Saturday, January 08, 2011

Guess the casino, #746

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

Answer: Excalibur

Not as simple as it looks

My favorite magicians, Penn and Teller, have for decades had in their act a routine in which Teller does something that looks simple, but is actually difficult and intricate. He appears to crush out a cigarette, take out another and light it. But what's actually going on is a complex series of sleight-of-hand moves. Take a look:

I was reminded of this just now when watching Wednesday's Poker After Dark. Tom Dwan has A-5 and raises. Phil Galfond reraises with A-K. Dwan calls. The flop is 9-2-3. Galfond bets. Dwan raises all-in. Galfond tanks for about 30 seconds, then settles on a call. (You can watch the hand play out here; it's Wednesday's segment 3.)

We have all seen a zillion calls that superficially resemble this. Most of them come from bad players. Their thought process is no deeper than approximately this: "I have ace-king. I'm not getting many good hands. He might be bluffing. I think I have to go for it."

I think we can safely assume that Galfond's thought process was vastly more complex and nuanced. He knows Dwan's play very, very well, as they have played against each other for countless hours. He knows that Dwan has the positional advantage and a big chip lead in the tournament, and deduces that Dwan will be using those factors to force Galfond to difficult decisions. He obviously knows that it's possible that Dwan has a monster hand, such as a flopped set, or even a medium-strength hand such as A-9 for top pair/top kicker. But he runs some quick estimates about Dwan's range, how often he is bluffing with complete air, takes into consideration that it's a winner-take-all format (which requires taking more chances), checks the size of the pot and his stack, perhaps stares deep into Dwan's soul, and the end result of crunching all of that information is a conclusion that a call is a worthwhile gamble--paying off often enough to be worth going broke if he's wrong.

What I find fascinating is that the call made by the fishy amateur and the one made by the top pro look externally identical, but there is almost no similarity at all in what is actually taking place inside their heads. One is flailing wildly, with more hope than sense. The other is drawing upon his years of experience, his memory of the thousands of hands he has played against this opponent, the facts of the specific situation, some complicated math, and an incredibly well-honed intuition, using it all as inputs for a black-box algorithm so complex that the best poker software in existence would not be able to replicate it.

When you make a call for all your chips with ace-high, which thought process would we see if we could look inside your head?

Tom Dwan may be retarded

OK, this post will definitely fall into the category of weird, quirky things that nobody else would notice.

I'm watching this week's Poker After Dark. On Wednesday's episode, we get a shot of Tom Dwan looking at his hole cards. We're supposed to be excited that he has two kings. I saw something else entirely: It looks to me like he has a single palmar crease on his right hand, rather than the usual two.

This minor anatomic anomaly is known as a "simian crease," because it resembles the way that, e.g., chimpanzees' palms look. It is commonly found in people with Down syndrome. (Incidentally, the term "Down's syndrome" is not considered correct, no matter how many times you may have heard it.)

When I was in college, I noticed that one of my friends had bilateral Simian creases. He had never known that he differed in this way from other people. I should mention that he was an exceptionally bright guy, working on his PhD in economics at the time. I told him, in jest, that this meant he had Down syndrome. He paused a few seconds, then replied, "Gee, just think how smart I'd be if I weren't retarded!"

Somebody else that I know very well has a Simian crease on one side, though her other hand is normal. So if you ever meet Cardgrrl, take a look!

You know who else has a Simian crease on one hand, but the normal two palmar creases on the other? Hillary Clinton, that's who. Oh, and Robert DeNiro, too. And actor Rainn Wilson. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has them on both sides.

So if Dwan does indeed share this little anomaly--and I should add that I'm not sure that he does, because it could simply be a weird camera angle that is preventing view of the more proximal second line--he is in good company. It's just a weird little meaningless thing.

I really only worry about his intellect because of how he plays the Mighty Deuce-Four.

(BTW, this is the kind of post for which it is required that at least one reader submit a comment such as "Get a life!" or "You have too much free time on your hands" or "You need to get out more.")

Addendum, January 8, 2011

Now watching the Thursday installment of the show, I'm more confident that I was right. Here's an even better shot of Dwan's right palm:

There are a couple of shadow lines, but pretty clearly only one transverse palmar crease. We have us a simian poker player!

Friday, January 07, 2011


UB has a new slogan: "Friedman's just another word for nothing left to lose."

(Credit: The great Kinky Friedman used this line when running for governor of Texas years ago. I heard "Me and Bobby McGee" on the radio today, which reminded me of Kinky's usage, and I repurposed it for current circumstances.)

Reimbursement optional

Prahlad Friedman is starting to do interviews about his signing on with UltimateBlecch. Here's the first one I've seen so far, from Bluff magazine:

I was struck by this statement: "I feel like they [UB] took care of me after the scandal. I feel like they didn’t have to pay people back and they did."

So Friedman's view is that if an online poker site is owned and operated by criminals who steal their customers'/players' money, it's optional that they pay it back. They don't have to. If they repay the people from whom they stole the money, it's because, y'know, they're so kind and good-natured.

No wonder UB wants him. He's the perfect spokesman. Their cover story is pre-set for the next time they steal a few million dollars: "We don't have to pay it back. Prahlad said so."

Do you want to play at a site that takes the official line that they can steal from you and not pay it back when they're caught? I don't think I do.

Guess the casino, #745

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

Answer: Treasure Island

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Stud Indicator

I just stumbled across this product, Stud Indicator. In addition to the expected stats tracking features, it apparently keeps track of and displays for you all folded cards, working with stud, stud/8, and razz. They claim that the software is approved by PokerStars.

I'm surprised by this. I would not expect the sites to approve any software that allows continued showing of folded cards, because of the tremendous advantage that confers on those using it, especially across multiple tables. I had read a long time ago that such programs were specifically disallowed by the big online poker sites. Has that changed?

If any readers have tried this, I'd be interested in your comments about how well it works.

Packing and unpacking

I got home late on Monday after a lovely nine days visiting Cardgrrl. I spent the time since then working hard to crank out a consulting job I had agreed to. (I paused only to play the monthly Very Josie tournament last night. I didn't have to pause for long. I was one of the earliest bust-outs when I flopped bottom two pair to somebody else's flopped top two pair. Sigh.) Today it's errands, then off to the car rental place, so as to be prepared for a drive to Salt Lake City tomorrow for a belated holiday visit with family there. (Got a great deal through my favorite rent-a-car company, Fox: $84 total for a compact-class car (no Smart this time--but that was through another company anyway) for four days.) I plan to come home Monday, after which things should resume to normal--or to what passes for normal with me.

Guess the casino, #744

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

Answer: Santa Fe Station

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

How do people get here?

Recently I've seen myself listed by other poker bloggers (specifically Bill Rini and Wicked Chops) as among their top referrers. It occurred to me that I've never done more than glance at the Google Analytics report about who has been referring hits to me. I herewith correct that deficiency. For 2010, the top ten referrers were:


While I was at it, I also took an updated look at what Google queries lead people to something I've written. To be sure, the great majority of Google searches that find me are clearly looking for me, with some combination of "poker," "grump," "rakewell," and "blog." But setting those aside, for as long as I've been peeking in at this sort of thing from time to time, the top inquiry has been about Tom Dwan's sexual orientation. I wrote about it the first time I saw Dwan play on television. Then a while later, I discovered that Google searches about Dwan were by far the most common thing leading people to my blog. For 2010, such questions remain in the lead by a huge margin, with at least 1200 souls having looked through my pages in an attempt to satisfy their curiosity on this vitally important matter.

Interestingly, for the first time, I can actually provide something of an answer. Since I last mentioned the subject, I have heard Dwan speak openly about his girlfriend when playing in various televised events and on his Twitter feed. Assuming that he is telling the truth, and that this refers to a romantic rather than platonic relationship, the answer appears to be that he is straight. Not that there's anything wrong with that....

Oddly, the next most common Google search that leads people my way is now "Brad Booth broke." That plus a few variants on the same idea brought over 650 searchers to the blog. The only thing I've written about Booth is a post pointing readers to an interesting All In magazine article about his travails: It's not like either Booth or Dwan actually feature heavily in my thoughts or writing.

There are also some strange keyword searches that show up in the rankings:

  • poker grump jeep (209)
Huh? I've used the word "Jeep" exactly once in four years. It was in a non-poker-related post, just showing a few photos of a crazily decorated car that I noticed while walking downtown, here. And yet more than 200 people specifically sought out that post? I don't get it.
  • shannon elizabeth (152)
  • shannon elizabeth feet (61)
Um, OK. I have no idea what these people are doing here. I just tried a Google search for Shannon Elizabeth, and I'm nowhere in the first five pages of results. If you have a foot fetish for her, I'm surely not the go-to guy about that.
  • grange95 blog (131)
Baffling once again. When I replicate this search, I find my first mention toward the bottom of the second page of results. If people are looking for the infamous Craakker, how do so many of them get diverted my way, rather than where they presumably want to go?
  • cory zeidman drunk (46)

One of my personal favorites, this--though just as mysterious a result as the others. I did write once about having Zeidman at the table with me briefly, but he was not drunk. He consumed only water while he was playing.

As I have found in the past when doing such high-tech navel-gazing, what specific things people are looking for when they find me has zero correlation with either what I write most about or with what I think are my best pieces of work. Oh well. I'm glad I have at least a little something to offer to people with such widely varying interests.

Guess the casino, #742

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

Answer: MGM Grand

Monday, January 03, 2011

What's in a screen name? #19

Nice that he lets you know in advance!

By the way, this is the first blog entry I've ever posted from a plane. I'm about halfway between D.C. and Vegas, on AirTran. How cool is that???

Guess the casino, #741

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

Answer: Hard Rock

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Guess the casino, #740

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

Answer: El Cortez