Sunday, April 22, 2018

Poker Season is Almost Here!

That's right boys and girls, poker season is just around the corner.  Soon it will be time for every poker player in the universe to descend on Las Vegas as that game of skill known as poker takes over Sin City.

I know this because I am currently working my fingers to the bone entering all the special summer series tournaments into the PokerAtlas database. And also because the last two columns I wrote for Ante Up consisted almost entirely of previews of all the summer series. Note: Forget about what you learned in school.  Every poker player knows that summer is from end of May to early July.

So since my days are consumed with all the poker series about to commence in Vegas shortly, I thought I'd take some time during my free time to share some thoughts with you.  Hopefully you've already seen part 1 of my summer preview (here).  The second part should be appearing in a couple of weeks, covering Planet Hollywood, Wynn, Binion's and Orleans.

So with all those tournaments to look at as I enter them in the system, I thought I'd talk a bit what events I'm thinking about playing.  Yes, after a long hiatus, I am planning to return to Vegas in June.  But with less enthusiasm than in the past.  As I've explained in multiple posts, I really don't like what they've done to Vegas.  They are doing their best to drive people like me away with skyrocketing room rates, ever increasing resort fees and parking fees and the virtual disappearance of quality (or even decent) low-cost food options.  It's getting to be too damn expensive to go to Vegas, and that's not even considering the possibility of a few bad sessions.  Even the increasing cost of gas makes it pricier for me.  You see, the incompetent morons who run California recently increased our gas taxes 12¢ a gallon.  True, once I get to Vegas I can buy cheaper gas….but it's a bit impractical to drive to Vegas just for a fill up.

Still, I'm not quite ready to completely write off Vegas, and if you're a poker player and you're ever going to go to Vegas, the poker season is when to go.  Even if you didn't ever play a tournament, the cash game action is insane this time of year.

And it sure feels like the poker season this year is the biggest ever—or at least since I've been working in the poker biz.  The WSOP has more bracelet events than ever, and I believe more side events too.  And then there's the Venetian.  Oh, the Venetian.  I hope you read my column just for the section on the Venetian summer series.  Getting that listed on PokerAtlas almost killed me.  They actually have 150 tournaments between mid-May and end of July.  And I had to enter every single one of them into the database.  I just finished on Thursday.  I don't want to say how long it took me but when I started they still had free parking on the Vegas strip. 

Seriously, I'm really looking forward to seeing the set up they have over there.  For most of the series, the events will be held not in the Venetian poker room, but in the Sands Convention Center.  I hear it is going to be a really nice venue, very roomy, a separate food court and who knows what else.  I'd make a point to check it out just to see it even if I wasn’t planning on playing any events.  But I think they have a tournament that has caught my eye and I will take a shot at.  It's the Nightstack, a $400 tourney with a bunch of flights spread out over June on various evenings starting at 6pm. I wrote a bit about it in my column.  It has a $1MM guarantee and each flight is in the money.  The top 10% get paid and the top 5% advance to day 2.  It's actually similar to WSOP's Giant tournament that they debuted last year.  The Nightstack has 30 minute levels all the way through, the Giant has 20-minute levels on day 1.  But the starting stack is bigger for the Giant (25K vs 15k).  Even though it doesn't have a guarantee, the Giant figures to have a lot bigger prize pool (last year's was over $3MM).  And the buy-in is close but the Giant is a bit cheaper at $365.  Giant's payouts probably start sooner although it depends on how many players each flight gets. Giant has a Day 2 and a Day 3, the Nightstack finishes on Day 2.

When I was analyzing the Nightstack and realizing it was similar to the Giant, I checked the dates of each to see if they were competing directly.  Well, none of the Day 1 flights are head-to-head (but even if they were, since there are so many flights, it wouldn't be an issue).  But, it turns out that Nightstack's Day 2 (it's last day) and Giant's Day 3 (it's last day) are on the same day.

When I first saw that, I thought that was too bad that they were competing like that, players would have choose one or the other. But then I thought about it some more and realized it likely wouldn't prevent anyone from entering both events. The Giant starts it's Day 3 (which will very likely just be a final table) at 2pm on 7/1.  Nightstack's Day 2 starts the same day at 5pm.

But there will only be a conflict if you make it to Day 3 of the Giant and Day 2 of the Nightstack.  Otherwise you're fine.  And making it to the final day of both of these tournaments would be a pretty nice problem to have.  I might suggest if you're good enough to make it to the final days of both of these tournaments, you're probably wasting your time playing in events that cost $400 or less!

But think of it.  Players who are in Vegas for most of the summer will be able to play both.  A lot of the Nightstack's dates are the Thursday before a Giant flight (which are all on Friday).  So you play Venetian Thursday and if you don’t survive, you can try the Giant the next night.  A lot of players are probably planning on firing multiple bullets anyway. 

The question is, if you make it to Day 2 in either one of them, do you give up on the idea of playing the other or do you give it a shot anyway?  You are going to be among a very few players to make it to Day 3 of the Giant, and will have survived a huge field.  It will be easier to make it to Day 2 of the Nightstack of course.

What I'm saying is, even if you're Doug Polk (and I'm pretty sure you're not Doug Polk), and you fired every bullet possible in both tournaments, it's still extremely unlikely you'd have your dance card filled with both final days on July 1.

But if somehow you did make it through both?  Well again, a very nice problem to have.  And actually, you'd have three of hours of play at the Giant before the restart over at the Venetian.  I guess your strategy would be based on how deep stacked you were for each event, right?  If you're the short stack at the final table of the Giant (but were deep stacked at the Nightstack), you just keep shoving until you bust the Giant or you get on a roll and can legitimately compete for a bracelet.  Even if you busted the first minute of day 3, you'd be getting a very nice payout.

OTOH, if it was the reverse, and you were the chip leader at the Giant but a shortie at the Nightstack, you play the Giant for as long as you can, and if that short stack at the Nightstack gets blinded off, you can pick up whatever money is coming to you from there at your convenience if you don't make it over there in time to play at all.  Meanwhile, your payout at the Giant would be huge.

The dilemma would be if you were deep stacked at both (and again, a great problem to have).  I suppose at that point you would get out the ICM calculator to help you decide which of the two tournaments you should prioritize.

But of course, it's a real, real long shot that anyone would make it to the final days of both of these tournaments.

Bottom line:  I may just be crazy to fire a bullet in both, and see if I can be that guy with the final day dilemma.  I'm not counting on it, but cashing in both would sure be nice and not completely out of the realm of possibility.

Despite the added bracelet events at the WSOP, nothing new appeals to me, so if I do play the Giant it will be my only bracelet event.  And again, I will keep away from the Daily Deepstacks as I have for the past few years.  The 3pm Deepstack became the 2pm Deepstack a few years back, and now has become the 1pm Deepstack (at a new, slightly higher buy-in, $250).  A few years back they removed the dinner break, which made it quite unappealing to me.  This year they put the dinner break back….but it's not until 9:15pm, too late for me to take advantage of it.  I could work around it I suppose, but when there are other tournaments around town competing with it that are lot more friendly to eating/meds schedule, I see no reason to.

Just last time I wrote about last year's WPT 500 at the Aria (here), and yes, I hope to play it again this year, assuming I still have money left by the time it rolls around in late June.  The $5 increase in the buy-in (to $570) won't keep me away. 

Golden Nugget will once again be running those $150 NLH tourneys most days at 1PM, with a $20K guarantee.  That's the tourney that really appeals to me for a variety of reasons.  I expect to try my luck there a few times.  The Nugget also has a couple of weekends reserved for its $200 Ultimate Re-entry events, with a $250K guarantee. They have 9 starting flights and I can see myself playing in that. All players who make it to Day 2 are in the money.

Planet Hollywood is running some $100 NLH tourneys with $10K guarantees.  I have to consider giving one of those a try, no?  Then they have some $250 "Low Roller" tourneys….multiple starting flights, payouts begin on Day 1, $200K guarantee.  Can I pass that up?   Oh and Orleans has a bunch of $150 NLH tournies with $25K guarantees.  Have to consider those as definitely playable.

Wynn has great tournaments as well, but I think they are a little out of my wheelhouse, buy-in wise.  And Binion's is mostly non-hold'em stuff, as I indicated in my column.

One thing I will point out is that almost all of these venues are using the Big Blind Ante at least to some degree, as I predicted (see here). The exceptions, as far as I can tell, are the Orleans and sorta/kinda Binion's.  I say that about Binion's because for their NLH events, they are going with Button Ante instead of the BB Ante, as I posted on Twitter a few weeks back. Some folks prefer the button ante because then the burden of that inflated ante and the big blind doesn't fall on the same player, it spreads it out better. The issue with that though is that there are sometimes hands where there is no player on the button, whereas there is always a big blind.  Binion's will handle this by having no ante when there is a dead button.  Players interested in that version of the single ante format can try that out and see for themselves if they like it.

But everyone else has at least a few tournaments with the Big Blind Ante, and both Aria and Wynn are exclusively BB Ante for their NLH events.  I think Golden Nugget is only using it for their championship event.  The others are using it for some portion of their events.  Oh and yes, even the WSOP is using it for a few of the bracelet events and some of the daily deepstacks.  By next year I bet it will be close to the standard.

Well that's about it.  I probably won't have the bankroll to play all the events that appeal to me unless I get a few early cashes.  I can dream can't I?  So what events appeal to you?

Note:  My last post was missing my signature gratuitous cheesecake pic.  So to make up for it, I've enhanced this post with a multiple pics of young ladies enjoying the summer.  Happy poker season!  

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

This Tournament Was Savage

I can't tell you how many emails, tweets and comments I've gotten asking me, "Gee Rob, when are you going to tell us how you did at last year's WPT 500 at the Aria?  Surely you must have played it."

OK, so honestly, I didn't get any such feedback.  I therefore decided that until at least one person asked me about it, I wasn't going to mention it.  In other words, I'd probably never have to write that post.

However, with the just-announced exciting news the player pools on will be combined beginning May 1, so that players in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware will be able to play with and against each other, I'm in such a good mood that I couldn't hold off any longer with this report.  I for one am looking to take advantage of the new larger player pools next time I'm in Vegas, which I expect to be in June.  And I'm sure that the folks at 888poker are excited and gearing up for it as well. This should be a significant step in the comeback of U.S. online poker.

I really like the WPT 500, and I've played it a few times in the past (see here for the start of the previous year's report).  So I plunked down my $565 and played one of many Day 1's.  Every day 1 ends after the players are in the money, which is nice.  There was a $1MM guarantee.  And a very nice structure (30-minute levels for the first 8, then 40-minutes). 

Plus you never know who you'll run into there.  In 2016, I played (ever-so-briefly) with Lacy Jones and (literally) ran into Mike Sexton.  So in 2017, I actually played at the same table with none-other than Matt Savage, who actually created the tournament and designed its structure in his capacity as WPT tournament director.  The first year Aria offered this tournament, Matt actually ran it for them.  That was under the previous Aria management.  Since the new team came on board after that first one, the great in-house Aria tournament team runs it, so Matt can actually relax and play it.   

Of course I follow Matt on Twitter as everyone who loves poker does.  And on the morning of the flight I played, I saw him announcing that he was playing it that day.  I thought, wouldn't it be cool if I was at the same table as he was?  At least for a little while, anyway.  Well, it turned out that I saw him put down his stuff at the same table I was assigned to.  And even when they broke our table, we were both sent to the same new table.  I was playing with Matt all day. 

Now the mention of Matt Savage gives me a chance to address something that I've been wanting to talk about for a long time.  If you follow Matt on Twitter, you know that players are constantly asking him for tournament (or even cash game) floor rulings.  They'll post a situation that came up in a game and ask for his take on the right way the floor should have handled it.  Now every so often, someone will re-create a tournament hand and say something like, "he bet $5,000."  And the first thing Matt will say is, "no dollar signs on tournament chips."  Well, he probably says it more politely than that.  But the thing is that Matt points out that you should not use a $ sign in front of a bet unless it is a cash game, since tournament chips don't represent actual dollars.

Well, if you've been paying attention, you will note that whenever I do one of my tournament write-ups, I usually do put the $ sign in in front of the chip count.  I'm actually surprised no one has called me out on it.  Yes, I know it is technically incorrect.  But it is a stylistic choice I made when I started talking about tournaments.  There are two alternatives that I know of.  One would be to put a letter "t" in front of the chip count.  Like, "he bet t5,000."  Or "I bet T5,000."  You see that in poker books.  But for some reason, I really find that unacceptable.  I just don't like the way it looks.  I find it clunky, for lack of a better word.

The other way is to just put the number of chips without anything in front of it.  So it would be, "He bet 5,000."  I don't like that either.  The number without a symbol in front of it just looks naked to me—and not good naked.  It just strikes me as wrong.

So basically, I find both alternatives stylistically and aesthetically unacceptable for my blog.  If others do it, that's fine (and again, technically correct).  But for my blog, I want the style I want, and even if it means I am violating some poker standard, that's the way I do it.  It just looks a lot better to my eye to do it the way I do it.  And since no one has complained, I guess it's ok (or, perhaps the sticklers have all stopped reading my blog—or never read it in the first place).  Besides, when I say, "I bet $25,000," no one thinks I bet $25,000 in actual cash money.

Anyway, I had seen Matt at tournaments a number of times, and a year or two ago I actually introduced myself to him and shook his hand when I played a tournament at Commerce (we'd actually had a lot of back-and-forth on Twitter in the lead-up to this particular tournament). Matt is also the TD at Commerce, if you didn't know. But I didn't expect him to remember me on sight.  Thus I took to Twitter to "say hello."  I tweeted about playing at the same table as Matt before the tourney started.  However, he never acknowledged my tweet (either on Twitter or in person). 

Spoiler warning:  I didn't cash.  That should be obvious anyway.  If I had cashed in big tournament you can be sure you would have heard about it well before now.

Thus I'll only mention a few hands.  In the first level I got the dreaded pocket Kings.  I raised and had a few callers.  The flop was Jack-high and I bet and got one call.  I bet again when the board paired a 5 and was called.  The river was yet another 5.  I made another bet and he folded Ace-high face up.

Winning a hand with pocket Kings so early in the tournament made me feel invincible.  OK, not really.  It actually made me feel relieved.

A few levels later Matt made a standard opening raise and I called with Ace-Queen of hearts. It was a pretty good flop: Ace-Queen-8, two diamonds.  Matt made a c-bet and I raised nearly 3X his bet.  It folded back to him and he tanked for a good long while before folding.

A level or two later, I again called a Savage raise with Ace-Queen and we were heads up. I was the big blind.  The flop came Ace-Jack-x.  For some reason, I donked out a bet.  I don't recall why I did that and I didn't explain it in the voice notes I made the next day.  But when Matt raised me 2.5X, I got very concerned.  I tanked for a good long while and remembered why it's not a good idea to call a raise with Ace-Queen out of position.  It's a hand easily dominated.  Eventually I decided to fold.  But I couldn't resist doing something I almost never do.  Since it was Matt, I said to him, "Ace-King, Matt?"  He smiled at me and said, "I'll show one."  And with that he flashed me one card—it was a Jack. I couldn't tell if he checked his cards to make sure which card he showed me. That was the only time all day I saw Matt show a card he didn't have to. I will go to my grave believing the other card was either an Ace or Jack.  No way he had King-Jack or worse there.  Right?

Then there was the standard "if only" hand.  In the big blind with pocket 6's, I folded to a raise and a shove.  It was pocket Kings vs Ace-Queen.  The flop came Ace-6-x.  Would have been a nice triple up for me if only I'd made a terrible call.

The guy on my right was a really poor player who basically liked to see every hand, almost always limped in and stayed too long.  He was also a slob.  He was an older guy and kept ordering coffee (or maybe tea).  He would throw the sugar packets—among other things--on the floor.  When he inevitably busted out, he left all kinds of debris behind.  It was so bad that the cute young lady that was sitting on his right took the time to clean up his area after he was gone.  I looked at her as she was doing this and she gave me a look that said, "Can you believe this mess?"

I lasted through the dinner break and also through our table breaking. There was the guy there that made a kind of mental error that really cost him his tournament life.  First he put out a big stack, but there was oversized chip mixed in with his stack—his bet was a lot more than he intended.  When a guy shoved over him, he must have felt he had too much in the pot to fold.  He had pocket 7's and was facing pocket 10's.  He didn’t improve. He confessed that his initial raise was a mistake due to the his biggest chip being hidden among the others.  Very  next hand, now short stacked, he shoved and was snapped called.  This time he had the pocket 10's.  The snap caller had pocket Aces and the Aces held.

I was actually pretty happy with the way I played but I just couldn’t get my stack built up enough.  And so on level 12, short-stacked,  I looked down at pocket Queens.  There was a raise in front of me, Of course I shoved.  It folded back to the raiser who snap called.  He flipped over two Kings and boy did I dread them. To rub it in, there was King on the flop.  The turn card was a Queen which was a cruel joke.  Could I go runner-runner Quads?  No.  I was done. I have to admit, losing set over set was bad, but imagine how much worse it would have been if the Queen was on the flop and the King was on the turn.  That would have really the ultimate poker-tease.

It was an enjoyable tournament though—as enjoyable as losing without cashing can be, I suppose. BTW—Savage cashed and advanced to Day 2. Apparently directing all those poker tournaments has taught him something about how to play the game.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

"He Was Playing Like a Dick"

This story actually predates my timing blogging.  In fact, I've already told this story to you way back in the very earliest days of the blog.  But I think it's worth a repost, especially since when it ran originally virtually no one was reading the blog.  So unless you're one of those rare folks who has gone back and read every blog post I've ever posted since the beginning, this will be new to you.  And I'm just getting behind in my writing, always seem to have too much going on to get myself to crank out a new blog post for you. Today I finally finished up my taxes and you all know how much fun that is.  So hopefully this will hold you for a few days until I can get some new material to you.  But again, it's highly likely you've never read this.  So enjoy!

A couple of years ago I found myself playing in the 6PM tournament a not to be named locals casino..  I hadn’t played a lot of tournament poker at this point, and really have only recently started playing tournaments semi-regularly.  I played in it mostly because there was no 2/4 limit game going on there (the place was dead) and I didn’t feel like getting back in my car to find another game.  Besides one of the dealers I was friendly with at the time suggested it, and I was thinking they may have sent her home early if they hadn’t needed a second table for the tournament.  So I was playing as a favor to this attractive lady dealer as much as anything else.
As the tournament was about to begin, an extremely attractive young girl took the seat to my immediate right.  She was barely old enough to be in a casino, I assume she was carded before being seated.  She was way beyond cute and had a killer body.  Unfortunately, despite this being summer in Vegas, she was not wearing anything skimpy.  Too bad.  She had on fairly tight shorts (but not that short) and a very tight t-shirt.  It was obvious she had a terrific figure, very thin waist and plenty of curves elsewhere.  But she was probably the only girl her age that I saw on this entire visit to Vegas that wasn’t showing any cleavage, sadly.  

Note:  the famous actress above kind of resembles the memory I have in my mind of what the girl in my story looked liked.  I added the cleavage for your enjoyment.  Because I know my readers come to this blog looking for cleavage.
Her outer-beauty, however, sadly masked a not very beautiful woman on the inside.  She had come to the table with a guy her age who apparently she had just met playing slots.  They sat at opposite sides of the table and talked to each other incessantly during the tournament.  From the conversation (and from reading her players card upside down), I learned the girl’s name was Abigail.  Abigail clearly thought of herself as the world’s greatest poker player.  
From the moment she sat down, she was bragging that she was going to win the tournament.  She said this not just to her friend but to all of us around her.  At first I thought this was just good-natured banter, that she was just kidding around.  But as the tournament progressed, she kept repeating it, and any hint of fun or sarcastic bravado left her voice.  It was clear she meant it.  I’ve heard tournament players kid about winning before and since, but never have I heard anyone this adamant, this serious, and this obnoxious about it.  I began to think that if I looked up the word “arrogant” in the dictionary, I would see her picture.
She wasn’t restricting herself to bragging about winning or her poker expertise.  She started criticizing the other players, and guessing what cards they had from their bets and what they would do….and what they should do….as a result of her guesses.  In hindsight, I have to assume these comments were not said loud enough for the dealer to hear because otherwise she should have gotten warned for talking about the hands, especially hands she wasn’t in.  But out of the blue, if a player raised 3-4 times the big blind pre-flop, she might whisper, “He’s got Jacks” or “She’s got Queens or Tens” or some such.  
The sheer amount of words coming out of her would have been annoying no matter what she was saying.  But as she started criticizing players, it got really off-putting.  And every third sentence of hers was something along the lines of, “I’m gonna win this thing….no one here knows how to play.”  After about half an hour of this, and hearing all of it since I was sitting right next to her, I started to think to myself that she could be sitting there stark naked, look every bit as good that way as I suspected she did, and I’d still would have wanted her to leave.  
Early on I got a personal taste of Abigail’s obnoxiousness.  I had AK suited and hit a King on the flop.  I made a good bet, and she went all in.  She had me covered.  As I mentioned, I didn’t have a lot of tournament experience under my belt.  She could have flopped two pair or even a set.  Did I want to risk my tournament life with top pair/top kicker?  I thought about it for a good 5 or 6 seconds.  My gut told me that she had read me as a timid player (basically true) and that the bet would get me to fold a better hand than she had.  I decided to call thinking I probably had her beaten already and if not, I could still outdraw her.  So I called.  She turned over a medium pocket pair that the board had not hit.  I turned over my AK.  She knew she was in trouble, but wasn’t mad at her luck….she was mad at me!   “Shit, you have AK? What the hell took you so long to call?”  In other words, I was an idiot for not calling her all-in bet instantly.  I of course she have known that my top pair was good and that she hadn’t hit her set. I didn’t bother to respond to her criticism.  Nothing that helped either of us hit on the turn or river and I won the pot.  As I said, she had me covered so she was still alive in the tournament.
Now there were two middle aged guys sitting next to each other at this table that were friends.  And they were even bickering with each other like an old married couple.  They actually joked about being married to each other but it was just in fun, they both mentioned that this was a guys night out from their wives.  One of the guys got into a hand with Abigail and folded pocket Queens to her all-in bet….she showed a fairly weak hand like K-10.  She was quick to criticize the guy’s play.  She wasn’t gloating, she was actually critical of the guy for folding.  Because she knew exactly how to play every single hand properly.
Just a few minutes later, the two of them got into another hand together.  Abigail pushed all in pre-flop, and the middle-aged guy thought long and hard.  He had her covered, but not by much. He would be crippled if he called and lost. While he was thinking about it, Abigail offered that she had a pocket pair….and not a big pocket pair.  The guy thought long and hard…..about 30 seconds if not more, before finally calling her.  She flipped over a pair of fives.  He flipped over a pair of Jacks.  
Abigail was pissed.  Not because she was way behind, but because the guy had taken so long to call her.  By now her buddy had busted out and was standing next to Abigail, watching.  So Abigail said to the player who had called her, “What took you so long?  That’s an obvious call there.  I even said I had a small pocket pair!  Why were you hesitating?”  Of course, no one ever lies at a poker table, right?
The guy actually started to tell her what he was thinking (like it was really any of her business).  In the meantime, Abigail’s friend was agreeing with her that the guy was a fool for taking so long to make the call (probably because he thought that was a good way to get into her pants).  He said something like, “Yeah, what was the big deal?  Why did he need two minutes to call you?”
Abigail had an answer for that, “Oh, he was just acting like a dick.”  If the guy was upset over that, he didn’t show it…instead he continued his explanation, which no one (including me) was listening to.   But the dealer, an older guy who always struck me as quite humorless, definitely heard what Abigail said.  Rather than continue the play of the hand, the dealer held up the action and said to Abigail, “Excuse me.  You just said something not very nice to one of our players.”
Abigail wasn’t interested in the dealer’s comments.  She told him, “Just deal, please.”  But the dealer wasn’t buying.  “No.  I’m running this game, not you.”  He called the floor person over and told him that Abigail had called another player a “dick.”  The floor person lectured and warned Abigail.  Abigail protested.  She said she didn’t call the player a “dick.”  She said he was “playing like a dick.”  OK, big distinction, right?  The floor person didn’t care and said it wasn’t nice, and insisted that she apologize to the player and warned her that next time, she would be asked to leave.    She apologized to the player and the rest of the players too.  But she made a show of looking at the name badges of the dealer and floor person, as if she was planning to report them to some higher authority.
The floor person left and the hand continued.  The turn and river cards didn’t help Abigail, leaving her busted.  As she got up, to her credit, she again apologized to the guy who busted her out.  
She was walking out of the room with her friend, but for some reason stopped at the cashier.  Thinking she was heading straight out of the room, I said to the entire table, “Wow…she was a piece of work, wasn’t she?”  The entire table cracked up, and she looked back from the cashier.  Not sure if she heard what I said or was just reacting to the laughter.
We all agreed that it was a great thing the guy did, busting her out.  The dealer mentioned that she had criticized my play just a few hands earlier.  I had almost forgotten.  We talked about Abigail for quite a while after she left, enjoying her absence. One of the players joked that he thought the player who busted Abigail out was actually named “Dick.”  I had overheard her say that she was a dance instructor and mentioned this.  So someone asked what kind of dance she taught.  I said, “What, you think it might involve a pole?” Everyone had a good laugh at that.
At break, as I left the Men’s Room, I saw “Dick” talking on his cell phone, presumably to his wife.  I overheard him say, “So far, it’s been a pretty bad night.  I’m not doing well in the tournament.  And I’ve already been called a ‘dick!’”
Just a short time after the break was over, I busted out myself.  I didn’t cash in the tournament, but I scored a good story and an unforgettable character.  Thanks, Abigail.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"What Part of Boston Are You From?"

This was from a poker session in Vegas last year during football season.  The poker was pretty dull but I met a couple of guys at the table who had somewhat interesting stories to tell.

These two guys had just met at the table, they were sitting one seat apart, one of them was directly across from me.  They bonded talking about sports.  One guy was from Boston.  He was a huge Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins fan.  So of course, you would expect him to be a huge Patriots fan as well.  But the other guy and I were shocked when he said he doesn't like the Patriots.  Who does he like?  Well, the Denver Broncos, of course.

That demanded an explanation so we insisted on hearing it.  Well, it seems that back when this guy was in grade school, the 1990 Super Bowl was approaching and there was a kid who was a few years older than this guy going around telling everyone that the 49'ers were going to kill the Broncos.  He was saying that Joe Montana was the greatest quarterback in the league and that Denver didn't have a chance against him (sounds like a smart kid).  Well, this guy at our table hated this older kid.  Apparently he was a bad kid and a bit of a bully. So for no other reason than this jerk older kid just had to be wrong, the guy at our table started saying that the Broncos would beat the 49'ers easily.  And of course they had to make a bet on it.  He didn't say how much the bet was, but it was more money than he could get his hands on, naturally.

Of course, we know that San Francisco kicked the crap out of Denver that year, 55 – 10.  And Joe Montana, as he was wont to do, had a great game was the game's MVP.  So this kid from Boston told us that he spent the rest of the school year hiding from this older kid and didn't pay off the bet, until somehow his mother got involved and paid the bet for him.  His mother was not pleased.

Anyway, he said his feelings for the Broncos stuck with him and he's been a Broncos fan ever since.

I wasn't quite getting that.  I said to him, "If anything, that should have made you hate the Broncos, not root for them!  They cost you money, they got you in trouble with your mom, and you're lucky the older kid didn't beat you up for welching on the bet." Note:  He didn't tell us that the guy beat him up, so I just assumed he hadn't.  He replied, "Yeah, I guess you're right."

Now his story sounded fishy to me but I do have to say that of all the sports, I think pro football is the one where I see the most fans having favorite teams that are not their home teams.  I think maybe it's because it's such a national sport, and you can see pretty much every team almost as much as your own home team.  I have to confess that over the years my favorite team has changed many times—usually because of who my favorite QB was at any given time.  So I guess it's not that shocking that a guy from Boston would root for a different team.  But I still say he should hate the Broncos for costing him that bet.  I guess at that age his football crush was strong.

Anyway, as they kept talking, moving on to other topics, the other guy I mentioned asked him, "What part of Boston are you from?"  And I immediately interjected, "The Broncos part."  They both thought that was quite funny, and who was I to argue?

Well we couldn't talk about the Broncos of that era without mentioning John Elway now could we?.  And the other guy (the one not from Boston) mentioned that he actually remembers seeing Elway when he was in High School.  I happened to know that Elway is from Southern California and went to Granada Hills High.  Granada Hills is a well known community to Southern Californians.  So when he said that he'd seen Elway play in High School I said, "Granada Hills, right?"  And the guy was impressed.  That got us talking about where he was from.  He mentioned the community and it is the same community I live in.  So I asked him to be more specific and he gave an intersection.  He mentioned the major intersection that is closest to my house.  Now it turned out that he no longer lives here, he moved to El Paso a few years ago.  But he and I were neighbors for quite some time.

Just one of those small world stories.  Now it's certainly not surprising to run into someone from Southern California in Vegas, more visitors to Vegas are from my neck of the woods than anywhere else. But to find someone who lived so close to me that we shared the same common major intersection?  Well that's a bit of a coincidence.

As for poker, I managed to survive the dreaded pocket Kings twice without disaster.  The first time I opened to $10 and had two callers.  The flop was Jack-Jack-x and I c-bet $20, both called.  The turn was a blank and it checked around.  The river was another Jack and again it checked around.  I know that it was almost certain I had the best hand and I should have bet there, but it was Kings and so I was a bit gun-shy.  I showed my boat and the other two mucked.

The other time was much later.  The guy from my neighborhood limped, the guy from Boston made it $10, the guy on my right called.  I made it $40.  Only the Broncos fan from Boston called.  The flop was Jack-Jack-X.  WTF?  Kings are supposed to be Ace magnets.  This night they were paired Jacks magnets.  So strange to see almost the identical flop the two times I had Kings.  After the Boston guy checked, I bet $50.  He tanked for a long time.  He said, "I think you got one better than me." Finally he folded. He was in some agony over it and he said, "You don't have to tell me now, but before you leave, please tell me what you had."  I agreed.

When I left. I told him I had Kings.  He was happy to hear that.  He had Queens.

I booked a small win thanks to guy from Boston who likes the Broncos because they cost him a bet when he was in grade school.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Most Annoying Woman in the World

OK, that's a bit hyperbolic, I know.  This woman I ran into at the Venetian last October probably wasn't the most annoying woman in the world.  But I bet if they held a contest for that, she'd be a very strong contender.

When I got to my seat, which happened to be on her immediate right, she was talking.  And by the time she stopped to take a breath, at least an hour had passed by.  Well, it seemed like an hour.

Worse, when I arrived, she was talking about politics.  You all know how I feel about discussing politics at the poker table (in case you don't, check out the post here). When I heard her start talking about the "hard right" and the "hard left" I winced….but it turned out she wasn't talking about American politics at all.  No, she had an accent and was actually talking about Spanish politics.  Fortunately I realized I didn't really know what she was talking about and had no opinions either way on the political positions she was espousing. This was a lot less annoying than if she was talking about American politics which of course I would have strong feelings about .And fortunately no one who was listening to her tried to compare the situation in Spain she was discussing to our political situation in America.  Actually, I'm not sure anyone was really listening, and the fact is, if anyone wanted to respond to her in a way that would have gotten the conversation back to U.S. politics, I don't think they would have been able to—she didn't stop talking long enough for anyone else to get a word in.

Eventually she stopped talking Spanish politics and discussed… everything.  I can't be sure, because I totally tuned her out as best I could, but certainly enough words escaped her mouth for her to have completely covered every known topic in the universe during the time I was sitting next to her.  If you told me that she recited pi to 100,000 places I would believe you.

Ostensibly she was talking to the guy across from us, a guy in his mid-30's who looked awfully familiar to me.  I was sure I'd played with him before but it turned out he was visiting from the U.K. so maybe not.  When a reasonably attractive woman near his age came to the table, he took the opportunity to change seats so he could be on the same side of the table as the young woman.  At least that's what it looked like to the untrained eye.  I think he might have made that seat change regardless just to escape the Spanish woman's verbal diarrhea  

The young woman and the young man started talking, a conversation that for me was mostly drowned out by the non-stop noise coming out of the annoying woman.  But somehow she mentioned to the younger girl that she was old and at that age where she was no longer looking for a man or for "anything to happen."  I managed to hear the girl say, "Well, I'm at the age where I want something to happen and I'm looking for a man."  In fact, she was actually trying to change tables to sit with some guy, and I wasn't sure if it was a guy she knew or just someone who she had her eye on.  But she table changed out of there in a relatively short amount of time, leaving the annoying woman to talk to either no one or everyone, I'm not really sure which.

At one point, a bald-headed guy took the seat immediately to my right, and I'm initially wasn't sure if he was the worst poker player I've ever played with or the best.  He kind of acted like he didn't know what he was doing, but the more I watched him, the more I thought he not only knew what he was doing but he had the perfect strategy for this particular game.  You see, during this month, the Venetian had a High Hand promo going on, and every half hour (or perhaps every 20 minutes) the highest hand reported would win $300 or $400, something like that.  I can't remember the exact details.  But generally I've noticed during this type of promo, the games are limp fests and there's not much action.  Players want to see a flop cheap, and are really eager to let it go if they don't flop a hand with high hand potential.  So this guy was opening pots for $20-$25 and stealing a lot of blinds—no one had a hand worth that price.  He'd also over bet post flop and take them down that way too.  Initially he would play every single hand, and almost always raise and raise big.  If there was a raise in front of him, he'd usually just call.

I contrast this guy with the guy I told you about here who obviously didn't know what he was doing.  This guy hardly said a word the entire time (the guy from my previous post was very chatty) and it soon became clear to me that this guy was actually playing quite well for the table conditions.  I doubt it was an accident.  He was playing smart, but it was a high risk strategy.  Sure he was taking down a bunch of blinds and some limps, but he was risking a lot to steal that and of course eventually people got tired of not playing and started playing back at him.  Sure enough, the stack in front of him, which had gotten a little inflated by his early tactics, started deflating.

There's only one hand that is worth reporting on.  It was late in my session and by this time the lady to my left had quieted down a little.  She was still jabbering away, but I noticed she was actually pausing between the paragraphs she was launching from her mouth. And the guy on my right had learned that it was possible to limp into a pot or make a reasonable raise instead of bombing away.  So I was in the small blind with 10-8.  A bunch of people limped in, including the reformed maniac on my right, who was the button.  I put in a buck and the annoying woman checked.  Seven of us saw a flop of 10-10-3. 

I bet $5.  Almost everyone called, and then the guy on my right made it $10. That was an odd thing for him to do, I'd never seen him min-raise before.  I decided to just call, and most everyone else did, and six of us saw the turn, which was a blank.  I checked and it checked around to the button.  He bet $20.  I had started the hand with about $100.  At that point I decided I wasn't going to fold no matter what, so I just put all my chips in.  The lady tanked forever before finally folding.

Somehow, when the dealer tried to muck her cards, her hand flipped over, revealing 10-4.  Wow.  I was surprised she folded a 10 there.  At least I knew no one was going to beat me with trips and a bigger kicker.  It folded to the button who tanked for quite a bit before saying, "OK, I'll let it go."

As I collected the pot, I said to the lady, "Wow, you folded a 10 there, huh?"  She said, "Yes…I knew I had him beat but I was worried about you."  I didn't respond.

However, when I was ready to leave, I did whisper to her that I had 10-8, knowing I was unlikely to play with her ever again (because if I found myself at her table again, I'd ask immediately for a table change).  She said, "Really?" and was clearly totally shocked.  It was clear to me she put me on a boat.  When the shock wore off, she said, "Well, I knew it was a good fold."  It was indeed.  But still, I know she thought she was  a lot more behind than she was.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Vegas Summer Series Preview Part 1 (April Ante Up)

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. 

This is the first part of my preview of the summer Vegas series, featuring Venetian, Aria and Golden Nugget.  So even if you normally skip my columns, this one might be of interest to you.  I particularly recommend you check out the first part, on the Venetian, because what the Venetian is doing this summer is pretty damn impressive.  If you haven't heard about it, you'll want to check it out!

This week I'm writing the May column, which will preview Planet Hollywood, Wynn, Binion's and Orleans.

The magazine should be in your local poker room by now. 

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The Deep Stack Extravaganza at the Venetian in Las Vegas runs May 14-July 29 and is the biggest DSE ever. It’s so big, the May 26-July 6 events will be in the Sands Convention Center. The tournaments before and after will be in the Venetian poker room. The series consists of no fewer than 150 tournaments, offering more than $31M in guarantees.
The series starts with a bang, offering a $340 DoubleStack with two starting flights and a $100K guarantee May 14. The same event repeats May 21.
New this year is the $400 NightStack, which features a $1M guarantee. It has eight starting flights spread out over the series, all starting at 6 p.m. The first Day 1 is May 31 and the last one is June 29. The top 10 percent of each starting field will be in the money and the top 5 percent advance to Day 2 at 5 p.m. on July 1.
The biggest tourneys are Mid-States Poker Tour events with huge guarantees. The $1,100 event with a $3.5M guarantee has the first of its four starting flights June 3. A $3,500 buy-in with three starting flights begins June 25 and has a $3.5M guarantee. In between, a $1,600, three-starting-flight tourney with a $3M guarantee begins June 18.
A $600 SuperStack with two starting flights starts May 31. It guarantees $500K. A three-day version with the same guarantee is June 23. A $600 MonsterStack (35K chips) with a $750K guarantee has five starting flights beginning June 30.
HORSE players can find a $600 tournament with a $50K guarantee June 3. An $800 PLO bounty event runs June 5 and guarantees $88,888. Omaha/8 has its day June 18 for $600 with a $100K guarantee.
The $500 LIPS event runs June 26 with a $40K guarantee. A $600 seniors event, with two starting flights, begins June 12 and features a $600K guarantee.
Right before the summer series, the Venetian hosts and Extravaganza, May 1-6, highlighted by a two-starting flight $340 DoubleStack event with a $100K guarantee beginning May 4.
ARIA: The Aria Poker Classic runs May 26-July 8. The centerpiece is the WPT500, which runs June 25-July 3. There are nine starting flights, three of which are turbos. The buy-in is $570 and the guarantee is $1M.
Like last year, the series heavily features $400 NLHE events in the day and $240 NLHE events at night. But this year, there’s a greater selection of disciplines other than hold’em. The buy-in for these events is $470 and they include eight-game mix (May 30), Omaha/8 (June 2), triple-draw mix (June 3), deuce-to-seven (June 4), PLO (June 7 and 9), HORSE (June 10) Omaha-stud/8 (June 19), triple stud (June 23) and PLO/8 (June 24).
There’s a $300 women’s event July 3 and $470 seniors June 13 and 17. Three two-day, $1,100 NLHE events are June 6, June 20 and July 6.
Aria also hosts the WPT Tournament of Champions, which will kick off with a new event: the $10K WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, a four-day tournament with one re-entry that starts May 20.
GOLDEN NUGGET: The Grand Poker Series runs May 29-July 3. A staple of the event will be a $150 NLHE tournament with a $20K guarantee taking place most days throughout the series at 1 p.m.
The daily 11 a.m. event features a nice variety of $250 non-hold’em events. For example, there’s HORSE on May 30, no-limit deuce-to-seven lowball draw on May 31, Big O on June 5, eight-game mix on June 15 and triple stud on June 26. Toward the end of June, the buy-in on these specialty events bumps to $360. A one-day $570 PLO championship event is June 20.
The $250 seniors event with a $100K guarantee runs June 16. Later that day, a $1K seniors high roller takes place and $250 super seniors (60-plus) goes June 18.
The $150 women’s event is June 25.
Three weekends are devoted to big multi-flight events. The first starts May 31 and has a $150 buy-in and a $150K guarantee. June 7 is the next one, a $200 event with a $250K guarantee. That tournament repeats June 21. All of these events have three starting flights a day beginning on Thursdays with Day 2 on Sunday. The $200 events play down each flight to 10 percent of the field and all players advancing to Day 2 are in the money.
Most evenings feature a $110 NLHE tourney with a $5K guarantee.
The $570 championship has three starting flights beginning June 28 and offers a $500K guarantee.
BELLAGIO: The room hosts WPT’s Elite Poker Championship, April 26-May 6. The $10,400 main event is May 1-6. There are plenty of satellites. A $1,100 seniors event is April 26 and a $1,100 NLHE tourney runs April 27. A $5,200 event goes April 30 and $25,500 high roller event starts May 4.
RED ROCK: The next event in the room’s periodic Climb the Rock series will be April 29. It’s a $300 tournament with a $25K guarantee.
RIO: Kevin Iacofono won the WSOP Circuit main event in February, earning $259K. Nikhil Gera ($160K) took second and Boris Kasabov was third ($118K). The $1,675 event had 887 entrants for a $1.3M prize pool.

Monday, April 2, 2018

"We All Look Alike"

I guess the PC Police might get upset with this post.  But honestly, isn't it considered ok if people make ethnic jokes at the expense of their own ethnic group?

That's ok right?

And if a blogger of a different ethnic group happens to hear such ethnic jokes and reports them on his blog, quoting the member of the ethnic group who made the jokes, that's gotta be ok too, right?


On Saturday I was back at PC Ventura playing some 1/2 NL  After a down from a rather quiet Asian dealer (male), another Asian male dealer pushed in to replace him.  This dealer was quite a bit more talkative than the previous one.

Early in his down, a player—a reg—finally noticed that there had been a dealer change.  And so he said to the new dealer, "Oh you're here now?  I didn't notice when you came in."  I should mention that the reg was white, I mean he was really white.  Even his hair was white.  So the new Asian dealer said, "We all look alike."

Sometime later a chip runner came by, another Asian, although she was female.  The reg asked if she was Chinese.  I think she answered no, but I didn't hear her say what her nationality was.  They got to talking about some of the unusual things they eat where she is originally from.  She said something to the effect, "They eat anything over there…dogs….cats….whatever."

The reg eventually told the dealer that he plays tennis with a Chinese person.  "She's really a lovely person," the reg reported. The dealer said, "Yes, we're lovely people.  We eat an occasional dog but we're lovely people."

I thought this was highly amusing.  So did everyone else at the table.  I was sitting directly on the dealer's right and when he saw me laugh, he nudged me on the left arm as if to say, "pretty good, huh?"

As for the poker, I started out down when a couple of draws I was chasing didn't come through.  The middle part of the session was good before I reverted to the medical condition known as "deadness of the cards."

I was down almost $40 ($100 buy-in, the max) when I limped in with 5-4 of diamonds and then called a "pot building raise" to $4.  A bunch of us saw a flop that had two diamonds and a 4 on it.  I called a smallish bet, then called another smallish bet when the turn blanked.  By the time the river—the Ace of diamonds—hit, there were three of us.  I checked and this time no one bet.  My baby flush held up and I took my first pot of the day.
I had pocket 9's UTG + 1.  The UTG player limped, I bumped it to $5 and it was 5 way. The flop was 10-2-2.  I decided to see what would happen\ if I c-bet so I put out $12.  One caller.  I hit a Yahtzee on the turn—a 9.  I put out $20 and got a call.  I bet $30 on a blank and he called and showed Jack-10.  Now I was in the black.

I got pocket 9's again and opened the pot to $5.  A few callers saw the flop of Queen-10-9.  The big blind bet $6.  He was such a nit I was concerned that he had flopped a straight.  So I just called and another guy came along.  The turn was a harmless card and this time the big blind checked.  So I decided to bet $20.  They both folded.

With pocket Jacks, I opened to $7.  Two callers and the flop was all low.  I c-bet $15 and took it down.

I limped in with Jack-8 of spades and six of us saw a flop of Ace-Jack-x.  It checked around.  The turn was a brick and this time a guy bet $9.  I had a hunch my Jack was good so I called.  We were now heads up. Another brick hit the river and this time he bet $15.  I snap called and he said, "you're good," and just mucked without forcing me to show my hand.  OK.

I called a $5 all-in with pocket 8's and it was six-way.  I flopped middle set and bet 14.  One player called.  I bet $20 on a blank and the guy folded.  The all-in guy never showed.

From the small blind I completed with Jack-5 suited and flopped two pair.  I made a small flop bet and won a small pot.

That was about it.  I booked a small win and headed home.