Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Anatomy of a Hand: I called with Ten High

Anatomy of a Hand: I called with Ten High

In a World Series of Poker that was devoid of highlights except for a depressing cavalcade of bad beats and coolers, I left 2012 with one memorable hand:  I called with Ten High.  For the series I had been three for three with hero calls so my radar was tuned in.   

Also, I really didn't make any bad or loose calls, so it's not like I'm some call station who got lucky three times and whiffed 20 others.   I'm pretty good at ferreting out when a story doesn't make sense, when a bet size is off, or a physical read just reinforces that my opponent doesn't have what he's representing. 

When all three go together I'm willing to make a hero call when I'm really light.  One of my best skills in poker is winning money in these spots and sometimes it makes me feel like I'm playing the game backwards.  Everybody else wins with aggression while sometimes it's their aggression and not mine that gives me my biggest pots.  It's hard to win this way.

Best Field I've Ever Played

I can't say I was afraid of the moment, I called with thee high in the Best Field I ever l played and probably one of the top five toughest at the Series this year.  The National Championship featured a field of 100 players who had to win their way into from the year long WSOP circuit, and only the top 100 ranked players in the world were eligible to buy their way into.  Around me I saw Jason Mercier, Phil Hellmuth, and Bertrand Grospellier all sit down and do battle.  My table draw lacked any glitzy names, which I was happy with, but still had three players who plopped down 10k to join because they were ranked among the top 100 in the world.

I must confess with a little research from my friends at home they confirmed the table assessments I made had me fearing the right guys.  There were no weak spots at the table or really in the tournament. However, the three buy-ins guys just seemed tougher and more comfortable than the rest.  They were all world ranked players.  Of course it was one of them I decided to call.


I had a pretty good table image even though I just paid off a set of nines on a nine high board with a big pocket pair.  I checked called the last two streets and almost folded the river.  Based on the action if it was against a worse player I would have folded.  A good player it's a harder fold, but still possible and probably correct.  Even losing the pot, it's likely they knew what I mucked and nobody had seen me get out of line, so my table image was pretty good.

Therefore when a player limped before me, I raised with 109 suited in late position.  The big blind and the limper called.  The big blind, a player from Chile Nico Fierro gave me a slight read of weakness the way he called.  Certain players on marginal fishing hands seem to toss their money in the pot with a genuine almost "why not" shrug.  It's kind of indescribable but one of those things I recognize when I see.  Typically it means low suited connectors or a weird hand they hope to nail and blindside someone with.   

The Flop and the Turn

An ace, a 5 and a 6 hit the table with two spades.  They checked to me and I continuation bet in position.  Fierro called again with the same type of nonchalant weak fishing motion.   The turn was a non spade 2.  He checked to me.  Already I was drawing conclusions.  If he had 34 he probably leads into me hoping I have the Ace and have to call him.  It's hard to give him credit for the nuts.  Plus, I'm not sure he would call me with 3,4 preflop or on a gutterball after the flop. 

I don't give him the Ace because with two spades out there he probably pops me back on the flop or leads the turn.  He might have just two big cards but even that didn't seem likely with his preflop and turn nonchalance which also make it unlikely he had an Ace.  Yes, he could be floating me with big cards but it didn't feel like the spot to do it on the flop with somebody to act after him. 

The River

Another two hits.  Making the board A5622.  He gathers his chips together and makes a slightly bigger than pot sized bet. Since I had chipped down, this was for a good portion of my stack.   What is he trying to represent here, I ask myself?  I go into the tank and though I'm not really looking for tells off a top 100 player I observe that's he's uncomfortable.  Nonetheless, I just have ten high.  Jack high, Queen high, and even King high are uncomfortable and all beat me.  Arguably, even a hand like third pair, a pair of fives, could bet here, not like his spot and show discomfort.

I go through the hand again.  My check on the turn let's him know I probably don't have an ace.  He's apt to bet a lot of hands on the river.  However, he's got showdown value with a lot of hands too.  Checking and hoping for another check  or check/ calling something as low as King high might not be a terrible play  there, nor is it with a pair of fives.  So, if I can rule out showdown hands as being too strong to bet, there's not much in his hand he can have.

He could have A2 for a full house and planned on check raising the turn.  My read of weakness kind of ruled that out, but some sort of monster like this was possible if he's good at Hollywood-ing.  Nonetheless, I thought his bet was a little too big for a monster.  It just felt like he didn't want a call with the size of it.  To be clear I was wary enough to know he's just as capable of getting max value with a monster by making that bet, but the bet size combined with the physical read to me made this far less likely.

Call or Raise?

So what could he have?  I remember reading a couple of years ago an incredible hand Faraz Jaka played where he called with Nine high.  The texture of the board and his reads were very similar.   He put the guy on a draw and knew he had a great chance of being right.  I was in that exact spot and I thought back to the hand.  78 made a ton of sense.   Then, I contemplated raising him. 

One drawback of making hero calls is sometimes your read is right but their weakness is still marginally better than yours.  So you call and see with disappointment they have you pipped.  Often times it's better to just raise and scoop the pot.  It's a tough balance because other times re-opening the action is dangerous and suddenly you have to trust your read for way more chips if they push back on you with an equally strong read of weakness of you.  I decided in this spot he either had exactly what I was putting him on or a hand that could still call a raise that would beat me--so better to call.

Extra Benefits of Calling

What helped push me to a call were the meta game benefits of "soul reading" a guy with ten high.  I show that to the table, and despite their collective excellence they aren't going to want to mix it up with me.  Certainly they aren't planning on bluffing me.  If he had Jack high and was floating me, I could still get the same value by saying I knew you were on air, and show ten high.  Though being right is decidedly better than being wrong.   For whatever reason, it's a lot easier to label you an idiot when you are wrong than it is to see the genius in almost being right. 

Another great possibility for me was that he might be so weak that he auto mucks and I scoop the pot without having to show my hand.  Certainly Jack high, Queen high, and other hands that could have me beat would be apt to do that.  Thus, I could win the pot two ways by calling.


I say to the table I can't beat much and he seems even more uncomfortable so I throw in the call.  In a stroke of good fortune Fierro doesn't muck he turns over 97.  He already expressed some confusion about the rules governing when you show the hand.  On the LAPT if the river is checked down the last act of aggression (the last to bet/raise any street) has to show first, whereas at the WSOP it's by position.  He sought clarification on that earlier, so in retrospect I think he showed just to be safe. 
In the moment I'm surprised he's shown and almost think I'm beat.  I ask what's he got, as one card almost fully covers the other.  When I'm assured it's nine high, I say "Good" and toss up my ten high to win the pot. 

Everybody goes nuts and poor Fierro looks like I just kicked him in the stomach.  The table can't restrain themselves from ribbing him and I get the obligatory "I'm not going to try and bluff you," "Soul read," and looks of amazement.  For the next hour I steamrolled the table.

Fierro Laughs Last

As good as that call was from me, it was Fierro who played almost all the way until the money.  I didn't even make it out of day 1.  Nonetheless, this hand will be one I always remember and treasure.  I spoke to a friend who made a good living as a heads up pro for five years and he said he saw me tweet that I called with ten high.  He  assumed I was joking.  Then he told me in all that time playing heads up the best he ever called with was Jack high.  That made me feel good.  Now I know I can compete with and sometimes out play the best players in the world.   I look  forward to getting back there next year.

Monday, July 23, 2012

WSOP WRAP UP... And One Boob More...

WSOP:  A Bad End


The World Series of Poker did not end the way I would have liked.  It also didn't begin or "middle" the way I would have liked either.  It was a bit like I'd imagine it would be encountering a three-boobed woman from Total Recall.  At first I'd be like "Hmmm... two are nice... three must be better" so there was all that awesome anticipation of the WSOP and the National Championship.  Then I'd get there and start to think besides the convenience of one being in the middle what's all the fuss about--it's the world's softest poker tournament series and there are still bad beats.  Then, you'd recognize, it's just one more boob, and besides the extra curve boobs are really for babies.  The World Series is in itself a trap.  Hundreds of good players run bad there every year.  Some bad ones run good.  Then finally, I'd be looking at the three boobs, thinking it's actually kind of gross... get me out of Vegas.

I sent an email of bad beats and coolers to my backers but I will spare the readers of this blog that misery other then one below.  I don't need to share that far too often I ran into idiots trying to gift me their money, when I was a huge favorite, only for my hand not to hold.

Pretty bad time for a downturn in variance.  Course I had a great year pokerwise so I shouldn't be complaining too much.

That being said, I learned a lot this summer and actually feel more emboldened in my belief I'm pretty good at extracting max value from bad players.  I can't wait to get back to the World Series... it is so soft.  I just needed my hands to hold.  There is a three boob joke in there but I'm not finding it.

I Called With Ten High

I think I played well this World Series... see this hand I blogged about for PokerBlog:  I was three for three with hero calls, so I didn't call light except when I was right, usually a pretty good indicator for me when I'm playing good.  Two hands, I kinda wish I had back:  I got semi-coolered once with AQ v. AK but maybe should have found a fold.  And I ran KK into a set of 9s on a 9 high board and paid off a river bet that I think I could have folded to as well.  Those nag at me.

Monkey Bananas

I was encouraged to see Monkey run good in the Main Event and go deep.  I had a lot of fun pulling for him and Blake Barousse.  Monkey and I had a conversation in Vegas prior to the big one, about our mutual fears in letting down our friends and backers.  He also ran a package when we had both mostly whiffed in the run up to the Main Event.  His luck changed... mine didn't.  And when I say luck, I'm not referring to getting lucky, more not being unlucky.  I think there's a big difference there that most of us poker players grasp.

Overpairs Overrated

To Monkey's critics saying if they had AA 11 times in the Main Event they'd definitely make the final table I simply laugh at them.  I was out there for ten days I couldn't get overpairs to ever win (in an important pot), no matter if they improved to sets on the flop or whatever.

Overpairs guarantee you nothing.  Here's the sole bad beat I warned you about and only to be illustrative of how bad I ran with overpairs.  In a battle of the blinds, I trapped a shortish stack by just completing from the small blind with JJ.  He shoved for way too much with 82.  I called and he runner-runner-ed a flush (another theme for me this year in Vegas runner runner flush).

AA, KK, QQ, are just pairs and even when they improve to sets they can still be fools gold... Three boobed hookers can still carry the clap.  

How to Sweat

I added another pet peeve to my ever growing list when I sweated Monkey's Main Event run via facebook.  One of his friends criticized his play, in a spot where he was clearly wasting mental energy focusing on the possible miscue, and others jumped on board.  He was in the middle of the Main Event... deep in the Main Event.

It's my belief that when sweating a friend in poker you should do three things.  1.  Always stay positive.  2.  Educate them later,  and 3.  Never, ever critique a bust-out hand until at least a day or two later  (I will probably clean this up and use it for a blog over at so don't be surprised if you see some similar material over there--definitely minus the three boob theme).

By the way I'm not talking about the whole thing with Little Hold'em aka Chad Faded into Obscurity aka the new Chad Burns.    That's a beast of another matter.  Seems that kid has finally taken his fair share of run bad and is now jealous of any players success.  Attacking them on facebook seems to be a monthly occurrence.  He leveled his sights at Monkey most recently.  See Monkey's blog for more on that.  

I'm just talking about debating the way a player played a hand... even if coming from a good place must be done at the right time.

Stay Positive

I'm of the mindset that in-game coaching is about living in the moment.  There are times for teaching and times for putting mistakes behind you.  I'd wager even the most stern coaches like Bobby Knight did a lot less teaching in National Championship games than they did in any other game.  Nor do I think playing in the Main Event of the World Series with a chance to win 12 milly would ever qualify as a teaching moment.  If your friend, who you are sweating, is dwelling on a misstep don't pile on.   

At the point in time Monkey was critical of himself when he didn't call with deuces (I think) and a big pot developed and he would have won with a set.   He seemed to be falling under the trap of counting the chips in another player's stack as though they should be his and not moving on to the next hand.  It's hard not to when you are in that situation.  I know I struggle with it.

It's all perspective in poker.  You can be sitting at 20k after losing a massive pot and hating life.  However, that same 20k could be before you and you could be loving it, after getting down to 200 in chips a level earlier.  I always try to remind myself that at every break to look at my chip stack like it's a luxury no matter the count or how I got to it.  Because in truth, chips are precious, in any tournament no matter the situation.  Focusing on chips that aren't yours and never were yours is only going to create additional mistakes. As a sweater you should always help your friends move on to the next hand.

Educate them Later

Guess what poker fans.  The guy you are sweating is doing a lot right or else you wouldn't be paying attention.  Don't worry about trying to teach them the things you would do in their spot.  You aren't there.  Maybe for a reason.  Live poker is about getting into a flow, and sometimes players can do that with unconventional plays.   Poker isn't the Daytona 500,  it's like a race through downtown New Orleans, dodging potholes is sometimes more important then winning the lap.

If you think any pocket pair with a deep enough stack in position should call, in Monkey's position... tell him that a week after the main event.  Telling him in the moment is only going to make him question himself.  You don't win in poker by questioning yourself.  You don't want to think you did one thing wrong and then start asking are you doing other things wrong?

Bust-out Hands

I have a buddy who always ask me my bustout hand right after it happens and shares an opinion immediately.  He says, "I would have played it different or I would have done the same."  Really...  even if I ask for an opinion it's not the moment for me to receive a useful one.  If I just busted from a big tournament and I made a mistake and I know I made a mistake, I don't need confirmation of it.  If so, salve it with you know it was a tough spot, and focus on the positive.  I already feel like poop, why do I need to also be embarrassed about the fact others think it's a mistake.

If I made a mistake and don't know I made one, I don't need it pointed out right as I'm coming to grips with the tournament still going on without me (Educate Me Later).  What you should do is treat it like I just got coolered or bad beated.  Pats on the back and all that.  Certainly don't patronize me but save the insight for a day or two.  If was terrible tell me then and I'll appreciate the candor.  Telling me after it happens feels like piling on.  After the World Series Main Event maybe a week or two.  By the way, this has nothing to do with Monkey's bust-out hand--sounded like a cooler and nothing more, but just is good advice when sweating friends.

There's always the World Championship of the World

Course for people like me that whiffed in Vegas, and for people like Monkey who won something there is always another poker tournament around the corner.  Sounds like there is some tiered poker tournament going on in Biloxi run by the tournament director pictured with the two sunglasses.  Maybe a chance to recoup some of my WSOP losses.  Except I'm going to a wedding so I can't play in Kai Landry's invitation only invitational.  I want his hubcap trophy badly (check out his blog).  I am jealous of everybody attending and will be doubly of the man or woman who wins.

Juices Flowing

I don't think Kai is charging a juice like the WSOP-Circuit is.  I just saw a schedule for the IP and an early tournament is $365 ($300 + $65).  I'm assuming in their fine print they are taking out their standard 3% as well.  So 291 goes to the prize pool and $74 dollars doesn't.  WTF?  I'm considering not playing and boycotting their entire event.  I'm also considering possible website suicide and discussing with Gene D, the idea of GCP leading a boycott of the event and convincing everybody we know to stay away.

This has gotten out of hand in gigantic proportions and the Circuit or the operators are just getting greedy.  I asked last year how much would be too much... and for me I might have found my limit.  25% isn't even a joke.  If we don't take a stand together I don't know if we ever will.

That would suck I run so good at the IP:

Was that rant just a veiled attempt to brag?  No.  The bragging was just an extra bonus.  By the way, spoiler alert, I'm probably too much of a coward to lead a boycott of the IP but I will guarantee you this, if I do go at all, it won't be for much of it.

Random Links

-Dr. Doom predicted the financial collapse a few years back.  I read some of what he wrote and surprised many of my friends in the financial industry by repeating his predictions before they happened.  Of most pertinence was his insight into how far reaching the mortgage crisis would grow when many people (my friends included) thought the contagion would be limited to the lower class or middle class.  Anyway, his doom and gloom is back.  He shares an opinion that I've gleaned from reading between the lines of many others.  The recovery ain't what it appears.

-Some happier thoughts, My family just got back from a trip to Venice Beach, FL.  Fossilized shark tooth hunting is great there.  My wife's sister found one easily worth 2k .  It's a megladon tooth.  I usually am bored with just sitting on a beach, but adding in the slot machine like thrill of tooth hunting and giving me something to do makes it a lot more fun.

 We also made a day trip to Disney World.  Got hooked up big time there thanks to Brian H.  My son loved it.  So did I.  Don't know if I was proud or not when my little two year old broke the rules and went to a prohibited part of the park (climbed on the locomotive of the Dumbo's train in the new little toddler water park area at fantasy land after figuring a way through the metal fence).  He later said "I'm sorry for fussing mommy... but I'm not sorry for getting on the train at Disney World."

The entire trip was great top to bottom and ended way to quickly.  We were greeted on the drive home by a double rainbow.  What did it mean?  What did it mean?  One of the two was the best rainbow I'd ever seen and hopefully a sign of better things to come.  Course today I spied this rainbow on the Internet which is better if only because how cool it is--almost doesn't look real.

-GCP may have some copyright and trademark issues we have to deal with.  And no for those handful of people who have asked if they can tattoo our logo on themselves it's not you (yes I said handful).  From you all we want is for a picture to put on the site.  It's some other stuff.  As it is, I wish we were as big, as rich and as powerful as Jack Daniels so we could deal with our issue as awesomely as they did theirs (pssst... click jack daniels to find out).

-After the shooting in Colorado my wife is scared to go to the movies.  Don't know when I'll see Batman or Total Recall (three boobed girl from above)... which sucks because I want to see both.  I almost feel guilty for thinking that.  People died yet I'm pissed I won't get to see a movie in a timely fashion.  Kind of like 9/11 it was about a year before people started complaining about security at the airport wasting their time.  For the record I still don't.  Nonetheless, I wonder when can I start resenting this crazed murderer ahole for f'ing up my mundane life without disrespecting the dead?

Tragedies always inspire these secondary controversies of appropriateness.  The couple that brought their baby to a midnight showing are idiots.  It's okay to say that.  No, they weren't big enough idiots to deserve to be in a massacre, and you shouldn't say that, but you can say they were idiots.  They are.  If some guy in there was wearing jhorts he's an idiot too.

Then you got the twitter jokes, for example one was... "Other than that how was the movie" (referencing the old line "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln how was the play") and the playmate that made the joke something along the lines of "I heard Batman was to Die For."  When is it too soon to joke?  Clearly not the next day.  And clearly it should be a good joke.  But maybe... never?  Generally cancer, genocide, 9/11 and massacres don't translate to funny.  

Alright... if that blog post was all over the place... my apologies had some catching up to do...   

Friday, July 06, 2012

Vegas Day 5, 6, and 7

Took yesterday off to take my mind off of poker.  I'm going to go in reverse chronological order for no good reason.


Went to Starbucks.  Spent some time in the shower visualizing myself winning the National Championship.  Cards in the air today at noon.  Field is loaded.  Excited about it.  Looking forward to mixing it up and challenging myself.  I have that good feeling.


Took the day off from WSOP tournament poker to relax before today.  Gene and I went to a few different casinos and I booked a small winner at an old Vegas casino in a tiny donkfest.  Had my Phil Ivey on and just decimated a table betting two or three times an orbit.  Might have a slightly different strategy today.

When I sat down I immediately discovered the cards were marked.  I think the process is called daubing.  Ace's had a mark right in the middle of the card, kings just below it and queens just below that.  The cards were white with a diamond shaped grid on it, and the marks, almost translucent white obscured the grid barely but if you know to look for it you could spot.  Apparently it was only one deck as once they took it out of play, three hands after I saw it.  I got an Ace on my first hand and saw it was an accidental mark then confirmed it when I got dealt a King and a queen.  I also saw the mark for the Ace on another's players hand when he exposed it.

They broke my table and boxed up the cards and I didn't see another bad deck in play.  I felt compelled to say something but at that time there looked to be several unsavory type players in the field and no offense to the floor but he looked like an old Vegas "good guy."  I decided I'd bite the bullet and speak up if I saw another bad deck but didn't.  I advised Gene of it and told him to keep his eyes open too.

I played well and avoided going broke with pocket Aces.  Here's how the hand went.  Lady opened.  She's a tight older woman.  I got a huge read of strength physically to go with the read of her strength just opening from early position.  A guy shoved but didn't have enough to reopen the betting.  I called from the big blind (I'll tell you why in a second).  Flop came KQx.  I checked and she shoved.  I asked her if she had KQ she didn't like the question got a big read of strength.

Eventually, I showed my aces to the dealer and I folded.  The woman turned over a set of kings.   I'm really happy with how I played that.  I knew she was married to the hand and my strategy when playing bad players that exhibit the strength of their holdings obviously is to see as many cards cheaply rather than just get it in and let the cards decide the winner.   Some can argue I lost value with my aces, but I'd say if the flop, turn or river is all ten cards I'm getting her money regardless.

KQ is a terrible flop for me when she continues aggression.  She doesn't lead with JJ or 1010.  Nor does she do that with AQ.  Actually AQ and AK are far less likely considering I have two aces.  In fact, there are only three hands she probably had I told myself KK, QQ or KQ.  Though KQ was probably the least likely given the read of strength I had on her preflop.  When I folded I told myself it was a good fold even if she was supposed to get coolered and peeled AK.  Thankfully, she didn't.

I hope today I'm locked in the same way.  I made a couple of other spot on reads though I didn't follow through on one.  A guy exposed his bluff 4-2 (I almost shoved on him with A-2 on a 10107 board) and I merely said "You had me outkicked."  I wasn't upset that he bluffed me in fact, I loved it because my read was so spot on all he did was confirm it.  The other I shoved 99 on a 10 high board when a guy postured with a flush draw (he called me and bricked).

Also, went to City Center and saw that billion dollar (?) project.  Insane the scale of that thing. Aria is beautiful.  One thing that I found amusing, the Aria has the same video poker display on their bars as every single video poker joint in the world.  Same interface.  You'd think they'd pay the supplier a little more to juice up the visualizations and class up the game a bit.  Just weird, you can play the same game in a dive in cajun country as you can in one of the most glamorous casinos in the world.

Day Before Yesterday:

Mike went home late at night.  Weird but it felt lonely and empty to not have a roommate.  Mike was a great partner in helping me focus on poker.  Course he offered a lot of temptation too.  His cousin was in town, a choreographer and a bit of a free spirit.  Her friends rented the Palms Playboy suite for 40k for a 40th birthday party and invited us over.  My mind is solely on poker so I demurred.  Tough decision but I'm here to make money.  My wife even said I should have at least just dropped by to see it.

Mike visited during the day (the pic up there is of his cousin and two of the guests) when I was playing cards.  He met this group of friends that includes cheer-leading coaches, gymnasts, and other beautiful people.  At night there was a white party and I've given Mike non stop grief for not returning even just to be a wall-flower.  To be fair his cousin was leaving early but...  come on.  Mike's a single dude.  He's ready to mingle.  Come on.

I played a mega and the shove fest ended badly for me.  I learned some valuable lessons: play the $550 and get there on time.  It will still be shovefest but you get double the starting chips and the early levels offer a lot of opportunity to chip up.

Day Before the Day Before:

At some point, and these days all blur together I finished ninth for crumbs in a $135 nightly.  Thought I was going to bag first but ran bad in critical spots.  I will probably come back and clean this up a bit but I wanted to give everybody a run down.  Real quick.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Vegas Day 3 and 4: Karma, Coolers, Bad Beats and Jerks in Suits

You know what they say about Karma... yeah.

I'm not a big believer in luck or superstition or Karma for that matter, but I do believe in doing the right thing.  When I don't it hangs over my head and maybe even clouds my judgment.  I've seen some weird coincidents in my short life.

Recently, I played a tournament series at Coushatta in backwoods Louisiana and on walking into the door on my first day a random black cat walked across my path.  How is a random black cat in a casino parking lot?   I whiffed the three day tournament for the most part.  Coincidence, surely.

Anyway, two nights ago, Mike and played some Pai Gow at Bill's, again for some free beers and a little bit of unwinding.  I don't really gamble so we played the cheapest game possible.  On our first hand Mike didn't play the sucker bet and hit 9 high Pai Gow ($250 to 1 and would have paid $1250 on the five dollars he had hit the wager).  I said Mike these things run in streaks put the $5 up.  He didn't and hit 10 high Pai Gow two hands later (75 to 1 or $375).  So we played the sucker bets.

Luckily, we hit a few, Jack high (60 to 1), Queen high, King high and Ace high Pai Gows, and had a good night, and got paid to have our two beers.  Then on one hand I had three tens on the bottom and two Jacks up top.  The dealer had a flush on the bottom and rags up top.  She went to pay me for hitting trips based on the bonus, and I said wait I have a full house (because even though I split the tens and Jacks it still counts as a full house for the bonus).  She said oh yeah, sorry then paid me for the full house and paid my bet on the hand ($9.50).

I didn't really think about it, but like the majority of Pai Gow hands and why it's a great game to kill time in a casino or unwind, I actually pushed.  Her flush beat my trips on the bottom and my pair beat her two rags up top.  She just gave me credit for the full house on the bottom and decided it beat her flush.  I did not immediately say anything, but it nagged at me.  Even honest people cheat and steal when it's a small amount.

There are great rationalizations for keeping the $9.50.  A couple are the casino makes huge profits and is pretty unscrouplous in screwing over the customers.  It's inconsequential and speaking up may only get the dealer in trouble for making a mistake.  They've probably made mistakes against my favor is another.  All that being said, the right thing to do is give the money back.

I'm pretty good about doing the right thing in life.  I think most of us are, but as this article mentions even honest people can rationalize stealing small amounts of money.  Virtue is often times a lack of temptation.  The true measure of a person is being honest even when it doesn't really matter.

So, after I left I this inconsequential $9.50 started to weigh on me.  In the moment I just focused on the next Pai Gow hand.  But that night I decided I'd at least offer it back the next morning.  Then we had to change hotels and all that had me almost running late for the 1k.  I got to the Rio with little time for the tournament and just didn't get back over to Bill's.

In a way, I had built up my own little taste of bad karma.  Coincidence or not, I ran EXTREMELY bad  in a lot of ways after not saying anything about $9.50.

It actually started when I was at the Pai Gow table.  I had one hand where I had a pair of queens up top and a huge Ace high flush on bottom.  Dealer turned over quads and a pair of aces up.  When she saw my hand she stopped and stared and said something you never want to hear in a casino spoken by an employee when you lose spoken, "I've never seen that lose before.  That's a bad beat."

I don't know much about Pai Gow but it seemed unlucky, and when she said that I said, oh that's a really bad beat.

The bad luck continued early the next day after breakfast.  We passed the Sportsbook at Bally's before the Euros Championship, and decided to take a small prop bet on the action.  Fernando Torres to score for $15.  It had been announced he wasn't starting.  Sure enough he gets in and scores.  Sweet... right?  We'll come back to this, but here's a case of even when I thought I was winning I wasn't.

You aren't coming to this blog for Pai Gow stories but for poker stories.  Though no one wants to read a slew of bad beats and coolers.

The 1500:

I was killing my starting table.  I ran good and played well.  I had a terrible player on my left, okay he wasn't terrible he was an average old dude that played like an open book.  To give you an idea of his game, I had an unexpected first in poker he folded his big blind to me when I called from the small with 10-2.  Notice I didn't say raise... I wrote call... and he folded.  The dealer heckled him about that as I jokingly assured him that was a great fold.  He assured me there was no way he could win the hand I said you are probably right.  After

After that, I never once thought about not raising him or at a minimum completing against him for the rest of the day when it was unopened to me.  I got low on chips coming in second best a time or two.  One time I lost the minimum in a bad spot.  This dude that had a strange frog in his voice when he talked wearing all kinds of poker gear had been chirping for the first few levels.  I barely understood him but must have been nodding at all the correct moments cause he thought we were having a conversation.  

On one hand when it was limped to him in the small he raised.  I looked at A2 and mulled reraising but I got a read of strength from him, so just called and was going to play very cautiously in position if an ace hit.  One of the limpers came along.  Flop was A2x (rainbow board).  Sweet.

He checks, I check.  Late position fires out a bet.  Then Chirper puts down a raise.  I stew.  Big Ace?  Do I have him trapped here?  Something felt ugly.  I call.  Turn is a Jack.  He leads again.  I call and he goes into a spasm of disappointment, like I had kicked him in the groin.  Uh... Hollywood much.  This dude is very strong.  AJ just improved to a better two pair?  I'm hoping for a river two.

River is a 10.  He bets again after some deliberation.  I decide two pair is too strong to fold here as he could be just as putz-y with AK or AQ.  I call and shows pocket deuces for set. I lost the bare minimum I think with that flop and was very glad the case deuce didn't bounce on the river.

Still I lost a good chunk of stack.  I grinded and built my way back up.  Just as I got to 6k which was great for that point in the tournament me and the old man on my left would clashed twice and it would be my deathknell.  I raised from the SB with 103 when it was unopened to me (did I mention I was killing him in the blinds).

He called.  Flop came Ace high.  I knew he didn't have an ace.  I bet.  He looked at his cards and I spied the look of a flush draw.  We both checked the turn.  I did so, because I was stealing the river if no flush card hit.  River was another Ace--perfect, no way he hit one of his hole cards.  I bet he folded.

With that fresh in our mind, and him probably a little suspicious of larceny with the Aces out there and me checking the turn.. the cooler happens.  I get AQ on the button.  Pot is unopened so I of course raise my standard amount.  He and the big blind both call.

Flop comes A and two wheel cards 25 with a flush draw (I didn't have).  He leads for 1k.  Big blind folds I got about 5500 in my stack.  I think about popping him, but this guy has an ace 100% of the time to lead out.  I think I'm killing most of his hands.  Can't rule out two pair 100% though like A2, A5.  So I call for pot control.  This guy only bets when he has it but he tended to overvalue just a bare top pair.  So I'm hoping he has aj, a10 and slows down.

Turn is a 3.  Now A4 makes the wheel.  He fires out 2k.  I got 4500 behind.  Ugh.  I stew.  I run through the range of his hands.  More I think about it, I think he folds ace rag to my button raise.  So it's Ak, AJ, A10 or maybe A9.  Here's where I made a mistake.  I can't just call with 2500 left to fold the river.  If I call I gotta call it all, so in those spots better to shove.

I stew forever and say all in.  He insta-calls and I say, "That's bad" and he shows AK.  Many of my friends have told me that's a standard cooler.  I don't know I think vs. him I could just fold the turn.  After talking with Adam it's pretty clear since I had such a great table and was generating money without hands I had lost track of my strategy.  I didn't need to play guessing games.  I can fold winners and coin flips because there is value in simply staying in the tournament and staying at that table.  In retrospect, I don't think it's being results oriented to say it was a mistake.

So, that wasn't good.

Next Day (4):  The 1K

After the bad luck Pai Gow game the night before, I play the $1000 and immediately chip up.  Same thing, stealing pots with no hands.  I made a bad bluff once and got called and somehow held the winner.  That was weird.  Stunned he could call and not beat me on a double paired board.  He must have had an ace. I rivered what I thought  was a meaningless flush.  That was just a tease.

After doubling my starting stack and being in a very comfortable spot, I got Queens.  A young internet kid min-raised under the gun.  A short stack re-raised.  He had about 1.5k behind (very strong to not shove there).  A knucklehead called him with 2.5 to 3k behind.  I looked at queens.  I was worried the short stack was 3betting with better, but I decided the knucklehead might call if I put in a 4bet and I could freeroll vs. an overpair (ie, I had a better hand than the knucklehead and  what I won in the sidepot would at least break me even against what I lost to the short stack if I did lose).

So I four bet.  Short stack shoved, and knucklehead shoved too.  My reads were right AA and 99.  Okay, it turned out the sidepot was bigger than what I put into the Main Pot so I was freerolling pretty good.  Started out great as I hit top set.  Then both players with a heart went runner-runner flush to destroy my freeroll.

I got into a hand later with two of the good players at the table.  In late position I raised with suited QJ of diamonds.  Button, right after me calls and big blind calls too.  Flop is 87 of diamonds and a black deuce.  Big blind checks.  I check too and button leads.  Big bind raises and I go in the tank.

I checked initially because I got the feeling the big blind hit something.  Both players were good enough to be posturing and stealing/restealing but for some reason I felt like I was screwed.  I folded.  Button shove and big blind insta called.  Button had 56.  Big Blind Ace of diamonds Two of diamonds.  Good fold Bill.  Button rivered a four.  Diamonds never came.

I folded more, and watched lots of pots go to showdown and i was comforted my garbage never won.  Slowly, I was crippled as I went card dead.  Blinds starting catching up to me after I made some folds that were accurate.  It was about the time to shove any two and maximize the tight equity I had built up at the table and steal some blinds when I got to about 15 big blinds.  Then they broke three tables at once including mine.  Bad beat.

When they were breaking my table a floor guy, who has butchered every decision I've seen him make comes over and kicks a coke into my leg, soaking my shoe.  Karma really is a....  He looked at the mess and stared at me like it was somehow my fault.  He's one of those guys much to his own personal impairment gets a little bit of power and gets off on lording it over people and generally treats his customers like school children.  A stark contrast to all the great floor guys on the circuit and at the Series.

At my new table, I won a couple of pots with shoves when I actually wanted to be called and then got whittled down again. Finally, playing seven handed I shoved with A10 next to the button, who woke up with AQ.

$235, $125, $125

I took some time off for a couple of hours.  With my head straight I late regged the $235 with everybody that busted the nooner.  The entire table was tilted and chips were spewing in every direction.  To give you an idea of the table, I thought about calling preflop shove and reshove with K10 and would have been right when 89 suited went up against 109 suited (8 ball hit of course but I would have made a straight).

Later I folded third pair when a kid shoved the turn and I put him on air and almost called.  He showed the bluff.

So, I get busted after flopping top two and betting to protect myself against weird straight draws with KJ.  A guy calls me and the turn puts a second diamond out there.  He shoves.  I call knowing in this sea of idiocracy my hand was good.  He had air before the turn but picked up gut-shot low straight draw and flush draws.  He hit.


Took some time off again.  Went to the room.  And thought about playing the 1500 (Vegas Day 5).  Since, I didn't put it in the package, I thought I should go play a couple of sit 'n goes and win my way in and give everybody in the package another big WSOP event to rail.  Went down and played two $125s.  Should have stayed in the room.

On the first one, I get crippled when knucklehead open shoves a straight draw in blinds vs. blinds when I flopped top pair.  He hit.  They did all day.  Any draw apparently got there against me.  Lol.  I still had chips.   Later same guy shoved into my AK and got there again with two unders.  Yuck.  Then I bowed out when I had to shove.

Undetered I went to my next sit 'n go.  With half the players gone I look at JJ in the small blind.  Big blind insta shoves when I complete to trap.  About to be big chipleader.  He has 82.  You know how this story ends.  I lose and get crippled.  I shove AQ and get called by Ace rag.  His rag makes a straight and I pack up for the day.

Good Karma Coming?

This morning I woke up with two things in mind.  Get over to Bill's and offer them that $9.50 back and then go collect on that Fernando Torres bet I won. The only thing I won all day.  At Bill's I call the floor over, and as I thought she would, she refused the money.  She said considering how many mistakes they make against my favor, that I should consider it a win but thanked me for doing it.  That's all I needed for a clear conscience.

So, I popped over to the Bally's sportsbook and said pay me money.  After the computer told them it was a push.  They said "No bet."  Um Fernando Torres scored.  No, he didn't or else the computer would have paid the bet.  Really, I'm pretty sure he scored, check the Internet.  He did... but the computer says he didn't.  I don't point out "a computer" also said he did.

That's strange.  The three sports books guys at Ballys then all stare at a computer for about ten minutes, occasionally clicking the keyboard like my son bangs on drum.  You'd think the math equation from Good Will Hunting was staring back at them as intently as they studied the screen.

Finally, an answer.  Torres didn't start so the bet was void.  Did it say that on the sheet, I didn't remember that?  They print out the sheet which looked different than the one I used the day before but it said all individual props are off if a player didn't start.  Okay, gotcha.  Then the biggest guy says out of nowhere, as I'm accepting and understanding the non-payout which make sense and I'm fine with, "It's not my job to do your research for you."

Believe me after his investigating a simple answer took twenty minutes to discover I'm not sure I'd want him researching anything.  So even when I won, I didn't, and I keep running into Vegas employees all about making my experience here as pleasurable as possible.

Good thing though is my bad day is out of the way. It only gets better.  Playing the $235 in mere minutes.  So wish me good luck.  Karma is on my side now.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Vegas Day 3: Abbreviated...

I'm switching hotels this morning from Ballys to the Rio where I'll be at the remainder of the stay.  With check-in and check out I don't think I'll be able to blog this morning.  Coming soon:  plenty of hands to discuss about the 1500.  In some ways I got incredibly unlucky.  My bust-out hand generally is a no-brainer but in retrospect it might have been one I could have gotten away from "situationally."  The 1k is today starting at noon, so I'm trying to get settled over there.  Hopefully, I'll have plenty of time tomorrow morning to blog as there is a 2:00 restart, I believe, for day two.  Thanks for all the positive support from everybody, especially Adam, Mike and Gene.