Monday, August 23, 2010

Backgammon hustle story

After a wonderful week at the Cape with Ali and her family, I am finally back in New York and finally able to watch my stored up WSOP broadcasts. Unfortunately, I can't post this story that came up in the first Day 1 broadcast of the Main Event, but it's awesome!

Erik Seidel recalls a story about how his mother was hustled at Scrabble to the tune of $160. Seidel got so pissed at the guy that he goaded him to play him at Backgammon and Erik emptied the guy's pockets. Finally, the unfortunate hustler had nothing left to play for except his boots, so he puts them up for grabs and Seidel wins them too! It's snowing and cold outside and the guy isn't going to give up his boots, but a crowd forms and chants "Boots! Boots! Boots!" until the guy takes them off, hands them to Seidel and walks home in the snow, in his socks. That's epic.

Say what you want about poker, but the best hustle stories come from games other than card games. Pool, Chess, Backgammon, Monopoly, Scrabble, Candyland (!). The only hustle stories I hear about in poker involve outright cheating. Anybody got a good poker hustle story for me?

The real action

What do poker players do during the World Series when they're not playing in a tournament? Well, sometimes they play in the juicy cash games that spring up. And sometimes, they play high stakes Backgammon. Here's a clip of Phil Laak playing for $240 a point in a side game during the 2010 WSOP.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Man sentenced to play poker

Samuel McMaster Jr., a former insurance agent who lists his occupation as 'professional poker player', has been convicted of fraud to the tune of $500,000. As part of his sentence, a judge in New Mexico has ordered him to go out and use his mad poker skillz to win back the money he stole!

Interesting. The article mentions that since the IRS recognizes professional poker playing as a legitimate profession, then winning the money in poker tournaments is, likewise, a legitimate sentence.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I am the law, bitches! I am a lawyer! (Part II)

Seeing how Helpful Local (HL) was playing so LAG (Loose and Aggressive), I really wanted to get a seat change in position on him. But the table wasn't moving anytime soon. The only seats that opened up were the guy to my right, who for some reason felt this table was too passive (!). And Convention Guys 1 + 2 (CG 1+2), were directly on the right of HL and not seats that I wanted to take. Incidentally, it hurt a LOT that CG1 + 2 left at the same time, with big profits for both of them. If they didn't have to go to a 'meeting', their mobneys would eventually find their way back into my stack. As I'v said before in many previous posts, one of the downsides to playing poker in new casinos is the limited amount of time I have to give myself. Usually it's because there's another casino I have to get to in order to maximize my visits per trip to the end of accomplishing my goal of visiting every legal American Poker Room. This time, it was because I had to pick up Ali from the Jersey Bar exam. I gave myself until 2:15p, which would give me 90 minutes to traverse the normal 60 minute trip, allowing myself time for traffic and such. To be late to pck her up was NOT an option. Have you ever seen a woman just after having taken an 8 hour exam?!? Yeah, that's what I thought.

So it took me about another hour of dicking around before I was able to get a seat change in position on HL, and sure enough it was helpful to my chip stack. I was down to $110 in my 3rd buyin, which put me at -$490 for the session, the lowest point I would reach.

I was in the BB when I looked down at AA, the most beautiful thing you can see in a cash game. I *love*, like totally heart, being in the BB with rockets. It allows me to gather all the possible information pre-flop before making my move. In this case, there was a few limps and then a Young Gun (YG), who had taken my old seat, raised to $15. It folded to me. I decided right then and there that I wanted to play for a big pot. Instead of re-popping, I called and saw most of the limpers fold except for Friendly Black Guy (FBG) who called as well. We took the flop 3 handed and the flop came out K-6-6. This was a very good flop for me. I'm almost certain I'm good here and I'm even more certain that the King paired somebody. I lead out with $20, FBG calls and YG, who only has $65 behind, pushes! YG raised pre-flop, so it's hard to put him on a 6, but even if he did have the 6, FBG outchipped both of us. So I did something clever. Rather than re-raise for isolation, I smooth called the raise, thinking that my call might induce FBG to call as well. If YG has a 6, I could still break even by winning a sidepot with FBG. FBG obliged by making the call and it was heads up into the turn. I had about $50 left. The turn was an 8 and I threw in my last $50. FBG called and I turned over my Aces. YG flipped up KQ and said, "Wow, you're sweet here". FBG kept his cards to himself. River was a harmless 4 and FBG mucked! The dealer pushed me my nearly triple up pot and I was back in business!

About 30 minutes later, I tangle with HL in a big pot. I have QT on the button. It limps around and the flop is A K J. W00t! I flop the nuts and I feel great. What's more, there's a great possibility that someone hit that flop hard. It checks to HL who bets out $20. I Hollywood for a bit before calling. One guy at the end of the table calls too. Turn is the 8. I'm not invincible here, except for a higher flush draw, of which there's only one out there (the King). But the odds of that are long against so I don't feel badly. It checks to HL who bets out $45. I do more Hollywooding (And the oscar goes too....) before calling. The other guy folds. The river is the 3, which is a bad card for me because I want the board to be a rainbow. He checks to me and I have to figure out how much to extract from him. The pot is at about $160 and after a breif delay of thinking, I put out $65. He snap calls and I curse myself for putting out the wrong number (too low). I flip up the flush and he has to look at it a few seconds before he realizes the runner-runner flush didn't mean anything to me. "Oh, you flopped it," he says. Yep, sometimes I get lucky.

Now I'm sitting at around $450 and I'm feeling better about myself. HL leaves and is replaced by Lesbian Golf Pro (LGP). LGP is actually a married older woman, but if you met her, believe me, you'd think she was a Lesbian Golf Pro (Not that there's anything wrong with that AT ALL). LGP is a pretty solid player but I get the best of her when my JT bests her KQ on a board of Q97K4. I flopped the OESD, she didn't bet enough to put me out and I turned the nuts to her top two pair. I raised her on the river and she called to the tune of a $110 profit hand. I was now only $60 down for the session and it was 1:30p. I had around 45 minutes left, which I spent diddling around. By the time I left, I was at $512. An 88 dollar loss on the session, but a far cry from the $500 I was down a few hours before. I'm convinced that if I had had more time, I could have turned a profit on the table. If only...

I cashed out at the cage and turned the $5 slot credit I got for free for signing up for their players card into $10. I cashed out at the ultra-slow cage and walked away with my head feeling high.

Here's my final recommendation for the poker room at the Sands Bethlehem casino: It's not time yet.

Everything good takes time to ripen and the 'just plucked off the vine' feeling of the Sands poker room leaves more of a grape juice taste in your mouth than a fine wine. It's got plenty of potential, it just needs time to age. They need more tables, for starters. With just the 12 tables there is going to be a HUGE line to play $1-$2 if you go on a weekend before around 9am. And who wants to arrive at 9am on a weekend? Weekends are for sleeping in. But not for waiting 3 hours or more to get a seat. Also, the dealers and floor, while more competent than a starting poker room ought to be, still have a few kinks to iron out. The most RETARDED rule that I've ever heard in any poker room came at the Sands. This is not a floor RULING, by the way, but a bona fide rule of the room. Not just some floor person's odd opinion.

The story went like this. There was a guy in the 7 seat who made a raise to $15. The guy in the 8 seat hadn't done anything yet and the guy in the 9 seat, who by all accounts hadn't realized seat 8 hadn't acted, announced a re-raise. Before he could call out a number, seat 8 spoke up and said he hadn't acted yet. Seat 8 then announced a re-raise to $45 at which point seat 9 tried to fold. The dealer stopped him and told him that HE WAS OBLIGATED TO HIS VERBAL OUT OF TURN RAISE! Now, in every other poker room in the country that I've ever been in, the only time seat 9 would be obligated to raise would be if seat 8 had folded or called. When seat 8 re-raises, it changes the material action that seat 9 was basing HIS raise on, and therefore a new action has commenced and seat 9 can take a different course. The floor was quickly called and confirmed that verbal actions at the Sands Casino are binding, EVEN IF THEY ARE OUT OF TURN AND THE ACTION HAS CHANGED IN BETWEEN! Therefore, if seat 8 had called all-in, seat 9 would be OBLIGATED to raise on top of that amount. Clearly, that's madness. So if you are at the Sands Bethlehem casino playing poker, make DAMNED sure you know where the action is at all times. You were warned.

So there you have it. I heard a rumor that the Philadelphis Parx casino will be getting a 100 table poker room soon (which would make it the largest poker room on the east coast) and that the Mount Airy and PA Bethlehem casinos would be expanding soon. When that happenes, I will wholeheartedly recommend it. But, for no, the Borgata is still the King for New York Players. Most bang for the buck, poker-wise, even if it is a slightly longer commute to get there.

My trip back to Somerset, NJ to pick up Ali from the bar exam was entirely uneventful. The rain from earlier in the day had cleared up and the traffic was flowing smoothly. I arrived at 3:20p and discovered that the test had not only started late, but they were going to let all the students out all at the same time so they could count the exams returned as some sort of anti-cheating measure. I laid on the grass and read from Ali's Kindle in the meantime, a bucolic experience that I hardly get to do in the concrete jungles of Manhattan. It wasn't until 4:20p that Ali finally walked out, exhausted yet glowing from the knowledge that she was finally and completely done with her law school experience. I am as proud of her as I have ever been of anyone or anything. She worked really really hard in the last two months to prepare for these exams, and I'm confident she did well. I wish the job market could be kind to her, but that's something we'll take as it comes. We drove back to Jersey City, NJ, where I had rented the car from to drive her out. I had gotten the car at Dollar Rent-A-Car, next to the Newport Mall, because it was less than half the price of a Zip Car. We dropped off the car and had burgers, fries and beer at a P.J. Clarke's ripoff that was in the mall. The beer was good though. And we took the PATH train back to the World Trade Center. The 15 minute walk back to the apartment was the longest walk of my life. Both of us were pretty wiped out and every step amongst the throngs of tourists felt like agony. But boy, there was no better feeling in the world than cranking up the air conditioning in the bedroom, stripping off our sweaty clothes and flopping into bed for a well deserved rest.

A huge chapter in Ali's life has been closed and a new and exciting one can begin now. But first, August. There will be nothing in August for her except greatly deserved rest and relaxation. We're taking a week off in mid August to stay with her parents and siblings at a rented house on Cape Cod in Falmouth, MA. They've been doing it every year for twenty years and it's a very nice tradition. A full week of lobster dinners, clams, oysters, sand, sun and ocean. I'll go on a whale watching excursion, rent a bike for a day on Martha's Vineyard and do some local antiquing. I have a hankering to buy a nice painting of a ship at sea, if I can find one that isn't a hack job made for tourists. Then September and October will be busy with job hunting and wedding duties. Plenty going on, but for now...peace.