Saturday, May 07, 2011

Where I win

There are plenty of things about poker that I do wrong. But there is one thing that I always do right, and that is keeping meticulous records. In nearly five years living here, I have never once failed to accurately record the results of my casino poker play. (Conversely, I keep no records at all about online play, other than deposits/withdrawals.) As a result, I accumulate a lot of useful data.

It has been close to two years since I last reviewed my records to find out where my play has been most profitable. I did a detailed post on it then, and all the caveats and explanations remain valid, so if you have questions about these data, first go check that post (with its comments), because I may well have addressed them previously, and there's no point repeating myself. Lists here include only rooms that are still open, and in which I have played at least five cash sessions. No tournament results are included.

Interestingly, the results have shifted quite a bit.

My top ten rooms in terms of percentage of sessions that are winners are, in descending order:

1. Sunset Station
2. Tuscany
3. Binion's
4. Hooters
5. Sahara
6. Aria
7. Mandalay Bay
8. O'Shea's
9. Caesars Palace
10. Venetian

But it doesn't do much good if you can score $1 session wins consistently, even though such performance would look lucrative by the above metric. What matters more is dollars per hour, or dollars per session, which is the way I mostly keep track of it. By that accounting, my best ten rooms are, in descending order:

1. Tuscany
2. Suncoast
3. Sunset Station
4. Sahara
5. Bill's
6. Binion's
7. Hooters
8. Mandalay Bay
9. Orleans
10. Aria

The high placement of a couple of rooms on the list is sort of unintentionally deceptive. The Tuscany, for example, is a place in which I have not played since November, 2008, and I've played a total of just six sessions there in five years. But they were just ridiculously profitable, as I wrote about here. Likewise, Suncoast and Sunset Station are places that I almost never go these days; it's been over two years since I last set foot in either of those rooms, and Sunset Station just barely meets my minimum five-session threshold. So the outstanding results could easily be just random statistical variation in small samples. There are a few others on the other end of the scale that, after just a handful of sessions, have equally impressive negative results.

If I restrict the list to places in which I've logged ten or more sessions, trying to reduce that small-sample variance, the lists change to this:

Percentage of winning sessions:

1. Binion's
2. Hooters
3. Sahara
4. Mandalay Bay
5. Caesars Palace
6. Venetian
7. Orleans
8. Suncoast
9. Planet Hollywood
10. Palms

Profit per session:

1. Suncoast
2. Sahara
3. Bill's
4. Binion's
5. Hooters
6. Mandalay Bay
7. Orleans
8. South Point
9. Venetian
10. Palms

So there ya go. Make of it what you will. There's not a lot of rhyme or reason to it. E.g., Suncoast and Hooters and Venetian are about as radically different from each other as three poker rooms could be, yet all three are on both lists. As far as I can tell, there is no clear tendency for me to do better in upscale rooms versus the dumps, locals rooms versus tourist places, or Strip versus off-Strip. I don't know why. To borrow a line from Fox News, I report, you decide.

Guess the casino, #850

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

Answer: Flamingo

How many stories does the Stratosphere have?

Tonight, just four.

Story 1

I was in Seat 8. A middle-aged Asian gentleman, who kept falling asleep between hands and had an almost incomprehensibly thick accent, was in Seat 9 next to the dealer--one of my two favorite spots. He appeared about to leave. He picked up his chips and cash and took a step toward the aisle, apparently heading for the cashier. I told the dealer, "I'll take that seat." I was in the middle of a hand, so I didn't start moving my stuff right away.

But then the oddest thing happened: The guy did an about-face to his right, walked behind his seat, pulled it out, sat back down, and put his chips and cash back on the table.

I asked him, "Change your mind about leaving?" He said, "No, I do that for good luck. I haven't had any good cards in an hour. Now everything's gonna be changed." I asked him how that works. He replied, "I dunno. I'm just superstitious."

Really? I never would have guessed.

Story 2

Maybe 15 minutes later, I had my only all-in confrontation of the night. I had pocket aces. My sole opponent, a very pleasant young woman, had raised pre-flop to $8 and then called my $25 reraise. Then she led into me on the flop of 4-9-10 with two clubs. It left her with about $100 behind, and I had her covered. I thought a bit, and decided that it was pretty unlikely that she had me beat at this point, but if she were on a draw, she might call when the odds were in my favor. So I shoved. She agonized for a while, then settled on a call, even while saying that she knew I was ahead. I showed the aces, she showed Jh-Qh. The board ran out blanks.

As I was stacking the chips, I turned to the man next to me and said, "I think you did that for me. That little walk around the chair made me have good luck!"

He apparently didn't catch that I was joking with him. He adamantly denied it. "I had nothing to do with that! I do only for me, not for you!"

I wasn't done kidding him. I said, "I dunno. You know, sometimes when the gods throw lightning bolts, they miss. They may have intended to send you the good luck, but they missed and hit me instead."

This time he smiled, apparently having now figured out that I was just joshing him, and not actually trying to steal his mojo. But he still would have no part of it. He said, "My voodoo is only for me. You do your own voodoo!"

I laughed, and was going to make a Cole Porter quip, but I was pretty sure he wouldn't get it.

Story 3

At the far end of the table was Larry. I've played with him several times before, previously always at the Sahara. Apparently he has found a new venue, now that the Sahara poker room is virtually closed.

Larry is an ornery cuss. He's in his 60s, always disheveled, with a perpetual scowl etched into his face. I've never seen him smile or laugh. He's terribly slow to play, because he's never paying attention. He's an alcoholic, and has been drunk every single time I've played with him. In fact, on at least three occasions he has been a seriously obnoxious drunk, has been cut off from more booze, then spent the next couple of hours scheming ways to get around his ban. E.g., he'd find a different cocktail waitress, or wander off to one of the bars and sneak his bottle of beer back to the table under his coat, etc. I had some of his beer spill on me once when he tried that--immediately after I had asked him to put his beer on the table so that he wouldn't drop it, and he denied having one.

It was Larry about whom was uttered the strangest sentence I've ever heard at a poker table, as I wrote about here: "If you hadn't taken out your teeth, I would have won that pot." Larry is also the guy whom a Sahara dealer let get away with an absent-minded tapping that should have been considered a check, as I described here.

In case you can't tell, I don't like Larry much. Scratch that. I don't like him even one little bit. His sole redeeming quality, from my point of view, is that he's a really, really bad poker player. Taking his money is like the proverbial candy/baby situation. (About which, this Mythbusters test of that cliched expression is well worth watching.)

So anyway, Larry is in a three-way hand with the nice young woman mentioned above and our second drunk, who annoyed me by being way too chatty, but at least he wasn't an intolerably obnoxious old coot like Larry. On a flop of 9-8-4, all three got their chips in. Young woman, who was the first to shove, obviously didn't like being called, and said, "I need help." She showed A-K. Drunk #2 turned over his pocket jacks. Larry didn't move a muscle.

The turn brought an ace, which delighted the young woman. The river paired the board--another 4.

Everybody sat there waiting for Larry. He didn't touch his cards. I assumed that he had lost and just didn't want to admit it. He mumbled something to the dealer, which neither she nor I could understand. She asked him to repeat himself.

He said, louder and more emphatically, "Call the floor!" The dealer was confused. "Why? What's the problem?"

Larry said, with a strange mix of irritation and triumph, "Call the floor, so they can bring me my jackpot money." And with that, he turned up his pocket 4s, still scowling.

It was without a doubt the most deliberate, prolonged, mean-spirited, and uncalled-for slowroll I have ever witnessed.

Some people are pretty much worthless human beings. Larry falls into that category, if you ask me.

Story 4

Once in a while, you run into somebody who is so fixated on the etiquette of chopping the blinds that when somebody refuses, he feels it necessary to "teach him a lesson."

We had such a kid at the table. A new player joined us to the kid's left, pretty obviously inexperienced at casino poker. When they had their first chop opportunity, and the option was explained to the newcomer, he said, "Let's play." The kid looked disgusted at him, and quickly announced a raise to $15. Newbie called.

The flop came K-Q-3 rainbow. Check, bet, call. Turn was an apparent brick. Check, bet, min-check-raise, call. River another nothing. Kid moved all in. As the new guy was trying to decide what to do, the kid said, "You shoulda chopped. This is what happens." New guy thought some more. Kid said, "I have two pair, if that makes your decision any easier." New guy finally called.

Kid's face fell. He bashfully admitted, "I got nuthin'," and turned over A-2, for ace high. New guy flipped up his K-7 offsuit and took the pot. Kid stormed off.

I couldn't help laughing. "Nice hand," I said. "Nicely done."

And I meant it.

Some people like to see what they perceive as "justice" done to somebody who won't chop the blinds. (In this case, for what it's worth, I think the guy just had no clue what was being asked, nor that he committed what some consider to be a breach of etiquette by requesting to play it out.) I, conversely, loved seeing somebody who was trying to shame a green player get his comeuppance in a rather humiliating way--kind of like seeing the playground bully trying to push somebody down, but slipping and falling face-down in the mud himself instead.

Players are free to chop or not chop, so long as they're consistent about it, and I don't like others trying to apply social pressure to influence the decision or make somebody feel like an outlaw for wanting to play. After all, isn't playing why people sit down in the game? This is especially the case when somebody is an inexperienced player. After it's over, it's fine to explain to him that he might think about chopping in the future because of the difficulty of anybody making money in such a hand, etc. But do it in a friendly, helpful way--not trying to rub his nose in it.

The kid clearly thought that his opponent was going to get what he had coming--but it was the kid who got what he so richly deserved.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Guess the casino, #849

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

Answer: Suncoast


Usually I am not much influenced in where I play by the promotions available, but once in a while I'll make an exception. Yesterday and today were unusual because on two consecutive days I went to a poker room specifically because it was running a different kind of promotion that I was interested in seeing.

Yesterday I had a free buffet lunch at the Palms, and was going to catch a 5:30 movie at the theaters there ("Hanna," which was sensational--best action flick I've seen in a long, long time), with some afternoon poker in between. What had caught my attention was the beginning of a new promotion in the Palms poker room called "Action Aces." It's an aces-cracked thing with a twist: Lose with aces, and the room gives you a jackpot twice the size of the pot that you lost, capped at $200.

That strikes me as an interesting variation on the theme. Under standard aces-cracked promotions, one is torn between two choices: (A) inviting everybody into the pot by limping and playing passively after the flop, hoping to lose and pick up a jackpot worth more than the pot you likely would have won by standard play, or (B) play the usual aggressive way, and risk winning only a small pot or losing one so large that the jackpot amount doesn't make up for your losses. I hate that dilemma, and so usually avoid playing in places and at times that such promotions are running. It distorts the game way too much for my taste.

But with Action Aces, you are motivated to inflate the pot, because even if you lose, you earn more money than you would have won had you taken the pot (up to a limit). In other words, you can pretty much play as you normally would, without agonizing over which of two mutually exclusive strategies to follow. It's a good idea. I can't tell you about whether it worked as well in practice as it does in theory because neither I nor anybody at my table had aces cracked while I was there. (We collectively speculated that the poker room management had removed all the aces from the deck just so that they wouldn't have to pay out.)

Then tonight I went to Binion's because they were having a Cinco de Mayo promotion, in which making either a set of 5s or quad 5s paid handsome bonuses--up to $10,000. I got pocket 5s once, but couldn't improve them. I made a little money on the night, but won no jackpots.

One guy left the table soon after I arrived. He said that he had gotten pocket 5s four times in the past hour, and he knew that that was way over what was statistically likely, so he concluded that he wasn't going to be dealt any more potential jackpot hands, and he might as well go home. No matter how many times I hear poker players falling into the gambler's fallacy (the idea that past independent events somehow influence future ones), I just can't figure out how anybody can be a successful poker player if they have such a fundamental misunderstanding of randomness.

On my way out of the poker room, I noticed a sign listing Binion's rotating daily promotions, which I don't think was going on last time I was there, so I snapped a picture of it to share with you, rather than trying to jot down what they all were.

Cinco de Mayo

I played at Binion's tonight, and on my way home I couldn't help but notice that the posers were out in full force. These are the people who dress up in costumes and pose for and/or with tourists in hopes of picking up tips. I assume that there were so many more of them out tonight than usual because they thought that Cinco de Mayo would be bringing out bigger crowds. Whatever drew them, we had a really bad Elvis, some member of Kiss, Mr. Spock, a woman with huge...tracts of land, Austin Powers, Michael Jackson, pirates, and more. There was also a contortionist in a green body suit, who, as you'll see, could force himself through unstrung tennis rackets.

They have a wide variety of aggressiveness about the whole tipping thing. One guy had a very cute little dog dressed up in traditional Mexican garb* and trained to dance on its hind legs--but he kept its face covered with his hands until somebody dropped a tip in his bucket. (I didn't take a picture, because it would just be a picture of a guy with his hands over his dog's face, which isn't very interesting.) I felt sorry for that dog.

But I took pictures of lots of the others, and uploaded them to a Picasa album here.

Shortly before I left Binion's, F-Train had Tweeted, "Now at Beauty Bar. Just chowed down the best $5 truck Mexican sloppy Joe ever." I have been hearing raves about the SloppiJo's food truck. Beauty Bar is directly on my walking path home from Binion's, so I stopped in. F-Train had apparently already left, but I followed his lead and brought home a SloppiJo, which is, well, kind of hard to describe. Here's what their web site says about it:
The "Sloppi Jo" on our menu is not your typical sloppy joe. We felt that if the truck was called Sloppi Jo then we should at least have one sloppy joe on the our "SLOPPI JO" is a dish that can be enjoyed Breakfast, Lunch or Late Night. It is slow roasted pork in a red chile sauce, topped with a sunny-side up egg, pickled onions and a flour tortilla. You are meant to bust the egg yolk, let it flow over the pork and mix in the onions with each bite. The onions are marinated in fresh squeezed orange and lime juice with jalapenos, salt and sugar. I'd say that most customers are pleasantly surprised to find out that the Sloppi Jo is not traditional.

This is what it looks like (mine is without the onions, which I abhor):

The thing next to it is what they call a "brookie"--a chocolate chip cookie with a brownie baked into the center of it. Both things were delicious.

*To clarify, that means traditional garb for a Mexican human. I guess I don't know what constitutes traditional garb for a Mexican dog.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Guess the casino, #848

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

Answer: Rio

I might be out a whole lotta money

As you may have heard earlier today, the parent company to UltimateBlecch and AbsolutePuker will be filing for bankruptcy (see here and here)--to the surprise of, well, nobody who has been paying attention. As a result, best guess is that players' money held on account will never be returned.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried writing a parody letter from Cereus to its players, the basic theme of which was, "We're really not so much into the whole 'give the money back' thing." It's really hard to do parody when the truth is already so rotten that it can't be exaggerated.

I had not logged on to UB in many months. The last time I made a deposit there was January 16, 2008, according to my records. Frankly, I don't know what I was thinking. That was just at the time that the scandal was starting to be exposed by various posters at 2+2. (Here's a useful timeline.)

Correction: I do sort of know what I was thinking. After writing the above paragraph, I wondered if I had done a blog post about it, and, in fact, I had. It makes me cringe to read it now. The post was about my efforts to fund online poker accounts with Visa/MasterCard gift cards:
I sent the "virtual gift card" to myself, and received an email telling me how to access it. That all worked fine. Then the big test: will it be accepted for online poker? Full Tilt: No. Poker Stars: No. Ultimate Bet: Yes! The card issuer charged a transaction fee of $0.06, and $99.94 showed up almost instantly in my UB account. (Yeah, I know about their association with Absolute Poker and the big scandal. But I still like playing on UB more than the other two big ones.)

There is another potential problem with funding an account this way: you can't withdraw by the same means, which probably means that if I start turning an actual profit and want to cash out, I'll have to settle for a slow paper check to be mailed to me. But that's a small problem, and I'll deal with it when the time comes. (Nevertheless, I'm bracing myself for a possible nightmare of an experience, after reading this account of trying to make a simple withdrawal from UB:

Wow. I earned myself a big fat dopeslap there. I knew about the scandal*, had read of my friend Shamus's difficulty making a simple withdrawal from the site, and then in spite of that shipped them some more money. D'oh!

I returned to the site to play occasional tournaments thereafter, but I don't think I ever won any more money. At some point I got sufficiently leery of the unfolding mess that I decided I wanted my money off of the site. I tried cashing out, and was told that I couldn't because I didn't have the minimum required for a payout. That caused me to basically write it off mentally as a loss. However, I still went back a few more times when I thought about it, hoping that a tourney cash would put me above the cashout threshold. It never happened. (I was playing $5 and $10 tournaments, and I would typically do two or three in a session, so it was just a handful of visits.)

I thought I was down to about $2, but checking just now revealed the screen as shown above. If the company actually goes belly-up with all its players' deposits, as seems almost inevitable, I will be out a whopping $9.52.

I'll consider it a small price for the reminder not to do business with entities that have proven themselves to be less than honorable.

*Actually, I'm not sure that I knew then of the highly suspicious UB hand histories that would eventually prove to be the smoking gun that made it all unravel. That was still in its earliest stages of publicity. But I knew all about the Absolute scandal, and knew that UB was the same company, and that should have been sufficient warning.


Just saw this mockup of the UB cashout request screen. Brilliant! (Hat tip: Shamus.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Guess the casino, #847

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

Answer: Orleans

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Shenanigans at PokerStars

PokerStars is getting widespread praise for being first out of the block to get payments to U.S. customers with closed real-money accounts. E.g., Daniel Negreanu (a Stars pro, obviously) Tweeted this earlier today: "Very proud of how well PokerStars has handled #BlackFriday issues. US customers have received cashouts swiftly and smoothly. Well done."

But players aren't the only ones affected by the shutdown, and it appears that Stars is not being a good citizen with respect to other entities. Read this epic eff-you letter from former Stars loyal soldier Pauly:

Sounds like dirty dealing and utter lack of integrity to me--not to mention horrendously stupid P.R. Screwing the people with the biggest microphones is not the smartest corporate strategy ever devised.

Guess the casino, #846

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

Answer: Imperial Palace

Guess the casino, #845

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

Answer: Caesars Palace

Sunday, May 01, 2011


I'm just seeing if I can do a post from my new phone.

Guess the casino, #844

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

Answer: Venetian