Thursday, December 12, 2013

WPBT 2013 Winter Classic Non-Trip Report, and Spring 2014 Las Vegas trip

As many of you know, I never made it to the WPBT Winter Classic last weekend. We had an ice storm here in Dallas / Fort Worth Thursday night, which caused hundreds of flight cancellations out of DFW Airport for Friday, including mine. I was rebooked to fly out Saturday, but that flight got canceled too and American Airlines wanted to rebook me for Sunday. I didn't see much point in that since by the time I got there all the festivities would be just about over. I asked AA to book me for Monday so I could get to L.A., which was my destination after Las Vegas anyway. The Monday flight that they moved me to also got canceled, so I finally told them to cancel the entire trip and refund my fare, which they said they would do. I am really sorry that the weather did not cooperate to allow me to join the WPBT fun. The Facebook and Twitter posts that I read from the participants made it sound like everyone had a great time, and I am happy for them.

I do have an excuse to go to Las Vegas this Spring. As you may recall from a previous blog post, I qualified for a seat in the World Poker Tour - Amateur Poker League National Championship Tournament, which will be held at the Tropicana April 28 through 30. I plan to go to that and try my luck. I have to book at least one night at the Trop to enter the tourney, but their rates are much higher than some of the neighboring hotels for that week, so I expect to only stay one night at the Trop and the rest most likely across the street at the Excalibur. While I am in town, I hope to catch up with as many of my LV friends as possible.

Another item on my to-do list is one last trip up to Winstar Casino in OK before we move to California, to make up for missing out on playing poker last weekend. I will try to remember to post a report after that session.

I wish all of you an enjoyable season of whatever holidays you choose to celebrate! (Is that politically correct enough?)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

WPBT 2013 Winter Classic

Yes, it is that time again. Time for spending too much money, meeting up with friends and loved ones, partying until all hours, and generally making merry. No, I'm not talking about Christmas season; that's just a coincidence. I'm talking about the annual World Poker Blogger Tour gathering in Las Vegas. As in past years, the debauchery occurs over the first weekend of December; specifically, Friday December 6 through Sunday December 8. The WPBT tournament will be held at the Aria poker room on Saturday, mixed games will be at MGM Grand on Friday afternoon, and other stuff is being organized by various people. Full details are available at the Facebook event page:

I will be there, arriving Friday morning and leaving Monday afternoon, and staying at The Quad (formerly known as the Imperial Palace). I will be following the action and posting updates on Twitter, where my handle is @yestbay. I'm looking forward to catching up with lots of friends there and playing some poker.

I haven't played any real-money poker since my last blog post. I have been playing in the local WPT-APL tourneys; last night, I chopped first place with three others for 1/4 of the $100 prize pool. I still have the WPT-APL National Championship tourney in Las Vegas in April on my radar, having qualified for it as mentioned in my last post.

In other news, my wife and I will be moving from Texas to the Los Angeles area in January, to be near my wife's ailing dad. This should put me closer to the poker action, but it remains to be seen just how much I will play once I get there.

See you next weekend in Vegas!

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Surfeit of Poker, and Speaking Up

Since my last blog entry, I have played more real money poker than in the previous three months, along with the usual free bar league tournaments. Below is my report on the highlights of the most recent sessions. I also want to comment on an item of poker etiquette later in this post.

Shortly after my last post, my wife and I went up to Norman, OK, to visit our son Ben who has been taking a few summer school courses to complete his bachelor’s degree. While we were there, we made a stop at the Riverwind Casino, where I have played a few times before. I offered to stake Ben to some low-limit Hold ‘Em, so I bought both of us into their $3/$6 Limit game for $100 each. The poker room was having a special promotion that day, in lieu of their usual Saturday tournament which I had been thinking of playing. They were having a $200 splash pot once per hour all day long; they would randomly pull a table number at the top of each hour, and that table would have $200 added to the next pot. The table where Ben and I were seated was picked in the second hour of the promotional period. The starting cards I was dealt for that hand were 4s 5s. Suited connectors: just the kind of hand I wanted for a pot that a lot of people were likely to be limping into. As expected, everyone called the big blind. The flop included a 5 and two random cards higher than that; I think they were all unsuited. I called the first bet, hoping to catch another 5, a 4, or straight cards. Almost everyone called. The turn was a blank for me and didn’t look too threatening, as I recall. I might have had a straight draw but don’t remember now. A couple of people folded, and no one of those left in the hand got aggressive, so I kept calling due to the enormous pot odds. The river was another 5, and I thought my trips might have the hand locked up.  I called the last bet, and it turned out that the case 5 was in another player’s hand. Neither of our kickers played, so we chopped the pot. I also won a couple of other decent pots during that session, and walked away with a profit of over twice my buy-in. (Ben didn’t do as well but didn’t get felted.) I still would have had a profitable day without the splash pot, but that one certainly helped my bankroll.

Since that trip, I have been up to the Winstar Casino twice. On July 4, I played $4/$8 Limit HE for about 1.5 hours. The most memorable thing about that session is that it was among the most card-dead runs  that I have ever had. The only pocket pair I got the whole time was QQ, and I had to give them back because it was a misdeal. Near the end of the session, by which time I had played maybe two hands when I wasn’t in the big blind, I started getting some cards to play, but I missed the flop every time. I donated the last few chips of my buy-in when my AT caught an A on the flop and a T on the turn, but someone else caught the Broadway straight on the turn. Oh well, at least I feel like I made good decisions, mostly because folding crappy cards is pretty easy.

I went back to Winstar yesterday and played $1/$2 NLHE this time. Another bonus promotion came into play on this trip: they had an “Aces Cracked” payout where if you play your pocket Aces to showdown and lose, you get paid $100. This causes a lot of limping with AA instead of playing them fast. However, you have to be careful that you don’t put too much in the pot to the point where the $100 bonus doesn’t make up for the pot that you lose. As the dealer explained to one of the players at my table, in the $1/$2 game you can usually make a profit when you lose with AA, but in the $2/$5 NL game you would typically lose money because the pot would be larger than the bonus. This time around, I got good hands right away and they kept coming. Among those good hands, I got AA twice. The first time I slow-played them, my opponent had QQ and I won the pot instead of the bonus. The second time, though, the villain caught trips and cracked my Aces. The pot wasn’t very big, so the $100 bonus stacked me up a fair amount. I went up and down the rest of the way, and finished with a decent profit.

What I am happiest about regarding the sessions mentioned above is not just the profits, when I got them, but that I felt like I was playing better and making good decisions the majority of the time. Knowing how to adjust my play based on the conditions of the game, including the bonuses and how they affected me and my opponents, felt good. I still think that I could step up my aggression a notch or two and not play as timidly as I sometimes do. But my reads of other players and general game conditions are improving, and that should give me the confidence to play a little more boldly in the future.

I have had some success in the bar league too. I finished first in a tourney on July 1, which got me a $50 cash prize. I also qualified for the monthly championship tourney at my local venue, and took first in that tourney on July 9. No cash prize for that one, but the top four finishers qualify for the WPT-APL (World Poker Tour Amateur Poker League) National Championship tournament which will be held in Las Vegas next April. The field for that national championship tournament will undoubtedly be big; this year’s tournament had nearly 700 players show up. But, it’s an excuse to go to Vegas, and possibly win some prizes, so I expect that I will go if I can.

Now for my comment on the poker etiquette matter. It seems to me that the majority of players, at least that I play with, do not verbally announce their betting intention before or during their action. They put their chips out and expect everyone to know what the action means. Naturally, there are many instances where the action is obvious, especially in limit poker where the bet size is fixed. You put chips out, and if they are equal to the current bet amount, then they represent a bet or call. I can understand a player thinking that it is unnecessary to say something in this situation. But, it seems to me that there is no reason NOT to say “bet” or “X” [where X is the bet size] or “call” or “raise” just to confirm that everyone not only sees but hears what the action is. Verbally announcing your action can also speed up the game and allow the next player to act while you are putting together the chips for your bet, since your verbal declaration is binding.

It is in non-fixed bet games like no-limit or pot-limit that I wish everyone, or at least more players, would state their intentions out loud. It would avoid mistakes and confusion, and it could speed up play in many cases. Just placing, or (too often) throwing, chips towards the pot when you bet, call, or raise forces the other players and the dealer to stop and count what you put out, which isn’t always easy from the other end of the table, in poor lighting conditions, etc. Also, if you intend to bet a particular amount but don’t announce that amount, and accidentally put more than that out for your bet, then all of those chips you put out become your bet; whereas if you announced the bet amount, you would get back the extra chips you mistakenly moved over the line. If the last of your chips are going in, it helps everyone else if you say “all in” so there is no question about whether some or all of your stack is in play.

I feel like there are three kinds of players who don’t announce their action:

*Those who for some reason are afraid to speak up;
*Those who think that since they aren’t required to announce their bet, they won’t;
*Those who are deliberately staying quiet to force the other players, and the dealer, to figure out what they are up to.

The first two types probably just need to be informed or reminded that stating their action is in the best interest of themselves and of the game. The third type probably needs a swift kick in the hindquarters, but a friendly reminder may have to suffice.

[There are, of course, physically challenged players who may have difficulty making verbal declarations, but I am not concerned about them. In my limited experience, those players seem to do their best to make sure their intentions are clear in one manner or another.]

I would like to see more encouragement of verbal declaration of action in all poker games. The best person to provide such encouragement is the dealer, but floor persons and even other players can and, IMO, should do so too. I realize that verbal declaration is not likely to become a requirement in most poker rooms, but it seems to me that it would be a ridiculously easy way to reduce confusion and disagreements, and facilitate play. I try to state my action out loud on every play other than folding, whether the other players are doing it or not. I will even announce when I have folded if it looks like the next player to act did not see that I mucked my cards and is waiting for me. I tend to hope that others will pick up on my example and maybe even follow it. I’m sure all of us want to improve the poker playing experience; could anything be easier than just speaking up?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Poker? Yes, occasionally

Since my last post about six months ago, I have, in fact, played some poker. Most of it has been in the free bar leagues, but some has been for real money.

I have done OK in the bar league, earning a few points here and there, but mainly I play those tournaments for the fun of it and to keep my tourney skills from getting rusty.

The cash games I have played have been at Winstar Casino in OK. I had two terrible sessions in a row up there in January, losing 1.5 buy-ins in two days playing $1/$2 NLHE. I played too loose and didn't fold at least one hand where I felt like, and should have known, I was way behind. I decided to take a break after that, and didn't play again until April. On that trip I thought I would stick to $4/$8 Limit HE to keep from losing too much at once. I still lost half my buy-in due to cold decks and draws that didn't hit. But, I felt like I was playing reasonably well and making good decisions.

When my wife said that a friend of hers wanted to take the shuttle bus up to Winstar again last week and invited us to join her, I figured I was ready to take another crack at it. I went for the $1/$2 NLHE game again, and played tighter this time around, only taking shots in position or with a good read on my opponents. I lucked out on one hand, where I flopped two pair and filled up on the turn. The turn card also gave my opponent trips. The chips all got in, and I felted him.

An earlier hand with the same opponent gave me pause and cost me some money. He raised in late position to $22 (in a $1/$2 game, remember), everyone else folded, and I found QQ in the big blind. I thought about re-raising but decided to just call and see what the flop brought before committing any more chips.

The flop was 9-8-X rainbow, so I had a big overpair. I bet $30, and he called. Since he didn't seem scared of the flop or my bet, I put him on a big hand such as AA, KK or a set. The turn was another baby card. I checked and he bet something like $50 or $60. Although I suppose he could have had JJ or TT or even AK/AQ, I didn't like the fact that he snap-called my flop bet, so I folded. I imagine that some will say I chickened out, especially by not re-raising preflop. I almost certainly would have re-raised then if the first bet had been in the range of $8 to $10. But my opponent seemed a little too comfortable with his hand for me to chase him down with queens.

Thanks to the full house hand, and not speculating with marginal hands, I finished with a $90 profit. I am still in the red for 2013, but I feel like I made mostly better decisions this time around than I did at the beginning of the year. I expect that I will be back up at Winstar again soon, trying to play my best game and to continue to improve as well.

Now that summer has pretty much arrived, I am hoping to hear something before long about the 2013 WPBT Winter Classic. I know that April is not organizing this year, and that I am not taking that on myself either (since I'm not even sure that I will be able to go). But I hope that someone will pick up the baton and put something together, so that I can participate if everything works out. It will be great to see my fellow bloggers again.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 WPBT Winter Classic Report – Eat, Walk, Play

Another WPBT Winter Classic is in the history books, and my wife and I were fortunate enough to be there. The three activities we engaged in the most on the trip are in the title of this post, with “Play” perhaps being the least of the three. Below is my report on this year’s shenanigans.

First, an observation: hardly anyone who attended this year’s gathering seems to have an active poker blog any more. So, a lot of the links you see below for named people will be for their Twitter handles, since that now seems to be the more common method of communication among this group. Maybe we should start calling it the WPTT (World Poker Tweeter Tour)?

Thursday Nov. 29

This evening was taken up by dinner and the screening of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 movie event with our friends Ron and Barb Moore. Ron was the visual effects supervisor for TNG as well as many other TV shows and films. We met Ron and Barb on a couple of Cruise Treks and have been friends with them since. We had a great time catching up with them and watching the TNG episodes and bonus features at the screening. Side note: Ron has just written a book about his career in visual effects, titled “Flying Starships”; you can get more info about it at his website.

Friday Nov. 30

The big event Friday morning was the hike on Oak Creek Loop trail in Red Rock Canyon just outside Las Vegas. Dan (aka PokerPeaker) suggested it, expecting two or three people to show interest. 15 of us showed up, and everyone enjoyed the easy and scenic hike. A group photo by Astin can be found here; I took some photos too, which you can see here.

Friday afternoon and evening was mixed games time at the Aria poker room. I played for a while and finished up a few dollars. These sessions are more about having fun playing with fellow bloggers, but walking away with a few extra bucks does sweeten the deal.

Saturday Dec. 1

Pat and I started our day with breakfast at the Hash House a Go-Go at The Quad (formerly Imperial Palace). The “twisted farm food” at the Hash House is excellent and highly recommended. We then walked through Bellagio to look at their Christmas decorations on our way to Aria for the WPBT tournament. Bellagio always puts up a fabulous holiday display in their Conservatory.

Things started out slowly for me in the tourney. I took a few pots to keep my stack from shrinking too quickly, but didn’t chip up as much as I would have liked. I made a couple of ill-advised plays that cost me some chips, but managed to stay in contention through the first two breaks. Near the end of the second break (or was it the third?), I was talking to Dan, who was seated to my left and had a very healthy chip stack. I mentioned that my stack was getting short and I was nearing the danger zone. He said a double-up would put me back into the thick of things. First hand of the next round, I picked up AQ and went all in. Dan insta-called with KK. I spiked an Ace on the flop and got that double-up. Those chips allowed me to steal a few pots to keep pace with the table and eventually stick around for the final table. I had never gone that deep in previous WPBT tourneys and was thrilled with making it that far. Plus, my last-longer partner Alan (aka metsfan) was still in the game and at my table, so I knew we had a good shot at winning that prize. My run would not last much longer, though, due to a cooler hand of KK vs. The WookieWay’s AA. He had me covered by about 800 chips, and I was out in 9th place out of 58 runners. I didn’t cash, but I’m very pleased with the deep run. I found out after the tourney ended, with CJ (aka the Luckbox) taking it down, that Alan and I tied with Dan and Michael (aka Grange95) for the last longer. My share of the last longer pool almost covered my buy-in to the tournament, so that worked out quite nicely.

When I tracked down VinNay to get my last longer winnings, I found him at the Monte Carlo Café with Alan and his fiancée Kat, plus my old pal Wil Wheaton, Shane Nickerson, Ryan (aka absinthetics), Chilly and another gent whose name I failed to get. They ate their dinner while Pat and I chatted with them, after which VinNay suggested that we have our own mini slot tournament: each player would choose a $0.25 machine and deposit $20. At the sound of the virtual bell, the contestants would play for 5 minutes, and player with the highest remaining total would take all the winnings of all players for the tournament. I joined in, expecting it to be a chop of zero money left for all of us. But, several of us hit a few winners during the 5 minutes, with Vinnie coming out on top. His haul was something like $180+; not bad for five minutes of slot play.

Sunday Dec. 2

Pat and I decided to go for the Caesars buffet pass, which gets you into any buffet at the Caesars properties, as often as you like, in a 24 hour period. Because, you know, we hadn't eaten enough already on the trip. We started by having brunch at the Flamingo buffet, and then drove away from the Strip which was being closed for the Rock and Roll Marathon to be run that afternoon and evening. We visited one of the outlet malls, plus Green Valley Ranch Casino, and the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and their Cactus Garden which was fully decorated with holiday lights (photos here). The traffic around the Strip was monstrous when we got back, which complicated matters a bit but didn’t prevent us from getting to the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood to use our buffet pass for dinner. Gotta get our money's worth.

Before I went to bed, I played in the Sunday night $3/$6 mixed game at The Quad (I still want to call it the IP). They were spreading some really weird games, only two of which I ended up playing. The first was Stud Eight, but the twist was that each player got four cards to start, all face down, and then each player would look at his cards and discard one. Then a designated player would turn up one card, and the player to the left would turn one up, etc. Play then continued as in regular Stud 8. I won over $40 in a few minutes playing this game, getting some good hands that got paid off. I gave it all back in the next game, though: 3-2-1 Omaha Eight. What the hell is that, you may ask? It starts like regular Omaha High-Low, but three flops are dealt, plus two turn cards and one river card. I’m not the best Omaha player but I have a decent idea of how to play it. This version, though, confused the crap out of me. After I lost my earlier winnings, I decided it was time to call it a day. I’m sure the regulars who were in this game wanted me to stick around so they could try to get more of my chips, but I didn’t feel like giving them that chance.

Monday Dec. 3

We used our buffet pass to stuff ourselves one last time with breakfast at Harrah’s, then headed for the airport for the flight to L.A. to visit Pat’s dad. We spent the week with him and came home Friday.

If I have any regrets from this trip, the first would be not having spent more time with some of my blogger friends, and not getting to spend any time with those who couldn’t be there this year. The second would be not taking more photos, especially at the tournament or mixed games. But overall I had a great time and look forward to doing it again next year. Many thanks for April for organizing the poker stuff, VinNay for handling the last longer, Dan for suggesting and leading the hike, and the Aria poker room staff for everything they did to make us WPBT folks feel welcome.

Happy Holidays to all, and see you next time!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012 WPBT Winter Classic, and other updates

You heard right - it's time for another World Poker Blogger Tour Winter Classic gathering in Las Vegas, the weekend of November 29 through December 3. Check April's blog for more details, and RSVP if you haven't already at the Facebook event page. It is bound to be a fun time, so don't miss it.

I will be attending again, and staying at the Imperial Palace. Yes, it's not the classiest property in town, but the location and prices cannot be beat. My wife will be coming with me too, and we plan to do some non-pokery stuff while we are there. One of those things may be a tour of the Neon Museum, who have recently opened their new visitor's center. If we do that, it will most likely be Saturday morning. We are also going to meet some friends Thursday evening at the Orleans and go to the movie screening promoting the Blu-Ray release of the second season of Star Trek - The Next Generation. Beyond that, some other activities might include a trip out to Red Rock Canyon on Friday morning for an easy hike with some blogger friends, a visit to the Ethel M chocolate factory, hitting one or more of the outlet malls, and who knows what else. Anyone who wants to join us for any of these adventures, let me know.

In other news, I recently took an early retirement package from my job, and as of October 31 I am officially retired. I have taken advantage of my newfound free time to ride the players' bus up to Winstar Casino one day last week to play some poker. After losing a big chunk of my buy-in early, I came back and finished ahead by about 22 big blinds after roughly three hours of play. I probably could have done even better if I hadn't played as loosely as I did the first half of the session. I plan to go back up there on a semi-regular basis, depending on whatever else is going on.

I will do my best to post updates here, from the WPBT trip and from my future poker sessions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Not dead yet....

Six months is a long time to go between posts, I will agree. If only I had six month's worth of intriguing news to report. Still, just to prove that there is life remaining in this blog, I thought I would post an entry.

Yes, I have played a little poker since December. I've played for a few pennies on line at Bovada, but all I have left on that site is a few pennies, and I haven't logged on there in a while. I have put in a couple of live sessions up in Oklahoma, at the Winstar Casino just over the TX border and the Riverwind Casino in Norman, and both sessions were profitable. At the Winstar a few weeks ago, I left with about $12 more than I bought in with. This past weekend, my wife and I went up to Norman to visit our son who is at OU for summer classes. I nearly doubled my buy-in there after about a two hour session. Feels good to walk away ahead.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think of these results as signs that I am turning into a "good" player. I think most of my basic instincts are on track, but every time I sit down at the table, I realize how much I *don't* know about how to play poker well. I really need to play more ring games to get more experience under my belt. My profits in these sessions have mostly come from winning a few big pots when I caught cards and they held up. I know that I play too tight/weak a lot of the time, and probably concede some pots that I should go after. However, there was one hand at Riverwind where I decided to take a chance, and I am embarassed to say that I don't have a good feel for whether my decision was a smart one (not taking into account the result).

$1/$2 NLHE; my stack was about $250. I was in late position and started with AdJh. Preflop raises were not chasing a lot of people out of the pots at this table, so I decided to limp in behind a few others and see if I could hit something before committing much money to the pot. The player to my left also limped in, and the flop came cheap.

Flop: A J T rainbow

It was checked to me and I bet roughly the size of the pot with top two pair but a drawing board. The player on my left went all in for about $110 more. I thought about it for quite a while. My opponent said, "If you have KQ you have me beat, otherwise..." This player didn't strike me as very sneaky or deceptive, so my first reaction was to think that he did not have KQ himself. I did consider the possibility that he was trying reverse psychology on me if he did have that. I then considered that he might have a set of tens and was trying to push me off a draw. In the end, I had the gut feeling that he really didn't want me to call, and therefore might have a hand that I could beat like A-rag, so I called him. He turned over AsJc, the turn and river didn't change anything, and we chopped the pot.

I didn't feel particularly comfortable with that decision. What I want to develop is the ability to analyze these types of situations more clearly so those decisions will come a bit more easily. I can go back and re-read the poker books that I have, but I know that it requires actual experience more than anything else to improve my skills.

In on-line poker news, AlCan'tHang has joined forces with up-and-comer Face Up Gaming to start up a new blogger tournament series. They held an ice-breaker tournament June 9, which I was unable to play. Here is the info for the next tourney; more details at Al's site:

Tournament: Bloggers 2
Date: Saturday, June 30th
Time: 3pm ET - Noon PT
Buyin: Freeroll
Password: battle2

Face Up is a monthly subscription site; Al should be able to tell you whether you have to sign up for the subscription to play in the tourney. If everything works out for me to join the fun, I hope to play, and to see you there.