peterbirks: (Default)
As a troll might put it, "for someone grinding a profit at Las Vegas, you don't seem to be doing a very good job".
A point which, it must be said, is hard to deny, ameliorated only by the fact that I'm still a long way ahead of the troll in terms of money in the bank and that he's got a tedious job and a bedsit in Kensal Green, and is really just jealous.

A couple of Monday sessions, both at Harrah's and both grim.

1) I sat down in a very lively game (that had clearly been running all night) where, if luck is with you, a big amount of money can be made. Having had a four-day Aces drought (about 1,000 hands, roughly a 1% chance) I got it all in with Ac Ah. Early raises to $10. Japanese iPhone addict raises to $40 and I raise to $80. First raiser folds and Japanese kid goes all in. I call for my remaining $30. Flop comes Qc 3d 8c and he shows QQ, just like my loss with AA on day one. Turn brings Jc and river brings 3c, giving me the flush. Unfortunately it also gave him a full house.
The Japanese kid would later go broke in a $1,000 pot with QQ as an overpair on a T 8 5 board. Opponent had T8.

2) The next loss with Ah As saw a limp UTG and a raise to $13 from me in UTG+1. Five callers, mega-non-lolz.
Flop is Qd Jd 3s. I bet $65. Get two callers. Turn is 3d. I shove. Player on my left raises all in and third guy folds. I call for my remaining $40. He has Qc Kd. River is, of course, a diamond. Down two stacks.

3) Get a stack back from the same guy who hit me with the KQ when I limp re-raise all in preflop with Ad Kd. Board runs out Axxxx and my hand is good. I was either 47/53 or 76/24 on the hand. Probably the former.

End up one stack down after three hours.

I came home and had a nap and drove back in for my final five hours to reach the 80 needed for the freeroll on Wednesday. It was a grim time.
Cliff notes. I busted off three stacks, got a single stack back and then lost most of it again when I and made a hero fold that might have been a stupid fold.

4) The first of the stack-offs was a drift down to $50 and then picking up 9c 8c under the gun. I think that I raised to $7 and decided that the remaining $43 was going in if I had any of the flop.
I was to lose all three of my stacks to the same guy, who was probably better than me. So let's think of it as a learning experience.
The flop came 8d 2d Jd.
This guy bet and I shoved. He called for not much extra and looked worried when a diamond came on the turn. But river was a blank spade. He had As 8h, and his kicker was good.

5) Second stack-off was the one I think that I should have got away from, even if tired, playing badly, and not thinking straight. I had As 9s and called a smallish raise because six players were in. Board came 5h 5s 3s, giving me a four-card-flush and overcards. There's a good chance that someone has trip fives, but it isn't in anyway a certainty.
I lead out for $11 into a $40 pot from early and everyone folds to tricky player who raises me $19 to $30. This is the point at which I should get away. Opponent is capable of raising without a five, but the size of the raise smells. And if he HAS got a five, he can reasonably safely read my hand for what it is, spade overcards.
Turn is a blank. I check and he bets another $30, about half my stack. River is a very irritating nine, giving me two pairs Aces and Nines. I bet and he puts me in for my remaining $30 or so and I call. He has something like 85-off. I played this hand badly and I knew it.
But the point is, one is bound to play some hands badly. You read this in isolation, but over 1000s of hands you make 1000s of decisions. You can't always bring your 'A' game. The trick to winning at poker is not to play perfectly, but to minimize your losses when you aren't playing perfectly. Even if I wasn't on top form, I think I could have got away from this. But the other guy (and he was quite capable of playing the same way without the five, except that I think he would have raised more than $19 on the flop if he hadn't had it) was just a good player and he lulled me into stacking myself off. Well played him.

6) The second stack-off to the same guy was not so bad. I picked up AQ off in mid and reraised an early loose raiser. Tricky guy flatted for about $20, equal to about a sixth of my stack. One other caller.
Board comes Q 4 4 rainbow. I bet $25. Tricky guy calls and other guy folds. Turn is a blank. I check, tricky opponent bets about $20 and I raise all in. He has the four (five four off this time I think).
I was unlucky flopping TPTK and he was lucky flopping the four. There was $20 of my money in there already. So I will always play this hand this way because in the long run it is a profitable line. And this was not a case of me being able to sense whether opponent had hit his hand or not. So, $360 down for the evening.

7) I got a buy-in back with QQ, check-raising all-in on the turn on a board of 8h 5s 2s. Opponent had As 8s. No help for him on river, and I am back to $240 down, $360 down on day.

Unfortunately that left me with $250 or so in front of me, and then a rich old Texan guy with $700 (won at table games) and a big drink in his hand sits down at the game. He is told that the maximum is $300.

8) He looks clueless, so when I put in a raise with Ad Td and he calls, I'm not unhappy to see a flop of Th 5s 4d. He bets $12 (with some help from the dealer) and I raise to $25. He calls (once again with some help from the dealer). Turn is a deuce. He bets $12 again. This time I raise to $35. Only in retrospect is this an error and only in retrospect might my subsequent line have been wrong. Old guy suddenly wakes up and says "let's make it $50". Is told that he cannot underraise and that he has to make it $60. Which he does.

Bleaaaggh. I should have cold-called him down.
And if I only had $120 in front of me my decision wouldd also be easy. All of it goes in.
But I have $250 in front of me. I am out of my comfort zone. In retrospect (I saw how the guy played later hands) I should shove all in, even though if I lose I am $480 down for the night. If he folds I am back to about $50 down and if he calls and I win, I am about $100 up for thenight and level for the day.
But, and this is also a factor, it is "only" $25 to call, and there is no certainty he will bet the river. I might also improve on the river with an Ace or a Ten. If he does bet the river, he might bet small.
So I call.

River is a Jack and he bets $60. I know that in normal circumstances a $60 bet into you when you have second-pair is an autofold, I knew that it was far from the case here. My instincts were telling me that the deuce on the turn gave him two-pair. The $60 was just a bit too big. Many bad, players can be worked out by their bet-sizing, which matches uncannily the strength of their hand.
BUT, this guy was no good. Maybe he had JT, maybe he had QT. I tanked for a minute (very unusual for me) and decided to fold.
Back to $360 down for the night and $480 down for the day.

It is here that we come across some of the few positive aspects of the evening. I didn't tilt, I didn't get annoyed. I kept playing as I normally play, for perhaps another 90 minutes. I got AJ in mid, raised, got three callers, continuation betted an Axx flop (two callers) and had the courage to go all-in on a blank turn (about a pot-sized bet) which was enough to take it down. Proper play played properly.

And I left when I felt that I was getting tired, even though the rich guy was still around. In other words, I learnt my lesson from the previous Friday.
(The madness of this guy, whose bets were randomly sized and whose hands were equally random to match, was illustrated by a huge multi-way all-in with a couple of $70 stacks, one $200 stack and the rich guy. The $200 stack scooped the lot with KT on a bouard of Txxxx.)
These games can be profitable (albet volatile) but they are not games in which I have played a lot and they are not therefore games where, through experience, I have worked out the best lines. I have to play them to work out the best lines, and I have to accept the volatility. But for the moment I am sure I have a higher EV in the tighter day games where there are fewer multi-wayers, lower volatility, and pots can be won through reasonably intelligent play.

If we take poker "levels" as being 0 to 10, with me being something like a level four player, I reckon that the tricky guy I was up against in the evening was a level six or something. I can cope with level five players, steering clear of them. My ideal opponents are level two and level three, because I can get inside their heads. But level 0 and level 1 players are difficult for me. I have to "unlearn" stuff in my head such as "he can't have this because he did this" sort of thinking.
I also have to completely restrategize because there are so many multi-way pots. Much of poker is learnt behaviour. You see something happen again and again and again, and you know what to do. This is why Londoners can walk London's streets so much more confidently than tourists.
Just because a game is weaker that does not mean it is easier, at least, not until you have had lots of practice. The harmonica is an "easier" instrument to play than a sitar, but that didn't mean that Ravi Shankar could put down his sitar and outperform Larry Adler.
It's the same in these "softer" games. A level two player who is used to playing these games will outperform a level four player who is used to playing a different type of game.

Now $410 down for the trip.

Losing $450 in a day is, of course, less enjoyable than winning it. And poker is a game that seems incredibly easy when things are going right, and very difficult when things are going wrong. And, when things ARE going wrong, it is immeasurably harder to continue to play well. In that sense, yesterday was not that downheartening. Despite getting Aces cracked twice (I'm now 0 for 3 in Aces all in pre-flop, and yesterday I was 0 for 2 with Aces when I was 80% both times – although in the second case the final money went in on the turn. If I had won all four of these, I would be up about $900 rather than down $410) and not getting the rub of the green for most of the day, I kept my cool.

But, eventually, you have to look at the bottom line because that is the only way of keeping score. You have to decide whether you are good enough, but are being unlucky, or whether you aren't good enough. This is not a cut-and-drieg decision, and there are many players out there carrying on playing because they are deluded in thinking that they are unlucky, rather than bad.
It's almost a Phil Dickian problem. Is my perception correct, or am I in fact not good enough?
Unlike most players, I have spent 15 years being racked by this self-doubt. That's an advantage rather than a disadvantage, in that I suspect my grasp on reality is greater than that of most poker players, which should in turn mean that I am more likely to spot that it's time to call it a day.

The last time I had a losing trip to LV was in April 2007, and then I didn't come back for more than four years. And I didn't really miss it.
And, of course, the trip isn't over. I might end up breaking even. I might end up $1,000 down. Neither is that significant in the grand scheme of things. I'm never going to be in the situation where I am playing poker and having to win to eat.
When I get back to London I am thinking of doing a version of the bonus-hunting circuit in the London casinos, although I am not sure that I will be able to stand the company. If I don't enjoy it, I will quit fairly sharpish. But it would be an interesting experiment.

Online, I also need to re-evaluate, but that's a topic for another day!

Not sure what I am going to do today. The apartment is cleaned on Mondays, else I might have just sat around. This is the kind of day when the hot weather is such bad news, because I would love to go for a long walk. That's not feasible when it 106f out there.

peterbirks: (Default)
Well, a fascinating day's poker for one where I finished up $12 after seven hours and did not have a rebuy.
I am learning all the time how to play this particular game, and in one case in particular I applied a dictum that I discussed last night with Greg Hawes, one which I would never use online but which was almost certainly right in this case.

1) As8h in the big blind and I get in for nothing. Six players. Flop comes Ac 8s Jc. I lead out for $7. Get two callers. Turn is 8d, giving me a full house. I bet $10. Get one caller. River is the beautiful Kc, putting a possible flush on the board. I bet $15 in a way which I hope will make it look like a blocking bet that is scared of a flush. Opponent dutifully raises to $30 and, at this point, I decide to push it to $60. Opponent calls and I win the pot. And, yes, he had the flush. A good example of why not to chase a flush when there is already a pair on the board.

2) Qd Td in the Big Blind. Got in cheaply, possibly a mini-raise. Flop is Qc Th 4c. I bet $7, get called. Turn is 8d. I bet $11, get called. River is, again, Kc. I bet $18, and opponent raises to $40. I think for a minute, decide that I can only beat a bluff, decide that opponent is not bluffing, and fold. A week ago I think that I would have made a crying call here, given the size of the call and the size of the pot.

3) Ad Jh in late. Put in raise and get called by button and by someone in the big blind who couldn't play the game. Flop is Ac Jd Tc. I think that BB has checked and so fire out $16. I'm happy to win this right now TBH. Suddenly it appears that BB hasn't checked. He puts out $5. Well, that makes a lot of sense, as my $16 bet would stand if he checks, so why bet? But it helps me, because button now folds. Big Blind calls.
Turn is a brick, say, 3h. He checks and I ponder. I have precisely $66 left in front of me. I can shove here, but I really want to extract maximum value, and I think I can get a call for most of my money and then get a call from him with a weaker hand on the river. So I bet $40. He calls.
River is (and, yes, you may be ahead of me here), the King of clubs.... AGAIN. That's just about the worst river I could see. Opponent now shoves in all his chips (about $90) in such a fashion that I am not even sure that he has seen that I have only $26 left.
Now (and this is the interesting part and is related to the discussion I had with Greg the evening before), according to ordinary poker theory I should call here, because opponent has probably made his mistake by calling on the turn (he might have been drawing to a flush, but I think that he has AQ and has fallen in love with top straight), which dictates that in the long run I make money by always calling. BUT, in this situation, for this particular hand, I cannot see my hand being a winner. And $26 is still $26. So, I pass.
Opponent then rakes in pot, asks dealer where he can cash his chips, and vanishes. An odd state of affairs.

It now gets even more interesting. One of my rules is that I do not rebuy until I go broke, and I play my chips as if they are a short stack in a tournament. There is solid logic behind this. If you are at a table with large stacks, a small stack is at quite an advantage. Many players hate playing, say 13BB in a cash game. They are convinced that it is giving up potential profit. But if playing a short stack buy-in is a valid strategy, then, as you can see, continuing to play with below the minimum buy-in is an even better strategy.

And, for once, this worked out. I got KK on the button shortly after and raised all-in, doubling through with a bit on top.

4) I drifted back down again over the next half hour to $37, and then picked up Ad Jd in early. I limped and a player two to my left raised to $8. Four people called behind him and I now shove. Original raiser reshoves for $300, and another player behind him calls for $200. Final two players fold, and I am slightly less optimistic than I was.
Thankfully the board decided to include three diamonds and I scooped. Up to $155, $35 up, and no rebuy!
The additional plus (for me) from not rebuying when I went down to $26, is that if I had rebought and built up to be $35 up via some other route, I would have had $275 in front of me against two tricky big stack players. I am far happier being $35 up with $155 in front of me against these players than being $35 up with $275 in front of me.

As it happened the game now fizzled a bit until I decided to leave. I drifted down to $132, and people were going away to dinner. I had more than seven hours in and was getting a bit tired, so I decided to call it an early night.

That gave me an opportunity to pop into Boulder Station. Photos are on Facebook. There was a surprisingly active poker room, with only one table of $1-$2 NL, but with THREE tables of $4-$8 limit Omaha with a half-kill. (also a couple of tables of $2-$4 limit and one table of $2-$6 spread limit).
The bad beats and the jackpots here are interesting. They have a single table bad beat, but it looks to me to benefit the limit tables at the expense of the no limit tables. Didn't see what the rake was. If it was $4 max it would be worth playing.

I popped into a 7-11 on the corner of Boulder and Lamb, just by the casino. I needed some bread and some more Mountain Dew (it's yummy!). But from the look of the people hanging around, this wasn't a place I fancied pulling out my cash. Took some fancy fingerwork to extract only small bills. The guy before me and the guy behind me were paying for their purchases in quarters. There were also a couple of African-American soul brothers of the heavily tattooed genre hanging around. Certainly a place where caution rules (I'm cautious everywhere, but the EV of being cautious here looked to be greater than normal).

Freeroll Friday morning in Flamingo. I now have 60 hours in at Harrah's, so for my next 20 hours there I am effectively getting $11 an hour rakeback. This is because of the way that they have structured their Main Event Freeroll.
peterbirks: (Default)
Another good day yesterday. Nothing spectacular, just a steady accumulation of chips. indeed, the best performance by me was one in which I minimized my loss, rather than maximized my gain. It's an important tenet in poker; a dollar not lost is as valuable as a dollar won.
I didn't have a single double-through, but I won five or six "reasonable" sized pots through bets on the turn, and a few more of a reasonable size when I adopted the sound strategy of having the best hand at showdown (this is intrinsically linked with another sound strategy – improving your hand on the flop).
Hands worth commenting upon:

1) 7d6d in cutoff. I throw in small raise of a couple of limpers (a) to build pot (b) to make it a multi-wayer and (c) to make any inveterate larger raisers behind me or in the blind have second thoughts. Flop comes Kd Qd Jd. I put in a pot-sized bet (a) because I'm happy to win a $40 here and now and (b) I can't see the bare Ad or Td having the courage to fold. No callers. Said to dealer. "Wrong straight flush!" (There's a $100 bonus for a straight flush and a $500 bonus for a Royal Flush - using two cards in hand).

2) Ah4h in late. Same strategy of a small raise to build pot. Five callers. This time, the flop is the less generous 4s5hJd. I fire a $16 continuation and get two callers (button and big blind). Turn brings 9h, giving me bottom pair and a nut flush draw. I push in a $37 bet and, rather disappointingly, I get a caller – the button. River is As, making a board of 4s 5h Jd 9h As. There's about $120 in pot and I have about $100 behind. Opponent has about $80. I bottle it and check, intending to evaluate whether I call opponent's bet on how big the bet is. TBH he doesn't look like a bluffer. Unfortunately if I put in any bet above $15, I'm kind of committed to calling his raise (he might have a worse two pair). Anyhoo, he turns out to have JhQh – also a flush draw, but beating me on the flop and turn. I suspect he would have called a $15 bet from me and not much more. Slightly annoyed at myself for not extracting maximum value on the river.

3) KsKh in late. Raise, get three callers, including early limper. Flop comes 9c 5d 4d and early limper fires out $20 bet into $30 pot. I think for about three seconds and fold. Other players fold and original bettor obligingly shows his top set of nines. I doubt that many players could find a fold there, but he didn't look tricky enough to me to be betting a draw. I was fairly sure that he would check an overpair, so the logical conclusion was that, like many weak players, he saw not only his set but also the scare cards 5d4d, and made the mistaken assumption that "there is always a draw out there". Was very pleased indeed with this fold, which I don't think I would have found a few months ago. With $1-$2 players, most of the time what you see is what you get. A big bet represents a big hand, not a draw.

Greg Hawes was playing the $500 one-dayer at Planet Hollywood, and despite building up to 10x his starting stack in a 43-runner field, managed to lose three coin-flips in a row to move from chip-leader to bust in 18th. That's the way he plays and it seems to work.
That permitted us time for a pleasant dinner at Lombardi's (opposite V Theater on Miracle Mile – where I saw Bob Dylan in 2005!) and, despite it being an Italian, I spoilt myself with an excellent 16oz bone-in rib-eye steak, with shitake mushrooms, asparagus, and small diced roast potatoes. I didn't finish the potatoes! Greg had a shrimp-based pasta dish followed by a cheesecake and Irish coffee.
Had an interesting discussion with Daniel the maitre d' about how the definition of "medium rare" had become something of a movable feast in the USA over the past decade, with some restaurants moving very close to the European definition, while others have moved less quickly.
Also we had an odd moment when the waitress asked Greg whether he wanted whipped cream and crème de menthe. I thought she was referring to the cheesecake, but apparently she was referring to the Irish coffee. It took me several minutes to work out why anyone would want to mix crème de menthe with coffee and whiskey – a combination of flavours which sounds to me to be utterly repulsive. Th answer of course was in the colour of crème de menthe, not the flavour. Personally, if I was determined to put green colour into anything called "Irish". in this case I would choose Green Chartreuse rather than crème de menthe (a drink forever in my mind associated with the Billy Connolly story told at The Secret Policeman's Ball, "What does the pope drink? Creme de Menthe? Two pints of that then please".)
Dinner was made even more pleasant by the fact that Greg insisted on paying. May he cash in WSOP tournaments more often!

And so, back to the apartment rather early, rather tired and rather full.
Plus $205 for the day, plus $273 for trip. I am now just trying to beat my plus $978 performance in December.
peterbirks: (Default)
It was good to get a couple of winning sessions under my belt after the past few days. Only $45 and $80, but that will do. Back into profit, albeit at a pathetic +$68 for the trip.
I didn't feel that I had played that much today, perhaps because I split the day into two sessions, coming back to the apartment in between. But it still added up to seven hours.
Clearly my mental stamina is improving and long sessions aren't as exhausting for me now as they were when I first arrived.
I had a late breakfast with Greg Hawes, who was preparing for day two of the $1500 WSOP event 45. Eventually he busted in 81st, for a nice $5,000 payout. Of course, poker tournaments are the only tournaments where you are sick as a dog to be walking away with $5k prize money.
I played ultra conservative today, but early on I managed to extract a full double up from just an unimproved QQ.
Later in the day I had the opportunity to play AA in almost precisely the same way, but I was slightly fuller stacked and I didn't fancy ending the day losing to a bad beat. So I shoved the turn (a pot sized bet) rather than putting in 70% of my stack on the turn and the rest on the river.
I also extracted maximum value with TT, getting called by a worse hand despite a king coming on the turn. Not a large pot, but these are the hands that separate winners from losers. Everyone knows how to play a flopped set (this of course is not true, but you get my drift).
The rest of the day was mundane. As I said, tight play, winning smaller pots, building up my stack very slowly.
I had idly thought of heading to Boulder Station tonight – it's only a quarter of a mile away. But it seems to have got lateish wiithout me noticing.
The hopelessness of the Chevrolet Spark never ceases to amaze. I had to fill up the car (total capacity the grand total of nine gallons) and, apart from the fact that I still can't cope mentally with a fill-up costing $25, it struck me that I had only driven 13 round trips (say, 195 miles) and the insane TomTom advised 15 mile journey on various interstates at 75mph rather than a six mile journey at 35mph. That was still just 210 miles for eight gallons of fuel – an absolutely abysmal consumption rate for a 1.3L car that drives with all the energy of a 1.0L car.
Still, I guess that's automatics for you.
This afternoon I took a short-cut via Twain, a "rat run" that has a 25mh speed limit for several miles of empty road. It also has two speed cop cars waiting for the unwary to fall foul of this restriction. Being a Londoner, where a speed of 25mph is a vague aspiration rather than a realistic ambition, I had no difficulty in keeping to the imposed limit. But it did make for rather a boring journey.
Because when I leave the apartment block I have to turn right onto Boulder Highway, the route to Harrah's is different from the route back – the latter being rather more interesting and varied.
peterbirks: (Default)
Well, Sunday was one of those frustrating days when things just didn't want to go right.
Effectively I lost two 50:50s for two stacks of $120, although, this being cash, it wasn't quite as simple as shove and hope.
The two losses occurred early in session one and early in session two, which meant I was always playing catch-up. I got some of it back and ended the day $147 down after eight hours of play.
So the plus side of it was that at least I got my hours in!
But such long sessions, interspersed in this case by a lunch with Jamie and Lee, who flew in the day before, really tire me out. Was exhausted when I got back to the apartment and crashed out at 10pm.
That meant that I awoke semi-refreshed, although I had a bit of a vivid and unpleasant nightmare last night, in which I was still working in my old job, but at the main building rather than the annexe, and there was a sort of "military inspection". All of the workers were these hideous "team enthusiasts", with all the stuff laid out with that hideous military precision for inspection.
Obviously I was a complete disaster in all of this!
Thank fuck I'm out of it in the real world.

The first loss was where I took a view on an early raiser and raised over the top for all his $90 from the Cut Off with TT. He had QJ off, and hit his queen.
This all looks marginal, mainly because it it. But I took a view which was essentially correct.
I then perhaps overplayed my last $25 by reraising another early raiser with TT again. This time he had JJ.
As it happens this didn't cost, because shortly after I got AJ and was able to use my second stack to win $70 back. I should have won more, but I overbet the turn when it ran out JxxJ. Opponent was probably calling with just overcards on the flop, so I could have slowed up and given him the chance to hit a card that would help him lose all his money.

In the afternoon I soon hit AK of spades in the big blind and reraised a $16 raise in mid to $50, intending to shove my last $70 on any flop. Opponent called and the hideous flop of QT9 two hearts did not deter me. Opponent had TT and I was reloading. Tens not doing me any favours today.

So it was all a matter of catch-up for most of both sessions. I got some back and ended session one down $54 and session two down $93. The plus side was that at least I got in a good number of hours!

And with luck it will be possible to park somewhere vaguely close to the card room today!
peterbirks: (Default)
I definitely should have brought my own coffee. I'm not certain if it's the coffee I bought (standard French Roast) or the method of making it (filter), but it's not a scratch on what I drink at home. Better than instant, obvs, but I would kill for a decent espresso.
But, hey, if that is my major problem in life at the moment – slightly unsatisfactory coffee - I should be grateful.
I drove in for about 11am yesterday, when it was "just" 44c/105f, only to have to park so far out in Flamingo Lot C parking lot that I was virtually on Koval Lane. This weekend is seriously busy and I won't be unhappy when it's over and I can park once more in the main hotel garage.
The searing heat (46c/112f yesterday) and distance to walk to the car is such that I'm not coming back to the apartment in the afternoon. I played two four-hour sessions in Harrah's and Flamingo, with little break in-between, and came home at 8.45pm, when the temperature had fallen back to 44c/105f.
Luckily I found an excellent route home, via Koval, Paradise and Desert Inn, which meant I was back within 15 minutes. The Flamingo/Eastern/Desert Inn route had been taking up to half an hour, because of shreer weight of traffic and roadworks.

I won $185 in the Harrah's session and $3 in the Flamingo session. Very few hands of note in the eight hours played. I had drifted down to $75 (again!) and found an unusual double-through with AJo out of position. I put in a small raise in late, got two callers, and then one caller to my continuation bet on a flop of Jxx. Turn was a blank so I checked (as I would do with AK) and opponent obligingly bet. I reraised and he called. That left me with only about $25 in front of me, which I bet on a blank river. He called (presumably a pair of nines or 10s) and I raked it in.

The second double through, to $320, came after I raised a number of limpers with AhQh in the small blind. Two callers and flop obligingly came 7h6h4h. I bet, got one caller. Turn was Td. I bet and opponent puts in hefty raise. I shove and he calls, showing TT. Blank on the river and I win.

I had the minor interest of getting AA under the gun, raising small and getting four callers. Flop came a less than normal AAx, giving me quad Aces. Small blind took a stab with a $10 bet and I called (obvs) as did one player behind me. Turn brought who-cares-what. SB checks, I check, and now player behind me takes a stab for $15. SB folds and I call. River brings another blank and I bet $20, which opponent obligingly calls.
No high hand bonus in Harrah's for four of a kind (no bad beat either, so I would have been REALLY pissed off if I had lost to a straight flush!).

The afternoon in Harrah's was enlivened by an English guy called Alistair sitting to my left about half-way through. He plays at the Brighton casino by the Marina and I think he said he now lives in Lindfield, although he comes from West Ham land.

I picked up about $40 with AQs against a player who was obviously calling me with a lesser Ace (some opponents really are that easy to read), so it was just a matter of sizing my bets correctly and hoping that he missed his three outs on the river.

End of day, very tired. Came back and cooked meatballs in pasta sauce with rice. I can't claim "healthy" eating when the meatballs are frozen and the sauce comes from a bottle, but it's still cooking it yourself and avoiding the masses of salt, fat and carbs that come with any eating out experience on the Strip.

More of the same today. I've fallen a little bit behind on the Harrah's hours target (although I am ahead of schedule for my 10 hours at the Flamingo). I'm going to have to get one really long day in at Harrah's, but the trick will be for me to do it when I feel right, rather than try to force the issue.

Currently just over $400 up, plus $43 Total Rewards rakeback. No bonuses hit, no freeroll winnings.
peterbirks: (Default)
A somewhat frustrating Friday morning. Turned up for the Flamingo Freeroll (10 hours play in the week to qualify). 71 runners and 20 spots paid, 10 at $150 and 10 at $375.
You get 3,000 chips and the structure is fast (opening blind level of 25-50, 15-minutes per level), but the regulars know that this does not necessitate going mad from the get-go. There were still six tables going when the average stack was 3,300 and the blinds were 200-400.
I had played hardly any hands at all, but two uncalled shoves when the blinds were 200-400 got me up to 3,800. Then I picked up AA in the small blind, got it all in vs KQo in the big blind, and lost to 2 pairs kings and queens. So it goes.
All in with AA just twice this week, and lost both times. I guess the EV cost this time round was about $100.
That left me with T25 on blinds of 200-400, not the best spot to be in, it must be admitted - one-sixteenth of a big blind. But I passed for three hands and reached the colour up stage, thus quadrupling my stack to T100 and one-eighth of a Big Blind. Not many players (apart from one notable ex-Luton and ex-Gutshot player) can quadruple their chip count while on a break.
Unfortunately, when I chose my spot of KJo, opponent's ATo won with ease and I was out. Happy with the way I played etc etc. I would expect to cash in these about 40% of the time, TBH.

Two hours of cash afterwards at Flamingo generated little of interest. Hit a couple of hands and check-raised the right amount, but got no customers. Lost the minimum with JJ overpair when a third club came on turn and a rock put in a $30 bet. Finished $26 down.

Drove to grocery store and stocked up. Bought some Mountain Dew, a soft drink that I have never sampled before. It's the colour of urine, but it tastes rather nice.

Driving back into town at 6pm was a nightmare. The worst traffic and nowhere to park. I suspect that the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) will cause similar problems for the rest of the weekend, so I will have a long walk in hot sun from my car to the card room.

The evening sessions proved to be more profitable. I got a nice start with KQs, value-betting all the way an old-guy opponent on a board of KxxxK. He had KT. But then it all went a bit pear-shaped in dribs and drabs and suddenly I was down to $75 in front of me, from a high of $180.
Luckily I got AK under the gun and this time managed not to misplay it. Opponent with AJ seemed quite happy to double me through via my bets on flop and turn on a board of Axxxx.

The most notable hand was when I had KQ in the Big Blind and got in cheaply. The board came QT3 rainbow. I bet smallish ($7) and got one caller (old guy, weak player I think). Turn was a 7 and I bet $11. He calls again. River is a deuce and I'm beginning to get concerned. I had initially planned a $21 river bet, but I decided to make it a semi-blocking bet of $11. He hummed and hahhed, eventually putting the money in, which led me to think I was good. I tabled my hand and he stared at it, stared at his hand, stared at the board. By this time I feel sure that he's got something like QJ. But, no. He puts down his hand of - 32. So, not only does he call me all the way with bottom pair bottom kicker, but then he slow-rolls me. It was incompetence rather than maliciousness, but still somewhat grating.

The game got rather annoying now. A bit of a loud-mouth young drinker sat at my left, kept trying to act before I had finished my action. Then a new dealer came in who made a dealer error I don't think I have seen before. Old guy in Seat 5 (the one who called me earlier with KT) went all in pre-flop for his last $30, raising the guy on his right who had raised to $10. Dealer leans forward to tell old guy to protect his hand and then, presumably working on auto-pilot, simultaneously picks up said hand as if it had been folded! She immediately realizes and puts back the hand. Floor is called and she says she will look at the two cards, and player has to whisper in her ear what two cards he had). This happens, but unfortunately the information does not match. The dealer had replaced the wrong two cards.
So the only choice here is to give back the $30 and declare the hand dead (fortunately there had been no action behind)
Of course, you can see where this is headed. Everyone else passes and original raiser shows his AA, insisting that that the $30 should have stayed in the pot, because he had been in a similar situation in the Rio. The key here is whether there is action behind.
Just about all the floor calls I have seen in the past week have been because of dealer error rather than player error. The poker rules tend to cover all player error situations, but dealer error situations are often far less clear cut, and there will always be one player or more than one player who suffers as a result.

Young guy was pissing me off and the dealer seemed to be more interested in chatting than dealing, so I resorted to headphones - a rare strategy on my part. Neutral Milk Hotel.

For the rest of the evening it was a case of bits and pieces. Getting on for nothing on the big blind with J9o is always nice, particularly when the flop comes 999. Small blind took a quick $10 stab at it, but wouldn't try to bluff any further, damn him.
I suddenly found myself more than $150 up, so I decided to head back to the Flamingo.
Played there for an hour and benefited from players' tendency to put in big pre-flop raises that got callers behind. When a middle position player puts in an 8x raise, called behind in two spots, KK is a nice hand to find in the big blind. I three-bet to $48 with the intention of shoving my remaining $80 on any flop. Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) all three opponents declined to give me any custom.

Mr Hawes had been playing the seniors in the Rio earlier, and, after busting, went to play some cash in Caesar's. He came over at about 11.15pm and we went to Hash House A GoGo in the Linq. Had a burger. Pleasant. After that it was a long trek back (temperature still about 31/86, at midnight-thirty!) to the car, which I eventually found. Was very tired.

I've crawled to $221 up after five days play, plus $35 Total Rewards rakeback. I know that I've talked about the Aces being cracked, but I've had a few hands that have gone the right way as well. This isn't a case of sucking out. It's a case of putting in the right bets and hitting the right flops. Or winning hands that I "should" win. If I win 80% of the hands where I am averaging an EV of 80%, then I am running neither good nor bad. That's about where I am at at the moment, I would say. Not running good, but not running dreadfully bad.
peterbirks: (Default)
I had a decent day yesterday.
I started off in Harrah's and doubled through fairly early with KK v AK, on a board of xxxAx. Fortunately the final 'x' gave me a flush.
I didn't fancy repeating my Day one experience of losing a $500 pot with Aces, so I cashed out after an hour and headed to Flamingo.
There I drifted down to $46, mainly in dribs and drabs, from a $120 start, although I also misplayed AKo under the gun. I raised to $6 in the hope of a three-bet, but it was too early in the day to make that a reasonable expectation. I should have either limped or raised bigger.
The $6 raise UTG got me four callers. A flop of KJT two clubs (I had no clubs) was just about the worst "good" hand I could see. I put a bet in on flop and another in on the turn, but check-folded to a $50 bet on river when a third club appeared. Minus $36 on the hand.
Carried on drifting down.
Fortunately I got it all back and more with AQo in the small blind, which was quite worth a shove with $46 against an early raise to $7 and three callers. I got two customers and hit an Ace on river v 99 and KJs.

That put me $185 up, and I went to lunch with Mr Hawes. Just as Mr O'Leary appears to have no easy means with which to talk to him (and he's walked off Facebook, which makes it worse), so Greg is cellphone-less. But we managed to find each other eventually and went for lunch at Guy Fieri's, the newish burgerish joint between Linq and Harrah's. It was very pleasant and reasonable value. My burger came with some flashy processed and bronzed potato confection, but plain French Fries would have been better!

In the afternoon I drifted back down. I went a buy-in down (bar $20) in one of those annoying hands where I was chasing a nut flush to multiple callers and value-giving bets by the aggressor. It was a $350-odd pot, but I missed.

I got some of it back with KhTh in late, which I reckoned was worth a small raise of three or four limpers. Ended up with one opponent in the big blind and the board developed 7h 9h 2d (bet from him, call from me), Ks (check from him, all-in from me) and a heart on the river. He had JJ, both black. I think he should find a fold on the turn, but I'm glad that he didn't. Ended session $95 down, and up $85 for the day. Am now in the black for the trip.

Playing "right through" was very tiring and I quit at 7.30pm, an hour earlier than planned. I'd intended to come back to write some postcards, have a nap and then perhaps pop over to Sam's Town or Boulder Station for a wander around and a bite to eat. Instead, I slept right through.
So I guess I will revert to coming back to the apartment in the afternoon for a nap and then driving back into town, even though it doubles the mileage in the car.
With it looking to be a promising Friday night, I will perhaps just play the freeroll this morning, come back to the apartment, and hit the strip again at around 6.30pm for a long evening session.

I really like having a little apartment. I have never been comfortable in "posh" hotels with fake obsequiousness, and even run of the mill hotels like the Flamingo offer services that I never avail myself of, but still pay for. Some people like being pampered by "servants". Perhaps I have an egalitarian or even a suppressed working-class nature that resents the concept of one person being served by another. I know that I always go out of my way to treat waiters and waitresses, cleaners, well, anyone, as equals (I used to do the same to my "bosses" – brown-nosing as corporate strategy was never my style).

So, an apartment which is serviced once a week is great for me. I do stuff for myself because I don't see why anyone else should do it for me.
peterbirks: (Default)
Yesterday was very much a "little to report day". The sequence goes: get up. Shower, etc. Make toast and some not-very-good filter coffee (I knew that I should have brought my Italian stove pot). Write a couple of emails. Write blog. Walk out into the heat and drive to the Strip.
Play cards. Drive back to apartment. Have substantial lunch. Sleep. Wake up. Back to Strip for about 9pm for another few hours.

I had a good five hours in Harrah's in the morning. I was going nowhere for ages, dribbled down to $55 then fought back up to $80. There was a drunk at the table for the first hour but I couldn't hit a hand. Then it was a tight game, and I got no action for my AA.
Then it clicked, and my AK doubled through against a weak Israeli calling station. Then QcJc got a result when flush came good on river (but also paired the board). Perhaps I should have min-raised the $25 river bet, which I was almost certain did not represent a full house. But it's early days here and I'm not totally confident yet in my judgement. As it turned out the river gave opponent trips with an Ace kicker.
And finally my JJ hit top set and I got a decent caller until he folded river, presumably missing his flush and/or straight draw. Up $100.

The evening session was 3.5 hours of no hands at all. I held it to $20 down by expeditiously getting in for nothing on the big blind with 43o and hitting bottom two pair on a J43 rainbow board. I checked, one guy bet $7 and got three callers, and I raised $45 to take it down.
Missed a few speculative draws when I was getting implied odds, but made trips on the turn for one hand for another small win.
The problem is that when you are card-dead you appear to be even tighter than you are, so getting paid off is less certain. That might mean that I could bluff and get away with it, but in $1-$2 games on the Strip that is a dangerous road to travel.

Should be meeting Mr Hawes for a late lunch today, so I will adjust my schedule. Possibly a long morning session, lunch, then an afternoon session before coming back to the apartment for the evening to read, write postcards and play silly games on the laptop.
peterbirks: (Default)
It was a somewhat uneventful Tuesday at the poker tables – five hours in the morning at the Flamingo (10 hours now booked to qualify for freeroll on Friday) and just over two hours at Harrah's in the evening from 10pm until midnight. Came back to the apartment in between and had a nap.
But after a grim Monday, where I managed to mislay a buy-in (and, no, I still can't figure out how it happened), an uneventful day is what you need. The session at the Flamingo was notable for a lack of cards. Best hand was TT. No JJ, QQ, KK or AA. No AK of any type.
I drifted down to about $75 but doubled through via a cute bit of play UTG with 9h8h. Raised small, got a couple of callers, and flop came Ah 6s 3h. Put in an $11 continuation bet. Got one caller. Turn brought Qh. I bet $25, which is what I reckon opponent would expect AK to bet. He raised me all in. I called and after the dust settled he showed AQ and I tabled my flush.
I think he was a bit miffed that I didn't table my flush straight away, but I called him and a higher flush was fully within his range. His pissed-offness was more a matter of him thinking he had won and suddenly finding that he had lost.
Drifted down again, either card dead or missing any set opportunities that presented themselves. Broke even for the session.
I walked to Planet Hollywood (via Bally's and Paris) and said hello to Kevin O'Leary, who was playing one of the PH Goliath tournaments. These look good value and much more fun than the WSOP. Played on the mezzanine. A lot of space, high ceilings, nice temperature.

The bonuses offered by the Caesar's properties to poker players in December have nearly all been suspended for the WSOP. Harrah's has a tough six-weeker with a freeroll at the end offering a ME seat and 10 x $200 prizes. But I expect there will be some 200 qualifiers. There are bonuses for exceeding the minimum number of hours and, given the paucity of offers elsewhere, this might be the route for me to take. The Bad Beat jackpot at Flamingo is still hard to hit (quad fours) and Bally's is offering nothing bar its normal high-hand promotions.

So I played a couple of hours at Harrah's. There were three Spanish guys at the table who were friends and all reasonably competent. Not many weak spots TBH. But I sneaked a small $37 profit via a limp-call UTG with AKo and a check-raise on a flop of Kxx. However, it's somewhat sobering to work out that what started out as a $48 profit turned into a $41 profit after rake, bonus box dollar and dollar tip. My second win was about as tedious an AA as you can get. Raise to 5x from one of the Spanish guys UTG. And I reraise to $30 in UTG+2. No customers. Given the fact that he was competent and he knew I wasn't playing speculatively (and I only had $150 in front of me) he folded to the reraise fairly quickly. That's the way it goes. Flat-calling with the AA is asking for trouble. And at least the $13 profit on that had was rake-free (no flop, no drop).

So, a tiny profit for the day, but a good base on which to build for rest of the trip.

I got home about 1am to read the excellent news that Mr Hawes is on a flight from Paris at this very moment. I assume that he will be playing the Seniors, although I might recommend the Saturday Seniors at Planet Hollywood ($565 entry) as an alternative. But, these tourney players – all of them just look at the size of the first prize!
peterbirks: (Default)
It is of course something of a rule that no journey from London to Las Vegas will be trouble-free. This time it was British Airways administrative incompetence, and Dollar rent-a-car popularity that messed me up.

My good run with plane seats came to a sort of end when it was clear that the flight would be full. Sitting between me and another shrewdie solo traveller were two boys aged about 8 and 10, part of a family of five who clearly could not get their act together to reserve a block of seats together.
To be fair, the kids were as good as gold the whole way, sleeping much of the time.

Take-off was delayed for nearly two hours, first by a late passenger, then by the absence of a single form that needed to be signed off by an engineer, and which had not been signed off. That delay led to a passenger panicking and deciding that she didn't want to fly after all. No changing her mind. So, off she went and her baggage had to be found and unloaded. Then another 20 minutes while we awaited a take-off slot. Amateurs, I tell you, amateurs.


I watched a couple of movies – Birdman and the last of The Hobbit trilogy. Birdman was interesting rather than a masterpiece – clearly a bit of "too clever for its own good" in choosing an ex-Batman as the lead character and going for this unusual "pseudo single-shot" technique. Fine supporting performances; Ed Norton, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts are all strong.

The Hobbit. Well, sigh. Perfectly well-executed by the cast and the director, but I fear that the six films of Middle Earth have only served to highlight the nonsense of the world in which the films are set. Don't get me wrong; LotR is a great read. But Tolkien's world of language stands up to scrutiny far better than does his world of people, orcs, elves, trolls, dwarves and so on. I can imagine several of the characters saying to Jackson "but this just doesn't make sense", to which Jackson can only have replied – "I know, but that's what they did in the book".

We landed 90 minutes late. Then (it was by now 10pm, 6am my body time) the shuttle to the rental car office took ages to arrive, and then there was a significant queue to pick up rental cars. To give Dollar credit they got extra staff from somewhere, eventually.
Finally, there were no rental cars to be had! Another 40 minute wait.

My apartment block's front office closed at 11pm, so I was panicking somewhat (indeed, a couple of BA staff waiting for a car were caught out by this as well, and they had to book a hotel room elsewhere). Luckily there was a night porter at my block, and when I finally arrived, at midnight, he got me a room and a key.

This is an approximation of the view from the front of the suites block.

Getting from the airport to Boulder Highway was also entertaining. My Tom Tom, when I finally got it working, took five minutes to work out where I was and then decided to take me via the I-15 and all of the other I-roads in LV. It's almost as if I had bought it second-hand from a rogue LV cab driver.
In practice, this was probably the quickest route, it being 65mph and 45mph limits all the way. But it was seven miles instead of three miles, and at one point I honestly thought that it had decided to use my previous route and to take me to Phoenix.
I so lost my sense of direction (and it was late), that I made the schoolboy error of turning left onto Boulder Highway going the wrong way. By which I mean not that I was heading in the wrong direction (although instinctively I thought that I was – I had been expecting to be told to turn right) but that I was heading south on the northbound carriageway. I realized within about 15 seconds and there was hardly any traffic around (traffic, of course, is something that helps you make the right decision in this circumstance!)


So, now I am settling in, but my it is hot out there during the day. I played from 10am to 3pm on Monday, planning to come back to the apartment, do a bit of admin, and then go back to play at Bally's in the evening. As it turned out, I fell asleep at 6pm and, although I woke up a few times, decided to "sleep through".
The admin included heading to the grocery store on the other side of Boulder Highway, where I picked up bread, margarine, cheese, coffee, milk, and some stuff to make chilli con carne and pasta.
That also necessitated picking up the various kitchen items from the front desk, which is only 100 yards away, but was still an effort in the heat. It's getting to about 108f (low humidity) during the day. Hard to describe what that is like when there is no wind. I certainly wouldn't want to be outside in it for more than 10 minutes.

I was unlucky at poker. I more than doubled-through from $110 to $260 when my two red Kings got two callers pre-flop when I three-bet from the blind to $37, and one caller to my all-in on a Qc 6d 3c flop. Turn was a club and river was a club, but opponent was clubless as well.

But then I got $250 all-in pre-flop with Aces and the board came down 9Q544, so I was quite optimistic. Unfortunately opponent had QQ. Sigh.

My next all-in went wrong when one player raised to $10 all-in and he got one caller. I had JJ on button and made it $30 (I think I should have made it $50). Non-all-in opponent called and flop came QQ5. He checked and I shoved for $80, but, yes, he had QT.

I made a near double-through back with AK all in preflop (I limped under the gun, three-bet a raiser and called his four-bet shove).

So, $160 down for the day. Onwards!

Two interesting hands occurred in which I was not involved.

The first saw a small raise UTG called twice by MP and Button
Flop came down Tc Kc 6d
Bet from early, call from MP, raise all in from short-stack button. MP now goes into the tank for so long that I wondered if he realized he was still in the hand. He did, and he re-raised all-in. Early raiser calls without hesitation.
Turn comes a low red card and river is 9s

Early position tables 66 for set of sixes, button has TT for set of 10s and MP has Qc Jc for a straight. Set over set and a four-card royal flush draw all on the flop. Actually, the table had good chances for a Bad Beat jackpot there. Roughly 2*(1/24*1/24), I think. About 1 in 300?

The second hand was one where a ruling was required and some coniderable argument ensued over what was only $10, but it was a tense hand.

Player A has $211
Player B has $201
Player C has $600

Player A is a youngish kid whose English was not that great. Player B (in his mid-30s) was on Rum and Coke and Player C (early 30s, good, but a drinker) had been knocking back Jack and Cokes.

Player B has AK, which eventually turns out to be the winning hand. Players A and C both had draws that missed when all the money went in on the flop. Player A's miss was "better" than player C's miss.

The interesting part of the hand is as follows.
On the flop, player A bets, say, $50 into a $50 pot. Player B says "all-in" (for $151) and player C distinctly says "I call", shoving a randomly large sum of cash over the line (say, $300).
Player A then shoves in all of his own money without saying anything and with a body language that also indicates "sigh, I call".
Now, as we can see, what no-one, including the dealer and, it appears, player A himself, realized, was that he had more money than player B - $10 more to be precise. Player A was looking at the large random sum that Player C had put in, and knew that he had less than that. But player C had distinctly said "I call".

Therefore Player C should now be required to announce that he calls Player A's technical under-raise of $10. But, since no-one had noticed what was going on, the dealer decided to sort out the count after (a common occurrence) and dealt the river.

After the deal was terminated, Player C dragged back is $300 (naughty of him, the dealer should have done the returning) and put $151 in the middle, that being the amount that player B had gone all-in for. Dealer counts the cash and throws $10 back at player A, because he realises that there was $161 there.
At this point another player (in seat one) points out that, since Player A was all in for $161, player C, with $600 in front of him, owes the pot $10 and that a $20 side-pot should have been created (which, as it happens, player A would have won, having the better of the "losing" hands).
Player C refuses to put in the extra $10, noting that player A had not said "all-in", or "raise". The seat one player (she was as it happens a dealer elsewhere at high-stakes games), observed that a player does not have to make a verbal declaration when going all in, and that therefore his action when pushing $161 all in qualified as a raise.

Unfortunately there was no quality floorperson on hand to rule on this. At first I instinctively sided with the observing player in seat one.
But the ruling eventually was that player C did not have to put in the extra $10.
Thinking about it after, it occurred to me that, theoretically (although it wouldn't happen in practice), player C could have folded to that "extra" $10. Since he wasn't given the option so to do (because the dealer and all the players failed to spot that player A had $10 more than player B) he could hardly be told that he had to put in the $10 retrospectively after he had lost. On the other hand, if player C had won, I am sure that he would have taken the $161 put in by player A, rather than player A getting $10 back.
In fact, it could be argued that the dealer had dealt the turn and river prematurely before all the actions had been completed and that therefore he should redeal turn and river.
But here practicalities come into play. It was a $750 pot and the final raise "that never was" was just $10.
So applying the letter of the law here would have been very unfair on player B, who had done nothing wrong throughout, and who had won the pot.
It caused considerable argument, subsequently, getting rather personal at stages. I kept well out of it.

My Tom Tom is proving temperamental. Seems to take five minutes to work out where I am, and then it keeps trying to get me to go miles out of my way on the I-15.  I have to ignore it for five minutes and then it works out that I am not going to change my mind, and agrees to let me go via Flamingo East and Desert Inn.

Well, I shall drive in at about 9am I think. The traffic didn't look too dreadful yesterday at that time.

I have had my breakfast! Very nice to be able to do that in your own little apartment.
peterbirks: (Default)
The problem with Las Vegas is that, if you aren't playing cards, or gambling, or eating/drinking, or going to the cinema, there's no really easy place just to chill out and relax. As a result I am now at the airport ridiculously early, because it's easier to sit and do nothing at the airport than it is in the casino/hotel/city.

I finished the holiday $978 up in terms of poker profit, plus about $160 in rakeback comps for food. If we count the Friday after the Flamingo freeroll as "the end of the week" (which is about as good a time as any) then I was $638 up after the first week, $842 after the second week and $978 by the end of the trip. But that apparently smooth progression masked the reality, whereby I was$1,277 up at one point on the first Sunday, and effectively struggled for the final 12 days. Indeed, I was "saved" by my performance in the freerolls, which contributed $750 in my final two weeks. In cash I either ran bad or I ran unlucky (where "bad" equals being card dead and never hitting decent flops, while "unlucky" means getting the money in good, but being outdrawn). I must have had 40 chances for a straight flush or Royal Flush (big high hand bonuses) and missed the lot. I only hit one set of quads (that was in week one) and I failed to get a single decent double-through (i.e. of more than $100) in the final 12 days. Normally I would expect one every couple of days, maybe even an average of two every three days.

Half way through the holiday there was an interesting period when I had possibly the most inept drug dealers in the world inhabiting the next room. Then again, perhaps most drug dealers are always so wasted and/or drunk that they are all this incompetent. Anyway, here's some tips, putative wholesale merchants.

1) Do NOT shout about the details of your deal at the top of your voice, even behind the closed doors of a hotel room. Especially when there is a connecting room between your room and the room next door (i.e., mine)
2) Do NOT hold a conversation with the counterparty on the hotel phone. But, if you do, definitely don't put them on speakerphone.

I never quite worked out if these guys were from Los Angeles or back east, but they had clearly come to Las Vegas to do a deal on some wholesale quantity of Black Tar Heroin, aka BTH, and possibly a type of BTH or other type of heroin/cocaine unknown to me called R&R.
They were also what is known as "renegotiating" (or, as one of the louder of the three guys called it "re-renegotiating"). Some might calling it "backsliding". Whatever. They clearly had hopes that this would be "the big one" that would leave them on "Easy Street" (I mean, does ANYONE talk like this any more?)

How did it all pan out? I shall never know. At least two of the guys were clearly users, and there were at least three of them, possibly four. Most entertaining, in a "I hope they don't catch me listening because if they do I might get shot" kind of way.

At the poker, it's clear that there's a sequence of freerolls at many casinos that, if you time your playing correctly, can generate an expected income of about $500 a week. On top of the ones that I played (Harrah's, Bally's, the Flamingo) there's MGM, Rio, Caesar's, Binion's and the Linq. Added together that would make about 80 hours' play a week, plus 14 to 20 hours actually playing the tournaments, so clearly there's no shortage except of time. If you hit the lot and cashed about 40% of the time, that would be $500 to $800 a week profit. That assumes breaking even at the actual cash games (a pessimistic assumption) and does not include the other benefits ($80 in rakeback, plus an effective $250 or so from high-level loyalty card memberships).

Unfortunately, whenever a good deal like this appears, Las Vegas tends to halt it sooner rather than later. The plan of each casino is to get players accustomed to playing in one place. They think that poker players are creatures of habit. The effect is somewhat different. Players put in precisely the required number of hours for optimum EV and then head somewhere else.

As for the best winning strategy at actually playing the hands; well, that varies according to the time of day and the type of table. As per usual, maximum profit tends to come with maximum volatility and/or maximum unpleasantness at the table. "An enjoyable game is rarely good and a good game is rarely enjoyable". A complete loudmouth drunk late at night is a nightmare to play with and even more of a nightmare when he puts a bad beat on you, but they are easily the biggest source of profit.

Weak loose-aggressive players are the next most profitable and next-most volatile. Then we have the weak-tight-aggressive fish, whose ranges are so narrow that they might as well play with their cards face-up. Finally we have the weak-tight-passive and (rarer than hens' teeth these days) the weak-loose-passive players.

I have deliberately adopted a policy of buying in for 60 big blinds (the maximum is 150 big blinds) with the original plan of committing myself with top-pair-top-kicker. I've had to adapt that strategy somewhat for the tighter games, not least because the smaller levels of pre-flop raise that have now become the norm (I was a pioneer here I think!) mean that 60bb can easily have play on flop, turn andd river. When everyone else was raising to six times the big blind and getting three or four callers, playing 60bb was almost automatic. These days, you often have to make tough decisions.,

Two years ago the recession was still in full force in LV, as evidenced by the incredible promotions and price discounts at the outlet mall. Last year the strength of the euro brought the French, Belgians, Dutch and Germans in force. They were far less in evidence this year, proving (at least to me) the intense value-sensitivity of mainland European tourists! Actually, there were fewer British players as well. The US economy might not be particularly sensitive to currency volatility, but it must have an impact on Vegas. That said, the domestic economy has picked up to such an extent that this would more than counterbalance a fall-off in foreign trade.

Christmas week sees a massive surge in visitors from Asia, both domestic (ethnic Asians from other parts of the US) and international (from China and the Asian sub-continent). I was playing poker with a guy who "works the strip" in the evening (I asked no more) and he said that in Christmas week the strip at night zoomed from about 10% Asian to about 60% Asian. Without heading too far again into racial stereotyping, most of them are a pain in the arse.
1) There always seem to be at least three generations of them (I mean, if you are in your 30s, aren't you a bit old to be going on holiday with your parents?)
2) They don't gamble; they just wander aorund looking at things
3) They hunt in packs (between five and eight seems the most popular size) , but slowly, thus blocking up the throughways.

Perhaps there are Americans and Europeans who are the same, and I just don't notice them.

Oh well, it's Christmas; they deserve the right to have a good time in their own way.

19 days is about the right length for me for this type of holiday; I'm looking forward to going home. I'm not looking forward to going back to work, (obvs) but it's going to be a challenging year rather than a tedious one. I'm not sure that I will be able to arrabge a three-week break next year, so my love of Vegas grinding may have to be put on hold for a couple of years.
peterbirks: (Default)
A fairly grim second week at the tables; indeed, I found it something of a surprise to see that I was only $100 down for the seven days. Poker is hard work when you can never seem to hit a flop, or can't get paid off if you do, and always get caught when you try to nick a pot where you have missed the flop.
The bright spot and redeeming feature was making the $300 from the Bally's freeroll. I couldn't repeat it Friday morning in the Flamingo freeroll, but this was only because my top-notch all-in 15 big-blind shove with Jack-nine suited was ridiculously called by Ace-Queen off in the big blind.
I was annoyed with myself at the time, but in retrospect my play was right.
I had an entertaining diversion this week on Wednesday when I decided to attempt to find the stairs from the fourth floor to the ground floor. I walked down one flight, along a passageway and down another flight, and through a door -- which promptly locked itself behind me. I appeared to be in an abandoned warehouse part of the Flamingo that hadn't seen much humanity since 1978. At the end of the passageway I saw a double-door with "EXIT" above it, so I went along and pushed it creakingly open.
And found myself on the roof, where the floodlights point up at the side of the building to illuminate it. Hmm.
I wandered around and found another set of doors, which I opened. This led me down more passageways, but no sign of an exit. I DID see a few doors marked "NO UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL" and another door marked (I kid you not) "GUN ROOM".
This was all rather concerning. I had visions of ending up in some kind of Casino movie ituation attempting to explain what on earth I was doing in a part of the casino that most employees weren't allowed to enter, let alone customers.
I double-backed to the door from the roof and re-emerged. Now I saw ANOTHER door, about 100 yards in the opposite direction, that did have EXIT above it. I headed that way.
This brought me to more passageways, but not so obviously abandoned. A short walk later I saw signs for employees, an employee snack bar, and some people. I told the first person that I was lost, but she didn;t speak English. The second person did, and she directed me "right along that passage way" to some stairs on the right-hand side. Mann, it was a long way. But I walked down those stairs and magically reappeared on the casino floor, through an unmarked door by the Food Court. A journey of weirdness.
I also found another short-cut -- this time from my room to the Bally's poker room. It entails taking the escalator down to the taxi pick-up point. Walking across that you get to a literal hole in the wall that takes you to the taxi pick-up point for the rebuilt The Cromwell (once Bill's Gambling Hall and once the Barbary Coast). From there it is a brief walk to a new pedestrian crossing across Flamingo East.
Last year all of this was still a building site.
Well, it's the Harrah's freeroll at noon tomorrow, so I may have a lie-in.
peterbirks: (Default)
Travelling from Lewisham to Gatwick Airport used to be a relatively simple task: you got anny one of eight trains an hour to London Bridge and any one of six trains an hour to Gatwick.
That was before the serious upgrading of London Bridge got under way. These days getting to Gatwick from Lewisham requires superhuman patience and logistical genius.
This time I was sure that I had got it right. Even though Thameslink wasn't running through London Bridge, the Southern services were. So, I arrived at London Bridge at about 7.25am and bought my Southern Rail ticket to Gatwick, before proceeding at an orderly pace to Platform 12. twostation staff what was happening. "Fire on rail side at New Cross" I was informed. Now, in the old days, Thameslink would have provided a back-up. But now the choice was either to make one's way to Victoria, or head south to Elephant and Castle where, I was assured, the Thameslink trains to Gatwick would be stopping.
So, off I trudged. I told myself that I needed the exercise, so I walked.

Elephant and Castle

Actually finding Elephant and Castle station is not that easy when the shopping centre is shut. I walked around for a bit, passed a couple of late late night clubs (where people were still being frisked going in -- an interesting noting point for future reference) and attempted to find some station staff to tell me whether or not the Gatwick trains were stopping there. The timetable informed me, not (Monday to Friday only, it claimed), all of which was a bit disconcerting, as it was now 8.10am.
But finally I saw a train appear on the electronic indicator, a mere half an hour from now. Great.

Luckily I always allow plenty of time, so I consoled myself that I merely had a wait on a cold elevated platform in south London rather than in a warm coffee shop in Gatwick airport.


I obtained much consolation when I discovered my plane to be half-empty and my own row of four centre seats to be completely empty. This enabled me to get a bit of sleep, although my prejdice against Virgin Atlantic was confirmed by the four people (two couples) who decided that they were going to get up from their seats and have a loud Essex-type conversation about anything and everything while drinking the free booze and blocking the aisles as if they were in a Romford pub. Sigh. British Airways in future, even if the fare is higher.

I watched three movies (well, 2.5). The "0.5" was finishing off "A Most Wanted Man" which I had seen in part on the flight back from Phoenix. Quality movie, but not particularly engaging.
I very much enjoyed "Lucy", the latest from Luc Besson, which has been slammed by the critics. Of course, it doesn't make any sense, but Besson is more about enjoying the imagery than nitpicking the plot.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" was great fun, top-notch comic adaptation. I'm looking forward to seeing both this and "Lucy" again.

I've been here 10 days now and I have qualified for three freerolls at the end of the week. I played for an hour in the Flamingo this evening and for two hours in Harrah's this morning, and there was no easy money. Mostly locals, either grinders or young professionals who have moved down a level. There was also a young drunk at a nearby limit table, so I gave up the game and came up here.
peterbirks: (Default)
There's a massive tournament going on over at the Bellagio at the moment. $10k entry; attracting the best tournament players in Vegas like flies to a honeypot.

And the interest being shown in this event in the casinos just over the road (Bally's, Flamingo, Linq, Harrah's, Caesar's)? None. The poker players here are not flocking to the rail to watch top tournament players ignore anyone over the age of 40. In fact, the grinders in these rooms either do not think about such players or, if they do, they do so with a certain contempt.

There is no single "poker world", not even in a small geographical section of Las Vegas. I am never going to cross swords with a 20-something pro tournament player or, indeed, with a 20-something $10-$20 no limit player. My only opinion of such a person would be that they are probably playing too high for their bankroll and that it's a near-certainty that they will either be broke or burnt-out by the time they are 30.

In the film "Rounders" there is a character played by the marvellous John Turturro, who grinds away the profit while Matt Damon shoots for the dream. These are the people I mix with. These are, indeed, the people who occupy a niche in Vegas to which I aspire.

Part of the weekly grind in Vegas is to "get in your hours" in each of the casinos that offers a weekly freeroll. The "headline" rakeback on Total Rewards loyalty card is a buck an hour, but this is a woeful understatement. The real earner is the weekly freeroll, currently worth $6k in Bally's (12 hours' play), $5k in the Flamingo (10 hours' play), $2k in the Linq (10 hours' play) and $6k in Harrah's (12 hours' play).

These tournaments get about 90 entries apiece (Bally's just cancelled its twice-a-week version, which only generated about 40 entries for the Thursday to Saturday qualifying period) and so have an EV for your "average" player of about $50-$75. That's an equivalent rakeback of at least $5 an hour, or roughly 50%.

But it gets better. Because the payout is on a "top 20" basis, the tournament functions like a satellite with 20 qualifiers. Of the 90 players, probably 60 are regulars. Of those 60, I suspect at least 40 have "swap" agreements. That is to say, they pool their winnings and share them out amongst themselves. It is only a small step from here to see that it's no in the interest of one pool member to eliminate another pool member. If you have five players per "team", plus a fast structure and only nine tables to start with, you can see that home players have quite a significant advantage.

It's no use moaning about this; the casinos know that it happens and turn a blind eye. As Barry Greenstein observed in his autobiography, when talking about his younger days playing in the Stardust, it was ever thus. Even today there's talk of collusion in the $2-$5 PLO and possibly Hold'em games in the Venetian. I know that I would not be sitting down in such a game with three or more young Asians in them.

So, this trip I have been playing the local game – ensuring that I qualify for at least three of the freerolls. Sure, I am on my own, which puts me at a bit of a disadvantage. But I now know the structures, and I also know a fair few of the players. I'm no longer below average EV.

After 9 days' playing, I'm already seeing what pushes so many good poker players into negative EV games. The way I play the game is a grind. It's not boring, but it is tiring. You can't do anything "for fun". The entire game is about process and about making as few mistakes as possible. And, if you do make a mistake (which you will), you have to shrug it off and carry on playing as properly as you can, hopefully learning from your error and never repeating it.

How tempting must be something less intellectually taxing, such as a craps game, or Blackjack! How nice it would be to have a (free) Bailey's in your coffee, or (free) Tequila Sunrise!

This is the perpetual danger in LV. As I have written many times, there's no shortage of players who are technically superior to me, but there are very few players who have fewer chinks in their armour than I have. I play and I play. If I am tired, I stop. If something goes wrong early on, I don't change my game to try to "get it back". That money is no longer mine. As Caro wrote, stop worrying about getting even, because at the start of every hand, you are even.

What Caro means is that, although games have a "dynamic", that money which you lost to another guy at the table hasn't been "loaned" to him. It's now his money, not yours. There is no money to "get back". It's gone. If you win $100 from another player rather than from the player you just lost $100 to, it's worth just the same as if you won $100 from another player just after winning $100 from the first player.

I mention this because I have adopted another psychological strategy for reducing the threat of tilt. If I lose a buy-in, I now write it to book as if it were a session. I put out my new stack, record the loss (and the time it took) and, according to my spreadsheet, I start a new session. I am not trying to get the previous buy-in back. That was an old session. This is a new one. That's a neat trick that helps keep me on an even keel. So many players carry on playing when "stuck" for the simple reason that they do not see a loss as a realized loss until they get up from the table. I am now "realizing" my losses on a buy-in by buy-in system.

After a strong first week (peaked at $1277 up on Friday afternoon) I have struggled for a few days. I am now about $900 up. The target for the whole holiday was about $2,000 profit, and it's still possible. Then again, so is a net loss. That's how poker works and is one of the reasons to keep a sizeable bankroll.

I could list various hands (I might still do so – I have kept a note of all sessions and the "big" hands therein) but I'm not sure that there is much to be learnt from them. So much depends on stack sizes and the nature of one's opponent.
peterbirks: (Default)
I had an interesting encounter early on in my holiday in Las Vegas. I was talking to a rather intelligent ultra-liberal (for the US) poker player, about 30 years of age. Somehow the conversation got round to living for nothing in London, and I mentioned the word "ligger".

He reacted with horror, which puzzled me. Then he said that it would be difficult to use that word in the US, because it was too close to the "N Word".

Needless to say, this set me off on one. "So", I said, "the liberals are now so sensitive to the word nigger that you can't even use words that SOUND like it? Hasn't the fact that words which sound like each other don't necessarily mean similar things sunk in in liberal America?"

Subsequently I asked him if he had similar problems with the words rigour, figure, bigger and that character from the Jungle Book, Tigger.

Obviously, he hadn't. That was because the meanings of these words were in his brain. The transfer to meaning from sound was entrenched. However, with "ligger" (a word that he did not know) he had no meaning to fall back on -- only the sound of the word. It was this which caused him to think that there would be a problem with the word.

But does this not also say something damning about liberal America? The word "nigger" (even though he could not bring himself to say it) was so high in his consciousness; the fear of offending "African-Americans" was so great, that when I mentioned a word that even rhymed with nigger, then that was the first word he thought of. Not "figure", "rigour", "bigger", or "Tigger". No, his mind leapt immediately to a word that he could not bring himself to utter.

This, I feel, indicates a far higher level of race consciousness amongst white liberals than the white working class. I've long maintained that part of my problem (as far as white liberals are concerned) is that I frequently forget the race and colour of people. To me, they are people. As such I do not have this white liberal (and, it must be admitted, black intelligentsia) hyper-sensitivity to the "travesties of history". I'm not perpetually carrying a guilt trip for the misdeeds of people in the 18th century who happened to have a skin similarly hued to mine. They probably weren't even my ancestors.

It would be a lot easier if the white liberals and black intelligentsia could think the same way.


I typed in Facebook an interesting mathematical puzzle with real financial implications.

It related to a special offer at the Cosmopolitan -- "another day, another $100". Effectively, if you signed up for a loyalty card, you could get a free $100 cashback.

The question was, what was the best strategy? Kevin O'Leary fancied four spins at $25 apiece. Simon Galloway said that it was all down to preference.

The mathematics are quite complex and also depend on knowing (a) one's marginal value of cash, (b) the exact payment habits of the chosen slot machine and (c) how many days you would be remaining in Las Vegas.

I came to the conclusion that the best strategy for me would be a Martingale -- 14 goes at a dollar a time, 14 goes at $2 a time and 14 goes at $4 a time -- something like that. That seemed to maximize the chance of a profit each day before you eventually ran badly and lost the $100. (You then claimed back your $100 in slot vouchers and "washed it through" at 25¢ a time, getting back about $97).

Yesterday, however, it struck me that I had already played a similar offer -- that being "Ring Game" Tournament tickets on Full Tilt Poker.

When my FTP account was reactivated all of my Iron Man points and the like were converted into FTP points -- some 95,000. The FTP points tournaments are a reasonable EV, but are FAR too slow. Three hours to get into the money was not unusual.

The Ring Game Tournament tickets on the face of it don't seem a great offer. You pay (in my case) 12,500 points for a $50 ring ticket. You then sit down and play until you have lost it. OK. If you earn 1,250 points while playing, without losing the $50, then it gets transferred to your account as real cash. But you can only sit down at one table with the ticket, so that would require about 60 hours of play without losing two buy-ins. For here is the catch. If you win at the table, and leave that table, the money above $50 is converted to real cash. When you sit down again, you only have a $50 ring ticket. Eventually (see above, Cosmopolitan) you will almost certainly hit a run-in sufficiently bad to wipe out your $50 before you get 60 hours of play in.

One way to maximize your chance of conversion is to play very long sessions when you are winning at the table. If you get a quick double-through, that effectively doubles the size of your ring ticket and therefore quarters the chance of you going broke.

But you aren't going to be able to play for 60 hours straight.

It then struck me that none of this really matters. A "real" conversion can be seen as a $50 bonus that you will never reach. But the ring ticket is still worth $50, even if you lose it.

That seems counter-intuitive, but look at it this way. If I do not pay the 12,500 points, I will still be playing at the same number of tournaments, and I will still eventually hit a $50 bad run. If I haven't paid the points, then I am minus $50. If I have paid the points, then I am even. In other words, I am fifty dollars better off than I would have been if I had not paid the points. Assuming that takes 10,000 hands and I would normally have won $100 over those 10,000 hands, that means (if I run according to average) that I will be $150 up rather than $100 up.

If I should ever get to the point where the ticket "converts" to real cash, I am still only $50 better off than I would have been if I had not paid the points.

So why try to get to that goal? Because, the longer I play with the ring ticket (i.e., the more times I have a winning session before I hit the bad run) then the more each FTP point is "worth" in conversion. If we assume that on average I win $100 with my $50 ticket before I lose the value of the ticket, then the 12,500 points have transferred at 8¢ a point. You have to pay 6¢ on rake to earn the point, so that's an effective rakeback of 125%.


I moved over to 6-max at the beginning of November. I dropped down significantly in stakes, and (re)learnt my craft. At the moment FTP seems much easier than Pokerstars. Some things in Full Ring transfer across, while some things do not. Some of the things that I have "brought across" from Full Ring appear to discomfort some of the regulars (the smaller average raise size being one of them).

6-Max is much more about betting your hand and going to showdown. Full Ring online is much more about winning bits and pieces here and there. I started off with too low a VPIP, but I've got it up to about 21% now. I've also moved to a full buy in from my 60BB buy-in strategy at Full Ring. For the moment, this is working better.

But I lost a small amount in November, so there is still work to do.

2013 as a whole has been a non-event -- about $1,000 profit online and about $1,000 profit live. I'm really just playing now to "keep my eye in" in the hope that things will one day get better again. I've shifted up in stakes since getting back from LV (but still lower than my old Full Ring days) and things have gone well (in Sklansky dollar terms, better than in results -- AA cracked back to back both times all in pre flop, by 92o and QJs, made for an interesting Christmas Day morning).

But with the new job in the new year I am not sure how much time I will have to devote to the game. Chleiger said in a tweet that he couldn't think what poker player left $300k in the back of a cab because he didn't know any poker players these days with a $300k bankroll. That reminded me how lucky I am financially -- probably far better off than most of the "name" players.

A winner of a "big" tournament in the UK recently (not much more than £70k, which would hardly make the deposit on a house in London these days) confessed that all that the win did was "get him out of trouble" and stop him from losing his house. I think that it's a widespread problem for poker players who don't have a proper job. For most of them, life is a matter of survival rather than luxury. It's not a life I would want, but, unless you devote ALL of your time to the game, you just can't be a consistent significant plus EV player. In other words, in terms of opportunity cost, poker just isn't worth it. The only reason to carry on is the intellectual challenge (unless you are a degenerate, of course, in which case it is the thrill of gambling).

There are two major types of poker player -- the thrill seeker and the thrill averter. For one type, there is no point in playing poker if there's no excitement. But for people like me the "fun" is in the intellectual challenge. I enjoy sitting and thinking about frequently occurring situations, and what the best strategy line is for those situations against the current crop of Russians, or Chinese, or Germans. If these groups have a big flaw it is that they talk to each other too much on forums. That leads to group think and group style. That leads to consistent (and exploitable) styles of play. Out-thinking these people is a bit like code-breaking. Even if you haven't played a guy before, if he is from Russia and he raises in the small blind and you flat call in the Big Blind, you tend to know what a bet on a flop of Axx means and what a check means. You know his "language" even though you have never met him before.


I start a new job in February as Managing Editor at Reactions magazine -- part of Euromoney Publications. The office is in Eastcheap (think turn right at the Monument station after crossing London Bridge South to North) and I will be in much more of a corporate role and much less of a lone-gun writer role.

It's a great challenge and not a little frightening, but I think that I have the ability to do it and to do it well. Quite simply, I want to blast the opposition to smithereens over the next 24 mohths, and make myself a fair bit of wedge in the process.

peterbirks: (Default)
A splendid short evening last night in Guildford for Mr Brian Creese's 60th birthday. It was held at The Stoke pub's function room, which was a bit chilly to start with, but warmed up later.

Old friends in attendance were hobby people John & Lin Harrington, John and Claire Dodds, Rob Mulholland and Ken Bain; many Molinaire people from the old days, including Rod Anderson, Becky Simmons, a considerably taller son Owen than from when I last saw him, plus Malcolm Beattie (doing the disco).

We played a game of Formula One which through sheer good fortune I won (John Harrington spun off at a vital moment that would have made the race very close if he hadn't thrown a three). It's actually not a bad game, provided you are willing to play 10 lap races over three hours, so that the luck evens out. We only played three laps.

Ken Bain, Brian and Rod played a folk-bluesy set. Food was provided; drink flowed. Everyone had a good time.

My Tom Tom adventures kind of continued. I chose the M25 route there, which was probably the quickest for the time of evening, but kicks in at a stonking 55 miles. I came back through Vauxhall (ignoring Tom Tom's attempt to get me to turn right off the A3 and head for Wimbledon, Colliers Wood and, presumably, Streatham) which was a mere 35 miles, and was quite quick. TIme for trip there - 75 minutes or so. Time for trip back, about 65 minutes.

Music on the way out: "The Real Bob Dylan". On the way back, "The Sound Live At The BBC" -- a couple of concerts that I have from the early 1980s I think -- presented by Pete Drummond.

The cold remains wearying, doesn;t it? But at least the sun is out today, for the moment.


It coming to the end of the first quarter I suppose I should come up with a poker update. All very tough these days. I am the grand sum of $350 up for the quarter, at relatively low stakes. Part of the reason for the low stakes is that I only started with about $200 on Full Tilt last November, and I have gradually built that up to nearly $800 at 10c-25c NL. I've been playing 25c-50c on Stars and have won a similar amount as on Stars (about $250 at each for the year) despite playing at the higher stakes.

The one disaster was a venture into 10c-20c 6-max on Stan James, where the "free $11" tempted me to deposit $325 for the added $325 deposit bonus.

The Merge Network is just horrible. No waiting lists, maximum of four games. The "bonus" was unachievable. I got the $12 of it, I think. I ended up about $160 down after a couple of crucifying sessions. I'm not sure if I am plus EV there. I'm not sure if there's collusion. There are anonymous tables, at which I really felt I had an advantage (you can build up a picture of the way people play very quickly) but I still couldn't win. So, either there is a fundamental flaw in my 6-max play that I can't identify (probable), and/or there is collusion going on (possible) and/or I was just running bad (TBH, unlikely).

Much of poker is playing it A LOT, so that yu get a feel for your opponents' likely ranges. There's a huge difference here between 6-max and ring. Perhaps in the former people naturally guess my range better, or perhaps I'm getting opponents' ranges wrong. I had a good look at Hold em Manager to try to nail it down, but I couldn't manage it.

BTW, I'm describing this as if I got slaughtered. I didn't. I only lost roughly what I paid in rake. But that's the equivalent of a disaster. Even in months when I "run bad" on Stars, I won't lose what I've paid in rake.

Anyway, that SJ venture cost me time and money and won't be repeated.

Elsewhere, I've been converting frequent player points into cash reasonably efficiently, although I haven't had my "deep run" in one of the tournaments yet. I'm still averaging 2.1c an FPP on Stars, which is satisfactory.

I've also been converting some bits and pieces of Full Tilt Points to tickets. The problem with FTP is that the tournaments run too slow. I only play turbos and hyper-turbos with my FPPs on Stars. On Full Tilt I have to use up too much time to convert the points into Tournament tickets. So, I'm stuck with 102,000 Full Tilt points - probably worth about a grand to two grand if I could find the time to put in the work. Perhaps when I retire.

peterbirks: (Default)
It was nice to come back from Las Vegas in profit. I still haven't achieved the dream of paying for everything, but I came pretty close. I won $1,350. The holiday cost $880 (flight), $400 (spent), and $630 (hotel, including added gym and internet fees). So that's $560 spent for the entire two weeks. However, included in that is about $100 that I spent on clothes and stuff (I bought another $200-worth on my card). So that brings it down to $460. And if I had stayed at home I would have spent about $160 at Tesco and maybe $200 elsewhere. So the net cost of the fortnight, in a hotel, in Las Vegas, and most definitely not here, was $100. I'd take that deal.

However, I definitely ran good. I won $200 in bonuses the very first morning that I gamed the system. The $100 "high hand of the hour" award in the Flamingo runs from 8am, when there is often only one table, running, with a maximum of two tables. If there are 15 players in the room, that's an effective $6.50 an hour rakeback right there. Add to that the standard high hand bonus (probably worth a dollar), and the Total Rewards points (another dollar), and you are looking at about 90% rakeback -- given that it costs you an average of about $10 an hour to play.

All of this sits within volatility of maybe $40 an hour at $2-$4 limit and $70 an hour at $1-$2 No Limit. In other words, it's a very good deal.

People (dealers in particular) often wonder why players fuss about a dollar here and a dollar there when they will happily put $200 into the pot when they are 55:45 and then not even worry when they lose. That, of course, is why some people are dealers and some people are poker players. The Flamingo reintroduced a "no flop no drop" rule a few weeks ago (they had been taking a drop from hands that didn't reach a flop because so many of the NL hands were being played without a flop being seen). I told the poker room supervisor Michael that I would have proclaimed this change from the rooftops -- I would certainly have put up a big sign announcing it. However, most players probably didn't even care.

Indeed, many of the dealers didn't even know, while one of them said that he didn't know that it had been introduced in the first place, and that he had been dealing for 18 months without taking a drop unless there had been a flop.

I won one hand with a big 4-bet preflop and thought nothing until I heard the "klunk" of dollar chips falling into the box. I said to the dealer "no flop no drop", and the floor supervisor confirmed it. So I got my $4 back. Those small amounts quickly add up. As I said to the cocktail waitress as the situation developed "sorry, I'm just battling to win your tip and the dealer's tip".

I still tip dealers. This is aq controversial area among serious poker players, many of whom (including Neil Channing) do not tip, on the simple grounds that it works out in the end to be a very high tax on your winnings.

How high? Well, suppose my "true" rate in the poker room is $8 an hour after tips (and, let's be honest, that's about as much as I could hope for at $1-$2 NL plus gaming the bonuses). I would probably win two hands an hour and tip the dealer an average of $3. So, that works out as a $3 "tax" on $11 winnings -- $3 to the dealer and $8 to me.

I can just about accept this because I know that dealers rely on tips to live (although, with tips, they live rather well). I don't overtip, but I don't refuse so to do. But I can understand why some players do not tip.


I met some interesting people in the two weeks that I was sitting at the felt. I also met some people whom I would happily not see again.

One of the more interesting encounters was between me and a Dutch guy who worked for Shell. He started off by calling $2-$4 limit "bingo poker", which I admit is a phrase that puts my back up. He then went on to explain to the local on his immediate left (a nice guy, and I was on his immediate left), that online poker was rigged and that no-one could win at it. And THEN he said that he (the Dutch guy) had come over with a group of friends and that they played tournaments, pooling their entry fees and pooling their prize money. After his comment on "bingo poker", this was just a bit too much. I explained that I didn't play tournaments in Vegas myself, partly because of the high rake and partly because there were too many teams working together.

He immediately said that, of course, there was no collusion "at the table", but by now I was flying, discussing the advantage of reduced volatility, lower exposure per entry than other players enabling you to play more aggressively, and the inevitability that at some point you would find yourself at the same table as someone who was playing with "your" money. He responded that people often swapped percentages of each other, to which I said that this was very different from playing with pooled money.

None of this is new, of course, Sailor Roberts, Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim played with pooled money as they travelled all over Texas. And I had the same opinion of that as I did of our Dutch friend.

The highlight came, however, when the following day he declined to join the "bingo poker" and came to sit at the NL table. I nodded hello, looked at his $50 in chips and said "it's a minimum $100 buy in". "Oh", he replied, "is it $2-$4 no limit?" "No", I said, "it's $1-$2". I swear that the bloke almost went chalk white. The mere thought of having to sit down with more than 25 big blinds was far too much for him, and he played just one orbit (without playing a hand) and left.

My own strategy was, in fact, an extended version of this -- I played with 60 big blinds rather than 100 or the maximum sit-down of 150 big blinds. If I doubled through and I thought the game was good, I would stay. However, I have little practice playing deep stack, and many of the players there were good at deepstack. It would be stupid for me to play at such a disadvantage until I got comfortable with the game. And, in Vegas, you can always leave and sit down again in another casino with 60 big blinds.

But, back to my run-good. The morning after I won $200, I won another $200. And I won a $100 bonus sometime in the evening. I was also winning the coin flips, and hitting sets. I was also getting better at getting paid off. It was three days of "I can do no wrong" and that was quite enough to put me four figures up, even at low stakes.


And so, back to England, and rain, and work.

I also won about $1,350 online this year -- pathetic compared to the $25,000-odd that I chalked up in 2009, but rather better than the $10 or thereabouts that I achieved in 2011.

I can tell you precisely when the wheels started to came off -- it was in October 2009 in France. My monitor blew up, so I started playing cascading rather than tiled. I won money, so I decided that I might as well 10-table cascade rather than eight-table tile. This soon became 12-table cascade and at times was up to 14-table cascading at $1-$2 NL. I was also running well.

This continued until March 2010 (by which time I was $10k up for 2010), and from that point on all that I did was break even. And that was only due to the fact that I was a Supernova and was therefore getting superb rakeback. When you are paying $28 an hour in rake and getting about half of it back, breaking even in open play doesn't seem an unattractive prospect.

But this is a dangerous path down which to travel, and I leapt onto it with doom-laden enthusiasm. I stopped winning in open play -- then I was losing more than I was getting back in rakeback. Then I HAD to keep playing cascading tables, because otherwise I would lose the high level of rakeback.

I broke even in the last nine months of 2010 and sank to $2,000 down in the first few months of 2011. Of course this was peanuts compared to the nearly $100k that I had taken out of the game since 2000, but it was still irritating, and something needed to be done. I came back down in stakes; I went back to eight-tabling (tiled). I stopped the rot, but I couldn't win. I crawled back to just better than level for the year.

I started 2012 badly as well, sinking to $1,000 down. So, I re-evaluated again. I decided that perhaps I would play better with 60 big blinds rather than 100 big blinds. The technical arguments behind this are rather tedious, but as a strategy it worked. I worked my way back up to $1,300 up by the end of the year, despite playing at stakes only one quarter of what I was playing in 2009 and 2010, and despite only playing about 150,000 hands rather than 450,000 hands. In other words, the profit was coming at the table rather than just from rakeback.

In 2012 I also did some work on badugi and 2-7 triple draw. I quickly got good enough to beat the main (low-stakes) games, but I never got round to moving up. I like both games, -- they offer strategic opportunities not available in NL and, of course, I played limit rather than NL. The so-called "bingo" option, but in fact a much harder game than NL 2-7 or NL badugi.

For this year in poker? I've actually set myself some targets in terms of hands played, in an attempt to stop myself hitting and running. The reemergence of Full Tilt could mean the end of my interst in Party Poker (I've said this before, I know, but the software is, by modern standards, total shite. I've long suspected collusion there, without being able to prove it, and the liquidity has fallen off a cliff. It recently merged its player base with bwin, but I think that they are just milking it for what they can, which means no money for R&D and rather pathetic rakeback. All of their adverts are for tournaments.

Away from poker, I hope to go to more shows and to more restaurants. I know that many people consider it vulgar to talk about money (even in poker, which is basically about money), but the fact remains that I can no longer consider myself poor. And I have been poor in the past, which is what makes it hard for me to spend money on "fripperies". I'm afraid that people who money goes through like water will never be on my wavelength, and I will never be on theirs. Unlike them, I do not believe that "something will turn up" or that "there's always more where that came from". The good times can end as quickly as they began.

On the other hand, one does not want to carry on saving and then to die without ever having lived. This, as it were, is the biggest gamble of them all -- timing it so that you spend your last dime with your last breath.


A new month

Feb. 1st, 2006 07:48 pm
peterbirks: (Default)
I've taken a leaf out of the Andy Ward book this month; well, half a leaf, actually. I'm putting my figures into the spreadsheet, but I'm not updating the pivot tables or accessing any other parts of the sheet that might tell me how well I'm doing.

Now, it's only half a leaf, because even I can look at a column of figures and see roughly whether the sum of them is positive or not, and my bankroll at each of the sites gives me a rough idea how I am doing, but at least it takes me away from minute-by-minute precision.

However, I will be dropping back down to $2-$4 three-tabling on Party tomorrow after a less than sparkling session at $3-$6 today. Ah-hah! I can hear Bluff saying, at this very moment (if he's out of bed yet), "this is precisely what I advised and Birks disagreed with!

Well, up to a point. Actually I would be quite happy to play $3-$6 (or even $5-$10) at Party tomorrow, but the current size of my bankroll on that esteemed site mitigates against it. I'm a bit thin for even three tables of $2-$4 (remember, I only put $500 in at the end of December to open the account), let alone three tables of $3-$6.

In fact, the entire evening was only saved from total disaster by an excellent half-hour on Virgin, that of the genuinely shite software. You can see why players of a certain quality love sites like this -- any show of imagination or aggression does you no good at $2-$4, since four dollars is the same as two dollars as far as many of your opponents are concerned. This leaves you one reason and one reason alone to raise the pot - and that is to increase the size of the pot. Forget raising to get a free card (they will bet their hand regardless) and forget raising to get "control" of the hand (see previous point). Pot equity is all.

Once you get the hang of the fact that you are surrounded by loose-passive players, mad options at Party's $3-$6 become sensible, such as limping after two callers with T8s, despite there being four players behind you. Three of these four will limp and the small blind will complete.

Well, all of that worked quite nicely tonight.

It's virtually impossible to get hand histories, so this one's from memory. The salient facts are there. $2-$4 limit

Me, seat 9: I pick up 54 of spades

Seat 4 limp
Seat 5 limp
Seat 7 limp
I limp
Button folds
Small blind completes.
Big blind checks

$12 in pot.

Flop 4d, 6h, 7s

Checked round to me. Do I bet here? I chose not to. For a start they are a bunch of check-callers (given their style of play) and for a second, betting to induce a check on the turn doesn't work. If they hit anything on the turn, they will bet it. So I check.

Turn: 2s

Ahh, that's more interesting. It's a low card and I now have a four-flush.

Checked round to me again. As I said, these guys tend to bet their hand. There's actually a chance that I am in front here, although with at least five overcards out there, I'm odds against to remain in front. But a bet by me might force out some weak overcards.

I bet. Two opponents fold and three opponents call.

$28 in the pot.

River: 2d

Checked round to me. I check. Opponents show A3 off, muck, muck, and my two pair fours and deuces takes down $27.

peterbirks: (Default)
I realize that I haven't been posting a great deal about poker the past few days. Part of this is because I don't really want to give away too much of my own style, and there is a chance that some of the people I play at $5-$10 (and certainly a chance that some of those playing $15-$30) might read this. So, in effect, I am on a hiding to nothing. I have no such worries posting about lower level PLO, where the stakes are fairly unimportant and the whole thing is a learning experience.

I may make up with it with a few hand über-posts this weekend. I'm going to work from home tomorrow and we have an "official" half day, so I can play poker or write gibberish from 10am onwards without feeling guilty.


I could never run out of material to write about here -- the Financial Times throws out so many examples of the world going mad every day that I discard thoughts by the dozen before they even approach "that would make a good article" status. And then there are other people's blogs. Some of the, er, younger bloggers, print hand histories that have me cringing with embarrassment for them. They head off on a wrong path at step one, and then wonder why, when they get to step four, they are in deep shit with an almost impossible decision. Fortunately they are probably playing $50 no-limit, so no real harm will be done in terms of their lifetime earnings.

Clearly we can now ignore 99% of the posts (and posters) on Gutshot or The Hendon Mob. I have no desire to educate them any more and I can't be bothered to sit down to try to take their money -- particularly since 40% of the time they are likely to get lucky and do a Homer Simpson Woo Hoo war dance when ... ohh, whatever. I'm sure that you can think of examples.


The Japanese business system seems to be on its last legs, to me. Their company structures look like they need dragging into the 20th century, not the 21st.

I'm developing a macro-theory here (I can't understand why macro economic stuff is what I understand these days -- it was my worst subject at University after statistics) on the far east. This is that for a fast-developing economy the business structures seen in these countries are very suitable. Thus South Korea and Malaysia are now taking over the Japanese mantle of some kind of far-eastern myth that has found the answer. However, as soon as these countries reach First World average levels, the business structures that they have in place (kind of substitute families, little job mobility, heavy egalitarianism, the concept of "manager" as a job title in itself) work against them. The rigidity of the Japanese business world is murdering it, leading to the farcical situation that the Japanese companies now achieving success are using foreign workers abroad.

However, this is very much a theory-in-progress at the moment, in the sense that it might be completely incorrect, and that in reality the Japanese business world today is a hive of adaptable efficiencies. But somehow I doubt it.

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