Saturday, September 03, 2011

Guess the casino, #969

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

Answer: MGM Grand

Friday, September 02, 2011

Unclear on the concept

Yesterday I was on Bodog playing a few double-or-nothing SNGs. In case you haven't ever tried this format, it's simple: You pay, say, $10 to enter, along with nine other people. You play until five have been eliminated. The remaining five all get $20. There is no extra bonus for having the most chips when the game ends. It's double or nothing, literally.

We were on the bubble. Four players had been taken out. The shortest stack went all in for less than the amount of the big blind. The biggest stack left then raised. Two other comfortable stacks called this min-raise. When the flop came, the big stack bet. This forced the other two to fold. But he had nothing, and the short stack survived.

Soon another short stack was all in for less than two big blinds. A couple of people called, and then our doofus big stack raised again. Again he got a couple of calls. Again the moron bet the flop, folding out the field, and again the short stack survived.

You can see how idiotic this is, can't you? It isn't always the case that a short stack being all-in means that everybody else should come in cheaply and keep the pot small in an effort to maximize the chance of somebody catching a strong hand to eliminate the all-in player. But in this specific situation, that's exactly what should happen.

If it's not on the cash bubble--that is, if it's the first elimination or two in question, then sure, you have an incentive to try to win as big a pot as you can, even if that means increasing the risk that the all-in player will survive. And if you're the second shortest stack when the shortest stack is all in on the bubble, you won't want to join in the gang bang without a strong hand, because if the shorty survives, he'll likely get doubled or tripled or quadrupled, and you'll now be the most vulnerable one. Finally, if the player going all-in on the bubble isn't the short stack, you obviously will be much more reluctant to call, because you either risk elimination or risk being made desperately short yourself.

But none of these alternative scenarios was in play yesterday. It was the bubble, the all-in player in both instances was the shortest stack left, it was for a very small number of chips, and those joining in to try to oust him had comfortable stacks remaining. Everybody (except shorty) had the same incentive: bust this last guy, and all share equally in the money. There was no advantage to pushing others out of the pot--especially for the biggest, safest stack, and especially when he was doing it light.

Was he drunk? Was he not paying attention to the stage of the tournament? Did he think it was a standard SNG where continued chip accumulation was advantageous? Was he just a jerk who got his jollies by messing up everybody else, even though it worked to his own detriment, too? I don't know. I still can't figure it out. I've never seen anything like it before.

Guess the casino, #968

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

Answer: Hard Rock

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Please don't tell me there are STILL unbelievers among you

I just did a turbo double-or-nothing SNG on Bodog. Got dealt the Mighty Deuce-Four twice.

I won twice. But you already knew that.

More on Gary Johnson, the poker players' candidate

I assume it is pure coincidence that two profiles of Gary Johnson have appeared in the poker media within the last 48 hours. But it's a nice coincidence. Go read them.

The first piece points out a hint of contradiction, with Johnson and the PPA palling up to each other, when actually they probably differ quite markedly in their goals. The PPA lobbies for federal licensing, regulation, and taxation of online poker. Unless Johnson's true views on the subject are well out of philosophical line with his other positions, he surely favors a completely hands-off approach: simply decriminalize everything about online gaming (not just poker)--the playing, the provision of the games by sites, and the financial transactions. Let grown-ups decide how to spend their own time and money as long as it isn't hurting anybody else, and let the free market decide what the rake should be, where the servers are located, how rigorous anti-cheating enforcement is, and a thousand other such decisions that would simply be decided by fiat--one size fits all--under a federal licensing scheme.

My guess is that while meeting players and industry leaders at the WSOP, Johnson decided simply to paper over such differences for purposes of making nice with the PPA. But it would shock me if either of them were not fully aware of the ideological, policy, and pragmatic differences between their respective goals.

I like Johnson a lot. He has quickly risen to a status in my eyes as favorable as Ron Paul. He is certainly more electable. His general demeanor comes across as less kooky. To my ears, Paul nearly always sounds like he's talking down to people, ridiculing and insulting positions he disagrees with and people with whom he disagrees. Johnson, conversely, seems more polite and respectful, choosing simply to explain why he takes the positions he does without denigrating contrary views. That approach is likely to be easier for the great unwashed to cozy up to.

Guess the casino, #967

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

Answer: Treasure Island

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guess the casino, #966

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

Answer: Mandalay Bay

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Achy Breaky Heart

I usually play two tournaments at a time online, either MTTs or single-table SNGs.

Of course, once in a while you make a standard pre-flop fold and the flop comes with something that makes you wish you could have your cards back. No problem--you shrug it off and go on.

But when it happens on two tables simultaneously, the heartache is exponentially magnified:

OK, make that winner ALMOST every time

Mere minutes after I had completed the previous post I had a hand that I thought I would go back and add to it. I took this screen shot of the flop:

I bet 475, got one caller. Turn was an offsuit 5. Pot was now 1575, and I had 1050 left--obvious shove. He called with A-J. Excellent!


Rigged, obv.

Winner every time

Above are screen shots from just the last couple of days, showing--since there are still some skeptics among my readership--just how easily the Mighty Deuce-Four takes down pots. In the last one, the system had just cleared my hole cards when I snapped the shot, so I was a fraction of a second too late to capture the evidence, but can you really have any doubt as to what I had?

Online payments

Even before Black Friday, those in the know were warning that online poker sites were being forced to turn to ever-shadier payment processors, as more reliable ones were either forcibly shut down or voluntarily stopped doing service for U.S.-facing sites.

I decided to cash out some of my recent MTT and SNG success on Bodog. I received the check today (via FedEx, presumably to avoid any potential federal charges regarding use of the mail). The check was not from Bodog, but from "Guru Novelty Wholesale, Inc." of Troy, Michigan. The check was drawn on an obscure bank in Hamtramck, Michigan. (Raise your hand if you've ever heard of this thriving metropolis of 23,000 citizens.)

I don't have any serious doubt that the check will go through. I've never had any problem with payments from Bodog. But man, this is feeling pretty dodgy.

Be careful. It's a jungle out there.

Guess the casino, #965

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

Answer: Green Valley Ranch

Monday, August 29, 2011

Josie stirs up more trouble

Very Josie is at it again, causing more controversy in a recent tournament at Foxwoods. The details of the story are too long to summarize, and I don't want to just copy her entire post here, so before you read my breakdown of what went wrong and what should have happened, go read her narrative here. Of course, you don't have to, but if you don't, my comments probably won't make a lot of sense. Your call.

The reasons this seems complicated are, first, because there are a few different rules involved, and, second, because everybody involved got things at least partly wrong. (Sigh. It's so difficult to be perfect and omniscient in a world so full of flawed, error-prone people, but that is my burden.)

My thoughts, in no particular order:

1. First showdown action was on Josie. But that does not mean that she has to show first. It means that she has to either show or muck first. If she had, e.g., the worst possible hand for the board (in this case 2-5), she might choose to expedite getting on to the next hand by just pitching the cards into the muck as soon as the other guy checked behind. Or, since she had already decided she wouldn't call any bet he made, she could have just mucked her cards as her opening action, as soon as the river card came out, without even waiting for the other guy to decide whether to check or bet. Personally I wouldn't do that, because once in a while you get a surprise and the other guy will have done something dumb like misread his hand, and you both have the same hand (or both play the board), and you get half the pot.

2. It is wrong and a waste of time to show just one card at showdown. When the hand is over without a showdown and the pot is being or has been awarded to the winner, if you want to show just one card, fine, that's not a question of rules, but only of whether it's smart to give away that information. But when we are trying to decide who wins the pot, either show both of your cards or neither. Showing one card doesn't accomplish anything, and slows down the process unnecessarily. See my whole rant about this annoying practice here. If the obligation is on you to show or muck, and you decide to show, then SHOW--i.e., show both cards. Don't pussy-foot around about it. Don't try to get away with just announcing what you have. Get the cards on their backs and let's get it over with. There is absolutely no point in taking a few extra seconds to look at your cards in order to select one to show. You're not protecting any vital information.

3. The guy on the button, if he wanted to see Josie's card, easily could have. He would have been entirely within his rights to insist that she fulfill her obligation to either show both cards or muck them before he did anything. He screwed himself out of the opportunity to see her second card by convincing her that she had lost. He could have just waited silently for her to finish choosing to show both of her cards or muck her hand, or he could have politely reminded her that she needed to do one or the other.

4. Unless there's something missing from the story, Mr. Button never showed his cards, which I find bizarre. If I were in Josie's situation there, I would never just accept somebody else's word for what he had. Show me a higher pair, pal, or my hand is staying face-up and live, and I'll take the pot. Telling me what you have does not cut it. Too often people either lie or make an honest mistake about what they have. The poker world is full of angle-shooters who will take advantage of exactly the situation Josie set up by saying they have a better hand, hoping to induce a muck without showing, when they have nothing. I don't trust anybody. In this specific case, if he only made his pair on the river, what was he calling the turn with?

5. To sum up the foregoing, this should be really, really simple and fast. Josie shows her cards. (I trust all would agree it would be foolish to muck a small pair here without showing, since once in a while it will be the best hand.) Other guy can muck his cards unseen if he doesn't have a winner, or he can turn over his hand, in which case the cards speak and the best hand takes the pot. This process should take about three seconds total. It is unforgivable for it to be drawn out longer with stupid teases and half-efforts like showing one card or just verbally claiming a winner. Both people should in turn be showing or mucking rapidly so as to not waste the time of everybody else at the table.

6. The dealer was right about the other guy not having the right to see Josie's hand once she decided, for whatever reason, to muck her cards--at least as the standard rule. I understand that there are some cardrooms that treat a check-check river action the same as the IWTSTH ("I want to see that hand") rule, but I believe they are a minority. The dealer was wrong about the rule differing between cash games and tournaments, unless there is some unusual house rule at Foxwoods that I don't know about.

7. Let's change the situation a bit so that we cover the IWTSTH rule. Suppose Josie had bet again on the river, other guy calls. In this scenario, Josie has 2-5, the worst possible hand for this board, and knows that she cannot beat any hand with which he would have called. Rather than show her bluff, she decides to throw her cards away as soon as he calls. Now what? Well, that depends. If I ran a poker room, she would be allowed to muck unseen and not embarrass herself. (Of course, I don't think there should be anything embarrassing about being caught in a bluff, but many others feel differently.) Also, if I were the other player, I'm happy to let my opponent muck without showing; I'll take the pot uncontested, TYVM.

The rules about who can demand to see a called hand are highly non-standard. It's one of the most variable rules between B&M poker rooms. In some places any player can ask to see either hand. In some, only those who were still in on the turn can make that request. In others, only a player actually involved in the last action can ask. Some rules say that if it's heads-up on the river, the winner cannot demand to see the loser's hand. In some places you have to be able to convince the floor that you have reason to suspect collusion before he will grant the request for a hand to be shown, and in some places that rule applies only in high-stakes games. There might even be places where it is different for cash games and for tournaments; I'm not sure about that.

Tommy Angelo has a fine rant about why the traditional IWTSTH rule is bad for poker here.

And there is yet another complication. If the winner asks to see the loser's hand, in some places the losing hand is killed by tapping it on the muck before it is revealed. In other places, the hand is not killed first, which means that if it turns out that the "loser" accidentally misread his cards and was trying to throw away the best hand, the guy who asked to see it will have cost himself the pot, and the would-be loser gets a pleasant surprise reward.

I wrote a long post about all of this, including quoting all the rulebooks I have on hand, here. The impetus for that post was the only time I've seen the winner ask to see the loser's hand, and it turned out that the loser's hand was actually best. (He failed to notice that he had caught a runner-runner straight.) See also the comments to that post, which have further good discussion and readers sharing their experiences.

Final judgment: (1) Josie was wrong to show one card instead of either showing both or mucking. (2) Other guy was wrong for not taking advantage of his position by insisting that Josie either show or muck, and was further wrong for announcing his hand rather than showing, and was even further wrong for claiming that he had a right to see Josie's cards after she decided to muck. Worse, he was a completely douchebag for stopping play at the table while they called the floor to make a ruling on a situation that was so utterly trivial, especially since it was moot and the hand couldn't be retrieved to be shown by then anyway. A better course would have been to wait for the next break, then ask the tournament director what the applicable rule was. (3) Dealer was mostly right, but probably wrong about the cash/tournament point. (4) Floor guy was probably wrong, unless Foxwoods has some non-standard house rule that covers this situation--which is certainly possible, given all the variants that exist.

Oh, and one more thing: Josie gets maximal demerits for losing with the most powerful hand in poker, the Mighty Deuce-Four. I mean, how much do you have to suck as a player for you to let that happen? (J/K.)

Court is adjourned.

Guess the casino, #964

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

Answer: Bellagio

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Guess the casino, #963

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

Answer: Texas Station