Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hodge-podge post

I collected a bunch of mostly unrelated stories and observations today, so I'm throwing them together into a garbage-can post.

New chairs at Rio

One table at the Rio poker room has these new chairs. They've been there for a couple of months, but for some reason I've never played at that table. Until today. I was pleased to get a chance to try them out. They really are much more comfortable that the plain-Jane chairs that most of the Rio tables have. The padding is deep and the construction obviously solid, the better to accommodate the growing number of 300-400 pound poker players. The photo below is terrible, because I was just trying to capture the manufacturer's name printed across the back in order to be able to look it up later. You can see better photos at their web site, here. I believe that the Rio is using the "Barona" model, covered in a reasonably breathable black cloth, but I couldn't swear to that.

Cocktail waitress declines tip

LOL--I accidentally typed that headline as "Cocktail waitress declines top." In Vegas, that wouldn't exactly be earth-shattering news. Freudian slip?

Anyway, this happened a couple of weeks ago at the Rio, and I forgot to write about it at the time. Cocktail waitress came around to take orders. I asked for a bottle of water. When she returned, she didn't get it to me, and I was in a hand so didn't notice her until she was walking out of the room. It was another 20 minutes or so before she came back for another round of drink orders. I told her I'd still like a bottle of water. She was clearly embarrassed that she had forgotten, and apologized. It was no big deal, and I told her so. She had an extra bottle on her tray and gave it to me. As per my usual practice, I handed her a $1 chip. She declined it, saying, "No, I didn't get this to you when I was supposed to. You keep it." I reassured her that it was fine, and pressed the chip on her again. But she was very insistent, and wouldn't take it. I gave up.

I have never before seen or heard of a cocktail waitress declining a tip because she felt that she didn't deserve it. Quite a sense of personal integrity.

Best hand of the day

I bought in for $300 (the max). This is a recent experiment I've been trying, a departure from my habitual $100 starting buy-in. As I gain more experience with it, I'll put up a post about what prompted me to try it, and how it has gone. For now, I'll just say that it has made for much more profit than I would otherwise have had. Sooner or later, I'll get stacked for the whole amount and regret it, but obviously if the number of times I double up greatly exceeds the number of times that I lose more than I would have with a shorter buy-in, it's a worthwhile investment. We'll see.

So anyway, I had slipped down to about $225 when this hand came up. I was in middle position and limped in with the Mighty Deuce-Four offsuit. The guy on my left was, by my estimation, the most potentially tricky and dangerous player at the table. He raised to $15. He could do this with a wide range. He got a couple of other callers, so I decided to take my favorite hand into battle and see what would happen.

Flop: J-K-2 rainbow. Action checked to the bettor, and he put out $25. The others folded. I called. I wasn't so much counting on the 2-4 being good here, nor on making trips or two pair on the turn. I just wasn't convinced that he had hit this flop, and I wanted to see what he'd do next. He could easily have raised with a small or medium pair, and my flop call could slow him down, allowing me an opening to steal it. I thought this was especially so since there weren't many good draws present on that board. In other words, if he had a small or medium pair, he'd pretty much have to assume that I had either a jack or a king in order to be able to call.

But the turn was another deuce. This was ideal. If a 4 had come, I'd have to worry at least a little that he had K-J for a better two pair already. Of course, he could have a set of jacks or kings, but that's only a small part of his possible range, and not particularly likely. To make things even better, he's not going to put me on quads now, and other than 2-2 there isn't a hand with a deuce in it that he should consider in the range of hands with which I would have called him pre-flop.

My sense of him at this point was that he felt confident in his hand and would bet again if I let him, so I did. Sure enough, he pushed forward a stack of $50. I thought a while, then check-raised all-in for my last approximately $185. He called almost instantly, and had me covered.

I showed him the 2-4, and he groaned. "You've gotta be #$^&*! kidding me!" He showed his pocket aces. I was kind of hoping for an Allen Kessler, "Oh my god! What's wrong with you?" But I didn't get it. He was drawing to just one of the last two aces for the win, and that didn't happen.

He let loose a torrent of invective like I haven't heard directed my way in a LONG time. He pulled out a thesaurus in order to be sure he used every synonym of "idiot" in the book. He recounted the hand history: "You called $15 preflop from out of position, and then you thought bottom pair with a horrible kicker was good when I bet again?" Etc. I'll spare you the whole diatribe. It continued, on and off, either out loud to anybody who would listen or under his breath for a good ten minutes. I never uttered a word of explanation or justification or apology or sympathy--just stacked the chips while he ranted.

He proceeded to go on Super Monkey Tilt and donk off the rest of his chips before storming away. I found it most satisfying and amusing.

I'm afraid he left still not grasping the fact that he was cold-decked. It wasn't his fault, it wasn't my fault. When you pit the two most powerful starting hands in poker against each other, somebody's going to get hurt. That's just the way it is.

All hail the Mighty Deuce-Four!

Another pokery license plate

After racking up a decent profit at the Rio, I felt I had a little mojo left in me, so I decided to head over to Imperial Palace and play there. On the way, there was a big traffic jam on Flamingo because of road construction. Two lanes over I spotted a California plate:

It's the blue BMW two lanes to the right. If you look at the photo full size, I think you can just barely make out what the plate says: "BIGSTAX"


Compare and contrast

The Rio game had been stocked with laggy Scandis and Crazians who presented a more formidable challenge that I usually find there. That was actually the main reason I left--I was steadily building my chips, but they were in more danger of me making a critical slip-up than usual, and I was getting tired. Not a good spot to be playing sub-optimally in.

The Imperial Palace table could not have been more different. It was mostly occupied by highly inexperienced tourists who didn't know how to tell when it was their turn or what the current action was. They were weak, passive, scared calling stations. One guy made bad bluffs a lot and was running through his bankroll.

I played for about another two and a half hours, and walked away winner, with a rate of about 14 big blinds/hour at Rio, and 30 at IP.

I realize that this is a basic, necessary skill for success, but I was pleased to be reminded that I have in my game sufficient range and flexibility to move from one extreme style of play to the other, adapt accordingly, and still profit. It's not often I get to test that range with such dramatic contrast in one day. Most $1-2 and $1-3 games around here are interchangeable, and it's pretty easy to develop a default approach to the game that works pretty well and doesn't require too much effort or adjustment on most days.

Glad to know that I still have a couple of gears that can be trotted out when they're called for--the "keep up with the crazy table" fast one, and the "never, ever bluff" one.

Hey, that face looks familiar...

Another story from a few weeks ago, which I forgot to relate at the time. The IP tables are huge and covered in cloth on which are depicted two attractive young women in skimpy, vaguely IP-ish outfits. I just assumed that they were models hired for the photo shoot.

Well, on this particular day, the cocktail waitress caught my attention. She looked extremely familiar--a face that I had seen very recently. It took a few seconds, but then it clicked. She was one of the models on the poker tables. The resemblance was so striking that I didn't have much doubt, but I asked anyway, and she confirmed it.

Kind of a strange sensation to have been looking at a face that you sort of assume you'll not have occasion to see in real life, then suddenly have its owner standing right next to you.

I'm not trying to turn into a comp whore or anything, but what's the deal?

Every time that Cardgrrl takes a trip to either Atlantic City or here, she seems to have the room comped for basically as long as she wants, along with at least some of the food, and the round-trip bus trip when it's A.C., all through Harrah's. This has puzzled me greatly--even intense sessions a few days at a time just can't add up to the number of hours I put in routinely. At least that's how it seems to me. (She wrote a post on this subject earlier this year here, and admits that it sort of puzzles her, too.) Sure, I get the $1/hour food comp credit, but that's it, as far as I know.

Last night we got chatting about this via Skype. She asked me about my points and status. I had no idea. I didn't even know one could check such things on the Harrah's web site. Turns out that I have a big mess of "rewards" points, but very few "tier" points, and it's the latter than translate into the generous room comps. Oh, and I have zero "offers" pending. Harrah's never contacts me by mail or email to offer me stuff. With Cardgrrl, her "offers" box has stuff they're wanting to give her all the time.

It's so unfair.

Frankly, I'm not sure what I'd do with room comps even if they were pushing them at me. But last night I was experiencing a sense of outrage over it anyway. Why does Harrah's throw everything at her, and nothing my way? Well, apparently Harrah's in A.C. has for a long time been giving "tier" credits for poker hours, while the Vegas properties don't--or didn't. Harrah's just recently changed this, I learned, and now one racks up "tier" points at 28/hour. (See, e.g., here and here.) Don't ask me about any other details. I still find the whole system baffling and opaque, and I had never even heard of "tier credits" until last night. (Well, that's probably not completely true. When Shamus and I went to the Wednesday Poker Group at Binion's in April, there were some news items, and something about new Harrah's credits was mentioned. I paid no attention at the time, but that was probably it.)

But maybe there are other factors at work. Maybe the system is tweaked to offer rooms and other stuff more liberally to those coming from out of town than for locals. Maybe women get more than men. I don't pretend to know.

I just know that I have my butt in a Harrah's chair a helluva lot, and they have never seemed to notice or care.

Cardgrrl suggested that I try an experiment of dropping $20 or so in a Harrah's slot machine, and see if that primed the pump, so to speak, suggesting to them that I might be a more lucrative customer than I have appeared to be in the past.

So I decided to try it tonight on my way out of IP. I spotted the bank of four "Star Trek" slots. I thought that might be fun. It wasn't. I found it to be just like the "Sopranos" slot machine was when I stuck a dollar in it in December, 2007: completely perplexing. I had no way to judge whether it was better to request 1 line, or 5, or 10, or even 25. It was not at all obvious what combinations of things would win. There was a bunch of stuff thrown up on the screen about bonuses, but it was all gibberish to me. I just threw a $20 bill in, hit "max credits per line," and let it go. It took only about 5 spins for me to be down to zero credits. Nothing interesting whatsoever had happened, except that at one point it said I had made some sort of bonus (see picture below). It wasn't clear to me what, if anything, I was supposed to do about it. I never got to whatever point it is that causes the machine to play cute little clips from the original Star Trek series. It was all just completely stupid and pointless. I cannot understand why people sit at these machines for hours upon hours, draining both their bank accounts and their souls.

But anyway, maybe a switch has now been thrown in the Harrah's computer system that says, "Oooo, this guy gives us money," and the offers will start coming in the mail and/or electronically. We shall see.

Guess the casino, #200

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

Answer: Palace Station

Friday, July 10, 2009

In the Rio parking lot

This car pulled in right behind me as I arrived at the Rio today, so I saw who got out of it: it's one of the Rio poker dealers.

You can't see it very well, so I marked where I parked with a red arrow. One of the closest possible spots to the entrance I use near the Rio poker room. Good parking karma often portends a good day at the table, and that was true today.

As I said with the wallet things: It was a good day before the poker even started!

Big day in a man's life (no poker content)

Most women won't get this fact, but one of the most potentially traumatic days in a man's life is when he must finally admit that it's time to replace his wallet. This is put off for as long as possible. Men will continue using a familiar wallet until there are only about three wallet molecules left holding their stuff together.

I've known for several months that the end was near. With increasing frequency, my driver's license and other items have been falling out all over the place when I open my wallet to conduct some sort of transaction. I've had this wallet for probably ten years. I bought it at a Minnesota Wal-Mart for about $3. Is that good value, or what?

(N.B. Today's fashion tip: When one wears a black nylon fanny pack everywhere, it is crucial that one's wallet, carried therein, be a matching black nylon.)

I needed a bunch of sundry items today, so headed to the Wal-Mart on Charleston, on my way to the Rio for poker, as the Wal-Mart is only a couple of blocks off of that path. I didn't really expect to be lucky enough to find the same model of wallet. That would be too easy, because everything could simply be transferred to an identical spot in the new one, without having to figure out a new rearrangement. I did hope, however, that some worthy successor would be on the shelves.

But to my amazement, they had what appears to be the identical item that I bought ten years ago! Even more amazing, the price tag was $2.97, which I believe is to the penny what I paid for the old one in Minnesota way back when.

Traits that I find increasing in myself as I grow older include (in addition to curmudgeonliness) being more of a skinflint and being far more set in my habitual ways. Today's purchase scored major satisfaction points on both counts.

It was already a good day, even before I got to the poker room.

A poker truism

If you are playing online at two tables at once, the flop will always match the hole cards on the other table better than the ones on the table it's actually on.

By the skin of his teeth

It's pretty rare that I relate a poker hand just because I took a bad beat or otherwise had an unlucky, undesirable outcome. But once in a great while, what happened is just so... WRONG that it deserves a bit of public scolding of the poker gods for their sick sense of humor. I think this one from the Rio yesterday qualifies.

Playing $1-3 NLHE, I was in middle position with the two black eights. I limped in, as did two others behind me. The small blind raised to $10. This was a tight, mostly passive, completely straightforward, not particularly strong player, making his range here pretty narrow and predictable: big pair, maybe A-K, not much else. I was fairly confident that the other two would come along for the ride after me without reraising (three-bets at this table were scarce), so I called.

The set-mining worked. Flop was 8h-7h-5c. Top set. Nice! However, that board is a little draw-heavy for comfort, especially since the button is a young, tricky Scandi. Small blind bet out $30. I don't think he would do this with A-K on a board like this against three opponents from out of position, unless maybe it was Ah-Kh, so he's pretty much nailed as the overpair here. No way did this guy raise pre-flop from the blind with one of the only two hands that has me beat (4-6 or 6-9 for a straight).

Much as I might like to milk this situation, I decide it's just too dangerous to let the others stay in cheaply, and instead I'll go for the isolation. I raise to $90. Third player folds quickly. Scandi dude takes a long time to muck--most likely a non-nut flush draw, I think. Small blind thinks for maybe ten seconds, then moves all-in for something like an extra $50 on top of my bet--but he has the look of doom and defeat on his face, and does this with a big sigh of resignation.

As predicted, when I call he shows me the two red aces. He winces when he sees my cards, but it's a look that says, "That's what I was afraid of." He's drawing to two outs, or some runner-runner miracle.

Turn was an offsuit 9. Nice, as that kills his backdoor flush possibility.

River: 6 of spades, putting a 9-high straight on the board. Chop it up. We each make about $7 on the hand, after rake and tip.

Gaaaaaaaaaaaa! Who invented this stupid game, anyway?

Guess the casino, #199

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

Answer: Hooters (view is from the back alley)

Peculiar new promotion at the Rio poker room

I was playing at the Rio again this afternoon. I noticed at the front desk copies of the above flyer advertising a new freeroll tournament series.

If I'm reading this right, it is a daily freeroll, with qualification requiring a mere three hours of play in the preceding 24 hours. The other side says that this begins July 14th.

That, my friends, is strange. I have never seen anything like it.

I'm really not sure what to make of it. On the one hand, it's nice that you can get a shot at a piece of $2000 for just three hours of play.

On the other hand, it's easy to foresee problems. For one thing, with the daily tournament starting at 6:00 p.m., it must have an atrocious structure, so as to get the event over with quickly and not interfere with the cash games that peak in the evening.

For another, they run the risk of killing the cash games at that time every night. That's pretty much my prime time, and if the cash games turn out to routinely break up just before 6:00 p.m. on days when I haven't qualified for the tournament, it's going to cheese me off and cause me to stop frequenting the place.

I don't have any good way of gauging how many people are likely to both qualify and want to play every day, so it's really hard to guess in advance what one's EV would be for participating. It would not surprise me if the thing didn't actually run most days, and devolved into an automatic chop (proportionate to the starting chip stack that one qualified for, presumably), like the weekly Luxor freeroll used to.

It's weird, and I'm not yet sure whether I think it's a good thing, a bad thing, or kind of neutral. I guess I'll have to see how it pans out with time.

Have I been missing out on the money?

I don't play a lot online, but the little that I do has been absolutely dismal lately. I was whining explaining this to Cardgrrl the other night, and she suggested trying limit hold'em cash games. She said that specifically she had found the $1/2 limit tables (full, not short-handed) on Full Tilt Poker to be eminently beatable with a practically brain-dead, automaton approach, even doing several tables at once.

It's true that I hadn't tried anything like this, despite repeatedly reading Shamus saying that LHE games have been his bread-and-butter poker this year. I sort of pooh-poohed this with the thought that I'm a no-limit player, and should stick to what I feel I know best.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I may have been wrong.

Tonight I tried an experiment. I logged on to Doyle's Room (nothing against Full Tilt; I'm just trying to spead the action around a little, and I had a small cash in a NLHE tournament a couple of days ago on Doyle--which is now part of the Cake network--finding it just unbelievably soft) and opened two $1/2 LHE tables, full ring games. I only had about $70 on account at the site, so I split it up, $30 on each table, leaving a bit in reserve for rebuilding in case I went completely busto.

I need not have worried. I stopped the games one hour later. Table 1 was up to $71.25, and Table 2 was up to $72.50. That's $83.75 profit in an hour--way more than I usually make playing $1/2 NLHE in casinos. To be fair, though, I was also playing a $.50/$1 razz cash game on PokerStars at the same time, and lost $15 there, at least in part because I wasn't paying as much attention as I otherwise might, what with the three-tabling. Even taking that into account, though, I'm thrilled with $65+ an hour anytime it happens.

Mind you, I am by no means a limit hold'em specialist. Nor was I playing in any sort of advanced, sneaky, super-secret, Jedi mind trick way. It was just bet and raise when I had something good, fold when I didn't, and play few hands from out of position. (Brilliant strategy, eh? I thought it up all by myself!) Well, I guess there was a little trickiness, in that I did things like bet the river with nothing to induce a fold when I thought an opponent had been calling me on a draw that missed--lest he show down a better nothing than mine for free--but I still consider that completely basic, A-B-C poker.

I hit a few nice draws and got paid off, but it certainly didn't feel like I was running smoking hot. I had pocket kings once, queens twice, jacks once, aces never. A turned set of tens accidentally got folded because of a misclick, or the total would have been even higher.

Obviously, this is a ridiculously small sample size, but it has certainly caught my attention. Most of the players at this level are bad beyond the capacity of my meager words to describe, but "clueless," "weak," "passive," "endlessly hopeful," and "desperate" come to mind.

This experiment definitely warrants repeating in the near future. There just may be gold in them thar hills.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Guess the casino, #198

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

Answer: Excalibur

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

More professional poker cheaters

The newest issue of All In magazine (vol. VI, issue 6; no date given) has a feature about Chad Brown and Vanessa Rousso (pp. 56-61). I was very surprised to find this confession in it:

That's not to say that poker romance is without its own unique pitfalls.
For one thing, there's the potential of having to compete against your partner
in an activity so rooted in individual success. "Early on in our relationship,"
recalled Rousso, "we had to acknowledge the possibility that we'd end up at the
same table." Both considered the idea of soft-playing one another to be
unethical--not to mention antithetical to their competitive instincts. "We
basically have an agreement that in the rare occasions we're at the same table,"
said Brown, "the one thing that we don't do to each other is to trap ... That
can, uh, ruin the romance."

[Ellipsis in original.]

This is an obvious internal contradiction. If you rule out trapping, then you're soft-playing. I don't see how it can be thought of otherwise. If trapping would be the highest EV way of playing a particular hand, and you exclude it a priori as a possibility because of your relationship, that is soft-playing.

And it is cheating.

Of course, there's cheating and then there's cheating. This obviously ranks well below, say, owning an online poker site and using insider access to look at opponents' cards while you play against them. But it is clearly a violation of the rules.

I used to play frequently at the Hilton with a married couple, and they made it clear to all that if it was just the two of them left in a hand, they would check it down every time. They weren't trying to be sneaky or underhanded about it; everybody understood it, and if they became aware that somebody wasn't familiar with their practice, they made it explicit. I got to know them well enough to be completely convinced that they saw nothing unethical or improper about this.

But it is unethical. It puts other players at a significant disadvantage. My guess is that this couple never thought through how this could be so.

One of the major considerations in deciding whether to call a bet on the flop in hold'em--especially in no-limit games--is the implicit threat the bettor is making that you may have to call even larger bets on the turn and river in order to get to a showdown.

Now imagine a situation where Wife is first to act after the flop, to be followed by an unrelated player and then Husband on the button. Wife has an advantage now that she would not have if it were two unrelated players in the hand; if her husband happens to have a monster hand, and the in-between player folds, he will just call and she won't have to make a difficult decision about whether to call a raise. That effectively increases the range of hands with which she can make this early-position bet. She can also use that knowledge to her advantage in bet sizing. She can afford to make a larger bet than she otherwise might--hoping to drive out the player in the middle--because she knows that if it works, it's the end of the money she has to put into the pot. That ability puts the middle player at a direct disadvantage.

Husband also has an advantage. If the in-between player drops out, Husband can then safely call without having to worry about facing additional bets on the turn and river. If he is on a draw, say, he knows that he gets both turn and river cards for the price of the call, whereas any other player in his spot would have to figure his pot odds based on getting only the turn card for the price of the current bet. His decision is made easier all around.

Of course, what Brown and Rousso claim as their only limited version of soft-playing isn't this explicit. It would be extremely difficult ever to prove, for any given hand, that one of them played the hand in a straightforward manner, rather than slow-playing and trapping, out of consideration for the relationship. But in a sense, that makes the practice all the more insidious. At least with the couple from the Hilton, what they were doing was out in the open.

Anytime you soft-play an opponent--especially in a tournament situation, which seems to be the bulk of both Brown's and Rousso's play--you are hurting everybody else. If Brown does not maximize his chance of crippling or knocking out Rousso, he keeps a skilled player in the game longer and/or with more chips than would otherwise be the case. If he doesn't go for the kill when he could, it negatively affects every other player in the tournament, and especially the others at that table.

Of course, it is true that one tends to play more cautiously against opponents that one knows to be skillful and dangerous. Brown and Rousso obviously know that about each other, and will naturally tend to be more leery of building a big pot without the nuts than they likely would be when contesting a pot against a random donk. Taking a conservative line against an opponent known to be a thoughtful and skilled player is not soft-playing, not cheating, not against the rules. It's common sense.

But what Brown is saying goes well beyond that. If "no trapping" really is agreed upon in advance, then they each bring to the table a big advantage that nobody else has. If one of them makes a substantial bet and is called by the other, the bettor can be assured that the caller is not slow-playing a monster hand, with the intention of dropping the hammer on a later street. The call pretty much must therefore represent either a draw or a medium-strength hand. A position call is often enough to shut down the bettor on the next round, for fear that the caller is trapping. Remove that from the equation, and you greatly narrow the range of hands that you might be facing. That knowledge would be an enormous advantage, and it is one that is being granted to nobody else at the table.

That is soft-playing. It is against the rules. It is cheating.

Is it really possible that Brown and Rousso are incapable of seeing that?

Guess the casino, #197

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

Answer: Bellagio

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Guess the casino, #196

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

Answer: Silverton

Monday, July 06, 2009

An open letter to Caesars Palace poker room management

This afternoon I felt like entering a small-field, low buy-in poker tournament. Scanning an online database of what's available, I noticed your daily 3:00 p.m. tourney: $65, 50-player maximum, with 30-minute blind levels. That sounded perfect.

I was aware, though, that the Mega Stacks series was still running, and wondered whether the daily tournament schedule might be suspended for that. Easy enough to find out, I told myself--check the web site. So I did.

As you can see below, the relevant web page distinctly shows today's date, with the unmistakable impression that the tournaments listed are, in fact, being held today. With that confirmed, I drove to Caesars, parked, made my way to the poker room, and attempted to register.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I was told that not only was this event not running today, but it hadn't been running for the entire duration of the Mega Stack series, i.e., since May 28, five and a half weeks ago. While you're at it, you might also imagine how annoyed I was.

Let me explain something to you, as it is apparently a concept too technically advanced for you to have figured out on your own. One of the advantages of having a web site is that you can change and update information whenever you need to. At the beginning of the Mega Stack series, one of your employees could have added to the tournament schedule web page a note such as this: "The usual daily tournament schedule is suspended during the Mega Stack series. It will return on July 9." That should have taken somebody less than two minutes.

But not only did you not take that simple step, you have the page deliberately set up to show the current date, so that it looks for all the world as if the information is updated daily. Had the page not shown today's date, I would have wondered if the information shown was really valid while the special series was going on, and, as a result, I would have called to verify before wasting my time with the drive.

I saw no need to do so when today's date is shown on the page. After all, what kind of friggin' moron sets up a web page to look like it's showing information very specific for today, when it actually is doing no such thing?

Furthermore, what kind of lazy, inattentive, uncaring, sloppy, negligent, service-impaired poker room management lets this go on for 39 days without fixing it? Please do not try telling me that I am the first one who was led astray by the erroneous information your web site is putting out. I refuse to believe that. I suspect that a substantial number of other people have had exactly the same experience that I did. As some confirmation of that hunch, when I protested to the woman in the cage that your poker room's web site specifically said that the 3:00 p.m. tournament was running today, she said, "I know. But it's not."

This means that you either have your room set up so that employees do not pass on to you information about problems that customers encounter so that the problems can be fixed, or they have passed this notice along to you, and you have willfully chosen to disregard it--or, worse, decided deliberately to leave it in place, the better to lure in more customers with a bait-and-switch. (I understand that the Mega Stack series is doing very poorly compared to the competing offerings at the Venetian, Binion's, Golden Nugget, etc. Good. You deserve to fail.)

This is not the first time that you have behaved dishonorably. Two years ago, you radically changed the promised structure of a freeroll tournament without advance notice, changing it from relatively skill-based event to an all-in card-catching shovefest. I have not entered a tournament in your establishment since then, until attempting to do so today. Imagine how thrilled I am at the prospect of ever trying it again.

Is it really asking too much of you to have your web site display accurate information that actually matches the date that the page claims it is giving information about? Or do you just not give a rat's ass?

Incidentally, while poking around the web site to be sure I hadn't missed something before writing this rant, I noticed that you have conflicting information. The page shown above clearly specifies that the blind levels are 30 minutes. But clicking elsewhere, one gets to this page, which announces "All New Blind Structures," and says that levels are only 20 minutes long. There is no way for a user to know which information is newer and, therefore, presumably correct. Once again, though, I suppose that you just don't care enough to bother fixing it.

It is an astounding level of some combination of incompetence and indifference that you have on display here.

Guess the casino, #195

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Photo digitally altered to remove the answer.

Answer: Palms

Cards in the muck

Two stories from the WSOP make, I think, for an interesting contrast.

Here's the first, as reported here by PokerNews:

This is Why You Never Muck Your Hand Before the River

After a jack-high flop, two players are all in. The first player to show flips over pocket aces and his opponent tosses his cards into the muck. The dealer retrieves his card out of the pile and turns over two kings.

The players with aces was furious, saying the cards can not be pulled out, but after a floor person ruled that in an all-in both hands must be shown, the cards stayed out of the muck as the remainder of the hand was played out.

The turn was a complete blank, however....

The river brought a king.

This is a rules question that I hadn't considered before. Here's the relevant rule, from the 2009 WSOP rule book:

56. All cards will be turned face up once a player is all in and all action is
complete. If a player accidentally folds/mucks their hand before cards are
turned up, the Tournament Staff reserves the right to retrieve the folded/mucked
cards if the cards are clearly identifiable.

So it is definitely correct for the dealer in this case to pull the cards out of the muck and show them, assuming that they were clearly identifiable (an assumption I'm granting here). But are they still live? The rule does not specify that. The purpose of the rule is presumably to prevent collusion, and that end is served equally well* if the hand is live or dead. Put another way, nothing in this rule explicitly or even implicitly counters the usual rule that when a player puts his cards face down into the muck, his hand is dead.

I think that point needs to be clarified in future editions of the WSOP rules, as well as in the Tournament Directors Association rules, from which this one is derived. (The TDA rule has only the first sentence quoted above, not the extra part about retrieving cards from the muck.) It seems to me most fair and most consistent with other long-established rules and procedures that if the player puts his cards into the muck, or pushes them toward the dealer face down and the dealer puts them into or on top of the muck, they are dead. Whether they can be retrieved to be shown, as required by the anti-collusion rule, is a separate and situation-specific question, but there seems to me to be no reason to violate the usual practice about mucked cards. They should be dead, whether or not they are or can be retrieved for showing the table.

Had I been the floor guy, I would have done what they did, except add the caveat that the hand was dead, and was being shown only for purposes of fulfilling the anti-collusion rule. If and when the guy with the kings then protested because he ended up with the best hand, I'd tell him, "That's what you get for being so stupid." And I'd give him a dope slap on top of the lecture. And then I'd have every other player at the table give him a dope slap, too. Maybe everybody in the entire Amazon Room. He deserved no less for his monumental idiocy.

The second story happened during Cardgrrl's run to the money in Event 36. It was the evening of Day 1, and I was standing at the rail next to her table. The big stack was Seat 3--a guy who looked so much like Jack Black that (1) I'll call him that, and (2) at one point another railbird excitedly called a friend on his cell phone and said, "I'm watching Jack Black play poker!" (He was not kidding. But he was wrong.) There were two or three limpers. Action got to Jack and he put in a substantial raise. Fold fold fold fold.

Jack showed Jd-Jh. There was no doubt what they were; even from the rail at the far end of the table, I could see them. At this point, I tuned out, went back to the book I was reading, and another 30 seconds or so passed before I became aware that there was more to the hand than I had noticed. The floor was being called. As it turned out, neither Jack nor I had noticed that Seat 1 was still in the hand, and had not decided what to do when Jack showed his cards. (His cards were unintentionally somewhat hidden by his chip stacks from Jack's vantage point.)

As Cardgrrl related the critical points to me later, Jack had done his courtesy show, then turned the cards face down and took his hand off of them, but did not push them forward. The dealer immediately grabbed the cards and put them in the muck while saying said, "Your hand is dead." It was only then that Jack became aware that Seat 1 was still live.** [Edit: See comments. I misunderstood. Cardgrrl says that the cards were still face up when the dealer grabbed and mucked them.]

The dealer was clearly wrong--so wrong it's hard to know what he was thinking. Nobody these days (as far as I know) uses a rule that says that your hand is dead if it is shown prematurely. The 2009 WSOP rules explicitly provide (rule 52): "A player exposing his or her cards with action pending will incur a penalty, but will not have a dead hand." How does the dealer not know this???

At the very least, he could have handled the mucking differently--for example, by tapping the cards on the muck, then showing them to everybody, just in case somebody at the other end of the table hadn't seen them in the courtesy show, or just drop them on top of the muck rather than shoving them in. He also could have done it with sufficient delay that Jack would have time to react and protest before the cards disappeared.

So now what decision should the floor make? I think two options are reasonable. First, because the cards were clearly seen by multiple witnesses, he could fish them out of the muck, give them back to Jack, and allow Seat 1 to decide what to do. If he calls (or reraises), Jack is playing the rest of the hand with his cards face up, a pretty serious handicap. Second, he could keep Jack's hand dead and in the muck (with an apology for the dealer's erroneous action) and return to Jack the amount of his raise, awarding to Seat 1 the rest of the pot (i.e., the blinds plus the other limpers' money). With either option, Jack gets whatever the standard penalty is for prematurely exposing his hand (one hand? one orbit? I'm not sure).

But no. The floor guy compounds the error. He not only refuses to retrieve the cards and let Jack play out the hand, he awards the entire pot to Seat 1. I'm sure that the reasoning behind this is that Seat 1 is the only guy with a live hand left, so there is nobody else the pot can go to. But Seat 1 is getting an undeserved windfall here; he is picking up the amount of Jack's raise when he had not yet decided whether to match it. You can't win chips when you did not put into play and at risk an equal number of them. Suppose Jack's raise had been all in? Would Seat 1 then get a free double-up, when he had only limped in and hadn't yet decided how to act on the raise? Or suppose Jack's raise had been all-in, and he had fewer chips than Seat 1. Would Jack be out of the tournament, when Seat 1 hadn't called that bet? That makes no sense at all--especially when the problem was caused by the dealer's flagrantly erroneous action.

As some sort of weird compensation, though, the floor guy gave no penalty. The conversation took place far enough away from me and in a sufficiently noisy environment that I could hear only pieces of it, but he said something about losing the pot serving as sufficient penalty.

Bad dealer. Bad floor decision. Just bad all around.

Do you see the contrast between these two scenarios? In the first case, the tournament staff was willing to fish cards out of the muck and make them live again, even though nobody had seen them, and even though the player unambiguously had voluntarily thrown them away. (It isn't clear from the story how the retrieval was done. Perhaps the dealer just dropped them on top of the muck so there wasn't any doubt, or perhaps they asked the player what the cards were, then found them--which is a bad idea, if that's what happened.) But in the second, the floor refused to retrieve the cards even though (1) everybody had seen exactly what they were, so there was no possible mistake to be made in the retrieval, and (2) the mucking had been the dealer's error, rather than the player's own foolish/rash/careless/mistaken action.

Yes, the situations were different, but you can see how grossly inconsistent this is.

The general principle is that cards touching the muck face down are dead. There can be exceptions, and the cards can be retrieved and declared still live under unusual circumstances, but (1) the cards have to be clearly identifiable, and (2) there has to be a compelling fairness reason for doing so. Both conditions were present in the Jack Black story, yet the tournament staff didn't do it. In the first story, though, the second condition was definitely not present, and we don't really know if the first was--yet the tournament staff did fish the cards out and declare them live.

It's a bizarre contrast, if you ask me.

*Or equally badly. Does anybody really think this rule prevents chip dumping? The player who gets caught in an apparent dump only needs to say that he made an ill-timed bluff if he was the aggressor, or a bad read if he called his stack off.

**I think Seat 1 had an ethical duty to speak up as soon as he realized what was happening--i.e., as soon as Jack showed his cards. I don't know why he didn't. But I grant that sometimes things like this catch people off-guard, and it takes them a beat or two to figure out what's going on and react, and by then it's too late. So I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. But if he was deliberately holding his tongue hoping to gain an advantage (more advantage than he already had by seeing his opponent's cards), he was behaving badly, and shame on him.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

I keep trying to tell you people

This is from a 180-player $4.40 SNG I did on PokerStars today (actually am still in it as I post this):

And this is from one of the early hands of a $1 HORSE MTT on Stars, which I am also still in at the moment:

If that isn't enough evidence for you, consider this Tweet from LasVegasMichael earlier today (cash game at Harrah's): "Flopped the wheel with deuce four off on my button straddle against a big ace and aces up. Love the button straddle!"


About 20 minutes after posting the above, this hand came up in the NLHE SNG. One good bet on the flop and another on the turn, and I take it down.

As expected, we are now all officially embarrassed to be poker players

Guess the casino, #194

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

Answer: Luxor