Monday, November 17, 2008

Do Poker Players Tell Lies? Does The Bear Shit In The Woods?

There's a new foreign player at the Vic who has become quite a regular (I'm not going to write his nationality to spare any embarrassment he might feel at the following anecdote).

Once you start going to any card room for a while it doesn't take long before you get to know a few of the other locals/regs/pros/layabouts/chancers etc. After a while you feel like one of the boys, maybe you're a fellow shrewdie, hustling "tourists" out of their money. You're not some egg who just got off the banana boat are you? You're a face, just like some of these other long time players who seem to be showing you some respect and letting you into their secret world.

But are you?

It's the 5-10 game and Declan is in seat 9 and he is drunk. When I say he is drunk, he is lit up like a Christmas tree. Still, seeing as it's Declan, he is still playing good poker, even though it means he is playing wild and crazy instead of his usual granite style (when sober of course).

But even four sheets to the wind Declan is no idiot and in fact his wild and crazy drunken antics, which include bluffing pretty much every pot he enters, actually means that he is still not risking barely 1 or 2% of the money he has in front of him. Plus of course all the banter and witticisms are now twice as loud, but still quite funny.

Anyway, the new foreign player (NFP from now on) is in the game and, to my eyes at least, it's clear he is seeking Declan's approval. He is laughing the loudest at Declan's wisecracks and lapping up Declan's crazy bluffs. This NFP is also one of these players who loves to call raises with trash and then "outplay" his opponents. He likes to draw attention to this fact and several times already he has told the table that, "It's no secret in this club that I don't mind gambling".

I can't remember the pre-flop action (but there was bound to have been a raise), but all of a sudden Declan and the NFP are heads-up on an ace-high flop. Declan checks, the NFP bets £200 and now Declan makes it £700. While the NFP is thinking about the raise, Declan giggles and tells him that he raised "No look". The NFP asks him if really did raise without looking at his cards and Declan says, " Yeah, sure". The NFP calls.

There may well have been another bet at some point, but I can't remember. It doesn't matter as the conclusion of this story is that when it comes to the showdown Declan tables AQ whilst our foreign friend shows AJ for the second best hand.

"I thought you said you hadn't looked at your cards? That's why I called your raise", the NFP now whines. Declan, still giggling, says, "I lied, I did look".

The NFP is clearly shocked that somebody would lie at a poker game, I mean, gosh, that's outrageous. He tells Declan that he has undermined the integrity of the game (!). Really? Sounds more like you got hustled friend. Of course, if you even vaguely bothered to observe what was going on then you would have seen Declan look at his cards as soon as he was dealt them. But, if you want to believe what a poker player tells you then you run the risk of being made to look like a fool.

The upshot of all this was the NFP went on mega-tilt, at one point calling a check-raise from Jackie Barrs (sp?) who won the hand with queen-high (Q2 diamonds on a two diamond flop). And what did our foreign friend call all-in with? The almighty 75 clubs that's what. To be fair he did have six outs so moneywise it wasn't a bad call, but there was no way he could have known his pairing cards were good.

I mean, how often do you get check-raised when you are c-betting with 7-high, aka complete air (ok, I think there was an 8 on the flop, so he had a backdoor straight draw, but that was it), and you think, "Ok, I'll call off my last £250 with this" ?

I actually made a very questionable play against this guy considering how steamy he was playing. He has raised UTG and a bunch of us have called including myself with 89 hearts. The flop comes down two hearts and an 8. The NFP bets £200 and now after a bit of thought and a couple of sly glances to my left to check that the other players behind me didn't seem too interested in the flop I raised all-in to £1,200.

Everybody folded back around to the NFP who now made a comment about how I must have flopped top set, but, "Ok, I'll gamble with you". Wow, I reckon my fold equity must have been about 1%, maybe less, so maybe it wasn't really the best of plays getting it all-in with a pair of 8s and a 9-high flush draw. Considering that he thought that he was up against top set, but still called pretty swiftly, showed how much I underestimated the tilt factor.

Most of the time when you flop a pair and a flush draw in Holdem it's pretty standard to play it aggressively isn't it? But I think in this particular spot it wasn't the right move. How would all you eggsperts out there play my hand against somebody on triple-tilt?

Happily (for me) I made a flush on the river to win a nice sized pot. Even a blind squirrel stumbles across the nuts now and again etc.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

X-Factor 2008

The first live show of this season's X-Factor kicked off last night which meant a flurry of texting between me and the Champ. Plus at least two phone calls during the ad breaks to discuss the prices on betfair.

I actually didn't realise it was the first live show last night and only tuned into it about halfway through so I missed the Champ's pick for outright winner, Austin. I don't really like to doubt her much as she is a super-canny reality TV/talent show bettor and has done very well on these shows in the past.

But, I have to say, I'm not too sure about Austin. To be fair my opinion is only based on the 5 second highlight clip they use in the recaps and the Champ herself said he wasn't very good last night.

Still, one of her tips for top groups was Bad Lashes who actually ended up being the first ones out. Oops. Luckily I hadn't noticed recent updates on her blog as I made a small bet on them being knocked out.

This year looks like it could be quite a good show from a gambling POV as for once the competition seems quite open. For what it's worth I have backed Eoghan, Rachel and Ruth. The last one may not be such a good bet - she's gone right out to 50 on betfair as I type. I must admit I was a bit dazzled by her huge bazongas (as was Simon Cowell, which is probably why her price has drifted). Still, it's early days so who knows. In fact, at that price she might be worth having a bit more of a tickle.

I also wanted to have a bet on Laura, but her price is around 2-1 which didn't really get me very excited.

What always makes me laugh about X-Factor is the number of people who go on about how shit the contestants are and how the whole thing is a joke and how culture is going down the pan etc. What these high-brow intellectuals don't understand is that X-Factor isn't really a talent/music show - it's a made-for-the-masses TV show, on ITV fer Chrissakes, for families to watch while they have their tea. Essentially it's just a latter-day version of The Generation Game or It's A Knockout or Family Fortunes - pick any popular Saturday night drivel you can think of basically.

If you complain that none of the contestants are not in the same class as whoever you think is a brilliant singer/pop star then you are definitely tuning into the wrong show.

The only person who seems to have understood this is the Champ of course, which is why she has done so well punting on these shows.

Personally, I love popular/low-brow culture. I have always found it fascinating as well as very amusing. The amount of shit I get from my girlfriend for watching X-Factor is ridiculous - she just thinks I'm an idiot and doesn't understand. She's so hung up on liking "cool" music she misses the point. What's really annoying is she then accuses me of having bad taste, when in fact I know so much more about music than her, but, no, that just means I'm a "muso-trainspotter"* - aaaargh, you can't win.

Of course, having a few bets on the outcome does make the show much more riveting, but I know I would still watch it if I didn't have any money on it.

*Ok, I'll admit there's an element of truth in that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


So I played the £2,500 HORSE tournament at the Empire - made it to day two, but obviously I'm sitting here writing this while there are still eleven players left in and I'm not one of them.

As JQ says, it's fool's gold chasing these elusive tournament/bracelet wins, but wtf, you gotta give the odd one a shot now and then.

Even though my day two was real torture I enjoyed playing in this event. I have always loved playing all the games and I have to say that playing limit made a nice change. Loads of interesting situations come up and unlike a no limit tournament it's not the end of the world to get short-stacked.

My starting table included Jeff Duval (still in as I write and with a real chance of winning - go Jeff!), Howard Lederer, Jon Shoreman, Richard Ashby aka Chufty, Yuval Bronstein (who made the final of this event last year) and Marc Goodwin. Hmmm, what's that old saying about not being able to spot the sucker at the table?

There were three straight-flushes on our table during the first four levels - the funny thing being that on two occasions the players that held them didn't realise that they had the absolute joint in their sweaty mitts.

Shoreman was the first perpetrator (very surprising that he would miss that) when he was involved in an O8 hand and turned his hand over at the end saying he just had the low. Hang on, you've got a straight-flush for the high there too! Oops, well we all do silly things like that don't we?

Yes, because a bit later on in the Hold'em round I raised with AdTd. Marc Goodwin called in the BB. The flop came down with three diamonds - alright, I've flopped the nuts here. He checked, I bet, he called. Turn card is the Kd. He checks again and now I'm thinking, "Fuck, that fourth diamond has killed my action a bit, but it's limit so I'll bet anyway, fuck it".

I bet and now he folds with a grimace, showing a Qs to match the Qd on the board (like a pair of queens was the world's fair or something and how unlucky is he to have had his top pair done on the turn etc) and in the spirit of friendliness that we had all played the tournament so far I showed my hand saying that I had flopped the flush anyway.

Hold on, that Kd gave me a Royal! The Jd was on the flop too, you see. Shit, I hadn't even realised, what a doofus. Jeez, I wouldn't have minded giving a free card there - oh well, I'm in an elite club with Shoreman. At least he has the excuse that he was playing Omaha, where your mind can get focused on the main draw you're going for so it's more common to miss a different hand you have made. Or something like that.

The start of day two I had a bit of a bad beat when on the very first hand the big blind hadn't showed up. Fold, fold, fold to me and I look down to see the boots. Ay, ay, what a spot to have aces. I've got Barny Boatman, John Juanda and John Phan (SB) behind me, surely one of them is going to think I'm taking advantage of the big blind not being there.

I raise, Barny mucks saying what a good bet, but he knows me well, plus he has the other two behind him. Surely these two top class tournament pros, who have never played with me before (ok, I played with Juanda a bit in a WSOP Stud 8 tournament once, but that was only for about two hours about two or three years ago) are gonna think I'm taking the piss and play back at me? Nah, of course not, muck, muck.

I guess my granite reputation is world-wide now. Btw, Phan proceeded to play every hand in the rest of the Hold'em round and won about six of them. Marvellous; I guess he just didn't want to get involved in the SB (don't blame him I suppose).

I have to say that the atmosphere at the Empire is sort of weird. Business must go on as usual and over half the casino is full of the regular Chinatown punters cracking away at the roulette - they couldn't give a shit about the World Series of Poker. Imagine you're an elderly chinese man who's had a bit too much to drink and now a burly American tournament director comes up to you and tells you that you can't stand in a certain place.

I mean, this is where you come every night to gamble and now some guy with an accent you don't understand is telling you where you are allowed to stand whilst all around are a load of buffoons wearing weird clothing with all these funny looking patches that say Full Tilt on them, what the hell are you going to make of that?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One For The Moaners - The Vic Moves With The Times

Kudos to the Vic for renaming all their games by blind size instead of minimum buy-in size. Now the £100 game is the £1-£3 game, the 200 is the 2-5, 250 is the 5-10 and so on.

They've also changed the minimum buy-ins to 40x the big blind, so the min sit down in what used to be known as the £100 game is now in fact £120. The 5-10 (old £250 game, no need for me to tell you that was there?) now has a min sit down of £400.

I don't know if it's going to make any difference, but it feels right. More in keeping with the internet and card rooms in America and all that. It'll certainly be interesting to see if the 2-5 game gets more popular. Always plenty of games with those blinds in Las Vegas, so I'd imagine people want to play that.

No doubt plenty of the regulars will find a reason to moan about this new change, but I think it's a good move. I'll probably still call all the games by their old names for ages though. Calling something The Monkey Game just has a ring about it doesn't it? I remember once hearing Bambos asking what the game was, "Monkey or Half-Monkey?" What kind of slang are we going to use now?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


The appliance of Chaos Theory in poker really hit home last night. That is, much like the Butterfly Effect, what has happened earlier in a game can affect you for hours, days, even months into the future.

I am referring to Tilt of course. I can only think of one player who seems immune to it. Recently I thought I had bested it, but I must have grown complacent with my seeming imperviousness to steaming.

I had a bad night in the £250 game the other day, mainly due to bad play. So last night when I went to the Vic I decided to just grind it out in the £100 game. I still felt antsy so I figured I'd be better off getting my head back together at a lower limit.

Well, what a good move - it wasn't long before I was winning and playing ok. Some guy came to the game and it was pretty clear that it was maybe his first time playing in a public card room.
It wasn't long before the dealer had to tell him off for string-betting. Sure enough, it wasn't long before he did the same thing again. This time, though, he got annoyed about it and now a couple of the other players, including myself, politely told him why the Vic has a rule about dropping your chips in one by one.

We told him to either state the amount of his raise or just cut out the chips behind the line on the table and then put them in the pot. Not hard is it? Well, for some reason this guy just didn't get it and continued to make the same mistakes.

He also was acting out of turn a lot and doing things like trying to take his own change out of the pot. If the bet was £55 he would count out the amount in red chips really s-l-o-w-l-y instead of just putting two blues and a red in. All petty stuff I know and I've seen it all before, but for some reason this jerkoff really got under my skin.

Usually players who are new in a cardroom tend to be nervous (understandable) so you expect them to make mistakes. I guess I got annoyed with this guy because instead of being nervous he was trying too hard to be matey whilst simultaneously being a blowhard.

The truth is, he was just a tool who wanted a little social interaction to go with his poker game, and there's no crime in that.The real crime was perpetrated by me when I decided I had to iron him out just to get him to shut up and fuck off from the game. Did I wait until I had the goods to teach this schmuck a lesson? Of course not - I had let it get personal and it wasn't long before I had dusted off my winnings to him plus a little more.

I actually can't remember the last time I got the needle with somebody like that. Usually I can just ignore it or laugh it off. Jeez, was that guy really so bad? Probably, but certainly not worth me playing like an absolute cunt. God, I'm even more irritated by the whole episode as I type it out and read it back.

But it's nothing to do with the novice player, it's obvious I reacted to him the way I did because I still hadn't gotten over doing my bollocks on Sunday night.

The fact is, as poker players we are in a semi-permanent state of vexation aren't we? Even when one is in a better mood because one is winning in the game there's always some fuckwit at the table testing your patience.

A great example of this occurred in the £250 game on Sunday night after Stavros won a huge pot off Adam Stoneham* When the pot was over Stavros moved seats and at the same time a new dealer came to the table. The new dealer saw Stavros sitting down in an empty seat with a pile of chips and innocently asked Stavros if he wanted to post.

Now everybody knows that Stavros is, to put it mildly, irascible, but you'd think that immediately after winning a nice big pot like that even Stavros might be feeling somewhat jollier than usual. Heh, you'll be alright. Stavros exploded! The poor old dealer got a right telling off - "I just moved seats from over there you idiot! You're worse than Hitler some of you!"

* Folded round to Stoneham in the SB who makes it £30. Stavros in the BB makes it £200. Call. Flop 8 3 7, two clubs. Check, Stavros bets £700. Stoneham calls. Turn a blank. Stoneham checks and now Stavros goes all in for £20k! Long, long, long, long, long dwell from Stoneham - he had about 7 grand left - and then he finally calls. River a 9. Stoneham has 8 T and Stavros wins with 8 3 offsuit for a flopped two pair.

Monday, August 11, 2008

When I Grow Up I Want To Be Yilmaz

I found myself in a tough spot in the £250 NLH game with Neil directly on my left and then Yilmaz immediately after. Imagine trying to get through those two. Yilmaz especially.

Mind you, it was a pleasure to watch Yilmaz play. He may be one of the best LAG players I have ever seen. Fearless and tricky, you never know what he has. Complete air or the nuts, he's always putting pressure on you.

Now that I think about it, I should have just bought in for the minimum and played a pre-flop game. Trying to take on the likes of Neil and Yilmaz with a pesky middling stack is akin to climbing Everest on your knees.

A huge £32k pot developed between the two of them at one point with Neil being on the losing end of a set over set situation. Poor old Neil was very annoyed with himself, but I'm sure if the hands had been reversed Yilmaz would have gone broke too. Also, against a player like Yilmaz whose hand range is so wide, slowing down with middle set is only leaving money on the table in the long run (imo, whatever that's worth).

As Neil said at one point I was playing "squeaky tight". The irony was that the few times I woke up with a hand one of the other super-granites at the table would come in from the cold and raise it up.

Steve Luca, very solid and probably playing tighter than me (in fact I know he was from another hand which I'll talk about in a second), suddenly decided to make it £200 after a bunch of limpers. I look down to see KK in the small blind. Jeez, what a time to find what is quite likely the second best hand. Steve's stack was a healthy looking £2k-ish (I had him covered) so I just called. Naturally Yilmaz couldn't resist and he and one other player came along for the ride too.

I suspect many players, especially internet ones, cannot believe I didn't re-raise there, but I felt in my heart of hearts that Steve had the Boots here. Yeah, I know, if I really think I'm beat I should just fold my Kings quietly there too, but it's freakin' pocket kings and I guess AK is also in Steve Luca's range in this spot.

Anyway the flop comes down 4 4 5, a pretty safe flop for an over-pair and we all check to the pre-flop raiser who duly bets £300. Wow, that's a small bet. I have Yilmaz and the other player behind me, but it's unlikely either has a 4. Still, I'm sure that Steve would check AK here and only bet AA, KK and QQ. I couldn't get it out of my head that he had aces so I went with my feelings and folded.

Wha??!?!! Yeah I could be wrong, but wtf? It was going to cost me another two grand to find out and I figured there were better spots. Steve told me later at the cash desk that he did have aces. Of course, he could be lying.

So why did I think this particular player had a better hand than me in that spot? Well, earlier on I limped UTG with 44. By some miracle neither Neil or Yilmaz raised (one of them might have even folded!) before the flop and four or five of us saw the flop. 4 6 K - gin! I led out for about £50, one call and then Steve Luca called.

The turn comes an ace and now I bet £100. The middle guy folds and now Steve made it £300. Hmmm, trip 6s is a definite possibility here, in fact when he called on the flop I thought, "Uh oh, what's that about?". I may be tight, but I'm not a big one for folding sets, so I just shrugged and stuck it all-in.

Steve now went into the tank and as he gave it the genuine dwell I realised that trip 6s was odds on. Shit. My very good hand had now turned into a bluff.

Luckily I also realised that it really looked like I had limped pre-flop with aces or kings because I was expecting a raise behind me from either Neil or Yilmaz. I could see that was the very thought going around Steve's head. Unlike Neil I'm useless at talking my opponents into doing what I want them to do, so I just kept quiet, funking for him to muck.

Thankfully, Steve is not the type to angle-shoot or piss about and after not too long he passed his hand saying that I must have aces or kings. Phew. That's how tight he is (middle set on the flop! I could never fold that!) which is why I didn't feel too bad about folding my kings later on.

I guess having a nitty image does pay off sometimes. I'm guessing that Steve Luca probably doesn't play something like pocket fours upfront and he presumes a tight player like myself wouldn't do so either. He's right actually, sometimes I don't.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Just Another Night - More Ramblings

I'm cashing out at the Vic last night when I hear "Joker" Joe Grech telling somebody else how bad the game was, full of rocks, no gamblers and so on. Hold on, weren't he and I in the same game? There were at least four spots in the game that were good value, one of them being a real superstar who, whilst I was playing, lost about 3 grand.

Perception is a big thing in poker, what other players think about you and vice-versa. I was astonished at Grech's impression of the game, it seemed pretty good to me. What did he expect? Players to call raises with Q2 off? That doesn't happen.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong and it was a bad game; poker is so subjective and one's ideas about the game and how it should be played are often changing.

As I drove home and reflected on the session I thought to myself what terrible cards I kept getting dealt. Even for me I was playing super-duper granite. But hang on, didn't I win three pots (two of them being a decent size) with runner-runner back-door stuff? How often does that happen? So much for thinking I wasn't getting any hands when in fact on three occasions I was dealt perfect turn and river cards.

There was also a guy in the game who, when I first came across him, I thought was a complete fucking prick. Of course, as time has gone by and I've played with him a few times, I now don't think so badly of him.

I still think he's a bit of a loudmouth idiot seeking validation from his peers in the poker room, but now I don't mind his company. I know he's not an absolute dog like some of the scumbags one finds in poker rooms.

Still, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of times you meet people who have "found themselves" in poker. That is, they've found an environment where they feel like they fit in. It's alright to be "wacky". It's all part of the game isn't it? Their boorish personalities can now expand because it's all a part of table image.

It's good fun yelling for a black deuce on the turn because they've seen other "pros" do it. It's great that now you can straddle and look like a fearless gambler. Even better, you can berate the rocks for playing tight and bask in the glow of approval from the other "real" players. They've learnt all the funny phrases like Michael Arnold's "One seat here!" or Francis Rohan's immortal "You'll be alright".

They've finally made some friends (or at least think they have made friends) with whom they share a passion. Poker attracts all kinds of misfits and now all of a sudden they've found what they think is their spiritual home. And it's full of like-minded people like themselves.

Except it's not. It just seems like it. A lot of the fellas who were friendly to them in the beginning probably just wanted them to keep playing in the game. And, like I said, after you've spent a bit of time playing cards with the same people you can't help but exchange at least a few friendly words.

And soon after that you're chatting more. About how so and so is a good tournament player , but useless at cash. About your ex-wives. About some strip club in Vegas. And so on. Next thing you know, you're both getting the same flight to Barcelona. Or the Eurostar to Paris for the big festival at the Aviation. You might even start swapping percentages in the same tournaments. Maybe even lend each other money.

Basically it's the poker equivalent of having a drug buddy. That is, not a real friend, just somebody else suffering from the same sickness as you. Misery loves company. Somebody else who understands the weird sub-culture you have entered into. Squares and outsiders have no idea what you're going through. In fact, they find it very boring, so you have to have someone else who understands what you're going on about when you tell that bad beat story.

If this all sounds judgemental and a little dark I didn't really mean it to. After all, one of the attractions of poker for me was that I felt I had discovered my own Cheers ("Where everybody knows your name..."). Kindred spirits were all around me, all the faces said hello to me, other players asked what I thought about a particular coup, I was one of the boys. Fuck, I even used to put on a bit of a "persona" when playing. Thankfully I stopped that when I realised it just wasn't my style.

The truth is poker is a great escape. I believe that applies to both the recreational player and the pro. For me it is even more true than ever before, now that I have had a kid. I don't care whether the game is good or bad anymore, it's just great to be away from the infinite drudgery of domesticity.

I also remember a period a few years ago when things were going pretty badly in my life, but as soon as I sat down in a game at the Vic all those problems just melted away. Incidentally, I went on a terrific upswing at that time too - I've never understood those poker writers who say that one shouldn't play when one has problems at home; what a load of bollocks, that's the best time to play.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Let's Hear It For Queen High

I remember reading about some big pot Doyle Brunson won off Johnny Moss with Jack high when Doyle called a big bet from Moss on the river because he correctly put Johnny on a busted straight draw.

Also, my mate the Champ told me about some sick call with Queen high against Erik Lindgren at the WSOPE last year. And, of course, Duthola's great call with Queen high in the big cash game at the Venetian during last year's WSOP.

I've always loved these sorts of stories and have always figured that I'm unlikely to make this kind of play owing to my super-nitty rockiness.

Anyway, last night at the Vic I played a pot in the £250 NL game which was vaguely similar to all the legendary coups above. I've just lost a small pot where I've thought the other player was looking to check-raise me, but I've gone and bet anyway and of course he has check-raised me and then I've folded pretty quickly, annoyed with myself for falling into his rather obvious trap.

I'm still hotted up when I look down at the powerhouse that is the QdJd so I make it £50 to play. Only thing is the UTG player who is short-stacked had actually already raised it to £30. Oops. Oh well, my raise still goes and I guess I'll swallow if the UTG now goes all in.

A couple of other players call and the UTG just calls my min re-raise. Four of us see the flop which comes down 10c 2c 9h. The SB checks and UTG bets £100 and now I make a dodgy call with my up-and-down straight draw (I told you I was steaming).

Action gets back to the SB and he now ships it all in for £575. Marvellous. UTG folds and now the action is on me. The SB is a little chinese guy that I have tangled with a couple of times. The first time was a hand where he completely out-played me and during that particular session he looked like a pretty strong player. The next time I played with this guy though, it was the complete opposite - he was terrible! Chasing every draw, playing almost every hand, playing any ace etc.

Anyway, I thought about it for a while and thought it most likely he had a flush draw, maybe 8c7c or Jc8c, that type of hand. I had noted that this player likes to gamble with his first buy-in, looking for a quick double-up. Of course, he could easily have had Ax or Kx clubs (even QcJc for the freeroll against me) , but, fuck, you know how it is when you get stubborn in a pot, you convince yourself that they have a particular hand and then you stick the chips in.

Turn is an offsuit 10 and the river an offsuit ace. We're both reluctant to turn our hands over.

"Nothing, I just had a flush draw", he says.

"Well, I've got nothing too, how big is your nothing?" I say.

He shows 5c4c. Sweet. Ship it etc.

Having seen his hand I figured my hand was a small favourite seeing as I was already winning on the flop, but it turns out that I'm a 49% dog.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Simply Irresistable

The Vic are running a crazy promotion for the month of June whereby whatever the date is, that is the lucky number on roulette and for an hour between 3pm and 4pm and then between midnight and 1am they will pay 40-1 odds on that number.

Talk about positive expectation. So I played last night in their salon prive and got stuck £600. Wonderful. Maybe it was because I was multi-tabling two wheels with DY that the number 8 only hit once (8th june, you see).

Unlike certain blessed individuals - The Champ and JQ who had this proposition right off to the tune of £10k each or something sick like that - DY is an absolute bok and a cooler at the same time. We never had a chance.

Of course I'm joking and I don't really mind losing that money. It was a blinding bet giving us an edge of just under 10%. When else do you ever find that in a casino?

What was funny was a couple of other regular punters telling me how one of the wheels I was playing was really "terrible" and how one of the croupiers spins the ball "too violently". Also, one of the pit bosses saying stuff like, "It doesn't matter what the odds are, you still gotta hit it doncha?"

Monday, June 2, 2008

British Championship of Blackjack

Last night I played in the British Championship of Blackjack at the Vic. Obviously I'm giving this tournament its full title with a huge dollop of irony and hope you can all picture the smirk on my face as I type it out.

This tournament was in the card room and cost £100 to enter (3 rebuys and an add-on were allowed too). There was no juice which was about the best thing going for it. Because it was run by the Vic and was aimed more at their regular punters from downstairs as opposed to the poker players it was complete chaos with absolutely no regard for any kind of "rules". I put that in inverted commas as I doubt there exist any rules for a BJ tourney in Britain. I'm sure if one played in the Million Dollar BJ tournament at the Hilton in Las Vegas there would be plenty of rules regarding asking other people for advice, speaking in other languages besides English at the table whilst bets were being made and so on.

Besides all that it was still exceptional value; the amount of dead money compared to a poker tournament was through the roof. I think the only person who knew what he was doing in it was Shoreman (luckily I had a 20% saver with him as he came second, well played Jon). I have to say the skill involved in this is probably a lot higher than in a poker tournament. Tournament BJ strikes me as extremely technical and I know I must have made plenty of mistakes. Of course, everybody else in the competition played even worse so I guess I had a vague edge.

The ability to come up with the right bet size at the end when you have to not only try and catch up with the chip leader, but also make sure the players close behind you don't overtake you is a real headfuck, let me tell ya.

The small amount of literature I had read on the subject was helpful, but tended to be based on BJ tournaments which have rounds of 30 hands as opposed to 12 hands like last night. Also, the Vic had a secret bet which really puts the cat amongst the pigeons.

I was reminded of when I first played poker and the only game at the Vic was 7-card, pot limit. The only book I could find was Sklansky's book on stud which of course was all about limit poker, but I had no idea how the different betting structure made an impact on the game so I was completely at sea.

Anyway, I made it through to round two, but busted out after 6 hands in the second round. There was an amusing moment in the first round where I had 675 chips on the 10th hand. After hand 10 players were allowed an add-on of 1,500 chips (rebuys got you 1,000). Anytime you had 500 or less you were allowed to rebuy. Wanting to be able to rebuy and add-on I made a bet of 175 and proceeded to hit on 18 purposely busting my hand, much to the consternation of the other players at my table.

If I hadn't done that I would only have been able to take the add-on which would have meant that going into the last two hands my chip stack would have been 2,350 as opposed to the 3,000 I had after my seemingly crazy play. And believe you me I needed that as I squeaked through by three chips.

Shoreman nearly got himself barred by constantly trying to impose some semblance of order on the proceedings. He had to tell the dealer and the floorstaff not to turn the secret bets face up, constantly remind the floor to enforce the English only rule and also ask for players not to get advice from railbirds watching the action. He also got reprimanded when he tried to stop a string bet from the player in front of him who wanted to add more to his stack after he saw that Jon was min-betting.

As they pulled him aside Shoreman was even told he was right, but to keep his mouth shut. If the Vic are going to run more of these tournaments, and I would imagine they are as last night was quite successful, they better get their shit together. They wouldn't let those sorts of shenanigans go on in a £10 poker tournament, so why is a BJ competition exempt from the normal codes of conduct in a tournament setting?

Another interesting moment occurred when all the dealers shuffled after hand 6. Completely pointless and time consuming although a decent red herring for those players who thought counting was a useful skill in this format. Anyway, Jon and I asked the dealer why she was shuffling to which she replied, "So nobody can cheat".

"Eh? How are they cheating?"

"Card counting, that's cheating"

"Er..., no it's not"

"Yes it is, card counters are cheaters and we don't want them here"

Wow, management did a good brainwashing number on this one, didn't they?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Golden Rule

He who has the gold makes the rules.

Or, if you're playing poker, don't ruffle the feathers of the star.

So I'm in a great £250 NL game at the Vic last night, mainly because of one player, an Italian businessman who is happily blowing off steam. You know the sort, raising every other hand, making big bets with not much and so forth (not that these players aren't dangerous; you can suddenly find yourself under a lot of pressure against one of these types).

Anyway, he's losing about two grand when it's all folded around to him in the small blind. He puts out a £25 chip with the intention of raising. The big blind, Colin (not Gill or Kennedy for all you Vic regulars), one of those annoying idiots who never knows when its his blind or how much the bet is or even when the action is on him, now makes a fuss that he didn't hear the Italian say raise.

To be fair to Colin the Wanker, Paul Parker was having a noisy conversation with Rick Gladding in the next seat (is it possible for Paul not to have a noisy conversation?) so it was hard to hear what was going on. But then again this Colin the Cretin never ever knows how much the raise is or that it's up to him or anything, so what difference?

The Italian insists that his intention was to raise, but, oh no, Colin the Dick is having none of it, rules is rules. Technically Colin the Fuckwit is right of course; the Italian only put a single chip in which constitutes a call (nobody was sure whether the Italian said raise or not and the Italian himself didn't seem to mention this factor).

So now the Italian is made to call, they end up checking down the pot which Colin the Shithead wins by making a pair and now the Italian has the hump so he gets up and leaves. Nice one Colin.

I mean, what a nit. All so he could save £15 and see a flop. The irony was that Colin the Moron was one of the big beneficiaries of the Italian's lively play. I guess he wanted to lock up the win and piss everbody else off. Job done.

Some poker players put on an act and maybe this Colin the Twat is like that, but he seemed genuinely unaware of what a stupid thing he'd done.

Oh well, rant over; maybe I'm being a little excessive with my vitriol for Colin the Stupid Motherfucker, but I can't help it. The whole table was dumbfounded and it wasn't long before the game broke up.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Surely It's A Split Pot - Oh, It's Not...

So I'm playing in a lively £250 PLO game at the Vic when the following hand occurs.

The guilty party in this coup is a veteran of the Vic, definitely a player who should know better.

I raise UTG with some sort of double suited rundown hand, the veteran calls and now the star re-raises the pot. This very much looks like aces; both me and the veteran call as well as another player I think. Whatever, there was about £480 in the pot. BTW, the effective stack size between the veteran and the star is about £3k.

Flop comes down K Q T. I check, the veteran checks and now the Star bets £250. I fold and the veteran makes it £750. The star now calls that raise and re-raises the pot. The veteran now goes all-in for a little over 2 and a half grand which the star calls.

Sitting there watching the hand play out I figured that both players had the nuts at that point (A J - as if you need me to tell you) and that the veteran had the freeroll, two pairs or trips to go with his Broadway.

But no!!! The Veteran turned over J9xx (can't remember the other two cards, but they were in the region of the flop so he did have outs). Considering that it was highly likely that the star had aces, surely it wouldn't have been too hard to imagine that a Jack was one of his sidecards?

I don't know, I've been guilty of some terrible plays myself, but getting it all-in with the sucker end of the straight in PLO? Sure, the other player was a star, but you just have to wait until you have the goods against these types (btw, the board blanked off and the star won a nice pot). I'm sure I wasn't the only "local" who felt a bit embarrassed for the veteran.

This brings me to another matter - as you can see above, I have been pretty quick to criticise a horrible play where another player has seemingly slaughtered his money senselessly. But the truth is in poker, we sometimes do some fucking idiotic things in the heat of the moment. I always think that at least for a nano-second there, we figured it was the right play.

Anyway, the reason I'm suddenly being so fair to the veteran (and believe me, there are many Vic regulars who would enjoy a delicious helping of schadenfreude if they knew who I was talking about) is because, like the idiot I am, I posted what I thought was an interesting hand that I played in the £250 NL game on the 2+2 strategy forum.

There were a couple of reasonable responses, but most of the thread ended up saying what a complete donkey I am etc etc. Now of course I expected that, but it made me think how quick poker players are to just slam other players and so on.

The amount of times you hear people cunting off other players or somebody gives you an incredibly forceful and emphatic opinion on how badly a certain hand was played. You'd think that none of these fuckers ever played a hand badly in their life, when in fact quite the opposite is true.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I Love L.A.

Good games at the Vic are a bit like buses - you're waiting and waiting and waiting; just when you've given up along come two or three all at once.

I played in a good £250 PLO game last night and then sat in a blinding £250 NL Holdem game. The Holdem game was great all because of a super spewy bluff station from L.A. When I got in the game this guy had about £8k in front of him which steadily decreased as one by one the different players at the table picked off his bluffs.

To give you an idea of how good the game was I experienced a 3 grand swing from winning to losing back to winning which is unusual for me. I played KK really badly out of position at one point and lost a big pot to this guy, but still managed to come back and end up winning on the night.

This guy said his regular game was the $20/$40 NL at the Commerce. I've never played there, but my experience with this player only confirms all the good things I have read and heard about the Commerce. He's probably a winning player in L.A....

As an aside I noticed Gary the Armenian was collecting the £2.50 chips (these are for the half hour time collection of £7.50). Of course it slowed down the time charge as now the dealer had make change etc and at one point even had to ask another dealer to go to the desk and get us some more £2.50 chips. What reason would somebody have to take these chips and put them in their pocket?

I wanted to call him out on it, but Gary is a bit of a hothead and I didn't feel like getting into an argument. Instead I mentioned it to a couple of other players and a few of us "innocently" asked where all the £2.50 chips had gone when the collection came around.

Also in the game was Neil "Bad Beat" Channing, fresh from his Irish Open victory. It was nice to play with Neil again seeing as recently he has been playing only the monkey game or higher (the big games have been his regular feeding grounds for a quite a while now, not just since his Irish win btw).

I think Neil was a bit disgusted with me when I ironed out the L.A bluffer at about quarter to 3 in the morning and then immediately got up and left. To be fair to myself the L.A player got up as soon as he lost the hand and looked like he wasn't coming back, plus I had been intending to go at about 1.30 originally, but the game was so good I decided to stay another hour (I must stress I wasn't staying on just to "get out of it". I broke that bad habit long ago). Also when you have a 16 month old baby at home whom you have to look after in the morning it makes it tough playing til 5am like the old days.

Kenny Wong was also in the game and it was great to have him back and hear the banter between him and Neil about who was the better tournament player.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A New Low

So I'm playing in the £250 No Limit Holdem game at the Vic when the following occurs. One of those non-pots happens, one where the players check it down and basically there's a bowl of rice out there, or, in this case, the grand sum of £40.

With a final board of K Q J 3 3 a young American kid (good player btw) declares, "Nothing, I have 9 high". His opponent, a middle aged South African gentleman says, "Oh, I have 10 high". They turn their cards over and the dealer pushes the pot to the South African.

Of course all of you lot out there reading this have already spotted that both players are actually playing the board, so therefore it should have been a split pot. Why the American kid didn't notice I don't know, but if you've been playing for a while you get tired. The South African gentleman is one of those types of players who would have to be told. As for the rest of us at the table I guess we weren't paying much attention (any internet players reading have got to love that don't they? So much for live players being such keen observers...)

In fairness to the dealer, who should have noticed immediately, he was actually requesting to be taken off the table as he had already been dealing for two hours without a break in this particular game.

Anyway, as the next hand is being dealt somebody at the table now realises what happened and mentions that the pot should have been split. Everybody else at the table including the dealer realises too and he now informs the South African that he owes the American kid £20. In fact, the only player who is utterly oblivious to what has happened is this South African guy. He says that the hand is all over and that's that. Fair enough I suppose; it was a dealer error and he doesn't have to give the kid any money if he doesn't want to.

In fact, the American kid was kind of taken aback so I told him to get a ruling, because it also seemed like the South African wasn't taking the situation seriously at all. Unfortunately for the Kid the dealer called the wrong floor person over (wrong in the sense that he called another dealer over as opposed to an actual floor person who is properly authorised to give rulings) who then gave a ruling in favour of the South African (probably the correct ruling as it happens).

Anyway, the point is, to me, that it doesn't matter what the ruling would be, but basically everybody else at that table (Russian Alex, Fred, Gary Mills, Rick Gladding, a young Greek kid whose name I can't remember, and of course, myself) would have given the American Kid the £20 without another thought. I mean, maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, but that South African behaved like a total dick, didn't he? (Just to make it clear - there wasn't a huge argument, the South African or the kid didn't make a huge issue out of it, there were no raised voices and all blood pressure remained stable etc).

I dunno, I was dumbfounded that somebody could be such a nit over twenty quid.

On a slightly different note, does anybody out there know why the blinds in the £250 Pot Limit game are £5-£5 with an optional straddle of £10 whereas the blinds in the £250 No Limit are £5-£10 with an optional straddle of £25? How come both games don't have the same structure? I don't get it. As you can tell, the no limit game plays a lot bigger than the pot limit game.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Progress, sort of....

Wow! The Vic has installed a shuffling machine (I only saw one and heard it cost about £8,000, so it's very likely they only have one). The bad news is that it will only be used in the raked game. No surprise there really.

I reckon it'll take about 10 days for that machine to pay for itself...

Edit: They have two shuffle machines and DY tells me he actually played in a non-raked game with one of the machines in use.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I have played poker for many years with Declan from the old £50 Seven card and £50 Round of Each days up to £250 Dealer's Choice and all the pot limit and no limit Holdem games these days. He was the first pro I remember being aware of - his tight aggressive style and table presence was certainly intimidating back when I first started going to the Vic.

What has always impressed me about Declan is his versatility and ability to change gears. Many players would probably just say he's tight and while he is pretty granite I've also seen him play pretty open. I remember a £250 DC game where he raised or re-raised pre-flop almost every hand (especially if Hyder had limped in or raised). I know a lot of the locals would find that hard to believe, but it's true.

Declan also has no problems grinding at smaller limits. While many players would feel embarrassed at having to drop down after playing big Declan feels no shame in having to play "smaller" if he has to. I can remember him playing the old £1,000 game (at one time the biggest game in Europe alternating between a round of PLO and London Lowball) - after winning a load of money for himself and his backer Declan was back to the coalface in the £100 and £50 games. It's this ability to grind which sets him apart from a lot of players.

One of the greatest strengths of Declan's game is the way he makes the stars feel good about playing. I've seen him fold for about two or three hours straight whilst all the time making jokes and wisecracks. All the stars seem to love his company and somehow they always pay him off in the big pots too.

Last night I played in a blinding £100 No Limit game with Declan which featured a Norwegian gentleman who routinely made it between £50 and £75 to go before the flop. Remember, the blinds in this game are £1/£3. Post flop the Norwegian would then continue to just bluff off his chips with hands like queen high etc.

I have to specify that this particular player was not some young internet hotshot typical of Scandinavia, but a drunk businessman who was just enjoying himself. I managed to win a pot with 9T clubs when by some miracle he forgot to raise before the flop and I was able get in cheaply and flop a flush.

Anyway, Declan pretty much folded every hand and somehow this Norwegian was completely oblivious to it and enjoying Declan's many witticisms during the course of play. After yet another hand where the Norwegian bet on the river and got called down by bottom pair (miles ahead of course) Declan looked at this fella's cards and said , "Hold on, you've got a straight - straight in the dustbin".

Monday, January 21, 2008

LOL Donkament Players

The following anecdote might end up being one of those you-had-to-be-there stories, but I shall try my best.

So all round good guy and solid player Paul "Muzza" Murrell is playing in the £100 game at the Vic and looking a bit short stacked. Like I said Paul is a solid player and has recently shown some good results in tournaments, so one would like his short-stack play in general.

Anyway, some new guy comes to the table and raises after a couple of limpers (Muzza being one of said limpers from early position) and gets a couple of callers. The flop comes down something like K T 7 with a couple of hearts. All check to the raiser who duly bets a pony. Back to Muzza who now check-raises all-in for £45. Other players fold and the New guy calls the raise of £20 and we're off.

Muzza being the good guy that he is says, "I've got a King". New guy says nothing. A black trey peels off on the turn and now Muzza quickly exclaims, "I've got two pair now".

For some reason I found this quite funny and burst out laughing. "Desperate times Hugo call for desperate measures" said Paul. Still, calling a raise with K3? I guess playing a hand like that out of position is a good definition of desperation (btw his two pair stood up to take the pot).

Paul took it in good humour and agreed that he'd been playing too many tournaments. To be fair it was getting late and everyone was looking to get out of it (myself included - I'm not mentioning any of the dubious calls I made in that same game, don't you worry 'bout that!)