Saturday, July 16, 2011

Great story

Matt Savage posted on Twitter a link to this interesting story from the 2002 World Series of Poker, one which I had never seen before, well told by Jesse May. It contains important lessons for both players and tournament officials.

Guess the casino, #920

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

Answer: Hooters

Women underperforming in WSOP main event?

While I was out playing poker this evening, B.J. Nemeth mentioned on Twitter that only 13 out of 242 women cashed in this year's Main Event--fewer than would be predicted based on their numbers. That represented only 5.4% of the female entrants, whereas 10.1% (693/6865) of the whole field and 10.3% (680/6623) of the men made the money.

His characterization of women "underperforming" in terms of results (he was not, he clarified, trying to imply anything about skill) touched off some discussion about whether the numbers were statistically significant, given the small sample size.

It wasn't something I wanted to try testing while in the midst of shaking down tourists at Bally's. But now that I'm home, I can give it a shot.

Using the simplest statistical test available for a dichotomous variable--the binomial probability--we can easily determine whether a given rate of cashing is within the expected range of random statistical variance, if we take the entire field's rate of cashing as the expected baseline. Put another way, our null hypothesis is that the women's lower rate of cashing compared to the men's is due only to randomness. Does the math cause us to accept or reject that hypothesis?


The expected number of women cashing would be 24. The probability of getting a result at least as skewed as was actually seen this year (i.e., 13 or fewer women cashing out of 242 who entered) is only 0.0063. In other words, if we knew that the women played exactly as well as the men so that any difference in the two groups' rates of cashing was due to chance alone, and we played this same tournament a thousand times, we would expect to see a result deviating this far from the predicted only 6 times. The other 994 times we would expect to see more women than that make the money. That is a pretty striking result.

If you want to see the numbers calculated for yourself, follow the link above to the probability calculator and enter n=242, k=13, p=0.101.*

The conclusion is that it is overwhelmingly likely that there is some force at work other than randomness to explain women's lower rate of cashing. The most obvious explanation sure seems to me to also be the most likely: On average, the women played less well than the men, to a measurable degree, if we take survival to the money as a surrogate measure of quality of play.

Of course one can play perfectly and still get knocked out early, or play terribly and win the whole thing. But we lack any ability to measure poker skill or quality of play directly, and we're stuck measuring what can be measured. We have to hope and assume that there is sufficient correlation between quality of play and survival success that the latter can shed at least some meaningful light on the former.

Please note that saying that "the women played less well than the men" is not the same thing as saying that "women are worse poker players than men." It is an observation limited to this particular group of players in this tournament. Still, I find it difficult to conjure up a plausible explanation for the large difference in cash rates other than a significant difference between the two sexes in average quality of play.

B.J. did not claim to know the outcome of any statistical test, and even seemed to deny caring much what the statistics might say; his position was that the difference in cashing rates was sufficient large to be interesting and noteworthy regardless of how a statistician would analyze it. I'm adding to that subjective opinion the objective conclusion that the difference in cashing rates is large enough to be highly unlikely to be the result of random variance alone. Make of that what you will, but I'm forced to agree with B.J. that it is, at the very least, interesting and noteworthy.

*I suppose it would be technically better to use the men's rate of cashing as the baseline, rather than the entire field, but I was trying to be generous. If we use the men's rate instead, we enter p=0.103 instead of 0.101. That yields a slightly lower probability that the difference is due to chance alone: about 5/1000 instead of 6/1000.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guess the casino, #919

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

Answer: Tuscany

Free Sahara crap!

My friend Las Vegas Michael (@LasVegasMichael), who does content for, is trying to get himself to over 1000 followers on Twitter. As part of that campaign, he has been doing Vegas poker trivia questions. First one to reply with the correct answer wins one of the many, many pieces of Sahara history that he purchased in the casino's closing sale. As he typically phrases it, winner gets "free Sahara crap."

One of the questions today was, "Name at least FOUR poker rooms that opened AFTER 2004 that have since closed, and NOT re-opened. This is a Med to Hard strength question." I quickly replied with all that I could think of: "Hilton. Rampart. Gold Coast. Fiesta Henderson. Hacienda. Paris. Plaza." I wasn't sure offhand that all of them had opened after 2004, but I was pretty sure that at least four of them had, and I knew that they all qualified for the closure part of the question. I assumed that wrong guesses included in the list wouldn't count against me.

I was apparently both right and first. So when Michael arrived at Treasure Island tonight for the mixed-game extravaganza, he brought me my swag: the Sahara shot glass seen above. It's my first shot glass, of any kind, ever! I'm not sure what I'll use it for, since don't do shots, and it's hard to quench a thirst with a thimbleful of water. But I'm still glad to have my own little piece of Sahara history free Sahara crap.

You can get some, too; I have it on good authority that more trivia questions are coming soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Poker gems, #431

Steve Zolotow, a Full Tilt Poker red pro who is either a lot more clueless or a lot more willing to lie than I had previously had reason to believe, in Card Player magazine column, July 13, 2011 (vol. 24, #14), p. 56. Emphasis in original.

If you haven't been paid by a poker site, blame the U.S. government, not the site.

I keep hearing that sites didn't or don't have adequate reserves, but no amount of reserves is adequate when big chunks of reserves are stolen and seized.... Those sites that have managed to repay some or all of their customers deserve praise, and those that are struggling to do so deserve patience and understanding.

Guess the casino, #918

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

Answer: South Point

Unclear on the concept

That would be President Barack Obama, who today told Republican leaders, with respect to the debt ceiling increase, "Don't call my bluff."

You'd think a poker-playing president wouldn't be so clueless.

If it's a bluff, calling is exactly what one is supposed to do!

Who voted for this idiot anyway?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guess the casino, #917

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

Answer: Mirage

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Qualifying for the seat

Sunday evening I was playing at Treasure Island, in my favorite seat--#1.* When a new dealer came into the box, I noticed that he slowed down a bit in his pitch for seats 1 and 2. I thought I knew why (this isn't my first rodeo), so I made a point of being even more conspicuous than usual in keeping my hands well away from his pitching zone.

You see, one of the most frequent causes of cards being accidentally exposed during the deal is players getting their hands in the way of the arriving cards. This problem is particularly acute with the player in Seat 1. Most players there, after one or both cards arrive, just can't wait to get their grubby little paws on them to see what goodies Santa has delivered. But because of the geometrical arrangements of the spots around the table, the dealer needs that exact airspace for pitching the cards to Seat 2. Sadly, this conflict of interests commonly sets up an all-too-predictable physical collision between the hands of the guy in Seat 1 and the cards that are being sent to Seat 2.

Dealers seeking to avoid the problem tend to slow down at this corner, anticipating the potential encroachment. There's just a fraction of a second hesitation while he watches to see if he's going to have to loft the cards over Seat 1's hands, or go around them with a backhand delivery, or if he's going to be in the clear. The problem is analogous to a child who rushes into the street almost invisibly from between parked cars, chasing after a stray ball. Drivers who are careful and alert slow down on congested residential roads as a precaution.

There's a similar problem with Seats 9 and 10 (I'm assuming a ten-handed table here), though it's less acute, because Seat 9 gets his cards first almost every time around. That tends to eliminate the dynamic problem of Seat 10's hand shooting from out of nowhere to check his cards. But there is still the static problem, if he doesn't realize that he needs to clear the pitching zone for the dealer and keeps his hands on the table.

I'm well aware of this, so when I'm in either of the chairs next to the dealer, I not only keep my hands completely out of the danger zone, but I try to be sufficient obvious about what I'm doing that the dealer will silently get the message that I can be trusted not to interfere. In short, I pride myself on being a Good Citizen of Seats One and Ten.

Back to TI. After a few hands had played out, I noticed that the dealer had reacted and adjusted to my silent coast-is-clear message. He no longer slowed down around the corner, but slung the cards as fast as he could, demonstrating his confidence that I knew my job as an occupant of the danger spot.

I appreciated his perceptiveness and felt rewarded for my good behavior. I smiled and said to him, "You've figured out that I'm not going to get in your way, haven't you?" He said, "Yes, and I really appreciate it. Most people don't understand how much it slows me down if I have to watch out for them."

We were a team, he and I. He was an Cy Young-eligible pitcher, and all I had to do was stay the heck out of his way.

I thought of an analogy, and shared it with my new partner: "You know how on airlines, in order to sit in the emergency exit rows, you have to agree that you understand how the door works, and that you're physically capable of performing that task? Well, I think they should have a similar thing before you're allowed to sit in Seats 1 or 10. You have to watch a little video on the importance of keeping your hands out of the dealer's way until all the cards are out. Maybe you could get a little card showing your successful completion of the course, like the Red Cross does after you learn CPR."

He agreed that that was a stupendous idea.

Now, which Vegas poker room will be the first to implement it? I'd like to attend the class and be the first poker player to be officially certified to sit anywhere at the table that's open--especially in my favorite two seats next to the dealer.

*If you're curious as to why I like the seats that most players try to avoid, I explained my reasons in detail here.

Guess the casino, #916

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

Answer: Harrah's

Monday, July 11, 2011


I was just checking PokerNews for updates on what's going on at the WSOP, and noticed in the margin a feed of Tweets from various pros, including one that mentioned an accusation of cheating. That's a subject that always interests me, so I looked into it a bit more. (This just happened within the past hour, so not much information yet available.)

You can see the relevant posts from Twitter below. Click to see it full size, then read from the bottom up.

In short, Christian Harder had a new player moved to his table, apparently thought he was pretty good, but didn't recognize him. He snapped a photo with his cell phone and posted it on Twitter, asking if anybody could give him a name or tell him something about his play.

This resulted in a couple of followers suggesting that such fishing for information on an opponent was "cheating," to which Harder responded with scornful dismissal.

I, too, am hard-pressed to see how it constitutes cheating. I don't suppose that one player has an intrinsic right to demand to know the name of another at his table, but he can ask. Or he can ask the player next to him, "Do you recognize that guy?" There can't possibly be anything wrong with that.

This is just taking the quest for identification a step further--but it's a difference in scope, not in kind. Suppose he had a friend who is a whiz at recognizing poker players and did the same thing by private messaging, rather than being open on Twitter. Would that be cheating? Again, I don't see how. What if that friend happened to be on the rail, easily accessible between hands? Or even happened to be sitting in the adjacent seat?

Disclosure: As I mentioned in my post Friday, some of my friends and readers helped me figure out who a couple of people at my table were; one I requested (I asked who Greg Raymer had meant in his Tweet by the nickname "Oogee"), others were volunteered to me. I have also done other similar things in the past. For example, a couple of times when a skilled, difficult player at a cash game has mentioned that he or she is from Washington, D.C., I have discreetly snapped a photo and sent it to Cardgrrl, asking if she recognizes the player, hoping for some background information. She has done the same with me when in cash games in town here. I suppose I might be accused of conveniently coming down on Harder's side here in order to cover my own butt. But that reverses causality. Until this afternoon, it never dawned on me that there was anything unethical about it, and I share Harder's surprise that somebody would go so far as to call it cheating.

I have also occasionally asked my friends in the poker media (who have a much bigger mental database of pro player names and faces than I do) if they recognized somebody, and never thought I was doing anything wrong. (To those friends: If you feel that I put you in an awkward situation with such inquiries, please tell me. I promise to accept your viewpoint, not argue about it, and refrain from making such requests of you in the future.) When Cardgrrl was playing in her WSOP HORSE event last year, one of our media friends just casually mentioned to her on a break who a couple of the players were that we hadn't recognized. I didn't think there was anything wrong with this, and the friend who did it is a 100% ethical straight-shooter who I am positive would not have said anything if he thought it was even a gray area. One of the ones named in that example was Jose "Nacho" Barbero, who had won two LAPT main events in South America over the preceding few months, a rather remarkable accomplishment. He hadn't yet risen to my threshold of awareness (or Cardgrrl's, as I recall), but it's likely that a large percentage of the players he faced knew perfectly well who he was. It's really hard for me to imagine how sharing such widely-available information violates any rule or ethical standard.

It's true that the identification of a less-known player is information that some have and others don't, which I suspect is the root observation behind the notion that going out of one's way to gain that information is cheating. But it's information that is, in many cases, out there, possessed by people both at and away from the table. It seems to me completely different than if, say, I had a friend who was in the ESPN editing booth with access to the hole card camera feed, and had him text me with details on how an opponent was playing. That would be information available to no other player except by deliberate and elaborate frustration of the security procedures erected precisely to prevent its dissemination.

I wish those who think that Harder's query constitutes cheating would find some forum on which to explain in more detail what, exactly, they find troubling about it, and where they would draw the line. If it's not OK for me to ask somebody remotely for help in recognizing a new player to the table, is it OK to ask the guy sitting next to me? If so, what's the difference? If not, how could you ever hope to enforce such an extreme restriction on sharing of information?

You steal this one, it's all over, baby

It's gotta belong to Scotty Nguyen, right?

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 10: The end

With 8325 chips and blinds at 250/500 (50 ante), I started the day with just over 16 big blinds. I had already heard a dealer's "Seat open!" cry from another section of the room on the very first hand, so at least I knew I would not be the first one out on Day 2A.

On the seventh hand, I was down to 7225, without having played a hand, and was one off the button. Action folded to me. I had A-3 offsuit, and only three people to get past (button and the blinds).

With 14 big blinds left, this is clearly a shove situation. I can't either limp-fold or raise-fold, so might as well maximize what fold equity I have by getting it all in. Most hands that call will have me beat with a pocket pair or a bigger ace, though I'll be ahead of a few (like suited K-Q, maybe). But since there are only three players left to act, a large percentage of the time none of those three will have a hand strong enough to call a raise of that size, and I'll win the blinds and antes (1200 chips), which would be a 17% boost to my stack. What's more, with essentially no experience against me, opponents would just have to guess what my shoving range might be. In terms of tournament strategy, I have no doubt that getting it all in was the right move. Trying to wait for a more perfect spot would be costly; every orbit that I folded through would bleed another 1200 chips from my stack.

Button folded. Small blind folded. Big blind thought a bit, then pulled out what he smilingly called his "all-in glasses," and called.

Those little blue lights were actually a series of LEDs that flashed and danced all around the frames. Very cute, actually. Silly, but cute. (That's Giuseppe Zarbo from France, by the way, our table's big stack, starting the day with 151K.)

He had 6-6.

Flop was 5-5-4. Turn 3. A deuce would give me a straight, but him a higher one. I needed an ace for a higher pair or another 3 for a full house.

River: 4.

Dang. I should have had the Mighty Deuce-Four instead of a stupid ace!

And that was that. Game over, thanks for playing, buh-bye.

I'm disappointed, of course, but not crushed. I was entirely aware that something exactly like this was far and away the most likely outcome of the day, and I was psychologically prepared for the probability of a very early exit. I needed to get lucky to make a couple of doubles-ups before I could settle back and really play poker, and it just wasn't, as they say, in the cards. I've forgiven myself for Thursday's mistakes, and today I did correctly the one and only thing I had to do to give myself the best chance for advancing, and it just didn't work out. I'm OK with that.

The whole experience, from beginning to end, was a kick and a half. I'm thrilled that I had the opportunity. I am grateful beyond words to Daniel Cates for his generous gift, even though I couldn't capitalize on it.

I have also been overwhelmed and deeply humbled by all of the kind and supportive things my friends and readers have had to say as this played out. Even those few who, for whatever reason, habitually make negative comments on my blog posts turned around and were nice about this experience. I can't possibly thank you all enough for making me feel like such a superstar for a few days.

You know what's even stronger right now than any feeling of remorse or disappointment? The wish that I could do it all again. Not so much because I'd want to do things differently--though there is some of that--but because it was the coolest experience I've had in a long time. Put me back in line for another ride on that roller coaster ASAP, please!

But for now, back to the grindstone.

Images below courtesy of Wolynski.


PokerNews noted the hand here.

Guess the casino, #915

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

Answer: Excalibur (You thought it was going to be Caesars Palace, didn't you?)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Poker gems, #430

Todd Brunson, in Card Player magazine column, July 13, 2011 (vol. 24, #14), page 38.

This goes to show that you always should be reviewing your plays. Anyone can make a bad play; the important thing is to recognize your mistakes and make sure not to repeat them. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who don't learn from their bad plays are doomed to wind up on the rail.

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 9: Day 1, the hands

I have just a few hands from my Day 1 to tell you about. I'll take them in chronological order.


The first occurred at about 1:15 p.m. It was the first time I was dealt the Mighty Deuce-Four. My chance to show the world what it does! I was in the hijack seat and raised to 275 (blinds 50/100) with 2h-4s. Both blinds called, including Greg Raymer in the big blind. The flop was A-J-5, all hearts. The blinds checked. I bet 600. SB called, Raymer folded. Turn was an offsuit 9. SB bet 1200. I raised to 3000. He called. River was an offsuit 3, making my gutshot straight. We went check-check. He said, "Two pair," but didn't show. I flipped over my wheel, to puzzled looks all around. Why not bet the river? I thought there was a reasonable chance he had flopped a small flush. Maybe I should have bet again, but his line was odd (particular the flop call/turn lead-out bet), so I was confused, not having a good sense of what he could be holding, and I decided to play it conservatively at the end. After having been down a bit, that hand was my first time back over my starting stack, putting me at 32,425.


The first really big pot I was involved with occurred at about 1:40 p.m., roughly 90 minutes in. Both I and the guy on my right had been letting our blinds go without a fight nearly every time. Naturally, the others noticed this and were stealing liberally. I decided to take a shot at playing back. So when Raymer open-raised from two off the button, I thought he was in an any-two-cards situation, and when the others folded, I reraised as a pure resteal, with 9c-8s. (I didn't write down bet sizes for this one when the hand was over.) He thought a bit, then called. The flop was A-Q-8, all clubs. I bet. Raymer raised.

Often in poker, one's cards simply don't matter. What matters is the situation, and what the other player will think that you have. I believed that this was just such a spot. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I was trying to treat it as such a spot, whether it was or not. Raymer would know that I would likely continuation-bet a high percentage of the time, even if I missed the flop. He would also know that it was statistically unlikely that I had flopped a flush, and if I didn't, I would have to be worried that he might have. His raise, therefore, doesn't require a real hand at all; it only required him to guess that much of the time I would have missed this scary-looking flop and he can take the pot away regardless of what his own cards are. Recognizing this, I reraised him, to signal that he had picked a bad spot for that move. Obviously this play was not based on my own hand strength, but on an educated guess as to what Raymer was thinking and doing.

Raymer's response was a nearly instantaneous declaration, "I'm all in."


Given that he had never seen me play a hand this aggressively, it was now highly unlikely that this was simply a bluff on his part. Though I had tried to make it be about the situation and not the cards, now I could win the pot only with the best cards, which I almost surely didn't have. I had to fold.

Raymer flashed the king of clubs before mucking, so he at least had the nut flush draw, and likely had either a pair (especially a queen) or a straight draw to go with it. He could have even had a made flush, though I doubt it.

So my play didn't work, but I would still defend it as having been a reasonable read of the most likely situation, and one that would have won me a juicy pot a lot of the time. This just wasn't one of them. It was a big hit, taking me down to 21,325.


It was about 2:45 p.m., and I was still at around 21,000 when this next hand played out. This one was reported by somebody I don't know at PokerNews, here, with me identified only as the "player in middle position." (Such indignity. DYKWTFIA?) Go read that account so that I don't have to recount the action.

I had pocket jacks. I was tempted to raise Busquet on the flop, since he will have missed a 9-9-6 flop most of the time, and can continue only if he has a bigger pocket pair. I was hampered, though, by the presence of two others in the hand (which, by the way, is my own fault for not putting in a three-bet before the flop). The SB had hesitated before checking in a way that made me suspicious that he had a 9 in his hand and was trying to decide between a donk bet and a check-raise, and I didn't want to get trapped in the middle for a larger sum. So I just called. I kicked myself when the SB folded. My read on him had been wrong.

King on the turn. Oh, great. That just hit a large swath of Busquet's pre-flop raising range, not to mention Raymer's blind-defense range. On the other hand, he could have me on a flopped flush draw, and continue firing even with a clean miss. So I called again.

River--ace. Wonderful. Another big chunk of Busquet's range just beat me. He thought for quite a long time, then moved all in.

I briefly considered calling (he had me covered), because he could easily be doing this with a smaller pocket pair, especially if he put me on the flush draw. But if that was what he was thinking, why would he risk so many chips, when a much smaller bet would force me out just as effectively? Based on the play he had seen from me, he should never think that I would execute a river raise as a bluff on a missed draw. I might have had the best hand there, but it was so easy for me to be beat with any ace or king in his hand. I was reduced to a pure guess, and I just didn't want to risk it all on a guess in an extremely risky spot like that. So I folded.

In retrospect, I played it badly. I should have raised before the flop, and likely either won it right there, or at least I would have reduced the complexity of the situation by having only Busquet to deal with. Whether or not I did that, I should have raised the flop. If any of the other three players called or reraised, then I could be reasonably confident that I was facing a bigger pocket pair or flopped trips, and stopped putting more money in. My caution (OK, call it timidity) and passivity cost me more than a raise would have.


Shamus reported one more hand in which I was involved, here. This was after the dinner break. My opponent was the most active pre-flop raiser at the table. This was another spot in which I had decided it was time to play back at the blind stealers with any semi-decent hand. In fact, I had Kc-3c here, which some of my friends refer to as a "LeDawn" (for reasons I won't bore you with). The flop was A-A-J. I check-called, with plans to take the pot away if he showed any weakness. Turn 8. Check-check. So now I'm pretty sure he doesn't have an ace.

River: Another J. Perfect for my purposes!

One of the specific tips that Daniel Cates gave me, when we met to discuss strategy, was to bluff in situations in which my opponents would have to judge that I would almost never be bluffing. This was exactly such a spot, I thought. Given how tight and conservatively I had been playing, a lead-out river bet here would just never get read by a thinking opponent as being a bluff.

In fact, my opponent's only question would be whether I had the ace or the jack. From his point of view, if I had the ace (perfectly plausible, given my rare defense of my big blind), then I had slow-played the flopped trips, trying to trap him. If I had the jack (defending with something like J-Q or J-10, presumably), then I had simply not believed him to have an ace, thought my jack was good enough for a call on the flop, and I had gotten lucky to river a full house. Either boat was entirely consistent with my line and with my demonstrated tendencies. He simply could not call unless he had an ace, and I was quite confident that he did not. So I bet.

Sure enough, he folded. He took long enough and looked sufficiently pained about it (he wasn't one to Hollywood usually) that I suspect he was folding a decent pocket pair, maybe even as good as kings or queens.

Heh heh! Stealing pots is so much more satisfying than winning them with the best cards.

That last hand put me back to around 30,000, where I had started the day. But then things fell apart. I rather suddenly hit the proverbial wall mentally with about two hours left in the day. I was sleepy, my thoughts were foggy, and I had lost interest in paying attention to the action and trying to decipher what the other players were doing. This happened to coincide with a long stretch of utter card-deaditude. (Yes, it's a word. Look it up.) I decided to just fold-fold-fold to the end of the day, and start again fresh on Monday.

The problem was that I didn't stick to that plan. After some period of folding everything, and being aware that everybody knew that I was folding everything, I would kind of randomly decide to make a play for a pot, and fail. Maybe I had tells showing due to fatigue. More likely, the conspicuous pattern of folding even more than had been my tendency all day telegraphed to everybody that I was just trying to survive to the end of the day, and, therefore, that I wouldn't be willing to play a big pot--so they made the intelligent adjustment and forced me to play big pots. This happened several times over the course of two hours, and it meant that I was putting in a raise or a reraise, then throwing my hand away--along with the chips.

That's what caused my stack to plummet in the final level, from around 28,000 to where I finished at 8325. It was my stupid vacillation between mutually incompatible plans. I would have lost far, far less if I had just stuck to my original plan of folding to the end of the day, once I recognized that my A-game was gone.

In reality, making it to Day 2 was not an important goal to me in and of itself. If I was going to go bust, it made no difference to me whether it was an hour before the end of Day 1 or an hour into Day 2--it's all the same result. I didn't decide to fold because I wanted to be able to say I made it to the second day. I decided that because I knew I was off my game, and would be able to use the chips better after starting fresh.

Whatever hand-specific mistakes I made in the first four levels paled in comparison to waffling that way during Level 5. I basically gave away 20,000 chips by being unable to commit consistently to either folding to the end or getting my chips in where I could and trying for a double-up. Half-hearted attempts at doing anything are rarely a smart strategy either in poker or in life generally, but that's what I kept trying, and failing badly. The prophet Elijah famously asked a gathered crowd, "How long halt ye between two opinions?" (1 Kings 18:21) Well, for me it was about two hours--but that was plenty of time to do all the damage.

When they announced that there were just three hands left, I was under the gun (being the unlucky one chosen to put in the big blind for the last hand of the day) and saw 8-8. I toyed with the idea of sticking it all in. But I reconsidered, realizing that if I got called it would be either for a race against something like A-K, or as a huge dog against a bigger pocket pair. So I folded yet again, paid my blinds, and bagged up my pathetic remaining chips.

I really regret how I dribbled away chips during that last two hours. But as Willie Nelson would say, there's nothing I can do about it now. I just have to start from where I am, making the best possible decision on every hand going forward.

Today's fun fact

The World Series of Poker Main Event buy-in was first set at $10,000 in 1972, and it has not changed since then.

In 1972 the consumer price index was 41.8. It is now 226. Therefore, if the Main Event buy-in had kept pace with inflation, it would now be about $54,000.

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 8

I now know my tablemates for the start of Day 2 (Monday at noon), as posted in full here. I'll be at Amazon Orange 335-5. As expected, I'll have the shortest stack at the table. This is a badly skewed chip distribution on the deep side, with a table average of 67,000 (not counting the woman who didn't report her chips), while the day's average will be 45,000. Not good for me. But I will do my best to find good spots to double up. Two successful doubles and I'll be out of danger.

Any brand names in the list? The only one I thought I recognized from reading about tournament results was Huynh, and he appears to have the most cumulative winnings, due primarily to a $685K third-place finish in a World Poker Tour event last year (Hendon Mob Database entry here). I find a Phillip Reed with a decent list of cashes (see here), but based on the listed home towns and the commonness of that name, it's probably not the same person. Zarbo appears to be fairly active in the preliminary events of various poker tours, but no big scores (here). A couple of the others have a few small cashes publicly reported, but nothing of note.

I'm also happy to note that my benefactor, Daniel Cates, survived his Day 1 yesterday with a stack of 30,175.

Guess the casino, #914

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

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: I realize it's kind of hard to see much in these photos because they're dark. But they're rather remarkable, in that this was a large room full of discarded junk, fully open to the public, inside one of the city's major casinos--unlike anything I've ever encountered before. Because the restroom nearest the poker room was closed for cleaning, I went in search of one I had used in the distant past, only to discover (1) that it was no longer there, and (2) this junk storage area was open for anybody to walk past or even through. It was very peculiar.

Answer: Binion's


I'm reading a profile of Allen Bari in the July 13 issue of Card Player magazine. I had not been aware of him prior to this year's WSOP, but I've quickly learned to dislike him intensely. His reputation for misconduct is already tightly associated with his name, and he seems not only OK with that, but bound and determined to make himself the game's number-one arrogant, trash-talking asshole--as if we need another one of that ilk.

In this interview he says, "When you have an elite understanding of the game like I do, and you sit back and watch these morons who know absolutely nothing, it's near impossible to stay quiet, especially when their stupidity costs me chips or my tournament life. I completely understand that they are the people who fuel this industry and enable me to make a living playing poker, but I just can't stop myself." [Emphasis added.]

This is pure bullshit. Of course he could stop himself if he wanted to. Most poker players manage to take bad beats without berating opponents' bad play. If Bari can't, then there's something specifically defective about him. It is certainly not true, as a generalization, that "it's near impossible to stay quiet" in such circumstances. I find it almost trivially easy. If Bari finds it so difficult, again, that indicates that there's something wrong with him; it is not the case that everybody is similarly situated.

But even that statement of things is giving him too much credit. I'm not willing to blame his lack of self-control on some intrinsic flaw that he is powerless to change. I can't prove this, but I am nevertheless virtually certain that it's true: If some rich philanthropist offered Bari one million dollars for every time he managed to stifle an impulse to berate another player, I suspect he would suddenly find that he could, in fact, manage to pull it off pretty consistently. Let's alter our hypothetical contract further, and put in the additional the stipulation that every time Bari says anything negative to or about another player, he has to pay a one million dollar fine. Now if he yields to his impulse it costs him $1 million out of pocket, plus foregoing the $1 million that he could have won by suppressing his comments. Think he'd change his behavior? Of course he would.

The purpose of the thought experiment is to demonstrate that his outbursts are choices that he makes, and that he could choose not to make, if he deemed it sufficiently important. His words are not attributable to demons that suddenly take over all voluntary control of his brain's speech center. If he could choose to behave different for money, he could choose to behave differently for any other reason, too. He just doesn't really want to.

The words "I just can't stop myself" are always a lie, or at least a deep level of denial and self-deception. If the one uttering them were being honest, he would say instead, "I choose to act that way, and I don't really want to change." So in addition to being a pompous, rude jerk, Allen Bari is a liar.