Saturday, May 16, 2009

Decision: Which donkament to enter?

Warning: Extremely dull post, mostly me talking to myself.

Now that I have a $1500 WSOP buy-in covered, I have to decide which donkament to enter.

It's a no-brainer that it will be a hold'em event rather than one of the other games, because it makes no sense to blow my one shot on a game other than the one that is my bread and butter. I thought briefly about making it a mixed limit/no-limit event, but it turns out that there is none at that entry fee. Last year there were both $5000 and $1500 mixed limit/no-limit events, but this year those have been replaced by a single $2500 tournament. So that's out. I might have considered doing razz, but last year's $1500 event has been bumped up to $2500 this time around.

There's a short-handed (6 max) event, but, again, that's moving outside of my zone of maximal comfort. I spend very little time playing shorthanded, and when I do, I find myself definitely having trouble appropriately adjusting starting hand requirements and level of aggression. I'm not a great NLHE player by any stretch, but I'm at least generally competent, and I see no point in entering a format in which other people are specialists.

Those considerations narrow down the options to just the straight $1500 NLHE, full-table, no rebuy donkaments--with one exception. I could do the shootout format (Event #22, Wednesday, June 10). The advantage of it is a smaller field, and thus better chance for cashing. But, again, I would necessarily spend a far higher percentage of the time playing shorthanded, which doesn't hit my area of maximum strength. I haven't completely ruled it out, however.

If it's narrowed down to the freezeout $1500 NLHE donkaments, I have to choose from what appears to be seven of them, identical in structure (three days) and payout schedule:

Event # Date

7 June 2 (Tuesday)
24 June 11 (Thursday)
28 June 13 (Saturday)
34 June 16 (Tuesday)
39 June 20 (Saturday)
51 June 27 (Saturday)
54 June 29 (Saturday)

Basically, I want to minimize the resistance of the field to contend with: smaller is better (because I'm willing to trade a smaller total purse for greater chance of going deep). Also, fewer career pros is better. The easiest path to the money is for me.

First consideration: Earlier in the WSOP schedule, or later? Later has the advantage that people who are coming to town to play a bunch of events will be more fatigued after a few weeks of playing, partying, and not sleeping much. On the other hand, the last couple (especially Event #54) will likely catch some people whose primary target is the Main Event, but they'll treat these as a warm-up, so they'll be freshly coming to town. Later events may also be more more pro-heavy, as those who haven't picked up a bracelet try to enter everything in sight. Conversely, though, Event #51, on a Saturday, has the unique status of starting on the second day of the five-day $50,000 championship HORSE tournament, which will presumably take most of the big-name pros out of it. (Nearly all of the donkaments have a $10,000 championship event in something going on simultaneously, so that's mostly a wash.)

What about day of the week? One would guess that events starting on Saturdays will have more entrants than those starting on weekdays. This appears to be confirmed by last year's results. The kickoff event was a donkament, so it was really an outlier, breaking records with a field of 3929. (No kickoff donkament this year.) Taking that one out, the three Saturday events had amazingly consistent fields: between 2706 and 2720. The events that started on weekdays--one each on a Monday, a Tuesday, and a Thursday--averaged only 2481. Even that number was pulled up by the final one, which was close to the Main Event and thus probably swelled by the factors I mentioned above. It had 2693, while the other two had just 2304 and 2447. So weekday starts are almost certain to have fields smaller by a few hundred people, which is good, in my way of looking at it. That would make the choice between Events 7, 24, and 34, if I discount #54 because of likely being swollen in attendance due to its proximity to the Main Event, as with last year's final donkament.

Ultimately, though, it may primarily come down to my WSOP work schedule and when I can get days off. I think I'm going to become a complete nightowl during the series, because most of what I expect to be doing will be in the 2:00-6:00 a.m. range. That means that I'm tentatively expecting to shift my sleeping to almost entirely daytime hours and stay up all night. If the work schedule can accommodate it, it might be easier to slip in some "normal" daytime tournament playing at the earliest possible point (Event #7), before I've gotten too used to that regimen.

So those are the basic considerations. I haven't yet settled on how they will be weighed into a final decision.

See? I warned you this was going to be a deadly dull post. Your own fault if you read through it anyway.


My appearance on the PokerSoup podcast, as previously announced here, has been delayed for one week. I'll be on it May 24, 6:00 p.m. PDT.

OMG, I actually WON the thing!!!

When I posted here about having been invited to the PokerListings Run Good Challenge, I exuded false bravado about actually winning myself a seat to the WSOP, which I otherwise would never attend. I did not genuinely expect to win. In fact, at the risk of giving you TMI, I fully expected to get knocked out early (as usually happens, given that I'm a pretty lousy online tournament player), so after I reluctantly crawled out of bed when the damn alarm went off, I never even got dressed. Yep--literally played the whole tournament in my underwear. Maybe I should try that strategy more often.

Most of the action is recounted in the previous blog post, which I updated as the tournament was going on. But then it got too busy when it was down to three or four players left, so here's the missing action.

Here's how we went from the final four to the final three. All in before the flop:

Sadly, moving from three down to two came at the expense of another blogging friend, F-Train:

Again, it was all in pre-flop, as would be expected with hands this big when it's that short-handed and the blinds were so huge. There's no skill in this, and nothing to brag about. I simply got lucky twice, winning both races (interestingly, one with A-Q, one beating A-Q). As everybody says, that's what it takes to win these suckers. As the name of the tournament implies, you can't do it without running good. Today was my day. And, of course, the crubs always get there.

So I went into heads-up play with a whopping 8:1 chip lead. It was incredibly fitting that my opponent was TNSpaceman (Jason Kirk)--the very same guy who had put the bad beat on me very early in the tournament, and almost knocked me out when his AK beat my KK! Poetic justice! Revenge!

I just had to play patiently and wait for the good opportunities. That meant letting a lot of little pots go his way to avoid doubling him up. He did chip up quite a bit, topping out at around 11,000, as I recall, but I don't think I ever had less than a 2:1 lead.

What kept running through my head--especially this being a winner-takes-all event--was "Don't blow it. Don't blow it. Don't blow it. Don't blow it."

Because I was playing quite conservatively, he was correctly taking advantage of my reluctance to put chips in, and showing aggression more often than I was. I used that to trap him by slow-playing it when I got lucky and flopped two pairs. Also lucky was that, as a result, he paired on the turn.

Here's how it played out:

And that was it! After 37 hands of heads-up play, I had all the chips. Spaceman was a worthy opponent. He did nothing wrong, but simply had too much of a chip deficit to overcome. A jack or queen or ace or king hits on the river in that last hand, he doubles up and I have a serious battle on my hands. Once again, I just got lucky in a critical spot.

$1500 instantly showed up in my PokerStars account. Technically, I could withdraw it and spend it on whatever I wanted. But the organizers/sponsors politely asked the participants to use the money to actually enter one of the $1500 WSOP events. I think it would be in poor taste and bad faith to do anything else. Heck, I'll even wear their logo if they ask me to, just out of gratitude for the incredible opportunity.

So, as my previous headline proclaimed, I'm goin' to the WSOP!

I assume that I can choose any of the $1500 events that I want. I don't yet have any idea which one it will be. It appears that I will be doing some work at the WSOP again this year (about which more sometime soon), so I'll have to find one of the tournaments that fits in with that schedule.

Talk about running good: I flopped seven sets (four of them with pocket 3s) in this tournament of 277 hands, and won every pot when I did. I also had pocket aces five times (only one would be statistically expected), and they were never cracked.

I have to give a little shout-out to my nephew, Ben, and to Cardgrrl, because virtually all of my online heads-up experience has come from playing against them. It proved to be extremely useful experience. I think it kept me from blowing the lead by bluffing off my chips foolishly, as I believe I would have been inclined to do without that practice.

I concluded my previous post with a smart-alecky comment about needing to get fitted for my first bracelet. How cool would it be if that part of my faux prediction also came true?! (Yeah, I know one doesn't actually get fitted for the bracelet. It's just a figure of speech.)


See the brief official PokerListings write-up here. See F-Train's account here. See Spaceman's account here. See Dr. Pauly's account here, including a hand that I missed (different table, I think), in which 2-4 took down pocket aces (as if there's anything surprising about that). See Change 1oo's account here. See Amy Calistri's account here. See DrunkBlonde's account here. See Shamus's account here. Other participants who posted extremely brief summations of their tourneys include one of the Wicked Chops Entities (oooo, almost forgot to capitalize that!), Poker Shrink Tim Lavalli, and Iggy.

Live blogging event

Gonna try something new here--frequent updates as I play an online tournament.

We're 5 minutes into the "Run Good Challenge," in which 25 of us are playing for a $1500 WSOP seat. I had a raise-and-take-in on the first hand with JJ. On about hand #8, had 3-3 and flopped a set, then just now took another pot with 10-10, so I'm sitting at 1850 (we started with 1500). Running good so far.


11:16 a.m.

Did I say something about running good? Here's what just happened, all in preflop:

FML. Down to 460.


11:27 a.m.

A-A. Raised and picked up blinds. Bleah.

Up to 605.


11:32 a.m.

On button with 9-9, shoved to a raise (to 90, blinds 15/30) from Tarheel. He folded.

Very next hand, he raised to 90 again. I decided he might fight back if I shoved again, so did. He called:

20 left, I'm in 11th place. There may be hope yet.


11:38 a.m.

Got lucky with a little set-mining. Sadly, the result was knocking out one of my best friends in the poker world. :-(


11:43 a.m.

Two hands later, more set-mining paid off. Can't show you the screenshot because I got moved to another table as soon as the hand ended. But I had 6-6, flop A-6-X. We got it all in because opponent had A-6 in the hole. I won.

Up to 6095. OMG, I'm in first place, with 18 left!


11:47 a.m.



11:53 a.m.

Flopped not just a set but a full house this time! My victim, though, managed to get away from it after putting more than half his stack into the pot.

At 6920, still in first place, second place has 3955.


12:02 p.m.

Tried a probably ill-advised out-of-position steal. I was running so good and had such a table image that I thought I could get away with it. Short stack (Iggy) shoved, and stacks were such that it looked like I should call, even though likely behind two big cards and coin-flipping to a lower pair.

At first break now. Still in first, with 15 players left. Second place has 3905.


It was folded around to me on the button. Raising was obvious. Even before I did it, I thought that Iggy would shove with a wide range there, because he would read my move as a steal with nothing. So I couldn't give him credit for much, and thought that my Q-10 had pretty good equity against his shoving range. But just my luck, he was on the way high end of that range this time, and it cost me a lot. Down to 3rd place, but still doing fine.


12:15 p.m.

Another set, another potential victim slipped away.

Current status:


12:25 p.m.

Ugh. The running good couldn't last, of course. All in pre.



Unbelievable--yet ANOTHER flopped set! Another smallish pot.

At final table now.


12:30 p.m.

Ahhhhhhhhhh. That's more like it. This time I have the AA, and somebody shove-reraises on me. Oh, and the rockets hold up.

Currently in 2nd, with 6690 in chips. Chip leader way up at 13,335, and OF COURSE he's on my immediate left. 7 players left. Turning into a shove-fest quickly.


12:40 p.m.

No recent big hands. Current status:


12:45 p.m.

Can you believe ANOTHER flopped set???

Getting hairy. 3rd of 6 left, blinds huge.


12:49 p.m.

Sinking. Looking ugly at the moment. Will need a big move soon.


12:59 p.m.

Couple small pots, then a nice payoff when I made the nut flush here:

Back to 2nd place, 6 left.


1:05 p.m.

Into 1st place, when chip leader doubled up a short stack:


1:07 p.m.

Second break. Status: 2nd and still alive. But luck is huge factor now.


1:14 p.m.

3rd of 5 remaining. 19 BB left to play with.


1:19 p.m.

My first big suckout, at a crucial moment. I limped from SB. BB raised. I thought he was stealing, so shoved with A-5. Did not like getting called. But ace came along to save my sorry butt.

[Edit: Things were too hectic at that moment to get a screen shot, so he's how the hand went down.]

Now huge chip lead with 4 left.

Action now going to be too fast for further live updates. Will post summary when it's over.


8:1 chiplead with 2 left!

Poker gems, #256

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 56.

Tilt reciprocity is your slippage matched up against everybody else's. Tilt reciprocity recognizes that any reduction, however small, in the frequencies, durations, and depths of your own tiltings will always have the effect of favorably widening the gap between your tilt and theirs, thereby earning immediate reciprocal advantage. To make money from tilt, you don't need to be tiltless. But you do have to tilt less.

Guess the casino, #144

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

Answer: Flamingo

"Fitz of Laughter"

I just got back from seeing Kevin Burke's stand-up comedy show, "Fitz of Laughter," at Fitzgeralds downtown. I had free tickets. (Have I ever mentioned here how much I like getting free stuff? I have? Oh, sorry.) You can read reviews here and here.

This really is old-school Vegas kind of material: a mix of comedy and a little magic, preceded by a warm-up comic doing impersonations.

Is Burke the funniest guy ever to stand behind a mike? No. He never had me in prolonged, uncontrollable spasms the way that Chris Rock, Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor, Louis CK, and a few others have been able to do.

But on the other hand, he's enormously likable. He's one of those rare people that is just kind of intrinsically funny in everything he says and does. He has a great rapport with the small audience--enough that I even acted as one of the three audience dummies on stage for him when he asked me to, something that I would ordinarily resist mightily. When I cracked a little joke that made the audience laugh, he mock-bellowed, "Don't you EVER be funnier than me!"

It's hard for me to imagine that anybody could walk away thinking that this was the best show ever, but it's just as hard to imagine that anybody could walk away without having had a genuinely good time.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Poker gems, #255

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 55.

I figured if I ever went broke at poker, it wouldn't be because my best wasn't good enough to keep me afloat. It'd be because my worst was bad enough to sink me.

Poker tipping down?

That's what is claimed in this article from the San Francisco Chronicle. (Hat tip to for the pointer.)

Secrets most pros won't tell you, #2

When I wrote the first post with this title (or nearly so) last December--about the direction in which to turn one's cards upon receiving them--I hadn't really envisioned it becoming a series. But there are other nuances to the game that have never been revealed, despite hundreds of books about poker being in print. I feel that it is my responsibility to share these with you once in a while.

Let me tell you about the dealer button. Some other time I will rant about how people screw up moving it, cause problems by hiding it, irritate everybody by playing stupid games with it, and so forth. But today I just want to pass on an important tip about neatness.

Dealers, sadly, are too busy to place the dealer button correctly. This, for example, is how it was pushed in front of my during one orbit last night:

This is completely unacceptable. It's all askew. The poker gods have no respect for players who can't be bothered to tidy up.

The simplest solution is to simply rotate the button so that the word "DEALER" is directly facing you, like so:

(At a glance, this may not look placed quite right. It was. The camera, however, was a little off to the side, causing kind of a parallax thing.)

This is the minimum that is required of you. The poker gods will always smile favorably upon you for doing your share to keep the table neat and orderly when you expend this small amount of effort.

But you can do better.

On tables, such as at the Riviera, where there is a stripe, it further neatens the appearance if the button is placed touching the stripe, so that it becomes obvious that the word "DEALER" is parallel to it, like so:

The optimum solution, however, goes one step further. This involves placing the button so that the word "DEALER" is directly along the stripe, thusly:

See how nice and tidy that looks? The poker gods literally squeal with delight when they see you taking such care.

I have been studying this phenomenon long enough now to be able to report to you that you get pocket aces a full 71.4% more often when you take one or more of these steps, and, furthermore, your aces are a whopping 64.9% less likely to get cracked as a result. I'm telling you, the poker gods love orderliness.

Now, it must be said that one cannot always achieve the two more advanced stages of neatness as shown above. Some tables don't have a stripe with which to align the button. In some seats, it may not be possible to align the button with the stripe and simultaneously have it directly facing you, in which awkward situation you have to choose one or the other (and my studies have not yet been able to determine which factor should dominate). Also, even when there is a stripe, it may be so far inboard or outboard that it is not practical to place the button touching it; if you place the button on a stripe that is too far in, it may not be clear to everybody which seat the button is in, and if you place it on a stripe that is too far out, the button may sort of disappear from view. (The Riviera is really borderline in that respect.)

Finally, you should know that some dealers are really picky about where the button sits. There is often good reason for this, in terms of its visibility and not being where it interferes with pitching the cards, placing bets, etc. So if once you move the button a few inches for the sake of appearance, and the dealer sternly reaches out and moves it back to where it was, you should respect his or her wishes. (Angering the dealer is always -EV and severely frowned upon by the poker gods.) In that circumstance, you are limited to leaving it where the dealer places it and merely rotating it to a proper orthogonal orientation.

I can assure you that if you undertake this practice faithfully, you will be glad you did. You will come to see the wisdom of it and be grateful to the Grump. Cardgrrl is a fine example of this. She was, in fact, the first one to whom I revealed this secret during her visit here in February. She immediately expressed her gratitude. I believe her exact words were, "Thanks for giving me one more thing to obsess about."

It warmed my heart to have been so helpful.

Guess the casino, #143

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

Answer: Gold Coast

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Poker gems, #254

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 55.

I was a great tilter. I knew all the different kinds. I could do steaming tilt, simmering tilt, too loose tilt, too tight tilt, too aggressive tilt, too passive tilt, playing too high tilt, playing too long tilt, playing too tired tilt, entitlement tilt, annoyed tilt, injustice tilt, frustration tilt, sloppy tilt, revenge tilt, underfunded tilt, overfunded tilt, shame tilt, distracted tilt, scared tilt, envy tilt, this-is-the-worst-pizza-I've-ever-had tilt, I-just-got-showed-a-bluff tilt, and of course, the classics: I-gotta-get-even tilt, and I-only-have-so-much-time-to-lose-this-money tilt, also known as demolition tilt.

Showing a called hand

A few days ago while playing at the Riviera a situation came up that I've read about many times but never witnessed before.

The under-the-gun player (UTG) raised to $17. It was folded around to the small blind (SB), who shoved for his last roughly $60. UTG called and showed J-J. SB didn't show his hand. The board ran out 6-Q-2-8-7. SB nodded grimly, as if acknowledging defeat, and slid his cards face-down to the dealer. Nothing unusual so far.

But then UTG asked to see the hand. OK, this is uncommon, but I've seen it a few times before. It's a pretty slimey thing to do. You gain a small amount of information about one opponent, but it comes at the cost of possibly embarrassing him unnecessarily, possibly angering him, and getting yourself branded as a USDA-certified Grade A douche. It's much better to just take the pot quietly and unceremoniously, and be happy with the outcome. Really--why do you care what hand you beat?

Anyway, the dealer tapped the two cards on the muck, then turned them face up. It was 9-10 offsuit. The dealer then plowed them into the muck.

That's what I've never seen before: the apparent winner of the pot asking to see his opponent's folded cards and learning that the opponent misread his hand and had thrown away the winner. (In this case, SB obviously overlooked having made runner-runner straight.)

It wasn't clear that the dealer or either player recognized the significance of what had been revealed. I saw it, as did another player--a thin, middle-aged woman. I don't know her name, but I've seen her around town many times before. She's a decent and obviously experienced player.

She saw what I saw and caught my eye. I just shrugged, because there was nothing to be done. I assumed (correctly, as it turned out) that the dealer's action of touching the cards to the muck meant that the house rule was that the hand was deemed dead before it was exposed, so it didn't matter if it was the best hand or not; the pot would still go to the guy with J-J.

The woman, though, started making a fuss about the pot going to the wrong player. Then it became clear that the dealer did, in fact, recognize what had been revealed; he simply hadn't reacted for the same reason that I just shrugged it off--there was no recourse, so no point in making a big deal about it.

When the woman questioned him about it (I think she was initially a bit uncertain whether she had seen what she thought she had seen), he explained that that's exactly the reason for touching the cards to the muck--to kill the hand before exposing it. Once that has been done, there is only one live hand, and therefore only one place the pot can be awarded.

The woman refused to accept this. She thought it was an abomination. She not only insisted that the dealer was wrong, but that there was no poker room in town in which that would be the proper procedure.


Allow me to digress for a moment about the idiocy of how people tend to argue with each other. Actually, there are a whole bunch of interrelated stupid things that they do. First, they seem to care intensely not just about actually being right (I fully sympathize with that part of it; I, too, value being right about things), but about convincing some other random stranger that they'll never see again of the rightness of the position being staked out.

If it were me, and if I hadn't seen the dealer tap the cards to the muck, I might speak up initially to be sure that the dealer knew that SB's hand was the straight. If the dealer made clear that he had recognized that, then explained that the house rule was that the hand was dead anyway, I'd accept that and be done with it. I might even later, away from the table, check with the floor person if I had some substantial reason to think that this was wrong. (Regular readers will know that I've enountered many situations in which dealers didn't know either the general rules or the house-specific rules.) In this case, though, it's one fairly standard variant of a rule, so I would see nothing surprising about it.

The second stupid thing that people arguing do is step back and start making their arguments broader and more all-encompassing than their initial position. Here, for example, it wasn't enough for this woman to question whether the dealer had the rule right for the Riviera. She quickly enlarged her claim to being that no other poker room in the city worked that way. This is where I started rolling my eyes. It's just not plausible that she has gone around and taken a survey of all 50+ poker rooms on this very specific question, or that she has played in every room enough times to have seen it come up and get handled in every one of the rooms. In short, she is just making this up (or, at best, making an overly broad generalization from whatever her experience is).

The dealer, in turn, also backed up so that he could take a bigger, broader swing. Had I been the dealer, I would have told her, "I can't speak for what any other casino does, ma'am. I only know for sure what our rules are." That's it. Let it drop. Who cares what she thinks any other card room does?

But no. He was getting palpably irritated at being questioned. He upped the ante, so to speak, and said just the opposite of her claim: that their rule was the same at every other place in town--in fact, it was the same at every poker room in the whole state, because--get this--it's a Nevada gaming regulation to do it that way.

This is just as much of a lie--or, at best, a gross instance of being badly misinformed--as the woman's claim about what the rule is everywhere in town. His, though, is more easily checked from a readily verified source. The gaming regulations are available here, in a text-searchable PDF file. The word "poker" occurs only four times. The most detailed rules pertaining to the game are at Regulation 23, and there's nothing said about what happens to a killed hand. For that matter, there are no details about a flush beating a straight, the action going clockwise, or a zillion other large and small points of the game. The regs just aren't that detailed. Nearly all of Regulation 23 is about what happens to the money, not any details of how the game is played.

The next stupid thing that people arguing tend to do is make appeals to authority. In this situation, the woman first proclaimed her own experience as a dealer and floor person for however many years. When that wasn't sufficiently persuasive (by this time, the dealer was finally starting to bite his tongue and tell her that he wouldn't argue further with her about it), she said, "Ask Linda Johnson. She's been in the poker industry for 30 years and she helped write the rules for the World Series of Poker."

You see how stupid this is, don't you? First--again--why on earth does she care so passionately about convincing this dealer that she's right? If I know I'm right about some particular point, and, after explaining my position, some random person that I happen to be talking to about it doesn't choose to believe me, well, OK, suit yourself. I just can't bring myself to care whether that person leaves the encounter thinking that I'm right or wrong. People's egos are so fragile; they can be damaged simply by a stranger not accepting their version of some obscure factual point. I just don't get that.

But beyond that, is this woman really so daft as to think that after this dealer invokes (1) the house rule, (2) his own personal experience, and (3) a claim about what the state regulations require, he is going to suddenly abandon his belief when she mentions how many years she spent as a poker room employee? He is obviously just as stubborn as she is. Next, how does invoking Linda Johnson's name change the situation? Again, does she think that that will suddenly cause his position to change? That's insane. Moreover, does she expect him to say, "Hey, asking Linda Johnson is a great idea. Excuse me a second while I go make the call"? It makes no sense whatsoever to invoke authority that is, for all practical purposes, unavailable at the time. You might as well be having an argument about the Big Bang, and when your interlocutor disagrees with you, riposte by saying, "Oh yeah? Well, call Stephen Hawking and ask him!"

I love the scene in "Annie Hall" in which Woody Allen nicely skewers such moronic ways of arguing (taken from the page here):

Alvy Singer: [the man behind him in line is talking loudly] What I wouldn't
give for a large sock with horse manure in it!

Alvy Singer: [to audience] Whaddya do when you get stuck in a movie line
with a guy like this behind you?

Man in Theatre Line: Wait a minute, why can't I give my opinion? It's a
free country!

Alvy Singer: He can give it... do you have to give it so loud? I mean,
aren't you ashamed to pontificate like that? And the funny part of it is,
Marshall McLuhan, you don't know anything about Marshall McLuhan!

Man in Theatre Line: Oh, really? Well, it just so happens I teach a class
at Columbia called "TV, Media and Culture." So I think my insights into Mr.
McLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity!

Alvy Singer: Oh, do ya? Well, that's funny, because I happen to have Mr.
McLuhan right here, so, so, yeah, just let me... [pulls McLuhan out from behind
a nearby poster]

Alvy Singer: come over here for a second... tell him!

Marshall McLuhan: I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my
work! You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you got to teach a course in
anything is totally amazing!

Alvy Singer: Boy, if life were only like this!

It's all so, so stupid.


So what is the actual rule? Well, it varies a lot from place to place. There are differences in who can ask to see a called but unshown hand, and differences in the details of the procedure invoked for it, which are related to whether the hand can be deemed the winner once exposed. In some places, only players still in the hand at final showdown can claim the right to see the hand; in others, any player can make the request. In some, as at the Riviera, the hand is killed before being shown so that it cannot win no matter what. In others, it is deemed still live. In yet others, it is live if the request is made by the ostensible winner of the hand (so that asking to see it carries the risk that you'll lose the pot if the player folding misread the situation, as happened here), but the hand is dead if the request is made by a player not involved.

Here, for example, is the relevant text from Robert's Rules of Poker:
Any player who has been dealt in may request to see any hand that was
eligible to participate in the showdown, even if the opponent's hand or the
winning hand has been mucked. However, this is a privilege that may be revoked
if abused. If a player other than the pot winner asks to see a hand that has
been folded, that hand is dead. If the winning player asks to see a losing
player’s hand, both hands are live, and the best hand wins.

Here's The Rules of Poker by Lou Krieger and Sheree Bykofsky, p. 142, #5.25:
Any participant in a hand may ask to see a hand that was called. The proper
dealer procedure is to kill the called hand by touching it to the muck, then
place the hand face up on the table. If the player who won the pot asked to see
the mucked hand, and the mucked hand is actually the superior hand, then the
caller's hand is assumed to be live and the pot will be awarded to that player.
If a third party asks to see a called hand, the called hand is considered dead.
Even if it turns out to be the better hand, it is dead and cannot claim the pot.

Here's Roy Cooke and John Bond, Rules of Real Poker, p. 74 #11.08:
Players shall not be entitled to see a called hand except in cases where
there is a reasonable suspicion of collusion, in which case the floorperson
shall be called over for examination of the called hand. This is contrary to the
traditional rule. However the traditional rule, which was designed to prevent
collusion, has not served its original purpose. Asking to see called hand slows
down the game, causes resentment and impedes action. The first alternate rule
continues to be the most prevalent, but in the interests of the game it should
be completely done away with.

Alternate Rule: At the showdown, any player who was dealt into the hand has
the right to ask to see any called hand. Before turning over the hand the dealer
shall kill the hand by touching it to the muck. If the hand is not killed it is
still live and eligible to win the pot.... The purpose of this rule is to
protect against collusion, not to satisfy a player's curiosity or get a read on
a player's style of play, or worst of all to intentionally irritate a player.
Abuse of this rule is very bad for poker as it kills action and causes

Second Alternate Rule: Only players who have been in on the turn in hold'em
games, fifth street in stud games, and for the draw in draw games shall have the
right to see a called hand; also, a winner cannot ask to see a loser's hand.

Here's Dan Paymar, Donna Harris, and Mason Malmuth, The Professional Poker Dealer's Handbook, 2nd ed., p. 143:
Showing a Folded Hand

The policy of seeing a "called hand" or a "calling hand" that was discarded
can be seen by any player at the table. [sic] The dealer must tap the cards face down
on the muck to "kill" the hand, then turn it face up on the table.

If a player abuses this privilege--that is, if he constantly asks to see
other players' hands--he may be refused the right to see any hands. The
floorperson will make this decision.

So you can see that even among published rule books there is considerable disagreement about this rule. But at the very least, the detail of having the dealer kill the unseen hand before revealing it (in some circumstances, anyway) is present in all three of the books that I have on hand. Thus, for the woman at the Riviera to assert it as some sort of unique perversion of the general rule is woefully misguided.

I don't claim to know which specific variants of the rule are used at what casinos. I doubt that anybody has taken a survey and could tell us definitively what is most prevalent on each of the sub-questions involved. And it really doesn't matter. All of the possible variations carry advantages and disadvantages. There's plenty of time to find out what a particular room's rule is if and when the situation arises.

Incidentally, neither player involved in the hand ever spoke or reacted in any way. I was never sure if either of them realized what had happened. Maybe one or both did, and simply realized that nothing was going to change by talking about it and shrugged it off. I'll never know.

Guess the casino, #142

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Answer: Santa Fe Station

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For those who just can't get enough of me

Gadzooks has invited me to be on the PokerSoup podcast this coming Sunday evening, 6:00 p.m. She warned me that it's a very boring show. I reassured her that that means I'd fit in perfectly. It's nice going into something with low expectations all around. Makes it hard to fail.

At this point I have no idea what we'll be talking about. But since I have an opinion on everything (even the topics I know nothing about), I guess it doesn't really matter.

Poker gems, #253

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 54.

I believe it is correct to believe in unknowableness. Analyze, evaluate, ponder, and then let it be. Resist the gray area's mind-snaring entrapments. When you examine a betting decision ... remind yourself that debates point to close decisions, and that close decisions matter least, and that the answer is sometimes unknowable.

Guess the casino, #141

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Answer: Texas Station

Good enough

Palms tonight. Flopped it. $189 bonus.

I'm not hitting royal flushes every day or two like some luckboxes I know, but at least I'm getting my share of quads and straight flushes lately.

(Warning: Anybody who leaves a comment to the effect that "Deuces never looses" is banned from the blog for life.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Poker gems, #252

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 50.

The way to win at poker is to make better decisions than your opponents do. The way to improve at poker is to make better decisions than you used to.

Guess the casino, #140

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Answer: Treasure Island

Crazy fake cops (and real ones) are everywhere

They're not just at the Cannery anymore!

Somebody alerted me to this interesting story:

Poker faces, #5

From this week's episode of High Stakes Poker, we have a tie!

First up is Tom Dwan (a recurring contestant). This week he is giving us his version of "Eli called my big bluff on the river. How did he know?"

Our second equally deserving contestant is new to this series. It's none other than David "Viffer" Peat, doing his rendition of "I have top pair top kicker, and the fishy fat bastard is raising me. WTF is up with that?"

Strong work, gentlemen!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Poker gems, #251

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 35.

I have always had very strict policies when it comes to quitting, even when I first started playing poker. Back then I had two main quitting rules that I never broke. I would always quit if I was out of money and nobody would lend me any, and I would always quit if everybody else did.

Eventually I quit all that stuff. I quit running out of money, and I quit being the last guy to quit. Nowadays, I think of quitting as a skill set unto itself.

Poker gems, #250

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 31.

If you are stuck and you are not having fun, and the reason you are not having fun is because you are stuck, then it's okay to quit while citing this to yourself as the reason: I want to have fun. I am not having fun. So I will stop this unfun activity, now.

Guess the casino, #139

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Answer: South Point

Celebrity Apprentice finale

Annie Duke totally deserved to win, but it was blatantly obvious from the outset that the prize would go to Joan Rivers, primarily because of her much higher profile in the eyes of the general public.

I'm still not willing to call myself an Annie fan, but she both played better and conducted herself so much better than Rivers that it wasn't even close.

She figured out in advance what it would take to win, and set about doing it. Every significant decision was made with an eye to advancing herself in the game. She dealt with setbacks and incredible amounts of undeserved personal attacks by not letting them get to her (at least not publicly) and staying fixated on the task at hand as well as the big goal of the quarter-mil for her charity. Everything else she shrugged off, or at least suppressed, lest it impede the path to the money. She not only completely trounced Rivers in fund-raising (by more than 3:1), but, as Donald Trump's son pointed out toward the end, she did it all in a completely focused, professional, all-business way.

The only way you can name Rivers the winner is by taking some sort of purely subjective, emotional, "I-like-her-better-anyway" approach, which seems to be what Trump did in the end.
I'm glad poker games and tournaments aren't decided that way.

"Celebrity Apprentice" is TOTALLY rigged.


Can't sleep, so poking around the net looking for blog comments about the finale. Here's one that I think got the whole thing just about right: Also, as usual, Shamus sees things the way they really are:

Suggested rule modification

Notwithstanding any current rules about language, conduct, and player abuse to the contrary, from here on in it should be perfectly legal to call any player at the table (virtual or actual felt) a "whore pit viper."

After the abuse that Joan and Melissa Rivers heaped on all poker players, we deserve to be able to make their words our own.

The sting has completely been taken out of the phrase by how ridiculous it made both mother and daughter look. It is no longer possible to use it in any way other than ironically.

Besides, it's just funny.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Poker gems, #249

Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 31.

When you are winning, and you reach a point in the session when the happiness you will gain by winning more money will be much less than the pain you will endure if you lose, quit. Away from the table you can examine how and why this imbalance occurs. Meanwhile, learn to trust the quitting voice, and to react without question.

Guess the casino, #138

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Answer: Suncoast