Saturday, September 04, 2010

What's in a screen name? #4

Another excellent selection, this one found on Bodog.

Safe for now

I periodically tire of preparing the "Guess the casino" posts, and think about killing the feature. It gets repetitious, people don't comment on it, it takes time to do, and sometimes I just think, "Meh, let it go." But then something comes over me and I buck up and do another batch of them.

Today was one of those days. So, after putting in a marathon session of pasting up GTC posts in advance, fans of the series (all three of you) can now rest assured that your game is safe for the time being. No matter what happens to me (run over by bus, stabbed by angry tourist whose aces got cracked, etc.), "Guess the casino" will continue to automagically appear daily at least through November 3.

After that, we'll see.

Going nuts with the nuts

Can anybody explain the betting in this hand--or lack thereof?

Nice value check with the royal flush on the river.

Guess the casino, #620

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

Answer: Golden Nugget

Friday, September 03, 2010

Monster of a game

I just had an idea for a poker home-game variant: Double-flop Omaha (which, despite the name, means two full boards), high-low, with mandatory run-it-twice turn and river. That makes a total of four boards, and pots that can be split eight ways, even if there are only two players. If there are more than two players, and some tie for some portion of some pot, it might get split, oh, I dunno, about 32 ways. The best part is that you'd get through about one hand an hour--play the hand, then spend 55 minutes arguing over who won which portion(s) and how the chips get divided.

"N0, no, no. Look, it's very simple. I get 7/16 of the top and 3/8 of the bottom, Jim got quartered on the top and eighthed on the bottom, Suzi gets 5/16 of the top and 1/8 of the bottom. No, wait--her two pair got counterfeited on the second river on the bottom, and she tied for the nut low with Randy and Lisa, so she only gets 1/3 of 1/4 of 1/2...."

Doesn't that sound like fun?!

Just don't make me the dealer.

Guess the casino, #619

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

Answer: Club Fortune

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Interesting article on WET, the company that built the Bellagio fountains, the several water features at City Center, the new Mirage volcano, and other stuff:

Never give in. Never give in.

It's pretty cheeky and melodramatic of me to coopt Winston Churchill's famous address to his childhood school. After all, he was talking about Hitler attacking Great Britain, and I'm talking about a $15 online poker tournament. But I'm going to do it anyway:

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great
or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good
sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of
the enemy.

I was reminded of that speech because I just won the HORSE tournament that the last couple of posts were about--and I did it after being severely short-stacked for a very long time. I think this marks the best tournament comeback I've ever made, from nearly being out on the final table bubble (9 left) with only one big bet left in my stack, to taking first place of $435.

When we were first into the money, I was cruising high, one of the chip leaders. Then I got this devastating hand:

(PokerStars does not scramble stud hands, so the order that you see is how they came.)

That was almost the end of me. But just a couple of hands later I won this squeaker:

That put me back into play, at least marginally. But then I got hosed again:

Yes, I bet it hard all the way. The guy who won that hand was an absolute maniac. Actually, that proved to be my salvation, after this. He was very, very, very slow to catch on to the fact that I was only putting my last chips in with strong hands. When I had just one or two bets, he'd call and I'd win. When I had a bit more, he'd try to push me off of hands when I had a third or more of my stack in. As the doctor says at the end of Bridge on the River Kwai (which I just watched again last week--one of the greatest movies of all time), "Madness!"

We were, at this point, on the final table bubble, with a pay jump of an extra $20, so I made myself an expert at folding. Once at the final table, three others went out lickety split before I had a chance to make a move. Here's the thing that is for me unprecedented: I remained the short stack for almost the entire time from the nine-handed final-table bubble until well into three-handed play. (Had to say "almost" because I did have one brief jaunt up to 4th/8, but then promptly got swatted down again.) At that point the maniac finally spewed off so many chips that I caught up to him and got into second chip position.

I was picking up a pot here and there when I had something good, but mostly biding my time to let the others knock each other out. What's surprising is that it actually worked! I was like the "little rat" that Daniel Negreanu condemns for playing timidly, sneaking up the money ladder. But when the big stacks are throwing huge raises at each other in every pot with marginal hands (which they were), it made perfect sense to me to sit back and watch the fur fly. I was really quite surprised to see myself surviving one elimination after another, when they didn't have the sense to wait for me to get blinded off. One guy was sitting out for the last hour or so, and coasted into 5th. It was only after he was gone that I really started playing again.

Anyway, after we had played three-handed for a long time, the other guy finally knocked out the maniac, and started heads-up play with a 2:1 chip lead. I did not think that I was likely to win. My opponent had been aggressive, but not insanely so. He was not going to be a pushover, that was for sure.

But I got lucky in a couple of key spots, with the big turning point being a hand in which I caught quad queens (hand #23). Forty hands after we had started heads-up play, I had him. Here's the whole gruesome battle, if you want to watch. He seriously turned on the afterburners on his level of aggression, as you'll see if you watch this playback. My best strategy appeared to be to lie in wait with better hands and let him hang himself. It worked well enough, I guess. I can show you the whole thing because it coincidentally all transpired during a hold'em round.

My opponent had been not only a decent player but a decent sportsman all the way through. He didn't complain about bad beats, didn't boast when winning a hand, didn't engage in trash talk, even gave out a few "nh" messages. But I lost all respect for him when, after the final hand, in which my K-K held up against his A-2, he signed off with this farewell:

ImLoveInErja said, "gg nigg3r"

Yeah, I think I'll forward that one to PokerStars. Jerk.

Just playing this tournament was weird in the first place, because it started at 6:45. I'm almost never up then. I was today only because I had been lying in bed for the previous couple of hours unable to get back to sleep. This may be the first time in my life that I'm glad I had a bout of insomnia.

You can put the deck back in the freezer now

Here's something I've never seen before: rolled up over rolled up. Glad I was on the good side of that one. Currently in chip lead in HORSE tournament, 48 left, 24 get paid.

What's in a screen name? #3

I couldn't sleep, so I entered an early-morning HORSE tournament (currently in 3rd, with 59/126 left).

I like the defensive nature of this guy's screen name. What are you gonna do--insult him by calling him an idiot?

Guess the casino, #618

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

Answer: Bally's

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

So close

I came in second place in the Very Josie tournament tonight. OK, so second place in a $10, 13-person tournament won't exactly have the poker media's attention for more than a few days (pray tell, what good is it to have all these poker media friends when they won't report my triumphs?), but hey, it's what I was doing tonight, so I might as well report it.

I played pretty well overall, and never got insanely lucky or unlucky before the one-on-one portion started (well, OK, except for the little royal flush thing). Picked up a couple of $2 bounties in addition to the prize money.

When it got down to heads-up, I didn't like my chances. I was down 6:1 in chips, and facing Memphis Mojo, who was not only probably the strongest player of the last handful left, but was running red-hot all the way through the tournament. I had consistently stayed in second or third chip position for much of the game, but he was usually one notch ahead of me.

I did turn the chip lead around, due more to luck than skill (as you'll see in the first three hands here), but then couldn't seal the deal, even after getting my own 6:1 chip lead. Furthermore, I got 2-4 three times in the first 50 hands or so. Though I won them all, how kind does the deck have to be to me before I can win?

I blew it in a crucial spot where I made my most common online mistake: thinking somebody is bluffing when he isn't. I shoved on the flop with bottom pair and MM called with top pair (hand 59, I think). From there it was just a war of attrition, which he won. Got the last of it in good, but couldn't make it hold up. Good game, sir.

I thought the heads-up part was fun and challenging, and maybe even a little bit interesting to others who know either of the participants, so here it is, blow by blow. (Please do not feel compelled to watch. It's not like a Scorsese film or anything.)

Something REALLY beautiful

Now where's my high-hand bonus?

This is, by the way, the first royal I've hit since living in Vegas, live or online.

Full hand history below, though it's not especially interesting.

Life fail

I made some yummy stuff for my lunch today, but while eating the first of what should have been about four meals' worth from it, accidentally left the rest sitting on the stove. With the burner still on. Realized it only about 15 minutes later. Rest of stuff ruined.

Ironically--or perhaps fittingly, given our advanced ages (I'll be eligible for the old folks' event at the WSOP next year)--Cardgrrl did nearly the same thing once while I was visiting her. At the time, I teased her that leaving stove burners on accidentally is the classic sign that one's mental acuity has diminished to a point that it is no longer safe to live alone. Now it doesn't seem quite as funny.

I expect my family to intervene and cart me off to an assisted-living facility (completely devoid of dangerous implements such as stoves) any minute now.

Guess the casino, #617

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

Answer: Sunset Station

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The vision thing

I was playing at the Venetian earlier this evening. I had been there about 30 minutes when I found 3-3 in second position. I became one of six limpers. Flop was K-7-3, which I rather liked. Guy to my right bet $10. I called. I didn't raise, hoping to draw others in; besides, the bettor here was probably the least experienced player at the table (didn't know what a straddle was, didn't know if he could add more chips to his stack, etc.), and he had shown some tendency to run away if he ran into resistance. Everybody else folded.

Turn was an 8. He bet $10 again. I raised to $30. To my surprise, after just a couple of seconds he motioned all-in and pushed his stacks forward. He had me covered. I had not seen him all-in previously, so he clearly liked his hand. I dreaded that I had walked into a set-over-set trap, but I called anyway. He didn't flip his hand, so I didn't either. River was a deuce. At that point he turned his cards up. I did the same before I had had a chance for his to register.

Yep. Pocket 8s. He had turned it. Sigh. Welcome to my world. I let off a little grimace and eye roll.

Then the guy said, "Nice hand." I hate it when people do that. Whether they intend it or not, saying that to the loser always sounds to me like, "Pretty good second-best hand you have there, chump!" I didn't respond.

But at just the same time, the dealer pulled our cards out where she and the rest of the table could see them better, and said, "Two pair, sevens and eights. Set of threes."

I looked again. Sure enough. He had 8-7 in the hole, not 8-8. Whew!

It's been four years since I last had my glasses prescription checked. It might be time again.

Guess the casino, #616

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

Answer: Sahara

Monday, August 30, 2010

Guess the casino, #615

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

Answer: Palace Station

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Poker gems, #385

Jennifer Tilly, in Bluff magazine column, September, 2010, p. 77, on having a short stack at a tournament final table.

My stack barely has a pulse. I have to bitch slap it back to life.

Mandalay Bay comp system

I like the Mandalay Bay poker room, in spite of its quirks. It's quiet, reasonably smoke-free, comfortable, has pretty good dealer staff, good tourist:local ratio, and for four years it has stood as one of the most consistently profitable places I play.

But I am becoming increasingly annoyed with their bizarrely archaic comp system. After you are seated in a game, you have to get up, go to the desk at the back of the room, tell them your name, wait while they fish out an index card from the file, then sign in with the date and time and your initials (all the while missing the first two or three hands that you could be playing). Then when done for the day, you have to do it all over again to sign out.

To make matters worse, they keep losing my card. I have no idea why. It's not like I'm giving them a different alias on every visit. Today was the fourth time that I've been told they don't have a card for me. (Another annoying thing is that despite playing there dozens and dozens of times, there are only three employees who appear to recognize my face as a repeat customer, and none of them can call me by name. The guy most frequently in charge on Sunday afternoons has asked me "Have you ever played here before?" at least ten times.) I was trying to get a food ticket written out so that I could grab lunch at the cafe before playing, and I had to wait about ten minutes while somebody rummaged through all the various boxes that they keep these cards in. He finally found one with my name on it, but it was the old one, not the current one. They gave me the comp ticket anyway, just on good faith that somebody with enough visits to fill up the first card probably did have credit available--a gesture that kept me from really steaming up in frustration. By the time I came back after eating, they had, by some miracle, found the right card somewhere.

In addition to these four times in which they apparently had to call in the bloodhounds to track down my wandering card, at least half of the time it is filed under the right letter, but not really in alphabetical order, so the poor brush person has to lift out all of the"W" cards and look through them manually. It's all an enormous, inexcusable, pathetic, ridiculous waste of time for staff and patrons alike.

Here's an idea: How about using a COMPUTER to keep track of this stuff, instead of acting as if we're stuck in 1957? Even better, how about using a player's MGM card and a magnetic card reader, the way that some of your corporate sister properties do (MGM Grand, Aria, Mirage, and, until its recent sale, Treasure Island), and the way that most of your competitors do (Binion's, Station properties, Harrah's properties, South Point, Suncoast, M Resort, Stratosphere, Palms, Venetian, Hooters--heck, just about all of them that do food comps).

I swear that the room manager must be the actual embodiment of an old Phil Hartman Saturday Night Live character: "I don't understand your modern technology. Your 'magnetic card readers' frighten me. My primitive brain cannot comprehend your 'computers.' After all, I'm just an unfrozen cave man poker room manager."

Deuce-Four makes nuts, wins big pot, ho-hum

I did an early session at Mandalay Bay today. Only one hand is worth reporting.

I had 2-4 offsuit in the big blind. Four limpers, so I let it ride. Flop K-7-2 rainbow. I checked, guy to my left bet $7, one middle-position caller, and I called.

I must interrupt the tale at this point to relate something kind of woo-woo. I had a weird feeling come over me, one of certitude that (1) the next card was going to be another deuce, and (2) the hand was going to become blogworthy. Yeah, I know, people get such feelings all the time, and they don't mean anything. After every plane crash, there are survivors who say they just knew it was going to happen (though they got on board anyway, the morons). Of course, on every safe flight there are also people who have exactly the same kind of premonition, which turns out to be wrong, and it is quickly forgotten. I am not unaware of this human tendency to make a big fuss when an inkling turns out to be correct, and dismiss it when it fails. Still, I don't get such sensations often, so it was more than a little strange.

Anyway, just as I had predicted to myself, the turn was another deuce for me. I checked. Same guy bet $7 again, and again got a call. I check-raised to $21, and they both called.

River was another deuce. Let's see, that's one of them in my hand, and one, two, three of them on the board. I'm not sure I have all of the deuces, but I do seem to have the majority of them. What's more, the calls on the turn suggest that both opponents have a pair, both likely holding a king, so they now have full houses and might pay off. It was very hard to know how much to bet, but I went conservative: $30. Both called. The first guy tossed in his chips while looking at me suspiciously and asking, "You got a deuce?"

Yes. Yes, I do. $179 pot (after rake) goes my way.

I tried to tell the table that the 2-4 is the most powerful hand in poker and always makes the nuts, but they just guffawed and chuckled, apparently thinking I was joking. Some people just will not believe, even after you show them. Oh well. It helps keep my edge against the tourists if most of them throw away the best hand before the flop on the mistaken belief that it is weak.

The topper was the comment after the hand by the fellow on my left, who, it must be said, was very pleasant and friendly, but not especially bright: "I had a king. If you hadn't hit those two deuces, you'da lost."

The guy should have Mike Sexton's TV commentary job. He's got it all figured out.

Guess the casino, #614

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

Answer: Luxor

New poker room at South Point

I played at South Point today, for the first time since they opened their new poker room a few weeks ago. It's definitely a step up, though a small one. Nothing was made worse, and a few small items were improved.

I counted 22 tables, which seems like way more than they'll ever be able to use--but what do I know? Dealers and management remain unchanged, of course, as do the rules, some of which are silly.

Tables look like the same old ones to me, though I think the chairs are new. (Sorry for my uncertainty; I don't spend enough hours at South Point to be sure.) The most notable feature of the new room is that the tables are luxuriously far apart. It might even now boast the greatest average inter-table distance in the city, were anybody to bother measuring.

The room was admirably quiet--well, "admirable" if you like quiet poker rooms, which I do. I think that's more a function of the fact that there weren't a lot of people playing the nearest slot machines than due to the room actually being acoustically isolated in any way. As you can see, it remains wide open to the casino floor on one of its long sides. I noticed not even a whiff of cigarette smoke coming in, nor on my clothes later, though again this may have been due to a slow day in the adjacent slots area rather than any special accomplishment of the ventilation system.

A very nice touch is the addition of a self-serve coffee machine, as you can see in the last photo above--and hot chocolate, too! I don't drink coffee (can you believe I have achieved my advanced years without ever even tasting the stuff?) and the weather was too hot for sampling the hot chocolate, so perhaps my mild excitement will prove to be in vain. I wish they had a water cooler alongside it. I'd be far more likely to use that.

They're still using a paper list, but at least they do it reasonably competently.

Not much else has changed that I could tell. Basically, it's the same room, moved over 30 yards or so, expanded, with a bunch of extra dead tables and a set of new chairs and a coffee machine thrown in. Plus ca change.

So much for the room. The session? Not much interesting to report, as has been the case lately. Most of my profit came in one hand. Pocket 9s, raised to $10. Button goes all-in for his last $26. Big-stacked big blind calls. I call. Flop is A-9-2 with two diamonds. BB checks. This is a situation in which I will usually bet. However, I thought this flop missed him, and he needed to catch at least something to pay off my set. Furthermore, I had, up until this point, played flops after a pre-flop raise with perfect transparency and predictability: Bet if I hit, check and fold if I missed. I thought this guy was smart enough to have picked up on that pattern, and take a shot at the turn even if he had nothing. Time to pull a switcheroo on him.

Turn was offsuit 3. He checked again. I bet $25. He check-raised to $95, looking confident as all get-out. He had played fewer hands than anybody at the table, so I had no sense of his degree of trickiness. There was no flush possible, no paired board. The only possible straight was 4-5 for a gutshot flop turning the wheel, which seemed unlikely, given his pre-flop call of a reraise when the betting had been reopened to me behind him. The only other hand he could have that had me beat was A-A, and the pre-flop action argued against that. I thought it was most probable that we had either set-over-set, or he had aces up, both of which were fine with me and would likely earn me a call, so I shoved. He called with no hesitation and said, "Straight." He did indeed have the 4-5. Oops.

But then he made his fatal mistake: He saw my cards and told the dealer, "Don't pair the board." The next card to come was probably a going to be a queen or something else unhelpful to me, but the God of Irony clearly heard my opponent, and felt compelled to do what he does. River: 3. Full house to me, pot to me. The classic suck and resuck, thankyouverymuch.

Other than that, not a single blog-worthy hand or incident.