February 2009
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Six way showdown

Remember the last time you saw six hands all go to showdown?

Me neither.

Sure, three of them ended up all in, but this was still a whopping $100 pot at $2/$4 limit hold’em. Enjoy!

Deoghar 2/4, hand converted by the iPoker Converter at Talking-Poker

Preflop: Hero is in the BB with T K
UTG moves all-in for $4, 1 fold, MP calls $4, 2 folds, CO-1 calls $4, CO calls $4, Button calls $4, SB folds, Hero calls $2.

There aren’t many hands I fold for 11-1 immediate pot odds, in fact there’s probably none.  I’m certainly going to see a flop with king-ten.

Flop ($25) 5 J Q
Hero checks, MP checks, CO-1 bets $2, CO moves all-in for $4, Button raises to $6, Hero calls $6, MP raises to $8, CO-1 calls $6, Button calls $2, Hero calls $2.

Up and indeed down.  Calling 3 bets cold on a draw?  Well, it’s currently a $6 call to win $37, with the possibility of other callers to sweeten the deal.  Or if it gets capped (as it did) I’m paying $8 to have a shot at $47 or more.  The worst case is that I get about 6-1 on a draw that is better than 5-1 to make the nuts on the next card.

Turn ($61) 2
Hero checks, MP bets $4, CO-1 moves all-in for $3, Button raises to $8, Hero calls $8, MP calls $4.

The two players who still have money left could cap it again with me stuck in the middle, and the card was a complete brick so that’s fairly likely given the flop action.  However I’m still drawing to the nuts.  My outs are discounted slightly for Ah and 9h making a possible flush, but that’s unlikely to help the two villians left in the main pot.

If MP just calls here, I’m getting 11-1 on the call ($8 to win $88); if it goes to 3 bets it’s 7-1 ($12 to win $96) and even if they cap it then 5.5-1 ($16 for a shot at $104) is still worth hanging around for.

River ($88) K
Hero checks, MP bets $4, Button calls $4, Hero calls $4

I’m almost certaily beaten, but I did just hit top pair so I’m not letting it go for one bet.  My hand has to be good just 5% of the time for this is a profitable call, which I’ll admit is still a bit of a stretch, but the downside of tilting after seeing I folded the best hand in a $100 pot would be far worse!

UTG shows T Q
MP shows J J
CO-1 shows J A
CO shows A 4
Button shows 5 5
Hero shows T K

MP wins $100 with Three of a kind, Jacks.

The lucky krapfen

I never studied it at school, so my knowledge of the German language comes almost exclusively from Kraftwerk records.

So when I went to Austria this week, I was really hoping to keep communication to a minimum, rather than try to construct meaningful sentences from just the numbers one to eight and the word autobahn

A day trip to Salzburg may sound like a random act of madness, but there was a reason.  I had been scoping out possible poker tournaments to play this year and came across the PokerNews Cup Alpine, to be held in March at a casino somewhere up a snowy mountain.

The tournament series was quite an attractive prospect – a few hundred euro events and a EUR 1500 main event.  Compared to the five grand EPT events, this sounded like something I might be able to have a crack at.

The only problem (apart from the language) was the location.  The official package includes accomodation at the luxury five star resort, along with a helicopter transfer from the airport.  The total cost to play the EUR 1500 main event (preliminaries are extra) is a whopping EUR 6000!

So why not find a Formule 1 (or whatever the equivalent staffless, self-cleaning motel is in Austria) I thought, and try to do this on the cheap.  Hence the day trip to scope the place out, and to see if the helicopter is actually necessary.  Sadly, I now know that it is.

I made it about 20km out of the town before the snow on the ground started to become serious enough to worry about, and then the sat nav sent me down a road which had a temporary sign at the entrance that I had no chance of reading, because it wasn’t about pocket calculators or robots.

Other drivers didn’t seem too concerned so I carried on, but then Jane off of TomTom led me across a junction and up a hill where the snow was deep and only one side of the road was usable.  As I began wondering just how great an idea it was to be driving uphill on the wrong side of a slippy road, another car came in the opposite direction – thankfully, quite slowly – to push me back down.

As I backed out of the way, an animated little man came to the car window and started yelling something in German.  He must have been bemused at why his outburst failed to get any reaction whatsoever, so he eventually gave up and went back inside scratching his head.

How was I meant to react?  All I know is that he didn’t think I was a model, or that I was looking good.

But that was it.  The resort where the tournament was going to take place was still over an hour away (on good roads) and I’d failed to negotiate the very first hill – of what I had to assume would be many on the way up to an Alpine resort – spectacularly enough to disturb the locals.

Basically, even if I had found a way through, there’s no way I was going to commit myself to making this journey alone, in unknown weather conditions and against a clock.

So we went back to Salzburg itself for the day, where it turns out there’s not actually a great deal to do.  We wandered around for a while, taking in the sights – which consisted of a statue of Mozart, the Mozart museum, some streets named after Mozart and several shops which sold Mozart-branded confectionary.

We decided to play the odds when it came to finding somewhere we could order lunch in English.

A Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Das Big Mac. (Probably). I wonder what they call a whopper…

I learned two other German words.  I figured out that "Kondomautomat" means "condom machine", but I’m not sure I’d have done it without the graffiti:

The other word came from the pack of some random pink cakes I bought from a Spar.  I only looked up what it actually meant because it’s an amusing sounding word in English.


It means donut.  What are the odds?

Ten billion silver jubilees

This is really only marginally interesting, even to geeks like me, but it grabbed my attention for a few minutes.

PokerStars are approaching their 25 billionth poker hand, and promotions abound.

This includes a 25% deposit bonus up to $250 maximum which sounds great, until you realise the daily deposit limit on almost every payment method is $600.

I already emailed support and got my limits increased just for this, which was pretty easy but it took a few hours to get it cleared so if you’re planning on maxing out this bonus don’t leave it until the last minute.

Every million hands leading up to #250,000,000,000 some fireworks will go off and the table that’s dealt a hand number ending in six or more zeros will have some free money thrown their way.  Expect to see more 1c/2c tables running than you ever thought possible as the big one approaches.

Anyway, I noticed something funny was going on in the lobby this evening as they began streaming a live update of how long until the next hand, and who got lucky in the last one.

Turns out you needed to restart the client and download an update for this to work properly, otherwise it scrolls through this code, which I’ve crudely pasted together:

After the update, this is what you see:

Unless the milestone hand is actually in progress, in which case the message is slightly different.

So what do we learn from this about the the PokerStars software?  Not much, only that the scrolling text area in the lobby is not just displaying a fixed message pushed down from the server – it’s actually capable of some rudimentary program logic.  Why?  I don’t really know.

And we can see that inside the brain of the operation they actually refer to every billionth hand not as a "milestone" but as a "jubilee".

As I said, marginally interesting at best.

Just think of all the free soap

It’s better to have a hotel room and not need one, than to need a room and not have one.

Or something like that.

I thought it would be difficult to get room offers from Harrah’s this year, now that they should have started to realise I make every effort to not lose any money to them.

My plan was to make sure I booked up as much as possible as early as possible for maximum value, so before last year was over I’d already nabbed 27 free nights.  Then when January came around I was amazed to find I could still make comped reservations for Christmas, which took the total to 35.

I even decided to book a couple of weeks during the World Series of Poker, which I probably won’t use, but you never know.  The Rio was up for grabs, so it seemed daft not to – just in case.

However, it seems I needn’t have bothered being quite so eager.  Harrah’s are apparently so desparate to fill their hotels at the moment that they are giving away rooms to almost anyone.

We’d heard they had become more generous, so Claire decided to check her Total Rewards account and see what rates she was being offered.

I should point out that her players card is not linked to mine, and that all our play over the past year has been concentrated solely on my account.  Claire’s total action amounts to about $12 of poker comp from Imperial Palace (which wasn’t even earned on that card, it was transferred over to Total Rewards from the IP’s old poker system) and literally a handful of spins on Megabucks – just enough to earn a base reward credit and keep the comp dollars from expiring.

So there is no reason that the top secret magic marketing formula would assign Claire any value at all for the casino.

Nevertheless, she can currently book five nights free, almost any time of the year!

So she has.  Six times.  Anything less would have just been insulting.

An extra 30 nights added onto my number makes our combined total comp booked for 2009 (so far) an astounding 74 nights.

Of course most of the stays overlap, but that’s the beauty of it.

The maximum free stay you can ever book is 5 nights.  You can check out and back in again but there has to be a 2 day gap between trips. 

For example, I had booked the Rio – for free – for 8 nights at the start and end of a 10 night trip in December, and Claire booked Imperial Palace for five nights in the middle.

So we have to move hotels twice – but when we actually do that is pretty flexible.  There’ll be no check out before 11am, then check in after 3pm hassles.  Although with the middle hotel being Imperial Palace, I can’t imagine we’ll stay there much longer than we have to.

It is a Luv Tub room though at least.  I could have had one of these when I stayed there last year, it just seemed a little creepy to have one to myself.

The IP is only involved at all because the nights we needed to overlap had to include a weekend.  Neither of us were offered much for Friday or Saturday nights elsewhere, otherwise our comp dates were almost identical.

Apart from one option to stay at Paris, you wouldn’t be able to tell from the room offers which one of us cycled $110,000 through their casinos last year, and which one gave them action to the tune of $30.

So suddenly I don’t feel quite so special, but I’ll cope.  You know what?  Free stuff is always good, even if it truly is more hotel rooms than we could ever possibly use.  We’ll have a damn good go at using it, and I’ll expand my soap collection considerably.

Anyhow, if you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas this year and you already have a Total Rewards card, go check your rates.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much you’ve played there lately, there’s a good chance you’re in for some freebies.

Ignore that the web site will probably say "You have 0 offers".  The offers don’t matter.  After logging in, select "reservations", then "Las Vegas" and find the availability calendar.  There are bargains to be had.

Royal flushing

I finally made the Royal Flush Club on Empire Poker!  One last marathon session yesterday made sure I reached the giddy heights of their top tier – and earned the right to the promised $100/month no-strings deposit bonus.

I didn’t expect fireworks, but I was hoping for something to mark the occasion.  A congratulatory email, perhaps (with details of how I get my free money, preferably).  There’s been nothing yet.  But I definitely made it:

Played 33, cashed in 7.  The in-the-money results were far from spectacular though, and if it wasn’t for a 3rd place finish in a 60-man $30 tournament, which landed me $371, I’d have wiped out almost all of the good work I did last time.

As it is, I ended up down $226, which is offset slightly by $25 cash back from redeeming the points I earned.  I paid $67 in tournament fees, so that’s a reasonable rakeback rate (37%), but that’s only the case when you play dozens of tournaments on the same day (because of the "number of tournaments squared" rule for bonus points) .  Otherwise it’s virtually worthless.

I can live with that result given the luck I had, and knowing that one or two results going slightly differently could have turned things right around.  I bubbled in a satellite for a $172 seat, and my session ended with aces getting predictably cracked.

I open-pushed, got called by ace-jack and the harmless king-high flop turned to disaster with a ten on the turn and a devastating queen on the river.

Pretty standard.

The other nine times out of ten, I’d have been sitting on a stack virtually guaranteed to make the money ($90+) and in good shape to fight for the top prizes.

Anyway. hit me with that deposit bonus Empire Poker…

Britain in “obsessed by the weather” shocker

A little bit of white stuff on the ground and the nation goes bonkers.

Eight of the top ten stories on BBC News right now are about the snow, or obvious consequences of the snow.

It must be because of the unique way that the BBC is funded that they can manage to find eight different angles on one day’s winter weather.

And, evidently, the licence payers love it.

Frankly, I think it’s a disgrace that we’d rather read about what we can already see outside the window than about real news, like porn interrupting the Super Bowl.

What’s under the slabs?

Snow is settling everywhere except in my yard.  What’s down there that’s so warm?


Chipping me up

I signed up to a couple of weeks ago.  This is a site where you can buy and sell small pieces of action in poker tournaments.

It’s a bit like what I already do with some of the live tournaments I play, but it’s running around the clock and you can buy shares for anything upwards of a dollar, mostly for online poker.

I have had mixed success so far backing players, but tonight it’s my turn to hold my hand out asking for money.  I’m playing two tournaments on PokerStars: the Sunday Warm-Up ($215) and the Daily Eighty Grand ($55) – although the Eighty Grand is actually guaranteed at $125,000 today.

I offered half of my action in the $55 tournament and it sold out in minutes.  So I decided to go for something a bit more ambitious and have listed 75% of the $215.  I’ll still play this regardless of how many shares I sell, but if you want a piece head over to and snap one up.

Or contact me directly if you can’t be bothered to set up an account at  To say that their web site could benefit from a usability study is an understatement, but if you can get past that (to be honest, it took me a few attempts) the underlying service is really rather good.

Live updates (click graphs for more details):


EDIT: Sunday Million, finished 890th from 4069 runners.  Went out with the best hand (A5 vs 95) obv.

EDIT: Eighty Grand, finished 45th from 4460 runners.  Bit better 🙂  Won $401.40, of which 40% goes to my backers.