Saturday, February 20, 2010

Not much poker in February

More obstacles to poker ahead.

Something I haven't mentioned here before is that I occasionally do some consulting work related to my previous life. There's not a lot of such jobs, nor do I really want there to be--one or two a month, typically, usually taking no more than a day or two each. It makes for a nice infusion of cash and a break from my usual routine. But I had a big, several-day one sent to me just before I left for Utah, and must now get it done this weekend, which might mean no poker. Plus I just learned yesterday that another equally big one will be arriving within the next few days.

On top of that, I am going on a quick trip to see the delightful Cardgrrl next week. She will be visiting family in Albuquerque from Thursday to Monday, and I have been invited to meet her there and tag along. I can't pass up that opportunity, so I'll be flying off to New Mexico, a state I haven't visited since I was a little kid and ran around the Four Corners monument during a family road trip. There should be some poker involved; I'm hoping to spend a good chunk of time in the Sandia Casino poker room while in the neighborhood.

These big projects, the vacation to Albuquerque, and the emergency trip to Utah make for a highly unusual confluence of distractions from the tables and the blog. (Of course, Sandia is likely to generate some tales, but the telling will probably have to wait until Big Project #2 gets done after my return.) Bear with me. All will return to normal before you know it.

An unusual day

Yesterday was a pretty strange day, full of one-of-a-kind experiences.

Car trouble

It started by dropping off my car for some repair work. I had grown suspicious of the shop I have usually used; it's under new management lately, and I think they are now both less competent and more prone to selling services I don't actually need. So I've been exploring other options. The one I tried yesterday is called Hondatronics. As the name implies, they deal almost exclusively in working on Hondas and Acuras.

Everybody I had consulted had agreed that the scary squeal emerging from under the hood was a failing power steering pump. Well, I'll spare you the details, but the Hondatronics guys did an impressive diagnostic job, eventually discovering that the trouble was, in fact, in the pulley that turns the belt that run the power steering pump, though that was not at all obvious. In fact, when it was all said and done and the mechanic showed me (with great enthusiasm, like a first-grader excitedly telling his mother about the first day of school) the parts he had replaced and how it all worked and fit together, I was mightily impressed with the acumen it took to figure this out. I thought about writing it all out here, but it would take too long and probably not interest anybody. But take my word for it--it was a serious piece of automotive detection to find out what the trouble really was. It took them 6 1/2 hours instead of the 2 that had been estimated for the pump repair, but it was perfectly understandable, under the circumstances. This place has quickly won my confidence in their skill and honesty, and will be the first place I turn for car work from now on.


One of the other lovely coincidences of Hondatronics is that it's a five-minute walk from the Orleans. Now, the Orleans is not on my top ten or even top twenty favorite places to play. But it's pretty consistently profitable, so if I can spend the car-repair time making money playing poker instead of reading books and magazines, it's a bonus. (And with a car that's nearly 18 years old and has 170,000 miles on the ticker, time in the shop is just a given.)

So off to the Orleans I went. I got my name on the list and sat down. Within a minute or two I heard one of the dealers yell out, "Jackpot!" and pandemonium broke loose. The Orleans is one of the few places in town with a bad-beat jackpot. Lose with quads or better and you, the winner of the hand, and everybody else in the room playing the same game will share a jackpot that is kept at a minimum of $50,000. Yesterday it was at $58,650. Given that this was morning and there were only four tables running, the "room share" worked out to $1173 apiece. Not a bad bonus for just sitting in a game when the thing hit.

I snapped a photo of the jackpot hand, quad aces beating quad nines:

What I had not anticipated was how this event would bring the room to a complete standstill, as far as me getting into a game was concerned. I waited an hour and 45 minutes, almost all of which was because everything stopped while they worked out the horrendously complicated paperwork involved in that sum of money being shared by that many players. The room staff didn't even try to get anything else going in the meantime. At one point I counted 55 names on the lists waiting for games, but nothing was happening. It was about an hour before play resumed on any of the tables. During that time, all the players were just sitting around doing nothing, though they didn't seem as irritated as the people waiting to play. After all, they each had nearly $1200 free money coming, and we didn't.

If I had had any idea how long my car was going to take and how long this jackpot mess was going to take, I would have caught a shuttle bus to the Strip and played somewhere else. The delay was seriously aggravating. I attribute it to incompetent room management, that they were unwilling or unable to accommodate literally dozens of people wanting to play for an hour and a half.

This was the first time I've ever been in a poker room when a bad-beat jackpot hit. I'm not looking forward to it happening again, unless I'm going to be one of the ones to profit from it.

Tell me how to beat you

I did eventually get a seat and played for about five hours, making a little over $200. Not stellar, but certainly more profitable than anything else I could have been doing with the down time.

There was only one hand worth telling about. The donator at the table was a drunk guy who fancied himself an expert player, but was really not very good at all. He was highly unpredictable, however. As happens so often, he had been on a sick run of good luck before I got to the table and for the first hour or two thereafter (amassing so many chips that he stopped bothering to stack them, and just kept them in a big messy pile in front of him), but then had both luck and his own fatigue and overconfidence push his fortunes the other way, and he started to give them all back.

At one point I found the diamond A-K in second position, and raised to $8. Drunk guy was on the button and reraised to $23. This was the first 3-bet I had seen him make, so it gave me pause. On the other hand, he had sometimes raised with things like 9-3 offsuit, and he was overly fond of bluffing (I had snapped him off a couple of times myself), so I wasn't ready to credit him with just A-A/K-K, as I might with a local rock in the same situation. I called.

The flop was J-10-x. While I was deciding what to do, drunk guy bet $20 out of turn. (He did this a lot. He just wasn't paying attention, and was always overly eager for it to be his turn, as if he had ADD or something.) The dealer had him take it back. I checked. He put out $25. The dealer made him reduce it back to the $20 he had bet out of turn. I called, partly hoping to hit the nuts if a queen came, partly because he was most often just a one-barreller if he missed the flop and was up against somebody whose play he respected.

Turn was another jack. Once again while I was pondering my options, he bet out of turn: $50. The dealer made him take it back. I thought for a while about what to do, finally settling on a check. Strangely, he checked behind. The dealer pointed out that he had already committed himself to the out-of-turn bet. He protested, "I changed my mind. I don't want to bet now." This was an interesting development. I really would have been happy to take a free card with him, but I thought it was best to continue my usual policy of not talking during a hand and let the dealer sort it out. She called the floor. While we were waiting for the floor guy to come over, drunk guy started talking, and that proved to be his downfall.

Apparently my pause before checking had put a notion in his head that he couldn't shake. He said, "Come on, let's just check it down. I know you have a jack, and you checked to trap me. You want them to make me put that money in so you can raise." (I hadn't said anything along those lines, but that's apparently how he interpreted the situation.)

Now, some players are skillful enough in deception to make a speech like this when holding the stone-cold nuts in an effort to induce a bluff. But he was, frankly, too dumb and too drunk to pull that off. His mini-tirade continued for 30 seconds or so while we were waiting for a floor decision, and the longer it went, the more certain I was that he was calling it exactly as he saw it.

So, when the floor made the only possible decision--that his $50 bet had to stand--and drunk guy shook his head in disgust as he reluctantly put the chips back in, I did what he told me to do: I check-raised to $150! He immediately said that he couldn't call. He hemmed and hawed, but finally did as he said he would have to do, and folded. Then, as a last touch, he said, "Out of respect, I'm going to show you what I'm folding." He had A-K in hearts.

I sensed that he was hovering on the edge of some serious tilt and could be toppled right into the abyss with the smallest push, so as I was raking in the chips, I flipped up my cards and told him, "You had an excellent hand, sir."

I was right. That pushed every button he had. Among other things, he said, "I was just about to leave, but now I'm going to stay just so I can play against you again!"

Bring it on, dude! I love it when people target me for vengeance. They will nearly always try to force the issue with a lesser hand than they would usually bring to battle, because if you're zeroing in one just one opponent, it effectively means that you can't wait for your premium hands, or your target won't be there. You have to go with what you have when your target is playing. That automatically gives your target the huge advantage of choosing when to play for big pots. (For a story of a time another guy got mad at me and kept me in his sights for the rest of the session, see here. For another story of how a drunk opponent told me exactly how to beat him, see here.)

Sadly, he didn't follow through on his threat and I didn't get to tangle with him for a big pot again.

Social evening

They finished with my car just barely in time for me to make the dinner date I had previously set up with Jennifer, one of my playing partners from the blogger tournament in December. She was in town to work for the PokerStars blog on the big NAPT tournament at the Venetian. We were joined by C.K. for dinner at the Grand Lux at the V. (I see that Jen has already beaten me to writing about her evening, here.) They had to take off right after dinner to get ready for a big Stars party.

I played in the V poker room for about an hour, then headed off to the airport. Shamus was coming to town to work the same gig as Jen, and I had offered to pick him up at the airport. He unknowingly walked past me at the airport (I had my nose buried in a crossword puzzle to pass the time), and as we were talking on our cell phones, trying to determine our respective geographical positions, I had one of those weird moments when I realized I was hearing his voice through the phone and through the air simultaneously, and looked up to see him standing about six feet in front of me.

I waited while he got checked into his room at the Venetian. While doing so, I spotted an opportunity to catch a picture of him while still preserving his super-secret identity, which only, like, 7000 people know:

We then headed back downstairs to the Grand Lux (it's very strange to enter the same restaurant twice in one evening). He had dinner while I chowed down on the dessert I had skipped earlier. It was an item I haven't seen on the menu there before: "Cupcake Collision." It's three chocolate cupcakes with a bunch of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream:

Sorry for the bad picture--low light of a restaurant is to blame (and lack of flash on phone camera). Good stuff, keeping me fattened up for the slaughter.

It looks like Shamus, too, is ahead of me in posting about his arrival. See here.

Anyway, I had a lovely evening with three friends and finally headed home after what turned out to be a highly unusual but pleasant and interesting day in Las Vegas.

Guess the casino, #424

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

Answer: M Resort

Friday, February 19, 2010

Guess the casino, #423

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

Answer: Mandalay Bay

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Guess the casino, #422

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

Hint: At first glance, it may be hard to tell what you're seeing here. It is the reflection of the main casino building in the mirrored exterior of one of its auxiliary buildings (at night, obviously). Even if you don't recognize the structure, you might be able to guess the casino if you put your imagination to work on the distorted, backwards, red neon lettering in the reflection.

Answer: Circus Circus

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Guess the casino, #421

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

Answer: Caesars Palace

Confidential to Kara Scott


On the above board, As-Qs is not the "nuts," and Ks-2s is not the "second nuts," as you said.

I know it's your first episode of the new gig, but really, you have to pay more attention. People notice these things.

Your pal,


Poker gems, #344

Phil Hellmuth, on "High Stakes Poker," season 6, episode 1:

Hellmuth: Durr [Tom Dwan] and I gamble, buddy. We put in 16,000 each when the blinds were 200 the other day. He had 10-jack, I had 9-7 offsuit.

Antonio Esfandiari: How did that work out for you?

Hellmuth: Not well.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guess the casino, #420

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

Answer: Venetian

Monday, February 15, 2010

A little poker wisdom from Willie Nelson

Yesterday on my drive home from Utah I was listening to my one and only Willie Nelson recording, the two-disc compilation shown above. I hadn't heard it in quite a while.

I was struck by these lyrics from "Nothing I Can Do About It Now":

I've got a long list of real good reasons
For all the things I've done
I've got a picture in the back of my mind
Of what I've lost and what I've won
I've survived every situation
Knowing when to freeze and when to run
And regret is just a memory written on my brow
And there's nothing I can do about it now.


And I could cry for the time I've wasted
But that's a waste of time and tears,
And I know just what I'd change
If went back in time somehow
But there's nothing I can do about it now

(You can listen to the extremely catchy song here or watch it embedded below, at least until somebody cries foul on the copyright issue and yanks it off of YouTube.)

Great advice to remember. You misplayed a hand, misread an opponent, mistimed a bluff, maybe even did something as boneheaded as to forget what your cards were, and you lost a bunch of chips as a result.

Now you have a choice. You can sit there and sulk about it, replaying the mistake over and over again, wallowing in your misery. Or you can say, "There's nothing I can do about it now," let it go, and move on to the next hand.

One mental exercise I have sometimes found helpful is this: When you have a problem or issue over which you have no control, picture it as a pencil in your hand. Mentally squeeze it as hard as you can, representing all the effort you have expended in vain. Does it accomplish anything? Nope. You can't remold the wood. When you're ready to acknowledge that you have done everything useful there is to do, and nothing more that you can do will change anything, then stop squeezing the pencil. Picture your hand opening and letting the pencil fall to the floor. That's it. You have let it go. It is literally out of your hands. Now you're free to put your mind to work on something over which you do have control--like the hand the dealer is pitching your way right now.

Of course, there's also the point about figuring out what you'd do differently so that you don't make the same mistake again. Sometimes you do that on the spot, sometimes later when reviewing your session privately or with a friend or coach. As long as the intention is to plug a leak in your game rather than to pour salt in your own wounds, it's a useful exercise. But then when it's done, you file the lesson nonjudgmentally in your database of poker experience, and let it go.

I don't suppose that Willie Nelson has poker specifically in mind when he sings that song, but he's got a point. As with many things in life, once the thing is done, it's over and there's nothing you can do about it now. Crying about it is "a waste of time and tears." Put it behind you and get on with the next hand.

Guess the casino, #419

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

Answer: Mirage

Things seen along the way

I'm back home again.

This post is just to share a few thoughts about my trip that have nothing to do with what its central purpose was.

First, my rental car was a Suzuki SX-4, seen above. I expected to hate it as a crummy little econobox from an also-ran manufacturer. But the thing surprised me. It turned out to be both a competent, comfortable highway cruiser and a nimble in-town runabout. It averaged 36.6 MPG over my 1134-mile trip. (Not quite as good as the 39.2 I got with the Toyota Yaris a year ago, but (1) there was a lot more city driving in the mix this time, and (2) it's a larger car, being more comparable to Toyota's Corolla than the Yaris.) I was impressed enough that I would consider buying one if I were in the market for a new car. Here's a favorable review from my favorite car magazine.

I should also put in a good word for Fox Rent-A-Car. First time I've used them. They not only undercut all competition in price--and by a large margin--but they gave me a brand-spankin'-new, never-before-rented car that I liked, and made the whole process the most friendly and hassle-free car renting experience I've ever had. Just about every other agency makes me feel like they're sure I'm planning to either destroy or steal the vehicle, and they're really reluctant to let me drive off with it. Fox will be my first choice next time around.

(One demerit to the company: I picked up a tiny windshield chip from a random flung highway pebble. When returning the car, the attendant checking me in didn't notice it, so I pointed it out to him. He said, "You shouldn't have said anything." I guess that honesty is not high on the list of personal qualities important to Fox in selecting its employees.)

OK, on to the things I saw on the trip.

First, I saw a whole bunch of mountains. For a long drive through the Rockies, I guess that's not too surprising. It's interesting that mountains look so beautiful when seen in person, but just don't capture well in photographs (unless you're Ansel Adams). But my best attempts are here. I especially like the interplay of clouds and land formations in this one.

While driving around Salt Lake City looking at nursing homes, I passed this collection of rusty sculptures for sale. They were whimsical enough to amuse me.

My parents have bird feeders at their house, and one morning this pretty finch came for breakfast.

I took my time on the drive back, stopping more frequently than I usually do to take pictures and do other dawdling. I stopped in the town of Beaver, Utah, which is just about the halfway point between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. I had wanted to stop at the Cache Valley Cheese store there, but it was closed.

As I was making my way back to the interstate, I noticed that much of the town is abandoned and falling apart. My friend Cardgrrl has a photographic blog, "Something Beautiful," in which she frequently mentions her quirky fondness for things that are old, rusty, and decaying--man-made structures and objects that are slowly being reclaimed by nature. (It's a taste that my reader Wolynski apparently disapproves of, based on this blog post. But different strokes....) She encourages readers to find beauty in such unexpected places. So I decided to accept the challenge and see if I could find bits of beauty in two of the dilapidated buildings of Beaver. The results are here and here, with the most interesting shots from those batches, I think, being this one and this one. A barbed wire fence kept me from getting as close to the brick building (house? school? church?) as I would have liked.

Interestingly, I have a lot of combination poker players/photographers among my readers and among the blogs I follow: Cardgrrl, Wolinsky (here and here), Bastin (who was the first to point Cardgrrl to this humble blog, a small act for which I am immensely grateful), S (here and here), Vegas Rex, Memphis Mojo, and Oh Captain (here and here). I will probably never be as good as any of them, but it's kind of fun trying my hand at it once in a while.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Guess the casino, #418

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

Answer: Texas Station