Saturday, January 09, 2010

Guess the casino, #382

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

Answer: Mirage

Friday, January 08, 2010

Foucault FTW

Foucault's posts often focus on technical aspects of playing particular hands and situations--which is fine (he is highly methodical and analytical, traits you can especially appreciate in his training videos for PokerSavvy), but not particularly entertaining. Today's post is the polar opposite. He recounts his time at one table at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure with a boorish, self-centered jerk setting the mood, and describes how he responded--mostly stoically, with a touch of needle thrown in. If reading most of Foucault's blogging is like eating spinach (valuable and extremely good for you, and exactly what you know you should be doing with your time, but not what one would describe as pleasurable), this post is like a giant serving of double-fudge chocolate cake a la mode.

Andrew, you have nailed exactly how I feel the vast majority of the time I'm playing live poker. Thank you for reminding me that I'm not the only one who has to devise ways of maintaining composure when surrounded by idiocy and obnoxiousness.

Go read:

Guess the casino, #381

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

Answer: Mirage

Thursday, January 07, 2010

How can you tell the adult entertainment expo is in town?

Well, one way is by the card protectors that show up on the poker tables.

PokerStars blogger tournament

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker! The WBCOOP is a free online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers, so register on WBCOOP to play.

Registration code: 272284

Quick update

2010 is off to a good start: I've played four times and booked four wins, averaging $30/hour so far. Nothin' wrong with that.

Tomorrow I'm off for what has become my annual trek to Salt Lake City to visit my parents--a slightly belated holiday gathering. My brother is flying in from Minneapolis, and my sister already lives in that area, so it will be good to all be together again. Just checked the forecast, and no snow is anticipated. I'll be driving back on Monday.

Unfortunately, the timing of this trip means that I will miss the entirety of both the Consumer Electronics Show and the Adult Entertainment Expo, which for some reason are being held on identical dates this year (January 7-10) instead of back-to-back, as they have been in the past. Dang. Oh well. There's always another game. It's possible I'll be able to squeeze in a short session tonight after picking up my rental car, but I dunno.

I probably won't even be taking my computer on this trip, so once again you should expect to hear little or nothing from me for a while here. It's not because I don't love you good folks, so please don't fret.

Guess the casino, #380

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

Answer: Golden Nugget

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Technical help

I have my whole blog archived now to an external hard drive, with each week as a separate HTML document. But allegedly there is a way to archive the whole thing as a single document, which would make my life that much simpler. In the Blogger dashboard, I can go to "settings," find "blog tools," and there I am told that I can export the entire blog to publish elsewhere or archive. But when I do, what I get is a zero kb XML document--empty and worthless.

If anybody can give me better directions via comments or email on how to accomplish this seemingly simple task (assuming that it's really possible), I'd be grateful.

Guess the casino, #379

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

Answer: Sunset Station

2009 in review

Yeah, it's a tired device to use the year-end transition to look back at what has been written here. I do it not so much to review for long-time readers, but as a guide for newer readers who might want to see what I consider highlights of the blog-year. Similar efforts for the end of 2007 and 2008 are here and here, respectively.

The Deuce-Four continued to gain popular momentum during 2009. I recounted tales of my own, anecdotes collected from magazines and televised poker programs, and readers submitted a large number of their own experiences. They are all collected here:

Although it technically happened at the end of 2008, I had already written up my year-end review, so this didn't get in: My evening of playing poker with Ira Glass, of whom I have long been a big fan:

I liked this pair of back-to-back (more or less) session reports about playing at the Venetian with the porn stars and the electronics geeks during two of the biggest conventions that come to town every January (AVP and CES): and

I played a session with Hal Lubarsky, and unwittingly triggered a small storm of controversy for him on the 2+2 forums: and

I have continued the pleasure of meeting and playing with readers. Here's one such story, along with some musings about the phenomenon generally:

The most meaningful and gratifying development of the year for me was getting to know Cardgrrl, first through her blog, then in person. As readers could not possibly have helped noticing, I have become exceptionally fond of her, and she has become one of the most important people in my life. I have taken great delight in sharing her fine writing with a wider audience, introducing her to other poker bloggers and facilitating her integration into our strange little world. It's almost embarrassing the number of posts I've written about our joint poker experiences, conversations, etc. If you want to relive the evolution of our relationship, start at the bottom and read forward in chronological order the posts collected here: (People always seem to be curious about the exact nature of our relationship, as if they need a pigeonhole or category or label in order to understand it. Well, I ain't gonna give you one. But I will tell you this: She actually proposed marriage once, but under circumstances that are probably not legally binding: Another time I casually mentioned in an IM chat something about the possibility of getting married someday, and her response included the words "head asplode," which I think would most likely be considered not the most positive possible reaction. So no such development is in the foreseeable future. We live 2400 miles apart, with neither of us likely to move. We're both happy with our friendship being as it is, and no change is forthcoming.)

I rather like this post in which I am forced to confront my own very human tendency to irrationality: A little more musing about the human tendency to develop superstitions and to see cause-and-effect relationships that aren't real followed here:

The single most unusual and memorable experience of my entire time living in Vegas so far happened this year, when I was kidnapped by casino security goons at the Cannery in North Las Vegas for the cardinal sin of taking a few pictures for my "Guess the Casino" series. The original post telling the tale, with its record 66 comments, is here: The story and its aftermath (including coverage in various other web sites and one of the local newspapers) occupied a bunch of posts, which you can see collected here: The original post and the attention it got elsewhere resulted in a huge, unprecedented spike in my blog traffic, though after a couple of weeks it mostly settled back down to what it had been before. By the way, as a follow-up note, I have consulted with an attorney about the possibility of a lawsuit for unlawful detention. I'm still mulling over whether I think it's worth the hassle that such things always entail.

By odd coincidence, I had just shortly before that incident occurred read and posted a review about what is probably the only book in print on the subject of abusive treatment of patrons by casino security goons: By further odd coincidence, I had also shortly before put up two posts compiling my experiences with taking pictures inside casinos, including several anecdotes from Vegas Rex, who has far more such stories to tell: and

A not particularly significant, but--to me, anyway--highly amusing incident occurred one night when I was suffering from insomnia, took an Ambien to help me sleep, then tried to guess the outcome of a heads-up poker tournament while the effects started to kick in:

A real highlight of the year was luckboxing my way to a seat at one of the preliminary events of the World Series of Poker. Here's how I did it: and Unfortunately, I blew this golden opportunity in a pretty spectacularly bad manner, and gave myself a thorough kick in the butt here: In August I knocked myself out of another much smaller and less important tournament with an even greater degree of idiocy, and wrote about it here:

Can a taxi ride be worthy of a long post in a poker blog? I thought so, given the insight that this one provided on some people's outlooks on the world at large and gambling in particular:

Some justfied outrage over mismanagement at Caesars Palace poker room may have actually resulted in them changing how things are done (see comments appended to the post):

I did some work graphing chip distributions during live poker tournaments, based on some WSOP results. I thought the information gleaned was pretty interesting, though I may be the only one: and

The biggest change in my game this year was the switch from buying in relatively short to buying in for the maximum allowed in most cases. The results were so good that I wish I had done it a long time ago: and

This was one of the most satisfying hands I've ever played, for purely personal, emotional reasons having to do with the universal human desire for revenge:

Twitter came into my life and the blog this year. I like it a lot--maybe too much. I've written a time or two about my thoughts on how it fits into poker and blogging:

Some readers were, I think, alarmed to learn of my OCD-ish tendencies when I finally posted the details of how I stack my chips at the table: and

The most delightful and improbable end to a poker session ever occurred in September when Cardgrrl and I simultaneously hit high-hand jackpots (quad aces for her, straight flush for me) on separate tables at the Luxor--one of those things that's just too good a story to be true, except that it really happened:

After I got paid off nicely for playing a junk hand against a big pocket pair, and the victim wondered aloud how much he needed to raise to prevent such occurrences, I expounded a bit on the answer, and along the way spilled my top-secret formula for pre-flop raise sizing:

I like this story of (1) an unusual tell that I spotted in an opponent, (2) how I used it to win a nice pot from him, and (3) how I took from him the chip that was the object of his tell:

Among my favorite posts are ones in which a whole bunch of interesting, unusual, funny, or irritating things happen in the course of one session (or, occasionally, two consecutive ones mashed together for one post), so I can tell several short stories at once. Here's one of the better of this genre: And here's another, one that got a lot more comments than most do, primarily because of the anti-social attitude I expressed in the last story:

I had a nice little run at the Mookie weekly bloggers' tournament on Full Tilt, winning it twice and coming in second place once, plus a final table (without cash), out of four consecutive attempts at it. It's a dinky little tournament of no particular consequence, but I was exceptionally pleased with that spate of good finishes: and and

One weird night, I lost a bundle trying to make just one more lousy dollar, and told the tale here:

Most of my long treatises on one poker-related subject or another are ones that I've thought quite a bit about, usually over a long period of time, kind of mentally composing the essay a little at a time, until eventually it's ready to spill out. But here's one that I wrote basically as a first draft, in spontaneous reaction to a post that my friend Shamus had put up a short time before. It's my thoughts about lying in poker, which is a pretty big subject to tackle on the fly. Of course, I had thought about it a lot before--just not really with the intention of ever writing about it. I think it turned out pretty well, considering how the composition came about:

Another highlight of my year, both personally and professionally, was a voyage to visit Cardgrrl in Washington, D.C., including participating in her roster of home games and a side trip to Atlantic City, a place I had never been before: and (Visiting Cardgrrl again over the holidays was another high point of the year, but there was almost no poker involved, so I wrote very little about it.)

Here's a bit about my personality, and how it affects my play and interactions at the poker table:

I dream about poker quite frequently (not too surprising, I suppose), and this year I took to making quick posts to document them after waking up. I'm glad I did, because I would have forgotten them all a short time later. I think they're pretty funny, though I understand that reading other people's dreams isn't usually very interesting:

My biggest live tournament cash of the year (actually the only one, I think) was in November, when I pocketed $1000 for a five-way even chop. I was inordinately pleased with myself, since I don't play many tournaments, and usually don't have particularly good results when I do play them: and

I think about law and politics a lot, but usually don't inject such subjects into the blog. Once in a while, though, the urge grabs me in an irresistible way, and I let loose. It always irritates at least some readers, who tell me to stick to poker, but hey, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Here's one such example:

Trying to make a living at this game involves a lot of ups and downs. I mostly don't waste space detailing how my results are going, because it's boring and nobody cares. But sometimes some really unusual good or bad spell is going on, and I get all rhapsodic about it:

I think the final poker highlight of the year was the blogger winter get-together in early December. I had not participated in this before, but I plan to make it a regular annual commitment from now on: and

This was probably the biggest pot I won all year:

If you're not careful, once in a while I'll sneak up on you and teach you something about the nitty-gritty insider workings of poker that you probably didn't know before:

An ongoing struggle I have is the balance between my strong preference for regularity, game integrity, and consistency of rule enforcement, and my desire not to cause trouble by making myself into the table lawyer or nit. I probably get the balance wrong sometimes, and I certainly cause active discussion and disagreement in the comments section when I post about incidents involving these situations, which are difficult for me. Here are some examples: and and

OK, I guess that's it. Thanks for reading along for another year. I hope you'll stick with me through 2010. Who knows--it might be a good one!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Guess the casino, #378

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

Answer: Red Rock

Monday, January 04, 2010

Fish can learn

One occasionally hears people making a claim such as that fish are incapable of remembering anything for more than a few seconds. (This was put to good comic effect in the movie "Finding Nemo.") It's pretty implausible on its face--there would be such a strong survival advantage to having at least a rudimentary memory that it's hard to believe none would evolve. "Mythbusters" did a great segment in which they proved pretty conclusively that goldfish could learn to swim through an obstacle course more quickly over time in order to get to the food reward. So it's clear: fish can learn.

It's true at the poker table, too. Even the dumbest players can figure some things out, learn, and adjust to what you're doing--especially if you're stupid enough to give them the information they need to do so. Glenn at the Missing Flops blog witnessed such a learning moment during his New Year's weekend in Vegas, and has just put up an excellent cautionary tale about the experience here. Go listen.

My Harrah's plan worked--maybe sorta

Last year Harrah's changed its comp system so that playing poker gave players what they call "tier points" toward platinum and/or silver status. I kvetched a few times (see here, and earlier posts linked to from there) about how they are far less generous with in-town players than out-of-town visitors in terms of offers for free rooms, etc. I decided to try to attain platinum status and see what, if anything, that would get me.

I made it, and now have the spiffy platinum card.

Today I received in the mail coupons allowing me two two-night stays--one in January and one in February--at any of the four Harrah's Atlantic City properties (Harrah's A.C., Caesars, Bally's, or Showboat), Sunday through Thursdays only.

My suspicion, though, is that this offer did not come because of working my way up to platinum. Rather, it probably came simply because the system noticed that in October I actually showed up playing in the Harrah's A.C. poker room for a couple of days, and they want me back. When I look at my online points account, I still have no offers of other goodies.

As far as I can tell, Harrah's corporation basically still does not value my patronage, and barely acknowledges that I exist. Phooey on them.

Guess the casino, #377

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

Answer: MGM Grand

Sunday, January 03, 2010


I played at Mandalay Bay this afternoon, as I usually do on Sundays. After four or five hours, I was still sitting on my starting stack, having made no forward progress. I was alerted to a problem at another table when the floor person got into an extended (though not heated) discussion with a young woman who was apparently not protecting her hand well, and thus letting her neighbors see her cards. She seemed not to care and thought she should be left alone to play the way she wanted, but other players understandably resented playing with the people on her right and left having such a huge edge. From the snippets of conversation I could hear, it was clear that she had no idea what she was doing, and that she was drunk. A quick look around the table made me think it was pretty unsharky. So I put in a request for a table change.

Soon after I moved, the seat to the left of the young woman in question opened up, and I made a beeline for it. Within the first couple of hands in my new position, she doubled her stack from about $300 to about $600 with a lucky full house on the river, having started with K-5 offsuit. Poor guy that made a flush understandably couldn't put her on that, and paid her off. So she was (1) drunk, (2) playing in a casino for the first time, (3) playing every hand, (4) the big stack at the table, (5) a calling station most of the time, and badly bluffing the rest, and (6) on my immediate right. This seemed to me a highly promising confluence of circumstances.

I sent out a Tweet to that effect. I had barely finished it when the hand of the day occurred. I was on the button with K-2 of hearts. (By strange coincidence, this is the exact hand that CK had when Grange95 and I tripled her up a couple of weeks ago, in a $1000+ pot. It is a hand that I now understand is known as a "LeDawn.") I would usually throw this away, but I got to limp in with others, and I was looking for every possible opportunity to win a double through Drunk Girl.

The flop was Ah-10c-x. It was checked around. Turn was Qh, giving me the nut flush draw plus a gutshot to Broadway, so I called a smallish bet from an early-position player.

River was the 7h, giving me the stone-cold nuts. EP guy bet $15. Drunk Girl called. I raised to $45. EP guy called. Drunk Girl thought a few seconds, then said some of the most beautiful words in the English language: "I'm all in." I insta-called. (I could have tried to Hollywood it, but either the EP guy was going to call or he wasn't, and I didn't think theatrics would help my cause. He had already been highly reluctant to call the $45, so I was pretty sure he wouldn't come along no matter what. I was right. He folded.)

She had Jh-6h (not sure of her kicker, but it doesn't matter) for the second nut flush.

Here's where it got weird. She thought we were going to split the pot. After an exchange with the dealer, it finally became clear why. She thought that all ace-high flushes were equal in value, so that in this situation anybody with two hearts as their hole cards had an ace-high flush and therefore the same hand. At first she couldn't understand why she wasn't getting half of the pot. The dealer had to explain to her that if two flushes have the same highest card, the tie is broken by the next highest card, etc.

She was crestfallen. But, fortunately, she didn't get angry, and she kept playing. I think she was too happily drunk to care about much of anything.

Not too surprisingly, the rest of her chips soon went away on other equally bad plays--e.g., calling an all-in with just top pair when her opponent obviously, transparently had hit a full house on the river.

I remember once at the old Hilton poker room I once flopped top two pair when my opponent flopped top and bottom pair. When the high card on the flop paired on the river, we both made boats, but of course mine was higher. The money all went in, and there ensued the same sort of other-worldly-strange dialog. The guy genuinely thought that all full houses were equal, and that we should be splitting the pot. Maybe that's how they do it in his home game. He was stunned to learn that there are ranks within the realm of the full house.

It's pretty rare that you'll run into somebody with this fundamental a misunderstanding of the rules of the game. But when you do, it can be pure gold. On one level, I feel kind of sorry for these people. But on the other hand, nobody makes them play a no-limit game for which they are woefully unprepared. They could, if they wanted, play a nice, safe $2-4 limit game in order to become familiar with how things go. And, besides, once they make the decision to put several hundred dollars at risk playing a game for which they don't even know the simplest rules, somebody at the table is going to take their money, fairly and squarely, before they wise up.

It might as well be me.

New things at Mandalay Bay

1. At midnight tonight, the Mandalay Bay poker room will discontinue its practice of raking in half-dollar increments. That means no more 50-cent pieces in change accumulating next to your chips. It's not entirely clear to me whether this means a net increase or decrease in rake, or no change--it depends on how they handle the rounding. But I don't really care that much.

2. They're starting a new promotion: on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, if you flop quads or better, they give you a $500 bonus, in addition to whatever high-hand jackpot you might be entitled to. I grabbed one of the fliers at the desk and scanned it in below. I suspect that this is going to be wildly popular with the local nits, and the room will bulge for exactly those 48 hours every week.

I'm back

I arrived back in Las Vegas late last night after ten days in Washington, D.C. The time went by so fast it's kind of hard to remember what occupied it all. Cardgrrl and I exchanged Christmas gifts (she gave me a beautiful black cashmere sweater and a couple of books, I got her a much-needed bookcase and some games). We seemed to spend a lot of time grocery shopping, cooking for each other, eating, and cleaning up. We griped about the cold, windy, gray, drizzly weather. (Hmmm. I wonder where one could live that would have less of that stuff?) We went to her church. I posed for about a jillion pictures while she experimented with her nifty new camera (a Panasonic Lumix GF-1, which puts digital SLR capability in a compact form). We went on several walks (which involved frequent stops for more photography with the new camera). We went to the National Zoo. We drove out to Manassas, Virginia, for a poker tournament. We had a lovely dinner and evening with her two best friends and their two teenage sons. On New Year's Eve we and six more of her friends had dinner at a Burmese restaurant, then went to see "Avatar 3-D" (which was astounding). We drove out to Ikea to fetch her bookcase. (I had never been to an Ikea before--can you believe that? Reaction: Wow. Just wow.) We assembled her bookcase and rearranged her library to fit. We played the new games (Bananagrams, Upwords, Set, and Scrabble Word Play Poker). We each tried to keep up with reading our Twitter and RSS feeds. We started reading a book together (The Known World by Edward P. Jones). We watched some Netflix movies: a few more episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Wordplay" (great documentary about a crossword puzzle tournament and crossword puzzles generally), "The Lives of Others" (exceptionally good movie), and "Let the Right One In" (a strange Swedish vampire flick). We wrangled with some bureaucratic headaches at the D.C. DMV, as Cardgrrl attempts to sell her old car and buy a new one. We did a bunch of crossword puzzles together. (We make a killer team--large vocabularies and between us a pretty broad range of obscure knowledge.) In between it all, I managed to get through about half of an Isaac Asimov book that I borrowed from a friend nearly two years ago, and have shamefully neglected until now (The Edge of Tomorrow). All in all, a very pleasant trip, even if not much got accomplished in concrete, pragmatic life terms.

Except for the one tournament (which, for me, lasted all of 30 minutes when my aces got cracked) and some reading of blogs and forums, it was essentially a poker-free ten days. I'm ready to get back at it. In fact, after a crappy night of sleep--disturbed by a sinus headache, travel over-fatigue, and jet lag--I'm ready right now to go shower, grab a bite to eat, and hit the tables, probably at my usual Sunday afternoon hangout, Mandalay Bay.

What passes for a normal life around here, and the blogging that accompanies it, should be resuming shortly. It will be interrupted again later this week for a long, four-day weekend, as I zip up to visit my parents and sister in Salt Lake City Friday through Monday for a belated holiday get-together--so expect another writing slowdown then.

Thanks for your patience.

Guess the casino, #376

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

Answer: Gold Coast