geek stuff

Spammers have become so complimentary

Here is a sampling of the great things they have had to say about my blog lately:

“Your site is a refreshing change from the majority of sites I have visited. When I first started visiting web sites I was excited by the potential of the internet as a resource and was very disappointed initially. You have restored my enthusiasm and I thank you for your efforts to share your insights and help the world become a better place.”  That’s going a little too far, don’t you think?

“I found your website after I have been surfing the internet to be useful”  This one is like a little word puzzle.  Did he find my website only after he stopped bring useful?  Perhaps after he stopped surfing the internet, although that is a logical contradiction.

“Thank your for the hard work you must have put in to create this wonderful facility.”  It would be so much more effective if you knew English better, I think.

“Logging into this website should be a requirement for anyone knowledgeable on earth these days…”  Even for your typical egomaniacal blogger, this is a bit strong.

“I came accross this website today searching for any informations. I did not find them, but your site was very interesting.”  I think there was an insult in there somewhere.

“Your site is a much needed addition to my life. THANK YOU!” Now we’re talking!

“U’ve got good pics, the site could use a tiny bit of work (no offense) its still awesome”  Now I’m sure there is an insult in there.  Besides, I don’t think I even have any pictures.

Some of the ones I agree with: 😉

“My god u kept me entertained.”
“Boy, this is some high-class site”
“What a great web site…”
“I love this site, there is so much information to be found. Thank you.”
“I really, truly am glad I found this site. It has answered so many questions for me. I will be back. Thank You”
“This is a very beautiful website, I have enjoyed my visit here very much. I’m very honoured to sign in your guestbook. Thanking you for the great work that you are doing here.”

Of course there are a few where I’m not sure if I agree or not:

“Schöne Seite”
“Super Informationen verpackt in einem tollen Design.”

I still don’t like spam, but I dig it when they are polite.


Wrapping up my Vegas reporting

The quality of play is really amazingly donktastic.  Every time I go to Vegas I tell my wife that I ought to move out there and play full time.  There are a number of good players who have done so, and the game is not as soft in middle limit Hold’Em as it used to be, but it is still plenty soft.  The NL games are even worse than ever and you could easily make a lot of money nut peddling.  The trick is, as always, adjusting to the other guys.

The most extreme example of adjusting I ran into was at 3:00am at the Wynn.  I was playing 15/30 fixed limit, which was as high a game as they spread at that hour.  In fact, the table nearly broke around 2:00, but there was one other decent player who played heads-up with me for a while.   He was exploitable heads-up, but he kept catching better than me and I actually dropped $200 to him, when a few players started to trickle in.  We got up to six handed when two guys from some mysterious foreign country arrived.  One of them was insanely drunk, stumbling and slurring his words.  He had a very simple strategy to poker.  He had apparently heard that aggression was the key and he employed it to the maximum extent possible.  If the action was on him, he raised.  Not sometimes, not mixed in with calls and folds, essentially every hand.  This created an interesting bingo dynamic.  For a while, we didn’t realize that his strategy involved always betting/raising at every decision point.  I picked up on it on the third hand, when I noticed he forgot to look at his cards first.  I quickly realized that this was like the table Hold’em game.  You are against a random hand and you get to determine how much it pays.

The other players weren’t adjusting too well to this guy.  They usually just check-called with any pair and raised with better holdings.  I started killing this guy once I figured out what was up.  There was a very cautious old guy in between us, but I had position on the guy (what do you call him, more than a LAG, more than a maniac even).  So I was three-betting him pre-flop a ton and calling down with hands like Queen high.  It was fairly swingy, but I was steadily building up my stack.  A few other players got isolated with him and lost with overpairs against ragged two pairs and they were getting visibly frustrated.  In one hand I had TT which was an overpair most of the way and rivered a set.  I put in five bets on the flop, three bets on the turn (which was a Queen) and eight bets on the river.  The action went just like this:  He bets, I raise, he 3-bets, I 4-bet, he 5-bets, I 6-bet, he 7-bets, I 8-bet, he folds.  This was the first time I had seen him fold and he was getting about 4,000 to 1.  It made me laugh.  I was up more than $1,000 at this point.  There was another hand where the board was T72 and I held pocket 5s.  When the board paired 7s on the turn, it was lunatic, old guy and me in the pot.  Lunatic bets, old guy calls, I raise, lunatic 3 bets, old guy looks at me for a while and mucks.  I call the 3 bet and go three more on the river when it brings a 4.  I figure 7s and 5s are way ahead of a random hand there.  The old guy goes apeshit.  Apparently he was certain my raise meant trips or better and he folded Kings!  I wouldn’t have folded Kings with a gun to my head.  The old guy said “I thought you were a good player.”  He didn’t understand that you can’t follow a chart that says “check-call with this and re-raise with that.”  The game is completely and totally different when there is a guy like this in it.  Finally, I turned a flush and the dealer helpfully pointed out that since we were heads-up, we could just agree to go all-in.  Drunk guy was agreeable and drawing dead.  I was up $1,500 and he was broke.  He actually had $150, but they wouldn’t let him buy in short, which was just as well, since he would obviously lose that too.  He assured us he would return once he found the ATM and we all waited patiently.  It was weird to go back to normal poker while we waited.  It took him more than an hour, but he returned with cash.

I forgot to tell you his favorite game.  He would bet/raise all the way to river without ever looking at his cards.  He then wanted the other player to expose his hand first and he would turn his cards over one at a time to great drama.  The old guy objected that he was supposed to show his hand first, but the rest of us got into the spirit of this new game.  It was pretty fun.  When he sat back down, he had $500.  On the second hand of his return, there was a board of K6Q36 rainbow.  I had 76 for trips on the river.  We went bet/raise/raise/raise/raise/wanna go all-in?/sure!  I felt a bit bad, but when he was gone the dealer and the other players convinced me he was going to go broke anyhow to the casino table games, so better us than the house.  I believed, because I wanted to believe.  He did his magic trick and the first card he rolled was a Queen.  He shouts with joy and starts calling for another Queen and sure enough, he rolls them over.  I actually laugh and celebrate with him, because I know he’s going to lose it all anyhow, so he might as well savor his brief moment.  He wins one and loses one and thn we’re in another huge hand.  He’s now back to about $900 and he’s looked at his cards this time.  I turn a set and we agree to put it all-in again.  The pot has almost $2,000 in it and he turns over a flush draw, I think believing he already has the flush (clubs and spades look similar!)  Once he realizes he needs the flush to come, he begins to exhort the dealer to give him one more club and the dealer obliges!  Bedlam ensues.  He hugs his friend that he came with, excited counts his money and decides that his poker fortune can not possibly continue and that the time is right to cash out.  To the enormous dismay of the rest of the table, he proceeds to rack up four full racks of red chips and staggers to the cage.  To my disgust, he announces that he is bound for the craps table.

I actually ended that session up about $150, so it wasn’t a disaster, but I should have been up $2,000 or more.  Strangely, I didn’t feel that bad.  I guess if I had actually lost a lot of money to him I might have tilted, but I don’t think so.  He was playing a game that was destined to give me money if we played enough and I was just amused and amazed by it.  None of the regulars were willing to gamble quite so much with him and after he left they advised me that I should have just played smaller pots with him and he could never have got lucky enough to get so much money back.  They might have been right, but I’m happy to make big bets when I have the best of it.  They told me that some variation of this wasn’t uncommon on weekend nights.  Usually the guy isn’t such a maniac, usually he is more the call every hand to the river type, but still a cash machine.  I’ve never seen anything remotely like it.

The Wynn has an extra element of rake.  In addition to the tokes for the dealer and the cocktail server, they have the most amazing massage therapists.  It runs $2 a minute and I think I paid them more than I won.  It was worth it.  At one point, she hoisted my arms above my head and told me gently to prepare for the biggest stretch in poker.  She bent me backwards until my spine made noises and it felt amazingly good.  The idea occurred to me that they should have massage therapists in a lot more places.   At the sushi bar would be great.  At the airport, even better!  On the plane!  Anywhere you have to wait!

I played a few other events.  There was a donktastic low-buyin tourney at the Golden Nugget where a bunch of ITHers played.  I got a big stack and donked it off with JJ where I should have known I was beat, but I didn’t care.  My table image was a bit loose, so I knew he thought I probably has less than Jacks.  I played a WSOP sat where I went card dead for a long time at the worst time (just as the blinds were starting to hurt) and I had to fold QQ to big action on an Ace high flop and then lost my pushbot play with ATs.  My net results were up in cash games, although not nearly up as much as I should have been and down slightly in tourney play.

I’m heading back July 7th for the Main Event of the World Series.  This is the big one that airs for weeks at a time on ESPN.  I feel pretty good about my chances, but you never know how the cards will fall.


Event #10 Trip Report (I win some money!)

I felt very good about my play thus far in the series even though my results had not been that good.  That is the most difficult thing to get used to with poker.  You can play great and lose everything and you can play badly and win a ton.  You just have to understand that in the long run, good play will win more money than bad.  Except that is the kind of thing you tell yourself a week later when you back home and reflecting on the results.  When you are in the middle of it, all you can think is that you keep losing and that it isn’t any fun.  So I have to admit that having a good result in this event made me feel a lot better about the whole trip.

I played this event the way I have been playing everything lately.  I’m seeing a lot more flops and taking a lot more small risks to try to find opportunities to build my stack.  I’m actually not 100% certain that it is a more profitable play to way tourneys than my old approach, but it is a lot more fun.  You get to find yourself in a lot of more interesting situations post-flop.  Against really good players, this approach might be too dangerous for me.  Against the usual WSOP fields, it seems to be an excellent plan.  In the first level, I saw about seven or eight flops and literally never connected with anything.  Once I was able to buy the pot when it checked to me in position, but in general I was on a steady downslide.  This left me with about 3,000 chips when I finally hit paydirt.  It was one of the first hands of 50/100 and there was no one I recognized at my table at this point.  I had already identified who was afraid and who was aggressive and was getting a good feeling about my spot.  There was a raise from one of the most aggressive players at the table who raised it up to 400 chips from middle position.  The Button cold called him and I called from the SB with 86 diamonds.  The flop was a pretty good one for me, it was 973 with one diamond.  I’ve got the open-ended straight draw with a backdoor flush possibility.  The Button was usually pretty timid, so I figured I might test the aggressive guy with a big check-raise.  I thought for the requisite five seconds or so and tapped the felt.  The aggressive guy posted a bet of 1,000 into a pot of 1,200.  To my surprise,  the Button called.  I decided to abandon my original plan to check-raise, because I was now looking at a pot of 4,200 chips and I only had to call 1,000.  It only left me 1,600 chips, which was going to really hurt if I had to fold the turn, but I felt like I would get called by at least one of them if I shoved there.  In hindsight, I think I should have stuck to my plan and check-raised there.  I hate to go all-in with a draw, but I think I could have won the pot then and there which would be great.  As it turns out, I looked like a genius when the turn was a T of diamonds.  Now not only did I have a made straight, but I had a redraw to a flush in case someone held the unlikely J8.  I wanted to get the maximum value, so I just checked again.  The aggressive player now sprung to life and pushed all his chips to the middle.  The Button thought for a pretty long time and kept looking over at me while I tried to stare at the cards like a cow at a passing train.  He eventually folded and I called before the dealer even turned to me.  Unfortunately, the aggressive player had outs because he had the AK of diamonds, so he had a better flush draw than I did.  Fortunately, at the moment, he didn’t have anything at all.  It was a decent move by him, he just got unlucky that I held what I did.  He needed one of seven remaining diamonds to arrive which is going to happen less than 15% of the time.  This wasn’t one of those times and all the chips got shoved over to me.  This took me up to over 7,500 chips and I was now the second largest stack at my table.  Everything seemed good.

It was to take a turn for the worse.  Huck Seed, the winner of the Main Event in 1996 and holder of at least 4 bracelets for winning WSOP events strolled up to our table just two hands later.   Even worse, he promptly sat down and doubled up when he flopped a set and got paid by a player with KK.  He was three seats to my right, so I expected to end up tussling with him since we both had chips.  Unfortunately, it happened all too soon.  He limped from early position with another limper and I just called with AK from MP3.  This is a new approach for me, where I try not to get in big pots with AK, which has hurt me in previous tourneys.  We wind up six to the flop which is nice for me, K76 rainbow.  The action checks to me and I make a pot-sized bet of 700 chips, which is a big bet for the table, but I’d like to go ahead and take it down.  Everyone folds but Huck who calls without much hesitation.  I really hate this call.  Maybe he has KQ or KJ and maybe he has 89s or 54s for a big straight draw, but maybe he has 77 or 66 here.  The turn was an innocent duece, but Huck never looked at it.  He was watching me and he slowly checked.  Against most players, I’d bet again here and plan to see the river for free, but I had a bad feeling about the hand and just checked behind.  I was telling myself that I was stupid and playing too timidly, but I did it anyhow.  I took a little too long with the decision.  I wish I would have checked quicker.  Huck bet 1,000 on the river into a 3k pot, which I had to call with top pair.  I was not shocked to see that he turned over 66 for bottom set.  I was happy to lose 1,800 chips when I could easily have gone broke.  This knocked me down to around 5,500.  I managed to steal a nice pot just as the break started and went to the first break with 6,500 chips.  I started with 4,000 and had a good chance to get busted, so I was happy with where I stood at the break.  I was getting less fond of Huck Seed, however.

Happily, Huck went broke not long after the break, so I didn’t have to deal with him any more.  The guy who busted him was a good player (he wound up busting at the exact same time I did), but I was much happier for him to have the chips than Huck.   My biggest hand of this level was against a visibly nervous woman who played very carefully.  She was starting to get short-stacked, past the point where I thought she should be looking to push all-in (especially with her image).  The table had been raising 600 chips every time.  She raised to 800, which made me suspect she really didn’t want to get called.  When a weak player doesn’t want to get called, I suspect AK.  I called in the SB with TT.  I thought about pushing, but figured she would call with AK and I decided I could get her off her hand if I waited for the flop.  The flop was JJ4, which was a good flop for me.  I decided the strong move would be to let her fire a continuation bet on the flop and then put her all-in.  As expected, she bet the flop and I check-raise all-in.  I have her covered by a quite a lot, so I’m really trying to put her all-in.  She goes deep into the tank.  She thinks about it for so long that people at our table start to get restless and walk around the table.  I have my head in my hand staring at the cards, like I always do.  I’m a bit puzzled, because it isn’t that hard of a laydown to fold AK in that spot.  Eventually she sighs and folds.  She asks me to “At least tell me I made a good fold.”  I tell her I would be happy to, if she tells me what she had.  She says that she folded KK.  I smile ruefully and tell her that I’m sorry, but I can’t tell her that was a good fold.  She visibly deflates.  I feel bad about it, but not very bad.  I made it to second break with 11,000 chips, which was clearly well above average and second largest stack at our table.  I liked our table.

On the break I got to hang out with Barry Greenstein and talk to him about my visit to Children, Inc a few months ago.  Barry was very gracious both to me and to the many people who interrupted him to ask for autographs or a photo.  Two people from my table saw us chatting off to the side including a guy who watched me talking with Matthew Hilger and Greg Raymer earlier.  He was clearly trying to figure out who I was, since I knew all the big names.  That was funny.

The second hand back from break I found AKs and decided to raise it up.  We must have been at 200/400 by then.  I raised pre-flop and got called and then was check-raised on a terrible flop with flush draws and straight draws and low cards.  None of which I had any piece of.  I folded and fell back to 9,000 chips.   I busted a guy when I flopped two pair from the BB and bobbed and weaved my way up to 16,000 chips when our table was broke and I got moved.  I really dislike getting moved, because I think getting into the other player’s heads is one of the things I do best.

My new table had a guy who was apparently the chip leader of the whole event, according to the guys who run around and scribble notes for posting on the internet.  I didn’t recognize anyone and there were several short stacks who were obviously very cautious players nursing their small stacks with great care.  There was another crazy Texan who told long-winded stories and confused everyone with his odd style of play.  The Texan had a few more chips than I did and the tourney chip leader had three or four times what I had.   I think we were at 200/400 50 ante and I was down to 13,000 or so.  I had been playing tight and trying to get a feel for my fellow players.  The big stack was on my immediate right and he raised to 1,200.   Some big stacks play very loose and aggressive, but he had been fairly careful.  I had 99 and decided not to get cute.  I just called and hoped for a good flop.  The BB also came along for the ride.  The flop came down 89J rainbow, which wasn’t perfect, but pretty close.  The BB checked, the big stack counted out 3,000 or so and announced his bet.  I spent 30 seconds or so contemplating my options.  I really didn’t want to let the BB chase a weak straight draw, but I also wanted to get paid.  I decided to slow play and just called the 3,000 chips.  The BB turbo-folded.  The turn was a second Jack.  This meant that I was now certain to be the best hand, but it was actually a bad card since it was likely to scare the big stack with AA or KK and he was not very likely to go broke now.  He bet about 8,000 chips.  I wasn’t certain of my exact stack size and said so.  I said that I was all-in, maybe for less than 8,000 maybe for more.  I counted off my stack and determined it was about 1,500 more to the big stack, who called getting 8 zillion to one.  It turns out that the second Jack was a great card for me, because the big stack had AJs.  He had trip Jacks and was drawing to three Aces for a better full house or the case Jack for four of a kind.  No miracle happened for him and I doubled up to 26,000 chips and was now a serious force in the tourney.  I was shaking a bit with the adrenaline rush after the hand ended.  Soon thereafter we went on a 15 minute break and I excitedly phoned in the good news to my wife.  We were only 15 minutes from the dinner break, so I was starting to think I had a good chance to make a good run in this event.  I chipped up a bit more after the break and went to dinner with 28,500 chips.

My friend Chris met me in his car at the main poker door and we got to spend a quiet dinner break away from the din of the casino and the constant jabber of the other poker players.  Chris and I were able to talk over my situation and chip stack and he helped me work through the playing tendencies and styles of the other players.  The average stack was about 17,000 chips, so I was in very good shape at this point.   I was getting comfortable with my table and felt like I was back in the zone where I could make good reads and make the right moves at the right time.  I was very sad when my table was broke shortly after dinner.  Even worse, I was moved to a table that would break again very soon.  I hate that.

My new table had Justin Buonomo (ZeeJustin) and David Chu.  Justin had a mountain of chips and was shoving them right and left.  Even though I was unhappy to get assigned a new table, I was thrilled with the results.  On the very first hand, the shortstack (who had just pushed the hand before and won with a small pair) pushed all-in again and I woke up with AKs.  I called and busted him on an Ace high flop.  I found QQ on the second hand.  I raised pre-flop, got two callers.  Fired a nice bet at a raggy flop and get one caller.  Fired another bet at the Jack on the turn and take down a good sized pot.   I played AJs in the BB and rivered a flush for another nice little pot.  All of the sudden I have nearly 50,000 chips and I am probably in the top ten in chips in the building.  I got moved a few hands later with 48,000 chips.

This table also didn’t last too long.  I took a risky call of an all-in from a tight old rock with JJ and was very happy to see he had AK.  He caught the King on the flop, but I caught the third Jack on the river.  That is a hard way to lose a coin flip and he was not very happy about it.  Now I’m up to 60,000 and cruising.  That was the only hand I played at that table.

I got moved again and this time there was a player who covered me at this one.  I made a stupid play trying to represent an Ace, but he couldn’t fold KK because I didn’t commit to the move and I lost a chunk of chips.  I also lost an ugly pot when KK lived up to its name as an Ace magnet.  After those two hands, I was all the way down to 39,000.   Bustouts were flying left and right and I got moved to my fifth table after dinner and we were on the bubble.  This table was going to break too, but only after the bubble burst.  I played about 40 minutes at this one.

My first real hand, I had TT and raised to 4,800.   I got called in two places.  The flop was AK5, which really, really sucked, but I figured they might be scared too, so I bet.  I didn’t want to look scared, so I bet 9,000 and got raised all-in.  There was no way to call that on the bubble, so I folded and now was all the way down to 24,000.  This was not going my way at all.  I was annoyed at all the moves (I couldn’t figure out who was making moves and who had hands yet), I was getting tired (it was after 1:00am) and I really didn’t want to bust out doing something stupid so close to the payouts.  I did manage a blind steal or two and was at 27,000 when the bubble finally broke and I assured myself of a win.  There was a guy at my table who had been merciless on the bubble, raising everything.  He raised again and I used my prized face reading abilities to determine he wasn’t very strong, so I shoved all-in with 20,000 chips or so over his raise.  He called instantly and showed KK.  So much for my face-reading skills.  As the dealer was counting the three cards and flipping them over, he exposed a seven to my opponent, who let out an agonized groan.  I hadn’t seen it yet, but I knew what it meant.  I hit my 20% shot and doubled with the worst hand.  This put me at 40,000 and a blind steal put me at like 45,000.

I got moved to yet another table for the last five hands of the night.  Gross.  I just folded all five.   I ended the day with 44,000 chips and made my first Day Two of the WSOP.  I was tired and also wide-awake.  I chatted with the ITH folks on IRC for a bit and slept for a very few hours before waking up running poker math problems in my head.

I had a huge brunch at the Paris buffet and wandered over to the Rio to find out where I was seated.  It turns out I was seated with a huge stack named Michael Greco who is a British actor and poker player.  I asked my lovely wife to check with the folks on ITH to see if they could Google anything up on him and found a motherlode of interviews and poker results.  One of the articles involved him talking about how all the poker players know Caro’s Book of Tells and are terrible actors.  He just uses his acting to reproduce whatever Caro says a bluffer would do when he is strong and whatever Caro says a strong player would do when he is weak.  This is great stuff.  I know what Caro says and now I know how to be one step ahead of him.  If this were a proper story, I would use that information to take his chips and outsmart him completely.

This isn’t a proper fairy tale.  I had AA on the very first hand of the day.  I was in early position and made a standard raise.  I was called by the Button and the actor in the big blind.  Score!  The flop came down Q73, which is great for me.  I made a dubious decision here.  I decided to make a small bet to look like I was scared, hoping one of them would raise me.  To my chagrin, they both just called.  The turn was a 9 and I shoved all-in.  Unfortunately, the Button held 99 and he was happy to call me.  The actor hemmed and hawed and eventually folded.  He claimed he had two pair at the time he folded, but he later admitted he just had a Queen.  He says that had the Button not called me, he would have called.  That would have been much better.  In hindsight, a bigger bet on the flop might have shaken the Button and put me in a much better position.  But I was trying to get a double or triple and taking the chance that no one would catch up.  The turn push was obvious, because I only had 30,000 left and the pot was bigger than that.  I was disappointed, but I still know that I played some great poker and had a fantastic time.

I finished in something like 120th place out of 1,531 entrants and won about $4,000 for my troubles.  It could have been better, but all in all, it was a pretty good event for me.  I should have busted the night before with 77 against KK, so I really can’t complain about the hand the next day.


I have made day two

I have made day two and have exactly 44,000 chips.


Event 6 recap (or “I refuse to dwell on bad beat stories”)

The one constant of playing in the WSOP is the buzzing of bad beat stories in the air.  As you walk from the room where the main tourneys are held, you hear everyone in a one mile radius telling the story of how they fared badly at the hands of a less-skilled player.  No one ever loses because they were an idiot and no one who is listening to the story really cares about the details.  The other thing is that at the start of the hand each player had a different amount of chips.  If you were the player with more chips, then there is no outcome that can result in you going home as a result of that particular bad beat.  Much of the edge in skill is the accumulation of chips so that you can survive bad beats and inflict bad beats of your own.  So you should always ask yourself if the fact that you were eliminated was due to your failure to accumulate enough chips earlier.

I started off on an amazing run of cards.  In the first level I seemed to hit every hand I played.  In very short order I increased my chip stack from 3,000 to over 5,000 chips.  Most of it was because I got lucky, although some of it was that the table was playing a bit meekly which allowed me to capture many pots I didn’t deserve with sheer aggression.  Poker players can always find something to complain about — if you don’t catch any hands in the early going, you complain that your chip stack dwindled to nothing before you had a chance to really play poker.  If you catch a bunch of hands, you complain that you didn’t catch them later when you could really accumulate a ton of chips.

Now poker is a game that is played on many levels.  Some players don’t participate in all the levels, but they are there.  There is the math of the game — what are the odds that my hand is best and what are the odds that my hand could pass a better hand and so forth.  Then there is the multi-level psychological aspect of the game.  It starts with “What do I have?” then goes to “What does HE have?” then “What does he THINK I have?” and then “What does he think I think he has?” and so on.  A critical component of this psychological game is your image.  If you are a little old man who hasn’t played a single pot in an hour, when you raise, people will assume you have a very good hand.  They might still call you at first, but they will be looking to spike a hand that can beat a big pair.  If you have proven yourself to be an idiot, loads of people will try to call you.  You always have to be conscious of the shifting sands of what they think of you.

By the second level of the tourney, they thought I was insanely aggressive and that I must certainly be a habitual bluffer.  You could see it in their eyes.  They were taking a longer time to fold when I bet and you could see frustration as they thought “I wish I could get something to play back at him.”  A good player recognizes this and adjusts accordingly.  I had resolved to stop bluffing and to play more cautiously since I already had accumulated a nice stack.  To my utter delight, I found two red Kings in early position and raised it up.  My image now destroyed, I got a call and a call and three bet!  Better still, another guy called all three bets.  Of course, I raised again and built an enormous pot for five players for four bets.  The flop came down KT4, which was the fabulous circumstance I was hoping for.  Because they don’t believe me, I still fired a bet (for a player like me to check would be insane) and there were a fold or two and the player who initially re-raised me raised again.  This is good since that must mean a strong hand that she will pay me off with.  One player called both bets, I made it three bets and everyone called.  They can’t be too sure about me, because I could have AA or AK and really like my hand as well as KK.  The turn was a Jack and I bet and the pre-flop raiser raised me yet again!  I’m ready to go to war with her when the other guy, who had initially just been calling made it three bets.  I think for a second or two, but decide more raising would be foolish.  One of them could well have the broadway straight with AQ.  If the board pairs, I can go nuts, but not now.  There is a slim chance that someone has two pairs or all three of us have sets, but there is also a good chance I’m losing.  The river is a blank and it goes check/check/bet/call/call.  The guy who came alive on the turn had turned the nut straight, the other lady held TT.  If only the board had paired, I would have busted her.  This hand was so massive that I was back to nearly my starting stack.  Having accumulated chips early put me in shape to withstand the loss, but had I won that hand, I would have a truly massive stack that would have allowed me to really put the screws to the rest of the table.  *sigh*

The rest of the story isn’t much more interesting.  The only two significant hands I played before my last hand were hands where I held a dominating Ace but the other player got lucky AK v A3 and AT vs A7.  Left short-stacked I knew that I would soon be forced to play a hand for all of my chips and I found it with KJs on a flop of QT5.  An open-ended straight draw that turned a pair was not good enough to beat AA and I was eliminated.

I really felt that I played great poker, so I wasn’t upset at all.  Obviously, I wish it turned out better, but these things are going to happen sometimes.  You have to play a lot of tourneys to get to your true long-run results and I still think I’m a favorite against these fields, but I haven’t done much to prove it yet.  I’m heading for another event in an hour or so — hopefully this one will do the trick.


Event 4 recap (or “How I tilted Jamie Gold”)

Sunday was the $1,500 pot limit event, which I was able to enter by virtue of my horrific finish in Saturday’s event.  Whereas Saturday’s event was a complete zoo with thousands of entrants and no one I knew at my table (and many apparent donkeys), Sunday only attracted 781 runners and the field was dense with professionals.  Jamie Gold sat pretty much directly opposite me at my starting table and there was a European pro that I vaguely recognized at the end of the table.  If I was less lazy, I would look up his picture and figure out exactly who he is, but I don’t feel like dealing with at the moment.  You can tell the guys who spend their lives on the tourney circuit, because they all know each other.  Based on that, there were at least two other pros who played at my table for some portion of the day.  You could also tell by those who became annoyed with dealers that couldn’t calculate the pot size accurately.

I accumulated a few chips in the first orbit or two with a pre-flop raise and a continuation bet.  I got three callers, so that added 500 or so chips to my initial 3,000.  I had to lay down the nut flush draw on the turn to a pot-sized bet, after calling sizable bets pre-flop and flop.  I was last to act and had a caller in between.  Semi-bluffing there is likely to result in an all-in because we had so few chips to start with, so I decided to play it passively.  I found myself drifting downwards in chips.  After blinds and a few pairs that didn’t connect, I found myself sitting with 1,800 chips and starting to think that the next real hand would be the end of the day for me.

Jamie Gold had actually not been out of line much thus far in the event.  Despite his image as a maniac, he actually played a fairly normal number of pots.  His only big hand involved a situation where he re-raised a pot-sized raiser pre-flop and pushed all-in blind before the flop.  He held Aces, which stood up and doubled him.  However, like me, he had played several hands that didn’t connect and he had drifted down back to something near his starting stack.  He had me covered by about 1,000 chips.

The hand played out oddly because I made a stupid amateur mistake that I do about once per trip to Las Vegas.  The blinds were at 50/100 and I find two black tens.  It folds around to me in middle position and I intend to raise the pot, but am so focused on doing the math to determine what my max raise is that I forget to announce raise after I select out the 500 chip and toss it in.  I immediately realize that this is a call, despite my intention to raise, when someone at the table asks the dealer if that was a call.  I respond that it was a call, since it will be declared a call no matter what I say, so I might as well make it a call.  None of the observant players believe this, because I wouldn’t have selected the big chip and I wouldn’t have opened limped from MP2.  The Button calls, the small blind calls and Jamie Gold makes a raise from the big blind, while staring at me.  Now I have two thoughts in mind.  The first is that he is trying to test me to see if I meant to raise with a big hand or not.  If I had a really big hand like aces or kings, I’d most likely come over the top of him here.  My second thought was that raising limpers from the big blind is one of the most common poker ploys that doesn’t mean he really has the goods.  I toy with a reraise to take down the bets already in the pot, but I feel strongly that he is making a move and doesn’t really have a good hand, so I decide to call his raise and let him fire once more on the flop.  I intend to raise the flop and take the hand away from him at that point.  The button looks puzzled and folds.

The flop comes down queen high with two rags, so I still like my tens pretty well.  Jamie makes an immediate bet of about 600 chips which was about what I expected.  I have been studying books by Paul Ekman, who has done amazing work defining the meaning of facial expressions.   He has done a bunch of great work proving that facial expressions are universal among all humans, no matter what their cultural background.  He has cataloged human expression in massive detail, isolating every muscular movement one can make in their face and documenting which expressions go with which emotions.  Much of his work is not relevant to my poker purposes, but has proved quite interesting at understanding my wife and employees.  The key facial expressions for me in poker are anxiety, fear, excitement and happiness.  He also made an “obvious” discovery that I have found to be extremely useful in poker.  He found that when you have an emotional reaction that you are trying to conceal, you first flash the true emotional reaction on your face and then you quickly rearrange your face into the expression you want to convey.  These fleeting “microexpressions” take practice to recognize (freeze frame on TiVo was my main training tool), but provide extremely useful insight.  I got to put this into practice in this hand.  As I was counting my stack and trying to figure out if I should just push them all-in or if I should make a smaller raise, I was eyeing Jamie.  He gave the classic indication of fear/anxiety which was quickly replaced with his false smile (I call it a smirk, but that is a whole different matter).  I also believe that his false smile can be distinguished from his authentic smile, but there are many reasons why he might use the false smile that don’t indicate what his hand is.  However, the flash of anxiety told me that he certainly didn’t have a good hand.  I changed my mind and decided not to raise now, since I was pretty sure he would fold there.  If I just call, he may bluff off more chips on the turn or he may check-fold — either way, I’m better off just calling.

To my delight, he spikes his chip stack into the middle on the turn.  From his perspective, he has read me as weak the entire hand.  I don’t re-raise his pre-flop raise, I don’t raise the flop — he has to believe I don’t have a hand I can call with.  I think he is a very good reader of other people too, but I wasn’t trapping in the conventional sense, so he didn’t draw the right conclusions.  I didn’t even really study him or think about the situation, because nothing had changed in my mind.  He had a ragged straight draw or a small pair at best, in my mind and I didn’t have anything to think about.  I don’t look to him remotely strong enough to call, so he is pushing to win a pot he doesn’t deserve.  I announced “call” in just a few seconds and he grins (an authentic “oops” expression, for the record) and says “You caught me.”  He tables a complete bluff and I turn over my tens.  He is instantly shocked, because he assumes that I could not possibly call unless I happened to have a really strong hand that he misread.  He rotates quickly from surprise to anger as it dawns on him that I didn’t respect the bets he was making at all.  He angrily asks me “How can you possibly call with that hand?” and when I don’t answer, but just smile to myself, he follows it up with a louder assertion that no one else at the table would possibly make such a call.  When the player next to him admits that he would never have called with tens in that spot, Jamie is well and truly set off.  He does a monologue on how in fact no one in the entire poker room would make such a terrible call.  This makes me chuckle to myself, since I didn’t even find it a particularly difficult call in that spot.  I was quite certain my hand was good.  His angry face didn’t require any advanced study to recognize.  Jamie was then in my spot where he had a short stack and needed to play a hand fast.  Two or three hands later, he flopped two pair and another player flopped a flush and he stormed out of the room.  I didn’t explain my “secret weapon” courtesy of Dr. Ekman.

I made a few moves here and there and worked my way up to 5,5oo chips by the second break, which was slightly below average, but in good shape.  Unfortunately, the structure doesn’t allow you to have too many bad hands.  I raised with Jacks and was called by the BB and an early limper.  The flop came down AK5 and I was forced to lay it down when the big blind made a thick bet and the limper called.  The BB could be making a move, but the caller has to have me beat, so that is an easy fold.  It cost me a quarter of my stack, which illustrates the speed of the structure.  I busted five minutes into a chair massage with AJs.  I raised first-in and the blinds both called.  The flop was Kxx with two of my suit.  They checked to me and I made a pot sized bet and one blind called.  The turn brought a Ten, so I now had an overcard, the flush draw and a gutshot.  Dr. Ekman told me that the blind hated his hand, so I put the rest of my chips into the pot on the turn.  Unfortunately, Dr. Ekman didn’t mention that K9 was good enough for a disgusted call and I went home when none of my draws came in on the river.  In hindsight, I should have just checked, but I’m not sure I get paid on the river if it comes home anyhow.  For those keeping score, that is twice that I expected to get a fold from a weaker hand that didn’t work out.  At least this guy had to tank for a while before he called.  I think the presence of so many draws really worked against me, since he had to include many draws that he could beat in my range.

Despite losing, I took comfort in the great story I now have about tilting Gold and the fact that I won the last longer bet with Matthew.


Wow. Just when you thought Harrah’s couldn’t be any dumber.

Richard Brodie is something of an internet friend of mine (although we’ve never actually met).  I first encountered him on flyertalk, where he was a regular contributor and we got into a number of good natured discussions there.  He has generously given me some good advice on Vegas hotels and is generally a cool guy.  From flyertalk, I discovered his blog, where he details his adventures in the poker world.  He made a tidy sum as an early Microsoft guy developing Word and now does the poker circuit and whatever else strikes his fancy.  He has had a run of good luck lately, hitting a few high dollar video poker jackpots and as a result has been banned from Harrah’s hotels.  This is quite literally mind-boggling.  As a result of this foolishness, he is not permitted to play in the World Series of Poker.  I’m completely disgusted.


Paul and the Mexicans

My favorite story of the trip so far involves my man Paulif. It is quite late at night and we are both feeling quite good as a result of many whiskeys, good food and overall joy at being alive. As background, you need to know a bit about Paul. I have noticed that when people start to reach a certain age, they lose all sense of maintaining a distance from strangers. Most little old men will strike up a conversation with every random stranger they meet and might be telling them details of their children’s lives or their own health problems or quite literally anything within minutes. I sometimes wonder if this is a kind of progress, where you simply no longer have the slightest concern for any judgments the other person would make, or if it is a kind of regression to a more childish state where you just cheerfully say whatever pops into your head. I’m inclined to think it is more likely an improvement, because you gain hundreds of serendipitous moments every day where you learn fascinating things about your fellow man and have so many more opportunities to find hidden delights in every encounter. Well, Paul is one of these people. He could get a lamppost to talk to him. Whatever your mental image is of the reserved Brit who would sooner pluck out his eye than “share his feelings,” Paul is exactly the opposite.

So, Paul and I step out of the casino and are preparing to split up and head our separate ways. As you know if you have ever been to Las Vegas, the streets are dotted with Mexicans who get paid some paltry sum to stand on the sidewalk and distribute little glossy cardboard cards festooned with lewd pictures of hookers and phone numbers that you can call to spent some quality time with the young ladies depicted. Although I assume the photos are of some gorgeous model and the actual hooker might well be beastly, but advertising is the great American art, so they should be forgiven this, I think. In any event, these guys take advantage of a powerful instinct. They reach into your path and hold out the card at just the right height to tempt you into some kind of automatic response where you grab the card without thinking. When I am on the sidewalk, I feel that I am engaged in a game of sorts. Whenever I walk past without falling for the automatic tendency to grab the card, I have won. If the guy manages to get me to take the card, he wins. I know that I am not the only one, because the street is littered with cards that people have dropped a few feet later after they lost the battle to avoid the clever hooker card guys. This is a simple game with very few rules. The most clear rule is that you never make eye contact with the hooker card guy. That encourages him. You walk by the hooker card guy as if you don’t even notice he is standing there. The hooker card guy is well aware of your plan, so he slaps the cards loudly together in an effort to startle you into looking at him, which is your first step towards losing the game. I am very good at this game and haven’t been sucked into a hooker card in years.

Paul advises me that he is staying at Harrah’s and we confer briefly and I conclude that Harrah’s is still a block or two towards downtown. Paul is not convinced that I actually know what I’m talking about, so he decides to confer with an expert and walks up to the nearest hooker card guy and asks him if he knows where Harrah’s is. I’m struck mute by this blatant violation of the rules of the hooker card game. If you are not supposed to make eye contact with the hooker card guy, clearly engaging him in conversation is a complete and total victory for the hooker card guy. Just as I expect, as Paul offers his question, the Mexican grins and deftly slips him a hooker card. Score it Hooker Card Guy — 1, Paul — 0. The hooker card guy beams as this may be his biggest victory of the day. He does a look a bit puzzled as Paul continues to chat with him. When Paul winds down his explanation of where he wants to go and why he wants to go there and stares at the hooker card guy waiting for a response, he becomes a bit confused. This is not in his script. Paul is supposed to continue down the street, a loser in the hooker card game. Whatever skills the interviewer sought when he hired the hooker card guy, the ability to engage Englishmen in conversation on the street was not regarded as a key performance metric. He tries “no entiendo” to explain to Paul that he is not able to give him the directions Paul seeks, but they are not having a meeting of the minds. The hooker card guy has a buddy a few feet away and hooker card guy #2 and I have exchanged looks where hooker card guy #2 let me know that my friend had lost, but he knew I was too much of veteran to be drawn in now. Neither of us were comfortable with the direction this was taking and we both closed in — I was intending to move Paul to different goal and explain that nice hooker card guy was never going to provide him directions unless Paul started the question with “Donde esta” and hooker card guy #2 I assume had similar instincts to help his friend. Somehow Paul managed to engage hooker card guy #2 as he came in for the rescue and asked him where to find Harrah’s before he could get to rescue his friend. Sensing that they were going to have to tell Paul something or risk talking to him for the remainder of the evening, hooker card guy #2 pointed downtown and said “three.” It wasn’t clear if this meant three miles, three blocks or three casinos, but his answer was clear enough. I’m not sure if he really knew where Harrah’s was or if he correctly deduced that saying anything to get Paul to move was in his best interest, but he was right so I’m going to say he was honestly helping my man out.

Now came the finest moment in the hooker card game I have ever witnessed. Paul thanks hooker card guy #2 warmly and smoothly hands him the hooker card from hooker card guy #1. As you may know, I have been studying facial expressions and what emotion they reveal and this was the most perfect display of disgust I have ever seen. The hooker card guy immediately realized his mistake — the last thing in the world he needs is another hooker card. It was the exact same face you see on tourists every day as they realize they have been scammed into taking a hooker card that they never wanted. I laughed out loud and hooker card guy #2 looked forlornly at me, realizing that he had well and truly lost the hooker card game. The reversal of fortune is clearly worth double points, making the final score, Paul — 2, Hooker Card Guy #1 — 1, Hooker Card Guy # 2 — 0.


I busted late afternoon in event #4.

I think I played well and I have a great Jamie Gold story, but I don’t have time to write it up yet.  It involves him calling me an idiot and putting him on tilt!


Event 3 recap

Event #3 was a complete and total madhouse.  Everybody knows that you need to pre-register for that one because so many people show up at the last minute to get in.  So, like a good citizen, I sent them the cash in advance.  When I arrived at the Rio the night before the event, I was shocked to learn that the people who pre-registered had to wait in the exact same line as the people who were buying in.  This is not the way it worked last year and makes no sense because the pre-registered folks should just be able to show ID and grab the seat card.  It should take 30 seconds per person.  Of course, they aren’t doing it like that now.  You have to fill out some stupid form and they have to wander off and search for something (God knows what) and then return and generate your seat card.  That last bit is the kicker.  Because they generate the seat card when you claim your seat, you get assigned a seat at that minute, which means that if you waited too long, you didn’t get assigned a real seat.  That means you are an “alternate”, which means you might not get to sit down for hours.  At that point, you will have a short stack and be forced to play push or fold right away.  The truth is that with the 3,000 chip stacks, you don’t get a ton of play anyhow, but what play you do get is in those first couple of hours.  Once I realized I didn’t have an actual seat assigned, I was annoyed.  I cornered a supervisor and asked what the deal was.  I pointed out that I had sent my cash more than a month ago — there is no fricken way I should be an alternate.  He sympathized and said they were trying to do “something.”  I asked him for an assurance that I would be able to get my money back if I was an alternate.  I told him that if I got to the front of the line and they told me I was an alternate, I would have found better things to do with my time.  He hemmed and hawed and eventually called the Tournament Director, who assured me that I would absolutely have a seat.

The way they gave us seats was to add a chair to every table and put us in the last seat at each table.  It was complete bedlam as several hundred people got in something that was more or less a line and received new seat assignments.  They had a list of people who had pre-registered, so it seems like they could have the new seat assignments made before we even showed up — but they didn’t, of course.  They also were back to the same idiotic cards they used yesterday.  The “corner peek” feature is actually pretty cool and I had no problems reading the cards I was dealt.  The problem was the cards on the board.  The 6 and 9 are quite difficult to distinguish and the pips are very small, so telling spades from clubs was not easy.  Luckily, I had the 10 seat, which is next to the dealer and easy to read the board from.  If I was at the end of the table, I’d have to ask the dealer to call out every flop.  I misread the river card once, thinking I had rivered two pair with K9, when I really just had two Kings.  It caused me to make a value bet on the river, but it all turned out good when I didn’t need two pair to win.  I made a very big mistake in this event, which crippled me.  I was limped QJ of clubs, when it got raised behind me.  I called with the BB and saw a flop of JT8 with two diamond and a club.  We checked to the raiser who made a standard continuation bet which folded the BB.  I flat called, figuring my Jack might be good, I had a gutshot and a backdoor flush draw.  The turn was the three of clubs, giving me the flush draw to go with all my other outs.  He fired another 800 after I checked.  At this point, I’m now pretty sure he has an overpair, and I’m afraid a semi-bluff would get called, so I just call again.  This makes the fact that I’m on a draw pretty obvious.  The river is the third diamond, which would have given me the flush if I was chasing the diamonds instead of the clubs.  I decide that I’ve very obviously been chasing the draw, so I bet 1,000 which is almost all of his remaining chips.  I figure the smaller bet looks more strong and he has to really hate the flush draw coming in.  I think there has to be at least a 50% chance he folds an overpair there.  To my dismay, he didn’t even think 20 seconds before calling with QQ.  This knocked me down to a very small stack and left me with no room to maneuver.  A short while later I flopped trip Aces with AQ from the big blind on an AA6 board.  I was sure I had the best hand and we checked around on the flop.  On the turn of King, we got it all-in and the other guy filled up with A9 when the river brought the ugly 9.  Nothing to be done about that.

I had fun, although it was depressingly short.  I really thought that the bluff had a great chance to work, but I was wrong.  I think in these events with so few chips, no one can fold top pair or overpairs, no matter how scary the board is.  In hindsight, it was a poor decision and effectively knocked me out.

My buddy from London, Paul, busted out soon thereafter and we spent the remainder of the day going from casino to casino reveling in the insane Disneyland that is Las Vegas.  Paul and I tried to outdrink each other with bourbon and Scotch and I think we tied in the end.  We had an amazing time, he is a fascinating guy to talk to.  If I recall correctly, we solved the problems of race relations in both South Africa and the USA, reached agreement on what the French do really well, confirmed that we are both the coolest people in the world, mastered the Vegas party game of “Spot the Hooker” and Pauli has proven to my satisfaction that there is an indisputable evolutionary basis for the commonly-observed fact that women understand men far better than men understand women.  I think it still makes perfect sense to me sober.  The only real bad thing I can say about Paul is that he has a curious affection for disco music.  I can only assume that you can only have that sort of feeling if you were too young to have actually experienced it.  Paul’s theory is that it is “happy music” and that allows him to forgive its other myriad faults.  Perhaps the entire experience is ruined for me by my awkward attempts to master disco dancing as a gawky junior high student who desperately wanted to seem cooler to the girls than he did.  We had a great steak dinner at Mon Ami Gabi, one of my favorites in Vegas and apparently the place I take ITHers.  To my shame, I allowed Paul to convince me that I have had some positive influence on his life through my poker tutelage, for which he insisted I allow him to buy me a dinner.  I believed every word of our mutual drunken lovefest last night and I still believe most of it today.  Paul will probably renounce every word, but he’s still stuck with bill now!  He talked about how he has grown and improved as a person as a result of his experiences in poker and I have to admit that I was really touched by his assessment of my small role in that progress of his.  I feel all teary eyed thinking of it now.  It was a really great night and can add Paul to my list of ITHers that have turned out to be every bit as awesome as I expected them to be.  The very worst thing about our conventions is that there are so many people and you don’t get to spend as much time with everyone as you would like.  I’m gutted to this day that I didn’t make more time to chat with Cybrarian at the last one, who I sometimes feel is my other brother.

I’ve yet to play a single cash game, which is something I have to fix since I’m now $3,000 in the hole.  Technically, I’m actually only $2,700 in the hole because of a silly thing I did last night.  Walking past a roulette table, I spontaneously bet $100 on red for no apparent reason.  I never play roulette, but I wanted an excuse to get change to tip the valet.  I doubled my $100 and got change for my other $100.  I took too long to collect my change and wound up letting the $200 ride on red, which won again.  I scooped up the $400 for a quick $300 profit!

Score at the end of two days of poker:

Tourney results:  -$3,000
Cashgame results:  $0
degenerate gambling:  +$300

Net results:  -$2,700