Saturday, November 13, 2010

Poker gems, #396

Al Neipris, in Poker Pro magazine, November, 2010, p. 75.

I wouldn't be surprised if a few stressed-out card players are already starting to pop up in psychiatrists' offices around the country complaining about their inability to stay off tilt.

Once the shrinks get hold of a thing, can medicalization be far behind? There are pills for anxiety, pills for depression, pills for seeing little green men. The pharmaceutical industry rakes in billions of dollars of profit every year. If they think there's money to be made, you can be sure they'll be trotting out some sort of anti-tilt pill sooner rather than later.


This story is sort of hard to tell in a way that will both make sense and be funny, but I'll try. The main problem in relating it is that, even though it's about something I did, I have no recollection of it, and am relying on a secondhand report.

In the summer of 2009, Cardgrrl came to town for the World Series of Poker. She had fairly recently become a participating member of the discussion forum at, and wanted a chance to meet some of the people with whom she had been conversing, so she put together a little social gathering at Rhumbar at the Mirage. A bunch of people dropped by to get acquainted in person. Zippyboy was one of those who stayed the longest, and we got to chat with him quite a bit. He had just left his job in the Pacific Northwest and moved to town to see about this whole poker thing.

Cardgrrl and I ran into him again maybe a week later in the Red Rock poker room. Then in November of last year he and I ended up as two of the five co-champions (due to a negotiated even chop) of the AVP tournament at Harrah's, which I wrote about here.

Given those three encounters, I knew who he was when we happened to end up in adjacent seats at yet another AVP tournament in March of this year, which I wrote about briefly here.

OK, so that's the setup. Now comes the part I don't remember happening. Zippyboy was in the big blind in an unraised pot against Clem, another AVP regular. They checked it down all the way. Clem showed some random hand first and won. Zippyboy flashed me his 2-4 before mucking it. I told him that he had misplayed his cards (or so I'm told, and it's perfectly believable). This ticked him off, though I didn't know it at the time.

Zippy and I had dinner Monday, and he told me about this. As I said, I remember the tournament, but I have no memory of this particular incident. Here's the key fact that I didn't know at the time: Zippyboy had never read my blog. (Fortunately, since then he has repented of his ways and become a daily checker-inner.) He had no knowledge of the special place that the Mighty Deuce-Four holds for me. Here's what he told me in a follow-up email a couple of days ago, after I asked his permission to tell the story here:

The ONLY reason I flashed it to you was as if to prove what a crappy hand
it was, and that I couldn't possibly have won anyway, and maybe get sympathy
from you (my co-champion at the previous meet). Then, when you snickered and
said "You didn't play 'em right!" (assuming that I read your blog, and that's
the reason I had showed), well, THAT just pissed me off! Like, how the hell
was I s'posed to play a crappy hand like this???

Of course, now I am in awe of deuce-four's obvious invulnerability and
never fold it.

I certainly don't automatically assume that AVP people (or anybody else, for that matter) reads my blog. But when Zippy flashed me the 2-4, I obviously assumed that he was doing so because he knew I was The Grand Poo-Bah of the Holy Order of the Deuce-Four. That also is why I further assumed that he wouldn't mind a little good-natured jab about having misplayed it.

I'm glad that we can now both get a laugh out of the awkwardness that (unbeknownst to me at the time) resulted from our bringing opposite sets of assumptions to that moment.

Jennifer doesn't know

Jennifer Tilly is back writing for Bluff magazine again. I like her columns (even if she is a bit daft). But this month she tells a story of a hand played at a WSOP event in London recently:

Right away, however, I get off to a bad start. I decide to complete the big
blind with the excellent starting hand of 4c-2c. Fabrice Soulier, the early
position raiser has just lost a big pot, and I believe that if he doesn't
connect he will quietly fold. Conversely if I connect, he will never put me on
such a donkalicious hand, and I will suck him dry.

To make a long story short, she makes two pair on the turn, but calls him down on the turn and river despite the presence of a possible straight flush in hearts--which is exactly what Soulier has.

Now we know why she has not attained the highest levels of success in the poker world: she thinks the Mighty Deuce-Four--in crubs, no less--is "donkalicious." (I gather that her first description of it as "excellent" was meant to be sarcastic.) Had she believed in the power of her hand, she would have been the one to make the straight flush. Obviously.

Jennifer, the first step toward overcoming a problem is to acknowledge it. I hereby offer you free lessons in how to play the most powerful hand in poker.

Poker dreaming again

A couple of nights ago I found myself playing hold'em in a most unusual setting. It was me against a whole bleacher full of other players, maybe 40 or 50 of them. I was standing on the ground facing them, while they were all seated. As if that weren't weird enough, we were playing not with cards, but with feathers. This was new to me, and I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. I was given two beautiful, large, black feathers, each of which had a single crimson marking near its base. I thought perhaps this meant they were aces. My father was directing the whole affair, so I asked him, and he confirmed my suspicion.

My first problem was what to do with the feathers physically. I mean, these things were about 18 inches long. I wasn't sure if everybody else could already see what I had. For lack of a better way of concealing my hand, I stuck them in my back pocket.

OK, so I've got two aces. But what to do about the betting? Somebody in the bleachers had already raised to $10 (this must have been a $1-$2 game), and about 10 people behind had called. It was my turn. I had no idea how to do bet-sizing when there this many people already in the pot, and 40 or 50 more yet to act. (I don't think it occurred to me to wonder how there were enough cards to go around. Maybe feather decks have more than 52 in them.) I raised to $40, but I had a feeling that that wasn't really enough, under the circumstances.

The next player to act was a man I knew from church all the years I was growing up--Sherman Brown--who is the most anti-gambling person I've ever known. He wouldn't even allow a deck of cards to be in his home, and took every available opportunity to advise other church members to follow the same practice. So it was a high degree of cognitive dissonance to find myself playing poker against him.

Maybe that was what made me realize that this was too strange to be real (as if the bleachers and feathers and Dad running things were perfectly normal), because that's when I woke up.

Poker gems, #395

Chris Wallace, in Poker Pro magazine column, November, 2010, p. 67.

He began to remind me of the tournament player who says something like: "The next time you come after my big blind, I'm raising with any two."

To a solid player this statement means: "Go ahead and steal my blinds all day. I hate when people do it, and my best defense is to try to scare them because I am not capable of reraising unless I have a big hand."

Guess the casino, #690

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

Answer: Mirage

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just my guesses here

Number of poker-related web sites that mentioned this week's induction of Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel into the Poker Hall of Fame: 7,862.

Number of those that misspelled Seidel's first name as "Eric": 7,804.

Guess the casino, #689

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

Answer: Harrah's

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bodog, the good and the bad

The good: Yesterday I suddenly couldn't log on to the site. I downloaded the software and reinstalled it. Didn't fix the problem. I called the phone number provided in the error message and quickly got a very helpful customer service guy, who had only a trace of an Indian accent. He helped me diagnose and fix the problem (which turned out to be something about cookie files) in seven minutes flat--which, as these things go, is plenty speedy. He was clear, knowledgeable, efficient, and polite. Couldn't ask for it to have gone any better.

The bad: I've been doing well in Bodog tournaments, so I decided to cash out $300. I requested a check by mail (or courier), which I have done before and received it with no problem. They gave no indication that anything different would be happening this time, except for this generic notice on the payout request page: "Bodog will attempt to process your payout via the method requested, but reserves the right to process it by another method if required by our internal policies or those of our payment providers." I put in the request on Monday, and my envelope arrived today by FedEx. That's plenty fast for me.

However, I was surprised to find in the package not a check but a prepaid Visa card, along with two pages of instructions. First I have to activate it by setting up an account with the card issuer's web site. Then it turns out that I can't just get cash out from an ATM and then immediately redeposit it--which was my first plan upon seeing the card--because no PIN was included. (I have an email in to Bodog support about this.)

It appears that Bodog's intention is to electronically credit me via this card every time I request a payout. I.e., I have to hold on to the thing, and there is a $25 charge if I lose it. Balance inquiries cost $1 each. (I trust that means at an ATM, and that checking the balance via web is free, but who knows?)

The instructions tell me that I may not use the card for online or telephone purchases, which constitute the majority of transactions for which I use a card. In-person shopping? Not much my style. The most common thing I buy in person is gasoline, and the papers I received helpfully warn me that the card will not be accepted by most gas pumps.

The real kicker is this trio of notices: "Your card's balance is held in Philippine Pesos (PHP)." "Your PHP balance will be converted to USD when you withdraw cash or make a purchase." "PHP exchange rates may fluctuate daily." "The card issuer and merchant will not be liable for any loss of funds relating to fluctuations in exchange rates."

Other notices warn me that there may be all sorts of ATM fees for using the card, that I should consider it as good as cash and guard it from being stolen, that if it is stolen it's my tough luck and I'm still responsible for whatever use is made of it, and that they reserve the right to revoke the card at any time for any reason, which may include forfeiture of the card balance.

Nice, eh? Friendly customer service. All done for my convenience, of course.

Look, Bodog: I don't want your stupid card. I don't want or need another credit card in my wallet, and I don't want to have to store it someplace at home. I don't want to have to worry about it being stolen. If I buy things with a credit card, I want them to show up on my credit card statement. If I want to use cash, I'll use cash. I don't need a card that you tell me can be used like cash. I don't want to have to log on to a web site to find out how much is left on the card, nor do I want to pay $1 to find out that information from an ATM. I don't want to have to pay a fee to get cash out of this card. I don't want you or your intermediary company holding on to my funds after I requested a withdrawal, especially with the warning that their value may diminish with whatever may happen to the economy in the Philippines. I just wanted a plain old simple paper check, which is what you offered me and what I requested--a check that I could sign and deposit the next time I went to my bank or an ATM, just like we've done before.

Would that really have been so difficult?

Guess the casino, #688

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

Answer: Excalibur

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cheap classical music (marginal poker content)

Go here:

For a limited time, you can download five different collections of 99 tracks each of classical music, and one such set of Christmas music in MP3 format for $1.99 each. I bought all of them. Almost none of the performers will be people who are big sellers here in the U.S.; most of the names and ensembles appear to be from Russia and Eastern Europe. But so what? They have excellent performers and recording studios there, too, ya know. There's between 6 and 13 hours of music in each set. I just finished playing two Bodog tournaments, took 3 1/2 hours. I started the piano music collection on iTunes when I started, for background music, and only got up through #31 of 99 tracks. The recordings were perfectly fine (and I'm pretty much a snob about classical music) and I greatly enjoyed having it on. I even ordered a couple of extra mini-SD chips (only $6 each now!) for my MP3 player so that I'll have room to copy these new acquisitions to it. Then you, too, can listen to nice music while you PLAY POKER. (See? There's your poker content right there!)

Hat tip to OhCaptain for the tweet about this. Excellent find!

What's in a screen name? #17

Well alrighty then!

UB stays classy as ever

They're in a race to the bottom with Victory Poker.

Guess the casino, #687

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

Answer: Binion's

Fun with Dick and Jane

Dick and Jane, in this case, are, respectively, Grange95 and C.K. No, their real names are not Dick and/or Jane, nor am I trying to imply that anybody is a dick. It's just that after spending a couple of hours playing with both of them at the Venetian a few days ago, that's the blog post title that came to mind, and I'm sticking with it.

It will come as no surprise to long-time readers that I'm at least slightly misanthropic. I don't like most people, and most people don't like me. It's about all I can do to tolerate them, and I think the feeling is mutual. But there are exceptions. I can think of about a dozen people that I've met since living in Vegas that I genuinely like having at the poker table with me, because they're smart, funny, and/or interesting, and don't do things that annoy me. Some I've met through blogging, others through, two or three I've met playing, plus a couple of poker dealers. It is rare that I get two of this small group at a time, but Friday was such a day. The three of us have played together twice before, which I wrote a little about here and here.

One of the sweetest things that Cardgrrl ever wrote to me (and I hope she'll forgive me for quoting this publicly) was this, when we had been having an email exchange about how my shyness and reticence in social situations causes difficulty in making new friends: "If you showed most people what you show me ~ your humor, your kindness, your generosity, your interest, your curiosity about the world, your playfulness and creativity, and your perceptiveness ~ they would absolutely like you." Well, there's something about the people in that small group I mentioned above, specifically including Grange and C.K., that delights me enough that I relax and get to be somebody other than a curmudgeon or automaton for a while. Maybe whatever it is that Cardgrrl sees in me gets to peek out during such times, because it does seem to have the effect of causing them to like me, too.

Jeez--didn't mean to go all Sally Field on you there. Sorry. Back to the story.

So I get to the Venetian and arrange for a table change to join Grange. (He knew I was coming and yet didn't switch to the open seat on his left, so he lost the right to complain about my positional advantage.) A while later, C.K. comes along (probably attracted by the scent of easy money). I tend not to be much of a needler, and I'm usually made uncomfortable by the barbs exchanged by friends in my presence. But Grange and C.K. seem to have a rapport that makes it OK. I guess I waited too long to write up this post, because now I'm forgetting most of the zingers they exchanged that made me laugh at the time. I think my favorite was when the two of them were contesting a big pot, staring each other down, and Grange said, "I'd be looking into your soul right now--if you had one."

Something (and again, I really need to get some Alzheimer's testing done, because here we are just four days later and I can't recall what triggered this) made me think of the first time I met C.K. I suspected she wouldn't remember the circumstances, and I was right. There had been a mini gathering of poker bloggers at the MGM Grand during the 2008 World Series of Poker. We had a low-stakes mixed game going. C.K. couldn't get a seat, but she entranced the males at the table by giving Mrs. Chacko, who was in the game, a hot girl-on-girl chair massage. That was a pretty memorable introduction! (That night was also the first time that I met F-Train, Dr. Chako, Falstaff, Gadzooks, and others. The gregariousness of that group was quite overwhelming for a wallflower like me.)

Grange won two consecutive big pots from C.K. with pocket jacks, which I expect he will recount in detail on his own blog, so I'll refrain. The biggest pot between C.K. and me was soon after Grange had reminded me of the 3-6, which he and his silly Iowan ka-nigget friends call "The Spanish Inquisition," because, well, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. (If you have to ask what that's about, I'm afraid you have led a sad, sad life.) Just a hand or two later, I found myself holding the 3-6 of diamonds, and C.K. had put in a raise. I had to do it--I just had to. The flop was 3-3-x. Ding! Teh pokerz, it is such EZ game! She bet, I called. She bet again on the turn--$25 this time--and I raised to $75. She scowled a bit, but didn't take too long to fold. I asked Grange to deliver the line for me as I exposed my cards, and he humored me with his best (or worst--hard to tell) British accent: "NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

As for taking money from Grange, well, I did a little of that, too. He raised, from one seat to my right. I called with the 4-6 of hearts. The flop was, I think, 8-9-2 with two hearts. He bet $25, I called. The turn was an offsuit 10. He checked. I caught more than a hint of fear in the air, so I bet $45. He called, but seemed none too happy about the situation. The river was another 8. He checked again. My draw hadn't come in, and with 6-high, the only way to win this pot was to fire at it again. I thought I had a good chance of getting away with it, because the way the hand had played he would have to worry about me having flopped two pair or a set, or having flopped a straight draw that got there on the turn. With about $160 in the pot, I settled on $75 as an amount that would look like a "please call me" value bet. I started to cut out that many chips, but he stopped me: "You've got it. I missed everything. I can't call." And with that he folded Ah-Jh face up. It is only now that he is learning that I had even less than he did. :-)

An aside. (I'm obviously feeling prone to those tonight.) I was about to end that little tale with "Sorry, Grange." But I'm not sorry. Of course I didn't set out to target him specifically due to any personal animosity, nor did I bluff him in order to rub his nose in it for the fun of the torment; I was just playing the situation that presented itself the best way that I knew how. This hand had occurred after the two big ones between C.K. and Grange, so I commented to him, "The others here know the three of us are friends, but I guess we've dispelled any worries that we soft-play each other." He told me, in return, "I'd lose my respect for you if you soft-played me." I much appreciated that affirmation. I understand and share the sense of integrity that stands behind it.


For once I didn't lose any big pots to either of my friends. I expect that to revert back to normal next time around. And I do hope there is a next time, and a next, and a next. I don't play poker for pleasure, but it's awfully nice to have the occasional session that is just plain fun because of who is there, regardless of how the cards fall.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Not my night, redux

I'll make this quick.

Hooters. First hand--not just the first hand I choose to play, but the first hand I'm dealt--is KJ. Flop is A-Q-10. Get it all in against a guy with A-10. Turn 10.


Second hand--not just the second hand I choose to play, but the second hand I'm dealt--is AQ. Raise, several callers. Flop A-Q-10. (Sound familiar?) I get it all in against a guy with K-J. I do not improve.

I go home.

That is by far the fastest I have ever lost $400.

Here's my spreadsheet of results for the night:

Brady Bunch on Bluff

I love the cover of the new issue of Bluff magazine!

They've done at least two others in the past that I thought were wonderfully creative. In August, 2008, they had 20 or more different pictures of Phil Laak composited to make it look like a crowd of Phils. You can see it here. In November, 2006, they had an equally ingenious one featuring Daniel Negreanu. Unfortunately, you can't see what was so clever about it in the online archives, but they had him in a pose that replicated a picture of him from when he was maybe 5 or 6 years old, which was featured underneath in what amounted to a second sort of "pull-back" cover to the magazine.

Perhaps it's a symptom of the general dullness of my life, but when Bluff or other poker magazines make a real effort to do something different from the boring, predictable cover photo of the featured pro of the month, it tickles me pink.

Guess the casino, #686

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

Answer: Aria

Monday, November 08, 2010

Not my night

Played at Harrah's. Lost the first chunk with Q-Q. Flop 9-2-3 rainbow. Looked safe, so I moved all-in, as my only opponent was fairly short-stacked. He called. I showed the queens. Board played out 4-5, at which point he turned over 4-5 for runner-runner two pair. Sigh.

Lost the rest in an even more diseased fashion. 10-10 in the hole. Raise. Four callers. Flop Js-9c-10s. Checked to me. I ship it all in. Pay for your draws, fellas. Two callers, so I can't show yet. Turn: Jh. Now with a full house, I relax about the draws. One remaining opponent bets enough to put the other all in, gets a call. River: 10h for quads. Now I'm really relaxed about those draws.

Until the other guy flips over his J-J for better quads.

To rub salt in the wound, Harrah's does not have a bad-beat jackpot these days (though they used to). It is the first time I have ever been in on a hand that would qualify for a bad-beat jackpot by the usual criteria.

To pour some alcohol into the already salted wound, the floor guy checks their house rule book and finds that when there are two high hands at the same time, only the winner collects the high-hand bonus.

I left with nothing but a hard-to-top cooler story, and the package of Double-Stuf Oreos I bought on the way home for self-soothing.

Your decision? (Conclusion)

In part 1 of this post, I described a difficult situation in which I found myself yesterday. If you haven't already read that note, you might want to do so now, because I'm about to tell you, in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, the rrrrrrrrrrrrrest of the story.

I decided on a shove. Given the potential win, I decided it was worth risking getting felted. If he had a bigger set, so be it. But, as I noted before, I had seen him overvalue and overplay medium-strength hands, so that possibility was a bigger part of his range here than it would be for more skilled and cautious players. I moved all my chips across the betting line.

He asked for a count. The dealer told him $202. He hesitated not more than three seconds before saying, with a shrug, "OK, I call. But I think you rivered me."

You can imagine that I didn't like that one bit, as it perfectly fit what I had feared most: He had A-A or J-J, checked the river out of fear of the flush, but finally decided he couldn't fold such a big hand.

I showed my set. He got a very surprised look on his face and said, "Wow--I didn't put you on that at all. You're good." And with that, he flipped up his A-10 offsuit.

That's right. He had three-bet from out of position with A-10 off, then, on the strength of top pair/lousy kicker had made a nearly pot-sized bet on the flop, a half-pot bet on the turn, and finally called my half-pot all-in on the river, after an obvious possible flush draw (and less obvious possible straight draw) had come in.

He topped that off with this offhand remark: "I really thought you had hit your flush there."

After I had finished stacking his chips, I texted Cardgrrl: "Can I get a GPS tag on this guy so that I'm alerted every time he walks into a poker room?"

Of course I felt like a genius. But the truth is that I could just as easily have been wrong, and left dejected and kicking myself for stacking off in such an obviously dangerous situation. I happened to be right this time, but the relevant factors were so ambiguous and scary that my decision was, frankly, just a guess, and I'm never happy being reduced to guessing like that. You can, I think, make a sound argument that I should have folded before the flop, on the flop, or on the turn, and waited for a spot in which I could have more confidence that I was in the driver's seat before putting all my chips at risk. So while I am, of course, pleased with the outcome, I'm less proud of how I got there than you might think.

Guess the casino, #685

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

Answer: Treasure Island

Sunday, November 07, 2010

This is who you want at the table

After my session at Mandalay Bay (see previous post), I decided to spend a little time at Luxor. One of the players at the table was plainly quite drunk. He couldn't even coordinate his hands enough to stack his chips, and just kept them in a messy pile.

After I had been there for a while, a man, who we soon learned was drunk guy's brother, came along to chat with him:

Brother: "There you are. I thought you went back to the room to sleep."

Drunk guy: "I tried, but I couldn't see the room numbers well enough to know which one was ours, so I came down here instead."

Your decision?

It's time once again to play "You decide." Once in a while I'm faced with a difficult decision for a lot of chips, and I try to present the situation to my loyal readers and ask how they'd handle it. These are the decisions on which my poker success largely rides. I'd like to think I get them right more often that my average opponent does, but who knows? I have certainly posted my share of examples of blowing the big ones in spectacular fashion.

I was at Mandalay Bay this afternoon. I had been playing for maybe 45 minutes, and had increased my $300 buy-in to $392. I found 3c-3s in second position and called a raise to $10 from the under-the-gun player. Player in the small blind reraised to $30. As in most $1-2 NLHE games in town, light three-bets are not common, so this definitely got my attention. UTG folded, and it was back to me.

I'll tell you what little I can about my opponent. First of all, he's a toothpick chewer, which sets a two-digit upper limit on his IQ. He's obviously a tourist, paying more attention to the football games than the poker game. He has commented about how he's losing every sports bet he made. (I try to pay attention to such small self-revelations, because they can influence one's judgment of an opponent's mental/emotional state.) Perhaps most importantly, I've seen him overplay top-pair hands. He is no maniac or bully, but neither is he a calling station. My impression was that he basically plays his own hand pretty straightforwardly, and has little feel for where he is with respect to an opponent's holdings. He's not at all afraid of putting chips in the middle. He isn't exactly reckless, but he also doesn't really have the degree of caution that one should with medium-strength hands. He's also very friendly, doesn't get upset when he loses, doesn't gloat when he wins. It seems that he's one to whom the money really doesn't matter a lot--or perhaps he's deeply stuck between poker and the sports book (he was at the table before me, so I didn't know his history) and past the threshold of pain, beyond which further losses don't hurt much anymore. His stack had gone up and down some, but I had not seen him rebuy. I couldn't remember whether I had seen him put in any pre-flop 3-bets before. (My bad there.)

He had me covered by $50 or so, which meant that I felt I could justify set-mining in hope of a double-up. Still, $30 is a lot to pay to see a flop, when the great majority of the time I'll have to give it up thereafter. His most likely hands at this point were, obviously, any of the big pairs. A minority of players at this level will play medium pairs this way; they want to claim the pot now and not have to agonize about the inevitable overcards on the flop. Some--especially those who play more tournaments than cash games--will play A-K like this, even out of position. (I think that's a big mistake, but what do I know?)

I decided to call, but even as I did, I was wondering what sort of flop I'd like to see. I wanted a 3, of course, but what else? With any A, K, Q, or J I would have a serious worry about being trapped in a set-over-set scenario. Obviously, this can happen even after a single raise, but usually the reraise--especially from out of position--sufficiently narrows a player's range that high cards on the flop are scarier in terms of representing a big set. In other words, when I call one raise, I'm delighted to see something like A-K-3, because it is much more likely that the raiser made a big pair that he's happy with--or even two pair--than that he made a set. After a pre-flop reraise, though, I'm going to be much more leery that one of those big ones was his gin card.*

So there I was, $30 into the pot and unsure of what to do even if I were to see on the flop one of the two cards that I was praying for.

I did: Ah-3h-Jc. Good news and bad news: Loved my set, hated the fear that he had a bigger monster than mine, and I was about to get gobbled up, like T-Rex mangling the velociraptors at the end of "Jurassic Park."

He bet $60 and went back to watching the football game. Seemed pretty comfortable, but I couldn't claim to have any sort of solid feel for how strong he was. I thought about raising. A shove would be too much, but maybe a 2.5 or 3x raise. If he had, say, K-K or Q-Q, that might well end the matter. If he just called, though, I still have a dilemma: is he trapping me, or does he have A-K and I have prematurely put him on alert, thus limiting my potential win? And what if he were to come back over the top with an all-in? Could I really be sufficiently persuaded by that that I'm deep in doo-doo and must fold? My head was swimming.

I took the coward's way out and just called. I suppose I could claim that it was in the interest of pot control, but after I had embarked on the pre-flop call with the justification of stacking him, the idea of "pot control" seems pretty silly. I might also be tempted to claim that I was floating him, with the intention of seeing what he did on the turn before committing myself. There's something to that, but the real truth is that I was feeling just like the weak calling station I recently described this way:

[He]is caught between fear and hope. Fear makes him reject the raise, and hope makes him reject the fold. Calling is what's left.
I'm not proud of myself for being indecisive, but that's how it is sometimes (though hopefully not too often). I called.

The turn was the 6s. My opponent bet again, a $100 stack this time, with little hesitation and no evidence of fear in his face or hands. Was this justifiable confidence in the strength of his cards? Foolish overconfidence? Bluffing bravado? Complete nonchalance and detachment from the outcome? I couldn't tell.

Once again, without being able to provide you a satisfactory justification for why, I neither folded nor pulled the trigger on a shove; I called, leaving myself $202 behind and, to be honest, having no idea what I would do with any river card except for the case 3.

The river was the 2h. I was not very worried about him having been on a flush draw, nor about him having a straight with the extremely unlikely 4-5. The deuce, like the 6 before it, appeared to have basically changed nothing. I was still either way ahead or way behind, with no way to be sure.

My opponent thought a few seconds, then checked. How should I interpret this? Maybe he had missed the flop and turn with K-K or Q-Q and was now giving up, convinced that I had an ace. But conversely, it might just mean that he did, in fact, have a bigger set with A-A or J-J, and was worried that I had rivered him with a flush (or, less likely, a straight), in which case my goose was still cooked.

So, dear readers, here's your big moment of decision. I'll give you three options.

(A) Check behind, cross your fingers, and hope that you're good. (B) Make, say, a $100 bet, in the hope of folding to save yourself one stack if he check-raises all in. After all, if he has something like A-K, he might well call another $100, but be scared off by a shove. (C) Make the hero shove. He might call with A-K, thinking that you're representing the flush when you really have K-K or Q-Q. It's possible, though less likely, that he has A-J and won't be able to get away from top two pair. Heck, maybe he is disciplined enough, or sufficient afraid of the flush, that he'd even fold J-J or A-A.

Think about it. Use the comments to submit your decision, if you like. I'll wait 24 hours, then post what I did and what happened.

*I spent some time playing with Grange95 this weekend--about which I expect to write more soon--and we were talking about the phenomenon of getting the worst possible card, the one that cinches the hand for your opponent, but makes you love your second-best hand enough to lose everything on it. E.g., the card that makes your nut flush and his straight flush. I suggested that this be called the gin card--not for the usual reason you hear that term, but because it makes you turn to a bottle of gin for solace.

AVP tournament

I have mentioned here many times the web site, which is where the core of my readers first came from, as I got known a little bit there before I got brave and decided to start a site for my own writing here. They sponsor two or three live tournaments a year, and I make an effort to participate. The site is a valuable resource to me for news and infomation about the city's poker rooms, and I'm eager to keep up good relationships with its organizers and its members, even though my direct interaction with the site is limited to brief, occasional comments, as most of my poker-related thoughts go here instead.

Last night was one of the AVP events, a mixed-game tournament at the Mirage. We had Omaha/8, stud/8, razz, and 2-7 triple draw. This was a tweaked version of the game structure used in late March at Treasure Island. I made the final table in that tournament, and was one of six to cash. I'm proud to report that I basically repeated that feat, again making the final table and finishing in third place. But I got just a bit less than 2nd-place money, because the last three left agreed to an even chop of the money, following which deal I went out on the next hand. After tips and giving a bit to the bubble girl (the unfortunate but lovely and charming Mrs. Lederer), I pocketed $290 in prize money on a $70 buy-in for a little under six hours of play, plus an extra $50 for knocking out one of the two bounty players ("Other Dave").

It was an up-and-down ride. I started off very well, getting an early lead and maintaining a big stack for a long time. But then I had a downfall, ended up terribly short. I finally got all in against Mrs. L., and got quartered in Omaha, so was down to a quarter of a short stack! But I survived a series of all-ins, gaining strength. The real turning point was a big pot in stud/8, in which I started with (2-4)-4, made trips on 4th street and a full house on fifth. (Yes, the Mighty Deuce-Four works in stud, too!) My opponent made two pair and so called me all the way down, but couldn't complete her low draw or boat up her pairs. That, plus a few more smaller pots in rapid succession thereafter, put me in the chip lead by the time we consolidated to the final table of eight (or perhaps approximately tied for it; there was a guy named Karl that had a very nearly equal stack).

Then I suffered another downfall, doubled up somebody in razz after heavy betting. I started with 2-3-4, added an A, then went Q-J-Q, and he beat me with a 10-low. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH! From that point on, I was always one of the two or three shortest stacks, and had to carefully nurse it to the finish line. Fortunately I tripled up in a critical spot: I was under the gun with A-J-7-4 in the final minute of a level. If I folded this hand, the blinds would have gone up for the next hand when I was in the big blind, and I'd be pot-committed to a random hand. I thought what I was looking at was a better bet than the next random one, so I went with it. It held for a full triple, which bought me crucial chips and time to wait for high-percentage spots for my few remaining moves.

On one of the early rounds of 2-7, I was dealt a most remarkable hand: 7-7-7-7-8! I think I've only been dealt quads once before, and that was in a round of Omaha/8 in an online HORSE tournament. It's a pretty bad O8 hand, but a far worse 2-7 hand. I flashed it to Mrs. Lederer (seated to my right most of the night) before mucking, and she laughed out loud.

But of course I got a few good cards, too. In fact, I had been thinking earlier in the day about doing a post on the forms of poker in which I have and have not ever been dealt the best possible starting hand--a thought prompted by winning a big pot with A-A over Q-Q in a cash game at the Venetian before heading across the street to the Mirage. I have, of course, had A-A in hold'em, A-2-3 in razz, A-A-A in stud, and A-2-3 suited in stud/8. As I wrote about at the time, I was even fortunate enough to be dealt 2-3-4-5-7 in triple draw in the March AVP tournament. (In fact, somebody else at tonight's table told the story of how I messed up that hand and exposed my cards before the draws were done--not remembering that one of the people to whom he was relating the story was the one who had done it!) But I had never been given A-A-2-3 double-suited in Omaha/8. Until tonight, that is. I can now cross that one off of my bucket list, as I was delighted to look down and see Ah2hAd3d at one point. I raised pre-flop and bet the flop and took it down before showing off my enviable assortment of cards.

I also saw a situation that I don't think I've noticed before. In a stud/8 hand, four players were still in on fourth street. The up cards of two of them were unpaired, but the other two were each showing paired fours. One had the reds, the other the blacks. What is the rule on who acts first in that situation? Is the person with the spade declared high and first to act? Does it revert to who was low on third street? (That wouldn't make much sense as a rule, because it might have been neither of them--and then what?)

I had a great time playing. It was genuinely a lot of fun. Even though my favorite tablemate Cardgrrl couldn't be there this time, I enjoyed it more than the one in the spring for a few reasons. First, they had the kinks worked out of the structure better. Second, I wasn't nauseous and cranky through the whole thing as I was then. Third, my starting table was just a fine group of people, all having fun. Fourth, I got to sit next to and chat with Mrs. Lederer for most of the night and my friend NerveEnding at the final table. Fifth, I was the undeserving beneficiary of some generosity on the part of the final two left, who offered an even money chop even though I had fewer than half of the chips they were sitting on at the time. Sixth, I could use Twitter to keep up on the goings-on at the Rio. (For some unfathomable reason, most of the poker media was watching some little-bitty tournament over there instead of ours. Go figure.) Seventh, I had enough presence of mind, plus enough additional experience in the games, that I made far fewer rookie errors this time around. I only once thought the game was different than what it was (we had moved from razz to stud/8, and I had missed that announcement). Luckily, I realized the mistake before the betting round on fourth street, so the damage was minimal. Lastly, it didn't go until after 2 in the morning like the previous one did, which was just killer on the brain.

I attribute all the goodness of the event to the fact that I was wearing the wonderful and ultra-lucky Grumpy hoodie given to me last year by Cardgrrl. I couldn't lose!

The photo above is one I snapped on my cell phone as I walked through the domed garden on the way to the Mirage poker room. They had several floral arrangements set up along the walkway. These orchids had the most brilliant lavender color I've ever seen. The photos I took just can't reproduce the intensity of the hues. Simply gorgeous.


Several photos of the event can be found here:

More photos here:;sa=album;in=18

Guess the casino, #684

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

Answer: Santa Fe Station