Saturday, April 02, 2011

Florida, day 6

Day 6 photo album is here.

We were originally planning to drive back to the Tampa area and spend the day there. But Cardgrrl called an audible, making a last-minute decision instead to visit the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which is about an hour east of Ft. Myers. I had mentioned it a couple of times as a possible stop in our itinerary, and I think her acquiescence (wow--I typed that word about 15 different ways before the spell-checker stopped highlighting it as wrong) was meant as sort of a sop to me for having let her and her aunt call the shots over the previous several days. But apparently she ended up as glad that we made the detour as I was, judging by her words and photographs.

Corkscrew (named for the river that flows through it) is not exactly a hopping tourist destination. It's somewhat off the beaten path. But we found it well worth the trip. It's a roughly two-mile boardwalk path through an interesting variety of six different small ecosystems that have an unusual convergence in the area. It was clear to me from the equipment and books we saw people carrying, as well as snippets of overheard conversation, that a large fraction of visitors were dedicated birders. I was pleased and surprised at how freely strangers were pointing out to each other hard-to-see wildlife, sharing binoculars, etc.

The Audubon guides were wonderful, too. When something especially interesting was spotted, they would post a paid or volunteer docent there and alert passersby as to what could be seen. For example, in my #14, you can just barely see a big nest with a baby hawk's head poking out of it. That was taken on maximum zoom, and cropped to remove about 90% of the surroundings. It was impossible to see with the unaided eye. But they had set up a powerful spotting scope on a tripod, and were encouraging tourists to look. Through it, you could easily see the little fellas moving around, chirping, and pecking at each other. Delightful! Because the sanctuary is not a heavily promoted, commercial site, there weren't long lines of annoying people messing it up; we could just walk right up to the friendly guide who was eager for everybody to share in the sight. There were very few young children, and the adults were unusually well behaved, everybody trying to remain quiet so as not to scare off the wildlife we were all there to see. It was really an enjoyable, relaxing way to take an afternoon stroll.

#2 is a hawk whose very presence was scaring the bejesus out of the other birds in the area, judging by the alarming calls they were passing amongst themselves.

#3 is a cottonmouth--one of several cool critters we totally would have walked right past without noticing, were it not for one of the helpful guides stationed there to point him out. (There was a beautiful yellow rat snake a few feet away, too, but it was impossible to get a clear shot of him through the shrubs and grasses.)

#8 shows a fine example of a strangler fig, which I had never heard of before. They look like vines, but are not. They do not grow from the ground up, but germinate in the canopy of the host tree and exist as epiphytes until, growing downward, they reach the ground. How cool is that?!

#5, 9, 12, and 18 are all American White Ibis, which were abundant. #9 is a terrible shot, but was the only time we saw a real aggregation of them--at least eight all hunting together. (What is a collection of ibis called? A flock? A gaggle? A murder?)

#10 and 11 are an American Anhinga, a truly remarkable-looking bird, much larger than you'd probably guess from these photos.

#13 is a Little Blue Heron, with a gorgeous spectrum of blues and purples in its plumage.

Cardgrrl was sorely disappointed not to have seen any alligators on our trip, so it was a special treat to spot one here--the last place we would have a chance to do so (#17). And it was not just any ol' alligator, but a new mother with about eight tiny bebbe alligators running up and down her back! The only bummer was that it was at least 30 yards away and nearly hidden in the marsh plants. It was another wonderful sight that we would have missed, were it not for other visitors excitedly pointing it out.

#19 is a big ol' snapping turtle--yet another creature to which we were oblivious until fellow sightseer helpfully directed our attention.

We finally had had enough of nature, between the Edison botanical gardens, the beaches, the Sanibel Island wildlife sanctuary, and the Audubon. So we headed back to Tampa in the late afternoon to take in a distinctly different kind of experience: the Hard Rock Tampa casino (#21). Both Cardgrrl and I, at different tables, independently concluded that the quality of play here was noticeably, meaningfully worse than at similar games in Vegas. We were only there for a couple of hours before being too tired to continue, making ours a small sample size, but if you're a decent player and in the area, a visit will likely be profitable. It was a pleasant playing environment, as well-run as most Vegas poker rooms, and larger than most (50 tables, and surprisingly busy on a Monday night). You could plop that casino down on a vacant lot on the Strip, and it would fit in perfectly. Were it there, I expect it would become one of my more frequent haunts.

The next day (Tuesday) was just returning the rental car and waiting for our flights, so this was effectively our last day of real vacation time. As I've already said, it was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable weeks I've ever spent, with the world's most perfect weather. And, of course, the world's best travel companion.

Guess the casino, #815

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

Answer: Aria

Friday, April 01, 2011

Home game #1 is in the books

And I cashed! OK, a min-cash, but still--it's better than an ignominious defeat.

Congrats to potnets (aka MD DonkFest) and mooninjune (aka Shamus) for taking top honors. (I suppose with razz, one should use scare quotes: top "honors.")

I hope others had as much fun as I did. Thanks to all 11 who came, and to all 48 of you who have joined the club.

Florida, day 5

Sunday was our last day in the Ft. Myers area. We spent it on Sanibel Island, which I already previewed for you here.

Day 5 photo album is here.

The Darling National Wildlife Refuge was nice enough, but, frankly, it had a heck of a lot less wildlife than one would imagine, given the name. Or maybe the animals have all just learned to stay away from the road and trails, which are the only places humans are allowed to go. We were also disappointed to discover that the one place where we would be most likely to see alligators had been cordoned off--no visitors allowed.

#2 is some sort of ibis, but I'm having trouble nailing down the species. #7 is an American White Ibis. #10 is an osprey in a nest built across the road from the wildlife preserve.

Detailed surveys of my readership reveal that 98% of you agree that the slogan shown on the toddler-sized T-shirt in #11 correctly describes the author of this blog.

#12-23 were all taken on the beach at Captiva Island, during one of the most perfect sunsets it has ever been my privilege to witness.

Only one more day left to tell you about.


I was playing at the Stratosphere last night. Two situations arose in which I thought that leniency on the house rules was in order. Because many readers think that I'm always in favor of strict, unbending enforcement of every rule of the game--when, in reality, I'm more of a pragmatist--I thought these incidents might serve as a useful corrective.

English only

The first problem centered around two young men who were speaking a foreign language (Czech, as it turned out). When this first occurred during a hand, and the dealer was ignoring it, I took my usual approach, which is to quietly ask the dealer, "Do you have an English-only rule here?" Of course I already know the answer. The purpose is to nudge the dealer into enforcing it, without being directly confrontational with either her or the players involved. As usually happens, this resulted in the dealer saying, "Yes," then turning to the two individuals and explaining that they must speak English only while at the table. (It incidentally confirmed my impression that she knew perfectly well who was violating the rule; she was just hoping that she wouldn't have to do anything about it. Dealers who wait for a player to ask them to enforce a rule earn my contempt.)

Let's pause here to consider three different ways that one might apply an English-only rule. The least restrictive would be to have it apply only to players who have live cards. This prevents them from secretly disclosing to each other what they hold, discussing how to trap a third player between them, or other nefarious activities.

The next level of strictness would be to have the rule apply during the entire time that a hand is going on--i.e., while anybody has live cards. This has some additional benefits for game integrity. It may be, for example, that somebody else at the table knows the foreign language well enough to eavesdrop on the conversation; he could thus gain advantageous additional information if the two foreign players, now out of the hand, discuss what they folded, what they think other players have, etc.

Finally, the most draconian level of enforcement would be to ban all foreign speech at the table, no matter what is going on. At least in theory, this would make it more difficult for two players to discuss signals that they will use in future hands, or whatever. As I understand it from the dealers, this is the way the Stratosphere's rule is.

In my opinion, the middle level is probably the best one to use, because that third level of enforcement has really marginal additional utility in terms of game security, while it imposes a pretty significant social burden on at least some players. Last night's game was a perfect demonstration of this. One of the two players in question was bilingual, but the other spoke essentially no English. Outlawing all non-English conversation at the table was thus, for him, effectively imposing a rule that he was not allowed to talk, and his friend was not allowed to talk to him. It's like dropping the Cone of Silence on his seat. It was clear to me from tone, body language, etc., that most of what they were talking about had nothing to do with the game. This was especially true when their wives/girlfriends were chatting with them from the rail a few feet away, which was a high percentage of the time they were there. Most of the stuff was, I'm confident, harmless chatter that was helping them have a good time.

However, because the dealers were being lax in enforcing the rule, the two men made no distinction between chatting during a hand and chatting between hands. That bothered me. I didn't really think that they were colluding (they would freely check-raise each other even when nobody else was in the hand, for instance), but recreational players are frequently too loose-lipped about talking about the hand in progress in improper ways, and I didn't want that going on in Czech any more than I want it going on in English.

At the same time, I didn't want the dealers to be so hard-assed about shushing all of their conversation that they would get mad and leave, nor even that they would stop having fun. Players who are enjoying themselves, drinking beer (as they were), flirting with their onlooking girlfriends, etc., are the ones I'm most likely to be able to make money from, not to mention being just plain more pleasant to share a table with than the hoodie-wearing, headphone-listening, sunglass-hiding, solitary grinder.

So after something like five dealer warnings to these two had done nothing to squelch the talk during hands, I went up to the desk and quietly spoke to the floorperson. I explained the situation and how strict enforcement of the rule would be a bad idea, but, at the same time, I was uncomfortable with them having no muzzle at all on. I suggested applying the rule strictly as far as that middle level, or even just the first level, but then leaving them alone to chat between hands. She agreed to so instruct the dealers.

And it worked, mostly. The dealers became more attentive to reminding them of the rule when they had live cards, but looked the other way the rest of the time. In fact, at one point it actually worked too well. We had a button straddle for the first time, which, at the Stratosphere, means that the order of action changes, and the blinds go first. Our foreign travelers had never encountered this before. The dealer explained it to them. Then, predictably, the bilingual guy translated the explanation for his friend. It was perfectly obvious what he was saying, from the context, the gestures, and the occasional untranslatable English poker word slipped in. But even then the dealer rushed to remind them, "English only!" And people think I'm inflexible!

Short buy

The second situation involved a short buy. Every poker room that I know of has a minimum buy-in. However, if you lose all your chips and don't have enough cash to rebuy for that minimum, they'll allow you a "short buy" one time, after which you'll have to make a trip to the ATM for your next full rebuy.

Last night there were two extremely inexperienced 60-something women friends playing. They were classic weak-tight players, transparently easy to read and beat. Of course I wanted them to stick around as long as they had any money to their names. But one of them lost her stack and at the same time wanted to move to a seat that had just been vacated. She wanted to rebuy for $50, as she had the previous time she went broke, although the table minimum was $100. The dealer tried to explain--in a thick foreign accent that the poor woman was having great difficulty understanding--that the minimum was $100. She somehow got the idea that the reason she was having to buy in for $100 instead of just $50 was because of changing seats, which, of course, had nothing to do with it. There was a cacophony of other players all simultaneously trying to explain differently to her, but it all just confused her. After a minute or so of trying to understand, she was fed up, frustrated, and embarrassed. She took her cash off the table, and said, "Never mind. I don't want to play anymore." She told her friend she'd catch up with her later, and stormed off.

There was still another empty seat and no waiting list. I, for one, would have been fine with her buying in for whatever she wanted. Hell, let her rebuy for $10 50 times in a row if she wants, just don't let her leave! In similar situations I've encountered in other poker rooms, the dealer has called the floor over. The floor person either just grants a waiver of the minimum buy-in rule, or asks the other players, "Does anybody object to letting her have another short buy?" I can't recall anybody ever voicing a complaint about it. Everybody understands that a player sitting behind $50 in chips is better than an empty chair.

Unfortunately, I didn't think and act fast enough to try to get such a solution imposed last night. When there is a cacophony of players all talking at once, it so seriously annoys me that I tend to tune out and go inside my own head to shut it out, trusting that some reasonable decision will be arrived at. When I finally realized that this woman was walking out (at first I thought she was just moving back to her original seat), it was too late to suggest the usual solution, which I had thought would be what would happen without me adding my two cents to the conversation. It was another situation in which bending the rules was so clearly called for that I just kind of assumed it would happen that way, so I didn't take active steps to facilitate it, and it ended unhappily. Maybe worst of all, it left a novice player with a bad taste in her mouth about her first live casino poker experience, and may thwart her from trying it again anytime soon. I think if I had been more assertive, I could have gotten it worked out to everybody's satisfaction. My bad.

Most poker rules should be strictly enforced most of the time. But there are circumstances that call for alternatives and compromises and creative solutions. When they arise, it's a mistake to be unwilling to look for and implement them.

Image is of a sculpture titled "Bending the Rules" by Ron Van Balen, found on his web site here.

Guess the casino, #814

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

Answer: Suncoast

Friday night razz

Don't forget--the first Grump home game is Friday night razz. Details here. Info on joining the club here. 33 members so far!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Food trucks a-comin'

They're comin' to my neighborhood! Maybe I'll finally get to try the Fukuburger and Sloppi Jo's that so many other locals rave about.

Florida, day 4

Day 4 photo album is here.

Nearly the whole day was spent at the Edison estate, which was another of the most-nominated things to do among the reader suggestions. Thomas Edison always wintered in Ft. Myers, and later his friend and protege Henry Ford bought the adjacent property. Edison used the vast grounds as a botanical garden, both for aesthetic and scientific purposes--the latter primarily because he was obsessed with finding a plant which could be used for domestic production of rubber. Now you can tour the grounds, the homes, the science labs, and an Edison museum.

Once again, I was completely won over by the ginormous trees--about five different types of ficus, all with complex, multiple trunks and either aerial roots or amazing ground-level root structures. So if you browse the photos, be prepared to see a lot of trees. (And that's after I culled the hundreds of shots down to what you see.) The most impressive by far is the banyan tree just outside the museum, which now covers nearly an acre, and is completely impossible to photograph in its entirety. It's the largest banyan tree in North America. Pardon the cliche, but it's one of those things that you just have to see to believe. (Photos 8-10.)

There's nothing special in these pictures, really. They're just typical touristy shots, recording what there is to see, so that I can be reminded of it a few years from now when my memory has faded. (OK, #35 is pretty nice, but that's about it.) I probably violate every one of Wolynski's recent pieces of photographic advice. (Speaking of whom, if you're in Las Vegas, try to find a copy of the free magazine called "Seven." She has a great picture of downtown Vegas as a study in contrasts, spread across two pages near the beginning of the March 24-30 issue.) I feel like yelling at all of you, "Move on, there's nothing to see here!"

But judging by page views, lots of you seem to like looking through my vacation pictures, so have at it.

Guess the casino, #813

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

Answer: Riviera

Showdown: Deuce-Four versus Crubs

Bastin is in town. He is a long-time reader who also did me the great service of suggesting to Cardgrrl that she start reading this blog, which has had all sorts of subsequent lovely repercussions in my life. I finally met him a year ago on his last Vegas trip. I was, of course, eager to try to get some table time in with him before he disappears back to the Pacific Northwest for another orbit around the sun. He Tweeted that he would be at the Venetian at 8:00 tonight, so I got myself there, and almost immediately got seated at his table, moving to his side as soon as the opportunity arose.

I didn't know that C.K. was already there, too, at a different table. Soon enough she joined us for merriment. In case you don't know, C.K. is the one who taught me--and everybody else, for that matter--that crubs always get there.

What none of us knew was that the evening would prove to be an battle between the Mighty Deuce-Four and C.K.'s beloved crubs.*

No, not just a battle.

An epic battle.


I have to admit that every single time there were two crubs on the flop, a third one hit either the turn or river. Maybe something slipped by without me noticing, but it sure looked like a 100% performance for the crubs. Pretty impressive, I must confess. C.K. was blowing her secret crub whistle like the Pied Piper.

But the Deuce-Four was in fine form, too. First to wield it was actually Bastin, when he hit the second nuts on a 3-5-6 flop:

The board got scary past that point, as a second 6 hit the turn, and a really ugly third one came on the river. But his faith in the ol' 2x4 was justified. His opponent had been on just a straight draw and had no pair.

Well, the Grand Pooh-Bah of the Holy Order of the Sacred Deuce-Four can't let one of the acolytes conduct the whole service, now, can he? No! So I had to step up.

The next time it was dealt to me, I called a pre-flop raise to $12, following which the nice young man on my left reraised to $35. This was the first three-bet I had seen him do, and there was very little question in my mind that he had A-A, K-K, or possibly Q-Q. Surprisingly, two others (including the original raiser) called the reraise before action was back to me. This was it: Put up or shut up.

I put up, naturally, making the pot $140.

Flop: 4-4-8. Can I get an AMEN?!

I was third to act and put in the third check. I thought that the player on my left would make a decent-sized bet, because this flop would look extremely safe for an overpair, except that he would want to protect against the spade draw the flop had brought. I hoped that at least one of the others would call before it got back to me. I had $186 left at that point, and both the guy on my left and any callers would be pot-committed, and basically obligated to call the additional amount.

He did better than I expected: He shoved. He had me covered. The original raiser thought long and hard, appearing to be on the verge of calling, but finally mucked. (He later said that he had had Q-Q, which is perfectly believable.) I called, obviously.

When my opponent saw my cards, his first reaction was a disgusted, "You've got to be kidding me." But he quickly put his game face back on, and when no help for his K-K came, paid me off with no whining, and a polite "Nice hand." That $512 pot is definitely one of the largest scores the Deuce-Four has ever made for me. It might even be the second-largest.**

So that was me showing off to my friends what Deuce-Four is capable of.

But the Crubs were not about to concede this battle. (If they were, it wouldn't have been epic, would it?) Again, though, we had to look to Bastin rather than C.K. to really show them off in the most impressive way possible--a royal flush. He started with Kc-Tc, flopped two more parts of the royal, and turned the joint. Sadly, he couldn't get his opponent--the loosest cannon at the table--to pay off even a min-raise on the river before showing off what he had done. I tried to take a picture of it, but the dealer was a little too quick scooping up the cards, and I ended up with just a pathetic blur.

Thus the showdown was, by itself, inconclusive and subject to argument and interpretation. Deuce-Four won a bigger pot than crubs, but if you were to add up all the pots won with crubs during the time the three of us were at the table together--including, of course, the royal flush--it might well total more than the sum of my monster pot plus the one Bastin took with his flopped straight.

I'm going to be a gentleman and call it a draw.

*Occasionally the crubs are "stupid," but usually beloved.

**The biggest, I'm sure, was this one, though that was back at a time when I tended not to mention specific dollar amounts in telling my stories. I think, though, that that pot was in the $800 range. If you go back and read that post, you should be aware that that was also a time when I was just beginning to sense the power of the Deuce-Four, so my tone toward it was insufficiently reverential, I now recognize.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line

I've tried to make nice with Josie. I really have. But I seem to always end up in her doghouse, no matter what I do. Here's what she wrote about me this morning:

Do you want the bad news or the worse news? Let's start with the bad, shall we? I was Gigli for The Booze Cruise last night. Nice 2 table field, but I had the unfortunate luck of having Poker Grump at my table. (No, grumpy you aren't getting a link because I'm too mad at you)

This was 10 mixed games, mostly limit and although I did cash in this last week, my goal was to last till 9:30, 20 minutes. I did not meet my goal. For some reason Poker Grump gets under my skin and I just don't play well against him. I either fold the best hand or call with the worst. Rinse, repeat. Argh!! I feel this way about NO OTHER PLAYER. WTF! Believe me, he ain't that good. lol It's me, not him. I think it's because he pwned me at the WPBT in Vegas. I still have images in my head of him grinning when he trampled me with a big 10-7 off suit preflop. This dude owes me dinner, or a kidney.
Do you want to see what she's talking about? Of course you do. Here are the first seven hands of the tournament, which is how long Josie lasted. It took less than six minutes in real time, but you can watch it faster than that. Only the first two involve me:

Now here's the kicker. The ONLY reason I played that tourney last night was because she ASKED me to. She had made a couple of mistakes in her previous post, due to writing in the middle of the night. I pointed them out, and she thanked me, saying, "You are getting closer and closer to being forgiven. If you play The Booze Cruise tonight...." So I did.

Was it MY fault that I ended up at her table, and to her right? No. Was it MY fault that on the first hand I flopped top pair and it turned into trips? No. Was it MY fault that she called me down with bottom pair/no kicker? No. Was it MY fault that she decided to play K-7 on the second hand, and, in addition, to just limp with it instead of pushing me out with a raise on her button? No. Was it MY fault that I flopped two pair? No. Was it MY fault that she called me down with one pair, with possible straights and flushes on the board, when I had bet and raised at every chance after the flop? No. In short, is it MY fault that she gave me exactly half of her starting stack in the first two hands of the tournament? No.

In the chat box, I wrote, "Josie thinks I'm bluffing every hand." She responded, "I do." Is THAT my fault?

So, to recap: I show up for the tourney only because Josie had told me that doing so would get me closer to being in her good graces, I play utterly straightforward A-B-C poker, and the result is that she calls me "Bastard" in a comment to my daily "Guess" post, and says that I owe her. (Now it's dinner or a kidney. Previously it was a silk scarf.)

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit that I have been wrongly, unfairly maligned here. (I'm practicing for my jury duty next month.)

Guess the casino, #812

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

Answer: Riviera

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Razz resteal

Here's a possibly interesting hand I played yesterday in a razz single-table sit-and-go. First the whole hand history, then the story.


(Razz Limit) - Level VIII (200/400)
Seat 3: azerplajin (3424 in chips)
Seat 4: Joliwhite (869 in chips)
Seat 7: Rakewell1 (5790 in chips)
Seat 8: mesothel (1917 in chips)
Rakewell1: posts the ante 40
mesothel: posts the ante 40
azerplajin: posts the ante 40
Joliwhite: posts the ante 40
*** 3rd STREET ***
Dealt to azerplajin [7d]
Dealt to Joliwhite [5d]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [8s 6c Kd]
Dealt to mesothel [Jh]
Rakewell1: brings in for 60
mesothel: folds
azerplajin: folds
Joliwhite: raises 140 to 200
Rakewell1: raises 200 to 400
Joliwhite: raises 200 to 600
Rakewell1: raises 200 to 800
Betting is capped
Joliwhite: calls 200
*** 4th STREET ***
Dealt to Joliwhite [5d] [3h]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [8s 6c Kd] [Td]
Joliwhite: bets 29 and is all-in
Rakewell1: calls 29
*** 5th STREET ***
Dealt to Joliwhite [5d 3h] [Ad]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [8s 6c Kd Td] [Qs]
*** 6th STREET ***
Dealt to Joliwhite [5d 3h Ad] [Jd]
Dealt to Rakewell1 [8s 6c Kd Td Qs] [2h]
*** RIVER ***
Dealt to Rakewell1 [8s 6c Kd Td Qs 2h] [4c]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Rakewell1: shows [8s 6c Kd Td Qs 2h 4c] (Lo: T,8,6,4,2)
Joliwhite: shows [Qc 4d 5d 3h Ad Jd As] (Lo: J,5,4,3,A)
Rakewell1 collected 1818 from pot
Joliwhite finished the tournament in 4th place
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 1818 | Rake 0
Seat 3: azerplajin folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)
Seat 4: Joliwhite showed [Qc 4d 5d 3h Ad Jd As] and lost with Lo: J,5,4,3,A
Seat 7: Rakewell1 showed [8s 6c Kd Td Qs 2h 4c] and won (1818) with Lo: T,8,6,4,2
Seat 8: mesothel folded on the 3rd Street (didn't bet)


We were on the money bubble with four players left. I was the big chip leader, with nearly half of the chips in play. On the bubble, nearly all of the hands had been short, with the low card raising and everybody else folding--especially if there was a low card to the right of the bring-in. It had been this sort of careful, boring stalemate for maybe ten minutes. Nobody with the bring-in had tried defending, except when everybody had a low card showing.

In this hand, I had the bring-in with (8-6) K. It was folded to Joliwhite, to my immediate right, showing a 5, who completed, as would be expected. Several factors made me decide to try the gambit of a resteal.

(1) I had never fought back in such a situation in this game, making Joliwhite's chance for success high, which I assume made it more likely that he would try to steal very light. (2) If I reraise, he will likely fold a lot of the hands he was stealing with, probably putting me on A-2 or A-3 in the hole, as he knows I haven't reraised a bring-in yet. (3) He was short stack on the bubble, so won't want to go to war light. (4) He took quite a bit longer than usual to put in the raise, making me think that he had contemplated just folding it, which I seen him do once before, giving me a walk (i.e., maybe he had something truly horrible in the hole, like QQ). All of this made me think that a reraise had a maybe 75% chance of ending the hand. And I could easily afford the risk.

So I fired in the raise, thinking it would win me the pot right there. To my surprise, he reraised. Well, now I had a decision to make. Fold and cut losses, or go for it? There was 1160 in the pot at that point. He can't actually go all in, but now he's pretty clearly pot-committed, so let's analyze it as if that reraise were an all-in, to simplify the math.

The pot is effectively 160 in antes + his 830 + my 400 already in = 1390. The all-in call costs me another 430, for pot odds of 3.2:1. Even if he has his best possible hand (A25), I'm 23% to win (I get that using the razz simulator here), which is 3.3:1, essentially a break-even proposition. For the reasons stated above, I thought he was actually not nearly that strong--probably at least one bad card, either a face card or a pair. As it turns out I was right about that guess; he had Q45. So in fact I was 44% to win, or 1.3:1.

Of course, I didn't know those exact numbers in the moment of decision, but I've played enough razz and read enough instructional material and run enough simulations to have a general sense of the ranges of probabilities, and I thought that with the stack sizes the way they were, I was doing the right thing to get it all in, once there had been the raise and reraise, even with my one bad card.

I got lucky and won it. But setting aside the outcome as it happened, was this a good move on my part? I have thought about it a lot since then, and I'm still not sure. I have presented my thoughts and reasoning here, but maybe I'm just making up a self-serving justification for having done something that in reality was foolish. I am definitely susceptible to the occasional case of Fancy Play Syndrome. Is that a legitimate diagnosis here? Should I have just let the bring-in go and wait for the next hand?

So to the serious razz players out there--what say you?

Florida, day 3

Day 3 photo album here.

On the third day of our week in Florida, Cardgrrl and I drove her aunt Phyllis down to Naples, at her request. She wanted to see the Naples Philharmonic Center (not actually attend a performance, just see their auditorium) (pictures 1-2) and the attached Naples Museum of Art (#3-6). There wasn't much to see in the former, but the latter was really quite a nice little museum. It featured mostly Florida artists, though there was also a traveling exhibit of a bunch of early Rembrandt etchings. As with most art museums, no photography was allowed inside.

We then drove a short distance to the Fifth Avenue markets, several blocks of merchants of all varieties--some conventional, some funky--just to window-shop. Not exactly my favorite way to spend time, nor Cardgrrl's, but it was what Phyllis wanted to do, and when you're 87, well, you get your way with things, and we were happy to indulge her. She doesn't have a car, so trips outside of her retirement community are infrequent, and it was a pleasure to share in her adventure.

Throughout our time in Florida we saw several of the kind of gorgeous blooming trees shown in pictures #7-8, but with no identifying information anywhere. Any arborist readers who can clue us in?

#9-10 are a funny car we saw parked on the street in downtown Naples.

We decided to take the scenic route back, driving along the narrow road that winds through a chain of barrier islands off the coast between Naples and Ft. Myers. We got stuck in a long line of traffic, so made a spur-of-the-moment decision to wait it out while having dinner at a Caribbean-themed restaurant we were passing. I mention this only because it is the backdrop for understanding the odd photo, #11. While we were waiting for our food, I was idly trying to count how many blades the restaurant's ceiling fans had. They were spinning slowly enough that it felt like you could count them, but just fast enough that you really couldn't, at least not with any confidence. I was guessing they had six blades. Cardgrrl guessed seven. I was trying to figure out how to settle the matter, when it dawned on me to take a flash photo. Sure enough, it worked! Answer: Five.

We dropped Phyllis back home, then spent a little time at a spot on the edge of the bay where she had told us dolphins can frequently be seen jumping. We didn't see any dolphins, but we did have a beautiful view of the moonlit bay. This was the night before the Supermoon, so viewing was pretty spectacular. Predictably, photographs don't do it justice, but you can at least get a feeble sense of the scene in #12. (The shot makes it look like there was still sunlight in the sky, but it was actually completely dark by then, except for the moon's glow.)

I'd sure rather be back there now than stuck in my apartment here today. Meh. Wonderful memories will have to suffice.

First home-game tournament

I have set up the first home game. Because it will be Friday, and Friday is April Fools Day, I thought that razz should be the game of the day--because only fools enjoy playing razz!

The club manager screen gives lots of options for the format of the tournament, without much guidance on what effect they will have on how the game plays--e.g., blind intervals, starting stacks, etc. So I kind of arbitrarily selected 10-minute levels, starting stack of 2000, payout of top 10% of the field. I hope that it will go fast enough so as not to become a drag or occupy one's entire evening, but not supermegaultraturbo so that you lose everything in one bad beat early on. Buy-in was set at $5.50, as per the request of one reader who has a free ticket for exactly that amount.

We'll see how it goes. If it's too fast, too slow, or whatever, we can make adjustments for the next time around.

Rakewell1 has scheduled a new Poker Grump Home Game tourney!

The stage is set; all you have to do is turn up and play! The tourney details are:

Club ID: 383761
Tourney ID: 380226255
Date: 2011/04/01 21:00 ET
Game Type: Razz
Betting Structure: Limit
Buy-in: USD 5.50
Tourney Structure: Regular
Payout Structure: Top 10%

All club members have been emailed with the tourney details, and you can find the tourney located under the 'Schedule' tab of the Poker Grump lobby.

Please contact your club manager for more information.

Enjoy the tourney!

PokerStars Support Team

Guess the casino, #811

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

Answer: O'Shea's

Monday, March 28, 2011

Florida, day 2

I realize that I'm dragging this out to a rather ridiculous extent, and still nowhere near being finished. Furthermore, I am baffled that anybody would be interested in looking at my vacation pictures, so you're totally forgiven if you click on to something else more interesting. But I really had the time of my life, and took an obscene number of photographs, which it's taking me time to whittle down to a manageable number.

Day 2 photo album is here.

The second day of our week in Florida started in St. Petersburg with a stroll down to the pier, where we were fascinated and entertained by the pelicans, egrets, cormorants and other water birds that gather for handouts (pictures 1-10). (Don't miss Cardgrrl's hilarious portrait of a pelican here. That is one funny-lookin' bird!)

At the end of the pier is an aquarium. It's the first aquarium I've ever been to that I decided after the fact hadn't been worth bothering with. It's just a tiny mom-and-pop deal, not something grand like the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, or the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans, both of which I have loved. However, we did learn that moray eels have a second set of jaws hidden down in the throat, which makes them scarily like the creatures from "Alien" (#11).

That afternoon we drove down to Fort Myers (with a quick stop at some random beach along the way--#13), where Cardgrrl's aunt Phyllis lives in a lovely retirement community, and had dinner with her. Don't laugh, but #14 is a manatee. Yes, that completely unrecognizable blob in the middle is the manatee--the first one I've seen in the wild. The retirement community has a sort of inlet that is connected to the bay, and manatees come in looking for food. They're not very good about presenting themselves properly for photographers, however.

#15-18 are more lovely banyan trees near Phyllis's apartment building. Sorry for the repetition, but these things are like extraterrestrial life forms compared to the trees I grew up with in Illinois, and I was captivated by their strange and beautiful forms.

Grumpy home games

I belong to five different home-game clubs on PokerStars now. I've had so much fun playing in them that I've decided to start my own, and you're all invited to join. (Detailed information at the end of this post.)

There will not be any regularly scheduled games; my life is just too erratic and unpredictable for me to stick to any commitment as to a regular time. The games--both cash games and tournaments, though probably much more of the latter than the former--will crop up at arbitrary times, basically when I feel like it. I'll make announcements here and on Twitter. I anticipate that sometimes there will be a lot of lead time, sometimes not much, all depending on my whims. Also, the games will sometimes be one of my favorites (hold'em, razz, HORSE), sometimes something I have no experience in at all but want to try, like badugi or a draw game. Tournaments might be short-handed, or knockout style, or heads-up, or antes up, or supermegaultraturbo, or whatever other odd setups I can find for variety.

This is all just for fun, not serious money-making, so tournament buy-ins won't be over $10 (unless some special reason arises to do something bigger), and any cash games will be microstakes.

This is a benign dictatorship, not a democracy. Suggestions are welcome, but are as likely to be politely ignored as acted upon.

If you don't have money on Stars and don't want to make a deposit, I'll probably be willing to do a trade for $ on Full Tilt or via PayPal, but you'll have to send first (since an open-ended offer like this is obviously subject to being abused by ne'er-do-wells).

I'll see you at my first home game soon--probably some time this week.

You are invited to join my private poker club for Home Games online.

- If you don't already have it, download the free PokerStars software from

- Open the main poker lobby, then click on the Home Games tab

- Click the 'Join a Poker Club' button

- Enter my Club ID number: 383761

- Enter my Invitation Code: playgrumpy

That's it! Once I've approved your membership request, we'll be ready to start playing Home Games online together.

If you want to find out more, visit

Guess the casino, #810

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

Answer: Jokers Wild

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Winner take all--and that would be me

For funsies, I played the PokerSlut tournament tonight. It's only the third time (I think) that I've played with them, and it's the second time I've won, which is pretty sweet. It was especially so tonight, since it was a winner take all. Of course, that's because there were only three entrants, and a prize pool of only $3, but I WINZ IT! Give me all the mobnies!

I had a good feeling about the whole thing when, on the first hand, playing 2-7 triple draw, I called from the small blind with complete crap, drew four cards, and made a #1. (That's the nuts: 2-3-4-5-7.) Now I can retire young.

When the lights go down in the city

Last night was "Earth Hour." For the third year in a row, most casinos on the Strip agreed to turn off their outside lights for one hour. It's some crock of $%&@ about showing their commitment to reducing energy usage and thus saving the planet.

I was playing at Imperial Palace, so I stepped outside a couple of minutes before the bewitching hour of 8:30 p.m. and took some quasi-panorama shots of the Strip before and after the lights went out.

For orientation, I was standing on the curb in front of the junction between IP and O'Shea's, and took these pictures in a nearly 360-degree circle, from left to right. You'll have to forgive a little blurriness; most of the exposures were about 1/5 of a second, which is hard to hold with a small, lightweight camera using no support. And the pedestrians and vehicles, believe it or not, refused to hold still for me. But you'll still get the general idea of how the scenery changed.



As you can tell, some of the casinos were pretty half-hearted about their participation. Not that it matters. The whole thing is completely idiotic posturing anyway. Does anybody seriously believe that Las Vegas casinos care about reducing energy consumption in a selfless act of global altruism? Please.

Let's assume that outside lighting constitutes 10% of a casino's electricity use. (It's probably a lot less than that, but it doesn't matter for my point.) There are 8760 hours in a year, so one hour is 1/8760th of annual power usage, or about 0.01%.

So what the casinos are saying is this: "We are so fully committed to helping out with this terrible problem of global warming that we are willing to reduce our annual electricity consumption by a whole 0.001%. No need to thank us. That's just the kind of generous, caring, giving, self-sacrificial people we are."

Why play the 6-3?

Because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Poker gems, #412

Johnny Chan, on "High Stakes Poker," commenting on Phil Ruffin's rather astonishing call of David Peat's $100,000 river bluff, holding just second pair with a bad kicker. It's pretty hard to bluff a billionaire.

Guess the casino, #809

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

Answer: Flamingo

I do not fear the zombie apocalypse

That is largely because I have seen enough zombie movies to know that zombies are not particularly bright. I think they will make very poor poker players. I therefore expect to be able to take their money quite easily, and become rich.

Bring on the zombies.