Saturday, June 12, 2010

Guess the casino, #536

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

Answer: Fitzgerald's

Women's event at the WSOP

This post is about the ladies' event of the WSOP, which started today, as well as the general phenomenon of such tournaments. The post is going to be quite different that it would have been if I had written it when I first decided to do so, about nine hours ago. Since then, I have been back to the Pavilion Room to play a cash game, took a few pictures, and saw and heard various relevant things, as that is where Day 1 of Event #22 is being played.

I have also, since returning home,

-- Read maybe 100 Twitter messages about the subject, mostly from people I know, a few from people I don't know.

-- Read this story at Card Player's site about the WSOP threatening various long-term consequences for the men who played in the event.

-- Watched Daniel Negreanu's video blog post about the subject.

-- Read the PokerNews live updates for the first eight hours or so of play.

-- Read F-Train's excellent post. This may have changed the intended post more than anything else, because he said much of what I was thinking, but better than I might have, as well as shifting my thinking on one big point, which I'll get to later.

As often happens, I don't have a coherent thesis (failing English Comp 101), just a bunch of more-or-less interconnected thoughts, which I present here in no particular order. I am going to assume that my readers are familiar with the beat-to-death basic arguments for and against the existence of female-only events, and not rehash them here.

1. Here are two men I saw playing who were close enough to photograph easily, presented so that you can either hate or admire them, as you choose. I have no idea who they are.

2. Taking an early departure from topical relevance, I just have to show you this picture of Cheryl Hines. From a technical point of view, it's a horrible shot, but I love her facial expression anyway.

3. One of the women in my cash game had earlier been playing in the tournament, and was at a table where a male player (she designated all of them who entered as "idiots," just to give you one sampling of woman-on-the-street opinion) had a tampon that he was using as a card protector. I thought this might be my little reporting scoop of the day, but I found out when I got home that the incident--including the penalty this jackass incurred--had already been widely reported. Not cool, dude. Not funny.

4. As has also been reported everywhere, upon every elimination of a male player, the female players let out a collective cheer. This was not--repeat, not--the polite "good game" applause that one hears from the audience when a player exits a final table. No, this had an unmistakable flavor of "Get the hell out of here and don't ever come back."

This behavior shows that men have no monopoly on being jackasses and poor sports. Perhaps it is wrong and offensive for these men to have entered the event, but that doesn't make it OK to vocalize your glee at their elimination. As my mother liked to remind me ad nauseum, two wrongs don't make a right.

If you object to a male entering the tournament and sitting at your table, I think you are within your rights to basically snub him socially--don't humor him, don't chat with him, don't interact more than is minimally required to keep the game moving. Cold shoulders from eight women at a table might make him rethink whether this is an action he wants to repeat. I consider that a socially acceptable form of expressing your opinion about his choice.

If you feel like being more direct, you can even start the day by telling him something like this: "I think your entering this tournament is like urinating in the punch bowl of a party that you weren't invited to. I resent you being here, and I hope you will think better of entering any other such event in the future." Then snub him. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you're calm and civil in your tone and choice of words.

But if you want to claim the moral high ground in this controversy, you have to keep your reaction to the situation classy. Cheering an opponent's loss completely fails that simple test.

5. I wonder if Harrah's is really serious about imposing some sort of sanctions on the men who entered. Are they actually that stupid, or is it just a corporate bluff?

Here's what Seth Palansky said, according to Card Player's reporter: "The good news is at the World Series of Poker, we have the right to refuse service to anyone at any time at any point that we deem, as operators of the event."

Assuming, as would seem to be the case, that it is illegally discriminatory for a place of public accommodation to forbid men from entering the tournament, it must surely also be illegally discriminatory to refuse them equal access to public events in the future on the basis of their legitimate participation today.

Suppose that some racist restaurant owner didn't want to serve blacks, but wanted to get around the anti-discrimination laws. So he says, "I'll serve you today if you absolutely insist, but if you do, then I'm going to ban you from the premises forever, because I'm free to take or reject the business of anybody I want to."

How does that even make sense? If Harrah's doesn't have the legal right to refuse access to a public event on the basis of sex, then it can't possibly have the right to ban that person from future events on the grounds that he accepted the open invitation. I can't imagine how a court, if asked to decide the matter, could come to any conclusion other than the obvious: The future ban is just a different means of practicing the illegal discrimination. There can't be any logical distinction between "You can't play today because you're male," and "OK, you can play today, but if you do, then because you're male, we will never let you enter one of our tournaments again." The perverse consequence of that approach would be that a place of public accommodation could freely discriminate on the basis of sex or race for a person's entire lifetime, as long as they didn't do it this one time.

That's just too bizarre to take seriously. If they really try it, I'd love to be the attorney bringing the suit. Seems like a slam-dunk win for the plaintiffs to me.

6. Speaking of bizarre legal theories, you should listen to Negreanu's. He proposes that Harrah's set up a men-only tournament with a buy in of $100 billion. Then they could legally hold the women's tournament as is.

Well, unlike Seth Palansky's idiotic claim, at least Negreanu freely admits that he doesn't know the law and doesn't know what he's talking about. Courts enforcing anti-discrimination laws have little patience for schemes that pay lip service to inviting full participation by everyone, but in actual practice have unreasonable or insurmountable barriers to participation by members of some protected class.

I guess Negreanu never heard of "separate but equal" being struck down--and he's not even trying to make it "equal."

7. I have what will probably seem like a hopelessly muddled and self-contradictory view of discrimination law, by the way. I believe that:

A) There should be no laws prohibiting discrimination by private entities, such as individuals or corporations, even if they are in the business of public accommodation. That is, yes, a bar or hotel or store should be able to exclude anybody on any basis--even the most vile, such as race. They almost always shouldn't do it, but they should have the legal right to make that choice. That is not because I endorse racial (or other) discrimination, but because, primarily, I place an enormous value on private property rights. (Biting tongue so as not to go into full rant on this. Suffice it to say that Rand Paul had it right recently, and I was disappointed that he backpedaled on the point (though he didn't actually retract it).)

B) However, if there are going to be anti-discrimination laws on the books, then they should be vigorously enforced. This is especially true when it comes to enforcing them in ways that are unpopular, and not what those enacting the laws had in mind. Using such laws to challenge women getting free or discounted drinks at a bar, or free or discounted entry into hotel swimming pools (both of which are very common in Vegas) is precisely the sort of thing I have in mind. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, as they say. (And letting men gander is the main motivation, isn't it?!) One of the most effective ways of getting bad laws changed or repealed is to have them fully enforced.

8. Oh, PokerNews, is this really your best work? From the very first live update of the event today:

"Over the next three days, our bloggers and field reporters will be relieved of the stench that comes with every male-dominated tournament field, as the women of poker take to the felt for the 2010 WSOP Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship."

That's how you start--by talking about how women smell better than men? That's as much of an embarrassing face-palm moment as Harrah's giving out decks of lavendar playing cards as gifts (as they did last year).

9. The next paragraph is just as bad, though for completely different reasons:

"Last year's event drew 1,060 of the world's finest female poker players...."

Uh, no, it didn't. It may have drawn 1060 female players, and it may have drawn many of the world's finest ones. But the sentence includes every participant in the tournament within the category of "the world's finest female poker players." I watched some of them play. Trust me--that term does not accurately characterize some of the ones I saw. (See my post here.)

10. Several people reported via Twitter that Harrah's security guards were harrassing and intimidating men who signed up--requring them to submit to being searched, for example--in ways that women were not subjected to. This is, of course, appalling. Frankly, I hope those who were at the receiving end of such treatment sue Harrah's, prove that this was done purely on the basis of gender, and win a big, fat judgment.

If Harrah's is going to claim that it has the right to do this as a condition of entering the tournament, but applies the requirement selectively only to men, then legally it's going to have to say that it would also have the right to apply that requirement only to blacks or Asians, for example, if it wanted to do so.

Imagine how many people in the WSOP and security departments would lose their jobs if it became publicly known that they harrassed racial minorities that way in an effort to dissuade them from entering a poker tournament. Then imagine how much Harrah's stock value would fall when mutual funds, retirement funds, etc., came under pressure to sell it off, with Harrah's acquiring a foul reputation for its own private version of apartheid.

Really--how stupid are the people in charge of this corporation?

11. Soon after I sat down in the cash game (maybe 2:30 p.m. or so), I heard an announcement over the PA system. There is apparently a daily rundown of news given to the players. Today, a female announcer (no idea who it was) informed the players about who had won bracelets in the last 24 hours, what events were going on today, etc.

Among the announcements, though, was that Shaun Deeb was playing in the Ladies' Tournament, in drag. (See his story and photo here.) She wanted to make clear that he was doing this because he had lost a prop bet, and he had pledged that any money he won would be donated to some unspecified female-oriented charity. She added, "So please don't give him any grief about being here."

Let's make clear what is implied here. First, by omission, she suggests on behalf of Harrah's (because this woman was clearly speaking for Harrah's) that it is OK to give all of the other men grief about their participation. Again, just consider the obvious racial parallel to realize how shockingly wrong and self-defeating this is.

Second, she announces that Harrah's corporately thinks it's OK for some men to be playing in the women-only event, if their reason is good enough. And, by implication, Harrah's reserves the right to determine what constitutes a good enough reason.

Putting this tidbit together with the previous one, we get this picture: If you are a male and register for this tournament, Harrah's representatives will apparently quiz you as to your motivations (after taking your money). If you pass their little test (for which there are obviously no published or set standards), they will let you go unharrassed, and even publicly praise your participation. If they don't like your reasons, on the other hand, you will be searched, threatened with future exclusion, and watched for any rules violations with a scrutiny that is not given to female players, so that they have a pretext for disqualifying you from the event, while keeping your money.

Hey, Harrah's--how about throwing in a little backroom flogging while you're at it. After all, it's private property, and you can do whatever you want, right?

12. I understand from a PokerNews video that the bracelet for this event is different from all the others of 2010: it has little pink diamonds on it. Join me in collective eye-rolling here.

13. The same video reports (and I heard this in person at the Rio, too) that two tables decided to do restroom breaks en masse so that nobody would miss a hand.

The stupidity just never ends. That decision meant that everybody involved spent several times as long away from the table as they would have otherwise--while the clock was running. Particularly in a shallow-stack event like this, time is a precious commodity. You can't afford to be dilly-dallying around while players at the other tables are accumulating chips by the minute.

This event apparently gathered two groups of nine people in which nobody was bright enough to figure out that they hurt rather than helped themselves with this move. *sigh*

13. My original reason for thinking to write a post on this subject was a Twitter friend asking why on earth any men would enter, even if it's technically allowed. That was the approach I was first planning on taking: a list of possible reasons one might have. The more obvious ones include easier route to a bracelet and money (Kathy Liebert is one who doesn't mind admitting that fact; she tweeted, "I do like the ladies event. It is an easier field than the open events because many of the women haven't played much"), meet women, get publicity, lost a prop bet, etc.

I was then going to expound on one possible reason that I suspect is the primary motivation for only a small minority: Trying to effect change. Imagine, I had thought of saying, if they got 1000 women entering but 3000 men. What would that force Harrah's to do? If you're a principled opponent of single-sex events, isn't that a legitimate goal?

I'm not taking that tack now because F-Train's post persuaded me that it's wrong. I like his general proposal for other ways that one could and should go about trying to get things changed, if one is pure of motive.

14. I have somehow gotten this many words out without addressing the usual arguments about consistency: If you're against the women's event, are you also opposed to the seniors' event? Well, yes, though less so, for one reason: It's one from which prospective players are barred only temporarily, not for life. Everybody will be eligible for it sooner or later. Heck, even I will be eligible for it next year. (Ugh.) That makes it less onerous, in my view.

What about the employees' event? That's a kind of odd one. If it were solely for Harrah's employees--who, I understand, are ineligible to participate in open fields--it would make sense as some compensation. But they open it to all casino employees. I don't really see the point of it. It's not like being a casino employee puts one at an intrinsic disadvantage for playing poker. If I were in charge, I think I'd eliminate it.

Although rarely mentioned in discussions of women's events, there is another type of tournament that one has to take into account if one is going to try to achieve logical consistency. (I strive to, but often fail, and I'll admit in advance that this whole subject is one on which I probably haven't made it.) There are special events for people with certain physical disabilities, most notably the National Deaf Poker Tour. Hey, Mr. Smarty-Pants, isn't that discrimination, too?

Yeah, it is, as are the seniors' and employees' events. But they have something in common that still distinguishes them in one important respect from the women's events: They were not started and are not continued because of a belief that those invited are, on average, not up to snuff to play in open fields. I said I won't go into the hackneyed arguments about ladies' events, and I won't, but you just can't get around the historical stigma problem. Even if current organizers disavow any such belief, everybody knows that that's how and why the practice began, and it taints the victory.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever thought that, for example, deaf people have less poker talent or ability, on average, than those without that handicap. But they do have particular pragmatic difficulties that others don't have to deal with. I can understand why they would want to have an occasional tournament where, first, they are on equal footing with their opponents in terms of the nuts and bolts of the game, and, second, they can easily engage in the social aspects of poker that are much harder when they have to resort to lip reading, an interpreter, or the chance presence of a player who knows sign language.

(I was at the Orleans once while a deaf poker tournament was going on. It was fascinating to watch, though I felt a little self-conscious about it, and tried to be discreet. I was genuinely interested in how they made all the pokery things work that we usually rely on our ears for, but at the same time I didn't want to make them feel like they were a freak show there for my entertainment.)

That said, if the WSOP proposed to begin a bracelet event for which only the deaf were eligible, I'd have serious misgivings about it. This obviously applies with equal force to any other specific type of physical handicap for which one might envision a special poker tournament--but if there currently exist any others, I don't know of them.

15. Hey, speaking of male interlopers in the women's event, how about this guy skulking around?

Oh, never mind--that's just B.J. Nemeth, one of the best photographers at the Rio year after year.

Whew. I'm all typed out. This has got to be one of the longest posts I've ever done, and it has worn me out even though I have barely touched on some of the arguments that one might expect me to have tackled. I guess I'll just have to leave those for somebody else, or at least for another day.

Addendum, June 12, 2010

Nicole Gordon (aka Change100) has a particularly thoughtful and well-written op-ed on the whole subject, at PokerNews, here. Other new bloggentary available at Table Tango, Tao of Poker, and CrAAKKer.

Addendum, June 13, 2010

Yet more interesting perspectives here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Life-enriching thought of the day

Cardgrrl pointed me to a lovely commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College in Ohio by one of my favorite writers, David Foster Wallace. His subsequent suicide makes the message all the more poignant.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and
discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for
them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

You might want to read the whole thing:

It never hurts to check

Terrence "Not Johnny" Chan has this cautionary tale from a WSOP pot-limit Omaha event in his latest blog entry:

There was one kind of wild hand before the dinner break. It was folded me on the
button at 100-200 and I looked down at the powerhouse hand that is TT53
double-suited. I raised to 600 and only the BB called. The flop came A96 with
two of my suit, and I checked it behind (probably a mistake). The turn came an
8, my opponent bet just 800 and I decided to float. The river was a 7 and my
opponent bet 1000. I said "raise" and tossed in the first 1000 to call and
started the process of thinking how much to raise. I was wearing earphones but
apparently the dealer said something like "turn 'em up" while four other people
at the table simultaneously said "he said raise". But the damage was done as my
opponent quickly turned up Q99x. The floor was called over, and my opponent was (justifiably) very unhappy, but of course it was ruled that my raise would
stand. Now how much to raise? I decided to raise...1000 more. My opponent said,
"bullshit" and quickly folded. Total weirdness!

This caught my attention because twice within the past few days I have unintentionally annoyed an opponent and been accused of slow-rolling when I couldn't be sure whether a bet was a call or a raise.

The first instance was at Imperial Palace Wednesday night. I can't even remember what the hand was, but I made something strong on the river and made a nearly pot-sized bet of $35. My opponent didn't ask how much it was, but just grabbed a partial stack of chips and stuck it out there. I could tell that it was a little more than I had bet--probably not enough to be a raise, but I couldn't be sure at a glance. So I asked the dealer, "Is that a call?" The dealer counted it out, tossed the extra couple of chips back to the player, and said, "Yes, it's a call." I then showed my hand. The other player, who probably had been ahead until the last street, angrily mucked his cards while saying, "Of course it's a call--what'd you think, idiot?" I didn't bother explaining myself, but the answer, obviously, was that if he were trying to raise, I definitely wanted to let him do so, rather than possibly kill the action by showing my hand.

The second instance was last night at the Venetian. I was on the button and called a raise with suited 10-8, one of my favorite crAAKKer hands. The flop gave me bottom pair and a straight draw, the turn improved me to two pair, and I filled up on the river. We had a roughly $150 three-way pot by then, so when they both checked to me, I pushed out two $50 stacks. I thought they either both had straights or one had a straight and the other the overpair of AA or KK. I was not only prepared to get it all in, but hoping they would let me.

I tried, as I usually do in such situations, to look casual and unconcerned, which includes not staring at my opponents. I look their way once in a while as they think, but also look around at the pot, the dealer, the other players, the TVs, the cocktail waitresses--whatever there is. Both opponents seemed to be wary of my bet, and were taking their time to respond to it, so I had quite a bit of aimless eyes-wandering time. At some point I looked back and saw a stack of what appeared to be $100 in front of one player, and a $100 bill in front of the other. But the bill was folded, and for some reason its orientation to me (it was at the far end of the table) made it look like it might be two bills folded together. That was significant. I needed to be sure that it was just a call rather than a raise before showing. So I asked the dealer to check and be sure that it was just a single bill. He did, and it was. I then promptly showed my cards and won the pot. Hilarity ensued, both in criticizing my hand selection, and, more to the point for this post, a muttered accusation of a slow-roll.

But you can see my dilemma. Suppose in either case I'm wrong, and there really are sufficient chips for a raise, or two bills constituting a raise. If I don't verify the situation and just make the assumption that it's a call, we end up with a big mess--especially in the case of the three-way pot. Floor people get called, angry accusations and opinions fly, decisions have to be made, the game crashes to a halt, etc.

I regret that my nervous opponents were subjected to five or ten seconds' delay in getting to see my cards, but I'm not apologizing for what I did. Under the circumstances, I felt--and continue to feel--that it was not only justifiable, but absolutely necessary to clarify the situation before acting on it. The occasional chaos that results from a misunderstanding in such cases is bad enough that I'm willing to cause or endure a small delay many times to avoid the ugly mess just once.

Guess the casino, #535

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

Answer: Club Fortune

You make the call--part 2

If you have not yet read part 1 of this post, in which I explain the decision the floor guy had to make, you might want to do that and make up your own mind about the situation before reading on, because I'm about to tell you what actually happened, plus what I think should have happened.

First, I have to say that I think this is an unusually difficult call. There are sound, reasonable arguments to be made in both directions, and ultimately I don't think I could find a lot of fault with the decision going either way.

Even so, I have my prejudices and preferences and priorities. I'm a rules guy. I'm not absolutely unyielding; I'd like to think that I preserve a reasonable degree of flexibility when the situation calls for it. But at the same time, things can be bent only so far before they break, and when they break, it's bad for the game.

In this case, I would come down on the side of SLS and against DMA. DMA could have exposed his cards the normal, safe way by simply turning them over. He didn't. He tossed them, thus putting them out of his control and taking the risk that something untoward would happen to them. It usually doesn't, but once in a while it does, and the player has nobody to blame but himself. His position was further worsened by what sounded like a verbal concession of the pot, giving the dealer good reason to act as he did.

When a player does all he reasonably can be expected to do to protect his hand and it still gets mucked or otherwise killed, I'm quite sympathetic to making whatever accommodation can be found to preserve his interest in the pot. In this case, for example, suppose that DMA had turned his cards face up in front of him, but the dealer had misread the board (thinking that trip tens was the winner), picked up DMA's cards and mucked them before he could react. I would then be in favor of chopping the pot. That is, retrieve the cards if possible; if not, rely on the three witnesses as to what the cards were; if that were for some reason unacceptable to SLS or unfeasible, go to the security camera for verification. Make it right.

But DMA did not do all that he could do. Players who are lax about protecting their cards and their interest in a pot are playing with fire. Once in a while they're going to get burned, and all you can do is tell them, "I'm sorry, but there's nothing we can do now." Players are assumed to know in advance how they are supposed to conduct themselves. DMA was no novice. In fact, he claimed to that he was retired and played cards full-time. (I do not believe him, but that's what he said.)

Although it's only a tangential point, I'm also not in favor of rewarding people for being loudmouthed, offensive jerks. DMA's conduct was reprehensible, unforgiveable. It was tolerated far longer than just about any tirade I've ever seen in a poker room, for reasons that still baffle me. About 30 seconds into it, I would have given him the "not one more word" warning, and then promptly made good on the threat when he didn't shut up, and have him dragged out.

Would I make the decision differently if it were a greenhorn player who really didn't understand his obligations, and behaved himself impeccably when the controversy came up? Probably not--but I'll admit that it would at least be an even closer call.

What about the additional unusual fact here that the first player to show his hand was playing the board? I say this is a red herring, without any real bearing on the matter. DMA might, for all we know, have misread the situation in several ways. He might have thought from early on in the hand that he was going to need an ace or a queen to win, and when he didn't get one, basically gave up on the pot. He might have seen the four diamonds and felt sure that SLS must have one, and thus gave up too soon. He might have seen the three tens, overlooked the straight on the board, and surrendered. In any of those situations a player might give the concession speech and muck his cards without showing, or with showing only one. In my view, he must be allowed to do so. He cannot receive any assistance in the decision as to whether to muck unseen or show his cards. It really doesn't matter whether he chooses to show them because he mistakenly thinks he has the best hand, or because he sees the situation correctly and knows it's a chop, or because he thinks he has lost and is just showing what he had to get a little sympathy for a good starting hand turning worthless. We neither can nor need to know what prompts him to table his cards face up; once he does so, the cards speak, and the dealer and the other players can and will make sure the pot gets awarded correctly. Similarly, we neither can nor need to know what prompts him to muck without showing; once he does so, his hand is dead, regardless of what its showdown value might have been. Up until the point that DMA puts his cards face up on the table, it is his prerogative to throw them away, if he decides to do so for any reason. In short, I would make my decision about the hand being live or dead independent of whether DMA had a winner, a loser, or a chopper.

Here's what actually happened. The floor guy got on the phone to his supervisor (the poker room manager, I assume). Meanwhile, SLS had the pot and the game went on. Security had DMA step away from the table and they were trying to keep him calm while the floor guy consulted about what to do.

After maybe ten minutes of continued play, floor guy came back and announced that his boss had give him instructions on how to handle it: The pot was to be chopped. Unfortunately, nobody could remember how much had been in it. The floor guy had failed to get it counted and/or set aside while a final decision was pending. With the dealer's help he came up with an estimate of what it was, divided that in half, and made SLS give up that many chips, which were then awarded to DMA. DMA was put back in the game with a warning about language, conduct, etc. (Floor guy claimed not to have heard any of the swearing, which I find completely unbelievable.) To make matters worse, SLS had given Ricky a $20 tip from the large pot. He went to Ricky and asked for half of it back so that he lost less on the hand overall.

It was a catastrophe. I think this was mishandled in just about every possible way. If the floor guy couldn't make a binding decision on the spot, then he's got to put those chips out of play--in escrow, so to speak. The bare minimum is to count the pot, so that the amount in question is clear to everybody. But even with that, allowing SLS to continue playing as if he had won the pot is inviting disaster. What if he goes all in on the next hand and loses? When the final decision is arrived at, are you going to take chips from whomever SLS lost them to, and give them back to DMA? You can't obligate SLS to pay out of his pocket should that happen. (I suppose you could make him put up half of the pot's value in cash from his wallet before being allowed to continue playing, but I've never heard of that being done, I'm just making it up as I write.)

If the pot were smaller, one possibility is the house making up half of the pot to DMA, on the grounds that it was a dealer error. That's not realistic here. First, the pot was larger than the amount that I assume shift supervisors have it within their discretion to take out of the till. Second, it's not really clear that there was a dealer error. As far as I'm concerned, Ricky's actions were entirely reasonable and understandable, and consistent with what he was supposed to be doing. All--or at least the vast majority--of the fault lay squarely with DMA.

As it actually played out, SLS was the one that ended up pissed off, and left in a huff because of (1) what he considered a bad floor decision, and (2) having taken an unreasonable amount of abuse from DMA, with no consequences for DMA other than a warning. I don't blame him for feeling wronged on both counts. However, if he could continue playing without it affecting him, he was leaving behind a chance for another big score. There are some things that get me perturbed enough that I can't really focus well on the game. Would this have been such a case, had I been in his shoes? I don't think so, but I can't really be sure of that.

DMA, conversely, became all sweet and charming to everybody, and remained so for the rest of the time I was there. I doubled up through him in an expensive set-over-set situation (my jacks to his fours), and he didn't get one bit angry over his rotten luck. He just said, "Nice hand" repeatedly, and was a perfect gentleman about it. Go figure.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Negreanu, the WSOP, and the poker media

You may have read or heard about Daniel Negreanu's complaint, via Twitter posts and a recent blog post, about the PokerNews chip counts--how they're updated so infrequently and inconsistently as to be worthless. He said that coverage of the events would be more worthwhile if the whole PN team just kept the chip counts up to date, and dropped all of the story-telling that they do about specific hands, bustouts, etc.

I was going to let this go by without comment. But today an "anonymous pro" posted, via Pokerati, an interesting and thoughtful rejoinder to Negreanu, which you can (and, I think, should) read here.

I don't have a well-composed essay ready to pound out here, just a few scattered responsive thoughts. I think most readers know that I worked for PokerNews's for the WSOP in 2008 (behind the scenes) and 2009 (writing nightly recaps). I'm not exactly a deep insider, but that experience gives me at least a degree of credible perspective, I hope. If it means that I have some bias, too, OK, I'll accept that accusation.

1. Just purely as a matter of self-interest, it seems unwise for Negreanu to make enemies of the people who will be reporting on his every move. Now, I know a fair number of the rubber-hits-the-road part of the PokerNews team, and they're classy people who take pride in their work. They are certainly not going to let a sting or a grudge change wholesale how they cover a story. But they're also human, and they are able, at least at the margins, to make coverage-shaping decisions.

I don't know whether they would or will actually do the kind of thing I'm thinking about, but one can easily imagine Negreanu saying something stupid or embarrassing while in an unguarded or exasperated moment at the table. Suppose it gets overheard by or reported to somebody working for PokerNews. They can either make a story of it, or ignore it. Which would you rather have them do, if you were the subject? Which outcome will Negreanu's screed be more likely to result in?

Or set aside the theoretical. Here's an actual consequence, though not involving the PokerNews product that you'd find on their web pages: An informed insider of my acquaintance told me recently that a day or two after Negreanu posted this rant, he was interested in knowing how somebody was doing in a tournament, and approached media row to ask the bloggers. They did give him the bare minimum information he was seeking, but coldly and quickly, without elaboration, whereas their previous interactions had been warm and friendly. He might have gotten more out of them if not for his public shaming of them. Who can blame them for such a reaction? Why go out of your way to help and/or be nice to somebody who has just used his very large megaphone to announce that you're incompetent at your job?

I've shot from the hip in this blog any number of times, only to find that the bullet landing in my foot. (I have reason to think that I once cost myself a poker media job that I was interested in because of how nastily I had lambasted the work of the outlet in question.) I think Negreanu may find that he has done the same thing.

2. As "Anonymous Pro" says, Negreanu has the wrong target in his sights. The problems he complains of are not the fault of the reporters and bloggers. They hustle their tails off doing what they can to report on events so large that they are effectively unreportable, and many of them are the best in the world at what they're doing. (OK, there are a few duds, too.) They are bright, creative, hard-working people, seriously underpaid for the incredibly long hours they devote to the job. The first time I ever set foor in the Amazon Room was two years ago tomorrow. It was Shamus's birthday (happy birthday a day in advance, friend!), and I took a store-bought cake to the PN crew for the occasion. Not much of it got touched because they were all too busy to take the time away from photographing, catching hands, and editing posts. If you read the personal blogs of some of these guys, you know what kind of exhausting hours they put in. Any blame for how things are covered lies with the people at PN who decided to hire a crew that is way too small to do the job right, not with the individuals cranking out the product.

3. Negranu is just plain wrong, in my view, that chip counts are a more valuable part of the reporting than the stories. Not all the posts are gems, but with commendable frequency the PN staff manages to pass on interesting and funny stuff, often with writing quality and wit that far exceeds what one could expect to get under the working conditions of enormous time pressure and mind-numbing fatigue. There are hundreds of examples I could point to, but I particularly remember writing this fawning post because of how perfectly F-Train had told the story of several hands, and how his account conveyed a sense of having been there.* I would not be sitting here two years later reflecting with admiration on a perfectly reported chip count from that event.

I like Negreanu a lot, and I have great respect for the candor he brings to his blogging (e.g., his recent no-holds-barred dumping on UltimateBlecch, here and here). This time, though, I think that while he has a valid point, he aimed at the wrong target. I'm glad that Pokerati let Anonymous Pro supply a needed corrective voice.

*I think this is a funny story, though maybe nobody else will. My very first interaction with F-Train was via Skype instant messaging. I was sitting at home doing on-the-fly editing (i.e., fact-checking and proofreading) of the PN posts during the 2008 WSOP. He had just put up a post about Jimmy Fricke and Howard Lederer being seated at the same table. This was potentially awkward because it was just a few months after the infamous leaked email, in which Lederer had referred to Fricke as "a freak and a very weird dude." F-Train had used some generic headline for the post. I saw a glimmer of potential, and quickly shot him a suggestion: "Please, please change the headline to 'That's very weird, dude.'" Making snarky editorial suggestions was most definitely not in my job description, but he apparently liked the idea enough to make the change (or perhaps decided to just humor the nutjob on the other end of the line to avoid trouble), and we have been friends since.

Addendum, June 11, 2010

Negreanu has posted a response to Anonymous Pro on his blog--a clarification of sorts. See here.

Guess the casino, #534

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

Answer: Caesars Palace

Poker gems, #368

Phil Laak, in "Poker After Dark" Monday night, after seeing Gus Hansen win a pot with four aces.

The last time I had aces it was against Phil Ivey--I mean quad aces--and it was in a PLO thing, and I checked my way to him getting a royal flush. That hurt.

You make the call--part 1

I played at Imperial Palace tonight. When I had been there just ten minutes or so, a situation came up that required one of the most difficult floor decisions I've ever witnessed. Let me tell you about it, and you can make up your mind what you would do.

Our two contenders for the pot are Smart Local Semipro (SLS) and Drunk Maniac Asshole (DMA). Does that tell you enough about them?

Preflop action doesn't matter, except that the pot was unusually large by that stage. On the flop, SLS moved all in and DMA called. The dealer counted out SLS's chips (he had the shorter stack), matched it from DMA's chips, and made the pot right. Neither player had shown his cards yet. The dealer ran out the board, which ended up being 6-7-8-9-10, with four diamonds.

SLS showed his two black tens just about simulateously with DMA saying, "I think you've got a winner." That is, it's not completely clear to me if DMA was saying that because he felt that he missed what he needed, or because he was seeing and reacting to SLS's hole cards.

DMA then tossed his two hole cards toward the center of the table. It appeared to me that he was trying to table them face up. One landed face up, but the other hit a chip, did kind of a pirouette on its end, and spun around once before landing face down. I saw both of them clearly: an ace and a queen of different suits, neither of them a diamond. The dealer very quickly scooped up both cards, turning the face-up one down, put them either into or on top of the muck (I didn't see which, and as things played out, nobody ever asked him whether he could confidently identify which they were and retrieve them), and pushed the pot toward SLS.

As the pot was being pushed, DMA started protesting: "What are you doing? It's a split pot!" I'll forego the details of the ensuing argument, because they don't matter. But DMA was very hot under the collar.

DMA was in seat 7. I was in seat 2. The players in seats 5 and 8 both independently told the floor person, who was, of course, called to come over to make a ruling, that they, too, had seen both cards. Before I had offered my observations, they independently vouched for having seen A-Q offsuit, no diamond. DMA had not, to this point, ever vocalized what his cards had been, so it was clear to me that these two players really had seen what they claimed to have seen. Besides, if I could see the spinning card from seat 2, it's not surprising that anybody paying attention could have seen it, too. (The dealer said that he did not see it.)

The dealer, incidentally, is one that I know better than almost any other dealer in town. I'm not sure I'd call him a friend, exactly, in that we've never met or talked outside of the poker setting. But he used to deal at the Hilton when I played there, and he also played at the Hilton a lot when he was off-duty, so I may have racked up more hours at a table with him, and over a longer period of time, than with any other dealer on earth. His name is Ricky. He is a kind, gentle man, always 100% professional, unflappable, very low error rate. He is a pleasure to spend time with, whether he's playing or pitching. I have 100% confidence that is honest in how he was describing his perspective, and that he was utterly mortified at having contributed to such a horrendous mess of a situation. Throughout it, he remained absolutely calm, describing what he did and saw objectively and non-defensively.

As he perceived it, he heard DMA give what sounded like a concession speech, and the next thing he noticed was one card up, one down on the table. He did not see exactly how they got to be that way. He assumed that DMA was intentionally showing one but folding, so he scooped the cards up.

The conundrum for the floor, obviously, is whether DMA's hand is live or dead. If it's live, the pot is chopped. If it's dead, SLS keeps it all.

Here's the basic argument for the hand being dead: It is a player's responsibility both to protect his cards and to table them face up. Regardless of DMA's intention, his action was to table his cards one face up, one face down, a situation which, if uncorrected by the player, is universally agreed to constitute a dead hand. He could have just turned them face up; his decision to toss them was taking a risk that one might land face down, or on the muck, or bounce off of the table, etc. Compounding this, just before said action he had uttered words that sounded like he was conceding the pot. It is true that such concession would not be binding if he subsequently tabled a winning (or tying) hand, but it gave the dealer ample reason to assume that his one card down was a further gesture of surrender. I.e., the dealer might (and probably would) otherwise have paused to find out for sure whether DMA's intention was to muck, but the speech made that a foregone conclusion.

Although not directly relevant to the rules question, you might be influenced by this: Within ten seconds or so of the problem becoming evident, DMA was living up to the nickname that I gave him. He was on his feet, belligerent as could be, yelling, swearing. He shouted "YOU FUCKING CUNT!" to SLS perhaps ten times, loud enough that everybody for a long way around heard it. (This was in response to SLS making his case to the floor guy that DMA's hand should be deemed dead, which he did with a reasonable degree of self-control.) Security was called and was standing by in case he got further out of control, because it certainly appeared that that might happen. In DMA's favor, though, the floor guy might have been aware that the other players were secretly (and in one case not so secretly) hoping that the decision would favor DMA, because he was almost single-handedly feeding everybody else in the game, with wild play, frequently going broke and rebuying. It seemed obvious that if the ruling were against him, he would either stomp off in anger or, more likely, be bodily ejected by security.

Here's the basic argument for the hand being live: The player said that his intention was to table his cards face up. Three other players (including me) agreed that that appeared to be what he was trying to do, but he was a little over-vigorous about it and one card took a bad bounce/spin. Three players, spaced all around the table, independently witnessed what the officially-unseen card was, and there is no apparent reason to think that they are colluding or otherwise have any interest in the outcome (other than, perhaps, the consideration mentioned above about wanting to keep DMA at the table). The dealer may have been overly hasty in his action. While a literal or technical reading of the rules might suggest that the hand is dead, general principles of fairness and what is good for the game suggest that the best hand should win the pot if it is at all feasible to make that happen, and in this case that precept means a chop.

Let's add a couple of assumptions here. Assume that if they reviewed the security camera footage, it would show what the player-witnesses reported: an apparent attempt to table the cards face up, but one card accidentally spinning around and falling face down, followed almost instantly by the dealer swiping them away into the muck.

Another assumption: Sometimes in such situations, the player awarded the pot will be asked to voluntarily split it in an effort to end the controversy and preserve good feelings. I did not at any point hear the floor propose this. (At least one player volunteered that that's what he would do in SLS's place, but as far as I could tell this suggestion was disregarded.) So assume, for purposes of forcing you to make the hardest decision possible (ha!) that this request was made and refused; SLS says he did not see DMA's other card, the hand is dead, and the pot will remain his, thankyouverymuch.

So how would you call it?

Comments welcome, of course. I'll go write the conclusion of the story for Part 2, but then have it scheduled to post itself 24 hours from now, to give people a chance to decide how they would act before reading the denouement. (Pirouette and denouement in the same post. Today je suis Le Grump!)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Magically delicious

Words cannot describe how much I love this sneak peek of the new poker show, "The Big Game":

Found at Pokerati, here.

Here's the ugly math. Hellmuth is 86% to win on the flop if they run it once.

Using that as my p value, and the binomial probability calculator here, if they run it twice, Hellmuth has a 74% probability of winning it both times, a 24% probability of winning it once, and a 2% probability of losing both times.

If they run it three times, Hellmuth has a 64% probability of winning all three, a 31% probability of winning exactly two of them, a 5% probability of winning exactly one of them, and less than a <1% probability of losing them all.

If they run it four times, Hellmuth has a 55% probability of winning all four, a 36% probability of winning exactly three of them, a 9% probability of winning exactly two of them, a 1% probability of winning exactly one of them, and a less than 1% probability of losing all four.

In other words, for Hellmuth to end up as badly as you see happen here was a 99:1 shot when the money went in on the flop--a bad beat indeed, and there's nobody I'd rather see it happen to.


Dang. Seems that they changed its status to private on YouTube, so the embed code doesn't work either here or at Pokerati now. Sorry.

Further update, June 11, 2010

A new link, suggested in the comments, now works and I have embedded it in place of the original one.

Guess the casino, #533

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

Answer: Aria


That's politics, not poker.

Sharron Angle appears to have won the Nevada Republican primary to take on Harry Reid for his senatorial seat in November.

Angle is no libertarian, and her views don't match mine on a variety of topics (immigration, abortion, gay marriage, to name a few--and though I don't know of any public stance on the matter, I'd lay about 99:1 that she buys into the "crack cocaine of gambling" crap about online poker). However, I have to say that as far as I can tell she is the rare politician who is actually principled; she says what she believes without being mealy-mouthed about it, and consistently votes the same way, even if she is the sole voice of opposition. I'd like to think that's how I'd be if I were in public office.

As I believe that an appallingly expanded federal government and national debt are the most important and worrisome general political tides these days, and seeing that she is squarely on the right side of those matters, I'm going to be inclined to support her, even while disagreeing with her on other matters of substance. She also has the endorsement of the Gun Owners of America, a group that reflects my position on the second amendment far better than the revoltingly wishy-washy NRA.*

Regardless of the outcome this fall, though, it will make for one hell of an interesting race. There are not many more starkly polarized choices that a voter could be asked to make than between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle.

*It occurs to me, in reflection, that some readers will think I'm being sarcastic here. I'm not. Though the NRA is often portrayed as being rabidly, insanely opposed to any manner of governmental regulation of firearms, that is far from the truth. Second amendment True Believers (and you could probably count me as one of them) get either nauseated or infuriated at the NRA for its track record of being willing to compromise on all sorts of things. There has been a lot of infighting and shenanigans at the NRA's board of directors over this stuff, and the compromisers have consistently won. I won't bore you with the history--just take my word for it. And now that I'm off on this tangent, I'll tell you that I just discovered that an article I wrote several years ago (2005, I think) about gun control in the Journal of Firearms and Public Policy is available online, here. It won't be of much general interest, I'm afraid; it's a rather technical legal piece about conflicts between state firearm statutes and city/county ordinances. But it did win me a "James Madison Award" from the Second Amendment Foundation. See what surprising things you can learn about a guy from his blog?

Suggestion for the WSOP

I just read Michael Craig's thoughtful and informative post about disciplinary actions for rule infractions at the World Series of Poker, here.

I certainly understand Harrah's desire to avoid defamation suits, involving third parties, etc. On the other hand, they damage their own reputation by (1) having wildly inconsistent rulings going on, and (2) not giving players and media any useful information about how rules are being enforced, thus allowing rumors and misunderstandings to flourish.

I think that the media, the players, and the sponsoring organizations would all be well served by a simple, happy medium between the current "no comment" posture and the legal morass that would come from full disclosure.

I propose this: Whenever a penalty is imposed on a player (i.e., something beyond a warning), the floor person who imposed it is required to fill out a brief form, noting the player's name, Harrah's card number, event, date and time, a brief description of the offense committed, the sanction imposed, and the name of the official imposing it. If the offense involved language, then quote what was said.

Harrah's should want to keep such records for its own purposes, I would think--to keep track of problem players who are repeat offenders that otherwise might not get noticed because they are disciplined by a variety of different floor guys. They should want to know this sort of thing not just for any one event (i.e., when a player has been previously warned for some infraction, thus warranting an actual penalty for the next offense; in fact, I understand that they do have a tracking system for that sort of thing), but over time. If a player has had, say, ten time-outs imposed over the course of the Series, isn't that worth noting, in order to have a serious talk with him and tell him that the harshness of the penalties will be increasing? It seems perfectly reasonable to me to have a player disqualified from an event for abuse of a dealer or another player if it is the tenth time he has broken the same rule this year, even if the same offense would get only a one-orbit penalty for a first-time offender.

I propose that at the end of the day, or end of the event, Harrah's could release its list of disciplinary measures imposed, with the players' specific identifying information redacted out. The media would love this, I think--at least the bloggers I know who write for various poker outlets during the WSOP seem always to be looking for something new to report on.* The varied ways that stupid poker players get themselves in trouble with "the law" could be endlessly entertaining.

But there is more to it than grist for the media mill. The release of this information would give players a way of knowing where the boundaries are in a way that the written rulebook doesn't. One example in Craig's post is that at one table a rumor was heard that calling another player a "donkey" was a punishable offense. The players didn't know whether to believe that. Wouldn't it be helpful if everybody knew that in advance, and didn't have to guess? Furthermore, wouldn't Harrah's want to know if it has, say, one floor guy who is issuing 30-minute penalties all day long for that offense, while its other 99 supervisors are letting it go as harmless table talk? The media would be quick to pick up on such gross inconsistencies (e.g., a disproportionate number of language offenses being called by one particular floor person), even if Harrah's did not.

The only cost to the organization is a little bit of time. The daily list could be distributed to the media via email, thus avoiding even copying expenses.

Obviously, it opens Harrah's up to scrutiny. Inconsistencies would be more apparent, and Harrah's would have to work to keep its floor people on the same page. But Harrah's claims that it both is and wants to be fair and even-handed in how it enforces its rules. If that's really true, it should welcome rather than fear more transparency.

Really, could the situation that emerges from this proposal really be any worse, in terms of laughable inconsistency, special pleading, obvious shenanigans, and horrendous publicity, than what Harrah's got from the Phil Hellmuth now-you-see-it-now-you-don't penalty of a couple of years ago (see here and here)? Could it be worse than the catcalls they took over the plentiful evidence that the WSOP rules apply differently to Scotty Nguyen than to everybody else (see here and here)?

Frankly, Harrah's couldn't have much of a worse reputation for ridiculous inconsistency on rules enforcement than it already does. My proposal is a pretty simple way by which it could show that it is actually interested in doing better in that regard--if, in fact, it is.

*On that note, see Kara Scott's praise of the WSOP bloggers here. It is both sweet and, based on my experience, accurate. Kara is pretty obviously deeply, painfully in love with me, though in this post she somehow manages to squelch her feelings and not mention me. She is a trouper, that one.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Charity tournament

Just a little plug here for this charity tournament next Wednesday night (June 16) on Full Tilt in place of the usual Mookie. I'm not yet sure if I'll be home at the appropriate hour, but if I am, I'll throw my money into the prize pool.

North Las Vegas

The intrepid VegasRex just wrote in his blog about a friend who is stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, and the city in which he is thus embedded. Rex concludes:

As for my friend who will be living here for six more months, well, I’m hoping that his next assignment will take him to some third-world, crime-riddled,
gonorrhea-filled cesspool.

After being stationed in North Las Vegas, he deserves the upgrade.
(Full disclosure: I lived in North Las Vegas for about two months, way back in late 1980. It was the pits then, and looks just like I remember it.)

What's in a screen name? #1

I somehow got invited to take a free seat in a $50 WSOP satellite on Bodog, so I'm playing in it as I write. (That's focus and concentration for you, eh?)

With this post I am starting a new occasional series, celebrating online screen names that I particularly like or find noteworthy. The one highlighted above is the first entry. It has the advantage of saving a lot of time expressing the same thought in the chat box. The accompanying avatar is a nice touch.

Had I thought to start this series last night, the first entry would have been a guy on PokerStars with the screen name "DidDatHurt." Good one.

I really should play on Bodog more often. I like the table appearance, and the interface is generally nice (except that the tournament lobby sucks big rocks). Most importantly, playing mostly on Stars and Full Tilt makes me periodically forget how much worse the average Bodog player is--we're talking whole orders of magnitude weaker. That has consistently been my experience when I have ventured there over the past five or six years now.

Genius in the house

I just remembered a little incident from Sunday night at the Rio that I neglected to include in my collection of stories.

Often at a poker table you will have a guy who likes to show off how well he can figure out what cards people have, and so announces his predictions just before the reveal. Well, we had one of those. But, like most such people, he wasn't really very good at it.

The situation was two players left in the hand, final board Q-4-5-6-7, no flush possible. First guy bets $100. Second guy moves all-in. First guy insta-calls.

Our genius hand reader announced, "One of them's got a straight. Maybe both of 'em."

Wow. Just wow. I am awed, sir, by your divine and borderline mystical way* of knowing your opponents' hands. I will now be looking for a thick lead card protector so as to keep you from peering at my hole cards, given that you clearly have x-ray vision.

Fascinating how some of the things that people do in an attempt to show how smart they are actually reveal their profound stupidity, though they themselves never notice it.

*Yes, that was a random "Carnac" reference, for those paying attention.

Guess the casino, #532

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

Answer: Bellagio

Monday, June 07, 2010

Need Twitter help


I have enjoyed using Twitter both at home and while out playing poker. But I've hit a major snag that I can't resolve.

My phone is a crappy out-of-date thing, no question about that. Still, it's hardly the oldest piece of technology in use. It has a browser, but is really only happy with mobile-web optimized sites. That has been fine for Twitter; it connects to the mobile version of my home page, omits the photos and some of the options (like retweet buttons), but presents nice, clear, easy-to-read text.

A couple of days ago, though, something changed. It seems that Twitter changed the format of its mobile site. Now the messages appear much longer left-to-right, and to read one on my phone requires left-right scrolling back and forth, which is terribly awkward and time-consuming. I didn't have to do it previously; message lines were broken where they needed to be to fit on my screen.

It's bad enough that if that's what I'm stuck with, I'm basically done with using Twitter on the phone. Scrolling up and down the list of tweets was not and is not a problem, but left-right scrolling is. Not only does it take about four times as long to read each message, but the bad, bad design on my LG phone has the tiny scroll controls right on top of the "last page" and "reload" and "home" buttons, so when I try to scroll I often get one of those functions instead. It's maddening.

This is clearly the mobile version I'm seeing. There are no photos with people's names, and at the bottom of the page is the option to view mobile or standard. I am in mobile. I can switch to standard, and then the page view is the same as I see on my home computer (which just compounds my troubles). The page view is the same whether I go to,, or (unless I specifically click the "standard" view button). In short, the problem seems to be that Twitter for some reason changed how its mobile page appears. Or maybe AT&T sent my phone some sort of firmware update that changed how the browser interacts with the Twitter page, though that seems less likely.

I have looked at the Twitter blog--no announcement about this. I have tried Twitter's mobile help section. Nothing. I tried sending messages to the Twitter mobile help team, and they are being ignored.

I have tried everything I can think of to get things back to the way they were. I don't know exactly what changed or why. I only know that it has taken Twitter on my phone from being a pleasant little diversion to being an experience so cumbersome and unpleasant that I will only attempt it when there is some compelling reason. This isn't a smart phone; I can't just download a different application to do Twitter.

I am soliciting help from my more tech-savvy readers, though frankly I'm not optimistic that it can be fixed.

Poker gems, #367

David Apostolico, in Card Player magazine column, June 2, 2010 (vol. 23, #11), p. 31.

If you're looking for justice, don't play poker.

Night at the Rio

Just home from a session in which I not only made a little money, but I picked up a whole bunch of little stories to tell you. This pleases me.

Feeling famous

The first unusual thing that happened was that I sat down next to a reader, though neither of us knew it for a while. She was chatting with somebody else about blogs, and said she read a lot of them. I asked if she read any poker blogs, and when she said yes, I asked which ones. She said she browses lots of them, but specifically mentioned F-Train and Poker Dealer, both friends of mine. I have to admit it was a slight ego blow that the first words out of her mouth were not "Poker Grump," but when I asked about that blog, she said yes, it was on her list. She got a suspicious look on her face and asked if that was me. I fessed up. She proved that she really does read it by mentioning, first, that "That's the one with all the photos," and, second, that I had recently taken time off to go out of town to a wedding. Right on both counts.

Apparently she has a blogger friend who is an even bigger fan of mine. (I jotted down the friend's blog's name, but now find nothing of the sort, so I must have written it incorrectly. Sorry I can't give a little plug.) She texted her to say that she was sitting next to me. Her friend seemed quite excited back in Ohio, and demanded a photo for proof. I gave her a faux grumpy face. Hope it filled the bill. The whole thing made me feel very slightly (emphasis on those two words) rockstarish.

(I told her that this session probably wouldn't result in a post, because it didn't seem that anything of particular interest was happening. I was wrong. All the other story-worthy stuff happened after she left.)

Angry about--what???

The worst beat I took this session: I raised from the small blind with A-A. Guy who had limped under the gun shoved for about $60. I called. He had A-Q. I'm a 7:1 favorite. Usually that's enough. Not tonight. Flop: K-10-x. Turn K. River J.

"He beat me, straight up. Pay him. Pay that man his money." (OK, I didn't really say that. I believe one has to be highly selective in one's deployment of "Rounders" lines during poker games.)

Anyway, a little while later he did another shove re-raise--a rather ridiculously large overbet. When the original raiser (player to his right) folded, my nemesis flashed him his hole cards before passing them face-down to the dealer. Naturally, I was interested in what range of hands he might do this with, given that his first instance was A-Q. I asked the dealer to show them. She did: Q-Q.

The guy stood up, looked at me, and asked, "Did you see them." I said yes. He said, "So you got what you wanted?" There was unquestionable hostility in his voice. I was a little flummoxed--had I done something wrong?--so I hesitated in answering. I guess I didn't need to respond, because before I could think of how to reply, he picked up his chips and said, "Good. I'm glad you're happy. But bad decision for you." And he stormed off, cashed out, and left.

I'm at a loss to understand what the problem was. Surely he knew that when he showed one player his cards, that opened the door for anybody else to see them. Jeez, dude, if you want to keep it secret, just don't show anybody. It's real easy.

I've only once before seen somebody get that bent out of shape over the completely standard practice of exposing a hand that was shown to another player; I told that story here. I still don't get it.

Table jumper

We were short-handed after a few people left nearly at the same time. We had three empty seats. A new player sat down in one of them, but immediately left to go have a chat with a friend at another table. When she came back, she picked up her chips and announced that she was going to play at that other table instead. The dealer politely informed her that she would need to get the floor's permission first. The woman replied, "He said it was OK."

I watched where she went, and it was to a table that had only one open seat. It seemed very strange to me that the floor guy would approve that move, unless there was some special circumstance that wasn't apparent. So I asked the dealer to call the floor. Turns out that she had neither asked for nor been given permission to move. He fetched her and brought her back. She was not happy to have been caught.

She obviously knew exactly what she was doing and that it was against the rules. Lie, cheat--what does it matter, as long as you get what you want, right? Why should she have to be concerned about what effect her actions have on other people? People are so scummy.

Premature evacuation

In one dumb hand, I had 10-6 in the small blind--but it was SOOTED! So I threw in the extra $2. There were four of us in the hand. The final board was something like 3-5-7-8-J. I.e., it hit all around my cards, but didn't quite connect. It was checked all the way down. At showdown, one guy just pitched his cards into the muck without waiting to see anybody else's. I flipped over my lousy 10-6, with about zero expectation that it was the winner. The big blind then mucked, so apparently I had him beat. About the same time that I was showing, the woman on the button said, "Ace high," but she didn't expose her cards.

Hearing that, the dealer picked up my two cards, and dumped them face down on top of the muck, and started to push the pot toward the button. I protested: "Why are you killing my hand?" The dealer stopped and fished my cards from off of the pile. Only after all of this did the woman on the button finally show her hand. She did indeed have an ace, and took the pot. The dealer shot me a dirty look, as if I had wasted her time and annoyed her by insisting that we go through the formality of, y'know, having an actual showdown in the showdown portion of the hand.

I suppose if one were to ask this dealer, "At showdown, can a player just announce that he or she has the best hand and thereby claim the pot?" she would answer, "Of course not." But in actual practice, that's exactly what she appeared to be willing to do.

I remember when I was in poker dealer school, they drummed into us over and over again: "Don't kill an exposed hand until somebody shows a better one." It's a rather obvious procedural point.

The less obvious factor in effect here is that given my cards and the texture of the board, it's a situation in which another player could easily think--in error--that I had made a straight. The player on the button has to look at my cards and the board, figure out what my hand is, and decide whether hers beats it. If she is prone to mistakenly thinking that my hand is better and as a result decides to muck hers unseen, well, that's a little bonus pot for me, and I'm happy to take it. The dealer killing my hand when the button says "Ace" is a clear signal to the player that an ace is good enough, without the player having to reach that conclusion on her own. In effect, it violated the "one person to a hand rule" by providing unwarranted assistance.

Of course, the player on the button doesn't have to make that assessment; she can just flip her hand over and let the cards speak. But if she's going to decide whether to show based on whether she decides she has the winner, that is an evaluation she must undertake all by herself. It is also true that the dealer can (and probably should) announce my hand verbally and/or push up the board cards that go with my hole cards to make my best hand. That much assistance to the player on the button is perfectly appropriate. But what she did was beyond that.

I'm not sure I've ever before seen a dealer kill a live, exposed hand in favor of one that was announced but not shown. Strange stuff.

What he was waiting for

I was rather short-stacked (this hand actually marked the beginning of my comeback), and had moved all-in on the turn with top pair/top kicker (A-10 on 10-high board). I had thought my lone remaining opponent was on a draw on the flop, and the turn wouldn't have helped him, prompting my move.

He groaned, made some faces, and clearly had a difficult decision. He eventually showed me his cards: Nut flush draw plus a gutshot straight draw and an overcard (ace, which would be no good if it hit, but he didn't know that).

He was taking a long time to decide. He finally said, "Sorry to take so long. I'm waiting for the alcohol to kick in so I have the nerve to call you."

It's rare that somebody can break my stoicism while in the middle of a hand, but he made me laugh out loud.

He eventually folded, but I had to concede to him that he had delivered the line of the night.

Guess the casino, #531

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

Answer: Tuscany

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Poker gems, #366

Annette Obrestad, in an interview with ESPN magazine, as quoted on PokerNews, here.

I've always said that girls suck at poker. I say that because they do.

A humble suggestion

So Faraz "The Toilet" Jaka won WPT Player of the Year, and now I see that James "Flushy" Dempsey just won a WSOP bracelet.

Maybe people should give up on this "year of the woman" thing and start calling it the "year of the commode."

Guess the casino, #530

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

Answer: Suncoast