Monday, November 30, 2009

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Inside one of the many conversations spawned by the many messages I received encouraging me to stick with it and not give up there appeared a list of questions about what being a prop actually entails. Since I am in the process of shifting to zombie time and was planning to write a post tonight anyway (either about this batshit insane guy I played with today, or one regarding Pete running AA into QQ on a TT3-Q-A board that I've been meaning to write, or perhaps one going through my results and figuring out what's going on with this whole "30/60" thing) but didn't really feel up to fleshing out any of the topics I just mentioned, I'm going to take this and run with it. In general if you have something you'd like me to write about, just ask. One good way to get me to actually do it is to somehow include a list. I like lists; they are simple, completable, and do not forget things.

From a friendly neighborhood two plus twoer via PM:

Can I make a request (for your blog or on PM, whatever)? Can you explain exactly what it is that a prop does for those of us who don't know exactly what goes on?

- You mention shifts, but what if no games need propping? Do you sit around or are you free to play whatever you want? Do you have set shifts or are you on call?

Most props have set shifts during which they are expected to show up at the casino and be available to play in games. Bay 101 (at least) has some "special" props that don't seem to have a set schedule. I don't know if these props are on call, or if they function more as game hosts, in that they try to gather the troops to get the 80/160 going, or if they really just show up whenever they want. Chuck Thompson once told me his duties as a prop at Bay 101 basically entailed glad handing high rollers during the Shooting Star. The other 50 weeks a year he pretty much has no responsibilities whatsoever. But back to me and my super junior level prop status. If no games need propping props seem to be able to mostly choose what they want to do. If they want to sit out, they sit out. If they want to play 20/40, they generally seem to be able to do that. I have a set schedule to work Friday - Tuesday, 11pm to 6am. As with most jobs that run 24 hours a day, when you first get hired you work grave. If they need somebody on days, they move someone on grave and you take his place. My goal is to be off graveyard within 4 months, if I make it that long.

- Do you get assigned to specific games by the floor, or are you assigned to a specific limit? Can you table change as a prop?

This varies by shift. The day time Garden City props pretty much start games. When they want to fire up a new 20/40 but don't have quite enough customers, they put 3 or 4 props into the game to get it going. Once there are customers waiting, the props may or may not pick up. Some do, some don't, and it seems to vary from day to day. One thing that does get them up is when the floor wants to start the 40/80 game. Then you'll see Frank, Magic, and Eric all pick up out of the 20 and move to a new table, and the 40/80 game will start. Once it's full and there is a list, they are welcome to pick up but also seem to be allowed to stay. As a graveyard prop I'll probably do the opposite. At some point the 40/80 game will get short, and I'll be picked up out of whatever game I'm playing (hopefully 20/40, but perhaps solitaire on my iPhone) and sat in it until it either fills up (at which point I'll be like the day time guys above) or breaks. The bay 20/40 props do table change, some quite frequently (Mila) and others basically never (Steve). Just like some players :)

- What's the lowest limit that they prop? (Aside: does the Oaks prop the 6/12? A non-dealer with an employee card the other day showed up when our game was shorthanded.) Might you end up propping NL/SL? Non-Texas Hold 'Em (stud, Omaha, lowball)?

A friend of mine who props at Garden City shared his November results with me, and he had a non-zero number of hours played at every game spread in the casino except the 10-200 spread limit game. A prop position (and it's rate of pay) is defined by the biggest game the prop is willing to play. At Garden City right now I believe there are 3 levels, 40/80, 20/40, and 8/16, and I think a similar thing happens at Bay 101 (with the obvious change that they have some props who play the 80/160 game). The higher you play, the more you are paid. I will be expected to play every poker game in the casino (with the possible exception of the 10-200 spread....I'm not sure if I have to gamble with those guys...if I do you will see a grotesque display of short-stacked nittery the likes of which have never graced the felts of Garden City). The Oaks I believe also has 3 levels (30/60, 15/30, and "small"), but I think all those guys are expected to play Stud and Omaha (but not the absurd self dealt 60 lowball game where check/raise is not permitted). This is not a problem at Garden City, since there is no Stud and seldom if ever Omaha. And if there is I'll gladly play 4/8 Omaha.

- Will you not be on the graveyard shift someday, or are daytime props not generally needed? Did you request the graveyard shift or was it assigned to you?

It was assigned to me, and I'll be on grave 5 days a week. Switching back and forth between shifts is not something I'd really go for if graveyard was involved (mixing and matching day and swing shifts might be fact my friend does that currently). As I said above, if they need somebody on days, they move somebody from grave and hire a new person on grave.

- Are you allowed to play in GC apart from your prop shift? Will you be playing when off-duty, or are you going to limit your poker to the prop shift?

The only rule is that I have to wear my badge whenever I am on Garden City property. Also the employee handbook talks of the "10 hour rule", basically saying they want all employees to leave the premises 10 hours before the start of their next shift in order for them to show up at work well-rested and the like. I don't think this is strictly enforced by management or the floor, but I could be mistaken. I don't plan to play much at all other than the 35 hours I'm on duty. My hope is to use this set schedule ramp up my reading of 2 plus 2, join deuces cracked, and start playing more hands online. Might I take one for the team and continue playing past 6am once and a while? Perhaps if I'm in a good game, but I don't plan to make a habit of it.

- You are not a shill (playing with casino money), right? You play with your own money and get paid on top of whatever you win or lose?

Yes. I play with my own money and am expected to be bottomless. If I am stuck 6 racks and the game is 6 handed, my choices are to keep playing or punch out. Obviously punching out (and not getting paid) is frowned upon, but it's a big trump card that I assume I could play every few months if need be. I don't think it'll come up very often. When my shift ends, however, I can quit a guy HUHU and there ain't shit he can do about it.

- How many props does a casino employ? By my calculations, the rate of pay for a single prop eats a considerable portion of the rake a table generates, so having 3 props at a table means virtually no profit for the casino.

I don't have an answer to this question, but my general sense at least for Garden City is "too many". I've thought about this a lot and props have both short and long term value for the casino. In the short term they keep games going and allow the casino to generate more rake per hour by having more games running. But as you point out this value is limited, since the props do get paid a non-trivial sum (20/40 props generally get paid a fair bit less, as I mentioned, and the green chip props again take another pay cut...this is simply because there are more people willing to prop the smaller games I think). Long term value is what Garden City is going for by hiring all these new 40/80 props. If you think about it, there is a single unstable point of equilibrium for a given poker game, whereby it just barely avoids breaking everyday and two brave souls soldier on HUHU in the wee hours of the morning until other customers get up the nerve to sit down and play 3, 4, 5 handed and the game eventually fills up. If the game gets any weaker than this, it breaks everyday and you have to go through the hassle of starting it back up, which can be difficult and frustrating. Players will show up and there will be no game. They will be told "we'll start one soon" but they won't know when soon is or what, and when it goes they'll be asked to play potentially 5 handed with a bunch of props. Sometimes it won't go at all. Garden City's goal is to get the 40/80 game strong enough that it never breaks, running 24/7. This makes their customers happy, as they know they can show up any time, day or night, and make big gambooool.

I hope that was informative. Or interesting. Or some other i-word at least.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


That word, it does not mean what you think it means....Last night I got bludgeoned, again, in The Oaks 30/60, to the tune of $2600 in 2.75 hours. To make a long story short, I won a single pot, in which I 3-bet preflop and ALL THREE of my opponents folded the flop of AA4 when I held AQ. Basically this means none of them even had a pair of 2s. Other than that I ran nut-flush draws into flopped sets and didn't get there, nut flushes into full houses, aces into a set of queens, KK into the mighty big gamble (53 sooted). I couldn't flop a pair with AK, I got two outtered on the river (twice) with trip aces (both times) and just things were awful.

So I came home and was close to a mental collapse. I thought I was out of the woods, I thought I was gonna make it, and instead in the last 4 days I've lost almost $7000. I made a post on 2p2, and have subsequently received an overwhelming show of support from every corner of my social network. In the thread literally half a dozen people gave me thoughtful advice or simply claimed that they were rooting for me. I received a long PM from someone I've never met, encouraging me not to give up. I got emails offering an ear to listen. Texts asking me to lunch. A phone call from a man due to deep fry a turkey in a matter of minutes just checking in, making sure I was alright, and letting me know that damn it he cared and wanted me to succeed.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I'm thankful that I do actually have people who care and places to turn to for support. And nothing is over until I say it is.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

8 Hours of Employee Orientation

I got word from Garden City this morning that they have received my badge from the San Jose Police Department. This was astonishing, since my appointment was just last Thursday (at 5pm no less) and I was told it would take 2-3 weeks for my badge to arrive at the HR department. Since the rest of this process has moved at what can only be described as a glacial pace, I was figuring 2-3 weeks would turn into 4, then I'd have to wait for an orientation of some sorts and then it'd be an other week before I could even get scheduled and all of a sudden it'd be the middle of January before I could get about the proppin'.

Not so. I'm to report for orientation tomorrow at 9:30am, dressed casually, and prepared for an EIGHT HOUR ordeal. The guy actually told me it would take until 5:30pm. Now I feel like I'm a pretty smart guy, but I can't really understand what it is they are going to spend 480 minutes telling me tomorrow. It would seem that in eight hours I could probably learn a substantial portion of what it would take to run the entire casino. But it's not like I have a I'll schlep my way down there in the teeth of traffic and hear all about policies (don't do drugs...on the premises) and sexual harassment (don't fondle the dealers) and the like, then schlep my way back in the teeth of traffic because my dogs' bladders will be about to explode. But the simple fact of the matter is that at some point tomorrow I'm going to meet with a guy who's going to give me a schedule, and all of a sudden I'm going to be an employee, with a boss, co-workers, and all that other stuff that everyone else has to deal with. I'm going to have to show up at set times, and I'm going to have to schedule my life around this job, and to be honest I'm not sure how it's going to go. But time will tell, and I sure could use the cash flow.

More Misery

You know, despite warnings from everyone (Pete, Babar, Danielle, and others) that I need to maintain a positive attitude and that doing posts like this is bad for my state of mind, I'm going to make this post on the premise that writing it all down helps me release the memories from my mind. They say to be a good poker player you need a very short memory, and writing down the times I get eviscerated helps make mine shorter.

First of all we had the joy that was Sunday. I watched the Steelers lose to the Kansas City Chefs in deplorable fashion, then went to The Oaks for my daily beating. At first there wasn't even a 15/30 game (only a chock-full-o-nuts 30/60) and I sat at 6/12. I won half a rack in 10 hands. Then they called down the 15/30 game, and I won half a rack in 20 hands. Then I moved up to the 30/60 game, didn't win a hand for 75 minutes, decided to drop back to 15/30 as the 30 had basically over-fished itself, promptly flopped a set of 3s and turned two pair from the big blind to win another half a rack in like an hour or so, then went back up to the 30/60 game and proceeded to not win a pot for another 75 minutes. So in the small games I won like a rack and a half over the course of barely 2 hours, and in the 30 I went potless (not like just a small pot or just stole the blinds once or whatever...completely potless) for 2 and a half hours. Now since it was in two different sittings I can't really count it, but 2.5 hours without a single pot (in what by this point was mostly 6-7 handed play, mind you) would probably be a record for me. Eventually I get pushed two pots in a row and somehow, some way I am somewhere in the general vicinity of even for the day (I sort of intentionally lost count of how much I was in from all the game-changing, but I had over 2 racks in front of me and that was somewhere near what I'd bought). But it was not to be. I was planning to get home by 9 or 10 and and as the hour approached I missed 3 flush draws in 5 hands and that as they say was that. I only lost 30 bets at 30/60, but as usual it seems that I ran bad in the biggest game I played and good in the others. I've done some thinking the past few days and decided that varying the stakes you play by a largish margin (a factor of 2 or more) is a really good way to introduce another degree of freedom into your results, which is just a fancy way of saying it's a good way to make it possible that you can run bad for longer. But what is one to do; when they 40 is good, you sit, right?

Yesterday the 40 was good. It was so unbelievably good I can't even go into words. I played some 20/40 waiting for a seat (which is rare for me....usually I put my name up for the 40 and decide when I get called if I'll take it or not. Not yesterday. Yesterday I wanted the 40 and that was all there was to it) and got called around 11:15am (early day). I ambled over to the game, waited patiently to post in, and promptly lost a rack and a half in an hour. I've gotten to the point with the 40 that I'm actually scared of it, mainly because I know that playing it all day can cause me to take truly big losses, like 3 or 4 thousand dollar losses. So I picked up and went back to the 20/40 game, stuck like $1700 and planning to play for another 4-6 hours. You can't play scared or frustrated; it's just not a good idea. This hand kind of illustrates it:

The button open-limps. This is not some trick with kings, he really just open-limped the button in a 7 handed 40/80 game because that's how he rolls. I raise with AQo and Ed H calls the big blind. Ed is...let's just say "good for the game" right now. The button calls and we see:

973 with two diamonds

I lead out with a 100% completely standard continuation bet, and Ed H raises. The button calls two cold and I peel at 11:1 closing the action figuring to have 6 clean outs the majority of the time. With implied odds, it's a super easy call. The button still being in the hand is a concern, but he probably doesn't have a flush draw (he'd 3-bet....that's also how he rolls) and he is unlikely to have my Ace outs reverse dominated (with like A3 or A7 or something) since he'd have raised preflop with those hands. Honestly I think he has some sort of gut-shot with overcard(s) draw.


Victory! An ace would have been a tough card to play, since Ed might check back his one pair hands, but a Queen is basically gin in this situation. I check, Ed bets, and the button calls once more. I spring the raise and Ed 3-bets me before I finish cutting off the chips. The button folds meekly and I call the 3-bet and the blank river. Ed shows me Q3s and I lose my cool for a second, slamming some chips on the table. The reason I lost it is pretty obvious and still pretty inexcusable. On the flop there are 45 cards that aren't on board or in Ed or I's hand. Two (2) of them get me to lose more money on this hand, three (3) put me in command of the hand, and the other forty (40) probably result in me folding or perhaps getting a free look at the river (Ed does have a pair of 3s for crying out loud. Something tells me he's not betting the King of diamonds). But what card do I get? The one that costs $320. Did I spike any of my nine outs on the river? Of course not. And can I fold the river? Well, not really at 14:1. Ed really could have AQ or even KQ or QJ of diamonds. Like I said, he's good for the game.

So I move back down to 20/40 and am seated at simply one of the best tables I have ever seen. Double O is there. Mega-Fish Indian guy is there. Tom B is there. Guy who open raises A3s under the gun is there. It's just a giant party. So Megafish open limps UTG and I raise AJo in about the high jack. This is sorta like a combo iso/value raise. If I get it heads up or 3 way I'm h happy, but my hand is good enough to hold up against more action. The cutoff, button and big blind all call, and megafish calls obviously. So we're off, 5 ways for 2 bets a piece.


I even have the ace of diamonds. Looking at this board objectively, there are really not any terrible turn cards for me to even see. Sure a ten, queen or king is bad, but otherwise I'm pretty safe. A 2 or 5 adds a gutshot to my hand, and any diamond gives me the nut flush draw. Sure people can have straight draws around the 43, but in general this is pretty darn good. Two of them check and I bet. The cutoff raises, and they all call. Not some of them. All of them call two bets cold. I 3-bet, he calls, and they all call again. 25 small bets now and I am the lead dog.


Jiminy Christmas I've done it! Two of them check and I fire. All 3 of them call....then Megafish raises! I look into his soul and like what I see. Specifically, I see the last jack, not pocket 3s or 4s. This guy is bad, but he's super-over-aggro bad. He doesn't make expert slow play (which is actually good for him, since he raises and over plays so many hands) and him having a full house just doesn't make sense. How could he have top pair then you ask? Yeah, that's troubling also, but he was facing a 5 handed pot that had already been raised. Maybe he didn't want to check/3-bet two players who obviously had monsters. I dunno, but with 3 players left behind me calling isn't much of an option. I 3-bet. They all fold and Megafish calls only. This is it, I'm gonna drag this $1000 monster.


He donks. Just fires right out there. No check/raise, no hollywood, just fires. I call and he rolls QJo.

A few hands later I 3-bet "guy who raises A3s UTG" with AJo from the small blind. This guy had raised Double O's limp in like super early position, so maybe he actually has something this time, but I really doubt it. Double O folds somehow (he's tightened up a bit it seems) and the guy calls. We'll run this one quickly:


He calls


He calls


He raises. I call and he shows me T9o.

I have a few more but they really pale in comparison. Megafish calls 3 bets cold from the small blind with 32s (after a laggy guy opened and a nitty guy 3-bet while on the phone) and I defend my BB with 99 (good seat change Jesse). The board of course runs out like 754-5-6 and he actually check/raises me on the river. The other two players had AK....And then I flop bottom two pair (queens and tens) and manage to lose to QJ when the board pairs the Ace on the river. My opponent actually had like close to 10 outs there, so that one wasn't even that interesting.

Today it's off to The Oaks for some 30/60 madness. Maybe I'll be allowed to win :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Bruno's a nice guy. He is a floor man (or maybe shift manager) at The Oaks and spends his spare time playing in the 30/60 game. The thing about Bruno, however, is that he is constantly complaining about running bad. You all know the type, the guy who is constantly bemoaning his luck, always complaining that he can't win, etc etc. The thing with Bruno is that 95% of it is true. For every person on a life time heater, there is someone in a perpetual cooler. Well, not really, since most of those people quit because as I've learned poker just isn't very fun if you're getting soul-crushed 4 days out of 5. But Bruno really runs bad.

So I'm playing live 30 today and the guy on my left puts the live straddle on. That's right its 30/60 and he's straddling. At 15/30 he was doing it every single orbit, here at 30 he's only tried it out twice so far with poor results. Bob the prop (former prop, I don't know, he wasn't wearing his badge) calls two cold, as does Hemp Man (my God, Hemp probably have the largest gap between your perceived and actual abilities I have ever seen). Bruno just calls in the small blind, and I somehow fold my hand (I wish I had a picture of that hand, cause it had to be truly, truly terrible). Straddle-fish now raises and Hemp Man says "You finally picked up a hand on the straddle eh?" and the response is "Well, we'll see what happens." I decide it is time for some humor. "I already know what's going to happen" I declare boldly. "Oh, really, what's that?" is the response from the group. "You're going to river Bruno! There, I've called my shot." The table is riotous with laughter, and even Bruno concurs "You know, this kid is on to something" They all call and there are 13 bets in the pot when the dealer flings out a beaut:

7c 6d 2d

Now I have to admit, I do not remember how all 4 bets went in, or in which order all 4 people called them, but I am pretty sure every it was something like bet call raise 3-bet call call cap call. I think Bob put in 2 and 4 bets, with Hemp Man doing the 3-bet and Bruno just kind of scratching his head wondering what happened after he donked the flop and straddle-fish doing what he does best, calling all bets. At this point I comment "Well, it's gonna be tough," since the action seems to indicate that Bob and Hemp Man have the real hands. But hope is not lost. Now the turn in the 29 small bet pot:

7c 6d 2d 9h

Bruno fires. This is odd because he basically had just called like twice on the flop after firing the first bet. Stradle-fish calls and Bob raises again. Hemp Man is undeterred by this preposterous flow of action and calls two bets cold with what later proves to be a clean 3-outter. Bruno shake his head and calls and I say "What would be a fun card here? I don't even want to speculate" and Straddle Fish says "How about a diamond?!" and calls the last bet. We've got our selves a 23ish big bet pot (that's about 1500 American Dollars) and the river brings:

7c 6d 2d 9h Jc Bruno is first to show and tables pocket Tens. How he didn't 3-bet preflop is beyond me, but otherwise his play makes pretty decent sense for The Oaks 30/60 "I will put in 4 bets on the flop with anything that resembles a draw and then check behind on the turn because hahahaha I am smarter than you and got a free card" game.

"No good, I have a jack!" declares Straddle Fish as he tables KJdd. He rivered him! Bob....mucks! Hemp Man...mucks! Bruno asks to see the hands and is show 87o (not a diamond in site) from Bob and 74dd from Hemp Man. Bruno is beside himself and asks "Could you do me a favor? Please keep your predictions about my hand to yourself from now on."

I'm just that good.

Friday, November 20, 2009

You Learn Something Every Day; If You're' Not Careful

Most of my days are pretty much the same. I wake up, get myself ready for the day (I eat, take care of the dogs, sometimes I work out either at home or on the way in), play poker for 5-8 hours, then do something in the evening to try to not think about poker. Also at some point I try to read two plus two, in an effort to learn something. This last week, however, my days were much less interesting, as I had the flu (not H1N1, just the regular old kick you in the ass flu) and didn't play a single live hand from Sunday night until Thursday morning. Even sequestered in my apartment, avoiding all possible human contact and wishing only for my temperature to drop back to double digits, I managed to learn things at an astounding rate. Here now I will present to you the knowledge that I have gained since I woke up Monday morning with a fever of 102.5.

Peyton Manning Will Kill You

Just do not bet against this man unless you're laying him a ton of points that he doesn't care about. He's gonna win the damn game. Danielle asked me when I got home Sunday "so how was the Pats Colts game" since she'd been recording it and I responded "Pats won by 2 or 3 touchdowns I stopped watching". Way to go Jesse, way to go. Danielle deleted the game from the DVR and was none to thrilled the next day.

Various Steven Seagal Tidbits

Now, don't feel bad if you already know some of this stuff. Knowing all of it might mean you have a problem, but if you only know a few of these things you should be fine. First of all, TNT seems to show a Steven Seagal movie every day, promptly at noon. Monday's offering was "Belly of the Beast", followed by Tuesday's "Today You Die" and Wednesday's "Urban Justice." I am ashamed to admit that I did actually watch the first two of these films and almost tuned into the third just to see if I could accurately predict every single thing that would happen during the next sequence of the movie during each commercial break (instead I watched 5 hours of the History Channel's "WWII in HD", which while good is decidedly not in HD). On Monday I had a pretty good excuse; I didn't even make it outside to get my laptop from the trunk of my car. Tuesday is harder to explain away. Anyways, the next thing I learned from this was the simple fact that "Holy shit Steven Seagal is still actively making movies!" This is an unassailable true fact. The man is making 2-4 crappy kung fu movies every year and still going strong. Do these movies get to theaters? They can't possibly! Even "Under Siege" wasn't that good, and it represented the zenith of his career. In 1992! I also learned all about the basic plot line and characters of any Steven Seagal movie. First, he plays a spiritual bad ass who, despite being 40 pounds over weight, is faster than a shaved rabbit/panther with turbines thingie and can break your leg in 407 different ways (approximately 200 of which you will see during any given movie). There are always monks, nuns, or voodoo priests involved at some level, and they usually get into it with each other, with the good monks all praying really hard and in unison to stave off the pin pricks of the bad-ass voodoo guy. There is of course a love interest, and the only requirements for here are that she is not white and cannot act. At all. He will have a partner throughout the movie, and this character will also typically be brown-skinned and not exactly Tom Hanks. Moving on to the actual plot; there is none. At the beginning somebody will fuck him over and you'll be pretty sure who did it. He'll probably end up in jail, at which point he'll start killing people. Then, for the next 90 minutes he will randomly kill more people. Who will he kill next? There's no point trying to guess, because they won't even bother to tell you how HE knows who he's supposed to kill next. He'll just show up at a house and start killing people. Why is he there? Left as an exercise to the viewer. Will he have a gun? Sometimes, but it really doesn't matter. He is never outmatched. 14 guys with automatic shotguns? No match for Steven Seagal and a single pool cue! 6 guys with swords? He'll kill them all with his shoe. Tanks and armored vehicles surrounding the house? He'll leave his brown partner downstairs to kill them all while he fights, mano a mano, upstairs with the head bad guy, winning when he actually chops the wooden arrow that's been fired at his chest in half with a samurai sword. You can't make this shit up, people. Unless, of course, you're Steven Seagal. Then you're making more of this shit up even as we speak.

Japan Took Over Alaska

OK that's not really true, but they did take over a couple of Alaskan islands early in WWII. I had been under the mistaken impression that nobody had ever seized control of any US held territory at any point in human history. How did the United States Army wrest back control of the island? We sent in Steven Seagal, of course. He killed 2000 Japanese soldiers with a single can of PBR. Game over.

I Am Awesome at Wii Mariokart

There's really not a lot to this one. I kick ass. I'll kick your ass if you want.

Fevers May or May Not Help Your Body Fight Infection

According to leo doc, who is in fact a doctor, fevers do nothing to help your body fight infection. According to lots of other sources throughout the interwebs, fevers do help your body fight infection. OK actually I didn't learn anything here, other than the fact that having a temperature in the 102s for 36 hours really freaking sucks and at least one really smart guy is sure that the fever is doing nothing but make me miserable and that I should just take as much Tylenol as my liver can safely handle to get my thermostat back to 98.something.

The Police Department is Like the DMV, Except Not Everyone Inside Could Pass A Driving Test

Why did I spend an hour inside the SJPD yesterday evening? Because there is a giant scam going on whereby Bay 101 and Garden City can only hire people who pass a certain set of requirements set forth by said Police Department. For the right to be vetted as having passed these requirements, one must show up at the station, sit around for a while, then have his picture, finger prints, and $385 taken. Oh, but why did specifically I have to do this? It's basically public knowledge already, so here is the official announcement. I have jumped through 8 of the about 10 hoops required to become a prop player at Garden City and should have a badge in "2-3 weeks...after they do the background check." How that can take 2-3 weeks is beyond comprehension. Probably sometime in January I'll be Garden City's newest 40/80 prop player. In a way this makes me feel like I have failed, but it's too much money to pass up given how poorly the last six (6) months have gone.

2012 Is a Truly Terrible Movie

As an aside, I've also learned that I have very bad taste in movies when I'm sick.....Yesterday I found myself in the Garden City 20/40 game at 12:15 PM, unable to see straight or string together two coherent thoughts, but having to be at the SJPD with the paperwork I'd just gotten notarized at 5pm. I had 3 choices: play on, drive home and sit on the couch for three hours then drive back, or go watch a movie. Turned out that 2012 was playing at a theater nearby, had an appropriate start time (which is to say, very soon), was longish, and was on the list of movies that I'd consider seeing but Danielle had no interest in. So in short, I was working with a pretty short deck here.

Just wow was this movie terrible. I've put some thought into this and I think it's the worst movie that I've ever bought a ticket for....awe crap. I just remembered "The Talented Mr. Ripley" which was probably worse. But anyway, it definitely gets mentioned. The basic premise (Spoiler alert) is that the sun is having more and more solar flares and that the nutrino particles it's bombarding us with are actually starting to melt the Earth's core. Eventually everything will melt the tectonic plates will just slide around all willy nilly and basically "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" The government knows about this because some super smart guy in India figured it out and another black dude came back and told them, so Danny Glover (the president) puts a plan in action to save humanity. The rest of the movie involved John Cusack leading his kids, ex-wife, her new husband, Russian billionaire boss, his kids and bimbo girlfriend all over the globe, repeatedly taking off from airstrips as they crumble behind him or are bombarded with volcanic debris (as an aside, Woody Harrelson's character was a rare bright spot). Eventually they get to China, which is apparently where the leaders of the world decided to build 10 big ass arks. There is even a gratuitous shot of helicopter's flying in a pair of giraffes. Except, what's this?! Only four of the arks are finished in time? Oh no! See, the government sold tickets for $1B Euros a head for seats on these arks (it is never mentioned what becomes of the 60% of the people who don't have seats...they just don't show up for some reason as the world explodes around them) to fund the project, so basically 400,000 super rich people show up in private planes (somehow in the middle of the Himalayas). But wait, there's more! One of the "finished" arks is damaged. The Russian billionaire is screwed! Then John Cusack and the rest of his motley crew sneak onto the ark (thanks to the brother of the guy who played Steven Seagal's partner in Belly of the Beast who worked on the thing as a welder) but in the process damage "the gate", which is like a giant drawbridge of a medieval castle.

At this point the people on the ark have a crisis. The smart black scientist argues that they must let the people outside come onto the ark, capacity be damned! Keep in mind that the 100,000 people outside are just the people who bought tickets to the other broken ark, not like the several billion people who are already dead. The tsunami is coming in 15 minutes! Hurry up! They open the gate and of course it won't close because John Cusack's ex-wifes' dead husbands body is all jammed up in the gears (that was kind of cool) and the ark starts taking on water as the tsunami hits (in the meanwhile the Russian billionaire fell to his death during the act of throwing his sun onto the ark). Of course John Cusack saves the day, fixing the gears, while underwater, and everyone, except, you know, 6.9996 billion people who died, lives happily ever after.

So what have I really learned? I should have gotten a flu shot.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eventually You Will See Everything

Lots of people think online poker is rigged. They think that people are colluding in teams to whipsaw innocent bystanders out of pots (possible), that some accounts can see the hole cards of other players (did happen), that some accounts know what board cards are coming (pretty sure this is impossible because sites use continuous shuffling), or that sites actually go so far as to rig the cards in order to make pots bigger and therefore generate more rake (simply absurd). The argument for this last point is that "you see horrible beats all the time, there's just no way that should happen that often." The counter-argument to that is that you see so many more hands online (I know guys that 8 table short handed games, playing close to 1000 hands an hour....I'm lucky if I play 1500 hands a week) that you'll see beats more frequently.

In the last week I have seem some pretty serious shit from a probabilistic point of view. I saw MG go all in on the flop and turn over AA on a board of A84-8-J. As he's tabling his hand with that weird MG grin on his face the other guy with a hand can only muster "believe it or not, that's no good" while tabling quad 8s. How often should aces full run into quads? I don't really want to figure it out because I am close to end-stage food coma right now (when going out to dinner with Danielle you will inevitably hear these words...."I wish we'd just split something, I'm so full I'm going to explode. Can I see the dessert menu? Yes I'll have the mud pie cake with oreo shell the size of a cantaloupe." Yet somehow I'm the one toeing the obesity line, with a BMI of 28.2, while she could comfortable fit down one leg of the jeans I have from high school that I keep dreaming someday I'll be able to wear again) but it can't be often. I heard stories (corroborated by multiple sources) that a certain human being lost 17 racks of chips in the Garden City 40/80 half kill game. That's 17 racks of chips. 1700 individual chips. Worth $10 each. Have you ever had 1700 of something? That's 3400 foot long subway sandwiches. That's enough money to go on Jared's diet for nearly a decade. Sure, most of the play was 4-handed against tough, aggressive biggish game regulars. But this has to be like a 4 or 5 sigma event. But I don't know, I've heard about such a 17 rack loss twice now, the other being in a 3 chip 6 chip game, so I don't know.

And finally, I saw Hammerin Hank flop a royal flush. He raised under the gun and got a couple of cold calls from late position, then checked the QJT all clubs flop. His female opponent bet, a megafish called, and he check/raised. Already alarm bells were going off in my head that something was up. What hand would Hank check/raise with here? Just monsters....and on that board, what monsters are there that he'd raise under the gun with? The woman called and the fish folded after what seemed like 2 minutes of thought. A 4th club hit on the turn and Hank led out. The woman folded, and Hank looked distraught. "He flopped a royal flush!" I cried out and Hank tabled the goods for good measure. A bru-haha ensued and Steve the floor man was alerted that Hank deserved some sort of jackpot bonus for flopping a royal. 10 minutes later he returned.

"Ladies and gentleman, our good friend Hank just flopped a royal flush, and has won the following collection of prizes"

"Bay 101 stationary"

1 by 1.5 inch post-it note used for seat change lists.

"Bay 101 pen"

A pen

"Bay 101 lighter"

A pack of matches

"Bay 101 h'ourderve"

A packet of jelly.

"Bay 101 facial"

A hand wipe.

"And Bay 101 flatware"

Disposable chopsticks.

With great flourish Steve tossed each object to Hank, and there was much rejoicing. Afterward he lamented "It was close, we were out of h'ourderves so I had to go to the back and get this one." This got me to thinking, "How rare of an event is this?" Here's the math:

If I play 40 hours a week 50 weeks a year, I will play 2000 hours a year. Assuming I see 40 hands an hour, thats 80,000 hands a year. The chances of flopping a royal flush (making a royal with 5 cards) are about 1 in 650,000.

4 possible royals / (52 choose 5) possible five card hands.

4/(52!/(47! * 5!))

Trust me....that's about what it is. If you see every flop with every suited broadway combo (which is far from true...I folded one yesterday and should have folded another today) you'd flop a royal once every 8 years if you played 40 hours a week. So for government work, which is all we're striving for here, once a decade is a good estimate. Now that's rare.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just an Update I Guess

I've actually won 3 days in a row, which has been very nice. Today I took a few brutal beats (I managed to flop T77r and lose with A7s, for example) but in general things went pretty well and I took home two more racks than I brought with me. I also had a long talk with Babar (instigated entirely by him) in which he encouraged me to work on the mental aspects of my game, perhaps seek some coaching, and in general to not be too alarmed that things haven't been working out so well the past 5 months. The talk made me think about a lot of things and also gave my confidence a shot in the arm, as he forced me to go through the exercise of generating a life time graph. The thing didn't look nearly as bad as I'd feared it might, and seeing all those wins really made me remember that I have crushed these games and, as far as I know, haven't suffered any brain damage recently. The wins will come, and once they do I'll be even stronger mentally than I was before. Thanks Babar.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Oaks 15 LDO

I 3-bet JJ red. 7 way surprisingly tight.


They check to me and I bet cause I has pear. Three (3) call and a c/r from a limper. I 3 bet and all 3 limpers fold. If he has a draw a draw I just owned him.


He checks and calls.


He donks I call T2hh good sir. Upon comment I concur: "totally standard"

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Get a Load of This

Live action blogging once more. Today's action finds our young hero once again stuck 3 racks after a 3 hour stint in the Jesus seat of the Neal game.

A terrible fish limps in middle position. I limp the button with J9hh. Trust's FINE. Blinds call 4 ways for the spectacle that is my life.

J82 rainbow with one heart

Blinds check and the fish bets. Let's pause here and check his hole cards:

77, black

OK, that's not that terrible so far. He should raise preflop but betting here 3rd to act is correct by a landslide. He does afterall have a pair.

I raise and the blinds fold. Now at this point my opponent can pretty safely muck. There is no draw other than T9, and I'd never raise out the blinds with that hand. Actually my raise here is super exploitable, but since my opponents don't even know what that word means, let alone how to take advantage of it (fold) it's fine. He calls.

J82-7 two hearts now

That's not an asshole card. I don't know what it is, but it's beyond asshole. After the hand Omar (the BB) informs me that he folded a 7, so we are looking at an old-fashioned 1-Outter. Back to the action, wherein my opponent donks. I am stunned, sure I'm beat, but hopelessly tied to the pot. I have a flush draw and a gutshot in a 5-bet pot. So I call. Wait for it....

J82-7-9 no flush obviously

At this point the poker gods have constructed one last smoting, dropping a card that makes my opponent check! He can't have the straight and I have top two! I bet and he turbo calls obviously, and I am spared no dignity. I have poker nightmares that don't go this poorly.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Calling Down is the New Raising

I got three texts from Pete today where he detailed the following hands to me:

Hand 1

Some fish power limps the CO and Pete raises in the small blind with AA. The board wasn't really explained, but I imagine it involved an ace, a king, and some other cards, because Pete managed to get eight (8) bets out of the guy's Ace King on the big streets alone.

Hand 2

Pete flops the nut straight on a board of like 765 or something and puts in either 3 or 4 bets on the flop. The turn and river are both 2s and the guy with AA raises him on the river, allowing him to 3-bet. He drags another monster.

Hand 3

With the mighty 72o in the big blind he gets a free flop of 872 with two clubs. He check/raises and gets 3-bet and only calls. The turn Qh he check/raises again, and a 3rd player is still calling all of these bets. The river brings the 7 of clubs and Pete manages to check/raise both players a 3rd time.

In a nutshell, this is out Pete runs. He played all of these hands well, and maybe even better than I would have. I'd be pretty unlikely to get that 3rd bet with the nut straight, but I might opt to bet/3-bet the full house in hand 3. Anyway....In the last week I've made 3 very fun call downs in 3 different casinos. This is what I have to do to win:

Hand 4

The venue is Hustler Casino in Gardena, California. I have been in the game for an hour or two, having sat at 10:30am in a short game. We're now full, but the action is still being driven almost entirely by the manic currently occupying the 7 hole. Originally he was in the 2 seat but moved to the 7 shortly after I sat in the 6. I then moved to the 9 just as the game filled up and he kinda got stuck there. I had this guy pegged as a lunatic from the moment I saw him. 30 years old or so, Asian, wearing full on Ed Hardy gear, sitting with 8 racks of chips in front of him (all in racks) and three (3) wrappers of hundreds labeled as $5K each. That's $19,000 for a 25/50 limit game. Anybody with that many chips is in some way insane. Either he plays enough hands to have won that much money, or he is insane for bringing it. Either way...insane.

So my blinds are in the kill zone of this guy's constant open raising, but it doesn't matter too much because the game is rather loose. Every single time it folds to him in the cutoff or on the button, however, he open raises. I start keeping track and get to 5 for 5 before this hand comes up (for the record I folded 4 of the 5 of those hands). He opens on the button with literally two napkins and I behold the mighty Q2 of clubs. Not quite as much as I'd like, but a clear call. The flop is:

Ac Kc 6s

And I check/raise him for value. He 3-bets and it hits me that I have to show down this hand pretty much no matter what comes. I consider a 4-bet but realize he's never folding anything ever so why bother. I call only.


A great card for me, as it doesn't change a damn thing. I call him again.


Well, this is the moment. I check and he bets. I think for a second and then come to my senses. This is a super easy call, so I sling in $50.

"Good call, you got it" he says. This is music to my ears, but I wait for a moment before turning over my hand. A strong hand would often be fastrolled here, and my opponent is clearly well-versed in the handling of being called on the river and holding air. I do not fastroll, and he tables his hand, Jack-Five of clubs. I flip over my hand and tip the dealer in one motion (using one hand for each) and a murmur passes over the table. Someone finally says "Looks like we have a professional here" and a chuckle is had by all. The next two times it folds to the maniac he opts to leave my blind alone, and when seat 1 opens up he moves to it instantly.

Hand 5

The venue is Bay 101 in San Jose, and I'm playing 40/80 because the game is absurdly good. Like, better than most 20/40 games I sit in. It's just incredible, and I even have a great seat. The table maniac open raises in the high jack and I 3-bet the cutoff with AThh. The button folds, but MCI, my lone competent foe, calls 3 cold in the small blind. "A competent player calling 3-cold in the small blind?" you ask? Yes...he's competent, which pretty much means he has a very solid hand here. In other words, I'm in big trouble. The maniac calls and we see the flop 3 ways

984 with two spades

They both check to me and I fire my c-bet. MCI calls and the maniac check/raises. At 14:1 I decide I can't fold and consider briefly raising to knock out MCI. In retrospect I probably should have, but instead opt just to call. MCI calls, and the pot has swollen to almost 8 big bets.


Look at that, I've picked up a gut shot. MCI checks and the maniac bets. At 9:1 folding would be insane, unless I can pick up a read that MCI making some elaborate slow play (or opting to check/raise AQ), so I call. MCI folds, setting up a beautiful situation for me. He almost surely had be me beat, but was faced with over-calling and just couldn't do it with whatever he was holding (almost certainly Ace King).


A total brick. The maniac bets and I pause for a moment. At this point it still hadn't occurred to me that I could call the guy down, mainly because I figured MCI was still gonna be in the pot. But since he's now gone, I realized I pretty much had to call and hope to catch the maniac with a busted flush draw. So call I did and he....mucked face down instantly. MCI turns to me and says "Big slick any good?" and as much as I try to hide the answer I'm sure my face told the truth.

Hand 6

The venue is The Oaks 15/30 game just this morning. A new player, whom I've never seen before, just sat down in seat 4 and was asked if he'd like to post (the button is in seat 5). His response of "How much? 6 chips?" strikes me as odd, because he surely knows it's 3, but whatever. The dealer informs his as much and he posts. The pot folds to me in the low-jack (seat 2) and I open raise with AJcc. He calls, along with the button, but both blinds fold. I'm wearing my ear buds listening to music, but not so loud that I can't hear what's going on. The flop is:

Qc 8h 6h

I fire and they both call. Not great, but there's lots of cheese on this board they could call with.


I was considering checking and giving up but realize that it's pretty likely nobody has anything. I fire again, and the poster calls but the button reluctantly folds. Not great...but I suppose OK. I resolve to check the river and probably fold, depending what comes.


Well then....that's an interesting card, since there is basically no way this guy could not have raised at some point with a queen by now. Still, betting is silly, since he's probably gonna play perfectly against another barrel (calling with exactly every hand that beats me and folding exactly every hand that doesn't) so I check.

He turbo bets. Like as in as soon as I check he reaches for chips as fast as he can and fires them into the pot. He does it in a way that looks very strong, so strong in fact it's hard not to think he's trying to look strong. I pause and think and the speech begins.

"Oh come on, you've come this far. You know you've got pocket kings, maybe ace queen. It's only 6 more chips"

I take a moment to process all of this and decide he's completely full of shit. I stare directly at him and he squirms. Like literally squirms and diverts his eyes from my gaze. He then pushes his cards with a chip on them sorta to the left like and towards the dealer and it just looks so awkward it's hard to believe. I peel off 6 chips and call and he says "Nice call, I told you you had it" and turns over T9o (which had a double gutter). I roll my hand and he can only comment "Ace Jack? Wow...."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Moral Certainty

Bravos and I were playing poker last week on a day in which I actually managed to hit 'n run the 40/80 game for close to rack in the first 45 minutes of my day. I assured him, however, as I was hovering just a few hundred bucks above even with a couple of hours left to play, that it was a moral certainty that I would not be allowed to go home up on that day. I've gotten to the point that I can just feel my wins slipping away. Some would argue that I need to keep myself in a positive frame of mind, and that by not doing so I am actually doing something to cause my misfortune. This is bullshit. Perhaps my bad attitude is causing me to play bad, but it is no way affects how the cards fall. I was hoping to make it at least a week or so before I had to post another therapeutic "I run so fucking bad it is beyond comprehension to most intelligent human beings" post, but then today happened. I showed up at Bay 101 around 12:15 and got into a 20/40 game at 12:30 (I was able to play late today since my softball team had a game at 9pm, in which not only did I play horribly, but also watched my team blow a 5 run lead in the bottom of the last). And within minutes, the beatings commenced.

I am seated at a table that can only be described as amazing. In fact, amazing does not do the table justice. When Willie, a top five all time 20/40 donator, was replaced by a winning regular, I still thought the table was fantastic. On to our first hand of the day, literally the first time I voluntarily put money into the pot.

Willie limps as do two other players, and I raise 99 in the small blind. Everyone calls, and the flop brings:

987 with a flush draw

I bet, get raised, and am 3-bet by Willie. I cap it and we're 3 ways. The turn is an offsuit ace and they both just call. The river 6, which also completes a flush, actually saves me $40, as I check and they both do as well. Both of them hold 65s for the flopped straight.

Next up I turn my hand into a bluff. Willie limps in and a true blue Asian maniac raises on the button. I call with A2o in the big blind because this guy has been caught raising pretty freaking light in spots like this already (like, K3o, for example....of course in that hand the flop was KQ7 and I had Q4s in the big blind, turned a flush draw, and called him all the way down). The three of us see:


And I check/raise him. He calls, then calls twice more as the turn and river bring a Ten and then a Queen. On the river I know full well I'm bluffing, but it's a bluff that should work very well. The board reads 29TJQ for crying out loud. He's gotta fold his one pair hands here, doesn't he? Not only does he not fold a one pair hand...he does not fold pocket 4s. He literally calls me with pocket 4s. To this point I'd thought the man was crazy. Now I put him into a special "unbluffable" category reserved for very special players like Neal and Norm from The Oaks. OK, time to regroup.

A few players limp, Kenny (who actually still owes me $100 from election night last year when he took McCain straight up and welched on the bet after finding out the Vegas odds were over 5:1) raises on the button and I 3-bet with aces in the small blind. There are many players and the pot could feed me more a few months already just with the preflop action:


I lead, there is a call, and the aforementioned maniac raises. Kenny 3-bets and makes a speech, and I cap it (Kenny has JJ-KK here and I have him cooked. The maniac has a draw, either 87 or diamonds). The turn brings the single worst card in the deck, the 9 of diamonds and I am forced to check. They both check right back at me! Aiyah, I could win! The river in an innocuous Q of clubs and I bet. The maniac calls and so does Kenny. The maniac tables 87o, just like I thought, and drags the pot. How did he not bet the turn? If I knew, I'd tell you, but I don't know. These are the players who take my chips and add them to their towering stacks, not even bothering to erect a small plaque in my honor for paying for the west wing addition.

Next up we have an asshole card hand from none other than Tom B. I raise Ace Jack under the gun, which I'd actually done one orbit ago. Tom B says "Ace Jack again" and I respond "nope, I have a set." We're still preflop. The maniac calls two cold from the small blind, thus ensuring that the pot gets big enough that I can get myself into trouble. The flop comes down:


The maniac checks and I bet. Tom raises, which on this board means he has a pair. The maniac calls two cold and I call, closing the action at 12:1. Ladies and Gentleman, the Asshole Card!


The maniac checks and I check. Tom B bets, the maniac calls and I spring an oh so clever check/raise. Tom B looks at me kind of funny and just calls. The maniac folds, and the river bricks off. Tom B calls and shakes his head when I table my hand. He of course has JT, and there were 43 good cards in the deck for me out of the 45 he and I weren't holding. Not spiking an ace for the win is understandable. But do I have to hit the card that costs me an extra $120? And to those of you who say "will he really pay off all 3 big bets here with a pair of tens" I respond with "shit bitch this is Tom fucking B he hasn't fold a pair since 2004 fool" with a completely straight face.

What's better than losing a bunch of bets in a small pot? Losing a bunch of bets in a gigantic one then check/folding the river when you make your flush, of course! The maniac and Kenny limp in early position, and Tom B then limps out of turn on my left. I shrug and chuck in 4 chips with 86 of hearts. This is kind of marginal, but at a table like this I can take some preflop liberties. Vu raises on the button, Double O (that's right, he's here also. My table has 3 players I've written about before AND a maniac) calls the BB and we all call for 6 happy soldiers going to the flop:


The action checks to Kenny on my immediate right, and he bets. I call only, not wanting to face the field with multiple bets cold since I basically can't win without improving against Kenny's entire donking range. Every single player calls, and we now have a 9 big bet pot.

T42-K with still two hearts

It checks to Kenny who again bets. I call and Tom B calls. Vu now raises (Vu actually got into a fistfight with a dude named Joel a few weeks back....this is what I deal with), and Double O calls two cold. The maniac misclicks and folds his hand, and I ask you now what would be awesome? A 3-bet from Kenny you say? DING DING DING, we have a winner! After the 3-bet I pause and attempt to count the bets in the pot before quickly determining it to be countably infinite and giving up the ghost. There are...A FREAKING LOT....of bets in there. 9 before this street, and something like 9 more out there already with a few more probably to follow. The problem, as always it seems, is Double Oh. Does he have a flush draw? You'd seem to think so. He just called two bets cold without much thought. But does he really? I need 10 bets in the pot only if I'm drawing clean and live at this sucker (maybe a few more because it's pretty obvious that two of the hearts that pair the board are no 14 bets). I decide to call. Tom B folds, and Vu and Double Oh both chuck in one more bet, for a grand total of 22 bets in the pot (I got 10:1 on my draw). The river brings:


Just wow. For Kenny to 3-bet the turn he pretty much had to have flopped a set or held top two pair. He's basically a nit. He bets, I tank for a second, and for once in my life make a good lay down. Everyone else folds and Kenny can't believe what just happened while showing KTo for the nut boat. As an aside, Double Oh folding his hand closing the action pretty much guarantees my flush draw was the only one out there. So I was drawing live, but got there with one of the 2 cards that wouldn't let me win instead of the 7 that would. Now, my friends, it is time to move up to where they respect my raises.

The 40/80 game was almost as good as my 20/40 table. We had a triplet of casino employees without a clue in the world as to how to play the game, a new-found regular who plays for 19.5 hours at a time and makes all the same mistakes as a 6/12 fish, and an Oaks regular who confided in me that he was moving to Austin, Texas tomorrow and that this 40/80 game was his last hurrah. Then there was another maniac....I mean, it was just epic. The first hand I play I am dealt pocket tens and 3-bet casino employee A. Employee B calls the three bets all in (actually she only has 2 bets) and the we see the flop 3 ways after employee C actually manages to limp/fold. The board runs out like 8 high until the turn, at which point employee A folds. The river brings an ace and I say to employee B "Ace, right?" and she dutifully rolls Ace Four off for now two pair. I break even on the hand, but without that river ace win about $340. She did have 5 whole outs though, so it's pretty standard.

My next two beats aren't really beats, but serve to illustrate why I am two steps shy of being admitted to an insane asylum. First, the pot is open limped, then raised, then re-raised, then cold-called. I am in the small blind with T8s and am looking at 5-6 way action, but also at putting 2.5 bets into the pot. This is actually a pretty close decision, as I'd probably chuck in the chips from the big blind. With a small pair, a hand that can play well woops (way out of position) I'd be more inclined to call. But drawing hands are tougher, so I opt to fold. 5 players see the flop of:

765 with a flush draw

And much action does go in. The turn pairs the board and for my brief customary moment I am happy as 3 players remain for one bet a piece. The river 9, however, seals the deal. Two players get to show down and the ~16 bet pot is won by someone with two pair. My over-ended straight draw would have taken all the chips. Again, not really a beat, as I played well and am confident my fold was correct, but it's impossible not to notice these things.

Just a few moments later I limp along with 33 in what promises to be a big one (there are already 3 limps in front of me....this is 40/80 I'm not even kidding). MCI, my lone competent opponent, raises on the button. Everyone calls back to one of the table's fish, who decides to limp/3-bet. Now I know to a moral certainty (there it is again) that MCI is gonna cap it. Anything that he raised after 4 limpers he's certainly going to cap after one of them decides to back raise. So I'm now faced with basically calling 3 cold to get into a 7 way capped pot in a pure set-mining operation. 2 bets would be a super easy call. 3 bets is closer, but still I think in the call range with this many opponents. I know Kit Cloud Kicker would approve, anyway. So I call and we take the flop for 28 small bets.


The problem with set mining in truly gigantic pots (or perhaps the best part....not sure) is that you can pay 1 bet to see the turn. Which I do, along with about 3 other players. There is also some chance MCI will check back the turn if he doesn't actually have a pair yet.


When the action gets to me it's only 18:1 closing the action, and two players are all in. I cannot call unless there is some chance my 3s are the best hand, and there simply is not. I muck.


Once more I am smoted. MCI's KK drags the monstrosity of a pot unimproved, and I wonder what I did to deserve this.

The next beat is also interesting. I limp along with KTo in the cutoff (I have to once again stress that this game was unbelievable, better than most 20/40s I've played in in the last month) after a couple of limpers. The board runs out:


Note that on the flop I am once again "over-ended", meaning that while I do have an open ended straight draw, I also have a free roll against anyone holding just a loan ten. If a queen falls, My straight is King high, where as theirs would only be queen high. After the turn 7 falls I raise two players and get called down. They have KTo and T6o, and we chop up the pot 3 ways. My total profit on the hand was less than $80. There is a single extra $10 chip, which goes to the BB as he is closest to the button. After that is sorted out, the extra $5 chip goes to the next player. So even there I lose.

For my next trick, another asshole card. I raise two limpers with KQo and Roger, who has replaced Elvis in the game, defends his blind (probably big blind, but possibly small) and we see a flop 4 handed.


I bet and Roger check/raises. The other players fold and I 3-bet (I'm not sure if I'm planning to barrel the turn or take a freebie, but my equity here is massive even headsup so it's not really important). He calls only and then the asshole card rears it's ugly head:


Well any question as to whether or not I'll bet has just been solved. Afterward I thought about it a bit and that card really does crush his range but I have top pair good kicker and an open ended straight draw. I have to bet. He raises and I call. Now for the fun part.


Wow. He checks! Had he bet I'd simply have called, as a very likely holding for him is two pair (QJ, JT, something like that) and he'd have turned over his 98o for the turned straight. But no, he checks, and I tank for a second and decide top two has a value bet here. So I own myself and he just shakes his head and calls and drags the pot. Good game life.

Looking at my notes I just realized I have like 10 more of these to go really was a fucking fantastic day. Speeding up now, again all this is still at 40/80.

I raise a horrible limper with K9s. He literally has almost any two cards. The big blind calls, we flop KJ2-2 and he calls me on the flop, then donks the turn. I call down and he has AKo for an "expertly played" monster. Once again I don't think he'll hang a plaque on the wing of his chip stack I just built.

Roger limps and the maniac completes the small blind. I raise JJ in the big blind, Roger calls, and the maniac 3-bets. I call and call all the way down on the Q74-T-9 board. What does the maniac have?

"Two pair."
"Two pair?!?!"
"Two pair" (tables 74s)

Next I limp with QJcc and play a pot heads up with Young Jae. I turn a flush and win the hand. Young Jae had KK and started the hand with less than 3 big bets, so no action goes in after the flop. Not a beat, but if he had more chips....they'd be mine.

Next up I make another snug fold of QJhh on the button after one raise and one cold-call. The board runs ot 987-T-5 rainbow and I once again wonder who is punishing me (and yes, it was only one bet on the flop so I'd have seen the turn). I have to stress that I'm not one of those players who laments when he folds a shitty hand that would have won. It really only bothers me when I make what I believe to be a very close but correct fold and then then miss my government stimulus bailout money that all my other opponents collect every 3rd hand.

Next up I draw dead and get there. I have 9h8c in the big blind in a seven (7) way limped pot. The flop is 764ccc and the bet comes from Buffy on my immediate left. I want to fold but 4 players calls, so I'm getting 12:1 closing the action. I call and pray. The 4h hits on the turn and I again want to fold, but again she bets and now 3 players call and I call getting 11:1 closing the action. She is the only player who can have a flush, everyone else is drawing. The river 5d gives me a 9-high straight and I call on bet to see her flopped Jack high flush. I may have played bad here, but I don't think so. It's very hard to fold at the prices I was getting, not to mention closing the action each time.

Next up I flop a nut flush in a 6 way limped pot with Ace Deuce of hearts. The bad beat here? The hand before this my opponent in seat 7 lit most of his chips on fire and only has $130 left to play out this hand. He flops a queen high flush and is all in before the flop action is complete. MCI makes a good fold and I win a tiny ass pot. Seat 7 would have given me 6-7 big bets with his hand, had they only been in his stack.

At this point I glance down at my stack and realize I am somehow stuck less than $300 for the entire day. It is 7:15pm and I have to leave by 8:30 to go to softball. I soldier on, losing small pot after small pot, then receive a pair of death blows in my final orbit. Literally in my last 9 hands I take these two:

It is raised, 3-bet, and called in front of me. I cap QQ in the small blind and MCI calls in the big blind. We go off 5 ways and remember I have Queens. QUEENS! The flop is 984 and MCI raises my lead. Only one other player calls and I just call him down on the 3-8 turn and river to see his aces. That he picked up on the big blind. When it was capped before it got to him.

Two hands later I raise Sudos limp with KQcc in the cutoff and get 3-bet by the SB. I flop 763cc and put in one raise, hoping against hope that the SB will get tricky and give me a free card (this guy has an over pair here like always). He doesn't and leads the turn and checks when the Ace hits on the river. I don't bet, knowing he won't fold, and I get shown KK and obviously can't beat it with my king high flush draw.

So once again, thanks for listening. On the day I lost $1300, but it felt like a lot more. As usual I almost escaped with a much better number, but dribbled away a rack in my last hour of play. Today is another day, I suppose, but it's really getting tough.

Nonlinear Utility Functions and Fantasy Football

I realize my blog has been pretty negative lately, since all I've been able to come up with to write about is an endless string of horrendous beats. I was going to write about more of these beats, as I took some gruesome ones yesterday (I 3-bet bravos with AA in the small blind. The board runs out something like T84-J-9, with 3-bets going in on the flop and 2 more on the turn. On the river I ask "Do you have kings? I can beat kings" and just call to see his JJ two outter spike on the turn. At 40/80 it folded to Kobra on the button and he raised. I got tricky and just called with Kd Kc. After I 6-bet the ten-high flop with two diamonds because he was short on chips, the board came running diamonds. He raised me all in for 3 chips on the river and I of course called with the second nuts to see Ad Ac. This type of cooler is supposed to happen something like once every 50,000 hands I think), but decided instead to just give you an overview of them and flesh out a concept I thought a lot about yesterday.

Utility functions are used by economists to determine a person's utility (happiness) based on possible outcomes of a situation. In poker, the correct utility function is one that maps directly (linearly) to dollars. If you win $1 you should be 1 unit of happy. If you win $100 you should be 100 units of happy. If your personal utility function is any different than this you will be at risk for sub-optimal decision making, as you're personal happiness will be offsetting the correct mathematical decision dictated by the current pot odds situation you're facing.

And there-in lay the rub. Most people's utility functions are decidedly nonlinear when it comes to money won or lost. As a simple example, take a look at the illustration on this page, which plots utility as a function of wealth. The basic idea is that each incremental unit of wealth adds less utility (happiness), which his shown by the concave down (negative second derivative) of the graph. In more simplistic terms that are obvious once you think about it, $10,000 will increase the happiness of a homeless person a lot more than it will increase the happiness of a software developer, who in turn will have his happiness increased a lot more than a billionaire would by a gift of $10,000. This also applies to poker in terms of a single session, and is the reason that a lot of recreational players "eat like birds and shit like elephants." The average player gains a lot of utility by booking a small win in a specific game. If he sits down at 20/40 with $300 and wins $300 more, he will often pick up his chips and go home happy as a clam. He won $300 and it makes sense for him to stand up, because he is on a less steep part of the curve above. If he loses back the $300, he will incur a bigger loss of utility than what he stands to gain if he wins a second $300. Therefore, from his somewhat non-rational yet completely valid point of view, the correct strategy is to stand up. An interesting effect of this phenomenon on the other end is the ability to pass one's "threshold of pain" in the losing direction. Many player won't "quit stuck", which is where the aforementioned "shitting like an elephant" comes into play. If they are stuck, even a fairly small amount, they will continue to play in an effort to get even. Eventually they move to an area of the curve in the "loss" section (down and to the left of the part shown on my graph) that is incredibly flat. If a person is stuck $2000, losing $500 doesn't really add a whole lot of pain. It's the very same monetary catastrophe that it was when you lost the first $500, but from experience I can tell you it just doesn't sting quite as much. The correct strategy for this person is actually to keep playing (assuming he is playing in a game in which his EV is neutral), since as he loses he incurs less pain than he gains as he wins. Were this person to break even for the day, he'd be thrilled, whereas the times he turns his $2000 loss into a $4000 he only feels marginally worse.

Deal or No Deal has probably advanced public awareness about utility functions a great deal over the past few years. To anyone not familiar with the game (perhaps I have some readers in Sub-Saharan Africa), it is very simple. You start out with N cases, each of which have some money in them. The amounts of money are known, and typically range from one cent to one million dollars. You pick a case that is "yours" and save it, then open other cases a few at a time to eliminate them. After you open a few the "banker" will offer you a "deal" for a certain amount of money. You can either take the deal or open a few more cases, at which point you'll be offered a new deal. Typically the deal is a fraction of the fair value of the remaining cases expected value (for example if you have 10 cases left with a total of $1.2 million in them, you will never be offered the full $120,000 that represents your expected value). Eventually, when only two cases remain, your final deal will be offered. You can either take it or open your case and win whatever is inside. The implications of a personal utility function here are drastic. I watched a show just last week where a woman had 6 cases left with over $800,000 inside them. The fair value (expectation) of her case at that point was $133,333. She was offered $96,000 and she took it. The funny part is, I would have taken the deal too. I'm in a life situation right now where $96,000, even after taxes, would be life changing money. It would go a long way towards me getting out of this apartment and into a piece of property I could own. My utility function is very nonlinear as it progresses from the $20,000 mark to the $500,000 mark, and therefore I'd have taken the down payment and run.

So where am I going with this? Fantasy football, of course.

The utility function for the performance of your team for fantasy football is yours and yours alone. There are perhaps players out there for whom nothing short of a championship season will afford any sort of happiness whatsoever. Others will glean a good bit of utility simply from making the playoffs. I argue, however, that most fantasy football managers gain the greatest bit of utility simply from not building a team that in the end causes embarrassment. This is my utility function in a nutshell. I don't want to embarrass myself. Therefore, my goal should be to build a team that has the greatest probability of winning at least 6 games (in a 14 game season), as that is my threshold value for "not embarrassing". If you win more games that that, maybe you'll make the playoffs and that'd be fun, and if you do you could win, because we all know that fantasy football playoffs are a complete crap shoot. Here then is my fantasy football "don't draft an abomination" strategy. If you follow these simply steps, your team will win 6 games. I promise. Let us assume a 12-team league with standard rules in which you start 2 running backs, 3 wrs, and a flex each week (a "deep" league true, but fairly standard). The draft has 16 rounds. Here then, are your commandments:

1. Draft a kicker in the 16th round.

2. Draft a TE in the 15th round. Do not fall for Tony Gonzales, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, or Dallas Clark. There are tons of decent tight ends (Visanthe Shiancoe...Heath Miller...That Havner guy from Green Bay....Vernon Davis...Kellen Winslow....Jeremey will end up with one of these guys. If you don't, it is because your league-mates are drafting two tight ends, in which case you will win anyway because they are idiots).

3. Draft a Defense in the 14th round.

4. For the three positions above, play the waiver wire relentlessly. Rams playing Detroit this week? Start 'em! Jacksonville's kicker playing Cleveland at home? Time to cut Lawrence Tynes! Basically use only 3 roster spots on these three positions, no matter what.

5. Don't draft a QB before the 9th round unless your league has some weirdo scoring system (like a point per completion which apparently happens in Facebook leagues) or a rule allowing you to flex a QB some number of times (like my CBS Sportsline League does). If it's one QB the whole way, take one in the 9th or 10th round and hope it works out. If you must, draft a second one in 13th round.

6. Draft the last two starting RBs on the board (or at least one of them). This year Julius Jones and Cedric Benson were available in the 7th or even 8th round of many fantasy drafts (later in "less competitive" leagues). Having these guys as your 4th and 5th running backs will basically ensure that no matter what happens, you will field a solid team with a chance to win every single week.

7. On your 16-man roster, end up with at least 5RBs and 6WRs. Keep drafting them. "No Quarterback, eh?" mocks your friend while sipping on his 4th Miller Lite while taking Heath Miller in the 8th round? Pick Ray Rice. "Still no QB?" he says next round? Take Hines Ward.

8. No handcuffs. If you have 5 starting RBs on your team, you don't need handcuffs.

Following this simple 8 point strategy, your team will never suck. No matter what. No amount of injuries can devastate you, and somebody will step up and lead to the promised land of 7 or 8 victories.