October 2006
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One hand in my pocket

I keep finding three chips in my pocket that I came away with from The Vic last week.  A reminder to actually write down what happened on my first visit there, I suppose.

I usually play the 1 rebuy tournament at Gutshot if I’m in London on a Wednesday but the last week in each month is now the Team Gutshot satellite.  I didn’t qualify for any bonus chips (awarded for playing regularly or finishing on a final table) so essentially I’d be starting with a crippled stack

So last Wednesday I went to the Vic and played their £30+£3 freezeout.  I handed over two twenty pound notes and got a £5 and two £1 chips as change.  Naturally, I never cashed these in before I left.

Although I did actually forget I had them after I busted out, I may well have bottled it anyway for the sake of £7, hoping that I’d go again soon, get more change in chips and eventually have something resembling an amount worth cashing in.  Not that I’d feel quite right about even bothering to cash in £7 of chips there.  It’s a very swanky joint, considering it basically occupies the attic above Woolworths on a street of tower blocks.  Too much for me – I ran straight back outside after registering and found a nice cosy McDonalds.

With their scratchcard promo I won a McChicken Sandwich for next time.  You have to scratch off two panels from four to win (a 1 in 6 chance of winning, assuming there are only two symbols the same).  The card I won with had the matching symbols behind boxes 3 and 4, as did another I lost on.  I’ve since seen another three scratchcards which all had their winning symbols behind doors 3 and 4, but have just decided to try to lose a stone before Vegas (let’s see how long it lasts this time) so probably won’t get chance to see whether this is always the case.  I make it 1295-1 to find five out of five with the winning symbols all in the same position.  I’m sure Claire will correct my maths if I’m wrong…

Back to The Vic.  Back through the revolving door, and God forbid you push the door round yourself – they have someone to do that for you (this place is wasted on me – all I could think is how much they would save by investing in a door motor).  Back upstairs to try and find the other half of the cardroom.  The one I’d found, and registered at, had tables with numbers nowhere close to the one I was meant to be sitting at.  It turns out there’s more tables on the second floor, where I’d accidentally stumbled earlier to be greeted with stares of "you don’t really know where you’re going, do you?" from someone in some kind of uniform at the top of the stairs.  Ha!  Turns out I was meant to be there after all.

Regular tournaments are limited to 72 players.  That’s 8 tables of 9.  The worst way I can think of to describe the shape of the tables is like a 50p coin, but with two more sides.  The correct word, I always thought, was nonagon, although I’ve since discovered that enneagon is also acceptable.  I’d never heard that word before, and I’ve also never seen a poker table like these.  Not only were they an unusual polygon, they also had chip racks embedded in which everyone was using.  Stacking and riffling chips was possible, but I didn’t want to be the only one doing it.

The tournament kicked off very slowly, with 1500 chips each and 25/25 blinds, moving to 25/50 and 50/100 after 20 minutes.  Then it went mental, taking nearly ten minutes to remove all the 25 chips (I nearly said "green chips" instinctively, but of course they were some other colour that I can’t remember, but probably different to anywhere else) without stopping the clock and jumping straight to 100/200 for the remaining half a level then on to 200/400.

Double, double, double them blinds.  And so the crap shoot began, and I stayed lucky long enough to make it down to the last two tables, along the way apparently forcing 99 to fold on a very low board when I moved in with my pocket 8s.  KQo called me with his overcards though.  Can’t ask for much more.

Then with blinds at 600/1200, rising to 800/1600 within a couple of hands, and a stack that had dwindled to 4900 after a couple of rounds with no opportunities, I felt I needed to push with any two cards when it was folded around to my small blind.  For Harrington fans, my M is less than 3, and with 14 players remaining, the average stack of 7,700 was still in the red zone.  I ended up in very bad shape with my Q2 racing against QT and not finding the miracle it needed.  The poker in this tournament was long gone, and I didn’t quite get lucky enough.

And they’re still looking after another seven quid of mine.

Mega Day O’ Empire

Exhausted!  Took advantage of daylight savings time and got up at 7am to start playing as many multi-table tournaments on Empire Poker as I possibly could before I dropped dead.  Discovered the hard way that Empire doesn’t allow more than six tables to be open at a time (I’m sure it used to be 10..). In the end, I played 29, cashed in 7 and walked away with a profit of $131.

More importantly, though, I racked up 77 regular VIP points and 841 bonus points (29 squared!).  If I’d really tried I think I could have squeezed in maybe three more tournaments, but it’s not a bad effort.

Seven or eight more days like that and I’m in the Royal Flush Club!

Maybe, just maybe, I can finally beat $2/$4…

I really don’t want to say this.  I’m still not completely sure I believe it.  But the figures look good – there is a very real chance that I can actually beat the $2/$4 game on PokerRoom now, and for a decent rate too.  There have been two monster bonuses the last couple of months – $250 and $500 to mark the launch of their Silver Room and Gold Room programs respectively.  This has given me a much bigger sample to look at than any of the Party Poker bonuses I’ve played, and then posted up the mindnumbing stats.

Here are the equally mindnumbing stats from my last two months grinding PokerRoom.  I’ve really had to guess at how long I spent playing in total, sometimes I only played two tables, but usually, and particularly the past few weeks, I played four at a time.

Hands played:  9140      (for 7500 FPPs)
Hours played:  132.6     (approx 40 man hours)
Rake paid:     $796.00   (they make $46.00 from my action)
Amount won:    $827.60   (2.26 BB per 100 hands)
Win rate:      $20.69/hr
Bonus awarded: $750.00
Rate w/bonus:  $39.44/hr

Now, if you don’t mind me saying so, this is bloody good!  I’ve made more than two big bets per 100 hands in a sample size of over 9000 hands.  Not a massive sample by any means, but big enough to suggest to me that, even if I did run pretty hot towards the end, I could turn a steady profit here.  Before this, I have 13,000 hands logged from PokerRoom $2/$4 and ran at a a loss of $168 (0.33BB per 100 hands).  The deposit bonuses more than made up for this, but it didn’t leave me with a great hourly rate.  I don’t know how significant this really is, but I’m staring at a losing record before the summer and a winning record since I got back from four weeks in Vegas…

Here’s the vitals.

Vol. Put $ In Pot:       15.97%
Pre-flop Raise:           9.77%
Post-flop Aggression:     3.35
Won $ When Saw Flop:     38.62%
Went to Showdown:        30.72%
Won $ At Showdown:       57.41%
Folded SB to Steal:      87.76%
Folded BB to Steal:      55.92%
Attempt to Steal Blinds: 36.30%

I won more with KK than with AA, even though I had it fewer times, and my worst losing hand was AQo ($76 lost in 84 hands).  I was profitable with KQo to the tune of 50 cents.  Still room for improvement then…

Only problem is PokerRoom have already stopped American players depositing, and in less than two weeks they’ll be blocked from playing completely.  Even if the games are still suited to my style with whatever players remain (I still don’t feel confident enough to call the games "soft" with any certainty), four-tabling there is not going to be possible very often.  I think it might be time to try PokerStars again and see how badly I get my arse kicked on there now.


It’s booked, we’re going at Christmas!  Eight weeks tomorrow!

It looked doubtful for a while with horrendous flight prices but the triple miles offer made it just too juicy to resist.  A few years ago, we’d get a Christmas trip for two for about £600 all in.  This time it ended up at over double that, and that’s not even a direct flight on the way out.

The days of an utter bargain Las Vegas holiday are almost a distant memory, but there’s still value to be had now and again.  With the 3x miles promotion, silver member status, and the bonus miles for booking on a bmi Mastercard we’ll end up pocketing over 75,000 miles which is worth roughly 1.6 USA flights (45,000 each).  It’s very close to being a free holiday!

To put this into context, bmi just gave us both 4,000 bonus miles after complaining about a check-in fiasco on the way back in the summer.  Frankly I think it should take less than 12 complaints to earn a completely free flight!  The line was over two hours long, and we should have been able to jump it with the silver membership card.  One of the perks is "use any check-in desk", but the snooty clerk insisted her desk was for business class only – also turning away premium economy passengers, who had paid extra for a few inches of leg room, a different (they say better, I don’t really know why) meal, and not having to wait to check in.  There was not a single member of bmi staff at McCarran Airport, and on a Sunday it was too late to call Diamond Club to see if we really were being stiffed.  The triple miles offer is worth about five complaints on top of your regular miles. 

We’ll actually be there for Christmas Day, which is a first for us.  I have no idea what to expect, so I need to start trying to find out just what will be open.  I’ll post my findings here no doubt, and we can learn together…  The casinos won’t shut but places inside them may do, and I guess we’ll need reservations somewhere for Christmas dinner.  Maybe at the top of the Strat, if it’s open.  I’ll choose my festive hat carefully.  We have to move hotels on Christmas Eve too, after learning that some hotels do not allow Saturday check-in, even on what will surely be the quietest Saturday of the year.  So we have one night in The Fitz, the self-proclaimed "luckiest casino in Las Vegas", before moving (literally) across the road to Fremont.  Won’t even need to move the car, just grab the bags and walk under the world’s largest canopy made out of lightbulbs.

Although the schedule hasn’t been announced that far ahead yet, I’m hoping that arriving on the Saturday will give me up to four shots at a televised Ultimate Poker Challenge tournament at Binion’s, which takes place every Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  Although on the first Saturday – the day we arrive – I’ll probably need more than one wierd shit energy drink to make it past level 1.  May not be a good idea…  Staying within very easy walking distance of Binion’s and at least three other downtown cardrooms (Plaza, Golden Nugget, Fitz – there may be more by December, and I haven’t even included the two tables at "the All New Historic El Cortez") will definitely be a plus.

John Who?

Claire just asked me to print off directions for her to get to John Rhodes Way in Tunstall.  It’s just off Reginald Mitchell Way, the A50 bypass named after the creator of the Spitfire.  Mitchell was born and grew up in Stoke, although didn’t really do anything useful until he left the area.  That’s good enough though.

Wikipedia lists several John Rhodes, including a mathematician, a racing driver, a September 11th victim and a UFO expert (who said Wikipedia isn’t a real encyclopedia?).  The driver is the closest option to being likely; he was at least born in the same county – at least he was back when Wolverhampton was in Staffordshire.  His mostly raced minis and only grand prix was the 1965 British Grand Prix.  He began in last place on the grid and did not finish.  The connections to the area, and to fame, are tenuous at best, and I’ve now started to wonder whether he actually added the entry to Wikipedia himself…

So I must have the wrong guy here, making this probably the most useless blog post ever.  Sorry.  Really I’d hoped it was the UFO spotter but I’m thinking now it was probably a soldier awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I, but the only references I can find to him are the location of his grave and a rather bizarre list of why Stoke is apparently great.

However I genuinely did not know that I the place I live was also the birthplace of Meals On Wheels, and home to the composer of the theme tune from Neighbours.  Fantastic.

Vegas by the sea

The similarities between Las Vegas and Blackpool are much stronger than I first thought. Let’s look at the evidence…

Continue reading Vegas by the sea

Winner of X-Factor Revealed!

The winner of this year’s X-Factor will be Ben.

The simple reason – he has the easiest name to type on a mobile phone. VOTE BEN.  It works just fine with predictive text, and nobody is going to come close to spelling it wrong. These things are very important.  Last week’s evictees, The Unconventionals, were doomed before they got going. VOTE UNCONVENTIONALS. Their voting details stood out like a sore thumb against all the other text keywords. Even though predictive text (on my old Nokia at least) finds its way there if you can spell it at the first attempt, you are really going to have to like these guys to be bothered to vote for them at all.  I actually thought they were OK, and with a shorter name they may just have survived.

Today we saw the dismissal of Wolverhampton’s finest boy-band-on-a-TV-show, 4Sure. Their pre-match interviews have given us plenty of enjoyment remembering how Claire used to speak, and she’ll demonstrate that she still can add a "Y" sound to pretty much every woyrd if she trieys. VOTE 4SURE.  It is actually possible to do this all in one go with predictive text enabled if you press and hold 4 then type SURE but their name choice could have been better. Voters have to remember the clever pun that makes up their name, and then have to figure out how to type it.

Next week it must surely be either the grimfully dismal MacDonald Brothers, or Nikitta that suffers. Neither of these acts spell their name correctly – having it the same way as burger clown Ronald, or the girl from the Elton John song would help considerably – and neither work with predictive text. We end up with VOTE MACE? and VOTE MILITU? respectively. The MacDonalds’ time is next week. Surely. Please?

As for the rest of the pack, Dionne has problems (VOTE DINOME), Eton Road will struggle (VOTE FUNN) and Ashley needs intervention in order for the message to be sent properly (VOTE ASHLEX).  Ray is not as safe as he looks either, despite being the most likeable character on the show. VOTE RAY does get there fourth time, after cycling through SAY, SAW and PAY, but many texters won’t bother to look at their screens before sending. Coupled with the fact that he’s introduced as "Ray" but the huge scrolling banner lights on stage and the X-Factor web site announce him as "Raymond" (possibly a better choice, with no alternative spellings in predictive text), he might just lose a few thousand crucial votes when it matters most.  Similarly, Kerry will come in second to somebody named Jerry who is not actually in the competition.

The final three will be Leona, Robert and Ben. Having said all that, it’s worth pointing out that I don’t actually vote for things like this. I still think the idea of being charged 50p a time to cast a vote or answer a competition question is ridiculous. Instead of paying for a stamp to send in your vote, you’re paying the price of two stamps you don’t need, on top of whatever your normal text message cost is.

If I think back to when I used to enter competitions on Saturday morning kids TV, this would be like Philip Schofield asking me to send in my answer in on the back of a postal order.

Wash, go, get stuck in infinite loop

File this one under small things that get inside my head for no real reason.  This one grabbed me whilst I was in the shower and just wouldn’t let go.

 Now, bearing in mind that I definitely have the geek gene, it almost makes sense that I read this as if it says:

20 GOTO 10

I am having mild flashbacks and my head rather hurts.  The first computer program you ever learn as a junior nerd in the early eighties is a horrible infinite loop and on any home computer that wasn’t invented by the great Sir Clive Sinclair you are stuck.

At least on the good old Spectrum it would fill up one screenful and then ask "break?".  And you’d say "yes please", and life would go on.

Best voicemail ever?

A genuine voicemail left on my work number.  I have no idea who this is, but he obviously doesn’t like the strategic call avoidance system…

Click here to play [EXPLICIT]

Day O’ Empire

Here’s the thing with tournaments.

Played 10, cashed once.  Net profit $386.

A terrible record, but a nice result.  I ran sooooo cold to start and wasn’t getting anywhere.  I’d already given up – for the second time today.  The first time saw me heading down to McDonalds to be comforted by a Big Tasty and a BLT Deli Sandwich. The diet resumes tomorrow in theory, so I’m allowed a little something with my burger…. 🙂

I’d decided that the $10 rebuy would be the last I’d play, even though I’d planned on doing a whole lot more (because of the way bonus VIP points are given on Empire, they increase exponentially the more tournaments you play in a single day).  I’d also been playing a few $6.50 turbos on PokerStars, backed into 4th place (4 get paid) once and came nowhere near on the rest of them.  Nothing had gone my way.

I was in this rebuy for $40 – two goes at the rebuy bug to top up my stack without going broke and an add on after the first hour.  That gave me a little bit less than an average stack at the break, but it was plenty to play with.  The top 20 from 190 were getting at least $70 back, but I was over $300 in the hole and really needed 7th place to get even on the day.  It’s a funny old game – I ended up outlasting 187 non-Americans before busting out 3rd.

For a $40 investment, not bad at all.  It only takes one good hit to swing you back into profit in multi-table tournaments, which of course I already knew it’s just nice to see it happen once in a while.  And I should be a hundred or so VIP points closer to being able to get some Empire Poker junk too.

Party Poker have cancelled virtually all of their guaranteed prize pool tournaments.  That includes the Sunday Million, which tonight was replaced by a $530 tournament with no guaratee.  The actual prize pool was $85,000.  They had 170 players.  The $215 Sunday event on PokerStars, on the other hand, is still going strong.  6157 players turned up, putting over $1.2m in the pot – I think this is a record!

The Party Poker lobby stopped reporting their total number of players connected after they shut down for the big American boot-off on Friday. PokerSiteScout says Stars has about three times as many players right now though.