April 2007
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Diet Coke Broke

This is what happens when the Coke machine in McDonalds breaks down.

At least you still get the monopoly game tokens.  I’d have been lost without these, even though I did have a backup plan for monopoly gratification: I was sitting in a restaurant on Pentonville Road, just around from Kings Cross station.  Free parking nowhere to be seen though.

Today’s haul included a free coffee and an Oatso Simple porridge that I’ll never use.  Even if I ever do get to a McDonalds before 10.30, why the hell would I want a pot of porridge when there’s perfectly good meat products on offer?

Thinking aloud

Vij was staying with us at the weekend and I’d left him in front of the TV whilst I went upstairs to play some poker.  I’m a fantastic host, as you can tell, but he knows where the kettle is, and that’s all that really matters.

When he wandered in I had four tables running and almost straight away I fell into this hand.  Instinctively I began talking through my thought process, which made me look like a genius (naturally) and also made me wonder whether thinking through hands out loud was a good strategy.  If I have to justify every decision to someone else, I should make good decisions.

I made a pretty damn good laydown here, and for the right reasons, but I’m still not convinced by my flop play. It was a little bit on the random side.  Should I be thinning the field with a good but vulnerable hand in a multi-way pot, or should I wait for a safe card or to improve and then re-evaluate? I opted to call, not really knowing whether I was trapping or going fishing.

Still, I folded a set and I was right. 🙂

PokerStars No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (9 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from (Format: HTML)

CO ($41.75)
Button ($60)
SB ($23.55)
BB ($20)
Hero ($77.65)
UTG+1 ($25.40)
MP1 ($71.15)
MP2 ($44.35)
MP3 ($20.25)

Preflop: Hero is UTG with 9c, 9h.
Hero calls $0.50,

We’re talking about something else, and I limp in on autopilot.

“Chris, you’ve got a pair of nines on that table.”
He points, but knows better than to get too close and risk getting a sweaty fingerprint onto my monitor.

“Yep, I already called, look.”

“Didn’t you want to raise with that?”

“No, I’ve got poor position and I want to keep the pot small…”

UTG+1 raises to $1.5,

“… so I can still play if someone raises. Like that. :)”

There was an actual smilie at the end when I spoke

MP1 calls $1.50, 2 folds, CO calls $1.50,

“Any more callers? This will be easy then. If I don’t catch another 9 I’m done, but if I do I should be laughing.”

Vij nods. He didn’t actually nod. He’ll have said something, because that’s Vij’s way, but I wasn’t exactly listening. I was waiting to see if I would be able to show off by winning a nice big pot. In fact I don’t really remember what else he said at all. Hell, I’m struggling to remember what I said myself and just making up stuff to fill in the gaps.

1 fold, SB calls $1.25, 1 fold, Hero calls $1.

Flop: ($8) Tc, 9d, Js (5 players)

“Yes! Oh, wait. That’s sort of good”.

SB bets $0.5, Hero calls $0.50,

“Right, let’s see what happens.”

UTG+1 calls $0.50, MP1 raises to $4,

“Hmm. What’s he raising with?.”

CO calls $4,

“Oh. This one’s got something then.”

SB calls $3.50,

“So somebody could have the straight. I’m not scared of him, but he’s a worry. This guy probably has a draw, probably just a queen.”

I wiggle at MP1, then CO, then SB in turn using the mouse pointer, then pause to work out the pot odds.

“But I do have odds to draw against the straight, so I can call even if I’m behind”

Hero calls $3.50, UTG+1 folds.

“OK, pair it!”

Turn: ($24.50) 4s (4 players)

“That doesn’t help anyone, so let’s see who’s still interested.”

SB checks, Hero checks, MP1 bets $14,

“Right. I’m not afraid of him.”

CO raises to $36.25, SB folds,

“Now we have a decision, don’t we?”.

Vij nods, or something, and I press the button for some extra thinking time.

“OK, I don’t care what the first guy has, it’s probably not much. This is the one who has a hand. He could have the straight, but I can’t say for sure. Aaaaagh, what do I actually beat? Anything? Would he really push there with two pair? No.”.

I’ve come to a decision. Folding a set is excrutiating, but there’s no way I’m winning.

“He’s got two tens, two jacks or a straight.”

Hero folds, MP1 calls $22.25.

“God I hope I’m right.”

River: ($97) 2c (2 players)

Final Pot: $97
Main Pot: $97, between CO and MP1.

MP1 has Qh Jh (one pair, jacks).
CO has Ts Th (three of a kind, tens).
Outcome: CO wins $97.

My hands thrust themselves into the air.

“Oh yes. I’m good”.

And Vij is less impressed than he should be.

LOL Trickaments

On tonight’s show, Derren Brown went to Las Vegas and brainwashed an American lady into thinking that red was black.  The effect was dramatic.  She was pretty freaked out to see that her red car had apparently been resprayed whilst she enjoyed an evening at the Peppermill.  But what the cameras didn’t show is the complete meltdown, possibly followed by night in jail, she must have had trying to play roulette shortly afterwards.

In the Trick or Treat feature, he apparently taught a 75 year old granny to play poker.  For this show victims are asked to choose from two cards to pick whether they’ll get something nice or something nasty.  I have to admit I thought the whole series would be manipulated so it was always a trick, but tonight’s sweet old lady got a treat.

There’s no psychology involved in forcing the choice: both cards are identical, with a cunning and overly elaborate typeface used so that it reads "trick" when held one way up and "treat" when flipped over.  I confess: I had to pause the show using Sky+ and turn my head right round to check this out, and had to use Google to find out that the word I didn’t know I was looking for is "ambigram".

Super Gran is given a crash course in Texas Hold’em and then dropped into a tournament situation with five professionals.  Probably not ones you’d have heard of.  Derren has taught her superlative reading skills, which is apparently enough to ensure that she will win a made-for-TV crapshoot poker-style tournament.  They said it lasted a 90 minutes start to finish, fast even for a six-handed tournament.  We only got to see three hands.

She called an all-in bet with a king-high flush draw.  Perhaps she learned to recognise weakness from the bettor, but depending on stack sizes and money in the pot this could be a pretty standard call anyway.  They didn’t say.  We don’t know how much she’d learned about playing draws.  Perhaps it looked like the nuts against a player with a twitch, but with one overcard and a draw you’re rarely a favourite.  Except the few times you come up against a smaller unpaired flush draw.  Which she did.

Facing an all-in preflop with K9s, Derren’s horse makes the call.  The other player has T7o.  Given the emphasis on how good these other players all are, we have to assume that he made an automatic push with a short stack, so this was probably an automatic call.

With AQ on a flop of A88, our hero decides that her hand is good.  Maybe I still have a lot to learn, but I’m going broke here every time the other guy has AK or any hand with an 8.

She came second.  A one in six chance to win, and she still missed the glory by one.

A similarly close-but-still-busto result in Derren’s Russian Roulette stunt would have been much more interesting.

The current UK series is available for free catch-up on 4oD.  Apparently a new six-part series is being made for US television by Sci-Fi channel to air in July.  Perfect timing!

We’re gonna be up five hundy in a fortnight

It appears that I’m doing somewhat better than I expected at no limit ring games.  This really is the first time I’ve tested myself over more hands than I needed to play to clear a particular bonus or to gain a particular membership level.  After nearly 6000 hands, I’ve been beating $50 NL on Poker Stars for just over $8 for every 100 hands.  Not too shabby at all.

Of course this started when I had a bonus to clear.  I still had about 1400 points left to earn towards the 1500 I needed to unlock a $150 bonus on Stars.  The bonuses now have an expiry date and I just couldn’t see myself clearing it before June playing $12 turbo sit-and-gos.  $1 in tournament fees is 5 player points, so that’d be nearly 300 tournaments.

I started off by trying their $25 NL as I’d done OK at this level clearing Party Poker bonuses in the past.  It didn’t take long to realise that you earn virtually no FPPs at this level.  $50 NL still doesn’t generate the abundance of rake (and hence the freely flowing frequent player points) that you get from $2/$4 or $3/$6, but the last time I played fixed limit at these levels I was constantly frustrated.  I felt I was playing OK, but the game on Stars was tough and I wasn’t good enough to beat the rake.  I maintained Gold Star status for a few months, lost a few hundred dollars but earned enough points to get a jacket I didn’t really need and couple of hundred quid to spend at Amazon.  About even, obviously.

I’d also expected the no limit tables on Stars to be tough, but so far so good.  I’ve now hit the $500 profit milestone.  The graph from Poker Grapher uses my Poker Tracker database, which treats one big bet as twice the big blind amount.  So with $0.25/$0.50 blinds, the scale on this graph is 1 BB = $1.

It took two weeks to get here, and even though I finally cleared the bonus a few days ago I decided to keep playing as it felt like I’d fallen into a groove playing four tables at this level.  A good, winning groove at that.  I could get a rhythm going with up to 8 tables at $2/$4 but it was often be painful.  Literally.  If a session turned bad quickly I’d start to cramp up.  That just hasn’t happened (so far) playing no limit.

It’s still not a massive sample size but the graph direction is definitely reassuring.  I know there’s room for improvement.  I’m going to find it and I’ve already spotted some pretty big mistakes.  For example, I knew pocket kings was no good to a fifth raise pre-flop, but I had to prove I was right.  Was the satisfaction of being right worth more than the $30 I lost?  Not quite.  It took nearly 400 hands (on average) to win that back.

But now I have a target, although obviously it if all goes tits up there’s a chance I’ll never write about it again.  If nobody has coined the phrase "blogger’s discretion" yet, I want to be the first.  I’d like to think I’ll stay on top of this one and in fact the timing works out just nicely.

Providing things stay good at this level, I’ll move up in stakes once I’ve won $2000. I want to be comfortable playing $100 NL by the time I go to Vegas in July.

I’m sticking with $50 NL on Stars for as long as there are no bonuses I need to play anywhere else.  If a juicy reload comes along then I’ll probably stop to play that through instead, but I’m hoping that Stars can be my home for a long time to come.

Super_Hero returns

Just played another session as a shill for Gutshot’s Poker Night Live table tonight.  We all started with $25,000 available for reloading today and the action was fast and furious.  It’s difficult to imagine how Barry Martin and Nik Persaud will keep a straight face when they commentate on some of the hands that were, apparently, played at $25/$50 real money blinds!

Here’s my favourite today.  The powerhouse never loses…

** Dealing card to Super_Hero: 2 of Clubs, 5 of Diamonds
I_Tilt_Often folded
Super_Hero called – $50.00
kafkakelly folded
RaiseEmUp raised – $300.00
U_Dump_Chips went all-in – $2175.00
1Chipstacker folded
Super_Hero went all-in – $9347.00
RaiseEmUp folded
** Dealing the flop: 5 of Hearts, Jack of Hearts, 4 of Spades
** Dealing the turn: 10 of Diamonds
** Dealing the river: 9 of Clubs
U_Dump_Chips shows: 2 of Hearts, 2 of Diamonds
Super_Hero shows: 2 of Clubs, 5 of Diamonds
Super_Hero wins $4747.00 from the main pot

[Insert Monty Python quote here]

My plans for the evening were scuppered because City Link are useless cretins who don’t actually know how to deliver a parcel at all, let alone on time.  How hard is it?  I mean, if post addressed to "Gordon the Gopher, The Broom Cupboard" can get there, what’s the problem with my order for the components I needed to actually do some work tonight?  Delivery was refused on Friday – because they took it to the wrong building, apparently just guessing wrong once – and today they claimed the postcode was wrong and refused to even put it on a van.  Which it wasn’t.  Why not just call me if you can’t find the place, you bastards?

Anyway, I decided to head over to Trafalgar Square to watch the Spamalot cast’s world record attempt for largest coconut orchestra.  I won’t keep you in suspense any longer because I’m sure you’re dying to know.  They smashed the record, previously held by… the New York cast, of course.

I cooed a little when two of the original Monty Python members were wheeled out –Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam to be precise – and I watched over 4000 people clip-clop along with Always Look on The Bright Side of Life.  Something you don’t see every day, for sure.

I was too late to actually get a pair of coconuts to take part, and didn’t even get a picture of some.  They were special Spamalot coconuts, you see.  I couldn’t decide whether asking "could I take a picture of your coconuts" would be safer with a random man or woman, so I just took some photos of a flying inflatable foot interfering with landmarks instead.

The National Gallery:


Alison Lapper Pregnant:

Nelson’s Column:

And just because it’s the 25th anniversary of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, I have to also include this picture too.


One silly step towards the WSOP

My first step towards this year’s WSOP was via a manic, almost free tournament on Gutshot Poker.  There was only one seat, and yay me!

75 players in and a bunch of rebuys.  It was free to enter but a whopping $0.50 if you ran out of chips.  Which I did.  About ten times.  At the 100/200 level I must have rebought for 500 and moved all-in on five straight hands.  For a $110 seat with less than 50 players remaining, I was always going to take a crack for another 50 cents however silly the structure was.  Finally I won a hand and I was back in the game.  Carried on playing like a lunatic right the way to the end and hit a whole bunch of two outers along the way.

Well, you have to get lucky to win, don’t you?

With three left I disconnected.  I was playing from my hotel connected using my phone.  Apparently it drains more battery than it can charge when you are online, although not all the time because I’ve actually been fine since then.  After an hour and a half of playing though, the phone was dead and I had to wait for it to have enough juice to restart the phone, hop quickly back online and move all in repeatedly and hope for the best.

The best happened. I clearly rock at all cheap all-in pushfests.

The tournament I’m in is a 9-seat guaranteed satellite on 19th June, and it’s televised on Poker Night Live.  Most of the seats are actually for a $1000 WSOP super satellite but with flights and accomodation included, so with the cheaper packages the odds are much better.  There’s all kinds of free and cheap ways to get into this satellite including a completely free quiz on the PNL TV show.  To be honest, I’d probably pay $110 to play this one anyway.  There’s still a very good chance of a decent overlay on those seats!

What’s wrong with this structure?

I decided to try something different while I contemplated my retirement from Gutshot’s cash game with a perfect record.  So I went to The Vic instead.  Sitting proud on top of Argos – among all the retail space in Las Vegas, I can’t think of a one casino that is connected to a catalogue store – The Vic boasts that it is "open from 11am to play on the slots".  If you need to gamble earlier in the morning – maybe to try to win enough to buy breakfast – a motorway service station is about your only option still.

38 players. It was a quiet night with a travelling contingent of regulars apparently in Manchester for the GUKPTK.  9 spots paid. Yes, they really did pay 23% of the field.  9 get paid here whether there’s 38 or 72 players.  At least it goes some way to offsetting the variance in this crapshoot of a tournament that you get for £50. 

The blinds double every 20 minutes right up to 200/400, before finally slowing down a little but by the time it’s at 300/600 it doesn’t really matter.  The average stack for this level was only about 4000.

So I had to get lucky, and the way I got lucky was to somehow survive to the final two tables without really seeing any cards worth noting, having much of the garbage I threw away making monsters and dumping marginal hands that appeared to be way behind but in fact were winners.

6 limp, and only I fold with my 23o.  Of course it would have made a full house on a 3342 board, with plenty of action from pocket tens and a J7 who hung around long enough to catch top pair on the river.  Later, my 88 looked like nothing on a K9x board with a bet and a call ahead of me, but not only was I in front (against ace-high and a flush draw) but the turn brought another 8 and the river gave me what would have been quads.  You would think the crappy hands in that pot would never pay me off, but I just can’t be sure.

Down to two tables with still not many more chips than I started with, I picked up two decent pots by moving all in against a raiser and apparently having just enough to take it down uncontested both times.  Then I just blinked a couple of times while nine other players busted very quickly.  I’d only showed one hand (AK all in against another AK) the whole game right up to when I went out – obviously I didn’t win, or I’d have said by now!

At the final table, three big stacks almost had enough to see flops and stuff.  Nobody managed to catch up, so these are the prizes I was actually playing for.

9th £60
8th £80
7th £100
6th £110
5th £150
4th £190

Only £10 more for 6th place than 7th, even though the bottom three prizes go up by £20 a time?  Obviously, once I’d spotted that 6th place was getting stiffed, my fate was sealed.

The perceived greatness of king-jack offsuit was all I needed to see to take a gamble after being whittled down to my last 2000.  I ended up in about as good shape as I could hope for, drawing live against A2 and AQ with an added bonus of 1200 in dead money from the big blind.

I’d not helped myself by making a super-weak fold with A8s when I should have pushed with 9 players left, simply because one of the short stacks would be forced all in next hand.  In fact he doubled up, and the ghost of Dan Harrington lingered as I walked home.  He was waving a little flag that said "first in vigorish" and kept asking what my M was.  I wanted to punch him, but he was a ghost.  Also a ghost of somebody who isn’t actually dead.

£110 wasn’t all I won tonight though… must be on a roll.

Everyone loves a graph

… especially when it means you can get two dollars to the pound now!

No such thing as a free champagne brunch

It’s a ten second clip.  Not even that – honest!  You’re missing out on the whole multimedia experience if you don’t press play.  But I know you probably won’t, so I’ve added a transcript this time too.  See.  Just a few seconds. But it’s still better if you play the clip.


Speaking on the American Casino Guide podcast, legendary collector of free casino shit and (I think it’s compulsory to call her this now) "queen of comps" Jean Scott advised listeners that they shouldn’t leave comp dollars on a players card, just in case you never get a chance to use them.  Casinos change hands; players clubs mess with their programs; comps expire before your next trip.  There are so many ways players can lose out, and obviously that’s bad.

In fact the two casinos I still have comp left with are Binions and Imperial Palace.  Both assured me I’d still be able to eat for free in the summer, but really neither have a particularly certain future in Las Vegas right now.  As usual, we can blame Harrah’s.

After Binions went busto, it was stripped of the only things the Evil Empire wanted it for – the Horeshoe name and the World Series of Poker.  It was then sold on to MTR Gaming who, so far, are not doing a particuarly good job at plugging the leaks.  Oh how the Shoe would be jumping right now if it had a little bit of ESPN money to keep it ticking over.  The IP was gobbled up only for the land it sits on and it’s only a matter of time before it comes tumbling down.  But as Harrah’s themselves are now the subject of a takeover, and their investors have said that they want to clear their outstanding debts (a mere $21 billion) before reinvesting in growth it looks like those Dealertainers are going to be hanging around for a little longer.


Over to Jean.

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"You know what happened when Katrina hit Mississippi.  A lot of people lost a lot of comps."

Nearly two years on, our thoughts are still with those victims who not only lost their homes, jobs and families, but also a nice steak and eggs special.