Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Wynn Classic Is Back And So Is My Ego

Not a bad title for a blog entry if I may say so myself.

Thanks Robert. I like it too.

Last year I played in the 2007 Wynn Classic's opening event and made the money. You know. Back when I was into poker. Before I rediscovered dirty old habits like performing comedy and watching NBA basketball.

I wrote the tourney report here.

For some reason I didn't share at the time that Cardplayer called me a notable player. Probably because it didn't really mean anything. No one has any idea who I am when I sit down at the poker table. So how can I be notable?

Yet there it is in electronic print, which I completely forgot about until I saw the Wynn Classic was back. It's a good week for my ego to read it.

It could mean that I'm still a notable player. Or at the very least I'm a former notable player.

That's almost cooler. I'll be telling my grandchildren how I was a notable poker player back in 2007 and because of how the internet works they'll believe it.

(At least until they read this blog entry.)

(That's right Robert's grandchildren. Your grandfather made your grandmother live in Las Vegas for 14 months and counting. The sportswriters of America are about to award her a second consecutive MVP trophy.)

Meanwhile you know how nothing makes me happier than pointing out how hard poker is?

Well then lets make me happy and take a look at how hard poker is!

Reviewing the payout structure from last year's Wynn Classic, check out how top heavy it was: $27,538 for 3rd place, $53,177 for 2nd place, and an unbelievable $110,148 for first place!

668 players paid $540 to enter. I outlasted 638 of them. I came in 30th place and yet my payout was only $1296. My profit only $756. I barely doubled my buyin despite my outlasting 95.5% of the field!

And as I sat there with 30 players remaining I knew it made little difference what spot I came in unless it was final table. Like if I could somehow fold my way up 11 spots to 19th place my payout would only be $1458! $162 more. That's not worth folding for.

No for this tournament to matter I'd have to make the final 3.

That's where the money was. Specifically 1st place.

$110,148. Now that's a carrot. That's something worth playing for.

Where else in the casino am I going to have the chance to turn $540 into $110,148?

If I put $540 on a roulette number and it actually hit I'd make $18,900. So I could go on the streak of a lifetime, hit 5 numbers in a row with $540 on the table each spin and still not break $95,000.

Only in tournament poker can I turn 3 figures into 6 figures and think I actually had something to do with it.

That's the dream we play for.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Staying In The Moment

I've been a comedian for way longer than I've been playing poker. My strength as a comedian was always dealing with adversity. Whether or not there was any. Throw me in front of a hostile crowd and I'll save the day.

However I'm not always the best comic when the sound is good and the lights are fine and the audience is happy. At these times, I sometimes get myself into trouble. Maybe because there isn't any. Maybe I get bored easily.

But if there's a flood in your basement, a loud band upstairs, or a room full of people throwing stuff towards the stage then for Pete's sake give me the mic already!

This past Monday night I was doing comedy at the Second City. There was a baby crying in the audience and the lights went out in the middle of the show. It was perfect.

If I were a novice I would think these things were problems. But I know how lucky I am to have all this stuff to work off of. I can turn it into an advantage. By staying in the moment, I can make fun of it.

When you do comedy for a long time you learn to always address what's going on directly in front of you. You have to. The audience sees it. The audience hears it. So must you.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

200 to 1? (This Is How I Think Part lll)

I was walking through the sportsbook yesterday afternoon and saw odds for Syracuse to win the NCAA basketball championship at 200 to 1.

200 to 1????

How can I pass on 200 to 1?

To give you some perspective on value, I went to see Sarah Silverman at the Hard Rock last night and this exact same Syracuse bet was offered at only at 75 to 1!

200 to 1 at one hotel. 75 to 1 at another.

Shop around people! Shop around!

I'd mock the Hard Rock for offering such poor odds but apparently they're finally building a poker room so I'll hold off on any further criticism till we get to see that baby.

Now for this 200 to 1 bet to have (any) value they obviously need to make the NCAA Tournament. That's not a guarantee. With 4 games to go in the regular season Syracuse is 17-10 with an RPI of 46. If Syracuse were to lose in the first round of the Big East, who knows if they still get invited to the big dance?

But if they can get there, I think they're a dangerous team to play. They come from the Big East. They're used to playing in big games. They have 5 players who average scoring in double figures. They've played Georgetown tough both times. They have a freshman point guard named Johnny Flynn who can create his own shot at the end of games when they'll need a big basket.

Win the NCAA championship? It won't happen. Yet this measly $20 wager suddenly gives me great hedging potential to bet against the Orangemen come March. Knowing that if somehow someway Syracuse can win 6 games in a row, I'm sitting on $4020 of insurance.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Residual Tilt

I had a blast this afternoon playing 1/2 no limit like a maniac at the MGM Grand. On a couple of occasions I've dared to play this aggressively at 2/5 no limit. However I haven't had the courage to take this style up to 5/10 no limit. I'd love the challenge but the swings associated to sitting with the aggressive players at that level is just too disturbing for my bankroll.

If I were visiting Vegas for the weekend I think I'd play 5/10. Yet as a resident, playing lower stakes serves me just fine. My ego doesn't care what game I'm playing. If you told me I could make a grand a day playing nickel and dime poker, lets get out the change! All I care is that I'm making money.

And an added benefit of playing smaller is that I can practice playing real aggressive poker without necessarily hurting my ability to shop for groceries later in the week.

I want to have a solid loose aggressive game in my arsenal so that I can pull it out when needed. My game is mostly tight aggressive.

I've got the tight passive thing down. I think everyone is born with that gene.

Loose passive poker is also pretty easy to simulate. Not that you'd want to.

For me the final piece of the puzzle is picking spots to play loose aggressive poker without giving my stack away.

I wasn't going to the MGM knowing that I'd play like this. Truth be told I was prepared to fold and wait for the right hand. But after one orbit I could see how tight these players were. So I adjusted by playing more hands and putting lots of pressure on the table. Much more than I would normally apply.

I genuinely give all the credit here to my playing small enough stakes to genuinely not care about the buy in. I want to win but if I lose my stack that's okay too. It's only hundreds. Not thousands.

These days at the MGM they give you an "all in" card when you go all in. I had that thing in my hands 3 times in the second orbit. I was pushing around chips, looking to win a big pot or take down a smaller one. If I had a playable hand I was going to raise with it.

And boy did I overplay hands. But I kept getting away with not having to show my cards. So I kept on betting and letting them wonder.

Some hands of interest:

-Guy raises to 7 in early position. Three callers in front of me. I push all in from the blinds. It's win win. If anyone calls, I'm happy to race. If everyone folds I'm happy to increase my stack by 30 bucks. Even though it's only $30, it's still 15 big blinds at a 1/2 table. That's the same as winning a 75 dollar pot at 2/5. 150 bucks at 5/10. Not bad.

Making moves like this (the preflop all in) on multiple occasions will not make you popular. Solid players don't consider it to be poker. Pushing all in preflop from the blinds is the kind of move you see people make in a tournament when the blinds are rising. Not in cash game poker.

Yet I'm not there for approval. I'm not trying to convince anyone I can play poker well. I'm just trying to make money. And this kind of aggressive play is an extension of my embracing the gambling element of poker. I'm not fearing having the second best hand. I just want to get myself into as many good situations as I can. Over and over again. My main concern when I play like this is that I get my money in FIRST. I'm not looking to call all ins. But I don't mind starting them. As long as I have some folding equity I've learned that I can afford to play like this.

- I did play a few hands passively. Although this was usually based on my being in early position more than my cards. For example I limped with ace jack suited from under the gun. Since I'm not planning on winning this hand with top pair, I don't mind a big field of callers. I also like to limp in early position with my big pairs, so it's real good for me to limp with some other holdings too.
The guy to my immediate left makes it 7 dollars. A few of us call and we see a jack high flop with two hearts. I check and he bets 10. The other players fold.

10 bucks? Even if I think he has an overpair I gotta call 10 bucks.

Turn is a third heart. I have the ace of hearts. I check and this time he bets 20. Against some players I'd raise here, but against this guy I'm still not too sure I'm ahead. So me and my nut flush draw smooth call.

No heart comes on the river but I do get another jack for trips. Since I called his turn bet after the 3rd heart came, I'm not so positive he'll fire another bullet. I take the initiative and lead out for 40. He calls and I take down the pot, beating his pocket kings. He handled it well and said he probably should have bet more on the flop.

I agree.

- Another hand with the same guy to my left. I'm under the gun again and this time I limp with ace queen. Once again the guy to my left raises. Makes it 12 bucks. I call and we see an ace on the flop. I check and he bets 20. I call. I'm concerned about ace king but I feel much better when a rag comes on the turn and he checks behind me. I lead out for 25 after the board pairs 5's on the river and the freaking guy raises me to 75.

Damn it.

I don't think he has a 5. I don't think he raised preflop to 12 with any hand that has a 5 in it. The hand that scares me is ace king. We'd both have two pair but his king kicker would take it down.

I look back out at the board. I review the betting sequence and think it's highly unlikely that he'd have checked the turn if he had ace king.

And then one final thing clinches it for me. After he raises it to 75 I ask him "How much would you have bet if I checked the river? How much did I just cost myself by betting first?"

And I meant it. If I had checked the river and he held ace king, maybe he bets 40 or 50. I could have check called here and saved myself money. But after I ask him this question he remains silent. He seems to tighten up.

Huh. Maybe that means he wouldn't have bet behind me. Maybe he has nothing.

I call and throw 50 dollars out there and he turns over king high.

- The next orbit a guy raises to 15 in middle position. Everyone folds. I have pocket 8's in big blind and around $400 in front of me. I look at his stack. He only has around 70 bucks left. Not only am I out of position but he doesn't have a big enough stack to make it worth it to me to call and hope I flop a set.

Based on our stacks, I think my best move is to put him all in. Race his big ace. If he has a big pair then I'm just going to have to donate some money to him. But if I'm gonna play the hand, I want to put some pressure on him. I don't want to give myself a tough decision to make if/when there are overcards on the flop.

I only need to bet 70ish to put him all in. But I'm in love with that darn "all in" card. So rather than bet 70, I go all in.

Much to my surprise it works. He folds. I win another small pot without showing my cards. Winning pots like these makes poker so much easier. It gives me ammunition for whenever it is that I will eventually get called.

My confidence was increasing. Players did not want to get involved with me because I kept making them play for their entire stack.

- Guy raises to 15. I call in late position with ace queen suited. A third guy calls from the blinds as well. Flop comes ace, king 8. Two diamonds. Not my suit.

Big blind bets out 20. Preflop raiser folds. Whew. If the preflop raiser was the one betting I'd have a big problem here. He could certainly have the ace king. But with the bet coming from the big blind, I'm not nearly as fearful. I don't think he has ace king. He also doesn't have that many more chips in front of him. Looks like something in the 60 to 80 range.

I mini raise his 20 to 40 to see how committed he is to this pot. I think I'm ahead of him. I could have just pushed all in but I think I want him to call. An all in might scare him away. And by raising to 40 I also get to see how quickly he calls, mucks or raises.

He takes a moment and then calls. He doesn't have ace king.

I decide that I don't want to over think this hand if another diamond comes on the turn. There's too much money out there to fold. So I grab a red stack of maybe 60 or 70 dollars and and stick it out there to bet the turn before the dealer shows us the card.

Regardless of what comes I'm not folding. I'm betting.

I'm not sure if the universe thought this move by me was a little too cocky, because it turns out that I was WAY ahead of this gentleman on the flop with my ace queen.

He held a measly ace 7. But somehow, someway another 7 came out on the turn to give my opponent two pair. Yuck. He obviously calls my turn bet and immediately asks me if I have ace king.

The good news is I still have outs. There are 2 queens, 3 kings, and 3 eights in the deck. Any of these cards gives me two pair as well. I'd either win or chop. But none of them came on the river and I lost a decent sized pot.

Perhaps my big mistake in betting the turn before the card was revealed was that I didn't get the chance to say I was "all in" and thus get that magical MGM all in card.

Meanwhile, how I lost this pot shouldn't matter to me, but somehow it felt worse to lose this way. To be ahead and get passed by a long shot on the turn.

Logically, the opposite is true. It's SO much better to get my money in this way than if he had outflopped me.

Lets play Monday morning quarterback for a moment. If he turns over ace king, I'm the fish. Yet if he turns over ace 7, he's the fish.

He turned over ace 7. I did my job. Yet this hand was hard for me to forget.

I stayed and kept playing for over an hour. I kept thinking how I couldn't leave this table. I absolutely want to be playing with a guy who is willing to call a flop raise with top pair and 7 kicker.

And a couple of hands with other players at this table only reaffirmed this belief. Twice I managed to lose to gutshot straight draws! Twice! This was a great table to be at!

Yet despite all the poor play around me, there came a point when I suddenly realized that I was no longer playing my best poker. I was still up a few hundred bucks and decided that the negative effects of my losing more money would be way more detrimental to me than any positive effects of winning more money.

So I quit.

I look forward to returning to the MGM. I hadn't been there in a long time. It's a fun change of pace from Wynn. The MGM's $40 minimum, $200 max buy in game is so different from the the Wynn's 1/3 no limit game with no max. Yes they're both low stakes no limit poker. But the max/no max part makes them such distinct experiences.

I can't push people around at the Wynn. For better or for worse I will get called, and actually have to show down and hope my hand holds up.

But over here at the MGM, a dollar still means something.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dear Robert,

(Actual Viewer Email)

Obviously you have made peace at the table with other players not understanding your play, and either (1) thinking you’re the donkey at the table, or (2) sitting there thinking how great they are having no idea they just horribly sucked out on a low percentage play (like a gut shot straight draw). How do you find the strength to smother your pride and let that continue? I know its mostly due to the fact that you plan on smothering the pride all the way to the bank, but I would think instincts would want to put that person in their place. My cousin is struggling with this. He loses his mind when he gets sucked out on, and the other player has no idea that they just got lucky. It makes him not want to play any more. His pride is winning this battle. He no longer goes Helmuth anymore, but the frustration eats him up. Any suggestions or advice I can give him?

Uh...don't play poker?

There's no pride at the poker table. You can't will yourself to win pots.

No hand is that big of a favorite. If I went to the doctor and was told I had a 20% chance of not surviving some disease I'd be scared of the 20%! So why should I be shocked when the same math does or doesn't happen at the poker table? All we are doing is betting on probability and sometimes the worst hand wins. If the worse hand never won, people wouldn't gamble.

But the biggest thing to discuss/correct here is what you wrote about your cousin losing his mind because the other player has no idea that they just got lucky. Tell your Cousin that he does not want the other player thinking they just got lucky! Your Cousin should want his opponents to keep playing exactly like they are playing.

If my opponent knows he made a mistake, if I teach him that he made a mistake, he might play future hands better. I don't want that. I want my opponents to chase gutshots. To need to get lucky to win. That's my job. That's the game. Getting my money in with the best of it. Whatever happens after that really doesn't matter. Further anger is just wasted energy.

At the poker table, you, me, and your cousin need to pretend we're the house. It's how they keep building new casinos here in Vegas. It's not like you see Steve Wynn running downstairs all angry anytime someone hits a number on his roulette table.

Well, except for that madness I saw Wednesday night.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

80% Truth

4 of the following 5 items are facts. 1 is fiction.

1-I played poker at the Wynn tonight and bumped into Mr Subliminal. Man that guy is below the threshold of conscious perception.

2- I sat next to a woman who told me she visited New York City and was unimpressed with Times Square. Wanted it to be larger. Complained to me that it was "only like a corner of the Strip." I immediately folded on this conversation.

3- On my bathroom break I saw a guy by the roulette table wearing a Party Poker hat getting paid out 35 to 1 for hitting 00 with a couple of grand on the number. As he was collecting his massive payout of chips, Steve Wynn walked over and started taunting him. Wynn was like "You are such an idiot! You just bet on double zero! That has a 37 to 1 chance of hitting! You hit your 3 percent long shot! Do you know how lucky you are? You are really a terrible gambler. Absolutely terrible."

4- Vancouver to win the Stanley Cup is 18 to 1 at the Wynn, and 30 to 1 at the Hilton. According to Blerge, Steve Wynn knows his hockey although I'm not so sure what's going on over at the Hilton. I did read that one of the Hilton kids was arrested a week or two ago, so maybe they've just been all distracted dealing with that and haven't had time to adjust their hockey lines yet.

5- At my first poker table tonight I saw 16 playable hands and managed to lose 15 of them. My only success, "the 16th hand" if you will, the only time I actually see a pot pushed my way is when I chop an all in pot heads up with the big blind, and after rake and tip I actually lose money on the hand! I got mad skills.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Overplaying Pocket Tens and Other Sordid Tales

2:44 PM. I'm back at the Wynn. The most entertaining part of playing in their poker room is no max on buy ins. So even though I'm sitting down at their smallest no limit game (1/3 blinds), some people have over two grand in front of them. Normally I'd buy in for 300 here but my thinking is a short buy in ($120) will allow me to play more fearlessly against these oversized stacks.

Embrace the race. Look to gamble.

I don't want to give myself a hard time with close decisions.

If I get beat, I get beat. That's what rebuys are for.

2:46 PM. Minus 12 with ace jack suited.

2:50 PM. I bet 9 preflop. 15 on the flop. Everyone folds.

2:57 PM. I lay down ace 7 from the small blind on an ace king 9 flop after I check and an older guy bets 18 into a 9 dollar pot. Good for him. I suppose that's the way to handle weak calling stations like myself. Having just sat down, I have no idea what that double pot sized bet means.

He didn't raise preflop so there's a decent chance I'm ahead here. Yet I'm not that worried about getting outplayed at a cash table in a hand that I didn't raise preflop nor lead out with when I hit. An easy fold for me. A call gives me no new information. If anything, my best option would have probably been to reraise. But I'm more than happy to give him the 9 dollar pot and see if he overbets the next time we're in a hand together.

3:01 PM. Wow I misplayed this baby. My small suited connectors hit a flush on turn, but I have to fold after a 4th diamond comes on river and a gentleman leads out with a pot sized bet. Damn I'm bad. I should have pushed turn. It was the whole reason I was going with small stack! If I'm not going to push on the turn, I may as well have started with $300 on the table. We're only 15 minutes into the session and I'm down 53 bucks and steaming from my poor play.

3:08 PM. I'm on the button and join a limping party with suited connectors. Big blind raises 9 more. Bunch of us call. I flop a pair and flush draw. Dude who raised preflop continue bets 15. I reraise 69 all in. He calls the $54 more with ace high. I'm ahead AND have the flush redraw. No flush hits. But an ace sure does. And just like that, 33 minutes into the session, I'm all out of chips.

"Rebuy 180."

3:11 PM. What's up with the worst hand always winning? After just losing the previous all in pot where I was ahead, I manage to win one where I'm behind. I flop a pair, hit two pair on the turn and get called on the river by a guy and his pocket pair. This gets my rebuy (300 total) up to around 220ish.

3:14 PM. The bad vibes get passed around. The gentleman who I sucked out on, goes on tilt, overplays a draw and rivers a straight against a gentleman's two pair. That's 3 wins in a row for the worst hand at this table in the past orbit.

3:20 PM. I'm down to 200 after I flop open ender, hit pair of 5's on turn but lose to pocket 7's.

3:30 PM. I raise to 9 and the guy to my left miniraises me to 18 with ace jack off. I'll file that one away in my brain for later on.

3:33 PM. Minus 15 six ways with pocket 9's.

3:40 PM. I fold ace,2 off in late position. Flop comes 2,2,4. Before I get the chance to whine to myself about folding, two players go all in! One has pocket 4's. If I were still in the hand, I would have given him what remains of my stack. Whew.

3:42 PM. Minus 15 with 9's. Again. Down to 156.

4:02 PM. 147.

4:08 PM. 143 after paying blinds. I think we call this bleeding. I've been sitting here for 90 minutes. My best hand(s) thus far were the pocket 9's twice. Ohm.

4:15 PM. Down to 119. I raise to 12 with king jack suited and get 3 callers. It's kind of amazing that I can sit here, fold 90% of my hands and still get action whenever I raise. Flop gives me the open ended straight draw. I continue bet to see another card. I get two callers. The turn pairs the board (queens) and I fold my draw to a 75 dollar bet. I believed him.

4:21 PM. Stack down to 107. That's minus 193 if you're keeping score at home.

4:27 PM. Bathroom break. My stack is 140 after I hit two pair on a four card flush board. I probably fold to a river bet but no one had the courage.

4:36 PM. Minus 12 with ten jack. Flop is jack, 5,6. I hit top pair but fold after a bet and a raise in front of me. One of them is likely to be on a draw but not both. In fact if the second guy had folded, I may have put in the exact same raise. I don't mind being the aggressor here, but I sure as hell ain't calling a bet and a reraise in a multiway pot with top pair, ten kicker. I can think of better ways to invest my remaining 122 chips.

4:40 PM. I get pocket kings! I win a 7 dollar pot! 6 bucks after my tip! Still, much better than losing.

4:46 PM. Down to 70 after I lose consecutive hands with top pair and second best kicker. Yuck. I was the aggressor in both hands so that part feels good. If I'm gonna raise preflop, and flop top pair, I gotta bet it. To lose hands like this is frustrating for me because deep down I know I shouldn't even be in there to begin with.

I kind of admire how the universe keeps me in line. Always seems to make me lose when I get out of hand with my aggression. It's kind of like:

"Hey Robert. As long as you play correctly we'll take care of you, but if you start raising with any 2 cards we're going to let someone else flop a better hand. Every time."

If I limp in position with a hand like queen 9 and hit a queen I'm ahead.

Yet if I raise in position with a hand like queen 9 and hit a queen somehow I'm behind.

This can't always be true. But that's sure what it feels like.

4:50 PM. Critical hand. I get back up to 164 after I double through a guy on tilt. It was a three way pot. I had ace king which was good enough for top pair. I also had a flush draw that missed on the river. I pushed my final 48 at the end since I was going to call any bet here anyway. The initial aggressor folded but this second dude on tilt called me down. I never saw his cards.

5:01 PM. I raise to 9 preflop. One caller. I bet 12 on flop and he folds. This hand gets me thinking about how much fun it would be to raise every hand to 9 bucks and then bet 12 on the flop regardless of what comes.

In other words, the poker doesn't really begin until we've all paid our $21 "ante" to get to the turn. Not necessarily the best strategy (since other players paying attention would start reraising me in position with any two cards) but it would be fun nonetheless.

5:10 PM. Up to 277 playing my brand of ugly poker. I flop top pair with my queen 8 suited. (I would have raised with it preflop but I wanted to be ahead if a queen came. And we all know how the universe feels about me raising with queen 8 suited).

On the flop the old guy to my left over bets again. This time it's 15 into a 12 dollar pot. I've folded the other times but this time I decide to take a stand.

So does the guy who paid off my all in with the ace king 20 minutes earlier.

The older guy must have been bluffing because he checks the turn and folds when I bet 21. But not that 3rd player. No, he reraises all in. Not a bad bet. The only problem for him is he has only 80 dollars in front of him. $59 more to me. A larger stack would be tough to call.

Also, the board is double suited so he could be on a draw. It's the kind of desperate move I see all the time from small stacks.

Turns out this time he wasn't on a draw. He had jack 9 for a middle pair of 9's and just like that I take down the pot with queen 8. I'm suddenly down only 23 on the afternoon.

5:33 PM. Table only has 4 players and Wynn is only charging $1 dollar maximum rake per hand! Like the beer commercial claims: it doesn't get any better than this. I'm absolutely loving it but two of the guys keep saying that they don't want to play shorthanded. Yet they're not physically getting up from the table so we keep on playing.

5:40 PM. It couldn't go on forever. The two guys finally find the courage to end our game. I have 286 and head to my new table with renewed life. Less than an hour ago I was down to 70 chips so clearly 286 feels like plenty. It's also good for me to be honest here and say that if I had been up a few hundred and was now down to 286 I'd feel frustrated for giving it back.

Yet right now, only being down 14 bucks feels like I'm way up.

5:50 PM. Minus 15 with king queen suited. After folding for the first orbit I finally see a playable hand at the new table.

5:57 PM. Minus 15 with ace queen. I'm down to 252 but at least I'm showing patience.

6:04 PM. I win my first hand at this table to get up to 350. The preflop raiser continue bets the flop but shuts down after two of us call. All 3 of us check the turn. On the river the preflop raiser checks, second player bets $18. I'm not that strong but the pot is too big to fold. So I call. Preflop guy folds and then the gentleman who bet the $18 on the river mucks his cards without needing to see mine!

It's become my favorite moment in poker. Nothing gives me more satisfaction at the table than winning a pot without having to show my cards after I've CALLED a bet on the river.

However the preflop raiser doesn't like this at all. He immediately asks the dealer to turn over my hand from the muck. He wants to know how I can win the pot without showing my cards. Well sir, it has something to do with my being the last player in the hand.

6:07 PM. I play ace queen passively and win a pot versus a preflop raiser holding ace 10 who had the courage to fire 3 straight (but small) bullets. Bumps my stack up to 403.

6:17 PM. I miss with 3,5 suited from the button.

6:33 PM. Stack at 392 after paying blinds. Around twenty minutes ago a woman and her significant other sat down together in seats 1 and 2. They're obviously a couple and some of their behavior is questionable. On a previous hand I see her flash him her cards as she folds. I don't necessarily think she's trying to give him an edge. If that was true she'd probably be more discreet. No I think she just wants to show him what crappy cards she had. But obviously this shouldn't be done, with him still getting to look at his cards and act behind her.

He's also taken on the role of table captain, even though he never seems to know what's going on or when it's his turn to act. He really slows the game down. Two different players have made comments about wanting a table change. Personally, I'm just hoping it's going to a profitable experience sitting with this guy. That somehow someway it will have been worth it to put up with all of his B.S.

Every single hand there is a moment when he asks who the action is on.

And the answer is always HIM.

They play like loose players who will eventually give their money away. They're clearly there to gamble. It's rare they fold. They're either absolutely terrible. Or the perfect con team. And I'm still figuring it out.

Most times when she enters a pot, so does he. And what has happened a few times post flop is that she'll bet and then he'll raise. This usually gets others to fold.

Now these moves could all just be a random coincidence, but it also looks slightly suspicious to me.

6:41 PM. I've been real tight against them and my moment finally comes. The lady in seat 1 limps and her man limps in behind her. Another guy calls.

I look down at pocket kings on the button. I haven't seen either of them fold to preflop raise once they've already put chips in. So I decide to do something strange. I raise the 3 dollar blind to 33. It's an absurd raise. 11x. No one should call that. I'm hoping that maybe it will seem like I have a medium pair and I'll get reraised. Mostly I'm just curious to see what my favorite couple does.

She acts first and calls! Wow.

He takes a little longer. He asks me why I bet so much. I tell him it's because I'm up to something. He calls too. Other guy folds.

Me and my kings will see the flop 3 handed against this couple.

I have a sinking feeling that there's no way I can win this hand.

My cards are too good.

Flop is a scary thing. I clearly see 3 diamonds out there and I have no diamonds. But a further investigation reveals that one of these 3 diamonds happens to be the kind of diamonds. Look at that. I flopped a set.

The lady in seat 1 leads out 15 bucks. Her beau in seat 2 makes it 30.

I don't think they're necessarily bluffing. One of them could have a pair. One of them could have a big diamond.

In my worst case scenario, someone has flopped a flush. But I ain't going anywhere. If I'm trailing a flush I'll just have to get lucky and pair the board. How hard can that be?

This is also a good reminder of how important it is to play within your bankroll. If I had too much money on the table, this could be a terrifying moment. Determining how fast or slow to play it. Yet with only a few hundred chips at stake, it's really not so bad.

Well other than the bad beat story that you'll have to listen to me complain about.

So I raise it up 90 more. I don't need to see another diamond. She folds but not him. Nope. He reraises all in. Luckily for me he didn't have that much more remaining beyond my 90 raise. I insta-call him.

Usually players don't show their cards on cash game all ins, but this time I did not hesitate. I turned over my kings to reveal my set. He reciprocated and turned over his ace jack.

Yep. That's the ace of diamonds in front of him. As expected, I'd have to survive his draw. Another great example of how hard poker is.

Think about it. I wait hours for pocket kings. When I get them I make an absurd raise yet despite playing tight still get two callers. I flop a set but have to somehow survive the flush draw!

That ain't easy.

"Pair the board" I say.

A non-diamond queen comes on the turn. It seems like a good card although the truth is it gives him additional outs. Now he can also beat me with a straight if a 10 comes on the river.

"Pair the board" I tell the dealer for the second time.

She doesn't. But a safe ace comes out on the river. I survive and jump up to 531.

Wait a minute...

Lost in all the excitement...

Did this guy really call my 11x preflop raise with ace jack off?

That my friends, is a gentleman who wants to gamble.

His lady friend makes her exit after this hand. He leaves too although he says he's going to the ATM and will be back shortly.

6:56 PM. He actually returns. They always say they're coming back. They usually do not. But this guy meant it.

7:06 PM. This same guy continues to play 1/3 no limit like it's the final table on the World Poker Tour. He's making moves like pushing all in on the flop for 200 bucks with 30 in the middle.

Yeah. I think that's drool you see on my sweatshirt.

7:08 PM. He raises it to 60 preflop. I look down at suited connectors but he doesn't have nearly enough cash in front of him for me to call. I tell him that "I definitely would have called you here for a reasonable raise like 55 bucks. But 60 is just slightly too much for me."

7:10 PM. Same loose guy calls a raise to 15 preflop from the blinds and then pushes all in on an ace high flop before the preflop raiser can even act!

I'm sitting there of course thinking what if preflop raiser is the one with the ace king? (And by same token, if it's the loose guy with ace king, why not check and let the preflop raiser make his continuation bet?)

7:16 PM. Straddled pot. I call $6 in early position with pocket 10's. Two or three players call behind me. Action gets back to the straddler. He makes it $27. I'm not excited by the idea of calling here and hoping to flop a set. If I held pocket aces I would have limped, hoped for the raise and then come in for a reraise.

So I play my cards just the same. I reraise him to $90. I expect everyone to fold. I'm the same tight player who everyone saw raise big with the pocket kings. It's not crazy to think I have them again.

By raising to 90 I'm trying to find out right here right now if that straddler actually has something like aces or kings. If he insta-pushes I can lay down here. But if he has to mull it over, I'm probably about to play a big pot with him.

When the action gets back to straddler I can see he's unsure what to do.
Great news!

The only thing I'm not in love with here is that the loose guy in seat 2 is telling the straddler that I have ace king. Obviously he shouldn't be speaking at all. However I don't want to complain or act like it bothers me because I don't want it to appear that I'm defensive at all about his calling.

(Which brings up an interesting thought...might I say something to him or the dealer about "one player to a hand" if I actually had aces? Like a reverse tell on my part? If I held aces might I complain to feign weakness? If that's true then I absolutely should have acted defensive and said something here.)

I'm sitting still. I see the guy mulling over the decision. Thinking about the ace king comment. This looks like it could be trouble for me. He's taking awhile. He could easily have something like jacks or queens, and if he does, he certainly won't mind racing my ace king.

After a minute or two he decides to call the 90. Hmmmmm. This rules out aces and kings. He could have a hand like ace king and hope to outflop me.

More likely the opposite is true. He has a medium pocket pair and is calling to see if any over cards come on the flop. If no ace or king comes, he can push.

Regardless of which hand he's holding, I don't like his call out of position here. If he's not going to fold, I think he should push. If he has ace king he'll guarantee seeing 5 board cards. A push might also get me to fold a medium pair.

If his hand isn't strong enough to push with, then a fold isn't terrible. He's only put 27 dollars into the pot. Calling the 63 more is potentially getting himself pot committed. And if he's going to play for his stack here, he should reraise me and put me to a decision. Just like I did to him with my 10's.

Flop comes out small. 7 high. He's first to act, and he pushes.

Damn. This looks like the medium pair.

Lets review:

I'm losing to pocket queens and jacks.

I'm beating ace king. I'm beating pocket 9's.

I'm pushing with pocket 10's.

I don't think he has a set. If he had a set he would have just checked the flop.

Yep. From the way he's played this hand, the hole cards that make the most sense here are a medium pair.

With approximately $200 in the middle, I ask for a count of his remaining chips. It's not much more. Only around $110. So I'm getting roughly 3 to 1 to call. Like I said before, if he had repopped me preflop I might have folded. But he didn't and now it gets way tougher for me to let go of this hand.

And of course if I'm going to play pocket 10's this aggressively preflop, how do I fold them on an undercard flop? No matter how often I claim to get outflopped.

I tell myself that it's okay to lose to a bigger pair. It happens.

I check my remaining chips.

-If I call and lose I'm back down to around 300 bucks.

-If I give up and fold I'm in the low 400's.

-If I call and win I'm way up to 748.

When I had asked for a count to confirm that his stack was as small as it appeared, he started to taunt me. Told me how I was priced in. Maybe he should have kept his mouth shut because after he started to antagonize me, I decided to listen to him.

I gambled. Neither of us showed our cards. Turn was a rag. River was the 10 of diamonds, putting a flush out there and of course also giving me the set.

How awful for him.

I looked across the table and guessed out loud "I got you on the river."

He showed his jacks and told me how bad I played the hand.

I said "Thank you. You too."

And to think people are always giving poker players a bad rap.

Saying we're not polite.

7:22 PM. I fold ace queen preflop after a reraise to 27.

7:27 PM. I bet 12 with pocket jacks on a 10,4,6 flop. My good friend and nemesis from the previous tens vs jacks straddled hand raises me to 24. Tough decision. Instinct says fold and move on.

Yet with this guy I'm not sure if it's personal. Which makes it hard to tell if he's trying to outplay me, or if he has actually out flopped me. There is also a flush draw out there so anything is possible.

Turn is a 2 of hearts, completing the flush draw. I've seen better cards.

I check and he bets 30. Again, a wonderful opportunity for me to fold. He easily could have semi-bluffed me on the flop by raising to 24 with his flush draw.

Yet 30 bucks seems reasonable. If I call this and he doesn't have a flush I'm thinking he has to check the river behind me. He could have something like ace 10 and think his top pair is still good. I talk myself into calling.

River is a queen. I check and this time he bets 39. If he had a pair of 10's then the queen should have scared him. So he's probably stronger than 1 pair. And with the flush showing it really seems like a value bet.

The flipside of course is that if my hand was good on the turn, it's probably still good after the river. I'm either still ahead or still behind. Nothing has probably changed. And for 39 bucks I gotta see it. If not for me, then for you. 39 dollars isn't going to come between this guy and my readers!

I call. He shows 3,5 off. He he. He had hit the straight on the turn! Not even a flush!

I looked back at my cards and said "Wow I didn't even see the straight out there!"

(Translation: I can't believe you value bet your straight on a flush board.)

Then I said "Well I guess a straight still beats a flush. Nice hand sir" and threw my cards into the muck.

(Translation: I can't believe you value bet your straight on a flush board.)

So interesting that he didn't fear the flush here. If I held two hearts I probably would have played the hand exactly the same! I certainly could have semi-bluffed the flop and then called his raise with my draw. And obviously I'm gonna call his bet on the turn once the flush comes.

What nerve he has value betting the river!

What I really wanna know is whether or not he folds if I raise his river bet.

7:31 PM. Loose guy from seat 2 just called an all in preflop with pocket 6's. Gotta love it.

7:34 PM. Loose guy from seat 2 flops a jack with his ace jack, pushes and runs into pocket queens. It was bound to happen.

7:47 PM. I leave the Wynn after 5 hours of poker.

I got real lucky in that pocket 10's hand. Yet results aside, what felt best about it was how aggressively I played the 10's preflop. Forcing him to a decision. It's nice to see me mixing my game up, even if I happened to pick the wrong hand to do so.

I came into today complaining that I always seem to lose when I get too aggressive.

Thus I genuinely want to thank the universe for bailing me out on a hand that I completely overplayed preflop!

Thank you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

They Call Him The Finger

The Finger showed up to Vegas this week.

You know how some people use card protectors when playing poker, so the dealer won't accidentally muck their cards?

Not The Finger.

He doesn't need a lousy card protector.

Why would he?

He has The Finger!

Trust me when I warn you not to get into an altercation with The Finger.

Think of it this way:

Any contact is going to hurt The Finger much more than it's going to hurt you. So if The Finger actually finds a good enough reason to physically come after you, you probably deserve it.

Now you'd think there's no way that damn Finger would be able to handle an XBOX controller.


It sure seemed like there were too many buttons on it for him to grip it properly.

But that darn Finger, he's a quick learner. His other 9 fingers clearly did the work of 10.

I'm sure the question on everyone's mind is whether it was embarrassing for me to lose at FIFA 07 Soccer to a guy with a huge metal brace on his right index finger?

And the answer is no. Not at all.

Why would I be embarrassed?

I covered the spread.

And everyone knows you play soccer with your feet!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vegas Fact #9

Vegas Fact #9
I almost hate to bring this up but apparently I'm the red ants in Nevada house guy. The Google search engine brings up The Vegas Year as your first stop on the web if you need information on red ants in Nevada house.

Now lets not get carried away here. My red ants expertise is narrow and limited. Like if you're looking for info on "red ants in Nevada" then I'm not necessarily the best source. I wouldn't feel good providing that information. It's a little beyond my scope. But if you wanna know all about "red ants in Nevada house" then I'm clearly your guy.

I have no idea why or how this blog is listed first under that search. And I'm well aware that my being the #1 source on red ants in Nevada house could change at any moment. But I do want to go on the record as having said that I'm really glad to see Google finally take the red ants I wrote about very seriously.

Yeah I know some people have accused me of using the red ants any way I can. Taking advantage of them. Riding their little red ant coat tails to fame and fortune. I'm well aware of all this talk. A lot of these comments have come from people who are or were close friends and I'm really not sure what to say to them. I didn't choose to be bitten by the red ants. I didn't choose to become the expert on red ants in Nevada house. The red ants chose me.

This past year I thought living in Vegas was all about seeing what I could do at the poker tables. But sometimes you can't run from your destiny.

I'm the red ants in Nevada house guy.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fluctuating Beer Prices

Not exactly the best session for yours truly.

But why make vague statements about it when I can offer you a minute by minute account of what went wrong?

9:28 PM. I arrive at the Venetian poker room and get on the list for 1/2 no limit. I don't exactly feel on top of my game so I reduce the stakes. No need to put myself in a position where I have to make a decision for 500 or 1000 bucks. Not tonight. 200 at a time is fine.

9:30 PM. While waiting to be called, I take a walk over to the sports book to check on a futures price for my friend in New York City. Incredibly, the same item offered right now for 22 to 1 "next door" at the Wynn is somehow only 16 to 1 in the Venetian.

9:32 PM. Back over in the poker room I get called to table number 23. It's already looking like a good night.

9:43 PM. Usually I fly solo but tonight I publicly acknowledge 3 people in the room. CK, Falstaff, and Bacon Bikini Mary. CK was at my table and sat to my right. This seating arrangement would have been a loose aggressive disaster for both of us in 2006. Yet in 2008 we sat there and folded most hands despite playing at the lower stakes. There's maturity for you.

9:45 PM. I flop top two pair, on a king,9,8 board, slow play, get burned. Dude bets 10 on the flop and I should raise but I'm greedy. I want to win a big pot. I don't want to raise here, scare him away and have him fold. So I call. I'm ahead of his pair or draw and I'm hoping he'll put more money in on the turn.

Turn is an ugly 7. Dude bets 40. Now I've only bought in for 200. So it's pretty hard to just call here. It's raise or fold territory. I'm in an awful spot if a 6 or 10 comes on the river. I can't just call with these smaller stacks.

At the moment, the obvious hand that scares me is jack 10. If he's sitting there with the nut straight I'm in trouble. But other than those holdings I felt pretty good. And if he does have the straight I still have my 4 outs on the river to hit a boat. Mainly I just don't want to let him get there, if he's not there already.

So I pushed.

He doesn't call immediately. He thinks about it for a moment. All of this makes me feel pretty good. However the gross part is that he does have a straight. It just happens to be the ignorant end. The bottom end. The 5,6. That's right. He hit the gutshot on the turn.

He eventually calls my all in. He has to. He could be drawing dead at this point, but if he's going to play 5,6 and it hits, how does he fold it?

And like any human, I felt donkish at first when he showed the straight. It never feels good to get your money in way behind. But as I type this now, I definitely feel way more amused by the entire hand.

Dude bet out 10 bucks on the flop with 5,6 on an 8,9 king board. That's awesome for me. The real fun would have been watching what he does on on the turn and river if a 7 doesn't come. Maybe he wouldn't have put any more money into the pot. But maybe he would. Who knows?

And the best part about this game called poker is that if he turns over jack 10 I can feel bad about how poorly I play...but when he turns over 5,6 I can find it highly entertaining. Go figure.

10:11 PM. I'm in limit mode. I call off 15 on the flop, 35 on the turn and 45 on the river with two pair and lose to a set. Part of me wishes I raised on one of the streets to find out where I was at. Part of me knows I've made money in the past year in this exact type of spot by just calling down. I'm genius when I sniff it out ,and a fish when I pay them off.

10:27 PM. I hit top pair and lose to a dude's 7,8 hitting a straight on the river. I've re-bought once am already down 110 on my second buy in. Yuck.

I've played way too loosely this first hour. Too many hands. And showing down too much with moderate holdings.

Although my dropping down to 90 dollars will finally get me to tighten up and play correctly.

I just wish I was starting the session right about now.

10:34 PM. I have 86 dollars and I'm about to pay some blinds. I've started thinking about getting myself something to drink. Sometimes when I fall down a few hundred, I like to order a beverage, just so I think I got something for my money.

The guy next to me is drinking beer. Hmmmm. Not sure what he paid for his, but maybe I'll order me a $314 brew. The math here is fun.

Look how far I've come. Just an hour ago I had $400 dollars and no Corona.

Now I will have $86 and a Corona.

The real irony here is that I could have just gone upstairs to TAO, ordered the same drink and had the same bill.

10:51 PM. I'm up to $146 after I hit jack high flush from blinds and somehow survive a 10 high flush in the hand. The cards could have just as easily been reversed and I'd be done for the night. But instead of being done, the price of the beer I'm sipping just dropped down to $254.

11:09 PM. 129. I'm playing poker tonight like my NY Knicks play basketball. Enough said.

11:16 PM. The Venetian recently opened up a secondary hotel next door called the Palazzo and there are a few Palazzo chips mixed into our Venetian stacks. These Palazzo chips are so new and so clean I can actually lick them. Putting a Venetian chip into my mouth would be gross, but a Palazzo chip is still considered good hygiene.

11:25 PM. Minus 10 with 7's.

11:27 PM. Minus 10 with suited crap. Down to 112.

11:30 PM. Picked up ace queen but nothing good happened after that.

11:38 PM. Here's a strange one for you. I limp under the gun with ace king suited. I'm kind of hoping someone raises and then we can race for the rest of my chips. However a few players just call and I miss the flop. A dude mini bets 5. I really want to fold but I can't get myself to release my cards for 5 bucks. So I call.

I manage to hit a second card of my suit on turn. Now I'm feeling much better with overcards, a gutshot straight draw, and best of all: the nut flush draw. He bets out $10. A raise by me here is common in most countries, but I decide to tell the guy that I'm on a draw and just call. This comment by me might have led to his folding when a king comes on the river. I've miss my flush draw but I do have top pair. The king also made a straight possible. Just not with my cards.

At this point I lead out for the rest of my chips. What makes this decision easy is I only have 50 something left. I don't expect to get a better hand to fold, but since I'm probably going to call a bet here, I decide to bet first. This way it doesn't get checked down behind me by someone with 1 pair.

The gentleman who had mini bet the flop and turn folds. The same gentleman who I told I was on a draw. But then strangely enough, the third player in the hand calls me but then mucks when I show my top pair.

What did he call with? I guess middle pair.

After the hand, the guy who mini bet the flop and turns to me and says "real nice bet."

I ask "you could beat my ace king there?"

He says yes. Had two pair.


I guess that was a nice bet.

Who knew?

And of course if the guy with two pair calls, it's a terrible bet.

That's poker.

11:42 PM. So much for a rush. I get myself into trouble the next two hands.

First I lose 30 bucks with top pair to another gutshot straight. Then I lose 16 bucks raising preflop with ace queen. On this second hand I immediately shut down on a real scary connected and flushed flop. Yet this lack of a continuation bet from yours truly suddenly looked good on this particular hand when one of the players chose to show his flopped set.

11:58 PM. Down to 97.

12:15 AM. Down to 74. Yep yep yep. My beer costs 326 dollars at the moment but if I order another one I can drop the bulk price down to a much more reasonable $163 per bottle.

12:27 AM. This is how hard poker is:

After a few players limp in an aggressive player raises to 15 in position. I look down at pocket kings in the blinds and throw my remaining 74 dollars out into the middle. All the limpers fold. But not the aggressive player. He calls the $59 more.

With 10,6 off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And so what happens on the flop?

He hits a 10 and a 6.

Of course he does!

Luckily for my blood pressure we haven't turned over our cards. So I don't know he has 10,6 yet. And here I actually thought it was a good looking flop. Seeing an ace out there would have made me way more nervous.

Yet what ends up happening is the universe throws me a bone and goes runner runner flush. There are 4 spades on the board and one of my kings just happens to be a spade. I survive the hand and double up to 150.

Nothing is easy. But at least the night continues. And now I can choose to keep playing better. I don't have to play poorly. I can make my money back. I can lower the price of beer.

What I'd like to ask myself is why didn't I start out the evening playing like this?

I think the answer might be that I wanted easy money. I wanted to get lucky and hit flops. I wasn't completely focused on playing correctly. On playing my game.

12:32 AM. Minus 15 with ace suited from cutoff.

12:55 AM. 126 and folding.

1:11 AM. I fold my jack 8 from the small blind after a raise to 11 and feel sorry for myself because I wanna gamble. But now that I'm focused on playing perfect poker, I know I can do much better for myself than calling a raise out of position with moderate holdings.

1:29 AM. My comeback kicks into gear. An ace was exposed so I decide not to flinch when my opponent bets out on an ace queen 5 flop. I'm holding king queen. I feel even better when another ace comes on the turn. The board pairs 5's as well on the river and I end up taking the pot from someone with queen jack. I may not have stuck in there without seeing that first ace out of the deck. This hand puts me up to 176.

1:52: AM. I flop the nut flush with ace 8. Aggressive guy bets, two of us call. Aggressive guy bets another 50 on turn. I was going to just call but out of the corner of my eye I see the guy who has to act behind me counting out 50 dollars to call too. If he was going to fold, I don't mind calling and playing the river heads up in position against the aggressive player. And if I thought he was going to push then I'd have just called as well. But with this gentleman planning to smooth call behind me, I don't want to give two players the chance to fill up on the river. I will only have 100 bucks left if I call the 50. So I push out my remaining 150.

It's also a little bit of reverse thinking. A sophisticated player might not put me on the nut flush here because the nut flush doesn't need to push. If I do have a flush, it's far more likely it's something like small suited connectors and I don't want to give a big diamond the chance to draw out on me.

Best of all, by pushing in my remaining 100 now, I don't have to get confused about what to do if the board pairs on the river.

So raising to 150 right now works fine for me.

The guy who was going to call the 50 behind me still calls my all in. (He has less chips than me). The guy who bet the original 50 thinks for a bit but then mucks his cards. Says he had two pair. If this was true then my bet did exactly what I wanted it to. Charge him to see more cards. Of course after the hand he questioned why in the world I would ever raise with the nuts.

He was implying that perhaps I cost myself the 100 bucks by not letting him hang around on the river. Yet if I don't raise here and he fills up his boat on the river, the mental damage of that will be far greater to me than my winning or losing 100 bucks.

And of course the flip side here is that if he's going to fold on the turn when he can still improve by filling up his boat, why would he then call my $100 on the river when his hand HASN'T improved?

I think the short answer is he wouldn't have called me on the river.

Which for me was another good reason to raise on the turn. I really don't think he takes another shot at the pot on the river after two players in the hand have smooth called the turn behind him on a flushed out board.

After the hand when he saw my cards he asked me why I bet the turn with the nuts.

I think I gave this guy the best answer I've given anyone at a poker table who has asked my about my play in the past year.

I just shrugged my shoulders.

I really gotta do that more often.

Just shrug my shoulders when players ask me why I do stuff.

It's so much easier than speaking.

And it ends the conversation real quickly.

2:04 AM. I win with ace jack on a jack high board to get up to 457. It feels crazy to be up 57 bucks after the first couple of hours. Imagine if I didn't lose that 300 first. I might have actually made some money tonight.

2:18 AM. Bathroom break. Working on my second beer. The more I drink, the tighter I play. I'm up 30 bucks on the night which is just another way of saying that I get paid 15 dollars for each beer I drink.

2:28 AM. I limp with aces from early position and it all goes wrong when no one raises. However there were two players at the table raising enough pots to take a chance on them doing it again here. Plus I was out of position.

As for the rest of the hand, I called a 10 dollar bet on both the flop and turn, but folded to a $45 bet on the river. By this point there was a 4 card straight out there. If you read me regularly you know I can handle losing 22 dollars with aces. Many times that's like making money.

2:42 AM. I bluff a gentleman out of the hand with my 9 high by betting 45 on the river. He had raised me preflop and bet the flop, but then quit on the hand. He looks across the table at me and says he has a small pair but just can't call me here with 3 face cards on the board. I sit silently. Then he says "I thought this was a friendly game." I pipe in and say "Hey you were the one who raised preflop! I wanted to see a flop for 2 dollars. Like a human being. But you had to go and raise." He smiles at me and mucks his cards.

2:44 AM. The same gentleman gets me back winning the pot on a 2,2,7,5,2 board. I had pocket 6's. He had ace,7. We both checked the turn and river after he called my flop over bet of 20 into a 15 pot. This hand shows that an overbet with trips on the flop is not necessarily a horrible play.

2:53 AM. I make a poor read and fold the best hand to a guy on tilt. He raised preflop to 10. Guy to my right called from cutoff. I called on the button with pocket 7's. Flop came jack high and he bet out 30. He had around 75 total. He hadn't raised any hands preflop so it was reasonable to think he had a pocket pair bigger than 7's. And of course he could have hit the jack as well. So I convinced myself this was a good fold. And then he showed me his king 3 suited.

Then again, for all I know he hits a king on the turn or river and I lose the hand anyway. I point this out only because I never consider this a possibility whenever I beat up myself for getting bluffed.

I never consider the fact that I will still lose this hand 15% of the time. Even when I'm right and call down a king high on the flop.

2:58 AM. Our table breaks. I've dropped down to 344 yet I'm grateful to leave the Venetian tonight with only a 56 dollar loss.

Turns out my beers were only 28 bucks a piece.

Well, plus tip.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Playing The Player

No limit at the Wynn. New guy sits down. Decked out in Pokerstars gear.

Wow I enjoy that look. Like regardless of whether he's wearing it to be funny, or he really means it, either way it's my kind of humor. Thank you sir.

He's a modelish looking European dude. He puts on his sunglasses and immediately starts raising. This gentleman took down some pots at first but if someone's raising over 25% of the hands, I've gotta party with them.

The other notable thing about this guy was his exhibiting "table-captain-know-it-all" behavior. For example, a new player sits down and posts his blind before his chips arrive. This new player folds preflop to a raise and at the end of the hand our dealer politely informs our villain that he will be owed 5 dollars from this new player who still doesn't have any chips yet.

What I want to hear our villain say is "Gotcha" or "Okay" or "Thank you."

What I actually heard our villain say was a defensive "I know."

You know?

Hey the dealer wasn't being smart. The dealer wasn't teaching you anything. He was just being polite. Doing his job. Keeping the game right.

"I know."

Stu Ungar used to say how he needed to find things to hate about his opponents. That this hatred made it easier for him to take their money. Maybe that's what was going on for me here because for some reason his "I know" just struck the wrong chord with me.

I soon find myself in a 4 way hand with him. I'm to his left. As usual he raised preflop so when he fires out the continuation bet, I don't necessarily fear him.

I decide to reraise his bet 3x. He postures. He stares. He poses. He folds.

He tells me I had a set. I must be that strong. What else could I be holding that I'd have the nerve to raise him?

I go the other way with it and tell him the truth. "I had a pair."

We get into another pot together. This time with a 3rd player who has raised preflop from the button. Me and the Pokerstars guy both call.

The flop misses us both and we check to the preflop raiser. I'm ready to fold but the raiser checks.

Turn hits me. We check to the raiser again. I'm giving him another chance to bet. He doesn't and checks again.

After a harmless looking river card arrives I finally bet. Not much. 15 or 20 bucks. I can't remember. I really didn't think I'd get called.

Preflop raiser folds. We're back to the Pokerstars guy. He thinks for a minute. And I'm thinking along with him. What I think he's thinking is that I have something mild. Something like a pair. And he's thinking that I will lay it down if he bets big enough. And he might be right. But he needs to bet before I can answer that part.

He finally says "raise" and shoves out an incomplete stack. Dealer counts it out for me. 70 dollars.


I'm probably calling. I think he's stealing from me.

On the other hand, being able to fold in a spot like this is how I survive in Vegas.

But then he clinches it for me. He opens his mouth.

"You are priced in" he tells me.


"Yeah you're probably right" I say and toss 70 bucks out there.

Against most players I fold. Against him I call.

He mucks and I win the pot without showing my cards.

But this was only the middle act. The headliner was a few hands later.

The same Pokerstars dude is involved again when his Pokerstars wife comes over. She is standing behind Pokerstars and telling him softly about how she just got felted at the neighboring table. She says she lost 400 bucks when her aces got cracked by a set.

At the exact same time as she's telling this story, a guy at our table who hasn't played a hand in over an hour has raised preflop and then bets again when an ace comes on the flop. It's fair to put him on ace king.

But Pokerstars doesn't fold. He calls this tight player's flop bet. While his wife continues to explain her bad beat story.

The three of them repeat the scene on the turn. The tight player bets. Pokerstars calls. Wife continues to share how she got unlucky.

After dealer turns over the river, Pokerstars acts first and pushes the rest of his chips all in. He has a couple of hundred left. Tight player doesn't know what to do.

Inside of my head I'm shouting "Please call!" It's not that I want to see Pokerstars lose. No. I won't profit from that and if anything, his losing his chips will mean that I won't be able to win them from him later.

However I do want to see the call just to confirm that I was right. Because what looks REALLY OBVIOUS to me at this moment is that Pokerstars is on some serious tilt.

Understandably the tight player doesn't want to call off the big bet with only top pair here. And under normal circumstances I wouldn't blame him. But not here. Not now. Not with this guy's wife standing behind him.

Eventually the tight player reluctantly calls.

Pokerstars immediately mucks his cards, gets up and leaves the table with his significant other.

If I were playing against Pokerstars on the internet, I'd have no idea that he was wearing sunglasses.

I'd have no idea he had on his Pokerstars outfit.

I'd have no idea that his wife was standing directly behind him, putting him on further tilt with each passing word.

All of these are huge advantages to playing poker live.

Although I should be fair and acknowledge that if I were playing poker on the internet, I wouldn't have to shower or get dressed.

I could just spend all day in my underwear.

And occasionally put on my Full Tilt Poker jersey.

The same one that I'm too embarrassed to ever wear out in public.

Well, that is unless they were paying me.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Real Good Player

It's been getting pretty hot and heavy lately between me and the older Asian women. And by hot and heavy, I mean boy do they hate the way I play poker! The universe keeps putting me into situations against them. And it's becoming more and more entertaining.

These ladies are usually super friendly in the beginning. They act like they're just there to have fun and gamble. But as soon as I call down their bluff or hit my hand to crack their big pair, I witness their fury.

On this occasion, the hand that earned me the wrath of this woman, was my limping in on the button with 7,8 off after 4 others have limped into the pot in front of me.

It was that kind of table. No one folded preflop. So I wasn't about to let go of connected cards from the button. The small blind completed and this woman in the big blind raised it up 1 bet. As if that does anything except give chasers better odds post flop. Everyone called, of course.

Yep yep yep.

Cause that's how it works at limit poker. If the first one in raises then people might fold if they have to call 2 bets. But once a couple of people have limped in, you ain't going to get people to fold on the way back around. No way.

I even watched a guy in another hand smooth call 3 bets preflop when the action got to him and he hadn't committed any money to the pot yet! How many hands are really worth smooth calling 3 bets with? Not too many.

But I digress. My point was simply that once the 5 of us (+ small blind) call this woman preflop, we are all getting our money's worth AND it's also more likely that one of us (and NOT her) will win the pot.

So when I flop top pair I can't fold to her one small flop bet.

Even if I knew she had aces I gotta call on the flop. There's too much money in the middle.

I struck gold when the turn paired the board and gave me trip 7's.

She bet again. I gave away my hand and raised.

Now I've seen regulars at the Bellagio who get away from their overpair here all the time! No problem throwing it into the muck. I'm not that good yet. But when someone raises on the turn it usually means they have it. Usually.

(Which is also why it can occasionally be a good bluff raise.)

But in this case I had exactly what I was pretending to have.

She still called. She checks to me on the river. I bet. She calls again. I win with my trips. She angrily shows her pocket aces and begins the tirade.

"You're real good player" she tells me.

"Thank you" I say.

I love being so dumb at the table that I don't even get her sarcasm.

But she kept criticizing me. Kept saying "Real good player" over and over again.

So I obliged and went into my whole act for her. It's getting sort of stale.

I did my "I'm the beginner, you're the expert" stuff.

What I didn't say was that I was getting 13 to 1 when it got back to me preflop.

When she kept it up I finally asked her "How come you didn't believe me when I raised you on the turn?"

"You're real good player."

And of course I did nothing wrong. Unless you wanna pick on me for limping on my button with 7,8. But if I don't play my button at low level limit hold'em, I'm in danger of falling asleep at the table.

The real beauty came a few minutes later. I'm in there once again with a crap hand that I can't wait to win with and I flop top pair, this time with my 8. A harmless looking 5 comes on the turn. Opponent checks. I bet, and my opponent with jack 5 calls.

River is another 5. He leads out for a bet. I call and pay off his runner runner trip 5's.

And so what do I do?

I get real loud and tell him how terrible he is!

In my best professional wrestling voice I shout "How dare you play jack 5! How dare you!"

Then I switched over to my Bill Walton voice. "You are terrible sir! You are the worst ever."

Everyone laughed.

Even the Asian woman was smiling, although I think she was just mostly happy to see me lose a pot.

But I think my humor helped set up the rest of the session pretty well. Because everyone was able to go back to having a good time and gamble, and know that it was okay to play bad cards. That you weren't really going to get criticized for it.

This was important for me. I feel like a large part of my edge here is outplaying these people post flop. Most of them only have 1 move. They bet at the flop and then check it down. And if everyone is only going to play "top 10 hands" the game will be too tight.

I want people playing jack 5. Not folding it.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lil Variety

I've been going back and forth between limit and no limit poker this week and the change of pace has been real nice.

I'm a numbers guy so dare I say that limit actually feels soothing to play?

It's like getting paid to do math. And the players at limit make awful mistakes all the time, but since each particular hand only costs a few bets, no one really notices.

No limit definitely requires much more focus from me in terms of reading the players. I feel way more tired after no limit sessions. At limit poker I can occasionally tune out, play my own cards and it doesn't always matter. No limit is so much more about paying attention to my opponents.

And of course there is the stomach. One game requires a really strong stomach. One doesn't. The hand that illustrates the different feelings in my stomach at the two games is the old Ace Queen.

At a limit table, if someone raises me from under the gun I can play my ace queen from the blinds, and if I flop an ace it really isn't so terrible to pay off someone with ace king. My stomach can handle that.

At no limit an ace queen in the blinds scares me if someone has raised from under the gun. I might call. I might raise. But I also might fold. It just depends.

I hate the idea of flopping an ace at no limit and still not knowing if I'm ahead of pocket jacks or behind an ace king. I'd feel more comfortable calling with suited connectors or a small pair. Hands that become real clear where they stand mathematically post flop. Hands that are easier to digest.