Saturday, November 20, 2010

Poker gems, #397

Dusty Schmidt, in Card Player magazine column, November 17, 2010 (vol. 23, #23), p. 58.

I spend probably two to four hours a week actively watching cash-game episodes on the website, where almost all poker-related television from the past four years has been uploaded. I always say that 20 percent of the time that you devote to poker should be practice, and I consider this to be a big part of my practice time.

In fact, I consider it irresponsible not to watch. If you have the opportunity to watch Phil Ivey play hundreds of highly focused hands, and you get to see his holecards, that's something you seriously need to do.

Guess the casino, #697

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

Answer: Harrah's

"I'm dealing the game"

Last night I was playing at Planet Hollywood. At one point there was a hand with strange action starting with a straddle, several calls, then a big raise, call, min-reraise, couple of calls, and a shove. In the process, I thought that the guy shoving was illegitimately raising himself, because I momentarily lost track of where the raises had come from. I started to point out the problem to the dealer, but after about four words got out of my mouth, I realized my error, and said, "Oh, sorry--never mind." The dealer's response was unusual, in my experience. He said, rather pointedly, "I'm dealing the game here, guy."

It's hard to interpret this as anything other than, "Shut up. I don't need your help. I don't make mistakes."

The fact is, when I speak up to point out a problem in the game, I'm right most of the time. I don't keep track exactly, but it's probably in the neighborhood of 90%. The most common kinds of problems I spot are button location, hands being misread/pot going to wrong player, and illegal raises. Most of the time, dealers appear grateful to have somebody helping get things right.

For example, just last week, at the table next to the one I was at last night (different dealer), there was almost a catastrophe when an all-in on the flop was a set against an overpair. On the turn and river, it seems that everybody was just watching to see if the player with the overpair would catch his miracle two-outer. When he didn't, he started to leave the table, and the dealer started to push the pot to the guy with the set. What nobody except me had noticed was that the final board was a 2-6 straight, though completely jumbled so that it wasn't obvious at a glance. I stopped the dealer and pointed out that it was a chopped pot.

Maybe 10% of the time that I speak up, though, there is something akin to what happened last night: I think there's an error when there isn't. I pretty quickly figure it out and retract my objection with an apology. By far the most common reaction from dealers is along these lines: "No problem. I'm glad you're watching, because I do mess it up once in a while."

So I admit to being a bit miffed at effectively being rebuked by the dealer last night for starting to interject myself. He's somebody who has dealt to me dozens of times, and surely recognizes that I'm a regular and have at least some idea what's going on. I'm not exactly a chatterbox or busybody, trying to wrest control of the game from the dealers at every opportunity.

But beyond that, even if he had never seen me before, it strikes me as both arrogant and unwise to squelch players' attempts to point out and correct errors. The attitude that one doesn't make mistakes and/or that players' vigilance to help prevent problems is unnecessary and unwanted seems to me an invitation to disaster. I told the story of an even more obnoxiously arrogant dealer at the Imperial Palace here. The fact is, dealers make mistakes with some regularity. There's a lot going on, and lots of ways to screw it up, and usually only one way to get it right. Getting everything right all the time is hard. No, not hard--impossible. Dealers should welcome players who are paying enough attention to notice when something gets out of whack, and who care enough to point it out and keep everything kosher, even if it means sometimes having to reassure such a player that things are, in fact, right this time, and the apparent error really isn't one.

About ten minutes after my verbal slap on the wrist, there was a big two-way all-in hand. I was in seat 9 (of 9, to the right of the dealer) and on the button. I noticed that in the commotion of declaring the winner, shoving all the chips his way, etc., the button did not get moved from its place in front of me. The dealer changed decks, made the cut, and dealt the first card to seat 1--at which point I stopped him and pointed out the problem. (The big blind didn't notice that he was going to be paying the big blind for the second time in a row, because he was busy stacking up his new mound of chips.) The two players in the blinds quickly agreed that they had just been the blinds on the previous hand. The dealer set things right and went on with pitching the cards.

I admit that I was deeply, strongly, mightily, intensely tempted to rub his face in it: "Hey, I thought you were dealing this game."

But I didn't.

Where to go?

A question for my readers:

If, hypothetically, I wanted to meet up with Cardgrrl for a few days over the year-end holidays somewhere other than Vegas, Atlantic City, or Washington, D.C., where might we go? Requirements are that it have poker reliably available most of the time, but also have enough other interesting things to do in the vicinity to keep us entertained. Also, it needs to be a Harrah's property, which is perhaps the most limiting criterion. The most obvious choices are New Orleans, Biloxi, and Tunica. But there are less-famous possibilities in places such as Council Bluffs, Joliet, Kansas City, Phoenix, and Hammond.

Recommendations welcome via comments.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Guess the casino, #696

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

Answer: Excalibur

O'Shea's fun

About an hour ago I got home after spending the evening playing at O'Shea's (not my first choice, but Imperial Palace had no game going). At one point we had @davidstetler, @mjpitts, @dmuzio, @alaskagal1, me, and @sevencard2003 all playing, with @mitzula standing by watching. It appears that @caitycaity arrived soon after I left. It's not often that six people I follow on Twitter (and who I think all follow me) are simultaneously within card-throwing distance of me.

Why am I writing this? Because somebody on that list (I'm not naming names) told me that he or she expected to see something about it in my blog. So even though I don't have any good stories to tell*, now a wish has been fulfilled.

*I could tell one very funny story, but it would embarrass the butt of the joke, so I am refraining out of mercy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guess the casino, #695

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

Answer: Binion's

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Harrah's = Classy (not!)

An email I received today:

And here's the web page it linked to:

(Notice that which Playmates are promised to appear somehow changed between them sending the email and me clicking on it about two minutes later. Notice also the wonderful headline, "House of Blue Poker Open." As in, y'know, B.B. King sings the blue.)

This is, of course, the same Harrah's corporation that earlier this month introduced had scantily clad young women holding seat number signs as the final nine players in the Main Event were introduced.

This is also the same Harrah's that claims, with a straight face, to hold a special women-only poker tournament in the WSOP because it is trying to make women feel more comfortable about poker.

You figure it out. I can't.

Harrah's = Stupid

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Harrah's inviting me to enter a freeroll tournament. I could choose between poker, slots, and video poker. Well, that's a no-brainer. The offer includes up to two nights at either Harrah's or Imperial Palace.

Today I finally got around to trying to make my reservation. The first problem was that even though the email said that I could use the Harrah's Total Rewards web site to make the reservation, I actually couldn't. I kept trying to enter the offer code from the email into the web site, but the web site kept responding that that was a code that had to be handled by phone instead. Why can't companies get such little things straight?

Fine. I called. I worked my way through the idiotic menu. I gave them my Total Rewards card number and the offer code. The nice lady on the phone asked which nights I wanted to make my hotel reservations for. I told her I didn't really want to say in their hotels, I preferred just staying home in my own bed, since I live in town, and all I was really interested in was the poker tournament. She was sympathetic, but said that it was all a package deal, and if I didn't take the free hotel room, I couldn't get the free tournament entry.

Fine. The tournament is on November 29-December 1, so I picked November 29 for my hotel reservation, at Harrah's. We got that arranged. Then I asked about the poker tournament. She didn't know anything about it--you know, little details like what time to show up. She assured me that I would be given all the necessary information when I checked in to my hotel room.

You do see the flaw in this plan, don't you? She didn't. I gently explained that if I'm checking into my hotel room on the evening of November 29th, that's just a wee bit too late to be giving me information about a poker tournament that will have started earlier that day.

She gave me to understand that there are, in fact, three separate tournaments, and I can enter two of them, so on the evening of the 29th I will be given the required information and can enter the poker tournaments on both November 30th and December 1st.

I'm not going to stay in the hotel room. I know some locals love getting a free "staycation" at the casinos. Not me. To me it's just a bother having to pack stuff for an overnight bag, to be followed by a sub-par night of sleep in an unfamiliar bed and room, followed by having to get up in the morning and drive home before I can do my morning routine things like check my email and RSS feeds. It's just a bother to me with no compensatory up-side.

So what I will do is play poker at Harrah's (or maybe IP) that afternoon or evening, do a fake check-in at the Harrah's desk (I worry that even if I got the detailed tourney info somewhere else, if I don't actually complete the check-in process as scheduled, they'll cancel my tournament eligibility), get the required information and/or tournament entry receipt or whatever, then immediately hand them back the room key and tell them I'm checking out.

This "can't have one without the other" would make some sense if I were paying for the room, like a "buy one get one free" offer. But that's not what this is. It's a free room. I don't want the free room, I only want the free poker tournament entries that come with it. I suppose the corporate thinking is that if I'm physically staying in the hotel, I'll gamble and eat in their restaurants, drink at their bars, and they'll make money from me that way. But I won't, other than poker. Even if I did stay overnight (which isn't my plan), I would either just drive home to eat, or maybe have a free breakfast at their cafe, using my Total Rewards comp points.

It's sheer corporate idiocy. Why can't they just give me the free tournament entry, without making me jump through stupid hoops that will end up costing them money (an unused room, staff time to get me checked in and out, etc.)?

Guess the casino, #694

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

Answer: Aria

Why is Caesars lying to its guests?

I played poker at Caesars Palace this afternoon. On my way in, which requires a walk past the sports book, I noticed this sign. Actually, I've seen it there other times, too, but just not thought much about it.

If I had seen such a sign three years ago, it would not have surprised me. I remember the Hilton security people being absolutely fanatical about people being on cell phones in the sports book area, even if they were obviously just passing through quickly and paying no attention to the Big Board of Betting Lines.

But such a sign is out of place now, because the Nevada Gaming Commission repealing the regulation cited (22.135) in August, 2008. You can see the letter announcing this on the state's own web site, here.

That means that Caesars Palace, by continuing to have this sign out, is engaging in an ongoing lie to its patrons.

Why are you doing that, Caesars?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guess the casino, #693

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

Answer: Treasure Island

Monday, November 15, 2010

What am I missing?

During the run-up to the recent elections, I was puzzled by a series of Twitter posts from well-known professional poker players not only expressing their support for Harry Reid, but saying or suggesting that he would be good for online poker, while his opponent, Sharron Angle, would be bad for online poker. Here are the ones I remember, from Andy Bloch, Howard Lederer, and Barry Greenstein:

Erik Seidel took a more humorous approach:

I responded to a couple of these, asking what evidence they had that Reid had been or would become a friend of the online poker industry. My questions were ignored.

I have not heard of any explicit public statements from either Reid or Angle on the subject of online gambling generally or online poker specifically. (Lederer provided no pointer for his claim about Angle's stance. I checked at the time, and could find nothing about it in her web site's list of formal positions.) I thought that I was sufficiently tuned in to poker-related news that if either of them had made an election point of either supporting or opposing online gaming, I would have heard about it. But the Twitter statements from Lederer, Greenstein, and Bloch left me wondering if I had missed something.

Apparently not. In the current issue of Poker Player newspaper, Wendeen Eolis reviews what the last election did for online poker. Here are a few excerpts about Reid:

The powerful Majority Leader who won a hard fought election helped the
Democrats hold onto control of the Senate. He was the beneficiary of substantial support by online poker interests but yet to be settled is his commitment toward affirmative online gaming legislation this year.

The wily Senator, whose constituents include casinos around Nevada, has been slow to warm up to online gambling. Even in the face of vigorous support by the likes of Harrah's, Sen. Reid has done little more than give equivocal lip service toward U.S. Rep. Barney Frank's supportive bill to regulate online poker.

As of today, Senator Reid is still holding his cards close to his vest....

The online poker lobby sought to turn Sen. Reid's hotly contested re-election bid for his Senate seat into an opportunity, plowing significant support into his campaign, but Reid has continued to hold his cards close to the vest, presumably weighing the incomplete unity of the casino industry. Casino operators remain splintered over the best strategies in the development of online gambling....

Sen. Reid's continuing equivocation has been matched by Representative Frank's fading optimism toward passage of a bill during the upcoming lame duck sessions.

So I appear to have been correct: Reid has neither expressed nor demonstrated support of online poker. Here's a political truism: If a politician seeking your support during an election is unwilling to go on the record as being in favor of your interests, he's not.

Of course, the same would have been true of Angle. I would not have counted on her to support any expansion or explicit legalization of gambling. Even lacking any clear statement from her one way or the other, it's easy for me to believe that her hard-core religious views would win out over the general ideas of freedom, leaving people alone, smaller and less intrusive government, etc.

In short, neither of them could be considered a champion of liberty generally, nor of online gaming in particular. If I had to guess, Reid's loyalties will lie with the brick-and-mortar casinos, and if he ends up supporting anything at all, it will be something that favors established casino corporations entering the online realm, almost surely at the expense of established online operators such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. (See, e.g., Grange95's analysis of the amendments to H.R. 2267 earlier this year.) Reid has certainly been a political friend of Nevada casinos, and I see no reason to expect him to be removed from their back pocket anytime soon.

Which brings me full circle. Reid has not been a supporter of any proposal to license, regulate, or explicitly legalize online gaming, and if one had to guess where he would throw future support, it would be toward facilitating Harrah's, MGM Mirage, etc., moving online, and making life difficult for the current online providers. (It is hard to see those two factions ever not being in opposition over legalization, as each would like to preclude competition from the other.)

So why on earth were prominent representatives of the world's two biggest online poker sites shilling for him? Either they're missing something, or I am.

Guess the casino, #692

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

Answer: Santa Fe Station

Now I'm officially a poker slut

I played in Gadzooks64's PokerSlut tournament tonight. I played it last week, too, when it was HORSE, and bubbled. Grrrr. Had to make up for it tonight, even though the game was scheduled to be stud/8, which is far from my specialty. And I succeeded. Here were the standings when we were on the money bubble:

Yeah, maybe I can make something happen when I have SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT OF THE CHIPS IN PLAY!

When we got down to heads-up, I had a 7:1 chip lead, and thought it would be a cakewalk. It wasn't. Things kept going wrong for me, the lead kept slipping, and then vanished. And it kept getting worse. At one point he had me down about 3:1 in chips. I was despondent, because I couldn't close the deal. But then the cards came back my way when the limits were sky-high, and I finally finished him off, claiming my proud $27.50 trophy. But I think it was nearly an hour of two-handed play, and I was on edge most of the time. Some players just won't roll over and die the way they're supposed to!

And that's MISTER Poker Slut to you guys.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Simple English FAIL

I saw a print advertisement similar to the above, then took the screen shot of this ad from here. Yet another case in which it seems that a casino and/or its advertising agency has nobody with basic English skills.

Even if I were feeling inclined to forgive the unnecessary hyphenation of bimonthly (which I'm not), using bimonthly (which means every two months) where semimonthly (which means twice a month) is intended is simply wrong.

Yes, I'm aware that many modern dictionaries now give "twice a month" as an alternative definition of bimonthly. That, however, is simply a surrendering to the frequency with which people make this mistake. Allowing bimonthly and semimonthly to mean the same things is intolerable, as it renders both words completely useless. If both definitions are considered legitimate, then one must always follow the use of either word with more words explaining which meaning is intended, in which case it is pointless to use either word to begin with.

There are points of English usage on which reasonable people can differ in opinion. This is not one of them. See, for example, what has become of the American Heritage Dictionary's usage note here. They have basically given up, and advise writers to avoid either word. That is a ludicrous and cowardly solution to a simple problem. The far better solution is to point to the guilty party and laugh in derision, thus shaming him or her into future compliance with the conventional definitions. If necessary, one can taunt the person a second time.

Of course, this error is hardly the Cannery's greatest failing as a company, but I thought it worth pointing out nonetheless.

All-in fake-out

I played at the Rio last night. At one point, with a large pot between three players, the action was to start on Seat 2. The guy in seat 1, who was not in the hand, loudly said, "All in!" The dealer was looking down, counting her tray at the time, and so didn't immediately know where the announcement had come from, and without looking up just repeated for the table, "Player is all in."

There followed a few seconds of confusion for the other players in the hand--just as the joker had intended--but it got sorted out before any apparent damage was done.

When the hand was over, one person who had been involved was visibly upset at the jokester. He told him, "If you do that again, and it causes me to react and somebody else gets a read on me as a result, I'm going to have the floor make you put all your chips in the pot without any cards."

Well, that's just silly. There is no rule that would either allow or require one player to forfeit his chips to another with no cards.* I can't imagine any floor person in any poker room making that kind of ruling.

But the upset guy does have a perfectly legitimate point. An "all in" announcement at a critical moment by somebody not in the hand--especially when repeated by the dealer, as happened last night--could very easily cause a muck by a player not paying full attention, or could cause some sort of dismayed look on the face of one player with a mediocre hand that could be noticed and acted upon by somebody else. While there is no specific rule that directly forbids such a phony outburst, it is surely sufficiently covered by the general admonition not to talk about the hand that is in progress, because it has obvious potential to queer the action.

I was surprised and disappointed that the prankster last night was not even given so much as a warning from the dealer or anybody other card room employee. The outraged player's stupid threat was all that was said about it. Had I been the dealer, I would have called the floor over. Had I been the floor, I would have sternly warned both the offender and the rest of the table that any future such action would result in expulsion from the room. Like telling the TSA employee that you have a bomb in your luggage, such things just cannot be tolerated, even if done jokingly.

I remember one time on an early season of "High Stakes Poker," there was a hand between Daniel Negreanu and Antonio Esfandiari. Esfandiari folded when Negreanu wasn't watching him, so didn't realize what had happened. Esfandiari took advantage of the situation to scare Negreanu with a verbal "All in." Oh, look--I found the clip on YouTube!

There's nothing wrong with this little prank, as the action was over, so there was no way to influence the outcome of the hand. But I wonder if people have seen this and decided that it's a good joke to emulate, not realizing that it's an entirely different matter when there is still action pending.

*Certainly a player can be ejected from a tournament for a variety of rules infractions, and his chips forfeited, but they are simply removed from play, not given to any other player. Also, it is possible for a player to have to forfeit his chips to another with no cards in the specific circumstance where he has legitimately declared himself all in, gets called by a bigger stack, then fails to protect his hand and his cards are accidentally mucked by the dealer. But, obviously, neither of these situations is what I had in mind when making the generalization above.

Nice editing, morons

This notice (probably actually an ad disguised as copy; I am cynical enough to suspect that companies have to pay to get mentioned in this kind of feature) showed up in the November issue of Poker Pro magazine.

Notice a slight contradiction between the text and the image?

Well, what can you expect from a magazine that claims to cater to professional poker players, but spends the last couple pages of every issue listing hand rankings and the best hold'em starting hands?

Problem solved

Ever since I got the new computer with Windows 7, I have had problems with the sound files on both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. On Stars, the alerts sounded clipped, as if it would play the first bit of the sound file but not the whole thing. On FTP, some alerts played, others didn't, and it would sort of randomly shift over time which ones worked. Neither playing with the audio options nor reinstalling the software helped.

Today during a tournament break I tried searching to see if others had reported such a problem. They have--along with a fix. Somebody on 2+2 posted this reply he got from Stars support when he asked them about the problem:

We have received a handful of reports such as yours regarding sound synchronization issues on Windows Vista systems. At this time we
believe this issue to be caused by a buggy Vista feature that attempts to
simulate surround sound on ordinary stereo speakers, when used in conjunction with integrated sound systems of certain motherboards. Of note are AC97 sound systems by Realtek, integrated into many ECS, Asus, and Abit motherboards.

You may disable this surround sound emulation in Vista using these

1) Right-click the speaker icon in the system tray (lower right)
2) Select "Playback Devices"
3) Select "Speakers" and then choose "Properties"
4) Choose the "Enhancements" tab
5) Check the box that says "Disable all enhancements"
6) Click "Apply", and then "OK" to close the dialog(s)

This should return your sound to normal while playing in a PokerStars

Good luck in your games, and thank you for playing on PokerStars.

Voila! I am using Windows 7, not Vista, but the same series of steps solved my issue perfectly, on both Stars and FTP.

As an added bonus, I had been mildly annoyed at how the "virtual surround sound" feature on my computer treated human voices in sound files, adding something akin to reverb, though not quite. It always sounded as if everybody were trying to do the voice of God from "The Ten Commandments." That, too, has now been switched off. And yes, I do have a "Realtek High Definition Audio Default Device," as the PokerStars memo suggests as the culprit.

If only all of life's problems could be fixed so easily.

Guess the casino, #691

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

Answer: Planet Hollywood