Saturday, January 22, 2011

Imperial tales


Last night at Imperial Palace I inadvertently did something that I had managed to avoid doing in five years of casino poker.

As I often do when playing at IP, I took a break after a couple of hours to get an ice cream cone. With a restroom stop first, I was gone for at least 10 minutes, maybe closer to 15. I returned to the room and sat down, mostly focused on preventing drips and spills. (The ice cream was disappointingly soft and melty, obviously having been kept in an insufficiently cold counter freezer.)

Even before I sat down, I noticed that there had been a dealer change--no surprise, given how long I was gone. I said, "Hi, Matt." He said, "Hi, Grump." (He always calls me that.) Then I noticed that the guy directly across from me was a new player. OK, somebody had left and been replaced while I was gone. No problem. Next I noticed that the guy next to him was different, too. And my bottle of water was missing. And all of the chip stacks at the table were gray ($1), not red ($5).

This was all very disorienting. Just as I was processing why so many things had changed, Matt teasingly asked, "You need some chips?" It was only then that I noticed that my chip stacks were gone, as was my silver dollar card protector.

The conclusion finally hit me just as Matt tried to resolve my puzzlement: "You're at the wrong table."

Indeed I had sat down at the first table past the desk instead of the second one. When I moved to the right table, all was well--the same dealer I had left, the same opponents, my chips and card cap, my water bottle.

This was mildly embarrassing, but there was no harm done. I've seen other people make this mistake before, and always wondered how they could be so dumb. Now I know.

I guess you could say I got the wrong IP address.

No jackpot

I saw somebody flop quad queens, but get no bonus. I checked the list of bonuses on the wall, and it listed only $200 for a royal flush. I've never seen the IP not have high-hand bonuses for quads and straight flushes. I asked the dealer about it, and he said that they had had an accounting error in their jackpot fund, and as a result had to cancel almost all their payouts until they build the reserve back up. Which means that for now they're collecting the jackpot dollar but giving out essentially nothing.

Oh well. It's a minor thing. I just hope it wasn't the same kind of "error" that the folks at Planet Hollywood had with their jackpot money.


Here was my best move of the night. After I had been in Seat 1 for a while, somebody I didn't know joined us in Seat 2. He was about as good a player as one ever sees at these limits, playing a very effective, difficult, loose-aggressive style. Among other things, he straddled both UTG and on the button every time, and nearly always exercised his option to raise it.

I was getting a little tired of that, so I determined to limp-reraise one of his straddles whenever I had a half-decent hand. The very next time it was my big blind and he straddled, I found Ah-Kh. Nobody raised before me, so I added an extra $2 to my bet, anticipating that it was a mere down payment. Sure enough, Mr. LAG bumped it up--another $25, his biggest opening raise yet.

Well, apparently several other players had noticed his pattern and were ready to look him up. I was quite surprised when three others called him before the action was back to me, making a $100 pot. It was not enough to pot-commit any of them. I had not originally planned to reraise all-in, but with that much in the pot, it was suddenly worth taking down right then, rather than put in a smaller raise and have to make further decisions from out of position. I thought it was a near certainty that I had the best hand or, at worst, would be racing against a medium pocket pair. So I announced all-in, and moved my last $208 across the line.

One by one, they all folded, and I won a nice pot without a showdown or even seeing a flop. The suited AK made it a pretty easy decision, but I think I would have done the same thing with a wider range than that--any pair about 8s or more, any ace, and any strong king, maybe.

The French connection

We had at the table a man visiting from France. The conversation turned to the state of online poker there. I vaguely remember a while back hearing that France had authorized online poker, but with various restrictions. Here's how our French friend described the situation:

They have lots of choices of online rooms, including Full Tilt, Stars, Party Poker, etc., but they are all segregated from the rest of the world pool. That is, they're playing on, e.g.,, not People from anywhere in the world can, in theory, join the games, but few actually do, because the sites have to collect a 6% tax (capped at 3 Euros) in addition to the rake.

Our visitor said that the situation sucks, because there are, obviously, a lot fewer players per site than there were previously, so they have fewer choices in cash games, and essentially no tournaments with big prize pools.

It was my first indirect foretaste of what online poker might become if the whole things gets balkanized, as it is threatening to do. If the U.S. gets separated from the rest of the world (as required, at least for a while, under the Reid bill), it would be bad, though not as bad as in France, since we have a large enough group of players to be workable. But if we start having individual states broken out into their own player pools, it's just going to completely suck.

There are lots of kinds of services that, in order to be useful, have to have large numbers of people using them--telephones, fax machines, and, in the Internet age, things like Facebook and Twitter. Online poker is among them. Sites with small player pools tend to shrivel up and die, because players don't find games going and turn elsewhere. Conversely, the most popular sites become more popular, because there's lots going on and players find what they're looking for and tell their friends. It's a rich-get-richer sort of thing. (See Bill Rini's perceptive post, "Why Smaller Poker Operators Should Shut Their Doors Right Now.")

It's just not going to work to have states run isolated player pools--even the most populous states, such as California, don't have enough people to make for really good poker sites with a wide variety of offerings. We can hope that states would be smart enough to authorize reciprocal or collective arrangements, as they do with lotteries, but I wouldn't count on it.

Playing with Mr. Magoo

In the first 30 minutes at my table, I saw one player twice, twice, call off his entire stack--at least $200 each time--after misreading his hand and/or the board. Both times he thought he had a straight, and even announced it as such, but the first time had just one pair and the second time nothing at all. Seeing it happen once is odd enough, but two times in less than half an hour? Truly bizarre. He was not drunk, as far as I could tell.

Maybe casinos should offer vision tests while you play, in addition to massages.

Guess the casino, #760

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

Answer: Orleans

Friday, January 21, 2011

I might have to go see this place

Guess the casino, #759

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

Answer: Imperial Palace

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lawsuit of the year (so far)

Oh, sure, you've seen the video clip of the idiotic woman walking into the mall fountain while texting on her phone. You may have even heard that she is now threatening to sue the mall's security team for not rushing to pull her out.

But though it was a noble effort, she does not top the lawsuit chutzpah charts this week. That award belongs right here in Las Vegas. You gotta read this, just for the sheer can't-believe-it quality:

Guess the casino, #758

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

Answer: Caesars Palace

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Poker gems, #407

John Vorhaus, in Card Player magazine column, January 12, 2011 (vol. 24, #1), p. 62.

There are no good hands. There are no bad hands. There are only the hands that we have. We don't deserve pocket aces. We don't deserve 7-2 offsuit. We don't deserve anything other than exactly the two cards that we're dealt, and exactly the attendant opportunity to make the right choice.

Poker gems, #406

John Vorhaus, in Card Player magazine column, January 12, 2011 (vol. 24, #1), p. 62.

Or, let's say that you're the one with the aces.... You raise, of course, yet somehow manage to attract three callers. Now, the flop comes 8-7-6 in suit, and all hell breaks loose. The action goes bet, raise, reraise, and now it's on you. How good are your aces now? Good for nothing, right? Not exactly. They're still good for a good decision, a handsome laydown.

That's the chance that you have, the one that you always have--the chance to make a good decision, without expectation, without resentment, and without ego. Can you do that?

Guess the casino, #757

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

Answer: Venetian

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cashing out from Doyle's Room

This morning I saw a Tweet from @GamingCounsel: "RT @: Rumours abound that Doyle's Room may be leaving the Cake Poker Network. "

The article lists several signs that Doyle's Room is going to be leaving Cake. I found it quite persuasive. I decided to cash out what money I had there. I'm not really worried about the money vanishing. I'm willing to assume that if DR changes to a new network, they'll move the accounts over. If DR decides to just close up shop, I'm willing to assume that they'll transfer the accounts to some other Cake skin or offer cashouts.

My reasons for deciding to pull out were: (1) If DR moves to any other network where I can play and would want to play, it will duplicate some other account, because I already have an account on every U.S.-facing poker network. (2) I signed up for Doyle's Room directly, not through an affiliate, which means that I've never been getting rakeback from them. If I'm going to continue on Cake, I might as well get something back for it, and the apparent coming announcement that the skin I'm using is leaving the network is a prime opportunity to make such a change.

I checked the DR cashier, and found that I have $168.11 sitting there. Fine. Let's see how to take it out. (I've never cashed out from DR before.) The cashier page lists three options: Check, eWalletXpress, and UseMyWallet.

It tells me that a check is not available; they'll do this only for amounts over $500.

I don't have an account at eWalletXpress, and can't set one up now, because they recently pulled out of the U.S. market, following a seizure of funds. I don't have an account at UseMyWallet, and really didn't want the hassle (and further exposure of personal and financial information) of setting one up just for a one-time withdrawal.

So I emailed DR support:

I would like to withdraw all of the money in my account ($168.11). However, when
I tried to do it through the online cashier, it said that $500 was the minimum
for getting a check. It gave two e-wallet options. However, EwalletXpress, as
you know, is no longer operating in the U.S., so I can't set up an account
there. The other e-wallet service is one that I do not have an account with, and
I do not wish to set up an account just for this one-time withdrawal. I just
want a check mailed to me. How can we make that happen?

Here's the response:
Thank you for your email.
I am really sorry however the $500 limit is
imposed on us by our check processor and we will not be able to send you a
check for less than the stated amount.
I sincerely apologize for any
inconvenience caused.
Please let us know if we can be of further
Kind Regards,
DoylesRoom Support

Ruh-roh. This isn't looking good. I explored the only option left. But doesn't even let you in unless you're already a customer with an account; i.e., it's not just an open site that anybody can access and establish an account with. The DR cashier page says:
UseMyWallet is one of the quickest and most secure methods for players to
withdraw funds from their account. UseMyWallet enables players to use a number
of various online banking solutions to withdraw funds from their account. These
funds may then be wired directly from your UseMyWallet supported account into
your own bank account. To see if your account qualifies, please contact There is
minimum withdrawal limit of $50 and there are no maximum withdrawal limits.

Another email to DR:
The cashout instructions say to contact you to find out if my account
qualifies to use the UseMyWallet option. Does it? If so, how do I set up an
account with them? Their web page gives no instructions, and apparently doesn’t
let anybody in who doesn’t already have an account.

The reply:
Thank you for your email. I'm afraid at present UseMyWallet account
invitations would only be open to those players who meet criteria laid down by
UseMyWallet. As soon as your account meets these criteria our Cashier team
will forward an invitation, please be informed that the criteria is a
stipulation of UseMyWallet and I'm afraid we're not permitted to discuss these
criteria with players. We apologize for not being able to help you further at
this time and thanks in advance for your patience.
Please let us know if we
can be of further assistance
Kind Regards,

Oh boy. This is starting to get both annoying and alarming. Are they running a scam such that I won't be able to withdraw the funds by any method? I was starting to plan how I would pepper various poker forums with my warnings and complaints about how DR was refusing to let me cash out.

But I try one more email:
Your cashier page gives me just three options for cashing out:
ewalletxpress, usemywallet, and check. I don’t have an ewalletxpress account,
and cannot set one up now, because they recently stopped accepting U.S.
customers. You’re telling me that I don’t qualify for a usemywallet account. And
in your first email, you told me you won’t send me a check. So each of the only
three options you are telling me about is unavailable, for one reason or

How do I get my money?

The reply (and, to their credit, they have responded within just a few minutes every time):
Thank you for your email. I have forwarded your email to our Cashier
department who will be in contact. However I would ask you to bear in mind that
due to the nature of the inquiries they deal with our Cashier department’s
response may not be as quick as our front line support. Thanks in advance for
your patience.
Please let us know if we can be of further assistance
DoylesRoom Support

A short time later, I received this:
You now have been pre-registered for a QuickTender account.

All you need to do is activate your account by clicking the link
below and completing the required additional sign-up information.

QuickTender has been created in response to the recent withdrawals
of a number of wallet payment solutions that you may have previously used.
QuickTender is owned and operated by an experienced team of payment
professionals who are well known and trusted with all the major merchants in the

QuickTender is one of the safest ways to pay and play
and will facilitate all your purchases and withdrawals quickly, securely and

As an additional privacy protection measure you
will not see QuickTender openly advertised at the merchant site. Instead
wherever you see the UseMyWallet logo below you will be able to deposit with
your QuickTender account.

Instructions followed. I'm not entirely clear on the relationship between UseMyWallet and QuickTender, but they're either partners or different names for the same basic entity.

Of course, I'd like to know why DR support first told me that my account was not eligible to use UMW, then later decided that I could use it. But I'm not going to press that issue now.

I went through the enrollment steps for UMW/QT, got an account number, then plugged that in to the withdrawal request on DR.

Now I sit back and wait to see if it actually works. Anybody want to make bets on whether I get the money without further headaches?

Guess the casino, #756

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

Answer: South Point

Monday, January 17, 2011

Folding 20:1 pot odds

Would you ever fold if you had a strong hand, were getting 20:1 on a call, and were guaranteed not to have to put any more money in? Saw a guy do it yesterday.

I was playing at Mandalay Bay. It was a weird table, in terms of action. A typical pre-flop hand was either an early-position opening raise, called by anywhere from three to eight players, or a bunch of limping, then a late-position raise, and all the limpers calling. We were commonly seeing flops with five to eight players, each having put in $12-18. But three-bets were scarce as hen's teeth. I can't remember the last time I saw a table with such a recurring pattern. It was weird.

(An even stranger coincidence is that my friend Jon Katkin had, just the day before, prophetically Tweeted this: "I both love & hate tables where players limp for $2 and then call a $15 raise." I understood exactly what he meant. Making hands was profitable, but shaking people off after missing was an exercise in futility.)

In the hand in question, I joined the chorus of limpers from middle position with Ah-4h. The player to my left raised to $16. I was going to fold, but then he got called in four other spots before the action was back to me. I did the typical donkey thing, throwing in the extra money while muttering to myself, "Pot odds." The pot stood at about $92 after the rake.

So six of us saw the flop of Ks-8h-9h. Nothin' but a flush draw for me. It was checked to the original raiser, who put in $25. Too much for me, I thought. But then only one other player dropped out; four called. Quick math showed $92 + $100 = $192 in the pot, $25 to call, more than 7:1. Even with no additional implied odds, that made it a decent call to see one more card. I felt like I was getting sucked in little by little, like matter from a star being pulled off by a nearby black hole. But I called anyway, hoping that I wouldn't hit the event horizon and get torn apart. Pot now at $217.

The turn was the 7h. Nice! With that many people in, I had a little anxiety about being up against a straight flush, but I decided that that was just one of those things I'd have to write off if it happened. With no pair on the board, I'm not folding the nut flush.

First guy to act bet $75. It was folded to me. I moved all in for my last $94. Original raiser folded with a heavy sigh. The only one still with cards was the guy who bet $75. With his bet and mine included, the pot was at about $386. He had to call just $19 more to match my all-in. There was nobody left who could raise it more, and there could be no more betting on the river. It was a pure pot-odds situation with no future to worry about, and he was being offered just over 20:1 on the call.

I assumed it would be automatic for him. I'm not sure I've ever folded a hand when getting 20:1 with no more money to be put in, unless maybe I was on a stone-cold bluff and had zero chance of winning. This guy, though, said, "I wanted the 7, but not in hearts." He then flashed his black J-10 (nut straight), and mucked it.

I only rarely show my cards when winning without a showdown, but under the circumstances I was sufficiently impressed with his fold that I decided to reward him by removing whatever minuscule doubt may have remained in his mind about what I had--though given the fold, he was obviously extremely confident about what he was up against. He just nodded grimly.

I question the wisdom of his $75 bet, given that with that many players calling on that flop it was highly likely that at least one of them had a flush draw that had just arrived, leaving him drawing dead.

But after that is done, I think you have to admire him for finding the fold. I'm sure I would have thought, "Hey, maybe the guy flopped a set and he's now just hoping against hope that my $75 bet isn't a flush or a straight, or at least he's praying to pair the board. Or maybe he has somethig like two pair and a flush draw. He probably just made a flush, but I think those other possibilities add up to at least one time in 20. I just can't pass up a nearly $400 pot for a measly $19."

His fold said, in essence, "I'm more than 95% sure that you just made a flush and I now absolutely cannot win." He had been playing with me for a couple of hours, so he likely had recognized that I wasn't throwing my money in lightly. Still, I don't think I'd get myself to that level of confidence. I'd make the crying call and curse my bad luck. He, on the other hand, got to keep $19 that I would have lost. Tip o' the hat to him for seeing clearly what the situation was and not acting out of a sense of either frustration or resignation.

What's in a screen name? #20

Good one. Needs a better matching avatar, though.

Another poker dream

I was at the Golden Nugget, but the poker room had been completely revamped. It looked like somebody's basement rec room, done in a decor that might be called "trashy casual." There was only one game going, and it was being dealt by the players, not by a casino dealer. The cards were bent and torn and stained, as in a really bad home game.

I watched the game for a minute and couldn't figure out what they were doing. I asked what kind of poker this was, and one guy answered, "Crazy Tight." I said I had never heard of that, and he responded, "Nobody has." I asked how it's played, and he just said, "We play to the best jack," then returned to his cards, and gave me the distinct impression he didn't want to answer any more questions.

I was left to surmise that it meant that any hand with a jack in it beat any hand without a jack. That is, if two players at showdown each has a jack, then hand strengths are compared normally: flush beats straight, etc. Same is true for comparing two hands neither of which has a jack. But any old terrible hand that has a jack (e.g., Qd-Jh-8c-5c-4s) beats even the best hand lacking a jack (a 10-high straight flush). Now that I'm awake and thinking about it, it occurs to me that you could extend the concept: Any hand with two jacks in it (e.g., Jc-Jh-Kd-6c-5c) beats even the best hand with only one jack (a royal flush), analogous to how even the smallest two-pair hand beats the best one-pair hand. Any hand with three jacks (or, obviously, four) would be an automatic winner.

In my dream I couldn't figure out the strange playing format, but looking back on it now, I think that this game might play better as stud than as a flop game. (Or maybe triple draw?) If so, the hand you'd really want to be dealt is (J-J)-x, and you really wouldn't care much what your up card was, because you could lose only to another player with the other two jacks, which would be a rare occurrence. (This is assuming you used the two-jack variant described above.) At the same time, nobody would know that you had the J-J concealed, and anybody with a good single-jack hand (straight or flush) would cap the betting with you, if the rest of your board came uncoordinated. Still, it would probably work as just a variant of hold'em, if your poker group doesn't cotton to non-flop games.

I've given this only a few minutes of consideration, but I'm thinking this is actually a pretty workable poker variant for a home game--unlike most of the other slightly demented versions that my sleeping subconscious has invented before. The main thing wrong with it is the name, which is just stupid. I'm not good at coming up with clever titles, but the first decent alternative that occurs to me is this: "You Don't Have Jack." Or maybe, "Jack Be Nimble."

Somebody want to try it at their next poker night? Or ask the Golden Nugget if they really spread this?

Guess the casino, #755

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

Answer: Monte Carlo

Sunday, January 16, 2011

They rig live poker in the Caribbean, obviously


Guess the casino, #754

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. It's not even in Vegas. It's a sidewalk outside a theater in Washington, D.C. You thought it was MGM, didn't you?