Saturday, June 11, 2011

Guess the casino, #885

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

Answer: Caesars Palace

Best picture of me ever

I just remembered that the WSOP usually has a photographer shoot pictures of all of the players in their seats in order to sell them later. I didn't remember seeing any camera pointed at me, so I checked the official WSOP site, found my table, and then realized why I never saw the camera. Take a look here. Can you spot me?

By the way, does anybody know why any of the other players shown are? I didn't recognize any, but a few seemed to know each other from the tournament circuit.

I think maybe she likes me

You know what the best moment of the day at the WSOP was?

It was the time early in the tournament when I pulled out my phone to check Twitter, and found this:

Thanks to all of you for being supportive, but thanks especially to my biggest fan.


I'm watching Season 7 of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" from Netflix. In the middle of an episode, from out of nowhere pops Erik Seidel! After I noticed him there, I remembered having read about how he won the part of an extra on the show by bidding in some sort of charity auction, but I had forgotten all about it.

Poker is everywhere!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Plates R Us

As you might expect, the Rio parking lot is rich with poker-themed vanity plates this time of year. Here are three I passed on my way out to my car.

That just has to be Jimmy Fricke's car.

This is one of my favorite ones ever. The car's alarm went off just from me standing behind it for the amount of time it took to get this shot. Weird.

I get the "holdm" part, but I'm unsure about the "CO" part. Colorado--with Nevada plates?

That's the car's owner you see coming into frame on the left. I didn't notice that he was sitting behind the wheel talking on his cell phone when I started taking pictures of the back of his car. (The first one didn't turn out because of glare from the late-day, low sun.) He came bolting out to confront me. He was plenty miffed that I had the nerve to take a photograph of his license plate. Hey, dude--chill out. It's out there in public for everybody to see already, not exactly an invasion of privacy!

Oh well

Not much happened at the WSOP HORSE event. I won the first hand of the tournament, and another soon thereafter, but after that it was slim pickin's. There aren't even any particularly interesting hands to report--I had notepaper ready, but wrote none down, because they were all pretty straightforward. I just couldn't catch any major breaks. 960 people entered, and I busted out in approximately 700th place, about six hours into the thing.

I'm not upset. I did my best. No regrets. At best I had only a 10% chance of cashing going in, so this outcome is what was to be expected. I was neither the best nor the worst player at the table. I needed to get lucky to progress, and it just didn't happen. That's the way it is sometimes--most of the time, in fact.

At various times I had Erica Schoenberg, Robbie Mizrachi, and Victor Ramdin as recognizable faces at my table. Other than that, it was just all kind of "meh." I can't even say that it was fun, exactly--my tablemates were a bunch of stick-in-the-muds, people who (to borrow a line from Mike Caro) were taking the whole idea of a few million dollars way too seriously. But it was a worthwhile little adventure to add to my poker resume. I'm glad I had the experience.

Poker gems, #425

Ed Miller, in Card Player magazine column, June 15, 2011 (vol 24, #12), p. 42.

If you're paying enough attention to the game, you should see several accidentally exposed cards every hour that you play--cards that get flashed during the deal, during folds, when people look at their hands, and so forth. No, I'm not saying that you should crane your neck to look at your opponents' cards. But cards flash all the time, and the only way that you won't see them is if you aren't looking. If you aren't seeing them, you aren't looking enough.

Guess the casino, #884

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

Answer: Caesars Palace

My second shot at the World Series of Poker

Today I decided that I was willing to spend approximately half of my profit from the Binion's HORSE event (i.e., about half of $200) to take a shot at entering the $1500 HORSE tournament at the World Series of Poker--which happens to be tomorrow (OK, technically later today, Friday).

I went to the Rio this evening and entered one of their 8-handed $215 HORSE one-table satellites, with the winner to receive the buy-in plus $70. Nothing for second place. I failed miserably--first one out, in fact.

I went to a cash game in the cavernous Pavilion Room, and thought about my performance as I played. The fact was, I had done it badly. I had not anticipated how incredibly fast the structure was, and too often I went partway with decent but not great hands. Given the short ratio of stacks to blinds, that was something I just couldn't afford to do. To put it bluntly, I had been too timid and unwilling to gamble.

I got lucky in the cash game and made $209 in 40 minutes. Ignoring that little $6 deficit, it felt like I was being given another shot. Yes, I know it's completely irrational to think of that win as reimbursing the satellite loss, or even to be thinking of the satellite buy-in as part of my winnings from Tuesday. They're all separate, or all fungible and intermingled as part of a life-long game, if you prefer. I get that. But there are times when my rational side battles with my irrational side, and this was one of them.

So I cashed out my winnings and entered a second HORSE satellite. Remarkably, three of the eight players in it were among the eight of us that had been at the final table in the Binion's event, so I had advanced knowledge of the playing styles of two opponents, which turned out to be a significant advantage in a few spots.

And I won it! With the turbo structure (whole thing took less than two hours), there was obviously a lot of luck involved, but I definitely adjusted for the pace better than some others did, and greatly stepped up my aggression, as the structure demanded.

I was kind of despondent going into heads-up play, because my opponent had me at a 5:1 chip disadvantage. But he played incredibly passively, never willing to put in any money unless he had a strong hand. Since most of the time in heads-up play you have nothing, that's an enormous leak. I just kept hammering at him, showing him that I wasn't afraid to get all my chips in, and he would back down time after time. I knew that he was thinking that he would just wait until he had a big hand and use my aggression against me, but the few times he played back at me, I just folded, and he never adjusted to account for that fact. After it was over, I was chatting with the dealer (one dealer for the entire satellite) about the turnaround, and he said that he couldn't believe how the other player squandered his lead and played so passively.

In the last hand I caught a lucky crub on the river (they always get there!) to make a flush in stud, beating his straight, check-raised him all-in, and that was that.

I collected the lammers:

which I then quickly exchanged for this:

which, in turn, I hope to soon exchange for something like this:

I can guarantee you one thing: I will last longer than I did on my previous attempt at a WSOP event (which was, shamefully, only about 20 minutes). It would be hard to go broke that fast in a limit event!

Must sleep immediately. (Sorry, Tony, but it's such a good closing line, I'm going to keep borrowing it.)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Guess the casino, #883

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

Answer: Venetian

Negotiating a deal

One more story from yesterday's Binion's HORSE tournament.

The final table was nine players, even though only eight spots paid, and even though the tournament had been all 8-max to that point. This actually made sense, because the bubble can take a long time, and leaving one table with five players and one with four for long can be a significant disadvantage to the shorter table. It also meant that we didn't have to do any hand-for-hand play.

As soon as we had assembled at the "feature" table (Binion's has a little rail-enclosed platform area for this), talk began of a save for 9th place--some way to get the bubble boy his entrance fee of $200 back as a consolation prize. I suggested that everybody just take $25 cash out of their wallets, have one of us hold it, and that way we wouldn't even have to involve the tournament officials or fiddle with the payout amounts. That idea was not warmly met.

The next iteration was to have $25 deducted from each payout amount, thus creating an official 9th paid place of $200.

Here's where it got interesting. Rather than ask whether anybody objected, they arranged for a silent, anonymous vote by cards. Each player was given one red card and one black card. At the signal, we pushed to the center of the table our black card if voting "yes" on the proposal, red card for "no." Those cards were scrambled, and then the unused cards collected. The TD then turned over the voting cards. Even though nobody had voiced an objection to the proposed deal, there was one red card. Unanimity is required, so it was rejected.

A few minutes later somebody said that it didn't seem fair to have the same amount taken out of each payout, that the higher finishes should contribute more. Somebody else suggested $100 from first and $50 from each of second and third places. That got enough general support to warrant another vote by cards, and this time the motion carried.

I have seen tournament deals scuttled by one or two objectors, and some of those in favor of the deal getting really nasty and critical of the holdouts. I had read about other places using this kind of anonymous voting system, but I had never seen or participated in one before. It takes a few extra minutes, but I think the reduction in undue social pressure and avoidance of arguments and rancor is well worth it.

Once in a while a new idea for how to do something comes along that is in every way superior to what had gone before. I think that this is one such, and that it should be universally adopted by poker tournament directors who involve themselves in any negotiated deals.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

"I guess I should have kept my mouth shut"

One hand from yesterday's HORSE tournament is worth describing for you, I think.

I started the tournament in a deep hole, and for a while it looked like I would be among the first handful eliminated. But just before the first break I had a series of three consecutive miracle suckouts in razz hands (including one where I busted a guy when with the last card I made 8-6-4-3-A to edge out his 8-6-4-3-2) that got me back to my starting stack. Soon thereafter I got moved to a new table, which was much, much softer. Once I figured out how generally meek and passive this new table was, I was able to use a combination of stepped-up aggression and a run of good cards to build a stack that was more than double the tournament average.

(This included, unfortunately, busting my new friend Dave, with whom I had gone to the Lyle Lovett/John Hiatt concert. In an Omaha hand, he opened from under the gun with AAxx. I called for one bet from the big blind with the crummy K-9-8-4 double-suited. The flop was an amazing K-K-4, and I ended up taking his remaining stack. It never feels good to end a friend's tournament run.)

Soon after I got to my third table, the worst hand of the day for me occurred. I called a raise in hold'em with 7-7, and four of us saw the flop of 9-7-2 with two diamonds. The betting ended up getting capped on the flop, and again on the turn of a second 2, with the other two players (i.e., not the original raiser and me) getting all in, one of them with the nut flush draw, the other with 10-10.

The interesting point was when I put in the cap on fourth street, the original raiser was obviously disturbed by how things were developing. He finally called, but as he did so he said, "I sure hope you have pocket sevens and not the pocket deuces."

The tournament director happened to be standing there watching this hand play out, and he immediately and properly warned the player not to be discussing his hand, as it could be considered collusion against the two players who were already all-in.

Well, his words were about as clear as he could be that he had 9-9, and I had stumbled into the bad end of the dreaded set-over-set situation. There was a small possibility that he had aces or kings and was cleverly trying to fool me into thinking that he had top set, in order to shut down further betting, but I didn't think so. He sounded utterly genuine to my ears.

The turn was some brick, and he and I both checked. Sure enough, he flipped over 9-9 and scooped the biggest pot I had seen all day.

(Despite the enormous stack he earned here, he ended up busting out in either 8th place for a min-cash, chiefly because he kept severely overplaying one-pair hands. Slow learner, apparently.)

As he was stacking all of his newly acquired chips, he turned to me and said, somewhat remorsefully, "I guess I should have kept my mouth shut." He realized, in retrospect, that he may have cost himself more bets on the river. Indeed he did.

He ended up with more than half of the chips with which I started that hand, and it took me down to well below the tournament average. I had to play short-stack ninja for two or three hours to recover from that devastating blow. But it could have been even worse. I don't know how much more I would have put in on the river, because the overpair theory was starting to lose force with his willingness to cap it with me, but I think at least one or two more big bets would have gone in.

There are a few players who are skillful enough to talk to an opponent during a hand and extract more information than they leak, but they are few and far between. The vast majority of players who talk about their hands give away valuable information--and this guy was a prime example.

Tommy Angelo is on my mind this week, and I'm reminded of a column that Lee Jones wrote about the experience of playing poker with Angelo. It was in Bluff magazine in 2009, and can be found here. Angelo is famous for advocating "mum poker," and Jones describes seeing it in action and trying to emulate it. It's not the only way to play poker (Mike Caro routinely denounces it as not the approach that will make the most money), but it's worthy of your consideration.

Guess the casino, #882

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

Answer: Venetian

Horsing around at Binion's

If you follow my Twitter feed, you saw about a jillion posts from Binion's yesterday while I played a tournament there. It was event #9 of the 5th Annual Binion's Classic, the $200 HORSE. There were 71 players, 8 spots paid. I finished in 6th for $625.

It was both pleasing and disappointing. Pleasing because I made money and, even more, because I twice had to make comebacks from being nearly eliminated, and I was proud of how calm and patient and calculating I was at picking spots.

But at the same time, disappointing, because once at the final table I had plenty of chips and could have finished higher, if not for what turned out to be an ill-timed bluff, the only three-barrel bluff I attempted in the entire 12 hours. It made me ultra-short, and I was out two hands later. Had I just continued my regular game, I might well have outlasted at least one or two more players and substantially improved my finish. On the other hand, I went with my read that the guy was on a draw that missed (either low draw or flush draw in an Omaha hand), and I was just wrong. That's going to happen sometimes, and if I never three-barrel in such situations, I'm leaving a valuable tool out of the box. Hence the mixed feelings.

It is nice to get tangible proof that I'm not just deceiving myself when I think that over the past three years or so of online play I have managed to teach myself these five games with a reasonable degree of competence.

There were two rules issues that came up. In an early round of Omaha I flopped top set on a board with no straights or flushes possible, and still held the best possible hand on the turn. I bet the requisite 600. Next guy called. Last guy intended to call, but did so by putting out one 1000 chip and one 100 chip in order to make it easy for the dealer to give him change by sliding him back a 500 chip. But he failed to announce "Call" before putting out these two chips.

The "half bet rule" says that in limit games if a player puts out an amount (other than a single oversized chip) that is greater than one half of the difference between a call and a raise, it will be deemed a raise, and he will be required to put in the rest of the raise amount. That seemed to apply here. I was about to bring it up, but an off-duty Binion's dealer playing at our table beat me to it, so I let him take the heat of the affected player's ire.

[Note added June 22, 2011: In retrospect, this isn't quite accurate. I think that proper terminology would restrict the use of the term "half-bet rule" to situations in which the player is all in, not a situation as here where there is either a mistake or an ambiguous number of chips put in. The analysis and ruling are correct as described, but I shouldn't have used the term "half-bet rule."]

The floor was called, and he said it would be considered a raise, despite the player's angry protestations that he was only calling, and was just trying to make the dealer's job easier. Well, bub, then you should have verbalized your intention. Uttering a single word before putting the chips out would have solved the problem. As it was, his raise allowed me to reraise, and both opponents called, so I captured four extra big bets than I otherwise would have. It may be a technicality, but poker is all about making fewer mistakes than your opponents, and taking full advantage of the ones they make.

In the second instance, many hours later, I had the 1500 bring-in for a stud hand with limits of 5000 and 10,000. A guy at the far end of the table picked up a 5000 chip and asked the dealer how much a call would be. Dealer answered, "1500." The player then asked, "And if I raise, it's to 5000?" Dealer responded, "Yes." The guy then dropped his 5000 chip on the felt.

The next guy to act asked the dealer, "So he raised, right?" I spoke up. "No, he didn't announce a raise. He just asked whether a raise would be to 5000." The player protested that he had intended to raise. Floor was called, facts were recited to him, including the player's exact questions to the dealer. When he heard that the player had made no announcement after receiving answers to his two questions, the floor man instantly and definitively closed the case: It's a call. The free card I earned by getting this ruling ended up not helping me, and I folded to a bet on 4th street, but it was worth a shot.

I think both rulings were clearly correct. Both actions are ones that would be an angle-shooter's paradise if the decisions were made based on what the player claimed his intentions were. In the first case, the guy puts out 1100 and watches to see my reaction. If I eagerly reraise, he can protest that he only intended it to be a call and the action was not reopened. If I look like I don't like it, when queried he can say that of course it's a raise, and he just accidentally left out one of the chips.

Same thing with the "If I raise..." question. If a later player treats it as a raise and reraises, he can say that he had not announced a raise, but was merely asking a hypothetical question, and lose only the call amount. But if it gets others to fold, he silently lets them keep thinking that it had, in fact, been a raise.

I don't think that either player intended such shenanigans in this tournament, but the rules exist to prevent shady players from taking such shots. Unless somebody does the same trick repeatedly, we can never be sure whether he's telling the truth when asked what he had intended. For the rules to be effective in preventing such ambiguity, they have to be enforced the same way every time, even if it upsets players who inadvertently run afoul of them.

I feel no sympathy for them. Both men were in their 50s, obviously experienced players, not novices. They have an obligation to know and follow the rules. The simple expedient of verbally announcing intention before acting solves the problem in both cases. If they fail to take such an easy precautionary step, tough--it's their fault, and they rightly suffer the consequences. They had the capacity to prevent the ambiguity with a single word, and they couldn't be bothered, so the rules prescribe how the ambiguity is to be resolved. End of story.

There was one other rules controversy, though I only know about it secondhand. My friend Katie Baxter tried to raise by announcing "all in" before tossing in her last chip--an oversized one. The floor apparently ruled that it was just a call. This seems to have been based on the bizarre notion that "all in" is not functionally equivalent to "raise"--but it sure seems to me that it is. "Raise all in" would obviously be acceptable, so why isn't just "All in"? Both unambiguously signal the same intention to the other players. If I've understood the facts of the situation correctly, it seems a terrible decision, though apparently Katie thinks that the opposite ruling wouldn't have changed the outcome.

OK, that's enough rants. It's late, and as Tony Big Charles always says, I must sleep immediately.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Way to stay classy, Bluff

So Bluff magazine's managing editor earlier today put up an online piece in which, without further comment or explanation, she casually refers to women as "broads." See here.

Next time, why not just go with "bitches"?

Just in case the page gets removed or altered later, a screen shot is below.

Guess the casino, #881

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

Answer: Stratosphere

You really can't believe how badly they play

I'm thinking about entering the HORSE event at the Binion's Classic tomorrow. Hearing this, Cardgrrl, during our nearly-daily Skype video call, suggested that we do a play-money HORSE sit-and-go on PokerStars. Y'know, for, like, good practice. OK!

From having done this once before, we already knew that the quality of play would be about a thousand times worse than what we used to see in the $5 and $10 games we frequently did together, which was already laughable. But even after being prepared for it, we just couldn't get over what we were seeing.

Here are some examples.

In this first hand, the action was driven by the guy who ended up with tens full. Cardgrrl was obviously correct to call with her strong full house, and ended up taking the pot. But look at what other hands called two bets on the river. On a board with both quads and a royal flush possible, Cardgrrl bet, and a raise by Pol Arky was called by one player with a non-nut flush, one with a straight, and, most astonishingly, by one with a pair of 8s! That's a 53.5 big-bet pot there. (My cards are showing, but after leading out betting I folded to a raise and reraise on the flop.)

Here I raised to two big bets on the river with the nut low. Cardgrrl was still in the hand at the time, so I figured that even if I got quartered I would break even, having put in only one-fourth of the chips. When that raise got called in two spots, she reluctantly folded her AAxx, assuming that somebody must have a full house, a straight, or at least trip 7s. Nope. In addition to having the nut low all to myself, my top/top took the high, which was as much a surprise to me as it was to her. (It's possible that she uttered a naughty word when the hands were revealed. I'm not saying.) 31 big bets in that one.

Here's my final example. This other guy and I got into a raising war starting. With top set on the flop and top boat on the turn, I was happy to keep throwing as many chips into the pot as he would match. I expected to see K-Q or Q-8 at the showdown. Nope. Another 18 big bets my way.

Predictably, Cardgrrl and I finished in the top two spots, just like last time.

Now if only my opponents tomorrow are this clueless, next time you hear from me I'll have made a nice score!

People are so rude

For the past couple of months I've had a stiff, sore shoulder. It seems to be getting better gradually, but it has required a slow, painful process of frequent exercise and stretching. (If you play poker with me and see me pull on one arm with the other while making unpleasant faces, now you'll know why.)

Because of it, yesterday while playing poker I decided to pop a couple of ibuprofen. A segmented pill case is among the many items I routinely carry in what Cardgrrl calls the Fanny Pack of Great Awesomeness. I keep with me ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin, some allergy pills, and one megajolt of caffeine. A couple of minutes after I had swallowed the Advil with a sip of water, the guy on my left--who had not said a word to me since joining the table--leaned over and asked, "What kind of pills you takin' there?"

I don't know about you, but that's a question I would ask only of somebody with whom I had a very close relationship. Anybody else, it's none of my business. To compound the rudeness, he waited until I was in the middle of playing a big pot to ask.

The answer was innocent enough, so I gave him the one-word brush-off answer without turning to look at him. He followed it up with, "Whatcha takin' it for?"

That one I ignored.

People's brazenness frequently astounds me.

But I'm going to be better prepared next time somebody interrogates me as to what medication I'm taking. I'm going to lean in close to him and say, "I can't remember the name, but it's something really strong for my tuberculosis [cough, cough]."

Monday, June 06, 2011

New book from Tommy Angelo

I loved Tommy Angelo's first book, Elements of Poker (EOP), as you might have guessed from the number of snippets from it that I posted here. It's wise, pithy, insightful, memorable, unique, with the most inventive and clever use of language ever put into a poker book.

I was therefore excited recently when Angelo contacted me and asked if he could send me, gratis, a copy of his newest work, A Rubber Band Story and Other Poker Tales. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, you may. I finished reading it last week.

As advertised, it's a collection of 55 stories, all but six of them nonfictional, most or all of which have been published in various print or online venues over the last ten years. I had read maybe three of them before, but the rest were new to me. A couple are quite well known, such as his adventure in folding aces before the flop for no reason other than to prove to himself that he could do it, and his celebration of the beauty of the buy-the-button rule.

The tone ranges from grumpy (rant about the stupid "I want to see that hand" rule) to whimsical (stories of animals playing poker) to affectionate (those about his wife, Kay, and his best friend, Alex). Several made me laugh out loud--especially the punchline to a story in which he managed to make Alex positively apoplectic over how Angelo played a tournament hand. Some of them celebrate his best ideas and plays, while in others he pokes fun at his own foibles, such as acting out of turn because he was busy revising an article on the importance of paying attention.

The tales make for light reading--but if you're not careful, he'll slip in a lesson that might help your game, one about strategy or mindset or bankroll management.

I'll list here the handful of flaws I noticed, even though it's nitpicky of me to do so. Once a copy editor, always a copy editor. Besides, I know that Angelo values getting these things right.
  • There is a missing quotation mark on page 22, and another on page 90.
  • "BBPH," which can stand for several different things depending on context, is an abbreviation or an initialism, not an acronym (page 44), though, to be fair, there is some disagreement on these labels (see here, e.g.).
  • On page 104, a question mark should be after the quotation mark, rather than before it.
  • Pages 105 and 106 are reversed in order.
That's a pretty small list of pretty minor quibbles, compared to most of the badly edited stuff I read.

A Rubber Band Story is a fun, interesting read, full of amusing stories and unforgettable characters, told in Angelo's distinctive style. If you expect it to be EOP 2 you'll be disappointed. It's not. But accept it for what it is, and I think you'll have a rollicking good time reading it. (Available from here.)

To give you a sample of the tone, I'm going to close this post with some excerpts from my favorite chapter, titled, simply, "Folding," written in 2006:
I played poker for ten years before I discovered folding in 1984. That's when I met Bobby. He had a big belly, a big beard, and a big laugh. Bobby was like Santa Claus, minus the giving. He just kept throwing his hand away, and he didn't seem to mind. Then he would carry the money away, and the players didn't seem to mind.

So I started folding more often, to see what would happen.... It was so new, so exciting. I was high from it, like an explorer.... But it didn't stop there. Oh no. Before long I got hooked on the hard stuff, like folding on the river when I had a good hand.

Soon I went to Vegas. After a week in the desert, I felt like Charles Darwin must have felt on the Galapagos Islands, having traveled to an isolated land, where he found strange new ecosystems populated by bizarre species. What I discovered on Las Vegas Island was that in the poker ecosystem, at the top of the food chain, sat the folders....

I couldn't get over how comfortable the folders were, with all of it, with the folding, with the comments [about their tight play], and they'd just sit there, behind their tall stacks and long smiles, and muck, one more time.

I was like, okay, I see how this works now. It's like a club. The folders club. Well, whatever it was, I wanted in.

After my first taste of big-time folding, I felt that if I could get really good at it, I could quit my job....

By 1990 I was folding enough to support my food and rent habit. This freed up lots of time for more folding....

My path became a gentle incline that coaxed me up to a sunny ledge where I stopped, and sat, and I looked around in wonder, for I could see the top of the mountain far away and high above, and I could see the bottom, waiting for me, should I neglect my folding.

Wild tournament

When I first saw this, I thought it was a joke. But a check of the Riviera poker room's Facebook page and Twitter feed confirm it:

Starting tomorrow night...and continuing throughout the summer on EVERY Monday MONKEY'S MIDNIGHT MADNESS at the Riviera Poker Room. Ready for the details?

Time of tourney: 12:00 midnight.
Entry Fee: $125. $10 add on gets you $2000...all $10 of those dollars WILL go to the dealers.
Bounty: Whack the $100.
Structure: $12,000 chips (with add on) 15 minute levels. Very few levels left out.
Expected time needed to Win: 4 to 5 hours, max.
Rules: NO RULES! I have arranged to have ZERO rules enforced. Showing cards, talking in the hand, offensive language (within reason)...anything goes.
Prize Payout: A very unique 'Winner Take All' format. However...the players will have the right to chop the money any way they can all agree to.
High Hand Drinking Torture: Every orbit...the person with the highest hand...will be required to pound a red snapper (or shot of their choice). A few excuses will be accepted to avoid this. A membership card in AA. The presence of a glucometer (diabetes) or a table side liver dialysis machine (liver failure) would be good examples.
STRIPPERS: The ladies of Vegas who earn their living slip sliding their way up and down poles and not on the felt, will be afforded a complimentary entry. We already have two confirmed entries, as well as one from a porn star. Yup...Kai Landry and I have gone the full distance to make sure all of you late night, poker drunks have everything to make your experience at Monkey's Drunkfest a night to remember.

I can't make up my mind what to think about this. It certainly sounds...interesting.

Question of the day

Who would make the better poker player--Special Agent Seely Booth, or Dr. Temperance Brennan? Booth: Wily, suspicious, ruthless, and psychologically insightful, but emotionally volatile, easily tilted. Brennan: Wicked smart, cool under pressure, unflappable, analytical, calculating, fearless, but with no insight into others' feelings and motivations, uncomfortable using deception.


Non-fans of "Bones" need not apply.

Guess the casino, #880

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

Answer: Monte Carlo

I guess he did a 180

Last September when I played at the Luxor, it had suddenly been renamed the Bruce Buffer Poker Room, and his name was all over everything. See the post I wrote about it here. It was still like that the last time I played there, which was in February.

Today, however, I paid another visit and POOF! Bruce Buffer has vanished from the premises. No dealer t-shirts, no name on the felt, no big-screen TV with a slideshow of his photos, no gift shop, no lounge--nuthin'. Compare these pictures, taken today, with those in that post from September:

What happened?

Bizarre story from the WSOP

Go read it here. "Apollo" is somebody I know personally and trust to be telling the tale accurately and honestly.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Another personal milestone

Last July I related my history of doing Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles, and gradually getting better and better at them. I did that post when I had finally achieved a goal I had set for myself years earlier: Completing one of those puzzles perfectly from start to finish, not a single error along the way.

Since then, though it hasn't become quite routine, I have managed the same feat six additional times. I want to get to the point that it is, in fact, what I can pull off routinely, rather than being the exception. For the last year I have managed it once about every 30 or so puzzles, which means that I fail far more often than I succeed.

This morning, though, I passed my next goalpost: I finished a second perfect one in a row. (They were #134 and #135 from the NYT Sunday Crossword Omnibus 200, Volume 8, to be exact.)

Playing pub trivia a couple of times recently has reminded me acutely how dramatically my ability to recall facts has slowed. I could now only compete on "Jeopardy" if they gave the contestants about five minutes to answer each question. In the face of objective evidence of some declining of mental acuity, it is reassuring to be given this nugget of proof that in at least one area my brain continues to learn and improve.

Another little thrill in my life

In order to understand the photograph that follows, you'll first need to read (or reread) this post from November, 2009:

Go ahead. I'll wait.

Done? Good. Now you're prepared to understand why the following otherwise ordinary-appearing package of pills so thrilled me when I discovered it yesterday:

Yes, it's the elusive 1/512 package that by pure chance has all ten pills turned with the same side up.

On the road again

As I was driving to Green Valley Ranch on I-215 yesterday, I was passed by this car. In case you can't see it, the license plate is "BIGSLIK."

Poker gems, #424

Alec Torelli, in Bluff magazine column, June, 2011, page 96, on what American online poker professionals should do now that the game is mostly gone.

The way I see it, when you have nothing to do, you are free to do anything you want!

...Just relax. Take a few breaths. The sun is still going to rise tomorrow. Take some time to be grateful for the countless options you have at your disposal. If poker is something you still fancy, what better opportunity to take advantage of living in Europe and experiencing something totally new? Or if you want to digress, you are free to take that trip you always wanted, learn an instrument or language, write a book, or climb Mount Everest. Remember, the only loss suffered here was monetary. Personally, I'm always comforted to know where the ingredient of money fits into my recipe for happiness, and it's usually no more important than a pinch of salt.

Guess the casino, #879

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

Answer: Hooters

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt

(Photo from here.)

Last night I had the rare treat of seeing Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt in concert at Green Valley Ranch. The tickets were free, thanks to my House Seats subscription. To be honest, I had somehow never heard of Hiatt, though I did recognize one of the songs he played--the lovely "Have a Little Faith in Me"--maybe from a movie or TV show somewhere. (Now that I'm looking it up, I see that it has been covered by Delbert McClinton and was sung by Jewell in the movie Phenomenon, so I've probably heard it from both sources.) Looking over the basic facts of his career now, I find it remarkable that I had somehow overlooked him.

Lovett, though, I had not overlooked. I have several of his CDs and like them a lot. I enjoy his quirky voice, quirky lyrics ("And if I had a boat, I'd go out on the ocean/And if I had a pony, I'd ride him on my boat"), and quirky synthesis of country, jazz, and blues traditions.

The concert is pure simplicity: Two men, each equipped with a guitar, a microphone, and a chair. That's it. They've been doing these joint recitals for years, and they work splendidly together, with distinct but highly complementary styles. They take turns performing, with a little light banter between songs. Each occasionally does a little backup vocal or guitar, but mostly sit back and yield the stage to the other. It seemed clear that they didn't have a set order of pieces, but played whatever came to mind, triggered by a theme or idea in the other's previous song.

Because the tickets became available only on very short notice, I put out an offer on Twitter to give away the extra one. Good move, me. The call was answered by one "CoolDave88," who turns out to be a reader, a fellow grinder, somebody who had shared the final table of a HORSE tournament with me, and an all-around enjoyable person to get to know. He was a Hiatt fan but had not listened to any of Lovett's stuff, so we came at the concert from opposite perspectives. We each left feeling glad to have been introduced to another interesting artist worth exploring.

The music was marred only by our seats being surrounded by people who seemed to think that we came to listen to them rather than to the performers. They chatted away freely, as if watching television in their living rooms, and sometimes sung along to let everybody else see that they knew the lyrics. It's so annoying how self-absorbed and inconsiderate people can be. A couple of rows back, two guys actually got in a fight over something or other and got hauled out by security.

Also, on our way in, security confiscated the bottle of water I had started drinking while playing in the poker room before heading downstairs to the concert venue. They said that no outside drinks were allowed. I pointed out that this wasn't an "outside" drink, it was a Green Valley Ranch water bottle, given to me just a few minutes earlier by a Green Valley Ranch employee. They were not moved, so I handed it over. I really wanted to ask the goon, "Do you feel good about spending your life harassing people on the enforcement of such idiotic policies?" But I bit my tongue. A stupid bottle of water that I had been given at no cost wasn't worth a confrontation.

Those minor irritations aside, it was a far more pleasant way to spend a couple of hours than sitting at a poker table. If Lovett and Hiatt's show passes your way, you might want to give them a try.

World-class rant

It's Jesse May, on the astonishing incompetence of the Full Tilt Poker PR team.

Key excerpt:
Just take the case of British Petroleum, as an example. BP faded a six billion dollar lawsuit, the wrath of Greenpeace and the US government, the extinction of half of the planet’s ocean wildlife and one of the largest disasters in the history of the universe. They didn’t wait six weeks to release a statement. They didn’t tell the public that they had no idea how they were going to stop the oil. What they did do, and wait for this one, they did the only sensible thing in the circumstances… They BLUFFED!! How is it possible that a poker company, supposedly endorsed and run by the finest poker minds that have ever been produced, couldn’t run a simple bluff for six weeks while they figured out what the hell they were going to do. It’s not rocket science. Smile a few times in public, pay out a couple of the five dollar accounts, let everybody else know the checks are in the mail, grab a photo op next to the Statue of Liberty, send your sponsored pros out on the talk show circuit, villianize the US attorney and run a freaking two barrel bluff like any poker player who’s only just learned the game and is playing 1-2 Hold’em at the Excalibur. How is it possible that these great minds couldn’t just keep a poker face for six damn weeks? How is it possible that at the first sign of opposition they folded, ran, and tried to see if any casino was still cashing Bellagio chips? It’s only a few indictments and a couple of hundred million dollars in frozen assets. If businesses couldn’t bluff their way out of these spots, there’d be no America in the first place.