Saturday, November 06, 2010

Guess the casino, #683

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

Answer: Trick question! It's not a casino at all. It's McCarran Airport! (But they do have slot machines.)

Friday, November 05, 2010

Guess the casino, #682

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Answer: Mandalay Bay

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What's in a screen name? #16

Nice name, but definitely should have as an avatar a tamping iron. Or maybe a stick of dynamite.

(For those in need of a little remedial education on your history of neurology, see here.)

Guess the casino, #681

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Answer: South Point

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Interesting hand discussion

Jump ahead to 53:25, watch through about the 1:07:00 mark. It's an interesting analysis of an extremely difficult spot that Jason Calacanis was put in during an episode of PokerStars "The Big Game." Brian Rast runs the numbers and concludes that Jason probably made the right decision mathematically, independent of the outcome (which would have been truly ugly).

The agony of defeat

If by some chance you don't know what hand these screen shots are from, see Shamus's excellent write-up from this morning.

I'll tell ya, even knowing in advance exactly what would be coming, and exactly when it would be coming, it was still the single most painful moment I've ever seen in televised poker.

Guess the casino, #680

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

Answer: Planet Hollywood


So I'm reading the November 8 issue of Poker Player newspaper, and come to a column by somebody called John "The Scientist" Hayes. This is part 6 of a series documenting his "$500 poker challenge." I have just skimmed through others, so I have only a dim idea of what he is setting out to accomplish. But for some reason I read this installment in its entirety.

It left me shaking my head, wondering if this is serious.

The guy comes to Vegas with a $500 bankroll. His first night, he plays $4-8 limit at Boulder Station, makes $180. The second night he goes to Golden Nugget, has two double martinis, and loses all his money, except for $60, playing $2-$4 limit. He loses the last $60 the next morning, though he doesn't say exactly how.

The penultimate paragraph, though, is the kicker: "To make a long story short, after three weeks in a homeless shelter, I finally get the wherewithal to return to Los Angeles. Obviously, I am back to square one, raising a new $500 bankroll to continue the Poker Challenge."

Does Poker Player newspaper seriously employ as a columnist somebody who didn't just take $500 from his discretionary income to see what he could make of it at poker (kind of a low-rent, live version of Chris Ferguson's famous online bankroll-building experiment), but who took the last $500 to his name for that purpose--and then blew it all in one shot playing while playing drunk at the lowest-stakes game Vegas has to offer, and had to go live in a homeless shelter?

Or is this some sort of gag, with me being the only one too dense to see where the joke is?

I think of the talented, experienced poker writers I know who have lost their jobs in the industry, and this is who PPN has putting together columns for them?



Here's a link to the first five parts of his series:

I'm rereading them now to get some perspective. Get this: At the end of each of the first five parts, the blurb about him says, "hosts Ask the Scientist, a live call-in poker instruction show on at the Hollywood Poker School in Hollywood Park Casino." That just raises the WTF quotient another level: A guy who is so stupid and talentless that he will lose his entire bankroll playing $2-4 limit while drunk is holding himself out as a poker instructor? The mind reels. What a surprise--that bit of information has been excised from part 6 of his series.

The back story also gets simultaneously funnier and sadder. The series of columns was supposed to last for a year and a half. He managed to churn out the first five columns without playing a single hand of poker, just jawing about the parameters, what books and consultants he would use, and scouting out locations. Then he blows the whole thing in one night. It's going to be mighty hard to put out another year's worth of columns now.

The challenge is over. He says that he is going to "continue" it, but that's a lie. It's done. In his own words, the terms of the challenge were: "Start with $500 and build a poker bankroll over a period of one year into a substantial bankroll." It doesn't say, "Start with $500 as many times as necessary."

On those days when I fall into a funk and hear that ugly voice in my head accusatorily saying "loser," I'm going to think of this guy and cheer up.

Or, again, perhaps the whole thing is one big joke and I'm missing it. I kind of hope so, because I'd really rather learn that I had been leveled than that this is what passes for poker journalism.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

What's in a screen name? #15

Candid self-assessment, or sly "That's what I want you to think" labeling?

What does a brain look like when bluffing?

Science now has the answer!

(Hat tip: Cardgrrl.)

Guess the casino, #679

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

Answer: MGM Grand

Monday, November 01, 2010


If you don't think the United States has insane policies, practices, and procedures related to immigration, go read Terrence "Not Johnny" Chan's blog post from earlier today, describing how he is not being allowed to visit here from his home in Canada:

Guess the casino, #678

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

Answer: Hard Rock

Just for funz

I've liked Wil Wheaton for a long time. I was one of the few who actually liked Wesley Crusher early on in ST:TNG (even though he had a lot of dopey lines--"We're from Starfleet! We don't lie!"), largely because Wheaton played him with such a constant sense of wonder and excitement. But he also had some genuinely great scenes, such as the dramatic confrontation with Captain Picard in "The First Duty," where he takes a serious verbal drubbing from the captain in the process of realizing that he has been loyal to the wrong ideal, and has to endure the pain of admitting he screwed up. Jumping ahead to more recent stuff, his writing is funny and insightful, and his appearances on shows such as "The Big Bang Theory" and "Eureka" are enjoyable without fail.

Wheaton and I have several friends in common, and played poker at adjacent tables once, but I've still never actually met him. Wil is also worth knowing about if you do crossword puzzles, because puzzle makers apparently find the unusual spelling of his name very useful, and it shows up a lot.

I read his blog and tweets. Recently he and his wife watched on TV a movie that he was in: "Toy Soldiers," released in 1991, when Wheaton was 19. He sent a few Twitter messages about it, including a photo of him pointing in shame to the dumb-looking earring he wore. He later wrote a blog post about the experience, and said that he still liked the movie in spite of some of its silliness.

I had either never heard of this movie or had forgotten about it. I thought it would be fun to watch, so bumped it up to the top of my Netflix queue, and watched it today. I recognized from his post the scene in which Wil gets shot (kid can handle a phaser, but not a 9mm submachine gun!), and managed to pause the DVD on the same frame that he had used in the picture, and took a screen shot of the one superimposed on the other.

Which was way more fun than is strictly reasonable.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Cube

I saw an ad for this intriguing device in Poker Player newspaper. You can visit the manufacturer's web site here:

The idea is that you keep this on the table and slide your hole cards into it from the back. It projects an image of the cards' corner markings onto a little screen, the angle of which you can adjust. They claim that the viewing angle is narrow enough that adjacent players will not be able to peek.

It's an interesting concept, but I'm a skeptic at heart, and I immediate latch on to what I see as the potential problems:

First, it's not a convenient size or shape to be casually carrying around, even though it is sold with a little tote bag.

Second, to replace the battery you have to remove a screw--a process apparently tricky enough that the web site recommends that you send it back to the company for this service. That's terribly inconvenient, especially in the middle of a tournament.

Third, surely one of the target markets for the device would be those with limited manual dexterity, such as the man I played with recently at the Stratosphere, with his wooden ramp. But it appears to me that the dexterity it would require to maneuver the cards into the opening in the back of the Cube is not much less than it would take to lift them off the table. (And will such users be able to change the battery themselves?)

Fourth, although the pictures show two hole cards being viewed at once, the thing looks just barely big enough to see one at a time. I'm not sure how well it would work for looking at two simultaneously. And if you're playing Omaha, I suspect it's a lost cause.

Fifth, if you can't demonstate a bonafide physical handicap, poker rooms may well forbid the use of the gadget. I don't know for sure that they would, but in my experience some places are very wary of foreign objects on the table, not knowing what shenanigans they may be used for. At the very least, they may worry that a card or two could be hidden underneath it and saved for when it is needed.

So while I find the idea interesting and clever, my first reaction is that the problems may outweigh any benefit conferred. I think I'd have to see it in action and play with it a bit before coming to any firm conclusions.

Karma, or lack thereof

Last night I was playing at Planet Hollywood. Or, to judge by the Halloween costumes that kept going by, Planet Ho.

I was in seat 1. The wife of the guy in seat 2 came up to see him. They chatted a bit. He coaxed her to join the game, as seat 9 (of 9) was open. She agreed, and was preparing to sit down. I really have no preference between these two positions, so I asked her if she would prefer changing with me so that she could sit next to her husband. She was eager to do so, but asked, "Are you sure?" I told her it was fine. She said, "So you're not superstitious?" Me: "Not even a little bit."

I got my stuff moved over, and was prepared for the universe to reward me for going out of my way to be nice to a stranger. I looked down at my first hand and saw the two red jacks. Ah! That's good! The player to my right open-shoved for his last $20. I called. The woman to whom I had given up my seat instantly moved in her entire buy-in of $100.

It folded back around to me. I thought for a while. The obvious conclusion is that she has aces or kings. I had zero read on her level of skill or experience, obviously, so I had to wonder whether she would do this with A-K. If we expand her range from just A-A and K-K to include A-K, then my equity jumps from 19% to 40%, which at least approaches being a good call, with what is already in the pot. But after pondering it for a minute, I decided that at a minimum she would have taken a while to think about whether to shove or just call if she had A-K. So I reluctantly folded.

Sure enough, she had A-A, which had the A-8 of the short stack in horrible shape.

The flop came jack-high. The aces held two ways, but I would have stacked them both if I had stayed in.

In poker, no good deed goes unpunished.

Oh--the picture? That's a Fisker Karma. See other photos of this gorgeous machine here. And no, I don't have that kind of Karma either.


I just got knocked out of a special blogger freeroll held by PokerStars. I had been running in the top 10% until this happened:

I was out two hands later. Boo hoo.

But the game got me to thinking again about how people play freeroll tournaments. Anybody who has played an online freeroll will have noticed that some meaningful percentage of participants play as if the results don't matter. They open-shove starting with the first hand, any two cards.

As with so many things in poker--and in life generally, for that matter--I just don't understand people. This makes no sense at all.

Surely what they must be thinking is along these lines: "I have nothing invested in this tournament, so I have nothing to lose by going out early." But that's just plain wrong. They do have something to lose. By playing stupidly, they lose their chance at whatever the first-place prize money is. (In this case, PokerStars put up $5000, though I don't check to see how it was to be distributed.) If the amount you might win isn't worth your time and energy, fine, don't bother signing up. But once you've made the determination that your equity in the prize pool merits the investment of however many hours you estimate it will take to play to the end, it's completely irrational to play a suboptimal game. The fact that you had to pay nothing to register is an utterly irrelevant fact, but these crazy players seem to view it as not only relevant, but as the determining factor in how they approach the tournament.

Interestingly, I have not noticed the same phenomenon when playing live freerolls, or at least not to the same degree. I used to do a freeroll every month at the Hilton, and there were very few players who were willing to be more reckless than I think they would have been if they paid to play. Perhaps the difference is because they feel invested in the tournament seat through the many hours they spent qualifying for it (and, for many, the cash they lost in the process)--as opposed to an online freeroll, which is most often given without having had to invest anything at all.

Today I lost my chance at whatever percentage of the $5000 was set aside for first place, but I'm not embarrassed about how it happened. I played my best, got my money in good, got unlucky in a crucial spot, and won nothing--which, in the nature of tournament play, is always the most likely outcome, even for the best players (a group in which I do not include myself). Had I shoved in the first orbit for 75 big blinds with J-6 offsuit and been busted by Q-Q, I wouldn't just tell myself, "Oh well, it was a freeroll anyway." I'd look myself in the mirror and ask, "What the hell were you thinking, you moron?"

Guess the casino, #677

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

Answer: El Cortez