Monday, December 29, 2014

You have to believe

It's been a while, so maybe it's time for a refresher course on the key factor in successfully playing The Mighty Deuce-Four.

Last night I was at Harrah's Cherokee, using the PokerPro tables for some $1-2 NLHE. I had started with $300, and after about two hours was down to about $200, when I caught 2-4 for the first time--offsuit, both black.

I was in the small blind. We had three limpers including the cutoff. Button raised to $16. I called, BB called.

Now it got weird: Cutoff, who had the biggest stack of around $600, reraised to $37.  A limp-reraise from late position? Who does that? I think I've seen only two kinds of hands played that way: A-K and medium pairs. I assume that in both cases, these players are thinking roughly along these lines: "This is a hand that is hard to play after the flop unless it improves in a very specific way, which it usually doesn't. Therefore, I'd either like to play it very cheaply, or put in a prohibitive pre-flop raise and end the hand." I don't recall ever seeing anybody play K-K or A-A like this from late position.

Anyway, the button called. I called, of course, since I had the best hand. Besides, I felt in my bones that I was going to flop big. In my bones, I tell you.

Surprisingly, the BB called, too, making the pot a bloated $145 or so before we even had a flop out.

Flop: A-4-4 rainbow.

Of course.

I pleaded with the poker gods: "Oh, please let him have A-K, not a medium pair."

I checked. BB checked. Cutoff bet $50. Button folded. I called. BB folded.

Turn: 7 of the fourth suit. Excellent.

I checked. Cutoff bet $75. I had $112 left. I figured he was thoroughly pot-committed. With me all-in, the pot would be about $430, and he'd only have to call $37 more to stay in. He should do that with just about anything. And he did. The computer revealed our hands. He had J-J. Two outs.

River: King. My old friend the Deuce-Four had done it for me again.

I heard the murmurings around the table: "Are you kidding me?" "I did not expect to see those two hands." "Wow." I just took it in stride. I couldn't feign surprise, since I had known I would win.

When people tell me that they have lost with 2-4, I usually tell them that they didn't play it right. Most often what they do wrong is fail to believe in it. My stock reply is this: "Does Santa bring presents to little boys and girls who do not believe in him? No, he does not. It's the same with Deuce-Four. You have to believe in it for it to work."

I believe.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Separated at birth?

I saw a picture of Senator Ted Cruz somewhere, and at first glance I thought it was Phil Hellmuth. I looked more carefully, and came to think that they are twins separated at birth. What do you think?

(Photo of Hellmuth found here, credited to Getty Images. Photo of Ted Cruz found here, with no photo credit.)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Lucy's Christmas treat

Lucy's favorite treats are chunks of freeze-dried turkey from a company called "Whole Life." But they're really expensive, so most days I just break off a little piece from one for her. For Christmas, I gave her a whole one. 

At first, she could hardly believe her good fortune. 

"Is that what I think it is?" 

"Ooo, it is! I hope nobody's watching."


"Ooo, that tastes good!"

"I chomps it." (At this point, it finally occurred to me to turn on the camera's flash, which is why the remaining pictures are so much less noisy.)




"That was super-yummy!"

I hope all of you get what you most want for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

PokerNews article #45

This one is all about how to get yourself lost in a poker hand with no idea what how to proceed--in case that's something you want to do.

Take note of the cute graphic--fake iPhone map directions--that my editor, Short-Stacked Shamus, made to illustrate the article. Nice touch!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday, December 08, 2014

PokerNews article #43

Should you look at your cards right away or only when it's your turn?

Monday, December 01, 2014

PokerNews article #42

Revealed: The single best way to recover from a bad beat.


Apparently, this article rubbed somebody the wrong way:


ADDENDUM, December 7, 2014 

Somebody from PokerNews found the Full Tilt commercial I referred to in the article:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Greeks playing poker

Just go take a look at it, for a laugh.

Hat tip: Ed Miller.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Poker gems, #471

Joe Stapleton, in Bluff magazine, September, 2014, page 88.

I'm really going to miss charity tournaments like "Put a Bad Beat on Domestic Violence," "Play Dark for the Cincinnati Center for the Blind," and "Flop Quads for Spinal Recovery Center of Duluth."

Monday, November 10, 2014

PokerNews article #39

This is about whether to show a losing hand when the rules don't require it.

Monday, November 03, 2014

PokerNews article #38

This one is about how to decide whether and when to show a winning hand that the rules do not obligate you to show.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Emotional stability

New study says that experienced poker players have the emotional stability to make difficult decisions under pressure:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

DuPont State Recreational Forest

Western North Carolina is stuffed to the gills with state and national parks and forests. You could spend years and years here, going hiking every weekend, and still not get through all the trails available.

Yesterday Nina and I spent a couple of hours walking in one little corner of one little state forest that we had not visited before, the DuPont State Recreational Forest. It is most famous for its waterfalls, two of which were featured in the movie "Hunger Games." But we didn't take any of the waterfall hikes. We were in search of vistas of fall foliage.

Here's a bit of what we found. Right-click/open in new tab to see maximum size.

And yes, the sky really was that blue; no digital enhancement.

Finally, one digitally stitched 180-degree panorama: 

PokerNews article #37

The three factors that should determine your cash game buy-in:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bad beat

Remember the nice new car I was so excited about not too long ago? Jackass in an old pickup truck wasn't paying attention on the highway and slammed into it. A line of cars stopped for some unknown reason. Everybody managed to stop safely except for him. After he pushed me forward, I very nearly hit the car in front of me, but fortunately had left j-u-s-t enough room not to.

Submit your guesses in the comments as to what the final repair bill will be. Closest (over or under, not Price Is Right rules) wins--I don't know what.

PokerNews article #36

Does your opponent have that flush? Here's how to tell.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Probability puzzle

This has nothing to do with poker directly, but this week's Sunday Puzzle on NPR is an interesting exercise of your probability-thinking muscles.

Next week's challenge: The following challenge is based on a puzzle from a Martin Gardner book, that may not be well-known. Out of a regular grade school classroom, two students are chosen at random. Both happen to have blue eyes. If the odds are exactly 50-50 that two randomly chosen students in the class will have blue eyes: How many students are in the class?
I got the answer, but it was really difficult. I ended up having to set up a spreadsheet to automatically calculate the number of ways to select two children from a classroom of n students. This allowed me to play with both the number of students and the number of those that have blue eyes, until I found the combination that worked. 

Maybe there's a simpler, more intuitive way of getting at the answer, instead of using brute force the way I did--but if so, it escaped me. I predict that they will have very, very few correct answers submitted. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hypothetical questions about Phil Ivey

Suppose Ivey had set up his advantageous situation, with the casino's defective cards, automatic shuffler, etc., but had then had a streak of terrible luck and lost millions of dollars instead of winning millions, and the casino bosses later learned of what techniques he had been using. Would they have rushed to issue him a check to refund his losses? If he sued them trying to reclaim his losses, on the grounds that the conditions of the game were unfair, would they agree and cheerfully pay him back?

Put another way, is it the casinos' position that the conditions of the game were only unfair if they lost?

Daniel Negreanu, on the online poker ecosystem

"You guys don't even want to know what I would do to the VIP programs if I was in charge! I would focus on giving bonuses to the LOSING players exclusively. They'd play more, last longer, and the pros would get the money in the end anyway. I think it's overkill to not only have pros crushing all the rec players, but then also giving them the majority of the bonuses on top of that?" 

Whole thing here

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Video poker

My friend Iggy posted a link to this story on Twitter. It's fascinating. Two guys discovered a bug in the programming of a ubiquitous video poker machine, and exploited it for hundreds of thousands of dollars before being caught. They were criminally charged, but eventually the charges were dropped because it's unclear that they did anything illegal. (FWIW, I agree. If a machine has a glitch that allows a player to get payouts just by pressing the right sequence of buttons--no monkeying with the machine's mechanisms or programming--it isn't cheating or fraud.) Long, but well worth a read.

Home game

Last night I played for the first time in a local home game. It was 10-cent/20-cent blinds, maximum buy-in of $20. That's the lowest stakes I've ever played poker for, other than a few play-money games online.

You know what surprising thing I discovered? Once you mentally reset your expectations, it stings just as much to lose a buy-in of $20 as one of $200, and feels just as triumphant to double up a $20 stake as a $200 stake.

Weird, huh?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014


You might want to tackle today's Kennections puzzle:

A hike--and POKER!

Yesterday Nina and I drove the last 25 miles or so of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stopped at several scenic overlooks. At Waterrock Knob, we took the hike to the top. It's only a half mile each way, but it's straight up. And then straight down. The up part strained our aging hearts and lungs. The down part strained our aging knees. But it was fun anyway, and gorgeous.

Then we headed into Cherokee to the casino for a couple hours of teh pokerz. I was up about $240, until I played "one more hand," and lost $80 of that when A-Q made top pair/top kicker, but lost to bottom two pair. Sigh.

But the best hand of the day was, of course, with The Mighty Deuce-Four. I was in the small blind, and called a raise, as did several others. The raiser then bet $25 into a $40 pot on a flop of J-3-5 rainbow. I was the only caller.

Turn: Ace. Of course. Because Deuce-Four always makes the nuts. I checked. He bet $35. I had $109 left; he had more. This was a tricky spot. I couldn't tell if his smallish bet here (about 1/3 pot) was because he was afraid of the ace, or because he loved it and wanted to maximize his chance of getting a call. If the latter, then a check-raise should get me paid off. If the former, it probably didn't matter whether I put it all in now or on the river, because he would fold either way. So I opted for the all-in check-raise. He insta-called.

Which turned out to be surprising, because he had unimproved pocket queens. I guess he felt pot-committed, but he was drawing dead to my wheel.

Ah, my beloved Deuce-Four! It's been a while, but you're still a reliable old friend.

Here's Nina's view of the day:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

British Isles trip, part 29: Best photos

I wanted to put into one place all of my favorite photos from the trip. I was going to put them in this post, but then decided that it would be better to put them into a slideshow on Google+. The link below will take you right to it. Then you can flip through them at your own pace.

I hope you have enjoyed my British Isles photos a fraction as much as I have enjoyed going through them and reliving some wonderful memories from the best vacation I've ever taken.

Best photos slideshow.

Friday, September 26, 2014

British Isles trip, part 28: Odds and ends 4

Bear with me--we're almost done.

Here's our whole tour group. Can you find me? Or Waldo?

(I'm not sure who to credit for that photo. Some passerby volunteered to take it so we could all be in the picture, then one of the tour leaders emailed it around.)

Slow down in the roundabouts. After all, whit's yer hurry? (Burgh of Girvan, on the western coast of Scotland, near where we took the ferry to Belfast.)

Scotland would very much like you to return for another visit:

Apparently, boys will be boys, in Scotland just as in the United States. I noticed this in a restroom:

My brother is the one who discovered this important archaeological find, on the beach in a little Scottish town where we stopped for lunch. It's obviously the original scale model the Druids used in planning Stonehenge.

Of course we alerted the proper antiquities authorities, and expect fame, glory, and riches to be coming our way soon.

Speaking of my brother, I love this picture that my sister-in-law Cyndie took of me and him in York:

Here's another thing I noticed only because of watching years of "Top Gear": the dreaded caravaners!

On the show, caravans and the people who tow them are a source of endless contempt because of how they clog up the roads on weekends and holidays.

Finally, here's a little video clip of a pair of fetching young women performing flute and harp at Loch Lomond. Their music is, well, not ready for prime time. But when playing the video to see if it was worth posting, I noticed a strange and interesting visual effect that I had accidentally captured. Apparently the frame rate on my camera is very close to some multiple or fraction of the vibration rate of some of the harp strings, so it looks like they're moving in slow motion. You can actually see standing waves on the strings after she plucks them. It looks like they're just completely slack, but of course if they were that loose, they couldn't vibrate.

Cool, eh?

All right, folks, that's the end of my trip pictures. Of course I have a bunch of my family, but I'm not going to post those here. If you really want to see them, they're in an album on the same site with the other "photo dump" links I've posted.

Tomorrow I will do one final post, consisting of what I think are my very best images from the whole trip, collected in one place.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

British Isles trip, part 27: Odds and ends 3

More unthemed, one-off photos.

This is Martyrs' Monument in St. Andrew, Scotland, just outside the famous golf course. It honors four Protestants who were burned at the stake in the 16th century by officials of the Catholic church for ghastly crimes such as owning a copy of the New Testament in English. But torturing and executing fellow Christians who have slightly different doctrinal beliefs is what Jesus commanded his followers to do, so we can't judge the Catholics too harshly. What? Jesus didn't teach that? Oh, I'm afraid I've been misinformed. Sorry about that.

But never fear. The Protestants eventually won. When they did, they desecrated the Catholic cathedral, also following the precepts of Jesus. Wait--what? Jesus didn't teach that, either? Man, I have got to brush up on this whole Christianity thing a little more. Anyway, here's what's left of the cathedral in St. Andrews:

While most of the rest of our tour group was off exploring St. Andrews, my father and I sat on a park bench, enjoying the beautiful weather and a local orchestra in the bandstand. Just for kicks, I decided to try the panorama feature on my camera. This was the result:

You can see how it distorts things, because that sidewalk is actually completely straight. For geographic orientation, the Martyrs' monument is just out of frame on the far right. (In fact, I took the picture of it from the same spot as I took this panorama.) If you open the photo in a new tab to get its maximum size, then look toward the left end of the panorama, you can see a six-legged dog on a leash. This is a rare breed, seen only in Scotland, the Highlands Hexapedal Terrier.

Sometimes a sign says everything that needs to be said. This one was in a little town called Bushmills, near Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland.

We had time to kill in Bushmills because the other coach had broken down, so we had to wait while the coach company sent a replacement out. The most famous thing in the town is its distillery, the oldest licensed distillery in the world, having been granted a license by King James (yes, he of the King James Bible) in 1608. I was excessively amused by the fact that an etching of the distillery's main building is featured on the Irish version of the five-pound note, and I that I could therefore stand there and look at the very building while simultaneously looking at the note:

Sadly, I couldn't figure out how to get to the same vantage point as the artist used. Oh well. I had considerable difficulty taking that picture, first because I had to fiddle with the camera to get an f-stop that would allow both the note and the writing on the building to be in clear enough focus to read them, and, second, because it was extremely windy, and the paper money kept flapping in the breeze. (I have a large number of version of this picture with the bill folded up, moving, or out of focus.)

I shot this picture from the window of our coach on the way to Glendalough. It appears that there is a disturbing amount of clear-cutting of forest happening on that hill. It's an ugly spot in an otherwise gorgeous stretch of countryside.

For you fans of Game of Thrones, here's Titanic Studios in Belfast, where they film many of the scenes:

This is one of the two massive cranes built by Harland and Wolff to make possible the construction of the Titanic and its sister ships (Belfast):

Our tour guide pointed out sights in Belfast that strongly suggest that "the troubles," far from being resolved by the 1998 peace accord, are actually roiling just under the surface. Here's an example:

I saw this article on Reason magazine's web site last week, which says the same thing, in more detail, if you're interested.

I didn't go to the interactive Beatles experience while we were in Liverpool because it cost too much and we didn't really have enough time to enjoy it properly. But I saw this nice display at the natural history museum in Dublin, which was almost as good.

Monuments like this one in Loch Lomond were all over the place, honoring the dead from World War I, World War II, or both.

It's nice to remember those who died in our wars, but it would sure be a hell of a lot nicer to just stop killing each other.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

British Isles trip, part 26: Dublin

Link to photo dump.

Dublin was the last city on our tour. It was from there that we flew back home.

We had been at Glendalough in the morning. In the early afternoon we went to the Trinity College library in Dublin to see the Book of Kells, which many consider to be Ireland's greatest treasure. No photos are allowed in that area, but we exited through the library's beautiful central room, where I stopped to take a few pictures:

Just outside the library, I noticed the dedication on this bench as we walked by:

I don't know who those people were, but I thought it was an admirable dedication. I hope that perhaps some people will think that true of me after I'm gone.

We had the rest of the afternoon free. Dad and I went to the National Museum of Ireland--Archaeology, then the National Museum of Ireland--Natural History. They were both interesting enough, though not exactly loaded with Kodak moments. However, I did feel compelled to document this pair of astonishing beasts:

Those are examples of Giant Irish Deer, also known as Irish Elk, Megaloceros giganteus. Those particular specimens were donated by the 4th Marquis of Bath in the late 19th century. These deer allegedly went extinct more than 7000 years ago, but I'm still a little frightened, because ya never know. Lots more pairs of these antlers are mounted near the ceiling all over this museum. Ireland must have been lousy with 'em.

The last picture I took with my new camera on this trip was this unremarkable shot of the bike-share bicycles in Dublin, and I only took it because I'm a fan of both bicycles and Coke Zero, which obviously sponsors the program:

I do have two more posts of odds and ends. Then I'll do one last post of what I think are the "best of the best" photographs I took.