November 2007
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It’s like an out-of-town preview

Palazzo, the Venetian’s sister resort in Las Vegas, has delayed it’s "soft opening" from December 20th to December 28th.  Which means that I’ll be actually be in town for it, although I’m not sure if that’s really something to get excited about.

The casino will open, obviously, but there’s no rush to get all the amenities completed for this date.  The "grand opening" isn’t until January 17th and even pre-delay we knew the retail mall – an extention to the Grand Canal Shoppes and, naturally, to the canal itself – wasn’t going to be ready until Jan 18th.

I don’t imagine that missing out on a few days’ business either side of Christmas will make a whole heap of difference.  Anyone with an existing reservation has been moved to The Venetian without them breaking a sweat – there’ll be no shortage of rooms to be able to do that at that time of year.

The new opening day is the Friday before New Year, and with the 31st falling on a Monday the busiest weekend of the year in Vegas is going to be an extended one.

I don’t know how many of the 3,000 all-suite rooms in Palazzo are actually expected to be finished in time for the soft opening (let’s face it, I doubt anybody will even notice if the hotel isn’t ready as long as the casino is open) but they are taking reservations at $599 and upwards a night for New Years Eve alone, and relocating guests to a suitable alternative on the busiest night of the year might not be quite so easy if there are further delays.

I’m sure I’ll check it out, but there’s really no specific appeal to me of another Venetian; there’s not going to be another poker room (not much need with the major one in the Venetian) and the two resorts will share a players club, so there won’t even be a new member signup bonus to take advantage of!

Wish I was here

The closest thing anyone gets to a picture postcard these days, from my dear sister, who I’m sure is just trying to make me jealous…

So within just a couple of hours of landing we have:

[X] Drinking in the afternoon
[X] Likelihood of eating excessively
[X] No intention of sleeping
[X] Wanna gamble…

A+ message delivers.  She’s off to a cracking start.

The finest bathroom in all of Nottingham

It’s a lousy picture because I ripped it from a PDF copy of a magazine article that’s been optimised for print, and I have no idea how to convert that back to a version that looks good on screen – short of printing it and scanning in back in.  It’s not really worth that much effort.

This is a picture of the bathroom at Dusk Till Dawn, the UK’s first dedicated poker club and, self-proclaimed prior to opening, "Europe’s Premier Poker Venue".

"All our basins are done in cherrywood veneer.  A lot of expensive finishings have been done in this place.  Nothing has been done on the cheap".

I’d love to know if they’ve made the same effort with the Ladies’ bathroom, or are even anticipating any female members at all given their heavily tit-fueled promotion regime, but alas I’ll probably never actually know.

Is it a rock? No, it’s Supernit!

I’ve been 4-tabling 50NL on the iPoker network for about a week and starting to get some decent data into Poker Tracker.  Not yet sure if I’ll make a mission out of it like I did on PokerStars earlier in the year – I’m not convinced it’s a great game, and there’s barely enough time before the end of the year to get in enough hands for a reasonable win goal.

Mostly I just want to retain the VIP level I achieved playing $2/4 limit (running like God for a couple of weeks, then crashing back down and giving up) for a sweet $100 monthly cash bonus.  Playing for points is only marginally foolish, of course.

I’ve been thinking that there are a lot of super-tight – I mean really stupidly tight – players on there and have been seeing some Poker Tracker stats to that effect, but I just wasn’t really sure if it was just an anomoly at first.  There’s always some nits in every game, but when I seem to be always sitting down to see table averages of % flops seen instantly pop up in single figures, it’s a little unusual.

Sure, I still don’t have enough data to know the figures are accurate, and I often have only half the table tracked, but it’s still a whole load more rocks that you’d like to see at the table.

As my data is grows, these trends continue.  Just now I was playing against two of the nittiest players I’ve ever seen.

The first had paid to see 6.3% of flops – that’s 30 hands played from the 480 I’d seen him be dealt.  Even 12% would be awfully tight, and he’s playing half that.  It’s just one every 16.  That’s only just more than the frequency you should be dealt a pocket pair.  Even if that’s not his strategy, we know he has a very narrow range of hands when he does decide to play which means he’s a fairly predictable opponent (which I like) but he’s using a seat that could be taken by a player who is more likely to dump off his stack the next time I get a lucky flop (which I don’t like).

The other was an impressive 1.8% VP$IP ("voluntarily put money in the pot") over 220 hands.  That’s just 4 non big blind hands played from a sample that’s one less than enough to include every possible starting hand (it won’t – that would be a statistical freak – but it’s big enough to start seeing patterns).  Of those hands played, we saw two at showdown: he raised JJ from middle position and completed a small blind with 88.  Those crazy gamblers.

There are many more players sitting at about 10% VP$IP and that means I’ve been jumping around tables a lot trying to find somebody to actually play with.  There is the occasional juicy loose player that helps to keep the table average out of the gutter, but actually very few who fall in-between these extremes.  A cynical man might say it’s just full of bots and shills…

It does seems like it’s been much easier than I’m used to to steal blinds and stab at pots, but also much harder to get payoffs with monsters so I’ve tried to start adjusting accordingly.  I’m hesitating to go too far with the all-out aggression though because it just seems so unlikely that there would be so many players in one place – a poker site, of all places – who just don’t want to play poker.

I was starting to think that it never, ever went to 3 bets pre-flop in this game, and that all-ins were never called unless it was AA vs AA, or occasionally KK on a short stack.  Plenty of ratholers about, but mostly also sitting back and waiting for a big pair.  Seemed like winning a full stack was virtually impossible.

But you wait around for a week, then two come along at once.

My pocket kings got it all in pre-flop against an ace-jack for a full stack and it held up, and I flopped the nut straight with AK and re-raised all in against two players to be instacalled by AT – bottom pair, but top kicker.  Yummy.

The other player – a 12% rock – said he folded a set.  I believe him.

Those two hands literally doubled my win rate on the week.  Obviously, I still need more data but here’s a graph that I can savour for the time being.

The most pointless rule in the history of blackjack

One of the online casinos I have been bonus-whoring at has a blackjack game with a "7-card Charlie" rule.  If you manage to draw seven cards without busting, your hand is automatically a winner against anything except a dealer blackjack.

I know every little is meant to help, but according to The Wizard of Odds, this rule is virtually worthless.  It reduces the house edge by just 0.01%.

If you think about it, even with six decks of cards there’s only a very small number of ways you can be dealt a seven card hand like this if you’re playing basic strategy.

You could do it just with 2s and 3s, but it’s going to help if there’s at least a couple of aces in there, and if your first two cards are aces, you always split them so any combinations beginning with AA are never going to go to seven cards.

Often you’ll split pairs of 2s and 3s too, and you’ll double down for one more card on your A2 and A3 against a dealer 5 or 6.

If you start with just one ace, you’ll stop drawing cards on a soft 17 or 18 against most of the dealer’s up cards, and you’ll always stand on a soft 19-21.  So to get a seven card hand, you have to skip past that "standing zone" quite specifically (for example: A, 2, A, 2, 6) and then carry on taking cards once you get to 12 or higher.

Because you’re always going to stand when you get past hard 17, the only way to get for a 7-card Charlie is to pull a six-card hand totalling 16 or lower, and then hit for one final card that doesn’t bust you.

And once you’ve got that close, a fair amount of the time you’ll hit up to 20 or 21 anyway, which means the value of the Charlie is really very small indeed.  A seven-card 20 or 21 would beat most dealer hands regardless of the special rule.

If the rule was for a 6-card Charlie, it would (according to The Wiz) improve the game by 0.16% – still tiny, but just about significant enough to adopt some strategy changes to take advantage of the rule.

If the house offers a five-card Charlie, they give the player back a theoretical 1.46%, and in most games this rule alone could push the game into a positive expectation.  Which explains why I’ve never seen it offered in any casino, live or online.

So then, what is the point of a ten-card Charlie rule?  This is a variation of the rules in just onegame at an online casino I like very much (they have a $100 bonus that can be easily cleared in a few hours and don’t ask for ID to withdraw!).  The help pages say:

It is theoretically possible for the player to draw 10 cards without going bust.

Well, yes it is, but if you are following basic strategy, I have only found of a tiny number of ways that this will ever happen.  As you might expect, it involves a whole bunch of aces, and there’s no way it’s ever possible in a single-deck game.

If the dealer upcard is a 2 or 3, we have to stand on a hard 13 or higher, or a soft 17 or higher.  There is no possible 10-card hand that can be made against these cards.  In fact six cards is the most possible if you start with an ace: A, 2, A, A, A, A = 17.  Begin with a 6-card 12 (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2) and hit once more and you can make a 7-card Charlie.

When the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6, we double down any soft total if the rules allow it.  If it’s not allowed we have to stand on a soft 17 as well as a hard 12, and this still only leaves us a 7-card hand at best: A, 2, A, A, A, 6, A = 13.

If the dealer upcard is 7 or 8, we can hit soft 17 and all hard totals up to 16.  Now we’re in business:

– First, we have to be dealt precisely an A, 2 (cards: 2, total: 3).
– Next we have to be dealt 3 more aces, or two aces and a 2 (cards: 5, total: 6 or 7).
[Or four aces is also possible here for a 6-card soft 17]
– To avoid standing on soft 18-21, the next card has to be a 5 or 6, whichever makes the total up to 12 (cards: 6 or 7, total: 12)
– We then need either A, A, A or A, A, 2 (cards 9, total: 15/16)
– Finally we can pull one more card and hope to not bust (cards: 10, total 16-21)

We could also start with a six-card 12 or 13 (six 2s, or five 2s and a 3) to avoiding all the soft totals that would require us to stand, and then draw three aces and one final small card.

Given the very small number of possibilities, it’s quite possible to calculate out the actual probability of getting dealt a winning 10-card Charlie.  I’m going to lose marks for not showing my working, but I get an answer in the region of trillions to one.  I don’t think the precise number matters particularly when it’s so extremely rare…

If the dealer upcard is 9, T or A we actually have a few more options than for a 7 or 8, because we have to hit soft 17 and 18.  For example: A, 2, A, A, A, 2, 4 is a possible a 7-card 12, then three more small cards make a winner.

But even if it’s only in the order of hundreds of billions to one, what is this actually worth?  The dealer will bust from a 7 thru A about 21% of the time anyway and roughly half the time your made hand will already win, or at least tie.  Roughly.  I really can’t try to think about how the deck composition after our ultra-low 10-card hand has come out might affect it.

So I’m going to approximate and just round down to zero.  You can be absolutely sure if I ever pull a ten-card hand in blackjack, there’ll be a screenshot coming!

New Frontier go bye bye

March’s Stardust implosion had really cool animated numbers in the windows of the building counting down the time to death.  The New Frontier took it a step further with an awesome animated plunger on zero that pushed down to start the demolition.

Naturally, videos will follow soon to show what happened in between this…

… and this …

EDIT: Click here for videos from every angle

Let’s get ready to rubble

The New Frontier is set to fall at 2.30am Vegas time.  That’s 10:30am GMT so I’m hoping to be able to watch it live on  They’ve promised a live web stream.

Meantime, here’s the news coverage from the first Las Vegas theme hotel’s last full day on the planet.

Final Preparations Underway for New Frontier Implosion 
New Frontier Implosion Nears, Expect Road Closures 

Countdown to Take Down of New Frontier
New Frontier to be Imploded Early Tuesday

Time’s almost up for New Frontier

FOX5 Vegas:
New Frontier Goes Out With Bang

Betting on pro football for dummies

Back in August, I entered two football contents in Las Vegas.  These things are pretty cheap for 17 weeks of take-home gambling, with some added instant perks as well as the chance of a big score.

The Great Giveaway at all the major Station Casinos is $25 per entry but you can get three entries for the price of two.  That total $50 fee also gets you $25 in slot play, so it’s really just $25 for all 3 entries if you’re going to play there anyway.  Each week they pay $10,000 to the person with the most winners and $5,000 to the person with the most losers, with $100,000 given away at the end of the season to the overall champion and other cash prizes to the biggest loser and the "fiddle in the middle".

The Football Frenzy contest is also run by Station Casinos, but is only available at their properties that don’t have the word "Station" in their name, which includes both Fiesta locations and a bunch of smaller neighbourhood casinos.  It costs $15 for 3 entries and a t-shirt, and you can never grumble at a free t-shirt.  This contest gives most of its money away each week to the top 50 winners, rather than having one massive grand prize.  Losers and those who get it all about half right get nothing here.

Both contents use the same system that allows you to choose your teams for each week at a touchscreen terminal in the sports book.  Fortunately for me, you can make your picks as far in advance as you want – unlike at some other casinos where you have to turn up once a week to hand in your selections.

However, for both contests, I just pressed the "random" button for each week in turn and decided to treat it like a lottery ticket.  There wasn’t much point trying to actually make the right picks for a whole season of games back in August, especially when you have to compete against Las Vegas locals who are able to enter or change their picks each week once the season is in full swing.

I’d only override a computer-generated selection if it gave a stupid number for the tie-breaker, which is to guess the total points scored on Monday Night Football.  Computer says 4 points?  That could only happen if both teams scored exactly one safety each in four quarters, and then nobody managed to do anything in overtime for a 2-2 final score.  I can’t say for sure that it’s never happened, but safeties are pretty rare and it’s been five years since the last tied game in the NFL.  Declining to bet on a 4 point game total here doesn’t exactly make me a wiseguy.

It’s Football Frenzy where my numbers seem to have come in – this Sunday I had apparently picked 11 winners out of 13.  It doesn’t sound spectacular, but nobody chose all 13 correctly this week and only five people were better with a 12-1 record.  The system only shows eighteen of us with 11 wins, so with 50 weekly prizes I’m already in the money!

I don’t know yet how much it will be, it depends on the outcome of tonight’s game, but the very worst case is $50 in slot play in the bank for Christmas.  Prizes 1-5 are obviously gone but if I can scrape 6th-8th I’ll have a massive $100 cash to collect from the Fiesta Henderson in December!  9th or 10th place makes it $50 cash instead of the slot play, which makes little difference to me at a casino with +EV video poker.

My randomly-generated-by-computer tie-breaker for tonight’s MNF game is 31.  It’s a sensible number…. come on the 17-14 scoreline!

EDIT: 24-0.  Officially I took 28th place in the Football Frenzy.  The MNF result was still to be counted and I got it wrong, slipping to 11-3 for the week.  Still, it’s $50 in slot play in the bank…

Little bit of robot, little bit of donut

I’ve just stumbled on – and I can’t even remember how – work of artist Eric Joyner and his fabulous Robots & Donuts collection.

Obviously, this one is my absolute favourite.  DUCY?


On set with Jilly from Philly

This clip is from the DVD extras for Ocean’s 13.  As producer Jerry Weintraub is walking us around the casino set, he explains why the inside of The Bank casino looks the way it does.

"It’s Asian-themed because there is no casino that we know of in Las Vegas that’s Asian so we decided to have an Asian theme."

Err, apart from Imperial Palace perhaps?  They haven’t knocked it down yet.

OK so I know there’s a few red-herrings thrown in to confuse you as to what their theme actually is, like the collection of classic American cars and the Hawaiian Luau, but it’s definitely meant to be Asian.  It even says so in Wikipedia, and that’s almost never wrong. 

If the roof doesn’t convince you…

…there’s dragons out front.  What more does it need?