November 2006
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Our house insurance just came up for renewal.  £420 they said.  Time to shop around I said.

If you haven’t signed up for Quidco yet, do it.  Seriously.  Insurance companies pay a small fortune in commission for a new customer, and the idea of Quidco is that you get to keep most of that yourself.  So not only did I get a quote from Barclays that was £80 cheaper, I’m also set to receive another £120 in commission in a month or so!

So not everything you earn is quite on that scale, but there’s lots of little somethings that add up…  With a cunning combination of Quidco cashback and online coupon codes I just ordered six CDs from HMV (of all places!) for, effectively, £43!

My Poker Investment Portfolio Starts Here

I’ve never bought or traded a percentage in another player before, but now I have ten percent of David Buckle in next year’s WSOP Main Event.  Not a big name player, I grant you, but it’s got to be better to walk away from a tournament with a lottery ticket than a big fat zero.  So that’s what I did.

Last night was the £150 WSOP super satellite at Gutshot that I won entry into last week.  With 33 players and a handful of rebuys, the prize pool just topped the £6500 mark – just enough to award one Main Event seat with flights and accomodation.

The complete prize structure looked like this:

1st: £6500 package
2nd: £115

Somewhat top heavy.  With one buy in less in the prize pool, we’d have been playing for three packages with a $1000 super-satellite at the Rio and some spare change for 4th place.  Despite almost everyone in the tournament preferring to play for three places, the prize structure stood and we weren’t able to chop the package.  The final add-on was actually taken by someone who wanted to play all-or-nothing for the big one, knowing that paying the extra £150 would be enough to create the seat.  And that was that.

So with twenty-something players remaining and just one prize greater than the price of a buy-in to play for, I wasn’t going to hang around.  Looking down at AK and having a below average stack, I figure I have to take a shot, even facing a raise and a reraise that already covers my chips.  I’m hoping to run against two smaller pairs, or one smaller pair and a worse ace.  In either of those spots, I’m about one-in-three to triple up and that’s plenty good enough.  In fact, I end up drawing a bit thinner, against QQ and KK.  When the KK is slowrolled after seeing both the other hands, karma kicks in and sticks a queen on the flop right up his arse.  There’s a jack too, so I’m calling for a ten to make a winning straight, and the turn card dutifully obliges.

I should have tripled up here, but somehow I got stiffed on the pot.  I moved in for 3200, but ended up with 7300.  It should have been virtually 10k, but thanks to the excitement of actually still being in the tournament, I didn’t notice until half way through the next hand.  All I can think is that my side pot was only awarded the first player’s original raise; whatever happened it was too late to do anything and I had to try to convince myself that it wasn’t going to matter that much.

Actually, it was about as insignificant as you could hope for.  From that point on, I only committed all my chips twice; once defending my blind with A2s (my reraise was called after an eternity by 35s, and I still don’t understand why but it made breathing difficult for a while) and then when I was actually eliminated in fourth place, with my AJ losing to K9.

With four players remaining and the cardroom still unwilling to chop up the prize the best we could come up with was for the winner to give 10% of any World Series winings to each of the other three.  We hastily scribbled an agreement which the club are keeping in their safe; far from perfect but even a forum post is more than anyone claiming to have a piece of this year’s winner had.  Even though the deal really probably isn’t worth much (although, of course, it could be worth 10% of $12m…) it no longer felt like I’d been playing for six hours with still a chance of going home with nothing.

I was pleased with my performance, and definitely got more out of this tournament than I expected.  Most importantly, I got a lot of high-pressure final table experience.  The stakes were way out of my comfort zone (my seat was worth over £1700 before I busted, and I couldn’t lock in any of that equity) but I didn’t choke.  I stayed patient and made good decisions.  I’d built a table image that I could take advantage of.  I always believed it when I told myself I had as good a chance as any other player to take first place.

I was also very pleased that I managed to walk directly back to my hotel without passing any places that I’d only ever seen on Monopoly squares!  This is a first for me, and although it’s nice to see London by foot, it’s not ideal when you’re alone at 3am and are a little unsure of the way.  Plus, I was disappointed last week when I discovered, by accident, that The Angel Islington was just another Wetherspoons.

I saw this and thought of, er, me…

The pedantry that must have done into making this sign, when it would clearly be much more effective just to go with the Americanized spelling


Aces, aces everywhere

I’ve left it a bit late to write up the tournament I played at Gutshot on Monday, but I did win… so I think I should still make the effort to recount my moments of greatness. 🙂

Clearly I rock.  I picked up pocket aces three times in the first hour.  Bad players just can’t do that, it’s the reason they suck.  This was an unlimited rebuy tournament, so I didn’t even need to find opponents with much of a hand to get action.  It’s a satellite into the WSOP qualifier next Monday (a £150 ticket), and actually a freeroll.  You start with 500 chips for absolutely nothing.  Then every time you need more, £10 gets you an extra 1000 and there’s an add-on after an hour where your tenner gets you 2000 more chips.  148 rebuys and add-ons created 10 seats; in fact the cardroom added £20 to the pot rather than create a cash prize for 10th.  ty.

Aces #1: There’s an all-in from early position by a player who has made it quite clear he isn’t going to rebuy.  He’s been playing it, well, like a freeroll.  His bet is called by the player to my right who had taken one rebuy to start with 1500 (as had I) but now has a little less than that remaining.  I move all-in over the top – no point being fancy here, and there’s no real downside to showing strength now.  If the guy stuck in the middle likes his hand, he’ll call.  If he doesn’t, we have a chunk of dead money and a better chance of winning.  I’m not letting anyone else into this pot for cheap.  Turns out he did like his hand: 9Ts.  The freerolling maniac flips up AJ and I take it down.  One player rebuys, the other makes his way downstairs.

I’d been sitting tight for a good 20 minutes.  Usually not even worth thinking about, but in this game chips were flying and dudes and dudettes were gambling.  Everyone except me, that is.  I feared I may have too much respect, so when I looked down and saw the Gutshot Powerhouse, I thought I’d check my table image.  I raise, and all fold to the big blind who thinks for an age and eventually passes.  I throw the mighty five-high face up, and nobody looks impressed.  Yet when someone folds the same hand face up from a blind later in the tournament there is much talk about how they were way ahead, it never loses, how can they fold that, etc.  I’m dealing that hand, so I cheekily rabbit hunt and make him a one card, five high flush to beat the raiser’s pocket tens.  Ahead the whole time, indeed.

It couldn’t get more perfect when the very next hand …

Aces #2: Kerching. AA.  Let’s see how much respect I have now.  Hopefully none.  Blinds are up to 50/100 so I open with a raise to 300.  A newly rebought 1000 chips comes over the top and my hand holds up against another AJ.  Rebuy in seat.. well, who knows what number the seat is in these self-dealt games…?

I’m then moved to another table, and having lost one small pot and a couple of rounds of blinds I am sitting behind a stack on 3300 when the last three hands for rebuys is announced.  Two hands pass uneventfully.  Last hand before the break, and wouldn’t you know it…

Aces #3: Woohoo.  There are two limpers ahead of me, and I make it 300 to go from the button.  I haven’t needed to rebuy yet and I’m feeling a bit frisky, hence the small raise.  I’d like some action please Bob.  It’s not very often you’ll see me trying to build a pot with one pair, but right now I can still pay £20 if it all goes wrong and be back to 3000 chips, roughtly where I started.  The blinds quickly fold and the two limpers call.  These two limpers had history.  The guy in early position had been frustrated by the girl in between us twice since I’d been here, with her moving all in over the top after he bet.  Both times he folded a medium strong hand face up (whereas she showed nothing and just grinned), and though he was probably correct both times he was clearly getting rattled.  So with me last to act behind these two, I have to hold my breath when there’s a bet of 500 and an immediate all-in on a Q-high, fairly raggy board.  Had she not seen me here?  I don’t think the other guy had, as he announced "call" before I had chance to do anything.  Two nits at the table convinced him that the call stood because I had ever so slightly less chips than the raiser.  Which I think is correct, but instead of calling for a ruling he just threw in his remaining 500 with bottom pair (45s) and started berating the nits for getting involved once his hand did not improve (compulsory call for him though anyway in that spot).  QJ also did not improve, and I’m up to about 10,000 at the break after I take the add-on.

The girl does not return, so there’s 125 chips with no owner at the table when we come back from break.  The table gets broken quickly and I have no idea where those chips end up.  Surely they won’t have reseated her with a dead stack for three or four hands?  Wasn’t at my table anyway…

The streak continues at my new table.  I get one customer when I raise with AQ, the flop comes Q-high and he check-calls all in on the flop with 66.  Not exactly pot-committed (the bet was about the size of the pot) but he must not have believed me.  Doesn’t he know how powerfbloody lucky I am tonight?

From then on it did get harder.  Can you believe I didn’t see aces again all night?  Sometimes that really makes you question how good you are…  I was glad to have the big chip advantage because the blinds got silly pretty quick.  I’m still not convinced by the 250/500 and 350/700 levels.  They are uncomfortable numbers, and really just serve to skip three levels for the price of two.  About half the players were pot committed on every hand they played, so I mostly just stayed out of trouble.  No need to win this one, top ten will do fine.  I manage to maintain and creep my stack up a bit to 16k before we are down to two tables.

Playing some great push/fold, crapshooty, throw-it-all-away-on-one-hand poker, I see AJ and have to move in from the cut-off.  The small blind likes his hand.  He thinks for a while and says "I have a pair".  Bad small blind – if he calls and shows a pair, he can’t win this pot.  They only recently allowed any speech play at all at Gutshot, but you still can’t talk about your hand whilst there are other players to act.  Heads up it seems you can do what the hell you like…  So do I actually want him to call, then yell for the floor and let them decide whether I just get his blind or the whole pot?  Or do I say something now, and make him pass whilst also letting the other player still in the hand know that I’m not particularly keen on getting action here?  I decide to keep quiet and fortunately he folds what he says is a pair of sixes.

From then on the remaining players dropped like flies.  I still had to take a 50/50 with my 55 against AT to ensure safety, but I stayed lucky and didn’t finish 13th.  Two simultaneous bustos, one on each table, took ten of us into the next round.  One winner even got all the way without paying a penny.  Living the dream baby!

The £150 satellite is next Monday.  It’s costing me £88 on the train (they just got expensive for Christmas) and £34 for a hotel (and yes, you get what you pay for) to be there.  With my £20 investment, I guess I’m about £8 up…


Boyd gets Barbary Coast back?  Sadly not, it’s still winging its way into the hands of the Evil Empire.  I did get quite excited when I saw the (fairly major) typo in this month’s Casino Player.  Even though it didn’t really make any sense. 


Value bet

I can’t believe i haven’t realised until today just how much added value there is in the PokerDome satellites.  I’ve only made it to the main satellite once, mostly because I regularly manage to forget that the $20 freezeout qualifier starts at 8.15pm.  They’re not bad themselves, often a small overlay to make up the two guaranteed seats into the next round.

Today I was thinking about buying in direct, simply because the package on offer was for the tournament taking place whilst we are in Vegas at Christmas. Then, true to form, I managed to miss the start and I kicked myself harder than usual after I noticed just how juicy this satellite was.  They guarantee two seats for Vegas – kind of essential to make sure the TV show goes ahead.  What I didn’t realise, and perhaps I just wasn’t paying close enough attention or maybe they just don’t a big enough deal about it, is that one seat is added to the prize pool and as far as I can tell it’s added regardless of the actual entries.  This week there were 69 players, paying $200 each.  That’s $13800 in the prize pool, which would be just shy of funding the two $7000 seat prizes.  But rather than just add $200 to make it up, there was in fact $6800 up for grabs in consolation cash.

Not only that, but they paid the whole final table – 9 prizes from 69 runners is a little flatter than usual, and makes it just that little bit more appealing for a tournament that’s not exactly within my bankroll.  A $200 online tournament is definitely out of my comfort zone to buy in direct.  I even get cold feet when it comes to using PokerStars T$ or W$ for the actual events I’ve qualified for! But when you’re actually getting, effectively, $300 worth of seat for $200 I’m going to find this hard to resist!

Of course, if I can actually remember the satellites this week it won’t be an issue.. 🙂

Going, going… still going

I’ve been in London today but back at a sensible time thanks to complimentary first class train tickets 🙂  Back in time to see most of the first day of the Stardust auction.  Missed the start, and therefore didn’t see just how much the last ever craps used went for, but I did see some vintage memorabilia under the hammer, and an awful lot of TV screens.


It’s not exactly thrilling viewing I admit, but I was still hooked.  Although with another four days still to go, I’m hoping the novelty will wear off soon.  Well, today at least.  At the same time I’ve been watching Children in Need, to make my Friday night complete.  Terry Wogan has managed to gather together the largest collection of truely dreary and middle of the road musical acts you could ever imagine.  And whenever you think of a dull band you think of Westlife.  We’re not to be disappointed.  Add Ronan Keating and someone who used to be in Blue (he’s no less dreadful on his own) to the mix.  Keane – well actually they’re not that bad, but really not the rock gods they seem to think they are.  But it just wouldn’t be complete without Sugababes, who managed to come up with a mesmorisingly dull dance routine to perfectly compliment the snoring blandness of their music.

Carnt Fold

Here’s a hand from a PokerDome satellite I played today.

Blinds are 75/150 and I have 2250.  I am dealt Ah Ad on the button.  Lovely.  A middle position player who has about twice as many chips as me raises to 300.  A fantastic minimum raise.  I strongly suspect he doesn’t have aces here, and if he does well that’s just the way cards are falling for me lately.

I reraise, making it 900 to go.  If he’d made a proper raise I could think about smooth calling here in position, but I can’t let the blinds see a cheap flop.  So far so good I think.

He makes the call and I see a horrible flop: Jh Qd Kc.

The only good thing I can say about this flop is that it’s unsuited.  It’s still about the worst flop ever for pocket aces in a pot that saw two raises pre-flop.  All those big pairs that you had crushed have suddenly caught up.  I figure two Kings would want to apply more pressure pre-flop, but can’t count on it.  Two Jacks could get away from this but, in the hands of a big stack, could very likely wait for a low board before hanging themselves.

There are also legitimate two-pair threats, and I haven’t been paying enough attention to know whether this guy would call a reraise with KQ, KJ or QJ out of position.  You’d hope not.  Of course, what I’m really hoping for is to run into AK here, but there’s only two aces and three kings left.  It’s unlikely.

There’s even the possibility of a maniac with KT who is not going to go anywhere, and would be just about correct to call for pot odds if I move all in.  I’d still be a 2-1 favourite, but I wouldn’t like it.  TT would have a hard time folding here too, figuring he may have 10 outs, when in fact a ten is no help and two of his straight cards are in my hand.  Of all the likely hands that just got much stronger, TT is probably the least dangerous.  But you’re still going home against it one time in four.

The stacks are nowhere near deep enough to have any chance of finding out where I stand.  And not only is the other guy wearing shades, he’s also playing on the Internet – no tells here.  I have one pot-sized bet left in me, which I think is probably going in the middle whatever happens.  So I’ve decided I’m not folding.  I mean, really, how can I?

Villian checks the scary flop.  Doesn’t matter.  He checks if he’s strong.  He checks if he’s as scared as I am.  There’s no more information to be had.

Now here’s the reason I’m posting this hand.  I’ve don’t ever remember being in this situation before, and if I have been I certainly didn’t think about it this way.  I’m in position, with a hand that could very well not be best any more but unable to find a way to fold.  I check, and check with a reason.  I’m ever so briefly a little bit smug.  If I’m beat I’m beat.  I’m losing my stack.  If I’m winning and I move all in here, he’s going to be able to fold anything I beat, except maybe AK.  He’s not folding anything that beats me, but will also be hating that board with any strong hand.  By checking I bring on a free card that probably won’t matter, and encourage him to bet the turn.  Which he will now probably do with any hand that pisses on mine, but me may also take the opportunity to push with that AK, which suddenly looks more attractive, or bluff with an underpair or a straight draw, or perhaps AQ or AJ.

I’m not saying this thinking is perfect.  It probably isn’t.  I need to find a way to get away from my aces if they’re no good, and maybe I could have controlled the pot size pre-flop better in order to be able to do that now.  I’m also not saying that I put him on a hand I beat and checked to induce a bluff.  That’s not possible here.  All I can do is make sure that I get as many chips in the middle the times I’m actually ahead as I do the times when I’m toast.

It’s the wrong decision.  He moves all in on the turn (couldn’t be more of a brick: 2s) and I call.  He flips KQo, I hit a second deuce on the river and survive.  I eventually bubbled.

I’m going to be thinking about this one for a while.  It’s a peculiar decision with a reason that’s based on a negative attitude.  The decision is not that unusual really.  It’s easy to check there out of fear, just as it’s easy to shove your chips in out of panic.

I don’t ever recall being in such a horrible situation and having a clear plan.  Now I just have to figure out whether the plan was any good.  Feel free to chime in anytime.

Yet more bad timing?

Although the Boyd Gaming Press Release originally stated that demolition of the Stardust would begin in the first quarter of 2007, there is now speculation that it could be imploded as soon as New Years Eve.

I’m not sure whether this rumour has much substance – it seems a bit too soon, although if the auction next weekend is as efficient as it looks I guess there won’t be an awful lot left to clear out.  Boardwalk closed this year on Jan 9th and it was four months until the freakish clown head and fake roller coaster were removed and the building was imploded on May 9th.

Of the twelve previous casino implosions, only the Hacienda fell on New Years Eve, back in 1996.  Somehow I thought it was a lot more.  However it would be typical if we just miss this one by a day – we fly back on Dec 31st, after deciding to trade a non-stop return flight and triple diamond club miles for that extra night of fireworks and complimentary plastic hats.

We were in town in February this year when Bourbon Street went boom, although good old Harrah’s kept it quiet until a few hours before they pushed the plunger and I only heard about it the following day.  Castaways was blown up with a similar lack of fanfare just a few weeks previously.  Apparently, making a spectator event out of watching tower buildings collapse is not considered particularly tasteful any more.

The afternoon before the Bourbon Street implosion we’d got stuck in horrible traffic around there, noticed "something odd going on" and even the road closure notices.  Never even thought that might be happening, or you can be sure we’d have found a prime spot to watch the destruction with a big foam finger and a little flag saying "Go Rubble!".  I know we wouldn’t have been alone.

Actually we had made more of a connection with Bourbon Street than to Stardust.  It was actually the home of our first Vegas beer – two small plastic cups of draft Budweiser.  50c each!  On our first trip we were pretty clueless, and – as well as paying for beer – had ended up staying at the Days Inn Town Hall Casino on Koval, just around the corner.  It’s also now dust, although with one blackjack table and a dozen video poker machines, the Town Hall isn’t the type of casino to be missed.

No WSOP for me. Already.

The timing couldn’t be worse.  Harrah’s have announced that the series will being on June 1st with the final table of the Main Event on July 17th.  There’s no specific schedule information at this point in time, and I guess they don’t actually know when it will start yet because nobody can qualify online anymore. 

But still, there won’t be a poker table in sight at the World’s Most Vacuous Poker Room when we land on July 22nd for Summer O’ Poker III.  I’m still undecided whether this time it will be in 3D.