Thursday, February 15, 2018

Easy Game

I went out to Ventura a couple of Saturdays ago to play some poker for my first session since getting back from Vegas. I was playing 1/2 with a $50 minimum buy-in and a $100 max.

The highlight was a questionable move on my part which somehow paid off. I was down to $69 when I limped in with Ace-5 of clubs. The guy behind me made it $10 and there was a call, so I called. I recognized the player who raised. He's a regular and very aggressive.  I knew he usually plays bigger games. I was pretty sure he was waiting for a seat to open at the 3/5 game. I figured if I caught something he would pay me off.  I also had the other player involved to give me better odds. It seem like a worthwhile risk.

I didn't write down the specific cards, but I flopped the flush draw. I checked and the initial raiser bet $30.  The other player folded. With only $59 left, I really didn't have enough money to get paid properly if I called and hit my flush. But it was close and I felt pretty sure that I’d get a double up if I hit my flush. And it's hard to double up in this game. So I leaned towards staying in the hand.

Once that was decided, it was only a matter of whether I should call or just shove. If another club came on the turn, I really figured that this guy was likely to pay me off, but I understood that there was a chance the third club would scare him. On the other hand, I didn't really think I had much fold equity. From what I knew about this guy, there was almost no way he would fold if I shoved. I guess maybe if he had made a continuation bet with total air, then maybe he would fold. But otherwise he was going to call, and then I get my double up if I actually hit my flush.

Since I was pretty much committed to risking everything on the flush draw, I decided to go ahead and go all-in. Of course he wasted little time in calling me.

Well the board bricked out, and I was left with nothing but Ace-high. Neither one of us was eager to show our hands, but I finally did. I said “I just have Ace-high.”  To my surprise, he stared at my hand for a few seconds, and then said “You're good.” But he kept staring at my hand, and finally said, “Oh, you bluffed, huh?”

I didn't respond. I guess he’d never seen a semi-bluff before. Whatever, I was certainly delighted to win the hand and get a double up with Ace-high. He later said he had King-Jack and missed his straight.

Easy game.

I couldn't stay in the black for the rest of the session. I was down a little when I got pocket 8's. A lady with a big stack raise to $10, I called. Then the guy on my immediate left shoved his last $20. The lady called so I figured I would call too.  The flop was 9-high, the lady checked and I checked behind. The turn put a second 9 on the board.  This time the lady bet $14.  I didn't think the 9 helped her at all, and I thought she probably had an Ace-King type hand. Of course if I had folded there and that's what she had, she wouldn't get any money unless her AK could also beat the all-in’s hand. But she might have figured that the short stack’s hand was weaker than my hand. Anyway, I called.

The river was a blank and this time she checked. I checked behind and sure enough she showed Ace-King. So I took the side pot but the shortstack showed pocket Aces.

With pocket Queens I made it $8 after one player limped in. Only the limper called. The flop was Jack-10-9, two  diamonds. I bet $15 and he called. The turn was the King of clubs and I bet $20. He tanked for a while but then folded.

I called $6 with pocket 5’s and it was four ways. The flop was 8-7-5 with two clubs. The preflop raiser shoved his last $19. I called and it was heads up. The turn was the third club, but the river was an 8, filling me up. He didn't show.

I was able to leave with a small profit and call it a day.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Bride Shot Craps (Revisited)

With Valentine's Day approaching, I thought I'd reprint this post from a few years back that really dates back something like 30 years.  Enjoy!

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Seeing and hearing all the commercials for Valentine’s Day coming up, I was reminded that quite a few times the past few years I’ve found myself in Vegas for Valentine’s Day.  This has been more do to coincidence than any specific reason.  This year I will not be there on V-Day.
One observation I made while there on this day is that you see an awful lot of couples who pick this day to get married.  At least in Vegas.  Now, it is not unusual to see a bride, a groom, bridesmaids and allegedly best men walking through a Vegas casino any evening, particular on a weekend night, but you just see a whole lot more of this on Valentine’s Day.  I would say on average I’ve seen at least half a dozen brides traipsing thru casinos every V-Day I’ve been there.
It’s actually a good deal for the guy.  It makes one less date he has to keep track of.  He might forget his anniversary.  He might forget Valentine’s Day.  But forgetting both?  Much less likely.
Thinking about brides walking through casinos reminds me of a story that is probably now almost 30 years old.  Yeah, I’ve been going to Vegas that long.  It was so long ago that the first time I saw a bride in a wedding dress walking through the casino, I did a double take.  Eventually, I got a bit used to it, but then one night I saw something that really caught my eye.
This night, I saw a lovely young couple at what appeared to be a hot craps table.  The young woman was throwing the dice, and there was a lot of screaming and cheering going on.  Apparently the young woman was having a nice roll.
She was dressed rather unusually for shooting craps.  She was wearing a tight, very low cut, strapless white wedding dress (including train).  Next to her was a good looking young man in a very nice tuxedo, with the bow tie undone, hanging from his neck.  It was pretty obvious that within the past hour or so these two had said their “I do’s” to each other. 
And now they were at the craps table?  Clearly a quintessential “Only in Vegas” story.  I stopped and watched, and if I had a camera and it wasn’t forbidden to take pictures in a casino, I definitely would have snapped a photo.  The scene really tickled me.
I watched a few roles.  The bride was quite the looker and the dress was designed to show off her considerable assets.  When I heard the stickman shout, "They're coming out!" I wrenched my neck to get a better look--but he was talking about the dice, dammit. 

I was thinking what an unusual way to spend a wedding night!  And it certainly occurred to me that, well, I truly wondered if this was the best use of their time.  This was long before I started playing poker, and I played craps a lot and enjoyed it.  I enjoyed shooting craps as much as the next guy.
Still, looking at the bride in her tight, sexy wedding dress, I had to wonder what was wrong with the groom.  He had just been given a license by the state of Nevada to, ahem, consummate his relationship with this lovely young bride.  Indeed, he was legally obligated to do it.  I’m pretty sure pretty much every man in the vicinity—myself included—could think of a better way for a man in his shoes to spend this evening than gambling.  And remember, right there on the craps table, there is that big space that has the word “come” right on it, in case he needed a hint.
The stickman had the same thought, apparently.  While withholding the dice from the bride as the dealers were paying off bets, he turned to the couple and said, “Considering the way you’re dressed, isn’t there something else you two should be doing right now?”
I think he was actually speaking to the guy but the bride answered (get used to it, fella).  She laughed and said, “We’ve been living together for three years.  Believe me, it’s no big deal.”

Monday, February 5, 2018

Vegas Poker Scene - February 2018 Ante Up Column

Here's my newest column for Ante Up The link for it on the Ante Up website is here.   Remember, my contribution is embedded in the entire West Coast report.  So below is just my Vegas report.  The magazine should be in your local poker room by now. 

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SOUTH POINT: There’s a $50K guarantee for $250 with two starting flights, Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, with Day 2 on Feb. 3. Players get 10K chips and play 30-minute levels. You can enter both starting flights and if you qualify for Day 2 in both flights, you’ll receive a bonus payout. If 10 players or fewer qualify twice, they’ll each get $1K. If 11 or more players qualify twice, they’ll split $10K.
Qualifying for the Spring freeroll begins Feb. 1 and runs through April 30. Players need 120 hours over the three months to qualify and are eligible for bonus payouts for additional hours played. More than $190K in prize money will be awarded.
VENETIAN: This month, the room offers a loyalty-rewards promotion. In addition to the standard $1 per hour in comps for live play, players will earn additional comps for a minimum of 25 hours of play during the period, starting at 50 cents for 25 hours, with an additional 50 cents for every increment of 25 hours up to 250 hours. For 250 hours of live play or more during the month, the extra reward is $3 per hour.
BOULDER STATION: Bill Levy is the new manager. He’s been with Stations for five years and at Boulder for more than three years, recently as a day-shift supervisor.
The most popular game here is the $4-$8 Omaha high with a half-kill. The minimum buy-in is $40 and the action is wild. Always running is a $2-$4 limit game with a $20 mini.mum buy-in. A $1-$2 NLHE game with a $50-$300 min-max runs during busier periods.
Levy is intent on offering exciting promotions. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays, the hold’em games award $500 for flopping quads. Wednesdays and Thursdays award $25 or $50 for Aces Cracked. Four Flush Fridays offer $100 for making a flush in each suit. Sundays offer $200 for the high hand of the
shift three times a day.
The Omaha promos are varied, too. On Mondays, the highest hand wins $500. Progressive payouts for Steel Wheels are offered on Wednesday. High hand of the shift is worth $200 on Thursdays. On Sunday, the highest hand is worth $500. There’s also an Omaha bad-beat jackpot and payouts for royals ($100-$300).
There also have been having drawings during Vegas Golden Knights games, giving away $100 to a random hold’em player and a random Omaha player after the Knights score.
RIO: The World Series of Poker Circuit visits Feb. 16-27. The $1,675 main event has a $1M guarantee, with the first of its two starting flights Feb. 24. The opening event is a six-starting-flight $365 event with a $250K guarantee beginning Feb. 16. It has unlimited re-entry. A $2,200 high roller wraps up things Feb. 26.
ARIA: The U.S. Poker Open runs Feb. 1-9. This is a series of high rollers. In addition to two $10K and three $25K NLHE events, there’s a $10K PLO event Feb. 2 and a $25K Mixed Game Championship on Feb. 5. The $50K main event is a three-day event beginning Feb. 9. The player who wins the most money during the series will be named the U.S. Poker Open Champion and will receive the U.S. Poker Open Cup.
WYNN: The Wynn Classic runs Feb. 19-March 11. New this time is a $3,150 two-day NLHE event that starts Feb. 28. The $1,600 championship event has the first of three starting flights on March 1. It has a $1M guarantee. Most of the other tournaments have buy-ins of $400 or $550 with guarantees of be.tween $25K and $250K. A $400 PLO event with a $25K guarantee runs Feb. 20.
ORLEANS: A new eight-game mix tournament runs Wednesday nights at 7:05. Players start with 15K chips and play 20-minute levels to start, going to 30 minutes beginning with Level 5. The games are NLHE, PLO, deuce-to-seven triple draw, Omaha/8, limit hold’em, stud, stud/8 and razz. The games change every six hands. This is the only regularly scheduled tournament of its type in Vegas.
BELLAGIO: Ryan Tosoc of Chicago won the WPT Five Diamond Classic in December, taking home nearly $2M. Alex Foxen of New York took second for $1.1M and Michael Del Vecchio from Las Vegas grabbed $762K for third. The $10,400 event drew 800-plus players and had a prize pool close to $8M.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

"I Think That's a Tell"

The Saturday before Christmas I headed to Aria to play in the $240 Big Blind Ante tournament.  I documented my initial reaction to that tournament here.  By the way, the big blind ante format is catching on and will likely be coming to a poker room near you soon.  Wynn tried it out for their Signature Weekend just recently, and will be using it for most of the events at their Winter Classic next month.  The Venetian is trying it out in some of their DSE events coming up.  And here in L.A., Matt Savage has been trying it out in some of the events at the current L.A. Poker Classic.  I'm pretty sure it's here to stay.

One thing I don't like about $240 on the weekends at Aria is the starting time, 11AM is just too early for me.  I had to pack a lunch and eat it on the first break, which is a pain.  But after seeing how good the structure of the tournament is, I decided that I could get there closer to Noonish and still get more than enough play.  That way I could eat lunch before getting to the Aria, much better for my meds schedule

So for my return, I arrived fashionably late—around 11:50, so about half-way through the second level. And wouldn't you know it, they had just filled the 30th seat so I was the first alternate.  Having to wait once I got there was making me question my thinking that it would be ok to arrive late.  However, the TD assured me that once they got a few more alternates they'd open another table.  Sure enough, just a few minutes later they opened a fourth table, using the alternates and also taking a player or two from each existing table   I received my first hand with just 4 minutes gone in the third level so it wasn't so bad.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any success in the tourney.  I didn't last very long and there were not a lot of interesting hands to talk about.  I know that doesn't always stop me from talking about them anyway, but this time it will.

I just want to focus on one amusing situation that occurred when I was getting short stacked but still had enough chips to actually play with—I wasn't quite down to fold-or-shove territory but I was in a position where I had no choice but to take a little bit of risk to try to get my stack up to a respectable level.

So on the button I had Ace-6 off and it folded to me. The blinds for this level were 300/600 with a single ante of 400.  I decided it was a good spot to steal so I made it $1500.  Now the small blind was the big stack at the table.  But he hadn't been overly aggressive.  This time he started fumbling with his chips, but before he acted, the big blind, oblivious to the fact that the guy on his right hadn't acted, suddenly pushed out all his chips.  He was a short stack.  His bet was a few times my bet I guess but a fair amount less than I had. 

The dealer spoke up immediately, "No, no, no…he hasn't acted yet," pointing to the small blind.  Then to the small blind, she said, "You didn't see that."

But the small blind knew exactly what that meant.  "If I just call, his bet stands, right?"  I don't believe the dealer answered but it didn't matter.  The small blind said, "I call."

The big blind pushed all his chips back out.  I dunno if the thought occurred to him to try to not shove at that point.  I don't know if he realized how screwed he likely was. But he didn't ask the dealer if he had to go all-in.  He might have at least asked to see if he could get a friendly ruling. Maybe he figured his hand was good enough to shove with no matter what.  But I knew exactly what the small blind's comment meant.

The action was back on me and I said to the small blind, "I think that's a tell."  Everyone at the table laughed.  Now, the small blind probably shoved too many chips for me to have seriously considering calling if it was just heads up.  But the small blind's comment made it crystal clear that he wanted to raise my initial bet, but knowing the guy would be obligated to shove if he just called, just called.  So he had really caught a break with the guy betting out of turn.  There was no way I was messing with the big stack with a lousy Ace-6 knowing if I called the big stack would put me all in.  So after making my joke, I folded.

Of course the small blind called the big blind's shove and showed Ace-King.  The big blind showed Ace-9.  He didn't improve and he was gone.  I assume that if he had been paying attention and waited for the small blind to raise me, he would have folded.  Oh well, that's what you get for not paying attention, right?

I busted out a few hands later.  I had to shove with 8-7 of clubs when I had a chance to open the pot.  Unfortunately the big blind (a big stack) decided to call with pocket 6's.  I whiffed and was done.

One thing I want to mention about this big blind ante format is, you have to be aware of who is overly defending their big blind because they also post a big ante.  Here's what I mean.  It's pretty standard in a tournament to open a pot to ~2.5x the big blind, especially early in the tournament.  Sure you see all kinds of opens but that's more or less what the good players do unless they have good reason to change it up.  I think that's come down in recent years, it was probably 3X a few years back.

The big blind is typically the player who will most likely call a raise like that since he already has an investment in the pot.  So he has to decide if his hand is worth risking an additional 1.5 blinds to make the call.  But, with this format, instead of posting a relatively small ante, he or she actually had to post an ante that was pretty close to the size of the big blind.  With that extra investment, is that BB more likely to defend?  Really, they shouldn't be….they have to come up with the same amount of chips as in the old method to make the call.  But psychologically, will that bigger ante they posted make them more committed to the pot?

It will vary from player to player so you have to pay attention and see if it appears they are defending the big blind too often.

I do enjoy the big blind format, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it more once I cash in one in a tournament using it.