Saturday, June 04, 2011

Guess the casino, #878

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Answer: Tuscany

Friday, June 03, 2011

Guess the casino, #877

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Answer: South Point

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Decorate your home or office cheap!

My wunnerful and talented girlfriend Cardgrrl has launched her newest project, a baby she's been working on for weeks: It's "Frame This" magazine, each issue to contain 16 lovely photographs ready to cut on the dotted lines and slip into inexpensive 8" x 10" frames. For $20 to her, a few bucks to Ikea or Wal-Mart for frames, and ten minutes of work, you can transform a bare wall or room into something beautiful to look at. No subscription or other commitment required.

I am, as always, just absurdly proud of her.

Guess the casino, #876

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Answer: Mirage

The future of online poker funding?

See here.

It's an introduction to Bitcoin, which seems to me like a revolutionary means of conducting online financial transactions. They are anonymous, secure, untraceable, and immune to being regulated, investigated, or blocked by any governmental agency. They do not go through or rely on any existing bank or other financial institution.

In theory, anyway, this obviously solves a lot of the legal and practical problems that bedevil online gaming these days. I've read Bitcoin's FAQ, but I'm still pretty murky on a lot of the operational details, so don't submit comments asking me to elucidate how coins are generated, etc.

The system is clearly not ready to be adopted to online poker right now, if only because the amounts available are small. It looks to me like there's no way they can handle transactions worth the equivalent of thousands of dollars each, which would be necessary. But the idea is interesting and exciting. It could well be that, if not Bitcoin per se, some larger, better implementation of the same general concept will someday rise as the online currency of choice. If that day comes, then there won't be a damn thing that meddlers like Bill Frist and Preet Bharara can do about it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Guess the casino, #875

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Answer: Harrah's

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hitting the club royal

I was at Bally's again last night, had another profitable and reasonably enjoyable session. I might actually come to like the place, in spite of the noise factor.

The jackpot for hitting a royal flush in clubs, using both hole cards, is almost $12,000 now. Several times last night I had two of the five required cards in my starting hand, which makes one's heart beat just a little bit faster when the flop is about to come.

It got me wondering about the probability of hitting a royal flush, given two qualifying down cards. I just worked it out, using the assumption that I'll see a full board of five community cards every time:

Suppose I start with the Ac-Kc. I obviously have to get a board that includes exactly the Qc, Jc, and 10c. I don't care what order they come in, and I don't care what other two cards accompany them. After specifying the five cards that matter, there are 47 cards left in the deck, from which any two can come. There are 1081 different ways to draw two cards from 47, so there are 1081 different boards that win me the jackpot.

But how many total possible five-card boards are there? Well, I have two cards in my hand, so those are not available to come. You can calculate this in Excel by entering into any cell the formula =COMBIN(50,5). Doing so tells us that there are exactly 2,118,760 different ways to draw five cards from the 50 that are left in the deck.

The final step is to compare the 1081 boards that win to the universe of 2,118,760 possible boards. The answer is 0.00051, or about 0.051% of the time. It will happen only once out of every 1960 times that I have a qualifying starting hand.

Looks like it's going to take a lot of hours sitting in the noise.

Guess the casino, #874

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Answer: Harrah's

Monday, May 30, 2011

Poker gems, #423

Mike Caro, in Poker Player newspaper column, June 6, 2011 (vol. 14, #25), page 10.

If we found some magic way to survey all of the world's poker players and determine who the top 1,000 actually were, based on skill and ability, we'd discover that most of those 1,000 are lifetime losers. And, remember, we're talking about the best 1,000 out of perhaps 100 million living people who have played the game worldwide. That's the top one in 100,000, on average!

And I'm telling you face-to-face, right now, that of the group that represents the top one in 100,000, most of them lose at poker. They suffer bankroll destruction. They destroy themselves.

Poker dreaming, #whatever (I've lost track)

I woke up too early, checked email/Twitter/RSS, found the story about Danette Levick's tournament at the Venetian, pounded out my thoughts about it, and headed back to bed. So maybe it's not surprising that Danette featured prominently in the dream from which I just now woke.

We were playing in a single-table tournament somewhere. She was on my left. The flop was A-A-4. Then, and only then, did the dealer pitch us each two cards--face up.

My first confusion was what I had. My cards were each labeled with an "F" rather than a number. Luckily, I had in front of me a chart about cards, and confirmed that "F" stood for "four" rather than "five." I had a full house, so, being first to act, I declared myself all in. I was aware that I had no idea what the blinds were, nor how many chips I had, and therefore this might be a terrible overbet, but oh well.

Then I looked to my left to see what Danette was going to do. Her two cards, also face up, were the other two aces. Damn! I should have known better than to act without first looking around at what everybody else had. Predictably, she shoved, too. I was just sitting there, waiting for all the others to act, and thinking, "Well, at least I have a good story for the blog, about how important it is to remember to look around the table at what everybody has before making a decision."

It then dawned on me that this isn't how hold'em is played. We were supposed to get our hole cards before the flop, not after, and they were supposed to come face down, not face up. These subtleties had eluded every player at the table except me, sharp guy that I am. But once I started protesting that things were all wrong, they chimed in one by one with agreement.

I called the floor over and explained the problem. I even threw in a disparaging remark about how they had hired an incompetent dealer who didn't know the most basic procedures of the game. The floor woman was trying to figure out how to resolve the situation. I said it was an obvious misdeal, and we should all just take our chips back and start over.

That's when I woke up. And part of the dream was true--I did have a blog story to write about it!

Guess the casino, #873

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Answer: Excalibur

Bizarre decision at Venetian

See the full story here. Ultra-short version: Venetian tournament last night, drunk player was repeatedly warned about his abusive language/conduct, finally crossed the line and was disqualified from the tournament shortly before the money bubble. Some time later, another tournament official for unclear reasons decided to reverse that action and reinstate the player, AFTER the bubble had passed, causing considerable confusion, outrage, and turmoil.

The player victimized by the jerk was Danette Levick, whose face you would likely recognize even if you don't know the name. She has been a dealer on "High Stakes Poker" and "Poker After Dark" since their inception, until the most recent season. She has also been a shift supervisor at the Treasure Island poker room. Those facts have nothing to do with what happened here, but do suggest (1) that she is more knowledgeable than the average player about rules, floor decisions, and limits of acceptable conduct, and (2) that she is likely to be able to call more attention to what happened than the average player, due to her network of contacts within the industry.

Of course, I know only the side of the story posted. But even so, it's hard to imagine any rationale for allowing a player back into a tournament after being disqualified for misconduct--especially with the money bubble having been passed in the interim. That is THE major inflection point in a tournament, and radically alters how players make decisions. In almost every tournament you will see the short stacks hanging on by their fingernails to make it into the money, followed by a burst of eliminations once a cash has been locked up. To remove a player from the tournament and remove his chips from play near that bubble, then reinstate him after the bubble has burst defies reason. In effect, it rewards his bad conduct by changing what had been only a possible cash into a guaranteed one. It allows him to skip over the treacherous bubble period and the many difficult decisions that stage of a tournament entails, as if transported safely in a time machine.

Even if the bubble weren't an issue, the reinstatement is a terrible idea. If the original floor person issuing the disqualification is authorized to make such decisions without seeking the OK of the tournament director, then his decision has to be final (with the exception of the player seeking an immediate appeal to the TD, which does not seem to have been the case here). Furthermore, if I were the floor person disqualifying a player for abusive conduct, the DQ would be accompanied by security removing the player from the casino.

When I first learned of this incident last night through Danette's Twitter feed, I replied that the reinstatement was the worst tournament official decision I had ever heard of. On reflection, I decided that it was probably only the second-worst, with the title still retained by the WSOP, when it rescinded Phil Hellmuth's penalty overnight, in a patently political courtesy that no unknown player could ever hope to receive. Though maybe not the absolute worst decision ever, this one by the Venetian TD ranks right up there among the most wrongheaded, bizarre, inexplicable, and apparently indefensible.

I hope the Venetian handles this publicly, and either admits to a major screw-up or issues a detailed explanation of how what appears to be an astonishingly asinine ruling can be justified.

Addendum, May 30, 2011

I just received a call from Kathy Raymond, the Poker Room Manager . Upon hearing of the events of last night's fiasco, she fully investigated the incident and hoped to find evidence to justify the poor decision that was made. She informed me that she had spoken to all concerned and had concluded that a horrible decision had been made. The player should not have been allowed to return to the tournament after being disqualified.

To her great credit, she has admitted that the events that transpired were unacceptable. She will be handling the matter internally to ensure that the situation is not repeated.

I would like to thank Kathy for the professional and expedient way she has dealt with the matter. The situation was not handled well on the night and she has done everything possible to get to the bottom of what transpired. Floorman Jacob, did in fact make the correct ruling and should have been backed up by his superior. Sadly, this was not the case.

I accept Kathy's apology and will be returning to the room again soon.

Danette D. Levick

Bally's high

(If you don't get the title of this post, you're too young, so see here.)

I was back at Bally's tonight, for the third day in a row. I don't play there often (primarily because the excessive noise there gets on my nerves), but a confluence of factors made me decide to make it my default room at least for the holiday weekend:

1) Somebody whose judgment on such things I trust had told me that, for whatever reason, the place had burgeoned in profitability the last couple of weeks.

2) There's a pool tournament going on there this week, and experience tells me that pool players as a group make excellent poker opponents; they seem to have far more confidence than skill, which makes for a juicy combination.

3) The club royal flush jackpot is now over $11,000.

4) I've been kind of neglecting Harrah's properties this year, and want to put a little effort into rebuilding my comps bank and tier points.

5) I can get to Bally's the back way, without having to drive on either I-15 or Las Vegas Boulevard, which on a big holiday weekend like this can mean a major time saving.

6) Several denizens of VegasPokerNow forums, some from out of town, were making Bally's their room of choice for this weekend, and it was nice to be able to chat with them.

7) Friday had been very profitable, and Saturday only failed to be because of bad beats and coolers. Today I wanted to get back in the saddle, rather than have a lingering bad memory of that last session.

So back I went. I played for about four hours, and left up substantially, so it was all good. Well, all except one thing: that's three days in a row I haven't hit a club royal flush, and today I even formally invoked my "ONE TIME" to get it, to no avail. It's so rigged.

A few interesting and/or amusing things happened to relate to you.

1. This little guy stopped by to play for a while:

What--you've never heard of dogs playing poker?

I sent this photo out over Twitter, and Shamus quipped, "Ruff table." I replied that it really wasn't, because he only played K-9. Besides, he always got his money a dog.


Actually, I'm pretty sure it's the same pooch I've written about having seen at Aria. I have a vague recollection that somebody told me the owner is diabetic and the dog is trained to detect by scent when his blood sugar gets dangerously low, but now I can't recall where or when or from whom I heard that.

2. As I was cashing out, Paul Magriel ("X-22") had just done the same ahead of me. I hadn't even noticed that he had been in the room. After he got his money, he stood at a table next to the cashier for quite a while, his back to the room. I couldn't tell what he was doing, but his green-and-white checkered boxer shorts were hanging prominently outside of his trousers and on top of the back of his shirt, which I thought was funny enough to take a picture of. Click to see it in full-sized glory.

Yesterday the cleavage shot and today this. I know--I'm a horrible human being. I admit it.

3. I made a mistake unlike any I've ever made before. Since it's the kind of tale I tell on others, it's only fair to turn the Stupid Spotlight on myself when I do something worthy of it.

I had A-K and raised to $12. A short stack in the small blind was the only caller. The flop was 9-J-Q with two clubs. My opponent put out two red chips in what I thought was a conspicuously weak, tentative manner. It left him only about $30 behind.

Normally I would either just fold and be done with it or call and hope to hit one of my overcards on the turn. With him having a stack that small, I would usually judge a raise to have essentially zero fold equity, even though I had a squeaky clean/tight table image. After all, nearly half of the stack he started the hand with was now in the pot. You can't expect a guy to fold after leading out betting in such a circumstance. But something told me that this was different, that he wasn't feeling pot-committed, even though he probably should be, mathematically speaking. I sensed that his bet was saying, "I've got a little piece of that, and I'm hoping you have nothing, because I'm not very confident of this situation."

On the basis of that read, I calmly pushed out two of my $50 stacks, so that he would have no doubt that I was gunning for all of his chips, and hopefully feel intimidated by it. He got a pained look on his face and asked, "Why so much, man?" He thought for maybe 30 seconds, and just when I thought he was going to fold, he shook his head, resignedly said "All right," and put in his last chips.

I showed my cards. He turned over 9-10 offsuit--bottom pair and a straight draw. At least I had the reward of knowing that my read of his body language and bet size had been correct. I misjudged that he would fold a weak hand, but I was pleased that I hadn't been misled by somebody feigning weakness when he actually held a monster.

The turn was an 8, which made his straight. He smacked his hands together triumphantly and yelled, "Yeah!" I had time only to register that a 10 on the river would put a straight on the board and we would chop it, and as soon as that thought had passed through my age-enfeebled brain, BOOM--the dealer dropped a 10.

The other guy let out a moan of disappointment. I figured he was mad because he had lost half of the pot. But then I got confused because the dealer picked up the other guy's chips and put them in front of me.

I protested: "We have the same hand, playing the board--it's a chop."

The dealer and several other players all at once pointed out my oversight: I now had an ace-high straight--the nuts. I had been so focused on seeing the queen-high straight on the board that I had completely forgotten that my king and ace meshed with those cards rather nicely. In fact, I had the rare seven-card straight!

I confess to feeling rather foolish that (1) I thought I was playing the board when I held the nuts, and (2) I had actually tried to tell the dealer that he was making a mistake in giving me the pot.

See what terrible things happen to your mental capacity after you turn 50?

4. My last big hand was a rather pleasing one, so I'll end with it. I had 8h-10h in the big blind. Nobody raised, so I got to see a free flop. It was a nice one: Jc-9h-2h, giving me both a flush draw and an open-ended straight draw. I bet $10, about the size of the pot. One very passive player in middle position called. A 60-something guy one off the button raised to $30. He had been at the table for nearly an hour, during which time he had played very few hands and I couldn't recall ever seeing him raise two opponents like this.

I decided that my draw was good enough to merit a call. I didn't like it when the other guy called behind, because I thought that meant that his most likely hand was a better flush draw. I secretly wished to make my straight and not my flush.

I guess once in a while the poker gods decide to throw me a bone, because the dealer turned an offsuit 7, giving me the stone cold nuts. Even better, it was thoroughly disguised. The raiser would probably put me on a flush draw, which had missed, and he might bet big to dissuade further drawing. On the basis of that reasoning I checked, as did the other guy. Sure enough, here came the raiser again, this time with a $75 bet. He was now unquestionably pot-committed, having only another $50 or so behind, so I dropped the hammer and moved all-in. The other player thought a while, but then folded.

As predicted, the older guy instantly called. I was greatly surprised to learn that this ultra-tight player had only A-J offsuit--top pair/top kicker. Given how long he had gone without showing this kind of aggression, I had assumed that here he must have flopped two pair or a set. He was actually drawing dead on the turn. The irrelevant river was an offsuit queen. I'll take that money now, please.

Four to five hours is typically the longest I can play and keep my A-game going. After completing that orbit, it had been 4 1/4 hours, I was up a goodly amount, and I was feeling pleased with my play (excepting the one lapse into momentary stupidity), and so decided it would be a fine time to call it quits for the day.

As the post title suggests, I left on a Bally's high.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Poker gems, #422

Tommy Angelo, in A Rubber Band Story, page 196.

[W]e set aside our thoughts of what went wrong, and we step away from our thoughts about what might go wrong, and for that moment, when those thoughts are gone, so too is unhappiness. By eliminating the past, and eliminating the future, we give ourselves this present.


I started in at Bally's a little after 3:00 pm yesterday, part of a new table that was opening. As usual in this situation, there's a lot of down time while everybody gets seated, gets chips, gets cards swiped, the dealer gives the cash and leftover chips back to the floor guy, cards get inspected and shuffled, draw for the button, etc.

I got bored with the waiting, and from my spot in Seat 1 snapped this picture of the women in Seats 3 and 4, sending it to Twitter with the message (referring, obviously, to Seat 3), "I wonder if she has any poker weapons other than distracting cleavage."

What I didn't know at the time was that I had left out of the photo the player around whom the game would revolve--the guy in Seat 2. (I guess I didn't completely leave him out; you can see his hands.) But I had definitely noticed him. In fact, immediately before sending the photo, I had Tweeted, "Game hasn't even started, and the guy next to me already slammed down a whiskey before starting on his beer."

I'll refer to him as DMLCP, because he was a Drunk Maniac Luckbox Creepy Perv.

The Drunk part is self-explanatory.

The Creepy Perv part he earned by trying ridiculously to hit on the two women to his left. Every time he would say anything to either of them, it was accompanied by reaching over and touching them on the hand or arm. This happened half a dozen times or so until, after the two friends exchanged a disapproving we've-got-to-stop-this-ickiness look, Ms. Cleavage said to him, "OK, that's enough with the touching now." He then apologized ten different times or so over the next half hour, repeating himself as drunk people tend to do.

The Maniac part comes from the fact that he raised pre-flop almost every hand--in the range of 90%--making it either $15 or $20 each time. As you can easily imagine, or perhaps have experienced, such a player completely changes the usual dynamics of a $1-2 game.

Luckbox? Well, if you've ever played with a guy like this, you have surely observed that drunkenness is highly correlated with being a card rack. There's a Nobel Prize for whoever works out the quantum physics by which a high blood alcohol level causes a temporary superhero-like ability to hit two-outers. He bought in for $200, and was up to $400 within 20 or 30 minutes, between his bullying and his card-catching.

His conduct had a predictable effect on the other players, who became much more willing to gamble than I think would be their usual tendency. Within the first half hour of play I saw a three-way all-in pre-flop with J-J, A-J, and K-Q, with K-Q taking the massive pot. (DMLCP started the madness with his usual raise, but bowed out after the reraises and shoves started.) The guy with A-J had been in Seat 6, and when he went away steaming mad, I claimed his seat, so that I didn't have DMLCP on my immediate left, where he was a real irritant in both personal terms and poker terms.

My first big confrontation with him: I had the button and Ks-Qs. Given his opening range, this was an easy call when he put in his usual $20 raise. Two limpers called, too. The flop was Kc-Qc-10c. I loved having top two pair, but three clubs and a Broadway possibility were obvious dangers. Both limpers checked. DMLCP bet $20. I raised to $60. Limpers folded. DMLCP called. This was significant, because he had shown a willingness to fold when somebody stood up to him and he had nothing. I didn't think he had a made flush or straight, both because he just called (I think he would have shoved with either made hand) and because it was just too unlikely to believe, even for a luckbox like him.

The turn was the jack of spades. Ick. While that didn't complete any one-card flushes, it did mean that if he held any ace he now had a straight. He checked, and I checked back, hoping to catch a boat card on fifth street. Before the dealer could produce it, however, DMLCP announced all-in dark. River was a blank, but I still had to decide whether to call off the rest of my chips, in the neighborhood of $200. There was $200 in the middle, plus the $200 (effectively) he was putting up, offering me 2:1 on a call. Given his undoubtedly high bluffing frequency, that was tempting.

I finally decided, though, that he most likely did have an ace, and that he had been planning on an all-in check-raise on the turn, which I had foiled with my check. That seemed the best explanation for his dark bet on the river, a move he had not previously made. So I reluctantly folded.

Bally's high-hand bonus for a club royal flush is currently sitting at over $10,000, with each player at the table when it hits getting a $599 share, so everybody was anxious to know if DMLCP had it. He flashed the ace of clubs before giving his cards back to the dealer, and I think we can safely assume that the other one was not the jack of clubs. In any event, it confirmed my read of the situation. It sucked, but I think I played the hand perfectly. I believe that if I had shoved the flop he would have called and I would have lost more.

(I'm not just being results-oriented in saying that pushing there would have been wrong. With an all-club flop, there was a real possibility that either of the limpers had flopped a flush and was trapping; I was prepared to fold if one of them moved all in after my raise.)

DMLCP's course followed that typical of his species. Like a meteorite, he burned brightly for a time, but then crashed to earth. Ironically, his downfall began when he had the best of it. He got into a pre-flop raising war with the table's other luckbox, the guy who had won the three-way with K-Q. They both ended up all-in, with the K-K of DMLCP looking good against the Q-Q of the other guy--until a queen flopped. An $800 pot went to the queens.

DMLCP rebought twice more, and lost both stakes on ill-advised bluffs that got snapped off. Sadly, I never had another bite at that particular apple before he left the table.

Within two orbits of his inglorious retreat, I got on the bad side of a set-over-set situation (first time that has happened in about a year, I think), and lost nearly my entire buy-in. The last $20 or so went in two hands later when I had J-J and lost to A-K with the classic ace on the river. I didn't feel like starting over again, so swallowed the $300 loss and called it a day.

I do hope to run into DMLCP again, though. Players like him make for an extremely high-variance game, but will be profitable for the smart, patient players much more often than not.

Guess the casino, #872

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Answer: Tropicana