Saturday, February 21, 2009

More publicity

The Cannery incident was largely responsible for generating a record 1588 hits on the site yesterday, more than triple the daily average and more than double the previous high mark. Welcome to any new readers who decide to stick around for the other content.

In addition to the secondary pieces about it mentioned here, you can read further commentary/discussion here:

Also, there is a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter interested in doing a story about the strange inconsistencies in casino policies with respect to photography. He contacted me and we have an interview arranged for early next week, though it may take him quite a while to put together the piece. I'll let you know when it hits print, assuming it does at some point.

Guess what hand would have won?

On last night's "Poker After Dark," the mighty Deuce-Four would have taken down this $98,000 pot. (It also would have won several other pots through the week, but it would have become tedious for me to post about each one.)

And yet some people remain unbelievers. I can only shake my head in sadness.

My standard lie

Ted at Red Bull and Poker yesterday wrote about the questions people ask him across the poker table. It reminded me that I've never mentioned here the standard lie I've developed for when people ask me what I do.

I don't like lying to people, but, first, of all, it's none of their business. Mostly they're just being friendly and making small talk, so socially it won't work to say, "Shut up and leave me alone," though, frankly, that's my misanthropic first impulse. Secondly, telling them that what I'm doing is what I do, well, it tends to lead to a long string of other questions that I don't feel like getting into.

Over time I've tried a bunch of different answers. Psychologists talk about "shaping" an animal's behavior by rewarding it as it gets closer and closer to what they want it to do. Similarly, I have developed an answer that works for me by gradually figuring out what responses lead to either more or less subsequent chat. (I want less.)

My standard lie is, "I do consulting work for medical clinics, helping them modernize their record-keeping systems."

Here's why this works. First, it's so dull that people don't tend to ask me any follow-up questions. Second, it's kind of obscure, and the sort of thing that is highly unlikely to run into a person who actually knows something about the subject, which might lead to uncomfortable attempts at shop talk. (I have no idea what I'll do when the day comes that I accidentally stumble across somebody who actually knows the field, and asks me about which digital medical records systems I work with.) Third, if asked, I can plausibly say that I am self-employed in that business and work out of my home office, which explains, if necessary, why I have free time (especially in the middle of the day) to be playing poker. Along the same lines, if asked why I moved from Minnesota to Vegas (which tends to come up, too), I can say that because I work from home, I can live anywhere, and I like both the weather and the availability of poker here--both of which happen to be true. Fourth, from my past life I actually do know enough about the medical field to B.S. my way through most conversation that might ensue, though so far that has been rare. Mostly I just get, "Oh, that's interesting," followed by silence or a complete change in the subject--exactly my goal.

However, be forewarned that I have copyrighted, patented, and trademarked this answer. If you try to steal and use it, automated fraud detection systems installed at every casino (borrowed from the federal government's Total Information Awareness program) will hear it and report the violation to my attorneys. Trust me on that--I would never lie to you.

Guess the casino, #63

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Riviera

Friday, February 20, 2009

An amusing idea

Several people in the comments section of my Cannery story have suggested boycotting the place. A more creative idea occurred to me a few minutes ago.

I've always thought the whole "flash mob" phenomenon was pretty pointless, but today I see a purpose. Imagine this: There's, say, a hundred people at the Cannery, all milling around, doing nothing in particular. Then, on some prearranged signal*, this dispersed mass of people all pull out cell phone cameras and start taking pictures of everything in sight, all over the casino.

It greatly amuses me to think of Kwang and Larry and the rest of their crew suddenly being faced with a swarm of people taking pictures of their top-secret casino interior--a group of people that outnumber the entire security staff by 10 to 1. What are they going to do--try to surround and backroom all of them at once? Release tear gas into the central ventilation system to chase everybody out? Call in the North Las Vegas SWAT team? Detonate a electromagnetic pulse bomb to try to erase every offender's digital memory chip?

Even more fun would be to have a scanner with which one could listen in on the frantic radio communications that would ensue among the rent-a-cops suddenly overwhelmed with more photographers than they've ever had to deal with before.

Of course, the mob would have to agree in advance to certain things: Stop taking pictures as soon as they are personally informed by casino staff that it is not allowed (but then try to engage the security person in as extended a conversation as possible about the reasons for the policy, how stupid it is, etc., to slow them down from moving on to inform the next person); don't spend a single nickel in the place on gambling, food, drinks, movie tickets, or anything else; don't do anything that could even remotely justify a bogus charge of disorderly conduct; be good eyewitnesses (and photographic documenters) for each other if casino security try to get out of line with any fellow mobster.

Mind you, I'm not actually advocating or coordinating such a thing, since I wouldn't be able to be there to witness the fun. I'm just saying that hypothetically, it might be a blast. Hell, I think it's plenty of fun just contemplating the scene, and the frenzy it would cause among the fake-badge goons.

*The easiest, I think, would be for people to set their cell phones for an alarm at a specific time. Since cell phones receive their time information from centrally coordinated sites, they are precise and highly synchronized. I assume that the cell phone companies use the government's atomic clocks for their time source. In fact, every time I hear people get into one of those stupid debates about what time it really is, and who's watch is a little fast or a little slow, I want to deliver a dope slap and remind them that their cell phone clocks are probably correct to within about a thousandth of a second, if not better.

I'm shocked, SHOCKED!

There's prostitution in Las Vegas? On the Strip? Right inside the casinos???

I think I need to sit down. I'm so stunned I'm in danger of passing out.

Guess the casino, #62

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Comment: This is a slight deviation from the norm for this series. In this case, the central object here is not in a casino, but in front of one. It used to denote the Silver Slipper casino, now defunct. But the question is, where is its symbol now found? (The casino's parking garage is the structure on the right.)

Answer: El Cortez


My deepest thanks to VegasRex for taking my side in the whole Cannery thing with this post:

As usual, he finds a way to express the outrage and indignation that I feel but can't find the tone and/or vocabulary to articulate well. (And if I did, my father, who still reads me every day, would drive down here and wash my mouth out with soap, like he did when I was 6. Love ya, Dad!)

While I'm at it, thanks, too, to Carlos Miller. He's a photographer and journalist who, after a nasty encounter with some police officers who didn't appreciate being photographed, started a blog dedicated to documenting the abuse and legal problems faced by photographers who have broken no laws: "Photography is not a crime." I hadn't heard of his case or his blog before tonight, but apparently one of my readers tipped him about my story. He emailed me to ask for an interview, and we had a nice chat on the phone. His post about my experience is here. He also kindly pointed me to the blog of an attorney who appears to specialize in such matters here. Interesting stuff.

And, finally, thanks to all the readers who posted supportive and encouraging comments to the story. It means more to me than I could easily explain here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The pictures that caused all the turmoil

I promise that this is not suddenly going to transform into a blog about my detention at the Cannery. We will return to poker shortly--I have a few posts already composed in the ol' noggin'. But this was one of the more dramatic incidents of my time in Vegas, and it's unclear at this point what, if any, ramifications will come from it. So you'll understand, I hope, if it comes up occasionally as events play themselves out.

My original plan was to just use the pictures I had taken in the ordinary course of my silly little "Guess the casino" series. But from some comments both public and private today, I have been persuaded to just dump them here--to show my hand, so to speak. So here they are, in the order that I took them, without any digital manipulation.

This was taken between the parking garage and the casino. I probably would have ended up not using this, because the glare makes it too hard to see the signs that were supposed to be the focus.

I like the kitschy, vaguely 1940s-50s theme of the Cannery. This sign over the phone banks is a typical example. I would have blurred or blacked out the word "Cannery" in it for my post, of course.

I likely would not have used this one, either. It didn't turn out well enough. In case you can't tell, it's an overhead dome sort of thing in the ceiling just inside the entrance to the casino. The girl's face shows up on lots of things in the Cannery, including the poker chips.

I usually take a picture of the poker room and/or a sign pointing to the poker room, on the assumption that that's a part of the casino that my readers will be most familiar with. Again, might not have used this one because I'd have been embarrassed at how blurry it came out. (My cell phone camera is really rudimentary, and it's often hard to tell on the little LCD screen whether they'll be usable.)

This is just a mildly interesting interior design detail, the way they've dressed up what I assume is a structural support pillar.

These were the last two pictures I took. They're just two different parts of the same large mural that sits over a bank of slot machines. These are the pics that the security guy later claimed were of their video monitors. I suppose there might be a ceiling camera somewhere in there, but I can't see any. And if somebody is standing with a camera in front of a design feature this striking (and, IMHO, cool), isn't it just a whole lot more likely that he's interested in the mural than the security cameras?

So that's it. That's what all the fuss was about. Now there will be no "Guess the casino" posts for the Cannery, because I've expended all my ammunition here--unless somebody wants to shoot me other photos they have taken there, in which case I suppose I can do them as sort of a guest submission thing.

Guess the casino: Extra

That's right, it's the Cannery!

Sorry. Couldn't help myself. The photo is actually the Keystone Cops, of course. Thanks to Shamus's comment on this post for unintentionally inspiring the idea. Shamus, BTW, may be the only person I know of who is even more mild-mannered and harmless-looking than I am, and thus the only one for whom being backroomed on suspicion of threatening, terroristic activities would be even more ludicrous than it was for me.

More on casino security goons

Here are some more horror stories about how Vegas casino security goons mistreat people, along with advice on how to deal with them:

Guess the casino, #61

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Plaza

I got backroomed by casino security goons

No, I'm not kidding. It's for real.

I am obvious a lousy foreteller of the future, because a mere three weeks ago I wrote:

From this book I learned a lot that I did not previously know about the
statutes, case law, and regulations that govern gambling generally and casinos'
interactions with and responsibilities to their patrons. However, very little of
it will have any relevance to my life. Given my personality, my nearly exclusive
use of casinos for poker, and my propensity to stay well clear of anything that
might even look like cheating, all of my interactions with casino security
personnel to date have been pleasant, nonconfrontational, and uneventful, and I
expect they will continue to be.

Wow. How wrong could I have been?

After an unsuccessful session at Santa Fe Station in North Las Vegas, I decided to swing by the Cannery, a few miles to the east, to see if they had a game going. While there, I thought, I could also take a few "Guess the Casino" shots.

I had taken seven photos when a Cannery security guard (his nametag identified him as "Kwang") told me to stop. OK. I put my camera away. I asked him why, and he just gave me non-answers, like, "Because you're not allowed to take pictures." He couldn't explain any reason for the policy. "That's just what I've been told." OK. He asked what I had been taking a picture of. I pointed to the rather obvious colorful mural that stretched some 30 feet side to side. "That." (He would later tell other security officers that I had been taking pictures of their ceiling security cameras, so either he was paying no attention to my answer, or he just decided to make up a lie.)

I walked over to the poker room, found that they didn't have any no-limit games going. I didn't feel like playing $2-4 limit, so I turned to go. To my surprise, Kwang was there again. He asked to see the pictures I had taken. I declined and started walking back the way I had come. He came along, repeatedly asking me and telling me to stop. I kept walking, but engaged him in dialog: "Do you believe you have legal grounds to detain me?" He didn't answer that directly at first, but instead deflected the question by saying that it was against their policy to have photos taken. So I asked him more specifically, "Do you have any reason to believe that I have committed a felony in the casino?" Again, he didn't answer directly, but just repeated that he needed to inspect my camera. I told him repeatedly that I did not believe he or anybody else there had any right to look at it or to detain me.

All the while, he's on his radio, telling whoever is on the other end things like, "He's refusing." "He's not stopping." Unfortunately for me, my entrance was on the far end of the facility from the poker room, so it was a long walk. By the time I got there, we were met by several other security people. At first they simply tried to step in front of me. When I was able to step around them, though, they finally just grabbed my arm and held me, then surrounded me and let go--six of them, at the max. I knew enough not to give them an excuse to escalate the level of force. In addition to Kwang, there was one wearing a "Larry" nametag. (Moe and Curly had the night off, I guess.) The others were not wearing nametags that I could see.

They finally announced clearly that I was being detained and I was not free to go. Two of them were openly armed. I asked the grounds for my detention. They said it was because I was taking pictures. I asked whether they had reason to think that I had committed a felony, which is the only suspicion that triggers their authority to detain. Yes, I was told--taking pictures. I asked, incredulously, "You think that's a felony?" The guy said, "Yes, it's a violation of our policy"--as if that's the same thing. I don't know whether he was really that ignorant, or just felt verbally cornered, and intentionally lied, hoping that I wouldn't call his bluff. I did. I laughed in his face. I'll confess that a bit of sarcasm slipped out: "My, you're very well-trained in your job, aren't you?" He then tried to argue that taking photos was a violation of state gaming regulations. Uh, no, it isn't that, either (gaming regulations govern what licensees--the casinos--can and cannot do, not what patrons can and cannot do), and even if it were, that wouldn't give you authority to detain me, absent a felony. They were just making this crap up as they went, because, I believe, they knew they had nothing legitimate on me.

All of this was taking place in the space between the inner and outer set of doors at one entryway--I had not quite made it out of the building, about ten feet short. They said that if I didn't let them look at the pictures I had taken, they would call the police. I told them I was not voluntarily handing over my camera. They said they would call the police. I told them to do what they felt they needed to do. (This later got morphed into them saying that I had requested that they call the police. Yeah, right.) So we stood there for maybe 20 minutes waiting for the officers to come to investigate this most horrific of crimes.

During that time, I engaged in a little verbal cat-and-mouse with one of the older security guys, who was trying to intimidate me. He kept pointing out that this was private property. Really? Gee. Who knew? Because it was private property, he said, they could prohibit photography. I told him that I didn't argue with that point, and as soon as they had asked me to stop taking pictures, I complied. I also pointed out that there were no signs informing people of this policy. When I repeated, again, that I was not staying there voluntarily and wished to leave, he informed me, again, that this was private property and they were not allowing me to leave. This is a non sequitur. I told him that the one does not follow from the other. I asked him, "Do you think that if somebody comes into your yard at home, you can use force to prevent him from leaving just because you feel like it?" He said, "Yes. On your own private property you can do anything you want to do." Again, it's hard to know if he is actually that stupid, or was just bluffing with an answer because he realized he had been caught making an assertion that didn't make any sense, and had to go with it.

As we were having this discussion, he kept interrupting me when I would try to answer his questions or ask him my own. I finally asked him, "Are you always this rude, interrupting people in civil conversation?" He said, "Yeah. Yeah, I am. I'm the rudest motherfucker you'll ever meet." Nice. Is that what your training manual tells you you're supposed to say? Not too long thereafter, he decided that he was losing this particular battle of wits, and cut off the conversation.

At some point, somebody deep in the bowels of the establishment instructed the goons to take me to the security holding area. I heard a snippet of conversation between two of them that suggested that this was because they didn't have good overhead camera coverage of the spot we were in.

One of them told me to accompany him. I asked, "And if I refuse?" He said, "They we'll cuff you and carry you there." So I told him, "All right, but I am not going voluntarily. I am going under protest and over my objection, under threat of duress."

When we reached the security area, they informed me both verbally and by a posted sign that the area was being audiotaped and videotaped. Fine with me. I sat on a bench and waited. When they left me alone, I pulled out my cell phone and was going to email the photos to my home computer. But then I thought better of it. I didn't want the phone out where they could just grab it. If they were going to take it from me, they would have to open my fanny pack and remove it against my will. So I put it away again. Probably a good thing. Mere seconds later, I overhead one of the security guys tell another, "Stay here and watch him. If he takes the camera out or puts his hands where you can't see them, we'll cuff him."

Finally the police showed up--two officers at first, but ultimately what appeared to be five or six of them out in the hall. (Couldn't tell for sure as they were milling back and forth.) Obviously, this was the biggest case of the night in North Las Vegas to justify this usage of manpower. Your tax dollars at work. The first two did a good cop/bad cop thing on me. However, unless I miss my mark, I don't think it was a performance. I think one of them was just naturally calm and soft-spoken, and the other a natural hard-assed, impatient, overauthoritarian, rude jerk.

They took my fanny pack--a process which I clearly but politely informed them was without my consent (not that I really thought that would stop them, but I wanted it on the record)--removed my wallet and took out my driver's license. After a while, they came back and informed me that my license was listed as having been suspended. This was news to me. I had never received any such notice. I asked if he knew any more details. He said the code only told him that it was "on the advice of the court," or words to that effect. It made no sense to me.

Blah, blah, blah, lots of discussion, lots of stupid and irrelevant questions (had I ever been arrested before, was I on any medication, etc.--not exactly things tailored to investigating the situation at hand), me trying to tell my story, and bad-ass cop always interrupting me and telling me that I had a bad attitude and I should just cooperate.

When they asked why I was taking pictures, I decided not to bother being obstructionist about it. I mean, legally I didn't have to tell them anything. But as a practical matter, it seemed likely to me that going the silent route would have resulted in an arrest for disorderly conduct or some other B.S. charge. At least in this particular set of circumstances, taking my constitutional rights to the outer limit wasn't worth a night in jail, attorney fees, etc., when I knew that the truth was both perfectly innocent and readily verifiable.

So I told them of this blog and the "Guess the casino" series. One of them wrote down the URL and disappeared to look it up. Nobody ever told me explicitly that they had confirmed my story, but they obviously must have, else Officer Bad-Ass would have come back steaming mad and accusing me of lying to them, obstructing their investigation, etc. One of the police officers (not one of the original two) popped his head in the room to ask how much time I spent on the blog, whether I got paid for it, etc. He said that he played a little poker himself and thought it looked like there was some worthwhile stuff here that he wanted to go back and read later. This will officially be the strangest way I have ever picked up a new reader.

I overheard a bit of conversation taking place in the hallway between two of the officers, or perhaps one of the officers and the head security person. The gist of it was that the officer had spoken to his supervisor, and was told that there appeared to have been no law broken, and therefore they really couldn't do anything about me. I felt like saying, "This is what I have been trying to tell you."

One of the security guys finally took my picture and read me the official trespass warning. Part of it was that I was ordered to leave the property immediately. I chuckled and pointed out the irony that that was precisely what I had been trying to do, and would have done, except for them forcibly stopping me from leaving.

This was my official Bannery from the Cannery.

They were then ready to escort me off the premises. But wait--I pointed out some practical problems. The officer had confiscated my driver's license because he said it was suspended, so I obviously couldn't drive home, and if I left my car I had reason to fear that the casino would have it towed away, etc. After some negotiation, they agreed to let my car remain in the parking garage unmolested, and when I was ready the next day to come get it, I could call the head of security (they gave me his name and number) to get temporary permission to come on the property for that purpose. Were they all really so dense that I was the only one that could anticipate these items as potential problems?

One of the security guys, I have to say, was admirably calm, quiet, relaxed, and reasonable throughout the whole ordeal, in rather dramatic contrast to his overexcitable partners. I chatted with him as we headed for the exit. He told me that this whole thing could have been avoided if I had just cooperated. I'm not so sure. I think it's plausible that if I had handed over my cell phone camera, they would have felt at liberty to either keep it or delete the photos that they didn't approve of, or who knows what else. I wasn't willing to compromise on that or give them the opportunity. So I told the young man that I understood his point of view, but didn't share it. I said that from my perspective, the whole thing could have been avoided if his crew both understood and remained within the limits of their legal authority, and didn't unlawfully detain people who had committed no crime and had not given any reason to think that a crime had been committed.

We walked to the garage so I could show them which car was mine, in order that they not think it abandoned. We were then walking along the driveway toward the exit (I was scanning for open businesses across the street from which I could call a friend--it was kind of cold out), when Officer Bad-Ass pulled up in his squad car. He stopped us, handed me my license back, and said he had gotten a call from his supervisor saying that some sort of mistake had been made, and it wasn't suspended after all. (I have no idea what that was all about.) That made everything easier. We just walked back to my car, and I drove off.

The whole thing took about an hour and a half.

I felt extraordinarily fortunate to have read Bob Nersesian's book Beat the Players less than a month before. Although I have enough basic knowledge of the law to have pretty much guessed correctly at the limits of casino security authority, it was extremely comforting to know for sure where things stood, and that it was the Cannery security officers who were committing the crimes (assault, battery, and false imprisonment), not I.

It's possible that I will look into suing the casino and its employees for these crimes and torts. If I were a multimillionaire and could afford to pay an attorney an hourly rate to do it, I would in a heartbeat. But whether I could convince any attorney to take the case on a contingency basis is pretty iffy, given that my actual damages are limited to about 90 minutes of lost time. I wouldn't and couldn't even claim mental/emotional distress, since I was entirely sure I was in the right the entire time, and was far more bored and amused (alternately) than injured. The only serious money would be in punitive damages, and it's hard to know whether an attorney would deem recovering such to be likely enough to be worth investing his time in the matter.

But I wish I could just hire somebody to do the case as a matter of pure principle. Those goons had exactly zero basis for anything they did past the point of asking me to stop taking photographs--and they either knew that or should have known it. I don't take kindly to being manhandled and accused of "casing" the place for a later robbery--especially when the latter occurred after they had looked up the blog and seen exactly what my purpose was. (I guess I forgot to mention that part in my narrative. One of the security guys told me of their worry that I was casing the place and might later return with an AK-47 to rob them--which is more than a little paranoid.)

Along those same lines, I should tell you what was, for my money, the most insane moment of the night. Just before the police left and security was to escort me out, Officer Bad-Ass told me (and it was in the security room, so it's presumably on tape), "I don't know exactly what you were doing here, but you're covering up something. I think you were up to no good. NO GOOD. And if you keep it up, you're going to get caught sooner or later." Again, I emphasize that this was after he had looked up this very web site and could see precisely what it was that I was "up to." Moron. I'm pretty sure that the videotape replay will catch me giving off an "I can't believe you're really that stupid" smirk at that point.

For any readers who hope to have a chance meeting with me across the green felt on your next Vegas vacation, here's today's helpful hint: Don't expect to find me at the Cannery.

For the record, here are links to the Nevada statutes that convey detention authority (as listed by Nersesian in his book at pp. 166-172). If you look through them, I think it will become readily apparent that absolutely nothing I did fell even remotely within the criteria that would trigger their right to hold me against my will.

Nevada Revised Statutes 171.126. Arrest by private person.

NRS 171.1235. Gaming licensee may detain persons suspected of having committed felony in gaming establishment.

NRS 465.101. Detention and questioning of person suspected of violating chapter.

Addendum, February 27, 2009

For those being referred to this post from other sites, you might be interested in subsequent developments. Click here to get all the follow-up posts.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You might be a donkey if....

Monday evening at the Venetian I had the table donkey on my right. His oddness began with the fact that he was wearing sleeves too long for his arms, with holes cut in them for his thumbs to stick out, leaving the elastic cuff to go across his palms--because, y'know, one's palms get so cold playing poker.

I first noticed his donkitude in how little attention he was paying to the game. He was just completely zoned out. Every time it was his turn, the dealer would have to try to get his attention, then recap the action for him to that point. That gets old REAL fast.

But there were four specific points in the evening at which he might as well have bared his teeth, kicked his rear hooves, and brayed.


He limped in from early position, then called a ridiculously large pre-flop raise to $25 from one of the more solid players at the table, with K-2. But, of course, it was sooted! The flop gave him a gutshot to a wheel, so of course he check-called a pot-sized bet, and hit his draw on the turn.


In another hand, he limped in, and was one of four callers for a raise to $12 from the table's tightest player on the button. Pot was about $60. On the flop it was checked around to the raiser, who bet $50. It folded around to Donkey. He said, over and over again, "Wow. Great bet. Really great bet." He finally folded, but continued the admiring speech. "That was just a fantastic bet." No, there was no irony or sarcasm in it.

I took a dinner break, and as I was sitting down upon my return, caught the end of Donkey yet again bringing up that hand, and telling the opponent from nearly an hour before, "You put in a really great bet there, dude."

Yeah. The pre-flop raiser putting in a continuation bet of a little less than the size of the pot, from the button, when his opponents check it to him--that's positively ingenious. Never seen anything like that before! It's well worth continuing to marvel at FOR AN HOUR!


About a minute before I stepped away for my break, he said, to nobody in particular, "Do you think the table has noticed that I'm playing, like, every hand?"

No, sir! None of us were paying any attention to such obscure, hard-to-obtain information! You should have kept it to yourself, and nobody would ever have known.

(Later, after about the seventh Jagermeister, he changed his tactic to raising every hand. I was salivating in the hopes of picking up something good. But I went card-dead about then, and by the time I hit some good stuff the booze had pushed him to nearly falling asleep at the table, and complete passivity in play. I still took nearly $100 from him on my last hand of the night when my K-K was apparently good enough.)


I had A-A under the gun. I raised. Button reraised. Donkey folded. (Dang!) I put in the third raise, and the button called. Flop A-K-10 rainbow. Bet and call. Turn a 6. Big bet, reluctant fold.

I show the aces as a bit of false advertising. Donkey says, "Nice hand, but you must have hated that flop." I'm kind of stunned--I flopped the second nuts, and just wasn't too worried that my opponent had called the third raise (from a tight player in first position) with J-Q. Actually, I was about to pee my pants with the hope that he had either A-K or K-K, and I would stack him. And Donkey is saying I must have hated the flop??? All I can croak out is a stammering, "It was OK." Donkey says, "That's sure not the kind of flop you want when you've got aces."

He is not kidding.

I'm flabbergasted into silence. The thought running through my mind is, "Just shut up. Keep it to yourself. No teaching at the table. Let him think whatever he wants to think."

To the young man in Seat 9 Monday night: In case anybody tries to pin a tail on you in the near future, there's a damn good reason.

Poker gems, #218

Tommy Angelo, Elements of Poker, p. 75. (Thanks to Cardgrrl for the submission.)

You are not entitled to play bad just because they are playing bad. You are not entitled to tilt on the grounds that anyone would tilt after the terrible luck you've had. You are not entitled to play a marginal hand as a reward for folding correctly before the flop many times in a row. You are not entitled to call all the way when you know you are beat, just because you have a big pair in the hole. And no matter how good you play, or how bad they play, you are not entitled to win. If you have time and money, you are entitled to a seat at the table. That is all.

Guess the casino, #60

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Boulder Station

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Poker gems, #217

Matt Perry, in Bluff magazine, February, 2009, p. 43.

I love No Limit Hold'em. I'm one of those narrow-minded idiots who runs screaming from any game where you have more than two cards. Don't even get me started on Omaha 8--four cards, two hands, quartered pots? Are you trying to make my brain explode?

Poker players who don't like money

This happened just a few hands before packing it in last night at the Venetian. Big stack at the table puts in the third raise preflop--all in. Conservative young woman who had put in the second raise tanks. Big stack tells her to fold, he has the best hand, he doesn't want action, just wants the pot as it is. She's not convinced. He tells her, "You should fold. I have aces." He shows her one. She's still thinking. So finally he turns over his other card--another ace. She screws up her face, but still takes maybe 10 or 15 seconds before she mucks her pocket kings face up.

As Robert at The Vegas Year is fond of saying, "These are the people I play with."

I've seen this once before, as reported here. I still don't get it. As far as I'm concerned, when I have aces, please, please, please let's get as much money in as we can, whether my opponent has kings or anything else.

I guess some people just don't like money.

Guess the casino, #59

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Hooters

More fun with Cardgrrl. Less fun with Cardgrrl.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

(Hey, y'know, that would be a great opening for a novel. Somebody should try that.)

As for this post's title, I have spent the last few days debating which it would end up being. Finally couldn't decide, so used both.

As I write this, Cardgrrl is presumably in the air on her way home to D.C., undoubtedly happy to leave Vegas behind. We have spent much of the last six days together, taking on the donkeys of the world at the Venetian, Harrah's, Caesars Palace, and Mandalay Bay. But the donkeys collectively beat us with the variance stick.

I chalked up losses the first three days, though saw some recovery yesterday and today, to a unpleasant but relatively modest net loss of $345 during Cardgrrl's visit. I'll let her share her own numbers if she chooses to, but I trust she won't mind me speculating that she would be thrilled to have lost only $345.

Interestingly, her best day was Saturday (finishing 11th in a large-field tournament), the only day of the trip I wasn't playing. And, conversely, my best day was today, when she and I played at different tables at the Venetian, rather than side by side. Do you sense a pattern there? We did. We seemed to be each other's bad luck charms.

She is, however, a delightful poker companion. I used to have a shooting buddy in Minnesota. We'd go to competitions together, work on equipment together, trade magazines and tips, coach and critique and compete against each other. It made the whole experience many-fold more enjoyable. Since taking up poker, I had not found a comparable person in the game. Sure, there are lots of locals that I have come to know superficially who I find pleasant to share a table with--but nobody that I could say actually enhances the enjoyment of the session to the point that I would find myself hoping to find him or her at the table when I arrived somewhere. Until now.

Cardgrrl and I seem to think about the game in many similar ways. It is tremendously enjoyable to have somebody with whom to exchange knowing looks when somebody does or says something stupid, to talk over hands with, to trade insights and scouting reports with, to jointly celebrate hands well won and sympathize with hands unjustly lost. The time flies, and I find myself able to put up with considerably longer sessions than my attention span would otherwise tolerate.

So that should make it "More fun with Cardgrrl," right? Except there's that whole making-each-other-lose thing.

There are three possible mechanisms behind this. First is that we somehow distract each other and thus play less effectively. I can't be entirely sure of this, but I tend to think not. At least I didn't feel any more pulled away from the game than I am by the combination of table talk, music in the ear buds, big-screen TVs, my own daydreaming, etc. Second is that with a formidable opponent in the next seat, there is one less space for a money-donating, less-experienced player. This is undoubtedly true in the long run, although it wouldn't explain this week's results on my ledger: Cardgrrl actually ended up being one of my biggest sources of chips. I hasten to add that this was not through poor play on her part nor brilliant play on mine; rather, it was just the confluence of cards, position, and other circumstances that happened to work in my favor this go-around. (E.g., my queens held up against her A-K, but when I had the A-K against her queens, I caught an ace on the board. Hard to attribute much of that to skill.) I am confident that a long-term accounting between us would come out even.

That leaves the third possibility: random variance. We shared juicy, fishy tables. Tables that made her say, "Let's never leave." Tables that made me say, "If we can't make money here, we should get out of the business."

And then we'd both lose.

But you have to understand the magnitude of bad luck that was being manifest over these last several days. I know that Cardgrrl is too classy to tell her own bad-beat stories [Edit: Or maybe not! See here. LOL!], so I'll do a bit of it for her. Playing poker for six days, it wouldn't be too surprising to get hit with a one-outer bad beat one time. She had at least three that I know about--for example, hitting a king-high flush when an opponent made his straight flush and losing 3/4 of her tournament chips in the process. Or here's one that I witnessed in a cash game at the Venetian: Set over set, with her J-J against an opponent's 8-8, board J-K-?-8. All the money gets in. River: 8. Something like $500 shipped to Mr. Quads.

And if you go beyond the one-outers, the hit list grows too long to keep track of. For example, her A-10 against know-it-all donkey's K-10. Board: 10-10-8-X... KING! All the mobneys going to the wrong end of the table. It was brutal. It was genuinely painful to watch her take such thrashings over and over and over again. She got knocked out of two tournaments with A-A. First time (Thursday) up against K-K, all the chips in pre-flop, K on the flop. Next one (Sunday) up against J-Q, flop was jack-high, chips all in, river brought a third jack. The city and/or the poker gods had it in for her, to be sure.

She even experimented with the mighty 2-4 a few times. She has declined my urging to write her own post about the unfortunate results, but I'll just say that it resulted in a text message to me that included a Very Naughty Word. (I replied that the Deuce-Four only works if you believe in it. I'm glad that my testicles were not within reach of her foot at that moment.)

I had my own little hells, but got off relatively easy compared to her, in terms of magnitude, frequency, and sheer horrendousness of the beats.

So unless we do actually act, in some weird supernatural way, as each other's bad luck magnets, pure ugly variance seems the most likely explanation for the week's results.

Perhaps we'll test that theory on another visit one day. If so, I hope that I'll be able to title the resulting post, "More fun AND more money with Cardgrrl."

Playing at the "Venetian"

You see, it's not actually the Venetian Poker Room. It's the "Venetian" Poker Room. This is evidenced by the sign taped to the front desk, which I snapped a photo of earlier today:

The quotation marks around and capitalization of "Phone-ins" also raise my editorial eyebrow. The "continue patronage" and lack of blocking of paragraphs are just sloppiness.

It's a never-ending source of bemusement to me how poker rooms--even otherwise classy ones--are willing to be viewed as places where nobody cares about getting things right, which, of course, they do every time they post a sign as carelessly composed as this one.

Incidentally, there is an entire blog dedicated to poking fun at the use of unnecessary and contextually baffling quotation marks. See here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Poker words, #6

When a new player joins the table, in many poker rooms there is a delay before he gets chips. During that few minutes, the new player can play like everybody else, but on the basis of a verbal commitment, rather than actual chips put into the pot. Things get settled up once the chips arrive.

Last night at Caesars Palace this happened. The new player was to be the big blind. The dealer announced, "Seat 5 will be our virtual big blind."

I liked that way of expressing the situation.

Guess the casino, #58

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Sam's Town

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Poker plates

Thursday night I saw in Harrah's parking garage a car with California vanity plates: AK SUTED.

The next day while driving around town, I spotted another out of state car with plates reading QUADS.

I love this game as much as anyone, I think, but don't feel any inclination to putting that fact on my license plates.

Guess the casino, #57

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Flamingo--could I possibly make it any more obvious?! :-)

Poker lessons from non-poker movies: "Slumdog Millionaire"

A friend had free tickets for any Regal Cinema feature, so we hit the one at Fiesta Henderson to see "Slumdog Millionaire" today, curious as to why such an apparently unlikely movie racked up 10 Oscar nominations. Well, the reason becomes obvious after seeing it--it's simply magnificent. It's completely original, moving, well written, well acted, well edited.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about the most salient poker-y scene without spoiling a key plot point. Here's what I can tell you without ruining things: At one crucial juncture, our hero (shown above on the left) has to decide whether somebody is telling him the truth or lying--and everything rides on getting it right. There is some suggestion that he picks up physical tells, but we are led to suspect that his main tool is consideration of the other person's motivations. When he does that, it leads him to the right answer.

Back in December, 2007, I told this story:

I was on the bad end of another skillful bit of deceptive revealing by an
opponent a couple of months ago. I started with a strong hand (can't remember
exactly what it was), but hated seeing three hearts on the flop, when I had
none. The turn brought a fourth heart to the board. I bet, my tricky opponent
took a long time to decide what to do. While thinking, he turned over the 7 of
hearts. He finally called. The river was a blank. I decided that with just a
7-high flush, he must be worried that I had a higher flush, so I moved all-in.
He insta-called with the look on his face of the cat that caught the canary (as,
indeed, he had). His other card was the king of hearts. He had flopped the
king-high flush, and his showing the lower card tricked me into thinking exactly
what he wanted me to think: that he just had a low flush and was in a difficult
spot, when really he had the second nuts. Well played, sir--you lured me in

I made a mistake by not considering his motivation. I assumed he was trying to get a read on my reaction to his shown card, and I frankly didn't even entertain the possibility that he might have some other purpose in his evil little heart. But I learned from that encounter, and now when an opponent does something out of the ordinary, I try to remember to explicitly consider the possibility that what appears straightforward may be deliberate deception.

It's a useful thing to keep in mind in poker.

New (well, sort of) poker room at Fiesta Henderson

I was at Fiesta Henderson today to see a movie, and was surprised to see that the poker room had moved. Last time I was there (December, 2007) it was upstairs; now it's just off the main casino floor, next to the cafe. That's my old friend from the Hilton, Ken Franco, at the front desk. He tells me that the room has been where it is for six months or so. So this isn't exactly breaking news. I didn't stay to play, so can't tell you anything more about it. But with a high degree of confidence, I can predict that it's about 90% locals, rarely more than one table going, and that will usually be $2/4 or $3/6 limit hold'em, with maybe a no-limit game on weekend evenings. Being open to the casino floor on only one side, I do hold out some hope that it will be less smoky and noisy than the old room.

Sorry for the blurry photo. My encounters with casino security--particular the Stations chain, of which Fiesta Henderson is part--have made me try to be quicker and less obvious. I didn't notice until I got home that the only picture I took wasn't very good.