Saturday, August 08, 2009

Rio poker room management has lost their ever-lovin' minds

I arrived at the Rio poker room at about 5:40 this afternoon, planning to settle in for a long session. As I approached the room, however, I noticed three strange things all at once. First, the auxilliary tables set up outside of the poker room to handle the overflow during the WSOP--which have basically sat unused since then--were all in action, with tournament chips in play. Second, there was a long line of people moving toward the back of the room. This, I figured, was people registering for the 6:00 daily freeroll tournament. (This hypothesis proved to be correct.) Third, there was a long line of people with chips in racks waiting to cash out. Something odd was definitely going on.

I approached the desk and overheard another guy trying to get seated in a cash game. He was turned away. They were closing down all of the cash tables in order to play the daily freeroll tournament.

Let me say that again: They were closing down all of their cash games in order to make room for the daily freeroll tournament.

That's right--if you're playing a cash game when it's time for the freeroll to get going, they kick you out.

This is one of the most insane poker-room management moves I've ever heard of. Perhaps they fail to grasp the fact that the poker room's revenue stream is the rake from the cash games.

I can count on one hand the number of times that I've had to leave a poker room because they were shutting down. One was the last day that the Tropicana poker room was open, and closing time came. (That was planned on my part--I had never been present for the final moment's of a poker room's existence.) Another was the one time I played at the Plaza, which has (or at least at the time had) set hours of operation, and I played up until their nightly closing time. Another was the time that the Hard Rock closed all of its cash tables for a special tournament. I think that's it.

Now, though, it appears that the Rio is kicking its customers out every day.

In my previous post when I first learned of this daily freeroll, I sort of mentioned this as one possible outcome:

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

But what I had in mind was that the games would break up by people voluntarily leaving them to play the freeroll. It honestly never occurred to me that the poker room management would be so incredibly idiotic as to force people to stop playing the games that are the room's lifeblood!

OK, Rio, you have sent your message loud and clear. You don't want my cash-game business on any day when my session might bump up against your 5:30 p.m. deadline. On those days (and maybe others, now that you've irritated me so), I'll pick one of the other 50+ poker rooms to play in. Today I went across the street to the Palms, where they were opening cash-game tables for a Saturday evening crowd--not closing them.

What does it take to get elevated to management of the Rio poker room--failing every IQ test they put in front of you?

Morons and incompetents, every last one of them.

Cause and effect?

Spotted in the parking garage at the Palms.

Poker gems, #304

Jeff Shulman, in his "From the Publisher" column in Card Player magazine, August 12, 2009 (vol. 22, #16), p. 19, on what it took to get to the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Have you ever run well for seven days? I just did.... It is tough picking up aces so much and having them hold up. Of the 15 times that my hand was favored against all-in players, not once did I lose the pot. I even won my races. Even funnier to me is that I made a couple of terrible reads that led to poor calls. Anybody really can win at poker....

Finally, this is proof that if you read Card Player from cover to cover for 10 years, you will know a lot about poker.

Origin of "case"

Every field develops its own lingo, and it can be a fascinating study. Poker is no exception. One can often make a pretty good guess at how a word or phrase developed or was modified from some other context for a new application in poker. But one of the continuing mysteries for me is the word "case" to mean "last"--as I just used it in last night's post about hitting four-of-a-kind when the "case" six came on the river. The Oxford English Dictionary betrays no knowledge of this usage or anything akin to it. It completely baffles me how it came to mean what it does in poker.

If anybody has seen or heard anything reliable about this tidbit of etymological history, or even has some plausible speculation about it, please speak up in the comments.

Guess the casino, #228

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

Answer: M Resort

A problem and a solution

I went to the dentist today.* I have a cavity. A year ago, it was small enough that I could let it slide. Not now. Must be fixed. $200, please.

A few days ago I was playing at the Mirage. After a couple of hours, I had just broken even--a little up, a little down, but I was looking at a stack that was only a few dollars bigger than the one I had started with. I was thinking it was looking like a waste of time and I should go find someplace else to play or something else to do entirely.

Then a miracle hand happened. I had 6-7 offsuit on the button. I called a raise from the tightest guy at the table, figuring that his range was very narrow and if I hit a sneaky hand he might stack off to me. The table drunk, who had been running hot as a volcano, was in between us and came along--thank goodness.

The flop was J-6-2. Rock bets, both drunk and I call. I think if he missed (e.g., A-K) the rock won't fire again, or I might hit two pair or trips and beat his overpair, if that's what he has. Drunk guy could have anything--he has played nothing all the way to the river at times. Turn is another 6. Ahhhhhhhhh! Rock checks, drunk bets, I call, rock folds. River: the case 6. Cha-ching! Drunk bets $50. I raise to $150. He calls with A-J, and asks me, "You got that 6?" Yes, sir. Yes, I do. Net profit on hand: just over $200.

So I would like to thank the drunk guy for paying for my tooth to be mended.

(I wish I could give credit for the excellent photo posted above, but I can't. I found it here, with no indication of where the blogger got it.)

*The dentist, incidentally, is AnnaLee Kruyer, whom I can recommend enthusiastically for general or cosmetic dental issues. See her web site here. For fun, see also the rather remarkable story involving her year as a dentist in Iraq, as run in here. The story includes a bonus side note about how playing poker can save your life!

Binion's is annoying me

The first thing Binion's is doing to annoy me is the recent institution of yet another variant on the button straddle. It seems that you can make this any amount you want. The order of action is complicated, depending on whether there are reraises before it gets to the button.

I hate button straddles. I am dismayed to see the practice becoming a rapidly spreading fad--Hard Rock, Harrah's properties, Stratosphere, and now Binion's. Non-standardization of rules is a very, very bad thing. Less experienced players get confused and intimidated. They feel uncomfortable. Repeat: This is a bad, bad thing! Poker rooms should be trying everything to make new, less experienced players comfortable. New, unfamiliar, unnecessary rules and practices put people off and make them less inclined to play.

But what I really wanted to rant about was how Binion's handles cash-out time. Ever since the new room opened, they have been wildly inconsistent about where one goes to turn chips into cash. There is a front desk, which is where one buys chips, but, strangely, that is often not where one reverses the process. Somewhere between a third and half of the time, I am told that they have no bank, or that nobody who can do the transaction is available, or they're just too busy, and I'll have to take my chips to the main cage. Once in a while, most strangely, they send me to another mini-cage area that they have set up in the far corner of the poker room itself.

At first I thought this was a new-room glitch that would get ironed out with time. But we're way past that point. Now it's just incompetent and/or uncaring management. Yes, most smaller poker rooms will once in a great while have to send you to the main cage for a cashout. In my experience this happens primarily when they are in the middle of a daily security count of the chips and cash, and can't interrupt it. Perfectly understandable. But there is no place that I play that does it with even a tenth of the frequency that Binion's does, and it's seriously annoying. I wait in line behind somebody getting his name on the list, and somebody else whose name was just called and who is being assigned to a table, and somebody else who just wanted to check on the status of his comp dollars, and somebody else who just wanted to ask about what tournaments were running that day, and when I finally get to the front of the line, THEN they tell me to take my rack to the main cage??? It's infuriating. It's incompetent. It's customer service at its worst.

Hey, Binion's: Pick a place where players are to buy chips and cash them out. Then stick with it. Make sure that that location always has cash and chips, and is always staffed by somebody who is authorized to make the trades. It's just not that complicated! More than 50 of your competitor poker rooms have figured out how to pull it off. Why can't you?

On a brighter note, I'm pleased to see has followed up on the St. Patrick's Day chips with Memorial Day chips and July 4th chips, as shown above. May there be many more such offerings in the future.

Prof. Rose on the new Menendez bill

Prof. I. Nelson Rose has written up a remarkably quick first overview and analysis of the Menendez bill, proposing licensing and regulation of online poker sites, including a fairly detailed comparison with the Barney Frank proposal. You can read Rose's work here. Highly recommended for those who like to follow this stuff.

Twitter fail

I heard, of course, about Twitter's temporary blackout yesterday. But I have continued to have problems long after everything was allegedly back to normal. I can post from home, using my computer and web browser, just as always. But both yesterday and today I have been unable to connect from my cell phone.

I have previously been able to send updates two ways, using either the text-message function or by logging in to my account on the phone's web browser. Now I can do neither.

First, my mobile scaled-down web browser won't log me in to Twitter, though it continues to do other web stuff as normal. The error message I get vary; sometimes it's a "host not recognized" thing, other times an unhelpful "error in communication" report. Sometimes it doesn't connect to Twitter at all; other times it connects to the page on which I am prompted to enter my user name and password, but when I do, and click on "sign in," it doesn't work. (Same user name and password do work on the web from home, however, so it isn't that they have ceased to be valid.)

Second, text messages to Twitter do not show up. I have rechecked my profile and device settings in Twitter from home, and it certainly seems to know my cell phone number so as to recognize me, and is set to receive them. The messages get sent from my phone, but somehow are lost in the ether. It's all very strange. Using the web, I have wiped out Twitter's memory of my cell phone and then tried (twice) to register it again, but it seems that Twitter just won't accept or recognize texts from my phone. Of course, texts to other people are going through just fine.

This is strange because I would think that these two problems would be completely independent of each other. Whether I can log in using a mobile web browser shouldn't have any effect on whether my account is or is not properly set to receive and broadcast tweets using my phone's SMS functions. So why would the two problems appear simultaneously?

It's not like you've been missing out on a lot of gems, but it's disconcerting nonetheless. (I think my best one came from a Binion's session today. It was, roughly, "Guy at the table never shows his hand when called on the river. I think he should be shot, but it seems that Binion's rules have no such provision.")

I will continue to investigate and try to repair, but not having any idea where the problem might lie, this is not a straightforward task.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Guess the casino, #227

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

Answer: Imperial Palace

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Guess the casino, #226

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

Answer: Hooters

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I'm pretty sure I've played poker with this guy

See here.

Guess the casino, #225

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

Answer: Harrah's

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

"Face the Ace": Hated it

There was a lot of hype behind NBC's "Face the Ace." It's made by the same production team as "Poker After Dark," "High Stakes Poker," and NBC's "Heads Up Poker Championship," which suggested that it would be worth watching.

But, not so much. I found it nearly excruciating. There was way too much time wasted with small talk about the not-very-interesting lives of the contestants. It seems that the pros had been heavily coached to keep up the patter, lest the show go silent, and none of them were very good at it or comfortable with it, I thought. Every time there was an all-in and call (which was about every other hand), everything would come to a screeching halt while they analyzed to death what might happen next, got the thoughts of both players on how they felt about the situation, etc. There couldn't have been more than about 15 hands of poker in the whole hour, and most of those were completely uninteresting. When the pros lost (as they did every time), their praise for the skill of the amateur contestants seemed to me absurdly false.

Howard Lederer came the closest to speaking the truth when he intimated that the contestant should go for the million dollars, not because he was a favorite, but because he was being offered 5:1 and wouldn't be a 5:1 underdog, given the insanely fast structure of the play. That's true, as far as it goes, though it fails to take into consideration the actual life utility of the first $200,000 already won versus the additional utility of the extra $800,000 that might come. (I.e., each extra dollar adds progressively less life-changing value than the one before it.)

The host, Steve Schirripa, seemed surprisingly uncomfortable on camera, disclosed little or no knowledge of poker, and was basically painful to watch.

The whole thing was just a dreadful mess. I can't imagine it finding an audience sufficient to sustain it, especially given the way NBC is shifting broadcast times around willy-nilly.

See Shamus's excellent summary and commentary here.

Guess the casino, #224

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

Answer: Hard Rock

Monday, August 03, 2009

When is a coin flip not a coin flip?

See here for the answer.

Guess the casino, #223

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

Answer: Circus Circus

Sunday, August 02, 2009

What an excellent idea for a web site! (No poker content)

I heard about this on public radio today:

Do you have a friend or neighbor or relative who could use some financial assistance, but you know they will politely decline the offer from you if made in person? Use this site to send them money anonymously, on your credit card.

They sound like extraordinarily good people. I'm happy to give them a tiny extra amount of attention here.

Guess the casino, #222

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

Answer: Treasure Island

Revenge is a dish best served cold

Readers who have been around for a while may recall a series of two posts I did about a very difficult decision I had to make against an incredible jerk. This was at the Palms, just short of a year ago. (See here for the dilemma I was in, and here for the outcome.)

I had not seen this reprobate since then, nor thought much about him. But I had no difficulty recognizing him instantly today when he sat down three seats to my right. For his return into my life, he picked a day when I could do no wrong, when the deck was smacking me upside the head at every turn, when I averaged $123/hour all day, when I made more than I have in a single day in well over a year.

I had to keep reminding myself not to go out of my way to target him. He was likely to run into me all on his own, without me trying to force the issue. I had no idea if he remembered me at all, let alone as vividly as I remembered him. So I wasn't counting on him coming after me specifically--but it was just his nature to overplay hands, and I intended to be waiting for him when he did.

It didn't take long. I was, once again, being clobbered by the deck. In the first hour of play I had seven pocket pairs, of which four flopped sets, and all held up to win the pot--a truly remarkable run of luck.

So we get to what would prove to be the big hand. I have the two black 9s in middle position. I call a raise to $15 from an early-position player, as had my miscreant, and the button called behind, making a $60 pot. Flop is 9-7-2 rainbow. It's hard to ask for it to be more perfect than that--I have the nuts, with top set, no flush draws, and almost no straight draws. It's checked to me. The button is a classic Crazian that I think will bet if it's checked to him, no matter what he has, and I'm hoping that if he does, one or both of the others will come along. I was right: he puts out $45. Original raiser folds. The jackass counts his chips three times, rechecks his cards, and pushes all-in for $129. Happy dance!

Now my dilemma is whether to just call or shove. The Crazian and I both have stacks of about $400, and, obviously, I'd like his to be shipped over to me. The most obvious play is to call, hoping that he'll either shove over the top trying to drive me out, or feel pot-committed and call my shove on the turn--because there is no card that can come on the turn that will inhibit me from shoving if I call and he calls behind here.

I eventually decided to push all-in. This was not because I wanted to force him out. Quite the contrary. I wanted it to look like I was trying to push him out, so that he would feel he was sniffing out a weak hand being overplayed to try to get heads-up. My hope was that he had pocket tens for an overpair, or maybe A-9 for top pair/top kicker, or, of course, a smaller set, and would take the bait. Sadly, he folded. In retrospect, I think it was a blunder on my part. I think I overthought the situation and tried to reverse-psychology him, when the obvious play would have been the right one.

But in any case, my set held up and I took the entire stack of the nasty man in seat 5. I don't know what he had. He kept claiming pocket jacks, but I know better because I caught a glimpe of his bottom card as he mucked, and it was an 8, 9, or 10, definitely not a face card. So I called him a liar to his face three times, after each time he insisted that he had jacks. I know--I shouldn't have, but I did. And it felt good. Some days I'm human. Get over it.

So now he and I have played three big pots together. He's a little ahead in total dollars, but I'm quite certain that I'm ahead in satisfaction.

My satisfaction was enhanced a bit when I was cashing out a short time later. There's a woman who works the floor a couple of days a week at the Palms. I not only knew her back from Hilton days, but she was actually the first employee of any poker room who learned my name (the first day I played at the Hilton), and she called me by name the next day when I returned, which impressed me. She was there today, and had watched the big hand go down, so I quietly told her the back story of why this felt so perversely rewarding. She confided, "I can't stand that guy!" She has had several previous problems with him acting uncouth (surprise, surprise!), harassing opponents, mistreating dealers, etc. So clearly my intensely negative impression of this obnoxious ass is not unique.

I wonder when I'll get a chance at him again.

(For a brief discussion of the origins of the "best served cold" phrase used in the title of this post, see here.)