Friday, December 10, 2010

Thinking About the Reid Bill

The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return. – Gore Vidal

While there are quite a few opinions out there that are worth reading, the one that comes closest to my own is this one from Foucault. Most of the poker bloggers and players seem to think this is a bad bill/deal, etc. They don’t understand that we will be lucky to get any (even) half way decent bill/deal. We are only possibly going to get this one because of the confluence of several (mostly bad) things –

a) democrats losing in general and republicans taking over

b) Senator Reid surviving but owing his win to the big Nevada gambling interests

c) if not now, God only knows when

d) the government really needs the new revenue source.

Note – we, as poker players, do not even factor into the equation. Our hobby (and we as enthusiasts) is viewed akin to the alcohol industry (and consumers of alcohol). Our consumption is a given. We will consume whatever is available and we are unlikely to stop doing so. Thus, we are taken for granted and not recognized as a meaningful part of the decision making process.

Moreover, I think the current online poker situation is untenable. It would probably continue for a while but at some point in the not too distant future, the whole thing crumbles under the pressure of being unable to efficiently move the money.

Who knows what is actually going to happen, but for now, I think the long term benefits of becoming legitimate appear to outweigh the disadvantages.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Turn Out the Lights, the Party’s Over – RIP Joseph Donald “Dandy Don” Meredith

Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation. – Mark Twain

Another NFL great has passed. Don Meredith was a former NFL All Pro quarterback and member of the famous Cowboy Ring of Honor that played in the Ice Bowl and helped create the culture of winning that still surrounds the Dallas Cowboys. Then, he did what I really remember him for. Being one of “the voices” of Monday Night Football.

Monday Night Football is now an American institution. It’s hard to imagine the NFL without it. However, that isn’t always the way it was. When the fledgling endeavor began, it was Dandy Don and Howard Cosell (imo) that really helped launch the brand and make it memorable. MNF has never since been able to achieve the level of entertainment and chemistry in the booth that they had then. Dandy Don remembered it was a game after all and the telecast should be entertaining. Boy, were they ever.

I recall a time when the camera crew caught a fan in the Astrodome “giving a single (middle) finger salute” while the Oilers were whipped by the Raiders. Dandy Don quickly quipped, “He thinks they’re number 1 in the nation”. I’ll never forget his comical renditions of the Willie Nelson song, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over” at the end of each Monday night game.

Dandy Don was a homegrown Texas product and no one could mistake him for anything else. He was down to Earth, sincere, witty, charming, and almost always funny. Watching MNF last night, I thought to myself, what a contrast Don and Howard were to today’s rather bland (except Gruden) bunch – they sure don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Monday, November 8, 2010

GG, Joseph Cheong, aka - subiime

The most absurd and reckless aspirations have sometimes led to extraordinary success. – Marquis De Vauvenargues

A 6-bet bluff for $1.4 million - some might call it a blow up, some might call it a meltdown, others may call it “baller” and 5th level thinking, but I call it unfortunate. Cheong appeared to be the best player and he was proving it by outplaying the rest of the table. He was a lock to get heads up with Duhamel and I think he had the skill advantage. It seemed as though the tournament was his to lose. And, lose it he did. Perhaps, it was impatience. Perhaps, it was hubris. Perhaps, it was simply his youth. Recklessness is one of the follies of youth, a momentary but costly lapse of judgment, a fleeting failure to keep the big picture in focus, maybe a consuming but false sense of invincibility. Regardless of what we call it, he cost himself $1,415,876. I think that amount by itself is larger than any of his previous tournament wins and that being the case, it wasn’t a smart play.

He didn’t need to 6-bet bluff there. He could have found a better spot. What did Cheong think Duhamel’s 5-bet range was? Surely not much that was behind A-7 offsuit? Cheong began the hand with the chip lead and approximately 75BBs (Racener approx. 30BBs and Duhamel approx. 70BBs). Why force that type of action until Racener was out? I think this is a spot where his youth did not serve him well. Cheong had already proven to be an extremely talented player and he seemed to know he was more than a match for Duhamel. Why forfeit one’s hard earned advantage so rashly? Despite his amazing talent and razor sharp poker mind, he made a play that was absolutely unnecessary and it proved to be his undoing. On the other hand, congrats to Racener for his patience (it worked well for Hachem, too). I am now rooting or Racener but I have to give it to Duhamel, he has played better than I expected him to.

Fellow old guys pay attention; this may be the Achilles’ heel of these young guns, the sick aggression that seems to give them the advantage may be offset by the recklessness of their youth. Now, how to put that to good use?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Welcome to the Future

For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future. – John F. Kennedy

The common perception of poker used to be a table full of old guys, smoking, cussing, and looking surly. Now, it is a table full of 20-somethings that can probably barely muster a decent beard wearing hoodies, baseball caps, and shades. The torch is being passed. That seems clear - just look at all the young guys winning (in general) and the fact that this is the youngest Main Event final table in history. Does anyone honestly think we are ever going to see Doyle or any of his ilk at a ME final table again? Sadly, I doubt if we will see Action Dan at the ME final table again, either. Unfortunatley, the ME field has gotten too big and the tourney become too long for them to be competitive. At least, the huge fields and television have helped usher in the anti-buffoonery rules of the last few years.

The Grinder is the only “name brand” pro still standing and even he is one of the new young guns to emerge since the boom (but at least we won’t have to hear the suits bemoaning the lack of a big name pro at the table). I am not really familiar with the Grinder’s game but even if he were on Ivey’s level – which I am not prepared to say, he has a tough road ahead.  In any case, I am still not convinced that having a “name brand” pro win the ME would help poker in general. Maybe it would help ESPN and Harrah’s, but the actual poker community? Nothing brings in more prospective players (and dead money) to the ME than the knowledge that the field is full of amateurs (probably a higher amateur to pro ratio than any other big buy in tournament) and the fact that the biggest payday around can be won (and has been won) by amateur players.

I don’t know who will win but I don’t think it will be the Grinder or the 37 year old amateur. I think it will be one of the internet whiz kids that take it all. Hopefully, it will be one with a lot of class and savvy. A guy that could help bring legitimacy and positive attention to young poker players. Joseph Cheong has looked pretty good from what I have seen on ESPN and handled himself with class on a brutal televised suckout. I also like the way Jason Senti has handled himself. If I had to pick someone to win, it would be one of those two. Racener would be OK and has played well, too, but his disheveled look and ostentatious gum chewing isn’t endearing him to the tv audience. Candio or Duhamel would probably be the two I least want to win.

We might as well get used to seeing all these youngsters. They represent what the near future of poker will look like and are a fantastic source of new enthusiasm and thinking for our beloved game.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Poker Blogger Foucault on TV

Tardiness often robs us opportunity. – Niccolo Machiavelli

Sorry for the late report but I just watched my DVR recording of the Tuesday night ESPN WSOP broadcast last night.

Check out Foucault (AKA - Andrew Brokos) on TV at the World Series of Poker!

Too bad they didn’t mention his blog or that he is a blogger.

Congrats, Foucault!

RIP - George Blanda

Gold medals aren't really made of gold. They're made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts. – Dan Gable

I only knew him as a Raider, but guts he had and plenty of ‘em. I was too young to watch his exploits with the Oilers or Bears. However, even as an old guy, Blanda was anything but bland. He was a player, a winner, an original AFL’er, a Raider, a Hall of Famer, and more. He had true grit and he wanted to win – which is a hell of a lot more than I can say about many players today.

I’ll never forget watching the Raiders on Monday night with my Grandfather in the early 70s. He reveled in the notion that a tough old guy like Blanda still had what it took to take the field with the pros. He would delight my brother and I with tales of the earlier days and how great Blanda was with the Oilers.

George Blanda was the epitome of the old guard pro football players I recall from my youth. Before there was body armor like players wear today or any serious thought was given to rules that protected quarterbacks, Blanda played quarterback for 26 years.

They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Grass Always Seems Greener on the Virtual Felt

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. – Eleonora Duse

There are few things worth doing that are more ephemeral than a freshly mowed, trimmed, and blown lawn. Fleeting as it is, the weekly completion of this set of tasks brings a certain satisfaction.  I guess I should be thankful I have a beautiful lawn to maintain, I am sure there are plenty of folks that don’t but wish they did.
I shouldn’t lament my fate of sweating away the afternoons outside rather than playing some poker at one of my favorite online poker sites in the cool comfort of my home on scorching summer days. If one has the time, playing some online poker is a fine way to spend a lazy afternoon.

However, living in the verdant south, frequent lawn maintenance is a reality of life. If one falls behind, one pays the price of working extra hard to restore it and no amount of online poker, not even winning at Triple 8 Poker can make me forget about the sweaty reality waiting for me outside.

When I was a youth (online poker did not even exist) and tasked with mowing the family’s lawn, I would complain to my father that by fertilizing (the lawn) he was just making my job more difficult. I just didn’t appreciate the desire to have a lush, beautiful lawn and the sense of pride it evokes. As a homeowner now myself, I get it. Don’t get me wrong, far from being one to obsess over the lawn, I just know it has to get done and one may as well try to enjoy it, too.

This weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the pecan tree I planted 6 years ago (just prior to my first son being born) has sprouted its first pecans. All my fruit trees produced fruit the 2nd year they were in the ground but the pecan tree never had until this year. I had actually been working in the yard all morning (without noticing them) before I finally looked up and saw the lovely little bunches of still green nuts all over the tree. My thoughts, of course, were elsewhere all morning imagining I was getting the nuts on the green felt (sigh).

The heat and humidity make it an almost unbearable task in the hottest months but during the more comfortable months, working out on the lawn can be downright pleasant. There is certainly no denying the pleasure of relaxing on the lawn, grilling some meat (and a few vegetables), and enjoying a few cold ones after the job is done but what I am really looking forward to is passing the torch (of lawn maintenance and its odd sense of satisfaction) on to my boys. Now, where’s my laptop? The virtual felt beckons!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Foucault - FTW!

The longer you play, the better chance the better player has of winning – Jack Nicklaus

A fellow poker blogger (and philosopher) is making another deep run in the Worlds Series of Poker, Main Event. In case you haven’t heard of him yet, please allow me to introduce Foucault, the blogger, the man.
He is a regular contributor at Poker Saavy and 2+2 Magazine. He also posts on 2+2 forums. On his blog, he has written some insightful book reviews and also has a lot of great content.

He finished the 2008 WSOP Main Event in 35th.  I wrote about it here.

This guy is smart and sick, yet disarmingly unassuming - a classy guy in every respect. His low key manner but aggressive style remind me of another guy with those characteristics - Allen Cunningham.

I have followed Foucault’s blog for years now and I would hate to have him at my table.

It’s time for a poker blogger to win it all. Good luck, my friend!

UPDATE:  He finished in 87th for a very nice cash.  Congratulations, Foucault!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing. – Warren E. Buffet

Did you know that flying non-stop from New York City to Omaha, Nebraska on the first weekend in May (2010) will cost more than flying from New York City to Paris, France on the same weekend? The annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting is probably the only time that more than a handful of people go to Omaha. Mr. Buffet, the Oracle of Omaha, calls it “Woodstock for capitalists”.
So, the capitalistic corporations of Delta and Continental have been capitalizing on the capitalists by steadily raising the price for airline tickets to the event such that the price is now four times the usual and customary rate. 35,000 shareholders attended last year and there is no reason to expect a drop off this year. Unfortunately, I will not be among the attendees this year but hope to go in one of the next few years. After all, the sagely Mr. Buffet won’t live forever and my desire to go would be reduced significantly if he were gone. The only regret I have ever had with respect to owning Berkshire Hathaway stock is that I didn’t buy in sooner.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What’s wrong with Kansas?

All soldiers who serve their country and put their lives at risk need to know that if something happens to them, their families will be well taken care of. That's the bond we have with our military men and women and their families. – Jeff Sessions

We Texans send many of our sons and daughters into the military services. Consequently, Texas is home to many proud veterans and many of us have family that have served or are serving. Since we send so many, we also receive far too many of them coming home for their final rest prematurely.

This morning, I read an article in the Houston Chronicle that left me utterly disgusted and outraged. I love freedom as much (if not more) than the next guy, but this wouldn’t play in Texas. It’s one thing to protest about something you feel passionately about in a public place and our laws protect most demonstrations/protests, even unpopular ones. However, a private funeral is not an appropriate place for anyone’s protest.

When the current wars began, there was some sort of distraction created at the funerals of the first few to return after giving their all. Soon afterwards, an entirely volunteer group of veterans, fathers, and other community members formed the “Patriot Guard”. A group whose sole purpose for existence is to help honor our fallen servicemen and women and uphold the dignity their service deserves. Frequently, anywhere from 50-150 of them ride their motorcycles to the grieving family’s town bearing American Flags (and other symbols of patriotism) to give an escort to the funeral procession and to help make sure nothing untoward occurs at the funeral to disrespect our fallen servicemen.
I can imagine some of these idiots from Westboro Baptist church attempting their shenanigans in Texas and failing miserably. Although the official position of the Patriot Guard is to eschew any violence, in Texas, it would probably go something like this:

Initially, these grizzled veterans (in the Patriot Guard) would do what they could to “drown out” the protestors, shield the mourning family, and politely ask the demonstrators to desist (or at least move far enough away) to show respect for the family. If that request were not heeded, another diplomatic attempt would certainly be made. However, if that attempt were rebuffed, it is likely these gentlemen would take up some defensive positions around the interlopers to mitigate any undesired chaos. Then, a few would approach the head idiots in charge and ask once more for a show of appropriate respect. If that failed, I imagine the idiots would begin to be quietly subdued using the least force required, of course. Following the services, those that subdued the idiots would (if necessary) surrender to local law enforcement and cheerfully pay any fines associated with the subdual. I also suspect the idiots from Westboro would be in no hurry to tangle with Texans again. I abhor violence but I acknowledge that sometimes it is permissible or even required. Furthermore, I seriously doubt any (Texas) court would do more than assess the minimum penalties against the members of the guard for something like this. Semper Fi!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

January 2010, Las Vegas Trip Report, - Planet Hollywood Review

Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well. - Josh Billings

Planet Hollywood was nicer overall than I expected but my expectations were rather low. Our room seemed small but it did have a good view of the strip and the new City Center. It was decorated with stuff from a crappy movie (Judge Dredd) that, to me, seemed cheesy instead of cool. I vastly prefered Caesar’s Palace where the rooms were much more luxurious, seemed larger, and the overall d├ęcor was more attractive. I would rate the rooms at PHO as comparable to Treasure Island but better than Excalibur or Sahara (the other hotels I have personally stayed at).

I do not know who conceived of the idea first, but PHO has this area of the main casino floor called the “Pleasure Pit”. All the dealers/game assistants are exceptionally beautiful women with attractive well maintained bodies. Caesar’s had a similar area outside their poker room, when I was there in 2007, named after the Pussycat Dolls. Do you think the casinos know that sex sells, huh? While at PHO, I did not notice very many working girls, if any. One would think lurking near the Pleasure Pit late night would yield a decent living. On the otherhand, maybe the girls in the Pleasure Pit are the working girls? Now there’s an interesting thought.

The music piped into the casino and poker room is surprisingly good - mostly classic and modern rock with some pop mixed in. I would rate the music as better than what I have encountered at other places.

As for the poker room, it was adequate but nothing special. It is not really separated from the rest of the casino and with some slots and such nearby; there is an abundance of unnecessary noise, smoke, etc. The tables were in good shape but, surprisingly, they did not have the automatic shuffling machines that I have become accustomed to. The dealers actually have to shuffle the cards between hands; meaning less hands per hour and the decks are probably not as well randomized. Despite rather garish colors and attire for most of the casino and staff, the poker dealer shirts were drab and bordered on ugly. Like every place I have been, they have a variety of types of dealers. I like dealers that are friendly and humorous. IMO, Dealers that are entertaining generate better tips. My award for funniest/most entertaining dealer (hands down) goes to Stefen – the thin Scotsman that was always lightning fast with humorous remarks and needles. Honorable Mention goes to Ryan, whose girlfriend plays high stakes and passed him juicy anecdotes about some well known high stakes players that he would share with the table for entertainment.

Another important measure of a good poker room is the cocktail service. Is it quick and efficient or do you have to leave the table to go in search of beer when needed? Are the waitresses shapely and easy on the eyes or are they portly and missing teeth? PHO had a good wait staff. They never seemed to disappear and they brought drinks promptly. They also wore uniforms that served them very well in helping them to enhance the experience of the patrons. I, myself, was served particularly well by Brandy, an attentive and highly attractive young woman.

The undisputed King of the PHO poker room is the courteous and sharply dressed, Joe Viator. Joe, and his team, made me feel quite comfortable in their domain and I had a good time even though I did not win. I definitely think Joe is way ahead of the curve technologically for using Twitter to reach more potential customers. After I introduced myself to him, and we talked about poker bloggers and such, he left me with a nice souvenir chip set as a parting gift.

Overall, while I would not recommend the hotel itself as a place to stay, I do recommend the Planet Hollywood poker room as a place that is fun to play and one that I plan to return to.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…..

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. – Bertrand Russell.

Friday, I was invited to a home game tournament with a whole bunch of folks I have never played cards with. I am far from a tourney specialist and when I saw these guys had real poker tables, a computer program for blinds/levels, four or five sets of chips, and expected 24 people, I began to wonder if this was +EV for me or not. However, the buy in was low enough that I was fine with losing that so long as I met one or more new people to bring in to our home game. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the overall skill level was rather low. In fact, I felt somewhat “Seinfeldian” as I was reminded of the episode where Kramer (an adult) is practicing martial arts in class with adolescents (i.e. a man among boys). Several of the player’s wives played and were all dead money. Only the hosts seemed to be even close to competent players. Calling bets to the river with 2nd pair and not being able to fold a single pair when it was obviously no good were typical of the play. Folks routinely allowed their stack to dwindle to an M of 1 or 2 before deciding to shove it all in. Of course, there was one guy that had to cheat. I saw him place less than the proper amount for his big blind (using big stacks of small denomination chips) in a couple of times but did not comment since I was the new guy and he seemed to be a regular and a friend of the host. However, when he got moved to my table, he was the big blind and, after eyeing what he put out for his blind and estimating it was considerably short, I asked him if he had put in the right amount. He ignored me so I asked the host (who was now dealing since he was out) to count the chips he had put out for his big blind. It was about half of what it was supposed to be. After he was made to put in the right amount, it was clear he had no more than one more big blind left. I was the chip leader and on the button so I shoved pre with J-4o just to steal his blind. He hemmed and hawed before calling with 6-4s. Neither of us improved and I knocked him out. I had also knocked out about 6 other players so when it got to be heads up and I had the other guy well covered, he gladly accepted the 2nd place money + the additional $40 I offered him to end the tourney right away. I promptly thanked the hosts and gave the host’s wife $20 as a show of gratitude for the food and good times. As I was pocketing my winnings (12 x buy in), my primary goal (at this point) was to make sure to be invited back.

Something I never really wish for, but that I am always glad to see because it only occurs occasionally, happened at both home game gatherings this week. The guys that rarely ever win won this week. I lost a little at one and won a little at the other but for the most part, the usual winners lost and the usual contributors, won. This is a healthy thing for all games but particularly home games where there isn’t a line of people waiting to be seated at the poker table. Barry Greenstein talks about this sort of thing in his book, Ace on the River. When you have a good game going, nurture it to help it keep going. It’s good when the live ones have a good day. They are the ones that often contribute the most to making a game, a good (i.e. profitable) one. So, although it was a break even week for me, it was a great week for our game and that is definitely, +EV.

Monday, March 15, 2010

High Stakes Poker on TV

Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he's losing; nobody wants you to quit when you're ahead. – Jackie Robinson

I am primarily a cash game player. Almost all of the time I spend playing poker, reading about poker, thinking about poker, etc. is about playing cash game poker. This week’s episode of High Stakes Poker was very entertaining but also rather perplexing (to me).

When I go to a casino to play, I take a minimum of 3-5 buy ins. No one is going to “get lucky” once against me and send me home for the session. That’s not how I roll. In fact, losing one buy in is not likely to affect me much at all. Obviously, it is undesirable to be felted but, if it happens, I am going to rebuy and keep playing. However, three players that are supposed to be good players (and presumably well funded) do just that. They lose one buy in and, instead of wanting to continue playing, they get up and leave the game. Even more strange, 2 of them get it all in with next to nothing and out of position. Huh?

Dario elects to play Kh-3h and bluffs off his entire stack to Durrr.
To recap, he plays a junk hand, flops bottom pair, then he tries to bluff one of the players least likely to fold. Am I the only one that thinks this is poor play for a cash game?

Jason Mercier elects to squeeze from the small blind with Ah-4h. Here we go again, he is oop, he has a marginal hand, and then he tries to bluff another of the players least likely to fold. Phil Ivey had already called the open bet and Jason’s raise pre-flop. Then Ivey raised Mercier’s C-bet on the flop. So, what does Jason do? He bluffs off his entire stack. Ivey had already declined a few opportunities to fold and given every indication he intended to play his hand. Although Gabe defends the play, I think it stinks. Particularly, since Mercier does not re-buy but gets up and leaves after the failed bluff.

If I am going to use my entire stack to bluff, I am definitely going to rebuy if the attempt fails. Otherwise, I would not put my entire stack in the middle. In fact, if I only had one buy in to play with, I would make sure to get all my chips in with (what I thought was) the best of it or not at all. So, maybe the players that lost and left believed they were outclassed by the others at the table?

Another strange play was that not just one but two players opted to limp/call with Q-Q. I do not think this is a good play. Limp/call with A-A? Maybe to be tricky since the A-A doesn’t fear an overcard. Limp/call with K-K maybe (but probably not). But to limp in with Q-Q (or J-J, 10-10, or 9-9) is just puzzling to me given how often an overcard is going to flop. Well, Gus does just that against Daniel (the other player to limp his Q-Q in a previous hand that he lost). By just calling with his Queens, Gus enables Daniel to play 7-5s and flop two pair. Daniel probably would have folded to 7-5s preflop to any raise but got a cheap flop and, instead, felts Gus and his Queens. One pair hands play better when you isolate a single opponent.

While I found the episode good entertainment, I was underwhelmed by the play of these so-called top tier players playing for such high stakes. Finally, although Gabe is still good, he was better with A.J. to use as a foil (Kara does not add anything to the show).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Let Freedom Ring - Americans Should Be Free to Enjoy Casino Games

One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.
– Bertrand Russell

As we evolve and mature as a society, the public at large is rapidly becoming more and more comfortable with gaming and gambling as an acceptable form of entertainment. Although casinos are being approved and built all over the country, growing right along with them is the online casino industry. People are tired of having to travel long distances at great inconvenience and unnecessary cost to enjoy casino gaming. People want to enjoy their preferred form of gaming from the comfort of their homes. The online casino industry has heard the people’s voice and is now delivering the casino experience directly to the consumer at home. However, there are lots of options and the market can appear daunting to newcomers. That is where a site such as Online Casino Spotlight can help one to make an informed decision.

Newcomers looking to become a client at an online casino would be wise to check out Online Casino Spotlight. They review and rate various online casinos. In their reviews, they tell one what sort of games a given site provides and so forth. They also tell one whether or not they will accept players from the USA. They list and compare the various “welcome bonus” offers at the different online casinos. They also have links to articles and other information such as strategies for all of the different games and wagers. They have information regarding how to deposit, what methods are available for each site, and what the minimum requirements are for each one.

Most all casino games are available at most sites and some casinos also have a sports book for placing wagers on sporting events all over the world. In addition to Blackjack, there are also sites that offer Baccarat, Bingo, Craps, Keno, Poker, Roulette, Slots and Video Poker. In other words, they have something to interest and entertain everyone and they have games of all levels and for any bankroll.

Online Poker Spotlight has everything you need to know to get started whether you are a casual/recreational player or a determined grinder; they’ve got the info on your game.

Monday, March 8, 2010

January 2010, Las Vegas Trip Report, Day 4 – Leaving Las Vegas

No wife can endure a gambling husband; unless he is a steady winner. – Thomas R. Dewar

While I still catch some grief from my wife for the amount of time I like to devote to poker, she never bugs me about the money or losing. She used to be somewhat worried but those concerns were put to rest long ago (by me consistently beating the games in Texas, as well as, maintaining a separate poker bankroll). This was my first trip to Las Vegas (been 4 times and won previous 3 times) that I would return a non-winner. I have lost in Louisiana (been 3 times, won twice) and Oklahoma (been twice and lost both times) but I had never lost in Vegas. As I left, I always felt like I owned the place, but this time, not so much so. To compound my misery, the weather is finally beautiful again but we are leaving.
Even though I sleep less per night in Vegas (4-5 hours) than I do at home (6-8), leaving Vegas always sucks because all I can think of is all the stuff I didn’t have time to do or did not get a chance to do. It always seems to come much sooner than it should. I always feel like, “We just got here. How can it be time to leave already?” But, it is. So, we packed up and headed to Ellis Island. They have an off the menu steak and eggs breakfast for 4.99. You cannot beat that price and the food is pretty good (not excellent) but still a great value. Ellis is (as usual) well patronized and the servers are swamped (as usual). Ellis Island absolutely crushes IHOP for about the same price and is equally good in food quality but not service with the PepperMill Lounge.

We return our rental car and get shuttled to McCarran. Although McCarran is reasonably nice as airports go, nothing makes me feel more like one of the hoi polloi than being herded like cattle at airports. I never really liked flying anyway and I like it even less now with all the added hassles. I absolutely loathe the practice of compelling everyone to remove their shoes before going through security since once upon a time one guy had an improvised explosive device in his shoes. I am still waiting for a similar practice of compelling everyone to remove their underwear (before going through security) to be implemented since the guy caught over the holidays hid his IED in his underpants.

Our flight is uneventful but seems to take forever. We also lose two hours in the flight back to Texas due to the time zone change so the whole day is effectively killed. Upon finally reaching my vehicle, I am delighted to pilot my German 5-speed again and we haul ass to get our sons. During the drive, I reflect upon our trip. Obviously, I would have preferred to have won again. However, the loss was minimal and well within my roll’s capability to withstand. As for Las Vegas itself, I already miss the damned place. I just love the energy and excitement of Vegas. It really is a huge playground for adults and an awesome destination for travelers. Although I have no specific plans, I know I will be there again in the not too distant future and I am already looking forward to my return.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

January 2010, Las Vegas Trip Report, Day 3, part 2 – The Fall of “Spew”cypher

I used to be a heavy gambler. But now I just make mental bets. That's how I lost my mind. – Steve Allen

Following the show, we returned to PH. After I tucked my lovely wife in for the night, I made a beeline for the poker room. I was all too keenly aware that this was my last night in Sin City and I was hell-bent on getting my gamble on.
At approx midnight on Friday, there were 8-9 tables of 1-2 going. I immediately notice that there were really BIG stacks on almost every table. I get seated and quickly learn that 3-4 of the big stacks ($600 or so) on my left are actually good players and the going is tough. Why do these guys insist on playing 300-400bbs (or more) deep? Why not play 2-5NL? Anyway, I figure I will introduce them to my uber-tag short stack game. Unfortunately, I can’t get anything playable. Billy (from previous post) is on my right and loses approx $450 when his A-A loses to K-2 on flop of K-2-10, turn (2), river (7). Ouch. After a half an hour of folding and hoping for a good hand, a seat to the left of the tough players opens and I jump at the chance to have position on them. Soon, I get Ac-Kh in LP. I raise some limpers making it $15 to play and get two callers. Flop is Kc-Jd-10c. So, I have TPTK, inside straight draw, and backdoor nut flush draw. It is checked to me so I bet 2/3 pot. One guy folds the other check raises enough to put me all in. I put him on a pair and a draw like K-Q, Q-10, Q-J, maybe A-Q but less likely since he tried to limp in (also I thought if he had the straight he would have just called). I called and he shows Q-9 for a flopped straight. Neither the turn nor the river improved me and I am felted. Undeterred, I reload and keep playing.

Soon I look down to a beautiful sight, two red Aces. I open to $15 and the California cougar and one other guy call. The flop is 10-5-7.
I bet the pot on the flop. One guy folds but the cougar calls. Turn is a (4). Calif. Cougar checks and I bet pot again. Her hand trembled as she check raised, but before I stop to think (I have not seen her bluff all day, she has only raised with 2 pair or better, and I have played with her for 3 hours), I shove and she insta-calls. She then tables her 4-5s for a turned 2 pair. My over eagerness caused me ignore what I should have known - I was beat. The river is an immaterial King and I am felted a second time in under two hours (which is very uncommon for me).
As I am digging out more funds for another re-buy, the dealer says, “Don’t worry”, reminding me of the “Aces Cracked promotion”,” you just won $200!”
I go from rather dejected to somewhat elated instantly. The floor is called over to confirm everything. To my utter dismay, the floor nonchalantly says, “Sir, I’m sorry but the promo is only Monday through Thursday and this is early Saturday.” I am not tilted, but I was frustrated. I could not seem to get anything going and the mistake of seeing the shaky hand check raise and not going with my read against the cougar confirmed the apparent fact that I was not on my A-game. The goofy mix up about the promo did nothing to help either.

However, this is my LAST night in Vegas so I reload again. Before long, I get A-2o in the BB. I see a limped flop with three opponents. The flop is A-2-5! I lead out for a pot sized bet and one guy calls. The turn is a Q, which I do not think helped my opponent. I figure my opponent for a weak ace since he limped in. My stack is not much more than twice the pot so I overbet/shove and my opponent calls. The River is a 7. I table proudly my flopped 2 pair and he tables his A-7o for a higher 2 pair on the river. I groan audibly. I stand up and take a short walk to clear my thoughts. I watch the “Bambi legged” chicks, drunkenly stumbling around in their high heels, waiting to be devoured by some local predator as they emerge from the nearby club while I finish my beer. I quickly come to the realization that I am not on my A-game and not likely to be able to muster it at this point. So, as much as I did not want to, I called it a night. Although I thought to myself (as I walked to the elevators), I could not believe I was voluntarily leaving the poker room before dawn on my last night in the Capitol of the Poker World. However, in hindsight, I was rather pleased with myself for not losing more on a bad night (which I could have easily done). Sometimes, you have to know when to say when. I would never have been able to do that earlier in my poker life, but now, it wasn’t that hard. I know that deep down inside, for me, playing and winning is more important than just playing.

Monday, February 22, 2010

January 2010, Las Vegas Trip Report, Part 3 - Lucy(pher) in the Sky with Diamonds

You're only as young as the last time you changed your mind. – Timothy Leary

Friday was our 10th Anniversary. We celebrated by sleeping in and reminisced about our honeymoon, ten years prior in Las Vegas. The weather is supposed to improve but only barely does so. We enjoyed brunch at IHOP on the old end of the strip since we had eaten there during our first trip to Vegas together. It was decent, and in fact, better than both the IHOPs near home in Texas, but not great.
Sadly, the Holy Cow brewpub, another interesting eatery we enjoyed on our honeymoon (also located near the Sahara), has been out of business for a few years. After brunch, we went downtown to the Golden Nugget and Fremont Street. Downtown Las Vegas looks older, crappier, and more dilapidated every time I go there. It’s not even a shadow of its former self, it’s a sad reminder like an old faded poster of a band that used to be good. The Golden Nugget is the only decent looking place down there. Their poker room was almost empty on Friday around noon. I should have inquired about the room used to film High Stakes Poker. I would love to sit at the table, get a photo, and even buy some merchandise but if the possibility even exists, they don’t advertise it effectively since I did not see anything about it while we were there. Don’t they know that HSP is the best poker show (AINEC) around? One would think they would take advantage of this marketing and merchandising opportunity given all of the Nugget branding in the show.

After we left the Nugget, we headed over to the Mirage to get our pre-purchased tickets to Love from the will call window so we don’t get stuck in a long line the night of the show. They have a magnificent marine aquarium with lots of coral (photo above).

At approximately 2pm, the Mirage poker room appeared almost dead with only two tables going. I notice there are no CardPlayer magazines in the Mirage poker room either. Surprisingly, the waitresses at Mirage seem a bit long in the tooth, as well as, not as shapely as I would expect for people that spend all day on their feet.

After we left the near empty Mirage, we went to the Fashion Mall on the strip. Foolishly, we did not valet and had to tour the garage for about 20 minutes to find an available parking spot. Despite the sort of interesting exterior appearance of this place, the mall itself was bland, unimpressive, and un-Vegas like. It basically resembled any other shopping mall anywhere in the country. I thought it was a terrible waste of limited Vegas time. Why in the world do people shop while in Vegas? You pay to fly there. You pay to stay there. And then, with all the unique activities one could engage in while in Vegas, thousands of people shop.
I don’t get it at all. I saw nothing there that I could not acquire in a mall in Houston or from the comfort of my own home on the internet. Plus, you have to carry or haul your newly purchased crap back home enduring the airlines draconian baggage policies or pay to mail it. WTF? We don’t waste too much time at the mall. Once my wife sees the thing, she agrees with me that it’s no different than the mall back home and that coming to Vegas and shopping seems silly.

When we get back to Planet Hollywood, she wants to relax in the room and I, of course, head back to the poker room. I obtain seat 3 and immediately become acquainted with some interesting characters. Sitting next to me (in the 2 seat) is a redheaded woman I will call the “California cougar” since, judging from her hands and face, she is roughly 55 but her boyfriend (in the 8 seat) is at most 30. She is chatty, frontally augmented, and tells me she is from some place in California that has a nearby casino but I have never heard of. She also tells me she likes to play suited connectors but I don’t see her show any during the approximately two hours she is at my table. At the opposite end of the table (seat 7) is a big, affable gentleman from South Carolina named Billy. Billy is the table captain, a solid player, and has the entire table covered thanks to him felting a couple of opponents soon after I sat down. A new fellow, soon to be revealed as a complete neophyte, takes the seat to the right of the cougar (i.e. the 1 seat) and his buddy takes the 4 seat. I start straddling my button each time I have the chance. Soon, most everyone is doing the same. The neophyte revealed himself when he straddled his button, no one raised, and when the dealer looked at him and asked option? He folded. Yes, folded. Every time he was big blind and there was no raise and every time he straddled his own button and there was no raise, he folded when asked about his option. The dealer subtly grinned as she mucked his hand but never said a word about it.

Soon, the neophyte and Billy get into a big hand. Having watched the novice a few rounds, he never bets without a really solid hand although he called and chased a few times. The flop has two spades and the river brings a third spade. Neophyte shoves all in. Billy says call but does not move his chips forward since his stack is huge and he easily has the other guy covered. The neophyte apparently did not hear him say call and thought he said fold since he did not push any chips forward so he flips his hand forward face down and reaches for the pot. Billy tables Ks - Qs for the King high flush and stares at him. The dealer begins to gather the pot and push it to Billy when the noob says, “wait!” The dealer says, “Sir, you mucked your hand”. The noob says I thought he (Billy) said “fold.” The dealer begins to explain what happened, still preparing to push the pot to Billy, when Billy, the Southern gentleman, tells the dealer to turn up the noob’s hand and let it play. The dealer says OK and turns up the noob’s As-9s for the nut flush and Billy graciously loses a pot of approximately $450 with a shrug and a wry smile. Now that, my friends, is a true Southern gentleman. To make matters worse, the neophyte picks up all his chips and leaves right after that preventing Billy or anyone else from winning any back. Now, in my home game, if a new guy did that against me, I would definitely behave the same way Billy did. However, this is Las Vegas and the noob was a complete stranger, so I have to admit, I doubt I would have been so kind.

While I am still contemplating what I would have done, my button arrives and I straddle it again. I am dealt 4h- 5h. The flop comes 10 high with two hearts. When the 10h comes on the river, one of my opponents goes all in. I wonder if he has a higher flush so I replayed the hand in my head. I did not put him on a flush so I called. He tables K-10 for trip tens. I table my flush and he’s felted. Minutes later, my wife arrives and says she is ready to go eat so I cash out (up one buy in).

We dine at the Spice Market buffet, which had come highly recommended, and are regrettably underwhelmed. Great diversity of entrees but most of it has been sitting too long to be really good. Like everyone else mentioned in the Bible, I am quite fond of lamb but sadly, the lamb kabobs were overdone and chewy. I tried the osso bucco but it was also chewy and compromised from sitting too long under the heat lamps. The beef short ribs were good but not excellent. The prime rib was the best of the meats since it was deliciously juicy and rare. My wife, not being much of a food adventuress, stuck with her favorite and enjoyed the pizza - which was surprisingly good. While I usually skip dessert, I indulged and was glad I did. The desserts were very good. The service was reasonably attentive and kept our glasses full of their iced tea – which was tasty and definitely freshly brewed. Finally, the time had arrived to go see Cirque Du Soleil – LOVE. The Mirage poker room was packed to capacity at 9pm on Friday. Surprisingly, floor waitresses are no better looking on the night shift at Mirage than they are on the day shift. Maybe just another sign of how far the Mirage has fallen. The show, LOVE, was very good, and in fact, quite trippy. Someone in the creation/design of this show has enjoyed an altered state of mind and their influence and creativity was not lost on me. The music sounded incredibly clear and good. Seating is comfortable and no better/worse than any other large concert type venue. Given the success of this show and the fact that there is already a similar show about Elvis’s music, I am wondering how long it will be before we see a similar show about the Stones, Led Zep, etc. For good bands that made good music with wide market appeal, there are new fans waiting to be created. Suffice to say, my wife appreciates the Beatles more now than ever before. As we left, we talked about the music and the show. I hugged my wife closely and gently reminded her, I told you it was good stuff a long time ago but you know what they say about prophets in their own land.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

January 2010, Las Vegas Trip Report, Day 2, - An Introduction to the Uncapped Button Straddle

Part of it went on gambling, and part of it went on women. The rest I spent foolishly. – George Raft

As I awoke on Thursday morning, I could still hear thunder and knew it was going to be another rainy day on the Strip. Getting dressed, I overhear the news and they say that Las Vegas has had more rainfall in January of 2010 than all of 2009 combined - FML.

We decide to have brunch nearby at a Vegas classic, The PepperMill Lounge on the Strip. The food is good and plentiful; imagine an upscale Denny’s or IHOP that serves twice the volume of food per plate. The service is friendly but swift, in short excellent. The atmosphere is also good although they would not let us eat by the cool looking fires they had in the lounge (even after I courteously pointed out that the lounge was open but empty). WTF? After brunch, we make a quick run to the Palace Station to pick up some information for relatives that would be staying there in a few weeks. I swing by their small poker room and see two tables going but no CardPlayer magazines to be had. The day remained rainy and rather cold so we headed back to Planet Hollywood to walk through their Miracle Mile of shops. Most of the shops seemed to be selling stuff that no one was buying – either because it was crappy merchandise or because it was overpriced or both. I discover a microbrew distribution site within the mall called Sin City Brewing Co.. Never being one to pass up an opportunity to enjoy a good beer, I belly up to the bar and order a pint of their Amber ale. It is good but while I am enjoying it, the serving wench suggests I try their seasonal special IPA. Rarely needing an excuse for a second cold one after I have enjoyed a first one, I agree and order one of the IPAs. She was absolutely correct and the beer was excellent (and would prove to be the tastiest I would enjoy during the entire trip). I celebrate the moment and reward the Sin City Brewing Co. (for their outstanding brews) by purchasing one of their bowling shirts emblazoned with their trademark “devil woman”.
We mosey back into the casino and take our daily free spin (on a gigantic slot machine) as members of the Planet Hollywood A-List Players Club. We weren’t expecting to win anything but just for entertainment value we figured why not.
As expected, my wife, who swears she isn’t lucky, won a silly hat. I, on the other hand, who do consider myself at least a little lucky, won $100 in free slot play – Ship it! Of course, since I completely eschew slots, I promptly give it to her to enjoy while I am playing poker and she graciously accepts. Speaking of player’s club bonii, an additional value of joining was the coupon book they give you when you sign up. Most of the stuff in it is crap but there was an additional slot play give away and even better (IMO), a match play coupon in each book for $25.00.
I head over to a blackjack table to use my coupon (I used to play blackjack before I discovered poker but now I play exclusively poker). However, this was a justifiable excuse since the coupon made my wager +EV. I whip out my cash and present the dealer with the coupon. I am the only one at the table. He deals me a 5 and a 2. I take another card and get a 10, so I stop at 17. The dealer busts, I say “ship it”, and he cheerfully pays me. I tip him and leave the table immediately. Meanwhile, my wife asks me to explain what just happened. I do so and she then produces her coupon book and asks me if I can do it again. I playfully ask, are you serious? Then, before she can say anything, I confidently answer my own question - Of course, I can. So, we walk over to a different empty blackjack table. With aplomb, I whip out one of the green chips I just won along with her coupon and place them on the table. The dealer proceeds to deal me two face cards for 20. She has a face card and a 5 so she hits and busts. I smile and before I can say anything, my wife excitedly says, “Ship it!” I laugh, tip the dealer, and we walk away quite pleased since we just netted a quick $200 ($100 in free slot play and $100 in match play blackjack) for taking the time to join the A-List Players Club.
As we walk by the poker room, I look around for a magazine to read. Evidently CardPlayer magazine is not being disseminated via poker rooms anymore. What’s up with that? Meanwhile, we hear some shouting and look to see what it is. It is a young guy with his buddies walking through the casino shouting “Viva, Las Vegas” with a beer in each hand and a belt resembling an ammo belt full of more beer. It is not even 4pm, yet. You gotta love Las Vegas and clearly, the young guys were having a great time. Anyway, we decide to go to the MGM and see their CSI exhibit/attraction. The wife is a big fan. While I am not the follower of the show she is, I have seen it a few times and the one set in Las Vegas is pretty good.
The concept has merit but the delivery/execution of the thing was well below my expectations for a Las Vegas attraction. It was OK but appeared to be more about selling CSI merchandise than entertaining the public. The whole thing was better than it might otherwise have been since the friendly lady with the accent selling us the tickets winked/smiled and said, you two are in the military, right? - and proceeded to sell us tickets for the military discount of half price.
We eat at Planet Dailies, the Planet Hollywood “coffee shop” for dinner. It is way overpriced for anything resembling a coffee shop. My baked ham and cheese sandwich was so salty that I could not finish it (I like salt so if it was too salty for me, look out). Wife’s Kobe burger is decent but not great considering the price - we should have taken the time to go to In/Out Burger.
We decide it is time to get our gamble on. She heads over to a bank of slots and I head to the poker room.
Immediate seating is available (it’s approx. 10 pm) and as I am taking my seat, an announcement comes over the PA system regarding the Planet Hollywood poker room’s “Aces Cracked” promotion that runs from 10am-Noon, 2pm – 4pm, and 2am – 4am. If one has their pocket Aces cracked during the promo, they get $200. I overhear some nits talking about playing their Aces in a way to help get them cracked. My opinion is that it’s just a little insurance in case the hand goes sour but if I get Aces, I will play them for full value in the hand. As I am getting comfortable in my seat and observing the table, I notice the player to my left is hilarious. He is making humorous remarks, good naturedly needling his opponents, and generally having a good time. I like having fun people at the table because it enhances my own entertainment, as well as, usually loosens up the table. It turns out, the funny guy is an off duty dealer and well known in the room. At Planet Hollywood, one can straddle one’s own button. Here’s how it works. Either the UTG player or the button may straddle. If they both attempt to do so, the button has priority. What is weird is that the button gets to act last pre flop, too. When it is his turn to act and he has straddled, the action passes the dealer and the blinds have to act – and, then it comes back to the dealer to act. The straddle has to be $5.00 period. No other amounts are usually allowed. The off duty dealer guy is straddling every time he can. He is also encouraging others to do so, too. I think about it and figure, who wouldn’t want to straddle his own button – thereby putting more money in the pot with the best position both pre and post flop? Most everyone is doing it when the off duty dealer guy tells the table that we could all agree to let the button straddle be for any amount if we wanted to. Clearly, he is a proponent of this plan and he succeeds in convincing the whole table to agree. This is where the action went wild.
Sadly, I am completely card dead and getting grinded down by the table full of action with no flop getting seen for less that $30 or more. So I am waiting for a spot to go to work. Finally, my patience is rewarded when I get A-K in the CO. The off duty dealer guy button straddles it to $30 pre. BB raises to $60 and before I can speak, button announces all in. I tell the dealer I have not acted yet and have live cards. I think for a minute and call which means I am also all in since the button has me covered. BB also calls. We table our hands. BB has A-Qo. Button has A-Ks. I have A-Ko. All five cards are dealt and no one hits anything so the button and I split the pot. However, the dealer, a female, splits the pot completely wrong and shafts me. I calmly but firmly speak up and, luckily, the off duty dealer agreed with me so he proceeded to instruct her how to swiftly and accurately split the pot. A few rounds later, a different guy button straddles for $30. I am in the BB and look down to see Q-Q. My only thought here is how to get the money all in as fast as possible. There is one other caller so $60 in pot and I have approx $130. I don’t like just calling and not having enough behind so I move in. MP caller folds and the button calls. I think I have to be way ahead of the straddler’s range but, unfortunately for me, he tables K-K. I don’t improve and he wins - bummer. I consider reloading, since the action is wild and I am certain I will win some money if I can play well for another hour or two. However, being honest with myself, it’s 3am and I am somewhat tired so decide I should call it a night.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

January 2010, Las Vegas Trip Report, Day 1 - Anticipation and Arrival

Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

It was a soggy/foggy Wednesday morning as we prepared to leave for the airport. We are backing out of the driveway, I turn on the radio and, as if on cue, The Animals – House of the Rising Sun begins to play. As we made the long drive to the airport to get my vacation underway, I could not help but notice all the poor souls driving to work. I thought soberly to myself, all too soon, I would be returning to my job as a wage slave, too.

I could not wait to get to Las Vegas. The rainy drive to the airport, the loathsome pre-flight check in process, the seemingly endless wait before the flight, the flight, etc. - everything was just another obstacle to be overcome, another annoyance to be endured, another hour to be sacrificed - all for the sake of getting to Las Vegas. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of discomfort I had to endure on my flight. It was the best flight ever - no headache or earache at the end, which is highly unusual for me. Nice job, Continental.

I had already obtained the weather forecast and, as we landed, we could see it was definitely raining in Las Vegas. And, it would continue raining all day in LV, including some flooding in the evening. We get our first jolt of unexpected excitement when, after watching the luggage conveyor go around repeatedly, our luggage never appears. I find an attendant and ask if any luggage was lost or late. He says, no, but some luggage arrived early on a different flight. We were greatly relieved to see our luggage was among those to which he referred.
We show our claim ticket and head outside to catch the shuttle to the rental car center. Once there, we obtain our vehicle (a thoroughly unimpressive but inexpensive Toyota yaris) and head in the direction of the Strip.

We ate our first meal at the Gordon Biersch Brewpub just off the Strip.
My Marzen burger was decent but not great. My wife’s pizza was very good. However, even though I am not normally a french fry lover, the pungent garlic fries are still my favorite thing about this place. The service was pretty good but also, not great likely due to the fact the place was packed for lunch. Despite the meal not being as good as in previous visits, it did not matter that much because now that we were actually in Las Vegas, all my anticipation was focused on how soon I would actually sit at a poker table and be dealt a hand. My “Poker-Jones” was peaking.

Since it was still too early to check in at Planet Hollywood, we drove back to the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. On past trips, it had been hard to park and get photos but a small parking area and Astroturf covered mound have been added since 2007 when I was last here. We brave the rain to get a few souvenir photos next to the famous sign.

We finally get to check into Planet Hollywood and I, of course, attempt the $20.00 trick (i.e. obtaining a room upgrade for a $20 tip). To my chagrin, the clerk refused to accept the tip and, although he went through the motions of checking for an available upgrade, I was not at all surprised that he did not find one. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, although we did not get the upgrade, at least I got to keep the $20. First wager in LV = a push.

I make my way to Planet Hollywood poker room approx. 5:30pm. There are 4-5 tables of 1-2 NLHE going. I look for Joe Viator, whom I have been following on Twitter, to introduce myself but before I can find him I am called to my seat. The moment I have been anxiously waiting for all day, if not all week, has finally arrived. Notable hands included the following:

I am dealt A-A on first hand in CO, incredible! I bet $15 into a few limpers and get 2 callers. Flop is J high and checked to me. I bet 40 and everyone folds. I don’t show, of course. I probably should have checked behind to draw them in. I proceed to get A-A twice more in first hour and reduce my open bet to $10 but no one calls anyway.

I build my stack up with some more small wins with non descript hands but soon get K-K and open for $15. I get 2 callers. Flop is 10 high, and I bet $30 into $45 pot hoping for a little action.

A TAG re-raises to $130 (more action than I wanted with one pair) and from his demeanor, I sense he out flopped me (maybe set, maybe 2 pair). I do not think calling would be right since I would be committed, I need to raise all in or fold so after thinking, I fold (later he says he had 2 pair).

A few hands later, I get A-Jo. I open bet and flop is J high. I bet again and have one caller. Turn is another J so I check behind to act scared of the 2nd J. Opponent fires a ½ pot bet on bricked river. I raise, he insta mucks, and a I drag in a decent pot.

Soon, I limp in with Q-7. Flop is Q-7-4. Turn = 7 River = J and I win about a $100 pot.

Limp 3-3 from EP and turn a set of 3s but everyone folds to my ½ pot bet and another monster goes to waste. Not much later, I get dealt pocket 10s and I win another small pot. Within minutes, my wife arrives and it is time to go for now. I cash out 2 buy ins up for a nice start to my trip.

We decide to have an inexpensive dinner so Ellis Island it is. This place is one of the best values near the Strip. It offers consistently good food at ridiculously low prices. Added bonus is they are also a brewpub and offer $1 micro brewed beer, as well as my wife’s favorite, micro brewed root beer. I recommend the off menu steak dinner special.

After dinner, I had about a 10 minute wait to be seated on Wednesday night at approx. 11pm. There were 7 tables of 1-2 NLHE going.

Notable hands:

Early on, I get one of my favorite hands, 10-10, in LP. I always open bet with 10s (and Js, too) so I made $15 to play after a couple of limpers - the loose guy to my left calls and so does one of the limpers, so it’s three to the flop. Flop is Q-10-4. Limper checks, I check knowing the other guy would bet it if I checked, and he does not disappoint. He bets about $30, the limper folds and I raise enough to put the rest of his stack at risk. I have him covered and he calls. I table my set and he groans and says he has a Queen. He doesn’t improve and I felt my first opponent of the trip.

After (foolishly) choosing to fold garbage hands like K-3o and Q-4o (rather than just limping in) and then seeing those garbage hands catch flops like 4- 4-10 and some guy with the 10 winning, or 3-3-7, etc. I started playing/limping some junk trying to catch a miracle. All I ever got were some top pair/weak kicker hands that had to be folded to big bets on the turn or river. Finally, I get A-K. I open to 10 and get a couple of callers. Flop is A high, turn is K and I win approx. $80.

Later, I see a flop with 7-10 in LP and flop a made straight (flop = 6-8-9). An Ace comes on the turn and my sole remaining opponent leads into me confidently. Thinking the Ace helped him and my call here would commit me, I go ahead and raise all in. My opponent thinks for a minute before calling. I table my straight and he tables his. We both had 7-10 for the same straight and chop the pot.

Near the end of my session, I get 10-10 again. I open bet to 15 and get two callers again, one is a short stack. Flop is 6 high. I bet the pot and get called by the short stack (whom I think has 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, or a big Ace). Turn pairs the 6 on the board and I bet again, opponent raises, I 3 bet all in (because I have tight image and I could not believe the opponent called me preflop with a 6 in hand) and they call. To my surprise, they had called my open bet with 4-6s, then called my flop bet with top pair and no kicker(which is usually a recipe for disaster for my opponents) and then got lucky. Keep in mind, I have shown nothing but winners (with primarily good starting hands) all night. Arghhh….talk about unobservant opponents, fortunately, I had the opponent covered so I was not felted. However, it was after 3 am Thursday morning (I had been up since 4 am Wednesday) and I was feeling mentally fatigued so I called it a night (while I was still up for the day). There would be much more Vegas to be had and I didn’t want to make my traditional mistake of over doing it on day one.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Guess They Threw All the Beads in New Orleans, Mardi Gras Galveston 2010

I just want Texas to be number one in something other than executions, toll roads and property taxes. – Kinky Friedman

The weather was beautiful on Saturday morning and I was up early to attend the annual Galveston County Master Gardener’s Fruit Tree sale. Having been twice before, I knew what sort of chaos to expect and got there early. This sale offers fruit tree varieties that are particularly well suited to our south Texas climate and grown with love by real master gardeners. They are sold either bare root or potted in 3-5 gallon containers. I bought a bare root Beauty Plum tree to add to my two MidPride Peach trees, and navel Orange tree (purchased at my two previous visits). Having been prepared, I was the first one to check out and headed straight home to plant my new tree.

As it got closer to Noon, we loaded up the boys and headed to the Seawall to see the first Mardi Gras parade of the day. The most noteworthy guy they had in this parade this year was none other than the former Texas Gubernatorial candidate, Kinky Friedman, chomping his trademark cigar. Sadly, (as you can see from the picture) neither Kinky nor the other folks in the parade were throwing many beads, and consequently, the parade watchers were not properly bead adorned. As one of the lucky ones to have previously ridden floats in the parade, I can confirm that you are supposed to be throwing beads as fast and furiously to the crowds as you can. The folks in this parade, apparently, had not gotten the memo about proper Mardi Gras parade etiquette.

In any case, we ended the afternoon on a high note by stopping by the locally famous, Queen’s Bar-B-Que. I had a sliced beef po-boy and my wife and son enjoyed the chipped beef po-boys. The sandwiches were good but not sufficiently large and, as usual when I go to Queen’s, I could have easily eaten two.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

PokerStars WBCOOP 2010

Good ideas are a dime a dozen, bad ones are free. – Douglas Horton

I do not usually play freerolls. The fields are simply too large, the time needed is too long, and the play is usually horrendous. However, the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker is no ordinary freeroll. The bragging rights alone would be worth the win. Sadly, I fared about the same as I usually do in really big fields. I waste a few hours playing well only to get busted out of the money. Here are some of the gory details:

2nd orbit I get 2 black Kings in the BB – everyone folds to me before I can even bet.

3rd orbit 2 red Kings in the CO – I bet 3xbb – everyone folds.

I get J-J, open bet and get called. Flop is all undercards and I shove all in, get called and I double up when his draw doesn’t get there.

A-A in MP and open bet 3xbb but everyone folds!

Finally, some action - I flop a flush draw with Jh-10h and make it on turn. I am up to t5210.

4-4 holds up and I am at t5945 as we go to the first break.

I got a couple of suited Aces(A-Js and A-9s), open bet got called, missed flop, made C-bet and won pot.

“Sitter Outers” are dying off quickly now, I am at t6045.

I make it to the second break but, at t3915 and below average, it’s shove or fold time.

M = 6 and I get Q-Q in MP. I shove and get no action.

M = 3 and I get A-Jo so I shove. Get called by 5-5 and I don’t improve.

I am out in 240th. (Sigh), maybe next year.

Notables seen included: MemphisMOJO, TanOrpheus, Rakewell1, Fuel55, Lightning36.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Who Dat Talkin Bout Partying in New Orleans?

We Americans are a peculiar people. We are for the underdog, no matter how much of a dog he is. – Happy Chandler

Once again, I will be pulling for the underdog in the Super Bowl. The Saints have (IMO) paid their dues. That doesn’t entitle them to a win but it is enough to net my support for the game. Down here, we have called them the “Ain'ts” for a long time since they “ain’t” really ever gone very far in the NFL Playoffs and, the prevailing opinion was, they “ain’t” likely to next year either. However, the synergy between the coach, the quarterback, and the rest of the Saints has impressed me this season. They will have to play very well to best the Colts and Manning but it is possible. Believe me, Mardi Gras kicks off this weekend and anything is possible.
Go Saints!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's Not About Serendipitously Getting Lucky

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. – Darrell Royal

I never liked homework when I was a kid and skipped it whenever I could.
As an adult, I understand that homework is useful and usually worth the effort. Thus, I set out to do a little reading to prepare for my upcoming trip to the strip.

After reading this highly germane thread by Las Vegas Michael on 2+2, I am now planning to get in a session at Treasure Island and considering skipping either Bally’s or Bill’s. I am also thinking about squeezing in a session at the Venetian if at all possible. Thank you, Mr. LVM.

I also recently finished buying and reading the e-book from Ed Miller, S. Mehta, and M. Flynn, Small Stakes No- Limit Hold’em. The thoughtful but aggressive tactics elucidated in the book have already helped me in my local game. I am hoping they will also contribute to my poker enjoyment and success in Las Vegas. I may do a review at some point but for now, suffice to say, I think the book is well worth the price.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Viva Las Vegas!

Although, still disappointed about missing the Winter Gathering of 2009, I just learned I am going to Las Vegas this month for my anniversary. That’s right; I am going to Vegas, Babeee! My wife and I honeymooned in Vegas so celebrating our 10th anniversary there will be awesome. She has already obtained us tickets to the Cirque de Soleil show “Love”. I have read numerous reviews that suggest this is a good show and I definitely hope it will be memorable. We will also stick to our usual plan and rent a car so we can more easily enjoy some of our customary off strip spots such as Gordon Biersch, Ellis Island, etc.

I plan to get three nights of serious poker playing in while I am there. We are staying at the Planet Hollywood so I will likely play at least one night there. I also plan to check out Bally’s and Bill’s – both of which are nearby and come highly recommended as well populated with fish. I might also squeeze in a session at MGM if possible.

I can hardly wait.

Trip report to follow so stay tuned.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Poker Stars WBCOOP

I am in! Are you?

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker! The WBCOOP is a free online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers, so register on WBCOOP to play.

Registration code: