March 2007
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I’m worth that much?

A very bizarre – and a little premature – April Fool’s gag from Party Poker?  Actually it’s not a joke, just a cock up – I have a 25% deposit bonus waiting on the account – but it was a very effective way to get me to log in to my account and check…


Derek Kelly NOT banged up

Gutshot’s apparent criminal mastermind, Derek Kelly, was just given the following sentence:

– A conditional discharge for two years, the condition being that Derek Kelly will not contravene the Gaming Act in that period

– No fine

– A payment of £10k towards prosecution costs (thought to be in the region of £25k) – this to be paid in monthly instalments of £500

Hardly even a slap on the wrist, relatively speaking.

With the club carrying on doing much the same as it was but with the term "service charge" simply replaced by "voluntary donation", was it really worth all that fuss in the end?

Double Gutshot

Pocket nines.  I’d raised to 600 from early position and been reraised all in by another player who developed a bad case of verbal diarrhea.  Whilst I paused to make it look like my decision was harder than it was, he talked himself into a pokery grave.

OK, in fact it was a closer decision than I first thought.  The all in bet was 1400 more to me, so throw in the dead money from the blinds and it’s about 2-1 pot odds.   It’s just about a profitable call against all but the very tightest players, but in a tournament I almost always fold here.  Unless the other guy just got impatient, he doesn’t have to play here with a worse pair than mine, which typically puts someone making this bet on a strong hand which will send me packing more than half the time.  I actually have a few more chips than him, which gives me 8 big blinds and enough time to try to find a better spot than this one.

Tonight, I called.  I’d like to say it’s down to my superlative reading skills, but really the other guy just threw it away.  Whilst I went into the tank – at first acting, but then actually considering just how weak it was to fold here – he started talking:

"It’s a race against your overcards.  I have a pocket pair".

The more he said, the more I believed him.  I just waited and let him carry on as he insisted that he didn’t care if I called, he’d be in good shape.  A look of horror crept over his face when he finally realised that he should have just kept quiet and given me chance to throw away the best hand.  I called and my 99 held up against his pocket sixes.  I’ll still file this one proudly under "trusting my reads", even though I had significant help.

Three days and two nights in working away from home gave me the chance to play back-to-back evenings at Gutshot.  Not that I would have been able to have a quiet night in my hotel room if I wanted to.  Although I’d scored a surprise ensuite room, it was still a shoebox and had a peculiar separate shower and toilet cubicle arrangement at opposite ends of the room.  Opening the door to either bathroom involved moving some piece of furniture in front of some other door.

The tournament was Tuesday’s "beginner night" with a variable buy-in structure that I’ve not come across before.  I don’t think it makes much difference.  You can choose to pay £5, £10, £15 or £20 to start with 500, 1000, 1500 or 2000 chips respectively.  Nobody on my table started with less than 2000, and I can’t imagine the cheaper options are very popular.  There’s a £3 daily membership fee to get into the club now (this did not replace the raked "donations" at cash tables, but there was no additional collection for the tournament).  A £5 tournament with £3 entry fee really doesn’t sound attractive.

I finished about 20th of over 90 players, after deciding to push with KQs.  There were two limpers and I thought I’d found a good spot to pick up a decent pot, or have a hand with a fighting chance if called.  Naturally the first limper called me with AQ and I was doomed.

On Monday I played the £25-£50 pot limit game and I came real close to breaking my streak, going for two good hours without a sniff of anything at all.  My recovery began with a fortunate mistake.  The player to my right had been raising with all kinds of garbage and raised to £7.  This time I found AK and I immediately reraised the pot.  That was £26 apparently, and the mistake was that neither of us bothered to look at my stack.  It left me with just £17 so my bet size couldn’t be have been much more wrong with that small stack.  I’m not crazy about his smooth call either – decide now: either you’re going all the way or you’re not.

There wouldn’t be many flops thats I could to get away from with so little left to play with, so when it came jack-eight-six in three different suits and he checked, I moved in for a pathetic 1/3 pot bet.  A little bit of folding equity can go a long way: he not only folded, but also announced that he was giving up AK.

I definitely owe something to that game.  I’ve not yet been in a big pot where I’ve had the best hand cracked, and not getting unlucky in a £150 pot is what set me up for a winning night this time.  After limping with 67 in the cut-off, the flop was a gorgeous A67.  I found a player who liked his ace and got a pot-sized call on the flop with the rest following on the turn.  What could have been better than a deuce on the turn?  He didn’t show his hand, but it wasn’t AQ as the river brought a queen and my hand held up.

I lose to any ace or deuce here as well as a paired kicker – it’s only 8 cards from 44, but that means I’m still "looking after" £30 from that pot alone, and there have been several others like it.  When it’s my turn to pay back, it’s gonna hurt.

A touch of Vegas

The Casino at the Empire in Leicester Square, which is apparently important enough to have two different web addresses listed on it’s boarded-up front, claims to be "a touch of Vegas in the heart of London".  It’s a construction zone, so it’s hard to argue with that description so far.

They’ve already removed the Empire sign from above the entrance, which is criminal.  It’s not the original one, but it still feels like it’s been there forever.  There’s no Neon Boneyard in London, so I can only fear the worst and ask for a moment of silence.

So now why not go the whole Vegas hog and implode the entire West End?  It probably woudn’t be out of the question if it was possible but of course the "Vegas-style supercasino" was awarded to Manchester, much to the disgust of everybody in Blackpool – a town which is now ripe for a systematic flattening and rebuilding.

The Leicester Square casino will be the main host casino for the WSOP Europe, but even with a £10,000 buy-in (nearly double that of the WSOP Main Event) it won’t be big enough to seat enough the players and two other casinos will be used to whitte down the field.  Their announced regular poker tournament schedule boasts an 81-player capacity, and that they will provide dealers for any events with a £100 buy-in or higher.  That’ll be once a week, on a Tuesday.

Sounds like a long way from the Vegas WSOP experience of a huge, echoing, characterless conference hall.  Now, how do I qualify?…

Hear this

This is a sign on the tube in a space where proper advertising could go, so you know it’s serious.  It’s a funny angle, but I really didn’t want to have to shift on a busy train to try to get the perfect shot – it does the job.

Really, how has this ever been an issue?  I can’t believe whoever came up with the idea of putting this sign on an underground train has ever been on the tube, let along been on it with an iPod.  If you can hear anything out of your own headphones, you’re doing well, nevermind how you could possibly be concerned about a little sound escaping from someone wedged next to you.

This is especially with European model iPods with the volume cap that’s imposed on everyone because of some stupid French law.  My old Creative MP3 player came from the USA and I could hear OK it at three notches below top volume at full speed on the Circle Line.  Whereas my iPod nano bought in England didn’t stand a chance until I invested in some noise-cancelling headphones.

The volume cap surely does make it harder to deafen yourself if you really can’t tell when it’s too loud (clues: ears ringing, bad; ears bleeding, very bad) but just like the law that prevents you buying more than a handful of painkillers at time so that it;s more difficult to kill yourself if you don’t realise it’s wrong to take a whole bottle, it’s just a bloody nuisence.

Dusk Till Dawn on the horizon

Simon "Aces" Trumper clearly doesn’t have a great deal to do until Dusk Till Dawn opens, which will be next month if everything goes to plan.  In the meantime he’s been staying busy by making hundreds, if not thousands, of thinly-disguised sales calls. 

Geoff told me over a week ago he’d had a call from the Late Night Poker champion-turned-commentator (ok I admit it, I put in that second link mostly because my name is on the page).  I don’t think he was particularly starstruck, but it was definitely something that doesn’t happen every day.  I’ve seen various posts to poker forums also bragging about similar brushes with the bald and famous – famous that is among Late Night Poker viewers from getting on for a decade ago – and it’s just taken him a while to get around to everyone, but today it was finally my turn.  I sent an anonymous call to voicemail – it turns out that TV poker stars do withhold caller ID – and later I picked up this message.

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The $5000 added money tournament on sunday sounds good value, but with a $1 tournament don’t expect the actual buy-ins to have any significant impact on the payouts, or for anybody to play sensibly in the least.  It’s may as well be a freeroll for anyone who has made a real money deposit.

This is the picture I was sent by email of what the club might look like when it’s finished.  Artist’s impression, apparently, so looks like there’s still some work to be done before they can open.

Trumper is DTD’s live poker manager, so it’s understandable he might not have that much to do, not actually having a cardroom to manage until the club is granted its gaming license (still not a certainty, although they have pass the hurdle of obtaining consent from the Gaming Commission) and opens its doors in April. 

Really though, these personal phone calls are a very nice touch, and I’m sure very effective.  Having applied for a license through the same procedures that a regular casino would be required to follow, but remaining firm that they will not offer any house-banked games – a frankly daft decision, when poker generates such little revenue in comparison to any of the sucker games they could also provide – they will need to get as many people as possible through the doors as soon as it opens.  I wish them the best of luck.

However, signs suggest their online poker might not be doing too well.  This is an email that I received today and it’s one of the strangest I ever saw.  There’s not even a hint of suggestion as to why this is where you should be playing online, let alone any signup or deposit bonuses, or featured tournaments.  Is this really any more than just a begging letter?

We are having a big push THIS Monday to try and get the highest level of rake on the site that we have achieved to date.

With this in mind we are all contacting all our poker friends and those associated with DuskTillDawn to ask them to help us in this endeavour.
I shall be grateful, therefore , if you can help by putting in as much effort as you can this Monday (26 March) to play on DTDPoker for as long as possible from 4am Monday to 4am Tuesday.
Thank you in advance for your help
Paul Jackson
Online Poker Director

I can’t quite work out what the incentive is to play, other than DTD wants your money and wants it not now, not over the weekend, but on Monday.  I must be forgetting the community spirit when a group of people who don’t know each other – and won’t recognise each other – band together to boost a company’s profits.

EDIT: 248 entries, prize pool $5248.  Good job.

Adventures in straddling

I have a confession to make.  I experimented with straddling last night.  But it was just one time, and I didn’t inhale, so that’s OK, isn’t it?

I wanted to do something to help my solid-as-a-rock image.  I’d hardly played a hand for an hour, then when I did, I got my entire stack in the middle with nothing less than a flopped nut straight.  I was amazed I got any action even then, but it was only going to get trickier to get a call from anyone who had been playing the slightest attention.

Not only that, the player to my left had remembered me, knew that I didn’t fool around and – like most of the players at Gutshot – couldn’t keep information to himself.  When I first sat down, the dealer asked for blinds and said to me "it’s £2 if you want to straddle".  I declined, saying "not this time".  He piped up, laughing, "yeah, and not any time".  So when I actually did stick my two quid in blind, I got a reaction from him as close to a hi-5 as you could ever expect from a young black Londoner wearing a Full Tilt hoodie and an ipod.

With six players calling the straddle, I didn’t have the balls to do anything other than check my option when I see an offsuit ten-five.  Not a great hand to play ever, let alone multi-way and out of position.

When the flop gave me a dreadfully weak top pair though, could I just check-fold?  I probably should – the board was T72, all different suits – but I found myself needing to be seen to throw some chips around, and led out for £10.  One player re-raised the minimum and another called, so it’s £10 back to me for a pot of £64.  Now, finally, I change my mind, panic at the prospect of losing all my newly acquired profit with a garbage hand and give up.

In fact I would have been up against T8 and 75, with the 5 on the turn giving me the best hand and another player a decent second best hand, so I could have done very well out of my moment of madness.  But that’s just some stray results-oriented thinking getting the better of me.  It would be a very poor call if I could actually see the other players’ hands, and a pretty poor call if I thought I might have as many as five outs.

If I do find a call here, I’m not going to put in another chip unless my hand improves, but I’m still not sure what to do if I do hit a miracle.  If I’m counting getting implied odds with a suckout, I have to know where they’re coming from.  Another ten on board would definitely get me into trouble against someone who flopped top pair, or a flopped set.  Improving to two pair gives me not much more than a difficult decision still to make.

I see the potential for only big losses in my future so I fold the hand.  So much for making myself appear looser.  Now I’m the rock who folds top pair to a minimum reraise, getting better than 6-1 on the call.  But looking at the kind of action I was getting in this hand anyway, I guess I can live with it…

Five out of five aint bad

Maybe I can’t actually lose in the Gutshot £25-£50 game.  Five evenings, five winning sessions and nearly £300 up.  I have to be running good, the question is just how good?  I really need a losing session to keep a grip on reality.  I left (relatively) early this evening as I was getting tired (but apparently not too tired to brag in a blog entry) and left with £83 of other people’s money in my wallet. 

It all started off so promising when I couldn’t hit a straight draw in a pot that was just too big to let go.  Along with eight (count ’em) others, I’d called a £3 raise from the small blind holding T8 in spades, and the flop brought J93 with two diamonds.  Sixth to act moves all in for his remaining £28 and the player to my right throws his last £14 into the pot.  It’s £28 to call, to win £74, which I can’t pass up.  I could be drawing to only 6 outs for some or all of the pot, and there’s a chance it could be raised behind me, making me play my remaining £40 for not such a great price.  But there could also me more callers, and if I can beat one of them I can beat them all.

Then things got good just after the tournament started.  Our table had been reduced to three-handed, and after a few £5 pots I somehow managed to win another player’s stack with an ace high flush against a smaller flush.  If that happened online with just three players dealt in, you’d say it was fixed.

After I got moved to the dealer-dealt table, the only way I managed to increase my stack for about an hour was by adding the change from my burger to it.  Tipping waitresses with chips is one thing, but letting them give you chips as change for your twenty feels a little bit funny.  Those chips should never have been in play, but nobody seems to care when you bring more chips onto the table, only when you put them in your pocket.  What can you do?

My big hand came well after the burger was just another juicy memory.  I called a pre-flop raise from the huge stack to my right who had been raising every time he played a hand.  KQs was more than good enough to see a flop with, and I was very happy to see five other players join in – had to double check I wasn’t actually in Vegas!  I flopped the nut straight – ace, jack, ten – and let out a little cheer internally.  With two hearts on board and seven players left in, I wanted to find someone who also didn’t like the possible flush draw to get it all in against right now.  I bet £20 into the £35 pot, and only got one call from the pre-flop raiser.  It didn’t really tell me much, but at least I’d ended up with position.

I willed for a black card, and the turn obliged.  Be careful what you wish for though: it was a king, so I still had the nuts, but you’d expect it to kill my action.  How on earth did I actually get a payoff from a worse hand with AKJT on board?  My customer went into the tank for a good nwhile and eventally called my last £50, saying "I don’t believe you".  He turned over king-ten and didn’t improve on the river.  That king had actually helped me, although I’m still not sure how he could call with a very weak two pair on that board (he didn’t believe I had better than ace-nine?) and I was stacking up over £170 as the bully stood up to leave.  He still had about £200 to take home, but he was clearly wounded.

The glitz and glamour of the North East

Welcome to Fabulous Teeside.  Stockton baby, yeah!

Well, it’s really not that exciting, because I didn’t manage to win a seat for the main event and instead bought myself into two of the other festival events.  It’s still a couple of weeks away too, but it’s going to be my first poker road in some time and the first time I’ve been to that area of the country since I was about nine.  I’m dating that last trip to visit family in Darlington from a memory of my Uncle having some kind of early home computer beast that was programmed in hexadecimal and had a two digit LED readout.  He loaded it (by which I mean spent an unfathomably long time for a young boy to type it in) with what was apparently some kind of racing game where the edge segments of the LED digits flashed in a rotation, one slightly faster than the other as we each tapped away at the sort of switch you would expect to use to send morse code.  It was pants, but I was fascinated, so it must have been before I got my hands on my first "proper" computer – a Sinclair ZX Spectrum when I was 10.

I played a satellite at Leicester on Wednesday for the Stockton £500+£50 main event.  With a 100 player capacity, the only way to get into this one is to win a satellite, and they’re held throughout the country as well as online.  There’s a little added value here too, as far as I can tell.  With 48 players at Leicester putting up £20 each (and there’s no exhorbitant session fees for satellite tournaments, just a £2 registration fee) they awarded one £500 seat and split the remaining £460 between second and third place.  So who is paying the £50 registration fee on that seat?  I did OK but simply ran out of cards at the worst possible time, getting stuck on the four-handed table when we were down to nine players and seeing garbage after garbage.  In the end, I had to move all in with some ridiculously poor hand and couldn’t get lucky enough to survive.

So off I went up to the cashier to try to register for the other Stockton events, and leaving with a receipt – although I’m not 100% sure it’s means a great deal – felt like an achievement.  In the afternoon I’d tried caling both the Stockton casino and the Gala national helpline to ask whether I could register without having to travel to Teeside, but as far as I could tell, neither of them had even heard of the poker tour.  The girl at Stockton, struggling at times to understand my relative lack of regional accent, told me all about how I had to be there fifteen minutes before the start time or I couldn’t play (I’ve already learned this the hard way) but didn’t think I could register in advance.  She didn’t know anything about a festival coming up, but there was some sort of game tonight if I wanted to play.  I thought the GBPT was a big deal for Gala, but it’s pretty clear they threw it together in a hurry to compete with the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour (and I already know that you can register in advance for any festival event at any Grosvenor casino).  Grosvenor admittedly don’t have the endorsement of one member of a pop group that didn’t win a reality TV show, and played but didn’t do very well in their last main event, but they do have twice as many stops on the tour and I can’t imagine there’s any chance that their casinos won’t know when the tour is in town.

Much, much faffing at Leicester finally resulted in me getting registered.  Card room manager Steve told me I could do it at the cashier, but nobody at the cashier had a clue what to do.  Various people called various people and in the end I walked away £330 lighter to pay for for the £100 and £200 freezeouts on Thursday and Friday, but only after they made sure to note down my phone number just in case.  Very reassuring.

Looking on the bright side?

Here’s another podcast clip I’ve blatently stolen without permission, hoping the guys behind the mic will turn a blind eye because of the potential click I might throw their way.  🙂  You see the smiley there makes it all OK.

This time it’s the turn of Steve and Miles from The Strip podcast.  Last week, Steve interviewed Eric Idle about Spamalot which is now playing at the Wynn.

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It appears that Idle is well aware of the unfortunate pecking order of Vegas shows:

1. Pretentious acrobats
2. Everyone else

Anyway, subscribe to their show, it’s really rather good.