Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Quote of the Day

Pauly summed up my thoughts on poker, accidentally I think, in his essay comparing poker and spanking it. Check it out.

"nothing beats playing live poker and nothing
is better than having sex with someone else"



Monday, August 29, 2005

Random Tourney Thoughts

Why doesn't anyone offer winner take all single table tourneys? Or do they? I would think this would be a hit online - it also simplifies tourney theory, as chip EV becomes a much closer approximation to prize money EV (if you don't know what I mean, think about this: when you win all the chips in a normal tourney, you don't win all the money - which is why a decision may be positive EV in terms of tourney chips, but negative EV in terms of real prize money.) You probably wouldn't find a lot of takers for $1k buy in winner take all events, but I'd guess that there'd be good demand for lower buy in winner take all formats...

How many entrants will there be in the WSOP 2006 main event? Is there a limit to the scalability of live tourney play? I wasn't at the WSOP this year, but I'm guessing it's not as simple as saying they could handle 12,000 entrants if they just did twice as many starting flights.

Will we ever see an online tourney like the WSOP main event? A $10,000 buy-in event with thousands of entrants? The online platform has many advantages that cater to tourney play: almost limitless scalability, elimination of dealer errors and slowness in managing pots, and many more hands per hour (and thus, per tournament level.)

Perhaps we will one day see the day where the WSOP main event has so many entrants that the first day or two has to be played online? where you could easily whittle 20,000 players down to 2,000 who could then play live in Las Vegas...

just thinking out loud...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Attack of the Clones

If you play online poker, you have to read this article on poker 'bots.

I'm not trying to make an "I told you so" post - my thoughts on online poker have already been well versed here. However, as I've said previously, I think automated poker Bots are a fascinating subject that any serious player should be interested in. In essence, I believe that the best players should strive to play like a robot: optimize bluff frequency, optimize call/raise/fold frequency, optimize hand selection, and most importantly: remove emotion from the equation.

Maybe one day, once all the human players have been eliminated from the online realm, we can have a World Championship of Artificial Intelligence Poker - that would be tremendous - you could run massive numbers of hands - and see which Bot performs best... Someone like Bill Gates should sponsor a contest like this: it would do wonders for the advancement of AI technology.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the developments on the automated 'bot front: the poker sites are fighting them, but why? Why don't they bar their best players too - players who are frequently using statistical software to do exactly what the Bots are doing? I would be willing to bet that the players who play the most hands on PartyPoker are the most savvy, and are largely using outside software programs to enhance their play - and why wouldn't they? I am not blaming them or judging them, but it's worth a little thought.

Okay, Okay... I don't want to get into this debate again... Yet... Let me leave it with a simple statement: as long as poker sites allow the use of Pokertracker, or any other software which analyzes hand histories, they should allow automated Bots. I am told that many PartyPoker users received emails advising them that the use of software such as Pokeredge (which displays opponents' statistics during play) will result in them being banned from the site. I believe that they should extend this ban to ALL software - but I think this is more of a theoretical/philosophical argument, because I don't think it can be realistically enforced: the computer geeks will always figure out a way to avoid the detection of their software.



F'n Golf?

Big Show and Tubbo 'da King came into town this weekend to celebrate MO's bachelor party. We played golf on Saturday out on Long Island. This was the first time I have ever been on a golf course. I was counting on my Boston putt-putt mini-golf upbringing to carry me on the greens, but there were no holes with windmills or multi-level tunnels or ramps at Plandome Country Club. Taking advantage of the 9-max per hole scoring system I implemented, I carded a 133 I think. Actually, that was pretty conservative - I even managed to bogey one hole! Boo-yah!
I didn't play any poker after Friday's session, but after I get caught up at work (returning from a week off - man... so hard to get back into the swing!), I may throw down a few short sessions mid-week. I'm sure I'll have some thoughts on the 3 CardPlayer back issues I'm still working through, and the latest ESPN WSOP broadcasts as always.
Three day weekend pending: Labor Day!


Friday, August 26, 2005

Self Examination

Settle down now... I'm not checking for nut-cancer - I'm trying to deduce why my results have been so dismal over my past 75 hours or so of live play.

I had another brutal session today (5 hours of live 1-2 NL) - finished down $446, but that's not the point - nothing worked. I don't feel like my timing is terrible - I think I'm adapting to the various table compositions well - maybe I'm making more of it than I should be. I need to take my lumps and move on. The fact that I blew another 5 hours inside on my day off on another beautiful day is what's really eating me!

I have been thinking more about the flopped flush I wrote about yesterday - because although I lost the hand, I was happy to see that I had "made the right decision" and got my money in as a 70/30% favorite. Hold on - not so fast: let's look deeper at this hand...

My goal is ultimately to play perfectly according to Sklansky's Fundamental Theorem of Poker (the FT). The FT states that if you play your cards differently than you would have if you could see your opponents cards, you made a mistake. Similarly, if your opponent plays his cards differently than he would have if he could see your cards, he has made a mistake.

Now, in the hand where I flopped a flush, if I had known that my opponent had A-K with the K of hearts (for the nut re-draw) - I am almost certain that I still could have gotten him to put all of his chips in on the turn if a blank came: which means I'd be a 4-1 favorite instead of a 2-1 favorite, and I'd also save myself my stack when a heart spiked on the turn (which it did.)

So, according to the FT, I did not play the hand optimally. How about my opponent? If he knew my cards, he actually made the correct call - as he was getting the odds to call with his draw on the flop. This hand is actually a wicked deep hand when looking at it from the perspective of the FT. I certainly do not expect my opponent to fold his exact hand in this spot - and my opponent certainly does not expect me to turn over a flopped flush. It wasn't until much later, though, that I realized that calling (which I gave very little though to at the table - it was raise or fold for me) - was the perfect play.
On a different note - am I really the only one who noticed than in ESPN's premier of the WSOP coverage this week, in the opening montage, they had a little focus shot of a guy wearing The Shocker t-shirt (not the exact one in the link though), making The Shocker sign. I mean seriously...

until next time,

The Gal behind the Guy

Q: How does a married guy with a full time job find time to play poker?
A: It is essential to have a supportive, understanding wife - and Ms. Dynamite is 'da bomb.
Ms. Dynamite, although she really doesn't like poker, is always supportive of my exploits, and will always listen to the stories of my eventful hands... And I don't mean "listen" like she sits and stares at me and nods while she's thinking about something else - I mean "listen" like she'll cut me off and say "you flopped an open-ended draw! You have eight outs!" I mean seriously - how proud can I be?
Unfortunately, I can't seem to convince Ms. Dynamite to take up the game of poker, but she still proved her prowess by liquidating me twice in $5 NL Freezeouts - using her feminine powers to tell when I'm being dishonest and sniff out every bluff I make.
So ladies - support your poker playing man - and Ms. Dynamite, I thank you.

Taunting the Bull

In the first of ESPN's WSOP broadcasts, they have a talented final table including Scott Fishman and Dave "DevilFish" Ulliot. There is an interesting hand early on where an early position player raises, Fishman smooth calls on the button with 8-8, and DevilFish comes over the top all-in (a slightly more than pot-sized raise) with K-K. DevilFish works hard for the call too, putting off some interesting weak tells, and Fishman is certain that his eights are best, but he eventually mucks.
Now here's the interesting part: DevilFish, for some reason, WANTS Fishman to think that he just made a bad laydown - that DevilFish put a move on him. Although DevilFish briefly states later that he had a good hand, he says it in a way that I thought Fishman interpreted to be patronizing. Why am I mentioning this? Fishman is a tough, smart, aggressive player - I don't know why DevilFish would want to put him in a vengeful mood - why he'd want Fishman gunning for him.
Fishman is not the type of player who would crumble and go on tilt from making this laydown of pocket eights incorrectly (although it was indeed correct) - but I get the feeling that he is the type of player who will aggressively look for an opportunity to stick one to Devilfish. Fishman gets his chance very shortly thereafter when everyone folds to him in the SB. He limps with a rag hand - 9-5 offsuit or something, and Devilfish makes a pot sized raise with the same hand. Fishman comes back over the top with a pot-sized re-raise and takes it down, showing his hand after DevilFish concedes and shows his own cards. Watching at home, it seemed to me that Fishman was saying "Don't fuck with me - I'm no tourist."
until next time,

Thursday, August 25, 2005

At Least it Was an Interesting Hand

After several days enjoying the perfect weather and sun, it was good to completely waste my day off today sitting inside in a thoroughly mediocre 1-2NL game. I played the following interesting hand early on:
6 handed. 3 folds to me on the button. Both blinds are new to me, I've seen them play for about 90 minutes, and they appear to be very tight/passive players.
I have 9-6 of hearts ($550 stack), and raise to $7. SB folds, and Steve in the BB ($400 stack) calls.
flop: A-T-3 all hearts.
Steve checks to me. I bet $10. Steve check-raises to $30. I think for 15 seconds and re-raise to $90. Steve makes it $190 relatively quickly, and it's back on me. He has about $280 left, I have him covered.
Wow. I'm thinking I'm just about a good enough player to lay this flush down - this guy hasn't played a hand yet in the time he's been here - I had better analyze the situation...
Steve's possible holdings:
A bigger flush? He's not the kind of guy who'd call with K-9 or even J-9 of hearts... I think K-Q, Q-J or K-J of hearts are his only possible bigger flush holdings - and even K-J may be unlikely...
Two pair: A-T is certainly possible - I think he'd probably play it this way...
A Set.: 3-3 or T-T are highly likely - he'd DEFINITELY play them this way... A-A is possible, but rather unlikely.
A bare heart: K-Q with the K of hearts? A-K with the K of hearts?
Now, the second part of the equation: what do I think that Steve thinks I have? I certainly do not think he puts me on a flopped flush. I've played thus far with confidence and aggression, and he may think I'm flexing my muscles by defending against his check-raise with my re-raise, but I certainly don't think he is on a pure bluff. He has to give me credit for some kind of hand - maybe a medium Ace, and he's telling me it's no good...
I think for a solid 4 minutes, and eventually come over the top all in. Steve calls for his last $280, and shows me A-K, with the K of hearts.
I was quite pleased that I'd made the right decision...Although I didn't really like the 4 of hearts on the turn which left me drawing dead.
net for the session: 5 hours, -$246
until next time,

I Have Arrived!

well, the good news is that someone has noticed my blog... the bad news is that that "someone" is apparantly spammers, who are leaving fucked up spam links in my comments. So, please be careful before clicking on links in any of the comments.

A Little Light Reading

I just got back from 3 days of near perfect weather on The Cape. Suffice to say, I was the only one on the beach reading "Harrington On Hold'em Volume II." Go out and buy this book right away. I am at the point in my poker career where although I am far from an expert, I spend enough time thinking about the game and analyzing hands that I have very low expectations for any mass-market book that aims to teach me something new. Harrington, however, somehow manages to enlighten time and time again - this is probably the best poker book ever written (in my mind, far better than Volume I) - and I'm barely 1/2 way through! Well done Action Dan.
I was also pleased to come home to 3 back issues of Card Player - I had made the mistake of ignoring Card Player's renewal notice, and quickly found my subscription in arrears. After calling them, mentioning Kid Dynamite ("Do you know who the fuck I am?"), sweet talking the saleslady, and forking over $49,95 - I managed to get CardPlayer to send me the 3 issues I'd missed. (although they DID subtract those issues from the end of my new subscription... No freeroll)
Laughs abound on the first page of the "Scott Fishman" issue: Jeff Shulman has a piece on the growth of the Ladies Hold'Em event, and he identifies the winner, Jennifer Tilly, as an actress. Fine - that much we all know... but the movie he identifies her by? Get this... SEED OF CHUCKY! Wow... If your career is identified by "starring" in the Seed of Chucky, it's probably time to find a new career... Fortunately, it appears that Jennifer has serious potential as a professional poker player (note bitter sarcasm).
Also in the same issue, Roy Cooke wrote an article which is at least tangentially relevant to the piece I wrote about playing online. Roy isn't trying to make the same points, but there are some relevant observations in any case.
until next time,

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Philosophizing with Double-Double

Eric (aka E-dub, aka Double-Double) always has sound logic, and responded to my post on online play:
Here's my feedback:

overall pretty well written. I think you contradict yourself in a few places though. The most obvious example of this is when you make the following claims:

"I fear that online poker will eventually become an information war, where the best-armed shark will win - and skill becomes a secondary factor."

"Suppose I share my online account with a friend. That's the ultimate and most simple way to throw off the online poker information warlords... The statistics are rendered moot."

Which is it? If there's a simple way to throw off the data-miners, then the game should not turn into a purely mathematical exercise and players will be forced to watch the individual hands and figure out who they are playing.

I also disagree with some of the points you are making, although your arguments for them are well written. Fundamentally, this statement:

"THOUGHT and REASONING are being removed from the game and being replaced with pure data, math and statistics. Finesse is being replaced with force: data force."

You seem to argue that as players get more information, the game becomes purely a mathematical exercise, and this is bad. I would argue though that poker IS FUNDAMENTALLY a mathematical exercise, and that this trend online, far from being some kind of not-real-poker degenerate case, is simply revealing poker for what it truly is. As you get better at poker, you see it more and more as a solvable problem, just like blackjack, one where a good player must study game theory rather than starting hands.

Further, I would argue that this more mathematical and studied game takes more skill to beat, not less. The next level of skills are of a different kind than you may be used to in low limit B&M play, and perhaps you don't find them fun. Then again, what would you say if one of the fish in your game said to you "you know, in MY home game, everybody plays everything. I don't like this trend toward TIGHT play where guys are folding A5 UTG and stuff. It makes the game more mechanical. In MY game, we play everything, and that gets in more interesting spots. The PS 10/20 is not true poker." You'd laugh him out of the room.

The more information you have, the closer the game becomes to poker at
it's finest.
I replied:
I disagree, because:
the game you describe can be easily beaten by a computer... In fact, I still think it would be an AWESOME exercise if we coded it - nevermind the lack of interface-ability, I think you get my point. I do NOT think that is poker.. THAT is math... If a script could look up the proper mathematical play based on the statistics and hand histories, I don't see how you can claim that's TRUE POKER, or POKER AT ITS FINEST. Still, one of the most interesting things about the way YOU analyze hands is that you try to analyze them like a computer - which I'm trying to figure out how to relate to my claims... I guess the point is that you are doing exactly what I claim the data miners do: trying to make the mathematically pareto-efficient decision based on everything you know about your opponent's playing habits. I feel that when you are doing this live, with your OWN BRAIN, THAT is real poker... When you're doing it with Pokeredge, Pokertracker, or a spreadsheet, that's crap... I guess that's the essence of my point.
As for my point about sharing accounts contradicting myself, you are right - I guess it does - I was kinda using it to illustrate another potential pitfall - and I do NOT think that people are watching the play to try to figure out "who is playing" - the point is that its another form of cheating which skews data.
Why is Phil Ivey so good? He says flat out he's not a math guy... He's a people person... you are one of the first people I've ever heard try to claim that poker at its finest is pure math... Almost everyone says the opposite I think: the cards don't matter... It's a people game... I'd guess you'd counter this argument by saying "if you're playing against me your cards BETTER matter, because I, the Human Learning Computer, will take emotion and fear out of the equation." but people can't do that.. And THAT is the essence of poker.
until next time,

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

To Be or Not To Be (Online)

It took me a long time to take the plunge into online poker. I wasn't one of the early adopters who lost a piece of a bankroll in a fly-by-night site that folded. I wasn't really worried about collusion, or getting paid if I won: I realized how much money these poker sites are making, and it's easy to conclude that they have nothing to gain by upsetting players.

I suppose the main reason I took so long to get online is that I was worried I'd become addicted - and I had access to live "brick & mortar" games which I enjoyed here in NYC.

Well, when I finally took the Party Poker Plunge about, oh, a year ago, it was all fun and games at first. I was playing 10-20 limit hold'em, and cleaned up my first several sessions. I went into work the next day wide eyed - raving about Party Poker - and thinking about nothing else other than getting home to play some more.

However, the honeymoon ended just as quickly. Maybe I was just lucky at first, or maybe the fish swam off to other ponds - but I rapidly found that the Party 10-20 game was neither easy nor fun. I armed myself with Pokertracker - but only as a tool to analyze my own play - not to track, or "data-mine" the habits of my opponents. Still, the novelty of online poker wore off quickly for me, and my account has been mostly dormant since.

When Party opened NoLimit tables, I jumped into the fray briefly, but again had little success - my problem was simple: I had absolutely no feel at all for the game. I was just clicking buttons - throwing little digital piles of chips around - but had no sense for where I stood in a hand, or what my opponents were thinking.

Now, I'll be the first to say that when I play live, I do NOT claim to have the ability to read my opponents' hands like some sort of x-ray vision possessing superhuman juggernaut. I cannot tell the cards my opponents have by the look in their eye, or the way they bet their chips. I do not always know if that shaking arm means a strong hand, or a bluff.... If their neck pulse is beating because of excitement - or fear.

What I DO get from playing live - from being able to actually LOOK at my opponent - is a feel, very quickly, for their abilities. The ability to quickly pre-judge my opponents - by their composure, betting habits, mannerisms, dress, chip handling - is a vital piece of my game. I do not propose to be able to deduce an opponent's skill and style by looking at him - far from it - but I find it much easier to associate a face - a voice - a body I've played with several times with his own playing style than I do associating a SCREEN NAME with a given playing style (and screen names can be changed).

Also, I simply enjoy the social aspect of poker. That's not to say I play for fun - I play to win, but I enjoy myself while I do it. I relish the patter at the table, and there's simply no substitute for raking in a pot... No substitute for "stacks and towers of checks I can't even see over"... No substitute for non-chalantly reaching over and toppling Vortex's pile of chips he has carefully stacked up high after cracking my aces. The Party Poker "Congratulations" balloons are wicked awesome - don't get me wrong - I keep them turned on - but they aren't the same.

These days, with even more technology, I view online poker as a science, not an art. Now, I don't want that to sound all retarded and cheesy, but my point is this: all you know about your opponent is their past betting patterns. You can, with the advent of various software packages, know this information very well. I fear that online poker will eventually become an information war, where the best-armed shark will win - and skill becomes a secondary factor. All you need to know is your opponents' stats.. Their VP$IP... Their preflop aggression... blah blah blah... The rest is math based on their given range of hands and the play becomes rote. There is absolutely no reason why a robot could not easily replace the human behind the keyboard. I'm not getting into conspiracy theories about Poker Bots - in fact, I find the topic amazingly interesting - I'd actually love the chance to help someone develop one - not to cheat the online games, but to prove a point, and to explore the boundaries of Artificial Intelligence as it applies to poker. I guess what I'm saying is that the THOUGHT and REASONING are being removed from the game and being replaced with pure data, math and statistics. Finesse is being replaced with force: data force.

In a live game, I also know only my opponents' betting history - but I have to REMEMBER it. I can't bring a journal or a spreadsheet to look at while I'm at the table. I REMEMBER that 6 months ago I check-called a pot-sized flop bet then check-raised a pot-sized turn bet and STILL got called when I value bet the river against this guy. I REMEMBER that this other guy got me to call a big river bet on a scary board - and I have to figure out what the same bet means this time - because I know that he knows that I remember.

Will I remember that what's-his-name checked the river to me last night with a monster hand on a board I couldn't possibly value bet last night? Well, I forgot his name already, but I made a note in Party's "player notes" window - the problem is, I may never see him again in the vast see of online players!

I guess it comes down to the simplicity of this: I want to know my opponent. I find it very hard to know my opponent online. A final philosophical point I've debated ad nauseum with several friends: I believe the One Player to a Hand Rule is universal to poker, be it online or otherwise. Others believe that it's ok for people to get advice on how to play a hand online, simply because there is no way to stop it. My objection to this line of thinking is that it violates what I feel is my RIGHT to know my opponent. How? Here's a simple example: Suppose I share my online account with a friend. That's the ultimate and most simple way to throw off the online poker information warlords: my friend and I may have different playing styles, thus our opponents can never know the style of StiffBonah - or whatever our team screen name is. The statistics are rendered moot. Throw a few more friends on the account to further randomize the play, and you've got a philosophically and ethically tricky problem for anyone willing to think through it.
There are certainly benefits to online poker: you get to play more hands, pay less rake, and play from the comfort of your own home. You have a vast selection of games to choose from, and you can easily switch tables if you don't like the one you land at. I do not doubt that there is still money to be made in online poker, but the style of the game is not for me. I don't want to have to be the player armed with the most data - I'll never have an edge there - there's always another guy more skilled at integrating modern technology into his online play... I want to be the player who can make the best decisions based on what I know - that's how I can have an edge, and that's the game I enjoy playing.
until next time,

Going Global

I just had to give a shout out to Joshua Polenberg who has the distinction of being the first to link TO this blog. Joshua is a skilled actor and genuine nice guy who frequents my home game. Kudos to Joshua for having good taste and being able to recognize greatness when he sees it.

Monday, August 15, 2005

My Ali-like return to the Online Ring

First off, there are no bad beat stories here. I post these hands to illustrate, well, there's a point, just read on...
I hate online poker... i'll write about that in another post... Suffice it to say that i haven't played in so long that Party Poker failed when it tried to do the auto-update because my software was out of date... i had to re-download from scratch... that should have been a sign.
anyway, i sat in a $400 (2-4 blinds) NL table. I ground my stack up to over $550, playing as disciplined as i possibly could. I even mucked KQ (aka: THE NUTS!) preflop for a $15 raise. I know.. I'm insane (don't worry - they weren't suited).
The table was very tight. Preflop raises FREQUENTLY went uncontested... I began to wonder if i'd go on tilt if i got Aces, raised to $12, and everyone folded... I guess that would have been better than this:
UTG folds.
Dr_Incredibl calls
reesecal calls
KD is next with red Aces. I raise to $22.
folded around through Dr_Incredibl, but reesecal calls $18 more.
ok good! action!
Flop ** : [ Js, 8h, 4h ]
reesecal checks. KidDynamite4 bets (51) reesecal calls (51). hmmm... 95% of the time on Party i think this means i'm up against a flush draw.
Turn ** : [ Qc ] reesecal checks. KidDynamite4 bets (153) reesecal calls (153). Yep . flush draw for sure. Weak call with a flush draw, but hey - that's Party right?
Dealing River ** : [ 3c ] reesecal checks. KidDynamite4 checks.
$459 pot
now. I put Reesecal on a flush draw... or maybe a hand like A-J, K-J, hopefully not QJ... maybe JT.
in any case, i'm not betting this river.
What pisses me off is he has pocket 4's (4c 4s).
Hey: Reesecal: DO YOU KNOW WHO THE FUCK I AM? Seriously - do i LOOK fucking retarded? please don't insult me by checking that hand to me on the river you douchebag - if you'd bet, i, moron that i am, would have put you on a busted flush draw and called a significant wager.
Justice would have been if a heart had come on the turn, and he'd checked it to me. I would have slowed down, and checked behind him... Then, another miracle heart would have appeared on the rio to make me the runner-runner nuts.
muthafucka checking that hand to me on the river! how DARE you!
i played one other interesting hand:
fold fold fold fold, then Douchebag1 ($118 stack) raises to $9. one more fold, and I call on the button with Ac2c ($350 stack), starting to lose patience a bit perhaps. SB folds, BB (Douchebag2 $87 stack) calls
Flop ** : [ 3c, 5s, 5c ]
Douchebag1 bets $15. I smooth call the $15 with my overcard, nut flush draw, and gutshot draw. Douchebag2 moves all in for $78. Douchebag1 moves all in for $110 total. I call.
Turn ** : [ Kh ]
River ** : [ 2h ]
Douchebag1 had Qc Qd
Douchebag2 had 6d 4s and took down the main pot with a ridiculous river straight.
what's interesting here is that i'm a favorite on the flop:
from the analyzer:
QcQd: 37.7% EV
Ac2c: 44.4% EV
6c4s: 18.4% EV
until next time,

Shana's WPT Replacement - Courtney Friel

I'm feeling good about my investment in WPT stock (WPTE). Apparently, this is the new hostess, trying to fill the void left by Shana Hyatt's desire to go breed, or whatever she's doing...
way to go Vince!

Sunday, August 14, 2005


I played an hour of live 1-2 NL today... I got to the club and it was just me, the Vortex, Gabe, and a dead clone of Adam Sandler.

Hammered a bunch of flops hard (two pair twice, trips twice), and after Sandler took off, I left up $260 after an hour.

At least it was good to get the P/L back in the PLUS column. I've been having a tough run over my last few sessions.


Conspiracy Theories

thanks to Greg for bringing the following to my attention:
Paul "DotCom" Phillips has written previously about ESPN embellishing televised hands to make them more dramatic. In his LiveJournal, he casts some serious doubts as to whether Lisandro actuallly had TT in the big laydown vs. Ivey i described below.
from Paul Phillips' site:
If you saw the ESPN circuit event from lake tahoe, on the first hand they show jeff lisandro raise with TT and ivey call with 99. The flop comes 444, lisandro bets and is called. The turn is a 5, lisandro bets, ivey goes all-in, and lisandro folds.
There is not one chance in a million lisandro held TT on that hand.
1) When lisandro looks at his hand only one card is visible, the ten of spades. When calling the action norman chad actually says "I had trouble seeing those. Did you see those?" Then they make some lame joke about laser surgery. It's almost like they're winking at the audience about the fabrication.
2) Lisandro was chip leader and had ivey covered by over 100K, and had already put a ton of money in the pot after the turn bet. Ivey didn't re-raise him preflop. Some guys might figure to have a bigger pair than TT given the action to that point but lisandro knows perfectly well that ivey is not that guy.
3) On a later hand lisandro seriously considers OVERCALLING in an unraised 3-way pot with J7 on a JT4 board, in a spot where he would have gone broke if he lost. On the flop pham checked, ivey bet, lisandro called, pham check-raised all-in, and ivey called! They give him quite a lot of camera time to agonize over the fold. The idea that he would fold TT on a 4445 board heads-up with phil ivey when he's the chip leader but then consider an overcall with top pair no kicker in a 3-way pot where it's win or go broke is about as likely as that he commutes to work in a yugo but would refuse a gift ferrari because he doesn't like the body styling.The way it played AT is the most likely holding, but it could have been T-anything where X is neither 4 nor T.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

the NEW greatest hand ever

Last night, live 1-2NL in the City. I only had an hour to play, as it was the eve of Ms. Dynamite's birthday.
here's the situation:
I muck Q-4 offsuit UTG. two mucks behind me, then Larry ($500 stack) opens for $16. Billy ($1100), who's next, makes it $50 to go. 3 folds to the button (sitting on a monster stack: $2500), who cold calls $50. The SB, who has raised 80% of the pots since i sat down, calls $49 more!
flop: K-Q-T rainbow.
SB checks. Larry checks. Billy thinks for 90 seconds, and settles on a $300 bet into the $200 pot. Billy is a pretty tight, solid player. He's an eccentric old-school New Yorker who never fails to entertain me.
now, the button smooth calls the $300! SB folds, and Larry check-raises all-in for $495 total.
Billy quickly calls the additional $195, and the Button now tries to re-raise all-in. Billy instantly informs him that he cannot do so, as the house rule requires the previous action (Larry's raise) to be a FULL raise in order to re-open action.
The dealer and the players begin to debate what the rule actually is, when suddenly, Larry, who has since stood up, looks down and shouts "WHERE'S MY HAND?"
The Dealer, Brian, in the excitement, has MUCKED Larry's hand.
Larry is about to flip. Now, everyone knows that as soon as your hand hits the muck, it's dead - but Larry is a respected member of the club, and no one wants to see anyone get fucked like that, so, this being a club not a casino, they try to reach an acceptable resolution.
Brian says "Tell Ivan what your cards were," and Larry whispers "J-9" in Ivan's ear. Brian pulls the top two cards out of the muck, and slides them to Ivan, who peeks at them, and, with a look of dismay, shakes his head.
Now, at this point, i burst out laughing - it's absolutely absurd - like Ivan was somehow instantly appointed the Judge, and yet the cards Brian fished out are STILL not Larry's. PREPOSTEROUS!
Now, Eric, the floor manager comes over to try to solve the problem. In the meantime, neither Billy nor the Button seem the SLIGHTEST big concerned that Larry's hand may be fished out of the muck, and it quickly becomes apparant that Larry does not have the best hand!
Larry walks over to The Vortex and me, standing to the side now, and Vortex says "you just saved yourself $500". "No way - Larry's money is in the pot already - regardless of what happens to his hand," i tell him, and Larry knows this is the case. Vortex was not at the table, and didn't realize the action sequence. Larry, by now, also realizes that his hand is likely no good, and is taking the situation pretty well.
Eric rules that the hand, beyond the shadow of a doubt is dead. BUT, since this is a club where they strive for fairness (especially in a huge pot like this) - the players in the hand, Billy and the Button, say that they will take Larry's word, and allow Eric to search the muck for his hand - even though Larry couldn't name his suits!!!! They search the muck, and fish out a J-9 !(without telling the players in the hand what the cards were, although i think they probably heard amongst all the discussion.
but wait... it gets better.
they deal the turn: JACK, putting K-Q-T-J on the board, and making two spades.
Billy checks, and the Button quickly pushes all-in. Billy says "That's just great.. you have A-J. I call" and calls for $500 more.
Before the dealer can deal the river, Billy shouts "HOLD THE DECK!" and asks the button if he'd like to do business: run the river 3 times to reduce volatility, as this is a $2700 pot.
The button responds, "I don't see what could beat me," he has A-J of course, and is oblivious to the fact that Billy clearly has a set.
Billy, annoyed out of his mind that he knows he's losing this pot, and that the Button doesn't get it, makes some snide remark, but still doesn't turn his cards faceup.
The Button says "Oh, you could make a flush," !!!!! yeah! that's it! he had a backdoor flush draw! "Let's just run it once."
so Brian knocks the table, throws down a burn card and deals the river....
QUEEN! pairing the board!
Standing behind the table, i shout "BOO YAH!" as Billy slams his K-K face-up on the table, and spends 20 mintues raking in this $2700 pot.
Overall - a completely ridiculous sequence of events: from Larry flopping a straight but drawing dead to a chop, and having his hand mucked, THEN fished OUT of the muck...Ivan somehow being appointed arbiter... Billy realizing he was crushed, but getting odds to call anyway, and then the Button refusing to do business on the river and still having no clue what Billy's hand was... And then the dramatic ending: Billy being rescued by the paired board!
nice hand sir.

the former Greatest Hand Ever

From May 21st, 2005, live 1-2NL game in NYC.
BB: Jonathan: tight agressive guy who has rebounded from the felt to a $1500 stack, and, with the other big guns at the table gone (KD being the exception of course) - he's playing a more agressive game.
Middle position: Connie: old guy who has previously COLD CALLED a $65 raise wtih K-6 suited.... i'vewritten about him before.
to Connie's Left: Dewey Tomko Lookalike: this guy OWNS The Vortex - but he's thoroughly retarded (Vortex - i de-stacked him earlier when i check-called him all-in after spiking a set of 6's on the turn!)
then Kid Dynamite: sitting on a powerful $1450 stack
Cutoff: big irish looking dock worker type
Button: Elliot - also massively retarded, but also OWNS The Vortex. Elliot has so many fucking tells, I don't even know what to make of them or how to read him.
anyway, here's the legendary action: limp limp limp i find QJ offsuit and come along, Cutoff Limps, and Elliot makes it $10 to go (the game is 1-2 NL). Jon calls, Connie calls, Dewey Tomko calls, i call, Cutoff calls.
flop: T-T-T oooh... ahhh... checked around.
turn: TEN! wow... more oohs and ahhs..
Jon bets out $35 from the small blind. Without hesitation, Connie makes it $200 to go. He has about $500 left. Dewey and i fold, and the Cutoff shrugs and moves all-in for $200. Now it's on Elliot. HE GOES INTO THE TANK! huh? after 3 seconds, Jon says "Either you do or you don't" and calls the clock. i mean seriously - this is probably the EASIEST decision you could ever be faced with in a large pot... play if you have an ace, else: muck. Elliot thinks for 45 seconds and mucks.
Now, since action is complete, as the Cutoff is all-in, the Cutoff tables his AK faceup. THE NUTS...Pure, Unadulterated, un-counterfeitable Nuts. Guess he'll be chopping with Connie..but no - Connie, TRIUMPHANTLY tables his POCKETFIVES, and says "FULL HOUSE"!!!!!! the only way this hand could get better is if he yelled "PRESTO!!!!"Connie is informed that he has 4 tens with a 5 kicker, and is somewhat disappointed.but we are far from done..
Elliot SLAMS the table, outraged, saying "I HAD AN ACE!" and, to make matters worse, the dealer boxes the deck in with the muck BEFORE dealing the river! what? what if the rio is an ace! she fishes the deck out and deals off a blank...Elliot is furious... Connie is confused, and the Cutoff is wondering if he's dreaming. I almost threw up in my hat - and stubbornly refused to leave the game, as Connie built his stack back up,and i was reluctant to leave while he still had chips, although i was exhausted at 1am at the tail end of an 8 hr session...
I left up $858 eventually, but not before Dewey Tomko made this entertaining move: he opens for $15 in MP and gets 3 callers, includingthe SB, who has about $150 behind.
flop is K-Q-8. SB checks, Dewey bets $50. fold fold to SB, who thinks for 10 seconds, and then comes overthe top all in. Dewewy calls.
turn: NINE! SB stands up, excstatic, shouts "THAT'swhat i'm talking about! and slams his T-J on thetable.
River is an Eight, and Dewey Tomko is squinting at theboard, genuinely taken aback...
he says "what's that?"
SB triumphantly declares "STRAIGHT!"
Dewey tables pocket Q's, for Q's full of 8's, and says"What's this?"
the table goes NUTS... the SB, to his credit, smiled, feeling like a complete and utter d-bag - but he handled it very well... Dewey wasn't really trying to slow-roll him, he was just confused that he was pretty sure he had a good fucking hand,and yet this kid was jumping up and down... brilliant.
until next time,

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Stuey "the Kid" Ungar

The Big Show came to visit this past weekend.

After a hard Saturday night of drinking and VIP service at the hands of JoeC, we were recuperating on Sunday, and I suggested we watch High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story, which i'd previously purchased on DVD, but had not yet seen. I had high hopes for this film, as i'd just finished reading the Stu Ungar biography One of a Kind. Big Show says "Sure - let's watch the movie," - saying he'd seen it already, but he'd watch it again.

Well, the Big Show apparantly wanted me to waste two hours of my life on Sunday, because this movie blows. There is one redeeming scene where Michael Imperioli (Christopher, from The Sopranos) thrashes Mr. Myagi in a game of gin, but apart from that, the movie is a complete bust. Total shame too, as Imperioli could have been the perfect Stuey, if only he had a decent screenplay.

I do suggest you read the book - One of a Kind, by Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson. From the tales recounted in the book, it's hard to imagine anyone being as good at anything as Stuey was at gin. He completely dominated anyone and everyone - but lacked the skill or desire to HUSTLE his opponents - he simply wanted to break them.
I gained a measure of time-wasting revenge on the Big Show by retailiating with another personalized recommendation i had purchased: California Split - a 70's movie about a variety of gambling themes... We couldn't even make it 1/2-way through. Uggh. I need to stop purchasing crappy movies i haven't seen.
Overall, a brutal disappointment from two films which had held high hopes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Crazy Laydowns

As I watched this week's WSOP Circuit Event from Lake Tahoe on ESPN, I was shocked at these two laydowns:

Hand 1: Jeff Lisandro has about T400k, Phil Ivey has about T300k. Blinds are 2k-4k.

Lisandro, in EP, opens for T15k with T-T. Ivey smooth calls with 9-9.

flop: 4-4-4. Lisandro bets T40k. Ivey smooth calls.

turn: 5. Lisandro bets T100k. Ivey thinks for several seconds, and then announces "all-in". Now, ESPN's broadcast's don't show how much the raise is, but if Ivey started with T300k, he's called T15k, T40k, and then the T100k turn bet, he should have only about T145k left. Still, somehow, Lisandro mucks rather quickly! Jeff is getting roughly 3-1 on this call, and will still have T100k left if he's wrong. Shocking laydown - but not as shocking as...

Hand 2: David "the Dragon" Pham opens in EP for T18k with Q-Q. Tommy Reed calls with T-T. John Schecter calls with 6-7 of diamonds.

flop: A-J-7 with two diamonds. Dragon checks. Tommy checks. John checks his pair + flush draw.

turn: offsuit ten, giving Tommy a set. I believe at this point that Dragon has about T180k, Tommy has about T290k, and John has about T300k.

Dragon checks. Tommy Checks. John bets T30k. Dragon calls the T30k. Tommy thinks for 10 seconds and... MUCKS! What the fuck? huh?

the river blanks off, and Dragon checks again. John puts Dragon all-in, and Dragon makes a big call with the best hand.

Tommy sees the result, and turns to Ivey, on his right, and says "I made a mistake," Ivey nods sympathetically, "You muck an ace?" "Three tens" says Tommy. and Ivey's eyes almost pop out of his head. "Come on man, you didn't have three tens," Ivey insists. Then Dragon, who was listening says "Three tens? NOOOO!" (thanks to Greg for the quote correction)

At least it gives Norman Chad the opportunity to spit out this Chad-ism:

"Lon, if you're going to laydown a set of tens there you might as well be selling refrigerator magnets on the beach."

until next time,

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Bones reacted to my purchase of WPTE:

My take on WPT: I watched a few episodes but don't know when it's on and the
Travel Channel isn't part of my regular channel rotation. If I stopped watching,
so did most casual fans. Poker pros and amateurs are just an unappealing bunch.
And finally the WPT slice is diluted by ever other (identical in format) poker
show. Have you tried to wade through an episode of Boston vs NY Poker?Are
revenues up? Is viewership? Are they in good standing with the SEC?(I can give
you some hints) Rating: SELL (but I was a seller on the IPO, so who knows. I own

and to that i say: Bones you ignorant slut... First off, it's on Wednesday nights at 9pm. And to put Boston vs New York poker challenge in the same sentence as World Poker Tour is an insult. WPT has the best production value on television - ESPN has tried to match them, but i still get goosebumps every time I see that phenomenal WPT intro: the set starts spinning... they have the little cloud highlight windows... Gus Hansen flexing... an absurd shot of Alan Goehring skipping around... JUHA HELPI! Now THAT is what i call GOLD my friend.

Now, one area for concern with WPT is the retirement of Shana Hiatt. I have faith that Vince Van Patten has already bagged a suitable replacement for the legendary Hawaiian Tropic Girl turned Poker ummm... analyst? Vince... don't let me down... my money is with you baby!


Monday, August 08, 2005


I finally bought WPTE stock today... $17.15... If they can make any kind of dent into the online marketplace, with the use of the powerful WorldPokerTour name and advertising exposure, it will work out fine.

In any case, the market cap is like $350mm.... I wonder how much PartyPoker spends in advertising on the WPT weekly shows? It'd probably be cheaper for Party to just buy WPTE!

Party's (PRTY.LN) market cap is about $9 BILLION by the way...


Friday, August 05, 2005

up and down.. and then flat

I played 5 hours of live 1-2 NL today.
Early on, i flopped a set and filled up on the river to crack a turned straight, then played this pot:
UTG limps, i'm in LP and make it $10 with 8-9 offsuit after 4 folds. Both blinds and UTG call.
flop: 8-x-x, two hearts.
check-check-check to me. I bet $35. folded to UTG who calls.
turn: offsuit 8. UTG checks. He has $350 in his stack, i have him covered.
UTG checks it again. I bet $100. He makes it $200. Now i know he's not on a flush draw... he probably has an eight... Ace eight? ugggh... i am not mucking here for a min raise. I call.
river: complete brick - offsuit 5 i think. UTG moves all in for $150 more.
I hate my hand. I'm trying to put him on a hand: A-8? he's weak enough to limp-call with that.. 8-7? certainly possible. I think for 2 minutes, and call. He shows 8-7 and i'm good.
I blow off some chips later with an ill-timed bluff against Roy, and take some more beats, down to a stack of around $550 when this hand occurs:
Dean, UTG, makes it $15 to go (he has me well covered). One fold, and i'm next with QQ. I raise to $40, and all fold back to Dean, who raises $75 more. I go into the tank. I have a lot of options here. I can fold - but no - i'm not about to. I can raise - but am i going to get him off AK? there is a good chance i'm losing. Perhaps i can take him off the best hand if a scary flop comes? I think long and hard, until Roy finally calls the clock on me. I call.
flop: J-J-9, two spades. Dean bets $100.
I quickly move in, over the top, for $325 more. I read Dean's bet as a feeler - reeking of AK...
He goes into the tank. deep. "JACKS? YOU CALLED ME WITH JACKS?" he's shocked. yeah Dean.. that's it.. i called you with jacks, i flopped quads, and now i'm pounding them, in position, with the stone cold nuts... he should be worried about a set of nines - not quad jacks. Dean thinks for 3+ minutes. Finally he calls: AA. He spikes and Ace he didn't need on the rio, and i'm liquidated.
I rebuy, not entirely upset with the way i played the hand. Dean actually almost layed it down, which kinda surprised me. Kings i could almost see him mucking, but AA would be a big laydown for him.
60 minutes later I find A-Q of hearts in EP, and make it $10 to go, getting 1 caller - Richie on the button.
flop: 2-4-5, two hearts.
I bet $25. Richie quickly makes it $75. Now, Richie generally plays tight, but is AMPLY willing to try to flex his muscles and blow people out of pots. I'm not sure he remembers (but i think he does) - that the last time he did this to me, i came back over the top of him with a set - it was 6 months ago. Here, i'm not about to bow down, and i'm playing balls to the wall - before he's done stacking his raise, i've reraised to $200 straight.
Not to be outdone, Richie quickly announces "All-in" - he has me covered. jeez. i have run into a buzzsaw... but at the worst, i have 9 outs twice. I'm not about to muck here. i call.
he has a set of fives, but the jack of hearts on the turn puts me in the lead. an offsuit 3 on the river doubles me up, and gets me even.
The remainder of the session was uneventful. A few live ones came to our game, and we switched to 2-5NL, but i un-wisely bowed out and went home - i only wish i had a good excuse as to why...

Wesson Girl

another blast from the past - at the request of Bones and the Big Show - from March 3rd, 2005:

last night, i put in 7 hours (7:30pm - 2:30 am) @ PS1-2 NL

When I got there, they had 3 tables: 2 must moves. I made it through the first game quickly, out of the sea of short stacks, into a table where where is this guy who works for the Dept of Santitation (we'll call him Garbage Man). Garbage Man is a lunatic with a big mouth who can't stop complaining about how this dealer put THE WORST beat on him: he had 5-5 and the other guy had K-J, and the flop came A-A-7-7-6. can you believe it?

Anyway, he's a first class goofball, but he's funny and wild, and he has a CHOOOOOOOCH friend who wears this leather tophat kinda thing and looks like Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live, who is lamenting about how he lost with AK in the tourney "i mean, you CANNOT fold AK right? the flop was 3 small cards!"

WESSON GIRL: Over the course of play, Garbage Man tells us the story of his buddy banging some married woman in Brooklyn. The Friend is banging her over the kitchen sink, when she reaches under the sink, sticks her fingers in a bottle of Wesson Oil,and then starts pumping them in her own ass... After repeating this tryst numerous times over several weeks, the buddy gets tired of fucking this woman, so he asks Wesson Girl (as he has named her) - if Garbage Man can fuck her while he watches... Wesson Girl, surprisingly, is game! Some of the guys at the table are annoyed at Garbage Man's antics, but i just want him to keep happy and talking...

i ask him "When you fucked her in the garage, did she dip her fingers in motor oil?"

then, in his in-imitable Bronx accent, he says that when HE was fucking her, he asked her to "do 'dat Wesson Oil thing" and she gets mad at his buddy for telling Garbage Man about that... meanwhile,you have to understand, THE BUDDY IS WATCHING GARBAGE MAN FUCK HER AT THE TIME! And now she's suddenly bashful? You cannot make this shit up...
Occasionally, when the action was on Garbage Man, he'd be caught staring dreamily skyward... "Hey - Garbage Man - it's on you!"
He'd simply blink his eyes, drift back to earth, and wistfully repeat to himself: "Wesson Girl..."


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Vegas Archive: Winter Assault revisited

i wanted to share one of my favorite Vegas Trip Reports... from this January, 2005
Vegas Winter Assault:

In sharp contrast to my last Vegas Adventure, which was to celebrate my bachelor party, this trip was originated by my wife Ms. Dynamite, as a trip for the Girls, with “significant others” invited along for the ride… Of course, as soon as Ms. Dynamite mentioned Vegas, I called the Big Show, and he had himself and 2 buddies booked before the Girl Crew even had time to respond to Ms. Dynamite’s Evite….

Ms. Dynamite and I arrived in Vegas Thursday night at midnight, after a brutally uncomfortable flight on Song: just vastly unsittable seats… B-R-U-T-A-L.

The bad beats continued as we arrived at the Mirage to check-in, and had the following exchange:

Check-In woman: “I’m sorry sir, I see you requested a non-smoking room with a king bed, but all we have left are rooms with 2 queen beds”

Me: “Huh? You guys charged me for this room like 10 weeks ago. It’s paid for. That cannot be.”

Her: “I’m sorry sir – it’s convention week – we are completely full.”

I resist the urge to tell her that it’s ALWAYS convention week in Vegas, and I also restrain myself from pointing out that she may have heard of me, as I finished second in a late August Thursday night NL Hold’em Tourney, but I figured I’d be better off not drawing attention to the Kid Dynamite mystique yet, and saving my chits for a cabana comp when the weather gets warmer… We settle for the two queens (no, not Sigfried & Roy), a room change request, and head upstairs to change before heading over to the Mandalay’s hot new club Mixx, where Big Show is already established.

We get to Mixx at about 1:45 am, and blammo – more bad beats: the doorman tells us the club is closing! It’s too slow, they are shutting it down. Wow… ouch. I already hate the south strip, and Mandalay folding on me early on a Thursday night does nothing to alter this sentiment. Ms. Dynamite and I kill 20 minutes as Big Show comes down stairs, with Dirty Dave, and Dave’s boy from home, Craig.

We roll over to the NY, NY, and hit Studio 54. Dirty Dave interrogates the woman at the door before we go in:

DD: “When do you guys shut down?”
Cashier: “between 4 & 5”
DD: “Is it industry night?” (for those of you who don’t know, Industry Night is the hot night, as all the locals (read: strippers, showgirls, cocktail waitresses) go out, and provide easy pickings for the skilled predators like Dirty Dave.
Woman: “no, that’s Monday.”

Dave is thrown for a loop, but the woman assures him that the club is packed, and we pay the $10 cover and roll in, basking in the glow of the Freeroll Ms. Dynamite got (ladies free! Booo yah!)

Studio 54 is ok: we camp out in the upstairs lounge area, pound several Red Bull & Vodkas, observe the odd industrial motiffe the have going, and the dance floor packed with thoroughly mediocre looking people.

We are just chilling, drinking, and the place is emptying out. We decide that the Big Show has to take a crack at the sparse talent lurking around, and, using Ms. Dynamite as a wing-girl lure, we hit the mini-upstairs dance floor to circle and isolate the weak ones from the herd.

Craig hears a girl’s friends call her “Emily” and tries to pull the smooth “Hey Emily, what’s going on” as he sidles up beside her with some sweet lounge moves, but she pegs him as a psycho stalker and slinks away quickly.

We are about to give up, when suddenly the Big Show has a cute little blonde all over him. We’re not sure if she’s using him as protection from the Bobby Brown carbon copy who’s hitting on her, but it quickly becomes clear that she is interested in the Big Show – and seriously – who can blame her?

After an “I’ll be right back, I have to find my friend,” she leaves Big Show to temporarily re-join us to make a plan. He decides he’s going to go out with her, and we tell him to go for it. After 20 minutes, she’s not back, and we go downstairs. We’re about to bail, when the Big Show goes to the bathroom, and this girl goes jetting out the door with her friend. Big Show returns from the Head and I immediately lead him out of the club so he can make the final play.

They leave to go to Drai’s for some late night action, and Ms. Dynamite, Dirty Dave, Craig and I catch a cab to the Imperial Palace for some late night double deck blackjack action. Dave, always in tune with the Scene, tries to get the hot shot tip from out Isreali-accented female cabbie. She assures us “Everyone goes to the Rhino.” Now, it’s 4:30 am, and the Spearmint Rhino is a strip club. Dave, being one in the know, tells the driver this. “No, No, “ she insists “all the guys and girls go to the Rhino – it’s like a club, not a strip club.”

We are hesitant of course, as the Vegas Cabbies have major ulterior motives for bringing clients to strip clubs: they get $20 per head from the clubs. We give it a “what the fuck” and decide to go for it, agreeing that Dave will go in to scout it out.

We roll up to the Spearmint Rhino, and this hilarious exchange occurs as we see several guys leaving the club with girls on their arms.

Cabbie: “See, there are lots of girls. I tell you this… “
Dirty Dave: “Yeah, they’re called Strippers.”
Cabbie: “no, no, they are normal girls.”
Dirty Dave: “They’re on drugs!”

I’m doubled over in the front seat, but Dave bullies his way past the doorman anyway to finish casing the joint. He returns in 5 minutes with the verdict: “It’s a really really big strip club. Not a regular club.” No shit… but it was a fun Vegas sidetrip anyway, and we avoided the Cabbie Hustle, eating only the extra $5 of cab fare from our detour.

We finish off the night with an hour of double deck at the IP, and I return to the Mirage for 5 hours of restless “Sleep” – which was really basically lying there in bed as the Red Bull and Vodka fought over control of my system, as my heart rate beat about 85 beats per minute.


Ms. Dynamite goes to the Mirage Spa to workout, and I hit the poker room. $2-$5 NL is the game of choice – I get a seat right away in the main game.

I’m in the 2 seat, they deal the game 9-handed. The 9 seat is a young kid from Boston who seems to be playing competent – he’s got about $1800 in front of him. The buy in is $200 to $500. I buy in for $500 and case the opponents: the 7 seat is a wild cowboy, known, coincidentally as “Cowboy.” He’s a professional sports bettor, who tells me he has $40,000 on Indy+3, and he’ll bet New England for $40k on the other side on Sunday when the line goes to Even. We discuss this, since I’m wearing a Red Sox sweatshirt.

Cowboy has a tendency to move in with a “Cowboy up” at frequent and odd times – but after getting destacked twice, he settles down.

I play straightforward poker, winning several smaller pots ($100) and losing no big ones. I cannot find the monster hand to double up with, but you know it’s a good session when you see hands like A-K, A-Q 20 times, and are raising preflop with them, flopping an ace, betting $60 on the pot and getting called once, and then betting $140 on the turn and taking the pot down. That’s basically how my stack was built: get action with a $60 flop bet, and take down the pot with a larger turn bet.

I’m up to $1500, on fire, and still haven’t seen AA or KK, haven’t flopped a set or a straight, and really haven’t put my chips at risk.

I finally lose a big pot with AK: here’s the action:

2 limpers to me, I make it $25 to go from the button. BB cold calls, one limper calls.

Flop: K-8-8, two spades.

BB checks, limper checks. Ok. That’s a very good flop for me. I bet $100 – just about the pot.

BB thinks for a long time – he’s a young, less experienced player from the south, but he handles himself reasonably well, meaning his hands don’t shake like crazy when he moves his chips, and I don’t get any pure novice reads from him when I observe him as the cards come out.

So, this kid thinks for about 90 seconds, and finally moves all in for $240 - $140 more for me to call. Now, the limper goes into the tank… Jeez… if he calls, I can get away from this hand… He finally mucks.

Now, I’m faced with calling $140, getting almost 3-1 on my call. I can’t put my opponent on enough of an 8 for me to muck: a flush draw is certainly possible, as is AK, or K-Q….I call, and he shows me A-8, which holds up.

About this time I get the call from the Big Show, who sounds like death. He says he’ll be back to the Strip in about ½ hour. “What – where are you?” “I don’t know!” he replies. I find out later that he took the worst beat of the day by going back to Henderson with this chick, and not getting any action, but having to walk her dogs in the morning, AND get her car jumped 'cause she left the headlights on!!! AIYAAAAA!

This game is great – I’m just playing tight, aggressive poker: I can fold for 45 minutes, and then if I find QQ, and someone before me has raised to $15, I make it $45 and STILL get cold called twice…

There is a Serbian Soccer player two to my left who’s been there all day (it’s around 7pm now) – and he has a propensity for overbetting the pot: opening for $50. I frequently lay down what I think is the best hand, as I’m not interesting in getting into a pissing match with him, out of position. He’s relaxed, and partially drunk, and I don’t want to have to commit my stack on a whim if I come over the top and he plays back at me.

I will, however, call several opening overbets of $30 with small pairs, hoping to flop a set and bust someone.

This happens in the following hand: UTG limps. I limp next with 3-3. Serbian makes it $40 to go. All fold to UTG (weak older player) who calls. I call. This raises and eyebrow from the Serbian: “You called Brady?” (as in Tom Brady, patriot’s QB). I just wink at him. “That’s not good.” He laments. I shake my head.

Flop is 2-3-5, rainbow. UTG bets $30. I make it $100 to go. To my dismay, the Serbian folds… I figured he’d come over the top with an overpair for sure, but I guess he was just pulling another one of his preflop raises with K-J….

Back to the UTG guy, he calls, and has about $125 left. He says “I check in the dark.” And I say “I put you all in” before the turn card: 5 hits the table.

He says “thank you” and calls, showing me 6-6, and I take a nice pot.

Jay had previously commented about the check-in-the-dark trend: I saw a lot of it, and found it rather easy to take advantage of. Also, I’d say at least 80% of the players I played against made LIMIT raises in the NL game, which I consider the premium sign of ignorance (I know there is a time and a place for it, but by and large, when someone bets $20 on the flop, and the next guy makes it $40, he’s an idiot with top pair, not someone who just flopped a monster and wants action.)

I later raise UTG with A-J, to $15, and get called 3 times.

Flop is A-x-x, two diamonds. Two of my opponents in this hand are the Cowboy, and his buddy, the Car Dealer. Cowboy is down to about $180, and feel like if I bet this flop, he’s coming over the top of me with a flush draw (Although I had done well to establish myself at this table as one not to be fucked with – I proved quite capable of laying down preflop after limping, but no one wanted to challenge my post flop bets with big re-raises, as a result of my stack, and my lethal play. These douchebags had quickly realized that Kid Dynamite was not red-cheeked tourist.)

Thus, I check, intending to check-raise. It’s checked around. Ok.. Turn is an offsuit ace. Now I bet out $60. The Car Dealer calls me. Others fold. Hmmm.. ok… flush draw? What? Could this guy really smooth call an ace here after I checked the flop? I don’t think so…

River: another blank, no flush possible. I think for 20 seconds and bet out: $100. an underbet.

Car Dealer thinks, he has about $400 in front of him, and he starts to fiddle with his stacks. Uh oh… I don’t think I want to call if he comes over the top of me all in here… He could have hit his A-rag kicker for a full house…. He’s fiddling with his chips, and the Cowboy says “uh oh – here he comes.” I simply smile, and the Car Dealer opts for a raise to $200. Ok. Fine.. obviously, I call, and he shows me A-4: my hand is good. He seems utterly shocked that his hand actually could be a loser.

The table dynamic takes a swing when a very aggressive guy sits down to my immediate left with about $1000 in chips, coming from the must move game. This guy is a poker dealer at the rio, and thinks he’s way above everyone else. He’s raising pre-flop, firing pot-sized flop bets, and taking down pots with junk, showing the table, but warning “be careful, next time I’ll have a big pair”

This is very bad for me, as I have gone from controlling the table in a relatively passive way, to having an aggressive bully to my immediate left. This guy is cocky, but skilled, and not stupid, and I’m very much unhappy about this situation. Ms. Dynamite walks into the poker room to check in with me, and I’m telling her about my dilemma here, when all hell breaks lose:

The Bully is in a pot with a guy about my age wearing a backwards baseball hat, who has an accent like he’s from Texas. I don’t see the action, as I’m talking to Ms. Dynamite, but I think it involves the bully betting into a J-6-2 flop, the kid check-raising, and the bully calling quickly. Now, as I see these chips going back and forth – stacks being pushed in (it was like Bet 75, raise to $200, call) – and it all happened in the blink of an eye: I rejoin the hand.

Turn is a ten or something, and it’s check-check. Turn is a Q, and the Kid bets $200. Bully calls INSTANTLY, and the kid says sheepishly “all I have is J-9” the bully mutters “it’s good” and turn over a deuce.

Now, there are 4 young Norwegians at the table, and one of them says “I want to see the other card.” The Bully goes ballistic, berating the kids, telling them they should play more live poker, and that it’s unethical to request to see the cards.

I’m as shocked as anyone at the table that the pair of jacks is good, but I keep my mouth shut, nodding sympathetically, as the Bully looks to me for support, whining on my shoulder, as he clearly recognizes that Kid Dynamite is a seasoned player who would not make such a request. Eventually, he turns over the other card: an ace, but he is on BIG TIME TILT now…

Now the bully is left with about $600, and he’s fighting mad. In the same orbit, I pick up 2-2, and limp after one limper. The bully calls, and we see a 6 handed flop.

2-8-Q. rainbow. holy cow.. here we go… UTG bets out $20. I raise to $80. Bully cold calls. Initial bettor folds. I’m not sure what Bully is up to, but figure he’ll try to take the pot from me with a big turn move.

Turn: 5. I bet $100 (perfect! Ha, look how weak I am, you better take this pot from me!) bully moves in INSTANTLY. I call without even thinking about it. If not now, when? And turn over my set of deuces instantly. For a split second, I’m fearing he’s gonna hit me with the Matador’s “A set of deuces is like a mackerel in the moonlight – one minute it’s shiny and silvery, and the next minute it stinks” – but he can only shake his head, and show my Q-5: Kid Dynamite finds another victim for a LIQUIDATION SALE! This is the first really big pot i’ve won today, and it couldn’t come at a better time, as it also eliminates my table control problem, and allows me to coast along for another few hours.

I lose one more big pot when the following hand comes up: I limp on the button with K-T of diamonds, and see a flop of J-J-7, two diamonds. Kid who put the Bully on tilt checks to me, I check. Turn: 9 of diamonds, giving me the second nut flush on a paired board. He bets $40. I raise to $150. He thinks for 2 minutes, and calls.

River is a 7, putting 2 pair on the board, and he bets $200 into me. I fold, disgusted.

As I have my chips racked up to leave, I look down to find AA.. wow.. first time all day – I’ve seen more than my share of A-K, an managed to stay out of trouble with the hand, which is a great sign, but no AA, KK, QQ once, no JJ….

I raise to $15, get called by the Serbian, and now a tight old player makes it $85. I think he’s all in – I’m so out of it after an 11 hour session that I don’t see he has $60 left. In any case, I want to try to get the Serbian to make a play at me by looking desperate. I raise to $300. Serbian folds, and old guy folds, as I’m almost turning my hand up, thinking the action is complete. I’m shaking my head at my error as he folds, and second guessing myself for raising my other opponent out of the pot, but the Serbian had pocket 4’s, and I don’t think I’d have been able to get away from the hand if he flopped a set, given his past play – I would have paid him off, so I’m not entirely upset that I didn’t maximize my value here.

Ms. Dynamite and I go over to the Bellagio to meet a few of her friends at the Sports Bar next tot the poker room. It’s midnight, and I’m scouting the poker action. I’m dead tired, with no desire to play, but I’ve just taken $1800 profit out of the Mirage $2-$5 NL game, and I feel like I’m a stud: I mention this because just walking through the Bellagio room scared me. The action was I-N-S-A-N-E. they had several $10-$20 NL games going, and players had cash stacked on the table in giant horse-choking wads of 100’s… I’ve never seen so much cash in play as I saw there… players would just throw the bills back and forth – it was insane. They also have the odd $10 and $20 chips I’m not used to. Huck Seid was in the 10-20 NL game, looking like he hadn’t slept in AT LEAST two days.. a pure trainreck. They had a $80-$160 game where players had like $15k+ in front of them, and a 4 handed $50-$100 rotation game, where they were playing triple draw lowball as I watched!

The Bellagio $2-$5 NL game, strangely enough, has a $200 buy in.. no more, no less. I wonder if they do that to stimulate action: you almost HAVE to gamble to build a stack, as one pot sized bet practically makes you pot-committed.

In the $30-$60 game, I watch a player call a bet a raise, and a re-raise: 3 bets COLD on a 5-7-9 board, holding the K-4 of hearts. He has an overcard and a backdoor flush draw, and I’m simply in awe. I don’t understand.

We bail early, and head to bed by 2am, preparing for Saturday, which is sure to be a major night.


I sit in the $2-$5 NL game for 60 minutes as I wait for Ms. Dynamite to return from the gym, and play one big and interesting hand:

I’m in EP, and raise to $15 with 4-4. I get called once in late position, and by the BB. We each start the hand with about $500

Flop is a dream: K-6-4 with two hearts. BB bets out $30. I raise to $90. LP player folds. Button thinks for 20 seconds, and says “Make it $190.” Whoa… hold on… if he says “all-in” I may feel better calling… what’s with the $190? That’s a raise I’m forced to call. So, we evaluate: either this guy is another douchebag making limit-like raises in a NL game, or he know what he’s doing, and he has a set of sixes – which, considering the action, is a serious possibility.. I know almost nothing about this opponent. He seems like only a ½ douchebag, as opposed to an utter and complete douchebag. And his neck-pulse is beating out of control… earlier this week I was talking about the pulse in the neck tell with the Vortex, and he said “if you see the pulse, be careful calling without the nuts.”

Back to the small raise: even dumb players usually don’t make little raises on BIG bets… there’s a big difference between taking a $20 bet and making it $40, and taking a $90 bet and RE-raising to make it $190… I’m in a bind here. I decide my best play is to call, and re-evaluate on the turn.

Turn: Ace, no flush possible yet. BB bets out $50 into the $430 pot…. I quickly raise to $200 – committing myself. If he has AK, we’ll get all the money in now.. if he has 66, we will also…

He mucks K-Q face up… telling me “your ace is good.”

I guess I was wrong – he IS a complete douchebag!

Banned at the IP?

Ms. Dynamite returns in short order and we go to hit the Panda Express in the Venetian food court, and meet Big Show, Dirty Dave, and Craig at the Grand Luxe Café after. Ms. Dynamite leaves to find her friends, and we wander over to the Imperial Palace for a HIGHLY entertaining double deck blackjack session.

Now, we enjoy double deck BJ because it’s kind poker-esque, in that the cards get dealt face down, and you pick them up with one hand only and look at them. We always squeeeeeeze our cards like we’re looking at a poker hand, and joke about the big draws we have. If you find an ace, the standard play is to offer the house insurance….Or, when the house has an ace, always say “I’ll take even money” when you don’t have blackjack… Guaranteed Dealer Tilt Inducers.

The other favorite past time in double deck is slow-rolling the dealers – when you have blackjack, you’re supposed to turn it over right away, as opposed to tucking the cards underneath your bet, which is what you do if you don’t want another card. However, we gain great pleasure from feigning ignorance and tucking our blackjacks face down, and watching the dealers TILT reaction when they realize…

So, I make it a habit to slow-roll each dealer at least once… that’s my rule… and we’re in the “champagne pit”, where you also get a cheap mardi-gras style beaded necklace for each BJ. I decide for some reason NOT to slowroll a blackjack on our dealer, a nice Hispanic woman, but she neglects to give me a necklace, so I slowroll her on the next one, and put her on TILT. Big Show is loving it, and we get a new dealer, Beto, a Dominican flamer who’s razzing us.

Big show has a 19, and the dealer has a king showing. Big Show says “I think I’m in trouble” and Beto actually looks at his hole card and lisps “oh man, you’re dead.” Big Show looks at me : “he must be kidding right?” “absolutely” - the dealers have nothing to gain by tilting the players…

Beto rolls a queen for 20, and we immediately commit to putting him over the edge. We are steaming, YEARNING for a blackjack to slow-roll him with, but CANNOT catch one.

Big Show is “kinda” counting, and varying his bets a little, but in the double deck game, Beto is shuffling on us every time we push our bets up.
We counter “what’s with the 2 hand penetration?”
Beto says “I can shuffle anytime I want”
and we retort “but the count was like plus 9!”
(we are joking of course) laughing out loud, and changing our $75 bets into $5 bets, laughing some more, and getting Beto steaming.

Finally, 45 minutes later, one of the funniest BJ moments of our distinguished playing careers occurs. Big show and I each non-chalantly tuck our cards under our bets – not showing each other our hands as we usually do. I have A-J suited.. BLACKJACK!! Boo yah! Suck it Beto.. .i can’t wait until you see this one. Beto makes a 4 card-19, and is eager to sweep our bets.

He turns over my blackjack, and I make a surprised/shocked face. He is practically YELLING at me in his partially broken English: “You not allowed to do that!” and I’m like “why not!??!?!” and he’s FURIOUS… but now Big Show mutters under his breath: “uh oh.” And Beto rolls over Big Show’s own black jack!!!! We high five and are doubled over laughing… Tears streaming down our faces. Beto is ripped, and I don’t want to fight the bad karma, I color up my chips, but Big Show goes for the kill with one of the best blackjack TILT moves in history:
he has a $60 bet down, all in red $5’s.. He wins and gets paid in 2 red $5 chips, and 2 green $25 chips. He says “check change” and throws Beto the two greens, which Beto changes into two small stacks of red. Big Show takes the red chips and stacks them into a tower on top of his existing bet, as I collapse behind him laughing. A truly EXPERT maneuver. Beto is beside himself, but gains some revenge when he sucks out on Big Show’s hand. Big Show has the last laugh, leaving a 25cent tip on the table.

We laugh our way out onto the strip, and return to our respective rooms to change for dinner at Postrio in the Venetian. Now, a great side story, one of Ms. Dynamite’s sorority sisters is Eve Phillips – this means nothing to any of you of course. A few weeks before we leave for Vegas, Ms. Dynamite says “Do you know who Paul Phillips is?” “Of course.” “That’s Eve’s brother.” Holy shit! You must be kidding me! And he’s coming to dinner with his wife. Cool. It’s like meeting Rafe Furst, only better! (I hope you’ve read this far Rafe!).

DotCom is impressed when I throw out Rafe’s name as having played in my homegame (don’t worry Rafe, I didn’t tell him how I whooped you in RoShamBo, or how the reality was that you set me up by letting me win the first one, and the beating me for dinner when it counted), as they are pals, and E-dub (Double-Double), Big Show and I enjoy a phenomal poker-oriented dinner discussion with Paul, as our women can only look on in despair.

He points out that in the WPT show they aired where he beat Dewey Tomko, Dewey did NOT move all in every hand, as they WPT cameras made it appear (if you ever want to put Phillips on tilt, just say you think he played like a pussy by constantly folding to Dewey’s all in raises every hand – he’ll either be on tilt, or think you’re a complete idiot).

When asked who the best NL tourney players are, Paul tells us Phil Ivey and John Juanda– and says there’s a big drop off after that. He also says he doesn’t play many cash games in town, even though they are so juicy – he enjoys tourneys more. However, he’s got a baby on the way (Congrats Paul and Kathleen!), and has been focusing on Scrabble! Seems like he’s really reducing his poker play, I guess with the kid coming, he doesn’t want to be on the road. He’s a very nice guy, very intellectual, smart, and eager to talk poker.

DotCom shows us his custom “I put a bad beat on Paul Phillips” chips, but they are all earned, so I can’t get one, even after tempting him with the black Kid Dynamite custom chips. I try to earn a chip by doing the dine & dash and sticking Paul with the check – I need to see if it worked. Actually, he was very gracious, and picked up the check for the group – thanks a bunch Paul, very nice of you.

Big Show and I head over to the Hard Rock to rock our table at their club – Body English. The place is hopping, but with KD and the Big Show, we walk right to the front of the line, throw out the “do you know who the FUCK I am?” and are escorted, no cover charge, to our VIP table above the dance floor.

Another brutal beat occurs when the table adjacent to ours is occupied by, as Dirty Dave quotes Ravishing Rick Rude: “A bunch of Kansas City sweat hogs.” Rough bunch of gals… ouch.

We proceed to get demolished… College drunk… 3 liters of vodka amongst the 4 of us, with minimal outside help, and stagger out at 4:30, going home to pass out… or so I thought.

I find out the next day that Big Show proceeded to the Barbary Coast, where he was staying, and got BARRED from the blackjack tables! Now, I can assure you, Big Show was too drunk to count a taxi cab meter, never mind a double deck game, and the pit boss barred him – but not for being a drunken ass, since he was invited to play “craps or roulette”! CONGRATULATIONS BIG SHOW!

Sunday – NFL time! Are you ready for some FOOOOOTBALLLLLL?

I score the play of the day as I arrive in the Mirage Sports Book with a few minutes left in the Philly-Minny game, and spy a table of Philly fans. I ask them if they are staying for the AFC game, and they are not – I claim their table. Hardest play of the weekend was holding down this PRIME 4-top by myself for 45 minutes, as Big Show, Dirty Dave, and Craig were slow getting over to the Mirage. They are forgiven when they show up with some much needed Panda Express.

I was decked out in my VINTAGE Steve Grogan #14 Patriots jersey, which garnered much respect amongst the Patriots cognoscenti. When the TV coverage switched to Foxboro, where the snow was already falling heavily, the sports book ERUPTED, in anticipation of another massive Peyton Manning collapse, which, over the next 3 hours promptly happened, as the Pats DOMINATED the game.

After the game, I play 20 hands of 2-5 NL before I have to head to Mesa Grill @ Caesar’s for dinner, as Big Show stays to play the Mirage Sunday night $200 tourney.

Now, a running joke with Caesars is that once you go in, it’s impossible to get out. It’s like a rat trap – the doors are like the black covered doors of a strip club – unmarked, and hidden.. you kinda have to feel your way around the perimeter of Caesars until you stumble out onto the street. Brutal. So, I enter in the Forum Shops entrance, and take the nice new spiral escalator up to the second floor – where I’m dumped into this MASSIVELY TILT INDUCING nautilus – you have to walk a giant spiral past EVERY store to get where you’re going.. holy cow – I’m on big time tilt by the time I make it the 2 ½ miles through the Caesar’s maze to Mesa Grill.

Dinner is fine, and afterwards me and Double Double drop the hammer on a couple of shoes of blackjack – but not without DblDBl managing to TILT the dealer as follows:

First he tries to make small talk with the dealer, asking her if she heard about the second place finish of one Kid Dynamite in the late August Thursday night Mirage NLHE tourney… she’s not amused.

Then, E-dub puts up a bet, and a buck for the dealer. He ends up splitting his pair, and putting up a second wager. In the end, he wins one hand, and loses one hand. So, the dealer takes the chips from the first bet, and pays the second bet with them… all is fine so far… until E-dub tries to take back what is now the $2 in dealer tips.
The dealer goes nuts: “What are you doing?”
“Didn’t you bet those for me?”
E-dub “yeah – but it was a push – you don’t make money on a push.”
E-dub is no blackjack rookie, and technically he’s right, and so is she in practice, but she’s such a bitch about it – I mean seriously….Eric is certainly not trying to stiff the dealer out of $2, but she is nuts, so we give her the $2, and get up to find another table.

We find another pit, where everyone with us proceeds to get carded. E-dub and KidDynamite are spared, due to our celebrity I guess. I stake the house to a “surrender” on the first hand, letting the dealer know “I like to stake you to a ½ unit edge” and we proceed to DOMINATE the shoe – winning about 16 BB.

I leave Caesars to return to the Mirage to throw down a deuce in the hospitable home court shitter near the poker room, and find Big Show on the Bubble of the tourney!

Big Show’s boy, Mike, is also there: they are 10 handed, and top 9 get paid. Mike gets all in with 77 vs A-4 of spades, and is crushed by the 2-5-Q two spade flop which makes him very close to an underdog… a spade hits the rio, and Mike is decimated – turns out he has about 700 left, with blinds at 1000-2000. Ouch. Suddenly, another player goes all in, and Mike is in the money with the Big Show! Sweet!. Another duded gets elminated and Mike is suddenly guaranteed $2300 minimum for 8th place – what a nice swing.

Check out this play – the most ASTOUNDINGLY UNACCEPTABLE tourney play I’ve ever seen: Mike is in trouble, with not enough to cover the big blind, but the UTG player is short too, and moves all in for T2100, 1000-2000 blinds. Folded around to the button who calls. Now, Big Show turns to me and whispers “I hope these two have the sense to check it down.” But wait – the big blind FOLDS! Go back and read that again… he has to call T100… he’s getting 62-1…. The only way this play can ever be even argued is if it’s his last T100, which it was not. Un-B-Leavable…. The button’s hand holds up, and mike climbs another spot with his mini-stack. I’ll let the Big Show summarize the rest of the final table in his trip report!

Over all, a successful trip, lots of blackjack fun, great poker action, and some vegas inevitables: hard rockin’ Club action, and entertaining cabbies.

Final tally: Blackjack P/L: +$700
Poker P/L : +$2145
Casinos evicted from: 1
Players liquidated at the NL table: 3
Blackjack dealers put on TILT: 2 ½

Until next time, may all your flops be monsters,
Kid Dynamite.