Friday, September 20, 2019

Call the circus. We’ve found their missing clown

I read an article recently (and apologies for not posting a link as I just can't find it again) that better players tend to feel unluckier than worse players. The main gist was that anyone paying the wrong price to hit is essentially a worse player, with better players knowing the merits of folding when a play becomes unprofitable. As with all things in poker it's the long term profitability of a play that should be considered, rather than the short term outcome. But worse players will pay unprofitable prices to hit draws and will mathematically make those draws a fixed percentage of times, making them the "luckier" player, albeit that they will lose money over the long term if they make the same play every time.

Whilst I certainly don't consider myself a "better" player I probably fall into the unluckier category. I know this is all in my head but it always seems to be me on the bad side of another player's unprofitable play. Or maybe that we're all programmed to remember the negatives over the positives as, in evolutionary terms, a negative result is a far worse outcome than the reflective positive would be on the flip side. An example would be wild berries - it's far better to be cautious over strange food as a positive result only temporarily staves off hunger whereas a negative result could potentially be fatal. But anyway - I'm rambling.

I'm new to the table and have only just ordered my first beer when the players directly to my right and left get into an all in situation. The player on my right flips over a 4 high flush draw on the turn and the player to my left already has a full house. No idea of the preflop action but it's an early indication of the "any two will do" attitude that the player on my right possesses.

It's my first time in the blinds and I look down at Kd-Jd and I call a raise from MP and we're 4 way to a flop (the other callers are the button on my right and the BB on my left. Flop is K-J-2 with 2 hearts. I'm going to check raise this but the preflop aggressor elects to check although the button throws out a half pot raise. I raise and the only caller is the button. Blank on the turn and I bet enough to put the button all in - he snap calls. Fuck. Has he got a flopped set? River is a queen but not a heart. He turns over 10-9 off (no hearts) for a rivered inside straight. Errr - ok. So you've got your whole stack in with 4 outs? Clown.

I get some money back from a different player when I flop a set of 8s to beat his pocket queens but I just can't seem to pick up a hand against the clown on my right. He's playing virtually every hand and really doesn't seem to know what he's doing. Which is great for the table as he's donating chips left, right and centre. But unfortunately non back to me.

About an hour in to my session now and the clown has switched seats (I have showered today so I'm not taking it personally!) and he limps UTG. There's another couple of limps and I look down at J-J. This is the session immediately after my epiphany over how to play Jacks (detailed here I raise to $25 and the clown is the only caller. It's a 7-2-9 board and the clown donk leads for $30. He only has $50 or so behind so I shove and he snap calls. Blank turn and river and he turns over 7-2 off for a flopped two pair. Utter clown. 

I'm in the blinds holding 6-6 and we're 4 or 5 ways to a flop of 6s-Jc-4s. I lead out and our clown is the only caller. Turn is 9c and I bet again which is called. The river looks safe as it's the ace of clubs - the front door flush draw has missed so again I lead out. Clown snap calls and I turn over my cards. He announces he has the nuts and turns over Kc-5c. So not only has he called with K high on the flop he's not reraised me on the river with the nuts. 

He also gets lucky in another hand I'm not involved in - he limps UTG then calls a raise preflop. Flop is K-2–3 and he check shoves holding Q-4 to go runner runner 5-A and hit a straight against K-K. 

So it's a major disappointment when he leaves, having dropped at least 3 buy ins whilst I'd been sat down but undoubtedly more over the course of his session. 

As soon as he's gone the table starts to talk about him and how he'd basically play any two cards and wouldn't fold if he'd connected slightly with the flop. I'm annoyed that I've not been able to catch a break against him and all that I comment on his play is "I think someone should call the circus as we've found their missing clown". 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Shower the horse, I’m done

I was driving with the cost centres a few months ago when the youngest asked "Dad, why is she singing about showering a horse?"

Err - ok. I see your mother's batshit lunatic gene is not recessive as originally thought. I obviously don't say this to him - although he knows what genes are I really don't want to have to explain the phrase batshit lunatic.

"What do you mean?" I replied. "On the radio - the words are shower the horse I'm done" he responded. I listened to the song and it's by Anne-Marie and the words are actually "Ciao, adios I'm done" which I explain to my son. But I've since found out it's a common mistake and it's often misheard

The song is a break up song - sung by a wronged girlfriend to a cheating partner who has had enough and decides to end their relationship. And that's where I am at the moment.

If you think I'm going to get all deep and emotional on you please don't worry - I'm as deep as a puddle and am quite happy being that way. It's nothing to do with an interpersonal relationship but I'm starting to know what the singer means. It's my relationship with Las Vegas - and it's an abusive one.

Like all abusive relationships it started out like a fairytale - she dazzled me with bright lights, plied me with free alcohol and seduced me with her promises of wealth gained from hours at the poker tables. 

But as our relationship has progressed I've started to feel like I'm being controlled - she sends me e-mails asking when I'm coming back, she tempts me in with low room rates then tacks on numerous fees at the last minute. Resort fees are going nowhere but up, then to add insult to injury restaurants and bars are now starting to add on concession fees - so I'm paying an inflated price, then being charged a fee to pay an inflated price because we're in Vegas. And finally we come to the pièce de résistance - the reverse guaranteed poker tournament where all entry fees above a certain amount are retained by the casino. What sort of money obsessed organisation would think up such a perverse structure? I'm talking about poker's worst enemy - no other than Sheldon Adelson. I can think of no worse individual for anyone to give money to - he constantly lobbies to restrict online gambling, not for any altruistic or moral reasons but in order to protect his own bricks and mortar casino empire. As an aside he's also a very vocal critic of the 420 movement - not my cup of tea personally but if that floats your boat it's another reason to refuse to frequent his establishments. 

I'm almost stuck in this relationship for the next year or so due to work commitments but at some stage I will have had enough - when I do it will be a case of ciao, adios I'm done. 

But she won't care, I'd be surprised if she even noticed. There will always be another one coming along to fill my place so there will be zero reaction - I would get the same reaction if I offered to shower the horse. But then I’d look like a batshit lunatic and I’m sure that I’m not the carrier of that gene. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Haggis hunting and Scottish long necked sheep

There's only 2 real occasions each year that I'm officially off work - whilst I get plenty of time between meeting clients or having any real work to do I'm nearly always on call to answer e-mails or phone calls. I've been sat on beaches or at airports with a phone and laptop in hand numerous times but there are 2 weeks per year that I barely even carry a phone. One is the week after Christmas, the other is my week (sometimes longer but usually around a week) away with my cost centres (children for those that aren't familiar with the phrase - both pre-teenage boys). For the last few years we've always visited family in Scotland but this time we had an extra passenger with us - the new Mrs AC. Whilst I've been seeing new Mrs AC for nearly a year it can often be a couple of weeks between our paths crossing and it's the first time we've spent an extended amount of time together. So the boys know exactly what they want to do whilst away and Mrs AC is visiting the area for the first time.

Now Mrs AC is very bright, but at her own admission she's not worldly wise and is quite easily fooled. She's a city girl and was quite shocked at the ruralness of our location whilst we were away. There are farm fields at the end of the garden of the cottage we've rented and I'm pretty sure it was her first time in the countryside so we (the boys and I) decided to tease her with some countryside facts. Well, by facts I mean stuff that we make up.

Now for years the boys have known about haggis. It's a Scottish "delicacy" consisting of sheep's offal with oatmeal traditionally encased within a sheep's stomach. But since we've been coming to this part of the world we've always pretended that haggis are animals that live in the area and whenever we go out walking or biking in the countryside we refer to it as "haggis hunting".

So on our first day away my eldest cost centre said we should walk the dog through some woods and go haggis hunting. Mrs AC asked what we were talking about and we proceeded to tell her about these little animals living in the woods called haggises. Whilst they live in the woods they are notoriously hard to find but farmers put traps for them and that's why you can find haggis meat at the local butcher. We described them as looking like miniature ewoks and to get the meat they have to shave them before mincing them up in a big block - she hasn't doubted a word we've said and I'm pretty sure she's convinced we're going to see some so she's quite disappointed that after 2 days she's not actually seen one. I tell her not to worry as it's pretty rare to actually see one. When we're in the supermarket she sees haggis being sold so there's no reason for her to believe that we're only teasing her.

Half way through our trip and we're driving next to a farm and they've got sheep, cows and, quite rare for the area, alpacas (or maybe llamas but the rest of this story that's irrelevant). "Why have those sheep got really long necks?" enquires Mrs AC. Without a moment's hesitation the oldest cost centre answers. "They're a special breed of Scottish long necked sheep. It's useful when it snows a lot so the sheep can keep their heads above the snow so the farmer knows where they are". I've laughed so much that I've almost driven the car into a hedge but Mrs AC seems convinced. I may have told him this story years ago and I'm surprised he even remembers it.

So now we're nearly at the end of our trip and there's some nature program on the TV as we're cooking dinner - something about the Andes and they just happen to be showing alpacas which Mrs AC can see and gives the cost centres a friendly ribbing for teasing her to which the youngest cost centre replies "we were only joking - there's no such thing as Scottish long necked sheep. But haggises are real - we definitely haven't made those up to confuse you".

Writing this up from the Eurostar train between London and Paris. Back working this week but we're having a quick tour around a couple of European cities without the cost centres who are now back to school - it's Mrs AC's first trip over to Europe so I've promised to show her some culture. She's going to need some guide books though as I'm not sure how much of that I can deliver on my own!

If anyone wants to make up some "facts" about Paris or Amsterdam please comment below and I'll see if I can get Mrs AC to believe them.

Normal poker based drunken idiocy will resume shortly!

Monday, August 19, 2019

No baseball fan can tell me cricket is dull

I have a superpower. In my mind anyway. It's not like Hollywood is going to make a movie about it or anything. But if they do then they owe me big time.

It's the ability to sit down, drink beer and watch sports at virtually any time of day or night. I've set numerous alarms for stupid o'clock in the morning if there's a particular event I want to catch and I've even been known to have a few beers before breakfast whilst watching if I've got nothing responsible to do for the rest of the day. I was in Vegas once when my football (soccer with the round ball) team were playing an important game against their local rivals which necessitated a 4am on Saturday alarm call and about 6 beers whilst I screamed the place down cheering them on.

My superpower comes in handy as I travel a lot - I'm often on my own in cities for days or weeks on end and once I've done a couple of sightseeing things I get pretty bored. I'm actually a pretty bad tourist - but not as bad as the family who asked me take their picture outside McDonalds on the Las Vegas strip who were over the moon that they'd found their favourite restaurant. But anyway - I digress.

It's a warm but wet weekend afternoon and I'm sat in a bar enjoying a couple of beers and watching the sport - which happens to be baseball. Whilst I don't follow any particular team and wouldn't know who was good or bad at any time I quite enjoy the game. I probably don't get every intricacy but I understand the infield fly rule and can confidently explain how the pitching team can make a triple play without anyone other than the pitcher on the fielding team actually touching the ball.

A gent sits next to me and asks me about the game. I tell him it's scoreless in the 6th or 7th and the game is pretty dire as there have only been a couple of hits. He responds "ah - you're British". Well at least he hasn't thought I'm Australian so that's a good start. 

"You probably watch cricket rather than baseball - I couldn't watch that as it's so dull" he continues. His tone is jovial and I take an immediate liking to him when he offers to buy me a beer. We begin chatting about various sports and he's keen to know how US sports are perceived around the world - we get most major league US sports on UK TV but baseball is still a pretty fringe option. I'd say the UK interest would probably be ranked NFL, NBA, NHL then MLB with MLS gaining ground rapidly. 

After a while (and a few more beers) I ask him about his dislike for cricket - is it the fact you can play for 5 days and still end up with a drawn game? Yes - this is a real scenario for any non cricket fans out there but I've seen utterly thrilling games end like this, sometimes a team can be up against the wall and a draw effectively seems like a good result whereas any American would be aghast at this

He tells me there's not enough action. I almost spit my beer at this outrage. "So what's the point of baseball?" I ask. "Those fans have sat for over 3 hours and seen 2 runs and about 4 or 5 hits. Where's the action there?" He says that's true but that's probably not a typical game. I tell him about a recent cricket match that I'd watched (a one day rather than 5 day game though) that went from 11am to 7pm where over 750 runs were scored in a day and finish up with "I like baseball but no baseball fan can ever tell me cricket is dull". I tell him that it's a legitimate tactic for the bowler to aim at the batsman's body and head at speeds around 90mph - an Australian cricketer was tragically killed a couple of years ago when he was hit on the head during a game. 

I probably haven't changed his mind though and we go our separate ways after a very enjoyable afternoon spent chatting and drinking - now if only my superpowers included remembering which hotel I'm staying in today. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The best way to play pocket Jacks

I don't know a poker player who likes pocket Jacks. There is probably one weirdo out there who will profess his or her love for them but I'm yet to meet them. Jacks suck. There's no good way to play them. There's a more than 100% mathematical certainty of at least one overcard hitting the flop and at least one of your opponents flopping a set.

I might have made that last bit up just to emphasise how much I hate them but you get the drift.

But I had a session recently in which I had an epiphany on how to play them. I couldn't lose. It came to me in a flash the first time I was dealt them and I sat there wondering how it has taken me so long to realise this. If you're thinking I'm going to say fold them straight away you're sorely mistaken. There's only a few situations where I open fold a small pair preflop and that's not the answer we're looking for. Jacks, although rubbish, are too good for that.

So now to my session. I've only been sat down 15 minutes and am halfway through my second beer of the night and I've not played a hand when I'm dealt JJ under the gun. I raise and get given literally no respect by getting 6 callers. The flop is a wonderful J-9-9. I check and a guy from late position bets $25. I'm the only caller and we see a 2 on the turn. Again I check and the other player bets $50. Now should I call or raise? He only has $125 or so left so I decide to minraise, hoping he ships it all in. Oh joy - he does. Meaningless river and I take it down - I assume he had 9-x but he mucks as soon as he sees my cards. Now I've finished my beer just as the waitress is taking orders again. Super.

I've played about 4 hands in the next hour before getting JJ again - surely lightning can't strike twice can it? I bet from late position and we're 4 to a flop of J-A-x rainbow. I'm giddy. Although that might have something to do with my beer intake - it's been over a hundred degrees today so I'm determined to stay hydrated by turbo necking beer and the waitresses are doing a sterling job keeping me refreshed. I call a bet on the flop and turn before raising his bet on the river. He thinks for a bit before mucking and stating I must have his ace outkicked.

Now about 4 hours into the session I've not hit another set all night - I've had my share of pocket pairs and the only one I've won a pot with was Kings where I led preflop and everyone folded on the flop when I continued.

I'm only going to play for one more round and I'm in MP with JJ again. I raise and get 3 bet shoved from the button. It folds back to me and I don't really have much choice. He only has $60 or so and it's an easy call. He turns over Ad-Kd. The dealer shows a King in the window as he turns over the flop. But there's also a Jack. Lovely. I play round to my blinds and am quite happy to have racked up a $225 profit for the evening. Luckily the waitress has just been round again so I grab my beer for the drunken stumble back to my room.

So the best way to play pocket Jacks is simple - just flop a set every time you have them!!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The unwritten rules of poker

Poker is weird. There are no rules. There are TDA guidelines which are mostly adhered to but there is no one set of rules or rule book that can be consulted to work out whether a player has committed an offence as each casino is free to post their own rules. There's also a lot of etiquette involved which can further muddy the waters when seeking guidance.

We're in the latter stages of a low buy in tournament - probably a few players away from the money at the final table. I'm in the big blind holding 8-8 and a short stacked lady UTG+1 has shoved her last 5 big blinds in which is called by one other player before it's folded round to me. Now I have a decision to make. Do I reshove my 20 BBs, in the hope of getting the caller to fold? Or do I call to see a flop and effectively play an empty side pot against him? His call could be construed as weakness, or it could be a trap. He has about 20 BBs left after making the call so has me slightly covered.

I think for a few seconds and elect to call. We see a flop of J-10-2 rainbow. I check and hope we're going to check it down. There's no side pot to bluff into and with 2 of us against the short stack at showdown we've got better odds of knocking her out and getting closer to a payout.

He doesn't. He shoves. I obviously can't call with my underpair and the two remaining players turn their cards up. The original short stacked shover turns over Ace-7 and the other player shows K-Q.

The turn and river are both blanks and neither player improves so the lady wins with Ace high. I'm pissed off. I should have won that. I don't say anything to either player but inside I'm fuming. Luckily there's beer to calm me down.

So - did the player who'd flopped a straight draw do anything wrong? Officially no but unofficially probably no as well. But what is he thinking? He's trebled up a shorty and we still haven't lost a player. Or is he just a typical Vegas poker player who really doesn't think that deeply and is happy to have flopped a monster draw (we've in an effective coin flip post flop) and is hoping to hit whether he gets called by me or not?

Thoughts please

Friday, June 28, 2019

At least the pot was only a small one

Only one hand to report from a recent session but it's one that I'll remember for quite a while.

There's one very loose player to my right and he's going mad. He's opening over half the time and continuing if he's hit any part of the flop. I've seen him get a buy in on the table having flopped bottom pair and he's throwing money around. Unfortunately none to me as I'm completely card dead and I'm nearly 2 hours into the session - I've got $300ish in front of me but I'm down around $150 as I've topped off. $20 or so has gone to the waitress who is doing a sterling job at keeping me hydrated so I'm in no mood to leave if there's a sniff of getting a double up if only I can pick up a decent hand. The plan is to get it all in preflop against the loon if possible and hope for the best.

And then I look down at 2 queens and the loon has already raised from UTG+1. So I raise to $45. It folds round to the button who thinks for a bit then raises to $105. Fuck. Any other player does this and I'm shoving but this is an OMC (or old man coffee if you've never heard the expression before).

Before I can even start to think about things our crazy loon on my right announces all in. I'm not worried about the loon - he's previously got it all in preflop holding 8-2 so his range is infinitely wide. But what about OMC? He'd probably 3 bet AK against the loon but I really can't see him 4 betting that against my 3 bet. It's got to be aces or kings. But most probably aces. It's always aces when OMCs do this. Or is it? Is he using his image as an OMC to make me think he has them? So he could be doing this with a lower pocket pair, suited ace or AK to A-10?

So the action is on me and I'm taking my time. "How much is it?" I ask the dealer. He tells me it's $200 and change. Fuck. If only our loon had less than a min raise then I could flat without fearing that OMC is going to shove on me.

So I fold. It pains me to fold but I know I'm behind. OMC snap calls but no one shows. There's a queen on the flop. Fuck fuck fuckity fuck.

"I have a pair of jacks" our loon says when the river is dealt. There's a jack on the flop. He turns over Jack 4 off. What the actual fuck happened there? Bet then 5 bet shove with Jack 4 off? Has someone had something very heavy dropped on their head recently? Evidently so.

OMC turns over his aces. What a surprise. He then asks me what I had. I tell him and say that I would have flopped a set of queens, but that I knew he had aces and it was correct to fold at the time. I then continue with "I've been card dead so long I was excited to pick up a hand and finally win some money, but at least the pot was only a small one".

I go back to being card dead and loon goes back to being a loon - I think he's burned his way through $1,500 or so over the course of a few hours. But at least the waitress is coming round regularly and she did much better out of me tips wise than the dealer did that night.