Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Santa Claus" Steve, Running the Board Twice, and a Bad Beat

On Friday, I suffered what I think was probably my worst beat ever. I consider it bad form to tell bad-beat stories (nobody really wants to hear them anyway), but there is a ridiculous story around this that makes it rather interesting, and I wanted to use this opportunity to describe the practice of "running the board" twice or three times.

A regular player in my game is an elderly man named Steve. Steve is a losing player, but supposedly a few years ago he played far worse, virtually giving his money away whenever he came to the table.This along with his white beard earned him the nickname "Santa Claus" Steve. Despite being extremely animated and friendly, Steve often seems on the brink of death. He is diabetic, has heart disease, and his fingernails are falling off. He is sometimes medicated with Valium and probably other drugs, and he aggravates his condition by regularly playing 24-hour sessions regularly, including drunken ones at the Korean home game that I've been invited to. Anyway, on Friday he arrived at the Bike while I was playing in a $300-500 buyin NL game. He walked right up behind me and began telling me a bad beat story from 4 am that morning at the Korean club. I said "Hi, Steve," and turned back to my game. This didn't deter him from continuing on with his stories, as he proceeded to tell me a second and a third story from the previous night without any response from me. This was unusual behavior even for Steve.

Later, Steve told me he had been up for about 40 hours at this point. There was nothing I could do to get him to shut up. I knew I was going to be playing with him all day, so I went to the gift shop and bought some headphones for my iPod. I generally do not listen to my iPod while I play because I find it too distracting, but I clearly needed to be able to tune out Steve.

Without exaggeration, I would estimate that Steve talked for 45-60 seconds out of every minute for the next 7 hours. I was glad for my iPod, but he was still really getting on my nerves. Two of the bigger losers in the game left early because they could not put up with Steve's incessant ramblings. At one point I refused to rabbit-hunt for him after I won a hand from him before the flop. This upset him greatly and he told me he was making a target of me and would be putting me all-in before long.

The "bad beat" hand in question happened about 5 hours into the session. Before I describe the hand, I need to explain a type of deal that is sanctioned at the $500+ buyin NL game at the Bike, and possibly at other casinos.

If there are only two or three players left in a hand and everyone is all-in with more cards to come, those players still in the hand can agree to deal out the rest of the cards either two or three times. Then the pot is split into two or three pieces, and each player gets as many pieces as number of times he his hand won. For example, if I go all-in with AK and get called by QQ, my opponent and I can agree to run the entire 5-card board twice. If I win both times, I get the whole pot. If I win one of the two times I get half the pot. If I lose both I lose the pot. Deals can also be made after the flop or turn.

On the hand in question I was in the big blind with 86 of diamonds, I had about $3000, Steve had $1380, and the small blind had about $1300. One person limped for $10. Steve raised to $50 on the button, the small blind (a weak player) called, I called, and the limper called.

The flop was 9c7c5d, giving me a straight for the nuts and also a backdoor flush draw. When the small blind checked, Steve was rambling on and said something about needing to make a continuation bet. I decided to check, too, figuring Steve would probably follow through and make the promised c-bet. The third player checked and Steve made a huge bet of $500 (the pot was only about $200). Surprisingly, the small blind pushed all-in. I also pushed all-in, and Steve called for his last $830.

This was a big pot, and I figured I was up against a club flush draw, so I asked my opponents if they wanted to make a deal. Steve said, "well, let's see what you have," so I showed my 8d6d. The small blind showed Ac6c, for the nut flush draw and a straight draw. Steve had QcTc, for a flush draw.

"No way, I don't want to make a deal," said Steve, continuing to shout more inane comments. My supervisor, who was also in the game, yelled at Steve to be quiet and reminded me and the third player that we could still make a deal without Steve. So we agreed that, assuming Steve lost on the first run, we would run the turn and river two extra times and split the pot accordingly. I expected to win two thirds of the pot, or maybe only one third if I was a little unlucky.

Notice that Steve's only chances of winning are for the turn and river to come KJ or J8 with either no clubs or both clubs (for a straight flush). Also, even if neither card was a club, if both cards were diamonds, I would make a flush to win. Surprisingly, this means he has a 2.21% chance of winning, or about 1/45. I would win 61.24% and tie with the third player 6.53%. The third player would win the remaining 30.01%.

Needless to say, Steve won the $4000 pot as the turn and river came Jh Ks. I counted out $1330, gave it to Steve, put back on my headphones, and played the next hand.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


There's a new poker game being played at the Bike called Baduci. Supposedly, it's being played at Commerce and the Bellagio, as well, but at the Bike it is usually played at $30-60 limit stakes.

Baduci is a split-pot combination of badugi and deuce-to-seven triple draw. In both badugi and 2-7, players have three draws and try for the low hand. In badugi, you need four different suits, so the best hand is A234 of different suits. In baduci, though, A is always high (at least, the way it is played at the Bike), so the best hand is 2345. In baduci, half the pot goes to the best four-card "badugi" hand, and the other half to the best five-card 2-7 hand.

I like playing new poker games. It forces me to concentrate intently and work out strategies, which is my favorite part of poker in general. However, 30-60 is way too expensive for me to try an entirely new game, even if there are known fish at the table. So, some other props and I have started playing 5-10 baduci until customers show up to play the $500 NL game. This past week I played a total of 4 hours and lost about $50. Sometimes other people will join us for our baduci game - on Friday, I was the only prop playing, but I played heads up for over an hour and won $39.

Monday, January 04, 2010

My Job As a $500+ NL Prop So Far

It's been a little over three months since my "promotion," and I think taking the position was a good decision. One of the main things I was worried about was the massive egos I would have to deal with. Indeed, this has been a bit of a problem at times. The most ridiculous example is "Corporation" Mike (who supposedly owns the corporation that acts as the "house" in the table games, because it is illegal for the casino to do this on its own in Los Angeles), but there are several other examples. Sometimes they manage to get to me, but I just say very little to them and eventually they stop bothering me. Another thing about I was worried about, of course, was how well I would do in the game financially. As it turns out, I've done very well (perhaps my NLHE:TAP analyses have helped a bit), but my volatility has gotten a little out of control.

For various reasons, I've resisted revealing most of my poker results here in the blog. However, I want to make an exception because the increase in both my win rate and (especially) my volatility is quite remarkable. The sample size is not particularly large considering the huge variance inherent in poker results, but you can make of it what you will.

From my promotion through December 31, I played about 450 hours of poker, including 357 at the $500+ NL holdem game. My win rate and my variance in this NL game are both approximately twice what they were previously. Specifically, in those 357 hours I have won about $60/hour, but my hourly standard deviation is about $630/hour. For a whole day of playing for eight hours, this works out to $480 +/- $1780. This means that it's not at all unusual for me to lose over $1500 in a day or win over $2500. When I took the job, I was expecting something more in the range of $20/hour and $300/hour ($160+/- $850). In all, the experience has been quite a lot more stressful (between the egos and the swings), but I can't complain given my results and the pay bump.

Another interesting statistical question is: what is a 95% confidence interval of my "true" win rate? Yes, I have a win rate calculated from my results, but what can I expect my win rate to be in the future? This is complicated by the fact that I also don't know what my variance will be in the future, but let's just assume my variance stays at $630/hour. Then, if I am doing this correctly, I can say with 95% confidence that my true win rate is $60 +/- $65 per hour. This is a very big range, so I shouldn't get too excited! My guess is that my "true" win rate is somewhere around $30/hour.