December 2006
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iTunes has a bad day?



Everything I know about Poker Dome – so far

I’ve got my dates now: Episode 36, filming January 27th, airing on Fox Sports Net on January 28th.

The show is now being shown on FX over here.  That makes four programs on that channel, alongside X-Files, Highlander and Cops.  But obviously those stalwarts of the schedule get top priority and Pokerdome is squeezed on at 2am.  I’ve put it in Sky+ and will try to work out how far behind we are.

The package includes:

Round Trip Air Transportation to Las Vegas
They’ve confirmed that this is for one person only.  Although it’s unlikely Claire can get time off during term time anyway so I’m almost certainly going alone.  Which will be strange.  If they book it for Fri-Sun though it won’t be a direct BMI flight.  At the very least I need to try to get them to make it Thu-Sun and then I can get diamond club miles too, as well as stand a chance of being awake when the tournament starts!  Have to make sure they’ve heard of other airlines than Virgin so I don’t end up having to get to Gatwick!  If I’m only going to be there for a weekend, a 24 hour round trip journey is an absolute upper limit, don’t you agree?

VIP Pick-up from Airport to Hotel
It’s a big black minibus, according to  A limo with attitude.

VIP Check-in at Caesars Palace (2 nights included Friday and Saturday)
Never stayed at Caesars.  Always said its probably where I’d choose if money was no object, and I said that even before they had a card room.  So this is pretty damn cool.

Welcome VIP package in the room (champagne, mansion welcome wear)
Free shirts = always good.  Champagne = don’t care.  How much fun is it going to be to arrive by yourself and sit in your room and drink bubbly anyway?  I’m sure I can find an appreciative wino…

$500.00 Casino Credit
Sounds like this is actually just five black chips, according to  Play em or cash em… well I can’t see there being any tables games lower than $25 minimum at Caesars on a weekend, so I’ll probably cash em.  Or, I could try to do some real life rampaging at $2/$5 NL and see how just far I can spin it up…!

Welcome Dinner and Introduction to the Poker Dome (Friday Night)
Oh God, I have to be sociable?  After an 11 hour flight?  At like 5am UK time? Is this optional? :)

VIP Transportation to and from the Poker Dome (Saturday)
Why they’re not putting us in a Downtown hotel I don’t really know.  I’d probably still want a ride from the El Cortez at night, but anywhere else saves them a load of hassle. 

$50 meal credit at hotel
If it’s good at the Cheesecake Factory, you can be sure I’m going to be trying to smuggle a couple of those bad boys back home.

VIP transportation back to airport
BFH.  Super, smashing, great.

The tournament itself is a three round, six-handed, speed poker shootout for a million dollars.  15 players stand between me and $1m – hey, it’s just like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire!  And, if this article is to be believed, you can almost ask the audience too.  There’s also that annoying drone of tension music all the way through.  If I beat five players, I win some money that I can’t lose and get to come back for more.  It’s $25,000 for round one, and a further $50,000 for round two.  Second place gets diddly squat though.  The speed poker element is that you get 15 seconds to make each decision and there are two dealers to keep the cards flowing quickly.

In the rules I’ve been sent (which, incidentally, are all TV rules, and nothing to do with poker) state no logos on clothes, no ipods, and no recourse whatsoever if they decide to make stuff about you to make the show more interesting.

"I hereby release Producer from, and covenant not to sue Producer for, any claim or cause of action, whether known or unknown, for libel, slander, invasion of right of privacy, publicity or personality, or any other claim or cause of action"

I’m also a bit worried why they need to include this:

"I understand that there is a possibility of i) risk of injury to me or others and/or ii) damage to either my property and/or the property of a third party as a direct and/or indirect result from my participation in or connection with certain activity(ies) which may be included within the production of the Program."

It’s not like this is bungee poker or anything…

Is anything better than free mince pies?

Tesco have been giving away a free box of mince pies with every grocery delivery lately.  A nice little bonus for sure, but these may well be the sweetest mince pies of the season.  A very nice, completely unexpected freebie from Virgin Trains no less! Pies, cheese and booze.  The perfect combination.

 And yes it does indeed say:

 It’s better if I keep that out of context, don’t you think…


My return trip from London usually involves a late train.  That way I never have to worry about leaving the office on time, getting stuck on a delayed tube and missing the train.  It does, however, mean that I’m hanging around for up to two hours at Euston.  This is where a cheap First Class upgrade comes in handy.  By "cheap" I mean that you get the very lowest tier of First Class ticket.  These are only available after they stop serving hot food to your seat, and instead you get a sandwich and a banana.  However usually they put the most expensive tickets at the front of the train so they get first dibs on all the snack food, and by the time yours truely gets served the sandwich choice is probably only egg.

It’s still better than at weekends, where you have to fetch everything yourself.  And as the shop is right in the middle of standard class, you have to climb over three carriages of poor people (you can’t hear the irony, but it’s there I promise, because I only use the train at the weekend on a free ticket) to pick up a "snack box" that contains a couple of crackers and some dried fruit.

Still, it means I get somewhere warm to sit for a couple of hours with an unlimited supply of complimentary coffee and crisps.  Today, they even have some rather nice chocolate truffles.  I was actually disciplined enough to just have one.  Impressive.

When I’m bumming about in the lounge above Euston Station, I’m usually online.  No change there.  There’s a wifi hotspot – touted as a feature of first class, when you still have to pay £4/hr to use it – but I now have my super funky phone with wireless modem and unlimited data calls, which is just as good when there’s 3G coverage.

Today, the phone said I had a full four bars of 3G signal but I couldn’t connect to squat.  It dialed, it thought, it gave up.  Same thing happened trying to get online from the phone itself, and it’s still the same problem now that I’m on the train.  I waited a good ten minutes on hold to T-Mobile, but nobody is there this time of night… at half past six?  Unlikely.  So I decided to bite the bullet – and bite into some complimentary fruit cake – and pay for the wifi.  I still had over an hour to kill and thought I may as well do something useful, even if "something useful" is trying to find out whether the 6-max $2/$4 game at Noble Poker is as soft as it appears to be, or if I just ran very hot so far.  The early signs are good (and here I go tempting fate again).  Sure, I’ve been getting lucky with some hands, but it’s so lovely and passive, they’re just always letting me catch up – and then paying me off!  Of course I don’t mind winning $30 pots with two pair made on the turn from 47o in the big blind, it’s just a little embarassing… I’m sure people in the lounge were watching me!

However, as I’ve bought into Gutshot folklore, I was particularly pleased with this hand.  Would have been worth an extra $50 at their online cardroom too!

The hotspot let me log in, but I had zero credit and when I tried to reload it said "this feature is not available".  There’s an award winning business plan buried away in there somewhere I’m sure…

So I was feeling a little marooned.  NO INTERNET!  But then I remembered the time I playing PokerStars here and my credit ran out but I was still able to play.  I hadn’t figured out whether it was because I still had an open connection and it didn’t know how to disconnect me after the credit ran out, or if it just wasn’t configured to block poker traffic.  Turns out, it’s their configuration.  Which means…

Free poker!

Well, for some sites anyway.  Noble Poker worked just fine.  I could see the lobby and sit at tables.  The only problem was accessing the cashier, which uses web pages within the client.  But as I already had a balance, I could play away happily.  And, yes, it still feels pretty soft.  I think Stars will work, although I couldn’t test it properly.  It tried to get a software update, presumably from a web site, and failed.  Party Poker and Mansion would not connect at all, but ParadiseParadise Masters: $1.5 million in prizes worked fine, and their cashier does not use the web so it looks like you get full functionality.  For free!

That’s about all I had time to check, but I’ll be doing more research!  They definitely block web and email access until you sign in with a credit card, and apparently MSN messenger too.  However I could connect to ICQ and Yahoo! Messenger without any problems, and without paying!

I only have limited experience with wireless hotspots.  The odd hotel and airport, and once at Starbucks when it was the hot new thing, which was memorable because it just didn’t work.  I wonder just how many actually allow free access like this! 

My Pot O’ Gold?

Playing beyond your bankroll completely rocks when you get lucky. :)

I knew the PokerDome satellite was too expensive for me to justify buying into direct.  Even with its awesome added value – a $215 seat was worth $343 tonight – I’m just not serious enough or good enough to play three-figure buy in tournaments on a regular basis.  I was well aware that I couldn’t continue playing this tournament every week, as I desparately wanted to, without running a little bit hot at first.

Last Saturday, I used some of the money remaining from the very nice Mansion NFL bet bonus I took advantage of earlier in the year to buy into the $100+$9 rebuy and the $200+$15 freezeout.  It was pretty uneventful – I didn’t survive the first hour in either of them and couldn’t remember anything vaguely interesting to write about, so I didn’t even mention it.

Today I went only for the freezeout, figuring my balance could support two more cracks at it and I wasn’t really likely to play anything else at Mansion.  They have a few money-added tournaments during the day, but they’re now making a big deal about a Christmas tournament series with $250,000 added.  Very attractive (and a $50+$5 buy in is much more realistic for me) but they all start at 3am.  So despite the Mansion server clock being GMT, they pretty much don’t give a hoot about their European players and have put this quarter of a million up for grabs only to attract the Americans that are still looking for a place to play.  You can see why they’d do that, but just a couple that start during the day for US players – a token effort - would be nice.

Oh, did I forget to say the result before I went off on one?

First place baby!  $7000 PokerDome package and $3430 cash.

What follows now will probably be waffle.  I’m completely wired but also in need of sleep (I have to catch a train at 07:24).  In this case especially, the size of the prize is much more interesting than how I actually won it, so I definitely won’t be offended if you don’t read any further.

Everything started great and I was chip leader within 15 minutes after eliminating two players with big pairs that held up.  Had to make a terrifying all-in call with QQ on TT2 flop.  The other player had called my third raise pre-flop and moved all-in immediately after the flop.  There’s a chance he’s playing AA or KK in a donkish way there, but I found it hard to believe he wouldn’t try to check-raise me on that board if he had anything that beats my queens.  In fact, a check-raise there may well have got me to fold the QQ (I’d be putting him on JJ-AA), but instead he donated his stack when AK did not improve.

Players fell fast down to three tables remaining.  Two tables were getting paid, with $350 for places 10-18.  On the bubble there were three mega short stacks, with about 1000 chips each and blinds at 300/600.  I had a heart attack when I saw KK on the big blind with players who mostly had me covered, and was never more pleased to get a walk with a big hand.  It wasn’t just me who wanted to lock in $350 then – that’s almost two more goes at this in my weak mind!

There were some crippled stacks on the final table so it dropped to 6 remining pretty quickly.  That had guaranteed me a four-figure payday.  I was keeping up with the pack pretty well, but I know I could have played stronger to take advantage of the bubble effect – when two players had very short stacks but the next jump in money was $600, I fancied the $600.  I was helped by someone playing AK much too passively.  He smooth-called a minimum raise from a habitual min-raiser, forcing me to pay one bet to see a flop with K8s from the big blind.  I didn’t hesitate when the flop came KQ8 and got the payoff. 

The jump between 4th and 3rd was $1500 and I was extremely glad that it happened on a pretty easy decision.  I had AJs on the big blind and the small stack button pushed.  He flipped over J8o and stood up.

Then I dithered a bit too much.  The problem (if you can call four grand in the bank a problem) was that 3rd paid a nice chunk of cash ($4116) whereas 2nd was "only" $235 in addition to the PokerDome package.  $4116, or indeed the $3430 extra for first place, would nicely take care our house rental next summer.  Claire did just this with the extra cash she won alongside her WSOP seat last year, so I wanted to do the same.  So my strategy at that point should have been to go for broke: get myself a massive chip lead or bomb out and guarantee the biggest cash prize on offer.  Finishing 2nd, chances are I’m going to Vegas by myself, unless by some freak of timing the event I’ve qualified for is either the weekend we’re already going to be there or lands in a school holiday.  Plus, I’d heard other players talking about previous satellites, saying that the 3rd place finisher is also taken to Vegas as a reserve.

By the time I’d realised that I needed to make this adjustment, it was too late.  The other two were going at it, and we were heads up.  The other guy had about a 2:1 chip lead on me.  Playing, basically, a freeroll for $3000 in a satellite is a very strange experience.  It’s the biggest leap in prize money on offer, even though both the players remaining have pretty much already achieved what they came for.  We were both on our way to Vegas.  But the tournament just kept on playing, there was no time to take that in, no time to start leaping around and not even time to go and wake Claire and get a sleepy hi-5.  I’d been running excitedly back and forth with updates all the way down to 5 players left, as she’s much more conscientious at the whole having-to-get-up-at-6.30 thing than me.  That’s like 5 hours away… and still no way I can sleep!

The heads up slaughter lasted about 45 minutes.  I suck at heads up.  I’m way too weak, and this guy was a big bully.  He bashed me down to about 15k vs his 120k and I got lucky to survive.  From then on I somehow slogged my way back even, eventually picked up a big hand and got paid off and once I’d fought my way to a 3:1 chip lead his TT held up against my AQ and we were back to level footing.  Same old story – he bashes away at me and I have to get lucky again.  Although by now I’m wondering if the Kill Phil heads up strategy of "go all in every hand" wasn’t such a bad idea.  I was definitely outclassed, but on the bright side I now have some great experience of playing heads up for a big prize.

We already know that it’s bad karma to turn down a deal.  Here we were, almost at the stage where it was time to race random cards for $3000 and I offer a deal.  Don’t even know if it’s possible to do that on Mansion, but he wasn’t interested anyway.  Can’t blame him really.  He knew he was better, and I’d have been overjoyed to take any kind of deal to have it over with.

But when it’s with you it’s with you.  I got ahead again, calling a small bet with middle pair and making 2 pair on the river.  I never saw what he had, but I must have been behind most of the way.  So with nearly a 4:1 chip lead I decided to have a crack with K9 to try and end it.  It was good enough:


Now, you never know, going on TV might be enough to push me just that little bit harder to lose some weight…

I know this is asking for trouble…

… but if anyone would care to come and sweat me, we’re down to 11 players in the PokerDome satellite and I just about have an average stack.  I’m already in the money, thanks to Mansion’s fantastic overlay, but it starts to get really interesting at the final table.  Top two go to Vegas…

Full report to follow, probably.

22:54. Quickest edit ever.  I’d just pressed "save" on this, and it dealt me QQ with a raise in front of me.  I took it down with a reraise though.  Whew, as they say.

22:57. Second quickest edit ever.  Same situation, this time JJ.  Apparently I’m second in chips after that resteal!

23:30.  Brief update at end of 3rd hour.  5 left and I have 2 grand in the bank.  I’m second bottom in chips though and the blinds are mental.  I think it’ll be over pretty quick either way.

Merry Cactus Everybody

T-21 baby!

And like twenty something shopping days to Christmas, if you care about that.

If I had a Las Vegas advent calendar, it would definitely need to have a picture of a cactus dressed up in Christmas lights.  I would have said this even before hearing about just what they do to the Ethel M cactus garden.  As if cacti aren’t cool enough.  The chocolate factory is cack but I’ll definitely be going back to get a camera full of pictures of lit up desert plants.  Meantime, and seeing as how Santa will have been and gone by the time I can post one of my own, here’s a shot from the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Megan Edwards has a couple more:

A new month

A new month, so a new player points quota to hit to retain GoldStar status on PokerStars.  And retain it I must, because I know I’ll never actually get around to redeeming my FPPs this month and most of the stuff I want is for GoldStar and higher.

Now I know I said I was gonna keep plugging away at $2/$4 and probably rack up 10,000 hands this month, but it was doing my head in.  I had to take a break, so I spent some time playing $50NL and $100NL and the occasional pot-limit table.  Had moderate success but don’t have anything like enough hands to know whether I’m really going to turn a long-term profit on those games.

I have been given a hot tip though, a site to play at that is apparently very soft.  I take this with a pinch of salt, although the reasoning makes sense.  It’s a bookmaker that has just added poker and is marketing it exclusively to its existing sports bettors.  If it’s any good I’ll be sure to comment, and if it’s not then I’ll probably even name it :)   Only have a couple of sessions, but when I doubled up on $100 NL with my TT flopping top set against a T2 eventually made two pair, it seemed like a good start.  Yummy.

It’s time to focus again, so I’m back to mutli-tabling fixed limit.  For a while at least.  I have a hypothesis from today’s session: $3/$6 is a better game for me than $2/$4 on PokerStars.  Yes I know it’s a small sample size and one winning session doesn’t make me a champ, but for the first time in ages I felt comfortable at these tables.  I’d started at $2/$4 but seen that there were four tables at $3/$6 that were considerably looser – about 35% VPIP - and hardly any waiting list for any of them.  They played much more like the $2/$4 I was used to from PokerRoom, before they dumped their American players.  At times they even played like the fantastic $2/$4 games in Vegas with 6 or 7 players to a flop.  Definitely going to be keeping a closer eye over the weekend and see if I can find out whether I’m better suited to $3/$6.