into 5th place. (See screen shot of tourney lobby below. I snapped it because, well, I know from experience that these things tend not to last.)

Held about there for quite a while. Then... disaster. See below.

I was sitting in 8th place in this large field, with one of just a handful of people with enough chips to bust me sitting on my immediate right, and acting like a bully. Mr. "Whaaaaaa?" and I got it all in before the flop, with me putting in the fourth raise and him calling. That 10 on the turn was the ugliest card I've seen in a long time. Would have been at the top of the leader board if not for that lousy 10.

A purely rational person would shrug, say "Easy come, easy go," figure that the highly unlucky card here pretty much compensates for the highly lucky card I caught earlier, tell himself that he deserved to go broke (or, to be more precise, be down to just a few chips, then probably go broke soon thereafter) an hour before, in the A-J vx. A-K vs. 9-9 hand, so there's really no harm done.

But it doesn't feel that way, man. It just stings like a son of a gun.

So I'm doing something that is pretty rare for me--maybe even unprecedented: Using my blog to whine about a bad beat.

The best advice

There are a lot of pieces of poker advice that can and have been boiled down to a single, memorable line. Some of my favorite one-liners include:

  • Don't go broke with just one pair.
  • Don't go broke with a queen in your hand.
  • Don't go broke in a limped pot.
I appreciate such aphorisms, because they tend to come to mind easily in high-pressure situations, and push a close decision one way or the other. Many times I have remembered one in a crucial moment, heeded it, and ended up glad I did, or disregarded it and lived to regret it.

But it occurs to me that even as compact and distilled as these lines are, they still might be wordier than necessary. It seems to me that we could replace them with one more generalized bit of poker advice:

Don't go broke.

Poker gems, #154

John Vorhaus, in Card Player magazine column, July 30, 2008 (vol. 21, #15), p. 104.

I'm certain that I know less than half of what I think I know about poker and only a tiny fraction of what there is to know. After 20 years of trying to solve this problem, of one thing am I convinced: This problem will never be solved. I don't find that thought depressing--to the contrary. Faced with a challenge I never get tired of confronting, I think I chose my obsession wisely.

Poker gems, #153

Stu Ungar, as quoted in James McManus's article on the history of poker in Card Player magazine, July 30, 3008 (vol. 21, #15), p. 102.

I just have to make myself hate my opponents. I just want to rip their throats out.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Obama is not your savior

(I couldn't decide between Obama as Jesus and Obama as Superman to illustrate this post, so I went with one of each.)

Wicked Chops Poker points to a news story here about big-name poker professionals who are openly supporting Barack Obama for president because he plays poker.

These people are deluded. Or perhaps it would be more accurate (and kind) to say that they're being bluffed.

Has Mr. Obama at any point gone on record as saying that he will work to repeal the UIGEA, or to make online gaming unambiguously legal in the United States? Not that I'm aware of. And it's not from lack of being asked. Doyle Brunson said in his blog back in February: "Jennifer Harman and I have emailed Obama and asked what his position is on internet gaming. Hopefully we will get a response from his camp." As far as I can tell, they never got an answer--at least none that has been reported publicly.

Why would he not respond to a straightforward question about his stance on Internet poker posed by the most famous poker player in the world (and the nominal proprietor of a large online poker site), one who would publicize the answer in a blog read by thousands of like-minded poker players? There are really only two possibilities. The first is that he knows that his answer would anger Brunson and Harman--meaning that he favors keeping the UIGEA in place. The second is that he either has no firm position on the matter, or he's unwilling to express one for fear of alienating one side or the other, in which case he's such a mealy-mouthed, wishy-washy, spineless wimp that it's impossible to respect him.

Check out Obama's own web site. Here's a list of issues with his policy positions. Here's his "answer center" where you can search for subjects you're interested in. Go ahead--try a search for "poker" or "gambling." See what comes up. I get zero results.

Rich Muny, at the Poker Players Alliance, rates Obama a C, just a bit above McCain at D. Bob Barr, of course, gets a grade of A+. He's the only one of the three who has stated publicly and unequivocally that he's for ensuring that online poker is fully legal. Guess who gets my support?

If a politician refuses to tell you that he supports your policy preference on some question, if he won't even bother to lie to tell you he's on your side, it's because he's not. It really is that simple.

Seeing Barack Obama as God's gift to poker players is like shoving all-in drawing to a one-outer gutshot straight flush. Yeah, you might win big, but you shouldn't count on it. The odds are heavily against you.


Update on Echelon Place construction, as reported by the Vegas-focused "Movable Buffet" blog from the L.A. Times:

Breaking news: Echelon construction suspended

10:49 AM PT, Aug 1 2008

Boyd Gaming announced today they were suspending construction on the nearly $5-billion Echelon project that is going up where the Stardust once was located. According to the statement:

"Due to the difficult environment in today's capital markets, as well as
weak economic conditions, we have decided to delay our Echelon project on the
Las Vegas Strip. Our present expectation is to resume construction in three to
four quarters, assuming credit market conditions and the economic outlook

Though rumors of problems with Echelon construction financing had been
widespread, the resort was actually already being built. I don't think anyone
was fully prepared for Boyd Gaming (one of the local companies that really has
mastered the Vegas market for decades) to simply bring the project to a total,
if ostensibly temporary, halt.

Good ol' Vegas Rex has up photos of what the place looks like right now, as construction is suspended.

I don't really care much one way or the other when or if this thing gets finished. I just find it amusing how closely the situation resembles that of a biblical story I learned in Sunday School long ago:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and
counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish
it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
Luke 14:28-30 (King James Version)

Quick razz update

WARNING! This post is one of those occasional ones where I talk about my personal recent poker-playing results, a topic that really should be of interest to virtually nobody. Permission to skip reading is hereby granted.

But if you want to know....

About two weeks ago, there were no tables going for my regular $1/$2 PokerStars razz game. I had to decide whether to move back down to $0.50/$1 or take a shot at the next level up, $2/$4. Well, that took all of about five seconds to decide, since I had been both playing well and running good (still makes me wince to say or write that phrase).

The results? My online bankroll has swelled. It's almost double what it was when I first took the step up two weeks ago.

I have not kept careful track, because until now, I considered this whole razz thing some combination of (1) an experiment, (2) fun, (3) stretching my wings a little, (4) a step towards eventually having some root competence at all of the major forms of poker, (5) a very small supplemental income that I could make while doing other computer work between hands (like blogging). The last is possible because, at least at these levels, there is not a whole lot of variation in players' styles, so I feel less need to pay attention to the play of the hands I'm not in.

But now I have to reevaluate. My results for the past four days have been +$205, -$120, +$40, and +$165. This is still playing just 3-4 hours a day, never more than one table, in the background while I'm doing other stuff on the computer, so occupying maybe 20% of my time and attention. To my great surprise, at these rates, it starts to become a significant fraction of my total poker income, and I think I'm going to have to start keeping more diligent records, rather than writing it off as too little money to bother tracking.

There is a definite, palpable difference in the quality of play between $1/2 and $2/4 that I did not detect with the previous step up. The most noticeable change is the virtual absence of the completely clueless players who are just giving away their money (although I lucked into one of them Thursday, the $205 day).

The other thing I've noticed is that there are many more close decisions. At the lower levels, it was common for opponents to be chasing so hopelessly that decisions on the river were a breeze, because it was virtually impossible for them to catch up with just one card to come. (Or, conversely, it was virtually impossible for me to have the winner.) Now, however, I find myself much more frequently in hands that appear very nearly tied going to the river, and it's a lot harder to tell whether I should bet or check if I'm first to act, or call or fold if I'm last. Multi-way pots at the river are far rarer, because players don't tend to chase as hopelessly or mindlessly. But over my last few hundred hands, Stars statistics show me winning 65% of hands that make it to showdown, so I'm apparently making those last, difficult decisions at least a little bit better than my average opponent is.

I find myself having to think hands through more carefully than before, and actually remember at what points in the hand an opponent checked, bet, or raised, to gain clues to whether he liked or disliked a particular card (mainly for trying to tell whether he hit a disguised pair). Similarly, a change in the rhythm of betting seems to be a clue I need to pay attention to more than previously, and for the same reason. I think this is a result of the decisions being closer, so every piece of information I can glean matters. When playing lower, a good percentage of the time I was either so obviously ahead or so obviously behind that smaller clues just didn't need to be factored in.

Overall, I'm quite pleased to discover that my hourly win rate has kept up proportionately with the doubling of the stakes. It flattened out for the first several days at this level, when I basically just broke even, until I realized that the game really was harder now and required more analysis before acting. Some of my old habits weren't cutting it very well, and better opponents were able to exploit my mistakes. But I've already plugged a couple of leaks, and the early results seem to be quite favorable.

The one easiest to describe is that I've given up playing most starting hands with an 8 in them. Tightening up in that way means I go through longer stretches without playing a hand, but get rewarded by taking down the really big pots when I finally go after them. The 8 hands were really pretty much just break-even, winning little or no more often than they lost. The price I paid, though, was less credibility, because they were dragging down the percentage of times I won at showdown, which I think, in turn, made opponents more willing to call, suspicious that I might be playing a mediocre hand again. My impression is that I've gained credibility by habitually playing only stronger hands, and I win more pots without showdowns by betting in situations where I've secretly double-paired.

Although, as I mentioned, there are far fewer players who are completely at sea in the game than I was seeing before, one of the unusual little pleasures is that a couple of times a week somebody sits down apparently thinking that it's a straight stud game, and plays what appears to be completely backwards, then after losing one big hand beats a hasty retreat. Sometimes they put an explanatory message in chat about their horror at discovering the mistake after the first showdown. Other times they just slink away, and we're left to guess that they accidentally clicked the wrong button in the PS lobby, and didn't notice the label on the table until it was too late.

There's really not much of any other way to explain hands such as the one below. "HR58" had just sat down one hand before. ($80 is the standard buy-in here, and you can see that he started this hand with $79.75, down one ante.) He called capped betting on 3rd street with K-Q-9, and it only went downhill from there, culminating in a call of a river bet with a Q-9 low, against two opponents! He probably thought his pair of aces was good, poor chap. I wonder if it occurred to him that something was wrong when he had an open A-A but the computer didn't give him first chance to act. Of course, his play was pretty bad for straight stud, too, but not nearly as atrocious as it was for razz, so guessing that he was mistaken about the game is the charitable conclusion.

He did not stick around for a third hand.

PokerStars Game #19207922211: Razz Limit ($2/$4) - 2008/07/29 - 21:20:00 (ET)
Table 'Annschnell III' 8-max
Seat 2: rocky8 ($36.50 in chips)
Seat 3: Dust_0ff! ($93 in chips)
Seat 4: ragmuppet ($37 in chips)
Seat 5: bearfan99 ($108.75 in chips)
Seat 6: HR58 ($79.75 in chips)
Seat 7: Rakewell1 ($39 in chips)
Seat 8: bizzlenuts ($72 in chips)
rocky8: posts the ante $0.25
Dust_0ff!: posts the ante $0.25
ragmuppet: posts the ante $0.25
bearfan99: posts the ante $0.25
HR58: posts the ante $0.25
Rakewell1: posts the ante $0.25
bizzlenuts: posts the ante $0.25
*** 3rd STREET ***
Dealt to rocky8 [Js]
Dealt to Dust_0ff! [7d]
Dealt to ragmuppet [Qs]
Dealt to bearfan99 [Jh]
Dealt to HR58 [9d]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [3s 5c 7h]
Dealt to bizzlenuts [2s]
ragmuppet: brings in for $1
bearfan99: folds
HR58: calls $1
Rakewell1: raises $1 to $2
bizzlenuts: raises $2 to $4
rocky8: folds
Dust_0ff!: folds
ragmuppet: folds
HR58: calls $3
Rakewell1: raises $2 to $6
bizzlenuts: raises $2 to $8
Betting is capped
HR58: calls $4
Rakewell1: calls $2
*** 4th STREET ***
Dealt to HR58 [9d] [Ac]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [3s 5c 7h] [3c]
Dealt to bizzlenuts [2s] [5d]
bizzlenuts: bets $2
HR58: calls $2
Rakewell1: calls $2
*** 5th STREET ***
Dealt to HR58 [9d Ac] [2d]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [3s 5c 7h 3c] [8h]
Dealt to bizzlenuts [2s 5d] [Ts]
Rakewell1: checks
bizzlenuts: checks
HR58: checks
*** 6th STREET ***
Dealt to HR58 [9d Ac 2d] [As]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [3s 5c 7h 3c 8h] [Ah]
Dealt to bizzlenuts [2s 5d Ts] [7c]
Rakewell1: bets $4
bizzlenuts: calls $4
HR58: calls $4
*** RIVER ***
Dealt to Rakewell1 [3s 5c 7h 3c 8h Ah] [4d]
Rakewell1: bets $4
bizzlenuts: calls $4
HR58: calls $4
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Rakewell1: shows [3s 5c 7h 3c 8h Ah 4d] (Lo: 7,5,4,3,A)
bizzlenuts: mucks hand
HR58: mucks hand
Rakewell1 collected $54.75 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $56.75 Rake $2
Seat 2: rocky8 folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 3: Dust_0ff! folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 4: ragmuppet folded on the 3rd Street
Seat 5: bearfan99 folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 6: HR58 mucked [Kh Qd 9d Ac 2d As 5h]
Seat 7: Rakewell1 showed [3s 5c 7h 3c 8h Ah 4d] and won ($54.75) with Lo: 7,5,4,3,A
Seat 8: bizzlenuts mucked [6d 8c 2s 5d Ts 7c 4s]

(I have to give myself a little pat on the back for this hand. In retrospect, I actively bet and raised all I could on each of the three streets where I was ahead--3rd, 6th, and 7th--and on the two where I was behind--4th and 5th--just called once and checked the other time. Golly, that's sort of like what the books say that one should be doing! I'd better be careful, or opponents will start to think I have a super-user account!)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

No jackpot for you!

Last night at the Palms, it was a $1-3 game. In a limped pot, I had pocket 10s, and the flop came A-10-x, rainbow. All three of us in the hand checked. The turn was the fourth 10. When both opponents checked to me, I put out a smallish bet, hoping that one of them had a weak ace that had just improved to two pairs, or possibly a flopped set that had just improved to a full house (not very likely, I'll admit). They both folded.

I knew enough to stop the dealer before he swept the board cards away, and showed my quads. But I had forgotten something: The house jackpot rules require there to be $10 in the pot to qualify. Three of us limping in had made it just $9, and uncalled bets are not considered part of the pot for purposes of the jackpot requirements.


I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I did know that there was a minimum pot requirement, because that's pretty common--but even if the general idea had occurred to me in time, I wouldn't have known offhand what the qualifying amount was. Almost all of the high-hand jackpots I've won were at the old Hilton poker room, just because I spent so much more time there than anyplace else. There was no pot size requirement at the Hilton. That's why I never developed the habit of checking it. On the few occasions that I've hit a qualifying high hand at other casinos, the pot has been well over any stated minimum, so again I just have had no reason to think much about it--until it was too late.

As it turns out, the quad-10 jackpot had just been hit a short time earlier, so the jackpot amount had been reset to its minimum of $50. Not the costliest mistake I've ever made playing poker, but certainly one that could have been avoided had I been thinking more clearly.

What could I have done differently? Well, I see three possibilities.

First, making the absolute minimum bet ($3) instead of the $6 or $7 that I actually put in might have gotten a nibble. Checking the turn and only betting on the river might have allowed one of the other two players to catch something with which they could call, but, conversely, it might have put another scare card out there (like another ace) and made them even more inclined to throw their hands away. It's impossible to know.

Second, if I had been consciously aware of the minimum pot needed, and after a bet it looked like both opponents would fold, I could stop the last one and say something like, "Please call. If you lose, I'll reimburse you." Most players are alert enough that they would pick up on what this meant and cooperate. That would achieve the pot size requirement.

But I'm uncomfortable with that. It's probably not strictly against the rules, but it's skating on thin ice. Most jackpot rules have an explicit stipulation that the players cannot discuss the possibility of the jackpot during the play of the hand, precisely because such comments will tend to queer the action in favor of the jackpot paying out. That's not fair to those who meet the hand requirements without having discussed it, because every payout reduces the jackpot for the next person to hit it, so all should have to play by the same rules.

It's clear that I can't say something like, "I have four 10s, so I'd really appreciate a call so we can get the pot size above the minimum required, and I'll pay you your bet back." Now, in reality, lots of dealers will turn a blind eye (or, I suppose, a deaf ear) to such remarks, because they don't want to deprive a player of a jackpot and themselves of the resulting tip. One could probably get away with it, without the dealer (or anybody else) snitching to management about what occurred. But I'd feel sleazy about that, knowing that it was a direct violation of the rules.

The alternative mentioned above, which falls just short of being explicit, is a gray area. For the same reasons, one could probably do it, have it work, and have nothing said or done about it, but it would make me uneasy.

The third possibility that has occurred to me in retrospect is, I think, the best solution. I could ask the dealer, "What is the minimum pot size requirement for the high hand jackpot here?" Since I really didn't know, it would be a perfectly honest and legitimate question. And there's certainly no rule against asking the dealer what the house rules are at any time. If this question were not combined with a direct request to another player to call or an offer to reimburse a bet, I think this is far enough above board that it would not trouble me ethically.

The timing of it is tricky, though. I'd prefer to make a bet and have it called in the natural order of play, and not have to resort to secondary means. That means that I'd rather not ask that question before I make my bet. This is not only a rules consideration, but one directly related to the poker. If one of my opponents has, by chance, just made a full house, and he's slow-playing it, hoping to check-raise me, I sure don't want to scare him out of putting a lot of money into the pot by virtually announcing that I have four of a kind.

That means that I'd pretty much have to make the bet, then be prepared to jump in if it looked like the last remaining opponent was going to fold. I would then have to tell that person to wait, then ask the dealer the question, and hope that the other player caught my drift and was feeling cooperative.

On a few occasions, I have seen a thinking-ahead player suggest some code word to the entire table to be used in just such a situation. I've never seen it deployed, though.

Actually, I think that the best solution is just not to have minimum pot sizes for high-hand jackpots in the first place, because it pretty much ensures that all sorts of gray-area maneuvering and outright open negotiation will take place to get around the rule. I assume the minimum pot size is there to prevent two players from checking it down anytime one of them has a pair or two suited cards within the range of a straight, just trying to hit the jackpot. But I think that's a pretty small consideration, when you take into account how rare it is for those possible starters to actually develop into a qualifying high hand.