Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Should I Keep Blogging?

I'd like to maintain a poker blog, especially if there were a readership.

Comment if you'd like to see this continue. Even better if you like the idea of strategy discussion and so forth in the comments.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Really Horrible Dealer

So this dealer, Jennifer Graham if I remember correctly, comes to our table. First hand, I notice she pitches the cards over the blinds so high I could almost see them. I make a mental note to ask her to pitch them lower if it happens again.

A few hands in, a card skips off the felt and it flashes. I say it flashed, and that it's "the eight of hearts or something." She tells me to name the exact card. I say, "It's medium and red. The eight of hearts or so." The guy says it isn't the 8h. She tells me that if I can't name the exact card nothing should be done, and after all that I had "just named half the deck." Also, she gives me some dirty looks, especially after I ask her to pitch the cards lower.

Later a couple people limp and Vinnie raises. Right after he says "raise" and before he does anything that could possibly indicate the amount, the superannoying four-seat folds. Now, this isn't exactly a big deal, but it's improper, and a couple people politely ask him to wait next time. (Yes, I am one of the people that asked.) The dealer interjects and says "Why? He already said 'raise.'" We say that it could affect how much he was raising. She clearly fails to understand this, and again notes that Vinnie already said he was raising. We say he hadn't even reached back to his chips and it could affect how much he wanted to raise. She still aggressively fails to understand, and calls the floor, who agrees with us. As soon as the floor's out of earshot she mumbles: "Well, that's the stupidest rule I've heard."

A little later we're on break and she mentions that she thinks that if any card is flipped over during the deal, it should be a misdeal, because "you guys are playing a $10,000 tournament."

It's a rare person who dislikes the concept of the exposed burn card, but has no problem with a card in play in someone's hand to be known to be one of 8 or so cards from the deck.

I should note that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the dealing overall. I had expected a bunch of bad ones because they needed so many, but many were very good and many more were at least competent.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Funny Phenomenon

So directly to my right at the first table was Clown #4, a rich-seeming older-but-not-old guy in a West Virginia baseball cap. He was, it seems, trying to set a record for limping (sometimes calling a raise after limping) and then folding the flop. Indeed, he got himself all the way down to 5100 this way. It stopped for a while because he only had his 5k chip and a 100 chip.

I colored him down as soon as I could; the limping recommenced.

[By the way, as I was walking out after my bustout I saw him still in the tournament. I can personally verify that he sucks real real hard, though. If you're ever in a pot with him, make tiny bluffs and huge value-bets, because he'll fold to any bet if he's folding (actually, he'll usually hold his cards out ahead of time so you know he's folding) and he'll call a lot if he's calling.]

Another Hand

I have 56k, make it 1200 with QJo. Folded to one of the two shortstacks who have collectively attacked the majority of my raises at the table; he pushes for 5100 total. Blinds 200-400/25. I call. Results in a comment.

Edit: I'm UTG+1; he's in middle position. Kinda important.

Also: Al's pretty much right on. I crunched the numbers as carefully as I could and found that it was almost exactly a break-even bet. Advertising value broke the tie.

A Few More Hands

Before I busted the maniac Swede:

Folded to him in late position. He puts in a 1k chip and then says "raise." I call the string and complete the SB with Th8h. (Big blind is nowhere near thinking enough to see through all of this and mess with me.) BB checks. 1150 in the pot.

Flop is A97, one heart. I bet 800, BB folds, Swede makes it 2k or so, I call. Turn's a small heart. I bet 1.5k with the intention of pushing to a raise (I have about 20k behind after my 1.5k bet; he has slightly less.) [He folded.]

Later: Vinh open-raises the button (150-300/25) to 1200. I call in the BB with A9s. (Considered a reraise, didn't want to play out of position. Folding would have been insane.) Flop JJ2, two of my suit. I bet 1500, he calls. Turn 2. I check, he bets 3500, I call. River J. I check with the intention of calling anything reasonable. He checks behind and we chop it up. (He had A7o.) What do you think of the turn check?

Earlier: guy with 6k raises in LMP (a clown who raises a lot when it's folded to him in LP;) I call in the BB with AQ. There's 1550 in the pot. Flop KJx; I bet 800 and he calls. Turn T, putting a two-flush on board. I bet 800 and he pushes and I call of course and he has A7 with the flush draw and misses. [Noah made fun of me for utter transparency after that hand. I would have played it very differently against him, of course.]

The Details

OK, I'm many thousand feet up in the air, and I just woke up from a nap, so I really have no idea where in the country I am. For the first time since the tournament I'm ready to think about poker, so here goes. For lack of a better format I'll go roughly chronologically.

*Celebrity Encounter #1*

Now, I didn't have as many poker-celebrity encounters as most players did. This is because I was trying to win the tournament, and most of the other players were interested in... I have no idea, usually something like going back to Topeka and telling their friends that they saw Johnny Chan order a Coke. More on this phenomenon later.

But it's pretty inevitable to at least run into some "name" players. I got to the Rio a little early, but punctuality came at the expense of a leisurely breakfast, so I grabbed a slice of pizza and a croissant and camped out in a relatively quiet corner of the conference area. A few minutes later I notice a dude a few feet away from me, and it's Sam Grizzle, wandering aimlessly and blathering incoherently into a cellphone. Later he wanders back, and this time he's accompanied by a guy who looks like an extra from one of the episodes of Seinfeld set at the retirement community. I still have no idea how anyone can understand him when he's not speaking extra-clearly for the cameras, but then again my hearing is bad.

Things went well almost from the start of the tournament. My table consisted of four tight guys, a guy I think was pretty solid, me, and five clowns who ranged from bad to insanely horribly bad.

A couple hours in I take a key pot. I'd been playing a lot of hands; the clowns were in seats 2-5 and the tight guys were behind me. So I could take the button very often and play raised pots with deep stacks against horrible players. It was rare for me to fold anything resembling a hand if it wasn't raised to me. Anyway, I limp behind a clown limper with Q9o. The two of us and the big blind take a flop of AQ9, with the ace and nine of hearts. Check-check and I bet 200, one of my standard bets, into the 350 pot. The big blind folds and the clown limper (named Fernando, and wearing a "Brasil" baseball cap) calls, looking a whole lot like he's on a draw. He's the strain of bad player that is reasonably tight, but totally devoid of sound decisionmaking faculties. The turn pairs the 9 and Fernando checks to me; I bet 200 again to make it impossible for him to fold. He squints confusedly at the bet and calls. I'm confident he's drawing dead. The river's the ten of hearts. He gives off various strong tells and checks. I bet 500 and he raises me 1000 more. I pop it another 2000 and he calls.

The next few hours pass mostly without incident, and by the second break I'm up over 16k. Blinds are still 100-200 at that point, so it's coming along well. A while later Fernando busts and a young hotshot-looking guy in a Full Tilt jacket comes to the table. He's a big stack who loves to play with his chips and raise a lot of pots, and my number one priority becomes figuring out how good he is at doing that sort of thing. I also don't want to lose control of the table. About an orbit after he arrives he's under the gun (blinds 150-300/25), and the big blind is off in the bathroom. He raises to 1200 and I figure he's doing this with a lot of hands, so when the action gets to me I make it 2700 with J9s. Folded to him and he juggles his chips for a while, gives me many funny looks (he likes to engage his opponents,) and calls. The flop comes 9-high with a flush draw. He checks to me and I bet 2500; he goes into a long routine, counting out a call and a small raise and a big raise and then a call again and then he looks at me for a while and then he folds.

Speaking of people being away from the table for urination purposes... it happened a lot. Thousands of people, very few bathrooms. There was little point in even trying to use the bathroom during the break, so it was better just to miss a few hands. Ten minutes after the J9s hand I'm leaving the bathroom, trying to get back for my blinds, when Full Tilt Hotshot taps me on the shoulder. We chat for a while, he asks me where I'm from, I ask him where he's from, and discover that he's (a) from Amsterdam and (b) named Noah. Turns out it is indeed Noah Boekin, Internet whiz and EPT champion this year. He's got skills; more on that later if I feel like it.

Eventually, and tragically, my table breaks, and I get moved to a much tougher table. Various clowns are there, but most of them either bust before I can get their money or are severely shortstacked and reacting to being short by becoming way way overtight. Also, a few guys to my left are quite willing to reraise preflop, which is annoying. I'm down from 27k to 25k (I had stacked a guy for 6k right before the table broke) when I play this hand. I raise to 1200 UTG+1 with QQ; all fold to the big blind, a very aggressive Swede. He calls and I'm getting weird vibes. He calls a lot of raises preflop but this time he seems stronger. The flop comes 963 with two hearts and he bets 1500. Alarm bells are going off. Either he's trying to give off fake tells or he loves his hand, and in the few hands I've seen him I have him pegged as less a tricky bombard-you-with-sensory-input maniac, and more of an ABC bet-all-the-time maniac. I call and plan on re-evaluating the turn, folding to pressure and otherwise showing down as cheaply as possible. This all changes when the turn's a Q, not completing the flush. He bets 3500 or so. I have him barely covered, so he's got about 17k left. After some thought I decide that it'd be silly for me not to jam. No need to get fancy when he's so likely to call for his whole stack right then. So I jam and before I can finish the phrase "all in" he calls with 66. I hit one of my 43 outs and get up to 55k or so.

All is well when disaster strikes in the form of Vinnie Vinh. Vinnie won WPT Commerce last year and is very good and very aggressive. Make that very very good and very very aggressive. His first hand at the table, he raises UTG or UTG+1 and I reraise with AA. He makes a rare preflop fold. Amusingly, I don't lose any substantial pots to Vinnie, but he turns the table into Variance City. Soon after he arrives he raises and the SB, a PokerStars guy who seems like a real jerk, calls. Some medium cards come on the flop and PokerStars guy check-calls. A small card comes on the turn and PokerStars guy bets and Vinnie raises and PokerStars guy reraises (they're both 50k deep or so, and we're still at 150-300/25) and Vinnie immediately jams. PokerStars guy goes waaaay into the tank and eventually folds. He informs Vinnie that he's not making any more laydowns like that. I chuckle silently. Anyway, about an orbit later PokerStars guy raises UTG and I call in LMP with AKo. Flop comes 765 and he bets 1500, about half-pot and I call planning on bluffing the turn, or spiking an A or K and re-evaluating. He looks a lot like QQ or so. Turn comes a 4. He makes the same bet he made on the flop, so quarter-pot or so, and this seems to be a good spot, so I make it 4500, even though he's steaming. I mean, I'm less inclined to bluff a steaming opponent, but how can I pass up this opportunity. He makes a really forceful call and checks the river dark. Well, now I'm sure where he's at. The river's a Q, and there's no visible reaction from him. I decide 15k looks a lot like a value-bet; he thinks for a while and calls. Damn.

I can live with myself because I don't think I was overplaying here. I was still playing the best I'd ever played, and I just decided that even against a steaming opponent, or an opponent pretending to be steaming, I couldn't pass that spot up. If it was an error it was one of judgment, not discipline.

I then run coooooold, and 20k is a whole lot shorter when Vinnie has all but taken the table from 150-300 to 150-300-1200 (and then 200-400-1600.) He made enough crazy-good calls that I ruled out pure resteals, and if I wasn't willing to make moves with nothing I didn't have the cards to do anything. Thankfully hands take a very long time when Vinnie's around, so I was looking to seize any opportunities I could but be patient enough to get through the last hour and a half (probably only 30 hands or so) and get to day 2 and a new table. (For all other purposes I didn't care about making day 2 for its own sake. I'm shocked at how many people were hoarding chips, trying to blind into a postion that doesn't even pay. But day 2 means a redraw for tables, so I was looking to get there.)

But then I pick up QQ UTG+1 and make it 2000 (we're at 250-500/50 by this point.) Tight guy on the button calls. Flop comes KTT with two diamonds. I check and call 3000, figuring he'll bet any hand there and I can get some value and a read and evaluate on the turn. After the flop call I have just under 14k. The turn's the Jd. Now I've got a straight-flush draw and my hand might be best and I'm against an opponent who likes to find folds. So I jam.

Now, he goes way into the tank. He only has me covered by a thousand or two. And as he's rubbing his cards back and forth they touch the muck. I think for a second and figure that if I call the floor it's as likely, from his perspective, to be reverse psychology as an attempt to get the hand mucked. (I don't think I was shooting an angle here; it really looked a lot like a muck, and the rule exists in part to prevent ambiguity, and one reason to prevent ambiguity is to keep him from getting a read on me as he almost mucks his cards.) Anyway, the floor rules the hand isn't dead. He thinks for a good while longer and eventually calls with AK (without the ace of diamonds.) Damn. And I miss all 16 of my outs. Damn.

In the ritualistic post-bustout handshaking session PokerStars guy said that he "had too much invested" to fold to the 15k. Don't know what to make of that; probably just making an excuse for steaming.

I think both those last hands involved questionable decisions on my part; in particular, calling the floor seems suspect. I imagine that is likely to sound really really dumb to an outside observer, but I had pretty deep insight into this guy's psychology, and I'm almost sure it weighted him toward a fold. I'm almost sure he called simply because he thought AK was too strong. Anyway, I don't need a fold much of the time; the pot was 11250 so my bet was something like 1.2x the pot. I have, on average, enough outs that check-calling all-in is very close to break-even if he has AK no diamond. The decision between checking and jamming (I don't think a smaller bet can be correct) comes down to how my folding equity compares to the equity I can by sometimes seeing the river for free or cheaply. I might even induce a bluff sometimes. (Whether or not to call all-in if I check is close; I could be drawing thinner than 17 or 16 outs, sometimes far thinner, but sometimes he'll be betting a worse hand or something like AJ with the Ad.) I think it's a call, but I think that jamming is better; remember that this guy saw me jam with QQQ against the manic Swede. And I think he's also trying to sneak into the money. And he's a big tool who is trying to collect stories about playing with Vinnie Vinh. Anyway, he got the best of me there, so good for you, annoying kid from Albany, wherever you are.

So, yeah. It's a long walk out of the Rio when you've busted. (Literally, too; you have to go down like six really long hallways to get to the front door.) I got back to the hotel room, took a bath, and changed my flight out from tomorrow to today; I couldn't tolerate being in Vegas today.

By the way, even though I wasn't looking to collect Vinnie Vinh stories I wound up with a few anyway. First of all, he's outgoing and friendly at the table, and it seems like he genuinely loves playing poker and enjoys the company of the people he plays with. Obviously he's cultivating an image but it's a pleasure to play with a guy who's so entertaining and who loves the game so much. Also, he's daaaaamn good. He was up over 90k, if I counted right, by the time I busted. He has less than .02% of the chips in play but I wouldn't be surprised if he goes reeeal far; he's exactly the type of player who thrives in conditions like this. He accumulated chips at a dizzying rate and I see no reason why he's going to stop.

The only unfortunate part is that he was so willing to chat that I had to listen to an incessant stream of inane poker philosophizing from both the 1-seat (the guy who busted me) and the 4-seat (a complete tool who has no chance of doing anything in the tournament.) I was in the 5-seat and Vinnie was in the 3-seat, so I was right in the Sucking Up Zone. I only had a couple short exchanges with Vinnie because focus was my first priority all day, but it'll be a while before I forget the ones I had:

-It's the last hand before the break, and Vinnie has reraised the small blind (the completely annoying tool in the 3-seat) all-in. Everyone else is gone to dinner but I stay to watch the hand; I want all the information I can get, especially because I need to know what range to play back at Vinnie with. Annoying Tool eventually finds a way to call with as little as AKs (the call was beyond automatic to anyone with a shred of ability, but he found a way to either almost make an atrocious laydown or to be dramatic for no reason at all; not only were the ESPN cameras nowhere close, there was nobody else at the table besides me, Vinnie, and the dealer.) Anyway, he has Vinnie (K7o) dominated and holds up. Vinnie's counting out the chips and saying nice things to A.T. when the dealer stands up and starts to count things out. Now, I'm not faulting the dealer for trying to count out the chips, but this guy was a total jerk, and getting really close to Vinnie's face. What happened next:

Vinnie: "Sit down; I'm paying him off."
Dealer: "I will not sit down! [Some other overreaction I can't remember]"
[Vinnie sits down, stops counting out the chips]
Dealer [still standing]: "Pay him off."
Vinnie: "You said you'd pay him off."
[Dealer stands there glaring at Vinnie and not counting the chips.]
Vinnie: "Call the floor. I want to teach you something."
[Dealer calls the floor.]
Dealer: "I'm trying to count out the chips and he [points at Vinnie menacingly] is telling me to sit down."
Floor: "Sit down."
[Dealer sits down.]
[Vinnie starts explaining the situation to the floor.]
Dealer [standing up]: "I'm not going to sit down."
Floor: "Sit down."
Dealer: "You're a horseshit motherfucker."

The floor fired him immediately. Actually, I'm almost sure the floor fired him as soon as he stood up the second time. I can see how to some outside observers Vinnie might seem to carry some of the blame here, but the dealer was actually way more out of line than the dialogue can convey. What might seem like rudeness is actually just Vinnie's semibroken English; more importantly, Vinnie wasn't just messing with the dealer. Some guys take any opportunity to feel superior, but Vinnie is nowhere close to being one of those guys; he had a million chances to correct both dealer and player improprieties (often very significant ones) and he only did when it had a significant effect on a hand or it involved someone breaching a line of politeness or respect.

(It's funny; much of the respect I have for Vinnie is emerging only in hindsight, because at the time I was so determined to keep myself focused and un-starstruck, and so conscious of the fact that he was conscious of table image and table conditions.)

Anyway, that spiced things up a little. Oh, yeah, my exchanges with Vinnie: we chatted a little after that hand; on a couple occasions he told me I played a couple hands well (I'm chalking it up to politeness;) and this exchange, the one time I talked to him without him talking directly to me first: On a 873 flop, Vinnie bet into several opponents from the blind and took it down. He showed an 8 and showed that his other card was three across [either a 6 or a 7.] He then said "50-50 I have two pair!" While everyone was laughing or getting annoyed I said "Vinnie -- it's 4-3 against, not 50-50." He got a kick out of it. Yeah, yeah, lame, I know.

Anyway, maybe more hands and stuff when I feel like it. It took fifteen hours just to be able to write this down.


Nate Spews All His Chips


Lots of stories.

In due time.

Heartfelt stuff doesn't always translate well to the Internet, but I gotta say that I was and am legitimately touched by all the support I got. So thanks.

Nate Down to 19K

al reporting:

Nate tried to bluff a player off of pocket jacks on a 7-6-5-4-Q board. It didn't work out. He has 19K now and they are moving to 300/600. He says he's feeling good, so there's that.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Nate in Very Good Shape on Day 1

al here, just got a message from Nate, he is up over 56,000 after winning a big luckbox set-over-set pot.

Looking good for our boy, maybe more updates to come, stay tuned.

Nate In Good Shape on Day 1

al from Delino reporting:

I just got a call from Nate. He has 27,375 at the dinner break, which is well above average.

He just got moved tables, but his starting table was especially soft and he was able to do some damage. Possibly more updates to come as I receive word.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Side Games: A Few Comments

  • In response to Ariel: there have been 5-10 and 10-20 NL games at the Bellagio, the Wynn, and the Rio (later in the day, once enough tables have cleared out that they can have an isolated corner of the convention center for cash games.) Even the MGM Grand, the generally lowest-limit room I've seen, runs a 5-10 game for at least a while every day.
  • I watched a 10-25 PLO side game at the Rio. Let's just say there was action. Anyone want to stake me?
  • The Bellagio and Wynn 9-18 games have been my home so far. Results have been mixed but the games are great. Also, the people here are hilarious.

More to come later. For now, back to the tables.

Advice, Please: A WSOP Hand

I think there's a lot to understand here. Pretty important, pretty common situation, and I want to handle it right.

The hand is from Day 1a. I've only been watching a couple minutes, but if I had to guess, I'd say UTG is in middle management and neglects his children because he plays online every night. Oh, and I'd also guess he's tightish-aggressiveish. I'd guess MP is 57 years old and been playing poker for a long time and is independently wealthy somehow. I'd also guess he plays few hands preflop and isn't totally fundamentally sound once he picks them. The table is seeing very few flops.

But anyway. Blinds 100-200, no ante yet. UTG makes it 600, folded to MP who makes it 1600, folded back to UTG who calls. UTG has 8600 behind. Flop 854, two hearts. UTG checks, MP bets 2500, UTG calls quickly. Turn 9. UTG checks, MP bets 2000, UTG pushes (4100 more.) MP goes into the tank for a couple minutes at least, and eventually folds JJ faceup. UTG flips over QQ as he gathers the pot.

Some initial impressions: If table conditions are as I think they are, I'd usually flat-call preflop. The severe underbets seem pretty bad (the flop worse than the turn.) Also, if you're going to commit all your chips by checkraising all-in on the turn (this is a pretty big if, I think,) don't you stand a better chance of getting paid off by leading out?

Come on, people. Give me some insight here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Bellagio


My new favorite cardroom.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Nothing Like Checking Into a Nice Hotel Room and Signing a Bill for $0

Mile-High Blogging

Greetings from the airplane. The trip has not disappointed, and I haven't even crossed the Mississippi yet. In the boarding line I met two more online qualifiers. The first one was a Kevin Spacey lookalike who qualified in a 33+rebuy satellite on PokerStars. At least, he thinks he did, but he can't quite remember (I'm pretty sure he got into the $33 via a turbo supersatellite; this would explain his confusion, and he mentioned something about playing a tournament to get into another tournament.) If this guy is the competition, the tournament will be an even bigger EV bonanza than I expected. It's almost too bad, because I really like Kevin Spacey, but this guy is the Platonic form of an internet fish. He hates rebuy tournaments because "people will play anything, and then no matter what cards come down in the middle, they'll just call, because they can just click the 'rebuy' button and be back where they started." He's lost more money than he's won online (not counting his WSOP prize package,) and he estimates his online losses in the low four digits. (And not just on tournaments; he "plays everything.") Nonetheless, he claims that if you play long enough, you're bound to make a big tournament score and get back to even. Also, he made fun of me to whomever he was talking to on the phone because I was reading poker books (I was holding Harrington On Hold'Em 2 and The Biggest Game In Town;) little did he know I'm writing a poker book.

The other guy in line seemed a lot sharper. Gave off the serious-amateur vibe, and talked about having won his way into a bunch of big tournaments on UltimateBet (though he said he hasn't cashed in any.) His wife provided the highlight of the conversation by making fun of him for playing too much roulette.

As I boarded the plane, I noticed the guy in the front row reading Ken Warren Teaches Texas Hold'Em. I fervently hope this guy's playing the tournament and reading Ken Warren to prepare, because Ken Warren's is the worst strategy book I've ever seen (far worse than Hellmuth's book; sometimes I thumb through Warren for amusement. Sample advice: don't raise with KK from late position, because an ace might flop and cripple your hand.) More amusingly, that book isn't even about no-limit hold'em. It's as if he qualified to play Wimbledon, and decided to prepare by reading 10 Easy Golf Lessons With Helen Keller.

Here's a quiz I'm composing as I cross Lake Michigan: Do You Travel Like Nate Meyvis?

Q: You hit the ATM in the airport, and it dispensed only fifties. You hadn't eaten all day. What did you do?
A: Bought some Chicken Selects from McDonald's. Paid with a fifty. Bought a Coke from the burrito place. Paid with a fifty. Fifties are unlucky for poker players, and you didn't want fries anyway.

Q: As you paid for your Connecticut Limo ticket, you noticed that the hyperenthusiastic woman behind the counter sounded eerily like what pop-cultural icon you would like to see again on TV?
A: Miss Cleo.

Q: You were in a time crunch to get to Connecticut Limo, so you casually mentioned to Charlie, the cab driver, that you were in a hurry. How did he handle the situation?
A: He mumbled something, then proceeded to get you there on time by breaking almost every traffic law except, for some reason, the speed limit (nothing quite like going through a red light five miles under the limit, three seconds after it turned red.) Meanwhile, he maintained a preternatural calm, only moving to shake a few ice cubes from a long-finished cup of soda into his mouth.

Q: You estimated the odds that the Kevin Spacey lookalike cracks the top 100; what are they?A: 125-1.

Q: Who are you listening to on your iPod right now?
A: Deena Carter.

Q: Has this blog entry gone on long enough?
A: Yes.