Saturday, March 26, 2011

Florida, day 1

My first day with Cardgrrl in Florida was spent wandering around downtown St. Petersburg. Photo album available here.

The first picture seems to show that somebody knew I was coming. The second is just a car covered in tree pollen, a fate that also struck our rental car. Must be an endemic problem there.

#3-#10 are shots of a pair of banyan trees that I thought were just glorious. What I didn't know at the time was that we would encounter even grander ones the next day.

My only kind of randomly artsy, non-documentary shot is #13, the lock and chain (found at the entrance to a public restroom), which I kind of like. There's something pleasing to me about the
steel and rust against the colors of the brick, the gate partially painted and partially stripped, and the glint of light off of the edge of the padlock.

There are a bunch of random shots of things seen around the downtown area that don't deserve special comment.

#19-#36 were taken in and around the Salvador Dali museum. We paid attention to all the comments you good people contributed about things we should see while in the area, and this place was mentioned more than any other. I've never known much about Dali, so it was interesting to see so much of his work concentrated in one place, almost all of it previously unfamiliar to me. I don't think I left any more of a fan than I had been before, but I certainly gained a broader view of how productive he was and how his style changed over the decades of works he put out. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside the galleries, so I couldn't record the handful of pieces that I liked best. I did enjoy seeing the famous "Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes a Portrait of Abraham Lincoln" in person, and looking at it from various distances and angles, with both direct and peripheral vision, to see how the prominence of the "Lincoln effect" changed.

From the Dali, we took a trolley* to a section of downtown with a concentration of little shops and restaurants and wandered there for a while. That would be a great place to live, with all sorts of interesting things to look at, buy, and eat. Sadly, it was largely devoid of visitors, and we got the sense that the shop owners are enthusiastic but hurting economically.

The last 14 pictures are all of a kapok tree in bloom at sunset, which may be the single most beautiful tree I've ever seen. Unfortunately, up close you can see how it has been marred by several hundred morons who thought that this magnificent living organism would be improved by having their initials carved into it. Were I a judge, I would mete out justice by carving my initials into their flesh with a penknife, and see how they liked it. (Eighth Amendment? What's that? Never heard of it.)

*On rereading, it occurs to me that taking a trolley from the Dali is kind of like taking a Chevy to the levee.

"I never change seats"

I was playing at Imperial Palace last night. The first open seat was #2, so I took it. I immediately asked for a seat-change button, hoping to move either to one of my favorites (1 and 10), or someplace else if it seemed that strategy were to dictate it.

There was a very pleasant man in seat 1. He heard my request, which prompted him to set about telling me how he had made up his mind long ago that he would never, ever change seats under any conditions. His reason? He played in California rooms with bad-beat jackpots, and he never wanted to have to face the realization that he had moved out of a seat where the jackpot later hit and thus have the regret of having missed it.

Maybe I'm overly steeped in statistical and probabilistic thought, but it took me, oh, about one-tenth of a second to see the gaping hole in his logic. I asked him, "What about the regret of failing to move into the seat where the jackpot would later hit? What if you pass up the chance to move to seat 6, and a few minutes later the new player there wins hundreds of thousands of dollars?"

He got a slightly puzzled look on his face and said, "I hadn't thought about that."

You can influence your chance of being part of a bad-beat jackpot by your initial hand selection, so it's not completely random. But given a particular style of play, which seat you're in makes no difference in your chances of winning a jackpot. It also makes no difference whether you decide to stay in one seat for the entire session, or play musical chairs at every opportunity. I think this guy was smart enough to understand that.

He made up his mind about never moving based on a purely emotional factor: avoiding regret. But for some reason, he was only able to see one side of that coin. Having regret for an affirmative action that he had taken loomed large enough that it decided the entire issue for him. He was willing to pass up any strategic advantage, in terms of having certain players to his right or left, in order to avoid wishing he had not moved. But in years of living with and implementing this decision, the possibility of regret over inaction had never even crossed his mind, even though the chance of that outcome is exactly the same as the chance of the one he so desperately wishes to avoid.

You human beings are kind of funny creatures, what with your emotions and cognitive biases and all.

Incidentally, for a thorough discussion of all of the "what-if" questions surrounding poker jackpots, see Grange95's post here. Cliff Notes version: A bad-beat jackpot requires lots of random outcomes (e.g., the shuffle) and arbitrary decisions (e.g., when a player decides to take a restroom break) all to be aligned just so; it makes no logical sense to assign special value to some of them while ignoring others.

Guess the casino, #808

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

Answer: Wynn

Friday, March 25, 2011

Guess the casino, #807

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

Answer: Stratosphere

More crap from Cereus

Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention, but this post about a bad keno game being offered by Cereus (the fine, fine folks behind UltimateBlecch and AbsolutePuker) was completely new to me. I didn't know they offered keno, nor that a bad random number generator had been discovered by users, nor anything about how Cereus responded to the issue--which was by lying, shifting the blame, stalling, having Joe Sebok make public statements that were untrue, and ultimately doing nothing to admit that they screwed up or refund customers' money.

This company is just unbelievably corrupt and/or incompetent. I'm not sure which attribute is most responsible for this particular part of the scandal story, but in terms of deciding whether you want to trust them with your money, does it really matter?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Catching up

I'm still trying to catch up on laundry, finances, blog-reading, magazines, TV shows, leftover work, etc., that got missed while I was gone. I'm also still combing through my hundreds of photos, trying to find the best ones to share. Until I get that done, I recommend looking through the last nine or so posts at to see Cardgrrl's best photography from our Florida trip.

Guess the casino, #806

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

Answer: Rio

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Poker gems, #411

Dusty Schmidt, in Card Player magazine column, March 9, 2011 (vol. 24, #5), page 70, on why he thinks staking other players is a bad idea.

For the most part, if a player is as good as he thinks he is, he should have the money and not need a stake. But for the sake of argument, let's say the person asking for the stake is right: He can crush the games; he just doesn't want to wait six months or a year to get in on the big action. What that person is telling me is that he's lazy and impatient, two traits that will lead to the demise of any poker player. This is the sort of player who'll take too many unnecessary risks, won't put in the hours away from the table, will go on tilt, will get lax during good runs, and won't function well as his own boss. Literally every poker player I've known who's both talented and broke has some extreme quality to his personality of which I don't want to be a part. Patience and personal responsibility are absolutely essential to poker success; without them, you might as well not even try.

Things might be about to get interesting around here

This came in the mail today. In 32 years of eligibility, I've never been called before.

Clean hands, see?

I'm watching "High Stakes Poker" from last weekend. I was intrigued by this disclaimer, which came in the middle of an ad for the Bellagio spa. (HSP is taped at the Bellagio now.)

My guess is that this message has a very small target audience--specifically, the members of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. It seems to be saying, "Hey, we just provide the table and cards and chips here, as we are properly licensed to do. We have nothing whatsoever to do with those patches on the players' clothing. We would never, ever enter into a partnership with a law-breaking place like PokerStars, the way that nasty, naughty Venetian did. We are good boys and girls, and want Santa to remember that fact come Christmas."

Proofreading fail

I noticed this full-page ad in the new issue of Bluff magazine. Apparently the good folks in the advertising department of DoylesRoom never learned the difference between cardinal and ordinal numbers. How do you earn "14th bracelets"?

Poker gems, #410

Corwin Cole, in Bluff magazine, April, 2011, page 38.

You probably thought, all this time, that what you needed to do was to learn more strategy. After coaching dozens of prefessionals over the past five years, I can assure that you were mistaken. What you actually needed to learn was how to implement the strategy you already know as well as possible. If you played to your full potential on a daily basis, you would be surprised just how good you already are, without learning anything new.

Poker gems, #409

Jennifer Tilly, in Bluff magazine column (April, 2011, page 65), on installing a heads-up display for her online play, then abandoning it.

At the end of each day, there is a nasty little graph tumbling downhill to show how much I lost in that session. And in case the graph is confusing to me, there is also a concise summation with a minus sigh followed by a very large number....

Maybe, eventually, I will go back to the HUD again.... But for now, I think I will just go back to playing the old-fashioned way. I don't need to be reminded every time I turn on my computer that I'm not as good as I think I am. I was tapping on my own fish tank.

Guess the casino, #805

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

Answer: Orleans

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Heading home/Charlize

I'm at the Tampa airport. Cardgrrl just left on her flight home to D.C. I have about two hours before mine leaves for Vegas.

It has been one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life. We had the world's most perfect weather. I enjoyed meeting Cardgrrl's aunt. We picked a nice variety of activities. And the company, of course, was not to be surpassed.

The highlight was Sunday spent on Sanibel Island. We spent the afternoon riding rental bicycles through the Darling National Wildlife Refuge, then had yummy homemade ice cream at Pinocchio's. To end the day, we wanted a sunset on the beach, so we headed to the northern tip of the adjoining Captiva Island, where we hit pay dirt. The beach was beautiful, and the sunset was spectacular beyond words.

To top it off, a great blue heron swooped down on the beach just before sundown, and just waded around for 20 minutes or so, occasionally plucking a small fish from the Gulf of Mexico. The combination of the magnificent bird posing for all who wished to photograph it and the pinks and oranges with which the sun was painting the sky was so absurdly picturesque that we laughed out loud about how easy great nature photography was under such circumstances. I even suspected that the heron was a robotic model sent by the local Chamber of Commerce to provide tourists with a literally picture-perfect experience.

We named the bird Charlize The Heron, for her ridiculous beauty and acting talent. Between us, Cardgrrl and I took over a hundred shots of the scene. You can see her best result here. I couldn't settle on just one, but here are my favorite six. (Click on them for full size.)

There's much more about the trip to report, of course. I'll probably do it in several smaller pieces over the next week or so, while I get resettled into my daily routine. But Charlize couldn't wait.

Guess the casino, #804

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

Answer: Imperial Palace

Monday, March 21, 2011

Guess the casino, #803

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

Answer: Caesars Palace

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guess the casino, #802

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

Answer: Caesars Palace