Saturday, July 09, 2011

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 7: Day 1, the coverage

With this post I run the risk of being thought vain. But, after all, every post is always all about me--what I've been doing, thinking, reading, or whatever. It's kind of the nature of personal blogging. This is not really any different. For my own purposes, I just wanted to compile links to what other people wrote about my Day 1 experience, and if any readers find them interesting or amusing, well, fine, but please don't feel obligated to follow every one. Unless you're one of my stalkers, of course, in which case you pretty much have to.

As the day began, Shamus did a post for PokerNews about how I won the seat. He then followed it the next day with a kind, thoughtfully written post on his own blog reflecting about how it made him feel to have friends playing in the event--especially when they clashed in hands, as will inevitably happen. (Creative kudos for managing to tie "Grumpy" in with the theme of the guy who played dressed as Snow White.)

The lead photo for the Las Vegas Sun's story about the start of the Main Event caught the back of my head in the foreground, which I find pretty funny. As Glenn (aka MissingFlops) cleverly Tweeted, "Everyone keeps getting the big guy in the orange shirt in their pictures of @PokerGrump." His own example of the genre is here.

Another who stopped by briefly for an encouraging word was Stacey of Las Vegas Poker Source. Her obligatory photo is here. That is, of course, my favoritest, luckiest hoodie I'm wearing there, complete with Grumpy on it (though not seen in that photo), courtesy of Cardgrrl. The other patch you can see is that of Two players at the table asked me about the site, and the logo might have been captured in a bunch of photos, so maybe I got them a little free publicity and a few more visitors. AVP kindly set up a forum page just for updates/comments on my progress, here.

Incidentally, when I saw the table lineup, I thought there was a decent chance we'd be one of the TV featured tables and I would then have some small shot at selling ad space on my clothing, but that didn't happen. Guess I'll have to wait for the final table. (Ha!)

Wasted Aces Poker clicked a bunch of photos and wrote up a brief story here.

Oskar Garcia covers poker, gaming generally, and other stuff about life in Vegas for the Associated Press. His stories about Day 1A are here and here. Shockingly, he does not mention me. (Do I need to add the #sarcasm hashtag there?) But he did come by my table, so we finally got to meet and chat a bit, following a few months of conversing via Twitter (he is @OskarGarcia, and well worth following for the topics mentioned), which was very nice.

In fact, I am generally privileged to have an unusual number of friends in poker media circles, and nearly every one of them at some point sent encouraging messages electronically, stopped by to chat, or just gave me a knowing smile, nod, or wink while passing by on their news-gathering way. There were obviously much more famous players at my table, but, with the exception of Greg Raymer, none of them had as much personal attention as I received. I really don't think I'm an attention whore (the appearance of posts like this notwithstanding), but I'm grateful that my friends are willing to pause for a bit of discreet well-wishing while carrying out their reportorial duties.

That's all the links that I can remember offhand. I am, of course, mentioned in the official end-of-day chip counts here, but you'll have to scroll a long, long, long way down to find me (#545, 11 spots below Maria Ho)--almost the very shortest stack surviving from my flight.

Tomorrow: Last post about Day 1, to include some of the more interesting hands I played.

Guess the casino, #913

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

Answer: Binion's

Friday, July 08, 2011

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 6: Day 1, the lineup

Photos courtesy of Wolynski. (And in case you're wondering what I'm doing with my left arm in that last shot, well, both Wolynski and I are wondering, too. My best guess after looking at it for a while is that I was pushing up my shirt sleeve, but I really don't know.)

Last night I dreamed that I was back at my WSOP Main Event Day 1 table, just as I had been all day Thursday--except that in the dream I had horrendous body odor. Everybody at the table had their noses wrinkled up in disgust at the stench, and they were all trying to figure out who smelled so bad. I knew it was me, but rather than confess that I had forgotten my deodorant, I tried to pretend that there was nothing wrong.

I don't usually put much stock in dream interpretation, but in this particular case there is undoubtedly something profoundly symbolic going on. Even if I consciously tried to conjure up a literary device to convey how I felt at that table, I doubt I could make up anything so perfect. I have never felt so out of place and outclassed at a poker table. I have never had any illusions about being a great player, but it is nevertheless deeply humbling to be faced, in such an up-close and personal way, with the reality of how much better some other people are at the game. I'm used to being the best player at the table--not because I'm exceptionally good, but for the simple reason that anybody who is significantly better would play higher than $1-2 NLHE, my bread-and-butter game. It is, therefore, quite a novel and unsettling experience to feel like the one who is not only the fish, but the fish that has begun to stink.

As most readers will have heard by now, either from my Twitter feed, PokerNews coverage, or other sources that were reporting on the day, I got unbelievably unlucky in my table draw. I was in Seat 2. In Seat 3 was David "The Maven" Chicotsky, Bluff Magazine Online Player of the Year for 2008. In Seat 4 was Tom Schneider, who won two bracelets and WSOP Player of the Year honors in 2007. In Seat 5 was Eugene Yanayt, whom I had not heard of before, but is definitely on my radar screen now. He is a 2-7 triple-draw specialist, apparently playing online under the names "FishosaurusREX" and "Oogee." In Seat 8 was Greg Raymer, 2004 Main Event champion. Finally, in Seat 10 was Olivier Busquet, widely considered one of the top handful of high-stakes, heads-up, online players in the world.

To be blunt, this table was an assemblage of just completely ridiculous, phenomenal poker talent. It got the dreaded label of "table of death" from PokerNews. Raymer commented at one point that it was the single toughest Main Event table he had ever been seated at. He then paused a beat to consider his words, and added a qualification: "If it's not the toughest of any Main Event table I've ever had, it's definitely the toughest Day 1 table." After the first level, he Tweeted, "1st break #wsop58. Somehow only up to 33K at this ridic soft table @DonkeyBomber livB Maven pokergrump oogee. #sarcasm" (He surely didn't know or care who I was when he sat down. He probably learned my moniker by checking PokerNews coverage and/or by overhearing me introduce myself to Schneider, with whom I have several mutual friends. Furthermore, I'm certain that his inclusion of me in that list was sheer politeness, not an objective assessment that I was one of their peers. The mention did skyrocket my Twitter followers, though!)

Funny story: I didn't recognize Chicotsky at first, even though I certainly should have. (E.g., I recognized him and took his picture at a charity tournament at the Venetian over a year ago, as reported here.) He had briefly introduced himself as "David" when he sat down, and I was kinda busy futzing with all my stuff at the time and wasn't really paying attention. After that, when I looked at him it was in profile and from about 12 inches away, so it didn't trigger my facial recognition from photographs. I sent a message on Twitter about the stars at my table, not mentioning him. One of my readers is Donna Lawton (@Cure _MTM on Twitter), who is head of the Utah chapter of the Poker Players Alliance. She and I have met on some of her Vegas trips, and even played a cash session in adjacent seats at the Venetian on one of them. Anyway, she sent me a private message via Twitter: "Hey it looks like the Maven is at ur table too yes?" I brushed it off with my reply: "Don't think so." I mean, I would have noticed that, right? Duh! But she was persistent and pointed me to Chicotsky's own Twitter feed (which I wasn't following), where he had commented on having Raymer, Schneider, and Busquet at his table. Well, that evidence was pretty hard to ignore, so I took another hard look around the table at the people I hadn't recognized. I had to stifle a laugh when it finally dawned on me that not only was he sitting right next to me, but he had introduced himself and shaken my hand earlier! Sometimes I can be unbelievably oblivious to my surroundings.

Of the star players at my table, I was most bowled over by Busquet in terms of who most consistently had a nose for the right play. He was just dominatingly good. I saw him lose a few small pots, but never a big one. I tussled with him a few times and could never win, no matter what I tried. He also had the advantage of running like God yesterday (e.g., cracking one player's aces with a flopped flush, starting with Jd-9d, and elsewhere calling Maven's four-bet with 5-8 suited and flopping another flush). He ended the day as one of the overall chip leaders. Watching him play I had weird flashbacks of the lyrics of "Pinball Wizard":

Even on my usual table
He can beat my best
His disciples lead him in
And he just does the rest
He's got crazy flipper fingers
Never seen him fall
That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball

Tom Schneider had a lousy day in spite of playing well. The most impressive thing I saw all day--in fact, one of the most impressive things I've ever witnessed at a poker table--was him face-up folding pocket tens after flopping a set, and being proven correct to have done so when Raymer showed him a flopped set of queens. He was in the tank for a long time on that decision (politely apologizing to the other players a couple of times for taking so long). It gave me time to send up the Bat-signal to my buddy Shamus, who was reporting for PokerNews. I knew that whatever the outcome, this was likely to be a newsworthy hand, and I also knew that Shamus trusted my judgment and would just come without question when he caught my eye. I cannot improve on the excellent way he told the story here.

We usually think of the best moves in poker being the audacious bluff, the razor-thin hero call, or the perfectly sized value bet. Folds aren't sexy. But I tell you, this was a world-class move by a world-class player. Not reported by Shamus was the fact that Schneider talked a bit as he was thinking. He said, "I just think you have me beat here," and, after a while longer, "I can't get over the feeling that I need to fold this." Logically, he was only beaten by Raymer having pocket queens or pocket aces (the flopped straight not fitting the action well). Furthermore, Raymer is easily capable of putting Schneider to the test in that spot with just a big ace, just a draw, or even as a pure bluff. For Schneider to get that sharp a read on Raymer's actual holding by nothing more than feel, and trust it enough to fold, after having already put a substantial percentage of his dwindling stack into the pot, well, I cannot adequately express how much it impressed me. As Raymer said, with sincere admiration in his voice, "That's a helluva fold."

Very early in my learning about poker, I heard somebody famous say that what separated the great players from the merely good players was not how much they win when they have the best hand, but how little they lose when they have the second-best hand. (I think it was Mike Sexton on an early World Poker Tour broadcast, quoting Doyle Brunson, but I'm unsure of that attribution.) At the time, I dismissed it as a cute but not terribly important observation. The longer I play, though, the more I come to appreciate it as a profound truth of the game. Schneider's fold becomes a foremost example of this principle for me. His tournament would have been over if he had not trusted his finely tuned Spidey senses there.

You've probably heard that I later took the last of Schneider's chips. I certainly didn't outplay him. It was a pure cold-deck situation, my aces against his kings. Again, I had managed to catch Shamus's attention in time for him to witness the outcome, as reported here.

In an opinion shared, apparently, by nearly everyone who has contact with him, Raymer is a smart, interesting, funny guy. He's very chatty, and an excellent raconteur of his many poker stories. But he's also willing to let the conversation veer off into the bizarro world. For a while, he got the table discussing correct strategy for playing poker heads-up with an omniscient being. Later in the day, after he had pre-ordered some sushi for his dinner break, he went on a riff about lobsters, and whether it would be worth being basically anencephalic as a trade-off for the ability to regrow severed limbs. That one thoroughly cracked me up.

More times than I could count during the day, Raymer was approached by people from one poker media outlet or another to chat. These weren't full-out interviews, but they still constituted frequent distractions from the game. He was unfailingly welcoming and respectful with them. Furthermore, I happened to see him on breaks in the halls, and he could barely take three steps in a row without a fan stopping him to ask for an autograph or to pose for a photo. With every one of them he smiled and did as requested, showing not a trace of boredom or resentment, as far as I could detect. I don't think I could pull that off for five minutes before I started going postal and yelling at strangers to leave me alone, but he has managed it for seven years straight. My hat's off to him for his patience and good will with the public--not to mention his tireless efforts on the poker political front. (He's a fellow libertarian, doncha know. We're all saints, obviously!)

The only blemish in my admiration of Raymer came when I rivered a lucky second pair to beat him in a very early pot, and he gave me the disdainful "Nice catch" line used to not-so-subtly tell an opponent, "You stupidly stayed in when you were behind." It's far from the most insulting thing I've ever been told, but I consider it slightly unclassy--whether or not the underlying message is true. It sounds dismissive and sarcastic, which, in my view, isn't cricket at the poker table. But it's not awful, either, and I'm not inclined to be overly judgmental about one stray comment in a moment of irritation. It just isn't my style, and I was a little surprised to see that tiny crack in his otherwise uniformly deserved good-guy image.

His bust-out hand got paused in the middle while the TV cameras and other media swooped down on the table like vultures. If ESPN does any coverage of Days 1A through 1D (there seems to be some disagreement among poker reporters as to their plans), this hand will surely be included, because it had a dramatic river suckout. I was pleased to be able to help my PokerNews friends reconstruct the action, as they had not been there when it began. Read about it here. From a strategic perspective, Raymer made a cagey move to open-limp-reraise, representing possible aces, as Yanayt (unnamed in the blog post) could easily have been just stealing from the limpers). But when the field folded and Yanayt reraised, Raymer's subsequent call with just 2-2 was highly questionable, a fact that he admitted when it was all over and he was packing up his things. He signed for Yanayt a large, beautiful fossil with a gracious note (which I looked at closely, but stupidly forgot to photograph for you all).

Yanayt was with me until the end of the day, but one by one we lost the others. Chicotsky was the first of them to go broke, then Schneider. Busquet got randomly chosen to be moved to balance tables, and Raymer went out. The only semi-name-brand player to join us subsequently was Nachman Berlin, who had a $419K score for second place in Event #43 just about a week ago. (Thanks again to Donna for remotely helping me quickly figure out who he was--though as it turned out, he talked about himself so much that with a little more time I would have put the pieces together.) Unlike all the others I've named, Berlin was, frankly, an arrogant ass. While I was deeply impressed with Busquet, Schneider, and Raymer's play, Berlin is deeply impressed only with himself. His assessment of his opposition on his Twitter feed after he got moved to ol' #376: "Table is real soft. 2 good players." He's one of those who is convinced he's the best there's ever been, and likes to pretend, when a hand is over, that he knew exactly what everybody had and what everybody was thinking and doing. Moreover, he's perfectly willing to tell others, without invitation, how they should have played a hand differently. But as far as I could tell, his talent did not match his inflated sense of self. He seemed to get in trouble as often as he succeeded. His aggression was not nearly as smartly controlled as what I had seen from the others. My guess is that he is not going to become a poker commodity over the ensuing years. (Of course, I won't either, but I've never claimed or pretended greatness.)

Berlin aside, the others I've mentioned (as well as the no-names, none of whom were incompetent, and all of whom were unfailingly polite and friendly) contributed to making yesterday far more memorable than it might otherwise have been. It was an exhilarating experience. Even if my killer table draw hampered my chances at a big cash, it was sure one hell of a lot more interesting than if I had been assigned to a table full of silent hooded Internet players, and a lot more educational than if I had landed at a soft table full of donkeys. For that, I can feel genuinely grateful, even if the draw proves to have doomed me to an early flame-out.

Well, I have a ton more to tell you from my Day 1, but it has already taken me a couple of hours to write this much, and I have some other stuff I have to finish up today. I might get to another post later tonight or maybe not until tomorrow, but I promise there is more.

Guess the casino, #912

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

Answer: Tropicana


But barely. 8325 chips left, after having started with 30,000. When we restart Monday noon for Day 2, that will be one of the shortest stacks around (average will be something like 40,000), and enough for just one move. It's looking grim, but it's not completely a hopeless situation. Stranger things have happened than a rebound from being that low--like, for instance, getting one's name drawn from a bucket containing 300 of them.

Many thanks for all the good wishes that came in all day--on Twitter, Facebook, comments here, and in the forum on There have been far more than I can respond to individually, but I've seen them all, and they have truly warmed my heart. You all are kinder and more supportive than I deserve.

Much to tell, but completely exhausted. I'll get to it tomorrow. In the meantime, read this poignant post from Brad Willis at the PokerStars blog, about the contrast between the old and new players in this game of ours.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Guess the casino, #911

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

Answer: Tropicana

"You can play your queen if you want to"

I played at the Rio again this evening. In a hand in which I wasn't involved, the final board was 5-5-J-K-2. At showdown, Player A had J-Q. Player B had J-9.

The dealer appropriately chopped the pot. When Player A got his half, it was clear he was expecting the whole thing. He said, "Wait a minute--we both had jacks, but I had a queen with it."

Instead of taking the usual, straightforward approach to the explanation, this impish dealer said, "You can play your queen if you want to. But this guy [Player B] has jacks and fives with a king [pointing to the K on the board], so if you do that, he'll get the whole thing. Still want to play the queen?"

Player A quickly grasped the point and withdrew his objection.

This might sound like it was nasty, but it wasn't. The tone of voice and facial expressions were so light and friendly that he pulled it off. It's kind of a risky thing to do, because it's the sort of comment that some players could take offense at, thinking they're being needled. Still, I liked how the dealer managed the situation.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Pokerati game #2

Back in April I told you about my first attempt at playing pot-limit Omaha live--specifically the "Pokerati" game at the Palms, which alternates one round of no-limit hold'em and one round of PLO, each with $1/2 blinds. It was not exactly a raging success. But it was OK, because I'm learning, and losing some money is the price of achieving competence at a new version of poker. One just has to be careful to put limits on the losses along the way.

Last night I took my second shot at it. I had had a good night at my bread-and-butter games at the Rio, and several friends had decided to do a Palms Pokerati session. I agreed to join them, and a few random strangers sat down with us, too.

I was doing much better this time. I was much more selective about starting PLO hands, and paid more attention to using my table image and position as tools, rather than just making hands. (Personal triumph of the evening: Hearing Otis say, "I'm finding you kind of scary.") All was going rather well, and I was up about $150 over my $200 buy-in. And then I blew it with one bad decision.

In a PLO hand I was one of six who had put in $20 each pre-flop. I had KsKcJcX. The flop was something like Q73 with two clubs. Ryan (Absinthetics) opened with a pot-sized bet. I was next. My thinking was that with a re-pot (which would put me all in), I could represent top set, likely fold the field, and still have the flush draw as a backup plan in case I got called.

In fact, I did get called--twice. First by an unknown guy who had the ace-high flush draw, and then by Ryan, who actually had what I was trying to persuade him that I had. D'oh! I basically had only two outs--hitting a red king. That didn't happen. Ryan won an enormous pot. You can see the impressive chip stack that resulted here. Don't overlook the wad of Benjamins tucked in there.

It was a stupid move on my part. Committing one's stack with just an overpair and a non-nut flush draw in the face of another solid player's demonstrated aggression and desire to build a big pot is just suicidal. It was midnight, I was tired, had been playing for several hours, and just wasn't thinking clearly. I basically reverted to valuing hands as I might in hold'em, rather than adjusting to a game where it is always much more likely that somebody is already holding the nuts, and in which non-nut draws are hazardous to one's health.

I still ended up winner for the day, however, and hopefully had a painful lesson embedded further into my brain by the consequences of my error, and will be better prepared to skirt such dangers in the future. (I already knew these things in theory, but obviously hadn't incorporated them sufficiently deeply into my decision-making apparatus.)

The learning continues.

AVP 2.0

I've been a reader/user of since I moved here five years ago. The site's forum readers formed the first core of my readers when I decided to start my own blog rather than posting my random pokery thoughts and stories there. But AVP got rather neglected over the past couple of years. Room reviews were stale, details weren't current, tournament schedules weren't updated, etc.

Well, that's all changed. Yesterday they launched a completely overhauled site. It looks fresh and is easy to navigate. Poker room information is up-to-date and easy to scan. It's a remarkable improvement.

If you have any reason to want to read about Las Vegas poker rooms, give the revised site a look.

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 5

So tomorrow it begins.

Last night I was at the Rio for some cash games (up $400 in 2.5 hours--thank you, WSOP), and took a minute to check out the location of my table. I'm at Amazon Purple 376, marked above.

I mention this because a few people have told me that they plan to be there on the rail to watch/support me. While I appreciate the intention, I have to tell you, you're going to be disappointed. There's no access to the table, physically or visually. You won't be able to see much of anything that's going on. You might be able to tell to whom a pot is being pushed, but that's about it.

Worse, I'm in seat 2. The red arrow seen above is pointed at where the dealer sits, which means that I'll have my back directly to the nearest aisle where a spectator could stand. Unless I crane my head around 180 degrees, I won't even know anybody's there.

All of which is my most polite way of saying this: Come if you like, but I wouldn't if I were you. You shouldn't expect to get any interaction with/from me, not because I don't want to be friendly, but because I'll be both physically isolated and kinda busy. On breaks, I will probably be happier if I can bust out of the room and walk or vegetate on my own than if I need to try to be socially engaging.

I will keep up on Twitter the best that I can. At a minimum I'll send an update every two hours at breaks, but also probably anytime there is a major chip move up or down, and if I get moved to a different table. It's also possible that the PokerNews live updates will report on me now and then. I don't yet know which of their bloggers will be assigned to my area, but I know several of them, and it's likely that most or all of them know of the Dan Cates raffle story and would consider it worth following occasionally.

Speaking of whom, add @junglemandan to your Twitter feed and give him your virtual support during his first Main Event. He's a good guy and deserves attention.

As you might guess, I plan to keep notes on the most interesting hands, and write them up here when I can.

And so it begins. Whee!

Guess the casino, #910

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

Answer: Planet Hollywood

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Guess the casino, #909

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

Answer: MGM Grand

Monday, July 04, 2011

Poker gems, #429

John Vorhaus, in Card Player magazine column, June 29, 2011 (vol. 24, #13), page 36.

I know of no truer truth of poker than everything's harder out of position. It's harder to bluff, harder to control the size of the pot, harder to get the right price for draws, harder to protect big hands, harder to know where your opponents are in the hand--harder, harder, harder. And yet--all day, every day--we see people making promiscuous calls and audacious raises from early position. What are these people thinking? That their 9-8 suited is going to flop a straight or a flush? That their A-Q in the blind is worth calling a raise and a reraise because both of those other guys are liars? That their skill edge is so great that it can overcome their positional disadvantage? Well, it ain't. Hey, Mike Caro once said, "Everyone takes turns making mistakes in poker. The trick is just to skip your turn." By analogy, everyone takes turns playing out of position. Why not just skip your turn? If you're in a good game, you'll do fine just waiting to play hands in position. And if you're not in a good game, playing out of position becomes geometrically worse.

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 4

Friday I sat down for an interview with Glenn of the Missing Flops blog/vlog. I've known Glenn for quite a while, so I was a lot more comfortable in this video than I was being interviewed by a TV guy standing up in the middle of a hallway at the Rio--and it shows. Most of you haven't ever met me in person, but this clip is, I think, a very accurate reflection of how I look and sound in real life. I don't cringe at all sharing this one with you, because this is the relaxed, honest-to-goodness me.

Video with a brief text introduction here.

Doyle Brunson and the WSOP

Doyle Brunson has been frustrated at the World Series of Poker this year. Saturday he Tweeted, "@PokerLawyer Thanks, you might be watching my last tournament. If I don't play well (up to my standards), I may retire from tournament poker." A few hours ago, he busted out of the $50,000 "Players Championship" event and wrote, "Busted... Total nightmare... Goodbye WSOP." That was followed shortly thereafter by, "No main event for me. maybe the DOJ will stake me."

Pokerati then asked him, "will this be your first main event to miss ever?" Kevmath responded, "sure he missed some after jack binion left and becky took over?"

Dana Smith interviewed Doyle in 1998. The transcript is reprinted in The Championship Table at the World Series of Poker by Smith, McEvoy, and Wheeler (2nd edition, Cardoza, 2004), pages 48-55. The introduction to the interview says, "Brunson created some waves this year (1998) at the World Series of Poker when, after a 20-year hiatus from tournament competition, he made a triumphant return to the arena where he previously had won so many battles, including back-to-back victories in the championship event in '76 and '77."

The interview includes this Q&A on page 53:

You don't usually play the small events at the Series, but this year you did. What made you decide to play them?  
One reason was that some guys had passed me by and I wanted to keep my name towards the top of the list. Another reason was that they were putting out these lists (odds sheets) with the favorites on them--and they didn't even have me in the top eight! I have nothing against women poker players, but they had a few women in front of me. "I'm gonna have to do something about that," I said. So, instead of playing in the side games, I played in the tournaments for the first time in 20 years. 
Now, neither this claim from Brunson nor the one from Smith introducing the interview can be taken literally--a complete absence from all tournaments or even from just the WSOP--because the records show that Doyle cashed 13 times, including three bracelets, in the 20 years prior to his "return" in 1998 (i.e., 1978-1997). These cashes included three Main Event final tables. Furthermore, they included not just the Main Event (as might be suggested by Smith's distinction about the "small events"); he cashed in stud, deuce, ace-to-five draw, PLO, and Chinese, as well as no-limit hold'em.

In fact, looking at that record, it's hard to understand what either Smith or Brunson himself meant by characterizing that period as a 20-year hiatus from the Series. I can't easily answer exactly how many times Doyle has sat out the Main Event, but it is likely a good number of them in the 20-year stretch following his 1977 championship, if there is anything at all to be believed about his own words in this 1998 interview.


I forgot to mention something from my Golden Nugget tournament the other day. At one seat I noticed fingernail (or maybe toenail; it was hard to tell) clippings on the carpet all around the chair.

What kind of pig uses the occasion of a poker tournament to trim his nails? And, having made that decision, what kind of pig then thinks, "I'll just leave these remnants here for somebody else to pick up later"?

Guess the casino, #908

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

Answer: Hard Rock

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 3

Ugh. I'm dreading sharing this, but I guess I must, in order to keep a more or less complete documentation. I just saw the brief interview I did last Wednesday with KSNV's "Sports Night in Las Vegas." I know I'm awkward and dorky, but there's nothing worse than seeing the videotaped evidence of just how awkward and dorky as it's broadcast to billions of homes all over the planet. OK, maybe not billions, but you get the idea. I didn't feel nervous doing the interview, but I come across as having more tics than Paul Magriel. I look more nervous than Russ Hamilton injected with truth serum.

Sorry for the horrible technical quality here. They don't consistently put these shows up online, so my only way of conveying it to you was to record it playing back on my TV, meaning that both the video and audio quality are awful. If I ever learn of it being available more directly (and without me flagrantly infringing on the station's copyrights), I'll post something about it.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Nasty, brutish, and short

Thomas Hobbes apparently foresaw my day at the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza. Less than two hours in, I was waylayed by two hands in rapid succession.

First, I had 4-5 offsuit in the big blind. Blinds were 75/150 (Level 2), and I had a stack of about 13,000 (starting stack was 12,000), small blind had quite a bit less. Everybody folded, and he limped. Flop was 4-5-6 with two clubs. SB checked. I bet 250 with my bottom two pair. He raised all in, total of 7050, a completely ridiculous overbet. He did it instantly and forcefully. The unmistakable message was, "Go away, give me the pot." I thought this was completely defensive, trying to shut out any straight draws and flush draws with a weak made hand. If he had a really strong hand--flopped set or straight--I think he would try to extract more value than this, try to make me pay too much for a draw. I just didn't believe that he had my two pair beat. So after thinking a bit, I called. I was right: he had 8-8. He had to hit an 8 for a set, a 7 for a straight, a 6 for a higher two pair, or some weird runner-runner combination. Turn was the 9 of spades, eliminating the backdoor clubs threat. But the river was a 7, making his gutshot straight. Ick. That knocked me down to 5900 chips.

Just a few hands later, with blinds up to 100/200, I had As-Kd offsuit in early position. I raised to 600 after one limper. Young woman on the button called. Blinds and limper folded. Flop was Kh-Jc-4h. I bet 1200 into the 1700 pot. She raised to 4000. I had 4100 left. This was a difficult spot. Having watched her play for about 90 minutes, I didn't think she was bad enough to have called my early-position raise with any down cards that would have flopped her two pair. The possible exception was a suited K-J, but one king in my hand and one on the board made that much less likely. With K-K or J-J she almost surely would have reraised pre-flop. 4-4 was obviously a possibility, but I thought that most of her range consisted of (1) things like Jh-10h for a pair and a flush draw, or Qh-10h for combined straight and flush draws; and (2) another A-K. I was OK with taking my hand against those.

But she had what was for me the worst part of her range: the 4-4 for a flopped set. I would need to catch two running cards to make a straight or full house to win, and that didn't happen. I was one of the first players out.

Like I said, nasty, brutish, and short. Poker is like that some days. OK, a lot of days.

Before we got to the nasty and brutish, however, there were a couple of highlights. I continued my experiment with finding spots in which to raise rather than just call. Two were noteworthy, I think.

With blinds at 50/100, it folded to me in the cutoff with Ah-Jh. I opened for 275. The big blind reraised to 700. My usual reaction is to either fold or call. This time, though, I decided that there was a good chance that he was just reading me for a blind steal with any two cards, because that's certainly what it looked like. I decided to test his resolve, and four-bet him to 2100. It took him only about three seconds to throw his cards away. I guess I was right.

The second example happened when I had 10c-10d, blinds still at 75/150. The guy on my right open-raised to 500. I called, as did the player on my left, who had just recently joined the tournament as a late registration. Flop was 7-6-2 with two diamonds. Original raiser bet 1200. My usual play here would be to just call, waiting to see what the third player will do, as well as finding out whether the guy leading will bet again on the turn, to help me sort out if he has a bigger pocket pair versus unpaired big cards. But in accordance with my desire to try an extra ounce of aggression, I decided instead to raise, making it 3000. If either one came back over the top, I could safely conclude that he had a higher pair or a set. A flat-call from the player on my left would be plenty alarming, too. But they both folded. Pot to me.

So even though this tournament didn't turn out to be the test of my endurance as I had hoped and planned (they play until 2:00 a.m. after starting at noon), I both played reasonably well and got a couple more instances of being rewarded for selective stepping up the aggression beyond my usual zone of comfort and safety--before getting hit with a combination of a bad beat and a cold deck. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

Guess the casino, #907

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

Answer: Bill's

"I can count!"

One incident from today's Golden Nugget tournament deserves retelling.

I had the table maniac on my immediate left, which was a serious pain in the neck. In the hand in question, I limped in with 10-10. He shoved from the button. His range there was very large, and I thought my 10s were in pretty good shape. But it was hard to estimate his stack, because he had accumulated an enormous number of the two smallest-denomination chips. He really liked them, for some reason, and would put in his blinds and antes with larger chips apparently just for the purpose of getting yet more small chips as change. I don't know if he has some sort of fetish for them, or likes having huge stacks as some sort of visual intimidation, or what.

Anyway, I estimated his stacks to total somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000, and that was a range that I was willing to call. So I did. He had K-9 offsuit, so I was definitely right in my judgment that he was shoving very light there, and I was definitely right to call. Sadly, he got lucky and binked a king to take the pot.

Then the dealer had to count out his voluminous stacks so we could get the pot exactly right. When she got down to the 25-denomination chips, she messed it up. She assembled stacks of 10 chips and said, "500," then put those together and said, "1000." There were several stacks of 20 chips each of these. Like I said, he was cornering the market on the cheap chips.

Even though three people were telling the dealer that she was counting wrong, when she went back, she made the exact same mistake again. She concluded that the total was 17,000 and change. (I don't remember her exact number.) At that point I had lost all confidence in her, and said, "Would you please call the floor to redo the count?"

She gave me the nastiest look I've seen in a long time and spat back, "I can count!" Uh, I beg to differ with you, ma'am. You have proven that, in fact, you cannot count, at least not correctly. But I didn't say that. I just repeated, with more emphasis, "Please call the floor." I intended my voice to convey that I knew perfectly well that when a player makes this request she is obligated to comply, and that if she did not do so, I would call the floor myself and hang on to my chips until help arrived. Apparently she got this message, and put in the call.

While we were waiting, she took another stab at it. This time the maniac was simultaneously trying to count them, and they completely got in each other's way, moving chip stacks this way and that, messing up each other's count. I just made sure that they didn't mix any of my stacks in with his until it got sorted out.

The floor guy came. I don't know his name, but I've seen him at the G.N. for years now, and he's very good at his job. In fact, he's the same one who last year bailed out another dealer who didn't know how to count, in a story I related here. When he arrived, I said, "It's an all-in and call. We need his stacks counted. The dealer got it wrong the first time, and I'd like to have an independent count, please."

The dealer glared at me again, and shot back, "I did not get it wrong!" But floor guy wasn't listening. He was already counting. Just as he had done in the previous incident, he was an absolute wizard. He flew through the stacks expertly, verbalizing the amount of each stack and his running total. It took him less than 30 seconds, and when he was done, nobody doubted that he had the number right.

It was 12,325, a far cry from the 17,000+ that the dealer had counted. I had started that hand with about 56,000 (tournament average was then only about 22,000), so it hurt but wasn't fatal. But a 5,000-chip mistake was not a tiny rounding error; it was HUGE. Some at the table were getting irritated that this took so long to sort out, but it wasn't my fault. I am resolute that I did the right thing by calling for backup, and not accepting the dealer's assertion that she had things under control. She was causing the problem; I was getting it resolved. I'm not going to give away 10% of my stack unnecessarily.

Incidentally, the floor guy also had the dealer color up most of the maniac's small chips so that future hands wouldn't take so long to get right.

Lesson: Don't let dealers intimidate you into just accepting their counts when you have any reason to think there is an error. Get the floor over to verify the amount before you hand over your chips. It's your right.

Poker gems, #428

David Chicotsky, in Poker Player Newspaper column, July 4, 2011 (vol. 15, #1), page 10.

It isn't hard to beat K-J with Q-J, as long as you take the lead by reraising before the flop.

[This column, which is worth reading in its entirety, was one of the proximal causes of me deciding to try the experiment described in the previous blog entry.]

Kicking it up a notch

After you play enough thousands of hands, you tend to develop a rote system: I raise with this, I fold that, I'll call in that kind of spot. I have my default plays like everybody else, and they work well enough.

I have, of course, been having lots of anticipatory thoughts about the Main Event coming up next week. One of them is an acknowledgement that my ordinary, daily game is fairly passive. I turn up the heat in spots, but I very rarely three-bet pre-flop, for example. I'm enough better at post-flop play than most opponents that I consider it an advantage not to risk turning it into a shove-fest. I play cautiously because for the most part I can wait for spots in which I know I'm a huge favorite before getting the big money in. The marginal spots, those where I'm purely guessing what another player is up to, I tend to pass on. I may be ahead, I may not be, but there's no point in reducing it to a guessing game when, with a little patience, I can get it in as a definitive favorite.

It's a serviceable strategy for cash games against the stereotypical impatient tourist, but it has problems when trying to translate it to tournaments, where patience cannot be infinite--even with two-hour blind levels.

So I decided today to try an experiment. I entered the Golden Nugget Grand series event ($135), which has the slowest structure of any low buy-in tournament in town: 40-minute levels, and Level 6 has a big blind that is just 3% of the starting stack (that's one arbitrary measure I use to judge tournament structures against each other), compared to 5% for Binion's Classic and 4% for Caesars Megastack. My goal was to play with one notch more aggression than my standard, comfort-zone tendency. I wasn't going to turn from a rock into a maniac. But I had in mind that about once each level I would find a spot in which I would raise where my usual play would be to call.

And I did it. To my great delight, every single one of them worked. For example, when the blinds were 100/200/25, and I was in the big blind with the rather awful 3-7 offsuit, six people ahead of me limped in. My knee-jerk reaction is to leave well enough alone, be glad to see a free flop, and hope for a miracle. But this time, in accordance with my goal, I picked this spot to raise. I bumped it up to 1000, and was rewarded with a cascade of folds, and a low-risk profit of 1650 chips.

In another spot, there was a standard 3x open raise from early position followed by a call from the button. In the big blind I had AcJc. I was a big stack at this point. Both opponents were left with about 10 big blinds behind. My standard move in this spot would be to just call, first because I don't want to play a huge pot from out of position, and second because either of them could easily have a hand that has me crushed--AK, AQ, QQ, or KK. But I screwed up my courage, recognized this as a potentially good spot for a squeeze play, and moved all in. The first guy took forever to fold, and looked like he was selling his only child into slavery as he did so. Second guy was quicker, but did the same thing. As I was pulling in the chips, they said that they had folded a suited AJ and an AT, respectively. They also both agreed that my bet looked like I must have AK. Sweet!

In other situations, I check-raised where my baseline play would have been to either check-fold or check-call, or I put in a light three-bet before the flop. Like I said, every single time this worked, and won me the pot without a further fight.

I know that I can't expect such perfect results all the time. But it has made me realize that I have probably not been taking sufficient advantage of the TAG table image I usually acquire. I really can get away with more steals and resteals than has been my pattern in the past. Of course, it would be easy to overdo it, but one extra move every 40 minutes or so (which is about what I did today) is not enough for anyone to begin to suspect larceny. It is, however, enough to make a meaningful difference in the rate of chip accumulation.

I didn't make the money (went out in about 35th place out of 126 entrants, top 13 sharing the cash). Nevertheless, I enjoyed this eye-opening experience so much that I am feeling deeply tempted to do it again tomorrow in one of the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza events, which is an even slower structure than the Grand (though at a substantially higher buy-in, $350). Both Cardgrrl and Daniel Cates told me that they thought that would be a good practice event for me, given that I'm much more used to playing in shorter, hit-and-run sessions. I just might do it.