Saturday, August 15, 2009

Guess the casino, #235

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

Answer: Riviera

Dealers annoy me

Two stories from my Caesars Palace session today. I was not in either hand.


The final board was 10-10-8-8-10. There was no betting between the two players involved on the turn or river. First player shows 3-3 in the hole. He's playing the board, and it seems pretty obvious that the other guy will be, too, based on the lack of interest in betting. But the second guy is staring at the first guy's cards and the board. Most likely, he's temporarily confused by the three-pair thing, which always throws people off. The dealer is impatient, and signals for him to show his cards so he can (presumably) divide the pot and move on. The second guy is still holding back, looking dazed. The dealer's motions, then words, get increasingly insistent: "Turn over your cards!" The guy finally does. He has something like 6-7. Split pot, as predicted.

This dealer was in the wrong. As I have said here so many times that I feel like a broken record (and, by the way, how's that for a turn of phrase that is quickly losing any point of experiential reference among younger generations?), the decision at the end of a hand whether to table one's card or muck them unseen is a strategic one, just as much as betting/checking/raising are. The dealer is not allowed to influence this decision, any more than he is allowed to influence the betting. He can tell the player what his options are--show or muck--but he must not pressure the player to choose one over the other.

In this situation, the second player might have decided (wrongly) that his opponent's hand was better, mucked, and thus relinquished his claim to half the pot. He should be allowed to do so freely. If a player wishes to forfeit the winning hand or half of the pot on the basis of misreading his own hand, an opponent's hand, and/or the board, he is free to do so. Nobody is allowed to prevent him from making this kind of mistake any more than they would be allowed to coach him in whether to fold, call, or raise a bet.

This principle also applies, incidentally, when there has been a bet and call on the river. Often when the bettor is reluctant to show, the dealer will tell him that he has to show first. This is wrong. Again, the dealer should be neutral about which choice the player makes. His only encouragement should be something like, "Sir, it's on you to either show your cards or muck them." Remind him what his options are, and that the obligation is his to pick one of them, but don't force him one way or the other. Imagine how obviously wrong it would be for the dealer to tell the bettor in that scenario to muck his cards without showing them. It is equally wrong for him to tell the player to show them.


A few hours later we had another situation in which there was a full house on the board: 9-J-J-9-J. Three players checked it down on the turn and river. At the end, two of them turned their hole cards face up; both were playing the five cards on the board. The third guy said something like, "I'm playing the board just like everyone else," and returned his cards to the dealer face down, and the dealer duly mixed them into the muck.

The dealer then chopped the pot up three ways. I asked him, how could the player with a dead hand get part of the pot. The dealer said that he took the guy's statement about playing the board as an indication that he was claiming his share of the pot. I told him that the rule in every casino I know of is that one has to show one's cards to get part of the pot, even when playing the board. The dealer acknowledged that "technically" that was the rule at Caesars, too. (I emphasized that I didn't care how this pot was divided, since I wasn't in it, but I wanted to know the house rule for future reference.) I guess the dealer didn't feel much compulsion to follow the rule, even when he knew what it was.

So there's the strange dichotomy I saw today: One dealer going further than he should in pushing a player to expose his hole cards, followed a few hours later by another dealer not caring that a player didn't show them when the rules required that he do so in order to claim part of the pot.

See what messes and inconsistencies and contradictions get into the air when dealers are lax about the rules?

Poker gems, #305

John Vorhaus, in Card Player magazine column, August 12, 2009 (vol. 22, #16), p. 80.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. [Attributed to Confucius.] Impatient to move up? So impatient that you'll imperil your bankroll? Confucius would tell you to take a chill pill, or Confucian words to that effect. Life is long, and as long as you're seeing an upward trend in your learning curve, you can afford to take your time. Let's face it, poker is hard, and it gets harder the higher you play. Some people advance more quickly than others, but none of us can arrive anywhere before we get there. To jump philosophers for a second, John Fortescue said, "Comparisons are odious." Your path is your path, not mine or anyone else's. If you're satisfied with your progress, that's enough.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I just discovered this

Somebody made an animated movie out of a rant I did a few months back about UltimateBet:

Guess the casino, #234

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

Answer: Plaza

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Self-defeating behavior

I was just browsing through some recent posts on when I found this comment from somebody who is looking forward to trying Harrah's new daily deep-stack tournament:

I love playing poker tourneys. I'm ok at them too, having even won a couple
and cashing at at least 1 every trip to Vegas.For me they are a way to make my
gambling budget spread longer. I am not a good cash games player, but I still
play....and I LOVE the slot machines too....though they always seem to rob me
blind! .... LOL.

As much as I would love to play the big Venetian or Wynn tourneys, to be
honest I am VERY intimidated to go into these rooms. I have played at both those
rooms before in the cash games and been berrated for cards I choose to play and
had people comment and laugh at the way I play and question my reasoning for
playing certain hands. It's very upsetting, my money, my cards, my
choices....BUT....I always end up leaving places like that wishing I never even
went in for some fun and relaxation.

I am looking forward to playing in this tourney when I stay at Harrahs on
my up and coming solo trip from the 26th September. Harrahs has always been a
welcoming place with staff that are second to none, the atmosphere is casual and
fun and not the least bit intimidating.....

(Ellipses in original.)

It is hard to express how pissed off this kind of thing makes me. I realize that complaining about the morons in poker who ridicule and scare away the recreational, inexperienced players is really old. I've done it myself a few times already (in fact, I have a label just for such posts when I remember to use it--which isn't always--here), and you can find such rants in plenty of other places.

But this crap still goes on. I feel a kind of moral obligation to denounce it at every opportunity, and invite and remind other serious poker players that we have to police ourselves against it. If you see or hear a weak player being shamed, scolded, or criticized for bad play, you owe it to yourself and to the entire poker community to do what you can to stop it. Don't contribute to the negative tone by responded harshly at the table, but do something. Get the dealer or floor to enforce the poker room's policy against treating other players with disrespect, or pull the offender aside and remind him or her that the less experienced players are the source of money in the poker economy, and they are to be gently, lovingly nurtured, rather than stomped on and chased away.

Also, talk to the offended player. Tell him or her something like, "Don't pay any attention to him. He's just mad because he lost. You did just fine."

As I quoted Mike Caro recently,
Chastising opponents for playing bad is stupid. In fact, in every case ever
recorded in the history of poker, it's a whole lot more stupid than the play
being chastised.

A few pages earlier in Caro's Most Profitable Hold'em Advice, Caro tells us how he handles bad players (pp. 261-2):
When you boast about the pots won by weak players with horrible hands, you
feed their ego. They may try to live up to their "legend" statures, especially
since you have praised them, rather than criticized them, for their weak play.

For example, "I wish I could play like Harvey! That guy can take 10-9 and
win the biggest pots! He knows exactly when to do it. It's not what you play,
it's how you play." Then look Harvey directly in the eyes, and say sincerely, "I
really mean it. I've seen you do it so many times. It's a joy to watch."

Say stuff like that and learn to mean it and your rewards will be much
greater than if you make Harvey uncomfortable about occasionally winning with
weak hands. You want to encourage his poor play, not discourage it.

Similarly, on pp. 146-147 he advises,
Instead of criticizing a hand that beats me, which is a mistake some pros
make, I often say, "Wow! I didn't think you had that. Believe it or not, I won
twice with that same hand yesterday. I don't always play it, but I'm surprised
it's winning so often. Maybe it's the hand of the month!" Laugh and have fun.
Think about how different this attitude is from one that makes your opponents
uncomfortable about playing poorly. When you ridicule opponents for poor play,
they play better in the future, because they don't want to suffer that same
ridicule again. So, what have you accomplished?

Also, think about how many extra weak calls you might win from this
opponent in the future, just because you've shown you won't be critical of bad
play and simply because he likes you!

That's right! Opponents will give you extra calls with borderline hands
simpy because they like you! But this will only happen if they also think that
you are not painful to lose to and that you gamble, too.

It seems ridiculous to have to point this stuff out, it's so obvious. But this criticism of bad players goes on all the freakin' time, and it takes money out of my pocket every time it happens. It takes money out of the pockets of those doing the ridiculing, too, but apparently they're too stupid to see that, or the sick pleasure they get out of verbally beating up on another player is worth more to them than the money they're losing.

I'll admit that I haven't reached a Caro-like ability to rejoice in being beaten by a combination of bad play and bad luck. I can't sound genuine congratulating somebody on pulling off a horrible suckout against me. But (1) I do manage to maintain a diplomatic silence, and (2) when I'm not the victim, I can throw in a supportive and sincere-sounding "Nice hand" or "Well played" to the lucky fish, thus trying to do my part to keep him or her in the game and playing exactly the same way in the future.

If I ran a poker room, berating another player for playing badly would be grounds for immediate expulsion from the room--no warnings, no second chances, no excuses. People are trainable; they can conform their behavior to what is required of them. If it becomes known that this penalty is swifly and uniformly enforced, players will behave themselves. As I wrote last year, even Phil Hellmuth proved that he can contain his venom when it has been made clear to him that the consequences of failure to do so will be real.

It falls on all of us who care about keeping the poker economy healthy and full of fish and new money coming in to be vigilant at stomping out the sort of behavior described in the AVP post. Yes, it's uncomfortable, but it's necessary. The few bad actors who scare away the weakest players seriously hurt us all, and we have to be diligent at making such detrimental conduct not tolerated for one second, anywhere, anytime, for any reason.

"Predictably Irrational" reconsidered

A couple of weeks ago I posted a brief review of Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational. I said that I hadn't found anything relevant to poker in it. I think that conclusion was premature. The lessons taught in the book have continued to turn over in my mind during idle moments, and I see more poker implications than I did at first.


One of them, in particular, should have been obvious to me when I was writing the original review. In chapter 5, Ariely discussed "The Influence of Arousal"--how we tend to make much worse decisions in emotionally charged environments than we do when we are calm and detached from the situation. What's more, we make decisions that in our calm state we confidently predict we would never make under any circumstances. The particular experiment described in most detail involves male college students who were asked to answer questions about what they found sexually appealing and whether they would be inclined to engage in many different sexual activities. Later, they were placed in circumstances that would virtually ensure that they were in a sexually aroused state, and asked the same questions again. The answers changed quite dramatically. For example, the portion answering affirmatively to "Can you imagine being attracted to a 12-year-old girl" rose from 23% to 46%. The portion answering affirmatively to "Would you keep trying to have sex after your date says 'no'?" rose from 20% to 45%. The portion answering affirmatively to "Would you always use a condom if you didn't know the sexual history of a new sexual partner?" fell from 88% to 69%.

I think we have all experienced similar distortions in our perspectives when playing poker. Away from the table, in calm, rational cogitation about the game, we know what starting hands are profitable; we know how to tell when our pocket aces are likely to be no good; we know that we shouldn't keep playing when we are tired or angry or otherwise tilting. But then we get into the poker environment, and many of the commitments we made to ourselves--about playing tight-aggressive, about not trying to play from out of position, about stop-loss or win limits--go out the window. After an hour of being dealt unplayable hands, that 8-4 offsuit suddenly seems to have some real potential. Boredom, frustration, anger, and, conversely, the elation of an unusual lucky streak, can all take their toll of the soundness of our decisions. It is an insidious process.

Being aware of it is a necessary first step to combating it. More important, though, is to set specific, inviolable rules for oneself that take precendence over decisions made in the heat of the moment--hence the wisdom of things like rules for when you will leave the table (after a certain amount of loss or win, after a certain amount of time, after the game gets uncomfortably short-handed, after you start yawning--whatever you might set for yourself). If you are prone to a patterm of making the same kinds of bad decisions during the course of a poker session, you have to set such rules for yourself, admitting to yourself that you know you tend to make bad decisions, and the rules are a safety net preventing the adverse consequences of such decisions. (Of course, if you're immune to such things, then never mind.)

As an example of what I'm talking about, one of my personal rules is that after two consecutive losing days of poker, I must take a day off from live play. It helps me break the cycle of chasing losses with bad play in a desperate effort to catch up or get back to even. I enforce this on myself rigorously, even when that "next day" is one on which I don't have any other commitments and could put in a lot of hours, and even when I'm feeling well grounded and untilted. I have learned not to trust myself to make such judgments well after two losing days, so I take the day off, mentally hit "reset," and I'm able to start fresh the next day. I suspect that this rule has saved me a ton of money in what would otherwise have been third straight losing days due to marginal play that I wouldn't have recognized as such until after it was too late.


In Chapter 4, Ariely discussed "The Cost of Social Norms." For example, you have a lovely Thanksgiving dinner at your in-laws' house. Then you offer to pay for what you ate, as if you had been in a restaurant. This will, of course, insult your hosts and cause you never to be invited back. As another example, you might well be able to get professionals to donate their time to some good cause, but if you offer to pay them a reduced rate for the work, they turn it down. Why would somebody be willing to work for free, but not for a rate far below what they usually charge? Because if they feel that they are donating their time to something they believe in, they feel good about themselves. If they get paid a pittance, they tend to feel that they have just made a bad bargain. Ariely spends a lot of time discussing situations in which the social norms (e.g., your willingness to help a neighbor move a new couch into his house) can conflict with business norms (in which you charge your neighbor the same hourly rate that a professional mover would get for helping with the couch). The results are interesting, but you'll have to read the book for more detail.

But you can probably see how this applies to poker. Mike Caro is big on becoming especially friendly with the player on your immediate left, because that is the one that is in the best position to hurt you. Buy him a drink or a cup of coffee. Go out of your way to make nice with him. It might cause him to check or call when he would otherwise raise, or in other ways be less aggressive in his play with you than he should be and than he would otherwise be, thus saving you money. We've all seen players say things like, "OK, it's a friendly game, and you're a nice guy, so I'm just going to check," then turn over the stone cold nuts. These players are allowing the business norms that are supposed to govern how smart, serious poker players approach the game to get mixed up or contaminated with the social norms that tell us to be nice to each other, not to kick a guy when he's down, and so on. Predation on the weak is an essential part of winning poker, but it conflicts with our social upbringing. We can manipulate others to confuse these roles and perspectives to their detriment. We can be vigilant not to allow such admixture in our own game, thus maximizing profit.

One of the best posts my friend Cardgrrl has ever written was on this very subject--the dichotomy between the traits of successful poker players and the social norms that prevail everywhere else. It's called "On Being Bad," and it's worth a read, or a reread.


One of the psychological traits Ariely discusses that most surprised me was the tendency to overvalue things that we already own (Chapter 7: "The High Price of Ownership"). It is commonly observed, for example, that home owners always think the house is worth more than prospective buyers do. This isn't just trying to get maximal return; they really feel, deep down, that the house is worth more than it actually is (assuming that actual value is determined by what somebody else is willing to pay).

The most interesting experiment described in this section involves college students who enter a lottery for the chance to purchase tickets to Duke basketball games. The process is elaborate. The details don't matter here, except for this: Some students get to buy tickets, others don't. The question is, how much will the tickets be valued by those who have just purchased them, compared to how they will be valued by those who wanted to purchase them, but weren't picked in the lottery? It turns out that the discrepancy is huge. Tickets owners, when surveyed, said that their asking price would be an average of about $2400. Lottery losers, on the other hand, said that they would only be willing to pay an average of $170. Remember that very shortly before, both groups were presumably equally interested in owning the tickets.

In short, we tend to overvalue what we already possess.

How does this apply to poker? This is what I've been spending quite a bit of down time at the table thinking about. I believe it comes into play in several ways.

Consider how some players physically separate the chips they bought at the beginning of the session from those thay they have won since starting the game. They mentally treat them very differently. If making a questionable call requires only the chips they won, they are far more likely to be willing to make the call than if it requires that they dip into the buy-in chips. Mentally, it seems, they haven't fully taken ownership of the chips they have won (perhaps because they haven't yet been converted into cash). But the ones they bought from the casino cage--those, they are acutely aware, represent money that they brought with them to the poker room. They are fully invested in ownership. They value those chips more than the ones they have won, even though there is no difference in cash value.

To be a winning player, you have to think of and treat chips as tools for acquiring more chips, and disregard their real-world equivalent monetary value. You have to remember that each chip in front of you might win you two or three when the opportunity presents itself for a double-up or triple-up--but you have to be able and willing to risk losing them all in pursuit of such opportunities. If you overvalue the chips you have, and hold on to them like a miser, you'll miss chances to get more of them.

Another example: When you look down and see pocket aces, I'll bet that whether you consciously realize it or not, you start to feel ownership of the pot that is to develop. You feel entitled to it; it's rightfully yours. I think this is part of why players have such a hard time letting go of aces and kings--they value raking in that pot more than is justified by its real monetary value combined with the probability that they hold the best hand, because they have prematurely taken mental possession of it, and it's hard to let it go once that process has begun.

I think the same sort of thing explains some tournament players. They are unwilling to take appropiate and necessary risks that might propel them deeper in the tournament because (1) they over-value the chips they currently have, and (2) if they are in the money, they over-value the payout they have already won compared to what they could win if they played more fearlessly.

It may be that in at least some circumstances we value new things more than old. Think about how one treats the new car--waxing it every weekend, not allowing any food to be eaten in it, freaking out when the first inevitable scratch or ding occurs. Over time, we get careless. Children are notorious in this regard with Christmas presents--they play with them intensely, then later neglect them and won't notice if they're sold at a garage sale.

I think there is something akin to this with poker chips, at least for some players. Just tonight I was playing at Imperial Palace, and a woman had taken a big hit early on, then won a big pot that got her back to approximately even. Soon thereafter, she had an opportunity for a triple-up if she called all-in bets from a two opponents. She had a pair and a flush draw, which tends to be a pretty good spot to make such a call. But after thinking about it for a while, she mucked her cards face up and said, "I should call, but I just got these chips back."

In other words, it actually mattered to her how long she had had ownership of the chips. The implication is that if she sat there and folded every hand for an hour and then this situation arose, she would have been more willing to gamble. But, of course, the actual value of the chips wouldn't be any different, nor would the analysis of whether the call was one with a positive expected return.

Anyway, as you can tell, I have come to think that the psychological truths that experimenters like Ariely are uncovering about the flawed ways in which we all tend to make decisions do, in fact, have repercussions at the poker table, if one thinks about it enough. There are undoubtedly many more such examples. I will continue to mull it over, and if I come up with more, I'll do another post along these lines. Readers are, of course, encouraged, as always, to contribute further suggestions via the comments function.

Guess the casino, #233

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

Answer: Palms

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No good deed goes unpunished

Monday night at the Venetian the table was joined by an elderly gentleman who spoke with a German accent. I was in seat 2, he in seat 3. He appeared confused at times. For example, when he first sat down, he pulled a bunch of Bellagio chips out of his pocket and looked like he was planning to play using those, until a chip runner came over and offered to get him some Venetian chips. He was also frequently confused about whose turn it was and how much the bet was to him.

He bought in for $300, and gave almost all of it away on his very first hand. He had something like $25 in chips left. He told the dealer that he wanted to buy more chips--"whatever the most I can get is." The dealer told him he could buy another $300.* He said OK.

The next hand got underway. I wasn't in it. A chip runner came to the table, and the player handed him two $100 bills. The dealer did not notice the transaction. I did, but I thought it was highly unlikely to matter in this hand, so I could wait until the hand was over to call the dealer's attention to it. I mean, what are the chances that this guy is going to lose nearly $300 on his first hand, and then get more than $200 deep into the very next hand as well, when typical pots are $60 or less?

But soon after I thought this, one player made a $50 bet at the flop, another player called, and the old guy called. Ruh-roh. Turn card came. Woman bet $50 again, second player called, and action was back to the man on my left. That's when I spoke up, because now it seemed not only plausible but likely that the amount he had behind was going to become an issue in this hand.

So I stopped the action and pointed out to the dealer that the man had seemed to indicate at first that he wanted to buy in for another $300, but had told the chip runner $200, and had handed him that amount. There was a little back-and-forth between the dealer and the player. Fortunately, the dealer was (correctly) firm about holding the guy to the $300 that he had stated before the hand began. During this exchange, the chip runner brought the requested $200. But the guy still seemed confused about what the problem was. Finally in exasperation he asked the dealer, "What do you want me to do?" The dealer said, "Put another $100 on the table." The guy seemed disgusted, but he complied. (Incidentally, he was peeling these C-notes from an ENORMOUS roll of them. So it's not like he was straining his budget here.)

As he did so, he turned to me and snidely asked, "Satisfied?"

I ignored him. After all, there was still a hand in progress. Besides, I couldn't see why he should be irritated at me. I had no dog in the fight. It's just that I was the only one (apparently) aware of a situation that looked like it was about to become a big mess, and I had tried to get it resolved before that happened. I didn't care how it got resolved, other than that it slow down the game and inflame tempers as little as possible. I had no idea who was most likely to win the hand, so I also had no idea whether this guy was better off with the bigger or smaller stack. Heck, maybe he had the nuts and I was increasing his profit by making sure that his opponents could not claim that an all-in from him was just $225 or so.

But he wouldn't drop it. He was looking right at me, and said, with undisguised nastiness, "Sir? Are you satisfied now?" It seemed that he wasn't going to take his turn until I answered him, so I said, "I was just trying to prevent a problem before it started. Everything is fine."

And with that, the guy folded. Obviously, he had to complete his little drama before taking that step. As soon as I interceded, which was when it was his turn, he could have saved everybody a lot of time and hassle by either folding or telling the dealer, "I'm out of this hand now anyway." Then the other people in the hand could have continued it, and he and the dealer could have resolved the issue between hands. That's how a sane and polite person would have handled the situation.

The guy was confused about a lot of things, but my clear impression was that his delay of the hand was an entirely deliberate bit of spite because he was miffed that I had stuck my nose into what he considered to be none of my business. He played one more hand--in which he won a ridiculous sum on a three-way all-in, when his top pair/mediocre kicker was shockingly the best hand--then racked up his chips and left in a huff.

You meet all sorts of weirdos at the poker tables of Las Vegas.

*The posted table maximum buy-in is $300. It is possible, though, that they have a rule that one can add on the full $300 buy-in if one has dropped below, say, $50. I don't know this, but at least some other places have such an exception to the buy-in cap, and that would explain why the dealer told him that he could buy another $300, rather than buying up to a max of $300.

Guess the casino, #232

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

Answer: Mirage

Vegas after people

The History Channel has a series called "Life After People," which is about how the earth would (will?) change when humans cease to exist--say, if we were all wiped out by disease or famine or war. (Cheery topic, eh?)

Several weeks ago they had an episode that was specifically about Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and how they would fare when uninhabited by people. (Sorry about the delay in bringing it to your attention. I taped it when it first aired, but then didn't get around to watching the tape until last night.) The timeline starts with Day 1, then progresses through hundreds of years. E.g., a few days in the power fails and the figures at Madame Trussaud's start to melt.

Interestingly, they estimated that the Vegas casinos would last somewhere between 200 and 300 years with no maintenance before collapsing from deterioration of their structures. In Atlantic City, it would undoubtedly be a lot less than that because of the pounding from the ocean, salt water in the air, etc.

Anyway, you can see more excerpts from the show here. If you missed it, it's worth checking the schedule, as it will inevitably be shown several more times. I found it quite interesting.

Hurtin', but it was worth it

Today was a no-poker day. They say it's good to have those once in a while.

A dear friend and I went for picnic and hiking at Mt. Charleston. Specifically, we had lunch in the Cathedral Rock picnic area, then selected the Mary Jane Falls trail to hike. You can read about the whole wilderness area here, and see a detailed map here. You can get an overview of hiking in the area and buy detailed trail maps here.

I tell you, I am hurting. My friend and I are both out of shape. I didn't have much problem in terms of the cardiopulmonary stuff, huffing and puffing, etc., which kind of surprised me because this trail starts at about 7600 feet and rises another 900 by the time you get to the falls. but my legs are killing me. She didn't have this problem so much--but then again, I'm 14 years older than she is. Plus, this is coming from a guy who feels put out if I have to walk 200 yards from my parking spot to the poker room. Tomorrow, I fear, the pain will be monumental.

The trail guide says that this trek is 2.4 miles round trip, but it seemed about twice that to me. The guide also gave an estimated time of 1 hour round trip. Well, it took us a full hour just to come down! The guide is clearly written for much more experienced hiking enthusiasts, so take it with a grain of salt.

I took a zillion photos, which you can browse here. There's a lot of repetition, largely because I was using a different camera than I have used before, so I was experimenting with its settings and capabilities. In the ones where you don't see much, look more closely, and you might find a little chipmunk or hummingbird in the frame that was the target (but couldn't get very close without scaring them off).

Scenery was stunningly gorgeous. Sky was the bluest I've ever seen anywhere. Weather was perfect--entirely comfortable in short sleeves. And the company was first-rate. We were planning to watch a DVD movie at her place after the hike, but I was too tired and sore--just wanted to get home and shower off the trail dust, sweat, and the SPF 8000 sunscreen (advertising slogan: "Like wearing aluminum foil, but less noisy!").

Back to normal routine tomorrow. Except that I'll be in a wheelchair.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Guess the casino, #231

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

Answer: Flamingo

Monday, August 10, 2009

Guess the casino, #230

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

Answer: Caesars Palace

"Face the Ace," second time around

The second installment was as bad as the first, but, as a bonus, we added:

-- An extra-annoying contestant, a woman who (A) would never stop giggling, (B) could not stop fawning over Gus Hansen.

-- Atrocious grammar from the announcers, specifically saying of the first contestant that Gavin Smith "stood between he and a million dollars." (Assignment for the on-air talent: Review 5th-grade lessons in use of pronouns.)

-- Horrible poker. The giggling player admittedly suffered a cooler when she had top two pair to Hansen's flopped full house. But rather than get it all in, she saved herself the grand sum of three big blinds. Then on the next hand, she has the button, has ace-rag, and just CALLS the big blind rather than shoving her last 3 BB stack in. WTF??? How did she get a seat on this show? It surely couldn't have been by playing POKER!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Guess the casino, #229

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

Answer: Mandalay Bay