Sunday, April 29, 2007

High Roller Treatment

Last year when we were living in New York City my wife won us a free trip to Las Vegas.

Well it wasn't exactly a free trip.

It was 3 nights of "high roller treatment" at a Strip hotel.

It also turned out that everyone who called in to the 800 number from the radio commercial "won" the prize. The only catch for giving us these 3 free nights was that we had to go visit a time share rental property thing that someone wanted to sell to us.

The really good news was that upon reading the small print we learned that since we were from NY State, we didn't actually have to go see the time share to "win" the hotel prize. Thank you Eliot Spitzer.

Mr. Spitzer definitely saved us some time. But Spitzer couldn't protect us from the free strip hotel they put us up at.

This time share company put us up at The New Frontier.

I should amend that.

We actually had to choose between The New Frontier and Circus Circus which is sort of like the Sophie's Choice of high roller treatment.

Now I had never been to The New Frontier before. I have been to Circus Circus and walking through that place always feels like navigating through a shady flea market.

I'm not sure if it's the screams of the children, the stuffed animals, or the man with his hand in my pocket. But using process of elimination I chose the "Heck I've never been to The New Frontier and they do have a ladies mud wrestling night" over the "Hey didn't I decide NOT to stay at Circus Circus 15 years you think it's gotten any better since then?"

If this was an SAT question on the quantitative comparison section the answer would have been:

D. None of the above.

The New Frontier makes Harrahs look like the Rio.

The New Frontier turns the Rio into the Bellagio.

I think multiple scenes in the movie the Sixth Sense were shot at the New Frontier.

You know how Halley Joel Osmond saw dead people?

Well so did I. She served me an $8.95 prime rib special.

My room at the New Frontier didn't have internet access. Not even dial up.

I wanted to order room service at the New Frontier and had to use Western Union.

We stopped by the front desk to ask for extra towels and a horse and wagon delivered them to our room.

When we checked out we learned that there was some sort of 5 dollar a day "energy surcharge." I quickly paid it so that we could get back to reality and into the 21st century although to this day I can't confirm that our room was actually wired for electricity.

But that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was we left on a Tuesday morning and missed the mud wrestling.

At least there's a reason to return to the New Frontier.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Running Diary Part II

I took some notes while playing event 3 of the WSOP Circuit Tour thing. So with a shout out to Bill Simmons and his "running diary" format I humbly offer you good reader an inside look at my tournament experience yesterday afternoon at Caesars Palace.

12:03 p.m. (PST): I arrive in the poker room a few minutes late due to traffic related to the construction on Frank Sinatra Blvd. Frank Sinatra is the easy non-tourist way to travel anywhere on the West side of the Strip. Unfortunately "they" are building a some sort of village behind the Bellagio. From what I hear it'll have housing, shopping, etc. But most of all it seems like it'll just make navigating Strip traffic even more of a nightmare. I guess I'm finally a Las Vegas native. I've only been living here 4 months and already I'm complaining about the expansion. It's sure not the Vegas of January 2007 that I once knew.

12:08 p.m. (PST): I buy in and get seated. I'm at a table with late entrants and so no cards have been dealt yet. The main tournament room is full so my starting table is out in the cash area. I'm not sure why they have different sized poker tables at Caesars some are definitely smaller than others. This one was definitely meant for 9 people and not the 10 they have squeezed in here. Maybe this table is fine for a bunch of skinny Europeans but us fat supersized Americans need a bigger table. If anyone should know that it's Vegas. Your average poker player needs more space, not less. Aren't we fighting a war so that we can have poker tables that Americans can fit at?

12:09 p.m. (PST): We start with 2000 in chips. Blinds are 25/25. First hand I get 9 10 suited in the big blind. Guy in middle position raises to 100. Small blind calls. So do I. 75 to win 225 baby! Flop misses me. Middle position bets. I fold. Down to 1900.

12:13 p.m. (PST): Limp in with 4,6 suited on the button. Flop flush draw. Checked to me. I bet. Two callers. Turn misses flush but gives me straight draw too. I check behind them. If they have a pair that was worth calling on the flop, it still looks good on the turn. River fills up my straight which is even better for me than the flush because it doesn't look obvious. Early position player bets out 200. Second player folds. I raise to 500. Early position folds. I'm sure that person was wondering what the heck I could have that I would have checked the turn with but then raised on the river. If they asked me I would have said "Oh, I sensed weakness in your bet."

12:49 p.m. (PST): Our table breaks. I have 2300 chips as I walk to my second table.

1:08 p.m. (PST): Blinds are now 25/50. I flop a set of 6's in an unraised 4 player pot. I bet 150. Guy to my left raises to 400. Two other players fold. I can't see his chips but from the way he threw the 400 in he ain't going anywhere. Neither am I. I overbet and toss the rest of my stack in front of the betting line. Other guy raises his arms to show he has nothing left. The 400 bet was an all in. So what does the dealer do? He takes all of my chips and drags them into the middle along with the other guys 400 chips.

Say it along with me....."FLOOR."

The 400 chip guy has two pair so while we're waiting for the floor to come I tell the dealer to deal out the turn and river. If I win the pot the whole thing is a non-issue. I only need them to count out all the previous bets if I lose the pot. Dealer follows along, deals out two rags. I take whole pot and win my stack back.

1:29 p.m. (PST): Unfortunately they break my table again. Too bad too cause the players made me look real good. I'm up to 3300 chips.

1:43 p.m. (PST): I win a couple of big pots at table #3. We take a ten minute break. I now have 6000 chips. I'm cooking.

2:28 p.m. (PST): Been pretty card dead. I've folded every hand for the first two orbits at the 50/100 blinds of level 3.

2:44 p.m. (PST): We start level 4 by going to 100/200 blinds. I have 5600 chips.

2:52 p.m. (PST): I'm on the button and excited to see a playable hand: King Jack suited. Guy to my right pushes all in for last 900 chips. I think he might be pushing here simply because no one has entered the pot in front of him. I think this call was also one of those "gee I haven't played a hand in an hour"calls since I'm trailing any ace. But losing 900 chips won't kill me. And winning 1200 will give me some cosmic momentum.

I was right about his pushing because no one entered the pot in front of him. He ends up having only queen high. The problem though is the big blind (bigger stack than me) also calls the 900 out of position. The flop comes 2,3,3 with only one of my suit. The big blind bets out 1500. I have to fold.

Big blind turns over his pocket queens and eventually takes the pot. Of course the way poker works the turn and river complete a runner runner flush for me. Fascinating. The correct move would have been making the incorrect move. Obviously I should have pushed preflop.

3:08 p.m. (PST): With blinds at 100/200 I pick up pocket queens in middle position. I make my standard raise to 600. I'm obviously not picking on the big blind but he's this really loose aggressive player so I'm real happy about the coincidence of my "stealing" his blinds. As expected he calls.

Flop comes 10, 8, 7. Two spades. This smells like potential trouble. Using
the power of negative thinking TM I can visualize him having jack 9. Or 10 8. Or pocket 7's.

He checks to me and of course I have to bet. I bet 900 into the 1300 pot. He calls.

Turn is 7 of spades and completes the flush. He checks to me. Some players continue bet here. It's one of those "depends" situations. I still have plenty of chips and decide that if I bet here I'm committing my entire stack to this pot. Since I have no spades I want to take a look at the river. So I check.

River brings a blank and he fires out a 1600 bet. But then again he has to. I've shown weakness on the turn. Whether or not he's hit his hand his bet is appropriate. I count out my chips. If I call and lose I'll still have almost 2000. Not a complete disaster. In fact by not pushing all in on me, this gentleman is making the call easier to make. It feels good to knowing that I'll still have enough chips to try to double up with if I lose.

But lets go over the hand. He's loose aggressive. He's not afraid to bluff. If he's missed his draw he has to bet since it's the only way he can win the pot. I don't think he has trip 7's. The hand I fear is jack 9 and that he flopped a straight. But if that's what he has then good for him. I decide to pay him off. I call. He turns over king high. I win nice size pot.

I will admit it would have been a much tougher call for all my chips.

3:35 p.m. (PST): Our second break. End of 4th level. I have 7100 chips. Average is 5200.

4:01 p.m. (PST): Level 5 is 100/200 with 25 ante. I get pocket aces. They hold up. Up to 9500 chips.

4:23 p.m. (PST):
I'm basically taking one pot per orbit in position to stay around the 10,000 chip mark. Twice I take the blinds and antes with raises from the button. Whenever I raise from the button I feel like I'm stealing even when I have a hand.

4:31 p.m. (PST): I have ace jack off in the big blind. Medium stack raises from the cut off. I think I can get him to fold with a reraise here. Sure I'd have to play the hand out of position if he calls but unless he has a big hand it's a very hard call for him. But before I can put my raise into the middle I feel some pressure from my bladder. What is my bladder trying to tell me?

I'm not sure if my bladder is saying he has a bigger ace or what but it doesn't matter. I don't screw around. I immediately fold.

My bladder helping me out of bad situations is almost unfair.

4:33 p.m. (PST): UNOFFICIAL VEGAS FACT: When playing poker I wash my hands in the bathroom before I pee since my fingers have been touching the cards and chips I'm sharing with all of these random dirty gross disgusting people. However when I'm at a table with a couple of really good looking women I might lick my fingers when I get to the bathroom.

4:35 p.m. (PST): Back from the bathroom, my clean hands pick up ace 5 suited and join the limped action from late position. Flop is 2,3 queen. One of my suit. We all check and the loose button fires out a 500 bet into the 1250 pot. Everyone else folds but I call. I think he'd make this move using his position with any two cards. I figure I also have at least 7 outs not including the runner runner flush that might come. Turn is a blank. I check to him and he checks too.
This is good news. I looked him up on the flop and his check is telling me he may have bet with nothing. River is another queen. I bet 1200. into the 2250 pot. Maybe it's a little small but I'm trying to bet here like I would if I had a queen. I assume he doesn't have a queen since he checked the turn. I guess I could have bet closer to 2000 but if I actually had a queen I'd WANT to get called. And a 1200 bet is asking to get called. It's begging to be called. And for all I know I'm actually ahead in the hand and not bluffing. Maybe he has 4,5 and bet an open ended straight draw on the flop.

Loose guy calls and shows me 2,4 for a pair of 2's. Wow. Amazing call. The only hand he could beat is a busted draw which is exactly what I had. Since I played the hand just like I would have if I had the queens I guess we can say he has no idea how weak I play. He correctly assumed I didn't have a queen because I didn't bet the flop. Boy is he confused. He needs to brush up on my school of tight weak poker.

4:44 p.m. (PST): It's a big increase in blinds for level 6. We go from the 100/200/25 ante to 200/400/50 ante. So instead of 550 an orbit, the price to play is now 1100 an orbit. My chips fluctuate from 7000 to 10000. I can never get my stack above 10k. Now 7 to 10k was plenty to play around with at 550 an orbit. But suddenly with the price doubling and my M dropping below 10 I can feel the pressure of playing a hand. There's no more goofing around. If I play a hand now I almost have to be willing to go bust on it. For example with blinds now at 200/400/25, lets say I raise preflop to 1200 with ace king. Now if I continue bet on the flop (regardless of what hits) I'm suddenly committing half my stack to the hand.

In some ways this is freeing. Suddenly hands like top pair top kicker become legitimate.

4:52 p.m. (PST): Caesars announces the tourney data. 522 players entered this event. They'll be paying 54 of us. First place is 73 thousand.

5:08 p.m. (PST): My table breaks once again and I get moved into the main tournament room. We started with 52 and now we're down to 10 tables. I only have 6200 chips left. I pick up ace 9 suited under the gun in my first hand. The blinds are going to crush me. I can't fold here. I come in for 1200. Everyone mucks. I take a much needed pot of antes and blinds to get back up to 7300.

5:33 p.m. (PST): Another ten minute break. Blinds for our next level are 300/600/75. 1650 a round. He he.

6:27 p.m. (PST): For the past 45 minutes I've been picking up one pot per orbit by pushing all in. Since I win the exact amount of money that it costs to sit at the table for 10 hands, I am basically stuck on 7300 chips. This amuses me to no end. I can't double up if I don't get called. Yet I also can't be eliminated if no one calls me.

6:28 p.m. (PST): My table breaks again. We're down to 70 players. At my new table I get moved right into the big blind. But then in my second hand it gets folded around to me in the small blind. I'm one on one with another small stack. My cards don't matter. I push. He folds. I mention this hand because it's one of those hands that you usually don't remember the next day. Just one of many hands that wasn't shown down. But if he wakes up with anything playable here this easily could have been the end of me. Best part is the guy tells me afterwards that if I had made a smaller raise he would have called and I could have won additional money from him. I think what he was really trying to say subconsciously was "nice raise."

But he brings up a good point. If you actually have a hand you want action. Thus that's why I think everyone folded at my last table when I came in under the gun (with my ace 9 suited) for only 1200 when the blinds were 200/400/40. A standard 3x the big blind raise at this point in the action screams big hand. Kind of like limping in or mini raising under the gun. And likewise the all in bet late in the game often screams "weaker hand" that doesn't really want any action.

6:35 p.m. (PST): The level is over. They're racing off the smaller 25 denomination chips and then we have our dinner break till 8pm. I have 7800 chips. 65 players remain.

7:05 p.m. (PST): I order the hot turkey plate with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. I went with the creamed spinach side dish instead of the mac and cheese that Allen Kessler highly recommended when he ordered in front of me in line. But don't hate Allen for liking the mac and cheese. He ordered the mashed potatoes to go with his turkey just like me so you can see we're not completely different people.

(EDITORS NOTE: Kessler will go on to win this tournament so perhaps the mac and cheese is part of the dinner of champions.)

8:01 p.m. (PST): Back at the table and blinds are now 400/800 with the 100 ante. 2200 a round. He he. One thing I find really amusing about the way poker tournaments work is that I have close to the same number of chips I had over 6 hours ago. And my point of view on what 7k is worth keeps changing. 7K seemed like alot in level 2. Then it started to not seem like enough in level 6. And now here we are in level 8 and I'm psyched to have 7800. Average is around 16k and so if I can double up just one time, I'm suddenly back on par.

See? Everything in life has no meaning. Or to put it another way, we decide the meaning of things in life. Our perception. I can feel rich with 7800. Or I can feel poor. But either way it's still 7800.

Meanwhile it's just amazing to me that I can go hours without winning a real pot (other than stealing the blinds) and still be okay here with just one double up.

8:26 p.m. (PST): My table breaks again. I haven't moved this much since I drove around the country in an RV with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver. 58 players remain. 4 more eliminations and we all make money. The crazy/frustrating thing is I want to push all in. I want the chance to double up. I want to get chips to be able to actually make a move in this tournament.

I am so willing to be the bubble boy who gets eliminated and makes nothing. If only I could find a hand to do it with. I'm not talking pocket aces. I'd move all in here with MUCH worse. Any pair. And two picture cards. Any two suited connectors. Just something that I won't embarrass myself with when I get called. And I am going to get called. I only have 5700 chips and sit at a table of pretty big stacks. My chips are bleeding away. It's painful to watch. But every single hand someone raises in front of me and I look down and see 2,6 off suit. And so I fold.

8:27 p.m. (PST): My big break comes. Boy do I get lucky. It has nothing to do with cards. Instead what happens is I walk over to my new table and see that the big blind is in the seat to the left of me! I sit out one hand and then I come in behind the dealer!. No blinds for 7 hands!

I really can't discount the importance of this. This alone might catapult me to the money.

8:37 p.m. (PST): It gets better. Too good to believe. I'm at a table of dunces. They each take a few minutes to make every single decision. We're still on the first hand!

Basically what happens is whenever it's someone's turn to act they stare at the other player. Then they count out their chips. Then they ask for a count of their opponents chips. Then they bet.

Then the other players repeats this action.

It's awesome.

8:42 p.m. (PST): It's still happening. We've played 3 hands in the 15 minutes I've been at this table. We're down to 55 players. If I was a bigger stack I'd be freaking out over how long these players take to act. They're killing all the time in the level. The blinds are about to go up to 600/1200 and 200 ante. It makes no difference to me and my small stack. I'd actually like the blinds to go up so there will be more money in the middle for me to win when I eventually push.

But if I had a medium stack I'd be freaking out right now. I'd be calling time every hand. And I've never called time on anyone. Ever.

8:47 p.m. (PST): This Confederacy of Dunces continue to rule my table. On the last hand (in a 4 player pot) a guy across from me shows three of us his cards as he mucks. Then the woman next to him says "show one show all" and tells the table that he has ace king. Uh...there are still 3 players left in the hand. One is all in. And he's showing cards. And she's calling them out. The floor comes over and warns us all that we cannot discuss hands in progress and that the next player to talk during a hand will get a penalty.

8:49 p.m. (PST): Someone gets eliminated. We're down to 54 players. I make the money. How did that happen? I haven't played a single hand since 6:28 PM when I pushed all in from the small blind before dinner. I shouldn't have made the money. I should have been blinded off.


8:51 p.m. (PST): Blinds go up to 600/1200 and 200. We're nine handed now so it costs 3600 a round. 3600 is bigger than my stack. Please give me anything to play. At this point I'd take any two connecting cards.

9:01 p.m. (PST): We're still moving very slowly. I know I have to play a hand before it becomes my big blind. Guy under gun raises to 3600. Guy second to act calls. I look down and see 10, 3 off suit. I face an interesting math question. I consider calling. My reasoning is that in addition to the 3600 in the pot there is now two more "3600's" for me to win. So if somehow someway my 10, 3 can win the pot I'd have over 10,000 chips. I go back and forth on it. I eventually fold figuring I'm way behind two early position callers. I also think it would still be good enough for me to double up to 7,000ish if I can get cards on any of the next couple of hands. But if I had something as weak as 3,4 off there I would have called. I didn't like giving up my potential straight outs with 10,3.

9:21 p.m. (PST): There are 44 players remaining and incredibly I'm still here. Funny thing is I've moved up a notch on the payout scale as 54 to 46th place make less than 45 to 37th. It took another 20 minutes to play the last couple of hands. I'm now under the gun and ready to push with anything. Even 10,3. I have 2700 chips left after paying my 200 big blind. I look down and see jack, 10 off which at this point in time is a monster as far as I'm concerned.

I toss my chips out there. I almost bet 2600 instead of the full 2700. It's a good trick I've learned. When you go all in the dealers announces "all in." But if I throw 2600 chips out there the dealer only says "Raise to 2600" and there's a chance that someone not paying close attention might fold a hand for 2600 that they would have called me with if they knew they were only risking 2700 total.

It made no difference. The guy to my left gives a whole speech and then pushes his chips in. He's got aces. He has to. His speech was too long and too bad. You know. One of those "Whose turn is it to act? Who bet what? Ah, what the hell, I'm all in...." His aces hold up despite an exciting looking flop and I go out 44th.

Interesting day. Many pros never end up short stacked because as soon as their M gets low they make a move. They don't sit around and fold like I did. Yet looking back over my hand history, there really wasn't a chance to do anything. If someone comes in for a raise in front of me it's really hard to do much with two rags. I wish I could watch a really aggressive player play my cards post-dinner. Maybe they just push with any 2 cards in that first hand after dinner. But when I'm sitting on the bubble pushing with any 2 feels like I'm throwing money away.

9:29 p.m. (PST): I get paid from the cage. As I look down at my watch I can't help but notice that the 11pm tournament is starting in just 90 minutes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

WSOP Circuit event 2

Back at Caesars for their $1060 buy in. We start out with 2500 chips. One hour levels.

They move slowly. 25/25. 25/50/ 50/100. Yep yep yep. 100/200.

It's a fascinating structure. Not a lot of chips but by keeping the blinds low for the first 3 hours they really let you fold and wait for a hand.

And fold I did. I think I played only 2 of my first 31 offerings.

After two hours I was up to 4600 without ever having alot of chips in danger.

We go on break. I see Jeff Madsen, Shannon Elizabeth and James Woods chatting by the sports book. I stare at everyone staring at them. They're like the cool kids in high school. That's if you were allowed to ask the cool kids in high school to take pictures with you.

In the third hour I have a minor setback.

I flop an ace high flush draw (ace queen) on a low rag board. I put the preflop raiser on a medium pair. In fact lets call him that. Medium pair guy.

Medium pair guy bets the flop. If my read is correct I have 15 outs against him and his medium pair with my overcards and flush draw. This makes me the favorite here. I know I want to see two more board cards. I also don't know if I'm going to get paid off from the two players behind me if a flush comes on the turn. So I decide to get all the money in there now.

I push and they both fold. I get called by medium pair guy calls and he turns over his (medium) pair of 10's. I'm very happy. I've gotten exactly what I wanted.

The fact that I miss on the turn and river is inconsequential. The real reason I'm mentioning this whole hand is because immediately afterwards one of the players (who folded to my flop reraise) starts giving me shit for betting him out of the hand with my draw.

He complains to me that he would have made jacks and thus beaten the medium pair guy's pocket 10's and so he says I screwed up by betting because we could have eliminated the medium pair guy.

This is a pet peeve of mine. People who insist you must check it down anytime there's a player all in. Sure it's one thing if you're at the final table and the next player going out moves everyone up on the money payout scale. Or you're on the bubble and knocking out one more player will get everyone in the money. But when there are 300 people left in the tournament I don't give a rat's ass who gets knocked out next. I'm just trying to win the pot.

Now say what you will about my raising rather than calling in that hand. Perhaps my raise killed the action behind me. That's an interesting conversation. Do I want that action? Or is it better to keep the pot smaller by playing the small stack one on one? But either way this is a different discussion than the importance of trying to eliminate players.

This guy is pissed at me because he would have won the pot if I hadn't bet him out. But at least he should be honest with me about it. Tell me "Damn it, If you hadn't of bet I would have won the pot." Instead he's calling me out and telling the table I've made a poker error by not calling and checking to eliminate this other player.

These moments are gold at the poker table. Because your ego wants to show everyone how smart you are. Even though it's often better to have everyone think you're dumb.

I compromised with a sarcastic "I want you to know that the entire reason I'm playing the tournament today is to eliminate this guy." And I pointed to the medium pair guy.

Although me being me I said it too dryly and no one got my joke. I think a few of them thought I had some weird vendetta against the medium pair guy.

Why shouldn't they? I said I did. It's the entire reason I played the tournament today.

Ah, the good times of tournament poker.

Soon after I pick up Ace 10 suited in the big blind. Big stack raises 2.5 the big blind from the cutoff seat. The button called and so did I.

Flop is 10 8 6.

I have this bad habit lately of checking top pair on the flop. I'm well aware of it. I like to check my top pair against overly aggressive players because I can often trap them when they try to steal pots from me. I let them do the betting for me. I fully realize that when I don't bet and someone else catches up to me it looks weak and pathetic. That's the risk I take. That's how I roll.

The original raiser is sort of loose so I do my weak check, fully expecting to call whatever this guy bets. I assume I'm ahead here. But then check this out. The original raiser checks. And the other guy bets. But something about the way the guy threw his chips into the pot scared the shit out of me. And so I folded.

Something just told me to. Not sure if this voice said two pair, set, overpair or straight. But something said "your ace 10 is no good."

Preflop raiser calls.

So what happens next? Another 10 on the turn. Now I feel sick.

There's a bet, a raise, a call.

Action that could be mine.

River = ace. I folded my full house.

Another bet and call.

Winner shows his pocket 8's. He flopped a set.

This was a great series of emotional reactions. First I felt good for folding my ace 10. I was way behind his set on the flop. But wait a minute. I would have won the hand with a higher full house.
Bad fold! I would have tripled up. This was the moment in the tournament where my bad call was going to work out.

It's one of those suck out hands that has to happen when you win these tournaments. And I missed my moment. This was the hand I was supposed to get lucky on. I'm supposed to do the wrong thing at the right time. And instead I did the right thing at the wrong time.

As for the ending it was the second straight day that I got knocked out with pocket aces. And what's worse is it was the second straight day they lost to pocket eights. What's up with that?

It happened right after I had just doubled up with kings versus pocket 10's. Somehow someway my very next hand was pocket aces. What a card rush.

Unlike yesterday the pocket 8's didn't make Phylis Diller a straight.

No. Today the pocket 8's gave Ed Asner's a set.

Can't wait to see which TV Land actor sits to my left tomorrow.

Lets conclude this entry with some words regarding pocket aces.
1-They are powerful.
2-They destroy free will.
3-I can't fold them preflop. Unless I feel sick.
4-Thus pocket aces give me no choice. I must play them.
5-If it's my time to get knocked out of the tournament well then it's just my time to get knocked out of the tournament.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My bladder is psychic

I played today in the $550 World Series of Poker Circuit event at Caesars Palace and boy is my soul tired.

We only started with 2000 chips but all was fine and dandy because the first two levels blinds were 25/25 and 25/50.


That's right. You read correctly. 25/25.

I haven't seen blinds that low since Carter was President.

As for the tournament, it was complete and utter chaos. People just throwing their chips away. Going all in with top pair. These people have definitely watched Celebrity Poker Showdown. Without looking at their cable bills I'm pretty sure they all get the Travel Channel and tune in to World Poker Tour. Hell I even think I may played with a few contestants from MTV's Yo Momma.

I was fond of my opponents. These players loved to raise and hated to fold. Now I just needed a hand to double up on.

I needed to use the bathroom and was about to run quickly between hands. But then I pick up pocket aces in 2nd position. And as if that wasn't good enough news, the guy in first position raised it up to 150. Blinds are at 25/50.

I smooth call the 150. Alot of people like to raise here to thin the field. But I don't want to just win 150. If I raise I probably make everyone fold except for the one guy to my right. I want to get some action. I'm 80% certain that someone is going to raise behind me. It's been happening most every hand.

The woman sitting to my left, the 3rd person to act in this hand, raises to 450. Lets call her Phylis Diller. There are 7 players still to act behind Phylis. I'm giggling with joy inside.

All 7 players muck. But then the guy to my right pushes all in. He has pocket kings. I obviously push my chips in too. And much to my surprise Phylis Diller calls the all ins with her pocket 8's.

Flop comes 3,5,6 rainbow.

Turn is a 9. Phylis has a gutshot straight draw but I'm still 80% to win the handle and triple up.

Until the 7 comes on the river.

Here's the most interesting part:

My bladder might be psychic. As I mentioned above, right before I got the aces I was going to run to the bathroom. But that's when I looked down and saw the aces and knew I had to play the hand. Free will is an illusion when you hold aces preflop.

But I mention this bladder thing because that's now two tournaments in a row where I was ready to run to the bathroom but instead picked up a big hand. It happened to me at the Bellagio with ace king.

What am I supposed to do the next time I get a big hand and I have to take a leak? Am I supposed to be folding these hands? What is my bladder trying to tell me?

My bladder is kind of like Desmond on LOST and my tournament life is Charlie. My bladder looks into the future. It has flashes. My bladder knows something bad is about to happen and tries to save me. But since my bladder can't speak the only way it can save me is to try to get me to use the bathroom.

I'm a lucky guy. Having a bladder that can sense out danger is one of those poker things that you're either born with or you don't have. You can't really teach it.

The hardest part for me is going to be trusting the feeling when I have to use the bathroom.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

These are the players I play with. Part III

The really gross part of what follows is how close I came to pulling it off.

I was sitting at a tight table and decided to loosen things up.

You know.

The old "play it loose at a tight table and tight at a loose table school of poker."

I start raising hands preflop to 12.5 times the big blind. Utter insanity.

At first they all fold. And they have to respect it. I've been a rock for an hour.

Some guy straddles and I do it again. Everyone folds. Talker to my left asks me if I had jacks.

Why else would I be raising so big?

I shake my head to indicate that no I did not have jacks. Then I return to ignoring everyone.

Very next hand I raise it up again to 12.5 times the big blind.

This time I get me two callers. One of whom is all in.

But this time I got pocket aces.

I've been card dead for an hour. It's the main reason I've been playing so tight. I decide to open up my game and suddenly pocket aces appear. Is it really that easy? Is that all I had to do?

Flop comes jack, jack, 2.

I'm either way ahead or way behind.

I guess the good news here is there are no draws.

Of course I should bet out but I go the other way with it and check. No real good reason. I guess I wanted to see how the other guy felt about these two jacks. Maybe get some information from the way he bets. But I doubt I'm going anywhere.

Guy to my left bets out small. Is he milking his jacks? Is he testing the waters with a small pair? Is he hoping I have ace king and begging for a fold?

I've been playing pretty tight lately but I decide to pay this one off. There wasn't that much money on the table. If this guy has a jack then he's got me.

I think he has to bet the flop if I check because he also knows I've been raising with any 2 cards so I could have rags here.

I push my chips into the middle.

He calls.

Turn is a 2.

River a king.

Board is Jack, Jack, 2, 2, king.

And he turns over 2 6 suited.


Where's the jack?

I was all ready to come home and write about what a donk I am because I couldn't let go of my aces when a guy hit trips with his jack and he turns over 2,6?

Now I'm not mocking the 2,6. I won a huge pot the other night with 2 5 suited. So it's not like I won't go down that street.

But for my own sanity lets discuss the differences:

This guy cold called my preflop 12.5x the big blind bet all by himself. (The other caller in the hand came from the blinds.) In other words, he was prepared to battle me one on one with the 2,6.

I called a 6x the big blind bet preflop in late position after there were multiple callers in front of me.

This guy flopped a bottom pair of 2's with his 6 kicker. When he bets out small on the flop the only hand he's beating is ace king. If another overcard comes on the turn or river he has no clue where he's at. If he's going to bet this hand I think he has to bet it harder. Even if he's ahead here he's letting me stick around with overcards. And if he's behind he's only getting himself further into trouble. Most of the time. Obviously not this time.

I flopped trip 2's on an ace, 2, 2 board. My opponent bet his ace jack. I raised him and he wouldn't let it go.

This guy needed to hit a two outer to beat me. His 6 was useless since the board was already paired.

My trips were good unless a two outer came. It didn't. Like it's not supposed to.

Can I also brag that 2,5 is easier to make a straight with than 2,6?

But seriously the thing that's important to point out regarding this hand is that I asked this guy to call me with 2 6 suited. I did. I asked him to play that hand by my raising the previous pots so much.

I wanted action.

And I got it.

The thing is when you get your aces cracked by 2,6 suited it should be because he flops two pair.
I should lose all my money to him on a 2,6, king flop.

Or let him draw out on me and hit a straight or flush. That sort of ugliness.

But for him to hit his two outer 2 on the turn doesn't make sense to my brain. It just doesn't compute. Was he really about to give me his whole stack on that hand with a pair of 2's and a 6 kicker?

I guess so.

We can both thank and blame my table image.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Grinding vs Gambling

I limp on the button with 5 6 suited. Six of us see the flop.

It's Queen, jack, 9. All of diamonds. All of my suit.

I've flopped a flush.

One of the blinds bets out the size of the pot. A player after him then pushes all in.

It gets back to me. If I call I am calling for my entire stack.

If I knew for certain that he held an overcard diamond or had a set then I'm pushing my chips into the middle. I would have an edge and want to take advantage. But the problem here is if I'm facing a higher flush then I am drawing dead. And it's not like I raised and got reraised. I've put only 1 big blind into this pot.

Now working backwards, I don't think he'd reraise all in with the nut flush. He could have something like 7,8 suited. Or even a king or ten high flush and he doesn't want a big diamond card like an ace to beat him if another diamond comes. More likely though he has a straight, set or two pair and is pushing all in to protect it from a big diamond drawing out on him.

I'm not sure what the first guy has. He probably checks a flush from the blinds so I'm probably good there.

If I call and the original bettor also calls and one of them has a set and the other holds the ace of diamonds then I'm 42% to win. The 2 to 1 odds I'm getting on my money are good enough to call.

However like I said above I'm also 0% to win this pot if I'm against a higher flush.

I've only put 1 big blind into the pot.

I'm not here for the weekend. If I were visiting Vegas for 48 hours this is an instant call.

But I live here. I don't need to gamble. Especially calling for all of my chips.

I fold and throw my cards into the muck.

I can't believe it either.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bellagio $1590

I guess Friday the 13th wasn't my lucky day. Go figure.

I spent it at the Bellagio playing event 6 of their "2007 5th Annual Five Star World Poker Classic." It's two weeks of poker tournaments leading up to their main Bellagio event which is the $25,000 World Poker Tour Championship.

654 players bought in creating a prize pool of $951,570. The top 50 finishers get paid. First place was awarded a cool $303,320. The other incentive to win this thing is they also give a bonus $25k free entry into their WPT event.

As if 303K isn't already a good enough afternoon.

When I arrived at the casino to buy in there was huge line to register. I ended up being alternate #76. I wanted to beat myself up for not buying into this thing in advance but players like Eric Seidel and Marcel Luske were behind me in line. So if they can screw up and buy in late I guess so can I.

The good news was people were knocking each other out of this thing like it was on the internet so I didn't have to wait long. Also since the field was so large and the blinds started small and lasted an hour per level it wasn't such a disaster to come into the tournament late.

We started out with 3000 chips and the average stack was still in the 3300 to 3400 range by the time I sat down. No big deal.

What was a big deal however was not getting any real hands to play today. The best I saw the first two levels was ace 10. I picked that up on the button in a unraised pot and joined the party. An ace came out on the flop and a guy in early position bet 300. I called. Everyone else folded.

He checked the harmless looking turn and I bet 550. This is a tough poker moment for both of us. Neither of us has alot of chips nor really knows where the other is at in the hand. If he reraises me all in I probably gotta fold. But then again I could have a set or two pair so he has to be careful. After some deliberation he decides to call.

River is another harmless looking card. He checks to me. This is that situation where I'm only going to get called if I'm beat. If he was on a draw he's gonna fold anyway so I check and turn over my ace 10. He taps the table and says good hand.

This pot puts me up to around 4000 chips and I'm happy to be there.

I limp into a couple of pots with suited connectors and get to see flops but don't connect.

Then right before we're about to go to the 100/200 level they break up our table. I get moved to the other side of the room. My new table gives me a nice view of David Singer to my right and Yehia "Joe" Awada to my left.

These guys have great tournament records and they play the game like you're supposed to. It's a treat to play with guys like this. I know what moves they're going to make before they make them. In many ways it's easier than playing the weaker players. Like when it gets folded to Awada on the button you know he's going to put in a raise. Or when Singer raises preflop you know he's going to fire out on the flop no matter what hits. The real key is either having cards when you get into hands with them or taking a chance that they are indeed just making a move and not holding the goods.

One funny thing that entertained me to no end was Singer getting frustrated with not having enough elbow space. 10 of us are crammed in to a 9 person table so of course it was tight. He was in the 5 seat and seemed to think he should have more space. Normally the 5 seat is right in the middle facing the dealer. But with 10 players at the table, the 5 and 6 seats shared the middle.

Every couple of minutes he would bring it up again. The fact that he was touching elbows left and right. I was going to make a joke about how at least his elbows were on the table and that arms were forced to be by my side but I tried to stay focused. Meanwhile I couldn't help but think of the subtle effects of what he was doing. Was he literally "bullying" the table into giving him space?

Or perhaps this space issue was all real and made him not want to be there. You decide.

Here is the hand he went out on:

Singer raises with ace 10 suited. Gets a caller. A loose player who just won a pot he shouldn't have by not quitting with his ace 6 offsuit and then winning when an ace came on the river.

So when this flop comes 10,9, 6 and Singer bets out and this dude doesn't fold, I just think he may have caught something.

Singer bets again when a queen comes on the turn and this loose guy reraises all in. Much to my amazement Singer calls for the rest of his chips. Maybe he just decided that there were too many chips in the middle to fold. Because I really can't think he thinks he's ahead here. The guy could have a queen. I had a funny feeling the guy had king jack for a straight.

He ended up turning over Jack 8 suited for a lower straight. It was a loose call preflop but by the time we reach the turn he also had a flush draw which hit on the river. The description of this hand said Singer's "(his) two pair ran into his opponent's flush" but it really should have said "Singer called with middle pair when he decided he didn't have enough elbow room."

As for me, I kept getting crap.

I finally picked up pocket 7's, raised preflop, won the blinds but that only delayed the inevitable. By this point I've bled back down to around 3000 chips. Around half the players are out of the tournament so the average is now around 6000. I know full well what is about to happen. I'm going to play a big pot and either double up to a healthy 6k or go home. It's absolutely necessary. It's just a question of when.

Poker is funny. Like when I played Tuesday night I saw pocket kings twice and pocket aces once. I even saw pocket 9's.

Today my best hands were ace 10. And pocket 7's. Yep yep yep. Come watch me fold.

Sure there was the occasional chance to make a move. Like there were one or two times when I had something like 6 9 suited and no one had raised in front of me. But today I chose to fold those. My thinking was that since I planned on playing a big pot when the opportunity presented itself I may as well have as many chips as possible for that moment. So if I raise with 6 9 suited and then get reraised and have to fold I might only have 2000 chips by the time I get a big hand. And then if I double up I only have 4000. But by protecting my 3000 chips I'm giving myself the opportunity to double up to 6000. Either way I gotta win a coinflip.

And the moment finally comes. We're at the end of level 3. Blinds are about to go to 100/200 with a 25 ante (550 an orbit) when I look down and see ace king. After the previous 3 hours it honestly looks like aces or kings. I can't tell which but it sure looks good.

A guy to my right raises to 800. I have 2850 left. Lets discuss my options.

I can't fold. Can we agree on that?

I have position on him. If I were out of position (like in the blinds) some might say I can call here and then do some sort of "stop and go" by pushing my remaining 2050 into the middle no matter what comes on the flop. But since I have position and he raised preflop I expect him to bet the flop. So I can't do the stop and go.

If I call and miss the flop and he bets I guess I can just fold and be down to 2050 chips.

I can raise.

If I raise to 2850 and he folds that's great. I'm happy to win his 800 + the 300 in blinds. That would be fine.

If I raise to 2850 and he calls that's no so bad either. As long as he doesn't have pocket kings or aces then we're going to race. Pushing all in here guarantees my seeing all 5 board cards. No decision to make on the flop.

If I raise to 2850 and he calls it also means that he has to pay me off the full 2850 even if an ace flops. If I just call preflop and the flop comes ace king 3 he might check and fold.

So all things considered, I push all in. This is my moment. All I ask from the universe is that he doesn't have pocket aces or kings. But I really don't think that he does. His preflop raise to 800 (4x the blinds) tells me that he probably has something like a medium pocket pair. People tend to bet bigger with those hands since they have no clue where they stand post flop when an overcard hits.

So I throw all my chips in the middle and raise.

He counts out his chips. He's not exactly a big stack. If he loses this hand he'll be pretty low. But he tosses them in the middle and turns over his pocket jacks.

I can live with that. I turn over my ace king. If I can hit an ace or king then the past 3 levels of having no cards will not matter. I will have a healthy average 6000 chip stack heading into level 4. And with blinds at 100/200/25 that will be plenty to play poker with.

Flop comes 10, jack, rag. He hits a set. But before I can act disappointed I realize that I still have four queens in that deck to make a straight. It's just the way I want to win too. Who wants to hit an ace or king when you can hit a queen for a gutshot straight?

It doesn't come on the turn or river. My day is done.

It's been said many times that to win poker tournaments you have to win the ace king battles.

This means winning with ace king when you go against a pocket pair.

It also means you have to beat ace king when you are holding the pair.

I think one of the years that Johnny Chan won the main event he won all 12 of these battles.

No matter whether he held ace king or the pocket pair, he managed to win.

Today I couldn't do it once.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Day In The Life

I know what you’re thinking.

This is the Vegas Year. You don't only want to read about poker.

You also want to hear about the mundane stuff that fills up my days.

Well be careful what you ask for my friend because here’s what I did yesterday.

I didn’t play poker.

That's right. Instead of sitting in a casino folding cards I spent the day renting a truck to bring home a coffee table that we ordered two months ago. It wouldn’t fit in our car so Budget Truck Rental got themselves some business.

We also used this truck to pick up a screen door and some outdoor furniture. Basically all the items we've been thinking about buying that do not fit into our Japanese car.

I stress out when it comes to moving. Check raising with a flush draw I have no problem with. But making decisions like whether or not to take the insurance on a rental truck freaks me out.

However it turned out that the hard part of the day wasn’t actually the move. It was putting everything together afterwards because nothing comes assembled anymore.

Watching me figure out the instructions to put together a table is like watching an old person in Florida trying to vote.

Luckily for the table my wife was there to help. She’s pretty handy. She even has her own tool box. And the person with the tools is usually in charge.

I'd go so far to say I think I need clearance to use certain items around the house.

She’ll disagree with this but there’s no way in hell I’m gonna use the juicer without her supervision. And I may as well ask since either way she’s going to know I used it.

Me cleaning up the kitchen counter after juicing is like watching OJ clean up the Bronco.

(Boy am I on fire with the analogies today. A 2000 Florida voting reference and a 1994 OJ joke all in the same blog entry! Who knows what tidbit of trivia my fingers will bang out next?)

So back to our appliances, I definitely have blender privileges. No doubt about that. Anytime I wanna use the blender it’s all me. I don’t even have to ask.

But the truth is I like asking.

When we were searching for a house to live in I remember looking at one in particular and asking my wife if we could turn the second bedroom into an office.

Now some guys get all macho and tell their wives how it’s going to be but personally I love not having to make these decisions.

I make enough decisions every day playing poker. For me to decide whether a room will be a bedroom or office is just too much damn work.

The way I see it my role around the house is more that of an unpaid lobbyist.

I make suggestions to move legislation forward.

Sure these suggestions can sometimes be influenced by the money I receive.

But we don't have children yet so my integrity is still pretty solid.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another night at the office

This is poker: I get pocket kings twice. Lose the first hand. Win the second hand. End up a total of 13.5 big blinds from the two together.

This is also poker: I get 2 5 suited twice. Win the first hand. Lose the second hand. End up a total of 124 big blinds from the two together.

Don't knock the 2 5 suited. With a hand like that you have a real good idea where you stand on the flop. Pocket kings can be way more confusing.

I played tonight at Green Valley Ranch Casino. It was only my second time not playing on the Strip. But much to my amazement it was crowded late on a Tuesday night. Who the hell are these people?

No one at my table was even close to being a professional. I've been keeping away from the suburban casinos because I assumed they were all the locals and grinders and tight players. And while yes it was true that alot of them were tight, more importantly most of them played really weak. There were times when all 10 people limped preflop. Lets just say it was easy to see a flop. And these people were not hard to outplay post flop.

Who the hell is playing poker at Green Valley Casino at Midnight on a Tuesday?

I mean besides me.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

These are the players I play with. Part II

Tonight as usual I bought in for 100 big blinds.

Within an hour I'm up to 150 big blinds. I'm on top of my game. I've won multiple pots without ever having the best hand. I've got my weakness antenna on tight and it's working. I'm picking out players who truly don't believe their hand is the best hand and I'm reraising them. And they're folding.

Meanwhile there's a guy to my right who talks a little too much. He's working really hard at showing how good he is. He's doing all the things a poker player should do. It's almost like he's read "Poker for Dummies." IE. He observes hands he's not involved in and guesses the other players cards. I can't help but notice that every time he's been dead wrong.

When it's his turn to act he takes way too much time. He studies players too long. He takes too long to make all of his decisions. He thinks he's better than he is and he is definitely starring in his own poker movie.

He does one other strange thing that he thinks is genius: anytime he enters a pot he raises it up 10x the big blind. I'm sure it'll serve him well the one time he gets aces.

Meanwhile he's risking 10 to win 1.5 if everyone folds, And since he rarely gets reraised when he gets called, he's automatically playing a big pot every time without ever really having a clue regarding where his opponent is at.

All I know is that if he bets 10x the blind and I have a hand that still looks good on the flop then I'm gonna take all of his chips from him.

So the way life works, he raises from the cutoff seat 10x the big blind and I look down on the button and see pocket 10's. It's very likely that I have the best hand right now. But as usual I want to win a big pot. I don't want to simply steal his bet with a reraise. I call.

Flop comes small. Something like 2,6,9.

He fires out 20x the big blind. This is a pot size bet.

(It's worth noting here that we've actually had a conversation in the past hour about continue betting. So I already know he's gonna continue bet no matter what).

This is an easy call. I still think I'm ahead.

Turn is a king. Here's where it gets interesting.

He checks.

Yes he could be slow playing ace king.

But I genuinely feel like the king scared him. That's my read.

At best I'm putting him on jacks or queens.

I want to get jacks or queens to fold. But more importantly, I think I have to bet here because if I check he's going to bet the river no matter what comes out and I'll have no idea where I'm at.

If I bet here and he calls I can always check the river behind him.

I need to bet right now and represent the king. If he reraises me I can make a decision for the rest of my chips.

So I bet out like I would if held ace king.

For me that means around half the pot . It's screaming VALUE BET. I think a move like all in here looks alot more desperate. If I held pocket jacks and my opponent bet half the pot it would frustrate me. It's a small enough bet to not look like they're buying the pot. Yet with 60 BB's already in the middle it's a large enough bet to make a decent profit. And of course there's also the fear of more betting on the river.

And it seems to work. My bet makes him pause. He's studying me. He's asking me questions.

I am sure of one thing: He doesn't have a king.

However I'm still not positive whether he's going to fold or reraise me all in.

But I now know I'm going to call him.

After a minute or two of BS-ing he pushes all in.

Okay dude. If you have me beat then good for you.

If you have pocket jacks or queens then GREAT PLAY not folding.

If you have ace king then I'm the sucker.

But I gotta call. Because unless you were slow rolling me I really think I'm ahead.

I tell him I gotta call and he asks me if I have a king. (This is good news.)

I say no and turn over my pocket 10's.

And he turns over....

Get ready for this one....

The same guy who has been bragging for an hour about how good his game is turns over...

The same guy who goes on about how good his reads are turns over...

The same guy who insists people want to back him financially to play poker turns over....


He has a pair of sixes.

He tells me that his read was that I was weak.

So weak that I didn't fold when he raised preflop.

So weak that I called his bet on the flop.

So weak that I bet out on the turn when he checked.

Lets stop the hand right here. I'm a f-ing poker genius.

I got all of my money in with the best of it.

It took a ton of courage to trust my read and bet that turn.

I could have looked like a fool if he had ace king.

But I trusted my read and believed he didn't and I put my money where my mouth was.

The fact that a 6 came on the river to give him trips and all my money doesn't effect any of this.

Afterwards he fed me the old "I'd rather be lucky than good" line.

As if this was my mistake.

Not me dude.

I'd rather be good.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

These are the players I play with.

Three consecutive orbits when I'm on the button I come in for a raise. And all three times I get reraised by the small blind who says to me each time (and I'm directly quoting him here):

"I have position on you."

He seems to think that position means you are the first to act.

Each time I call his reraise and tell him I'm only calling him because he has position on me.

The 3rd time this happens I'm holding the ace and 4 of clubs.

Flop is an ace and two clubs.

He bets the pot. Another person calls. I call.

Turn misses me. He makes decent size bet and I'm ready to fold.

But the second person calls again. And I still have position on the river.

This is one of those moments I like to call lazy poker. Especially because I'm already up 50 big blinds on the night. So I sort of have money to play with. I decide that I'm going to gamble since I can make my nights pay winning this pot if a club comes out on the river.

And if I lose then I'm just simply back to zero.

I also think I actually have good implied odds here. I don't think these players will give up on a big pot to a third club on the board. Cause that's how they roll.

Unfortunately I miss on river. I don't call his final bet. The other player does though. They both turn over ace jack and split my money.

And I'm back down to even on the night. Time to start over.

Some decent situations arise. Soon after I get ace 9 suited in the small blind. A bad player mini raises. I call. Flop is ace 9 6. This guy will pay me off so I check. He bets like he always does and I call.

Turn is rag. I check, he bets again, I call. Against a good player I might raise. But not here. We all know he's going to bet again on the river.

River is a 6. I check. He bets out but at least it's small. I say "at least it's small" because I really don't put it past him to have a 6 here.

I call and he shows me ace 6. Nice hand sir.

Another hand versus a bad player: I raise 6x the big blind with ace king suited. Everyone who limped preflop folds except for this guy.

Flop is ace, 4, 5 rainbow. He checks. I bet 20. He calls.

Turn is an 8. He checks. I bet 50. he calls.

River is a 10. He checks. I ain't going broke with top pair top kicker. So I check and turn over my ace king. I can see the expressions on the faces at the table. They all can't believe I didn't bet my ace king. How can I be so weak?

But then I look like a genius when my opponent turns over 6,7 for a straight. "Damn I wanted to check raise you" he says.

I actually feel good about this hand. I didn't lose alot. And I'll be honest. It's not that I put him on a straight. But after he called that bet on the turn he could have easily had two pair. I knew I didn't want to have to make a decision on the river if he check raised me. So checking it down was an easy decision.

So twice I've gotten into situations against bad players with the better hand and yet all I have to show for it is I'm now down money.

I tell myself that I will take their chips. It's a matter of time.

5 hours into the evening I order a beer.

6 hours into the evening my first big pair arrives. Pocket kings. I win a nice pot.

7 hours into the evening I have my second beer. I've been grinding and am close to even again.

For as bad as tonight has felt I'm relieved to only be down a few dollars.

I'm waiting for one good hand before I go home.

I beat pocket 10's with my pocket jacks and suddenly I'm back in the black. I'd be up alot more but an ace came on the turn and killed my action.

And then finally at 2:32 am I trap the bad player.

He's been raising all night with any ace. He does his usual preflop raise out of position. Only he thinks he's in position. This time I have pocket 5's on the button.

Flop comes queen, 5, 2. Thank you God.

He bets. I call.

Turn is a 10. He bets again. I call.

River a rag. He bets one more time. Big pot. I reraise all in.

He asks me if I'll show him if he folds.

I say no.

After taking a long time he folds. He says he had pocket kings. If this is true I'm actually both surprised and impressed. He says to me that he could beat ace queen.

He keeps talking about the hand for the next 5 minutes. I tell him he made a good fold. He asks me a few times if I could beat two kings. I tell him I had him and that if he could have beat my hand there's no way he would have folded.

And this is the truth. He wouldn't have folded a set of queens or tens there. And those were the only two hands I was losing to.

Everyone at the table disagrees about what I had. One or two think of them think I had two pair.

But mostly they all seem to think I outplayed him with a bluff.

Little do they know that I outplayed him with patience. It only took 7 hours.

Friday, April 06, 2007

55 dollars

Tonight was a damn good poker lesson.

I couldn't hit a freaking hand all night. It was the complete opposite of last night.

My small to medium pocket pairs never made sets. My suited connectors rarely came close to a draw.

And not one big pair was dealt to me at all. (My biggest pocket pair was 7's.)

I did get ace king a couple of times but could never connect with the flop.

So me being me, I lost my first buy in. I think I made a "decent" play.

But it was the sort of over aggressive style that gets in me into trouble at a cash game. The type of move that you see all the time in tournaments. But the kind of move you don't need to necessarily make in a cash game.

Here's what happened:

I limped under the gun with ace king. Guy in middle position bumps it up 6x the blind. Me and one of the blinds call and see the flop.

Flop comes three small clubs. And I should mention that I'm holding the ace of clubs.

I check to the guy who raised preflop and he makes a pot size bet.

But we all know he's gonna make that bet no matter what he's holding.

I put him on something like pocket jacks. That hand (and smaller ones like 8's, 9's 10's) are the ones that I often see make that kind of 6x the BB preflop bet.

I really don't want to call.

The way I see it, if a club comes on the turn it might kill my action. Likewise if I miss on the turn he's gonna bet again and I won't be getting the correct odds to see the river.

And damn I love to gamble.

So I reraise him almost all in. It's the one way I can guarantee that I see two more cards. I also think that perhaps I can get him to fold here. I'll gladly take either scenario.

If he has two red jacks I'm actually a 52.42 to 47.58% favorite.

If he has two black jacks (and thus one of my club outs) I'm a 50.20 to 49.8 underdog.

So either way it's close to 50/50.

And by getting my money in first I gain folding equity if he decides to give up.

He plays with his chips for a minute and the truth is I'm really happy either way. It would be nice to take down the pot, and have the table fear me and my aggressive play. But I'm also crazy so of course I don't mind racing this guy and trying to double up.

He eventually calls. At the end of the hand he turned over two baby clubs for a made flush. I really can't believe he took so long to call. If you're going to play small suited cards I think you gotta call when they hit.

So with his made flush it turns out he was a 71 to 29% favorite to win the pot on the flop. It was the worse case scenario for me. (Yet the funny part is that even in this worse case scenario I still will win this hand 29% of the time! Or to put it another way: the 2006 NY Mets hit as a team for a .292 average. So I win this hand as often as a 2006 NY Met got a hit).

To his credit, there was no way for me to put him on a made flush. Certainly not with his preflop raise. I know he doesn't have ace king of clubs for the nut flush since I hold the ace. And how many suited club hands could he have made that preflop bet with? King queen? 10 jack? Maybe. The fact that he flopped a flush, well that's just poker. It happens. And obviously (as you can see) when it happens I'm willing to pay someone off.

Now if I had won that hand I wouldn't have learned anything about poker. I'd be cocky and think it's all easy money. But since I lost I suddenly was down more than 1 buy in. (I had already bought some additional chips that had bled off missing flops.)

I wouldn't call it tilt. But I was frustrated. So I sat back. Took a deep breathe. Grabbed another buy in out of my wallet. And told myself that I wasn't leaving the table until I won my first buy in back.

It wasn't pretty. My cards never really got better. I can sit here and whine about all the bad things that happened. Like I flopped a baby flush with suited connectors and of course the board pairs on the turn and the 4th spade comes on the river. It was that kind of night.

And it took 4 hours of folding and waiting. But I won my money back.

One way I enticed myself to keep folding was the concept that: if I'm a better player than my opponents then the more hands I see, the more my advantage has a chance of being a factor.

Like if I'm playing against Phil Ivey and I'm not the better player then I may as well go all in with the first good hand I see since I don't really want to play him post flop.

But against these mediocre typically bad Vegas weekend warriors, I want to have a sample of as many hands as possible against them. Lets put us in all kinds of scenarios. And then lets see who can play these multiple post flop situations better. That's where my edge is against these people. I need to sit there for hours for the data to be as accurate as possible.

Obviously on any single all in either of us can win. But on a long boat trip to China I should have a big advantage. If I don't have an advantage over hundreds of hands then I'm in the wrong business.

So I ended up cashing out on the night up 55 dollars. The amount itself is insignifcant. But in many ways this comeback felt sweeter than winning alot more money last night. I was in a bad place mentally. I never got the cards. If this was baseball, I scored my runs through alot of bunting and sacrificing. I moved runners over.

The key to my comeback was winning 4 different pots where I was chasing but sensed weakness
and bet (or made a raise) on the river despite not hitting my draws. And all 4 times they folded.

Those bets are getting easier and easier to make. Especially when you look at your cards and know that the only way you can win the hand is to bet. It doesn't even feel like a bluff. It feels like a necessity.

Thus the betting itself isn't that hard. The hard part is deciding the correct amount to get someone to fold. Sometimes it's a large bet. But oftentimes a small bet is more believable. A smaller bet can scream to your opponents that I must have the nuts and am trying to just get some value out of it. And then they can feel good about folding. And the money they saved.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Positive Expected Value

I woke up today at noon. Went to a 430pm movie. It was still the matinee price so the experience can definitely be categorized as +EV.

See how on top of my game I am? I'm even getting the best of it at the movies.

Some of you who read this might not get all my poker lingo. When I write that going to a matinee is "+EV " I'm saying that it has a "positive expected value."

I even had some real good expected value on my time today. I was late to the film and didn't get there till 4:45 PM but luckily for me the movie hadn't started yet. It was still in the previews.

You know what that means?

The time I spent today outside the theater between 430 and 445 PM was all extra! It was like getting a bonus 15 minutes added to my life. While the other losers were all inside the theater watching commercials I was outside doing wonderful things on a beautiful day.

Or to put it another way. You know how they say each cigarette you smoke takes 11 minutes off your life? Well I can go smoke a cigarette right now and I'll still be up 4 minutes on life.

The movie ended around 645 PM. We drove to the bank which I'm not really sure I want to advertise by naming them in this space.

Perhaps using a pseudonym would be a better idea.

So we drove to "Shitibank"so I could save on the withdrawal fees that are extra when I take out money from the ATM on the Strip. It's always at least a 5 buck service charge but I've paid more.

So going to the bank before the strip = +EV.

Back in the day people like me were known as "frugal" and "miserly" and "cheap." Now it's all +EV.

I eventually made it down to play poker at the Palms and the MGM Grand.

I also tried Hooters but they only had one table going (1-2 No Limit) and it was full which was really too bad cause despite only being 1-2 that game looked really good.

The Palms is always good. There's always at least one guy from LA who is dressed well and wants to prove to everyone how much the money doesn't matter to him by raising every hand and then showing his bluffs. Over and over.

And MGM Grand was great. I had never played at the MGM before.

Here's my review:

Alot of tables. Alot of bad players.

What more could a poker guy who has to pay taxes next week ask for?

A few hands from tonight worth remembering:

First time I have the button I get dealt pocket jacks. I raise and get reraised by the big blind.

I know nothing about him. I call.

Flop comes ace, 10, 10. Two spades.

He inexplicably checks.

Uh okay. Sir, if you're trapping me it's gonna work. I'm gonna take a shot at this pot.
I obviously have a hand. I called you preflop. So here goes....I bet around 60% of the pot.

And he folds.

Poof that was easy.

He shows me pocket kings as he mucks to let me know what a good a player he is.

I can't resist and show my jacks.

It feels strange to me as a human being to do this. I don't want to show him up personally. My initial emotional reaction was to chastise myself. But in hindsight it may have helped me. Because overall I played pretty damn tight. Yet I was still able to get alot of action on the few hands I played. Maybe it was because of showing this hand. Maybe they all didn't want to get bluffed.

Later on I limped under the gun with aces. There's no point stealing the blinds from here. I want to win big pots. Not the blinds. I am so ready to lay my aces down on the flop if it looks scary.

I get a few callers and then BINGO, the big blind raises it 5x the big blind. Now I decide to take what's out there. I bump it up 25x. Back in the old west, before the internet, if someone limped under the gun and then reraised it meant he had aces.

That's what I'm telling the table.

It's so obvious.

However that's part of the reason why I don't mind doing the obvious move here. I'm thinking (or hoping) that the good players might think I'm "making a move." And it won't kill the action from bad players. They don't even know that I limped to begin with.

I catch one fish. The BB calls. He's now put 80% of his chips in the pot.

I can't tell you what came out on the flop because it absolutely made no difference to me. The rest of my chips were going into the middle on the flop. He didn't have enough money left for me to worry. If he gets lucky and cracks my aces, then good for him.

So he checks to me and of course I put him all in.


Oh dear.

80% of his chips are in the middle. It was fine to fold to me preflop when I reraised. But if he's gonna call me preflop for 80% of his chips then Dear God he's gotta move in on the flop. Even if he knows I have aces. And he shouldn't even be calling. He should be beating me into the middle since he acted first.

This same guy doubled me up earlier. I flopped a set and he paid me off on the turn with top pair top kicker. Good players can lay down top pair top kicker. Bad players can't.

I shouldn't even call him a bad player.

He wasn't bad. He just doesn't do this all day.

He was on vacation.

And that's the way I won most of money tonight. Two sets. Both times beating top pair. Happened at the Palms too.

One other hand worth mentioning from MGM was me in the big blind picking up two black queens. 5 limpers. The temptation here is to raise. Especially in a tournament. But in a cash game I want to win more than just the blinds. Lets try to hit a set. If an ace or a king comes then oh well I just lost a big blind. Who cares?

But if a queen comes....I can win a stack.

(Notice a trend happening here? Hit a set. Or else don't play a big pot. Can it be that easy at 2/5 no limit?)

The flop was too good. Queen of diamonds, queen of hearts, jack of hearts.

I now have Quads. Please someone have a flush draw.

I check because that's what you do when you flop quads.

Guy behind me bets a little less than the pot. I call. Everyone else folds.

Turn is king of hearts.

Using the power of negative thinking I'm already picturing what it is about to happen:

I'm going to lose with quads to a royal flush.

But at least it will be a good story. How often is it in a two card game like Texas hold em that you're holding quads and not sure that you have the best hand?

The quads held up. Although I do wonder what I would have done if an ace or 10 of hearts came on the river.

I probably would have folded to a big bet. I had very little gamble in me tonight. The way I've been playing lately that is a good thing.

To show you how tight I was: I folded a flush draw when I was getting proper (or at least even) odds to call. Unbelievable. But true. I sat there. I thought about it. I counted up the pot. And then I folded.

I just couldn't find a good reason to call a bet getting even money odds. Why put money in the middle without having an edge? Suddenly it seemed so obvious to just fold and wait for a better opportunity.

Now normally the action side of my personality takes over right there. And the math side of my brain signs off on it being acceptable as long as I'm not getting worse than even odds.

But even odds? 50/50?

Sure. I'll flip you heads or tails for some money.

Lets bet our cars on red or black.

But not tonight.

Making money is a major concern of mine. It's the reason we're living here. That thought occurred to me this past week. This isn't about art. This is purely about money.

I need to be earning a good salary doing this.

If I can't show a healthy profit then it's absurd to be living here.

If I can play like I did tonight 4 times a week then I have a career.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Here he comes now

I feel like playing poker again. I have my patience back. One way to tell if I'm playing well is whether or not I'm folding my hands from the small blind. Playing hands from the small blind is lazy poker. You're out of position hoping to get lucky out with worse cards than your opponent.
Don't get me wrong- It's a ton of fun when it works. But it's not winning poker.

I played some 2/4 heads up tonight on that rake free site I've told you about. It was actually a six handed table but just two of us were sitting. After a couple of hundred hands I was down 6 bucks. But also getting 41 back in rake.

That my friend is what Steve Martin would call "a profit deal."

It's also the answer to the question "How do you turn negative 6 into positive 35?"

Meanwhile after a night on the internet I think I'm due for some long live sessions at the casino. We'll see if I can pull it off mentally but I'm planning to sit at some cash tables and fold for hours like a young TJ Cloutier.

As long as I'm being honest here, and I have no idea why I'm being honest, but as long as I'm being honest I should mention that I was just sober for awhile. From February 1st to March 24th. Over 50 days. Pretty impressive dry period for me.

So I finally break my fast on March 24th and the first idea that pops into my "over confident under the influence head" (you know that feeling when you get drunk or high after taking some time off and suddenly everything seems SO OBVIOUS to you) is that I need to go play poker as an Israeli character who is pushy and fights and flirts and talks to everyone. A Middle Eastern man who uses his personality to get people to call him when he wants them to call and fold when he wants them to fold.

It's so obvious. I watch the really good pros do it all the time. They say shit to you. And the shit they say gets you to do stuff. They can piss you off and get you to call. And they can scare you and convince you to fold.

The key here is to be one of the people doing the influencing and not one of the people getting influenced.

Or to put it another way, you want to be the person giving the stress test. Not the one taking it.

Now I'm not sure I actually have the chutzpah to show up at the poker room wearing leather pants, a sparkling shirt, sunglasses, a gold chain and a little too much cologne. But at least by writing it all down here the idea becomes a little more real.

Then again if you can't wear this outfit in Vegas where can you wear it? It's certainly not unheard of to play a character at the poker table. Phil Hellmuth plays his Poker brat character at every televised tournament he appears in. People do alot of acting at the poker table.
Some pretend they're drunk. Others act like they're inexperienced. The whole thing is a show. A con.

Why not take advantage of my years of performing experience?

And God forbid it turns out that I am able to run the table.

Now If only there was some sort of Middle Eastern guy I could play.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

How could I forget to mention this?

When I was in California over the weekend I ran into Howard P.

We hadn't seen or spoken to each other since a big fight we had over fantasy football in 2002.

When I saw him this weekend we talked about the one thing we have in common: Gambling.

I told him I was living in Vegas.

He said he was visiting next month.

I asked him if he still stayed at the Rio.

Howard was real surprised to hear that I've never heard the story of why he hasn't gone to the Rio in almost 10 years.

Now you can know too.

Howard said he was at the Rio in 1998 playing video poker when some drunk woman came up from behind him and started pushing the buttons on the screen.

Obviously this wasn't too cool but Howard was extra upset because the machine was due to pay out and this chick was going to screwup his jackpot.

So Howard responded by making sure she couldn't touch the machine.

Now none of us were there.

So how he removed her we'll never know.

He said to me that he guided her hands away from the machine.

This is one of those moments in life where the videotape would be ALOT of fun.

Did he stand up? Did he push her? Did he softly guide her away? How is this video not up on You Tube?

If I ever win big at the Rio instead of comps I'm gonna ask for a copy of that tape.

So Howard goes back to pressing buttons on his machine when suddenly her boyfriend/husband guy comes up and hits/pushes Howard from behind.

Now one detail I've left out here is that Howard had just had back surgery. He still has the stitches inside of him. But this doesn't stop Howard. He gets up and clocks the guy in the face.

And then he snaps and proceeds to slam the guy's head into some wall or desk by the security area. Over and over again.

You should have seen the pure joy in Howard's face as he recounted the story.

I don't think I've been that happy ever.

Maybe when the Asteroids cartridge came out for the Atari 2600. Maybe.

But probably not.

Howard told me that he blamed security for not arriving quick enough. It's the old "if your security was doing a better job then I wouldn't have had to slam the guy's head ten times" defense.

The best part of the story is that at the end of the weekend the Rio wouldn't give Howard any comps for his play. Nothing.

Howard couldn't believe it.

So Howard told them he'd never come back.

Can you imagine that?

How in the world does the Rio not give him any comps for his play?

What the hell do you have to do at the Rio to get some comps? Kill someone?

Howard responded by asking to be taken off of their mailing list.

So basically Howard and the Rio have had the same agreement since 1998 that Howard and I have had since 2002.

We're both off of each other's mailing lists.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mucking aces is awesome

I was gonna open with some sort of joke about how I decided to put my entire bankroll on the NCAA basketball game Monday night cause I have a really strong feeling. But I'm not really an April Fools kind of guy. So lets stick with what's true.

One thing that's unfortunately true is the word awesome has snuck back into my vernacular. This would be fine if it was 1984. However in 2007 I'm not exactly sure how to deal with this. I don't want to point fingers. It's not about the blame.

Awesome first reentered my life as sarcasm. A good friend has been using it comically to describe people who suck and this use stuck with me. But of course I've overdone it and I'm now at the point where it doesn't matter to me if something is good or bad.

Either way I'm gonna say it's awesome.

What's awesome about using awesome to describe everything is that you don't ever have to really think.

Poker is awesome.

And awesome is the new gnarley.

Getting pocket aces cracked is awesome.

Awesome segue.

People ask me if there's ever a situation where I'd fold pocket aces preflop. And of course there are times like if you were playing in a WSOP satellite tournament where the top 15 players win a seat into the main event. If there are 16 players left, you're a medium stack and a big stack goes all in before you act you might fold aces since there's nothing to gain by being a chip leader, and everything to lose if you get eliminated. So yes it happens.

But I mention this topic because I found a second example where I believe it's correct to fold pocket aces.

It happened during a sit and go at my friend Gabe's house this week. I drank half a bottle of Petron. When we got down to 3 players the room started to spin. It's worth nothing that we were playing outdoors so it could have been the earth spinning. But either way I felt lousy.

Of course this is when I looked down and saw pocket aces.

But what can I do?

So I (correctly I believe) threw them into the muck. I got up and I exited the tournament to take care of business. I think this is the long term positive expected value play.

It occurs to me now that if I had stayed and played the hand I might have had a once in a lifetime opportunity to puke all over the table if my aces had been cracked. But that only has value short term. Long term you probably gotta fold there.

Incidentally my wife won 2 of the 3 sit and go's we played that night. I don't want to brag but she also won $20 playing video poker at the Wynn. That's the good news. The bad news is she officially passed me in accuracy percentage points in our 2007 family gambling leader board.

But don't feel bad for me cause I still got 8 months to catch up to her.