Monday, May 28, 2018

That was the worst bad beat in the history of poker – how could you even call?

Those were the words I heard from the guy next to me in the men’s room – it’s the 1st break 2 hours into a lunchtime tournament at TI and I’d been card dead for about 1 hour 58 minutes

Rewind 2 hours – first hand and I’m dealt KK UTG. I raise and a guy 2 or 3 places to my left 3 bets, everyone else folds and I have a decision to make – raise or call. Now KK is easy in the latter stages of a tournament but in the early stages it’s not so simple – I obviously don’t want to scare away a customer who may be holding air and 3 betting light (I only recognise 1 person at my table but it’s not the 3-bettor) and I want to get enough beer drinking time to justify playing a lunchtime tournie – this beer has essentially cost me $80 (plus a buck tip) and I’ll be damned if I don’t get at least a couple more in before I go broke. So I call.

The flop is a marvellous K99 – woof! I check and villain leads out with a half pot bet. I take a swig of my $81 beer and think he’s either got AK or AA. Again a decision to make – what beer do I want next? The reason I play over at TI in the lunchtime tournie is the time / beer ratio – the waitress only works the small poker room and is therefore round every 10 mins or so. Having ordered another beer I decide to call. The turn is a blank and I check – villain shoves and I insta call – villain tables AA and looks sick as I table my cards. River is another blank and I finish stacking chips just as my 2nd beer arrives – boom, average price down to $42. I’m literally card dead until the 1st break but my average beer price is under $20 heading into the break.

So now back to the men’s room – In the UK there are certain places where it’s socially unacceptable to talk to any other human being. One of them is in a lift (elevator) – I’d willingly blank loved ones rather than break the taboo of talking in a lift but by far the worst would be a public bathroom. Unless I’m telling the cost centres to hurry TFU I don’t exchange anything more than monosyllabic grunts with anyone in a public bathroom and now I’ve got some loon harassing me whilst my flies are undone. I’d also not really clocked whether he was being overly aggressive when he said it to me. So I mutter “yeah - that’s poker” in his direction and hope he goes away. He doesn’t. He continues pestering me as I’m washing my hands. At least I’ve got my flies done up now. “How could you call?” he barks. WTF? As if he’s never seen AA get beat before. So now I need to ask myself a few questions: how do I make him go away; is he likely to swing for me; is he carrying a weapon; is he a terminator that can’t be reasoned with, that doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear that will absolutely not stop ever until I’m dead? I discount the last question as a negative as I’m pretty sure terminators aren’t 5’ 8” tall with a bad moustache.

So back to the 1st question – how do I make him go away? If I’d been 14 (rather than that being my mental age) I’d have come out of the bathroom calling him a nonce and telling security that he tried to feel me up but given I’m a fully grown man I think I just might look a bit stupid. So I go for the blatantly bloody obvious answer “I had KK pre flop – there is no way that I’m folding”. This seems to confuse him as he then says “Oh. Ok. Good luck” and wanders off through the casino. Given that I’ve sort of reasoned with him I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a terminator.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

I always thought Santa was meant to be jolly

The easiest way to judge someone’s true character is by watching someone interact with service staff. It’s too easy to suck up to those in authority and also very easy to act obnoxiously to those you feel superior to, especially if you are unlikely to encounter them on a regular basis. I see it all the time, especially on flights where a passenger doesn’t respond to a flight attendant’s commands or fails to show basic courtesy when the FA is serving the passenger. It’s also very common in bars and restaurants as every waiter or waitress will attest to (I used to serve when I was studying).

So what does this have to do with Vegas or poker I hear you ask – well I’ll go on.

It’s late January or early February and there’s a guy at my table that is taking his well deserved holiday. He’s obviously had a busy end of the year, making a list and checking it twice and I bet he racked up some serious frequent flyer miles in the run up to Christmas. It’s Santa and it’s probably a good job that there are no kids around as their ideas of what Santa is like are going to be shattered. He’s got the white hair, he’s got the beard, he’s even got the very rotund figure but dear god he’s miserable. Utterly fucking miserable. And obnoxious. Very, very obnoxious.

When ordering a drink from the waitress he barks “Bud” with no please or thank you added. When his drink is delivered he shows no element of thanks or interpersonal contact by even glancing towards the waitress – he simply puts out his hand and takes his drink. He also doesn’t tip – I originally thought that maybe this was because Santa doesn’t need money – all the elves make all the toys so maybe he can’t tip as his pockets are bare. But then I realised he’s entered a poker tournament and I’m pretty sure even elves can’t fix that without having some cash. It’s not a one off either – on the 3 or 4 occasions he gets a drink he barks, doesn’t thank and then doesn’t tip (it’s not just the lack of tipping but the general discourteous obnoxiousness that winds me up).

When he’s at the table he spends his entire time moaning about something or other, it’s too loud, the air con is wrong, blah blah fucking blah but he won’t STFU. He really must be a joy to be around on a daily basis, on the assumption that Mrs Claus hasn’t run off with the Easter bunny or isn’t training their pet polar bear to maul him to death. He does this for about 3 ½ hours until the latter stages of the tournament – it was $80 buy in, there’s about $2,500 in the prizepool and 4 people get paid out. There’s 6 people remaining and everyone has around the same number of chips and we’ve effectively been passing the blinds around with the occasional uncalled shove.

It’s become a pray and play as we’re so late on so someone suggests an equal chop which makes sense as we’ve all got about 10 BBs and there’s no real poker being played but Santa now wants to add a rider – you guys need to tip for me. WTF??? Now this is not meant to start a debate about tipping poker room staff as I think each person can be expected to make up their own mind. But in this case he’d be picking up $416 and it’s not that he doesn’t want to leave a few bucks from his own winnings but that he wants someone else to do it for him. I can see the other players staring at him as if they’ve misheard him but we’ve all heard this asshole whine for the last 3 hours and I’m not in the least bit surprised that this tool is trying to assert his fucked up idea of authority. It’s his BB next hand and a couple of players now say the chop is off – I’m quite happy with this as I don’t want to give this idiot the satisfaction. Luckily someone picks up a decent hand and it ends up all in with Santa holding A-10 and the other player turning over K-K. The kings hold and Santa is off to the north pole. The guy who won the pot then turns round to everyone else and asks if everyone agrees to an equal chop – he does this before Santa has even had chance to haul his frame away from the table, so I’m pretty sure it was deliberately done so that Santa could hear. I ask him if he’s sure and he says it’s fine and everyone else agrees.

As we’re waiting for the desk to sort the paperwork out and to bring the prizepool over we all share our relief that we didn’t end up chopping with the misery guts (up to this point I’ve not called him Santa at the table although the resemblance is obvious). One player comments that “he’s a grade A asshole” whilst another adds “I know, I always thought Santa was meant to be jolly” which sends me into hysterics as I tell the other players that I’ve been calling him miserable Santa in my head for the last few hours.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Are you someone important?

So now fast forward about 6 months since my 1st Vegas trip and I’m starting a position which entails travelling to the US for half of the time – mainly New York & LA. But I’ve worked out a way to keep expenses down as well as getting a healthy dose of poker thrown in for good measure. When I have a week or so in LA I really only need to be there for a couple of days during the week and it’s pretty easy to work from anywhere else on the proviso that I’m only a short travelling time away when I do need to be in town. So that place would be Vegas – the hotels are generally cheaper and I’m only an hour or so away so I can quite easily head to LA in the morning then head back to Vegas in the evening.

When I realised that I was going to spend the best part of a few years flying here, there and everywhere I knew I needed to achieve frequent flyer status. It has benefits such as extra luggage allowance (albeit I rarely check bags), the ability to select better seats at the time of booking rather than when checking in for a flight and lounge access (read free booze!!). I credit my miles to BA’s programme and they have agreements through One World that means my status is recognised on American Airlines. That’s important because I knew that I would be flying a lot internally in the US. I already had mid level status (BA Silver / One World Sapphire) but as my year was coming to an end I was only a few points short of top level status (BA Gold / One World Emerald) so I decided to use a day to mileage run to get over the line - I would be achieving top level within 4 months anyway but this run would give me top level benefits during that time. I found a really good fare LAS-LAX-SFO-LAX-LAS for under $250 which would get me over the line and all it took was a day out of my schedule.

The first flight was mid morning and pretty forgettable – I normally have a weekday policy of no hard liquor before 12pm but the next flight from LAX was scheduled for 12.30 so I could get myself a G&T. I can usually tell how good a crew is on AA by their pre flight service – company policy dictates they should offer a pre flight drink in domestic 1st class. This should mean an open bar but some crews will offer water or OJ only and any attempt to order something different is met by either rolled eyes and served grudgingly or flatly refused. This crew were good in that they offered a full open bar and offered refills before take off. Once in the air the drinks service was good and they were still offering refills up until our final descent. So by the time we arrived at SFO I’d had 3 double G&Ts and it was barely 2pm.  The return flight from SFO-LAX was only 50 minutes after I’d arrived and it was operated by the same plane and same crew that had come up from LAX so the crew did a double take as I reboarded the plane and took the same seat that I’d vacated 30 minutes earlier. Drinks service was good again and I ordered my usual G&T before and during the flight. Upon arriving at LAX I had about 75 mins before the flight back to LAS so I headed to the admirals club to use the facilities and grab another drink. I headed over to the gate at 25 minutes to departure time only to find that it was the same gate that I’d just arrived at. I walked onto the plane and was met by exactly the same crew again for the 3rd flight in a row. Again the crew say hello and asked me if I was doing a mileage run – I tell them what I’m doing and they said they see it all the time. I take my seat (again the same seat) and order another G&T which I’ve nearly finished before the last passenger arrives and takes the seat next to me. Usually when this happens it’s a Federal Air Marshall as they nearly always board last and take an aisle seat at the front of the plane but I can usually recognise them by being burly guys with a badly concealed weapon, in this case it’s quite a petite lady in her mid 40s so I’m pretty sure she was just running late rather than being a FAM.

Just to add colour to the story later on I’ll let you know that I’m wearing jeans & a T-shirt and I’ve got fairly scruffy trainers on (I rarely dress smart when flying unless heading to a meeting and am usually one of the scruffiest people on the plane). My only hand luggage is a copy of The Economist magazine which I’ve been reading all day.

As soon as we’re in the air the drinks service begins – without me even needing to ask for a drink one of the flight attendants brings me a G&T and states “I presume you want your usual Mr AC?” Now it’s obvious that I’m drinking alcohol as I’m handed a ½ full single serving gin bottle so I couldn’t be mistaken for dead heading crew or an off duty pilot for instance. The lady next to me then orders a drink (so I’ve been served before the other passengers have even been asked if they want a drink) then turns to me and looks at me very quizzically. She can see how scruffily dressed I am and is obviously a bit taken back that the crew seem to know me. She then asks me “Are you someone important?” I laugh a bit and she continues “you’re drinking booze so you’re presumably not crew but they seem to know who you are – are you famous or important?”

Now I’d usually make something up along the lines of I’m in the Colorado coastguard (more on that story later) but on this occasion I was halfway through my ninth or 10th double G&T of the day and not quick witted enough to actually think something up that was either intelligent or amusing so I just said no but told her that the crew had been following me around all day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I called you – you need to show your cards

This is the last thing of interest that I’ll post regarding my 1st trip to Vegas – we were staying at the Rio and had walked over to the Strip in over 100 degree heat stopping off at Caesars Palace (surely that should have a possessive apostrophe but that’s my pedantry kicking in) for a drink before I went to find a game. I got sat in seat 2 at a 1/2 table at the only empty seat they had available. At my left was a pretty aggressive player which I didn’t overly like but I didn’t see an empty seat for at least an hour so couldn’t move.

The guy in seat 3 was opening preflop at least 30% of the time (he’d never limp) then invariably C-bet on the flop. He’d fold or raise if someone played back at him but over the course of an hour I don’t recall him having to showdown a hand so I had no real read on what his range was. With some people you can tell that they’ll happily showdown 8-4 offsuit but this guy didn’t fit that bill. I’d tightened up a bit and had treaded water for about an hour and I think I was around my initial buy in of $300 (seat 3 had around $550) when this hand occurred:

I’m in the BB and look down at my least favourite paired hand of JJ. Seat 3 makes it $8 UTG and gets 3 callers before I act, I call and we see a flop of 9-8-7 rainbow. I check and seat 3 leads out $20 into a pot of $40, 1 call from middle position before I call. 2 on the turn and there’s all suits on the board so I can discount a flush draw, I check and seat 3 bets $60 into $100, MP folds and I call. 6 on the river is pretty scary and I check hoping that seat 3 slows down – he doesn’t. He leads for $120 into $220.

(For the avoidance of doubt I know I played the hand badly, I’ve butchered it from start to finish and am only including this story because of what happened at showdown - for a better way to play JJ please watch this video

Now I have a real decision to make – I’ve pretty much discounted an overpair to my JJ – obviously not impossible but given his preflop action he’s not rangebound to QQ, KK or AA. But, does he have 10-10, A-10 etc or, even worse, is he holding a 5? Or potentially a set?  But it’s quite possible that he’s done this with AK, AQ or something like A-9 so he’s actually hit part of the flop. I tank for a while and eventually announce call. It’s at this point the title makes sense.

After I announce call I turn to him and wait for him to turn his hand over. He does nothing. I tell him that I called just in case he hadn’t heard and he says “I know”. Yet still does nothing. This goes on for about 45 seconds so we’re pushing 90 seconds since my initial call. If this guy is slow rolling I’m going to go nuts but his reluctance to show suggests he didn’t like my call. I tell him he has to show and he responds by asking if I have a straight – wtf?!!! The dealer has not done anything at this point apart from sit there so she now pipes up with “someone show the winner” but it’s not directed at anyone so isn’t helping the situation. I tell him directly now “I called you, you need to show your cards”. “Can you show first” is his reply. Again – wtf???! Now the dealer finally chimes in with “Sir – you’ve been called. Show or muck”. “Why” is the reply “I thought you showed in order of action”. The dealer now explains the rules but it’s close to 5 minutes since the hand ended. He listens to this then asks what happens if he mucks, the dealer responds but we’re still eating time and the other players at the table are fuming. He’s keeps looking at me hoping that I’m showing but after this palaver there’s no way I’m giving him the satisfaction. The dealer announces that she’s calling the floor which prompts the guy to huff and puff “OK, ok, ok” and eventually turns over 3-3. TFFT! I table my hand and gratefully scoop the pot. He plays the next couple of hands under a bit of a cloud while still mumbling under his breath that I should have shown my hand first before leaving 10 mins later.

I can understand if this is his first time playing and really doesn’t understand the rules but his standard of play showed no indication of that being the case. I think he obviously knew the rules and given that it was only the threat of a floor person coming over that made him act suggested he might well have been warned for it previously. He has some form of showdown value with a pair but I’m obviously not calling with worse so why has he not just mucked? To me it’s an obvious angle shoot – he wanted information on me and was never giving his up if I’d tabled first

What’s your take on this – would you have acted any differently?

Also – what’s the worst angle shoot you’ve ever seen?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Vegas fever was about to set in – hard

After the late night session at the Rio the night before we headed over to Paris for their breakfast buffet (ignore what I said earlier about buffets causing obesity as everyone knows that hangover food is free calories – don’t they??) which was included in the price we’d paid the day before. As much as the world derides English cuisine there’s a couple of dishes that we crush the world at – one being the full English breakfast and the other being a Sunday roast. This was definitely not a decent full English but I was massively hungover so just needed quantity – which I got in spades.

Most of the rest of the day was spent at the pool until we all headed over to Caesars (poker session posted separately here

Mrs AC’s relatives left the next day so we played a tournament together at the Bellagio – unfortunately my session ended early when my flopped 2 pair holding AQ got beaten by a rivered straight but Mrs AC made the final table and cashed for $800 from a $125 buy in. I sought solace in the free drinks at the cash table whilst Mrs AC continued her run and I was truly oiled by the time she found me – dear god I love Vegas.

Most of the next 2 days were spent relaxing during the day followed by too much eating and drinking in the evenings and we didn’t want to play poker (read I did but Mrs AC didn’t) – by the time we headed to the airport on Friday we were both shattered. LAS is a great place to lose your last few bucks but a horrid place if you expect anything else (I usually fly over 100 flights a year so am still disappointed by LAS). The flight to LAX was pretty bumpy and with no drinks service we’re both parched by the time we arrive at LAX.

At the time there was no direct transfer from T4 to TBIT so we had to go through security again at TBIT – dear god that was painful but 30 mins later we’re in the one world lounge at TBIT and the pain is forgotten.

The flight back to London was a blur as I fell asleep about an hour into it and woke up 2 hours from London – I knew I’d had fun in Vegas as I rarely sleep that long on a flight. Little was I to know that the Vegas bug had bitten me and Vegas fever was about to set in – hard.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Of course poker is a sport – but only if you’re British

There’s a lot of debate over whether poker can truly be classified as a sport – I know my drinking arm gets a decent workout over a long session and some people’s mouths must ache after whining for hours on end. The same question has been asked over bridge and chess. The European Court of Justice has recently ruled that bridge can be classified as a sport which has tax implications in the UK – VAT (effectively our version of sales tax) isn’t charged on certain sporting events and also the UK’s central sporting body currently gives no funding to non sports.

So I’m attempting to settle the argument once and for all, utilising my analytical skills (and the power of Google on a rainy Sunday morning) I’m going to show the numbers.

For the purposes of this I’m going to exclude all North American sports – most of the world tends to compete internationally before calling themselves world champions, I’m also going to exclude single sport events such as the rugby, cricket & football world cups. So there’s only set of numbers that I really need to look at – the Olympics. Now there’s no arguments that the Olympics are the pinnacle of most sportsmen’s (or sportswomen’s) careers but are all the events technically sports?

That sounds like a stupid question but hear me out – there are plenty of events in the Olympics where you can excel without technically being called an athlete but does that mean the event should be precluded from being called a sport? Not at all. Have a look at some of the Olympic events if you don’t believe me – shooting, archery, sailing & dressage (essentially horse dancing) could generally be done by anyone with the right equipment with no real degree of physical fitness required on the participant’s behalf (OK being 400lbs should probably preclude you from riding a horse but you get the drift).

So I’ve broken Olympic events down into 2 categories – sedentary and active. Any sedentary event involves the participant partaking of his or her event whilst being sat down or being stood still for the majority of the event. Quite easy you think but for the purposes of my analysis sedentary events include rowing & cycling which are technically active events but the participant is sitting down. I’ve then used the gold medal tables from the last 2 (2012 & 2016) Olympics analysing the 5 countries (USA, China, UK, Russia & Germany) who won the most gold medals and the results are surprising.

The USA, China & Russia are remarkably alike in that they gain nearly all of their gold medals in what I’ve classified as active events such as swimming, athletics & gymnastics (the only time this figure dips below 90% is USA’s number in 2012 and that’s only to 89%) whilst the UK & Germany are the complete opposite in that the majority of golds are achieved in sedentary events as shown in the tables below:

The numbers are the % of gold medals won by that country in the 2 sets of events

Americans, Chinese and Russians excel at athletic events where physical attributes are the defining factor between success and failure whilst the British and Germans are quite comfortable achieving success whilst sitting down.

So back to the original question of whether poker can be called a sport. I’ve already made the argument that athletic ability should not preclude an event being called a sport and the ECJ has ruled that another card game can be classified as a sport. So of course poker is a sport – but only if you’re British, or perhaps German.

Vegas, Vegas, Vegas, Vegas and the 2 best words in the history of the world

A few years ago was my first trip over to the west coast of the US – I needed to be in LA for a few days to meet a potential client and wanted to have a few days off whilst I was over there. Mrs AC has family in LA so it was a no brainer to combine business with pleasure.

My trip almost never got off the ground – for various reasons I had to be in Europe the day before heading to LA so needed to get from Brussels for a flight to London for an onward flight to LA (meeting Mrs AC in London along the way). Rail delays from the centre of Brussels screwed up the line to the airport so I was forced to tell a cab driver to put his foot down on the drive to the airport – made check in with about 10 mins to spare. Mrs AC wanted to do some shopping in the US so I was forced to check a virtually empty bag which I was prepared to dump in the event of not making the check in time but that proved unnecessary. Flight to London was uneventful given it’s about an hour in the air and before long I’m in the lounge with Mrs AC enjoying a couple of drinks before the flight.

Now fast forward to the end of the week and I now know I’ve got the next week free – on Saturday Mrs AC’s family have booked us into the Rio from Sunday till Friday and we’ll set off for the drive on Sunday morning (Mrs AC and I are scheduled to fly back LAS-LAX-LHR on Friday whilst Mrs AC’s family will drive back to LA mid week).

Saturday night and I can’t sleep like a kid before Christmas – dear god I’m excited!! Early Sunday morning and after a few coffees and loading up the car we’re ready to go. “Vegas, vegas, vegas, vegas” I sing (I really did this) until Mrs AC tells me to STFU before she belts me! Pitstop for coffee halfway there (maybe Barstow?) and I can’t believe there’s actually a casino 2 feet after crossing the state line from California into Nevada. Once in sight of Vegas there’s miles and miles of queues coming the other way and we’re at the Rio around 2pm. After waiting for an inordinate amount of time to check in (Queues are one of my pet hates – I respect the queue and would never cut the line but there always seems to be someone in front of me taking longer than the known age of the universe to do something fairly simple, whether that’s at an ATM, a ticket machine, airport etc but anyway I digress) we’re all set and head off to the buffet. Now I’m not a big fan of buffets – in the UK they’re usually filled with low quality or cheap food and it encourages over eating as in an economic sense the food is free and everyone loves free food right. Maybe I should flag up a pending obesity crisis given their popularity in the US – oh hang on. But the food is remarkably good and I resist the temptation to eat my own bodyweight in roast beef – just.

Once we’re all fed and watered I scope out the poker tournaments and decide on the MGM Grand at 7pm for $80 (if I knew then what I know now I’d have chosen the same time at Venetian for $125 for the better structure). Mrs AC et al don’t want to partake but we all head over to the strip on the shuttle bus before I head off.

It’s whilst sitting at the table waiting for the tournament to begin that I hear the 2 best words in the history of the world – free drinks I ask the dealer what a beer costs and he looks at me like I’m some sort of cretin - In the UK casinos don’t offer free alcohol and I had no idea that US casinos were any different. So I obviously order a beer and tip generously hoping that the waitress will come by again quickly. She does and it sets my expectations high but probably not as high as my blood alcohol level is going to get tonight.

Now to the poker – I played my standard game and was shocked at how bad some people were. Calling on the river with a busted draw or with an obviously beaten hand was pretty standard but everyone seemed to be having fun. Especially me once I’d got a few more free drinks in me. 2 hours in and half the table are still limping in to pots, I raise from the button holding KK and the SB reraises, I jam and he announces that he’s probably ahead before calling and tabling A6 off! Well done sir – if you’re calling a 4 bet shove holding A6 you are most definitely, obviously, ahead not just probably. Before I can even start to shake my head there’s an ace on the flop and I’m crippled. Managed to scoop one more beer from the waitress before getting my chips in with AJ and getting 4 callers – oh joy as someone with 8-4 flops 2 pair and I’m toast.

Headed off to meet Mrs AC and we head back to the Rio in a cab for a few hours of more drinking at a cash game – although she’s not a regular player Mrs AC can hold her own at a low stakes game but her cousin and husband had barely played before. It was a fun table with everyone drinking (which I now know is a rarity even at low stakes) so no one was really noticing them just paying the blinds and folding nearly every time (this must be the best way to drink in Vegas as the drinks at the Rio come pretty thick and fast – a drinks service every round of poker was the norm that night).

I got into a pot with Mrs AC (although I rarely played against Mrs AC we always had an agreement not to soft play each other) when I was holding KK – I raised UTG pre and she called from the BB with 1 other in MP, low rainbow board and I bet again, 3rd person folds and Mrs AC check-calls. Turn is an Ace which I’m sure Mrs AC is holding and she bets about half pot. Now Mrs AC is the last person I want to lose a pot to – if she’s bluffing she’ll wind me up about it and if I make a bad call she’ll bust my balls for it so the official order is Rock-AC-Hard place. I call thinking she won’t barrel the river unless she actually has an ace. River is a blank and she again bets about half the pot – this just screams that she’s holding an ace. So I ask her if she has an ace – this obviously telegraphs my hand but there’s no way my life will be worth living if I raise her with anything other than the stone cold nuts. She asks me if she’s calling my UTG raise with rags given she knows how I play. I’m thinking more about this than I’ve thought about any other hand all night – she knows my UTG range and knows I won’t usually C-bet a flop with air unless I’m heads up. I know she’s likely to have caught some part of the flop – quite possibly a straight draw but that doesn’t explain her pre flop call so I can only think she has something like A4 with the board reading 2-3-8-A-10. She’s unlikely to have called pre with 4-5 and even if she has got that she’d have told me that she doesn’t have an ace. So I fold – I really don’t want to see her cards but she’s going to show anyway. J-10. FML!!!! She scoops and proudly tells the table that she knew I had KK and was afraid of the Ace. Well played young lady

About 3am we all stumble away from the poker table for some rest – not a bad 1st day in Vegas but we’ve got all week for some more fun

My poker epiphany

I’d been quite happy being a donk and I’d been playing live sessions about once a fortnight or so for about 6 months when I had a chance encounter. I was on the tube (the subway system) in London when a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if my name was AC. I said it was and he introduced himself. I immediately recognised his name as I’d sat next to him in a class at school – maybe 12 or 13 years previously but I told him I still remembered him. We exchanged contact details and arranged to meet up a week or so later.

We met for a beer and caught up about our school days – general stuff about who we were still in contact with, what anyone else was doing and how our lives had changed over the past dozen or so years. As we caught up I mentioned that on the night we’d met on the tube I’d been off to play poker. He said that didn’t surprise him as I was always good at maths (we’d sat next to each other in maths class when we were 17 or 18) and that I must do fairly well at it. When I said that I wasn’t very good he was surprised and he asked why not. I explained and he said he’d send me something to read. It would literally change my outlook on my game.

He sent me a copy of a thesis he’d written in university – whilst it didn’t explicitly involve poker many of the discussion points were from game theory. I read this and a few others that he suggested over the next couple of weeks. Then it happened. It was like a lightbulb going off in my head – I finally “get” poker.

Now this blog is meant to be a light hearted look into the life of AC including travels, drunken idiocy (there will be quite a bit of that) and quite a lot of poker so I’ll leave you for now with the best bit of advice I gathered from my old classmate: It’s like high school maths – if you can’t show your workings then you might as well have guessed. 

I was the donk at the table

It’s the most commonly used phrase in poker (apart maybe from “one time”) – if you can’t work out who the donk at the table is, it’s probably you. But I didn’t care – I sometimes had fun at the poker tables. At times I definitely wasn’t the worst player at the table but I was still the donk. I knew the rules but I didn’t really know how to play.

I started playing online in the late 2000s – mostly low stakes cash or tournaments and I could barely master those. I’d play the money rather than the game – I’d think that if a tournament only cost me a couple of bucks to enter then I may as well make that dodgy call for all of my chips because I was only losing my small buy in.

I (slightly) improved and started playing live games. Where I started to play in London is on the edge of Chinatown so attracted quite a few gamblers. It also attracted a large number of reasonably skilled poker players who used to prey on the gamblers. And there was me still being a donk. I’d not be a donk in the sense of a loose aggressive player raising light and bluffing every street but exactly the worst sort in that I’d call light and generally lose by being passive rather than being aggressive.

My main plan in tournaments was to tread water for long enough then hopefully double up by picking up a decent pair or a big ace. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but the sorts of tournaments I played which attracted over 100 people as standard were far too skilled for my lack of a plan to actually bear fruit. My cash game barely fared any better – at least I could book a winning session now and again as I’d sometimes get lucky but it was very rarely because I’d played well and it certainly wasn’t because I’d manage to out play anyone.