June 2008
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A bit of poker-style gambling

In case the graph didn’t make it clear, I’ve made it through to the second round of the WSOP satellite. I play again at midday (8pm UK time).

Not sure if I’ll bother with a chip graph this time, it was pretty intense trying to keep up with meaningful updates and the whole thing was over in exactly one hour. It’s only because I got lucky that the graph had more than 3 points on it.

We started with 1500 chips and doubling the blinds just wasn’t fast enough. It went up every fifteen minutes: 25/50, 50/100, 100/200 then 200/500.

Two players progressed from each table of eight, and I assume it will be the same format today to reduce the field to just one table of ten to play for the cash and the Main Event seat. At that final table, about 40 hands will determine who wins bottom place money ($500) and who wins the top prize ($10,000). Just like on TV, I suppose.

To say it’s all a bit random would be an understatement.

But, on the other hand, the quality of the opposition is terrible. This game had everything you could ever dream of. Players who have no idea of the value of their cards, or their chips. Even though the chips have numbers on them, in case you forget.

It was just like the scene in Ocean’s Eleven where Brad Pitt is teaching a bunch of movie stars to play poker, except nobody was famous and the dealer already knew to deal to the left.

Given more chips and enough time, I am absolutely positive I could have pissed all over my table yesterday. As it was, I was forced to get lucky in a 3-way race holding KJ against A6 and 23. Making the overcall there with the nut low wasn’t even the worst play I saw.

These players mostly weren’t here for poker, they were here in spite of it. The tournament took place in the promotions area where slot tournaments are held (the machines were all around the edge of the room) and I’m sure that really that’s what everyone else wanted to be doing. It’s much more fun to slap a button and not have to think; to have a machine tell you whether you won rather than have to try to work it out for yourself.

One player tabled QJ on the river twice, making a hesitant call each time. The first time the board showed two queens, a jack and two little cards with four hearts and his full house beat a king-high flush. (In the WSOP, that same call with the absolute nuts would get you a one round penalty for soft-playing). The next time he called on the river holding QJ on a board of 67TA2 with 3 spades. A busted gutshot straight draw has rather less showdown value.

He wasn’t alone in being married to a drawing hand with zero cards to come. When one player bet the river holding 23 and having paired the 3, she got paid off by JT because there was a king and queen on the flop.

A pre-flop raise was usually a minimum raise, although any raise was rare. A flop bet, was usually a minimum bet – usually following the question "how much can I bet".

The betting patterns were so peculiar I don’t think there was any chance of trying to play this any other way that staying out of trouble, picking a couple of spots and getting lucky when it mattered.

In fact, I even laid down AQ pre-flop when we were five handed. The first player to act moved all in and I looked round the table to see what was going on. It was the first time anyone had taken more than 5 seconds to make a decision and suddenly I’d drawn attention to myself.

The big blind, who had us both covered, had already counted out the call and was holding the chips over the line ready to release. Unable to put either of them on a geniune hand, I didn’t want to take a likely 40% shot at survival so I let them fight it out and the big blind’s K9 knocked out KQ with a straight.

It was satisfying to qualify and I’m sure it would have been frustrating to miss out. I did see one dude in a Bodog top walking out of the room on his cellphone, presumably complaining about losing a 60/40 against a hand that should have never been in the pot. At least he didn’t have sunglasses on.

I’m under absolutely no illusions that it’s an automatic win. Clearly I do have an edge over the field, but there’s really not enough time to let it have much of an effect. I like my spot, but the poker gods have to like me too.

Still, I only have to get lucky twice more to win a ten grand seat now.

EDIT: 2nd in the "semi-final".  Only one player from each table advanced though so I’m done.  There’s a cash drawing at 5pm for a last chance of some winning.

Celeb spotting at the WSOP

The WSOP is awesome. Just look at some of these famous players’ backs of their heads I got to see.

And a couple from the actual front side…

I have not a clue who the last one is, but he’s wearing a Poker Stars "Team Pro" shirt, so he must be a big deal.

Then again, 90% of the people in that room think that they are.

Live updates: Harrah’s Laughlin WSOP Satellite

Harrah’s Laughlin is sold out. You wouldn’t really know to look at it, but apparently it’s a 1600-room hotel. Tiny by Las Vegas standards but pretty big for Laughlin. And it’s sold out.

I know this because they told me when I checked in last night, and they told the couple next to me too. Then a random guy in the elevator told me the same thing.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in Laughlin on a weekend before so I don’t know if it’s normal, but it sounds like it’s pretty big news.

I was too late to register for my tournament last night so I still have no idea how it is going to work, when it will start or how many runners are in it. The hotel being full is not a good sign, as they originally told me that 400 rooms were reserved for this promotion.

I can still register at 11am, apparently. I have a suspicion that it might be a shootout format but I’ve put up a blank graph anyway in case there’s something worth reporting on. Click the graph to see the page with comments, there might be something interesting to tell – you never know!

EDIT: I’m registered to play at 4pm.  At 10am there was a group about to start and my choice was 2pm or 4pm.  There’s about a dozen tables in the room, so 400 runners is a definite possibility!  The structure will be kinda fast too…

I’ll take a packed lunch next time

I’d decided that I’d try out a few different at-table dining services at various poker rooms on this trip, to compare and contrast. However, after eating during the tournament at Caesars, I’ve changed my mind.

I know I caught them on a bad day – there were 605 runners, the most so far in this series and so many that they had to turn players away from the 3pm tournament because there were no more tables – but the service was terrible. Either the room was understaffed or the staff were overwhelmed.

I waited 50 minutes for my $16 burger, which would have been nothing special even if it was hot. It was luke warm by the time it arrived but I was so hungry by then I didn’t want to wait the best part of another hour to get it fixed.

Cocktail waitresses were also an endangered species. From the moment I ordered my food, realising that I was going to need a drink, until I’d finished eating I didn’t see a single one. Not what I’ve come to expect from Caesars at all.

Not to mention that it was only once I’d ordered my food that I began the downhill slide towards destruction. Eating at the table is clearly just bad luck.

In fact, nothing particularly interesting happened – I just couldn’t win the pots that mattered.

In the end, I pushed in early position with AQ and got an instant call from 88. He only just covered me, but this was more than likely a spite call from a gobshite who had tried desperately to get me to tell him what I had in an earlier hand that he bet me off and I couldn’t think of a convincing lie so I basically told him to fuck off. "Sorry, I can’t remember". Sounds much better what Matt Damon says it…

Before that I’d lost a chunk with AK vs AQ. Not all-in pre-flop this time, I’d raised one early limper and got an immediate call from the player to my left. Flop: 678 and we both checked. I only had a little more than the pot left, and I wasn’t feeling suicidal. When the turn brought a ten, I thought I could take a small stab (1200 into a 3000 pot) but he called it, spiked a queen on the river and then checked for value. Brilliant.

In the break I decided to find out just how long it takes to walk from Caesars to Bellagio. It’s right next door and there’s a walkway over the road, but getting there and back and finding what you want in 20 minutes is a stretch. I thought it would be.

This isn’t as random as it sounds. I wanted to put a bet on the basketball game but apparently Harrah’s chairman Gary Loveman now has an ownership interest in the Boston Celtics so none of their casinos can take bets on Celtics games. That’s pretty big news for every other sportsbook in town when the they make the NBA finals.

However, here’s the difference between the world’s largest gaming company and a smaller off-strip operator. Since this acquisition, Harrah’s properties can’t take any bets on any Celtics game. However the Palms and the the Silverton – whose owners have stakes in the San Antonio Spurs and the LA Lakers respectively – can’t take bets on any basketball game. Something’s not right there.

Anyway, I wish I hadn’t bothered. I fell asleep during the game, missed the end and the Lakers apparently lost.

Show in the sky, kinda unplugged

As I walked through the Rio, after finally working out where to park without having to walk three miles back to my hotel elevators, I stumbled on the rehearsals for the all new Show in the Sky.

The quality the video is terrible, so I’ve kept it short.

The show was pulled a couple of months ago, revamped and recently re-opened. You can see the full show here.

The version I saw was just the same, except without the floats in the sky (except for the child-scarer, which was hanging motionless in the air), the costumes, stage lighting or much of an audience.

Then at the end, the "Rio advanced warning system" alarm went off.

At first it looked like the siren was part of the show, and I might have thought it was if it wasn’t for the fact the same thing went off in my room at 5am! I’ve never been so glad to be jet-lagged.

About half an hour later it sounded again to say that the first one had been a false alarm.

Live updates: Caesars Palace

Caesars Palace Mega Stack Series, $225 event. Starts 8pm UK time.

Suite. Dude.

My first ever comped suite, at the Rio. 33rd floor of the Masquerade Tower.

The small brown door on the right is actually for a refridgerator, and there’s a coffee maker too.

The Strip view is somewhat obscured by the big-ass television.

The view is best at night when everything is lit up, but it was pretty spectacular at sunrise (and a bit easier to take pictures of through a dirty window too). I have a panoramic view of the mountains, and can see the Strip from half of Caesars to Stratosphere as well as Downtown in the distance.

Unsweet. Dude.

In Philadelphia airport, in a fast food joint I’d never heard of before, which had an impossibly small menu, I was given a choice that I’d never been offered before.

At Chick-Fil-A (I’m still saying it out loud even now, the name bothers me so much) I had the number two combo, which in retrospect I wish I’d ordered by name. It’s a chargrilled chicken sandwich.

The other choices were a not-so-chargrilled chicken sandwich, or chicken nuggets (which I have to assume is the meat from a sandwich chopped into small pieces). That’s it.

When I ordered iced tea for my drink, the lady asked me: "Sweet or unsweet".

I thought my American vocab was getting pretty strong, but is "unsweet" really a word? Unsweetened, sure, but can you just throw "un" in front of any adjective like that and hope it works? I guess they can’t call it "sour" or "bitter" or nobody would drink it, and a burger bar calling a soft drink "dry" would be a little too pretentious. What the hell. I unsweeted right back at her to confirm my choice.

So not only had I never heard that word before, I’ve also never even thought of this before. I don’t know whether iced tea is normally sweetened. I guess it quite possibly is as this one was pretty, err, dry. I’ve definitely never had to make that decision before though.

I watched Supersize Me recently in an attempt to scare me off the diet of fast food that’s going to be all too easy to succumb to when I’m in Vegas by myself for a week.

The film pointed out just how many spoonfuls of sugar there are in every extra large soda, it was like 50 or something stupid, nearly a full bag probably. I’m not a fan of sugary drinks anyway, usually choosing Diet Coke whether or not I care about what I consume on any given day, but I did think that iced tea was another sugar-free option. Now I really don’t know.

Anyway, I’ve made a fairly healthy start to the trip (if you discount the picture above, which was very nice) – I’ve already bought a bunch of bananas for breakfasts!

The over/under on how long it lasts is 2 days.

Too much poker?

I saw that Claire had set one of her classes a maths homework on quadratic equations, which she’d abbreviated to "Factorising Quads".

My immediate thought was "that’ll be two pairs then".

Sleep time now.  Got to be up before 7am to catch a plane 🙂

Donut’s Eleven

A big thank you to all my backers for the tournaments I’m going to play in Las Vegas over the next week.  Between them they have 33% of my action.

The team list looks like this: Chris, Dan, Dave, David, Gareth, Geoff, Monty, Neil, Paul, Rich… and Sidge makes eleven.

Eleven oughta do it, don’t you think?

Oh wait, that’s not quite right…

EDIT: There’s always one isn’t there?  🙂 Vij called me while I was at the airport and said he’d take 5%, although he’d totally forgotten about it and was calling about something completely different.  He remembered when he was deafened by an announcement in the terminal.  ty Vij.