Saturday, January 16, 2010

Folding a set

I've never written up a list of, say, the top ten feelings in poker--successfully bluffing, picking off a bluff, hitting a one-outer, etc. But surely on the list is flopping a set. There's just that wonderful instantaneous "Ahhhhhhh" feeling of anticipation that the pot will be coming your way.

It's not very often I'll fold a flopped set. Of course, once in a while by the river it's clear that an opponent has made a straight or a flush, and you have to do it. But folding a set on the flop is a true rarity. I'm usually willing to risk going broke on the flop with a set, because it's highly unlikely that I can be so convinced that my opponent has me beat that folding seems right. As a general rule, I would have to have a pinpoint read on an opponent and/or be more than 100 big blinds deep before folding becomes a serious consideration.

There are some exceptions to that general rule. In December I played a bizarre hand at the Venetian with my friends Grange95 (see his brand-new blog here) and C.K., in which I flopped a set and both of them flopped flushes. They both went all-in ahead of me. I was sure by that point that one or both of them had a flush, so I would have been willing to fold--but the pot was so big that it was mathematically justified to call in the hopes of making a full house. (It didn't work out. See C.K.'s write-up of the hand here. That's probably the most I've ever lost with a flopped set--it was a $1071 pot, as I recall.)

The point, though, is that it takes some very unusual combination of circumstances in order for folding a set on the flop to make sense. Today I had one such confluence of factors, but I didn't recognize it in time.

I got to Caesars Palace at about 10:30 a.m. and took one of the seats in a $1/$3 NLHE game that was just starting. Yeah, starting a session at that time of day is pretty unusual for me, but there was a method to the madness. This is the "MBA Poker Championship" weekend. Today's tournament started at Caesars at noon, and I wanted to be well entrenched in a game by the time the first losers started busting out of the tournament and looking to play cash. I usually play fairly short sessions, but today I had no other plans or obligations, and I envisioned putting in a long day--8 to 12 hours. I was not going to leave to lock up a profit, but instead stay and let my stack grow and grow. I saw in my mind's eye what the result would be: "Stacks and towers of checks I can't even see over."

It didn't quite work out that way.

About 90 minutes in, I found the red deuces in the big blind. There were two middle-position limpers, then the button raised to $15, a pretty standard amount for this table. I called, as did both limpers. I started the hand with about $275 left of my original $300 buy-in.

The flop was Jh-6h-2s. (Hey, look--the photo above has it just right! What a coincidence!) The pot was about $60. Sometimes I will lead out in this kind of situation, other times check-call, other times check-raise. As they say, it all depends. This was a table that fairly frequently had no aggression and checked around on two or three streets, even with four or five players in, so I couldn't count on a bet. For that reason, I decided to take the lead. I pushed out $45. The donk bet had the added advantage of not risking giving a flush draw a free card, and possibly tempting the original raiser to shove if he had an overpair.

The next guy took a long time to act, but it was obvious in the first few seconds that he was going to raise. He just took a while to settle on an amount. He added another $95 on top. His playing style is crucial here. He was, as far as I had been able to determine, both tight and absolutely uncreative, a purely ABC/textbook player, never out of line. He bet or raised when he had the goods, checked and folded when he didn't. Furthermore, this is obviously a horrible situation in which to try to run a bluff: four players in, first one leading out, two more yet to act behind, including the pre-flop raiser. So there was no question about it--he had something that he liked very much. He also had more chips than anybody else in the hand.

Next guy folded. The button almost instantly pushed all in. I was actually a lot less worried about him than I was about Mr. Conservative. I was about as sure as I could be that the button had a big pair. There was a chance he had started with pocket jacks and had flopped the nuts, but (1) that was statistically much less likely than him having queens, kings, or aces, and (2) I thought that if that were the case he would be more likely to just call, hoping to keep me in the pot, too. I don't think he could reasonably put either of his opponents on a naked flush draw in this situation. At least, if I were in his spot with top set I'd think a flush draw was unlikely, and would be willing to keep the invitation open to the big blind to stay in.

My internal dialogue was short. It was basically, "Button has overpair and is drawing almost dead. I don't think Mr. Conservative limp-called with jacks. He might have sixes, but it's at least as likely that he has two pair or a pair and a flush draw combination. I'm not folding." Shove.

Mr. Conservative can't call fast enough. I show the deuces. Button shows Ah-Ac. Mr. Conservative rolls over the two black jacks. I'll spare you counting my outs: One--the case deuce for quads. Even runner-runner hearts wouldn't save me, since the button had the ace.

No, my one-outer did not hit. I have been saved from a set-under-set situation by quads one time in my poker career (two years ago almost to the day, in fact; see here), and that's probably my lifetime allotment of that particular miracle.

In reflecting on the situation later, I came to realize what a mistake I had made by not thinking it through more carefully. What had run through my mind was essentially the same script that I would have for most flopped-set situations in which either moving all-in or calling all-in is under consideration. There are nearly always enough plausible hands my opponent could have that I have beat to make folding unreasonable: An overpair, a smaller set, some two-pair combination, a pair/flush draw combination, or some monster draw, like a combined straight and flush draw. The move is virtually automatic.

And it being virtually automatic was precisely my downfall today. I've gone through that quick reasoning so many times that the mental road is well worn--maybe even rutted--and it always comes out in the same place. I couldn't (or at least didn't) stop to see if I should, for once, take the road less traveled.

Mr. Conservative would not have limp-called with any overpair to the board. There's no way that he was raising me with a naked flush draw, especially with two players behind him. His raise was much more consistent with defending against a flush draw than trying to hit one. The only straight draw was a gutshot, and again he's never going to raise with that, with two to act behind him and a possible flush coming. Besides, he wouldn't have played something like 3-4 for a raise before the flop. What two-pair combination could he have? None. I should have recognized that it was inconceivable that he called a raise from out of position with J-6, J-2, or 6-2, even suited. Not his style; he wouldn't even limp with such trash to begin with, let alone call a raise. How about a pair and flush draw? Well, the only way he could have that would be if he had the deuce of hearts as one of his cards (e.g., Ah-2h, which would be at least plausible for him to have limp-called with). But I had the deuce of hearts in my hand! I have to confess that this particular rather important insight escaped me in the heat of the moment, because I didn't stop to consider.

In short, if I had thought carefully through the list of all the hands that made sense for Mr. Conservative to have played this way, I would have been left with the unshakable conviction that he held 6-6 or J-J, with the former being more likely than the latter. There was simply nothing else in his range for which his play was plausible. Consequently, I should have concluded that I was reduced to drawing to one out or, maybe, a runner-runner flush, but even the latter possibility was threatened by the button holding any heart.

So this is one of the very rare instances in which the confluence of an opponent's well-proven style, the texture of the flop, and his unusual out-of-position raise of my lead-out bet added up to an inference that I should have seen. I should have made the fold and saved about $200. I was beaten, and the clues to that conclusion were all there. They weren't even all that hard to read and put together; I just didn't do it.

I missed the correct conclusion because I took a shortcut through the deductive reasoning process, applying the general case (there's almost always enough inferior hands in the opponent's range to justify getting it all in) rather than working through a list of the specific hands that this guy could have in this situation. And I paid the price for not thinking it through.

Painful lesson learned, I hope.


I asked my friend Cardgrrl for her thoughts on this hand. She asked me about the possibility of Mr. Conservative having A-J. I should have included a discussion of that above.

It's certainly true that A-J is consistent with his pre-flop play. But if it crossed my mind as a possibility when I was faced with the decision, it was only fleetingly. Perhaps I should have given it more weight. But I almost certainly would not raise with A-J there, and I'm definitely a more aggressive player generally than he is. I would not want to put in $140, then get raised off the hand by the button holding an overpair, or have to call a shove for not too much more as a big underdog. I'd rather exercise some pot control and see what the other players do before going out on that limb. TPTK out of position multi-way is just too dicey to get that committed on the flop. It's not completely out of the running as a possibility, but overall I think it was correct to pretty much discount it, along with overpairs and two-pair combinations.

Poker gems, #340

Todd Brunson, in Card Player magazine column, January 13, 2010 (Vol. 23, #1), p. 36.

The Italians have a lot of good traits, but patience is not one of them. Gus Hansen actually refuses to play in Italy. He can't stand being the tightest player at the table.

Guess the casino, #389

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

Answer: Wynn

Again with the "reraise"

Just a couple of months ago I whined about people who say "reraise" when the action described is really just an ordinary raise. As it turned out, that was kind of a repost of another time when I had made the same objection, which I had forgotten about when I wrote the October post.

Well, I'm gonna do it again--this time knowing that it's ground I've covered before. There's a reason.

I just finished watching the first episode of season four of the Full Tilt Million Dollar Cash Game. As with season three, the lineup is stellar and the poker is mesmerizing. Top flight all the way.

But also as with season three, the commentators are kind of weak and annoying. In particular, they described ordinary raises as "reraises" every single time when there was a bet followed by a raise on or after the flop. I suppose I should at least give them credit for being so devoted to this mistake.

What made this error really stand out, though, was that they got the on-screen graphics guy in on it, at least once:

He, however, wasn't consistent like the commentators, and all the other times he correctly labeled the second action as just a "raise," like so:

I can't figure out what this particular pair of television commentators (David Tuckman and Gary Jones) have against the word "raise." Maybe they're part of a religious cult in which it's a forbidden word. Whatever the reason, they're seriously annoying me.

I really don't understand it. What's so difficult here? If there's no raise, there can be no reraise. On and after the flop, the action of the second player to act cannot ever be a reraise. How can you not know this? Are you also in some doubt as to whether a straight beats a flush?

If you don't understand poker enough to know the difference between a raise and a reraise, you shouldn't be sitting in the booth doing commentary for television. Get somebody who has some clue what the terminology means.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Guess the casino, #388

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

Answer: Sam's Town

Pants on the ground (zero poker content)

There can be no argument about what the highlight of last night's "American Idol" was: Larry Platt singing his own composition, "Pants on the Ground." It delighted me. Still, it wasn't enough to trigger a blog post about it until just now, when I read this article, explaining what an interesting life Mr. Platt has had. It just makes his 15 minutes of fame all the more marvelous. Go read what he has lived through, and be sure, be SURE, to watch the YouTube video of his memorable performance that is embedded at the end of the text.

"Lookin' like a FOOL with your pants on the ground!" Somebody had to say it, and nobody better for the job than Larry Platt.

Poker gems, #339

Mike Caro, in Bluff magazine column, January, 2010, p. 39.

Don't try to be more aggressive than the bully in retaliation. He's making the mistake of wagering too much and too often. The last thing you want to do is get in a war with him to see who can make that same mistake most often. Check and call. This is one way in which poker differs from life. In real-world conflict, you might need to fight back. But there is no known strategy in the poker universe that can allow a bully to take advantage of you if you simply check more often, call more often, and allow him to self-destruct.

Aces, aces, and more aces

Item #1.

I've been thinking a bit about a new promotion that Planet Hollywood is running in their poker room. It's kind of a standard aces-cracked thing, but it's unusually lucrative: $200. It runs for three specific two-hour segments a day (10:00 to noon, 2:00 to 4:00 pm, and 2:00 to 4:00 am), Monday through Thursday. (See here for full details.)

I don't mind bonus/jackpot promotions that are basically break-even for me. I don't like ones that end up transferring a lot of the money I contribute to somebody else. How does this one rate on such a scale?

Let's figure it out. PH plays nine-handed games. Pocket aces get dealt once in every 221 hands, on average. At a full table, then, you can expect somebody to have aces about every 25 hands. (This isn't exactly right, because what each player is dealt is not independent of what the others are dealt. But it's close enough for current purposes.) Let's assume that people are slow-playing their aces routinely, inviting everybody into the pot, because the bonus is high enough that it will almost always exceed the average pot one would win absent the promotion. I'm going to assume that you'll average 4-5 opponents in the hand that way. Aces will hold up roughly 50% of the time against that number of opponents.

That means that aces will get cracked about once in every 50 hands or so at a full table. The lucky loser gets paid $200. But the table will have contributed only $50 to the promotion fund during that time. In other words, the casino is paying out four times as much as they're collecting during the promotion hours.

Obviously these numbers are very rough, but they're in the right ballpark. Maybe you could manipulate them to make it only a 3:1 or even 2:1 payout, or maybe it's closer to 5:1. Doesn't matter much for my argument.

My point is that without any serious doubt this promotion requires subsidy from the jackpot collection at other hours (assuming that the casino isn't throwing its own money into the kitty). That means that if you play at Planet Hollywood at hours other than the specific 24 hours per week that the promotion is running, most of the jackpot-drop dollar that you contribute every time you win a pot is being redistributed to the people who play during the designated hours--or at least whatever fraction of that dollar goes to this particular promotion (instead of, say, the high-hand jackpot fund, and I have no idea what those proportions are).

The promotional hours are generally not ones that fit well with my preferred (and, by experience, most profitable) times for playing. Now, maybe the reward is so lucrative that it makes sense to adjust my playing times to be sure I'm there for at least some of those hours and cash in on it. But if I'm not going to do that, then this promotion is a money-loser for me, and I don't like that. I understand that the room is trying to beef up attendance during what have been off-peak hours, and the strategy probably works to accomplish that. But I'm not thrilled about PH using my money to pay those players to fill the seats, just because of when they choose to play.

To make matters worse, there has already been established a cadre of nitty regulars who are there just to collect the jackpot money, and break the rules of the promotion by collaborating to increase the chances of a payout, and to keep it as cheap as possible. They use code words to signal to each other that they have aces, and in response the others in the know will get the pot to the minimum required to qualify, then check-check-check, keeping everybody in, and giving the guy with the aces the maximum chance to get them cracked. Of course, he will reciprocate the favor when one of the others get his turn. This not only grossly distorts the normal play of a hand and is flagrantly cheating, but it increases the number of times a payout is made, thus exacerbating the problem of transferring money from non-promotional hours to the promotional hours. I don't like it.

Item #2.

In the January 4, 2010, issue of Poker Player newspaper, columnist Richard G. Burke presents an interesting table of data that I don't recall having seen before. The question is this: If you have one ace in your hand, and there is another on the flop, what is the probability that you were the only player at the table who was dealt an ace?

The result obviously depends on the number of people dealt in to the hand. Here's what Mr. Burke calculates:

# of opponents/probability of there being no other aces held by opponents

1 / 0.92
2 / 0.84
3 / 0.76
4 / 0.69
5 / 0.62
6 / 0.55
7 / 0.49
8 / 0.43
9 / 0.38

Of course, even if you know the exact probability that nobody else was dealt an ace, you can't know exactly how many might have folded them pre-flop. (What? Fold an ace before the flop??? Am I mad???) But I think it's useful to know that at a typical full table, about 40% of the time nobody else was dealt an ace, which means that about 60% of the time one or more opponents did get one.

Be careful out there.


Shortly after posting the above, I checked my Twitter feed and found a message pointing to this thread on, which I hadn't been aware of before. In it, a few people try to estimate whether playing to try to hit this jackpot is a positive expected value overall. That's obviously a different question from the one I'm asking, but it's kind of interesting in its own right.

He just might be insane, you know

See here:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Poker gems, #338

Joe Navarro, in Bluff magazine column, January, 2010, p. 42.

If I came to you at the table and asked what the tells of the person in the four seat were, what would you say? "I don't know"? If you don't know, please start writing out checks ahead of time so that it won't delay the game. You have to know.

Nastiest slowroll ever

Watch the video here:

I'd kick this team out of the tournament for such horribly unethical, unsportsmanlike conduct, if I were in charge of things.

Who's the cheater?

My friend and recent blogger tournament partner Jennifer Newell writes a column for Poker Player newspaper. (See archives here.) Take a look at the one she wrote recently on the challenges Joe Sebok faces in living up to his commitment to get UltimateBet to fully come clean on its cheating scandal, here.

Now take a look at the blog post put up earlier today by Richard Marcus on his "Poker Cheating and Casino Cheating" blog, here. You might spot more than a few similarities, and you will find no attribution.

By my quick review, it appears that after the first paragraph and the first few words of the second paragraph, the entire blog post is lifted word-for-word from Jen's column. It's possible there are a few word changes that I didn't notice, but if so, they are minor.

There's just no escaping it: Richard Marcus plagiarized about as flagrantly as it's possible to do. The irony is that this is in a blog devoted to exposing cheating. Marcus famously claims to be a reformed casino cheater. It appears, though, that his ethics haven't improved any--he has simply changed the target. Instead of cheating casinos, he cheats (and steals from) other writers.

What a low-life scumbag. I wonder how many other of his posts are ripped off from other sites/writers, and I just haven't known of it before. I had always blithely assumed that his posts were original work, but now I have to wonder. Of course, when caught, cheaters/thieves always claim that it's their first time, but that's rarely true.

His email address, as listed on his blog, is Why not drop him a line and tell him what you think of his plagiarism? I'm going to.


TheLuckbox (who, coincidentally, sat on my immediate right through most of the blogger poker tournament last month) was inspired to do some poking around at other posts on Mr. Marcus's blog, and posted this series of three messages on Twitter:

@WriterJen @pokergrump Check out this: and this: More plagiarism?

Yep, it's all
plagiarism. Seems like every post. Here's another. This: and this:

And more plagiarism. This: and this: I think that's enough evidence.

Good work, sir! I probably should have taken the initiative to do a text search on some phrases from other posts in the blog, rather than just speculating that one would find more plagiarism by doing so.

Also, Matthew Parvis posted a Tweet a short time ago indicating that he had just yesterday emailed Mr. Marcus about stolen content from, though he didn't point to any specific examples. He followed this up with another Tweet saying: "lame response that "he forgot to attribute" and that he added I emailed him that it was not acceptable."

It certainly appears that stealing is the primary means of getting content onto Mr. Marcus's blog, and that he "forgets" to attribute as a matter of course. There's nothing wrong with a blog that gathers pointers to and/or reprints of posts and news articles on a given subject from sources all over the world. In fact, such things are extremely useful to those interested in the subject. But--do I really need to say this?--you have to provide documentation and give credit to your sources. If you do, you're providing a useful aggregation service to readers, who then don't have to scour blogs and news sources to find news and updates on some subject. If you don't, well, then you're just a scummy thief of content and intellectual property rights.

Guess the casino, #387

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

Answer: O'Shea's

Poker gems, #337

Andrew Robl, in Poker Pro magazine profile, January, 2010, p. 29.

My friend Alec [Torelli] topped his trip to Vegas by finishing first in the $1,000 buy-in tournament at the Bellagio two days in a row, taking down around $200,000. That's an accomplishment worth noting. So we celebrated by going to the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace and playing The Price Is Right.

In our version of the game, we visit stores like Tiffany, Gucci and Diesel, find thiings that we both like and each guess the price. Whoever is closest, the other guy has to buy the item for him.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Water, water everywhere--NOT!

The drink I order most often while playing poker is water. Occasionally, if it's not so late in the day that the caffeine will affect my sleep, I'll have a Coke instead. If it's really cold in the room I might order a hot chocolate. But probably 95% of my orders are for water.

Among the many things that I wish all poker rooms would do is have water coolers or fountains readily available. In the rooms that have them (Flamingo, Texas Station, Riviera, Green Valley Ranch, Orleans, Venetian, M Resort, and Harrah's Atlantic City come to mind--there are undoubtedly others that I'm not remembering at the moment), I can order one bottle of water, then refill it as needed. This not only saves on tips to the cocktail waitresses, but reduces the number of plastic bottles that go into the landfill.

I know, I know--if I were really green, I'd bring my own bottle. But there are some problems with that. If the bottle is big enough to last through a long session without refilling, it's too big and awkward to have at the table, maybe even too big for the cup holders. I dislike having to maneuver around big things in between me and my chips and cards. Second, casino security sometimes gives you a hard time about bringing in drink containers from outside, because they don't know what's in them; when this happens, it's a pain to have to walk back to my car to drop the bottle off. Third, with the growing prevalence of automated faucets in restrooms, it's not always easy to find cold water with which to refill a bottle from home. My preferred compromise is to get one from the casino, then refill it as needed. I then contribute one--but only one--plastic bottle to the landfill problem.

But as you can tell from the short list of places I named above, it's a distinct minority of poker rooms that have water coolers/fountains accessible. I don't know if this is because the room management thinks that they'd be invaded by non-poker-players demanding their water, or maybe they think nobody would use them, or maybe the cocktail waitresses put up a fuss because they don't want their tip income reduced. Whatever the cause, it annoys me that such a simple, cheap amenity is so hard to find.

Why am I posting about this now? Because last night I played at the Palms for the first time in a few months. They used to have a water cooler right in the room. Last time I was there I noticed that it was gone, and inquired about it. The guy behind the desk told me some story about there having been an accident with it, and he expected it to be replaced soon. But last night I noticed that it was still missing, so I have to assume that this is now a permanent deletion, and I was lied to on my previous inquiry. So that's one less room with water freely available. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

I can't figure out why this is such a rare feature in Las Vegas poker rooms. Hey, poker room managers: How about a little water for your customers? You'd serve me alcohol if I asked for it, which would cost you a lot more. Why not give me easy access to the cheapest beverage on the planet?

Rules? We ain't got no rules! We don't need no rules! I don't have to show you any stinking rules!

And that is officially my longest blog post title ever.

Last week, before my trip to Utah, I put in a couple of sessions at the Flamingo because the World Series of Beer Pong was there, and I had a hunch that its participants would (1) want to play poker, and (2) not be very good at it. I was right on both counts.

While there, I ran into several rules problems, which isn't a particular surprise, given my previous observations there.


On my second night I had at the table the same guy (Don) that I discussed here. To make it even more interesting, Orlando was dealing again, and we had the same floor guy, too--Charlie. Because it had been proven to my satisfaction previously that nobody was going to lift a finger to stop this moron from talking about every single hand in progress, I decided to just sit back and watch, rather than complain about it.

Sure enough, he ran his mouth non-stop, just as before. He would overtly announce what his cards were (at least sometimes truthfully), what he thought other players' cards were (e.g., on a three-bet, "He's got aces for sure"), what he thought other players should do ("You have to call him here--you know that, right?"), etc.

And, just as the last time I played at a table with him, not a single dealer did or said a thing about it. We went through three different dealers before Don left for the day, and none of them gave even the slightest hint that there was anything wrong with this ongoing monologue.

Why should they? It would likely cut into their tips (he is a very generous tipper), and they already know that the floor guy, Charlie, isn't going to back them up if they or a player complains about it; he doesn't care that Don talks about every hand in flagrant violation of the rules.

So the beat goes on.


Guy on phone gets dealt in and plays his hand while continuing to talk. Another player asks about this. Dealer says it's fine. Player says, "When I played here last night, they wouldn't deal me in because I was on my phone."

He is far from the first to notice that the rule on this point varies from moment to moment, dealer to dealer, day to day.


One guy makes a bet by picking up part of a stack of chips, reaching over the betting line, and dropping a couple of them, then returning the rest of the chips to his stack. Another player asks the dealer why all of those chips aren't committed to the pot, since they all went over the line. Dealer tells him that only chips released are committed. The player very believably launches into a story about how on the previous night he lost a lot of money in a hand because that dealer said that the house rule was that all chips in your hand that crossed the betting line were committed to the pot. He was understandably perturbed that that rule, like the one about cell phones, appeared and disappeared at the whim of the dealers. His friend, who had also been playing the previous night, confirms that the first guy is relating things accurately. I reassure them that they are not the first ones to notice that this rule comes and goes without notice.

I actually remember when that rule was implemented a couple of years ago. (I thought I had blogged about it at the time, but I find no such post now.) I know somebody who was a dealer there at the time, and we talked about the problems it was going to cause. As I recall the conversation, I told him that I anticipated that it was going to get enforced with extreme variability--some dealers doing it all the time, others never, others only when somebody complained (or used it for angle-shooting against a less knowledgeable opponent). He agreed. It probably also varies with who the supervisor is at any given time, since, like dealers, some of them will be sticklers for the rules and others will be lax.


Dang it. There really was a fourth example, this one involving a straddler who was allowed to raise after having first checked. Unfortunately, the notes I quickly scribbled about what happened are so brief, cryptic, and illegible that I can't reconstruct exactly what happened, and I no longer remember the details. (I had intended to write this post as soon as I got home, but then other stuff got in the way--you know how that goes.) Sorry.

The larger point is, though, that the Flamingo continues to be one of the worst-managed poker rooms in the city, in terms of having rules that make sense and that are enforced consistently. I have previously posted about times when the dealer queered the action by talking about the hand as it played out (here), and about the difficulty I have had getting dealers to replace obviously marked cards (here).

The bottom line is this: As far as I can tell, nobody in a position of any authority at the Flamingo gives a damn about consistent enforcement of either the most basic, universal rules of poker, or the house-specific rules that they choose to have on their books. Game integrity means nothing to the poker room management there, and if you play there, you can't count on what the rules are or how or whether they will be enforced. Even if you ask about some specific rule, it may well be different when the next dealer sits down.

For the last several months, Bluff magazine has been running a column titled "Call the Floor," in which a poker room manager answers sometimes difficult rules questions. The blurb about the author of the column says this: "Andy Rich is the Poker Room Manager for several Harrah’s Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, including Harrah’s, Flamingo, and O’Sheas. He is also a Shift Manager every summer on the live side at the World Series of Poker. Got a poker rule question? Send it to Andy at" (See here, e.g.) the column is consistently good--I haven't yet disagreed with Mr. Rich's discussions of the scenarios readers ask about. So I'm going to email him a link to this post and ask for his comment. If he offers any for public consumption, I'll post it here.


Even though that email address for Mr. Rich was published in the November, 2009, issue, I got an error message in return: "User unknown."

Guess the casino, #386

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

Answer: Green Valley Ranch

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

All you have to do is ask

I'm watching the last two nights of "Poker After Dark" from last week. They're four-handed. Joe Sebok opens with a raise holding A-4. Mark Gregorich reraises with A-K. Howard Lederer says, "This would be a good time to pick up like ace-king. Just letting you guys know." He checks his cards: A-A. He moves all in. Gabe Kaplan says, "This would be a good time to pick up 7-2 so I can get out of here." He checks his cards: 7-2.

Televised poker is totally rigged!

Guess the casino, #385

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

Answer: Texas Station

Home again

I'm back from a long weekend in Salt Lake City visiting family.

In lieu of an actual post with actual content, I offer these three photographs, taken earlier today on my drive back to Vegas.

First is this oddity. I stopped in Mesquite for a snack and noticed these lollipops by the cash register. They have small but real scorpions embedded in them.

Why anybody would want to eat a lollipop with that waiting a few licks in is beyond my comprehension.

Next up is something that catches my attention every time I drive through St. George, Utah: A series of highway signs for "Bluff St." I think maybe I should live there.

Finally, I have to give you a mountain shot. Ones I took near the city this morning didn't turn out very well because of a thick layer of haze. Actually, that's what made the sight quite interesting: the mountain ridge appeared to be floating against a blue sky. But a stupid cell phone camera could not do the scene justice. Further south, I found a photogenic section of low mountains near the entrance to the Virgin River Valley part of I-15. (In case you've never made the drive, I-15 cuts through a corner of Arizona for maybe 25 miles, and it's an amazing contrast. You very, very suddenly go from being surrounded by basically flat desert on both sides to being swallowed up by steep rock canyons. Then, just as suddenly, 15 or 20 miles later, you emerge, and have flat desert on both sides again. It's a strange and memorable experience.) It was really lovely with late-afternoon light and a beautiful blue sky. I took a series of photos to digitally stitch together a panorama, but only after making it did I appreciate the range of light that the scene had. You can see that the left side of the shot (which is nearly 180 degrees, though you may not be able to discern that) is in shadows from the mountains, but the sunlight fully hits the south face of the hills to the north. The results, unfortunately, isn't very convincing as a single image. Oh well. Click on it to see the big version anyway.

Poker life resumes tomorrow.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Guess the casino, #384

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

Answer: Rio

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Guess the casino, #383

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

Answer: Rio