Saturday, October 03, 2009

Deuce-four is always good, of course...

...but I admit that I've never seen it win quite like this before. See this Twitpic from David Stucke, whose 2-3 made three pair but lost to the mighty 2-4:

I'm going to Washington, D.C., and Atlantic City

My friend Cardgrrl has kindly invited me to come play some poker on her home turf: an assortment of tournament leagues, private home games, and underground raked cash games in the environs of Washington, D.C. I have accepted the challenge. The games begin Thursday, October 15, and run through Monday, October 26. I understand that I have at least a few readers among the denizens of those games, and it will be fun to meet and play with them. (I briefly met about seven of her "A league" crew when they were out here for the World Series in June, but I'll have to admit I was in a pretty down mood that day and probably didn't make a good first impression. I hope they'll forgive that and give me another chance.)

Plans include a side trip to Atlantic City the first weekend (Saturday, October 17, through Monday, October 19), on one of Cardgrrl's monthly Harrah's-sponsored bus junkets. Harrah's AC will be the main hang-out joint, but I'll see if I can persuade her to take a cab to the other part of town and try playing a bit at Caesars and/or Bally's and/or Showboat, since all should provide equal Harrah's credits. Besides, it will be a chance to add to my poker chip collection.

Any reader tips about the poker rooms, hotel/casino amenities, restaurants, sightseeing (if anything in Atlantic City can be so labeled), etc., will be warmly welcomed in the comments section.

Ever since I moved here, I have thought that I should take a week or at least weekend trip to other poker venues: Reno, L.A., or even little ol' Laughlin. But I just never get around to it. The plethora of poker rooms here just seems too cushy to provide much of an incentive to go anywhere else. I'm glad to finally get--and take--the chance to do so, especially with a travelling companion/poker pal as delightful as Cardgrrl.

(Map shot above nipped from the Atlantic City page of

Guess the casino, #284

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

Answer: M Resort

Friday, October 02, 2009

Guess the casino, #283

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

Answer: Fiesta Henderson

Poker gems, #315

Mike Caro, in Caro's Most Profitable Hold'em Advice, p. 301.

[M]astering the science of poker, both tactical and psychological, is only half the job. The other half is finding the world's weakest wimps and pouncing.

You can relax now

I'm sure all of you "Guess the casino" fans were sweating, because we were getting close to the end of the batch that I had prepared a couple of months ago. Would there be more? Well, you can breathe easy. I just spent the last couple of hours uploading the next batch. "Guess the casino" is now officially safe. They will continue to deploy one a day, usually at 1:00-2:00 a.m., at least until December 4 now, even if I were to die. (That's not in the plans, but ya never know.)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Poker gems, #314

Mike Caro, in Caro's Most Profitable Hold'em Advice, pp. 298-299.

At the first event at the 2006 World Series of Poker, I held 8-8 when the flop was 8-8-6. You're right. I lost to a straight flush. Couple this with a myriad of two- and three-card "miracles" with which opponents recently eliminated me from the rare tournaments I enter and I could get to feeling sorry for myself.

Now, are those sad stories, or what? At least one kibitzer thought so. On my way out the door at a tournament, he commiserated, "I saw that beat you took with the two jacks last time, too. You really get a lot of good hands beat, don't you?"

I said, "I think I get beat, on average, with better hands than almost anyone else."

He seemed surprised that I would say that. "So, you're usually unlucky?"

"No," I corrected, "I'm not unlucky at all."

"But you just said you got beat with big hands."

"That's right," I told him. "But I don't mind."

Moral of the story

Getting beat with bigger hands on average than your opponents is not a sign of misfortune. Aspiring professional players need to understand that. If you play skillfully, if you have a winning game plan, if you succeed, then you will absolutely lose, on average, with bigger hands than your opponents. That's because the hands you play are, on average, stronger.

Players complain about being drawn out on. Even world-class players complain about it. But, if you're a great player, you should be drawn out on much more often than other players. Why? Because you usually have the stronger hand to begin with. In fact, if you always started with the best hand against an opponent, then every single time you lost, you would take a bad beat. How else could you lose?

So, now you have new goals in poker.

Your New Goals

1. To have as many of your losing hands as possible be bad beats, and
2. To never complain about it.

Poker gems, #313

Mike Caro, in Caro's Most Profitable Hold'em Advice, p. 296.

I was almost convinced years ago to establish a 900 number that players could use to phone in their most miserable experiences at poker. A fully trained and sympathetic staff would, for $4.95 a minute, listen attentively.

Our skilled Bad Beat hotline employees would know precisely when to sigh empathetically, and when to use one of the three permitted responses: "Oh, my gosh, no!" "That's just awful!" and "I can't believe you didn't kill yourself after that hand!"

I caution players never to talk about their bad luck at the poker table. The reason is simple: Opponents are inspired by your bad luck. They then think of you as someone they can beat, and they play better against you. It's not a good idea to discuss your personal poker misfortunes, because that tends to reinforce the bad experiences, even in your own mind. At my seminars I explain how complaining about missing twenty-seven flushes in a row might actually make you want to miss the twenty-eighth one so that you can show your cards and say, "See, this is what I mean."

Guess the casino, #282

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

Answer: Venetian

People are rude and disgusting

No, that's not a new revelation to me. But I was reminded of the fact again tonight during the Mookie.

Look at this. My dear friend Cardgrrl, who got knocked out earlier, was watching me. When it was down to three-handed, it was clear that the other two players had it in for each other. They were raising each other light and shoving light, taunting each other in chat. At the same time, I was going through a card-dead phase: 10-3, 6-2, etc. So I decided to fold a lot more than I usually would, and let those two slug it out for a while. I was perfectly content to sit back and then take on one of them heads-up. Of course, I would have gotten involved if I got dealt something strong enough to go up against both of them with (because neither was in a folding mood), but that wasn't happening.

Anyway, that decision resulted in this chat exchange, spread out over maybe a dozen or so hands:

Full Tilt Poker Game #15046286357: The Mookie (109308627), Table 1

JOELPOKERGOD: Rake well folding up the money ladder like a girl lol
VBPro7 (Observer): yeah he sucks
cardgrrl (Observer): "like a girl"... what are you, an idiot?
cardgrrl (Observer): oh wait...
Rakewell: that would be yes
VBPro7 (Observer): nicejob Rake
VBPro7 (Observer): take these ROOKIES
cardgrrl (Observer): better a nit than a not-nice person
cardgrrl (Observer): :)
VBPro7 (Observer): id do cardgrrrl69
JOELPOKERGOD: lol il bluff her azz later
VBPro7 (Observer): i'd rather lick it
cardgrrl (Observer): you all lead very active fantasy lives
cardgrrl (Observer): gl with that
VBPro7 (Observer): she fiesty
VBPro7 (Observer): i wanna oil her up and chase her around
cardgrrl (Observer): better save the oil for your long lonely nights dude

(At this point, Mike Maloney knocks out JOELPOKERGOD.)

Mike_Maloney: I'd say gg, but, you kind of suck
JOELPOKERGOD (Observer): Go to hell ealier
VBPro7 (Observer): lol you KINDA suck
JOELPOKERGOD (Observer): lol
VBPro7 (Observer): how rude
JOELPOKERGOD (Observer): i do suck
JOELPOKERGOD (Observer): this is a tough game tho vb
JOELPOKERGOD (Observer): lol
VBPro7 (Observer): yeah right
VBPro7 (Observer): im just here for the women
JOELPOKERGOD (Observer): Rakewell is really bad

As long as I'll live, I will never understand (1) men being sexually crude to women just because they are women, and (2) people being nasty to each other for no discernible reason at all. It makes me want to shake them and say, "What the hell is wrong with you that you get pleasure from saying things like that?"

For all the good it would do.

And yes, I do realize that this snippet is fairly tame as such things are known to go. But I don't play online much, so I can usually be blissfully unaware of it.

I haven't tried to look up who JOELPOKERGOD or VBPro7 are, or whether they have poker blogs of their own, but really, guys--it's not funny, it's not cute, it doesn't make you look smart, it doesn't make you look superior. You show off what vile, stupid, pathetic, desperate people you are. It's not at all clear to me why you would want to do that. It's a form of psychopathology that I really don't get.

The overwhelming sense conveyed, to me at least, is that these are people who are seriously screwed up, and have somehow developed such a demented, warped view of the world and its inhabitants that they think this type of interaction is normal. Perhaps it's the only way they know of to behave. If so, that's just as sad as it is annoying.

Close, but not quite

I stayed home and played the Mookie tonight. First time I've ever cashed in it, and I came in second. Of course, with only 17 players, it's not exactly a world-class accomplishment.

It's hard to go deep in a tournament without getting insanely lucky at least once, and this one was mine. As far as I know, it was the only time I got a lot of chips in bad:

That guy had been a thorn in my side for a long time. He was always raising my blinds light, so this time I just called with my AK. I shoved the flop, he called, then I caught my 3-outer. Hee hee hee!

Other than that, I thought I played pretty well throughout. I didn't blow up, which is something of a novelty.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guess the casino, #281

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

Answer: Tuscany

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This would be me

So many diamonds!

I was playing a heads-up sit-and-go HORSE tournament with Cardgrrl a little while ago when this hand came up.

The diamonds just kept pouring in! If I've ever seen a seven-card flush in stud before, it didn't make enough of an impression that I remember it. This one even included four parts of a royal flush to boot.

How rare is it? Well, let's work it out. The first card can be anything, because I'm interested in the question of getting all seven cards from the same suit, not just in diamonds specifically. The second card obviously has to match the suit of the first, or the process is foiled from the get-go. There are 51 unseen cards left in the deck, of which 12 are of the same suit, so the probability of getting dealt a second one is 12/51. Similarly, to get the third card to match, it must be one of the now 11 remaining of that suit out of the 50 unknown cards.

Continuing that logic, the cumulative probability of getting the last six cards all to match the first card in suit is 12/51 x 11/50 x 10/49 x 9/48 x 8/47 x 7/46. That works out to 0.000051 (0.0051%), or about one time in 19,491 hands.

As a double-check that I didn't screw that up, I went at it a different way. There are 1716 different seven-card combinations that you can pull from a quarter-deck of 13 cards (e.g., all the diamonds), because C(13, 7) = 1716. There are four suits, so a total of 1716 x 4 = 6864 different seven-card combinations you can draw from a standard deck that will be seven-card flushes. The total number of seven-card combinations you can draw from a 52-card deck is given by C(52, 7), which Excel tells me is 133,784,560. Therefore, the probability of drawing seven cards at random and having it be one of the all-one-suit combinations should be 6864/133,784,560, which is--TA DA!--0.000051, exactly the same as with the first approach. That give me great confidence that I have the number right.

It's meaningless, of course, since there is no bonus for having a seven-card flush instead of a five-card flush. But it sure is pretty--and quite rare.

Guess the casino, #280

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

Answer: Red Rock

Dumb idea

Last night I watched the season's first installment of "The Amazing Race." I have watched this show most seasons, so I'm not tuning in just because they have a couple of poker players this time around. What can I say? I like it, and "Survivor," and "Big Brother." Sometimes my taste is hopelessly middle class.

Anyway, as most readers already know, Maria Ho and Tiffany Michelle are on it. They came up with a boneheaded idea: They were going to go the whole race without telling anybody about the poker thing. Instead, they cooked up a story that they worked in a Southern California nonprofit that served the homeless, or some such crock. Their idea was that if the other teams thought they were rich and didn't need the money, they would become targets and not get any help or sympathy.

Yeah, right.

As soon as they announced this plan, I knew it was doomed to failure. What's more, the reason it couldn't possibly work was so damned obvious that I am at a loss to understand why they thought the scheme would work. The flaw is this: They have both been on television way, way too much not to get recognized by somebody.

Surely they both have had people recognize them in, say, airports. And surely they have both watched the show in previous seasons enough to know that the contestants spend a lot of time in airports. Are they unable to put two and two together?

Sure enough, in the very first episode, it happens just like that. They ask a random stranger for a bit of help--in an airport, no less--and in addition to helping them, he says, "I know who you are," and outs them, where other teams can overhear.

Well, DUH! Of course that was going to happen. So now in addition to the negative effects that might come from other teams being jealous or resentful of their modest degree of success and fame in poker, they have the added burden of having started off the competition lying to everybody else's face, in a way that was trying to win good-guy points (helping the homeless). In other words, they got caught acting in what others will likely perceive not just as a game strategem akin to bluffing, but in a morally and socially reprehensible manner.

Brilliant, girls. Just brilliant.

I do not foresee this duo going far in the game.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Guess the casino, #279

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

Answer: Luxor

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Guess the casino, #278

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

Answer: Treasure Island

Miscellaneous stories and observations from the last couple of nights of poker


I played at the Sahara last night, for the first time in (checking records--hold on a sec) seven months. I was very surprised to find in my buy-in a couple of the chips shown above. In the three years I've lived here, the Sahara has never had even a single commemorative chip anywhere to be seen. I like such little treasures, of course. But I'm left wondering: With all of the events, holidays, conventions, etc., that have occurred in the past however-many years, was "Bikefest 2009" really the most significant one, the big thing that finally caused some executive in the casino to say, "By Jove, we have got to get us poker chips celebrating this"?


While I was playing at the MGM Grand tonight, my friend Cardgrrl was playing in a home game somewhere in the D.C. area. She posted a Twitpic along with this message: "Just win a big hand on this board. Can you guess what I had? Hint: Thanks @pokergrump :-)"

The photo was this:

In a text message to me, she confirmed that, yes, she really did have 2-4 offsuit there. What's more, she called a pre-flop raise with it! The pot she won was $80 or so. (They apparently use tournament chips in this game, devalued by a factor of 100.) I have no idea what the action was, or what her opponent held.

I was so proud of her. Naturally, I texted her right back to ask if she is now a believer, and if we would be seeing a conversion-story blog post. Her response: "Ummmm. Let's see... NAH!"

Sigh. She has plenty of evidence. See here, and here, e.g. But some people are just stubborn, I guess. With this refusal to accept the obvious fact that 2-4 is the most powerful hand in poker, I'm afraid that, as I have told her privately, she is good, but she will never become great. It's so sad.


Last December I blogged here about how the MGM Grand had been like Kryptonite to me, but that I had finally broken the curse with a win. A month ago I reported that it was continuing to be good to me.

I'm pleased to say that that trend continues. I have chalked up four winners in a row, averaging $252. I'm still at a net negative because the first few losses I had there (this was mostly back in 2006, after which I stayed away from the place for a long time) were unusually large ones. But the trend is clearly set.

This tends to confirm my suspicion that there wasn't anything really mysterious going on--it was just a result of variance acting all in one direction over a small sample set, perhaps combined, after the first two or three visits, with some subtle fatalism creeping into my mindset and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once those two things are broken, poker can get back to normal. (And, fortunately, for me, "normal" = "usually winning.") In fact, I'm kind of getting to like the joint. All signs point to it becoming a more frequent hangout for me.


One of the small things that will contribute to that happening is that this evening I discovered a different restroom. The most obvious one to use, right by the Stage Deli (incidentally, this is the same Stage Deli that sells wonderful GIANT COOKIES, to which I treat myself every time I play at MGM now), is small, cramped, usually overcrowded for its capacity, and not cleaned regularly enough. Using it has always been a distinctly unpleasant experience.

Tonight it was just too crowded to tolerate, so I decided to go in search of an alternative. Not knowing which way to turn, I just continued in the same direction--away from the poker room past the deli and restrooms. I was rewarded for my adventurousness. (Yes, looking for a different restroom in a casino is what counts as "adventure" in my life. Pathetic, eh?)

About 50 steps past the restrooms you come to the "West Wing Bar." Just walk right through it, enjoying the piano player/singer on the way, and on the other side you will find the bar's own set of restrooms. These are clearly not MGM Grand standard-issue, but designed to go with the bar. The lighting is low. There is actual decor inside--slate gray in the men's--with, of all things, real potpourri in wicker baskets between the sinks. The room is spacious, infrequently used (judging my my two trips tonight), and quiet. It makes for a surprisingly effective respite from the cacophony of the casino floor.

But don't tell anybody else, OK? Let's keep this our private little secret.


On the negative side, the MGM Grand's parking garage is right up there among the worst-designed of such structures in the city. I think it is topped in badness by the ones attached to Imperial Palace and Hard Rock, but it scores a solid third-worst. It's too late at night for me to feel like elaborating, but I'll just say that when I'm driving in it I feel lost, and when I'm a pedestrian in it I feel perpetually endangered by the vehicular traffic. That's not a good combination.


I had a major cooler of a hand last night at the Sahara. I had the top full house, and lost to a straight flush. There were only two exact two-card starting hands that had me beat: pocket 5s to make quads on this double-paired board, and the two cards that would complete the only possible straight flush. So, not surprisingly, my opponent and I raised and reraised each other on the river until we were both all in. I thought he might have the same hand I did, or a lower full house, or maybe even the nut flush. I saw the other two possibilties, but didn't want to fall prey to "monsters under the bed" syndrome. So I lost nearly all my chips.

I'm telling you this in order to comment about my opponent's reaction. First, when I called his all-in bet, I immediately showed my cards, without waiting for him. I don't usually do that, but just felt like it here. He gave me a mild slow-roll by issuing this speech before the reveal: "I have to apologize to you for this, sir." Then he showed the stone-cold nuts.

OK, so that was bad enough. But then he kept trying to assuage me. As he was stacking up the chips, and I was counting to see how little I had left, he called out to me to get my attention, then gave me a "nice hand" kind of table thump. He told me I played it fine and just got unlucky. He smiled and tried to get me to smile back.

Bollocks. I hate crap like that. Just leave me alone. You won, you have the money--can't you let it go at that? What are you, my mother or my therapist, feeling some need to make me feel less bad about handing over my stack? I mean, if he is actually feeling guilty about it (and I see no reason that he should--I certainly don't when I come out on the good side of such clashes), then give me the money back to get rid of the shame. But if you're not feeling guilty, then what's all the BS that seems designed to make you feel less bad about it?

Look, dude, you're not a sufficiently skilled emotional manipulator to be able to make such a loss sting any less than it does, so don't bother trying. Maybe I'm the only person in the world who feels this way, but you're adding to my annoyance rather than relieving it. (I doubt that that was his intention--he seemed like a genuinely nice person.) Besides, it's just not your job to make me feel better.

To add to my misery, it made me think of all the stuff I've read from Mike Caro about being the person at the table that the fishies don't much mind losing to--becoming their friend and confidante and supporter and cheerleader, so that they can continue to put their money in bad and not notice or not mind that that's what they're doing. Which made me wonder, "Is that what this guy is doing for me? Does he see me as the live one here, the one that needs TLC so as not to get mad or despondent and leave the game?" Because if that's what he was thinking, well, it just makes me even more irritated.

So here's my message: Just take the money and shut the hell up about it.