Thursday, April 30, 2009

Planet Hollywood stories


Planet Hollywood almost never issues new commemorative chips, so it was quite a surprise tonight to find that they have brought out not one but two new ones since the last time I was there a few weeks ago.


Hot on the heels of my straight flush at Imperial Palace, I had this rather lovely flop at PH:

As you can see, though, this time the pot was rather small. Also, the quad-5 jackpot had been hit a short time before, so it had been reset to its minimal level of just $50. But it would be unseemly to complain. It's nice to have the nuts, nice to win even a small pot, and nice to get back a bit of the high-hand jackpot drops to which I contribute with such regularity.

Incidentally, as I snapped the above photo, another player observing me got an alarmed look on his face and said, "Are you sure you can do that?" I wasn't entirely sure what he meant, so I said, "Do what?" He said, "What you just did--take the picture."

Well, I didn't ask anybody's permission, but I do have some experience with taking photos in casinos....

First, it's hard to see what anybody would find objectionable about it. Second, by the time anybody were to tell me not to, the deed would be done. So it's not on my top-ten list of things to worry about.


There is either a weird rule or an uninformed dealer at PH. At my table was a middle-aged Asian man with a woman, whom I assume was his wife, sitting behind him. She was looking at his hole cards most hands. At one point during a hand they were conversing in a language that I believe was Chinese. The dealer was distracted at the moment, so since I was sitting next to him, I quietly said, "We have an English-only issue." He looked up, realized who I was speaking of, and replied, "It's OK--he can speak to her in a different language."

I see three possibilities here.

First, it's an example of selective enforcement of a rule. That is so obviously problematic that I won't bother spelling out why.

Second, the dealer was simply wrong about the rule.

Third, there really is a weird house rule that exempts conversations with observers from the English-only rule. That would be stupid. The guy involved may be telling his wife everything he is thinking (or, when the hand it over, what he was thinking through the previous hand), and some other player at the table may be understanding him, when nobody else is. One chief purpose of the rule is to help ensure equality of information access for all players, and you defeat that purpose (at least potentially) by putting in an exemption for non-players. (For similar reasons, I think the English-only rule should apply the entire time people are playing, not just when they have live cards.) Although unlikely, she may be telling him what she thinks he should do with his hand, violating the one-player-to-a-hand rule.

It makes no sense to have an English-only rule but have it not apply to everybody present.


Matt is one of my favorite dealers at PH. He's fast, friendly, accurate, smart, and attentive. So I was shocked when he so flagrantly violated dealer etiquette tonight.

I had K-K in the small blind. A whole bunch of people limped in, so I raised to $16. I got three callers. Flop was Qs-Js-x. (Neither of my kings was a spade.) It was early in my session and I was down a bit from my initial buy-in, having just $74 left at this point. With about $60 in the pot, it was pretty much a no-brainer to shove it all in.

A short-stacked and obviously very inexperienced young woman in middle position thought long and hard about what to do. She had only about $40 left. A man in the seat next to her, who clearly knew her, was quietly telling her that she should fold. Matt heard this and appropriately reminded him that he wasn't allowed to help her. He apologized, then left the table to have a smoke. She eventually folded, as did the others.

I showed the kings to help establish an image. The woman very believably said that she had folded As-7s, and asked nobody in particular whether she had done the right thing by folding. Here is where Matt went wrong. He told her that her friend had given her bad advice. She asked why. He launched into an actual lecture, recounting the hand, the pot size, the relevant chip stacks, etc. He explained pot odds--a concept she had apparently never heard before, judging by her reaction. Encouraged, he went on to tell her the pot odds versus the odds of making her nut flush, etc. Not surprisingly, two other professors at the table latched onto the fun and explained yet more details of the decision-making process she should have engaged in.

It's bad enough when clueless know-it-all players try to educate others at the table. When dealers do it (and, offhand, I can't remember any ever doing anything like this before), it's absolutely inexcusable. As a dealer, he may not care if players learn to play better and make fewer mistakes, but I sure as hell care. I make my living from their mistakes.

If she wants to learn about pot odds and drawing odds, fine, there are tons of sources she can turn to when she gets home. The poker table is not the place for it, and the dealer is not the instructor. It is ridiculously far outside of his job description. He probably sees himself as gallant, helping out an inexperienced player. But the result is that is in helping her he lowers the EV of every other player there. He has no right to be doing that. It was one of the most egregious violations of protocol I've ever seen from a dealer, and I've seen some whoppers. That it came from a guy who is usually nearly flawless in executing his job was massively stunning to me.

It tempts me to start a new reality TV show: "When Good Dealers Go Bad."


Terry King is another likable, professional dealer at PH. Until tonight, though, I had no idea of her place in poker history. I was delighted to overhear pieces of a conversation she was having with another player in which she mentioned having a WSOP bracelet. Because I hadn't been paying full attention, I wasn't sure I heard that right. But when I got home, I looked it up, and sure enough, the proof is here and here. 1978, the second year a ladies' event was held, a $200 7-card stud tournament. Sadly, she said that the bracelet was stolen in a home burglary in the 1980s.

Despite that, a very belated congratulations, Terry. And thanks for dealing me the quad fives!


Cardgrrl said...

I'm curious: did you say anything to him after his down? Did you mention the matter to the floor?

I too would have been shocked & appalled to witness this. If I were friendly with the dealer and otherwise admired his skills, as you indicate you did before this incident, I would want to have a word with him as soon as he was pushed from the table. If it were not someone who I thought was otherwise beyond reproach, I would definitely want to speak to the room management.

Rakewell said...

I didn't say or do anything. I was still trying to figure out the right approach when I decided it was time to go.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you're most upset that Matt gave her correct advice. I agree that he shouldn't have offered up his opinion of the call/fold decision unsolicited. However, in a mid-level poker room at a low stakes game in a resort destination whose primary clientele is tourists, I'd say it's sometimes the job of the dealer to educate the inexperienced players. Call it customer service. Does it bother you that casinos give poker lessons to your opponents?

Pot odds isn't an easy concept for the beginning player to understand. I highly doubt she was going to be able to make an accurate assessment of her number of outs and then determine her pot odds the next time she was put to the test in the session. Going to management over that one moment might suggest a need to change your blog title to "The Poker Nit".

Buttnugget said...

Who cares if he explains pot odds to her. If she's that much of a novice such info can only be harmful to her in the future as in most likelihood she will apply this info poorly.

Michael said...

The way I've heard the Engrish only rule defined is that you must speak English only while in a hand but if you're not in a hand you are allowed to speak in another language. In your case, it seems like the dealer thought they were just chatting and didn't realize he actually had cards. Or P-Ho has a strange definition of the rule. Or, the dealer is an idiot.

dbcooper said...

I have to side with the Grump on this. The dealers job no matter whether its at a 1-2 game or the final of the WSOP is not to teach pot odds.

Unknown said...

As much as I hate to say it, I agree with "Buttnugget". In the short term it will only encourage her to make mistakes thus raising your EV. The concepts are not easy to wrap your brain around and a novice will not be able to calculate the numbers so quickly (and if they do, you have a dead lock tell on what their hand is and can play appropriately).

However, with that being said, being introduced to the concepts may make her go out and read a few books. At that point she will likely improve her game but in the short run, I think it helps you. Also if she improves her game, that is one more poker player in the world. WELCOME! Join the PPA!

- Couga

gr7070 said...

Was she getting the right odds to call?

I only play a couple times a year at most, but it doesn't appear to me she was.

$60 pot plus your all in with $40 left means there's a chance to win $100. 100/40 = 2.5

She has 12 outs (9+3 As). 38/12 = 3.2

Not enough money in there to call. Where am I wrong?

gr7070 said...

Now that I think of it she has two cards to come with no more betting.

What's that do to the odds?

Anonymous said...

After Grump shoves the pot is roughly $130, but since she only has $40 left she can only win $100 of that. The pot is giving her 2 to 5 or 40% on her call.

An easy, albeit somewhat inexact, way of calculating your odds of winning the pot are to take your outs times 4 with 2 cards to come and times 2 with 1 card to come. So she's roughtlty 48% to win the hand at the decision point. I'd say those are the right odds. Even if you assume that a couple of her outs were folded by other players she's still 40% to win which makes it kind of a coin flip whether to call or fold.

All of that assumes she knew exactly what grump had. That's the other big problem for newbies. They're so locked into first level thinking that they can't accurately assess their opponent's holding, so calculating the right odds to call is probably moot.

gr7070 said...

If it's not completely obvious I'm a limit player, so I largely thik on card at a time, thus my intial miss of the two cards to come with no more betting.

I do play a .10/.25 no limit home game 2 times a year.

big al said...

I also like Matt (if we're talking about the same Matt-- spikey hair, young, like in his mid-late 20s).

He used to play professionally and I guess he longs to be on the other side of the table sometimes. True, he shouldn't be giving lessons from the dealer's seat, but maybe his desire to help a beginner got the best of him before he realized what he was saying.

Just a thought...