Saturday, January 03, 2009

Guess the casino, #17

Answer: Mandalay Bay

Friday, January 02, 2009

Guess the casino, #16

Answer: Luxor

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Program alert

A long time ago I put a reminder in MS Outlook to watch "Stargate Atlantis" tomorrow (Jan. 2). I have never seen the show before, but somewhere I read that they filmed an episode at Planet Hollywood, which I thought would be interesting to watch. I see from the Sci-Fi Channel web site that the episode is titled "Vegas." I can't imagine how they'll work PH into a science fiction show, but I guess "Star Trek" managed to make its share of voyages back to 20th-century Earth, so writers can pull off anything that they want to.

Wow--odd coincidence. I will be on the road tomorrow, so I programmed my VCR (yes, I still use one, not having yet moved up to the DVR era) to record the show, and found that an old episode of "Twilight Zone" from 1960 with William Shatner was on. So I'm watching it while I write this note, and I was a few words away from the end of the previous paragraph when they played a promo for the show I was describing. Sure enough, they mention a "rift in the space-time continuum" having thrown them to today's Planet Hollywood.

Should be a fun show.

Guess the casino, #15

Answer: Palms

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Phil Hellmuth, man of maturity

The good folks at PokerSavvy gave me a 30-day free trial of their site. I've downloaded maybe 20 videos that I thought looked interesting, and have watched five of them so far. I'll have a lot more to say about them one of these days.

For now, I just wanted to share this screen shot. The video is a session that Shaun Deeb played with Phil Hellmuth, with commentary by Dani Stern.

Three observations:

1. I haven't heard Stern speak before. He strikes me as an extraordinarily sharp poker mind--highly impressive real-time, rapid-fire analysis of each situation and how he would play it, with clear, lucid explanations of the reasons. He runs circles around where I am in being able to make decisions. He's also funny. At one point, he says the play is so bad in this game that "it's like watching blind, retarded monkeys throw shit at each other." When a bad player he knows well from past encounters gets into a raising war with Hellmuth, he says, "Uh-oh. Donkey-on-donkey violence."

2. I obviously have no love lost for Hellmuth, but it's still almost painful to hear how these other pros have zero respect for his play. Sure, it's all no-limit hold'em, but make it a cash game instead of a tournament, move it to the faster pace of online play, change the game to short-handed, and Phil is completely out of his element. In televised cash poker, one frequently hears other well-known pros talk about welcoming Hellmuth to the games because he ends up being a big donator. It's always hard to know how much of that is sincere and how much is a combination of self-promotion and playing mind games with Phil to make him tilt. But in commentary such as Stern is providing here, it's transparently sincere. They are aching to join the game and take his money, openly referring to him as the fish in the game, and discussing how the play should be calculated to take advantage of his constant mistakes. Stern even says at one point that he stopped playing at UB because the site is so shady, but if Hellmuth regularly plays this level of cash game there, he might have to suck it up and start playing there again. To be sure, there are levels of bad, and there's no hold'em game in which Phil is going to be anywhere near as bad as, say, many of the tourists I play against every day in the casinos. But when put up against those who specialize in online, short-handed, deep-stacked cash games, he's chum for the sharks just as much as I would be. Too bad for him that he's constitutionally incapable of ever recognizing that. No fear of tapping on the glass in this case--the fish is deaf.

3. Didn't really mean to go off on that tangent there. I mainly posted this snapshot so that you could see that Phil is every bit as professional and mature and self-controlled when playing online--at the site for which he is the prime representative, no less--as he is in casino-based tournaments. Note the chat box. Nice, Phil. The snaps are just a few seconds apart and together show a single string of Phil's chat, though it omits one additional misspelled "idiot." On the hand in question, they got it all in pre-flop. His opponent had 9-9 and flopped a set. Phil's hand wasn't shown, but it's likely he had a larger pair and took a bad beat.

My night at Caesars Palace

Celebrity sighting #1

I hit Caesars Palace last night. As usual, I didn't have any particular reason for choosing it--nothing better than "I haven't played there in a while." I'm glad I did. Here's what happened.

I'm one of eight people starting up a new $1-3 NLHE game. Within the first few hands, I don't like the table. There are too many very good players here, no obvious soft spots. Nobody is chatting, nobody is drinking, everybody looks like they're here to take other people's money, and nothing will distract or deter them from that goal. Frankly, they're all too much like me!

At the next table over, there is drinking and laughing galore. There are at least three players that I can see even from this distance have little experience in casino poker. Shots are being ordered for the whole table. No question about it: That is where I need to be. Fortunately, just as I'm realizing this, one player there gets up to leave and I hear the dealer announce, "Two seats open on table 7." Since we have just one open seat, that means they should allow me to move. They do, and I do.

Within two minutes of arriving at my new home for the night, a familiar face takes the second empty seat at the far end of the table. It takes me a few seconds to place it, but I'm pretty sure it's Ira Glass, host of my favorite radio program, This American Life. (How do I know the face from radio? Well, they have also done two seasons of a television version of the show for Showtime.) But you know how people look somewhat different in real life than in photos or on TV--so I wasn't completely sure it was him. The voice would have given it away, but he was chatting softly with the people near him, and I couldn't hear well enough to tell. So I asked where he was visiting from, and he said, "I live in New York now. Moved there a couple of years ago from Chicago."

Oh yeah, that's definitely a voice I recognize. I said, "From Chicago Public Radio!" He looked surprised, but said yes.

We ended up playing together for about six hours, most of it with just one other player between us. He was a delight. He kindly posed for the photo above before leaving, and gave me permission to post it. I was thrilled to have this completely unexpected chance to tell him how much I love the show. I'm not easily star-struck, but I've been listening to this program for several years now, and it's simply the best thing on the radio.

The situation was a bit weird, though, because I sensed that I was at an unfair social advantage. In the course of telling a story or making a point for the show, Ira often talks about his own life, so I realized that I knew all sorts of strange odds and ends about him: his testosterone level, what TV theme songs he sings along with when his favorite programs come on, his father's former radio career, how he can't admit to his wife that he is ever wrong, etc. Yet he knew nothing about me, save what I chose to reveal.

He quickly caught on to the fact that I play for a living. It's not something I usually disclose at the table, but I remembered having heard a segment on his show about poker, in which he revealed his secret longing to ditch the day job and play poker for a living. (You can--and should--listen to it here, Act Two, starting at about 20:45. Great piece on what it's really like to play for a living, though it primarily focuses on the highest-stakes players, not the groundskimming grinders like me.) As he said to me at one point, "You're living one of my dreams." He seemed every bit as interested in my job as I was in his, so I got to ask about how they find thematic stories and about the future of the Showtime series, and more, and he got to ask about beating passive games, how much I make, what books he should read, where I played, and more.

He engaged in a lengthy discussion about politics with the woman sitting between us, a self-proclaimed right-winger who was now completely disenchanted with politics and refused to listen to the news, and had even given up listening to her beloved Rush Limbaugh because of how she hated the November election results. At one point, she spouted the standard line from conservative talk radio about how the current financial downtown was due to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac trying to be politically correct and extend mortgages to people who really couldn't afford the houses they were buying. I knew what was coming, and couldn't help smiling. Boy, did she pick the wrong person to lay that on! For those who don't know, This American Life earlier this year did a whole hour on how the mess evolved, and it's all far more complex and global and interesting than that quite wrong-headed explanation. (That particular episode has, I understand, become moderately famous in its own right. If you haven't heard it, and feel like you still don't have a grasp on what triggered the crisis, you owe it to yourself to listen to it here. While you're at it, take in the follow-up show here.) It was impressive hearing Ira tell this woman of things of which she had no inkling, and I felt unduly smug for having heard it all before.

Back to the poker. I was initially pleased that I was playing well and catching good cards, making money quite rapidly--making winning look easy. In fact, it was shaping up to be one of the best nights I've had in a few months. I had worked my initial $200 up to about $600 in just a couple of hours. (That included a $100 high-hand jackpot for hitting quad 7s.)

Then disaster struck, and I lost about $550 of that in one horrendous hand. It was one of the three or four largest single-hand losses I've ever experienced, and it was witnessed by a guy who thinks I have a great life, and who, moreover, might find occasion to tell the story to a national radio audience. (Actually, Ira, it's fine if you do, should the subject ever come up. After all, I'm telling it here.) The details don't really matter, but I pushed all-in, over the top of his $100 bet, with an open-ended straight draw as a semi-bluff against a guy who I was nearly certain had no more than one pair, and that lower than the highest card on the board. (Flop had been 6-4-?, turn a jack. I had 5-7.) I was right about his hand--he had pocket 9s--but dead wrong about what he would do. He called rather quickly. I still don't understand that call. I had shown down nothing but strong winners all night, had engaged in hardly any bluffing and had not shown a single one of them, and was playing mostly classic tight-aggressive poker. I also think it's unlikely I have any tell of such predictive power that he would rely on it for a pot of that size. Finally, in an unusual tactical slip-up for me, I had told him honestly not too long before this that I didn't want to play a big pot, as I was getting ready to call it a night. I regretted saying that instantly, and he had responded to it by starting to raise me more frequently and aggressively--a smart adjustment, given what I had carelessly revealed to him. But I thought that that slip would actually work in favor of making him fold in the big hand. Not so, apparently. I would love to have asked the guy what he thought I had there, but didn't think I'd get a straight answer. Nothing about it makes sense to me still.

Anyway, I was acutely aware that Ira would now be watching me to see how I handled it. A couple of months ago, a reader of this blog with whom I was playing told me that it helped him to have me there; it prevented him from doing anything stupid for fear that he'd have to read about it the next day. (Story here.) I felt the same way with Ira scrutinizing me for how I'd handle this setback. Fortunately, though it felt like getting kicked in the stomach, I didn't go on tilt. I kept playing reasonably well, but in the end another three hours or so passed without making any significant progress monetarily, so I took the occasion of Ira's leaving to catch his plane as my excuse to leave simultaneously. Sorry I couldn't put on a better show for you, sir. But there's the reality of poker--sometimes it hurts like hell and you go home with less than you started the day with, wondering why you bothered.

Now here's the weird part. I listen to This American Life via its podcasts, usually while I'm washing dishes. A couple of months ago, Ira introduced three consecutive episodes with a special plea, only for the podcast listeners, to contribute just a few bucks to help defray the cost of the enormous amount of bandwidth they have to use. He had said that even $5 or $10 would pay for the listener's use, plus that of a couple of other people, too. That small amount, he had said, would make you a "hero" to the program. Yeah, of course it's hyperbole, but the message was effective, and I decided to do it. I imagined that in some random encounter, I'd run into Ira Glass, and I'd joke, "Hey, I'm one of the 'heroes' who paid for bandwidth for some other listeners!" For three weeks in a row, upon hearing that, I told myself that I'd make a small contribution as soon as I was done with the show and the dishes. And, predictably, three weeks in a row I got busy with something else and forgot all about it.

And then, in a completely random encounter, as you now know, I actually did run into Ira Glass! But instead of being able to tell him that I donated to the cause, I had to confess that I had procrastinated it to the point of neglecting it altogether.

So there's your lesson. Contribute to whatever worthy cause you choose now, before you have a random run-in with somebody associated with it and have to say that you intended to send them money, but never quite got around to it--because you really, truly might have such an unexpected meeting.

Ira, I have now made my penitance complete, I hope--I just charged $20 to my credit card at this site, linked to on your show's home page. And yes, that stupid little story is really true, and yes, you can use it if you think it would be helpful and/or amusing to others.

Celebrity sighting #2

Lacey Jones was playing at the table next to mine. She appears to be as attractive in person as in photos, which isn't always the case with model types. (Here is what she looked like posing in her undies for the cover of Bluff magazine a couple of months ago, and here is what she looks like wearing nothing but body paint.)

The nutjob

For the last maybe 90 minutes of my session, we were joined by a nutjob. A crankcase. A wackadoo. A looney. A fruitcake.

We all first became aware of his loose screw when he started screaming--not the "screaming" that people say in exaggeration to make the subject of the story look bad, but literally screaming, loud enough that that entire, large poker room could hear--about how he got screwed out of a pot by an unlucky card because of the automatic shuffling machine. It seems that he had, a short time before, busted out of a tournament on some sort of bad beat. He shouted, "They don't use those machines back in the tournament area! It's the dealer! And that guy was a MECHANIC! A MECHANIC, I'm telling you!" This was so over-the-top that I was prepared to laugh at his antics, until I looked at him and realized that he was not trying to be funny in the least. He was livid. (The rant didn't really make any logical sense. He was simultaneously angry at our table's autoshuffler, but at the same time saying that it's worse being at a table without one, because you might get a crooked dealer who deliberately cold-decks you. Whatever, dude.)

When he entered a pot, it was usually for a raise to $30, a ridiculous amount in a $1-3 game. When he won a hand at a showdown, he would usually celebrate it by standing up and whooping, just like the showboating morons at the WSOP, but louder. When he won by making a bet that his opponent wouldn't call, he would taunt for no reason, yelling about how the other player had no "balls."

When he lost a pot, on one occasion, he fumed that he didn't care about the money. "I've got hundred-dollar bills coming out of my ASS!" There's a lovely image. (When Ira busted him once, I said, "Oh great. Now he's going to have to pull out the ass money.")

But as obnoxious as he was, nobody really wanted him to leave, because he was giving his money away faster than any other player. Tangling with him was classic high-variance poker, because he would shove it all in just as willingly with nothing as with the nuts, and all you could do was pick a spot and hope that it was one of the former rather than the latter. This isn't poker in any meaningful sense, but it can be very profitable. (It wasn't for me; I won one big one and lost one big one, roughly evening out in the end.)

He did not seem to me to be drunk, nor did I notice him consuming any booze. As far as I could tell, this was just his usual baseline personality disorder.

The man was in need of some heavy-duty psychotropic medication.

The deuce-four claims more victims

Yes, the mighty deuce-four struck again! I raised with it in late position and got two callers. The flop was 8-9-2. It was checked around. The turn was a third 2 for me. I was ecstatic, because I knew that my opponents would never suspect I was sitting on trips. One opponent bet, the other folded, and I raised. She called. The river was an ace--as it turned out, a terrible card for my lone remaining opponent, because she had A-8 in the hole, and had now made two pairs. She checked. I bet $50. She raised to $100. I just called, because she had been a consistently very solid player, and her check-raise gave me some concern that she had slow-played pocket 8s or 9s. That may have been the biggest pot I won in the session, thanks to the ol' 2-4 offsuit!

The new phone comes in handy

I mentioned earlier this month that I was upgrading my cell phone to one that had a web browser. I don't think I really need such a thing, but there are plenty of occasions when it would be handy.

A few days ago, I used it to look up a sports score that another guy at the table was interested in. But tonight it had the first moderately interesting application. A young man, who wasn't at our table for long, said that his name was Matthew. He claimed that this name meant "son of Christ." I was highly confident from my years of religious training that this was wrong, though I couldn't recall offhand what the real translation was. I whipped out the new toy, called up Wikipedia, and found this:

Given Name
Gender Male
Meaning "Gift of God"
Origin Hebrew

I showed this to Ira and to Matt, who said, "Yeah, see? That's what I told you." Uh, no, not quite. But have it your way, sir. It didn't seem like a point worth arguing any further.

Anyway, the phone lived up to what I had hoped it could do when I'm away from my computer. I was pleased with that.

I wish I had some clever punchline with which to wrap everything up and close this post. I don't. Sometimes the story just ends where it ends. I'm too sleepy to wait for a brilliant summation of some sort to occur to me.

Addendum, January 1, 2009

I realize that I forgot a really, really embarrassing element of the first story. Back at the point where I was doing well, Ira asked me something--I don't remember the exact question. But I remember answering that often winning is relatively easy, and the hard part is not giving it all back through sloppy play.

I may not be a great poker player, but at least I possess considerable self-knowledge!

Guess the casino, #14

Comment: Yet another full wall-sized photo very near a poker room.

Answer: Rio

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Grump makes a funny

Well, at least I thought it was funny.

Here's the situation. I was at Bill's last night, not involved in the hand. Player A has 9-7. Player B has A-9. Flop is 9-9-8. They get all the money in, but with the 7 kicker, Player A catches a very lucky runner-runner straight.

Player B goes off on the dealer, who is obviously the main culprit in this grave injustice. He complains that this dealer has been delivering him bad beats all day long, blah, blah, blah. The dealer appropriately just lets it bounce off of him, while continuing with the next hand, but the tirade continues.

Finally Player B storms off to calm down for a while. I take the opportunity to ask the dealer, "Are you married?"

He looks at me completely puzzled. "Am I married?"

"Yeah, are you married?"

"No. Why?"

I tell him, "Oh, I was just wondering if you get blamed for things that aren't your fault at work and at home, or just here."

2008: Grump year in review

I don't feel that I have a magnum opus about to hatch in the next 24 hours, so I feel safe in making a slightly premature year-in-review post. I wrote about 855 posts this year, which just boggles my mind. I have made no effort to whittle the list down to a top ten, but herein I attempt to highlight the ones that I look back on most fondly.

First, for those who have started reading at some point during the year and haven't had the time or energy to slog through the entire archives, early in 2008 I pulled together a list of what I thought were the best posts of my first 14 months of blogging:

Now on to the new stuff.

Three times during the year my attention was called to poker publications in which the famous WSOP-ending hand between Johnny Chan and Erik Seidel was described, but with one or more factual errors. I find this almost inexplicable, because you can watch the hand in full on YouTube; there just isn't any reasonable excuse for making the kind of factual errors that seem to keep popping up in print. So I ranted about that thrice:

This was one of my most memorable hands ever:

I enjoyed detailing my thoughts through the course of this hand, which I don't attempt very often:

Here I postulate a way of turning poker degenerates into Olympic athletic stars:

Jerry Yang came into my crosshairs a few times, all for basically the same reason: his strange invocation of supernatural forces at the 2007 WSOP final table. An interview with Gary Wise was the catalyst for my final blast at what I thought was his lying (or, at a minimum, self-deception) about what transpired:

One of my better rants, I think, about poker and politics:

Cheating in poker always gets my dander up, and never more so than here:

I hope that this is one of my most useful contributions to the subject of Vegas poker rooms. While all but a few are ostensibly "smoke-free," that phrase means vastly different things, as a practical matter, from one room to the next. Just as some animals are more equal than others, some poker rooms are more smoke-free than others. In this frequently updated post, I try to pin down which rooms really deserve the label and which don't:

Poker players are constantly saying all manner of stupid things at the table. This is a probably typical example of the kind of analysis that such moments prompt from me:

A little-noticed post in another poker blog mentioned that when the Monte Carlo's roof caught on fire, the poker players in the place continued playing even as they watched the live coverage on TV. Not my style, man:

2008 brought plenty of reason for Hellmuth hating. For example, this:

My public-service announcement on the need for using card protectors:

I do follow poker news avidly, but comment here on current events only occasionally. That's because usually most of what needs to be said gets written by others faster and better than I could do. But once in a while I have a perspective and/or analysis of something in the news that I think is unique (often because I think other commentators are getting it all wrong), and I launch into a big to-do about it. This was one of the best of that genre, I think:

The following is a profile of a woman named Annie, one of the most colorful people I regularly encounter at the Vegas poker tables:

One occasionally hears stories about poker jackpots being deliberately foiled. I think I'm the first to identify such stories as a specific form of urban legend, even though the stories are told as if they are the honest-to-goodness literal truth:

It irks me no end that complete morons writing absolute garbage can get jobs churning out regular columns in gaming magazines, when far, far better and more thoughtful writers in the poker blogosphere get ignored:

Annie Duke got my ire when she did what I thought was a disingenuous interview defending the company she shills for:

I found something I didn't like about PokerStars, asked them about it, and got a lame explanation, which is irresistible prime material for a grump:

One of my favorite poker-table zingers:

Regular readers can't help but noticing that I have a penchant for poker rules. So when there's a horrible floor decision at our game's premiere event, I just have to complain about it:

Sure, Shannon Elizabeth is beautiful and is becoming a decent poker player, but she's completely looney, too:

An uber-rationalist like me just can't take it when presented with evidence of how moronically superstitious poker players can be:

One miserable git:

I got seriously annoyed at all of the attention heaped upon Tiffany Michelle simply for being the last remaining contestant in the WSOP main event possessing two X chromosomes. Though I caught a ton of heat for it, I blasted back at this manner of thinking by pointing out how little attention was paid to the "last black standing," when race is every bit as relevant or irrelevant to poker as sex:

I was fascinated when I looked into what Google searches bring readers to my blog, and learned that far and away the most common thing people were looking for was about Tom Dwan's sexual orientation--a decidedly minor emphasis in the whole history of my posting:

Another politico-poker rant, one which I keep remembering every time I hear people cavalierly say that they want federal regulation and taxation of online poker:

KNPR, the local public radio station, earned my wrath first for getting basic poker facts wrong, then for refusing to own up to the errors:

This was one of the rare instances in which I knew I had a great blog story the instant it occurred, and I couldn't wait to get home to write it up:

I started playing razz and HORSE this year. There were many posts about my learning curve along the way. Probably too many, in fact. But I still like this one:

I had my worst-ever losing streak in August this year. I stoically sucked it up without telling readers what was happening, until it finally broke. At that point, I could write about it with a sense of relief, rather than with the dread and fear that were consuming me as it was happening:

Here's one of the most difficult decisions I was faced with at a table. It pleased me that it generated more reader comments than anything else I've written, and it pleased me even more that I had apparently described the situation in a sufficiently balanced way that readers were almost evenly split over what I should have done. I still think it's an unusually interesting situation:

One of my favorite types of posts is the conglomerate, in which several noteworthy things happen all in one poker sessions (interesting hands, rules questions, colorful characters encountered, stupid things said, etc.) and I can make a big post out of the several small stories. This is probably one of the better of this type:

I don't tend to do a lot of poker book reviews, but I did a four-part analysis of two books I read about how to play razz. It took forever to write them, so listing them here is probably just a way of getting a little more mileage from the investment:

This is a character sketch of an amusingly pathetic figure I ran into at the Venetian:

The most astonishingly horrendous razz hand I've ever seen:

Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon opened a poker room this year. It is unlike any other in the city because of its ultra-low buy-in (for a no-limit game). It thus attracts clientele of an average level of experience below that of any other poker room. This yields some interesting situations, a whole bunch of which I happened to either witness or participate in one memorable weekend:

Shortly after that night, I had yet another memorable night at Bill's, though for reasons entirely apart from dealing with ultra-inexperienced opponents:

When ESPN first made a glaring error in its new "Poker Facts" feature this year, I thought it would be a one-time thing. But it continued, week after week after week. Fact-checking ESPN became something of a hobby for me during the WSOP broadcasts. This link is to the final one, and you can find the others either by working backwards through the links I included in each one of the series, or just by doing a search of this blog for "ESPN":

This post is completely out of character with what I usually try to do with this blog, but when I realized that the tenth anniversary of Stu Ungar's death was approaching, I decided to attempt to do something that I hoped would make the occasion more real, both for myself and for readers, most of whom I assume never had the opportunity to meet and/or play with the legend:

I inadvertantly stumbled upon one of the insider secrets of tournament poker: the bundles of cash on the table for the winner's photo op are (at least sometimes) FAKE!

I do occasionally have a possibly useful thought or two that I try to pass on to readers, when I can write them up in what I think is a manner that will be instructive. This is one such post:

If you're a poker dealer, don't get on my bad side, as this guy seriously did:

This was truly the year of the deuce-four. When I first played it, turned it into a successful all-in bluff, and the story got published in Card Player magazine, at first I wrote it off as a fluke. But as this year has progressed, I have come to understand as few others do the awesome power of this often-overlooked hand. It has become the focus of (or a sidelight in) many posts, which are collected here for posterity:

I have saved the best for last. This is my all-time favorite post, even though it's not in the grumpy genre that I initially settled on as the theme for this blog. It is yet another story from Bill's. As Henry Kissinger would say, it has the added advantage of being true. I really do talk to myself in approximately the way I describe here (though naturally I take a bit of literary license for the sake of hopefully being amusing). Yes, I really do struggle with maintaining self-discipline at the table from time to time, and this was certainly such an occasion. I was really proud of myself for taking a stupid play in which I got unjustly lucky and turning it to my advantage in a highly calculated way. I thought it made for my best story ever. Apparently readers thought so, too, because when I encounter them at the real or virtual tables, if they mention one post as their favorite or most memorable, this tends to be the one. I'm delighted that at least some readers enjoyed hearing about the experience as much as I enjoyed writing about it:

OK, that's pretty much it for this year. I have a bunch of "guess the casino" posts already written and pre-programmed to deploy at the rate of one a day for the next week or so. Other than that, I am likely to be scarce for a while. I'll soon be taking off for a little trip up to Salt Lake City to visit family for a slightly delayed Christmas get-together. It's likely to be next Tuesday or Wednesday before things get back to normal here, though I may pop in with a short post if something occurs to me.

It's been tremendously fun, interesting, and educational for me to bring you this year of poker blogging. My readership has grown by a factor of more than four, a rate of progression that I can only hope continues in 2009.

Thanks for stopping by. May you run good and play well in the new year.

Sign spotted at Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon

With two apostrophes in the casino's name, you'd think that the signmakers at Bill's would have a little better sense of where the little buggers are supposed to go. It would be amusing to interview the person who made this sign and ask him what he thought that second apostrophe was accomplishing where it was placed.

What will Las Vegas be like in 50 years?

Today on KNPR's "State of Nevada" I heard an interview with the author of this article in Vanity Fair magazine, featuring his projection of how Las Vegas will become a ghost town due to the lack of water. Interesting stuff. Scary, but interesting.

Guess the casino, #13

Answer: Venetian

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another pokery dream

I'm in a computer science class in college. The instructor (who is, weirdly, Annie Duke) introduces the day's guest speaker, Howard Lederer. He doesn't have anything prepared, just asks if we have any questions. I'm the only one who does, and I have three:

1. You can't really answer any questions because of pending litigation, right?

2. Can you tell us how the Doomswitch works? (I was suppressing a laugh when I asked this--just trying to get his goat.)

3. Who actually owns Full Tilt--percentage shares, etc.?

His answers: No comment, no comment, and no comment.

It seems that I'm surprisingly aware of current poker events when I sleep.


Pokerati has posted a 13-minute segment from a recent Rounders Radio podcast in which Phil Hellmuth is asked about the pot that was incorrectly awarded to him. Casually dropped in his response is this, at the 2:29 mark:

"Probably in my online career there's probably been a hundred pots that have been shipped, maybe 50 the wrong way to them and 50 the wrong way to me."

I have to assume that these were all on UltimateBlecch, which, according to Phil, has "the best software out there."

Prior to last week, I don't recall having ever heard of an online poker pot going the wrong way after a showdown, yet here is Phil speaking as if it's a moderately common occurrence, and shrugging it off as if it's just something to be expected.

Maybe it is, if UB is where you play.

Guess the casino, #12

Answer: Golden Nugget

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New poker room at Gold Coast

I recently saw an ad in one of the poker publications saying that Gold Coast opened a new poker room, so naturally I had to check it out. I had played there only once before and pretty much hated it. Thought the new room couldn't be any worse. I was right. It's a definite step up.

It's now an actual room rather than just a roped-off area in the middle of the casino--real walls on three sides. As you might imagine, this vastly cuts down on the smoke and noise factors, which are what I primarily hated about the old room. It has now been upgraded to a Category 2 on my continuously revised list of how smoke-free poker rooms are.

I can't remember what the old tables looked like from one visit a year ago, so I'm not sure if the nice maroon felt seen above is new, but it's sure pretty. There are enough TVs. Six tables. Chairs are below average--like standard kitchen chairs on rollers, no adjustments available. The new room is close to the entrance from the parking garage, which is a big improvement on the long hike required to get to the old one.

The main problem with this room is going to remain the lack of a game I want to play. I was there yesterday evening, and when I arrived they had one $4-8 LHE game and two $2-4 LHE games. During the 90 minutes or so that I was there, a second $4-8 game got started. I had started an interest list for a NLHE game when I checked in, and when I left mine was still the only name on it. If you can't get even one additional person to express interest in NLHE during poker's weekly prime time (Saturday night), then it's just not gonna happen. I don't think it would even be worth the trouble to call and ask whether they have such a game going, given the low probability.

Which means that a suddenly nicely upgraded room is, for my purposes, basically wasted. I just can't think of any reason I would make it a regular stop on my tour--which is really a shame.

Guess the casino, #11

Comment: This is yet another wall-sized photo, again located very near a Vegas poker room. Unlike the previous one, there are no intrinsic clues to its location in the image. If you've noticed it when visiting in person, you may remember where it is, but if not, you'll probably be reduced to pure guesswork.

Answer: Sahara