Monday, July 24, 2017

Some Thoughts On The Main Event

For the first time in, like forever, I watched a whole lot of the WSOP main event this year.  Although one of the things that got me into poker was seeing some televised poker, I really haven't spent a lot of time watching the game on TV since I actually started playing myself.

I did watch some of the November 9 coverage last year, mostly because I was recovering from my triple by-pass and I didn't have a lot of other things I could do to keep me busy or entertained.  Even so, the time of the coverage meant I didn't see all that much of it, and missed the critical moments of the coverage, including the final hand (hey, I couldn't stay up forever, I needed my sleep). 

But this time I watched a lot, including the entire final table.  I kind of surprised myself with how much I watched.

I definitely feel the change in the way they covered it on TV had a lot to do with my watching so much. I really liked the fact that they had live coverage on ESPN or ESPN2 virtually every day.  So much better than the canned, tape delay shows of hands months after they took place.  It kept me interested in following the progress of the players.  I didn't subscribe to PokerGo, but watching a few hours of the main event every day kept me interested and enhanced the stories I was following online.

When the final table started Thursday night, I was familiar with all the players and the big story lines.  And thus watched every bit of it.

So first off, congratulations to all the final 9 and of course most of all to Scott Blumstein for an incredible main event run.  He is a worthy champion and bracelet winner.

Blumstein played great of course. To my non-expert eye, however, I think the best player at the final table, and certainly of the final three, was Benjamin Pollak, but what do I know?  He just couldn't get the cards to cooperate.

And runner up Dan Ott picked a terrible time to become totally card dead, didn't he?  Once it was heads up, Blumstein seemed to get the better cards time after time after time.

I will say I think Ott made one of the worst plays at the final table, when he shoved with King-9 after Pollak's shove.  As  soon as I saw his hand after Pollak's all-in, I thought to myself, "No way he's calling, he has to fold."  Of course, he did indeed shove.  All the commentators agreed that it was a bad play on Ott's part.  Lay it down there, hope Blumstein calls and knocks Pollak out, and get heads up without risking another chip.

But no, he shoved, Blumstein called both with Ace-Queen, and Ott managed to get to showdown with the best hand when a King hit the flop.  I tweeted this out at the time:  "Ott's all in there was terrible yet he was rewarded for it. #skillgame. #WSOPMainEvent."

Just my opinion of course.

And what can I say about the awesome John Hesp that hasn't already been said?  The 64-year-old Englishman was a delight to watch, and made for some real entertainment.   Everyone is saying he helped bring back fun to poker.  It was so refreshing to see someone just out there having a great time playing, wasn't it?  No doubt he was good for the game.  Hopefully the sheer joy he exhibited while playing will become contagious.

I had a couple of observations watching so many hands.  The first was that, for long stretches, I wondered why everyone at the table was playing like me!  And by that I mean nitty.  Seriously, I saw a whole lot of really, really tight play. They were folding hands that I would play!  I dunno if it was the pressure of such a big moment, or if my style of play is catching on.  I kind of think it is the former.

The other thing is that, well, everyone was card dead!  I mean I couldn't believe how many bad hands there were.  It just seemed like there were very few premium hands delivered to the players.  Take the first night.  We saw pocket Queens dealt three or four times in the first couple of hours (and every time to Hesp if memory serves), but I remember thinking that it took forever for someone to wake up with pocket Aces or pocket Kings (once each on the first night I'm guessing).  And I don't think anyone ever had pocket Jacks.

And once heads up play started, as Norman Chad pointed out, there were no pocket pairs to either player for almost the entire run of it. It was only the second to last hand that pocket 6's were the first pocket pair dealt. I don't recall a whole lot of Ace-Kings either.

It seems when I play a tournament, I'm seeing pocket pairs, and even premium pairs, shown by players all the time.  It struck me as odd.  Maybe it's because in a tournament I play in, I don't see all the cards and am maybe assuming they have big hands when they don't.

Whenever I do watch TV poker, I try to use it as a learning experience as much as possible.  I was happy that I correctly predicted what Antonio Esfandiari would say about a situation a lot of the time.  When I couldn't (or guessed wrong), I would listen carefully to his explanation and try to make a big mental note of it.

That said, I'm not sure how much I will be to incorporate into my game.  The issue is, he is basing his thinking on opponents playing at a certain level—a level high enough to run deep into the main event.  I'm not sure most of the players I face in the $125 tournaments I play are using the same thought process these players were.  When Antonio explains why a bet or a check means a player couldn't have X, I know in the games I play, there's at least a 50/50 chance the player could exactly have X.  Still, it was great to hear the thinking of a successful pro.

Oh, and what was with all the ridiculous slow play of some of the players, Damian Salas in particular?  I don't mind taking your time in a tough spot, but Salas seemed to be stalling, sitting there tanking on no-brainer plays.  I mean, if you have 7-2 and there's been a raise and a three-bet, couldn't you just fold instantly instead of taking 10 seconds to stare into space before the inevitable fold?  Seriously, that's bad for the game.

Anyway, this was definitely the most TV poker I've watched in a short period ever.  And I really enjoyed it, and maybe it brought my enthusiasm for poker back some.

Good show, WSOP and ESPN. 

Oh, and how about that deuce on the river?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Rude Maniac

On this particular Sunday night—the Sunday night of my first weekend in town—I found myself at the Mirage for some 1/2. There, I encountered one of the most annoying players I've played with in awhile.  I have to give this bastard a name, so I'm going to call him "Appendix," because, let's face it, he needs to be taken out.

He was annoying in so many ways.  Yes he played like a maniac, but there's so much more.  When I first got to the table he was away from it, and there were open seats.  For the first hour or two the game was constantly short-handed, and his numerous visits to the sports book didn't help.  He was gone at least for the first 20 minutes I was at the table.  Then he came back, posted his missed blinds, played two hands, won them both and took off again.  This time he was gone for at least half an hour.

All the time he was gone, I was upset that he was gone so long because of the table already being short-handed.  But once he returned and stayed awhile and played some hands, I began to long for the time when he was absent.

He was super aggro, open raising to $20 or more an awful lot.  Sometimes he'd only open to $15, but never less.  Oh he did limp occasionally and even folded preflop once in a while.  But that wasn't the norm.  And of course, he'd three-bet a lot. 

He had a short stack when I got there, managed to have to rebuy and then started building it up.  You know how it is—some maniac starts raising with and playing garbage hands and gets on a heater and starts hitting everything in sight.  Well that was Appendix this night.  He also won some pots on pure aggression, although once we saw how often he was playing bad cards he got called down a lot.   But during this stretch, he always seemed to catch the card he'd need to win the pot on the river.  You know how it is, he'd shove with bottom pair playing something like 9-4, get called, be way behind to the caller and then catch his second pair on the river when he needed it.

He managed to get his stack to over $1,100 at one point.

He was sitting next to me, but at least he was on my right.  A bunch of players who were originally stuck on his right asked to move to the other side of the table whenever they could.

But he was making the game difficult.  Oh sure, having a guy like that, creating a lot of action can be profitable, especially if you catch a hand and he pays you off in a big pot.  But I was extremely card dead all night.  There was no making a move against this character.  You had to have a hand and then value bet the hell out of it (or, even easier, call all his big bets).  And it was very costly to play any speculative hands as long as he entered a pot.  And if you had a decent but not nutish hand, he always seemed to catch the second card he needed to win when called.

Actually the game wasn't that good anyway.  His big bets were inhibiting a lot of the action from the other players.

In addition to being a maniac, he was very rude too.  For one thing, he was one of those guys—and I seemed to constantly run into them this trip—who liked to sit sideways, taking up my space at the table, kind of locking me into my seat, getting his shoes on me or rubbing his leg up against me.  Why does that last thing never happen when a hot girl is sitting next to me? Why can't people keep their legs and feet under the table, in front of their own chair?  Or he'd put his feet on the bottom ring of my chair, which annoys me (I don't like people using my chair to rest any part of their body—again, there would be the "hot girl" exception to that).

Also, he was an obnoxious winner.  When he won a hand, either at showdown or when his bet wasn't called, he tended to shout "Ship it!" or, "I got you, I got you!" as if he was rubbing it in.  One time on the flop, he re-raised all-in against a guy who then went into the tank and finally folded.  Appendix had three-bet preflop on this hand.  The other guy must have folded a pretty good hand, so after he folded, Appendix showed his cards—3-2 offsuit, which hadn't connected with the board in any way whatsoever.  And so he said, "Well, I did have the best hand preflop."  The other guy was not amused.

I would have asked for a table change but I knew it wouldn't fly because our table was always short-handed.  Finally when the table did fill up and there was actually a wait list, I was about to go up and ask for a table change when the clown asked to borrow my phone charger.  I should have told him where to go, and in fact I did say to him, "Well, I'm about ready to leave the game," but he said he just wanted to try it because his didn't work.  So I lent him my charger and delayed my exit from the game.  It turned out my charger didn't work either—he said it didn't fit his phone (although I had already noticed he had the exact same phone as mine).  He finally borrowed one from the podium and then finally figured out that the USB port in front of his seat was not working.  So he asked if he could try my USB connector and he ended up using that one.  So I not only had to deal with his legs and feet getting in my way but his phone charger cord too.

Also, his buddy was at another table and they were talking and he was bragging to his buddy that he had all these chips....and he was threatening his buddy that he was gonna move to his table and take all his chips.  So I held out hope that maybe he'd move so I wouldn't have to.

But then, he got into a hand with a fairly new player at the table.  The new player bet, and Appendix shoved.  The new guy tanked for quite a while and finally called.  I think this was on the river.  The new player showed his hand—two pair.  And Appendix mucked without showing, claiming he had a pair of 6's and saying he was sure the guy would think he "had it" and would fold.  The new player only had around $150 and Appendix started the hand with over $1,100 so it wasn't a very big hit. It was the first sizable pot I'd seen him lose and he didn't seem upset.  Nevertheless, as soon as the hand was over, he went up to the front and grabbed a couple of racks, took them back to his seat, and started racking up.  He played no more hands.

One of the players who'd been there a long time said, "Oh, you can't take it, huh?"  Appendix said, "No, it's just that I gotta go to a Strip Club with my buddy."  As he was about to leave, he had to get the phone charger out of the USB port I was sitting behind.  Without any warning, he reached in front of my gut and pulled the charger out, and brushed his hand against my stomach.  He didn't hurt me, but it was such a final act of rudeness not to say excuse me first—I could have easily slid back so wouldn't have had to have touched me. Anyway, he was gone.  No one was really sorry to see him take his big stack and leave with it.  Instead, there was a audible sigh of relief from almost everyone at the table.  He was just that much of an asshole.

After he was gone, the dealer said, "He's in here every day, pissing people off.  He raises with 6-deuce, whatever and rubs it in when he wins." 

Earlier, I was amused when one of the players at the table answered his phone (while in the middle of a hand), saying "Joe's Bail Bonds."  I thought, now that is just so Vegas, isn't it?  And for 15 minutes he had a conversation with an associate about some new client who needed to post bail for a domestic violence change (the client was female, for what it's worth).  Joe was mostly concerned about whether or not his potential new client had enough collateral.

There was only one hand of note for me, it took place after Appendix took himself out.  The game had gotten pretty nitty at this point and I was down to about $100 or so.  In late position I limped in with pocket 9's.   Six of us saw a flop of Queen-5-3, two diamonds.  A guy led out for $5 and everyone called.  So, for $5, I decided to call too.  It was a long shot, but it was cheap to see one more card.

Good decision.  The turn card was a 9 of clubs, putting a second club out there.  The guy who bet the $5 checked, but another guy bet $20. I remembered watching this guy call the flop.  He was playing with his chips and I really thought he was about to raise.  Had he done that, I wouldn't have called.  But it seemed like at the last minute he decided to just call.

I wanted to raise, but I didn't have as much money to raise as much as I wanted to and I thought a shove there was unlikely to get a call.  So I bet $50, which left with me ~$50 behind.  He tanked forever and finally said, "OK," and called.

The river was a third diamond.  He checked.  I decided to play it safe and not bet.  I honestly didn't think he'd call me unless he had caught a flush.  So he turned over Queen-3 and was really surprised to see my set.  "I was gonna raise the flop but decided to slow play it, the game was so tight.  I shoulda bet."  Yes, he should have.  Glad he didn't.

I managed to break even for the session after four hours.  When I left, I was on my way to the parking garage when I noticed these boobs walking perpendicular to me.  Well, they were actually attached to a blonde woman.  She was nice looking, wearing a summery dress that was fairly conservative except for the fact that it was wide open on top and her jumbo after-market ta-ta's were practically falling out of it.  I didn't immediately suspect working girl because the dress didn't seem sexy enough (if you ignore the cleavage).  It was neither short nor tight—just extremely low-cut, the kind a lot of ladies visiting Vegas might wear.  Thus, at first glance, she just didn't seem like a hooker to me.

But she stopped in front of me and said "Hi."  Random blondes with big tits don't just say "hi" to me unless they want to sell me something.  I said "hi" back as I tried to keep walking but I guess she didn't hear me. "You can say 'hi.'"  So I said hi again, this time louder.  By now she was thinking she had my interest but after that, I moved fast and just kept walking.  I dunno why I was so anxious to get away from her.  I think maybe if I chatted with her bit I could have possible gotten a better hooker story than I did.  Oh well.

And that was that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Day at the Movies

This post will have nothing to do with Vegas or poker.  And you know what?  After the way I felt upon returning from Vegas last week (see here,  if you've forgotten), I very well may start doing more and more off-topic posts,  We'll just have to see if the burning desire to talk about poker and Vegas returns.

In the meantime, I'm gonna tell you what I did on Saturday, my first weekend back home after my return from Vegas.  One thing I didn't do was play poker.  Really had no great desire to do that after spending over a month in Vegas playing a whole lot of it.  So in the afternoon I went to the movies and saw the newest Spider-Man movie, which is called "Spider-Man: Homecoming."

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I don't think it was quite as good as the first Tobey Maguire Spidey (the one co-starring the fetching Kirsten Dunst), but it was probably the second best Spider-Man movie to date.  Now, that first Tobey Maguire film just shocked the hell out of me—for years they had been making disappointing if not outright awful super-hero/comic book movies.  That first one was not only a great comic book movie, it was a great movie, period.

Comic book movies have been better lately—or at least they haven't been as consistently awful as they had been for the longest time.  Certainly the first Avengers movie was terrific, and of course The Dark Knight was a classic (but so different in tone from the Marvel movies that it's hard to compare them). And I can report that while I was in Vegas I saw the new Wonder Woman movie and really enjoyed that as well. 

This new film sets Spidey up to be part of The Avengers now that the movie rights to all the Marvel characters have been straightened out.  No Spidey origin tale was spun, although it was briefly mentioned that Peter Parker had been bitten by a spider—but surely anyone seeing the movie already knew that.  And a lot of familiar Spider-Man characters are either missing or very different (no way was Aunt May as hot as Marisa Tomei in the comics!).  But the portrayal of Peter in high school kid struggling to be accepted is perhaps the closest to the original comics yet (at least, as I remember them).

Michael Keaton as the villain, The Vulture, does a fine job.  Although everyone is pointing out that Keaton went from playing "Birdman" to the Vulture, I am more amused that he long ago played Batman in two movies—you know, including the one where Jack Nicholson played The Joker.  So Keaton went from playing one of DC's most iconic super-heroes to playing a villain to Marvel's most iconic character.  That's show biz.

I thought it was a fun ride, and hopefully they can keep that going in future films with this version of Spidey. 

Actually, the main reason I am even discussing the movie is to ask this burning question:  Doesn't everybody know to stick around through the credits of every Marvel movie by now?  Hasn't the word gotten out?  I'm talking about the "kickers" that virtually every Marvel movie has in the closing credits.  You know this right?  So why did 99.5% of the audience at the theater I was at get up in unison and exit the theater as soon as the first credit appeared on the screen at movie's end?  I can't believe they don't know.

Spoiler warning:  There's actually two kickers.  The first one presents what seems to be an important piece of information that I assume will have major significance in a future Spider-Man movie.  And everyone at my theater missed it.  The second kicker, at the very end, was just a funny gag—but certainly worth hanging around for.

I don't get it.

Anyway, so much for Spider-Man.  Later that evening I was checking thru my DVR and was reminded that while in Vegas I had recorded something off ESPN that I wanted to watch—it was a 30 for 30 documentary on the Lakers/Celtics rivalry.  Actually I only recorded one part but fortunately the whole thing was available On Demand.

It was called Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies.  I guess it debuted during the NBA finals last month.

When I started watching it, I thought it was only two parts and intended to watch just the first part.  I was riveted (even though I knew exactly how all the games ended).  I just couldn't turn it off.  And when part 2—which all along I was thinking was the last part—ended with the humiliating 1984 NBA finals (the one that the Lakers gave away in 7 when they should have swept), I nearly screamed.  That was the most painful memory I have as a sports fan.  They couldn't end it there, could they?

Well they didn't.  I finally noticed that there was a third part, and so, even though it was well after 1AM, I started watching the final part and didn't stop until the whole thing was complete.  I got to bed at 3AM—later than I had been getting to sleep while I was in Vegas.  But the third part was the best part because of course the Lakers finally got their revenge on the Celts.

I highly recommend this documentary.  Of course, as  I longtime diehard Lakers fan, I am exactly the demographic they are going after (same thing for diehard Celtics fan—assuming such vile creatures exist).  But I think most neutral basketball fans would find it highly entertaining and informative.  Even non-basketball fans would probably enjoy it. 

It is really well done.  And it is it totally neutral in its approach, it's 50/50, half Lakers, half Celtics.  Of course many players from the 80's gave them in-depth interviews—Magic, Bird, McHale, Worthy, and many others.  Prominent sports writers who covered the teams chime in.  The film is co-narrated to give two different points of view.  Ice Cube narrates from the Lakers fans' point of view, and Donnie Wahlberg gives the Celtics fans side.

It goes beyond basketball, talking about how race played a part of the rivalry. The claim is made that all white people—if they weren't otherwise committed to one team or the other—rooted for the white team (the Celtics).  And similarly, all black people outside of Boston were pulling for the Lakers—the black team.  I'm not sure how true that was but it sure was interesting to think about.

One thing that it made clear—Magic and Bird together, coming into the league at the same time, each going to one of the two marquee franchises in the sport—quite literally saved the NBA.  How many of you remember that in the early 1980's, NBA playoff games were not shown live—they were on tape delay, shown after the 11PM news because they couldn't get ratings.
Magic and Bird, the Lakers and the Celtics, turned that around, and then set the table for Michael Jordan a few years later.

Anyway, it is extremely well done and worth watching, even if you don't care about either the Lakers or the Celtics.

Worth staying up to 3AM for, in my case.