Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"The Snake"

Out of curiosity, I went to the Hendon Mob database to see who placed in the tournament I wrote about last time. Turns out, the guy who sucked out against me went on to win the darn thing. I saw him again on Monday night at Mandalay Bay playing craps, and he was wearing a leather jacket with "Snake" on the back. I was amused to see that he calls himself Kevin "The Snake" Blakey on the database.

Friday, May 26, 2006

First "Festival" Event

When people I know find out that I am a serious poker player, they often ask me "when am I going to see you on TV?" Since most televised events cost $10K or more, the answer is I am not going to be on television anytime soon. I suppose that I might be in a televised event during the WSOP, since they often televise lower buy-in events. Frankly, though, I'm not sure I want to play a televised event - I don't particualarly like being in front of a camera and I think they make you sign release forms and stuff that at least a few poker pros object to (Chris Ferguson and Andy Bloch, for example, no longer play in WPT events for this reason). Even the lowest buyin events at the WSOP are over $1K, and I very rarely play events over $400. Last night, however, I decided to try my hand at the $540 evening tournament at Mandalay Bay, part of their "Mandalay Bay Poker Championship." If I made it to the money, at least I would have some form of recognition to point my "fans" to. Besides, I am falling behind one of my poker buddies from back in college. The last time I saw him was the day after he placed in the WSOP event.

Only 42 people entered the $540 evening event, with 5 places to be paid. Actually, I think there were a few more entries after the tournament started, but their were still fewer than 50. My first table was mostly tight except for a pretty loose player directly to my right - a very favorable situation, really. I decided to play a little aggressively because the table was tight and I would almost always have position on the only guy who usually called. I had increased my stack from the initial 3000 to about 4000 (blinds at 25-50), when I picked up AA in middle position. the guy to my right limped in, and I raised to 200. I think my aggressive play may have paid off a bit here, because the next two people called behind me, and then the big blind went all-in for over 2500, probably an over-sized bet regardless of his holding. Anyway, the loose player folded and after several seconds of fake pondering, I pushed all-in too (I think this makes it look like I may just have AQ or something). The two players behind me folded. My AA held up against his 99, and my stack was up to about 7000. Meanwhile, some of the more experience playes were getting frustrated by our dealers. The first two dealers of the night were truly terrible. They certainly knew the rules, but they couldn't keep up with the action, and seemed not to have much motor control in their arms or fingers. Basically, the players had to announce where the action was, when it was time to put out the flop, what order he was supposed to deal in, etc. Fortunately, after that, we had much better, more experienced dealers, but those first two were just so ridiculous I felt I had to mention it here even though it doesn't much relate to the rest of the story.

At the first break (after 3 rounds of 40 minutes), with about 30 players left, I was the chip leader with about 18,000 in chips, with average around 4,500. After the break, another player at my table began getting very loose and aggressive, taking down a lot of pots. After about an hour, he was up to 15,000, and I was up to 30,000. We were playing 7-handed because only 15 players remaine. Blinds were 200-400 with antes of 25, so each hand had 775 in the pot to start. With him on the button and me in the big blind, he opened with a raise to 1200. I had 89o. This is a difficult situation because I think I can push him out with a raise, but if I raise to 4000 or something, I would really not welcome a reraise all-in, which was a common move on his part. I would probably have to fold if he did that. Alternatively, I could just push all-in right here. The player to my left, the big blind, was very solid, with around 8000 left. He would probably fold without a very unlikely AA-JJ. This would also force the original raiser to decide if he wanted to risk the whole tournament on this one hand. I think he would probably have made that raise to 1200 with about half of his possible hands, trying to steal the blinds, so it's not that likely he has a hand strong enough to call. I think he'd call with AJs or better, so let's do some Dan Harrington style calculations to see what the EV of an all-in raise here would be.

About 1.8% the big blind calls me with a big pair. Assuming the button folds in this case, the EV for me in this situation is:
% win/loss EV
17.2% I win, + 9575 1647
82.8% I lose, - 7800 -6458
Sum = -4811
Obviously bad for me, but this happens less than 2% of the time. The other 98% looks like this:
% win/loss EV
87.6% button folds + 1975 1730
12.4% button calls
17.2% I win +15775 336
82.8% I lose -14800 -1520
Sum = 546
Overall EV = .018*-4811 + .982*546 = -87 + 537 = 450.

Obviously I don't know exactly what hands my opponents might call or fold with here, so there is no way to get as precise as the number above indicate. Still, it looks like pushing all-in here is probably good for the Expected Value. Probably a bit too much risk, however. I'd really rather not lose 15000 chips, which will happen about 10% of the time.

Instead, I decided to just call with my 98o. Not sure if this was a good idea. The big blind folded.

Pot $3000
Flop: 9d 9h Td.

Great flop for my hand, obviously. Despite the obvious draws on the board, I chanced a check here because my opponent was so very aggressive. As expected he bet, but only $1200. This looked a lot like a probe bet, so I figured he probably had nothing. A hand like a pair of tens or an overpair would want to bet more to charge me to draw to my straight (or flush). Anyway, I raised to 4500, and he came back over the top, all-in. I called, and he showed QJo with the J of diamonds. I was about 82.5% to win, but the K came on the river for his straight.

I held on for another hour or so before being the first knocked out at the final table. It was fun, though, and I feel like I played quite well. My inclusion in the Hendon Mob Poker Database will have to wait, though.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

WPT and Drunkenness at the Mirage

The "Mirage Poker Showdown" is currently going on at the Mirage, culminating in a $10,000 buyin World Poker Tour event, which started a couple days ago. I've seen Dan Harrington, Antonio Esfandiari, the golden palace guy, David Williams, John Juanda, Darrell Dicken (aka Gigabet, his online name), and WSOP bracelet winner Anthony Reategui (see below for why I recognized him). For some reason, there have also been extremely drunk people playing poker this week. In only one case could I directly link a player's drunkenness to the "poker showdown." The rest of the drunkenness seems unrelated.

Just like anybody else, drunk people like attention; the difference is that most sober people won't sacrifice their dignity to get it. For instance, after making a joke and getting a few laughs, a sober person will usually leave it at that, whereas a drunk person will repeat it over and over. The shorter the attention-getting comment, the better. In the case of three people on Friday and Monday nights, they developed their own catch phrases that they used over and over in order to keep attention on them.

Both nights had a few drunken supporting characters and a main character who started out sober and friendly and progressively got drunker and drunker until he or she had become incoherent and vulgar, with personalities changing so much that they were nearly unrecognizable as the people next to whom I had initially sat down. The hero of Friday night was Luke, a "pro" in his late twenties who moved to Las Vegas in August. It was a 2-5NL game and I sat to his left. He recognized me from some previous poker room meeting, and asked my name. At this point he was completely coherent; the only evidence that he had already started drinking was the bottle of Corona in front of him. I told him my name, and he told me his name was Luke. We had a friendly conversation about living in Las Vegas. He told me he spent most of his time smoking weed and playing video games (he just got XBox 360, which I haven't played yet) with his roommates, one of whom was sitting across the table from us, and that they were both playing poker for a living.

For the next hour or so Luke alternately pounded Yaeger shots and Coronas. As he did, he got louder and more loose and aggressive. His favorite catch-phrase was "You assholes might not find me funny, but I am. I'm very funny." My friend Dan showed up during this time and sat in our game. Dan is a very solid, winning player (he is a teacher in the Teach for America program). He had built his stack up from $200 to about $250 I think. Meanwhile, Luke and re-bought several times, but now had over $700 in front of him. On a recent hand he had drawn out on a mediocre and ridiculously conceited player who had been playing in the $1500 "poker showdown" event. He said he placed fourth, so maybe it was Ray Fliano, I dunno. Anyway, he couldn't stand the terribleness of losing to AQ all-in pre-flop to beat his JJ, so he left in a huff. Anyway, with Luke on the button, Dan picked up AT. I can't remember exacly how it played out since it was a few days ago, but to the best of my recollection, Dan raised to $20, and Luke raised to $50 (which meant very little since he had been raising more than half the time). Dan called and they saw a flop of T 7 4, no flush draw. Dan checked since he knew Luke would bet for him. When Luke bet only $30, Dan became suspicious by the small bet and just called (I would have raised). The turn was another ten, and all the money went in... Luke had a full house, 4's over 10's, beating Dan.... wow. Against a player playing random cards three of a kind with an ace kicker is a huge hand. Anyway, Dan left and later told me he won all his money back at craps.

A little after 3 am another guy showed up, overweight and already about as drunk as Luke was. His catch phrase was "I don't like it, I llllove it!" which he first used to describe how he felt about Luke's poker style and later used to describe many other things as well. He was also playing extremely aggressively, and doing quite well. Whenever he won he would rake all his chips in and sift his fingers through them while shouting "I llllove gold!" He told me that earlier that day he had lost a $200,000 pot. "A $200 pot?" I asked. "No, $200,000." He showed me his wrist, where he was wearing a WSOP bracelet. He told me he had just come in 3rd place in the Mirage Heads-up event, and David Singer had drawn out on him; that's why he got drunk and came to play 2-5 NL. Later a friend of his came to play too, and I learned the bracelet holder was Anthony Reategui. Once Anthony had finally gotten around to stacking all his chips, his friend started flicking chips across the table to knock them over, something I wouldn't expect would ever be tolerated, but this was 4:30 am and the dealers had long since given up trying to maintain order.

Amidst this chaos, Luke was nearly thrown out for excessive use of profanities. For most of the night nobody complained about it, but then we got a dealer who was clearly uncomfortable about Luke's profanity and asked him to stop... when the floorperson came over, Luke still didn't stop, and the floorperson asked "do we need to cut off your drinks?" Luke's response was "if you cut off my drinks, I'll cut off your fucking titties." Somehow Luke wasn't thrown out, but his drinks were immediately cut off. According to his roommate Joe, "The thing about Luke is... he's an idiot." Supposedly, Luke isn't allowed to drink in their apartment.

On Monday night I sat down at the 1-2 NL game at the Mirage, partly because I didn't have a lot of cash on me, and partly because I noticed that 8 of the other 9 players had alcoholic beverages in front of them. For the next five hours no fewer than five of my opponents were drinking alcohol at any time. The girl next to me was a very attractive blond girl named Anne who had just turned 21, and her boyfriend was at a neighboring table. A 33 year old guy named Rafael was also at the table. He had arrived with another woman who he later found out was married and her husband was also in the poker room. Despite the boyfriend, after his first woman had left, Rafael decided to hit on Anne. Admittedly, she econouraged him by telling him that her relationship "wasn't serious," and she was pretty receptive to his flirting. Really, though she was just being friendly to everyone. She was talking to me a lot since I was sitting next to her, and Rafael was none too pleased about that. For the next four hours Rafael tried to get her number so he could go visit her in Guadalahara, where she was vacationing at some later time (with her boyfriend, I suspect). Anyway, Anne is the drunkard from this particular night, getting friendlier and more talkative, spilling beer on herself, and later catching her tipping beer bottle between her breasts so it wouldn't fall. Her catch phrase was "what does that mean??" which she liked to say after the flop came out, but she didn't really need to have a catch phrase to attract attention. A new player sat down across from us and asked her to lift her shirt up because it was "too distracting." "Sorry, I guess they're kind of falling out, " replied Anne bashfully. Rafael left with only her email address (and $900).

Interstingly, Anthony and Anne probably won about $100 each, while Luke lost about $1000.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Two Hands at Caesars

With visitors and travel I haven't really been able to settle back into a routine recently. I've been playing mostly at the Mirage, with their lower rake and $15 food comps, but I haven't really settled in there, either. I've been going to different casinos a few times each week. In the past year and a half, a lot of new rooms have opened up: MGM, Caesars, Venetian, and Red Rock, for example. Almost every room in town now runs 2-5 NL holdem, which is probably the most popular game now, along with the low limits from 2-4 to 4-8. There are so many games in town now that each casino rarely uses even half their poker tables during the week. This makes me worry slightly about the health of the poker boom, but at least it means I usually get seated very quickly after I arrive in the poker room.

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, I had some issues with the way Caesars' poker room was run when it first opened. I decided to give it another shot last night. Things seem to be running much more smoothly there now (except the restrooms are still inadequate). Since this is supposed to be my poker blog, I figured I'd describe a couple hands, which I haven't done in a while.

I sat down in the $2-5 NL game with $200. Caesars has no maximum buy-in, so the $200 was a very small stack compared to most of the others. Most people will tell you that it's a disadvantage to play with a short stack, but I actually think it's an advantage. For one thing, it's a mathematical fact that it is advantageous to be all-in on an early round when you have more than one opponent, because it's possible that one of your opponents will fold what would have been the winning hand. Having a small stack increases the chances of this situation arising. Having the smallest stack also means that, on every hand, I know exactly how much I'm playing for. This can effect strategy considerably. When all the other players have large stacks, they need to be concerned with each other and try to play optimal big-stack strategy. By definition, these big-stack strategies are not as effective against a smaller stack; as the small stack, I can take advantage of these discrepancies. Some people (like the guy in the first hand I describe below) may argue that buying short is a devious strategy to be frowned upon. These players must be in the minority, though. If many people agreed with this, then more casinos would have a large minimum buyin, which would eliminate the problem. As it stands, I'm quite comfortable buying in for whatever the rules allow me. Besides, I like to get a feel for the table without risking too much when I first sit down; sometimes I will pull out more cash to increase my stack after half an hour or so. Enough about short stacks... on to the first hand.

This was about the 5th hand I played, and I was down to $193 I think. An experienced player in early-middle position with over $500 raised to $15. Two to his left, I called with KJ of diamonds. This is a marginal holding, but I like to mix it up early in my session because it gives my opponents a false impression of me, which I can sometimes use to my advantage later. Besides, KJs isn't a bad hand. The player in the cutoff, two to my left, raised to $50. He had about $5K. The original raiser called, and I was left with a decision. Should I call another $35 here? There was $118 in the pot already ($122 - $4 rake), so I was being offered about 3.3-1 odds. I knew I might be up against a big pair or AK, but my hand had straight and flush-draw possibilities, and 3.3-1 is pretty attractive, so I called. My stack was now down to $143, and there was $157 in the pot. The flop came Kc Js 4d, clearly an excellent flop for my hand. The first player checked, and I decided to check as well. Unless the last player had specifically AQ, I think this was a good place to slow-play. The last player bet $60, less than half the pot. The first player folded, and I figured I might as well put the rest in now, in case he had some sort of draw. He called and turned over AK. My two pair held up. Now, this is where things got interesting. After counting down the last $83, the guy with AK tossed the money into the air and across the table, chips going all over, including into other players stacks.

"What the Hell are you doing?" I asked him. "I don't throw your chips around."
"They're not your chips until I put them into the pot," he replied.
Then (and this was the most inappropriate action in the whole ordeal, I think), the other player who had been involved in the hand decided to stick up for the guy who had thrown the chips everywhere! "Sometimes good players who lose to bad players get frustrated," he said.

"That means he should throw chips across the room? I've seen much worse beats than that and nobody threw anything. You can get frustrated without having to throw things."

Then he decided to explain to me how it's bad for the game to come in and sit down with only $200. "It's not real poker. You clearly didn't come here to play poker. You called a $50 raise, a quarter of your stack, and you didn't have enough left for him to get you out."

Anyway, the rest of the table took my side and the chip-thrower kept quiet after that.

Here's a hand I think I didn't play so well. I had KQs under-the-gun and limped. There were a couple more limpers, and then an asian girl on the button, a pretty good player, raised to $20. (She was friends with the chip-thrower, but she hadn't seen the incident, and he had moved to another table at this point. I don't think she knew about it.) One of the blinds called, I called, and the two limpers called. There was about $100 in the pot. I had very close to $500 left after the call.

Flop: Kc Td 3h. My suit was spades, so no help there, but I did have top pair. The blind checked, and I think I should have bet $60-$80 here. Instead, I checked and decided to see how the hand developed. My thinking was that if there was much action behind me, I could get away from the hand, and if not, maybe I could get another bet out of the asian girl who raised pre-flop. The next two players checked, the girl bet $75 and the blind folded. This was was pretty much what I had hoped would happen when I checked, but my situation was actually very precarious. I had no idea where I stood with respect to the asian girl's hand, and I had two players behind me that were still in the hand. They could be planning to check raise, or maybe one has a straight draw. They were loose enough that I couldn't rule our KT or QJ. The girl could have me beat with AA, AK, TT, or even KK, or she could have me tied with KQ. Continuation bets here are very risky with 4 opponents, so that is actually not that likely (which I should have considered when I checked before). I decided to play it safe again and just call the $75. The next two players folded.

Turn: 7c (or something). With the two players behind me having folded, I now felt like I should be my hand. With the pot at $250, I bet $150 of my remaining $425. In retrospect, I think this was a mistake. It was very likely that she would either fold or raise here. If she raises, I have to figure she has me beat (or at least tied), and I'd have to fold. That's exactly what happened. Instead, I think perhaps I should have checked. Then if she checked behind me, I might be able to get something out of her on the river. The way I played it, I might as well have had nothing, because there was no way the hand was going to reach a showdown - generally a bad way to play medium-strong hands like top pair. Still, the biggest mistake was probably check-calling the flop (or maybe I should have folded pre-flop?). I needed to define my hand for them, so that they could react accordingly. By showing weakness when I checked the flop, I was unable to get any sense for where I stood in the hand.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I'm back

It's been a few weeks since my last post... I want to apologize if you have been checking in every so often expecting to find a post. I have tried to keep up a good pace, but I haven't been playing much recently, and nothing too exciting has happened at the poker tables except for an implosion at the 5-10NL game one night where I lost all of my significant winnings after what had been a very profitable night. I got tired, took a break, came back, and decided I might as well play one more round. I don't like thinking about what happened next, so that's all I'm going to say about that right now.

The WPT and WSOP circuit are in town now, but their events are usually at noon (when I wake up), and most of them are over $1000 to enter (the cheaper ones have already past), so I don't think I'll be playing in any of them. Anyone want to stake me to a tourney in the $2k-$3k range? A word of advice: don't bother. I haven't been doing too well in tournaments recently, either.