Saturday, October 11, 2008

Things people ask me, #1

I get asked a lot of questions via email and the comments sections. I pretty much have to ignore most of them, or give only cursory answers, because of time limitations. Besides, in order to write sometime interesting, I have to feel like writing about it. It's hard enough to write something interesting when I have a desire to write about it; trying without that desire is, I think, doomed to failure.

Still, some things get asked often enough that I feel some sense of obligation to post an answer eventually. So I'm starting this occasional series of posts. Other questions high on the list that I'll probably get around to answering sooner or later are things like why I tend to buy in short rather than for the maximum allowed, why I still play $1-2 rather than moving up, where I like to play most, where should somebody try to play when they come to town on vacation, and several others. Feel free to add to the list with whatever you're curious about. I make no guarantee about when or even if I'll ever post an answer, but your chances are a lot better if you ask than if you don't!

Today's question is:

Why do you continue to play in places that have rakes as high as $5 + $1?

The heart of the answer is pretty simple: I keep playing where I make money consistently. The rake is only one factor in determining my profit.

Look at it this way: All else being equal, would you rather play in a house with a $6 rake and nine opponents who have no clue what they are doing, or in a place with a $1 rake and nine sharks at the table? Of course, it's never really that simple, but looking at the question framed that way should, I hope, make clear my general point.

I keep careful records, so after doing this for a couple of years, I have a pretty reliable read on which places are consistently profitable and which are not. I don't know all the reasons why. I lose money more often that I make money at Treasure Island and MGM Grand, for instance, even though other players that I know of comparable skill report raking in the dough at those places. Conversely, the Venetian tends to be one of my most profitable places, while others who I think are comparable to me tell me they avoid it because they find the competition a lot stiffer than they run into elsewhere. It's incredibly difficult to pin down why our experiences might be so different.

I suspect that much of it is simply random variance as to table composition on a given day. There is also likely a psychological self-fulfilling prophecy kind of thing going on. That is, if just by chance I have losing sessions the first three times I play in a particular card room, the fourth time I try it I likely have some subtle negative expectation going in that erodes my confidence, and it's deadly to play without confidence. So I lose a fourth time, which makes me even more pessimistic on the fifth try, etc.

Other factors that may make one place more or less profitable than another over the long haul, despite playing what is ostensibly the same game, might include one's subjective sense of physical comfort (e.g., I generally prefer smaller, enclosed, quiet rooms, while others feel limited and confined in them and like being open to all the stimulation of the surrounding casino action), one's like or dislike of the dealers, floor staff, and house rules/policies (again, feeling good and comfortable rather than feeling irritated or on edge makes a huge difference), and the style of play that tends to prevail in a given poker room. There really are noticeable differences in this, and one's preferred style of play might work better in some environments than in others.

Finally, of course, there is the opposition. The clientele playing at Bill's is completely different from what you'll find at the Wynn, and that, in turn, is completely different from what you'll find in a nitty, locals-predominant place such as Boulder Station. The skills it takes to win in one place do not necessarily transfer directly to winning in others.

Anyway, when I put all of those things together and find, e.g., that a Harrah's property with the highest rake in town is earning me, say, $60/hour over enough visits and time that I have probably evened out much of the statistical variance and can really count on the numbers being a genuine reflection of expected income there, and another with the lowest rake in town, after similar experience, shows, say, $12/hour, where would you choose to spend more time?

Me too.

Sure, all else being equal, I would prefer to have fewer dollars taken out of each pot that I win. But all else is far from equal, and the fact is that I can't just conclude that I will make more money playing in the rooms with the lowest rake. The rake is simply one factor in the profitability equation, and one that is probably overwhelmed by some of the other issues mentioned in the foregoing. So for the most part, I disregard it. When deciding on any given day where to head, honestly, the rake doesn't even dawn on me. I'm far more focused on where I have a history of consistent profit, where I'm comfortable, where there might be a convention with some easy pickings, where traffic isn't likely to be heavy, where will be close to or on the way to other places I need to go for errands, where I can be confident a game of my liking will be going, where I haven't visited in a long time, and other such sundry factors.

Poker gems, #172

Roy Cooke, in Card Player magazine column, October 8, 2008 (vol. 21, #20), p. 60.

I often hear players moan about how they ran bad, got unlucky, and were coolered by the deck. They fail to understand that none of that matters. It's your job to play your hand the best that you can, given the data available at the point of decision. That's your only job. Sometimes you're just wrong. Sometimes the deck will just stick it to you. And sometime you will get lucky, as the deck will deliver a miracle card. It's all irrelevant. Just keep doing your job, getting your bets in as best you can.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

How is that possible?

What??? I got passed over for the Nobel Prize in literature again this year??? It went to some stinking French novelist???

The Nobel Prizes are SO rigged.

Hugs and kisses

Thanks to High on Poker for this bit of love.

"Planet" Hollywood was the right place for him

At Planet Hollywood last night there was a weird guy on my left. He was really big--very tall and beefy. He spoke only fewer than ten words the whole time I was there, seeming to have a German accent. When I sat down, he had maybe $400 in chips. As I watched how he played, I could not figure out how he would have acquired them, because he was absolutely terrible.

The first peculiar thing I noted about him was that he was a complete space cadet. The dealers had a difficult time getting his attention when it was his turn. He was neither watching nor listening to anything, as far as I could determine--just staring off into space, in his own little world. It frequently took the dealer yelling at him two or three times to break his reverie. He did not act drunk, move like a drunk person, or smell of alcohol. But it would not surprise me if a urine drug screen on him turned positive for other substances.

He was in Seat 8 (out of 10), which is one of the two corners farthest from the dealer. Yet no matter how many times the dealers asked him to push his chips and cards in a little closer so that they could reach them, he never caught on. Kind of a slow learner, you might say.

The second peculiar thing I noticed about him was how often he checked out. No, not in the mental sense, which was all the time. I mean he would muck his cards when not facing a bet. He did this at the strangest times--situations in which I have never before seen anybody act that way. If he was in the big blind and didn't like his hand, he would muck when it was his turn, even if there had been no raise and he could have seen the flop for free. He would routinely muck after seeing the flop, even with no bet to him. Once I watched him bet $10 on the turn, get called by two other players, then throw his cards away before the dealer had even put out the river card.

He made completely hopeless calls, and equally hopeless bluffs. It seemed that he had absolutely no idea what any other player might be holding.

There were three other pretty good players at the table, and we would exchange astonished glances when Space Cadet did one of these things. The looks were all saying the same thing, I think: "The only question is which of us is going to be the lucky one to get all of his chips."

Well, the answer was me. I limped in with a bunch of other people with 5-5. I rather liked the flop of 9-9-5, since I don't flop a full house every day. I checked. Space Cadet bet $10. A couple of other people called, as did I. Turn card was a jack. I checked again. S.C. bet $20 this time, and it was folded around back to me.

My only concern at this point is how to get him pot-committed to double me up on the river. That required a raise, but I didn't want to scare him off. I had $93 left at that point. I finally decided on a check-raise for the minimum--$40, leaving $53 behind. If he called, then an all-in bet on the river would cost him $53 with a pot that would be about $160. I thought that a min raise would be irresistible to him, and that price on the river would be similarly a nearly automatic call with anything short of a pure bluff on his part. I didn't think he was bluffing, because he had never fired more than one shot as a bluff so far. In fact, I figured he pretty much had to have hit trip nines to explain his betting.

I didn't actually think he had any capacity for doing pot odds calculations in his thick skull, but I hoped that he would have at least a grunt-level sense that he should call the min raise as well as my anticipated river bet.

He did both. I showed him the full house. He made a face and turned over pocket queens.

The strange thing is that for once in the evening, it wasn't his terrible play that got him into trouble. Yeah, he should have raised before the flop, but I would have called any reasonable raise anyway, and the only difference is that we would have been playing for a larger pot to begin with. I still probably would have check-called the flop. I would have checked the turn again, and he presumably would have bet again (though at that point he should have yellow caution lights flashing in his head). With a bigger pot, I might have gone for the all-in check-raise on the turn rather than waiting for the river, so maybe he could have gotten away from it at that point. But who knows?

He lost the rest of his chips a short time later on a bad call that was much more like his previous just-plain-bad ones. He got up to leave. When he was out of earshot, I murmured to the good player who had been on his left, "Please go to the ATM and come back. Please!" But he didn't.

One quick story about the player who replaced him. He was extremely tight--so much so that he had been at the table more than 30 minutes before he put in his first pre-flop raise. I had 10-8 spades. It's the kind of hand that I will often happily call a raise with if I'm in late position, but I usually won't try to take it against the raiser when he is behind me. This time, I made an exception. This was partly because I thought I could put this guy on a very narrow range of hands, given how long he had sat there playing almost nothing. But I'll admit it was also because I had lost a sizable pot a couple of hands before, in which I had lost virtually everything I had won from Space Cadet. It was stinging, and I wanted to get back to where I had been. So there was an element of tilty play influencing my decision. I put up my $12.

I was glad I had done it when the flop came 10-8-3. Cha-CHING! Top two pairs against what is almost certainly an overpair, with a guy who has been waiting patiently for his big hand to play, and may not want to let it go. Sure enough, he called my substantial check-raise on the flop, and then called my all-in on the turn. He mucked (and groaned) upon seeing my cards, but later told me in an entirely sincere and believable manner that he had had pocket aces.

The only strange thing about this hand (and the point of the story, which I guess I'm finally getting to) was the dialogue afterward. I usually say nothing to an opponent after taking a big chunk of his chips, because I know from being on the other end of such an event that nothing makes it feel any better, and most things one might consider saying just make it worse. So I wasn't goading this guy or anything, just quietly stacking the chips.

But he said, half to himself and half to the guy on his left, "I should have just moved all in before the flop." The other guy gave him a puzzled look--because this would have meant open-raising for about $200 in a $1-$2 game, an utterly insane move--and said, "You'd just pick up the blinds that way. Nobody would call."

S.C.'s replacement jabbed his thumb in my direction and said, "He would have. If he'll call $12 with 10-8, he'd call any amount."

Ri-i-i-i-ght. Yeah. That's how I play, for sure, buddy.

Some people are so clueless. I mean, I can understand how it hurts to lose nearly your entire initial buy-in with pocket aces going down to a measly 10-8 on a board that looked perfectly safe. I can even understand him thinking that I was a doofus with no clue how to play the game right. But to conclude that if I would see a flop for $12 to see if I could hit gold then I would therefore also be willing to just shove it all in with such a speculative hand--well, that's just lunacy. But hey, it's OK with me if you want to think that of me. The more incorrect inferences you make about how I play, the better it is for me. Still, you might want to rethink how you judge your opponents, my friend. They're not all as crazy as you are.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Planet Hollywood doubly annoys me

The Planet Hollywood poker room is now in the fourth different location since I moved here two years ago. Stability is not their strong suit, I guess.

The first place, back when it was still the Aladdin, was just awful--right next to the "Wheel of Fortune" slots, one of the noisiest spots you could possibly pick for a poker room. Then they moved it upstairs roughly during the transition over to the Planet Hollywood name.

When they opened the official PH room, it was fantastic. I loved the decor, the chairs were comfortable, there was lots of room between tables, but it was small enough that I could pretty much keep track of most of what was happening in the room, which I like. The location was perfect--right inside the entrance, whether you came in from the mall or from the sidewalk outside. About half of two sides of the room were walled off, the other half open to the casino. Yet I almost never found the noise and smoke bothersome. The only real downside to the location was being next to the piano lounge, where they had a horrible singer on long-term contract and karaoke some nights. But I didn't find that intolerable.

The only thing that kept me from playing there more often was the location. PH is one of the most awkward places on the Strip to get to, both because it's halfway between freeway exits (Flamingo and Tropicana), and because you have to go around to the back (Audrey Lane) to access the parking garage. Then, after parking, you have one of the two longest walks in town (the other being the MGM Grand) to reach the casino.

Last week I read on that they had closed that lovely poker room. It had only been open for, what?, a year and a half? That's just insane. So last night I went to PH to check out the new space.


First, it took me forever to find it, because they haven't bothered putting up signs. (As I left, I discovered one sign that I had missed on the way in, but that was all.) This by itself gives you a pretty strong hint about how important poker is to the powers that be at PH. The new "room" is right next to the Heart lounge, which means that the horrible, constant, deep bass thrum of nightclub music permeates right through to one's rattled bones, though one gets little or nothing else of the music. I will never be able to put in long sessions there, because that noise will drive me crazy. The "room" is also just a few steps from the section of the casino called the "Pleasure Pit," where dealers dressed like the woman shown above periodically climb up on the tables and dance suggestively.

The poker tables are not even so much as roped off from the surrounding slot machines, which means that people just randomly wander between them walking from Point A to Point B--something I don't recall being a problem in any other poker room I've ever played in. I find it very distracting and intrusive. I don't mind people watching me play, but the lack of any physical barrier here means that passers-by seem to feel entitled to stand right next to the tables to observe. That I find uncomfortable.

There is zero smoke barrier. Last night it wasn't a problem, but I think that was only because it was a slow night. On a weekend, I would expect to leave reeking of other people's cigarettes, which I detest.

On my way out, I asked if this was a permanent location or only temporary, while something better is being built. I was told that it was permanent (well, obviously, "permanent" is not a word with much meaning at PH, but you know what I mean). However, there are plans to improve the isolation with some combination of half-walls and sound-deadening curtains. It's hard for me to envision how this will work, but maybe it will. Just about anything they do will be an upgrade at this point. I have dropped them from a category 3 to the ugly category 5 in my list of how smoke-free poker rooms are.

In short, they have taken one of the nicest of the small poker rooms, and turned it into another icky place that I, for one, find aesthetically awful. Horrible move, Planet Hollywood. Just horrible.

Ah, but I said in the post title that they doubly annoyed me, so you know this rant is only halfway through, right?

PH has never tracked player hours for purposes of comp dollars, the way most poker rooms do. I have been vaguely aware that one might get a food comp if one asked, but I never did. I don't really like interrupting a poker session for a meal, and, besides, most of my sessions are short enough (2-3 hours) that I don't need to. For the most part, I save up whatever comps I get and use them for eating out with friends or family, completely apart from playing poker. For this reason, I never had occasion to ask the details of getting a food comp at PH.

Last night, I was leaving at around 10 p.m., and thought that I could use a late-night snack. I have heard all sorts of good things about the deli place there called "Earl of Sandwich," so thought this would be a good occasion to try it. I asked at the desk about how to get a food comp ticket.

The floor guy told me that they required 10 hours of play for a comp. I asked whether it had to be all in one day. He said no, that much time over two or three days would work, too. This puzzled me, because I couldn't see how they would track such hours; on previous occasions, I have been told that they will not use players' club cards to track hours. So I asked whether I should check in with my club card. He said no, just tell him that I'm there playing and trying to accumulate the appropriate hours, and he'll informally keep an eye on it.

This is, in my view, actually worse than if they had no comps available at all. It means that if your pattern of hours fits their specifications (i.e., 10 hours in one or two or three days), and if you know in advance to tell somebody that you'll be wanting a comp at the end of that time, and if you put in those hours on the same floor guy's shift, and if you're lucky enough that the same person is there to notice you for two or three consecutive days, then you might get a lousy $10 comp written for you. I wonder if there is any way they could make that feel any more like groveling. Probably not.

When I got home, I checked my records. Over the past year, I've put in 14 sessions at PH, for a total of 48.3 hours, averaging 3.5 hours per visit. But there is only one PH emplyee who knows my name, and that isn't from interacting with him there, but through functions. Then on top of that questionable customer service, after spending 48 hours there, the one time I ask about getting the smallest morsel tossed back my way, I'm told that I don't qualify, because I haven't jumped through their stupid hoops in exactly the right way--how I arrange my visits, who I talk to, etc.

I don't claim that I'm anything like a "regular" there, but I sure as hell have put in a lot more hours in their chairs than many of the tourists whose pattern of play will fit nicely into their comp requirements (long sessions and consecutive days). Yet those tourists can get a crummy sandwich comp, and I can't. That irritates me a hell of a lot more than if they just had no comps available for anybody under any circumstances. It makes me feel that my business is totally unappreciated.

If they had no comps at all, fine, I can live with that. I play at places with such policies. The $1 (or, in a few rooms, $2) per hour is a completely insignificant fraction of my income. It would be illogical to select a place to play based on the presence or absence of such a perk. If a casino offers it, sure, I'll take it. If I can get an occasional dinner out for free, why wouldn't I?

But to put in place the kind of completely arbitrary and selective requirements and barriers that PH does not only discriminates against some players who have spent more time there than others, it makes the recipient (this erstwhile recipient, anyway) feel like he is begging, rather than being given a token of the casino's appreciation. It also makes the casino look unbelievably stingy.

Planet Hollywood, your comp system sucks. And so does your new room. I'll still be showing up from time to time, because it's a consistently profitable trip, but I'll be looking forward to it a lot less, and enjoying it a lot less, than I have in the past.


Nearly every time a player forgets to return the winning cards to the dealer, until being reminded, he or she makes a little joke about keeping them to use again on the next hand. Some dealers still manage to smile politely, though I don't know how, after hearing the same stupid comment about 17 million times a day.

But every time I hear it, I am reminded of an idea I have long had about a home-game poker variant that I think would be interesting and fun to play. I would call it "Takeaway," or maybe "Reduction."

It would be played just like regular Texas Hold'em, with two exceptions. First, the winning hand must be shown to all players, even if the player won by making a bet that nobody called. Second, those two cards are removed from the deck and set aside. This process continues until there are too few cards remaining to play the next hand (for a game of N players, you need at least 2N + 8 cards at the beginning of the hand), at which time you make the deck whole again and start afresh. I am torn about whether the cards removed should be left face up for all to see, or shown once, with players dependent on their memory to know what cards are no longer available.

I think this would make for an interesting challenge, though not, perhaps, readily compatible with the amount of alcohol ingestion commonly occurring at home poker games.

Nobody has invited me to a home game since I moved to Nevada, so I don't foresee any opportunity to try this. But if any readers have a regular game, and you can convince your buddies to play a night of Takeaway, I'd be interested in hearing how it went, observations about how strategy changed as the deck shrank, whether you tried it with the discards remaining visible or not, etc. In fact, if somebody emails me (email address is in the profile over in the left margin somewhere) an account of what happened, I'd love to make a post out of it (with permission, of course).

I don't get very many good original ideas. This may be one of the few.

Grump for president

OK, I've done enough complaining about how horrible both of the two leading presidential candidates are on the issues I care most about. If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself.

With that in mind, I ask you to watch this short video. If after doing so, you can still vote for McCain or Obama (or even Barr) in good conscience, well, then I guess I have nothing more to offer you.

Incidentally, my fallback position is to accept the nomination to be Secretary of Energy under President Julius Goat.

(Thanks to reader "Dan from Minnesota" for the video suggestion.)

Fact-checking ESPN again

OK, I guess you all know the drill by now: ESPN broadcasts the World Series of Poker and includes a "poker fact" or two each week. I check them for accuracy, and find that the network production team is unforgivably sloppy.

Here's the first one from Tuesday night:

Not surprisingly, this appears to be wrong.

Here's how I figured it. It's actually easier to calculate the probability of not hitting a pair, then subtracting that number from 1. So all three flop cards have to be something other than a pair to my two hole cards. Let's say I have A-K to start with, and consider the first card on the flop. There are 50 unknown cards left in the deck, of which 6 are the remaining aces and kings, leaving 44 others. Therefore, the probability of the first card not pairing me is 44/50. If that happens, then by similar reasoning the probability of the second flop card not pairing me is 43/49. If that happens, then the probability of the third flop card not pairing me is 42/48. Multiply these together (because they all have to be simultaneously true), and we get 0.6757, or 67.57% as the probability of not catching at least one pair on the flop. Therefore, the probability of catching at least one pair (and it could be two pairs or trips or a full house or quads--doesn't matter for this calculation) is 1.00 - 0.6757 = 0.3243, or 32.43%.

This is confirmed in Phil Gordon's Little Green Book, p. 272 (though he again adds that superfluous and incorrect extra digit, and reports the figure as 32.40%) and in Matthew Hilger's Texas Hold'em Odds and Probabilities, p. 186. This gives me considerable confidence that the number is correct.

This time, it appears that the ESPN crew simply introduced a typographical error. I can't imagine any alternative way of thinking about the question or phrasing it that would result in an answer of 34.43%, and the match of the two figures after the decimal point leads me to suspect a simple digit error. Somebody looked at "32.43%" on a piece of paper, and mistyped it in the television graphics editing software as "34.43%." That's certainly an easy error to make, but it also should have been an easy one to avoid, or at least catch before it hit the air.

Our second "fact" for the week is this:

This is mostly correct, but needs a bit of clarification.

You can find a handy list of starting hands, ranked by their probabilities of winning against nine random hands (i.e., a 10-person poker table) here. Looking down the list, you can see that ESPN's top five are correct, as long as you specify that the AK has to be suited. If it is unsuited, it drops down to 12th in frequency of wins.

ESPN should also specify a full table, because these rankings change as you get short-handed. In the extreme, when playing heads-up poker, the ranking morphs to this:

AA 0.85
KK 0.82
QQ 0.80
JJ 0.77
TT 0.75
99 0.72
88 0.69
AKs 0.67
77 0.66
AKo 0.65

You can see that AK now drops below a bunch of pocket pairs over which it would be ranked higher in a full ring game. (Figures taken from Hilger, pp. 226-237.)

All in all, I would score ESPN this week as one wrong, one mostly right but incomplete. I suppose that's about as good as I've come to expect from them.


Every time I do one of these math posts, I get something wrong. Fortunately, I have my eagle-eyed readers to catch what I miss, so that I have a chance to set it right.

This time, somebody emailed me privately to note that the Wizard of Odds table to which I linked above is presented in order of amount of expected win, not probability of win, even though the latter is the first column shown. I overlooked this. The two orders are not quite the same. For probability of win (or tie) in a ten-handed game, Wizard of Odds gives these for the top ten hands, in order:

AA 31.36%
KK 26.43%
QQ 22.66%
AKs 21.73%
AQs 20.44%
JJ 19.84%
KQs 19.8%
AJs 19.51%
KJs 18.94%
ATs 18.87%

To check this, I ran a simulation on PokerStove, using the specified hand against nine random hands in a Monte Carlo run of one million hands each. What I got was somewhat different, both in numerical values and order, from what Wizard of Odds shows (I'm using the "equity" numbers here, though the "probability of win" comes out in the same order as "equity"):

AA 31.1%
KK 26.1%
QQ 22.2%
AKs 20.7%
JJ 19.3%
AQs 19.2%
KQs 18.6%
AJs 18.2%
KJs 17.7%
ATs 17.4%

In other words, PokerStove agrees with what ESPN displayed (as long as we agree that the AK has to be suited), but Wizard of Odds finds that JJ and AQs flip for the #5 and #6 spots. I really don't have any plausible explanation for the discrepancy, and will have to leave it as a little mystery for now. However, I have enough confidence in PokerStove that if I were forced to guess which is correct, that's where my money would go.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Poker gems, #171

Steve Zolotow, on "Poker After Dark," last night.

You always hear about gambling gets you involved with drugs. I think gambling in a way saved me from drugs, because I loved playing games, and when I was doing all the drugs, I couldn't win at, y'know, even in the small games in Gardena.... It was one of the big incentives to stop, that I could be better as a poker player and a bridge player. That was a big incentive for me.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bucking the trend--again

In case you hadn't heard yet, there's a new effort underway in Congress to make online poker explicitly legal via a federal licensing scheme. It is getting positive reviews from the Poker Players Alliance, Pokerati, Shamus, and many others in this little community of ours.

I guess I'll have to be the maverick here. I am unalterably opposed to this piece of legislation and all others akin to it. I've already explained my reasons here and here, so I won't rehash the arguments. I'll just repeat that I'm convinced that federal licensing would ultimately be far, far worse for the poker world than the current state of affairs is. The feds may look like a welcome partner--even rescuer, at this point--for now, but like the camel asking merely to let its nose into the tent, this move will prove disastrous in the long run.

Finally, I feel compelled to respond to something my friend Shamus wrote earlier today:

Something to look forward to, then, although we all know that if any bill
like S. 3616 were to make it through the Senate and then the House, only one of
our two presidential candidates could be counted on to sign the sucker into law.
There are, in fact, more than two presidential candidates. As Rich Muny at the PPA makes clear, the only candidate (at least as far as I know; if there are others, I'd love to hear about them from readers via the comments section) who has clearly expressed strong support for making online gambling legal is Bob Barr. (Muny previously gave Barr an A+ rating, Obama a C, and McCain a D, though he has subsequently removed those ratings.) The VP candidate on that ticket is a professional gambler, who is also on record as firmly favoring the full legalization of online gaming.

Shamus says that Obama could be "counted on" to sign the recent Senate bill, and that this is not merely speculation, but a fact, something that "we all know" (emphasis added). Well, I certainly don't know that. What is the evidence for this assertion? I know of none. Niether Obama nor anybody else has yet signed on as cosponsors of the bill (see here). I certainly haven't heard any such concrete commitment from the candidate or his representatives. I think it is merely wishful thinking at this point.

New (?) feature at South Point

South Point is another perfectly nice and profitable poker room that I don't get to much because of its distance. But as long as I was at Silverton, South Point is just a couple of miles further down Las Vegas Boulevard, so I gave them another visit.

They have a new thing up on the wall. Or maybe it has been there a long time and I just never noticed it before. I'm capable of an astounding degree of obliviousness about my surroundings. Anyway, I don't even know what to call it--a wall hanging, maybe. It's a large black surface that was signed by many (all?) of the participants in one of the seasons of GSN's "High Stakes Poker" (I'm guessing Season 3).

The problem is, it's difficult to both see and photograph. They did a terrible job of hanging it, because there is an awful glare from the overhead lights, no matter where you stand. It's hard to see to start with, because inexplicably they had the players sign with a very faint white ink on a black background. In the photos above, you can just barely see that there is anything written at all. From a distance, it basically looks like a solid black, well, thing, without apparent purpose. It's only when you get close that you can figure out that it's a collection of signatures.

Since I can't get good pictures of it, I guess you'll all just have to stop out there and take a look yourselves. Still, it was nice to see something that made me look forward to being treated to yet another season of my favorite poker show.

The fish bit back at South Point tonight. Lost two buy-ins. First I flopped a flush with Q-9 of spades in my hand and 10-6-2 of spades on the flop, and succumbed to a runner-runner full house. (He had A-6, including the ace of spades, so he was going for the nut flush, picked up an ace on the turn for two pairs, then caught a third 6 on the river. I correctly guessed that he was going for the higher flush, and would have shut down if another spade hit, but the extra danger his hand held with the pairs/full house was a complete blindside.) Then my pocket tens were happy to see an all-baby flop, so I moved all-in, an overbet of the pot, but still got called by a flush draw, which came on the river. So it wasn't any harder getting my money in good than it had been at Silverton--just didn't work out right. That's the way some sessions are, inevitably.

Incidentally, South Point recently announced plans for a major expansion of its poker room. They seem to be making a push to grab a bigger slice of the local players' market. See here for details.

Silverton--a casino with fish

Went out to Silverton tonight. The giant aquarium there is one of my favorite places in Vegas. If you can tune out the slot machine noises, it's a rare bit of tranquility in a city of cacophony. This was the first time I happened to be on scene when one of the mermaids came out to greet the people. I kept waiting for her to meander over to my side of the aquarium, but she never did, so I didn't get a picture of her up close for my readers. Sorry. They cheated me. But you can still see glimpes of her in some of the photos above. As for the fish, well, the stupid things just wanted to keep swimming, rather than hold still and pose like I wanted them to, and blurriness was the inevitable result.

I hadn't been to Silverton since December, when I reported that their temporary poker room was pretty awful. I thought it had been long enough that surely the new room was open by now, so I went out to try it. Nope. They have signs up saying it will be coming in November. Hard to understand that kind of delay. The Nevada Palace was closed, completely remodeled, and reopened as the Eastside Cannery in about six months. How long can it take to build a poker room?

In the meantime, they have moved the temporary poker room to another part of the casino. I think they are new tables, but I couldn't swear to that. (Memory is a little fuzzy.) They're nice, though. Still the same general problem of noise and smoke as last time, but it did seem less intensely smoky in this new spot. Whether that is because it's a better ventilated area (it was really, really cold, so this is a possibility), or just a coincidence that tonight not many people were standing three feet away with a heater going, I cannot say.

Yes, the "fish" in the title of the post is a deliberate double meaning. Made $288 in two hours, playing absolutely ABC poker, with never a single difficult decision to make. Could have done it in my sleep. It has me thinking that I should visit this particular aquarium more regularly.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

You do not want to play poker with this man

If you thought the last Ricky Jay performance was amazing (I described the movie scene, and readers supplied the YouTube link in the comments), prepare to have your mind blown with this one. I can't even begin to comprehend how this is possible.

While we're at it, might as well throw in a few more bits of his prestidigitation to astonish you. The man is simply phenomenal.