Saturday, September 17, 2011

Guess the casino, #983

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

Answer: Rio

Unexpected shove, part 2

See the first part of this post for the setup of the hand, here.

I took about ten seconds to think about this. Here's how I reasoned: If I fold, I'll have less than 50% of the chips by the time we get to heads-up play, so assuming comparable levels of skill, I'll have less than a 50% chance of taking first-place, which is the prize I'm interested in, because, obviously, that's where the biggest money is. I can essentially turn the question of first-place money into a coin flip by calling here.

The problem with that logic, which I realized about one second after clicking "call," was that it took no account of second-place money. I reduced a near-lock on second place to almost zero, because most of the time I'd take either first or nothing with a call. The percentage by which I increased my chance of first place was not large enough to compensate for the loss of almost any chance at second place.

He had pocket jacks (adding another data point to the frequent observation that that is the hand with which you'll most commonly see an oversized pre-flop raise, because so many players are uncomfortable playing post-flop with jacks). The board brought no help for my Big Slick, and I was out.

I was going to run through the math of an ICM (independent chip model) calculator, but reader Eddie beat me to it in a comment to the original post. It confirms my subjective guess--made a little too late--that calling was a mistake.

Well, we live and learn.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Forgive me, for I have sinned

Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death.

Lamentations 1:20 (King James Version)

I limped from early position with the Mighty Deuce-Four. Behind me was a large raise, then a large reraise. When the action came back to me, I had a momentary crisis of faith, and lo, I did fold the most powerful hand in poker.

The gods of poker immediately chastised me for my unfaithfulness:

(This screen shot was taken at a potentially deceptive moment. The Bodog "spotlight" is hovering on the losing hand at this instant because it's still indicating where the last action was. A fraction of a second later, it swung over to the aces to indicate the winning hand.)

Worse than that, on the very next hand I was delivered pocket kings, got an apparently perfect uncoordinated flop of undercards, but lost all my chips to a flopped set of sixes.

The punishment for my infidelity was swift and severe. Learn from the error of my ways, people!

Please do not expect any more posts today. I will be spending the day sitting in the corner in sackcloth and ashes, flagellating myself with barbed wire. I hope that a few hours of that will complete an adequate penance for my sin.

Truly I am not worthy.

Guess the casino, #982

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

Answer: Buffalo Bill's (Primm)

Unexpected shove

It's a Bodog SNG 10-seat single-table tournament, with the standard 3-place payout structure (50%/30%/20%). We're down to three-handed, and I'm in the big blind with a stack of 5935 when the hand starts. Small blind is the short stack with 1320. Button is the big stack with 7745. We all post antes of 25, and the blinds are 100/200, making the pot 375 before the cards are dealt. Button now has 7720, small blind has 1195, and I have 5710 left. We have been playing at this level for quite a while, and though I haven't been watching the clock, I expect the blinds to go up to 200/400 (still with 25 ante) after this hand or maybe the next.

Button open-shoves, SB folds. I have Ad-Kc.

What should I do?

The most obvious consideration is that SB is likely to go out soon. He has only six big blinds left now, and will have only three if the level jumps next hand. Moreover, he's by far the worst player here. When we first got into the money, he had luckboxed his way to about 10,000 in chips, compared to about 2500 for both me and the other player. He and I have picked away at him little by little, so that the SB now has almost nothing left.

The button is comparable in skill to me, though somewhat more reluctant to play after the flop than he should be. I've been able to steal more than my fair share of pots because of his timidity. He has not opened with a shove since we got into the money, so it's an extremely unusual move for him. He's a conservative player, probably a little too conservative. If he bluffs, it's a meek, one-barrel affair, then he shuts down. He has done lots of limping since we got to three-handed--including once with Q-Q--only occasionally raised, never shoved pre-flop.

I don't think he would do this with A-A, K-K, or Q-Q. He would instead open for a more normal-sized raise. I also don't think he would do this with a small pair. Furthermore, I can't see him doing this with the classic "trouble hands," such as K-Q, K-J, etc. Finally, I rather doubt that he would do this with A-K. His pattern would be more towards a standard opening raise, then play straightforwardly after the flop with a bet if he hit, giving up if he missed.

It has taken us three levels to whittle our former big stack down to where he is (the first eliminations went unusually rapidly in this game), so I've had more time than usual to watch these guys play short-handed. On that basis, I'm reasonably confident that the button's range here can be limited to a pocket pair between 7-7 (maybe as low as 6-6) and J-J.

Which means that if I call, I will be a slight underdog, but basically close to a 50/50 proposition to double up. If I call and win, I'll have 11,995, or 80% of the chips in play. If I call and lose, I'm out in third place. If I fold, I'll still have my 5710, which is 38% of the chips, with a near lock on at least second-place money and a decent chance of taking first.

What's the right play?

I'll give you about 24 hours, then post what I did.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Plenty of ickiness to go around

I'm not sure why I continue to be interested in the Epic Poker/Michael DiVita situation--I have no affiliation with the league (except that my friend Jen gave me a nice EPL baseball cap), and expect that I never will--but I am. I listened to the interviews with DiVita and with Stephen Martin (consulting ethicist and head of the Standards and Conduct Committee) on Quadjacks.

Both of them left me feeling icky.

Nobody who wasn't already a friend of Mr. DiVita will have become one as a result of his appearance on the podcast. It was as if he were deliberately trying to make himself look bad, and maybe even more guilty than he actually is. He had convenient and implausible lapses of memory when asked about his criminal history. He made multiple attempts at humor, all of which failed miserably, and many of which were frankly offensive--not least of which was mocking a Mexican accent when told that he was being asked a question from Jonathan Aguiar. His recounting of his criminal history was frankly not credible in many ways, such as claiming that he went to prison for three years on a parole violation because he changed which counselor he was seeing, with that counselor's consent. (How do you end up in prison for three years for a parole violation on what he repeatedly claimed was just a misdemeanor conviction?) The entire thing was cringeworthy, from start to finish. Maybe he's as innocent as he claims, but his approach to the interview left at least this listener with a strong impression that he was not even trying to explain his past with any degree of frankness and honesty.

That said, Mr. Martin's interview had its own troubling aspects. (Among them, it could have been compressed into half the time it took if he would have just refrained from saying "y'know" ten times in every sentence. SO annoying.)

Highest on my radar is that I see no way around the conclusion that he lied in either this interview or the one he gave to Bluff magazine. Compare these answers:
BLUFF: Had he decided to play, would there have been a subsequent meeting with the Standards and Conduct Committee regarding whether or not he was allowed to take part?

SM: We don’t generally make the discussions of the committee public because the players on the committee want to be able to have confidential discussions about the players, so since he chose to withdraw, I don’t think it would be fair to speculate about what would’ve been the next step.
And here's my own transcript of one section of the Quadjacks interview:
SM: I explained the process to him. I explained that if he attempted to play in the league, in the main event, that it was gonna be very likely that the Standards and Conduct Committee would then suspend him pending a hearing and that y'know he would then have a formal disciplinary action against him by the league, and he didn't want that.

QJ: So the committee had made its decision, despite, like I suggested, not having taken any action yet, the committee had made a preemptive decision of how it would act if Mr. DiVita was to refuse to withdraw. Is that right?

SM: The committee did not take any official action, but the committee would have taken action in Mr. DiVita's case y'know if he had attempted to play. Yes.
So to Bluff magazine he claims that it would be just speculation what the committee would have done had Mr. DiVita not withdrawn. But to Quadjacks he explicitly agrees that the committee had made a "preemptive decision" and that it "would have taken action." I don't see any way to reconcile those two stories.

I'm left with a smattering of loosely associated thoughts on this whole mess:

1. I'm not a lawyer and don't even play one on TV, but my guess is that DiVita has practically zero chance of prevailing in any legal action.

2. EPL has a completely untenable situation on its hands, in terms of having a set of moral/personal eligibility criteria for being allowed to buy in to its event, but opening a satellite to that event to anybody who hands over the entry fee for it. It seems to me both morally wrong and horrible PR to take somebody's money to play in the satellite, then, if and only if he wins a seat to the main event, tell him, "Sorry, you're not eligible," and if he loses, you just keep his money, let him walk away, and let him enter again the next time. Who in his right mind would want to play the satellite if the league is going to reserve the right to exclude you after you win, based on infinitely flexible, purely discretionary, totally arbitrary standards by which anything in your entire past life might be judged to make the league look bad?

3. The right to "due process" that Mr. Martin kept boasting about being a feature of their process is pretty much meaningless in a case such as this. They were prepared to suspend him from eligibility to play, pending a hearing. But how fast could they conduct the kind of inquest described? Surely not quickly enough to allow the affected player back into the tournament. And after it's over, even if the allegations were found to be groundless, the league would undoubtedly tell him, "Sorry, but there's no recourse for your lost opportunity in the event that recently concluded. Thanks for paying your entry fee. Buh-bye."

4. The way we as a society treat sex offenders who have completed their sentences is both shameful and counterproductive. See here for the best essay I've read on how things like sex-offender registries are "a triumph of outrage over reason." I don't know exactly what Mr. DiVita is accused of having done in 1991, nor whether he actually did what he was accused of. But I don't care. First, he has done his time and not been convicted of anything since then, so I consider it over and done with. Second, it could not possibly have any meaningful impact on how he conducts himself as a poker player in 2011.

5. His arrest in 2008 also should be ignored, in my opinion. People get arrested for all sorts of reasons, including, e.g., mistaken identity and people concocting false accusations for their own nefarious purposes. The presumption of innocence should actually mean something. Drawing an inference of guilt based on an arrest for which charges were later dropped is, I think, grievously wrong.

6. Neither Mr. Martin nor anybody else from Epic has explained to my satisfaction exactly what conduct from a person's past renders him ineligible for participation in EPL. To repeat the oft-asked question, why is DiVita's criminal record disqualifying, but Mike Matusow's isn't? Why is Chino Rheem owing money to other people in the poker community worthy of suspension, but Dutch Boyd's "PokerSpot" history is given a pass, and Team Full Tilt members are welcomed with open arms not only to play in the league, but to sit on the Standards and Conduct Committee in judgment of others? Can you say hypocrisy? I knew you could.

7. Mr. Martin's emphatic insistence that Mr. DiVita "chose" to withdraw is a classic example of a half-truth. Suppose I put a gun to your head and tell you that you can either hand over your wallet or I'll pull the trigger, and you do the former. I can later claim that you "chose" to give me your wallet, and there is some kernel of truth to that claim. But that does not make the use of that word a particularly useful or accurate description of the transaction.

Now if somebody could hand me a jug of Clorox, I'd like to go douse it over my head to get rid of the sense that the filth from this ugly episode is clinging to me.

Guess the casino, #981

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

Answer: Trick question! It's not a casino, it's the inside of Lied Library at UNLV.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Update on the Epic Poker League ethics situation

Michael DiVita now claims that he did not withdraw voluntarily from the EPL, and he plans to sue the league if they don't fork over the $20,000 he believes he is owed. He says he was forced out. If true, this directly contradicts what the league's ethics consultant, Stephen Martin, said in his interview with Bluff magazine. Yesterday I expressed my skepticism that Martin was being honest in his description of events. Though I have no firsthand knowledge of what occurred, DiVita's version of the story sounds more plausible to me than Martin's.

Guess the casino, #980

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

Answer: Venetian

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Any black helicopters overhead, Mr. Marcus?

Richard Marcus (my opinion of whom you can read here) has a blog post today titled, "Poker Pros Fleeing the US For Fear of Online Poker Cheat Allegations!" Note that it ends in an exclamation point, not a question mark.

Naturally, this intrigued me, as I had not heard of anybody leaving the U.S. to avoid allegations of poker cheating.

Marcus writes:
A bunch of US based poker pros who are citizens have been getting out of "Dodge", which in this case is the United States of America. Some notables who have recently fled are Mike Brooks, Phil Galfond, Jon Agular, and Vanessa Selbst. They have all given reasons such as "looking for work" but is this not a cover to avoid problems and even possible prosecution by the US Department of Justice over online cheating accusations?
Uh, no, it isn't. They're leaving so that they can ply their trade, which is high-stakes online poker. Only two online poker sites have routinely offered the highest-stakes games, and neither is now open to players who are either physically inside the U.S. or who have declared themselves to be U.S. residents.

None of the players named, to my knowledge, has any taint of cheating, and I keep my ear pretty close to the ground on such matters. They simply want to be able to play online for higher stakes than are offered by the few remaining small sites open to U.S. players.

And, by the way, it's Jon Aguiar, not Agular. Nice fact-checking.

Marcus goes on to mention Dan Cates and Justin Bonomo, both of whom have made public that they are trying to move out of the states, and both of whom have admitted to online poker cheating of one form or another. Marcus concludes that they are "running from the online poker judges!!!" And what "judges" would those be? Marcus doesn't tell us, other than his suggestion (quoted above) about federal prosecution. But the Department of Justice has not shown any interest in prosecuting poker players. In fact, it's not even clear to me that they could. What federal statute is a multi-accounter violating?

Predictably, Marcus provides not a single shred of evidence that these players are leaving for any reason other than the one that is both most obvious and the one that they all cite: They want to be able to play online again, and they cannot do so from their U.S. homes. Of course it's always possible that one or more of them has some other hidden, nefarious motivation. But when the obvious explanation is 100% plausible, and there is zero evidence for another, it takes a bizarre, twisted mind to conclude that these players are secretly fleeing some phantom panel of "online poker judges."

Epic Poker got some splainin' to do

You've probably heard a thing or two about the Epic Poker League and its out-of-the-gate problems with ethics and qualifications. Between Chino Rheem winning the first event and the controversy surrounding Michael DiVita's exit, a whole lot of questions were raised about the league's much-ballyhooed code of conduct.

In an apparent attempt to address such questions, Stephen Martin, ethics consultant to the league, granted an interview to Jess Welman of Bluff magazine, which was published a few days ago here. I read it last night, and at the end had more questions than answers. (I expect that this has been hashed out ad nauseum in places like Two Plus Two, but I have not read any of that. What follows is just my own reactions.)

The first uncertainty with which I was left was whether DiVita's withdrawal was actually voluntary on his part, as Martin takes pains to insist, or involuntary. DiVita submitted a comment to the Martin interview which, taken at face value, contradicts Martin's account. DiVita speaks of the Standards and Conduct Committee's "decision," while Martin is claiming that no decision was made: "[W]e didn’t take any official action since Mr. DiVita chose to withdraw."

But if Martin is telling the truth about that, then it's hard to understand his answer to the final question:
If Mr. DiVita wants to take part, he would have to request eligibility from the league based on his criminal history. We’ve set up a process where people can request a hearing and appear in front of the Standards and Conduct Committee and ultimately appeal to the Commissioner if they feel like regarding eligibility issues or for disciplinary action. If he wanted to play in our league going forward, he would have to go through that process…There is no guarantee that someone will be eligible to play.
DiVita was presumably eligible to play when he played. If the committee made no decision and took no action, then logically it must be the case that DiVita's eligibility remains intact and he would be able to show up and play at any Epic event anytime he wanted to do so. How can it simultaneously be true that the committee/league made no decision and took no action on his eligibility to play, and that if he chose to play in the future he would have to first request eligibility via a hearing?

Secondly, I'm puzzled by a set of apparent contradictions. First, Martin claims that past conduct, criminal or otherwise, will not be considered disqualifying unless it affects the league in some sort of ongoing manner:
Initially when the league and the Standards and Conduct Committee were formed, we made a general decision not to take action against players for pre-league conduct and things that happened before the league was founded, with some exceptions. One [exception] being that if an action by a player was so severe or significant that we needed to take a look at those issues or something that had an ongoing impact on the league after it started.
Yet there is no explanation of why DiVita's convictions from 20 years ago, nor his arrest (with charges subsequently dropped) in 2008, have "an ongoing impact on the league after it started." Why does Mike Matusow get a pass for his conviction on drug-trafficking charges, but DiVita has to answer for his far older convictions? Is it because the latter are categorized as sex crimes, and Epic Poker has made an institutional decision that sex crimes are worse than drug crimes? If so, where is that determination to be found in the EPL's documents?

Speaking of the league's documents, you can view online the "Players' Code of Conduct." It includes this laudable sentiment:
While criminal conduct is clearly outside the scope of permissible professional conduct (and persons who engage in serious criminal conduct are subject to League discipline), our standard of conduct as professional poker players is considerably higher. It is not simply enough to avoid being convicted of a serious criminal offense.
OK, great. But it's hard to imagine a squishier, more flexible standard than that.

Let's consider the EPL's commissioner, Annie Duke. The first time I heard of her, I believe, was when I read James McManus's great book, Positively Fifth Street. He documents having witnessed Duke picking up another player's cards from the muck and looking at them (page 181) during a satellite to the WSOP Main Event. Even though I was a novice at the game when I read that, I knew that such an action constituted a major breach of both rules and etiquette. Why does the EPL have a known cheater as its commissioner, if the standard of conduct is as high as this Code of Conduct implies?

And what about her criminal connection? She was a paid representative of Ultimate Bet both before and after the UIGEA passed in 2006. What's more, she renewed her position with them after the company was discovered to have engaged in the most extensive cheating scheme the online poker world has yet had brought to light.

In a recent TV appearance, Duke conceded that online poker was "illegal." Let's grant the assumption that this is limited to the United States and to real-money play. Let's further grant the assumption that she is not talking about players violating any federal statute (they are not, though some may be violating state anti-gambling statutes), but rather about the sites spreading the games and/or receiving deposits in connection with the same. Nothing about the legal status of the online poker offerings has changed since 2006. (April 15 of this year saw some enforcement action, but nothing about the legality--or lack thereof--changed that day.) Duke is essentially admitting on national television that the company for which she was a paid shill was engaging in criminal conduct for years, with her knowledge and blessing. How in the hell does that conform to the league's goal, as stated in that Code of Conduct, to "further...the positive public reputation" of poker?

Of course, as Commissioner, Duke is not a player. But that particular Clintonesque dodge won't work, given the Code's broad wording:
Everyone associated with the Epic Poker League is expected to avoid conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of poker and the League. This expectation applies to all players, tournament officials, employees and anyone else associated with the operations of the League.
So the League's commissioner got paid by a dirty site to continue to bring them business after it was publicly known that the site was dirty, while she knew that the company's core function (even when conducted honestly) was illegal. Can somebody please explain to me how this constitutes "avoid[ing] conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of poker"?

Or does Duke get the same "let bygones be bygones" pass that Matusow and other former criminals in the League get, but that is somehow not granted to DiVita?

My final question is this: How does a professional ethicist such as Martin, brought on board specifically to keep the organization's reputation white as the driven snow, fail to see these issues?

Addendum, September 14, 2011

See update on the story here.

Profound poker truth of the day

If you always get your money in with the worst of it, you will never have to suffer a bad beat.

Guess the casino, #979

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

Answer: Stratosphere

Poker, "this party of apes"

I recently watched Elia Kazan's 1951 film, "A Streetcar Named Desire" (based on the Tennessee WIlliams play) for the first time in, well, a couple of decades anyway. I decided to do so after reading my friend Shamus's insightful essay for Epic Poker about the film's poker scenes. (See here.)

I had completely forgotten that poker even made an appearance in the movie. But as Martin points out, the game forms a crucial part of some of the film's themes, especially the separate roles and realms of men and women, and the dangers that lurk when the barriers between them are breached.

A couple of days ago I posted as a "Poker Gem" Karl Malden's line as Mitch: "Poker should not be played in a house with women." I put that up before the scene had even finished playing, pausing the DVD long enough to post it. I meant it mostly as a joke, a wry reminder of how things used to be. But as the movie continues, we learn that it is, in fact, a stern foreshadowing.

Poker, it is suggested, is a males-only activity, first, because of the vices that come associated with it: drinking, smoking cigars, swearing, lewd storytelling, fighting--vulgarity of every variety. But a second and perhaps more important reason is that the game brings out the raw, brute passions of earthy men, and when they are so aroused, they are not easily controlled or contained. Women who happen to be in the environs are in danger. For these reasons, the ladies are, as Stella wryly phrases it, "cordially not invited."

In case we are too dense to make the associations between poker and men's baser passions by observation alone, the screenplay won't let us miss them. Blanche DuBois confides her opinion of Stanley to her sister (Stanley's wife), Stella:
If you'll forgive me, he's common... He's like an animal. He has an animal's habits. There's even something subhuman about him. Thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is. Stanley Kowalski, survivor of the Stone Age, bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle. And you - you here waiting for him. Maybe he'll strike you or maybe grunt and kiss you, that's if kisses have been discovered yet. His poker night you call it. This party of apes.
Gentle Mitch is no ape. He leaves the game to chat with Blanche, who he immediately finds charming. He actually appears more comfortable in the side room with the women than in the main room with the men. This very fact (even ignoring his schoolboy mannerisms) suggests that he is, in some sense, not fully a man--an idea further suggested later by the revelation that he still lives with his mother and is to be presumed to be a virgin. (Apparently in the stage play on which the film is based, Blanche's husband committed suicide after being exposed as having had a homosexual affair, so the fact that Mitch is deemed appropriate to fill those shoes is perhaps further innuendo.)

A drunk, angry Stanley bolts from the poker game to invade the women's space in a manner entirely different from Mitch's: angrily, violently, wreaking havoc. He hurls a radio through a window and beats his wife. Near the end of the film, he will again penetrate this same space when Blanche is there alone, again doing so in a way that the mild-mannered Mitch never would: set on violation. What happens between Stanley and Blanche could not be portrayed or perhaps even spoken explicitly, due to censorship standards of the day, but we are not left in much doubt.

That unfinished scene is followed immediately by a second poker game, which functions as the setting for the film's denouement: Blanche has been tipped all the way into frank madness. She is briefly restrained, but then allowed to walk--with assistance from a man--into the forbidden territory, past the poker table and into the car waiting to take her to an asylum. Stella, conversely, takes her newborn baby and flees to an upstairs neighbor, vowing never to return. Her apartment has been irredeemably marked--contaminated, even--as a place in which the ugliest male instincts are allowed to play out. This sadly permanent "no women allowed" status is symbolized by the poker game, which, we presume, continues after its brief interruption.

I've seen poker serve a lot of different functions in movies, but I don't recall anything like this. In "Streetcar" it is simultaneously an emblem of, arena for, and a inflamer of men's coarse, animalistic tendencies. The game has never felt that way to me, but the fact that Williams and Kazan can make it serve such roles so effortlessly in this movie has left me feeling disturbed, unsettled, contemplative. If I come to any brilliant conclusions along those lines, I'll let you know.

The image above is Thomas Hart Benton's painting Poker Night (From "A Streetcar Named Desire"), 1948. It hangs in the Whitney Museum in New York City. You can hear the museum's audio guide about it here.

ADDENDUM, March 1, 2013

Martin's excellent essay disappeared from the web for quite a while following the collapse of the Epic Poker League, along with its web site. But today he reposted it on his own blog, here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Quads on fourth street

I was just playing a SNG on Bodog in which the above hand transpired. A king fell on the river, nobody had an ace, and we chopped the pot four ways.

I have seen a board like this on rare occasions before, but this time it occurred to me to wonder how frequently it will occur. Let's find out.

There are 50 unknown cards before the flop is put out. There are 19,600 different flops that can be made from those 50 cards. Obviously, in order to get quads on the board by fourth street, all three flop cards must be of the same rank. Furthermore, we won't be able to get quads on the board on fourth street if the trips on the board on the flop are 10s or 4s, as I have the last one of each in my hand. That means that there are 11 ranks eligible. For each of those, there are four different combinations of three cards that can constitute our all-one-rank flop, making a total of 44 possible flops that meet our criteria. That means that the probability of getting such a flop is 44/19,600, or about 0.0022, or about 1 in 445.

Now that we have an eligible flop, there is only one card left in the deck that will complete our quads. 47 unknown cards remain, so there is a 1 in 47 chance of getting the one we want; probability is 0.021.

The combined probability of an eligible flop and the perfect turn is, therefore, 0.0022 x 0.021, or 4.78 x 10^-5, or 1 out of 20,936. (The answer would be slightly different if I had a pocket pair, but let's not worry about that.)

That's rare enough to get your attention.

(Now the much harder math problem is this: What are the odds that I managed to get all of that right on the first try?)

Guess the casino, #978

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

Answer: Monte Carlo

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Poker gems, #436

Matthew Hilger, in Card Player magazine column, September 7, 2011 (vol. 24, #18), page 30.

Mathematically, there is no difference between the bubble of a [$10 single-table] tournament which pays two places 75-25, and after the bubble bursts in a 50-30-20 structure. Once it's three-handed, each player will win a minimum of $20, so it's as if that $20 has already been put in everyone's account, and it's the bubble of a tournament with three players left, with the top two paid $30 and $10. Every time you are one elimination away from a pay increase, there is effectively a new bubble....

However, for many players the psychology causes them to behave differently.... [T]hey simply play tighter before the actual money bubble, and looser once they're in the money. The flawed reasoning is that once you're "in the money," you're freerolling in a sense.

A river runs through it

This afternoon I set out for the Strip to play some poker. I knew we had just had an extremely heavy rain--perhaps the hardest I've ever seen it rain in five years of living here--but it had been brief, so I didn't think flooded roads would be a problem.

I needed to stop at my bank first to make a deposit, so I headed down 7th Street toward Charleston, where the nearest U.S. Bank branch is located, rather than going toward the interstate. Above is what I encountered at Bonneville, about three blocks south of my apartment. That orange thing bobbing by the law firm's sign is a construction barrier thingy, which had been floating vertically in this river until just before I managed to start shooting. In fact, the strange sight of it bouncing along in the current is what made me pull out the cell phone and try to record it. (I forgot to turn off the radio. Sorry.)

I chickened out and didn't try to cross this torrent. I've seen way too many video clips on the news and online of people stupidly getting themselves stranded by venturing into water the depth of which they could not know. I turned around and headed east to Maryland Parkway, hoping that our city engineers would have better drainage on the major arterial roads.

The Bonneville river, however, was still looking about the same as it had been at Maryland--maybe even a little deeper and definitely wider. But before turning onto Maryland, I was able to watch five or six other cars traverse the stream, and they all made it without stalling. I even saw a Ford fording!

So I gingerly crept through. I thought that with that I was done with the street rivers, but no. Essentially all of Maryland was covered in an inch or more of water for the next two miles, and every intersection was pretty much like the one at Bonneville. A couple of them had police cars parked nearby, but the officers weren't doing anything except watching. So I tiptoed through them, thinking each would be the last. I believe that if I had to list the three deepest bodies of water I've ever driven through, all three of them would be from today. Seriously.

Between the slow driving and some going out of my way to avoid the very worst spots, it took me nearly 45 minutes to get to Mandalay Bay.

I shoulda just stayed home. What I had intended to be a hit-and-run session actually turned out to be more like a get-hit-and-run-over session.

In Vegas, the river is not your friend--either on the felt or on the streets.

What's in a screen name? #34

Honesty is the best policy.

Guess the casino, #977

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

Answer: Hooters

Poker gems, #435

Harold Mitchell (played by Karl Malden) in "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951).

Poker should not be played in a house with women.