Friday, December 27, 2013

Casino Player Magazine

Among the various magazines available in some Strip poker rooms is Casino Player. Described as "America's gaming lifestyle magazine", it contains articles on gambling strategy as well as up-to-date casino news, and dining and show reviews.

They claim to look out for the player but it's blatantly obvious by the ads and content that they are deeply in bed with the casino industry. This would be fair enough if they didn't resort to the misleading and luring promises on their front cover and inside.

So, for example, on the cover of the June 2013 edition we are promised "tips for FINALLY beating three card poker". Upon looking inside, the article has the more realistic and sober subheading "Lower the casino's edge with these optimal strategies". Somewhat different from the cover's verbiage and offering no solution to overcoming that pesky 3% house edge.

The latest December 2013 issue has "WINNING BACCARAT STRATEGY" emblazoned on the top left of the cover. Once again, when we bother to actually read the article inside, we are informed that by betting on the banker we will win more frequently than betting on the player, but alas the house edge is still 1.06%. Not to disappoint however, the article ends with "So go ahead and win frequently."

But what really caught my eye was a full-page article about the opening of a new $800-million resort casino. In the sidebar there was the following quote :

Remember this : The house doesn't beat the player. It just gives him the opportunity to beat himself.
-Nicholas Dandalos
"Nick the Greek"
(1883 - 1966)

 Aaah, so that's what keeps the Strip lit up.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sign me up

I may have found my next career choice.

While watching the Nelson Mandela memorial, I couldn't but help notice the ease with which the sign language interpreter conveyed the meaning and emotion of the world leaders' eulogies. It looked fairly simple and I could only discern 7 different signs, making it something even I could master with a little effort.

Once certified, I could be a major asset to any poker room whenever a floor decision needs to be explained to a deaf player.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Finally landed a temporary job

I will be spending the next 2 weeks working as a human directional. Before any of you get overly impressed, it's just a fancy name for a sign twirler. I'll take it though, especially after having botched my last job interview for a position as a wealth management advisor at Morgan Stanley.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I got a fever

The poor fellow in seat 9 was sneezing uncontrollably. Thankfully my seat 3 was outside the contaminated blast zone and therefore in a germ-free area. However I could see the dealer was starting to get visibly agitated and only the internal customer relations training he underwent prevented any verbal response on his part.

Me : Allergies?

Seat 9 : No, I think I'm getting a fever.

Me : I'm a physician. The only prescription is more cowbell.

Seat 9 : Huh?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Vicious animal attack

I apologize for the posting hiatus and am pleased to report that after a 2 week stay at Sunrise Hospital, I was finally released today. A fortnight ago, a confluence of highly unlikely events led to my being set upon by 2 llamas and a miniature horse. Commenting on the incident, officials at the Las Vegas Petting Zoo said it was "extremely unusual and the first of its kind since the zoo's opening 27 years ago".

To its credit, the zoo spared no expense and flew in a highly specialized medical team including 3 groin reconstruction surgeons, ensuring that both my reproductive capacity and voice intonation will thankfully remain intact.

I can now concentrate on rebuilding my career and poker grubstake.

Monday, October 07, 2013


I've been reading Card Player magazine for the last 10 years and have yet to encounter a strategy article that I could not easily understand. That is until the latest issue (October 2, 2013) containing Reid Young's "How to beat those pesky loose reraisers (or how to be so pesky!)".

Reid Young is a poker coach and author of "The Blue Book : An Advanced Strategy Guide for No-Limit Hold'em Cash Games", an e-book that was initially priced at $2,500 when it came out in 2010. He also posts on 2+2 as shootaa.

Card Player is available for free in card rooms and the target audience of the articles in the magazine generally reflect this. Some writers will have a series of pieces in consecutive issues, each building on the previous one. However, this is Young's first article on the subject. To be fair, he does state :

"A comprehensive look into all of these topics would take scores of articles,..." 

However, we are then bombarded with the likes of :

"At a particular, though opponent dependent, inflection point on a value curve, the ability to charge an opponent  for drawing to a big hand is diminished by an increasingly large preflop stack size, as long as reraise size is held relatively constant."


"The need for an equity based range in certain cases makes clear that with different stack sizes, the polarity of the reraising range varies."

There is no doubt that Reid Young has a lot to offer. However, until he descends from Olympus, Card Player is not the appropriate forum for his material.

Monday, September 30, 2013

I give up

Slept all weekend not wishing to wake up and face the real world, which unfortunately came crumbling down around me on Friday when I failed to pass the Head Lice Removal Technician qualifying exam.

My presentation in front of the examining board was going well as I confidently demonstrated the different species of lice which I held in an open petri dish. An ill-timed sneeze, however, resulted in the accidental infestation of all those within a 5 foot radius of me, thereby prematurely ending any chances of my qualifying.

I'm all out of ideas.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nearly there

Apologies for the recent lull in posting, but I have been preoccupied with studying for my final certification exams which hopefully will lead to full qualification as a Head Lice Removal Technician.

Final assessment is Friday consisting of a 3-hour written test, followed by practical treatment of a severe infestation case.

I know I can do this.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Tipping the dealer – IV

We have already established that a dealer’s tip expectation is directly correlated to the size of the pot. Because the dealer expects me to share my good fortune with him, I view the dealer as a business partner, to be rewarded when times are good and to be ignored when I'm not doing as well.

For those who wish to avoid this extra overhead, there is always the option of playing online, and a comprehensive list of US sites may be found here.

As a player, winning a pot means nothing to me unless taken in context, and certain criteria have to be met before a dealer is eligible for a tip.

Am I winning for the session?
While this may not concern the dealer, it has a disproportionate influence on the size and frequency of my tipping. If I am winning, I tip generously on big pots, and at least $1 on the smaller ones. If on the other hand I am down for the session, I will hold back on the tips, depending on how deep in the hole I am.

Am I winning in this particular dealer’s down?
I always make a mental note of my stack size each time a new dealer sits down. As my business partner, I take care of her as long as I am profitable during her down. If, however, I start losing, I will wait till I return to my starting level before resuming my tipping.

So, for example, dealer X sits down when I have $500 in front of me, and I lose $200 in the next 10 minutes. I then win a $40 pot. Dealer X will get nothing. I have no qualms about this as X was (or should have been) tipped by those who took my $200.

My relationship with the dealer
Some dealers address me by my first name and always ask how I’m doing. Others barely make eye contact, and haven’t said a word to me in 2 years. You can guess who is going to get the better tips.

The size of the pot
This needs no explanation.

The amount of luck involved
If I win a $200 pot after being a 90% dog on the turn, the dealer’s getting a couple of redbirds, instead of the usual $2 or $3.

Miscellaneous external factors
Some players never tip the dealer. That is their prerogative and I would never make any comment about it. However, if I see a dealer has gone a long time without a tip, I will take extra good care of him should he push a pot my way.

Finally I wish to emphasize that there is no carryover to the next session. If a dealer has “cost” me $300 today, the slate is wiped clean for the next session. Naturally, this also applies to dealers that have been “good” to me.

And that, more or less, is the rationale behind my tipping philosophy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Breaking the silence

There was an eerie tension in the air at my table last night, most likely due to 2 big pots and even bigger suckouts, separately involving 4 different protagonists. From seat 5, opposite the dealer and where everyone could hear, it was time for my schtick :

Me : Went for my routine check-up today.

Dealer : Is everything OK?

Me : Everything seemed to be going fine until he stuck his index finger up my arse!

Dealer : Well that's a normal procedure.

Me : So you don't think I should change dentists?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tipping the dealer - III

Conversation that I have heard many times at the poker table :

Player 1 : Hey, the spades royal flush high hand jackpot is only $100. Last time I was here it was over $2,000. Who won it?

Player 2 : Big Al hit it last night. In fact our very own Dealer Dylan dealt it to him and only got a $10 tip.

Player 1 : Is that true, Dylan? You should've dealt it to me, you would've gotten $200.

Dealer Dylan (scowling) : I shouldn't really comment.

For those unfamiliar with the procedure, once a high hand is hit, the dealer shouts out "high hand" and counts down the deck, the floor comes over to visually verify the high hand, tells the dealer to push the pot and go on to the next hand. All the necessary paperwork, including tax forms if necessary, is handled by the floor, and when everything is ready the floor returns to the table with the payment and gives it to the dealer who then disburses it to the lucky winner (after finishing dealing the current hand). In a well run room, a high hand may cost a dealer 1 minute in lost dealing time.

So when dealer Jennifer Gay says "you're tipping for service, not for results", she is in the minority. Every dealer I've spoken to is more "results oriented", like Dylan.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tipping the dealer - II

Thank you to those that commented in my previous post. It would appear that out of the 8 people who have expressed an opinion to date, a majority of 6 thought that a $1 tip would be appropriate, one person maintained that the dealer didn't deserve "a fucking penny", and one expressed doubts about the situation and preferred to remain on the sidelines.

From the outset let me state that tipping is a very personal matter and that there is no right or wrong answer for each and every situation. For the sake of simplicity let us assume there are 5 general categories of players :

1. Those that never tip.

2. Those that tip intermittently.

3. Those that tip $1 for each pot regardless of size.

4. Those that tip at least $1 depending on the size of the pot.

5. Mr Subliminal (to be defined).

As it happens, in this particular instance I did not tip the dealer. Yet, as I will show later, this dealer would have been better off having 9 Mr Subliminal's at his table than any of the other types.

One other thing. By definition, the "you're tipping for service, not for results" crowd must belong to category 3, no?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tipping the dealer - I

This will be the first in a series of posts outlining my philosophy and methodology of tipping the dealer. I will start with an actual example that occurred tonight in an unnamed Strip casino.

Dealer X sits down when I have $300 in front of me, and shortly thereafter I call a shortstack's pre-flop all-in with my KK. He has KJo, making me a 91% favorite. The board runs out

9 8 7 T 4

and I lose $120 to his straight. A few hands later, I win a small pot for a $25 profit. How much should I tip the dealer?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Table talk

When I sit down to play poker, all I ask for is a quiet, peaceful session. I'm not interested in where you're from, or what you do for a living. If you mistakenly happen to ask me, I will ignore your question. If you persist, I will deliberately misinform and disinform.

So when the conversation last night turned to why I hadn't said a word in 4 hours, I finally broke my silence.

"I have a major worry."

"What?" they asked.

"I've accidentally swallowed some Scrabble tiles. My next crap could spell disaster."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ecological breakthrough?

An Australian company, Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS), has released new shark deterrent design technology that is applied to wetsuits to reduce the chance of shark attack.

Although sharks use a number of senses to locate prey, it is known that vision is the crucial sense in the final stage of an attack. By disrupting a shark's visual perception, an attack can either be diverted altogether or at least delayed to allow time to exit the water.

I can still recall the raised eyebrows as I traipsed into the Bellagio poker room last night dressed in one of these wetsuits. I can personally attest to the effectiveness of this new technology as I had my first winning session in 8½ months.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Know Thy Enemy

The venue : Aria 1/3NL

Pre-flop action : 5 players in an unraised pot

Flop : 9s 5s 3s

Post-flop action : I am the big blind holding As9d and lead out with a $10 bet. It is folded to the button, a young, aggressive "internet type" who raises it to $30. I call.

Turn : 9h

I make it $60, internet punk angrily mucks his 5d3d face-up and says "Nice catch, I had you on the flop."

Now I don't normally engage in any post-hand discussion, not even the customary "nice hand". I will occasionally rap the table when appropriate to acknowledge a well-played hand, and conversely have been known to mutter a subdued, barely audible "motherf*cker" when some drooling imbecile hits his gutshot on the river. This is in line with the philosophy of "mum poker" as espoused by Tommy Angelo, though some may legitimately argue that "barely audible" does not fall into this category.

From the punk's perspective, he sees me as a middle-aged, unsophisticated, unkempt loser, who probably hasn't read a poker book in his life. While this unfortunately is not entirely inaccurate, it's what I want him to think. Unbeknownst to him, I have spent years studying and profiling his internet-playing ass over at CardsChat, an online worldwide poker forum and community. I know what he thinks of me and how he plans to run over me at the table. I respect his knowledge of the game while he has already stereotyped me as an unimaginative nit, thereby affording me a huge advantage.

It is no secret that the transition from online to live play is a difficult one. Firstly, there is the issue of boredom, as witnessed by CardsChat thread titles such as "Live Grind: How to Not Fall Asleep at the Table" and "Tips for keeping concentration during live games?".

Then there is the absence of crutches such as the HUD display and tracking software. In a recent interesting thread  (March 2013) entitled "Playing Live Without Stats? How do you do it?", the opening poster asks  :

       "I am constantly amazed by the number of people who are
        entirely caught up with playing online using the various
        stats programs and such. I was really wondering how the
        heck you guys manage to play live at all.

        Anyone want to take a stab at how you would collect such
        stats playing live?"

Is it any wonder then that these hapless souls spend most of their time hunched over their smartphones, and then have to be prodded by the dealer when it's their turn to act?

Getting back to our hand, I'm sure most readers will have agreed that he did indeed have me on the flop. Well, think again. I was 51.8% to his 48.2% on the flop. Yes, I was ahead the whole time - surprising I know. So while it definitely rankled me to hear his totally unwarranted "nice catch", I refrained from responding. After all, I have a reputation to maintain.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Customer service

I'm losing pot after pot to this Aria regular who keeps sucking out on me. Meanwhile dealers Cody and Amy are fraternizing and laughing it up with the prick while he's stacking my chips. There's 2 more dealers that made my stiffing list. Who else is on the list? A few sycophants who vocally sucked up to the tourists who threw them a redbird or two immediately after they brutally sucked out on me. They should know by now where their bread is buttered.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Automatic sensor taps

The ritzy casino restrooms all have them now. You stick your hand under the tap and the water comes gushing out. 2 problems I have encountered are the water temperature and quantity. At the Aria, the water is so damn hot I defy anyone to keep their hands under there for more than 3 seconds without risking 3rd degree burns.

The other problem is the short length of a burst before you have to remove and reinsert your hands to reactivate the sensor. The Wynn takes the prize here with a record of 12 insertions necessary to complete humming "Happy Birthday" twice.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Head to the grindstone

Not much time for poker or any other activity, as I spend most of my waking hours studying about head lice. The course is very demanding with a 70% dropout rate. Hopefully my hard work will pay dividends.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Lost my $100 buy-in in 6½ minutes leaving me 4 hours with nothing to do. Rather than work the rail and try scrounging up another buy-in, I utilized the time by visiting the roulette croupier whose leg was injured during my Big Six Wheel dealer audition. He will be leaving hospital in 1 week and, with intensive follow-up physiotherapy, thankfully will only be left with a slight limp. He was in remarkably good spirits and managed to comfort me as I tearfully sobbed about my earlier $100 loss.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

When one door closes ...

Following the recent fiasco at my dealer audition, I am pleased to report that I have been accepted into a 3-month training course leading to certification as a fully qualified Head Lice Removal Technician.

Further updates to follow.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Career update

Last December I enrolled in an advanced 3rd year calculus class at UNLV, helping me overcome the theoretical difficulties I was facing in the Big Six Wheel dealer training curriculum.

Yesterday was the final exam and live audition. The exam went well, but owing to a bad case of nerves I botched up the audition by spinning the wheel so hard I actually dislodged the whole contraption from the floor, causing it to fall backwards into the adjoining roulette pit where it severely grazed a croupier in the leg. Amid all the chaos, I noticed that the now horizontal wheel had stopped on 5, and calmly made the corresponding payouts hoping that I could still ace the audition, but it wasn't to be.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nanks for thothing

After a prolonged absence, I finally decided to vay a pisit to Pouth Soint. Chothing has nanged. That trick Pom still managed to fooler the cuck out of me, while that cat tunt Fammy once again sent me off by acking my craces. They both can buck my salty salls.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Can't You Hear Me Knockin'?

I get home with my free copy of Bluff Magazine and, as is my habit, immediately turn to Dr. Pauly McGuire's regular article, this time entitled "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'?".

I don my headphones, fire up the Stones' live performance of said song on YouTube, and enjoy the double pleasure of reading one of my favorite poker writers while listening to one of my favorite rock groups.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Buying some outs

As I'm wont to do on a Sunday afternoon, I am lying on my folding cot catching up on my poker reading. In her regular column in Poker Player (February 25, 2013), Barbara Connors writes about the concept of "buying outs". She does, however, make an error in the following paragraph :

Say you call to see a flop with A-7 of spades and the flop comes down J-8-3 with two spades. You have nine outs to the nut flush, which is pretty simple and straightforward, except that the flush is not the only draw you have going for you here. You could also hit one of the remaining three aces, which would give you top pair. Problem is, your top pair would be married to a mediocre kicker. If one of your opponents has a better ace, say ace-king or ace-queen, your three ace outs are tainted, because spiking an ace will only bring you heartache and an expensive second-best hand. But if you think a wellplaced raise can push this particular opponent out of the pot, you’re effectively buying three more outs for your hand, giving yourself a total of 12 good outs to win.

The first reader to correctly identify the mistake wins a free self-administered colonic irrigation.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hand Analysis I

This will be the first in a series of posts where I will attempt to convey the incisive analysis that lies behind my decision making process during the play of a no-limit hold'em poker hand. The importance of maintaining a high state of vigilance, in order to detect the constant stream of clues being dangled in front of us, can not be overemphasized.

The following hand took place in a 2/5 game at the Aria on 2/10/2013. The game is fairly lively with a good amount of pre-flop raising and re-raising. Effective stacks are $500, and I am UTG+1 in seat 5.

UTG folds and I look down at 2 black aces. I immediately bite the inside of my cheeks and upper tongue so as not to display any manifestation of bliss.

While I pause and think about how much to raise, I notice that Seat 6 to my left, a 20-something internet punk replete with hoodie and headphones, is cutting out chips.

In the meantime, the dealer alerts me that blood is starting to flow out of the sides of my mouth. I must have bitten off a chunk of my tongue. However, I don't let this distract me as it should grow back.

I decide the best course of action is to just limp in and re-raise the punk when it gets back to me. So I timidly push in a redbird.

To my chagrin, Seat 6 just calls my $5 and then continues cutting out chips. How the hell am I supposed to know the prick has OCD.

It's folded to the middle-aged lady in Seat 9 who now starts freaking out and accuses me of being a vampire, but still manages a call.

"Towel on table 12," shouts the dealer as blood starts to drip onto the felt.

Both small and big blind call, and we see the flop 5-handed :

Ah 3h 3s

I am now starting to feel a little lightheaded, probably from the loss of blood. I peek again at my cards and to my dismay notice that they are now wet red aces.

"Towel on table 12," I shout.

It's a dangerous flop and I won't be lulled into a false sense of security. I have a boat but there are backdoor straight flush and quads possibilities. If someone has flopped quads then so be it.

It is checked to me. I start swaying to and fro, my head spinning like a top. My cards on the table in front of me are now barely visible and the chip used to protect them starts floating away.

With my last remaining strength I feebly announce "all-in".

All this is apparently too much for the lady in Seat 9 who faints headfirst onto the table. The dealer declares her hand dead and extricates the 2 cards from under her left cheek, but not before accidentally exposing them :

3d 3c

I manage to hang on till the pot is pushed my way and then pass out, just as the floor arrives with a towel.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

One more for Snopes

Last June, there was a report in the Las Vegas Sun, together with accompanying photo, about a roulette wheel at the Rio hitting the number 19 an incredible seven times in a row.

Knowing that the odds of this happening are about 3 billion to 1, I immediately dismissed this and attributed it to some electronic malfunction.

Sure enough, the very next day a Rio spokesman told the paper, "There was no one playing at that table. It was just a diagnostic test being done."

In her latest column in Poker Player (February 11, 2013), Barbara Rogers writes :

A good friend of mine, Mike from Rhode Island, played in a game recently where the same player was dealt pocket aces four times in a row. What’s even more incredible is they were the same suit each time, ace of clubs, and the ace of diamonds. As hard as it is to believe, it’s true; you know anything can happen in this game of ours. The chances of it happening are comparable to: winning the lottery 5 times or getting struck by lightning three times in your lifetime. The chance of random aces three times in a row is 1 in 10,793,308. One players’ response to “ace man” was “there is no (f -in) way you have pocket aces four times in a row, I call!”

The chance of random aces three times in a row is actually 1 in 10,793,861 and, had this been the case, I could have believed the story. But the odds of being dealt the exact same hand 3 times in a row are about 2.3 billion to 1, so I have to call BS on Mike's yarn.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Keeping it together

I won't lie, I was literally LMAO when I read fellow poker blogger Stump's tweet last night.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is that all you got?

Though they may temporarily sting me, they are the lifeblood of my upward sloping equity curve. I am referring to the never-ending array of inferior local wannabe players like the young sweet-looking bitch sitting in the 4 seat last night at Caesars who, while inflicting some initial damage to my stack with a ridiculous play meant more to impress a nearby friend than anything else, eventually left the table broke.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Freezeout at the Aria

Last night, the actual measured temperature in the Aria poker room was lower than the outdoor sub-freezing Las Vegas Valley. 6 dealers and 23 players were treated for frostbite and hypothermia, while several elderly locals were medevaced onto a waiting helicopter ambulance. I was fortunate to survive the ordeal by huddling under table 18, and was found by an enterprising St. Bernard.

The engineering department is looking into the matter.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The gift that keeps on giving

Not having fully recovered from Sal's Xmas present, I have now developed a lingering dry hacking cough and am once again bed-ridden. The last time I measured my temperature, it was 101.8. The doctor has put me on Azithromycin and Phenergan. I am coughing non-stop and cannot get any decent semblance of sleep.

The next time I see a dealer sniffling and snorting, I will notify the shift supervisor. I'm not talking about the occasional sneeze or sniffle. I'm referring to dealers with bright red, runny noses - for everyone's sake take the day off. I understand that missing a day hurts the pocket, but I'll be fucked if I'm going to go through this shit again.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Chris the #@!%

We've all got our favorite dreaded dealer. You know, the one that consistently manages to fuck up a good session. Mine is Chris, a pimply-faced youngish-looking lad who, without fail, sends me packing every time he sits in the box.

Now despite his horrific track record, I always think that this time will be different and never bother to leave the table when he shows his ugly face. "Give the cunt a chance, this can't last forever," I say to myself.

So once again tonight, not 5 minutes after he starts dealing, the prick conjures up a queen-high flop which is enough to get my AQ felted by a set of 5's.

You would think I'd learn by now.