Saturday, July 03, 2010


I just finished watching the third week of PokerStars "Big Game" show. This post is just to say how much I came off admiring the week's "loose cannon," Nadya Magnus.

To understand the dynamics, you have to know the structure of the game. Each week there is an amateur player who has won an online qualifying tournament. That player is staked $100,000 cash to play against five pros. They play for 150 hands. At the end of that, the loose cannon gets to keep any profit above the starting 100K, but if he or she is below that mark, he or she must relinquish the remainder and walk away empty-handed. Additionally, at the end of the season, whichever loose cannon has shown the most profit gets five $10,000 NAPT tournament entries--a pretty nice bonus. The first week's loose cannon, Ernest Wiggins, had turned in a $50,000 profit, so any subsequent players know that they have to beat that to have any chance at the bonus.

So Nadya had built her stack nicely to something like $170,000 by Thursday's show. She could have coasted at that point, just fold, fold, fold without even looking. Doing so not only would have locked up a handsome profit, but allowed her to be certain to end the week ahead of Wiggins and in contention for the 50K bonus. She didn't do that. She kept her foot on the gas pedal and kept up the aggression as if she played these stakes every day and the money meant nothing to her.

Unfortunately, she took some hits and got down to $141,000 on Friday's show, when there were only 20 or so hands left to go. Again, she could have put a tourniquet on the bleeding wound, gone defensive, and ensured her profit, though it would mean giving up on the bonus. She did not. She picked up pocket queens and played them fearlessly, winning a nice pot that put her up to $154,000, I believe.

Once again, she was in a position from which she could fold her way to a profit. She had to survive only ten more hands, so she could still pay the blinds and antes without giving up her lead on Wiggins. Again, she choose otherwise, and kept playing to maximize profit on every hand. On the next hand after the queens, she picked up A-K in the small blind, with a raise before it got to her. Given how often we all know AK can go down in flames, it would be very tempting to let it go and sit tight, or maybe just call the raise and proceed cautiously. But no, she put in the reraise--a bet that was big enough that if she lost the pot she would be below Wiggins' benchmark, and maybe not get a chance to get ahead of him again. She got a caller, then bet again on the flop--even though it missed her and she was out of position--and took it down.

The remaining few hands she was dealt junk and had easy folds, and she ended up with a $63,200 profit for the week, a very impressive performance. In fact, she won more than any of the pros against whom she played, with the exception of Justin Bonomo, who was hitting on all cylinders and racked up over 200K profit. But my admiration for her play would be the same even if she had gotten coolered or bad beat on those last two big pots she played, because she resisted the temptation to go into lock-down mode and was totally fearless. She was the embodiment of Mike McDermott's aphorism: "You can't lose what you don't put in the middle--but you can't win much, either."

She did take a conservative line on her final decision of the week. She could either take her profit, or keep it on the table and play for another 150 hands. She chose to take the money and run. I don't blame her one bit. That's not being scared, it's being smart. She has to know that she has a -EV playing against the rosters that the producers put into the game. She was lucky to end up as far ahead as she did--winning 158 big blinds in 150 hands against that lineup is phenomenally good, and she couldn't realistically expect to repeat her good fortune. Her most likely outcome if she kept playing would be to experience what statisticians like to call regression to the mean, and what the rest of us call the ugly side of variance. It's much, much smarter to take the cash and keep building her bankroll by using it to play in games and stakes where she has the edge, which is most definitely not against Bonomo, Barry Greenstein, Jason Mercier, etc.

Well done, Nadya.

Poker gems, #377

Grange95, concluding a recent hand story, here.

So, in a bit of orientational irony, a gay guy used a straight flush to beat a straight guy's set of queens.

Guess the casino, #557

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

Answer: Boulder Station


I just got eliminated from an $11 razz tournament. I lasted about 30 minutes--probably the shortest time in my personal history for such an event. That was largely because the thing started with the most bizarre series of razz hands I've ever seen.

I was a couple of minutes late registering, so one or two hands had been played before I joined the table. On my first hand, I was dealt (43)A, one of the best possible starting hands. I was delighted. But I had two challengers in the hand, and it was already getting weird because it was a player with a queen showing that first completed. It was then raised by my second opponent, and I reraised. We got it capped. In fact, we got it capped on every betting round except the last, where I bet out and then just called a raise because of a suspicion that my one sensible opponent might have caught a lucky river card. He had just a K-7 on 6th. I had an 8-4, but when I didn't improve on 7th, I needed to be cautious. I was right, unfortunately:

The weird thing, as you can see, is that the guy with the queen showing came along--not only came along, in fact, but was driving the raising just as much as I was. It was only because of his actions that we got it capped every street. Otherwise, I believe my more sensible opponent would have just called one bet each time, and possibly even folded. And the guy with the queen did this despite catching, in succession, a king, a nine, and another queen! As the final hand history shows, the best hand he could have started with (we don't know exactly because of FTP's scrambling of the three down cards) was 10-J-Q!

Here's the full hand history:

Full Tilt Poker Game #22044079393: $10 + $1 Tournament (170066414), Table 4 - 30/60 Ante 5 - Limit Razz - 1:18:27 ET - 2010/07/03
Seat 1: BreckGoat (1,495)
Seat 2: spie10 (1,485)
Seat 3: Rakewell (1,500)
Seat 4: john21703 (1,500)
Seat 5: goldenphoenix98 (1,260)
Seat 6: ozzykorn (1,375)
Seat 7: VegasHerelCome (1,495)
BreckGoat antes 5
spie10 antes 5
Rakewell antes 5
john21703 antes 5
goldenphoenix98 antes 5
ozzykorn antes 5
VegasHerelCome antes 5
*** 3RD STREET ***
Dealt to BreckGoat [7h]
Dealt to spie10 [8c]
Dealt to Rakewell [4h 3d] [Ah]
Dealt to john21703 [Qs]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [Qc]
Dealt to ozzykorn [9s]
Dealt to VegasHerelCome [Ac]
john21703 is high with [Qs]
john21703 brings in for 10
goldenphoenix98 completes it to 30
ozzykorn folds
VegasHerelCome raises to 60
BreckGoat folds
spie10 folds
Rakewell raises to 90
john21703 folds
goldenphoenix98 calls 60
VegasHerelCome raises to 120
Rakewell calls 30
goldenphoenix98 calls 30
*** 4TH STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell [4h 3d Ah] [8h]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [Qc] [Ks]
Dealt to VegasHerelCome [Ac] [7s]
VegasHerelCome bets 30
Rakewell raises to 60
goldenphoenix98 raises to 90
VegasHerelCome raises to 120
Rakewell calls 60
goldenphoenix98 calls 30
*** 5TH STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell [4h 3d Ah 8h] [2s]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [Qc Ks] [9h]
Dealt to VegasHerelCome [Ac 7s] [Kh]
Rakewell bets 60
goldenphoenix98 raises to 120
VegasHerelCome calls 120
Rakewell raises to 180
goldenphoenix98 raises to 240
VegasHerelCome calls 120
Rakewell calls 60
*** 6TH STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell [4h 3d Ah 8h 2s] [As]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [Qc Ks 9h] [Qd]
Dealt to VegasHerelCome [Ac 7s Kh] [Ad]
Rakewell bets 60
goldenphoenix98 has been disconnected
rubbersoul sits down
goldenphoenix98 has 15 seconds left to act
goldenphoenix98 has reconnected
goldenphoenix98 has 15 seconds left to act
goldenphoenix98 raises to 120
rubbersoul is feeling happy
VegasHerelCome calls 120
Rakewell raises to 180
goldenphoenix98 raises to 240
VegasHerelCome calls 120
Rakewell calls 60
ozzykorn: were playing razz right?
*** 7TH STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell [4h 3d Ah 8h 2s As] [3h]
Rakewell bets 60
goldenphoenix98 raises to 120
VegasHerelCome calls 120
Rakewell calls 60
*** SHOW DOWN ***
goldenphoenix98 shows [Qh Jd Qc Ks 9h Qd Th] K,Q,J,T,9
VegasHerelCome shows [6s 5d Ac 7s Kh Ad 2h] 7,6,5,2,A
Rakewell mucks
VegasHerelCome wins the pot (2,565) with 7,6,5,2,A
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 2,565 Rake 0
Seat 1: BreckGoat folded on 3rd St.
Seat 2: spie10 folded on 3rd St.
Seat 3: Rakewell mucked [4h 3h Ah 8h 2s As 3d] - 8,4,3,2,A
Seat 4: john21703 folded on 3rd St.
Seat 5: goldenphoenix98 showed [Qh Jd Qc Ks 9h Qd Th] and lost with K,Q,J,T,9
Seat 6: ozzykorn folded on 3rd St.
Seat 7: VegasHerelCome showed [6s 5d Ac 7s Kh Ad 2h] and won (2,565) with 7,6,5,2,A

So, OK, I figure that the queen guy meant to sign up for a regular stud tournament and accidentally got razz instead. But now he made three queens (as he would see it) and lost to what would appear to be a pair of aces. Now he will surely give himself a dope slap, figure out what happened, and make the best of what's left of his stack, right?


This was the very next hand:

I was dealt the (45)2, another premium starter, but could only improve to a smooth 10, after getting a pair and a king. My nutty opponent started with either (Q8)5 or (88)5, finished with a Q-8 and was still leading at the betting. It didn't get capped because my king and pair made me cautious. Against most opponents, I probably would have folded, but after the previous hand I suspected that more insanity was afoot, and I was right.

Hand history:

Full Tilt Poker Game #22044104742: $10 + $1 Tournament (170066414), Table 4 - 30/60 Ante 5 - Limit Razz - 1:20:13 ET - 2010/07/03
Seat 2: NSAID (1,500)
Seat 3: Rakewell (655)
Seat 4: john21703 (1,485)
Seat 5: goldenphoenix98 (415)
Seat 6: ozzykorn (1,370)
Seat 7: VegasHerelCome (3,215)
Seat 8: rubbersoul (1,500)
NSAID antes 5
Rakewell antes 5
john21703 antes 5
goldenphoenix98 antes 5
ozzykorn antes 5
VegasHerelCome antes 5
rubbersoul antes 5
*** 3RD STREET ***
Dealt to NSAID [7d]
Dealt to Rakewell [4s 5h] [2c]
Dealt to john21703 [3h]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [5s]
Dealt to ozzykorn [4h]
Dealt to VegasHerelCome [5d]
Dealt to rubbersoul [Kd]
rubbersoul is high with [Kd]
poguemahone68 sits down
rubbersoul has 15 seconds left to act
rubbersoul brings in for 10
NSAID completes it to 30
Rakewell raises to 60
john21703 folds
goldenphoenix98 raises to 90
ozzykorn folds
VegasHerelCome folds
rubbersoul folds
NSAID calls 60
Rakewell raises to 120
goldenphoenix98 calls 30
NSAID calls 30
*** 4TH STREET ***
Dealt to NSAID [7d] [9h]
Dealt to Rakewell [4s 5h 2c] [Kc]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [5s] [7s]
goldenphoenix98 bets 30
NSAID calls 30
Rakewell calls 30
*** 5TH STREET ***
Dealt to NSAID [7d 9h] [7h]
Dealt to Rakewell [4s 5h 2c Kc] [2s]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [5s 7s] [Qs]
goldenphoenix98 bets 60
NSAID calls 60
Rakewell calls 60
*** 6TH STREET ***
Dealt to NSAID [7d 9h 7h] [7c]
Dealt to Rakewell [4s 5h 2c Kc 2s] [6d]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [5s 7s Qs] [4c]
goldenphoenix98 bets 60
NSAID folds
Rakewell calls 60
*** 7TH STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell [4s 5h 2c Kc 2s 6d] [Td]
goldenphoenix98 bets 60
Rakewell calls 60
*** SHOW DOWN ***
goldenphoenix98 shows [Qh 8s 5s 7s Qs 4c 8c] Q,8,7,5,4
Rakewell shows [Td 5h 2c Kc 2s 6d 4s] T,6,5,4,2
Rakewell wins the pot (915) with T,6,5,4,2
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 915 Rake 0
Seat 2: NSAID folded on 6th St.
Seat 3: Rakewell showed [Td 5h 2c Kc 2s 6d 4s] and won (915) with T,6,5,4,2
Seat 4: john21703 folded on 3rd St.
Seat 5: goldenphoenix98 showed [Qh 8s 5s 7s Qs 4c 8c] and lost with Q,8,7,5,4
Seat 6: ozzykorn folded on 3rd St.
Seat 7: VegasHerelCome folded on 3rd St.
Seat 8: rubbersoul folded on 3rd St.

On the next hand, I got my third good one in a row: (73)6. Would you like to guess who my opponent was?

This time, though, he or she was actually ahead. We got it all in on 3rd street, so the cards were revealed at that point, with no subsequent scrambling by FTP. I didn't catch up:

Full Tilt Poker Game #22044121030: $10 + $1 Tournament (170066414), Table 4 - 30/60 Ante 5 - Limit Razz - 1:21:22 ET - 2010/07/03
Seat 1: poguemahone68 (1,500)
Seat 2: NSAID (1,285)
Seat 3: Rakewell (1,235)
Seat 4: john21703 (1,480)
Seat 5: goldenphoenix98 (80)
Seat 6: ozzykorn (1,365)
Seat 7: VegasHerelCome (3,210)
Seat 8: rubbersoul (1,485)
poguemahone68 antes 5
NSAID antes 5
Rakewell antes 5
john21703 antes 5
goldenphoenix98 antes 5
ozzykorn antes 5
VegasHerelCome antes 5
rubbersoul antes 5
*** 3RD STREET ***
Dealt to poguemahone68 [Kh]
Dealt to NSAID [5c]
Dealt to Rakewell [7s 3h] [6d]
Dealt to john21703 [8s]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [4c]
Dealt to ozzykorn [Ah]
Dealt to VegasHerelCome [Qc]
Dealt to rubbersoul [Ac]
poguemahone68 is high with [Kh]
poguemahone68 brings in for 10
NSAID folds
Rakewell completes it to 30
john21703 folds
goldenphoenix98 raises to 60
ozzykorn folds
VegasHerelCome folds
rubbersoul folds
poguemahone68 folds
Rakewell raises to 90
goldenphoenix98 calls 15, and is all in
Rakewell shows [7s 3h 6d]
goldenphoenix98 shows [As 3s 4c]
Uncalled bet of 15 returned to Rakewell
*** 4TH STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell [7s 3h 6d] [8d]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [As 3s 4c] [Ts]
*** 5TH STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell [7s 3h 6d 8d] [Kc]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [As 3s 4c Ts] [2s]
*** 6TH STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell [7s 3h 6d 8d Kc] [7h]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [As 3s 4c Ts 2s] [8c]
*** 7TH STREET ***
Dealt to Rakewell [7s 3h 6d 8d Kc 7h] [5s]
Dealt to goldenphoenix98 [As 3s 4c Ts 2s 8c] [Js]
Rakewell shows [7s 3h 6d 8d Kc 7h 5s] 8,7,6,5,3
goldenphoenix98 shows [As 3s 4c Ts 2s 8c Js] 8,4,3,2,A
goldenphoenix98 wins the pot (200) with 8,4,3,2,A
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 200 Rake 0
Seat 1: poguemahone68 folded on 3rd St.
Seat 2: NSAID folded on 3rd St.
Seat 3: Rakewell showed [7s 3h 6d 8d Kc 7h 5s] and lost with 8,7,6,5,3
Seat 4: john21703 folded on 3rd St.
Seat 5: goldenphoenix98 showed [As 3s 4c Ts 2s 8c Js] and won (200) with 8,4,3,2,A
Seat 6: ozzykorn folded on 3rd St.
Seat 7: VegasHerelCome folded on 3rd St.
Seat 8: rubbersoul folded on 3rd St.

Anyway, the net result of this series of hands was that I was very quickly the shortest stack in the game. I might have won another small pot or two, but that was about it for me. Everything else was a big ol' pile of bricks on my few good starting hands, and I was out.

Better than bubbling, I guess, which usually seems to be my fate in these things, after wasting two or three hours. And I did get a decent story out of it: the story of the kamikaze razz player.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Jeff Sarwer

I slacked off in my poker magazine reading for a while, but I'm gradually getting caught up.

The May issue of Bluff magazine had one of the most interesting player profiles I've ever read. It's available online here in case you missed it.

Jeff Sarwer was a true child prodigy in chess, even being invited to provide commentary on televised matches at age 7. In fact, he was the inspiration for the fictional central character in the film "Searching for Bobby Fischer." But he suddenly vanished from the chess world. Now that he has re-emerged, we know what happened to him.

I'll let you read it for yourselves, but it's an amazing story involving an abusive and radical father who drove his kids around Canada instead of getting them formal educations, a stint in foster homes, then a clandestine reuniting with his father and the remainder of his childhood spent on the lam, evading child protection authorities.

After having some business success, he has now turned his interests to poker on the European tournament circuit, and notable figures such as Shawn Deeb and Jonathan Aguiar are prasing his raw talent as if he is the Messiah of poker, unlike anybody they have seen before.

Is it just hype, or is there really something new and phenomenal emerging here? I don't know, but this article sure makes me curious to sit back and watch for the next few years.

"You've got to have a look"

There's a small but wonderful playhouse in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, called the Park Square Theatre. I used to get season tickets every year when I lived there because the productions were always first-rate. Back in 2001 I saw Terrence McNally's play "Master Class," which was about Maria Callas teaching opera singing to music students late in her career, after her own voice was shot.

One of the memorable lines from it (as witnessed by the fact that I still remember it) was her advice about standing out from the mass of other people who will be trying out for the same roles: "To be remembered, you've got to have a look." She then picked out students who, in her view, had accomplished this important objective with their style choices, and those who had failed.

For some reason that came back to my mind today while playing at the Rio. I looked over at the next table and saw this:

This young man has picked a look, all right: Kneeling on a backward-facing chair, leaning over the table, butt high in the air, jeans low, six inches of boxers showing.

It's not a particularly flattering look, mind you, but it is indeed a look, and he will therefore be remembered. Well done, sir!

Guess the casino, #556

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

Answer: Wynn

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Poker gems, #376

Mike Caro, in Bluff magazine column, May, 2010, p. 37. He is recounting how Gardena, California, gained and then lost its status as a poker center.

Players took turns dealing, and everything that's popping into your head right now happened. Making a living as an honest player was tough, and I had to choose games carefully.... Cheating wasn't the only obstacle. There were other annoyances, such as murder.

Guess the casino, #555

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

Answer: Texas Station

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

All in or fold (again)

I just tried another of Carbon Poker's "All in or fold" tournaments. This one happened to also be a bounty format; of the $3.30 buy-in, .30 went to the site, $1.50 went to the prize pool, and $1.50 was your bounty.

The other day I had chatted a bit with Cardgrrl about what the best strategy might be. Her immediate thought was to play ultra-tight early on. I'm still not sure. On the one hand, it's certainly silly to risk your 1500 starting stack just to pick up 30 in blinds in the first round. If you're going all-in, it has to be hoping to get called to double up. That means that you want your range for shoving to be above your average opponent's range, at a minumum--and you might want it to be well above that range, so that you don't put yourself at the mercy of several coin flips or even 60/40 propositions.

But therein lies the great mystery: what are people willing to call or push with? Some are being shove-monkeys and trying to go all in nearly every hand early on, apparently with the idea to either accumulate a big enough stack to pose a threat to others (and be able to withstand some bad beats), or be done with the thing. I can see the allure of that.

So here's what I decided to do. I made my range A-10 and above (suited or not), plus pairs 10s and above, without regard for position, for what my opponents were doing, or whether I was open-shoving or calling. It's probably not optimal strategy in several respects, but this was just an experiment.

About two minutes in, I had ATs and shoved. I got called by 3-6s (this was one of the nuts that was playing about 90% of hands) and by KQs. I won and tripled up. About 10 minutes in I had AKs, and called a shove ahead of me. He had 8-7s. I hit an ace on the flop, but he flopped a flush draw and got there on the river. I was now down to double starting stack. Maybe 10 minutes later I picked up AA, shoved, got no call. Then I went completely card dead.

About 50 minutes in, I was down to 12 big blinds and was the short stack. I decided to liberalize my open-shoving standard to A8+ and 88+, but keep my calling standard the same. It didn't matter, as I picked up no such hands. (I cheated once and shoved with KJs from the small blind and won the blinds.)

One hour in, I was down to 8 big blinds, and was much shorter than anybody else. I decided to open up to any pair and any ace, open-shove or call. The very next hand after deciding that, I had A-5o and called a shove from one of the more liberal blind stealers. He had K-Jo. I was happy with the AA7 flop, but not with the Q on turn and 10 on river for the backdoor straight. Out in 11th place.

This tournament has an abnormally flat payout structure. Top 20 (out of 100 entrants) got paid, though the bottom half of that (including me) got just $1.50. I had picked up one bounty in my three-way early hand, so I made my buy-in back, minus the .30 fee.

These things go incredibly fast, as you would predict. The field of 100 was down to 65 at 10 minutes, 50 at 15 minutes, 35 at 20 minutes, 29 at 25 minutes, and 26 at 30 minutes.

Other than my own, here's the list of the hands I saw with a shove and call, with the open-shove always listed first, caller(s) next. Winner(s) are in bold.

A9s A7o QQ
AA T8o
62s K9o
AKo J9o
AQs A2o
33 JJ 32o
A5o AJo
AKo 55
AA 22
QJs 99
K9s AKo

As you can see, players take a wide variety of approaches to what they will open-shove or call with--and, of course, it changes with their stack size and position. That has to play some part in your decision-making, even early on. If you see that somebody is moving in with any two cards on every single hand, it seems obvious that your range should expand relative to him more than to the guy who has folded 20 times in a row. But how much risk you should be willing to tolerate is entirely unclear to me.

I can't say that this little tourney was fun in the usual way that I enjoy playing. In fact, it's pretty boring to play this way. But it does still hold some intellectual curiosity for me in terms of figuring out how best to approach it, more as a theoretical exercise than because it's something I actually want to be doing a lot of.

The entrance

This update on PokerWorks suggests that, in a departure from recent years, Phil Hellmuth's grand entrance into the WSOP Main Event will be as a UFC fighter.

I'm dubious. The recent pattern has been that his getup is suggested months in advance by the print ads that UltimateBlecch runs for their WSOP satellites. There was the "UB Army" theme, followed by Phil dressed up as a WWII general. Then there were the "Ultimate Conquest" ads followed by Phil as Caesar.

This year's UB ads have had a strangely Christian/religious theme, and my assumption has been that this means Phil will be dressed as a monk--or, if they really want to offend people, Jesus or the Pope. A UFC fighter would not fit the bill.

Then again, what do I know? I'm just guessing here.

Poker gems, #375

Jennifer Tilly, on Party Poker's "Big Game," June 10, 2010.

Poker is an addiction. It really is. It takes over your life, alienates you from your friends, and empties out your bank account. I love it!

Chan vs. Nguyen

A post today on Doyle Brunson's blog, written by somebody identified only as "bob," reports:

Perhaps stating the obvious, but nevertheless entirely true, Johnny Chan commented that “There aren’t going to be any suckers dumping off chips, you have to earn them.” Point in case, who but a pro could fold queens full of jacks? That is exactly what Johnny Chan did against Scotty Nguyen. Granted, there were a pair of aces on the board, but even so, that must have been hard. Nguyen raised Chan on the button, who called. The flop was A-A-Q, and both players checked. The jack on the turn was also checked. When another jack came on the river, Nguyen fired a bet that almost doubled the pot. Chan folded his pocket queens face up, and Nguyen left him to wonder what could have been.
Uh, if the board was AAQJJ, and Chan had pocket queens, wouldn't his hand be queens full of aces, rather than "queens full of jacks" as stated?

(I would have just left this as a comment on that post rather than writing here, but comments were listed as "closed" and the "Leave a comment" link seems to do nothing. Hmpf!)

By the way, what, exactly, is meant by the phrase, "Point in case"?

And further by the way: Folding a low full house on a double-paired board is not particularly difficult. In this case, though, my guess is that the fold was incorrect. I doubt that Nguyen would check trip aces--even with a weak kicker and out of position--on both the flop and turn. It's not impossible, of course, but I think it's more likely that he would make at least a small feeler bet on one of those streets. I suspect that Nguyen had a jack, and Chan got hoodwinked. But I could be completely wrong.

One last point: Shame on Chan for slow-playing himself into such a difficult spot. Double shame on him for folding face-up. What's the point of that? Tommy Angelo, in Elements of Poker, p. 100, gets it exactly right:

When you fold face up, the message that is sent to the table, whether you
intend it or not, and whether you realize it or not, is this: "Dear table full
of people. It is very important to me what you think of me. It is so important
that I am willing to give you the most generous gift of information I can--I
will show you my cards--just so you know that 1) my decisions were justified,
and also that 2) I am unlucky. I know it will cost me money to reveal my cards
and feelings to you. But that's okay. That's how much I value your opinion of

If you always fold face down without ever showing even one card to anyone,
the message that is sent, and received, whether you intend it or not, and
whether you realize it or not, is this: "I don't care what you think about how I
play. I don't even care what I think about how I play. Oh, and by the way, I am
impervious to everything." Fussless folding fortifies.

Guess the casino, #554

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

Answer: South Point

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poker gems, #374

Mohandas Gandhi.

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

New books

I haven't purchased any books in months, which is a little out of character for me. So today I remedied that with the above order--with free shipping, even! The first item is brand new, just made available yesterday. The second has been out for months, and I'm slightly embarrassed not to have bought my copy well before now--but better late than never. The authors, in case you don't know, are my friends and proprietors of the fine poker blogs here and here, respectively.

Frankly, I think Pauly has a little splainin' to do on why he charges 8.8 cents per page, while Martin's fee is a more modest 6.1 cents per page. Truth may or may not be stranger than fiction, but it apparently costs more. :-)

Guess the casino, #553

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

Answer: Sahara

Monday, June 28, 2010

McDonald case

I spent most of the afternoon reading the mind-numbing 214 pages of today's Supreme Court decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago. I feel like going on a full-blown rant about it, as the whole subject is one of my real passions, but I'm going to exercise immense self-restraint and limit myself to four points:

1. Justice Thomas is the only one who gets it right. It's high time for the court to blow life back into the Privileges or Immunities Clause and end the silly legal fiction about the Due Process Clause. Aren't 137 years of relying on what virtually everybody agrees was a horribly reasoned case (Slaughter-House, 1873) enough?

2. The four dissenting justices might actually be clinically insane. It takes a deep, pathological degree of schizophrenia and/or denial to be able to find clear constitutional protection for abortion and sexual practices (as they do), while being unable to locate anything in the document that might protect firearms ownership. How do these people even pass their first year of law school, let alone ascend to our highest court?

3. For the most thoughtful rapid responses to the court's decision, see Eugene Volokh's always-excellent team of bloggers here. (In fact, it's worth bookmarking that site for insightful analysis on nearly any legal issue in the news.)

4. It is both sad and astonishing how thoroughly interconnected our nation's history of race relations is with its history of firearms use and legislation. As revealed on nearly every page of today's decision, the influence of slavery, the Civil War, Southern black codes, the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups/mobs, etc., may have shaped our current laws and practice with respect to guns and gun control more than things like the English laws that were the nidus around which American law formed. The modern political irony is this: the Reconstruction-era civil rights statutes and constitional amendments passed in order to protect blacks against both discrimination and outright assault--by, among other things, guaranteeing that the victims could arm themselves in self-defense--are now routinely denied that exact effect by those on the left who are most ardent in their claims of being in favor of protecting racial minority rights. I.e., they wish to deny or reverse the effects of the laws that were originally passed to support the cause they purport to champion. Bizarre.

OK, with that, I'll shut up.

Poker gems, #373

Terrence "Not Johnny" Chan, in his blog post today.

The intercontinental 8-game title will change hands in most pro-wrestling-esque screwjob manner. One table from the money, Jerrod drew two to 77433 on the flop in triple draw. The dealer flipped up the deuce he was meant to give to Jerrod and the floor ruled that he would not get the deuce (which is the correct ruling). The other card he drew was a five. So instead of making a wheel, Jerrod makes 97543. The opponent makes an 86 and Jerrod is eliminated from the tournament on dealer error, ugh. Bobby Heenan may as well have distracted the floorman so that someone could hit Jerrod from behind with a chair.

Guess the casino, #552

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

Answer: Planet Hollywood

Poker gems, #372

Doyle Brunson, on last week's PokerStars Big Game, after needling Abe Mosseri about whether the latter's recent hair transplant would help him pick up women in a singles' bar.

Here's what Jack Binion told me. (Pulling out wad of hundred-dollar bills and putting it where his hair used to be.) He said this makes me as attractive as anybody else in the world.

Poker gems, #371

Doyle Brunson, on the PokerStars Big Game last week.

I just hope to keep playing until they throw dirt in my face.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

More on Richard Marcus

I have written about Richard Marcus a few times before (see here and the links backwards that post provides). Apparently his willingness to be dishonest for purposes of his own publicity goes further than I had imagined. A Tweet from Andy Bloch a short time ago pointed me to this article, which is about the Steve Forte case that got a lot of press back in 2007. At the time, it was reported that this involved a casino cheating expert being caught doing something dirty, perhaps involving hidden cameras and poker, in a sting operation inside a private suite at the Borgata in Atlantic City. If the Magic Times article is to be believed--and I find it quite credible--virtually none of that is true.

But the really interesting part, I thought, was the role that Richard Marcus is said to have played in hyping the story. The section about him is well down on the page, so you'll have to either read or scroll to it. It's too long to excerpt in its entirety, but it starts with this exchange during the interview:

MagicTimes: One guy was especially harsh...

England: Let me stop you right there and say a few things about Richard
Marcus, obviously the person you refer to. Richard Marcus was way out of line
and the extent to which he lied about the case should shock you or anyone else
reading this. To any casino, cardroom, organization, conference, magazine,
newspaper or website that has ever considered spending 10 seconds with this guy,
I ask you to listen very carefully.

Ebert and high school

Nearly everything Roger Ebert writes in his blog is worth reading, but today's post about his 50th high-school reunion is a real gem. If you have any sense of nostalgia for your high school years (and, really, who doesn't?), you owe it to yourself to share in Ebert's. He and I grew up in the same city (well, he in Urbana, I in neighboring Champaign), though 19 years apart, so I have a bit of added poignancy knowing the places he describes.

Headband? Really?

I'm watching the live streaming feed from the WSOP Tournament of Champions. Antonio Esfandiari is usually a sharp dresser, so what in the hell went wrong here?

All in or fold

I decided to look through a couple of other online sites that I rarely use, checking to see if any of them had recently added HORSE or razz tournaments. I had not looked at Carbon Poker in several months. I was surprised to find that it did indeed have HORSE tourneys. However, there appear to be just four a day, two of them freerolls and two of them for $2.20, a little too low to interest me. There were no HORSE or razz SNGs.

But what really caught my eye in the list of tournaments was a format I had never heard of before: "All in or fold." Could it really be what the title implies?

Why, yes--it is. You have literally only two options on each hand: all in or fold. Period. I couldn't resist, for $3.30 of the $12 or so I had on account there. Above you can see the tournament lobby and a screen shot of when it was my turn. With the nut crub flush draw, naturally I shoved and picked up the blinds.

A couple of hands later, however, I was in the small blind with 3c-4c, and it was folded around to me. This is a rather interesting dilemma. Most of the time the big blind will have a better hand than this, but how often will he have a hand that he's willing to call all-in with? Actually, here, he didn't have to call all-in, because he had just doubled up on the previous hand, so that alters the dynamics. Partially because of that realization--that his calling range would now be broader than it otherwise would have been--I was going to just fold, because it seemed silly to risk 1530 chips to win 30. On the other hand, that's what most decisions in this game were going to be. Besides, it was only $3.30 invested. So I shoved. He instacalled with 10-10. By the turn, I had both a crub draw and an open-ended straight draw, but the river failed me. Crubs do not always get there, despite what certain other bloggers will try to tell you. I was out.

It's a perfectly ridiculous way to play poker, as it sends the luck:skill ratio off the charts. Still, I'm kind of intrigued by the different strategic thinking it requires. There's another one in about an hour, and I'm already registered. I'll be a little more cautious this time and see what happens.

Poker dictionary

The best online poker dictionary, written by Michael Wiesenberg, has been moved to Mke Caro's new web site, here. Bookmark it.

All rolled up

Daniel Negreanu tweeted this question last night: "Weird question was raised: what are the odds that at an 8 handed stud table, all 8 players are rolled up? (Dealt 3 of a kind)." He followed that a short time later with this observation: "Bill Chen just told me its 1 followed by about 20 zeros."

This shouldn't be too hard to figure out. For conceptual simplicity, let's assume that the cards are dealt all three to one player, then three to the next, etc. The actual order of dealing doesn't affect the math.

The first player's first card can be anything. His second card must match the first, so must be one of the three remaining of that rank, out of 51 cards left in the deck. The third card he gets must be one of the two remaining of that rank, with 50 cards left in the deck. So the probability that the first player is rolled up is 52/52 x 3/51 x 2/50, or 0.00235, which is 1/425.

The second player can get for his first card any card in the deck except for the fourth of the rank that the first player got, meaning that 48/49 cards will do. Then his next card must be one of the three remaining of the same rank as his first one, with 48 cards left, for a probability of 3/48. His last card being the same rank is a probability of 2/47. The product of these three probabilities is 0.00261, or 1/384.

I'll spare you the repetitive prose for the other players, but you see how the logic goes. Here's what I get for each of the eight players:

1: 0.00234 (1/425)
2: 0.00261 (1/384)
3: 0.00290 (1/345)
4: 0.00324 (1/309)
5: 0.00364 (1/274)
6: 0.00412 (1/243)
7: 0.00468 (1/214)
8: 0.00534 (1/187)

(If it seems strange to you that the probability increases for each subsequent player, it's because the deck is becoming less disordered and more constrained with each set of three ranked cards we remove. Imagine if we took them out four ranked cards at a time--i.e., all the aces out, then all the kings, etc. By the time you got down to the final four cards in the deck, they would necessarily all be of the same rank. The same thing is going on here, though a little less drastically.)

To get the final answer, we just have to combine these probabilities by multiplying them together. The result is 2.16 x 10^20, or 0.0000000000000000000216, or about 1 time out of every 46,300,000,000,000,000,000 deals.

It is safe to conclude that (1) in the whole history of poker, this has never happened without the aid of a mechanic as dealer, and (2) if you ever see it happen, it has been set up. (You might be on "Candid Camera.")

If Negreanu was accurately quoting Bill Chen, and if Chen meant that this would happen one time out of about 100,000,000,000,000,000,000, then he was off only by a factor of about 2. If that was an off-the-cuff guess on his part, I'd call it phenomenally accurate.

Guess the casino, #551

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

Answer: Orleans

Champions know

I'm just watching the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star event broadcast earlier this month--the one in which Phil Hellmuth collapsed on the floor after being knocked out on a bad beat. (Hee hee hee!)

In the second part of the episode, the eventual winner, Mclean Karr, took the Mighty Deuce-Four up against Hasan Habib's pathetic little Kc-10c. Habib flopped a flush draw and check-raised, but Karr shoved with his trips. Habib called and was shocked, SHOCKED, to see Karr's hand.

Naturally the 2-4 made a full house on the turn, and Habib was reduced to hoping for a chop with one of the two remaining jacks.


The card with maximal rub-it-in value came: not just a club to make Habib's useless flush, but the four of clubs, the deck showing obvious solidarity with the deuce-four. In effect, Karr had two full houses (deuces full of fours and deuces full of jacks) from which he could at his leisure select to trounce a mere flush.

Such is the power of the Deuce-Four. As you can see, WPT champions understand this.

(Yes, I wrote about this when it first happened, here. But I didn't have the nice screen shot to put up with it.)