Saturday, June 26, 2010

Action out of turn

I received this email from a reader:

Thank you for the time and energy you put into your blog. I
appreciate your observations and commentary. While I don't always
agree with your approach, I find it refreshing to see another viewpoint.
Also, you knowledge of the game, etiquette and rules is very strong. This
is the reason I am writing you.

I was playing in a tournament
yesterday when the following happened. I am in seat 9 and in the BB.
UTG, seat 10, was pondering what he was going to do. Seat 1 did not
have a great view of him and thought he checked so he checked. Seat 2 saw
seat 1 checked and threw in 3k into the pot (a raise). Seat 10 then spoke
up he had not acted yet. The dealer was waiting on seat 10 and did not see
seat 1 checked but did catch seat 2 raising. Seat 2 tried to take back the
raise but the dealer said he thought he had to keep the raise in there.
Seat 10 then shoved all-in. Discussion ensue about seat 2's
obligation. Floor was called. Floor ruled that seat 2 had to keep
his raise in there and could either call the all-in or fold but lose his
raise. I thought it was unfair since the actions of seat 1 acting out of
turn caused seat 2 to also act out of turn. Floor and dealer both said in
cash games they would allow him to pull it back but not in tournaments.
What is the correct ruling?

Also, have you ever thought of devoting
part of your blog to readers submitting a rule question and you in turn posting
what you thought the ruling should be? Just a thought.


First, thanks for the kind words.

Second, no, I'm not planning to make this sort of thing a regular feature. This may be hard to understand, or even sound harsh, if you haven't tried writing your own blog, but it's a highly personal thing, and as a general rule I'm not interested in writing about what other people suggest. I want to write about what I want to write about. (For my nasty-toned response to somebody complaining that the blog should be about something other than what it is, see here. The message that prompted that rant, however, was of an entirely different tone and nature than the one here.) Please accept what follows as an exception to my general practice rather than as an open invitation for others to submit other questions with the expectation of either a private or public answer.

But to answer your question, the usual rule in both cash games and tournaments is this: Seat 2's action is noted but not yet in effect. He is obligated to it if, when it is actually his turn, the action to him is the same as it had been. (Your description of things is hard to understand, however. If Seat 2 was making a raise, as you said, then how can others have checked? A raise implies a prior bet on that street. I assume you meant that this is after the flop, and he was the first player to make a bet. If so, though, that is not a "raise.") In other words, we return to seat 10 and ask what he wants to do. If he checks, then seat 1's check is also binding; he can't change his mind about what to do at that point. Same with seat 2; his 3000 bet is binding. However, if seat 10 makes a bet of any size, then what seat 1 and seat 2 did out of order is nullified, and their options become the same as they would normally be if they had not acted out of turn.

If seat 10 wants to be sure that seat 2's 3000 is in the pot, he can do that by checking, then putting in a check-raise (all in, or for any other legal raise amount) when the action comes back around to him. But as you describe what happened, the usual ruling would be that seat 2's 3000 bet is withdrawn when seat 10 decided to shove.

For an example of how this works, and how you can manipulate it to your advantage when somebody acts out of turn, see the story I told here, plus the ensuing interesting discussion in the comments.

Note that there's a limit to our patience. Usually if seat 10 lets more than two people past him act before he speaks up to stop things, he will lose the right to have the action backed up to his turn. Just as seat 1 and seat 2 have an obligation to know when it is their turn (and seat 2 does not get a pass just because seat 1 screwed up; he has an independent responsibility to keep track of where the action is), seat 10 has an obligation to know if things are moving past him when they shouldn't be.

Here's Rule 29 from the Tournament Directors Association rules:
Verbal declarations in turn are binding. Players are required to act in
turn. Action out of turn will be binding if the action to that player has not
changed. A check, call or fold is not considered action changing.

As far as I know, this is the same in every rule book. I have read cogent arguments about why it should be done otherwise (i.e., that out-of-turn action not be binding), but this is how it's actually implemented everywhere that I know of.

Unless I'm misunderstanding the sequence of events or something is missing from the story, it looks to me like the floor made a clearly erroneous, non-standard decision, though the reason it's wrong has nothing to do with him having been misled by seat 1's out-of-turn check. If seat 10 shoved, then the action to seat 2 is no longer the same as it had been when he made his untimely bet. I'm curious where this happened--where were you playing?

The other day after compiling my list of HORSE and razz daily online tournaments, I got to wondering whether UltimateBlecch might have added such events since the last time I checked the site, which was months ago.

When UB's troubles first became public, I made a feeble attempt to withdraw the $40 or so that I still had on account there. It proved to be too much of a hassle, so I just left it there. Every once in a while I remember that it's there, and I go play a $5 or $10 tourney. I haven't won anything since then, so now the amount is down to about $10.

Not surprisingly, I had to download a software update to check the tournament lobby. For all its faults, at least the UB client software has always been functionally stable. Until now. I have no idea what the problem is with this latest version, but it's a dog.

When I tried to run it, the windows weren't showing fully. The top bar wouldn't show up unless I hovered the cursor over it. Other portions of the window would disappear when the cursor was over them. It was all completely unstable. I thought maybe it was because I had both Stars and Full Tilt open at the same time, and they were interacting badly. However, I could get just enough of a glimpse of the lobby to see that there were some HORSE and razz listings, which had not been true before. I wanted to explore that, so I tried again later when the other games were closed. Same thing.

Next I uninstalled the UB software, then did a fresh reinstallation. It became a little more usable, but was still wonky. I closed all other applications. No improvement. I rebooted, so that UB was the only thing running. Now I could at least use the tournament lobby. However, it induced vertigo, because it randomly jumped around instead of scrolling smoothly. When I found a HORSE tournament in the list and wanted to read the details, the stupid thing would sometimes just suddenly flick up or down as if I had clicked on the scroll bar when I hadn't.

Finally I found a $5 HORSE tournament that would be starting in about 10 minutes. I wanted to try it. I clicked on the "register" button. Nothing happened. I clicked on the "tournament lobby" button. That opened a new tab on my task bar at the bottom of the screen, but no window--nothing I could use. No matter how many times I clicked on either that task bar icon or the tournament lobby button, it would not open an actual tournament lobby window in which I could see the details of the structure and from which I could register. Six people were signed up for it, so obviously others are able to use the software, but for whatever reason, this new client does not play nicely with my computer. (My computer is not some offbeat weirdo. It's a run-of-the-mill, off-the-shelf Acer, four and a half years old now, but still running everything else without problems, and with plenty of memory.) I couldn't even exit the site normally. Clicking the "X" box in the corner of the window did nothing, and I had to resort to having the Windows Task Manager force a shut-down.

With that utter failure, I decided to try another approach: Absolute Poker. Presumably these are now just different skins of the same underlying software. I used to play on Absolute quite a bit when it first came online, but the amount I had dropped to zero before I moved to Vegas four years ago, and I haven't used it since. (My computer tells me that the software was last used March 7, 2006, to be exact.) I opened the client, and, of course, it wanted to install the newest software version. Fine. This one doesn't have the technical glitches that the UB one does, but as a practical matter I still can't use it. It recognizes me from years ago, but won't let me log in. When I try, a screen pops up that says "Your nickname has already been changed." I'm guessing that this happens because it knows that I'm the same person with a different screen name on UB. But the only option it offers me is a button that says "Update profile." I click on that, and nothing happens.

So I uninstalled the software and did a fresh reinstallation. It prompted me to create a new account, which I did (without depositing any money). That has allowed me to see the tournament lobby, and, unlike UB, it scrolls normally. I assume that the games are the same as one gets to via UB. There are definitely cash games, SNGs, and multi-table tournaments in both razz and HORSE. But, just as with UB, I can't get to the tournament lobbies in any usable way. Clicking on a tournament listed in the lobby gets me a task bar tab, but no window, no matter what I try. It's useless.

What a complete joke of a company. They can't even get a lousy software update right, which is on top of the revelation a couple of months ago that they had such an obvious security hole that anybody could read the datastream (including your hole cards, your password, etc.) if you were on a wireless Internet connection, which was on top of the news that they occasionally awarded the pot to the losing hand. If you've been keeping up with Haley's Poker Blog, you know that the refunds they gave for the cheating scandal were basically completely arbitrary amounts, and that if you haven't been given the complete hand histories that you might have asked for and that the company long ago promised to deliver, it's probably because they know that there are other cheater accounts involved in them, so they have selectively withheld the hand histories so as not to open up demands for further refunds, which they have no money to give. Having the poker world's biggest buffoon as their high-profile spokesman is now the least of their woes.

How is this company still in operation?


C.K. of the Black Widow of Poker blog took down a big score last night--$21,257 for 4th place in a Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza tournament. Well done, my friend. Very proud of you.

Guess the casino, #550

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

Answer: M Resort

Good shot

I'm slowly catching up on all the blog reading I missed while Cardgrrl was in town. I just saw the first installment of Wicked Chops' "Girls on the Rail" series that made me laugh out loud. In case you missed it (or want to see it again), go here--and don't miss the comments.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New words

A little while ago I was playing an online HORSE tournament while chatting via IM with Cardgrrl. I confessed that I was playing because I really didn't want to tackle a big project I have sitting in front of me. I told her that this poker game should really be called a procrastament.

Because my brain works in strange ways, I started turning this word over in my mind. I decided that split-pot high/low events should be called procrustaments, but I'm afraid that most poker players would not get the joke.

(If you are among them, see here.)

LOL explainaments

It happened again. Not that it's rare, by any means. But I've been seeing it for four years now, and it still baffles me: The post-call explanation.

I was at Excalibur last night, not in the hand. There's about a $35 pot, three ways before the flop. Flop is J-7-x. Player A checks. Player B, who had been the pre-flop raiser, makes a pot-sized bet of $35. Player C folds. Player A goes all in for $53. It's $18 more to Player B. He calls, showing K-J. Player A flopped a set of 7s and wins it.

Then Player B goes for the explanation, even though nobody said a word to him: "It was only $18. I had to make the call there."

The call is, in fact, quite natural there. It's $18 to win about $123. That's almost 7:1 pot odds. If the sum of the times that your opponent is bluffing, the times that he is doing this with top pair but a weaker kicker, and the times that you start with the worst of it but catch up makes you the winner just one out of seven times, it's a break-even proposition. If you happened to know that this particular opponent would only do the check-raise all-in with a set, you could fold. But there are lots of $1-2 NLHE players who will do this with J-Q or J-10, so it's almost surely a call worth making, in mathematical terms. As Joe Sebok quipped at one point during the WSOP Main Event final table last year, you'd make the call even if all you're holding is a Snickers wrapper and a tarot card.

The puzzling thing for me is not the call, it's the speech. No matter how long I ponder it, I can come up with only one reason that a person would offer the explanation: He doesn't want other players to think he was stupid to put more money in when he was drawing nearly dead.

But that's why I don't get. If the call was correct, why in the world would he care if somebody else watching him thought it was a dunderheaded things to do? Most players seeing what happened will immediately understand the reason for the call. But even if they don't, if they're not sophisticated enough to understand the concept of opponents' ranges and pot equity, etc., what difference does their opinion make to you?

It's a poker-specific example of a general phenomenon that likewise always mystifies me. For example, somebody gets off the elevator on the wrong floor, takes two steps before realizing the error, then reverses course and gets back on. In my experience, most people doing this feel an irresistible urge to tell others in the elevator something like, "I thought that was my floor, but it's not." What--you think we didn't deduce that from your actions? Or somebody slips on a wet or greasy spot on the floor, and has to flail wildly to avoid taking a pratfall. After looking to see what he might have stepped in, it's nearly inevitable that this will be followed by a comment to whomever might have seen it: "I didn't see that slick spot there." Oh, really? Gee, we couldn't have guessed.

Why do people feel the need to explain themselves in such situations? It can only be because they care what this small group of strangers thinks about them. But why would that be? They're not a jury of your peers, holding your fate in their collective hands. Whatever they may think, it has zero effect on you. Their thoughts have no power to change your life in even the most minute way. Suppose that every one of them is thinking, "Wow, that guy is really stupid/clumsy." So what? How are you harmed in the slightest by their opinion, whether it is right or wrong? Even if somebody is rude enough to actually voice that opinion, what difference does it make to you? You ignore it and go about your day.

This whole concept of caring what total strangers think of you and trying to influence it is yet another in the long list of behaviors that you humans engage in that I have precious little hope of ever understanding.*

The most hard-core of my readers may recognize that I have written about this before--three years ago, here. But it keeps happening, and keeps baffling me, and I wanted to address it again, now that I have a significantly larger audience than I did back then. I still stand by the basic thesis I had then:

Furthermore, your explanation just reveals a pathological insecurity: you
are so afraid of what people will think of your call that you feel a need to
explain it. But why on earth would you care what the other players think? If it
was a reasonable call, given the range of hands with which your opponent made
his bet, and it turned out that he was actually at the high end of that range
with one of the few hands that would beat you, then be content with your own
analysis that it was the right move. If you correctly sniffed out a bluff or a
hand that was otherwise weaker than the bet represented, great, be proud of

Either way, what is the point of trying to change what somebody else might
think of your call by providing an explanation of it? If somebody is impressed
with a good call, they won't be made more so by your little self-centered
explanation. And if somebody is inclined to think you made a bad call
(regardless of the results), so what? Let them think you're a calling station or
a moron, and then figure out a way to exploit that erroneous impression (if, in
fact, it is erroneous). What's more, consider this: If it was actually a bad
call, your justification of it after the fact just makes you look that much
dumber in the eyes of experienced players, and they will go out of their way to
set you up to make the same mistake again, to their benefit.

*Yes, I do realize that in poker one's table image is an important entity, and it can be worthwhile to both monitor and try to manipulate it. But the post-call explanation, as far as I can tell, does not have that kind of calculated goal in mind. It is not trying to deceive in order to set up opponents to make a costly mistake later on. It is merely trying to save face, which is an entirely different thing.

Guess the casino, #549

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

Answer: Aria

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Poker players are as gullible as anyone

I just saw this Twitter message from Doyle Brunson: "Had great endurance at the poker table & was pain free. Go look at this really works. Unbelievable!!"

I looked, and it is indeed unbelievable. Literally. So why does he believe it?

I mean, look at the manufacturer's explanation for how the strips work:

The human body is surrounded by an energy field. Proprietary methods to store
“intrinsic energies” into a holographic strip have been developed that
communicate externally with the human body’s energy field. Nothing enters the
body. These communications are instructions that allow the body to naturally
regulate itself back to an optimum state. Strip programming and placement are
crucial to stimulating the numerous natural body reactions. Our formulas are
optimized to stimulate the body to naturally move towards a desired result.
Optimum chip placement, in conjunction with the formula, help the body naturally
move to that optimum point.

Oh, please. Could you possibly pack more pure BS, vagueness, and meaninglessness into one paragraph?

One question I notice they don't bother answering in their FAQ section is why you have to apply a new strip every 48 hours, when no matter dissipates from the things. That is, if the way they work is the "program" that they carry interacting with the body's supposed "energy field," then why can't one strip last forever? I don't have to replace my copy of Excel every 48 hours. The answer is both simple and obvious: So they can keep selling them to you.

Take a look at the FAQ page. But before doing so, imagine that you had a product that did absolutely nothing--maybe you pick up random pebbles from the roadside and sell them as healing rocks, infused with the spiritual energy from being blessed by the Grand Guru of Nahirzebol in Tibet. You want to anticipate questions that potential buyers might have. Your goal is to sell as many of your rocks as you can. You will therefore write your answers so as not to dissuade any potential sales or uses. If you think in advance about what the answer to any question would have to be in order to attain that result, that's what you'll find in this FAQ section.

What if you get a bad batch of strips? No such thing! Can you take them through security at the airport? Sure! What if they don't work? You must be either placing them wrong or not giving them enough time--keep trying! Any side effects? None whatsoever! Can I use multiple strips at once? Of course--that will make them work even better! Can I use them on pets? Absolutely! Do doctors recommend these things? Yes! Will temperature extremes affect them? Nope!

These things are just the latest incarnation of snake oil. Throughout recorded history, flim-flam artists have sold pills and potions and lotions and contraptions and incantations that claim to heal whatever ails you. They are all nothing more than a million different ways to package the placebo effect.

I am genuinely surprised that Doyle Brunson and Daniel Negreanu both attached their names to this unadulterated hogwash. I would have thought both of them were smart enough to see through one of the worst bluffs anyone has tried to pull on the poker community. Seriously--if you can read a statement such as
The Endura Poker Strip technology communicates with the body through the
human electromagnetic field. This is known as bio-magnetic transfer. It works
similar to acupuncture.
and it not only fails to cause you to laugh out loud at the outrageous, audacious idiocy, but makes you think, "Wow. Cool. I want to try it," well, I hold out little hope for you.

Doyle and Daniel, while you're affixing your little energy strips to your skin or clothes, you might as well at the same time plaster on a sign that says, "I'm an idiot. I'm a sucker. I'm gullible. I'll believe anything you tell me," because that's exactly what the purchase and use of these silly things announces to the world.

What complete bullshit product are you going to endorse next? Dowsing rods that tell you what your opponents' hole cards are? Hey, how about those x-ray glasses advertised in the back of comic books, so you can SEE the hole cards? Or maybe a pill that gives you mind-reading abilities? They would all be just as plausible and credible as the hoax you have fallen for here, so why not?

Addendum, June 25, 2010

Negreanu just sent out a message on Twitter: "I do NOT endorse Endura Poker Strips!I didn't write that testimonial.I have absolutely ZERO to do with that company! They better correct it." A short time later he added, "It's fraud. This happens sometimes where people use my name to endorse a product without my permission. I expect it to be cleared soon."

I'm willing to take his word for that at this point. The manufacturer is lying about everything related to what the product and how it supposedly works--why not also lie about who endorses it?

Alexa Fisher

If you didn't read about this seven-year-old poker player a couple of months ago in Card Player magazine (I'm a little behind on my reading), go check out Max Shapiro's column about her here.

Online HORSE and razz tournaments

When I play poker online these days, it's mostly either HORSE or razz tournaments. These are often sit-and-go, single-table things, but I also enjoy taking on a multi-table tournament sometimes.

I have found it annoying to have to check the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker lobbies repeatedly to figure out when a MTT in one of these games might next be starting. (And, by the way, kudos to Full Tilt for making the tourney lobby much easier to navigate than Stars has managed to accomplish.) So today I made a first attempt at compiling my own little database of the daily events. I limited it to the price range that I prefer to play, roughly $10-$30. Obviously, there are games both higher and lower than this, but if you're interested in those, you'll have to make your own list.

This probably has some errors and omissions, but it's a start. If you see problems with it, let me know in the comments. Also, if you know of online sites other than Stars and FTP that sponsor HORSE and/or razz tournaments (open to U.S. players), please tell me, because I don't know of any others, and I would like to.

Which site has better MTT structures? I didn't know, so I checked the structure sheets for comparable events. Here they are from an $11 razz tournament from both places:

FTP starts you with 25 big bets. You get 10-minute levels. After 60 minutes of play, the next level has limits such that your original stack would be worth 7.5 big bets.

With Stars, you start with 60 big bets. You get 15-minute levels. After 60 minutes of play, the next level has limits such that your original stack would be worth 10 big bets.

Clearly, then, the Stars structure is significantly slower. Conventional wisdom says that this means there is a higher skill factor and lower luck factor involved in winning.

FTP does put more into the antes, though: 1/5 to 1/6 of a small bet, while Stars (after the first level) keeps them at 1/10 of a small bet. So if you prefer larger ante:limit ratio, Full Tilt has that going for it.

How about HORSE? Here are the structure sheets from a $22 HORSE MTT from each site:

Both use 12 minute levels. Full Tilt starts you with 37.5 big bets, Stars with 45. However, FTP progresses through the limits a bit more slowly (Stars jumps from 40/80 to 60/120; FTP from 40/80 to 50/100, which accounts for the difference), so that at the end of an hour of play--one cycle through the five games--you will be starting a level in which your original stack would be 9.4 big bets on FTP, but only 9 big bets on Stars. After two hours of play, you will be starting a level in which your original stack would be 3 big bets on FTP, but only 1.8 big bets on Stars.

Because having a big stack relative to the bet sizes isn't too important early on (you can only jam the pot so full in limit games, no matter how hard you try), I think I'd have to give the edge to Full Tilt for the better structure because of progressing through the levels a little bit more slowly.

In games with an ante, Stars keeps them at a constant 20% of a small bet; FTP hovers between 16% and 20% of a small bet. So if you like larger antes, there's a tiny advantage to the Stars structure, but not much.

All else being equal, I still prefer playing both razz and HORSE on Stars because at the showdown and in the hand histories you get to see exactly the order that the cards came in the three stud games, whereas Full Tilt continues to shuffle the three down cards, which I find annoying and confusing. Some people like that feature, though.

As the saying goes, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

Who's a celebrity in Vegas?

The Las Vegas Weekly has put up their list of the top 50 celebrities in Vegas. Here are three names and descriptions from the list that might ring a bell with my readers:

17: Phil Ivey
Poker player
There are poker faces and then there are poker faces. And then there’s Phil Ivey’s poker face, the most feared and recognizable in the game today. It scorns opponents for even bothering to scan for emotion even as it baits them into messing with the man many consider the best in the world. Bluff? The nuts? Or is he just running down the grocery order he’s gonna put together on his way home? When 6,500 card players enter a room intent on taking one guy down, and he still makes the final table of the World Series’ Main Event, you’ve gotta wonder how he does it. Good luck finding the answer on Phil Ivey’s face.

30 Doyle Brunson
Poker player
If you’re considering sitting down at a Las Vegas poker table, and you can’t recognize this 76-year-old poker legend (he’s the dude with the cowboy hat and the toothy smile, by the way), might we suggest slots?

47 Daniel Negreanu
Poker player
He’s appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Katy Perry’s “Waking Up in Vegas” video. Oh yeah, and he’s second on the World Series of Poker’s all-time money list.

Guess the casino, #548

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

Answer: Harrah's

Pictures from around town (4)

On the way out of the Paris theater, we passed a display case with this in it:

It's an outfit that Barry Manilow wore (once? often? I don't know.) in concert for "Copacabana." I think it is otherwise best left without comment.

I walked Cardgrrl back to her hotel room at Harrah's. I wanted something to drink, so stopped at this vending machine on her floor:

I was struck by the message you can see at the bottom: "Thanks for choosing Pepsi."

Wrong! I did not choose Pepsi. Pepsi has an exclusive contract with all of the Harrah's properties. You can't choose a Coke even if you wanted to (and I would).

From Cardgrrl's 12th-floor hotel window there was a nice view of the Mirage volcano erupting, which seems a fitting conclusion to this photo series:

Pictures from around town (3)

Tuesday night I took Cardgrrl to see Cheap Trick's rendition of "Sgt. Pepper" at Paris for her last night in Vegas. Here's a few photos from the very end of the show:

Pictures from around town (2)

I mentioned before that we ate at Binion's Friday night. We parked in the north parking garage, lowest level. As I got out of the car, I was surprised to see a large number of old slot machines filling up the other half of that level, on the other side of a wall. There was no barrier to us going over to them, so we did. These were obviously being retired. I've never seen a casino's discards out in the open like this, and I thought it was kind of interesting.

Pictures from around town (1)

I took a bunch of pictures of this and that and the other over the last ten days or so while hanging out with Cardgrrl. Now that she has gone back home, I have a little time to sort through and post them. I'll do it in chunks, because Blogger's stupid interface makes it awkward to handle more than a handful of photos in any one post.

First up are some license plates that I saw while walking past the valet area outside the convention center at the Rio last Wednesday night (June 16), as I was on my way in to sweat Cardgrrl in the $1500 HORSE event she was playing.

This is Vanessa Rousso's Lamborghini:

I'm guessing that this guy won a big Omaha tournament with J6AQ as his final hand:

This one is just fun:

Cardgrrl was at a table on one side of one of the "hallways" inside the Amazon Room. On the other side Tom Dwan was playing in another event. It was only a few steps away, so I wandered over to try to get a picture:

What I didn't realize as I was trying to get a decent shot was that he was extremely short-stacked. In fact, though I didn't know it at the time, that proved to be his last hand of the tournament. I clicked the shutter again, but he had started moving and it came out all blurry:

Why was he moving? Well, I didn't know until he stood up and walked away with no chips left at his spot at the table, and I realized he wasn't coming back. So if you've ever wondered what Tom Dwan looks like two seconds after he learns that he busted out of a WSOP event, now you know!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Poker gems, #370

Jennifer Harman, about an hour ago, while some of the final seven players in the WSOP razz event were attempting to negotiate a deal, as reported on Twitter by photographer B.J. Nemeth.

I don't buy bracelets. I win them.

Update: She finished in 6th place.

"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull"

I'm in a HORSE satellite tournament on Full Tilt. I'm not a great HORSE player, but I can usually keep up with the pack in low buy-in events. In this one, though, I am so far running over a table of weaklings.

The screen shot above illustrates what I mean. We had been playing razz. Immediately after the cards had been dealt, a sign flashed on the screen announcing the new level: Seven-card stud. I had the bring-in, and when I noticed that I had two queens, I opted for the full bet instead of just the regular bring-in.

It was only as I clicked the appropriate button that it occurred to me to wonder, "Hey, how come I have the bring-in with a queen up here?" The answer dawned on me almost as quickly as the question had: We were still on the last hand of razz. The notification for the start of the stud games came at a designated time by the clock, not at the beginning of the hand. (I consider this a flaw in the FTP software. PokerStars eliminates that potential confusion by sending the notice of the new level only at the completion of the hand.)

So I was completing the bring-in in razz with a queen showing, and another one in the hole. Ick. Oh well. Somebody will raise me and I'll fold, with only a small loss.

Nope. Every single one of my opponents folded to my aggression. And they weren't all pre-entered insta-folds, either; the last two both took five seconds or so, apparently thinking about it.

The quotation I used to title this post is attributed to W.C. Fields. I guess he was a poker player.


I finished second in the tournament. Only one seat to the biggest event was awarded, so I missed out on that, but I picked up $50. Meh.

Guess the casino, #547

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

Answer: Flamingo

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guess the casino, #546

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

Answer: Aria

Monday, June 21, 2010


Cardgrrl and I have been on a mildly amusing food freeroll for the past few days.

I play at Binion's with fair regularity, and build up food comps faster than I can use them. This is especially true since they closed the coffee shop a few months ago. I wrote about that at the time, and a reader suggested taking Cardgrrl to the steakhouse. I had considered that, but initially rejected the idea because she is a vegetarian. However, the next time I was at Binion's, I checked the menu, and they had a couple of nice seafood dishes listed, which are on the Cardgrrl-approved list. That settled how I would splurge my freebies.

So Friday night we hit the famous Binion's Ranch Steakhouse, racking up a $98 tab. Maybe some of you eat in places where that doesn't seem like much, but I'm a cheapskate, and it's more than double what I usually pay for dinner for two, so it felt like a feast of kings to me. Had an excellent 16 oz. New York strip steak (well, half of it anyway); Cardgrrl had broiled salmon.

The photos above show the view of the city from our table at the steakhouse, which is on the 24th floor of Binion's.

Stepping off of the elevator on our way out, a guy asked whether we had just eaten at the steakhouse. Yes. "Was it good?" Yes again. With that, he and his family got on the elevator and headed up. Obviously, my culinary opinion carries great weight.

It was only after the moment had passed that Cardgrrl and I started thinking of the better responses: "It was worth what we paid for it." Or, "It's great, considering that all the food is free."

The next day, we met up with Shamus and his wife Vera Valmore for brunch at Hash House a Go Go out on Sahara Avenue (skipping, for various unimportant reasons, the newer incarnation of the same establishment at Imperial Palace). Though we weren't expecting this, the two of them were generous enough to treat us to the meal, and the freeroll was well underway.

Back in February, when Cardgrrl was last here, she shared a starting table at the tournament with Adam Altweis, the poker room manager at Aria. (See interviews with him about this new job and the Aria poker room here and here.) He kindly handed out to his tablemates comp tickets good for dinner and drinks for four at any of several Aria food establishments. Cardgrrl invited F-Train, Jen, and me to share in her gift. Saturday night we met at Lemongrass, a Thai restaurant, and, well, basically ate everything in sight. They had some Teamsters come and roll us back out to our cars about three hours later. Thank you, Adam!

Yesterday we ate at the Victorian Room at Bill's. It's not exactly haute cuisine there, but Bill's is another place where I have somehow accumulated over $100 of food comps, so it seemed fitting to let the free stuff keep on rollin'.

Today I extended it further by having for my lunch the other half of the steak I couldn't finish Friday night. Just as good the second time.

One of these days, I might have to start actually paying for food again, and that's gonna hurt, after this weekend.

I suppose one could say that my poker has been freerolling, too; I haven't played much in the last week or so, but I did join Cardgrrl in the Aria afternoon $175 tournament, which is about as nicely structured as you're likely to find in a daily event. Didn't do too well there (busted out by a reader, even, when my AK ran into his aces--hi, Tyler!), but Cardgrrl lasted a lot longer, and I made enough in a cash game while waiting for her to more than make up for the buy-in. A cash game at the Pavilion Room at Rio went well for both of us Saturday, too.

The freeroll picks up in a different way tomorrow. Through my membership in House Seats Las Vegas, I scored free tickets for Cardgrrl and me to see Cheap Trick doing their wildly popular "Sergeant Pepper" tribute show at the Paris hotel/casino Tuesday night. Shamus saw it with Vera (but not Chuck or Dave; a little Beatles humor there!) Saturday night; see his review here. I saw this show at the Hilton last September, and enjoyed it immensely. I will be delighted to share it now with my favorite visitor from the East Coast.

Speaking of whom, she is in a HORSE tournament right now at the Golden Nugget, part of their summer "The Grand" series. I have finished what I needed to do here at the ol' homestead, so it's time to amble down Fremont Street to where she is playing, and see just how badly she is crushing the game. Sadly, she will be leaving town on Wednesday, and soon thereafter things will return to what passes for a normal schedule in my life.

Guess the casino, #545

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

Answer: Circus Circus

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Poker gems, #369

Ed Miller, in Card Player magazine column, April 21, 2010 (vol. 23, #8), p. 50.

The guy who won't fold is usually the most profitable opponent at the table for you. You're going to miss out on the party if you tighten up too much and wait to catch a big pair or flop a set. I mention this first because it's my experience that tightening up is exactly how most players react to a non-folder. It's ridiculous when the loosest guy at the table has trouble getting action, but I've seen it many times. You're going to get the guy's money by playing with him, not by waiting and waiting.

Penn Jillette interview

As a temporary substitute for any poker content, while I continue to spend my time enjoying Cardgrrl's presence in town, I refer you to this interview with Penn Jillette in Vanity Fair:

My positions on skepticism and libertarian politics mesh very closely with his, but he expresses them in a much more pithy way than I ever manage to. E.g., this Q&A:

There really is a line-in-the-sand political mentality these days, isn’t there? You choose a side and you stick to it.

Absolutely there is. When I disagree with Obama, people always say, “Well, you’re a big Bush guy then.” And I’m like no, I didn’t like Bush either. I disagree with Bush and Obama on all the stuff they agree on, which is pretty much everything. They both want to kill people, they both want the government to be bigger, and they both want less freedom for individuals.

Guess the casino, #544

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

Answer: Bally's