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Are Women Bad at Poker?

Some women are bad at poker in the same way some men are bad at poker. For either gender there is a bell curve from 'terrible' to 'excellent'. Women may be bad at poker for different, gender based, reasons than men, and it is true that less women play poker than men, but that is all that can really be said.

My view however is that women have two distinct advantages playing against men, namely:

Poker is a game where you are trying to deceive your opponents in to thinking your hand is different to what it is. You want your opponents to think your hand is stronger than theirs if it is weaker, and weaker than theirs if it is stronger. The advantage for women is that they are better than men at detecting deception in men. (I admit I have no empirical proof of this, but I am pretty sure it is true).

Second; My observation is women playing against men will tend to get their bets and raises called much more than a man would, even if that man is a known loose player. Men just don't seem to like laying down a hand to a woman - this is especially true if the woman is young and/or good looking. While it means a woman will get her bluffs called more frequently, it also means she will get paid out on her good hands more often. If the female player knows this, she has a distinct advantage over her male opponents.

A Win is A Win

Picked up a nice little tournament win the today playing APL at the Ship & Dock Tavern.

I haven't played APL for a long time - swearing off the 'pub' tournaments several years ago because of the drunks and loudmouths that made the game fairly unpleasant. But, after a long hiatus, and wanting to improve my tournament game - cheaply - I have started playing again, with reasonable results.

The very fast blind structure of APL tournies does make it a crap shoot, with a huge inflection point when the blinds jump from 100/200 to 200/400. Almost everyone goes from average to short stack at that point. However, I am finding it does teach discipline in a couple of ways.

First, is to play tight in a loose game. Because you just don't get any looser than pub poker.

Second is Patience. Even as your chip stack dwindles beneath the pressure of blinds, even when you have only 3-4 blinds of chips left. Still hold on for a good hand. In fact in this tournament I won, at one point I had 3,500 chips with the blinds at 300/600. Checked to me on the button, I stole the blinds pushing all in with K,4 suited, doubled up with A,Q vs another all in from A,J, and then tripled up with and AA slow played, check raised pre flop and all in against two chip leaders, to become the new chip leader.

Now, if I had panicked and just shoved with, say J,9 in an earlier position, the result would have been quite different, and much worse. I think I got the timing pretty well spot on in this case though.

A nice win.

Post WSOP - Cash Games

5 days to go in Vegas after my exit from the WSOP. Freemont Street filled in and afternoon and evening, just love that area. Gambling is cheap, booze is cheap, entertainments is good and so is the food. I thought I would sit in for a few hands at the Binion's poker room, but, can you believe it, completely empty. I guess everyone was at the Rio.

Back on the Strip, I was looking for a poker room. Aria was closest, lots of tables, and spread a $1/3 game. However also very very popular, with a wait time of 1 1/2 to 2 hours for a seat. Next door is the Monte Carlo. It has a smaller room, only 6 tables, but spreads a $1/2 game, and had a seat for me right away - Perfect.

There were a couple of other WSOP ex-hopefuls at my table. A lady to my left even mentioned she had backers for her buy in (which made me think about the possibility for the future, perhaps). Anyway, the table played pretty tight and small ball, I guess peoples heads we still in tournament mode. It suited me though, while I made the adjustment to a cash game.

For my first session I played for just over 6 hours. I had my stack up to $700 at one stage, from my $300 buy in. I really should learn to quit at those 'large stack' points, but I never do, because the game always seems good.

Just an aside on that - plenty of times I have built up a stack to 2-3 times my buy in, in the first few hours of play. Then, over the subsequent hours, see it chipped away, often to nothing. Yet my play is as good as it was and the table stays pretty much the same. Sometimes I can put it down to suckouts and bad beats, but that can't account for all the times. I am starting to form a theory that, in the first few hours, no one really knows how I play or any tells or leaks I have. But after that, the better players start to figure them out. If that is the case, then it is a major leak I will have to plug.

Back to the story...

I like the Monte Carlo poker room, I played there for maybe 40 hours in total. The dealers are good, the room is well run, the stakes are in my range and most importantly, I always got a seat straight away.

So, I have $700 through tight and conservative play. It is getting late and some novice players join the table, including a couple of drunks. The table loosens up and I decide to keep playing tight but take advantage of any situations that arise.

On the button I see AA. Often hard to get paid out with that hand on the button, but there is a raise and a re-raise before it gets to me. I don't see any advantage in slow playing here, both raisers are pretty loose, and I am figuring on at least one call to a four-bet. So I pop it up by a healthy amount, about $60 I think.

The big blind, who is the lady who said she was staked for the main event, calls, and both initial raisers fold. I figure her for KK, QQ or possibly AK suited. She is pretty tight.

The flop is great for aces, 10 8 3 rainbow. Also I think it is great for me to get paid out on the likely hands my opponent has, except maybe AK.

My opponent checks. If I don't bet here it will look suspicious, and I figure she may be putting me on high pairs, AK, AQ or AJ, and looking to trap when I c-bet. So I oblige her and bet about 1/3 of the pot, call it $50. Sure enough she check raises me to $100. Ok, the pot is big enough, time to show I am not bluffing and take it down now.

I raise again to $250. My opponent thinks for a moment and shoves all in.


Always give a lady credit for a hand is a maxim that has saved me money in the past. The flop is also safe for her KK, QQ type hands, but she must also put me on something like that too. There is no way she called a 4-bet with 10 8, or even J 9. What is she up to? We have been playing the same table for several hours, so we both have each other pegged as pretty tight. Her stack is about the same as mine, though a similar style of play.

I have to think about it for a while. I don't know what she has, but something is wrong and I am pretty sure I am beat.

I fold my aces face up. The table gasps.

'Good fold' she says, and mucks her pocket eights face up too. Which makes me very happy with the laydown. Thinking after though, I don't think the way she played it was very good. She said she didn't want to see another card so she shoved. But what was she afraid of? There were no plausible draws on the board, so the only hands I could really have were over-pairs, trip threes or trip 10's. If I had the 10s she was already beat, and anything else she was a massive favourite to my one or two outs. If she had just called my raise instead of shoving, it is very likely she could have got my whole stack by the river.

I ended that session only $100 up. Could have been worse.

Thoughts on the WSOP

All things considered, I think I did ok. The mistakes I made were relatively small and when I did get money in, I almost always had the best of it - except for the disaster of the last hand my AK against AA. Even though a lot of plays didn't work out, in hindsight, the attempts had to be made.

Never the less, it was a massive learning experience and I am glad I went there and played. If I were to do it again though, I would certainly learn from the first experience and do quite a few things differently. Some things are obvious, and I really should have done it for this trip, but some you can only know by going and doing. So here are my tips for anyone thinking of giving the main event a shot, and for myself if I go again.

1. Play a lot of tournaments for a year before hand. Obvious really, even so, most local tournaments are completely different in structure and play to the Main Event.

2. Read and study. I have at least six books on tournament play, reading something like Gus Hansens 'Every Hand Revealed', or Dan Harrington's series, or Kill Everyone as a refresher would have been pretty helpful.

3. Get into the WSOP mindset. As for point 2. spending a while on the 2+2 forums or even participating in a few discussions would be good preparation

4. Go for satellite entries. Combine point 1. with the chance to win a discounted seat. I think you would be better of spending $10k on satellites to win the seat than pay the $10k outright. If you can't win a seat spending equal to the buy in, the buy in is dead money anyway.

5. Get to Las Vegas early enough to get over Vegas before the event starts. If I go again I will give myself a week there prior, rather than just a couple of days. There are some pretty good deals for short term house or apartment rentals, so even going for a month might only cost as much as 2 weeks at a hotel anyway.

6. Play enough and get enough confidence to not be so nitty tight. Almost everyone else is nitty tight, and I noticed that the those who made larger bets and generally played with more confidence tended to have more chips over time. I class these players as either top recreational players, or pros. But the pro level of play is what is needed for the main event, no doubt about it.

7. Get some training or a coach. There are plenty of good coaching clinics and courses run by pros. This might be a bit expensive, but say getting someone like Vanessa Selbst to look at your game and help you plug any holes, could be a worthwhile investment.

8. Network a bit and have some people you can talk to or hang around with, or bring a few mates with you.

And if I do play in the Main Event again, it will be by either having built sufficient bankroll through tournament winnings, or won a satellite entry.

WSOP day 2

So, after plenty of rest and a sober night, I was fresh and rearing to go for the start of day 2. Not.

Hey, this is VEGAS. What sort of total curmudgeon would sit in a hotel room and 'get a good nights sleep'. Not this curmudgeon anyway.

I did have fish for dinner the night before - fish being brain food. Preceded by a very nice, very cold, very large, martini, washed down with a pretty decent Burgundy the sommelier recommended, and topped off with a great Niagara Falls Ice Wine. Then, it seemed like a very good idea to have a nightcap of some top shelf bourbon I had never heard of, and play craps.

Never the less, I got to be at the still decent hour of 3am, leaving 8 hours for sleep and 1 hour to get ready and make my way to the Rio. Then for some reason I watched TV for a while and ended up nodding off about 5am, getting about 5 hours of broken sleep. But a career of being on-call as duty engineer has made me an expert at coping with not enough sleep, so not a real problem, or not one that enough coffee can't cure anyway.

I made it to the Rio with enough time to line up at Starbucks (where, incidentally, I was behind Eric Siedel in the queue), and then to my table with a few minutes to spare.

My skill at conceiving of tricky plays without the ability to execute them properly was unchanged, despite the fish brain food I had last night, and pretty soon without the stack size to pull it off. By the end of level 6 I was down to just 15,000 chips and Level 7 would make the blinds 300/600 + 75 ante. Not a train wreck yet, but the tracks are buckling.

With about 5 hands to go in level 6 I am UTG with AQ hearts. I put in a raise just above min raise; pretty much the standard pre flop opening raise in this tournament. There are two callers. The flop comes A K 4, to hearts. I figure that even without the draw I am probably good, since an AK was likely to have 3 bet pre flop. Now, do I flat here, looking to check raise when someone represents, or should I make the expected C bet and hope someone has a weaker ace to call? I don't want to think too long, but my brain doesn't seem to be able to work out what to do - that fish last night must have been no good.

When in doubt, bet. I make a weakish looking bet of about 1/3 of the pot. Opponent 1 min raises, my bet was 1,500, and now the pot is about 8,800 with the raise. Then, opponent 2 calls! Not what I was expecting at all. About 12,000 in the pot now, which is also my remaining stack size, or close enough.

What to do, what to do? Am I facing two pair and trips? Is one of them just on a draw? Well for the draw, I have the best. Could I be dominated by someone slow playing AK? That would not be unlikely. I don't see how I can fold here. I am certainly getting the odds to call. If I call I am pot committed anyway, so the only thing to do is shove. All in.

Opponent 1 folds. Huh? A bluff? Oh well.

Opponent 2 almost insta-calls, and has me well covered.

We turn them face up, he shows KQ offsuit. WTF? Neither of his two outs hit and top pair takes down a very nice sized pot, more than doubling me up.

Unfortunately, all I can report is my stack after that hand was the high water mark of my tournament. As level 7 began I had the worst run of cold decking I can ever recall. Pre flop I would get good hands, often in late position, like AK, pocket 10's etc, inducing me to call, open the betting or even 3 bet sometimes. And then nothing on the flop at all, ever. Yet with aggressive betting from whoever else was in the pot, generally people I had marked as playing as tight or tighter then me. So over the next 30 hands I put a lot of chips in, all with +VE hands, none of which played out.

In fact, out of those 30 odd hands I had about 10 decent playable hands, more than half of which were pocket pairs. Just not a single hand hit.

Another thing that happened as my chips dwindled, was a couple of the big stacks started coming after my blinds, coinciding with me having no cards in the blinds to play back with. By the fourth time this happened I had had enough, and resolved to make a stand. With my BB out, UTG calls and a big stake makes a predicable raise and there is another call.

My stack is about 14,000 by now, still over 20 big blinds, and enough to make even the chip leader not want to donk off that many chips to me, but only just. I feel I need to win a pot pretty soon.

The action comes around to me and I have AK off suit. This is it. I shove.

UTG almost beats me into the pot. Big stack and the other caller both fold. And I find myself against pocket aces. Which ends the tournament for me.

Kudos to the guy with AA. His slow play pre flop was perfect. He knew one of the big stacks would almost certainly put in a raise if he just called, and perhaps he could even sense my frustration and the likelihood I would make a tilty play.

Ah well, there is always next year.

Craps in Las Vegas

I love playing craps in the US. It is pretty much the only table game I play in a casino, when it is on offer. But in America, you can really see why every casino had at least six craps tables. (compared to, say, Australia, which has one or two, or none, like the half arsed casino in Perth)

In the US, playing craps is maybe the best fun you will have at a casino. Every one it rooting (American rooting, not Australian rooting) for you to make your point, and when you do there are high fives all around. You make two points, the whole table applauds.

What's more, the dealers are on your side, since the preferred tipping method at craps is to place your tip next to your line bet, and if you win, the dealers double their tip.

How can there be a better game?

All you have to do to be convinced is wait until a shooter hits a 10+ streak. The table goes wild, the whole casino knows where the winning table is. Every throw is greeted with cheers and applause. And when the inevitable '7' appears, the the shooter is gratefully applauded out by the players and the dealers alike.

In Australia however, we are such miserly curmudgeons. We really need to lighten up and learn to enjoy our new found mining wealth bounty a little more. A change in gaming laws that allowed tipping would be a good start.

WSOP Main Event Day 1

The WSOP is an incredibly well run event. There is just no problem finding the right seat, getting settled and getting started on time. This sort of procedural and logistic mastery has to be a contributor to what makes the US great.

My day 1 started bang on time. It was, actually, quite a thrill to have a seat, playing against all the best players in the world, and to hear Doyle Brunson say the words 'Shuffle up and deal!'.

Two things I think I would do differently if I were to play in this event again though, are;

a) It occurred to me after the first few orbits that perhaps some practice at smaller tournaments would have been helpful. I haven't played a tournament game for about 2 years now, and then only microstakes home games. Even a bit of prior study on the 2+2 forums or something similar, to be up to speed with current tournament play thinking, would have assisted me a bit.

b) Maybe those 2 martinis I had last night, and the nice wine with my steak dinner, and the desert wine, weren't such a good idea. Nor was the coffee I had in the afternoon, which found me wide awake at 4am, and getting only 5 hours sleep before the start. Should have thought that one through a bit more. Well actually, I did, and I was intending to have a sober, early night. But when you see a bar called 'Vesper', how can you not see if they make the best Vesper Martinis in the world? So I did, and they were. Big too, about 300ml of gin in each.

My breakfast was a Starbucks Latte, a bottle of water with berocca and some aspirin.

I started in seat 4, got to see my first flop in the big blind with 7,4 off and 2 callers, and folded my hand to a raise when the flop came AJ5.

Nothing eventful on the button, folded a J2 or something like that. Next hand though is pocket kings. There is a raise in front of me, the blinds are only 50/100, and the raise is to 250 total. I re-raise and make it 450 total. The button folds, so does the small blind. Big blind calls and the initial raiser folds.

Wow, this is my first played hand in the WSOP main event! How exciting.

Flop comes AJJ. The big blind insta-bets 600. There is just no doubt he has an ace, or even a jack. Maybe even AJ I tihnk. He is very confident.

I fold, and donate the first of my chips to the eventual winner.

My idea of playing tight seems to have been adopted by every other player as well. I didn't know my blog was so popular. Or maybe they came up with the strategy by themselves. Whatever the case, the 'standard' raise at every level was 1.5x the blind, or a bit smaller. It suited me just fine, and everyone else too.

For the first two levels I played super nitty tight. I would only call from early to mid position with hands line AJ or AQ, and fold hands like KJ or low pockets if there was any serious action. For those four hours I was in not more than 6 pots, 3 from the blinds, hit nothing and folded to other action.

At the start of level 3, with blinds at 150/300, I have 28,900 chips and find myself with AA in late position. There is a raise from early position, and then two calls. Very nice I think. The pot is 2,550, and I re-raise up to 2,500. Which is too much, and everyone folds. I should have made it about 1,400, and I probably would have ended up with 1 caller and won a bigger pot. Never the less, 2,500 is a nice pick up at this point, and I am ahead of my starting total for the first time.

Next, I run into a cold deck, which goes on and on and on for the rest of the 3rd level, on through the 4th level and into the 5th level. Hands like K2 off, J4, 72 at least 5 times, 83 at least 4 times, sometimes A3 or A6 type hands, but always in early position, and just not playable at a table this tight.

Antes start at level 4 and by level 5 the blinds are 200/400 with 50 ante. Also, somewhere along the way I thought I would try some fancy plays. What I really did though was have the idea for fancy plays, but lacked any ability to make them work. Blinds, antes and some half arsed stabs at the pot brought my stack down to just 16,200.

Even worse, just before the end of level 4 our table was broken up and we were all moved to different tables. So the ultra-tight image I had built up all day was of no use to me on the new table where no one had seen me play a hand before.

As level 5 started, a couple of the big stacks started hammering on my blinds. For three orbits I didn't have anything to play back with, but resolved on the 4th orbit to make a stand, even if it cost me some chips, and at least make them work for the blinds.

In the next big blind I have J10 suited, a nice enough hand to defend with. Sure enough, a big stack raises, and there is a call from 2 other largish stacks as well.

The flop is 94Q rainbow. The first raiser opens the betting, making it about half the pot, and the two others call, as do I.

The turn is 8 of clubs and there another club on the board, but right now I have the nuts. The first raiser bets again. There is one caller and one fold. This makes the pot size about 13,000, which is all I have left. I tank for a while, look at my opponents as if I am trying to get a read, look back at my cards, do some pretend adding up in my head and generally ham it up. I want to get paid out.

Trying to look as unsure as possible, I announce 'all in' and fumble my chips forward.

The first raiser calls and the other guy folds. A good result. I just hope the river is kind to me. But what do you know, my opponent turns over AQ. All he has is top pair. I must have made it look like a bad bluff for him to call with that. The river is a queen, but his trip queens are no good and the nuts stay the nuts.

After that nice hand I now have 40,500 chips.

About this time I start to get a migraine. The coffee I had earlier has worn off, and I am feeling the effects of my hangover. Only another hour and a half to go.

I have one more nice hand, KK, which nets me a few thousand more chips. But then get a run of AK, AQ and some small pockets, which get me into the flop, but go nowhere.

I end the day with 37,175. Not great, but I did it, I made it through day 1.

Day one ended at 12:30am, and Monday will be day 1 for group C. My day 2 starts on Tuesday at noon. The blinds will be at 250/500 + 50 ante, and I am going to need some luck I think.

Registraion for WSOP

Arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday night and was pretty shattered after 30 hours of travel to get here. Las Vegas is in the middle of a heat wave, and the mercury hit 116 F on Friday - that is probably even pretty high in Celsius.

I thought it would be a good idea to rent a car, rather than rely on the often long queues to get a taxi, and also to go to a few places for shopping. Vegas is very crowded this weekend, being the 4th of July long weekend, and I have to say I don't much like it. There are queues everywhere, to register at the hotel, to get breakfast, at Starbucks for coffee, I am yet to see a queue less than 10 people long.

Anyway, there was meant to be an Avis office at the Aira, which is right next door to the Vdara where I am staying. Couldn't find it. Enlisted the aid of google maps and saw a Hertz also very close. Couldn't find that either. After an hour of walking through casinos with the occasional foray onto the strip in 45 degree heat, I gave up and decided to order one through the concierge at the Vdara.

Fortunately the queue to talk to the concierge was only 4-5 long, and I was shown a selection of cars from National. Mid sized was $370 for a week, which seemed reasonable. Then there was tax and the booking fee, plus $10 per day for a GPS, plus tax on that of course. Somehow it ended up at $500 for the week. Plus insurance, which the drop-off guy told me would be 'about $49 a day'. Great.Wouldn't be so bad if the car was decent. It's a Chevy Impala. It is just shameful that a car company can make a vehicle so utterly average.

But enough of that, and more of this:

I went to the Rio today and completed my registration. The queue was short and everything went through without a hitch. Then I went to the cashiers cage to pick up the change from the excess I had sent to cover bank fees. The queue was 30 people deep, and moved at about one person per minute. Oh well.

WSOP Seat Ticket

I have to say, it was pretty exciting to see the WSOP first hand. There are two main rooms, one for cash games and satellites and one for the event tournaments. Day 1a was already in progress as I walked through, with an area for the feature table with cameras, lights and the commentary booth. No players there that I recognized though. I think the top pros start on day 3.

WSOP 2013 Strategy

I guess I should put a bit more thought into this. Though I will have about 30 hours of travel getting to Las Vegas to think about it.

I've looked at the blind schedule for the main event, of figure that if I play no hands at all for the first day, I can make it though with 25,000 left in chips.

The starting stack of 30,000 is 300 big blinds, and by the end of day 1, the blinds will be 200/400 with a 50 ante. 25,000 will therefore be a bit less than 60 big blinds, which is a respectable stack.

But really, just be blinded out for all of day one? It will certainly allow me to meet my objective of making it to day 2, but so would never leaving the house ensure I didn't get run over crossing the road.

My strategy is therefore shaping up to be this:

- play tight
- see cheap flops with 'top 20' hands
- use a Daniel Negreanu 'small ball' style for pre-flop raises and post flop bets
- play tight
- only raise in position with 'top 10' hands
- bet the nuts to try to make it look like a bluff
- play tight

Requires more thought, right. And I have no idea what sort of players I will be seated with, so the table environment can only be assessed at the time.

Ideally I would like to get through day 1 with my stack on par with the blinds; that is, start the day with 300 BB and end the day with 30, which will mean doubling up twice. But if I only end up with 100BB at the end of the day, I still wont be sweating and will be happy enough with the result.

The Main Event

This year, because circumstances allow, I will be playing in the WSOP Main Event a the Rio in Las Vegas. Registration is paid and the flights, hotel etc are all booked.

The $10,000 registration fee had to be sent by wire transfer to the Rio Casino, and I managed to pick the low point of the Aus dollar for the last year on the day I sent the money, costing a bit over AUS$11,000. The bank took a $30 fee for their trouble and I thought all was done. Until I got an email from the WSOP event office to tell me that only $9,975 had arrived in their account, and could I please sent the remaining $25. The turns out some intermediary bank had also taken a fee from the transfer.

So, the cost to sent the shortfall would work out to $30 for my bank, plus $25 for the other bank - $55, to pay $25. The solution I arrived at was to transfer another $1,000 - which dilutes the fees down to an acceptable percentage, and then what is left over I can pick up in chips at the cashiers cage at the Rio when I get there.

Another unwelcome surprise was the cost of airfares. Last time I went to Vegas - in 2010, I flew Air New Zealand business class (a fantastic service) for $3,800 return to Los Angeles. This time, the best fare I could get on any airline combination was $6,800, with some really horrible (9, 15, 19 hour) stops and plane changes. Then, another $400 to get from LAX to Las Vegas.

During the search for a better fare, I hit upon Alpha Flight Guru, who came up with a deal for $5,500 with the main legs being first class fares!. Wow, first class to LA from Sydney is usually $15,000+.

I got the email offer late at night, and was just about to tell the guy to go ahead an book it, but then decided to sleep on it until morning. Just because the deal was so good, it seemed too good to be true. So next morning I did a couple of google searches, and sure enough, come across some warnings. Plenty of people also said they had had no problems, but then I saw that some post had been deleted on Trip Advisor because they were found to be from Alpha Flight employees pretending to be customers.

From what I could gather, one way AFG gets such low prices is by buying unused frequent flyer points and then using those points to book travel. Since most airlines have a policy that forbids the transfer of points to unknown 3rd parties, the airline is within their rights to cancel the tickets without notice, if they find out that has happened. In most cases, the risk of this happening is probably very low, but what a huge hassle if it did happen. So good as the deal was, I let it go.

In the end, I went with Thai Airways. The price was $6,800 Perth to LA return, plus I can use some of my existing FF points with them to upgrade to first class if I feel like it, but even so, the fit out for the Boeing 777 business class cabin looks ok, with fully flat bed seating.

That just left the LAX to Las Vegas leg. Anyone who has been through LAX knows how horrendous that airport is. Particularly on holiday long weekends - the Main event being on the 4th of July weekend. And particularly of you are flying coach. When the ticket says 'check in 4 hours prior to flight', it really means that. If you try it with only 3 hours to spare a) you might not get through check in in time, the queues are that long, b) you might get bumped from the flight because of the overbooking policies of US domestic airlines, and c) you might find yourself re-routed to Atlanta or Chicago with 8 hours of flying to make the 1 hour trip. All these things have happened to me in the past. So the rule is; unless you can avoid it, do not fly coach in the US, fly first class, because, even though you will pay three times as much, you will be treated a little better.

Resigning myself to pay the extra, I did one more search for best fares and found the site. The hotel I had planned to stay at was going to cost $1,800 for the 10 days, plus $425 airfare... well, not too bad. Looking up the deals for flights and accommodation, I found the same hotel, including the first class airfare, for $1,800 total, plus, two show tickets to a choice of shows. That one at least was a no-brainer.

I fly out on the 3rd and should arrive in Vegas about 7pm on the 4th, with 2 days to get over jet lag before my 'day 1' on the Sunday. My objective at this stage is to just make it though day 1. I have no false allusions, it will be tough.

Runner Runner Full House

I know. Go figure.

Playing in the regular home game (NLHE, 10c/20c blinds) the other night, I made top pair (mediocre kicker) on the flop against one a fairly tight aggressive player, who's game I tend to respect.

There were was a straight draw possible, but as it was checked to me, I figured I was good at this point. He would have checked both a draw and a complete miss, and bet out if he had something like top pair or two pair. I made a 2/3 pot bet, so that if he was on a draw he would call, and also he would probably stay in the pot with something like middle pair, top kicker.

Sure enough he called, narrowing his range to those two possible hands.

The turn card, a nine, gave me two pair, but also completed the possible high straight. The pot was $10 and he checks to me. I need to find out if he has the straight or not. My thinking goes; if he has, he has the nuts at this point, and in that case, if I bet, he will call and try and trap me on the river, probably with a check raise. On the other hand, if he has only middle pair still, he will fold, but would not put any more into the pot anyway.

I bet $6, he calls. He has the straight and I have six outs.

The river is a king, giving me kings full of nines. Very nice.

Sure enough, my opponent checks. I think for a few minutes, and look like I am counting the pot (which I know full well is $22). What I want to do here is make a bet that looks like a bluff and induce him to check raise me. $12 seems about right.

Very quickly he raises to $35. I again pause for a bit, to consider if it is possible he could have King Jack, giving him a bigger full house than mine. Would he have plaid that hand differently? I decide I don't really know, but it is too remote a chance to worry about. I have $55 in front of me and push it all in.

My opponent calls. I show my boat, he shows his straight. 'Nice hand' he sighs.

While I am stacking my chips, Idiot Brain - another regular who is the commentator on every hand, expert on every situation, and self appointed trainer and corrector of the less experienced players - starts mouthing off that I had hit 'runner runner full house'. Saying things like 'oh he was so lucky on that hand', and telling a couple of people who had just come back from a smoke how I had stacked the other player with runner runner.

Nice of him to make those comments on a hand he wasn't even in. I guess if only he had been in the hand, things would have been different. I thought about saying something like 'you do understand that the first 'runner' in a full house makes two pair or trips, don't you?' But I just couldn't be bothered putting in the effort to break into his loud mouth ramblings.

(IB, by the way, is a player I often call down with middle or bottom pair to, quite safely, take the pot. He has a least five tells he is oblivious to and are about as obvious as KGB's Oreos.)

Ah well. Tools will be tools, and it is a poor workman that blames his tools.

AQ suited vs 63 off

I was playing on Sunday afternoon at Star City, for the first time in ages, the other day, and lost a stack in a hand I am still having trouble getting my head around.

Star City now has a $200 max buy in for the $1/$2 NLHE game - a welcome improvement, even though it remains the highest raked game in Australia, with a $5/hour time charge and 10% pot rake.

Anyway, I took my seat at the table with $200 in front of me. A quick survey showed a couple of stacks in the $400 range, most in the $100-$200 range, and one monster stack that looked like at least $1,000, belonging to a young asian guy. At least I think he was a guy, he looked very effeminate, perhaps his night job was as a 'lady-boy'. Not that I care, I am just making the point that his appearance was particularly feminine.

I won a few small pots without any drama in the first hour, to the extent that after time charges and rake I was up exactly $5. I had not been in any pots with LB (the young asian guy), but had been observing the way he played, and though I hadn't seen many of his hands go to showdown, he seemed to be making sensible bets and folds, looked like he had a reasonable read on his opponents, and was playing in a tight/aggressive style, without being a maniac. I therefore formed the view he had earned his stack and his play was worth respect.

So this is how the puzzling hand played out:

I am in early position and see AQ spades, I raise to $12 (a normal pre-flop raise for the table), and it is folded around to LB in the cutoff who calls, and everyone else folds.

The flop comes all low with two spades, 4, 5, 7. It looks harmless to me, given the pre-flop action, and I make a c-bet of $20.

LB immediately announces a raise and puts in $60.

And I reason thusly;

1. If he had AK before the flop, he would have 3 bet most of the time

2. If he had large pockets, say down to 10,10 or even 9,9, he would have 3 bet

3. His pre flop call was therefore most consistent with a) a small pair, b) an ace with a kicker weaker than mine c) Something like K x, maybe J, or even J,10, suited spades, so he now has a flush draw too

4. His raise may therefore represent a) Top pair with an ace kicker, b) A flush draw worse than mine c) ace high with a kicker worse than mine, d) a small-ish over pair e) a set f) a bluff or semi-bluff, say with A, mid or bottom pair, attempt to buy the pot

I feel I have pretty well picked his range and likely hands, but I have absolutely no read on him at all as far as tells go. For the purposes of my next action, I decide to ignore the possibility of trips (I have mentioned before I don't think you can correctly base actions on the fear of someone making trips, unless they are giving off a solid tell). Which means, I either have him beat now with a better draw/kicker/overcards, or he has me beat, but with only an overpair of eights or nines.

If he has pocket eights or nines, then I think I am in good shape to represent a bigger pair, because, I raised from early position pre-flop (and he must have noticed I am a tight player), and lead out post flop showing strength. So I figure a decent re-raise here should mean he will have to fold medium pocket pairs, and lay down any hand worse than mine. If he has made trips, well, he has, and I am going to lose a stack to a 1 in 200 event and that's the way it is.

A decent re-raise here would be about $150-$180, leaving me only a few dollars, hence I announce 'all in'.

LB insta calls.

The dealer quickly deals out the last two cards (red J, red Q) before either of us have a chance to turn ours over. We flip at about the same time and the dealer announces 'Straight wins'.


The title may have given it away, but LB had 3 6 off suit, and had flopped the nuts. I did not see that one coming.

What was I meant to do? Could that have been anticipated? Is there a big flaw in my thinking that causes me to lose a stack with ace high to the nut straight? Or was it just one of those random things from an opponent being hit with the deck where I was giving them too much credit?

I still can't figure it out.

I bought back in anyway. Over the next couple of hours I saw LB stack three other players with; K 4 off, vs A K, where he hit a king on the flop, called a large bet, another king came on the turn, called the all in, and then hit a 4 on the river. Made an eight high runner, runner flush against a flopped two pair, and called a $60 all in from a short stacked player with Q,10 vs Q9. Hmmm.

He cashed out a little while later with over $1,500, and I was not sorry to see him go.

I ended up wining back my first stack, plus $100, so it weren't all bad.

Home Game 2 Yrs on, and Burswood Casino

Our regular home game in Perth has been running for two years this month. As a micro stakes game, with 10c/20c blinds, it gives people the opportunity to play a deep stack cash game for less than a single buy in at a casino (my typical buy in is $50, and most buy in for somewhere between $20 and $50). The game is made up of a wide range of players and styles, averaging something like 1/3 aggressive 'online' styles, 1/3 tight passive/aggressive and 1/3 wtfk's what hand or bet will be played next. Which pretty much always makes for a fun night.

I think everyone who has been a regular over the two years has seen their game improve. I know I certainly have, I have seen some styles and play from some whom I consider very good players that I have adopted into my own game, and I have learned something from just about every player there at some point.

For some time I have maintained the view that anyone able to hold their own at the home game, will be a winning player at the casino - at least at the $1/2 and $2/3 level. And that indeed does seem to be the case, as a number of the home game players have reported. Several in fact have made their first forays to the casino as a direct result of the 'practice' they have had, and have come out ahead.

Just 'by accident' the other day I revisited the Burswood Casino poker room - to cut a boring story short - car was in for a service, casino on other side of Gt Eastern H/Way from car service, walked to casino while waiting for car.

Saturday morning at 11am, one table open, the players were about a 50/50 mix of old/retired guys (and one woman) and younger 'fly in/fly out' guys from the mines/rigs with cash to burn. The older players all seemed to know each other, and the casino staff, and were obviously regulars. From what I gathered, they were mainly there to go in the tournament later in the day, and were playing the $2/3 table to pass the time.

I have previously rated Burswood as the worst poker room in Australia. I think it has gotten a little better, but what I didn't include in my evaluation what just how soft the low stakes game is there.

In casino poker rooms I have played on over the last 4-5 years, very often I have not been the 'best' player at the table. Sometimes I would even go as far to say I am the dead money (though not very often), or a combination of being not the best plus a cold deck make it seem that way. So I am used to not getting too mixed up with the hyper aggressive 10,000 hand per day multi-table online players and the pro's slumming it until the high stakes tables open, and just waiting for a solid hand that will take out the low hanging fruit.

Yet, here I was on a Saturday morning at what seemed to me to be a table of me, and nine fish. It's not that the older players were bad, rather, just tight and fairly passive. If they hit their ace they would bet, if they got called they would check it down. They would call raises with a draw, push on the river if they had the nuts, and fold just about anything else. So easy to read it was almost unbelievable.

Then there were the younger players. Or cash cows as I liked to call them. Not quite as easy to read, due to a fair amount of, nonsensical, randomness, but making huge, huge errors on just about every hand they were in. This one example is a perfect illustration:

There is a raise UTG from YG1 (young guy 1) to $15 (because it shows you are a real 'playa' if you bet big, right?), the bet is called by YG2 from mid position. I am in the cutoff with AJ suited, and I noticed that the button is ready to fold his cards, the SB has wandered off for a smoke, only leaving the BB unknown. I think about raising, briefly, but could well be dominated, so I call to see what the flop will bring. BB folds.

Which obliges and comes J 4 8, two spades, giving me a nice nut flush draw.

YG1 now bets $50 into the $50 pot, leaving, for some strange reason, only $35 or so in his stack. YG2 then proudly announces 'I put you all in', seeming to forget I am still in the hand (and have him well covered). The dealer has a bit of trouble deciding if that should be a raise or not, then settles on asking for YG2 to make a min raise to $100.

I am not at all happy about this. I like my hand, but that action, says two pair or trips to me, or would say that in normal circumstances against reasonable players. But top/top and a nut draw, what else can I do but call?

The turn is a blank. YG2 checks. Hmm. I am ahead?

The river is another blank-ish card, six of diamonds I think. Could make an unlikely straight I guess, but no one seems fussed to see it.

Now YG2 bets. There is $335 in the pot, YG2 has about $150 left. If he pushed all in, I would really have something to think about. So he bets $50. A value bet? Really? I don't think so, and even if it was, I am getting 7 1/2 to 1 and the pot is just too big.

I make, sort of, a crying call. I am not 100% confident, because of the strange way the hand has played out so far.

YG1 just mucks his hand before seeing anyone else's. I show my hand first, politely not wanting to slow roll anyone. YG2 shows K J. So there you go.

A little later I get an SMS to say my car is ready, and I cash out for over $900.

Lucky, right?

I went back a week later, very similar, cashed out for $600, after 2 hours 'work'.

This week though, my luck changed, and the best I could manage for a 2 hour session was a paltry $550.

I must say, I am starting to warm to the Burswood poker room.

Bankroll Management

Went to Burswood the other night with my oldest child, now 18, to play some poker. I didn't remember that the lowest stakes game Burswood spreads is $2/3, and so, even with the extra $50 his mother gave him, Primus (nicknames for my three kids are Primus, Secundus and Spare) was buying in short with $100. My advice to him was therefore to 'play tight' and be prepared to shove with a monster pre-flop.

To cut a long story short, after some early advances, the night didn't go well for either of us. Primus was up to $180 but then lost 2/3 of his stack with 10 10 to K K, and the rest with AK on a flop of A K 9 to trip 9's. I had a flopped nut flush cracked by 10 6, who flopped a pair of sixes, made two pair with a 10 on the turn to enable me to get all my money in, and a six on the river. Talk about a cold deck.

Anyway, moaning about that isn't the point of this post, rather, the next day I was talking about the session with Primus's mother, who was telling me that 'he should have just bought in for $50, and that way if he went all in, he would still have some money left and could buy in again'.

I tried to explain how, buying in that short could work, but was not generally a good idea because any pre-flop bet was likely to be $15, and a three bet would mean all-in, and even to get to that point, the blinds might eat significantly into the stack first. My example was to say you have a hand like AK, in position, with a raise in front to $15. To re-raise that hand would mean all-in, but lets say we just call, nothing hits on the flop, and the pre-flop bettor then makes a pot size bet of $30 - you have to let it go in most cases. Next hand we are in is A Q suited, this time in mid position, we make it $15 and get called by the button and the BB. Again the flop is nothing, the button bets out $50, and again we have to let it go. So now we are down to only $20, get rubbish through the blinds and suddenly have only $15 left.

I did a bad job of explaining it, because I don't think I managed to change her mind - or maybe I should have picked a better time than trying to explain it while she was hanging out the washing. In any event, I have been thinking for a while about bankroll management in general, not just for poker, but for any form of casino gambling. I read a while ago that the average Las Vegas casino 'take' for every dollar passed across the tables was 22%. When you consider that the house edge on even the gimmickiest table games is seldom more than 5%, and as low as 1.5 or 2% on blackjack and craps, where does the extra casino profit come from?

Sure, mug punters, alcohol and other Las Vegas distractions will all take their toll, but very few people walk into the casino for the express purpose of throwing their money away (at least intentionally). My theory is that the casino makes _most_ of its money through people sitting down at a table 'short' for the basic bet they are placing.

Just about every book you read about any form of gambling (or poker) tells you that bankroll management is vital, and you need at _least_ 50-100 bets in front of you, and 500 in your bankroll. But no book I have read so far seems to give other than a cursory explanation as to why that is. So I thought I would have a go at giving one.

First, I find it helps to imagine if your 'luck' is represented by a long string of random numbers that stretches through your life. There is a number from the moment you are conceived, and every microsecond after, until you die, and every one is completely random. Then, every time you partake in something that involves chance, you use the number from that particular instant in your life. Say you are crossing the road and are distracted and don't look both ways - there is some chance you will be knocked down by a car, let's say that chance is 3%. The 'number' on your random number line at that point in your life is 3.3426% - very close, but more than the 3% or less that would mean you were hit. So the car swerves, you step back, and live another day.

So too, imagine you are sitting at a blackjack table, you are playing perfect basic strategy, and the house edge is 2%. Each hand that is dealt 'taps into' your random number line, and if the number is 48 or above the house wins, and less than 48 you win.

It doesn't matter what the game is, roulette, craps, poker, the numbers are random, and you have absolutely no way of changing them or knowing what they will be in advance. Just like in poker where you have trapped your opponent with the nut flush and he has to hit runner-runner to make a full house. Sometimes the number is just going to more than 97% and you will lose.

Enough of my bad beats, back to the blackjack table....

Like a not un-typical casual casino patron, I sit down at the table and place my $100 in front of me to exchange for 20 red chips. Being fortunate to find a $10 min bet table, I make my first wager, and what to you know, I win, and now have $110. So too for the next four hands, plus one blackjack, I now have $165. This game is easy. But then the next ten hands lose, and with a couple of splits and double ups, I am down to just $30. Oh well, $30 isn't much good to anyone, so I keep playing, who knows, I may get lucky. And I do, for the next two hands. But then the five after that all lose, and I am out. In about 20 minutes, the casino has made $100.

But wait a minute, I was playing close to perfect basic strategy. I placed 23 bets, or $230 on the table, I knew my EV would be negative, but shouldn't it only be $230 x -2% = -$4.60? Where did the $100 loss come from?

Let's look at the random number line for that session (I take the sequence from this site, that generates true random numbers). Every number below 48 I win, every number 48 and above, the casino wins:

...95 66 56 22 62 23 42 14 81 84 33 10 02 21 17 38 28 73 53 94 80 48 97 99 62 84 68 16 14 62 84 74 91 96 24 64 26 18 10 97 65 94 76 74 11 81 89 76 18 43 58 28 41 02 63 74 98 45 50 49 34 60 02 81 60 03 04 43 53 96 14 36 85 38 37....

The bold numbers are my winning hands, the italics are the casino's, the first bold number is the point in time when I sit down, the last italic when I bust out and leave.

You can see that if I had one more bet, I would have won the next hand, then lost, then won three and lost the next five, and so on. But I didn't, I only had the $100 I started with, and when that was gone, that was it.

What happened was, I sat down with ten bets and that was not enough, even with some wins, to overcome a short term variance swing of several losses.

This is the FUNDAMENTAL KEY to bankroll management. You MUST have enough bets to overcome short term variance, and 'ride through' the inevitable downswings. Without that, your EV will always be far, far worse, by orders or magnitude, as per the above example.

There is one more thing though. Just like the string of random numbers goes on and on, there is nothing to stop me going back to the casino another day and hitting a sequence where I win eight out of the ten bets I make. That is only slightly less likely than a sequence where the casino wins, and a completely valid subset of the lifetime number string.

So here I am, having a great time, $200 in front of me from my $100 buy in. I'm on a roll, the night is young, the attractive cocktail waitress is on her way back with my complimentary beverage. I'm ahead for the night, and back to even in total. Time to pick up and leave - yeah right. As if that is going to happen.

50 hands later, up down, up down, what do you know, its all gone again. Hmmm. $200 down where EV says I should be only about $20.

Still, you will notice one thing; the difference between my EV and actual loss from the first to the second session is slightly less. In the first session it was $95.40, or about 95% worse than expected. After the second session, it was $183.40 or about 91% worse - effectively 4% closer to the expected value of -2%. (Does nothing to help with the $200 shortfall for this months rent though.)

Which, hopefully, illustrates the point that a bankroll of $200 is better than a bankroll of $100 for a bet unit of $10. Therefore a bankroll of $300 would be better again, as would $500 or $1000. Eventually, with a large enough bankroll, the actual win/loss is going to match the EV for the way I play. How large a bankroll would I need? Infinite is the mathematical answer. But only the casino has infinite money. The player is always going to be limited by some factor, namely, not being Kerry Packer or Bill Gates (and consequently, the casino is always going to be getting better than EV on every bet). Never the less, with a sufficient bank roll, I can _approach_ the true EV, and bigger is always going to be better.

Which still leaves the question of, for a given bet size, what is a reasonable bankroll. Using the very, very, rough example above, of improving 4% for every $100, and, roughly again, running that down to the EV of 2%, we end up with the amount of ((96/4) -1) x $100 = $2,300. Say $2,500 to be safe, should let your win/loss come close to the real EV with the 'given' of a 2% house edge.

Have I answered the question of how the casino makes more than 20% on each dollar bet? Simply, they rely on people playing with inadequate bankrolls, who, when they win, will stay at the table until variance causes them to lose all the money they are prepared to bet. The casino has the cash behind it to ride out any swing in the punters favour, the punter however can only survive to the limit of their bankroll, and is less likely to leave when they are ahead.

As far as setting a bankroll of whatever game/stakes you want to play at, I think that would be easy enough to do by getting a large enough sample of random numbers, knowing your EV, and than running a spreadsheet where every number above your EV is a win, every one below is a loss. Then run an average of the win/loss column, and when that number looks close enough to your EV for your liking, the number of rows equals the number of bets you need in your bankroll. (But don't be a ninny and only do it for 100 or less values, do it for at least 1,000, and then, several times).

Best and Worst Australian Casino Poker Rooms

I have not played in all the casinos in Australia, yet. But here are my thoughts and opinion on Adelaide (Sky City), Melbourne (Crown), Perth (Burswood) and Sydney (Star City). My 'star' ratings, scored out of 5 are:

Variety of games spread (NLHE, PLO, etc):

Sky City.........3
Star City........2

Comments: In fairness, Burswood and Sky City are much smaller poker rooms, due to those cities smaller population base. Sky City makes the most 'creative' use of what they have. Star City on the other hand just doesn't try at all. They sometimes spread a PLO game on one table out of. what is it, 25? - big deal.

Time charges and rake for low stakes games:

Sky City.........4
Star City........1

Comments: No one begrudges the casino's making money from poker - we all understand they are a business and have to pay wages, return a profit to their shareholders, and all that security and those tables don't come cheap. How come two casino's can seem completely fair, while the feeling you get at the other two is that you are just being gouged?

Blinds and buy-in structure for low stakes games:

Sky City.........3
Star City........2

Comments: No one excels here. Maybe there is some gaming legislation that says that a casino can't accept more than 50 big blinds as a buy in or something. I don't know. It seems to put the casual player at a disadvantage, because you will often be joining a table where two or more people who have been playing a while have over 200 big blinds in front of them, and with your 40 big blind buy in, good players are going to make you play for your whole stack on any hand you want to go with.

All the casino's except Burswood spread $1/2 game. Burswood has the worst structure with $2/3, then a ridiculous $5/5.

Table Service:

Sky City.........5
Star City........3

Comments: This is the only area where Star City beats Crown. I don't know why Crown is so reluctant to serve their patrons drinks. Star City has gotten a lot better in the last year. But the stand out is Sky City with an excellent ordering system and prompt service.

Dealers and floor staff

Sky City.........4.5
Star City........2

Comments: For the most part, Star City dealers are ok, but I have had hand rates as low as 10 per hour at both Star City and Burswood. The floor staff at Star City could spend a little less time socializing with each other too I think, and I really don't care to know if a dealer only got 2 hours sleep last night and is 'really hung over'.

Table Assignment and Seating

Sky City.........4
Star City........0

Comments: Star City just plain suck. Five tables, two with dealers on them, sit vacant while the wait list for a $1/2 game is over 80. It is by far the worst run room in that respect I have been in. You really get the feeling Star City doen't like its poker player customers very much. Burswood have a similar seating system to Star City, but sill didn't seem to know how to use it last time I was there. Sky City has a basic system - it's only a small room after all, and it works really well - possibly because the staff take some care in their job. Star City, why don't you send your card room manager and some senior staff to Melbourne for a weekend, to see how a proper, professional, poker room is run?

Room ambiance, 'feel' and environment

Sky City.........5
Star City........1.5

Comments: I liked the Star City area better when it was next to the bar (and not too far from the craps table). Very convenient to pass the time during the regular hour long wait for a table. The new poker room is miles away on a different level to anything interesting. Crown's room is excellent, what more can I say? But I really like the Sky City lay out with that wide, drink accommodating rail, players are separated enough from the main floor, but still feel part of the general casino buzz.

If I could play anywhere, anytime, where I would go:

Sky City.........5
Star City........1

Comment: Don't get me wrong, there could be far worse fates than having to play at Crown all the time. But for my money, I just prefer the 'smaller, friendlier' feel of Sky City - the excellent table services probably has a lot to do with that.

Overall Rating:

Sky City.........4.2
Star City........1.7

Comments: Seems about right.

I am going to Las Vegas later this year. If I get time I will try and get to the Venetian and the Belagio poker rooms and play a hand or two there to see how they compare to the Aussie rooms.