Saturday, December 06, 2008

Riding the monster bus

I saw this post on Prof's Las Vegas News Blog. Since I was out tonight with a friend who is slightly nutso about monster trucks (she who took the photos), I thought we should see what it was all about.

For $5, it's a blast. Because of the crazy four-wheel steering, it has a ridiculously short turning radius, which means that they can really whip passengers side to side, especially if you're sitting in the back, behind the rear wheels. They just drive around in a roped-off area of the parking lot, not jumping over obstacles or crushing cars under the tires, but it's still a more thrilling ride than you would guess by looking, with some neck-snapping acceleration and braking in addition to the lateral whiplash.

Go check it out if you're in town.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A bit of poker advice

A few weeks ago, I was listening to one of those financial advice programs on the radio. An investment counselor was talking about the number of calls he was getting from clients who saw the falling stock values and wanted to sell, SELL, SELL! He said that what he told them was this: "Panic is not an investment strategy."

Well, my brain being completed soaked in poker, I immediately thought of the poker analogs of this fine bit of wisdom: Panic is not a poker strategy, either.

When I seem to be having a bad day, and I have already gone through one or two buy-ins, and have left only half or less of the last one, I tend to get gloomy and pessimistic. I start resigning myself to the inevitability of having to chalk up an "L" in the ledger for the day, which I detest. I can even start thinking fatalistically: it doesn't matter how I play, I'm going to lose anyway. It's easy to give up and look for pretty much any old spot to shove those chips in and just hope for the best, while expecting the worst.

But recently, since hearing that few minutes of the investment counselor's calm, rational advice--which he obviously had no intention of being applied this way--I have added that modified sound bite to the list of one-line advice nuggets that I try to let my brain call up when in a moment of decision.

And it has been working. I see my short stack of chips left, feel the gloomy, fatalistic thoughts creep in, but then hear that contrary message playing back at me: "Panic is not a poker strategy." What's weird about this is that, for reasons I can't begin to figure out, that message always plays in the voice of Ed Harris, as Gene Kranz in "Apollo 13," saying "Failure is not an option!" (One of the greatest lines in any context, ever.) It's stern, like somebody is barking an order at me, and it has the effect of snapping me back to attention.

This has allowed me to sit back and analyze the situation more rationally. What is my table image? Which opponents can I make fold with a bluff-shove, and which ones will call me incorrectly with weak holdings and allow me to double up if I wait for a premium hand? I re-evaluate my goals, perhaps deciding to be content with breaking even for the day or leaving down by just one buy-in instead of two or three.

The results have been highly favorable, in that I have been making more comebacks than I used to. This sequence of events happened again last night at the Rio. Everything had been going wrong, and I was down to $50 in front of me, knowing I was not going to rebuy if I lost it. I started feeling hopeless, but then the Ed Harris voice marshaled my attention and I began focusing on how to use the remaining chips in the smartest possible way, rather than in the most desperate possible way. I also projected how lousy it was going to feel if I shoved them in bad and lost, and had to drive home chastising myself for being stupid, versus how good it would feel to play smart and either fight back to even for the day, or at least go home knowing that I got my money in good and just got unlucky in a way that I couldn't control.

This was all aided by the fact that I shared the table with a guy who was following the all-too-typical route of being short and shoving willy-nilly. Each time he did it, he would stand up, prepared to go home. When he won, he would sit back down, but complain about the situation with comments like, "I'm trying to leave and you people won't let me!" We've all seen players go through this nonsense many times. He kept winning the all-in situations, but then bleeding his chips back down and getting crazy with the last of them again, until he finally, inevitably lost them all. His last hour or so was simply acting out the self-fulfilling prophecy he had obviously made, that he was going to leave broke. I didn't want to emulate him. His pathetic example helped me decide not to follow in those footsteps.

So I buckled down, infused myself with another mental jolt of patience and self-confidence, and played smart. About an hour later, I had done it, and left up by $54 instead of down by $300, which I think would have been the result if I had stayed in my "all is lost" thinking rut. Not exactly my biggest win ever, but a real accomplishment under the circumstances, one for which I could legitimately pat myself on the back. I heeded the advice and didn't panic.

Of course, there are times in both cash games and tournaments in which putting all of one's chips in with weak cards--or even with any two cards one is dealt--is correct both in terms of the math and the game theory. As long as one reaches that conclusion rationally, based on the specific situation one is in, that's not panicking. But most of the time, it is correct to wait for the stars to line up favorably before acting, even though that means exercising patience at the very moment one feels completely depleted of that particular asset.

So that's my advice for today. When things haven't been going your way, and you're feeling desperate and/or fatalistic, just remember: Panic is not a poker strategy. There is always a better way to deal with the situation.

Underneath the glitz

Interesting story here about the homeless people living in the storm drains under the Strip casinos. Worth a read.

Some good economic news--well, sort of

I was listening to KNPR's "State of Nevada" this morning. One of the guests was Review-Journal columnist Doug Elfman. He was talking about how the recession is affecting this city's core industries.

He mentioned that cab and limo drivers he has been talking to say that the local prostitutes are lowering their rates because of a drop-off in business. So if you can find yourself a discount flight out here, now's the time to plan a visit!

Update on the deuce-four

At the Rio tonight I was two off of the button and joined a few others limping in with my 2-4 of diamonds. Yes, it is indeed a weaker version of my favorite hand, because it can only make one flush. But you've gotta play what you're dealt. The big blind raised, but he did this at the drop of a hat, so it didn't mean much. Everybody called.

The flop was A-K-5 rainbow. Surprisingly, everybody checked. The turn was 7 of the fourth suit. To my amazement, it got checked around again. The force was strong with the deuce-four tonight, and those two cards in my hand called forth a 3 from the deck--kind of like Yoda elevating a crashed spaceship out of the swamp--and the dealer put it out as the last card on the board, giving me the second nuts. I was not worried about anybody having 4-6, the only hand that would beat me. The UTG player bet $10. I raised to $30. He called after everybody else folded. I won. Thanks for the two free cards, everybody!

Now, I know this is going to come as a shock to my faithful readers, but the 2-4 does occasionally lose. This is, after all, a game of chance, and freakish incidents do occur contrary to all statistical probability.

For example, on Sunday night I was playing down the last hour or so that the Tropicana poker room would be open (about which I will have more to say soon, when I have time to write a longish story). About three hands from the 10:00 p.m. closing time, I picked up the ol' 2-4. Again, it was suited, thus weakening its potential, like Superman a little too close to the lump of green Kryptonite. Worse, I was out of position. But it was surely going to be my last chance at some 2-4 glory in this room, so I decided to take a chance. Besides, it was a $2-4 limit game because there wasn't a no-limit game going, and what better place to play the 2-4 than in a $2-4 game?!

To make a long story short, I hit two pair, but lost a big pot to a flopped set. I know what you're thinking--the odds against that must be astronomical. It is surely so. I'll spare you the math, but just take my word for it: 2-4 being taken out by a flopped set is about a 1 in 3 billion chance. Really!

Even more astonishing was the horrible beat taken by Ivan Demidov's 2-4 on the final hand of the World Series of Poker Main Event. You can read the blow-by-blow account from F-Train, live blogging for PokerNews, here, as well as watch the hand animated.

The probability of the mighty 2-4 hitting two pair and yet being beaten by a straight is, astonishingly, even lower than it hitting two pair and being beaten by a set. I ran out of decimal places on my calculator, but with some fancy logarithmic shortcuts I was able to estimate the odds at a mind-blowing 117 trillion to 1.

So the deuce-four is not for the faint of heart. If you play it every time you get it, there may conceivably come a point in your life in which is loses the pot. You have to be prepared for that theoretical possibility and steel yourself against it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Consistent wrong choice

It happens every time. It is a player's turn to act, but the cocktail waitress (or, less frequently, food service waitress) is there, either to take the player's order or deliver it. Which does the guy choose to attend to first? The waitress.

I don't get this.

To me, it seems obvious that the game comes first. By dealing with the game first, you keep only one person waiting--one who is being paid to be there. By dealing with the waitress first, you keep 8 or 9 other people waiting for you--all of whom are, one way or another, paying to be there. (Plus the dealer, of course.) Doesn't that comparison of consequences make it mandatory etiquette to tell the waitress, "Just a minute, please," take one's turn, then deal with the service issue?

But I almost never see it done that way.

People are so incredibly thoughtless and rude and self-centered.

Shilling for a freeroll

I have to post the following in order to qualify for the blogger championship. Sorry for the lack of actual content.

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

The WBCOOP is an online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers.

Registration code: 346021

Celebrity sighting

As I was cashing out my chips at the Venetian tonight, I peeked into the high-stakes "salon" poker room and saw Teddy "Iceman" Monroe sitting there.

Sometimes my life is so exciting that I can hardly stand it.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Poker gems, #192

John Updike, in short story "Poker Night," published in the 1987 collection Trust Me, as reprinted in John Stravinsky, ed., Read 'Em and Weep: A Bedside Poker Companion, p. 212-218. The narrator is at his regular weekly game, with thoughts of mortality heavy on his mind, having come directly from his doctor's office, where he was told he had advanced cancer:

Ted spilled his beer as he tends to do as the evening wears on, reaching for some cards or the popcorn basket or his bifocals (it's an awkward length: you can see your own cards fine with the short vision but the cards in the middle tend to blur, and vice versa) and everybody howled and kidded him as they always do, and my throat began to go rough, they were all so damn sweet, and I'd known them so damn long, without ever saying much of anything except this clowning around and whose deal was it; maybe that was the sweetness. Their faces blurred and came up in starry points like that out-of-focus thing they do with television cameras now - the false teeth and glasses and the shiny high foreheads where hair had been - and the crazy thought came to me that people wouldn't mind which it was so much, heaven or hell, as long as their friends went with them.

Not ashamed of being stupid

The other day as I was leaving a casino I noticed a familiar face, though he didn't appear to see me. It wasn't until after we had passed that I was able to pull from the ol' memory banks who he was. His name is Josh, and he used to play at the Hilton on a fairly regular basis. He was extremely friendly and generally pleasant, though a lot more talkative (and loud) than is to my personal liking. He was pretty easy to win money from, because he bluffed incessantly.

But the most memorable thing about him was an incident from what was, I think, the first time I played with him. It's a story I recorded during the first month I lived in Vegas, as it was published in the "Bulletin Board" section of my home-town newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, to which I used to be a frequent contributor.

Last week, a young man next to me at a poker game ordered a Corona. When it
arrived, he noticed that the lip of the bottle was cracked. He commented on it,
and I could easily see the broken glass, too. He then shrugged his shoulders and
took a swig of it anyway. Then he got a strange look on his face, and spat the
beer back into the bottle. He complained that he had glass in his mouth. Soon
after, he left the table, saying that his mouth was bleeding. (It was -- but
only a little, as far as I could tell.) He spent the next hour wandering around,
complaining to anyone who would listen how the casino gave him a beer in a
broken bottle. None of us at the table were very sympathetic, since he had made
a big deal of the bottle being broken before he put it in his mouth.

Mind you -- the beer is free to the poker players (it keeps them at the
table longer), and even if he had paid for it, he obviously could have asked for
a replacement bottle if he had been willing to wait five minutes for it.

Finally, he filed a formal complaint, and I was asked by the hotel security people to
fill out a description of what I had observed. I did. The security guy shared my
feeling that if I had been that stupid, I wouldn't tell anybody -- let alone try
to blame the establishment, or try to weasel a few nuisance bucks out of them.
The noive of some people!

Double-paired boards

At the Planet Hollywood game last night there seemed to be an unusual number of double-paired board (e.g., something like K-K-2-7-7). It got me to wondering how often one should expect that to happen, on average.

There are 2,598,960 possible five-card boards possible in hold'em, because C(52,5) = 2,598,960.

The tricky bit, then, is counting up how many possible double-paired boards there are--a task I undertake here with more trepidation than usual, having just minutes ago put up a post illustrated by a book that appears to be titled Counting for Dummies. I feel motivated to get it right to avoid getting the taunts turned on me! So I'm figuring this out as I go. Follow along, if you care to.

Consider the highest possible double-paired board: A-A-K-K-x. How many ways can such a board occur? (We don't care about the order the cards come in for this question.) There are six different combinations of A-A that can be part of it (Ac-Ad, Ac-Ah, Ac-As, Ad-Ah, Ad-As, and Ah-As). Similarly, there are six different combinations of kings that can constitute the other pair. That's a total of 36 different combinations of those four cards. Then we have left in the deck 44 other cards, any of which can serve as our fifth card. 36 x 44 = 1584. So there are 1584 A-A-K-K-x boards.

Given 13 ranks of cards, there are 78 pairings of different ranks that can be made (A-K, A-Q, etc., down to 3-2). We accounted for only one of them in the example just completed. So the final total should be 1584 x 78 = 123,552, for the number of different possible double-paired boards.

The frequency of this occurrence, then, is 123,552 / 2,598,960, which equals 0.0475, or about 4.8%. Double-paired boards should happen just a smidgen under 5% of the time. That roughly corresponds to my general experience, as I think back on things.

This surely can't be the first time anybody has ever run this calculation, but a quick search of my poker math books and these interweb thingies doesn't locate any previous pioneers to give me confirmation. So I think it's right, but if I screwed something up, let me know, and I'll fix it in an addendum, and call myself a dummy in the process.

The image above is "Two Pears," by Georgia O'Keeffe, 1921.

How many outs?

At Planet Hollywood tonight I had Kc-Qc in the small blind, and limped in with several others. The flop was all clubs. The turn and river didn't bring a fourth club or pair the board, so I felt highly confident I had the best hand. I don't remember how all the betting went, but the guy on the button (on my immediate right) called my largish bet on the turn. This signaled me that he actually had something and might call again on the river, so I bet big again. Nope--he folded.

I showed my cards for free, because the table had just started up, and I wanted to help establish my semi-phony image of only betting if I have the goods. He said, quite plausibly, that he had had the ace of clubs plus an inside straight draw.

He then paused, cocked his head to the side, and was counting with his fingers. After a few seconds, he said, "I had 12 outs."

I just smiled and said, "Can't hit 'em every time."

Of course, what I would really like to have done was stand up, point to him, and shout, "MORON ALERT!"

Twelve outs, dude? Please. Between us and the board, we have six clubs accounted for, leaving seven in the deck. Those would indeed give him the winner, if he actually had the ace. But he seemed to think that hitting his straight draw on the turn or river would also have won him the pot. Uh, nope. Flush still beats a straight in most of your better card rooms.

I can't figure out what 12 cards he was counting. In addition to the seven clubs, he was presumably counting the other three cards that would complete his straight (erroneously)--but that still only makes ten. Maybe he was counting the two jokers, too.

Standard advice for winning poker is to get inside your opponent's head and figure out what he's thinking. But what if your opponent's thought process is an incomprehensible, jumbled mess that you can't decipher even after knowing what his cards were?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Orlando is not blooming

Last night I started at the Flamingo before heading to Bill's. Across the table from me was an older man named Don, obviously well known to the Flamingo poker room staff, since everybody addressed him by name without introduction. He is not a slouch as a player, obviously having tons of poker experience. He even claimed to have been playing hold'em for 40 years.

He has an ugly habit of announcing what he thinks other players have while the hand is in progress. For example, a tight player open-raises to $22 in a $1-2 game, and Don says, "Big pair," while there are four people yet to act on the raise. Now, this isn't exactly an astounding leap of logic, but it's still completely improper and against the rules. In the first 30 minutes of play (we had started a new game), he does such things four times, with the dealer saying nothing about it.

In none of these four cases was the play obviously affected, but it's hard to know. For example, in one case he was not involved in the hand, and when Player A bet and Player B made a substantial raise, Don turned to A and said, "You're beat--give it up." Player A did so. Would he have done the same without the coaching? It's impossible to know. In another case, there were four parts of a straight on the board; anybody holding a 6 would have the straight. On the river, somebody bet, and Don said, "He has the 6 for sure." The last remaining opponent folded. Again, we can't know whether the outcome would have been the same anyway. But it's always possible that that player hadn't even noticed the possible straight until Don made his remark, or had noticed it but didn't believe the bettor had the straight and would have called with, say, two pairs.

None of his chatter had affected hands that I had been in, but I wanted his talk to stop before a situation arose in which it cost me money. So I resorted to my usual approach when this sort of thing is going on. Immediately after Don's latest violation, I asked the dealer, "Are players allowed to speculate out loud about what other people are holding when there is still action pending?" I know perfectly well that the answer is no, but I think that phrasing it as a question, and one posed to the dealer rather than to the offending player, is the least confrontational way I can get the issue addressed. Virtually every time I have done this, the dealer has been prompted (finally) to speak up and remind players not to do it.

Not this time. This dealer, a guy named Orlando, hesitated a moment (which I interpret to mean that he knew exactly what was going on and what his response should be, but he didn't want to do anything about it), then said, "It's OK." I don't think he literally meant that what was happening was not against the rules; he was just trying to get me to drop the matter. No chance, pal. So I asked more directly: "Really? It's OK by your house rules for somebody not in the hand to say what he thinks other players have when there are still decisions to be made?"

Orlando's face clouded. He was obviously unhappy to be challenged. Through nearly gritted teeth he snarled, "Everything is fine, sir."

OK, so for whatever reason this guy isn't going to do his job. Fine. Next up the chain, then. "Would you call the floor, please?"

Orlando's response: "Oh, you're one of those guys, huh?" Then, louder, to the whole table, "Watch out, folks, we have one of those guys at the table."

So I repeated more firmly, "Would you call the floor, please?" He finally did.

Now the floor man comes over, a guy named Charlie. I tell him, "We have a player who is repeatedly commenting out loud on what he thinks other players' cards are, and the dealer says that that's perfectly OK under your rules."

Orlando chimes in, "It's only Don."

Aha! That tells me pretty clearly that this is a recurring issue, and that the dealers have decided to just ignore it for this particular player. Don is, I have to admit, a generous tipper. I suspect that that is more than a small part of why things are the way they are.

But ignoring Orlando's interjection, I ask Charlie, "Is it true that players are allowed to speculate out loud about other players' hand while there is still action pending?"

Before Charlie can answer, Orlando pipes up again: "It was heads-up, Don and just one other player."

Well, this is the very definition of a half-truth. It was certainly true that Don was very free to talk about what he thought his opponent had when it was just two of them left to contest a pot. But I know perfectly well that this isn't against the rules, and it doesn't bother me. When I mentioned above that Don had done this four times, I wasn't including such instances--wasn't even trying to keep track of them.

The game has continued during this discussion, and I turn my attention briefly to the cards I have just been dealt--pocket aces! Ick. What rotten timing. I turn back, and see that Charlie is walking away! Another dealer has called him to the next table for something. I say, "Excuse me...." Charlie says, "Just a minute, I'll be right back." OK, so I'll play my aces.

I win a small pot when nobody calls my raise. Charlie doesn't return. It seems apparent to me that, just like Orlando, he would rather not have to address the issue at all.

But at least the discussion has caught Don's attention, and he mostly stops the infractions. There is one more, about 45 minutes later. Four players in the hand. First to act makes a $40 bet. Don is second. He says, "I think you have pocket queens. I call." There are still two players left to act. We have a new dealer at this point, of course. Just like Orlando, he says not a word about it.

When I finally decide to leave, I corner Charlie and again ask the question he never answered. First he tries to duck it by saying, "The dealer says that it was heads up." I'm aware that Charlie is disadvantaged, not having witnessed the events in question. Still, I'm highly suspicious that he knows that this has been going on with this particular player for a long time. But I give him the benefit of the doubt, and ask him to address it as a hypothetical, assuming that the offender is not in the hand, or he is in the hand but there are multiple other players yet to act. Charlie agrees that in such cases, it is not acceptable.

So why do your dealers let it go on without saying anything? Charlie's first excuse is that Don was drunk. I ask, "So it's not against your rules to talk about the hand in progress if the player involved is drunk?" Charlie says no, that's not the case. (Hard to figure why Charlie mentioned that as a defense, then.) He speculates that the dealers didn't suspect any collusion between Don and other players. I point out that I don't think that formal collusion is the chief concern; inadvertant helping of another player is, in my view, a far more frequent problem. Charlie agrees that for both reasons, such conduct should be stopped. We also agree that it's commonly an innocent violation made by a player new to casino poker, with bad habits developed in casual home games. Such players, in my experience, are highly amenable to a gentle explanation of why they can't make comments like that in a public poker room. They apologize, quickly grasp the potential problems, and stop doing it. Don does not fall into this category. He has tons more experience than the greenie who just doesn't realize it's against the rules. Charlie is thus left, finally, without any good excuse for why his dealers ignore repeated, flagrant violations. "I would need to speak to them to find out why they let it go on," he says. I leave it at that.

I do not consider it a negative reflection on the Flamingo that Don, or other people like him, do what they do. But it is a negative reflection on the Flamingo that the dealers ignore it. Worse, in my view, is that they appear to selectively enforce the rule, as suggested by Orlando's explanation: "It's only Don"--as if that actually justifies the whole situation, somehow. This is also clearly suggested in Charlie's explanation that the player involved was drunk. He seems to think it's OK not to enforce rules against drunk customers, though the reasoning behind this decision escapes me.

But in my opinion, the most shameful part of the whole episode was how my concern was addressed. Orlando clearly knew what was going on. He had heard the improper comments and decided to ignore them, and openly resented being called on it. But the way I addressed the problem initially was so non-confrontational that he need not have lost face in the least. Just saying something like, "That's a good point. Players, please remember not to talk about the hand while it's in progress," would likely have solved the problem without getting anybody upset. Instead, he chose to lie about what the rule is, then just try to get me to shut up, in order to avoid having to deal with it. To make matters worse, when I saw that he wasn't going to do his job and asked for the floor, he mocked me for it. I can't remember ever being treated with such rudeness and overt hostility by a dealer.

Then, to top it off, we had a poker room supervisor who also tried his hardest to avoid having to actually step in and do anything about the problem, and who, when eventually confronted directly about it, made lame excuses for his dealers' inaction, rather than admitting, even in the hypothetical, something like, "If what you're telling me is really what happened, then the dealers should have stepped in earlier."

Between Orlando and Charlie, it was perhaps the most unprofessional conduct I've ever witnessed in poker room staff. Absolutely shameful.

I deliberately skipped one part of the story, leaving it for the end here. After Charlie walked away from the table without having said or done anything meaningful, and without having resolved the problem, Don clearly felt some sense of vindication. He looked right at me and snarled, "I can say anything I want." When I ignored him, he repeated more loudly, "I can say anything I want!"

Sadly, at the Flamingo poker room, that appears to be true.

Dude, you is NASTY!

So I was playing at Bill's last night when a young man joins the table in the seat to my left. He is already drunk when he sits down, then proceeds to consume three Jagerbombs in less than an hour on top of that. He reeks, both literally and in his play.

At one point, he is facing a difficult decision as to whether to call a large bet. He absent-mindedly lifts his cards up toward his face and slips the corner of the cards between his lips. I'm confident there was zero thought associated with this move. Between being bombed and trying to concentrate on his decision, his hands were just seeking something to do mindlessly.

I have to mention that these cards were gross--worse than average casino poker decks. They had three or four times the average amount of globs of gunk adhering to them, the largest nuggets of which I had been trying to scrape off with my fingernail as the night progressed. The last thing that either they or those of us handling them needed was additional bodily fluids thrown into the mix.

So, upon seeing where he was holding them, I said to him, "Please don't put the cards in your mouth."

He removed them, then slowly turned to me with an insulted, if-looks-could-kill glare. "I did NOT put them in my mouth!"

Oh, sure, right. I was just hallucinating there. Yeah, that's it. I didn't see what I thought I saw. Idiot.



So last night I was playing poker with Barry Greenstein and Dewey Tomko. Dewey pushed all-in, as did Barry. They hadn't noticed that I was still in the hand, and revealed pocket queens and pocket kings, respectively. I pointed out that I still hadn't acted, so the action held up while I made my decision.

I looked down and found something better than pocket aces: a full house. That's right, I had seven down cards, including three aces and two queens. Now, I'm not sure exactly why I got seven cards to choose from while they only got two each, but maybe that's the slight advantage they were spotting me to compensate for being more experienced players. Seems fair to me! My full house held up.

Here's the other weird thing about the game: it wasn't traditional table stakes. All-in meant whatever you had in front of you, whether or not it matched what another player had. The implication of that was that even though I was only playing a couple of hundred bucks, I won the thousands that Dewey and Barry each had! Again, I can only assume that this was part of the deal we made. We low-stakes grinders have to be given some edge against the big boys, you know!

I bet you didn't know this: Barry Greenstein uses a Mexican bank, and instead of cash he plays with these strange Mexican bank draft things. They're festooned with red and green, as on the Mexican flag. (That's right, I dream in color, all claims about how humans dream only in black and white notwithstanding.) The problem with this is that I had to sign each one in order to be able to deposit it in my bank. They were all in $100 denominations, and there were hundreds of them I had to deal with! This was all happening while I was trying to throw a dinner party for everybody I knew. Some of the guests were complaining that I was being a terrible host, neglecting them while I tried to get all of those damn Mexican checks signed for deposit.

The end.

I think I might need to have my psych medications adjusted again.

The awesome power of deuce-four

From a reader, used with permission:

Thought I would share with you my own experience with the power of
42. All because of your posts I just played it 3 times in a small buy in
online tourney and busted two players and pulled a nice pot with the 3rd.

First, called an early position raise in the BB with it suited.
Caught bottom pair and a flush draw. Check raised him all in, he called
with two overs and didn't connect.

Second time I limped on the button, 5 players saw the flop. I caught
a 2, it was checked all the way down to the river when I caught another 2.
No one called the bet, but the blinds made it a nice pot.

Last time I re-raised an early position raise all in when I was in the BB,
he called with A7 but I flopped 2 pair and it held up.

I'm a believer now and I won the tourney.



See? What have I been telling you all? Just remember--this little secret is between me and my readers, and is not to be shared with the great unwashed, so keep it on the down-low, OK?

Cash display at Binion's

It turns out that I have an indirect connection to the new version of the million-dollar cash display that has been at Binion's for the last few months: the box it's in was built by the friend of a friend of a friend. See, I know important people!

Details here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Dirty Harry at the poker table

Putting up the previous post (a quotation from "Magnum Force" that somehow made its way unbidden back into my consciousness today) reminds me of a great moment from last week at Binion's that I somehow failed to chronicle at the time. It was so perfect that I decided I would surely remember to blog about it without jotting myself a note. And now I did--a week after the fact. Oops.

Anyway, one guy is betting every street and getting called by one opponent. The river brought the third of a suit. The aggressor bet again. His opponent was contemplating what to do, when the aggressor put on a fake snarl, adopted a serviceable Clint Eastwood impersonation, and said, "I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, did that heart just make his flush? Well, to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. So you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya--punk?"

Hard to convey here how hilarious a bit of monologue that was. It was one of the best pieces of table entertainment I've ever seen during the play of a hand.

Oh, and the guy folded, so it apparently worked.

Poker gems, #191

Clint Eastwood, as Harry Callahan, in "Magnum Force." Again, not originally intended as a poker observation, but valid nonetheless.

A man's got to know his limitations.

(See the scene here.)

Poker gems, #190

Biologist Edward O. Wilson, as quoted in a feature about him and his new book, Sunday on NPR's "All Things Considered." (See here.) He was not talking about poker, but the advice is sufficiently generalizable to apply.

You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Poker gems, #189

Justin Bonomo, in Poker Pro magazine column, December, 2008, p. 21.

The truth is that most beginning players slow-play way too much.... Just be aware that the easiest way to get a big pot in general is to bet, bet, bet every chance you get, so slow-playing is often incorrect.

Poker gems, #188

Bryan Devonshire, in Poker Pro magazine column, November, 2008, p. 62.

I always laugh when people fail to realize when players are not paying attention and try to put moves on them, because some people wouldn't notice if an African elephant walked across the table, much less what your bluff bet was supposed to be representing.