Saturday, December 05, 2009

Charity tournament at Binion's

Mere minutes ago I was at Binion's. I happened to hear the announcement of the start of a charity poker tournament, so I wandered over to see who might be playing. It was a small event--just three tables.

You might be able to spot Todd Brunson, Angela Brunson (second photo, back to camera, black leather jacket and beret, next to photographer), Tom McEvoy, Hoyt Corkins, T. J. Cloutier, Kathy Liebert, and Amir Vahedi. Barbara Enright was also there, but hidden behind other people so she didn't show up in any of the pics I took. (See the guy with the green and white striped shirt in the second photo? See half of a platinum-blondish looking head just past him? That's her.)

My life is just endless excitement, as you can plainly see.


LOL. I posted the above, then went to check my Twitter feeds. Got these two right at the top:

ToddBrunson I'm at Binions playing a charity tournament 10 minutes
ago from txt

ToddBrunson Playing with Tom macavoy, Tj cloutier, Cathy liebert, Barbara
enright, max, some wife and vinnie Favorito 7 minutes ago from txt

(Todd could use a little work on his spelling.)

Poker gems, #332

Steve Zolotow, in Card Player magazine column, December 2, 2009 (vol. 22, #24), p. 78.

Avoiding getting involved with trouble hands, especially for a large opening raise with bad position, takes no particular poker skill except discipline, but it will have a bigger impact on your bottom line than making the occasional great laydown or the heroic bluff-catching call. And, it is a lot easier to do correctly.

Guess the casino, #347

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

Answer: Mandalay Bay

Friday, December 04, 2009

I'm available--cheap

I plan to be playing in the bloggers' tournament at Caesars Palace next Saturday. There is a last-longer challenge, for three-person teams, with a huge overlay provided by the wonderful folks at PokerStars. See here for details. I am not a part of any team, but would like to be. I'm not picky--I'll accept whoever will take me on! If any of my readers are similarly situated, and wouldn't mind teaming up with a guy who has about equal potential to go deep and to inexplicably blow up in the first level, send me a note.

Triple-up with deuce-four

A reader I know, but who wishes to remain anonymous, e-mailed me the following excellent tale:

Venetian 1/2NL last week about 10pm - good table. I was on the button with 2-4
hearts and called a small raise from a wild UTG player and really tight guy.
Flop was 722 rainbow. Bingo. tight guy had AA and really liked his hand. Didn't
see what wild guy had but claimed a big pair. Wild guy bets out flop, tight guy
raises, I call. Wild guy goes all in. Tight guy goes all in. I go all in. About
$240 ish each for a nearly $700 pot. I tripled up. Doubling up sure. But I can
only count a couple times in my life when I've tripled up close to a full buy
in. Wow.

Wow indeed! That surpasses my best 2-4 win, which would have been this hand from August, 2007. I think that pot was around $600. (I note with some shame that that post was early in my understanding of the power of the 2-4, and I referred to it there as a "stupid" hand. I trust that I have since been forgiven by the poker gods for my blasphemy.)

Nh, wp, sir!


I just woke up, and the temperature monitor on my computer says it's 29 degrees outside. That can't be right. This is Las Vegas, in the desert, where it's always warm. It's against the law for it to drop below freezing.

Must be time to get a new computer. This one is obviously broken.

Guess the casino, #346

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

Answer: Venetian

New tower at Golden Nugget

After playing (badly) at the Golden Nugget tonight, I swung by their new tower to see what all the fuss was about. It's pretty nice, all right.

If you want to see more and better photos, I recommend Vegas Rex's post about the opening last week.

Downtown Las Vegas wishes you a merry Christmas

That is all.

I win a $9 pot

I played at the Golden Nugget tonight. I knew it had been a long time since I played there, but I was surprised when I got home and looked it up--it was December 24, 2008. Basically, every time I think about going there, I end up making a last-second change of plans and veering over to Binion's instead. I not only like Binion's poker room better, but I have a much better track record there.

But GN just opened a new wing, and photos I've seen of it looked nice, so I decided to make an exception and play there instead and take a look at the new place while there.

The first hand I played is shown above. My J-10 of spades fit nicely with the 4s-8s-9s flop, and the Qs on the turn made the whole thing just seem to glow.

Sadly, though, I couldn't win the $137 jackpot. I bet $3 (tiny bet, trying to induce a call, so that I might squeeze in another tiny bet on the river), and neither opponent called. Total pot was just $9, and there's a $20 minimum to qualify for the jackpot.

I showed the hand anyway--it's too pretty to keep to myself. Everybody at the table--and I mean everybody including the dealer--chided me for not speaking up and thereby inducing somebody to call. Nobody seems to care that it is explicitly against the bonus rules in every place that I know of (including GN) to talk about the possibility of a jackpot during the hand.

I discussed the rules and ethics and pragmatic problems about this issue last year when I missed the jackpot requirement at the Palms by $1. My feeling remains the same. I would feel worse about gaming the system by trying to use some manipulative code word or other shenanigans than I do about having missed out on the bonus money. Even if the dealer says it's OK, it's not. (See here for the story of a dealer who honorably and admirably refused to bend the rules for himself.)

Overall, it was just a whole heckuva lot less fun than the last time I had a straight flush, about three months ago.

Predictably, that was the high point of my luck for the session. It was all downhill from there. Next time, it's back to Binion's.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Poker gems, #331

Phil Ivey, on how his tournament play changed for the 2009 World Series of Poker, as quoted in Michael Craig's blog here.

I introduced the fold into my game this year and they had no idea what hit them.... Next year comes the check-call.

Baby steps

I have written here, more than once, about how Mike Caro has convinced me many times over that I really should try to be more socially engaging with other players at the poker table. But I have also told you about how this is just about the most difficult thing one could ask of me.

My friends seem able to do this. I have watched Cardgrrl slip into the social butterfly role with apparent ease. (She has written about it several times, e.g., here and here.) F-Train, too, has recently been writing about his conscious attempts to be livelier and more engaging to his customers (see here and here.) Even C.K., for whom I think small talk with strangers comes more easily than it does for F-Train or me, has experimented with deliberately altering her table image away from that of the stone-cold killer you'd judge her to be if you paid attention only to her play (see here).

During my Sunday morning session at the Venetian this week I overheard the guy next to me tell somebody else that he was from Washington, D.C. This naturally made me wonder if perhaps he plays in some of the same games as Cardgrrl, so I started asking him about poker in that city. It led to talking about his job (computer geek for the FBI), politics (a fellow libertarian), etc.

Yesterday at Binion's I noticed that another player at the table had a fabulous voice--rich, mellifluous, resonant, perfect diction with just a touch of Southern twang. In one hand, I had A-Q and raised, with him being the only caller. When I bet at the ace-high flop, he flashed his jacks before folding, then started to tell me about how he hated jacks. Now, long-time readers with elephant-like memories may recall that two years ago I ranted about how stupid it is to hate big pocket pairs--even jacks--because they are profitable. I concluded that little screed with the request that if you hate some particular hand, "just shut up about it." So you can see that I'm not inclined to listen to such complaints gladly.

But instead of cutting this guy off at the knees with either a retort about how stupid his remark was, or just responding with silence while I thought the same thing, I seized the moment to compliment him on his voice, noting that it's one that belonged on the radio. He smiled and said, "Thank you. I've made my living with it for the last 30 years." He went on to tell me about his voiceover work, etc.

So now that's twice within the space of a week that I have gone out of my way to engage a fellow player in trivial chit-chat between hands. And y'know what? It only hurt a little itty bitty bit.

Guess the casino, #345

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

Answer: Venetian (Thanks to Cardgrrl for the photograph.)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

When what to my wondering eyes should appear...

Mere minutes ago I was walking home after a short but successful session at Binion's (I have a big task at home that I've been procrastinating for too long, and simply must tackle it tonight, so I had to settle for a hit-and-run), when I noticed a video camera and spotlight trained on somebody, with a small crowd gathering around. I stopped to see what was going on.

It was none other than Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton.

As I overheard it, the crew was from "CBS Sunday Morning," doing a feature on Newton because there is some sort of museum or display--in New York City, I think--opening this week that has him in it. Sorry I can't give you more details; they weren't exactly handing out press releases, I had to just hear snippets of information here and there. It's entirely possible I got caught in the background in some shots, though I wasn't trying to--I was trying to get on the same side of him as the camera!

I lived in Las Vegas for two years back in 1980-1982, and even then I remember hearing rumors that Newton was starting every show with an apology for his raspy voice, blaming it on a "cold." Apparently his singing voice has completely fallen apart over the ensuing years. The critics are not being kind to his latest (and allegedly last) show, at the Tropicana. This one notes that he heard Newton make excuses for the rough voice back in 1995, while this one says that the voice is "ghastly," "like the Vegas Chainsaw Massacre," and notes that the man "can barely speak, let along sing."

It's sad. Every time I walk to or from one of the downtown poker rooms I pass this plaque in the street, at the southwest corner of Fremont and 7th:

Fifty years is a long time to be performing more or less continuously, at one venue or another, in Vegas. Gotta give the guy credit for longevity, and for knowing how to stretch his time well past the allotted 15 minutes of fame.

Then again, there's something to be said for a dignified retirement. One of the keys to successfully playing poker for a living is knowing how to quit while you're ahead. I'm guessing that Wayne Newton doesn't play a lot of poker.

Guess the casino, #344

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

Answer: Treasure Island

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

City Center opening

The Vdara part of the ginormous City Center complex had its official opening today. As usual with such things, I think the best photos and commentary are to be found at Vegas Rex's blog--see here.

The Aria hotel/casino is slated to open December 16. I'm sure I'll get there eventually, but I feel done with trying to be one of the first in the door on opening day. I did that for the Eastside Cannery and Aliante Station, but it just wasn't worth the hassle of fighting traffic and crowds. With the M Resort, I got there a few days after the grand opening, and that worked out fine. I expect that Las Vegas Michael and others will be among the first to post early impressions of every new poker room on, but I'll no longer be trying to compete to be first. I hate crowds and traffic.

And speaking of traffic, the Las Vegas Sun has this useful article about how best to get to and into the City Center complex, as well as how to avoid the traffic congestion it will undoubtedly generate if it is not your destination. I was surprised--and a little disgusted--to learn some key facts: (1) There is only one self-parking garage for the entire complex. (2) To access this garage, you must enter the complex from the Strip--no back-roads way into it. (3) There is, however, a convenient back-roads entry to the valet services. (4) If the accompanying map is correct, you can only get to the parking garage from southbound Las Vegas Boulevard, and only exit again going southbound. (But it's possible the sketch is wrong on this detail and there's actually an intersection that allows you to go to and from the place either direction. We'll see.)

I dislike valets. No, it's not that I'm trying to avoid tipping. It's just that I like the sense of freedom and independence from parking myself. I also hate waiting for the valet when I'm ready to go home. When I want to leave, I want to leave now, and sometimes it can be a very, very long wait for somebody to bring you your car. I can't stand that. I dislike the nuisance of taking the car key off of my key ring and putting it back on (and I think it's foolish to hand them all of your keys). Finally, I just don't like strangers driving my car. Even though it's an old beater, it's mine. I've had it for 17 years, since the day I drove it brand-new off of the dealer's lot, and I'm unduly possessive and territorial about it. The stupid valets also tend to fiddle with the driver's seat position and radio, which is beyond annoying. In short, I dislike everything about valets. I used to valet all the time when I first came to Vegas, but I gradually grew to hate the process, and swore off of it. Which is a long explanation for why I raise my eyebrows when I learn that the biggest hotel/casino complex ever to hit this city is entirely built around valet service, with self-parking being a grudging, ugly-stepchild concession to the masses. Dammit, free parking is the birthright of every Las Vegan! Don't tread on me!

Anyway, I'll get to the Aria poker room sooner or later, but this whole parking thing has me already casting a jaundiced eye on it.

Annals of nittiness, #1

I played for a while at the Rio last night. I have mostly been avoiding the place since early August, when I showed up to play and was turned away because they shut down their cash games for a daily freeroll tournament. I was curious to see how the character of the room had changed since implementation of this promotion. Sadly, my worst fears appeared to be borne out: it has become Nit Central. The entire poker room operation now revolves around local nits sitting stoically in their favorite seats, just putting in the hours toward the freeroll tournament. I will undoubtedly stop in there once in a while anyway, but it is a certainty that my frequency of visits is going to be much lower than it used to be, now that I know this. It's really a shame--the Rio used to be one of the most reliably action-oriented places on my circuit.

Anyway, the "You might be a nit if..." thread on to which I recently alluded has had me thinking lately about the phenomenon of the local nit, and the ridiculous things such people say and do. Last night was kind of a high point for that subject. There were two master practitioners at the table, and literally for the entire 90 minutes or so that I was there, all that these two talked about was promotions, comps, deals, coupons, discounts, freerolls, etc. It was like the poker version of one of those horrid web sites or magazines where people share their secrets for saving money by making their own soap from lye and leftover bacon grease.

One of the gentleman involved in the discussion took the cake, though, with his explanation of how to turn poker-playing into a crab legs feast. After 3:00 a.m., as I understand it, the Rio poker room gives $2/hour in food comps. Also, it takes only three hours per day to qualify for the daily freeroll. Then you need to know that the the Rio buffet routinely gives 50% off the price of the buffet to locals (just show your Nevada driver's license), which makes it about $6 for the lunch menu. Finally, you have to know that they charge the lunch price until 3:30, but you can stay through the transition and have access to the expanded dinner menu after that point without paying more. (Many buffets shut down for an hour or two between lunch and dinner hours, but not the Rio's.)

Combine these, and you see what this guy does: He comes in at 3:00 a.m. to play poker, stays three hours, earns his tournament entry and $6 in comps, returns at precisely 3:25 p.m., pays half price for the lunch buffet, then waits five or ten minutes until they start putting out the dinner menu, which includes the unlimited crab legs that he so covets.

I tell you, he was positively radiant telling the other nit about this marvelous discovery. He repeated at least four times some variant on this summation: "There is just no other place in town where you can play three hours of poker and earn a crab leg buffet!"

I, for one, have a hard time imagining a more miserable approach to playing poker.

The really bizarre part of this is the extent to which such people have mentally compartmentalized their poker dollars and their real-world dollars. They will go to these extraordinarily lengths to save a buck or two or six, but if they make a bad all-in call for, say, $100, oh well, that's how the game goes sometimes. It doesn't seem to occur to them that improving the quality of their play even a little bit would have far handsomer payoffs than all the penny-pinching promotion-whoring that they obsess over.

I'm going to keep my ears open from now on for further examples of extreme nittiness I encounter at the Vegas poker tables, and memorialize them with what I hope will turn into an ongoing occasional series here.

Incidentally, the photo above (taken from this page) is an actual nit (i.e., louse egg). I have looked at, oh, a few dozen of these under the microscope in my former life, and always thought they were kind of cool. The bad part of it, though, was that just seeing one always caused me to feel an unaccountable scalp itch for the rest of the day. Contact with poker nits does much the same thing, except that the creepy/itchy feeling is all over.

Binion's hotel closure might make me fat

If you pay any attention at all to Vegas news, you've already heard the announcement that Binion's will be closing the hotel part of its operations two weeks from today, December 14th. See, e.g., here.

This causes me a bit of a dilemma. You see, I spend a decent amount of time at the Binion's poker room. I don't write about it much, because usually nothing of much interest happens there. For reasons that I can't even begin to guess at, the sessions tend to be pretty boring, with probably fewer tweetworthy/blogworthy stories per hour than any of my other regular haunts. You might be surprised at the amount of time I accumulate there, given how little I say about the place.

I checked today, and I have $137 in food comps on credit, even though I eat at the coffee shop with some regularity. That is, I accumulate comps a lot faster than I use them.

I didn't care too much to learn that the hotel is closing. As long as the poker room is going to stay open, I'm happy.

But then I learned that the coffee shop is part of the closure, and experienced a moment of panic. Sure, the stupid "cafe" thing on the main floor will stay open, but it's crummy, with a very limited menu. There's also the steakhouse, but that's much too expensive for my lowbrow tastes. There just won't be much of anything else left on which to spend my accumulated comps, unless they somehow make them usable at the Four Queens (which is owned by the same company).

So it appears that my best value may be to plan to eat there a whole bunch over the next two weeks. Which means more than my usual portion of burgers, fried chicken, cheap steaks, cheesesteak, and other stuff that isn't too good for me. But at least I'll save on groceries!

Perhaps it's just as well. I talk to my friend Cardgrrl nearly every day via a free video hookup on AIM, and just today she asked if I had eaten anything in the last three weeks or so. Apparently I'm looking a little thin lately. I gather that I could stand some fattening up, and maybe the ol' Binion's coffee shop, in the last few days of its existence, will be just the place for it.

Incidentally, I also wonder what will happen to the Wednesday afternoon poker discussion group that traditionally meets in the coffee shop. If you hear, drop me a note via the comments, please.

Played a few hours at Binion's today after eating lunch there, and picked up the nice new chip shown above, in addition to making my daily nut (mostly by drawing to and hitting two diamond nut flushes against opponents who didn't believe that I had done so).

Poker gems, #330

Antonio Esfandiari, in Card Player magazine interview, December 2, 2009 (vol. 22, #24), p. 41.

If your bankroll can take a hit, you just keep going [after a big loss]. I don't let losing affect me. It's the same as winning, pretty much, because you can't win every session. I think of losing like paying taxes. You have to pay your taxes, and you have to lose.

Guess the casino, #343

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

Answer: Riviera

Monday, November 30, 2009

That about sums it up

Driving around town the other day I happened to catch most of a very nice interview with Richard Carpenter on "Fresh Air." The occasion was the release of a 40th-anniversary Carpenters album. It reminded me of how much I used to love Karen Carpenter's voice, which may be the most beautiful one ever to hit the pop music charts. So as I have been playing poker over the last few days, I have been calling up my one and only Carpenters CD, a greatest hits sort of thing, which I long ago transferred to my MP3 player.

One of the lyrics struck home with me. It neatly summarizes what this blog is all about and why I started it in the first place, and, in large part, my frustration and annoyance with both poker and the world in general. It's from the 1976 single, "I Need to Be in Love."

"I know I ask perfection of a quite imperfect world,
And fool enough to think that's what I'll find."

Guess the casino, #342

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

Answer: Rio

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pardon me, but your Windows is showing

Vegas Rex spots the Blue Screen of Death in one of the giant signs outside of Planet Hollywood. Hilarity ensues.

Read here.

Sunday morning at the V

Every once in a while you come across advice along these lines: "Go to bed early. Get up really early and head to one of the big poker rooms where there is always a game going. Get there at maybe 6:00 in the morning. The players left there will have been playing all night. They're exhausted, cranky, drunk, stuck, and otherwise playing badly, while you'll be fresh as a daisy. You'll clean up."

Sounds great, doesn't it? Well, I've tried it three times before that I can recall--once each at MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, and Rio--and never found either the types of players nor the profitability to be as advertised by that piece of wisdom.

But it has been many months since I tried it, and I don't think I've ever done it on a Sunday morning, when one might think that there is greatest potential for it to be true. So this morning when I found myself inexplicably wide awake at 5:30, I decided to give it another go, this time at the Venetian. Hope springs eternal.

The McDonald's drive-through (no, I will not spell it "drive-thru"!) provided me with the Sausage McMuffin, hash browns, and Coke that I needed for sustenance for this endeavor, and I was taking a seat in a game at 6:35.

Once again my expectations were dashed. I couldn't tell that even a single opponent was inebriated, falling asleep, or otherwise showing signs of desperation. In fact, if I had to guess, at least four from my initial table were so sharp that I would suspect them of being on the same page of the hymnal as I was, so to speak.

A couple of hours later, my starting stack was virtually unchanged, so I snagged a move to a table that looked and sounded livelier. I still didn't encounter anyone fitting the profile I had in mind, and it still took a long time before the money started rolling in. But around noon I hit my rush, and over the next two hours worked my way to a very nice $500 profit before heading home for a nap.

Along the way, there were some amusing and/or interesting things to tell you about.

How many casino employees does it take to change a light bulb?

Two, apparently.

I was intrigued to see a dangerous-looking vehicle slowly lumbering its way around the poker room, periodically elevating its operator to the ceiling for light-bulb-changing duties. A partner on the floor helped him steer clear of obstacles.

I had not noticed that a spotlight directly above our table was out, until the monstrosity came to rest right behind the nice young woman across the table from me.

First the machine went up:

Then it slowly extended sideways:

You can see that this young woman is a little alarmed. With good reason: That thing is extending so that the man will be perched directly over her head!

I couldn't easily get back far enough to capture the perspective properly, so instead I hit on the idea of taking three sequential vertical shots, and stitching them together digitally when I got home. Here is the result, with which I am quite pleased. (As always, you can click on it to see it much bigger.)

She was a bit unnerved by the situation, and I can't say that I blame her. But it all ended with nobody getting hurt.

Must be a really important message to get out

At one point the gentleman you see next to the young woman in the photo above pointed to somebody behind me and to my right, and said, "That guy is sending a text while he's tending to a nosebleed."

That sounded like it was worth a looksee. Sure enough, there was a young man standing between tables with a big wad of tissues pressed hard against one nostril with his right hand, his head tilted way back the way the old first aid manuals recommended (though it actually makes a lot more sense to lean forward, as your helpful medical hint of the day), and his cell phone held way up in the air in his left hand, pounding out a message to somebody with his thumb. I tried to snap a photo of this rather bizarre contortion, but he finished, put the phone away, and walked off before I could get him framed.

Quads FTW!

As I was walking past a table on my way to the restroom, a mighty collective cry/groan came from every player there simultaneously--the sure sign of some sick, sick beat having been delivered. So I paused long enough to see what had happened.

A flopped set of aces was trouncing a flopped set of deuces--until the case deuce hit the river. A true one-outer, which one does not see every day.

Nh, wp, sir!

Remedial course in hand-reading needed

Very early on at my first table, a guy who had just joined us ended up getting it all in on the turn with 5-3 versus his opponent's Q-Q, when the board was 5-3-4-8. The dealer put out another 5 on the river, and Mr. 5-3 smacked his hand on the table, shook his head, and said, "The effin' river!" He disgustedly started moving his stacks forward, quite clearly not to have them counted and matched in victory, but as if offering them up in sacrifice. He said to the dealer, still obviously upset at his unexpected "loss," "What do you need? All of them?"

To my surprise, nobody said anything--not the opponent, not the dealer, not any other player. I, too, wasn't inclined to point out the obvious to him. It was only when the dealer had matched the stacks and then pushed them to our hero instead of the other direction that his face turned first to puzzlement, then enormous relief.

As you have already guessed, he quickly explained to us that he misread the situation and thought that the river 5 had counterfeited his two pair, giving his opponent a bigger two pair. Uh, no--not quite.

Annals of bad timing

One of the first big pots I won was with A-10 and a 10-high flop. But I was being called at every point by a player that was both tight and potentially tricky. It was not an ideal situation. In fact, it was a kind of marginal spot for playing a big pot. But sometimes these things develop a life of their own and you just have to roll with it.

Anyway, I'm concentrating as intensely as I know how on figuring out what this guy is calling me with, when, out of nowhere, the dealer points to my card protector and asks me, "Is that a silver dollar?"

Dude, we have 30 minutes to sit side by side, and you pick NOW to ask me that??? WTF?

I give him a monotonic "yes" without looking his way.

The guy does not take hints well. He followed it up with, "Is it one of the new ones?" I don't know exactly what he has in mind by "new ones," but I don't care, either. I just want him to shut up and leave me alone. So I give him another "yes," in what I hope is a maximally dismissive tone. That, fortunately, ended his quizzing.

I wrote about a similar situation at the Hilton three years ago, and I don't remember it having happened since then, so it's pretty rare. It's highly annoying, and unbelievably unprofessional. I wanted to choke him.

Maybe the thing to do is wait until he is sorting out a four-way all-in situation with two side pots, and just start chanting random numbers loudly in his ear while he's counting. See if he finds it distracting when somebody disrupts his concentration just when he needs it most.

I won the hand, by the way, when my opponent finally check-folded to my river bet.

Orange Man

For a while there was a big South Pacific (Tongan or Samoan, I'm guessing) man on my immediate right. He pulled two oranges out of a bag and proceeded to pull them apart and eat them with his bare hands--hands which were, by the way, visibly filthy before he started. Of course he didn't sit out of the game while this was going on, so all the cards and chips he handled got sticky as a result.

Then, to cap off his ickiness, he disregarded the big bowl of pre-packaged hand wipes that the Venetian has generously provided--even though we were at the table right next to the front desk, and it would have been no more than five steps from his chair to fetch one. Instead, he licked his fingers free of the residue.

People are such disgusting pigs. No wonder online poker is so popular--it entails a whole lot less involuntary sharing of germs and bodily fluids.

Right in the gut

Orange Man was later replaced by a really quiet guy, but one who wore his emotions on his sleeve. He just did so very quietly.

I got into a hand with him in which I was pretty well convinced that he had flopped trip 10s and was slow-playing them, milking me. The flop was checked. He bet fairly small on the turn, which had given me a gutshot straight draw. I decided to call, trying to hit my four-outer, because I had seen this guy seriously overplay single-pair hands, and I thought that if I was right that he had trips, he would readily stack off to me if I hit, and he would never guess what I had done. Of course, there was some small risk that he would hit his kicker for a full house, or that he had already done so, but I was willing to chance it.

Ding! Nine on the river completed my completely disguised straight. I thought I was going to have to raise him to get him all in, but he did the work for me by open-shoving, and all I had to do was call. Nice hand, sir, but king-ten no good.

The fun part, though, was how he spent the next ten minutes muttering under his breath about how stupid I was and how badly I played. I really don't think he was intending me to hear these little comments. They were very, very soft and seemed to be just his whispered verbalization of an internal dialogue. That is, I don't think he was trying to needle me. I think he would be surprised to learn that I had been able to pick up what he was saying. That made it pretty easy to be amused by his overreaction, rather than irritated by it.

So a very short time after the muttering had finally ended, and I picked up yet another gutshot draw against the same guy, I couldn't resist the temptation to go for it again, with the payoff being to put him on Super Monkey Tilt and hope that he would spew, spew, spew.

I had 3-4 offsuit in the big blind, with no raise. Flop A-2-x. The mutterer, in the small blind, bet about $8, which is when I realized that I had to try to hit a miracle again, just on general principle. I called. The other pre-flop limpers went out.

Turn was my 5. The heavens did open and choirs of angels did sing. He bet. I raised.

Sadly, he was on to my tricks now. He uttered a couple of mild oaths and said, "I just know he's got 3-4." He fussed for a while, but then finally folded A-K face up.

Tsk tsk tsk! Trying to get sneaky with that hand can bite you!

Well, since I wasn't going to get to felt him again, I decided that I might as well as least try to maximize my tilt value. I acted hurt at his comment and said, "You think I would try to hit a gutshot against you?" Then I showed the 3-4 and grinned.

Since I normally play much more solidly than this, I think it's worthwhile to sow some seeds of doubt and fear among my opponents--let them know that I'm capable of being a little crazy now and then, to keep them ever wondering.

Watch me! Watch me!

Here's something that bugs me at least once every session. I've meant to blog about it a hundred times, and then always forget. But it happened several times again today, so it's finally on my mind while I'm conveniently at the computer.

It's this: What's up with people who won't take their turn unless the dealer is watching them?

You've all seen this: The dealer is busy handling a player switching seats, or swiping a player's card, or selling chips, or talking to the floor person about the schedule, or any of a hundred different things that can interrupt his attention to the action at hand. And everything just freezes. It's like the game goes into suspended animation, and nobody will take a turn.

I swear, it's as if most players have no clue how to tell when it's their turn unless the dealer is right there to cue them, or maybe they think they're not allowed to play unless the dealer is looking directly at them. It's not like the dealer is doing something so fascinating that everybody gets absorbed by his actions. People just stop, as if somebody had hit the "pause" button on the remote that controls the game. Then, when the dealer is done with whatever the task was, action resumes.

I always try to get the attention of the player whose turn it is to act, but it's usually futile. Their brains have for some reason completely tuned out, and there's nobody who can reach them until the dealer gives them the signal to continue. It reminds me of little kids who won't jump off the diving board into the pool until they're sure mommy is watching.

It annoys the hell out of me, but I've never been able to figure out what to do about it, other than roll my eyes at the stupidity and wait them out.

OK, kids, that's my report for today. The session was not even remotely like what I had envisioned when I set out, but I had a pretty good time, made good money, got some decent stories out of it, and still ended up with the rest of the day to myself. It's awfully hard to complain about that outcome.

Guess the casino, #341

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

Answer: Palms