June 2007
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The joy of socks

The last resort of a blogger with not much to say right now?  Pictures of his own feet.

Well actually I did already say I’d put up a picture of my socks to balance the nastiness of the last entry, but there’ll be plenty more sock shots to come in the next couple of weeks as I riffle through my inventory of casino branded hosiery and work out which ones are past their prime and need to be replaced.

This pair from Caesars has clearly been in better shape.

If you have never tried to take a photograph of your own foot, I suggest you try it.  Quite a challenge, as you can see from the poor quality of this picture.  You have to combine holding the camera steady, composing the shot with the foot at the right angle, removing foreign objects from view, getting good enough lighting and not falling over.  For someone of my limited coordination, it’s quite impressive that managing to keep my balance was just about the only factor I succeeded at this time.

I will be practising.  But although it’s something of an ambition to grab the top ranked search result on Google for "casino socks", I can’t promise to personally model every sock I decide to feature here.  Sorry about that.

The joy of sets

If you have no interest in things so geeky as DIY database queries and obscure poker statistics, look away now.  Next time I’ll probably post a picture of one of my socks or something to bring a little balance back into the world.

So then, how many times have I flopped a set, and how much did I win?  From just over 50,000 hands in my database now, we’d expect to see about 3000 pocket pairs dealt (1 in every 17 hands).  The odds of flopping a set are are 7.5-1, so somewhere in the region of 350 flopped sets would be about right.  I had no idea what to expect as a win rate for these hands alone.

If you could care less about SQL, just skip past the code section, otherwise here’s what I did.  I failed to find any more elegant way of checking for a flopped set than simply comparing the card rank of one of the hole cards with each card on the flop in turn.  This query will actually count flopped quads as well as flopped sets, if I have any.

select count(*) as freq,
       sum(gp.total_won) – sum(gp.total_bet) as won
from game_players gp, game g
where gp.player_id = 11
and gp.game_id = g.game_id
and gp.pair_hand = 1
and substring(gp.hole_card_1 from 1 for 1) in (
         substring(g.flop_1 from 1 for 1),
         substring(g.flop_2 from 1 for 1),
         substring(g.flop_3 from 1 for 1))

Let the results speak.  I’ve seen 317 flopped sets (close enough to what I was expecting) and overall made $2884.50 profit from those hands.  That’s just about $9.10 – 9 big bets at 50NL – each time.  Look at it another way: just over every five flopped sets, I’m winning a full $50 stack from another player.  That sounds OK.

Look at it yet another way: compare to pocket aces.  Poker Tracker tells me that I’ve been dealt AA 253 times and that I won an average of 4.86 big bets each time.  Three hundred of anything is no huge sample size, but it’s a start in the right direction.  We could say that flopped sets are, roughly, twice as profitable as pocket aces.  That’s definitely nothing to complain about.

The difference, of course, is that pocket aces always start off as the best hand – and by a long way too.  What’s been killing me lately is the abundance of set-over-set action, with me on the wrong end of it.  I’m sure I’m remembering things worse than they actually were, so what I want to find out is both how and when I’ve been getting beat.

Adding the condition

and gp.total_won < gp.total_bet

to the end of the query will find only those hands where I flopped a set and did not win.  This includes split-pot situations, as the rake taken from the pot will make the amount returned less than the amount I put in the pot.  I used this condition to find only losses (no splits), although it assumes there are two players at showdown.  Not strictly true, but close enough, and do it any more accurately would create a monster query.

and gp.total_won < gp.total_bet – (g.rake / 2)

The results: 32 losses, 8 splits.  87% of my flopped sets won at showdown (compare: I won with 89% of my pocket aces).  I can live with that – there’s still two cards to come, after all.  The combined loss on those 32 hands was $984.15, or $30.75 per hand.  A big chunk for sure, but almost certainly I was ahead when my money went in.  If only there was an easy way to check that…

The best I’ve come up with is to find all my set-over-set confrontations.  To do this I have to find the times both I and my opponent have a pair that matches one of the flop cards.  The query looks a little something like this.

select me.hole_cards, opp.hole_cards,
       me.total_won – me.total_bet as won
from game_players me, game_players opp, game g
where me.player_id = 11
and me.game_id = g.game_id
and me.pair_hand = 1
and substring(me.hole_card_1 from 1 for 1) in (
         substring(g.flop_1 from 1 for 1),
         substring(g.flop_2 from 1 for 1),
         substring(g.flop_3 from 1 for 1))
and opp.player_id != me.player_id
and opp.game_id = g.game_id
and opp.pair_hand = 1
and substring(opp.hole_card_1 from 1 for 1) in (
         substring(g.flop_1 from 1 for 1),
         substring(g.flop_2 from 1 for 1),
         substring(g.flop_3 from 1 for 1))

It’s ugly for sure, and still a little flawed too.  I can’t even start to get my head around how this might cope with three players all flopping sets at the same time.  This query just dumps out a list of every time I was in a pot with a flopped set against another flopped set, rather than counting wins and losses – or times I flopped the bigger set or smaller set.  It’s only a small sample size – 15 confrontations – but it proves a point.

Won 3, lost 12.  Overall, I’m down $386 from those hands.  A loss of $32.17 each time I got shafted is understandable, but I’m down an average of $25.70 – nearly 26 BB/hand – across all set over set scenarios, simply because I never seem to be on the right end of them.  I would expect that these are usually breakeven situations over the long term: the times you’re ahead you expect to get paid off, and the times you’re behind you’re almost certainly going to get stacked.

Boy I am owed.  And if I talked to you about how poker’s been going for me lately and spouted some far fetched story about how bad I’m running… just look.  Told you so!

Prelude to a stat-fest

The royal flush was an anomaly.

When you run bad you start doubting things.  You start to ask yourself things like whether flopping a set really is that good at all.  Because yesterday, I flopped four sets, and every one of them lost, and every one of them cost me my entire stack.

OK, as you insist, I’ll indulge you with a bad beat story. 

I have pocket fives on a king-five-deuce flop, all different suits.  It all looks so gorgeous.  The pre-flop raiser fires on the flop, I call and the other player – who it turns out couldn’t get away from pocket queens – also calls.  Magic.  The turn brings a second king and he leads out again, but for a much smaller bet this time.  Does he hate the king, or does he have AK and feel like he just got invincible?  Well, I can’t put him on K5 or K2 and I don’t expect he’d have played KK so strong on the flop.  Right now is where I’m going to make him pay, so I move all in.  Pocket queens feels like he’s pot committed and comes along for the ride…

"I have AA", he types in the chat box.  I don’t know why, because almost half a second later he’s called anyway.  Considering I was hoping that he would have ace-king, I’m especially pleased.  Just four cards left in the deck – the two remaining aces and two kings – can improve his hand to beat me now, whereas AK would have had 3 aces, 1 king and 3 deuces for the win.

But when you run bad, you don’t just get beat, you get beat in the cruelest possible ways.  A third king on the river gives us both kings full, his aces both playing but my hand being reduced to what may as well have been a five and a joker.

On days like this you start to wonder whether it’s just a matter of karma.  If you somehow did wrong by someone, but it surely couldn’t be that when I hadn’t left the house all day, and the only phone call I answered was from the bank, telling me that a cheque I dropped through the letterbox at the weekend wasn’t signed.  I now know I must try harder to check these things to make the nice lady’s job so much easier.  She ended the call by asking, with a sigh, whether I wanted her to send it back to me.  Clearly, some of their customers are indifferent about money.

And so, finally, to the business of reassuring myself that flopped sets are actually good hands.  Of course I know this really, but it’s a great excuse to conjure up some stats that Poker Tracker can’t provide by itself.  So I’ve started to construct a few queries that can be run against a PostgreSQL Poker Tracker database to analyse set performance.

You lucky lucky people have a stat-packed post, full of SQL code and probably just proving something we alreayd know, to look forward to – hopefully tomorrow.

Runner runner royal flush

Royal flush, baby!

It’s been a while.  Definitely over a year as I’ve not had a picture to post since I started the blog.  I so definitely would, as you can now see…!

Possibly the only thing more awesome than the royal itself is to have hit it backdoor style.

I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I did.  Click on it if you would like to join me in basking in its full size glory. 🙂

Taupe is very soothing

Tony G does a brilliant job of demonstrating the blandness and complete lack of character at the Rio, by filming his video blog in a lovely taupe room where the World Series of Poker payouts are processed.


At 4.10am the pop up banner announced a ten minute break.  I never had a ten minute break on Poker Stars before.  Well, I guess that’s something to be pleased about if I don’t make it now.

Morning has broken, it’s getting light outside.  I need to be up early in the morning to take Claire to school and her car to the garage.  I wouldn’t mind being fit to drive, but that looks like a long shot.  373 players remain.  231 get paid, of which 220 walk away with an $11k package.  Which really is an $11,000 cash prize, as Stars cannot register players into the WSOP.

The chip leader is at my table, and he could easily fold to victory, yet he’s still playing, calling big bets, and knocking players out.  I’d quite like to move tables.  I’d also quite like to see a big hand and have it hold up.  I’m below average now, but it feels like I’m one coinflip away from standing a damn good chance.

That’d be a $5500 coinflip then.  Where did my comfort zone go?

EDIT: Nearly 6am.  The four figure coinflop was 66 vs AJ.  I raised, and the flop looked good.  An ace on the river and it was all but over.  256th.  8 hours, no cigar.

Putting seats on bums

Welcome to stupidly large World Series of Poker satellite night.

On Poker Stars, 150 seats are guaranteed to be given away and on Full Tilt another 100.  In fact, between the two sites there’s over $4 million dollars in play – enough for 359 ten thousand dollar seats, and a bit of pocket change to the runners up.

I never even thought of playing one of these until today, yet here I am, battling with nearly 7000 others on Poker Stars in Probably The World’s Largest Satellite Poker Tournament Ever.  OK, actually it was ever so slightly bigger last year, but not so much you’d notice.

Let’s rewind a bit.

Turbo satellites are silly.  With the blinds at $1500/$3000, plus a $150 ante, I have little more than one small blind remaining.  Click on the thumbnail to see the full table image.  For Harrington fans, does the fabric of the universe falls apart when you have an M that has to be expressed as a fraction?  It all looks grim, and yet I’m loving it.  Believe it or not, I’m in great shape here.

This was an $80+$8 qualifier to the main satellite.  The lobby called it a "last chance" tournament, but I will argue that it was actually my first and only chance.  One in five got a seat, and it looked like a good way to use up my W$ balance, which has been doing pretty much nothing for as long as I can remember.  Sure I could have sold them for 80% of value, but I figured eventually there’d be a more interesting way to spend them.  This was going to be it.

With 350 players remaining and 317 getting paid, I’d been fortunate enough to get two successive table breaks that landed me in a good seat, just as I was about to be blinded out.  Game of skill my arse.  Cards were irrelevant by that point.  Almost nobody could survive one round of blinds, so all that mattered was hanging on longer than everybody else.  With 38 tables left, 33 players left to be eliminated and the luxury of five free hands before I was forced in on the big blind, I needed 6 or 7 players to go bust for every hand played at my table.  No problem.  I was all set to fold pocket aces.

Two hands later, you could probably hear my woohoos.  I’d got a result in the turbo poker lottery, which from start to finish took just 75 minutes to eliminate 80% of the field.

The main satellite will be somewhat slower, however.  30 minute levels and 6702 players to money.  Could be a late one.

Who wants a piece?

After realising that the money I’d been putting aside to play in the Orleans Open this year was going to fall a little short, I’ve decided to look for backers to bump up my bankroll for this event.  It’s not actually as daft as it sounds.  Who’d want to stake me, you say?  Hah… I’ll show you how wrong you are.

I realised many months ago that the second half of this series of tournaments would coincide with our Summer O’ Vegas, and decided that I wanted to try to find a way to play three No Limit Hold’em events and also, for some reason that I really can’t explain, the Limit Hold’em Championship.

The total entry fee for this little lot is a cool $2460.  With this falling on the first week of our trip, playing these tournaments could make or break my bankroll, and so could also make or break the holiday.  If it’s a total disaster, I don’t fancy the idea of spending the next three weeks chasing two and a half grand.  Conversely, if I manage to win enough coinflips to go deep in one event, the payday could be much more than I’d ever consider letting myself take to Vegas.  Treating week one’s poker separately to the rest of the trip seems like a very wise thing to do.

So I’ve been putting money away for this the past few months, separate to my bankroll for "normal" poker and other Vegas vices.  After next payday, I’ll just about have reached $2000.  No small achievement given my track record for saving (it’s been the best motivation to save I ever had) but it still leaves me $500 short.

I could always skip the $540 Limit tournament, but why would I do something as sensible as that?

I’m selling off 20% of myself across all four tournaments to raise the extra $500, and (although I’m bound to say this) I’m doing a great deal!  So good in fact that, already, I only have 10% left to sell.  Paul Sandells knows value when he sees it.  He’s in for $250, so hurry up if you want a piece of the action!

Of the $2500 I want to take to Vegas, $2460 is buyins.  I’ll spend the other $40 on essential expenses, like tips for the coffee ladies, or cookies from the vending machine.  All poker rooms should have vending machines with cookies, but the Orleans is the only one I’ve ever come across.  As the Orleans Open actually takes place in a room upstairs, there may be some critical route planning to be done for the breaks.  But still, this is only a very small deduction from the investment – and you deny me coffee at your peril.

So I don’t have a spectacular tournament history, and I don’t play that frequently.  But I think I can hold my own and I do have some documented solid performances if you’d care to dig through the blog archives.  Or if you can’t be bothered, I put a few links in this forum thread.  The fact I’m still putting up 80% of the money myself should show that I’m comfortable playing at that level, and not just taking a shot at a big prize with someone else’s money.

It’s a modest start, but you never know, with a good performance this could open the door to more staking deals in future, and the opportunity for me to play bigger tournaments.

Obviously I’ll gratefully take the money however it comes, but I’m kinda hoping for ten more backers at 1% each.  At least then I know I’ll have 11 regular blog readers for a whole week…!

Even a 1% stake, costing $25, could net a four figure return.  If I get exceptionally lucky.  Don’t be shy now.

Stuck $500

My shot at NL100 lasted just over 3500 hands.  I lost the 5 buy-ins I’d allowed myself, mostly in spectacular fashion.

I’ve never seen so many flopped sets get beaten!  It’s pretty difficult to say how I thought I was playing at that level, because whenever it felt like I’d got going, the doomswitch flipped in and spoilt it all.

Spoken like a true loser, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Really, five buy ins just isn’t enough to know for sure – my last two major beats alone could have been a $320 swing in the right direction if the poker gods had just smiled in my direction a little.  After being so close to getting back even, too…

I did have some rotten luck, but I also came up against both players who were tougher than at 50NL and, apparently, also more terrible moves than I’d seen at that level.  I wasn’t quite sure how to adjust to this mix, or even whether the guys calling me down with bottom pair were really that bad, or just had a good sense of when to do that and it worked out for them often enough that they could afford to keep up this image.  Oh for a few thousand more hands to try to find out…

NL50 definitely seems more weak-tight, and either my style already suited that game, or I’d already adapted to playing in those conditions.  I know there’s some adjustments I still need to make to do better at NL100 the next time I get there.  Assuming that I can grind my way back up, and I wasn’t just on a 40 buy-in upswing all along…

But for now it’s as I was just three days ago.  Wow, that’s a bit depressing, but I need to stay patient, try to forget anything I was trying to do to adjust to NL100, and above all remember that $2 pre-flop isn’t a minimum raise any more.

Montecito syndrome

It’s just like how the Montecito in the TV show Las Vegas can’t stand still.  That ficticious casino must have occupied just about every possible spot on the Strip by now.  In the latest season, exterior shots put it on the far south end of the Strip opposite Luxor, whereas the view from James Caan’s office looks like it’s taken from inside Treasure Island, nearly three miles away.

The Bank Casino featured in Ocean’s Thirteen has Montecito syndrome.  It appears to have slid about a mile along the road in between being built and opening.

I finally have the photographic evidence I was so obsessively trying to find, and with it an excuse to post a whole bunch of Vegas pictures.  I actually got these screencaps from a German language bootleg – the added bonus was being able to hear the translation of Don Cheadle’s craptastic English accent.

In this scene, during the construction of the hotel, you can see the Mirage dead centre and the letters "PHAN" from a banner for Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular to the left of Al Pacino’s back.  The location has to be somewhere between Venetian and Wynn, presumably it was filmed in the shell of Palazzo, or possibly Encore at Wynn Las Vegas.

They appear to be very proud of the CGI for the Strip’s latest monstrosity, and we get to see it from several angles as well as different lighting conditions – during the day, in the evening and after sunset.  This close up shows what the architecturally impossible, twisty brown thing that’s meant to be a hotel actually looks like.

And here a wider shot shows its location on the Strip.

So we’re looking North along the Strip with the Stratosphere in the far distance.  Monte Carlo is at the bottom left and the top of New York New York is just poking into the frame.  The Bank sits right between Polo Towers (bottom right) and Aladdin/Planet Hollywood (white hotel with two jutty out bits).  Follow the road and you’ll see the fake Eiffel Tower, and just across the street the dancing fountains at Bellagio are in action.

Look really hard and you’ll see the Stardust is still standing.  To be fair, you have to know what you’re looking for, so I’ve added a subtle visual clue below.  This is surely the last time you’ll see it in a movie.

The Bank’s outward location is somewhat confirmed by a southerly view from inside the hotel.  Polo Towers is the building with the neon outline at bottom centre, and towards the upper right corner you can see the MGM Grand Marquee, a hotel tower which I think must be the Tropicana (where did the big green MGM go?), and Mandalay Bay.

Also from the ground, this still looks about right.  Our POV is behind crowds standing outside the casino looking across, and down the street a bit, at the Bellagio.

However here’s the view that I’m just not sure about.  Ignore the silhouette of Matt Damon’s legs, and you’ll see Paris, Caesars and Bellagio all visible.  How does that work then?  I just wouldn’t be doing my job as a Vegas nit correctly if I didn’t point out that in the second photo on the far left you can just see the same Bellagio marquee as in the ground-level shot above; but from a totally different angle.  I guess it’s just a big hotel, or something.


Anyway, enough pedantry and gratuitous photos of Las Vegas, what did I think of the film?

I loved it.  I’m pretty sure I was always going to, so I know I can’t really review it constructively.  To be fair, it’s a very average heist movie, with an over-the-top cast of big names, too many to squeeze them all into a coherent storyline.  So the end result is a bunch of megastars doing a bunch of stuff in and around Vegas.

On that basis: A+, movie delivers.

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