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Home is Where the Hangover Is

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Vegas is a dream. It’s a different universe. When I’m not there, I almost am unable to believe that it exists. When I am there, it is as if the rest of the world ceases to exist. 

It is a city of casinos and basically nothing else. Building after building with proposition after proposition being offered through which you can experience an intense and immediate financial swing. Your whole investment doubled or wiped out in an instant. Where else but in a casino can you get that? Not in the stock market. Not in the real world. That’s why Vegas isn’t the real world. It’s a playground for degenerates who need a fix the real world can’t provide. 

Six weeks in Vegas and I could hardly recant a thing about it. It all became a blur as soon as I got back into the real world. Maybe that’s why I blog while I’m there: so I can try to piece together what the hell happened while I was on the merry-go-round. 

Some of it was exciting, I remember that. A lot of it was frustrating and unsatisfying. But you didn’t have to dwell in those emotions for too long because before you knew it, there was another shot at gratification. 

I have WSOP hangover. The WSOP is like summer camp for degenerates and leaving Vegas is like going back home to your parents house where school is starting back up. And unless there’s a dice game going in the hall between periods, things are going to seem painfully boring for a while until you forget what it’s like to live in the false reality that is summer camp.

I don’t know what the cure for the hangover is. It’s hard to go from playing for millions of dollars everyday in the World Series of Poker to doing anything else and not feel a sense of detachment. I think maybe that’s why I liked the end of Hurt Locker so much: I can relate to that guy. We both need to go back to the desert.

Sayonara Rio?

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I went to the Rio yesterday to settle up a debt with a friend. While I was there, it occurred to me that it’s entirely possible that I’ll never step foot in the Brazilian-themed casino again. This isn’t because I don’t think I’ll be back for the WSOP. It’s that I don’t think the WSOP will be back to Rio.

There seems to be a pretty strong rumor that Harrah’s has all but sold the Rio and will move the WSOP to Caesars or possibly even Planet Hollywood next year. If that happens, there’s really no reason to go Rio again. The fact that the Rio sucks wouldn’t be the sole reason I’d never go back, a casino sucking has never stopped me from stepping foot inside before, but it’s off-strip location pretty much means you’d only ever go there if your objective was to do just that. Without the WSOP, there’s really no reason to go to Rio.

I allowed myself a moment of nostalgia as I departed the Rio property yesterday. When I came to Vegas for the first time in 2005, just a few short days after I had turned 21, Rio was the first casino I set foot in. I got off my plane, got in a taxi, and told him, “take me to the Rio.” A few minutes later, I was immersed in the WSOP atmosphere and have been hooked ever since. I still remember what it was like seeing Marcel Luske walking through the casino. “Holy crap! That’s Marcel Luske!” I remember thinking. I’ve long since shed any sense of awe I have towards TV poker pros, so it’s kind of funny to me reflecting back on how excited I was to see Marcel f***ing Luske.

If this is indeed the Rio’s curtain call, I’ll be quite happy. I’ve never had much of a problem with the WSOP at Rio. The Rio facilities are massive and house the action comfortably. But Rio is starting to feel kind of stale as the host of the WSOP. This is the Rio’s sixth straight year of hosting the WSOP. The property would probably play host for the WSOP indefinitely as long as Harrah’s is its owner. By holding the WSOP at the island that is Rio, Harrah’s can optimize the room occupancy across all of their Vegas properties. Since it is located off the Strip, getting people to stay at the Rio is pretty tough, but if you put something like the WSOP there, poker players will stay at Rio and away from their other properties (like Caesars and Paris) that don’t need any help filling rooms.

If Harrah’s sells Rio, they’ll have to bite the bullet and move the WSOP to one of their Strip properties. The Rio’s new owner will be left with the interesting task of figuring out how on earth to get people to visit an off-Strip casino that, as shaniac so appropriately put it, is like a cruise ship from hell. One thing is for sure: without the WSOP, myself and probably countless other poker players will find no reason to visit Rio again.

Out of the Main Event

Monday, July 12th, 2010

This is the blog entry I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write at all (though I would have taken writing it later in the week). I’m out of the Main Event.

There’s really nothing too glamorous to report. I started day three with 47.1k during 500/1000/100, and played for two hours without winning a pot that was more than just stealing the blinds. That left me fairly short-stacked. I doubled up once back to 43.4k with Aces against Queen-Jack, then bled back down. Having 25-40 big blinds is kind of a weird stack: you can’t really three-bet anyone light, nor is it really advisable to call a lot of raises, so if the pot has already been raised, you pretty much need to look down at a strong hand in order to become involved. In a live tournament, it’s not uncommon to go a few hours without really ever looking at a strong hand.

I won a couple of small pots here and there but it wasn’t enough to stay ahead of the pace that the blinds were eating away at my stack. During 1000/2000/300, I was down to 23.5k when I shoved Tens in late position and was unable to generate a suckout (despite quietly wishing for one pretty damn hard) against the small blind’s pocket Kings.

That’s poker.

Busting out of the Main Event is kind of a unique experience. Poker players talk about it being the worst day of the year. It’s definitely disappointing, but it can provide some interesting perspective too. As I walked out to my car, I wanted to feel really sad and disappointed. I mean, I wanted to be really upset, but I just couldn’t muster the emotions. I tried. I gave “being really sad” my best shot, but I could only get as far as about “being bummed”. I tried to figure out why this is and what I came up with is that I just don’t see any reason to be really, really upset about busting out of the Main Event. It makes me appreciate the life I have. Doing well in the Main Event would have been awesome, but it’s kind of like icing on the cake of life. I mean, what’s it say about your life if your biggest problem is that you weren’t able to make a deep run in the biggest poker tournament of the year? I’d say it means you have a pretty good life and have a lot to feel grateful for.

Other than just not having a sick amount of luck, I don’t really have much to feel upset about. I feel pretty confident in saying that I didn’t make any big mistakes all tournament. I’m not saying I didn’t make a couple of small ones, I’m sure I did, but I definitely didn’t make any big ones and anytime you can say that, there’s really nothing to be too disappointed about.

I’ve got another three nights in Vegas before I head back to Houston. I feel like I’ve been here forever. It’s been fun, I’m definitely glad I spent the whole WSOP out here at least one time, but I’m not sure it’s something I’d want to do again. Anyway, that’s another entry for another time. I’m gonna spend the worst day of the year rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the zen-like disposition I’ve got right now – it’s not a state of mind that comes easy in this town.

Main Event Dia Dos

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Title in Spanish since I’m rooting for Spain tomorrow in the World Cup Final.

Today was day two of the Main Event. I drew another really sweet table to start the day but those guys just had my number. I only started the day with 18.4k and by the time I was moved off a table of old guys that play ABC-style poker, I was down to 11k. It took moving to a table with a bunch of young aggressive guys that had a ton of chips in order for things to turn around for me.

I made it to day three with 47.1k. I’m pretty fortunate to be able to say that; I was all-in, called, and covered three times today. Even though I was a favorite on each of those hands, my odds of surviving all of those all-ins was just 36%.

If you want a bit more of a play-by-play and detailed rundown of how things went for me today, you can check out my Twitter page at (have to add me in order to see what I’ve written, if I don’t know you mention how I know you when you request to follow me) and read through the updates I was posting live from the table.

We get tomorrow off which is great because it means there won’t be any poker getting in the way of watching the World Cup final. We’re having a PokerTips meetup at Lagasse’s Stadium in Palazzo for the game. I might go to the PokerStars party at the Palms tomorrow night; supposedly Snoop Dogg is going to be performing there.

Back to the felt on Monday when blinds will be 500/1000/100, so despite being below average, I’ve got plenty of chips.

Lastly, my friend Justin made this pretty funny video campaigning to be added to Team Victory Poker.

Scramble into the Main Event

Friday, July 9th, 2010

I’ve had a crazy last 36 hours during which I went from being almost entirely certain I wasn’t playing the Main Event to bagging up chips for day two.

4:00 pm Wednesday

I put $100 on a 7-team baseball parlay to win $10,500. I was already up a bunch from betting Spain against Germany, so figured I’d give a bill back and try to luckbox my way into the Main Event. I text a couple of friends telling them which seven teams I need to run hot with, including Ray Coburn (Exitonly), who asks me why I don’t just sell pieces of my action on the 2p2 marketplace. “Hmm… I actually hadn’t thought of that, but I have no way of getting a bunch of Stars money into the Rio cage on such short notice anyway.”

“No worries,” he says, “I’ve got plenty of cash and need money online. I can give you an instant cashout.”

Huh. You don’t say?

5:00 pm

When my baseball parlay seems to have no legs, I text a couple of friends to see if they’d buy any Main Event action at a rate of 1% for $125. I get an overwhelming response and even sell a few shares to 2009 Card Player POY Eric Baldwin (basebaldy). “Hmm… maybe this could actually work,” I think.

5:15 pm

I call a friend and dictate a post to make on the 2p2 marketplace (I was away from computer). He tells me I can’t post in that forum until I get moderator approval. Dang, big snag. I text Ray wondering if he has any advice on how to get around that. “PM the forum mod,” he says. My friend does that on my behalf.

5:45 pm

After a short wait, my friend texts me to say that I’ve been approved to post in the forum. Sweet! The post is up and strangers from all over the world are checking out my Hendon Mob database and contemplating whether or not they have any interest in buying my action.

9:00 pm

I’ve sold a lot of action and playing in the tournament is starting to look quite viable. My friend Sebastien Sabic (Seb86) offers to buy a decent-sized chunk. Sold. Only need around $3,500 more. That’s doable, right?

11:30 pm

I get home from dinner with a friend and sell a few shares to my roommate. Only need to raise about $2,500 more to play, but there’s just 12 hours left to get the money and I’ve hit up most of my go-to sources. I go to bed totally uncertain if I’ll be playing the next day and hoping to wake up to emails about Stars transfers.

8:30 am Thursday

I wake up fairly early knowing there’s work to do in order to get into the tournament. I raised $500 while I was sleeping. Okay, just $2,000 more to go. It would be a shame to get this close and not play. I leave for the Panorama Towers to pick up some cash from Ray while continuing to hit up potential investors.

10:00 am

Ray hooks me up with two $5,000 Rio chips in the parking lot of Panorama. I thank him profusely for everything he’s done to help get me into the tournament. He’s still half-asleep and heads back upstairs. I wonder if he’ll even remember giving me $10k.

Another $1,000 sold to two friends.

10:30 am

I get to the Rio and head to the cashier’s cage to register for the Main Event. Even though I have about $1,000 more I’d like to come up with, I figure there’s no way I’m going to get that close and not play, so I go ahead and register.

11:15 am

While eating a salad wrap in the poker kitchen, I field posts on 2p2 and PokerTips and sell off more action. $9,625 raised. That’s good enough. I close the sale.

12:00 pm

Emmitt Smith announces ‘Shuffle Up and Play’. What? It’s ‘Shuffle Up and Deal’, Emmitt. Five yard penalty.

1:00 pm

My table is absurdly tight and passive.

3:00 pm

Table breaks. Bad beat.

Oh but wait… new table is just as tight and passive, if not moreso. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is playing tight and all pots are really small. This is fine by me – I can push them around in small pots and know that I won’t be in any spots where it makes sense to play a big pot light.

6:40 pm

Lebron James announces he’s going to the Miami Heat and the room erupts with chatter. A few guys at my table begin to hypothesize with significant confidence what Lebron’s reasons for going to Miami are. “Like they really have any clue,” I think.

7:00 pm

I leave for dinner break with 27k (from a 30k starting stack). Not ideal, but hard to expect to have a ton of chips at a table where no one is making any mistakes in big pots.

9:45 pm

I spot ESPN commentator Norm Chad walking by our table and get his attention to ask him if it ever gets boring just wandering around the WSOP all day. “Yes, but I self-medicate,” he tells me. He makes small talk with a couple people at our table and asks me if this is my first Main Event. “Nah,” I tell him. “Do you remember Michael Carroll catching a three-outter in 2008?”

“Yea, AJ vs. KJ or something like that.”

“Yea, exactly! I was the anonymous victim in that hand.”

“I remember that. Brutal!” He says with a surprising amount of empathy.

12:00 am midnight

Disappointed, I bag up 18.4k after losing several small pots in the last hour. I was the most aggressive player at the table, but it just never paid off for me; I never flopped any big hands that people paid off light because of my image. For that matter, I didn’t hit many flops at all and, apparently, everyone was hitting flops against me. That or maybe they were playing ABC poker against each other all day but coming out of their shells and out-playing me.

2:30 am

I go to bed utterly exhausted from a wild 36 hours feeling slightly agitated at the number of chips I’ll take into day two on Saturday but mostly grateful and appreciative that the stars aligned in order for me to play as well as optimistic about my chances for turning things around in a tournament where there’s certainly ample time provided to do just that.

Celebrity Photo Dump

Monday, July 5th, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. I haven’t played any poker since busting out of Event 49 in 150th nearly a week ago. A week off has been so nice. My girlfriend was in town the whole time and we had a really nice week just doing various stuff around Vegas most of which didn’t involve poker.

On Saturday, we went to the Rio to check out some of the celebs in the Ante Up for Africa tournament. When she saw the WSOP (for the first time), she immediately noted that she didn’t understand how someone could play every day for the whole summer without going totally insane. That made me feel a little better about having gone kinda insane after five weeks of continuous poker!

There was a point on a dinner break last week where all I wanted was to get away from poker. Like, badly. I just wanted to go somewhere where I could sit down, enjoy a meal, and not be around anyone talking about poker. I tried a Thai restaurant about a mile from the Rio. Just as I was about to dig into my Pad Thai, I overheard this woman in the restaurant saying, “I three-bet him preflop with Seven-Six…”


I thought I was losing my mind. Is there not anywhere to go in this city to get away from people talking about various poker hands? It actually seems kind of funny to me looking back on it, but at the time I was losing it due to poker overload.

Hearing my girlfriend’s perspective on the WSOP was pretty interesting. It’s second nature to me at this point, so I’ve kind of lost perspective on how an outsider would be likely to view the poker culture. She just didn’t see how people could sit at a table all day every day without going insane and noted that a lot of the people we encountered apparently lacked basic social skills and kind of seemed like a part of this zombie sub-group incapable of functioning unless they’re gambling or talking about gambling.

Five weeks of being immersed in the poker community can take a toll on your sanity. Vegas and poker is such a false reality that I think hearing someone point out what an abnormal lifestyle the poker playing community has was kind of refreshing. It’s like, “oh yea, a bunch of people passing around millions of dollars over a deck of cards for six weeks is pretty nuts, isn’t it?”

I know it sounds like I’m dogging on poker and poker players, and in a way I kind of am, many of them are truly insufferable people, but I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t love poker or the poker culture. I do love poker. I have a blast playing poker and really enjoy the types of conversations you can have with poker players that are hard to achieve with people unaccustomed to forbidding emotions from playing a part in their thought process. But with that being said, everyone reaches their breaking point, and I think I reached mine after five weeks of nearly daily exposure to poker and poker players, so a week off felt really, really nice.

Okay, that’s enough about the psychology of poker. It’s time for a celebrity photo dump! (Apologies in advance for the picture quality that lies ahead; all of these were taken with my phone).

A few nights ago, I was hanging out with a friend in Aria who pointed out a gentlemen at a roulette wheel that he thought might have been Roger Clemens. I walked over for a closer look. Yup! That’s definitely Roger Clemens. I wanted to take his picture (I mean, it’s Roger Clemens!) but I figured he probably gets sick of being bothered in public, so I decided I’d just snap a picture of him on my phone from a few feet away. I really didn’t expect him to notice me, so I figured it was win-win: I get a picture of Roger Clemens, Roger Clemens gets to avoid being bothered by some fanboy.

There was just one problem: he noticed me. Right as soon as I was taking a picture of him, he wagged his finger at me and said, “dude, it’s not a zoo, if you want a picture all you have to do is ask!”

“I’m really sorry… but would you mind?” I asked, feeling pretty embarrassed to have gotten caught and called out. “Not at all!” he said. I gave my phone to my friend and pulled my girlfriend in for a picture with him. (I photoshopped her out since I dunno if she wants her picture on a poker portal that gets thousands of daily visits).

He was a really nice guy, and huge, too; I thought he was going to crush my hand when he shook it. We chatted with him for maybe a minute about Houston (since he’s played there) and about the WSOP (he asked what we were in town for). I told him he should give the Main Event a try and offered to coach him, but he said something to the effect of wanting to leave that stuff to the big boys like Hellmuth.

The next afternoon, we were walking through the Forum Shops at Caesars and noticed Pete Rose signing autographs at a collectables store (he’s the one with the hat on).

So in a span of like 15 hours, we saw two of the most famous baseball players of all-time, both of whom, incidentally, have had their storied careers overshadowed by controversy. Pretty ironic.

At the Ante Up for Africa event, we saw Matt Damon (black hat in the one seat; note the very DOJ-friendly table draw of Lederer and Ferguson seated together):

Jerome Bettis (ten seat) and Don Cheadle (seven seat):

And David Alan Grier:

I was surprised at how short Matt Damon is. He stood up at one point when his table broke and was like… little. The internet says he’s 5’10″, but he didn’t look an inch over 5’7″ to me. All in all, the celebs in the tournament seemed to be enjoying themselves. You could tell poker is still new and exciting to them. Ahh… I remember those days.

Today is Day 1A of the Main Event and I’m still not sure if I’m playing or not, though I would say it’s pretty unlikely at this point. I might try a couple of satellites, but barring luckboxing one of those, I doubt I’ll play this year. I’ll be fairly disappointed if I don’t end up playing, but what can you do?

The plan for the next few days is to bet soccer (Netherlands over Uruguay and Spain over Germany both for fairly big bets) and try to run hot in a couple of satellites or something. If push comes to shove, I might put a couple hundo on a number on roulette and try to spike a Main Event seat (how good does that story have the potential to be?). I’m taking suggestions for what number to bet (0-36). The suggestion with the most logical reasoning for why that number will hit might just get my action!

A No-Limit Cash!

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

I finally cashed in a no-limit tournament the other day bringing my total for the summer to 1/15. We had 289 players return for day two of Event 49, a $1500 no-limit tournament. It didn’t take long to pop the money bubble at 270. I talked about it some in a previous entry, but it’s worth reiterating: it absolutely blows my mind how much information poker players give away verbally at the table. Before the cards were even in the air on day two, a player at my table announced to everyone, “I’m here to win, not just to cash.” Gee, thanks for the information buddy! Trying to figure out whether a player is one to nit-it-up like crazy before the money or gamb00l without regard for a min-cash is actually a pretty important piece of information and can have a big impact on the range of hands you play against that individual, so it was nice of him to fill in the pieces for us.

In general, I’ve just been amazed all summer at how much information players give away verbally. I think it must be social nerves or something. Tournaments are an anxiety-provoking activity and so to cope with that, some players just run their mouths and tell the table everything they’re thinking as a means of calming themselves down. That or maybe people just forget that poker isn’t a friendly, social activity; it’s people trying to take each other’s money. When the topic of conversation is poker, be friendly and social with people away from the tables. That’s my take, anyway.

So back to the $1500… before we got into the money, I doubled up a short-stack with 88 vs. his TT. That hand pretty much narrowed my decisions down to shove or fold which for a little while was pretty much shove Queens+ or fold because we were only a couple players away from the money and I really wasn’t in the mood to bubble out and wind up going the whole summer without cashing in a no-limit tournament.

After we got into the money, I doubled up, doubled someone else up to get back to where I was, then doubled up again after shoving Jack-Three suited and having the big blind tank forever before calling (“well, at least I’m live,” I thought) with Ace-Three (“okay, nevermind”). I flopped a Jack on that hand which I swear had to be the first time I’ve sucked out on anyone in an all-in pot all summer in a no-limit tournament. That’s no exaggeration either. I can’t recall one single suckout I’ve put on anyone all summer.

Having played enough tournaments to know that you have to pretty much hit at least one suckout in order to go really deep, I was starting to think that maybe it was my day after that Jack-Three hand. My table was ridiculously soft; like, restored-my-confidence-in-poker type of soft.

One guy got moved to our table with 30k in chips and said, “this is going to be my lucky table.” Ten hands later, he was sitting on 90k and opened the pot for the 6th or 7th time since arriving. I looked at King-Queen in the cutoff and re-raised all-in for 17 big blinds figuring I was probably comfortably ahead of his opening range. He snap-called with Ace-King and Suckout #2 was not to be had. That put me out in exactly 150th place for $3.4k. Although I’m still in the red for the summer, it was nice to cash in at least one no-limit event before leaving the desert.

My girlfriend got into town a few hours after I busted. It’s her first trip to Vegas, so I’m showing her around this weekend. Last night, we went to Nove (Italian restaurant at the top of the Palms) for dinner. It was absolutely awesome. The service was impeccable and every bite of everything we ordered was delicious. I could taste their basil pesto pine nut risotto in my dreams.

I think we’re gonna try to see a show tonight. I’m not sure which one yet. I’m kind of Cirque’d out, so maybe Phantom of the Opera at Venetian or something.

No more poker until early next week which will be either the Main Event or the Caesars $1k. I obviously really want to play the Main Event, but I’m not going to kill myself trying to get in. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I’ll enjoy a weekend with my girlfriend and figure out the tangibility of the Main Event early next week.

Exitonly Final Table Sweat and a Day Two

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

It’s been a couple of days since I’ve written an entry and a lot has happened since then, but unfortunately I don’t have a ton of time right not to talk about it, so this will be kinda brief.

Two days ago, I busted out of the $1k at WSOP. I don’t even remember how, but I think it was before dinner break. Yea, it definitely was before dinner break, because on dinner break I drove Ray Coburn (Exitonly) and Jimmy Fricke (gobboboy) to Taco Bell where I remember asking them what it was like to still be in a tournament. In Ray’s case, he was on day three of a $1500 event and was down to the final table when they broke for dinner (Jimmy was just in day one of the $1k that I just busted).

The reason I was hanging around with poker players on dinner break despite not being in any tournaments was because Ray is one of my best friends in poker and has helped me with my tournament game to such an immense degree that I wasn’t going to miss sweating a final table of his for anything. I started talking to Ray online in 2005 when we were both grinding micro-stakes multi-table tournaments. Ray won the monthly tournament leaderboard on Stars one month mostly from just crushing $1-$3 buy-ins. He and I became pretty good friends from talking online and have remained that way for six years now.

Despite Ray probably having always been a better thinking player than myself, he’s never quite had any huge breakthrough scores. When I was running hotter than the sun in 2008, a part of me always felt a little bummed for Ray. Put yourself in his shoes: a guy that you taught how to play is crushing everything and popping up on ESPN and you’re swamped in make-up. That’s the way poker goes, Ray knows that, but to say that he’s been “overdue” for a large score would be a huge understatement.

Well… his large score finally came.

Sunday night, I found myself and probably 20 of Ray’s closest friends in the poker world (most of them, heck, all of them 2p2ers), on the rail of the $1500 final table. This was the first time I’ve ever had the chance to sweat a good friend at a huge live final table, so I was pretty excited and even more excited that it was Ray. Incidentally, one table over, my friend Leif Force was playing at the $5000 PLO/8 final table. So after going years of never getting to sweat a friend at a WSOP final table, I get two chances in one night. (Leif would go on to finish 6th for $65k, nice job Leif!)

There was a Brazilian at Ray’s final table which meant one thing: Brazilian railbirds. Those guys know how to sweat their countrymen. They had Brazilian flags, alcohol, even a vuvuzela! The highlight of the final table was when the Brazilian got all-in against Ray (for most of Ray’s chips, too) three-handed. Ray held 98 and the Brazilian held QQ all-in on a T87 flop. The atmosphere was like a World Cup game; both sides were going nuts rooting for their guy. Our rail went absolutely insane when a six came on the river. “U-S-RAY! U-S-RAY!” It was probably the most excited I’ve ever been about a card in a game of poker. I couldn’t be happier for Ray.

After he and Jesse Rockowitz took some off the table before their heads-up battle, Ray built up a 3:1 lead and could almost feel a bracelet around his wrist until Jesse won a couple of big pots and put him away fairly quickly. No regrets for Ray though; he played great and landed an absolutely huge score ($550k)!

Okay, I really am running out of time, so I’ll have to wrap this up by saying that I made day two of a $1500 at WSOP. I’m trying to do my Ray Coburn impression. Right now, there are 315 players remaining, 270 will finish in the money, I have 27,300 and blinds are 600/1200 when we resume in a little over an hour. The only time I was all-in was after four-betting Dyzalot with Ace-King and being pretty happy to see him make a fairly big overcall with Ace-Queen. Queen in the door. Jack, ten behind it. I’ll probably post updates from the table on Facebook (just search for my name) if you’re interested in following along. It might be a little while before I get another entry up; my girlfriend gets into town tonight, tomorrow is my birthday, and hopefully I’ll be at day three of the $1500 taking one down.

Found: Holy Grail of Roulette

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

I guess it’s been a couple of days since I’ve written anything here. On some evenings or mornings when I’m contemplating whether or not to write a blog entry, it is not uncommon that I take a pass on account of not really having done anything since the last time I wrote. I know it might seem like being in Vegas for the WSOP could never get boring, but when every day is very similar to the one before it, it’s easy to start to feel a little bored after a few weeks here.

Two days ago, I busted out of the $1500 no-limit event in level three. I think it was probably the worst event I’ve had all summer in terms of how quickly I busted out and how small my peak chip stack was relative to the starting stack. We started with 4.5k in chips and I’m pretty sure I was never over 5k before losing a handful of pots and shoving 1,700 after looking at one Ace on the button during 75/150. The big blind quickly called with Kings. I squeezed a pointy-card, but alas, it was the Ace’s tranny cousin, a 4, and I was making my way out of the Rio as early as I have in any tournament this summer.

Later that night, I met up with my buddy and infrequent PokerTips blogger Steve. He and I joined my friend Dave, who was a blogger on here last year but is too cool for PokerTips now or something, for a meal at Isla in Treasure Island (excuse me, TI). Isla is a decent Mexican place which has guacamole and margaritas, both of which were exactly what I was in the mood for.

Steve and I parted ways with Dave after dinner in search of some single-zero roulette. I didn’t even know you could find single-zero roulette anywhere in the US, but Steve assured me that Venetian has it. For those of you who don’t understand the ins-and-outs of pit games very well, most roulette tables in the US have two green zeros. The wheels in Europe have just one. Single-zero roulette has a much lower house-edge than US-style roulette (2.7% vs. 5.4%). Sure enough, there it was at the Venetian in all its glory: a roulette wheel with just one zero. Unfortunately, it was a $100 minimum bet table which was a little more than either of us were looking to gamble.

Steve mentioned that Aria, the newest casino on the Strip, also has single-zero roulette and that when he was there at 2:00 am last Friday, it was just a $25 minimum table. So we made our way out of the Venetian on a quest for the cheaper single-zero wheel at Aria. On our way out, I saw this:

I knew it was just a matter of time before I saw someone playing online poker while seated at a brick-and-mortar table and wasn’t the least bit surprised that it was a kid wearing a hoodie.

As we crawled down the Strip in my Infiniti from Treasure Island to Aria, Steve explained to me how his whole single-zero session at Aria last week came and went without ever seeing the ball land on the zero. His perspective on roulette is that it’s a vig-free game except for when the ball hits the zero and then all of your bets on the table are just your way of paying vig. That doesn’t change the house-edge or anything, but it’s a nice, comforting little way to view the game.

Not too long after we pulled up a chair at the $25 single-zero table at Aria, the ball found the zero. “Damn,” we exclaimed, “I guess we’re paying vig tonight.” Rather than collecting each of our $25 that was resting on red, the dealer took away three of the $5 chips and added three $1 chips to the top of our two remaining $5 chips. We both just looked at each other in disbelief. Is what we think is happening really happening? Yup! At Aria, they give you half of your bet back when the zero hits on their roulette table! We were like a couple of nerds who just cracked some secret code. “Holy crap! Roulette with a 1.3% house-edge in the nicest casino in Vegas! This is great!”

And like that, Aria is now my favorite casino in Vegas. I already liked it a lot before discovering their generous roulette rules; they built a really nice, trendy casino without taking it too far over the top on the douche-factor (like, say, Wynn does). I guess they also have blackjack switch with player-friendly rules too which is a great game that’s tough to find in most casinos. Aria will definitely be seeing most of my pit-game action on this and future trips to Vegas.


Yesterday, I woke up early again for soccer, a practice that is becoming routine for me during the World Cup. After watching Uruguay put away South Korea, which was the result I was rooting for, I have money on Uruguay to win it all, Dave and I headed to Lagasse’s in Palazzo to watch the US-Ghana match. This is hands-down the best place I’ve been to in Vegas for watching games. They have TVs absolutely everywhere and a ton of different bars, couches, and chairs that allow you to have whatever viewing experience you wish. There is no other place in Vegas I would care to be for watching the US during the World Cup.

Unfortunately, this was the last time for a while that I’ll need Lagasse’s for US World Cup viewing purposes. Ghana played great and scored two goals on the few opportunities they were able to create; US just couldn’t capitalize on their chances and like that, they’re out of the World Cup. I was pretty depressed when the game ended and decided to drown away the pain with a distraction: the $350 event at Venetian. It worked pretty well. After a couple of hours of playing poker, I had mostly put the US demise behind me.

The tournament was nothing special: I lost a race for a 35k pot during 300/600 and got my last few big blinds all-in with King-Seven suited against pocket Queens in a blind-vs-blind battle.


Soon, I’m heading out the door for Day 1B of this weekend’s $1000 donkament special. One of my best friends in poker and the guy more responsible than anyone else for helping me grow into an adept tournament player, Ray Coburn (Exitonly online), is 7th in chips with 35 left in the $1500 event that I mentioned busting out of earlier. So it looks like it’ll be a long day for me at the Rio regardless of how I do in the $1k: Ray is one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the poker world and is as deserving of a bracelet and a huge score as much as anyone could ever be “deserving” of such a thing; I look forward to sweating him at a WSOP final table!

Another No-Limit Event

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Another washout.

Today was a $560 at Venetian. Things were going nicely for a while, I won some pots, flopped a set and dodged two outs, and was sitting on 45k during 300/600 when I lost a 65k pot with KTdd all-in against TT on a 932dd flop. A few hands later, I got AJdd all-in preflop against the same guy’s 99 for a 28 big blind pot and watched him flop quads. Run better against me in races, dude.

One individual at our table was setting records for how long it took him to fold each hand. An older gentleman at the table timed him and determined that he was taking an average of 9 seconds to act preflop. If that doesn’t seem like a long time, believe me, it is. When most players fold preflop, they do so in about 1-2 seconds from the time the action is on them. Nine seconds is considerably long. I told him that I’ve never seen someone take so long to play each hand. If he was wasting 7 seconds per hand more than a replacement player, that means he was wasting a full 5 minutes and 15 seconds per hour if we assume we were playing 45 hands per hour. Five minutes an hour wasted waiting on this guy to fold!

On one hand, my lone opponent began to reach for his chips to make a bet on the flop and I just went ahead and folded while he tried to determine his bet size. I told the table, “I’m trying to re-coup some of our time that this guy is wasting.” Everyone laughed since they were all equally annoyed at him. Despite the chastising, he seemed unfazed and continued wasting time every hand. I would love to have it in me to be that selfish and inconsiderate to others. Life must be a total charm when you can do whatever you feel like and not be least bit affected by how your actions impact others. I’m sure he never uses a turn signal and likes to smoke cigars indoors too!

Something I got to thinking about at the table today was how much poker players seem to discuss strategy right at the table with their opponents and why this is obviously dumb from a value standpoint. I know making comments like, “I figured you were three-betting fairly wide there otherwise I probably wouldn’t have shoved that hand,” is just harmless social small-talk, but it’s actually pretty dumb for a few reasons.

First, you’re basically announcing to the table that you’re a good, thinking player. Why make it easy on them? Second, you’re encouraging bad, non-thinking players to become thinking players. I understand that away from the tables people are going to talk about poker and improve, but do it away from the tables! Let’s not forget that when you’re sitting at a poker table, the other people at the table are your opponents. You are playing a game where the objective is to beat them. I have no problem with people being social at the table about things that have nothing to do with poker, but why would you be social/friendly when the discussion topic is poker? It just doesn’t make sense to me and is a leak that a lot of players seem to have.

In general, players seem to discuss strategy at the table so regularly that it can be exploited. Since so many players give away information by verbalizing their exact thought process on key hands, the practice has become common enough that it’s gotten to the point where players almost expect you to disclose information! It seems like there’s always a few people who like to ask, “would you have called if I shoved there?” or “I wasn’t sure if AQ was in your three-betting range there or not…” that they make it really easy on you to mislead them. That’s what poker is about, right? Misleading people and inducing mistakes? Some players seem to make it all too easy to do this. You can set up whatever image you want to have with your words almost easier than you can with your play.

Alright, that’s enough about poker. Let’s talk about soccer. I feel like those two words describe my whole summer: poker and soccer.

I made a couple of World Cup outright winner bets tonight. I took Japan at 100:1 (Pinnacle has them at just 75:1) and Uruguay at 15:1. Both of those teams have fairly soft paths to the semi-finals. In the case of Japan, there will be quite the handsome hedging opportunity if they can get there.

A couple of other bets I’m eyeing are England at 10:1 and Netherlands at 8:1. Before the tournament started, England was 7:1. They allowed one fluke goal in their entire group stage, advanced, and are now 10:1?! The consensus seems to be that England is a disappointment, but I think if their attack can improve a little, people will be quickly reminded of why they were one of the favorites coming into the tournament. In the case of Netherlands, I just love them. They’re able to get away with being so attack-focused because their mid-fielders win a lot of balls which allow them to skimp a little defensively without consequence. My only concern with them is that they’ll almost certainly have to face Brazil or Spain in the quarterfinals which is unfortunate. If they were able to avoid playing the Big 3 (Argentina being the other one) until the semifinals, it would be a much easier position to derive hedge-value from. What am I saying? Hedging an 8:1 is pretty nitty. I’ll just bet it and root for them to win it all if/when US is eliminated.

Tomorrow is a $1,500 at the Rio.