Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tropicana's new poker room

I've had serious beefs with the Tropicana poker room in the past (click on that "Tropicana" label at the end of this post to review them), but was nevertheless eager to have the room reopen under new management. It opened yesterday, 9:00 a.m.

I got there about 7:00 p.m. and stayed for about 2 1/2 hours. The game was always short-handed, and three of the players were off-duty dealers (one from the Trop, two from other rooms). We had a couple of weak players, but it was not what one would consider soft or juicy. However, you can't judge how a room will play by its first day of operation, when only locals who follow the Vegas poker scene will know it's there.

So here's what it looks like:

OK, not exactly like that. It's orange, but not quite THAT orange. I couldn't get the white balance on my camera right.

The tables are nice:

Random observations:
  • It's in the same location as the old room, right next to the sports book, but the lighting and decor are much improved.
  • For that matter, the entire casino has undergone an amazing upgrade. I had not been there since the old poker room closed in late 2008, and, really, you'd hardly recognize the place. It's bright, beautiful, clean, and airy.
  • The new chips are very tasteful, as you can see above. I was disappointed, though, that they have retired all the old ones. I have about 65 different $5 Trop chips in my collection, but there are lots of them left that I never picked up. I had hoped that the new poker room would mean more chances to scrounge up some of the less-common older chips, but they have been taken out of circulation.
  • Oddly, the poker room was using both new and old $1 chips, and some of the old design were obviously uncirculated, with sharp edges. Apparently they had a stash of the old design that never got used, and decided to put them into play alongside the new design. Why do that for the $1 chips but pull the old $5s out? Seems inconsistent.
  • The chairs are comfortable, standard office five-wheeled things, adjustable for height. The dealers raved about their chairs (not the same ones players use) being the most comfortable EVAR.
  • Tables are nice, but good luck keeping that white border white, what with spilled drinks and poker players' notoriously grimy hands and questionable personal hygiene.
  • The tables are small enough that they can seat only nine. I don't mind that, but then why did they order them with ten cupholders? It's so much easier to square up the table if the dealer can tell everybody to get centered on a cupholder, rather than saying, "You need to be three-eighths of the way between this cupholder and that one."
  • Restrooms are a l-o-n-g hike from the poker room--a longer trek than with any other poker room in town that I can think of offhand. We were told, however, that ongoing remodeling, when completed, will bring a new set much closer.
  • The mainstay game is $1/3 NLHE, buy-in $100-$500.
  • They're using Cartamudi cards, a brand I had never heard of before. They were nice enough, but the real question is durability. How well will they resist picking up identifiable dings, dents, bends, smears, and worn spots?
  • The room is nicely isolated in terms of infiltrating noise and cigarette smoke.
  • They have the Genesis Bravo system, giving the city standard $1/hour in food comps.
  • They have progressive high-hand jackpots.
  • There is ample, luxurious room between the tables.
  • No magazine racks for picking up freebies.
  • I really wish they would install a water cooler. It's such a simple and inexpensive amenity, but saves me from a bunch of waitress tips while keeping a ton of water bottles out of the landfills. (Incidentally, for an interesting look at the economics of bottled and running water, see this post from yesterday at the Freakonomics blog.)
  • Nobody threatened to beat me up yesterday, which is all by itself a substantial upgrade from the old room. Also, they appeared to have and abide by actual rules!
  • Dealers were first-rate, except for one young woman, who appeared to be fresh out of dealer school, still nervous and inexperienced.
Speaking of dealers, here's a randomly selected one, of no particular interest or significance, proudly showing off his dead spread:

This room has considerable potential. As I mentioned a few days ago, its physical features seem to be exactly to my preferences--small, cozy, quiet, comfortable. The big question is whether they can build enough of a player base to keep a game going consistently at the hours I like to play, and, if so, whether it will be a local's rock garden or populated mostly with fun-loving tourists. We'll just have to wait and see about that. I have high hopes.

I suck

Tonight I went to the Tropicana for the opening day of its new poker room, about which I'll have more to say later.

After a while the game dried up, so I went next door to Hooters, where, if there is a game, there are bad players. The first time I had the button, it was folded to me with K-T offsuit. I raised to $13. The blinds both folded. The under-the-gun straddler looked at his cards, looked at me, grabbed about half of his chip stack without counting, and slammed it rather forcibly in front of him--$50 or so.

I had essentially no information on him--which, I'll admit, was probably reason enough all by itself to let this one go. But something about his demeanor suggested to me that his thought process was, roughly, "I see you trying to steal the blinds and my straddle. You don't need a real hand to do that from the button when everybody folds to you. I think you got nuthin', so take THAT!" I put him on a medium pocket pair, at best.

I wasn't going to be intimidated by his bluster. I announced all in--and his chips literally beat mine into the pot. Ruh-roh. He quickly flipped over pocket kings. Hmmm. Might need to get my opponent-reading radar into the shop for a little tuneup.

I was only 9% to win; he was 90%, making me a 10:1 dog. This is literally just about the worst possible all-in pre-flop situation one can be in, mathematically.

I sheepishly turned over my pathetic little K-T and said, "I think it's going to be hard to beat you with this."

Well, apparently not as hard as I thought. Flop: J-Q-4, giving me an open-ended straight draw. The other guy admonished the dealer, "Don't you do it to me!"

Turn: 9. Boom!

Now he was the one needing help--a ten for a chopped pot.

River: 7.

Hilarity ensued, naturally.

Remember back in 1992 when Ross Perot was running for president, largely on an anti-free-trade platform? One of his favorite lines was saying that if NAFTA passed, we would hear a "giant sucking sound" as all our manufacturing jobs moved south across the border.

If you heard a giant sucking sound tonight, chances are that it was emanating from the Hooters poker room.

Guess the casino, #829

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

Answer: Paris

I'll ask it again

About 2 1/2 years ago I wondered out loud, and in some detail, why the online poker sites had not sought a declaratory judgment about the status of their product. See here, part #5. In light of the indictments and seizures announced within the last 24 hours, I come back to that same question.

If the sites had pooled their resources (or even each gone it alone, perhaps in different judicial districts), they may well have gotten an answer that offering online poker--at least in states where state law allowed it--was not a violation of the Wire Act, the UIGEA, or any other federal statute. If that had happened, then, one presumes, banks would have had little or no fear of prosecution for payment transactions. Which, in turn, would have meant that the sites would not have been tempted to miscode transactions, buy their own banks to do the dirty work, and whatever other shananigans they are alleged to have resorted to. However difficult and expensive that legal battle might have been, it would have been peanuts compared to what they are now facing--and they could have kept operating while getting it resolved.

As I wrote in December, 2008, "I cannot understand why nobody has filed a case to answer the question before indictments get handed down and one's actual liberty is put on the line. I think if I were one of the site owners, I would have insisted that my lawyers do it as soon as the DOJ started to show interest in finding targets. I would much rather have the question addressed on my own terms in a civil case than on the prosecutor's terms, with prison time hanging in the balance."

I still can't think of a good reason why this didn't happen. I still don't get it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

P L...No

I've been enjoying watching the pot-limit Omaha cash game on NBC's "Poker After Dark" this week. I had also noticed Pokerati's announcement that its regular $1/2 mixed NLHE/PLO Thursday night game had found a new home at the Palms, after some time at Hard Rock and then Aria. That was largely the reason that I chose Palms for my home last night--to at least watch that game for a while and see if it was something I might want to try one of these days.

My only experience with PLO has been as part of an 8-game mix online in low-stakes tournaments. I've also read Jeff Hwang's PLO strategy columns in Card Player magazine for a year or so. But that little bit of education and experience isn't a lot to go on. Wednesday night, anticipating that I might want to try to play in the Pokerati game, I jumped on PokerStars to give it a try. I was playing only $0.05/0.10, buying in for only $10, yet I lost three buy-ins in less than 30 minutes. Ouch! Welcome to reality.

That was enough to make me think twice about the wisdom of playing in a live PLO cash game; I really just don't have enough experience or strategic handle on the game to make it a smart move. But I succumbed to temptation nevertheless, and moved to that table from my $1/3 NLHE game when they were ready to start.

The outcome was fully predictable: I lost my buy-in. I was largely card-dead, and nearly every one of my few good starting hands hit me when I was severely out of position, and somehow managed to completely miss the flops.

But it wasn't a complete loss: (1) I had fun. (2) It was an interesting diversion from my usual poker fare. (3) I got to meet (finally!) Dan from Pokerati, as well as Don, who is the partner of Stacey Lynn at Las Vegas Poker Source. (4) I was reminded of the general wisdom of sticking to games and situations in which I have reason to think that I'm playing with an edge over my opponents, which was most certainly not the case last night. (My only "edge" was that I seemed to be the only one at the table capable of memorizing four cards and thus not having to recheck them a dozen times during the course of a hand. C'mon, folks--it's not that difficult!)

PLO is an interesting and challenging game. Many are of the opinion that it's on its way to supplanting NLHE as "the next big thing" in poker. Whether that's true or not, it's almost surely the case that there are many hold'em players who are getting tired of playing 2-card poker, find that PLO is an attractive next game to try, don't know how to adjust their strategies and expectations properly, and thus are easy pickings for more skilled players. I'd like to be among those able to take advantage of that situation for however long it lasts.

But I need both more solid theoretical grounding and practical (and cheap) experience before I do more than dipping my toe in those exciting but dangerous waters.


I was playing at the Palms last night. The game was short-handed--just five of us at the time, I think. I was in the big blind. One other player limped in, small blind called, and I checked with 10-6 offsuit.

Flop: 10-6-4. SB led out for $12. I raised to $32. Limper folded. SB moved all in; he had over $400. I called. I had started the hand with a little over $200, maybe $210 or so. SB showed 10-4 for top and bottom pair. My top two pair held up.

As the dealer was counting stacks to give me my double-up, a little conversation started about how the hand wouldn't have happened at all if not for the one limper. The SB and I had already set the precedent of chopping the blinds if it folded to us, and even if either one of us were inclined to vary from that precedent with, say, a jackpot-potential hand, 10-6 and 10-4 weren't going to be the ones to make that happen. I joked with the limper that I probably owed him an assist, or maybe a 10% finder's fee or something.

I got shoved a whole bunch of chips, and took my usual sweet time getting them sorted and stacked the way I like. Another whole hand had passed by before the stacking was done and I realized that I had been shortchanged. The stacks totaled about $375, when I should have had something in the neighborhood of $420.

But it was far too late to do anything about it. I had not counted my stack either before the hand started or when moving all in. Furthermore, despite the fact that I should know better, based on a couple of previous bad experiences in exactly this kind of situation, I didn't pay attention to the dealer's count of the chips.

So I'm out $50 or so on a dealer error--one that probably could have been avoided if I had paid attention to what was going on instead of relaxing and bantering with the other players. Time to sear that reminder back into my brain: PAY ATTENTION when the dealer is counting chips, either to pay you off or to take your chips to pay off another player. They get it wrong often enough that it's worth keeping an eye on their work.

Incidentally, rumors were swirling that the Palms poker room--aptly described by Pokerati as "architecturally challenged"--will soon be moving to a new location, allegedly somewhere in end of the casino near the cafe and Mexican restaurant and entrances to the clubs. In apparently support of this rumor, one half of the room has already been emptied of its tables:

Home game status

If you keep up with any poker news site, you already know that U.S. online poker went into complete chaos earlier today. Twitter reports say that it varies state to state, but right now I cannot buy into cash games or real-money tournaments on PokerStars. What I don't know is whether the site will allow me to play in a tournament for which I had registered before today's developments. Since my Sunday night home game is the only one for which that is the case, I don't have any way of finding out in advance what will happen when game time rolls around. Will it keep my $5 but not let me play? Refund the money? Play as if nothing had happened? I just don't know. All I can do is plan to be there and play if it lets me. If you can still register and play from wherever you are, I'll be happy to try to join you.

Guess the casino, #828

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

Answer: Mandalay Bay

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guess the casino, #827

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

Answer: Green Valley Ranch

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Next Grumpy home game

Sunday will be my birthday--the big Hawaii Five-O. What better way to celebrate than to play a little HORSE?

Information on joining the club is here.

Book 'em, Danno.

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: 385279817
Date: 2011/04/17 21:00 ET
Game Type: Horse
Betting Structure: Limit
Buy-in: USD 5.50
Tourney Structure: Regular
Payout Structure: Top 15%

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, #826

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

Answer: Bellagio

New poker room at the Riviera

I played at the Riviera tonight. It's way down low on my list of preferred rooms, but I heard that they had moved the room recently, and wanted to see the new digs.

There's not a lot interesting to report. Same old tables, same old chairs, same staff, same chips. It's now at the base of the escalator that goes up to the theaters, and adjacent to the entrance to the main-floor theater where they have the Rat Pack show.

There is markedly less foot traffic in the new place. I spoke to the shift manager about it for a minute as I was cashing out. He pointed out that the old location was very near the elevators to the guest rooms, so they would get a lot of people returning from the Strip (often drunk). They'd pass the poker room as they were heading to their rooms to crash, and decide to engage in a little late-night poker as a nightcap. That doesn't happen now, because the room is well off the beaten path.

They are phasing out the high-hand jackpots as each one is hit for the last time, and substituting a splash-pot promotion. At hourly intervals (or so it seemed tonight), a player is chosen at random to spin this wheel for the table:

The amount indicated is put into the pot at the beginning of the next hand, and goes to whoever wins the pot.

I was there for two of these spins tonight; both happened to be for $100. The first one played out in a straightforward manner. The second, though, was kind of interesting. Almost everybody limped in. (I can't say "everybody," because we had some players who had no concept of poker math, and failed to realize that any two cards were worth at least the $2 big blind for a chance to win $100.) I joined them from the cutoff position with K-3 offsuit, hoping for a cheap flop.

The guy in the small blind was the only other smart, thinking player at the table. When it was his turn, he moved all-in for $101. Everybody folded around to me. This was an intriguing situation. If I were that guy, I might be inclined to do that move with any two cards, after the table had all limped, showing weakness. It would seem to have very high fold equity, and hence a high expectation to win $100 without even having to sweat a five-card board.

He was the only player at the table capable of figuring out that that was likely a profitable move, no matter what he held. He knew that essentially every other player was a complete or near novice to the game. They were having trouble just with knowing what the bet was, whose turn it was, how to protect their cards, etc. They were utterly ABC, playing the strength of their own hands with no grasp of how to gauge what others held, and with not a lick of deception among them. (Well, except for when they failed to grasp how strong a particular hand was--e.g., I saw one of them just call on the river with the stone cold nuts, for no apparent reason.) He would know that their limps were not setting a trap for somebody who would try to raise big with air to steal the pot; a $2 call meant that they didn't want to put in more than $2.

All of which meant that he was the one player whose shove could not command much respect from me.

So I called. He flipped over 10-10--a better hand than I had given him credit for. But at least I had an overcard. Sure enough, the flop came K-Q-9, and he bricked out on the turn and river. I suspect that's the first time I've won a $300+ pot with K-3 offsuit.

My opponent did not take it well. "K-3? You've got to be effin' kidding me! WTF were you doing calling there?" Etc. In short, hilarity ensued--at least briefly, before he stomped off.

Had I been able to see his cards, would a call be correct there? I actually don't know the answer as I type this, but let's work it out. PokerStove tells me that I win against T-T 27.9% of the time, while he wins 72.1%, or 2.58:1. I had to call an additional $99 to win a pot that was about $220 after the rake, so pot odds of 2.22:1. That means that my call was slightly -EV, had I known what he held.

However, if we look at his whole range, things look better for me. I have no way of knowing exactly what range of cards he would make this push with, but let's assume that it's any pocket pair and any two Broadway cards. Then he's 65.4% to my 34.6%, or 1.80:1, making the call mathematically correct. My guess is that that is his minimum range for that situation, and it might well be much broader. Or maybe this is all just self-serving justification. I don't claim to know for sure.

Anyway, the structure of this promotion is kind of interesting. One strategy might be to keep one's stack at the bare minimum, buying a few chips at a time, but never going entirely broke (which then triggers the minimum buy-in requirement of $50). Ideally, you'd have just $2 left when it was time for the splash-pot, because you're eligible to win the entire amount that the poker room puts in the pot before the hand begins with that minimal investment. Of course, you can't win more than an additional $2 from any other player, but spending $2 to have a 10% or more shot at $100 is a nice bargain. Obviously, some of the slots on the wheel are much less than than, but others are more. Also obviously, it costs you something to stick around, which complicates the risk/reward calculation.

One of the big drawbacks, it seems to me, is that they announce in advance when the splash-pot will occur, which will give all the local jackpot-hunting jackal nits plenty of incentive to occupy a seat for about two hands per hour, and do something else the rest of the time while leaving the game short-handed and putting no chips at risk--and they'll do it with the minimum buy-in. They could quickly kill the game if they start acting as I predict they will. (A side note: If I can figure out how the scummy angle-shooters will try to game the system, why can't the poker room managers who devise them?)

It won't matter much to me. I only visit the Riviera a few times a year, mostly when there is a billiard or archery tournament going on there. My guess is that this promotion will have run its course by the time I'm back.

PokerGraph #2

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review-Journal business reporters don't know what they're talking about

I just sent the following letter to two Las Vegas Review-Journal reporters, Chris Sieroty,, and Steve Tetreault,, with a copy to the Assistant Business Editor, Dan Behringer, If I get any substantive response, I'll let you know.

Mr. Sieroty and Mr. Tetreault:

I am inquiring about the accuracy of two sentences you wrote in this story:

Specifically, you said, “Technically, online poker is not illegal in the United States. But participating in an online poker game where the participants are wagering money on the outcome is illegal.”

After reading it a few times, I'm guessing that the meaning intended is this: (1) It is not illegal to play poker online if the participants are not risking money. (2) It is illegal to play poker online if the participants are risking money.

I also assume that the word "illegal" in the second sentence means that the players themselves--not just the site's operators--are committing a violation of a criminal law, a prosecutable offense.

If those inferences are not correct, please inform me what was intended.

If they are correct, please tell me specifically what criminal provision you believe a person violates by playing in an online poker game for money. The next paragraph in the story references the UIGEA, though it's not clear that that is the law you are claiming players violate. I hope that that is not the law you had in mind, as it has no criminal provisions for players whatsoever.

I also hope that you did not have in mind the 1961 Federal Wire Act. For reasons that I detailed in a blog post a couple of years ago, neither it nor the UIGEA criminalizes the playing of online poker. See:

If you cannot point me to a specific federal statute (and from the context I am assuming you were referring to federal rather than state law) which makes it a criminal offense to play online poker--and I doubt that you can do so--then you owe your readers a retraction and correction.

Thank you.

PokerGraph #1

Saturday night I was playing at Imperial Palace with several other poker bloggers. The conversation led me to picture in my mind a graph of how my tight play deteriorates when I stay at the table too long.

I have long been a fan of GraphJam, but I've never tried to make one for submission. Today I found their chart-making tool and used it to create this:

I have some other ideas for funny poker-related graphs that I might be able to turn into reality with this tool, if I practice with it a bit more, so this might become a series.

Guess the casino, #825

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

Answer: Sam's Town

Monday, April 11, 2011

Excellent poker scene

In this week's "High Stakes Poker," the players mention in passing something about a poker scene in the movie "Stripes." I don't think I've ever seen the film, or if I have it was so long ago that I've forgotten it. I checked YouTube and found this clip, which appears to be what they were referring to. Presented for your enjoyment:

I'm suspicious

I just watched the newest episode of High Stakes Poker. Something I've been noticing this season, the first season they've been at the Bellagio, is that the famous fountains seem to be running continuously, as seen through the window.

I'm calling shenanigans.

First, I doubt that the set is in a room that just happens to be facing out on the fountains. I don't know a whole lot about television production, but I would think that actual glass windows would cause all sorts of problems--reflections from the bright studio lights, changing outside light conditions, odd things going on the background, unappealing-looking weather, etc.

Second, the Bellagio fountain shows run for about three minutes, every 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the day and time. Even at peak hours, then, they're running only about 20% of the time. But on the show, they're dancing at least 80% of the time.

I think that the "windows" are actually a screen on which is being back-projected a continuous loop of footage of the dancing fountains. Or perhaps they're added digitally in post to a green screen.

While I'm at it, last week was a new batch of "Poker After Dark," and I noticed that the pile of cash they occasionally show in the foreground as part of the set looks like bundles of fake $100 bills. Not much detail is shown, but just inside the portrait oval the shading is much darker than it is on real $100s. I suspect they are using the same movie-prop fakes that the World Poker Tour does (see here and here).

Is nothing real anymore?

Taking the heat

My previous post reminds me of an excellent column by Bob Ciaffone in the April 6, 2011, issue of Card Player magazine (not yet available on their web site). The title is "Taking the Heat," and his point is that poker room employees have a duty to proactively step in to deal with problems, so that players don't have to.

For example, Ciaffone mentions the problem of a player having his chips stacked in such a way that his hole cards become effectively hidden from the view of some of the other seats. He asserts--correctly--that the dealer should recognize the problem and get it fixed without waiting for another player to complain.

In another example, he details a recent incident in which a fishy player was likely driven away from the game because he was literally being squeezed uncomfortably by an obese player whose chair was out of position. In that case, not only did the dealer not act to correct the problem, he resisted Ciaffone's efforts to get him to square up the table.

Ciaffone notes, in conclusion, "The meek person who fails to speak up is often the player who is driven off when cardroom employees fail to take the initiative in ensuring a pleasant environment for a poker game. And he often has an equally unassertive poker style, and is a highly desirable person to gamble with. So, you know who gets hurt the most by the cardroom employees failing to do their jobs--you and I."

He is exactly right. I have written countless times here how much it bothers me to have to speak up and turn myself into the object of attention--or even wrath--of other players in order to get the dealer to address a problem that he or she clearly already knows about, but prefers to try to ignore. I hate that. Ciaffone's column this week should be mandatory reading for all poker room employees.

Will the Tropicana be different now?

With the news that the Tropicana, after months of rumor and speculation, is actually on the verge of reopening its poker room, it seems a good time to tell you a story.

The last time I played at the Trop was the night it closed, November 30, 2008. I was there specifically to see what happens when a poker room closes. I told one story from that night here, though I apparently never got around to the promised longer post about it.

The answer, by the way, to what happens when a poker room closes is pretty much what you'd expect. They announced that the room will be closing in an hour, then 30 minutes, then 15, then five. They announced and played the last hand. Then they told the players (only about six of us, at one pathetic $2/4 limit table) that we'd have to cash out at the main cage, because they had already closed out their bank for the night. They said, "Thanks for playing," and that was that.

There is, however, a story that I really meant to tell in my Tropicana retrospective, but I somehow never got around to writing it. It centers on Rule #11 as shown in the photo above, which I snapped on my cell phone camera November 7, 2008, the next-to-last time I played there, and the night this incident occurred. The rule reads, "Abusive language and discourteous behavior is [sic] unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

It had been an uneventful session of $1/2 NLHE, except that I had been losing and was down to $71. One player was chronically short-stacked, and occasionally shoved in what little he had left, basically picking up the blinds and surviving for another orbit. He and another player had talked a time or two about shoving blind just for fun. On the hand in question, they decided to do it. Mr. Short was under the gun. He put in his last $23 without looking at his cards. Action folded to the other guy, who called, also without having looked at his hole cards. More folds. I was the last one left, in the big blind.

I looked down at A-7, both diamonds. (The fact that I remember the specific cards and dollar amounts, without notes, more than two years later, should tell you something about how deeply this episode affected me.) I knew that this was a significantly better hand than average, and had strong equity against two random hands. (Checking PokerStove now, it's around 43% to win.) So I shoved.

The first guy obviously didn't care, since he had no further decisions to make, and would presumably be even happier to triple his stack than to double it. But the other guy, who had agreed to call him blind, was livid. He stood up, ranted for at least two minutes before finally acting on his hand. The line that he kept repeating, well over a dozen times, I'm sure, was, "That's the shittiest thing I've ever seen anyone do!" He complained that I knew that the two of them had agreed to a blind draw for the value of the first guy's stack, and I had no business reraising.

Well, yes, the two of them had made that agreement. But they had made no effort whatsoever to consult with the rest of the table. They could have asked in advance, "Would the rest of you mind either folding or joining in the blind call and checking it down?" Chances are good that I would have agreed to that, if they would have agreed to have the winner reimburse the blinds. But they didn't even ask. They just assumed that nobody would have a decent hand, and that nobody would choose to play the hand normally.

Was I taking advantage of the situation? Of course I was. A-7 is not normally what I would consider a $71 hand. But I certainly would have called the first player's blind $23 push if nobody else had. The second $23 going in blind just made the call that much better. I knew that the second guy would have to look at his cards to make a decision as to whether to call the extra amount, and that there was an excellent chance he would fold, leaving dead money in the pot. From a purely EV standpoint, it was absolutely the right choice.

(I'm sure some readers will be thinking that it was not a long-term +EV move to piss off another player, or to interfere with other players' little fun. But I really had no idea how angry he'd get. I assumed that he would check his hole cards, and either call or fold, and if the latter, it would be with not much more than an "Oh well" attitude.)

Anyway, his tirade seemed to go on and on. He was yelling--could be heard throughout the poker room--but neither the dealer nor the floor person did a thing to stop him. He called me every name in the book, called into question my parentage, etc. He never threatened or appeared on the verge of physical violence, but it was really an extraordinary rant--one of the longest and most abusive I've ever witnessed in a poker room, and the second most extreme that has ever been directed at me by another player. And, to repeat, the poker room staff did nothing whatsoever to put a stop to it.

The scene finally ended with the ranter checking his cards, apparently finding trash, and saying, "I can't call that. I can't call that." He folded, but not before repeating once more his mantra, "That's the shittiest thing I've ever seen anyone do." The dealer put out the board, which brought me two aces on the flop and, for good measure, a 7 on the turn. Yeah, I won.

I have played at the Trop a total of seven times--a really small number for a Strip poker room. The reason is simple: Out of those seven times, three of them turned into three of the most unpleasant experiences I've ever had at a poker table. I documented the other two here and here. All three centered on being on the receiving end of incredibly abusive treatment by another player, and on all three occasions the poker room staff did nothing to stop it.

It's not like I routinely attract this kind of thing. In thousands of hours of playing, it has happened maybe five times. Three of them were at the Tropicana, a room I've visited only seven times. That kind of concentration of incidents just cannot be a pure coincidence. As I wrote in the previous stories, it's a safe conclusion that players in need of anger management classes discovered that the Trop was a place where they could exercise their vitriol without interference or repercussions, so they naturally tended to focus their play there.

I assume that after a two-year closure, the Trop has hired entirely new staff for its poker room. On that basis, I'm going to give them a clean slate. From the photos, it looks like a nice, small, comfortable room, enclosed on three sides--precisely the sort of physical setup that I like best. I have hopes that it will be well-run, too.

If the previous problems prove to be recurrent, however, you can be sure I will tell the tale here.

Sneak preview of new Tropicana poker room

Courtesy of poker dealer --S, see here and here. He says it's opening Friday.

Guess the casino, #824

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

Answer: Palms

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Guess the casino, #823

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

Answer: M Resort