Saturday, August 18, 2012

Riviera stories

There's a pool tournament going on at the Riviera, as happens a few times a year. Such occasions are basically the only times that I play there, because the games become extra juicy. Tonight was no exception. In addition to being profitable, it generated four stories that I thought were worth telling.


I had Qc-Kc and raised to $10. Two callers, and I had position. Flop was 5-9-7 with two hearts. Both opponents checked, so I bet $20. One folded. The guy on my right called. I thought a flush draw was his most likely hand. Turn was an offsuit 8. He checked again. I bet $40, hoping to dissuade him from chasing his draw further. He called again. I didn't think he would do that with a naked draw, so concluded that I had probably been wrong and that I was up against some sort of made hand. On that basis, I decided that unless I caught a pair with my overcards, a bet on the river would probably just be throwing more money away. I planned to bet at a jack or queen, but otherwise give up. River was an offsuit 6. I just glanced at it long enough to see that it wasn't one of the cards I wanted, then focused my attention on my opponent. He thought an unusually long time while I stared at him, then checked. I checked behind.

At that point, my only hope was that he had, in fact, been on a flush draw and had missed. I waited for him to show his cards. J-9. Top pair. Well, that's it, then. I lose. I flicked my hole cards back to the dealer, who buried them in the muck.

I turned back toward the center of the table, took another look at the board just before the dealer swiped it away, and realized to my horror that I had completely missed the fact that the 6 on the river had completed a straight on the board. My cards were good for half of the pot if I had just turned them face up.


That mental lapse cost me a bit over $70. My only consolation is that I make this sort of mistake at an average rate of about once a year (as far as I know; I suppose there could be other instances of it that I never notice). Given the number of hands I play, that's an error rate that is small enough to be forgivable, and just large enough to prove that I'm human.


In one hand, I got all in on fourth street against another player in a dominating situation: My K-Q versus his K-9 on a king-high board, with him having no straight or flush possibilities. (I don't remember the other cards. I write down the details of hands that I think will make good blog stories, but I didn't think this one would at the time that it happened.)

River: 9, giving him two pair to my one--a pure three-out hit for all the marbles.

Sigh. Oh well. Rebuy!

About 15 minutes later, there was an eerily similar recurrence. He and I again managed to get all of our chips into the pot on the turn. This time, however, he had the dominating situation: Q-7 versus my A-K on a board of A-Q-7-3.*

River: K, giving me a higher two pair than his.

To make the sweet revenge even sweeter, this pot was much bigger than the previous one, having been swelled by a bunch of pre-flop action.

After paying me off, he began grumbling about his rotten luck, getting screwed by a three-outer. (I had actually had eight outs, but I didn't bother correcting his math.) After about 30 seconds of his little tantrum, I decided that I could have a bit of fun with it and simultaneously maybe give him just enough extra needling that he'd go well out of his way to target me for payback later, which tends to make for very profitable situations.

So I smiled sweetly and said, "I don't remember you complaining this way a little while ago when you rivered the three-outer against me."

His face clouded, and he insisted, "I never caught a river card against you like that!"

Some people have amazingly short memories.


I noticed this part of the sign announcing high-hand bonuses:

I'm not much of a believer, but I would sure pray to a Saint Flush if one really existed.


In a hand that did not involve me, the flop was A-6-6. The pre-flop raiser bet at it, folding his opponents, and showed his A-K before mucking. A player next to me told his neighbor, "Dammit! I folded A-6! He had top pair/top kicker. I think he would have put all his chips in against me, and I would have won!" He then paused a second and added, "Unless he caught his king, of course."

Well allrighty then! Nice to know that I'm not the only one capable of putting his inner moron out on public display!

* I'm acutely aware that this makes twice in a short period of time that I was all-in with just top pair, a practice I normally try to avoid. In terms of both how the action unfolded and who was involved, there were extenuating circumstances in both cases that made it more justifiable than it would otherwise be. But an exposition of those additional considerations would just bog down the story, so I'm omitting them.

Friday, August 17, 2012

40 to 740 in nothing flat

I played at Planet Hollywood last night. I started with $200, and within 15 minutes or so was down to about $50. I was playing horribly--as badly as I ever do. Apparently somebody had slipped a drug into my water bottle which transformed me into the world's worst calling station. I was playing every hand and calling every bet when I had any piece of the board, under the misguided impression that everybody else was bluffing. These weren't huge bets, but I frittered away the money $10 and $20 at a time. It was embarrassing and not at all my usual style.

The first thing I did was make a firm determination not to rebuy. On the rare occasions that I play that badly, at least I have the good sense not to keep at it until my wallet is empty. I recognized that I was being a doofus and had no business throwing good money after bad.

With that decision made, I told myself that I had three options: (1) Give up now, preserving the last $50 against further awful play. (2) Keep playing badly for one or two more hands, at which time the chips would all be gone and I could drive myself home feeling stupid and miserable, with a giant "L" visible on my forehead in the car mirror. (3) Buck up, play right, and see if I could turn things around. If I could find good spots to put in my short stack, then even if I didn't grind my way back to a profit, I could at least go home feeling good about having played smart with my last couple of bullets.

#3 being clearly the best choice, I mentally slapped myself for having stupidly given away $150, then let it go and settled in to play the best that I could.

My first opportunity came with an A-J offsuit. Raised to $10, three callers. Missed the flop completely. Out of position against three people who all see me as wounded, vulnerable, and possibly desperate is not the spot for a continuation-bet bluff, so I check-folded. Down to $40.

I no longer remember any of the specific hands, but I slowly worked that $40 up to $91 over the course of an hour or so, at which time came a remarkable series of three hands.

1) Three seats to my left was a fast-and-loose player. He played every hand, called light, bet at every orphan pot, straddled every opportunity, etc. He was doing a button straddle of $10 every time he was dealer. Surprisingly, nobody had ever tried to raise him when he did this. I had Q-T offsuit. The big blind and one other person had called the $10 straddle. To my left I could see both of the players between me and the button with their cards cocked, ready to fling into the muck. By this point, my table image had been adequately rehabilitated, so it seemed like a likely spot to pick up the dead money. I declared myself all in. Mr. Fast-and-Loose called, the others folded. Flop was 2-2-2 (oh, to have my beloved 2-4!), turn 7, river queen, miraculously turning my trashy hand into deuces full of queens. It was good for the pot. I never saw the other guy's cards. This put me up to $200, plus or minus a few bucks. Back to even, which was in itself something of a victory. But I was feeling good about my ability to play well, the table was soft and juicy, and so I decided to keep going.

2) A short time later, I had 8-8 under the gun, limped, and then became the last of five players paying $25 to see the flop. It came 8-3-4 rainbow, which was the loveliest sight I had seen the whole session. I was first to act and checked, knowing that there would be plenty of action that I could check-raise. Sure enough, there was a $30 bet and two calls before it was back to me. Raising all-in to about $175 from $30 is a big leap. I very much wanted at least one call, and wasn't sure I would get one if I went all the way like that. I considered a smaller raise, hoping to lure in two or three callers, who might all then feel pot-committed to my inevitable push on any turn card. That might have been better, but in the end I went for shove-and-pray, hoping that at least one would look me up. And one did. I never saw his hand, but when another 3 hit fourth street, giving me top full house, he must have been drawing dead, or nearly so. That put me up to about $530.

3) On the very next hand, I looked down at Ad-As in the big blind. Practically the whole table limped in, so I raised to $17. Three callers. Flop was 7-8-10 with two clubs. I bet $60. The player two to my left moved all-in for $90 more, followed by folds. Of course he might have me beat here with a flopped set, straight, or two pair. But I thought it more likely that he was semi-bluffing with either a pair and a draw (straight draw or flush draw), or some sort of a combo straight/flush draw. Against such a hand, a call should be mathematically correct. My read was right; he had 9-10 for top pair and an open-ended straight draw. It was a good move on his part, given that he should have decent fold equity against my range, and, failing that, an excellent chance of improving to the winner. Sadly for him, he caught no help with the last two cards, and another pot was pushed my way before I had even finished stacking the previous monster one.

When I finally got the chips straightened out, they looked like this:

I never did an exact count, but it must have been right around $730. Over the course of the next couple of orbits, I won one small pot with a pre-flop raise, peaking at about $740, then lost about $20 before deciding that I had probably gotten as lucky as I was going to get, and cashing out for $718.

Of course there was a hefty dose of luck here: an all-in steal shove that turned into a full house, then flopping top set in a bloated pot and managing to find somebody who had caught enough of the ragged flop to call my all-in check-raise, then dodging 13 outs twice to have my aces hold up. But in spite of that nice streak of good fortune, I was proud of having started off playing so wretchedly and yet finding the discipline to snap out of it and play smart.

It won't be every day that making that kind of mental turnaround will be so richly rewarded, but I'm happy to pocket the results when it does.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Black Chip Poker withdrawal, Step 4

FedEx guy woke me up about half an hour ago with a knock on my door. I had no been expecting any deliveries, so I was puzzled what was in the envelope.

It was a check:

That's 9 1/2 days from submitting the request to getting the check. Not bad, Black Chip Poker. not bad at all.

Two license plates

It's been a long time since I posted any poker-themed license plate photos. I have spotted two in the past 24 hours.

I saw this truck at a red light today while on my way to brunch with a friend at The Original Pancake House (an excellent breakfast place). It made me wish I had his plate. (Apologies for the dirty windshield. I need new wipers, obviously.)

And this one I saw on the way home from buying groceries after my session at Mandalay Bay tonight. It may be hard to read, but it says, "LOVPOKR."

Stupid rule

I was playing at Mandalay Bay tonight. Over time, one just comes to accept that MB has a bunch of bizarre house rules that don't make any sense. I thought I had heard them all (and documented them all in these pages as I encountered them). Nope. Tonight I learned of one that had previously escaped my notice.

I was in seat 6. During a hand in which the button was on seat 7, the guy in seat 1, having just taken an ugly beat, stormed away from the table with his few remaining chips. Nobody else had requested a seat change, so I moved to 1. Next hand, the button is on seat 8, seats 9 and 10 are the blinds, and I am under the gun. As he started dealing, the dealer said something about putting out $2. I wasn't completely sure he was talking to me, and assumed that if he were, he was simply mistaken. I.e., he had erroneously thought I was the big blind, or failed to notice the direction around the table that I had moved. So I didn't do anything.

As he delivered my second card, he more pointedly said, "You need to post because you changed seats." I pointed out that I was moving toward the blinds, not away from them; i.e., I would be paying the blinds sooner than I would have if I had stayed put (on the next hand, in fact). He insisted that that was their house rule--moving past more than two other players required posting, no matter which direction one moved.

Even if the dealer were correct about this being a house rule, he should have given me the option to post or wait one hand for the big blind. (I would have chosen the latter, of course.) But now that the situation was upon us, I didn't want to slow down the game for everybody else by asking for the floor person to come over and address the issue, so I just tossed in the $2 then folded my crappy cards after somebody raised. As poker room annoyances go, this one merited one roll of the eyes, but nothing more dramatic than that.

The usual rule in Vegas poker rooms is that if you move past one or two players in either direction, it's a freebie. If you move past more than two players in the direction that delays when you will pay your next set of blinds, then you have to post the equivalent of the big blind, or wait until the big blind comes around to you. But if you move into the blinds, so that you will be paying them sooner than you otherwise would have, no posting is required. I have never before encountered a situation in which moving towards the blinds requires early posting.

An hour or so later as I was leaving, I pulled the shift supervisor aside to ask if the dealer had been correct. She confirmed that he had been; their house rule is that one must post the big blind (or wait for it), no matter which direction one moves, if it is more than two seats. I suggested to her that this was non-standard and probably unique among Vegas poker rooms. She allowed as how that was probably true.

Upon arriving home, I checked my rule books and confirmed that it is indeed non-standard. Here's Lou Krieger and Sheree Bykofsky, The Rules of Poker (Lyle Stuart, 2006), pp. 32-33:
For moving counterclockwise (toward the blinds and against the flow of the dealer button), jumping over intermediate players to the new seat: There is no penalty for changing seats and the player who moves is entitled to receive a hand immediately.

For moving clockwise (away from the blinds and in the same direction as the flow of the dealer button): The player is required to sit out a number of hands equal to the number of players jumped over during the move.... If the player does not wish to wait out any hands, he may be dealt in immediately, provided he posts the big blind in his new seat.
Maybe some day somebody will explain to me why Mandalay Bay is such a maverick about idiosyncratic house rules. I really don't get what it is about the culture of that poker room that causes it to go against the grain on so many things. In almost every instance, the weird rule that they come up with is clearly, demonstrably worse than the standard practice everywhere else.* In this case, the standard rule about posting when moving away from the blinds exists to prevent nits from seat hopping frequently to avoid paying the blinds. (If you doubt that such uber-nits exist, you have not spent much time in Vegas casinos.) No comparable purpose is served by imposing the same requirement on a player moving the opposite direction. It's just stupid.

*The one exception is how they handle must-move games, which I discussed here. It is perfect, and is a system that should be imitated by all other poker rooms.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Because of my recent surge in online playing, some people have asked me whether I'm enrolled in a rakeback program. The answer is yes. I mentioned it in passing here when I first signed up for it.

But the truth is that until the last 30 days, I played so little on Black Chip Poker that I never checked on whether the rakeback system was actually working. In fact, I didn't even know the mechanics of how it was supposed to work--would the affiliate send me a separate check, or what? I was not even sure that I was eligible for rakeback on tournament entry fees; for all I knew, it might have been only for the rake on cash games. (You can see that I was not exactly a careful shopper when I signed up.) Now that I've been putting in enough volume online that it matters, I looked into it.

I found that it is being credited to my BCP account every day, shortly after midnight, for play of the day before. To find it, open your Merge software, and under "account" click on "real money ledger."

I'm still a little confused on the percentages. The offer I signed up for was 41% rakeback in perpetuity. But look at how it is actually being credited (the "positive balance adjustment" entries):

By coincidence (not planning), on each of the past four days I have entered exactly $44 worth of tournaments, of which $4 has been the tournament fees. This is presumably the amount on which the rakeback is calculated. But the rakeback amount credited has been $1.40, $0.35, $2.45, and $1.40. This baffles me, first, because this works out to 35% rather than 41%, and, second, because of the variable amount each day. Maybe part of the second day's rakeback got delayed somehow and added in to the third day, which would even them out to $1.40 per day. But even if so, I don't understand why it's 35% and not 41%. I will have to look into this. At these levels it's not much of a difference, but if I start increasing the buy-ins and/or volume, the difference will start to add up.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Is there anything in poker more aggravating than being the bubble boy?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Black Chip Poker withdrawal, Step 3

Email received today:

Your $685.00 Black Chip Poker Check withdrawal has been approved.

If you should have any questions regarding your Black Chip Poker account, please check our Frequently Asked Questions. Our support team is also available 24/7 to help with any questions you may have.

Kind Regards,

Black Chip Poker Support Team
Notice that the amount is $15 less than my request was for, presumably reflecting the $15 withdrawal fee.

Now we'll see how long it takes.

So close