September 2008
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It wasn’t me

I think my Poker Tracker just broke.

I’m fairly sure that (a) I haven’t actually lost ninety two grand in one day and (b) that I wouldn’t need a computer program to tell me I was struggling to beat the game if I was spewing at a rate of $26 per hand.

That’s an impressive loss rate – more than four big bets per hand at $3/$6 limit, which is apparently where these hands all came from (despite me not having played that limit on Poker Stars for over a year!).

If you lost that much money every hundred hands, you’d have a pretty big leak.  But every hand?  You’d have to try really hard.  Like bet and raise on every street, hope someone else comes along for the ride and then fold, giving up a huge pot for a single bet on the river.  Every time.

Actually I guess it could be pretty easy if the other players are paying attention, but any poker site worth their salt would pick up this betting pattern and flag you as a chip dumper before you can say "I cap it!".

This wasn’t me, I swear.

God alone knows what’s happened, but I think I probably need to reload my database.

A whole month of free

Today was first the day I could request my return flight for next summer.  I made the call to BMI Diamond Club and spoke to someone who was unusually helpful and pretty efficient and offered to put the me on the waiting list without me needing to ask.

There were no seats immediately available (quite possibly because I’ve been too eager and they’re not in the system yet) so my request has been passed on to the relevant department to see if they will make a redemption booking for me anyway.

Let’s hope so – the whole point of going mental getting enough flyer miles for Gold status was to ensure I’d be able to get those lovely flat bed business class seats using my miles during peak times.

I also looked up the Harrah’s accomodation calendar for the same period.  It’s pretty good news (click to view):


Claire and I had joked about not needing to rent a house next summer with all the comps we’d racked up between us, but it’s almost a reality.  Check this out.

All four midweek periods have five-night comps showing at Harrah’s, Paris or Flamingo.  Or all three.  Chances are Bally’s and Imperial Palace will come available soon too – looks like it only has booking data in the system until the end of July so far.

Only Friday and Saturday nights would cost money, and even if Imperial Palace doesn’t step up to save the day with a free Luv Tub room every weekend (it’s already available for the first one) we could probably get by with other room offers from Casino Royale and Four Queens.

Whether or not I’m game enough to spend four straight weeks in casino hotels is another matter.  That’s the whole point in staying away from the action when we go for the summer, so there is somewhere to escape to.

Plus, not having the option to cook (read: bung some hot pockets in the microwave) would make eating a whole lot more expensive, and that’s pretty significant for a long vacation.  Not to mention getting fleeced $11.99/day for internet, times 30 days.

There’s no major rush to decide mind.  It’s still T minus like three hundred and something.

Why I went broke with one pair in level 1

I guess I should talk about this.

For one thing, I can’t leave that embarassing ski-slope graph as the top entry on my blog.  I only need 14 more posts to push it off the bottom completely…

I lost my stack with one pair in the first level of a major tournament.  I completely suck.

It was actually the very last hand of level 1, for what that’s worth, and I had realised this as I’d posted my small blind for 25 just before the clock ticked over.

That’s only significant, because I’m not sure whether or not the villian has also realised this as he made an early position raise to 300.  Was he looking at the clock to see how much to raise, or at the blinds on the table?  Did he think that 300 was three or six times the big blind?  I really can’t be sure.

There were two callers ahead of me before I looked down at pocket queens.  I’d already lost a couple of small pots and was down to 8600 in chips.  Everyone else involved covered me.

I didn’t like the idea of just calling out of position in a four-way pot with a hand that is very vulnerable, but still probably best.  With a nice chunk of cash in the pot already, I made it 1500 to go, hoping to take it down – or be able to lay my queens down if a better hand did decide to speak up.

No such luck (well, obviously).  Villian just called and the player on the button also called.

The flop couldn’t give me a tougher decision to make: 852, all different suits.

First to act, what to do?  The pot is already way too big (4,850) for a pair of queens.  I really hate the spot.

I can’t check/fold.  I just can’t.  But check/raise might not even be an option, and if it is I’m only called if beaten.  That leaves taking a stab at the pot, and I fired 3,000 – leaving me with 4,000 and a remote possibility of getting away from the hand if the other two players go nuts.

The original raiser immediately moved all-in and the button got out of the way.

So I have an overpair to a very low, uncoordinated flop.  I only have to call 4,000 to win about 15,000 but surely I can’t be ahead?  I really really hate the spot now.

So what does Villian have?  The game’s only been going an hour and I don’t have much information, but he seems to know what he’s doing.  And he has a pair of sunglasses.

Pocket 8s, 5s and 2s are all crushing me and would be glad to get it all in right now, but I give him enough credit to be able to pass those hands to my pre-flop re-raise, even if he had raised with them in early position.

OK, there is a possibility but only a very small one, and any set here is a huge enough hand that just calling to try to keep the 3rd player around would be a better play anyway.

Bigger overpairs have me in big trouble too.  Aces and kings would all raise from early position, and may over-raise (if he did so knowingly).  But in this pot, I would expect him to put in a third raise to force out the other two players.

Why would he want to take either of those hands against three other players, especially when he only has position on one of them?

Could he have pocket 9s, 10s or jacks?  The big pre-flop raise is a particularly popular weak-ass move with pocket jacks, and those hands all look pretty good here.  But are they worth going broke with?  Not really.  Maybe if he gets to do the betting or raising, but they’re certainly not worth a call all-in.

But he might figure I can fold some hands that beat his, or factor in the chance that I’m making a play with AK (which I would often play exactly the same way).  He could even be making a move with AK himself.

The pot is simply too big and what I thought was a worthwhile pre-flop stab and a compulsory continuation bet has turned the hand into a disaster.  I should have just mucked those queens, or just called to try to flop a set, then waited another couple of hours for a better spot.

But what matters now is this decision.  Can I be ahead often enough to justify calling for the nearly 4-1 pot odds I’ve ended up with?

Obviously I decided yes, and I obviously was wrong.  He had two kings.

I blame the other players in the hand.  If they hadn’t called along pre-flop, I could have made my re-raise smaller and the pot would stay under control.  Also, if they hadn’t been involved I’d have given villian much more credit for a big pocket pair.

Oh my god it’s an awesome trap.  Oh noes he got me.  He got me good.

But although he won my chips which clearly makes it genius, I hate the smooth call with KK there.  Talk about giving yourself the best possible chance of losing.  Either I have pocket aces or I don’t, and the flop made no difference to whether his hand is best or second best so why wait until then to get the money in, after giving two other players a chance to catch up?

He has much more information pre-flop about my hand than I have about his.  With some certainty he should know that I don’t have 2s, 5s or 8s and so, by that reasoning, I should have been able to narrow his range for making this play down to almost exclusively AA.  If that was the case, I’d gracefully admit that I got it wrong and fell for a clever trap and write "nice hand".

As it is, I’m just going to say "Kings? What the fuck?".

It’s not a great deal of consolation to be honest though.

Live updates: GCBPT Liverpool £500 Main Event (Day 1a)

I suppose a rock’s out of the question

This could be the most paranoia-inducing vending machine ever.

"Please dont rock.  Your being watched".  The terrible grammar just makes it even scarier.

I’m not surprised they’ve had rockin’ issues in the past though, having found out the hard way just how much coffee you get for 50p.  It’s barely half a small cup.

In other interesting back-stories that I can only imagine, there’s this sign on the bed:

Bunk beds?  You don’t get them in those regular hotels, but I’m staying in France’s favourite unmanned hotel chain, Formule 1.  Except this one fails in the virtually human-free department because you actually have to check in at the Ibis next door with a real person, rather than just swiping a credit card and hoping all the right automatic stuff happens.

From my room, I have an excellent view of the skate park.

But you just can’t beat a self-cleaning toilet.  They’re pretty impressive, and how they manage to wash down the cubicle but leave the toilet paper dry is still a bit of a mystery.

Live updates: GCBPT Liverpool £200 Freezeout

BYO Chips

So the first tournament didn’t go too well.  The structure actually sucks pretty bad, which is a shame because the next one is exactly the same.  They skip right past 75/150 and 150/300 to get right up to a level where half the players are short stacked in under two hours.

By the time I busted, blinds had just ticked over to 400/800 with 100 ante and the average stack for the 80-something remaining players was about 10,000.  I had no cards and very few stealing opportunities (with several other players already pushing any two cards) so I ended up with little else I could do than move all-in with junk and hope that hands like TJ and 63 would fold.  They didn’t.

I haven’t recognised any poker celebs yet but I was briefly graced by the presence of the Betfred Women’s Poker Tour Champion 2007, Lynne Beaumont, at my table.  I know this because it said the title on her shirt, and I used Google just now to find her name.

Clearly an achievement to be proud of, this award had also netted her an absolutely unpatronising cash prize of one thousand pounds, as well as the chance to be a human billboard for the next year.  Taking full advantage of her free ride, Lynn arrived at the table two hours late and busted on her first hand.

Anyway, as seems to be necessary in all the best trip reports, I won my buy-in back on blackjack/roulette/The Cash (* delete as appropriate).

I had been scoping the blackjack game, and depending on how quickly you earn "Fortune Points" (Gala’s slot club, which also tracks table play) it could be a good gamble, but today it was The Cash.

In fact, this was my first ever foray into live cash games at an actual British casino that is really a casino.  It surprised me a little that the game had a "BYO Chips" policy and was therefore played mostly with folding money.  The dealer didn’t have a rack and the card room wouldn’t sell chips so you had to go and buy them from another table game.

Or you could wait for a sucker like me to change up his entire roll and buy them from him.  Which is awesome, because I love handling cash given to me by strangers in a casino.

I would like to think I was responsible for one mega-tilt hand after my two pair beat another two pair.  He clearly thought his A6 was way ahead when I just called with AJ on a JT6xA board.  With one more player still to act, I was going for the overcall rather than shoving for less than a full raise into a possible made straight.

Next hand he straddled on the button for £4. I think this is a Mississippi straddle, never seen it played that way before and not really sure how it affects the action, but it didn’t really matter here.  The big blind was having none of it and immediately re-straddled for £8 and the pissing contest began.  It went £16, then £32, then his remaining £46 all-in and called.

Finally they let cards get dealt.  Nobody had a £46 hand so we saw J6 race against 52, with a 5 on board to send Mr Tilt off to see if the cashier would let him exceed his ATM limit.

Live updates: GCBPT Liverpool £100 Freezeout

How to recognise different types of burger from quite a long way away


In-N-Out Burger.

In-N-Out Burger.

The fountains at Blackpoolio

That’s what it may as well be called.

This is not my video.  I did try to record the show when I saw it last night but I only had my phone on me and the results were pretty poor.  Apparently in the dark I’ll be lucky to get three frames a second out of it.

Fortunately there’s very little that isn’t already on YouTube, and even though this light and fountain spectacular has only been on display for a couple of weeks I managed to find a full length video.

Whereas Bellagio has a 9 acre lake and over twenty shows in rotation, Blackpool’s latest Las Vegas rip-off is a show named "Venus Reborn" which sits in a tin bath plonked on a garden by the promenade.

As well as the fountains, which sometimes shoot as high as three feet in the air, the show also consists of lights and cut-out silhouettes, which move a little bit.  It’s all set to Debussy’s Clair de Lune.

As far as I know Bellagio doesn’t actually use this music, but there is a strong connection: it is the soundtrack to the scene at the end of Ocean’s Eleven when the protagonists all watch the fountain show before going their separate ways.

Celebrity interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is apparently the man responsible for bringing a water show to a Northern English seaside town for the wettest part of the season.  He said of it:

"For me Blackpool is Venus, which may seem an odd thing to say but there’s a sultry, voluptuous beauty to Blackpool, she’s like Venus a real pleasure girl.

"My tableau, Venus Reborn, celebrates what I hope will be a glamorous future for Blackpool.  Surrounded by classical gods and goddesses in tuxedo finery my very modern Venus rises out of her shell with a theatrical Vegas style flourish."

Indeed, if you can’t be bothered to watch the whole show (it’s about four and a half minutes, and not a great deal happens) do skip to the end and check out the dazzling finale where the goddess Venus holds out her palm to reveal… Blackpool Tower.

It’s not that clear on the video, but take my word for it.  It really is.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, it is only temporary.  Venus Reborn will be playing every fifteen minutes until the Blackpool Illuminations are turned off at the beginning of November.