Saturday, June 20, 2009

Open letter to Cardgrrl


Most--maybe all--of what follows is stuff I told you in person yesterday, but I think it deserves both a wider audience and some sort of permanence to which you can refer back later. I also know that you don't need soothing or comforting from me or anybody else. You're processing the whole experience perfectly well without help. But I still want my thoughts and feelings on the record.

I know how disappointed you are. I know how it feels to miss out on capitalizing on a rare opportunity in a very public way. The feeling of having let yourself down is not unfamiliar to me.

Yes, the play of your last hand was a mistake. If I tried to convince you otherwise, I'd be lying, and you'd know it. You have already presented an excellent analysis of the whole situation, so I'll not belabor it.*

But I hope that the self-chastisement never drowns out this simple fact: You cashed in a World Series of Poker event. That is a genuinely significant, meaningful, non-trivial accomplishment. It is a difficult task. It is something that the vast majority of poker players, including me, have not managed to do, despite trying. You outlasted 90% of the field, in a situation where, as you well know, you had precious few soft spots at your tables. Your achievement is in the record books forever, and nothing can take it away. You played very, very well overall.

More important, though, is what it portends for the future. When a marksman is first shooting at a distant target, his sights may be off or the wind not correctly compensated for. As a result, the first bullet will often completely miss. But he sees where it hits, makes an adjustment, and fires again. Closer that time. He tweaks the dials on the scope a little more and takes a third shot, this time just catching the edge of the target. Now the bullseye is in danger, because the shooter knows precisely how, where, and why he missed, and in very short order the center of that target is going to be riddled with holes. Your first two WSOP shots missed for reasons that you yourself quickly identified. You definitely compensated for those shortcomings this third time, and landed a bullet right on the edge of the target. You know what went wrong on this third shot, too, which puts you in a position to absolutely nail the sucker next time.

Or, to use another image, you had a long, hard trip across the ocean to engage the enemy in battle. After being rebuffed a couple of times, on this assault you made a landing, and stuck the CG flag in the sand. There is a vast swath of WSOP territory to be conquered. You have established a beachhead, and there is nothing to stop you from going marauding from there.

I truly believe that you are on the verge of greater accomplishments, and I am a little giddy with the anticipation of watching them come to pass.

I'm certain that you are a substantially better tournament player than I am, and I get a kick out of watching you do your thing. The excitement of the occasional big hand (most of which go your way) makes up for the long stretches in which nothing is happening. I was honored that you'd let me stand by as your "second" for this thing and do what little I could to help. I was also happy to assist in the post-hoc autopsy/decompression/blowing-off-steam process.**

I don't know most of the friends who peppered you all day with calls and text messages of support and congratulations, but I think it's safe to assume that they all share with me this perspective: Our pride and vicarious joy in your achievement far outweighs any feeling of disappointment over what might have been. I understand that you probably can't get yourself to that same emotional state right now, but I hope it helps to know that others are thrilled on your behalf.

I know that your run in this event fell short of what you had wanted and hoped for. It was, nonetheless, far more a victory than a defeat, by any objective standard. I am proud beyond words of you for that.

To quote Tommy Angelo, "Rise above it, rise above it, rise above it." I know you can, and believe that you will.


Your friend,


*In case anybody read the PokerNews description of the hand, then wondered at the discrepancies between that and CG's own report, well, P.N. got almost everything wrong except that the hole cards were Q-Q versus K-K. Come on, guys. I really do get how hard it is to do tournament reporting, but that was seriously sloppy.

**Minds out of the gutters, readers. This isn't code, or euphemism, or Seinfeldesque "Yada yada yada." To be clear, the process consisted of (1) thoroughly analyzing all of the possible lines that one could have taken in that final hand, their advantages, disadvantages, likely outcomes, etc., (2) bowling at Gold Coast (Oh, and while on that subject, I'm putting out an emergency call to Gadzooks for a little bowling help for Cardgrrl. Not to tell tales out of school, but four consecutive frames of 0, 0, 0, and 1 requires some sort of major transfusion of bowling mojo. My 120 average doesn't put me in a position of offering the kind of help she needs.), (3) grocery shopping at Whole Foods (where we saw Huck Seed), and (4) working a New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle together (which we killed, by the way--one hour, no mistakes, no looking anything up).

Guess the casino, #179

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

Answer: Golden Nugget

Poker gems, #290

David Grey, in Card Player magazine interview, June 17, 2009 (vol. 22, #12), p. 43.

Poker is the ultimate game of pain. You are either giving it or getting it, and sometimes it is only 30 seconds between the two of them.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Getting a count

Yesterday while watching Cardgrrl at the World Series of Poker, a small rule-related controversy came up related to getting a count of chip stacks. One player raised, another reraised. The first raiser asked for a count of how much the reraiser still had behind. The player responded by separating his chip stacks for clear view, but didn't count them or give a verbal response. The dealer then reached over, counted them out, and told the questioner the total.

Some of the players at the table thought this improper, and one even stopped a convenient floor person to ask (not so much for this particular situation as for future reference) whether that was kosher. These players had been under the impression that one was entitled to a countdown of an opponent's chips only if that opponent had bet them all; otherwise, one was supposed to rely on a visual estimation.

I was surprised to learn that some believed this, as I don't recall ever encountering a situation in either a cash game or tournament where the request for a dealer count (if the player in question will not do it himself) was refused or even questioned as being out of line. Still, I couldn't be 100% sure, because I had never had occasion to look it up.

Well, now I have. I found nothing about it in Robert's Rules, in the Tournament Directors Association rules, or in the WSOP rules. I also didn't find anything in the Professional Poker Dealer's Handbook. But the best two rule books in print do specifically cover this question, and they agree on the answer:

Cooke’s Rules of Real Poker, by Roy Cooke and John Bond, p. 47:

8.01.08. Right To Know Money

A player has the right to know the
amount of money an opponent has in play. All players are entitled to an
unimpeded view of the chips and cash of all opponent, and a count of an
opponent’s cash and chips. That said, a player shall not unreasonably slow down
the game by repeatedly asking for a countdown of his opponents….

The Rules of Poker: Essentials for Every Game, by Lou Krieger and Sheree Bykofsky, pp. 50-51:

2.26 Chips In Full View

Players have an absolute right to know how
much money every opponent at the table has in play. Consequently, all money in
play shall be in full view at all time…. Before acting in pot-limit or no-limit
games, a player has the right to ask the dealer to "count down" his opponent’s

So there you go.

I don't know where began the idea that a player had to rely on his own ability to estimate an opponent's chip stack, but I had never heard it before yesterday, and as far as I can tell it has no support in standard sources for poker rules.

I think the rule as quoted above also makes best sense. You can't rely on the opponent to do the count (because they may screw it up, deliberately or otherwise, particularly in a moment of high-intensity pressure). Also, players vary in their visual acuity, and a rule that penalized a player for not being able to see the length of the table clearly would be unfair.

If any reader has come upon a casino that did not allow the dealer to do a countdown, either in cash games or tournaments, and forced players to rely on their own estimating ability, I'd like to hear about it via the comments.

Addendum, October 3, 2009

I finally saw a case in which a player was a refused a count of his opponent's chip stack. I posted about it here, and hope to get replies from the management of the poker room involved. With any luck, such replies will follow my post there.

Guess the casino, #178

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

Answer: Caesars Palace

Quick update

Spent most of the day and night at the Rio sweating Cardgrrl in Event #36, the $2000 NLHE. She is doing fantastically well--making good decisions and getting lucky in a few key spots, which makes for a pretty unbeatable combination. I am enormously, exuberantly, ridiculously proud of her. It's almost enough to make be not be grumpy for a while. (Almost.) See her brief Day 1 summary report here. I've taken a sneak peek at her table assignment for Day 2, and it is blessedly free of scary names. Furthermore, she will get to start with a big chip lead on her table--48% more than her nearest competitor!

Many stories to tell, rule controversies to expound upon, and photos to share. But it's late, I'm beat, I still have an overnight wrapup to write for PokerNews, and then get some shuteye before railing CG for her exciting Day 2 Friday. Much more later, I promise.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This would have been a good rant

Well, at least I thought it would be.

I've been mulling a small incident that happened at the World Series of Poker about ten days ago--one that had received very little public attention. I had known instantly that I wanted to write about it here, but had trouble figuring out how to get a handle on it. The discussion would have necessarily encountered some, uh, problems.

I thought that I had worked out a way to do it, and proudly mentioned my plan to Cardgrrl the other day. She had what might kindly be called "reservations."

Over the course of about an hour, she gently but firmly argued that:

1) No matter how I phrased my point, I would inevitably anger a group of people with whom I have actually been trying to curry some favor for reasons of opening future opportunities in poker writing.

2) No matter how I phrased my point, I would inevitably come off sounding cruel and mean-spirited.

3) Nobody's opinions or actions would be changed as a result of addressing what happened.

4) I was probably dead wrong in my understanding of what was said. In fact, it would never even occur to normal people (a class to which I certainly do not belong) to see the incident in the way that I thought at first was the only plausible way. As a result, explaining my point of view to readers (most of whom are, in fact, fairly normal people) in a way that would make them understand how I saw it would be difficult, perhaps impossible.

5) Although the specific incident triggering the would-be rant was new and unique, my comments on it would have been largely duplicative of other things I've written at length in the past.

6) When it comes to grasping the basic human emotions that normal people have, of the sort that lay behind the incident in question, I was basically as clueless as Commander Data.

(N.B. None of the above are her words, so don't hold her responsible. This is my interpretation and impossibly brief summation of what was said in a long conversation.)

I have continued to consider the matter for the subsequent three days, and I find that that's a pretty daunting list of hurdles to overcome.

So what I had thought was going to be a first-class rant has been reduced to this--basically a grave marker for an idea that probably wasn't as good as I had spent days thinking it was.

Why mention it at all, then? After all, on some level this post is kind of like the annoying kid that says, "I know a secret but I can't tell you what it is." Well, you see, I think that some of my best posts have been ones in which I presented an unconventional opinion on a controversial subject--and this certainly would have qualified on both counts. I have lots of fleeting, transient thoughts about posts, and when they don't mature into actual posts, it's no big deal. But it is rare, possibly even unprecedented, for me to spend as much time planning one I as had this, then abandon it right when it was (I thought) finally ripe in my brain and ready for the blog. This non-post, then, is sort of my way of (1) marking the occasion and mourning the passage of what I had hoped would be something good, and (2) letting my readers know that my brain is still at work on stuff, even though the keyboard has been rather quiet of late.


Guess the casino, #177

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

Answer: Bill's

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Poker gems, #289

Mike Caro, in Bluff magazine column, June, 2009, p. 87.

When it comes to tells, you're apt to overestimate the value of ones that invite you to call and ignore ones that suggest you should fold. If you use tells in that manner, you're making a great mistake. That mistake is so common and so serious that if you can't shake the habit, you'll probably make more money by just ignoring tells altogether.

Guess the casino, #176

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

Answer: Texas Station

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Deuce-four at the World Series of Poker

Last night while reading the day's PokerNews live updates from the WSOP in preparation for writing my overnight summary of events, I came across the first deuce-four sightings of the Series. To be fair, I'm assigned only a portion of each day's action to write about, so there could have been other 2-4 wins earlier that went by without me seeing them.


Four High Wins Pot!

British poker player Karl Fenton just stopped me to tell me he just won a pot with four high!

It was folded around to the SB who called before Fenton checked his option. The flop came 3-6-K and Fenton floated one after the SB bet. The turn saw Fenton make a move as he raised the SB's bet from 425 up to 1,150. The call was made though so the river came 10.

Both players seemed to give up on it though as it was checked through. "You got it," said the SB and threw his cards in to the muck. Fenton then had to turn his cards up to claim the pot and he did so with 4-2 for four high. The SB said he folded 9-x. Pretty sick way to learn a lesson.

It is certainly true that there are lessons here. First is not to throw away your cards until you have actually seen your opponent's hand and know that you have lost. Alternatively, just always show, and this won't ever happen to you.

Second, though, is the mysterious power of the deuce-four to perform a Jedi mind trick on opponents on the rare occasions that it fails to actually make the nuts. "You should throw your cards away," it whispers, and the opponent does just that.

I have to admit that, even though I am the world's leading proponent of the Mighty Deuce-Four, I had not previously know that it had this extra way to win. Truly awe-inspiring.


Sorel Morell

Sorel Mizzi raised from LP before a short stacked player in the next seat moved all in. Morell was priced in and made the call with 2h-4h and was up against 6d-6c.

The board ran 9d-3d-2c-4s-8h. Turned two-pair for the man from Toronto to unluckily eliminate his opponent.

I dislike writing anything even remotely favorable about Sorel Mizzi, who is a big fat stinking good-for-nothing cheater that should be banned from poker. (That's him pictured above so that if you ever run across him you'll know who you're dealing with, and can call him a cheater to his face.) But the man does know how to play the game (which makes one wonder why he feels the need to cheat). And he obviously is in on the whole deuce-four thing.

The blogger who wrote this? Not so much. He first makes the mistake of thinking, apparently, that it is possible not to be "priced in" with the 2-4. He then says that the opponent "unluckily" lost--as if the deuce-four taking down an overpair there is something out of the ordinary.

Clearly PokerNews needs to get better-informed writers.

Just for fun, I ran the 2-4 versus 6-6 through the poker odds calculator. It said that the 2-4 is more than a 4:1 underdog there. Hahahahahahahahahaha! I think their software needs a bit of tweaking!

Poker gems, #288

David "Devilfish" Ulliott, as reported by PokerNews yesterday here.

"Never be afraid to go broke on a bluff, boys. That way, you never have a bad beat story to tell."

Guess the casino, #175

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

Answer: Riviera

Monday, June 15, 2009

Guess the casino, #174

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

Answer: MGM Grand

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Has Stars fixed it?

If this message from PokerStars support proves to be true, it will have taken much less time to repair the software problem than it did last time:

Thank you for your email and for allowing us to be of assistance.

A new update has been released to resolve this issue. Please close and re
open PokerStars software to update the program.

Should you continue to have problems, please send us a new set of log file
to further investigate this matter.

So apparently I was right (again) that it was a problem with the new release, not my system. I have not tried playing since receiving that note. You all know, of course, that should I discover the problem persisting, you will hear about it very loudly here.

Poker gems, #287

Winston Churchill, in his famous 1941 speech at Harrow School, available in full here.

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Guess the casino, #173

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

Answer: Golden Nugget